Winter is the season that always seems to sneak up on me.
I can tell when spring is coming because my allergies flare up and the tulips at the conservatory start blooming, which makes the sniffles worthwhile. The start of summer always brings the first tan lines and plenty of trips to Buckeye Lake for my boyfriend and me. Summer gradually turns to fall, which is my favorite season – there’s still plenty of sunshine without the humidity, I’m comfortable no matter what I wear outside, and I get to see the trees change colors and run under the canopies of gold and ruby.
Then somewhere in the madness of December, with holiday preparations and end-of-year business to wrap up, December 21st rolls in. The first day of winter, and in years past I honestly didn’t realize it was winter until a heavy snow storm rolls through in January and I’m stuck in a parking lot scraping the foot of snow off my car.
However, winter isn’t just panicked slow drivers and lower vitamin D levels. The runner in me loves winter, since it’s easier to train in cold weather than it is in warmer temperatures. The human body will warm up to 20 degrees warmer than the current outside temperature when it’s moving, so running in 30 degrees can feel like running in 50. That’s not too bad.
On the frigid days, it’s easier – at least for me – to bundle up and run in layers than it is to run in as little clothing as legally possible and pray not to get a heat stroke, which is exactly how I handle myself during summer runs. The expression “spring PRs are made in the winter” isn’t just a cliche – it’s the truth that most if not all runners can confirm.
I also don’t mind the shorter days on my weekend long runs. I run alone, so not wanting to run in the dark means I don’t have to get up early like I do in the summer to beat the heat of the day. Sleeping in is always a good thing, and I feel like I run stronger and more efficiently on days I’ve slept in a little.
I can’t downplay the post-run euphoria after a long, frigid run in a Midwestern winter. My fingers lose most feeling and my face gets windburned. Then I come inside my apartment with the heat blasting, climb to the top shelf where I have a tub of Swiss Miss waiting for me, and enjoy a hot chocolate before a toasty shower.
So winter has its benefits, and I’m starting to realize there’s more to winter than running conditions. Last spring I picked up Jolene Hart’s Eat Pretty Every Day from my salon, since health and aging awesomely are priorities for me. Health has always been important, since I love being active and want to keep myself in good shape for the rest of my life. Aging awesomely (I doubt I can pull off aging gracefully) became a priority over this past year, when I was looking at my face and didn’t like how dull I looked. I was 28; that was too young to look dull and tired. So I bought the book and decided to see if there were any tips and tricks I could incorporate into my daily life.
In all honesty, while Hart knows her stuff and is more than likely a lovely person, the book was just okay. Half of the tips she offered I could use on a daily basis; the other half frankly would require an income and lifestyle I just don’t have in order to implement and maintain them.
However, while the tips themselves could go either way, the way Hart explains the purpose of the seasons and their significance did change the way I view winter. For the longest time, I saw winter as an inevitable dreary part of the year we all have to get through to get to better days. Hart explains how winter is a season of rest and rejuvenation because we’re not as active and going as many places as we do in nicer weather. As a result of the slow period, we can really invest the time into eating nourishing foods, resting and taking care of our bodies and mental well-being for spring and the year ahead.
Part of why I’m changing my views on winter is because this past fall and this past year have been an emotionally topsy-turvy time, and I want to make sure I’m taking a true rest period to get over myself and 2020 so 2021 can be a better, productive year. Additionally, I’m also using the new season to develop better self-care and soul care habits for future me – the daughter, the girlfriend, the writer and the runner.
Instead of just complaining about having to wear layers and blankets in my own apartment, I’m using the newfound season as motivation to get better and be better. Part of being better is taking care of myself physically and mentally, and creating the opportunities to do so in the current season.
So winter, after years of dreading you (aside from the advantages you provide to my running): I welcome you. I welcome the time to rest and recharge, and recalculate and reload going into 2021 and on the quest to become who I am meant to be. Although at some point I’ll probably grumble about shoveling my walkway. But I doubt this confession comes as a surprise to you.
Stay warm and I hope you find joy in the new season, friends.
Yours in writing,