Fall Training: Inner Fire

Our human bodies know how to stay warm. You’ll probably be surprised how easy it is to revive that natural intelligence. Anyone can do it — even if that system has been shut down by years (generations) of climate-controlled indoor living — and today is en-tranced by bright computer screens and a thousand other distractions.

Like other mammals, our bodies know how to create inner heat. We’re designed to monitor our inner temperature and the temperature around us. And, we’re designed to respond. When we’re hot, we look for shade and water. When we’re cold, we look for warm sun and move into it. We start to move, whether big movement with the big leg and hip muscles or with shivers.

Me? I’ve been afraid of COLD for as long as I can remember. I spent much of my childhood in ice skates, the Cheasapeake Bay and swimming pools (at all hours of the day and night). I have primal full-body memories of dangerous cold. Skating on a frozen pond in mid-winter in thin socks and a thin jacket, very far from my friend’s warm house. Sitting in the snow around a tiny backpacking stove on my first winter camping trip, which let to full-on hypothermic hallucinations later in the snow cave.

And so many more horror stories. The first time I tried cross country skiing with — with my fabulous new boyfriend — I wore so many layers that I spent the first half-hour shedding clothes and leaving them behind bushes in the Wyoming forest.

Now, I’m alert about temperature, but I’m not terrified. I’ve found out that my body knows how to keep warm — if I follow it’s intelligence. I’ve given my heat regulating system a chance to regain it’s power — which is both thrilling and life-saving.

So – As summer shifts into fall and then into winter, this is an ideal time to revive your body’s warming smarts. Rather than study the biology, how about going outside and exploring the possibilities? Here are some suggestions:



1.  Gear up

Pack for safety and reassurance. I use a very small, body-hugging daypack, but I always bring some warm clothes that are a little warmer — or a lot warmer — than I think I’ll need. The specific choices depend on the weather conditions, how active I plan to be, and how long I plan to be out.

Some must-have lightweight essentials for me are: silk scarf, thin wind-proof gloves, warm (but not bulky) hat, extra wool socks (thin) in case my feet get wet, wool shirt or sweater and/or down jacket. I’ll often tie a wool shirt or sweater around my waist and bring a bigger down jacket, if there’s a chance I’ll be out long after dark or that I might get lost on an epic quest.

In my early Inner Heat training, I was very very conservative in packing extra warmth. That was key to managing my anxiety and expanding my confidence.

2.  Don’t sit

Don’t sit down – ever – in your early training missions. It’s too easy in our sitty lifestyles to get seduced by the habitual posture of sitting. We sit too long, and the body starts shutting down. We get cold.

When you’re standing, your body naturally starts to move around — especially as it learns that IT is in charge of keeping you warm.
3.  Move

When in doubt, move. When you’re talking, move. When you’re listening, move. When you feel the slightest chill, move a lot.

Use the big muscles. Legs, hips, arms, shoulders. Don’t worry about what you’re doing exactly or how it looks. My body found this movement that looks like an enthusiastic chicken in some crazy cartoon. When I play too close to my edge of fear or actual cold, I go into wild rave dancer for a few minutes, and that quickly shakes off the fear and the cold.

4.  Be smart, be safe

I did my early Inner Heat training very close to home base — wherever my “get warm” shelter and supplies were. For me, the stress of being many hours away when a serious cold came on was not helpful. Over time, I stretched my comfort zone.

And yes, there have been times when I’ve found myself far from home base, sitting a little too long, forgetting to watch the sun and the weather, forgetting to listen to my body’s signals to move or add a layer. It happens. Then quick as lightening, I’m up and dancing with wild enthusiasm. A celebration of the Inner Fire and a launch back into life.

These are just a few principles to get you started. You’ll find out how your body works — and how to safely play the edge of your fears. No matter what, most important is to keep a warm smile going and enjoy the adventures.