It never fails. Every year around this time my activity levels drop like a rock and I find I need to re-motivate myself to keep putting in the work. I have managed to transition a lot of running miles over to long haul hikes, but it’s still not quite the same. My biking has also suffered, going from 70-100 miles per week over the summer, to barely putting in 15-20 miles, and maybe 2 rides in a week.
A big reason that it’s tough to get out there currently, is that it’s always dark. We’re approaching the shortest day of the year, and that means it’s dark when I start work in the morning, and the sun is already setting when I finish work in the afternoon. Plus, we’re currently in a tighter lockdown and so even if I wanted to hop on my bike, most of the places I’d ride to are closed or take-out only. Combined, it saps the motivation. But, it’s not a permanent state of mind.
Every year at this time I need to recalibrate how I think about my activities, and more specifically, how they make me feel. When I head out for a long early evening bike ride in the summer, it’s warm, there’s people around, and there’s a sense of energy in the air. The darkness takes that away. It’s no longer fresh and invigorating, and sometimes feels isolated and lonely, and so you need to find a different way to connect.
This past week I’ve tried to start putting a new mindset into action. Instead of waking up in the dark and saying, “Nah, I don’t feel like going for a run right now.” I’m saying to myself, “Nothing’s stopping you from running, so you might as well go get some endorphins.” Just because the adventure is different, doesn’t mean it’s still not worthwhile. Already this week I’ve managed two pre-dawn runs, and if I time it right, I’m often finishing as the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon. That is a special kind of beauty in its own right.
I also managed a wonderful pre-dawn bike ride this week that I was able to combine with a stop for my morning coffee. As I biked back along the trail, the sun was rising behind me, giving me that final boost to finish close to an hour of solid activity. Was it the same as my bike rides the rest of the year? No, but that’s OK.
That’s the message I want to leave this at. The darkness can sap our motivation to stay active. We don’t want to get up early and run in the dark. We don’t want to head out after supper and bike in the dark. It doesn’t feel the same, and we don’t like it. But, that’s not what this time of year is about. It’s about continuing to stay healthy and fit, and to continue to explore the world even though we see less of it. It’s about remembering that there are other ways to connect with the world, and learn to adapt. As we adapt we become stronger, not just physically, but mentally. We learn to endure and persevere, and next spring when everything is bright and sunny again? We’re going to be back stronger than ever.
See you out there!