As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I remember looking forward to the snow! There was something magical about that first dusting and the promises it brought: sledding trips, ice skating on frozen ponds, building snow forts with my family, and best of all, unplanned days off of school, famously known as “snow days”.
As I grew into adulthood, somehow the snow lost much of its appeal and became more of a nuisance. There were responsibilities that came with snow….shoveling, driving safely along unplowed streets, and getting to work on time in two feet of slush (even if the schools HAD declared it a “snow day”). Somehow, as an adult, the cold seemed harsher and the winters longer, and I forgot about its magic. But like most things in life, it’s cyclical. Now I have a child and I love the snow again – go figure!
Winter might get you excited or it might drive you nuts. I’m not sure where you fall on the spectrum, but one thing is certain: getting outside and staying active is good for our health and longevity, even during the winter months. It’s also true that if we can find fun outdoor activities to participate in, we are more likely to enjoy winter. So while it might be tempting to stay in by the fire sipping wine and eating comforting food, it’s a good idea to get outside and explore.
Today, I’m sharing five really wonderful activities that help me stay active in winter. In the spirit of the new year (and for the millions who resolve to get healthier in 2016), here is a little inspiration to get you outside having fun!
Of course, it might go without saying, but part of enjoying the cold months is having appropriate winter gear. So, if you live in a place that gets long stretches of cold weather, make sure you invest in a waterproof, insulated jacket, snow pants, boots, and all of the accessories that will allow you to enjoy yourself. It makes a huge difference!
The trails that you enjoy hiking in summer are just as beautiful in winter – though they take on a new appeal. Nature that was once full of animal sounds and colorful vegetation is now hushed and monochromatic. Hiking becomes challenging in new ways, as you have to navigate uncleared paths or the occasional icy stretch. But it’s worth it. So put on your boots or snowshoes, and get out into nature.
If you’re walking with children, make sure to get them bundled in layers – my daughter is usually cold in the beginning, but then heats up along the way. One strategy we use to keep her engaged on long hikes, is to have her find animal tracks in the snow. We love following deer and rabbit prints to see where they will lead us.
Skating reminds me of my childhood. My dad used to take me all of the time as a kid…he was great on the ice. He’d skate forward and backward, impress me with spins and tight turns, and use his blades to stop quickly, making shards of ice fly through the air. It was fun to watch. On the other hand, my skills were – and have always remained – very basic. I can go forward…and that’s about the extent of it. However, my mom always made adorable pom-poms to tie on my toes…which made me look like I was a better figure skater than I actually was (check out the killer ones below).
As an adult, skating is a great form of exercise. Before you even set foot on the ice, the act of balancing on thin blades engages muscles throughout your body (some you may have never felt before). Second, the faster you go, the more aerobic the workout. Third, the more you fall, the more you engage your core – so have fun! It’s all good.
For some reason, I stopped sledding after my senior year of high school. I wish I hadn’t. It is SO MUCH FUN and such a great workout. Now that I have a child, it is something that I look forward to on snowy days. There is nothing like whizzing down a snow-covered hill with the wind blowing in our faces, and then trudging back up to the top to start all over again.
If you’re like me, and you outgrew sledding, try it again! Buy a saucer, or grab a cookie sheet from your kitchen and get out on the hills. You will have a ball.
I find skiing to be an introspective and meditative activity. Whether you are going cross-country or downhill, it is a solitary sport that connects you to nature. As a kid, I would go downhill skiing every winter with a big group of rowdy friends, but once I was on top of the hill, the only thing that mattered was the swish of my skis, the expanse of my thoughts, and the beauty of the trail I was following. My dad was a great skier and would faithfully take us to the hills every winter. I nicknamed him “Sven” as he would, even in his senior years, easily glide past me with the stature of a Nordic olympian.
The thought of downhill skiing can be intimidating for some first-timers, but all hills offer introductory lessons to get you on your way. And if you spend the whole day on the bunny hill, you’re still reaping the rewards.
Playing Like a Kid
Get outside and build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or use watercolors to paint the snow. Don’t think about who’s watching. The other night, I was going for a walk through my neighborhood when I found a piece of ice on the sidewalk. I was kicking it and running after it for three or four blocks, pretending that it was a soccer ball.
There is nothing that can bring out your inner-child like the snow. Think about what you liked doing most as a kid, and then get outside and make it happen.
What wintertime activities are your favorites?
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out A Hike in the Snow.