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Pandemic pursuit: Calgary retiree rediscovers unicycling, supports park he rides in

Click to play video: 'Pandemic pursuit: Calgary retiree rediscovers unicycling, supports park he rides in' Pandemic pursuit: Calgary retiree rediscovers unicycling, supports park he rides in
Getting outside and staying active is helping a lot of people get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as Gil Tucker shows us, a Calgary man is rediscovering an unusual pursuit, and helping others enjoy the outdoors while he’s at it. – Jan 12, 2022

Getting outside and staying active is helping a lot of people get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

And one Calgary man is rediscovering an unusual pursuit, helping others enjoy the outdoors while he’s at it.

Stephen Bennett, a retired geophysicist, has recently resumed unicycling.

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“It’s great exercise — I’m outdoors,” he said.

Bennett is doing most of his unicycling at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, just east of Cochrane, Alta.

“The trails are just beautiful,” Bennett said. “The views are incredible and the terrain is really nice — it goes up and down.”

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Unicycling means switching gears from his usual fitness routine.

Bennet had been staying in shape by swimming and working out at a gym, until COVID-19 hit.

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“The gym was closing and opening and closing, so I resurrected my unicycling skills,” Bennett said.

Bennett had initially started developing those skills when he was 15 and set aside his unicycle after a couple of years.

Now, after decades away from it, he’s back in the saddle.

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“I picked it up at the age of 62,” Bennett said. “and then I started coming (to Glenbow Ranch) and cycling for eight or 10 km.”

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Since resuming unicycling in September 2021, Bennett has faced challenging conditions on his rides.

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“I’ll do it in any type of weather. Sometimes it’s raining,” Bennett said. “One of my rides was in -20 C.”

Bennett’s been getting so much out of it that he’s decided to take the money he was spending on his gym membership and donate it to Glenbow Ranch.

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“I can see the happiness that it brings a lot of people,” Bennett said. “They’re in a good mood. They’re outside, they’re getting exercise.”

It’s a donation that’s appreciated by staff at the park.

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“During the lockdown in COVID, we saw about a 200 per cent increase in visitation to the park, so we’re busy out here,” Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation’s Sarah Parker said. “To have people like Stephen support us is actually a really beautiful thing and I hope it inspires other people to do the same.”

Bennett says he’ll probably return to the gym once COVID-19 restrictions ease on a more long-term basis.

“But I will always maintain the unicycling,” Bennett said. “That’s what the pandemic can do to you: you rediscover new things.”

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