The first two parts of this series – “How You Respond to the Cold” and “How to Dress for Success” – were designed to prepare you for Running in the Cold. Why? Because now I plan to convince you that you should.
How to embrace your inner polar bear and enjoy your winter running
Winter is often the time that runners either: 1) Head indoors to the dreadmill, 2) Cross-train on an elliptical, stationary bike or some other type of cardio equipment, or 3) Simply stop running. The first option is great at maintaining your run-specific running fitness, but is among the most boring activities known to humankind. Option two can add some variety to winter training and improve your overall fitness, but is still less than stimulating. With the third option, you lose all that hard-won fitness that you spent seven to nine months developing.
If you’ll suspend your disbelief for just a short while, I think I can persuade you that running outside in the cold is not only worth it in terms of improving your running, but also can be fun and rewarding. I’ll do this by giving you some reasons and strategies for changing your outlook concerning Running in the Cold.
First, the reasons. By running outside in the cold, you’ll experience things that you would miss otherwise. And I’m not talking about chapped lips, frostbite and a red nose. Some of the most beautiful and amazing sights and sounds that nature has to offer are on display during the winter. Many can only be found by getting out in the cold.
These are things that enrich one’s life: colorful, refracted rays of the sun through thousands of tiny icicles hanging from a skeletal shrub along a creek bank; amazing contours of snow, chiseled by the wind on the prairie; other-worldly tinkling of ice crystals as they are shaken from a bare tree by a passing breeze; the eerie, grinding clash of ice-flows on the river; the squeaking crunch of your shoe fall on a field of fresh snow…
Bizarre, massive sculptures formed by the melting and freezing of snow on a sun-drenched mountainside; the sunrise on cold day as the brightness grows over a frozen valley and everything appears sharp and clear through the frigid air; a cityscape under a blanket of white, looking cleaner and more peaceful than it could ever truly be.
Another reason: Running in the Cold is more challenging. Do it, and that 45 degree 5k you run in April will seem a lark in comparison. Do it, and you’ll become stronger and tougher because you did.
If these reasons aren’t enough, I have some strategies to trick yourself into enjoying your winter runs anyway. They are; transference, distraction, ignorance, and exaggeration.
Transference is often referred to as a negative. People transfer their insecurities, fears and anger onto others and usually cause them pain. But I’ve learned to transfer the positive things instead. And I transfer them onto my running. Last night I slept poorly, and when my alarm went off early this morning, I had every intention of shutting it off and going back to sleep. But I decided to check my e-mail first, and there was an exciting one that let me know my debut novel – “Harvest of the Heart” – had been chosen as a “Yummy Read” by Bookie Jar, the site where I have been doing a pre-release test market of my book. I immediately transferred that excitement into motivation to get myself out of bed, into my running stuff, and out the door, despite the sub-zero temps.
Take the good news, the things that make you happy, the joy you receive from friends and family and carry them with you when you run. I guarantee they’ll help keep you warm.
Distraction can be an easy way to divert your mind from the discomfort that may arise from running in the cold. If you have a problem at work, a stubborn passage in a book you are writing, something that you need to talk to your spouse or a friend about; work stubborn issuees through in your mind while you are out on your winter run. This is one way to make something that could be a negative work for you.
Ignorance is bliss, they say. In this case, I’m thinking it is more like a way to get yourself out the door. Don’t think about the weather. Just mechanically go about taking each step necessary to prepare, and then grab that doorknob, open the door… and step out. By the time you realize what you’ve done, it is too late to turn back!
Exaggeration is another method I occasionally use to maneuver myself into a run. I tell my self it is 30 below zero and the winds are gusting at 50 miles per hour. When I get upstairs and find it is only 5 below and the winds are only 20 miles per hours, I can convince myself I am disappointed at having such a weak challenge that day. The run seems a lot easier than what I had braced myself to expect.
Another important thing about running in the winter is that all the other reasons you have for running still apply. Let me ‘splain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Health, fitness, weight control (Just think how guilt-free the Christmas feasting could be if you are running every day!), stress relief and all other reasons still apply.
Prepare properly and give it a try. The colder the weather, the better. COME ON! Embrace your inner Polar Bear and get out there!