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Provieded by Amy Donaldson
Amy Donaldson and her dog's walk through Millcreek in October during the season's first snow.

"You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement." — Steve Prefontaine

Winter used to be the hardest season for me to find the time and energy to exercise.

First there are the holidays. I’m the first to admit I overdose on holiday cheer in just about every way possible — food, family and fun. (Let's just say I've never lost weight during the holidays.) Over the years it has made for great memories but a bit of regret when it comes to carving out time for fitness.

The last two winters, however, my attitude has slowly shifted, and this year, I was so excited about getting into the mountains after the first snowfall, I actually hiked during the storm.

The shift began when I had race commitments for which I felt obligated to train. What those commitments were isn't as important as what happened when I managed to train just a little through the coldest months of the year.

Two years ago, I spent nearly two hours a day in December at the gym cycling and running. I didn't always enjoy it, but I was afraid my failure to train would result in my untimely, and possibly unflattering, demise. I admit it, fear was my primary motivation.

But I noticed something midway through December. Because I was working out, I was making better food choices. My usual diet of sugar and carbs just didn't cut it when I was asking so much of my body.

Still, I have never loved the gym. It has always been a necessary evil, and without a race to train for, I was certain I would abandon my winter workout regimen.

Luckily, my job forces me out of my comfort zone. I ended up trying two activities that I'd always wanted to sample, but for some reason never had — snowshoeing and skate skiing.

I loved them both. Both were exhausting and exhilarating, and for me, a much better option than the gym.

Sure, my old excuses popped into my mind before I made my way into the winter weather. But now I had something I cared about more than staying warm — having fun. And while I value and respect the work one can do in a gym, I have never, ever felt a love for any of the workouts or activities I participate in at the gym.

Some years the seasons have changed and I saw very little of what made them special. But experiencing them on foot, on a bike or atop my horse changed the way I appreciate the fact that Utah has four distinct and beautiful seasons.

I've loved hiking in the mountains so much, I've done it in any kind of weather. I watched the wildflowers usher in spring. I inhaled the hot, pine-scented air of summer, and I ran through the stunning shift to fall.

So colorful and beautiful was fall that I hoped it would never end.

Then one day my dog and I went up to our favorite trail in Millcreek Canyon and it was winter. I could see my breath and I couldn't feel my ears. I smiled — as much as my frozen cheeks would allow.

I was freezing, and I didn't care.

When you wake before dawn and struggle to find the motivation you need, consider why you want to be more fit, to live a better life. And instead of lamenting the loss of the season that's past, consider the potential in the season that lies ahead.

"The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life." — George Sheeha

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