Shortly after the major milestone of running my first half-marathon last fall, I have to admit I really enjoyed the month that followed. With training on the back burner, I fully enjoyed the free time I reclaimed: more time for writing, more time for staying on top of errands and housekeeping, and of course eating anything and everything as my metabolism was still cranked up high and quickly burning up anything I consumed.
Then the post-run party is over, replaced by holiday parties and more “fun food”!
Then when the holidays are over… Winter! Ugh!
When it comes to winter I am not a sports enthusiast:
– Despite many lessons in my pre-teens, I skate about as gracefully as Bambi on ice. Sorry, Rideau Canal.
– When I was a kid, my dad was in the ski patrol. We were out on the slopes at the crack of dawn every Sunday. You could say that before age 12, I did enough skiing to last me a lifetime and it would be true, especially given that I was not a fan of the cold and snowy part.
– Contrary to popular belief, Canadian kids are not born with hockey sticks in their hands. Besides, I was always picked last for team sports like that, so I sublimate that lifetime of trauma, by attending as many cheery musical theatre performances and uplifting operas as I can afford.
– I tried curling, I understand the game and really enjoy the wardrobe options (Google: “Norwegian curling pants” and click on the “images” tab) but I prefer my exercise in short spurts.
So what about my first love in sports, running?
In theory, if properly dressed for it, running can be performed in almost any kind of weather. I say in theory because I know my limit is around -20 degrees Celsius. Below that, my lungs are not happy in the days that follow, but that’s just me. The fact is that I have enjoyed running on sunny and bright but less “crisp” wintery days.
And that is where the internal struggle begins, overlaid with a nice dose of self-inflicted Catholic guilt.
On one hand, I feel bad in achieving the fitness level of a half-marathoner then letting it slide along with the momentum I achieved, my cardio capacity and to a lesser extent… my waistline.
On the other hand, when my favourite running paths are closed for winter and hiding under several feet of snow, and regular sidewalks are uneven and covered in snow, black ice or both (a sad fact for Ottawa for a good 3-4 months of the year), the risk of serious injury wins out over my enthusiasm. Middle-aged bones don’t seem to heal as quickly as they used to.
When you factor all these in, I find myself gravitating more toward hibernating in my home office working on my writing projects and switching to indoor workouts instead.
I am good friends with hard core runners who are out there in all weather conditions. I have the utmost admiration for them and I thank them for respecting my comfort zones in this regard. It really is a personal thing.
Even if I had a half-marathon race lined up in the spring, I don’t think my motivation would be any higher. The fact remains that I “tolerate” winter much like I tolerate the inevitability of door-to-door salespeople, slow drivers in the fast lane and snow plows that leave a heap of snow at the end of my driveway.
But when I decide to snub my nose at an outdoor blizzard, cozy up on the couch with my iPad, open Instagram and see Californians and Australians taking selfies while going out for a run, shirtless. More self-inflicted guilt, which makes long Ottawa winters seem even longer.
But no sooner than the calendar flips to March, things start to change. With the days getting longer and average temperatures rising, I will come home some days to find the snow on my driveway all melted, a sign that the sidewalks are clearing too. There is hope!
When spring starts showing its signs and my body is screaming at me to go for a run – and I do – the guilt lifts completely. I know I really do like running even if I do not have a big goal or race to light a fire under me. As soon as that happens, I will be out there running 5K, then 6K, then 7K, regaining lost ground in my training, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine again and wondering to myself along the way “why did I beat myself up so badly over the guilt of not running?”
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