PROFILE--Dr. Jon Wang has been running for 36 years

Dr Jon Wang in the 2014 Athens Classic Marathon
(Jun. 2020) Born in China and a smoker for 25 years in his youth, Jon Wang didn't have the healthiest of life beginnings. But when he turned things around, he turned fully. He became a doctor to help others, and an endurance athlete to help himself. Now 79 and living in Tucson AZ, he follows the "I am an animal/child/artist/saint" words of Dr. George Sheehan, along with his own personal medical philosophy. He may be older and slower, but that hasn't dimmed his outlook. "
Now I focus on the gift of being able to get outdoors, break a sweat, and absorb the many treasures of the desert land in which I have the privilege of living," he says.

Career-profession? Orthopaedic surgeon and also Fellowship-trained in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine.  As a Resident Surgeon in NYC had opportunity to learn from NY Mets, Cornell Univ. and numerous high school athletes. In Military,  I learned from my teammates in Army Special Forces,"Green Berets."  Since 1977 have had privilege of being Team Surgeon for University Arizona Intercollegiate Athletics.  My activities in running and my own injuries have taught me much that I have been able to use in helping other runners. Unfortunately, many in my profession do not have the interest, patience, experience to be of significant help in getting runners back to their sport in a safe and productive way.

When did you start running and why? Started a practice of daily running in 1983 in order to lose the weight I had gained when I quit cigarettes (after 25 years of bad habit). And 37 years later, am still running.

How much did you run in your peak years, miles/week? Mostly I ran 25-30 miles per week. But when training for 26.2 or 13.1, I did much more.

Top race performances, or running achievements? I ran my first 26.2 at age 50. Ran my final at age 73.

How much are you running and cross-training now? Every day, I devote time to health of Mind, Spirit, and Body. Definitely, there are cross-over benefits from bodywork to the health of mind and spirit. For body:  I do 20 minutes/day running,  and 20 min/day for stretching + upperbody/lowerbody/core strengthening and balance drills. (see Health Issues below)

Any recent races? I'm not "racing."  The fact is that I never considered myself a racer or competitor.  I am what George Sheehan describes as a Runner.  Not a Jogger fulfilling an exercise requirement or a Racer trying to be faster than someone else. In a road race, I consider myself a participant. I am participating  in a Celebration of Life and Freedom!  And for me, that is what an organized Road Run has become!

Does it bother you that you are slower now? Being slower is not troubling. Not being able to sustain a run as long as before is a significant loss in my life. To feel the freedom and empowerment of moving through space and time with no regard to distance run because fatigue or pain were never my companions -- that is what is absent now.  But I have to be aware and accept that this is my present reality. Now I focus on the gift of being able to get outdoors, break a sweat, and absorb the many treasures of the desert land in which I have the privilege of living --  and indeed I am LIVING!    I am grateful that I have been able to make adjustments as needed and I will continue with that attitude.

How have your diet and weight changed through the years, if at all? Since the 1980's I have respected my diet as fuel for most efficient function of musculo-skeletal system. In 1990's I adopted 40-30-30 guide for balanced diet (Carbs-Protein-GoodFats) and have avoided the extreme fads that have flourished and faded. Weight has been maintained within healthy range of BMI.  Supplements? I do not use any of the "TV" or Magazine-Ad  Supplements.  I use carefully selected  Vitamins, Minerals, and Anti-Oxidants for medical biochemical reasons as described below.

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? (1)Osteoporosis was discovered in 1994 after a skiing shoulder injury. I followed all advice, and by 2007 my Bone Mineral Density was normal. But scan in 2017 showed bad news again.  Exhaustive testing revealed no cause. I'm still skiing and running. Have had 2 fractures skiing but none requiring intervention or resulting in disability.

(2) Heart Disease. Never had any symptoms, but scans have shown coronary artery calcifications since 2006, and a cardiac catheterization in 2019 showed 90 percent occlusion of 3 vessels and  50 percent in the left anterior descending. Still running and never a chest pain or shortness of breath. My explanation is that my 37 years of daily running have led to the gradual development of compensatory collateral vessels that keep my heart muscle well-oxygenated. In spite of these functional facts and normal lab values, heart doctors insist I take Atorvastatin to lower the cholesterol. This drug ("Lipitor") is not without side effects which have led me to resist taking it until September 2019.  

Inflammation of vessels is as much or more of a threat. Since starting a specific regimen of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants 6 years ago, my labs show almost zero circulating inflammation.  Fortunately, my genes have blessed me with good joint surface cartilage plus a well-aligned skeletal system so that joints are not a limiting factor. 

(3) Muscle fatigue and cramps.  Since 2013,  I have had to gradually reduce distances run. I have done everything I would advise a runner to do but without complete success.  At present, interval training is my solution.

For my bones, I take Vit. C, D, and K, calcium, magnesium, boron, inositol from orange juice and cantaloupe, silicon from whole oats and rice, combined with the bone-loading exercise of running. Magnesium and iodine for muscles. Also for general health,  Vit. A,B, and E.  

For my vascular system, I take Atorvastatin plus Anti-oxidants, and Omega3-fatty acids, CoenzymeQ10, Aspirin, Turmeric, and Astaxanthin.  For cardiopulmonary health, I do interval training to get my heart rate up to 140 bpm. For fall prevention, I do balance drills. 

An inspirational quote? From George Sheehan, M.D.  "All of us are athletes. Some of us are in training, and some of us are not." Also: "I am an animal: My body needs purposeful movement and appropriate nourishment. I am a child: I have a need to play.  I am an artist:  I can be creative in my activity.  I am a saint:  For that hour (on the roads) I am Assisi wearing the least and meanest of clothes. Poverty, chastity, and obedience come naturally. I am one of the poor in spirit who will see God."               
                   
Tips for hopeful lifetime runners?
1--Watch your weight. You can affect the load on joints by keeping weight as low as is healthy for you.  
2--Pay attention to your alignment. You can improve unhealthy stresses on body by proper orthotics and shoes (if foot/ankle/knee anatomy are not perfect). Be aware of your running motion patterns and have a knowledgeable observer monitor you.
3--Be aware and accepting.  Be aware of messages from your body as you grow "more mature" and accept that you may need to modify activities.

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? My profit is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual refreshment.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? Running on a daily basis began for me in 1983 when I was 42 years old.  My objective was to burn calories and lose fat in order to recover a former physical fitness. Because of my occupation as a surgeon, these runs had to be in the early AM.  Living in Arizona,  conditions for such were good.  As my body became better conditioned for running, the early morning runs became less burdensome.  

Soon I realized that I was enjoying running and it became something I wanted to do rather than something I had to do. Why? Because my body no longer suffered in the run but actually felt good. Surely some of that  was due to endorphins. But there was more. Mentally the run boosted my self esteem. And even more than that, the early morning peacefulness and solitude became my time to think, observe, correlate, plan, connect with nature, and be inspired!  So running has provided me with these gifts for every phase of my being!