Are you there winter? It’s me, Cathy.

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life81 Comments


After spending the past two-and-a-half months periodically connected to the treadmill in my basement, yesterday I finally decided to make nice with Old Man Winter and run outside.

It's not easy when you walk out the front door to this:


And this:


Every. Single. Day.

Don't get me wrong, it's pretty and all. But underneath all that pretty are patches of ice and potholes and other slick lovelies that are just waiting to put you on your tushka with all manner of sprained body parts resulting.

That, and it's cold. Really cold.

I've lived in Minnesota since 1990 and yesterday marked the first day in all these years that saw me embrace winter via exercising outside in it.

[cue choir of angels now]

When I started the whole Move More Eat Less thing a year ago this month, my moving more involved walking and jogging on my nuts-and-bolts basement treadmill. During the first quarter of last year, I worked my way up to running nonstop for 30 minutes (and I upgraded my treadmill along the way). I was so thrilled with my cardiovascular efforts, the idea of running outside never even crossed my mind.

Why would I? I mean, there are bugs and nature sounds and very likely perverts hiding in the bushes. No thank you. I'll keep my climate controlled enviroment and water bottle holder at the ready.

But in April 2010, when I finally decided, just for kicks, to see what it would be like to run around the lake by my house, I honestly didn't think it would stick.

I didn't set foot on my treadmill again from May through November. I guess you could say I finally got that Moving More in a natural setting would have benefits far beyond keeping the chub factor in check.

But once it snowed and the temperature started dropping into the single digits, I wussed out. Completely. I ran outside in November at 25 degrees and thought, "Chilly, but do-able." Then the typical Minnesota winter ensued and I returned to the basement from whence I came.

People—or more specifically runners—call it the Dreadmill. Even though I understand it, the way I've looked at it is you make your workout what it is. No, it's not going to feed your soul like running through a grove of trees on a 60-degree spring day will, but if you've got the right tunes and the right attitude, the sweat will run.

That said, yesterday morning when I walked Cole to the bus stop, I thought, "Okay, today's the day. I'm doing the lake route." And I almost talked myself out of it. Almost.

I bundled up (tights and running pants, two layers on top, hat and gloves) and crossed my fingers that I didn't slip and break something.

45 minutes later, I was so incredibly glad that I did.

19 degrees felt better than I imagined it could, even if the chubby part of my tummy was as rosy as a lobster and completely numb to the touch. And I hardly slipped at all.

Next week, it's going to drop back into the single digits which means next week, I'll very likely drop right back into the basement for a bit longer.

But I guess it's nice to know that I have options.

Cathy ZielskeAre you there winter? It’s me, Cathy.

81 Comments on “Are you there winter? It’s me, Cathy.”

  1. #2

    Good for you for braving the cold to run outside. It’s been a mild winter here (except for the bitter cold we experienced on the weekend and the first part of this week), yet I find myself continuing exercise indoors. Then again, I haven’t really been running much, unless you count the short bursts of speed I exhibit as I run for the short shots on the tennis court. 😉

  2. #4

    ha ha, I live in Alberta and this week I ran at 4:30 am in -27C and my outside looks like yours-we have a record snow fall this year! I wish I had a treadmill but i don’t so i run outside rain, or shine, sleet or heavy snowfall. I draw the line at -32

  3. #5
    Sandi D

    I am in Wisconsin and have not yet taken the plunge and run outside in the snow. Like you, I have stuck with the treadmill. I have been thinking about it but then I always end up going to the basement to run on the tread. Tomorrow I think I will follow your lead and head outside. It is not the cold that affects me so much as the fear I am going to slip and injure myself.

  4. #6

    Or thereabouts – today I plan to plant a tangerine tree, and the housepainters should start to paint the exterior – fortunately we don’t have to wait for spring!

  5. #9
    Amy Z

    very proud of you! Tonight I am running outside with temps likely in the teens and a fresh 12″ coat of the white stuff. Hey the roads are clear…

  6. #10

    Hubby and I ran 18km on Sunday, -25C with wind chill, I think that’s around -14F,,,you get used to it, and if you keep moving (which is the point really,,hahaha) it’s not too bad more motivating actually, self-preservation!…. but I did have eyelash icicles..we are getting 8 more inches today and the snow is blowing horizontally right now…I’m supposed to run 13km after work,,,,,I might have to resort to the dreadmill (yes I truly hate it) for only the 2nd time this winter….we have had 6 storms in the last 3 weeks but i’ve managed to work around them up til now……..

  7. #13

    I know exactly how you feel, since I live in WI. I decided yesterday that the sidewalks and streets were about clear enough to get back outside and then mother nature dumped a couple inches this a.m. I have thought about getting a pair of yak tracks or the like just to get back outside now and then before spring. I have seen some troopers out there running through 3-4 inches of snow. I just hit the dreadmill at the Y. I’m considering buying a treadmill, so I can quit the Y.

  8. #15

    I know it sounds completely crazy, but I think 19 degrees makes for lovely running weather. And there is nothing better than racing when it’s 40 degrees out. It’s perfect! Glad you ventured out and learned how beautiful cold weather running can be!

  9. #16

    I love the macho part (we really need a girl version of that word) of running outside in nasty weather. It’s a serious “check in out, world at large, this is so important to me that I don’t CARE what it’s doing outside, I’m gonna go play in it and look at me smile like a maniac” vibe. Plus, your husband will shake his head at your insanity and think you’re damned sexy. Always a bonus.

  10. #17

    …and there’s nothing like looping back and seeing your own footprints in the snow. It’s as if they are whispering silent words of encouragement while providing a tangible reminder of your accomplishment.

    Way to ROCK a snow run!

  11. #18
    stephanie p.

    i finally gave in and went to the gym this week to run on the treadmill. also known as the hamster wheel.

    oh & if you continue with the outside running on snowy/icy roads/trails- check out YakTrax they work like a charm for me & my running buddies.

  12. #19

    Way to go Cathy!
    I live in Winnipeg, MB and have been running outside in the winter for years. I actually prefer it to running in the summer (can you believe it??)
    I second the comment about YakTraks. I wear them all the time and have never ever fallen (knock on wood) running in the winter.
    Otherwise it’s all about getting used to what you need to wear to be both warm and comfortable. Generally I do 2 pairs of tights (one thin base layer, one thicker brush fleece lined outer layer), a thermal long sleeve shirt and a shell. If it’s really cold (ie. colder than -30 degrees C) I add another long sleeved shirt and a balaclava under my toque. This has kept me warm in everything up to -47 degrees C! (I will never run in that again!)
    Happy winter!

  13. #20

    That’s awesome! I love to run outside in the winter, especially in the early morning. It is so beautiful when the snow is on the ground and it moon and the stars are out. Almost as light as day. I’ll run when it is 0˚F, but on Monday I drew the line at -10˚F. That was too cold for me!

  14. #21

    I know how you feel. It was 27 degrees last week and, I admit it, I wussed out and didn’t go swimming. I draw the line at 32 degrees. I have to say that the club I swim Masters at is an outdoor Olympic size pool. AND, even though it’s not that far from the pool to the locker room…I just couldn’t bring myself to make that run in the freezing cold night. Ask me again next year when I’ve had a year of the Move More under my belt 😉

  15. #22
    Kathleen Sunderland

    Wow! There are a lot of buff women reading this blog! I am cold just thinking about all the impressive things you guys do! It is going to be 70 in Sunnyvale, CA where I live. I guess I am a spoiled Californian. You go girls!

  16. #23

    I have lived in MN all my life and still have not embraced the winter, especially THIS winter. I know all the stories of how we don’t get snow and cold like we used to (I have even said that), but I was just fine with that. About this time of year I am soooo done with winter, and it doesn’t look like I will get out of here anytime soon. And all you snow lovers well you can have the stuff…I should have been born in California, or Washington, whenever I say Washington the chorus of people saying “it rains all the time” are very loud, but that is not true and at least rain soaks into the ground, no shovel required.

    Congrats on your run I applaud you.

  17. #24

    Good for you. And thanks for the photos. As someone who grew up in Michigan but has lived in Texas now for awhile, there are times when I think, “Oh, snow is so pretty.” Your photos lent themselves to that thought. But then I read the “19 degrees” and about all the layers you wore, and I thought, “No, I’ll take Houston winters, thank you very much.” Kind of funny because just half an hour ago a co-worker (who grew up in Wisconsin) and I were talking about how silly it is that we think it’s cold here-I mean, we have to wear a jacket! You’ve done a good job of reminding me what cold really is.

  18. #25

    I’m a wussie inside-during-the-winter runner from your neighboring state to the east. I’ve heard from lots of outside winter runners that they use YakTrax & like them. Kudos to you for braving the cold!

  19. #26
    Kerry Lively

    So glad to hear you sounding so happy and positive! Did you see the Dr. Oz the other day with the guy that wrote the 4 Hour Body:The Secrets and Science of Rapid Body Transformation? This guy & Dr. Oz maintain that cold actually causes you to burn more fat because your body has to exert itself more to keep going (or something like that). So running in the cold may be giving the chubby bits a double whammy! I always wondered why I seem to lose weight a bit more easily in the Winter rather than when I’m sweating my a$$ off in the AZ summer. Either way, congrats on the great run!

  20. #27
    Cathy S

    Every time you mention running around the lake by your house, I think of Brenda Ueland. I just pulled her two books off my bookshelf and need to refresh my memory. It’s been about 20 years since I read them (“Strength to your Sword Arm” & “Me”), but I know a daily walk around a Minnesota lake was an important part of her routine.

    Last night I was reading a back issue of Body + Soul and found an article about finding pleasure in being outside in winter. The book referenced in the article, “On my Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-being,” sounds very interesting and maybe motivating, too.

  21. #28

    Good for you! I can’t imagine running, let alone in that kind of weather, but being outdoors trumps indoor exercise any day. Walking in the snow (on rare East coast visits) is pretty invigorating, so I can only imagine how it would be to run. Just be careful not to fall on your face (or elsewhere)!

  22. #29

    Hi Cathy,

    Love the pictures and agree how pretty snow is but hate the cold cold days,everyday!! Way to go outside and face that old man winter though. It does make you feel better afterwards. I don’t like the dreadmills either that’s why I’d rather be outside enjoying the big blue sky and even the bare trees. I’ve started doing 4 laps around our back yard while our puppy runs anxiously all over and it feels good to be outside and seeing all that nature brings. Because of you going outside last year made me want to go outside last year too, you have motivated me like noone else. Noone can believe it when I tell them how much I love to be outdoors now, that was the old me though!! So keep inspiring me Cathy and thank you so much.

  23. #30
    Susan aka LoveRibbons

    If you don’t make it out for a run in the single digits temps take a short walk at night! It is so beautiful outside then. The snow makes a musical crunching noise while the rest of the world is still, and best of all, the snow twinkles. And this from a very inside – “I will swim at the heated inside pool” kind of girl.

  24. #32

    amazingly, i think there is more snow here in southern new hampshire than there is in minnesota! we just got dumped with another foot overnight. now my snowbanks are higher than i can heave the snow over with my shovel. good job on getting outside and moving. i don’t even like to shovel the driveway in this miserable weather, nevermind run or anything!

  25. #33
    Steph H

    Good for you! It’s the fear of slipping and falling that keeps me from venturing out for even a walk during Wisconsin winters. Heck, I park in the closest spot at the gym for that very reason. Let’s just say grace isn’t my middle name 🙂

  26. #35
    Beth Sutton

    I live in So. GA and we’ve had a cold winter (for us!) It’s hard to get excited about going out in the dark (I run at 5:45 a.m.) and running when it’s really cold (that to me is below 32 degrees!). But, I do swim in an outdoor pool (heated water) until it gets below 30… that’s as tough as I get. Getting out is the hard part! cold and wet!

  27. #36

    It is a balmy 35 degrees here in NW Iowa. The thought crossed my mind to actually get out and run (been doing the dreadmill meself). Now I am sitting in the sunshine by the patio window in the recliner with my laptop and it is so nice and cozy warm that if I close my eyes and use some imaginagion, I could be on beach with a margarita in hand. Think I’ll just work it at Zumba tonight!

  28. #40

    I do have some yaktraks, but yesterday, i ditched them because i knew that once i got to the lake, the path would be clear. it wasnt, but it wasnt too bad!
    Im going to start embracing this winter before its gone!

  29. #42

    Oh you brave woman! Here near Half Moon Bay, CA. it should be 65 today. We had such a crappy summer (way too foggy & cold for us this year) that I figure we deserve a little nice in January. Stay dry & warm!

  30. #43

    ah as usual you made me laugh this morning Cathy. It’s 30deg (about 100 deg in your conversion)in Sydney Australia. It’s so humid I can hardly stand it. Doesn’t help the shingles I developed last week. I love to read your adventures about running but forgive me if I don’t join in this adventure. My daughter is trying to talk me into walking every morning but I’m not there yet either. With 2 sick parents to look after she says that this will help me mental state and will prepare me for the day. I know she’s right. How does one find the inspiration to start?? I suppose that’s a silly question. Just start I can hear you all saying. One day maybe!!!

  31. #45

    There is a group of women runners that I see quite often and they run no matter how cold. Last week it was -4 and I saw them. They are HARD CORE, and when I see them, I always think of you!

    Thanks again for your continuing inspiration. I’m now down 12 lbs. since Jan 3. 🙂

  32. #46

    I admire you for running in the cold, and I’m jealous that you are able to do it. I’m resigned to walking due to arthritis in a hip. But I did get to walk in the sunshine and 57 degrees. There are some pluses to living in Oregon.

  33. #47
    Kerry Lively

    Thanks for asking Cathy….I’m just taking it day by day. The good news is that I’ve kept running and gym-going regularly and that makes me feel pretty good on a few levels. :o)

  34. #49

    Please please please be careful running on snow and ice.

    This is coming from a girl who ran outside in November, 6 weeks after pooping out a kid couldn’t wait to run. I slipped on ice and broke my kankle. I now have 6 pins and 2 plates holding it all together. I’m back running, but its been a long, slow and painful recovery.

    Invest in yak traks. Yak Traks. Yak Traks. Please! I don’t want you to hurt yourself like I did.

  35. #50
    Amy L

    Love hearing you call it the Dreadmill. I ran on one for the first time ever while we were in Vegas and I didn’t like it much.

  36. #51

    Oh yes they do! It’s quite warm. With difference in temperature, it almost feels bath-like. I need to take my camera with me to get the steam coming off the pool.

  37. #52

    Oh girl! I live in Houston, TX! We don’t have no effing winters here! LOL! We all start moaning and groaning when the temp gets down around 40 degrees for more than an hour!

  38. #53
    Carmen King


    I hear you about the whole thing, only I’m a year behind you and I live in Arizona. I am running on my beauty Epic 550 View that my husband surprised me with last year. I have crazy, seriously crazy, training for a fifty mile run, running-crazy friends who are doing the whole “barefoot running” thing courtesy of Born to Run and Christopher McDougall, who, I unfortunately, listen to. So, now I’m in socks on the treadmill and I LOVE IT. I cannot believe how much easier it is and how much further I can go. It’s crazy, all kinds of crazy, but I’m doing much more, nearly daily of the “moving more,” but still working on getting all of the emotional “eating less” part under control. Any suggestions?

  39. #54

    Love this post. At least with the slight thaw the last couple of days we have a shot at getting rid of the hidden ice. Ever try running in the metrodome? Me either, but going to next week. I’m like you, I don’t despise my treadmill (in fact I’d say I love it), but I’d also like the chance to actually run somewhere, just for a change.

  40. #55

    I independentlly started my move more campaign but your blog inspires me to keep it up. And this is one of those posts. I don’t run outside in the winter (live in Chicago) but at least you’ve inspired me to keep running inside at least and maybe when it gets above freezing (yes I’m a wimp) I will actually try running outside. Thanks.

  41. #56
    kat :)

    so i thought i was hard core because i get up and run outside at 5am (with proper reflextion & lights and friends, of course!) and i’ve run in the rain. but then i realized, i live in southern california and we are SO SPOILED with our weather. and i realize i would be hard core if i ever ran in the snow. so, you go girl. you are a hard core runner!

  42. #58
    Suraj Torane

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  43. #59
    Alison- down under

    Cathy, its 39 deg C here in SW Australia today, so I LOVED the pictures of snow. Lived in Denmark Europe years ago for a year and my heart still sings when i see pics like this, despite the fact that I would whinge as I loathe being cold!
    Thanks for the little heart flutter!

  44. #60

    Well I’m glad you did! I laughed so hard.. seeing that photo when you open your door.. I see that from October thru May! I always spend the first 5 minutes calling myself crazy & insane and so do all the people in their cars passing me by. But I love it! In fact, when summer rolled around, I could barely stand 60+ degrees.. too hot! LOL! Do you run with studs mounted in your shoes? That helps from slipping if you encounter some icy spots and some peace of mind. I’m betting you are gonna love the cold, and find it quite invigorating. I enjoyed my 4 miler in 25 degrees today, but that damn moose blocking my path, and no way around him, I had to turn around! Happy Running!

  45. #61

    are you crazy lady??! its like 38 here and there is no way I am leaving the comfort of the dreadmill till it crosses over 50!!and even then only when its not raining! I’m such a wuss! 😉

  46. #62

    Better you than me! I don’t mind walking in the cold and snow but running? I know myself too well to even attempt it (even if I did like running). Good for you! I’m glad you discovered it’s an option for you now. 🙂

  47. #63

    Christina, there is a great book called The Courage to Start by John Bingham, all about getting started running! : ) You might want to check it out!

  48. #66

    Wow, interesting. I read that book and loved it. Love haring from someone who is doing the barefoot thing.

    The emotional eating thing? Man, I dunno. I do know I was recently told by someone that me gaining 10 pounds over the holiday is simply self-sabotage. I KNOW how to take care of myself, food wise, and I said, Oh screw it! I dont care, and proceeded to eat in ways I shouldnt have. So im looking at that attitude right now, and i plan to blog about it next week!

  49. #67

    i havent yet. some good friends of mine just invited me to come and do it though. You can also run in the coliseum at the state fair, but ive never tried that either.

  50. #68

    Hajira, when it gets nicer in Chi-town, youll have to venture outdoors. At least 3 or 4 times to get the feel of it. It changed my life last year, going outside, truly.

  51. #71

    See, a moose blocking my path is NOT something that will come up often around these parts. : )

    Ive got 24 degrees this morning, so Im definitely heading out. I dont have studs in the shoes. I do have YakTraks but I didnt use them the other day, because there are parts of the path I run that I knew wouldnt have snow (they didnt) and I thought the YakTraks might throw off my form.

    : )

  52. #77


    I graduated from grad school Jan 8th. And I wanted… a Nike+iPod sport kit. My friend got me one and I got the shoe pouch from Grantwood Technologies in pink too!

    I would never have known of these items if not for your blog. I set them up and today tried them out.

    I don’t have a treadmill and I live in Chicago which is somewhat warmer than MN, but we are certainly not BALMY this time of year.

    Thus far I have been outside to run 3-4 times in the winter, whenever the temperature and snow conditions have allowed.

    I was so excited today when My New Lady Friend said in my ear: “Congratulations! You’ve finished your workout!”

    I wrote a whole long blog post about it, but the short version is:

    6 months ago I did not run at all, and today I reset the thing bc the workout I chose was actually too short for me.

    And I feel GREAT. yay!!!

  53. #78

    woo hoo! Love hearing this! That ladys voice is great. Wait till you get Lance Armstrong, or Tiger. Although, I guess those guys star isnt quite as shiny, perhaps?
    : ) still, go you!

  54. #79

    I live in chicago and the running outside in the cold is a challenge. Today I am suited up to go out, but I walked outside and it is soooo uninspiring out. I am playing volleyball tonight so I’ll just get my exercise that way.

    I am not at the point of forcing myself to do it when I don’t feel like it. However I did do my 15 warm up stretch workout in the house already and that was good.

  55. #80

    I am so glad I read your blog on Friday. I’ve been really struggling to find my motivation to run during this particular winter. I live in Chicago and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m such a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I ran my first marathon last Oct. and have been wanting to start training again. But I couldn’t get myself to go run outside….until I saw your post. When I saw your pictures I thought to myself, “If Cathy can run in THAT Then I surely can run outside today. We dion’t have as much snow on the ground as they do in MN!” And outside I went…..Thank you, Cathy!!!

  56. #81
    location lloret de mar

    I agree its really hard to survive in a cold as I am little sensitive and can’t tolerate the cold so I remain inside and sit in front of fire or warm blowers with a cup of coffee or soup..But you are great facing the situation so nicely..Hats off!

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