These days, everywhere I turn I feel as though the world is trying to tell me something. It’s written on the autumn leaves, which are blown from the trees in a breeze that has turned from warm and comforting to distinctively chilly. Dusk is beginning to resemble a distant relative with an annoying habit of always showing up early and uninvited, and with each passing day and I am finding myself progressively more drawn to the concept of hibernation. And just in case I was still trying to don a clever costume and hide in a crowded place, this morning the message was written in black ink on the white pages of my diary: October. Even I, a self-proclaimed sensei of avoidant coping, can no longer deny the fact that winter is coming.
Like so many others, winter after miserable winter I have struggled to keep exercising regularly. Year after year I have resigned myself to the idea that slowing down in winter is natural and that spring will bring with it the urge and energy to reclaim my usual fitness levels.
It’s not even so much the dreary weather that tempts me to stay inside, on the couch, with a hot cup of coco and a good book. – Hmmm, coco! – My mother raised me to believe that there is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing. (Incidentally, whenever it rained, she also used to tell me that I wasn’t made of sugar and was therefore not going to melt, which turns out to be a great way of giving a five-year-old the hibbigibbies.)
I can handle the cold and wet days, or should I say, my wardrobe can handle them for me. There’s even something rewarding about running though a winter storm when most sane people are behind closed doors. It’s a very satisfying way of giving the inner pig-piñata a good old whack. But at the end of the day (no pun intended), it’s mostly the lack of daylight and related energy deficit that keep me snoozing in bed, soaking in the bath, curled up on the couch, or seeking the comfort of other soft and warm places for most of the winter.
Still, this year, I have decided, will be different. This year, I will take a stand against winter. Or rather, I will join forces with winter and declare war on the real enemy (that is, my couch-surfing, bubble-bath soaking and coco-slurping alter ego).
I have therefore formulated the following strategy for the conquest of winter:
1) Sign up for a big race in spring. Nothing gets me moving like the terror of the thought of a finish line I won’t be able to reach. Moreover, like the unabashed geek that I am, I get great joy from keeping a training diary and piecing together a sensible training plan which I can then obsessively overshoot. At this moment in time, I am flirting with the possibility of signing up for the Maratona di Roma at the end of March. A spring weekend in the eternal city, anyone?
2) Map out winter. As an aficionada of my running diary, I will wield the latter like a weapon and map out my opponent ahead of time. This time, I will use my running planner to plan winter itself. Just like any race, I will break it down into manageable chunks that will pass before I have really noticed them and keep my eyes firmly on the finish line.
3) Invest in some awesome winter running gear. Before this month is over, I’ll treat myself to a new pair of trainers and fork out on a few additional pieces of running gear. I mean the type of gear that will make me get out the door for a run just to have an excuse to wear it.
4) Join a spa (with gym). I hate gyms. I really, really do. They are smelly, tense and crowded and I always leave them feeling tired. I do, however, love swimming and have yet to find something more relaxing than lazing about in a sauna. I’m pretty sure that when I make the effort to travel to a spa (which I assure you will not be a problem), I will be able to convince myself to spend at least half an hour doing some form of cardio workout before taking a splash.
5) Join my running club more often. My athletics club is awesome, and it’s big enough to have lots of training sessions each week and frequent cross country races throughout the winter. However, one of the things I love most about running is the freedom of being able to do it almost any time and anywhere. Because I tend to run when I where I like, over the summer months I only joined my club for a structured training session once a week. Having said that, the workouts were always fantastic. There’s certainly something about the presence of other people that makes me push myself that little bit harder. I’m therefore hoping that over the winter months, that same presence will also help me push myself out the door a little more often.
6) Learn to do a handstand. Yes, really. It’s something that requires excellent core strength and balance, and which runner wouldn’t want more of that? It’s also something I can practice indoors, and having a measurable goal to work towards will hopefully make the required core strength and balance work more entertaining. Besides, a handstand is just a bit random, sounds amusing and has the potential to impress tipsy party goers for years to come!
This year, rather than simply surrendering to winter, I shall do my best to embrace it. More to the point, like any worthy opponent, I think it will be best if I keep a close eye on it. And that is, after all, a tricky feat to accomplish when one is stuck in front of a television screen.
Now, where’s that hot coco?