The Joys of Exercise

The Tao Of Exercise
The Tao Of Exercise

With the warmer weather, I’ve finally lost my last excuse to get back into a decent exercise program.  My new exercise program isn’t much, but I’m back to at least trying to take off some of this middle-aged flab.

I’ve loved running, walking, and bicycling for as far back as I can remember.  My athletic claim to fame was making the high school varsity Cross-Country team twice and varsity Track and Field (mile and two mile events) once.  Sure, this was back in the last century, but I still have my varsity letters so it still counts.  Really.

During my early navy career there wasn’t much emphasis on exercise, at least once out of boot camp, so my exercise routine somewhat languished.  Starting in 1981, the navy decided to re-emphasize some level of physical fitness and created an annual Physical Fitness test to measure flab and aerobics ability.  In those younger days I didn’t actually have to exercise much to pass my annual test with decent scores.  Since exercise mostly conflicted with other more important activities (shipboard life, drinking, evening college classes, second jobs, chasing women) I didn’t perform a whole lot of formal exercise.  But then again, my navy jobs were normally so physically demanding I never really needed formal exercise to stay fit.

I finally got back into a routine exercise program during my last two years of active duty aboard the good ship “Port Royal.”  I was a geographical bachelor then, living aboard the ship in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, while my first wife was back tending the home fires in Gautier, Mississippi.  I didn’t have much to do on my off time, and had a lot of anger to work out, so I picked up a daily routine of running and calisthenics.  I didn’t have a car with me and was using a bicycle for my primary transportation (along with the island’s public bus system).

Several weeks after initially arriving in Hawaii, I went out and purchased the bicycle of my dreams; a purple 18 speed “hybrid” touring/mountain bike.  I added safety lights, a water bottle, handlebar storage bag and rear-wheel cargo rack.  The island’s public busses all had bicycle racks, so I could hook my bike onto a bus and take the bus somewhere on the island to explore by bike. Some days, I biked well over 30 miles. For two months during a dry dock overhaul the crew was put up in a hotel in downtown Waikiki, about 12 miles from the ship.  I used my bike to commute on a daily basis for those two months and worked up to where I was making the 12 mile trip in 45 minutes or less.

I also got back into scuba diving in a big way.  I had first qualified as scuba diver in Hawaii in 1974 but never continued diving until returning to Hawaii in 1994.  I quickly re-qualified, formed an informal “Divers Club” with some of my shipmates and developed a routine of diving several weekends each month.

So between walking, bicycling, running, and frequent scuba diving, I became quite “healthy.”  Without a doubt, after my two year’s Hawaii residency, I was in physical condition at least matching that of my Boot Camp era 22 years earlier.

After returning to Gautier as a newly retired sailor I kept up my exercise discipline for several years.  My 3x – 5 xs per week routine involved running three miles after some warm-ups, then walking three miles.    My first wife usually accompanied me on my cool down walk the first couple of years.   I tried bicycling once, but was harassed so badly by local Mississippi drivers I never attempted bicycling again.  I ultimately gave away my beautiful bicycle; an act I regret to this day.  I continued scuba diving as a volunteer to a local Marine Life Park for a couple of years, but their volunteer program faded away and I quit diving.

Gradually, my life became busy with working, social events, and home chores and my exercise routine languished.  My first wife also started to lose interest in walking with me, a harbinger of things to come.  By 2000, I pretty much completely lost my exercise routine.  After my 2001 divorce I sporadically attempted to get back into running and exercise again, but never had the drive to continue for very long.  I did start to incorporate jump-roping into my exercise routine; an activity I found amazingly difficult considering that little girls seem to be able to jump-rope for hours at a time without breaking a sweat.

Last year, after settling down in our new house here in Dale City, I made a resolution to get back into an exercise program.  I was normally commuting by bus back and forth to work, which meant getting home most nights no earlier than 6:30.  I walked from the commuter bus stop to home most evenings, which gave me my first bit of regular exercise in several years.  By the end of last summer, I was back into light jogging (a one mile run) about 2 – 3 times each week along with jump-roping, some light calisthenics and a cool-down walk.  The onset of cold winter weather was a great excuse to put exercise on hold once again.

Almost as soon as the weather started hitting the high 50s last month I made it a point to get back into an exercise program.  It feels good to do some physical exercise again, especially now that my career consisted of sitting in front of a computer all day long.  I’m a long way from my peak exercise regimen while living in Hawaii, but this is a start.  I’m also enjoying my cool-down walks as a way to learn my new neighborhood.

I’m determined to improve my physical condition after a too-long period of inactivity.

I did pick up a second-hand bike at a yard sale last fall, along with one for Winnie, and this summer I may actually try bicycling again.  People here seem more respectful of bicyclists that back in Mississippi, and there are actually a few bicycle trails and parks around.  One exotic idea;  I’m thinking about putting the bike(s)s in the boat, cruising down the Potomac River to a water-front park landing, then doing some bike exploring.

I think that would be a nice way to combine an exercise routine with a day of boating and exploring Virginia.  Three simple joys at the same time.

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