All of the Health Tips that I’ve written lately have been about our pets, and my goal has been to write about subjects that really matter to our clients. Sometimes those subjects are about pure health issues; sometimes they are about non-health challenges that we are all faced with concerning our pets – shedding for example. Well this time I’m going to share some things that apply to both our patients AND our clients.
When I was in high school I wrestled. Each summer I baled hay, walked beans, and worked for the vets at the local sale barn – all physical jobs. In college I got involved with the martial arts (had a blast!), and did some fencing (also a blast!). My first job after graduating from Vet school was in a practice where about 1/3 of the work was beef / cow /calf work – so doing my job often involved carrying all of the equipment to the back pasture and often roping my patient before treating it. Hard work and tons of fun for a young guy!
Needless to say I kept in pretty good shape through that part of my life. No big deal because pretty much every one I know is in good shape during that part of their life. But by the time I was in my mid thirties things had changed. I had this busy job, you see. And a family. And I was so busy. I had started to get back into shape a bunch of times. Again, no different than most people. When I was 36 I remember one night playing with my kids on the living room floor and my knees hurt like crazy. What a couch potato! I had known for years that I should get fit, but now I couldn’t even play with my kids without hurting. I have five kids, and I figured that if I was having pain while playing with the older ones, then I’d probably be in a wheel chair for the youngest – and that would be really embarrassing!
So I started to do some things. Dumb stuff like running the stairs to the basement (at first I could only do a few times up and down but it was better than running outside and embarrassing myself in front of the neighbors!). But I started small and worked up. My wife Bev ran in high school and college, she went with me so that when I “went public” at least I had a companion to walk beside when I needed a break. I have a good wife!
Well this time was different than the other times when I’d decided to get into shape – I actually stuck with it. And I’ve kept in shape since then, partly (I’m serious about this) because the process of getting into shape hurts so much more than staying in shape that I really don’t want to be faced with that again!
Earlier this year on Memorial Day I was in a 10K road race in Mankato and my wandering mind started thinking about my clients. A few weeks before that a friend of mine had asked for some ideas on getting fit and I jotted a couple of things down, and the thought struck me that maybe this subject would be OK for one of the Health Tips. At first it seemed like a bad idea – who wants to hear about Klein’s sore knees! And yet it is true that we care about both our clients and their pets, so maybe I should give it a try. So I hope this is an OK subject from your perspective.
I run alone a lot. I also run with my wife a lot (our chief subject during long runs is “where are we going to eat when we’re done”!). That’s been fun. We’ve run a bunch of races including several marathons. My kids are in track and cross-country, so I’ve had some good discussions with them and a couple of them will actually go running with me. I’ve met some neat people while running – there were a bunch of clients who ran that 10K on Memorial Day. During the April Sorenson Half Marathon in Albert Lea this year I ran the last 6 miles talking with a police officer from Rochester who was involved with her case and who ran the race to show support for her family. A bunch of us from the area commiserated after Grandma’s Marathon a couple of years ago. Now Bev and I are on a waiting list to run an indoor marathon (about 105 times around the track) in January at the college where three of our kids are at. The women’s cross country team members count laps, two of my daughters are on the team, my oldest graduates this year – when else in my lifetime will I have a chance to do something like that? So there have been a bunch of cool things about running in addition to the good feeling of being fit, and I wouldn’t have experienced any of those things if I had not started running those steps almost 10 years ago.
Below are a few things that have helped me; I have no idea if they will benefit anyone else. All of the comments are from the perspective of someone my age trying to get fit, which is different than the perspective of a youngster in high school trying to get fit. Some important things:
- Where there’s a will there’s a way. When there’s no will, there’s no way. Watching my teenagers grow up has certainly demonstrated that! Staying in shape comes from inside the person doing the work; nobody else can create the commitment to do it. I for one am sure that I am addicted to being a couch potato – addictions never leave, my brain is still a powerful influencer trying to get me to follow that addiction. I’m the only one who can get me back out there running tomorrow.
- Be patient (take the 10 year view, not the 2 month view). We only reap what we sow, and it takes time for things to grow.
- Avoid injuries – at our age we take too long to heal and then starting all over is too hard so we usually don’t.
- How you did today is great, but what’s really important is what you do tomorrow. Get back out there.
- Measure progress – keep a log.
- Don’t do anything your doctor doesn’t want you to do. If you’re not sure, check!
- Remember that your muscles, heart/lungs, and ligaments/tendons all gain strength and endurance at different speeds. You cannot do more than the weakest of those three areas is ready for and avoid injury.
- The goal is to feel stiff but not sore the next day. Remember what really matters is what you do tomorrow. If you over do it today and are painfully sore tomorrow, you just decreased the likelihood of getting back out there tomorrow, which is not smart.
- At our age there is a different relationship between pain and gain than we had in high school. The goal is to slowly get into shape, and injuries decrease the likelihood of that happening. If I feel a dull ache then I usually finish the workout. If I feel a sharp pain I stop immediately, walk and evaluate, try it again and if I feel more sharp pain then I’m done for the day.
Two phases to getting fit:
- The first phase is just building some muscle tone. Most of those muscles have not worked like that for several years. Don’t worry about distance or time, just get out and work them, wake them up. Start small, work up slowly. Remember the goal is to be able to get out there again tomorrow, work them but don’t overdo it.
- The second phase is when you start focusing on getting into shape. The science out there says that unless the heart rate is kept elevated for at lease a half hour there is minimal improvement in cardiovascular fitness. So start focusing on keeping your heart rate elevated for longer and longer until you start to reach that 30+ minute mark.
- Remember that the recovery period is very important. The actual run strains the muscles, etc. which then heal stronger than before during the recovery period. Too little recover period guarantees injury, and at my age my body needs longer recover than when I was in high school. That’s part of the reason I only run 3-4 times per week.
Types of workouts:
- Repeat – run all out for a short distance – i.e. Quarter mile, half mile, or mile repeats.
- Tempo run – run a middle distance, not all out but hard enough that you have a hard time saying entire sentences if you try to talk.
- Long run – long distance, even pace that you are breathing easy enough that you can talk with a running partner. The goal here is to get your body used to longer times on your feet running.
- Feeling uncomfortable during a workout is normal. About 75% of the way through a good workout my legs feel pretty fatigued. That means part of each run is uncomfortable physically, and that’s when the brain games start. Remember lifting weights in high school – if you could just barely lift a certain weight 10 times, the 10th lift is the one that did the most good. The first 9 lifts were only important for getting your body to the 10th. If you listen to your brain telling you to stop when you feel uncomfortable, you’ll miss out on the running equivalent of that 10th lift.
- That uncomfortable feeling will feel a LOT more uncomfortable than you remember it feeling when you were a high school athletic stud or studette.
- As with anything else, practice makes perfect. Tempo runs are especially good at giving good practice at resisting the brain games when uncomfortable.
- Again, we are older than in high school, we should have more sense now; don’t do anything your doctor doesn’t want you to do.
Keep a log:
- Knowing that you get to write your newest PR in your log, or knowing that you will have to stare at the lower than targeted number of miles in your log if you quit early will help you finish workouts.
- Looking back over your log is VERY satisfying. I can look back years ago and still remember that run in that place.
PR’s (Personal Records)
I remember running 6 miles. I’d never ever EVER done that before. Same with 7 miles. Then I got over 10, hit 12, 15 miles and not only was each one farther than I had ever run before, the distances were longer than most other people had ever run. Cool. Sign up for races – nobody wants to look foolish. Signing up for races puts a timeline and distance goal on your training. Start with 3K’s or 5K’s and work up. There is a great race in Mankato on Memorial Day weekend that is either a two-mile or a 10K. Look at www.raceberryjam.com for road races in Minnesota.
We are all busy. I have responsibilities as a vet, and a husband, and a father that are very real. So I run about three times per week. Those runs are fairly hard workouts, but that way I can enjoy the benefits of being in shape and not feel like I am neglecting my responsibilities in the other areas. That also gives my body plenty of recovery period. I use a three-day a week plan when training for marathons too, for the same reasons. That approach has worked well for both Bev and I. The magazine Runners World is focused on the “after high school / college runners” and I’ve found that to be a good resource.
- Don’t plan on most people around you helping to motivate you much. You need to motivate yourself or you will not stick with it. Most people will be happy that you are doing what you are doing. But most will not feel like talking a lot about it with you, or if you bring it up the subject immediately turns to either their high school accomplishments (did such or such time in high school and so I’m still in that bracket today) or to comments about how they want to get started running but don’t have the time. Most of the “unasked for coaching” that I get comes from out of shape people pulling stuff from their high school years that does someone my age more harm than good. I’m very lucky to have a spouse who just encourages me – it would be tough to do this with a spouse who discourages getting fit for whatever reason and I’ve seen that happen.
- Other runners will enjoy talking with you about it – your workouts, pace, etc and are some of the most encouraging people in the world.
If you think about it, all of the above apply to our pets too. Getting them in shape takes time, patience, and commitment. And being fit affords them a better quality life, just like us. So there, at lease part of this really is about my patients!!!
That’s enough for now – let me know your comments about getting and staying in shape, and have fun!!!