A Walk In The Parkette

Moving from a smaller city to a bigger one, I’ve expected many changes in my new environment: more people, more city events, more culture, etc. However, what took me by surprise about living in the big city of Toronto is that it is filled with parkettes. Of course Toronto has big parks as well, like High Park, and even Christie Pitts. But the little spaces of green hidden between buildings—that was fascinating to me. I like the idea that while we are living in a metropolis, we can take a break in between our destinations and find tiny patch of green space to relax in.

Since I’ve been trying to get more creative with how I integrate physical activity into my lifestyle, I’ve made getting off campus a goal, especially during this time of the school year. As my mind has been so consumed with finals as of late, I decided to take a break and venture outside of campus. So far, as I have been tackling each region of Toronto, I’ve fallen in love with The Annex neighbourhood, which is located slightly on the west side of downtown. With the old houses, funky shops, live venues—there’s always something going on in this area. Most of all, The Annex is host to a slew of parkettes, like The Sally Bird Parkette (located on Brunswick Avenue). This parkette is like a jungle gym for adults: colourful exercise equipment (made out of playground material), along with benches to relax on. Even though I have walked down Brunswick back and forth countless times before, I have mindlessly missed this tiny space of green and metal. Since I was walking leisurely around Bloor Street West, I was able to observe the area in a little more detail, and discovered this gem. With a free schedule that day, I decided to stop for a few minutes to try out the equipment.

Even though I’m making an effort to be less self-conscious while working out, I was happy to realize that I couldn’t care less about this when I’m exercising outdoors. Technically, this parkette is a mini gym. But I decided to get on the steel elliptical machine with the same carefree attitude I would have on a swing set (acting like it’s second nature to me). This helped to erase my fears.

It was fun to get on the machine and not be so serious about being active. The elliptical was quite heavy to push through; I found it was more of a strength workout than a cardio routine. What started out as a quick trial and error exercise turned out to be a solid fifteen minute session. I realized that throughout this semester, I have become more and more competitive with myself, and less focused on those around me. I took my time in the parkette, testing myself to see if I could last more than ten minutes.

In between my explorations of the city, I’ve managed to complete my last Pilates class (and showed off my major planking skills, not to brag)! Three weeks ago, I tripped and strained my right foot (I’ve always been a klutz), but I’ve found that doing Pilates has helped to alleviate the pain. However, I still had to go get a bone scan at a clinic in Rosedale to make sure that things are on track. To my surprise, on my way to the clinic, I discovered another parkette!

Oh the feeling you get when you have discovered a new parkette!
Oh the feeling you get when you have discovered a new parkette!

Although there wasn’t a metal gym like the Sally Bird Parkette, but an actual jungle gym for kids, the Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette’s space made for a great place to explore. Inspired by the overarching trees drooping down the pathway, I decided to speed walk around the area. I figured that it would help condition my foot and warm me up; it was a bit brisk outside that day!

It was tempting to climb that.
It was tempting to climb that.

The Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette is a wider space than Sally Bird and that makes it more feasible to do a few quick stretches in between walking rounds. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been trying to make stretching part of my daily routine. One of the stretches that I do before mild exercise is the hamstring stretch. For this stretch, I bend one leg and stretch out the other. And in between my five minute speed walking intervals, I stop and do about five squats (standing with my feet hip-width apart, and bending down for thirty seconds) for strength conditioning.

If it was not for the cold weather, I probably would have made a pile of leaves and jump into them.
If it was not for the cold weather, I probably would have made a pile of leaves and jump into them.

While exploring this parkette, I was able to fully appreciate living in Toronto, and enjoy the view outside of campus (and the four concrete walls of my bedroom). However, I was glad to return to U of T grounds. I’ve been planning my gym outings for next week now that my Pilates classes are now done.

As the semester, and year, comes to an end, I look back in awe, wondering how I was able to get myself going in my health pact. I still have many goals to complete, but I’m glad that I met a few goals, like completing my Pilates classes (I didn’t miss one!). Just getting out there and being active instead of living a sedentary lifestyle has been terrific. Since it’s December, I’m determined to keep up with my goals, and will make use of the extra free time I’ll have. Maybe I’ll explore more of Toronto? Or perhaps I’ll start thinking about next semester and get an early start for my new goals come January. There’s a lot of planning to do, and I’m excited as to how I’m going to challenge myself next semester.

What are your go-to places for getting exercise outside of campus? Any suggestions for a place to check out?

Also, what are your goals for the upcoming semester?

— Amanda.

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