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Sederquist: We made it

Skieologians: The Applied Sports Philosophy Column

Skiing at night is par for the course in Norway, where the shortest day of the year is very, very short.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Folks, we made it.

No, I’m not talking about the holiday season. Maybe you eschewed our last-minute holiday gift guide, forgot the ham in the oven and burned the green bean casserole, but even if your time with family didn’t pan out as you had hoped, you still should celebrate because, along the way, you bypassed the worst day of the year.

It’s not election day, though I do find it difficult to leave my house every Tuesday following that first Monday in November. Actually, more contentious than sparring over political candidates with random Twitter accounts is the ongoing fight I have with the sun. Particularly its light supply.



The worst — and shortest — day of the year, Dec. 21, is in the rearview mirror. At 8:58 a.m., optimism returned once again as the sun’s rays turned around and started the gradual climb back up “Positive Peak.”

As trivial as it may seem, the amount of daylight plays a pivotal role in our daily attitude towards physical activity. The first 20 years of my life were spent living and training in Fargo, North Dakota, which was in the Weather Channel’s Final Four of Worst Weather Cities in America during a year (2013) in which I ran twice a day, every day, for 11 and a half months as captain of the cross-country and track teams at Concordia College. Ironically, another city in that honorary final four was Caribou, Maine, which is 13 miles away from Presque Isle, my home in 2018. I guess my purpose in life all along was to simply know which places understand the truest meaning of the phrase, “the hardest part is getting out the door.”



Through college, I simply fought the trend of shorter, colder days. To call back my earlier reference to politics, my interactions with the shortening clock were about as fruitless as those vitriolic political arguments you see between two people bent simply on shouting. I would whine and wander around the house as I found my warmest gloves, debate on taking the workout off, and then, after some more useless shifting and deliberation, open the door, feel the blast of an icy sub-zero wind-chill, and slip down the sidewalk to start another 10-mile run.

Now, I’ve figured out the secrets to enjoying outdoor exercise every day of the calendar year, and I’d like to share them with you.

Invest in good equipment

In Presque Isle, a headlamp was a permanent appendage for your hat or helmet for fat bikers, skiers, and runners. Flying through the narrow trails at the Nordic Heritage Center one evening with two-time Olympian Russ Currier, a Mainer from an even more obscure location — Stockholm — I realized the value of having a ‘good’ headlamp. A regular headlamp can help you see your hands. A good headlamp turns a dark forest into a Broadway stage. My tips: find one that is rechargeable, comfortable, and ultra-bright, like the Petzl Swift RL, which is what I have now. I actually look forward to skiing in the dark. Is it the same as under a bluebird sky? No, but …

Embrace the difference

It’s amazing how a simple free-will decision to be positive about heading out for a ski, bike, skin, or run in the dark can change one’s outlook. Equipped with the proper gear, one can welcome the darkness, even when a warm cup of cocoa seems more enticing than cold boots. It’s possible to embrace the traits once loathed, and to recognize a different set of benefits. Just like a blue sky soothes the soul, a starry one can be savored as well. At night, the calming stars are typically paired with a calmer breeze. Plus, depending on where you go, you can bring the furry friend along and have her off leash. The only obstacle with night activity is being able to …

Buck the trend

We live in a 9-5 society, with dinner being the first order of priority after a long, stressful work day. Instead of implementing an avante garde schedule, consider how you might feel if you get the heart rate up with a breath of fresh air and a few powder turns before settling in for dinner. Too many of my peers waste the time between work ending and dinner anyway. Be intentional with your time, make a plan, get excited about it, and do it.

When you’re staring at the bleak darkness and can’t imagine how being outside would be better than eating or watching Netflix, remember this “skieologian” rule: nowhere in the course of human history has anyone ever regretted going for a ski.

Warm dress = warm heart

If you are a runner or Nordic skier, this is especially important. Finding something with the right combination of movement, wind protection, lightness, and dryness is absolutely critical. I’m a bargain shopper, but this is one place I don’t skimp. Actually, you don’t have to skimp; check out The Thrifty Shop in Edwards. I’ve put thousands of hours into second-hand name brand training items found for next to nothing at thrift stores. If you want to buy new, pants and tops from Sporthill can be worn for 15 days in a row without needing a wash (according to me, not my wife). If it takes away the sting of that initial step out the door, it’s worth adding to your wardrobe.

Have fun, but be tough

Sports seem to bear out transcendent paradoxes more so than other pursuits. Relevant to our discussion is the seemingly contradictory balance between making yourself do an activity and simultaneously enjoying the activity. Know that there will be moments of both, and embrace that, too.

On days when you are not particularly amped to slip on the ice again as you warm up that aching Achilles tendon, remember that you’re making yourself tougher. On those mystery nights where you never could have imagined finishing off a 12-hour work day and “kids have the flu” nightmare with a 20-kilometer skate ski … and yet somehow do … place it in your memory bank for later. It’s all being invested in your well-being 401k, and you’ll be happy to draw upon it later, when you really need it.

As life ebbs and flows, I suppose it’s possible that I’ll have different strategies for the “worst day of the year.” We’ll see. Maybe the worst day of the year will change, too. One thing is for sure, I’m going to make it through with a smile on my face no matter what … even if that smile is frozen in place and requires a headlamp to see.

 


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