Exercise versus illness

I don’t understand why so many people squander their health and fitness. You get one life. Better to spend it feeling really good if you can, surely?

Health is such a privilege. I’ve had to fight for it. Fourteen years ago I was knocked over by myalgic encephalomyelitis, a debilitating illness that no one should ever have to pronounce or spell.

The main symptom was chronic, crushing fatigue. There was no respite, not even sleep was relaxing. I could barely walk down the driveway. I certainly couldn’t work. I had no idea if I would ever recover.

It also wiped out my concentration, shutting me down during basic conversations. How cruel then, to give it such an exhausting name. Myalgic encepha-what? They should’ve just called it Slump.

A big part of my eventual recovery included good old fashioned walking. I forced myself to complete one slow walk every day, a few short lamp post lengths at first. It took several years of these daily walks, growing from five minutes to ten, until eventually I could walk for half an hour. Little old ladies passed me on the footpath. I looked like a young man out for a suspicious shuffle, but for me, this was serious training. I called it my very slow olympics.

Finally the magical day arrived when I made it all the way around the Mount base track. That was a big milestone for me and my wife. While our friends were buying their first homes, my wife’s dream was simply to be able to walk around the Mount with her husband. We’ve never looked back. Last weekend we ran a marathon together.

Please indulge me for a moment while I show off. Yep, I just ran my first full marathon, the T42 Central Plateau Trail Run, held last Saturday 4 May, same day as the Rotorua marathon. It was the best run of my life, so I’m feeling kind of invincible right now.

We’ve been training for months, me on my own and my wife with her nutty running buddy. It was a big first for all three of us and it’s been hard work. Marathons don’t happen by accident. We’re all busy with jobs and families so most of our training was done at 5am on the weekends. Sleeping in tomorrow is going to be bliss.

Good health is a gift that can be snatched away at any moment. Having lost and regained it, I no longer take my health for granted. This is why I struggle to understand capable people who let their basic fitness slide. If you are physically able to look after your body, to feel better than you do now, why would you squander that opportunity?

Keeping fit is not about weight or size or needing to look good at the beach. It’s about vitality and living to the full. It’s about feeling invigorated with every breath.

I love being fit. Love it! My lungs feel like they’ve been sluiced clean with a water blaster. My brain feels sharper. Healthy body, healthy mind. What a privilege. I do not want to go back to that couch.

It’s easy to be intimidated by exercise, especially when someone is waving a marathon in your face. No one needs you to run a marathon. Just go for a walk. I’m a guy who took it one walk at a time until I found myself running.

There are genuine reasons for inactivity and there are cop out excuses. Only you know the difference. Personally, I vote for health.

My reason for sitting around this week is a pretty good one. I’m resting up, toasting marathon runners everywhere with a well earned beer and flicking a big finger of scorn at my former illness.

Take that, myalgic whatsyerface, I beat ya good.

T42 (14394)

 

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 10 May 2013. Reproduced with permission.