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We talk about turning to the outdoors for daily health and wellness, but have you ever used it to make you a more productive worker?
Here’s the deal guys, I am an introvert. I don’t actually know if that’s why I need closed-off alone time to think or not, but I’m guessing it is. I need to be alone and I need to be put in a bubble away from my normal day to day life to have good ideas.
I first discovered the power of this kind of retreat in 2015 or so when my friend Holly and I went on what we dubbed a Mastermind Retreat. After a work trip to Texas, I met up with her at her mom’s time share on Canyon Lake in Texas, and spent a few days just brainstorming what was then the Humans Outside blog. I just needed that space to think. I spent a lot of time just staring at the lake water lap on the shore, and it felt like something changed in my brain — like if you reset a computer.
Going forward as I spent more and more time outside, and finally developed that daily outdoor habit in September 2017 that I’ve now kept up for over three years, I looked to different tools to keep my brain going strong and the good ideas coming. I unclogged those pipes pretty regularly on long runs. And I tend to have a lot of good ideas in airplanes. I think it’s something about no distractions and a lot of white noise. I whip out a legal notepad and the big ideas just show up.
So can you imagine how dry things are feeling on the thinking front over here after months of not running and zero air travel since March? Phew. I knew I needed to shift and come up with a way to lock myself in a room somewhere and do some new thinking.
And that’s when I remembered the retreat I did with Holly. I took a peek at the calendar, realized that this weekend was the only one I had free any time soon, booked an Airbnb in one of my favorite Alaska places, Seward, and set out for an Amy retreat.
The big tasks for this retreat were three-fold: brainstorm and start planning Season 3 of the podcast for you, have some solo time in nature and stare at some waves since Seward is on the coast, and sleep.
I’m talking to you now just 30 minutes before I pack up to head home. And I’m happy to say that it’s mission accomplished on all three. I don’t drink and I didn’t take a sleep aid — but still I slept 12 and 11 hours respectively on my nights here. I must’ve needed that. Despite the fact that it was around 10 degrees here with a stiff breeze, I still logged that staring at the waves time, first with a few walks on the coast and then with a 4.5 mile hike out Lowell Point. You can check out a video of some of that on our Humans Outside Youtube channel, Facebook or linked and embedded in the show notes for this episode.
It was a long drive down here — four hours on some very icy and dark roads since sunset is at about 430 and I didn’t leave home until after work at 2:15 p.m. But I can say that it was completely worth it. The views I saw along the Cook Inlet at sunset on the drive down alone filled my brain. The stars I stared up at for 20 minutes when I arrived were everything. The mountains, the lapping water, the crunchy snow and ice — all food for the soul.
And the locking myself in a cabin with a heater, bed, bathroom, coffee pot and small kitchen? Super meaningful and productive. I’ll have a video and blog post soon about why you should absolutely take this kind of retreat for yourself and some ideas for how to find the space to do it.
The rest of my outdoor time last week looked more usual, with walks in the woods and hot tub time, with one glorious exception: a night time, moonlit and star gazing 5 mile cross country ski with Rachel and Clare, two of my so-called Running Wives. We headed out to celebrate Rachel’s birthday, and they were kind enough to pick an activity, classic XC skiing, that I can safely do. We headed up into the beautiful Hatcher Pass as the sun set, and skied up Archangel Road. We saw three other people the entire 90 minute ski, but thousands of amazing stars. We wore character onesies, because why not — I was dressed as a reindeer with my moose antler hat because it’s fun — sweated, skied and had just the best time.
But here’s the thing: I did NOT want to ski at night. It was way outside my comfort zone. But I made myself do it, and I am so, so glad. As a side inspiration this week: take the risk and do the thing outside your comfort zone. It’s worth it.
On that ski and over my hike in Seward I wore a snow skirt. Now, if you’re anything like the people on a Facebook forum I recently saw who had their everloving minds blown by the idea of a snow skirt, I’ll break it down. A snow skirt is a skirt that’s long or short, goes over tights or pants, and is down or synthetic to keep your butt and legs extra warm. It’s like a wearable blanket. I have two short ones — one that’s more like a sleeveless dress, and one that’s a miniskirt. The miniskirt one is made by Smartwool, and it is so completely awesome that it’s my outdoor hero for you this week. What’s not to like about an extra lap and butt blanket that you can wear? Nothing. If you live somewhere cold, look into getting one of these. You can wear it for almost any outdoor activity.
If you want to see photos of my retreat or ski time, check out Humans Outside on Instagram and Facebook. And of course I absolutely want to see your outdoor time, too. Share it on Instagram with the hashtag HumansOutside365. Until next time, I’ll see you out there.