Not too long ago, I saw a patient that was referred to me for pulmonary evaluation. The complaint was “shortness of breath.”
Me: What’s going on?
Patient: Doctor, I cannot run a mile. I ran out of air. And I use to run before.
He is in his 40’s and is on the heavy side. OK, overweight. I already reviewed his chest x-ray and pulmonary function test (it’s a stress test of sort for the lungs), and both were normal. My nurse has tested and recorded in the chart his pulse oxymetry (measure of oxygen saturation in the blood) at rest and on walking, and it too was normal. You see, I have all the information I needed even before I lay eyes on the patient.
Me: Do you have chest pains, wheezing, or cough?
Patient: No, no, and no.
Me: When was the last time you were able to ran a mile?
Patient: 25 years ago.
I almost fell off my chair!
You may snicker at him, but I took him seriously. I told him that I do not believe he has anything wrong with his lungs. Although I cannot rule out conclusively any other diseases, like heart conditions, but I am almost certain of the diagnosis.
I told him that his shortness of breath is from being overweight and deconditioning. In more simple terms, he is way out of shape.
I coaxed him that it’s not easy to run that first mile. But I reassured him that with more training and persistence, he should be able to run a mile, and more.
I will be riding a 50-mile bike course tomorrow, as part of the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). In three months it would be the annual Des Moines Marathon, which I hope I can participate again.
Even though I consider myself fit and have been exercising somewhat regularly, there are days that I struggle to run the first mile. What I am trying to say is, it is not always easy to run a mile. No, let me rephrase that. It is hard to run a mile.
Running a mile and beyond, is not like a faucet that you can turn off for a long time, and then when you turn it on, you expect it to be flowing freely again. No, it is more like a pump, that you need to prime first, before it flows again. Running or any other endeavor for that matter, takes time, training, and dedication.
For all of you out there, who are struggling to run a mile, don’t lose heart. Many times the hardest part of a long run is the first mile. But the good thing is, it can be done. And it must be done. For your health sake.
As a popular Chinese proverb says, ” A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.” If I may add, that single step will eventually lead to the first mile.
(*photo from here)