FeaturesKeeping Active When Summer Comes to an End

Keeping Active When Summer Comes to an End

Words: Leroy Wallace
Illustration: Tasha Reis

The weather outside has been so nice for so long that I worry about how I’ll adjust when normal British service is resumed. It’s temporarily drizzling as I write this, but I’m merely taking the opportunity to wash my beach towel, clean sand out of the car and rub after-sun into the overcooked bits of my suntan.

I view the rain an an unexpected bonus – less time watering the garden equals more time swimming as soon as it dries out again. Inside, the TV is covered with cobwebs, the sweaters are being eaten by moths and I stopped going to the gym because it’s been too hot for me to eat lunch since the start of June. How will I cope when the skies return to grey?

At the back of my mind I know the heatwave can’t last forever, so I’ve begun stockpiling the things I’m going to do when it isn’t so nice to be outside, and when it starts becoming actively unpleasant again. In the rare years where we’ve had a proper summer I’ve tended to think of this in terms of hibernation, of retreat into a warm cave, but in 2018 I’ve had so much fun staying busy that I have vowed to keep it up throughout the less hospitable months. I could summarise my plan with “try not to veg in front of the TV non-stop until March”, but any lack of detail is dangerous when cold and darkness could arrive and bury my half-formed plans under an avalanche of sleet. If we want to carry summer’s joy into the dank and miserable months we’re better off coming up with a detailed plan of action – by ordering some sensible seasonal clothing, sketching out ways to entertain ourselves, and by ensuring we have the motivation to make it to another summer more or less intact.

Winter strategy 1: Remaining active indoors

With the exception of a brief guilty burst in January, gyms and sports centres tend to be less busy in the winter months. For the vain amongst us this might be because chunky woollen knits hide a multitude of sins, but it could also be that the oppressive darkness tricks our metabolism into behaving like a winter bear, afraid to waste calories on sweat. This works if you’re a bear, or an Icelandic goatherd in 700AD, but in the modern world few of us need to conserve calories. We’re better off transforming them, not just into healthy bodies but also endorphins – the happy chemicals that help me get through winter without weeping in the supermarket or setting fire to my workplace. Exercise is fun to do when it’s warm outside, but when winter rolls around it becomes essential to maintain your mood as well as your appearance. It isn’t necessary to switch your summer exercise regime entirely to the indoors – I feel a lot better if I combine my visits to the sports centre with wintry outdoor activities, regardless of how foul the weather is. The value isn’t just in the vitamin D, but in reminding myself that I won’t let an hour’s rain defeat me, even if I will let it remind me I’m lucky to be able to get back indoors when I’m done. This also highlights another winter coping strategy, which is to stay loving the outdoors even when it doesn’t love you back. Even in a British winter it doesn’t rain all the time, so prepare to treat those dry, bright days like an unexpected bonus and a reason to take a walk in our “refreshing” off-season environment.

Winter strategy 2: stay social

A further downside to winter in a beach community is that it is easier to let yourself become socially isolated when the sun goes away. Technically you could still arrange to meet your friends for a barbecue or quick dip in the sea after work, but for most people this is about as enticing as a soggy duffel coat once the clocks go back. Jersey’s all-purpose solution to the winter blues is to meet people indoors to drink alcohol, but although there’s value in the warming effect of the booze, and in like-minded commiseration, excessive alcohol consumption is one of our biggest problems. Our sauce-soaked culture also excludes people who don’t drink, or are merely trying to cut down. My solution has been to plan the type of social events that allow people to drink if they want to, but are still accessible to people who don’t. These could involve book groups, getting together to screen a film, or arranging potluck dinners. I also rediscovered board games, which are a cheap way to spend an evening with friends or family and are more accessible to newcomers than modern video games. I’d advise swerving Monopoly if you want to exit winter on good terms with your nearest and dearest, but there are countless non-awful games out there to enjoy beyond the same five titles we all got bored of in the 80s. If you Google “board games buyer’s guide” you’ll find some good lists of new games, from multi-hour strategy behemoths to funny card games that the whole family can enjoy.

Winter strategy 3: Start a hobby or creative project

Perhaps the best way to recast bad weather as a positive opportunity is in taking up a hobby, or learning a new skill. I put off doing anything new when it’s hot, but I also like to fantasise that months of howling winds and miserable rain are like the training montage in a kung-fu film – where I emerge into next spring a more rounded and somehow impressive individual. For time-starved working adults it can seem like learning anything new is unachievable, especially when you’re tired and cold, but if you record the amount of time you spend doing non-essential passive activities you’ll be surprised about what you can achieve. Last winter I had two seasons of a glossy TV show lined up to watch over a few weeks, and instead I decided to spend the time doing an online course for Adobe Photoshop. I’m not a quick learner, but in the 20 hours I didn’t spend watching TV I picked up a new skill that I’m happy to put on my CV, and I’m now Photoshopping for fun on my evenings off. You could spend just one evening a week on a cooking class, learning to sing, or brushing up on your GCSE French. It’s true that we’re spoiled with modern TV, but I’m of the opinion that you stop appreciating it if you just lurch from one box set to another every night. If you spend one evening a week on a new hobby, and another ploughing through all those books you promised to read once it stopped being so hot, then big-budget telly goes back to being something of a treat. Who knows, you might even set a resolution to treat yourself next summer by staying inside and watching TV if we get hit by another heatwave.

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