Microstep Month//

How I’ve Used Microsteps to Happily Run My Way Through Winter

I implemented small steps to reach an ambitious goal, and it's completely changed my outlook.

Tetra Images/ Getty Images
Tetra Images/ Getty Images

Do you find it easy to embrace the season you’re living in?

Prior to the official start of winter, I enjoyed a sunny vacation with my family and dear friends in Maui. We’ve been going to Maui every November for the last few years. What I love most about our time away, is I’m able to hit the pause button and savor a more present and relaxed pace of being.

This year, in celebration of entering my forties, my friend Cheri signed us up for the Day of Hope run in Maui. After we completed the race, we didn’t want to throw in the towel on our regular running habit we had established. But we were dreading the cold and rainy winter conditions that awaited us at home.    

Cheri & Emily, Day of Hope run.

Normally, spending time in paradise would help me feel up to the task of ‘getting through’ what feels like a long winter season. But this year, the feeling of dread had me wondering how I could adjust my approach to winter, and instead embrace the season I’m in.  After all, isn’t winter known to be the season of solitude and peace?  Don’t we all yearn to have more time and space to recharge our batteries?

Christmas came and went. Cheri and I managed to schedule in some runs, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I still had room for an attitude adjustment. There had to be a happier way to approach running and the whole winter season – I didn’t want to just get through it. I wanted to savor my now moments.

When Thrive Global introduced their Microstep Month at the beginning of the year, I knew I had my answer. If you aren’t familiar with Microsteps, or you’d like to see how I’ve used Microsteps to embrace the winter season, go here.

Arianna Huffington shares that:

“Microsteps, are the building blocks of habits. Making even very small changes in our trajectory can, over time, lead us to a very different destination.”

I wanted to know if it was possible to fully appreciate the winter moments, while living in them. My hope was to stop wishing the rest of winter away by daydreaming about Maui, or the promise of spring. I also wanted to keep up with a regular running schedule because it makes me feel good. Moving my body outside in the elements, seemed like the ideal way to notice winter’s landscape through a new lens.

“Microsteps are about making changes that are too small to fail. It’s about meeting you where you are.” – Arianna Huffington

Thankfully, Cheri and I had already established a consistent habit of running. We’ve been running partners, dear friends and neighbors for years, so keeping our momentum going wasn’t a huge leap. The shift I was about to make was all about my attitude. In the past, we would forgo meeting for a run if the weather was miserable. We would let our momentum slide during stretches of less than desirable running weather. This would in turn cause me to wish winter away with even more fervor.

Things were about to change – here’s how.

My Winter Microstep:

I made a pact to meet Cheri every Monday morning for a run, no matter what the weather was like through the duration of winter. I would approach my time outdoors with a new appreciation for ‘getting’ to go for a run, instead of ‘having’ to go for a run.

This is what happened:

Key takeaways

We are nearing the close of winter and I’m not wishing it away – this feels like an epic win! If anything, I want to slow it down and savor the last stretch of winter.

Cheri and I set Monday mornings as our run day. Having an accountability partnership made it easier to follow through each week. According to Scientific American, “Scheduling workouts with other people has many scientifically-proven benefits. Finding a workout buddy ensures you’ll be held accountable for skipping a visit. It also makes exercise more fun.”

There were a few times we enjoyed three outdoor runs during one week. On a couple of occasions, we switched our run day to another day in order to make our schedule work. We managed to run at least once per week through the winter weather.

We ran in the bitterly cold, winter temperatures. We ran through sideways rain and wind. We ran through snow and freezing rain. On one occasion, we slowed our run to a walk because of icy conditions that made running next to impossible.

Lacing up my shoes, and experiencing the winter elements on a regular basis, helped change the way I feel about winter.

Winter is beautiful, peaceful and refreshing– especially in the rain. Birds sing all through the winter, it isn’t just a spring and summer song.

Consistently connecting with nature helped me feel rejuvenated and happy. Spending regular time with my good friend, in the fresh air, created an uplifting momentum that helped me see how much I have to be thankful for.

This more accepting way of moving through winter helped me view time in a new way.

It’s easy to forget about the power in our now moments. We can get caught up worrying about the past, or future stories that may never come to pass. Many of us chase our happiness, or delay it by wishing we were somewhere other than here right now. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, or I’ve heard others say: “I hope winter ends soon.” I’m not sure if this is a case of mindless habits that are part of casual conversation. Perhaps it’s a telling sign more of us need to stop wishing life away, and instead be grateful for today. I’m going to make more of an effort in casual conversation, to say something like: “Wow, what a day!” (with a smile of course).

Embracing the season before me, may have initially felt like it was about rainy weather and powering through outdoor runs. But, this Microstep journey has truly been about stepping into pace with the speed of my beautiful life, in real time. It has been a powerful reminder that we always have a choice in how we feel about the moments before us. We can savor them or wish them away.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of ever merely getting through life. Life is a gift! It’s meant to be fully savored every step of the way – even when those steps initially feel really hard.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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