AUTUMN IS MY FAVORITE season. Winter and Spring, I now believe, are tied for second. Usually I give Winter the edge because I don't get hit by seasonal allergies amid the ice and wind. When I wake up to a day like this, however, with 60º temperatures and cloudless skies, it's tough to believe any Winter day could take the lead of this sort of an early Spring Sunday.
Thus far I have taken full advantage. I hit the road just after noon. Spectacular. I was finally clever enough to snag one of my gym shirts with a front pocket, just right for the iPod, which spared me carrying it manually and looking like a sweaty, rampaging version of Apple's ads for the player. Walking is getting to be a habit with me. I didn't walk up to the bank this Friday as I did the last one, because I withdrew my allowance a day early. I did hit the hill yesterday, as part of an April Fool's Day trick on my adipose tissue, but I added a loop that took me a long couple of blocks around into the adjoining town, and back home along the bank route. My legs filed various petitions of complaint, all of which were swept briskly into the furnace.
As I was ascending the hill yesterday, I passed two cyclists, local immigrants from Central America. Many folks from that region in this area use bikes for local transit, not yet being able to afford a car, or possibly not having the proper paperwork to get a license. One guy had passed me at a lower elevation, but as I approached the summit, he was laboriously pushing his bike to the top. The other guy, either stronger or more stubborn, made it juuuuuust short of the peak, when he stalled out and dismounted. If I knew Spanish, I would have called out that I thought he was gonna make it.
I didn't see any cyclists on the hill today, though a number of motorcyclists did roar past me. Any riding clubs with a rally scheduled for today got a real bonus . . . the joy of screaming along one of the area highways or bridges, 100 or 200 strong, engines howling under azure skies, their club colors gleaming in the sun. . . . I once found myself amid a rally on 287, a long line of bikers snaking through the hills and rust-streaked rock formations west of Bergen County. I had to extricate myself from their column, as I had overtaken them and needed to figure which lane of the highway they had selected. Once I did, I made extra-sure to navigate carefully along the line. New Jersey has enough careless drivers who treat bikers like roadkill, and I didn't want to be one of them. . . . especially seeing as I sport a custom license plate that would have made it easier for vengeance-seeking bikers to knock on my door with a tire iron and settle the issue with an old-fashioned stomping.
I am hoping the weather holds out this week, as I want to use this hill, or even some of the flat side-street walking routes I've used in the past, as my aerobic exercise as much as I can. It took me about 35 minutes to surmount the hill, cap a smaller one on the far side, and then retrace my steps to climb both again. From there, I headed across the park in the center of town to the gym, where I had my first strength workout in a week. It was a distracted week, in which I shamefully only hit the gym once, and it felt fantastic to lift even the basic amount of weight I stacked up. I figure I will walk the route tomorrow morning, then return to the gym Tuesday morning, possibly after a gentler walk as a bit of a rest. But I really want to get a solid habit going.
After the first walk yesterday, I entertained the fantasy of quitting the gym and buying a weight bench for my bedroom. I have a NordicTrack here, but after setting it up in 1999 when I moved in and using it twice, I had my downstairs neighbor pounding on the ceiling. So my options for in-house aerobic machinery are limited. A weight bench, along with my current range of dumbbells, would not create the constant 20 or 30 minutes of noise that a treadmill or ski machine might. (And I do miss that thing; I was up to 40 minutes a day at my previous apartment!) If I lived on the ground floor, I would be tempted to reserve the bedroom entirely for weights and an aerobic machine, and buy a high-end sleeper couch. But I'm not thrilled with the security in the building or on the windows, which seem easy to pry open, so unless I worked from home and was on the scene constantly, my going the Crazy Joe Davola route is not gonna happen in this apartment complex. Still, there seems to be enough space in my bedroom for a bench, and just setting the barbell on the rack might not be enough to arouse the ire of the witch downstairs. Maybe at 4:30 in the morning, though. The jury is still quite out.
So for now, I'm trying to go for the walk outside/weights at the gym combo. With a physical scheduled for May 1 — which almost certainly will involve a lecture on obesity — and my mother's surgery scheduled for April 14, I have a couple of reasons to get more fit and establish a solid nutritional and exercise routine. The one I had going last November was valid, but ill timed; starting a strict eating program heading into the holidays was probably a good strong piss into the wind. And I want to soak up as much of the outdoors as the weather and my allergies allow. Schedule insanity at work seems to be edging closer to the surface, and my freedom to exit the office and absorb some spring rays, and maybe even cross the West Side Highway and watch the Hudson flow, will be constrained soon. There is nothing I can do in that office, outside the realm of the carnal, that is as restorative and beneficial to body and spirit as getting my ass into the sun for a good half hour or more. I'm best advised to take that option here, in Jersey, where my time is not scrutinized for productivity and I can wander streets physical and mental unfettered.