A Tropical Workout in My Father’s Garden

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By Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN, ACSM
Your Personal Trainer

My father’s garden is lush and tropical.  He lives in a tucked-away little town on the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawai’i called Pahoa.  It’s on the rainy side of the island.  His driveway is long and narrow.  It cuts a slice of paradise through a domestic jungle replete with anthuriums, hibiscus, giant ferns, plumeria, flame red ginger, lilikoi trees and low leaning palms.  I came to visit him and my cousin for two weeks.

Ever the exerciser, I saw an opportunity for an outdoor gym amidst this tropical delight of his garden.  His driveway became my linear track.  I was graced not only by the intoxicating fragrances of the Islands but also by the sounds of Hawai’i, birdsongs whose notes and melodies all seemed to begin with a “K” or an “L” or an “M” or a “P” just like the melifluous names of the islands, the flowers, the mountains and the towns . . . Kaua’i, Kilauea, Kanapali, Lana’i, Maile, Mauna Loa, Pikake, Poipu, Pahoa . . .  I was up each morning at 6:00 o’clock.  I like to be alone with the world for awhile before anyone else is up.  It was delightfully cool and fresh in the early hours, in between the nightly rain and the daily rain.

As I ran out and back on my first morning, I spied a small papaya tree, one of its gifts hanging just within reach, ripe and ready to be plucked for breakfast.  Along the way, I also spotted a flat rock.  Having taught STEP aerobics for years, I transformed that rock, about the height of a Rebok STEP with two risers, into my own “Rebok Rock.”  And so my outdoor gym, my tropical work-out, was born.

As evening fell each day, so did more rain.  We ate dinner every night in the garden under the covered deck as we listened to the roaring rain on the corrugated roof and it, too, became an integral part of the Hawaiian melody that had begun with my first morning run.  Dusk also heralded the arrival of the Coqui, pronounced “ko-KEE,”  little tree frogs that were transported to the Big Island accidentally from the Caribbean via a plant and  named for the sound they make.   By the time it was dark, hundreds, perhaps thousands of ko-KEE’s had joined in the chorus that has been described here on the Big Island as sounding like “crickets with microphones.”  They sing their song from dusk to dawn non-stop.  As I lay in bed each night listening to the little critters, sure enough, they were croaking  “ko-KEE,”  “ko-KEE.”  They have become Hawaii’s own nocturne, their “music of the night.”  Some like them.  Some don’t.  I did.

My time here is over.  It was a time for us to remember, a time to laugh, a time to reflect, a time to find joy and peace.  It was a time to spend time with my father, to ponder awhile on times past and to lock these last days away for all time–these days in my father’s house.  In my father’s garden.

Yours in fitness,

Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Cerified Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM