A couple of weeks ago, during an appointment for something completely unrelated, my doctor checked my blood pressure and announced that unless I could manage to get it to come down, I’d have to start taking some medication for it. And that once I was taking that medication, it would be for the rest of my life.
My immediate response was to go home, burst into stressful tears and drink beer on the stairs. Excellent. And a touch over-dramatic, I know. Not the first time I’ve had that kind of response to something a doctor has told me. Once I’d pulled myself together, splendidly supported by a soundtrack suggested by Twitter (and in particular from the always-on-the-money @wandapops) I started to think about the last time I’d been told that I needed to reduce my blood pressure and how I’d managed it.
Since my first pregnancy ended at thirty weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, I’ve suffered with high blood pressure and the only thing that has really worked to reduce it is running. Since returning to full time work after the birth of my second child, I’ve struggled to fit it into my schedule. And, like many people, looking after myself has dropped further and further down the list until it barely registers at all. Now, though, I have to re-think how I approach exercise. Not as a luxury bit of time for myself – which is how I’ve increasingly come to think of it – but as something essential, something that underpins the rest of my life.
Alongside running, I’ve got to lose a bit of weight again, and try to eat healthily and drink less alcohol. All those behavioural things that, even if they don’t give you a longer life, certainly make it feel as though you’ve lived longer! I’m not going to turn into a fun-free Puritan though. Everything in moderation. But I know that I owe it to myself and the people that love me to make a decent job of looking after myself a bit better. I know that taking medication is not the end of the world, and I’m grateful that it exists, should I need it. However, I really want to return to better habits, so that I don’t need to just yet. I feel too young to be taking beta-blockers!
So, a new schedule is needed. One in which running is built in as an essential element, not as an afterthought. I’ve struggled with running on and off for the past few years. I have poor feet and knees. But I’ve been out three times this week, and I’ve surprised myself by enjoying it enormously. I’ve learnt that what Jayne from Veggie Runners told me is very true – namely that once you’ve been a runner, no matter how long the break, it’ll be easier to run again than it was the first time around. This is very encouraging, and has helped me to keep going when it’s been tough, cold and muddy. I’m also grateful to those people who have offered to run with me. I’m better in (slow!) company, I think. My initial goal is to do a decent time at a Parkrun in January, and then see how I get on, perhaps with Outlaw Runners in Leeds. But this time, I’m less bothered about improving times, entering races or anything like that. This time the only numbers that count are 120/80, and my goal is to get closer to them…