Riding home from work tonight, I was struck by the nice dusk light and wondered aloud to my carpool buddy what it might be like to walk up the Shanahan Ridge Trail toward Fern Canyon. She was all about it. She said she often goes trail running around there with another friend. Suddenly it all made sense. I need to combine my evening walks with Hooper and some actual exercise.

I don't exercise, even though I should. Hell, these days I want to exercise. I've decided it's time to exercise regularly, partly because I want to, but partly because I need to. I turned 42 last week, and I officially have a "spare tire". Shirts of the "large" variety now hug my belly a little too closely. Extra large provides the tent-like drape I used to prefer but now rely upon, to hide forty-something girth.

So, it's time to get moving, on some sort of regular schedule and reasonable intensity.

To me, exercise means bike riding, but winter around here is still being a sporadic bitch, and the bike is simply too efficient to make a good exercise buddy during the week -- too long a ride is needed for any reasonable training effect. I have been thinking running might bridge the gap to summertime, but I got into road cycling precisely because my knees were giving me trouble all the way back in sophomore year of high school, when I ran the mile in track. And, of course, the first order of business when arriving home from a long day at the office is to walk the dog. How to fit in a workout and walk the dog?

So, the answer was obvious. Head to South Boulder, and walk up the Shanahan Ridge Trail toward Fern Canyon, one of my first hikes in Boulder, and still one of my favorites. I could simply use the incline to make a workout of things, walk as fast as I can, and get the heart rate up while not actually running. Hoop could come along for the stroll.

And so we did.

I had no real plan, but arriving at the trailhead at 6:30 I just wanted to get in a decent walk before the sun went down. We started off at 6:36, at a good clip. Hooper was down with this idea from the first step, but it also took him no time at all to nose out a stray tennis ball, so we had a game of fetch going as well. I decided I'd walk as fast as I could until 7PM; I had hoped I'd at least get to that big rock known as The Slab by then. Hooper seemed to be having a good time. I was huffing.

At 7PM, we arrived at The Slab, and Hooper wanted to know why exactly we were turning around. But around we went, and headed back to the trailhead. I want to do this on a regular basis, and so that is precisely why I did not overdo it tonight.

Hooper kept flipping the tennis ball in front of my feet, imploring me to toss it downrange, all the way down the hill. We had a blast.

Working on a familiar trail, I have a very obvious yardstick with which to measure any progress, should I end up doing this on a regular basis. And at the same time we incorporate Hooper's evening constitutional. The uphill grind gets the heart rate up there, without the impact of running. Sure the downhill is hard on the knees, but I can always bring the trekking poles to take the edge off. I think this can work, and get me in shape so that by summer I can take the bike out on the weekend and actually climb some mountains, or at least post a respectable FKT (fastest known time) up to the summit of Bear Peak, one of my favorite places to be in Boulder.

Hoop is snuggled up next to me on the couch; I laid out a blanket and he hopped on up and has been crashed out for a while. So, he's getting a workout too. Win-win.