Like Tracy, I’ve been struggling to get outside this winter. Yes, there’s been some fat biking. There have been a few long snowy dog walks. But generally, on a weekly basis, it feels like days whoosh by when I don’t leave the house. Like this week, it was suddenly Friday and I realized I went out just once.
I blog lots about how much I hate grey November days but I do love winter sunshine. January and February are usually good months for snow and sun. It’s the in-between stage of winter I hate when it’s too cold and icy to ride my bike but not yet snowy enough to fat bike, cross country ski etc.
But this February feels different and I’m thinking it’s really about the pandemic not just about the weather. Right now we’re at the stage in Canadian winter when the temperatures feel daunting. The combination of stay at home orders in the province where I live and some -15 windy, grey, icy days means an awful lot of indoor time.
What I love, and I need to remind myself of this, is the bright winter sun. I’m not sure why I need to remind myself about this. I’m not sure why it feels so much like work during the pandemic to remember the good things. But it does. Are there things that you know make you feel better but you still need reminding? Still need a push out the door? Walking in the sunshine, in winter, is like this for me.
It’s also Family Day here in Ontario. As pandemic winter continues, I really miss my family members who don’t live with me. I think I’m going to make an effort to visit outside more often even though it’s cold.
Dog hikes, family, sun and snow. All good.
I also love reading in my llama pjamas, late Sunday breakfasts, and coffee! These are things I know make the weekend better but I don’t need reminding about them.
What are some of your favourite weekend things? I feel the need these days to mark the weekend and make it special. Otherwise, all the days blur into one.
Hope you had a good weekend and if you’re in one of Canadian provinces that celebrate it, hope you’ve got a happy family day ahead of you.
December is the most pensive month, or so it seems when I look back on blog posts past. It’s also full of advance-of-New-Year fitness promises and plans, all shiny and new and wrapped up like holiday gifts to oneself. In this post, from December 2016, I rhapsodized about my newly-conceived every-day winter walking plan:
Walking in winter (so far) also feels quieter and more calm than walking in other seasons. Here, the trees are bare and sometimes the sky is gray, or it’s a crystal blue. The air is crisp, and sometimes the wind is blowing. But walking, I’m ready for it… right now, early winter walking is a quiet pleasure, perfect for the period before harsher winter arrives.
Yeah, I wafted away on a cloud of fragrant prose there. My apologies.
However, the most lovingly-laid and loudest-trumpeted plans didn’t play out the way I hoped. In December 2017, I wrote about it here:
For me, this challenge was a bust. I didn’t have the oomph to do it. It just made me feel resentful, overburdened, under-exercised, and inferior to my obviously-better-life-manager compatriots.
Of course this is no surprise. Challenges can be motivating, but also can trigger resentments, fears, anxiety– you name it.
Now here we are, a year later… In the midst of it, I feel– calm. A bit quieter than usual. Slow and deliberate. The indirect light suits me. The early dusk I find entrancing. This is a new experience and completely unexpected.
HAVE I LEARNED NOTHING?!
Sigh. I’m afraid to say I continued in the same vein, burbling on about everyday yoga (which I did actually do) and setting up my bike trainer for regular indoor workouts (which I didn’t do).
By December of 2018, I had wised up to my inner Bronte-esque winter fitness heroine, stopping her in her flowy tracks before she could trip me up again. In this post, I admitted that my previous posts were more aspirational than realistic. The two pictures below illustrate the contrast.
My plan for the month was as follows:
doing a bunch of yoga, mostly in very small bits
sleeping 8 hours at least, because I have to in order to function
being present for my family, trying to maintain boundaries of some sort
accepting that my house will be super-messy and my writing obligations will have to wait and that my body is actually helping me do all these things so thank you body
Forget ethereal. I’m going for pragmatic this season.
Two years later, it’s December 2020. What does this end-of-year time look like?
Because of COVID, my work/life boundaries are pretty shot. This means less time devoted to relaxing, exercise, fun stuff.
Because of COVID, I’m alone most of the time. A few friends come to my house sometimes for porch visits or n95-masked short visits. It’s not enough, but I’m grateful for the contact.
Because of COVID (plus other things), my sleep schedule is pretty shot. I’m responding my letting myself get enough sleep (schedule permitting), even if it means losing some mornings.
Because of COVID (plus other things), my eating is more dis-regulated than usual. This is a day-to-day changeable thing, made better by more sleep and more movement and more meditation.
So, what’s my phrase for COVID-December, 2020? Weathering the storm.
Here’s how I’m doing it:
Because of COVID, there’s loads of online yoga. I’m doing some.
I’m meditating every day. Really. For realz. It’s not always fun, but it’s always happening.
I’m leaving the house 4 days out of 7 each week, walking, doing errands, etc. I’d love to say I do it every day, but it’s not happening. Okay then.
I’m talking to friends and family a lot– on the telephone (yes, I use my phone for real-time person-to-person audio communication), over Facetime, Zoom, and in person when possible and safe.
AND: I’m continuing to write for all of you about my relationship with fitness, wellness, sadness, and presence. It feels a bit like talking to long-time friends.
What’s your watchphrase for December? I’d love to know.
Remember pandemic summer? It now seems a glorious idyll, compared with the stingy light emissions, dead leaves and cold reality of mid-November. It’s all headed downhill from here. And not in a good way.
During those lazy hazy days of late summer, I wrote a blog post about prepping for winter, in which I laid out some ideas for ensuring cozy continuous COVID-free contact with friends and family. Visions of patio heaters and down-filled onesies danced in my head, and the prospect of changes in temperature seemed like no problem at all. We just throw heating appliances and polartec fleece at the problem, and it vanishes.
Several months later, I’m finding that plan A isn’t the solution I hoped it would be. Friends and I are still meeting outside some, but as winter gets closer, the cold and damp is less inviting as a backdrop for leisurely socializing. I yearn for the coziness of my living room, with its comfy sofas and soft throw blankets and smoke-free fireplace video, courtesy of Netflix (I prefer the one with no soundtrack– just the crackle sounds).
So, I’ve ditched my previous plan and am now working on Plan B. This new plan consists of the following:
Running a HEPA air purifier in my living room/dining room area to help reduce aerosols (I picked one after reading extensive reviews on this site);
Having a supply of both N95 masks and high-quality disposable masks for guests to wear while inside my house;
Arranging my living room/dining room area for comfortable and generous social distancing;
limiting guests to one or two others at a time;
limiting or giving up meals together inside (so to maintain mask wearing inside);
limiting my circle of guests to a very small number of them;
Faithfully Zooming with a larger circle of friends to keep in touch, even when the Zooming itself seems like a chore;
Reminding each other that this isn’t forever– there will be spring and vaccines and ebbing of caseloads, as is the way of things.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I’m not making any claims about the benefits or risk reduction of any of these actions I’m taking. In particular, the combo of air purifier and serious mask wearing indoors for a small number of people is just something I’ve decided to try. And, it’s based on reading and talking with knowledgable folks. But, this is an area of great uncertainty and unknown risk. I’m doing me here. You do you.
I’m taking on whatever risks that go along with this plan because I really value and need social contact of various sorts with the people I care about, and I’m making this call. It’s possible (even likely) that things will change and I’ll have to come up with Plan C. Luckily, there’s an entire alphabet at our disposal, so we can pivot and shift and improvise as we learn what does (and doesn’t) work.
Readers, what are you winter pandemic plans? Are you all-outdoors-or-bust? Are you doing some indoor socializing? I’d love to hear what ideas you’ve come up with.
I am not a morning person. Never have been, even in childhood. My mother would glide into my room, singing, and I would pull the pillow over my head, hoping she wouldn’t see me. Yes, this happened the last time I visited her, too (she’s in her late 70s and I’m in my late 50s). Even from the comfort of my own home, if I’m called upon to get up earlier than say, 9:30am, I have to set an alarm and give myself time to emerge from feeling like the walking dead.
The onset of menopause has made me more of a night person, not less. In addition to late night hormonally-induced internal temperature fluctuations, I started having trouble getting to sleep before say, 2 or 3am. That’s pretty darn inconvenient, even for a lucky person like me, who has a flexible work schedule.
The cherry on top of this insomnia sundae has been the pandemic. Since March, my so-called “regular” sleep schedule has shifted to 2am–10am, with occasional nights when I am up until 4am. Aargh.
Whenever I tell people about my unhappiness with my night owlishness and insomnia, they invariably pepper me with questions (which feel a tiny bit accusatory), and suggestions (none of which are remotely unfamiliar to or untried by me). Here’s a list of reasons why people have trouble sleeping, compiled by this slightly irritating article. Note that every item except for one starts with “YOU…” , as in “YOU did this– what were you thinking?” The last one blames the room temperature, but who do they think set the thermostat? YOU.
Just so you know: I’ve tried changing every single one of these things (and sometimes all of them), and still haven’t had long-term success in shifting my sleep hours.
This very-delayed sleep onset schedule has wreaked havoc on my outdoor exercise plans. I just don’t love walking or cycling alone outside after dark, especially in late fall/early winter. And when I start my workday at say, 10:30am, it’s hard to take a significant break to head outside before dusk hits. Yes, taking a brisk stroll after lunch seems like a good idea, and it is a good idea. However, given my work habits, it has maintained its idea status, failing to transition into activity.
So here’s an idea: schedule and do my outdoor walk or cycling in the morning. Well, first thing in MY morning. It would be a big change, as I am not very alert when I wake up, and it takes me a while to get myself together. Actually leaving the house within say, 30 minutes of waking is a radical idea. But, it would do a few things:
I’d get outside in the light;
I’d get some exercise earlier in the day, which would be an interesting experiment for my sleep schedule;
I’d be less stressed about when I was going to get outside, as it would already be done first thing;
It might help me be more energetic when I settled down to do work.
It might improve my mood– both exposure to light and exercise upon waking are touted as winter mood enhancers.
I must confess that, on the very rare occasions that I’ve done early morning exercise (generally because someone’s talked me into it– yes, I mean you Samantha and you Janet), I marveled at how lovely it is to be outside in nature in the morning. So there is precedent for this action.
Making this shift won’t be easy. Here’s a list of things I’d have to do in order to make this work:
Actually try it.
At least once.
Maybe a few times even.
Don’t think about it.
How about tomorrow?
I mean, how hard can it be? These people seem okay, and they’re outside in the morning.
So there it is, readers. I’ve come out with a one-step plan: go outside first thing in my day. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have any of you tried to and successfully (or non-successfully) shifted your exercise schedules? I’d love to hear about it.
For some reason, Mondays are harder in pandemic times. I usually like Mondays. I’ve always liked the ‘back to the office’ energy, getting down to making lists and schedules for the week ahead, ‘how was your weekend? convos with colleagues, a bike ride the office, and lots and lots of coffee. These days there isn’t much of that. Instead, I look at my calendar, think ‘wow, we’re still doing this’ and start my first videoconference at 8 am.
My last public speaking event was March 5, 228 days ago. March 10 my calendar just says, ominously, “cancel all flights and hotels.” My first COVID-19 contingency planning meeting/conference call was March 13, 220 days ago.
In July I wrote, “There are no boundaries any more. Life is one big blur of working at home, exercising at home, and relaxing at home. I occasionally look at my shoe collection in puzzlement. Will I ever wear real shoes again? I still have underwire bras hanging off a doorknob, neglected, and I’m wondering why I ever thought they were a good idea. These days only my comfiest of sports bras are in regular rotation.”
In light of the No Boundaries and the Great Big Blur, I’ve been thinking about restructuring my work week a little. Lots of things are busy during the weekend, out in the world, and I’m often working on the weekend. I’m wondering about taking some weekday time to ride trails, take Cheddar for hikes, and appreciate the outdoors. That’s the weekday/weekend trade but there’s also the daytime/nighttime swap. Yes, lots of work hours are fixed but if I am working into the evenings anyway, why can’t I squeeze some outside time in the sun into my day?
It’s hard to start work when it’s dark and finish after it’s dark again. Why not get out for a ride or a walk in the middle of the day?
Are you still working from home? How are you coping? 220 or so days in, are you making any changes to your schedule?
It’s really properly fall now– pumpkins (and pumpkin spice infused items of all sorts) are everywhere, the light is changing in quality and quantity, and temperatures are falling.
I love fall. Usually.
But this year, we in the Northern Hemisphere are living with the uncertainty of what colder temperatures will do to our carefully distanced outdoor socializing and physical-activity making. My local yoga studio is likely not opening up for indoor classes, and the days of outdoor yoga are numbered. There’s Zoom, for which I’m grateful, but I really miss collective yoga classes.
However, one activity I’m feeling bullish on, even into the colder temps, is cycling. The past six months have not been an easy or active time for me– I was one of those people on Team Less during the pandemic. Sam posted a few months ago about this issue, declaring herself on Team More. Not that pandemic life has been easy for anyone– we’ve all had to find different ways to cope, escape, step up, or scale back.
Even though I usually ride a lot in the summer (often with my friend Pata), it just didn’t come together this year. However, now that fall is here (and the pandemic is still with us for some time to come), I feel like the fog is lifting, the feelings of overwhelmedness are receding, and some energy is coming back. I’m feeling ready to ride more.
I know, I know– it’s a little late. But hey– there are no bad days to ride (totally not true, but bear with me), just bad clothing choices. And bad tire choices.
So, moving through fall into winter, here are my cycling plans:
Resume weekly coffee rides (even if we’re drinking hot coffee from a thermos)
Take the bike with me when I go on local trips (I’m on Cape Cod now, with bike)
Take the bike with me when I drive to see family (1500km/1000 miles away) at Christmas
Do some exploring of routes/rail trails/parks within a few hours of home
Set up trainer for actual regular use in Dec/Jan/Feb
Come up with plan for zoom spin class or some such (I haven’t taken the plunge to go the Zwift or Peloton or other bike way… yet)
Implement aforementioned plan
Celebrate the fact that I already own gloves, hats, tights, jerseys, and jackets for cycling in cold weather
Report back to you good people, sharing successes, setbacks, and soliciting suggestions
I’ve got a road bike and a gravel bike (among others), in very nice condition and raring to go. Time to throw a leg over and get back in/on the saddle again.
Readers, what are you thoughts or plans for fall-into-winter activity? Do you have new plans, new gear, the same plans/same gear? Worries? I’d love to hear from you.
This year I’m working from home. The challenges are different. I can see that it might be dangerous to work all day and only think about leaving the house in the dark.
I’m going to try to make sure I leave the house during the day to get outside in the daylight even if I don’t have anywhere particular to go. Cheddar doesn’t care about goals. He’s just happy to walk. Or run!
As usual, September is a blur. That’s true in both non pandemic and pandemic times. I’ve been a student, then graduate student, then Professor, now also Dean. September is always a blur for me.
This one was especially busy with lots of time with students, in my role as Dean and Professor, both physically distanced on campus and virtually on Teams/Zoom. The university is a hectic place as we carry on mostly remotely. So many meetings!
We’re also busy navigating our slow and cautious return to campus as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins which will likely mean drawing back, restricting our activities further, and staying at home much more than usual this winter. There’ll be no warm weather biking for me in January. In a recent post Cate asked what we’ve been doing to nourish our soul, given that we are heading into a tough winter.
Well, I spent September working hard, but also riding my bike, visiting with family outdoors, taking care of some basic needs (haircut and dentist) and reading fiction. I’ve been trying to appreciate fall for what it is, rather than worrying about what’s to come. Less anticipatory sadness more now is all we have. Thanks Nicole!
Sarah and I have been spending more time at the farm in Prince Edward County. That means loops around Big Island and racing the Osprey Nest to Osprey Nest Strava segment we created.
I’ve also started working on campus, one day a week. That means I’m bike commuting again, which I’ve missed.
Here’s my office on campus, my outdoor office hours, and an empty (usually bustling) student plaza.
Despite being busy I’m still riding lots (for me). I might make 5000 km this year.
I’m trying to think like a Norwegian about winter: “ People in Svalbard (at 78 deg north) had a more positive mindset than the people in Tromsø (69 deg north), who took a more optimistic view than people in Oslo (60 deg north). In other words, the positive wintertime mindset is most common where it’s most needed. These positive attitudes were apparent in Leibowitz’s casual conversations; indeed, she says that many of her friends struggled to understand why you would not enjoy winter. They embraced the possibility of skiing or hiking in the mountains, and savoured the chance to practice koselig – a Norwegian version of Denmark’s hygge – which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight. Far from dwindling in the dark, Tromsø’s community flourished in the long polar night. “There is this interaction between the culture that you’re part of, and the mentality or mindset that grows out of it,” says Prof Joar Vittersø, Leibowitz’s collaborator at the Arctic University of Tromsø.”