Outdoor Diary: 2,000 Days Outside Taught Me These 3 Winter Lessons

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Humans Outside 2000 days outside

I can hardly believe it: I am hitting 2,000 days in a row of my outdoor habit. That’s 2,000 days of spending at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter the weather.

So what have I learned over 2,000 days? Unlike my 1,000 day mark, my 2,000th day is in the dead of winter. That means my three 2,000th day lessons are winter lessons — and they look a little different than the lessons found during the good summer weather.

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] Celebrating 2,000 days of my outdoor habit

[:48] It wasn’t exactly the goal

[1:06] This isn’t at all like my 1,000th day outside

[1:33] The difference between the things you learn

[2:00] What the lessons of other anniversaries show — and how this is different

[2:30] Lesson one: Knowing I can do hard things

[3:18] Lesson two: “I live in abundance”

[4:06] Lesson three: knowing the value of taking it slow

[5:07] How I’m marking 2,000 days outside

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

2,000 days. Can you even believe it? I can’t. But that’s how many days I have gone outside for at least 20 consecutive minutes. Sometimes it’s just that amount. Often it’s a whole lot more.

2,000 days. It’s a number I never set out to hit, and definitely not something I was thinking about on that first day in 2017 when I wondered what would happen if I went outside for just 20 minutes a day, no matter the weather. I just wanted to see if a year of spending time outside daily would change my life at all.

Boy howdy, has it ever.

My 1,000th day outside was a glorious summer day in 2020, so hitting 2,000 days in the dead of winter feels like a good balance, somehow — like receiving and honoring the wildly different parts of nature and all that it has done for me.

And part of that is because of something I’ve noticed thanks to these 2,000 days. Every season has its good parts, its special takeaways and things you can only learn by going through its differences. Many of the lessons of the dark are not the lessons of the light. And it’s hard to know what it feels like — really feels like — to lean into those good things when you’re sitting on the opposite side of the table. In the winter, the energy of the summer feels like a fever dream. In the summer, the truly wonderful benefits of the winter feel like an oppressive doom. But when you get deep into either, you realize they are just what they are supposed to be — and all of it is good.

Back around my other anniversaries of big numbers of days spent outside I’ve done similar lists of things going outside has taught me. In the past some of my lessons I’ve leaned into around these big anniversaries have been very practical – they’re things like remembering that the weather will, in fact, always change, or to just go ahead and buy the big jacket. They are things like learning to ask for help. But what I have for 2,000 days are, well, they’re winter lessons. They are things you know when the darkness and cold make you take pause and give you time to think.

The first is a common refrain that I come back to over and over again: I can do hard things. And by hard, mostly I mean uncomfortable. I can be cold. I can be scared. I can be nervous. I can be tired. I can want to quit. I can be alone. I can fall, literally and figuratively. I can be sore. And through all of this, I can push through, endure, come out of the other side and be very, very grateful I did it all. And I know this because I go outside and encounter the scary, hard, cold, nervous, solo, precarious and challenging over and over again out of my control save for the option of quitting. And I know this because I have given myself the chance to find it out 2,000 times.

Knowing that I can experience these things and not just live to tell about them but have also enjoyed the experience is a gift. It is a gift of going outside.

The second thing is a mantra I am leaning into this year: I live in abundance, I have all that I need. One of my greatest struggles, and I mean since I was a little kid, is a scarcity mindset. It was spending time outside that made me confront that. I was always in a hurry — I didn’t have enough time. On long runs I hoarded my snacks and water — I didn’t have enough food or hydration. I get really cold on big adventures because I don’t put on the warm layers packed in my bag — I don’t have enough and maybe I need them later.

All of those things are not true. And spending time outside taught me that. I have what I need to take care of myself, if only I’ll use it. I have all the time in the world, if only I’ll take a beat to give it to the things that actually matter. I live in abundance. I have all that I need.

Which brings me to a third and final lesson: the value of taking it slow. Winter is the time that remembering this lesson is easy, because it is the cold and quiet that doesn’t just show me how to slow down, but absolutely forces you to do so. Snow on the ground makes it hard to move quickly. Wind makes quick moving difficult. Cold makes your muscles stiff and everything more challenging. And so you’re slow due to lack of other options, and while you’re at it you have two choices: fight it or be OK with it. And you pretty quickly learn that being OK with it is the better of the two options.

Once you get to that point you start to notice how many things you can see if you do take it slow. You see the way the snow sits on trees. You hear the wind move through the trees, or the angry waves on the beach, or the rush of the high river. You value lingering by a fire because it is warm. It’s OK to be slow. It’s OK to just notice. But these are things I had to learn in the winter, outside of the comfort of my cozy house. And 2,000 days helped me see them.

I’m marking my 2000 days by doing some of the winter things I love outside over several days — going for a run, cross country skiing, hitting the downhill ski or snowboard slopes or, better yet, just existing and enjoying outside. I’m going to take it slow. I’m going to lean into the little things. I’m going to live in abundance. I am going to do hard things, whatever they are and however they come.

You can see photos of all these things and more on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Share your moments with #humansoutside365. And until next time? Ill see you out there.

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