I recently had a last minute chance to sit down with Martha Rosenstein of Alaska Public Media and the Outdoor Explorer Podcast to have a discussion about transitioning from Summer to Winter. This is a big transition across the hemisphere - and feels a little extra dramatic up here in Alaska where you can blink and fall is already over! We discussed some different ways that can make the transition feel less drastic and more sustainable, you can see the list of topics below!
Closing out the episode, Martha chats for a bit with Heather Caldwell - a psychotherapist that practices in both Alaska and Colorado. Heather shares some more perspective on how to make a seasonal transition, you can check out more about Heather and her practice here.
I hope you will have a listen and that you enjoy the conversation! If you have thoughts or any of these topics resonated, I'd love to hear from you!
You can also read the full transcription of the interview below!
Outdoor Explorer I'm your host, Martha Rosenstein. On today's show. My guests are Sarah Histand and Heather Caldwell. Sarah is a mental health professional as well as a fitness trainer and we talked about easing the transition of both your brain and your body from summer into winter. We cover some important areas of strength and fitness to focus on as you think about winter sports, as well as how a less frantic summer can lead to a less abrupt change in energy with the seasons change. Heather is a psychotherapist, athlete and outdoor lover. We take a deeper dive into using a connection to nature to either seasonal transition, as well as preparing our minds and bodies for the arrival of winter. Keep listening for more on outdoor explore. This is Outdoor explore, and I'm your host Martha Rosenstein. Today, my guest is Sarah hestan. Sarah has been on outdoor explorer before but for those who don't know Sarah, she is a mental health informed adventure fitness trainer. She helps women build strength of both their minds and bodies. So they're resilient in tough times while having as much fun as possible the rest of the time. So welcome back to outdoor explorer Sara. Thanks for having me. So first, can you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do for anybody who doesn't know you?
Sure. Yeah. So I live in Anchorage here on Dena'ina lands and I am a lifelong Alaskan. I grew up in Soldotna. And have lived all around the state and Skagway and Valdez and Denali. And I love Alaska. I love being outdoors here. I love the community and the way of life. And I have built this business now i i like she said mental health and formed adventure Fitness Trainers. I'm a trainer and I'm also a mental health therapist. And I've combined those into being able to help people, mostly women, women and non binary folks, and anyone who is comfortable being in a women's centered space, build the strength that they need to be outdoors without as many injuries and able to have more fun because we've done some cross training ahead of time. And then we also work on the mental components of moving our bodies and being outside. So it's trying to be a mind mental strength and physical strength type of work.
I think that's really important because there's a lot of mental strength that goes into physical strength as well.
Yeah, they they interrelate all the time. So yeah, it's fun to work with them together. Yeah.
So we are going to talk about using this time of year to transition from our summer fitness and summer activities into our winter fitness and activities. But there's a lot that goes along with this conversation. And it's really kind of funny how this interview came together. Because an article that a friend wrote showed up on my Facebook feed, which is what sparked this idea. And then I frantically started messaging people and trying to put this together. And I think that illustrates how a lot of us transition from summer into winter is where Go go go all summer, fall shows up, we panic a little bit. And then all of a sudden, it's winter. And we're not sure what happened. What are your thoughts on how we make this transition, versus how we could do it in a more mindful way.
And I love that example because I've been living it too. So I just had a couple one big trip, my husband and I were going to be going on a long trip here in September, and we had to, we cancelled it at the last minute because it was like snowing up there. And it was like full on winter. And so we just had to like throw our plans out out the door and come up with a few different plans. And it it's the time of year where you just like really can't count on anything. And especially if you think that it's still summer, you tend to get like thrown off quite a bit like you said and end up in this frantic mode. If if we're still in that way of thinking that like we can plan ahead and that our plans will most likely come around that usually doesn't happen this time of year. So yeah, I think there is such a good conversation to be having because what if we can really think about a shoulder season or transition season between summer and winter, it this is kind of its own thing and it's a it's a time where we can be if we're intentional about the way we approach it, we might have a more enjoyable and smooth experience. So even just recognizing that you might need to have a plan B, C or D on deck for this season is I think even just just that can help the disappointment and discouragement and franticness of the plan a falling apart can ease that quite a bit. And then there's so many things that we can do this season if we're able to be instead of like totally thrown off and discouraged if we're able to be creative and and like use it. There's a lot to be done.
Yeah, and I think today I mean my house, there's snow the ground so this is a perfect illustration of UK anything yeah you can't count on anything right now. It is it is fall Equinox day two so that feels a little strange that there's snow in September on the ground here
it's early this year that's I mean Same thing with that trip it's like on a myth quote unquote typical year we would have been able to get a fall trip in early September but but like who knows everything's changing a lot these days so yeah, gotta be able to roll with it
and I feel like people maybe this past year and a half has really also illustrated the need to have backup plans and but you can't count on your plan A all the time so I'm hoping that people maybe are a little bit more used to that but I think it still it still feels a little jarring when you're you know counting on something counting on something and then something changes and you have to make that that pivot
Yeah, and I think we're we are on one hand we've been doing that a lot and so we do have some like a muscle memory for that but we also have a bunch of fatigue after having been doing that a lot and at some point I think there also is this just like good lord I wish that like something could work out one of these times this like it's a burden that we've been carrying for for so long now that to have to be so adaptable so even just recognizing that that is um, like a mental and energetic lift every time you have to like come up with another plan and be like switch for your excitement from one thing to something else like that takes energy so so I think some acknowledgement of that and understanding of the energy that's involved with transitioning plants and seasons is another way to help recognize that this maybe isn't as easy a process as just like rolling through summer or or being like full in winter when like everything's like cold and you can count on it. This is this season requires so much more adaptability and that takes energy so absolutely also like school starting and all the other things that are starting up this time of year so people are balancing a lot of different transitions at the same time.
Yeah, and I think there was a lot of uncertainty around those things to begin with. So then you've got that added on top of all of these other things and it just kind of becomes people are like why am I so tired, it's because we've been kind of dealing with this constant transition for many months. As people spend or as people who spend a lot of time outside like I certainly spend a lot of time outside you spend a lot of time outside I think that we are probably fairly tuned into what's happening with seasons and weather. What cues Do you take from nature that changes coming
well I'm looking out my window right now and the there's a lot of wind it's a blustery day out and the leaves are turning and so there's quite a bit of yellow and some red out there and I love the color and the visuals that we get this time of year if you live in a place where like the leaves are turning or the tundra is turning it's so gorgeous and that that is I love them like being around that changing of the landscape that we're in and especially with like anticipating winter coming and knowing that it's going to be dark a lot and cold and the color is going to be gone this time of year I really like almost trying to like soak it up as if I were a sponge just really try to appreciate the beauty of the colors yeah and I think big ones
I think for me like spending time in the mountains where it sort of changes first some you know it's sort of like you get those reds in the in the tundra and then before the leaves down here change so I feel like sometimes that's a cue to that you're like oh it's it's coming
yeah and then there's a temperature thing too I noticed that crispness that starts to come in and you gotta like get get another layer on and and that for me especially this year I don't know if every year I have this but for sure this year I'm like oh no I'm not ready. It feels like summer was so short and I'm not sure last winter was hard with pandemic life and and that sort of looming pressure of like knowing how challenging winter can be is really palpable when it starts to get cold out so so I have like some initial resistance to that and then I like I'm now I'm like starting to really put a bunch of things in place to help that transition and the and the winter season go as smoothly as possible so so that cold feeling on my skin is like one of those indicators that's like okay, it starts it's time to start thinking about what my plan is for winter this year.
Yeah, and I know that you are also a fellow berry lover so that also Yeah, he is is like the blueberries come and go and then it's cranberry season and then you're like okay, we're on our way to fall when the cranberries are start. It's time to pick the cranberries.
Totally. Yes. I love that about the season. Yeah,
and I think I think it's interesting that spending out I've always spent time outside but I think it's interesting that spending more time outside has really put me more in tune to that than ever before. Especially as As I like last year for sure kind of mourn the loss of summer a little bit more because I did spend so much time outside and it was it was like I'm not ready for winter I'm not ready for winter this year either but I think it's because like you said spring was long and summer felt really short and the weather was sort of all over the place so it's it's made this a little bit harder
yeah yeah and we just like being outside have such a lived experience of how ephemeral everything is and how it comes and goes and we don't get to keep summer and we there are different ways to make the most of fall but it's not going to stay either And so yeah, we just like forces I feel like when they entered nature's always giving us these lessons of adaptability and going with the flow and like releasing control and all these things that like really do help it go easier when we're able to do that but they're the lessons that I know I personally a lot of people I know like have to relearn every year
yeah and and and whether windows two right like we have not had that many really nice days Not that I tried to I try to find something enjoyable to do even if the weather's not great but it's so nice to be outside when the weather is good and we've had so few of those just really great days this past weekend to being one of those and it's kind of like you You don't realize how lucky you are to have those days until they're gone. And you're like oh man I should have appreciated that a little bit more. Isn't that
funny? It was any like I almost feel guilty for not having appreciated it to the max because they're so rare right now
but then you know that there'll be another one at some point and will you appreciate it more when you know don't take advantage of those when they when they do come?
Yeah I'm always trying to remind myself of that habit it's like they are rare and few and if we can really appreciate them in the moment then it like maybe will sticks with us a little bit longer and we can remember that next time it comes around like try to try to remember how long life is and how abundant these kinds of things are even if we can't necessarily get all of the sunshine and warmth that we wanted from the summer. I love warm weather and so the summer being kind of colder and wetter was was kind of a bummer but still got a lot of good outside time in Yeah.
Um earlier this summer you shared some ideas on Instagram about how we could make the most of our summer without the mania which I think is a really like we we joke about kind of having a little bit of a manic season here in the summertime because it can be so short and there's just a lot to do with all of the daylight How do you think that a less manic summer can help us make this transition better into fall in winter?
Yeah, okay, this is such a good question. This is something I'm really in the inquiry of right now i i don't have magic answers but I really am exploring this a lot and I think I would encourage other listeners you know if this is something you relate to, to to think about it in your own life, but I would say that if we are in that like really amped up summer place where it's we're like really feeling this pressure of scarcity of like there's not enough time we have to do it all make the most of it. We are like way up in like our energy levels like in trying to keep them high the whole time. Because it's like, oh, we're gonna run out. And I've been there for like, for quite a while I was a Seasonal Worker and with the Park Service and we would work really hard building trails and then we would play really hard on the weekends and it was super fun and high energy. And at some point toward the end of the season, I start to start to wear really thin and it I think we're like staying amped up at that high place that manic place over time is depleting to the system. And so at some point or like at some point that fuel runs out and you just crash at least speaking from my personal experience, you just like run out of that sort of steam and that that ebb and flow of energy can make this transition then it's like extra extreme because for one you're still feeling the pressure but now you really don't have energy to like do it or if you do it's like sort of frazzled energy that you're sort of forcing it to happen and it just gets really unsettled and and I yeah so so this what I'm really looking for and helping and hoping I can develop in my own life is a little bit less of an extreme up in the summer so that I can sustain less of a crash around this time of year and I would say you know so far that seems to be working I I'm really trying to stay in this place of like checking with my body of some of a lot of what I teach in my work with clients to is like really tuning into what our body needs on a daily basis. And that doesn't always as I've been tuning more and more and it doesn't always mean that it's going 1,000% every day even if it is summer some days, like working some rest days and are some less intense outdoor days where it's more about the berry picking or about the like hanging out and tundra napping than it is about like Getting that accomplishment in every single time has helped take that extreme up down a few notches so that I can approach this type of season with a little bit more energy. So that's, that's so far what is what is working out to be.
I appreciate that you mentioned tundra napping, because I did have an experience with that, that I never would have had before. I'd never had it before. And I never would have had it. If everything had gone the way that I wanted it to go, I would have summited the mountain that I was trying to summit and not waited for a friend. Well, she did a different peak, and I took a nap with my dog in the sunshine, because I just didn't feel great. And I was like, You know what, it's not worth it. I'm just gonna hang out here. When will I ever hike six miles into the mountains just to take a nap again, probably never. So I just I was really it was one of those things where I was like, I feel I feel like I should not be doing this. But at the same time, I have to just to prove this is what I can do right now. And I have to appreciate that. And this is this is a different kind of experience.
And it's Yeah, yeah. And when you when you like take that sort of pressure away for it to like, you need to get to the summit for it to count then like tender naps are also just as amazing. If you're not feeling guilty about it. Right. Oh, so I really love that example that you gave, I think it's really powerful one and I hope you get more tunder naps in six months out, because that's pretty awesome.
It's pretty, it was pretty epic. I mean, I was completely alone. And it was completely silent. And it was me and my dog in the wind. And I watched my friend I can see, you know, I saw her. I watched her go lay the rest of the way up. And I just sort of hung out and had a little snooze. And it was great.
Nice. Yeah, I can imagine it. Those are some of my favorite moments. Yeah, tender is a really good place for napping.
Yeah, um, this spring shoulder season was long and drawn out and a little bit more than we'd been used to in the past, I think that probably created a more natural transition for us who do a lot of outdoor activities, right? Like we were kind of forced into some other activities. As we were waiting for the snow in the mountains to melt or the mud on the trails to dry out, it was kind of a forced a forced drawn out transition. But because fall tends to be so short, as illustrated by the fact that there's no snow on the ground. We miss some of that natural transition, because it sneaks up on us. So what are some of the ways that we can best make that mental and physical transition transition from summer activities to winter ones?
Yeah, this is. So I think one of the gems in a shoulder season, when the conditions aren't ideal for your summer stuff or your winter stuff, you're in this sort of funky, middle time, one of the gems of that time is to get your cross training in. So this is this is kind of the heart and soul of my business. But you know, whether you do it in your living room or at the gym, or like, wherever you do it, I am a huge, huge advocate for working some sort of fitness training in that isn't just doing your sports. And there's tons of reasons for that some of it is just that the conditions aren't there for it. So it's like a good opportunity to like bring yourself into a different environment. But then there's a ton of both mental and physical benefits to working on the both of the muscles and the range of motion that you're using during your sports when you're inside. And in a controlled environment, we can really tweak alignment and form and some of the more subtleties that happen when we're moving outdoors when we're not outdoors. So you can build up a ton of self awareness for what's happening in your body when you're not having to also track like what's happening on the trail, and is there a animal around and what's the temperature like you'd like take some of that stuff out. And you can really focus on the more subtle experience of the movement pattern. And then it also gives you a chance to to work out the movement patterns that we don't tend to do when we're outside. So we do a lot of like forward motion. And we do a lot of like, like linear linear stuff, but then something funky happens and we have to twist or we have to recover or save have a funky like Turkey thing. And so our body does need to have the stability sideways, so laterally and it needs to have the rotational stability also. But if we're not, we don't get a ton of reps of that until we're like falling or slipping or something like that. So that's why the cross training can be so so helpful, both for your nervous system so that your body has some like familiarity with those patterns and doesn't get so scared when it happens in a in a fall situation outside and for the actual muscle stability so that like you can like have a really strong rotational core. If you train that inside you do have really stable lateral hip muscles if you've been doing some sideways motions in your cross training. So that's a that's a pitch for getting some using the shoulder season to build up some of that stability that can help your winter season really be as fun and injury free as possible. Yeah, I forgot. Was there more to that question?
No, I just said what what should we be focusing on as we like shift from summer activities to winter activities? I bet I think that covers it. The thing that I always think about kind of transitioning is and this happened in the spring and not in the winter, but the first week of soccer tryouts in high school because like ski season had always you know, had been over for a little bit and then all of a sudden, instead of doing this just like kind of repetitive motion, I'm doing sprints and drills and I just remember being so sore that first week no matter what. So that's always a good reminder. That's that's the physical cue that I get when I think about transitioning sports is how I felt the first week of soccer practice and remind myself that that is not the goal is not to be that sore when you do marry activity.
Totally I yeah sam i remember that from first weeks of like different sports season it's like no matter what kind of base you come in, if even if you've had a super active summer, the muscles that you use in the winter are super really different. I mean we're using similar muscles but in different ways. So in the summer we're doing a lot of impact like footfalls because the ground is hard and so we're like really pushing against a hard surface and we're having to work on all of our landings especially down hills. And then in the winter, everything's slippery, like everything's slippery basically in the winter. So the instead of like, landings were looking at sliding and how to be stable when everything is trying to like kick your balance off so how to have stability in an unstable environment. So there's a lot of need for like adductors is the muscles that pull you in and like keep you into center when like things are trying to slide away and a lot of the little stabilizer muscles in your joints need to be really strong when the surface is unstable so there's a lot of work on the fascia and all of the connective tissue to help that to help that piece of the puzzle be as as stable as possible and then we we also need to be developing a lot of our back body and functional core so that it's not all on our like our quads and knees to keep us stable when we're moving into the next season. So I kind of think you know it the other thing about the shoulder season is it feels a little bit like the great equalizer because no matter what kind of summer you had, we kind of got to start over again and so you've maybe if you didn't have an amazing summer or or if you're feeling like if you're newer to outdoor winter stuff like hopefully this helps it feel a little bit less intimidating because we are all kind of starting at ground zero again on and figuring out how to get those muscles ready and conditioned and and in place for what the winter sports are going to demand from us.
Yeah, I mean, I even think of I'm a I'm a all seasons one or two. So even I think of how different it feels the first time that I go running on, you know, when it's snowing outside, and it's again, the insides of my legs are just sore from keeping, you know, keeping my legs from, like you said, sliding out that balance my ankles just from the it's like it was more like running in sand than running on on solid ground. So it's it's definitely it's the same sport, but it's also a different sport.
Yeah, yeah, right. So it can get a little tricky mentally because it feels like it should be the same sport and it can be discouraging, because it's like all of a sudden, I'm having like, a bunch of different soreness or I'm not near as fast or all these other things. But I really like personally thinking of them as totally separate things. And even like a lot of people are bikers and mountain biker road bike in the summer and then fat bike in the winter. And that's a very different experience to even though it's all biking. So so for me personally, I'm more of like a hiker and boater in the summer. And then in the winter, I love to ice skate and ski and so those are like quite different sports. So it's even easier to like, understand why they feel so different in your body. But even for people whose like sport continues year round, there's a lot of a lot of that same transition in the way you're using those muscles.
Yeah, and I think especially for cross country skiers, too, because I don't think unless you are doing roller skiing, which most people during the summertime which I don't think most recreational skiers are quite that committed to skiing to roller ski in the summertime. There is almost no way to prepare your arms for cross country skiing other than to go cross country skiing like that, that is emotion that is almost impossible to replicate any other way. So it's just it's kind of a brutal transition.
Yeah, yeah, arms and core. And yeah, some of that can we can do through indoor training and some of that muscle memory and build up some of that strength and then hopefully like with some training base you you go in, so that like when you're actually doing the sport, yes, you still do have to do some getting in shape for that on the ground when you're outside but you like if you can start from like a 50%. Say instead of starting from zero, it's definitely more enjoyable than then it would be otherwise.
Yeah, you sort of touched on this, but say somebody who didn't get out as much as they wanted during the summertime, but is is an avid winter activity participant. What can they do you like I said, you did kind of touch on this, what can they do, whether they no matter what activities they do, what can they do to get the ski season stronger, and fitter than they are now so that they don't injure themselves once the snow actually comes and sticks around?
Yeah, so I would for this, I would say, you know, if you didn't have a super active summer, or if you are newer to winter recreation, and still kind of getting your legs under you, and in that time of year, because winter is has its own level of like intimidation and vulnerability and everything so so if you're like, looking ahead toward winter and feeling some of that apprehension, then I for sure would suggest some some strength building during this phase of time. I really personally like it, if it can be winter sports oriented, so there's like a, there is a type of strength that you can get from in the gym, that just is like building your muscles up really strong. But the the type of fitness that we need to really like be as functional as possible in the winter is very dynamic. And it requires a lot of that lateral stability, a lot of that twisting a lot of that self awareness of what's happening in your body when you're moving outdoors. And so it can be extra helpful to be in a strength training program that has some like winter sports orientation, so that you're not just getting like strong, but you're also getting super like dynamic and functionally strong. So I would suggest focusing efforts on building up that back body strength, that posterior chain, so that's like glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles. Those are a big part of helping longevity in the body. And especially for women, women tend to have like super strong quads and be kind of quad dominant. And then there are some really the most common injury in the winter are knee injuries, and especially for women ACL injuries, that knee that definitely is specifically injury that I happen to experience. I tore both of my ACL back in high school. So I've been engaged in the work of recovering from that and preventing that ever since. But that is the most common injury in the winter, especially for women. And a lot of that work in prevention is through building up your back body strength and making sure you're you can engage your glutes, your back muscles, and that like those are some really big strong muscles. And sometimes our bodies don't know how to fully utilize it. And so we're kind of like missing out on a bunch of power that's back there. And it can be really amazing when we when we actually fully integrate though that power and get that part of the body strong. And that helps the knees when the glutes and the lateral hip muscles are strong, it helps the knees stay aligned over the in a stable place over your feet. So that even when you're in a funky situation outdoors, you you have a better chance of being able to like roll with it and, and stay in good knee alignment without experiencing a knee injury. So back body is a big focus functional core. So you will definitely want to have a core that strong, but also that's adaptable. So you can twist. And you can do like a Hold, hold a strong strength there even when like something's trying to get you to collapse or you're getting tired and your body wants to collapse. And then some of that functional core is also resisting rotation. So you want to be able to stay stable even when like the forces are getting you to turn and like even a lot of the upper body stuff with skiing can be core if you if you're really intentional about it. So it's easy to like use your triceps to try to double pole but like those muscles get tired super fast. And so you can you can turn some of those. Ideally, those moves are mostly from the core because the core has a ton of power when we're using it fully. So so back body functional core. And then the third one that I like to emphasize in the winter is called tensegrity. And what that is is the fascial system, that's all of the connective tissue in between our joints and like the micro stabilizer muscles in the joints. So if our if we're able to use our body, we basically have this like spring load system in our body that that is our connective tissue. And when we're able to use that effectively, we can twist and turn absorb pressure and set up like a ski turn that is like a turn of a spring. You're it's like you're cranking on a spring every time you do a little a ski turret and then your turn is the release of all of that torsion. So you unsparing, and you go into your turn. So, figuring out how to use your body as like, as that spring is a really powerful way to help it absorb the impact of being outdoors. And like, use gravity and use use that power that we develop as our bodies move and use it for good instead of it being like, like when we're not using that it's super cranking on all of our joints. And that's when we get injured, whether it's like a short, like one big injury fall or if it's just repetitive over time. If we're not using that tensegrity ideally,
Outdoor Explorer 30:49
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On today's show, my guests are Sarah Histand. And Heather Caldwell, Sarah is a mental health professional as well as a fitness trainer and we talked about easing the transition of both your brain and your body from summer into winter. Yeah, and I think you a couple of things that you touched on made me think of how important it is to if you can do at some point get somebody to look at your body and the way it's moving. Whether that is if you're dealing with an injury, seeing a physical therapist or doing some sort of fitness program where somebody can you can film yourself and send it to somebody or you can be one on one with somebody to have them look at that movement pattern or taking a lesson in your sport even if you've been doing it for years just have somebody who is is not you, giving you feedback about the way that you're moving your body and those patterns because I think that's really really important to cue your your brain into what you're actually feeling right like yeah, that connection between the movement and how it feels to you
totally right it's stuff it's pretty hard to self identify sometimes especially if you've been doing it for a while and like you have kind of a muscle memory developed it can be hard to catch. Like what is funky about this movement pattern yourself so I 100% agree that like we have some amazing experts in the community some really incredible physical therapists that also are active outdoor so kind of know what the demands on the body are that you're like looking at. And then yeah, for sure like video like there's a lot you can do over technology so so i i personally so I do a bunch of filming of myself leading these workouts and then I put these workouts out online and just looking at my own movement patterns while I'm editing these videos has taught me a lot about some like slight imbalances that I wouldn't necessarily have noticed just by tracking myself so so even just like probably the easiest thing would be to film yourself and then to watch that back. But it like go a whole nother level to get some actual expertise and I definitely want to double down on that recommendation to get some lessons because one lesson can make a huge difference in your technique and in your ease of motion even if you're a veteran getting someone else's opinion can make a huge difference I've certainly experienced that myself.
Yeah, I was thinking about that when we were talking about using your core to double pole for skiing like that was something that was just drilled into us over and over I mean I grew up cross country skiing, but that was something that I remember just being like drilled into us but also you know even really subtle movement patterns like you said if you're a veteran sometimes you just cue out of those things and you don't realize that you're doing something that's not conducive to the best way to move your body so so really knowing having somebody who knows what they're doing look at you while you're doing something and just can give you some feedback on that I think that's important
yeah we can learn a ton just by like figuring it out and going out with friends and there and just figuring it out trusting your body there's there's a lot you can do with that and I don't want to discourage people who are new from like just like giving it a shot because why not you gotta gotta like do a lot of practice to get better at this stuff so do what works for you but but also if the availability shows up if the finances are there it's really easy to jump to the next level with some some guidance from a professional
yeah and even like you said even just one lesson even just spending you know half an hour 45 minutes with somebody to say like these are the this is where I'm at this is what I want to do. Can you like what am I working with here that I think that can really be helpful in ways that are sometimes hard to realize until you've done it?
Yeah, yeah. And there's some neat group programs that do that around town at least in Anchorage and I hope around the state to but some some nice like, I know there's some Nordic ski groups that meet and work on technique as well as get some training in and there's a there's a women's ski Wednesday group at Alyeska. Where they get coaching from some of the trainers from the ski coaches there and do it in a group format so it's a little bit less expensive. So yeah, get creative and get some help.
Yes, absolutely. I do want to take a minute to talk about exercise and mental health specifically we probably touched on this the last time you were on outdoor explore but given all that happened since then, and I think it's really worth talking about especially as we head into winter where a lot of people do struggle more with their mental health and then also have a harder time getting out and getting physical activity in often that's not a problem for everybody but I do you know, that it's, it's the conditions are just more challenging, often So first, a lot of people claim that you know, exercise is their form of therapy. And while I absolutely think that there is a huge mental benefit to exercise, I don't think that it's a substitute for therapy and since you are both a mental health professional and a fitness professional Can you just talk about why both of those things are important
I would love to this I I'm right on board with you there I do know personally and and with a lot of people I work with that exercise is therapeutic and can for sure help us move emotions out of our body and complete our nervous system stress cycles and help us process things that's just the exercise piece being outside adds a whole nother layer to that because connecting with nature and and all of the all of the things that being outside requires for our body, like orienting toward the environment and using our peripheral vision and tracking, sensory tracking the weather, and all of these things really are grounding and healing for the nervous system. So there are tons of therapeutic benefits to both getting your sweat on indoors and going outside and doing it and there is also a place for therapy, a more traditional type where you're talking with someone about what's going on and building deeper levels of self awareness and self trust and all of these things healing our inner children and like there's a bunch that that happens in as like a traditional talk therapy and then there can also be some really incredible benefits from doing like a somatic type of therapy that works with the body and is help tuning into what happens in your physical nervous system when we've been under stress or under challenge so I am a huge advocate for all of those both the physical exercise and the therapy I know therapy isn't necessarily accessible for everyone because of their there's quite a bit of financial impact there but I do know I also have some really neat online options that are coming up I saw that and THC has a new online clinic that's available insurance covers quite a bit of therapy often their Sliding Fee Scale options, there's some group options I really encourage a lot of creativity if you're looking for that kind of support. And for sure, like winter brings its own challenges with mental health and so this is the time of year to start like putting those strategies in place because we might not need it as much now but in anticipation of really like feeling the heaviness in the darkness of the middle of winter Now is the time like that's not the time you want to be coming up with your toolkit and looking for your support team like when you're in the middle of it you want to have as much of that in place in advance so that you can like have have a bunch of foundational support ready when when it gets the toughest so exercise for sure is one of the is super helpful for mental health for depression there's some interesting research done about exercise being as helpful for a large majority of people as medication for people with certain type of depression so it's not across the board but it but it can be quite supportive for for mental health getting yourself moving in any form. Really anything counts. This is the this is one of the places where I would really like to counter that idea that it has to be like climbing to the top of the mountain to like quote unquote count. So like really any type of moving your body will help move some of that heaviness out of your system. And often especially the thing of progression is that it it tells us that we want to do nothing and like just sleep and like you alone and like all of the indicators when you're feeling that kind of heaviness is to not do this stuff. So that's why having some structure in place that gets you doing it even if it doesn't, you don't necessarily feel like it can be really helpful. Depression like wants to just keep you depressed kind of you almost have to do the opposite which is really tricky. Because so much of what I really like to teach us to listen to your body. This is one of the places where this gets a little bit nuanced. It we are listening to a part of ourselves that Isn't depressed when we are trying to get ourselves moving and out of that heaviness. So
that's one of that's one of the examples I really like to give. Because even if you're not someone who experiences maybe a clinical level of depression, depression is this whole continuum. And some people have a very, like, heavy end of it. And some people, there's a lot of people, a lot of us experience something that's more in the middle ground or a lighter version, it especially in the winter, when we have less sunlight available, and it's dark all the time, and it's cold, and it's harder to motivate to do the things that that can help prevent that kind of heaviness. So yeah, like the movement, that mental health support from a professional. But getting outside and getting some sunlight, even if it's a cold sunlight, talking to your doctor about vitamin D levels, for sure. I don't know if stats on this, but it's really, really high. The people that benefit from having some kind of vitamin D support in the winter. Yes. And then I'm really into sunrise alarm clock. So I'm doing this like personal little research project, trying to find the perfect one. But getting some light in your room in the in the morning when it's so dark out. Can can also help, like, give you that little extra boost to get out of bed in the middle of the darkness.
Yeah, and I always I always I like what you said about, it doesn't have to, you know, challenging what movement is in the times when we don't feel like moving because I always tell people, the patients that I see that, like I don't care, I don't want you to go to the gym for an hour and a half once a week or once and then be so wrecked that you can't do that again, ever. I would like you to if you can only move for five or 10 minutes a day. Or if it's if it's getting off the couch and taking one lap around your house. If that's your movement, that's okay, you know, that's the place the third that's something that you it's better than nothing and you could work from there. So I really think that if it's just walking to your end of your driveway to get your mail that counts in in many respects.
Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. I this morning, I did a 15 minute spin ride before before I got going. And it was a great little sweat and, and also helps get a little endorphins. Just a little bit of heavier breathing, a little bit of sweat will help start some endorphins off, which is also a mood boost. So that's kind of anything that gets your heart rate up a bit. And if you start to sweat that those are some clues that you might be getting some endorphin benefits from your exercise. And it doesn't take much to get my other favorite quick hit in the middle of a busy day. Or if I'm like just running out of time, and still no, I need to move as a one song dance party, just putting on one song, like those are three or four minutes, you know, and if you really enjoy the music and move your body that can that can be like I get sweaty. And it's definitely fun to so that's another little mood booster.
Yeah, I like that. And also related to the therapy piece of things, I think it's important to remember to especially if budget is a problem, that it's okay to if you want to if you can only afford to do one therapy session a month, you know, that's that's still something that counts. You don't have to do every single week or or whatever the schedule, you know, that's necessarily recommended by your mental health provider. If you if you can only do once a month or once every other month, that's still better than not doing it if that's something that you really think that you would benefit from
100% I absolutely agree with that. Yeah, even just knowing that you have somebody in your corner can be helpful, whether you're able to get into them every week, like you might want to or maybe you don't need that but but even just the having the structure in place that there there are people that you can go to, sometimes you can save up a list of things to talk to your counselor about and like jot them down and come in for your monthly session and how much to chat about that can be really effective.
Yeah, kind of back to the exercise as therapy mentality. The thing that the other piece of this that I think is important to address is that that mentality can also quickly get people to a place where they are overtraining, which has a negative impact on both of your mental and your physical health. Because rest and recovery is such an important piece of any training program and I know that you are very conscientious and feel very strongly about this not overtraining, and that balance.
Yeah, that is exactly right. When we are using exercise as our only form of stress management then it can like the world is real stressful right now. Sure. Like we're we got a lot of stuff going on. And if so it's really easy to get in the groove of like needing to exercise every day to manage that stress. And our bodies are designed to grow under stress. So like exercise does help us build our strength, but it's not actually the exercise time when the strength grows. It's the time after the exercise when we're resting and fueling and giving are those muscles that we just created some damage and when we exercise them, we're giving them a chance to come back and repair and regrow and they've when they when they get the chance to do that. They come back stronger. So that's how these growth cycles happen. And if we're continuing every day to slam or exercise and push really hard, then we're not giving the body the chance to build and regrow. And then we're also like, but if we continue to doing that over time, then we end up depleted and you know, with a whole host of other issues, so absolutely like this is one of the reasons why we need more than one tool in our toolbox. Exercise is an amazing one. But it can't be the only one because we also need to be able to, like take some days off and get some downtime to help both like, like, hit your athletic potential. And also, like, hate your mental health potential, because like exercise can help move some of that stress out of your system, but where it doesn't often help us like get to the root of the issue. So it can be a help support, but it won't necessarily like resolve the problem.
Yeah, and I think leaning into some of those more down days is important, too, right? Like it's okay to take a day off to sit on the couch and feel your feelings and then move past them. Like that's perfectly acceptable. And I don't think that we talk about that enough. As a society, it's you know, you have to have goals and do this thing, stick to this plan and do these things and not just sit and take a minute to lean into whatever you might be feeling. Thanks so much for taking the time to make this happen today. This was a really great conversation, Sarah.
Thanks for having me. I love talking about this stuff. It's really important and so passionate about it, so it's really fun to have a space to share it. Yeah, roll the chat. Awesome, great.
This is Outdoor explore, and I'm your host, Martha Rosenstein. My guest is Heather Caldwell, Heather is a licensed clinical counselor who practices with a holistic and collaborative approach. She blends psychotherapy with mindfulness and nature and movement based therapies. Heather is also an athlete and a fellow lover of the outdoors. Welcome to outdoor explore Heather.
Welcome, thank you for having me.
Can you just give us a quick introduction to who you are and what you do?
Absolutely, I am a somatic based therapist, which means that I really incorporate the body into our healing process. I believe that our traumas and all the things that happened to us get stored in our body is pretty much down to almost that cellular level. Because we work in a world that really functions from the neck up. And this really analytical, brainy place, we ignore all this data that our body gives us. And so being able to slow down and tap into that can provide so much healing and growth and understanding and presence in this world. At that with our connection to the outdoor world. As most of us move more and more indoors these days. It's can be so supportive, to connect back to our roots, and to get out into nature, and have that be a supportive process in our healing as well. So I work both in Alaska and Colorado. And so my practice gets to look like so many different things depending on where I'm working.
Wonderful. So Heather wrote a really great article about seasonal changes and embracing fall, which I wanted to have her on to talk about, and navigating some of these challenges and some of these feelings that we might be experiencing as the seasons change. I hear from people all the time, both in my personal life and my professional life that these changes feel hard for a lot of people. Sometimes it's related to like your shift in activities that you're doing changes in routines, sometimes it's harder for people to verbalize what's going on. I noticed for myself that season changes feel a little bit unsettling kind of no matter how much I'm looking forward to that next season. How do you think that spending time in the outdoors and connected to nature helps us feel more at ease with the season changes?
Oh, that's such a great question. I was talking earlier today with someone pretty much on this exact topic. And I think so much how we look at the world right whatever lens we're looking at the world through impacts our daily life. So this morning we woke up with a lovely Frost was in the 20s it was one of the first days that just felt like oh fall is here. Winter is coming. And I could look at that two ways. I could be like oh somes a gun like I have so much do before winter comes and my bed snugly in my house is cold and I where's my coat and really ramp it up. Or when I sat in my car and realize that the window was frosted, I can look at it and be like Wow, look at these really cool shapes that it's making on my on my windshield. Like ah Wow, look at how the leaves changed overnight. And how beautiful it is. Look at how the trail that I'm getting to a run on this morning has covered in Golden leaves. Right? And so being able to slow down and appreciate those micro nuances of change can allow us them to come in and be like, Oh, let me take a breath. Let me slow down. Yeah. So I think in a lot of ways, being able to connect to nature does allows us to come more into the present moment. And not get so wrapped up about all the things that are out there.
For a lot of people, this this year is more difficult or difficult in a different way than things were this time last year, we kind of also maybe know what a little bit of what to expect coming into the winter, is there a way to embrace the uncertainty that lies ahead, as well as honor those feelings of loss that we might have for the season change when like, we are moving a little bit more indoors, and we don't maybe have some of that freedom that we felt during the summer months?
Yeah, I think that there are so so many questions of where we're at right now. Right, like, last year as we moved indoors, and you know, the first wave of COVID was like, what's happening? Where are we going to be? Now it's getting dark. Now we're inside now like, Yeah, right. There's so much uncertainty. And we're back there. You know, I think a lot of people thought that, that we weren't going to be back here again. Right? So I think that there's a lot of ways of what worked well, last year for you. Right? How do we get to embrace the outdoors and connect to that space as we transition, and I think especially in Alaska, that's so hard, right? Like, it's gonna be dark, it's gonna be cold, what are we gonna do, and maybe bringing some nature indoors. Right, this is such a great time to maybe do some foraging, get out, find some beautiful fall leaves, collect the pine cones, leaving some for the squirrels Of course, but you know, collecting some of the pine cones doing an art project, creating maybe some kind of like nature scape in the corner of your house, pulling something in so you can start to hold on to that. I think that there's also other things that we can look at, using nature as inspiration. As we come into Fall, fall is really about release, it's about our letting go we we harvest, we tend to the crop, we really are starting to bed things down for winter. Right? And so we can look at the leaves and see that the leaves are going to lose or probably the trees are going to lose their leaves. They're going to shed that's a huge loss, it's going to start to go a little bit more of that. But we can also look towards the spring and say and it's gonna prepare them for re growth. So think using nature as that inspiration, what are the things right now in my life that I can shed? What are the things that I can let go of? Maybe it's expectations for the future? Maybe it's a loss of things of the past? What can I let go in order to make more room for growth?
I really like that perspective because nature I think nature teaches us that nothing is permanent, right? We are constantly in these cycles and we see them but often we don't connect with them right? Like New Year's is the time that we're taught to like make resolutions and it's a new beginning where as nature doesn't, doesn't follow those rules. That's something that we've created. Yeah, absolutely. I
mean, fall is actually preparing for spring. Right? Right. So what are the things now that we can shed so that way when we go in the spring to plant you know, we can start to see the unfurling and the fruits of the labor?
Yeah. What are some things that we can do to embrace this season of change? And prepare Are you kind of touched on this already, but prepare our minds and bodies for what's to come? That's that's a little bit like talking about moving into spring, but what are some other things that we can do to get our minds and bodies prepared?
Absolutely. As you mentioned, I did write a blog on this and so you're welcome to go and I have tons of things on the blog. So I'll just plug real quick if that's okay. Yeah, but you can go to evolve and nature all one word.com. And you can check out the blog they are I, I love that connection between our bodies, and nature and inspiration. So I think some things we could do is create a playlist that helps you tap into the rhythm of the season. Find some songs, maybe about release, or about change or about letting go. songs about love and abundance and strength, things that feel really inspirational and connect it to fall. If fall has a rhythm for you. For me, fall feels like slow and kind of luxurious and you can't see but I'm kind of like wiggling my body in this like really slow, rhythmic way. So They want us It feels like that but allows me to connect and I can look outside and look at the swaying trees and move my body towards that I can embody the lake falling of the leaves right so and that's such a fun family thing to do so you could pull your housemates or your partners or your friends right to make connection and other spaces. also doing some journaling, right? Um, what are some things where you can like what are some things that maybe have been a little toxic or not very healthy for you that has crept into your daily life over the last year and a half of COVID? What might you want your winter season to look like for you? So what can you let go and what do you want to break more of? What kind of relationships do you want? Right? What are some VB habits and patterns and relationships that we can let go so a lot of journaling and food food brings us together? So can we go out and harvest and bring stuff in even if it's harvesting at the local grocery store or farmer's market? What what kind of recipe is maybe nourish our souls? Right? That brings us together and maybe in your small bubble inviting people over doing gratitude journals This is the time of stuff to be grateful for what has us your products, how can we connect in this space I saw this beautiful suggestion the other day to take pumpkins and for everyone to sit down with a sharpie and write all the things they're grateful for and the outside of a pumpkin and to leave it out somewhere so being able to connect with the visual right and the food and the connection to nature so just a few ideas though there's a million more and I think this type of specially before the snow flies getting out getting out in nature going for a walk and just really appreciating the beauty of that this time of year has to offer
yeah I think fall in Alaska is fast and furious and I think that we tend to kind of almost miss it like I feel like the leaves changed almost overnight and then there was snow yesterday and it was kind of like what was happening it's gone it left so i do i think you know getting out and appreciating it is definitely you know just taking a minute slowing down and saying like oh look at look at all of this there's so much so many colors to look at things you know the plants are changing, they're preparing for winter. One thing that I the idea that I like I always think of this time of year is like a you know a fire pit friends in a fire pit outside on a on a cold, cold crisp night because it's dark outside. So a fire pits more fun, outside connection with people. I always I always think of that this time of year. Alright, so this was a wonderful conversation. Heather, thanks so much for being here and talking about all of this. I think physical connection is something that gets swept under the rug a little bit and we don't pay as much attention to it as we maybe should.
Yeah, thank you for having me. I love talking about this. And I love finding inspiration from our seasons and nature and invite you all to go out and enjoy it before the snow flies.
Outdoor Explorer 58:08
That's all for today's show. Thank you to my guests, Sarah has Stan and Heather Caldwell. You can find more information about both of our guests today on the outdoor explorer page at Alaska public.org Thank you to our producer Eric Bork and from all the hosts here at outdoor explore. Thank you for listening and we'll see you outside. Outdoor Explorer is a production of Ks k public radio in Anchorage, Alaska. Theme music is by Portugal, the main views expressed are those of the participants and do not reflect the station or its underwriters. You can find outdoor explorer on Facebook and in your favorite podcast app. To see what's coming up on outdoor explorer and add your voice to the conversation go to our website at Alaska public.org. Life informed This is Alaska public media
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