Friday, December 28, 2018

The Cost of Youth Sports -- Can Your Wallet Compete?

Last month, Derek Thompson, a 32-year-old writer for The Atlantic, wrote a youth sports article which asserts that expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes from well-off families and leave everyone else behind. Mr. Thompson's writing was interesting and although my youth sports days were completed long before Mr. Thompson was ever born, I do appreciate his perspective on the state of youth sports in America. Having raised four children who were all involved in youth sports (gymnastics, track and field, soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, cross country running), I would agree with Mr. Thompson's view that the state of youth sports in America is either booming or suffering, depending on which box score you’re looking at. He notes that to get a clearer picture, you just need to "follow the money... or follow the kids"

Kids’ sports is a nearly $17 billion industry. However, the share of children ages 6 to 12 who play a team sport on a regular basis declined from 41.5 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2017. Mr. Thompson wrote, "The decline of youth sports participation is the sort of phenomenon that seems exquisitely tailored to exacerbate fears about the state of American childhood. One might suspect that the falloff is the result of children gravitating to video games, television, and other electronic distractions that don’t require an open field or a court. Perhaps athletics is just another legacy institution that can’t compete for attention anymore, like church, community centers, and bowling leagues. But dig into the numbers, and a more complex, two-track story emerges. Among richer families, youth sports participation is actually rising. Among the poorest households, it’s trending down. Just 34 percent of children from families earning less than $25,000 played a team sport at least one day in 2017, versus 69 percent from homes earning more than $100,000. In 2011, those numbers were roughly 42 percent and 66 percent, respectively."

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may be thinking... 'I think I've already read about this here.' Well, it is true that in July 2016 I wrote about youth sports struggles, and youth sports referees in April 2018. In fact, in August 2016 I even wrote about school sports fees and the impact of pay-to-play on participation numbers. However, Mr. Thompson's writing in The Atlantic isn’t a story about American childhood; it’s about American inequality. It's a story about a "classist system" -- the travel-team talents and the local leftovers. Mr. Thompson sums it up by writing, "In short, the American system of youth sports -- serving the talented, and often rich, individual at the expense of the collective -- has taken a metal bat to the values of participation and universal development. Youth sports has become a pay-to-play machine."

Well-off parents dedicate so much time and money to kids’ sports partly because of the college system, which dangles tantalizing rewards for the most gifted teenage athletes. In the 1990's, Division 1 and Division 2 colleges distributed about $250 million a year in full and partial scholarships to student athletes. Today, that figure has exploded to more than $3 billion! So, what do some wealthy parents do? As soon as their children enter second or third grade, they do whatever is needed to get them on youth travel teams, which will set them up for middle-school travel teams, which will then set them up for high-school athletic excellence -- which will ultimately make them more competitive for admissions and scholarships at select colleges.

I would encourage you to read the full text of Mr. Thompson's article in The Atlantic.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Most Miles Anyone Has Ever Run and Bicycled in One Year



We're nearing the end of another year and avid long distance runners are adding up their total mileage for the past 12 months. There are many runners who set mileage goals at the start of a new year and then run through all sorts of conditions in order to try and cross their year-long finish line and reach their mileage target. Several years ago, Rob Young of Great Britain claimed to have run 10,000 miles in a single year (or an average of 833 miles per month -- or slightly more than 200 miles per week). However, Mr. Young's claim has been doubted by many, particularly after he was accused of cheating during a world record attempt at the run across America in 2016. This year, Pete Kostelnick of the U.S.A. appears to have actually surpassed the 10,000-mile mark for one year's worth of running, his Alaska-to-Florida run in 2018 certainly helped by contributing about half of the total mileage.

Personally, I have never run more than 6,000 miles in a single year, and that was well over a decade ago. I've never been one to set an annual mileage goal, whether in running or bicycling. And yes, there are cyclists who also set mileage goals each year. For instance, last year Amanda Coker, age 24, rode her bike the equivalent of almost four times around the Earth -- and she did it all on one stretch of road! She biked the seven-mile loop around Flatwoods Park in Tampa, Florida, almost every day for one year, to the tune of 13 hours and an average of 236.8 miles per day. That’s a total of about 86,500 miles. And for those doubting this is possible (you’re not alone), the Guinness World Records have already recognized her as the new record holder.

Beginning at 4 a.m. every morning, Amanda hopped on her bike and logged miles. On her slowest day, she clocked 55 miles -- and on her best day, 302 miles. Perhaps more impressive than the miles she logged is the fact that she accomplished it just six years after a near-fatal accident. In 2011, Amanda and her father were riding their bikes when they were struck from behind by a car. Amanda flew more than 50 feet and suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, broken leg, and lacerations. Her father suffered a fractured spine. The accident took Amanda out of cycling, but not for long. In 2015, after increasingly rigorous training rides, she biked 2,935 miles across the United States. And now, she has biked more miles in one year than anyone else has... an amazing 86,500 miles.

You may not be aiming to run 10,000 miles next year, or bike over 86,000 miles... but do make sure to get in regular activity to enhance your fitness!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals

A few months ago, Jennifer Cohen wrote an article for Forbes magazine, and she titled it, "The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals -- They Do This Instead." The title caught my attention because I've always considered myself a goal setter. With the new year quickly approaching, there are countless people setting goals for 2019. Today, I want to share with you the writing by Ms. Cohen and perhaps you'll find value in her thoughts... and something to take with you into the new year.

The Most Successful People Don't Set Goals -- They Do This Instead...

Setting goals without setting intentions is a waste of time. While setting goals is fixated on the future, setting intentions keeps you grounded and present in the moment.

In order to achieve optimal success and stay in alignment with your values, your goals should be accompanied by daily intentions. Setting a goal is black and white -- you either achieve it, or you don’t. Intentions, however, come from a growth mindset, and they set the standard for how you live and act, regardless of whether or not you achieve a set goal. The big difference here is that intentions are rooted in values, not external outcomes, and they keep your attention in the present, not the future. While accomplishing goals everyday may not be feasible, intentions are flexible and ever-changing, leaving you plenty of freedom to re-evaluate.

Setting intentions can be like preparing for a big meeting. You don’t know if the meeting will go as planned, but you get your ducks in a row anyway. In this scenario, you could set an intention that regardless of how the meeting goes, you will be receptive, flexible and will easily be able to resolve anything that comes up. If you keep this mentality throughout the day, you can feel confident that you held true to who you are, regardless of the meeting’s outcome. Setting intentions allows you to actively participate in living out your values in each and every moment.

As Murphy’s law states, anything that can go wrong, will. Some days, that means spilling your coffee and running late to the office, and other days it might look like bombing a presentation. As this well-known law says, issues and unpleasant circumstances will arise. But what you don’t want is a domino effect where one negative situation turns into a whole day that follows just like it. When you set intentions, you are more equipped to hold yourself accountable, and stay on track no matter what comes your way.

Intentions are powerful and setting them allows you to stay aligned with who you are and how you want to live. These same intentions also serve as reminders of the bigger picture and your personal values.

Start the day right by setting a tone. The secret sauce for having your best day possible is all in how you begin. Set an intention each morning that the day ahead will be a success. For example: I intend to have a clear, level-headed approach to all things I encounter today, and I will not allow any unexpected twists to destroy my positive outlook. Spend a couple of minutes mentally running through your day, and acing it out like a boss. It’s mind over matter here, and as the saying goes: if you visualize, it will materialize. Choosing good thoughts is just one thing to add to your morning routine, but there are many others that can get your blood flowing and lift your spirits.

Respond, rather than react. Bring intention to your reactions and practice response-ability. This idea comes from a quote popularized by the influential author Stephen R. Covey that says, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” If you set an intention for how you would like to handle difficult situations, you can purposefully respond instead of react. Emotions are at the center of your reactions, but if you play an active role in the moment, you can avoid reacting out of anger or disappointment. Even though it can be frustrating when a colleague cancels on your meeting last-minute, it isn’t worth your peace of mind. Take control of your attitude by setting intentions and don’t relinquish a positive mentality for something that can easily be let go of.

Physical movement is a game changer. I’m constantly promoting exercise for its countless benefits such as it’s ability to reduce stress, improve circulation, and even deliver a self esteem boost. Whether it’s a morning jog, afternoon hike or an evening workout at the gym, being physically fit leads to becoming mentally fit. There’s nothing more intentional than taking care of the mind-body connection and putting your mental health at the top of your priority list. The correlation between fitness and highly successful people is no coincidence either.

Tone setting makes all the difference, practicing response-ability can help you feel good about your decisions, and physical fitness is the pick-me-up you benefit from every single time. We can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond to it. Keep your cool and set yourself up for success by setting intentions for your day, your relationships and your life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, December 21, 2018

In The Quiet Corners of Your Heart -- What Do You Believe?

Pew Research Center recently conducted a national pole in America to find out what Americans mean when they say that they "believe in God." One-third of Americans say they don't believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A little more than half of Americans say they believe in God "as described in the Bible." And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding. But it's clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God "as described in the Bible" generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives. By contrast, people who say they believe in a "higher power or spiritual force" – but not in God as described in the Bible – are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs.

Overall, about half of Americans (48%) say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time. The survey found that three-quarters of American adults say they try to talk to God (or another higher power in the universe), and about three-in-ten U.S. adults say God (or a higher power) talks back.

The United States is a country of differing opinions and beliefs. Yet, no matter what corner of the world you live in there are people who believe in things that you may not believe in yourself. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of Americans pretend Santa will visit on Christmas Eve or Day. By comparison, 72 percent recalled participating in that activity in their childhood. Certainly, the holiday anticipation of Santa Claus delivering toys to girls and boys on Christmas Eve is decreasing in popularity with each generation. An AP survey of U.S. adults found that 84 percent had believed in Santa at some point during their childhoods, and the average respondent stopped believing at 9 years of age. However, there are those who still choose to believe. Just last week, a poll of New Yorkers asked "would you say you believe in Santa Claus or not?" Surprisingly, 31% of respondents said they do believe in Santa Claus.

Regardless of age, there are people who believe in fairy tales, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter bunny, unicorns, and more. Some would view such people as not being in their right mind -- or crazy. Some, however, may view such beliefs as non-harmful and perhaps even a positive thing in a world where there is so much struggle, harm and conflict.

A couple of months ago I read an article titled, "Five Reasons To Stop Reading Your Children Fairy Tales." The article describes stereotypes that are supposedly promoted by fairy tales that are said to be damaging to children, including:
  • Women are passive damsels who can only be saved by men;
  • Marriage is the ultimate reward;
  • Lack of racial/physical/sexual diversity;
  • Female characters are either bound to the home or they’re evil step mothers/sisters/witches;
  • The promotion of outdated ideologies.
I'm the father of four adult children, and the step-dad to four other children -- two of whom are still minors (ages 10 and 13). I read fairy tales to my own daughters and am pleased to say that they have grown into well adjusted, highly educated, professional-working women. They don't go through life believing that they have to be 'passive' and/or 'saved by men.' They understand the blessings of marriage and are not going through life with unrealistic and/or outdated ideologies. It seems to me that there are more and more people in the world who are trying to cast a dark cloud over those who may believe in things that are different than what they believe in. Rather than respect a person's right to believe, they reject, they criticize, they ostracize, they belittle, and they stand on a soap box to shout to the world why others are wrong and they themselves are right. And we wonder why there appears to be conflict around every corner today?

It's Christmas. We are in the most special, meaningful, uniting season of the entire year. It's a time for us to count our blessings, cherish our relationships, and build each other up... even while the world around us seems to be eroding. We were all born with the right to choose what we will believe in. If you want to truly share your thoughts about what you believe in and why it is that what you believe in is so good, just live your life... live your beliefs... and let your actions do the talking. We live in an Internet-driven, social media world where everyone wants their face seen and their voice heard. My advice to you this Christmas season is to forget about a WORLD-Wide-Web audience and just aim to be a positive example in your own neighborhood, sharing a kind thought with others and letting your beliefs shine through your own life and actions. Have yourself a Merry Christmas!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Man is Running on a Treadmill in a Texas Garage Walk-in Freezer

A few days ago, a Texas man was featured in Runner's World online. The man states that on November 16, 2019, he will attempt to become the "first person in history" to run the northernmost 300 miles of the Dalton Highway in Alaska. As seen on the History Channel show "Ice Road Truckers," the Dalton Highway is the longest stretch of unserviced road on the North American continent. It's mostly made up of gravel and dirt and stretches across desolate Alaska wilderness. There are a couple of things that caught my attention about the planned run by this Texan.

He is training on a treadmill located in a walk-in freezer that he has placed in his Texas garage. He says that the freezer not only helps him acclimate to freezing temperatures, but also allows him to test equipment he will need on the highway. He calls the freezer "BOCS" (Big Ol’ Climate Simulator). He wants to complete the 300-mile Alaska run in 9 days (which would be a 33-mile-per-day average) and he will have a support crew accompanying him -- including medics. The attempt is being described as "the most taxing and dangerous run" that he's ever attempted. So, his adventure will take place November 16-25, 2019. Having grown up in Alaska, I can tell you that the Dalton Highway -- which is north of Fairbanks --  was once called the North Slope Haul Road and was built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974. The road carries a couple hundred trucks daily and over 100 miles of it is paved. Also, the average November high temperature for the Dalton Highway Recreation Management Area, according to Weather.com, is 5 degrees with the average low temperature being minus 16 degrees. Having run regularly in both Alaska and Montana at such temperatures, I can tell you that running in temperatures hovering 10 degrees or so on either side of zero is not as 'life threatening' as the Texan describes. With respect to possible wildlife that he may encounter on the Dalton Highway, he'll have a support crew with him for protection and any bears that are not already heading into hibernation will likely not give him a second glance.

What is most important to note is the fact that the Texan featured by Runner's World magazine will not become the first person to cover the Dalton Highway on foot. In fact, it has been done several times -- even by a guy on crutches walking all alone in winter! Also, every year there are bicyclists who traverse the Dalton Highway... in the summer when the grizzlies are not hibernating!

The photo accompanying this blog post is Daniel Johnson-Utsogn of Norway, pushing a children's bike trailer full of his belongings along the Dalton Highway in the final days of a four-year-long walk from New York City to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The photo was a part of an NBC News story. The 23-year-old adventurer said he walked more than 25,000 miles through 49 states. During his adventure he didn't update a blog, own a smartphone, nor does he intend to write a book. Daniel is a 20-something adventurer/photographer who describes his walking lifestyle in this manner at his photography website:
"Hi, I’m Daniel. Chronic dirtbag traveller and modern day vagabond. My love affair for the open road began when I was only 19 years old. Born and raised in Norway, I graduated high school in 2013 and quit my job to start a walk across America. The walk lasted four years and took me through some of the most beautiful and wild places in North America and has greatly influenced who I am today. My nomadic lifestyle has mostly moved along at 4 mph., and I've found it immensely addictive. Like the moth to the flame, I can't seem to help myself. The mountains have become my mouthwash and the valleys my methadone. A conquistador of the useless, I keep pushing my limits, always searching for meaningful moments through a meaningless process. I wore out 17 pairs of shoes during those four years, walked 25,000 miles and never once allowed myself any means of transportation to further advance my walk. It all ended in Alaska’s Arctic on September 13th, 2017. My wanderlust and affection for the open road and the American West naturally bled into landscape photography. It is through my lens I wish to inspire others to get out and explore and appreciate the natural world around them."
There have been other adventurers who have also traversed the Dalton Highway on foot (for instance, do a Google search of Cargo Harrison's 14,000-mile journey), and most did not have a support crew as the Texan intends on having next year -- and several who have already accomplished the feat have averaged more miles than the Texan intends on doing. Sometimes, I shake my head over planned undertakings that Runner's World magazine chooses to promote. The Texan is running on a treadmill in a walk-in garage freezer talking about a 300-mile run he wants to do one year from now -- one that he says nobody has ever done. Runner's World magazine actually committed ink to that. I've been reading Runners' World magazine since 1978 -- yep, that's 40 years. It is with four decades of reading that I finally say -- come on Runner's World! Do your research and you'll find that this Texan's Dalton Highway goal has already been done -- solo -- and the people who have actually accomplished such things are definitely worth some ink!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ho, Ho, OH! -- America's Santa is Morbidly Obese!



Christmas is one week from today! For the two children in my home (ages 10 and 13), it is indeed an exciting time -- and it's exciting for Kelley and I also! We're nearing the end of another year and I'm pleased to say that our family is in good shape. The girls are active in dance classes and we adults aim to take care of ourselves so that we can keep up with the energy and pace requirements of our jobs, maintaining our home, shuttling kids to practices and events, and all the rest that comes with a busy working/parenting schedule. Yet, with the holidays comes a little weight gain. Some statistics say that the average American gains 6 to 8 pounds during the holidays, but the more realistic figure is just a couple of pounds.

A couple of pounds doesn't sound like a big deal; however, studies suggest we don’t take it off -- ever! That means we enter each year a couple of pounds heavier, which can add up over the decades. And research suggests that if you enter the holiday season already overweight, it’s likely you’ll gain even more. I thought about making this blog post about ways of keeping the extra holiday pounds off (such as: staying active; limiting intake; getting enough sleep; and so on). As I thought about it, I decided that most people already know what they SHOULD do, but their failure to do what's needed is often simply a choice.

Many people choose to sit on the sofa instead of going for a walk. Many people choose to go back for a second serving rather than exercising self control. Many people choose to stay up until late into the night rather than getting quality sleep and maintaining a healthy schedule. In many ways, any weight you put on during the holidays is by choice. You can also choose not to put on weight. While it is true that the American image of Santa Claus is of an overweight man, we should not believe that such obesity is acceptable... particularly in a country where obesity is a growing epidemic.

In my opinion, Jesus is the reason for the season. However, it is true that many people focus on the overweight figure of Santa Claus. Most American children can tell you what Santa looks like: "chubby and plump" with "a round little belly" that shakes when he laughs "like a bowl full of jelly." That’s Santa as described by Clement C. Moore, author of the classic poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" -- also known as "The Night Before Christmas." Moore’s 1822 poem helped to shape Santa. The Coca-Cola Company has also played a role in shaping Santa. Since the 1920's, it has used portraits of Santa in its advertising -- the most famous images drawn by a Michigan illustrator who used Moore’s poem as inspiration. Coca-Cola seemed to change Santa from pleasingly plump to dangerously obese.

Based on flight profile data gathered from over 50 years of North American Aerospace Defense Command's (NORAD of U.S./Canada) radar and satellite tracking, NORAD concludes that Santa probably stands about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds (before cookies). That would mean that he has a body mass index of 41, and anything over 40 is considered "morbidly obese."

Prior to the 19th century, Santa was quite fit, as he still is in other countries even today. At a display of global Santa figures in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called "Spirits of Giving From Around the World" (an exhibit of life-size Santas and original paintings), only the American Santa is obese; the weight of Santa figures in other countries is nicely proportional with height, and some can even be called athletic. In many countries, Santa doesn’t make reindeer haul him around, but rides a horse or walks from house to house. These depictions are more in keeping with the real St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop who was the inspiration for the modern Santa Claus and whose remains were analyzed in 1957. The examination revealed a man of average height (nearly 5 feet, 6 inches) and slender-to-average build, with a waist of about 34 inches. His teeth indicated a diet that was mostly vegetarian. Clearly, he was not a man who was chubby and plump with a belly that shaked like a bowl full of jelly when he laughed. And, it would seem he preferred a salad over cookies.

The name "Santa Claus" is the English form of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas -- Sinterklaas. The historical St. Nicholas was a godly man known for his charity and generosity. According to the best estimates, Nicholas was born around 280 AD in Patara (a harbor city in modern day Turkey). He later became bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas died about 343 AD on or near December 6.

Enjoy the goodies of the holiday... in moderation. Get rest, get steps in, and if your belly starts to look like a bowl full of jelly, you may want to consider ringing in the new year with a gym membership!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 17, 2018

Older Than a Grinch, but Younger Than a Red-nosed Reindeer!

This past weekend, Kelley and I took Hannah and Kyndal to see the latest Grinch movie that is in theaters. It was a well done version of the five-decades-old story and all of us enjoyed it. At one point in the movie, the Grinch says, "I'm 53 years old, so Christmas has changed a lot from what it was when I was a little Grinch." Hannah leaned over to me and said, "You're as old as the Grinch!" That made me chuckle, but later -- as I thought about the fact that I was born in 1965 -- I realized that I'm the same age as a few holiday classics. For instance, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Sound of Music" were released in 1965. Also, Burl Ives' album "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" hit record stores in 1965. There were also some classic games that were released in 1965, such as "Trouble" and "Operation." So, 1965 was a pretty good year for the birth of classic holiday entertainment!

However, I must share that the new Grinch animated movie is slightly inaccurate. The Grinch is actually 52 years old, not 53 as stated in the latest version of the Grinch tale. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" was first released in 1966, which would make me one year older than the Grinch. At least I can take comfort in the fact that Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is one year older than me!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

U.S. Poll Results Regarding Church Attendance at Christmastime

LifeWay Research polled 1,000 Americans and found that six out of 10 typically attend church at Christmastime. However, among those who don’t attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them.

According to the research, Americans living in the South (66 percent) and Midwest (64 percent) are more likely to attend church at Christmastime than those in the Northeast (57 percent) and West (53 percent). And throughout the U.S., more women than men are likely to attend Christmas church services (66 percent vs. 56 percent). Those who attend church most frequently throughout the year -- once a week or more -- are the most likely (91 percent) to say they will attend church at Christmastime.

Younger Americans are less likely to participate in a service or Christmas mass than their elders. Fifty-three percent of those 18 to 24 say they attend church at Christmas, compared to 68 percent of those 65 and older and 67 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds.

Here are some of the poll results:


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The First Running Shoes Were Created 153 Years Ago -- in 1865.

One of the earliest examples of running shoes is at the Northampton Museum in England. The shoes look like someone hammered nails through a pair of Oxfords. It's believed that the leather shoe was likely used for cross-country running. It represents the earliest spiked running shoe made on a production basis. Northampton was the center of the British shoemaking industry.

The design bears a definite relationship to early cricket shoes. The low cut design is of all leather construction. There are three spikes under the forefoot and one under the heel -- which suggests that the shoe was used as a distance running or cross-country shoe for dirt/grass surfaces. It incorporates a broad toe band, which is a separate piece of leather, sewn into the welt of the shoe to add lateral stability.

I started running in 1976. It wasn't until 1980 when I would begin running long distances as a member of my high school varsity cross country team. Wow, that was 38 years ago! I remember well my first pair of running shoes -- the Brooks Vantage Supreme. They were two shades of blue, with a yellow color added, and received a 5-star rating from Runner's World magazine. Those shoes carried me to the 1980 Alaska Region IV Cross Country Championships -- the year when my best 3.1-mile time was 16 minutes, 45 seconds (or a 5:35 average mile pace). That time would have given me 12th place overall at the 2018 Alaska State Cross Country Championships.

I wonder how fast I could have run in the 1865 Northampton shoes!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, December 7, 2018

Would You Name Your Baby After a Healthy Food? Some Parents Are!

The parenting website BabyCenter.com recently released its report on baby name trends in the United States. The report is based on hundreds of thousands of names that parents chose and provided to the website annually. Each year, about 4 million babies are born in the United States.

This year’s findings suggest that parents are increasingly inspired by the wellness movement. Names related to spiritual practices, like yoga or meditation, (such as "Peace," "Harmony," and "Hope") have risen in popularity, and so have names tied to healthy food trends. For girls, parents are increasingly picking names like Kale, Kiwi, Maple, Hazel, Clementine, Sage, Saffron, and Rosemary. Names like Saffron, Sage, and Hazel are also on the rise for boys.

With 2018 drawing to a close, here are the top 10 baby names for 2018 from BabyCenter.com -- which compiled this information from more than 742,000 parents who shared their new baby's name with BabyCenter.com in 2018. The names are listed in order from most popular to least popular.

GIRLS

  • Sophia
  • Olivia
  • Emma
  • Ava
  • Isabella
  • Aria
  • Riley
  • Amelia
  • Mia
  • Layla

BOYS

  • Jackson
  • Liam
  • Noah
  • Aiden
  • Caden
  • Grayson
  • Lucas
  • Mason
  • Oliver
  • Elijah

And to end this post, I'll share that in 2016 the name "Carrot" was on the rise for boys, but then nose-dived in 2017. However, in 2018 it has seen an increase with 8 boys out of every million being named "Carrot." If any of them grow up to be a doctor, they might often be met with the question... "What's up, Doc?"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Why Are Wedding Rings Worn on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand?



Earlier this year, I married the most wonderful woman in the world -- Kelley. We exchanged vows and wedding rings in front of family and friends. As I was in my office today, I looked down at my wedding band and smiled. I love wearing this symbol of the love and commitment that Kelley and I share. Did you know that there is actually a historical reason as to why most people wear their wedding band on the left hand ring finger?

The wedding ring tradition dates back to ancient Egypt, as archaeologists have found evidence in hieroglyphics that brides would wear a ring. The Egyptians, who first started wearing wedding bands as a symbol of eternity, believed there was a delicate nerve that ran from the fourth finger all the way to the heart. Of course, we know now that the heart is an organ for pumping blood, but back then it was thought to be the center of our emotions.

Ancient Greeks and ancient Romans also slipped wedding rings on their left ring fingers for a similar reason. They believed a "vein of love" (vena amoris) ran from that finger to the heart. Even though that vein and nerve don’t exist, Western countries have continued the ancient tradition. However, in some other cultures the wedding ring goes on the right hand.

Traditionally, women were the only ones to wear wedding rings. Men didn’t join in until the early 20th century. During the World Wars, soldiers would wear wedding rings as a means of remembering their loved ones. It was only after the Korean War that male wedding bands took on the sentimental value they have today. It was then when the creation of matching wedding rings increased and designs specifically for men came about.

Yes, I love wearing my wedding band and it is truly a symbol of the eternal love and commitment that Kelley and I share.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Effectively Treat a Muscle Injury or Sprain -- The Benefits of Icing!

As the temperature begins to drop in many areas with winter blowing in, it seems like a fitting time to post a writing about the benefits of icing an injury. It won't be long before there is a rise in incidents of sprained ankles/knees from slipping on ice, or strained muscles from shoveling snow. The benefits of icing are greatest within the first day or two after sustaining an injury. Apply a bag of crushed ice, a bag of frozen veggies, or an ice pack to your injury. It will help relieve pain and prevent swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area.

R.I.C.E. is an acronym that many sports trainers and athletes use to remember how to treat a minor muscle injury. It stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate.

Resting is one of the most effective ways to start your healing process. Your injured muscle will be weak and vulnerable to further injury, especially in the first few hours. Take a break from moving it to help it heal.

When it comes to icing, avoid frostbite by never placing the ice directly on your bare skin. Instead, wrap it in a thin cloth or towel before applying it to the injured area. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and allow your skin to return to normal temperature in between icing. To maximize the benefits of icing, ice three times a day with at least 45 minutes in between applications.

An elastic bandage wrapped firmly around your injury can help minimize swelling by creating compression and preventing the buildup of fluid. It can also help ease pain by keeping the injured area somewhat immobilized. The bandage may not be enough to immobilize the injured area entirely, but it will provide some support and remind you to keep it still. If the bandage causes tingling or numbness, remove it and rewrap it more loosely. It shouldn’t be so tight that it causes discomfort or interferes with your blood flow. Even gentle compression can help keep fluid from collecting around the injury.

Elevating an injury above the level of your heart will helping minimize swelling by allowing fluid to drain away from the area. If you can’t raise it above your heart, try to keep the injured area at the same level as your heart or close to it. If you suffered an injury to your buttocks or hips, you should try lying down with one or more pillows wedged under your buttocks and lower back to help lift it.

The day after suffering an injury is often the most painful. Swelling will likely be at its worst a few hours to a couple of days after your injury occurred. Bruising will continue to develop for the first few hours and may be very noticeable the next day. Continue using the R.I.C.E. treatment method for the first 48 to 72 hours after your injury. During this time, you should keep the injured area wrapped with an elastic bandage, elevate it when you can, and apply ice every few hours. During the first three days following a muscle strain or sprain, don’t apply heat to the area. While it may feel soothing, heat can increase circulation and worsen swelling. Think to yourself... ice is nice!

Keep in mind that you can also perform an "ice massage." Apply ice directly to the injury and move the ice frequently, not allowing it to sit in one spot. Many athletes will perform an ice massage where they use a frozen block of ice and massage into the area of discomfort, to prevent prolonged direct contact of the ice to one specific location.

Here are some tips for icing:
  • Use a Ziploc bag with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add a little water to the ice bag so it will conform to your body.
  • Keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice cup over the injury in a circular pattern allowing the ice to melt away.
  • Use a bag of frozen peas or corn. This option provides a reusable treatment method. However, once used for icing, the defrosted food should not be eaten if you return it to the freezer to use again!
  • There are many products sold that can be reused to help you ice an injured body part. Many of these are designed to conform to a specific part of the body.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, December 3, 2018

Reached Another Milestone in Blogging -- My 300th Blog Post

After deleting a blog I maintained for about 5 years, and taking several years off from blogging (2011-2015), I started again in 2016. Since then, I've averaged about 100 writings per year at this blog. Today, I am posting my 300th writing.

I didn't even realize when I hit the 100th blog post back in 2016. It just wasn't something I was paying attention to. In 2017, I posted a writing about reaching the 200th blog post mark. In that post I shared a little about my writings and about who reads this blog. So, now I'm at the 300 mark and feel as though I should write something significant for this milepost. I've been scratching my head on this!

I guess what strikes me most is how much my life has changed since I started writing this blog in June 2016. Back then, I was dating a wonderful woman named Kelley, who is now my wife. Back then, I wasn't a step dad -- and today I am. Back then, I was renting an apartment after having moved 18 months earlier from Montana to Indiana, and today I own a beautiful home with my lovely bride. Back then, three of my four children were adults -- and today all of them are. Back then, I was still an ultramarathon runner -- and today I am retired from pounding my body into the ground. Sure, there are lots of changes that have taken place in my life since I started writing this blog again in 2016... and I am blessed in countless ways.

Initially, this blog focused on health, nutrition and fitness topics. You'll see that now I focus more on family, faith and fitness. Yes, the 'focus' of this blog has changed a little over the years, but I do believe that the topics that I choose to write about do resonate with some people. According to my stats, I am still having daily traffic to this blog from readers around the world. For instance, in just the past month I've had readers from the USA, Russia, France, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, India, Sweden, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Portugal. I don't write every day, but I try to post 8 to 10 writings per month -- on average. Also, my website (paulstaso.com) continues to get daily traffic and I acquire additional blog readers who click on the blog link at my site.

I'll keep writing, and I hope you'll keep reading!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso