For many of us, running is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Since the commencement of this COVID 19 Stage 3 lockdown, there has been an overwhelming increase in the number of people out and about exercising, which is fantastic. We know that exercise helps with our mood, immune system, sleep and general health. However, with new restrictions around travel and social distancing, many runners have been left confused about how they can safely exercise without getting into any trouble! And there has been a few big fines handed out that we want to avoid!

Can I Travel for Exercise?

We have all heard the stories about people receiving hefty fines for ‘non-essential travel’. But rest assured runner, there is no need to stress here. Exercise is considered an essential activity. However, The Victorian Health and Human Services (VHHS) have urged that “while it may be necessary to leave your immediate neighbourhood to undertake exercise… please use common sense and don’t travel any further than you have to.” Whilst a fine was withdrawn recently for a cyclist driving down to Arthurs Seat for a ride, it would seem that most exercise can and should be done from our front door – walk, run or ride to your favourite exercise area is the best way to eliminate all risk.

Can Exercise with Others?

Social gatherings are currently limited to two people outdoors. This is extended to exercise groups. You are allowed to exercise by yourself outdoors or with one other person. The ‘one other’ can be a friend or family member you do not live with. There is no specification as to whether your one training buddy can change from session to session.  When exercising with your friend or family member you are required to maintain a distance of 1.5m between each other and others around you – which does make it interesting when two people are walking towards you on a narrow walking track! But in a time where the idea is to minimise contact with other people, it does make sense to keep your training partner as consistent as possible.

When and Where?

If anyone has ran round the tan lately you would have struggled to maintain safe social distancing. For your own safely, and the safety of others, try and find running trails which are less popular and when possible avoid streets and paths with high foot traffic. Currently most running paths remain open, however some athletics tracks have closed – don’t run through any venue that has been closed as they have been closed for a reason! Check with your local council to see whether your local athletics track remains open. When considering when to exercise the VHHS have suggested that people stick to off peak times (in the morning or late in the day). You may find that peak times vary depending on your location.

What Distance is Safe when Running and Riding?

The 1.5m rule applies well to side by side exercise situations. But what about when you are behind someone else?

There was an interesting article published recently that indicated the following:

  • When walking in the same direction as other people, allow at least 4-5m distance to the person in front of you.
  • When running or slow bike riding in the same direction as other people, allow at least 10m distance to the person in front of you.
  • When hard bike riding in the same direction as other people, allow at least 20m distance to the person in front of you.

The take home message? When exercising with a person or people in front of you, try and allow a bit more space which gives additional time until you move into the area they have been in.

Other Exercise

“Stay at Home” exercise has become increasingly popular and is a great way to minimise your risk of exposure. I work with runners in the clinic every day, and one common theme is that runners only want to run. As physio’s, we know that strength and resistance training not only helps with injury prevention but can also improve performance. There is no better time than now to start a new routine which includes some strength training – you don’t need a lot of equipment, if any, and it is easily done at home in the safest environment. There are heaps of options available. SSPC is starting a 30 mins ‘Zoom’ strength class for runners next week – email to express your interest and to receive further details. We are also doing 1:1 physio sessions with runners to write a personalised home strength programs, but can also easily do this via telehealth to save you coming to the clinic.

Practical tips:

  • Choose wide running tracks with minimal foot traffic where possible
  • Pick your times to exercise
  • Try to stay local and to only a couple of running areas
  • Wash your hands after training outdoors
  • Consider other forms of exercise such as strength or circuit training. Use this time as an opportunity to get stronger!
  • The 1.5m rule is great for side by side, but allow a touch more for the group in front of you.

And my final tip? We seem to be making such great progress with the COVID 19 situation in Australia, and exercise is so beneficial in so many ways that we need to keep it up – but if you can, exercise at home or from home!

Emily McLean

SSPC Physiotherapist

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