Winter Running

After a few Chicago winters myself and seeing how my brother handles running in the winter, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that running in the winter really isn't that bad.  I can't use this as a reasonable excuse.  The only reason I get cold is because I didn't dress properly.  Most of the time, I get too hot!  This is also easily remedied by removing a layer.  It takes a few weeks of understanding what you need to wear at 30 degrees and at 5 degrees.

Winter time is usually a sad time of year.  It has a way of forcing us indoors.  But this need not be the case.  I think of Scandinavian countries that embrace the cold.  There is much to be learned from this.  Just because the temperature drops, doesn't mean our routines need to.  If there is a lot of snow, pick up a new hobby of snow shoeing or cross country skiing.  Embrace the winter or move to a warmer location because winter isn't going anywhere.

Photo By: Julia Revitt

In the winter it is easy to lose sight of the reasons why we should stay in our exercise routine.  We can be come conscious and therefore more motivated if we write them down.  Start with the superficial then move into the more meaningful reasons and big goals.  Here are mine:
  • To not get fat.
  • Keep up that tan.
  • Providing space and time to unwind and think.
  • To be an example to my son that doing hard things is rewarding.
  • I would like to complete a 50 mile race within 2 years and a 100 mile race within 4 years.
Set yourself up for success this winter by putting on some extra layers and writing out your motivation for running.  Good luck out there!

Why I Generally Ignore Training Plans

Often times, when I sign up for a race, I get urge to find a training plan. I have never successfully completed a training plan and have given up on the pre-made ones for the following reasons.
  1. Psyched Up For A Second - When you first find a training plan you are excited. You think, "This is what will lead me to my dreams and goals." But after a week goes by, and you have a day that you can't fit a run into and you get bummed. Really bummed. Your training plan looks like another obstacle to traverse. This leads to many days of beating yourself up as you fall short of your scheduled plan. And that's no bueno. 
  2. Because I'm Always Available - Training plans assume a lot. Perfect health, that you don't have a social life, and that you don't like to do things spontaneously. When you have a 10 mile day, but only really have 45 mins to run, for some reason it's easier to scrap the whole day then to just do what you can in that 45 minute window.  Do the 45 minute run, your training plan isn't going to yell at you for going against it, it's just a piece of paper.  Be aware of the inner critic who is talking down to you in these moments.  Choose to ignore that voice.
  3. Put Me In Coach - Many training plans are based off of High School and Collegiate running programs and mentalities. Five days of hard running is just too much for those of us who aren't in college or High School. Interval training? Now we are adding a lot of complexity for guy or gal who is just trying to get in shape and have fun with running.
I've gotten really burnt out trying to follow programs. If you are just starting out, make a goal to run or run/walk for 3ish times a week for about a half hour each time. If you can't run the whole time, that's fine, you will work up to it. You want a plan that empowers you and makes you think, "Ok, I can do this!"

After some experience and understanding of yourself as a runner, make your own training plan. Modify ones you find on the internet and understand that it's just a guideline to help you run, it's not the end all Biblical truth. Running should be enjoyable and challenging. You will be more likely to follow a plan that reflects more fun.


Photo by: Jay Mantri

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) says,  "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Let me be a good Biblical Scholar, and take this out of context.  Suffering is actually good for you.  When was the last time you as a good American suffered?  We spend most of our lives avoiding suffering at all costs, but maybe that is at our own detriment.  Endurance, hope, character... these are big things!  Great things!  Maybe we are missing something in our lives when we avoid suffering.  Or even on a lesser scale, difficulty.  The most difficult thing a lot of Americans will do this year is file their taxes.  We are privileged in America to not have to face much suffering or difficulty, unlike other parts of the world.  Maybe this lack of suffering makes our lives feel stale and hollow.  Hollow lives tend to be filled with self inflicted suffering, as if it is built into our DNA.

A life without difficulty.  We will always find ways of filling it with suffering.  Maybe it's no wonder that heroin is on a rise in the suburbs.  Relationship issues can be a great source of self inflicted suffering too.  But maybe in America we don't chose our suffering well.  Our suffering doesn't produce endurance that leads to character and hope.  It leads to destruction.  We don't invite the right types of suffering into our lives.  We ignore our diet, physical and psychological states, and self medicate with TV, alcohol, relationships etc.   

Here's a solution, stick to your diet and exercise!  Suffer in the right way by keeping your negative thoughts to yourself!  Running is a great form of suffering!  It is one that I have found to lead to endurance physically and psychologically.  It encourages a healthy diet and surrounds us by good influences, you know, the ones who aren't into heroin...  If you are running, you will find you have little energy to fight with your significant other.  

Choose the good types of suffering.  You will know it's a good type if it produces endurance, character and hope in your life.

Running Nonsense

Runners often get the question, "Why?" I think for many runners, we are just as surprised by the question as the person who just found out you actually enjoy running. I like to ask people, "what about distance running seems so strange."  The answers vary, but usually are attributed to the time commitment, their own hopelessness of getting into shape, and those who believe that running is actually bad for you.

Time Commitment - I think there are a lot of us who get into our own heads with this one. People naturally avoid things that cause stress and committing to run a couple times a week or signing up for a race can cause stress. To avoid this stress, they don't follow through with the training. Everyone gets touchy when it comes to "me" time. Running is often perceived as something that is going to take away our precious "me" time. What most find, is that running is a great way to energize your day, allowing you to more fully invest yourself in your pursuits. Unless you are trying to break some records, just start out small. Run 1 day a week if that's all you can commit to, it's better than no days a week.

The Hopeless Folks - Some people are so pessimistic about their own health, that they can't avoid but spreading that negativity to others. "Oh, 3 miles, I could never..." and "You ran 31 miles?! I don't even drive my car that far!" Fact is, you can and you could if you would tell yourself a different story about it. "3 miles, I could work up to that." Don't put yourself down, you have the ability to get into shape to do anything, seriously, stop telling yourself no, and start giving yourself excuses why you can.

Running Is Bad For You - Most of these folks have some personal story or have a random fact from some study that they didn't read but heard about on the News. "It's bad for your knees." This is true, if you have crappy form or try too much too fast. Running is a discipline, you need to watch some youtube videos on good running form, like this one ---> Just because you are born with legs, doesn't mean you know how to use them... Don't run when things have some sharp pains, take a few days to rest. "It's bad for your heart."  This is true, if you are running a marathon every weekend at a race pace... don't be that guy.  Start slow, and gain some knowledge about how to run well, that seems to be the key to running for a lifetime.