The holidays are upon us, we’re all busy, the days are short and cold, and attention to fitness is on the wane. I can feel it in the Facebook posts that don’t happen — people’s runs, bike rides, hikes, their weight loss resolutions and success stories. I can feel it in the invitations I don’t get to join up with someone at a race or for a run.

After the New Year, people will hit the gym, many too hard for too short a time. Others will get outside in the winter landscape, the lengthening days, and have beautiful stories to tell about it. But for now, we’re in a month-long holding pattern.

In the Middle Ages in England, peasants like us celebrated the Solstice and then went to bed. They fattened themselves up as best they could, then hibernated to conserve calories and fuel, huddling together in their dirty straw beds for warmth under their unwashed Middle Ages sheets and smelly covers. Occasionally they got up to eat a rotten turnip from the bin and go to the outhouse. When they finally roused from this state to the Spring thaw, they had to reorient their muscles to use after months of atrophy.

The Winter always makes me think about the strategy of those peasants. On the one hand, it would make the time go considerably faster! On the other, I’d hate to start training for a Spring triathlon from that state. I also wonder if the typical overindulgence around the holidays is us unconsciously still eating like peasants about to hibernate.

At my last race, I came in second female overall. But there was no prize for it, just a dumb, cheap age group medal. The company managing the race, usually one of the good ones in the Cincinnati area, messed up the timing and took another half a week to fix it. They gave some of the wrong people prizes, and listed my official time at 22:33.13 when I know I got around 22:20 — a big deal in my seconds-off goals! After the race, I walked around the parking lot with Mom, bitching under my breath. I knew I was being petty; I just didn’t care.

Homeless man in Chicago snow

“Be thankful you can run!” said Mom lightly. “Be thankful you’re alive and you’ve got legs and you’re healthy and they work! Be thankful it’s a beautiful day — even if it is cold and windy as shit! — and you’re here at this park doing this thing with all these people. Be thankful you finished and did so well and you got a medal!”

Immediately, I was abashed. She was making a joke, she said later. But here I was at a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot for Livestrong cancer survivors, completing a run, winning a prize, whole, healthy, living in my own house with a good job and the time and money to do the things I want, richer than most people in the world can imagine, surrounded by people who love me, being a petty little bitchy monster.

I’ve been thinking a lot about thankfulness. Yesterday I rode 20 minutes indoors on my bike trainer, and did a couple sets of rubber-band chin-ups and full push-ups, for an easy or “rest” day before a race. In my warm house, on my expensive equipment, at my leisure. Afterward I thought about how hard of a workout that would have been for me five years ago, and for most of my friends just starting out! In our country, our excess makes us sick, it preys on millennia of human scarcity, but we also have the resources not to be. I’m so grateful for the ways our bodies and minds can come to do things we never thought possible, every one of us. But I wish more people knew this about themselves.