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

MORE BLOGS

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Dirt Bikes

Fingernails across a chalk board, a baby crying, a dog barking incessantly – all are music to my ears compared to the whine of a dirt bike tearing through the forest.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Even Elizabeth Warren All Have Something In Common: The Black SUV

Here’s how ABC News reported an appearance last week by former Florida Gov. Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

A Snowy Hike To Carter Notch In New Hampshire's White Mountains

Midway up the staggeringly steep Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains earlier this week, after my son, Tom, and I had postholed up to our knees 487 times through rotten snow despite wearing snowshoes, we began...

Ah, Spring: Moving Rocks, Lugging Logs, Digging Holes And Other Fun Activities

A 3-foot-high mound of snow still stubbornly piled beneath the deck serves as a grim reminder of this past winter’s relentless brutality, and of the months spent shoveling, shoveling, shoveling.

A Short But Sweet Eagle-Watching Season On The Lower Connecticut River

The hummingbird hovers, sparrow flutters, tern dives, duck flaps frenetically, but in the avian world the eagle soars majestically, barely moving its enormous wings while wheeling effortlessly through the heavens.

A Grand Canyon Gondola Ride – What An Idea! How About A Tram Up Mount Everest?

I don’t know about you, but I was extraordinarily excited to hear about plans to build a gondola tram that would take visitors 1.6 miles to the floor of the Grand Canyon in 10 minutes – way faster and less strenuous than...

The Magic and Misadventures of Making Maple Syrup

The instant the whirring drill bit pulled free from the trunk of a maple tree behind our house the other morning a splendid stream of sap began oozing before I had a chance to pound a metal spile into the half-inch-wide hole.

A Tough Time For Deer, But Elephants Finally Catch A Break (Sort Of)

Traipsing on snowshoes the other day through, over and around waist-high drifts in the woods behind our house I crossed a veritable superhighway of deer tracks that meandered among the rhododendron, laurel, pine, spruce and fir, and...

Death in the White Mountains: Recklessness and The False Security of GPS, Cellphones and Locator Beacons

After being battered by 70 mph winds, blinded by whipping snow and nearly frozen in temperatures that plunged to 20 below zero and beyond, Kate Matrosova must have realized early on she had no hope of completing her solo climb of four of...

You Never Miss The Water Till The Well Runs Dry — Or The Pipes Freeze

After shoveling a path to the woodshed the other day for the 138th time this season (or so it seemed) and lugging what certainly felt like the 862nd load of logs to the house and the 243rd bucket of wood stove ashes to the distant pit,...

Hey! Wanna Ride? Detroit Distance Walker James Robertson Shouldn't Look A Gift Car In The Hood, But ...

You no doubt have heard about James Robertson, the 56-year-old Detroit man who for more than a decade walked 21 miles a day to and from his factory job because he couldn’t afford a car.