28 degrees

Running in the Cold

It’s freezing! So go outside

I’m writing this after just completing a 2.36 mile run through my neighborhood. This is not very exciting news, I know. But add to the story that it’s 28 degrees outside and I was wearing only a tank top and shorts! In Houston where I live, we may only experience 1 or 2 days per year where the temperature drops below freezing. And for many residents, this means adopting a grumpy attitude about the 9 second walk from their front door to their pre warmed car (can you imagine living in a time before heaters?) I used to hate the cold, too. Until I saw a man named Wim Hof aka The Ice Man, break all sorts of cold exposure records. Look him up if you’re not familiar. What was most remarkable about his story was not just that he was breaking all these records. But, that he was advocating cold exposure as a means to a more meaningful life. His advice was more than just some new age guru nonsense. It is backed by strong science. Through breathing exercises and cold exposure you can alter your physiology, change your brain chemistry and improve your sense of meaning and well being. I have used both the breathing and cold exposure techniques for the past few years. My sense of purpose and clarity has never been better. I have come to love these cold days and I always do something outside.

The Cold Experience

Whether it’s jumping into an ice cold pool or running half naked through my neighborhood the experience is wonderful. Of course, you have to be smart about it. Don’t go for a 3 mile hike in the woods with no phone wearing just your underwear. In fact, don’t do anything unsafe. I’m not a doctor and am NOT telling you how to manage your health. But I do recommend making a habit of starting your day with something that triggers just a little bit of healthy fear. Running in the cold makes me nervous. I prepare for the run and the sun is still below the horizon so this is the coldest part of the day. As I get ready, stretch my limbs and engage in some breathing techniques, my heart rate climbs in anticipation of the upcoming run. It’s not all that different from the feeling before a Jiu-jitsu match in competition. As I open my front door, I shake with a nervous joy. Then I shake again because it’s freezing outside! I don’t wait any longer. I take off and I immediately feel the cold air start to sting my skin. About 300 yards in, my lungs feel the burn of inhaling the cold air. Just shy of the 1 mile mark, I am becoming a little winded but I press on. Then something great happens. I start to feel warm. Not on the outside of my body, though. In fact, my hands are numb and my nose feels like an ice cube. But on the inside I feel by body warming. Then the sun pierces the sky and I can feel it. It’s still ice cold outside but I can feel a mild warmth on my face that I’m grateful for. I press forward and complete the 2.36 miles. I walk inside I immediately feel the gratitude for a heated house, something I take for granted every day. I prepare a cup of coffee and it tastes amazing. In fact, every small experience in magnified and my entire body is buzzing. I’m looking forward to the rest of the day.

It’s Worth The Effort

The discomfort of running in the cold for half an hour is a small price to pay for filling your day with the gratitude and elation that comes from the experience itself. Plenty of people skip exercising. But but when they do work out, zero of them regret having done it. So the next time you’re feeling bitter about the “bitter cold” weather, try this: Smile, take a deep breath and go outside and feel it for a while. Cold weather is not a bad thing. Your perception might be, but nature itself is neutral. It doesn’t care about your feelings, those are your responsibility. You get to decide how to experience it. Embrace discomfort with a smile and you will become a tougher, more fulfilled version of yourself.

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