Exercise and other outdoor activities helped us get through the pandemic so far, but how will that change as it grows colder?

Exercise and other outdoor activities helped us get through the pandemic so far, but how will that change as it grows colder?

The days are only getting colder and shorter. But as the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide continues to increase, meeting loved ones outside, with a mask and at a distance, remains one of the few ways to safely socialize. Additionally, science has long told us that there are numerous benefits to getting outside, both for the mind and body.

We’ll discuss creative ways to get outside this winter, whether you’re a nature buff or more of a city person. We’ll also talk about what parents can do to help their kids cope this winter.

Join us to hear from experts on how to safely enjoy time outdoors in our region, even during these challenging times.

Produced by Inés Rénique


  • Brian McGee Owner and Head Training Coach, FIT360°DC
  • Amy Joyce Writer and Editor, "On Parenting" Blog, Washington Post; author, "I Went to College for This? How to Turn Your Entry Level Job Into a Career You Love."
  • Melanie Choukas-Bradley Naturalist and Author, "Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island," "Resilience: Connecting with Nature in a Time of Crisis," "The Joy of Forest Bathing," "City of Trees" and "A Year in Rock Creek Park"


  • 12:00:03

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. The days are getting colder and shorter, but as the pandemic wears on being outdoors, masked and at a distance continues to be one of the few ways to safely socialize with family and friends. And the science says there are great benefits to getting outdoors both for physical and for mental health.

  • 12:00:24

    KOJO NNAMDISo whether you're a parent, a nature buff or a city person, how can you still get outside and stay active despite the cold weather. Joining us now is Melanie Choukas-Bradley, a Naturalist and Author of "Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island" and "Resilience: Connecting with Nature in a Time of Crisis" along with many other books. Melanie, thank you for joining us again.

  • 12:00:47

    MELANIE CHOUKAS-BRADLEYIt's my pleasure, Kojo, as always.

  • 12:00:51

    NNAMDIMelanie, today is a gorgeous day to be outside, December or not. What are some of the therapeutic benefits in getting outdoors and being in nature especially in the cold weather?

  • 12:01:02

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYYeah. Well, I think that a lot of people this year -- one of the kind of silver linings of the pandemic and all the stress we've been through this year is that many people have discovered the joy of spending time outdoors whether it's walking in your neighborhood, visiting a neighborhood park, however you get outside and enjoy yourself there is all kinds of medical research showing the mental and physical health benefits of being out in nature.

  • 12:01:32

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYAnd, you know, I think the spiritual benefits may be the most powerful of all. They're harder to measure. But spending time in nature lowers your blood pressure, your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that in high levels can indicate stress. And being around tress and other plants can actually boost your immune system. And then I think all of us know that when we walk outside, we feel better. Our mood improves. We stop, you know, negative thinking. It brings us show joy, increases our focus and imagination. So, you know, the benefits are great.

  • 12:02:11

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYNow that it's getting colder -- now I have to confess. I'm from Vermont. So I love cold weather. I'm not put off by it at all. But I know that a lot of people are. And especially if you've been brought up in a warm climate and you're not used to cold air. That first blast of cold air when you walk out the door may put you off. But if you learn to dress for the weather to protect yourself from, you know, the winter wind and rain and just wear warm clothing and layers. And if you get out and you find out good it feels, how invigorating it is to be out in the cold air, pretty soon you can get used to it and really enjoy it as much as all the other seasons.

  • 12:02:56

    NNAMDIMelanie, we've got some wonderful parks and green spaces here as a lot of Washingtonians have discovered during this pandemic. What have you been seeing in local parks and green spaces recently?

  • 12:03:07

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYWell, it warms my heart, Kojo, because on the weekends -- well, this part of it doesn't warm my heart. It's very hard to find a parking place near any of our popular parks in this area.

  • 12:03:19

    NNAMDITrue that.

  • 12:03:20

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYBut it warms my heart so much to see people out enjoying nature. And, you know, I find in the parks that I walk in most, Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, the parks around the Potomac and in Anacostia the National Arboretum, Kenworth Aquatic Gardens, Anacostia Park, people are really pretty good about wearing masks and staying socially distant.

  • 12:03:45

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYAnd there's this little dance that kind of goes on that, you know, if you're walking along and there aren't other people around you may have your mask off. And then you see someone coming 50 feet away and you put it back on. And, you know, we've gotten used to this ritual. And we know that being outdoors we're far less likely to contract the virus and especially, you know, if we stay socially distant and wear our masks.

  • 12:04:14

    NNAMDIMelanie, what's something a nature novice can easily do today to begin exploring the outdoors?

  • 12:04:21

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYWhat a great question. Well, first of all, with the leaves down it's much easier to see the birds. You know, there aren't as many birds around in the winter here in Washington, but they're a lot easier to see in the bare trees. And then I urge everyone to appreciate the beauty of winter trees. When the leaves have fallen, you can appreciate the architecture of the tree, the way the branches are formed, the crown of the tree, the trunk of the tree.

  • 12:04:52

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYMany of our trees have really beautiful, interesting bark and you can identify them in the winter. If you're walking in Rock Creek Park, you'll see these very smooth silvery barked trees. Many of them still have some leaves on them. The leaves have turned kind of a, you know, pinkish wheat color. And those are American Beech trees. You can identify them just by the bark. If you're along the Anacostia or the Potomac River you'll see these trees with whiten bark especially on the upper parts of the trees, the upper limbs. And on a winter's day they just stand out in such beautiful relief. Those are American Sycamores. And then in the city we have London Plain trees, which are a hybrid of the Sycamore and the Oriental Plain.

  • 12:05:45

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYSo if you can just start tuning into the beauty of those trees. And then we do have a lot of conifers, evergreen trees that don't lose their leaves. Of course, our Southern Magnolias -- they retain their leaves in the winter. And then, for instance, on the Capitol grounds there are two giant sequoias, if you can believe that. One of them is 100 years old this year. That's on the House side of the Capitol. And then on the Senate side is a tree that was planted by the Cherokee Indian Nation to honor Sequoia on the 200 anniversary of his birth in the 1960s.

  • 12:06:24

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYSo you can see giant sequoias. You can see beautiful Atlas Cedars from the Atlas Mountains of Africa. So you can appreciate both the bare trees and the trees with leaves. And that's just a good place to start tuning into the trees and the birds. And then, of course, the sky is always beautiful. Today we have this clear blue sky. And our skies are clearer this year.

  • 12:06:51

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYAnd then to watch the clouds. I stood in Oxen Run Park yesterday in Ward 8 with my friend, Brenda Richardson and we were watching the sky and we were just mesmerized by the clouds. They looked like puffy quilts and they were just moving slowly across the sky. So watch the sky day and night. The stars and moon at night and just tune into what's around you. You know, when you walk out your door in the morning, just notice the beauty that's around you.

  • 12:07:19

    NNAMDIHere is Terry in Washington D.C. Terry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:07:24

    TERRYHi, Kojo. I just wanted to ask my friend, Melanie, if she suggests during this pandemic that people try to develop a daily routine of walking to improve their spirit. And for the more adventurous, would she suggest that people try to get out to walk at daybreak or as the sun is setting when I can tell you from my own walks this morning that the lights at the botanic gardens are absolutely magical.

  • 12:07:52

    NNAMDII suspect Melanie would say both.

  • 12:07:55

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYAbsolutely. And I know my friend, Terry, walks many miles at dawn before she starts her workday. So she gets to appreciate the magic of a winter sunrise and a winter sunset. The light in the winter has such clarity and the sunsets and sunrises are absolutely beautiful. I have to confess, I'm more familiar with the sunsets than the sunrises unlike my friend, Terry. And I know that she walks among the gardens. The Smithsonian museums are closed now, but the gardens are open. And I know Terry walks through the garden behind the Smithsonian castle. There are still camellias blooming there. Yesterday, I saw this ginkgo tree that is still crazy bright gold with leaves on the tree and fallen under it. And there was this little boy who was playing in this pile of leaves.

  • 12:08:55

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYThere are still roses blooming next to the castle. She mentioned the lights at the U.S. Botanic Garden, which are just magical. And then there's the Christmas tree at the Capitol grounds and then down at the other end of the mall at the Ellipse is the National Christmas Tree, which is a living Colorado Blue Spruce.

  • 12:09:13

    NNAMDIA whole lot.

  • 12:09:14

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYSo there's a lot to see around the Mall. And also the architecture of the American Elms lining the Mall is really, really something in the winter time.

  • 12:09:22

    NNAMDIA lot to see. Another way locals can get outdoors is through workout classes. Joining us now is Brian McGee, the Owner and Head Training Coach of FIT360DC in Mount Pleasant. Brian, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:09:36

    BRIAN MCGEEThank you for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:09:38

    NNAMDIBrian, briefly tell us about your gym and your usual offerings before the pandemic. I'd imagine last winter you weren't doing outdoors classes, right? What are things looking like this year?

  • 12:09:48

    MCGEEWell, our usual setup before the pandemic was, obviously, most of our classes were indoors. However we did offer outdoor classes during the summer months although those were rather infrequent. Obviously, during the pandemic and once the quarantine started we offered classes for a short period of time before they were temporarily shut down outside. But then once phase one began we immediately offered classes back outside. And they have continued ever since. And so we have classes in the morning, afternoon and in the evening.

  • 12:10:26

    NNAMDIOutside classes right now. Gyms in the District are going through a difficult time right now. A couple of weeks ago Mayor Bowser announced adjustments to phase two restrictions. But many District gym owners are confused by these new regulations, can you tell us what the new guidance is and how you're adjusting indoor and outdoor workouts? I may have to interrupt you while you're responding because we have to take a break, but start out anyway.

  • 12:10:51

    MCGEEYes, sure. Well, the restrictions that were laid out are not 100 percent clear. And they are left to some measure of interpretation. But as we know it, outdoor -- or indoor classes are suspended in all gyms. And outdoor classes are suspended for anything over 25. But that still allows for outdoor classes under that amount. And as well, as much as indoor classes are suspended individual workouts are allowed. Obviously with all the various limitations with spacing and the number and occupancy and such.

  • 12:11:32

    NNAMDIAnd that individual workout can include an instructor?

  • 12:11:35

    MCGEEThat individual workout basically could include an instructor on the floor simply providing guidance.

  • 12:11:42

    NNAMDIOkay. Hold that thought.

  • 12:11:43

    MCGEEBut not sort of an organized class.

  • 12:11:44

    NNAMDIHold that thought. We'll be right back. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:12:05

    NNAMDIWelcome back. When we took that break we were talking with Brian McGee, the Owner and Head Training Coach of FIT360DC in Mount Pleasant. And Brian was explaining to us how FIT360DC is adjusting to guidelines coming from the city of Washington D.C. But, Brian, what other safety precautions have you been implementing both indoors and outdoors since the start of the pandemic?

  • 12:12:30

    MCGEEWell, indoors we have maintained airflow, which is probably one of the main issues that is -- that we're dealing with during these times. Both we have updated our air filters and our HVAC system as well as added two units that run 24-7 that help filter the air within the facility. So that's one of the main investments that we've made in addition to maintaining a consistent policy of masks 100 percent of the time as well as safety distancing and other sanitation stations throughout the gym.

  • 12:13:16

    NNAMDIAnd when it comes to your outdoor group exercises, tell us about that. They're limited to 25 people and do people have to wear masks also outdoors? And what happens when they get really exhausted?

  • 12:13:28

    MCGEEWell, so actually our limit is 10. So our limit is ten and our average is usually under anywhere from five to eight. And so masks are required still throughout the workout. Obviously we have a little bit more room and space to extend outside. And so if they are particularly tired or really need to breathe, they can take the mask off as long as they are, you know, properly distanced. So in a space, for example, like Meridian Park, which allows a lot of people to be able to spread out amongst benches and open grass area. There's plenty of room for people to, you know, drop their mask for a bit.

  • 12:14:09

    MCGEEBut primarily during the workouts they leave their mask on. And we are able to bring a moderate amount of equipment out to the gyms, some small weights and resistance bands and such.

  • 12:14:21

    NNAMDIHere now is Orietta in Frederick, Maryland. Orietta, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:14:26

    ORIETTAHi, Kojo. My name is Orietta Estrada. I'm co-chair of the Black and Latinx Birder Scholarship. And you can find us on social media @birder's fund. And what a wonderful topic for your show. I'm an all-weather person. I'm outdoor 365 and winter is my favorite season. And having been on your show, you know me, I'm all about the birds. And I love that Melanie mentioned birds. They're such an important part of our landscape all year long. This year we're seeing a lot of water fowl, but we're also seeing a lot of birds coming from Canada done South chasing pinecones.

  • 12:15:03

    ORIETTASo we're having birds like Pine Siskin, Red Cross bill. Red Cross bill, their bills are crossed. And we're seeing birds like evening grosbeak, which are just a stunning bird. They're black with like a golden eyebrow. It's more like a unibrow. But these birds are very uncommon in the DMV. So if you're birding or you're checking out your bird feeder and you think, "Hmm, this bird doesn't look like it belongs here, you can reach out to Idea Birders of Maryland and D.C. on Facebook.

  • 12:15:34

    ORIETTAWe're a group of inclusive birders and ornithologists, who are available to help answer questions about birds. And we also speak Spanish. So if you speak Spanish you're free to welcome us -- you're welcome to the group. But, yeah, I mean, birding is a year round event in the DMV. We're getting ready to have our winter bird counts -- our Christmas bird counts.

  • 12:16:00


  • 12:16:01

    ORIETTASo if you want to check that out and, you know, dip your toe into community science you can check out audobon.org and find more about the Christmas bird count coming up.

  • 12:16:14

    NNAMDIOrietta, thank you very much.

  • 12:16:16

    ORIETTAYou're welcome.

  • 12:16:18

    NNAMDIKids have been getting outdoors too whether with organized outdoor activity or just through walks and hikes with the family. But what about now as it gets colder temperatures? Joining us now to discuss what a pandemic winter means for kids is Amy Joyce, Writer and Editor for The Washington Post's "On Parenting" Blog. Amy, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:16:38

    AMY JOYCEThanks for having me. It's good to be here.

  • 12:16:40

    NNAMDIAmy, you recently asked parents on Twitter, what it is they're doing to get through the dark and cold days in the pandemic. What did you hear from them?

  • 12:16:48

    JOYCEWell, there were a lot of jokes. And that's one I think a lot of us parents are getting through. That's for sure. But a lot of it just has to do with getting them outside as much as possible. And, of course, there's sort of this mantra, this cliché that we all have been talking about. And there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. And so there's a lot of talk about just bundling the kids up. Making the teenagers in my house put on layers. One tried to leave the house in shorts yesterday.

  • 12:17:19

    JOYCEAnd get out there and really find things to do. Bike rides with friends. You know, lighting the fire pit in the backyard. And maybe this summer it was s'mores. But now, you know, a kind neighbor dropped off a huge box of hot chocolate for me and said, it's not s'mores any more. It's hot chocolate now. And so the kids are meeting outside and doing things like that. And it's so, so important, because especially if they're in D.C. Public Schools like mine are, they're home all day staring at screens.

  • 12:17:49

    JOYCESo the minute the school ends we sort of have to push them out the door otherwise they're just going to turn into little zombies these days. So people had a lot of great suggestions. A lot of people have gotten dogs during this time period. So they're making the kids go outside, teach them a trick. Take them for walks. You know, they're alternating, okay, for every hour of screen time you have, you have to be outside for an hour. So parents are trying to get creative. You know, no one has ever faced anything like this before.

  • 12:18:18

    NNAMDIOh, that's true.

  • 12:18:19

    JOYCESo it's going to be interesting to see how it goes.

  • 12:18:21

    NNAMDIAmy, apparently failed to understand how cool it is to wear shorts outside when it's cold. You know, you're not young enough to understand that.

  • 12:18:27

    JOYCEI'm the worst mom.

  • 12:18:29

    NNAMDIYou also spoke with experts who talked about the importance of getting outdoors. Why is this so important particularly for kids?

  • 12:18:37

    JOYCEWell, if they're indoors all day, staring at screens all day -- and we also have to be a little forgiving and allow that, because that is one way they're socializing right now -- but it's important to get them outside, just to lower their rates of depression and make sure that they keep exercising and keep their energy. You know, Melanie talked about how people's mental health is really improved by being outside, and that is so true for kids. I see it in my own kids. I see it -- you know, readers talk about it all the time, that even 15 minutes outside makes a big difference in the way their kids feel and, you know, their attitude and their personality. And it helps them also focus.

  • 12:19:20

    JOYCESo, you know, if there's time in between classes, it's great to get outside and take a break and come back inside. Even if that outdoor time was only for a few minutes, it really refreshes the brain, which we adults know, as well. It's just our kids we have to sometimes push them and help them realize the benefits of that.

  • 12:19:37

    NNAMDIWhat outdoor activities have you been doing with your kids, Amy, and what are some activities you'd like to try out?

  • 12:19:45

    JOYCEWe've been doing a lot of walking, a lot of hiking. We are lucky enough to live in D.C., not too far from Rock Creek Park. So, when they were very small, that was a great benefit and then it sort of waned. And now we're rediscovering the park. And we do have a dog, and we throw her on her leash, and we put our masks on, and we go out in the park. And frankly, one thing that I've noticed, that I think has been enjoyable for the kids, as well, is people seem a lot chattier from a distance than they used to be.

  • 12:20:13

    JOYCESo, my boys are really, I think, discovering sort of the fun of having pretty interesting conversations with neighbors. One who pointed out a bat that was on the ground, and, you know, they were trying to explain how bats live. And so, they've learned, I think, a lot more about nature, even though we live in the city. So, that's been a huge benefit.

  • 12:20:34

    JOYCEAlso biking. Sort of the bikes have been, you know, gathering dust, or had been before the pandemic. But, man, they've put the miles on the bikes, just riding around the neighborhood so much. And they were doing flag football, which, you know, there's new regulations. So, we're trying to find a new way to get the boys outside tossing things around. They're pretty sporty.

  • 12:20:55

    JOYCEBut it's interesting watching the kids sort of come up with creative solutions. You know, there's been huge games of hide-n-seek in the ally. (laugh) They're really finding and rediscovering, I feel like, the city that they live in. It's been great. You know, there's so many places to go and things to do outdoors in and around D.C. And, in fact, the weekend section came out with a great list today of outdoor light displays, with new regulations in place, socially distant. And I plan to hit a lot of those with my family this winter.

  • 12:21:27

    JOYCEAnd it has, I think, given parents a little extra time, as frustrating as this time has been. But we're not rushing around as much. We're not going into the office and running home and throwing dinner on. We're actually around each other more, so it's giving us more excuses to do more together, and that's been really interesting.

  • 12:21:47

    NNAMDIHere is Daga in Cleveland Park. Daga, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:21:52

    DAGAHello, Kojo. This is Daga Shembree. (ph) I own Foundation Fitness in Cleveland Park, and I'm calling to say a couple things. First of all, I have been conducting an outdoor exercise class three times a week with a group of 70-year-old-plus women over by Eastern Market. We were former participants of Justice O'Connor's class at the Supreme Court, until we got kicked out. So, shout-out to the women. We have only missed because of rain. We layer up, and we are out there doing our aerobics three times a week.

  • 12:22:25

    DAGABut I'm calling in because I wanted to address the mayor's new orders. Up until two weeks ago, at my gym, we were running our group fitness classes for the few members who were willing to come in and treasured being able to come in and take group fitness classes. Of course, we stopped when the mayor issued her new order. I don't think there's any confusion over what the order is.

  • 12:22:50

    DAGABut I am calling because, right down the street, one block away from us where Orangetheory -- a major franchise who opened a block away from us -- are conducting their classes and able to get away with it because they're -- I don't even know what they're doing, skirting something about the coach is coaching you, but you don't have to follow him. All 13 people in the class don't have to follow him.

  • 12:23:13

    NNAMDIOkay. Glad you mentioned that. Brian McGee, care to comment on that level of confusion?

  • 12:23:23

    MCGEEWell, I'd say that our policy here inside is that we operate as -- we normally, in other circumstances, have classes and individuals working out. However, we have not been conducting classes in...

  • 12:23:44

    NNAMDIOh, oh, I think we just lost Brian for a second, but we'll be back with him, because we'll soon be taking a break. We got, from Dr. Robert Zar, who says: As a pediatrician, I applaud you for highlighting the need to go outside, especially with all the screen time required for distance learning. And Bastian in D.C. tweets: I'm from Norway, so people often think I was born loving the outdoors. But, really, I credit my mom. When I was little and we'd go hiking, my mom would run ahead and hide candies in the trees. The promise of nature's candy is what got us outside. And presumably, Bastian learning a lot about the trees in which they were finding the candy, too. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:24:46

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about braving the cold and embracing the outdoors during the time of this pandemic. Here is Stella in Washington, D.C. Stella, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:24:58

    STELLAHi, Kojo. Thanks for this great topic. I really enjoy whenever you talk about nature. I'm cofounder of an organization called Capital Nature. And we're a regional nonprofit that supports both nature experience and nature enjoyment. And I certainly enjoy getting out and walking, but it turns out, there are a lot of small scale safety distance and virtual nature events that folks can get involved in.

  • 12:25:22

    STELLAI'm talking about our local parks agencies, nonprofit, even the Smithsonian are still producing a lot of really engaging nature programs. And I'd like to invite my fellow listeners to check out the regional calendar. We actually host information about all of those events on capitalnature.org. And if you go to our calendar, you can find out about many of the amazing nature events, and especially children's events that are available to residents in the region.

  • 12:25:52

    NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that information with us, Stella. And Brian McGee, the owner and head training coach of Fit360DC in Mount Pleasant is back with us. Brian, when we lost your call, we were talking about another caller who talked about what some other maybe larger operations gyms are doing and getting away with it, apparently in violation of the city's rules, that a person apparently believed that the city's rules are being applied unevenly. Have you heard anything about that?

  • 12:26:23

    MCGEEWell, I don't know anything about what happens in, say, what you would call big box gyms, or the larger gyms. I know that there are the franchises like the Orangetheories, and so forth. I honestly can't say for what they have done. I am in more contact with studios that are more of my size, that are more independent and more boutique and accommodating to a smaller, but loyal following.

  • 12:26:51

    MCGEESo, on that front, we have all been able to comply and we've all had a fairly decent record of keeping our members safe without having any sort of major tracking outbreaks related to our facilities. And so, we have been doing a pretty good job as far as keeping our members safe both inside, and maintaining classes the best that we can with safety measures outside.

  • 12:27:16

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, Brian. Melanie Choukas-Bradley, your kids are adults now, but what were some of your favorite outdoor activities together when they were little? Any particular games you'd recommend?

  • 12:27:29

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYWhat a great question, Kojo. You know, my kids just loved to be outside playing freely, using their imaginations. Mostly, I just didn't get in their way. I just marveled at all of the imaginative games they came up with. But when my kids were growing up, we lived out near Sugar Loaf Mountain. And their favorite outing was to climb the mountain. Children loved that little mountain.

  • 12:27:55

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYFirst of all, it doesn't take too long to get to the summit. And there are these big, beautiful rocks that children just can't resist climbing on. So, I think that was their favorite outing. But we had a big yard, and they did all kinds of imaginative play in the yard.

  • 12:28:12

    NNAMDIYou've led many nature walks. What are some of the things, Melanie, that kids get most excited about outdoors?

  • 12:28:21

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYWell, it's really interesting, because I'm a botany person, so, you know, I'm very tuned into plants. But I learned when my children were little that they were far more interested in the insects landing on the plants than the plants themselves. (laugh) You know, kids are -- they're just fascinated by everything. In fact, I think one of the best things you can do to discover nature as an adult is to spend time with a child outdoors and just follow them around.

  • 12:28:52

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYI can remember spending, like, an hour with my son when he was little in our yard, you know, stomping in the puddles. Everything was so fascinating to him. My husband and I used to take our children to national parks when they were very young, all around the country. And that was great, but I had a realization, you know, when they were about five and 10 years old, that they were just as fascinated by the small things, you know, the small things in the backyard as they were by Yosemite or Glacier National Park.

  • 12:29:24

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYSo, I think that, you know, what Amy was talking about with, you know, encouraging her kids to be outside, I think that, you know, one of the silver linings is actually learning how to appreciate our backyards, whether we're children or adults.

  • 12:29:43

    NNAMDIAmy Joyce, kids sometimes need convincing to get off screens and get outside. And particularly, adolescents and teens can be hardest to convince. What are some tips. Any suggestions?

  • 12:29:53

    JOYCEIt's so true. And, you know, I've been talking to so many parents who say their kids are just done. They're just done with all of this. And, you know, now that the cold weather's coming, it takes a little more effort to get them out. So, you know, I think sometimes it's schedule. Just, you know, putting up boundaries and saying, okay, from 3:00 to 4:30, you have to be outside, period. Or asking them to run errands for you. Can you go put this mail in the mailbox? And you'll be surprised what something like that leads to.

  • 12:30:27

    JOYCEYou know, ride your bike over to Zach's house, and then come back when you're done. And all of a sudden, it's an hour and a half later, and you see them still out riding their bikes. So, that's helpful. Otherwise, you know, with younger kids it's so fun to do sort of scavenger hunts. You know, walk down the block and pick up -- you know, have a list, a pinecone, a twig, a rock, and see what you can do there.

  • 12:30:52

    JOYCEAnd with older kids, you know, I've been finding, too, that volunteering -- especially during the pandemic -- is, I think, helpful to them for their mental health. And there are a lot of outdoor volunteer activities that are socially distant. In fact, mine just did something at Rock Creek Park, where they picked up trash a couple of weekends ago. So, there are a lot of opportunities like that that will lead them to the great outdoors and also help them feel better about their current situation, because they're actually helping. So, a lot of it is scheduling but also just sort of tantalizing them with other opportunities that can get them outside.

  • 12:31:28

    NNAMDIHere now is Sean in Silver Spring, Maryland. Sean, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:31:33

    SEANHey, Kojo. Thanks for having me on. I was calling because our family was actually inspired by this national parks competition earlier in the year to design your own nature trail. And we're fortunate enough to have a little bit of property, some woods. So, we actually went out and cleared out paths and put down mulch. And I have two twins and they love it. They're three years old, and we call it their nature trail. And they have a blast with that.

  • 12:32:03

    NNAMDIWow. So, they concocted their own trail themselves?

  • 12:32:08

    SEANWell, I kind of, you know, guided them and did the heavy lifting, you know. They moved a couple rocks here and there, but, you know, that's their trail, and they love exploring it.

  • 12:32:19

    NNAMDIGreat. Thank you for...

  • 12:32:19

    SEANIt's small. It's small.

  • 12:32:20

    NNAMDI...thank you for sharing that with us. How important can that be, Melanie Choukas-Bradley, trying to build your own nature trail?

  • 12:32:27

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYThat brought back memories. Oh, I just think that's wonderful. We did that with our son when he was little, too, and he just loved it. I mean, there's something so fascinating about a path in the woods. And I think those kids are really lucky that their dad encouraged them to do that. That's very cool.

  • 12:32:46

    NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Annie, who said: Don't get freaked out by the cold weather. Outdoor workouts are great. Once you get moving, it's fine. Layer up. I taught an outdoor spin class at 6:30 a.m. at the Silver Spring YMCA. It was invigorating, and we got to see a beautiful sunrise. Is that the way your class members feel about this, Brian McGee, your gym members? Is that the way they feel about this?

  • 12:33:11

    MCGEEWell, yeah. They like being outside although sometimes it can be a bit of a hard sell initially, naturally, particularly in the morning, I'd say. It's probably the coldest and the most bitter in the morning, especially if it's dark. But that literally goes away in about five minutes. Once we get warmed up and once we get going, you know, everybody's endorphins are up. We have music. I have a little speaker outside that we use. That always gets everybody's energy going.

  • 12:33:40

    MCGEEAnd, you know, pretty much everybody's condition to, you know, to be working outside, even from, you know, going from the spring, going from the summer, going to the fall, where we had a very mild October and November. I really think the winter weather really just hit us most recently. But people are willing to stick with it, so it's been -- everybody's had a good attitude about it.

  • 12:34:04

    NNAMDIHere now is Helen in Triangle, Virginia. Helen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:34:10

    HELENHi, Kojo. Thank you. I'm disabled, and I moved to an apartment in Triangle, Virginia, in August. And the glory of the little apartment is that there are big windows and a balcony. And having moved from a situation where I didn't have it, I just felt my heart blow open, because there I was looking at all these trees, trees, trees. And I just saw a cardinal land in a bush, and there's a cardinal. There's a red bird. That's the first one I've seen, and it's, like, I mean, I think your soul just explodes when you're near nature.

  • 12:34:45

    HELENAnd the thing that terrifies me about all these huge, beautiful trees and landscape is that there's kudzu coming from two different directions. And I've seen it in the south the swallow land where you have nothing. You have no trees, nothing. How can we keep our beautiful landscape safe from that awful vine?

  • 12:35:05

    NNAMDIThat's a topic for another conversation, one similar to the ones we've had Melanie Choukas-Bradley before. And we're going to put that on our calendar, because we're running out of time right now, Helen. Melanie, before we do, in an upcoming segment we'll talk more about access to parks and green spaces in our region. Specifically, recent discussions about Southeast D.C. and efforts to care for and make the parks more accessible to all you and your colleague, Brenda Lee Richardson, have been working on this. Could you share a bit in the minute or so we have left?

  • 12:35:35

    CHOUKAS-BRADLEYYeah, I just think it's so important that all parts of our city have accessible, safe, clean parks. And there are people -- Brenda Richardson is on the board of Friends of Oxon Run. And the story I think you referenced is by my friend Gabe Popkin. And he featured Nathan Harrington, who founded and directs Ward 8 Woods Conservancy. And they're working really hard to make their park land accessible to increase the trails. And that's just such an important thing.

  • 12:36:04

    NNAMDIOkay. More about that later. Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Amy Joyce, Brian McGee, thank you all for joining us. Today's show on getting outdoors was produced by Ines Renique. Coming up tomorrow on The Politics Hour, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam begins his last year in office. And by state law, he cannot run for re-election, so who is running? WAMU reporter Daniella Cheslow joins us with the latest on the Virginia governor's race.

  • 12:36:31

    NNAMDIThen, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine to talk about everything from COVID-restrictions in the District to the latest lawsuit against the Trump organization. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Topics + Tags

Most Recent Shows