Exercise does not come naturally to me. Which is why I put out my walking clothes and shoes in the evening before I go to sleep.
If given the chance to think up an excuse (it's raining, my ankle is sore, it's rubbish collection day so the streets are filled with vagrants pushing trollies, I have a headache, I'm cold, my nose is running), I'll find one. Which is why I don't give myself the opportunity.
The alarm goes, and before I can talk myself out of it, I am halfway round the first block. Come rain or shine. It's been four months now.
Morning, but not noon or night
I am not a morning person, but I have learnt that either exercise happens in the morning, or not at all. Fortunately I start work fairly late (9.30), so I can stick to my resolution of several years ago never again to get up before it is light, even in winter – unless I am going on holiday. In my defence, this is a reaction to the fact that for 16 years I got up at 6.15 every workday in order to get to my job on time. And then I had had enough.
Back to the road. The el-cheapo walking shoes I bought in January are starting to show the wear and tear, so I suspect I shall have to fork out some real cash and buy something decent.
The Maltese poodle that bit me in January seems to have moved on – whether to a new address or to the Happier Hunting Ground I do not know. I sort of hope it is the latter. The sheepdogs and the Alsations wag their tails when they see me in the morning, but the Rottweiler on the corner still hurls himself snarling to the top of the two-metre fence. It has become part of the ritual of my morning walk and I felt quite disappointed when he was inside the house earlier this week and couldn't do his usual Hound-of-the-Baskervilles routine.
I walk for 30 minutes every morning and I find , as time goes by, that I am covering more distance. This morning, by the time I got home from my usual route, only 25 minutes had passed, and I kept going.
I am enjoying the cold weather and have also realised that there isn't really such a thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothing. I muffle up like an Eskimo before I head out these days.
The corner café where I stop every morning to buy yoghurt and a banana is still a source of information and skinner. Zimbabwe, xenophobia, the peanut allergy of the cashier, the attractive delivery guy from the pie shop and security issues in the area remain the major topics of daily comment.
And then there are the regulars I meet on my route every morning. It is interesting when you do something at exactly the same time every day, that you get to know the people whose routines coincide with yours. The builders at number 74 arrive at the same time I pass by, and so do the three workers at the engineering works. The same people take their kids to school, go to buy a morning newspaper, and have a cigarette on their front verandas. A few weeks ago I had a stomach bug and didn't go walking for two mornings, and two people asked me where I had been.
My blood pressure is still low, I am sleeping better, I find it easier to concentrate, and I don't know if I am imagining things, but my walking outfit seems to fit a little less snugly than it did four months ago.
What's more, I dreamt the other night that I walked from Plettenberg Bay to George Airport, of all places. Maybe a sign of things to come?
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, May 2008)