This is not the kind of post I normally make; there are no snarky comments here today. Instead, I thought I might share my own story and in so doing inspire someone who may be considering a life change around your health. Take me and running …. and I appreciate that for many there are a variety of reasons not to; however, even I found some of my results startling. And whether it is running or walking or cycling or hiking or swimming or whatever sport you might enjoy, I believe the core truths are the same.
The first half of this story is exercise. And for me exercise means running. Running was for a long time best summed by a quip my HS coach made to me: “Ward, running for you is a race between the commercials from the couch to the fridge and back to get a twinkie.” How very true he was. Some 5 years back I was 300 lbs and about 44″ in the waist and with body fat somewhere in the mid 30s. I was more than husky, more than fat, I was clinically obese. I decided enough was enough and started to seriously weight lift and cardio 5 times a week which got me to 215 lbs, 14% body fat (BF) and skeletal muscle was 34% and visceral fat around 11 with a 34″ waist.
Enter a very bad of gout (my family is predisposed genetically to it and I further have a physical injury to the area that got inflamed that make my susceptibility to it even higher). Toward the end of two weeks, holed up in my house, I woke one night to sweats and a pain that was beyond anything I know how to describe to you other than in this manner. I recall vividly the few minutes where I sat on my bed while I considered going out to my tool shed to strap my leg into a miter saw and cutting my foot off. I seriously believed that that pain would be better than the pain of the gout. It was that very next morning that I got truly and deeply serious about my health which till then had been, by way of comparison, a mere hobby. No more; health become my life, Health is my Life.
I dropped another 25 pounds and got myself to 185lbs and 32″ waist. I was happy with the results. I stopped weight training about 12 months ago to prove to myself that with diet I can maintain myself at 185lbs. But my BF had climbed up a bit to 18%. Before returning to weights I decided to try to shed the BF and opted to up my running. Now I run 6-13 days in a row, 5-15 miles at a run. I am still 185lbs but my BF is 12% and my skeletal muscle is 42% and visceral fat at 7 and 30″ waist. How? Running and eating healthy. Even I did not think these kinds of results were possible with running alone. And yes, all of this running on Vibram FiveFingers. 🙂
The other half of the story is diet. Diet is now a four-letter word to me; it is much abused and very much maligned from its true denotational form. Diet is not something you do to lose weight, it is something you do to maintain your weight. And not even maintain your weight but maintain your health. (By the way, body fat—not to be confused with BMI which is another abused metric that is best ignored—and not weight is a key metric in your health.) Diet is not measured in weeks or months or even years, it is measure by a lifetime: your lifetime. I have naturally fallen into localvore habits and dietary inclinations similar to, albeit deviate in keys areas from, paleolithic diet through listening to my body and its reaction to the foods I consumed. Ironically, exercise became a key means of understanding the impact of the foods I ingested since I could measurably see and physically feel the difference the next morning as I went out for my morning run. I know now that salads are my best friend in the evenings. While I love gluten products I am better off keeping them to a minimum. I changed from cow to goat-based diary products because I went from feeling bloated and irritable to feeling refreshed. And I can tell you there is a marked difference between 1 glass of wine and 2 glasses of wine on how you feel after even 5 short miles, and better yet no glasses of wine unless very early in the evening. I know that omega-3s and vitamin D do wonders to my temperament and without them I feel a morass deep in my bones that is hard to shake. I went from a cholesterol level in the mid-200s to now the mid-100s with my HDLs making up nearly half of that number. I went from a resting heart rate in the 70s to the low 50s and high 40s. I look younger, some 10 years younger according to many, now at age 37 than when I was 32 when I looked closer to 40. And besides a vitamin D and omega-3 supplement to help balance out my nutrition this is all done without aid of other medicines. Food is my medicine.
I put numbers there for you to appreciate what making a lifestyle can achieve. But numbers do not tell the real story. There is not a means to measure happiness other than in the lift in my smile and the crows feet next to my eyes, nor can you see but only feel what is like to sit comfortably in your haunches, resting deep in your bones and knowing that life is all about living with yourself, mind and body … for what it may be worth so I share.