Are You Interested in Running? Here’s How a Physician Got Started

Consistency is important when adopting a new habit

Man Running

Even when you’re deeply involved in healthcare, as any doctor is, extra weight can sneak up on you.  Nearly four years ago, Lutul Farrow, MD, Cleveland Clinic Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, was climbing a flight of stairs at a medical conference and he became short of breath.

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“I’m a former college football player, and I had never been in such poor shape,” he says.

The weight had crept up on him, and the extra oomph required to finish daily tasks was wearing him down. He knew it was time for a change.

Does this story sound familiar? It’s easy to get so busy with our lives that we forget to take care of ourselves. But it’s interesting to see how, if you are willing, you can begin a new, healthy habit like running. Dr. Farrow talks about what to expect. Of course, be sure to talk to your doctor about any new exercise routine, such as running, to be sure it’s appropriate for you.

Battle to lose weight

Dr. Farrow began running to lose weight. He dropped 70 pounds during the first seven months, and he admits that lacing up the sneakers to clock miles was initially a struggle.

“I didn’t enjoy it for the first six months — it hurt physically and mentally,” he says. “I was a lineman,” he says of his football career at Baldwin Wallace University. “I always hated to run.”

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But Dr. Farrow learned to love the peaceful time in early morning or late night when it’s just him, the sound of his feet hitting the pavement and the music he queues up on the road, mainly gospel. Soon after beginning running, he stopped drinking coffee in the morning.

“Even after running a long distance, I have much more energy for my day-to-day life,” Dr. Farrow says. “And, as with other jobs, being a physician is stressful and running gives me a release. I also have nervous energy, so it’s a good outlet for that.”

You don’t have to have a runner’s build

Dr. Farrow, who has served on the Cleveland Browns medical staff, has a tall, muscular frame. “I don’t have a runner’s build, but sticking with running is what was most important for me,” he says.

He ran his first 5K race a year and a half after he began pounding the pavement. For the last three springs, he also completed the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. With training for this spring’s half marathon, Dr. Farrow gained a lot of mileage even with his busy schedule.

Still, he stresses that what’s important is maintaining his health, including keeping stress levels in check, his body in great shape and his mind sharp.

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It’s not unusual for Dr. Farrow to set the alarm for earlier than 5 a.m. to squeeze in a run, and he generally saves longer runs for weekends. Consistency is important with exercise, and especially when adopting a new, positive habit.

“Running definitely has a calming effect for me,” he says. “Being active puts me in a better mood and helps me feel better physically.”

Fit Tips from Dr. Farrow:

  • Lace up. All you need to run is a bit of time, your body and the land — and a quality pair of running shoes, Dr. Farrow advises. “I tell my runner patients, most injuries are related to one of three issues: poor shoe wear, poor form or overtraining,” he says.
  • Stick to it. Be open-minded and diligent,” Dr. Farrow encourages. “If you have never run in your life, it takes a long time to build up to where it feels enjoyable.”
  • Set a goal. Sign up for a local race to motivate your training. By having a goal on the calendar, you’ll stick to your program and continue even on tough days, Dr. Farrow says.

With some diligence and patience, running can become an enjoyable lifelong health habit.

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