By Jesse Mestrovic
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” – Ray Kroc
The winter doldrums make it difficult to be active and even to get off the couch and go outdoors. For some people, including me, it is difficult to exercise inside the house. The weather tends to keep us inside and away from the bitter cold. Decisions have to be made by choosing to run on a treadmill, go to a local gym, workout in front of the tv, or layer up and venture outdoors. I strive to be kept inside only during dire workout emergencies or workout desperation; severe cold or ice. Try to think outside your house, or your proverbial box living quarters, and try something new. I recommend bundling up and going for a winter hike or cross-country skiing. If you go for a hike in the snow, try to find some footprints and just follow them. Think about what left those marks, its movement patterns, and think creatively about what it was thinking about or where it was going. Take pictures and research those prints when you return home. Other winter activities during the snowy months include the following: snowshoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and traction-additive components such as YakTrax. The traction applications can be added to your running shoes and can be a great addition to your workout tool belt. I haven’t dabbled in the snowshoe experience, but I’m not counting it out.
When the snow starts to fly, I have all my fingers and toes crossed hoping for all snow, deep snow, no ice. When the weather turns for the worse, I get excited, and the deeper the snow, the better. I know most people think I am sick in the head for feeling this way, but I love snow. Snow means that it is time to lace up the boots, grab a set of poles, and step into a pair of cross-country skis. I feel that every time I cross-country ski, it will be the last time of the year. Living in West Virginia we never know when the last significant snowfall will be the end. I have heard that you should treat love in the same manner, and I don’t have any qualms with that reference.
There is something special about cross-country skiing. I do love the physical exercise, but there is more of an emotion, or some people would say a spiritual component. Gliding effortlessly or physically exerting myself has a beautiful symbiosis in the natural setting. Covering distance at a moderately relaxed pace exposes nature in a different setting. Enjoying the scenery and the critters in the winter is a humbling experience. Viewing the landscape while on skis embraces the true feeling that you are in a winter wonderland. Snow, in its multiple crystalline forms, is so marvelous and pure. It is difficult to express in words how snow makes me feel. When I am cross-country skiing, I love the goal-setting attributes that go along with such a venture. You either plan your course or select a peak that tickles your fancy. Once that peak has been reached or that circuit has been completed, it is extremely gratifying and intensely satisfying. At that point a decision needs to be made, either keep going or finish the activity. Usually I keep going, but life happens and life creates time constraints. I particularly seek the peaks for their stellar views and the sense of accomplishment. The greatest and the most intense feeling is the downhill ride. If you have ever cross-country skied, the downhills are the most rewarding and the most invigorating part of the activity.
Cross-country skiing is one of my favorite activities, and I wish more people were exposed to it. I know a couple of places in the area that rent the equipment, and buying the equipment outright is a risky venture. If you love the outdoors and want to try a new experience, I recommend breaking down, coughing up the money, and giving it a try. If you’re looking for a place to rent the equipment, I suggest West Virginia University’s Outdoor Recreation Center, White Grass Center Canaan Valley, or somewhere in the Laurel Highlands. The two places dear to my heart for cross-country skiing, besides the farmland surrounding my house, are Coopers Rock State Forest and Hillcrest Wildlife Management Area.
There are many more benefits to recreating outdoors than we typically think. Increased Vitamin D from the sun’s exposure brightens up your mood. Being one with nature has a calming effect on the body that helps clear your mind and relieve stress. Being outside has tremendous benefits for your health and well-being. Exercise helps increase your energy and helps you sleep. There is also a world to discover and a life full of experiences. Get outside and play in the snow because you don’t know when it will be back.