Thursday, September 29, 2011

About Being Fit vs. Being Healthy

Of course you're fit.  You swim, bike and/or run for hours and miles at a time.  You can out-endure anyone close to you without even trying.  Your physique is envied by models everywhere.  You can lose weight without even trying and your body fat percentage is the goal of every top professional athlete.  Yes sir.  You're fit alright.

But are you healthy?

I have been thinking about this for a while now and even more so after the unfortunate death of a triathlete at the start of Ironman Louisville this year.  Of course we're fit, but are we healthy?

Those of us that got a late start in the sport, have a lot of ground to make up.  As for me, I was overweight (198 lbs), in pain from bulging, herniated and ruptured discs.  I have had numerous surgeries on my toes and ankle, leaving a constant nagging, if you will, on my lower extremities. Add to that the fact that I have high cholesterol due to family history and the very unhealthy diet that I followed for many a day.  In 1988 I had an asthma attack which landed me in the emergency room, at which point my cholesterol was discovered to be over 500; "a walking heart attack" I was told I was.

In 2006 I turned the corner and saw the light.  It was there blinding me, much like a train coming at you in a tunnel.  I did not want to be in pain any longer.  I wanted to watch my daughters grow, get married, have kids.  I wanted to travel with my wife; go places and do things only imagined impossible up to that point.  So I joined a gym.  I was 52 at that point.  I decided to get fit.  And healthy.

I changed a lot of my habits.  It was hard, but it had to be done. No ifs, ands or buts. It had to happen.  And slowly I started loosing weight, cholesterol started coming down hard (and staying down), pains turned to aches which are easier to manage.

I began to get fit.  But was I healthy?

My doctor suggested I see him twice a year vs once.  Due to the new stress I was putting on my body he wanted to make sure my ticker was ticking just fine.  I obliged.  He was keeping a close eye on me, for which I was very thankful.

I have done a couple of stress tests over the past couple of years.  Surprising the heck out of the techs performing the procedure.  So, as far as we can tell... yeah I'm fit and I'm healthy.

Most of the deaths at triathlons occur in the swimming leg of the event.  There's just to much going on at that point for an unhealthy heart to handle.  I understand that all the tests in the world cannot guarantee diddly-squat... but you know what?  I like my chances now a whole lot better.

Which brings me to the point...  Of course you know you're fit, but do you know you're healthy?  Go see your doctor more often.  Don't ignore, as much as us Type A personalities want to, unusual pains.  Chances are that they're nothing, but why take the chance?  When was the last time you had a stress test?  Call your doctor's office, have them schedule one... today!

Yes sir, you're fit alright.  But are you healthy?