Friday, March 03, 2006

I walked three miles in my pyjamas

First thing I did this morning after the boys left for school was to fire up my 45- minute aerobic walking tape. Since my pyjamas were going to be thrown into the wash today anyway, I just left them on rather than searching through the piles of clean laundry for a workout outfit. 3 miles (just under 5 km) later, my pyjamas and I were slightly sweaty but I was feeling pretty good. This exercise stuff isn't half bad once you get into it.

Sometimes I find it really difficult to fit exercise time into my 'schedule' of daily activities. Not that I have a lot to do, just that there are other things I'd rather do than exercise, and they always seem to take priority. So now I've decided to take a kind of "pay yourself first" attitude to getting fit. You know how financial advisers often suggest that when you get your paycheck you should put something away for yourself first rather than blowing it all and putting whatever's left at the end of the month (usually not much) into your savings account? That's what I'm trying to do. What little energy I have will go to exercise first and other priorities later. Sort of like making a deposit towards my future. I plan to be on this earth for quite some time to come and I figure I better make the best of what I have and keep it in good running order.

I have never been and will never be particularly athletic. When I was a child my mother tried to get me to move occasionally by enrolling me in all sorts of terrifying lessons - swimming (OK, I have to admit I do enjoy swimming), gymnastics (lord have mercy), tennis (never again), ice skating (well, at least I got to wear a pretty red dress while I was falling down), jazz dancing (recreation centre went on strike after the second class - thank you karma gods) and so on.

While I was exercising today, I was thinking about one physical challenge that I actually did enjoy. Once, and only once I climbed a mountain. Really. With a backpack and snowshoes and an ice axe and everything.

It was in 1979, I was 16, just a little slip of a thing in the 10th grade at a girls' private school when our headmistress decided it was time for something more adventurous than singing hymns at morning assembly and flirting with the boys on the bus on the way home every afternoon. She signed up all three grade 10 classes for some 'experiential education.' Yikes.

We travelled to Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island and took part in an outdoor education program that involved things like walking across logs, repelling off tall buildings, canoeing and mountain climbing. No stiletto heels allowed.

We were divided into two groups, those who wanted to take a canoe trip, and those who thought they could climb a mountain and live to tell about it. Not being that keen on canoeing, my best friend and I had put our names down for the 'Mountaineering Expedition' a 2-day trip up Mt. Myra, about 2000 metres at the summit. There were 8 girls in total along with our very, very patient guides J and M.

Most of the gory details have been washed from my brain, but I do remember large amounts of whining and complaining and even a few tears along the way. It was freezing cold. There was snow everywhere. Our snowshoes were big and cumbersome and took quite a while to get used to. And we drove poor J crazy by referring to our ice axes as ice picks. "Girls", he said " I've told you once and I'll tell you again. We are climbing a mountain here, not drinking cocktails. Ice picks belong in bars."

After spending an uncomfortable night in two-man tents and managing to cook up some disgusting-looking but nourishing food with our camp stoves we continued our journey. Going up was much more difficult than coming down and we were all completely exhausted when we did finally make it to the summit. The feeling of accomplishment, however, was overwhelming and the wonderful stillness and breathtaking view at the top of the mountain was enough to make even a bunch of giggly teenagers stop talking for a while.

Our descent was more like slipping and sliding than mountaineering and we arrived back just before nightfall, happy to still be alive and sorely in need of a hot shower and a decent meal.

The final night at the lodge was dedicated to dressing up and performing a bunch of funny skits and songs about our experiences. J got out his guitar and composed this little ditty in honour of our conquering Mt. Myra. I wrote it down at the time and saved it. Brings back a lot of good memories.

Hypothermia Blues by J.R.

My fingers, my toes, my ears and my nose,
They used to be pink, it's true.
But ever since I've been climbing,
They've been hypothermic blue.

I'm freezing, I'm freezing, I'm cold.
I'd enjoy myself, I was told.
As I lie in my tent, my energy spent,
I'm freezing, I'm freezing, I'm cold.

They gave me a party of schoolgirls,
Young ladies of culture and birth.
But one night with them in the mountains
Was more than my job was worth.

The mountain we climbed was called Myra,
Quite pretty and covered with snow.
I pulled with a rope at the front end,
And Marcia whipped from below.

The dinner we ate was fantastic,
A regular gourmet spread.
We at with a spoon by the light of the moon,
And then we rolled into bed.

They had trouble finding a bathroom.
They were bursting for a pee,
'Til I told them that in the mountains
You can go behind any tree.

The second day we went for the summit.
We climbed and we climbed and we climbed.
Up steep slopes, gullies and ridges,
We were scared spitless most of the time.

Some hung on with their fingers.
Some bit their teeth on the rope.
But when they called it an ice pick,
I knew we hadn't much hope.

But amazingly we did it,
And then on the summit we stood.
And I knew that these girls were the best in the world,
And that climbing was part of their blood.


At March 03, 2006 3:28 p.m., Blogger Sandra said...

Wow, great memory!
And walking first thing in the morning is wonderful, good exercise and makes a good start for the day. Makes it easy to nap later in the day, too.

At March 03, 2006 5:55 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Sandra - a nap is sounding really good right now. ;-)

At March 03, 2006 6:11 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a great story! What a wonderful memory, and the song was adorable.

I've started back with the Leslie walks again, too. I'd forgotten how much better mentally and physically I feel if I do at least 2 miles. I figure that even if I don't always eat the way I should, at least I can feel good about getting some exercise. So way to go, girlfriend, on putting yourself first on your list. You know the saying... If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.

Anonymous Wabbit

At March 03, 2006 7:49 p.m., Blogger woman wandering said...

Loved this ...!

I prefer the afternoon nap over the exercise but hope to get back to my 'learn to run course' next week ... we had just begun exchanging good dvds when my knee gave up on me ;)

At March 03, 2006 11:51 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

You go, Girl! Hmm. Wonder if Donica and I can find a time to do that together. We just found out she has Type 2 Diabetes. UGH. The exercise would be good for both of us, even though I try to take daily walks outside.

So glad you saved that song. What a great memory to share all these years later!

At March 03, 2006 11:52 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

Another thing we share in common; I also climbed a mountain when I was 16: the Wildstrubel in Switzerland!

At March 04, 2006 12:20 a.m., Blogger Dixie said...

You're inspiring me to change my exercise time to be first thing in the morning. I tend to put it off until later in the day and by then I'm all kinds of creative when it comes to making excuses not to do it.

At March 04, 2006 12:52 a.m., Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

That's a lovely trip down memory lane! Thank you for you bday wish!!!

At March 04, 2006 1:18 a.m., Blogger Tim Rice said...

That's a neat memory! Thanks for sharing the story and the poem.

At March 04, 2006 1:28 a.m., Blogger Haddock said...

Wow! you climbed a mountain. I've tried excercising first thing in the morning, but then I'm too knackered to do anything else for the rest of the day! :)

At March 04, 2006 4:55 a.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I sure hope I can still remember stuff like that too!

At March 04, 2006 7:36 a.m., Anonymous Kiwi_kath said...

Ice pick. heh heh.

Great story.

At March 04, 2006 8:06 a.m., Blogger Karen said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing!

At March 04, 2006 8:59 a.m., Blogger christina said...

Wabbit - it is a nice feeling once you're finished and sometimes I think that the exercise is way more important than the food, as long as you're not going overboard with the eating.

wandering woman - Your poor knee! What a drag when you were doing so well.

Ginnie - I'm sure you'd be able to do it. I was just reading in a news magazine on the effects of exercise in preventing disease AND even eliminating it if you've already got something. Of course it can't cure diabetes, but I'm sure it couldn't hurt in makin the body stronger and more resistant.

Cathy - 16 year olds are invincible! I'd love to hear your story.

Dixie - Yep, if I put it off, I get too tired or distracted and never do it.

Elemm - hope you had a great birthday. :-)

Tim - it's one of those memories that is kind of at the top of the list in my cluttered mind.

Haddock - I have days where it kills me and others where I feel very energetic afterwards.

Expat - Yes, it's hard for us old people to remember sometimes. LOL! I can't remember every single detail, but some things just stick with you.

Kiwi - We almost drove the poor man to the edge with the ice pick thing. :-)

Karen - it was so much fun, despite the complaining. :-)

At March 06, 2006 9:32 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Christina, it makes me want to hit the gym right now. Climbing a mountain is something to be really proud of, and I'm in the midsts of debating whether to climb Mt. Kenya or not (yeah, Kilimanjano has been considered and ruled OUT). I think of myself as being fairly athletic but I also have a low tolerance for discomfort.


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