Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Doing The Disney

Morning comes early on this day of truth and challenge. The amateur racer wakes to the alarm, but stays in bed a few more minutes, pondering what lies ahead. This day has been a long time coming, beginning several years and many pounds ago. The starting hour of the marathon nears. Fear and self doubt have been replaced with the courage that accompanies determination. Where does one go to celebrate such accomplishments, Disney World of course.

A bagel filled with sliced chicken awaits in the hotel room's fridge. The calories will be needed for up to seven hours on the road. Clothes are laid out on the bed, so nothing will be forgotten. The race number is already pinned to the front of the T-Shirt. Now a hot shower to wake the rest of the way up and smooth out any lingering soreness from those many days and miles training. This kind of preparation is vital for a good race. These next few hours, before the start, should be stress free.

Many thousands of amateur athletes come to the House of Mouse every January to challenge the distance and to enjoy the warm Florida winter weather. Buses bring all the competitors to a staging area by 4am. The racers then walk about a mile to the actual race start. Once arriving at the start, everyone goes to their prearranged corrals, assigned by predicted finishing time. The fastest runners will be in corrals A and B, while the slower walkers are all the way back in G or H. At 6:15am, fireworks announce the start. Wheelchair athletes will begin first, followed fifteen minutes later by corral A. The rest of the corrals will start at five minute intervals.

The first leg of the course begins at Epcot and follows the road to the Magic Kingdom. The racers make a complete tour of the Kingdom, even getting to go through the world famous castle before exiting out onto the road to Animal Kingdom. Before the race is over, they will travel through all the parks and the Wide World of Sports Complex. A special treat is the race car track lined with vintage muscle cars. The final stage is at Epcot with a lap around the World Showcase. Just as the finish line comes into view, there is a choir of ladies singing gospel.

Disney has themed races throughout the year, ranging from a Princess race for ladies, to a Star Wars, dark Side, challenge. They are a wonderful way to celebrate hard earned fitness, and a nice family vacation as well. The January marathon is also a great break from the more northern winter weather and my favorite time to go.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Sunday, July 2, 2017



Hobby Health

People spend a good portion of their time and money on hobbies. Many don't realize that perusing health and fitness is also a hobby, one which can reward us with a greatly improved quality of life. Not only is increasing strength and endurance an interesting past time, but it can be an inexpensive one as well. One of the things which originally drew me to a life long pursuit of fitness was the level playing field. I would really enjoy collecting antique cars or traveling the world searching for amazing works of art, but my finances won't allow it. Almost everyone has the potential to increase their fitness level. Something as simple as regularly taking an evening walk around the block is relaxing, inexpensive and will make us more physically fit. However, just like any other passion, it can become more costly by purchasing exercise equipment and specialty clothing.

Hobbies are one of the best ways of coping with the stress of modern living. Work is a fact of life, usually topping our list of anxiety producing activities. Even the commute back and forth can be stressful, since it takes even more of our precious time. A bad day at work can follow us home and feel like a weight that must be carried until we can find a way to put it down. Moderately intense exercise, after a hard day, is an effective way to lighten that load. Leave that baggage at the curb and go for a brisk walk. The stress will seem more manageable, or be gone completely after a good walk. We usually can't play a round of golf or go fishing after a rough day, but we can get moving and let the therapy of motion do it's job.,

Those who pursue a hobby of healthy living have their own opportunities for collecting goodies. Normally distance events like a 5K or the marathon have participation medals. Each of those awards will have memories which go along with them. A distance medal is a badge of honor, showing we conquered our fears and finished the event. Some people carry a small camera when training or racing and take pictures unique to that particular day. A person who spends time surrounded by nature's beauty is going to see some amazing things. Every exercise session is different. There will be days when the wind is brisk, the sun blazing or the cold is biting, but each has both challenges and memories. Other days are going be so pleasant we will not want our walks to end.

Discover the benefits of living healthy and the relaxing power of being in motion. Time spent burning calories out in the clean, fresh air is addicting. It is a hobby we can live with.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Thursday, June 22, 2017

As each new day arrives we stand at an intersection. There are several paths we can take, including the option of not moving at all but just remaining where we are. The decisions we make as we stand at that intersection will not only dictate how that day will go but could very well affect the days that come after. We can make a decision to accomplish what we know we need to in order to advance our goals. Or we can make an excuse why we can’t.

It’s not so mysterious, we ar...e creatures of habit and if we are in the habit of making good decisions then we will live a happier more productive life. Yes we can make a choice to be happy and productive, or we can allow life to push us along. There is a huge difference in taking a rest day to recharge and just being lazy and not wanting take responsibility. Move with a purpose or rest with a purpose but make it your choice.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Sunday, June 18, 2017



Run What You Brung

When I was a teenager, almost fifty years ago, the local drag strip would have racing for the residents on Friday nights. They called it “Run What You Brung”. It was informal drag racing. This was the era of the Hot Rod, and most of the manufacturers produced a hot car or two. Those days are over, mostly because gas was about twenty eight cents a gallon then, and people could afford to drive those super fast, gas guzzling, cars. Walk and run races are informal like that. We race with the body we brought with us.

Going to races are a wonderful way to test our fitness, because we can keep track of the time it takes us to finish a measured distance. Next time we challenge that particular distance, we can try to better our previous time. It's called going for a personal record or a “PR”. This concept is what racing is all about, being stronger and faster today than the last time we raced. Some never grasp the significance of racing against themselves and feel bad about their finishing place. But if their finish time was better than their last attempt, then it's a win, because it's a new personal record.

Racing takes on a whole new meaning, once realizing that the competition is a distance or a time and not the others who came to race. Then the experience becomes amazing.
Hundreds, even thousands, of people meeting at one place with the desire to do better. Then the other racers are no longer adversaries, but a support group, since it's common for competitors to encourage each other.

I learned a lot from those Friday nights at the track. Taking things out of the car made it lighter, so it would go faster. Buying premium gas, instead of regular gas, helped me get better times. Even putting extra air in the tires gave it less rolling resistance. Lessons learned at the drag strip work well in preparing for races a foot. Eating better to shed some pounds helps us to go faster. Just as a more efficient carburetor helps the car's engine to breathe better, an aerobic training program helps our heart grow stronger, giving us more endurance. Weight training strengthens our muscles giving us more power.

Exactly like showing up to those Friday night races of long ago, when we decide to try a walking or running race, we race with the body we have, “Brung”, with us. A strong, properly trained body will perform well over the distance. If we don't do the training to prepare then it's going to be a long day.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Lifting Cattle
There is an old proverb about a man who begins lifting and carrying a calf when it’s born. Everyday he lifts and carries the calf around until eventually he is lifting and carrying a full grown cow. Now we all know that is just a bit far fetched but it does illustrate a process. To become stronger you must lift progressively heavier weights. A simple process but there are a lot of details that must be considered to make it work the way you want it to.
Usually someone decides to lift weights, run, bike or any other physical activity to lose weight or get in better shape. Weight training is certainly a part of it but lifting cattle is not the preferred way to go about it. I’m going to address the basics of training for the purpose of losing body fat and gaining muscle. You can become thinner by eating less. You can, if you are strong enough to resist the temptation to eat, get your weight to wherever you want. You won’t necessarily be a healthier person but you will be thinner.
Muscle tissue burns calories and moves your body, so it’s desirable to build and strengthen your muscles as well as losing body fat. Then you don’t have to cut your calorie intake so much. The cow lifting shows the process but it needs to be expanded. This is the way it should work: Start with a weight that you can handle and lift it for 10 to 12 repetitions. If you really have to work for the last rep the weight is about right. Do 3 or 4 sets of those reps until the muscle you are working is exhausted. Then rest it for 48 hours. The building and strengthening happens during that rest period. The next time you lift add a pound and again work the muscle to exhaustion. Continue that process and you will have stronger, bigger muscles. Whether you weigh less and have muscle definition depends on how much and what you ate.
Now it’s important that you know muscles are composed of two types of fibers named after how they work. Slow twitch and fast twitch. You work mostly the slow twitch muscles with weight training unless you do your lifts as fast as possible. It’s easier to train all the muscle fibers with walking, running, race walking or other aerobic, now called cardio, activity. But all the fibers are not trained unless you train at different speeds. The best training for the adult athlete is a combination of long slow distance, short fast intervals of hard effort and training that combines both. You get the best of all training when you add weight or resistance training with cardio rather than just doing one or the other. A routine that works well for most is to alternate training so that you do weight training one day and aerobic or cardio training the next. Weight train 3 days a week and train aerobically 3 days a week with one day of rest from training.
Another thing you need to know is that your body uses only as much muscle fiber as it needs to move. So some of your muscle fibers are developed but only enough to do the basics. If you want to increase your endurance and strength you have to build and strengthen all the fibers so that as muscle fibers tire others can take over and carry the load or keep you moving. Strong muscles fed a healthy diet will give you amazing results. Healthy diet means real food and not chemical mixes, or highly processed food that is made up of sugar and bleached flour.
Not quite as simple as lifting a calf every day but the results you get will be much better. Exercise with intensity, eat with intelligence and you will exceed your goals.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Planning A First Race

Planning A First Race

Usually after a person has been walking or running for a while, they start thinking about doing a race. Most cities have running and walking clubs that will organize races during the spring and summer. A good race to start with is the 5K, which is three and one tenth miles. This is a great distance for a first race, because it's long enough to be challenging, but should be well within the abilities of anyone with several months of walking or running experience behind them.

The first race can be a wonderful experience with just a little planning ahead of time. To start, find a good race. There are normally several to chose from, so look for one that has a reasonably flat course. A hilly race could be too challenging for a first event. A flat course is much more forgiving. Read over the requirements for the race. Some will have a cut off time, which may be faster than a beginning walker or even a newer runner can achieve. I like to find races which are somewhat challenging, but also in interesting locations. Traveling to a new city for a race can be a mini vacation as well.

Pacing becomes more important during a race than in training. A mistake made by many is starting too fast, then not having the energy left for the remainder of the race. Pacing can be practiced in training. After a good warm up of slow walking or running, start off with the pace desired for race day. Should the pace feel to difficult, back off some. Go slower for a while, then speed back up slowly to the planned pace. The pace should feel better after the short break, but it can take several speed adjustments to get into race pace. The treadmill is a great place to practice pacing, since it's easy to monitor and change speed.

Never race in new shoes, unless it's the same brand and model trained in. Race only in clothes which have been tested in training as well A blister or a chaffing rash can turn a wonderful experience into an ordeal. It's a good idea to find out what sports drink they will be providing at the event, and try them during training. At many of the larger races, there will be venders selling special pre race drinks to increase performance. Stay clear of those, since they may not set well on the stomach. When in doubt, plain water is all we really need before during and after a 5K race. Electra Lyte replacement drinks and tablets are more important for longer races, such as the half and full marathons.

Keep it fun, since most participants are there to achieve a personal best, not to compete for the win. Show up at least thirty minutes prior to start time, pin that race number to the front of the shirt, warm up, and the race will go just fine.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave

Sunday, March 19, 2017


A Hand Up

One of the most important things we do in our lives is to help others when we can. This simple act might go completely unnoticed by anyone else except us and them. Yet those small acts of kindness may be more precious than we ever imagined, both to our own self respect and to how we ultimately define ourselves. We never know when our kind acts or words of encouragement may be all someone needs to turn their life around. To help them realize they do have worth, to show them that there is good in the world after all. It's often those little things in life that can make the most difference. There is much that is wrong in our world, but sometimes we have an opportunity to be one of the things right.

The beauty of encouragement is that it costs nothing but a few moments of time, a few beats of our heart. But the results of those cheering words may well prove priceless to someone who desperately needed to hear them. I have experienced times in my own life where just knowing another person believed in me made all the difference. Children are especially empowered by encouragement. It's how they learn to overcome difficulties or accomplish goals. An authority figure telling them they can do it helps them to believe in themselves. Being encouraged also builds confidence, when a person is cheered by others now, they will remember those powerful words during those other times when the encouragement must come from within.

Going out of our way to help someone might actually be the shortest path to not only confirming we are a good person, but also earning the respect of others. A few months ago, I was pulling into a convenience store parking lot to get gas. There was a big tough looking fellow along with a young boy walking across the parking lot to the door of the store. Suddenly, the big guy took off running to the door, then held it open for an elderly lady with a walker, who was leaving the store. I thought to myself that young boy is very lucky to have such a good role model. This young man will grow into a fine caring man, because his father is showing him, by positive example, how to be a good, kind and caring person.

Helping others is another wonderful way to feel good about ourselves. As we get older, this becomes more important than ever. Not everyone will live the first class lifestyle of the rich, but anyone can, by their actions, be first class people.

It's not just a step, it's a start.

Dave