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.


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.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Power of a Word

Sometimes one word of encouragement given at just the right time can turn a persons life around. We may never know or be rewarded with the gratification of seeing the results of our kindness to others. But when we are the receivers of an encouraging word of empowerment, especially if it comes from our own heart, we can surely feel its power.
How we empower ourselves defines us. Our true character comes out when we refuse to fail. One of the places where we can see this in action is marathons. The vast majority of us who have done marathons reach a point where we have nothing left. But we finish on the strength of our will, telling ourselves over and over, “Just a few more miles, I can do this”. Anyone, who has gone the distance, will understand. However, there is no shame in coming up short, if we have given our full measure. I have known many brave recreational athletes who kept at it until, after years of trying, they finally went the distance. They were not defeated, because they never gave up. It wasn’t that their empowering words were weak, they just had to learn to believe them. Once believed, the words of empowerment changed them forever.

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or you think you can't, you will be right”. This quote is from a man whose innovations in manufacturing are still followed today. I think of his words of wisdom on occasions when continuing forward requires a decision be made to keep going rather than giving up. At other times, I think of the champions I've known and the simple, but powerful, words of encouragement they gave me. From one lady who has earned many gold medals in world competition: “When it's time to train, but it's raining, train anyway”. That's how champions think. They do what others will not.

Never is encouragement more important than we empower our youth to succeed. A child who is taught to believe in their self will have an advantage throughout their life. Often self doubt is what holds us back. Positive encouragement can erase the doubt, turning it into self respect. From childhood to adult, empowerment is vitally important, regardless whether it comes form others or from our own heart.

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


Tuesday, February 28, 2017


A battle rages within each of us. A conflict that begins when we are old enough to make choices and continues to our last breath. We are born with a free will. This makes us venerable to desires, cravings and fears. We are at the mercy of comfort’s call and the path of least resistance. The weapons we possess to fight back; self respect, our personal values and the strength of our will.

We make decisions from our first waking moment. Some people will begin each day with the determination to do the best they can. Others will give in to temptations and lower, ever further, their sense of worth. The value systems we have been designing all our lives determines which decisions will be made. We all know people that are always late, punctuality is not a value for them. People who cheat on the ones they pledged loyalty to, don’t value the commitments they make. There are values that have stood the test of time and proven worth acquiring. Accepting responsibility for their own actions is a value many successful people share.

Some of the hardest battles are fought by those who have made the decision to turn their lives around. Years of neglecting mind and body have taken a toll. They might be in poor health, with low self esteem and a future that promises more of the same. But taking responsibility will lift the fog and a better path will appear. Understanding that the situation, they find themselves in, is a direct result of choices made, is the first step toward positive changes. When people realize their value and can take control of their decisions, healing can begin.

Life style changes will gain momentum as making good decisions start showing positive results. Going to bed at a reasonable hour, instead of falling asleep in front of the TV, becomes easier when we lie down at the end of the day tired from accomplishment. Choosing healthy food is not so hard when we learn to value the body that the food will nourish. Exercise comes naturally when we are happy with our life and want to prolong it as long as possible. As more battles are won, not only will our self respect increase, but we will earn the respect of others as well. Once better choices are made, everything will change.

The conflict is never ending, but each win makes us stronger. We must always keep the fact that we are worth the effort foremost in our mind. The reward for making good decisions is a life of health and wellness. Strong self respect empowers us to want to choose the better paths.

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


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Staying Sharp Throughout Our Senior Years

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that once we hit retirement age, our health, physical fitness and mental abilities will quickly decline. Long term research done at Cambridge University suggests otherwise. Their studies indicate five activities helping to slow the aging process. The most feared aspects of aging, physical decline, along with memory loss, are somewhat preventable.

Getting physically fit and staying active during the senior years. My recommendation is a regular exercise program of moderate activity, for a minimum of thirty minutes, done three to five times a week. Much of the research on senior health, mirrors this advice. Any activity is acceptable, including such tasks as housework, gardening and shopping. The point is to get up off the couch and move enough to elevate our heart rate out of the resting stage.

Focus on healthy eating. The University's suggestion was a Mediterranean style diet, consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and poultry. Such a diet reduces the risks of cognitive, as well as, physical decline in the senior years. The research is ongoing, but indications are those eating a diet low in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates have a lower risk of advancing from mild cognitive impairment, memory loss, to Alzheimer's disease or Dementia.

Keep challenging ourselves mentally. The journal of Phychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services published a review of studies in 2010 suggesting mental activities, such as playing card games and working crossword puzzles, were not the best way to stay mentally sharp. Learning new things and reading were more challenging. “Have an open mind and try to learn something new everyday”.

Have an active imagination. Frequently spend some time imagining and planning a future event. The more detailed the plan, the better, since having a lack of imagination has been linked to memory loss. Even something as casual as a trip to the park with a grandchild can be imagined and planned in detail as a mental exercise.

Finally, we should embrace our age. Own it. California's Davis School of Gerontology found that a positive outlook on aging is our best defense against the negative stereotype of the aging process. Their advice, stop worrying and live life to the fullest.

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


Monday, January 16, 2017

Make A Statement

Getting started on any new adventure is often the hardest part. The laws of physics do support that statement: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest”. Once we can overcome the rest phase and actually start moving, it will be easier for us to keep moving. The challenge then is deciding to take that first all important step. Professionals, who advise people wanting to start a business, will often advise they write a mission statement. The mission statement will clearly describe their goal or purpose, who will benefit and how it will be accomplished, all in one sentence. The mission statement is also a very good idea for someone wanting to get started on an exercise program.

A person wanting to improve their physical fitness with exercise might have a mission statement like this: I will improve my health and fitness with regular brisk walking. Deciding on a mission is a good first step, but until a person is actually in motion, nothing is going to be accomplished. So write it down. Plan when, where and how often to walk, then set a starting date. The more thought put into this step, the more successful the plan will be. Exercise is one of those activities that tend to be done only when it's most convenient. Change this, make exercise time as important as any other regular part of the day. The best way is to let it take some of the time usually set aside for couch and TV. Evening walks with another family member or friend is quality time at it's best. Communication is important in marriage and a brisk hour of walking together is a great opportunity to talk out family issues.

Since the body in motion will tend to stay in motion, it does get easier once the plan evolves to the action phase. Be creative and have the confidence that the plan will work if it's followed. There are times when exercise time must be fiercely defended. Excuses are easy to make, but excuses won't accomplish the mission, only the motion time will do that, so value it. I can personally confirm that many of my best training walks were on the days I had the hardest time getting going. Perhaps it was the feeling of pride coming from resisting temptation, or maybe it was the increase in my self respect that made the workout especially satisfying.

Getting started is tough. If it were easy, everyone would be exercising and enjoying the benefits of improving their physical fitness. Yes it's tough, but yes it's worth it. Make a mission statement, form a workable plan, then get moving.

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


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mission Statement

Most business advisers will say that a business should have a mission statement in order to be successful. A mission statement is basically what the business will accomplish, it's goal. A successful business will start with a mission statement, expanded into a clear, easy to follow plan. This is a good idea for individuals wishing to accomplish a goal as well. Saying: “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get out of debt”, or even “I want to get in better shape”, are great mission statements. However just saying it doesn't make it happen without having a clear path of accomplishment. Good intentions are like balloons, they float away if we don't take action to hold on to them. Plans followed with determination will make those good intentions reality instead of just fleeting visions.

The more precise the mission statement the easier the goal is to see. “I will lose weight” is not as clear as, “I will lose 30 pounds”. Once the goal is clear then a plan will make the path to success one that can be seen and followed. Staying with the goal of losing weight a good plan might start with not what will be eaten but will no longer be eaten. Most plans require changes in habits. For example snacking late in the evening then going to bed is a good habit to change. Replacing that habit with a healthier one will help to accomplish the desired goal of losing weight. People who successfully do lose weight and keep it off did not just accomplish a goal but made a life style change.

Our lives are filled with desires that a need clear vision and then planning to achieve. I have experienced that process myself. There is a program for prior military service members called, Troops to Teachers. I decided when I retired that I wanted to become a teacher but in order to qualify for that program I needed to take and pass the teacher qualification exams. I hadn't been to school in about 15 years so taking those exams would be very difficult. The subjects that my degree would allow me to teach were in the humanities fields: History, Economics, Sociology and Psychology. So to achieve success I bought the text books for each subject and read nothing but them for the next three months. Following that plan as well as remembering what I had learned during my class time helped me to pass those tests and achieve a teaching certification. Even though I chose a different path because of a job offer that was to good to turn down.

The best goals result in life style changes. Goals that are are just empty promises to ourselves accomplish nothing.

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