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What Greenbelters do for exercise and nature when it’s cooooold outside

Winters here in Greenbelt are pretty mild and getting milder, but last week, with freezing weather, I was reminded that I hate walking or biking (or doing anything) when the weather is that wintery. (While yes, appreciating that it could be so much worse. I spent my college years near Lake Erie, so I KNOW.)

Swimming Indoors in Cold Weather

But this year, determined to fight back against the cold and too much time in my house, and after 11 years belonging to the Greenbelt Aquatic and Fitness Center, I’m using the indoor pool. And here’s what I say to anyone who might be hesitant, like I was: the water is kept at 82 degrees, which feels slightly cool at first but is never cold, like it is so often outdoors. And the hot-tub before and after swimming eases me into the wetness of it all after coming indoors from the cold, and is a reward after my swim.

Also, despite worrying that the lap lanes would be too crowded, I’ve always gotten a lane. I haven’t needed to ask someone to share their lane yet, but I’ve shared my lane a few times – and sharing is the rule, after all – and I think I can manage asking when I need to. (Or waiting in the hot-tub until a lane opens up.)

I just had to make a couple of changes to my pool-going routine: no more driving home wearing my wet suit, and buying a decent gym bag with lots of compartments. (I love mine, shown above, for just 23 bucks.) I might even invest in a waterproof audio player.

More Indoor Exercise

Volleyball (top) and pickleball in the Youth Center gym.
Pickleball and Volleyball

I asked members of the Greenbelters Facebook group what THEY do when it’s too cold to walk or cycle outdoors, and much discussion ensued about pickleball. (Learn more about pickleball in Greenbelt in our October 2023 blog post.)

And registration is now open for Greenbelt’s Recreation Department’s pickleball classes, which are Mondays and Wednesdays 1-3 (for beginners). They’re free and open to people 60+. One commenter added that “Once you become more experienced, pickleball is offered indoors to anyone (no registration required) at the Youth Center Mondays – Thursdays from 1-3pm. Note that these players really are experienced, so you should start out with the City of Greenbelt class.” Also for people 60+, and free.

Greenbelt’s badminton organizer Peter Teuben injected “And lets add badminton to this too 🙂 Sundays 11am-3pm in the Youth Center gym,” adding that it’s “superior to a slow and noisy pickleball.” (Read “Badminton Comes to Greenbelt” to learn more.)

Lots More Recreation Dept Classes in 2023 Winter Guide:

It’s an impressive offering!

For youth, there’s swimming lessons, karate, and these types of dance: ballet, ballroom, Chinese and tap.

For adults there’s:

  • Dance: jazz, tap, contemporary, ballet, belly, and ballroom
  • Tai chi, yoga, karate, Zumba, Bagua and Taiji (“sibling arts to Tai chi”)
  • In the pool: swimming, water aerobics, aqua fitness and aquacize

The “Active Aging” offerings for 55+ folks include swimming (free to GAFC passholders), the pickleball club and beginning pickleball classes mentioned above, “Ageless Grace Fitness” for people 60+ includes a zoom or in-person class “for the body and brain consisting of 21 simple tools for lifelong comfort and ease;” and a. group walk around the gym.

And the popular Holy Cross Senior Fit classes Monday and Wednesday mornings in Greenbelt’s Community Center are for ages 55+ and free,

And a Whole Fitness Center

Let’s not forget Greenbelt’s Fitness Center. which was profiled inn this article, with photos and more. It was updated in 2017.

Exercising at Home

As so many people discovered during covid, there are lots of at-home exercise opportunities, many of which were launched during those dark days. Whether it’s yoga, Zumba, dumbbell work-outs or the apparently addictive (and not cheap) Peloton, there are so many options it’s darn hard to come up with an excuse not to do anything. Even in a blizzard!

Weights and stationary bike in my home, and a scene from my introductory video about hoop-dancing.

My indoor exercise routine has long been regular use of the recumbent stationary bike in my bedroom, and free weights every third day.

Then last winter, after borrowing a hula hoop during the Crazy Quilt Festival and discovering that I could keep it up, I added hooping to my routine, practicing in my living room and in the multi-purpose room at the Youth Center. That led to another great winter project – making hoop videos about hooping for a YouTube channel for beginners called “Susan’s Hoop-Dancing Journey.” It covers easy moves you can probably do right away, tricks I learned in my first three months of hooping, and curated tutorials for them and for moves I’m still working on. (By revealing in the channel description that I started hooping at the age of 73, I hoped to motivate other older beginners like me.)

I was surprised, then, to see my interest in hooping completely disappear with the arrival of gardening weather – and happy to see it return last month with the arrival of cold temps.

How to Experience Nature Indoors

Much more difficult than finding ways to exercise indoors is finding indoor substitutes for experiencing nature. One Facebook member suggested a trip to the Visitors Center at the Patuxent Research Refuge. adding that it’s an enjoyable drive from here. “It is also nice to bring a pair of binoculars and look out onto Lake Redmond at the wildlife from the comfort of a warm, window-filled room.

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory is an indoor experience of the tropics if you’re up to a trip downtown. tropical experience indoors. (If you go before New Year’s Day you’ll see their impressive holiday show.)

“Our Planet” on Netflix; photo by Beth Moon from “Trees and Other Entanglements” starting 12/12 on HBO.

There’s also the less ideal but awfully convenient option to watch nature videos or movies, especially on PBS. I highly recommend an HBO documentary about human relationships with trees that premieres next week – “Trees and Other Entanglements.” The Our Planet series on Netflix is great. And for gardeners and garden-lovers, videos of gardens are not only enjoyable but can inspire with new design and plant ideas for the next season. Or try videos of public gardens, gardens by designers, or some excellent instructional videos. (Those links are to a nonprofit resource I helped create to lead viewers to the best gardening content on YouTube.)

These People Aren’t Like the Rest of Us

AI-generated images of hikers and cyclists in snow; Laurie Lemieux with friends cycling in cold weather.

Admittedly, some hardy souls hike and cycle outdoors in even the coldest, snowiest weather. For example, Greenbelter Laurie Lemieux (co-owner of Proteus Bicycles) rides through winter by dressing appropriately. I asked her husband Jeff what their cut-off temperature was and he responded that “We really don’t have a cut off. It hasn’t been too cold to ride for several years now.”

Paul Downs tells me that he and Susan Barnett also cycle in cold weather, but have a cut-off of about 40 degrees.

While I’m inspired by these winter-hardy neighbors, I’ll stick with my cut-off of about 55 degrees, with no wind.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

  1. Kathie Jarva
    | Reply

    Love it, Susan. So glad you are back online. Kj

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