Running toward health

| March 05, 2008

March Health Hero: Jeff Clark and his dog, Jack

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, Wis., is a 49-year-old owner-operator leased to Transport International out of Pittsburgh and is training for his fourth marathon this spring. He’s come a long way from the days when the only exercise he got was walking from the truck to the truckstop, but he says he’ll never go back to his sedentary lifestyle. Three years ago his doctor told him he was at high risk for the heart disease that runs in his family, and he decided to change his lifestyle. He started off walking and gradually added short amounts of slow running.

“Eventually, I started running in local races and then decided to train for a marathon,” Clark says. He looks forward to downtime when he can run with Jack, his canine traveling companion.

The marathoner doesn’t mind that he finishes toward the back of the pack. “It’s not about time, it’s about the effort that goes into finishing,” he says. In fact, he’s so passionate about the health issues that plague truckers that he’s written and self-published a book, Hey, We’re Dying Out Here: The Truth About the Driver’s Shortage, in which he explores the reasons truckers live 15 fewer years than the average American male. “We’ve got to look at the whole system and figure out how to improve the life and health of truck drivers,” he says.

How long have you been driving?

20 years.

How did you get started on your weight loss and fitness program?

I started trying to lose weight before I started running. I lost about 20 pounds by changing my diet. And then I started exercising. The first mile I ran on the treadmill took me about 12 minutes. Now I run a nine-minute pace for a half marathon. My weight has gotten down to just under 200, and I’d like to lose more.

What inspired you to start losing weight?

I was fat, and with my family history of heart disease, I knew that it could be fatal.

What was the biggest challenge?

My love of food! I have trouble controlling portion size and love doughnuts!

How do you get through tough times?

I think about my brother, and I also get a lot of encouragement and feelings of self worth from my church.

How has your health improved?

My blood pressure is under control. My strength and agility are a lot better. That makes me feel younger. It is a lot more fun playing with my grandkids and my dogs, and I don’t get as tired as I used to.

What tips would you give other truckers?

Diet and exercise have to go together. I make sure I drink at least two liters of water a day and eat five veggies. It’s easy. Go grocery shopping and buy fruits such as oranges, apples, bananas and raisins. Buy a case of water instead of pop. Try to enjoy exercising. Make it a habit that you look forward to. Walking is great, but I have rediscovered running. Check out your area YMCA. Don’t overdo it. Go slow. Look for small improvements.

Any running tips?

Get away from truck stuff. Instead of walking around the truckstop, walk to the nearest town. I also strongly recommend trying a local 5K run/walk.

What’s your next goal?

I plan to run a marathon in less than four hours and 22 minutes. That is a 10-minute pace.

Favorite quote:

Winston Churchill: “Don’t ever give up.”


Wife: Roxanne Clark; Children: Nick and his wife Charayssa, Holly and Dave, Jason and Kevin; Grandchildren: Carsen, Ashtin, Cody and Alice and a new granddaughter due this month; Dogs: Jack and Chelsea
–Carolyn Magner

Nominate Health Heroes
Do you know any truckers who have worked hard to become more healthy? Maybe they’ve quit smoking, started an exercise program, controlled their sleep apnea or changed their eating habits. E-mail or send to Truckers News Fit for the Road, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406.

Health Question of the Month:
Help! I’m in my mid-50s and my doc says my cholesterol is too high. What can I do to keep from having to go on medication? I’m only about 20 pounds overweight, and I don’t exercise.- Jack from Mississippi

Pam Whitfield is a Chicago-based registered dietician.

A heart-healthy diet will help you control your cholesterol. Portion control and three balanced meals each day will help you control your weight. Here are some tips:

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