Snow is crunching under my feet, the brisk 20 degree air is getting my blood pumping and the sounds of squirrels scattering through the snowy ground is playing in my ears. Here’s the thing, I used to be a fair weather hiker. You know, just going outside when the weather is good and bailing on hikes if it’s rainy or “too cold”. But I live in Ohio, and having that huge gap of time in the cold months where I stayed inside and dreamed of warmer days just wasn’t working for me. Since I realized that I'm wasting so much valuable outside time I decided to make a strong effort to go outside rain or shine and walk for 20-30 minutes each day. Obviously I'm not going out in a blizzard or unsafe weather, but I had this mindset before that it had to be perfectly sunny and warm to go outside. But the outdoors can be enjoyable in all kinds of temperatures and even in a little rain if you're prepared. I love my daily walk, here are a few reasons that I love to walk, even in winter, and why I think you should try to incorporate it into as many days of the week as you can.
Walking clears my mind.
There’s something about walking that clears my mind and I often get great ideas while I’m walking. I take my phone with me for emergencies and to take pictures if I see something really pretty. Typically I use my walks as a media-free time. That means free from social media, podcasts and music. I do that because I often have creative ideas or come up with solutions to problems when I’m walking, so I don’t want to be distracted. I’ll jot notes down on my phone so I don’t forget my great ideas.
It makes me feel great.
A lot of the weekdays I am usually sitting at my computer desk or sitting at my drawing desk. This leaves me feeling stiff and sore at the end of the day if I don’t do something about it. When I incorporate walking into my schedule I feel so much better. My body is given a chance to move something that I don’t allow it to do most of the day. We as human beings are designed to move, to go places, and do active things, not to sit for hours at a time. Walking gets the blood flowing, gives your joints the ability to move around and your muscles an opportunity to stretch. But where do you find time to schedule in that walk?
Hiking in winter helps you to enjoy all the seasons
We can have weeks where you don’t even see the sun here in Ohio. I used to let that get to me, just let the cloudy days get me in a bad mood and be super relieved when the sun came out again. Thankfully, over the last couple years I’ve learned to enjoy even the cloudy, rainy days and the colder seasons. I’m more open to winter even though it’s cold and snowy, I enjoy the change in scenery. I’ve slowly come to realize that winter can be just as enjoyable as summer. That might sound a little crazy but how we experience things has a lot to do with our perspective. If I dread winter and expect it to be a dreary boring time then it’s going to be just that! But if I have a plan for how I’m going to combat the dreariness of winter then I have equipped myself to enjoy it. I do that by going outside even when it’s cold and rainy to get my dose of fresh air and movement.
You can't depend on good weather when backpacking
Backpacking trips have taught me to get outside despite the bad weather and even embrace it. When you plan a backpacking trip months in advance you can’t plan for the weather nor can you change your plans once you know the weather because you’ve invested in this trip. So I’ve been backpacking when it was 100% humidity and stupid hot, pouring down rain and when it was below freezing. But here’s the thing I enjoyed every trip. There’s something about hiking that just makes you happier, no matter the weather!
Where do you find time to walk for 20-30 minutes a day?
Because I work at a desk all day, the only time that I get to walk around during the day is the time that I choose to spend outside. My solution to the time crunch is to schedule it into my mid-day break. I take about a 45 minute break with most of that dedicated to walking and the remainder for a quick lunch. This can be a great option for you if you have a very tight schedule as well. In the summer when it’s hot during the day I tend to walk earlier in the morning. Do what’s best for your schedule, find that half an hour that you can spare to do what’s best for your body. If you’re a mom, take the kids with you, ask a friend to join in to keep you accountable.
Here are some practical tips that you can use to help you embrace cold weather hiking
So how do you get out there to walk or hike in the middle of winter? Well I have a couple recommendations.
- Invest in some good waterproof gear like hiking boots and a rain jacket. When you’re walking in the rain or on a sunny day in winter there’s a good chance you’re going to go through some muddy trails. So choose your hiking wear accordingly. Scroll to the bottom to see my essentials.
- Schedule your walks into your week so you don’t forget. This is so important. In our culture of busy-ness you need to schedule in things that are important, don’t let this thing slip through the cracks. Make a recurring event on your calendar to remind you.
- Walk with a hiking buddy who will encourage you and help you get outside even when you might not feel like it
- Be spontaneous and take advantage of those rare beautiful days in winter. You can’t always plan a good day to hike, so watch the window to see if it’s a good opportunity.
Long story short hiking is the best medicine and you can get it anytime of the year if you step outside of your comfort zone a little bit. I work from home and I often sit at my desk for most of the day. I like to schedule a walk in the middle of the day to give me a boost of energy instead of doing a second cup of coffee. I hope that this was an encouragement for you to take your mood into your own hands and get some outside time. Because exploring nature and hiking is the best medicine.
This picture below is from the first time that I went hiking when I knew the weather was going to go below freezing. We were prepared for it and it was an awesome trip! This was in Lake Vesuvius, Ohio.
My essential cold weather gear:
- These are the hiking boots that I wear when it's wet, they are really comfy and waterproof.
- This is my North Face rain jacket that I wear when hiking, it's also a great windbreaker. You'll notice that I'm recommending a lot of men's gear, that's because I tend to order men's sizes in most of my outdoor gear because the sizing just fits me better (I'm tall for a girl 6'1")
- This is my Cotopaxi down jacket. I love, love this jacket. It is so light weight but also warm and I am so happy that it has a hood. I wear this under my rain jacket when it is really cold and rainy, and minus the rain jacket if it's just cold. You may want to carry a small backpack to throw the down jacket in if you get too warm after walking for a bit. You've got to layer when you're hiking in the cold because you'll get warm after not too long on the trail.
- I wear this Patagonia fleece-sweater under the down jacket. Yes it's men's again, the sleeves just fit me so good and the pockets are so much bigger! This jacket is my go-to just all the time. I wear it by itself in the spring and early fall months. It's my fave.
- This is a Polar Buff and I love it because it is light weight and cozy and it keeps my neck warm
Kimberlee Everhard is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.