Staying active this winter

Friday, December 17, 2010

Like most Midwesterners, I'm too often unsatisfied with the weather.

It's either too hot. Or it's too cold.

Guess which one I'm thinking of right now.

One of the things I've been working on in recent months is more exercise. I read somewhere that the official definition of a "couch potato" is someone who does less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

It's hard to believe that so many of us are so inactive, but it's a fact. And our doctors' offices and hospitals have the proof.

Since I do not want to be a couch potato statistic, I have vowed to do something at least 30 minutes or more each day. Mowing my lawn, for example, takes a little over an hour. That includes using a trimmer around the edges of stuff and sweeping off the patio, driveway and front sidewalk.

On days that mowing the lawn or even mulching the leaves from the huge oak in the front yard aren't practical, I walk.

Even with temperatures in the single digits recently, I've found time to walk.

I worked up to walking 24 miles a week. I walked to and from Patty Lou's Cafe on Morgan Oak Street Monday through Friday, leaving the house about 5:45 a.m. and leaving the caf about 7 or 7:15 a.m. The round trip is four miles.

On Saturdays and Sundays I follow a two-mile route that takes me across the university campus.

Did I walk to the caf for coffee this week? No. As I explained to some of the regulars having coffee: I'm thickheaded, but I'm not stupid.

Still, I found time each day to walk at least two miles. Since my preferred route heads south, that means the return home is northbound. Often I leave the house thinking, Hey, this isn't so bad. Then I turn around into the north wind. Ouch.

There is cold. And then there is the icy wind that finds any gap you've left in your protective outerwear.

There is cold. And then there is cold that freezes your lungs.

There is cold. And then there is the sweltering Missouri summer, which I calculate is just 152 days away. And counting.

Regular readers of this column probably have noticed that more and more space is being devoted to the end-of-life reality of our world. That's because my accumulated years are catching up to the whiteness of my hair, which has been that way since my 30s.

I accept the inevitability of death, and I find solace in a variety of sources. One of the most unlikely was a recent issue of the Signals catalog, one of the dozens of catalogs that find their way into our mailbox every week.

One offering is a pine plaque with an American Indian poem by an unknown author. I thought you might like it:

"Don't stand by my grave and weep, for I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I'm the diamond's glint on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. Don't stand by my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die."

Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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