As winter arrives and the days get shorter, it gets harder and harder to remain positive. There is no way to explain it and no way to indicate the exact time it happens, but it does, the grey dreary weather just gets us down.
Those early morning runs and evening sessions that we got used to doing in the light, are now done in the dark, and it can be tough. Whilst the only thing that has changed is the light, the sessions seem to get harder.
It affects a lot more of us that we say, but we shouldn’t be embarrassed by it. Instead, we should open up and help each other.
So, what do I do to combat the winter blues.
Make the evenings cosy.
When I get home after a session or run on a dreary day, it can seem very miserable and mood dampening when I look outside and it’s dark at 5 o’clock. Therefore, I always do my best to ensure that the evenings are as cosy and enjoyable as possible. The majority of the time, my evenings are spent doing work, but I make sure I make this enjoyable. I’ll turn on a nice warming lamp, put on a cosy onesie, and make myself a nice warming drink. I try to do little things that I know will put me in a good mood. This may just be taking the time to cook something I really enjoy for dinner. Whatever it is, I try to make the dark evenings seem as bright as possible by having something to look forward to, such as putting on my onesie! Maybe for you this is having a bath and catching up on a tv programme you missed earlier in the week, whilst you go through your emails.
Get out during the day when you can.
I personally don’t like doing my sessions in the dark evenings and getting home late, when I can do them earlier in the daylight. If you can, even if it means getting your run done in your lunch break, get out in the midday light. Even if it is grey and rainy if you can get your training done in the light of day you’ll enjoy it a lot more. If I’ve got a session in the afternoon, I try to complete it before it gets dark. That way I have the evening to relax before I go to bed, and I’m not rushed to fit everything in before I go to sleep.
If you are struggling with training in the grey dreary weather, brighten it up my finding a friend to go with you. Whether you are doing an easy run and are able to have a chat, or you’ve got a session and won’t speak, just having someone there with you so you aren’t alone can make the whole session seem a lot easier. It’s nice to feel as though you aren’t the only one struggling with the arrival of winter.
Talk about how you feel.
Finally, and most importantly, talk about how you are feeling. It’s ok to find it difficult to stay positive in the winter, you are not alone. I find myself feeling emotional, sad, and anxious, for no reason. I know it’s because of the darker days, but it can be a struggle to get yourself out of that mindset. So, don’t be afraid to talk about how you are feeling because it is highly likely that the person you are talking to will be feeling the exact same way as you. If we talk about it, we no longer feel alone, and we can all help cheer each other up. Its normal for your mood to be affected by the seasons, my definitely is! I just work to stay positive.
If anyone had said to me this time last year I would be running for England, I would’ve told them to stop being so ridiculous. Last weekend marked exactly one year since my first cross country after nearly a year out and 9 years since my first coach and first ever inspiration passed away. But, it also marked something else. It marked my England debut, and gosh was I proud to run in red and white and make my coach who initially sparked my love for running, and my friends and family, proud. I met an incredible group of people that I felt privileged to call my teammates, ate lots of tomatoes (probably my fair share for the rest of the year), did lots of running, lots of sitting around, and of course, lots of laughing! But it was an experience I will never forget, and hope to add to.
Before going away, I was slightly nervous as I wasn’t sure what to expect when we were out there. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have my normal pre race build up, or if I would have to just go with the flow. We were so lucky with the coaches that came with us because they did their upmost to make us feel at ease and ensure we could perform our usual pre race routines. Apart from being in a different country, the majority of the build up was pretty similar to usual. I took plenty of food with me, so I knew, if needs be, I would have food to eat before the race that I knew would sit well in my stomach.
Our race wasn’t until 4:30, so the majority of the day involved a lot of time sitting around doing not a lot! Luckily, I’d thought ahead and packed Bananagram. Those who know it will know how addicting it can be, but also frustrating if you never win (that’s me!). The morning dragged on and on, but finally 2:30 arrived and the coach took us to the race start! To make us feel like royalty, it was a police escorted coach!
The course itself was an interesting one. It consisted of 10x1km laps, each involving 4 corner turns and one 180 degree turn. We were lucky enough to be able to walk the course the day before, therefore we knew exactly what we would be faced with. We knew it wasn’t going to be a fast race due to the vast number of corners, so we would be racing for position and would have to put ourselves in a good position. The toughest part of the course was the surging. Rather than being able to lock into a consistent pace, as you would in most 10k’s, the sheer volume of corners meant we were constantly speeding up and then slowing down. This is what worked our legs the most as we weren’t able to keep a solid pace flowing.
The race itself
Going into the race I felt surprisingly relaxed. I had spoken to one of the coaches multiple times and he made me feel completely at ease, reminding me to stay true to myself and race my own race, not get carried away because of where I was.
It was all rather overwhelming to begin with. The whole team paraded to the start line after we’d warmed up and stood on the line. It then became surreal as our national anthem was played for us. This was when it began to sink in. I, little 5 foot nothing Hannah Irwin from Cambridge (well, Essex, Suffolk, Cambridge border) was about to represent her country for the first time!
After the start gun sounded, we were off, and imminently faced with the first of many corners. We had to be careful as some of the corners had drain covers and the rain had made them slippery, so we had to focus on where we were heading. A French athlete soon ran on ahead of us, but we stuck to our own plans and controlled our own races. After 1km, I knew we needed to push it on slightly, so the three of us from team England worked the race together. Before long, we were able to chase down the girl ahead and form our own little group. We did well to work our way through the corners and not blow up too soon. With 2k to go we began to separate from Danielle, but continued to work together as a team. The fierce team strength we showed led us to a 1-2-3 finish and the overall team prize.
Prior to the race, contending for a medal wasn’t even on my mind. I was proud to have earned the England vest, and my prize was simply being there! As the race unfolded it became more apparent that a medal was in sight and something I could achieve. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win a silver medal at my first England race, but I was determined to work hard to prove I deserved to be there.
As someone who predominantly trains alone, I love it when passionate, driven runners are brought together. The England Team I was fortunate to be a part of was built up of incredible people. The energy was so positive and everyone was genuine and kind. As a result, it created a space where I no longer felt ‘weird’ to enjoy running and I was no longer the only one waking up earlier than necessary to fit in a run. All of a sudden I felt ‘normal’. And this is the power of running. The camaraderie that comes from people working together with the same goal is so incredibly powerful. This goes for whether you are with another individual who understands your love for the sport, or if you are at a club training night during the week. Suddenly a group of people with one interest unite, and you can all be ‘weird running obsessed freaks’ together.
Ultimately, my Rennes 10k England athletics experience was something I will never forget. It spurred me on to keep working as hard as I can to achieve my goals, and hopefully, this will only be the start of more to come!
Heading into a race requires all sorts of physical and psychological preparations. Whilst I don’t do anything drastically different, I do whatever is needed to get me to the start line feeling fresh. Ultimately, this may vary from race to race, depending on how I feel building up to it.
The physical build up to every race is different. Whilst I may not plan for it to be, the week before a race is all governed by how my body feels. Some race weeks I may feel on top form from the start of the week and be able to continue training as normal till just a few days before my race. However, other times, my legs feel tired and heavy, therefore training has to be reduced and adapted earlier in the week. It all just depends on how I feel at the time. If this is the case, sessions may be reduced and training becomes focused on fine tuning and just giving the legs enough time to get working, but without adding extra fatigue to them.
Listening to my body as a race approaches, has not always been an easy thing for me to do. It is something I have struggled with for a long time. I used to be unable to deviate from the plan. If I was set a full session, but felt very tired and heavy going into it in race week, I was unable to adapt the session set. I felt I had to do what was set or I would be failing before I had even got to the start line of the race. However, this couldn’t be more wrong. I now recognise the need to listen to my body, especially during race week, and adapt my training as necessary.
In the week leading up to a race, my coach always reminds me that nothing can be gained from doing more, only lost. Therefore there is no point overdoing it as I will only regret it come race day. It’s so important to be able to tell myself that doing less will only benefit me and make me feel fresher for the race. If this means slightly reducing the session I have set, I’ll do it, because this is not a sign of failure, but a sign of strength and rationality. It shows that I am able to think sensibly and do what is best for my body before I push it to its limit during a race.
The mental preparation for race week tends to be similar for most races. I try not to over think the race itself before the day, and stay relaxed throughout the week. The race ahead is always in the back of my mind throughout the week, but in a good way. It is there so I don’t overdo it, or have a wild late night that week (not that this ever happens!). The race ahead is always in your mind, but in a positive way. I try not to get nervous about a race until the day itself, this way I have saved the nerves for when it matters and haven’t wasted energy unnecessarily worrying.
The physical preparations to me, work hand in hand with the psychological. I know the particular training I do in the few days just before a race, and this is what gets me in the zone. I know what I need to do to have my body feeling fresh, and in turn, this gets my mind in the right, calm, but nervously excited place.
Another key thing I do is sleep! I don’t want to be over tired when it comes to race day, therefore I make sure I am eating well to fuel myself, and sleeping plenty. Therefore, there are no excuses on the start line.
Running in the rain is not something enjoyed by everyone, but it can’t always be avoided, therefore you have to face it at some point. If you have a session to do and it’s pouring with rain, the reality is you are going to get wet. But, our skin is waterproof right? It seems like it’s the end of the world running in the rain, but the worst that is going to happen is, you’re only going to get drenched! What’s so bad about that?
The hardest part is getting out of the door, especially when you’re sat inside in the warm and dry, staring out at the rain not wanting to get cold. However, I actually find some of my best sessions have been completed in the rain.
I always find, if it starts to rain after I have started running, I don’t even notice it, but if you have to head outside when it’s already raining, it seems a lot worse! However, once I get out there and start running, I absolutely love it. There is something very relaxing and powerful about running in it. When it rains, only the runners with a true mission head out, which means it can be very quiet and peaceful as its just you and the session ahead. Oh, and the rain.
Quite frequently, I end up enjoying the sessions I’ve done in the pouring rain more than the dry ones. I love having another challenge to work against, which adds to the interest of the session. Especially coming into cross country season, the rain just feels like an extra part of training and another thing to gain experience from heading into racing season. In the end, it might be raining on race day, and we can’t avoid or control that, so why evade training in it? It’s good practice!
I always try not to go into a rainy session feeling negative, and remember, this will soon change and I will love it. Always look at the positives, and don’t let a bit of water change your outlook.
I make sure I’m prepared for the end of a session, because even if it isn’t cold when I am running, it is a lot easier to get cold as soon as I stop. I try to be organised and have some dry clothes to put on straight after, and then I get in a warm shower followed by cosy clothes, once I get home. Running in the rain won’t harm you, but I always try to get dry and warm as soon as I can to avoid getting ill.
Ultimately, running in the rain shows that it can’t be sunshine and brightness all the time, but the ‘rain’ doesn’t last forever. As long as you get through it, be as positive as possible, it will all be worth it in the end and the sunshine will return eventually.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!