For more than 4 decades, Shawn Lyden, chief strategy officer at Akron Children’s, has been a runner. He started as a high school cross country athlete and continued to run as an adult, making the activity an integral part of his fitness routine when he had time. But like so many people, other commitments or the weather sometimes sidelined his workouts.
Turning 50 changed Shawn’s priorities, however.
“I’ve exercised off and on my whole life,” he said. “I would get into fitness for awhile, and find it too hard to maintain, especially when the weather changed in northeast Ohio and I had to run on what I call the ‘dreadmill.’ But my 50th birthday, that was a significant number for me.”
The reason was Shawn’s family history of cardiovascular disease. Shawn’s dad, who had heart disease, experienced a heart attack at age 52 and ultimately passed away at age 59 from a second heart attack. Shawn also had cholesterol problems, a condition that he attributed to his family history. Regardless, he didn’t want to take any chances and decided to control his risk factors.
“I’ve become a big believer in overall wellness,” he said. “I’ve made lifestyle changes that contribute to good health. For instance, my wife and I are very careful with our diets. I get the sleep I need, and make time for exercise to help reduce my stress and keep my weight in check.”
When Shawn first began prioritizing his wellness and health, he did it incrementally and through trial and error. That way, he weeded out what didn’t work for him. For example, since he disliked running outdoors on snow and ice, he joined a gym near his home where he could use cardio machines and lift weights in the winter. More recently, he started waking up at 4:30 or 4:45 a.m. to exercise at home before work. Shawn is already planning how to stick to that routine during the colder months.
“When you lead a busy lifestyle, exercise needs to be convenient,” he said. “If it’s too much work to get a workout in, I’m less likely to fit it in. I make exercise and wellness a very high priority. It’s right up there with family and work. I fit in exercise by scheduling it as I would a meeting.”
While he no longer runs competitively, Shawn does look forward to the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series each year. In the 15 years the Akron Marathon has existed, he has run the full marathon, 2 half marathons and multiple team relays. This year, he plans to run on one of the relay teams with colleagues from Akron Children’s in the First Energy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay.
In addition to running, Shawn’s commitment to overall wellness has also led to trying new forms of exercise. His wife is a yoga instructor and through her example, he now practices yoga, although not as frequently as he would like.
“I’ve found that the older I get, it’s more important to stretch,” he said. “I get lower back stiffness, but I use a Nike app and do core workouts a few times a week. The core work just makes everything work better.”