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As we approach the halfway mark of winter, have you found your commitment to the exercise habit waning? When the days are cold, dark, and gray, it can be hard to stay motivated to work out, especially if your fitness practice takes place outside. When it’s 20 degrees and overcast, you may not feel in the mood to do your usual run or ruck.

But, it’s a great idea to push yourself to do it anyway. And to start the outdoor activity habit in winter, even if you haven’t been an outdoor exerciser before.

Here’s why.

The Biggest Benefit of Exercising in the Cold

There are a lot of articles out there that list the benefits of exercising in cold weather. Unfortunately, most of these oft-touted benefits are myths at worst or partially true at best. For example, the one outdoor winter exercise benefit that tops all the lists is “you’ll burn more calories.”

The idea is based on sound science: your body does burn more calories to warm itself up. But as exercise physiologist Dr. John Castellani noted in an interview in Outside magazine, “as you start to run [in the cold], you’ll reach a point where the energy burned doing the work is probably not all that different than if you were in a temperate environment.” Once your body is warmed up by the exercise, you’ll stop burning many extra calories. To really burn more calories in the cold, you’d have to start cold and stay cold.

Castellani notes that you might burn more calories in an outdoor wintertime workout because you’re wearing more clothes or running in the snow, both of which make your body work harder. But the calorie-burning boost just from your body working to stay warm won’t be that significant.

The other supposed benefit of cold-weather exercise is that it increases your VO2 max, but the research that this benefit is based on was done on animals. It’s not yet clear if it has the same effect on humans.

If you’re a runner, some studies do suggest that you’ll hit PRs when the temperature dips, but cold temps don’t shave very much off your times.

So basically, you shouldn’t count on outdoor cold-weather exercise to help you burn more calories or run longer and faster.

But, there is one benefit robustly supported by the research: exercising outdoors in the cold is great for your mental health.

During the winter, about 20% of Americans will experience seasonal affective disorder, or SAD — the “winter blues.”

The main culprit of SAD is the lack of sunlight due to shorter days and longer nights. Consequently, the best remedy for SAD is to get more sun.

While sunlight alone can boost mood, its effect is turbocharged when coupled with exercising and being in nature, which each also serve as mood boosters in and of themselves.

As I discussed with Dr. Jasper Smits on the podcast, exercise is just as effective as drugs and talk therapy for depression and anxiety. It boosts your mood quickly and provides long-term benefits in relieving symptoms.

Our brains also bloom when they’re taken outdoors. There’s been a ton of research done on the happiness-enhancing, stress-busting benefits of time spent in nature.

Sunlight + exercise + nature = a potent, highly-effective, mood-boosting tonic.

So if you’re looking to keep the black dog at bay this winter, consider taking your workout outdoors, even when it’s freezing outside. Go for a run or ruck. Snowshoe. Ski. Carry heavy things. Crawl. Hang from a tree. Just move your body outdoors in a way you enjoy.

Of course, there’s an inevitable catch-22 here: exercising outside can mitigate your feelings of melancholy, but when you’re feeling melancholy, you don’t feel like exercising at all, much less exercising outside in the cold.

A few things that can help you overcome this inertia:

Dress warmly. If you associate being outside in the winter with being miserable, it’s probably because you haven’t dressed appropriately for the conditions. If you don layers, and put on toasty gloves, socks, shoes, ect., you can keep yourself quite comfortable. Remember what the Scandinavians say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”Lay out your clothes. It is kind of a drag to suit up to go outside in the cold, more so when you have to hunt all over the house for your hat, gloves, jacket, and so on. Remove one inertia-creating obstacle from your workout routine by laying out all the clothes and accessories

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Skill of the Week: Throw a Boomerang

A man’s ability to adapt to any situation is an important part of his masculinity. We’re republishing an illustrated guide from our archive every Sunday so that you can improve your manly knowledge week by week.

The process usually goes like this: You buy a boomerang in a toy shop because it sounds interesting. You can throw it in an open field. Throw it half a dozen times, only to hear it crash to the ground about 20 feet from where you are standing. Place the boomerang at the back of the closet and forget about it.

It’s easy to understand why boomerangs frustrate. It’s not intuitive like throwing a football or baseball. The key to a successful throw is the correct grip, throwing motion and evaluation of your circumstances. Make sure you are using a “returning” boomerang. Many of them are only for decoration and fly around as well as snow globes.

Ted Slampyak, Illustration

The Art of Manliness first published the Skill of the week: Throwing a Boomerang.

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Sunday Firesides: Protect the Sanctum Sanctorum of Selfhood

The innermost chamber of the temple of the ancient Israelites was known as the Holy of Holies – the sanctum Sanctorum. Here, according to legend, heaven and earth met. The curtain that separated this sanctuary was only opened by the High Priest, and when he walked out, it was said his face would glow.

Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher, believed that everyone should have their own sanctum sacrum – a private sanctuary in his mind/heart/spirit which offered a haven to his “private persona” and barred all interlopers from entering.

We live our lives for, by, and with others in almost every aspect of our life. We are motivated either by the literal or imaginary gaze of an audience. We act to avoid embarrassment and gain affirmation. We take in opinions from all corners of the cultural landscape. Peers influence us long after we leave adolescence.

This social structure can bring about a lot of good.

There must be a place in your self where you can stop being so porous. You can use this space to house your unwavering convictions, sacred values, and creative visions that you want to remain untainted by all that’s stupid, degrading and profane.

It is important to have a special place in your soul, one that is not based on other people’s frameworks. This sanctuary should be where you can retreat and chant the incantations of your choice.

Stop converting people into brands and their lives into content.

You cynics need to get out.

You need to get out of this room with your attempts to call good good and evil evil.

You must have a place in your innermost self that you can close the curtains behind you to commune with the most sacred thing on earth, unadulterated personality.

The Art of Manliness published the article Sunday Firesides: The Sanctum sanctorum of Selfhood first.

Did you miss our previous article…

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A Guide to Shrinking Levi’s 501 Shrink-to-Fit Jeans

I would not call myself a denim head, but I appreciate a good pair of jeans.

Raw denim jeans are a type of jeans I have experimented with before.

What is raw denim?

The majority of denim jeans that you purchase today have undergone a pre-washing and treatment process known as “sanforization”. This is done to soften the fabric, prevent shrinkage and stop indigo from rubbing off. Raw denim jeans (also called “dry” denim jeans) are jeans that haven’t been pre-washed and treated.

Raw denim jeans are a great choice because they begin as a blank slate that can be customized to your liking. Raw denim jeans are different from mass-produced jeans, which have faux distressing and fading that is identical for each pair. The distressing and fading of raw denim is determined by the body type you wear and the way you wear it. Raw denim is also tailored to fit your body. Each pair is unique, and has a custom-made look.

Levi’s 501 STF jeans are the best way to get raw denim jeans at a reasonable price. This is not a sponsored or affiliated post. It’s an American classic. Your grandpa likely owned a pair. They only cost $50 and will last a lifetime.

501 Shrink to Fit jeans are not pre-washed so you will need to undergo a special shrinking and sizing process to get the perfect fit.

Levi’s offers some guidelines to help you with this. They were mixed in results.

Here are the results and tips that I learned from my experiment to shrink Levi’s jeans 501 STF.

Levi’s 501 Jeans Shrink to Fit: How to size them

Understanding the Levi’s 501 Shrink to Fit jeans sizing process is key to getting a perfect fit. Your choice of size will be determined by the shrinking method you intend to use. Levi’s offers the following options-dependent guidelines.

Wear them in the tub and keep them on to dry. For those who wish to wash and dry their jeans in a machine, we recommend ordering a size up. Increase your waist by 1″ for sizes 27″-36″, 2″ for 38’’-48’’, and 3” for sizes 50″. For your inseam you can increase it by 3′” for sizes 27’’-34’’, and 4’’ for 36’’. They should be bought true to size.

To determine which method of sizing/shrinking produced the best results, i tried all three. Here are the results.

The old-school shrink-to-fit method

The traditional shrink-to fit method calls for you to purchase 501s in your true size at the waist, but two sizes larger in the length. Then, you wear them in the bath and let them dry.

This method requires me to buy 501s in 33×34. I normally wear 33×32 jeans.

I chose a more complex process I saw on other menswear websites that claimed to produce the same results without the need to wear wet jeans or drip indigo around the house. Here’s the step-by-step:

Step 1: Soak Jeans

Fill up your bath with hot water. To minimize the loss of indigo during soaking, turn the jeans inside-out. Place the jeans into the tub and make sure the water is hot enough to cover them. Allow the jeans to soak in hot water for 45 to 60 minutes.

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