DUST AND THIRST!

Success requires both!

dust and thirst

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!

RUNNING ON EMPTY?

Do you have what it takes?

RUNNING ON EMPTY

There are different types of fuel offered at gas stations, and each type is meant for a specific type of automobile engine. Diesel fuel has more chemical energy than gasoline, but gasoline engines cannot combust diesel fuel, so the car would stop running. The reverse situation would be similar, and would more than likely destroy the diesel engine because the gasoline would combust at improper intervals. In either case both vehicles would be going nowhere fast.

Some people also live and die by their little gas gauge. Either they fill their tank only when it’s empty, every time it hits half-full, or always fill it only when they use it with just the pennies in their pocket which they hope will be ‘enough’. The last situation is often referred to as ‘running on empty’. Every now and then, you see one of these people walking to a gas station with an empty gas can, IF they even have one.

As you travel down the proverbial road of life, you are the vehicle that gets you to your final destination. Just as there are different types of car fuel, there are FOUR different types of fuel that keep you going.  How far you go in life is determined by how much ‘fuel’ you have. Are you ‘running on empty’, or do you have what it takes to go the distance?  

The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. –Romans 14:3

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1) Physical Fuel (AKA food) – There are seven types of nutrients that every human being needs to survive. These are: Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.  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.

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up. –Proverbs 20:21

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2) Financial Fuel – Taking care of yourself requires money. There is very little in life that is free. The reality of consumerism  in a capitalist society is that you get what you pay for. The higher the quality, the more expensive the cost. Professional athletes may earn millions of dollars in their respective sports, but they also send far more on maintaining and improving their physical health. More money means a better quality of life, better food, and in some cases, less stress. Here is a real life example, today I paid $90 for three pairs of socks. Socks as in what you wear on your feet. I am a runner in training for my first marathon at the end of this year. These socks are high quality compression running socks from a trusted brand, MUDGEAR. Yes, you can buy socks at the dollar store for $1, but I guarantee you that they will not be good enough for professional running.  

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:16

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3) Emotional Fuel – When you feel good about yourself, there is a special type of energy generated.  There is no way to explain it properly. It just radiates outward, and people respond to it.  Since I began training to become a runner, I started losing weight as a result of the combination of diet and exercise programs that I was adhering to. People noticed, and I started getting compliments and praise. This of course adds fuel to fire, and I felt even better. Some people have told me that I’m an inspiration. If my example has managed to fuel the fire of another person to improve their lives, then I count that as a win.  Words have power, and the right word at the proper time can make all the difference in the world. When I ran my first 5K on April 28th, 2019 I told all of my closest friends where and when the race would be. I was excited about the race, and I was also terrified because I have never done anything like that before. It was my secret hope that my friends would take this subtle hint and make a point to cheer me on at the finish line. None of my friends did. What did happen was that other runners, and officials of the race encouraged and cheered me on. And I felt empowered as I crossed that first finish line. As I continued running in more events and for longer distances, I began to make new friends in the running community who share my passion. Now these friends are waiting for me at the finish line cheering me on, and I feel amazing!

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As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. – Psalm 42:1

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4) Spiritual Fuel – As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”  (Philippians 4:13). The Holy Bible is the inerrant word of God and is a source of incredible strength and wisdom to everyone who chooses to read and follow it. I can honestly say that I am a far better man with Jesus in my life than I am without Christ. There is power in that book and I urge you to read it and discover the truth for yourself.  As always, I wish you success and happiness!  

THE END IS THE BEGINNING!

Life is a journey!

the end is the beginning

“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” – Anonymous.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul made a metaphor between his life and career in the first century church equating it with a road race.  

” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – Paul the Apostle (from 2 Timothy 4:7)

This was one of the many ways the early leadership of the church created bridges between people to connect unfamiliar concepts to various individuals. As I began running road races last year in 2019,  I quickly came to realize how appropriate this comparison was. Before I even attempted my first 5K, my goal was to run a marathon. 5K is 3.1 miles, and a marathon is about nine times that at 26.2 miles. I was inspired by Nathan Maxwell  @socialshark , a friend on Twitter who was an ultra-marathoner. Nate and I connected through a love of coffee. When the internet was in its infancy, it was referred to as The Super Information Highway. Now we have social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The thing about social media is that it allows individuals to share ideas, images and information of all sorts at a rapid-fire pace, with little or no filter. This double-edged sword has both brought some people closer, while at the same time destroying some relationships.   I am often amazed at the number of people around the world who check in regularly to read my weekly Sunday opinion piece. It is quite humbling.  

Running is a lifestyle choice. Like many things, you do it for as long as you can, on a regular basis. Once you quit, often there is no going back.

 “The end is in the beginning.” – T.S. Eliot

The First Key to success in life is proper planning executed at an early time. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I am currently using a lot of racing and health metaphors because of the interconnectivity of health and wealth. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Your health IS your wealth, and your wealth IS your health!” As I prepare for my first marathon at the end of 2020, today I run my first official race of the year, a 10K in Muhlenberg PA. Last year I ran a dozen races, from 5Ks to half-marathons. In 2020, my plan is to run twice that, both in distance and frequency. Each of these races has an entry fee. Had my finances not been in order, I could not afford to do this. As an athlete in training for competition, I have certain nutritional requirements. Dietary supplements , special meal plans, and better quality organic produce all cost money. Again, had I not taken steps years ago to fix my finances, I would not be in a position to afford these added costs. Not to mention I also need to buy quality running shoes and gym clothes.  

The Second Key to success in life is you have to want it. That should be obvious, but saying you WANT it and actually wanting it enough to do the work to attain the goal are two different things. When you really WANT something, the effort you are putting into attaining that goal should be outwardly apparent to anyone observing you. Actions speak louder than words, but RESULTS shout from the rooftops! 

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The Third Key is not giving up. The road is long and hard, and there are many stumbling blocks.  My most grueling 5K of 2019 was a night run obstacle course, The Zombie Fun Run. The ‘fun’ stopped when I wrenched my knee as I slipped on a muddy hill. I was terribly concerned with each painful step that I would not be able to finish, but I managed to limp my way to the end. In a couple of days, I was right as rain again.  The first half-marathon I ran two months prior also was fun, until I hit the 9th mile, and was breaking personal distance records. That was when I started getting leg cramps.  I also limped to the end that time.  DNF (Did Not Finish) is currently not in my vocabulary. I have completed every race I signed up for. ONLY once (during the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run) was I DFL (Last), but I did finish.  Often when I am in such trying periods, struggling to reach the finish line, another quote from the Apostle Paul comes to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Paul the Apostle (from Philippians 4:13)

Just like Nate’s Twitter posts inspired me to begin running, other folks I have connected with have inspired me to continue. One fellow runner who is truly amazing is Bruce Cronrath. Bruce is 76 years old, has a replacement knee and still runs half-marathons.  Whenever  we race,  he’s usually a few minutes faster than I am. I currently run about a  12 minute mile, and outweigh Bruce by over 100lbs. Bruce is a Vietnam  Vet and a credit to our country. He is the perfect example of never giving up, and demonstrates what is possible when you devote a lifetime of dedication to a healthy lifestyle  . I hope that when I reach his age, I have his level of stamina and endurance as well.

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Hopefully I have encouraged you through my blog to rise to new heights in whatever pursuits you wish to engage in. You can accomplish it as long as you give it everything you’ve got and never quit!  As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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THE CHALLENGE OF WINTERTIME!

You got this!

THE CHALLENGE OF WINTERTIME

Money invested in your health is money well-spent.

Peloton is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of exercise equipment. If you’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single exercise bike or treadmill for your home gym, you want the best quality possible. Peloton’s gimmick is that once you buy their machine, you also must pay a monthly membership fee of $39.99 to access their EXCLUSIVE, on-demand live streaming exercise classes.   

In a widely mocked 2019 Peloton Christmas commercial, a husband surprises his thin attractive wife (played by actor Monica Ruiz) with a Peloton Bike for Christmas. The wife then spends an entire year documenting her use of the bike for her social media accounts, ultimately watching a compilation highlight video with her husband where she thanks him for the gift that ‘changed her’. The ad has been labeled as sexist, alarming and cringe-worthy.     

Actor Ryan Reynolds who is also the owner of Aviation American Gin immediately hired  Monica Ruiz to ‘reprise’ the Peloton wife role for his gin commercial.  In the follow-up Aviation Gin ad  (which spoofs the original ad),  she is now divorced, staring blank-faced and sitting in a bar with concerned girlfriends. They give her multiple martinis to guzzle as they tell her she’s ‘safe now’ and she ‘really looks great’.  I don’t know which of the two ads is worse, but I am leaning towards the second.

Over the course of a person’s life, they will earn millions of dollars IF they work hard, and invest their money wisely. In that same period, they will only have ONE body, so staying fit and healthy is of the utmost importance. No one wants to spend their life feeling weak and sickly.

Physical fitness is a personal decision. The ONLY one who understands the trans-formative journey towards better health is the person on that path. I began running at the beginning of 2019, and this past year has been a year of personal transformation. I am in my best physical condition in years as a result of my personal commitment to my physical improvement.

Are you in, or are you out?

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Winter’s chill adds a new challenge to a person who has taken stock in their own health and well-being.  Frigid temperatures tend to keep the fail indoors huddled around a heat source. IF and only IF you are truly committed towards improving your physical health, you only have two exercise options. Indoors or outdoors.

I do NOT own personal home gym machines. It is my opinion that unless a person has a very good reason for buying home gym equipment, their money could be better invested elsewhere. Gym equipment depreciates in value faster than automobiles.  In addition to the expense, these exercise machines take up space.  There are many gyms chains nationwide (such as Planet Fitness) that have the latest machines,  local branches open 24 hrs, and some offer memberships as low as $10.00 per month. Plus if the equipment breaks, it’s not your problem!

I train indoors, but I run outdoors for competitive races which are offered almost every weekend including WINTER. As each of these  races have entry fees, I limit myself to not more than three a month. Usually it’s once a month, sometimes twice. Running is a lifestyle choice understood only by fellow runners. The running community is a great source of encouragement and motivation. When you run with the pack, you run with the pack. When you join a local running club, you will make new friends and see familiar faces  at local events.  The key takeaway to remember is that athletes must always be in training for their next event.   

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Baby it’s cold outside.

Winter weather is highly unpredictable. When running outside you MUST dress appropriately for the conditions.  There are days in December in the area of South-Central Pennsylvania with temperatures of 50° F (10° C) or higher, and days with temperatures below freezing  (32° F, or 0° C). Wind gusts can cause temperatures to suddenly plummet.  Exposed skin can become damaged from repeated and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, so it may be necessary to wear protective gear such as a balaclava and gloves if you are spending long periods of time outdoors. After returning indoors, be sure to treat your hands and face with a nourishing skin cream to help skin heal.

Investing in proper exercise garments is always highly recommended. Clothing designed for outdoor exercising should be thin enough to exercise in, while being thick enough to retain enough body heat to keep you warm. You should dress in layers to be able to remove some clothing if you  become too warm. I have personally worked up a sweat running 10K in subfreezing temperatures.  The ‘track suits’ of today are much more advanced than your father’s gray jogging-suit.   Wonders have been wrought due  to the creations of both Thinsulate  and Polar Fleece in 1979. If trapped body heat is still not enough to keep you warm outdoors, it’s even possible to purchase electric heated garments.  I have seen people run outdoors in winter wearing shorts, while others looked like they were dressing for an expedition to the North Pole. During themed winter races like The Santa Run, The Jingle Bell Run, or the Kris Kringle Run, people have dressed like Santa Clause while running.   Only you know what clothing is comfortable for you to wear, so dress accordingly.

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It’s cold and DARK out there.

As the daylight hours tend to be much shorter in winter, outdoor runners need to be visible to passing cars. I am always amazed by the number of people who ware black clothing at night and cross the street in the middle of the block.  Add icy streets and tragedy is all but assured. If running, jogging, or speed-walking outdoors is not possible for you during daylight hours, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Cross at crosswalks, with the light.
  • Always look for cars which might not stop.
  • Carry a runner’s flashlight which can be worn on sneakers, belt, wrist or headband.
  • Wear a reflective safety vest, or harness.
  • Run on well maintained trails or streets.
  • Run with a buddy, or in a group if possible to insure safety.
  • Always pay close attention to your surroundings.
  • DO NOT run in bad sections of town, or in public parks after sunset.
  • Always carry your mobile cell phone so that you can call for help if something  happens.

Just because it’s wintertime doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your active healthy lifestyle. Obsessed is a word lazy people use to describe dedicated individuals. Your health is in your hands! You got this! As always, I wish you success and happiness!  

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