For our focus on hearth health this fine month of Fe-brrrr-uary, I wish to share this article by Dave Orrick:
Don’t let this winter keep you from going outside.
Sure, if 20 below isn’t your thing, sleep in on the really nasty mornings.
But anything above 10 below … no biggie for those of us who love the winter. This information also pertains to those who desperately want to.
The key is knowing how to manage it.
You know all the basic tips: cover up against the wind, dress in layers, stay hydrated (but not with a full bladder) and well-fed, wear felt-lined pac boots and so on. Those are important.
But here are some tips you might not have heard. Whether ice fishing without shelter or just taking a brisk walk in the crispest, clearest air of the year, these tidbits allow me to spend the entire day outside — and not get cranky when I walk from the car to the office.
RECALIBRATE YOUR BODY FOR THE COLD
In indoor clothes, step outside. When you start shivering, go back in. Warm up. Go back out. Repeat.
I learned this technique years ago from a guy who said there was medical proof you can recalibrate your body’s internal thermostat. I don’t know if that’s true, but I believe it. And we know this: When the first 30-degree day hits in October, we shrivel. Yet, when the first 30-degree day hits in March or April, we strip down like teenagers on spring break.
In the above exercise, you’re teaching your body — in a crash course — that you won’t die from being outside for a few minutes. Shivering is an early stage of shock. The body (brain really), thinks things are dire. You shake to create warmth, and blood flow actually constricts. And it’s just not fun. It might start in a matter of seconds the first time you go out.
But after repeating the process, you’ll see: The length of time it takes you to start shivering will grow longer and longer. And you’ll feel better.
PUT THE HAT AWAY
Along those lines, don’t wear your winter hat for short trips outdoors.
To be clear: If you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period, such as hunting, fishing, shoveling, feel free to don the wool hat. The point isn’t hours of misery; the point is to reteach our bodies that short exposure to sub-freezing weather needn’t be miserable.
But walking to and from the car, or to the mailbox, or some other small stroll is the proper amount of exposure to not wear the hat.
DRESS LIKE AN ARCTIC ANIMAL
Winter is no time for showing off your figure.
The Michelin Man is more like it. Take cues from walruses, penguins and polar bears: roundish and puffy.
And, in general, go with natural materials. From skin to outer layer, I like silk, wool, down. Nothing blocks the wind like leather or other animal hides. (Freaky accessory: my leatherface mask.) To be clear, some synthetics will do the trick, such as thick polar fleece, which imitates wool, and silk imitators.
But ditch anything that makes you look too fashionable.
BE LIKE WATER, NOT AN ICE CUBE
When the cold wind knifes you broadside, picture yourself as water.
The wind will slice through you, but it won’t harm you. A blade slices easily through water, but does no damage.
This counterintuitive piece of wisdom was given to me by a Chinese friend via the Book of Tao and falls under the concept of wu-wei. Water is among the strongest forces in nature, not because it attempts to block like a wall, but because it yields so effortlessly without breaking.
Practical application: You don’t cringe — flexing your muscles and constricting blood flow — when the cold wind blows; you relax, and you breathe. This is actually hard.
Of course, the physics of it are absurdly backwards, but the metaphor works wonders for me. It helps to clothe yourself so you don’t have to hunch to block wind.
WARM THE BOILER
Those of us who ski or hike in this weather know the hardest part is the beginning, before your inner boiler is warmed. But if you keep moving, you’ll get that boiler heated up, and it’ll stay warm.
After a spell of steady movement — 10 to 15 minutes for me — the heart is pumping a steady supply of warm blood throughout my body. Including those fingers and toes. Before you know it, the heavy mittens and hat can come off without immediate chill in anything warmer than 10 below or so.
Put another way: The best way to keep your extremities warm is to warm your core.
DO THE PHELPS
If you have nowhere to hike, just move.
But don’t just stomp around in a circle like a fool. Do jumping jacks, like a bigger fool. Or fling your arms alternately in big circles like Olympic swimmers before they take their marks. Better yet, go all-in and do the Phelps — if you can without losing your gloves. Not only will these movements get your heart rate up (and boiler working), you’ll also physically force blood to your fingers and, if you do jumping jacks, toes.
When camping in cold weather, this is my pre-bedtime routine. (The jumping jacks, not the Phelps.)
BACK OF THE NECK
The most overlooked part of the body to protect in the deep freeze: the back of the neck.
This time of year, I begin to look like some throwback Euro type because I have a collection of wool sweaters with thick turtlenecks so long they crowd my chin. Neck warmers work, too.
Remember those polar animals? Neckless.
Mock my fashion if you will, but notice I’m not shivering.
~ Dave Orrick
I will personally show you The Phelps move, should you ask when you are in the office. J
As a lover of the outdoors in general, I encourage you to embrace it. What I find most in folks who do not appreciate the cold weather is that they are not dressed for it. How you dress makes a HUGE difference in your comfort, tolerability, and attitude when temperatures plummet below zero. I look at temperature as a challenge. If it is too hot, what can I do to enjoy the outdoors, if it is too cold, what are my options? You can get creative, as I did here:
If you live in the Midwest, do your best to get fresh air year round – You will be the better for it.
We all will die, that we know. You have the power to determine how you LIVE. Give it your best shot.
One last article to share with you on the benefits of being outdoors in cold weather:
Share your winter outdoor ideas on our facebook page –we can all benefit:
Get cozy, and get moving…Outside!
~ Barbara A. Luepke