Let’s get physical

Susan Flanagan
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There are plenty of ways to stay active, even during winter

— File image

It’s 7:40 on a Wednesday morning in mid-November and the first female premier of Newfoundland and Labrador sports a grimace as she faces her opposition.                 On this chilly morning, the opposition is not Lorraine Michael questioning the feasibility of the Lower Churchill. It is not Kevin Aylward nor any of the Liberal leadership hopefuls calling for a pre-Christmas sitting of the House.

On this day, the major force opposing the undisputed leader of Newfoundland and Labrador is a stiff westerly wind gusting between 45 and 75 kilometres an hour.

The temperature hovers above 0 C and a half-moon watches over Kathy Dunderdale’s set jaw as she runs along the trail. I say hello but she’s in the zone. Decked out in black pants and a jacket, she’s clipping along at a five-minute-per-kilometre pace. That’s an 80-minute Tely 10 if you train for the distance. Not bad for an almost 60-year-old who only took up running about a year ago. A 130-pound woman maybe in her 30s follows a few paces behind like an obedient Japanese wife. Is she a body guard or personal trainer or supportive friend? I don’t dwell on the question as it’s not my right to know.

Although she’s always in the spotlight, Kathy D. is a shadow of her former self. Through her dedication to fitness and living more healthily, the premier has lost over 100 pounds.

So if Kathy D. manages to squeeze a workout into her hectic schedule, how can we justify not finding the time?

Who or what is your biggest opponent? Medical ailments? Child-care issues? Lack of time? Too many extra-curricular activities?

Or is it lack of motivation? Procrastination? Laziness?

Everyone seems bogged down in things to do. If you become discouraged, remember it does take co-ordination to keep fit. One day recently, for example, I had to pay child No. 3 to take care of No. 5 so I could run for the half-hour No. 4 was in for a bass lesson. Half an hour is barely time to go anywhere, so I may as well park the van and do something right out of the music school parking lot.

My husband and I will be in our 60s while surprise baby is still in grade school, so keeping fit is an important thing — important enough to pencil it into my Day-Timer. I find if it’s written in there, I’ll schedule appointments around it. Otherwise, it’s too easy to let it slide.

If Kathy D. can manage to keep fit alongside cabinet shuffles and premiers’ meetings, then so can I. And so can you.

Of course, we’re approaching that time of year when exercising outside gets more difficult and dangerous due to slippery roads and snow-covered walking trails. What to do?

Take it indoors and head to Mile One or the Jack Byrne Arena for family skating. Or swimming. Although the Aquarena in St. John’s closes for a month every Christmas (Dec. 16 to Jan. 16 this year), the New Y on Ridge Road has finally opened its swimming pool and it’s wheelchair accessible. And there’s always city or town pools like Wedgewood Park or Mount Pearl. You can also do spin classes, hot yoga or karate, traditional aerobics or kick-boxing.

Now if you’re like me, your children may be at the age that they no longer want to spend every waking minute with their loving family. My first four spent an entire three years in British Columbia attached to my hip, so when we got home I was surprised that they ever wanted to see me again.

Anyway, don’t take it hard if your children choose to opt out of family events. It’s probably not a reflection on you. And it doesn’t mean they’re pathetic sloths — oops, did I say that? That’s not very parentally correct. It may just mean they’d sooner find their own way of getting exercise … although sometimes they may need a little nudge.

I have a child built like a Nigerian marathoner, and although he does play hockey, he mostly exhibits slothlike tendencies. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good boy. He takes care of surprise baby almost every day and does his newspaper route without complaint, but the most exercise he gets besides two ice times per week is walking to Breen’s for a Coke or lifting his mouse hand to play a video game.

So although my husband and I get enough fresh air and exercise, we sometimes have trouble convincing all five children to do the same.

One thing they will all do with us is snowshoe or ski. It’s a bit costly to take a family of seven downhill skiing, especially once you factor in travel, hotel and meal costs. But for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, we own our own gear so we’re all set.

Both Pippy Park and Butterpot offer rentals if you don’t own your own gear. And it’s dirt cheap. For my family of seven, it’s $10 per hour or $36 for the day. Pippy Park also has a cross-country ski sledge available for people with physical disabilities. Mind you, the Pippy Park rentals don’t start until January.

Rentals at Butterpot Park are on a drive-out-the-highway-and-try-your-luck basis for Saturday and Sunday afternoons when there’s snow. Saturday morning rentals are reserved for children in the Jackrabbit program and their parents.

One thing I’m going to try this year is the Friday night snowshoeing at Pippy Park. I may go on a hot date with just my husband or I may take some children.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll even see Kathy D. I imagine she’ll be in the zone, a look of concentration on her face as she thinks about her opposition — the wind.


Susan Flanagan is a runner who would rather not reveal the premier’s favourite running spot as it may become overrun with paparazzi. Email her at susan@48degrees.ca.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Pippy Park, Ridge Road Wedgewood Park Mount Pearl British Columbia Butterpot Park

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Recent comments

  • Scott Free
    December 06, 2011 - 11:20

    While I commend the Premier on her weight loss, how about expending some energy on democracy and open the house; afterall, that's why she was elected in the first place; to run the province, not the trails; do that on your spare time; not during the workday.

  • Paula Devereaux
    December 06, 2011 - 09:33

    Whenever I watch TV, I ride my bike instead of inactive sitting - you'll be surprised how long you've been there, without even noticing the time. Way to go Premier Dunderdale :D

  • Paul
    December 06, 2011 - 07:12

    keeping fit is easy...it just takes time. It can be as simple as a 20 minute walk 3 times a week, or you can go quasi olympic if you feel you need to...you just need to do something... I think some people are turned off by the thought of 'all that work'...but for basic healthy living you don't have to bust your hump...just get moving, get your heart rate up for 20 minutes or so...several times a week and your on your way. really, outside of medical conditions, there are no excuses...