Coping with Change: Advice from Elite Trail Runner Sam Lewis

American Trail Running Association executive director Nancy Hobbs interviewed 2019 US Mountain Running Team member Sam Lewis to see how she’s adjusting her training to and coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sam Lewis lives in Moscow, Idaho where she is a teacher and coach. She stormed onto the mountain and trail racing scene in 2019 when she won the USATF 1/2 Marathon Trail Championships, finished 4th at the USATF Mountain Running Championships and qualified to represent the United States at the World Mountain Running Championships in Argentina. Read about how other athletes around the world are comping with the impact of COVID-19 in this article.

[Nancy] What is the situation with COVID-19 in your state? Are you able to train normally?

[Sam] As of right now, I am able to train normally. I generally train alone as a result of my work schedule, so I have been practicing social distancing for a while now. The majority of gyms and university recreation centers including nearby universities, University of Idaho and Washington State University, are closed, so I am very thankful right now I have a home gym with a variety of kettlebell sizes and a stationary bike.

I have felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic outside of my own running as I am transitioning the class I teach at WSU to an online format and as a Volunteer Assistant Distance Coach at the University of Idaho. The NCAA and Big Sky Conference have officially cancelled the Spring outdoor track season, which is heartbreaking for all our seniors.

Sam Lewis (right) at the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships in Argentina.

[Nancy] How are you managing to stay positive with no races? Do you have any good tips for runners trying to stay positive and focused without racing goals?

[Sam] The majority of the Spring races I was planning on doing have been postponed to the Fall, which means I am looking at the longest uninterrupted block of training I have ever had! Even though I am bummed I won’t have the opportunity to race until the Summer (fingers crossed), I am excited for the opportunities the next block of training presents, which keeps me motivated during this time. As my coach says, I can use this time to become a better overall “athlete”, focusing on certain aspects of my training I usually do not get to because of a busy race schedule.

I encourage all athletes to look at this time as an opportunity. Explore aspects of your process you have not had the time because of racing or overall life schedules which suddenly do not feel as busy anymore. Focus on all the aspects you can control like all the (BIG) little things as my college coach, Kelly Sullivan, would say like sleep, nutrition, rehab/strength exercises, etc.

Get outside and play! Go frolic in the strength and beauty of nature and escape the social media updates. Allow your training to be your way to play and enjoy life through all this uncertainty because one things is always certain right now, you never regret going for a run.

Stay safe and happy trails!

Editor’s Note: Be safe as we continue to navigate the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, continue to follow the recommendations and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including proper hygiene practices. Also consider reading iRunFar’s COVID-19: A Trail Running and Ultrarunning Community Guide.

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