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A Poet’S Guide to Outdoor Exercise: Reflections on 30 Years of Outdoor Exercise, Nature Appreciation and an Unconventional Life

A Poet’S Guide to Outdoor Exercise: Reflections on 30 Years of Outdoor Exercise, Nature Appreciation and an Unconventional Life

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A Poet’S Guide to Outdoor Exercise: Reflections on 30 Years of Outdoor Exercise, Nature Appreciation and an Unconventional Life

188 pagine
2 ore
Mar 1, 2013


In A Poets Guide to Outdoor Exercise, author John Famulary shares some remarkable outdoor exercise adventures set in such exotic locales as Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Central Park; the Catskill Mountains and a football field in New Jersey.

John discusses the advantages of outdoor exercise and, in clues and descriptions, suggests steps you can take to create your own outdoor exercise routine.

For the author, outdoor exercise means being in nature wherever he finds it plus the joy of movement, as they used to say. Theres some philosophy here, too. A little poetry, as well, and some excerpts from an unconventional life, the author's own.

In fresh and inventive prose, Famulary has penned a thought-provoking memoir thats also a practical guide to physical fitness and a metaphysical tool.

Sometimes humorous, occasionally profound, A Poets Guide to Outdoor Exercise invites readers to explore pathways and processes- both physical and metaphysical- that can help us energize and re-vitalize almost every time.

Mar 1, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

John Famulary is a long-ago graduate of the Creative Writing Program at Emerson College. Among other things, he has spent the past thirty years exercising outdoors. “Making it Alive,” a chapbook of his poems, was published in 1979 by Connections Press, Cambridge, Ma.

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A Poet’S Guide to Outdoor Exercise - John Famulary


Copyright © 2013 by John F. Famulary

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

You should not undertake any diet/exercise regimen recommended in this book before consulting your personal physician. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be responsible or liable for any loss or damage allegedly arising as a consequence of your use or application of any information or suggestions contained in this book.

iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:


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Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-6900-9 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4759-6899-6 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4759-6898-9 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012924194

iUniverse rev. date: 2/26/2013



Chapter One

Remember, It’s A Poet’s Guide

Outdoor Exercise (I)

Business Intrudes…

Chapter Two

Standing Japanese

Outdoor Exercise (Ii)

Chapter Three

A Sentimental Education

Out And About

Thrills And Spills



Chapter Four

Perfect Days

Chapter Five

Getting Started

Suiting Up

Getting There

A Word About Stretching:


Yoga And Outdoor Exercise

Drugs And Outdoor Exercise

Healthier Living And Outdoor Exercise

Outdoor Exercise And The Community

To Nan. When I count my blessings, I count you twice.

Words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express… things of the mind and spirit.

– Giambattista Vico


I figure if you have a degree with the words creative writing on it and you’ve done something consistently for thirty years or so, you ought to be able to write about what you‘ve done. So, yes, this is a book about outdoor exercise. If you follow the clues and descriptions contained within it’s pages, you could soon create your own personal outdoor exercise routine, one you might enjoy and benefit from for years to come. If you already exercise outdoors, I can pretty much guarantee what follows is something you haven’t come across before. If you have, please let me know!

There is philosphy here, too, although not of the scholarly kind. There’s a little poetry, mostly free verse. You’ll also find some excerpts from an unconventional life (mine) and a few attempts at humor thrown in for good measure. After all, laughter is essential.

I believe people like me- Americans with a liberal arts education- owe a debt of gratitude to some well-known and distinctly American thinkers, poets and philosophers. They emerged when settled America was still largely an agrarian society and the great cities of commerce and trade were just beginning to burst from their 18th century boundaries into the Industrial Age. First came Emerson and Thoreau, both born in the early 1800’s when America still had expanses of true wilderness and some as yet intact tribal cultures. Emerson and Thoreau were followed by Whitman, WC Williams, the Beats, Charles Olson. But not everyone in the long line of American freethinkers, transcendentalists and avant poets is an Ivy-educated dead white male. There have been many other philosophers, thinkers and poets over the decades, men and women of all races and creeds (or no creed at all), who have followed these illustrious forebears. To varying degrees of influence, each of them has expressed and helped shape the essential character of the new American ideal. It had, and still has, something to do with being a free and democratic human being and learning to think for yourself.

So, being a more or less free and democratic human being and trying hard to think for myself, I choose to write about nature, human nature and outdoor exercise.

You could say I am a generalist and a proud member of that rare and vanishing breed. Therefore, this minor contribution to the zeitgeist is hard to categorize. Philosophy? Instruction Manual? Book of magical thinking? I can only hope you’ll go where the writing takes you.

I make no claims for the method of outdoor exercise and nature appreciation I‘ve attempted to introduce in the following pages. You won’t necessarily have six-pack abs in 30 days, lose 20lbs. in six weeks or significantly lower your bad cholesterol, although outcomes like these are certainly possible.

But, I get ahead of myself. There is a story to be told here. There are places to go, people to meet, wonders to behold. But be forewarned: while there is some step-by-step guidance, this is not simply a ‘how-to’ book. There are risks to reading it. Sometimes the poet speaks, often a ‘dangerous’ proposition, or the philosopher emerges from his cave to utter his considered version of the truth. Are you ready? Let’s begin….

Chapter One

Remember, It’s a Poet’s Guide

Why am I so happy? By most measures used to gauge happiness and success in our society, I would be far down the ladder. Where the exalted adorn their wrists with jewels and laughably expensive watches, my wrist is all bone. The enviable and blessed maintain the perfect teeth necessary for a face frozen, at least publicly, in an ear-to-ear grin. I have a chipped tooth. Of money, I have, well, you can guess, very little. My relationship with N__________ has…evolved. And now, sixty years after it all began, I contemplate the prospect of dying alone. Like most outliers, I often feel the burden of my path. Yet somehow, too, I feel as if fate has treated me kindly.

I am in the Catskills. So I suit-up, hoist the bike and walk outside into a brilliant blue October sky. This morning was the first frost of the season. Ten days ago I was in New York on a bridge over The Lake in Central Park, stretching. Ten years ago I was in Williamsburg in McCarren Park, backpedaling on the soccer field there.

The years go by quickly. For most of us here in the USA it‘s childhood, high school, then college (or not), job/career/your own business/unemployment (or some combination thereof), marriage and family (or not), divorce (or not), retirement (or not). Then boom! You’re gone. So far I’ve learned that most human beings are compassionate in situations that call for compassion. Otherwise, in the abstract, most people, it seems to me, especially Americans, like to portray themselves as social Darwinist, I‘ve got mine, survival-of-the-fittest kind of folk. Sort of anti-compassionate. In the end, though, beyond science and the perhaps never-ending saga of human violence and suffering, my guess is love and compassion do rule the universe: subtly, I’d say, and providentially in ways that even the most enlightened among us can barely comprehend.

Love and compassion are abundant -even super-abundant- here on Earth. Almost certainly, human beings and other Earth-based higher life-forms are the only sentient creatures indigenous to this solar system. And virtually all of us experience unconditional love, that most primal and widely shared of emotional states. My guess is at some point or points, you have experienced unconditional love having, to a greater or lesser degree, received it, given it or both. I mean, how could you not? Most of us born into it, aren’t we?

I lean the bike against the porch and plant my feet on two of the slate squares that comprise the patio J_____ and C_________ built along the east side of the house some years back. It’s right underneath my bedroom window. Twenty squares and rectangles of various sizes, blue-gray slabs of slate three inches thick, firmly embedded in the earth and arranged into a nine-by-twelve foot super-square. The patio is a perfect warm-up station for today’s outdoor workout. To enhance the perfection of it, if that’s possible, the patio lies just thirty feet from a fulsome maple tree whose age, if I had to guess, is somewhere in mid-adolescence. Ablaze in a thousand golden flames, the young tree’s many leaves are energized by the sun. But exhausted by summer, most of the leaves can no longer turn sunlight into food, so they die. Falling to earth, the dead leaves spread an autumnal brown blanket over the tree’s roots and up its trunk.

So facing the maple tree, I begin my workout with twenty-five waist twists. My focal point is a satellite TV dish, some distance away, but directly behind me. That’s what my eyes rivet to as standing, I twist my body from the waist left to right, as far as it can go, twenty-five times in rapid succession.

From waist twists I segue into a neck roll sequence where my head follows my eyes in circular movements that release the tension in my neck muscles. Then, from the ground up, I stand in the full Japanese Posture. My feet are planted shoulder-width apart on the stone, my arms are at my sides and my eyes are closed. I open my eyes and with an unforced smile take in the new and friendly world around me. Three black crows advance from tree to tree. A lone sea gull wheels in the sky above me. For the two-thousandth time, my body responds to its wake-up call. I’m ready to roll.

So far I’ve learned there are paths you can take, steps, if you will, to stay straight in the world, as in relatively sane and happy. I’m pretty sure these are steps you would want to take alone, just you, the individual, without involving your friends or family. Not in secret, just something you do for yourself, although many of these steps can be taken in and as part of a group, if that’s your preference.

A lot of it has to do with physical activity, when you celebrate the power and grace of your human body and learn for yourself how to extend its awesome capabilities. Through physical activity we embrace the synchronicity of body/spirit/mind. Reaching that level once in awhile, at least in my experience, definitely helps you to stay more or less straight in the world- and helps you look good doing it.

Millions now in our Western culture practice yoga in its various forms and iterations. Beginning with a few pioneers, such as Ina Marx in the 1950’s and serious Eastern yogis like B. K. S. Iyengar, the way of yoga has spread far and wide in the West, all the way from Moscow to California and Hawaii. In certain city neighborhoods, college towns and tonier suburbs- no matter what the country -yoga seems to have become nearly ubiquitous as a form of exercise and relaxation- at least for the female half of the population. I think we do this, that is, yoga, and exercise in general, for a mix of reasons, motivations, drives and desires that are perhaps unique to the individual personality. High on the motivational list for many, though, is the desire to attain (or get closer to) and maintain the kind of elevated physical state that often accrues from exercising regularly- a state of tuned reflexes, toned and ready body, effortless mobility. We strive to attain and maintain a body whose functioning actually increases the overall harmony and balance in our everyday lives instead of aching and paining us to death. Exercise as an expenditure of energy leading to a harmonized balance of body and mind, action and spiritual intent. So, we try for that and hope to look good doing so, (that is to say- let’s face it-vanity plays a part). We also play tennis, run, ride bicycles, snowboard, play basketball, handball, or soccer, engage in any number of the 1001 things adults do, besides walking, dancing and sex, to inhabit their bodies…every active person has preferences and a comfort zone.

Outdoor Exercise (I)

As a kid I was fairly athletic. Baseball was my primary sport from Little League all the way through to starting outfielder on the varsity squad in high school. Football was in the mix (Pop Warner and JV In high school with all kinds of sandlot). There were many more or less solitary hours spent shooting baskets (as we called it back then). I had a big old Schwinn bicycle that was a really great ride when I was ten and eleven. Fast down the small hills of my hometown, an easy pedal to river, creek, woods or nursery. Back then the creeks and brooks in New Jersey, on the north Jersey coast, were lush on both banks and often led to small ponds and the littoral rivers beyond. A creek ran through the woods a hundred yards down the road from my house. The steep banks on both sides of it were thick with bushes, vines and natural hiding places where we built our camouflaged forts. Trees of all sorts were rooted there and towered over everything. Kids, even older ones generally looking for trouble, would walk right past us as we stood very still in our fort or sat motionless on a log like giant frogs, invisible behind our camouflage. I guess if they were dogs the ‘big kids’ would have picked up our scent, but they certainly didn’t see us. They didn’t even know we were there. Back then were the remnants of a swamp still to be explored and the tree nursery, half wild with sticker bushes and tall grasses, from which birds flew and snakes nested.

My childhood was pretty much riding bikes with my friends, playing sports and diving into nature still, in spots, untamed, even though we’re talking about New Jersey in the early sixties. Riding bikes, playing sports, especially baseball, and exploring the woods were pretty much what I did as a kid growing up, not only after school and on weekends but on summer vacations and holiday breaks as well. I should also mention that I was a big reader back then, as I am to this day. And during the summers as we got older we more and more hitchhiked then, at last, drove to the beach, three miles east of our town, where we smoked, hung out with girls and surfed ocean waves on ten-foot long Royal Hawaiian surfboards. It was, after all, the Jersey shore.

I wasn’t much of a surfer, but I think this relatively free and active ’outdoor childhood’ sowed the seeds that grew into my adult passion for outdoor exercise and nature in all its manifestations, great and small. And there’s something

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