Beat the Winter Blues This Season With a Run.
Ever heard the term Winter Blues or even Blue Monday? The winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. You may find yourself feeling more lethargic and down overall. Many scientists attribute this shift to a lack of sunlight exposure as well as people limiting their time exercising due to the colder temperatures outside.
Several studies exist that link the amount of time spent outside to individuals overall well-being. A study from the University of Utah states that roughly 17 minutes per day is all we need to begin aiding our body and mind through time spent outside.
Below are just some of the benefits people experience from staying active during the winter months, helping to increase their mental health.
Reasons to Run (and exercise) During the Winter
1. Endorphin Boost.
The Mayo Clinic reports that regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by:
- Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being
- Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety
The effect of the runner's high is well known to make people feel very elated and happy. HealthLine writes, "A runner’s high is a brief, deeply relaxing state of euphoria. Euphoria is a sense of extreme joy or delight. In this case, it occurs after intense or lengthy exercise. Often, people who experience a runner’s high also report feeling less anxiety and pain immediately after their run."
2. Sleep Pattern Regulation.
Getting adequate and quality sleep is very important to your overall mental health and exercise is seen to play a major role.
Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital states that researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep. “We may never be able to pinpoint the mechanism that explains how the two are related,” she says.
However, we do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, “a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep.”
3. Routines Can Help A Lot.
People can find more motivation and purpose through structure and routines. By setting a dedicated and consistent time for you to get outside and run, it becomes easier to stay on track. This creates a positive cycle for improving your mental and physical health in a time of year where both can struggle. For some people, it could be before their work day begins. For others it's in the middle of the work day (schedules allowing) or after work.
In the summertime many of us associate the need to re-hydrate with the amount we sweat during the day. The winter months can make it difficult to remember to stay hydrated. The dry air of winter and being around radiators all day long can pull the moisture right out of our bodies. By exercising, this helps to remind us to drink water and maintain hydration throughout the winter.
We all know that starting is sometimes the hardest part. Below are a few tips to help you get going and build that routine.
Tips on How To Get You Started
1. Find Your Version of a Run
A run is a great way to stay active during the winter months, but it doesn't have to only be a run for you to experience the benefits. You can do anything from a brisk walk with your dog to an early morning ski run down the mountain. What's most important is that you are outside and moving your body in a way that feels good.
2. Set Achievable Goals and Find Your Support
Be sure to start small with some achievable goals like a short distance or a set time of activity. Both have their advantages depending on the person. For those setting a distance goal with an activity tracker. It's easy to figure out your half way point to start heading back home. Others find it helpful to set a timer and stay active while the timer is running. This can create a constant finish line for the runner to work towards and stay motivated while pacing themselves appropriately. If you find yourself needing some extra support, look up some local groups or meet-ups. You'll be surprised on how much easier it can be to stay active when you do so in a group of people, if you're comfortable doing so. You can even start a text thread with a close group of friends to help stay on track, motivated, or inspired.
3. Don't Let The Sun Stop You
With busy schedules and limited daylight hours, some people find their only time to run is in the darkness of early morning or evening. Don't let this be a deterrent for you. Grab a HeadLamp and allow yourself to see and be seen on those early morning runs. Our HeadLamp series is comfortable and provides a no bounce experience that will make those runs in the dark easier to accomplish. Another thing to keep in mind is the type of clothing you may need for running while its dark out. It will be colder than in the day time, so plan to layer up in options that are moisture wicking and will keep you warm. You will also want to ensure that you wear reflective or hi-visibility clothing to stay safe.
4. Sort Your Gear: Physical & Digital
Setting up your clothing the night before can help keep you motivated to head out on those early morning runs. Lay out your shoes, warm layers, HeadLamp, and your nutrition. This helps to remove a decision or obstacles and keep you moving out the door for that morning run. If you're someone who loves to run along to their favorite playlist. Start building it prior to your run and you can format it to play a really good pump up song when you need it most.
It's Time to Celebrate Yourself
Take that post run selfie and post it to your social media. You never know who it might inspire to get out there and be active to beat their winter blues away.
Still smiling in the dark with a real feel of -7! Outdoor winter running is all about having the right gear to keep warm and safe.
The winter blues can be tough thing to get through. We know that you can't always beat the winter blues with a run. Here are some resources that can help you navigate this difficult time.