S1E21. One Hundred Fifty Minutes

I’ve been running—on and off—since I was 14 and a freshman in high school. I wasn’t fast, but I worked hard. I never ran a mile in under 5 minutes, but I did earn my varsity letter running the 2 mile.

In 1966, I was among the first joggers to run in the road. People used to yell ‘Get a horse!’ The more creative among them yelled ‘Get a car!’ In the winter, some would aim at me and I’d have to jump into a snow bank. We’ve come a long way in 55 years, haven’t we?

Over the years, I always felt better when I was running. In my 30s, I tried to run the sub-5 minute mile that had eluded me in high school. I got down to 5:35 and was chagrinned at how difficult it was to run a 75-second quarter mile when I used to run them with the greatest of ease.

In my 40s, my primary care physician sent me for a stress test. I was told that I had a ‘runner’s heart’ with thick walls that had built up over the years. Apparently, heart disease (which runs on my father’s side of the family) was not my biggest risk factor.

On my 50th birthday, I was living in Lexington, North Carolina, while doing my Ph.D. internship at the Hefner VA Medical Center. I was jogging in a park a block from my house when I got the idea of setting a goal for myself: I wanted to be able to jog 2 miles without stopping every year until I was 80. That was considered pretty far-fetched in 2001, but it was a motivator for me. Each year for the past 19 years, I’ve been able to check that box.

In my middle 60s, I was in good enough shape to run 5K events. My best time was 30:50.

Jogging has been my go-to exercise when I need to lose weight or manage my cholesterol. According to the research, it appears that it will help preserve my cognitive abilities, as well.

Of all the things we don’t know about dementia and age-related cognitive decline, one thing we do know is that regular exercise is protective. It may not reverse losses, but it does appear to protect what you have and slow your rate of decline.

The latest guideline I’ve found is to shoot for exercising 150 minutes each week, e.g., 30 minutes/day x 5 days. The criterion for calling it ‘exercise’ seems to be ‘huffing & puffing’ and/or ‘breaking a sweat.’ So it’s nice if you go out for a walk, but it’s better if you step up your pace. The goal appears to be to keep the 400 miles of your brain’s blood vessels open and pumping nourishment to your 86 billion neurons 24/7/365.

COVID-19 really knocked me for a loop. No, I didn’t get it, but it closed the gym where I worked out and I gained 20 pounds. So now I’m starting my comeback. For years, a good weight for me has been 155, but now, at 186, I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed before and, at 70, I know that’s not good. Being overweight and out-of-shape, I need to go at this with caution. 

The apartment complex we just moved into has a fitness center with a treadmill. Since I haven’t yet met my goal of being able to jog 2 miles this year, that’s where I’m starting. I began by just walking the distance. Next I plan on jogging ¼ mile as part of the 2-mile walk, and then raise that to ½ mile when I feel ready…and so on until I’m jogging the whole thing.

Just 5 years ago, a comfortable jog for me was at a 6 mph pace. Now, though, I see that I’ve slowed to 4 mph (15 minutes/mile). Jogging 2 miles will take me 30 minutes. Going 2 miles has me huffing & puffing & sweating, so this workout fits the healthy brain guideline. Now if I can just stay motivated enough to do it 5 days each week…

Post script: On Wednesday I discovered another way I can huff & puff and burn a few extra calories. We live on the 4th floor of our apartment complex. Getting there from the street level takes 3 flights of 19 stairs each. I doubt I’ll ever be able to walk up and down for 30 minutes, but doing it is definitely more heart and brain healthy than taking the elevator.

And then I saw someone much younger than I jogging around the complex. Each lap is probably about ¼ mile. 

It’s nice to know I have options!

8 Comments

  1. Zella Felzenberg says:

    Enjoy your come back! At least no one will be yelling at you to “get a car” as you run (?) up and down the stairs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy Napurano says:

    I was inspired by your words today. Thank You! I, too, have pandemic pounds. Too many hours sitting in the chair after a lifetime in motion. Returning to the gym a month ago was difficult. Walks outside have been slower than they used to be. Time to get my sneakers on and get out the door! I need to huff and puff again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to the Comeback Trail on The Journey To Nowhere…this is hard!

      Like

  3. ginismith40 says:

    It’s good to know your move went well. Keep running. It’s perfect for so many of the reasons you mentioned. Three of my sons are runners much like you. It’s a lifetime activity, professionally and personally. Blessings to you and Sally

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m proud of you, brother! You are an inspiration, showing people it’s never too late to get in shape, both physically and mentally. I am one of the people you just inspired. As you know all too well, I was also a major runner with a runner’s heart. All of that ended after a car accident in 2001 at the age of 55. I knew my running days were over. After my recuperation, I mourned the loss of my passion. I never really developed a pattern of exercise after that. I bought a top-of-the-line exercise bike, but rarely used it. Thanks to you, I plan to change that. Once again, my little brother guides me in the right direction. Thank you!
    PS: After years of pounding the pavement, I feel very fortunate that at 74 years old, I have no knee problems whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol Bojarsky says:

    Fifty years later I still remember your instructions to Tania, Lucy and me when we took up running: When you hit an incline shorten your stride and pump your arms straight as you run up the hill. If only my knees would let me run I would still be following your advice. It’s walking and water aerobics for me now, but at least I’m still moving

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful to hear from you! Who would have thought that with all the words I uttered back in the day that I would be remembered for my coaching about how to run hills? Hope all is well, recalcitrant knees, notwithstanding.

      Like

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