Let's break "exercise" down into three sections.
1. Exercise to maintain fitness level.
2. Exercise to increase fitness level.
3. Exercise for enjoyment.
Running has always been either the first or second for me. I hate running.
I do love being physically active and my body (and mind!) always feel better if my exercise routine is regular and lengthy.
Before Covid, I went to the gym. That was amazing! I love the gym! I'd put on some headphones, kick in a playlist and get after it!
I’d do a warm up walk on the treadmill. Hit the weights. My gym had plenty to offer, and I could mix up my challenges easily and often. Then I’d get on the stationary bike and GO! I’d end with a good stretch before hitting the showers.
Like I said, it was great. I could challenge my body and work on maintaining good overall fitness.
When I was younger, in high school, I ran a lot for conditioning as a wrestler. I was also just young and athletic in a skinny kind of way. It was work though. I'd take off down a country road with a cassette tape player. No playlist back then! You listened to the whole album. My dog running beside me. I put in either 2 or 4 miles regularly.
In university, I didn’t “run” a lot.
I did hit the treadmill quite a lot at various points in my life. But it was always for conditioning. As a martial artist, I’ve run on the treadmill for conditioning quite a lot. Whether it was doing interval training for kickboxing or working to increase my overall stamina, it was work. I hated it.
As Spring came here to Winnipeg, we got a good thaw. Masses of people went outside for exercise. Me among them.
I hate running. (are you noticing a theme here?)
So instead of running, I got on my bike.
Truthfully, I was huffing and puffing during my first few short rides. I hadn't been on that stationary bike for a few months.
But I kept going. My rides got longer. My huffing and puffing got less and less.
Here’s something else. I couldn't find my ear buds when I first started riding and my big headphones just don’t work with a helmet. So I went without. Riding down paths and trails with just the wind in my ears.
I loved it!
My summer trips out on the bike got longer and longer. Not only did I go longer, I also went further. Then I just started following trails to see where they went and what I could see.
Biking had started as maintaining, and then it moved into increasing, but by the end of summer it was enjoyment. I loved going out on my bike. My last big ride was 40K, which is about 25 miles. Not too bad for a guy who had only ridden maybe 10 miles in a day before that.
As Fall came back, our Winnipeg temperatures started plunging down again. Then we got into snow and ice.
With the icy conditions, I put the bike up.
But I started missing the extra workouts. Physically and mentally, I found I wasn’t feeling as good as before.
I didn’t want to go back to the gym. My wife bought me a stationary bike, and I do ride it, but it wasn’t the same feel. I missed being outside.
So I started walking.
With snow and ice and cold, I had to wear various layers of apparel. Some days I would have to have a parka, hat, gloves, winter boots. I also found that masks are great for keeping your face warm!
Some days it was warmer with little to no wind. My wardrobe wasn't as heavy on those days. And with no snow and the sidewalks cleared, I could even wear sneakers instead of snow boots.
I found myself on such a day switching from parka to wind breaker and snow boots to sneakers. It was only -7C (19F) outside. Only. The old me that had spent 14 years dealing with Southern California “winters” thought this was crazy. The new me that had been going out on walks in the cold for a few weeks was up for it. I knew I had to walk at a brisk pace to keep warm, but my pace was pretty quick already and I had just shed a lot of weight by losing the heavy winter wear.
I went out and started walking. Up my street to Wellington Crescent, a big boulevard that runs along the river. With sidewalks and streets cleared of deep snow and having sand on the hard pack, I could move with confidence along whichever path I chose to take. Soon there were others out walking solo, with kids, with dogs, with others and even running.
The path was cut up by streets marking off short blocks. As I neared one such street, I broke into a light jog. Just to the end and across the street.
OK, not bad. And I was a bit warmer for it too. Maybe I’d do it again. When I got to the end of the next block I did. Just a short little jog at the end of the block. Maybe 100 feet.
Then I found myself doing it on each block. It became training. Methodical. Go a short distance, then recover with a walk.
I kept this up, varying the walk time and run time as it suited me. Lots of huffing and puffing!
What I noticed was that like when I rode my bike, I had stopped worrying about time and distance and was just enjoying the sights around me.
It had become exercise for enjoyment. So maybe I don’t “hate” running. It's not my favourite thing to do yet, and it doesn't beat those summer bike rides. But it's slowly getting there. I'm outside. Exercising. And enjoying my time.
Runners in Winnipeg abound. I've seen them running along wintry streets and often thought they were insane. But who knows, I might actually become one myself someday. At least until I can get my bike out again.