Running* -- I Finally Got It
* Substitute any cardio exercise for running, such as swimming, biking, hiking . . .
2006 Pi Arthur Stuart
Updated: May 24, 2018

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Reasons to Run (or exercise.)

The number one reason to run is it improves heart, cardiovascular system and lung health, along with other physical benefits. If you run only for the number one reason alone, its worth it.

More reasons to run or exercise:
  • Personal time to think and dream.
  • Its easy to do and cheap.
  • It helps to reduce stress and possibly depression. I cannot remember a time that I didn't feel better after a run.
  • Running is relaxing and healthy in a noncompetitive way, unlike sports that keep score and depend on ones ability, which can lead to frustration when performance is less than desired.
  • Helps with weight control.
I'm sure there are other reasons. I've listed some of my personal ones near the end.

While I was working as a maintenance manager, my boss would jog a couple of times a week during the lunch hour. He kept asking me to join him. Yeah right. I guess he was teasing me, more than he really expected me to join him. I thought he was crazy for running anyway.

Long before he suggested that I run with him, I thought running, exercising, fishing, and similar endeavors were insane pursuits and the people that did them were morons. At the time, I could not in my wildest imagination understand why anyone would waste their time doing these things they seemed so boring. As I was returning to my ship while serving in the Navy, I can remember seeing this guy sitting in his boat, fishing, during a very cold and rainy day. In addition, he was on Narragansett Bay and if you havent felt the wind coming off the bay, you dont know what cold is, so I wondered, "What kind of imbecile does this?" So, if you need to get exercise, play tennis, soccer, or some other physically challenging activity, like wrestling -- preferably with someone of the opposite sex. And if you need to relax, go to a movie, watch TV, or go to sleep. These were my thoughts at the time.

I was in my early fifties when I began to develop some concerns about staying healthy. My father died of a heart attack in his mid-fifties; from blocked arteries to the heart, a condition I would develop at seventy -- (see: Am I Stupid or What?). From what I read and gained from watching TV health programs, I learned that exercise was essential for keeping the cardiovascular system functioning properly. To be of benefit, exercise should be done three, four or more times a week, on different days, for at least twenty minutes (I learned later that is was thirty minutes) or more. Further, the total weekly time should exceed 150 minutes; more would be better.

I considered several activities but settled on jogging, despite my anticipation of it being boring, everything else I considered was equally boring. Running, although boring, offered the best all-around exercise. It is cheap, there are countless places to do it, and there is no real time constrain. Besides running shoes, there really was nothing special I needed. If you have access to streets and roadways or even a treadmill, you can run. I played tennis, but realized I didn't do it often enough to be of any real value even though I had my own tennis court and a family that played. So, I made up my mind that I would start jogging to improve my cardiovascular system. With running I could be consistent, other than shoes -- no special equipment or facility is required, I could do it alone, and the choice of time was flexible.

When I started, my rest heart rate was in the low to mid-seventies range. I noticed while playing tennis that between points and at the end of games I was breathing hard and had difficulty catching my breath. I also felt a bit strained physically. I could, literally, feel my heart pounding in my chest. In addition, on the rare occasions when I played soccer, I had difficulty keeping up with the flow of the game and required frequent substitution.

I determined that the correct running shoes are the most important factor. I was concerned with impact, or rather reducing it. With that in mind I felt it was better to spend more on the best possible running shoes, with plenty of shock absorbing ability, rather than paying for a knee or hip operation later. To help keep my feet from blistering and to ensure proper ventilation, I got some heavy duty athletic socks. I would wear my tennis shorts and a tee shirt in the summer and my tennis warm-ups in the winter. I purchased the shoes and socks, gathered up all the other gear (clothing and a change of underwear) and I was now ready to go; so I thought.

A book on stretching provided me with the basic stretching exercises for the muscles that needed warm-up and loosening. I decided that my goal would be to run twenty minutes three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; these were the days I could run with my boss. I also added a ten minute cool down period at the end of the run like a horse. The additional ten minute walk-off would also be good for the cardiovascular system. It is a small bonus.

On the first Monday that I had all my gear together, I started my undertaking which I hoped it wouldn't be. Since we had a shower at work, I would run, like my boss, during my lunch hour. I changed my clothing and did a few warm-up exercises and stretches. I was all set to go.

Across the street from where I worked was a horse path, which was highly conducive for running and then walking or crawling back -- I sort of crawled back the first few times; at least that's what it felt like. Dressed and ready to go I walked across the street to the path, maybe a car will hit me, and I won't have to do this. It was a wishful thought. I reached the path, took a very deep breath, hesitated a second, and then took off. Forty-five seconds later, I thought it was an hour, I hung over the horse rail, panting, and thinking I was dying; it would have been a welcome relief. I could barely breathe, my heart was racing and pounding, and my whole being hurt -- I hurt in places I didn't know I had. It took between fifteen and thirty minutes for my body to return to its normally out-of-shape condition. As I walked, nearly a crawl, back to shower and resume work, I promised myself I would run the next day for a few additional seconds beyond the forty-five I don't know why I didn't quit then and there.

On Wednesday I did it; I ran for about fifty-one seconds. And again, I went through the same physical collapse and long recuperation period. The next time I got to fifty-eight seconds. Over the weekend I rested, developed a plan, and committed to achieving it.

Over the days and weeks that followed, I resolved that I would add a few seconds each time I ran until I got up to the twenty-minute target. After about twelve runs, about four weeks, I noticed that I could add more than just a few seconds. I felt at the time that I could have added a complete minute or more, but I wasn't sure I would be able to duplicate it the next time I ran, so I kept my incremental increases between twenty and thirty seconds. Somewhere between the twenty-fifth and thirty-fifth run I reach my goal of three twenty-minute runs-per-week. My boss would be sorry he got me started.

After several initial runs, where I totally collapsed, my body began to adjust, and I found that by increasing the time it in small incremental steps, I was never really overwhelmed. The office staff and my family's encouragement helped a great deal. It's nice to have people ask you how you're doing and offer words of encouragement. I don't know if I would have achieved my goal had it not been for their encouragement. I felt I would be letting them down as well as myself.

When I got into a routine, I started to keep a log. I got a finger pulse counter and blood pressure monitor. After I returned to the office and finished showering, I would sit down for about five minutes and then measure my heart rate and blood pressure. Over the next few months I found that my rest heart rate had drop steadily too just under sixty beats-per-minute. At the end of my run and between tennis points or games, the recuperation time was now seconds, instead of minutes, for my breathing to return to normal.

Once I felt I was running comfortably I took my boss up on his offer and we began to run together. My boss, you could say, was a man of strict routine, so much so that he ran the same path every day. I went along with this in the beginning but to some measure I got a bit even with him later. Because my boss frequently missed our scheduled run, I got to run alone, so I explored the local neighborhood. That's how I got somewhat even. I started to coerce him to run different routes, which stressed him a little bit for running, the follower became the leader. I reveled in my new found power.

My wife tells me that one of my major problems, among the many major problems I have not including the numerous minor ones, is that I throw myself into things with great intensity, no matter how unimportant it is. Her question is, "Why can't you just enjoy what you're doing?" However, to me running was important and necessary. To ensure I got the most out of my running and prevent injury, I began to read books and articles on the subject and watching TV documentaries on health, fitness and, particularly, running. As I had surmised, no real intelligence required, proper running shoes were essential, they were the single most important piece of equipment. Among the various things I learned was that to maximize the benefits of what I was doing, I should do it for thirty minutes four or more times per week. I changed my schedule to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. If I missed a day, I could make it up on Saturday or Sunday. It's important to point out that the schedule I chose suited me best, others should find out what works best for them.

To fulfill my schedule, four thirty-minute runs per-week, I needed a plan to get my running time up to the desired level. The ten-percent rule was a suggestion for increase running time add ten-percent of your present time for a few days and then repeat the process. I implemented the ten-percent method until I achieved my goal of thirty minutes, four times a week.

I couldn't convince my boss to run for thirty minutes, so when we ran together, about once or twice a week, I would just continue on after he stopped at twenty minutes. Since my boss was running different days, I got to run alone most of the time. This allowed me to really explore the area. I got to run in back hills, follow the horse path in several directions, run up and down hills, and vary my locations a lot. Whenever I would run in the so called hills, my imagination got the best of me and I fully expected that a mountain lion would spring forth to attack me. I would then be dragged into the bushes, never to be found again. Someday when they were clearing the area for development, they would find my bones and wonder what happened. If I had a serious mishap, like a stroke or heart attack, I wondered how long it would take to find me, that is, if anybody cared to look.

I started to run in 1991 and have been at it ever since. Before I tell you what I got and get out of running, let me apologize to the fisherman I called a moron and all those others that participate in the things that I thought were boring and stupid. I finally got it -- the value of exercise and doing something that's relaxing and rejuvenating.

I now run consistently for thirty minutes five times a week. Everywhere I travel I bring my running shoes and have been able to get my runs in. I've seen some really neat places as I run and explore the area. It doesn't matter to me what the weather is like. I run rain or shine, hot or cold. In the rain I wear a hat or hooded jacket and when it's really hot I carry a bottle of water and slow my pace a little, albeit there's not much room to slowdown. Occasionally I've run at night. I carried a flashlight but most of my running is done in daylight.

Currently as I prepare for my run, I fill a baggie with small dog milk bones. The street I live on is approximately four-tenths of a mile. I can expect to be greeted by as many as twelve dogs that live on my street that expect me to give them a milk-bone. I get as much satisfaction out of giving them bones as they do eating them. There are four that reside at the bottom of my hill, the next few houses each have one, further down the street are a couple of homes that have two dogs each, and finally, on my return, the house across from mine has a large reddish Doberman. Normally, I can expect Sam and Patches, and sometimes Blue and Diamond to meet me first and demand their ration. These dogs all live in the first house at the bottom of our hill. I spoke with all the owners and they've given me permission to give their dogs a bone. Occasionally I will run across (pardon the pun) a stray or a pet owner with their pet. I will ask the owner if it's OK to give their dog a bone no one has objected. In the areas I run, I can pretty much tell you where every house is that has a dog. From time-to-time, I'll be jogging along in a state of mental suspended animation, when a dog will start to bark and scare me half to death. The other day I was attacked by a five pound Chihuahua, he really only got up close and barked while three guys across the street laughed their butts off. Lest I forget, I have three dogs I need to give their ritual morning bones before they allow me out the door, whether or not I'm going to run.

To make my runs more interesting I search the streets for coins. I once found a twenty dollar bill and have found every denomination of US coin. I ran for one-hundred-five consecutive days where I found a coin. Whenever I can, I get my wife to ride her bike with me while I run. When she goes along, we also search the streets for hardware. We have found various hand tools, assorted nuts and bolts, cell phones, clothing, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans (which she recycles), just to name a few. You'd be surprised at what we find. It's just a game, which helps us mix up the routine.

While running, I've only received two injuries which prevented me from continuing and running for a while there after. The first occurred as I started out, about thirty seconds into the run, I pulled or strained my right leg calf muscle and had to limp back to work. I was side-lined for a couple of weeks while it healed -- I don't know how or why it happened. The second one happened while I was daydreaming and tripped over a lump of asphalt stuck to the surface of the road. I pulled a muscle in the back of my left knee. I was unable to run for about ten days. I did learn not to run with real pain or when I am sick. I do jog when I have minor aches and pains. By minor, I mean that they don't get worse while I'm running or after finishing a run. Usually, they will go away after I've run for several minutes. On occasion my knees would bother me, and I used a knee brace which seem to help. I also notice that my knees would beginning to bother me around the time my shoes seemed to reach the end of their usefulness . Somewhere I've read or heard that it takes between twenty-four and forty-eight hours for a running shoe to regain its shock absorbing ability after a run. I now buy three pairs of running shoes and rotate them. They last about eighteen months. My knee problems seem to have all but disappeared.

I've only experienced true runner's high on a few occasions. After about ten to fifteen minutes I get really comfortable and feel I'm running with ease and could go on for a much longer time. Over the years I've varied my running schedule -- except thirty minute, five times a week -- from lunch hour to evenings to mornings. Now, that I'm retired, I run mostly in the mornings, after I get up without an alarm clock and have performed some tasks; it's my job to feed the goats and sometimes the small pets. I take four weeks off per year, at three month intervals, from running to let my body regenerate and heal. Even if I didn't run my body needs extensive help.

Here is a list of what I get out of running:

A few odds-n'-ends.

When I had my heart attack, one of the attending cardiologists told me that my blocked artery would likely have been worse and would have probably occurred ten or fifteen years earlier had I not exercised. My recuperation was likely quicker because of the relative good shape I was in. It only took me a couple of weeks before I was running twenty minutes a few times per week while I was attending the cardiac rehab clinic. When I finished the rehab program, I was back to thirty minute runs four times a week. While I was attending the cardiac rehab program, they had me doing upper body workouts with weights. I have since joined a gym to continue these and add a few routines to my workout. I spend two days a week on my arm and chest muscles and two days on my legs and mid-sections; I now have a three pack abdominal.

I was listening to a motivational speaker, on tape, when he spoke about running. His comments, in summary, ask, "Why run for three years (cumulative time) if all you get is three years longer to live?" His point being, why waste your time? Like me, he didn't get it. It's fortunate for him I wasn't in the audience. For a man whose own philosophy is to understand others he sure failed on this issue.

Sometimes when I felt stressed or angry, I ran faster but no matter how fast I ran it still took me thirty minutes to run a half-hour. Ha, Ha. However, the running faster did seem to help me relax and alleviate or reduce the stress or anger.

I figure that I run about three miles-per-run and that I run an average of two-hundred days a year. Using that estimate, I guess I've run about eight-thousand-five-hundred miles. I have since got a Fitbit watch and my estimate was way off; turns out my distance is more like 2.2 miles. Oh well!

Recently though I believe that my past mileage was about three miles-per-run, Im just getting slower. Im basing this on the routes I used to run.

While running I sometimes listen to music or audio books. Ive audio digitized my books using an online program. It helps me catch some of my errors. In the past I had a player that allowed for listening to radio. I listened to talk shows which sometimes caused me to get angry by what some of the bci's would say. The bci's include the talk show host. It amazes me how people can miss the issue and focus on symptoms.