Customer Profile: Steve Altchuler

I like myself better when I run.

Steve is a Mayo Clinic consultant in psychiatry, sleep medicine, and aerospace medicine.  He is also a former research scientist for NASA with 70 minutes of weightlessness under his belt.  He spent four years at NASA studying bone metabolism, specifically bone and muscle mass loss during weightlessness.

He still consults with NASA astronaut selection, but now he visits with pilots who have medical complications that need to be addressed before they get their medical certification.  

His running career began much later in life.  The week before Christmas in 2010, he experienced new onset angina. He began cardiac rehab, and running was a big part of it.  

“I hated running with a passion. I hated running on a treadmill more than just running in general, so I started running outdoors. But I’m no different than any other runner. The first mile and a half is absolutely miserable.  And then after that, it becomes fun!”

In 2014, Steve attended the Healthy Human race in Rochester in which Jeff Galloway, author and founder of the Run-Walk-Run method, was one of the keynote speakers at the event.  

The Run-Walk-Run program resonated with Steve, so he tried it - and he has been using the method ever since. 

What’s your biggest challenge right now? I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, so my biggest challenge is overcoming the cancer while maintaining life.  I will be monitored for the rest of my life. It’s not like it’s a single tumor. I am back in treatment now, and even though I would have preferred not to have relapsed, running has helped me keep my equanimity about all of this.  I’ve got to keep on living even while I am overcoming the cancer. What that means right now is that I am more fatigued than I would like to be, and I am not running like I would like to be. But I am capable of overcoming those things again. Running gives me a good perspective on life. 

What do you like best about your work as a psychiatrist? I save lives. I make a difference. I give children back to their parents and parents back to their children. And while I do have the opportunity to recommend exercise to my patients, I don’t push running specifically because I don’t want to push my own stuff on people.  The facts are simple: Endurance aerobic exercise is good for mental health. 

What’s your favorite shoe right now? Altras. These shoes are comfortable because they do not squeeze my forefoot. The width is very good for me.

Where do you see yourself five years from now in terms of your fitness and your health? I would like to be able to do the same thing I am doing now with better times. I do half marathons, but the training takes a long time. I would like to do a marathon or two just for the experience, but I cannot do it while I am still working.  Once I am retired, then I can put in the time.  

What motivates you to keep running? I like myself better when I run. Plus, after I’ve had a rough day, I feel better. On top of that, I lost 60 pounds after I started running, and I like to be able to buy clothes off the rack and have them fit. What do you enjoy most about running? Running is one of the few sports where I can participate in the same event as a world class athlete. In fact, one of the things that I really enjoy about the Monday night $5 5K at Terraloco is that it’s a running community.  No one is identified by their jobs, and everyone is on a level playing field. Everyone is included - no matter how fast or how slow their pace. The community aspect, the participation, the ability to get to know people and catch up with folks - that’s the experience I enjoy.

Favorite time and place to run? There’s nothing like being out there running under the night sky with no one else around, nothing like being on the trail and finding the beauty in it. I see amazing things when I am running.  The animals treat me as if I am part of their own. They are not scared of me. Deer and fawn just watch as I pass by. I am just another creature who is out there with them.

If you’d like to meet Steve, he will be on the Resolution Night panel at Terraloco on Tuesday, January 7 at 7:00 pm.

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