The importance of time outside

There’s only one thing I dislike about my new swim/bike/run plan at the moment – and that’s driving to work.

My 15 mile commute has 950 ft climbing out and 1050 ft on the way back and takes about 50mins each way. Leaving home at 7am, getting home at 7pm, and fitting in a swim or a run daily simply isn’t achievable, so I’ve been driving a lot. I’ve got a new car (Honda Civic, my dream car since uni years) and as much as I love it I simply cannot love driving it every day.

Most human beings are, in my opinion, fairly good natured most of the time. Call me naive if you wish, but I don’t believe many people are genuinely unpleasant. We all get grumpy and irritable, but on being faced with a human being – with eyes, mouth, nose and face – we tend not to be too hideous. People behind the steering wheel are just not people – they see only boxes and metal and they seem to lose all sense of courteousness.

On my way to the pool this morning I sat behind a driver tailgateing some poor individual who had the audacity to drive at 30mph in the 30mph zone, swerving around the road before overtaking recklessly. I’m fairly sure they’d never invade the peramateres of personal space like that if they were walking down a corridor – swapping bumper to bumper for bum to bum would be embarrassing.

I do change the system up on a Monday. On Monday I go to the South London Harriers Tri Club swim sessions – an hour in the pool usually translates to about 2k (40mins) actual swimming time at a club night because drills need to be explained and technique honed. Therefore, I supplement it with riding to and from work.

I did just that this Monday. Setting off for my morning ride with frost stinging my fingers and mist hanging in the air was blissful. My commute is almost entirely mapped together by country lanes, there’s only one set of traffic lights and I barely see any cars for the most part:

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Seeing the world in its quiet morning moments, before the pressures of ‘must be here’ and ‘must do this’ have wound their way into my mentality  is something I like to do on a regular basis – if anything just to remind me that all these seemingly great tasks are nothing in the grand scale. The concerns of daily life can melt into the morning dew for all I care – because this is my time.

The same quiet enjoyment of the environment in which we live was what initially attracted me to running, aged 20 and jogging the trails of Stanmer Park. I’d never tried anything like it – I’d danced and ridden horses for exercise, played ball games in PE at school – but never had the free reign to just slam the door and run.

Warming up for the leg burning, bum testing task of running hill reps in Manor Park on Wednesday this week once again provided time to stop and smell the freshness of morning quiet. Despite several ‘dog attacks’ and a fairly painful 12 x hill reps, I still returned pink, glowing, and in love with the world.

And yet today I was back in the pool and losing my temper with the lane traffic (backstroke does not belong in the fast lane unless you are Michael Phelps), before clambering into my car to head off for another day behind my desk.

A day at my desk is fine – I enjoy the typing I get to do there – but that sit-down, stay indoors time has to be supplemented by mornings like my bike commute – moments of quiet contemplation, and appreciation for the outdoors.

I think everybody needs time outdoors – simply to remind us that there is life outside our laptops and that the mammoth tasks of day to day life are minor intricacies to the rest of the world.

Next time you find your blood pressure rising, or your fingers tapping impatiently in the supermarket queue – make a mental note to get outside tomorrow morning – you’ll be glad you did.

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