Charlie's Blog: The Tragedy of Jim Fixx


The Tragedy of Jim Fixx

Pain is nature's way of telling you to slow down. Death is nature's way of telling you to stop.

I am 52 years old. Jim Fixx was 52 when he died of a heart attack while on a run. The irony of this man's death was that Fixx was the bestselling author of The Complete Book of Running. This book would be a bible for the running boom of the seventies. Fixx extolled the benefits of running for health and longevity. Yet, running seems to have killed him. Comedians like Bill Hicks and Denis Leary mocked Fixx's ironic demise. Dying while running is a good reason to give up running for health.

Fixx's death has been a mystery to many especially those who run for fitness. It is no mystery to me. Jim Fixx gave up smoking and trimmed down his weight by running. But he kept eating crap. Fixx believed that running negated the effects of a poor diet. Fixx was wrong--dead wrong. The autopsy showed massive blockages in his arteries. Basically, Fixx needed to be on a whole foods plant based diet. You can't outrun a poor diet.

There is another factor that I think killed Jim Fixx. I think the running also contributed to the heart disease and the fatal heart attack. I have read up on recent studies that indicate that extreme endurance exercise is bad for the heart. I don't know if Fixx was in that extreme category with his running, but I suspect that he was. Those studies also give a clue as to why these hardcore runners don't live longer than their sedentary counterparts. Extreme exercise combined with a poor diet seems to be a formula for death.

With his life, Fixx got a nation off of the couch and running marathons. With his death, Fixx gave people a reason to go back to the couch. Neither path is the correct path. The correct path would be becoming vegan and going for daily walks instead of daily runs.

I don't think Jim Fixx knew any of this when he died. He obviously had the discipline to quit smoking and to take up exercise. He just didn't know at 52 what I know now at 52. We have learned things since his day. Yet, this new knowledge echoes the horse sense of eons going back to Hippocrates. People know instinctively that they need to eat vegetables instead of junk food and to move each day. This is because these things make you feel better.

None of us is going to live forever, but that fact shouldn't keep us from living better. I also believe that the quality of your life matters as much as the length of your life. Being healthy just feels better than being unhealthy. That good feeling trumps the taste of steak, eggs, bacon, and burgers. I think Jim Fixx would agree if he was alive today.