Tag Archives: winter

30 days to go

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.

Several minutes of the sun peaking through on one of my hikes with my son

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!

59 days

January 1, 2023, the start of a new year. Also, the start of the 59 hardest days of the year for me, typically.

I wouldn’t call it depression. That sounds so serious. It’s more just the winter blahs, or seasonal affective disorder or something like that. I don’t get depressed, but it’s usually the time of the year I just feel “off” or “down” for no particular reason. I mean, certainly life events during other times of the year can be harder, it’s just that usually during this time of year, I’ll feel this way, when nothing in particular is really wrong. Things could be going along just fine and I’ll catch myself just irritable or grumpy and lacking motivation.

Then I feel guilty for feeling that way. It’s a vicious cycle set on repeat from January to March. There’s many reasons I think this happens. I live in Michigan and winters can be particularly brutal. But it’s not necessarily the snow or the cold that makes it so tough. I think a lot of it has to do with the lack of sunshine. I have noticed a drastic improvement in my mood on days that are bitter cold but sunny. Besides just the lack of vitamin D in the wintertime, the sunlight is important for triggering hormones that control your sleep/wake cycles. It’s crucial to send your body signals in the daytime that it’s actually day time.

This year, I’ve got a plan to try to keep myself from falling into these winter blah’s, whatever you want to call it.

For one thing, I bought a “happy lamp”. It sounds so silly, but often, even after I’ve opened up all the blinds in our home, the sky is so grey that it doesn’t really light up the house. This lamp sends daylight signals to my brain in the morning that it’s daytime and can help with the sleepiness and low energy we often feel in the winter. I put it on my kitchen counter when I’m making breakfast or doing dishes, etc.

The next thing I’m doing is making it a priority to get outside when there is sunshine. If I see that golden sun outside, I try to get outside as soon as possible. Even if that’s just driving in a car.

Another thing I’m doing is trying to embrace winter. I’ve signed up for a challenge to get 1,000 hours of outside time this year and honestly, I don’t need it in the summer. We practically live outside in the summer. I do need accountability in the winter. The challenge will keep me motivated on hitting small monthly goals.

I’m also trying getting the family into new winter sports. We already love sledding but my kids are getting older now so we can try some more difficult things like skiing and ice skating, winter hikes, etc. I’m reading a new book, Microadventures, and I’m having fun trying to plan some of ours.

I’m also trying to enjoy winter running more. I’m usually always in the mindset to just “grit through” winter running, but I’m really trying hard to push myself to really enjoy it.

On Christmas Eve, it was a crazy snow storm. I knew I needed to do my long run and my very active dog needed to get some exercise too. With the wind chill it was -5 F. I didn’t even know if my dog should be out there! While many dog breeds are built for winter, he has no undercoat and has hardly any body fat to speak of. So, I put a sweater on him, put the mushers secret on the pads of his feet and tried wrapping a scarf around his ears and we drove to a church nearby that has heated pavement.

Rocky looked like a little old lady getting ready to go for our run

Even heated pavement couldn’t keep up with the heavy snow falling down. It wasn’t as bad as the other roads, but there was definitely a couple inches of snow cover that was semi slushy and a little slippery, but it was much better than the alternative. We ran, and it was torturous when I had to clean up his waste by stopping. The wind was whipping at my face and I zipped my running jacket all the way up to my chin.

When we turned, the cold blasted my face, giving me an instant headache. It took me more than 18 minutes to run 2 miles and then my dog Rocky went and stood by the truck, letting me know he’d had enough.

I took him home to get warmed up and I did the remaining 6 miles alone. I listened to a podcast, and then to some music. It wasn’t exactly what I would call enjoyable, but I got through it and was happy to be done and have done it.

Dealing with that kind of weather is not something I look forward to, but it also teaches me a bit about myself and what I’m capable of when I don’t give up. More than a few times, I thought about doing the last few miles on the treadmill but I stuck it out.

It teaches you something to go out against the elements like that and find there’s a limit to what you can do. On a great day, you may be able to easily run 2 minutes a mile faster, but you just can’t do it in these extremes. But you can endure and you can endure longer than you think. And a warm cup of coffee and hot shower are appreciated that much more afterwards.

I’ll try to write more about my winter adventures and hold myself accountable. Enjoy winter and please share your tips with me for defeating the winter blahs.