This spring it felt like we went from an extended winter straight into summer. In mid-April we were subjected to heavy freezing rain referred to as Ice Storm 2018. We had snow and temperatures well below the seasonal norm. In the third week of April we suddenly had a balmy 20 C. The last remnants of winter finally melted. It felt wonderful to peel away the layers of winter jackets, hats and boots and cast off the winter blues that weighs so many of us down.
Neighbours I’d only seen over the previous months as we waved to each other while driving in and out of our garages were now outside doing yard cleanups and walking across the lawn to chat. Walkers, runners and cyclists were out in droves as was the new crop of spring babies being pushed in strollers.
One mild and sunny day in April, while out for one of my spring training runs in preparation for Ottawa Race Weekend, I passed by the Ottawa Civic Hospital and observed numerous patients seated outside in wheelchairs. They were wearing hospital gowns, bathrobes and slippers. Some patients had intravenous poles. Despite their personal health challenges, they looked content being outdoors and able to feel the warmth of the sun on their faces, the gentle breeze on their skin. Like the crocuses eagerly pushing their heads up through the thawing ground, we’d waited so long for our springtime reawakening. I felt compassion for these patients but my heart sang for them too, knowing that despite their suffering they could emerge from the hospital for a few moments of bliss.
I felt so much more energetic than I had for months. I cleaned out the garage and organized the winter and summer sports gear and gardening supplies. I treated myself to a new-to-me bicycle. Having experienced and nearly fully recovered from over six months of pain caused by bulging discs, I decided that rather than give up certain activities, I would adapt accordingly. I did some research and determined that if I wanted to cycle, I needed to get a bike that would allow me to sit fully upright; forward flexion is not conducive to many lower back problems. My trusty quarter-century-old mountain bike was no longer suitable. With my less sporty-looking but very back-friendly cruiser style bicycle that I was lucky to find on consignment for less than half the price of a brand new one, I’ve been able to enjoy leisurely rides all around town. Being able and willing to adapt to one’s changing needs and abilities is key to staying active and fit.
Mother Nature wasn’t quite done having fun with us. In early May, we had a windstorm with 100 km-per-hour winds. But then a few days later it was 25 C., sunny and glorious! There’s an older gentleman I used to notice from time to time walking his dog. Then for a few years I’d see him walking with poles. I’m guessing the dog died. This spring while out running, I saw the man using a walker. He could have stayed home. Instead, he seems to be facing his progressive mobility challenges with courage. I find that inspiring.
A common changing need I and most runners experience at some time is foot-related. Finding a shoe that works best for your feet can make the world of difference. After several of my 20-km runs, I was fed up with the shoes that had been recommended by a foot specialist a few years ago. Whenever I run long distances, these shoes give me horribly large painful blisters. So I reverted back to wearing a different type of running shoe that I had. It doesn’t give me blisters but is too narrow; I only made my situation worse. A couple of long runs and several toenails were bruised and blistering underneath – telltale signs that they’d fall off in the weeks and months ahead. I’ve lost some toenails over the years and just like a lizard’s tail, they eventually grow back. To accommodate my changing feet, I finally bought a different type of shoe that I hope will be kinder to my tender tootsies.
If your changing physical needs are preventing you from getting outdoors to exercise in this wonderful weather, don’t despair. Sometimes a few modifications to your gear or the manner in which you perform certain activities can help you overcome obstacles. I hope you find your place in the sun.