Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mix it up

Those of us who get most of our exercise from transportation may find ourselves falling into a routine of the same activity over and over.

I used to mix it up, even in the commute. I had a deal going that allowed me to paddle four miles and walk at least a mile and a half as one alternative. The drive to Lake Wentworth, the paddle and the walk all together took at least an hour and a half each way. It was great fun, but I had to give it up. It ate too much time. But I have few options to insert walking into my commute. So I end up riding the bike every work day.

I'm not complaining, just observing.

By riding every day, more or less, I always use the same muscles in the same way. I stress the same joints. When I take a rest day it helps restore things, but the first day back on the bike doesn't feel as good as the second. The effect is the same with two days off or three.

Until this week.

With the shop closed on Sunday for a while, I gratefully accept the extra day to myself, pay cut and all. I come out of the summer with a lot of chores to finish before winter. I used to ride for fun or go paddling or hiking on days off, but American puritan guilt has finally worked its way into my brain so I don't enjoy anything that can't be related to work. I don't say this is a good thing. It has simply happened.  But on Tuesday, the middle day off, I got myself to go for a couple of hours of moderately strenuous bushwhacking up the mountain behind my house.

Logging has changed the vegetation. Where I used to be able to see quite a distance under the canopy of a mature forest,  now logging cuts of various ages have grown into impenetrable sapling hells. Side light from the open areas has increased the density of understory foliage in adjacent areas. Navigation has become quite tricky. With the prevalence of Lyme disease in the area I don't like to get too cuddly with the underbrush until we've had some hard freezes and shed the leaves. So while one could just shoot a compass bearing and shove on through,  it doesn't appeal to me. It's also been a banner year for ground nesting hornets. I don't want to be tangled in a thicket and suddenly notice the angry swarm I've kicked up.

All this led me to a circuitous path avoiding natural obstacles and an unfortunate house built by people who used to have a cabin in a hollow and now have a ch√Ęteau on a ridge. It's amazingly well concealed, but it's still up and out there. It used to be easy to avoid the cabin, which was seldom occupied anyway. They're okay people, but I don't go into the woods to socialize. And I don't want to intrude on their privacy either.

When the forest was all mature and the going was good I used to be able to reach the ridge top in an hour or less. This time I did not aim for the summit. There was plenty to see lower down and it was plenty of work to get there.

The next day was rainy. I had things to do indoors. So the hiking day was bracketed by rest days. This morning I rode with none of the creakiness I have when the pattern includes only cycling,  random physical labor and rest. I felt rejuvenated.

This is not a new idea. I merely note how the experience reminded me that it works. In my ideal living situation I would get to mix it up routinely, walking for some errands and riding for others. But I hate to give up a place so rural that I can stand in a grassy clearing in the woods and hear the wing beats of a raven 60 feet above me. So while I'm here I'll have to declare the walks medicinal and justify them that way.

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