Running Into The Light

AJW's TaproomOver the past few years, as I’ve grown older and perhaps a bit more set in my ways, I have noticed a profound increase in the effect circadian rhythms have on on my mind and my body. These mysterious rhythms, defined by scientists as physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness, impact all living things and provide provocative insights into a wide range of behaviors.

For me, the most acute response I have to these rhythms is during the winter months when I sleep longer and more deeply, tend to move more slowly in all aspects of my life, and, at times, lack motivation for even some of life’s most basic tasks. Often, this general lethargy hits rock bottom in mid-January when the mornings are the darkest here in the Northern Hemisphere and everything just seems downright bleak.

And so, it is with great joy that, as I am currently emerging from my three-week running break, the daylight hours are extending and things are beginning to slowly, inexorably, perk up. Just this week, in fact, as I have worked my way through the ritual of my return to running, first with a three-mile run on Tuesday, then a relaxed four on Wednesday, followed by a brisk five miler yesterday, the glow in the eastern sky has emerged just a wee bit earlier each day.

Yesterday, as I hopped off my doorstep at my usual time of 6:15 a.m., I noticed the subtle light above the church steeples in town. Just two weeks ago, in that exact spot at that exact time, it was pitch dark. So, with that, I have to admit, I positively pranced down the road with more spring in my step than I had in weeks and ran a bit faster than I probably should have. By the time I reached the halfway point of my little five-mile loop here in town, the gentle glow above town had turned into a full-blown red and orange sunrise and once I had returned to my house and stopped my watch, I didn’t even need to push the light button to see my splits. I burst into a standing-alone-in-the-middle-of-the-street-on-a-random-Thursday smile. It was true, I was now running into the light.

Of course, I know it’s only February 3 and winter is still in full force. I am sure there is still a snowstorm or two on the way and the cold damp days of March are not exactly a picnic around here. But this week’s changes and the impact of yesterday’s run have helped me turn the corner and as I respond to the rhythms of body and mind I am so happy to have running to keep me centered.

Having a daily reminder of both my potential and my limits is so important to me that it provides purpose and meaning to the rest of my life. And, the sheer fact that I’ve emerged from the depths of winter, with its long sleepy nights and motivation-challenged days, gives me reason to believe that tomorrow will be a little better than today. And that alone, will, once again, get me out the door.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Knee Deep Brewing Company Breaking BudThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Knee Deep Brewing Company in Auburn, California. Known for their insanely hopped IPAs, Knee Deep also makes some more balanced stuff. Their classic, old school American Style IPA, Breaking Bud, is one such beer. Balanced, fruity, and just a wee bit bitter, Breaking Bud is an excellent and simple IPA reminiscent of some of the early classics.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • For those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere, have you noticed any of the first signs of spring showing themselves?
  • Do you ever struggle with rectifying the signals your body gives you during the winter to ‘hibernate’ and rest with the desire you have to exercise and/or spend time outside?

There are 4 comments

  1. Enric Martinez

    “Motivational challenged”, love that.

    I just bought myself a decent headlamp that I will be using for something like a month.
    The weather here in Holland is unusually hot these last winters, we are right now around 10C (~50 F) while a week ago it was under the freezing point. And dry. We haven’t seen snow worth mention for 5 years or so. Good for running, but it feels quite awkward.

    I’m looking forward at the coming months when the sun is still rising during the morning runs (I run also at 6:00!), later, closer to the summer with the sun completely out it is not so beautiful anymore.

  2. Rob

    I’ve had some down moments this winter struggling with a back issue and lack of motivation, even with an April race on the calendar. But some of my most enjoyable runs around town have happened between 10pm – 1am, not a lot of noise and traffic, usually less windy, mostly around 10F (with or w/out windchill). I can hear my footfalls on the snow or bare pavement as I try to avoid the icy spots.

  3. Kate

    I have already turned the corner into the light. January is the hardest month, the darkest, but very slowly toward the end of that month I begin to feel a little bit better. February and March may be freezing cold, snowy, windy, but the days are longer and that’s all I need.

  4. Todd R. Sears

    I had been training through the unrelenting Vermont winter for a February race in Texas. It was bracing, emboldening, and humbling. Numb face, frozen beard, and barely-responsive legs stumbling through a Shackletonian landscape, trying to get ready for the thing. I flew down to the race and was greeted by sun, temps in the 50s-60s, and the good fortune to once again run in shorts and a single shirt. My pre-race shake-out run was an exercise in joy. So damned good. The race went well enough, but the trip turned out to be a big, fat bodacious tease. Why? Because here I sit back in my mountain home, a week after finishing, sipping a cup of coffee, waiting for the 18″-20″ dump of powder due us today, not even a whisper of Spring in sight. Only bare trees and plows. No tequila and fajitas.

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