Go Ahead, Run Outside.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Coronavirus has disrupted every corner of  American life. Across the country from California and Colorado to New York City, governments have shuttered movie theaters, bars and restaurants in the hope of flattening the curve.

Amidst orders to shelter in place, self-quarantine and practice social distancing, the race cancelations of last week pale in comparison with the disruptions that many people’s lives are facing now (even the NBA and SNL are on hiatus).

More importantly than knowing how to self-isolate, or improvise toilet paper, trail runners know how to come together when it counts.

More importantly than knowing how to self-isolate, or improvise toilet paper, trail runners know how to come together when it counts. These are scary, uncertain times. The only thing that we know for sure is that we have each other to lean on. As Alison Wade of Fast Women put it, “Racing is canceled. Running is more important than ever.”

Running Outside

One of the best things you can do right now is get outside and go for a run.

“People shouldn’t avoid running outside,” says Dr. Joseph Vintez, an infectious disease expert at the Yale School of Medicine.

Running and being outside can play a vital role in your mental health (though be sure it’s not your only outlet!), and can even boost immunity.

“Running outside is preferred, given the transmission routes of COVID-19,” says Dr. David Nieman, Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University.

There are some unknowns when it comes to the spread of a novel virus, but there’s a lot that we do know about how corona is transmitted. The virus tends to spread through close contact and in tighter spaces, so getting in your daily run is one of the safest things you can do. According to the CDC, corona is transmitted between people in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets, produced through a cough or sneeze, not sweat. So working up a little solo-sweat might be one of the best things you can do. But, don’t go too hard, and be sure to get plenty of rest.

“Avoid overtraining because this can compromise your immune system’s ability to detect and destroy viruses,” says Dr. Nieman, which is good advice outside of a pandemic situation.

Make sure you’re up to date on what restrictions are in place in your area. So far, shelter in place orders still allow people to get out for their daily run. If you’re feeling sick, or are at risk, go ahead and stay home. We’re in this together.

Running With Friends

Running alone is the only sure-fire way you’re not going to transmit the virus, but maintaining at least six feet between you and a running partner is a good buffer. Experts recommend sticking to running with people from your household as a safeguard.  Again, be sure you’re aware of what restrictions are in your community. New national guidelines recommend against meetings of 10 or more people. Your local group run is definitely out.

Plan routes that won’t be to avoid any unnecessary contact or jostling. Running early, or later in the day is a good idea too, if you live in a densely populated zone. Forgo hugs, handshakes and high-fives, and be sure to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

If your race was canceled, plan a solo-adventure run instead, but skip out on rogue runs or unofficial races. Even though many of us are craving community right now, express solidarity by limiting your exposure to other people.

Many communities, particularly smaller, rural ones near areas where races tend to take place can be some of the hardest hit and have limited healthcare resources available. Show support for areas you love by limiting the spread of corona and stick close to home.

Be Mindful

We’re in this together. Reach out if you need support, and take extra time to encourage others. Social distancing shouldn’t mean total isolation, and technology can be a wonderful way of staying connected in uncertain times.

Be mindful of how your interactions now will affect your community members down the line. Everything you do to keep yourself healthy helps keep your community healthy. Proper social distancing is a radical act of compassion for yourself, and your community.

Running is a wonderful, important activity for so many of us, but it’s still a privilege. While we’re out on the roads or the trails, it’s important to reflect on our actions and make sure we’re not taking risks with other’s health. No race, and no run is worth that.

Who knows? Maybe this will be some of your best training yet.

Zoë Rom is Assistant Editor at Trail Runner , host of the DNF Podcast and a trail running coach. She enjoys podcasts and pizza. 

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada