Cover story

After 33 years, she hasn't missed a daily run

PINELLAS PARK

Lois Bastien doesn't remember the exact date she began her daily running streak. It wasn't a conscious decision, nor a New Year's resolution. • She was just being a good mom and supporting a daughter who wanted to make her high school cross country team. • "That was 33 years ago," said Mrs. Bastien, now 77 and a great-grandmother. "I've just been at it every day since." • Mrs. Bastien's then-teenage daughter developed knee problems and had to stop running. But Mrs. Bastien liked the way she felt after finishing a run — full of vigor and glad to be alive — so she kept going. • "I never really gave it much thought," she said. "It was just part of my daily routine."

Most fitness experts agree that the only way to make an exercise routine work is to build it into a daily habit.

"It is just part of my day . . . like brushing my teeth," she said. "I don't even think about it."

Mrs. Bastien was born in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, but often visited family in Pinellas County during the winter months. One summer day, 55 years ago, her husband, Ronald, persuaded her to pack up their belongings and move south for good.

Mr. Bastien found work as a hairstylist, and Mrs. Bastien took a job in accounting, and together they raised two children in St. Petersburg.

"My husband ran track in high school, and he was always an avid runner, so he deserves most of the credit for keeping me going," she said. "It seemed like he used to run a race every weekend somewhere or another."

Mr. Bastien, 80, no longer runs. He has had three hip surgeries but still walks every day around the mobile home park where they live.

Mrs. Bastien said her secret to success is never overdoing it. She runs the same 1 ½-mile loop every day. "Most days I run it twice," she said. "But if for some reason — weather, or I am not feeling well enough that I can do it twice — I always run it at least once."

Another likely key to her durability is being realistic. So she has cut down her mileage in recent years. At her peak, Mrs. Bastien would run at least 5 miles a day. She's run too many road races, including several marathons, to count.

"A lot of my old running friends have switched to biking," she said. "They say it is easier on the body, but even though I have had a few injuries over the years, I have been able to run through them and not quit."

Still, Mrs. Bastien wonders if 2014 will be the year that she has to finally take a day off. "I need cataract surgery," she said. "I think the doctor will probably tell me to take it easy for a few days."

There have been days when she wanted to stay in bed. "The worst is traveling," she said. "It is hard to get up and run when you are suffering from jet lag."

Though it wasn't a New Year's resolution that got her started on her running streak, Mrs. Bastien does have some advice for those who need help sticking with a new exercise program:

1. Start slowly: "Don't just try to go out and run 6 miles your first time out," she said. "If you have to, run, walk, run, walk . . . but just keep at it."

2. Stick with it: "Don't give in easily," she said. "Make up your mind and just do it."

3. Take it easy: "If you are not feeling 100 percent, don't cancel your workout, just hold back a little bit," she said. "If you are used to running 3 miles, maybe only do 2."

There's plenty of scientific evidence indicating that people who exercise are less likely to get sick. Even if you have a cold, exercise might make you feel better by helping clear up congestion, provided it's not too severe, and not in the lungs.

Mrs. Bastien said she has found that even if she didn't feel tip-top before her workout, afterward she was glad she did at least something.

"I have never missed a day of work in my life due to illness," she said. "I am happy and I am healthy. I think my daily running routine has a lot to do with that."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at ttomalin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8808.

Q&A: Ready to run?

Should I run every day? Clearly, Lois Bastien's routine works for her. But for many of us, daily running could lead to overuse injuries. Most experts advise alternating running days with other workouts, such as swimming, cycling and yoga.

How do I get started? Assuming you're in good health (check with your doctor if you're in any doubt), there are many good programs to help you progress from walking to running gradually and safely. Couch to 5K is a popular one available online and as a smartphone application. Numerous local running clubs and coaches welcome novice runners, including:

• Take . . . the First Step (firststepprograms.com)

• Tampa Bay Runners (tampabayrunners.com)

• St. Pete Road Runners (sprr.org)

• FishHawk Road Runners Club (fishhawkrunning.com)

Should I run through pain? Any time you increase activity, you can expect muscle aches. If they're fairly mild and go away when you start moving, you should be safe to keep going. But if you experience sharp pain, especially anything that causes you to limp, listen to your body. Rest for a few days or switch to activity that doesn't hurt. If the pain doesn't go away in a few days, call the doctor.

Is running better than other aerobic activities? The best exercise is the one you enjoy and can do consistently. That said, lots of people swear running offers the best cardio workout and calorie burn. The Medical College of Wisconsin and the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee found that running on a treadmill (at a "hard" exertion level) used an average of 705 to 865 calories in an hour. Still impressive (and easier on the joints): the stair-stepper (637 to 746); rower (606 to 739); cross country ski machine (595 to 678); and stationary bike (498 to 604).

How much running should I do? That's up to you. But if you're pressed for time, running or another vigorous workout may be worth exploring. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we all get at least either 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week (like running) or 150 minutes of moderate activity (such as walking). Or you could take the middle road and design a program combining vigorous and moderate activity.

Sources: Times files; About.com; Women's Health; Slate.com

After 33 years, she hasn't missed a daily run 01/22/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 3:48pm]

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