Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years Eve

Tomorrow we can truly say is the first day of the rest of our lives. I for one have some changes I want to make. New Years, is our traditional time for new beginnings. I want to put more intensity into everything I do. I want to strive to be the best I can be in every part of my life. I want to be the best person, the best husband, the best athlete and the best friend that I'm capable of being. I want to live, train, love, even laugh with more passion. I want this to be a not a New Year where I did everything new but the year I started doing everything better.

Can the decisions you make today make a difference in your life? Sure they can. When you can believe that your life has meaning and potential, you can go forth toward your destiny with the confidence that you are worthy. The important thing is to make sure your new goals are realistic. If you put impossible demands on your life you are setting your self up for failure. Some people unconsciously do that on purpose because they don't believe in themselves and expect failure. So when they do fail they can say it was just to much.

What you can do is make a commitment to change your attitude first and then your actions. If you do everything you do with the confidence that, if you do it, it's worth doing and it's worth the best you have to give. So many people do the minimum necessary to get through each day. Most of those people don't take much pride in anything. Be more like a craftsman that makes things and considers each of their creations worthy of their best efforts.

The people who stand out from the crowd are not always the most beautiful or the most talented but the people who live everyday with passion and desire to be the best they can be. There is a saying that "Hard work will beat talent, if talent doesn't work hard". That is true for everything we do, if we give it our best then it will always be enough. There is never shame in failing when you gave it all you had to give. That lesson is one that athletes must always remember. If you held nothing back and came up short then you were victorious regardless of the score.

Thank you for reading.

Intense Panda

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What the heck happened?

I know we have all gone through them, those times when you figure that your lucky star must have gone Nova and blinked out. When everything seems to be going south faster than you could ever catch up. It's bad enough when it happens to you but it can be just as bad when it's happening to a good friend or family member.

We never know what, why or when life will jack slap us. Erica had a hard lesson in this about 7 years ago. She is an RN and at the time she was taking a break from being a staff nurse in a hospital, she was the head nurse at a nursing home. I got a call from her at work and she asked if I could come and get her as she had hurt herself. When I arrived I found that she had injured her back giving a patient in one of those low beds a shot. She couldn't even stand let alone walk.

This started a 2 year period of no income from her and we had to live on my much lower pay, with bills enough for two incomes. We survived that and came away stronger knowing we can cut back everything and go into survival mode. But it was tough real tough. The stress of trying to make ends meet was a constant monster living with us. Once she was healed and could go back to work it took years to pay off the debts and to get us close to where we were before the accident.

We never know when something like that will happen and we can never completely plan for the disasters that can come up. But what we can do is keep our friends and family if we have them close. There is a saying that you can measure a person's worth, not by the size of their bank account but by the number of people who call you friend. Real friends are there for you in the rough times as well as the good.

Have you been putting off calling a friend to say hi, how about a family member you have been thinking about getting closer to again? Remember to have a friend you have to be one. Keep those friends in your life you need them as much as they need you.

Thanks for reading.

Friendly Panda

Monday, December 29, 2008

Good Sunny Winter Morning

For a while now it's been cloudy and gray outside and looking so winter. Today is a wonderful bright sunny day, still a little chilly but the sun makes up for that 10 fold. It's amazing how much a bright sunny day can make you feel so much better yourself. It's like a fog has been lifted and you can see clearly again.

We will take advantage of it with a 10 mile walk in the warming sunshine. There is a saying that a bad day of fishing is better than even the best day of working. That works for walkers and runners also. A walk especially on a day like this is some of the best of times. Unfortunately most of us must work in order to finance our eating habit. There was a time that I enjoyed my work so much I hated to see the work day end. That was when I was the First Sgt of the base hospital. Of course a lot of my day was running and exercising with my troops.

One of the things you have to remember about walking and running this time of year is that a warm up is even more vital with it's cold out than when it's a warm day. I know that sounds like a no brainer but a lot of us athletes get to feeling we are invincible and do things when we should have known better. Your muscles need to warm up slowly and gently, a sudden burst of speed or other such act when you haven't warmed properly can side line you for a while with a strain or worse a pull.

I have discovered this bit of wisdom the hard way. I was watching a squadron football game in 40 degree weather when I was stationed in Okinawa. The running back for the team was hurt when he sprained his ankle stepping in a hole on the field. So I went in to replace him. Being young and strong and stupid I ran right out there and a few plays later got the the hand off and took of. I tore my right hamstring pretty badly. I had a huge bruise there on the upper back of my leg for about a week and about a month of healing before I could do even brisk waking without discomfort.

This goes for any type of sport, warming up is for all your muscles not just your legs. Your arm muscles need warm up before you do any racket sports. Especially important is warming up before stretching. Do not EVER stretch cold. You can do dynamic stretching (gentle swinging of your legs and arms, through out the full range of motion) is fine but the classic static stretching can leave you hurting if you go at it cold.

I hope everyone is having a bright sunny day the way we are here in Southern Kentucky.

Thanks for reading.

Sun Loving Panda

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank God it's New Years!

This last year has been a challenge for a lot of us. I for one am glad to see it come to an end. With the economy such a roller coaster all year we are still wondering, "Just what the heck happened". The news is more grim everyday, we hear about bank and cooperate executives, stock brokers and auto industry employees raking in sinful amounts of money while our country goes into a depression. We were scared by gas prices going to over $4.00 a gallon and we saw more and more big stores and companies either close or go to Mexico for the cheap labor. It's enough to make you run screaming into the night. Just how the heck are we supposed to cope with all the ugly things going on all around us.

To start with we can continue to believe in ourselves and not lose sight of our own self worth. The old year is almost over, look at the new year as an opportunity to make some changes you need to. We can't do anything about the bad news all around us or can we? We don't have to buy into the negative. This is a good time to do some introspection and find out just where you stand on things. Give it some thought, get some more information about some of the things going on and see what you think.

I have a personal mission, if you can call it that, to do something about what I see is wrong with our wonderful country. I see an epidemic of unhealthy living. I'm standing strong in my beliefs that it doesn't have to be that way. I also see a down turn in our compassion and our morals. I don't like the way the popular 'prime time' viewing on TV is reality shows that dwell on the pain, suffering or humiliation of others. There is a book written my Steven King called 'The Long Walk", where teenage boys walk from Maine to the coast, when a boy falls behind the required pace they are shot for the viewing pleasure of the Television audience. Is that the direction we are headed?

I for one don't watch those shows. As the saying goes "I vote with my feet". If I don't like a show or a store or a product etc... I don't support it with my time or money. My business isn't going to make any difference by it's self but if enough people stopped supporting the things they didn't agree with it would. Notice that McDonald's isn't hurting in the slightest during this slow economy?

I'm a believer in the concept that we can make a difference. We certainly can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of our families. We can choose to be in better health and save a lot of money on medical bills. We can control what we watch and what we buy. We can live or life by our rules and our own morals. There are so many people out there that are looking to be "entertained", because their lives are so dull and meaningless. They are just going through the motions. When you take charge of your life you'll find that you don't have the time for the canned entertainment any more, you are to busy living.

My challenge for everyone this coming year is to make a decision to live by your rules and morals and don't be lead around by the nose. Be the master of yourself and be in control of your life. If you follow a religion then buy into it all the way, don't just think about living right on Sunday.

Thank you for reading.

New Beginnings Panda

Friday, December 26, 2008

Target Pace

I'd like to mention something for Danno and anyone else going into the marathon or even the half without the training you would like to have. It will take you longer to get in your grove on race day. Plan on a longer warm up period when the race starts. Then when you do finally get into your planned pace if after 10 min or so it's still a struggle, back off on the speed for a while, a half mile or so, then get back up to pace and see how it feels. What ever you do DO NOT get to your planned pace, realize it feels to hard and panic. I promise if you back off a little and then go back to it after your warmed up good, it will feel better. Normally when we are training regularly a mile is plenty of warm up but if it's been hit or miss training then it could take 3 miles to get the grove. So don't panic it will come, just be patient.

I was reminded of that this morning. I went to the treadmill for the first time since last Friday. I had done a little mall walking on Monday but the crowds made it a little too interesting. I did my half mile warm up at 3.5 mpm and then a half mile at 4 mph, (15 min per mile). That is usually plenty to get me ready. So I went to my target pace for the marathon, 4.5 mph, since I was doing it with some friends that were not as fast I was planning this as our catch up pace to average 15 mpm. Well I did a half mile at the 4.5 mph which is usually very easy for me. I was struggling and started wondering what the heck is going on here, I couldn't have lost that much fitness after only a week. So I dropped back and did 4.0 mph for another half mile. After that I moved back up to 4.5 mph and this time it felt smooth and easy like it should.

Another thing to remember is that the stretching is even more vital when your training isn't as regular as you would like. Keeping the muscles free of lactic acid goes a long way toward keeping your muscles strong and maintaining their fitness. Stretching should always be part of your work out anyway but now more than ever. It's also a good time to be regular with the massage. If you can't get a pro to work you over you can still do a pretty darn good job with a stick or rolling pin. I had a patient the other day stop in for an adjustment and he was complaining about hip pain. He had strained his ankle and the act of limping around had inflamed his IT Band and maybe his hip flexor on the strong side. I told him about using a rolling pin to work it out. He called the next day to thank me for the advice, he said it stopped hurting and he was walking much better.

I hope everyone got some good walking/running stuff for Christmas. It helps to keep you motivated if you have new toys or fun new clothes. Many years ago I think about 1980, I got a Timex watch for Christmas. It was one of those that had a full calculator on the front. It also had a pacing feature. It would beep and you coordinated you pace to where your left foot hit the ground with the beep. You could set the pace where you wanted it and also increase it as you warmed up. It was awesome, that was the best pacing feature I have ever had. I have looked for years for another watch with a beeping pacer and have never found one. I was able to use that to train for a couple of years and then it quit working. That $25 watch taught me a lot about training and pacing.

Everyone doing the Disney in 2 weeks good luck and I'll see you there.

Thanks for reading.

Pacing Panda

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Sorry I have been MIA the last few days but work has been hectic. I'm off tomorrow for Christmas, although Erica does work till 7am. This Christmas I'm going to think of friends who are going through hard times. You hear on the news about how rotten the economy is, about how horrid the job market is and how much the housing values have fallen. It kinda goes in one ear and out the other till it starts effecting your close friends.

We don't understand as much about life as we sometimes think we do. It's easy to be objective when you are not being knocked senseless by it. Once you are and it can happen to any of us when we least expect it, it's hard to cope. Hard times can effect you in ways you didn't see coming. To start with the stress is a beast, it can consume you. When you are under the weight of such stress you strike out at what you value most, the ones you love. When married couples fight it's usually not about the real problem but a result of the enormous weight you have on your shoulders.

What can you do about it? Well to start with you can try to keep under control by constantly reminding your self that neither you or your spouse caused the problem. You have to fight it as a team. When you can work on it together you can come up with better solutions. When you fight all you do is blow off steam and you still have the problems to face.

Right now we have to invent new ways of coping and new solutions. Most of us are not hardened to face the problems that are looming out there. But we do have friends and loved ones we can rely on. We just have to believe it. We are often pretty dumb when it comes to asking for help. We just sort of expect others to read through our bad moods and realize what we need.

This Christmas make sure you reach out and touch those friends and family members who are your life support system. You need them and they you.

Thanks for reading


Monday, December 22, 2008

Marathon Weekend

Those of us doing the Disney Half and/or Full Marathon are within 3 weeks of show time now. Most, depending on what plan you are using should be in taper mode. Taper means the cut back and rest period before the race. About this time most have legs that have residual aches and pains, this is normal. The goal now is to get your legs feeling fresh and energized by race time. Right now is the time to make sure you stretch everyday if you haven't been all along. Doing a daily or even several times a day self massage is good also. If you have a stick or rubber/foam roller now is the time to get regular with it.

When you start with fresh legs the last few miles will still be difficult but not anywhere near as bad as you probably feel now after a long run/walk. You recover faster also. Should you exercise during this 'taper period'? Sure but not anything extreme. Remember we talked about the way to build: Stress your muscles, rest them and repeat. Well now it's more warm up good do some exercise at a much less strenuous pace and not nearly so long. I don't do anything over 8 miles easy during this period. The time for the long building miles are over, you gain more by being fresh now.

A funny thing about taper is you feel guilty about now doing as much. This year for us it's so cold that we don't wanna go outside anyway. It's 5 degrees outside right now so a few miles on the treadmill and some light weight training is all we want anyway.

Big caution here, "Warning Warning" you are not not working as hard so you don't need to be eating like you were. That can be the biggest challenge for most of us. We got used to eating more because we were putting in so many miles. If you have been thinking about going to a little different eating like semi vegetarian or as in my case just fish, chicken and turkey for my meats, now is the time to do it. Keep the calories where they need to be. I never count calories I just make sure my meals are healthy and low fat.

The last week before the marathon is usually a time for major sessions of self dought. Don't fall in that trap, you are ready, relax and get ready to have a great adventure, one that you will never forget.

Thanks for reading.

Taper Panda

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tis the Season

For a lot of us in the mid to upper half of the country winter has found us with a passion. Most of the northern states are really getting hit by the snow and ice. That will of course make our trip to Disney, in two weeks, that much sweeter. We need things like that to look forward to, having a light at the end of our tunnels keeps us sane.

This time a year is the worst for depression. Without bright spots on the horizon life can seem pretty bleak. We adult athletes have an edge here because we usually have a trip or even just a race planned soon. One of the big causes of depression is the feeling of being out of control, like you have no control over anything in your life. We do have control over ourselves. We can be the masters of our own thoughts and our bodies. We may not be able to control the constant bad news that cable news spits out everyday but we can control our own outlook on life.

Working in a mall the way I do, I get to watch the masses of people moving by my doors. Many look completely lost this time of year. They wander by with blank looks on their faces, I guess hoping that an idea of the perfect gift will pop into their heads. It's really bad on Christmas eve. Talk about a deer in the headlights look, it could be changed to the last minute shopper look.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that things are not usually as bad as we make them out to be. This is the information age but it's also the communication age. We can pick up our cell phones and make a call or send a quick text message. We have literally a whole world of new friends at the other ends of our computer keyboards. We never have to be alone anymore if we don't want to.

As adult athletes we have a vast support group of brothers and sisters out there in cyber space. We have places to go where we are understood and where we are welcome as long as we go as friends. Sometimes something nice happens to us and we just want to share our joy, our on line families are a good place to share because you need to hear positive stories to balance all the bad news you hear.

As we go forward to the end of this Christmas season and this year, lets all make a decision to dwell on the positive in our lives and not the negative.

Thanks for reading.

Social Panda

Saturday, December 20, 2008


There is a saying that heroes arise when a hero is needed. There is a lot of truth in that. Many many people who don't realize they are heroes are rising to the challenge every day. A hero doesn't have to slay a dragon or save the world to be courageous. It takes courage beyond the imagination to keep going some days. I want to take an opportunity today to recognise and thank some of my heroes today.

Teachers: It takes courage and dedication to walk into that classroom day after day. It's not even close to easy for them to make each day interesting and positive. But what they do is so very important.

Parents: Theirs is the challenge of molding the future. They are the first and most important step in making their children an asset to the world. They can never let up on their task no matter how difficult it becomes.

Police and Fireman: When events are out of control they go right into it. I often wonder when I see a police car fly by me with it's lights and siren going, what dangers they are responding to. They don't have time to think about, they just go.

Nurses: Our nurses are the ones who are with us when we are the most scared. The good ones are battling at our side against whatever has happened to us. I live with a nurse and she often comes home drained, having given all she had to give and more.

Military: The men and women of our armed forces are heroes just for making the commitment to serve.

The Adult Athletes I have the privilege to talk with everyday: Living a healthy lifestyle and being an example to others it often hard. I know how hard it is to keep on keeping on, I've been there to and respect the courage it takes. It's so easy to slip back into the comfortable good life and let the pounds add up. Sometimes when it seems that no one else cares, you have to stay strong and be your own hero, when you need a champion.

Thanks for reading.

Humble Panda

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who were you then

A lot of people, especially guys, don't think about this but how much have you changed since you got married. Most of us were of course younger but also in much better physical condition. We get out of shape over the years and just expect our partners to settle for how we are now, because they love you. Should they have to settle for overweight and poor physical condition?

When you were first married you were probably a lot different mentally also. I bet if your spouse were honest they would tell you that you were much more fun then to. What happened? Did you just suddenly wake up and realize you put on 50 or 100 lbs and your waist increased 10 inches?

Well I did just that. When I retired from the USAF, I stopped exercising, didn't need to, it wasn't required anymore. No fitness tests, no weight standards to adhere to. So over the next 7 years my once hard body became softer and softer. When ever I got to the point that my pants were so tight that they hurt, I just bought more in the next larger waist size. I became real good at not looking at my body in the mirror when I finished showering.

Then I turned 50 and my head popped out of the fog I had been in when it came to how I looked. I was soft, I was over weight and I was horribly out of shape. I would get winded and have to rest after cleaning my windshield at the gas station. That's when I started thinking, how selfish it was of me to expect my lady to except the way I had become.

I was not only not in good physical shape but I had lost a lot of the adventurous spark that I used to have. I wasn't fun anymore I was dependable and solid but not fun. My idea of a good time involved going somewhere and sitting down. I didn't much like the way I had become. I wanted to have and be fun again. I used to get really sad when I would pass the collage and see someone running, thinking about how much I used to enjoy that. I missed the races and I missed feeling good about me.

I started walking and for a year that's all I did, I got faster and lost weight, about 50 lbs. In the spring I was able to stop walking in the mall and start walking outside. It wasn't long before I wanted to run again. I did run again and for the next year I ran. Then I hurt my Achilles tendon and so for the next 2 years I ran hurt. I didn't want to stop because I couldn't go backward. Then I ran a 5K on grass and every step was intense pain on my hurt Achilles tendon. That was the last time I ran a step, 3 years ago now.

Once I started running again I couldn't imagine walking again. I was a runner now, walking was what fat guys did to get in shape, cause that is what I did. But I had to make a decision, do nothing or start walking again. I still wanted to enjoy the races that I was doing as a runner. So I decided to learn to walk fast. I trained as a walker just as I did as a runner. Then some local race walkers, (the Ky Senior Women's Champion and the Tenn Senior Men's Champion) took me under wing and helped me. Now I have a whole different outlook of walking and walkers.

Through walking I have regained my lost warrior's body. I regained my self respect and my sense of self worth. But most important I regained my adventurous outlook on life. My lady doesn't have to settle for dependable and stable, she can have the best of me I have to offer.

Thanks for reading

Healthy Panda

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Goal Talk

We are back from Gatlinburg now, we really enjoyed it and as with all vacations we hated to see it come to an end. If you ever want to make time go super fast, go on a vacation. Erica is really tickled because a year ago when we were in Gatlinburg she was a size 16, this year she is a size 6.

It's almost the end of the year, the time when people make their New Years Resolutions. That can be a very positive time but if you go about it wrong it can lead to having your self respect stomped on. Goals need to be specific and obtainable, sounds simple doesn't it. But often we make goals that are to hard to meet or that cause us a lot of stress trying to live up to. These kinds of goals never workout. Or we make goals that are to vague, "I'm going to lose weight" may be what you want to do but make a goal that you can achieve, like "I'm going to lose 3 lbs a month this year", that way you have an ongoing goal that is achievable.

Making healthy lifestyle goals are wonderful but just like with weight you have to be specific to make it happen. Saying, "I'm going to eat healthier", once again is to vague. A better goal is to make a specific goal like, "I'm going to stop eating deep fried food". If you are smoking though, resolve to go to a doctor and get in a supported and effective program to stop. There is no easing into stopping an addiction. The same goes for alcohol, if you think you have a problem you do. Get help.

Some goals are going to be easier than others because it makes more sense to you. Cutting out something that you are guilty about anyway because you do it all the time is much more effective, but harder than cutting something you don't do much anyway. If you only eat ice cream a couple of times a year then cutting it out isn't going to do you any good. But if you have a couple of pints of ice cream every night before you go to bed then cutting the ice cream to special occasions will do wonders for your healthy goals.

Get a piece of paper and make two columns, write down the things you would like to change and the other column the good things you do that you would like to do more of. Looking at it in black and white can help you decide what goals would be the most effective and do you the most good.

Thanks for reading


Monday, December 15, 2008

A Small World

We are in Gatlinburg Tenn. this week to train on the streets and hills of this beautiful Smokey Mountain's town. As we were walking through town to get a late lunch, we saw a couple running up the street and they were wearing Disney Marathon shirts. They also are here to get in some hill training before the January Disney Marathon. It was a nice surprise meeting another couple here for the same reason we were. They had traveled from Virginia, we of course from Kentucky.

It is really awesome how the net has brought people together who would have never met other wise. There are bad things about the net but the good more than out weighs the bad. We have friends from all over the country and even the world. Most of us that have chosen a healthy lifestyle often find that our friends and co-workers don't want to hear about it. We need friends that share our views about life, the net provides that.

We also need information and advice. We need reassurance that we are not insane and motivation to keep going. It's easy to get friends to go for ice cream, but ask them to go for a run/walk with you and they will look at you like you are a little short of brain cells.

We have a running club in town but we all lead separate lives and seldom mingle except for races. So it was really wonderful meeting people this far from home who shared our passion for healthy living and doing the Disney races to. We may have made more good friends today.

Another advantage of having the friend base we have is that we learn from other's mistakes. Lord knows we all make enough mistakes of our own and other's can learn from us. It's a give and take that works well for everyone. Just finding what cure to an athlete injury worked for others is wonderful.

We are thankful for all our friends and value each one for the richness of their individual personalities and how much they have enhanced our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Vacation Panda

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking Care of Yourself

Winter requires much more personal maintenance than summer. Our princesses are much better at this than us guys are. We try to get away with just a shower a little deodorant and we are good to go right? Not really but that's what most of us do anyway.

Winter drys our skin big time. That's why we itch if we don't use a moisturizing body watch or a body lotion after showering. We often forget about our lips till they are chapped and hurting, the regular use of a Chap Stick type product will go a long way toward keeping them healthy. Our hands also are more subject to dryness and chapping during the winter also. The popular hand sanitizers will dry your hands if you don't use one with a moisturizer. I use these after every patient so I won't catch or spread colds.

A warrior must keep their weapon in perfect order, an athlete must keep their feet in perfect order. Blistering is the result of friction and rough dry feet cause more friction in your shoe and sock. The daily use of a light coat of lotion will keep your feet soft and go along way toward avoiding blisters. Winter is also when dry foot skin start cracking and a nice split between your toes can really get your attention when the sweat gets in it while your exercising. Remember no cotton socks either, cotton holds sweat against your skin and promotes blistering.

Often when we exercise out doors in the winter we dress to be warm and comfortable, often to warm. When we sweat in clothes the fabric needs to wick the sweat moisture away from your skin. If not chaffing can happen on a long walk/run. Products like Body Glide applied to the places you rub will help keep that from happening.

As with exercising at any time don't wear anything that is to tight. A tight waistband on pants, a sports bra or briefs that are to tight can really cause problems. You can actually rub your skin raw with the friction of something to tight.

Most guys doing a first marathon or first 20 mile training distance find out pretty quickly about how tender their nipples are. After my first marathon I was fine, I thought, then I got in the hot tub and the chemicals in the water hit my nipples and I learned about protecting them next time. The Body Glide does a good job and there are even products called nipple shields for guys.

A little prevention in the winter can keep you comfortable and keep the exercise more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.

Vacation Panda

Friday, December 12, 2008

Surviving Vacation

Most of us are not very good about keeping our healthy lifestyle going when we are on vacation. That's ok since the calories don't know where you live. Seriously a few days of falling off the healthy eating wagon won't hurt a bit, unless you keep up the new bad habits when you get home.

I have a passion for sausage at breakfast, I know not the best choice of breakfast but I don't indulge more than a few times a year. Most hotels now have the free Continental breakfast. You have to watch those, the pastries and muffins can be just as fat laden as the eggs and bacon or sausage. Just don't think you can wolf down a couple or three blueberry muffins and think you ate healthy.

We go to Gatlinburg the second week of Dec every year for our anniversary and we do long walks to prepare for the January DisneyWorld Marathon. We always have a big breakfast before we head out for a twenty miler. My favorite is eggs, sausage, hash browns and sour dough toast. This meal gives me energy for the next 5 hours of brisk walking. If I was at home the pre walk breakfast would be a good whole grain cereal with a banana on it and skim milk.

There are lots of good dishes you can have on vacation, avoid deep fried anything, no cream sauces and no drenching your salad with a high fat dressing like Ranch. Vacation is a good time to try some seafood dishes, a good pasta with seafood and a marinara sauce is wonderful. I love grilled salmon so I make sure I have that at least once while we are gone. A lot of restaurants will custom make your meal. Erica often has a dish like pasta made without meat since she is a vegetarian. You can have a good healthy meal of pasta, grilled veggies and a marinara sauce.

When you indulge just a bit but also stay fairly healthy with your eating you can come home without the guilt. We are usually extra active on vacation so the calories do get used up.

Thanks for reading.

Party Panda

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Early Day at the Gym

I got to the gym early this morning about 5:30am. It was interesting to see who was there that early. There was a Dentist, an Eye Doctor, 2 firemen, a woman who is an army recruiter and a police officer. There was no socializing either everyone of these folks were going at it hard. I was especially glad to see the firemen and the policeman there. I like knowing that the guys who would respond to a crisis were fit and strong.

I got to thinking, what if you worked out everyday as though your life and or someone Else's life depended on your strength and stamina. Would you workout more intensely? It's very possible that your workout could very well be the difference in living or dying in an emergency. We never know what life will bring and a lot of us do push the limits with our adventures. What if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere could you walk many miles to get help? Could you swim a long distance if your boat was sinking, or stay a float for hours if you needed to for survival? Could you fight off a rapist or a home invader? You really just don't know, no one ever plans for a crisis to happen.

When you workout think about this, what you are doing right then could make the difference in life or death for you or someone you love. Workout as though your fitness and your strength is all you have to carry you though a tough situation. The Boy Scouts have a saying that the whole idea is based on, "Be Prepared". That's pretty good advice for most anything in life.

Thanks for reading.

Walking Panda

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Running/Walking A High Tech Sport.

I started running somewhere around 1978. I worked up to where I was running for a full mile. At that point I bought a Runner's World Magazine. Wow, was I doing everything wrong. To start with I was running on the balls of my feet like a sprinter. (The funny thing about this was that I was in the military and we had to run for our fitness tests, but there was very little knowledge out there about how to run) I was wearing a pair of flat sneakers commonly called deck shoes. I didn't warm up I just went as fast as I could go, which wasn't all that fast, till I couldn't go any more.

This particular magazine was the annual shoe rating issue. The top rated shoe was the Brooks Vantage and I think number 2 was the Etonic Street Fighter. My budget didn't fit stuff like that so I went to K-Mart and bought some bright blue track shoes with little rubber knobbies on them. They worked better than the deck shoes and I got up to a couple of miles wearing them, in my cotton socks of course. When I did finally have the money for a pair of the Brooks Vantage I thought I was running on pillows. Oh my what a difference.

I was beginning to really enjoy the runs now, especially since I learned about warming up. Once my muscles were warm it really started feeling good. That's about the time I learned about balance. My lower back started hurting pretty regularly. I had been reading everything I could about exercise and I had specifically read, "if your back hurts it's probably because you have a weak stomach". Well I started doing sit ups every day and with in a few days my back stopped hurting.

I learned about cotton and chaffing, I learned about cotton socks and blisters, I learned about how to eat prior to running and through trial and error I learned what NOT to eat. Fried chicken an hour before a run will give you cramps about mile 3. I was learning something almost every day it seemed.

The important thing for me was that I was in the military and the military was ignorant about running. When I was in basic training we did our 3 mile runs in combat boots, fatigue pants and T-Shirts. I think the reasoning behind this was that you trained in the uniform you fought in. Trouble is you didn't learn how to exercise so you could do it on your own when you got out of basic training.

I was selected for First Sgt duty in 1987 and was able to put my knowledge to work and to gain a whole lot more. I worked my way up to becoming First Sgt of the Hospital Group, there I was able to work with Doctors, Physical Therapists and Nutritionists to design fitness programs for the base population. I even had a Kenneth Cooper's Human Performance Lab in Dallas on speed dial. He was the advisor to the military for fitness, he started the "Aerobics" method of training.

Our sports of walking or running have come a long way since our ancestors chased down game for dinner. It does seem though that there is new and improved everything on the market now. The problem now is if you pick the wrong kind of shoe it can really become a problem causing issues with your knees, ankles, achillies tendons and ITbands. You can be virtually crippled as a runner or walker by wearing the wrong shoes.

If you are going to pursue the sport of walking or running get as much knowledge as you can, you will be amazed how high tech putting one foot in front of the other has become.

Thanks for reading.

Techno Cave Panda

Monday, December 8, 2008


Why do we need to do long slow distance, (LSD)? To start with going long builds endurance that you can't build any other way. Think of your leg muscles as a huge bundle of small fibers. Think of each fiber as an army warrior. In the walking around you do daily you only need a small portion of your warriors, so they are trained and strong. When you go farther than you are used to the fiber warriors that you normally use will only take you so far because they will tire out. When those fibers tire then your next reserves will take over and try to do the job. But these fibers are not trained and strong like your front line troops so they tire very quickly. This will continue with your muscles bringing up more and more reinforcements until all are exhausted.

Not only are your reserves untrained but they are not efficient either. Like an army, your muscles have their supply lines. The supply system brings oxygen and fuel, (Sugar), and removes waste products, (Lactic Acid). The more your reserves are used the more efficient they become at utilizing your supplies and getting rid of the waste. That's why when all you use are the muscle fibers required to get you through the day you don't feel sore.

Another reason for doing the LSD training is to learn what equipment works for you and what doesn't. You can't evaluate what shoe, sock, body lube, fuel ect... you will need for 13.1 or 26.2 miles by doing a 5 mile walk 3 times a week. You need to a least once a week go a little longer and at least once a month go further still. The rule of thumb is to increase no more than 10% at a time and that does work well. Never ever increase speed and distance in the same week.

Still on the comparison of muscles to an army, you have two kinds of fibers, you have the cavalry, (fast twitch) and the infantry, (Slow Twitch). When you are doing your long comfortable distance you are training and strengthening the infantry. When you sprint or speed up to pass someone or do short bursts of faster walking/running you are training the Calvary.

I personally do a lot of fartlack style training, that is were you train at different speeds during your walk/run. That way all my muscle types get a workout.

Thanks for reading.

Training Panda

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The small gifts of yourself

This time of year has in my humble opinion become a good thing that has gotten out of hand. I don't think the meaning of the season should be retail controlled emotions. I know I have in the past, so I can speak from experience, gone into debt buying presents that I felt obligated to give and then wondered if they were enough and adequate. How is that for double stress? How many of you remember all the gifts you have received over the years? When you give small gifts of your time and yourself you create memories that last forever.

I spent 25 years away from family, except for my wife and daughter. We were off in other parts Of the world serving in the military. We got out of the habit of buying for everyone except for just ourselves and our daughter. Now we still follow that not giving but not expecting either. I'm the first to help when someone needs a hand but never want someone to feel obligated to give back more than their friendship.

I went to wife and daughter about 5 years ago and said "We get each other stuff that most of the time we don't even want and spend way to much doing it, why don't we get laptop PCs for each of us and wireless routing instead of the traditional pile of stuff under the tree". They liked the idea and we didn't miss the old way. I have stuff in drawers I have received and never wore or used. My laptop gets used every day.

What if you decided to give someone your friendship instead of a gift. Take aunt Mary out for dinner instead of buying her the cute widget that will never see the light of day again. Be up front, I'm taking you out for dinner as my Christmas gift to you. Or help someone do something they need to have done. Like maybe getting back into shape, a training partner and coach would be a wonderful gift to a spouse.

How about a gift that is lasting, like a collage class to learn a foreign language or a trade school class to learn to do wood working. If you took it together you could have a new together hobby.

Whatever you give do it from the heart not from a feeling of obligation that the retail industry has pressed upon you.

Thanks for reading.

Frozen Panda

Friday, December 5, 2008

Healthy Living in the Modern World

Right now in our world it seems that every day the news is bleaker and bleaker. The economy is so bad that you wonder what the heck happened, don't we have people monitoring that? Our American car companies are on the verge of going under, which they deserve but the effect on the job market will be catastrophic. So many industries support the making and maintaining of the cars. The stock market is no place for the squeamish and easily frightened.

So just what does one do to survive, let alone live healthy and in harmony with the world right now? I'm not an expert on anything but I have been on the planet for a long time and have seen good times and bad.

The first thing to remember is the world will not come to an end and we we will not see the developed world slip back into the days of terror that we had in the middle ages. But some things do have to change and that change is going to happen. We have lived a life of plenty which in it's self is a good thing, but taken to excess is not. We as a developed world eat to much and live as though thumbing our nose at health problems.

When we can all start living more healthily we won't have a health care crisis. The system is clogged by people with self inflected injury and disease. Smoking, eating a high fat diet and not exercising WILL lead to poor health. I live in a state with the highest rate of obesity and heart disease in the nation. Most of my high school graduating class are dead. I'm 57 and have nothing wrong with me, I take no meds and need no health care intervention. I feel 20 and have much more energy than anyone I work with, even though many are half my age.

Another thing to think about is having a job that is ression proof or layoff proof. Start thinking about what you would do if you were to find out your job was going away. Start planning for that day by putting a little extra money away and learning what you would need to find another job. Even if you stay in the same field, know what you need to do to get another job. Get a resume ready now and plan where you will send it. If your business were to close and there were 100 people there that did what you do all are going to start job hunting as soon as the shock wears off. But if your resumes go out on day one when everyone else is still recovering from the shock your chance of getting an interview is better. Once all the other resumes are received the new employers may not even bother to read all of them.

If you are in a good recession proof job, plan for the future anyway. Have some savings, even if you have to cut back on something. Don't get to far in debt to have stuff. If your employer offers a 401K where they match your contributions, do it or you are throwing that RAISE away. If extra training and certifications makes you more valuable then get them. There are loads of ways now to get higher education without having to go full time.

Take vacations. Some European countries make their workers go on holiday where in the US we often are encouraged to sell back our vacation time instead of taking it. Getting away is a wonderful way to stay sane. Even if you spend the week sitting in your plastic wading pool in the back yard, you need the break.

Of course keeping your guilt level down by eating properly and exercising regularly will help you feel good in your skin.

Thanks for reading.

Healthy Panda

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cow Days

Ever had one of those days when you think, "I'm the fattest, slowest cow that ever lived". I call those 'cow days'. They are usually the result of just being worn out tired and feeling like all your hard work, exercising and eating properly has been a waste and you are just fooling yourself that you are in good shape.

I think everyone goes through these, like the Chinese Yin Yang theory, for everything there is an opposite, they is necessary for harmony. We want to have many more of the days when you feel like you are on top of the world than the cow days when you feel like you are looking up out of a hole.

When you feel one of the cow days coming on the best thing to do is recognise what it is and to analyze why you are feeling that way. Some times it's because you have been working to hard, either at the gym or at work or even trying to deal with family issues. A change in routine can bring one on also. If your life is like mine and you have such a regular schedule that you don't even need an alarm clock, then a change in routine can bring on a feeling of total wipe out. You might even be trying to fight off a virus.

Once you can pin down the reason you feel like gutter scrapings you can figure out how to deal with it. Regardless of the reason for it often the best remedy is a rest day or two. You should look at cow days as just another injury, like a sore place that needs a like care to feel better. It is after all an injury to the mind and treating it with a little rest and then applying some therapy in the form of positive thoughts. You know you have been improving and getting better and stronger every day, don't let a cow day destroy your confidence in yourself.

The treatment for a cow day IS NOT to have an eating frenzy. That might make you feel gratified for a little bit with consummation of large amounts of comfort food but the guilt will set in soon and you will feel even worse. Another no no is to go on a spending spree to make you feel better. Wait till you feel on top of things again so you can shop wisely.

Even if you never have 'Cow Days', thanks for reading.

Happy Panda

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Playing it Safe

There are a lot of things we can do when we workout to keep from injuring ourselves. To start with our backs have some of our strongest muscles but also some of our most easily injured parts. The famous martial artist, Bruce Lee, suffered till his death with pain in his lower back. He did some good mornings, an exercise where you bend from the waist and pick up a barbell and then straighten up. He did these without a proper warm up and suffered the rest of his life. A few minutes of proper warm up and he would have been fine.

Besides the warm up, which is vital, keeping your back straight is always the best way to work with weights. When you are doing the machines where you are sitting on a seat, always press your lower back into the seat to support it. Always always strengthen your lower back with exercises like yoga, Pilate's or calistetics done correctly before even thinking about using weights for lower back exercises.

Another good rule of thumb is to read the directions and cautions on any weight machine your are using for the first time. Or ask an attendant, that's part of why they are there. We men are the worst about not reading or asking for directions.

Caring for your body with safety aids such as lifting gloves and back belts is important when you are using free weights. You can avoid grief by not inventing creative new exercises also. If it's not done by anyone else or in any of the instructions books there is probably a good reason.

During the winter keeping your skin soft with lotions will go a long way toward keeping the itching and blisters at bay. Blisters are often the result of friction and smooth soft skin has less friction against clothes and shoes than rough dry skin. Putting on foot lotion before putting on your socks to go to work is a good time to remember. Showering with a body wash instead of a soap is a good way to keep all your skin from chaffing, especially on colder days when you tend to dry out.

Chap stick used several times a day, especially before and after walking/running outside is important to keep your lips from blistering. Wearing sun glasses is important in winter as well as summer to keep the chilly wind our of your eyes.

If you do a lot of pool running like I do a cheap pair of water shoes will keep you from getting sore on the balls of your feet from the rough surface of the pool. They will also give you some protection from the grates and drains when you hit them hard with your bare feet.

A product like Body Glide is wonderful to keep from chaffing anywhere that body parts rub together. Applied to your feet it can help with blister prevention also.

A little attention to detail before we exercise and keeping cautious of easily injured muscles will go a long way toward keeping comfortable while we are getting our steps or lifts in.

Thanks for reading

Safe Panda

Monday, December 1, 2008

Move it Move it

There is a song on the cartoon movie Madagascar 2, that says "Move it Move it". That needs to be my mantra right now. The extra hours at work and the cold dreadful weather is really making it hard to keep on going. It not that the desire isn't there but getting motivated to walk outside ain't happening. So that leaves the gym or walking the mall. Right now the Mall isn't an option either with all the Christmas shoppers. So it's gym and treadmill or nothing.

It's harder to get up when it's gloomy and dark outside also. I have had to drag myself out of bed every morning, it's much easier when it's sunny to get up and start. I really miss that sunshine sneaking around the curtains coaxing me out of bed.

I'm watching Good Morning America as I write this and it did an experiment. Women get more attention when they wear read, both in person and if they are wearing red in their pictures on line. Every one of the women had the same results. I guess we guys like a lady in red. I thought that was interesting. Amazing what we find out about ourselves when we least expect it.

We all have to find ways to get ourselves over the hump and get going. For me today it's knowing that I have accomplished so much this year but if I let up I'll quickly lose what I've gained. Exerciseing is like anything else required for life has to be regular. Just like eating and drinking you have to do it regularly or you get behind. Exercise like food and water can't be stored.

Thanks for reading

Moving Panda

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Higher Level

I was discussing with a co-worker yesterday about the higher quality of life that people who follow a healthy lifestyle lead. We live in an area where the problems of obesity and heart disease are the worst in a nation where being over weight and living on medications is becoming the norm.

I have been giving her efficient walking tips for quite a while and she really enjoys exercising. She had, earlier this year finally convinced her hubby to start getting into shape. He started working with a personal trainer, mostly doing weights. He started walking to work also, 2 miles each way.

They did the Turkey Trot with me on Thanksgiving morning. She walking the walk race and he running in the run race. Well he did amazingly well, he did the 3.1 mile 5K in 19 min and a few seconds. He certainly has talent as a runner to have a time like that on a tough trail course.

We have talked often about how there is way more to each of us that we can ever imagine, until we push our limits. This fellow has a chance to be a very good competitive runner with some real training. This was such a wonderful example of how we don't know how good we can be at something till we step up to the plate and take our swing.

I hope I have helped get this couple hooked on the joys of fitness and one of it's rewards, competition. They are planning the Nashville country music half marathon now as a goal for next year. This couple are both teachers and have been eating healthy, now exercise is taking them to the next level of health.

Here is a Panda Theory, no studies have ever been done. Plants, take in carbon dioxide and "breathe out" Oxygen. So in areas like parks and forests where there are lots of trees and other plants, the Oxygen level is higher and purer than along the road where the cars are taking in the Oxygen and putting out carbon dioxide as well as a bunch of other smelly gasses. So if you can exercise in wooded areas the quality of the air you are breathing is much better. With better quality air, you get more out of an exercise session because you are cleansing your body as well as exercising it.

Thanks for reading.

Healthy Panda

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We don't celebrate the holidays they way most do. Since my princess works most of them and we both work the weekends. Thanksgiving is another work day for her after we share a nice dinner together. But her work is with people who are fighting for their lives against disease and injury, they are more scared than they have ever been and so she is needed there.

For the other holidays we decided some time back to do trips instead of presents. So in two weeks we go to Gatlinburg for our anniversary gift to each other. That also gives us a chance to get in some good training for the January Disney Marathon. The Disney trip is our Christmas gift to each other. For so many years we gave each other stuff that we usually didn't need or ever used. The trips are wonderful memories and when we combine a trip with a race we get a healthy vacation were we don't feel guilty about eating a little to much.

I did a local 3K walk race this morning. It's a race to support a scholarship to WKU for a young runner. This was the 22nd annual running of this event. The awards were not what most races are but the race was fun and a good chance to be with friends, the less spent on awards the more can go to the cause. The course is on crushed limestone, which looks like kitty litter, and grass. This kind of surface make you glad most races are on the road surface.

This is an unusual holiday in that it started as a celebration of surviving a years worth of hardships. A lot of us can sure identify with this year's holiday, it's been a rough year for most folks. To say thank goodness this year is behind us and we can hope the next year is better is a great reason to celebrate.

A lot of you are recovering from injury or surgery, to correct injuries. This next year will be better and find you stronger. Proper stretching and strength building as well as maintaining an ideal weight is our best defense against having to take down time to recover from our body having a breakdown.

Everyone have a wonderful day filled with love and a future that's bright with promise.

Thanks for reading.

Thankful Panda

Monday, November 24, 2008

Train Like a Winner

Ever wonder what it's like to be in the lead pack in a race? Well for one thing it hurts. But it's a discomfort you have agreed with your body to endure till the race is done. You will not quit not today. You have made a decision to go hard and not let up till the job is done and you cross the finish line.

To be a winner you have to train like one. Not your body either, I'm talking about training your mind and your will. If you mentally prepare yourself for each workout you can accomplish more than you think you can.

You have to warm up your body to work, but you also have to warm up your mind to take care of business. As you are doing your warm up start thinking happy thoughts, think thoughts of strength and power. Mentally prepare to go right through any of your personal demons that decide to show up today.

When you make a decision that you are going to complete your planned workout then you will as long as it's realistic for your current fitness level. If you have never gone 10 miles before that doesn't mean you can't, it just means you will do it today for the first time. But you are probably not going to break a worlds record in your first 10 mile training walk/run so don't even worry about the speed, just do it and enjoy the journey. You will get faster as you get stronger.

When you have you head filled with positive thoughts of strength, power and joy the miles will be much easier. When you are dwelling on the heat or the cold or being tired or any of the negative thoughts it will me way harder than it should be.

When you start to feel tired, tell yourself, I will not quit, not this day, today I'm a winner, today I will be in charge of my own destiny and I will win. When you steel your mind against the negative you will be a winner and the more you resist giving in the mentally stronger you will be.

Thanks for reading.

Winning Panda

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life will have it's way

I had just decided that I was going to start getting up early, regularly, to get in some extra time at the gym, while I was working some 12 hour shifts at work. It appeared to be a workable plan and all was right with the world. But when I went to work on Friday morning I had a lesson in how things can get completely out of control in a heart beat. A co worker of mine had just found out that her dad was dying and needed to take time off to be with him. Of course her normally structured life was thrown into sudden chaos but also like a stone hitting a pond the ripples effect not only her and her family but everything and everyone around her. Good reminder that no matter how well we plan and structure life can throw us a fast ball when we least expect it.

Like most of us I try to keep everything flowing smoothly, everything in its place and all things timed to run like a clock. But you really can't foresee all the pitfalls waiting for us out there. The strongest people are those who can roll with the punches, those who can take the hit and keep on going. Unfortunately taking the hits is often more than we can handle, at least for a while. When stuff goes to hell in a handbasket all of a sudden it will in most cases knock us on our butt. That's why when we plan it's a good idea to plan a support system also. A lot of times we don't stay close and in touch with family and friends till life stomps on us. We should instead keep up with what's going on in each other's lives. I'm as guilty as most and maybe worse.

We get in a mind set that we can handle what ever gets thrown at us, but really we are all just a breath away from our lives our schedules and our hearts being challanged with more than we can handle. Of course we should live and try to find joy in each day of our lives. But we have remember that each of those good days are precious and should never be taken for granted.

We have to remember also that even though stuff happens all the time, it could usually be a lot worse. The better we learn to handle the small roadblocks to our plans the stronger we become. That probably won't make the big stuff any easier to handle but at least being able to roll with the small stuff will keep us sane.

A big part of our leading a healthy lifestyle is accepting the fact that we really are just tiny fish in a huge ocean. No matter how in control we think we are, we are at the mercy of life. Find joy and love in everyday and never take a precious day for granted.

Thanks for reading.

Resting Panda

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Bad Do You Want It?

The Tim McGraw song, "How Bad Do You Want It", was the voice of the angel on my shoulder this morning. I have to work a couple of 12 hour shifts the next two days so I was laying in bed thinking I'll just rest and go to work the next two days. The voice of the devil on one shoulder was saying "It's flipping COLD outside", my angel voice was "How Bad Do You Want It", while the devil voice was, "You will be tired all day and you need to rest". My angel countered with, "How Bad Do You Need It", and finally won me over. I do want it and I do need it. I can't take a step back just because it's a little inconvenient right now.

I got up and had some cereal and coffee, headed off to the gym and had a really good workout. Now I not only feel super and awake but energized. So yes I'm glad I got up and took care of business. Not only that I feel good about myself for getting up. I would have had a feeling of guilt if I'd just stayed in bed. We all need to define ourselves by how many battles like that we win and not how many times we give in. Remember you get stronger every time you resist the temptations that life throws at us.

We have a long winter ahead of us and at least for me now is the time to take charge and be strong. I will be a better athlete for it but more important a tougher person. I want to be proud of me not guilty about being weak. If I start giving in now it will get easier and easier to give in later as the days get darker and colder.

My mantra this year has been "Earn It". I want a strong athletic body and I want to be a faster walker and a contender in races. I can't accomplish these goals laying under the warm covers. I have to get up and get going, I have to earn them.

Thanks for reading.

Stronger Panda

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Friendly Support

There is a song, I think it's by the Beatles called, "I get by with a little help from my friends". That sums up today pretty well for me. We have a Thursday morning walking group and it was just what I needed this morning. It has turned off chilly here and so most training has been on the treadmill followed by weights. This morning was 4 miles in the fresh chilly air and just wonderful. We laughed a lot and talked and the miles went by so fast. It's like the way a weekend day goes by so much faster than a work day.

This is a good time since winter is approaching to talk about dressing for the elements. It is a very personal thing requires some experimenting since we all have different tolerances to cold temperatures. I need gloves below 50 and below 40 I dress in everything I own.

Basically you handle cold temperatures by layering your garments. Against your skin you need a wicking "Tech" layer. That's a material designed to wick the moisture from your sweat away from your body into the second layer. A long sleeve cotton race shirt works well for me as a second layer. Then a wind breaker over that to keep the wind chill out. This is good for me down to about the upper 20s, below that I add another long sleeve heavy cotton shirt over the top of the first two shirts. One layer of running pants are usually enough but low 20s or with wind chill I wear a pair of running tights under the pants.

I like a jacket that has zipper pockets to keep from catching my hands in the pockets when I'm race walking. The proper arm swing for walking brings your hands into position to go into your pockets. I like a zipper front also so I can unzip it a bit when I start warming up and get some ventilation.

This was my first walk in the chilly weather and turned out to be very pleasant. Friends help a lot.

Thanks for reading.

Friendly Panda

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weight training side effects

Three weeks ago I started a regular weight training routine, specifically to make sure I didn't have any imbalances in my leg muscles and to get some regular upper body work. In addition I wanted to see if that would take the place of some of the longer distance walks in prep for the marathon in January. I'm doing 2 weight training days a week, Monday and Wednesday.

Well, I have noticed that I'm more tired in the evenings and tend to sleep later. I usually don't use an alarm clock because I wake refreshed between 5am and 6am. Since I started the weight training I'm sleeping till a little after 7am. I'm also ready for bed by 10pm instead of my normal 10:30 to 11pm. At first I thought I was just fighting off one of the many cold viruses that are going around.

When you workout with weights, more so than with other exercise, you tear down your muscle tissue and then with rest rebuild stronger than it was. I wonder if this is what is going on? I still do the walk training and the weights are an addition. But I did cut walk time in direct proportion to the time I spend on the weight training.

I'm doing the required dietary changes: adding a little more lean protein, drinking more water and taking my electrolyte tabs to keep from cramping. Every workout is still followed by a good stretching routine.

I really didn't expect these changes in my sleep habits since I was already working out hard. But I'm progressively advancing my training and this was the next step. I guess the weight work really is the next level of training. I read a lot about training theory both mainstream and the unique. Most of the world class athletes have training unique to them, but there are some things that are practiced by almost all, weight training is one of those.

The muscles that are not specific to walk training are of course the ones that work the hardest when weight trained. These muscles are the ones I have to be the most careful with and bring them along slower. They are also probably the ones that are getting the most benefit from it, and the ones requiring the most recovery. I guess having to sleep an extra hour in the morning is a small price to pay for advancing to the next level.

Thanks for reading.

Rebuilding Panda

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Making a Difference

I have a good friend who is one of the few members of law enforcement who are tracking down and capturing the sexual predators who hunt children on line. Most police officers have more than a lions share of courage, but this man's courage is even more impressive because he keeps on doing his job, knowing that the problem is so overwhelming that he isn't even making a dent in it. But the satisfaction comes from knowing he and his team stands against a true evil.

We face another crisis in this country, a crisis that is slowly destroying us. We are dying of the good easy comfortable life. Those of us that have chosen to step off that conveyor belt of doom have become an example of what is possible for eveyone. Like my friend the policeman we are on the front line against a problem that is overwhelming. Even if we are not trying to we are an example, we are proof that being sick and tired of being sick and tired is not the way things have to be.

Just by pulling ourselves up out of a life of poor health we are setting an example. The path we blaze is a path that others can follow. It isn't long after you start living a healthy lifestyle that people start asking you, "How did you do it". They will say things like, "I could never do that, I have no will power". Or "I can't do that because being overweight is in my genes". We can always come up with an excuse why we can't become healthier. Or we can just believe we can and make it happen.

When I first took over the Accounting and Finance Squadron at Nellis AFB in Nv, I had a squadron filled with desk riders just barely staying ahead of the military weight standards and the most physically out of shape squadron on the base. This was in 1990 and we hadn't had a war since 1975 when Vietnam ended. This squadron was the worst but the rest were not much better. These 'warriors', didn't think warrior, they thought 8 to 5 job and go home to a big supper and TV.

They put me there because I had just graduated from the First Sgt Academy and no one else wanted the job. I wasn't real popular for a while because I took my job seriously. I was responsible for their health and fitness, as well as their ability to mobilize to a combat zone and do their regular jobs as well as fight a war.

I started a mandatory 3 mile run/walk/crawl every morning before work. Oh did I get a cold shoulder for a while. I worked with each and every person to make them warriors. After a while most of them were starting to enjoy their 'new selves' and the pride started returning. At the end of two years we were the most fit squadron on the base, we won every base level competition and brought home the "Commanders Cup", as the fittest squadron on the base.

One of my troops was chosen to play on the Air Force Track and Field team and another won the Mr Nevada Bodybuilding Competition. Most important of all when the first gulf war broke out to liberate Kewait, I sent warriors to the battle, not out of shape desk riders. I was proud to say everyone of my troops came back alive. Most of them came to thank me for getting them ready.

I was promoted to the job of Hospital Group First Sgt soon after this. In that position I could make more of a difference at base level. It was a satisfying position and I had the chance to do some good work there. But like in the rest of our country the problem was so vast that although I could do what I thought was needed in my small circle of influence, I couldn't even make a dent in the problem.

None of us can't stand alone against any of the problems of our world, but if enough of us believe in living a healthy lifestyle and just be good examples we can make a difference. We can be the circle of light at the top of the hole that so many people have dug for themselves. We just have to have the courage and determination to say there is a better way and it's attainable with just a little effort and a belief that we are worth that effort.

Thanks for reading.

Determined Panda

Monday, November 17, 2008

Out of Control

We have talked often about how our own body and our actions are all we really have control over. Well here lately that fact is being drilled into us big time. We just went through a period where gas went from around $2.00 a gallon to over $4.00 a gallon to now where it's down to $1.78 a gallon. The stock market is just stupid right now and we are in real danger of having a disaster in the whole worlds economy. Makes you wanna shake your head and say "What the hell just happened"?

We can't control anything past our nose. It's a fact of life and we might as well accept it. We can do what we can to be prepared and try to be the best influence we can for others but we can only make our own decisions.

We need to have control of something, it helps define who we are and what we believe in. We can control what kind of example we are to others and we can control how we react to the ups and downs in our lives. We can control how we react to temptations. Those temptations are there all the time and we get stronger every time we make the right decisions.

Today think about what you do and don't have any control over. The things we can control are valuable to our well being and happiness. Think about what you control and how you can make you better. Set some good obtainable goals and work toward accomplishing them. These are the easy ones because these are the things you control. Now think about things you can't control but are important to you. Your children and your life partner are not controllable but you can with your examples and actions guide them and help them.

Lots of stuff in our lives are not controllable, way more than we can control but we can do our best to exert our influence over those things. Like you can choose not to support products you don't agree with like tobacco, you can't stop people from smoking but you can only support restaurants that don't allow smoking. I know that sounds like a little thing but if more of us did the "Little things", we could make a big difference.

Thanks for reading.

Happiness Panda

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Being all you can be.

There was an old US Army recruiting slogan: Join the Army be all you can be. I really like that slogan, it says volumes. But you don't have join the Army to expand your horizons. You only have one life there are no replays or do overs, don't leave this earth with regrets of what could have been.

Have you ever sat down and thought about your life? Most of us don't really look at how things are, we just keep on going and doing the same things year after year. We never really look at our life from a perspective of what would we change if we had the opportunity.

Here is a thought to think on if you choose to do so: If January 1st, the traditional day of making resolutions, really was the first day of the rest of your life what would you change. A lot of people make heart felt resolutions to make changes but they usually go back to the way things were pretty quickly. What would make this year special and make your desires become reality.

To start with you could decide what you like and dislike about your life and how you could change what you don't like. You can write down goals you would like to accomplish. We can't accomplish everything, but we don't know what we are capable of till we push our limits a bit.

Becoming healthier is well within the capabilities of each of us. We can be leaner and stronger and faster and more flexible than we are now, those are things we can do. With a strong healthy body we can do things that we thought were impossible for us before. That strong healthy body is there waiting for each of us to make the decision to own it. As with all things worth having there is a price to pay, a cost, dues that must be paid. That cost is making a decision and a commitment. The dues are believing every day that you are worth the effort. The price is making the right choices every day.

You can make a whole list of excuses why you can't live a healthy lifestyle:

My family won't support me.

I would feel embarrassed to exercise in public.

I don't have the will power.

I don't have the time to exercise.

I can't eat differently from my family.

You can go on and on with reasons why not. Or you can decide that these are just what they are just excuses and not real reasons. Tell your family you are going to start living healthier and ask for their support. Take each of your excuses and deal with them. Don't let them be roadblocks to your destiny.

Thanks for reading.

Committed Panda

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eat to Lose Weight

We often forget when trying to lose weight that food is fuel. We can't do without fuel, just as our car needs gas to run our body needs fuel to keep our energy levels up. We can't have a good active day without adequate fuel. We can't expect our car to take us where we want to go without gas and neither can we expect our body to.

But we don't want to over flow our cars tank, same with our body we don't want to overload with food. We also want to make sure our car has the proper fuel, we would just clog up our cars engine and make it sick if we tried to run it on something like oil instead of the clean burning gas it needs. Just like if we try to run our bodies on a diet of high fat food we will soon clog it up.

Our body needs good high quality complex carbs, that's stuff like vegetables and whole grains, for fuel. We need good high quality protein from lean meat and fish to rebuild our muscles and keep them growing stronger. We can get our proteins from veggie sources but we have to combine them to get complete proteins. Eor Example: Rice and beans together will give you a complete protein for body maintenance.

We need to increase our muscle mass to decrease our fat stores. Since fat cells don't burn calories and muscles cells do we need to make sure we have more of them. You can lose weight on a diet of just enough food to slowly starve to death but why would you want to? It's very uncomfortable and our body is constantly rebelling and making us crave calories, that's why people fail at that type of diet.

It's much better good to eat a reasonable amount of food and stay energetic and active all day with enough fuel to exercise regularly. I know this sounds very simplistic but it really is, we try to rebuild nature to fit into a more marketable form.

Thanks for reading.

Lean Panda

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How much is enough.

When you are training to walk a marathon you don't need as much time and as many miles as someone who is running one needs. Although running and walking are both natural actions, the running is much harder on your body over such a long distance. Walkers are on the course a lot longer but they aren't being pounded with every step.

Walking requires being in motion from 5 to 7 hours. That much time takes it's toll on you and the final miles are going to be difficult, no matter how much you train. But how do you know how much training is enough? Well you don't because it depends on the shape you are in when you start and your overall fitness level.

I'm a firm believer in doing your training by combining a lot of different activities to make total time in motion longer. In the summer I would often do a 5 to 10 mile walk followed by 2 hours of pushing the lawn mower. Now I do miles followed by weights or pool work. It doesn't matter what the activity is just that your body is in motion. A walk followed by an hour of step, yoga or Pilate's is wonderful.

We were able to get in one 20 mile followed by a 10 mile walk, three weeks before the Goofy last January. The problems we had were not related to the miles trained at all. Getting up early two days in a row and the heat were more of a factor than the miles trained.

Vital things to have resolved before the race. You have to have your shoe and sock combination worked out before race day. If you can walk comfortably for 10 miles in a shoe/sock combination then they will work for the marathon. Same with clothes and chaff lube, if it works for 10 miles it should do fine for the race. But make sure you have these things resolved. A bad case of chaffing or blisters will be more of a factor than the miles.

At least one 20 mile walk within two to three weeks of the race is ideal, if you have the time for more or even a 22 mile that's great but if you can't you can still do the race on less, as long as you have kept your walking and exercising regular. The more weight you can lose of course the easier it will be to finish. Each extra 10 pounds you are carrying is like carrying a case of soft drinks strapped to your body so dropping what pounds you can will help as much or more than doing more miles.

Now remember this is for walkers. Runners or run/walkers need to toughen their bodies with a lot of training for the distance. That is why you realistically should have at least a year of base miles before attempting to run a marathon. A walker doesn't need as much time but what you do need is good over all fitness and proper equipment.

A good safe training plan is to add 10% per week to your distance. But you can add more activities to get your total time in motion up as well. Get creative with your additional activities, if you like dancing then by all means go dancing, for a few hours each week in addition to your other training.

We have 2 months till the Disney Half and Full marathon so now is the time to start getting the equipment figured out, eating better and getting in the extra hours of activity.

Thanks for reading.

Marathon Panda

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Diet Gospel

One of the hardest things about helping other people lose weight is all the useless information that is out there. The problem is, to some people if it's in a book it's gospel. Anyone who wants to sell a diet book can come up with a whiz bang, "this is the secret you have been waiting for" plan. The industry of writing diet books is totally unregulated. Especially if a doctor writes it or heaven forbid if two doctors together write it, it's gonna be a best seller.

The real truth is so simple and boring that it can't be right. I just got through reading about a woman who was following, for the second time, a diet book, that didn't work for her the first time. They would have you believe that if you follow this plan exactly then the pounds will melt off of you. If they don't, then gee you must not have done it right.

This particular diet book had you eating only meat and lettuce for a week so you could get your body trained to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs. (Of course you feel like crap and you don't even feel like eating.) The problem is that your muscle cells, the only ones that burn fuel for energy must convert everything to sugars in order to burn it for fuel. Carbs are the best fuel and to your body burning fat for fuel is like burning wet wood for a fire, very inefficiently.

That boring old "American Heart Association" is still the best, a diet high in complex carbs like fruit and veggies with lean protein and a minimum of saturated fat and simple sugars, can't be beat. Not only is it best for weight control but it's a very healthy diet, lots of health problems are believed to be related to diets high in fat and simple sugar.

The best, yes you heard it here first, way to lose weight and get healthy is to eat properly and exercise regularly. Sitting on the couch eating a Thick Burger with cheese and bacon may be what some diet books preach to wean you off the evil carbs but just because somebody wrote it don't make it true.

Thanks for reading.

Leaner Panda

Monday, November 10, 2008

Living the Moment

We should all plan for the future, put away some for a rainy day and generally keep all our activities scheduled so everything runs smoothly. But to be the happiest athlete you can be you must at times live in the moment.

When you are doing your running, walking or a combination, clear your mind of everything but the here and now. Yeah sometimes it's cool to make some decisions or plan a project or even solve a work problem while your in motion. But sometimes you need to clear out everything else and just experience the moment. Focus in on the view, the smells and the good feeling of the day's heat or chill on our skin. Pay attention to how your body is feeling, feel the joy of the motion and how good and free it feels.

If you are a gadget freak leave everything at home, don't even wear a watch. Just go, have a place or a loop in mind but feel free to change it at will. If you see something interesting on a side path, take that path and check it out. Basically free yourself from the structured way you normally live. For just a little while be a little wild and just go.

There was a time that I would go for a run on a beautiful day, with perfect temperature and wonderful serene views and then at the end look at my watch and see that I wasn't as fast as I thought and feel bad. Like the old saying I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I was ruining a perfect moment by asking more of it than there was but missing the real beauty of the day.

Sometime soon take a walk or run and just turn your mind off so you can experience the moments as they come. The break from having to have everything structured might just do you good. Let your body pick the pace that feels the most comfortable and just enjoy the ride.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Panda

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chilly Sunday Thoughts

I wasn't able to log into the blog yesterday to post, nor was I able to log into my mail. After trying several times I came up with the brilliant idea of rebooting the laptop. It worked and I can create havoc again.

I had a patient yesterday who was a long time runner that had been forced to quit running because of knee problems. He had switched to swimming for exercise but wasn't able to do it often enough or long enough to keep his weight down like he could with running. We talked about walking as an alternative. He asked how one gets started race walking. I had been doing the class at the health club to teach basic technique but had gone to the group Thursday morning walks instead.

Just how does a person learn fast walking? To start with as with running you have to build a base of strength and endurance with walking. Daily walking is best and at least 30 minutes of motion. While walking you start incorporating race walking techniques. If you just try to start off race walking is feels awkward and very quickly your shins will begin to burn.

First off get your arm swing more to the back, like you are elbowing something behind you, not an exaggerated motion but smooth and flowing. Then walk with your feet in a straight line, walk on a line in the road or imagine you are walking one and keep your feet on the line when you bring your foot down. You have some hip motion as you swing your foot around to get it into the front. This is way more efficient than the duck walk foot plant that most people do when they walk.

Walking actually puts more muscles in motion than running does. Walking is a whole body workout using your entire leg, hips, glutes (Walkers have the best butts) lower back and abs. The arm swing tones the upper body. Running is about raising your knees in a piston action, walking is moving the leg as a lever. Because of that a walker doesn't work the quads as much as a runner does. You can do leg raises on a machine, pool sprints or just sitting in a chair and raising your legs up and down for three sets of 25 to work the quads. That will keep you from getting an imbalance. Runners on the other hand need to do more ham string and shin strengthening than walkers since running doesn't work those areas as much as the quads.

As always, any exercise is better than no exercise. Get up and get moving, winter is coming on and that is absolutely the worst time to get out of the habit of regular exercise.

Thanks for reading.

Walking Panda

Friday, November 7, 2008

Brand New Attitude

What if today you made a decision that from this day forward you would be wearing a brand new attitude. You chose to look at yourself and the world around you with a whole new confidence. What if today you chose to do everything you do with a new passion.

We are all equal, money, power, looks or skills does not make one person better than another. What those things do make us is different and unique. We need that to keep things interesting. We can't all be champions at our sports or hobbies but we can be healthy, happy role models to others. I saw a report on the news this morning, while I was walking on the treadmill that said most people fear exercising in public because they don't feel worthy to be seen with more fit people. So some Golds Gyms have put in a dark room with the cardio machines and a movie playing. So people can watch the movie while exercising and not feel self conscious about being seen because it's dark in the room.

George Sheehan, a Runner's World writer and Heart Doctor said, "We are all athletes, some of us have just been training longer than others". I agree with that statement and whole heartily believe that everyone who is trying to improve their health deserve respect and support. If you look at yourself as a work of art in progress instead of a disaster needing a miracle you will perform better and feel better about what you are doing.

Is it time for you to find a new "Hell Yeah" attitude? Is it time to start looking at yourself as not better or worse than anyone else but an equal to everyone. Is it time to crank up your mojo to a higher level and start being passionate about whatever you do.

It's amazing how fast you can improve and progress when you have your head on straight. An old sales saying is that before you start your day "give yourself a checkup from the neck up". Which of course means if your attitude is not right fix it before you face the world. You can chose to be happy and positive, chose it before you head out for the day.

I have had to do that from time to time and it works. If I'm feeling negative nothing is right and working out or anything else I try to do is 10 times as hard as it should be.

Thanks for reading.

Positive Panda

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Winter training

Most of us are experiencing unseasonably warm weather. It's wonderful and great for training but unfortunately it won't last. Once the cold hits, getting out there to walk or run gets harder to do. It's soooo much more pleasant to stay inside in the warm house. Morning exercisers like me have to get out of a warm bed to get there steps in.

Of course the treadmills are a good option, either having your own or using one at a health club. But treadmills can be boring for long distance days. It helps to use your iPods or watch television but the long days are still trying. Exercise needs to be fun and fulfill a need, long treadmill days don't do that for me. About 4 to 5 miles is my limit for inside walking.

Another option is to warm up good on the treadmill with a few easy miles and then go outside for a few more. That breaks up the boredom and gives you advantages of acclimating to the harder road surface. It may make the treadmill part easier to knowing as soon as you stop you have to go out in the cold. What I normally do is to do my treadmill miles and then do my weight workout and finish up with stretching and calistetics or pool running.

One day a week I meet some other walkers for an outside group walk. Having the commitment of meeting the others helps to get me out there. If you don't have a walking/running buddy yet you can put a notice on your health club bulletin board or an ad in your local running club news letter or web site.

The important thing is to stay with it through the winter. Even if you have to do it all on the treadmill and have to do lower miles per week, keep it up. Take a class or to each week. A yoga or Pilate's class will go a long way toward making your lower mileage weeks productive.

Thanks for reading.

Chilly Panda

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rolling with the Punches.

Last night's election results upset me because I didn't agree with a lot of the campaign issues of the winner. Especially the share the wealth idea, I have always believed in the American dream that hard work and determination would carry you through life. I have believed that and had a few setbacks and had to make compromises, but for the most part it has worked well to keep my lady and I moving forward and upward. I was raised with the Southern attitudes and bigotries of race and have spent my life consciously trying to make sure that didn't affect my feelings, so the part about Obama being black wasn't the issue for me that it is for a lot of folks. But we live in a democracy and the people have made their choice and I will support that and hope that my fears are not realized.

We often have to make the best of situations that don't go our way. When I was in the Air Force I wanted to be a commissioned officer very badly. I went to night collage classes and got my degree in Social Psychology and Counseling. When I started going to school I was planning on getting a degree in engineering. After a few upper level math classes I decided that I hated them but loved the classes dealing with people, so I switched majors. Well by the time I graduated and had my package ready to submit for commissioning, we started the force reduction in the military services. Commissioning was closed to all career fields except engineers and scientists, for enlisted personal seeking commissioning. So I made the decision to just become the best NCO I could be. I applied for First Sgt duty, which is the top enlisted position in a military unit. I was selected for it and must have done well because before I retired I was picked to be on the team to write the manual for First Sgts.

I have had many of those compromises to my plans and each time a new direction has been forced on me it has worked out ok. I think that part of maturity is realizing that some things are out of reach and out of your control. On the other hand there are usually good alternatives. I know that I can never be a movie star like Harrison Ford and make wonderful adventure movies
but I can have adventures of my own. I can never be an important world leader but I can help a few people realize that there is more to them than they realize.

We have a some interesting times ahead of us and a positive attitude and believing in our selves will make things workout ok.

Thanks for reading.

Positive Panda

Monday, November 3, 2008

Keeping on Keeping on.

I'm going through a post vacation blues day. This is my first day off since we came back and all the neglected housework is looming. My energy level is at the go back to bed stage. In addition we have a new puppy whose favorite food is a throw rug. So I decided to stop on here and visit for a little bit and relax with happy thoughts before I got my day started.

Sometimes when we have a lot of stuff demanding attention we forget that we can only do one thing at a time so we must tackle it the way you would eat an elephant, "One bite at a time". I have been meaning to get new throw rugs anyway so after the puppy is through teething would be a good time.

I have a dear friend who lives in the northern Maine woods and during the winter she works, takes care of a farm and herds two children, as well and exercises regularly and is working on a personal trainer certification. She would laugh if I told her I was stressing doing floors and herding a puppy. She is 5' nothing and a ball of energy. I draw inspiration from her often.

The world will keep on turning no matter what I decide to do today so I need to keep it in perspective. Often we think things like chores are more important than they are. I'll just do a good job on each room and then take a short break before going to the next. Having a house is a blessing and not a curse, it really is. But today is a day that I have to choose to do what I need to do and not what I want to do.

I want to encourage everyone to vote tomorrow. There is an old saying "If you are in charge and things are not the way you want them it's your fault". We are a democracy which means we the citizens are in charge. We have the power to elect the person we want to run the government, this is an important election, make your voice heard.

Thanks for reading.

Busy Panda

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finding a Surprise Inspiration

I had a most wonderful experience today. I was kinda feeling sorry for myself a little because I have that cold. Then early afternoon a woman in a wheel chair came in to get glasses. She had had a stroke and was recovering from it. She had gained some weight because of her not being very mobile, but her attitude was so bright and positive that it quickly cheered me up. She was determined that she was going to fully recover, get her weight back down and get on with living. As we have talked about before you can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad. This wonderful lady had certainly chose to be happy.

It got me thinking, it's usually the people that have had real setbacks or those that have the least that we never hear complain. It's those of us that have a boo boo or in my case a cold that do the whinning. I guess when you have had a real life changing illness or injury that you realize how glad you are just to be alive and grateful for what you have.

I knew a lady from the walking site forum, who had a rare illness. She had to much pressure in her spinal fluid, this gave her constant migraine headaches. Every day for a couple of years she had endured this condition and had to undergo painful procedures regularly to relieve the pressure, which quickly built back up. I asked her one time how she managed, how did she cope, what kept her going. She said "She went to sleep every night with the Hope that tomorrow would be better". In addition she said, "I wake every morning determined I will get well". She still has her illness and only her faith and her "I won't give in" attitude keeps her going.

I hadn't thought about her for a year or so but the positive attitude of this lady today made me think of her. I have the deepest respect for people who, dispite their own challanges they find the strength to not only meet those challanges head on but inspire others with their positive attitudes. Maybe we could all learn from those kind of wonderful people who won't let anything steal their joy for living.

Thanks for reading

Inspired Panda