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BY MARK RUCKER

As I write this article the current temperature in Lexington is hovering around 0 degrees Winter has hit the bluegrass in full force this year with near record-setting low temperatures.
This weather makes it difficult for me to want to do much of anything else other than snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and pray for an early spring. But that’s not going to do me any good.
I always seem to struggle with my mental well-being during the winter as the days begin to grow shorter. There’s less time to do things outside after work. Even the weekend days seem different because of the loss of daylight hours. My wife is convinced that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Who knows, she might be right.
But two years ago I noticed that things were different. As we moved deeper into winter, my overall demeanor didn’t seem to fluctuate as it had in the past. I seemed to be much more energetic, more passionate for life in general. I thought about it for a while and then it occurred to me. I’m active! I’m exercising on a regular basis. And I firmly believe that because of my level of activity I was able to avoid the melancholy that I used to suffer through. So this year, and every year, I’m determined to stay active through the winter to avoid the wintertime “blahs”. And I want to encourage you to do the same. But in order to do that, we need to stay motivated, and I’ve got some ideas on how to do that.
First, I’m going to focus on an event sometime in the spring to keep me focused on training through the winter. Two years ago, I trained through the winter to prepare for my first marathon in mid-February. And yes, I ran outside the entire time. It was cold but it was an amazing experience. There is something very peaceful about waking up at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning and hitting the streets bundled up in gear with a headlamp strapped around your toboggan to light your way through the snow-covered streets. Just you and the soft crunch of your feet in the snow. It is amazing.
My current goal is to run the Indiana Trail 100 on April 25, an ultra marathon. I know that the goal of running the race will keep me motivated to keep exercising through the winter just as prepping for my marathon did last year. So I encourage you to find something that will keep you focused on training as well during the winter.
Second, I’m going to keep training with the friends I’ve made over the past couple of years of training. Last year, there were days where I knew I didn’t want to run but I showed up anyway simply because I knew others were relying on me to be there. Training with a group keeps your level of motivation high. You work together to push each other to become better. You encourage each other to keep going. There is accountability that is not possible if you’re training by yourself. Were it not for the support and encouragement of these people, there is no way that I could do what I do. I know that I can count on my training buddies to keep me motivated. I encourage you to find some friends as well to keep you motivated and on track.
Finally, I’m going to maintain my membership at a gym. I joined a gym in the winter of 2012 simply because I wanted to take spinning classes. I love riding my bike but because of my work schedule and the shorter days it was impossible to get rides in during the week. Spinning isn’t quite the same, but it’s pretty close, and the added benefit of doing the class with others provides that motivation that I need to keep going.
I also like the gym simply because I know I’m surrounded by like-minded people. Most of the people who go to the gym are serious about getting or staying healthy. And strangely that knowledge motivates me. It excites me to know that I’m not the only person crazy enough to get up at 5 a.m. to work out.
And honestly, as fun as it is to run outside in the winter, it’s nice to stay inside and be warm sometimes too.
So that’s my game plan. I’m gonna tell Old Man Winter to take his “blahs” and hit the road. I’m going to work hard to keep myself motivated and focused on maintaining all the positive progress I’ve achieved on this journey. And I hope you’ll do the same.
Stay positive. Stay focused. And stay motivated.

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