The Health Coast

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One of the things I love the most about California is the zealous commitment of its citizens to their health and the outdoors.

Of course, when I moved to San Francisco seven years ago from New York City, it was also one of the things that bewildered me the most. In New York City, exercise is defined by walking to the subway, by the aggressive side-stepping of tourists, by the motion of hailing a taxi cab. "Local and sustainable" can mean the mercury levels in the East River and dog attacks on the pigeon population in Central Park. "Organic" is the naturally occurring meeting of several people at an Irish pub, and "fresh" still comes wrapped in plastic at grocery stores.

I was jarred by the number of people in the Bay Area who casually engage in marathons and triathlons. Who willingly don spandex and cycle for miles and swim to shore from Alcatraz and run the Dipsea. As someone who excels at cycling between hormonal mood swings and eating Dippin' Dots, I could only wonder, what performance-enhancers are they using and where can I get some?

As my years in San Francisco pass, I can't help but examine the nuts and bolts of the trail mix. The parks, the open spaces, the hiking -- all at arm's reach.  The beaches, the mountains, the near-perfect weather causing euphoric levels of vitamin D.  I would occasionally run outside in Manhattan if the traffic fumes weren't too suffocating and if it wasn't raining, sleeting or snowing.  In order to truly enjoy nature, I had to leave the island entirely and that was a marathon in itself.  One that I rarely attempted.

Now it seems that against all odds, and to the amusement of East Coast friends, I have drunk the Kool-Aid.  The filtered, fresh, no-plastic-bottle, Kool-Aid of the Bay.  I have somehow acquired an REI membership and look forward to getting a bike.  I exercise outdoors and contemplate the digestive qualities of kale.


And while I'd rather be locked in San Quentin than swim to shore from Alcatraz, I'm pretty proud of how far I've come. Because as I get older, I'd like to be sustainable too.

With a Perspective, I'm Tarja Parssinen.

Tarja Parssinen is a writer and mother of two boys living in Marin.