Athletics

Four Reasons To Workout Outdoors This Winter

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It’s the middle of November and, if you live in the North of the Northern Hemisphere, that means the weather’s already cold or things are about to take a very dramatic turn.

Unlike October, it’s not frosty in the morning and blazing by noon. Unlike December, there’s still some mildness to spare before we’re all plunged into a deep freeze for the next four to six months.

With snowstorms looming and early sunsets on the horizon, we would all be justified in planning hibernation instead of packing our schedules with physical activity—winter fitness? It’s kind of awesome.

No, really—and I have a highly-scannable list of reasons to prove it.

CUE. THE. MUSIC.

1. Kicking SAD’s Butt

Seasonal Affective Disorder (AKA SAD) can leave you drained of energy, moody, and feeling like a stock photo of a forlorn guy looking out a window pane.

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Now don’t get me wrong: working out is not a cure for depression, BUT it does produce a feel-good boost of endorphins in your brain that keeps some of the SAD at bay. And sure, you can work out in a gym and get some of the same effects—but a crisp powerwalk outside gives you a chance for fresh air and Vitamin D.

The alternative? Spending time in a cramped gym, building up a slow-churning rage while someone hogs the squat rack. Sad.

2. Staying Cool On YouR Own Terms

Summer workouts can mean sweating in places you didn’t know you could sweat—and probably some you shouldn’t be. Winter workouts actually can give you more control over your body temperature than warm weather ones.

During the winter, the simple trick is to add more layers. You should be comfortable—not hot, not freezing—when you step out into the elements. If you’re chilly, head back inside and add another layer on. And, if you’re TOO warm once you get moving—you can tug off that toque or roll up your sleeves. Custom control, people!

winter running outfit

3. Adding Resistance With Snow

Think about any training montage in any movie and there’s probably a clip of the hero running on the beach because they’re a badass, and adding resistance with sand is badass. Well, you get the same badass effect from running in snow. Increased resistance means increased badass effort and badass muscle development, you badass.

Really though, one of my favourite runs of any given year is the one that comes after the snow melts and clears off the sidewalks. After hustling in the snow all winter you feel like an Olympian on clear sidewalks. You feel like you could fly.

(Note: I recommend traction aids for running in snow AND ice. We’ll talk about this in another post.)

4. Winter Sports Are Fun Eh?

If you told me to run up a hill, I would do it, but I’d hold a grudge. BUT if you told me to run up a hill and jump on a toboggan, I’d want to run up that hill about nine more times.

This could be my tragically Canadian sensibilities, BUT winter offers up all sorts of cool activities we don’t have readily available all year, and lots of them are fun and cool (and would look great on your Instagram). Snowshoeing, ice skating on outdoor rinks, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights—all wicked wintery ways to get your heart pounding and your sweat on.

Do you keep moving outdoors in the winter or hit the gym until spring? What’s your favourite-ever training montage?

Hit me up in the comments, on Instagram
@rilesrunswild, or Facebook and let me know!

Opinion: We Need to Ditch the Idea of Arts Vs. Athletics

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Athletes are artists.

The thought re-occurred to me watching Adidas’ latest “Here to Create” ad during March Madness. (Shoutouts Villanova!)

If you haven’t seen it, the ad features an array of athletes looking into the camera, and telling the audience: “see my creativity.” It’s a quick 30-second watch, check it out:

The whole thing got my gears turning about something I’ve been wrestling with for more than a decade. Athletes are creatives—even if society likes to play up those who play sports athletics and those who create art as opposites. 

Sure, there's crossover between the two worlds when it comes to activities like dance, or even yoga… But chiefly, the image of athletes being pure sweat and grit is often a foil against the sensitive and soulful artist. 

For a long time, I believed I had to choose. 

In high school, I thought of myself as artsy and misunderstood. Sweating was for JOCKS. I probably unfairly wrote off some of my athletic classmates as shallow… But then, it wasn’t like I had constructed this notion from nowhere—the media was there to back me up.

Movies and television reinforce the identity story of athleticism vs. pretty much every other interest—think: The Breakfast Club, think Mean Girls. You can’t be a great poet and kill it at lacrosse. You can’t have a photographic eye and a killer right hook.

Every once in awhile, Zac Efron wins the big basketball game AND nails the singing audition—but on the whole, the media keeps resubscribing us to the idea of these two things are enemies (#fakenews). The problem is we believe it, and now the next generation is growing up believing it. Finally though, our stories have begun to change. Finally, we're catching up. 

Now that I’m older, I'm a writer and a runner. I know that the call to an athletic vocation can pull at the soul as much as any artistic endeavour. Just like an artist has to discover where their talent and passion lies, so does an athlete—painting or poetry? Sprinting or ski jumping?

There are stories in my sweat.

When they find what speaks to them, both put in the hours to hone their craft. There is deep digging. There is soul searching. There are failures, improvements, and masterpieces. (Think game-winning slapshots in OT or Best Original Screenplay.) There are experiments—new paints, new shoes. There are competitive meets and opening nights. There is struggle—and there is always art in struggle. 

Studies have shown that athletes can make better students. Without the stranglehold notion of arts and sports as war enemies, I'd bet they can make great artists too—and vice versa.

In my personal experience, practicing my sport amplifies my creativity. There are stories in my sweat. I’ve been been struck by the opening line of a poem mid-run, and spent the last miles writing it in my head. I connect with music the most deeply when I’m moving to it. When I got a tattoo after my half marathon last year, I felt both like art and artist. Watching people cry on the Olympic podium or celebrate at marathon finish line move me as much as any Oscar-winning performance. 

Sports shake off the sleep of everyday existence. We are awake, so we create. 

In the future, athletics could be the place where the pumping heart meets the artistic soul—we just have to start talking about it. Stop making people—especially young people—choose. Spread the word: you can have it all. You can do both. You're not the only one out there smashing the standard—in fact, you're in pretty good company.

Serena Williams paints. Terry Crews is an amazing artist and actor. Britney Spears was a point guard in high school (and honey if you think busting moves and singing on stage at the same time isn’t athletic as hell, get on board). 

So what’s your sport? What’s your art? How do they work together? It's time to be proud of your intersections. It’s time to smash the myth and create a whole new generation of Zac Efrons. (...Err...)

Maybe it starts with a TV ad. Maybe it starts with us.

Personally, I’ll be brainstorming the next time I put on my running shoes.