|February 12, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
February may be the shortest month on the calendar, but for me it’s always the one that drags on the longest. The holidays are long over, I’ve been cold for as long as I can remember, there’s snow everywhere, and I’m starting to forget what the sun even feels like.
This is the time of year when everything just seems to stand still — every day is as cold as the one before and I start to doubt that the world will ever come alive again. That I will ever feel warm again.
If there were such a thing as the “dog days of winter,” February would be it in my book.
I don’t really know what I was thinking when I told myself I would escape the winter doldrums by moving to Vermont. I hated winter in the city — the slush, the limited places to walk/run, the piles of snow with nowhere to go, the feeling of being trapped. In Vermont, at least, I have the great outdoors to keep me busy during this time. Whether I’m skiing or hiking through knee deep snow, I love being outside in fresh powder.
But that doesn’t change the fact that winter in Vermont is harsher than winter in Rhode Island. I may love every single day that I get out on the slopes, but I can’t exactly ski every day of the week. And as beautiful as the snow can be, I’m starting to long for warmer temperatures. For the growth and renewal that is spring.
Lately I’ve been struggling with a case of the winter blues. Nothing especially serious (I know many individuals struggle with SAD during the winter months), but days when I feel down and completely lacking in energy for seemingly no reason. Days when all I want to do is sit on the couch in my sweats, eat carbs, and wallow. It’s these days when running is the absolute last thing that I feel like doing — and these days when I actually need the run most.
Yesterday was one of those down days. I was so tired that I had convinced myself I needed an extra day of complete and total rest. I figured I was better off wallowing in my own misery and inability to stay motivated than getting out the door and struggling through a slow jog.
You’d think I’d be smart enough by now to realize the stupidity of this logic. I’ve been running for years. I know that the best runs can happen on days when you least expect it. And I know that running can often give you the energy that you’ve been unable to find all day. I don’t really agree with the phrase “You never regret a workout” (because there have been workouts that I have regretted very much…but this is a post for another day…), but I do fully support the notion that running is a mood enhancer. And when it comes to needing a boost, running is my Mood Enhancing Drug of choice.
Fortunately I have a husband who knows this about me, and who has become an expert at giving me the tough love I need, when I need it most. In an act of what I’m sure was self-preservation (grumpy, no-run LB is not the most fun person to be around), he practically shoved me out the door yesterday afternoon, telling me not to return until I had gone for a run.
And what do you know — not only was I able to get in a pretty decent progression run, but I also had a surge of energy that resulted in a really great strength training session afterward. It sounds so cliche, but my mood started improving after just a few minutes on that treadmill. With each step, a little more of the stress of the day melted away. By the time I started lifting, I forgot that I had spent the entire day combating exhaustion.
In a strange way, winter has also led to a greater appreciation for strength training. I don’t particularly enjoy spending time in the weight room. I’m a cardio junkie who would rather spend hours running than just a few minutes with the free weights. I resign myself to strength training only because I know it’s good for me. But in the winter, not only is it easier to motivate myself to lift after runs when I’m already at the gym (vs the summer when I’m running outdoors all the time), I’ve also been surprised by the mood enhancing benefits that lifting can provide.
When I run, my thoughts move faster than my legs. This is usually a good thing. Running gives me time to reflect, process, dream, and plan for the future. But sometimes I just need to get out of my own head. Lifting can do that for me. When I’m lifting, my thoughts don’t wander. My sole focus is on the exercise; my one thought the current number of reps I’ve completed. For someone who is a chronic over-analyzer, having something that completely quiets my racing mind can be sort of heavenly. I’m not really sure why I never appreciated this fact about lifting before.
I returned home after my workout feeling renewed. That extra energy even carried over into this morning, when I woke up after only 6.5 hours of sleep feeling completely refreshed. It sounds so cheesy to say that running is always the mood-booster that I need, but it’s true. I don’t know how something so physically demanding can leave you with extra energy, but I have to say I’m very thankful.
I can’t talk about this without thinking of Elle Woods…
I just need to remind myself of this the next time I’m struggling. There’s a big difference between actually needing extra recovery time and simply feeling too lazy to work out. I’m all about taking time off if I physically need it, as long as I make sure I’m not just letting the winter doldrums drag me down.
In the meantime, I’ll admit that I’ve started a countdown to March 1st. 17 more days. Pretty sure I can make it.