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The 12 Commandments of the ACHDer Runner

Monday, February 18, 2013

By Paul Willgoss

There’s a “10 Commandments for Runners” floating around on Facebook; being me, I looked at them and wondered if they needed any adaptation for a bunch of ACHD runners.

  1. Thou shall never say “I am not a runner.” If you run, you are a runner.
  2. Thou shall not compare yourself to other runners. A mile is a mile.
  3. Thou shall not skimp on sleep.
  4. Remember the rest day and keep it “holy.”
  5. Honour thy muscles, and thy “aches and pains” and do not push through an injury – you are not invincible.
  6. Thou shall not forget to hydrate.
  7. Thou shall not commit the sin of wearing cotton – especially on race days.
  8. Thou shall not ignore your shoes – get them properly fitted and don’t wear them out.
  9. Thou shall not get stuck in a rut – change your routes, your routine. Keep it fresh!
  10. Thou shall not covet your friend’s medals.

Why? Because one of the things I’m often told by ACHDers is that they’re not proper runners, and I’ve fallen into the trap myself – I’m “just” a slow runner, a fun runner, not a proper runner and so on. It’s a very easy trap to fall into and one that can be self-limiting.

For a long time I “knew” I had to run-walk, until someone asked why and I couldn’t give a good answer – there was no science, no reason. Yes, there’s an underlying fitness thing, which is why I always recommend people (that’s anyone) starting out to try run-walking and see how they get on.

Moving down the list – a mile is a mile (except the last mile of a marathon, that’s at least 2 miles long!). Seriously, any distance is that distance – time is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, you’ve done that distance!

Sleep, rest days and aches and pains – all good sensible advice, follow it. I mostly do. I now know which niggles I can run through and which I can’t. I know which colds I can run through and which I shouldn’t. That comes with experience, there are very few shortcuts.

Staying hydrated – drink, and if you sweat a lot, drink more. It’s genuinely not rocket science. It does take practice to run and drink… expect to splutter!

Cotton = chafing. Nothing else to say, really!

Shoes are vitally important. Get them sorted, go to a proper running shop, jog on a treadmill – get them to explain why you need X or Y shoe and don’t get blagged into buying the most expensive (unless you want to!).

Getting stuck in a rut? Yup, every runner does, which is why I pick fun events around my serious runs – a 5-mile run through the dunes, and along the beach at night. That’s fun, and mixes it up enough to put a smile back on my face. Away with work? Go jog around a new town (you could even Google it for a local running group and get in touch and ask where is nice to run).

As for medals? Well, love them, polish them – but only claim your own!

So, that’s the 10 – and they all apply to us. So why am I saying 12?

11. Check with your cardiologist.

I know it’s a pain, but be safe. Discuss it with your specialist, and if they say no ask why. Keep asking until you get an answer you understand, and be prepared to compromise.

12. Tell people.

I’m sort of stealing this one from a Danish cardiologist, who challenged the ACHDers at a conference to tell the world about what they do – to inspire others, and to show the ACHDers of tomorrow (and their parents) what can be done.

So, I am a runner. Are you?

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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