In defense of staying in

I admire my fellow Mainers featured in this issue who don’t let a little snow or freezing temps stop them from exploring our beautiful state. Snow be damned, they are out there hiking, snowshoeing, snowboarding and loving every minute of it.

I am not one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind winter. I’ve been skiing since I could walk and grew up making snow forts and playing outside until my cheeks were numb. I think one of the most breathtaking sights is the morning after a snowstorm—branches heavy with snow that create a canopy of blinding, pure white sparkles. I even love walking outside during a light snowfall when there is nothing but the sound of crunching snow underfoot. It relaxes me, gives me a singular focus to appreciate the simple beauty falling around me, and the near silence quiets my mind.

But let’s be honest, is there anything more beautiful than watching flakes fall…from your warm bed while you’re all snuggled up under five blankets? Or catching a glimpse of the wind making the snowflakes swirl…from your couch, while you’re wearing slippers and every piece of sweatshirt or terry cloth material you own?

The answer is no.

Living in the city, I have some urban challenges with the snow. Being pelted in the face with sharp, icy flakes as I trek through a blizzard, fumbling blindly for blocks between where I parked my car (thank you, snow ban) to my apartment, feels like my personal Iditarod. Since I don’t have a garage, I’m constantly digging out my car after it’s buried under snow by passing city plows. A scraper is this gal’s best friend and required companion.

Plus, after a long Maine winter, my thighs can crack walnuts. That’s thanks to months of constantly contracting every muscle in my legs as I slowly shuffle along the icy sidewalks, attempting to stay upright, hoping I don’t fall and break something! (I’m 32 and fear that a fall THIS winter will break my aged hips.)

Hot gams aside, winter is dark and cold and, in my mind, it’s nature’s way of telling you to revitalize, slow down and sleep.

You get a free pass to catch up on the pile of books on your nightstand or that fantastic series you have been too busy to bother with during the warmer months. I like to think of this strongly suggested human hibernation as the original form of “Netflix and chill”—before millennials usurped the phrase and made it a hookup term.

I never feel more relaxed than when I curl up in front of a roaring fire with those I love (two- and four-legged included). The warmth soothes my soul and silences my overactive mind.

I think everyone can benefit from rest and recharging. And you, person who suggests outdoor camping in late January, you can keep your goose down, I will hold tight to my hot cocoa.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

Take your cycling inside

Winter riding isn’t for everyone, unless you bring the bike inside. Bike trainers let you keep riding all winter in the comfort of your own home by turning your road bike into a stationary bike. Sure, you can watch a made-for-TV-movie while you ride, or you can challenge yourself with digital group rides and races through an app.

Katie Bonawitz of Gorham Bike and Ski recommends Zwift ($10/month), a digital cycling community that allows you to ride solo or with a group and compete in races. It also has training platform. “Zwift has women-only group rides and races, which I really like because the group rides are designed to encourage and teach women how to ride in a group, which can be hard to do, even digitally.

“With the right tools, Zwift will show you your power output, heart rate and cadence, so you can see yourself improve (and become healthier) over time. You also earn points as you ride that get you cool gear and bikes for your character.

“I combine Zwift with Strava, which I use as a mobile platform to log rides, and you can also track running and swimming. I like Strava because it acts as a fitness tracker for me, and I can set goals and the app shows me where I am each day compared to where I should be to meet my yearly goal.”

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