Healthy Living

From high blood pressure to runner’s high

Seven years ago, when a doctor told Steve Purdom about his high blood pressure, neither one of them knew that the news was actually the first step onto a runner’s path.

As a health underwriter for Unum’s Starmount business, Steve knew that his weight and his family’s medical history of heart disease put his health at risk. But, upon hearing about his high blood pressure, he was finally motivated to start being proactive about his health.

“One morning, I just threw my tennis shoes in the car and decided to walk for 15 minutes during my lunch break,” Steve explained. “I had no expectations – just a walk. The next day was the same – just a walk.” With one foot in front of the other, he increased his stamina for walking, improved his health and lost 80 pounds.

Steve continued to develop a healthier version of himself, and started jogging during his lunch breaks. It was not very long until he was running, and a new goal started to form in the back of his mind – running in a 5k race. With a little more encouragement from fellow coworkers, Steve set his sights on his new 5K goal, and selected one of the many training programs available online.

In addition, he relied on the expertise and motivation provided by the running community on social media and through local running clubs. “Other runners are very welcoming and always helpful,” Steve said. “They remember what it was like when they started, and were always willing to help.” Armed with determination and motivational support, Steve was ready to hit the ground running – literally.

He completed his first 5k race in 2012, and has crossed many more finish lines since then. Steve now averages 10 races per year, ranging from 5k to half-marathon races. Some of his favorite races provide beautiful landscapes or fun and unusual themes, such as Disney’s Star Wars – The Dark Side 10k in Orlando, Florida or the patriotic Battleship 12k race on Veterans Day weekend in Mobile, Alabama. Every race gives him an opportunity to accomplish one of his personal goals and start working towards the next.

Although Steve’s enthusiasm for the sport is apparent, his optimism faces occasional obstacles, such as the weather or speed. In South Louisiana, humidity is a big hurdle for a runner to overcome. And, when he admittedly feels uninspired after a bad run, he reminds himself that running the race is still a win. “You have to listen to your body,” he said. “If you need to slow down, slow down. More importantly, remember that you will be better than today. You just have to keep moving and looking forward.”

Steve certainly has moved forward. The initial 15-minute walk not only transformed his health by decreasing his blood pressure and weight to normal levels, but the activity itself evolved. For Steve, this experience has evoked a passion for a sport that has many unique advantages. In addition to health improvements, his new hobby of competitive running has also provided an outlet to strengthen bonds with coworkers in and outside of his department. “People around the office really inspired me to start running [in the races]. They motivated me and had confidence in me. When we race together, it’s the best team building exercise that I’ve ever experienced.”

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