Do you commute to work by foot? Traverse City resident Chris Hinze does! He’s incorporated winter walking into his daily lifestyle. A physical therapist practicing at the Grand Traverse Pavilions, Chris not only walks or rides his bike to work every day, but he tends to walk his dog in the evening as well. Be it a leisurely stroll through the snow, or a brisk hustle on downtown sidewalks, Traverse City is seeing more and more people choosing to lace up their winter boots and head outside. 

Here’s a Q&A with Chris to inspire you to take a winter walk or two.

Chris Hinze and his daughters

How do you incorporate winter walking into your lifestyle?

“Walking, in general, is a big part of everyday life for me. I walk or bike every day to work, but I find myself walking much more in the winter time. The shorter days and slower pace of the winter months in Northern Michigan make walking a more appealing mode of transportation for me.

“I’m fortunate that almost anywhere that I need/want to go is within a reasonable walking or biking distance from my home, which makes walking an easy choice to get to work, to Oryana for groceries, or to the State to catch a movie.

“Years ago my wife (Katie) and I decided to go down to one car to free up more of our income to pay off our student loans. This helped us realize that we didn’t really need two cars, while at the same time allowing us to enjoy the health and financial benefits of walking/biking more.”

Do you go on any particular trails or sidewalks?

“My walk to work takes me from Old Towne, through Central Neighborhood, across Division to the Munson/Pavilions/Commons campus. I’m usually starting out before the sidewalk plow has been by, so typically the sidewalks have not been cleared. I’ll be lucky if I find more than one or two homes along the route that have been shoveled. I find walking the alleys allows for a more enjoyable walking experience. If the snow is particularly deep or if the sidewalks are iced over, I will typically walk the alleys as an alternative. By the time I head home in the evenings the sidewalks have been cleared, assuming there hasn’t been considerable snow accumulation during the day.”

What kind of gear do you use to prepare for your outdoor walk?

“It really depends on the temperature. I always wear a down coathow many layers underneath depends on the temp. I have a pair of wind/waterproof pants that I slip over my work pants if it’s under 30 degrees and sloppy out.

“Waterproof boots/shoes are a must for the winter. I always carry some type of lighteither a headlamp or flashlight. A bright orange Norte hat typically sits atop my head. I also have a reflective vest that I wear most of the time.

“I’m not a big fan of dressing like a construction barrel, but I’ve read my share of articles/comments sections about people walking who were struck by a motorist and blamed for not being visible enoughI don’t want to give anyone an excuse to NOT see me walking.”

What do you like most about walking in the winter?

“The peace and quiet. There really is something magical about walking in the dark during a snowfall. I really appreciate being able to use the 20-minute walk into work to plan out my day or brainstorm ideas that may help one of my patients.

“Conversely, it’s great to have that time to clear my mind before getting home to hang out with my girls (Stella is 6 years old and Olive is 4). I also can’t say enough about the health benefitsa ‘free’ 40 minutes of exercise every day? Yes, please!”

Have any tips to share with those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

“Make yourself visible. I’ve had numerous close calls with drivers not paying attention and not looking for people in crosswalks. Don’t assume that they see you and that they’ll stop for stop signs.”

Written by Courtney Jerome.

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Photo(s) by Angela Brown