This morning I got my exercise by shopping for food. After the weekend I didn't have anything in my apartment that I wanted to eat for lunch and dinner.
So I walked about four and one-half miles to the nearest natural foods store, which is a Whole Foods Market. I picked up salad greens for lunch, grass-fed ground beef for dinner, and a few other items that I needed. Then, I walked back home with my groceries in my daypack.
This was a winter walking destination for me. During the rest of the year I get my exercise every other day or so with a long hike in the Rocky Mountains that rise just west of here. Now, in the winter, I still get up there, but on my snowshoes and less often than the hikes at other times of the year.
The sub-freezing weather of winter holds me back from many long expeditions. But I can stand the temperature for an hour or so when I bundle up. I even love the challenge of walking during one of the frequent snowstorms we are experiencing this season. Today the sidewalks were icy, but since I wore my YakTrax on my boots, I had no concern about slipping and falling.
Walking from my apartment around town to a destination gets me going in the same way that the prospect of taking beautiful photographs of nature motivates me to hit the trail during the rest of the year. I do carry one of my cameras with me every time I go for a walk, but most of the time I don't find anything too exciting to shoot in the snow on these icy winter walks.
On these winter days when I don't need to pick up food, I find that other destinations pull me out of my apartment just as well. Usually I walk to one of three coffee shops within a five-mile round-trip of my apartment. I stopped overdosing on caffeine after a month of terrible headaches in March, so now I stick with decaf. Of course, just about any coffee shop also offers free wi-fi where I can check my email on my iPod Touch.
I often walk to the closest branch of the city library to pick up and return books, check my email with its free wi-fi, and catch up on some magazines. Once a week or so I even take a jaunt to one of the half dozen restaurants within walking distance for lunch. Whatever the place, having a destination pulls me out of my warm apartment for the regular exercise that I need as much as anyone who has diabetes does.
One of my good friends tells me that his exercise these days is confined to shoveling snow and climbing stairs to his office. That's something he has to do. My exercise is something that I want to do.
I like doing it a lot better than working out at the 24-hour fitness center in the apartment complex where I live. That was the less interesting way that I got my exercise in winters past.
Getting out to coffee shops for a cup of decaf and the opportunity to socialize is something that I am particularly enjoying this winter. Sometimes I find other people there just hanging out and ready to talk. I have had some most interesting conversations with them.
This reminds me of the crucial role that coffee shops have played in Western society for the past 300 years. In a book I just finished reading, The Invention of Air, author Steven Johnson attributes coffee shops to the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment that developed throughout Europe in the eighteenth century. It was in a London coffee shop that Joseph Priestley, who we generally credit for discovering air, regularly met with polymaths like Benjamin Franklin and others. The invention of the coffee shop at that time was key to the development of Western philosophy and culture because until then the people who could have been in the thinking class started their days instead with a few beers. But in their coffee shops they traded one drug for another, the stimulus of caffeine for the dullness of alcohol.