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The Alaska Club

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Be Prepared, the Alaskan Winter is Almost Here!

Posted by Barbara DuBois | Oct 26, 2022 10:19:16 AM

No doubt about it, winter is around the corner. This means a whole host of measures are in the works for Alaskans to get ready. Getting ready for winter means a wide variety of preparations. We drilled hooks into our garage ceiling to hang the bikes up and make room for one of the cars. The chimney will get inspected, the fireplace cleaned, and wood delivered. Carpets are shampooed, closets sorted out. Coats are donated to the homeless shelters along with hats, gloves, and scarves. The tires on the cars have been replaced with studded tires along with the oil changed and the various fluids checked. The pantry has been well stocked with non-perishable foods to reduce driving on ice and facilitate the ease of making meals. My neighbors are even insulating their garage and ceilings to reduce their heating costs.

All these household tasks are necessary, but other preparations are equally important. Late fall is a very dangerous time of year as there is no snow in the cities and sparse lighting fails to properly illuminate the dark city streets. I myself came perilously close to hitting a moose and her this year’s calf just a few weeks ago while driving East on Tudor after dark. This year alone six people have been killed on the streets of Anchorage, either by bike or by foot and many more have been injured. Most people wear darker clothes in the winter, including myself, but we can all counter that invisibility to drivers by wearing reflector vests. Falling on ice is a real danger, especially for the elderly who run the risk of fracturing a bone. Attachable foot grippers work-but only if they are worn each and every time we step outside. Dedicated winter cyclists need to be mindful of their need to be clearly visible to drivers: flashing lights and reflector vests are an absolute necessity.

Other preparations are more of a tactic to prevent cabin fever and Seasonal Affective Disorder, the latter brought on by a dearth of light and possibly a shortage of Vitamin D. We make a concerted effort to head to The Alaska Club at least once a day to either ride the stationary bikes and lift some weights (my husband,) or, in my case, do my before-work-swim or the roll my mat out in a yoga class. We sustain a rigorously consistent schedule to get our workout in so that we maintain our healthy status, but also enjoy the camaraderie of our club friends. A wintertime enjoyment is we also factor in movie and potluck dinner nights, to keep our morale high and our social circle vibrantly interacting with each other. Socializing at church, at The Alaska Club, at work, at various cultural events or at home is as important to our mental health as is working out, skiing, or dog walking. We cannot let the darkness allow us to feel boxed in; taking in movies or enjoying the numerous cultural offerings of Alaska keep us socially and mentally healthy. And speaking of Vitamin D, every Medical Doctor in this state will tell you to take it as we simply do not get enough light to absorb it naturally. Vitamin D has been proven to reduce depression, strengthen and fortify bones, prevent cancer, and provides for a whole array of other preventive measures. Put that on your shopping list along with the grippers and reflector vests! The skis need to be prepped, the skates probably sharpened and check to see if you have adequate footwear for winter walking-a decided pleasure in our beautifully lit winter walkways such as by O’Malley, Russian Jack Park and Kinkaid Park.

Winter is a magnificent experience here in Alaska, but we have to do our homework to get ready. Doing so each year has become a matter of routine for us, but the rewards are abundant, and the quiet whiteness of the woods are balms to our spirits and bodies.

Written by Barbara DuBois

MA Health Ed. & Int'l Journalism; PhD Sports & Health History; Texas Tech Univ. & Wayland Baptist Univ. instructor; Health Ed. Program Manager Maniilaq Assoc.

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