Loosen Up

Winter in Wisconsin is always a treat. A treat in the sense that if you like salty, this is sweet, and if you like sweet, it’s salty. In other words, winter is not a walk in the park.  We’re headed into an even colder spell, where temperatures promise to be 0 at best. ZERO. Adding to the punch are scattered snow showers and a general gloomy cast to the wintry sky. The news calls our predicament a “bitter blast;” I call it a pain in the @$$.  Most people I know agree with this fact.

However, when you live in Wisconsin, you know this comes along with the territory, and somehow you find ways to get through the cold days and bitter nights. Now, as a runner, you can imagine that the cold presents an even more annoying affront. If it’s warm enough (such as a recent 15 degree heat wave) to run outside, one must be concerned with ice patches. The result of this run is a stride in which one’s entire body is hunched forward, and clenched like a 95 year old, fighting the constant threat of falling on one’s behind. If it’s too cold, icy, or snowy to run outside, we runners find ourselves hitting the treadmill or indoor track.  While some are used to these alternate runs, for others it throws routines, muscles, and psyches way off.

Bottom line, all of this alternate running takes a toll on our muscles.  Personally, I find myself feeling tighter than usual after my runs, especially the outdoor ones.  This is probably because I know I run like a 95 year old, with every step tense and labored.  These runs make me as sore as if I had done a 15 miler, and make me feel as if I might indeed be 95. After a long (indoor) run this weekend, I had a whole different kind of soreness, having lapped the indoor track some 47 times.  After, I vowed to stretch more and start my yoga routine again. Seeing that it’s only January, I need to do whatever it takes to loosen up so I don’t injure myself.  This winter business is here to stay for a while.

I thought about loosening up a few days ago as I ran on the treadmill at my gym. I had just gotten out of a meeting.  This was the second of the day, the first having started at 6:45 a.m. Needless to say, it had been a long one.  A few of my friends were also involved in this meeting double header, and I looked at them as we sat around a large table, dutifully ending the day with our boss and colleagues. Most of my double header friends appeared to be paying attention; I hoped I had the same look.  Others seemed to be genuinely into the meeting subject. Despite my Oscar winning nods and expressions, I was not in the game.  I had entered the “just get me the hell out of here” zone. Very professional indeed.  Were others thinking the same thoughts? I mean, how could you not be annoyed at a simple point that was taking 35 minutes to discuss?  (Come on, people!)

I became intrigued, wondering just who was paying attention and who was completely over it like myself.  My second scan of the room showed more glazed over, “deer in the headlight” expressions. This made me feel better.  I glanced at my friend, who out of the corner of my eye had appeared to be taking notes. Studying her legal pad, it looked like she was drawing beakers. (The science teacher was talking about labs and chemicals.)  At least her artwork was on topic; the doodles I was contemplating involved a bottle and corkscrew.  Then, as if on cue, my friend’s beakers became martini glasses. She even drew olives on a toothpick, positioned perfectly in her imaginary drink.  Next, she drew a wine glass, and then filled it with wine. I had to stifle my growing case of 6th grade giggles.

Thank GOD, someone else was thinking about a life outside of this meeting, outside of work.  Now, unlike a year ago, I actually do love my job, my coworkers, and my students. (See last year’s “Running in Place” or “Let’s Get Honest” to see what I’m talking about.) However, I think sometimes we just need to say, “Let’s table this and go home.” I think a lot of bosses and meeting throwers would score big points and have more productive workers if this were said more often.  I bet 10 out of 10 adults, children, or cockroaches would agree that this makes sense.  After all, in addition to the many, many meetings, we all (regardless of profession) are working very hard.

We are going to work early and home late. If we aren’t working late, we’re working late into the night at home.  Or, perhaps office hours are normal, only to give way to conference calls at 10, 11, or 12 at night with international clients. When we’re not technically working, we’re checking up on work via iPhones, Blackberries, or “the old fashioned” voice and email checks. And, if we are not physically working, we are often thinking of work.

Meanwhile, the economy worsens, and we remind ourselves that however stressful our jobs are, we should be thankful we have them. We hear this news every time we read the paper, listen to the radio, or turn on the TV. We are in hard times; there is no arguing this. And, unfortunately, these hard times have left many of us in mini states of panic and uncertainty, where we scramble about doing everything and anything to stay afloat.

All of this bad news, hard work, cold weather, and long days are… just not good. And the problem is, they build upon each other. One person talks about the terrible cold, another agrees, another overhears, and suddenly everyone is cold. Someone talks about how hard they’re working, others feel they’re not measuring up, so they work harder, and soon we have a fleet of workers running around like hamsters in a cage trying to stay ahead. And let’s not even talk about the economy and how bad it is… this could take hours to cover.

So, here’s the deal. Something needs to be done to break through this deep freeze that seems to be building up in our world and minds.  True, we can’t melt the ice on the streets to make way for ideal running paths. We can’t break into our boss’ Blackberry and erase all of the meetings, and we can’t cast a spell over Wall Street to make everything better.  What we can do, however, is loosen up… our minds, bodies and spirits. We can recognize the things that are out of our control and do our best to accept them, and give more energy to the things that are in our control.  What is the #1 thing that we do have control over?   Our personal outlook on the world around us.

It’s been proven that when one focuses on feeling good and seeing good, the bad things in life suddenly aren’t so noticeable. The cold isn’t as cold, because suddenly it’s not the main focus.  Work might still be busy, but when done with a positive spin, new ideas are generated and it just could become more enjoyable.  Positive thoughts about our work and lives can even lead us down a new path that might not have been visible through our old, cloudy glasses. We’re braver when we are positive, because our minds are only full of good thoughts. Who can be down when thinking of fabulous dreams and ideas?

For me, I’m going to say goodbye to the 95-year-old woman who sometimes jumps into my body, making me tense and tentative, instead of cheerful and carefree. Instead, I am going to run upright, breathe freely, swing my arms loosely, and keep my eye on the target-  regardless of whatever may be beneath my feet. I’ll do this, knowing that treasures are often hidden under that ice and snow.  Today that treasure came in the form of a “cold day,” and no school. Winter isn’t that bad after all, folks.

Keep smiling, stay warm, and never forget about the bright side of things.

Copyright 2009 imrunnerchica.com

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