Tag Archives: polar vortex

The Outer Limits

19 Nov

Yesterday, all 50 states felt freezing temperatures. Even Hawaii. People in the Aloha State actually had to turn on the heat.

If ever you needed an excuse to stay inside with Winter Boo and make your bed your friend, the Polar Vortex is it. But we all know how I feel about excuses. They are the reasons people use to justify why not.

Why didn’t you go to the gym this morning? Polar Vortex.

Why didn’t you pack your lunch last night? Polar Vortex.

Why didn’t you go for a walk around your heated building to get a little exercise? Polar Vortex.

It can be so simple to while away the days in your home and hibernate. I’ve been tempted myself. But this season only lasts for a little while and before you know it you’re gonna want to put that bathing suit back on. I’ve already offered tips on how to get motivated while the weather is telling you to keep it indoors. But what if you want to take it outside?

I prefer running to any other exercise activity. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s ridiculously convenient. The only problem is I hate being cold. To get over that, I’ve challenged myself this winter to break my cold-weather-run rule. I usually refuse to set foot on the running path in temps below 40 degrees. The other day, I broke that rule.

Before I get into that, let me set this up for you: The New York City Marathon was held a few weeks ago. I’m not trained for a marathon, but I still ran that morning to show solidarity with my peeps. It was so damn windy that day. The gusts were so strong I thought for sure I’d be blown into the Hudson River (I have been blown into the side of buildings on gusty days, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility). The gusts actually made it hard for me to breathe, which besides blinking is the only bodily function I enjoy. Yet, I finished my run. I even did a personal best: 9 minutes, 28 seconds per mile. The less-than ideal running conditions gave me the motivation I needed to try my hand at other less-than ideal conditions.

My #OOTD...the other day

My #OOTD…the other day

So this past Sunday, under cloudy skies and 37 degrees, I strapped on my running tee, running jacket, capris and beanie and hit the path for a good four miles. As soon as I started, I hated it (because I hate the effing cold). My tee and jacket both have thumb holes, but my fingers were so cold. I had to constantly flex them to get the blood pumping. The wind wasn’t as strong as on Marathon day, but it was still pretty chilly. After mile 1, though, I started getting in a groove. I had to keep telling myself that this was a short run and it would be over soon. Before I knew it, it was.

It wasn’t as bad as I’d always thought it would be. The air wasn’t as thin as I’d remembered. The cooler temps kept lots of runners away, making the path clear for me and a few others. My main concern was the wind. I didn’t want a repeat of Marathon day when I was gasping for air. What I got was a light breeze that kept me from overheating from too many layers. I really only needed the running jacket. The cold-weather T-shirt just added extra heat that wasn’t necessary.

Most of all, though, I learned that my fear was all in my head. The girl who would never set foot on a path in less-than 40-degree temps was also a girl who had never hit 6.3 miles per hour on a run. She was someone who placed limits on what she could do just because she didn’t want to try much harder. That girl is still the devil on my shoulder, but her voice is getting weaker as time goes on.

I’m glad I accepted my personal challenge to brave the cold. I’m not going to be overly adventurous with the Polar Vortex. That sucker is actually trapping people in their homes. But I will, bit by bit, continue to press myself to expand my limits.

What have you challenged yourself to do just to see if you could?

Plotting Around the Polar Vortex

10 Nov
This is some bull—but it's not an excuse

This is some bull—but it’s not an excuse

A couple of weeks ago I was out to dinner with friends. We hadn’t met up for a while, so it was time to catch up. Who’s dating whom? How’s work going? Holiday plans? Blah, blah, blah.

When we got around to me, I offered my usual: work, gym, home. If I’m feeling adventurous: work, gym, grocery store, home. The reason for the routine is because I’d gained some weight that I wasn’t proud of. The size 8s were feeling a little too snug and the 10s were looking tempting. Rather than give in to temptation, I went back into beast mode. I’m happy to say I’m down 17 pounds.

What I diidn’t mention was that this dinner was during a particularly cold night here in New York. “Why are you trying to lose weight when it’s about to get cold?” my friend joked. “You’re going to need that extra layer when the cold hits.” (By the way, it’s coming.)

My other friend spoke up before I could, saying now’s the time to do it. If you’re going to try to get in shape, you want to do it before it gets warm. Think of it this way: When you go to the beach for spring break or summer vacation, it’ll be much harder to work off all that holiday food if you haven’t been keeping up with a routine.

A sports columnist at The Wall Street Journal (editor’s note: my employer) wrote about this very thing last week. He called it the off season. Many athletes will go vacation for a month once the season’s over, but they will get back to training when they return.

One of my favorite stories about this was told by Michael Jordan in the “30 for 30: Bad Boys” documentary. The Pistons put in work on Michael Jordan, using their “Jordan Rules” to defensively render him useless to the Bulls. Jordan took the L, but went into the off season with a mission to get his body ready for the hurting the Pistons had planned for him. He took his time off as a challenge to himself to improve his body to be in peak form.

I understand, however, that we’re not all athletes. It’s easy to turn the fall and winter into the off season for working out. Hell, I did it last year. It’s easier not to leave the house when you have 4 feet of snow blocking your doorway. And if you can’t get outside, you definitely can’t run or even go to the gym. Your subconscious plays games with your head and tells you, “Stay home where it’s warm. There’s Netflix and HBOGo and entire seasons of shows you haven’t watched on Amazon Prime. Plus, look at that bookshelf full of masterpieces you’ve been trying to read. They need your attention, too.”

Doesn’t that sound inviting? You could be in your warm home lazing the day away. Or you could pop in an exercise DVD and go to work. You could make use of those resistance bands you bought forever ago. You could find a few workout tips on YouTube and make it happen. Your home doesn’t and should’t be your cage. It should be where you make the most of off-season.

Believe me when I tell you I fully understand the desire to skip out on workouts when it’s cold outside. Ask anyone: I hate  the cold. I hate everything about it. I don’t like wearing extra layers because it just means more laundry. I don’t like walking around in black slush piles of snow because that mess gets tracked back into my house. And I hate working out and then going out into the cold because then I’m then the disgusting combination of cold and wet.

But that doesn’t mean I can let myself go because of few dropped temps. Sticking with a plan means just that. If losing weight, staying on track or maintaining a certain level of health is important to you, then you can and should find a way to do just that. Letting the winter doldrums get you down will only make it harder on yourself when the weather breaks. Don’t make this process any harder than it has to be. Find the inner strength that I know you have and force yourself to break the off-season habit.

How do you get through your off season?

photo credit: jonathanpercy via photopin cc