Summer’s intensity has faded. Autumn’s colours have almost fallen and now the shadows of winter creep earlier into the evening. Our fingers dig deeper into our pockets and our chins nestle into our collars. It’s easy to pine for the warmth and light of summer, the beauty of autumn or the vibrancy of spring. But, thriving in winter-time can be as simple as changing perspective.
As I begin to write this article I am slightly woozy after a chilly dawn run on Mt Wellington. A warm mug of tea sits beside me and I have tugged my grey Icebreaker turtleneck sweater tighter to my curves. I revel in how the coarse wool is absorbing the rich winter sun that is seeping through the window into my studio. This is my heaven – tea, tranquility, writing and winter sunshine through glass. I marvel at the way this winter’s day is magically drawing warmth indoors from the coolness outside, creating a warm nest in my writing studio. This reality feels like such a contrast to the common negative stereotypes of winter – the cold, grey, dark, damp. I suddenly feel compelled to set this beautiful season free and in doing so, realise the gifts she provides us.
Winter is a matter of perspective.
Have you ever run along a tightly twisting trail under the bouncing beam of a headtorch? I love the way darkness forms a natural cocoon as I move through the night, my torch beam enticing me forwards, a seeker, an explorer. Gleaming eyes of wallabies and bandicoots watch me slip by, my trail running shoes padding quietly into the stillness. Fingers hiding in light merino gloves, ears tucked cosily into a headband. Out here, I am the queen of my kingdom and I record the silence as a memory, one to replay when life’s busyness begins once again. Yes, winter gifts us a dawn every day, an opportunity for royal moments. What do you do with this gift?
Do you linger in the winter sunshine? I love to grab my lunch and wander outdoors, pulling my scarf tighter to ward off the chill. Wandering the quieter city streets, I inevitably find a small nook out of the breeze, allowing the sun to push me to the ground. Here I take time to linger in her extraordinary warmth, turning my face towards the light, closing my eyes and feeling my whole body melt into the wall that props me up. Lunch momentarily forgotten about, I allow myself to hit life’s pause button and as I do I listen carefully to my breaths gently rising and falling, heralding subtle shifts occurring in my internal landscape. A moment of stillness in a busy modern world. Yes, winter gifts us sun-soaked nooks and still days. What do you do with this gift?
Winter brings longer evenings of darkness, shifting daytime towards night in a rapid poaching of the sun. It heralds a time for hibernation and as I am now beginning to understand, an opportunity for reflection and recuperation. After winding home along the Hobart rivulet on my bicycle, leaning into the cool air as it is sucked from the mountain’s summit, I gratefully push open the door of my home and dart towards the kettle. Slowly fingers thaw and the mug’s steam swirls into the room. For me, this presents the perfect opportunity to write, to open my journal and move pen towards paper. Shifting from writing to staring peacefully out the window, I reflect on a day now closing, a month still unfolding and a year’s opportunities intersecting with moments already realised. What can I learn here? What have I unconsciously pushed beyond in the excited anticipation of spring, skipped gaily through in the social evolution of summer, or neglected during the purposeful work of autumn? Yes, winter gifts us dark evenings and quite time for reflection and recuperation. What do you do with this gift?
The winter days also appear stiller, calmer and more tranquil, both literally and metaphorically. The weather is often more stable, a period of grace from the winds that whip through Tasmania in spring, the intensity of summer’s heat, and the damp rains of autumn. Socially, we begin to hibernate too. Christmas and New Year have long since passed, and we are left with fewer commitments on our social calendars. Winter gifts us time, an opportunity for self-compassion and intimacy with loved ones. Self-compassion to me is not idle couch time, but simply an opportunity to nourish, move, internalise, give love and allow myself to receive it too. It is a time for knitwear and Ugg boots, muddy trail running shoes and hot drinks after a swim. Acupuncture and meditation, an extra hug given and welcomed in return. Yes, winter gifts us an opportunity for self-compassion. What do you do with this gift?
Embracing Winter and thriving in her presence is literally a matter of perspective. She brings us so many gifts – crisp dawns, winter sunshine, darkened evenings and stillness. Opportunities for playfulness, creativity, reflection, self-compassion, and intimacy. What do you do with her gifts?
Exercising Outdoors in Winter
Leaning into winter and embracing the chill requires not just a change in perspective but also a change in preparedness. Here are my quick tips for exercising in winter.
Even on cool days our bodies will quickly produce heat. I exercise outdoors in several thin layers as this allows me to easily regulate my body temperature. I can remove any one of these outer layers as I warm up, keeping my core and extremities a comfortable temperature. On a cool Tasmanian winter’s day I will run in:
Shorts & short socks
Singlet or t-shirt
A thin long-sleeved thermal top
Very light windproof jacket (or waterproof if it is raining)
Fleece mittens or lightweight merino gloves.
Whilst winter brings increased hours of darkness, each of these are still an opportunity for playing, exercising and exploring. For this reason, I have invested in a high quality headtorch with enough brightness that it feels like the sun is still shining. Need a new one? Here is what I look for:
Minimum 200 lumens in brightness – the minimum brightness to highlight the irregularities of the trail or footpaths.
Curved housing – the headtorch should feel like it fits snuggly onto your forehead. Try jumping up and down, making sure the torch does not bounce as you do. This will prevent distracting disturbance of the light’s beam when you are exercising.
USB rechargeable – dead batteries and the hassle of having to shop for more can curb your winter enthusiasm. Avoid this by selecting a headtorch that can be charged via a USB cable – in the car, from your computer or a wall socket.
Exercise in the morning
For me, motivation wanes as the day draws on. By late afternoon I am beginning to slow down, the pull of home and my PJs strengthening with each minute that slips past. I find mornings are the optimal time for exercising. After a quick cup of tea, gently moving and limbering up my body as I sip the warming liquid, I pull on my layers and head for the door. Watching the world awaken feels like such a natural process and it is invigorating to be a part of it.
Keep it social
It can be easy to roll over and snuggle back under the blankets when the alarm goes off and darkness lingers in the bedroom. To avoid this, tee up a few days a week to exercise with friends. If this is not an option, mix up your training by heading to the warmer environs of the swimming pool, yoga studio or the gym where others are exercising and motivation feels as prevalent as the oxygen in the air.