A Guide to Walking in Chilly Weather
Not one to step foot into a gym, I need to find other ways of getting some physical activity in my life. And three days post-Thanksgiving, having eaten leftovers for lunch and dinner every one of those days, I feel the need for exercise more urgently than normal.
I’m a little out of practice, though, so I’m working my way back into shape with baby steps, starting with walking. I walked a couple of miles for Walk for Lupus Now in October, then I did 3 miles for Walk for the Hungry on Thanksgiving, and I also walk a brisk 5 blocks to and from work 5 days a week.
These examples may lead you to believe that I only walk with a purpose, which is mostly true (I have a quick, short stride that has prompted my husband to ask me on more than one occasion if I have someplace important to be). But I also love to go on nature walks, especially when I’m not sure which path to take and don’t really care where I end up.
Today was one of those days–a chilly November day when the sun seems to add neither warmth nor light to the air around me nor the dead leaves underfoot. I went with my husband and his parents’ great dane, Buttercup. She’s a goofy thing, a mosquito hawk on 4 spindly legs who’s afraid of everything from large coats to airplanes flying overhead to (as we discovered today) rivers. We meandered, taking turns deciding which way to go each time we approached diverging paths.
Besides being a lovely, relaxing way to spend a Sunday, it’s also a fantastic way to trick oneself into exercising. Trudging uphill through soft sand, navigating nimbly through spiky brush while keeping up with an excited pooch–before I knew it, I was perspiring and breathing hard.
Perspiration aside, it’s chilly outside, and with the cold (for many folks with lupus) comes arthritis. Walking can be tough on the joints; I notice it especially in my hips, but sometimes I feel it in my knees and toes, too. So I’ve been learning to wear the right gear, even for an activity as seemingly innocuous as walking. So here’s my go-to Winter Walking list, followed by a short explanation of what works for me:
1. Comfy pants- Depending on how cold it is, this ranges from thin, rollable pants to cotton/spandex-blend leggings. Jeans are a no-go for walks over a mile because the friction from the seams rubbing on my legs always irritates my skin after a bit.
3. Good walking shoes- I’m constantly on the hunt for the next best walking shoes, admittedly because I have a shoe-hoarding problem. The pair I currently own has proven to be very versatile and super comfy. They’re Timberland, made of light-weight, breathable materials, and have a burly mountain tread that’s perfect for scaling sheer rocks, walking on dirt trails, and walking on asphalt. They provide great support and have lots of cushion under the heels.
4. Hat & gloves- I just bought a knit beanie on sale at JC Penny for $14, and I’m so glad I did. It fits right over my ears, and it’s amazing how much warmer I feel when my body heat isn’t escaping through my head. As for gloves, I just got a pair of “texting gloves” on sale for about $12 at Macy’s. These babies have cut-off fingers but convert into mittens: Great for my walk to and from work, and fantastic when my fingers are freezing while I’m typing at my desk.
5. Walking stick- When I’m doing a serious hike–one with huge vertical gains in short periods of time, or that’s 6 miles or more long–I’ll bring my walking stick. It really helps to take the weight off my knees, and it’s good for making me feel like a bonafide mountain woman.
Fall and winter are such great seasons to walk! The leaves are changing, and the snow will begin to fall in the mountains before too long. Rather than letting the cooler weather keep you inside, bundle up and experience the explosion of colors that is fall and the unique beauty of a silent hike in the snow. It’ll keep your joints lubed up and give you plenty of photo-ops.