Into darkness

Try as I did to avoid talking about the same damn thing everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere is talking about – changing the clocks to cheat the dark mornings….here I am, talking about it.

I don’t love the darkness – I’m very inclined to be sleepy in the dark, cold months, and it’s not my favorite feeling – because winter is actually one of my favorite seasons, if I could just stay awake! I’m still doing contract work and trying to shift my schedule to keep up exercise that I love, like walking, when the evening comes earlier and earlier.

Mornings: it’s now light out at 6am again, so I can go back to doing some outdoor kettlebell stuff in the morning, and cold enough out that I need to bundle up a bit. So, I’m going to be getting in some swings and overhead work with the 20-lb kettlebell before work.

Lunchtime: I have 2 lunch hours a week free for getting a walk in, so that’s going to be the plan. 2 of the other days, I cycle with a client, and on the 5th, I coach, so I’m mostly walking around, and that’s about it. Weekends are still slated for walks whenever they can happen, as well.

End of day: my work day finishes at 4, so I can still get a walk in before the sun goes down, and if the weather’s awful – the new spin bike is perfect for changing my attitude, and smoothing out my rough edges.

(If you notice, I don’t tie this in any way to non-health/non-emotional wellness goals – I do whatever I feel is right with my weight through noticing my food consumption. If there’s one thing as a personal trainer that I’d love for people to know, it’s that exercise does not change your weight. You change *because* you’re exercising, and that changes how you do other things, like eating. To put it another way, when you exercise, you remind your body about how awesome it feels to be off the chair/couch/car seat, doing something else. And that affects how you feel about other habits you have, and it affects how much you might care about being kind to yourself. )

So, as the northern hemisphere slides back into the drowsy season of winter & darkness, try and see what it feels like to get out there and be active in the light (if you are privileged to be able to get outdoors during the work day, that is). Notice how you sleep when you start adding more active time to those precious daylight hours. Let the winter sun hit your face as you go for a short walk. If you use public transportation, try and feel the outside air before you’re whisked away inside the bus or subway. Even when it’s bitterly cold out, we are part of this natural cycle of light and dark, and I feel like we shouldn’t insulate ourselves from the changes that come.

In our tiny cottage home, we move the furniture around with the seasons – now is fire season (autumn, winter, early spring), where we drag in firewood and collect up the ashes, and we need more room to move in and out with loads of logs and the ash bucket. Most of our nights are spent within the radiant range of the woodstove. The few drafts we can’t block squirm their way along our necks as we sleep. We throw open the curtains each morning to capture the sunlight for free heat & light, and the cat drapes herself on the sunny bedspread.

In the warm season, the closed curtains keep the sun from baking us out of the place, and we position the bed to catch every breeze from the open front door. It’s now many months before the warm season will be back, and all of our thoughts turn to the work of staying warm, and awake, and fighting off the sluggishness of winter inactivity. One thing I have noticed both as a trainer and as a general person out in the world…the more I let sluggishness win, the more sluggish I get. So as a favor to myself, I concoct strategies to stay active in the short days of winter.

If you happen to live as I do, and have to rely on firewood for heat – consider that a workout or two! It’s no small matter to lug 20-30 pounds of wood into the house. But also, if you want to look at it as a workout…notice how you carry heavy things outside the gym. Notice how you walk. Notice how you swing your arms. (We’re almost at the time when I will simultaneously complain and delight in the labor of snow shoveling – I’m warning you in advance, in case that’s too much for you to have to read about.)

So to wrap it up: winter is awesome, nature is awesome, arbitrarily changing time zones for a third of the year is dumb in my opinion, keep active, and don’t forget to see the sun once in awhile.