It’s different for each person, but sometimes the best medicine is an extra push

My Saturday arc was up, up, up until it took a swan dive.

Early in the morning, my husband took off for the first day of his avalanche safety course. I spent some time lingering indoors in pajamas with coffee and my laptop, writing and catching up on email. I cooked and ate a leisurely breakfast.

My friend picked me up around 10 a.m., skis in tow. We made our way up to Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass through deep snow.

“My car is a sleigh!” she announced near the top, just a little edge of nervousness in her voice as the mighty Jetta navigated freshly fallen snow. The landscape surrounding us was completely white. I wished I’d thought to bring sunglasses, simply for the snow glare.

Conditions were fantastic for classic skiing and gabbing. We wound our way up toward the mine, watching the classic and dramatic Hatcher Pass shifts in clouds over a vast mountainscape surrounding us. Brief patches of blue were consumed by blinding white; sun cast shadows which lifted quickly. It’s a moving landscape in Hatcher Pass, and it always feels awesome to be a — relatively — tiny human on two planks within it.

We drove/sledded down from the pass, and she dropped me off. I cooked and ate a leisurely lunch — you’re seeing a pattern.

I set up my tabletop easel and played a podcast while completing a painting I’ve been working on. It felt good to realize that the painting was just about done, and then a brushstroke here and there and — voila, it’s completed. I gazed at it for awhile, happy with the product and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment.


Then I put the supplies away, hopped in my car, and drove to downtown Palmer to do some errands.

That’s when things started to go off the rails.

I felt irritated at being at the grocery store. Nothing rational, or maybe an accumulation of lots of tiny rational things: prices are up, stock is low, the line I was in was slow. The floor had that unpleasant snow melt reflection and dusty, dried prints from many boots tracking the outside in.

I gassed up, but it wasn’t in the interest of going anywhere exciting. The car just needed some gas and I was dutifully fulfilling the chore.

Suddenly, my night at home loomed claustrophobic ahead of me: I’d done everything I’d set out to do in a day. What more was there? I didn’t want to watch anything on TV. I didn’t want to go out to eat. Cooking sounded fine, but what about when dinner was over? I was done with my book.

The spiral was happening in my head, and what had started off as a glorious, promising, full day soured due to my changed — for the worse — perspective.

I arrived home to my husband back from his training and, not wanting to infect his high from spending the day outside and learning, immediately told him I needed to do something to fix my bad mood.

“Go for a ski,” he suggested.

Still standing in my shoes by the front door, I looked outside again. It was snowing. “But I already did.”

I drew up two visions of the night ahead in my mind: one where I simply stayed indoors, right where I was; another where I overcame my momentary discomfort in the interest of going back outside on my skis for a bit, and then coming back, cooking dinner, and cozying up.

Before I had the chance to ponder my own discomforts for too long, I tugged on ski layers once again, threw my skis in the car, and drove to the nearby trailhead.

You know how this story ends: it’s not with me regretting the decision to go back outside.

[Much of the Tour of Anchorage Trail will be closed this month]

What I realized as I clicked into my skis and took off, in earnest, on the hilly trails, through a snowglobe forest with warm, late afternoon colors trying to push through thin snow clouds, is that my body and brain need to gain a certain level of high activation, routinely, to run smoothly.

I also realized the level of discomfort I need to push through to get my activity in is often proportional to the payoff.

The hardest part of that ski was, as usual, convincing myself to go; followed distantly by the actual physical exertion and experience of cold and snow. The fact is, I was moving actively enough that I felt warm; and the awe I experienced simply beholding Alaska woods and trail on a sparsely populated Saturday night ski filled me up almost immediately.

Have I trained myself to have an abnormally high requirement for these kinds of experiences? Shouldn’t getting some writing in, going on a morning ski, followed by completing a painting, and cooking and consuming good meals throughout have been “enough” for an entire day?


Of course, and they could have been. But I still felt something was missing, so I went and did it.

Although I feel lucky to have a life with lots of meaningful pursuits, interests, and people, sometimes the fact is simply that I crave even more. If it helps, why not go get it?

I did, and I do. This is a reminder to myself to push to do the seemingly hard thing, when I know it’s the right — for me — thing.

[Regaining a certain type of fitness can be as easy as retracing your steps]

Alli Harvey

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.