LOS ANGELES—It’s the least wonderful time of the year—at least for many who favor late-in-the-day recreation.
Earlier this month, for reasons no one can seem to keep straight, time snapped back an hour. Just like that, we lost an hour of precious daylight and were delivered to the relative darkness of standard time. (It’s 5:45 p.m. as I write this newsletter and it’s pitch black outside.)
Even prior to the rollback, the shortening days following the summer solstice reduced my window to run or walk outside after a long day clacking on the keyboard. It’s particularly tricky to maneuver on trails once all the sunlight’s drained away. While I’ve long wished to be able to spring out of bed at 5 a.m. and get my jog on before the work day starts, 34 years of life has taught me I’m not a morning person.
It’s not just casual weekday outings that are affected. An all-day slog in the mountains can be hampered by an early sunset. An alpine start in the darkness benefits from knowing daylight will come, but motivation often dissipates once night sets in.
Of course, not everyone shares this view. Hundreds responded to a survey my Times colleague Ryan Fonseca conducted to source readers’ opinions on the time change—a testament to how much passion the debate inspires. And most respondents expressed a firm desire to stay in the current standard time, calling daylight savings “illogical,” “archaic” and “insane.” Meanwhile, I prefer to describe it as “wonderful” and “warm.”
Even California legislators can’t make up their minds. Golden State voters in 2018 approved a ballot measure that gives lawmakers the ability to tinker with daylight saving time—including extending it year-round. But a proposed 2019 bill to do away with the biannual clock change died in committee. Another bill pushing for year-round daylight saving time withered three years later.
If California legislators did vote to stick to daylight saving time, it would still require an amendment to federal rules. And so far the U.S. Congress similarly hasn’t acted, despite efforts by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and others. States can choose to stay in standard time without the need for congressional action. (If there’s protracted gridlock over a clock change, no wonder political collaboration is absent in more pressing matters.)
So it seems we’re stuck in the temporal ping pong game for at least the near future—and potentially much longer. But, lovers of the outdoors and long days don’t have to throw up their arms in defeat. While conditions might not be ideal for after-work warriors like myself, there are ways to stay active throughout the truncated winter daylight.
One of the reasons I’m plugging away at this text long after the 5 p.m. hour is because I decided to strike out for a short trail run earlier than usual. I knew darkness was uncomfortably near and preferred to tackle loose gravel—irritatingly common on California mountainsides—during daylight. So I opted to extend my work day and take an afternoon break.
- Stick to well-lit areas, such as city streets or parks with ample light fixtures. For once, light pollution is your friend! When I’m not able to break away early enough to run under full sun, I generally avoid areas where it would be difficult to see the ground. Tripping over a rock or colliding with a bush is not fun.
- If it’s getting dark, choose a path you know well. Sometimes I begin a trail run late in the day and end up returning in the dark. When I think that will be the case, I pick an area I’ve been before and have some feel for. Muscle memory can help prevent you from getting lost.
- Pack a headlamp. A head torch won’t provide visibility on par with the sun, but it can light the immediate path in front of you. This can be a lifesaver if you find yourself hiking sans daylight. Pro tip: Make sure the batteries are working or charged before heading out.
- Dress in layers. Yes, it can get cold in L.A. The warmth you feel while powering your way to a hilltop dissipates once you stop moving. It’s a big relief to have a jacket or beanie on hand when the chill sets in. This is particularly important if you’re hiking in wilderness or high elevation areas where temperatures plummet at night and weather conditions change on a dime.
- Try a treadmill. Once upon a time, I turned to the treadmill when it wasn’t feasible to run outside because it was too cold or too late. I promise I won’t judge you if you opt for this.