I’m 20 days (21 if you count today) into this #AutismStreaks thing. 20 straight days (and 111 miles) of running – there has been one “rest day” where I ran just one mile and the rest have been at least 3 mile runs. Last Friday, 18 days into this streak I hit 100 miles on the Garmin.
It has been fantastic to be running regularly again, and it has done wonders for my inner peace. I didn’t realize it until the end of last week, but toward the end of 2012, I was grumpier and more short-tempered than I had been in a long time. Distraction came easily. I didn’t notice until this past week when it dawned on me that, “I feel pretty darn good!”
During this streak, along with the knowledge that I am raising funds for Autism Speaks through Charity Miles, I’ve justified the daily running to myself as a way to hone my body to be a fine example of what training can do. If I am going to be a personal trainer/strength & conditioning specialist, I need to be in excellent shape. Would you get your haircut from someone who had awful hair? What I didn’t expect was the therapeutic side effect of running outdoors every day. Although I am running nowhere near the distances I once did nor spending nearly as much time, the short 15 – 45 minute trips outside are providing me with much more that just improved cardiovascular health.
I had heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that January 13th is the most depressing day of the year. It’s a product of something called SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder - and it’s reality for many people. Many cases of SAD have been attributed to a lack of vitamin D.
The most abundant and most easily accessed source of vitamin D?
Going to work before dawn, returning home after sunset keeps people from receiving their required daily exposure of sunlight, preventing their bodies from converting light into vitamin D. That lack of vitamin D can wreak unexpected havoc on your system.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.
But along with the many physical issues a lack of vitamin D can cause, it has also been associated with seasonal depression. Unfiltered exposure to the sun for as little as 5-15 minutes a day provides you with all the vitamin D that you need for the day and, along with aiding your body with the absorption of calcium (and in turn keeping your bones and muscles strong), keeps you mentally and psychologically “up”.
And that is exactly what has happened to me over the past 3 weeks. Mentally and psychologically I am more “up”. Stumbles and hurdles, no different than the ones I faced in November and December, don’t seem as daunting nor as challenging as before; studying has been more focused; general happiness more abundant.
I know it’s cold up here in the Northeast, but if you are feeling the winter blues, and if you are able, get outside for 10 minutes a day – if you get a lunch hour, take it away from your building and walk to a location; if there is no lunch hour, volunteer to go pick up lunch for your co-workers (maybe even get them to pay for your lunch as a convenience fee!), instead of a smoke break, take a walk with your face and arms exposed. A little exposure will go a long way.
I don’t know just how long this streak will last, but if one of the side effects is a better overall mood, then for the sake of those around me, I’m at least doing it for the rest of the winter!