Monday, January 6, 2014

{Winter fun}: A lesson in embracing the suck

"Embrace the suck."

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That was the advice of author and runner Matt Fitzgerald, who was the guest on the "Runner Academy" podcast with Matt Johnson. For those who were looking to enjoy/survive winter running, they need to embrace the suck - among other things.

Little did I know, as I drove to my long run date this morning, how many of those 12 lessons would ring true in just a single run. A single run of 12 miles through the snow and beginning of snowmageddon.

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Pick a goal that excites you. I have no goals and that excites me. It does. Why? I can run what I want when I want at whatever pace feels good. Going into the run without a goal meant that I didn't have to worry about not hitting certain paces or feel the pressure of having to run a certain amount of miles to keep up with a plan.

How to embrace the suck. Fitzgerald said that when he was a high school runner in New England that in the winter - and New England has them - that he and his partners would not shy away from the bad conditions. In fact, they would seek them out. The worse it was the better. While we certainly could have found a worse place to run - trails rather than the paved Greenway - we chose to enjoy the scenery rather than get caught up in the "I just inhaled a snowflake" and "everyone can tell I haven't waxed my upper lip as I have an ice 'stache." It was really awesome to see the geese in the middle of a frozen winter and see the snow gather on branches. I might not have noticed it otherwise.

Anything is better than nothing. Ten minutes is better than sitting on the couch. Four slow miles instead of a tempo run is better than taking a nap. The treadmill is better than watching "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Wait, you can do both! Anyway, I went into this run ready to do 8 of the 12 miles I had promised because 8 is still rad and would give me 21 for the week. When the runners not planning to go a dozen weren't able to make it, I figured going the whole 12 was better than going home.

Group vs. individual training. Some people like to run alone, others like to run in groups. Both Fitzgerald and host Matt Johnson said they like a good mix. I fall into that category, as well, but I do know I prefer to run in a group on long runs. I tend to get out of my head and enjoy the miles more. On this day, in these conditions, I know I wouldn't have ran as far on my own. This piece of info is good to have if I want to maintain some fitness over the winter.

Draw motivation from inspiration. Fitzgerald recommended watching running events on TV/online and reading running books like "Born to Run" that focus on the joy in the sport. As for me, I like to listening to podcasts on the way to meet friends or when I'm getting dressed. I like Another Mother Runner, Runner Academy and Jillian Michaels podcasts to get me moving. If I'm feeling lazy or anxious on the way to a run, a show is a must.

Public accountability. I agreed to this run on Facebook - about as public as you get. I posted early-ish in the week so there was no way I could back out.

Buy something new. After last week's muddy run, I decided that it was the perfect time to retire my Ravennas, which had 450 miles on them. It didn't hurt that the running store had the Ravenna 4s on sale - 30 percent off. (I guess I'm not fully embracing zero drop. Meh.) It was a ton of fun to wear super bright new shoes in the super bright white snow. Now to get a new/extra buff - that would be some motivation.

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Not on Fitzgerald's list but definitely on mine: Run with friends who bring a hot thermos of coffee and enough cups to share post-run.

For all of the lessons, visit the podcast page here. What keeps you going in the winter?

P.S. Are running tights flattering on anyone shorter than 5-foot-7?


  1. I used to run winter track in high school and we used to embrace the winter suck all the time. One of my favorite runs was one the coach called Holiday Lights! We would trek out in the snow and run to a neighborhood that was covered in Christmas lights. So awesome. We also had one called the GU run. GU as in Grand Union grocery store (pre- Stop & Shop days). The coach would give us $2 and we would run there and back after purchasing as much bad food for us as money allowed. Having fun on a run is the best way to embrace the winter suck.

    PS. Totally agree with your running tights conclusion. I just look short and squat in them :)

  2. I like the thought behind this book. In the Winter, my goal race and my friends are what keep me running...having that accountability is what helps me. I do agree that solo runs are nice and I enjoy those during the week. Tights...achk. Tights suck. :0)

  3. I can't believe that you went out and ran in all that snow! But then again I can because you are tough. It makes it easier to stick with a run if you have others counting on you. I just wish I could have some running buddies that are slow like e to help make me accountable. I also wish I could suck it up like you and just get outside and run in this cold winter weather. But I'm a wimp and really don't like to be cold. Oh and my thoughts on tights, I don't like anything tight so that rules tights out for me. I feel like a sausage in a casing with lumps everywhere. They just don't look good on me.

  4. I think either pushing through tough conditions and/or finding creative ways to get your workouts in around them pays off in spades in mental toughness. There is nothing quite like standing at the start line of a goal race knowing you did everything possible to be successful.

  5. i guess i picked a good time to be on the sidelines! we have had some atrocious weather!! but if i could, i'd be out there in a flash. can't wait. good for you for embracing the suck tho - hardcore mama!

  6. I need to majorly embrace the suck. It's now been so long since I have been for a run that I have less motivation because I know that I am going to have some really tough runs to get back to a good place again. Why or why can I not just keep up a routine?