Recreation: Get to know your Earth!

I wanted to think a little more on this concept of Green Recreation. Sure, going out on a bike, run or kayak outside means that no electricity was used to light and heat your gym; no energy was used to power your treadmill or lifecycle. Of course that’s a greener way to go.

But, I still think what is really important is that we learn the outdoors is our friend. How can you want to save the earth if you’re not really comfortable being on it?

That was part of the concept of the Olympic Games – if you had a great competition with this guy from another country; if you made friends with him afterwards and got to know him, how could you conceive of invading his country or disrespecting his culture?

I am always astounded to walk by a health club and see the treadmills filled with people ‘running’ inside, when it is a beautiful day outside. When I go for a run, I plot where I’ll go so I can enjoy the finest scenery. That’s the best part of running. How can those gym rats settle for pounding up and down in one place on a moving rubber mat, switching their gaze from a TV screen to a treadmill monitor, when it is so nice outside? 

As a fundraiser for Cornell University, I travel a lot, and I know when you show up in a new city, it’s much easier to drop into the hotel’s health facility than it is to figure out a safe, good route to run outside in a new place.  New surroundings can be intimidating. Yet, taking the extra time to plan a path through the city I am visiting is so incredibly rewarding. Often, I know so much more about a new place than my colleagues, because I went for a run around it early that morning.  Training and tourism – all at once.

I also know when I’m running or biking on a sunny afternoon through the trees and mountains, my mind becomes lost in my surroundings. A friend of mine is a spiritual person, and I’ve described to her that the outdoors is the church in which I pray. When I go paddle on a the flat sheen of an early morning lake, I can feel the energy of my surroundings. When I glide underneath a tree with a huge bald eagle perched above my head, my heart soars. I was lucky enough to travel to Honolulu last week.  Rather than work out in a gym, I rented a Stand Up Paddle Board on Waikiki. I will never forget looking down into the clea, blue water and seeing a giant sea turtle cruise beneath me.

When I drive to a new place with my kayak on my roof, it can take me a long time to find a public landing to access to a river or lake I don’t yet know. When I’m  circling around unable to find anywhere designated for me to get to the water, I always start to despair. The place starts to feel unfriendly to me. Maybe the lake is private? Maybe I’ll get in trouble if I go out on it, or park over there? Is that what folks feel when they choose the inside for their recreation? Do they just not know how great it will be when they finally get out there? 

I moved to the city of Ithaca a few years ago, which is on the south end of upstate New York’s largest finger lake – a beautiful spot. I’ve started to have conversations with other outdoor athletes – runners, bikers, triathletes, ice climbers and paddlers about how we inventory and promote all the wonderful outdoor trails, lakes and rivers that we see as venues, so that others can more easily access them. Maybe if we let more folks know of all the great mountain bike trails and hiking paths, we can get a few more of them outside and enjoying our gorgeous surroundings. That’s Green Recreation.