I admit, sometimes I don’t want to go outside. This is a difficult confession for a person who finds most of their entertainment in outdoor misadventures leading to an array of comical, humiliating experiences. Not to mention the social commitment to promoting a lifestyle more outside the box of the four walls we live in, or work in, or work out in.
Studies show that people who exercise outside have higher levels of endorphin release for longer periods of time. It has something to do with the color green. I suppose we could ask our gyms to paint their walls, but I’m guessing it would be a far cry from trotting past some white pines on a snowy day.
The truth is, I am much more of a sissy than I portray. I don’t know if it is coming with age or the simple wisdom that not all things have to be a commitment to suffering. In fact, the misery of being an outdoor enthusiast has been greatly reduced by the development of modern equipment. (Have you seen what they used to climb Everest in? Or those flimsy leather boots in which we used to ski?)
The only thing we cannot impact is the dark cloak of winter mornings and the relentless, bitter cold they bring. Or the veritable sheet of ice that currently covers my road.
When I was younger (like, last year) I would drag myself out of bed, and like some kind of bizarre mom zombie, wriggle into lycra – which is not easy when you’re not awake – and force myself out the front door. Don’t get me wrong, I have never once regretted going for a run, even a miserable, cold, dark one.
The suffering on those days makes the first spring run in shorts or the first time I can run without a head lamp a rather giddy, delightful experience.
This year, most of my training is on a bike and there is a fine line between accepting misery and just being stupid. Granted, I cross that line far too often. But even I, gifted glutton for outdoor idiocy, champion of suffering, am not stupid enough to think there is any benefit to skating down my ice rink road to log miles in freezing temperatures on dark highways.
The result of this realization is some questionable interior decoration choices. In the winter, my bedroom hosts a bike on a trainer, strategically placed in front of large windows so I can ride into the sunrise every day … in my shorts, while watching the deer eat the carrot off our snowman.
I wondered if training indoors would make me soft, but it has actually done the opposite. I tend to train more because, well, I don’t have to convince myself I’m not going to be attacked by a snow leopard. I don’t avoid going outside – I run in the afternoons when it is light. I ride my fat bike on the weekends. And since I’m riding a lot inside, I feel pretty strong when I get outside.
What I am learning is that, while misery and suffering tend to be a part of our training, it doesn’t have to be the whole part. After all, we want to be able to enjoy our outdoor experiences, which can sometimes be diminished when the wind chill causes frost bite.
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