Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don't Be Chased Down By Running Injuries!

Many runners get sidelined due to injury. In fact...
  • 65% of all runners will be injured in any year.
  • For every 100 hours of running, the average runner will sustain one running injury.
  • The average runner will miss about 5-10 percent of their workouts due to injury each year.
  • Novice runners are significantly MORE likely to be injured than individuals who have been running for many years.
  • Only 50% of these injuries are new – the rest are recurrences of previous problems.
By far the most common running injuries are overuse injuries due to improper training: Anterior knee pain syndrome (Runner's Knee); Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome; Shin Splints; Achilles Tendonitis; and Plantar Fasciitis.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome:
  • Cause of Injury
– Repetitive/overuse conditions
– Mal-alignment
– Weakness
– Poor flexibility
– Joint ‘looseness’
  • Signs of Injury
– Pain over front of knee
– Worse with stairs, sitting and squatting
– Pain is worse at start and end of runs
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (Runner’s Knee):
  • Cause of Injury
– Repetitive/overuse conditions
– Can be the result of running on crowned roads
  • Signs of Injury
– Irritation at band’s insertion (side of knee)
– Tender, warm, swollen and red over side of knee
– Pain with activity
Shin Splints:
  • Cause of Injury
– Repetitive microtrauma
– Weak muscles
– Improper footwear
– Training errors
– Flat feet
– Tight heel cord
  • Signs of Injury
– Pain in front of shin
– Worsens with activity
Achilles Tendinitis:
  • Cause of Injury
– Tendon is overloaded due to excessive stress
– Gradual onset
– Worsens with continued use
– Poor flexibility
  • Signs of Injury
– Generalized pain and stiffness just above heel
– May feel thickened, warm
– May progress to morning stiffness

Plantar Fasciitis:
  • Cause of Injury
– Change from rigid to flexible shoe
– Poor running technique
– Leg lengths
– Flat feet
– Rigid arch
– Tight heel cords
  • Signs of Injury
– Pain in arch and at heel
– Pain worse in A.M. – loosens up after first few steps
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
Treatment:
  • Correction of training errors
  • Check shoe wear
  • Proper warm-up and cool down
  • Stretching after activity
  • Ice after activity
  • Avoidance of aggravating activities
  • Take rest days
Conditioning Tips to Avoid Injury:
  • Start slow and gradually
  • Never increase training by more than 10% per workout AND 10% per week
  • Good warm up and cool down
  • Maintain good strength – hit the gym
  • Stay well hydrated and don’t diet while training – you need to eat for workouts.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oldest Olympian, Youngest Medalist, and Other Olympic Age Facts

At age 16, Sydney McLaughlin set a world junior record in the 400-meter hurdles earlier this month. She will be the youngest American track athlete to compete in an Olympics since 1972. McLaughlin finished in 54.15 seconds, landing her third place at the Olympic Trials and securing her a spot at the Games in Rio de Janeiro. She told USA Today, "Sometimes, I just forget that I'm 16... I don't get paid for this. I'm just here for fun."

Yes, she's only 16!

According to a study by a team of researchers at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Sports Epidemiology in France, the peak age or 'best' age of performance for athletes in track and field and swimming is 26. Essentially, it's an average value. Some Olympic events have their age peak performance later than others. For example, in the 100 meter race it's 25 years of age for men, but 26 for women. In the marathon, runners are typically over 27 years of age.

The oldest ever Olympian is Oscar Swahn of Sweden. He was 72 years, 281 days old when he won a silver medal at the 1920 Olympics in shooting. He actually won a gold medal for shooting at the 1912 Olympics, when he was 64 years old.

The oldest woman to compete in the Olympics was British rider Lorna Johnstone, who participated in Equestrian at the 1972 Olympic Games at 70 years and 5 days old.

The youngest confirmed Olympic medalist is Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who competed in the 1896 Athens Olympics. He was only 10 years old. He received a bronze medal in a team event. The youngest male medalist in an individual event was Nils Skoglund of Denmark, who finished second in high diving back in 1920 at the age of 14 yrs, 11 days.

Marjorie Gestring of the USA is the youngest to actually compete for an Olympic medal in an individual event. She won the 3-meter springboard diving event in 1936 at age 13 years, 268 days.

As you can see, many of the Olympian ages I've noted are from decades ago. Today, when it comes to the Olympic Games, the governing body of each individual sport sets its own rules regarding age. For example, gymnasts must be at least 16 years of age, or turning 16 within the calendar year of the Olympics, and the minimum age for diving is 14. While most Olympic sports do not have a stated maximum age for participation, boxers cannot compete in the Olympics after age 40.

With each Olympics over the past three decades, the average age of the American team has crept steadily upward, from 25 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games to 27 in London four years ago. Much of this longevity can be attributed to advancements in conditioning and nutrition. Also, injuries are diagnosed sooner and treated more effectively.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Video Gaming Industry Had $23+ Billion In U.S. Sales Last Year

I have a son who is 16½ years old. He is quite accomplished in soccer and Taekwondo and will be starting his Junior year in high school next month. He has a part-time job, a driver's license, and his own truck. He gets good grades and is one of the most humorous guys I know. He does great in social settings, is always a joy to hang out with, and has a very quick wit! Oh, one other thing... Brian is a gamer.

Brian really enjoys playing video games, and one in particular... which I won't promote by naming it here. Suffice it to say, he's excellent at one particular game. Actually, he recently told me that he ranks in the top 800 in the world for that game in the global competitive rankings. When he puts his headphones on, positions his microphone, and launches "the game"... he gets into his zone and is out to win!

I grew up in the 1970's and early 1980's, so video games were not a big part of my upbringing. However, I do remember back to 1976 (I was 11) when my Dad brought home the Atari Pong Video Game (a table tennis game with simple two-dimensional graphics), and as the youngest of seven children it was difficult to get a chance to play it. Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong, which consisted of simply moving a "paddle" vertically on the edge of the screen to hit a white, pixelated image that was to appear as a ping pong ball. Ah, the good 'ol days of "gaming."

My son Brian likely thinks Pong is a waste of time since the only objective is to score 11 points in this electronic ping pong game. Compared to the video games he plays, Pong is as basic as a "video game" can be. However, Pong paved the way for the video gaming industry. Just how big is that industry? In 2015, total revenues in the U.S. for the video gaming industry hit $23.5 billion, and $61 billion globally!

Survey data shows that there are 1.23 billion people worldwide who spend an hour a day, on average, playing video games. A major game designer and author recently said: "When we play video games, we have a real sense of optimism in our abilities and our opportunities to get better and succeed, and more physical and mental energy to engage with difficult problems -- and that is actually the physiological and psychological state of game play.” The designer goes on to add that when people play video games, brain scans show the most active parts of the brain are the rewards pathway system, which is associated with motivation and goal orientation, and the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. These are the two main parts of the brain that don’t activate when people are suffering from depression.

Also, according to a review of research in American Psychologist, playing video games may boost children's learning, health and social skills. The lead author of the article is quoted as saying: "Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored. However, to understand the impact of video games on children's and adolescents' development, a more balanced perspective is needed."

Studies have indeed shown that excessive gaming can lead to an addiction. Numerous studies reveal that the physical consequences of gaming addiction include carpal tunnel, migraines, sleep disturbances, backaches, eating irregularities, and poor personal hygiene. These physical consequences will occur in varying degrees from one gamer to another. Though the severity of physical consequences is often tied to the severity of the addiction, this is not always the case. A gamer that is already in poor physical condition will be more susceptible to these effects early on.

Here are some gaming statistics I recently found that may be of interest to you:
  • 9% of gamers under the age of 18 are 'hardcore gamers.'
  • 56% of all gamers are male, 44% are female.
  • 66% of parents that play games with their kids do so to socialize with them.
  • 63% of parents believe gaming is a positive part of their kids' lives.
  • 38% of homes in the USA have a gaming console.
In this blog I'm not going to endorse or denounce video gaming. It is the responsibility of parents to monitor and regulate, as they deem best, their children's involvement in gaming. However, I will say that I am proud to be the parent of a teenage son who enjoys gaming, but who also balances that interest with sports activities, social outlets, and good academic performance.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Statistics For My 3,260-mile, 108-day Solo Run Across America

While I was running solo across America in 2006, I kept statistics from that 3,260-mile, 108-day run from Oregon to Delaware -- which remains online at www.theusarunner.com/2006/index.htm.

Here is my coast-to-coast USA run by the numbers! Details below include: mileage, weather, stroller, route, injuries, and other statistics.

______________________MILEAGE SYNOPSIS______________________
  • Total Distance Run: 3,260 Miles (in 108 Running Days)
  • Average Daily Distance: 30 Miles
  • Average Weekly Distance: 210 Miles (8 marathons)
  • Average Monthly Distance: 840 Miles (32 marathons)
  • Estimated Number of Steps Across America: 6,259,200
  • Longest Day: 48 Miles (August 25, 2006 - South Dakota)
  • Shortest Day: 9 Miles (July 9, 2006 - Montana)
  • Longest Week: 251 Miles (week 15 - Indiana/Ohio)
  • Shortest Week: 119 Miles (week 9 - South Dakota)
  • Most Distance in One State: Montana (610 miles)
  • Least Distance in One State: Delaware (40 miles)
  • Average Running Pace: 4¼ Miles Per Hour
  • Average Mile Pace: 14 Minutes
  • Average Daily Marathon Pace: 6 Hours (The average U.S. runner completes a one-time marathon in 4:45:47)
  • Average Number of Hours Each Week Spent Running: 50 Hours Per Week For 16 Consecutive Weeks
  • Total Number of Hours Required To Complete The 3,260-mile Distance Across America: 767 Hours
  • Number of Days Logging Distances Between 35 and 48 Miles: 32 Days (or 30% of the total trek)
  • Most Mileage Covered in a 36 Hour Period: 83 Miles (September 14 - 39 Miles; September 15 - 44 Miles)
  • Number of Days Off the Road for Rest or Due to Bad Weather: 12 Days (8 Days in 1st Half; 4 Days in 2nd Half)
  • Ran 961 Miles [30 Days] Without a Day Off During Final 1/3 of the Run (including Appalachian Mountain Range)
  • It Took 57 Running Days to Complete the First Half of the Trek (1,630 miles at 28½ Miles Per Day)
  • It Took 51 Running Days to Complete the Second Half of the Trek (1,630 miles at 32 Miles Per Day)
  • During The Trek I Became The 1st Person To Ever Run Solo Across The Entirety of Montana (610 Miles) 
  • I Became The 5th Person to Run Coast to Coast (Ocean to Ocean) Across America Solo and Self-supported.

______________________WEATHER DETAILS______________________
  • Hottest Daytime Temperature: 105 Degrees (July 4, 2006 - Washington)
  • Coldest Morning Temperature: 34 Degrees (October 14, 2006 - Virginia)
  • Average Temperature for First Half of the Run (1,630 miles): 95 Degrees
  • Number of Days at 100 Degrees or Higher for First Half of the Run: 9 Days (out of 57 days)
  • Number of Days between 90 and 100 Degrees for First Half of the Run: 30 Days (out of 57 days)
  • Average Temperature for Second Half of the Run (1,630 miles): 71 Degrees
  • Number of Days between 80 and 90 Degrees for Second Half of the Run: 8 Days (out of 51 days)
  • Number of Days between 70 and 80 Degrees for Second Half of the Run: 26 Days (out of 51 days)
  • Overall Average Daily Temperature for the 108 Running Days: 83 Degrees
  • Number of Days Running With Rainfall: 13 Days (out of 108 days)
  • Amount of Rain During The First 56 Days: 35 Minutes (Up To Mobridge, South Dakota at 1,427 Miles)
  • Number of Days Running With Hail: 2 Days
  • Number of Days Running With Severe Lightning: 5 Days
  • Number of Days Running When Tornado Warnings Were Issued: 3 Days
  • Number of Days Running With Forest Fire Smoke: 2 Days
  • Number of Days Running in Fog: 6 Days
  • Strongest Winds Encountered: 40 mph with Gusts up to 50 mph (August 17, 2006 - Selby, South Dakota)
  • Worst Storm Encountered: About 8 Miles West of Bowdle, South Dakota (August 18, 2006)
  • The summer of 2006 was the second hottest summer ever recorded in the United States.

______________________STROLLER DETAILS______________________
  • Stroller Was Donated By: BOB Trailers, Inc. (A 2005 Ironman Sport Utility Stroller)
  • Stroller Weight Empty: 20½ Pounds
  • Stroller Weight Full: 80 pounds
  • Main Contents of Stroller: Tent; Sleeping Bag; Clothes/Shoes; Food; Water; Personal Necessities.
  • Technical Equipment: GPS; Solar Panel; Satellite and Cell Phones; Weather Band Radio; Mini Laptop; Small CD Burner.
  • Photographic Equipment: Digital Camera With Video Capability; Small Tripod; CD-R Disks.
  • Maximum Amount of Water Carried on Stroller: 2 Gallons (16 Pounds)
  • Water Containers: Two 100-ounce CamelBaks With Thermal Control Kits, Plus Hand-held Containers.
  • The Same Stroller Was Used Throughout The Trek Across America.
  • The Stroller's Nickname Was "BOB" - Short for "Beast of Burden"
  • I Ran Every Step of the Trek Across America Pushing "BOB".
  • There Were a Total of 8 Flat Tires.
  • New Tires Were Installed About Every 800 Miles.
  • One Broken Parking Brake Cable (After 2,000 Miles)
  • The Bright Yellow Material of the Stroller Made it Easy to See on the Edge of the Road.
  • There Were 7 Times When I and "BOB" had to Jump into a Ditch to Avoid Being Hit by a Drifting Car.
  • Ironman Stroller Specifications:
-- Frame: High Strength Aluminum Alloy
-- Seat: 15" wide x 21"high x 10" deep
-- Capacity: 70 pounds
-- Tires: 16 x 1.5" (Slick)
-- Rims: Aluminum Alloy, 20 hole
-- Spokes: Stainless Steel
-- Hub: Quick release, Aluminum axle with sealed cartridge bearings
-- Brake: Caliper type (includes parking brake feature on brake lever)
-- Suspension: Adjustable shock absorbers, coil spring with elastomer core
-- Accessories: Weather Shield Made of PVC-coated Nylon; Handlebar Console.
-- Storage: 2 small interior pockets; 1 seat back pocket; large Cargo Basket underneath.
-- Key Features: Lightest of BOB strollers. Adjustable wheel tracking. Fast, compact and simple folding system; shock absorber suspension system.

______________________ROUTE DETAILS______________________
  •   Number of Days and Mileage Run in Each State:
  • Most Difficult States: Iowa (Lots of Hills, Gravel Shoulders); West Virginia (No Shoulder, Steep Mountains)
  • Easiest State: Delaware (Flat Terrain, Good Shoulders on Road, Narrow State)
  • Longest State: Montana (610 Miles Across)
  • Shortest State: Delaware (40 Miles Across)
  • Hottest Multi-Day Period - Daytime Highs: Montana (July 23 - 27) - Temps were 102, 100, 90, 100.
  • Coldest Multi-Day Period - Daytime Highs: Iowa (September 10 - 12) - Temps were 57, 56, 58.
  • Most Dangerous Road: 150 Miles of Highway 12 in Idaho (Logging Trucks, Blind Corners, No Shoulder)
  • Safest Road: Highway 12 in South Dakota (Little Traffic, Decent Asphalt, Miles of Visibility)
  • State With The Most Wind: South Dakota
  • State With The Most Rain: It's A Tie Between Minnesota and Iowa
  • The Route of P.A.C.E. Run 2006 was the Most Northerly Taken by a U.S. Trans-continental Runner.
  • This was the First Run Across America to Finish on the Coast of Delaware.
  • The Route Consisted of 15 States and Avoided Major Cities -- Primarily for Safety Reasons.
  • Main Geographic Points: Northern Rocky Mountains; Northern Great Plains; Mid-West; Appalachian Mountains.
  • Much of the Route from Washington State to the Minnesota Border had Many Barren and Desolate Areas.
  • The Highest Elevation Encountered was the Continental Divide in Montana (6,325 feet).
  • As the 2nd Hottest Summer on Record, Some Cattle on the Route were Dying and Crops Deteriorating.
  • During the Heat of the Summer Months (July-August), the Pavement Surface was Often 130+ Degrees.
  • Water Resources Along the Road were Generally Non-existent in E. Washington, E. Montana, & Dakotas.
  • The Route Across America was Primarily Selected by my 10-year-old Daughter, Ashlin (during September 2005).

______________________INJURY DETAILS______________________
  • Numerous Blisters and Some Loss of Toenails.
  • One Visit to a Doctor on July 1 to Receive Confirmation of Tendonitis in Right Foot.
  • Tendonitis in Top of Right Foot (June 28 - July 7) - Resolved by Consistent Direct Icing.
  • Tendonitis in Front of Lower Right Leg - Tibialis Anterior (July 29 - August 5) - Resolved by Slush Buckets.
  • Some Bruising to Bottom of Feet due to Running on Gravel Shoulders of Iowa (September 8 - 17)
  • Some Cuts/Scrapes from Pushing "BOB" Through Weeds on Road's Edge When No Shoulder Available.
  • A Few Moments of Being Hit by Small Rocks Shot From Car Tires, and Wood Pieces From Logging Trucks.
  • Occasional Soreness to Back, Shoulders and Arms From Navigating "BOB" Along the Route.
  • Some General Leg Muscle Soreness and Overall Fatigue that comes with Such Endeavors.
  • Some Hand Cramping and Calluses from Having to Grip the Stroller Handlebar Every Day.
  • Daily Treatments Included Self Massage, Ice Massage/Baths, Stretching, Supplement Intake.

______________________OTHER STATISTICS______________________
  • I Was 41 Years Old When I Ran Across America.
  • I First Got The Idea To Run Across America In 1984 When I Was 19 Years Old.
  • I Ran With 1,368 Songs On My iPod - All of Which I Listened to During The Run.
  • On a 40+ Mile Day in 90+ Degree Heat, Approximately 2½ Gallons of Water/Electrolytes Were Consumed.
  • Food Was Consumed Throughout the Day to Help Combat the Average of 5,000+ Calories Burned Daily.
  • Approximately 500,000 Calories Were Burned During The 108 Running Days.
  • In Some Locations, Store-bought Water was Used due to Poor Water Quality in Certain Small Towns.
  • I Averaged About 17 Miles Per Gallon of Water During My Summer Run -- Not Bad 'Gas' Mileage!
  • There Were 12 Days Taken Off The Road Here And There For Rest or Extremely Poor Weather Conditions.
  • I Lost Approximately 12 Pounds While on the Journey.
  • I was the First Montanan to Run Across the United States.
  • No Illness Was Ever Experienced During the Course of the Run.
  • The Average Amount of Sleep Per Night was 7 Hours.
  • I Saw Family Members Only One Day During My 120 Days Away From Montana (Aug. 21 in Aberdeen, SD).
  • I Did Approximately 60 Media Interviews While on the Roads of America -- and I Didn't Seek Out Any Interviews.
  • I Estimate That I Could Have Completed The Run In 72 Days (45 miles per day) With a Support Crew.
  • Most Times My Hat Blew Off In One Day From A Passing Semi-Truck: 3 Times (Idaho).
  • Most Times I Had to Stop in One Day to Empty Stones Out of My Shoes: 41 Times (Idaho).
  • Worst Sunburns: Left Shoulder and Top of Right Ear (in Oregon).
  • Worst Taste: Grasshopper That Flew Into My Mouth on the Roadside When Talking to My Mom via Cell Phone.
  • Moment of Feeling Overwhelmed and Wanting to Quit: August 14, 2006 -- In a Desolate Part of South Dakota.
  • Number of Times I Was Stopped by a Police Officer Wanting to Know What I Was Doing: 6 Times.
  • Most Disgusting Incident: Two Auto Passengers Pulled Up and Spit Chewing Tobacco All Over Me.
  • Most Sticky Incident: Auto Passenger Emptied a Cup of Coke and Ice on My Head/Chest While Driving By at 60 MPH.
  • Most Commonly Heard Negative Comment: "You're Crazy!"
  • Most Unique Comment: "You've Got The Brain of a Scarecrow!" (Elderly North Dakota Man During a Hard Rain Storm)
  • Deliberate Attempts to Run Me Off The Road: 3 Times (once by a motorcyclist)
  • Attempted Theft: In Winchester, Virginia a Man Tried to Steal My Satellite Phone, Which I Retrieved.
  • Number of Dogs That Wanted My Leg for Lunch: Approximately 20.
  • Worst State for Loose Dogs: West Virginia.
  • Number of Times I Had to Use My Pepper Spray: Zero!
  • Number of Snakes That Crossed My Path: Minimum of 10.
  • Number of Roadside Crosses I Saw From Accident Scenes: Sadly, Too Many to Keep Track.
  • One Hallucination: August 2nd, 40 mile day, 90º, Flat Barren Land -- I Thought I Saw A Grove of Trees.
  • Special Highlight: Seeing Family For One Day Near The Halfway Point (The Only Time)
  • Milestones: 1,000 Miles (August 3); 2,000 Miles (September 9); 3,000 Miles (October 11).
  • Most Media Attention: Rochester, Minnesota.
  • First Autograph Given: August 11, 2006 (To a Waitress in a Diner in Bowman, North Dakota)
  • Number of Times I Was Compared to "Forrest Gump": Too Many to Count.
  • Most Commonly Asked Question: How Many Pairs of Shoes Does it Take to Run Across America? (For Me, Six Pairs)
  • Most Commonly Served Meal From Hosts: Lasagna.
  • Biggest Daytime Food Craving: Ice Cream.
  • Number of Massages Received While Running Across America: None.
  • Most Number of Online Guestbook Entries Made by One Person: 25 (Amanda Freese - Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
  • 'Unique' Foods Offered to Me at Roadside: Empty Hamburger Buns; A Whole 10+ Pound Watermelon.
  • Total Amount of Cash Given to Me by Various People at Roadside Across America: Approximately $600.00.
  • Special Donation of Money at Roadside: An Elderly Woman Who Gave $1.00 of Her Bingo Money.
  • Most Special Handmade Gift: Watercolor Painting From 4-Year-Old Anna Who Lives In Minnesota.
  • Most Special Non-Handmade Gift: A Bear Claw from an Indian Named Gray Wolf in Lenore, Idaho.
  • Most M&Ms Given as a Gift: 5 Pounds.
  • Hardest Surface Slept On: Picnic Table.
  • Softest Surface Slept On: A Bed That Must Have Been A Hammock In A Former Life!
  • A Supposed "Haunted House" That I Slept In One Evening: In Montana.
  • Number of Times I Used My Tent: Zero!
  • Number of Times I Used My Sleeping Bag: 3 Times.
  • Percentage of Evenings in Residences: 38%
  • Percentage of Evenings in Motor Homes: 3%
  • Percentage of Evenings in Camps: 2%
  • Percentage of Evenings in Hotels, Motels, Bed-and-Breakfasts, or Bunk Houses: 57%
  • Number of Road Kill Seen Along The Way: Stopped Counting at 100... But Much More Than That.
  • Worst Smelling Road Kill: A Skunk's Remains (Baking In 100 Degree Heat) That Was Run Over By Many Cars.
  • Saddest Road Kill Seen: A Baby Deer.
  • Most Unique Item Seen Along The Road's Edge: False Teeth.
  • Most Common Litter Seen: Beer Cans and Bottles.
Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Over 21 Million Students, Ages 6-17, Play Team Sports in America

ESPN online posted an article about competitive youth sports in America and some of the information and statistics caught me off guard.

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association compiled some data about U.S. youth sports and found that over 21 million students between the ages of 6 and 17 play team sports. Baseball and soccer are sports that the youngest players tend to navigate to, but by the time kids reach age 9, studies show that basketball becomes the most popular competitive sport. Meanwhile, two sports played largely by one gender -- football for boys and volleyball for girls -- grow fast from ages 11 through 14.

According to surveys, about 45 percent of students who started a sport end up quitting it. However, the reasons for quitting aren't that youth sports are necessarily bad. Most of their reasons relate more to temporary concerns, such as: the kids weren't having fun playing; were hurt; didn't get along with the team; or' wanted to focus on their studies. It's interesting to note that 33 percent of kids who quit a sport eventually are drawn back to it.

Unfortunately, millions of high school kids phase out of organized sports, with the biggest drop-off coming early -- during and after freshman year. High school sports can be competitive and involve roster cuts and commitments some teenagers can't make. Between ages 14 and 15 there's a 26 percent drop in the number of kids who play at least one sport even casually.

Today, the number of children (under age 18) in the United States is at an all-time high of 74.2 million. Of all the kids in America, very few have not played sports. Studies show that only 13 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls between 8 and 17 have never joined a team or club and experienced running onto the field or court to compete.




Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is Running in America Seeing a Decline in Interest and/or Participation?

For the past 17 years, the organization Running USA has been devoted to improving the status and experience of distance running and racing in the United States. The organization's "National Runner Survey" is a comprehensive study designed to assess the demographics, lifestyle, attitudes, habits, and product preferences of the running population nationwide. Each year, over 10,000 runners provide insight on trends, behaviors, technology, and more. I recently reviewed the survey's running statistics for 2015 and was a bit surprised at some of the numbers.

In 2015, the 5K maintained the #1 position of all race distances with 7.6 million finishers, claiming 45% of all finishers in the U.S., while the half-marathon held the #2 position with approximately 12% of the finishers, followed by the 10K (7%). All distances saw a decline in participation from 2014 to 2015.

In 2015, the number of U.S. marathon finishers declined for the first time (with the exception of 2012 when the New York City Marathon was canceled). In 2015, there were a total of 509,000 finishers in the marathon in the U.S., down from a record high of 550,600 finishers in 2014, seeing a net loss of 8%. In 2015, there were 1,100 U.S. Marathon events, similar to 2014.

After a record year in 2014, the number of U.S. Half Marathon finishers declined in 2015. Following similar trends of other race distances, the half marathon distance experienced a net loss of 3% in 2015.

Click on the chart below to see that for the past six years more women have finished road races in America than men, and for the past two years there has been a decline in overall road race finishers -- the first decline in at least 23 years!


Is running in America seeing a decline in interest and/or participation? These numbers seem to indicate that the answer is yes.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, July 25, 2016

30 Years Ago: My First Attempt To Run Across America

Thirty years ago this summer I was logging the final miles of my training to try and break the world record for the fastest crew-supported run across the United States. The year was 1986 and I was 21 years old.

The record was set in 1980 by Frank Giannino, Jr., who ran from San Francisco, California to New York City in 46 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes -- with a support team in a motorhome. My attempt to break his record would come six years after his successful crossing. However, I should begin by telling you a little about what lead to my considering a run across America at the age of 21.

I was attending the University of Montana and sharing a room with an old high school track buddy. One afternoon in the spring of 1984 I was lying on my bed successfully avoiding some homework when I looked at a map of the United States that my roommate had on the wall. As I stared at the U.S. map I thought about all of the running I had done in my life up to that point. I asked him, “Do you think anyone has ever run across the country before?” He wasn’t sure, but the possibility of it being done didn’t seem all that impossible. My mind was spinning with thoughts of how I could make such a run happen.

My first step was to visit the library and research as much as I could on the history of runs across America. Keep in mind, this was over 30 years ago... long before the Internet! I flipped through some books and learned that in the late 1920’s there was a footrace held across the United States called “The Bunion Derby”. I gave a sigh of relief. People had run across America! It wasn’t impossible! I would also find a book titled Meditations from the Breakdown Lane by James Shapiro, who documented his run across America in 1980 at the age of 33.

As I read that book I became absorbed in the journey that Mr. Shapiro had taken. His musings are sometimes humorous, occasionally philosophical, and constantly insightful as to what a person can experience running from one ocean to another. Following my research and readings, I decided that I would train for a run across America. In the spring of 1984, at age 19, I ran around my university class schedule and in the initial days I felt tired after only 8 miles of running. However, I kept at it and maintained total silence about what I was preparing for. I felt that if I were to announce my plan that I would be opening myself up to laughter and criticism that I wouldn’t be able to handle.

As my mileage increased, so did my confidence. It was now the autumn of 1985 and I was 20 years old. I decided that a significant step in the process would be to run my first marathon. As a broke college student I didn’t have the financial means to travel to participate in a marathon. So, I did the next best thing. I hopped into my 1971 Volkswagen Bug and drove 13.1 miles away from campus. I made a chalk line on the road, placed a bottle of water nearby, and drove back to the dormitory. Then, I put my favorite 80’s tape into my portable cassette player, hooked it onto my waistband, palmed a bottle of water, and began running toward the chalk line. I had no experience in training for a marathon, and had only read about the marathon accomplishments of some of the greatest American distance runners of the 1970’s and 1980’s – such as Frank Shorter, Bill Rogers, Joan Benoit and Alberto Salazar. Now it was my turn to try and conquer the 26.2-mile distance.

I ran comfortably and paced myself toward a 4½ hour marathon, averaging 10 minutes per mile. When I arrived at the chalk line and the bottle of water I had hidden in nearby bushes, I felt surprisingly good for the 75-degree day. I could have certainly used more water and since I was inexperienced when it came to electrolyte replacement I drank nothing but water. Regardless, I completed my first marathon all alone with two 20-ounce bottles of water. No, it wasn’t enough water for such a distance, but I certainly learned a lot during those 4½ hours on the road. I had conquered the marathon distance at the age of 20.

It wasn’t long after my "marathon" accomplishment that I began to wonder what the world record was for the run across America. Once again I ran to the library to see if I could find the answer. I found the answer in the Guinness Book of World Records for 1984 which credited Frank Giannino, Jr. with the fastest crossing of the country. He ran the 3,150-mile distance in the fall of 1980 in 46 days, 8 hours and 36 minutes. Some quick averaging told me that he maintained roughly 480 miles per week. That seemed staggering to me because I was only running about 80 miles per week at that point. I decided to confide in my roommate with my aim to run across America. Surprisingly, he was supportive – although I do recall a few comments, such as “You’re nuts!” and “That’s crazy!” I then told my parents, who were mainly concerned about the effect it would have on my college studies as well as my body. Word began to spread about my goal and while there were those who thought it was an insane endeavor to consider, there were others who were quite supportive.

It was December 1985 and the obvious question I was being asked was when I planned on beginning this huge run. I chose September 1, 1986 as the starting date, and decided that I was going to run from Dillon Beach, California to New York, NY. The first of September seemed like the best time due to the cooler temperatures as well as the fact that it was the same time of year that Frank Giannino, Jr. did his run across America. I would run the same distance he did while aiming to surpass his time by hours, not days. I then began writing to corporations looking for sponsorship. Of course, this was nearly 10 years before the Internet and I used an old electric typewriter to prepare my letters.

The first company I wrote to was New Balance, makers of running shoes and apparel. The company replied positively and provided me with $2,000 worth of clothing and shoes for training and for the run across America event. I was flying high emotionally and decided that the run needed a name. I called it “Trans-America ‘86”. During the remaining months of that winter I secured other sponsorships, including Timex; Gatorade; Spenco Medical; Runique Sock; American Land Cruisers; Bronson Pharmaceuticals; Oakley; Kampgrounds of America; and, Duracell. I trained hard through the winter months around my college class schedule, but decided that I needed to train full time in order to truly have a chance at breaking the existing world record. I decided to take a temporary break from college and return to my hometown in Alaska to train without distraction.

My parents and siblings didn’t quite know what to think of my clear commitment to this unique challenge. However, they remained supportive and quietly watched as I ran toward my goal. I had two objectives that still needed to be met. First, I needed to get more funding for the endeavor. Second, I still needed to get to where I could run 68 miles per day. I continued sending out proposals to companies and my training was progressing better without having to attend classes. I would get up at 6 a.m. and be out the door for my day’s run when my father would leave for work. I would run until lunchtime, about 5 hours later, having covered approximately 25 miles. My mileage grew to where I could run 35 miles and feel fine. However, the rainy season in Alaska was taking a toll on me and I accepted the invitation of a friend to live with him in Montana to complete my final two months of preparation. Training in the 95 to 100-degree summer heat of western Montana was actually beneficial and the elevation was considerably higher than my coastal home in Alaska.

The running days were long and my parents would write to me often and encourage me. Summer was slipping by and I was still in need of approximately $3,000 to get the run to the starting line. My financial sponsorship letters were being rejected and at the end of August 1986 I was one week away from the planned starting date. Essentially, I was without the needed funds and crew to head to the starting line in California. Finding people who would be willing to sacrifice 1½ months of their life to being on the road in a motorhome was a greater challenge than I first thought it would be. People, even students, have lives and it was difficult to convince any friends that moving across the country at 68 miles per day would be a great experience.

September 1, 1986 arrived and I was still in Montana – over a thousand miles away from the starting line. I had envisioned beginning my adventure on that day, but instead I was feeling disheartened and defeated. I had a pile of products from corporations, my training was as complete as it could be, and the discount sponsorship of a motorhome sat in California with nobody to pick it up. There are times in life when we can feel at our absolute lowest without any hope in sight when all of a sudden we’re given an unexpected opportunity. That’s exactly what happened to me!

My father had retired just a month earlier and my parents had recently sold the family home and were driving from Alaska in a motorhome to visit relatives on the east coast. They stopped in Montana to see me during the second week of September. They saw my discouragement over the run across America being sidelined due to funding issues. My parents listened to me, consoled me, and then my father said “We’ll be your support crew and use our motorhome!” I was shocked and overjoyed. In the few days that followed we got everything ready for the road. My crew would be my parents, my sister Amy, and two other friends from college. We arrived at Dillon Beach (Half Moon Bay) California on September 18, 1986 and prepared for the run to begin the next day. The weather was beautiful and I could feel my excitement increasing with each passing hour. After a wonderful meal and a good night’s sleep, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. ready to get the adventure started.

The nearest road to the starting point on the beach was about one-quarter mile away. So, in the darkness of that morning – as the clock approached 6:00 a.m. – I took the first few steps of my journey by myself as the crew was with the vehicle waiting for me to appear out of the darkness. I began at a fast pace, unable to hold back my excitement of actually starting this run of a lifetime. My strategy would be to run for 25 minutes and then to walk for 5 minutes, alternating this running pattern to have opportunities to decrease my heart rate while conserving body energy. I would take a one-hour rest after each 6 hours on the road. The crew encouraged me to slow down from my 7:30-per-mile starting pace and I settled into a pace covering 5¼ miles per hour. The aim was to do that pace for 13 hours per day on the road.

The morning was beautiful and drivers would beep their car horns as if they knew I was on my way to New York City. After the initial 7 miles, I began to settle in and focus on what I needed to accomplish. The starting jitters were gone and the butterflies that had done laps in my stomach earlier were fading as the morning sun came up over the coastal mountains. Getting through San Francisco was difficult and rather intimidating for this Alaska/Montana-trained runner. I opted for running on the sidewalks out of sheer fear of being struck by a car. This, I would soon realize, was a mistake. I ran through never-ending streets, yielding my way past stores, people and stoplights. I crossed a large bridge and came into a more rural setting. It was time for lunch and a rub down of my legs. The hour break went by with the crew feeling well and maintaining organization of fluids, shoes, socks, and all the rest that was required to keep me moving down the road. I had completed 32 miles that morning and resumed my running in the early afternoon.

As I was running I made it my aim to try and time my approach to intersections so that I didn’t have to stop. I was sticking to the sidewalks due to the amount of traffic, and the ups and downs from the curbs were not ideal. I was approaching what seemed to be the 100th stoplight of the day when the light flashed for walkers – or in this case ‘runners’ – to proceed. I went to step off the curb and found it to be a drainage corner with a very steep curb on it. I came down a little off rhythm and landed on my right foot, which then rolled to the outside on impact. It snapped back in line right away and I made it across the street. I evaluated what had happened and realized that my ankle was fine. The trouble had occurred a little higher up. I had hurt the outside of my knee only 36 miles into my 3,150-mile running adventure across America. I had not been hurt in any of my training miles (aside from blisters and sore muscles) and the thought of an injury on the first day of my coast-to-coast run was the furthest thing from my mind.

I tried to knock the pain out of my mind and continued to run to the support vehicle, which was about a mile ahead. After an excruciating mile, I iced my knee and decided to try another mile on it. That only aggravated the injury and made me realize just how hurt I was. I just couldn’t accept it. After thousands of training miles, all of the letters to potential sponsors, and enduring some hurtful words about how crazy my goal was, I was injured on the first day. My father decided to take me to a nearby emergency room and the conclusion was that I had injured a ligament on the outside of my right knee. The doctor came into the examination room with an x-ray and told me that my run was finished. I couldn’t believe it. I was released from the hospital and spent the rest of that day in emotional shock.

The next day I decided to do something that was really pulling at my heart. At the start of the run I had put some sand and water from the Pacific Ocean into a bottle that I was planning to always keep... along with sand and water that I would eventually obtain from the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the run. I sat there looking at the bottle and knew that I couldn't keep it. I just had to return to the start and pour it back. I returned to where I had stood the day before... full of excitement and wonderment about all that I would experience while running across America. I was incredibly sad to now be standing there injured after training for so long and dreaming about running coast to coast. I emptied the bottle and watched the contents flow from inside... and it felt very symbolic of my dream. The contents of my dream had flowed out of my life so abruptly and now my emotions began to flow out. I stood up and threw the bottle out into the ocean. I yelled out over the water, "WHY?" My frustration then turned to tears and I slowly walked back to the car.

I returned to Montana and went through physical therapy treatments for my knee, eventually being able to return to long-distance running shape. However, the sudden and painful ending of my first attempt to run across America in 1986 stuck with me for many years.

It wouldn't be until I was 41 years old (2006) that I would actually run across America, solo, simply to keep a promise I had made to my daughter, Ashlin, and her 5th grade classmates. You can learn all about that by visiting www.paulstaso.com and clicking on the USA run under the "Adventures" tab. I ran 3,260 miles in 108 days of running, averaging 30 miles per day across 15 states from Oregon to Delaware while pushing an 80-pound stroller containing gear, food and water. It took 20 years for me to finally reach my goal of running coast to coast across the United States. It wasn't for a world record, but rather something far more important. I kept my word to my daughter and her fellow classmates, all of whom are now adults in their early 20's.

There are indeed twists and turns on life's road and sometimes we face unexpected moments that can cause us great pain. Deciding whether or not we want to continue to carry that pain for years to come is a choice. I was able to let go of the pain and disappointment of my 1986 USA run attempt. Now, 30 years later, I am at peace with all of my dreams and efforts to run across America. I eventually accomplished what I always believed I could. What do you believe you can do that you haven't yet? Are you still reaching for your dreams? If not, perhaps today is the day that you should start reaching.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Are Those Colorful Peanut M&M's A "Healthy" Snack?

Those who know me are well aware that I like Peanut M&M's. In fact, when I was running across America alone in 2006, a woman in Indiana gave me a 5-pound bag of M&M's. That's a lot of M&M's! Of course I wasn't able to push that much candy on my support stroller, but I did take some of them 'for the road'.

A question that may be debated until the end of time is: Can Peanut M&M's be considered a "healthy" snack?

I've done a little reading on the topic and it turns out that Peanut M&Ms are surprisingly healthy. They have more protein, fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats than other nut-and-chocolate options, including Snickers, Baby Ruths, and the extremely caloric Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Ideally, the protein and fiber in Peanut M&Ms will help keep you full and prevent you from reaching for more candy later. They're also lower on the glycemic index, meaning they won't cause your blood sugar to soar like most other candy.

Peanut M&Ms are low in cholesterol and sodium, which can easily drive up your weight when consumed in excess. The only thing to keep in mind is the calorie and sugar count. If you’re worried about your sugar intake, you may want to opt for a smaller serving of peanut M&Ms, as a full serving can contain 25 grams. Otherwise, peanut M&Ms can be a great snack to enjoy in moderation whenever you crave sweet chocolate and the crunch of candy and peanuts.


I also read something else about Peanut M&M's that I found interesting. The blue food dye found in M&Ms could be helpful in reducing damage caused by spine injuries, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that when they injected the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) into rats suffering spinal cord injuries, it sped up their recovery and ability to walk.

Finally, in case you're curious as to what the M's stand for in M&M's, an online website aimed at feeding your brain (called "Today I Found Out") states that in 1941 Forrest Mars Sr., of the Mars candy company, made a deal with Bruce Murrie, son of famed Hershey president William Murrie, to develop a hard shelled candy with chocolate at the center. The M&M's name thus stood for “Mars & Murrie” -- the co-creators of the candy.

You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not M&M's can be considered a "healthy" snack. My simple advice is don't go 'nuts' eating them!

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The "Gold" In Olympic Gold Medals

I've never seen an Olympic gold medal, and I'll never win one. However, I believe we all feel emotion when we watch an Olympic athlete on the podium with a gold medal around his or her neck as their National Anthem is being played. I recently read about Olympic gold medals and their creation, and I was a bit surprised at the details.

I'll jump right to the point -- there’s no such thing as a “gold” medal, at least not at the upcoming Rio Olympics. Second-place finishers get silver medals and oddly enough, so do the winners, albeit theirs are plated in a tiny amount of gold.

The medals to be given to champions at the 2016 Olympics will weigh just over a pound, so to make them entirely from gold would have cost about $23,500 in material, each! By taking the silver medals and then plating them in a tiny amount of Brazilian gold, the actual value of the metal inside of those medals is about $600.

The gold is certified to have a certain amount of purity and is considered very high quality. The silver and “bronze” medals are largely made from recycled materials. And by the way, the bronze medals are not really bronze, but are made in part from the same copper that goes into the Brazilian coin.

The last series of Olympic medals to be made of solid gold were awarded at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Olympic Gold medals are required to be made from at least 92.5% silver, and must contain a minimum of 6 grams of gold.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I QUIT RUNNING -- September 1980 at Chugiak High School, Alaska

I'm 51 years old and began running when I was 10, back in 1975. In all of those years there is only one time when I actually quit while running. It was during competition in the autumn of 1980 on a 3.2-mile Alaska wilderness course. I was 15 years old and a sophomore on Chugiak High School's varsity cross country team.

In 1980, I was pretty new to long-distance running. Up until that time, I had primarily run sprints and hurdles during the track season in school. However, I opted to try cross country running and ended up being the youngest on the varsity squad. Typically, juniors and seniors ran on the varsity team. However, the coach was impressed with my 3-mile speed (around 17 minutes) and put me in with the upper classmen. The trail workouts were brutally tough and quite different than track workouts on a 440-yard oval.

After a couple of 'away' races at other schools, it was time for the first 'home' race at my high school. My team was competing against two other schools. I was excited about the race because my parents were there to cheer me on. It was a beautiful day and I felt ready. The gun went off and all of the runners did a lap around the high school track before venturing onto a trail that would lead us deep into the forest. Due to the thickness of the wilderness, most spectators waited at the track to watch the participants eventually emerge from the 3.2-mile course.

Being somewhat inexperienced, and perhaps a bit overly excited about my first 'home' meet and my parents being there, I set off at a pace that was too fast. I went through the first mile in just over 5 minutes. I was in a line of runners weaving around trees on a narrow trail, hoping not to come across a moose or other wildlife on the path. We went up and down hills, through portions of mud, and the only sound you could hear were dozens of feet hitting the ground and occasional comments by runners, such as: "Tom, pass that guy on the next hill!"... "C'mon John, pick it up!"... "Go for it, Don!" It was a symphony of young runners exhaling while curious birds chirped in the trees.

I was about halfway through the race when I started to BONK! That's a way of saying that my legs just didn't want to go anymore. I had gone out too fast and lactic acid had built up to a point where I was literally running out of gas. I began slowing and runners were passing me steadily. With each passing runner my mental focus blurred and I began to feel discouraged. At the time I didn't realize it, but I was experiencing a great learning opportunity in the sport of long-distance running. My pace slowed more and more... until I literally stopped in my tracks. Only a few runners remained behind me and they eventually passed me by. The forest suddenly became quiet and I sat down on a log. I was all alone with only the sound of a few chirping birds and the breeze blowing through the tree tops.

I sat there feeling sorry for myself. I knew my parents would be waiting to see me emerge from the forest and my coach would be expecting me to finish strong in order to give our team the best chance of winning. As the runners crossed the finish line, I was walking along the last portion of the course all alone. By the time I came out of the forest, many runners had already left the event. My parents were standing there, as well as my coach and some of my teammates. Everyone wanted to know what happened. I was dishonest that day and said that I had experienced a pain in my right leg after stumbling on the path, and that is what forced me to stop. I didn't want to admit to my parents, coach and teammates that I actually quit that day. I felt ashamed, but didn't want to be a disappointment to anyone.

As the decades have ticked by I've occasionally thought back to that day. There have certainly been times when I've felt like quitting as I've run along many of the courses I've been on during life. For example, during my solo run across America in 2006 I felt like quitting on a 100-degree day in a desolate portion of South Dakota. I stopped in my tracks that day, similarly to how I stopped on that cross country course when I was 15 years old. However, I managed to get back in the game mentally and after an hour break I started running across America again. I haven't quit on a run since 1980. That day is the only day I have told myself "I can't."

There is a lot that can be learned from quitting. We can often learn more about ourselves through failure than we can through victory. I've coached many track and cross country athletes and some have quit, deciding that they just could not finish what they set out to do. It's not for me to judge anyone who chooses to quit on something. We are all responsible for our own choices and the ripple effect of those choices.

I learned at a young age what it feels like to quit, and it's something that I didn't like at all. When I think back to that 15-year-old boy sitting on a log all alone in the forest, I see a boy who was actually more concerned with letting others down than letting himself down. I believe that part of my character has been pretty consistent during my lifetime. The decision to quit or not quit is something that everyone eventually faces in life. I faced it at 15 and although I'm not proud of quitting or being dishonest about it afterward, I know that it was a character-building moment in my life.

I ended my sophomore cross country season with a personal best time at the Regional Championships. I may have quit that one race, but I persevered and finished the season strong. For me, quitting was a valuable lesson that taught me far more than I would have learned had I crossed the finish line first on that September day in 1980.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Is It Better To Be A Tortoise Or A Hare?

A new study has found that slower runners live longer than those who push the pace.

For the study, which was published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers surveyed about 5,000 people, including 1,100 runners and 4,000 people who identified themselves as "non-runners." Participants in the non-running group did not engage in any type of regular exercise or strenuous activity.

Those in the "running" group were split into three groups depending upon how far, how fast and how often they ran. The study participants were men and women of various ages who were considered relatively healthy.

Researchers checked back with the group after 10 years and found that the runners had longer lifespans than their sedentary peers. But what was surprising was the longevity difference among the runners. Those with the lowest rate of death were the light joggers, folks who ran roughly two to three times per week for about 1 to 2.4 miles per session at a speed self-described as "slow."

Next in line in terms of lifespan were the moderate runners, followed by the speedsters, who tied with the non-runners for highest mortality rate. That's right, those who ran hard and fast had the same lifespan as those who never left the couch.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pokémon Go Is Getting People Moving!

Pokémon Go is the latest gaming craze, being realeased two weeks ago in the USA, and it turns out that there's a side effect to joining the ranks of the millions now addicted to catching Pokémon: better health. There has been a flurry of mentions on social media linking Pokémon Go to fitness. Before I get into that, you need to know what this mobile game is all about.

In a nutshell, Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game. The game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. It makes use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices (iOS and Android devices). The game is free-to-play, although it supports in-app purchases of additional gameplay items.

After logging into the app for the first time, the player creates their avatar. The player can choose the avatar's gender, hair, skin, and eye color, and choose from a limited number of outfits. As players travel the real world, their avatar moves along the game's map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas of the world. Players in Pokémon Go do not battle wild Pokémon to capture them. During an encounter with a wild Pokémon, the player may throw a Poké Ball at it by flicking it from the bottom of the screen up toward the Pokémon. If the Pokémon is successfully caught, it will come under the ownership of the player. Players earn experience points for various in-game activities. Players rise in level as they earn experience points. The game has become the fastest game to top the App Store and Google Play. One week ago, the game became the most active mobile game in the United States ever with 21 million active users.

Pokémon Go requires players to walk around to experience the game. As a result, many players are saying that they are walking a lot more in their day. The Pokémon Go app currently awards users a "Jogger" medal once they've walked at least 10 kilometers (roughly 6.2 miles), and the company already has a history with activity trackers in the form of the Pokéwalker, a pedometer released in Japan in 2009. However, despite the buzz around the game's exercise benefits, no plans for a Nintendo fitness tracker associated with the game have been announced. In the meantime, Pokémon Go players are burning calories while capturing Pokémon.

Last week, a survey was conducted of 750 Pokemon Go players across the United States. The results show that players are spending about two more hours outside per day than they were before they started the game, and 43 percent of respondents reported losing weight -- about three pounds on average.

The survey also shows that while getting more activity, players are also taking some health risks. Some 4 percent of players surveyed were pulled over for playing Pokemon Go while driving and 85 percent played the game while driving a car. Also, some 16 percent of survey respondents reported playing more than four hours a day!

Unfortunately, there have also been reports of players being injured due to not paying attention to their surroundings while walking and/or running around trying to capture Pokémon. It's true that the game has millions of people moving, but as the notice on the game reads: "Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings."

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run (not 'Gotta catch 'em all!'),

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Is America Sinking In Obesity?

Is the BIG issue of obesity sinking into the brains of Americans, or is America simply sinking under the increasingly alarming weight of its citizens? Based on recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and other prominent organizations, statistics show that in the United States 16.5 percent of children ages two to 19 are overweight and 9.9 percent are obese. Since 1980, obesity has more than doubled across the entire global population. If current trends continue, 70 million children will be at risk of being overweight or obese by 2025 -- only 9 years from now.



Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

From Hurdler to Ultra-Endurance Runner

I've been running long distances since I was a sophomore in high school. It was that year when I decided to join the cross country team at Chugiak High School in Alaska. Up until then, I had run sprint and hurdle races during the spring track season. However, I wanted to also run during the autumn and decided to give cross country running a try. I made the varsity team and ran primarily with juniors and seniors, becoming the 7th fastest distance runner on the team during the start of my 10th grade year in 1980. However, running fast on the track appealed to me the most back then.

When I was 14, my track coach asked me if I would be interested in trying the hurdles. There were no other boys on the team that wanted to do hurdle events, so I decided to give it a try. As it turned out, I was pretty good at it. The coach worked on my hurdling form, since I initially started out jumping way to high over the hurdles and 'floating'... costing me valuable time. The idea is to get your feet back on the ground as quickly as possible. Fortunately, during my 8th grade year of track I went undefeated in the hurdles. I continued to run the 110-Meter High Hurdles and the 300-Meter Intermediate Hurdles throughout high school, advancing to the State finals and doing pretty well for a 5'9" guy with a 30" inseam.

During my senior year of high school I clocked 41.8 seconds for the 300-Meter Intermediate Hurdles and 15.8 seconds for the 110-Meter High Hurdles -- good, but not good enough to get on the medals podium at the State Championships. The high hurdles in high school were 39" tall and there were ten barriers to get over in 110 meters.

When I went to the University of Montana in 1984 I decided to walk onto the college track team and try competing as a high hurdler. The collegiate hurdles are 3 inches taller than in high school (42 inches), and I knew that would be a challenge due to my height and limited inseam.

The university coach was somewhat impressed with my high school times and decided to give me a shot. I practiced really hard and spent many nights icing the ankle of my trail leg, which I had a difficult time clearing the 42-inch barriers. I stepped up to the starting line of a race and looked to my right and left at hurdlers that stood 6 inches taller than me. Suffice it to say, I came across the line in last place. I was 19 years old and my coach told me, "Paul, you have a lot of heart... but not a lot of inseam. I think you've done all that you're capable of doing in this sport. You can continue if you want to, but I don't think we'll be able to squeeze any more speed out of you in the high hurdles."

I ended up leaving the track team and floundering for a few months as I thought about what I wanted to do in running. It was then that I decided to do long distance running (as I had done during the cross country season in high school, primarily to stay in shape for track season). So, my focus on running really far started by reaching my physical limit in the sport of high hurdling. I still enjoy watching high hurdle races whenever I get the chance, and back in my high school days I was inspired by such great hurdlers as Renaldo Nehemiah and Edwin Moses. I still own three hurdles and my old track spikes from high school are tucked away in a box somewhere, probably next to my race medals from over 33 years ago.

Since my competitive hurdling days in high school and college, I've been fortunate to be able to coach high school hurdlers -- some of them becoming state champions. Occasionally I'll stretch out and hurdle a collegiate/Olympic high hurdle height (42 inches), as I did last year. I'm not sure how long this 50+ year old body will be able to do that, but whenever I face a hurdle it seems to all come back to me... the form needed, the speed required, and the focus necessary to clear the 3 1/2 foot barrier with decent form and no fear.

In so many ways, life is like a hurdle race. There are obstacles to overcome and we learn with each barrier how best to approach and conquer the next one. In a way, I'll be a "hurdler" until my last breath.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Running Across The Mojave Desert All Alone

In April 2010, as I was doing a solo run across Germany and was caught in the worst spring snowstorm that Bavaria had seen in 30 years, I came up with the idea of attempting a solo run across the Mojave Desert. I had already run solo across America, Montana, Alaska and Germany... most of those runs involving a lot of mountains and a significant amount of chilly weather. So, the thought of running through a dry, desolate landscape for over 500 miles in less than 3 weeks sparked my adventurous spirit.

Immediately after completing the Germany run, I began planning the Mojave run -- to take place 10 months later. I had never spent any time in the Mojave Desert, but had run all alone across the Great Plains during the heat of the summer in 2006 and didn't anticipate the Mojave to be much different. Well, the Mojave Desert is indeed unique and poses some significant challenges. It is the driest of the North American deserts, receiving less than 13 inches of rain a year. Not only is the Mojave very hot, but it can also be very windy. At nighttime the desert floor comes alive with insects, snakes and spiders, so staying in my tent after sunset would be necessary. There are rattlesnakes, coyotes, tarantulas, lizards, turtles, scorpions, and a host of other living things.

I began with deciding where I wanted to start the run. I chose the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and would run a 506-mile course to Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, with an elevation of 282 feet BELOW sea level. I envisioned starting alone in the early morning looking into the depths of the Grand Canyon and ultimately finishing on the salt flats of Badwater Basin -- the location of the highest recorded temperature: 134 degrees! I chose to begin in mid-April and do the 506 miles in 17 days, averaging 30 miles per day. The highest temperature I would encounter would be 95 degrees.

To make the run "solo" I would have no support crew and would push all of my gear, food and water in a BOB Sport Utility Stroller, the same stroller I had pushed on my other adventure runs across states and countries. However, this time the stroller would be more of a rolling canteen, because I decided not to store water caches in the desert before beginning the journey -- contrary to the advice of other adventure runners who had contacted me before I started. I decided that I would restock my water supply where and when I could as I traversed the desert, carrying a water purifier to use, if needed. I had enough containers to carry up to 7 gallons of water -- which would weigh a total of 56 pounds. That, combined with the 20 pound weight of the stroller itself and the 23 pounds of weight for my tent, clothes, food, and electronics (used to update my online classroom for students) would bring the maximum weight of the stroller to nearly 100 pounds. I weighed 153 pounds at the time.

To push a 100-pound stroller through the desert for 30 miles per day on roads that are often very rough and sometimes sand covered can be extremely challenging. Near the beginning of the run I was able to stay in some small motels, but as the run progressed I had only my tent on the desert floor to sleep in. Night after night in the desert with no access to ice to help treat my aching legs at the end of the day was difficult. My water supply got so warm that drinking it was like drinking warm bath water. At one point I went over 100 miles before being able to replenish my water supply. My food was limited to what I could carry on the stroller... food that wouldn't spoil.

Late in the run I encountered 40 to 50 mph headwinds and could only accomplish 2 miles every hour while pushing the stroller. With ski goggles over my eyes and ear plugs in my ears, I pushed on through the blowing sand. In some places, I had to take apart the stroller and carry my items up a sandy sloped portion of "road" and re-assemble things in order to continue on -- the combined weight of the gear, food and water being too much to push collectively up the soft/shifting surface.

After experiencing some incredibly difficult days of running, I ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley, and had completed the first solo run across the Mojave Desert with a start at the Grand Canyon. My footsteps touched Arizona, Nevada and California. I would then have to go through 2 months of physical therapy to treat a couple of herniated discs in my lower back due to the exertion required to accomplish the run. The adventure was an exhausting undertaking and I used a live satellite tracking device so that people around the world could watch my progress via the Internet. I had an "online classroom" for students so that they could virtually experience the adventure with me through my writings, pictures and videos. The run was one of the most physically demanding events I have ever done.

I look back on the Mojave adventure and see how fitting it was to finish at the lowest point of elevation in North America. You see, at the time I was at the lowest point in my personal life. Not long after the Mojave run, I would experience a divorce after 25 years of marriage and having less daily connection with my four children. It has been over 5 years since I crossed the finish line in the Mojave and three of my four children are now adults, with my youngest being 16 years old. Life moves on and I can tell you that the pain I experienced in the Mojave, and in the years immediately following, have made me stronger and given me a greater appreciation for this life I have.

Keep reaching for life's mileposts!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
www.paulstaso.com

P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.