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Weather warriors v rain retreaters

The great inside-out exercise debate

The clocks have changed and so, it seems, has the weather. It may improve again, but over the last few days the wind and the rain and the extra nip in the air all carry a hint that winter is on the way. If the newspaper headlines are to be believed, the weather mightn’t be all we have to worry about this winter, but let’s not go down that miserable road just yet.

Now that the cooler months are here, those of us who took up new outdoor activities over the various lockdowns will find out just what we’re made of. When it comes to outdoor exercise and Irish weather, it’s best to channel your inner Knuckles McGinty. Who? If you haven’t seen Paddington 2, crawl out from under your rock and watch it, taking special note of Brendan Gleeson’s character, Knuckles McGinty, the prison ‘chef’. When confronting his fellow inmates about a meal, Knuckles tells them “You’ve got two options: take it, or leave it.”

How to take such an approach to the weather? Simple. Take what the weather throws at you. Or leave the weather (not the exercise) and move indoors. In some cases those choices are easier than others, but let’s talk them through a bit.

Take it If you’re a take-it type person, the key thing is to be prepared. There’s a better than average chance it will rain occasionally in the west of Ireland, so get your hands on the best sport-specific fully waterproof jacket you can. Take note of the sport-specific part of that sentence. A good golf jacket might well be useless for running in, and vice-versa.

When it comes to warmth, again, be sport specific and remember the old tip: dress for the second mile but pack for the finish. The British adventurer Ranulph Fiennes often talks of having to strip down to his thermal underwear while trekking across Antarctica, such was the heat he would generate, but then risking hypothermia the moment he stopped as the sweat on his clothing froze. If you are doing a strenuous activity, don’t over-dress to begin with but do make sure you have something warm to put on as soon as you finish.

The shorter days also need to be considered, so don’t forget things like lights and hi-vis clothing in the mornings and evenings.

Leave it If you are one of those folks who finds the weather just too much (and there’s no judgement from me on that front), and would prefer to leave the would-be Ranulph Fienneses to themselves, in many ways life is simpler.

Obviously, not every sport or activity can be done indoors, but there is a multitude of things that can. And many of those indoor activities might help prepare you for when spring comes around and it’s time to get back outside.

Most people would benefit from some form of gym-based strengthening programme for both general health and athletic performance, but there are more specific options as well. Golfers might consider Pilates or yoga to improve their flexibility and core strength. Tennis players could try squash – or make use of the dome in Castlebar.

Gaelic footballers would be wise to remember that Kieran Donaghy was primarily a basketball player until he exploded on the inter-county scene. Sea swimmers can easily move indoors when the weather is too bad. And as tedious as it may be at times, running on a treadmill is still running, just as a spin class is still cycling.

The elephant in the room for the indoor exercisers is, of course, Covid. Be sure to work out where there is adequate ventilation and space, make sure to wash your hands regularly and stay at home if you have any symptoms. Remember, it’s not the cold weather that causes illness to rise in winter, but extra time indoors in close proximity to others.

Mix it up Of course, it’s perfectly okay to mix and match. Head outdoors on the good days and into the gym when it’s miserable. When exercising, as long as you’re doing something you’re doing something useful. Regardless of whether you choose to take it or leave it; keep exercising, stay safe and have fun.

This post first appeared in the Mayo News

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