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Mornings in NOLA belong to a runner’s world

Sunrise over the levee. (Photo by Brianna Smyk)

It’s 6 a.m. on a Monday morning. My alarm clock buzzes, inviting the beginning of the work week. I begrudgingly haul myself out of bed, brush my teeth, don my workout gear, and head out the door for my daily morning workout. As soon as I begin running and look up at the beautiful morning sky — lightly colored by the not-yet-risen sun and often speckled with a few wispy clouds, morning fog, a lingering star or planet, or even sometimes, the moon — I am thankful that I woke up.

So begins my weekly workout ritual. I am not a morning person by nature, and though I have come to enjoy my morning workouts, it did take some conditioning to make myself feel this way. Though I sometimes still have to pry myself out of bed, I am always happy when I do because my morning workouts provide me with some much-needed one-on-one time with my city.

I can run down by the river (pacing myself as I run up the levee and the only “hills” in New Orleans), past the giraffes that live at the zoo, through Audubon Park, along the streetcar line into downtown and the Quarter, or around the maze of streets on the way to Mid-City and City Park. As a new New Orleanian, I am always taken by the unique and awesome sights that surround me as I explore the city and am always delighted that even a city brimming with so much culture, vibrancy, and joie de vivre as New Orleans is small enough to explore on foot.

In this second-to-last-week in December, we find ourselves at the height of the holiday frenzy. Chanukkah has begun, Christmas is less than a week away, and the New Year is just around the corner. As we continue into this festive season, we are bombarded by yummy (yet often unhealthy) sweets and treats coupled with days spent cuddled warm by the fire — or perhaps beneath the ceiling fan — rather than out appreciating the fabulous sights our city offers. While desserts, drinks, and relaxing days may satisfy our taste buds and tired minds, they tend to do a number on our waistlines — as well as any head start we may have on our healthful New Year’s resolutions.

But fear not, New Orleanians, lest this not-so-shocking news about holiday overindulgence ruin your holiday. Rather enjoy and indulge, but find balance with a walk, a run, a bike, a yoga (see my NOLA Yoga Journey for more details on that) or an exercise class. Use photographs from my morning escapades as inspiration to choose to include a joyful venture into this beautiful, scenic city in your holiday tradition. Take the family; tell a story; but by gosh, by golly, get moving by jolly!

Brianna Smyk has an M.A in Art History from San Diego State University. She lives and works in New Orleans and writes about arts and culture for NolaVie. Read more of Brianna’s articles at For more about NolaVie, go to


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