A reminder that we are not invincible

Leave it to a bout of exhaustion to make you think long and hard about the important stuff.

My job can get pretty busy at times, which often means overtime, six-and seven-day work weeks and one-day weekends to get all your stuff done.

That’s sort of how my last weekend went. I had one day in which to do a “long run” (read, good mileage, slow pace) before jetting out of town to work on a property I reluctantly own and desperately want to be rid of. In between three hours of driving round-trip and close to nine hours of labor, I finally got home about 4:30 a.m. and crashed before having to head back to work.

What followed was a sleepy shift and then me crashing the next day and doing, well, nothing. And I felt no guilt.

I should have been training. But sloth came on to me too easily. I bagged it, knowing tomorrow is another day.

But then again, it isn’t. It’s not even a sure bet that it will be there for you. Life teaches us that. So does the Bible. Not one day in your future is guaranteed.

Upon rousing myself for work, I read a co-worker’s column about a health screening all of us did in the office, and how his blood cholesterol and blood pressure tests came back a bit scary. He termed it a wake-up call.

I took that same test. Every number on my test was solid except one. LDL cholesterol. Too high.

Sigh.

This is an ongoing battle with me. Part of it is genetics, I’m sure. But there are other causes as well. Most likely, they’re all self-inflicted. But I’ve done a lot of work to gain control over this.

When I was 28, I was in less-than-optimal shape. I was hitting the lunch train at work three times a week, with the menu often bringing me fatty, oversized and calorie-rich offerings that are tasty, to be sure, but deadly over time. A health screening back then showed my total cholesterol at 285; 200 or less is considered normal. My numbers were heart-patient high.

So I did something about it. I ramped up my exercise, cut back on eating out and tried to get serious. I dropped 30 pounds. I got it under control.

So here we are today, and this same old nemesis is back. I have to tell you, it’s frustrating.

I can run faster and farther than most men of any age. I can also lift more than the average dude. I work out six days a week and climb freakin mountains, man. And I’m still good for a few 5-minute rounds in the ring. After gaining some unhealthy weight, I’ve peeled it all off. No way this should be happening to me.

But it can and does.

Let’s get real for a minute. There is, within the running culture, anyway, a thought that if you run enough, you can eat and drink what you want. Heck, I’ve even written about that. Post long-run foodbaby? Running for beer? Yep, I’m there.

But the reality is this: You can’t. Eventually, it catches up to you. The occasional cheat meal increases in frequency. Tastes for things like pulled pork and pizza, chased down with a couple of brews, become less of a treat and more of a habit. The pounds stay off, but the damage is done elsewhere.

And when you add stress, the real fun starts. Life stress is widely accepted as a contributing factor to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. If you have ever gone through the death of a family member, a divorce, a job loss, or heartache with kids (or if you’re unable to unload a money-sucking property you no longer live in), then you know that stress can make you feel sick even when you’re not ill. And, of course, it can make you sick for real.

I’m reminded that seemingly healthy people keel over unexpectedly fairly often. Last year’s death of ultra-runner Micah True taught us that. Back in the day, Jim Fixx was Mr. Running when he fell dead at age 52.

So we’re not invincible. Not by any stretch.

I’m trying to decide what this means for me. I don’t think I’m going to give up bacon or beer anytime soon, but I also think I need to be more realistic and eyes-wide-open about how much of the tasty-but-bad-for-me stuff I ingest during any given week.

I don’t want the croak on my next long run, fall over dead while climbing a mountain or stroke out while stuffing my face with a slice of pep and mushroom. I’d rather be the guy who ran his last marathon at age 100.

I want that number to go down.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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2 thoughts on “A reminder that we are not invincible

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I have struggled with high cholesterol for years. I finally go it under control but have been verly laxed as of late. Unfortunately we can’t eat what we want just because we run or excercise or whatever we do to stay in somewhat good shape. Hopefully it will be fine. Do you currently take medicine? My doctor a long time ago told me to take Niacin everyday but with your kind of numbers I don’t think that will work.

    • No medications, and I hope to avoid them because the side effects can be pretty significant (weight gain, lethargy). So I have to dial in my diet and continue to crank down on the exercise. And keep dropping weight. But I’m pretty convinced this starts in the kitchen.

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