The start of the new year is a great time to observe human nature at work. If people need a reason to do something ambitious, something extensive, or something altruistic, then the flip of the calendar seems to provide the motivation to take such action.
Besides all of the endless promises to eat healthier, exercise more often, watch less TV and read more books, we should maybe look at another dimension of new year's resolutions. Thinking out of the box just might give us a better chance of honoring our pledges, and really making some kind of significant change in 2011.
From the perspective of the outdoors enthusiast, this calls for a creative approach, and possibly one where we blend a couple of promises together so they are mutually beneficial to the individual and the greater good.
For example, make the pledge to exercise more in the coming year a specific one where you commit to explore every park and state landmark within 50 miles, over the course of the next 12 months. Make walking tours of the city and county parks, and then expand the scope and cover some of the extremely interesting state parcels along the Lake Erie shoreline.
With detailed maps that are readily available online, you can lay out your game plan on a blank calendar, and follow specific trails and walkways, or chart your own course. Start with the easy stuff, and they graduate to the less-defined trails and those that take you through forest areas or marshlands.
There's a lot of free, wholesome exercise to be had walking your way across state properties that you help maintain through your tax dollars. It beats the heck out of paying to join a fitness center so some instructor can yell at you about your lack of intensity. The fresh air, the always changing landscape and the wildlife you'll see along the way certainly trump the sights and smells inside the gym.
If a diet-related new year's pledge is your preference, make it very detailed and specific. Commit to eating more fish, which is a cornerstone of many health conscious diets, but then add a supplemental commitment to catch a lot of the fish yourself.
There are certain species in certain waterways that we should not make regular table fare, but for the most part the fish you catch in our lakes, reservoirs and ponds is clean and healthy. Learn where and when to catch it, and then add fish cleaning and fish preparation to your 2011 skill set.
If you have not previously experienced it, add venison and other less-fatty game meats to your diet. Just about everyone has a friend, or a friend of a friend, who hunts deer, and these folks are always willing to share the bounty of their harvest. Properly preserved and prepared, there are many delicious and healthy meals that come from wild game.
If community service is a better fit with your new year's resolution plans, the arena is wide open. As budgets dwindle and services shrink, many of our parks and public spaces are not getting the attention they should. Gestures as simple as picking up trash, removing graffiti or reporting vandalism can fill some of the void.
You can get your exercise, add the health benefits of fresh air and a robust dose of all-natural vitamin D, and also help the environment if you take part in habitat building and restoration projects. Our wildlife are a treasure to be protected, and small measures can make a huge difference. Simply stacking brush or old Christmas trees is akin to building a condo for small game and birds.
Local groups like Pheasants Forever are always looking for more volunteers to assist in the good work they do, and it will be tough to find anything quite as rewarding. Call it humanity for habitat, and jump in to help in 2011.
New Year's resolutions are fun and motivational, but keep them practical and logical at the same time. Look for exercise while you improve the planet. Leave world peace to someone else and fix up your little piece of the world. Miss America will take care of the world peace anyway - she needs something to do.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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