Running safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sanford doctor (and runner) on mask-wearing and social distancing for runners

Right now is normally the time when runners everywhere are prepping for big summer races and events.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of everything, including running. Many events have had to limit the number of races offered, while others have gone virtual or canceled altogether.

For the races still on, many are questioning whether or not it’s safe to participate, given the fluidity and unpredictability of the novel coronavirus.

Running with a mask?

The CDC still urges mask-wearing in public. Because of this, a common question is whether a mask is needed while running.

Dr. Paul Berger III is a physician of pulmonary and critical care and neurological care at Sanford Health, and also is a runner himself.

“If you’re in a group of people, especially within an enclosed space, you should wear a mask. If you’re out running on a trail system and you’re by yourself, a lot of the state regulations, including the CDC would say you don’t need to wear a mask.

“But, if you’re going to be encountering other individuals on the trails, wearing a wicking cloth face mask might be of benefit,” said Berger.

Risk of infection

Some have questioned if runners are at an increased risk of infection, since they breathe heavier while running. Berger says the risk depends on the setting, and its’ cleanliness.

“It depends on if you’re in an enclosed environment. If you are, there may be an increased risk,” said Berger. “Especially with the way buildings and their ventilation systems are designed. Also, with certain facilities not having the disease spreading mitigation processes with plastic shields and mask availability.”

“Also, depending on how they clean their equipment, including the treadmills, elliptical machines, then theoretically there could be increased risk,” he added.

Berger says if you’re running outdoors by yourself, or socially distancing with a group, the risk for infection “should be quite less.”

Related: Running her way through chemo with a whole crew

Size of running groups

As Berger has stated, the risk of infection remains low in outdoor runs. However, that risk lies largely on who you are, or aren’t, running with.

Avoidance of large-numbered group runs can be beneficial in limiting the spread of COVID-19, says Berger.

“I believe if you’re able to maintain the appropriate social distancing, which is at least 6 feet, then that will control any concern of disease spread. But, this is such a different viral disease process. We haven’t completely understood the full on transmission risks.

“So, any large group should be avoided,” said Berger.

And the number that constitutes a large group depends on where you live.

“It depends on what your local municipality and what your state have identified as being a large group. If you’re having a difficult time maintaining the appropriate social distancing, perhaps you should rethink the group you’re with, and the size of the group that you’re currently trying to run with,” Berger said.

“If it’s outdoors, the risk of transmission may be less. But, you certainly need to be cognizant of what the CDC would recommend for group size, and the health and well-being of the people you’re running with,” he added.

Thinking of others

Many races have canceled, or dwindled in size. However many others are still scheduled. Because of this, more and more runners are looking to get into those races still open.

Berger says that whether you’re training for a race, or it’s the actual race-day, it’s important to keep in mind the safety of others.

“I think that as the runner, you have to maintain a certain degree of responsibility. Not only for yourself, but safety for your fellow competitors,” he said.

He says it’s time to stop training if you’re experiencing these symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • GI side effects
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Contact with someone who has had the virus

“You should know that you should not be training, and should take at least 10 days off from having social contact from the time that you’ve had the symptoms. Then, maintain a low degree of activity for at least the seven days following the resolution, so you can give yourself two full weeks to recover.”

Read more

Posted In Bemidji, Bismarck, Coronavirus, Fargo, Running, Sioux Falls, Sports Medicine, Wellness

Leave A Reply