Russell Winwood, COPD Triathlete and Ambassador of the Lung Health Institute Wellness Plan, recently appeared on Geoffrey Woo’s podcast called HVMN: Pursuing Peak Performance and Health. During the podcast, Russell spoke about his journey of being diagnosed with COPD and how he used that as a catalyst to train for one of the world’s toughest triathlon events, Ironman. He also talks about his discovery of ketogenic diets and how his nutritional choices have helped him overcome the normal barriers of COPD.
Russell’s diagnosis of COPD
Russell had been diagnosed with asthma as a child. And after taking up smoking in his teens and not taking care of himself for many years, he suffered a massive stroke in his 30s. He said the paramedics visited him in the hospital after his stroke, and they couldn’t believe he was alive. For him, as it would be for many people, this was a wake up call to get healthier and to take his life more seriously.
So, Russell began to exercise. His son is an avid cycler, so he started cycling with him. But he just couldn’t keep up; he couldn’t catch his breath. Still, Russell thought that was due to his asthma, so he kept pushing. However, it was around this time that Russell was diagnosed with COPD.
Training for an Ironman race with COPD
Though most people would feel sidelined by a COPD diagnosis, Russell took that as the kickstart he needed to take his life back. He started working with different doctors and trainers to determine the best way for him to train for this race, considering he only tested at 22 percent lung function. He trained for eight months before he was ready for the Ironman race.
“I remember being there on the start line,” Russell recalls. “I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it. I just knew I was going to give it a go.”
As the race continued, Russell started doubting whether or not he would make the cut off time. Toward the last leg of the race, he started making excuses for himself about why he should stop the race. After all, he was out there competing with only a quarter of the lung function that the other athletes had. He had to make a choice about whether or not he wanted to stay in and finish the race.
“Then I remembered, when I was first diagnosed, I told my family that I don’t want to be treated any differently, but here I was treating myself differently. I started to think ‘this is not who I am,’” says Russell.
He crossed the finish line with 10 minutes to spare.
Advocating wellness for COPD patients
For the past several months, Russell has worked closely with the Lung Health Institute to create a Wellness Plan designed to mimic the ketogenic plan he used during his triathlon training. This plan helps to reduce the inflammation in the body, which is a common symptom of COPD and other chronic lung conditions.
Russell wants to share his successes and beliefs about overcoming COPD with others.
“Yes, I have COPD. Do I believe it’s going to be the disease that’s going to finish me? No. Because I made the decision back then that I’m going to beat the disease; I’m not going to cure it, but I’m not going to let it beat me,” he states.
To learn more about Russell Winwood’s story and about the Wellness Plan he is advocating with the Lung Health Institute, you can listen to the full podcast here: HVMN Podcast Feat. Russell Winwood.