Fishing & Boating

The outdoors can be quite therapeutic

Do something that hurts.

Sometimes, it’s the only way.

I don’t know how many people live their lives in pain, stress or anger, with no outlet for the gunk. But at times, we all get our chests cluttered with crud. Unfortunately, our society has offered some of the worst escape hatches — cable television, video games, magazines that tell you how to become the “perfect” person, and, of course, narcotics.

May I suggest an alternative?

Never get used to feeling negative emotions. And fight pain with pain. Put yourself in a situation that makes you surge just beyond your perceived limits. Do it until it hurts. Then, if you can, keep doing it.

Take a look around Bradenton, and the opportunities are endless to punish your body and pump out the critters that cripple your soul.

Jet out to the trails just north of Lake Manatee State Park and walk, or run, farther than you ever have before. Don’t let the rain stop you. In fact, absorb each drop, and let the energy from nature consume you. Don’t stop until it hurts.

Get on a bike, crank it into the highest gear and rip through that muddy puddle like a quarterback carrying the ball straight at a linebacker. Know that the throbbing in your legs will soon turn into a rush and natural high that exceeds any drug. There are plenty of places to do this. Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton (99th and 17th) recently finished a paved lane for bikers.

But convenience isn’t what we’re after here. So, go to Rays Canoe Hideaway on the Upper Manatee River or Canoe Outpost on the Little Manatee River and get lost. Not so lost that you’re in danger. But lose yourself.

Put your head down, paddle like you’re in the Olympics, and after 10 minutes of this, look up at the world of a green jungle cut by a glassy river, and notice your heart beating like a Congo drum. Go for it.

Long as there’s not lightning, head out to the bay on a windy day and let the waves beat you batty. Feel a snook quake your arms and wrists as it peels line and, in the process, any grief that’s collected in your gut. Ride those pounding waves.

When someone asks where you live, tell them: “Balanced on the edge of a tipping gunwale.” Don’t sweat their confused look.

Jet to the beach, sprawl on the sand and wait for an incoming storm. Jog alongside the shoreline as lightning flashes behind the Gulf horizon. Don’t stop until you’ve had to stop, stretch and repeat.

A quick disclaimer: I’m by no means encouraging you to put yourself in danger. Only in a burning state of mind that neither your body nor brain has faced. Afterward, you’ll realize just the fact you did it makes you a slightly different, and better, person.

The muscles will ache. The wounds may last a while. And to others, the bruises, scratches and scars will be but a mystery, a story without a title.

So when you don’t feel your best self, challenge the therapeutic Florida outdoors.

Makes sure it hurts a little.