Hamsters On Treadmills: Embracing the Great Indoors

As we approach the coldest, darkest and slipperiest season, I find myself spending almost as much time in the gym as I do outdoors, and can’t help feeling a little guilty about using electricity to power the treadmill – it’s bad enough that I have to shovel down so much pasta to keep the legs moving.

I still enjoy long runs on country roads –friends and I have loped together for 10, 12 and 15 miles on the last few Sundays – but the experience loses its charm when ice coats the pavement and drivers splash slush in your face.

Normally, as far as I’m concerned it can never be too cold to run and I’ve bundled up when the temperature has dropped as low as 20 below zero. I’d rather be out in those conditions than in the triple-digit heat and humidity of August.

Still, there’s something to be said about running in shorts and a T-shirt, even if you feel like a hamster.

Some of my fellow gym rats watch the tube, listen to music or even read, but I’m one of those people who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time so I stare straight ahead like a zombie and try not to fall off.

As for bicycling, rolling along on the open road when it dips below the teens is brutal, especially into the wind, so until March or April I’m more inclined to pedal on a stationary bike.

Swimming? Fuhggedaboutit. A friend and I took a quick dip in the pond after a run on Dec. 1 just to say we did it, but I don’t think we’ll be going for long swims again until April – except in a pool.

Unlike running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike, swimming in a pool can be a hypnotic experience induced by staring endlessly at the black lane marker, with no distractions except having to turn and kick off the wall every 25 meters.

Some of my kayaking friends use the pool during winter to practice Eskimo rolls and high braces, but I skip those sessions. As long as it’s not too windy or choppy I’ll paddle year-round, and recall one memorable voyage a few years ago with a couple of enthusiasts so crazy, even by my standards, they performed rolls in Long Island Sound when the air temperature dropped below zero and a breeze kicked up to 15 knots.

Takes all kinds.

Happily, there are quite a few activities that you can only enjoy in winter: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating.

It’s also prime time for wood splitting, when frozen logs pop apart at the first strike of a maul.

I have a whole stack waiting next to the woodshed.

No need to lift weights in a gym; a few hours a week with a wedge and sledgehammer provides all the upper-body workout you’ll need.

Best of all, there are no bugs.

Yes, it’s nice to hit the gym now and again, but why live in New England if don’t venture out in snow and ice?

Still, I can do without the slush in the face.


Reader Comments


Utah Rocks: Adventures Among The Arches And The Rapids (Part I)

You know how it feels when you witness something so astonishingly exquisite and surreal it literally takes your breath away, and all you can do is gasp in amazement?

Oops. I Meant To Say, Whatever You Do, NEVER Try To Pose For A Selfie With Bear Cubs While Mama Grizzly Is Watching, And Other Corrections

• Alert readers have correctly pointed out a slight flaw in my instructions for the proper rock climbing command when you have unclipped from your rope. You should loudly announce, "Rappel off," not "On rappel."...

Use It Or Lose It: Trails Disappear If Nobody Hikes Them

Nature really hates a vacuum when it comes to paths.

Plunging Through Plum Gut And Bongo Sliding Through The Race In A Kayak: Maybe There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Fun

So a rabbi and a psychiatrist are kayaking in the ocean when a giant wave crashes over them and knocks the rabbi unconscious. The psychiatrist manages to pull the rabbi ashore, where he regains consciousness.

Once Again, Pink Gloves (Plus a Clever Signal) Help Save The Day At The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon

"On your left!" Phil Warner shouted from the bow of a tandem kayak, racing toward a buoy during the paddle leg of last Sunday’s Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass.

It's Swallow Time Again On The Connecticut River

Early Thursday evening was a magical time to paddle on the lower Connecticut River near Lyme.

Rocks In Their Heads Again: Another Bunch Of Idiots Knock Over An Ancient Stone Formation, This Time In Oregon

"Every now and again people do something so monumentally destructive, dimwitted and dishonorable it belongs in a class of disgracefulness normally reserved for trophy hunters ... It’s almost as if they wake up one morning and say to...

Who Needs Bug Zappers When Dragonflies Are On The Prowl?

Citronella candles, bug zappers, insecticides – people go to elaborate and often poisonous lengths to combat mosquitoes, deer flies and other nettlesome insects as we move into the steamy weeks of late summer, but I’ve been letting...

Life's A Beach: Eavesdropping In The Sand

"Sweetie, do you know what that is?" No response. "Look at that bird! You know what they call it?" Still no response. "It’s a seagull!"

Surf’s Up! Hanging Ten In A Kayak

All right, technically my buddy Spyros "Spy" Barres and I weren’t hanging 10 toes off the end off boards while riding waves at Westerly’s Fenway Beach on Thursday, but we were surfing.

I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

All of us who have ventured atop mountains, out to sea, or simply into a nearby park have occasionally faced Mother Nature’s wrath – a sudden thunderstorm, pounding blizzard, gale-force winds, locusts …

Loading Your Backpack: Less Is (Usually) More

Some years ago, preparing to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness – the final stretch of the fabled Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, I stuffed my backpack with what I initially considered to be the absolute bare minimum for a week in...

Sun, Sun, Sun Here It Comes (Enough Already!)

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was one of the year’s high holy days, right up there with Halloween and the last day of school, because that was when my parents took my sister and me to the beach for the annual fireworks...