The Winter Project: Week 5

Monday, December 30, 2013

I don’t know how it is possible, but we have almost reached the end of 2013! I hope that you were able to spend some time with one or more of your favorite people last week. We had a lovely holiday at home, laying low but enjoying beautiful (spring-like!) weather here in Northern California.

the winter project

Welcome to week 5 of The Winter Project!
(What is The Winter Project?)

Finding joy in the holidays: Movement

The new year is quietly sneaking up on me this year. In just a couple of days it will be 2014 and, as always, I can not resist the allure of this fresh start. For many people this is a time to refocus on fitness or other health goals and I’d like to share something that I’ve learned about myself in that area.

Winter mornings feel dark and cold and lonely outside of my bed. Climbing out of my cozy nest and into my workout clothes before the sun comes up never really feels like a good idea at the time. I drag myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I reluctantly change out of my soft pajamas and into a few layers of running clothes. I strap on my Garmin and tie up my shoes. I clip the leash on my dog and brace myself to feel the grinding cold as I open the front door and head out into the world.

Then, everything changes.

I press the “start” button on my Garmin and on my music. I slowly start to run saying, “let’s go!” to my dog. I shuffle, she sniffs. By the time I cross the street to head to my favorite bike trail, I’ve been running for about 20 seconds. When I get to the other side of that street, the leaves are still crunchy and the sun is beginning to rise and turn the sky pink. I am already happy that I’m there.

On the way out I sometimes see animals- deer, turkeys, rabbits. Despite the risk of looking like a crazy person to my early morning trailmates, I sometimes greet them out loud.

Good morning turkeys!

At about the 1 1/2 mile point I see my favorite tree. It is a giant oak with gnarly branches and a respect-comanding stature. I smile. I can’t help it.

favorite tree
Favorite tree

On the way home I run faster. I want to see the grass around the park one more time before the fog that hovers slightly above it burns off. I want to see if the deer have moved on or if they are still frolicking in the trees just to the left of the trail and beyond the creek.

These mornings are my time. I love this ritual- of greeting the day nature-first and with all of my senses. When I am back home and peeling off sticky clothes, I am ready for the day and anything it decides to throw at me.

I used to exercise at a gym pounding out repetitive hours on cardio machines. These days I would rather run outside in pouring rain than on a treadmill. I can’t help it. Nature is my church and my gym and my drug. Even in my suburban neighborhood in California, I can find just enough in those early hours to make me happy for an entire day.

Studies have shown that vigorous exercise can be as helpful at relieving depression symptoms as antidepressant medications for some people. Getting your heart rate up most days of the week not only keeps you healthy physically; it keeps your mind well too. When I run my brain is busy. I am thinking about things in my life that need my attention or that are stressful for me. As I am running and turning these things over in my head, my body is bathed in endorphins. These stressful thoughts are dulled by the endorphins and they lose their power. Exercise is good therapy!

Running releases more than just sweat   Angelslover com
Photo via Asics
Some of my favorite ways to move:
  • Running (or walking) outside as the sun rises
  • Indoor swimming (we have a community pool with a retractable roof that I love!)
  • Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing (bonus points for going at night during a full moon!)
  • Yoga (this is usually indoors but it feels so, so good to be in a warm studio with rain or snow falling outside)
  • Cycling on our local bike trails through oak trees, next to a river

This week’s challenge: Assess your current exercise plan (or lack there of) and consider these questions:
  • Are you moving enough? 
  • On the other extreme, are you getting enough recovery time between workouts? 
  • Are you bored with your routine? 
  • Do you have a routine?
  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? How do you want to feel?
  • What are your health and fitness goals? What worries you about this?
Decide where you need to change something (start exercising, try something new or adventurous, add a day of rest, add strength training, add yoga/stretching, add another mile, go outside, etc.), and plan your workouts for the week. If you aren’t currently exercising or it has been awhile for you, a slow sunrise walk to take photos in the magic light of early morning might be a good place to begin. If regular exercise is new for you (or if it has been a long time), please check in with your doctor before you begin.  

My plan: I spent the past week doing more resting than exercising vigorously. I am planning to hit the trail this week and check in with my favorite tree! It is time to get moving again.

Where will you begin in 2014?

As we move through this project, I would love to hear about your survival skills, struggles, and success in the comments or by email (you can reach me at!

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to receive free Get Natured updates so you can be included in The Winter Project. The weather outside doesn’t have to be frightful! xoxo

Other ways to follow along:

*Important note: I am not a licensed mental health professional. This advice is not intended to take the place of therapy or medications. Please seek professional care if you are suffering from depression or anxiety symptoms.

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