The cold-weather haters’ information to getting somewhat extra open air this winter

Summer often feels easier to get outside – the season of 8pm sunsets, al fresco dining and open beaches. But as fall draws to a close, people living in climates with cold or severe winters can feel like they’re staring into a period of captivity.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Although you’ll probably never find getting outside as easy and casual in January as you do in June, a little preparation and practice can pay off when spending more time outdoors during the winter. To break things down, SELF spoke to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts to get their advice and best practices for winter recreation.

1. Calibrate your expectations

As you try to spend more time outdoors, it helps to lower the bar and maybe even redefine what counts as an activity. For example, hiking doesn’t have to mean a four-hour hike through the snow to a scenic view; It can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood or standing on the back porch. “In the outdoor industry in particular, there can be a lot of debate about what actually counts as a hike,” Brooke Murray — co-founder of Wild Kind, a membership community for parents who want to take their kids to outdoor recreation — tells SELF. “And I feel like I’m with kids, if I’m walking down a dirt road, I call it a hike.” Heather Balogh Rochfort, outdoor journalist and co-founder of Wild Kind, agrees: “It doesn’t always have to be the quaint postcard. It could be right on your doorstep.”

Along with walks, bird watching is another low-stakes activity that can be fun during the colder months and can be done in your own backyard or a nearby park. If you’re ambitious, you can combine it with something more active like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In addition, there are still the classic high-performance winter sports of skiing and snowboarding or traditional regional pastimes such as ice fishing.

But being outside doesn’t have to be about fitness either, which can be a change of pace for people who are used to exercising outside at other times of the year. Outdoor advocate and rock climber Katie Boué says she separates her training goals from spending time outdoors during the winter.

“I don’t go outside in the winter to keep fit, period,” she says. “When I go outside in the winter, it’s only to interact with nature and the fresh air, to get out there and enjoy it.”

Murray and Balogh Rochfort – who have four children together – say their aim when planning a trip is generally to stay outside until everyone is packed and ready. This rule of thumb can also work for adults, many of whom also find dressing and undressing a major hurdle.

If you’re recovering from an injury, childbirth, or illness, your activity levels this winter may not look the same as they used to, Rachel Welch, fitness expert in pre- and postnatal fitness and founder of Revolution Motherhood, tells SELF. “You know, it’s okay to start a little slower,” she says.

2. Always prioritize security

Safety and preparation can mean many things and depend on your needs and your chosen outdoor activity. On a personal level, targeted exercise can help reduce the risk of falling and prepare your body for winter activities.

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