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ImageThis afternoon I was running through mud and snow and had one of those rare moments of sheer joy – breathing the crisp air, feeling the pull of muscles warming up after a long sedentary workday, catching the last few drops of wintery sun before they fell behind the mountains. Moments like that are what keep me sane, especially during the holiday season when so many of the things that are supposed to bring joy, at least according to all those sappy commercials, just don’t. Some days there doesn’t seem to be much to smile about or look forward to, and some days carrying my behind out into the cold and wind seems like an exquisite form of torture, but there is nothing on earth that makes me feel quite as close to the infinite and divine as being outside, feet hitting the ground, just me and nature. I’ve run when it’s 20 degrees and when it’s 100 degrees, through broken bones and illnesses, through thunderstorms, snow, ice, and drought, and never once have I regretted getting out there and getting it done. I don’t always look elegant (okay, I never look elegant), but inside I feel like poetry in motion. Running realigns everything both physically and emotionally, at least for a little while. And as some people say about other activities that shall remain nameless, even a bad run is still pretty good.

The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the hardest times of the year to stay committed to any type of fitness routine, but I’d encourage everyone to give it a shot. Seriously, it helps you cope with your weirdo relatives. It briefly replaces the need for a significant other, should you happen to be perpetually single like me. It makes you feel like you can kick the ass of anyone and anything that comes along and tries to stop you. And it occasionally keeps you from making bad choices. (Like hiding under the covers all day with a book and a bottle of wine, like I sometimes want to do. Instead I go running. If I still want the wine, well, at least I burned off some of those calories ahead of time!)  Even if you mostly walk and only jog a few feet at a time, eventually you’ll build up to jogging longer and longer. It really is the most efficient way I’ve found to stay in shape – doesn’t take much time, comparatively speaking, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. All you really need is a pair of decent running shoes. (Literally. Although I saw a man in England running through the woods in shoes and nothing else, and hope never ever to see anything like that again.) Sweat and fresh air – I truly believe they will cure most anything, from depression to a hangover (just in case that vat of chocolate martinis really is calling your name).

I’ve included a photo of me when I was 2 years old. Wonder Woman was (and remains) my idol, and I thought I was serious hot stuff in this outfit…even while standing on my own shoelace. Ha! Not much has changed; running still makes me feel like Wonder Woman on the inside (even when I trip over my own feet and face-plant in front of a bunch of strangers – doh!). It doesn’t matter how slow you go or how silly you look. Or if you’re bleeding or limping, and I’ve done plenty of both. What matters is that you get up and keep going. That, my friend, is the path of a true superhero and a good philosophy to apply to life in general – it’s an endless source of joy that is internally generated and therefore at risk from no one but yourself.