It's a funny word that can make a world of difference.
When I was approached with the idea of writing a column on how Floridians could beat the heat much like Midwesterners beat the cold — both by focusing on indoor activities, I began searching my memory bank.
I’ve split my life between the two, and I don’t mean living half the year in one spot and then the other.
My recollection of trudging across the intramural fields toward the dorm for several cold Michigan months, daily comparing it to a gulag in Siberia was very strong. So was the memory of stepping off curbs in Chicago only to sink into a foot of snow-covered slush, fashionable boots be damned.
Both of those frequent occurrences and others like them would seem to keep people snuggled up in their cozy homesteads watching the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” or early seasons of “Saturday Night Live” (boy, I’m really dating myself now). But my best memories are of when I was strapped into a pair of skis — the skinny versions for cross-country forays on the track in Chicago’s Lincoln Park or fatter skis for schussing down the not-so-high hills of northern Michigan. Being outside was refreshing and energizing after the overheated air of indoor life. And, here’s the interesting part, it wasn’t difficult to manage because of new fabrics that insulated the body and allowed for movement.
You couldn’t ask for a worse time to move to Florida than in July, but that’s what the fates delivered.
That first summer was a constant race between air conditioned zones — from the house to the car, to the store back to the car, and maybe for a break in the action — into the swimming pool. When the utility bills arrived, the new strategy became spending more time in movie theaters and going to the beach for a “sunset swim” followed by some cooling sea breezes.
I eventually came to realize that like overheated air of northern winters, overchilled air of Florida summers can cause a sense of claustrophobia, a feeling of being out of rhythm with your environment because you’re trapped indoors. And then a startling revelation occurred. During a routine doctor’s appointment, blood work came back with a vitamin D deficiency. That’s right, the sunshine vitamin. The physician told me that it was quite common in the Sunshine State for people to be deficient in this essential vitamin. “They spend too much time indoors,” she said.
Now, I’ve come to embrace Florida summers, and you can, too. Here’s a plan:
Get outside early. Sunrise is beautiful here and perfect for a vigorous walk or a more mediative stroll. The birds are in full-throated song and the sky is a palette of glorious pastels. It’s relatively cool and an energizing way to clear out the cobwebs and collect your thoughts to begin your day.
When you arrive back home, you’ll be amazed that it feels too cool in your house. That’s the time to begin to narrow the gap between indoor and outdoor temperatures. Over time, inch the thermostat up.
Slowly increase your time outside during the rest of the day, although beware the midday. It can be brutal even for Florida natives. A general rule of thumb is to start with 15 minutes and increase incrementally a few minutes each day.
Shade is your friend. Cultivate finding shady spots for outdoor activities. Coquina Beach, for example, is a wonderful place to recreate because of the Australian pines that line the beach. And don’t forget that the Gulf usually generates a cooling breeze. Or, explore our close by state parks. Both Myakka and Oscar Scherer have trails that are mostly shaded and suitable for hikers of all levels.
Dress for success. Fabrics like cotton, linen and chambray are breathable and soak up the sweat, to be indelicate. If you’re planning more rigorous activities, invest in clothes that are designed to wick moisture away from the body. And keep the fit relaxed.