“Winter in Michigan sucks…”

How many times have you heard someone talk about how horrible winter is? Or how many times have you heard someone say to you that you look grumpy in the winter? If it’s a really bad day, sometimes you just want to punch them in the throat, but obviously you can’t do that. I have yet to physically punch anyone in the face, I am sure I have done it a hundred times, mentally, when being told to “cheer up” in the winter. Winter is TOUGH in Michigan, but it is all a mindset.

As funny as that seems, winter has a serious effect on many of our emotions and mental stability, especially here in West Michigan. Just a couple quick statistics prove that winter is a tougher season here in Michigan than in many other places. According to several weather websites, Michigan averages 160 days a year that see sun. That doesn’t even mean full sun. And we all know the majority of those 160-days aren’t in the winter.

West Michigan is ranked number 6 in the country for the cloudiest city.

This year is one for the record books! Not only has winter seemed to settle in nice and early with early snowfalls, but we’re also experiencing extremely low amounts of sunshine.

You’re probably thinking, awesome, why do I need these depressing facts pointed out?

First, because Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a real thing. The lack of sunshine in the winter months affects hundreds of people all over the world. “Statistics surrounding seasonal affective disorder show that around 6% of people in the United States will suffer from the symptoms of SAD during the winter months and a further 10-20% may suffer from a very mild form of the disorder.” (Read more at: https://www.whatispsychology.net/seasonal-affective-disorder-statistics-and-facts/) The article goes on to explain that areas with less sunshine and shorter days will see greater percent of the population who are affected.

With that in mind, let me tell you a little story about the last month. To begin you’ll need to understand how much I truly struggle with cold and winter. I start dreading it already in August. The first sign of leaves changing is like a punch in the gut because I know right behind that beautiful color is the constant ugly gray of winter. Not to mention I have absolutely zero tolerance for cold temperatures. ZERO.

This November, our team at Coachman Training Systems, decided to get involved with Movember, or more commonly known as No Shave November. All in hopes of raising much needed awareness of the struggle so many people are silently facing with mental health issues. Well, I can’t exactly grow a mustache, so instead I decided to do something else that would challenge me and help represent those who struggle. What I didn’t know going into this month is how many parallels there would be. “Globally, every minute, a man dies from suicide” (statistic from us.movember.com). Which means 60 men every hour lose the battle with mental health. I decided to do something that represented those 60. When put up for a vote, my social media followers decided I would run 60 miles in the month of November. Doesn’t seem too challenging? For me this was my nightmare. A month ago, if I had been asked if I hate running or winter more, I wouldn’t have been able to answer. I hate them equally.

On November 1st, just hours after getting of a plane from a week long vacation, I jumped on the assault treadmill in our gym and knocked out my first two miles. It was terrible. The thought of 58 more was incredibly overwhelming. That machine is a form of torture to me. In the couple days that followed, I ran on a regular treadmill whenever the opportunity arose. However, the two locations I train out of are both equipped with the assault treadmill. One day I said, “forget it I’m going outside!” That run was the best run I’ve had to date and it felt so much better than running on the treadmill. I ran 4 miles and it wasn’t a breeze, but it wasn’t as difficult as I remember 4 miles being. My mind set immediately changed! Running outside was my new game plan. The problem with that was our first snow fall came two days later. That day I sat and stared at the assault treadmill for a while before deciding I just couldn’t do it.

I layered up, faced my enemy, winter, and ran outside. This is my post from that day….

The high I felt that day was incredible. I took two things I despised and I faced them head on! My energy was up that day, I was strangely seeing beauty in the snow, and the temperature no longer felt that bad! However, I still thought it was a one-time thing and that the next outdoor cold run would break me. So, I kept trying it. Each time it felt better and better. Each time it left me with a rush, with more energy and with a stronger tolerance of cold temps. Until this November, I’ve gone into every winter, since I was 16, saying “this year I am going to stay positive, this year I’m going to learn to enjoy winter!” Every year, as soon as the first snow hits, that positivity and determination has flown south until May! But this year, in the midst of a challenge to raise awareness for others mental health, my own has dramatically improved!

I am not saying that if you struggle with winter, you need to go out in the cold and run! Because, that would make me the person you want to punch in the face! But, it worked for me, which doesn’t mean it will work for you.

If you struggle with daily tasks, if you feel overwhelmed, if you feel down frequently, if you have no energy, and lack of motivation, take on a challenge.

Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Go to the gym, join a class you’re afraid to try, ask a trainer for the help you’ve been afraid to seek! Here is what I absolutely know, moving, challenging yourself, and accomplishing things you never thought you could, will make you feel alive. You’ll feel your energy go up. You’ll feel your excitement to take on the next day and the next challenge go up. You’ll shine brighter and you’ll give those struggling around you a sense of hope.

Yes, I am promoting movement because I am a trainer and that is my job, but I am promoting it because it has made ALL the difference for me. That is why I am a trainer and why I no longer feel I have a job. It’s a real solution to a real problem. A problem that so many are afraid to face, but so many are a workout (or some form of movement) away from a solution. If you need help sorting through a solution, if you need encouragement, or if you need somebody to understand where you’re at, please reach out! Coachman coaches are all great listeners and we’re always excited to help somebody change, physically and mentally!

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