It often takes a tragedy or hitting rock bottom, before people seriously look at their life and consider change. And I’m no different. The journey to wellness and my current medical practice began with such an event.
I used to have a recurrent dream of running when I was a teenager. In my dreams, I would feel so light and free. Running was effortless and exhilarating. These dreams were so compelling that I wanted to try running while I was awake. To my chagrin, it was not as easy as I had imagined. I quickly gave up trying.
Throughout my early life, I plodded along and did not think too much about my health, nutrition, or exercise. I did not participate in team sports and did not exercise regularly. I didn’t think much about the future. It seems when people are young, they think that they will live forever, no matter what they do.
I went off to college, and eventually medical school. I ate anything I wanted, lived on ramen noodles in school, and did not think much about exercise. I was blessed to meet my husband, Lanny, during my last year of school. Together we would go to the gym and do basic work outs, but not anything too challenging.
Life changes . . . .
Unfortunately, when I was 2 months pregnant with my daughter, my only sister became ill with terminal head and neck cancer, caused by smoking. This was a very difficult time for me. She was in and out of the hospital. She passed away at the age of 43, 1 month before my daughter was born. One month later, my mother suffered a cardiac arrest, and required heart surgery, and became chronically ill.
The next 2 years were dark ones, as I became depressed. I became very aware of the fragility of life. It was the love of my husband and daughter that pulled me out of this, and helped my become stronger. As my daughter grew, her personality often reminded me of my sister. I quickly realized that I could not let her follow in my sister’s footsteps. I needed to be a role model for her, by eating correctly and becoming physically active.
Around that time, one of the trainers at my gym, was getting a group together to run a half-marathon. I thought that this sounded fun! When I asked the distance of a half-marathon, I nearly fell down when he said 13.1 miles. I had not tried to run any distance since my teenage years, and I remembered how hard that was…but I was determined. I got on the treadmill and started to jog. I could not go more than a mile initially.
It was as hard as I remembered, not effortless and exhilarating, as in my dreams. However, as an adult, I realized that we have to work for what we want. I started signing up for 5K races (3.1 miles), and eventually worked myself up to the 13.1 miles.
As I continued to run regularly, it became easier and easier, and I did feel light on my feet.
Running started to become an integral part of my life. My stress would melt away when I was out on the road. Since this time, I have gone on to run multiple marathons and do triathlons, even a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).
I cannot imagine my life without doing regular exercise. I’m sure that had I continued my “couch potato” lifestyle, I would have taken years off my life expectancy. My daughter has grown up in a household that values nutrition and regular physical activities, and highly regards her health.
Re-evaluate your lifestyle now. You can do it.
We all have the ability to improve, and even possibly, re-create ourselves. Unfortunately we get caught up in the day to day stresses and lose sight of the overall picture, and what we are doing to our bodies. Minor changes in lifestyle can have a huge impact on attitude, health, and life-expectancy.
I feel regular physical activity is one of the best things a person can do for themselves.
And yes, it is hard at first, but if you continue, you may get to the point where you love it and don’t want to do without it. It has been proven that regular physical activity can extend life by 4.2 years. This does not mean running a marathon; just walking 30 minutes per day. And 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day (getting your heart rate up), has been shown to be equivalent to treatment with an antidepressant for depression.
If you are not currently exercising, I would recommend starting slowly. But definitely start!