I have not had the best of luck with weather during the last, almost year, since beginning this blog. A very wet spring eventually lead into some (too few) decent days through the summer then as fall colors began their annual display a wind storm decimated the canopy. Winter has been mild without much snow. Without snow or ice winter photography is limited and because photography is limited I’m not motivated to explore or go very far from home. Without photos I find myself reluctant to post but because I don’t want too much time to go by without registering some life here I thought I would re-iterate a point I’ve made a few times before: short repetitive outings are essential to remaining active.
The idea of practice applies to nearly everything. When it comes to an active lifestyle it means doing activities that don’t require too much time so they can be easily incorporated into each day. If you want to be good at something then you practice the necessary skills. If you want to truly excel then you practice more and more, each individual will determine their own goals. Sometimes practice will build strength and stamina as well as skills. It seems, however, the concept of practice often has a pejorative connotation. For many practice equates with boredom and repetition. Procrastination or other excuses largely boil down to the same thing which is to consider practice as a separate aspect of an activity or sport.
Walking is the most accommodating of all activities. For me, a two kilometer walk is the least I will do, four or five is better. It takes twenty minutes plus a few minutes to get dressed if it is cold or raining. I know cycling at night is not something most people will do but I absolutely love it. I’ll go if there is no ice. Conditions in the last few weeks have allowed me to get out frequently. Most rides are about an hour in length at low to medium output. There is no destination.
I have held on to a phrase from the well known Newfoundland painter Christoper Pratt, who says, “Life is not a rehearsal”. If you embrace his meaning there are fairly wide ranging implications. I’m not going to get into the metaphor of life as performance or humans as actors on their own stage but, in terms of practice, it’s worth considering his line because if he’s right then there is no such thing as practice, you are performing all the time. Everything matters. The repetitive short outings are practice but they aren’t just a means of staying in shape for the longer more worthwhile stuff. Short walks allow you to clear your head, breath fresh air instead of stuffy dry air, maybe pause to look at the stars or listen to the strange sounds of cracking ice on a nearby lake.
When I’m out cycling at night, alone, in the dark, and cold, I tell myself I’m practicing but what the heck am I practicing for? Being out there is it. I’m doing what I want to do. I want to cycle and I’m out on my bike cycling. Yes, I would like to build up my fitness to achieve longer distances. I’d like to have more strength so I can go faster. But the truth is I’m not rehearsing for something else. I try not to make excuses. Each year there will be one night that is colder, windier and generally more miserable than the rest. Once that ride is behind me every other hour of cycling in the year will be better.
It’s also quite interesting to see what happens when going over the same route repeatedly. Even though it is dark I always remain very aware of where I am. Each section of the road has it’s own peculiar characteristics. Inclines, descents, bumps, cracks, turns and so on become more and more familiar with each ride. There are sections I dislike because of bumps or a too-steep grade, while there are other stretches I look forward to and want to reach. I know where the worst bumps are and can avoid them. I can also gauge my energy level and judge how hard to pedal so I’ll have a good workout before getting back to my driveway. I’m never bored simply because I am riding the same few kilometers over and over.
Freezing rain fell this afternoon as I walked to the fire tower. I expected there would be too much ice on the pavement for cycling so I went for a walk. The wind jostled me and low clouds obscured the view. It was nothing special, just getting out of the house and going someplace I’ve been a thousand times, yet it was special, the light coating of ice on the trees and bushes transformed everything.
I can’t control the weather, can’t summon snow or keep things calm in autumn so I have lots of time to photograph peak colors. I can’t put rain on a timer like a lawn sprinkler. But I can remain active even if the activities are relatively modest and not very interesting to write about. It’s easy to make excuses, easy to discount the value of the small and short and repetitive, easy to think it’s neither here nor there. Life, however, is not a rehearsal, this is it, each day is it. All the little stuff matters. When it comes to fitness and health there is no substitute for action, for doing and moving and elevating one’s heart rate.