How Taking Up Running in Quarantine Changed My Life

Somewhat ironically for somebody with a job at a fitness magazine, I’ve never been a particularly active person. Prior to this year, I’d probably have described my physique as “skinny fat,” and my version of cardio was exploring new cities on foot and dancing late into the night at a bar with friends. With both of those options off the table as an increasing set of restrictions came into effect early on in the coronavirus pandemic, my lifestyle swiftly went from social to sedentary.

Then, in March, a national lockdown was announced in the United Kingdom. While I’ve lived alone and worked from home for years, I didn’t much fancy cutting off all human contact, and so I moved back in with my parents for what I thought would be a couple of weeks at the very most. I ended up living back in my childhood bedroom for several months.

At that time, public health guidelines only permitted you to leave your home once a day, for exercise, and so I started taking long walks. I hadn’t even realized just how much quarantine-related anxiety I had internalized until I began to notice that, even after walking four or five miles, I would arrive home and still feel restless and irritable. I had more frustration to let out, and so one day, almost on a whim, while out on a walk, I picked up the pace and started jogging.

I didn’t last very long before I had to stop. I was gasping for breath, my lungs were on fire, and my feet were killing me because I was wearing the wrong kind of shoes. But it had felt good. So I, like many others during the first lockdown, ordered some workout clothes and a pair of running shoes online, and tried again.

I started with a lap around the block. Then around the entire neighborhood. Then I got adventurous, venturing further afield, out of the suburbs and along the woodland and river foot trails that I had ignored for the whole time I had lived there as a kid. On the advice of runner friends, I followed the run-walk-run pattern, which prevented me from winding myself before I’d cleared my first mile.

It wasn’t long before I was running three or four times a week, only taking days off to allow my novice limbs time to recover. I found that those feelings of unease and agitation were lessened when I’d put everything I had into a run—and just as importantly, my parents remarked that I was a lot easier to be around. When the initial lockdown ended and I moved back into my flat in a city, the first thing I did was get on Google Maps and find places nearby where I could keep this newfound love of running going.

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