Thursday, January 24, 2013

The True Spirit of Sportsmanship...

Have you ever wanted to win so badly that you thought you'd do anything? Well, define "anything."  Would you dope if you knew you wouldn't get caught?  Would you sacrifice family time?  Would you let someone else win?

There's a great video circulating around of Spanish runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who was in second place coming into the finish of a cross country run behind the leader, Abel Mutai.  Mutai mistakenly thought he'd already crossed the finish line, so he slowed down.  What did Anaya do?  More importantly, what would you have done?

Well, watch the video to see...

Would you do what Anaya did? 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's Definitely Not About The Bike...For Me It's About Lies, Cheating, Double Standards And Yes, Forgiveness

For those of us who watch professional sports and engage in amateur sports, we develop our own secret, yet deeply personal relationships with the athletes we admire. For the most part, we never get to meet these athletes, let alone develop any real-life relationship with them; yet, these athletes inspire us, bring out the best in us, make us smile, make us cry, and sometimes, break our hearts.  In that respect, Lance Armstrong is like any other professional athlete...

In another respect, Armstrong also is like other athletes who have cheated and/or lied about behavior that directly impacted their sport.  Growing up I was a huge Pete Rose fan.  I remember watching "Charlie Hustle" with my mom and talking about how he gave every at-bat, every run around the bases, every catch, his absolute "all."  I played first base in softball so I could be like Pete Rose.  He epitomized the heart, the grit, the passion, the pure joy, of baseball.  So when he was banned for life from baseball for gambling on games, I was heartbroken...

In the summer of 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa re-ignited the country's passion for baseball.  I remember being mesmerized by every at-bat for those two that summer, completely caught up in who was going to break Roger Maris' homerun record.  Those two athletes made this country fall in love again with baseball.  And I remember sitting in my apartment, with tears of joy streaming down my face, when McGwire hit the record-breaking homer and Sosa ran out on the field to congratulate him.  Then, sometime later, as the story unfolded that these two likely took steroids during this historical homerun chase (as well as before that), I felt my heart breaking again...  

And now, once again, my heart has been broken by an athlete with whom I'd developed my own "relationship" - my own admiration, inspiration, and personal connection.  Lance Armstrong was the first athlete who got me interested in the Tour de France and cycling.  I'd read his book - It's Not About the Bike - and was captivated.  As a cancer survivor myself (thyroid cancer in 1996), I and virtually every cancer survivor in the world latched onto Lance's story.  He gave people more than hope...he gave them faith as only someone who has stared death in the face can give.  Faith that you can beat terrible diseases and come back to fight your way to the top.  Faith that a death sentence doesn't always come to fruition.  He carved out a place in my heart with his amazing story of cancer, marriage, children, and victory.  

So in 1997 when Armstrong launched Livestrong, I was fully on-board.  Shortly thereafter, my Grandpa was battling lung cancer.  So I immediately bought 200 Livestrong bands.  I kept several for myself and gave the rest to my mom and Grandpa to distribute to the staff and patients at the cancer center.  It was like I'd given them winning lottery tickets.  The faith that this little yellow band (unfortunately made in China) gave them, was priceless.  In nearly 16 years, I've only taken my Livestrong band off less than a handful of times.  I look at it to remind me of what I, my Grandpa, and other loved ones battled and overcame...  

In the summer of 2005, Lance once again reinvigorated my faith in life...particularly, my faith in a healthy life that includes endurance sports.  That July, while the Tour de France was in progress, I'd flown home to Nebraska to help with a surprise party we were throwing for my Grandpa's 80th birthday.  My brother and I went to his assisted living apartment the morning of the party to find my Grandpa lying on the floor, groaning in pain.  He'd fallen in the middle of the night and been there for hours.  After several days in the hospital, it seemed like his condition could persist for awhile, so we made the decision for me to go ahead and fly back to D.C.  While I was back home, I remember watching Armstrong win his 7th Tour de France....again, with tears streaming down my face.  I remember feeling so immeasurably certain in my ability to conquer anything based on what Lance had accomplished.  One day later - on July 25th - my Grandpa passed away....wearing his Livestrong band.  

And now....well now, my heart is once again breaking...

I defended Armstrong without any hesitation or doubt during all of these years that he's been accused of "doping."  

I believed him every time that he said that having cancer made him never want to put anything bad in his body.  I too want nothing but good things put into my body because if there's one thing that cancer makes you realize, it's that you don't ever want anything harmful in your body ever again.  

I believed in the fact that he was the most tested athlete ever and never tested positive for any illegal doping.  

In many ways, I put the same faith in him that I put in people with whom I have actual, personal relationships...

And as with some of my personal relationships, that faith was tested, shit on, and ripped to shreds like a bad bridesmaid's dress....

Yet, like every relationship where I've been on the receiving end of a truckload of lies, I still manage to find the silver lining(s) and the lesson(s) to be learned.  And I can honestly say that if I've forgiven people who have personally lied to me, stolen from me, or screwed me over, then I can certainly forgive Lance....

Armstrong's recent interview with Oprah certainly has people divided.  But what I find ironic is the failure in most blogs, newspaper articles, and media reports, to mention the comparison to other athletes who have lied, cheated, and, in some instances, gone much further than bullying.  The double standard that exists in professional sports disgusts me, yet no one else seems to notice...More importantly, the double standard we Americans perpetuate with professional athletes and superstars, is even more disgusting...So this is where it seems to be that Armstrong is not like other professional athletes - or at least not being treated like other athletes (except for maybe Pete Rose, who also has a lifetime ban).  

In January 2010 - nearly 12 years after the historic homerun chase - Mark McGwire admitted that he used steroids during 1998.  Like Armstrong, he cheated to accomplish his record-setting career and then lied about it for over a decade.  Yet, where is McGwire now?  An MLB hitting coach.  Armstrong, by contrast, faces a lifetime ban from USADA-sanctioned sports.  Now some may say that McGwire didn't "bully" anyone (as Armstrong described some of his own action) and didn't sue anyone who was actually telling the truth (like Armstrong admits he did).  Does that really matter when what's really at issue is the "crime against the sport?"  The USADA and other professional sports organizations don't (to my knowledge) possess the power to ban people for being bullies and initiating bad lawsuits; they do possess the power, however, to ban people for crimes against the sport, like doping and gambling.

Professional sports organizations also possess the power to ban or suspend people for illegal activity, e.g., DUI's, assaults, illegal drugs, and murder.  Yet, rarely, if ever, are such athletes banned for life from their sport.  Case in point, Michael Vick.  I don't truly hate anyone, but Vick comes as close as you can get with me.  Let's be clear:  Vick gave his permission for the brutal, inhumane killing of 6-8 fighting dogs who "underperformed," and later admitted to personally killing 2 dogs, one of which he hung by a rope and dropped over an edge.  And that's not to mention the whole illegal dog fighting gambling ring that he pled to.  Now let's compare to Armstrong...

Armstrong did not physically harm anyone or any living creature.  I don't care if someone felt bullied or pressured into blood doping, they're big boys and have to make their own choices.  Also, while Armstrong was a self-admitted jerk and inflicted a lot of mental and financial pain and suffering on people around him, that's all a far cry from Vick's actions of actual physical harm.  Yet three years after the NFL "indefinitely suspended" Vick, this convicted criminal was allowed to return to football glory.  On top of that, he has endorsements from such big sponsors as Nike.  Conversely, Armstrong (who it does not appear at this time will face criminal charges) faces a lifetime ban from cycling, triathlons, and running events.  Moreover, before Armstrong confessed, Nike dropped him like a bad habit.  How Nike can endorse someone like Vick while dropping someone like Armstrong is beyond me.   I will never buy anything from Nike again...

The notion that Vick "did his time" so he should be allowed to return to the NFL is irrelevant in my mind.  The time he did was to repay society in general for the crime he committed, which is what every convicted criminal must do.  That has nothing to do with damage he did to the NFL, his team, and his fans.  And this is where the double standard between athletes and us regular Joes really bothers me...

People claim that Vick should be allowed to return to the NFL, despite his abhorrent crimes, because that's all he knows how to do - play football.  Well, all Armstrong knows how to do is compete in cycling and triathlons.  So shouldn't the same consideration be given to Armstrong as was given to Vick?  More importantly, most "regular" people with 40-hour/week careers would not be afforded the same consideration.  I can tell you that being an attorney is all I know how to do, and I invested a lot more in my actual career from a financial perspective than Vick did.  I didn't have full-ride scholarship (but Vick did) and I have a huge student loan debt (which Vick did not).  If I get convicted of a crime or even commit an ethical (although not illegal) violation, I likely would be banned for life from the one thing that I know how to do:  practice law.  Why is the same standard not applicable to professional athletes?  I know that all professional sports are governed by different bodies, but it seems there should be one standard for all.  If you're going to allow Vick back into the NFL after the crimes he committed, then why shouldn't Armstrong be allowed back into professional cycling and triathlon?  If you're going to allow McGwire to become a coach after his admitted steroid use, then why now allow Armstrong back in?

If that's not enough, then look at one more example.  Bill Clinton.  Do I need to remind people of the phrase "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..."? The President of the United States - a position obviously more powerful than that of a professional cyclist - lied to the world.  Cheated on his wife.  Abused his public office.  Yet was he impeached, banned from politics, financially ruined, or even knocked off the public stage?  No.  If anything, Slick Willy is more popular and more financially well-off now than ever.  Why is Armstrong held to a more penalizing standard than the President of the United States?

So, in that respect, Armstrong certainly has not been treated like other athletes, or for that matter, like other non-athletes....

Unlike any of these other athletes I've mentioned, the American public seems so much more offended by Armstrong's lies.  I've read several articles or blogs where the writers said they felt like "chumps" because Armstrong lied to their faces all these years.  Really?  Who among us has not been lied to?  If the mere fact that someone lies to us makes us a chump, then maybe we all need to form a Chumps Anonymous support group.  If these writers think that Armstrong's lies somehow harmed their reputation as writers, I find that hard to believe.  Most of the country believed Armstrong's lies, and when you act, in good faith, on something that someone has told you, I don't think you have any personal fault.  Plus, I have yet to see or hear of anyone suffering in their reputation because they believed Armstrong's lies.  If you want to feel like a chump, why don't you try dating someone who told you he was divorced, "borrowed" $6,000 from you, turned out not to be divorced and, then, just vanished.  That happened to me and, yes, I was a chump because I didn't do my due diligence.  I just took his word for it.  But all of these writers, who did their due diligence and found the same evidence and information that we all did, do not in my view qualify as chumps just because they were the brunt of a very convincing, well-planned lie.  Further, if Armstrong's own son, Luke - who vehemently defended his father - didn't feel like a chump, then how can you?

The people who deserve the most to be offended and hurt are those whom Armstrong "bullied," those whom he wrongfully sued, and those whom he slandered.  Those people were directly and personally impacted by Armstrong's actions.  The most that the rest of us - the mere admirers who put Armstrong and other athletes up on a pedestal - are entitled to is disillusionment and disappointment.

If you're pissed off at Armstrong, you're wasting your energy.  Like most people with whom we are angry, they usually never know or care.  And even if they do know or care, the person investing the most negative energy on the anger is you.

If you'll never again be a fan of Armstrong, then that's your choice.  If you say you will never forgive him, then I ask you:  how many of your friends or family have lied to you?  How many times have you forgiven them? And, more importantly, how many times have you lied, or even cheated?  Whether you were caught or not, don't you hope to be forgiven by those you've wronged?  More importantly, did Armstrong ever inspire you to be more than you thought you could be, or to fight cancer, or to start an endurance sport?  If so, and yet you're so quick now to abandon your support of him, maybe you should consider whether you were a real fan to begin with...

Armstrong was dead-on when he wrote and said "It's Not About The Bike."  It never was.  The bike was a means to an end....the means to a career, financial security, popularity, and health.  But as Armstrong recognized back then and now in his Oprah interview, there are so many more important things, like fighting cancer.  For yet another comparison, I'll throw this out there:  how many of the other athletes I mentioned initiated a movement that inspired and helped so many people?  At the end of the day, if there's one good thing to come of all of this, it's the existence of the fact that Armstrong established one of the most powerful organizations out there today:  Livestrong.

I've seen people bash Livestrong because it doesn't fund cancer research. That's not the mission of the organization.  The mission of Livestrong is to:
"empower the cancer community to address the unmet needs of cancer survivors.  To do so, we encourage collaboration, knowledge-sharing and partnership.  Then, we develop evidence-based solutions to address both the common and unique problems survivors are facing around the world."
Livestrong has helped provide resources, counseling, and advice to millions of cancer survivors and their families, myself included.  It fills a need for information and support that previously did not exist.  Ironically, if Armstrong hadn't won a single Tour de France (let alone seven) after beating his cancer, it's questionable whether Livestrong would have been formed.  I don't think that justifies his doping by any means...I simply point it out in an effort to take something positive out of this entire mess.  And while Livestrong certainly got it's start because of its association with Armstrong, it just as certainly has thrived on its own and can continue to thrive without him.

Some people have urged Livestrong to change its name to get away from the "strong" part of the name - an obvious association with ArmSTRONG.  Although Armstrong's name was the inspiration for Livestrong, it doesn't embody the current meaning of Livestrong - at least not for me.  To me it means survivor, strength, and faith.  And for that reason, I will continue to wear my Livestrong band....

So I ask - will you forgive Armstrong?  To be sure, the man has a lot of work to do, amends to make with those he wronged, and personal growth to achieve.  I truly hope for the sake of him and his family, that he can do all of that.  Why would I forgive him for cheating, lying, and all his other jerk-ish actions?  Because I would want the same. Because we imperfect humans are supposed to forgive.  As much as it pains me, I have to forgive Vick for his heinous crimes; but, I don't have to like him or be a fan.  You certainly have the same prerogative when it comes to Armstrong.  But at the end of the day, it's not about the lies, the cheating, the double standards or even the bike...It's about forgiveness...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Exercises for Weak Ankles and a Reminder About Improving Your Proprioception

It was bound to happen.  I've enjoyed several successful trail runs lately without twisting, spraining, bruising, or breaking anything, so it was inevitable that my luck would run out. This past Saturday I went for a run on the Potomac Heritage Trail with a friend of mine.  It was a gorgeous day and we hadn't been out on the trail for awhile.

Then, at mile 5.6, with a little less than a mile to go, it happened...the dreaded slip off the side of a tree root and the familiar crunching sounds in tendons and muscles as my left ankle rolled to the outside.  Down in a squat position I went, screaming "F*#K, F*#K, F*#K!!"  Deers, squirrels, and beavers stood up in fear....

I think I have probably the weakest ankles of anyone on Earth...seriously.  It's been a problem for years as I've sprained my ankles on countless runs doing something so minor as stepping in between the pavement and grass.  Yet, do I do anything about it? Of course not...that'd be too easy.

Two days later...Not too bad and just some mild bruising, but still fairly swollen...
This certainly is not the worst sprain I've ever had and now, 2 days later, I'm walking more normally.  But have I been good about keeping it iced and staying off of it...Of course not.  And the other kicker is that I think I messed up my left calf a little bit too when I rolled the ankle because it's bothering me... And yes, this is the same calf that was eff-d up in the Calf Injury of 2011.  My acupuncturist Mr. Miaggi will not be happy with me...

Umm, the left one is supposed to look just as boney as the right one, so apparently there's still some swelling...
So do you think I'll finally pull my head outta me arse and start doing some ankle strengthening?  You'd think I'd wise up, especially if I want to make trail running part of my regular training and racing...

Here are my recommendations (for you and for me) for ankle strengthening exercises, which include exercises for improving your proprioception - your body's ability to know its place in space.  If you have good proprioception and balance, you're less likely to sprain your ankle, trip, etc., because you'll be better able to sense the danger below your feet.

1.  One-leg balance:  Stand on one leg for 30 seconds, then switch legs.  Work up to 1 minute on each leg.  Focus on one spot to help you balance. If you get really good at this, try to close your eyes.

2.  One-leg squat:  Stand on your right leg, hold your left leg up at a 90-degree angle, and do a half-squat.  Make sure your right knee doesn't go over your toe.  Start with 1 set of 10 on each leg and work your way up.

3.  Inversion with exercise band:  Sit on a couch or chair so your leg is hanging off and not touching the ground.  Place an exercise band around the top part of your foot, under your toes, and hold the ends taught so you get resistance in the bands.  Move your foot toward the inside (to about 10:00 for your right leg, or 2:00 for your left leg). Curl your toes toward the end to work the muscles in your foot.  Move your foot back to the starting position. Do this slowly, 10 times on each foot and start with 2 reps. Note, make sure to isolate your foot and don't move your leg. Also, your foot shouldn't move like a windshield wiper; it's going to curve down and in a bit.  You may also want to position the band to the opposite direction of where your foot is pulling so you get a bit more resistance.

4.  Eversion with exercise band:  Wrap the band around the top of your foot as described above and this time, move your foot to the outside.  Do 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Ankle Inversion with Exercise Band
Ankle Eversion with Exercise Band

5.  Dorsiflexion with exercise band:  Sit on a table or chair, wrap the band around the top part of your foot/toes, and tie the band to something directly in front of you.  Start with your foot pointed out in front of you and flex it back to 90 degrees.  Return to the starting position and do 2 sets of 10 reps on each foot.

6.  Plantar Flexion with exercise band:  Sitting on the table or chair again, wrap the band around the top part of your foot/toes and pull the ends toward you, taught.  Start with your foot flexed and then point it forward.  Return to starting position and do 2 sets of 10 reps on each foot.

7.  Toe/heel walking:  Stand with your feet together.  Raise up on your toes onto the balls of your feet and walk across the room or about 15-20 steps.  Make sure your feet do not wobble.  Lower your feel and raise your toes up to come onto your heels and walk back.

8.  Calf raises:  Stand on a step (use a wall or handrail for balance if you need to). Place the balls of your feel on the step and raise up.  Lower back down.  Most articles recommend to lower just below the top of the step; however, I feel that this can hurt my achilles and have been advised by some people that this is bad for your achilles.  To be safe, I lower back down to the step level.  Start with 2 sets of 10 reps and work your way up.  

This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes a day and hopefully the payoff will be less time spent on the ground yelling "f*#k!"  

This recent ankle sprain has reminded me of something:  If you don't work on your weaknesses, they will eventually come back to bite you in the ass.  I ignore my ankles because in the priority list of muscles to work out - glutes, quads, hips, core - they've always fallen at the bottom.  Our feet and ankles, however, are what connect us with the ground.  If they become weak and unstable, so too will our connection with what's beneath us.  Our feet and ankles provide the foundation for the rest of our body to be steady.  Weak ankles equal, simply, weak foundation and, consequently, more time spent on your ass.  

We all have weaknesses - physical, mental, emotional - and some more important to focus on than others.  But in your laundry list of weaknesses that you're trying to improve, it's worth figuring out which ones form a foundation for the rest of you and your life.  Which weakness can you focus on to improve your daily proprioception, not just on the ground, but in the world:  what will help you improve your sense of place in the world around you?  If I have stronger ankles, other muscles won't have to work as hard to stabilize my run.  Similarly, if I have a strong faith, strong confidence in myself, or other strong foundations, other things will come more easily so that, for example, I won't get so wrapped up in worrying about the future or what's happened in the past. Often, however, it's those foundational blocks that we ignore the most...and believe me, if you continue to ignore them, you'll end up on your ass...  

You need to have a strong, rooted connection - be it physically, mentally, or emotionally - to yourself, to your family and friends, and to the Earth beneath you.  We have to work on not only our physical proprioception, but also our mental and emotion proprioception - the sense of where we are in life.  So start strengthening not only your ankles, but any other weakness that will improve those important connections so that you can have a stronger foundation and better sense of your place in the world around you....

Do you have weak ankles?  Any exercises you recommend?  What other foundational weaknesses can you work on?   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

3 Quick & Effective Yoga Workouts

It's Day 3 of the 2013 30-Day Challenges and so far I've been successful at getting into bed by 10 p.m. (although I can't actually fall asleep for awhile) and doing at least 30 minutes of yoga a day.  The yoga is the part I'm most excited about right now...Maybe that'll change once I can actually start falling asleep at 10:00!  But the yoga has been very invigorating and yet, calming...and it's only day 3!

I've been breaking up the yoga into 2-a-day segments of 15 minutes or more each.  That way I can do a.m. and p.m. segments.  So I thought I'd pass along the yoga routines that I've found.  If I can do them, so can you because I'm about as far from a yogi as a park ranger (bad joke)...

The a.m. sequence I've been doing when I first get out of bed is courtesy of MindBodyGreen, which by the way, is one of the most informative and useful websites I've found for everything from recipes to workouts to spirituality.  It's a 10-15 minute yoga sequence that is perfect for waking up your body first thing in the morning.  My dog Addie likes to do her downward dog and cobra poses while I'm doing my morning yoga...

Opening bend for MindBodyGreen's Good Morning Yoga Sequence...this feels soooo good... 
I also found another yoga sequence from MindBodyGreen called a Pick Me Up Sequence that I did the other nite...And pick me up it did!  This sequence is a bit more challenging than the Good Morning sequence, but it gives me a goal to work toward! There's one pose in this that I didn't even attempt because I'm not that advanced:

Someday I'll get there...
My final recommendation is a DVD that I recommended in my 2012 A-Z Holiday Gift Guide:  Yoga for Athletes.  I've owned this for several years and love it because it breaks the yoga workouts into different sports:  from golf, to swimming, to running, to cycling.  In addition, within each sport there are several workouts to choose from in varying lengths that focus on different body parts or experience levels.  So you can really mix and match your yoga workout.

On day 3 of my 30-day challenges, I'm realizing the "fluff" that's usually in my life.  To get everything done during the day - do a 15-minute yoga workout in the morning, a regular workout, another 15-minute yoga workout, walk the dog 3 times a day, go to work, do everything in between, and get to bed by 10:00 - all makes me cut to the chase and be more focused on what I need to accomplish for the day.  Instead of watching t.v. while I eat dinner, I'm writing this blog...multi-tasking.  So it's making me more efficient.  Who knew by trying to cram more into my day I'd actually become more efficient at everything?

Do you have any yoga recommendations? 
If you're doing a 30-day challenge, how's it going? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 1 of 30-Day Challenge...

Today is Day 1 of the 2013 30-day Challenges and thanks to those of you who signed up!  I look forward to hearing about your progress and seeing how the challenges have helped you kickstart 2013!  

I need to make one modification to challenge #4 (going to bed at the same time every night).  I wanted to make clear that this did not necessarily mean you cannot go to bed earlier.  The goal is to get you on a routine and getting your body adjusted to going to bed at the same time; but, certainly if you're tired one day, you can go to bed earlier.  So I've changed the challenge to note that you cannot go to bed later than a particular time. Sorry for any confusion!  

Personally, I'm doing challenges 1 (yoga) and 2 (bedtime).  In reality, I want to do all of them, so I'll probably dabble with some of them during the 30 days as well.  But getting on a regular sleep cycle and starting a yoga practice are the two things that I think will benefit me the most in the near future.  

So with Day 1 almost at a close, here's a little motivation: 

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
-- Edmund Hillary (explorer)

Please post here or shoot me an email to let me know how your challenges are going!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Podcast, a Website, and an App: 3 Great Recommendations

While traveling half-way across the country and back between D.C. and Nebraska during the holidays, I had to find some way to occupy the time during the 2-day drive on each end.  As much as I love music, even that gets old after awhile.  And audio books put me to sleep (not a good combo at 75 mph on the interstate).

So I started listening to some podcasts on iTunes and found one I really like.  Plus, over the last few weeks I've been turned on to an awesome website and a cool new app.  So let me share these new finds...

The Age Grouper Triathlon Podcast:  I probably listened to ten of these on the road.  Podcast by other people can be mind-numbingly boring, stupid, or just plain weird.  But The Age Grouper is put out by two, guys (Jeff and Eric) who live in the Chicagoland area and have jobs and families just like us regular Joes.  They are sometimes joined by another guy, Dean, and all seem to have between 15-20 years experience doing triathlons.

The thing I like about them is that while they are very experienced and very fast, they're not arrogant and they're funny as hell.  They share their triathlon and daily life experiences, with helpful tips and hilarious anecdotes.  Their most recent podcast "Sh#t Triathletes Say," was one I rewound several times because their rapid-fire triathlon expressions had me crackin' up in the car.  If you're looking for an informative, funny, and relatable podcast about triathlons, this is it.

Athlinks website.  I have to give credit to my friend Laura for turning me onto this. Athlinks is a website where you can look up virtually every race you've done over the past several years.  I've found dozens of races dating back to 2002.  Once you sign up and fill out your information, Athlinks searches for races with your matching information.  The results give you overall time, pace, age group rankings, and overall rankings.  Plus, you can hook up with friends to compare races!  It's a great way to track all your race results.

Charity Miles smartphone app.  This is a new app that I just found and that overall has good reviews.  Charity Miles let you earn money for selected charities by walking, running, or biking.  For running and walking, you raise 25 cents/mile, and for biking you raise 10 cents/mile.  The best part is, the donations are made by corporations - not you!  You essentially become sponsored by a corporation who makes the charitable contribution to the designated charity on your behalf.

The one catch with Charity Miles is that you have to sign up with your Facebook account, so if you don't have one or don't want them accessing your info, then you're SOL.  The reason for this is that the corporate sponsors obviously want the free advertising via your Facebook posts in exchange for their contributions...a fair trade in my opinion.  Plus, it spreads the word and gets other people to sign up, which raises even more money for the charities.

The designated charities from which you can choose are:

  • RED
  • Stand Up To Cancer
  • Feeding America
  • Every Mother Counts
  • Autism Speaks
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation
  • World Food Programme
  • Wounded Warriors Project
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • The Ironman Foundation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Achilles International
  • Pencils of Promise
  • Do Something.Org
The only drawback is that you have to take your smartphone with you on your walk, run, or bike so that it can track your miles...But don't most of us take our phones anyway?  So if you're going to workout, why not raise some charitable donations in the process?  At the end of the year it'd be great to see how much money you raised through your sweat!

Have you stumbled on any good media recommendations lately?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pick Your 30-Day Challenge to Kickstart 2013...

(This post has been modified to make a clarification on Challenge #4)...

really have no idea how many people make New Year's resolutions.  I have even less of an idea how many people actually succeed in achieving their resolutions.  Although there's no hard and fast number on how long it takes to form a new habit or break an old one, "they" say it can take anywhere from two to four weeks. So whatever resolution or goal you may be setting, you need to give yourself some time and space to achieve it.

Like any goal, I'm sure that your resolution success depends largely on how you plan to achieve your resolution...assuming you make a plan at all.  Personally, I think that a good game plan involves establishing a tangible goal, setting up baby steps to help you achieve that, and being accountable for your efforts.  

So to help you get 2013 off to a good start, here are some tangible goals for the next 30 days.  In case your own personal growth isn't enough of an incentive, I'm offering a chance to win a $50 charitable donation to the charity of your choice.  Here are the ground rules: 
  1. Sign up for one or more of the 30-day challenges by entering the following information in the comment box below or in an email to me at  first name; email; your chosen challenge(s); and charity of your choice.  You must sign up before Monday January 7, 2013.   
  2. You must pick a challenge that you are not already doing.  For example, if you're already doing yoga, don't pick the yoga challenge.  
  3. Begin the 30-day challenge on Monday January 7, 2013.  The last day of the challenge will be Tuesday February 5, 3013.   
  4. By 5:00 p.m. EST on Thursday February 7, 2013, email me or post a comment below letting me know if you successfully completed one or more of the 30-day challenges.  
  5. If more than one person successfully completes a 30-day challenge, I will hold a drawing for the winner of the charitable donation.  You can have one entry for every 30-day challenge you successfully complete.  
  6. This is the honor system, so be honorable!!  

Here are the 30-day challenges.  Note that I haven't asked you to give up anything. Let's start the year with trying to add something positive to your life.  By doing that, it will also help you eliminate the negatives in your life.  For any challenge that requires a daily time commitment, you can break up the time during the day - just make sure you complete the full time each day.  Also, for any activity that requires physical activity, make sure to consult a doctor first.  I do not accept responsibility for your physical condition and am not encouraging you to engage in any activity for which are you are not fit:  
  1. Practice yoga for at least 30-minutes a day.  
  2. Meditate, pray, or engage in a spiritual practice for at least 30 minutes a day.  
  3. Become a vegetarian (giving up all animals and seafood) or vegan (giving up all animals, seafood, dairy, and eggs).  
  4. Go to bed no later than a certain time every nite.  This does not mean being in bed watching t.v.  Be in bed, lights out, before a certain set time every nite.  The idea is to get into a pattern of going to bed around the same time every nite. There will be days when you're more tired and need to go to bed earlier, but try to go to bed at the same time every nite. You'll get in a rhythm soon... 
  5. Don't tell a single lie.  That means no white lies too.  So if your friend asks "do these pants make my butt look big," you need to tell her the truth (tactfully)! That also means that if you're in a bad mood and someone asks how you are, you have to be honest.  
  6. Devote 1-hour a day to researching, planning, or practicing a long-term goal.  If you want to find a new career, spend an hour a day working on your resume, networking, or researching new career paths.  If you want to learn to play guitar, practice one hour a day.   
  7. Hand-write a letter every day and send to someone via snail mail.  Letter writing is a lost practice.  Everyone loves getting mail, so write a letter of at least a couple paragraphs to one person each day and send them in the mail.  
  8. Go for a walk for 30-minutes every day.  I am not encouraging people to establish an exercise program because I cannot know everyone's fitness levels.  But walking for 30-minutes every day should be safe for just about anyone.  Again, however, make sure to consult a physician first and make sure you are in good enough health to walk 30 minutes a day. 
  9. Track your nutrition every day.  Tracking your nutrition on a daily basis can be very eye-opening and let you know if you're getting enough protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, etc.  The best way to do this is with a smartphone app like My Fitness Pal or Daily Burn that include label scanners that automatically input all the nutrition information for foods. You can also make hand-entries.  
  10. Limit yourself to 30 minutes of electronic media per day.  That includes Facebook, personal email (not work email), personal internet browsing, television watching, and podcasts.  Listening to music or talk radio is not included.  The goal here is to unplug a little bit.  
Good luck!!  Hope this gets your New Year off to a good start...and remember, even if you fall down during the 30-days, you may be out of the challenge, but you can always get back up again!