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I am coming to you from my cozy podcast closet in Palmer, Alaska. I note that it’s cozy because that’s a real juxtaposition to what’s happening outside my house right now, where it’s -15. It’s been below zero most of the time for over a week. We’ve only lived here for 5 or so years, and seeing these cold temps in November seems unusual to me based on my experience.
But I did a little research and it seems that being this cold this early is, indeed, unusual. It sometimes is ridiculously cold like this in January. But not in November. Just a few weeks ago it was in the 40s, for example. According to some data I just read, it rarely gets below -4 this time of year. But here we are.
Getting that cold that quickly makes me feel like I got thrown into the deep, frozen end of the pool. No gentle on-ramp. And it means that instead of really coming to terms with the dark and cold in the slow roll I’d prefer, the time changed, the sun started setting earlier and I was wearing the biggest jacket I own all in the same moment. Wham. Bam.
In short, there was no time for attitude adjustment here. There was just this is what you have, so get OK with it, or get off the bus.
There is absolutely no doubt that getting outside is harder when the temperatures are like this. We joke that the air hurts your face when it’s cold, but my goodness, at -10 the air really does hurt your face. And no matter where you live, weather that is less than a pleasant ideal is hard to motivate yourself to deal with. It does NOT have to be -10 for that to be true.
So how do you make yourself go outside when getting dressed is a huge hassle and when being out there is straight up hard? Here are a few of the things I personally lean on.
First, explore activities until you find something you enjoy. There are limitless things you can do outside, even in cold weather. Snowmobiling, skiing of my varieties, ice fishing, dog mushing, sledding and snowshoeing are snow activities, and winter camping, hiking and running are winter activities no matter where you live. Try things until you find something you enjoy. I’m not saying you’ll love it more than summer things, but you’ll love it differently. And having something you actually like to do outside in the winter is key to getting out there. For me that’s skiing. Sure, I winter run. But the more time I spend nordic or cross-country skiing, the more I’m learning to enjoy it. I’m even planning to take some lessons this year.
Next, make sure you know how to dress and have the tools. I know you hear me talk about this over and over, and the brief version is layers are your friend and avoid cotton. I’m not going to really go into much more than that here, but you can listen to our episode from Season 3 with Mollie Foster on How to Dress for Cold Weather for all the details. I’ll leave it at this now: if you aren’t comfortable you’re not going to want to be outside. Get comfortable!
Then, find some friends who know more about this stuff than you do. Back when we first moved here, during my first winter and before my outdoor challenge, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The photos of me getting ready to head outside are really funny now, but they also show the way I was trying and learning. I didn’t have any friends here who spent a lot of time outside, so I didn’t really have anyone to look to for guidance or information on what to wear or what to do. Looking back, I know that if I’d reached out to some local people and asked for some advice on what to wear, I’d have gotten much better at it much faster, been far more comfortable and headed outside more.
Finally, know this beyond anything else: to get outside when the weather is bad or things are unpleasant, you have to want to. You have to find a reason to be motivated, or something to make yourself want to do it. If you want to find a reason the outdoors isn’t right for you today, you will. If you want to find an excuse to stay inside or some reason things are less than ideal, you will find one it won’t even be hard to do. You’re going to have to want to get out there. You’re going to have to hunt for the good a little. And that’s how it’s been for me in the negative temperatures recently. I have to hunt, I have to self-motivate, and then I have to lean on my friends and family who are getting outside anyway, too.
You can see pictures of me freezing my rear end off outside basically every day on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Recently I’ve had a lot of photos of fairly unattractive face ice hanging onto the otherwise invisible hair on my face. You know who doesn’t have weird face ice? Dudes who shave every day. But I digress.
I want to see your daily outdoor photos, too, or even non-daily ones. Tag your photos with #humansoutside365.
And until next time, we’ll see you out there.