Winter’s here, and so is my usual struggle with darkness and cold. That means having to make big changes to how I keep fit and how I train for next season’s races.
The bottom line is that I really dislike running outdoors in the winter. I can do it, no question. Years ago, when I lived in Sudbury, Ontario, I ran outside every day in temperatures that went down to -40C (-40F) for days on end. To be fair, Sudbury winters usually meant bright sunshine and clean snow – and I was a lot younger then. More recently, I’ve run all through the winter here in Mississauga, where it’s more likely to be just damp and messy.
Just because I can do it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Running to me means freedom. I don’t feel free when I’m encased in layers of clothing, bracing myself against biting winds, and anxious about icy sidewalks and roadways. I crave sunlight and heat, not darkness and cold. Winter to me is like being buried alive. Winter to me is about entropy, about dying. I look forward to spring, and I long for summer.
It’s said that our toughest enemies are our greatest teachers. I have a tough time learning from winter, because it scares me. But I’m doing it.
I know that next Tuesday, December 21, is the winter solstice, the very midpoint of winter. It’ll be the shortest day and longest night of the year – and the next day will have more daylight. So will the next day. And the next. Spring will be on its way.
I’ve adapted my training to deal with the dark, cold mornings when I don’t want to run outside. I run on the treadmill. I do more strength training. I do water running. I save my outdoor runs for Sundays, when I can wait until the sun has come up and temperatures may be a little milder.
In 2007, I broke the back of winter by spending the first week of February at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. I spent each morning lying on the beach, like a lizard on a rock, and in the afternoons I walked the length of the 36K long beach. (If I do it again – which I plan to – I’ll substitute running for walking.) When my week on the beach was over, I came back to Canada feeling that winter’s end was truly in sight.
Basically, though, I simply hunker down and try not to whine too much. It’s not easy, as you can tell, but I try.