Appreciating the Cold

Forecast, 11/21-25/10

Riding my bike around and around the Arb today, I was pretty happy even though my legs were heavy (thanks to having gone two weeks without any exercise) and my lungs were full of blech (thanks to a lingering cold-and-cough thing). It was cold, 20° or so, with a nasty northerly wind, but it felt great.

There’s just something about being cold and being in the cold that makes me happy. The sensations of coldness themselves aren’t great in and of themselves: I don’t relish the thick dullness in my fingers and toes, or the way my cheeks feel like cracking in the wind. On the other hand, I don’t mind those sensations, either, and I do like the feeling of working through, or in spite of, the sensations. In almost every workout, no matter how cold, my body compensates with a wonderful flood of warmth – a mysteriously nice feeling in its own right and an excellent complement to the endorphins that (if I’m lucky) come later.

Mixed in with all those corporeal sensations are the sensations of actually being out in the ice and snow. Running and riding are more difficult, of course: you go slower, the footing and balance are less certain, and going hard depends on handling the cold air – and on resisting the desire to just go be warm and still. Skiing is very different: the snow speeds up your movements, even as it tests your balance, but skiing also forces you to use every part of your body if you want to go at all – to enjoy the glide, an effortlessness that only comes through pretty serious effort.

Beyond all that, being outside in the cold appeals to me because I’m often out there alone, or nearly so, doing something that not that many other people are doing. I enjoy meeting another biker on the icy roads or another skier on the snowy trails, of course, but I also like not meeting them. The cold, understandably, keeps most people inside, which somehow makes being out in the cold more satisfying (for shallow egotistical reasons) and more calming (for weird mental reasons). Moving, by whatever means, down a quiet white trail is one of one of my favorite experiences, one I wouldn’t give up for anything.

And then finally there’s coming inside: it’s practically supernatural, the feeling of coming in out of the cold, sweat frozen into my shirt, snow caked in my hat, hands and feet numb (again), and basking in the heat of the house. Perfectly ordinary, and perfectly amazing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *