Seasonal depression is simply a reality for many people during the winter months. Starting in late fall and early winter, the lack of daylight hours has detrimental effects on our body’s natural rhythms, which can cause all sorts of mood disorders and depressive states. Combine that with the fact that many of our hobbies are taken off of the table due to the cold (it’s difficult to load the stand-up paddleboards on the roof rack when it’s covered in snow and your hands are frozen), and we’re left with limited options to stay fit and generate endorphins. Of course, we always have the gym, but that does little to counteract the real issue of decreased sunlight and time spent outdoors.
If you’re anything like me, you find yourself fantasizing about the beach more and more as the winter drags on. You post #tbt pictures on Instagram and think daily about life outside of the tundra. (Okay, perhaps that was a little dramatic, but it’s freezing outside and has been for weeks!)
Unfortunately, the cold, hard truth (see what I did there) is that winter isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And, if you are like most of us, you don’t have the option of heading to your Hawaii house to wait out the storm. We have to make the best of it! I, for one, have never been the type to sit around and wait for life to get better. I’m more of a face-the-storm-and-make-shit-happen kind of a guy. So, in the spirit of being a doer, I’ve compiled a list of unique activities to get you out of the house and start living again. Because there are roughly 12 weeks of winter, I’ve added one activity for each weekend so that you don’t have to spend one bored minute dreaming of greener pastures. Just remember: there is no bad weather, only bad gear. Prepare accordingly, and you can have just as much fun outside in January as you do in July!
- Buy a fat tire mountain bike. These odd looking bikes have grown in popularity as of late, mainly because they have such all-terrain application. Believe it or not, you can use these bikes to cruise both sandy beaches and snow covered trails. Biking is no longer confined to the roads (or even the dirt and mud). If you’re like me and actually need something to train for in order to really get moving, there are plenty of fat-tire mountain bike races that you can enter in.
- Enter a snowshoe marathon. Running on the roads in the winter can be dangerous. Cars around you have less control and the sidewalks aren’t always clear. Hitting the trails isn’t any easier when snow is constantly falling in your shoes and you’re wading through shin high snow drifts. The solution? Snowshoes. There are several race companies that have recently been putting on snowshoe marathons. Signing up gives you something to train for, and completing one gives you endless stories to tell your co-workers on Monday morning!
- Shovel racing. First of all, yes, this is a real thing. In fact, the sport of shovel racing was once featured in the ESPN Winter X Games. The concept is pretty simple: sit on a shovel and rush down a frozen hill as fast as you absolutely can. Before you go out with the shovel you just used to clear your driveway, you should know that picking the right shovel is as much of an art as steering with your feet. Here are a few that might work. Although you can find sanctioned events, you could also find a few crazy friends to race and make it happen!
- Backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Most people believe that this is only for the experts (and on 10,000 foot mountains, they would be correct). But the barrier to entry to backcountry is actually pretty low. Find a hill to hike, and then ski or snowboard down it. As your confidence increases, so can the size of your hill. Even on the East Coast, you can get into some pretty great backcountry relatively easily. It’s a great change of view from the comfort of the lodge and can be highly rewarding.
- Ride a Sno-Go. For some, the idea of cruising on these bike/ski hybrids feels a little too weird, but remember, even snowboards were once considered to be only for rebels and weirdos. It’s my prediction that the successful Kickstarter project Sno-Go bikes will only grow in popularity as they continue to significantly decrease the barrier of entry for people to have fun on the mountain. Don’t want to commit to the price tag of a new bike? Check their website for demo days at a mountain near you! You know what they say... it’s like riding a bike.
- Ice boating. An iceboat is basically a sailboat that travels on thin blades across the ice. Admittedly, this one takes a bit more preparation and money, as you have to really work to get the right gear and location (unless you happen to live next to Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota). But then again, how much would you pay for a great experience that helps you beat the winter time blues?
- Skijoring. According to Wikipedia, this is the “winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle.” According to me, you can do the same thing with an ATV, side by side, or snowmobile - and it’s awesome! As a disclaimer, stay away from actual roadways and instead stick to the fields and frozen lakes. This one will keep you entertained for hours.
- Hit the California Double. This just takes a few willing friends and a full day to waste. And maybe a few vacation days if you don’t live in Southern California, but who doesn’t want to get away to sunny San Diego? The idea is that you get up bright and early in the morning to surf (tip: be sure to bring a wetsuit, the water is still plenty cold), and then grab lunch and head to Big Bear Mountain to night ski. The day will wear you out, but it’s hard to have a more action packed and fun weekend. Another tip: Get a cabin in Big Bear so you have a nice, warm bed to collapse in once the fun is over, driving back to the beach that night won’t be any fun at all.
- Snow kiting. Just like kiteboarding except tailored for the cold. Look up your local kiteboarding shop to rent equipment and ask around to find someone willing to teach you. If you have a friend who already kiteboards, start by trying to convince them to give it a try on the snow.
- Raise money for your favorite cause. Just because the season of giving is over doesn’t mean that the need goes away. But, now that the holidays are over, getting people to part with their money can require a little novelty. People love to give money to a cause when the fundraisers are wild, unique, or in some way out of the ordinary. This makes it a great time of year to strip down to your swim trunks with your friends and put on a polar plunge! All you need is a GoFundMe account, a worthy cause, and couple moments of cold. Don’t worry, it’ll make the post-plunge hot chocolate that much more worth it.
- Get your beach body. People assume that physical exercise is the only way to burn calories. Just being cold burns fat while also providing a host of other health benefits through a process called cold thermogenesis. A great way to take advantage of that is by shoveling your driveway or deck with your shirt off. As long as you can stand it, wear boots and snow pants only. If you have to shovel, why not get in a little biohacking at the same time?
- Winter Camping. Most people assume camping is only a summer activity. With the right gear, camping can be just as fun in the winter. Bonus points if you build your own igloo!
So much of life’s happiness and growth can be found when we throw ourselves into new and exciting situations. Even more so when those situations force us to focus to learn a new sport or activity. In the end, it will not be the days you sat inside mindlessly scrolling Instagram and wishing that you were outside that you remember. It will be the days that you decided to stop settling. The days that you took on a bold new world, even if that world is a little uncomfortable getting used to.