Run for your life: Getting started — now

Who are these people, moving around our sequestered Island? Well, maybe we can learn from them.

In last week’s column, I showed that fitness is a good investment for you individually and for the whole community. In other words, it broadcasts on both the “All About Me” and the “All About Us” networks. Since I have therefore destroyed all your excuses, the question is not if, but when to commit to a new lifestyle involving exercise.

The short answer is now. The complete answer is now, and right where you are.

Stretching is the first step. Remember high school and those mandatory gym classes? No, you don’t have to agonize over jumping-jacks and push-ups, just some gentle movements well do. Trying to touch your toes is less important than being able to see your toes.

If your goal is to increase the number of steps you take each day, then you have two options: measure distance or measure time.

I recommend distance. Set out to walk a given distance, remembering that you must come back to the start. Whether that goal is a quarter of a mile or whatever, the essential point is to have a goal.

Then, as you gain ability, you can extend the distance. Walking is the core of all our human athletic skills. That skill allowed people to trek from Asia to North America. Each year thousands of everyday folks complete the Appalachian Trail of 2,100 miles.

Surely you can start by trekking around the iconic spaces on Shelter Island. Just being outside in this mental imprisonment is a huge benefit. Devote 20 or 30 minutes, three days a week, and you will boost your mental state.

Tips on walking:

• Follow the Boy Scout convention that, on the roads, you always walk facing traffic. I have enough experience in the U.S. and elsewhere that Shelter Island drivers are the most courteous in giving walkers, runners, bicycles, baby carriers, et al. a wide allowance, even to the extent of crossing lanes and relying on the reciprocal good behavior of the coming traffic. Still, don’t be an idiot. Courtesy is expected but not guaranteed.

• Pick your course. Here’s an insider tip for those who have been going to the FIT Center. There’s an asphalt loop between the school and the tennis courts. About a quarter of a mile in length and perfectly flat. It doesn’t have the vistas of Crescent Beach, but you can measure your progress and keep the distance at the same time.

The only place I don’t recommend is New York Avenue since it’s narrow and the limited space on the sides is not walker/runner-friendly. My favorite route is West Neck Road starting at the Shelter Island Country Club golf course and making an out and back loop, or coming around on the 5K route. This is one of the flattest options on the Island.

If you haven’t noticed, our recent crop of visitors are appreciating our roads and trails. The social calendar made April into June. They’ve recognized that roads are a great playground and our local drivers have learned to be sensitive to their safety. Of course, we also have a huge asset of Mashomack, with its network of trails, miles of shoreline and wildlife. Last Saturday, the parking lot at Mashomack was jammed beyond capacity. I hope all these folks had satisfied the 14-day quarantine rule.

A tip for the runners who have the confidence to train: Shoes are essential equipment and never underestimate the importance of the right fit and good cushioning.