Running ≠ Healthy (not all the time, anyway)

(Today’s post was supposed to be an Exercises To Do This Week, but Blackberry RIM has pooped out in the NYC area–found out via Twitter, not from the two people at AT&T whom I spoke with on the phone for a half an hour. Thanks, Twitter. In short, no phone = no photos from workouts to share with ya’ll for the blog. Whatever. Onward!)

Much as we runners like to toot our own horns about being so health-conscious and, hey, we can outrun you, but running is not a get-out-of-jail-free card in the health department.

If you’ve ever watched a marathon, you know full well that there are marathoners of every age, shape and size. Some of the shorter, chubbier ones pass me and I still cannot believe it. Regardless, it is pretty obvious that running isn’t a free pass to a healthy body.

Running giant Alberto Salazar, winner of three consecutive NYC Marathons and legendary running coach, had a heart attack at age 48. Fit, trim, still running serious mileage and working out with world-class athletes, Salazar nearly died in front of his team. He actually did die, but was brought back and survived.

The great Grete Waitz, who won more NYC Marathons than anyone else in the race’s history–NINE, this past spring died after a long battle with cancer at the age of 57.

But we’re invincible, right? I mean, if we can finish marathons and crazy workouts and all that then we must be healthy, right? Wrong. Thin doesn’t always mean healthy. Fit doesn’t always equal healthy. The ability to finish a kick-ass workout doesn’t always equal healthy.

I’m such a downer, I know. Here’s the upside. Running will HELP to keep you healthy but you have to do a little bit of work elsewhere, too.

1. Visit your doctor for baseline blood work, cholesterol count, and possible ECG if you have cardiac disease in your family. And keep all those annual visits rolling.

2. Don’t ignore the warning signs of other stuff. Blood where it ought not be, exhaustion after days and days of rest, and pain that persists are all signs that something is off. Get checked out.

3. If your doctor blows you or your symptoms off, get a new doctor. Doctors are like yoga teachers: the right one is out there, you just gotta find him/her.

4. EAT REAL FOOD. I can’t stress this enough, but what you eat matters even more than what you do. If you eat crap, your insides will look like crap. You can’t run away all that drinking and terrible food. It will come back and haunt you.

5. Do stuff besides running. A well-balanced athlete is a healthy athlete. Don’t be “that runner” who says that running is all you need to do to be healthy/in shape. Seriously. You are smarter than that, I know you are.

Don’t stop running! Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself all-around and not just when you lace up your running shoes. You are too valuable to lose. So, cowboy/cowgirl up and take good care of yourself!

Now go out and run!