As a nephrologist, Dr. Stephanie Ladson-Wofford spends a lot of time with people who are struggling to make healthy decisions.
But when Ladson-Wofford realized she wasn’t making the best choices for her own health, she decided to make some changes to her lifestyle – significant changes that, just a year and a half after she started, have her seeking out more and more challenges to overcome.
Ladson-Wofford, 52, has practiced nephrology – kidney medicine – since 1995. She works for Kidney Specialists Inc., which has offices in Columbus, Newark and Lancaster, spending most of her time at the Newark location.
A graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Ladson-Wofford lives in New Albany with her husband, Richard, and their children: Jayden, 14, Jerrin, 12, and Jeila, 8.
Besides kidney disease, the problems Ladson-Wofford most often sees in her patients are heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. She decided to pursue nephrology as a career field for a variety of reasons, some of them very personal – her father suffered from high blood pressure, and African-Americans are disproportionately affected by kidney disease.
Ladson-Wofford has participated in a variety of athletic pursuits throughout her life; she was on the drill team when she was attending Gahanna-Lincoln High School, took modern and jazz dance in college, did ballet throughout both, and was involved in step aerobics in the 1990s. She has also been walking for exercise for many years and has spent time with the New Albany Walking Club.
For some time, though, walking became her only athletic pursuit.
“I wasn’t as active as I should have been,” she says.
Having observed so many patients with chronic diseases, and wanting to make sure she would be there for her young children, Ladson-Wofford decided to step up her game in 2011.
“I see patients who have died who are my age or younger,” she says.
She has a lot of patients who are pre-diabetic or are very overweight, and they have difficulty exercising because they get sore so quickly. In addition, many are loath to change bad eating habits because those habits are so ingrained, despite the health problems those habits cause.
“I say (to patients), ‘You know, if you would just change your diet, you could really lower your blood sugar,’” she says.
The last little push came from a dialysis patient who was planning to run the Columbus Marathon; if he could complete a marathon, Ladson-Wofford figured, she could walk a half-marathon, and she began preparation immediately for the Capital City Half Marathon.
“It took all summer,” she says. “I was getting up and (training) maybe five days a week in preparation for this marathon.”
Just walking wasn’t enough, though. Ladson-Wofford wanted an overall workout, and in October 2011, she was urged by her brother to get some personal training at New Albany-based Ultimate U. Though not a fan of athletic clubs, Ladson-Wofford grudgingly agreed to train at Ultimate U during the winter months.
The weather has since gotten warmer, then cold again, and Ladson-Wofford has continued to train there. Having lost weight when she started her walking-only regimen, she began to gain it back in muscle as a result of her cross-training.
“When I started working with weights, I started increasing muscle mass” and shedding body fat, she says.
These days, Ladson-Wofford works out five or six days a week.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are her training days at Ultimate U. Wednesdays and Fridays are shorter walks or runs, and Saturdays and Sundays are longer walks or runs. During the summer, cycling replaces two of the walk/run days. Monday is her day off.
More recently, she picked up cycling at her brother’s suggestion and running at her trainer’s suggestion. She had initial doubts about both of them, but challenged herself to push forward anyway. After some initial struggles, she’s incorporated both activities into her weekly regimen. Her progress has been swift. At the beginning of the summer, she could barely run a quarter-mile, but now she can manage 4 miles without stopping.
Though there’s much more to her workouts than walking now, Ladson-Wofford continues to make strides there; she can walk a mile in about 11 minutes and 45 seconds, but thinks she can do better. Her time in the Capital City Half Marathon was 2 hours, 33 minutes.
Ladson-Wofford has also made changes to her diet to further push herself toward physical fitness. She’s ramped up the vegetables and cut down on bread and pizza, and has gotten rid of junk food entirely – even the vanilla wafers she loved so much.
“I really loved those in college, and they loved me back,” she says.
Her determination helped her overcome the initial soreness posed by all her exercise activities and avoid making excuses to get out of a workout. She’s physically stronger, feeling healthier and isn’t noticing the knee problems she was experiencing just a few years ago.
Though her patients’ health problems were part of Ladson-Wofford’s motivation for exercising more, their strength is another part. Kidney disease patients are some of the strongest people she has met, she says. And though some are unhealthy, others are inspiring; she has a patient in her 80s who still walks 2-3 miles each week.
“I learn a lot from my patients,” she says. “I wondered if I could be as strong as my patients.”
Garth Bishop is a contributing editor. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.