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September 21, 2020

Part 1: Running Through the Pandemic - Thoughts From Coach Tom

Written by Coach Hiruni Wijayaratne

tom_blog_3What a crazy year this has been.  We’ve gone through a pandemic of the century, lost loved ones, observed the pain & suffering of so many, and seen our running industry turned upside down.


I’ve read countless inspirational stories from many across the U.S. and around the world.  As I’m hopeful that we may be through the worst, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my experience of the last six months with our wonderful Runcoach customers and anyone else that might find my perspective helpful.


This is a bit selfishly cathartic for me but I’m hopeful my experience and some advice may be beneficial.


This will be a 6-Part Series with the following topics:


  1. Running with Bad Air Quality

  2. Recovery from Injury (My Knee Surgery)

  3. Alternatives to Running with Current Restrictions

  4. Some Perspective on Black, Indigeneous and People of Color from a Running Lense

  5. Running After Coronavirus Symptoms

  6. Our Path Forward to Road Races & What We Can Do Now



Running with Bad Air Quality

Many of us in the northwest part of the country and now with extensions to the midwest, have experienced extremely poor air quality from the tragic fires in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.


As runners, we always want to push through adverse conditions. I haven’t been running (more to come on that topic) and I’m acutely aware of the detriments of inactivity.  However I believe that poor air quality has long-term bad effects.  So what can we run in and what can’t we?


Here are my thoughts:


  1. AQI readings above 100 are a non-starter - please find alternatives (see below)

  2. AQI readings in the 80-100 range may have an effect and should be considered with caution

  3. AQ below 80 is probably safe but you should still listen to your personal biometric feedback in this range


Personal biometric feedback is your breathing within and after a run.  There is a difference between wheezing and heavy breathing.  Think of wheezing as strained breaths where you can feel it down deep in the lungs. You will feel wheezing from asthma and unhealthy air during and after your run.  We don’t want to run through wheezing as the lungs are remodeling to transport necessary oxygen and some tissue could be dying.


On the other hand, heavy breathing is normal and we experience this through heavy exertion.  A great marker to distinguish between the two is how you feel after a run.  You should not have labored breathing or any wheezing within an hour of workout completion.


Here are my favorite sites/apps to check the air quality.


  1. Purple Air - this site uses a community of personal air sensors at residences and businesses to provide a view of your area’s AQI

  2. AirVisual - this is an app available for iPhone and Android users;  it uses 10,000 locations to evaluate, predict, and report on current and future air quality


So what to do if the air quality is poor?


  1. Wear a mask?

    1. I’ve been walking in an N-95 mask which seems to keep out many particulates; there are many varieties to choose from

    2. I haven’t experienced the new Under Armour sports mask but heard it is comfortable for runners

  2. Run on a treadmill if possible

  3. Consider an alternative workout indoors such as the Peloton (more on this in an upcoming post), Elliptical, pool for swimming or deep water running, or any of the HIIT or other at-home workouts with a cardio focus

  4. Adjust your plan - ask your coach or look at the forecast and pick a better day to run


The bad air quality won’t be here forever.  In these times, it is important to remember those who have lost lives, homes, pets and much worse in the fires.  Still the loss of your workout is personal and not to be diminished.  I like to think of how much I appreciate running in these times and the hope that I will have the opportunity to run in clean air soon.