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Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary.
Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
So you’ve got that outdoor habit, heading outside every day. I head out for at least 20 consecutive minutes. Maybe you go out for less or more. When you first started your habit everything was different and it was easy to strike on a few activities or things you enjoyed outside that were new or interesting. But now that’s been awhile you might be starting to see how you could get stuck in a seasonal rut, doing the thing that’s easy or convenient. You’re wondering – even maybe in the back of your head – if you’re getting the most out of your outdoor habit by doing the same thing over and over again.
Boy, have I been there.
When I first started my habit the weather was great in Alaska. Heading outside every day was low key, and full of all sorts of easy-access options. Walking anywhere was pleasant, sitting my in yard reading a book, playing yard games, sitting by the fire ring, hiking, biking, running — whatever. We needed almost no preparation. Off we went.
But pretty soon the weather changed or I got busy, and I found myself checking my outdoor-time box regularly with a walk in the woods behind my house, often on the same exact path. Since I was posting a photo of my outdoor time each day on Instagram I felt like what I was producing for myself was getting pretty boring. Same old, same old walk today, blah blah blah.
If I thought I was going to find some sort of fantastic benefit to being outside every day, was I going to find it by doing the same thing every single time? I had made some rules for myself before starting the challenge — guardrails if you will — and I decided that heading to the same thing over and over again was fine, but not ideal.
Since then, however, I’ve had a lot of days — and I mean well over 1,200 — to decide if that is actually true. Am I really OK with doing the same thing over and over again? And how do I balance easy access with still making my time out there worth it?
The answer is, well, balance, knowing your schedule and priorities and understanding how to balance intentionality with practicality.
Real quick first: just like with understanding what counts as outside, which we talked about in our previous episode, this is just me. This is how I roll. What should YOU do for you? Only you can decide that. If knowing what I do is helpful, take it and use it.
So here’s what I do. I know that most of the time I have a very busy life. I don’t have time to go hunt out new adventures in all corners of the earth. I have a job and a family. But I also want to get outside. So I’m OK with doing the same activity over and over again, and often in the same place. What I am not OK with is having the exact same experience in that place every time.
And luckily the outdoors is perfect for not having the same experience on repeat, as long as you add some intentionality. And so when I go down the same path on the same walk, I take the time to pause and look around me. I push thoughts from my brain and focus on what is in front of me. I take lessons from our Season 1 episode with Forest Therapist Michelle Abbey, which I’ll link in the show notes, and pause to look at the trees, to listen, to smell, to feel.
And I have a stable of these normal activities., these things I do on repeat. You’ve seen them on my instagram and facebook feeds, so you know what they are. I walk in our woods. I sit in my hot tub. I run the same paths. I hang out by a campfire. But the being outside and the place I am in is but a vehicle for the experience and benefits I’m trying to gain. What matters really isn’t where or what, it’s opening myself to new lessons and having the focus to see them when they come.
That said, I do try to also seek new things. Most weeks I try to add at least one major variance to what I’m doing. For example, on a week with bad weather and a lot of short walks, I’ll take an extra 10 minutes to find a path that I haven’t visited recently or a completely new thing to do. On a recent week I disrupted the normal to take a walk with a friend in our cute little downtown of Palmer, for example. That change of pace and perspective gives me a jolt of experience and insight that I wouldn’t normally get if I didn’t take the time to do it.
So what have I been doing outside this week? Well, if this episode sounds different it’s because I’m recording it in my mom’s closet in Boise, Idaho — not in my own podcast closet in Palmer Alaska. I needed to visit my elderly grandmother, so off to Idaho I flew for a quick trip full of careful health considerations and hand washing. At least a few days were outside here, where the sun is a whole different thing than at home and there’s plenty of fresh perspective.
Another thing you have to have intentionality around in the winter is getting dressed for the weather. I’ve been going bottom up with you guys to talk about what I wear or gear I have in the winter to make the outdoors just a little better. We’ve talked about boots, socks and base layer. Now let’s talk insulating mid-layer.
Your mid layer is the secret option that you wear when things are really cold. A lot of winter pants are actually already a mid and outer layer combo in a lot of ways. Snow pants, for example, usually are more than just the slick outside shell that repels water. But on your core and arms are where the mid layer really come into play. A mid layer is your fleece top under your jacket, or maybe even your fleece top and vest on top of that.
My favorite mid layers aren’t actually any specific brand. I have a warm fleece with a zip up turtleneck that I found on clearance at Athleta that I love, a Smartwool vest that I’m wearing even as I write this. My snow pants are also from Athleta and fit me like a glove. This is a cozy layer, and the most important thing to do is, like with all of this stuff, avoid cotton and stick with an insulating and sweat wicking wool or tech fleece.
You can see my highly mismatched layering style in all of my outdoor photos shared over at Humans Outside on Instagram or Facebook. And of course if you don’t share your outdoor time, too, I’m going to be sad. Tag it with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.