I hate the fact that I need to exercise. For decades I never had to give a second thought to how much I weighed or if I was getting enough physical activity. Seemed like I was stuck between 175-185 lbs for about 25 years. Now those days are behind me – in more ways than one.
I have a notion that gravity somehow accumulates in our bodies – like mercury – and doesn’t get flushed out. Then around age 50 – boom! – it bursts out of hiding. All of a sudden a spare tire appears around our middle, our butts are bigger, or we find an extra chin or two – or three. Humanity’s long struggle against gravity (flight, space travel, trampolines) becomes personal: I need to exercise.
I’d like exercise to be something that’s accessible, inexpensive, and fun enough to keep me going. Sustainability, after all, is one of the goals. Getting in a car and driving somewhere to exercise doesn’t make sense to me. I’d like an activity I could do with another person. And I don’t want something that’ll require a bunch of special gear. That narrows my choices, huh. Better look around.
Our part of Seattle has dozens and dozens of staircases that take off from sidewalks and disappear into leafy tunnels. They belong to a partially-hidden network of paths and shortcuts connecting dead end streets, bisecting adjoining properties, opening onto parks and beaches, or leading to pockets of homes away from the beaten track.
A staircase with “about” 365 steps (it might be 366) is just a few minutes walk from where we live. The lower steps are pretty flat, sloping up between back yard fences on either side. The upper steps climb a remarkably steep and wooded hillside. I’m proud to say that even at my advanced age I can make three trips up and down, taking the lower steps two at a time, usually in less than 30 minutes. At the end of this routine, my heart is pounding and my face is somewhere between tomato and beet red.
Exercise isn’t the only benefit. The stairs have become a place to meet new people and see others we already know. Just this morning I met a gentleman who started a conversation with me because I was wearing a San Diego t-shirt and he lives there. And I had a chance to catch up with former neighbor Pat on his way up the stairs to meet his sister.
It’s a little thing, but I love the fact that so much of what I need and want can be found right around me. In my case “doing the stairs” adds to my physical well-being, helps me connect with neighbors, and keeps me out of a car. Makes me wonder what other discoveries and solutions I will find by looking around me. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I don’t hate having to exercise.