It dawned on me this week that I should probably attempt to come up with some useful content for my blog. So far I have mostly wittered on about how much I love running and posted photos of myself smiling manically while wearing various neon garb. I’ve not even talked much about mental health, which was part of the reason for starting this.
In an attempt to rectify this situation, here are some thoughts on how to deal with winter, both in terms of running and depression.
I surprised myself a lot last winter with how well I coped with the rubbish weather. I’m solar powered and really feel that I need the sun’s warmth and light, so when the days get shorter, darker and colder I often find it difficult to get up for my day and stay awake, let alone get out and be active.
As winter set in last year I was already enjoying running a lot, so that gave me motivation to get up and out there. The approach of this winter hasn’t been anywhere near as daunting, because I know I have coped before. Plus my running holiday to Portugal gave me a chance to fully recharge my batteries. And I also find that being aware of when and why I find it difficult to get up and knowing what I can do to restore some energy is half the battle won. Sometimes I do slip back into hibernation mode, but I manage the tendency to nap so that it doesn’t become a problem.
Below are some of the things I have learned about winter, running and depression that help to get me through.
It’s cold. It gets lighter later and darker earlier.There will be wind, rain, snow, ice, hail and more. But none of that has to automatically be bad. Winter days can be incredibly beautiful. Those mornings that dawn crisp and clear are the very best for a head-clearing run. It feels like the air is pure oxygen and that you are discovering the things around you for the first time. If it’s wet then get out and splash around in the puddles. Yes, you are allowed! Go find some mud and make a mess. Kick some leaves. Fall over on the crispy grass. Build a snowman with no nose because you forgot a carrot, and create a make-shift sledge out of the bottom of a tent (it works quite well if you wrap yourself up in it and have someone pull you down a hill!).
- Know that you will get through it
You will come out the other side of winter stronger and raring to go. Remember that. Do whatever you need to do to get through it. Keep friends and family close. Make sure you get out to see the sun/sky every single day. Speak to a doctor/counsellor/therapist/anyone about how you can best deal with things. Make the most of lazy days and early nights with plenty of “me” sessions for watching favourite movies, sewing, colouring in, reading, meditating, drinking tea. Make a list of things that help you cope and stick it somewhere you can see it every morning.
- Wrap up warm, but not too warm
Dressing sensibly when you go out can give you the confidence to keep going out. That one day when you wear daft shoes and your toes nearly fall off, or you don’t take a brolly and get soaked, can be really off-putting. If you’re warm when you start out then you’ll be too hot after a mile. Wear several light layers that you can easily whip off. This applies not only to running, but also to walking. It’s amazing how quickly you can warm up once your legs get moving.
Make sure you know which of your shoes will cope best in different conditions. One of my trail pairs is simply rubbish on slippery cobbles,but great for thicker mud. Although I don’t like to get them muddy, my neon shoes are great for splashing in puddles as they drain water quickly. Same for everyday shoes. I wear barefoot trainers for walking around in, but they are lethal on wet manhole covers! My snow boots are the ultimate choice in winter footwear.
- Plan how to best use the hours
Winter days have the same number of hours as summer days, just that more of them are darker. Anything that can be done indoors can be done anytime, so prioritise your outdoor activities. Don’t leave it too late to get out and run/walk/whatever – you need your boost of solar power more than ever.
- Be prepared for when you get home
Know what you will eat and drink when you get back before you leave the house. If you’re a coffee fiend like me, check there is milk in the fridge! On Sundays I plan a roast dinner or something equally hearty and wholesome for after my long run. It also helps if your housemate bakes or cooks while you’re out!
Even though I coped well last winter as a lone runner, this year I am doing even better because I have friends to run with. Being part of a running club means I can go out in the evening, and arranging sessions with friends means I am less likely to wimp out. Also, you need friends for a decent snowball fight.
This is the most important. And I don’t just mean hi-vis so you can be seen, I mean crazily bright neon colours that clash and look daft but make you smile. It works for me! Just because the weather is dull doesn’t mean your clothes have to be!
- Check in with yourself regularly
Only you can know how you are coping, so ask yourself regularly how you are doing and be aware of how things change. Be honest, and do your best to reach out and ask for help, or just a hug, if you need it. I know how impossible this can be at times, and the first step is always the worst, but don’t give up on yourself and stop trying.