The Difference Between Fitness and Health
Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his book, “Aerobics” in 1968 and has been called the Father of Aerobics. I became intimately acquainted with his work while serving in the USAF from 1968-74…they made us run!
Jim Fixx published “The Complete Book of Running” in 1977 and helped promote the running boom that has continued until today. My running addiction began in1976, so Fixx’s book also had a major impact on me.
When Jim Fixx died of a heart attack while running in 1984 he taught us something else, which I’m sure he hadn’t intended…there is a difference between being fit and being healthy. Jim had a genetic predisposition to heart problems.
Most of us runners were shocked at the time…running was supposed to protect you from heart attacks! The difference between being fit and being healthy was intellectually understandable. But of course it did not apply to me; I was this super long distance runner! So when my doctor told me around 1996 that I had high blood pressure, my response was that it was only high when in his office. So I put him off for several years before finally agreeing to take medication for the blood pressure; more to keep him quiet than because I believed him…what could a daily pill hurt.
When my total cholesterol readings were regularly +/-210, I argued that the ratio of my high density (good cholesterol) to total cholesterol was low…which is good…and so I wasn’t at risk for anything. Even the doctors agreed with that logic…for a while.
Then came November 2, 2013 when my left calf cramped up following a Saturday morning run with the MRC. The cause was eventually diagnosed as peripheral artery disease in the femoral artery of my left leg. Guess what causes such blockages…cholesterol, triglycerides and other little things floating around the blood stream.
So the doctor put a stent in my left femoral artery just above the knee, and voila!…after almost 6 months of not being able to run, I was back to it 10 days after the stent was put in. My running has recovered remarkably in the 6 months since.
Unfortunately, the stent had begun to plug up with more gunk. So the doctors did an angioplasty and cleared the blockage with a balloon, and my running has returned to it’s former (almost) greatness!
Obviously my ego overrode my intellect. It was always my opinion that because of the kind of long distance running I did, I was immune to everything. Well, it took a stent and a balloon to finally get my attention.
Why bring this up? Most if not all of you probably share my previous assumption that running inoculates us against just about everything except plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, and cars. Running may mitigate the effects of many health issues and sometimes allows us to delay following the recommendations of doctors…and loved ones! However, as the old saying goes, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” Be sure you know what that “later” price is going to be.
So my hope is that others may benefit from my late-in-life epiphany. If you have a genetic predisposition to various diseases or health ailments, please keep an open mind re further testing and treatment. I got away with it because my problems were not life threatening and it (only) cost me 6 months of not being able to run. Don’t run the risk of more disastrous consequences.