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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Spiritual Fitness, and a full circle


My wife and I met more than 16 years ago at a social function at a church that neither of us attended regularly.  Through a long list of twists and turns, especially after we first met, we wound up happily married.  At a 10k race on July 4th, 2002 while waiting for my wife to finish the race, I saw a father and daughter cross the finish line holding hands (holy cow, I just realized that I’ve been running for more than ten years, where does the time go?).  Up until that moment, my wife and I had planned on not having kids, that we’d work and travel instead – and retire early.  When I saw that man and his daughter finish the race, my whole perception changed.  After my wife finished and had a minute to cool down, I told her what I’d seen and that I might be changing my attitude about kids.  My wife said smiled and said she was thinking along the same lines.  Man, that was an awesome day.  My wife was pregnant less than four months later.  Nine months after, as I lay next to my sleeping two-week old daughter, face to face, close enough that I could feel her breath on my face, I reached the realization that I’d made her (at least 50% anyway).  It was truly a beautiful moment and it changed my life.  I had the same moment after my wife had our second daughter.

Yesterday we completed something of a circle.  We went back to that church as a family, to volunteer.  The priest, before lunch, walked around the entire room and anointed everyone’s forehead with oil and said a small prayer for healing for each of us individually.  His path around the room brought him to me first and as he gently rubbed the oil into my forehead and said the prayer, I could feel the relief leave his thumb and spread down from my forehead and cascade all the way to my feet – it was fantastic, but not unexpected.  One way or another, I’m a believer, even if I have an unorthodox way of celebrating it and generally I don’t like the idea of bleating on about it as a first year music student would fumble over his first few notes on his new trumpet.  It’s what happened next that compelled me to write about this.  The priest made his way next, to my oldest daughter.  I watched him go through the same process and say the same prayer for her.  I watched her expression after he’d moved to my younger daughter…  She looked me right in the eyes from across the table and, with a puzzled smile, ever so quietly mouthed the words:  “That felt good”. 

She felt it too.

Afterwards, we volunteers gathered in the kitchen and served lunch.  My daughter manned the plastic ware wrapped in a napkin that we’d rolled earlier.  My wife, at the front of the chain with my youngest on the trays, while I was at the end of the line on the fruit, between the salad lady and the kid that handed out the cake…  As the line rolled past the serving window, instructions were given to the front of the line when a child’s tray was needed.  I’d nudge the cake boy and point to the biggest piece of cake as the tray came to me in the line and with a big smile on his face, he’d plop a huge piece of cake on the tray while I handed it to the man who served and he’d turn to my daughter so she could place the plastic ware in its place on the tray.  I was actually sad that it was over when the last person passed through the line.


Two days before Christmas and I got a better gift than I could have even thought to ask for.

On top of all that, I actually experienced a miracle!  My phone didn’t ring once, from the start of the service and through lunch, a period of about two hours.  I can’t remember such a peaceful Friday in the last five years.


I snapped this picture in the serving line:



Myths, an Addendum


In my post yesterday on myths associated with certain forms of exercise, I missed a couple of opportunities…


First, for all of those sensitive folks, when I use the term “fat”, I realize that there is a gentler way of putting that.  Personally, I like to deal with the raw truth and have done so since the day I put a cork in the jug.  There are people out there who like to pretty things up with non-offensive verbiage (that still means the same thing, by the way) or remove culpability for the rarer cases in which people can’t help whatever condition might afflict them.  In terms of both being a drunk and, eventually, flabby (technically, my midsection was inordinately rotund – I think that’s the pretty way), beating around the bush never solved anything for me.  I’m hard on myself because pain (physical or emotional) is just about the only thing that really motivates me to change.  With that being said, if anyone read that last post and was offended, I do apologize, that wasn’t the intent.

Lastly, and more importantly, going back to the story problem between Bob and Larry, I didn’t apply one of the most important principles of the running club that I belong to; include everyone.  While we all run at different paces, have resoundingly different opinions on worldly matters and live very different lives, we all come together for one common goal:  To get or stay fit.  While Bob has an opportunity at support groups, Larry’s options are great as well.  Every person in our club loves to work with new folks through providing encouragement and a check to the occasional desire to slack off.  I’ve been on both sides of that.  When I joined my wife’s group, I was the slow guy who didn’t know what to buy, how fast to go, or even how not to get lost on the routes we run.  The group provided the encouragement and one of the guys took me under his wing and taught me the routes and how to pace myself – now I’m bringing people in and doing the same for them.  The important thing for our rhetorical Larry is that there are groups like this everywhere…  You just have to know where to look for them.

For instance, if you’ve decided to get into biking, and I can’t stress this enough, your local bike shop is where it’s at.  The proprietor of the shop that I frequent (almost on a weekly basis and who shall remain nameless until such a time as he gets a chance to read this and let me know if I can use his shop’s name in a post), is a treasure trove of information and help – and I have to believe, as excited as I am about cycling, I must be a little too enthusiastic from time to time, but he just treats me as if it’s the coolest thing in the world that I’m so happy with biking.  If you don’t get this treatment, by the way, try another shop until you do.  The folks who work there will put you in touch with the group that fits you.

If you want to get into jogging and eventually running (or straight into running), a running shoe specialty store is where it’s at.  The trick is to hit the local mom and pop shops – the one’s that specialize in your chosen activity.  Items may be priced a touch higher (usually because they’re higher quality, not because the local guy wants to gouge anyone), but, in my experience, the added cost is worth every penny.

Again, as I see it, rhetorical Larry will end up having a lot more fun (or so it has been with non-rhetorical bgddyjim) and as a result, stick with it.

Exorcising the Myths of Exercise…

It must be stated before I start laying waste to myths about exercise – I’m not a doctor.  I don’t recommend someone trying to run a marathon right off of the couch, though I’m sure that’s been done before by someone a whole lot crazier (or more dedicated) than me.

Let’s, for fun, explore a few myths associated with exercise.  Nothing gets me fired up more than someone trying to convince me that I’m “lucky” that I’m trim and that they lack the ability to so much as go for a bike ride for one reason or another.  As I’ve said before, I did decide to get fat a while back – I just changed my mind twelve hours later and bought some running shoes.  In fact, there’s a guy in our running club who, at 250 pounds, is literally half the man he used to be…  How does the saying go?  If he can do it…

So, let’s get cracking:

1.  Fit people are “lucky” to be that way.

The reality is, for men, after attaining 30 years of age (maybe 33 on the late end), there is no such thing as luck except in rare instances  where good genes help.  For women, it’s even sooner…   For the rest of us, and to an extent, even the genetically lucky, the key is getting off the couch.  My fabulously taught buttocks is bought and paid for with miles – lots and lots of them.

2.  Running is bad for the knees and joints.

No it isn’t.  And I’ve used that one myself, so don’t mess with me.  In fact, when my wife reads this, she’ll probably tuck the “I told you so” arrow in her quiver for when I get home.  Joints are, in fact, strengthened and modified by exercise.  According to that first link, the exact opposite is true…  Only 20% of runners developed arthritic knees while 32% of the control group did over the long haul.  In fact, the impact of running is necessary for maintaining bone health, which leads to myth #3…

3.  Low impact exercise is better than running or “high” impact exercise.

That isn’t true either, though I’ve used that one too.  Cycling, one of the lowest impact sports, is notorious for riders losing bone mass density because there is no load on the bones which signals the body to create more mass in them (swimmers too).  Running and cycling, give you the best of both worlds.  We call that cross training, and it is awesome.

4.  “I don’t exercise because it’s too painful”.

I don’t buy that for a dollar:  Countless studies show that it’s the lack of activity that causes the pain.  Regular exercise can alleviate pain and it improves health.  Joints, muscles and bones require that we move to stay healthy.  In fact, even for those who already have arthritis, regular (though moderate) exercise is recommended to reduce the pain.

5.  Diet is more important than exercise.

This one is actually true, but depending on what somebody is selling it gets overrated (or under).  Technically, if you read through the baloney, exercise helps a good diet.  In the end, the idea is to burn more calories than one consumes.

To illustrate, here’s a story problem:  Bob and Larry are fat, both at 6′ tall and 240 lbs.  Bob and Larry decide it’s time to lose weight, so Bob decides that diet is three times more important than exercise and that running is bad for the knees so he’s going to lose weight with diet alone.  He consumes, on a normal day, 4,000 calories but his sedentary body only burns 3,000, so he sets out to cut 1,400 calories from his diet to burn 400 calories a day.  Larry on the other hand, decides to go the diet and exercise route.  He buys a bike and some jogging shoes and cuts 1,000 calories a day from his diet but he works up to riding 15 miles 3 days a week (that’s 700 calories a day x 3) and jogs 3 miles, twice a week (another 546 each [75% of body weight per mile).  Who will do better is not rocket science.  You have to burn 3,500 calories to equal a pound.  I will guarantee you, after gorging on 4,000 calories a day and cutting out 1,000, they’ll both feel like they’re starving…  Bob, the diet alone guy, who cut an extra 400 a day, will burn 2,800 calories, or just under a pound in a week.  Larry, on the other hand, eats to maintain his weight but burns 3,192…  Larry’s joints feel better, he gets stronger and the stress he’s used to feeling is melting away by the week.  Bob is eating twigs and berries and probably telling all his friends that they need to get on the latest fad diet.

You tell me who’s in better shape?  I’ll take Larry any day of the week.  We’re not done yet though.  Studies show that the body continues to burn calories long after you’re done exercising (as many as 190).  So Bob’s another half a pound ahead every week.  Now, don’t get me going, there is another study out there that showed no afterburn…but the subjects were only riding at 50% of their VO2 Max…that’s ridiculous.  I wouldn’t even break a sweat at 50%.  In fact, the initial study, done at 70% VO2 Max is much more realistic for someone who is exercising to lose weight.  Now, let’s do a little supposing.  At 50% VO2 Max there’s no benefit.  At 70%, there’s another 190 calories zapped…  I regularly train at 80-95% VO2 Max in intervals…  What would you bet there’s a greater benefit in afterburn?  I’m just sayin’.

6.  If I just get out there and do something, it’s better than nothing.

Ah, the lollygagger’s delight.  Yes, it is technically true, but c’mon, man…  Pick up the pace!  Let’s burn some a$$…(Consult you doctor first, of course, again, this is a stinkin’ blog, I’m not a doctor, yada, yada, yada).
7.  I’m big boned.
Nobody buys that, especially the person who says it.  Tell me, how does the size of one’s bones contribute to a roll of fat around the belly, or love handles.  Right.

To wrap up, in addition to those items, exercise reduces stress (and I know about this one first hand – my job is ridiculously stressful – exercise keeps me sane.  Exercise helps build your relationship with a significant other, and if you have kids (as I do), it gives them an example that no amount of school or governmental intervention can duplicate.

Please, use this information delicately.  The intention is not to beat someone over the head with it so much as it is designed to keep someone from buying into their excuses.  If you are reading this and you do happen to be overweight, check with your doctor (sheesh) and then buy some running shoes, or a bike, or rollerblades, or walking shoes or something!  Just find something that you like to d0.  You’ll love you for it.

By the way, if you happen to be overweight or know someone who is overweight, and you (they) are afraid to start with something like jogging or running because of your (their) weight, do not dispair.  Visit your local bike shop and ask them to help.  I just dropped a wheel off to get trued and met a fella there who “knew a guy” that started out at more than 300 pounds with riding…  In one summer, he put 4,000 miles on that bike and dropped more than 80 pounds – in one summer.  Now that’s a lot, 40 miles a day, 5 days a week – figure 3 to 4 hours a day at the heavier weight, but one summer?  That’s nothing, a blip on the screen.

(p.s. did you know that if you can walk faster than a 10 minute mile, you burn more calories than if you’re jogging?  It’s true, there’s more friction created in walking that fast – then again, try that some time…walking a 10 minute mile is fast!).

How to fit a hundred miles a week in with a with a wife and kids, and a full time job…

Serious training, for any sport, isn’t easy – with a day job, wife, kids, house and a recovery program it’s hectic. It is not impossible though.

My day job is in construction, I run small commercial carpentry company so, contrary to what popular opinion might suggest, I put in a lot of hours. In addition, my wife and kids need time too. Add to that a program to keep me out of the jug, and it gets busy.

My hours, while extensive, are flexible. I choose to put most of them in early in the morning. I’m up between 3 and 4:30 am and at my office between 5 and 6. On most days I can be home between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. My usual ride during the week is between 14 and 16 miles depending on the route I take and I can complete them in 40-50 minutes so I’m done between 4:30 and 5:30. There’s plenty of time left to cook some dinner (if we’re grilling) and spend some time with the wife and kids. If rain is expected in the afternoon I’ll ride at 6 or 6:30 in the morning and head in to the office a little later. I’ll take a day off on riding on Wednesday or Friday depending on how the legs feel. On Thursday, after my ride, I meet a friend before a meeting and we run a 5k. After the meeting we all go out to dinner at a local Mexican joint down the road… So figure 4 days at 15 miles (average) plus a 5k, I’m at 63 miles on Friday evening. On Saturday, my big training day, I ride down to my running club meeting place, about 12-1/2 miles, run 7-10 miles, swim for ten or fifteen minutes, eat a light lunch, and ride back to my place. That’s another 32-35 miles. On Sunday I take a nice easy 14-20 mile ride to loosen up the muscles… That’s 109 miles at the low end in six days.

Now, being the boss has it’s advantages – and it’s disadvantages. Like any recovering person, my priorities require that I put my mileage somewhere around fifth behind God, my recovery, my wife and kids, my job and my guys’ (and their families). I have to maintain the attitude that while training is important to how I ultimately feel and perform in all of my other responsibilities, I can’t put my miles first. I don’t always make my hundred – it just is what it is, after all, Daddy’s gotta buy running shoes to run.

It’s probably safe to say there won’t be too many slackers that read this, but let’s do away with a few myths next…

When Fitness and Recovery Work Together

  This picture was taken on the 48th mile of a 49 mile ride in celebration of one of my best friend’s birthday.  We rode on the day of my nineteenth anniversary.

My buddy English Pete puts in most of his miles alone, as do I.  But every now and again, we get to ride or run together.

Those smiles are the end result.  I tried for years to find that smile on the couch…

Exercise is a matter of finding your thing…

After running my weight down to about a buck seventy over eight years, I grew bored. I never really loved running – I liked not being flabby and the tightly knit running club I belong to kept me honest.  The rush of endorphins has been great and the exercise relieves stress better than anything I’ve ever tried with no negative cost…but, I never enjoyed the act of running. Finishing, now that was fun, but you get the point. I began to evolve a few years back though, when I got a bug to run a triathlon. Now I’m not the kind of guy who likes to push himself to the edge.  I’ve never run a marathon because I don’t want to put the effort or training into it, but for some reason the idea of running a triathlon just stuck. I talked about it for three years before I even did anything about it because I figured it would be just like running. I bought a bike last spring and it changed my life.

It turns out that I do love cycling. At 41, I’m no Lance or Eddy, but I truly love riding. I ride every day that I can, road cycling, mountain biking – I love it all. For me, nothing beats coming home from a day at the office, easy, hard or otherwise, and pounding out some miles. I feel free at last. The faster I go, the better I feel.

I’m down to 158 and a long way from my high of 195. I’m ripped enough to make 41 look good and not worry about parading around without a shirt on. So, what’s the difference? My buddy English Pete put it best; I found my thing. Cycling is the one thing that will get me off of the couch every day, makes me feel good, makes me look good and puts a smile on my face – each and every time I’m in the saddle. The only thing I like more than a 15 mile ride is a 50 mile ride. On recovery days or after my normal ride, my favorite thing is a slow turn with my wife and kids on the back roads.

How often do you hear or read about this fad or that workout regimen (and eventually about how many people dropped them, then about how they really weren’t as good as everybody thought)? I read an article recently pushing circuit workouts at the gym as the be all – end all because it burns more calories than most anything else… The argument was, fairly paraphrased; if you want to lose weight why do anything other than the exercise that will accomplish this the quickest?


New Personal Best

New Personal Best 5k this morning, 10:30 this morning:  23:34.