Several years ago, another mom told me her secret back-to-school ritual: Making a decadent chocolate cake to savor in peace once the kids got on the bus.
Though we were homeschooling at the time, I could totally relate to celebrating “me time” with a little diet debauchery. Now that our kids go to school, though, that sounds like a trap I'd rather avoid.
As our youngest and I rode bikes around the driveway last week, watching for the bus on her first day of school, I began dreaming up my own back-to-school ritual. The ideal way to celebrate, in my mind, was a long run — far enough to include a tasty snack somewhere along the way — where I could be alone with my thoughts.
But I didn't have time for that, or a long ride on my road bike, either. Finally, I realized I was sitting on the solution: I'd take my daughter's fat-tired cruiser for a spin down a nearby gravel road.
That I'd never done this before is a testament to the feng shui-like power of house location in psyching you up — or out — for exercise.
When I was growing up, our quiet country road was a natural extension of our driveway. Our kids' bikes rarely venture onto the road unless they're being hauled somewhere.
For years, I told myself the main reason I never went jogging was because we live along a busy highway. There's a little-used country road nearby, but getting there meant dodging neighbors' dogs along with the occasional semi.
When you're lukewarm about something to begin with, it doesn't take much to derail you. I was thinking about that one day during my first year of jogging, when I forced myself to go for a rare neighborhood run instead of driving to the local greenway. I made it across the highway without incident, only to have a neighbor warn me her dog was out — but that she “didn't think” he would hurt me.
I ignored the barking and kept going, determined to complete my run. But I'd no sooner turned onto that “quiet country road” than I heard gunshots. What if the hunters saw only movement instead of a person and shot at me? It's not a real big woods. What if their bullets whizzed past whatever they were aiming at and sailed out to the road as I jogged by?
In the past, I would've turned around as soon as I heard the first shot. That day, though, I was determined to keep going. So I did, figuring I'd get a closer look at the situation before deciding what to do.
As I approached the woods, the gunshots seemed to get farther away. It turned out the hunters, or target shooters or whatever they were, weren't in this woods at all but in some distant shooting venue. I'd fretted over nothing. And I wound up having a great run — probably even more so because I was appreciating the changes that were taking place in my head as well as my body.
The traffic and dogs don't bother me anymore. If I hadn't learned to deal with those obstacles, I would've missed out on some memorable runs, like the one that took me to the grave of a Civil War soldier ancestor. It might never have occurred to me to run all the way to my brother's house to visit a newborn niece.
Or to celebrate the first day of school with a bike ride.
The sound of tires crunching gravel took me back to childhood. I usually avoid riding on stone roads because my skinny-tired road bike can't handle it. But on Cassie's cruiser, it was a piece of cake.
The kind you don't wind up regretting later.
Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.