Monday, August 14, 2006

The Human Side of Jogging

Jogging (or running) rhymes quite well with blogging, except that the former has been with us since our species became bipedal. While initially it was a function resorted to get to places faster, most times it was also a smart defense mechanism to escape from any imminent danger given that compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, our brute strength and size put us at great inherent disadvantage.

But it was in the 60’s and 70’s when we found yet another use for it, and invested it with the unique term, jogging, to denote a specific activity for specific purposes. Apart from the usual purposes, we elevated it as a form of physical exercise with the primary intent of pursuing a quite necessary ingredient in good living - keeping our bodies fit and limber, and in the process, our minds, too. It has been said that man is the only animal that needs exercise to keep fit. The others like lions, cheetahs, monkeys, etc. are fit because of the natural activities in their lives. Leading to this popular put-down, that man is the only animal who drives 7 miles to a park so he can run for 2 miles around it.

Jogging definitely has caught on rapidly with the entire world. We see its devotees in parks, tracks, mountain trails, and yes, even on city streets reeking with exhaust fumes. There must be millions and millions of them around the globe.

But for maybe an equally great number, it is still an activity to be shunned. The very mention of it as a form of physical exercise is enough to turn people off. Unquestionably, many of us are averse to the idea of having to sweat to get fit. Many would much prefer to choose from any of an unknown number of pills or equally great numbers of diet plans to arrive at such degree of fitness.

But what is missing in the present discussion, and those conducted most everywhere else, is that this function of jogging (or running) is also fun, albeit it is not all unalloyed pleasure. The activity itself, after many sessions and after gaining some degree of having adapted to and liking it, is fun; and even more fun because of the ensuing physical and mental benefits that undoubtedly spring from it.

You could take my word for that, since I have been at it for almost 20 years. And for that, I swear on my bible for running:
Jogging James Fixx
The Complete Book Of Running, the definitive work on jogging written by James F. Fixx who lived what he preached.

The lonely travails of a solo runner? Maybe.
But there is fun, too.
And the family who runs together, maybe also stays together?


  1. I'm more into brisk walking, which I did quite regularly over at Central Park in NY. Here in Manila, used to drive to Luneta on early mornings, but since the price of gas has skyrocketed, stopped doing it. More into badminton these days.

    20 years of jogging is great. Congratulations!


  2. Hi, Eric:

    The wife intersperses brisk walking with jogging and she finds this exhilarating.

    I had promised myself that Central Park would be a place to jog if I get to visit the East Coast.

    Whenever I visit the old homeland, I typically jog around whichever place I find myself. It is a very nice way to get acquainted or re-acquainted with places.

  3. You are aware that Jim Fixx died of a heartattack? When they autopsied him they found his arteries choked down to almost nothing. Moral of the story: exercise, BUT eat healthy. He used to brag that he could eat anything he wanted BECAUSE he ran. Sadly, for him, he was fooling himself...

  4. Yes, Phil:

    As a matter of fact, if I remember correctly, he suffered the attack during or after a run.

    But he did not delude himself because from the getgo, he had admitted to allowing his health to deteriorate during his early years. Thus when he started running in his latter years, he was cognizant of the fact that there was no incontrovertible evidence to show that running would extend one's life.

    He was more enamored with the beneficial changes that were occurring in his physical and mental life derived from running. In other words, quality over quantity.

  5. Phil:

    Here's a little bit more on Fixx, which may even show his being prescient about his own mortality:

    "More fuel was added to this controversy in the early 1980's by the sudden death while running of James Fixx, the celebrated American runner and author. Fixx had achieved international celebrity status as author of the book that became an international best-seller because it best captured the mood of the running explosion that occurred in the late 1970s. Paradoxically, in a later book Fixx had written an appropriate epitaph both to himself and to the concept that runners could earn immunity from both heart disease and death: "...runners are much like ordinary mortals. They can, sad to say, get sick. They can even die."

    Pathology of Sudden Death

    The first component of this issue that needs attention is whether these deaths during exercise actually prove that exercise is the real culprit and therefore a dangerous activity; or, stated differently, whether exercise and sudden death are causally related. The overriding conclusion from a large number of studies of sudden death, including sudden deaths that occur during exercise, has shown that virtually all persons who die suddenly during exercise have a serious disease, usually of the heart, that adequately explains the cause of death.

    While a large number of cardiac conditions have been associated with sudden death during exercise, the most common cause of death in Westernized communities is coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the major cause of death in persons aged 40 or older."

    I myself am quite cognizant of this, given the very bad history of early coronary-related deaths in my father's family.

    But I feel I have now bucked that history.

  6. Yup, aerobics is "money in the bank." I started distance running when I was 12 and continued it into my early 40s. I can't do it anymore, but I'm sure "my investments" over the years has kept me in the game. Low impact aerobics is all I can manage now because of my orthopedic issues, probably due to Gulf War Syndrome.

    Jim Fixx was a man in a "half state of denial" in that he acknowledged his inherited health risk factors, but he refused to face up to the WHOLE health picture. Just before his death, his cholesterol measured over 250!

    not only that "Lo and behold, some basic research turns up Jim Fixx’s autopsy, which indicates that he neglected his cholesterol which caused 95% blockage of one artery, 85% of another, and 50% of a third, eventually causing a massive heart attack. So it wasn’t really running that killed him; it was the lack of importance he put on regular cholesterol checkup and maintenance, coupled with a poor family history (a heart attack killed his father at age 42)."

    Personally, I disagree that Fixx's running extended his life. I believe it ended his life...Sure he was able to use his running to lose weight, but by the time he took it up, the damage to his system was complete. If he had lost the weight through management of his diet and cholesterol, AND EXERCISED moderately, he MIGHT have lived a few years longer than he did.

    A simple stress test, which for some unknown reason he refused to have done, would have shown that his running was imperiling his life. I ran extensively for most of my life, but for many of us, running is only part of the formula to good health.

    Just the same, congratulations to you buddy, and continued health success!

  7. Good points, Phil.

    Now you have rekindled the nagging worries I have had but somehow shunted aside.

    I have very bad cholesterol readings, and BP, too. Credit those to thyroid problems that date back to my teens. Believe it or not, my highest reading for cholesterol was 325! But it's down to the 200's now.

    The hope has been that continued exercise will improve HDL levels over LDL.

    BTW, I, too, am an ardent fan of K. Cooper, aerobics' father.

    Let me end with this little side story about Fixx which I am sure you can identify with.

    After deciding to run, his first attempt was running with combat boots. Because that was how he remembered doing it the first time - at boot camp.

  8. I haven't done any running since my two heart attacks in Nov/05 and my triple bypass operation the same month. I'm having a hard time getting on my exercise bike in my apartment. My docter has beeing trying to get my BP down since Dec/05 but with no real success.


    glad to see the golden age of music still lives on with others besides myself.
    Thanks for your comment on my "Oldies But Goodies". (And the other one also).

  9. Tubby:

    Believe it or not, I carry an implanted pacemaker and a month after the procedure, I was back to running.

    A little wrinkle though. I have a nice Pulsar wrist watch that monitors heartbeats when I run. Now, I can't use it because it requires a sensor that attaches to the chest area. The good doc says, no way since it might interfere with the pacemaker.

  10. I used to enjoy taking a slow, leisurely jog around the city. I don't run on concrete anymore though, to avoid injury. Now I run on the track on campus or in circles around the park. I don't look forward to running now, and I really don't like it - but afterwards I feel very good.

  11. Aurea:

    Oh, to be young again!

    Now, I try every which way to prevent any injury when jogging - using extrta paddings on the right pair of shoes, wearing anklets, etc.

    Funny, but I now prefer running on concrete and flat surfaces. The reason being that it makes it easier for me to anticipate how my heels will land on the pavement. If uneven, like grass or gravel, or dirt on pathways, that means I have to be constantly aware of my balance and how my feet land. I have had to go through some serious ankle sprains because of uneven surfaces.

    Still, like an older machine, one can't help going through painful shins, aching knees, and even problem Achilles heels.

    But overall, it still is fun.


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