Jessie Raymond: Bitter cold boots body and mind

I’m a fun, football-loving, school-supporting Addison County resident. So I should have been looking forward to attending a Middlebury Tigers home football game last Friday night, right?
Well, I would have been, except the games don’t start until 7, a time when the sun is going down, the temperatures are dropping and my thoughts are turning to how nice it would be to crawl into a warm bed with a good book.
While I wanted to cheer on the Tigers, sitting with my Levis frozen to the metal bleachers in a chilly breeze for a couple of hours at the end of a long week didn’t sound nearly as enticing as curling up on the couch under a down comforter and watching a good movie. Or a bad movie. Or even a blank screen. Anything to avoid being outside in the cold.
But that, of course, would not have been sporting. So, swaddled in numerous layers of clothes that had not seen the outside of my closet since last March, I dutifully waddled to Doc Collins Field to join the crowd and watch the Tigers trounce Rutland.
Had the air been 20 degrees warmer, I would have had a great time.
That’s how I get when the weather turns colder. As fall wears on, I manufacture reasons to miss home football games, slashing my own tires if necessary. By November, I cut out any unnecessary trips to town. By January, I refuse to leave the house at all, for any reason, including work.
Forget Thanksgiving, Christmas, my wedding anniversary in December — I care about nothing between November and May except making sure that my wrists are never exposed to air colder than 66 degrees.
But my motto — Cold is bad — took an unexpected hit this week when I read an article called “Why Stress Is Good for You.” In it, the writer argues that there can be advantages to enduring the things that normal, non-extreme athlete, non-masochist-type people like me generally want to avoid.
The article said that short-term stress triggers a “challenge response” — an adrenalin rush that makes you fight, flee, or, in the case of stepping out into the cold, hate everything and everyone around you — that is actually a boon to your physical and psychological health.
The article lists all the various benefits of being too hot or too cold or generally uncomfortable now and then. Apparently you can’t beat cold exposure (for short periods — almost certainly shorter than four quarters of high school football, although the writer didn’t specify) to cure what ails you. Cold “improves circulation, relieves depression, burns fat, strengthens immunity and boosts mental and emotional resilience.”
In other words, scraping ice off the windshield during a snowstorm is actually helping me fight off the common cold. Dragging the trash and recycling bins out to the road through 30-inch snow drifts is great for my mood, even if I bare my teeth and snarl like a wolverine as I am doing it. And our drafty old icebox of a house is like a health spa, subjecting us to bracing but healthful winds through the gaps in the windows and walls.
This is great news. I thought we were heading into a period of profound darkness and frigid misery when warm-weather non-events, such as getting up to pee at 2 a.m., turn into feats of human cold endurance. But, according to the article, all the things I hate about winter are making me a happier, healthier person.
If the article has merit, then I owe the Tiger football team a thank you for going above and beyond to help me get the most out of Friday’s cold weather. By ending the first half up 41-6, they caused a good portion of the wind-blocking, heat-emanating humans huddled around me in the stands to head home early. As a result I spent the fourth quarter fully exposed to the elements, which raised my mental and emotional resilience to unprecedented levels.
Though it goes against my better judgment, I’ll be sure to attend the next home game. I’ll be improving my health and supporting the Tiger football program — plus saving some money. (We replaced a lot of tires last year.)

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