by Don Church & Tony Schillaci
Although spring will be bursting out all over officially on March 21, make sure it doesn’t burst your waistline or other highly visible parts of your body.
Now we don’t mean putting yourself through an Olympian marathon at a local gym, or rowing yourself across the Sound to Long Island. No, no, no! We’d rather stay pleasingly plump and slowly roll the lawn flat with our winter bulk than perspire ourselves into a state of exhaustion. We don’t mean to demean gyms or workout places where you use repetitive exercises to get in prime shape, but there are other ways to look and feel your best this spring.
For instance, when you think spring, think FUN – lots of fun. It’s variety that you should look for to keep as fit as a fiddlehead – physically and mentally.
Enjoying food – fresh, high-quality ingredients – is a good place to start self-improvement whether it’s a feast or a fast, but we don’t want to overdo or underdo it right now; we just want to get our share of delicious meals that will put a spring in our step and have mercy on our stomachs. As the days get lighter, so should our meals. Spring greens, reds, yellows, purples help to make us feel full and shed excess winter weight at the same time.
We all know that exercise is good for us, but getting started can be a problem, so making it fun is the challenge. There are a few painless ways to spring over that hurdle.
It’s usually too cold the last weeks of March and even early April to be ‘up and doing’ outdoors; so here’s the perfect time to warm-up for real exercising by tackling spring cleaning, refurbishing, indoor repairing, and hauling attic, garage and closet clutter off to the dump.
To brighten up your home, buy fresh-cut and potted blooming bulbs – daffodils, hyacinth, tulips and other spring blossoms. Putting just a few in each room will bring spring indoors while it’s still a bit too cool to play outdoors. The aroma therapy of the flowers contributes to your mental happiness! And while you’re at it, open any sun-filled windows to let in the fresh air and remember to whistle while you work. (For the pucker-challenged, just hum!)
By the time you finish those projects, it’ll probably be time to head outdoors into a bracing spring day. If you have gardening space, getting it in shape will put you in shape, too. If your farmin’ area is really small, try a gypsy garden – plants in rich soil in recyclable buckets with handles. If you move, your fleet-of-foot garden goes with you.
Once spring warms up, it’s time start walking which can be less drudgery and more fun if you pick places that are interesting or eye catching or breathtaking or, if you’re an optimist, all three. For instance, southeastern CT has many handsome small towns that offer off-the-beaten-walking, running, cycling routes.
Try Stonington Borough along Water Street to duBois Beach, and also along the Harbor. There are many marked public-access docks, paths and shaded side streets on the edge of downtown that offer beautiful homes and gardens of every style to ogle. The same treats await in Mystic, Essex and Old Saybrook along its rivers and coves.
If you get lost remember that’s half the fun of traveling to new places. The picture postcards in your eyes will make you forget you’re exercising. And for those who love to exercise, it will double your pleasure.
Town and state parks abound in our area: Bluff Point in Groton is a one of the finest with it’s wide walking path from the large parking lot and picnicking area, past the Poquonnock River’s sandy beaches to the spectacular view at the top of the point overlooking Long Island Sound – about a 1 ¼ mile hike.
The same goes for the adjacent Haley Farm State Park. Other recommendations are Harkness Park in Waterford, Rocky Neck in Niantic, and so many other wide-open spaces along Long Island Sound, Niantic Bay, and the mouth of the CT River for walkers, joggers, cyclists, boaters and picnickers. There’s a different place to explore for almost every day of a month, including places north of I-95, starting with the magical Conn College Arboretum.
Public and conservancy properties offer wide open spaces and a chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Just pack a bottle of liquid refreshment, a picnic or snacks to take advantage of the many places along the way to sit, sip and munch away surrounded by beautiful scenery.
For foodies, there are 87 farmers’ markets in the state. Leisurely roaming around them (with a recycled shopping bag), you’ll find that farmers sell damaged tomatoes and other veggies and fruits for a pittance. (www.ct.gov/doag)
For seniors, 65 and older – who will admit it – get a Charter Oak Pass for free admission to state parks, forests, Gillette Castle, Fort Trumbull, among other attractions. It admits a car load regardless of age, as long as one has the pass. Pick up your free-for-life card in New London’s Fort Trumbull Museum or the gatehouse at Harkness State Park in Waterford.
The active senior can also get a free-for-life fishing license. Even if you don’t fish, you can easily learn how to with all the free fishing publications that are available in your town hall where you can get your free license. If you’re single, you never can tell who you might hook up with along the state’s rivers, streams and shoreline that could put an unexpected spring in your step. That’s good for your health, too.
There are nineteen vineyards that are easy to find by following the CT Wine Trail through some of the most beautiful countryside in the state. You’ll find them on www.ctwine.com/wineries where you get order a free brochure with maps and directions to the Shoreline and the Highland trails. Not all have free tasting, so check before burning precious gas. Many of the wineries have wonderful picnic areas or you can tailgate surrounded by the vines.
Free passes to Mystic Seaport, The Mystic Aquarium Institute for Exploration, and other attractions are available in local libraries. If you don’t have a library card, it’s easy to get one – another free gift from your community. This is another opportunity to do some steppin’ while being dazzled at these outstanding attractions.
To mix and mingle with old acquaintances and new friends, all the local parks and recreation commissions have pages of activities, including arts, crafts, entertainment and a lot more on their respective websites. Just Google the name of your town – any town – and add, “parks and recreation.” The state tourism site www.ctvisit.com has more stuff listed than you could possibly do this spring.
Let the Resident know if you discover other ways to jump into spring that are fun, non-fattening, legal and qualify as self-improvement. Your idea might be featured here next year!