Cross-country skiing is a great exercise for aging bodies. This year I have enjoyed skiing right in my hometown, right out my back door.
I live on the coast and often the snow is gone quickly or never comes in the first place. This year we had a base of several feet and I was able to go out every weekend for a few months. I found a great place to “train.” It’s a trail that looks a lot like a snowmobile trail, but with rails.
There’s a lot to see on the backside of a neighborhood besides the less visible side of houses. Lots of animals use this trail for their distance traveling. Little villages have signs designating their existence, even if they are part of a larger town.
One might expect to see a station because of these signs, but sadly those are long gone. And then there is information about the neighbors in the form of bridge graffiti. I guess there is no surface safe from the graffiti artists of the world. I was able to find a sign that looked like a big arrow on which I could hang a camera and take a picture of myself for Facebook. The sounds and sights of this trail gave me the impression of wilderness, yet I was never far from civilization.
As for the skiing, it’s been wonderful this year. While I normally like to go for long runs on the weekends, this winter I went on a long ski tours. Sometimes you need to adapt a fitness regime to new conditions. Running down the shoulder of Route 1 hasn’t been that easy some days this winter and I really hate running inside on a treadmill, so skiing became a perfect alternative.
Initially, there was the breaking in of the arms, feet and legs because cross-country skiing uses different muscles and body parts from running. Once those muscles woke up, I could really cruise.
Cruising on skis as a 60-year-old means a lot of stops to enjoy the scenery, taking pictures, gingerly crossing roads and bridges, and carefully skiing down the hill to the trail and trudging slowly back up when I was done.
There was a time when I could ski and run in the same day. This year I noticed that once done skiing, I was ready to read, bake, anything that didn’t take heavy breathing. The problem with a flat trail is that you never get to go downhill. Of course, you never have to go uphill, either.
At this writing, my trail has reverted to its original purpose and I have put my skis away. My husband has begun planning for the canoe races, and that means running his campaign to convince me to do them with him. We’ll see. All that cold water just hasn’t been my cup of tea for quite a few years.
Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.