Saturday, August 31, 2013

Path to fitness

I hear there are a few treadmills on the top floor of my condo. I'm sure they're fun to run on, with a view of Lake Ontario, but that's not my thing. During my daily runs, I often stroll by ground-floor gyms of condos that shore up Toronto's waterfront, watching those dreadmill runners with almost pity -- even in the deep dreadful month of February.

Most mornings, outside my waterfront condo's fifth-floor window, I'll watch the lake and if I'm lucky, at the right time of year, I'll see the sun rise -- hues of pink tint the sky, the calming lake and trees signifying what kind of day is coming.

My awesome, soon to be former, view.

Usually, within a few seconds, I'll scan the leaves or a nearby flag at the base of a nearby fire station to gauge wind speed. Then, with little fail, I'll see a runner or two making their way along the sidewalk. No matter the season or precipitation, they'll urge me out the door, to join them on the trails I know only too well.

It all makes me want to run.

Home, I am now certain after living here for 10 years, shaped my connection with the outdoors, and though "my" outside is no different than any other front step in this big city, the uninterrupted paths that  I see every morning have turned the view into possibilities of finding the beauty of the trails. Not snow, nor rain nor sleet pushed me inside into that comfy treadmill.

Trails like these  -- and my neighbourhood is going through a massive development to make our waterfront kind of awesome, the type that narrows car corridors in favour of wider tree-lined bike and running lanes -- inspire movement. I moved here from the downtown core, where traffic lights and narrow sidewalks impeded movement. The first time I was urged out into my waterfront neighbourhood to run, shunning my exercise bike, it was the promise of exploration from my front door.

There are those who say car-dependent suburbs, where sidewalks are shunned in favour of more front lawns, are keeping us sedentary. Then you look at cities -- New York, for instance -- where people walk far more. Where I live and work, myself and thousands of others walk to do groceries, walk to work, and run when we want to move. It's faster than our slow-assed streetcars.

To the north of me, in land that was empty a decade ago, the CityPlace development will boast a few dozen condos and a population of 11,000, a community that starts with 450 square feet boxes and a restless population. A few kilometres to the west, Liberty Village has another 3,500 residents and seen to double in a year.

All the while, as the years go by, my trails that used to be so empty are now almost crowded, saved for those four fall/winter months of the year where only the obsessed are willing to tackle negative temperatures.

Toronto's condo boom

Maybe it's this now-liveable city that is turning Toronto's running boom a necessity, as other cramped residents seek freedom from their shrinking square footage.

Recently a yoga studio and a CrossFit location popped up within a block of my condo. I look down and see the CrossFit guys doing laps of the parking lot next door, and the mat-toting yogis head toward their stretch. Kayakers dot the water's edge and as I type this on my balcony, I'm watching a runner power up over a temporary bridge as the city tears up Queens Quay. Cyclists attempt to weave around this madness.

In about a month, if all goes well, I'll be moving out of my condo into a more spacious townhouse. As I was on the house hunt, I told my realtor I was a runner, while thinking: "Where can I move to and still find running trails." I've been lucky to land a great spot in Liberty Village, not more than 800 metres away from my beloved waterfront trail.

But I think i'll miss being across the street from the path that shaped the runner that I am today.

20 metres from my front door. Love it.

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