In the space of a couple of weeks, the temperatures have gone from summer-like to cool mornings and occasional cold drizzly days like today. When the sun is out, the warm sun is tempered by a cool breeze.
Many, perhaps even most people I know count autumn as their favourite season and on one level I have to agree with them. The leaves turn beautiful colours, the air is comfortable and smells fresh. But always underneath this, perhaps this year more than others for me, there’s a feeling of impending loss. Soon the sun that waits until 7:30 in the morning will be leaving before 5:00 PM meaning that often I will leave for work and return home in the darkness. The temperatures will drop below freezing and remain there. Bike paths in the forest will no longer be cleared and often turn to ice. On the worst days, skin not covered by gloves or a scarf (or now a mask) will burn. And in anticipation of this I’m already feeling disappointed.
However, if the past several years (not just the pandemic) has taught me one thing it’s that happiness is not an entitlement. It doesn’t arrive automatically because you’re a nice person or because you live in the right place. You might not have to work as hard for it when you’re sitting on a tropical beach with a fancy iced coffee and a good book, but it’s also not something that is delivered daliy with your subscription to living on this planet either. Sometimes you have to work for it.
In other words, while it might not be true in everyone’s case, I’m well aware that my current state of mind about the weather and its potential impact on my life is a choice I’m making and I can likewise choose something else. But how? Leave it to the Internet!
A number of ideas came in on both Twitter and Facebook. I made a list and turned that list into a plan with schedule. I’ll follow the schedule and report back weekly. The ideas came in a few different categories:
This was by far the most common response and the most counterintuitive for me. My instinct when the temperature drops below 10 degrees centigrade is to just stay inside. I’ve only been half-joking when I’ve told people I dream of living in a highrise on top of the subway because I could go weeks without getting outdoors during the winter.
But I also remember from the winter of 2020 that getting outdoors for running or cycling was great. That year in the face of the challenges of the early pandemic I made a point of getting outside no matter what the weather and it made a huge difference. In January 2021, though, riding downhill on a bike path on a cold night after a warm sunny day I hit a patch of black ice and my bike flew out from under me. Weeks before I had a slow motion crash on an icy path that left me laughing and looking up at the stars from a snowy trail. This one was different. I hit the ground hard and fast, hearing a solid “click” when my helmet hit the pavement – not hard enough to hurt but hard enough to make me think of what could’ve happened. I lay there dazed for a minute then got up and walked my bike home. Within an hour my muscles stiffened and it was painful even to walk for several days. And this just after sustaining a running injury on New Year’s Day when in my enthusiasm I ran too far. After that, my daily trips outdoors ended. Though the injuries were unpleasant, the response was also a choice. I didn’t have to quit. And so we come to the first item on the list:
1. Get Outdoors Daily – This can mean going to work, it can mean for exercise or errands or even just a walk around the block. Getting out into nature is better but getting out at all is the important part.
Related to this is another bit of advice from people: Dress warmly. Here’s a funny thing about me. I am weird about wearing warm clothes. It feels as if it’s a concession to put on a big bulky coat and long johns. I shouldn’t have to wear them so I don’t. But who says I shouldn’t have to wear them? I live in Canada not Cancun.
2. Dress Warmly – Put on the merino wool undergarments, get warm and quit complaining.
This one should be obvious for me but I’m excellent at making excuses as to why I don’t need to do something or if I do it why I don’t need to work as hard. Maybe I can just skip tonight’s workout? Maybe I can quit half way in because it’s really difficult and I’m breathing hard.
But I know enough about myself to know this. There is no bigger mood boost for me than regular exercise – and that means not just sitting on a bike but pushing myself.
I also quit running after my early 2021 injury. But I think the time has come to restart that again – it’s late in the season but running on snowy paths is much easier than biking on them.
So that means I have another task to start today:
3. Resume Running – Start “Couch to 5K” again – I don’t care if you feel more fit than this, take it slow and easy and you’ll go better.
I may be strange in that I enjoy getting hot and sweaty when exercising. I also really want to improve my cycling fitness. Indoor cycling takes care of both things. When I’m on the bike indoors it can feel like a hot summer day and this fools my brain into being happy about warm weather. So that means:
4. Indoor Cycling – Continue “Build Me Up” plan on Zwift. Plan this along with running using a “ten day week” schedule” to give time to do both and have enough rest days.
And of course this also means something I balk at but I know does me good: Scheduling exercise. So here’s this week’s schedule:
Run: Today, Tues, Thurs, and Saturday
Bike: Monday, Wed, Friday, Monday
Rest: Sunday, Tuesday
There are further “to-do’s” that need a little preparation before scheduling:
One person suggested houseplants. Daegan also was interested in getting cacti (with cats we have to be careful about getting things they can eat that might make them sick – cacti should be fine) so we’re going to get some.
One person had an awesome idea: As you might know, I’ve done a few cooking classes with Nidhi Mahajan, a contestant on MasterChef Australia, arranging sessions for small groups of friends to do via Zoom. These sessions have improved my Indian cooking immensely. Setting up different classes for small groups of friends will be something interesting to look forward to and to learn new things.
In the same line, attending more of the free online writing group sessions that Sage organizes, is a great way to enjoy time with others while also improving my writing and sometimes even creating content for the blog here.
Others have suggested taking on another big project. That’s always in the back of my mind but don’t always come to me right away. But often, those just come to me seemingly out of the blue more than through a creative process so for that, perhaps, I’ll need to wait for inspiration.
Even writing about this I feel a bit excited. Honestly the most exciting thing, though, is the prospect of trail running again. I had no idea I missed it so much!
I’ll get back to you next Sunday with an update!