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Mood Enhancers

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.

ponds after Nemo

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.

barn_nemo

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.

snow hike_dog

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.

upper kidderbrook_top

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.

vermont winter_yard

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.

13 Responses to Mood Enhancers

  1. I was totally feeling depressed, exhausted, and just generally down while I was sick. I was frustrated that I couldn’t run, so when I was FINALLY feeling better, I couldn’t wait to get out there. There’s nothing like having it taken away from you, you just want it that much more.

    17 days?! That seems so close, I think I can make it!!
    Steph´s last post ..French Fries? What are those?

  2. I feel exactly the same way…both about Feb and about running. Today I ended up in the same situation as you – feeling so despairing (I do have SAD but I also have photosensitive migraines so I can’t use a light box to help treat it), so tired, so down. And the first few miles of the run felt terrible…in the end my pace wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t great, but I felt like ‘me’ again afterwards. And I wasn’t tired any more.

    Running is my mood enhancer – I never really need rest days when I’m just telling myself I need them. I’m not worth knowing until I’ve run on any given day – it’s why I used to be a 5am runner…since my general depression has become so much worse I’ve struggled to make it out and had to wait until the evenings. I am a) NOT an evening runner and b) I think people believe I’ve had a personality transplant because I’m so lethargic, snappy, moody and prone to tears all day.

    I wish I could get my mojo back and run first thing again. It’s tricky in the Northern UK because there’s so much ice around at that time of the day, but mostly it’s just me and my excuses.

    Sorry for my waffling…I just found this a very timely post.

  3. I tap into the memory of how I feel after a couple minutes of running when I am having that I don’t want to do anything feeling.

    I usually tell myself to just start and if I really need to and it’s not going well I can stop. Some days like yesterday I can’t get in a groove, but my legs on the other hand aren’t TIRED so I keep going. And 6.5 miles later, I was happy I did. I don’t think I have ever bailed once I have started.

    Running really is the best therapy for a bad mood.
    Gianna´s last post ..Let’s Talk 2013 Plans and Goals…

  4. I struggle with this so much. I’m from Florida and suffered (well, relatively speaking) through a few NY winters before deciding that February would henceforth be what I think of as “spring preparedness month.” Basically, all this means is that I spend the entire month indulging myself with all of the things that get me excited about spring. At the beginning of February I make a list of all of the awesome things I want to do in spring/summer: running, biking, camping, everything. I re-up my running stuff (sportsbras, especially!), patched a flat tire in my bike, sold an old tent and bought a new one, and registered for my spring races, and (not running related). I started worm composting in anticipation of growing vegetables in the spring. It reminds me that spring is just around the corner, and also serves the useful purpose of curbing my spending on my running and biking hobby throughout the rest of the year (really, February is the best time to buy sale running clothes, marked down after everyone’s lost enthusiasm in their New Year’s resolutions.) Giving myself something to do has made it seem like spring is just around the corner. Hang in there!

  5. I like February because days are getting noticeably longer, but it is still cool outside. I really hate summer and dread it so there is still enough time before that…I like the temperature in NYC though I remember the area where you are is quite a bit colder…

  6. Legally Blonde was on yesterday! I watched it while I was procrastinating and being unproductive
    Shannon @ Mon Amour´s last post ..Believe

  7. I feel you on the winter blues! I keep trying to combat them but it is tough. Luckily, I’ve found some relief in a new love for more cross training/strength training as well!
    abbi´s last post ..Runners Seminar with Bart Yasso

  8. I hear you on February. I’m so ready for spring and daylight. I totally agree that running does great things to boost your mood. It can almost always turn my frown upside down
    Amanda´s last post ..Safety First

  9. I know what you mean. I was in the UK in Jan/Feb for just over three weeks. The grey skies, cold weather and general weather misery was so grotty. Every run was a little rebellion against the bad weather, and we didn’t have it anywhere near as badly as you guys are having winter. I got back to the Bay Area on Sunday – Monday morning, I opened the curtains and found blue skies and sunshine, I could seriously not wait to get out and run. The difference that weather makes is quite astonishing!!! Hang in there – February is nearly over already!
    Cathryn´s last post ..It feels like New Year’s Day again

  10. The winter months always make me feel sluggish, and finding the urge to run is always a challenge. I’ve found that a greater intake of vitamin B12 in the morning actually gave me the boost I needed. I started with the GNC B-Complex capsules, but then a friend of mine turned me on to this new supplement called Euphorix. It has everything the GNC capsules have, but with the added benefit of other vitamins and minerals. Getting up to run is definitely not as hard anymore.

    Keep your head up! Spring is almost here :)

  11. I absolutely dread the cold weather, it makes me not want to leave the house so I totally agree with you about just wanting to stay on your couch all day! Finding motivation was difficult for me as well since my body slows down or speeds up depending on the external temperature/weather conditions. Coffee does not work for me and Red Bull used to until I started getting heart palpitations and jitters, which I hated. Similar to Mike, I have actually been hearing about this supplement Euphorix floating around. I personally never tried it but my buddy Jason swears by it. It’s apparently a mood elevator and may be the answer to your problems. I’m thinking of picking up a box from their website, I will let you know how it goes! Do not lose hope for spring will be here soon!!

  12. This post really struck a cord with me today. I woke right up in a depressed and tired mood today. I decided that today after work I am heading to the great outdoors for a run. It will be my first outside run in a long time. The sun is shining and I really need to release some endorphins. My hubby is like yours and knows how ugly my mood can be if I don’t get a run in when it is a run day, so he has offered to watch my kiddos while I go! I hope my run has the same effect on me:)!

  13. I feel the same way, but what help me make my mood even better despite feeling in the dump is the fact that my golden retriever is always there to welcome me home.
    Kelly Williams´s last post ..Does Ageless Male Work? Learn the Truth Here

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