As I sit here, we’re only 30 days from March first!
January has been so different this year than usual in that we had a ton of snow over Christmas but then didn’t get any more to speak of until this past week.
I kind of thought that would make winter much easier, but around the 3rd week in January, I still felt some of the feelings I usually do around that time. Tiredness, irritability, impatience, insomnia, just kind of a foul mood in general, for no good reason.
So I don’t think it’s so much the snow that makes winter so challenging. I was thankful that I didn’t have to deal with the snow for running purposes and I found myself increasing my mileage and even doing some workouts because, with clear roads, there was no reason not to.
The thing that was really difficult was the lack of sunshine. The vast majority of the days were dark and cloudy and we would go 2 weeks without the sun even peaking out of the clouds for a few minutes. Without snow, the landscape took on a dark tone with bare trees and muddy grounds. On top of that, we had several days of rain.
I signed up for this 1,000 hours outside challenge for the year and I got the kids excited to try some new things like snow tubing and cross country and downhill skiing. We couldn’t do any of that.
We did get outside some and we had some great, muddy hikes and every time during the month that the sun did peek out, I fully enjoyed it.
Now that we have snow again, it’s really brightened the landscape. Even though it’s still not really sunny out, looking at the bright landscape almost mimics the sun and I think it helps our brains to tell the difference between day and night.
It makes running more challenging but I’ve decided to embrace it this winter. Usually, I’m trying to just “get through” my running in the winter. Keep the level of fitness I’m in and then push myself again in the spring. I decided if I’m going to live in Michigan, I shouldn’t just be trying to survive in the winter, I should be enjoying the difference it brings.
I’ve been watching a YouTube vlogger, Jonna Jinton at night lately. She lives in northern Sweden where it is winter half the year! In December they don’t get any daylight, just one hour of twilight each day. She talks about her struggles with embracing winter and she’s done many things to help herself really enjoy it. It’s inspired me to try to find ways to enjoy it too.
So when we had a fresh blanket of snow on the ground last week, I decided to do something different. Usually I’m trying to find clear roads to run on, but that comes with it’s own challenges. The roads that are clear, often have the most traffic and the shoulders don’t get cleared. So every time a car comes along I need to move onto the shoulder which is usually covered in snow and slush. Now with having my dog too, it’s just extra stressful to try to make sure there’s enough room for both of us to stay out of the way of cars.
So I took my dog to a park that has lots of cross country trails. I figured, why fight the snow. I knew my times would be slower, but I didn’t have to always be such a slave to my watch. To my delight, the paved trail they had been building in October was completed!
The paved trail cut through the woods. There was only a couple inches of snow on the ground and not many footprints so it was actually good traction. The woods looked beautiful covered with the bright white snow. The path meandered right next to a large black river. The contrast between the white of the snow and the darkness of the river and trees was just beautiful.
I didn’t even mind climbing up the long hill and the view from the top of the river was just breathtaking. The path now connected 3 parks and I was able to get my 6 miles in there.
I loved that experience so much that I decided to go back and run there for my long run on Saturday morning. We had a bit more snow and there had been quite a bit more foot traffic, so the footing was not as great as it was earlier in the week, but the stunning beauty of it made up for that.
The worst part of my run was actually on the busiest street as car after car drove by us and I struggled to find good footing on the shoulder.
I finished the run, and later took my girls out for a walk in the same woods I was in. The kids found even more interesting things to do like peel little bits of ice off of the wood dense and throw them into the River.
As we enter February, I’m expecting it to be cold and for there to be much more snow. I’m ok with that. Now we are excited to try to plan some of these winter activities. And of course, it’s always so nice to go back home into a warm house after being outdoors. Much like the contrast in the scenery of light snow on dark trees is calming, the contrast of warm and cold also brings comfort and appreciation for both. Sipping on a hot cup of coffee or tea as my fingers gradually warm up makes me feel happy to be alive.
Enjoy the beauty of this season to the fullest!