It’s snowing here in Colorado and has been since last night.
For most of this winter, our snowfall has been light and our snowpack far below normal for this time of year. Today though, the snow is swirling down in big flakes and sticking. So – it’s time to go out for some winter fun. While tomorrow I may head to the hills for some snowshoeing, today I’m heading out for a walk.
I love walking outside on snowy days. When I headed out today, it was late afternoon, the snow was coming down in bunches and it was a bit cold. However, there is a quietness when it’s snowing that one rarely experiences outside of rural or wilderness areas. With the snow covering everything, sounds are dampened, muffled. Everything has a soft, quiet feel to it. There were a few birds singing out their greetings once in a while but other than that it was pure quiet. Walking on snowy days is a kind of mediation. A walk on a snowy day is certainly good for my soul.
A few thoughts if you like walking outside on cold, snowy days.
1. Warm-up before heading out for your walk. Do some easy warm-up exercises indoors first to get your blood flowing before heading out into the cold. That way you can start moving as soon as you step out the door.
2. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is just is important in cold weather as it is in warm. Every time you breathe in cold air, you have to heat it to body temperature and bring that cold air up to the moisture content of your body. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because it’s cold you don’t need to drink. DRINK! DRINK! DRINK!
3. Frozen Lungs. Won’t happen. There’s a myth that if you breathe cold air, you can freeze your lungs. By the time air gets to your lungs, it’s has to be heated to body temperature. It may still FEEL like your lungs are freezing but you should live to breathe another day. So it’s not really necessary to wear a scarf unless it’s to protect your face. Unlike your lungs, your skin can be affected by the cold.
4. Protect your extremities. I love walking when it’s snowing outside. It’s fun. It’s like a romantic adventure, like walking in the footsteps of polar explorers – except I can turn around and go back any time I want. All that being said, I wear my lightweight hiking boots on days like today. My New Balance running shoes are not waterproof and are heavy on the mesh so today my feet would be soaked in short order. My lightweight hikers are waterproof and heavier so they keep my feet dry and warm as long as I continue moving.
5. Ok, here’s another myth – that we lose up to 40% of our body heat through our head. Not true. A number of studies show heat loss through any exposed skin on the human body is about the same as any other area of exposed skin. From the scalp, heat loss tends to level off at about 7% except at the beginning of heavy exercise when the heat loss increases due to more blood flowing to your brain. However, as you continue to exercise and start to sweat, blood flow to the brain decreases and so does heat loss from the scalp. Still, wearing a hat and gloves, even lightweight models, helps reduce loss of body heat at all times. On my walk today, there was a moderate wind and the snow was a wet snow. In most cases I would recommend a waterproof and windproof lightweight glove for comfort. Unless it’s really cold you should be fine. Most importantly, always have a lightweight hat and gloves along during any exercise in the cold, just in case!
6. Sunglasses. Snow reflects light, so give your eyes some protection by taking sunglasses with you on a walk when snow is on the ground or in the air. True, falling snow may be a problem (where are the windshield wipers for sunglasses?) but like hats and gloves, it’s always good to have your sunglasses available should you need them.
7. Protect your lips. Cold days, whether it’s snowing or not, can be rough on the lips. A good chapstick can help. Apply liberally before heading out and keep applying as you walk.
8. Non-slip soles on your footwear. If the surface you’re walking on is dry and clear of all ice, non-slip soles are not crucial. However, if there’s even the hint of slick spots where you’re walking, make sure your footwear has soles that provide good traction. In really icy terrain, try more robust non-slip soles like Kahtoola’s MICROspikes that I wrote about in an earlier post.
9. Always remember that life is to be lived fully. So don’t limit your walking to days when the weather and temperatures are perfect. Keep repeating the following mantra: GO NOW, GO OFTEN AND HAVE FUN – TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE!
I’m off for a walk toward the North Pole – well, a short distance towards the North Pole at least! I encourage you to head out on some walking trips of your own! Talk to you soon!
Walking The World