By and large I have always liked to get my exercise hiking in the woods. I like the varied terrain, spotting cool plants and critters and, because I have a bit of excess competitiveness in my makeup, trying to beat whatever the guide book says is the average completion time for the trail.
Having kids changes things though. First off, they (perhaps thankfully) are not blessed with the level of competitive spirit that I have regarding times of hikes. Secondly, due to many family members going many different places on any given day, I can not drive to a distant peak for a day of hiking with any amount of regularity.
Solution? I walk the track at our local park. There is a great playground there which my younger kids love to play at. They find friends there--kids they know from other aspects of our life often show up there as well. But just as often it is new kids and they are fine with that as well.
So it solved the issue of how to exercise but for a very long time, it wasn't all that enjoyable to me. It wasn't how I like to exercise and though I would do it,because fitness is important to me, I felt a little bit of 'oh poor me' inside. I would half jokingly say to my wife that I felt like a hamster on a wheel.
Toward the end of last years walking season my competitive instincts helped out a bit. I would silently challenge myself to hold off a speed walker or a jogger for a certain length of time or track. Obviously this involved a sort of home grown interval training and that was sort of fun.
This year I still do that but I have also come to realize something that I should have noticed last year. First of all, I should be grateful that I live in a city with a really decent park system. At this park on any given night you see the kiddos at the playground, walkers and joggers. There are kids who are on a flag football team learning the rudiments of the game. Some nights the high school baseball team is playing or practicing. Soccer is huge in our city and there are always people playing. Sometimes it is pick up games, sometimes it is league practice. Sometimes it is just families having fun. One night it was a group of soccer players who were all barefoot which kind of fascinated me.
But what i noticed more this year was that there isn't just a huge diversity in usage of the park, there is a huge diversity in the population. There are women who walk the track in headscarves. There are people from a number of South American countries, people from a variety of African countries, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and more. This is what is good. All these people were getting along. The kids all play together. The occasional glitches in language are overcome. I hear a melange of music as I walk, from salsa, to drum beats, to hip hop.
It is worth the hamster wheel effect to be part of the mix and for my kids to be part of it as well.