Week One: Preparing for Winter

As I mentioned last week, in the past winter and I have not been on the best of terms. When the weather cools and the days get shorter and darker my instincts are to reduce my activity and stay inside. This approach has not worked well and I spend much of the time between November and April in a bit of a funk dreaming of either a trip somewhere warm (Maybe just stay in India from Dussehra to Holi?) or wishing hard for May to come and the days to warm up enough that I I can go outdoors in a short sleeve shirt.

My friends have given me some advice and as promised I’m updating you on how it’s been going. Let’s dive in:

Objectives One and Two – Get Outdoors and Dress Warmly:

I made a daily goal to get outside no matter what. My performance in this respect has been a bit spotty. I did get outside every day but Wednesday and Friday. Monday and Tuesday were easy enough as I had to go in to the office. No excuses possible there. And so far the weather has been OK. Monday I left the house without a coat which was fine in the morning but by the evening it was cold enough that I cancelled my plan to stop for some errands on the way home as that would require another wait at the bus stop in the cold. Tuesday, though, I learned from my mistakes and brought a coat. This was doubly good as it did save me from getting wet in the brief shower we got in the afternoon. Today though the weather looked warm I decided to wear an extra layer to the grocery store just in case. This time it turned out to be a small mistake as it was quite warm. In the end, though, I was less bothered by being a little too warm than a little too cold. So the score is:

Objective One: 5/7 days outdoors or 71%

Objective Two: 4/5 trips outside with proper clothes: 80%

Objective Three: Resume Running

I call this an unqualified success. Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday I went outside as planned. I will go out again tonight. The first day was truly trial by fire, requiring that I face a little cool weather. The temperature was in the low teens. I made my way down into the ravine near sunset and did my first run which included 8 repetitions of 60 seconds running, 90 seconds walking. as it had rained earlier in the day, the clay trail was a little slippery. There are a few different trails I have to choose from, one that runs along the middle of the ravine’s slope, one that runs along the bottom. This time I decided with the slippery trails I’d avoid trying to get down the ravine slope and run along the upper trail. I took an overgrown path down into the ravine to reach the trail.

Once I got to the trail it was a bit easier going with a clearly defined trail and not much underbrush. There were a few roots here and there to negotiate though but it was manageable.

The challenge of the upper trail, though, is that it’s got rolling hills. It was a little more of a workout than I was planning for but still OK.

As these are designed mostly for mountain bikers and some of the stretches are very technical, there were a couple of steep descents. Even slightly wet clay is like standing on butter even with trail shoes. At its worst I had to carefully control my slide down a steep incline by holding on to a fallen tree.

By the time I got home I was comfortably warm and in an excellent mood. The next day I was a bit sore, I think more from trying to keep my footing on some of the narrower, more slippery bits than from the running itself.

Tuesday was a bit better but the weather had grown much worse. Now it was around 12 degrees and raining. It was close to sunset but not so close that I thought to bring my headlight. This time I ran along the lower trail near the river. This run was much easier and faster and the rain made it misty and beautiful though I did wish I had the light as while I would’ve spent more time on the trail, it got so dark I switched to a paved path. Surprisingly this time I was not alone. As I ran next to the river, I was overtaken by three women also out for a trail run. I was envious of their remembering their headlights.

The river was really high and loud but so pretty

Finally on Thursday I waited until it was almost completely dark but this time brought a headlight for the trip. Once again I found my way to the lower trail but this time approached it from a different direction that included running across a beautiful stream. I tried and failed to keep from getting my feet wet.

You can see the difference a headlight makes.

So my score for running is:
3/3 days (plus a promise to run tonight) = 100%!

It’s unsurprising I was able to keep up on this. Every day I looked forward to the time I would get out into the woods at night. The air smelled fresh and green, particularly down by the river and I’m always wondering if I’ll see any wildlife.

Objective Four – Indoor Cycling:

This one has been a bit more challenging. Between being in the office, and not feeling well one evening I didn’t manage to do any cycling this week. I think compared to running, sitting indoors riding alone on a trainer doesn’t seem as exciting and surprisingly it’s easier to rationalize not doing this than it is to put on clothes and go out into a cold rainy night to run. I didn’t expect this either. This week I will try to do three bicycle rides. But this time I’m going to abandon the training plan on Zwift and open things up to riding my bicycle outdoors. Whether on quiet streets or trails, riding in the colder months can be really lovely. There’s something about seeing a trail revealed to you in the small circle of light from your headlamp. And sometimes I’ve been lucky to see fox, deer and coyote on these rides so compared to a prescribed indoor ride, it’s not as exciting.

So my score for indoor cycling this week is: 0%

Let’s weigh each of these equally – at least until I figure out if some are more important than the other and see how I did for the week:

Objective One: 71% = 17.75 points
Objective Two: 80% = 20 Points
Objective Three: 100% = 25 Points
Objective 4: 0% = 0 Points
Total: 62.75%

This is NOT a good performance. If this were a class I’d barely be passing. Time to improve on this. So for this week here’s the plan:

Objective One: Go Outside 7 days
Objective Two: Dress Properly each time outdoors
Objective Three: Run 4 days
Objective Four: Ride 2 Days Indoor or Outdoor


But I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is this: Does it make any difference in how you feel? The answer is absolutely. I’ve had running to look forward to and am excited about riding outside. Running makes me feel stronger and that makes me feel better about myself. I find being cold extremely unpleasant so feeling warm makes being outdoors enjoyable.

I’d also say that so far getting outdoors after dark is feeling good. Better, in fact, than going outside during the day. I think in great part this has to do with my reconnecting with very old habits from my teenage years. When I was a teenager I had a car and while things were often not great at home, I had a job that gave me spending money including gas back in the days when $10 worth of gas could take me around 250 kilometres in my old car. Unless the roads were dangerously slippery I’d consult my detailed Vermont road atlas and find out where all the narrowest, most overgrown back roads went, put on music and explore them sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend. Those times always had the happiness of enjoying my own company (or a friend) and also of exploring a forest at night. So traveling either by bike or on foot down a “back road” at night brings me back to that happy place – and in this case I get an added bonus of all the great neurochemicals that come with exercise. It’s a win/win situation.

I’ve actually been “rating” my days on a scale of 1-10 (1 is misery, 10 is the best day on a long distance bike trip with my family with the best weather). My average for this week was 7.57 – (75.7%). So slightly higher than the 62.75% I got for sticking to this project. Let’s see how that works out for next week.

4 thoughts on “Week One: Preparing for Winter

    1. Of course “normal” is relative. Things are back to normal here also in that most are not wearing masks and most places have no restrictions (masks, distancing, capacities). Testing is not happening routinely and case counts are no longer being reported though wastewater indicators show cases going up again. However, monthly deaths are up 50% over last year and hospitalizations are up 400%. While the stats do look good for India, at least in terms of what is reported, the fact remains that we still have a very transmissible virus that is prone to reinfection and in many cases leaves people behind with chronic illness. Vaccinations have helped a lot with severe acute outcomes and I no longer am concerned about being gravely ill as a result. However, the risk of spending a few lakhs only to watch Netflix in a hotel while I recover from a flu-like illness is not a great option for me. Let’s see how the bivalent vaccine performs. People are getting it here now and we should be eligible in a couple of months. By the time the weather gets cold we should have a good feel for how the situation is here and elsewhere. (And more importantly for me I’ll also know if I have work after my contract ends in December!)

      1. Sure, whenever you are good with it, Todd. 🙂
        We are not seeing too many deaths or something serious. We do have many cardiac related deaths among young people. I don’t know if it is related to vaccines or post-covid side effect.

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