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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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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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 CALL OF THE WILD!

The benefits of teamwork!

THE CALL OF THE WILD

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” -Rudyard Kipling

Alaskan Malamutes are the oldest breed of domesticated dog  originally bred for their strength and endurance to haul heavy freight as a sled dog.  Although they resemble wolves, they are not wolves. However , wolves and dogs are interfertile, they are capable of interbreeding with one another, and their resulting offspring are likewise capable of producing offspring themselves.

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Just are there are many types of dogs, there are many types of people.  Claiming that all people are equal in all aspects is as ridiculous as an NFL Quarterback deciding to take ballet lessons, or replacing  a Klondike sled dog with a Chihuahua. Not everyone can be part of a team ‘just because’.  Over a hundred years ago, the poet Rudyard Kipling pointed out that a wolf pack, like a team of sled dogs or athletes,  is only as strong as its weakest member. A weak teammate brings down the entire team. But, when every member of a team is the strongest they can be, exceeding every expectation, they form a ‘Dream Team’ such as  the 1992 USA Olympic Basketball Team which was the greatest collection of players ever formed on the same team. Strong teammates work together, encourage one another, and are stronger together! Together everyone achieves more!

Everyone has dreams. Some dreams are just that, flights of impossible fancy which will never come to fruition because the person dreaming the dream never did the work. Success in anything is not guaranteed, but you will never achieve success without hard work.

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The Budweiser Brewing Company used to sponsor Superbowl commercials featuring their world famous Clydesdale horses. One of these ad spots was ‘The Donkey who wanted to be a Clydesdale’. The tale was told from the point of a donkey who wanted to be on the Clydesdale team his whole life, so he trained hard, did the work, and went for his interview. He made the team.

Clydesdales are one of the largest breeds of work horses. These strong powerful beasts are the malamutes of the horse world. They are not as fast as race horses, but they are bigger and stronger.  So again, putting a much smaller race horse on a Clydesdale team weakens the team.   

Vive la différence!

I am a Clydesdale. In addition to being a breed of horse, Clydesdale is a term applied to larger runners. We are in a different category because of our larger size. Distance running is broken into different divisions by sex, age and weight. A 4O year-old runner would have a hard time beating a 17 year-old.  Same for a woman out-running a man, and a larger person beating a smaller, faster person. So by competing within your division, with similar athletes, you are encouraged to do your best without being discouraged by other outside your category.

The Clydesdale movement began in 1988 and was started by Joe Law who wanted to level the playing field to encourage larger runners. Their motto is “You don’t have to be thin to be fit.” Instead of being compared to a horse, some larger women have instead adopted the term Athena, after the mythical goddess of strength.  I’m not particularly fond of the second term because it’s sexist, but I’m a guy and horses are thinner than cows anyway.  

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I will never be 18 again. We all get older. We do not have to be fat! The important thing is to train hard every day to improve ourselves and not to just give up and quit.   

‘Vive la différence’ is a term borrowed from the French and means ‘long live the difference’. In other words, be happy as you are, but don’t be unhappy about what you are not. Celebrate yourself and be the best that YOU can be. There will always be someone who will be stronger, faster, smarter, richer, thinner, or better looking. YOU are not THEM. THEY are not YOU! YOU are YOU! YOU are the only YOU in the entire world, and the only YOU who will ever exist. So do everything YOU can do to improve YOURSELF  and ignore the criticisms of those who are eager to see YOU fail. YOU have to do the work, YOU have to live YOUR life, and YOU have to be the success you so desperately desire to be in your heart of hearts.  If YOU do NOTHING, nothing will happen, nothing will change, except maybe that the situation will become worse.

I have been working on improving my life and health for years. I have had many failures and false starts along the way. The key is that I never gave up, and if something wasn’t working, I searched for something else that might and tried that instead. Eventually, I stumbled upon a system that worked for me. The terrifying part? Some people have been inspired by ME.  This just means that I have to work even harder, because people are watching and basing their goals on how I do. A few have tried to do what I have accomplished,  failed and gave up. Don’t QUIT! I encourage YOU to pursue YOUR path to success, and I wish YOU all the happiness and success that God has planned for you in your life.  The journey is the important part, so stick to the path until you reach your destination. As always I wish you success and happiness!

NOW WHAT?

Avoiding the stumbling blocks!

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“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

The road to success is paved with hard work. There are no short cuts, and every journey is an individual one. Two of the most destructive stumbling blocks you will encounter are:

  1. self-doubt
  2. unsolicited advice

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. – 1 John 3:20

Self doubt is often created by the internal worry that we somehow do not measure up to the task, whatever it may be. In his famous book The Power of Positive Thinking Norman Vincent Peale gives us the secret to happiness: “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”  Self doubt tells us that we can’t succeed, we’ll never win, and that happiness in the form of success will be forever denied us because we are not good enough. The key to remember is that if we were born with a healthy ‘normal’ body, we have the same opportunities in life as any other individual with a similar origin. Sometimes we’ll have people along the road of life to encourage and help us , and sometimes the journey will be a hard and lonely one. The strongest people in life have managed to cast away self doubt and pave their own paths. There is great power in succeeding at a challenge we have set for ourselves. The reward is knowing that we accomplished what the naysayers  told us we could not do. God never gives us anything that we cannot overcome.

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The Narrow Gate

In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.… –Matthew 7:12-14

“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – Burt Lance

Always consider the source when receiving unsolicited advice. Someone telling you not to fix something that works will hold you back from finding a better way to do it. Likewise, if you are doing something that  is working for you, but which is not the way that someone else is doing it, remember that everyone is different. What works for you MIGHT not work for them, and vice versa. As long as you are not doing something illegal or immoral, if it works, keep doing it.  Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t mean you should do it too just to appease them. The only person you are competing with is yourself.   You just need to check yourself to see if you are improving. This is easily accomplished by keeping careful records of your progress. For example, I myself have been struggling with my weight for years, and it took a lot of trial and error before I chanced upon a diet and exercise program that worked for me.  I have carefully monitored and recorded my weight for years. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I discovered a few dietary supplements, meal plans and exercise programs that broke the chains that had been holding me back.  Nine months ago I began competitive running, and now I monitor my progress with that, so I see the results. More importantly,  OTHER people have taken notice of the external changes to my physique, and they have been inspired by it. Actions speak louder than words, and results are hard to argue with. The proof is in the pudding.  If it works, KEEP doing it, never quit, never surrender!

The most important thing you can do in life is to lead by example. You are being watched all the time by everyone in your life, whether or not you are aware of it. It is better to be held up in high esteem as an example of what is possible, as opposed to being a cautionary tale of what NOT to do in life. There are too many fools who took the short-cut down ‘Easy Street’ which lead to destruction. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, live your life the right way, and remember that life is YOUR life, and you are the one who need to live it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE END IS THE BEGINNING!

Life is a journey!

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“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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WHAT’S YOUR VISION?

Go for the gold in 2020!

WHATS YOUR VISION

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.  – Anonymous

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Having put 2019 behind us and recuperated with a long winter’s  nap we are now faced with a fresh new year.  2020 is a golden opportunity to begin again. We can brush off our failures, learn from our mistakes, and build up higher from our successes. The future is mainly how we see it. The term 20/20 is used by optometrists to describe normal, clear and ‘perfect’ vision in a person.  So your primary goal in 2020 is to make your life this year better than it was last year. Everyone faces difficulties in life, but no one ever said life was going to be easy or fair. Living is a process that we all go though  and some of us will always be more successful than others. There will always be someone smarter, faster, richer and better-looking than you. That is NO excuse to give up and do nothing. Nothing happens by itself. Success is a process that takes action, time, hard-work, resources, and most of all, determination. The moment you say ‘I can’t’, you are DONE! Many people defeat themselves before they even start due to their negative outlook. You cannot have a positive life with a negative mind.   

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Define your terms!

Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

  • Action : the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.
  • Goal : the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
  • Idea :  a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action.
  • Plan : a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.
  • Process:  a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.
  • Strategy : a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
  • Vision : the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.– Proverbs 21:5

Clarity of vision begins with the understanding that certain actions have to be undertaken to achieve the desired goal.  It is a PROCESS! You must learn to crawl, before you learn to walk. Success takes steps. Overnight success stories are so rare as to be practically myths. ‘Get Rich Quick’ schemes are the pursuit of fools. If being successful were THAT easy, EVERYONE would be wealthy.

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Lead by example!

Your actions speak louder than your words. There are countless motivational speakers and coaches on the lecture circuit. The reasons for this are as varied as the number of self-improvement books on the shelf. They are all variations on the same theme, and as the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” The best type of motivation comes from within. YOU have to want it! YOU have to do it! No one can live your life for you.  When YOU decide that ‘enough is enough’ and that ‘something must be done’ is when the process of self-discovery and healing begins. This is YOUR LIFE! I want you to be happy and successful, but I can’t do the work for you. I can give you the tools but you must use them and do the work yourself.  It will not be easy, but I assure you, in the end it will be worth it.

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In 2019, I took up distance running with the goal of working towards eventually running a full marathon or longer. A marathon is 26.2 miles. My first official run of 2019 was a 5K race (3.1 miles). I trained for two months before I even undertook that initial run.  Prior to that first run, I had no idea how I would physically handle the challenge, but I was determined to complete it. Over the course of 2019 I ran a dozen official timed races ranging from 5Ks to half-marathons. As I built up to the longer distances, the shorter distances became cakewalks.   I put my fitness plan into action and began the process towards achieving my goal. Along the way, I received great advice and encouragement from peers in the running community who lifted my spirit to greater heights.

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I hit 2020 running from the first! On New Year’s Day January 1st, 2020 I ran my first un-official  5K race with another runner in my running pack. It was just the two of us, mono a mono. It was symbolic as Steve Capozello  was much faster than I, so I had no expectation of beating him.  The result was not the important part, running the race was. Next Sunday Jan 12th 2020 is my first OFFICIAL race of the year, number 2 in the ‘Shiver by the River’ winter running series held in Muhlenberg PA on second Sundays from December through March. In 2020 my plan is to have at least one OFFICIAL race every single month, sometimes running up to four races. I intend to run twice as many races as last year with the goal of running a full marathon in November. Again, had I not started this process of self-improvement I would not be able to attain these milestones that I have been reaching along the way. It was NOT luck. I did the work, and I ran the race. I share this with you not for bragging rights, but as encouragement to demonstrate that it IS POSSIBLE to do. You just have to want it first! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

A LONG WINTER’S NAP

Wrapping up 2019

A LONG WINTERS NAP

“A Visit from Saint Nickolas” is a well-known poem written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823. Some people refer to the poem by it’s opening line, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  This traditional poem was written by Moore for his children, a fairy-tale to amuse them, and he originally published it anonymously.  The eight line of the poem  “Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.” As we wrap-up 2019 and put a bow on it, this is perhaps the best piece of advice I can leave you with.

I started writing my blog http://www.InstantCoffeeWisdom.com over two years ago on September 10th 2017. This is my 113th article.

The vast majority of our troubles are wealth related. Improving our wealth situation is key to improving our lives to attain success and happiness. Wealth is not only about money and finance, there are three main components of wealth . 

  1. Money is the first thing people think of. It’s nice to have, but it’s just a tool. Like any tool if you misuse it, you will break it, or hurt yourself. You must learn to use it responsibly and skillfully.
  2.  The second is your health, and more precious than silver or gold. Investing time, money, and effort in attaining the peak of physical health will do wonders for your attitude.  
  3. Last but not least, is your wealth of knowledge.  The more wise you become, the greater your chances of stumbling upon the solution to whatever it is that is holding you back from achieving your dreams. Oftentimes, it is a sobering revelation to discover the greatest obstacle keeping us from accomplishing our goals is ourselves.

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In three days it will be Christmas Day. Six days later it will be New Year’s Eve. The year is more or less over.  Aside from a few last-minute-gift shopping, and maybe wrapping some presents, it’s all downhill from here. The hard stuff has be done, or never will be at this point. If you busted your ass this past year, take the remaining days to rest. You’ve earned your long winter’s nap. Bask in the warm glow of your accomplishments as you look back upon all you did. You earned it. 2020 is days away and you need to rest-up so that you can achieve new heights in the coming year!

On a personal note, my greatest accomplishment this past year was training to run half-marathons, something which was greatly aided by the encouragement and knowledge shared by the running community. Yes, I DID THIS, I did the work and I ran the race,  but I truly believe I could not have done it without YOU backing me. I ran eleven races, everything from 5K to Half Marathons. My ‘Twelfth race of Christmas’ will be the Kris Kringle 5 Mile Run in Leesport PA on December 29th 2019. In 2020 I plan to run twice as many races as I continue to train towards running full marathons, and eventually ultra marathons.  A side effect result of my  running is that I have encouraged others to do likewise. A year ago, I could not have done this, now I can. You change the world by your example, not your opinion. Be the change you wish to see.

On the flip side, if your had a lack-luster year, take a long hard look in the mirror. Don’t play the blame game, OWN IT.  If you did little or nothing, YOU did little or nothing.  The one thing we all get each day is the same 24hrs. The wealthy and the poor, the successes and failures, and the happy and the not.  If you’re not an example, then you become a cautionary tale. Don’t be ‘THAT GUY’.  We all have a ‘THAT GUY’, someone we know in life who did nothing with their life, and we can’t fathom why they ‘let themselves go’. Everyone wants to be around successful happy people. Their positive energy draws folks like a magnet. Like the angel Clearance reminded George Bailey in the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, no man is a failure if he has friends.  But don’t despair, God allows U-turns. Christmas Day is in three days. Enjoy the wonder and beauty of the season, and take a long winter’s nap.  Rest up, in six days it will be New Year’s Eve. Pick yourself up, dust off your failures and start again. 2020 is a whole new year.  Don’t waste it! Learn from your mistakes and try something different. If you don’t know where to start, I have written 112 other articles covering just about every aspect pertaining to self-improvement.  The one thing have been doing ever January 1st for years is I read the Gospel of John. It’s one of the 66 books of the Bible. Christmastime is inseparable from Christ, and there are many sources of inspiration and encouragement to be found in the pages of the Holy scripture. I could not have reached the height I have attained without Jesus. God is good, always!   

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http://www.InstantCoffeeWisdom.com will return in January 2020 with new content. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and as always I wish you success and happiness.  

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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