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12 Bright Days – Why getting outside this winter is important

Emily Chappell, adventurer, long distance cyclist and lover of cold climates, tells us why staying active over the darker, colder months, can make us feel a whole lot better.


I know I’m not the only one who has trouble leaving the house when the days are short and dark and the weather’s cold and wet. Well, for a long time I thought I was, but recently I’ve been talking to fellow athletes (and FINDRA ambassadors), and found out that even these tough, impressive women, whose energy and dedication I’ve always admired, and who seem impervious to bad weather, occasionally spend a solid 48 hours in their pyjamas, hiding in their house, feeling bad about themselves.

FINDRA ambassadors Marion Shoote and Cat competed at Bowhill winter race series

I think we’ve all been there occasionally, and it doesn’t help when the great outdoors is at its least attractive – gloomy, grey, and guaranteed to send you home soaking wet and covered in mud. Still, it’s surprising what a difference going outside can make.

Like many, I’ve long struggled with low-mood at this time of year – except, curiously, when I worked as a cycle courier. I remember those five winters as being very hard, with the pain of frozen fingers and toes, the spirit-stripping misery of being soaked to the skin and knowing you have another four hours till hometime, and the constant, numbing exhaustion, that meant I fell asleep an hour earlier than I would in summer.Emily and Jenny take to the road in the snow

But I was happier than I’d ever been in winter. Once I got the feeling back in my extremities every evening I’d find I was glowing with exertion. After five long days on the bike in the cold, my weekends were enjoyable orgies of hygge, when nothing seemed more important than snoozing, replenishing my calorie deficit, and being warm and dry and cosy. And unlike most Londoners, who’d arrive at work before it got light, and leave long after it got dark, I was outdoors during the few hours of daylight that remained. True, I was never going to fulfil my vitamin D requirements in northern Europe in December, but I strongly believe that this was what made the biggest difference.

So this year, for the twelve days of Christmas (that’s 25th December to 5th January), I’ll be making sure I leave the house every day. That sounds like a fairly lowly target, but as most of us know, getting out the front door is usually the hardest part. Once you’re out, the 20-minute walk you had in mind can often turn into a two-hour hike. And even if all you manage is a 10-minute cycle to the shops and back, you’ll usually feel better for it.


Together with FINDRA, The Adventure Syndicate athletes will be sharing their attempts to get outside every day with the #12BrightDays hashtag.  Sometimes we’ll be cycling for hundreds of miles or going on epic snowy runs – other days we’ll probably just be walking the dog, or enjoying a snowball fight with our family.


We’d love you to join us in this Christmas quest to help everyone feel just a little bit brighter. Share your words and pictures with the #12BrightDays hashtag – we’re looking forward to seeing what you get up to!