This mornings’ exercise was riding my bicycle around Central Park. Marty, my exercise buddy, and I headed out about 7:00 AM to beat the heat and the crowds. I enjoy riding my bike in the City as long as it is before 10:00 AM. After that the “strollers” come out to meander along the various bike and walking paths. Strollers are the Sunday drivers of the exercise set. They walk 3 abreast on the pathway oblivious to other walkers or cyclist as they talk through the day’s activities. Other strollers include parents who chat on their cell phones as their six-year-old darts across the roadway on his dirt bike causing near accidents. I prefer the morning ride because serious exercise adherents are out at that time.
It has become easier for me to exercise at a higher level now that I have a cohort to accompany me. This morning Marty suggested we cycle around Central Park instead of biking along the Westside Highway. I like biking in the Park but the reality is Marty and I tackle the 6.1-mile drive circling the Park differently. Marty is out to master Park Drive; he wants to win! After each ride he declares that it was easier and that he did it faster. I just want to finish and not embarrass myself. So he heads off as fast as he can and I lag behind where I try not to fall off my bike and avoid getting in the way of other cyclist.
Central Park was designed and implemented by Frederick Olmsted whose philosophy on parks was to create wide-open spaces where everyone no matter their economic reality could enjoy being out of doors. I love biking in the Park because it allows me to do just that and I see something new everyday. This morning I spotted Still Hunt, a bronze statue of a large panther. Unlike other statues in Central Park, the Still Hunt is not on a pedestal but perched on a massive rock in a natural setting.
As I was marveling that I had never noticed the bronze panther before I realized that I was breathing easier and making the ride faster. I could now look around at my surrounding instead of continually gasping for breath. But for those who are unfamiliar with the route, Park Drive at Central Park North is straight up. (That maybe a slight exaggeration but not much.) It is the point in the ride where I start talking to myself.
“You can do this, you can do this”, saying it over and over until I am up the hill. My self-talk is very reminiscent of the little engine that could.
It can be slightly embarrassing at times as I struggle up the hill. First the cyclist who thinks he is participating in the Tour de France races past me. Next comes the 20 something woman who works out 7 days a week where she alternates between palates and spin classes. Then comes the woman pushing her 6 month old in a jogging stroller and the man jogging with his golden retriever. Finally the old man with his walker rushes past me. (Just kidding about the guy with the walker.)
It is hard to get up that hill but I do it each time. Slowly, sometimes very slowly but I ride up the hill. There are rewards for succeeding. In the spring there are beautiful blooming flowers that mark the top of the hill. In the summer, it is the satisfaction I made it. I feel proud. Only 6% of Americans get 30 minutes of exercise a day. I am in the 6% so I have bragging rights when I get up the hill.
I continue to strive to live a healthier life and each day I feel I am getting better.