Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lifestyle change

As a lot of you, know, my lady and I have decided to clean up our eating.  We've cut out all bread, white rice, pasta and cut way down on white potatoes and sugars.  We had previously eliminated soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and heavily processed food.  We have also now eliminated frozen convenience foods, like frozen dinners and my beloved frozen pizza.  I'm not a nutritionist or a scientist, but I do have a degree in behavioral science, so I'm doing this as a scientific experiment would be conducted.

Our expected results are pretty simple, feeling better and losing weight.  Sally is hoping for good health and getting rid of some unwanted weight.  I hope to be a better athlete and also lose some weight as well.  Diet can affect a lot of things besides our weight, like energy level, skin tone and really every fiber of our being.  She is over 50 and I'm over 60, there really isn't a lot of research done on older athletes, so in a way we are blazing our own trail.  There is information available and I'm actively learning as I go, then modifying to fit our lifestyle.

I started by going through the kitchen and throwing out all the stuff that we don't eat anymore.  All of it, every bit.  All the bread, the Ritz crackers, the frozen dinners the pizza, the pasta, everything.  Then I went to the market and restocked.  Fresh meats, chicken and fish, that we baked and grilled ourselves and then put into portion packages to take to work for lunches and eating at home.  I bought lots of fresh veggies and fruits and did the same with them.  Organic canned beans come in lots of varieties so they are easy to add to a meal and provide different tastes.  We have a container of good salad already prepared so we can just take some out, for an addition to a meal or as a meal in it's self.  There are always bags of fresh cut fruit or veggies to snack on or as a quick meal before exercise.

We are comparing notes after each meal as to how we feel.  Are we energetic or feeling bloated and needing a nap.  We should be energized by a meal, that means our bodies are processing it well.  If we are feeling lethargic then we know that we aren't getting what we need from what we ate.  By doing this we can fine tune what we eat, individually to each of us. Variety is important to ensure that we are getting all the vitamins and minerals we need.  With all the fresh fruit and veggies, fiber isn't a problem.  We are taking a fish oil supplement because our doctor recommended it.

We are keeping the tastes interesting with different spices, healthy sauces and marinates.  I'm using hot salsa for salad dressing and Sally is using a raspberry vinaigrette dressing for her salads.  We change up the ingredients for our salads and the flavorings for our meats and fish.  Since buying all fresh food we have to go marketing every couple of days, that allows us to change up easily.  We also shop the produce that is in season and at a lower cost.  keeping the meals from tasting bland, I feel, is vital to the success of our lifestyle change.

We started two weeks ago this coming Sunday and the results have been promising.  I have lost almost 7 lbs and Sally has lost some weight as well.  Both of us have more energy and I'm feeling less soreness from hard workouts.  We are just beginning but hope to keep this new lifestyle going.  We realize that we had to give up a lot of things that we normally ate, but most of that was for convenience, it's so easy to pop a frozen dinner, in the microwave.  But by processing the healthy food into serving sizes it's just and easy to eat better food.

I will continue to make periodic reports on how it's going and on lessons we learn along the way.  Because it is a learning process.  Discussion and sharing your own personal experiences are welcome.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No Fear

We all have them, no matter how big, how strong, how rich, no one is immune, we all have fears.  Our fears are as individual as we are, but there are also fears that we all share.  The difference between each of us is not in whether or not we have fears but how we react to them and how much we let them control us.  If we are not careful those fears can push us in directions we really don't want to go.

In this country most of us are afraid we will lose our jobs and then everything we have worked for, all of our lives.  That is a very real fear and if we dwell on it to much it could drive us to eat comfort food.  There are lots of real and serious fears like that, we worry that if gas and food keeps going up how will we make it.  But really those are fears that hard working people have had forever.

As adult athletes we have our own unique fears.  A big fear is nutrition. Are we missing something?  When I was a kid all my movie heroes smoked cigarettes. I couldn't wait till I was sixteen, so I could smoke.  The advertising of the day was telling young fellows, like me, that their brand of cigarettes, would make me like those tough guys.  Now of course we all know that smoking is bad, and we don't even want to be in the same room as someone who lights up.  Now we have the intense advertising for products that promise to give us what we desire.  Faster times, defined abdominal muscles, the endurance of a migrating bird, there are lots of desires and a lot of products that will make them happen, if you will just buy them.  How often have you wondered if you are wearing the right shoes?  We fear that we haven't bought the gear that we really needed.

We worry about a lot of things that are unrealistic as well.  I have a fear of loose dogs, even though I have dogs and like dogs, I still fear unknown dogs.  I have never been attacked but I know people who have been and that makes this a very realistic fear for me.  I know a runner that will not run along a road because he is afraid of road kill, he is afraid that he will be bitten by an animal that isn't really dead.  Sounds silly to most of us but to him it's a very real concern.

There are also a lot of people that are sure that they have the beginnings of a terrible disease or physical condition because something they feel matches a symptom of that condition.  Us athletes are ripe for that because we generally always have something that is acting up.  Joint pain, chest pain when you were sprinting, side's always something.  I used to worry about my heart since I'm a senior athlete until my doctor told me that my training is like giving myself a stress test a couple of times a week, if I had heart disease I wouldn't be doing that.

The best way to handle the stress of those countless fears is to be pro active about them.  If you don't feel good make an appointment with your doctor for a physical.  If you are worried about the economy then cut back and start putting away a little aside each payday, that's a good idea anyway, saving is always a positive step.  If your hurting all the time then you are either working out to hard or not getting enough recovery rest, that physical exam will let you know if you have a medical condition, but you probably don't.  That nutrition thing is something I was stressing about so I decided to clean up my diet and now I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm eating right.

We are always going to have fears but those fears don't need to control us.  Be the Boss of your own life and keep those fears in perspective.  We are athletes of life, not just sport, if we don't control those fears then we are compromising our one chance at that life.

Thanks for reading


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Magic of Sleep

One of the most powerful ways of getting stronger, healing our nagging injuries and keeping our weight under control, is to get the proper amount of sleep.  Athletes need to average 8 hours of sleep.  Most of us get 5 to 6 hours.  That is not a winning equation, it makes everything we do harder and we don't get the full benefit of that magical time.

Yes, just sleeping 8 hours every night could be the magic pill, to take us to the next level.  It could be our best workout.  The reason that we feel so much better after a rest day is that we have 2 nights sleep, the night before and the night after the rest day, without any additional damage to repair.  That's also why doctors sometimes put a person into a medically induced coma, when they are critically injured because the sleep is needed for healing.

 Sleep is when our bodies repair the damage that exercise causes in our muscles. With out this regular healing we get steadily more sore.  We get to the point where we are stiff and sore all the time so we usually cut back on our exercise. When what was really needed was an extra couple of hours of sleep a night.  When you cut back on your training you do start getting over the soreness but you also start losing some of your hard earned strength and speed.

Another problem is eating late at night. Your craving is the strongest late because your body is telling you it wants something. It does want something, sleep and you give it food.  Bad for a lot of reasons. One is we don't need those extra calories, we need sleep and two, the blood that should be channeled into your muscles for healing is instead transferred to the digestion system to process that food.  Guess where that processed food goes?  How about into the fat cells that you worked so hard to empty the day before.

So how do you add extra sleep into your schedule? Start by going to bed 30 min earlier. I bet you wait till a TV program is over and then go to bed, right? Forget that program and use the time for sleep instead. After that becomes a habit, go for making it a full hour earlier.  The other option is to sleep a little later.  I prefer to get up early, that is my time for writing and waking up before I start my day. I choose to cut my night shorter and keep the early rising. But if you feel you have to watch that TV show or need that time to unwind, then can you get up a little later?

Think about it and see if you can find a way to get some more sleep. It's worth the effort because it's during the sleep that the magic happens and you actually become stronger from your workouts.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, May 20, 2013


As the word implies, achieving wellness can be looked at as a healing, of our sick bodies.  When we are "out of shape", there is more wrong with us than just under developed muscles.  Our energy level is low, we tire easily, everything seems like such an effort.  The only time we feel normal is when we are sitting.  We may be easily depressed and nothing really seems very exciting any more.  It's kind of like having a bad case of the flu.

All of us generally do our best, sometimes our best is not as good as it is at other times.  When we lack a good level of fitness our best often isn't what we want it to be.  Forget chasing adventures, just living takes all we have.  It's not till we do achieve a good, workable level of mental and physical wellness that we begin to desire to see and do more than just exist.  There is so much more to life than just going to work, eating, watching TV and sleeping.  There is a whole world out there waiting for us to discover and explore if we just had the energy.

When we are not well we look at food as pleasure and we desire it for the comfort it provides.  Once we are well we still enjoy food but we look at it differently, it's fuel and we seek out food that is as natural as possible.  We tend to shy away from the heavily sugar and salt laden chemical mixes that we once craved.  Not only do we crave that unhealthy food but we are often addicted to tobacco, alcohol and even drugs.  We are reaching for something, some way to escape the prison of our own body.

We don't realize what is happening because it happens so gradually over many years.  When we are young we still have energy and the world is still new and exciting.  But as we get older the damage gets harder to heal and we start slowing down way sooner than we should.  The daily routine is driving us crazy so we go somewhere on vacation, the sights are new and interesting again.  But we go there and sit and watch instead of participate.

The people that will read what I've written here, have already made the decision to pursue a lifestyle of wellness that includes eating properly and exercise.  What I want to remind everyone with this writing is that, everyday people make a decision to, "Get in Shape". You see them, the people trying to escape, walking at the park.  You see them next to you on the treadmill at the gym or looking lost in the weight room.  You see them struggling to achieve some of what we enjoy, a wonderful sense of excitement for living, because we are fit and able to do pretty much anything we desire to do.

How we treat those people that have freshly made that decision will go a long way toward helping them succeed.  Encourage them, help them.  Want to change the world, make it a better place, you can do that for someone with your encouragement.  You can literally change their world.  This might not seem like much but we have learned a powerful lesson that has for most of us changed our own world.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

There is no Try!

There is a quote form the Star Wars character, Yoda, "Do or Do not, there is no Try"!  That is very powerful and hints at what, in reality, truly is the secret, to successfully making changes in our lives.  The switch that turns on our personal magic is making the decision that it's time to stop trying and start doing.

 I smoked for many years and for most of those years, at least once a week I would try to quit.  I would do great for a few hours or a day then something trivial would happen and I'd reach for that cigarette, have my fix and vow that I'd try again soon.  Then one day I just stopped and never had the desire again to have a cigarette.  I had years of practice quitting smoking, so what made that day different.  All the other times I hadn't made the decision to quit, I had made the decision to try.  I had empowered myself to fail, since if I gave it a shot and then couldn't resist the desire, then it was ok because I had tried.

It doesn't matter if it's losing weight, quitting smoking, running a marathon, getting fit, going to collage or any of a thousand other goals, if you make a commitment, to yourself, to accomplish something you will do it.  If you decide to try, then you have given yourself a ready made excuse, to fail.  You accomplished just what you committed to do, you tried.  Failure can't be an option, it may take time but if you have made that commitment, to yourself, you will eventually do what you desire to do.  When the commitment is finally made the results will come quickly.

Have you ever listened to a good motivational speaker, or seen an inspiring movie, that really had you fired up to make positive changes in your life?  We need to be our own motivational speaker.  Start every day telling that person in the mirror that you are done trying, you are tired of being over weight, you are tired of being out of shape, you are tired of not having the happiness in your life that you desire.  Let that person know that you are ready to make changes, not to try but to make them.  Then will power is not such a problem.  You are going to do what you need to do, excuses will not be excepted.  You are past that, the time has come and you will not fail.

Is this the day that you make a decision to stop trying and start making the changes you desire?

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Honest Effort

In a perfect world, sport would be the gold standard, of earning a deserved reward for an honest effort.  We give our all and if it's the best effort, on the field that day, then we are champions. In that perfect world no one would use performance enhancing drugs and there would be no cutting the course short.

The world isn't perfect and one way sport is a gold standard is in making us face your own character.  Honest effort is a personal decision and it's often made in the moment and not planned.  I have done marathons that have an out and back course.  It would be so easy, during a long race, to stop for a minute and tie your shoe or go in the Porta John and come out going the other way, shorting your distance by miles.  I have seen people do that very thing.

The whole idea and indeed the reward, for finishing, is the personal satisfaction, that you were stronger than the distance.  There is no shame when you gave it your all and came up short.  There is no shame is getting on the sweep bus.  Your time on that bus should be spent in getting mentally stronger and making a vow to train better, so you can go after it again.  When you hurt something, again there is no shame, you may be mad but you can still hold your head high.

Someone who cuts the course short, in a race, especially if it's just a fun race and you're not a contender, for an award, is to tarnish, what could be a wonderful personal victory.  If you are a contender and you cheat then you need to reevaluate your sense of honor.  Honor, to this old school athlete and warrior, is self respect.  You might get praise for bringing home an award but you left the best part of you back on the course, your honor.

It's so easy, you're getting tired, the distance seems endless and it would be so nice to be done.  Those are the times that we have to be the strongest.  Those really are the times that define us.  I have finished barely putting one foot in front of the other, race walking technique long since forgotten, those are the races that finishing means the most.  When that finisher's medal is placed around my neck, it is for being strong and not giving in, as well as finishing the race.

It would seem then that you only hurt yourself when you cheat in a race.  But that isn't always the case.  If you have friends and or family there then, even if they didn't see you cheat, if you accept their praise, you have betrayed their trust.  Even if they don't know you do.  Every time you are dishonest then you make it easier to be without honor again.  If your friend knows it puts them in a difficult position, they want to be there for you but they don't agree with what you have done.  I've been put in that position before and it's very uncomfortable.

If you can't finish and have to cut it short then be upfront about it and don't say you finished.  You will be respected for being honest as much as you would be for finishing, maybe even more.  But even better dig deep and find the courage to keep going so you can finish.  Forget the time goals and just do it, you will be stronger for it.  Then when you are asked how you did you can say proudly, "Yeah I went the distance".

Thanks for reading.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Values and Morals

A big part of wellness is knowing ourselves.  That sounds simple but it's not.  Each of us belong to many groups.  I'm an American, I'm a Southerner and live in the country, I'm a retired military man, I'm a father, a worker, a husband and an adult athlete.  All these are groups that can influence not only my thinking but my perception of everything.  I'm going to use myself as an example in this writing but you can apply it to anyone, including yourself, in seeing that what we personally value is what makes us who we are.

I value my health, one of my morals is that that my health is my responsibility.  Since I believe that, I decided that learning the subjects of nutrition, exercise and wellness were just as important to living, by my values as were; reading, writing and arithmetic.  Some of the things I've done go against that, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day until I turned 50 years old.  In my defense, when I started smoking, the day I turned 16, smoking wasn't considered such a health risk.  When I watched TV, there were lots of cigarette commercials, with the heroes of the day, endorsing the wonders of smoking and relaxation.  How terrible when some of those heroes, like John Wayne, died of lung cancer.  By the time it was common knowledge that smoking was a dangerous health risk, I was well and truly addicted.  I justified my actions, by telling myself, that if I did everything else right that it would counter the danger.  Whether that will end up being a correct assumption is still to be seen.

I believe in personal accountability.  Punctuality, honesty, being faithful, doing a good job of whatever I do, are all my responsibility to myself and to others.  It's up to each of us first to keep on course, but others can be very valuable assets to keep us motivated and to help us recover from set backs.  Training with a group helps, because if we value being faithful to our word then we will show up to train, even if we are really not feeling it that day.  We all know those people that are always late, do you respect that?  Be the kind of person you would like for others to be, if you don't like something you see in others then make sure you are not guilty, of the same thing.

I know a secret, the less you are worried about the better you sleep and the better you sleep the better you can do everything.  Most of our worries are the concerns that we are responsible for creating.  Unsolved problems are major stresses as well.  If your problem is from a lie that is coming back to haunt you then shame on you and you need to learn form it.  If your issues are out of control then it's time to seek help, not just a friend willing to let you vent but from someone who can help with a solution.  Unless we have an illness that is killing us and there is no cure for it, then there is help to cope with any concerns that arise.  Sometimes it's as easy as saying we are sorry for what we did, or forgiving someone what they did to us.  Calling somewhere you owe a bill is often an easy way to resolve a debt, most places are willing to work with us, ignoring a debt will not make it go away.

Being an adult athlete and achieving mental and physical wellness is not an easy path, but it is, I believe, a path worth taking.  It often puts us in a position of having to confront ourselves.  If you want to be better you have to live better, act better and think better.  We have control of only 2 things in life, our own thoughts and actions. Make the most of that control and you can amaze yourself with what you can accomplish.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Changing World.

I have followed the running and exercise movement since the late 1970s.  What I see now more than ever are working moms that are not only raising a family, running a household, working a full time job but also making the time to train for and run or walk half and full marathons.  That folks is inspiring to the extreme.  These warrior princesses, yes any lady who trains for and goes the distance deserves that title, are positive role models for all of us.  It's hard for us guys to complain about finding the time to exercise, with so many examples like them, all around us.

We need good role models now, maybe more than ever before and women are showing us the way.  When I go to the park to do my miles I often see a mom or a group of moms pushing jogging strollers and getting their miles in as well.  I've even seem some tiny women pushing double strollers along the kitty litter trails.  Talk about getting a strength training workout!  Those women are living proof that if you want something enough, you can make it happen.  Teen age girls, young adult women and senior ladies are all out there, taking control or their lives and setting the example.

Those women are taking the lead and we need to take notice.  There is an old saying, "Heroes will come when heroes are needed", we need them now and they are coming.  The world is changing, we have to change with it.  At the risk of being to simplistic; the cure for the health care crisis is healthier people, the answer for being more productive is fitness and endurance, the way to stamp out the nation wide problems of drug and alcohol abuse is offer another way to cope with problems that seem overwhelming.

It is a fact, that in the big half and full marathons, women athletes usually outnumber the men.  Think about that for a minute, there might be more women now, that have completed a half or full marathon, than there are men.  The weaker sex?  Dream on brothers, they are making us look bad and it's time for us to get into the game and join them.

The world is changing and we need to change with it.  Strength, fitness, endurance, stamina and a mind that can handle stress are our best tools, for moving forward in this changing world.  It appears that women have sensed this and they are showing by example what we need to do.  Let's follow their example, we truly can change a lot of things. 

If you are a veteran runner or walker, talk about it, let people know that you are an athlete and anyone that wants help, getting started themselves, can come to you for advice. If you are a beginner, welcome to the club, you are now on a path that can change your life.  Just starting to think about it, get your sneakers on and go to the park and take a walk,.  You might just find what's been missing in your life.

It has been said by many great philosophers, a truth that has spanned hundreds of years, "If you want change, start with changing yourself".

Thanks for reading.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Learn From The Right Teachers

When I first retired from the Air Force, I took a job at an automotive group as the training manager and the systems coordinator.  One morning I was sitting at my desk when one of the salesmen, an exceptionally over weight fellow, rushed in carrying a big bag of meat, a George Foreman grill and a big smile on his face.  He had just learned while watching a TV commercial about eating low carb: "I can eat all the meat I want as long as I don't eat bread and vegetables".  That probably wasn't exactly what the commercial said but that's what he got from it, he heard what he wanted to hear.  So for lunch that day our hero was treating everyone to his new discovery.  They had steaks, burgers and Italian sausage, but no buns.  Now one of the things I've discovered, over my many years on the planet, is that if you want to lean something talk with someone who is at the top of their game, in the subject you are interested in.

I have learned some interesting and helpful tips while having conversations with successful athletes.  One of the advantages of being in the Air Force and being an athlete, especially a runner was that I often got to meet successful athletes, when they visited the base.  Since I was a runner I also occasionally had the opportunity to go running with them.  They would of course keep it slow and gentle for us mortals. The elite are glad to share their knowledge, they love their sport and know how important it is to help others along.  They are successful for a lot of reasons but the most important is their passion for what they do.  Passion is a non-negotiable part of athletic success, without that passion they couldn't train as hard as they do, day after day after day.

While having lunch with an Olympian, who had just won gold in the decathlon, I learned a tip for putting on my shoes, that I use to this day.  When you put your shoe on, keep the shoe flat on the floor and pull your heel back into the heel cup, then adjust the tongue and laces for the proper tightness.  I have used this method to put my shoes on and never had any problems with blisters, caused by my heels slipping, in my shoes, during long runs or race walks.

A visiting fitness expert and pioneer in the new 'Aerobics Class' craze taught us the exercise called waist vacuuming.  That is where you tighten your stomach muscles as hard as you can and hold it for 10 seconds, release and repeat. You imagine that you are trying to get your abs to touch your back bone.  The great thing about this exercise is you can do it anytime and no one knows, so it can even be done standing in line waiting in line to check out at a store.  Several times a day can work wonders for your abdominal strength.  Much safer than crunches also.

From a world class sprinter I came away with a way to think, while doing the sprint distances.  He said that he blocked out everything but the pumping motion of his legs.  He concentrated on pushing his knee down and pulling his other foot up as fast as he could, he was seeing that motion in his mind and willing his legs to go faster and faster.  I have used that and it has helped me go faster when I did the corporate challenge races, while I was stationed in Vegas.  It also helped to get me going faster in the long jump.

I learned an interesting breath technique form a very good marathoner.  She was the one that taught me about super charging my muscles with oxygen.  When she is waiting the last few minutes before the start, she is breathing deeply and on the exhale tightening her abs in a motion that pushes the last of the used air out of her lungs.  When she is getting ready to put a move on someone ahead of her she also does that same breathing technique, to give her muscles the maximum amount of oxygen, before she starts to pass her competitor.  I have used that during those times and also when I'm starting to get tired while training or racing.  It seems to give me the boost I need to feel stronger.

Several of my, 'Warrior Princess', race walking friends have helped me become a better walker by telling me how to visualize what I was doing.  Things like learning better posture by imagining I had a rope tied around my middle and I was being pulled along by that rope.  Or that I should concentrate on my hip going forward and the counter balance of my opposite arm going back as fast as I could.

These are little things but it's the little things that separate the good from the amazing when it's game on, for the talented athletes.  What they have to say is important and we less talented should never miss an opportunity to hear what the elite athletes have to say.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For Every End Comes a New Beginning

For all things there is a beginning and an end, that's the way of our lives and our world. No matter how good, bad or indifferent all things will end and then something new will begin.  Like a good movie, an interesting trip or an intriguing book, we hate for them to end but we know they will and we are sad.  It's ok to be sad but we should also feel enriched because we had the opportunity to experience them.  This is how it is with all things in life.

When a phase of our lives come to an end we can be sad and grieve for it, but then we must move forward.   We have to make a decision that we will continue the journey, that is our destiny, even though we are now following a new path.  Sometimes the path is away from unpleasant periods, that we have lived through.  We can be moving away from a bad relationship, being over weight, beating an addiction, like smoking, drinking, even drugs or just leaving a life of limited activity and beginning to move toward health and happiness.  These times we can be happy and comforted that we not only lived through those periods but came away stronger.

One of the reasons we get into doing distance events in the first place is to put a positive goal out there in front of us.  A goal to finish a 5K, half marathon or full marathon can be a powerful tool to help us stay focused on moving forward.  Especially for a beginning adult athlete, training for and completing an event can be an amazing rite of passage.  How magical to be recovering from an unpleasant period of life or an addiction and cross the finish line of a distance event. 

Like running away and joining the old 'French Foreign Legion', you go the distance to come to grips with your past life challenges and steel your mind and body to face the next challenges.  Becoming an adult athlete is a positive way to do just that.  A strong body will help us become stronger mentally.  We have our strength and endurance to carry us over the obstacles and to slay our personal demons.

All of us will go through these periods of good and bad and all of them will come to an end.  We grow older, we change jobs, we move, we retire.....the list of changes is endless and also very individual, to each of us.  But if we strive for a life of health, fitness and mental wellness then we can over come whatever life throws at us.

Isn't it time you started thinking about a new challenge?

Thanks for reading


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The "W" Word

I'm a race walker, I have been since 2005, when an injury made that a better option than running.  Up until that time walking for me was unthinkable.  Walking was a lessor sport, one for older or out of shape people, heck it wasn't even a sport.  A walker was someone who got in my way when I ran a race.  A walker an athlete, oh please!  Then I was faced with a choice between giving up running and switching to something else or continue to run in pain.  Every race for me became a personal worst.  Then on Memorial Day of 2005 I ran my last race, or attempted to anyway.  It was a 5K on grass and that uneven surface and my bad Achilles tendon were not a good match.  I couldn't even walk around normally, for a week after, without pain.  I haven't ran a step since then.

I had seen some of the local race walkers at the races and decided to give it a try.  I loved doing the races and not doing them ever again was even more unthinkable than becoming a walker.  From that week after Memorial day, when I could walk again until the middle of July, I walked and tried to learn as much as I could about race walking. Race walking is hard to self learn. I know that even better now than I did then.  I'm still learning now 8 years later.  It's like learning martial arts, you get better with practice and occasionally you have, "Oh Wow", moments when something comes together.  I raced in a walk race that July, a two miler, that was held just before a 5K run race.  About a hundred walkers showed up, and of those, about 10 were race walkers.  It was amazing. Race walking was just like running a race.  The seasoned race walkers beat me easily, but I thought I did well for my first time competing.  I have been race waking since and even completed several half and full marathons.

The point where I wanted to be with this writing is the changes in the attitude about walking in the running community.  When I first started walking I was a sudden outcast on the forums I frequently wrote for.  One of the frequent criticisms was that even if you finished a marathon, unless you ran some of it, you weren't a marathoner!  Marathoner apparently was a term to describe runners only.  Funny though it wasn't the elite of the running world but the novice runners that were the most anti walker.  Maybe that is because we were in the back of the pack together.  When I was a runner I was not great but usually in the top 20% or so in a race, so I was never really around the back half of the races, where walkers were.  Some of the attitude might have been the rivalry between faster walkers and slower runners.

Walkers are often their own worst enemies when it comes to being accepted in the races.  One of the classic bad things beginning walkers do is get some friends together, sign up for a race and then want to walk three or more abreast, making themselves an obstacle to anyone faster trying to pass them.  Then they get mad when faster runners and walkers want to go through them.  Veteran walkers know that walking two abreast is plenty, any more than that hinders the other athletes.  It's as bad as the athlete that does the run/walk intervals in a race and runs till they pass someone and then slows to a walk right in front of them.  But manners are getting better as race participates are getting more educated.

I will fast forward now to the half marathon I just finished in Louisville Kentucky.  I race walked it with a brother walker.  We walked the race between 12 and 13 minutes per mile and we were never in the way of anyone running and we were passing as many slower runners as faster ones passed us.  But what I found amazing was that 3 different runners approached us with encouragement and were amazed at how smooth and efficient our motion was.  One even related a tale about another race where they had spent a whole marathon leap frogging with a race walker.  These interactions with runners made me realize how much the attitude has changed over the years and how much more race walkers are accepted now in the racing community.

I was really glad of this because basically, forward motion is forward motion.  There are as many styles of running as there are runners.  Walking, be it race walking or normal brisk walking it's just another way of moving forward.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Be The Role Model

It wasn't long ago that people thought athletes were mentally challenged. Everyone who grew up in 60s and 70s like I did remember that the "Jocks" were considered muscle heads and not as smart as the rest of the class. The common stereo type was the football player that the coach got into all the easy classes so he could keep his grades up.  Now wait a minute don't most of the good players get drafted after they graduate form college?  We adult athletes have learned ourselves that we often think a lot clearer when we are in motion.

Well now we are beginning to realize that starting to exercise early is as important as doing well in the academic classes. We all know successful people who die young from heart problems or have a compromised lifestyle because of being diabetic, brought on by their weight. To bad it took us so long to realize this.  Maybe those Jocks were on to something back then.  Maybe a strong body is as important as a strong mind after all.

Now we are facing a unique situation where our children are often getting no exercise at all, even Physical Education is now an elective at most high schools. Video games have replaced active play. What kind of future are these kids going to have? A life of sickness, obesity and dependence on medications, followed by dying way to young.  Look around, that is what is happening right now.  It's so important that we adult athletes set the example that it doesn't have to be that way.

I don't see kids running around the neighborhood playing anymore. The only ones I see on a bicycle are adults. What are we doing to our newest generations? Is it any wonder that our nation is growing more over weight every year?  We have a health care crisis alright, one we have caused by our own actions.  Our bodies were designed to move not sit for long periods and be fed on processed chemical mixes that we think are food.

What can we do about this national concern? To start with we can be a positive example of health and fitness instead of being an example of the problem. We can set the example with our own eating habits. It doesn't do much good to talk to kids about avoiding addiction when we are addicted to soda, cigarettes, the Internet, and television.  We need to talk to our children about nutrition just as we would about the other important things.

Our children follow the example set for them, when you complain about everything in your life, like your job, the bills, your looks, and that is a huge one right there!  If we are setting an example of not being pretty enough ourselves then our children are going think that about themselves. Our children learn to complain also. What happened to being glad you have a job that paid the bills? When we set the example for being happy with our own life, that is the example they have to follow.

It's great to put the kids in sports programs but that in it's self isn't enough.  Those one or two days a week that they are in sports are great but you need to go a few steps further.  To start with, make daily activity a lifestyle, not just something you go watch the kids do a couple of times a week.  Do something active as a family every week.  Go hiking, get bikes for everyone in the family, if you have no where to ride around the neighborhood then load them up and head for a park.  But above all we need to be setting the example that activity is part of living.  Remember that children will do as they see us do. So let them see you run, walk, swim, bike and show them that motion is a part of living.

Those of us who don't have children at home anymore can still be a huge influence by being out there getting in our miles.  Once again seeing us out there running and walking shows that exercise is indeed a part of living.  We adult athletes are, by our just doing what we enjoy, helping to save the world.  We are demonstrating a better way, a way that is true freedom to be physically able to do anything we desire to do and not just sit on the side and watch others.

Let's all step up and be the examples of the right way to live.  "Do as I say and not as I do", doesn't work.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Be Surrounded

There is a scene in the mini series Band of Brothers; a soldier in the 101st Air Borne, is walking down the road with his Captain, who is the company commander.  They are at the head of the line of troops moving through enemy controlled territory.  Another comes up to them and says, "You know you are surrounded".  The Captain answered, "We are Paratroopers, we are supposed to be surrounded".

That is good advice for all of us, we need to be surrounded.  We need to surround ourselves with people who make us better.  We need to have good, moral, positive and motivated people around us.  We all have an inborn desire to be part of a group.  We can make that desire work for us and make our lives truly wonderful or we can let it destroy us.  The groups you choose to identify with will have a huge influence on your life.

You can belong to gangs that use you to further the gang, not you.  You can pal around with people who are negative or have poor morals.  You can become addicted to booze, drugs or any of the unhealthy lifestyles, oh you will find others there but I promise they will not make you a better person.  Or you can look for people that are happy and successful.  They don't have to be rich, in the size of their bank accounts, but wealthy in happiness and living like they feel is the right way.

As an adult athlete, one of my long time goals is to be a better athlete.  I want to be stronger, faster and continue to improve every year.  That goal is open ended because I want to always strive to be better.  By choosing my friends and the groups I belong to wisely, I am supported and motivated by the positive role models I look to and respect.  If you want to be a better athlete then look at what the successful ones are doing.

There is a price to pay as well as that choice to make.  If you want to be surrounded by those kind of people that are positive, moral and motivated then also have to make the decision that you are going to be that kind of person yourself.  Happy, life successful people are not going to allow you to be around them, if you are not willing to be that way yourself.  That means you need to clean up your own act.  You have to choose to be happy and be optimistic.  You have to know that the world isn't out to get you.  I hear for example at work, "I need to see if I can get more hours, because I need to make more money", but this person frequently comes in late and usually wants to leave early.  The boss doesn't schedule them many hours now because they are not dependable.

If you are like me and desire to be a better athlete, or just desire to be a better person, then start with acting like that better person.  Once you do that then something truly magic happens.  Those kind of people start letting you into their lives.  Life can be wonderful and fulfilling, but like all things worth having, you have to earn it.

Thanks for reading