Wake-up Call

So a couple of weeks ago, I started experiencing some weird physical symptoms. I just mentioned them in passing to a medical professional (who I was seeing for unrelated reasons), and before I knew it, I was sent off to the ER and embarked on a few days of heart tests.

The good news is that the symptoms I have been experiencing weren’t related to my heart. (This of course means we still need to track down what’s causing them, but at least we’ve ruled out the most serious culprits.)

I want my ticker to run a long time. Photo by Salticidae via Flickr.

The bad news is that I must make some changes to my lifestyle. I’m pushing 40, so you know what that means:

Exercise and diet.

I generally hate exercise with the blinding passion of ten thousand suns. First off, I find it boring. It is almost impossible for me to get bored, so this is saying something. I think some of it has to do with the repetitiveness, but more of it has to do with the isolation. Unless you have the money to plop down at a gym (which I don’t), exercise is a solitary endeavor that grates against my extrovert nature.

Of course, you can exercise in public–walking, jogging–and it doesn’t cost a dime. But then you have the prying eyes of the public upon you. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t care what strangers think, but I do. I don’t have much lung capacity; I get totally winded if I run a couple of blocks. (Or so I thought until I did a stress test–apparently I can jog for a while as long as I gradually build up speed  and don’t care about collapsing into a heap for fifteen minutes afterwards.) I don’t like that I get winded so easily, and don’t like the idea that everybody on the sidewalk can gaze upon my ineptitude in all its glory. (Remember that I live in the downtown of a major city, there are always a lot of people around.) And I know that the only way to increase my lung capacity is to do those exhausting four-block runs and build it up gradually. But it’s hard to wrap my mind around the long-term benefits of temporary embarrassment.

As to diet, I have an absolutely crappy diet. Mind you, I love cooking–but I hate cooking for myself. So I gravitate to foods that are simple to prepare–peanut-butter sandwiches, nachos, frozen pizzas. This is compounded with the fact that I have a bad habit of forgetting to eat. I get so wrapped up in the projects I’m working on that sometimes it’s 5 pm or so before I realize I haven’t eaten yet. This does not set one up for healthy eating, either.

And I’m sitting here writing this, and I envision all of you sitting back and pointing at me and telling me I’m making excuses. And, of course (assuming you’re actually doing this), you’re right. I’ve been sitting on these excuses for far too long. I’ve been letting stupid things get in the way, like the trauma of middle-school PE (which is supposed to set you up for a lifetime of healthy habits but more often than not dissuades you from doing so).But I simply have no choice now. My blood pressure, which was once fantastic, is now elevated. My HDL cholesterol is too low. And I can’t ignore my family’s history of heart disease, either.

And so I must figure out how to make myself eat well, and get over my dread of exercise. Because I have no intention of dying at 59 like my father.

In other words, I’m 39, and it’s time to grow up.


About Whittier Strong

Whittier Strong is an MFA student in creative writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with a focus in nonfiction. He graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in creative writing. He has special interests in sociology and philosophy.

Posted on 12 January, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’d recommend you check out
    and listen to some of his Angriest Trainer podcast. I’ve been on No Sugar, No Grains for about six months, am healthier than I’ve been in a long time, stable energy, lost 30+ pounds so far. I know you’re not asking for diet recommendations, but it really does work. And there’s also a super-supportive facebook group, if you’re interested in more information.

    And by the way, I generally have one meal a day–in part because of my schedule, and mainly because that’s just how often I’m hungry. I rarely spend more than 20 minutes cooking (with the exception of the occasional casserole or roast, which are day-off projects and not really necessary :)).

  2. I ran today for the first time since high school without someone chasing me. I started a couch to 5k program. I didn’t die. Anything is possible if you just make your mind up. I figure it’s better than heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure in the future.

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