Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Walking (and Skiing and Snowshoeing) in a Winter Wonderland

By Andrewtix

Before this year, from December to March, I spent most of my adult life inside. During these months in Minnesota, high temperatures typically remain below freezing, and it’s not uncommon to wake up to a reading of below 0 degrees Fehrenheit, not counting “wind chill.”

Although I intentionally exercised several times per week, much of my exercise time in previous years was spent in my gym where I watched old episodes of Friends while artificially bounding on an elliptical machine.

I didn’t realize all I was missing.

With COVID-19 cases surging as we entered the winter months this year, and knowing how the virus spreads more easily indoors, I adopted a different lifestyle. I put my gym membership on temporary hold. Instead, I now get outside most every day to engage the unique gifts of Minnesota winter.

Some days, I walk or hike on paths near my home, aided by the most marvelous invention I never knew: Yaktrax. Other days, when I have more flexibility in my schedule, I practice my classic ski technique at a local park or snowshoe along the pine tree-lined trails of my local nature center. Weekends provide opportunities for more extended travel or adventure, such as half-day trips to formerly unexplored or underexplored state parks. If the conditions are right and I feel so inspired, I’ll sometimes bring my camera to see if I can photograph some of the beauty around me.

Walking (and Skiing and Snowshoeing) in a Winter Wonderland
Carpenter Nature Center, Hastings, Minnesota

Previously, the prospect of these kinds of winter activities brought to mind visions of shivering in the cold, my face getting numb, my fingers and toes feeling like they might be seriously frostbitten. After investing in higher quality outdoor gear and clothing this year, I now appreciate – at least partly – the truthfulness of the old Scandinavian proverb: “There’s no such thing as bad temperature, only bad clothing.”

In the past, efficiency at the gym eclipsed all other concerns: I wanted to get my workout in, but I also wanted it to get over with as fast as possible. In contrast, based on recent research showing increased positive emotions and decreased emotional distress when individuals engage in regular “awe walks,” this winter I’m making a point to disconnect from technology and instead get lost in wonder as I look for what is vast, unexpected, and unique outside.

This morning, for instance, my wife and I strapped on our increasingly worn-in Yaktrax and explored some trails we hadn’t previously known at our nearest state park. At one point, we stopped to stare into the eyes of four deer who crossed our path. At another point, we tried to find the source of a bird’s song we didn’t recognize, and then, after finding the still unnamed bird, watched it fly overhead to sing to someone else. As we continued, we felt our spirits lifted as we were surprised to see snow starting to slowly float down, covering the trees and our path with a new, soft, puffy blanket of pure white.

Walking (and Skiing and Snowshoeing) in a Winter Wonderland
Afton State Park, Afton, Minnesota

In her best-selling and mesmerizing book, “Wintering,” Katherine May remarks how: “A surprising cluster of novels and fairy tales are set in the snow. Our knowledge of winter is a fragment of childhood, almost innate.” A deep emotional connection with winter runs deep for many of us, and yet it may often be personally unexplored. There is a sense of mystery and other-worldliness waiting to be found, providing new sources of awe and dare-I-say “magic” in “a winter wonderland.”

Like most everyone, I’m eager for our world to achieve “herd immunity” so COVID-19 can fade from consciousness and life can return back to “normal.” At the same time, I don’t want the same kind of normality as before. I don’t want to ever forget the marvels around me. I want to retain lessons learned about how to live with more adventure and beauty in winter. As Outward Bound’s motto states: “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.”

I may have to permanently cancel my gym membership.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog