I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in and around Anchorage, Alaska a few weeks back. Now, I get it that not a lot of people would see it as a “pleasure” to go to Alaska in the middle of winter. But my wife and I are different. We actually love the mountains and the cold weather that comes along with them. Maybe it is all relative. Maybe living in LA for 25 years gives me a different perspective than if I had to live in harsher environments full time. But, alas, I do not. The week before the 1,049 mile Iditarod dog sled race, Anchorage, Alaska holds the largest winter festival in the world. It includes parades, fairs with rides, eating contests, athletic events, including outhouse races and Running with the Reindeer (Google them) fashion shows and the list goes on. Whether the weather is 30 degrees or 15 degrees below zero, everything goes off without a hitch. Maybe they make ‘em tougher up there, but it is pleasant to see people enjoying life and not so worried about the weather.

That leads me to the realization that Alaska, in the dead of winter, has a thriving outdoor athletic community in spite of its harsh climate. Everywhere I went there were outdoor stores not just for the typical hunting and fishing you would expect, but for running, cycling (they have mountain bikes with these fat tires for the snow), cross country skiing and the list goes on. Folks up there have created a great community around outdoor, healthy activities and they seem not to let a little “bad” weather get in their way. In fact, they seem to embrace it. Did you know that cold weather training has very specific advantages, especially for the endurance athlete? I found out that the dogs that pull the sleds for the endurance races are, by far, pound for pound that most efficient athletes on the planet. Plus, think of all the calories you would burn running from a hungry moose.

The fact is, we have it pretty easy in So Cal when it comes to our environment and its effects on our ability to be active. We have an environment that actually encourages outdoor activity. Face it, it is pretty hard to sit inside and watch TV when it is sunny and 72. On the occasion we do get a rainy day, it is nice to be able to do nothing and not feel bad about it. I think many of us need a fresh perspective on how blessed we are to be able to get outside without much bad weather for more than 300 days of our year (unless you live in the valley, which does torment you with some nasty summertime high temps – but even then, the evenings are generally doable).

I know it is often human nature to lose appreciation for what we have on a regular basis. I want to encourage you, though, to take a fresh look around and see the opportunity you have to get out and get going with whatever it is you would like to be doing. And when you do, give a little thanks that you do not have to be doing it indoors.