The Harbor may have slipped into ice pajamas and look like a Currier and Ives postcard, but some of us still like to get outside. Winter poses unique challenges for those who like to stay fit and active while the weather outside is “frightful.”
Here are six safety tips for avoiding falls and fractures and for walking safely as temperatures plummet during the winter months. Suggestions for staying active and winter walking venues follow with a little something for everyone.
- An Ounce of Prevention
Keep an eye on the weather. Sign up for weather alerts from Grays Harbor Emergency Management Center. If overnight temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing and turn your yard or sidewalks into a skating rink, take pre-emptive action. Salt your steps, driveway or front porch in advance. A little prep time can save you some big recovery time incurred from a fall on an ice-slicked porch or walkway.
Beware That First Step
It’s easy to slip and fall when you feel confident and secure. Like heading out to the car or taking a few steps out the back door to take out the trash. Be careful and don’t let your guard down just because your route or walkway is familiar or short. Tread lightly to avoid falls.
- Select Proper Footwear
When ice or snow are in the forecast or already on the ground, sane and safe are in. Lose the smooth-soled shoes. Wear a pair of sturdy, grippy shoes or boots with non-slip soles for good traction. Don’t risk a fall and a fracture by looking chic when no one’s likely to see you. You can always change into dressier footwear when you arrive at work or to a party.
Winter footwear is available throughout the Harbor. Says Martha Hobble of Aberdeen’s Harbor Shoes, “We have quite a selection, with several brands that are insulated, lined, with good traction soles. We have more in stock this year than we’ve ever had before.”
- Do the Funky Penguin
When it comes to navigating ice, these tuxedo-ed birds are pros. Walk like they do. Point your toes outward. Extend your arms at your sides for balance. Keep your center of gravity over your front leg. Take short steps. Shuffle. You may look like a flightless Antarctic bird, but you’re more likely to arrive at your destination in one piece.
- Lose the Mobile Device
Keep your hands free. Stow the smartphone and any other hand-held device in your pocket or purse. Again, keep your hands extended by your side to help you keep your balance.
- Take a Rain Check
If outdoor conditions are too hazardous or you’re worried about falling, simply stay home and wait until later in the day when temperatures warm up a bit. This is especially true for senior citizens. Ask for help from others who may be more nimble or are better equipped to help get you where you want to go. Staying home may disrupt your plans, but it’s better than spending the next month or two in a cast.
Now that you know how to navigate slick walking surfaces safely, finding a suitable venue to stay active during the winter can be a challenge, too. The YMCA of Grays Harbor offers a variety of indoor exercise and fitness options. Power walking through a spacious indoor venue like the South Shore Mall will keep you dry and warm while you get some laps in and elevate your heart rate.
For those who prefer to keep fit and active in the fresh air, here are seven outdoor walking options and this writer walks them all. Most are relatively short. Keep a close eye on the weather and choose proper winter wear to ensure success.
- The Morrison Riverfront Walkway, Aberdeen. 1.8 miles of paved trail from Guesthouse Inn & Suites to Lakeside Industries along the Chehalis River. Shelter is close at hand if the weather turns suddenly sour.
- Elton Bennett Nature Park, Grand Avenue and Sunset Avenue Hoquiam. Short, winding dirt trails skirt streams and towering trees.
- The open marshy area behind Anderson-Middleton, at 815 8th Street, Hoquiam. Graveled loop trail along the water. If heading into the wind, be sure to bundle up.
- Westport Dunes Trail, Wesport. A paved trail of about 2 miles, with bathrooms at state parks at both ends.
- Chehalis Riverfront Walkway, Aberdeen. A paved trail along the south side of Aberdeen to the Bishop Athletic Complex on an abandoned Burlington Northern railroad grade and levee.
- Vance Creek Park, Elma. Gentle paved walkways around two lakes. Located adjacent to Highway 12.
- Sandpiper Trail, Hoquiam. An easy boardwalk trail with several viewpoints of the Grays Harbor Estuary. The wind can get pretty chilly off the water, so dress appropriately.
And, don’t forget. If roads are icy, so is everything else. Whether you’re driving to the mall for a morning power walk or heading out to the park for a couple laps around a lake, go slow. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. Being a bit late is better than winding up in the E.R. In addition, give yourself plenty of time to warm up stiff joints and muscles in cold weather.
Staying fit and healthy during the winter months can be a challenge. But the effort will result in rich dividends all year round.