Winter Grit

By Coach Mel 

I can feel it. Can you? It happened so fast this year...It seems like I shut my eyes when it was still gloriously light out at 9pm and woke up to darkness, rain and lowered energy.

We never quite know what we will get in the Pacific Northwest when it comes to seasons. Sometimes fall is fall and brings us sunshine and crisp leaves through October. And sometimes, like this year, fall lasts a week and brings us leaves on the ground only to be immediately covered in rain and seep water into your shoes when you step on them rather than provide a lovely crisp crunch that makes you want to shriek like a school kid, immerse your whole body in them, and then go apple picking.

For me, it takes a minute to realize that this isn’t a dream. Summer is over. It may not return until June, maybe even July, of the next year. I typically mourn for a week: The loss of cold beer on a hot day. The loss of biking in shorts and a t-shirt. The feeling of that cool 8pm summer breeze on my face. All gone. But then I pick myself up. I dust myself off. I realize that everything I love is possible because of winter. Without the rain we wouldn’t have a muddy cyclocross season or snow in the mountains to melt into our rivers for water to raft in. And then I really turn my frown upside down because I remember that winter is when you put on some grit. And that grit builds like a glacier. It piles on each year during the winter and come summer a little melts off but that base layer is still there, ready to take on more the next winter.

A made up statistic is that 70% of people turn winter into a hibernation period where they lock themselves indoors and deem doing anything outside to be miserable. Long before REI was saying it, I was shouting OPT OUTSIDE at the top of my lungs! Still go hiking, still go biking, still walk your dog, even find a new sport.  

Coming up with a way to work the outdoors into your weekly routine is key to winter survival. For me, incorporating the outdoors into my daily weekday routine is through bike commuting. A personal observation is that once the rain comes the numbers on two wheels out there is significantly less. I had my best, most fun commute the other day when it was POURING out. I put on my rain gear, put a change of socks in my backpack, lit my bike up like a Christmas tree and went forth. I got happier and happier as I passed car after car sitting in traffic while I breezed down the empty bike lane as my face was washed clean by the rain. When I got to work I felt awake, energized, and kind of badass if we are being honest. I was totally dry except for my left big toe and my face (but skin is waterproof so…)

Here are some ideas on how to get outside on the weekends:

1.     Go hiking! The waterfalls will be bigger and more beautiful than ever.

2.     Enter a cyclocross race! There is a reason it is the most popular pacific northwest fall/winter sport…you get to play in the mud and feel like a kid… (see earlier blog on cyclocross)

3.     Take up a winter snow sport. Snowshoeing, for example, is inexpensive and accessible in less than an hour’s drive from PDX.

4. Take up running! You guys, Forest park, Tryon Creek State Park, and Mt. Tabor are right in our city. How lucky are we? Really lucky. The great thing about trail running in the winter is that the trees make the rain feel like a light mist. As well, the ground is softer and thus easier on our joints. Added bonus: You have to maneuver slipping and sliding and therefore put your POINT agility skills to the test! Win-win-win.

Like anything hard the worst part is mental. Once you are out in the elements, if you are well prepared*, I guarantee you will enjoy yourself or your money back. So get out there, zip up your rain jacket, pack an extra pair of socks, and get ready to feel like a rockstar.

At POINT, you know that our tagline is Train indoors. Play outdoors. Let’s put all that hard work in the gym to the test outside regardless of season. And if you want some help with the logistics or just can’t get enough of your gym buddies, then get pumped for POINT’s second PDXpedition coming to you in the New Year featuring cold, snow, fun, and of course GRIT.

*The proper gear makes everything better. It is a large initial investment but worth it.