(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Joys of Outdoor Morning Exercise

The combination of early sunrises and warm days makes summertime a great time for outdoor exercise before work. It's great to get fresh air, and usually it's still cool enough that you can get great exercise without wilting in the heat. Plus, there's something beautiful about the sun rising over a neighborhood that hasn't awaken yet. It's a great setting in which to take a walk, go for a run or ride a bike.

Some people probably would find the suggestion annoying because they don't want to get up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. for any reason, while others might be a little fearful of going outside at that time. Their reasoning must go something like this -- it's too early, no one's out, it could be dangerous (as in, "only criminals are out at that time, right?").

That reasoning, though, is flawed. There are people out, and it's perfectly safe (except for an occasional newspaper deliveryperson or too, as these folks tend to drive on both sides of the road). Plus, plenty of people are out there. On my bike ride, I usually see several people on bikes (old bikes, racing bikes, hybrid bikes), a few joggers (some look more fit than others) and several walkers. One morning I saw a septaguanarian couple doing Tai Chi on their sidewalk.

I've also had to coax a deer out of the road I wanted to turn onto, and I saw a fox about 40 yards ahead of me near a creek bed, probably heading toward his living quarters after a night on the town. (There are a few chicken coops in the area, but they benefit from good fencing). Thankfully, he headed home and not toward me.

Plain and simple, it's a great time to get out there and ride a bicycle. I don't have a racing bike. Instead, I opted for a $300+ hybrid bike (Giant is the brand) whose tires are in between the widths of racing bikes and mountain bikes. The seat is more back-friendly, as you can sit straight up, and there are enough gears to make your ride interesting. I've created a circuit for myself that has a sufficient combination of climbs (not too steep, and I'm getting better at them with each ride), downhill runs and straightaways that gives me ample exercise for the 45 minutes or so that I'm out there each morning (most of the ride is on wide residential streets, with only a sliver on a major road). Plus, there's the great comfort of getting your exercise in before the day begins (at this hour, you have total control over your day) and being outside.

It's just too bad that this opportunity cannot last year-round, as by fall the days get shorter and, well, if you have to get to work at a reasonable hour you can't begin you ride at 7 or so. Plus, it gets cooler too, and I'm not overly fond of wearing sweats to ride a bike. All that said, while the window for this type of activity exists, I try to take full advantage of it.

I'm convinced that if those who want to venture outside at early hours did so and shed any trepidations they had about being the "only" one, more people would be out early in the morning getting their exercise in, and we'd have a healthier population. It's hard to exercise during the day at work (I, for one, wouldn't be able to stop sweating quickly enough after a mid-day workout -- and others might not be able to find the time), and exercising after work is tough because you can be tired for the day and you may have other things to do -- such as spending time with your family. That's why getting up early and getting my workout in before work has worked for me.

Sunrise is a beautiful time of day.

Exercise can be fun if you pick the right activity for you.

Combine the two, and it's just great!

And if you haven't been on a bike in a while, try it again. You'll wished you had not given it up in the first place.


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