It’s beautiful out — a clear, blue, bird-filled day.  A light breeze teases the undropped leaves still clinging to their branches, and sun has conquered snow in all but the most shadowed corners of every lawn.

It’s also cold enough to freeze the hind end off a penguin, which is why I’m lounging in our living room gazing out at the world rather than jogging or taking a hike or riding a bike through it. Although I should, just the thought makes me shudder and my veins ice over.

The indoor options are nearly as bleak. If I spend one more minute on my exercise machine I’m liable to find myself a good smelter and have it rendered into scrap metal, or whatever it is you do with annoying machinery. Short of jumping jacks, weight-lifting cans of ravioli, or doing laps around my kitchen, any other exercise choices require leaving my climate controlled house for the big, bad, wintry outdoors.

I’m a shivering, sniveling wimp when the thermometer dips below forty ((As it generally does this time of year. After three years in the Rockies, you’d think I’d be used to it.)), so this would normally be an easy choice. But eleven days ago we crested the hill and skidded over into 2009. After the food-fest that stretches from Halloween to Christmas, I’d been mumbling about losing my more Rubenesque qualities and getting back into shape and now, to my consternation, I had a convenient start date.

Despite the timing, I wouldn’t say I made a resolution, exactly. More like a vow ((The difference is this: Resolutions are made to be broken, whereas vows are binding and, frankly, much more dramatic. They’re often louder, too.)) recklessly proclaimed at the same time so many others were resolving the same thing: I would lose this winter weight or starve in the attempt. And with my kitchen skills, starvation was a very real possibility.

Since limiting calories goes hand-in-hand with exercise, I dragged my workout clothes to the front of my closet several days before the first of the year. Then I primed the exercise machine I’d forgotten I hated. I also made A Plan, which everyone knows is nearly as important as actually Carrying Out The Plan. Then I waited for the new year to begin. The waiting is the fun part, before the hope and excitement have been tempered by reality and, most importantly, before the actual sacrifice begins.

The first of January had its pleasures as well. Filled with promise, I bounded from bed — or would have if I’d had a proper night’s sleep — and sauntered into the kitchen to prepare a healthful breakfast, complete with vitamin pills big enough to choke a horse. When lunch and dinner came around, I prepared them as per The Plan, too, then dutifully entered all calories into my chart. I even exercised that afternoon.

Optimism carried me through three days, and pride through another four. Now I’m surviving on sheer, brute strength, and other than occasional lapses and, of course, the Great Exercise Dilemma of 2009, things are going pretty well. I’m only occasionally starving, and I’ve already lost an entire pound, enough to make…well, no difference whatsoever. But I’m nothing if not determined, even when cold and tired and hungry, which is exactly how I keep ending up.

**Update**
11:14 a.m. – 1:03 p.m.

Snowshoes