April 19, 2016

World : Southern California

Here in the Bay Area people often think of Southern California as a completely different world. There's a known rivalry between the two halves of the state, and different stereotypes of NorCal (hipster, more like the East Coast, culture) and SoCal (laid-back, image-conscious, beach and glamour).  I used to have a strong preference for my home in the bay, and I'm still partial to it, but I've also grown to love aspects of SoCal, especially San Diego County.  We lived for a little while in La Jolla, San Diego during my last year of medical school, and I have fond memories of long runs in jasmine-scented air above ocean cliffs, and exploring the intricacies of what makes a beach--textures, views, what lives in the water. This last week we took a road trip back down to San Diego County, and I relished the days of beachtown living. We spent a little time on either end of the week in Los Angeles visiting my youngest brother, and most of the week driving south down the coast, making a dotted line through dozens of beaches.

There's something about living in such a natural setting that makes you naturally want to be healthy, mirror the crisp sands and blues that outline life by the coast. Fitness is very visible there, and I can see how that plays into the vibe of image consciousness. But I sense that the substance of it stems from the mindful awareness that your physical self reflects a larger sense of things, in the way that concrete waves against rugged rock represents a history of time and change.

When I was younger, I liked the beach for the landscape but never thought of it as an active place. If I felt like doing something active and adventurous for vacation, I rarely thought of beach destinations because it seemed like just a place to relax and read.  And growing up in the Bay Area I never thought of Southern California as a place to vacation.  But this vacation, we wanted to do something that didn't require any planning and that involved a lot of the outdoors, so it seemed like a natural place.  And now having spent more time living in Southern California and vacationing there, I can say that being by ocean in warm weather lends itself to diverse ways of caring for yourself.

Some of the things I've tried:

Running: It seems obvious, but I really underestimated running on the beach--mainly because it can be hard to run on actual sand. But if you haven't given it a serious try before, starting by running on the damp beach in the tide between the ocean and sand is really gratifying. Add a slow sunset that makes the water glassy as you run into and away from it, and runs don't get much better.

Yoga and pilates: I have little motivation to do pilates at home. But on white sand in ocean air, it feels less like work and more like treating yourself. There's something about all the open space that makes you feel movements more, and feel strong even when you're burning a few seconds into a move. With yoga, you feel graceful even as you're wobbling, which I do almost all the time on any pose standing on one foot, due to past ankle sprains.  In a class I can often get mad at the perseverance of my past injuries, but on a beach I feel good about making any kind of silhouette against sky.

Surfing: So I can't actually surf and what I mean by this is getting thrashed around by waves, and this past vacation I could only withstand about five minutes of this before freaking out and getting out.  But, if you're prone to being knocked around like me, you can choose to stick with smaller waves, and even if you can't stand up (I only have a few times), it's very soothing and empowering to paddle into waves and realize that you can continue on past them.

Snorkeling: People tend to think of this as something to do only in Hawaii or super tropical settings, but we did this in La Jolla and even in places where the water wasn't crystal clear, it was fun to see below the surface.

Climbing: Clearly a theme is emerging that doing anything you can do elsewhere, on the beach instead, is awesome.  Climbing rocks situated on the beach is especially amazing, because it feels both natural and miraculous.

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