The current Chair of the UPV Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Committee, Mary Lyncen M. Fernandez, is a staunch advocate of health, fitness and wellness.
“Six years ago, my blood chemistry was going through the roof. A doctor told me that I needed to take maintenance to control my blood sugar, uric acid, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. I was a short, fat, middle-aged woman who weighed more than 80 kilos. I called myself ang babaeng walang leeg (the woman with no neck).”
Mary Lyncen says that was her wake-up call. She bargained with the doctor to give her three months to change her diet and vowed to undergo a regular exercise routine.
“My Lola died of a stroke in the shower. It was more than an hour before we found her body. My own mother had a stroke in her middle age. The fifth one left her paralyzed for nine years before she died. These two things flashed in my mind in the doctor’s office while listening to her talk about Lipitor, and Losartan.”
She says that she was fortunate to live inside the UP Visayas Miag-ao campus with its undulating roads that feature many uphill and downhill slopes. She started walking around and about the campus, which is also thickly populated by trees.
“Starting was the toughest part, maintaining it even more so. I remember the first time I tried to run up the road which I dubbed the Diwata Road because that is where the Diwata ng Dagat sculpture by National Artist Napoleon Abueva sits. It was the steepest hill inside the campus and I thought I would die after just a few meters. But the feeling of exhilaration stayed with me. It was awesome to have wings on your feet even for just a few seconds.”
Being the researcher that she is, she started to read extensively on how to become a runner. If she was going to be one, she said she might as well do it right.
“I remember my first fun-run, a 3K event in July 2010. I kept my head down for fear of seeing the snickers of people in seeing this fat, middle-aged woman hobble towards the finish line. What was running in my mind was that I would probably be the last to cross the finish line.”
Since then, she has signed up for other fun runs and the 3K progressed to 5K and 10K with some trail running thrown in. On December 2013, she crossed the finish line of her first half-marathon, a 21K run. After some setbacks, one of which was an operation to remove her gallbladder, she did her first full marathon this year in February at the age of 50.
“After I crossed the finish line and somebody put that 42K finisher’s medal on my neck, I wept on my husband’s shoulders. He was waiting for me at the finish line. All those years of running and self-training, waking up at 3:00 a.m. to run for three to four hours, running alone, doubting myself, lacing up my running shoes even when I didn’t feel like it, sidelined by sickness and injuries—these flashed through my mind. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be a marathoner. I had never been athletic. Women were not encouraged to go into sports during my time. What is even more astounding is that only 1% of the world’s population has run marathons.”
She adds, “How I wish I had started in this wonderful journey of health and fitness much, much sooner. I had to have my gall bladder removed because gallstones the size of corn kernels had formed there. This was brought about by years of abusive eating, particularly of salty and oily food.”
Mary Lyncen says that she is committed to pursuing this lifestyle of health and wellness for the rest of her life. She said that she does not diet but has changed the way she eats, such as giving up sugary drinks and junk food, and trying to eat as much fruit and vegetables as she can every day.
“I am stronger in mind and body now that I am 50 years old than when I was in my 30s and 40s. Running has completely changed my life. It has made me strong physically and mentally. I am always at peace with myself and the universe every time I run. Running has given me so much joy and peace and energy. It has given me good health. For the past six years, my blood chemistry results have been excellent. I take no maintenance medication, so far. One of running’s greatest surprises is that you get more energetic after a run.”
She says that “That is why I keep urging my fellow office workers, who are strapped into their chairs eight hours a day, five days a week, to engage in this life of health and wellness. I want us to be healthy in mind and body and be more productive at work and still have the energy for family stuff.
Along with her fellow UPV Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness committee members, she has been urging the UPV community to get into this new lifestyle. They have come up with a year-long program that consists of a combination of physical activities and information drives through lectures. A year-long, weekly Zumba for Miag-ao and Iloilo city campuses employees has been put in place to encourage office workers to take a break from eight hours of sitting. Lectures on depression, nutrition, menopause and andropause, strength training, and a Palarong Pang-empleyado and year-end Zumba Run have been lined up for 2018.
“It’s my hope and wish that all members of the UPV community would be fit and healthy long after we have retired from the University. So that we can still be active and productive and not spend our retirement money in hospitals and on maintenance drugs,” Mary Lyncen says.
The other members of the UPV Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Committee include Prof. Catherine B. Anecita, Prof. Brenda Lynn B. Arroyo, Prof. Cristituto S. Rogador, and Ms. Mybelle G. Zulueta, all from the PE Department, Ms. Teresa S. Hortillo from the Office of Student Affairs, Dr. Marchette S. Noble from the Health Services Unit, Ms. Maureen Kay C. Ongo from the Cash Office, and Ms. Melinda C. Sasana, Dorm Manager. (Mary Lyncen M. Fernandez, UP Visayas)