Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cold, Dark, Do It Anyway!

I wrote the below a couple days ago. Then somebody posted a link to this article, which is closely related: 10 Reasons to Get Out and Run Even When It's Dark and Cold ... I think the article is.... not great. So if you're bored by what I wrote, you can look forward to me tearing apart the article at the bottom!

It's winter time. It's dark until... well it's cloudy out, so it's still dark. It's cold, the kind of cold where 30 degrees is meaningless. A calm sunny 30 is wonderful. A windy hailing 30 is murderous. For the most part you just want to hibernate with every blanket in your house and a box of pastries.

It's the season where pastries are sold in boxes.

This is NOT a box of pastries.

Getting up and working out is tough any time of year. In the winter you really don't want to move, much less work out. Every morning the alarm rings at 5:15am, or whatever time I have it set at. Pretty much the only reason I get up is because I have to pee so bad. And then once I'm up, going back to bed is stupid. So I go lift, or swim, or whatever I want to punish myself with that morning.

As hard as weekdays are, at least I don't have a lot of time to torture myself. I have to get up and exercise, then I have to go to work, then I have to work out right after I get home from work. Then maybe if I'm lucky I'll have a little time to relax before bed. Weekends though are a pain in the a$$.

On weekends I think, "I have all the time in the world!" And it's a total lie. Saturdays I sleep in, because of course. And then I alternate between exercising, lying in bed, and eating. This past Saturday I got up... I don't know when, but the sun was up, so it must have been late. I did deadlifts. Then I lay in bed. Then I went to the pool around noon and swam a mile. Everyone thinks I'm being adorable when I complain about how slow I swim. I'm not. Swimming a mile takes me a really long time. Then I lay in bed more. Then I dragged myself the 2 feet to my bike trainer and watched TV and pedaled for two hours.

Happy.... that I'm done swimming!

Then I ate a bunch of food that Meghan and Geoffrey made. And spent the rest of the night doing nothing.

Sundays are a little easier because I usually do "only" one thing for a really long time (instead of 3 things, also for a long time each but slightly less of a long time). This past Sunday I ran 17 miles. Because my legs are perpetually broken, it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. The weather was cooperative though, and I think I even got a couple drops of vitamin D.

Then I made dinner for a change, and it was amazing. But, yeah, rest of the night: Nothing. 

I don't think this will be surprising for most endurance athletes. Our lives are exercise and food. Regular people talk about going to a "show", or going "out", or just living their lives. I worry about a really good movie coming out that I want to go see. I will never get back those 2 hours when I could've lay in bed doing nothing!

As often happens, I've totally lost the point of what I was writing about. I was going to try to encourage you to work out every day, instead I'm saying if you do, you'll no longer have a life. BUT, it's not like anybody actually does anything during the winter anyway. Everybody for the most part stays at home, watches Netflix, and eats. I do that, but I also exercise. Most people get fat during the winter. I think that's bull$hit.

"Winter is bullshit. Getting fat is awesome."

Some athletes - probably most of them, actually - have an off season. And it's right now. They don't quit exercising altogether, but they do less. And they eat more. I can't do that. The only reason I can exercise every day is because of the awesome power of routine, which if you've read my blog at all, is like my favorite thing besides.... Well I quit ice cream, so I don't know what.

To me, that sounds terrible: To take a break from exercising, have a relaxing and joyful winter, put on a few pounds from cookies and pies. And then to start exercising and dieting suddenly after the New Year. To "get in gear" for a summer of marathons or Ironman(s) or whatever.

But for lots of people, that works. Half a year of hard work and half of relaxation. Well, really more like 8 months and 4 months respectively, but who has the brain power for math. Working hard for a long time makes the rest periods that much more rewarding. And really, I do the same thing, just on a shorter scale. I'll work out hard early in the day so I can relax and eat lots later in the day.

Not like those 4 easy months are that easy....

If you lounge around and eat all the time without doing anything to earn it, there's no joy in it. If I'm resting or I'm eating, and I haven't exercised, I hate myself. And maybe that's what it is that works for me: Being super hard on myself when I slack off, but also feeling super good when I don't. And that just keeps me going.

As I mentioned, that Runner's World article popped up in my feed. Anything that encourages folks to run in the winter is great. Buuuut, I don't agree with the points it makes. Below I'll enumerate the ten points and my feelings about them. I know you love lists.

  1. Consider using a three-day-a-week training plan to minimize time outdoors. This is terrible. If you're already having trouble staying honest, cutting down how much you train will only make it that much harder. If you take off even one of those three days because you're sick or because, like, there's a lot of snow and look at all this hot cocoa I made! That's pretty much a whole week of couch time. I exercise every day. Twice a day on average. I don't let winter mess with my routine.
  2. Register for races. What? This was on the list? This is actually great. Maybe I should have read the article first before slamming it. But yes, sign up for all the races. Don't wait either. I'm signed up for not one but two gnarly winter half marathons. I'm hoping for sub zero temperatures and blizzard conditions.
  3. Recruit a running partner, whether a friend or your dog. I have a friend who lives just a few blocks for me. For a few weeks, he was coming over every morning and lifting with me while I did my deadlift challenge. And then he stopped coming. I haven't seen him in two weeks. It was nice having him over, but him not showing up made no difference in me getting up early and lifting. Running with a friend or dog is nice, but you can't depend on it. Having a friend bail on you abruptly can ruin a workout. I've seen it happen.
  4. Remind yourself daily of your goal. This just sounds exhausting. I mean, if it helps, cool. But the reason I exercise every day is because I have to. That's my thinking. Yes, I signed up for an Ironman next August. I do remind myself of this in order to get myself swimming, because I'm terrible at swimming. But otherwise my "goals" don't make me exercise any more (and if I didn't swim I'd just run more).
  5. Commit to be Fit. Well, the article's explanation for this one made sense, about reinforcing good behaviors (and not reinforcing bad ones). So in that regard I agree. And sticking to a routine definitely helps form powerful lasting behaviors.
  6. Make a "Bad Weather Plan". This one makes me laugh. I love bad weather! The worse it is, the more excited I am to go out in it. I feel like a viking warrior when I run through sleet and hail. Most of winter is "bad weather". It's too easy to get in the pattern of flaking out. I personally much prefer embracing bad weather and appreciating it for the adventure it is.

    Bad weather is my bad weather plan
  7. Always prepare your clothing and workout bag the night before. I mean, this is probably a good idea. But I've literally never done this. I'm totally haphazard and I just throw all my $hit on 2 minutes before I go out. I don't even pack the night before a marathon. So I guess do this if it's important to you? But if you forget to pack your "workout bag" (so cute; I imagine that it's neon pink), don't skip your workout for that reason alone.
  8. Run in the morning. I exercise in the morning and after work. Getting up early is great, but I pretty much work out at any and every free moment I have. But yes, if you have a pile of screaming children you have to jam food into every night, then get your workout out of the way early.
  9. Plan Rewards. I count calories, so I get an automatic reward after every run of eating more food. Because deep down inside (actually, not that deep at all) I'm a big fat pig. Having to come up with different and unique rewards sounds like a huge pain in the a$$. So whatever you do, it should be a regular treat (but only if you exercise). If I don't exercise, I starve.
  10. Invest in the right running clothes for your running weather. Yeah I suppose so. Although battling the elements ill-prepared is an exciting adventure in itself! But, yeah, hats, whatever.
Alright, so maybe I was exaggerating. I only disagreed with about half the points. Whatever it takes to lure you to stay with me this long! AmIright? In any event, my biggest tip for you is to find reasons to love winter training, not just tolerate it.
"Really? Love this? You've really gone off the deep end."

This has been your annual winter running post. Back to standard programming after this.

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