Weekends with Womack

Everyday exercise and car-free living, or how I learned to stop worrying and love hauling groceries

G’day blog readers—I’m now relocated to Australia for the next 2.5 months for a sabbatical work trip (with adventuring on the side). Right now I’m in Sydney for the month of October, visiting here to do some research, chat with people and give a talk. I’ll be moving on to Adelaide for a few weeks to chat with other folks and give other talks, then back to Sydney until mid-December. All this is rather thrilling, as I haven’t had a long trip like this for many years.

Long-distance travel is definitely a shock to the body, especially when it involves sitting on places for many hours (15+ for my LA-Sydney leg; ugh). There’s been a lot of research on the effects of jet lag on athletes. The effects range from insomnia to gastrointestinal distress to lowered cognitive and physical performance. Two main non-pharmacological treatments are recommended for jet lag: 1) natural sunlight—get outside and move around in the new environment during the day; and 2) time—give yourself a few days to get adjusted to the new time zone, schedule and cadence.

So, in service of taking my own advice, after I landed early yesterday morning Sydney time (and had a nap—yes, I know that’s kind of a no-no, but it was not optional), I headed out into my new neighborhood to get food, purchase some groceries for my flat, and explore a bit.

It’s just lovely here in Sydney—it’s high spring, flowers are blooming and this weekend temperatures are in the 90s (33 C right now). I enjoyed walking around, checking out houses, gardens, and seeing what shops were in my area. I got a coffee and brunch at a café, then walked about 15 minutes to a grocery store to get some supplies.

Man, I forgot how sweat-inducing it is to haul groceries for any length of time on foot! Usually when I’m home in Boston I either use my car or ride my bike and put groceries in the panniers. I did bring my road bike with me, but have not set it up yet (that is my project for later this afternoon). Even so, this bike doesn’t take a rack (long story, trust me on this), so I’ll have to use my backpack or just carry them on foot.

And I’m so happy about this.

Yes, one of the big perks I see about this trip is the opportunity to get a lot of everyday exercise in addition to the road riding and kayaking and swimming and nature walking I have planned. This blog has posts about everyday exercise here and here, among other places. I also hear that Sam and Tracy have a chapter on it in their upcoming book. 

There are loads of studies tracking the positive effects of urban car-free living, vs. car-dependent suburban or rural living. As we know, science is complicated—urban living tends to be associated with higher stress whereas rural living can provide stress reduction, for instance in its proximity to nature. But, it’s also been suggested that urban environments can promote increased physical activity, provided there’s enough access to services and facilities.  Again, the story is complicated: for lower-income people and populations that already suffer from health and income disparities, urban living is not so great for their health.

I’m aware of and very grateful for the privilege of the job I have and the opportunities to travel to interesting places, do stimulating work and live in areas that are safe and accessible to services. I’m also very aware that this change presents an opportunity to shake up my previous habits and restart some new ones, a little bit at a time. That means for me now moving around without a car. I’ll be adjusting my timing for shopping, for going to the office, for meeting friends. I’ve brought bike commuting clothing and comfortable knocking-around-town shoes and sandals. I haven’t purchased a Fitbit to track all this, but will be seeing how it feels over time to increase my everyday activity (in addition to planned exercise and sports). And I’ll report back.

Stay tuned also for a blog post on how a change of environment and location and social group affects my eating habits. I’m quite interested to see what happens here, and will let y’all know. For now, g’day and see y’all next week.

4 thoughts on “Everyday exercise and car-free living, or how I learned to stop worrying and love hauling groceries

  1. I love living car-free, a bike really gives you plenty of freedom, and if you have access to public transport, you’re golden. You’re so lucky to be in a completely new environment, it is such a great opportunity to change habits! I just did the same thing for an internship, although it was only one month. If you’re interested in my thoughts on that: https://currentlylovingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/public-experiments-in-self-improvement/

  2. Love this post! I’ve always enjoyed a car-free lifestyle, thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. Hope you have a great time in Australia! Can’t wait to hear more about it!

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