So, it’s winter. I am going on and on writing about how y’all should get your asses outside- but I am not really saying HOW. How does one stay warm in 8 degree weather anyway? Because extreme cold, like extreme heat, is indeed potentially dangerous. Frostbite and hypothermia do exist, so take along a map or something! But I digress.
The fact is, I take a walk in the woods, sometimes a run, sometimes a slog, every day. In all weather, even if I don’t feel my best or don’t really feel like heading out. It is my mental health plan and supports my physical health too. This regularity is partly thanks to my very motivating super-high-energy!!TM spotty dog and partly due to a slight addiction to endorphins. My hike is very steep and hilly, going from about 1,000 feet above sea level up to about 2,000 and then back down. Here are my tips:
1. Eat fat. You are not as likely to be a heat-generating furnace on a piece of toast as you are on a nice lardy fried egg.I eat nuts and nut butters, real butter, olive oil, avocados, cream, handmade lard, eggs, and so forth. Good healthy fats, not like cottonseed oil and margarine. And I don’t worry so much about the alleged “last 10 pounds”–I am cheerful about my strong, sturdy medium-sized body when I head out into a blizzard.
2. Apply oils. The best way to be oily is to stop obsessively removing your body’s oils. I am not saying “never shower” but when it is quite cold I do more rinsing than scrubbing of my arms and legs. I apply intense lip balm and I’ll slather my face and body with the natural oil of my choice before going out.
3. Feet/head/core. That means always be sure those are well cared for, the rest won’t matter as much if they are not. I always wear a scarf and at least bring along a hat. I am way into wool socks and I wear tall wool slippers as my footwear in the snow. Sounds weird, but I swear by wool and good barefoot boots are hard to find. I prefer Merino wool, if possible. (It is thin and tends not to itch.)
4. Layers.As I said, I am into wool and silk too. Yeah, I know that stuff is expensive–go nuts at the thrift store or purchase fabric and make your own. Don’t suffer in wet cotton when wool retains it’s warmth even when somewhat wet! Long johns or tights, knee socks, undershirts and even bras and underpants now all come in wool and silk. Layers are helpful because I will sometimes get quite hot and take them off.
5. Circulation. Keep your blood moving, and do the work to keep your body’s blood flowing well. I like to do some stretches and trigger point exercises to keep stuff open and remove blockages to good circulation.
6. Keep it reasonable inside. I set my house temp in the mid-50s because I find that going from a very hot space to a very cold one is jarring. Oh yeah and I am cheap.I am not some freak against all climate control but It seems that we as a culture create these f-ed up super hot spaces in the winter where we work or live in a t-shirt! (I am pro-sweater.) Or in the summer we’ll wear a sweatshirt in air-conditioned spaces… this does affect us. The adaptability and resilience that helps us enjoy the outdoors is something we need to actively cultivate, to work at and practice in this culture!
7. Attitude. No, I do not believe you can just repress feelings of coldness and be warm but I do think what we choose to focus on and value is ONE of the pieces that shape our world. Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings, the gift of movement, and the fact that winter or any current weather is a natural part of life.It is a force of nature, not an inconvenience. The media doesn’t help, as they constantly claim weather is “dumping on us, pounding us, hammering us, barrelling up the coast, melting us, destroying all that is good and holy in the world and punching out kittens and angels.” (actual quote?) Have you ever seen kids spend hours outside sledding even though it is noticeably cold? It is because they are living in the moment and the joy and have yet to learn to hate weather. We humans have great abilities to adapt and to enjoy life, much of which is culturally unsupported amidst endless learned whining and bitching about weather, seasons, wetness, cold, heat, bugs, scary stuff, poop and the perceived evils of getting up off the couch. The desire to go out is a huge part of the success. You have every right to say “I do not want to go for a walk”….just be honest about why.
8. Movement. You may feel cold standing outside in 18 degree weather. So stop standing around! Move that body while you still can. (obviously I apologize if you can’t move your body, I understand and this doesn’t apply to you.)
9. Stay dry. Though I don’t at all mind getting wet outside my few bad winter experiences have involved wet feet. I like to block water and wind. I’ll even bring an extra pair of socks on a long hike just in case.
10. Thermos. If I am going out for more than an hour I like to bring a warm beverage. Hot chicory chocolate with a splash of cinnamon? Vanilla Rooibos chai? A little linden infusion, perhaps? Whatever you like, but it is fun and I like to hydrate, even when it is cold.
Although I am enthusiastic about going outdoors in all weather I do indeed have moments of doubt. I do not always want to go and I sometimes struggle to get motivated. But so far I have NEVER regretted a single hike, not in any weather. It seems that. somehow, once I am out there and moving, the whole world conspires to move me forward, to support my personal quest for endorphins and health, everything seems just a little sharper and I warm up and get into the zone and my dog is just sooo thrilled and she’s a freaking inspiration and there are birds and it is all just too much. It feels to me like it is worth the effort, and I wish this joy upon all who seek it.