John Rodriguez is not leaving anything to chance.
His long-term health depends on what he does to remain active, whether the calendar reads Jan. 15 or Aug. 22.
“I run, I lift, I do pretty much everything,” said Rodriguez, 51, a bus driver for the Yakima School District.
Some days are harder than others to get out and exercise, Rodriguez admitted. And the colder days and months of the year make it tough to stick with it.
“I’m always worried about my weight,” said Rodriguez, who is 167 pounds. “I am around people who share the same interests. Even though there are days that I don’t want to do it, I still get up and do it.”
Rodriguez was 235 pounds when he joined the Yakima Athletic Club about six years ago.
“I told myself I wanted to be in the best shape of my life by the time I was 50,” he recalled. “I put the fattest picture of me in the bathroom as a reminder. It’s a big commitment. People do hit burnout. But, it’s not only exercise. You have to watch your diet, too. If you exercise all the time, you still have to put the right foods in your body.”
It’s easier for most to get out and exercise in the summer months. But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s going to get cold once the calendar pages turn.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in our country,” said Ryan Moultray, a doctor with Selah Family Medicine. “Everybody knows it’s important, but putting it into practice is hard. At some point, it’s going to be 10 degrees. What’s the game plan, then?”
Moultray has a few suggestions.
“My advice is to join a gym,” he said. “That way you take the weather out of the picture as an excuse. Another option is to do something at home — like an exercise video, a treadmill, or even a stationary bike.”
Clearly, Rodriguez, a 1980 Davis High School graduate, hasn’t been inside staring at a workout video.
He’s run five full marathons and about 25 half marathons since taking up running seriously about 11 years ago.
He says he does some kind of exercise six days a week and running is usually a strong component. So, what does he do on his day of rest? Well, he gets up and goes to Hot Yoga Sunday mornings before church.
“To me, it’s important to get up and do it,” says Rodriguez, who is up at 4 a.m. to squeeze a workout in before heading to work. “It’s 4 percent of your life. That’s what it is. I just get up and get it done.”
One thing that Moultray cautions against is a “winter break.”
“It’s all about the long-term plan,” Moultray said. “You can’t think about it six months out of the year — you’ve got to think about the whole year. You really lose your fitness level quickly. It can almost be like starting over again — and then you’re prone to more injuries. It’s just going to be that much harder to get back to your normal fitness levels.”
As much of an exercise-hound as he is now, Rodriguez admits it wasn’t always this easy for him.
“It took me awhile when I started doing this to really stay with it,” he said. “Finally, it just clicked one day.”
The other component Rodriguez leans on heavily is a strict diet. He and his wife, Leslie, prepare and measure out their meals two weeks at a time. There are no candy bars or cookies on the menu. In fact, Rodriguez says he has pizza about three to four times a year.
“Once every three months, I’ll have something special,” he said. (That includes an occasional pizza outing as a reward.) “I’ve learned to control it. I know I just have to stick to my diet.”
Rodriguez ran the Seattle Rock n’ Roll Half Marthon in 1:35:07 last June, an average pace of 7 minutes, 16 seconds over the 13.1-mile course.
Not bad for the one-time 235 pounder.
“For my age, I think I’m in pretty good shape,“ he said. “I work hard at it and I don’t think I’m done. I want to keep getting stronger and getting leaner.”
In the end, it’s a good mix of exercise and diet that will make the difference. And, that’s a lifestyle, not a program.
“I can’t stress enough that we know what people die from — heart-related things, usually,” Moultray said. “It’s a proven fact that if you keep your weight down, it makes a difference. If you can do it by changing your diet and through exercise, then that’s even better.”