Yesterday the temps were in the single digits and the wind chill ungodly. Had Jesus been born into this kind of weather, he’d have crawled back inside Mary and waited for the Holy Spirit to warm things up a little.
If you want to call that sacrilegious, go right ahead. We have a whole year (every year) to recover from the blasphemous mess that the Christmas season has become. December these days is as much about the new Star Wars movie as it is about a supposed religious holiday. One more swat at the tradition won’t really hurt anyone. Is there really much difference between the phrase Jesus Loves You and May the Force Be With You?
Not in the minds of many, it would seem. Christmas as a holiday long ago abandoned the meaning in exchange for the sharing of means.
We also have a whole year to lose the fat we put on our bodies going into the holidays. It collects like dryer lint around our middle sections. We lose another belt notch and rue the sight of the next cookie knowing that it will only add to the problem. It can leave you feeling like Jabba the Hut. You may not be as fat as you think, but it’s all in how you feel.
Thus the day after Christmas we emerge from the excess with only New Year’s Eve to hurdle. Then there is a clear path ahead to Valentine’s Day, which leaves only a box of chocolates and some rich red wine to hurdle. Nothing to it.
The winter season
It doesn’t help that winter is the season in which it is most difficult to get outside to exercise. Folks down in Australia or other parts of the Southern Hemisphere that read this can feel free to gloat now. Your time will come eventually.
It’s fucking freezing up here in Illinois right now. The temps are predicted to dip below zero for the next week or so. Of course, that’s nothing compared to what they’re getting up in Minneapolis. But that city is stuffed with resolute Protestants and addled Norwegians who delight in flexing their frozen feet and determined minds made of ice. They go running with their big hairy beards rife with ice and sport their icicle ponytails with pride. Then they crawl back inside their houses to thaw out while listening to banned content from Prairie Home Companion.
I’ve been one of those faux Norwegians in the past. My record for low temps while running is -23. My eyelids froze shut. I had to turn back home after two miles and call it quits.
These days I’m fortunate to live two miles from a wonderful 200-meter indoor track. So the day after Christmas I drove down there and ran a snappy little workout of 6 X 200 at 1:42 (just under 7:30 mile pace) and headed upstairs to do some strength work on the legs.
It felt good to run on the indoor track. I kept my stride short and ran on my forefoot as much like a deer as I could. There is an art to running indoors. It’s all about precision and economy of movement if you want to go fast at all. Here is a quick guide to getting the most from your indoor track training
- Don’t overstride on the turns or anywhere else on the track.
- Increase stride rate rather than pushing the stride length.
- Keep the head up and lean slightly in on the curves rather than forward.
- Look 10 yard ahead on the turn the entire way through.
- Run about one foot off the inside lane line, close to the curb
- Concentrate on a point of the track about twenty yards ahead on the straights.
- If other runners are on the inside lane, shift to the second lane about twenty yards early, then easy back in withing 20 yards.
- If training with others, it is best to run slightly back and off the shoulder of one of the runners ahead of you, just inside the same lane.
Running indoor workouts alone in which you’re just putting in mileage, not doing intervals? Run in the lane three or four where the turn is not so tight. It is fine to alternate directions every couple miles if the track is empty. When others are present, track rules typically dictate a clockwise or counterclockwise direction every other day.
Here’s a funny tip about indoor running. Sometimes you get a bit ahead of yourself training indoors. The challenge of running outside after a few weeks or a season of indoor track running can leave you feeling slow compared to the rush of short laps and quicker pace.
That’s why it’s advisable to find an outdoor track as soon as weather allows. Try to replicate the pace you were achieving indoors, because the sooner you “connect the dots” the more likely you won’t go backward in overall pace.
And don’t feel like you’re cheating by running indoors. Athletes all around the world compete in indoor track. It can be quite a thrill to find an indoor track meet where Masters runners are welcome. Why not put all that pacework to the test?
Most of all, enjoy running off the malaise of the holidays. And may the Force, not the fat, be with you.