Sunday, 17 April 2011

Running Away from Genetics

My NEW sneaks! A must-have for running season!
Running has become an integral part of my genetic battle plan. It is also something I have grown to LOVE! Running for me is a challenge, and a competition that I have with myself.

I was never a runner, not even as a kid. When the cross country unit came around in gym class I was always scrambling for any excuse to get out of it. The thought of running long distances made me queasy. I could never understand how people did it. Frankly, long distance running was too hard, and I was not interested in it.

That was how I used to feel, anyways. That was how I used to feel when I chose not to run. That was how I used to feel when I decided that I didn't want to run. I felt differently, however, when I was told I literally could not run, or rather that I should not run. Strenuous cardio exercise of any kind tends to be questionable for those of us with robotic hearts. It is not that exercise is a bad thing, in fact it tends to be just the opposite. Exercise is thought to significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, a very good thing in my books. A regular exercise routine has been proven to improve cardiovascular efficiency, improve inflammation/hemostasis and blood pressure, and can have a profound impact on preventing clinical events. Exercising with a robotic heart can be a bit of a grey area, however, considering the average age of pacemaker implantation is 74. I was 18 when my ICD was implanted, so that puts me 56 years off the pace (ba-dum-bum get it? "pace" ? Its both a running and a pacemaker pun...) So I was typically leading a much more active lifestyle. I wasn't ready to give that up, and I certainly wasn't willing to accept the 50 extra lbs my newly enforced inactive lifestyle had bestowed upon me.

I am competitive by nature, and I spend most of my time competing with myself and my own expectations. I don't like to be told I can't do something, and I especially don't like to feel like I am losing. And there was a time where I felt like I was fighting a losing battle against my own body, but running was my way of fighting back. I am not a woman of inaction and I refuse to sit idly by and be beaten. Running gave me my body back, and I felt empowered! I feel like I dominate my genetics and take control of my health every time I lace up my sneakers and head out the door. Even if running is usually hard, and sometimes not even that fun, I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a run.

My running partner! I never run without it!
For those of you questioning the safety of this type of activity for a defective runner such as myself, please note: I wear a heart rate monitor every time I run. As much as I feel I subjugate genetics every time I run, I am not naive - I am fully aware of my short-comings. I will never be a fast runner. My heart rate needs to stay at a steady rate, and my heart rate naturally runs higher than the average person (I run comfortably at a heart rate of 170-185), so I need to monitor it closely. I can only do so much in terms of cardio training, but as the tortoise say "slow and steady wins the race". Every time I reach a new distance, hit a new time, or wake up feeling sore it feels like I am taking control and conquering my health - and its that feeling that drives me.

This week I started up-ing my distance. I hit 8.6 km on Wednesday. I am working my way up to 10 km for my next race. I signed up for the Healing for Breast Cancer 10k Run on June 11th. Running this race is yet another way to overcome my family's genetics, because running allows me to prevail over my heart condition but it also lets me thwart breast cancer and the BRCA 1 gene that has permeated my family. So on that note, let the training begin. And ...

TAKE THAT GENETICS!
Love your favourite Darwinian fail,
Krysten