Thursday, June 6, 2013

I'd rather fight than switch

This is week seven of my transformation.  It is about week 5 of my return to being comfortable with my running again.  My wake up call came 7 weeks ago.  April 20th it was, a week before my half marathon.  I was working at my part time job, which is driving a medical van.  That day we were parked at Lowe's for a community day and the nurses were giving free blood pressure tests.  I had mine taken because it had been a while.  The results, to me, were shocking.  160/100.  Shocking for me anyway.  I pride myself on being healthy.  I am never sick.  Repeat.  Never sick.  This may come off as sounding cocky, but I am never sick.  I work hard.  Rarely take a day off.  If I feel a bit under the weather, I don't let it get to me.  I always feel movement is better than laying around to cure what ails you.  I work through pain.  I have to.  By choice, I am in a career that requires me to be on my feet and physically active all the time.  I'm a cabinet maker and installer.  I do most of the work by myself.  Blah, blah.  Anyway, the nurse took my blood pressure and those numbers were the result.  I blamed it on what I ate that day.  A cheese danish, a hubcap sized chocolate covered coffee roll from Dunkin Donuts and two large, sugar filled coffees.  That was it.  I also realized that I had some of the typical danger signs of potential high blood pressure.  Fat around the stomach, lack of regular sleep and quite a bit of stress on a regular basis.  I remember saying to myself that this isn't happening.  I'm going to fix it.  Without medication.  I also realize that in the whole scheme of things, this was not a medical emergency, but it was something that I may be able to control by changing some habits.  So, that week, I began cutting out most things that I felt were unhealthy in my diet.  The following Saturday, the same nurse was at the expo when I was picking up my race bib and stuff.  She took my pressure again.  I figured one week of being healthy would make my reading be pretty much perfect.  Smart is not my strong suit.  The reading was the same.  I was pissed.  The nurse told me I should see a doctor.  She also told me I probably shouldn't run the next day.  I told her I was definitely going to run.  She told me that I should not at least run fast.  I couldn't promise that.  The day of the race, I was a bit freaked out.  I've often said that I would rather have a heart attack and die running than while building cabinets or working.  The thought of a stroke scared me a bit though.  I still ran.  

After the race, I figured I would keep whittling away at my weight and the stuff that may be contributing to my issue.  I researched on the internet the causes of and solutions for high blood pressure.  Diet, lifestyle, exercise!!  I can do that.  I went from being a little timid about my exercise to saying, "fuck it!", I'm going to blow this pressure right out of the top of my head.  As the weight came off, I started increasing the time and intensity of my work outs.  Instead of going halfway up the stadium steps, I started going all the way up again.  I increased my lifting, pushups and other strength activities.  I looked at food a different way.  I still do.  When I look at the pantry filled with stuff I used to gorge myself on, I think of it as an enemy to my health.  Same with most fast food.  I still eat quite a bit and well, but it is mostly healthy.  Way more fruits and vegetables.  I have lost a total of 20 pounds, 14 since the blood pressure was read.  My running is almost back to my pre-marathon status.  Some of my running ills came from my knee issue, but packing 20 pounds on and neglecting my strength training did not help.  I just won my age group and came in 5th overall in a local Pump and Run competition.  My 5k time was only off by .48 seconds from my previous pr and my lifting was really good.  I say only, because I really didn't feel race ready.  They say you can't lose weight, build muscle and stay strong.  Well, you can if you train and eat smart and you are overweight to start with.  I feel strong.

This is just my experience and my story.  I don't recommend it for everyone.  If I were talking to you, I would say go to the doctor and get checked out.  I'm still gonna do that.  I do believe, though, that much of our ills can be cured ourselves.  Sitting on our ass is a cure for nothing.  Feeling sorry for ourselves is a cure for nothing.  I also know that my issue is relatively minor compared to others.  But it really bothered me and made me think how I take(took) things for granted.  If you take your health for granted for too long, you may not be able to get it back.  My pressure as of my last reading was 130/82.  Still have some work to do, but I'm happy with the progress.

I'm going to close with this.  I was talking to a friend and we were discussing running.  Running is hard.  It is hard to describe what makes us do what we do.  It comes down to accomplishing something you thought you could never do.  The feeling of pure power and joy when you reach a goal you didn't think  possible.  Working through some hard spots to reach a breakthrough you have been working towards for maybe months.   There is nothing like that feeling.  Knowing that you busted through some barrier.  And sharing that experience with some pretty cool people.  It is life changing is so many ways.  

I will conclude with a quote, "I could die tomorrow, but I want my corpse to be full of muscle, bone and gristle...and for it to sprint to its final resting place." House Vandeweghe

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