As part of my preparation for training and participating in an Ironman- length triathlon, I decided that it would be a good idea to have my physician do a full physical on me to make sure that my body was really up to all the stress and pressure I would be putting on it for the next year or so. While most of the assessments he did pointed to the fact that there was nothing physical that would hold me back, I did receive one surprising and humbling result--my blood showed a total cholesterol level of 239 and an LDL level of 134. Both levels are more than 30 points higher than what they should be. In fact, the report from my doctor specifically states that I should "focus on a healthy diet and exercise." I had to laugh because I know I am not perfect with my diet, but I do know that I eat healthier than many people I know. In addition, there are not enough hours in the day for me to add more exercise. As it is, I run three days a week and do Crossfit three days a week, which really only leaves me one day of rest.
Now, when I say I was surprised by my results, I need to add that this is not entirely true. At a very young age I actually knew what cholesterol was and the importance of keeping this under control. My mother, despite the fact that she made her own whole grain bread, ate a completely vegetarian diet, and rarely consumed junk or fast food, had high cholesterol levels. My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, had a total cholesterol level of 185, which seemed strange to me since he had bacon and butter with almost every meal. He basically ate anything that he desired, and he was always fairly overweight. I guess I was just hoping that I would win the genetic lottery and take after my grandpa instead of my mother.
So while genetic high cholesterol may seem to be out of my control, there are still some things I can do to try to lower my bad cholesterol levels and increase the good ones as well. As part of my doctor's recommendations, he not only mentioned diet and exercise, he also suggested I take in more Omega-3 fish oils. It is funny that he would mention this because lately I have been thinking that the one thing I am really missing as part of my routine is taking some kind of supplement. I do not take in any vitamins and minerals unless they come from the foods I eat, and I must admit, my diet has been sorely lacking in any kind of meals that include fish. Hopefully, this one will be an easy fix if I regularly take a multivitamin, include some Omeg-3 fish oil capsules, and eat fish like salmon at least one time per week.
The other humbling experience I had this week actually did have to do with my exercise routine. One thing about doing a triathlon is that you must train in all three sports: biking, running, and swimming. Now up to this point I have only been running and biking, so Thursday was actually the first swimming I have done in almost five years. I must admit, I was not concerned about my swimming because I was actually a member of my high school swim team, and I had been including swimming in my exercise routine until the birth of my son Eoin, who will be five in September. I am not sure what I was thinking--that my high school swimming would some how carry over to the present? That having done some swimming five years ago, my stamina for swimming would still be intact? That my stamina for running and biking would make swimming easy for me? Whatever I was thinking, I was truly humbled when I actually got back into that pool. My plan was to do a benchmark swim of 400m to have a baseline of my swimming ability. The truth is that I could hardly swim 50m without having to stop, and by the end of the hour I had to take a break every time I reached the end of the pool because I could hardly catch my breath. Needless to say, I couldn't swim enough laps in a row to even get a baseline on myself. My new goal is to be able to swim the 400m without having to take a break. Once I can do that, I can then worry about improving my swimming time.
I will say that the one good thing about these two experiences is that I was able to approach each one without completely melting down like last week. I am seeing both of these as opportunities for improvement. My swimming can't get much worse than what I displayed on Thursday, so the only way I can go is up from this point on. Also, if I really admit it, I actually had an inkling that I needed to include more supplements into my diet (I actually have fish oil pills and multivitamins in my medicine cabinet). It has really been true laziness on my part...I just need to take the time each day to remember to take them.
One new development on my triathlon training schedule, we will be doing our first triathlon, a sprint triathlon, on August 4th. And while this triathlon only entails me swimming 400m, biking 12 miles, and running a 5K (3.1 miles), I think this week has taught me that I cannot underestimate the training I will need to do to prepare for this event. I hope I have learned that no matter how fit and healthy I get, there is always room for improvement--this soon to be flabulous girl is still under construction. :)
The road to success is always under construction. James C Miller, US economist, politician