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Beating the Winter Blues

It seems that lately I’ve been hit with a bad case of the winter blues. Whether it’s from the mountains of snow piled everywhere, or because every long run this training cycle has been been filled with frustration, or even because life at the moment seems to be standing still, the fact of the matter is that I just haven’t felt like myself. Even going away to Charlotte last week didn’t help snap me out of this funk.  Although it was a little warmer, Charlotte weather was dreary and rainy, and my short visit to a place with snowless streets made it that much harder to come back. To make matters worse, Monday morning I got the worst kind of welcome back to New England —  a bad run in with some black ice.  While walking along a sidewalk near where I work, my feet flew out from under me and I landed hard on my backside (this was in public while wearing a skirt and carrying a mug of hot coffee, I might add). Fortunately I didn’t do any serious damage, but I fell so hard that it hurt to walk the rest of the day. And everything has been extremely sore and achey since…which means no running for me.

In the past, signing up for races and training through the winter has been enough to help me escape these blues. Having a big goal like a marathon to work toward keeps me motivated when the days are cold and short. It gives me structure, and it helps me see the value of each day I get to run as I build up a base and get stronger. But since my favorite part of marathon training (the long runs) hasn’t gone smoothly at all this time around, I find that I just can’t escape the slump. To say my motivation has been lacking would be an understatement.

But — as was bound to happen — last night I finally hit the breaking point. I was tired of coming home from work and feeling like a lump. Tired of feeling sorry for myself that my runs haven’t gone as planned and life this winter has been less than exciting. Tired of wishing away each day just to make it to spring. Because honestly, there are worse things in life than dealing with a tough winter.

So while I can’t control the weather to make the snow melt and the sun shine, there are other factors that affect the way I’m feeling on a regular basis. And I can definitely do something about those.

Beat the Winter Blues Plan

in other words, my “snap out of it!” plan

Last night I took a good hard look at a few things that I know I haven’t been good about lately and are probably making me feel like crap. From those things, I set some goals to focus on for the next couple of weeks.

1.) Sleep More

Ever since I was younger, sleep and I have had a tumultuous relationship. I’ve just never been very good at it. Not only does it take me a long time to fall asleep, but I’m a very light sleeper. So I have a hard time sleeping if there’s any sort of noise, or if I’m in an unfamiliar environment (like I was last week). The problem with this is that since I can’t fall asleep, I find myself staying up later and later. Even if I’m not doing anything, for some reason I find it better to be awake and tired on the couch than awake and frustrated in my bed. Don’t try to find the logic in this scenario, there isn’t any.

Obviously not getting enough sleep is a huge factor into your mood and how you feel. And with all the running I’m doing these days, sleep is especially important.

pup alarm clock.jpgphoto via stockforfood

So this week, I’m re-committing to a decent bedtime. So far, in the one night I’ve been doing this, I’ve done great. :) Last night I skipped blogging and went to bed before 10:00. And I already feel more rested. For the rest of the week, I’m going to aim to be asleep before 11, with 10:00 – 10:30 being the goal.

2.) Eat More {Balanced}

Traveling and eating out for every meal last week is only part of the problem. Lately, I’ve traded greens for chocolate more often than I should. While everyone around me is still committed to their New Year’s resolution of eating healthy, there’s just something about this cold weather that has me reaching for the comfort food. Plus, I’ll admit that it’s pretty easy to use marathon training as an excuse to eat extra baked goods and snack on junk. In case you’re wondering — it’s not. Just because you run extra long one day a week doesn’t necessarily mean you burn off enough calories to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. And even if it doesn’t go to your waist (or hips), eating less vegetables usually means getting less of the nutrition that you need. Especially when you eat a vegetarian diet.

I usually try to make sure I get all the vitamins I need through my diet, but it can be really easy for vegetarians to come up short in certain areas if they’re not careful. Because I’ve been dragging lately, I’ve made it a goal to take daily supplements of the vitamins that can be low from running a lot and/or a vegetarian diet: Iron and Vitamins B-6 and B-12. I’m hoping both will help my energy levels.


3) Drink More {Water}

A few weeks ago, I lost my favorite water bottle of all time. This was a very sad day for me, since I carried that thing with me wherever I went. Not only was it fun to drink from, but it held a lot of water. The water bottles I’ve been using lately just haven’t cut it, and I haven’t been doing a stellar job making sure I stay well hydrated. It doesn’t help that the air all around me is extremely dry — both from the cold outside and the constantly running heat inside. I need to make a conscious effort to drink more. The goal is to pee often and pee clear.

4.) Play More {Worry Less}

I admittedly have a hard time letting go of things I can’t control. Which means I get easily anxious about the smallest things. I need to remember that life is good and everything is going to work out whether I’m stressing over it or not. In other words, I need to relax. So what if it’s winter in New England and we have record amounts of snow?? Life is good! I have a healthy body that will let me go outside and play in it, and many wonderful people in my life to spend time with.

So in the spirit of playing more, tomorrow a group of us are going to Boston to see Hood to Coast in theaters. I’m so excited to see a movie about my favorite type of race ever: a 24-hour relay! If you’re in the area and want to join, let me know! I think you can still get tickets to the event (which you can buy here).

15 Responses to Beating the Winter Blues

  1. I am the same way with sleep! So frustrating. And I just started taking b12 as well!

  2. As much as I am frustrated with the amount of snow we are having here in NE, I am having a better than average winter. Several things come to mind: I am exercising consistently. I am not relying on just one type. Walking, running and just added this week: weight training. My work moved to a new office with massive windows and I am fortunate to be bathed in sunlight all day. That’s a big help since I suffer from SAD. And eating right. Very little fat and/or processed foods and as near to vegetarian as possible.

    I saw Hood to Coast last month. It was awesome. Very funny and touching. Enjoy!!! If I didn’t have such a messed up work schedule, I would join you in Boston!
    Jan´s last post ..The battle between the Leaf and the Speed Dial

  3. Such good tips! I really need to follow these better. I just keep reminding myself that March is almost here and soon we will see the sun again!
    Rach´s last post ..Three Years Ago Today…

  4. I have been battling the winter blues lately, too. As you know, I get caught up in the obstacles on marathon training and tend to ignore the achievements. And I complain to certain friends who are kind enough to put up with me!

    I love your plan! Hood to Coast, a group run…lots of good things to come! Plus, there’s no snow in the forecast! I think this is the turning point. I hope you feel like yourself soon because yourself is pretty awesome!
    Becky´s last post ..Finding My Om

  5. Sorry you have been having a tough few weeks. I struggled with winter blues at the beginning of winter, and I think all of your ideas are great. I’m also a very light sleeper, and I highly recommend investing in an eye mask. I sleep so much better (even though its dark at night, if I stir even the alarm clock light can re-wake me up). Also, it is hard to ignore the body’s craving for comfort food this time of year but you can make healthier comfort food: vegetable soups, healthier mac n cheese, etc.
    And to end this ridiculously long comment, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back about how well you are doing on your marathon training. It is REALLY hard to do it through the winter, so you are awesome. The end.
    Liz´s last post ..Rest Day Recipe- Butternut Squash Burgers

  6. Great post! I’ve been thinking about similar things lately, trying to figure out why I am down in the dumps (winter blues + stress), and how to get out of it. It’s great to hear about others going through the same thing, and I like your tips. Take it easy on yourself!
    Kathy @ newlywedindc´s last post ..Weekly Plan

  7. Sounds like a great plan, Lauren. I think the winter blues have been especially bad for people this year – we’ve just had way too much bad weather and ice and cold (things we have no control over!) Focusing on things like sleep and eating well are some of the best things you could do, because when you feel good everything else seems to find it’s way of falling into place – at least for me, when I’m taking care of my body I tend to make better decisions all around. Relaxing and having fun are also SO important. I love doing things outdoors so much, that sometimes in the winter I end up feeling sort of helpless, like I can’t do anything. But I need to remind myself that there are things I love to do inside too – bake/cook, read a book, get coffee with friends, try new restaurants, do yoga in the living room, catch up on tv shows, go to the movies (like tonight!) It’s important to laugh and have fun.
    I’m so sorry about your fall, but I bet when you heal from that your training will bounce back, and in the spring things will be so much better for running!! I hope your plan gets you feeling back to your normal self soon!

  8. This is my life right now. To a T. I have serious issues with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it’s all I can do to get out of bed and go to work every day.

    Right now I’m starting to come around and think like #4 – Work Less and Play More. I need to start doing the things I love doing, and stop worrying about work and everything else.

    Not to get all sappy on you, but thanks for writing this post. It makes me feel better that I’m not the only one who’s going through this blah phase.

  9. Oh, those winter blues…they attack all of us at some point. Sorry to hear that you have been struggling lately but it sounds like you have a great plan of action to take in through the next month. And let’s hope that it will only be a few more short weeks before we feel the warmth of spring. I so feel for you about loosing your water bottle. Is it just me or is it hard to find the perfect one? I can’t tell you how many I’ve gone through but I think I found a keeper, well for the moment. 😉
    Hope your plan works and you are feeling chipper again quickly!

    • I keep telling myself that I just have to hang in there a few more weeks! The days are already getting longer, which is great.

      And I agree — finding the perfect water bottle is hard! I really need to go buy another one to replace the one I lost. Life just isn’t the same without it. 😉

  10. I was listening or reading (can’t remember!) a news story that was correlating winter weather and the rate of seasonal depression among people in the US – and New England’s was among the highest. It was super interesting to hear the causes of depression, fatigue, frustration, injury, etc. due to snow, ice, low sunlight, not enough nutrition in people’s diet, etc. It also helps me to think about Ayurvedic and yoga philosophies that describe winter as a way of recharging and resting your body for spring. It truly is frustrating when you feel “stuck” (inside, in a rut, without a path that is clear of ICE) but I love how you figure out which things will make you happier and healthier. Such a great commitment to yourself :)
    Erin @ Big Girl Feats´s last post ..28

    • That is really interesting! And sad (literally). You have a great perspective though — thinking about it as a time to re-charge is so much more productive than getting frustrated just waiting for spring.

  11. I am so sorry about your mishap with the ice! I hope you can run again soon! This has been such a tough winter for you guys. And I find it beyond impressive that you’re able to continue your training; I would have given up awhile ago!

    I love your tips. Letting go of control is my biggest struggle. It must be the type A in all of us crazy runners.

    I hope Hood to Coast was good!
    Jen´s last post ..Coping conundrums

  12. Hi Lauren, thanks for sharing this.

    Physical exercise may be an effective treatment option for individuals suffering from seasonal depression.

    In a 2000 study published in Psychiatry Research, a majority of patients with seasonal depression experienced a decrease in depression after completing a week of physical exercise.
    Helen Fadden´s last post ..3 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Tea Every Day

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