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There is no way around it, I run a lot of miles, at least relative to the general population.

4 to 5 days a week, 40 to 50 miles per week.

There is no question that running is a huge part of why I am in the shape I am in.

***

But I don’t think that is the whole story.

Yes, diet has a lot to do with it, but truth be told, I sincerely believe that it is the work I do away from the road, the treadmill or the dining table that makes an impact on how fit I am.

No, I am not talking about the elliptical, or the core workouts, or the stretching sessions.

I am talking about the hidden mini-workouts that can occur anywhere, for anyone, at anytime.

These workouts don’t make me break a sweat. In fact, I hardly am aware that I am doing them. The only thing they require is that I take an extra 30 – 60 seconds while going about my every day business.

Whether it’s parking a little further away from the grocery store, or walking up to my daughter’s room instead of yelling up to her;  whether it’s going up and down stairs with a little extra pop or just taking the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator – these extra steps add up over the course of a day – burning a few more calories here and there.  Is it enough to get INto shape? No, BUT, it IS enough to get the blood flowing through your limbs and get them used to the idea of movement.  If you think about moving on a regular basis, you are that much closer to actually doing it.   The hardest part of getting off the couch is, you guessed it, getting off the couch.  Inertia is one of the most powerful laws in the universe.  If you are constantly at rest, you will, in all likelihood, stay at rest.  That’s physics.

But if you start small and slowly build, you can develop into a fast flying, calorie burning machine.

A long time ago, completely unrelated to running, I felt like I was in a rut and going nowhere.  My mother said to me, “look at your feet.”  She correctly took my silence on the phone to be confusion.  She then continued, “when you are climbing a mountain, if you are constantly looking at the peak, you won’t be able to see your progress very well. You may  well feel like you are spinning your wheels.  But take a moment and look at your feet.  Look at the distance they are covering with every step.”

It was an “a-ha!” moment in my life.

It’s the same with these mini-hidden-workouts – start small…look at the feet, see the progress.  Eventually the regular workouts have to and will come.  Inertia will make it so.

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A week ago Sunday I went for my scheduled long run.  According to Mr. Pfitzinger, I was supposed to run 16 miles, 10 of which were supposed to be at marathon pace.

I know.  So what, right?

It was cold and we had just come out the back side of a very large snow storm. The roads were (still are) treacherous, the sidewalks non-existent. I contemplated doing this run on the treadmill, but finally decided to drive to a part of the Boston Marathon course that I knew would be relatively clear. The problem with this stretch of course is that it is only about 6 miles long.

I powered through the first five miles, my mind more or less numbed by the cold.  However, as I approached the end of the stretch, my legs tiring, I realized that I still had over 10 miles to run.  My heart sank, my will ebbed.  Very quickly my mind went from somewhat blank to a swirl of self-doubt.  Suddenly the lack of sleep from the night before felt very real; my legs were tired, my lungs were tired, my brain was tired.  As I rapidly approached the first of the Newton Hills section of the Boston Marathon course, I came very close to stopping.

This section happens to be at Mile 17 of the marathon.  I remembered that just as I was about to drop my pace to a walk up the hill.  I remembered watching dozens of runners slow to a walk last April right at this point and I thought to myself, “If I couldn’t do it after 6 or 7 miles, no matter how tired I am, how the Hell am I going to do it on race day after 17 miles?

I growled and forced myself into a quicker pace.

The legs struggled.

The lungs burned.

I made it to the top of the hill and cracked a small smile.   As I hit the next hill, my GPS chirped that I had run the last mile 12 seconds faster than the previous one.

I smiled.

Energy flowed back into my legs and lungs.  As I crested Heartbreak Hill for the second of what would be three times that day, I realized that my second 6 miles had been faster than my first.

Running, and life for that matter, is full of waves. The key is to ride the crests as long as you can and power through the troughs to get to that next wave.

Physical pain is pretty easy to gauge.  You know if something is physically wrong with your body and it’s time to quit.  It’s the mental part of running that is hard.  Judging what you have left in the tank, mentally, is never an easy task.  But this I know: if you don’t push past what is comfortable, if you don’t embrace the pain, the burn, you won’t grow, you won’t find out whether you can or cannot.

And you won’t make it to the crest of that next wave.

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Buoy

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I stare at the television, hardly paying attention to the cards in my hand.  Are we playing Hold ‘Em? Guts? I’m not too sure.  The TV is tuned to the Classic Rock Music channel. On the screen is a picture of David Gilmour from the band Pink Floyd. I listen to his music and think, “I could have been musician.”

But I’m not.

I started to think of all the things I wanted to be, but am not.  Doctor.  Actor.  Master of the Universe.  Trainer and gym owner.  I am none of those things.  When the roadblocks of life got in the way, I never pushed back hard enough to achieve those goals.  I made the excuse that if I wasn’t pushing, I obviously didn’t want it.  Now, at the age of 41, I wonder, “what if?”

I know that the “what if” game is a common one, especially for people my age and older, but it feels like mine goes a little deeper than that.  I look back and realize that I let opportunity go by so many times – in college, after college. There were moments where I could have (should have?) zigged, but instead I zagged – more often than not because it was the path of least resistance.  Life (my life) is full of opportunities lost, chances not taken, changes not made.

I hope I have been a good son, an adequate husband and a decent father, but I wonder if they could have had better.

I wonder if that is one of the reasons I run like I do.

In running I finally found something that when I got pushed (through injury or bonking), I found a way to push back.  I was able to take adversity and knock it on its ass.  Still, I can’t help but wonder if running has become a last-ditch effort to validate myself – to convince myself that the boy that I was would be okay with , if not proud of, the man I have become.

No, I will never be an elite runner, I will never qualify for the Olympic trials, I will never get financially rich off of running, but hard work and perseverance has made me a marathoner and a Boston Qualifier.  The results have been tangible.  In qualifying for Boston, I have, in the eyes of some, made it to the promised land.

As I try to figure out what it is that I will become when I grow up (yes, I know I’m 41), I will hold on to this buoy, training my eyes on the horizon.  I hope that the next time opportunity sails close by, I have the wisdom to see it and the courage to hop on board.

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Softer

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This time of year we see a lot of people in the gyms.   It’s a combination of all the New Year Resolution-ers and those that don’t want to/can’t take the cold.  This past Saturday, while my older daughter attended a skating lesson, I opted to go to the gym next door to put in a few miles on the hamster wheel.  The rows of treadmills were almost filled to capacity, occupied by a wide range of runners, encompassing all shapes and sizes – it’s one of the things that I love about running – our diversity.

What caught my attention however, was not the wide variety of runners that day.  It was the cacophony of heavy footfalls – a banging away that made me wonder how long before someone’s knee or hip popped.  As I hopped on to my station, I saw that there were three runners, again, in a variety of shapes, in the row in front of me who seemed determined to smash their machines to bits.  I wondered if they were running out of anger.  I resisted the urge to interrupt them and try correct their form.

Among the many things I have learned over the last two years about running, one of the most important is that “how” you run makes a difference in both your performance and enjoyment.  A lot of people, whether driven by a New Year’s Resolution or not, will simply hop on the treadmill or go outside and go.  The problem is that many of theses runners are running as if they are trying to achieve their resolutions in one angry, hard run.  If you go out too hard, too fast, and without paying attention to your form, you are likely to a)hurt yourself and b)give up after only a couple of weeks.

No matter how heavy you are, others shouldn’t be able to hear, much less feel your footfalls from 20′ away.  I know that as runners we like to say we are “hitting the streets” when we run, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Ideally, a runner should glide along as they run.

Obviously, your feet make an impact on the ground with every step, regardless of whether you are walking or running, but you can control the intensity of the impact.  By softening you footfalls, you lessen the impact on your knees and hips, decrease the likelihood of injury and may actually increase your base speed and enjoyment.

So, how can you soften your stride?

There are a couple of things you can do.  First, if you are new to this running thing, don’t feel compelled to run at other people’s pace.  Start slowly, get comfortable.  There is absolutely no shame in running a 15:00 mile.  Think of all those people who are still sitting on the couch.  Once your legs adapt to running, the speed will come.  Second, try to land with your feet UNDER you instead of IN FRONT of you.  The whole minimalist shoe vs. modern running shoe/mid-foot vs. heel strike is a topic that has been talked into ground and doesn’t need to be re-hashed here (if you want some in depth discussion on the topic hit up my friend Pete at www.runblogger.com). Suffice it to say that if you focus on landing with your feet directly under you, you will be working WITH your forward momentum, allowing you to run softer and eventually faster.  Finally, try shortening your stride and increasing your cadence (the number of stride you take per minute).  The shorter stride will naturally bring your landing closer to directly under you.

I am convinced that anyone, ANYONE, can become a light-footed runner.  It’s not about size, it’s about form.

Do you think about your form when you run?  What advice would you give to those trying to soften their steps?

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Rhetoric – the undue use of exaggeration or display.

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Dear Friends on the Right,

I do not blame you for what happened in Arizona this past weekend.

I do not blame the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Michael Graham and their ilk.  The shooter obviously was an unbalanced fellow.

I do not blame the use of targets on maps.

I do not blame the use of the word “reload”.

I do not blame the rhetoric that has become the norm in both politics and talk radio today.

No.  I do not blame any of those things.

I hear radio hosts and pundits getting defensive.

The truth is, at this point, we don’t even know what the politics of this disturbed individual are.  He may in fact be a far, FAR left liberal who feels that Congresswoman Giffords rode too close to the center.

Everybody needs to tone it down, and take it down a notch.  Everybody seems to be taking what everyone else says to extremes.

Why is it that someone can’t be held personally responsible for their actions if they are influenced by others?

The left wants to blame what they perceive as the hateful rhetoric of the right, while the right insists that the left wants to free the shooter of all responsibility by blaming the right. Guess what folks, you’re both wrong…and right.

Jihadists aren’t made by Islam. They are influenced by a militant wing of Islam. But guess what!  Every jihadist is personally responsible for the destruction and mayhem they cause.  Does that free the radical , militant wing of Islam of any responsibility?  Heck no!!!

Now don’t think for a second that I am comparing the Far Right to Militant Islam as equals.  That would be doing exactly what those on the far right AND far left have been doing for the last oh so many years.

No.

I say this is to illustrate that Words have power; Words have influence.  Jared Loughner may not have been influenced by the rhetoric, but someone out there will be.  If we are not careful, Democracy could be headed down a path of ultra-partisanship.  Being partisan is NOT bad.  Democratic political debate is not the enemy.  I would never ask the government to censure speech. I would simply like to see people, politicians and pundits on both side of the aisle use some common sense and some civilized restraint.  In the spirit of my conservative friends, self-regulate!

Hateful words have a place in our society. Using them rarely gives them gravity, meaning; but if used constantly, they numb those who hear it, and they become the norm.  It’s the same lesson I teach my 9 year old.  If you cry all the time, you lessen the power of your tears. Use them rarely and people will pay attention when you do.

Conservative talk show host Jay Severin argues that unless one can be arrested for saying something (like yelling “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater) then one can say anything  and it is protected by the First Amendment.  He’s right, but he misses the point so many on the left are vainly trying to convey.   We can be partisan but still work together.  We can start talking TO each other as opposed to AT each other.  Some political figures figured that out over the last week…sadly, others did not.  To say that one is not responsible for what a crazy person does with one’s words is the exact opposite of personal responsibility – YOU are responsible for the words that come out of YOUR mouth, and words have power.

Words have power – if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have literature, poetry, music.  We wouldn’t have dialogue – which is exactly what this Great Nation needs to get back to.

Both sides of the aisle have good, productive ideas.  Why can’t one be both pro-Choice AND for the death penalty? or the other way around? Why can’t one be for gay-marriage AND tougher immigration laws? or the other way around? We as a people need to come together and find a way to make this Great Nation even better.  Part of what makes it great is that we can speak our minds, but that doesn’t mean we speak whatever comes to mind.  We don’t need Thought Police, but we do need a return to Thought.  Thoughtful dialogue leads to a better understanding of each other, which can only make us stronger.

Yours Truly,

Luau

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Stumble

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Happy New Year everyone!  With the holiday season now at a close, many have wolfed down that last slice of pie, drunk the last glasse of champagne and moved on into resolution mode.  Yes, January brings the deluge of New Year’s resolutions that people swear they are going to live by for the following year – eating better, exercising more are probably the most common.  Inevitably they falter by the end of the week, the month, the season – at which point they throw in the towel to wait for the next turn of the calendar and start the process yet again.

A word of advice.

Give up.

You heard me.

Give.

Up.

This coming Sunday, forget about your New Year’s Resolution to get in shape, and stuff your face at breakfast or dinner with a huge plate of comfort food.  Make sure you wash it down with 2 or 3 alcoholic and/or sugary drinks.

Go ahead.

Do it.

There is no reason to wait until the end of the month or the Winter, or for Summer to stumble and fall off the wagon.  That’s right, I am telling you to get off that wagon this Sunday and indulge.

***

Wait a minute there, Luau!  Aren’t you a proponent of healthy living? Don’t you advocate regular exercise and eating smart?  Aren’t you the one who says anyone, ANYONE can get fit if they want to?  What the Frak is going on here?

***

Hmm.  I guess I should elaborate a little bit, huh?  Notice above I said “breakfast OR dinner”?  I did not mean to take the whole day, or weekend or week.   I did not mean to give up for good.  That would be silly.

No, what I propose is resolving to stumble in your New Year’s Resolutions.

Nobody is perfect, and because of that we can’t do things perfectly all of the time.  Eventually we are bound to stumble.  This is what happens to so many people who make New Year’s Resolutions every January 1st.  The problem is that once they stumble they feel like that’s it.  The shame of failing kicks in and overwhelms.

“It’s over!”

“I can’t do it!”

I’ve seen it before.  Friends will decide that since they fell off the wagon on Saturday, they might as well carry it on through the entire weekend, the following week or even the rest of the year.

“You know, I ate like crap for breakfast and lunch so I’m just gonna complete the trifecta and eat this whole bucket of mashed potatoes and ice cream.”

A lot of people feel like if they fail the first, or second or third time they try to get healthy, they might as well give up because they can’t stick to it.

***

But what if one “stepped” off the wagon as opposed to “falling” off the wagon?  A planned fall, if you will.  Then maybe it’s not quite as bad.  Then maybe, one would have the will power to step back on to the wagon after a single indulgent meal or a single missed workout as opposed to losing a whole weekend or a week or a month or the rest of the year?

Some people call it the 90/10 plan.  The concept is to eat healthfully and exercise regularly 90% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in some guilty pleasures 10% of the time.  The idea being that if you allow yourself to eat junk food and be a couch potato in small doses, you are more likely to remain disciplined  the rest of the time.

A controlled stumble – think about it. If you are walking down the street and you fall, you are a lot less likely to hurt yourself if you fall in a controlled manner.  It is the same with New Year’s Resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions are fine and dandy.  They can kick-start an active lifestyle, but don’t panic if you fall.  Even if you fall hard.  There is no reason why you can’t get right back up and dust yourself off.  But if you have found that you have had trouble in years past with sticking with it through the year, try the controlled stumble, maybe once every week or two.

My bet is that you’ll find a lot more success down the road in achieving your resolution goals.  It’s not about luck, it’s about determination and planning.

Have fun this Sunday!  I don’t know about you, but I’m plopping myself in front the TV for some NFL playoffs, beer and a bucket of wings!

GO PATS!

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Run Katie Run

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7:10 – Wednesday Night – I am sitting in the basement watching my 9-year old run.

She is running on the treadmill for the second time in 3 nights.  On Monday she ran 1.33 miles in 20 minutes.  Tonight, her legs a little sore from Monday, she has set a goal of 1 mile.  I couldn’t be prouder.  After I spent much of the summer and fall trying in vain to entice her to run, Katie finally decided she wanted to run…on her own.

I don’t know what motivated her, and honestly I don’t care. The bottom line is that something clicked and she found the inner motivation.  It didn’t matter how much I encouraged her before – until she decided it was truly something she wanted to do, she just wasn’t going to do it.

In these two runs, she has found a sense of pride in completing the runs and has said that she physically felt great afterward (though her legs are a little sore).  I think it’s cute that she wants me down there with her while she runs.  She keeps an eye on her distance, ticking away the minutes, alternately chatty and silent.

As her run comes to an end (1 mile, 15:00!) she say ,”I’m tired but that was fun.”

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

“I’m proud of myself,” she says as she walks the cool down.

I’m proud of you too baby, I’m proud of you too.

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