I grew up in Texas, and one of the many parts of that home that I carry in my heart is a love for warmth, sunshine, and all things summer. I am also a runner – ever since middle school basketball didn’t work out – and every winter this poses a problem. To be honest, it only took a few years in the Northeast before it stopped posing a problem – I just assumed that I would take 3-5 months off running outside, and then started going to yoga, joined a gym, swam laps – whatever it took to do the bare minimum while I waited for the spring.
As I got married and our family began to grow, my priorities and exercise routine shifted dramatically as I cycled through the months of pregnancy, post-partum recovery, breastfeeding, and sleeplessness (wait, was that last part supposed to be over?). I took 9 or 10 months off running after our last babe was born – I missed it, knew I would get back into it someday, but I just couldn’t quite manage.
This winter began innocently enough – not too cold in December, even – but with my older kids in two different schools and a baby who was discovering walking, climbing, and separation anxiety all at once (or so it seemed), I quietly became overwhelmed with all the demands of family – not to mention my own projects and my husband’s crazy work schedule. I craved time alone, away– but when I could manage even an hour here or there, it quickly filled with buying paper towels online, ordering teacher gifts, listening to music I needed to learn, looking up recipes for dinner, writing concert reviews the night before they were due. I wasn’t sleeping well, either, and strangely, lost my appetite (right at a time of year when I typically love to eat). I was short-tempered and couldn’t seem to locate an ounce of positivity in all my brain.
Finding a way to run again no longer felt like an option – it began to feel like a necessity. And also, a near impossibility: with the winter hitting full-force, the aforementioned three kids, the never-ending lack of sleep, and a husband who works nights and needs to sleep in the mornings. But if there’s one thing I am, it’s stubborn, and so I made up my mind: by hook or by crook, I was going to do this running thing in the winter. I’ve read enough self-help articles to know that if you want to make a change in your life, you can’t set big goals (without small steps) or expect something unrealistic. So I started small: I would run twice a week. Three miles would be plenty.
It’s fun, in a way, to have this new added element of winter to figure out.
I’m learning that I can still love the run, even if I don’t love the cold. I love the time alone, I love that even 34 minutes can make a huge different in my day. I love the feeling of accomplishment. And figuring out the winter piece means more accomplishments! Not only is each run an accomplishment, but there are so many new things to celebrate: first run with Henry in the 30s! First run with Henry to the lighthouse! First terribly, terribly windy run (like, I had windburn on my face afterwards)! First run seeing the river frozen over! First run with the stroller at sub-30 degrees! First run when the weather and wind and temperature were all so awful that I had to do my whole run on the track! First run with Jacob on his scooter to the lighthouse! First run on the treadmill! First run with snow on the ground! First run with my new hat! First run wearing three layers instead of two! First run at seventeen degrees!
By hook or by crook, I’m figuring it out. Yes, I absolutely crave the warmth of the sun and actually feeling my fingers and toes for most of the run. I can’t wait to go outside without all the layers and even more, I long for the day when the first couple of miles aren’t miserable because of the cold. Even though I CANNOT WAIT for spring days, I am determined to keep running through this winter. By hook or by crook.
Is there something that you’ve been waiting to do? A change that you’ve been waiting to make? Let me tell you: don’t wait. If it would be good for you in a month, in six months – it’s likely good for you now, too. Set a small, small goal, bribe yourself in any way that you need – and, by hook or by crook, just start doing it. You’ll be grateful you did.