Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Take on Persistence

This is very true. The rest may get you an initial leg up, but it won't get you over the finish line first. It's like the joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall. "Practice, Practice, Practice."


Being healthy and strong is a matter of persistence, not being powerful immediately. If you keep trying, eventually, you will get there. Those healthy actions that seem so hard when you first adopt them will become habits. They will be natural to you.

Getting Chicked

Getting chicked is what some people call it when a guy loses to a woman in an athletic event. Some women have embraced the term as empowering. In fact, two women have started a clothing line celebrating the phrase.

I don't see how it's a positive thing in any way. It's basically saying that it's somehow bad for any woman to ever do better than any man in a physical competition. This is not just insulting to women, it's also not very encouraging to men just starting their journey to fitness.

Source: via Renee on Pinterest

There will almost always be people in a race who are raster than you and usually people who are slower than you, too. This phrase sets the inevitable up as a shameful thing, rather than putting the focus on ourselves to be the best runner we can be. That goal pits men against women. Men and women compete enough in life, can't we make the running community more welcoming and less judgmental?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Childhood Obesity

The discussion about childhood obesity tends to center around the diseases caused by the extra weight. Children getting "adult-onset" diabetes and having other illnesses that many people correlate with middle-age. The topic that doesn't seem to be broached is the number of fat cells and how they will work on a person's weight for the rest of their life.

Not every person has the same number of fat cells in their body. Researchers believe that obese children have up to five times the number of fat cells as other children. The more fat cells a person has, the less leptin the body produces. Leptin boosts metabolism and signals satiety. That means that obese children will have to fight five times as hard as adults to maintain a healthy weight. Possibly harder.

The number of fat cells that you have when you reach adulthood will not change. The size of those cells will change if you gain weight, or lose weight, but the quantity will remain the same. Even if you gain or lose hundreds of pounds, you will not change that number, just the volume. The number can be changed surgically via liposuction, skin removal, breast reduction or similar procedures. This can lead to a problem if there is weight gain after the surgeries. Because the fat cells are no longer distributed throughout the body naturally, the weight gain can appear lopsided and in "odd" locations. No one wants to be shaped like an actual fat cell. (a stuffed one is below.)

This may be difficult news to read for people who were overweight kids. It's sad and unfair that it's going to take more effort for you to lose weight and keep it off than for someone who was thin for their entire childhood. That does not mean it can't be done. With dedication to a healthy lifestyle, you CAN maintain a healthy weight. I do hope this information makes it out to parents to stop brushing off heavy children's extra weight with a, "They'll outgrow it" mentality.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wilma Rudolph

I love that one of the best quotes I have ever found about the power of running is from Wilma Rudolph. She's a true inspiration and really spoke of running eloquently.

Here are some more of her quotes on running and life:

"Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle.

"I loved the feeling of freedom in running, the fresh air, the feeling that the only person I'm competing with is me."

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion. The potential for greatness lives within each of us."

Last Place

Ricky Bobby's dad taught him, "if you're not first, you're last." There may be truth to that adage and It's true that no one remembers the NFL teams that didn't get to the Super Bowl. That doesn't mean that last place finishes can't be inspiring and memorable.

In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, John Stephen Akhwari was running the marathon for Tanzania. He dislocated his knee part-way through the race, but continued on to be the last runner to finish. The next closest runner finished almost 20 minutes ahead of him. When asked why he didn't just stop, he replied, "My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish the race."

Derek Redomond's story from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is another great last-place story. Sadly, I couldn't find a version of the original run with sportscaster's call in English, so I have this one with bad music, but without commentary. Just know that it was his hamstring that caused the problem and his father who helped him finish.

I'm sure that if I looked, I could find more inspiring stories about last-place finishes. Just remember that Ricky Bobby's dad wasn't right and there's no shame at all in finishing last. In fact, a last place finish may make you famous.


Just a friendly reminder. It WON'T be easy. It WILL be worth it.



I love the running community. I find it to be helpful and welcoming like no other group of people I've ever encountered. It is a weird subculture with its own lingo, but they are open to letting anyone join in. All you have to do is show up and try. I've written about this in the past. I felt like I was part of the running community long before I considered myself a runner. I've also heard many people who are fast runners comment on how they admire the people to whom running does not come as easily.

Sadly, that attitude doesn't seem to carry over to the everyone at race day. There are always people who take about 75 minutes to finish a 5K and they usually start about 5-15 minutes after the first runners cross the start line. This means that organizers and volunteers who start cleaning up at 60 minutes after the first runners start are doing so at the same time as these runners are struggling to complete their run. Sometimes, the mid-race and post-race refreshments are not there for the people who might need it most.

It's not just the organizers, either. Some of the early finishers start cutting across the course to get home. You should just wait until everyone is finished, or find a way around without cutting in front of runners. There are other early finishers who decide to run the course a second time. Even on their second pass, they're faster than the late starters, so they end up lapping them.

Before you defend these behaviors, think of how you'd feel if you were the person running the 60 minute race. Maybe that person is trying to lose weight and this is part of that journey. Maybe they have physical limitations that make running difficult. Maybe they're not yet in love with running, but realize that it's a great way to exercise. Are your race-day actions welcoming them to the running community, or making them feel demoralized? Will your actions on race day encourage them to run another 5K, or will you push them to hang up their running shoes?

I am always reminding of the Runner's World profile of Scott Jurek and this line, "The champion has always been beloved for being supportive of the slower, the more easily fatigued, and the less gifted." In the same article, they talk about him not finishing the 24 track race, but coming back at the end to shake the hands of every finisher and congratulate them.

Cirque du Soleil at the Oscars

My favorite part of the Oscars, aside from some of the hilarious acceptance speeches, was the performance by Cirque du Soleil. Someone on Twitter referred to them as the perfect combination of art and athletics. I can't describe it any better than that. They were only on stage for about 4 1/2 minutes, but I must have gasped at least five times during that. There were a few moves that just blew me away with the amount of strength and control required to execute them.

The amazing, gasp-worthy moments started pretty early on. At the 0:38 mark the "Cary Grants" swing themselves up using nothing but core strength.

At 1:55, watch the couple in the back left. They are not hooked up to wires. That's just balance. That leads directly to a man standing up from a full split, without using his hands. I've watched it several times and still not sure how he does it. As if that wasn't enough, he then moves into a ridiculous backward bend balance move that can usually only be done by 89 pound, 14 year old gymnasts. All of this is done while simultaneously removing his shirt and then putting it back on. There is a woman on the opposite side of the stage also doing an impossible balance move, but up on tiny platforms.

I firmly believe that at least one amazing move was missed while some director decided the TV audience needed to see how George Clooney was reacting to the performance. I know he's awesome, but I really didn't need that cut to his face right then. I was gasping again at 3:07 as that woman was swung around.

When it was over, and the applause had died down, Billy Crystal had perhaps his best line of the night when he said, "I pulled a hamstring just watching that."

Healthy in Hollywood

I spent last night watching the Oscars and commenting on dresses, hair and bodies while in the comfort of my living room. One thing I was very happy to see were all the actresses who looked strong and healthy, rather than starved skinny. It's nice to know that the ultimate goal of being a size two is now being achieved through exercise and not the cigarettes and coffee diet. I still wish that the ultimate goal was to be strong and healthy, but this is a step in the right direction.

I know that Stacy Kiebler is more than just George Clooney's latest girlfriend. And I know that she could kick the butt of many people on the red carpet if needed. She grew up as a dancer, but had to get into really great shape to be on the WWE and WCW. (Just because the outcomes are rigged, doesn't mean they're not physically challenging their bodies for entertainment purposes.)

I know that Milla Jovavich doesn't sit around dreaming of food while avoiding it to fit into her dress. Yes, she was blessed with good genes, but no one can kill zombies repeatedly without going to the gym on occasion. Just look at the muscles in her forearm.

I'll end with Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez. Their combined age is 81. You don't look like this after age 40 without a little bit of effort.

I know it seems a bit fantastical, but everyone can achieve the strength that these women possess through some effort. It won't happen overnight, but we can all be strong and beautiful.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Key Info Omitted from Health Class

There are many topics covered in your high school health class: CPR, basic first aid, reproduction and drugs. Those are all perfectly suitable for teenagers to learn. Sadly, there are just as many health issues that should be covered, but aren't. Luckily, Cracked is there to help pick up the pieces. They have 10 lessons, but I want to comment on 2 of them.

Lesson #3 is about how to cook cheap food that won't make you fat. This is something that should be a mandatory part of college orientation. Cheap food is made palatable by making it high in fat and salt. This makes it easy to eat the food and not break the bank, but it will expand your waistline. That's why those cheap burritos are kinda tasty, but not satisfying at all. It will also ruin your palate for years. If you get accustomed to high-fat, high-salt foods, anything that doesn't meet that will not taste "right." It will only be through retraining yourself that you will get back to enjoying food that is quality.

Lesson #4 is that losing weight will involve some level of suffering. I think that suffering is a bit harsh, but the point is valid. You won't lose weight without some effort and struggle. There are no magic pills that will make the fat vanish. You will have to be more active than you are currently and you will have to eat fewer calories than you do now. I highly recommend that you find ways to take in fewer calories without reducing the volume of food tremendously. I also hope you can find ways to move that you find enjoyable. This will eliminate the suffering part of their lesson, and hopefully will make the effort seem as effortless as possible.


Levi's launched the Curve ID jeans line in August 2010, but the advertising hasn't really seemed to fit with the stated goal of the product line. It's designed to fit women's proportions, rather than their size. This should eliminate the choice women make between the gaping waist or bagginess elsewhere.

Unfortunately for Levi's, many of their ads have only focused on women of one size. Even the "curvy" women in the ad are size 6s. I don't have a problem with women who are size 6s, or women who are size 16s. The problem is that the ads and the lines talk about custom fits for women of all shapes and sizes, but the ads don't reflect that. It's a problem with the ad agency, not the product or the models.

In the last Levi's ad I posted, the models are all "plus-sized" with the largest being a size 16. In the real world, those are average women. I am glad they have one ad showing women in larger sizes, but wish they weren't relegated to separate ads.

I'm not the only one to wish for diversity of size in the ads. Some have compared it to the Dove "Real Beauty" ad campaign that uses real women of all ages, sizes and skin colors to promote their products. It's still not perfect, but it's much closer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I know this isn't about fitness, but the refrain still fits. Plus, it would make a great running song. How can you hear this and not want to move more quickly and push through some discomfort?


Weight loss won't lead to happiness. You may experience joy when you hit your goal weight, but it won't transform your life. Your job and day-t0-day life will still be the same, you'll just wear a smaller size while dealing with those things. I firmly believe that the end goal of fitness should be health. If you focus on the positives, your weight will naturally reach a good, healthy level.

I am not alone in this philosophy. Today I read an article from someone who has yo-yo dieted and has finally found happiness in the activity, rather than the number on the scale. She's Nicole Nichols and she's holding the 10 minute sign above.


As I get stronger, faster, fitter, better…I stand taller, feel better about myself and appreciate all that my body has achieved. It propels me to take better care of it. I want this body to carry me through life stronger and healthier. I don't care what I weigh, but I do care how much weight I can lift and how many miles I can run. That says so much more about who I am and what I'm worth than any stupid scale can ever tell me. I don't care what I look like while I'm doing these things—just that I show up and try my hardest.


I highly recommend that you read her entire post on this. It's a good read and may help provide some perspective about the number on the scale.


Regulating the serving size of our food is a key to maintaining a healthy weight. You need to know how big a portion is to understand how many calories you're actually consuming. People tend to underestimate the number of calories they consume in a day. Part of that is lack of understanding of an appropriate portion size. People underestimate their calories by 20-40%. That can add up to a large amount of gained weight over the years.

Luckily, there are products out there to help people with this problem. Some of them are designed for people trying to lose weight, but they can help anyone balance their meals for optimum health.

The Balance Plate has lines to divide your plate into appropriate portion sizes. It comes in several varieties, some more technical than the one I chose to show.

Slimwear comes in several patterns that are subtle in their portion control directions. They look like normal dinner plates, but the pattern tells you how big your portions should be.

The Portion Control Plate is actually a measuring tool that can be used with any plate. Each section had 1/2 and full cup lines. This makes it easy to count calories accurately. Also would work well with Weight Watchers.

There are plenty of other options out there for portion control plates. You can use measuring cups, too. The key is just being aware of what you're eating, so you're not surprised by changes in your weight.

All This and Brains, Too?

It turns out that the work that makes the "all this" portion actually fuels the brain. Fitness doesn't make you a meathead at all. In fact, it seems to make you less of one.

In a review of over 100 studies, it was found that: Aerobic exercise improves ability to coordinate multiple things, long-term planning and your ability to stay on task for extended periods." Resistance training, which is much less studied than the aerobic side of things, improves your ability to focus amid distracters.

The same study review found that regular, moderate exercise reverses age-related shrinking of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation.

A Japanes study done on rats may explain why regular exercise helps the brain. It found that exercise depletes the brain's energy stores, but that post-exercise fuel goes straight to the brain and puts the stores at about 60% of the pre-exertion levels for about a day. If the rats continued to exercise regularly, the 60% increase in energy stores became the new normal. This was especially notable in the hippocampus and cortex.

What these two studies tell us is that the brain can be exercised like any other muscle. The strain of a workout will cause the muscle to adapt to be ready for that challenge the next time it's presented. The next time you're working out, remember that you're not just improving your cardiovascular abilities, but also your ability to remember other parts of your life.

Hard isn't Impossible

You're Not a Dog

Source: via Petra on Pinterest

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Reference this the next time you are procrastinating on your workout.


Every once in a while, I get down on the fact that I'm on the dark side of my 30s and just starting my athletic "career." I wish I had learned to love running when I was a child and had maintained that love, rather than discovering it at 35. I read how some groups already consider me a master runner because of my age when I'm clearly a novice runner because of my ability and history. Then, there are times when I read about someone older than me doing something way more impressive than me and I realize that I'm not old at all.

Today's story was about Janet Evans trying to return to the US Olympic swimming team at the age of 40. She won't be the first woman to attempt to make the Olympic team after the age of 40, but she has missed the last 3 Olympic games. The last time she competed at this level was in 1996 at the Atlanta games. This is a huge effort for her. If she can get to the point that she qualifies for the trials, she is working very, very hard. I know that I can get out there and compete with amateurs.

The other woman to make the US Olympic swim team after age 40 is Dara Torres. In fact, she took three silver medals in the 2008 Beijing games. Torres is also attempting to make the 2012 team. She will be 45 when the Olympics take place this summer in London.

And then there's this lovely woman. If she can still groove like this, I can run and lift some weights.


I have never sacrificed anything for Lent. I have never given up meat on Fridays or sugar for 40 days. I am going to make 2012 the first year I attempt this. I'm simply using the occasion of Lent as a good marker, not suddenly converting religions. As with my fitness philosophy, I will be turning Lent around. I won't be denying myself of something; I will be improving my health through a better diet.

I will eat a cleaner diet. I already eat a diet that involves mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. I rarely use canned or boxed foods. I have even switched over my grain from heavily processed white rice to bulgur or sometimes quinoa. I rarely eat pasta or bread, instead opting for something that is less processed. I will be making sure that everything I eat going forward was something my Great Grandma Adelia would recognize. (Can't believe I found this photo online. Sad I couldn't find any pictures of either of them.)

Splenda is now available, but Adelia never heard of it, so I won't be consuming it. If I want sweetness in my coffee I will be steaming some milk for the flavor without adding chemicals or empty calories. I am not sure if there are any negatives to eating Splenda, but I am aiming for pure and clean, and Splenda is chemically manufactured, so it's out.

I will drink more water. I tend to forget this throughout the day, but it's the easiest way to keep my body working as well as possible. To increase my intake of water, it will be my only beverage, other than coffee in the morning and a cup of tea before bed. No other beverages during meals. I will also be making sure that I take my vitamins. I need to make sure I take my calcium every day, along with Vitamin D. These are vitamins that all women should be taking. Because of my personal issue with absorbing vitamin B-12 from foods, I will make sure to take a supplement of that every day.

I will eat only non-processed foods. I already am pretty close to this and am really proud of how improved my diet is over this point last year. Much of this I credit to the Weight Watchers plan. The less processed a food is, the fewer points it is. When you only get 26 points in a day and a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is 24 points, you learn to eat better. I will be improving it even more over the next 40 days. That means no bread or pasta until Easter. Even after that point, I will try to limit them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We all do it. And it's not just eyeballing people we want to date. More often than not, we ogle people we envy. People we wish we were more like.

It's not just people who are heavy doing the envying, either. Please check out the rest of the comic. This is just the first panel. I promise you that The Oatmeal won't dissapoint.