What is it about February that unfailingly makes me feel a little bit down every year? It’s the shortest month but somehow it just drags on and on and is relentlessly gray. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m dealing with some difficult transitions right now, most notably the end of the partial hospitalization program I’ve been in for the past two months. Since I’m taking a leave of absence from work this semester, not bring in the program anymore means I have a lot of free time and not a lot of structure, which are two ingredients that can frequently lead to depression. Well, not this time, and not for me! Instead of wallowing in February’s gray, I’m determined to find its silver lining by exploring all the shades that lie in between black and white.
In many cases, it’s black and white thinking that can get us in trouble. I know that many of my thought processes are perfect examples of the black/white phenomenon. I haven’t had the time to run in the past two weeks because my schedule’s been crazy. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. Really, I’ve sort of chosen not to run because I’ve framed the idea of running in black and white–either I run 7 miles or I don’t run at all; either I run six days a week or not at all; if I don’t run, exercise isn’t worth my time–thereby dooming myself to two weeks of not-much-of-anything other than a dip in my body image, which is the last thing I need.
I know we’re better than halfway through the year’s grayest month, but I’d like to spend the days we have left paying attention to and honoring the gray areas. Here are some of the ways in which I plan to do this:
- Work on getting back into the habit of running by starting with about 20 miles a week as a goal and then working up slowly with the recommended 10% weekly increase in mileage. All too often I get swept up in the “If I don’t run 30 miles…” mindset that I forget that some running is better than no running at all, and going from 30 to nothing in a week is not going to help me get into or maintain good shape.
- Spend more time at the gym. I know this sounds like it runs counter to #1, but I’d like to spend more time cross-training. I think it would benefit me to relax a little bit about running and take a couple days a week to do a different activity and be more consistent about weights. In the past, I’ve tried doing weights and running and doing yoga in the same day. All this does is set me up for failure because by the following week I feel burned out. Just like alternating 30-mile weeks and 0-mile weeks, this sort of training is no way to get anywhere.
- Find more balance, which I think is related to #2. I need to put more effort into stretching and being conscious of all aspects of fitness. As the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and I think it’s important that I be able to run for a few miles, but also that I don’t pull a hamstring because of my lack of flexibility, or break my leg because my bones are so weak while doing it.
So hats off to the gray areas. I challenge you to find them and celebrate them for the rest of the month, too.