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Top 10 Tips For Getting Your Outdoor Fix This January

Posted by Ross Montandon

To kick off the 2020 season, Red Original has teamed up with keen outdoor enthusiast, Sarah Leighton, or as she is known to her Instagram followers, @fitforadventure. A paddle boarder, hiker, van-dweller, and lover of slightly mad homemade adventures, Sarah's achievements include mountain boarding down 100 peaks in the UK. Yep! We were pretty amazed too!

Sarah knows a thing or two about creating an adventure from nothing more than an idea and a nudge from her 11.9k Instagram followers. Getting the most out the very limited daylight hours is also something she specialises in, so over to Sarah for her top tips…

It’s dark, it’s cold, but your body and mind are longing to be outside having adventures. You know you’ll feel better for getting out, but it’s not as easy as when the nights were long and light, and the air was warm. Well, the good news is we’ve gone past the shortest day, so daylight is increasing and we’re heading towards summer. The other good news (I’m not the bearer of bad news here), is that you can still enjoy outdoor adventures in January, even after the working day, with just a little shift in perspective and a few adjustments.

So, here are my top tips for getting out this January!

1. Change location

If you usually paddle board at sea, plan to try the canal or a sheltered lake if the conditions are rough. If you like hiking but the mountain weather is too treacherous, take on some low-level trails or woodland adventures. Exploring new locations in winter can be really good fun and finding them is all part of the adventure. A great way to find new locations is to simply browse Google maps. Social media is another great way to check out what a location’s like before you go – I’ve used the location tags on Instagram countless times to get more information and ideas about a place before heading out.

2. Light yourself up

Invest in lights for your bike, your paddle board (yes, paddle boarding at night is a thing), or get yourself a head torch. Many activities are still possible in the dark as long as you have enough light to see what you’re doing, and the added challenge can be really fun! You probably won’t be super speedy, but don’t plan to go as far or as fast as you would in summer and enjoy the new experience. Paddle boarding under the stars after work has been a highlight of this winter for me.

3. Invest in winter kit

If you really want to stay motivated in your favourite activity or sport over winter, then invest in some warm kit. If like me, you have many different hobbies it can be expensive. But if you can choose one or two activities to get yourself winter kit for, you’ll be thankful you invested the money. It makes all the difference when you have that warm winter wetsuit to surf in, and a pro changing robe for afterwards, believe me. In addition to that – remember that you don’t always have to have specific kit for a sport. If you want to go cycling but you don’t own cycling specific winter clothing, just wear some of your hiking layers. It really doesn’t matter if you look like a hiker on a bike! As long as you’re not missing technical or safety equipment like a helmet.

4. Go to familiar places for after work adventures

It can add a whole new air of excitement to explore a place that you know well, but in the dark. Night hikes are great, all you need is warm gear and a head torch. Adventure under the stars and explore those familiar places from a new angle.

5 Sign up for an event or challenge

Commit to something that you need to start training for now (this one works a treat for me!) Working towards something or having a goal creates a purpose and a need to get out and train, regardless of the weather and darkness. That purpose almost takes the choice out of it completely. You know you’ll feel great once you’re out there, you only need to step through the door. If there’s not an organised challenge that floats your boat, make up your own! I always get more excited when it comes to inventing my own challenges. I encourage you to get creative, and silly if that’s your thing (it’s definitely mine!)

6. Sign up to Red January

Red January runs in partnership with mental health charity, Mind, and encourages you to kickstart the year by committing to do something active every day in January. It doesn’t have to be outdoors, but you could pledge to do something active outdoors every day. It’s free to sign up, and there is lots of motivation from the social media channels to help keep you on track.

7. Organise things with other people

Make plans with friends and family or join a group activity, that way it’s much harder to ditch the plan in favour of staying in. If your friends aren’t keen, there are lots of walking, swimming (don't forget your pro change robe), cycling, and adventure groups around. Search for groups in your area on social media, and if you don’t find any – consider starting your own! If you’re looking for adventure pals in your area, you can guarantee other people are too.

8. Get up early on weekends

As tempting as it is to sleep through winter, it’s surprising how much you can fit in and how motivated you feel if you jump out of bed and see the sunrise. It can change your whole perspective on the day, give you a sense of achievement and motivation to fit more in the rest of the day. Fill up a travel cup or insulated water bottle, pack your breakfast and some warm layers, and get out to see the start of a new winters’ day. Who knows, you may even stay out until the sun sets again!

9. Make sure it’s fun

If you’re trying to get out of bed to do a 10km trail run in the dark but you absolutely hate running then let’s face it, you’re likely to struggle unless you have some other big motivation to do it. Choose activities that you know you’ll enjoy. Make them social or involve food (food is always a great source of motivation!) Cycle to meet a friend for a coffee, or paddle board along the canal to the pub for lunch.

10. Practice and be brave

Getting outside and embracing the cold and the dark can sometimes take practice before you truly start to enjoy it. Not everyone is a natural lover of winter. 5 years ago, the thought of hiking to an icy mountain lake for a swim during winter would have sent me under my duvet with a hot water bottle. But I’ve taken small steps. I started with a paddle in the sea, then a quick 20 second dip and straight back to the car for a hot coffee. I’ve learnt how to pack my kit efficiently, what works and what doesn’t work, by practicing. I’ve not enjoyed every single swim to the max, but I’ve never ever regretted a single one. Nowadays – you can’t hold me back!

Just remember, no one ever regretted going on an adventure. They might have got a bit cold, or wet, but they’ve never gone home and wished they hadn’t been outside. Adventure is a mindset, and you can make your winter adventures as small or as big as you like  just get out there and do it. Your body and mind will thank you for it.