I set out to write about getting outdoors and staying active in the winter because, frankly, I was in desperate need of motivation. My second child was born late last summer, and when an early autumn snow fell we proceeded to burrow down in our little house like a family of cozy squirrels. The holidays came and went, but I could still be found snuggled up with the baby on the couch, munching away on sweets. I knew I needed to get out, but going for a run seemed like climbing Mt. Everest. My joints were stiff and achy from too many sugar cookies and a post-Christmas lethargy had settled over me like a puddle of cold molasses. The baby was a fantastic enabler of my sloth-like nature and a great excuse for why I couldn’t make it to the 24-hour gym right by my house.

Deep down, however, I knew that my excuses were nothing more than that. It was time to get up and get out. But…it still looked awfully cold out and my couch was still looking pretty cozy, so I sat back down and called The Springfield Running Center to get some advice on how to get moving in the cold.  

“I was just out this morning scouting out the parks and trails,” owner Tracy Dowell told me. “Actually, one of my favorite places to run in the winter is the White Oaks Mall parking lot. The loop is over a mile long, it’s plowed, salted, well-lit, and there’s security.”

Dowell stressed the importance of visibility while out on a run or walk during the short days of winter. She recommends wearing a headlamp in addition to reflective clothing. “It not only helps you see your footing, it helps others see you as well.”

When it comes to staying warm and dry, layering is key. Dowell told me to start with a moisture-wicking long sleeved shirt and tights, followed by a mid-layer of light fleece, all topped off by a windproof jacket. A neck gator is ideal for keeping out the chilly breeze, and Dowell suggests wearing mittens instead of gloves to keep fingers toasty.

In addition to using shoe grippers like Yak Tracks to help keep your footing on snow and ice, Dowell shared an insider trick for keeping toes warm and dry. “Put a couple of pieces of duct tape over the toe area of your shoe. It’ll keep your toes dry and provides an extra layer of warmth, then when you’re done, just pull it off and toss it.”

Dowell’s enthusiasm was contagious, and frankly, I was excited to try out this duct tape trick. The only decision left was where to go. Upon further inquiry, I learned that the Springfield Park District does plow and salt the paths at Lincoln, Washington, and Southwind Parks, as well as the four main bike trails.

Lincoln Memorial Garden is also open year-round to visitors. “We’ve had quite a few cross-country skiers out here enjoying this nice snow,” said Joel Horwedel, the executive director. “And when it’s just frozen out and there’s not so much snow, lots of folks come out here to walk and jog the trails.”  

There are also volunteer opportunities for folks looking to support Lincoln Memorial Garden in the wintertime such as helping the grounds crew clear trails and split firewood. In February, a training session will be held for folks interested in helping with maple sap collection and syrup making.

Finally, with my deadline looming and a winter storm threatening to break the next day, I found a pair of shoe grippers in the back of my closet and scrounged up a roll of duct tape. Baby and I set off through the park, decked out in wool and fleece from head to toe. Before long, I was thoroughly warm and had shed my top layer and gloves. The baby squealed with delight as we approached the duck pond, oblivious to the frigid temperatures in her fuzzy bear suit.  Far from being an arduous ordeal, our brisk walk proved to be a perfect cabin fever reliever. The bright sunshine and bracing morning air cleared away the fuzzy cobwebs that had collected in the corners of my mind. I felt thoroughly refreshed, grateful for both duct tape and the thermos of hot coffee waiting for me in the car.

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