Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Be A Fitness Hero!

A huge part of this blog is to promote health and wellness through fun and adventurous endeavours as well as, hopefully, encouraging healthy living. Unfortunately, it's a bit like preaching to the healthy choir. I'd estimate that the majority of our readers get the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise/week, don't smoke, get (relatively) healthy, and don't imbibe in copious amounts. While we may not all be able to be like Amber, I suspect the majority of us live healthy lives because we enjoy it. And this seems to be a growing trend as evidenced by increased participation rates in all sorts of races and fitness events and walks. 

The stats are behind it too. The Center for Disease Control reported that the US population doing sufficient physical activity has increased from 22% in 1996 to 51% in 2014! That is a huge improvement. However, the percentage of the population doing no leisure time physical activity has not changed: still hovering at 25%.  This is the population that we need to reach. We know that sedentary people have higher rates of mortality and decreased quality of life.

So, here's my challenge to all you super-fit individuals out there. Help out that person(whether it is a neighbor, loved one, friend or co-worker) who currently does minimal to no physical activity. Now here's the hard part. Don't preach(leave that to me), and meet the individual where they are. Seeing someone as ultra-fit as you are(yes, I'm talking to YOU), may be daunting and so is, likely, the AHA's recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. So start small. Help set some reasonable goals. Here's a few suggestions:
  • Take into consideration barriers: Inactive people have higher rates of co-morbities such as cancer and obesity, lack of knowledge(unsure of appropriate exercise), resources(location, gym membership, healthy alternatives), and skills about exercise and all may be impacting their real(or perceived) ability to stay active.

  • "Some physical activity better than none, more is better than some and any amount of physical activity you do gains some health benefits". This recommendation from Ireland's national guidelines hits it on the nose. Let them know that anything they do is better than nothing.

  • Emphasize that any amount of activity above their typical levels will help achieve some health benefits even if it is still below the recommendation. 

  • Advise people that by sitting less and breaking up sitting time throughout the day by getting up during TV breaks, pacing while on the phone, gentle five minute walks(mid-morning, mid-day and again evening) and walking for short trips can all be ways to increase physical activity throughout the day in a more manageable way.

  • Make it fun. We are all more likely to stick with something that we enjoy doing. Just because you like running, swimming and/or biking, doesn't mean that those are the only three activities that keep you fit. Help them find ways to enjoy themselves.

    Amber's track team
  • Have them join a group. Sometimes(but not always) having a group of people to workout with can make the time go by quicker, promote retention and keep them motivated. Amber's Tuesday track caters to athletes of all abilities as does her Saturday morning swim group. There are also plenty of adult sports leagues if so inclined. Join them for the first or have them join your team.

  • Once people are used to these small incremental changes(and thus are no longer sedentary), they may now be in a better position to start incorporating moderate intensity aerobic or strengthening exercises and eventually get closer to the 150 minutes/ week mark.*

A reward for your help? Gratitude and feelings of worth have been linked to decreased stress levels and higher levels of quality of life. Paying it forward pays back.

Hiking, kayaking, swimming. Find what they love to do.

*Remember, physical activity is only one element of health. Make sure you are well-rounded. Here's to living life to the fittest!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Danny's 2015 Race Schedule

Last week, I posted Amber's race and speaking schedule.

Here is mine:

  • February 22- Half at the Hamptons

  • March 15- New Bedford Half Marathon

  • April 12- St Louis Marathon

  • May 10- Delaware Marathon

  • June 20- Grandma's Marathon

It's pretty sparse at this time and I may throw in some shorter races as I go. Despite the dearth of races, I do have pretty ambitious goals for the 2015 season. I am looking to PR at both the half and full marathon distances.

My current half PR of 1:15:45 was at New Bedford in 2011 and will be the harder of the two to break since I don't typically run faster for shorter distances and haven't done(nor will do) any speed work. Luckily, I've given myself two opportunities to attempt this.

My marathon PR is 2:47:45 which is from back in 2010 at the Exeter Marathon in Rhode Island. I've come close a couple times since: 2:49:01 at Hyannis in 2011 which came a day after a 10K snowshoe race and a 2:48:24 at the Buffalo Marathon last year where I stopped to take off my shoe. Of the two race distances, this is the PR that could actually be broken this year and Grandma's seems to be a perfect race at which to do it. I haven't done a Minnesota marathon yet and I hear that this one is fast with a slight net downhill.

Also, and I know you've heard this before but, I will be training for this marathon. After the sports hernia ruining my 2012 season, a lackluster and unenthused 2013 one, and a gluttonous 2014 marathon season, this year I am looking to run less marathons but actually train. I have devised a training plan(more on that in a later blog) that is ambitious but doable. The key for me will be to stay motivated when fun opportunities present themselves(that don't involve running). We will see how well that turns out.

Up Next: Snowshoe World's for Amber this weekend.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Amber Ferreira's 2015 Schedule

Photo: So EXCITED to announce my new partnership with MC Cycle and Sport out of Laconia, NH. I will be doing a question an answer on January 22nd at the shop @ 6:30pm. There will be lots of free gifts from my sponsors and lots of laughs!  Hope to see you there! MC Cycle & Sport

Things are starting to come together for Amber's 2015 race schedule. While there are still some races that she has not yet solidified, the major races are in place. Additionally, she has started working with local companies and working to promote health and wellness in the community. Below is a list of her races as well as some upcoming speaking engagements:

  • January 23- Live Interview with Delta Dental's Tom Raffio at 3:05pm on The Pulse 107.7

  • January 31- World Snowshoe Championships in Quebec City, Canada.

  • March 29- African Ironman Championships- Port Elizabeth, South Africa

  • May 16- North American Ironman Championships- Woodlands, Texas

  • June 20- Mount Washington Road Race

  • July 18- Laugavegur Ultra Marathon (Amber's FIRST ULTRA-MARATHON!), Iceland

  • August 16- Ironman Mont Tremblant- Mont Tremblant, Canada

  • Ongoing:
                 - Saturday Mornings - Tri Swim- 7am at the Concord YMCA
                 - Tuesdays -  Track at 5:15pm at the Memorial Field(once the snow is cleared)
                 -  Daily- Training Sufferfests

As you can from her schedule, she is going after the 2015 season full-steam ahead, three Ironman races( two of which are Ironman regional championships), a world championship snowshoe race, her first ever ultra-marathon and 7.6 miles of pure uphill hell! And that's only her major races. She's probably going to do some of the CARS series for local support and is sure to have more speaking engagements in the future.

Want to be part of TEAM AMBER?
As the team of companies she will be working with in 2015 gets fully assembled she should be posting an update, but if you want to be part of Team Amber it's not yet to late. Contact her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jazz, Biloxi and the Blues

I've got the blues. The no-good, winter airline travel is miserable, blues.

This past weekend, my friend Kendra and I went down to run the Mississippi Blues Marathon, which was to be her first and my 22nd state. We had an early morning flight out of Boston Friday so that we could make it to the expo, have an early dinner and a good night's sleep before the Saturday morning race. Or at least that was the plan.

United Airlines had other plans however.

After boarding the plan at 9am, we proceeded to wait over an hour because catering had not been brought onto the plane(not that we got any free food or anything). By this time the weather had gotten a little colder so then they had to de-ice the plane. Which meant that we didn't take off for over 1 1/2 hours after our original departure time(on a blue bird day!). This then resulted in us missing our connecting flight by 5 minutes(couldn't hold it???), and the next one not leaving until 10 that night. Yikes!

I, being proactive(or so I thought), figured we'd be better off flying into New Orleans at 5 and then driving the 2 hours up to Jackson, MS. However, the logistical nightmare which is Chicago O'Hare had other plans. Due to a late inboard plane, and the maintenance, our flight to New Orleans kept on getting delayed. In 15 minute increments. We finally took off around 7pm arriving in New Orleans around 9:15, renting a car and driving up. Pretty bad, but wait the story isn't over yet!
Because Alamo Rent-A-Car wouldn't let me consolidate my two reservations, I had to drive to Jackson Airport, return the car I got from New Orleans and then pick up another.

Only issue: the people at Alamo decided to leave early. So now I was without a car at 12:30 the night of the marathon. Luckily, Budget representatives were still there and with only an appropriate amount of price-gouging, they were able to rent me a car for the night.

So an amazingly hectic and long travel day before the marathon. Compounding that was the reports that the marathon course was very hilly and the pavement was in poor condition. Didn't sound like the makings of a good first marathon.

And then it happened: the gun went off and everything changed. After taking the first few miles slow to ensure that she didn't let the excitement of the marathon bring us out to fast, we settled into 8:10-8:15 minute/mile pace. Which we held for the first 20 miles. The course, while having probably the worst road conditions I've seen, was beautiful taking us through what I suspect, is the nicest parts of Jackson. And the volunteers were amazing! The energy and support was great throughout the whole course and everyone was so friendly. The hills did come late in the race and we did end up slowly by the last few miles, but when another woman tried passing her at mile 25, Kendra ran a 7:57 to finish strong. Clearly still had some left over. She ended up finishing with a time of 3:46:34 which was good enough for 103rd overall and 17th female. Being 11 minutes off of qualifying for Boston, she's already taking about another marathon. Looks like she got bitten by the marathon bug!

After heading back to the airport to exchange our rental car once again, we had lunch then went out for the Blues Pub Crawl. That's right. After the marathon, there was a shuttle that brought us from one Blues bar to another. We saw the guitarist of the Allman brothers and some local artists who were awesome.

And in the course of 24 hours we saw pretty much all there is to see in Jackson. So the next morning we decided to make our way down to Biloxi Mississippi, which, despite too many casinos, is really gorgeous. The whole coast line of Mississippi is beautiful white sand beaches.
The reconstructed Biloxi Lighthouse which Katrina destroyed in 2005.
After walking on the beach and having lunch there, we decided to head into New Orleans for the night.
View of the Park from the Mississippi River

Kendra having never been to New Orleans before, had to have a beignet at Cafe Dumond and drink on Bourbon St. Also had some local Creole food like gumbo and jambalaya. And after being asked what the difference between Cajun and Creole I learned an interesting fact. The word “Cajun” was originally used to describe French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia). When the British took over in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly removed from their homes and moved down to Louisiana. Typically, Cajun food involves the "Holy Trinity" which onion, bell peppers and celery, but most of the foods attributed as Cajun such as jambalaya was originally Creole food and then the Cajuns modified it(usually making it simpler and often without things like butter). Supposedly another way to differentiate the two is that Creole food is "city food" while Cajun is more "country". Either way, it is delicious.
So foggy you can't even see the River.

After gorging on food, drink and beignets and touring the French Quarter and the Mississippi River, we headed back up to Jackson where the next day we took a trip to the Natural Science Museum which honestly is probably the highlight of Jackson besides the music.

The place is fun, with a terrarium, aquarium and a few miles of trails, the place is a great way to understand Mississippi's geological and ecological place in the world.

These stairs weren't terribly enjoyable the day after a marathon

This is a two headed snake! Apparently twins that didn't fully split. Both heads were functional and ate food.

Lazy Little Lizard

 After the trip to the museum, we had our final meal in Mississippi which included fried green tomatoes and crayfish rice. We didn't have a single bad meal while in Mississippi/Louisiana.

So our time in the south was fun and productive. Kendra's marathon really does suggest that she's got some good potential and likely a Boston Marathon qualifier.

End of story?

Not so fast! United had more fun in store for us. We did finally make it home but not before an unusually long layover thanks to a flight cancellation and more maintenance issues. Yawn... I am tuckered out from vacation.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Running Logs

As the 2014 chapter of my life closed, quite literally with the completion of that year's running log and starting fresh with my 2015 version, I realized that I have now been running for 8 years! The 1,200 miles I logged in 2014(while being the least in those 8 years) would have seemed immense and unfathomable back then.

My, how time flies. Actually slightly longer than 8 years, since I started running in September in the cornfields of Wisconsin while on a clinical affiliation at a neuropsych behavioral hospital. I think back to my first long run out there, running totally unprepared for a)the fatigue about to settle in, b)the drop in temperature that night would bring, and c) the length of time it would take to walk back to my place. So I tried to hitchhike back;  only to get picked up by a state trooper. After spending several minutes shivering while convincing him that, although while yes, it is crazy to run outside in the dark while it was snowing, no I was not committed to said hospital. After patting me down, he finally gave me a ride back to my place.

Not long thereafter and only 5 months since starting running at all, I ran my first marathon finishing in 4:44, which stands as my slowest road marathon(although I almost did beat it in Alaska this year).   Not sure whether that worthy of bragging about. Later that year at Cape Cod I was able to take off an hour and twenty minutes. From that point, throwing in a few ultras, Ironmen and 6 mile swim for good measure,  I have embarked on a 21 state journey looking to run a marathon in all 50 states. This weekend will be my attempt at state number 22 as I head down to Jackson, Mississippi to pace my friend, Kendra, in her first marathon. And interestingly enough, this will be her first race logged in her first running log. Although luckily for her she is far better prepared and has run other distances prior to jumping into a 26.2 endeavour. It will be interesting to see whether the marathon bug bites or whether she thinks marathons bite.
I won't be wearing my Spiderman or Minion costumes to pace her. I leave costumes for 1/2 marathons

If she's like me she'll use her training log not only to document hours trained and miles run but also who she did it with and where she was. It's a way to keep you motivated but also to look back on and see where you've been. For someone notoriously bad at keeping track of anything, I have been fastidious about keeping mine up to date to the point where it has turned into my running diary.

Don't remember what you did on a certain day? Well, I can look back at my log and know exactly where I was, who(if anyone) I ran with as well as likely what I ate for dinner. For me it is also probably my greatest motivator. I absolutely hate goose eggs. But not for the reason most runners do which is because it means a lost day of training. For me, it's a lost day of adventure or something fun done. I pretty much will always document any fun activity I did that day. A goose egg for the day but one spent with my niece, Olivia, is not a goose egg in my training log.

After all, I'm not training for a race but for life. The log is just there to remind me to appreciate every day I have on this earth and live each day in a way that it will be memorable. Sometimes that might include a run and sometimes it includes nothing but playing with the cutest baby alive or having some dinner with friends after work.