Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2013/ Skating


Last Wednesday, workers at Kitchener City Hall were closing down the outdoor skating rink. They were breaking up the ice surface with icechoppers, and instead of creating ice the Zamboni was destroying it, sucking up ice chunks and snow. The rink at Waterloo Town Square closed for the season a week before. My skating season has officially ended until next fall.

That means I won't be getting any semi-intensive exercise until the weather warms, because I won't feel safe cycling until the weather warms, and cycling is my primary form of summer exercise. I am sure that I could find some workout activity if I was not lazy, but if I was not lazy I probably would be less fat. Already I miss the physical activity of skating. I am trying to take longer walks to compensate, but it does not help much. The walks are not intensive, and often I end up walking to grocery stores and stuffing my face with carbs; as a result, my weight has ballooned.

Although I am finding the lapse of activity difficult, I am grateful that I had winter exercise at all. I only started skating last year, when I realized that my body is no longer letting me get away with five or six months of winter inactivity. My metabolism has slowed down too much, and with the lack of daylight my mood sinks quite a bit. Getting exercise does not fix those problems, but it makes them less intolerable.

The sign at the Kitchener rink reads "Pleasure Skating Only." I disobey its demand. I derive little pleasure from skating; instead I count out laps with grim Puritan determination. Although skating is not actively unpleasant, I consider it just another drudgery to get through in life. But I am grateful for the opportunity to skate; in a just world I would not have this good fortune.

I am able to skate thanks to a combination of good luck and freeloading. In general, skating is not a cheap activity, and ordinarily I would not allow myself to spend much money on it regardless of positive benefits to my health (see also: joining a gym). But I got extraordinarily lucky: I found used skates that were both my size (which is hard enough when it comes to adult skates) and only $20. This is doubly ridiculous. While there is a healthy market for used children's skates, the market for adult sizes is slim. And scoring a pair of skates for $20 is unheard of -- new skates will easily run you $150 or more. Even I -- the notorious miser -- had budgeted an additional $50 to get my skates. Having said that, my skates are not perfect. They are too narrow, which made me worry that I was permanently messing up my feet. Fortunately, it seems they have shaped themselves to the contours of my fat feet well enough. The skates are also unstylish, but I don't care.

And then there is the freeloading. Thanks to the generous municipal taxpayers of Kitchener and Waterloo, both Kitchener City Hall and Waterloo Town Square run well-maintained outdoor rinks for me to exploit -- free of charge. Better yet, Kitchener City Hall is close enough to my workplace that I can walk out after work hours and skate in the evening, then go back to work again if necessary. Without these free, accessible skating areas there is little chance I would have taken up this pasttime.

Although I had skated a little before, my skills were poor when I started and I am not much better now. I was terrified because I had never learned to stop, and to this day I cannot stop reliably. Fortunately, it has been less of a disability than I thought; if you are mindful you can slow down or skate around most dangers. (That is not to say that I am safe on the ice; I definitely have had my share of collisions, especially with hotdoggers who think it is cool to skate against traffic, and people who think it is cute to suddenly stop and change direction.) Given my antisocial tendencies, I expected to be irritated more frequently on the ice than I am.

In addition to not being able to stop I cannot skate quickly, cannot skate backwards, and cannot skate clockwise with any skill. All I can do is skate forwards in counterclockwise ovals, because for some reason people uniformly skate counterclockwise in both the rinks I use. Once in a while I have had the rink to myself, or there have been few enough people that people will skate clockwise. But these are rare treats.

I do not think that skating is that intensive. Internet calculators tell me that an hour of skating burns 400 calories -- about the same as a donut or two, or a package of Ramen noodles. But I can feel the exercise. Even if the weather is 10 degrees below zero I do not need a sweater. Often I feel my hands getting sweaty in my gloves. When the slogging has been particularly difficult (for example, when the ice is especially mushy) then I can feel some burn in my legs. That is more than I am getting now that skating season is over.

I am not going to pretend that skating was great exercise. But it was exercise, and doing without is difficult. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your views about global warming), I expect my exercise hiatus to be short. For all I know, it might be over by the time I get around to posting this entry. But I think that recording transient feelings can be useful sometimes.