John from Blackdog Outdoors

This month, our guest blog has been written by John, the Business Development Manager at Blackdog Outdoors. Blackdog Outdoors is a fantastic charity dedicated to improving mental health by providing opportunities for outdoor activities. You can find out more about this awesome cause by reading Director Andy’s blog here

For most of us climbers, winter means excitement. It’s gritstone season, it’s the sharpening of crampons and ice axes, the digging out of kit that hasn’t seen the light of day for almost a year, and the re-emergence of classic phrases such as “It was definitely type 2 fun”.

But for many of us the darker nights and shorter days can also bring an ominous, sinking feeling. As the light starts to fade and the nights get longer, the prospect of facing the next few months of damp and darkness can feel overwhelming. Here at Blackdog Outdoors we’ve been looking at some top tips for getting involved this winter, making the most of our time outdoors and keeping our well-being in check. 

To keep our mental resilience high, we’re asking people to stay active, stay warm, and stay in touch. 

Stay active: 

  • Get involved and stay active by joining one of our events this winter. Visit www.blackdogoutdoors.co.uk/events. We have well-being walks, climbing at Freeklime, free yoga classes, and various other activities throughout the winter months. All are free to attend and supported by Mental Health First Aid qualified staff
  • Use social media apps to keep an eye out for your local services and activities. Searching your nearest town or city on Facebook will highlight groups and pages that regularly advertise local activities and events that you can get involved with
  • Check your local gym’s website for a list of their classes and activities. Gym life isn’t all about lifting weights – they’re often the central hub for activities like yoga, dancing, silks, martial arts, swimming, cycling and running clubs.  

Stay warm:

If you’re getting involved in some winter activity, getting your clothing system right can have a huge impact on your experience. A good day can turn quickly become miserable when we’re soggy and cold. To stay warm and dry, focus on the three-layer clothing system. A base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer shell. 

  • A good base layer is made of a wicking material such as polyester or merino. Wicking material will draw moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm and dry. Cotton is one of the worst fabrics, as it will hold moisture against your skin, leaving you cold and damp. Leave that favourite t-Shirt at home and change it out for a wicking fabric
  • Your mid-layer should focus on warmth: insulating your body and retaining your body heat. Use fabrics like fleece, wool, or down feathers to create an “air pocket” around your body – this could be a big jacket, a simple fleece top, or a nice wool jumper
  • Your outer shell acts as your barrier from the elements, and is designed to protect you from wind, rain and snow. Something windproof and waterproof will keep you protected from the weather. The most common fabrics are nylon and polyester, often incorporating specialist materials such as Gore-Tex, which is prized for its reliability in wet weather. 

Alfred Wainwright was famed for his use of the Scandinavian quote “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”, and a little knowledge about clothing systems can go a long way to keeping us happy in the outdoors. 

Stay in touch:

The winter months and the festive period can be isolating for some of us, particularly those living with mental health conditions. It’s important that we stay connected during the winter months and keep checking in on our friends. If you haven’t seen that one friend for a while, give them a text or a call and see how they’re doing. If you could use a chat yourself and don’t feel like talking to your friends, you can reach out to a number of different, free, services. Some of our favorites are listed below. 

SHOUT – Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Just text “Shout” to 85258 

Samaritans – Call any time, day or night. Whatever you’re going through, you can call any time, from any phone for free. Call 116 123

MIND – The MIND information line is open for you to ask about mental health problems, where to get help near you, treatment options and advocacy services. Telephone 0300 123 3393

However you choose to spend your winter, we hope you’ll find some time to keep yourself active, stay moving and stay in touch with those around you. 

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