Author Kelsey Derby running with the pack – during a time when one could run with the pack.

Already, we’ve been stuck in home isolation much longer than anyone anticipated as March came to a close, and with shelter-in-place orders extended through at least early May, I’ve noticed a big change in those donning reflective jackets and brightly colored running shoes on my morning runs. You see, I’ve been running outdoors on a regular basis for about five years now and I want to be clear about one thing: I haven’t truly enjoyed one minute of it.  For me, running is kind of like doing my laundry. The anticipation: bad. The actual act of sorting and washing: bad. Folding: very very bad. But when it’s finished, I feel a sense of accomplishment and joy that all my favorite clothes will be waiting for me when I get dressed the next morning.

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As Minnesotans shelter in place, many of them are finding creative ways to cope with a new reality that would have been unimaginable in the early weeks of 2020. Discover more stories in out collection Coronavirus in Minnesota.

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I’ve never liked running. I think it’s boring. It can be painful at times. I sweat a lot. But I keep coming back to it for a few simple reasons: You can do it any time, any place, and all you really need is a decent pair of running shoes. It’s an easy way to get my calorie-burn on when it’s convenient for me without showing up for a class, organizing with other people or getting in my car.

In this odd, all-encompassing isolation period, I thought it might be helpful to share my tips with you, dear reader, someone who might be considering running outside for the first time in a long time, or even, perhaps, for the first time ever. In the event that you hate it as much as I hate it, well, I have a few ideas that might make it less awful than it often seems. Just remember: That post-run rush of accomplishment is very real – and it’s one of the most persuasive reasons to stick with it.

The author with her parents during a holiday-themed Reindeer Run. The weather outside may be frightful at times, but running can make it vaguely delightful – at least post-run.

Don’t be afraid of looking like a fool

Have you ever really looked at anyone who is running outside? Of course, you’ll see those sleek gazelle-like teens that look like they stepped out of a Lululemon catalogue, but if you really look closer, most of us are making due. Don’t worry if you have a neon hat and a bright pink raincoat or patterned leggings and a patterned top. No one is really paying attention, and the most important thing is that you’ve made it out and you’re comfortable with the weather. I also follow the rule of thumb to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is. There are a lot of online resources for reference that I find particularly helpful in low-temp Minnesota winters. Just to make it easy for you, new runners of Minnesota, this guide from Runner’s World will help you decide what to wear in different temperatures.

Walk! Run! Dance! Listen to your body.

When I first started running, I used a Tabata timer on my phone and worked my way up to running nonstop. Three minutes running, two minutes walking was my initial pace, and I eventually worked up to ten minutes running, one minute walking. To be totally honest, even after all these years, that’s still about where I land. I’m convinced that my body isn’t built for running and sometimes I need a break. I also love a little jig here and there. Sometimes, when the music is right, I like to choreograph a dance in my head and tend to act it out a bit in my hips, my hops, or my hands. Do what feels right – it’s your run after all.

Abuse those headphones

A killer running playlist is an absolute must for me. I find my favorite songs to run to are older hits that I know all the words to, but aren’t in heavy rotation on the radio. However, I know lots of people who prefer a distracting podcast, pre-made Spotify playlists or even just one album (if you’re into Hamilton, try Hamilton). Whatever you try and like, stick with it.

Turn it into a game

I’ve found that distractions are key. On longer runs, I often find myself counting the number of lamp posts I see, attempting to recite the alphabet backwards or redesigning my living room. Mental games can be a great way to think about anything-but-just-not-running. This can be a time to lean into nature and really notice the small stuff we take for granted. Fresh flowers, angelic clouds, the neighbor’s cute dog: all fair game.

Make it an expectation

I like to look at the day ahead of me as a road filled with potholes that I’m in charge of filling up as I go along. The holes consist of emails I have to send, groceries that need to be bought, even showers that need to be taken. Once I started to think of running as one of those potholes in need of filling, I found that it was a lot more digestible to make it part of my routine. If all the potholes are filled by 10 pm, then I usually feel pretty good (and might grab myself a cookie). It feels important to treat running as an expectation and not an above-and-beyond task; otherwise, I would just do it once in a while to get the reward.

You should do what feels good for you. But in these times, running is probably the most appealing it’ll ever be, so perhaps it’s the time to jump in and make a new healthy habit. See you on the road!

Kelsey Derby is a Minnesota native and has worked at TPT since 2018.  In her spare time you can find her baking, traveling (with her Rick Steves’ book, of course), going to live shows, or watching documentaries.

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Editor’s Note: As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds in Minnesota, certain details in our stories about the impact of the virus may become outdated within hours, days or weeks of our publication. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in Minnesota, please visit the websites for the Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan or the Minnesota Department of Health.

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When this writer’s roommates left their shared home to spend their shelter-in-place time with their families, she raided the communal fridge and made something unexpected, something delicious, something with a mystery squash. Her impromptu ingenuity is your reward.

Craving new routes for your daily walks? Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul feature “outdoor galleries” of vibrant murals that might just fulfill your hunger for beauty in these stay-at-home times. Your murals walking tours in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul await, complete with maps for easy navigation.

With the Twitter moniker @BitterAbtLitter, Roseville resident Des Mueller aims to make the world around her a little cleaner than she left it. One picked-up piece of trash at a time, she may just start the perfect social-distancing movement.