Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Be careful but keep going!

Okay, Reader, I don't mean to get all "running in the winter is so hard boo hoo whomp whomp!" on you.

But, well, running through the winter can be really hard.  Right now in Minnesota, the snow falls a teeny bit at a time, enough to collect on the sidewalks but not enough so that every homeowner thinks, "Hmm!  I should head outside with my shovel and a bag of salt!"

That makes for a real slog on some stretches of my routes - I've compared it before to running on loose beach sand.  Ow!  My legs get tired just thinking about it.

And then if it's not snow on the sidewalks, the paths look like this:

Oh, it looks all glittery and pretty, Reader, but don't be fooled.  That's glare ice and bad news.  That stuff makes you run for the edge of the snowbanks real quick before you have to launch into an impromptu ice-dance routine down that slope.

And then it gets dark so early and you have to watch for your footing while you're watching for cars, who can't see you as easily.  And you have to kind of dress like a snowman and it is way harder to pack up your duffel bag before work than it is when you're packing clothes in the summer.  Add all of that up, and it can become a major deterrent to running outside in the winter, even for weirdos like me who actually like it 80 percent of the time.

But the purpose of this post is not to grouch about a hobby I choose to practice.  (Somewhere a reader is like "I know she complained about warm weather in the summer!  I know it!  Shut up!")

Today on my run I was thinking about new runners in wintry climates and how gutsy they are for working to establish a running routine in this very strange time of year.  It's January, after all, and I know there are people out there setting resolutions to run their first 5K or run a mile without stopping.  I am proud of people working on that on a treadmill, of course, but I know there are also a lot of people who are doing it without a gym, outside, on the same sidewalks I'm traversing.  

I get asked often whether I run outside through the winter, and for me, it's simply a routine and a habit formed over many years of doing it.  The fresh air does me a whole heap of good, it's not really a fancy choice to me, and as I've written before, I've learned through trial and error that you can dress for just about any conditions and be mostly comfortable.

But like running in the rest of the year - or just like any other challenge - it's not always easy.  Running in the winter can be exhilarating and refreshing.  It can also be dark and cold and lonely.  Skipping a workout can get so easy when a warm couch and warm dinner is beckoning after work.

I give real, serious kudos, therefore, to anyone out there who is just beginning to build a fitness routine this month, who is walking or running outside in the winter for the first time, making a firm choice each time he or she heads out onto slushy sidewalks.  

Be careful, but keep going!  It will get easier!  I'm rooting for you!

This time of year, running outside can definitely be a bear.  But every time, even if it's a trudgefest for most of the trip, I have at least one moment where it clicks for me that my muscles have been totally worked or my mind has been calmed - or an even tinier moment, when I just see streetlights against a darkening sky and think, I'm really glad I did this after all.  

I really hope all of the new runners feel that this winter, too.

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