I love how my lungs expand to full capacity when I’m out for a run. I love how the cold air rushes in and is almost immediately warmed up my my nose, mouth, throat, and windpipe. The oxygen in that air is quickly exchanged with the carbon dioxide in my blood as the air and the blood meet each other in my alveoli. I think about these things when I run. I think about all this and much, much more.
I love how my lungs contract and I exhale all the carbon dioxide that seconds before was produced by every cell in my body as a byproduct of metabolism. I get to thinking about how the food that I ate a few hours — and even a few days — ago has been turned into energy by a series of chemical reactions that trip-up even the most accomplished biochemists. That conversion from matter to energy (E=MC2, anyone?) produces water and carbon dioxide, and a few other things (e.g. formaldehyde). Those few other things are taken care of by my kidneys and liver. And then I think of how much stored energy I carry with me.
That’s why I’m out on the trail in the freezing cold, with ice pellets hitting me in the face. It’s because I’m fat.
There really is no other way for me to lose weight, I think. Diets don’t work because I love food. Food is part of my culture and my everyday life. We eat when we’re happy and celebrating, and we even eat when we’re sad and in mourning. And, boy, do we eat. So I have to keep going, keep moving, to stave off the dangers of eating too well, a “First World Problem.” Though, to be honest, I’ve been trying to make better food decisions. But back to running…
In order for my legs to move one in front of the other, a series of amazing (to me) things have to happen. First, the brain queries the ears to see if I’m level and if I’m moving. Then it queries the legs to see which one is in front of the other. And then it orders them to move in sequence, all the while checking again with the ears and my eyes to make sure I’m not stumbling or tripping myself up. This all happens in a matter of microseconds.
A while back, my heart was giving me some trouble. Something has irritated it, so it now shoots off pre-ventricular contractions once in a while. They’re not very common, and they certainly go away when I’m working out. I think it will get better as I lose weight, and my risk factors for disease later on will also be reduced. In the meantime, the heart will beat ceaselessly, as each individual little cell is orchestrated by the pacemaker into contracting and relaxing, contracting and relaxing, contracting and relaxing… Thousands of times an hour.
The mind clears.
Even with exhaustion set in, and feeling the freezing cold on my face, I cleared my mind of all that ails me. The problems of the world went away, and all that was left was one foot in front of the other, the lungs expanding and contracting, and the heart beating nonstop. Getting out and moving does this to me, and I wish I could do it all the time, every day. I wouldn’t be so stressed out about life if I did.
So I’ll try to keep on moving.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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