Over the last couple of months, I’ve been repeatedly asking myself the same rhetorical question: Who knew keeping warm during winter required so much effort?
In the second half of 2020, I dropped a significant amount of weight after getting serious with my cardio while adhering to portion controlled meals and snacks. The unintended consequence I had not been expecting is how colder I have regularly been this winter.
Like most people, as the weather cools off in the fall, I slowly transition from short sleeved polos or t-shirts to long-sleeved dress shirts, flannel shirts, or hoodies – all of which were more than enough to keep me comfortable in a normal indoor environment while the temperatures outside hovered around freezing. This winter as I continue to work from home because of the pandemic, such attire has not sufficed. As the typical day progresses, I have become uncomfortably cold enough that I now regularly rely on an added layer, such as a heavy sweater or a fleece jacket, to stay warm.
The other change I have noticed is when outside. Previously, when expecting to be out in the cold for prolonged periods, I dressed adequately enough to keep warm and relatively comfortable. When it has come to standing outside for several hours in the same spot during the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival each November, walking around Green Bay during whiteout conditions, or exploring downtown Minneapolis at the tail-end of the 2019 polar vortex, those were all adventures I happily embraced (one notable exception was a cold February night during a 2011 road trip to Louisville where I was unprepared to walk the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge over the Ohio River). The ensemble of winter wear worn in previous years has not provided the same level of sustained comfort for the various outdoor activities attempted this winter, including a December visit to Brookfield Zoo where despite my best effort, I walked around all late afternoon and early evening with an uncomfortable chill.
Becoming uncomfortably cold so easily is not something I am used to. On the contrary, my problem was usually with so easily becoming uncomfortably warm. This was especially true when inside any store, while still bundled up, where the heat often is blasted on extra high to overcompensate for the cold temperatures outside. At the office, I avoided wearing heavy sweaters because I knew I’d eventually have to remove it, which then resulted in the dress shirt becoming untucked and wrinkled. I disliked the added production of attempting to straighten the shirt and tucking it back in, which always served as a reminder of the extra weight that existed around my midsection.
With how easily warm I would get while indoors, I never understood the fuss coming from those, who despite wearing heavy clothing, still complained about being cold. As long as the heat was on at a reasonable temperature, how was it possible to still be so uncomfortable? When running errands or commuting to and from work, I either wore a light winter coat or skipped wearing one altogether. During any extended car ride, I usually tossed my coat onto the back seat. For the cold days that were not completely unbearable, I didn’t hesitate to walk through a parking lot or make a mad dash to the street to pick up mail from the mailbox without a jacket.
While I was aware that my added weight and size could have played a small role in allowing me to have such championship caliber tolerance for the cold, I would also have insisted that more of it came from my own mental toughness developed from my high school and college days working at the grocery store where I often was outside clearing the parking lot of shopping carts in the worst of the worst winter weather. I now know that my previous weight was much more of a factor than I was willing to admit.
Despite my now lesser tolerance for colder temperatures, one outside activity I’ve been successful with this winter has been long distance running. I’ve been fortunate enough so far that the temperatures in the late afternoons have usually been somewhere in the 30s, with a few days into the 20s. With the right clothing and attitude, I’ve not only gotten into the habit of running an average of four days a week, but I’ve also come to enjoy it. I’m not sure that same level of success will continue once temperatures fall into the teens.
By the time I have finished my normal work day at around 3:30, just the mere thought of going outside to get the mail, with or without a jacket, gives me a great deal of dread. My wife has noticed repeatedly that I often linger around the house aimlessly for some time after work, as I attempt to shift my mind in preparation for those long distance runs outside.
Now that a few months have passed, the shock of being uncomfortably cold on a more regular basis doesn’t shock me as much as it initially did. Perhaps, I’m more or less becoming used to it. Either way, considering how long I had been unhappy with my previous weight and size, I’m more than willing to consider such consequence as a good problem to have.