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Dec 7, 2021

Outrun the Winter Blues

The shorter days, grayer skies and considerably cooler temps of winter are enough to wreak havoc on our miles but they can also alter our mood. Winter is often referred to as the sad season. One reason is the reduction in sunlight, which leads to falling levels of serotonin—that super-important hormone that helps stabilize our mood, appetite and sleep patterns.

For me, my run life thrives on the hot, humid and sun-filled summers of the South. But as the appearances, optimism and opportunities of summer fade some of us turn inward, both physically and mentally, often leading to unhealthy habits and outcomes for our bodies and our brains.

Although the link between weather and mood is not entirely clear, studies do show that each of us may have a weather type. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—yes, sad—which results in significant changes in mood and behavior related to the changing seasons aka the “winter blues” aka a depressive mood felt only during the abbreviated days of the winter.

As countless other studies have shown, and as many of us have personally experienced, consistent running produces welcomed bouts of euphoria, as well as long-term benefits to our overall well-being, again, both physically and mentally.

So, winter is not the time to put your run shoes on hiatus. But how do we stay healthy and happy when our ideas of self care steer toward hibernation, binge-watching Hulu and sipping hot toddies? Well, the best way to beat winter blues is to keep up your run routine. And, one key to an unwavering run resolve is staying warm and comfortable. This may seem obvious, but let’s ensure the obvious doesn’t become the obstacles that prevent us from getting in our miles by enlisting these easy to follow tips:

  • Get the right run gear. Where you live dictates what the appropriate gear is for the weather. But, when layering, start with a skintight base layer that covers your legs, arms and chest and absorbs or wicks away moisture. Investing in a pair of waterproof shoes is also a sound idea. But, be sure not to overdress because as your body warms, you don’t want to overheat.
  • Warm up your insides before you go outside. Warming up your muscles prior to a run is a smart ritual in any season but especially in the winter, as it takes our bodies and muscles longer to warm up due to the chillier climate. And, as we all know, not stretching and loosening up your muscles first puts us at risk of injury. An intentional, thorough stretch and a few cardio moves, such as mountain climbers or jumping jacks can get your blood flowing faster and your body readied for your run.
  • Resist the urge to listen to the hater in your head. We are great at being great hype (wo)men for others, but are sometimes even better at sabotaging our own goals. So don’t listen to that voice telling you that you’ll do it tomorrow and that you are better off sticking to the couch today. Your resistance to running—no matter the season—is more likely a testament to mental angst than athletic acumen. Get out of your own head!

Go forth and just run. Your body and your brain will thank you. You may even experience a PR as your body may feel better and more at ease since it doesn’t have to fight the ambient temps to stay cool.

By: Joy Harrell @joyrunsrealestate

Joy Harrell is a licensed real estate agent and co-owner of The Sift Sisters bakery based in Houston, Texas. She is a native Houstonian and graduate of the University of Houston—go Coogs! When she is not helping people buy, sell or invest in real estate, she can be found hanging or traveling with her hubby, running or biking the streets and trails in and around Houston, mentoring girls or testing new food and cocktail recipes.