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Slow down - see the smaller picture
28 April 2016

I admit I am kind of attached to my running tech.

Tracking my heart rate, pace and distance covered is near obsessive and means I pretty much always have the incentive to put in a decent effort.

Anything slower than 90% of personal best is likely to result in the post-run high being seriously tainted by dissatisfaction.

Sad but true.

That has made being sidelined with injury all the harder and left me hunting for justifiable reason to stroll where I would normally run.

Actually, of late, that’s been amble where I would have strolled instead of running - if I could stroll.

Fortunately help is at hand; and for the most part it just requires shortening the legs to recapture a much smaller person’s view of the world.

Yep, I’m talking about taking a kid outdoors to do some exploring.

To be fair, the exercise gain this way is pretty limited but trust me the dividends down the track will easily outweigh the temporary losses.

Kids are hard wired to discover stuff and a short walk with a toddler can be an uncomfortable exercise in encountering things that smell, squirm and get stuck on your shoes.

Older kids tend to be a bit less tactile and will settle for seeing things like small birds, fish jumping and anything that looks remotely like a bottom.

Making these discoveries and observations is an important part of learning about the natural world which will let them appreciate and enjoy the outdoors all the more as adults.

As a consequence of busy lifestyles, living in towns and a bit of bad press about germs, dirt and danger many adults either lack confidence or skills to help the younger generations discover the big, wide, wild world.

We’re not talking Bear Grylls here. All that is needed is somewhere a bit wild – most of the Virtually On Track gems have suitable walking tracks – and the patience to slow down and a couple of techniques to allow the connections to nature to happen (without killing anything that moves and putting it in a jar to look at from a safe distance!).

This booklet provides a few usefu hints and ideas and in some places there are tools for the job already sorted.

The Whakatane & Ohiwa Harbour gem has a free Kiwi Ranger discovery guidebook packed with activities that encourage families to look, touch and discover the natural, cultural and historical features of the area.

Children can earn a badge for their efforts. The booklet is available from White Island Tours or Cheddar Valley Pottery.

Many others of the Virtually On Track gems have on-site resources in the form of labels on trees and points of interest.

Most of the time these are just part of the background blur for runners and cyclists, but with the simple addition of a toddler or young person they can be the guiding element of a whole day out.

In time, that will translate to young (and not-so-young) adults having a great knowledge of the outdoors, being confident about playing there and sharing the joy with others.

And, even if you don’t have a handy three-year-old to borrow, you may find that slowing down to toddler pace and having a really good long look at what’s around you will give you a brand new appreciation of the special places you like to train on.

Just don’t leave it until you’ve got an injury to find out!

This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

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