Since Southern Finland still has no snow, winter sports are off-limits. Luckily, we can keep doing summer sports, and head to the forest without snowshoes.
National parks and recreational areas are top attractions for visitors and locals alike. There are many places around Helsinki alone where you can go for a nice walk or a run in nature. This time my parents and I go for a little trail run in Vaakkoi which is a recreational area in Espoo.
Main trails are marked, but there are plenty of unmarked little paths leading to someplace or another. If you wander off the marked trails, remember to take a map, or a dad, who knows all the best paths.
I follow my dad who selects our route which circles around the lake Väärä-Musta. The lake is frozen with a smooth, nearly invisible, constantly melting ice. Its surface is solid and calm, but the ice looks unreliable. Yet one brave soul sits in the middle of the lake with his little ice fishing rod. Also a group of tour skaters, to whom we run into, assure that the ice is strong enough… Poor winter seems to make us all desperate to head out even if the conditions are far from ideal.
Light drizzle dims the air and saturates the colours of surrounding mosses and shrubs. We jog along the paths but slow down on wet and icy bits. Even forest like this has its own microclimates: despite the ground being wet and snowless, rocky hills wear treacherous ice sheets.
Trail running is good for balance and much more interesting than running along busy paved roads. However, I admit that I usually prefer to walk rather than run in the woods. Walking is nicer and possibly better for my mental health as well; being surrounded by natural sounds and shapes as well as slowing down and allowing time for yourself are proven to have a positive effect on us. Dodging the branches and roots while rushing through the forest hardly gives me time to immerse myself into the soundscape and relax, but sometimes a good run is what I need.
It is a different type of self-care.
- Bratman, G.N., Hamilton, J.P. and Daily, G.C., 2012. The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249(1), pp.118-136.
- Preuß, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Marquez, S., Cirach, M., Dadvand, P., Triguero-Mas, M., Gidlow, C., Grazuleviciene, R., Kruize, H. and Zijlema, W., 2019. Low childhood nature exposure is associated with worse mental health in adulthood. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(10), p.1809.
- Ulrich, R.S., Simons, R.F., Losito, B.D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M.A. and Zelson, M., 1991. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of environmental psychology, 11(3), pp.201-230.