By Macy Sirmans
April 26, 2020
Macy Sirmans running in the NYC Marathon
Credit: Courtesy of NYRR

On day one of my first trip to Northern California’s wine country, I laced up my sneakers and hit Sonoma County’s winding roads as dawn broke. I wasn’t a runner — I was actually still in physical therapy, recovering from a broken leg. But as the springtime sun rose over the vineyards, and I flexed muscles I wasn't used to using, I realized running could be a gateway to new places.

That was three years ago. Since then, I’ve logged countless miles in destinations around the world, including trotting around Rome’s ruins and Circus Maximus, sprinting the London Bridge, and running numerous tours of my hometown, New York City, in preparation for the marathon. Exploring a city on foot in the early morning hours before everyone else wakes up makes me feel profoundly connected to it.

Macy Sirmans running in London and Brooklyn
Credit: Macy Sirmans

Though the pandemic has paused all of my (and your) travel plans, I don’t plan to stop training for my next big adventure. I’m taking this as an opportunity to return to the basics of my favorite sport, so that when I can race and travel again, I’m prepared to hit far-flung roads with greater strength and gratitude.

Whether you’re a brand-new runner or an experienced racer, I hope these tips, written in collaboration with my running mentor and seven-time Boston Marathon qualifier Amanda LaVergne, will help you stay fit, sane, and ready to run on your next vacation.

Go for time, not distance.

If you’re new to the sport, strive to run or jog for a specified amount of time instead of distance. LaVergne, who trains runners of all backgrounds and skill levels, recommends that novice athletes cap initial runs at 20 to 30 minutes. Remember, you don’t have to run or jog the entire time — just don’t stop moving. You can power walk to keep your heart rate elevated.

If you’re a veteran runner, don’t bind yourself to weekly mileage goals. Overtraining can heighten anxiety and weaken the immune system, which is the last thing you want right now. Stick to runs no longer than an hour.

Use social distancing to play with speed.

Use social distancing to your cardiovascular advantage. Sprint around or slowly jog to maintain a six-foot distance from others in your running path. Combining short, fast intervals with quick periods of recovery improves your anaerobic threshold.

“You can squeeze a quality workout into a shorter period of time with a fartlek, which means speed play in Swedish,” LaVergne says. “Fartlek runs can also train your body to break through pace barriers.”

Slow down to speed up.

I’m quarantining in the northeast Georgia mountains, where inclines are far steeper than the ones I’m used to along the Hudson River in NYC. I’m slowing down when running up steep hills to keep my energy output even.

“Tackling headwinds, hills, and elevation should be done at consistent effort rather than at a consistent pace. Use your heart rate as your guide,” LaVergne says. Training your body to conquer the external elements consistently will increase your speed and stamina.

Build better form while you’re inside.

A strong core helps you maintain stability, which minimizes strain on your lower body, especially when running long distances. Strong glutes assist us in maintaining knee and torso alignment when we run, which helps to prevent those pesky running injuries like shin splints. Integrating planks, push-ups, squats, and lunges into your indoor fitness routine will enhance your running efficiency. Focus on quality of form over quantity of reps.

Macy Sirmans running in Rome, Italy
Credit: Macy Sirmans

Dream up fantasy routes.

Use services like Strava and MapMyRun, which aggregate data from other runners, to plan safe and challenging courses through your dream vacation destinations. Once travel restrictions are lifted, I’m hoping to take my quarantine cardio training to Hyde Park in London.