Last winter, I made an unfortunate error in judgement.
I left our snowshoes in the shed, planning to take them out once it snowed enough to use them regularly.
I didn’t realize that when it finally snowed enough, it would actually snow TOO MUCH and my shed door would be blocked by ice and snow for months.
In fact, I never did get around to snowshoeing last winter. Not even once. And that was annoying.
Annoying enough that I actually made a solid plan this past fall so it wouldn’t happen again. This year, when I put the patio furniture in the shed for the winter, I took my snowshoes out and stored them in my basement.*
Last week, as I was walking Khalee down the snow-covered sidewalk and distracting her from attempting to detour onto the walking trails near our house, I realized that I was missing an opportunity.
If I took out my snowshoes, I could let Khalee bound around in the snow on the path while I sauntered over the top of it without sinking up to my shins.
Now our afternoon walks are mini-adventures for the two of us. (Something Sam and Cheddar and friends clearly know all about!) Snowshoeing on a snowy path with trees on one side and a river on the other is much more relaxing than walking on a snow-smudged sidewalk with a dirty bank of snow on one side and the road on the other.
And yes, there are a few challenges involved in the process. For example, Khalee is not a fan of the fact that I have to go out first and put on my snowshoes before letting her outside and she gets a bit worked up about that. And it is tricky to manage a bounding dog on a leash while trying to walk on snowshoes. And then there is the maneuvering involved in trying to ‘stoop and scoop’ while wearing snowshoes and being connected to a dog whose business at this location is complete and who is ready to move quickly away to the next adventure.
But, even with those challenges, it’s still a lot of fun and it feels a bit more cardio-y than our usual walks.
I’m really glad that I had the foresight to do that little bit of planning back in the fall.
*This kind of planning may not seem like a big deal to the neurotypical but the capacity to think ahead like this has never come naturally to me, especially about stuff that is just for fun. Just another way that my medication has made a positive difference for me.
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.
The other day Anita posted one of those memories we get these days on our social media. It was from two years ago, the two of us smiling, in the diner we used to go to for breakfast after our Sunday runs. Its 2019 caption said: “The epic runs begin for the Round the Bay race. 20k, easy peasy!” And its 2021 caption said: “I can’t even imagine easy peasy 20km now. Tracy?” My reply: “No, I cannot. I am impressed with those two!”
And I am. They seem like different people, all excited to be winter running for 20K, in preparation for a late March 30K. Smiling even after the 20K. Able to go out for breakfast after. Two people from different households leaning in for an unmasked selfie. With other people in the background. Was that really just two scant years ago?
My experience, my very quiet experience, this winter has been of streaks and inertia. Both have their own quality of momentum in my life. The more I do (or do not do), the easier it is to do the same (or continue to not do) the next day.
I look outside this afternoon. The sun shines. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been of late. I started January with a commitment to get outside for a run or a walk every day. That was one of my streaks that I hoped to keep going through the winter. But the runs soon turned to shorter runs. Then shorter runs turned to longer walks. Then longer walks became walks around the block. The streak ended before January did. And on the weekend I cancelled both a walk and a run with others (and heaven knows I could benefit from the company of others) because it was just too cold and I couldn’t face the windchill. My toes froze just thinking about it.
The Tracy who did the easy peasy 20K two years ago would be incredulous. But the less one runs 20K, the less likely it is that one will run 20K. That’s the inertia of ramping down. As I said to Cate, inertia and streaks are equally strong in their respective energies.
I am considering going out before the sun goes down today. It is in fact a little bit warmer, only -11C with the windchill, and I am after all a Canadian who has trained through many a winter. But I am also considering a nap. All of this rages on as an internal debate. I know how even just a little bit in the other direction can take me out of inertia (I have blogged about this SO MUCH, how scaling back can get me back on track, how small starts are all we [I] need). But I don’t feel like doing a short run or walk. I feel like staying inside. And in the end no one else does (or even should) care.
Counterbalancing the inertia are some divinely satisfying streaks! I have been on a meditation streak since September, meditating at least a little bit almost every day. I started the Insight Timer January Mindful Mornings challenge on January 1st, and I didn’t miss a day until yesterday, which got me thinking about streaks and how much they motivate me to do the same again. The Insight Timer app tells you after your meditation how many consecutive days you meditated. And there is something about that total that pulls me to my cushion the next day (it’s probably counter to the very idea of meditation to call it a “challenge” or a “streak,” so fixated the meditation teachers always are on just “being” in the “present moment” etc.). Still, I once had a daily meditation streak that lasted unbroken for years (I forget how many; it was a while back). I might have missed yesterday, resetting my “consecutive days” to a sad “one consecutive day” this morning. But I think I can jump right back into that because a streak’s momentum is not undermined (for me, anyway) with one little miss.
Added to my meditation streak is my yoga streak. I started 2021 with Yoga with Adriene’s Breath practice, the 30-day sequence. I didn’t miss a day, and some of those days the ONLY reason I didn’t miss a day was that I had not missed a day. Having not missed a day, it became harder to let that happen. This, to me, is the simple and elegant beauty of a streak.
And when January ended, I wanted to keep going. Why? Because I hadn’t missed a day of yoga in 2021, of course.
My other streak-ish sort of thing are my virtual Superhero workouts. I started out with the once-a-week membership. Then I increased to the three-times-a-week membership. And then I went to the unlimited membership, which gives me the option of six workouts a week. You can pretty much count on me for five a week. The idea originally was to do four a week and run on the off days, walk on the “on” days, and do yoga everyday (whatever Adriene was offering, without asking too many questions [not that there is anyone to ask]).
My COVID winter is basically me bouncing between streaks and inertia, with maybe a bit more mindful awareness of what is going on (my WOY is “mindfulness”). I’m working my way out of being totally stalled in my running. And when I am ready to bust out of it, I’ll take tiny steps in the other direction. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this winter I will have a running streak to report, letting the momentum carry me back to 10K.
I belong to an experimental archaeology group that focuses on the early Middle Ages in Northern Europe. What does this have to do with fitness? Surprisingly, it is a great way to move our bodies and test our strength. When you work the blacksmith’s bellows for hours, or gather wood for cooking and chop it by hand, you work muscles in ways you never do at your office job. A friend and I have been working on some additional fitness-related experiments. She made a replica of a “backpack”, and I have been testing out theories on how bone skates were used.
Bone skates have been found in various places including the Viking site in York, England. They don’t have blades, so they don’t work like modern skates; rather, they were strapped onto the feet, probably with leather thongs, and the skaters may have used with poles to propel themselves along. We know this because there is a woodcut from 1555 showing skaters using a single pole. Last weekend, my friend and I headed to the nearby lake to test our our equipment. We had a lovely walk through the woods (leather-soled shoes can be quite chilly), and at the lake I strapped on my skates and “skated” up and down a section of cleared ice. The motion that I find most efficient is very similar to classic cross-country skiing. I have two wooden poles tipped with pointy pieces of pig bone. They give me a little bit of grip on the ice to improve my forward momentum, but they definitely aren’t as good as proper ski poles with a metal point.
The advantage of the bone skates is that some snow or slush doesn’t hinder progress as much as it does for modern skates. The disadvantage is that I am rarely able to get a good glide; mostly I just shuffle along. This is largely an equipment problem. My skates are still rough on the bottom, even through they are becoming smoother with repeated use. I need to smooth them more, and may even try waxing them to reduce the friction. Still, I stay nice and warm, and I get to look fabulous in a dress and fur-trimmed hat. Wool may take longer to dry than modern microfibres, but it stays warm even when wet. Even my feet were warm on the skates, because the bone kept them up off the ice. We were out for almost two hours on a cold, blustery day.
Diane Harper loves to experiment with historical cooking and crafts.
It’s grey out there and dark and that’s the kind of winter weather I really don’t like. Give me cold and snow and sunshine any day. But I’m not feeling so blue about Blue Monday this year. Partly I suppose it’s the blurring of time thing. Also, frankly, November always feeling worse than January to me.
I’m also feeling just a little bit hopeful. I’m hoping that this is the worst of the pandemic and that by summer we’ll be able to do things outdoors together again. I’m hopeful that sometime in the fall we’ll be vaccinated and back at work and maybe soon after that in concert and theatre venues.
“The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is the deepest, when nightmares feel most real. It is the hour when the demons are most powerful. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.“
But romantic imagery aside, there are very practical reasons for riding your bike early.
“The roads are empty and you’re free from impatient drivers. The sun is not anywhere near its maximum melanoma-inducing strength. On weekdays you get that ride in before work; on weekends you get the workout compulsion out of your system which means you can spend the rest of the day doing normal things with friends, family and loved ones who may have priorities other than cycling. Or, if you’ve managed to effectively ride all those people out of your life due to your obsession with bikes, you can always take a nap and then go out for another bike ride.”
I grew up as the child of bakers and so for me the associations aren’t with the outdoors and wolves but rather with early rising to bake bread for the day. My parents often were up at 4 and at work by 5 am. Sometimes I would want the family car and so I’d drive them to work and go nap in the school/university library. That was my preferred thing then in my pre-gym/fitness days.
But to confess, in the winter, I tend not to want to leave the house until the sun is up and has taken the edge of the cold day. I’m even grumpy about about being up and around awake working in the very early dark mornings of winter.
I started to rethink it though after seeing these images on CBC. A Guelph cyclist on one of the trails shared his story about wildlife you can see early in the morning, Guelph cyclist advocates early morning rides after ‘awesome’ owl encounter. It’s video footage of an owl on the trail. One of the things I love about the fat bikes s how they quiet they are going over the snow. Birds and animals don’t seem to scatter away as I thought they might.
Lately I’ve been riding up some of the very steep hills on Zwift (10-14% grade) and there’s nothing like those hills to make 4% feel like nothing. I jumped into the snow, en route to the hot tub, and made a snow angel with my bare skin. After that the merely cool air felt okay. I’m wondering if I might be able to do the same acclimatizing myself to the dark. I still want to visit Norway in the winter, north of the Artic Circle.
How about you? How do you feel about the dark very early morning? Different in winter than summer? Like winter swimming, it’s a thing I’d have to work to get my head around.
A friend asked for advice the other day. Not in a serious way, in that Facebook joking way, asking for random advice about anything.
My advice giving theme for her was grandmother’s advice. In my family that’s things like ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ and ‘an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after.’
The other grandmother favorite of mine is ‘start as you mean to continue.’ I think I’ve even blogged on that theme before. Let me go look… Why yes I did. It’s here.
What I like about it is the thought that you should just begin.
“Don’t make big plans for your future self. She’s busy and easily distracted. Instead, do it now, whatever it is. Make it routine, part of your everyday. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.”
So on New Year’s Eve I was part of a small but mighty team riding up the Road to Sky, the climb portion of which is Alpe du Zwift. I’d never done it before and now I have a baseline time to beat. It was a team time trial but we didn’t make much effort to stay together once the climb part of the ride began.
Tough going but lots of encouragement and conversation kept me pedaling.
We raced down together at the end and laughed a lot. Thanks friends!
I entered the workout in the 220 in 2020 group this way, “Epic last workout of 2020. Climbed Road to Sky in a team time trial including 1000 m of climbing on Alpe du Zwift.”
The next morning, January 1, I joined in on a meet up organized by some teammates to ride the full PRL (Prudential Ride London) course, about 173 km. I joined in for the first 30 to meet my weekly 160 km goal. They abandoned the meet up version once the rubber banding in Zwift which keeps riders of different speeds together went wonky. For me it meant starting the new year with another 400 m of climbing. Box Hill twice on the first day of the year!
Now we’re off to Prince Edward County and the farm for a couple of days. There’ll be walks in the woods and some Yoga With Adriene. We had hoped for fat biking but there’s no snow here. That will have to wait until we come home to Guelph.
I’ll write about plans for the year later but for now I’m starting as I mean to continue, with Zwift, supportive teammates, yoga, and time outdoors in the winter sun.
There’ll also be more home weightlifting now that the weightlifting son has moved home for the semester.
Regular readers, family, and friends know that all bikes make me smile.
I love my road bike. I love bike commuting. I love bike holidays. I used to love riding on the track at the velodrome. Whee!
Basically riding a bike puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like a kid again. For Tracy, it’s swimming. For me it’s riding a bike.
But not all of my bikes get me smiles from other people. People yell at me on my road bike. See here and here. I’m never sure what it’s about really, the hatred of cyclists–is it the clothing?–but I only hear about it on my road bike.
So I’m smiling on my road bike but aside from other cyclists, I don’t get that many smiles back.
Other bikes of mine though do merit smiles from pretty much everyone and gather lots of attention from people out and about. I’ve written before that my Brompton is not an introvert’s ideal bike. It’s cute. It’s pink. I even bought a pink sparkly helmet to go with it.
And I think I look approachable riding it, wearing regular everyday clothes, not going too fast.
The fat bike is the same.
So many smiles.
I think it’s partly that fat bikes are so unusual looking. It’s partly that I’m smiling in the snow.
People love to stop and ask questions about the bikes. If you have questions, by the way, feel free to ask in the comments below.
The bikes themselves are playful. They’re very easy to ride. They aren’t technical like mountain bikes can be. The fat tires will roll over almost anything. Yes, you can end up in deep snow off the packed trail but at the end of day, it’s snow you’re falling in.
In the woods I love how quiet they are. I had imagined they might be loud, crashing through the forest. But they’re not. You can ride and hear the sounds of the woods, the birds, and forest animals.
I started this spring. Swimming last year was so much fun I couldn’t wait to start this year (I live in a coastal village). I read a bit; I listened to some podcasts. I found one of my climbing friends is an experienced freshwater swimmer; I asked her lots of questions. COVID-19 was on so I was looking for excitement close to home this spring.
In late April, I started getting in and out of the water. I had a good few months of swimming through the summer and as late as October (the ocean stays warm longer than lakes do). I went back to dipping in and out of the water in November, and now (mid-December) I’ve even resorted to a wetsuit.
I remember swimming in lakes in Saskatchewan as a kid–the water was cold enough to produce blue lips in August. But here, in the North Atlantic ocean, I’ve been learning about whole new levels of cold. There’s ankle-aching cold (coldest); there’s shooting-nerve-pains-in-the-hands cold (a little less cold—that’s an existing vulnerability); and there’s a neck-cramp cold (almost swimmable). Above the neck cramp temperature, I can stay in the water and swim.
These are all November – December photos. Mind you, it’s Nova Scotia (not Saskatchewan), so November – December can still mean +9C.
That doesn’t sound like much of an advertisement, does it? The thing is, it’s a very satisfying experience. Hugely refreshing. A mood lifter. It makes an enormous difference if you tell yourself on the way to the water: ‘I’m really looking forward to an ice bath.’ (You don’t have to believe it when you say it.) It also helps to refer to swimming in lakes and the ocean the way the British do–as “wild swimming.” (Doesn’t that sound wonderful?)
There are safety concerns. I understand it’s best to walk in instead of dive or jump. Monitor your breathing. When your body wants to gasp and you halt your breath, that’s an involuntary response to the cold. If you’re going slowly, you can re-establish your breathing before you continue. If you’ve jumped in over your head and you do this, you could drown when you gasp and take in water. Make it your initial goal just to get in and out. Only gradually start to extend the amount of time you spend in the water. When you start to do that, you should do some of your own research to learn about what’s safe and what to pay attention to in your body. Your body temperature will continue to drop for some time after you get out of the water (20 minutes, I believe)–you have to plan to get somewhere warm, get the wet clothes off, maybe even take a hot shower.
(I won’t go into the sauna options, but I have to admit I first got into water this cold in April in Geneva, at the Bains des Pâquis, where there are three kinds of heat–sauna, hammam, and turkish bath–on offer when you get out.)
I have gone in one day when there was snow on the ground, but I’m nowhere near going in when there’s ice on the water, unlike Cath Pendleton.
I have been swimming with a small group of women for about 15 years now. I met the core group at a city-run weekly swim practice. One year when the pool was closed for major repairs, we started going to swim at a lake in nearby Gatineau Park. Eventually the pool reopened, but by then most of us had joined other swim clubs, so long lake swims became our way to connect. We usually wound up our season with a Labour Day post-swim lunch of hot soup and sweet baked goods on the beach.
In 2014, we decided to see how long past Labour Day we could keep going to the lake. We didn’t get very far that year, but a few of us were in quite early the following spring. The following year we did our first-ever Vampire Swim, which is held on or around October 31, ideally in costume, and aims to encourage blood donations or raise funds for the Red Cross. The minimum distance was 25M. To set it up with the city, we had to have paramedics on site for safety – we laugh about that now!
After the Vampire Swim, we decided to go back the next day so we could claim we had swum in November, then we did a polar bear dip to get a December dip done, and by then we were hooked on the idea of trying to get into the cold water at least once a month. It has meant driving all the way to the St Lawrence River to find open water in the coldest months.
Over the years, a few friends have moved on while new folks have joined. This year, with many pools closed or severely reducing numbers due to the COVID outbreak, outdoor swimming has exploded, and many are still swimming in December. Competitive ice swimming and challenges such as the “ice mile” are also growing in popularity. (https://www.internationaliceswimming.com).
This is definitely not an activity for everyone. There is a real risk of hypothermia so we have strict protocols: avoid ice, as you can easily get cut; one person on shore while others swim; get out before you think you need to (a three minute dip is just fine!); layers of clothes with no zippers or buttons work best; there is no room for modesty. In previous years, we would pile into the tent to help each other strip off wet bathing suits quickly, get dried and dressed. We would hug each other in the car until people were sufficiently warm. In the COVID times, we have invested in individual changing tents, and we are keeping our swims shorter than normal so we can maintain physical distancing.
So why do it? Because it’s fun! On sunny days the air is glorious and we feel extra alive. On grey days we have an excuse to get together with friends outside the house. On snowy days, we can feel all bad-ass; there is nothing like passing cross-country skiers on they way for a swim. And almost every day, we have the place to ourselves, so we can be loud – squealing or cursing as required to help us get into the water.
Diane Harper works for the federal government in Ottawa. She loves to break the stereotype of the stodgy bureaucrat by trying new things and pushing limits as often as possible.