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Moving Through Life’s Challenges Part 2 – Inclement Weather

Forest bathing in the winter

I live in Canada and it’s November (woke up to snow for the first time this winter on Nov.10), so I deal with inclement weather for around 5 months of the year. Most of that time, it’s just cold, but it can be rain, cold lashing rain, snow, cold lashing snow, ice, black ice, sheet ice, falling ice, sub zero temps, sub zero temps with cold lashing rain snow or ice, slush, dirty slush, dirty slush being thrown up on you by passing cars, dark short days, night starting at 4 in the afternoon, Seasion Affective Disorder (SAD) and just plain cold toes. Are you feeling sorry for me yet?

For the other 7 months I’ve walked a minimum of 5 km a day (with the odd rest day of no walk and too much computer or work thrown in). But it’s nigh impossible to keep that up with the above weather conditions going on. So what’s a person who wishes to move their DNA to do?

Last post I described forced rest, or just the choice of rest, and how that’s an important part of your movement program, injuries or no.

So I expect there will be days of forced isolation in my igloo while the storms rage outside. But in the case of many days or weeks in a row – what then? What about the joys of mechanized movement in that case? Can I hop on a treadmill or step climber or Pilates reformer and get my movement that way?

Let’s break down some of the reasons why a person might not want to go out in the winter.

  1. Danger of falling (or maybe just the fear of falling). Danger of freezing or frostbite. Danger of being out in the dark (fear of getting lost or feeling unsafe in the dark).
  2. It’s not nice to be cold (at least most people don’t enjoy it or else there would be a reversal to the snowbird phenomenon).
  3. It’s difficult to move through snow and slush, to move with lots of clothes on.
  4. You just have a habit of staying in. I was not a skier in my youth and I’ve noticed people who grew up skiing generally love the winter. There is also some historical precedence for getting most of the work done in the warmer months and hunkering down in the cold ones, but you would still need to do various tasks outdoors, unless you were a bear. Often the only time I see many of my neighbours all winter is at the annual neighbourhood Christmas party.
  5. Like difficulty, but it’s generally more convenient to go inside to do the stuff we like to do outside in the summer. So instead of walking down the main street or farmer’s market to get groceries, we go to the grocery store. You drive to the mall, or head underground in the city to shop. It’s more convenient to use the gym than it is to run outside. It’s even more convenient to stay curled up in a chair with tea and a book and skip the gym completely.


A lot of the things on that list boil down to motivation. You lack motivation to put on layers, to go out in the cold and dark. Some of them can be due to lack of preparation/organization. Do you have the proper clothes to enjoy the outdoors? And a few of them are legitimate. Ice is a danger and I’ve known quite a few people suffer broken bones in the winter from simply walking down the street.

So here’s a few thoughts on inclement weather:

First (and perhaps most obviously), dress for it. Dressing can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Layers is the way to go, and I think the biggest cash outlay will be for the coat and boots. I just picked up a new winter coat for $450 (merino wool) but my last one lasted for over 10 years (and it’s still fine, but a bit ratty looking, so it will be my running errands on really bad days coat). I have a real problem with boots, as they need to be minimal or at least light, wide toe box, no heel and WATERPROOF! That’s the kicker (hehe kicker, get it?).

Cover your face, and your ears, and get some good mitts. I have posted some links below. I am not an affiliate, I’m just trying to help out a fellow Canadian.

Second, get a walking buddy or make a date to meet a friend and walk there. This will help with motivation. If your friends aren’t available when you are, you can always make phone calls on the move. I call my relatives on walks. Or do your business calls on the move.

Go to a local park such as High Park, Sunnybrook or Edwards Gardens in Toronto and spend an hour walking. There is an amazing conservatory in downtown Toronto in Allan Gardens that is a wonderful place to visit and get oxygenized (it’s warm too!). Treat yourself to a coffee to make a warm spot within a longer walk.

One of my favourite tricks was reminded to me by a client recently who said she often does this at work: if she has 20 minutes to spare, she will simply walk for 10 minutes in one direction and then turn around and walk back. I do this as well, and often I will pick a direction that I don’t always go. I tend to wear a familiar path to the catfood store, although there are about a dozen ways to get there, so I will purposefully choose a way I haven’t gone before. I’ve even discovered hidden gem streets this way, full of beautiful houses and gardens.

If you live somewhere where there is a lot of snow, get some snowshoes, take up cross country skiing! These are wonderful ways to be in the winter as moving warms the body and even in very cold climates you can enjoy being outside. I am not a fan of downhill skiing because (in Ontario at least) the standing around in lines waiting for the lift is COLD! I’m sure that’s an exhilarating sport in the big mountains out west.

Shovel your walk, and your neighbours. Shovel out the older people or someone who may be sick or housebound with a new baby. Instead of complaining about that one neighbour who never shovels, go and shovel their walk.

So these are all great ideas for being outside, but why do I need to go outside when there are perfectly good treadmills and other devices I can get my workout on indoors?

First of all, I believe that just as there are parts of a day built for moving and built for sleeping, there are seasons for movement and seasons for rest. It’s okay to be less active during the cold seasons. Historically, food was less abundant during the winter months and what was stored in better times was eaten until it was time to start planting or hunting and gathering again. By that time, you’d be lean again. That is how it should be, but of course, all winter long we drink hot chocolate and hearty meals and then hit spring and go into a frenzy of bikini ready fitness boot camp classes. I think I get plenty of movement in my day in the house just from floor sitting and getting up and down a lot from the floor and other habits like that (floor sleeping, Restorative Exercise, hanging from a bar etc.) and other than my regular walking in all weather (because I don’t use a car), teaching and housework, that’s all I do.

If you need to keep up a level of fitness because you are in training for a sport, I can see using machines indoors when you simply can’t get out. Sometimes even walking is treacherous and being on a machine is going to be a safer way to move. Maybe it is a convenience thing, you are tight for time and need to get a 5 km walk in, to the treadmill I go. However, we do know that treadmill walking and running reverses the gait mechanics as in real world walking you move over the ground and on treadmill walking the ground moves under you.

Because the belt moves backward, the feet meet little or no resistance when the push off should occur, which requires the legs to move out in front of us and then fall forward; the hips, knees and feet have to cushion for the landing. Occasional use is therefore suggested, instead of regular use. It might be better to find a mall or walk the aisles at a  grocery store instead!

One of my favourite city walks that I can recall was going out in a big snowstorm. It was the kind of storm where nobody goes out until the snow ploughs have come by. The snow was knee high and drifting. Although it took me hours to cover a short walk, it was so much fun. Oh, and there’s always tobogganing – lots of hill climbing and squealing fun to be had. Happy winter all.

L.L.Bean Lodge boots – highly recommended by friends and colleagues

Manitobah Mukluks – these ones are waterproof and at the top of my “want” list

I love my Icebreaker socks and sweaters!


14 thoughts on “Moving Through Life’s Challenges Part 2 – Inclement Weather

  • I am not naturally inclined to like the cold weather, but I find getting outside every day (barring massively inclement weather) is really important for my mental health in the winter. Having warm enough clothing is definitely the key. I scored my current winter coat (an Eddie Bauer down filled parka) at Value Village for $5 on a 50% off sale!! And I *love* icebreaker socks, too. I’ve tried most of the major wool sock brands, and while Icebreakers are not quite as soft as some of the others, they are the warmest and hold up the longest. I also find the first 5-10 minutes of being outside is the worst, and that after that I really start to warm up and I’ll often walk for 45 min or more quite comfortably (unless there’s a really nasty wind!) Hubby and I also get out for a cross country ski around our neighbourhood park when the opportunity strikes.

  • Thanks for your great comment Karen. I didn’t get into cold weather adaptation but I do think that’s a huge benefit of making yourself get out there and expose yourself to all the elements! I much prefer the heat to the cold, but I’m way less a wuss about cold than I used to be!

  • This is a great post and a good reminder for me to make sure my outdoor gear is accessible.
    I also love Manitobah Mukluks and their waterproof ones are amazing. I bought them last year and absolutely love them. They kept my feet warm & dry throughout the harsh Ottawa winter.
    Icebreaker socks are another must have. I have the thinner ones that I wear in my Manitobah Mukluks and the thicker ones for when I am visiting friends & family who don’t have carpet.

  • Nothing right now, I have Lems hiking boots that are lined and warm, but not waterproof and a pair of waterproof rainboots (very minimal) that are not lined, and I wear fleece socks in them, and if necessary ice trackers. I don’t have a warm, waterproof winter boot that does it all!

  • I love my Icebreaker socks and also have some thin and some thick ones! Thanks for the vote of confidence on the waterproof Manitobahs!

  • I have the first model of these and they’ve served me well in Ottawa. They are the lightest and cushiest feeling boots I’ve owned. When I’m lazy, I tie off the individual laces at the top so I can slip them on for a quick, short errand.

  • Being in the cold energizes me, and I love getting fresh air and walking long distances in our Portland winters. Now, if someone could give me tips on how to move without wanting to cry in 100-degree weather, I’m all ears! 🙂

  • I also have Lems, which I use in snowy New England. They are decent for snow when paired with fleece socks, but not great for slush or rain. I’m awaiting my first pair of winter boots from Wildlings, a relatively new German minimalist shoe company.

  • Love my SoftStar Phoenix Boots. Very minimalist, but warm. I just got back from a 20 minute walk in a -36C windchill and my toes were toasty even without socks inside (the boots are lined with sheepskin.

  • Trying some of the very cheap boot covers online. Am modifying them to fit my Lems/xeroshoes/etc. of choice. They do provide water resistance, maybe waterproofing until you wear a hole in them. Biggest benefit is being able to wear foot friendly shoes inside them. And cheap to replace. Otter wax can be used to provide water resistance, and we use it on my husband’s Lems boots, so that when he walks on tall wet spring grass, his feet don’t get soaked.

  • Thanks for the tip! I’ve heard the leather Lems are better for inclement weather because they are easier to oil and more waterproof than the canvas ones.

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