Now WhatWell, the holidays have passed with all the excitement, shopping and partying that goes with them. When you think about it, those 6 or so weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are probably the fastest moving portion of our yearly calendar or at least it always seems that way. If anything, it goes TOO fast. There’s always something going on or something needing to be done. Right about now, however, the only thing on people’s agenda is taking down the Christmas decorations. Not much fun or excitement going on with that!
January and February are what I think of as the “dog days” of winter. The lucky ones among us might have a week or two planned in Florida or some other sunny climate but for the most part, it’s up to us to keep ourselves sane when the weather outside is frightful. Back in the 80’s, I spent 4 years living in New Hampshire when I was transferred there for work. We moved in January and let me tell you, we flat-landers have no idea what ‘winter’ is. I was used to running on the boards every day throughout Jersey Shore winters with little concern about ice or snow. I went into shock when it became clear that NO surface up there is without snow or ice. Further, winter starts around Halloween and can hang on well into April. One of the ironies of my situation was that we were living in a beautiful area smack dab in ski country, the place where people pay to go on THEIR winter vacations and yet here I was, a non-skier hating every minute of it. My first 2 years up there, I did exactly what you shouldn’t do, waited out winter just trying to keep warm and sane. Unfortunately for my colleagues and family, I found it comforting to let everyone know how much I hated the place. I did nothing to try and enjoy the conditions, I simply waited winter out.
Proving that even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while, it dawned on me that I needed to change my tact and try to find something to enjoy about winter. Being a runner, I was drawn to cross-country skiing. It’s pretty easy to learn the basics, not particularly expensive getting started and a great compliment to my running. I invested in the equipment in early Fall and found myself looking forward to the first snow. A whole new world opened up to me when I got started. The golf courses up there would set XC tracks for anyone to use, there were cross country touring centers everywhere and for a trail fee of about $8, you could glide through acres of some of the prettiest winter scenes imaginable. I met some guys who set up a private touring center on their properties that adjoined and was invited to use the trails whenever I wanted. One of the local ski shops created a 1/2 mile oval which they groomed so I could work on my technique and strength doing intervals whenever I wanted…for free! I spent that winter skiing about 4-5 times a week and was never in better shape. The winter flew by! When Spring came, aka “mud season”, I was bummed. Another thing I noticed that winter was the fact that my outlook towards running had improved. I came to relish the brutal cold and saw it as a challenge. I remember running 6 miles on Saturday when the temperature was -14 and it was one of the best runs I’ve ever done. Looking back, I am sad that I wasted those first couple of years fighting the winter rather than enjoying it.
Fortunately for us at the Jersey Shore, our winters come nowhere NEAR the extremes up in Northern New England but there is still the tendency to hide from winter rather than find ways to enjoy it. Having gone for a run this past weekend just as the snow started falling, I can tell you that it was a treat. My run ended at the beach which gave me a chance to walk down near the water and enjoy the sites of an angry ocean with snow-coated jetties and sand dunes covered in snow. I didn’t do it this time but I’ve had the opportunity to XC ski on the beach after big storms. I have a couple of pairs of snowshoes that I use from time to time. One pair is designed for running. When conditions are right, a run through the snow using snowshoes is awesome. These activities may not be of interest to some but I mention them as an example of how opportunity always exists to try new things. By virtue of the fact that we have more ‘down time’ in these next couple of months, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore. You don’t necessarily need to be looking for new endeavors, it might be the opportunity to pursue activities that you’ve been meaning to re-discover. That Yoga practice that made you feel so good might be something to re-ignite. That neglected weight training program or Boot Camp class might fit into your winter down-time easier than the warm weather months that are filled with outdoor activities.
Try and look at these next couple of months as a period of ‘opportunity’. Plan some goals around these pursuits to keep you focused. If nothing else, keep repeating a mantra of “beach bodies are made in the winter”.