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Grandpa Goes the Distance
“My mission is to get people to be healthier and to have a long, happy life,” says the 1943 chemistry alum who holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. Retiring last January after 60 years in the operating room, the cardiovascular surgeon now spends his days coaching others on how to live beyond age 70.
A former UF boxer, surfer, sailor and handball enthusiast, this athlete didn’t find his true sport until age 55 when a fellow surgeon turned him on to running. He has since completed 25 marathons—two of them the famous Boston Marathon—as well as 77 triathlons. In 2001, USA Triathlon magazine ranked him No. 1 in the world for his age division.
“I used to hate to run,” says Lasley. “When I was at UF in ROTC we had to run a couple of miles in regular shoes and I didn’t like it—but after I got more informed of what was necessary to stay alive and healthy, I got over it.”
In his book, 120 Years of Healthy Longevity, Lasley outlines a plan for squeezing the maximum number of years from life by achieving a balance of mind, body and spirit. Exercise is a vital component, as well as a healthy diet, spiritual strength and emotional stability.
A man of faith, Lasley takes the biblical book of Genesis seriously, which proclaims, “The lifetime of man shall be 120 years.” It has been done before. The longest recorded lifespan, 122-years, was achieved by Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997 having seen the construction of the Eiffel Tower and heard the sonic boom of the Concord.
How does one live to see their great-grandchildren grow up? Lasley says all you have to do is run 20 miles a week, lay off the caffeine and alcohol, and eat lots of fiber. Of course, there a few more rules, but you get the idea.
So, if you are one of the millions of Americans who will make getting in shape a New Year’s resolution, how do you get started?
“The first thing you need to do is start on the exercise,” says Lasley. “Just walk every day, it doesn’t have to be far, but work on that until you can start doing some jogging paces in with the walking. Build up your tolerance—jog 50 steps and then walk 50 steps.”
He assures that within a matter of weeks, you will be able to do this without feeling your lungs are going to explode and, depending on your level of fitness, within about a year you may become one of those disturbingly committed joggers pounding the sidewalks to the tunes of an iPod.
Diet is also important. Lasley urges patients to avoid the high-protein craze, which he has seen clog many an artery first-hand. Instead, stick to complex carbohydrates, such as grains and raw fruits and vegetables, add in a little protein but stay away from red and processed meats, and avoid simple sugars such as cakes and candies. Unseasoned popcorn is a great snack, and even an occasional bar of dark chocolate isn’t so bad.
But during the holidays, a little indulgence is to be expected. “I’m going to be like everybody else—I’m going to be overeating,” says Lasley. “But I am going to run a half marathon first.”