Look around. Leaves are brown. There’s a patch of snow on the ground.
I am normally a pretty hardy runner; cold, heat, so what? You dress for the conditions and get out there. But, as most of you may have noticed, this winter is shaping up to be very un-high desert-like. It’s flipping freezing out there. Subfreezing, actually. And I’ve been suffering from lack of motivation. It’s just so hard to stay warm. This weather makes a person more tired, as well. I thought maybe I just needed to toughen up. But, talking to fellow runners and other people who like to get their exercise outside, I’ve found I’m not alone.
So, what’s an outdoor-lover to do? Or someone trying to get motivated to become more physically active, and healthier in general?
While my motivation still isn’t quite where it would be on a more fair-weather winter, I would like to share what has worked for me so far in getting through what feels like the coldest winter in my 15 years in the Grand Valley.
First things first. Proper sleep. I know this is a hard one as a mom. We can’t always get to bed early, sleep peacefully and wake up eight hours later. This is a huge one, though. I’ve always been one of those people who gets five or six hours of quality sleep but piddles around in the evening, and gets up early for coffee. I’ve been working hard at the sleep thing, though, this winter. And, I can tell that it has far-reaching positive results when I make myself go to bed early, and sleep as late as my schedule allows on any given day. My general mood is better. My focus, as well. As much as I love my coffee (I really, really love my coffee), I know I shouldn’t drink a pot a day, and with a good night of sleep, that stays at a more reasonable volume. Just getting an adequate amount of sleep is one of the best changes we can make for ourselves.
Then there’s nutrition. A lot of us probably already take care of ourselves decently with this. But we could still do better. Others of us might be struggling to make some major lifestyle changes when it comes to the food we put into our bodies. ANY positive changes are good, though. And, in this intensely cold winter, your body will thank you for giving it the fuel to keep energy levels up. Think first about minimizing or eliminating those things that aren’t really “food” and don’t do a thing to fuel your body. I am talking about those convenience items – fast food, processed foods from the grocery store, soda, and other stuff that’s just not food.
I once drank nearly a 2-liter of Pepsi every day, believe it or not. And I was, well, addicted. I couldn’t see myself not drinking the stuff. Well, there was a pivotal point, a month or two after my youngest daughter was born, when I had a stomach virus (I know, fun), and quit the stuff cold turkey because I had to. I didn’t like getting off my favorite soda, but you know what? Once I did, I felt SO much better. It was noticeable. Then I replaced that soda with more water. At the time I was about 50 lbs overweight, and this brought my weight down 5 pounds naturally while improving how I felt. Then, the next 5 pounds didn’t seem so daunting. It’s all about the little changes, and that one change made it possible for me to move on to the next change.
Maybe you’re already a fairly healthy eater. But, most of us in this country could always stand to improve, myself included. When you go to the grocery store, show some love to that store perimeter, where you’ll find your fresh fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods. Did you know that you can boost serotonin levels with healthy carbs? Stuff like sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash can actually help you feel better. Winter fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, cranberries, citrus fruits, grapes, and root vegetables are awesome as well. Foods rich in anti-oxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene can help keep you healthy and feeling better, too. Think stuff like citrus fruit, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach. And most importantly, don’t skip meals. I know this is a hard one as a mom. It’s probably one of the best conscious choices we can make for ourselves each and every day. While changing everything at once nutritionally might seem a bit overwhelming, too, I think it helps to take the “one small change” approach. Commit to making one change with your nutrition. Maybe you start having breakfast again. Maybe you do fast food more than you care to admit, and you cut it out altogether, or at least get it down to once a week. That little change will make you feel SO much better, and make other changes easier.
Now, I’m back to the beginning. Trying to get outdoors in this beautiful place we all call home. Here are some things that are helping me get through it.
I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful to make plans with friends for workouts. That’s right – you won’t wimp out if you know someone else is meeting you. You want to make it as enjoyable as possible, though. I’ve long been an early morning runner. This winter, though, I’ve made some accommodations. On the weekends, I strive to get out midday to early afternoon, when there is sometimes sunshine, and temperatures have tended to be the highest. If you get up above the inversion, to places like Glade Park or the Grand Mesa, you’ll find warmer temperatures as well. It’s pretty up in those places, too, so maybe think about a day of skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking or running at altitude. Those are great opportunities to get together a group of friends and family as well, and make a day out of it.
Staying indoors to exercise, while not a favorite for many of us, can still be fun. I recently had a surprisingly fun kickboxing workout with a friend who has the boxing gloves and equipment at home. There are also places like the Fruita Rec Center, or the Colorado Mesa University Rec Center, where a variety of activities are available. While it’s not in my budget to go all the time, I have been going to the CMU Rec Center at least once a week (they open at 5 a.m.) for a swim session or a run on the indoor track. Though I prefer outdoors, I must admit it’s been a mood booster to wear shorts or a swimsuit indoors! And maybe you’ve got a friend with a bike trainer at their house, some dumbbells, a yoga video, or other exercise gear that can be used indoors. Make a party out of it…bring what you have to their place, or the other way around, and get it done. You will probably feel so good afterward that it might motivate you to brave the outdoors with that friend the next time around. If not, that’s OK, too.
I know we can’t make all the perfect choices all the time when it comes to taking care of ourselves, especially when it feels better to just curl up on the couch under a blanket. I sure don’t. Making one good choice or change is a great start, though. Your body and mind will thank you! And then, soon enough, you’ll look around, the grass will be high, the fields will be ripe, and it’ll be the springtime of your life.
Karah Levely-Rinaldi is a Grand Junction mother of four and an ultra-marathon runner. Read her Mondays on Fruita Moms.