Tag Archives: fitness

Aptly Named State Park

I’m sure there was a gentle breeze floating amongst the falling and fallen leaves, making a wonderfully wistful sound, but unfortunately, I was only able to hear my labored breathing and pounding heart.  The steps… they just kept coming.  Step after craggy stone step.  From up ahead I heard a voice asking if I was all right.  “Yes,” I cheerfully answered.  I lied.

It all started with the innocent suggestion, last Sunday, that we drive over to Devil’s Lake State Park.  It was a beautiful day, and the activity we had planned to undertake had to be scrubbed, so rather than sitting in the recliner watching the Packers, I thought we might take a leisurely stroll in nature.

The drive there was pleasant.  I especially like the ferry ride at Merimack.  Although, I always keep my eyes peeled for the Monitor.  (That was a Civil War navel battle joke, for those keeping score.)  We arrived to find the park office closed, so we headed off in what seemed to be a likely direction for a walk.

The air was cool, but we were dressed for it.  We passed some fisher-persons who were spending their afternoons watching bobbers and catching fish.  We kept walking.  We met some hikers who advised us of a trail up through the wooded hill overlooking the lake.  They were our age or so, and seemed to have survived it okay, so we started up the path, which, if my memory is correct, included around 8,000 steps upward.

I knew I was out of shape.  I didn’t know how badly.  The first thousand or so steps weren’t bad, but somehow the gentle slope we viewed from ground level had become Pike’s Peak.  Finally, we reached a plateau of sorts, and once I regained my ability to breathe normally and stand up straight, I could see that the view was breathtaking.  A perfect fall day in a very nice park.  Large quartzite boulders tinged with pinkish-purple, a very blue sky, and hillsides splashed with browns and yellows and reds of the remaining leaves.

I was thinking of calling Medflight, but instead we carefully worked our way back down the hill.  The steps and rocks were quite slippery due to the dry leaves and the dust they left.  Plus, by that time my legs felt pretty rubbery, and going down a hill works a whole different set of muscles than walking up.  Thanks to gravity, breathing wasn’t a problem, and my heart mostly regained its composure.

The walk back was close to the shore on a semi-paved path through giant boulders.  It’s very impressive, and makes a person think of the power of the glacier that moved those huge stones around. 

All told we probably covered less than five miles.  I’m pleased to say that I didn’t have a heart attack, and if I am smart, it will have served as a good start on an exercise program. 

I’m not sure why that body of water is called Devil’s Lake, but after having taken that leisurely Sunday afternoon hike, I think I might have a pretty good idea.


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The Tipping Point

When I was a kid I was very involved in sports.  Rarely a summer day went by without a baseball game (or at least games of catch), tennis, or basketball.  The football season lasted into January, which obviously meant playing in the snow.

Running around and riding my bike were activities I didn’t even think about.  Being told not to run in the house, or in social situations, was evidence that running came more naturally than walking. 

Now, in my second half-century, it’s hard to remember how that felt.  Sitting with my feet up seems like a much better idea than running.  Watching boys playing around makes me tired by proxy, if that’s possible.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to remain somewhat athletic.  Up until a year ago I went to a gym to work out a few times a week, except in the summer where yard work took up that time.  I’ve played basketball with other older guys at least a few times each winter for the past dozen years.  I also try to get out to the high school track to run several times a week during the summer, though in past years there’s been more walking than running.

Normally, when I see someone running along the side of a country road, I think that it looks like fun and something I’d like to do.  The other day, though, I think I sensed my mind and body had hit a tipping point.  I saw a guy going for a run, and I thought to myself, “that looks like a horrible idea!”  At that point I realized that I had officially tipped over from being athletic to being sedentary.

Fortunately for me, a couple of days later I saw an acquaintance in town.  In the past year he has lost a lot of weight, and in fact was energetically riding a bicycle, looking ten years younger.  Seeing him made me realize that the tipping point away from being athletic has as much to do with our brains as it does our bodies. 

I have no expectation of running a marathon or climbing a mountain, but I sure can dust off my  bike, and get over to the track for some spirited walking, and maybe some running.  I have some dumbbells (no comments please), so I can work on my incredible shrinking arm muscles. 

I’m not so naïve as to think a person can somehow stave off old age.   But, a little effort can make me feel more physically capable of enjoying life.  They say that cardio vascular exercise helps brain function too.  Heaven knows I could use the help in that department.

I guess I’ve come to that tipping point towards giving up on being athletic, and I’ve decided to tip back the other way.  I’m sure the time will come that vigorous sports will be too much for my joints and such, but if the only thing making me feel old is laziness, that’s something I can deal with.

So, if you see me, and I smell like “Icy Hot,” you’ll know why.

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