As the season turns, the leaves have all but changed and we’ve already seen our first snow. And just as mild as our winter was last year, something tells me that we’re going to be making up for lost time in these next few months.
Bolstered by frigid temperatures and unforgiving winds, to many, the winter isn’t a very desirable time to trek out and get in that mileage.
By contrast, summer/early fall are easy. You simply lace up your shoes and head down the road. And far be it for me to dumb it down, but that’s essentially all there is to it.
Now, there are always other factors — dehydration, heat exhaustion, road vs. trail — but all in all, the summer months are simply easier as far as planning goes.
However, in my opinion, the winter is my favorite time of year for running. Here are three reasons why.
Cooler Temps = Less Stress
The winter months are actually ideal for running. According to Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, sports performance coach and author of “The Marathon Method,” “the colder the weather, the less heat stress on the body, which makes it significantly easier to run. Running in hot and humid weather is extremely taxing on the body — there is a reason why the majority of marathons are held in October and November.”
In the winter, we all tend to become more sedentary. As things begin to cool down, summertime walks in the park and friendly pick-up games slowly become movie nights and hours spent indoors. We simply aren’t as active. And as our bodies become more sedentary, our metabolisms react accordingly.
After all, our bodies are living organisms that learn and adapt to our present circumstances. When we stop using our muscles they become flaccid. Likewise, when we use them they grow and strengthen.
Essentially, the body is a biological machine that adapts to its circumstances. By running, we curb the sedentary trend and boost our metabolism, resulting in less holiday weight gain, and ultimately healthier lives.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as SAD, is a psychological disorder brought on by the lack of light.
Similar to the depression felt by residents in Seattle (rainfall) and Alaska (some experience two to three dark months per year), in the winter, our days become shorter, the sun seems to shine a bit less and according to Dr. Michael Terman, Ph.D. of the Now York State Psychiatric Institute and Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, “when the days get shorter and the temperature plummets, many people suffer from the disorder.”
In fact, Terman says, “over 25 percent of the population in mid to higher latitudes suffer.” And according to Holland, “running helps release powerful hormones that help combat this depression, increasing positive mood states during the cold weather months.”
Taking your run outdoors helps boost your mood even more: One study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that people who exercised outdoors reported increased energy, decreased feelings of depression, and were more likely to repeat their workouts.
Aaron Mabry is a former 800-meter and 1,000-meter state champion from Pisgah High School. He also ran collegiately at East Carolina University and graduated from UNC Charlotte.
Mabry is married, a Technical Consultant for Systel Business Equipment and Backbone Business Consulting in Asheville.
You can e-mail Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.