I often get strange looks, when I talk about wet-weather walking as a form of exercise. Why on earth would I enjoy getting wet and cold or subject my children to it? LIke anything, the trick is in preparation and attitude.
- Pick your rain.
Light drizzle, yes. Heavy downpour? Head to the softplay centre. The aim is enough water for a cool, puddle-jumping experience without needing to strip off your entire outfit afterwards.
- Pick your activity. A light drizzle is fine for pounding the streets and bribing the children with a charity shop buy. Next up is a fine rain (fatter drops), which is perfect for pond-dipping and puddle-jumping. After that comes a medium shower – great in the forest for squelchy mud or rummaging around on balance bikes. It’s also brilliant in the park if it’s a genuine shower as you can “race the rain” to duck under trees and wait for the sun to show up again.
- Pick your clothing. In the summer, I wear shorts or knee-length joggers and waterproof sandals, plus raincoat. In the winter, I veer between leggings with army boots or wellies and however many layers I need to stay warm. I aim for 30 minutes of moderate walking when out and about, so my heart is pounding, but I can still talk. In reality, I alternate between a quick sprint, a slow pace and a really brisk walk to keep up with the toddler. The baby (thank goodness) loves the sound of rain against her pushchair’s rain cover and usually goes to sleep.
- Plan for the worst.
Suppose the rain turns heavy and you are stuck with two wet, bawling children and no fast way to shelter? Well, the first thing is to get warm. I generally turn it into a game of chase, with a “prize” for the winner. (I keep stickers and a snack handy for this reason). I am also picky about my wet weather jaunts – there is usually a shop en-route or a city park with a cafe and toilets. Secondly, I always pack a change of clothes for the kids. It’s amazing how quickly little people perk up once they are warm, dry and have some warm milk or hot chocolate being made in front of them. Finally, if the worst really does come to the worst and I twist my ankle or the buggy breaks, then I keep the local taxi on my phone’s contact list. Fortunately, I have never had to use it!
Walking in the rain has a lot of advantages. You reduce TV time and the cabin fever of staying in during winter months. You also get fewer people around, giving you blissfully empty parks and playgrounds. Finally, you are setting yourself and your kids up for a better, healthier lifestyle. My older son still wistfully talks about falling in puddles up to his knees and “hot choc walks”. They both adore the outdoors and the occasional wet pair of socks is a small price to pay.