Several years ago, when I was training for a late November triathlon, I was out for a long run on a cold fall day. Temperatures had dipped into the thirties and the smell of wood smoke filled the air as nearly every chimney had belched to life beneath the damp, gray sky.
As I ran, sweating, down a residential road, a man dressed for a blizzard—in a thick down coat and a wool hat, gloves and a scarf—wheeled his trash and recycling bins to the curb and asked, “A little cold for that today, isn’t it?”
I remember smiling and offering some sort of neutral reply along the lines of “it’s not so bad,” or, “it actually feels good,” while recalling a key phrase from one of my running or triathlon training guides: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” Truer words may never have been spoken.
Recently, I stumbled upon a book of a similar title: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). Upon moving to America, Swedish author Linda Åkeson McGurk was shocked to learn that the nature-centric parenting philosophies she’d been raised on were not the norm in the U.S.
According to an article in treehugger.com, the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” hails from Scandinavia where it’s a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day. Even Swedish schools consider time spent in nature and ‘free-range’-type independence to be top priorities.
“Sadly, it’s the opposite in the United States, where the slightest sign of inclement weather is an excuse to stay inside and even good weather fails to lure children out to play,” the site notes.
Treehugger.com adds that McGurk’s book includes the latest research on the importance of outdoor play and the ability of nature to foster overall child development academically, emotionally and physically.
In fact, McGurk writes about “the value of dirt in boosting children’s health and combating the high rates of asthma and allergies that now affect 40 percent of U.S. kids.” She also asserts that letting kids move freely outdoors makes them better at assessing risk, allowing them to learn that “the world isn’t eternally cushioned for every fall, which in turn builds the grit and resilience known to be key to professional success.”
So, as winter descends on the Mid-Atlantic, remember that frigid temperatures does not necessitate a retreat to a sedentary lifestyle in the climate-controlled indoors. For me, the only thing that changes when the mercury dips is that I no longer ride my bike outside; I draw the line on outdoor road cycling when temperatures drop below forty or when there is ice and snow on the ground. To get my cycling fix during the winter, I hop on my trainer, take a spin class, or hit the trails on my mountain bike. Otherwise, I am outside running, walking or hiking as usual.
The key to winter workouts is to dress for the weather. Invest in a warm pair of fleece-lined running pants or tights to keep your legs warm. For the upper half of your body, think layers: a wicking base layer under a long-sleeve shirt or fleece, topped with a water and wind-resistant jacket. Add a hat, sunglasses, lightweight gloves and slightly thicker socks and you’re good to go. In extremely cold conditions a neck gaiter that can be pulled up over your cheeks and nose is helpful, and don’t forget to wear lip balm and sunscreen: getting a sunburn is something else you can do year round, too!
If there’s snow on the ground, scrap your usual workout routine and pull on a pair of snow shoes or go sledding with your kids; after the thrill of the ride the climb back up the hill, sled in tow, is sure to get your heart pumping. Hiking or walking in the snow is also a great workout, as is shoveling the white stuff from your driveway and walkways.
And if you’re looking for a fun, fresh way to spend time outdoors and stay fit in the winter, head for the mountains and swap your running shoes for a snowboard or a pair of skis. In Carroll County we are fortunate to be less than an hour away from Liberty Mountain Resort, less than two hours from Whitetail Ski Resort and Roundtop Mountain Resort, and within three hours of Wisp Ski Resort, Massanutten Ski Resort and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.