Monday, January 14, 2019

Don't Hibernate this Winter, Get Outside and Hike

by Mike Radomski

Woods behind my house

Only skiers like the winter, right?  For most people, winter is that season you sit on the couch, drink warm beverages and binge watch Netflix.  After all it’s cold, dreary, it starts too soon and drags on too long.  Winter and cold weather are not a negatives if you can see the positive aspects of embracing the cold.  You can learn to actually enjoy and maybe even look forward to it.  

Hiking in the winter, however, does take a bit more planning.  The days are shorter so you need to give yourself more time as you typically move a little bit slower in wintery terrain.  You will also need to consider proper layering, food, hydration and safety.

Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge
If you only go hiking when it's warm, you will never realize the amazing mind, body and soul transformations that happen when you hike in the winter.

There Are A Lot of “No’s”

  • No bears - Hopefully.  If you do happen to stumble upon one, stay far away, they will be very HANGRY.
  • No mosquitoes or other bugs
  • No mud - The trails are frozen or snow covered.
  • No blazing sun
  • No people - They are all inside binging on Netflix and gaining couch-pounds.
My wife at Franklin Gulf County Park

The Landscape is Transformed.

You will experience the outdoors in a completely different way.  Trails that you are familiar with will suddenly transform in new and exciting ways.  Winter hiking will bring to life:
  • Frozen waterfalls
  • Frozen creeks
  • Clear views with no leaves
  • Snow and ice formations
  • Animal footprints

Good source of vitamin D in winter

Snow reflects tremendous amount of light.  Hiking in the winter is a great way to get all those precious rays.  Sunlight is a great way to boost your vitamin D levels, helping to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  

Think of it as a mood multiplier. Nature+Sunlight=Happy Hikers

Vintage snowshoes at Sprague Brook County Park

Burn a Ton of Calories

Studies have found that you burn 34 percent more calories at temperatures between 15 and 23 degree than in temperatures in the mid-50 degrees. The cold constricts capillaries which will improve cardio performance and capacity more than warm temps. On top of these benefits, snow adds resistance working your muscles even more.

Performing physical actives in the cold have lasting benefits.  You build more muscle by breaking down fat before muscles in colder temps.  Exercising in the cold promotes the production of the hormone Irisin. Irisin helps convert bad, adipose “white” fat into beneficial, healthy, brown fat.

Hot Drinks are More Enjoyable After a Cold Hike

There is no better feeling then finishing a winter hike at a lodge or casino being warmed by a roaring fire. Even better is having a nice hot drink to warm the cockles.  Think about how nice it would be to kick up your feet with a mug of hot cocoa, glass of mulled wine or cup of hot tea. You’ve earned it, you’ve burned the calories, boosted your mood and enjoyed yourself doing something new.

Hiking in the winter is without a doubt different than hiking in the summer.  You need the right clothes and gear to make it enjoyable.  There is a famous quote by Ranulph Fiennes that says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” So let’s gear up, embrace the winter and get outside.

A future post will talk about:
  • Proper layers for winter hiking
  • Proper footwear, traction devices and snowshoes
  • Nutrition & Hydration for winter hiking
  • Being safe in the outdoors in winter 
Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks

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