Forty years ago, Dr. Kenneth Cooper's book “Aerobics” convinced me of the need for physical nourishment. I began to exercise by jogging several times a week, however, this soon became more like work and I wanted to find something that I would enjoy. I yearned for an active sport and soon decided on full court basketball, which I then played for many years.
When I reached my mid-60's, I was playing two hours of full court basketball - twice a week - with guys half my age and younger. I stopped, not because I couldn't keep up, but because my reaction time had declined against the quick young players. When I was unable to play basketball any longer, I had to find new ways to exercise. But what?
I started a routine of a 10-minute warm-up, 15 minutes of lifting weights, 15 minutes riding a stationary bike and 20 minutes on a treadmill every other day. This was effective, but too much of a routine! It lacked excitement and variety. Again I became complacent.
I needed a rewarding exercise, but more importantly something to look forward to! I decided to take an early morning walk in a forest preserve one day every weekend as a bonus for my weekday program. After doing this for several months, I started noticing new things I had completely ignored before.
First and foremost, unlike walking on the city sidewalks, while walking through the forest preserve and communing with nature, most everyone greets me with a "Good Morning!" We often do not realize how two little kind words, from a stranger, can boost our vitality and
My walk through the forest preserve is entirely on a gravel path through a varied terrain. First, I look at my watch. Then when I complete my walk, the time from start to finish is "exactly" one hour. This is interesting, as I do not try to walk either faster or slower, but the duration of my walk is always - one hour.
Starting with a steep decline down a short hill, at the bottom of the hill, I make a turn into what I refer to as "the forest" where the trees are 40-50 ft. in height, and usually the home for many birds. As the trees lean over the path, creating a cathedral, the choir of birds break the silence.
To my left is a small lake with an island, where I occasionally hear the barking of coyotes that evidently have swam to the island or crossed on the winter's ice.
Once through "the forest", I cross one of three small wooden bridges on my path and I come to the first prairie area that is home to my "Robin Friends". They usually stay about 30 feet in front of me. Then, when I get too close, they fly another 30-40 feet further down the path, almost as though they are saying: "This way, John. Follow us, we know the way." After about four to five flights in front of me, they say: "You are on your own now," and they are off to the trees.
The path is edged on each side of me with short grass whose blades glisten with the early morning dew, like tiny diamonds. The path turns to the left. There in front of me at the edge of the prairie is a wall of white birch trees, signaling that penetrating their guard is not a good idea.
As I corner around the birch trees, I cross the second wood bridge and see about 100 small 15 ft. poplar trees with roots in a bog area of water up to three inches deep.
After a storm, an occasional tree has lost its battle with the wind, lying across my path. I ache for it's demise, but continue along to the third bridge.
This bridge is indicative that I would be heading for a steady incline to the highest point of my walk. My breathing increases as I near the top and cross into the Illinois Big Prairie area. There the path makes a complete circle around the perimeter of the prairie and back to the highest point.
The first section of the prairie is where the gold finch and barn swallows live; flying around, seeking the small insects in the air. The gold finches are very active in the summer and fall, when the thistle weeds gift them with their seeds. A gold finch sitting on top of a thistle looks like a yellow flower on a dried weed.
As I walk further along the path each spring, I pass several low pond areas that contain hundreds of frogs that are glad to see the change of season and proceed to announce their happiness with their soothing croaking voices.
Continuing down the gravel path is the Bunny Briar, where the little rabbits pop out of the brush. After freezing in a spot, hoping I don't see them, they finally give up, sporting their energy to escape my large presence.
Back to my High-Point Path I start a return covering my original route.
As I walk down, I pass the poplar trees just as the wind picks up and the trees start slapping their leaves together applauding me and saying: "Nice job, John. You're looking good! Keep on walking!"
Motivating me for the balance of the trip, this prepares me for the steep climb up the short hill - back to my starting point.
I look at my watch and yes, exactly one hour once again - not a minute less or a minute more.
We all need physical nourishment - so let your imagination run with you and make it enjoyable.