For many years, for me winter has been this dreaded season that seems to grip my brain and pretty much prevent me from doing “all the things” I love to do in the summer. It’s cold, long, dark and dingy. It’s kind of oppressive in its length and severity. Maybe even claustrophobic in some ways. I can’t mountain bike, ride my motorcycle, trail run, hit a lake in a canoe, play golf, or any of the other things I love to do in those nice, warm, long summer days. Add a global pandemic on top of that and you have a real winner of a season. I have literally hated winter most of my adult life.
Dare I say it? Until now.
Yep. It’s true. The past couple of years have forced me to figure out a way to be active and happy during our darkest season. Guess what? There’s still a ton of stuff to do inside and outside that doesn’t cost a lot of money and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of talent or fitness.
The other day, out on the trail with Cedar, my 10.5 year old lab, I questioned how many utterly spectacular days I’ve missed because I was just too plain lazy to get out and see them. How many afternoons of gorgeous sun bathing the trees and snow with tungsten light passed me by as I was staring at a TV or shopping for anything and nothing at the same time just to get out of the house and kill another dark winter afternoon? How many sunsets did I miss? How many sunrises? How many great walks in the woods with my wife or family? It’s kind of sad now that I’m thinking about it.
So, I just decided. I decided I’d find things I like and stop trying to compare the things I do in the winter with the things I do in the summer. They’re not the same. Neither am I if I’m being truthful. We’re biologically designed to rest and recover during the dark months of winter but we push on nonetheless. We’re always trying to succeed and move to the next level regardless of our level of fatigue and burnout. Then we dump on ourselves because we’re not hitting those activity levels we normally get during the summer, or not building the business through the roof in a quieter time of year. Winter should be a time of rest and recovery, introspection and planning. Doesn’t mean you have to sit still and not do anything. It just doesn’t have to look the same as the rest of the year. Phew. What a relief right? Am I actually giving you permission to take it easy? You bet I am.
Why do we do this to ourselves? It only stresses us out and, as a result, we want to try less, we get less sleep, and just feel unmotivated. Am I right? Even with all the verbal mumbo-jumbo on this post, I still have many days I don’t want to do a single thing. You though you were the only one right? Nope.
Instead, try something new. Do something you haven’t done before, or for a long time at least. Why not? What do you have to lose? Maybe another afternoon channel surfing or even worse, scrolling the never ending stream of garbage coming at us on social media. Katie and I have found one or two things to do together a month that are fun and involve the outdoors. That gives us something to look forward to and forces us to explore options we might not have looked at before. People have been ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, skating and doing all the things for ages. I’m feeling like I’m late to the party, but better late than never right? You’re welcome at the party too.
I used to hate snowshoeing. Literally thought it was the dumbest thing. I put on the snowshoes the other day and just went into the woods. Had a blast! Loved every minute of it. Went again the next day. Loved it again. It didn’t cost me a cent and I got a great workout in, spent time with Katie and Cedar, our trusty pup and enjoyed the brisk outdoors and all it has to offer. It was great! If you’d asked me last year to do it, I’d have said no!
As a Chiropractor, I’m constantly trying to encourage people to be more active, and winter is likely the hardest season to do it. A simple walk around the block is enough. If you don’t want to walk outside, why not head to the mall, leave your wallet in the car and just walk. It’s warm, safe and usually flat. Grab a coffee or tea after a couple of laps and just get some much needed movement.
It still takes work to DECIDE to go and do something, to leave the warmth of your couch and your warm cup of coffee, but its worth it. Keeping your body moving helps to give your metabolism a kick-start which only helps your weight, but more importantly, your immune system, your cardio system, your nervous system and your muscular system. Even more importantly, it helps your mental state. Walking down a freshly snowy trail staring into a setting sun can only make you feel better. The silence of the forest is calming and reassuring. Or, grab a pair of skates and hit the local rink. Do a few laps, get the blood pumping and feel the smile stretch across your face. We all know how utterly oppressive the past couple of years have been. We don’t need to talk about all of that again. What a perfect way to escape all of that. Go be by yourself, or with the people you love and just get outside.
What do you have to lose? Maybe a few pounds. Maybe a bit of stress. Maybe you’ll leave that issue on the trail you’ve been carrying with you for years and years. Maybe you’ll have that conversation with yourself or your loved one you’ve been meaning to have for such a long time, and you won’t be interrupted by a phone or an email or the latest post on what some person you barely know had for lunch. Can’t even tell you how often that has happened. Just stop cold on a trail, turn around and have the best conversation with your partner you’ve ever had. It can totally happen. I know, because I’ve done it.
Let’s be honest, winter is still my least favourite season, but it has puffed up its chest and is standing up for itself pretty well. It might even be showing off a bit this year.
Watch out summer. You’ve got some competition. You ain’t so tough winter.