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When I moved to Alaska I knew we’d have unpleasant weather. And when, a year later, I decided to try to go outside at least 20 minutes every day for a year, something I’ve now done over 1,500 days in a row, I had witnessed some of it from the comfort of my home, so I knew what I was getting myself into through my commitment.
… Sort of. It’s so easy to forget the reality of winter or bad weather when the sun is shining, isn’t it? My friends and I find that we make all sorts of outdoor-based decisions on a sunny day. Inevitably it’s when we sign-up for long running races or are full of optimism about future outdoor plans. It’s not that it’s so easy to forget reality so much as it’s easy to simply walk by the practicalities of how you’ll feel once it hits.
And that is exactly what I experienced in Alaska recently. Frigid temperatures, I’m used to. Just bundle up, right? No bad weather, just bad clothing, right?
Now, one thing you need to know about where I live in Alaska is that it can get very, very windy. Wind, as a rule, is not my favorite. When we lived in Kentucky I was terrified of tornadoes, and the wind would sometimes pick up, move across these open fields and hit against our little rental so hard that it would shake and I could feel the wind literally coming through the walls. It was terrible. And I was so glad to move into another rental that had some wind protection from a few trees nearby — and I really was never that worried again.
But the wind stuck in my mind. And so when we arrived here to beautiful Palmer, Alaska one chilly June day and stepped outside the car to some pretty impressive summer wind, I was more than a little worried. What had I gotten myself into? I asked the guy in the visitors center if it was always that windy, and he simply chirped — that’s Palmer! The wind comes off the glacier.
Excuse me but … what!?
Anyway, he wasn’t wrong — but I’ve gotten used to it. Windy day? Fine. I duck into a protected wooded area near our house, brave it and do my outside time anyway. But that’s just normal wind. That isn’t a wind storm.
And we recently had the worst one I’ve ever seen. It was a wind storm that people who have lived here a long time said was the worst THEY had ever seen. For more than two days the wind howled with gusts predicted up to 75 mph. Snow blew around, stacking drifts everywhere. The highway closed due to white out conditions. Allergies I didn’t even know I had were driving me crazy. And that protected wooded area? I had no interest in going there. A normal windy day might mean a few fallen branches. But this? I could easily see a tree falling on my head. I didn’t really need that. The weather service warned people to tie down their small airplanes, lest they flip over or blow away. Now THAT is windy.
So what’s a girl with outdoor time to clock to do? And what are YOU to do when the weather is so bad that you can’t even imagine a situation in which it would be a good idea or comfortable to go outside?
A caveat here really fast: only you know whether you can be safe or not. Is heading out truly, honestly, a matter of safety? I leave that to your judgment. If you want to be someone who goes outside everyday, you need to be safe and alive to do it. I’m never going to tell you to ignore your safety and head out anyway.
But for my wind day — I knew I could be safe. So here’s what I did.
First, I made a plan. On day one of the wind storm I knew that the nearby pass was usually protected from this kind of thing, so Luke and I headed up for some skiing. Guess what? It was calm! But I didn’t have time for that on day 2. So, I thought through some options.
I knew that walking down my street sounded VERY unpleasant, but actually doable if I had to. I could, if I really wanted to, put on all the jackets and head outside for a 10 minute walk in one direction followed by a 10 minute walk in the other direction. I’d be blasted. But I could do it.
Next, I knew there was one little spot outside our house, protected by the garage, that I could tuck myself into for 20 minutes, bundled up well, and watch the world go by. It didn’t sound fun. But it did sound possible.
So out there I headed, padded in my warm clothes. I crawled into that little space against the house to watch the world go by. But then? Then my family came outside and started into the wind for a walk. OK then, so that was happening. So I followed them. And yes, it was cold. And yes, we were blasted. I spent part of my time in the wind and part of my time out of the wind but in the cold and I have to say, I survived it and I’m glad I experienced it. As it turns out, I really can go outside in any weather.
But what was the key to this all? Making a plan. Yes, there is bad weather and yes, even good clothing can still mean it’s less pleasant than you wanted it to be. But by having a plan you can probably overcome this. I’m not saying it’s going to be fun. But I am saying that you can honestly examine the situation and come up with a way to overcome it if it is safe to do so and you want to.
Making a goal and sticking with it is not always going to be simple or easy. It will include some planning. It will include choosing to do things anyway, even when you don’t want to.
And you know that doing that will be worth it. Heading outside daily can and will change your life — just as it has changed mine. Because I know how to make a plan and conquer things that are hard outside, I have the stomach to do so in my inside life, too. And, as you know, that’s just the beginning.
You can see photos of what we did during our big wind storm and many other adventures and outdoor moments on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I look forward to seeing your outdoor time, too. You can share it by tagging your photos with #humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.