Overweight smokers? Just keep on running
RUN CLINIC:Running gives the heart an excellent workout, helps shift the pounds and makes you resent what smoking does to your body, writes RUTH FIELD
MY DOCTOR has told me that I am at a real risk of coronary heart disease because I am overweight, I smoke and do not take any exercise. I would like to take up running and my doctor has given me the go ahead. Will I be able to do it and should I take any extra precautions? Help.
Good news: Whether you have been running for years or plan on trying it for the first time, a regular running routine can significantly decrease your risk of heart disease. And, in your case, being overweight, not taking any exercise and smoking have all contributed to putting you at a greater risk of suffering from such an event.
One of the major benefits of running is that it provides the heart with an excellent workout. As the heart becomes stronger, it also becomes more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body. This results in your blood pressure lowering, the arteries retaining their elasticity better and the heart muscle strengthening. So, fear not, taking up running is most definitely a good decision.
What you will not be able to do from the off is run a marathon or actually run at all until you have built up some basic fitness.
To this end I recommend creating a running circuit, which begins and ends at your front door and which takes up to an hour and a half for you to walk through (roughly 6k). Start walking it every day and then speed up your walking until you reach the stage when walking your circuit without stopping has become second nature.
It is at this point, and not before, that you should start jogging ever so slowly for just five minutes of the circuit and then increasing that by five minutes per week (or however many extra minutes you can manage even if that’s only by one-minute increments) until you can jog very slowly the whole way round without stopping.
Keep this up a minimum of three times a week. Don’t be disheartened if the walking process feels as though it is taking forever. You did not become out of condition overnight so you cannot expect the position to magically reverse overnight and to wake up in week three slim and fit as a fiddle. This is a new habit you are trying to cultivate for the rest of your life and it will take time.
If in six months’ time you are able to enter a local 5k race and jog the whole way round without having a heart attack, you are doing brilliantly.
As for the smoking – more good news. Your new running self is going to feel first hand just how much damage those cancer sticks are doing to your lung capacity as you wheeze and struggle to breathe and cough up all sorts of gunk from your lungs while out on your walk/jog.
You will begin to really resent how much the smoking is impacting upon your ability to progress as a runner and, with any luck, this will serve as a catalyst to help you quit.
Running regularly puts you right back in touch with your body again: its aches and pains, its limitations, its weaknesses, as well as its strengths, and, consequently, causes you to have a renewed desire to cherish it.
Binge eating and smoking have the opposite effect – numbing the senses and dissociating you from the body you are slowly destroying. Trust me, once you commit to running regularly, your cancer stick days are numbered.
The weight will fall off just from doing the 6k walk regularly, and your heart muscle will strengthen. Eat less crap and drink more water while you are at it. You don’t need me to tell you what the crap is that you are eating either. You know what it is. Cut it out or at the very least cut it right down.
One of the side effects from giving up smoking can be eating more and consequently gaining weight. Not in your case, because you will be merrily burning off all those extra calories on your daily runs.
The Grit Doctor says: No special dispensations for overweight smokers, the extra “grit factor” is just the medicine you need.
Ruth Field is author of Run Fat Bitch Run. Tweet your running query to Ruth at: @gritdoctor.
See also: irishtimes.com/bodyandsole