Get Outdoors This WinterWritten by Gavin Humphreys
Getting out and about in wintertime needs motivation, but it is good for your body and your mind.
Here are some easy ideas to get you going.
Learn about the stars
In the winter, the nights get longer, and you get a better look at the stars. Of course, the further north you live, the better you will see.
There is so much to learn about the night sky - find out which are closest, where the planets are, what they are called, when comets will pass. Some nights you might be lucky enough to see meteor showers (i.e. lots of shooting stars) or even the Northern Lights.
If you like stories, find out the Greek constellations and the gripping tales that were told about each one. Being able to point out Cassiopeia, Orion, or Virgo will also quite impress your partner, or your children!
Download an app, such as Skyview, to get you on your way. Try to get as far as possible from the light pollution of the city. If you get into it, you can invest in a telescope, or even plan a trip to visit a big telescope (such as Kitt Peak National Observatory).
Sport is an amazing motivation to get out through the winter.
Take up a snow sport like snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or ice climbing. These are highly addictive hobbies, which will get you involved in some adrenaline-pumping moments, but also get you out to some of the most breathtaking scenery you will see in your life.
It doesn’t have to be a snow sport though - get involved in a football or rugby team, for example. It will have you outdoors in all weather.
If that’s not for you, why not start following a team? Getting along to cheer on your local football team once a week will get you out and socializing, come wind, hail, or snow!
If you want a calmer way to get out through the winter, how about you plant a winter garden?
The idea is to create a garden which looks just as beautiful in the snow as it does in the hot summer days. There is usually very little maintenance to do in the winter months, because growth is slow to zero, but a nice winter garden will allow you to enjoy your time outside just the same.
Depending where you live, there are often plants that will keep going through the winter, including several flowers. While there will be more options in Florida than Vermont, there will always be something.
Think especially of evergreen trees, pines and holly, and those winter plants such as ivy.
Plants bearing berries during winter, such as hawthorn, and honeysuckle, not only add a touch of color but also attract birds, which give life to your patch.
Add other aspects to your garden like benches and sundials, perhaps a zen pebble garden and a water feature (a koi pond can freeze over and the fish will be fine, but make sure it won’t totally freeze up!).
Put a bird table up, to care for the birdlife (it will also entertain and surprise with who visits your garden!). You can also attract squirrels and other creatures who need food at this time.
I love to sit out on a frosty cold day, all wrapped up, with a warm cup of cocoa. Of course, you can also have friends around - perhaps have a barbeque…
Could cooking outdoors in the snow get any more manly?
Something about cooking in the extreme gets men feeling like men. It harks back to when life was more basic and more wild.
That doesn’t mean that it has to be all steak, you can get as haute cuisine as you want!
Invest in a barbeque that burns charcoal or wood. This gives off a good heat and burns slowly, as well as that fantastic smell. An inbuilt brick oven or barbeque in your yard is perfect.
Another great option is a firepit (again standalone or built-in). These can be used for cooking, and afterward you can sit around and warm your hands on the yule log! (More about that below.)
You can always wrap yourself up and do a slow cook - maybe smoke your beef, or spit-roast a hog - and make a full day of it.
Set a running goal for Spring
It can be difficult to get through that doorway when it’s snowing outside, or pouring with rain, or wind’s howling, or the sleet is coming down!
I love running through the hills in the snow, dog by the side. You can see all kinds of awe-inspiring things in a winter wonderland.
Setting a goal for when the winter ends can keep you motivated throughout the cold period.
Perhaps this could be a running goal, like a race you want to take part in, come the Spring. If you’re going to do a marathon next year, for example, then you will need to keep running through the winter. Keep a journal of your runs, your times, and you will see an improvement.
Running in the winter needs caution. Make sure if you are running in snow and ice that you have plenty grip, and don’t go too gung ho, in case you pull something! Always wrap up warm enough when you leave the house, but use layers that you can take off as you run.
It doesn’t have to be a running goal which motivates you - it could also be a beach holiday, a wedding, or just your own physical and mental health - but the important thing is to get out and exercising in the fresh air.
Look after an elderly neighbor or relative
This is a great idea that will get you out and about, but will also make a positive impact on somebody else’s life.
Call in regularly and give them company, help them with their shopping, even just make sure they are ok after a cold night.
Make sure they are moving around, and perhaps offer to take them outside (for a walk, or to a café) so they are not stuck in the house all day.
Why not surprise them with little gifts, which will brighten up their day (perhaps a wreath for their front door?).
Make adornments for the house
There are all kinds of decorations you can make for the home by getting out into the woods and collecting.
Wrap up warm, go with friends and family, and see what amazing things you can find.
One idea is to decorate your house festive season - a pine-cone wreath, holly, and ivy for the stairs, a candle adornment. These also make great presents.
You can also make things that will last all year round. You might find an attractive piece of driftwood on the beach which would be perfect for a pot stand in your kitchen!
If you want to engage in some old traditions, you might collect nothing more than a log! In Catalonia they have the ‘Tió de Nadal’ (Christmas log), which you add a face to (and the kids used to beat until it ‘pooped out’ their presents - like a very rustic piñata!). The ancient Europeans collected a big log, the Yule log, which was burnt mid-winter. Why not throw it on that fire pit and gather around?
A word of warning! You might not be popular if you take holly branches from a tree in your local park, so exercise respect. Always make sure you are not doing permanent damage to your local flora for the sake of an adornment. (Tip: look at where the tree’s new growth will come from and cut just above.)
So get out there
Have fun outdoors this winter. I hope these ideas inspire you, but there are plenty of other reasons you might get excited by - taking photographs, trekking (or little walks!), organizing a clay pigeon shoot, ice fishing, trips to a mountain cabin, getting coffee and food for the homeless, keeping outdoor animals such as horses, or maybe partaking in a sauna and ice dip habit..! The list is long.
Don’t write off a little hibernation and comfort food, but you will enjoy it all the more after coming in from the cold!
Drop me a comment below - tell me what you do (or don’t do) during the cold dark days of the year.
Enjoy yourself this winter. Stay active, and stay happy!