Weekends with Womack

Shake it up, baby: finding new active activities

This weekend I was at a party with some old friends I’d been house mates with back in the 80s. Some of you readers may not remember the 80s, but those were the days of perms and poodle hairdos, like this one:


My poodle perm didn’t even look that good.

At this party, former house mate Nancy told us about a friend of hers who is in physical therapy for arthritis in her ankle. The therapist told her to do two things:

1) get outside each day to do some activity;

2) learn something new each week.

Nancy’s friend, who must be a conscientious sort, set about to do just that. With respect to 2), she has so far tried a few new things. She rented a bike and decided to relearn how to ride. Apparently there were some hitches in the proceedings, which necessitated walking the bike back to the shop a few times (e.g. chain fell off), but eventually she was rolling down her local bike path. The following week she bought a basketball, went to a local outdoor court, and got some kids to teach her how to shoot hoops. How cool is that? Next week she plans to go kayaking with Nancy.

Is this a great idea or what?

As much as I love my primary sports (cycling, squash, cross-country skiing in winter), it’s possible to get in a sports rut. And lately I’ve been feeling a little restless, not knowing exactly what I’m looking for, but casting about for some novel experiences. Nothing radical like running off to join the circus, mind you, although they do teach trapeze courses in Boston and my friend Steph assures me it’s big fun.


Well, flying through the air with the greatest of ease is probably not my thing, but I am trying a couple of activities that feel new-to-me, as I haven’t done them in a long time.

First up is an ocean kayaking skills course. My friend Janet signed both of us up for a 2-day ocean kayaking course that takes place actually in the ocean. I say this because lots of ocean kayaking courses are done in rivers and lakes, as it’s quieter, easier and less daunting for beginners. I’ve done some ocean kayaking and even blogged about it here. But my skills are rusty and also limited—I’ve never done an assisted rescue at sea, much less a self-rescue in the ocean.


But we’re going to learn these skills and much more. I’ve always wanted to take a sea kayak trip off the coast of British Columbia, paddling near orcas. Doesn’t this look awe-inspiring?


Yeah, it scares me a little, too. But it’s exciting to move outside your comfort zone, develop some new skills, check out a completely different sports subculture. Starting with the summer course seems like a move in the right direction.

The second new-to-me activity is much less thrilling, but nonetheless something I’ve not done in years: running. Well, more like jogging. I’ve never ever been a runner. Even while training for a couple of triathlons about 10 years ago, I swam and biked, but didn’t run much at all. I sort of jogged a little and hoped for a miracle. And it was a minor miracle that I finished the running sections of those triathlons…

But recently I’ve been curious about running: wondering if maybe, if I actually train, maybe I could in fact finish a 5k sometime. It turns out there are apps for precisely this goal. I just started using the Couch-to-5K app, about which I’ve read some positive reviews. I’ve finished the first 3 workouts, and so far so good. The whole program is 9 weeks long, so we’ll see how this goes. If by then I can actually run/jog 5K, I may enter a race in the fall. What an idea—I never thought I would choose or be able to run a 5K race. Just the feeling of wanting this and trying it out is new and different.

Who knows how each of these new activities will go? Who knows what goals I’ll meet or what my skill or interest level will be in a few months? But for now, it’s enough that I’m shaking it up.

17 thoughts on “Shake it up, baby: finding new active activities

  1. I love this! Thank you. I am about to get back into playing netball after a 13 year hiatus. I’m excited but a bit anxious, when I was young I was a reasonably good player, but it’s been a very long time. So I’m setting the expectations bar low and hoping to just have some fun and meet new people. (And be able to walk the next day – netball kills my calves).
    The kayaking course looks like a fabulous thing to do. I hope you have a great time. I look forward to hearing about it and might just have to check out if there is something similar here in spring.

  2. Hi– thanks for the comments! Hmmmm, netball… Another new activity to think about. I agree about setting the bar low– just getting out there and partaking of the fun and folks sounds great. Will update y’all as events unfold.

  3. Love this, Catherine. I am actually on week 8 of my C25k app. Great to see you. All the best, Nancy

  4. What a well-timed post. I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m writing the chapter on a attitude for a sustainable routine. One of the biggies is to have variety and a wish list of things to try! So I was going to post about that within the next week or two myself. Interception! (No worries btw).

    I love that you’re doing the couch ton5K. There’s another good app called ‘ease into 5K’ if you find the couch to 5K isn’t working for you. Keep us posted (and post about your running experience!).

    1. Hi Tracy– I’d love to read your thoughts on how to bring about and manage variety in one’s activity routine. The wish list idea is a great one; still, implementing it can be difficult time-wise. Thanks for the info about the other running app; will report back in a few weeks on how things are going. You are a great role model for me here– you manage to balance a bunch of activities and figure out when and how to focus more intensely on one when you need and want to. I’d like to get better at that!

  5. If you hit a week in C25k where things don’t seem to click, go ahead and repeat the week. It’s designed to easily expand in that way for the different places people can end up hitting snags. And have fun!

    1. Thanks Caitlin; I have read that some folks find the jump to 20 minutes of running with no break a difficult one, so that’s a good idea. Will report progress…

  6. While kayaking is great fun and the Pacific Northwest is amazing, getting that close to an Orca is wildly illegal and will cost you big-time. Bring your binoculars and enjoy the wildlife from a safe distance. Love your blog!

    1. Hi– wow, that is very good to know. When looking online for pics of paddling with orcas, almost all of them showed kayakers farther away. This picture looked more dramatic, so I used it for that effect. Will bring binoculars for sure– it’s also safer for us and for them. Glad you like the blog– we like having interactive readers like you!

  7. Love this. One of my favourite things about being reasonably fit is being able to try new things and not worry about a fitness barrier. You can concentrate on learning new skills without worrying about getting into shape first. There’s lots on my wish list: fat biking next winter, dusting off my snow shoes, swimming (now summer is really here) and laser sailing/racing.

    1. Thanks– yes, this is such a boon for people who engage in activity as a default in their lives. Another thing to be thankful for these days. Your list sounds fun; don’t forget to add cross-country skiing… 🙂

      re fat biking: lots of my friends do this in winter, and I’m all for buying more bikes, but for some reason I’m not psyched to buy a fat bike. They rent them around here– were you thinking of renting or buying?

      My wish-list for gear purchases right now includes skate skis, a new road bike sometime in the next year or two, maybe another squash racket, and I’d LOVE to own an ocean kayak, but currently have no place to put it (my basement isn’t walk-in). Fun to think about…

      1. I want to bike year round, in snow, off the roads, and so that means a fat bike. They don’t rent them here but I’d like to borrow one first. And yes, cross country ski. I’ve got skis but the weather here doesn’t cooperate as often as I’d like.

  8. My wishlist for things to try is so long! However, it’s more like a bucket list at the moment because all of my funds go to supporting the family and kids at the moment. Once I move back into the full time work world from the stay at home mom world. …it’s game on!
    Great post!

  9. Awesome! I really enjoyed reading your post and I got quite a few good laughs out of it as well. Dancing is my main form of movement (I’ve tried going to the gym, didn’t enjoy it, never got into running…. etc) and while I love dancing, I’ve also been feeling like I’m stuck in some kind of “movement rut”. So I joined Meetup.com and last Sunday I went to an acrojam/acroyoga session. It was so liberating and scary and just FUN. I feel even more encouraged to keep on discovering new things/physical activities after reading your post, so thank you and good luck on your journey!

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