Despite my eternal protestations that if I were ever discovered in spandex on the beachfront promenade, my family was probably being held hostage back home while the abductors were torturing me for my pin number. (Just kidding. If they’d suggested exercise, I would have coughed up all my passwords!)
But now my doctor has said I need to exercise for my health, so even though, I thought it was all a bit blah, I have been trying to walk a few kilometres daily. And so far, I have lived to tell the tale.
The problem with Cape Town is the wind though. The first 3km of my journey is either straight into the teeth of the winter northwesterly, or the last 3km involves being prostrated by the howling southeaster in regular buffets. There is a reason writers of old describe wind as a vicious beast, as the imagery aptly conjures up a demented creature breathing out tiny sandy shards of glass either into your face or onto the backs of your legs. That’s why I wear long lycra leggings and sleeves. I almost miss wearing a mask so my face could be completely covered, making me look like an arctic explorer with my hat and sunglasses, as I brave the driving dunes. Not that you can look into people’s faces in that wind, as you bend over parallel to the road. Once I was so busy gazing at the pavement that I strode right past my own sister who had to call me back with an ‘Oy’.
Sometimes it’s quite mild out though and early morning walkers have the opportunity to notice each other and nod or smile, even if the joggers do it through gritted teeth. (You know, I’ve heard of a ‘runner’s high’ and even experienced a bit of that when I was young, but the runners always look so miserable and appear to be in pain.)
People who walk are a fascinating combination. There are the burly men whose strength is belied by the teeny tiny doglets they accompany, who really don’t need much more exercise than running between couches, but who are obviously the reason (or excuse) for the daily constitutional. Then there are the retired, the pink-suited, I’m-new-at-this exercise thing, eager looking women who seem determined to be jolly as they wobble along (I am one of them, minus the fancy suit); then of course one sees the ‘sisters supporting sisters’ – friends who you can see are mouthing off about the venality of their menfolk. There are scary vagrants who stare and mutter, but are probably ill, and their friendlier counterparts like the two sharing a bicycle ride, whom I saw sailing past everyone with broad, broken smiles, and sheer happiness on their faces
There is a rocky outcrop near the turn of my walk which my eldest painted back in Grade 10 and dubbed ‘Shit Rock’ (… I’m not sure he was referring to its guano covering or his own creation which was often the source of unnecessary insecurity – and, clearly – profanity.) On the shore there is a wooden bench from which one can absorb the full majesty of the Cape Town sunset, Table Mountain, and Table Bay with its many vessels at anchor. It is certainly not a crappy place to be. I have spent many a restful moment there, communing with God and Nature and filling my soul with the glory of our city. There was a time that I thought I would die in a foreign land, trapped by marriage and my stay-at-home-mom misery and penury. When I escaped, and returned to Cape Town, it became my habit to thank God for leading me like Moses out of exile back home, every time I look at the mountain. Then I breathed in for my soul’s freedom.
Now I take a breather from my physical exertion on that bench in my motivation to live. My body is a temple… etcetera…, even if for now it is plump and grumpy shrine to Cadbury’s.
Clever people will tell you that 1 hour exercise per day will result in :
- decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol
- increased HDL (good) cholesterol
- improved mood
- decreased blood pressure
- reduced risk of heart disease
- reduced risk of diabetes
Who knows, you may see me actually running one day.
Don’t hold your breath though.