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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cold shouldn’t keep you from outdoors

Dr. Alisa Hideg

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful …

Now that it is cold and snow is coming, many of us are inclined to settle in, drink hot cocoa with marshmallows and stay indoors until spring or at least until the days get longer.

As tempting as that sounds in the evenings, you still need to get outside when you can. A little sunlight and some fresh air is still good medicine in the middle of winter.

You might not be able to do all of your favorite outdoor activities, but there are still fun times to be had outside during the winter.

Sledding, building snow forts, snowball fights and ice skating are great because you can do all of them locally and some of them do not even require any special gear.

What’s not to love about sledding down the big hill in Manito Park? When was the last time you made a snowman?

Getting out with your friends and family can be good exercise and makes terrific memories. There are hockey nights at Riverfront Park Ice Palace and the Eagles Ice Arena. Last year I played hockey with some great second-hand gear and had an amazing time.

There are figure skating clubs that you can join if you want to learn more about skating. Riverfront Park Ice Palace has free skate rental days and weekday discounts this winter. You can get more information at www.spokane riverfrontpark.com or by calling (800) 336-PARK.

Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice climbing require special gear (some of which you can rent) and a bit of driving to get to areas that are good for these activities. But once you are there, the rest is free and you will have great scenery.

If you are new to any winter sport, it is a good idea to take lessons, hire a guide or go with someone who has been doing it a while. A few of the local stores that sell winter sports gear have free classes.

For safety’s sake, whenever you do outdoor winter activities let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back.

Telemark skiing, alpine skiing and snowboarding also require special gear (all of which you can rent or buy secondhand) and a lift ticket, unless you want to hike up the hill for each run like we did when we lived in Alaska.

There are programs for fifth-graders to ski free at local ski areas and packages for beginners’ lessons, rentals and lift tickets for several days at good prices. Most local ski areas also have equipment and lessons for disabled skiers to learn.

Mount Spokane has a cross-country ski area, and there is a club to teach kids that also sponsors races. You can try these sports out and get your children involved, too.

Just like in the summertime, some preparation and forethought can prevent injuries, so nothing will get in the way of your good time:

•Dress in layers so that you can shed some as you warm up. Wool and synthetic clothing is warmer and stays drier than cotton clothing.

•Warm up for at least 10 minutes and then stretch out, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

•Do not let very small children go sledding by themselves.

•Get gear that is the proper size and style for you and your skill level. Wear a helmet for sports like snowboarding and alpine skiing.

Renting gear is a great idea when starting out so that you can try out different styles of gear before you commit to buying anything. Some stores will put all or part of your rental costs towards the purchase of gear if you buy from them later.

•Pay attention to where others are to avoid collisions when skiing, sledding and skating.

•Take it easy at first. You may be using muscles in new ways.

•Give it a rest if you are injured. Continuing on through the pain can turn a minor injury into a more serious injury.

Take advantage of the good times winter has to offer. That hot cocoa is going to taste twice as good after some fun in the snow.

Dr. Alisa Hideg is a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Riverfront Medical Center in Spokane. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Today section. Send your questions and comments to drhideg@ghc.org.
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