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

Training For Mystic Sharkfest: The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Swimmer

Among the many benefits of active recreation is hanging out with friends – which of course you can do at a bar, pizza parlor or coffee shop, but since most of my pals prefer to spend their leisure time on the trail or water, we...

Stung By Wasps AND Suffering From Lyme Disease: I Can't Catch A Break

You know that funny, itchy feeling when something is crawling around or worse, lodged where it doesn’t belong?

Which Is Worse: Getting Devoured By A Grizzly Bear Or A Great White Shark?

During years of roaming hither and yon on land and sea, I’ve been chased by a grizzly bear, nearly trampled by stampeding yaks, charged by a bull, attacked by swarms of hornets and almost struck by a copperhead – but what...

A Whitewater Dream Taking Shape in Willimantic

Asked to name the best whitewater kayaking and canoeing stretches in Connecticut, most paddlers would single out a gnarly, 2.6-mile section of Class IV rapids on the Housatonic River from Bulls Bridge Dam to Gaylordville, or Diana's Pool...

My War With Canada Geese

Years ago I looked forward to autumn, not so much for the kaleidoscopic foliage but because the evening serenade of migrating Canada geese that lulled me to sleep.

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.

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.