What happens when a running coach gets high blood pressure? Yes, even people who are athletic and healthy have unexpected results on annual health screenings. When Chris’ results showed elevated blood pressure, he was alarmed. As someone who focuses on health and wellness, he was eager to talk to a specialist to find out what he was missing, and to learn more about how to reduce his risks. He really appreciated the holistic approach of the program, rather than only focusing on food and fitness.
As an A-type personality, Chris’ blood pressure was driven up by stress and anxiety. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed and accomplish goals. He felt pressured by the time limits of everyday life – working full time, taking care of a family, coaching high school kids after work, and trying to fit in his own exercise and personal goals. His mindset before entering the program was that if he didn’t have an hour for a run, he failed. Since exercise is such a great stress reduction tool, Take Control health coach Linda helped him overcome this mindset by pointing out that even bite-sized accomplishments, like a 20-minute run, can be worthwhile. Short periods of exercise reduce stress and provide a sense of accomplishment, even when you don’t have an entire hour to spend. Chris said, “You don’t have to put the GPS watch on, you can just go walk and listen to nature, and allow your mind to go to a different place. Those things were really valuable for me.”
Another strategy Chris employed to overcome time limitations was habit coupling or multi-tasking. In the morning when he makes coffee in the French press, he has four minutes to wait while the coffee steeps. He added four minutes of breathing exercises while he waits to press the coffee. When he turns the hot water on for his morning shower, he brushes his teeth while he waits for the water to get hot. He has found creative ways to save time on everyday tasks, which reduces his stress level and lowers his blood pressure.
Chris also learned relaxation techniques like taking ownership of things he can control and trying to let go of things he cannot control. He found ways to change his expectations of others and take on short tasks that helped him feel more organized. Feeling organized reduces his stress. Regular monitoring of his blood pressure levels helped identify stressors, reduce them, and see improvements from the relaxation techniques he added.
When asked if he would recommend Take Control to others, Chris said, “I think it’s very valuable to spend the time with a health coach and talk through, not just the generalities of diet and exercise, but the other aspects of life as well, like anxiety and stress. Coach Linda was very thoughtful and genuine. Everything was personalized, actionable, and convenient. It didn’t take a lot of time in my life to make small changes.”