Sunday, March 14, 2010


People pursue exercise in many different ways. Some like to throw cash at it, purchasing gym memberships or home equipment that they might even use on a regular basis (if they buck the trend of using it as a clothes hanger). Others go a more natural route and choose to run or bike on trails either natural or asphalt.

For me that is highly preferable to running in place on a treadmill or cycling in place on some sort of recumbent ugliness complete with TV screen. I’m sure it works for some people, in fact it works for a lot of them. I see them in long rows whenever I am unfortunate enough to be near a gym. They pant and drip sweat on their hamster wheels to nowhere.

I shudder and walk away.

But even going au natural can be improved upon. If the neighborhood community center has a track, folks drive there and then run around in circles rather than just running in their neighborhood. Or they hop in the car with the bicycle strapped to the roof or disassembled into the trunk to find a nice place to ride, instead of just opening the garage door and pedaling away.

As a charter member of the Cheap and Lazy Club, I will almost always begin my run or ride from my own driveway. Working out in a club just requires me to work more to afford the monthly dues. Gas to drive to the nearby track or other trail is cheaper than the club, but still requires money. Too cheap to spend the funds, and too lazy to have to go somewhere to exercise.

If I can reduce my work hours by running and biking more simply, and utilizing push-ups and sit-ups at home to exercise other muscle groups (and turning yard work into yet another fitness regimen), I can use those freed up hours for that very exercise. More time for me, which is always my ultimate pursuit.

About two miles from home I can access a fairly lengthy trail that runs along Los Gatos Creek. Those two miles to get there are on surface streets so I have to maintain constant vigilance for vehicles under the control of distracted drivers. Whether they are late to their yoga class or just trying to find the volume control on their GPS unit, they will certainly win any physical confrontation between us. So I always defer to their right of way . . . even if they don’t have the right of way.

Easier when I am on the sidewalk going by foot, but let us not pretend that no pedestrian has ever been run down by an out of control car. I’ve seen it happen in a lot of movies, and since movies are simply a reflection of reality, I know it could happen to me. So I stay to the right and keep an eagle eye out until I reach the safety of the trail.

Ha! What an illusion. “The safety of the trail.” What a crock. If I get out during the week it isn’t too bad, but weekends it is a madhouse. Too many people are following my example of exercising by actually moving their bodies forward under their own power (although I suspect many of them drove to the parks that are scattered along the trail . . . infidels!)

The simple rules of the road are too often ignored by these health conscious individuals. They’d never veer across a line without looking behind them if they were driving (well, that is not entirely true, but let’s go with it for a moment and see where it takes us . . . watch out!) yet walkers regularly swerve across to stop at a drinking fountain or just to look at something on the opposite side of the trail from four feet closer than where they were.

Dog walkers use extendable leashes that allow Rover plenty of room to make his own decisions, and let me tell you as the runner or cyclist that is about to pass you, Rover would rather cross the path in search of the scent left by the last dog to walk by. And he won’t check over his shoulder first. He’s a dog.

Toddlers are left to exit their plastic tricycles and stumble about, and slightly older children are working on their balance in the early days of their bicycle riding experience. When they see someone coming in the opposite direction it is a scientific certainty that they will be propelled into the way of the other person, in direct proportion to their efforts to stay out of the way. Like I said, scientific certainty.

Which is why when I was out riding the other day I was glad to see more pedestrians using the dirt edge rather than taking over the path where we cyclists want to ride by at dangerous speeds. That way, when they paused to let their dog lift a leg or to allow their goat to nibble on some long grass, there was no chance that we would smash into each other.

You read that correctly. There was an older couple walking along, each with a goat at the end of a leash. They were smaller than expected—the animals—perhaps some sort of diminutive household version of the tin-can eating animal in many of my childhood storybooks. I could almost hear a gentle “maaaa maaaa” as I rode past. On my speedy return trip I saw them again, still munching on the weeds.

The goats knew the rules of the road and were good role models for all the people stopping to smile and point. Stay to the right. Don’t cross the center line.

When the desire to eat overpowers the desire to move forward, move into the weeds. More small children should do the same.

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