Winter is right around the corner and my outdoor friends are as excited about the upcoming adventures, as my kids are about Christmas. Some of our outdoor peeps are discussing the local slopes in North Carolina others are planning big trips out west, many of my hiking and mountaineering friends are picking out winter ascents and cold weather campouts, and a few folks in our circle are wondering if Covid will impact their plans to head to central and south America for some paddling, snorkeling, SUPing and all things involving warm, cerulean colored waters. Inevitably the time comes, when this compadre of outdoor loving, adventure seeking souls turn to me and ask, “So what are you up to this winter?”
Nada. Zilch. Zero. I do not have winter plans besides the usual keeping up with work and kids – and navigating prerequisite holiday commitments. Besides that I will gain a few pounds, sleep a little bit more, workout less, and whine a bit when I go outside into the cold. I am not a migratory animal that heads south for winter, I am not a fierce winter predator who traipses through snow, I am a bear. I hibernate.
There are several different ways to experience the winter months and hibernation is often overlooked as a healthy way to make it to March. It is a strategy modeled by some of our natural environment’s most revered residents and if we think back through human history to before the age of electricity and indoor heating it is also how most humans survived the winter. It is how we have evolved.
I have a tendency to work hard and play hard and when it comes to finding balance in my life, it is not accomplished through a day-to-day routine but through seasonal adjustments. Each spring when the days get longer and warmer I feel my energy start to increase. Suddenly, I am able to accomplish more at work and I still feel eager and motivated to workout, see friends, or have a family adventure on either side of my business hours. Summer is my can’t stop, won’t stop season. One summer I hiked the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail in 46 days – an average of 47 miles a day; long days and sunshine leave me feeling limitless. When fall hits, I start to crave carbs and tend to call it a day soon after supper.
Unlike the reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that slow their metabolic rate and enter a coma-like slumber for the winter, human cannot completely shut-down but we can do less and rest more. And we don’t have to feel guilty or lazy when we do.