How to Keep a Safe Distance Running With Friends

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Walk around any city or town and you'll find some people wearing masks and social distancing, while others interacting with people in pre-pandemic ways. If everyone in your social circle follows the same social distancing guidelines as you, you probably won't think twice. But what if you've been dying to go for a walk or run with a long-term exercise partner you haven't seen recently, but your friend isn't as vigilant about social distancing as you are?

"This is a challenging time to determine what is 'safe'," said Dr. Lynn Buffka, associate executive director for practical research and policy at the American Psychological Association. "We have conflicting information from different sources, and our understanding of risk Your judgment may be different from that of others. Everyone will have to make an individual decision by weighing their own risks, family risks and needs. With this as a backdrop, one will have to make the decision to exercise with others.”

Decide how to exercise together
If you're planning to meet friends from different households, walking or running outdoors is less risky than meeting at an indoor track or gym. Public health experts recommend that you stay six feet apart and wear masks; however, they recognize that using face coverings may not be practical when people are running or exercising at a high intensity.

When it's hot outside and you're planning to work out with a workout buddy, exercising without a mask may be OK if you consciously stay at least six feet apart and agree in advance not to wear a mask in each other's company, unless required by local law wear mask.

It's also important to consider your location, which may affect whether it's safe to exercise without a mask.

"Are you in a neighborhood where you only meet other people occasionally or rarely...or in a larger metropolitan area, or even in a park with a lot of people?" Schaffner said. "Let's say you stay away from people, you don't get close to people. Well, then I think you can exercise more safely without a mask. [But] if you're exercising or walking around other people and the density increases, then you really should be wearing a mask. Put on a mask."

Bringing up the topic when social distancing habits differ
What if you want to go further and your friends want to get closer, like in the past? You may feel embarrassed discussing the parameters of suggested walking or running with friends who do not adhere to the same strict social distancing guidelines as you; some worry that it may be controversial, or that they will be perceived as judgmental. If you really want to walk or run with a friend whose habits are different from yours, talk about specifics ahead of time and see if you can agree on how to interact.

"Ideally, friends listen to each other and respect each other's demands; that's the foundation of friendship," Buffka said. "If someone has concerns about what someone else is doing, it's best to get straight to the point in advance, clarify their own approach, and ask about the other person's behavior."

"Recognize that people do things for different reasons," said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in decision-making, risk analysis and communication. "Expect some misunderstandings. People [tend to] overestimate their ability to communicate, especially on new topics. In personal relationships, this means being wary of signs of talking to each other and being prepared to clarify what you mean. Your friends may Take the cue to do the same."

Your friends may be upset by your request to stay six feet apart or wear a mask. It may help if you speak calmly, or change the subject when things get heated.

"People can attack or decipher anything we say," Buffka said. "Try to be neutral and acknowledging that everyone wants the best for the other, which may help other people hear each other's voices."

choose to postpone exercise
After a frank discussion with your friends, if you can't agree on the guidelines to follow during your workout, it's okay to quit.

"If a friend chooses to disrespect your request, you can politely defend yourself and let your friend know that you will be joining them again when you can wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, or stop worrying about the spread of COVID," Buka said.

Be vigilant when exercising together
While you and your workout partner may agree to walk or run without a mask, consider whether you can actually keep your distance as you wish. Opting for a mask may be the safer option.

"Frankly, I think six feet is hard to maintain," Schaffner said. "I think those people are getting closer. They may not be as close as they used to be. But again, that's your risk tolerance."