I know I’m not the only runner who is finding this winter a little more challenging than usual for training. Convincing myself to wake up at 5 a.m. for a tough workout is one thing, but when it’s twenty below zero it takes a whole new level of dedication. I can force myself, but I know when it’s starting to wear me down more than build me up, so this past weekend I didn’t run. I did something completely different. I went with my husband, sister, brother-in-law and another couple of friends to our summer cottage which is on a lake a few hours north of Toronto. We had always wondered what it would be like in the winter, so after some planning and child-care arrangements were made, we headed up to the lake to ski and snowshoe across to the island. I had fun, I didn’t stress about running or not running the whole time, and I came back rejuvenated and ready to get back into my running routine.
I also learned a few things which I think will help me put things in perspective and get through the rest of the winter running happily:
1. You can always add more layers. I’m sure I set a record with seven (!) layers on top, but if I managed to stay warm and happy in a frozen cottage on a frozen lake where is was -26 C, I really should not complain about being cold when running if the temperature is anywhere near that. If I’m cold, I’m not wearing enough layers.
2. Going for a run in the cold is no problem when you know you have a warm house to warm-up in afterwards. That wasn’t quite the case up north, so I now have a renewed perception of what I can endure while still having fun.
3. Don’t sweat if you don’t have water. We thought we’d have water all around us and all we’d have to do is melt snow, but you’d be surprised how little water a giant pot of snow makes. We were all slightly dehydrated by the end but luckily we were able to keep our sweating to a minimum.
4. When it’s cold, you need to eat (and drink) well. I’m not really sure if there is scientific backing to this, but I do find that I get more hungry when I’m cold. Now is not the time to eat salads-as-meals or try a cleanse. It’s all about hearty, delicious food. My brother-in-law devised the menu and cooked three amazing Scandinavian themed meals, and our friend decided that bringing an extra beer or two was worth the weight on his sled. We were all grateful to both of them and enjoyed great food and drink!
5. I’m glad I’m not a cross-country ski racer. We runners endure a few rough weeks (okay months) of winter. Many of us have access to a treadmill or indoor track to break up the cold training while others treat it as their less intense down-season and do a little less. Cross-country skiers train hard in this weather ALL THE TIME. This is their season! They must be some really hardy people.
6. I’m really glad I’m not a cross-country ski racer. By about 20 minutes in, as soon as my fingers started to thaw out thanks to my upper body effort, my elbow started to develop an over-use injury. I’m telling you – cross-country skiers are hardy!
7. Give yourself a mental and physical break when you need it. I had just lost my excitement for running and rather than continue to grind through it, I did something else to take my mind off it. When I came back after three days off I had renewed enthusiasm and had a great run in the cold. Which somehow after last weekend, didn’t feel so cold.