Becoming Alaskan: Winter means trying new things

  • By SARAH CANNARD
  • Sunday, November 15, 2015 1:00am
  • Neighbors

“You better run — that’s a moose behind you!”

Only in Alaska is this a realistic threat of motivation for a workout instructor (and in Canada — all of Canada).

I was in one of those step aerobic workout classes, which I thought died out in the 90’s along with leg warmers, but are apparently it’s still a thing. And for good reason, too, leg warmers or not (my calves feel like Cindy Crawford’s by the end). My classmates and I pranced, tapped and stomped all over our steps for a full hour, while occasionally being threatened with the moose.

Like many things it seems, working out in Alaska isn’t quite like anywhere else in the country. Sure, you can run outside during the winter — my Klondike Road Relay team had a conversation last month about what type of studded running cleats to use — but if you’re more like me and prone to falling on ice, as opposed to running across it, it’s sometimes safer to stick to dry surfaces.

Although my gym membership seems to be ever-changing in allegiance, it is never more valuable, regardless of location, than during the months between October and April. Not only are gyms ice-free but in the winter I’d say about half my motivation to go is simply to see other human beings.

Case in point: Last night I went to an indoor climbing gym. I’ve climbed before but never inside. And as it turns out, when you’re waiting for the snow to fly and the elements are cold, wet and windy, it’s a great time to try something more or less new.

I liked this joint right off the bat for two reasons. One, there was a couch right smack in the middle of the open floor. What’s more comfortable than a well-loved, squishy couch when your tired self needs a rest? Two, everyone was talking. Belayers were shouting up to their climbing partners, small groups were quietly discussing techniques while huddled under overhangs, and friends were gathered on said couch talking about who knows what. I could even hear a class taking place upstairs — something called Buti Yoga, which sounds like a whole other experience in itself.

I spent the next two-and-a-half hours strapped into a harness, flailing around on the rock wall. At some point I managed to knock my hand against a handhold pretty good, causing the back of it to swell up all red and puffy. My friend laughed and said don’t worry, guys dig battle scars. Well hallelujah!

As I left the gym I was already mentally calculating how long it would take me get set up with my own climbing gear. While daylight hours may be in short supply right now in Alaska, recreation options are not. Winter is only just now starting and I can’t wait to find out what other new activities are in store — moose or not.

• Sarah Cannard is a transplant from the Lower 48 who enjoys long walks on Sandy Beach, Carolans with her coffee and days when her socks match. Follow her on Twitter @becomingalaskan.

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