We actually did it!!! 1000 Hours Outside :)
I still remember telling my husband that the kids and I were going to do the 1000 Hours Outside challenge and spend 1000 hours outdoors in one year. His eyes widened and he quickly cautioned me to lower my goal (He has plenty of experience with me and my overly ambitious goals). But I didn't waiver. He said "Okay..." His uncertainty brought out my stubbornness. Before I could change my mind, I went to 1000HoursOutside.com where I printed out a cute tracker from one of the many options.
If you're thinking of doing 1000 Hours Outside, track your hours in a way that will work best for you and your family. Just a heads up: if you decide this sounds like something you'd love to try, I want to say "You can do it! If we can do it, you can do it. It changed my life and my relationship with the outdoors." Just be aware that in the beginning, looking at 1000 little tiny empty blocks staring back at you on a chart can be a bit daunting. Which is why I love they have the option to print out sheets with just the first 100 hours on them, which feels a lot more approachable, I think!
I decided on the paper tracking method instead of their app to track our hours because I also wanted to work on being unplugged after finishing the book "Digital Minimalism". I knew that I didn't want to be chained to my phone every time I was outside. I kept track of our hours by checking the time when we headed out and again when we came inside. I also kept a running note on my phone if we didn't have a chance to fill in the chart right away. I also personally I love crossing off to-do lists (seriously, I remember finding a strange satisfaction in crossing things off a list I made even as a child.) Knowing myself, I hoped that coloring in those little blocks one at a time would scratch that same itch and motivate me to keep going. Finally, I wanted my kids to be involved with the tracking of our hours, coloring and counting. I thought we could work work on counting by ones, twos and tens, fitting in some math along the way. I hoped that they would eventually get excited about the challenge as well. Spoiler alert: it worked!
Let's make one thing very clear before I go on. I have not been "outdoorsy" for a veryyyyyy long time. As my husband recently told a friend, "Since having babies, Steph has been "indoorsy". This challenge was one of the hardest things I have done in a very long time. Changing a habit is not easy. Sometimes we went outside just because we needed to "get more hours" and I wanted to color in a block (my strategy worked, btw!!!). But once we were out, we often had fun and would find new things to wonder at and explore. Sometimes we didn't stay out for very long and headed quickly back inside, but we stuck with it.
Convincing yourself (and more importantly, your children) to leave your cozy warm house in the dead of winter on a dreary grey day and to step outside is not easy. The Scandinavians have a phrase the “doorstep mile". Meaning, the most difficult mile of a journey is simply leaving your home and going that first mile. If anyone has experienced rousing themselves from their cozy home to step outside into the cold, they do. I think for any mom out there, this phrase applies doubly. Trying to wrangle a small person into snow pants alone is a feat that should count as a workout. Finding the socks, the boots, the hat, etc for each child... I often felt incredibly impressive...or frustrated by the time we get out the door. But then we were out the door, and once I looked up at the trees, I would begin to feel like I was waking up for the first time that day after the initial discomfort and would start to feel my blood pressure begin to return to normal. ;)
My favorite thing about this entire experience was watching a change take place in both myself and my kids with how we approached going outside in "bad weather". When we started, there was a lot of grumpiness—and some from my kids. In January, it is cold, grey, muddy or snowy here. We have long, dreary winters in western PA. My children, especially my son (then six) was not pleased by being outside in this. He did not like being even a tad bit chilly on his face. He especially hated going out in the rain, and was thoroughly convinced he would freeze to death or melt and die from the rain. There were plenty of meltdowns. Luckily, we didn't actually melt when it rained, or freeze when it was below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
I decided to put the Norwegian quote to the test "There's no such things as bad weather, just bad clothes." I bought a rain jacket and snow pants for myself and wool socks for all of us. I bought the kids warm rain boots. I learned how to dress all of us for the cold and the wonders of a base layer and wool socks. Turns out, the Norwegians were right!
Along the way, I learned some handy tricks. The kids liked it if we were going to the park (even in winter!). They liked if we played with friends outside and would forgot it was cold. They loved jumping into puddles once they were outside (hello there, Door Step Mile) We went to Wild + Free in the rain and hiked. We went snowshoeing. We "ice skated" on a pond with our boots on while it started to drizzle. We went sledding, and I learned that hot chocolate was an amazing motivator. We learned to ski together. We went for walks in the woods behind our house while it rained because the trees sheltered us, and it was fun! We hiked into the woods, and I slept in a tent for the first time in six years. I learned how to build a fire, and we learned that veggies and eggs taste better cooked over a fire. We grew together and as individuals. I would take none of it back. Any and all discomfort was so worth it. So many times, I was convinced we were never going to make it, often telling my husband we were "behind". But he would smile and gently remind me that I had already won. We were outside more than we had ever been before. And ya know what, he was right.
Last week we went to the park to go for a hike in the low 40s, and it felt cold, but my kids didn't blink. I didn't feel like going, and was grumpy on the inside, but they didn't flinch. They hiked for far longer than they did a year ago, without a grumble or request for snack until after I would have dared to hope. They walked until my legs were tired. When they were tired, we turned around and started to head to the playground. It started to drizzle and then rain lightly. By the time we made it to the playground, it was a steady rain which eventually turned into a downpour. My son, who had melted down a year ago about the idea of going outside in a drizzle, was unfazed. I held my breathe and decided not to comment on the rain and see if they would. They didn't. They laughed and played and argued on the see-saw. Eventually, when we were starting to get wet, I asked if they wanted to leave and my same son cheerfully responded, "No, not yet. I want to leave when I'm wet to the skin!" I blinked and wondered if I had heard right. My heart leaped. I willed myself to remember that moment for always and couldn't wait to tell my husband. I'm not even making this up!
This challenge has been such a gift to my family. Ginny, if you ever read this: Thank you so much for putting your challenge out there. I'm sure it took courage to risk sharing it with the world. It has been an enormous blessing to our family and has changed our trajectory. It gave us a tangible goal to work towards that became a reality rather than just still being an elusive idea to "spend more time outside."
Looking back over this year and seeing the resilience that grew in me and each of my kids, my heart swells with the good kind of pride. Knowing that we did something that was so hard, but so worth it makes me smile. Its impact has been huge in our lives, filling them with more fun and adventure. I can't recommend 1000 Hours Outside enough.
P. S. If you're wanting to learn more or to give 1000 Hours Outside a go, you can start at any time. It's pretty straightforward! Just track your time outside and work towards 1000 hours within 365 days. It's such a fun movement to be a part of. You can check out 1000HoursOutside.com for more info. They also have a fantastic podcast that I've been enjoying listening to for motivation and new ideas. The founder, Ginny, interviews so many fascinating people from all different backgrounds who share a love of the outdoors and adventure. It's truly inspiring and makes the outdoors and adventure seem approachable for all seasons of life, especially raising kids. (I'm not endorsed in ANY way by them, just a big fan!)
'Til Next Time!