I’ve often said that I’m warmest when I’m out walking in the winter. This coming season will be my fifth year of walking my dog throughout the winter – continuing our three, four, and six mile treks even when the sidewalks are packed with snow and we have to climb over snow-plowed ice and snow every time we cross the street.
The Swedish proverb, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” is spot-on when preparing for winter walks. The difficulty for me is the transition from fall to winter, with Michigan temps in the 30’s and 40’s. I tend to warm up quickly when I’m out walking because we keep a brisk pace. Too many layers and I have more to carry – too few, and I spend the first two miles wishing I’d turned back.
Yesterday, our Michigan weather was overcast and windy. The temperature hovered around 30° all afternoon. We don’t have snow so I’m still wearing my mesh Brooks walking shoes. I wore my cross-country ski pants that are like thick, warm leggings; I misjudged my upper-body clothing. Even though my short-sleeve layer was lightweight wool, my long-sleeved shirt combined with my fleece jacket didn’t make up for the extra layer of “bare” arm. I’d added a light knit hat, cotton gloves and at the last minute, ear-warmers. Thank goodness. I spent the first ¾ mile shivering and reminding myself how much I enjoy cold-weather walks.
When I arrived home yesterday, I still wore my hat and gloves, having removed only the ear-warmers, curling them on my wrist. I didn’t even unzip my jacket.
What I would have changed:
Either kept the short-sleeve layer and exchanged the long-sleeve shirt for a thermal-type (Hot Chillys is one of my favorites) or worn two long-sleeve shirts.
I should have looked at the weather more closely to see the wind-chill temperature and worn insulated walking boots or swapped my ankle-socks for light-weight wool socks.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t repeat the cold-weather rule: Cotton Kills. Cotton layers absorb perspiration and moisture and hold it in, causing chills and potentially hypothermia. The key is that once the core is warm, the rest of the body warms as well. Warm feet provide additional body heat. I’ve walked without my gloves and hat in temperatures below zero on sunny days with no wind, after my walking pace created enough internal heat.
All in all, I relish the feeling when I realize I’m no longer shivering. The pleasure of warmth is almost worth enduring the cold. We now have three more miles under our belt, my dog and I. I’m looking forward to the colder weather, especially snowy days and the red flash of a cardinal in the woods. I love the moon-lit nights when the reflection of snowy fields creates so much light I could almost sit and read a book, or the sudden aroma of burning wood that makes me glad to be outside just for the chance to breathe it in.
Get outside and enjoy the fresh air this winter. You will be amazed at the beauty. More importantly, you’ll be amazed at yourself, how much you can conquer and endure when the winds blow and the chill wants to move through your bones.
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