In the past I have found the winter months quite hard, often feeling low on energy and quite down. As darkness fell I just wanted to be in bed, and winter felt like a period of hibernation to be endured until lighter warmer days. This year is different. I feel energised and more motivated than ever. I know it isn’t always easy, but it is possible to actively create the right conditions to keep your motivation and energy up. Here are three ways to enjoy rather than endure this winter:
1 – Discover what you love, and do more of it. It’s important to me that I enjoy what I choose to do with my free time, and that it doesn’t feel like a pressure or a chore. At the moment it isn’t really practical to climb outdoors after work, but it is possible to run. I would like to get faster, I could go to the track and do speed sessions. But the thought of it doesn’t inspire me, and in the past I have found that the pressure of ‘having’ to stick to a training programme actually demotivates me. There have been many great moments, but one that particularly inspired me recently was pausing on a night time run at one of my favourite places at Stanage. Turning the headtorch off, looking across at the moonlit shapes of the hills on the horizon and the patterns of the lights in the Hope Valley I saw a totally new perspective on the familiar landscape that I love. When I finish work, even when it’s dark and the weather is wild, there is no part of me that doesn’t want to get out there and run through the Peaks because I know that each run will give me a unique experience. I don’t think of it as training, but as I have stopped putting pressure on myself to achieve and just enjoyed what I’m doing, I’m finding that improvements are coming naturally.
2 – Find a goal that inspires you, see yourself achieving it, and feel the real connection between that longer term vision and today’s training. I find it easy to set myself targets – for example to run a faster 10k, and it’s good to work towards them so that I can measure my progress. But targets can become a pressure, something else to beat myself up about if I don’t make progress fast enough, or if I ‘fail’ to live up to them. This winter I also have a vision – I want to go further so that I have the opportunity to see more. I want to visit remote places and learn how to be self sufficient and leave no trace. I want to acclimatise to alpine air and run up and down mountains. I want to smell warm pines and run on soft sandy trails. These goals are not quantifiable – there are no criteria to pass or fail. The only thing that will stop me is if I don’t go and do it. It has given me something to really work for, a reason to run further and faster. To be capable of achieving and enjoying them I have to train, and having such vivid goals means that I really feel like every step I train is a step that will enable me to live those dreams.
3 – Connect with people with similar attitudes and interests, stay in touch and support each other. It’s great to spend time with people who are enjoying what they’re doing. I have gained so much inspiration through meeting or reading about people that are passionate about what they do. I have fantastic training partners and friends that are always up for it, full of ideas and positivity. Through their attitudes and achievements they are proving to me what is possible. I have also found that reading magazines and following other runners, climbers, and hikers online has really made me feel part of a community and given me so many ideas for things I’d like to do. Whether we meet in person, or virtually, we are all part of a community that shares values, interests, passion, and energy. In whichever way works for you, give that support when you can, and take it when you need it.
It’s so important to make positive choices about how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Trust yourself, listen to how you feel, and make what you do work for you. I want to say again – I know that it isn’t always easy, and sometimes even small steps can feel tough. If you feel like you struggle through winter, don’t be overwhelmed by the journey ahead, focus on those first small steps and have confidence that you are already increasing your motivation and creating the conditions to beat the winter blues.
What motivates you, especially in the winter? What do you do if you start to feel low or in a rut? If you can identify with this subject I would invite you to comment and share…