Winter exercise

When this is the view from my office window, it is pretty difficult to get motivated to get outdoors

I was staring out the window the other day, feeling bad about the winter keeping me inside. Last year’s hunting season is but a distant memory, and next year’s camping, hiking and fishing season seem like forever away. Patience is not one of my virtues.

My wife of many years, busted into my office and, noticing my melancholy stare, said, “Why don’t you quit feeling sorry for yourself and get a hobby for the winter months, instead of just staring out the window?”

“Staring out the window is my winter hobby. Besides, I am working on my melancholy stare. All great writers have a melancholy stare,” I replied.

In the past, I’ve tried ice fishing, but that did not work out. Whenever I get the idea to go ice fishing, I strip down to my long johns, lay down in the snow and make snow angels for 30 minutes. After that, if I still feel like going ice fishing, I check into an asylum.

Spring, summer and fall are very easy months for me to stay active and get outdoors. Between chores around the house, entertaining the dogs, I have ATVs, hikes, camping, fishing and some hunting to keep me going.

Even my workout suffers during the winter. Who wants to go pound the pavement when it is 10 degrees out? I will probably fall on the ice and break my leg. When I am stuck inside, my workouts are limited to a stationary bike or the treadmill. I feel like a hamster running on his wheel when I hit that treadmill. I have no problem talking myself out of working out.

I guess I am just like an old bear that just wants to stuff himself with food and pile up on the couch and sleep for a couple months, but my wife vetoed that idea. Seems that all my good ideas die in subcommittee, hence the staring out the window.

I really love to eat and that can be a problem when you are not active during the winter. Since you may be burning fewer calories because of less activity, food can be a problem. Staying in shape is only 25% exercise. The other 75% is your diet.

If you can convince yourself to become active in the outdoors, the good news is that exercise in the cold burns more fat and calories than during the warmer times. Deposits of “brown fat” are activated as the body learns to get warmer, faster.

The shorter days of winter, can cause depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). There have been many studies that show increased winter activity and exercise helps to combat those blues. You will also get more of that very important vitamin D from sunlight, which is good for bones, teeth and muscles.

In places like Alaska, where the sunlight disappears for months at a time, SAD can be a real health concern. Folks up there take to sitting in front of artificial sun lamps for an hour a day to ward off the symptoms. At least we have sunlight here, if we head outdoors.

If you stop and think for a minute, there are all kinds of activities to do in the winter months outdoors here in Western Colorado. The obvious, such as skiing or snowboarding jump out for many, and that is a fantastic way to stay in shape.

I tried skiing a few times in my youth and never really took a shine to it, but there are many more activities to try. Snowshoeing is something everyone can do. The new shoes are much lighter and easier to walk in than the old wooden type of years gone by. The mountains are very peaceful and quiet with the snow on the ground and trekking along on a pair of snowshoes is a great way to enjoy a day.

For those of us who enjoy our ATVs in the summer months, give snowmobiling a try. The new machines are very powerful and have many features, such as heated seats and grips, to help make the trip more comfortable in the cold. I went up last year on an ATV with snow tracks on it and was amazed at how easy it was to get around in even the deepest of snow. As a bonus, the mountains were incredibly beautiful in the winter and we had the whole place to ourselves.

If you really can’t get outdoors because of work or other interferences in your fun time, consider some inside activities. Anything from dance classes, yoga, indoor swimming, gym workouts or even basketball will fill the bill. All of these activities can be fun and keep you active over the winter. The idea is to just get out and do something.

There was a time when I used the winter months to handle the remodeling chores around the house, but I have exhausted all the remodeling projects.

One nice thing about Colorado is that the winter has breaks in it. We see the sun 300 days a year here and even if we have a blizzard, chances are it will be sunny and warmer in a few days. We need to seize the opportunity to go outside when it shows itself. Besides, summer is only a few months away.

My wife is coming back from the store. I better head into my office and get my melancholy stares going on, otherwise she will find something else for me to do.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for several newspapers and has been a feature writer for numerous sporting magazines. A world-class saltwater angler and an avid hunter promoting ethical and fair chase hunting and fishing, he travels the world in search of adventure. Feel free to contact him on his personal email for questions, comments or story ideas.

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