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Winter Running Joy. It sounds like a little bit of an oxymoron with the difficult challenges that winter presents: cold, snow, ice, sleet, wind, dark days, the lack of sunlight, and even just gray skies instead of blue. It’s easy to succumb to the strong societal peer pressure to curl up into a ball (like Misty our dog) and hibernate for the whole winter (at least the inclement weather part of it). Unfortunately, that is not very realistic or practical. So how can we navigate these particular challenges that winter presents? My primary answer may surprise you: with joy! Yes with a joyful spirit! After all, it’s transformation Tuesday so shift your attitude to the positive happy side and try to seek joy in every moment.

How did this strange affinity for joy happen to me? I’ve succumbed way too many winters to the sad, depressing beat of a slow crawl through snow and ice. It just brings me and everyone else down…if we let it. It affects families and friends. And I’m not saying that I have seasonal affective disorder but rather that I know I am susceptible to being more down during the cold winter. Anything that aggravates my asthma is not too friendly on a basic level. And if it’s too cold it does affect my asthma.

Finally, my eyes were opened to the importance of being aware if I am simply falling into negative patterns of defeatism in winter. If I fall into that cycle, it rotates to the point that we just ask: what’s the use of working out? Why should I run? It’s too cold/windy/rainy/snowy/sleeting and/or I’m too tired. Excuses multiply exponentially and reinforce each other with a very tight net.

But like transformation Tuesday suggests, I shifted my perspective to the positive side. I started running on the treadmill more in winter. Or running half outside and half inside just to keep some outdoor running going and get some natural sunlight. And once the runstreak began (in fall it should be noted right before winter), something changed. The desire to be more active became more intense. And my attitude shifted to a much more positive one. I realized that positivity could give me some lift and loft, giving me the impression that I was running in the clouds instead of on the ground sometimes. There was a new effortlessness.

And fortunately I found friends from all over the world who were similarly committed to positivity and #runhappy for example to pick a random hashtag. I stumbled upon #JoyTrain (started by Kari Joys) on twitter and was suddenly immersing myself in this forgotten philosophy of joy and happiness. It unlocked new confidence within me and breathed strong wind into my sails of my “running sailboat”.

How can we seek running joy in winter? If you’re able to run/walk outside at all, just focus on any natural object of beauty. For example, see the bird (or squirrel?) nest above that eclipsed the sun? I used to just fly on by moments like this either ignoring or missing them entirely. But now, I pause. I stop. If it’s a strong enough visual, I capture it as best I can. I’ve learned how powerfully friends and family can be affected by great inspirational pictures. See instagram for example, it is replete with inspirational images and positive affirmative posts. Sometimes it’s trying to chase down an elusive winter fox in a forest for photo (haven’t caught the fox yet or the quail either).

If you’re not a tree person, perhaps you love birds. I love both. I love birds very much, especially waterfowl. (However, there’s one pigeon near Lake Michigan that landed on my head during a run in Chicago once. I think my hair was too long and curly then. Too easy a target. Hahaha!). So waterfowl for me are very special: ducks, geese, herons, etc. Here’s an example of a long marathon training pit stop for mainly geese earlier this week (but there were some ducks). It was very unseasonably warm and sunny yesterday so I soaked that up knowing that the rest of the week was going to be colder, darker, and a little bit more uncomfortable.

If you have a pet like a dog, hopefully one that can run with you, it can bring immeasurable joy that we otherwise don’t experience. There are challenging moments running with dogs, true. But the joys vastly outweigh the challenges or sorrows. And I think it is that way with life too. I lost two very dear friends of mine this month so my Joy philosophy was tested. But I knew that these friends would want us to be celebrating their joy, positivity, and example of how they lived their lives to the fullest. So I reinstilled joy every way possible. Yes, it means smiling through the pain even if you don’t feel like it realizing that all of us have the capacity to affect as many people as we can both in person and through social media. That stretches our impact to hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands for many of us if you include our followers on social media. So be joyful.

Sometimes this means we have to create enough quiet time for ourselves. Maybe it’s an hour for a run. Or reading something positive for an hour. Or writing. Or meditation. Or music like playing the piano or singing. Find joyful positive sources of energy and make sure you include some daily. It helps so much. Find people who will help you daily with being joyful and finding joy. Soak up positive joy from all sources. It will change and transform your life!

If our mental mindset is positive, joyful, and strong, we can accomplish more athletically and in life. PRs happen. We find we can run longer and faster. We sleep better. We eat more healthy food and hydrate properly. If our inner mindfulness of self-care includes joy, we are stronger, happier people and we help transform others in a happy joyful way. So before you conclude that all of transformation Tuesday is physical, it ain’t. More than you think of it is mental. The strong, positive joyful spirit is a fiery catalyst to unleash all kinds of positive changes in your life. That’s what I wish for all of you. If I can help you in any way with finding joy, please let me know. And don’t forget laughing and having a sense of humor is part of being joyful too. If we don’t laugh, we’re not happy. Joy then eludes and escapes us. Don’t let it happen. Be joyfully present with each moment. And if it’s not joyful, find a way to make it joyful. Sprinkle little bits of joy into your life and your joy will take root and change your life. Be joyful! Winter Running Joy! A joyful running and life philosophy that is all-weather and can last all year.
Happy healthy joyful trails, Running Groove Shark