habit

It’s seems as though it’s been snowing straight for a week.

Chicago is silently, stealthily getting buried under feet of snow. Tomorrow…the big chill comes with temperatures “the big windy” hasn’t seen in 20 years. They say the daytime high will be something close to -6 with a windchill of -13. Brrrr. People are heeding the weather advisories by sheltering in place –  with netflix binge-ing and crocks of comfort food. Yay! We can stay in our pajamas all day long. There is no better excuse.

But what about the walking? What about the habit?

Some of us… have one of these…

Let's go

and this Saint Bernard will beg, snuggle, sit on me, whatever it takes..with a look of “let’s go Mom, we really need to get out for a walk.” She absolutely loves the winter and totally transfers that joy to me. There is no way I can deny her a walk, and when I think about it, I realize she gets me going and out the door. Even when it means I may spend a half hour putting on boots, scarves, mittens and snow pants over my “lounging around the house clothes”, I do it. Isn’t it funny…dogs train us to their habits. They just think “walk”. There is no interference thinking like “it’s too cold, it’s too snowy, what will I wear? I’m too tired right now etc.”

While my dog helps me on most days, there are some days I really need more motivation to keep up my habit.

Recently, I came across an interesting blog – What happens to our brains when we exercise and why it makes us happier.  The science to support what is chemically happening within our brains and why it is so important to try and create a pattern of exercise can be incentive enough for me. Within the post were some very good tips about how to get into a consistent exercise habit. I found these tips prompted me to make a plan so that I would look forward to walking. Staying in a positive mindset meant I didn’t have to spend extra time and energy doing battle with negative thoughts.

Laying out my workout clothes the night before, logging my progress (which is what I do on dailymile), and starting out small – very small, has helped me move through these past few months. I would also add (because I’m a former teacher, of course) it helps to have a goal in mind. To get going on this, I found an awesome link to a template for making a habit. (oops! teacher in me – again.) Since I am a visual learner, there is no doubt visuals help keep me focused, plus, it doesn’t hurt when the template is humorous and good for a laugh.

So, with all of this in mind, I’m out for a walk – on this frigid, snowy, blowy Chicago day.

So  true!

ice

– slippery when wet or near freezing.

This post is for the hard core walkers out there – of which I am one.

Somedays there is no way around the fact that a walk needs to take place in less than optimal weather conditions. Today’s walk  was one of those. The Chicagoland weather was a cold 34 degrees, with an intermittent drizzle. Along the park path there were several unmelted snow piles situated here and there. Adding to the potential hazards was the time of day –  early in the morning, which increases the likelihood of black ice lurking about.

Armed (or footed) with my Yaktrax, I wasn’t about to give up the walk.

I’ve noticed, in cold temperatures, I need to be cautious and assume that all wet, dark areas on pavements are slippery and icy. It seems that water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces, forming an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that looks like a wet spot on the pavement – black ice.

Making sure to walk on the cleared path as much as possible,  I remain focused and try to always look ahead when I walk. If there is a snow pile on the path –  I look for an edge, especially if I am unsure of the footing and need traction. Sometimes I just have to watch where I am stepping and GO S-L-O-W-L-Y !! This definitely helps my reaction time when there are changes in traction. There may be times when it is better to take short steps or shuffle for stability when it’s very icy; it might even help to stop occasionally to break momentum.

There are also some body mechanics I find helpful… I try to keep a slight bend at the waist and walk flat-footed, with my center of gravity directly over my feet. I pay attention to my sense of balance at all times. I make sure to leave my hands and arms free to balance myself if I should slip or misstep. I never leave the house without gloves or mittens because I do not want to keep my hands in my pockets while walking. When my hands are out of my pockets my center of gravity is lower and my balance increases. More importantly, I can break my fall if my hands are free and I do start to slip.

Without a doubt, it is always safer to avoid an outdoor walk when there is the possibility of black ice or any ice.

But, if the outdoors beckons…

                                               Caution Watch For Ice Sign

yaktrax

yaktrax are awesome!

The company notes they are named after the sure-footed Tibetan Yak. These lightweight shoe add-ons provide extreme outdoor traction, combining rubber and coils in a way that ensures stable footing on slick, icy surfaces. There are different styles for different activities from walking and jogging, to extreme winter hiking and skiing.

Yesterday’s 4 mile walk was after a three-inch snowfall. The walk was my first winter walk as a retiree and I couldn’t have appreciated it more. It was about 11:00 in the morning with bright sunshine and an intermittently blue sky.

I felt like I was on vacation in Chic-orado!  (a Colorado type of morning, but in Chicago – without the mountains of course)

neigh

The beautiful sunny morning had a windchill, which meant there were icy spots. Most sidewalks in my neighborhood get shoveled, but every so often one is not. Walking with the yaktrax on the bottom of my shoes gives me unbeatable traction. (Kind of like when one drives through mountain passes in the winter and chains are required for tires to prevent slipping.) The rubber yaktrax are so easy to stretch over the bottom of my gym shoes or any other shoes I want to use them on. They also come in handy when walking the dogs.

yax trax       yax in snow

I felt sure-footed walking at a brisk pace, and with the wind chill I needed to walk fast to stay warm. I am more than happy with this product. I think they cost around think $20.00 which I feel is a very good price for stability . (One note of caution – when walking indoors – be careful because they can be very slippery on tile or wood floors.)

The combination of gore-tex shoes, smartwool socks and the yaktrax gave me and my feet no excuse to miss my walk after the first wintry snowfall and significant windchill of the season. Especially since I’m at 40 miles toward my holiday 100. Woo-hoo!

snow

“Falling Snow”

 See the pretty snowflakes,
Falling from the sky;
On the wall and housetops,
Soft and thick they lie.

On the window ledges,
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.

Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.

Now the bare black bushes,
All look soft and white,
Every twig is laden,
What a pretty sight!

 Author: Caitlyn Turner

Today was one of those days when I found it difficult to get my walk in…so busy with the holidays approaching. Also, Chicago is in the midst of its’ first snow storm.

There were pictures to take of the dogs for our Christmas card, (always one of my favorite fun things) then there was… making the card and placing the order.

Today was also the day to purchase our Christmas tree, which happened even though it was very cold and somewhat blizzard-y. The reward – the house smells so good from the fresh cut balsam tree.

All throughout I kept thinking “when will I get out and walk?” To make it worse, it has been snowing all day. I love the snow and can’t wait to get out in it. I’ve been telling myself – tonight I’ll walk in the evening. I’ll take Phoebe and we will crunch around for a mile or two in the fresh fallen snow.

I savor this time of year, even though the days are getting shorter and shorter now. On evening walks I notice, my neighborhood is coming alive with outdoor lights, and there is a peaceful stillness from the snow. There are halos around the street lamps and the smell of logs burning in fireplaces floats on the air.

My two Saints – Phoebe and Nellie have an extra dose of playful energy – undoubtedly, something in the snow and cold stirs deep in their genes. Saint Bernards love the winter, I think I do too!

Me and the saints