There's something about the short winter days and the bitter cold in this state that reminds us that we need to keep moving. Every year about this time I get the itch to challenge myself and learn new things. A few years back, come mid-January, I set out to compete in my first Ironman triathlon competition and took some intensive triathlon courses. Six months and some meager but hard-earned muscle-toning later, I completed my first and only short-course triathlon. Despite never even approaching my ultimate goal, I was quite proud to make it happily through another Wisconsin winter with a productive distraction. Whether working toward a promotion or certification or just keeping occupied during the dark winter, continuing education is fun, interesting and essential. To give you an idea of the wealth of possibilities in our community, here are a few courses you've probably never heard of.
Huma Siddiqui runs White Jasmine, an organization that emphasizes that traditions, especially those related to the food we share, provide the foundation of who we are. To that end, she offers cooking classes at various venues around Madison. Two of note are 'Cholay, Lamb Curry, Tahiri and Raita' on March 14 and 'Exotic Chicken, Matar Pulao, Tomato Chutney and Sewaee' on April 25 (6-8:30 p.m., Whole Foods Market, $22). More information: call 608-437-1250 or see www.whitejasmine.com.
'Art Whimsy: Creating Figures From Found Objects' is a professional development class offered through the University of Wisconsin. Instructor Nancy Welch describes the course as a playful art class where participants have the opportunity to find new possibilities in art and see objects in new ways. Open to any state resident, it's taught at the Meriter Retirement Center downtown on Wednesday evenings, March 21-April 11 ($45). Typically, Welch's students don't have art experience, although those that do enjoy it as well. More info: call 608-263-6322 or see www.myprofdev.wisc.edu/opp_view.asp?id=5020.
Madison School & Community Recreation sponsors a class entitled 'Self Acupressure and Massage.' While it's always preferable to have a professional, or even just someone, anyone, give our pressure points the attention they deserve, this could be an important skill to know for those periods between appointments. This class is for those 50 years and older and is offered March 24 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for $15 at Hoyt School. (More info: 204-3000, www.mscr.org.) If you're under 50, Dean/St Mary's and UW Health offer several different specialized massage classes. The next one upcoming is March 12 at Dean-West Clinic and is especially for feet. 'Foot Massage: Treating Your Tootsies!' is a self-massage technique that incorporates acupressure and reflexology ($24; Dean Health Plan participants may receive a 10% discount). To register: call 608-824-4400. For more health and wellness classes: see www.deancare.com/dhs/educational_programs and secure.meriter.com/classreg.
'Acting effectively,' taught by the UW Continuing Education Department, aims to help you to feel comfortable in front of an audience. Whether your stage is the classroom, boardroom or office, this class promises you will discover how to relax, project and think on your feet with confidence using basic acting and theater techniques. This two-day class is March 14-15, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Lowell Center Lower Lounge on the UW Campus ($285). More info: 608-265-8041, www.dcs.wisc.edu/classes/theatre.htm.
Now that there's snow, you need snowshoes. Make them the old-school way at the 'Snowshoe Weaving Workshop' at the Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center in Babcock (southeast of Stevens Point) March 3-4. The two-day snowshoe-construction workshop in either Alaskan or Ojibwa style runs $162, which includes a wooden snowshoe kit and instruction as well as meals and dorm lodging. Register for this little adventure by contacting the Sandhill Skills Center, 715-884-6333 or 715-884-2437 or through the Wisconsin DNR site: dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/reclands/sandhill/calendar.htm.
And, let's not forget those with the intense desire to kick themselves into serious shape this new year. The next triathlon course series at the UW Sports Medicine Center in Research Park begins March 19 and runs until early June, with swimming on Mondays, 5:25-6:25 p.m., and indoor cycling on Thursdays, 5:25-6:25 p.m. Both classes together run $259.20 ($144 and $115.20 respectively), with a 20% discount for Unity / GHC / UWHC employees or $72 for fitness center members. More information: 608-263-7936. The classes are small (2-15 people per session), and participants receive plenty of personal attention and coaching. Whether competing in the Ironman next fall or just looking to tone up and relearn your strokes in the water, this class is surprisingly fun and satisfying. And really, isn't that what surviving our long chilly season comes down to, after all?