Warning: Exercise is not all good

You and I will die. That’s a fact. It’s not a question of “If we’ll die…” but when. It may be tonight at 11:25. It may be this Wednesday. It may be in five or 50 years. Jasmin’s lola, Corazon Gayanilo, celebrated her 101st birthday last month. Jasmin has another lolo who biked at the age of 104. Many others, sad to know, leave us at such a youthful and untimely age. Such is the uncertainty of life: We never know.

But this we know: If we quit smoking, temper our refueling of Johnnie W.; if we eat more mongo than lechon, smile more and frown less, and, if we’re surrounded by people we love and who care for us, chances are we’ll live extra years.

One other formula for longevity? Exercise.

You and I know this. The more time we spend sweating, the less time we’ll spend in CebuDoc or Chong Hua. The formula is easy: More exercise = more years. Less movement today = more medicines to buy tomorrow.

So… Exercise. But there’s another malady afflicting us today. Because while exercise is good, too much is bad. In fact, some who exert too much effort, who punish their heart and pummel their body to such extremes end up with the most extreme of occurrences: death. The maxim, “Too much of a good thing is bad” applies to food, money, fame and, yes, exercise.

What’s my point? Several points. First, when you engage in sports, do it gradually. If you’re 275 lbs. and were inspired by watching the recent Cobra Ironman 70.3 super-athletes, don’t enlist in the 21K run. Do a 3K. Or a 5K. Take it easy. Our body takes time to adapt. We can’t–and shouldn’t–lose 30 lbs. in three weeks. Patience and steady bodily punishment are best.

I’ll tell you a not-so-funny story. As one of the lead organizers of the Cebu City Marathon, I had access to the records of the 42K participants. We interviewed several of the 1,500+ participants. And while the good news was that many of the 42K runners were first-timers, what shocked Meyrick and Perl Jacalan, Roy Trani, Jesse Taborada, and our CERC group was this:

Many of the first-time 42K runners only finished one 21K. Unbelievable. it was crazy. They’re unprepared. Of course, we couldn’t ban them. Many, we discouraged to join. Based on experience, you need a couple of years of running background, at least four or more 21Ks, and should practice one or two 32K runs before embarking on that full marathon. But, no. Many said… We want to that medal NOW! Never mind my under-training. I can do this!

Crazy. As if the 42K were a walk in the park. Sure, Plaza Independencia is a park and it’s part of the route… but marathon running is difficult and requires months of preparation.

My first point: Don’t jump. Be patient. The “10 percent rule” (increase your mileage or time exercising by no more than 10 percent per week) is best. (Kung Binisaya pa: ayaw patuga-tuga.)

Second point: Visit your doctor. Have an Executive Check-up. Allow the hospital and clinics to take multiple tests of your fitness level. Do a stress test. How are your cholesterol levels? (Which reminds me: mine was shockingly high, 271, over a year ago; I need to get another one.)
Before embarking on any strenuous target (the 21K or the 42K? a half-Ironman? biking 100 kms.?), have a medical examination.

Third point: During the actual run or race, if you’re feeling extra tired and are about to faint or are just feeling unusually weak… stop. Walk. Drink. Wait. I know we’re all pushed to push ourselves. But, there are moments when we should stop. And by stopping, I mean quitting. Nobody wants to quit. Nobody wants to face his or her friends after the race and say, “Sorry, ni undang ko.” Sure, uwaw kaayo mo undang. But, you know what? If it can mean saving your life, then stop. There’s always another race next Sunday. Our bodies are living machines. If pushed over our limits, we breakdown.

A good example was the Timex 226 Ironman in Bohol last December. The “226” refers to double the recent Ironman 70.3 distance. It refers to 3.8 kms. of swimming, a 180-km. bike ride and a full marathon (42.195 kms.) You know what happened? Out of the 70-plus participants who joined, everyone finished the race… except one: Neil Catiil, the elite traithlete who was supposed to win the whole race. He apparently got dehydrated and quit. Sad and embarrassing story for Neil but, looking at the brighter side, he lived to compete in future events.

You know what my all-time favorite running quote is? It’s the motto of the Singapore Marathon. In every kilometer along the route, huge placards of this message is broadcasted for the 50,000 runners to see. The words?? RUN YOUR OWN RACE. So, take it easy.

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