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High Country Running: Control the controllables

High Country Running: Control the controllables

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Observatory Mesa

Flagstaff’s Observatory Mesa is seen in this file photo.

If you’re like me, this year has been a crazy mixture of emotions. Learning how to cope has been a process, one continually refined for the past eight months. Earlier in the year, I asked a close friend and coach their perspective on how to better handle these times.

They said the secret is “controlling the controllables” in life.

Many runners we work with at HYPO2 have been dealing with the disappointment of canceled races, injuries, limited resources and declining motivation. Relative to other major and life-altering events the pandemic has caused, these troubles seem minor, but running plays a large part in an individual’s mental and emotional health. Running is a healthy outlet to release stress, maintain physical health and keep connected to nature.

While we can’t control the pandemic, we can control how we adapt to the changes it has brought to training. Here are a few of the ways we’ve seen runners stay motivated during the pandemic.

A lot of runners find it easier to train with a goal or race in mind. Race cancellations have caused runners to adapt, with virtual races providing events to mark on the calendar. These give runners a distance to train for and “race” until in-person races are safe to hold.

We’ve seen locals race everything from virtual miles to marathons right here in Flagstaff. This is a great opportunity to focus on a distance you may not usually sign up for. For example, if you’re a marathon runner who prefers and always focuses on longer distances, this is an ideal way to focus on faster pace and shorter distances.

Without the ability to meet up and train in groups or with other individuals, online coaching has been helpful for many high country runners. Many coaches (including those based in Flagstaff) provide online interviews to determine individual goals and formulate workouts and training plans without the risk of group sessions. With competitions canceled for the time being, coaches can help you adapt training plans, reorient goals and maintain fitness by prescribing a proper training regimen.

The availability of online classes may be a solution to putting in necessary work on running mobility and strength training. Now might be the perfect time to learn new lifting and training techniques to work on tight or weak areas. It will only help your running.

If you’ve been training hard throughout the year to release stress or get out of the house, be sure to take some time to rest and recover. If you find yourself at home a lot, it might mean more opportunities to take a warm Epsom salt bath or a chilly ice bath, foam roll, sleep or spend time learning how to prepare more nutritious meals. All of these things will help improve your recovery and ability to train.

Running is a wonderful way to maintain perspective and provide emotional relief during periods of stress. At a time when so many things seem out of our control, use this opportunity to “control the controllables” and feel empowered to focus on other aspects of running so that when we’re able to race together again, you’ll be better equipped to meet challenges head-on.

Dr. Wes Gregg, DC, is a chiropractor at HYPO2 who enjoys helping a variety of people recover from injury and perform at their best.

Do you have a column, tip or idea for High Country Running? Send it to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds at


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