Outdoor Diary: What Counts as ‘Outside?’

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Humans Outside episode 82

If you’re building or keeping an outdoor habit, you might’ve wondered what, exactly, counts as “outside” time? Are there any rules? Do you have to be in a specific place, see a specific thing, do a specific activity? Must be only daylight? Only a park? Do you have to be moving?

In this episode Amy talks through the guardrails she thinks you should – or shouldn’t – have, and talks about the ones she has for herself.

Some of the good stuff:

[:45] Why talking about “what counts” matters
[1:15] Gretchen Rubin likes rules, too.
[2:30] Amy likes the rules, OK?
[3:05] 3 things to remember
[3:30] The rules Amy has for herself
[4:15] What Amy doesn’t count
[5:05] What Amy did outside last week+
[5:45] Outdoor hero

Connect with this episode:

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

So you want to head outside every day or log a certain amount of outdoor time each day or over the course of a month or year. But what exactly counts as being “outside?”

Before you think I’m overcomplicating things, think about it for a second. If you’re heading outside to take advantage of the sky, trees, breeze, green things and all of that nature stuff, is sitting on a covered porch really being outside? A screened-in one? Is being in the middle of a city really being outside if there’s no greenery in sight? Is walking around a parking garage considered “outside?”

When I first set out on my outdoor challenge in 2017, logging at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day no matter the weather, I gave myself some rules. Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about how I came to start my challenge — an origin story, if you will — and why I picked 20 minutes. This week we’re going to talk through another guardrail I put in place, that big question of what counts.

I like rules, it’s true. I won’t inflict them on you or anyone else, but I like to have expectations for myself. Plus I’m a student of Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project.” There she talks about a few keys for goal or challenge success, things like picking a goal you’ll actually do and creating expectations around it.

I wanted to be able to look back on my one-year challenge and say that I done it, even when the weather was bad. And I knew that if I didn’t add some guardrails like how much time each day met my target or what being outside looked like for me, I would find ways to not do it when the weather was bad or I got busy. I also wondered what would happen if I was sick, or traveling.

Since then I’ve discovered that defining what counts as “outside” is a big topic among outdoor challenge fans. For example, in a Facebook group dedicated to 1,000 Hours Outside, a yearly goal hosted by our friend Ginny Yurich, reader after reader asks what counts as outside. Does sleeping in a tent? Playing in a barn? Sitting in a hot tub? Does it have to be in daylight?

Some readers respond to that question with “outside is outside” or note that there truly are no rules for this, just what you decide for yourself. But friends if there is one person who cannot resist the siren song of rules, it’s me. I get it. Like me, maybe you need guardrails.

So here’s the deal. Three things.

1. There are no group rules for Humans Outside or, I’ve gathered, for 1,000 Hours Outside.

2. If you need rules, make some. That’s OK! What counts as outside for you? What do you need to consider “good enough” to make you feel like you did your challenge? Those are your rules. Make them. Keep them. You do you.

3. Because you might be curious, here are my rules for myself. Outside, for me, is being in the completely open air. That means I would readily count a roofed porch, an open air parking garage, an airport drop-off area, a city sidewalk and a hot tub. Some of those things are better outside time than others, no argument, but all of them are outside. And some outside time is better than no outside time, if you ask me.

I do not have rules around needing to be moving outside. I also do not have rules for daytime vs. nighttime. Outside is outside.

But because, for myself, I want open air, I, personally, do not count a screened-in porch, a tent or any location with walls. But that’s just me. Again — you do you! Does your screened-in porch make your heart sing the same song as the bird around it? Count it, friend. Only YOU know what you need. Give yourself the gift of whatever that is.

Speaking of gifts of the outdoors, whoa was it a week last week. Some of you might know that I run a news website as my full time job, and boy was it a week of stress for that. The parade of nonstop started for me well before the chaos of January 6, with the first moment back from holiday break. And it just never settled down. I was immediately completely exhausted.

And for that we have heading outside, right? While so often in the winter, going outside for me become a matter of box checking, just getting it done so In keep my habit, this week I turned to all the gifts being in nature gives me to make sure I was taking care of myself. That meant a walk in the woods alone on one day. On another day I headed for a stroll in my little town so I could feel reconnected with my community. And still another day my outdoor time was spent with my whole family in our hot tub, enjoying each other and just chatting over a wild week. I honestly don’t think I would have the presence of mind to turn to the outdoors for this stuff if I didnt already create a habit around it. It’s such a gift.

We’ve been talking here for the last few weeks about one gear item each week that makes heading outside during the winter just a little more bearable. We started bottom up with socks and winter boots. This week our outdoor hero is under it all — the base layer. Back in Episode 68 outdoor guide Mollie Foster told us all about how to dress for cold weather and touched on base layer, that non-cotton layer you’ve got under it all.

My favorite base layers are made by Smartwool. My kids are wearing much cheaper base layers from Old Navy or Landsend, since they’ll grow out of them and I dont care if they wear out in a season. But for me? I want something that lasts. And Smartwool is the answer. I’ve included a link in the show notes to them. You want to wear a base layer of pants and a top. Because Smartwool is wicking, it’ll keep you dry if you start sweating, and of course staying dry is a big part of staying warm.

I hope you join us January 14 for the premier of Humans Outside Season 3. The first episode features Sarah Hays Coomer, a habit expert, who is going to talk to us about the how of building or reenergizing that outdoor habit we’re always talking about. It’s a great episode and you dont want to miss it.

And of course as you’re building that habit, I want to see it! Share with me a photo of your daily outdoor time by tagging it on Facebook or Instagram with #humansoutside365. I’m going to do the same.

Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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