The Richmond Register

December 19, 2013

4-H health resolutions: Never give up; ‘jump over your fire’

By Scott Darst
Extension Agent

RICHMOND — Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Time to put on a happy face and visit with those family members you should only have to see once a year.

It’s time to avoid the malls and the crowds, unless you have to buy the wife’s last minute Christmas gift (husbands you’ve been warned).

It’s that time of year where your Fantasy Football team makes the playoffs or another year of defeat.

It’s that time of year that you watch UK basketball and it drives you insane! It’s that time of year where you drop subtle hints to your spouse about what you really want for Christmas (Honey, if you are reading this, I want an Under Armour EKU hoodie).

Furthermore, it’s that time of the year to start thinking about those pesky New Year’s resolutions.

There I said it ? New Year’s resolutions!

For some, that phrase is a dirty word. For some, it’s a phrase that implies too much pressure and you’re already thinking of excuses not to do it (I’m preaching now, but mainly to myself).

In the past, we may have tried a resolution. We counted down the days, and on Jan. 1 at 12:01 a.m., we start our journey, only to have those commitments or contracts with ourselves derailed shortly thereafter.

Then we try to persuade ourselves that we don’t need a set day or holiday for us to make a change. So we quit to defy the peer pressure, only to tell ourselves, “Okay, I’ve fallen off the wagon with this year’s resolution, so I guess I’ll pick it up next year.”

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this year after year. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller (had to throw in an 80s joke)?

Being a 4-H agent, I tend to think of the four “H’s” (Head, Heart, Hands and Health) when making a resolution because most of them fall in one of those categories anyway.

Usually, the one that I fail at is Health.

Now, I am a pretty active 34-year-old – still playing sports, coaching sport and watching sports.

When I am not at work, with the family, at church, meetings or civic engagements, then I am usually doing something active. I hate sitting around doing nothing.

My family has a history of being in bad health, whether it’s heart disease, bad backs or diabetes (“The Sugar” as we call it West Virginia.) I wasn’t dealt the greatest of hands when it comes to hereditary health, so I have made it a point throughout my life to always stay active and take care of my body.

Also, being a 4-H agent, it is my duty to help defeat the Kentucky obesity rates in children. So in the past, we have taught nutrition and physical activity lessons in after-school programs. It is my job to encourage kids to go outside and play.

I take full advantage of my career to give families opportunities to go out and explore the great outdoors through hiking, collecting insects, forestry lessons and other family-oriented activities, to keep them active outdoors.

I teach flag football and Ultimate Frisbee during 4-H teen events. When I play sports or even teach it, I give 110 percent and make sure that I am good at what I do.

Despite my physical activity, I still have to deal with asthma. I am a sprinter by nature because I am short and fast. So during games, I come in and run, score, then have to regain my second, third and fourth breaths. It’s not always easy, especially when the temperatures get cooler. Though I may be in a lot of pain, I never let it stop me, nor do others around me really know.

For the past couple of years, I have sat by and watched all my close friends start running 5K races. Some have even dropped a tremendous amount of weight. Through their running, they have changed their lives. They were once bound by taking medication so their bodies would work correctly, but through their resolutions they have changed their lives. These men and women made a commitment – a hard commitment – and saw it through.

During this time last year, I decided that I was going to run long distance. I was still going to play sports, but I wanted to make a healthier commitment to me and my family. To stay focused, I joined a group from church to form a team to run in the Warrior Dash.

If you don’t know what that it is, here it is in a nut shell: hardcore race, 5 kilometers, mud, around 12 obstacles, mud, fun and have I mentioned mud?

It was going to be a battle, especially with my asthma. I’m sort of stubborn and competitive so I was NOT going to let asthma stop or embarrass me. So I made my New Year’s Resolution to take up long-distance running.

The Warrior Dash was in August, so I had some time to start training. However, the winter months came, so I did a couple of work out videos (Insanity and P90X) just to get me through. But, with a crazy schedule like mine, I could never commit to working out every day.

Instead, I decided to do them three to four times a week. Then with family, work, finishing a master’s degree and other commitments. I found myself hating to find time to do these videos, so I decided to go out and run in the cold.

IT WAS MISERABLE. My chest tightened up, I couldn’t stop coughing and I found it incredibly hard to catch my breath, like my chest was on fire.

Now, I could have let it stop me, but like I mentioned before, I’m stubborn and prideful. As a 4-H agent, this is what I teach kids: never give up, challenge yourself, seek mastery of a task and be healthy.

So, I kept at it. Running a mile was torture. Every time it was like my chest was on fire, my legs were on fire and the competitive fire grew more and more. I wouldn’t stop!

After a couple of weeks of having to stop during a mile, one day it just clicked. I looked down at my iPhone and I had gone two miles without stopping. The fire was still burning my chest, but I managed to find a breathing pattern that worked.

The next week, I went three miles without stopping. Now, the fire that burned in my lungs, was fueling my competitive spirit, so I challenged myself and went six miles. BOOM! I did it!

I looked my asthma dead in the face and told it that it couldn’t stop me. Although it still hurt to run, I wasn’t backing down and I was going to run the Warrior Dash.

August came and my wife and me drove up to Versailles to meet up with our crew. I was really nervous about running since I had never run with anyone. I spent my early running career on nature trails or fields away from people.

The gun sounded and we took off. We all stayed together and competed and cheered for each other through all the obstacles. I was feeling great.

As we approached the finish line, ironically, I saw the lines of fire that we had to jump over. The same description of how my chest felt to breath while running was the same obstacle that I had to jump over to get to the finish line. Instead of letting the “fire” in my chest defeat me, throughout this whole experience, I had been defeating it.

So as I approached the fire, I leapt over it with all I had left in me and conquered it as well. I crossed the finish line covered from head to toe in mud, I waited for the rest of my group to celebrate.

Even today, I still go out when I can to run three miles around my neighborhood. I have fallen in love with it. Whether it’s rain, hail (well maybe not hail), sleet or snow I’ll be out running.

This whole experience taught me to never give up, always give your best and you’ll be successful. I preach this all day, every day to my 4-H kids and to my own kids, so I wanted them to see me live out my own words.

As the time draws closer to set your New Year’s resolution, really think of something that matters to you. Whether it’s getting more involved in your community or living healthier, I encourage you to stay the course, try hard, “jump over your fire” and defeat it!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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