COVID-19, Personal

Walking in the cold

I’ve regained all the weight I lost over the summer and am again 15 pounds over my ideal weight. I say that hesitantly, because it’s not like I have a weight problem. I’m only four pounds into the overweight category, according to this BMI calculator. Until I turned 40 I had a blast-furnace metabolism and could eat anything I wanted. Now, in my 50s, to keep my weight where I want it I need to limit calories and exercise a little. A thirty minute walk four or five times a week is all it takes.

Before COVID-19 sent knowledge workers everywhere to their home offices, I used to walk a fair amount just going about my day — between 2,000 and 4,000 steps, according to my iPhone’s step tracker. But now that I’m home all the time I am lucky to walk 500 steps in a day — unless I deliberately leave the house to take a walk.

Side street
I walk this road a lot. Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Agfa APX100 (x/7-98)

Trouble is, it’s cold. I hate the cold!

Over the summer, I couldn’t wait to get on my bike every day. I preferred the bike to walking, but that’s not to say a good walk didn’t have its own pleasures. But now? I have no desire whatsoever to be outside.

I’m starting to force myself. I put on a long overcoat and my earmuffs, and pull one of my COVID masks across my face. In middle age my teeth have become sensitive — they’ll ache for a couple hours if I walk thirty minutes in freezing temperatures. I know I can wrap a scarf around my face, but a COVID mask works just as well for this purpose and is a lot easier to manage.

We haven’t even hit the coldest part of the year yet. It’ll come, later this month or early next. We’ll see some days well below freezing, even below zero Fahrenheit. I’m ready. Since I was in high school I’ve owned a Korean War era Army topcoat. It hangs well below my knees, and it has a stout wool liner inside. It has repelled every cold nature has ever tried to throw at it. It’s Army green, so it’s hardly a fashion statement. But when it’s that cold, who cares?

I don’t mention it here much but I have a bum left foot. Bunion surgery in 2014 was supposed to alleviate the pain. It did, but it left me with a new and different pain. The ball of my foot and my big toe would both ache and go numb. My original podiatrist kept telling me it would heal in time, but it didn’t.

Healing up after the surgery

I found that I could walk nearly pain-free in Birkenstock sandals, which I wear whenever it’s warm enough. But that doesn’t work in the winter. After considerable trial and error I found an over-the-counter insert and a wool metatarsal pad that, together, made walking less uncomfortable. But long walks still irritated my foot.

I finally went to a different podiatrist this fall. He was awesome. He told me that either I had some scar tissue in there that was irritating a long nerve that runs along the big toe, or the original podiatrist nicked that nerve during the surgery. If it was scar tissue, he said, he could probably restore my foot to normal with a short course of steroid shots. But the only thing he could do for a damaged nerve would be surgery to cut it off entirely. He said he really didn’t want to do that as the end of my foot would permanently go fully numb.

He did some clever diagnostic work that, unfortunately, ruled out the scar tissue. It had to be a damaged nerve. “But all is not lost,” he said. He fashioned an insert for my left shoe that takes most of the pressure off the ball of my foot as I walk. It is almost as good as my Birkenstock sandals! At least foot pain isn’t a barrier to me walking anymore.

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28 thoughts on “Walking in the cold

  1. Shirley B. says:

    I’m so happy that you found a workable solution to go for walks again!

    I like cold weather, but it might have something to do with us living in The Netherlands, being used to relatively mild winters. Skating on natural ice has almost become a thing of the past. We hardly get snow, so when we have it, I love to go for a walk. It usually only stays for a day or 2.

    This mild climate makes it easy to go for walks, even in wintertime.

    I think I’d be walking less when I lived in a colder climate.

    Hang in there: spring will come in a couple of months.

    • I love Indiana, but our winters do get cold. They were harsher when I was a kid, in the 1970s and early 1980s. Today our coldest and snowiest months are January and February. A normal day’s temperatures are around freezing, but we will have some days far below freezing before spring comes. We get far less snow now than 20 or 30 years ago, but in a normal winter we have 3 or 4 major snowstorms that deliver 5, even 10 inches of snow, plus several other snow events that deliver an inch or two. After living through a major blizzard in 1978, I’m not excited about snow anymore. We got several feet of snow in a couple days.

      • Shirley B. says:

        Now that is a lot of snow!

        1978 was memorable for us as well. We had frozen rain that winter. So we were able to skate on ice in the streets! It’s never happened since, I (and most of us who did skate in the streets) will remember it forever.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    I try to walk every day, minimum of 2.2 miles. I was telling a pal that I was so depressed with the overcast, the other day I didn’t feel like walking at all, but worked up the gumption to go out at 7pm and walked. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening walking then, it was 26 degrees, but the wind had died to nil; and the beautiful dark, with the streetlights and Christmas decorations on, made me remember how much I used to love to walk at night! My friend was telling me, he is stuck on watching “walking vids” on YouTube, which is apparently a thing now! So I looked and yep, there are videos with a lot of hits of people just walking all over! Funny!

    The February average temp in Indianapolis is about 39-40 degrees, whereas in Milwaukee, it’s about 29-30, so it’s more of a struggle here; but I have to say, Indianapolis seemed much damper in the winter, so harder to force myself out. I think all us walkers can be thankful that this winter, we’re running about 7-10 degrees above normal!

  3. Look at the bright side: you don’t live in South Bend anymore. I once figured that there is an average difference of about 5 degrees between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne that is about 100 miles north.

    I know, I know, I need to start exercising again. Grumble.

  4. Ah, Indiana cold. It will take some getting used to when we move there, especially after twelve years as a SoCal resident!! A lovely picture though :) My sister had bunions and surgery, and I know she had a terrible time too. I’m glad you’ve found a workable walking solution!

  5. I don’t miss the Canadian winters, that’s for sure. Shovelling snow is no fun. But Korean winters are bad in a different way. There’s usually little/no snow so the landscape is brown and bleak. Depressing. A blanket of snow looks ‘warm’, if you know what I mean. Also, I live next to the mountains and a very cold wind comes down off them. Brrr.
    That said, the temperature will go up to 10 Celsius today so I’m going out with a camera.

    • Good point, a snow-free winter is depressing in its own way! I do envy your warmer day. I’ve not pointed a camera at anything outside in three weeks.

  6. I’m glad you’re making an effort to get some exercise and walking is really good for you. I try to walk every day – even if it is just circles inside the house but much prefer walking in the cold. There’s something invigorating about the cold, pure air of winter.

  7. I’m 163 cm tall. When I was 40, I weighed 60 kilograms. Now I’m 54 and weigh 77 kilograms. I’m not surprised by the result of the BMI calculation.

    Your BMI is 29, indicating your weight is in the Overweight category for adults of your height.

    I weighed less in the spring when I hiked almost daily for 30-90 minutes. I want to get over my intense dislike of the cold and go on more walks. It’ll be a hot 6°C tomorrow.

  8. tbm3fan says:

    Well I’ll still complain when the house is 57 degrees in the morning and outside is 49 for an hour of two before climbing.

    Speaking of the foot I smashed my left small toe twice against a dresser one evening, in one hour, 10 years ago. Hurt like the dickens but shook it off. Since then the toe has acted up off and on which means months of sometimes obvious pain and then perfectly quiet. Can only wear Sperry Topsiders. Even crossed my mind to remove the toe. I sense it right now and I am sitting. Was going to Kaiser to get and Xray but Covid put off those basic visits for now.

    Yes, it is annoying when you can’t take a hike like you used to without discomfort or pain.

    • I used to set my thermostat to 60 overnight to save money. It took far too long to heat the house up again in the morning, so as soon as I could afford it, I started setting the thermostat to 66 overnight, then 68!

      I feel you, brother, on being able to wear only certain shoes. My new orthotic lets me wear a lot more shoes than before and it is a giant blessing. I wish you luck with that toe.

  9. I have been tentative about going out in the icy weather. I damaged my knee this time last year and it just feels ok. So I feel your unease. I also love wearing a mask…apart from foggy glasses. They are like balaclavas.

    • I wear glasses sometimes and for those days I use masks with a nose wire, which does help cut down fogging. But when exercising, boy does the hot breath build up inside the mask.

    • Yes! I had come across those as well. But on the US site, none of the cork-soled boots are available in brown. That’s the color shoe I wear most by far. I’ll keep looking for them to come available in brown.

  10. Darts and Letters says:

    it’s kind of ironic, I have nerve issues in my left foot. Not as problematic as your’s have been, though. The older I get the more I appreciate simple things just like being able to walk about my normal activities without repercussions later. Gotta be constantly vigilant about how Im treating the feet. They’re not just “there”, so to speak. You understand that better than anyone , obviously. It’s interesting that Birkenstocks have been so therapeutic. I’ve worn them in the past, been maybe fifteen years since I had my last pair, but I wonder exactly what about them relieves the symptoms you’ve specifically had to deal with?

    • I feel you, brother. Foot issues are super challenging because walking is fundamental. Part of my sort-of struggle with weight is because since the surgery walking has been a challenge.

      The nerve that got nicked runs along the big toe, into the metatarsal region. Pressure on the metatarsal aggravates the nicked nerve, causing pain and swelling. The Birkenstocks tend to correct my overpronation and also create a pressure point that spreads my metatarsals — in concert, they take the pressure off that spot and minimize irritating that nerve.

      The orthotic that my podiatrist fashioned does pretty much the same thing.

  11. I too have gained weight during this pandemic. More than I care to mention. It was nothing for me to get 15,000 steps a day plus go to the gym. Now, like you, I don’t even want to poke my head outside. I do walk but only three times a week and only about 5,000 steps….not enough for me to keep the weight off. Plus my gym is closed.
    As for your foot….have yo tried PRP? I had plantar fasciitis for three years and when and orthopedic surgeon suggested PRP I was skeptical. It worked. That was four years ago and I no longer have foot pain. Good luck.

    • I haven’t tried PRP. What my podiatrist tells me is that a particular nerve was damaged during that surgery, and that there’s no cure for that. It’s deeply disappointing, but there’s nothing to be done.

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