INERTIA: Staying Motivated During the Coldest, Darkest Time of the Year

Melody Fairchild, my good friend, running buddy, and member of the coaching team for Active at Altitude and Running Vacations, crafted this beautiful piece a few weeks back on her thoughts about training at this time of year – Inertia. With her permission, I recreate the words on this post – enjoy!

INERTIA

As the seasons turn towards the darkest and coldest of them all, and the one we associate with “slowing down,” my inner-coach is revealing some vulnerability: “Will I slow down, too?” Fear of failure and reaping what I’ve sewn are motivators to respond soundly to this vulnerability: I’ve a Marathon to train for, and I’ve done the hard work of callousing myself to the mileage for a good six weeks now. I’m ready, to do twelve weeks of “serious” training: focused, intentional miles and specific workouts to prepare for the pace I need to run.

Some days, as I notice the trees around me grow bare and the days are get shorter and colder, I especially feel “Inert.” I want to rest like the trees, whose sap will rise again in spring, able to sprout green, dancing leaves, and like the bears, who take a lovely, 6 month nap. The definition from the world of Physics for Inertia is: “the property of matter by which it retains it’s state of rest…so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.” When winter finally takes hold of the earth with the strong grip of a true hard frost and then a heavy blanket of snow, the inaction of bears and trees are a reminder of the power of going within. Their clear message to the world lets us know that no “external force” is going to alter their plan for rest and rejuvenation. Mother nature is so perfectly wise. I will use the strength of those hibernation messages to go within for the next 12 weeks and summon the focus and conviction I need to achieve my running goal. Often while running on unusually warm days in winter, I get a whiff of air or hear a sound which takes me time travelling to a warm, spring day, infusing me with hope and excitement for new beginnings, and gratitude for the barrenness I see and feel in winter, knowing what beauty it will bear in the Spring. “Inertia” for nature, is medicine; inactivity for part of the year is the secret to it’s success.

Inertia for a runner is often something we battle and something we fear. While I’d like to be in sync with the trees and the bears, the calendar and my urgency to to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon with a 2:46 or faster on January 30th in Houston, call for serious activity right now. Perhaps one reason for the timing of many of the world’s biggest marathons is so that runners can slow down a bit during winter.

However, if I’m having a day where I am really fighting inertia, I try to remember: “what we resist, persists,” and it is a day to learn from the Bears and the trees and slow down a bit, even while I am training for a marathon very important to me.

While inertia can connote being “stuck,” and losing the battle against the shoes sitting by the door which on some days goes from being a piece of wood with a knob on it, to the Great Wall of China, I might just very easily win it, by allowing the changes outside to be the “external forces” which inspire fresh and, when needed, gentle approaches to the daily rigors of training. Luckily, we don’t have to sleep for 6 months or lose our skin. Very gratefully, we can daily infuse ourselves with joy, through our senses, spicing-up our seasons of running.

Training is "Easy" During the Summer...

In summer, with first light smiling on the peaks above Boulder before 5am and energizing the earth until after 9pm, I am drawn outside with the Sun, getting in mountainous running adventures as much as possible, motivated to play until the last rays of the sun go down, so I don’t “miss out” on something beautiful.

Halloween has just passed, a day which most around the Front Range of Colorado figure will be our first snowfall. No snow yet. Each morning (which comes a bit later each day), I wonder if that stillness which precedes a good dumping if snow will impregnate the airwaves, and then the silence of a big snow will slow the world down for a while. If it does happen, I will enjoy it, letting myself mirror the mood of my immediate environment. Yes, I will welcome slowing down. There is a Zen saying: “Go Slow, Slow, so you can go Fast, Fast.” Arthur Lydiard, the Father of the jogging movement back in the early 70’s and a famous New Zealand coach of multiple Olympians, had sayings echoing this sentiment: “Run Easy”,” Train smarter, not harder.”

I’m grateful for the seasons, which call for a change-up in my inner mood and outer action, four times a year. They allow me to stay connected to my instinctual self, and in-touch with my sensuality. Recently, on a visit to Cleveland for a wedding, I ran with my friend Lori through Rockefeller Park, along Martin Luther King Blvd. The leaves were thick in the grass alongside the sidewalk and she darted over to them, exclaiming: ”I have to run through them! hear them! and feel them crunch under my feet!” (She even said “I need to run over dog-doo too!” though I don’t think that’s seasonal :) ). After our playful, care-free run to the waterfront of Lake Erie, I zipped along for a 40 minute tempo run, senses awakened, playful, creative side “On.” I felt totally Alive. When that first snow comes, I am vow to dart into it, celebrating the new experiences for my senses: re-hydrating with snowflakes on my tongue, leaving memories of parched runs in summer heat behind. I won’t fear the darkness; I’ll be especially motivated to manage my time, so I’m not out on icy roads after dark. I recently saw a quote: “Dreams keep one young.”

Whether it’s the Olympic Trials, or a dream to run all four seasons with joy, no doubt the external forces of Nature will keep us peering into the internal frontier with child-like wonder, at where our senses will take us to next.

Here’s to allowing the external forces of our coming winter season to nudge us toward our shoes, so we may express, through the Art of Running, our playful and focused, quiet and ambitious, slow and fast selves. When we do, we’ll give ourselves the gift of realizing that every day is beautiful.

About Terry Chiplin

Terry Chiplin - Owner, Active at Altitude
Terry describes himself when people ask as an athletic experience facilitator.

He has an extensive background stretching back over nearly 20 years as a health and fitness consultant and personal trainer, and more than 15 years as a running coach. He has been a runner and cyclist for >30 years and have encouraged and inspired many people he has been in contact with to become physically active. He has been fortunate to have worked with athletes of all levels, from Olympic competitor to rehabilitation patients. Terry's studies and life experience has given him a unique ability to motivate and inspire athletes of all abilities – he truly believes in the unique incredible potential of each and every athlete that he works with and will be creative in assisting everyone achieve that potential.

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