What do the “winter blues” feel like for me?

draft

I stumbled upon a a bunch of drafts that I thought I would share since I have no idea why they were left forgotten and unpublished. This was originally dated Nov 12 2012.

It occurred to me this week that I’ve talked about feeling the “winter blues” and I make casually reference in conversations with my friends to feeling “emo” (emotional) sometimes, but I’ve never really explained to anyone what I mean when I say that. Sure, it’s clear enough to get the point across: I don’t feel totally emotionally healthy that day, but what do I feel?*

I’m a person who has always been pretty introspective and in touch with my emotions. I’ve always been able to put a name to what I feel and how I’m doing. I’m also pretty aware of my physical health as well. I’ve never really had to explain to people what certain things feel like. I never felt the need. I know what’s what in my own life and I manage it accordingly.

It never occurred to me that being more specific about what it feels like might be helpful for others to interpret what’s going on in their lives.

This week a few different people mentioned that they have felt lonely recently. That piqued my interest. Partially because I’m saddened by the idea that my friends feel lonely, but mostly because my winter blues feels like loneliness. Why don’t you just say you’re lonely, Jess? Why do you say you have the winter blues? Because I know I’m not actually lonely.

Here’s the other clue. It feels like sadness of the heart. When I have a combination of loneliness and heart-sadness I call this “emo.” This usually happens in  fall up until the end of December, as I’ve already mentioned. In December I’m rarely actually lonely. I’m out with friends celebrating Christmas parties, or with family for actual Christmas. But I rarely have the energy or desire to do things like go cross-country skiing with my family during those holidays and I feel sad and lonely even with them thereThat’s why I say I’m not actually lonely. I’m with people who love me and I love and care for them in return. I don’t feel isolated when I’m with them. But my brain and my heart say something different.

Call it what you may. It only happens from the months of September to December and there’s a remedy for it as I talked about in my post I LOVE LAMP!

If you find you’re feeling a little bit sad and a little bit lonely, consider if you’re exercising and taking Vitamin D, and as always make sure you’re not isolating yourself from your friends and family. You don’t want to make a self-fulfilling prophecy for loneliness.

*I don’t know what it feels like for everyone else. I’m not a medical professional and my advice is based on what has worked for me in the past based on how I feel and what I know to be true about my life and situation.

How do I train on a budget?

skating

Source: Kalleboo

One of the thing that interests me currently is how to train for a run on a budget. Like a lot of things in life we can tend to think that we can’t do them if we don’t have money. How do you train to run a spring race during the winter if you don’t have the money for a gym membership? Or if you don’t have the cash to drop on YakTrax or all the other gear that will help you run safely outside? Rather than being discouraged from starting right from the get-go, I want to look into how to do it on the really cheap. Here’s what I’ve found.

Living room workouts

Here are a few things you can do in your living room that get your heart rate up and give you that cardio workout you’re looking for. FitnessBlender has some videos on YouTube including this one that is a 17 minute cardio workout. Like they say in the YT comments, there’s no music so that they can keep the videos free, so turn this on and your favourite dance song and go for it. There are lots of other cardio options that you can find online if you’re looking for variety. This series from Shape.com gives you a warm-up of stretches, a bunch of cardio, and then a warm-down of stretches.

The local/municipal pool

If you’re in a city, you probably have a pool that has free swim hours for residents (click here for Montreal). I’m lucky to have one within a 5 minute walk of my house. You can swim laps or pool run (I’ve just learned about this). The best thing is, the worse you are as a swimmer, the better a workout it is for you! So go find out the hours for your local adult swim and get a work out.

Use the local skating rinks

I’m planning on lacing up my skates to get some regular ice time. There are plenty of outdoor skating rinks in Montreal that are free. I don’t think it should be a problem finding a time when no kids are playing shinny. Well, I’ll get back to you on that one. Anyways, you can try skating laps and build your stamina that way. The great thing about skating is that it’s low impact (though not as low as pool running, I imagine) so it should be easier on your legs/knees than running.

Do you have other ideas of how to stay fit for free during the winter? Share them in the comments here

Body Break!

bodybreakWow, I’m seriously, seriously loving The Power of Habit. It’s giving me huge insight into how I can develop the lifestyle I want that will help me reach a bunch of these goals. I’ll post about some of these things later, but one of the things it talked about was how people who are successful in changing lifestyles (recovering alcoholics, people doing physical rehab) are often more successful than their peers because they have a plan for their day/situation/year or whatever. This means that they have an exit strategy or they have mentally rehearsed what to do if a craving arises, or if stress gets piled on (in the case of the alcoholic) or for the physical rehabilitation patient they have a plan for what to do when pain arises that they just need to push through.

I’m pretty sure this the reason why I’m not super bummed right now about my lack of ‘training’ for my 5k at the end of April. This was more or less a part of the plan. Winter run if possible, if not figure something out. I’m definitely figuring something out. I’ve been doing some morning exercises from a DVD at home but I’m taking small steps towards swimming a few times a week in the neighbourhood pool a few blocks from my place.

An example

The other day it was bitter cold out. I had two main goals for the evening: get groceries and buy a bathing suit. It took me all day to psych myself up to drive the 10 minutes to Wal-mart Super Centre where I could buy a bathing suit and groceries at the same time. I’m not exactly at my height of motivation, these days. I almost convinced myself not to step out into the cold and that anyone would understand why I wouldn’t want to go. I did go. I survived and I bought a non-fancy bathing suit. I was one step closer to regular swimming. It turns out the suit didn’t fit me in the end. Wop wop. But at least I tried, right?

Little wins, people. 

Now I need to go back to Wal-Mart and I’m so much more motivated to exchange that suit and get one that fits me and hit the pool. I also have a plan. Thursday evening I had planned to go to the pool for a first swim but then I found out my suit didn’t fit. Instead of being bummed that I couldn’t go (but was also pretty uninterested in leaving the house due to icky temperatures) I made a plan to ensure success: I’d buy a combo lock, I’d visit the pool during free swim time today and figure out how the place actually works. That means that after work when I’m planning to go swim, I’ll already know the drill and I can just do it.

It’s kind of embarrassing how easily I can get bummed about something and then give up altogether. In this case, I’m determined enough to anticipate problems and pre-determine solutions so that I can reach my goal.

Guys, I’m kind of excited to flail around in a pool a few times a week! What’s up with that?

What about you? Do you try to plan in order to set yourself up for success? Or does winning not matter much to you? Click here to leave a comment.

Tips for fall/winter running

Source: Tom Cochrane

One of the biggest things preventing me from running in previous years was the ‘what do I do in winter?’ problem. It often happened where I would get inspired in September or October only to decide to abandon the idea before I even started because I didn’t know what to do in the winter. I was/am loath to spend $60 a month just to run a treadmill inside. Or – if gyms are anything like my experience when I went to my University gym – pay $60 to wait for a treadmill to run on.

This year, I did some research into how I could run throughout the fall and winter. With the help of google and some tips from friends, here are the two main things that have helped me on those cold mornings that I’ve run in recent weeks.

Dress for 15 to 20 Degrees Warmer

“Over-dressing is easy to do in winter running. Dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is will allow your body temperature to increase and reduce the risk of overheating and excessive sweat. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door. If you are toasty warm, remove a layer. Less is more.” (Winter Running Tips by Active.com)

What to wear

Thanks to the advice from a friend, I figured out what to wear based on the weather and the advice above.

Now on days that it’s -5ºC, I wear a long sleeve moisture wicking shirt and a shell jacket, tights, socks shoes. -5 is no longer a scary concept. Once it gets colder I’ll add a fleece layer over top the long sleeve.

Most important lesson

These two pieces of information have given me the information I need not to be afraid of running. I already had all of these wardrobe items. There are only a few more that I think I will need to add: better (smaller) gloves, wool socks, and a toque that leaves a hole for my ponytail! I’m no longer afraid to run in the cold because I’m prepared.

I’m a little nervous about what it will be like when it’s really cold and I’m breathing in cold air into my lungs all the time. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

What about you? Do you have any more tips on how to run in the fall/winter? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I LOVE LAMP!

The last four years I’ve noticed a marked difference in my happiness levels starting as early as September 1.  While I may have had it in years prior, I only clued in to the “winter blues” in the last few years. The pattern is the same every year, peaking in the last week of November. The question I’ve been trying to answer every fall is “how do I stay productive while feeling the blues?”

I once heard that during a Canadian winter, one must sunbathe naked at high noon for an hour to naturally get enough Vitamin D. Since I don’t do that (!), the last few years I’ve faithfully taken 1000 IUs of Vitamin D (coupled with Vitamin C) every day. Last year my friend lent me a DayLight which I wasn’t very consistent in using. This past week I started using it again for 15 minutes every morning right when I wake up.

Can I tell you how amazing that was even the first day I used it? The first day! It was like the sun had risen in my heart! I’m confident that this will help throughout this upcoming cold, light-less Montreal winter.

So this winter:

  • vitamin D
  • at least 15 minutes of light therapy a day
  • regular exercise

What about you? Do you get the winter blues? How do you manage? What helps you stay on your game?

UPDATE:

People have been asking me what I recommend. Like I mentioned in the comments, the Philips brand lights are good as well as the DayLight that I use. To be honest, the Philips lights are way more normal sized compared to what I have and probably more reasonable in price, as well as more easily accessible. You can get them at Amazon and Costco.

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