Competition > Comparison

By Lindsay Ritenbaugh

Remember that one time I ran a 10K? Me too.

That was great and all, but then I fell victim to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). What an appropriate acronym. I became almost completely inactive. Since my run in November, I have only run twice (once in January and once in February). Blame it on the Polar Vortex keeping me inside because of the snow/ice/wind chill, sharing three treadmills with my entire high rise apartment building, or the fact that I’ve just been plain lazy since I peaked completed a physical challenge on November 9: I haven’t held up my end of the bargain when it comes to my own physical fitness. When I flew home to Florida for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I packed running shoes and clothes with full intentions of taking advantage of the warmer weather and trails throughout my parents’ neighborhood. Each time, I returned to Chicago without taking my running shoes out of my bag.

Fast forward to the weekend of February 22. It seemed as if everyone on social media was running in a race. My 56-year-old father ran his second 5K of the month. Fellow Gators ran 8Ks and half marathons (or prepared for their first 10K the following weekend). And just about everyone else (from my sorority big sister to my running inspiration Gabbie) completed the Glass Slipper challenge at Walt Disney World (a combination of the Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon: 19.3 miles over 2 days). As I was scrolling my newsfeed from my bed and avoided the Chicago weather, it seemed as if everyone else was making strides (literally) and completing races. At that moment, I felt like a complete and utter failure.

I quickly remembered that beating myself up and comparing my journey (or lack thereof) to others in my life wasn't helping anything. The comparison faded away and was replaced with a little competition. If all of these people in my life can make an effort to get out and run somehow, so can I! This decision was solidified on Monday, February 24. A friend was soliciting running playlists on Facebook, and I immediately started putting in my two cents. As I shared a few of my favorites, I stopped and thought, “If you can share your running playlist with someone else and encourage them in their upcoming race, you can run tonight.”

I just started running (Gump, 1994). It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I waited until the after-work rush was through and I figured the gym would be available. Lucky for me, there was one treadmill waiting for me when I arrived. I plan to keep this up until the sun comes out and melts away all of this winter. Until then, I have Huffington Post’s six ways to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder:

·         Get exposure to outdoor light. Yes, even though it’s cold, get outside and walk for at least ten minutes a day. Light enters the brain through the eyes and impacts serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that play a role in mood. [Thank you, daily commute]

·         Get moving. Head to the gym and exercise. Aerobic exercise in particular stimulates endorphins and can help you to feel better. It’s also a good way to burn stress and if you’re exercising in a gym or part of a group it provides social interaction, which also helps with depression. [Thank you, Nike+ app and this website that allows you to enter your treadmill runs manually]

·         Get out of town. A weekend trip to warmer climates can work wonders. I advise all my patients who are prone to SAD to plan, if affordable, a weekend getaway to Florida or the Caribbean. It gives the person something to look forward to when they might otherwise dwell on the long cold winter and it provides a healthy dose of sunshine and warmth. [Thank you, Claire and Frank for getting married in Boca Grande on March 1]

·         Get closer to the window. If possible, arrange your office so that your desk is closer to the outside and to sunshine. This will provide natural light, which will also help to enhance your mood. [Thank you, skylight near my office door]

·         Get social. As with other mood disorders surrounding yourself with understanding, supportive, and encouraging people can help lift your spirits. Find people whom you trust and lean on them for support. Plan such activities as movies and dinners. [Thank you, Broadway in Chicago]
·         Change your attitude about winter. Rather than dreading it and seeing it as a long, endless season, see it as an opportunity to get involved with new activities. Perhaps skiing, sledding, or ice skating are fun activities worth trying with your friends. Embrace those things that are only available for a limited time every year. [Thank you, my #oneword365: Enjoy]

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