Chris Johnson, owner of Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock, shown here, and Aaron Reed, author of “Fly Fishing Austin,” took me fly fishing this morning on Brushy Creek. Pam LeBlanc photo

​I know myself, and I know that if I don’t swim, bike, run, scuba dive, paddle, hike, plant a garden full of potatoes, rappel down a high-rise building, crawl through a cave or uproot trees at least once a day, things go south quickly.

Just ask my husband, who’s forced to reckon with the aftermath when I miss swim practice.

And now, along with fitness programs all over the city, my U.S. Masters Swim team at Western Hills Athletic Club has cancelled practices for the foreseeable future.

I can’t sit still, and I know I’m not alone. We’re all trying to practice social distancing while staying fit. Fortunately, here in Central Texas we’ve got lots of options.

Need some ideas? Check out these suggestions for ways to burn stress without mingling too closely with others:

Sheila Reiter and Chris LeBlanc pedal gravel roads south of Luling. Pam LeBlanc photo

  1. Ride a gravel bike in the country. I headed to Palmetto State Park between Gonzales and Luling on Saturday with my husband and one other friend. We paid our entrance fee, parked and struck out on a gorgeous 35-mile ride on low-traffic, dirt and gravel roads in the area. We passed a raucous donkey, spotted an early eruption of wildflowers, pedaled around fields of cattle and enjoyed a slower-paced tour of the gently rolling terrain. Not sure exactly where to ride? Check my article in Bluebonnet Electric Co-op’s magazine this month for route ideas. (
  2. Go fly fishing. This morning I joined Aaron Reed, author of “Fly Fishing Austin,” and Chris Johnson, owner of Living Waters Fly Fishing shop in Round Rock, for some casting on Brushy Creek at Champions Park. We tromped along the creek, waded in up to our knees, and cast and caught (well, they did; I just got some nibbles) a slew of sunfish. The land smelled like wild mint and onions, and the cold water swirling around my calves reminded me that nature is still there to recharge us. Bonus? Fly fishing relieves stress. The repetitive motion is meditative and soothing, and the green surroundings make me happy.
  3. I’ve taken to solo, early morning runs through my neighborhood. Some running groups are still holding practice, but advising members not to linger or socialize afterward. It’s not a bad time to remember the joy of running alone, too. Just make sure you tell someone where you’re going, when to expect you back, and wear brightly-colored clothing or lights if it’s dark.
  4. Get in the garden. Weeding, trimming and planting are great ways to squeeze in exercise, and it makes your yard look pretty, too. I planted potatoes, basil and tomatoes this week, and made headway tearing out weeds thriving in my yard. Hauling sacks of mulch, raking leaves and loading lawn detritus into trash cans is great functional exercise.
  5. Hiking’s another thing you can do solo or with a significant other. Use this time to discover some lesser-known parks, like the Doeskin Ranch Unit of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve near Liberty Hill. State parks are still open, and offer amazing spaces to get outside and move – without brushing shoulders with tons of other people.
  6. Head to West Texas. Now sounds like a great time to do a multi-day bike trek through Big Bend Ranch State Park, where you can spend a day spinning through a lunar landscape populated by prickly cactus, tarantulas and javelinas.

West Hansen paddles the Colorado River. Pam LeBlanc photo

  1. Go paddling. Central Texas offers plenty of options for beginning to advanced canoeing and kayaking. For placid waters, head to the Colorado River south of Austin or a short stretch of the Blanco River inside Blanco State Park. For trickier terrain, paddle the San Marcos River. Other options? The Llano River near Castell or Lady Bird Lake right here in Austin. Read more in this article I wrote for the Austin American-Statesman. (

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