The Importance of Time Outside (Even During Trainer Season)

by | Feb 2, 2024 | Cross-Training, Training

We’ve been lucky enough to be in a sunny, warm spot to work and train for this past week, living out of our van and spending all but our sleeping hours outside, and the difference in mood, overall health, digestion, skin—you name it!—has been pretty astonishing. It has me thinking about the flip side: When we’re home in the winter and snow is piling up outside, it’s easy for us to go days without spending any meaningful time outside. We can use the trainer and the treadmill, take DW on abbreviated nature breaks, and since we work from home, we don’t even need to leave to go to the office. The ability to hermit is HIGH. But

And I think that’s how a lot of us get during this season, especially now that Zwift has made riding the trainer actually enjoyable for many people. It’s easy to eschew a hard snowshoe or cross-country ski or slushy run or ride in favor of a quick workout in the pain cave. But there’s so much more to riding/running than the pedal strokes or foot strikes themselves. The simple act of spending time outside in the actual fresh air, getting even a little bit of sunlight, can be just as impactful as the workout itself. 

And yes, I’ll be the first to admit that we’re super lucky to be able to spend a few weeks of the winter in warmer, sunnier locales and it’s much easier to be outside here. But even when we are home in NJ or Ontario, we are huge on this concept. Yes, the trainer is absolutely efficient and a great way to do a workout. Ditto the treadmill, and we utilize both.

It’s undeniable: Most days, you should be getting outside for some type of movement!

Having DW has made this easier for us, since even on days we do most of our training inside, we feel like he deserves to have his normal walk regardless of how inclement the weather (within reason). We put on his coat, wax his paws, and head out in almost any weather for our 1.5-mile walk at the end of the workday, with headlamps for us and a glowstick collar for him.

During these winter months, any day the roads are even somewhat reasonable and visibility makes it safe enough to do so, I run outside. Running is obviously much easier to do in bad weather compared to biking, and Peter does most of his workouts inside when we are home in the winter. But for endurance—and we’ve talked about this ad nauseum in podcasts in the past—he’ll run or cross-country ski as cross-training to get that nature dose.

What’s important here isn’t necessarily what you choose to do outside, it’s just the act of getting out the door. I’ve realized that often, we assume that fitness equals our time in nature, or at least that it can be equated with the need to spend time outside. But there’s so much more to being outside than just the getting out and hitting the 10,000 step count! We know that time in nature improves mood, increases cognition and stimulates creativity, and reduces anxiety. From the physical health standpoint, time in nature actually boosts your immune system, lowers all of your different stress mechanisms, and of course, hits us with that necessary vitamin D exposure from the sun.

So, do yourself a favor and check in: Is your TrainingPeaks all green from doing your workouts, but your time spent in nature this week was negligible? You might be better hitting yellow on your training but spending some time outside a couple times each week!


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