Sometimes I get a little jealous of bears.

They get to spend all autumn eating in preparation for a long, sedentary period during the winter.

Grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park, for example, are known to eat up to 20,000 calories a day during a period of excessive eating and drinking called hyperphagia, which bears enter as they get ready to hibernate. Bears then spend months sleeping on and off in a cave, during which they can lose 15-30% of their body weight.

Humans don’t have that kind of luxury. Sure, we may spend most of the winter indoors, but we still have to get out and exercise if we want to burn all the calories we consume over the holidays and the bitter cold months thereafter.

Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was still enough daylight after work to make outdoor activities feasible, I got in the daily habit of going on a brief jog. Those jogs gradually grew longer and longer as the summer began and flagged as we reentered autumn.

Now, I leave work and it’s pitch black outside, and with COVID-19 still spreading uncontrollably in the community, I’m not sure if it’s safe yet to exercise at a public gym.

It feels like bedtime when I leave the Johnson City Press on weekdays, and I oftentimes can’t marshal the energy or stalwart resolve needed to go for a nighttime run in the cold.

I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a rowing machine, which would at least enable me to maintain some degree of physical activity during the winter, but those suckers can be $200-$300 depending on the model. Treadmills are even more expensive. I’m not a rich man.

Instead, I’ve decided to see this period as an opportunity to hibernate. Like the grizzly bears of Yellowstone, I’m biding my time until it’s hospitable to return outdoors.

I can’t, however, promise that I’ll be able to maintain a pace of 20,000 calories a day. My stomach might explode.