How to love  the outdoors,  even in winter

SCOTT McGOVERN, Nordic Ski Coach at ConVal

Some of us can’t get enough of the outdoors in the nice weather. But what happens when the frost comes, and mornings and evenings turn chill? We asked Scott McGovern, a cross-country ski enthusiast and avid runner, how he gets into the spirit of outdoor winter activities. A Peterborough resident, McGovern is the Nordic ski coach at ConVal Regional High School and works at Mountain Shadows in Dublin, where he introduces children to all the wonder of the outdoors. In his spare time, he enjoys many outdoor pursuits, particularly Nordic skiing, paddling, hiking, running and biking.

Why do you love the outdoors?

I first was introduced to the outdoors when I went away to college in New Hampshire, and the college I went to had a very strong emphasis on outdoor activities. I learned Nordic skiing there as a freshman, because they had a [physical education] requirement for freshman, and took Nordic skiing in the winter and fell in love with it. I also was introduced to backpacking and camping, and I have been an enthusiast ever since. I chose to pursue a lot of work in the outdoors, working for Outward Bound and other outdoor programs. I joined my interest and my work. My work at Mountain Shadows [School in Dublin] includes teaching outdoor classes to children, so I bring them outside into the woods and that’s a place in my work that I can pursue my passion, too.

How do you teach someone to love the outdoors?

You can’t teach someone to love the outdoors. You just have to expose them to the outdoors, and I think it happens naturally. Not even doing activities outdoors but simply having the opportunity to be outside, preferably in the woods, mountains, rivers or oceans, and being outside a little bit away from towns, and other people and I think most people really connect with the outdoors in a deep and profound way. I think it’s a very natural thing, peoples’ affinity about the outdoors is a very natural thing. We become disassociated from the outdoors when we have indoor jobs and indoor hobbies that don’t give us any time to enjoy the natural world. So when we have people experience being in the natural world, it can have a profound reconnecting affect. So don’t think you need to do anything in particular to do that. For example, at Mountain Shadows there is just a lot of free play that happens in the woods as a part of outdoor class. I mean we have games and structured games, but just by having an enjoyable time or even just having peaceful quiet time in the outdoors can reconnect people with the natural world in a really good way. And of course there are ways of pursuing sports, like Nordic skiing or even running, boating, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater kayaking, etc. All those are great ways for experiencing the outdoors.

For winter sports like Nordic skiing, how do you get your body to adjust to the colder temperatures?

Haha! You move, you move. That’s all; it’s simple, it’s so simple. You move around, it’s kind of like a catch-22. If you go outside and you start feeling cold and you just stand still and shiver, you will have a miserable time. However, if you go outside and you do any activity that you enjoy — a lot of people like downhill skiing, I prefer Nordic skiing, even snow mobiles you move around — and when you move around your body creates heat and it keeps you warm as long as you dress properly. I think to enjoy the winter outdoors the key is to have some activities that literally get you moving, and then what happens is your body heats up, you’re less distracted by cold and your more in tune with what you’re doing that you sort of forget about the cold and you can have a great time outside.

You say you are an avid runner as well. Is there a difference in training and conditioning for running versus Nordic skiing?

Yes, because skiing involves more of your core and upper body due to the pulling action and the whole motion of how you ski you have to train differently. The training for running and the conditioning for running is mostly running. You do core exercises, core is important in all sports but not as much strength and power development are necessary in your upper body for running as it is in for skiing. Skiing involves more of your body; you have to think about how you’re conditioning all of your body. Running does involve the core and it’s important, but upper body is less emphasized than your legs.

How much does cross-country skiing and running benefit your health?

It’s a huge benefit. Cardiovascular is the big number one thing. It helps your heart and whole cardiovascular system in a lot of ways to be healthy. For many people, weight control is an issue so both of them are healthy exercises for weight control. Jogging, running and cross-country skiing burn a lot of calories, and I think the production of certain hormones I believe have beneficial health effects but I’m not really an expert on that stuff, but definitely cardiovascular is the most important benefit.

With sports like cross-country skiing and
running, are there physical limits of the body?

Oh, everyone has a limit. Most people, unless they are already elite athletes, can improve their skill and performance in either running or skiing. That comes through careful training, very systematic and well-thought-out training programs. Then eventually everyone is going to hit a certain limit, because everyone has different body types and/or certain characteristics of our bodies that will provide a natural limit to how much you can develop them. So in some ways there are athletes who are luckily born with certain cardiovascular and oxygen intake capacity that start them out at a better place than everyone else. Most people can get better; I certainly try even with my age to, and get better and better but there is a limit, not everyone is going to run a four-minute mile. Almost everybody can improve their cardiovascular fitness to a degree, unless they are already really pushing it.

What is your advice for recovering from long, hard workouts?

You should eat well. It depends on the workout and I mean this question can be answered very technically. Generally speaking, is you should always have a cool down period where you are continuing to exercise, but at a much lower level than whatever you did for your workout or training, and certainly after a race you should be cooling down. One of the things that it does is helps metabolize the lactic acid in your system. It’s helpful to stretch but also, if you have a very intense workout, it’s also helpful to take in protein and some carbohydrates within 20 minutes or so after your exercise ends, and that will help you recover faster. When you do an intense workout, like if you ran a 5K race hard within 20 minutes, you should take some protein and carbohydrates. A lot of people call them recovery drinks. The simplest recovery drink and the one that probably actually works the best is chocolate milk. It has protein and carbohydrates. I always have 12 ounces of chocolate milk after every race, I bring it with me and drink within 20 minutes after I stop.

— By Taylor Adolphson

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