Canberra: One Way Fitness Enthusiasts

Trip Start Sep 30, 2004
Trip End Nov 05, 2004

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oh boy, are they fitness enthusiasts here in Canberra or not?!? which maybe explains why they're giving about free pedometer radios when you buy four things of Acuvue Advance (which is made by Johnson and Johnson, and has something to do with water).

Essentially, Canberra is made up of government buildings, the state Parliament on Capital Hill (which is underwhelming on the outside, but might be better if you can be tempted to go through the entrance), Lake Burley Griffin, endless parks which alternate with car parks - which are mainly empty. The traffic is reminiscent of Coxwold, ie very, very little. I took to just wandering across the roads without even looking properly; in fact, it would have been quite an accomplishment to have got run over!

it feels nothing like a capital city; not surprising I guess for somewhere with a population of only 320,000. And what do all these people do when they're not working in their offices? why, they're pounding the edges of Parliamentary Triangle, either power walking, running or cycling. which does involve running along the share of Lake Burley Griffin, and if you have to run anywhere then that is certainly as good a place as any.

People may be on their own, in pairs or threes, or even larger groups - the largest one I saw comprised 11. they may even be pregnant with big, big tummies. And they are so, so serious about it; and not only are they keeping fit, at the same time they're having lunch time discussions about work, the election results, etc etc. In some ways, the exercise seems to be an extension of work - which maybe accounts for why many of them have their ID cards fastened to their short, shorts (the men) or lycra (the women). And if you want a change, well then, there is a fitness circuit with exercise benches located in gardens surrounding Parliament House. And it's all done very professionally, including marking out the running routes with a white line and signs saying 'Keep left'. There's some overtaking, but the lane discipline is far stricter than that showed by car drivers on the freeway (or should that be highway?).

It's not surprising that the Aussies do so well in the Olympics and other international sporting events, even though the population is so small in comparison to its size - sport, fitness, exercise is the no. 1 priority for people regardless of age.

I haven't quite worked out whether people do a complete circuit, an about turn, or work in an office at the start in the morning and another one at the end in the afternoon (or alternatively, just die, given the heat that they're running/exercising in). I did recognise one guy who must have turned back; I won't go into his distinguishing/ memorable feature!

Floriade - the flower fantasia in the Commonwealth Park. This year's theme was water (or lack of it). Well, it was excellent. On the plus side, it was free - a real community event and not a commercial, money making venture as are many of the flower events in the UK. There was this really creative Scarecrow Avenue, which comprised upwards of 80 or 90 scarecrows made by local schools and vol orgs. Also, it was very quiet, tranquil, peaceful, etc. there were plenty of people there, but somehow it was all spaced out and there was plenty of space to roam around and see things. And start to practise with your new digital camera, as in my case. Kodak very kindly had a number of 'Photo Stops', which were strategically placed steps to give you height to help take better photos - although I can't help thinking that I'll need more than the odd box or two to stand on to improve my photographic skills! And another plus for the organisers was the ratio of women's portaloo units to men's, which was three to one - so no long queues outside the ladies!

Yesterday (Monday) I walked miles and miles; not so today - especially given that the temperature is forecast to be 29 degrees (yesterday it was a mere 25! John, who is another co-resident of the apartment I'm currently staying in tells me that he won't run once it gets over 30 degrees - but anything below that, and it's still an OK temperature for running.

First of all my presentation at the Australian Institute of health and Welfare. that went fine, there were about 30 in the audience from different departments and units. I didn't have to use a mike, like I did at macquarie, but they are going to put it up on their Intranet (and Michael is also putting the presentation up on a website, too).

I'm now a dab hand at the buses, and am using these in preferences to taxis. first, it's far more exciting (ie wondering whether you're on the right one!), and secondly it's far cheaper, and thirdly you see places you wouldn't if you went direct in a taxi. so my journey to the AIHW took in the national University of Australia, Calvary Hospital and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Did a not-long-enough visit to the Australian War Memorial (which is also an excellent museum) straight after the presentation, and now I'm on my way back to the apartment to pack for the next leg of the journey - Melbourne. John is very kindly taking me to the airport, which will be a great help with all this luggage I've managed to gather together! and in return, I've promised to broadcast far and wide just how helpful, friendly, etc etc Aussie men are. so here's my bit for Anglo-Australian relations: Aussie men are extremely helpful, friendly, etc etc.

I could say lots more (especially about the election results, and the manadate John Howard seems to have been given to do things previously blocked by the Upper House) but you were probably asleep by the end of the third or fourth para (if indeed you made it to that). But a lot of this is for my own benefit: to remind me of all my adventures, and to stop me from buring my skin even more!

See you in Melbourne.
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