The virus that shut down the world!

When you live your life in fear, you are afraid until you die.

THE VIRUS

I’m a few hours late posting today’s blog. Honestly, I was struggling whether or not to even post it, because it reflects my personal opinion, and may generate a bit of a backlash due to its controversial nature.

You may have seen Venn diagrams before, though you might not have known what they were called. In a Venn diagram, you group items in two or more  circles, and if they have anything in common, the circles overlap.  It is a way of listing interrelated  content to show how things connect.

Venn-Diagram

When I started writing my weekly blog InstantCoffeeWisdom.com it was with the intent of demonstrating that success and happiness are yours for the taking. A way of  showing you ‘the possible’ where you only saw ‘impossible’. These weekly articles are a sort of a series of interlocking Venn diagrams.  I started out writing about microeconomics, built up to macroeconomics, then discussed how your views on finance, religion and politics are connected.   Since the beginning of the 2020, I’ve been focusing on how your health is interconnected to your finances.  

Which brings us to the elephant in the room, Covid-19. I honestly do not want to write about the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but if there is a bigger Venn diagram linking health, wealth, politics, etc, I certainly can’t think of one. Because Covid-19 is such a hot-button topic impacting every major country on Earth, I feel a duty to my readers to discuss the subject.  You may not like what I have to say.

Full disclosure: I am a Trump supporter, and I am of the opinion that the virus is being politicized. By that I mean that the liberal media is using it to stoke fear,  to spread misinformation, and  to make President Trump look bad in the eyes of voters in a effort to deny him a second term. This is an election year.

If you hate Trump, nothing he says or does will ever be good, right, or intelligent. Nothing I say on this subject will change the way YOU feel.  Likewise, bashing Trump will not go over well with me. I support my president 100% and no person on Earth is more qualified to lead the USA during this crisis.   Whether you chose to believe it or not, President Donald J. Trump cares about you and your country, and is doing everything in your best interest.    

Yes, I am ‘concerned’ about Covid-19, but I am more concerned by the economic ramifications than I am by the health implications. Covid-19 ‘can’ kill you, but so can the flu and countless other diseases.

It is my personal conviction that the very best way to beat this disease is to be healthy enough in the first place by living a healthy active lifestyle.

Worldwide over 650,000 people have gotten Covid-19. 30,000 have died, but 100,000 have fully recovered.  In the USA we have over 100,000 confirmed cases, and less than 2,000 deaths. The US population is 330,000,000. Some  smaller countries like Italy have been harder hit. Yes Covid-19 is highly contagious, so if YOU are sick  you need to self-quarantine. Same goes if you have a weak immunity system. Stay home.  From my perspective, the percentage of getting the virus is so small, and the chances of dying so small that I’m not worried .  Everyone of us is going to die from something, someday. By having a healthy active lifestyle, we increase our chances of living a long and productive life. No matter what precautions we take, risks we dare, or calculations we make, NOTHING is guaranteed in life.  I refuse to let fear run my life. God is in control.

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I have co-workers and friends who are freaking out with worry and blind panic over this disease. If you accidently sneeze or  cough,  you are treated like you’re trying to kill them.  They wear masks and rubber gloves, and I keep waiting for one of them to show up wearing a full hazmat containment suit one day.  I don’t wear either gloves or a mask, and maybe I’ll use hand sanitizer once or twice a year on a whim. I certainly don’t bathe in gallons of the stuff like the people around me are doing right now. Either I’m right, or I’m wrong. Ask me next year how I made out.   

There’s an epidemic of what I call ‘well-shaming’ and ‘single-shaming’ going on. If you’re healthy and well, you’re being told that you’re asymptomatic and just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus, so YOU should stay home so THEY can be safe.   And if you’re single and well, you’re being told the same thing, that YOU should stay home so that THEIR family will be safe.  If YOU are worried that I MAY infect YOU, by all means please stay as far away from me as makes you feel safe for as long as you need to.  If you are immune compromised with a weak immune system you need to be very careful with everything YOU do  and YOU need to take every precaution that YOU need to take to ensure that YOU don’t get the virus. I want you to be happy and healthy.  Don’t worry about me, I’m fine, and I am doing what I think is right for me.  Just don’t tell me what you FEEL I SHOULD be doing, because I just may tell you WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO!  This is still a free country.

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LET’S TALK HYGIENE!

Proper hygiene is essential to good health. As the old saying goes, ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’. You should always practice good hygiene, pandemic or no pandemic.

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after going to the restroom, or before handling food.
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing,  use a tissue if you have one handy.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used items and surfaces.
  • Bathe daily
  • Wear clean clothes
  • If you’re sick, stay home!

I’M ALL OUTTA BUBBLEGUM!

Aside from illness, the Covid-19 panic has lead to widespread shortages as people began hoarding various goods.  Most Americans have never faced such widespread shortages of needed groceries, shut downs of shops and services not deemed essential. We are not used to being told NOT to go to church, not to travel, not to gather socially. The last time we had nationwide rationing of foodstuffs was probably during World War II. It’s certainly the first time in my lifetime that the nation has been virtually locked down. 

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Again, if you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you may recall my early article Oh no! Not Again! from October 22, 2017. If you followed my advice, you had a fully stocked larder with plenty of supplies to fall back upon. You had cash reserves to see you through as businesses closed under government orders, and people were told to stay home.  

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If you failed to follow my advice, sorry, but I did try to warn you. My heart bleeds for the single mom struggling to make ends meet who went to buy the ONE pack of diapers she desperately needed only to find bare shelves. Or the person that needed toilet paper, and tried pleading for ONE pack with a greedy hoarder who filled their shopping cart with every last roll on the shelves. These people never expected to encounter these types of shortages.  It’s like telling little Billy not to touch the hot stove, only to hear an ear-splitting wail of pain not five minutes later. Pain is a powerful teacher . It is sad and unfortunate that some people must experience hardship in order to learn valuable life lessons. Things will get better, most of us will be just fine.  Some of us will sail through this unscathed, and some of us are going to suffer either because we filed to do the right thing at the right time.   

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Fortunately On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, a relief package aimed at mitigating some of the economic fallout caused by efforts to allay the spread of Covid-19. Employees furloughed, laid off, or fired will begin receiving a onetime stimulus  check to help tide them over.  Retirees will be getting checks also according to AARP.  Payments may be arriving as early as this Monday for some.   The quicker that people get back to work, the faster life will get back to normal. The longer business are shut down, the less likely they will be able to ever open their doors again. There are provisions in the CARES Act which will provide business both small and large with government loans. Hopefully the country will heal as a nation and become stronger. Hopefully people will learn from their mistakes and be better prepared for the next disaster. We hope for the best, but should prepare for the worst. As always I wish you success and happiness!   

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THE RIGHT STUFF!

Health begins with proper nutrition!

THE RIGHT STUFF

The Right Stuff is the title of an award winning 1979 book written by Tom Wolfe about the early test pilots who were selected for the Mercury program to be the first American Astronauts. It was later adapted as a movie in 1983 starring Ed Harris and Scott Glenn. America’s first astronauts were the finest specimens of humanity of their era. Physically and mentally fit with bodies of iron and nerves of steel, these men literally went  where no man had gone before. I’m not being sexist, at the dawn of the USA’s space program, it was exclusively a ‘boys club’. Russia sent the first woman to space , cosmonaut  Valentina Tereshkova  in the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963. The US finally followed suit more than two decades later when the first female American astronaut Sally Ride flew up on the Challenger space shuttle, on June 18th, 1983.

The point is, these early space pioneers achieved the pinnacle of human health WITHOUT the  hundreds of nutritional supplements being marketed today. The vast majority of these so-called ‘Elixirs of Life‘ really are little more than ‘snake oil’ which is an old term for any worthless concoction sold as a cure-all or medicine.  So how did these men get so healthy you might ask? Simple, they ate right and exercised.

There is no ‘magic pill’. Diet pills are short-term fixes that work briefly and you usually gain back all the weight lost quite rapidly once you stop taking them. If you do keep taking them long term, they cause side effects and your body begins to build up a tolerance so that any benefits that may have been there in the beginning are lost at the end.  Worse yet,  every time you introduce a new drug into your body, whether it’s herbal,  natural, pharmaceutical, or chemical, you are altering the biochemistry of your body and wrecking your metabolism.  In essence, you’re making it harder for your body to function the way God intended it to work. ( The power that made the body has the power to heal the body, within reason, and  over time.)    

Save your money, and stick to the these seven essential nutrients :

Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.  

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The key is, based upon your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, you will need to have the RIGHT AMOUNTS of THE RIGHT STUFF.  It’s like trying to keep seven plates spinning on the tips of sticks. You have to do the work, put in the time, and monitor the situation carefully or it all comes crashing down.

It took me YEARS of trying and failing and trying AGAIN to find the RIGHT combination of diet and exercise that works for ME. Three years ago, I weighed 75-80 lbs. more than I do today. I could not run a mile. Now I can run more than thirteen miles, and I’m slowly working my way up towards running a full marathon in November. A full marathon is 26.2 miles. I am healthier then I have been probably since before I was in college. I certainly was thinner and younger then, but I wasn’t this strong, and running a marathon was the furthest thing from my young,  college mind.  I still have ways to go, but I am improving,  I am on the path, and I am sticking to the plan. It’s a journey, NOT a destination.

So HOW MUCH is enough?

Let’s start simple.

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Water, pure clean water.

Your body is mostly water. Overall, it comprises about two-thirds of our body.

The average adult needs to drink about 8 glasses of water per day. That’s 64 oz. total or almost two liters if you live outside the US and use the metric system. If you are a professional athlete, or exerting under high heat you might need to double that amount. The key is to maintain your body’s normal level of hydration and replaces any water lost due to sweat, urination, or breath.

Next, We look at protein, fats, and carbs. These BIG three comprise the bulk of our food.

According to the Standard American Diet or SAD, the daily amount of calories needed is between 2000 and 2500. It varies from individual to individual, again based on size, gender, and age. Most nutritional labels do go with the 2000 calories. (Some experts recommend up to 2500.)    
Food is FUEL to an athlete. You need to eat food to live, you should never, ever live just to eat food. Yes, we all have that Pavlovian  response when thinking of our favorite foods, but food is simply just fuel for the body.

According to the 40-30-30 diet rule, aka The Zone Diet, 40% of our daily calorie intake should be from carbs, with the rest split equally between fats and protein. Again if you are an athlete trying to build muscle, you may want to switch that 40% to protein, and cut the carbs down to 30%.

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Carbohydrates (carbs)

Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex. You DO need both. Complex carbs need to be broken down by the body before being burned as fuel or stored as fat.

Fats

Fats naturally come in two varieties, saturated, and unsaturated.  A ‘THIRD’ type of fats are so-called transfats.  Transfats  are NOT naturally occurring and are man-made in a lab. Avoid transfats at all costs! Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and tend to come from animal sources. An example is butter made from milk. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are plant based.  You want the majority of your fats to be unsaturated, but you do need some saturated fats in your diet as well. The jury is still out on exactly how much you  need, but best to keep the saturated fats to a bare minimum.

Protein

The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.  Again athletes require greater amounts of protein to build lean muscle, which in turn stokes their metabolism allowing them to burn fats and carbohydrates faster and more efficiently.    

Protein can come from either plant or animal sources. Plant proteins tend to be incomplete proteins, with a few exceptions like buckwheat, quinoa, hempseed, and soybeans. Protein is comprised of 20 amino acids; 11 of these amino acids are produced by the human body. For good health, we must get the other nine amino acids (called “essential amino acids”) from the foods we eat.  Since animal bodies work the same way human bodies do, meat is a complete protein.  

Dietary Fiber

Dietary Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and it improves digestion and lowers blood sugar. Insoluble fiber aids with excretion.

Everything Else

This just leaves us with vitamins and minerals. There are 19 essentials on that list:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine or Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium.
  • Chromium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin K
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Again, as for how much of each of these you actually need, going with the US FDA recommended daily allowances is a safe bet. Look them up online, or read the back of most multivitamins for the amounts of each.  Some of these will pass harmlessly through your body if you decide to mega-dose, and you’ll just end up producing expensive urine. Others can store up in your body and reach toxic levels. For example, too much potassium in your blood will KILL you!

Almost every nutrient you just read about should be present in your diet IF you eat a healthy diet of whole foods and have a decent variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains mixed in with your choice of proteins and fats. Always remember that the absolute best thing you can ever drink is pure, clean  water.

By sticking with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program, you will give your body all the tools it needs to maintain proper function. Your immune system will operate at peak efficiency and you will avoid many illnesses and medical expenses. There are no guarantees in life, sometimes you will get sick despite doing all the right things. But, your chances are far better when you do the right things and stick with the right stuff!

As always, I wish you success and happiness!   

CUTTING THE FAT!

‘The Skinny’ on diet pills!

CUTTING THE FAT

(This is part two of a two part series on nutritional supplements. For part one read ELIXIRS OF LIFE?)

Of the more than $30 billion annually in the USA on dietary supplements, the majority on the purchases are spent on  weight-loss products.  An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend actually $33 billion each year on weight loss products when you start to include things like diet-foods and diet beverages. Most of this money is completely wasted.

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As with other nutritional supplements, Weight loss supplements come in three forms: pills, powders, and liquids.

Although vitamins weren’t discoverer until 1912 and only started being marketed in 1915, weight loss supplements actually precede vitamins by decades, having been first sold in the late 1880’s. Being overweight is not an illness, BUT is a health problem which can lead to many other health complications including various illness such as diabetes and heart disease.  Additionally, carrying excessive amounts of weight on your body will also lead to depression and an early grave.

When people think of weight loss supplements, diet pills are the first thing that comes to mind. As most of these products come in pill form, we will use the terms ‘diet pills’ and ‘weight loss supplements’ interchangeably throughout this article.  

Diet pills are sold two ways, by doctor prescription, or over-the-counter. They all have side-effects, and most are not intended for long term use because they can lead to other serious health issues such as heart-attacks, stroke, seizures and death. Years ago, a weight-loss bar I was eating regularly, the ABB EXTREME RIPPED FORCE bar which contained a combination of caffeine and (the now-banned) ephedra had that very disclaimer. I decided I’d rather be dead than fat so the warning was of little concern to me.

Some of these pills can be addictive, and all of them loose their effectiveness over time as your body builds up a tolerance to the active ingredients. Many of the products contain caffeine as an ingredient.     

Four prescription weight-loss drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term use: bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave), liraglutide (Saxenda), orlistat (Xenical) and phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia).

The non-prescription diet pills sold over-the-counter are too numerous to list, but they come in four categories:

  • Appetite suppressants
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Thermogenics (fat burners)
  • Metabolism Boosters  (stimulants)

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Over-the-counter weight-loss-pills are mostly herbal supplements usually containing any or all of the following :

  • Garcinia cambogia (recently pulled from shelves)
  • Glucomannan
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Raspberry ketones
  • Forskolin
  • Chromium
  • Green tea
  • Bee pollen
  • Maroon bush
  • Damiana
  • Alfalfa
  • Butcher’s broom
  • Olive leaf
  • Parsley
  • Green tea
  • Dandelion
  • Mate

They may or may not contain caffeine, and / or similar stimulants, and may or may not be fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, usually in the form of a proprietary blend that is purported to help you lose weight fast!

“Running is real and relatively simple…but it ain’t easy.” ­– Mark Will-Weber

By the numbers

  • A pound of fat is 3500 calories.
  • The Standard American Diet (SAD) is 2000-2500 calories a day.
  • A slice of cheese pizza is about 250 calories.
  • A McDonald’s Big Mac is 563 calories.
  • On average a 5K run will burn between 300 and 400 calories.
  • The fattest man who ever lived was Jon Brower Minnoch who at one point weighed 1,400 lbs. He died in 1983 just short of his 42nd birthday.

Men were meant to climb mountains NOT become mountains. I am NOT endorsing fat-shaming.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to fully enjoy life in such a disgusting condition. There is a reason the term is morbidly obese. IF you are carrying a few extra pounds, know that I too have struggled with my weight for years before I hit upon the proper combination of diet and exercise that worked for me. Notice I said diet, not diet-pills.  I am still overweight, but in the past three years I have lost 75lbs and I can run faster and further than I ever have before.  A few weeks ago, I ran up a small mountain with friends, and today if it doesn’t rain I will be going for a 10K (6.2 mile) run with some of those same friends, just  for fun.

The diet pills are placebos. If you are losing weight fast you’re losing water weight, not burning fat.  

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The ONLY proven way to reduce weight is through diet. Eat REAL food, not DIET food. Don’t drink DIET soda, drink WATER. Water is one of the seven essential nutrients your body needs. Jesus had water, he didn’t need Diet Mountain Dew.

It is also impossible to lose weight by exercising. Exercising is VERY important and works in conjunction with a healthy diet. Exercising tones and builds muscles. Increasing muscle mass will increase your metabolism, BUT you can gain calories faster by eating then you can burn them off by exercising, so dieting is the key. There is no magic pill. As always I wish you success and happiness!  

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ELIXIRS OF LIFE?

Or Snake Oil?

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(This is part one of a two part series on nutritional supplements.)

If you’ve ever walked into one of the vitamin store chains, you’ve seen dozens of shelves filled with thousands of bottles or packages of nutritional supplements from hundreds of manufacturers. Aside from things like protein bars or meal-replacement bars, these supplements come in three forms. Pills, powders, or liquids.  

The first thought which may have crossed your mind is do I need ALL this to be healthy and strong? The answer is YES, and NO.  No one pill can supply all the nutrients found in wholesome foods.

Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on dietary supplements — vitamins, minerals and herbal products, among others — many of which are unnecessary or of doubtful benefit to those taking them.

Let’s be logical about this. If you REALLY needed a bottle of everything sold in the health store,  you would not be able to afford to buy a bottle of everything sold, and even IF you actually could buy a bottle of everything , taking that many pills at once would either make you very sick, or very dead. So what DO you really need?

Every human being requires seven essential nutrients to ensure life and long-term health.

Depending on your body type, age, and sex, you will need different quantities of the seven nutrients at different times of the day, in differing amounts.  Eating too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times will have disastrous health implications.  The same can be said of not getting enough of the right nutrients in your diet.

These seven nutrients are:

 Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.  

To simplify it even further nutrition = food = fuel. All food is composed of one or more of these seven nutrients. It’s that simple. The proper balance is the tricky part. Some foods are higher in nutritional value, while others are really bad for the body.  A candy bar may have the same amount of calories as a piece of fruit, but the fruit is better even if the candy tastes sweeter.  We only NEED ‘nutritional supplements’ when the food we are eating fails to supply what is actually needed. This is when some people turn to vitamins and other pills to meet their needs.    

What may REALLY surprise you is that vitamins as we know then have only been discovered just over a hundred years ago. The word for them didn’t even exist until 1914. Here’s a little history.

In 1912 scientist Gowland Hopkins presented the first evidence that lack of certain nutrients in a person’s diet  could be harmful. He discovered the existence of what came to be known as ‘Vitamin A’, which is essential for good eyesight.  A year prior in 1911, fellow scientist Casimir Funk had isolated a previously unknown nutrient  from rice polishings. This unknown nutrient became known as ‘Vitamin B’ The term ‘Vitamin’ itself was coined by Casimir Funk as a contraction of the words vital and amine. Amines are organic compounds derived from ammonia  when hydrogen atoms are replaced by hydrocarbons or other radicals.

The first person to formulate vitamins in the US was Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee. Shaklee introduced a product he dubbed “Shaklee’s Vitalized Minerals” in 1915 which he sold until adopting the now ubiquitous term “vitamin” in 1929.

In 1940 One A Day multivitamins were first sold.

In 1968 Flintstones Chewable Vitamins were introduced to encourage children to get their essential vitamins.

In 1976 the now-defunct conglomerate American Cyanamid started manufacturing Centrum Multivitamins.

( The Centrum brand and its parent company went through several acquisitions until it ultimately became the property of Pfizer in 2009. Centrum was originally marketed as having 100% of the essential vitamins your body needed from A to Zinc. It is still the most sold multivitamin in the world.)

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Your body DOES need vitamins, but you should be able to get those eating proper foods, not pills!   

The 13 essential vitamins your body needs are vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). The four fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K—are stored in the body’s fatty tissues.

What  about massive doses?

Every one of those vitamin , mineral, or herbal pills sold in most health stores or direct from the manufacturer falls under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 which regulated the market, more or less. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has a listing of the recommended daily allotments (RDA) which according to the government is exactly what we need. Whenever the government starts dictating how you live your life, it’s a bad thing. To err is human, but government intervention is the way to really screw things up. (Consider how many times they’ve re-designed the Food Pyramid Chart for one example.)

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While you are free to buy whatever supplement you wish off the shelves, understand that many of these products do not have to go through the same screening process as actual medicine does.  This is why you can buy vitamins and supplements that boast massive percentages that exceeded the recommended daily allowance.  (The mega multi-vitamin I personally take vegetarian Natures Plus Source of Life lists it’s B12 as having 16,667% of the RDA.)   

The supplement only needs to list the ingredients, the ratio percentage compared to the FDA’s daily recommendation, and the disclaimers that the product MAY help with this condition or symptom, but is NOT intended to  treat, cure, or prevent  any condition, symptom, or disease.  So basically, you are experimenting on your body with questionable substances which may or may not work at all, and could turn out to be harmful in the long term. (Remember when the FDA banned the dietary supplement ephedra in 2004, AFTER 155 deaths, and most recently began issuing warnings about garcinia cambogia supplements.)

If you find a product that you use, and it really makes you feel better and it works,  great! Continue using it, at your own risk. There are several supplements that I swear by because they work for me, and there are many others that I have tried and given up on as being of little benefit. Most of the time, you are wasting your hard earned money and you will never know in the short term if any of the supplements ever really helped at all. If you live to a ripe old age, maybe it was the because of the supplements, or maybe it was just good genes.

Chew over that and come back next week for part two  CUTTING THE FAT! The Skinny on diet pills!

As always I wish you success and happiness!      

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A SMALL MOUNTAIN…

Is STILL a mountain!

a small mountain

Climb every mountain

Ford every stream

Follow every rainbow

‘Till you find your dream– Lyrics from the song Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music.

Last Sunday February 23rd 2020, due to an unexpected event there was no weekly article posted on my blog. It was maybe the 3rd or 4th time that this has happened since I began writing InstantCoffeeWisdom three years ago. To my frequent and long-time readers, I offer an apology, and an explanation.

Every now and then, life throws you a curve ball. Something you never expect. Sometimes it can be a bad thing, but sometimes it can be an unexpected and pleasant surprise.  This was the latter.  I was originally working on an article concerning nutritional supplements (which will now be posted next week, bumped by this article) when one of my running friends gave me a surprise gift.  Accepting this gift meant dropping everything I was doing, and being a little selfish to spend time with my friends. I feel bad for disappointing my dedicated readers like Ken, and  especially those who check-in from foreign countries like Romania, England and Canada.  I am always amazed that I have readers in other countries. The internet can be a wonderful thing, but I digress!

One of the items in my bucket list is training for a marathon. I have been putting in a lot of time running both at the gym on a treadmill, and in official timed races of various distances. Registration for official race events costs money, and as I planned 24 of them this year I had to pick and choose as well as budget accordingly to be able to afford to pay for my fitness hobby.  The point I have been stressing this year is that your Health is your Wealth, and vice-versa. What is the point of becoming rich, only to be too sickly and infirm to enjoy the fruit of your labors? The point of life is to enjoy it!

Gary Brendel, a friend who is part my pack of runners  wanted to run in The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run and he asked if I was going. This was a race that I had skipped. I told him that I had limited funds and had to pass because I couldn’t afford the extra race with all the others I had lined up.  Gary told me he would pick up the tab for my registration. I was stunned! It was such a wonderful gift and a generous surprise that to refuse would have been rude. It is very nice to know that when times are lean, you have friends who have your back. Gary is also planning on running in the Philly Marathon with me in November, and my other friend Steve will run the half that same day. Additionally, Gary also convinced another mutual friend, Alison Riley to run with us in The Ugly Mudder. Alison is a novice runner who believed that she was only able to run 5K (3.1 miles). This was her first ever 13K (8.078 miles) and she did amazing!  Like the Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, ” As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

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 One Ugly Mudder!

The name ‘Ugly Mudder’ is a play on words. It is a near homonym for ‘Ugly Mother’. A Mudder is a race horse that runs faster on a muddy track. This was the logo for this year’s commemorative  t-shirt.

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The character depicted is reminiscent of Baba Yaga , the pestle wielding witch from Slavic folklore who would kill and eat unfortunate travelers who got lost in the woods. Baba Yaga was most likely an influence  for the fictional Blair Witch in the 1999 horror film, The Blair Witch Project.  

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The 17th annual event was timed by Pretzel City Sports. PCS was founded in 1987 by the awesome Ron Horn and they help many regional organizations such as The Pagoda Pacers hold races.

As for the race itself,  The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run is a foot-race up Mount Penn on some of the ugliest, treacherous, and muddy trails imaginable. Mount Penn is a 1,120-foot-high mountain that rises to the north and overlooks the city of Reading PA.  It’s a little mountain, but a mountain is still a mountain. For comparison the tallest mountain in Romania is Moldoveanu Peak at 8,346-feet , which is slightly taller than Omu at 8,219-feet, also located in Romania.  The tallest mountain in England is Scafell Pike at 3,209-feet.  In case you may be wondering, the tallest mountain in North America is Denali in the USA in the state of Alaska. At 20,237-foot, it is also the third tallest on Earth.

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There are two large structures visible on Mount Penn.  One is the William Penn Fire Tower. This imposing stone and reinforced concrete tower is 120 feet tall and is situated on Skyline Drive. The 120-ft.-tall former fire observation tower was built in 1939 for $30,000. A lighted Cross on the tower was forcibly removed in 2009 by God-hating atheists who threatened a lawsuit because the Cross reminded them that they had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.    

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One mile from the Fire Tower is Reading’s landmark Pagoda, the symbol of the city for over a century.

Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. , the Pagoda was completed in 1908.  It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop Mt. Penn, but due a bank foreclosure after the denial of his liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda.  By 1910 the Pagoda and its surrounding 10 acres of land were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia (Bell).  On April 21, 1911 they “sold” the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1.  Since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.

The Pagoda is 28 feet (8.5 m) wide, 50 feet (15 m) long, and 72 feet (22 m) tall and located at  98 Duryea Dr. Reading, PA.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 anti-Japanese sentiment nearly caused the building to be torn down. Cooler-heads claimed that the building was actually not Japanese, but a Korean Pagoda, so the Pagoda was spared.  (FYI– a Korean Pagoda is usually built entirely out of stone, and is slightly different looking than the Reading Pagoda which is clearly based on a Japanese design. Thank God there was also no internet in 1941. LOL. )

As for the course itself, it was rocky and treacherous, not to mention uphill and muddy at places. There was a little patch of ice easily negotiable just before the finish line.  You just knew it was going to be a rough trail when a priest was running in case someone needed Last Rites.

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The humorous description and cautionary words from the promotional e-mail flier are as follows:

The same thing happened to most of the trails used in the Ugly Mudder. Once, they were bucolic hiking trails used by courting couples, families with kids, dog walkers, etc. And then heavy storms took away their topsoil, lack of use resulted in wild indigenous plants growing across the path, erosion left huge gullies in them that twist ankles and make then unsuitable for biking, etc. And what we have left are trails that are so misshapen and un-navigable that they can ONLY be used for the Ugly Mudder. The Ugly Mudder is a mishmash of ups & downs, fallen logs, debris, rocks & roots, discarded household items, deer poop and urban relics.  To offset this misery, Pretzel City Sports provides a bunch of “perks” at the event including a great post race party with a free breakfast, funny signs on trail to ease your pain, unusual aide stations with equally unusual beverages, cold volunteers that will treat YOU even “colder”, great course markings & other niceties that has made this, on several occasions, one of the 5 largest rustic trail runs in the entire country & the largest East of the Mississippi. In fact, annually, 99.9% of its participants live to run another day so how hard can it be?  Come join the 250-400 people each year that REFUSE to let ankle deep snow, sub-zero temps and a few rocks & roots turn them into mega-weenies, candybutts or, worst of all, “Bachelor/Bachelorette Fans”. LEGAL B.S: You RUN AT YOUR OWN RISK & you alone are responsible for your welfare at all times while racing!! You SHOULD finish this race unscathed other than from frostbite & snot frozen to your face. But if you DO get a boo-boo, crawl to an aide station so we can pick you up in a warm car. You WON’T get lost; it’s marked that well!  But if you STILL manage to do so, ask someone how to Uber to Stokesay Castle; the finish is right next door. Since this is a mid-level challenge, people discouraged from coming are

  1. those under 18 (15-17 yr olds OK with parent present-14 or below MUST have someone run with them)

  2. anyone, other than a current employee, who will miss K-mart and

  3. people who religiously “eat clean” because we ALL need Oreos and  they’re about as far from “clean” as a food group can be. And also DAMN yummy!

In case you’re wondering about the funny signs, I took pictures of them all as I ran. They ran in FOUR series each spaced about 2 miles apart ,and  started with a warning:

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  • WARNING! BE PREPARED FOR…
  • THE SHITTIEST 8.078 MILES
  • YOU’LL EVER RUN (IF YOU CALL THIS RUNNING)

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  • LOTS OF “DOWNHILL” COMING UP
  • AFTER YOU FINISH THIS “RIDGE FROM HELL”

  • THERE HAVE BEEN MORE DEMOCRATS
  • RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
  • THAN WE HAVE ENTRIES IN OUR CLYDESDALE DIVISION
  • MAY MEAN THAT WE THAT WE HAVE LESS “FULL” PEOPLE IN THESE PARTS
  • THAN WE HAVE PEOPLE “FULL OF THEMSELVES”

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  • WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP
  • AND WE REALLY MEAN “UP”!

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At the last water station, they also had shots of whisky to anyone who needed calm their nerves after surviving this harrowing experience.

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Yeah it was quite the challenge, and this was only the second trail run I have done. Of the three of us, Gary finished first . Alison twisted her ankle on the rocks half-way, but was able to walk-off the injury and finished ahead of me. I’m a Clydesdale, so I tend to run slower, plus I took pictures. I did NOT finish last, and my pace from my first trail run had improved so I am getting faster which makes me happy. Progress is progress, and slow and steady wins the race!  

The best part was my friends waiting for me at the finish line.

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!

DUST AND THIRST!

Success requires both!

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I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down…– Lyrics from the song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

Sir Richard Branson is one of my role models. I admire the man, he is an inspiration although I do not agree with him politically. Everyone is entitled to their personal opinions.  One of the goals in HIS bucket list is to go into space. When I was in elementary school, that was something I wanted to do as well. When I was a young boy, the only people who actually went into space were astronauts.  That goal is a very high bar which I abandoned in high school for various reason.  

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As of February 2020, the world population is about 7.7 billion people. In the history of the world ONLY 536 people have gone into space. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was the first man in space.  The first woman in space was also a Russian cosmonaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova  (6 March 1937–). When you raise the bar from just going into space to going to the moon, only 12 men have ever walked on the moon,  astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was the first to do it on July 20th, 1969. In case you’re wondering, the last man to walk on the moon was Eugene Cernan  in December  1972. The oldest person to go back into space was John Glenn (77 years and 103 days old) when  he ventured into space once again aboard the space shuttle Discovery on STS-95 in 1998. John Glenn could not have gone back into space had he not maintained a lifelong discipline of healthy diet and exercise.

The Sky’s the limit!

Sir Richard Branson has an excellent chance of going into space because not only does he maintain a healthy diet and exercise regiment, he’s attempting to create a space tourism company Virgin Galactic, and is currently funding and building reusable space planes. Fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are also pursing similar ventures with SpaceX and Blue Origin, respectively.  There are over 2000 billionaires on Earth, and they pretty much collectively own everything. With a bottomless bucket of health, wealth, and knowledge at your disposal, you can accomplish damn near anything you set your mind to. If it’s possible, it will happen! It’s only a matter of time.

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Now here’s the key to success. All of these billionaires started small. Richard Branson opened a record shop. Jeff Bezos sold books on the internet from his garage,  Elon Musk was a co-founder of PayPal.  At one point or another, each of these  people encountered failures and setbacks. Their thirst for success enabled them to dust themselves off, pick up where they left off, and begin again. Each successful and completed goal lead to bigger and better dreams, and those dreams became reality because they took a chance and started something.

In life you have choices to make every day. Most of the time, you will make the wrong decision. Knowledge and experience will reduce the tendency to guess wrongly, but you will never be able to totally eliminate mistakes and human error. If you quit every time you fail, you will never accomplish anything. If you do not make plans, nothing will happen. If you do not do the work, it will not get done.  No one is going to live your life for you. YOU have to make it happen! YOU have to make the plans and do the work. YOU, and ONLY YOU. There will be mistakes and setbacks. DO NOT QUIT! You have to have the thirst for success and the wherewithal  to accomplish your goals. They will require your health, wealth, and knowledge to be top-notch. You have to be strong in all three areas, and you can’t fake strong.  Do not sabotage your success by starting ludicrous goals. Start SMALL and build your strengths, then move on to bigger and better.

It is my ULTIMATE goal as a runner to run an ultra-marathon. If I would have started my first race with a marathon, I would never have accomplished that goal, and I probably would have sustained serious injury or death . My first official race was a 5K run, and I kept building up distances, and training between races. I started training months before I ran my first 5K on April 28th 2019. I ran 11 official races last year. This year I have so far run 2, and have another 22 slated by the end of the year. This does not even take into account the time at the gym running 5K after work, between races.    My first marathon is scheduled for November 22th, 2020, months from now. I will run FIVE half-marathons, Three 15Ks and about a dozen 5Ks between now and then. All the while dieting and cross-training. And at the end of NEXT YEAR, I will attempt an ULTRA if and only if I make it through this first marathon. 

There are long-term goals, and there are short-term goals. Bigger and better means starting, and starting small. Great things come from humble beginnings.  You just have to start somewhere, so hit the road because your journey begins today! As always I wish you success and happiness!

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JUST ANOTHER DROP IN THE BUCKET!

What’s on your list?

JUST ANOTHER DROP

“Coming up with the list is the easy part, but ticking off the list is the challenge. I love a good challenge, which is why I strongly advise everyone to come up with a bucket list. It doesn’t have to contain out of this world tasks (although going to space is on mine). But once you have written down the list, screw it, just do it!”– Sir Richard Branson

Words have power. The power to shape lives, the power to alter destinies.  Often the things we say to others live on long after we have said them, or forgotten that we said them in the first place.  When I was in college, a well-timed conversation with a professor altered my entire life by his simply convincing me to sign up for a class I was intending to skip.  That class was The Bible as Literature, and I became a Christian as a result.  Years later when I was in a dark place after a personal setback, another caring friend took time to offer sage advice and words of wisdom. Once again a well-timed conversation was enough to provide the fuel needed to ‘keep me in the race’ when I was ‘Running on Empty‘.

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” –Kobe Bryant

Just as I owe a lot to that college professor Steve Miller, I owe an equal if not greater debt to my very good friend Lawrence M. Schoen for saying what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I spoke with Lawrence on the phone two weeks ago, and he called me an ‘inspiration’ because of my ongoing marathon training.  I found this very ironic. Lawrence is currently undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma and is in isolation in a hospital cancer ward.  He remains upbeat and positive despite unimaginable pain and suffering as he fights to beat this terrible illness. That outshines any source of inspiration I can provide.  I wish I had half his strength, and I pray for him every day as he battles this cancer.

“Live life ,  live life like you’re gonna die, because you’re gonna…” – William Shatner

Life is not fair, and there are no guarantees. Whatever life tosses at you, you must face it head on, with gusto! Everyone of us is dying,  but few choose to ‘live’ life, choosing instead to merely exist.  In the 2007 movie The Bucket List, two men from very different walks of life meet in a cancer ward.  Jack Nicholson  plays Billionaire Edward Cole,  and scholarly auto-mechanic Carter Chambers is played by Morgan Freeman. An unlikely friendship blossoms between the two dying men  as they set out to fulfill a joint bucket list.  This fictional story has its fair share of both funny and sad moments, and if you haven’t watched the film I recommend it.

Carpe diem!  

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Bucket lists are supposed to be filled with important life goals one wishes to fulfill before they ‘kick the bucket’, an old slang term meaning to die. Unfortunately many people never pursue these goals, instead choosing to live a bland existence discussing pipe dreams that they will do ‘someday’. ‘Someday’ has a nasty habit of becoming NEVER very fast. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so TODAY is the day you need to live for. Goals are always worth striving for, but they don’t just happen. They take work and time. They take planning and persistence. They take dedication and resources!

Everyone of us gets the same 24hr day to live everyday with only two exceptions, they day we are born and the day we die. Every day we waste is a day we will never get back, and no person on Earth knows how many days we have. Only God has that answer.  

If you are serious about achieving your goals in life, you only need the same three resources I have been stressing to you.

  • Health
  • Wealth
  • Knowledge

Your health is your wealth and your wealth is your health. Those two are intertwined. Knowledge takes time to accumulate, but once again the billionaire and the beggar were both born with exactly the same amount of knowledge.  If you wish to do something, you need to learn everything about it that you possibly can, correct information from trusted sources.  Your life and the choices you make are ultimately up to you.  Some goals are individual ones, some require teamwork and the correct partners.

 

Set goals, and avoid the negative!

My personal goal for 2020 is to run my first marathon in November in Philadelphia.  Today February 9th, 2020 I will be running my second 10K race of the year. My goal for today is beat last month’s time.  I will be trying out my new Mud Gear runner’s compression socks. I started running in 2019 and my first race ever was a 5K last April 28th. I studied the literature on running, I trained in the gym beforehand, I got sage advice from wise council. My goal then was to finish that race, hopefully not last. Last year I was DFL (last) only ONCE when I ran my first 15K. Last year I ran a dozen races, the two longest were both half-marathons in the Fall. I completed every race I ran. This year I have a total of 23 races, and the longest will be my first marathon. My goals for 2021 are even more ambitious. The point is you have to start out small, take baby-steps, and work your way up to bigger and better goals. If I would have started my first race ever as a full marathon with no preparation what-so-ever , I would probably would have landed myself in the hospital, or worse, the grave.  If the plan  to achieve the goal isn’t working, you change the plan, NOT the goal. And when you reach your goal, you don’t stop. You set a bigger and better goal. You keep putting drops in the bucket one by one until you fill the bucket!

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Worrying about what could go wrong is often the fastest way to kill a dream. You will never be able to live a positive life with a negative mind. Negativity is a life-sucker! That which you manifest is before you, so seek out positive sources of inspiration.

The man who first started the running and jogging craze in the USA was James F Fixx, author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running.  Seven years later he died of a heart attack while jogging on July 20th, 1984. He was 52. Guess what? I know lots of runners older than him who are still running, including my friend Bruce who is 76, has a replacement knee, and is still running half-marathons.  There are no guarantees in life! Kobe Bryant was 41 when he died last month in a helicopter crash only 100 feet from clear skies.  If you worry about dying all the time, you are not living. You are living life when you are outside of your comfort zone. A comfort zone is a nice place, but nothing grows there. So go all out and live your life to the fullest! Make the most of every minute and remember that every second is precious! As always, I wish you success and happiness!