Have you ever had one of those winters when you thought it would never be spring? I’m having one this year. Despite my lovely new socks, I’m still feeling the winter blues. I should pause here to say that seasonal affective disorder is a real thing, and can be serious for those who are brought down by it. Much more serious than the winter blues. But this year my winter blues are more complicated than in the past. And that’s because I’m struggling to stay motivated to stay fit.
Fitness is key to my winter survival. Partly because when spring finally rolls around I don’t want to NOT fit into my spring clothes. And partly because working on my fitness helps me feel better about myself. And helps me to feel better, period. There is so much science to support the idea that exercise benefits us physically and psychologically as we age. In fact new studies tell us what we’ve always kind of known, that making a habit of physical exercise slows aging, keeping our muscles, our heart, and our immune system strong. Not to mention helping to stave off anxiety and depression. But despite knowing on an intellectual level the benefits of exercise, this winter I’ve found it hard to find the motivation to get out there and just do it.
In the past during the depths of winter we’ve fled the snow and ice, for a time anyway. In 2017 we travelled to Argentina and Peru. It was no hardship hiking when we were rewarded with views like the one above in Patagonia. Seeing new places is always a motivating factor to get outside and get walking. Hubby and I walk a lot when we travel, in cities or on hiking trails.
In April of 2016, on our way home from North Carolina, we stopped in Virginia for a day and hiked to the famous McAfee Knob, part of the Appalachian Trail. The stunning view, below, was our reward. That plus the cold glass of white wine and the large takeout pizza we inhaled in our hotel room afterwards. Nothing makes fast food taste better than physical exertion, folks. Funnily enough, we first heard of McAfee Knob when we read Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods about his adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. I wrote about Bryson’s book, and our other favourite wilderness books, here, if you’re interested.
Staying fit in the winter isn’t as easy as other times of the year. Especially if we choose to spend the winter at home. Normally, if we don’t travel in winter, Hubby and I cross-country ski a lot. And arrange a short getaway to ski some more. I’m quite content to sit on my exercise bike most days if I can supplement that exercise with a couple or three days of skiing a week. Fresh air and sunshine, plus the best cardiovascular exercise there is (besides swimming) really gives my fitness a boost. Not to mention the lift to my spirits.
But this winter it hasn’t worked out that way. My skiing this winter was interrupted by a minor back injury, and a few weeks of physio, which then necessitated the cancellation of our ski holiday. We couldn’t postpone the trip because Hubby had surgery scheduled, after which he had strict orders to stay off the trails. And all this when we were getting fabulous amounts of snow, which would have made for, well, fabulous skiing. Ironically if we’d had no snow we might have been better off since we’d have been able to walk or hike our local trails. But instead we had piles of lovely snow, then a big melt, and more snow, and high winds, and then a deep-freeze which made even walking to the car treacherous for a few days. Ha. We’ve been foiled in our outdoor fitness plans every which way.
So we’ve resorted to emergency fitness measures, my friends. Hubby hates working out in the gym, so we’ve been walking… indoors. A new community centre near us has a walking track, and access to it is free. We’ve been tossing our sneakers in a bag, and heading over to the Minto Centre most mornings. I’ve been walking and working my way through lots of mystery novels on my i-pod. I can walk for hours if I’m listening to a good book.
Some days, though, the track gets a bit crowded, everyone walking at a different pace. And dodging around other walkers gets distracting. You’d be surprised how many pairs of walkers insist on walking side by side. Even when the signs clearly show which lane is the slow lane, even when they must know they are impeding other, faster, walkers. It’s what Hubby calls the oblivious factor. Ha. So when that happens, and I can’t concentrate on my book, I resort to my music.
One day as we were leaving, Hubby laughed and asked, “What happened that made you kick it up into high gear?” “Oh, that was Elton John’s Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting,” I replied. I love that song. It reminds me of high school. I didn’t even realize that I’d shifted gears, until I almost ran right up the back of the guy in front of me. Ha.
Walking indoors is no substitute for being able to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine. But it’s better than nothing. I find I can hack walking the track about three times a week. The rest of the time I’m on my exercise bike, or using the light weights I have in my basement. And on days like the one below, I’m happy to hunker down and pedal my exercise bike. At home. Okay, maybe happy is too strong a word. Resigned, would be more like it.
Normally with no skiing to be had, we’d have elected to escape somewhere warm. But Hubby’s surgery put paid to that idea. Our travel health insurance requires that one’s health must be “stable” for 90 days or the coverage is void. And at our age, at any age really, it’s not smart to travel without insurance.
We’re not the only ones struggling, I know. Lots of people who can’t get out of Dodge this winter, so to speak, are suffering. My mum is having a hard time, too. If getting out in the fresh air is hard for me, it’s doubly hard for her.
So, I’m off to New Brunswick shortly to spend a couple of weeks with Mum. Hopefully we’ll be cheering each other up. Hubby will be home on his own. He had his four week post-surgical check-up today. Two more weeks of confinement, with no skiing, for him. Somehow, I think he’ll be logging lots of hours on the track when I’m down east.
Then maybe, hopefully, when I get home it won’t be long before we feel spring in the air. Maybe dust off the hiking boots, and get the bikes out of the shed. Oh my, won’t that be wonderful?
In the meantime, I’m trying to not let winter get me down. Dinner out with friends, a few good books, the odd glass of wine. Reading and planning for our next travel adventure. Some furious pedalling on my exercise bike. Listening to Elton John tunes while I dodge other walkers on the track. Whatever it takes to survive when it seems that spring will never come.
What do you do, my friends, to stay motivated to stay fit during a long winter? Any thoughts? Please don’t tell me to take a yoga class. You know how I feel about yoga.
Joining #ShareAllLinkUp over at Not Dressed as Lamb