Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Who Is Outside More -- Children or Prisoners?

Who spends more time outside, a child... or a maximum-security prisoner? Watch this film to find out.

We've gotten to the point where children spend less time outside each day than prison inmates do in the United States. Inmates are guaranteed two hours of outdoor time daily, whereas one in two children is outside for less than an hour each day. A recent survey of 12,000 parents in 10 countries (United States, Brazil, U.K., Turkey, Portugal, South Africa, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India), who have children aged 5 to 12, found that one-third of kids spend under 30 minutes outside each day.

The short film above reveals how important it is for inmates to have their outdoor time on a daily basis and how surprised they are to learn that kids get even less. The inmates describe daily outdoors time as “probably the most important part of my day... It keeps my mind right, keeps my body strong.”

This new survey reiterates what we’ve been hearing from many different sources – that kids are spending far too much time in the house watching screens, instead of engaging in free play outdoors, using their imaginations and getting dirty. It's unfortunate that it takes a comparison to prison inmates to make us realize how little time outdoors children are experiencing. As one prisoner said:
“I didn’t know what freedom was until it was taken from me. It’s devastating... you can never escape the wall. You can never escape your mind. Then imagine they open your door; you have time to walk out that door and feel the sun on your face. It’s everything to me.”
Whatever the cause of children’s reduction in time outdoors (excessive rigidity in schools; increased time on electronic devices; parental fears about their child’s safety; etc.), experts agree it’s a problem that must be addressed.

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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Running Is Not My Job!

Even though it has been 10 years since I ran solo across America, and 5 years since my last "adventure run" (across the Mojave Desert), I still occasionally receive messages from people wanting advice for long-distance running endeavors they're planning. Some are under the false impression that I'm a "professional runner" and have corporate sponsors to be able to do the various solo runs across states and countries that I've done. That is 100% incorrect!

Yes, I am "Founder" and "President" of The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc. (a non-profit organization formed in 2009). However, I receive NO salary from that and do not have corporate sponsors. In fact, the foundation has been sitting dormant for about five years and has a bank account balance of approximately $10.

The truth is, most of the adventure runs I've done have cost me thousands of dollars of my own money, with the balance of expenses being offset by people who simply hand me $5 or $10 here and there -- usually when I'm running across a state or country. I have raised some money through school speaker fees that were paid directly to The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation and then used for adventure runs to promote youth health and fitness. However, I am not a "professional runner" and am not paid by any organization or corporation to run.

When I'm not running behind my support stroller over mountains, across deserts, and through towns and cities, I'm working full time in a law firm -- something I first began doing back in 1993 when I was only 28 years old. The areas of law that I currently focus on are securities fraud, construction liability and personal injury. Essentially, my professional experience includes analyzing the facts of a case and its legal implications; drafting discovery; performing fact/legal research; developing medical chronologies; interviewing witnesses; writing Memorandums of Law; preparing legal briefs; and much more.

I hold two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Montana and prior to working for the firm I am currently with in Indiana, I worked for law firms in Alaska and Montana specializing in commercial litigation, environmental law, probate and estates, and personal injury. I've also worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

That's a side of my life that people don't see when they witness a guy running down the side of the road pushing 80-pounds of gear, food and water in the middle of nowhere. While on an adventure run I've actually had people yell at me "Get a job!" -- usually as they're driving by. If they only knew that I do indeed have a job and that I sacrifice personal time to do the adventures I do... all to try and encourage today's youth in goal setting and greater health/fitness.

I've been blessed to receive many accolades over the years, both in my professional life and my athletic life. I've also been a Torchbearer for the 2002 Olympic Games, received an award from the Mayo Clinic for my efforts in reducing childhood obesity in America, and was inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador. However, what I am most proud of is being a father to four wonderful children (ages 16, 18, 21, 23). Parenthood is the ultimate 'adventure' and I've tried to be the best father I can be -- even when life's road became challenging with unexpected twists and turns. The satisfaction of running thousands of miles alone across America, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert doesn't come close to the satisfaction, joy and contentment that comes with being a Dad.

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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Only 9 States Require Providing Recess

Only 9 states (18%) require elementary schools to provide students with recess. In my opinion, that should be 50 states (100%)!

We've heard for years that regular physical activity provides children with multiple physical and mental health benefits, such as:
  • Builds strong bones and muscles.
  • Decreases the likelihood of developing chronic diseases -- such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
  • Improves self-esteem.
  • Reduces anxiety and depression.
What we don't hear enough about is how physically active students are better learners. Scientific evidence shows that when students are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day it:
  • Increases concentration and focus.
  • Improves classroom attendance.
  • Improves behavior.
  • Boosts academic performance, including grades and standardized test scores.
In one University of Illinois study, physical activity was shown to improve academic performance. The study with 9 and 10 year olds demonstrated the effects of 20 minutes of walking on students prior to taking a test then compared results to another group of children who simply sat for 20 minutes before the test. The walking group outperformed the sitting group by responding faster to questions and making fewer errors. As shown in the brain image on this page, researchers found that physical activity increases brain activity, which translates into better academic learning.

In a review of 50 studies on the association of physical activity and student learning, the Centers for Disease Control dispelled the notion that providing adequate physical activity has to be made ‘at the expense of academics.’ Rather, the CDC’s recommendation to school administrators and teachers is that physical education, recess, classroom-based physical activity, and extracurricular physical activities support rather than detract from student learning. As a CDC campaign puts it: “The More They Burn, the Better They Learn.”

C'mon schools! Lets get our kids "burning" and "learning!"

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.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Have You Ziplined Lately?

This weekend I got to do something that I've wanted to do for a very long time. I got to go zip lining! I went to a course that had 3 sky bridges and 7 zip lines. The final zip was 1,000 feet long! It was so much fun and will definitely be something I do again.

The zip lining course I went to allows children as young as 8 years old onto the course. In fact, there are many kid-friendly zip line courses. So, if you're looking for a fun activity to do with your kids this summer, consider zip lining!

The popularity of zip lining has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. The website lists more than 200 zip line courses across America and there are hundreds of others in Canada, in the Caribbean, in Central and South America, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia, in Australia and in New Zealand.

Here are some zip lining tips to consider before strapping on the harness:

1. Make sure the operator of the zip line tour is legit

Before you decide to zip into the great beyond, make a phone call or two. Ask questions. Currently, there are no national standards for zip line construction and operation; however, many states have them, and any legitimate operator should also adhere to the standards set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology or the Professional Ropes Course Association. So ask about that. Ask how often the course is inspected, and by whom. Ask about the company's safety record. Ask about its insurance. Ask about how the people there will keep you safe.

2. Look around

Once you get there, does the place look legit? Are the operators who will help you in your adventure professional? Is a safety demonstration included? (If not... that's a big red flag!) Look at the equipment provided, including carabiners, ropes, harnesses and helmets. Are they well maintained? Look at the course itself. Do the lines look free from wear and tear? How about the platforms? Do they look sturdy? Do they have guard rails?

3. Listen... Carefully!

No one will strap you in and push you off without addressing safety. So don't act like you do when the flight attendant goes into the pre-flight routine. It's important to listen intently to these safety briefings. And, again, ask questions.

4. Watch your step on the course

Once on the course, make sure you're strapped onto a safety line at all times, not just while you're zipping through the trees. (Some places require that you have two safety lines hooked on) Many accidents occur by a simple step off a platform. So if you're on the course (which often means many feet off the ground), you should be safely attached to a line that will catch you if you fall. Also, watch out for other adventurers and the guides. Don't get in their way.

5. Know your limits

Most zip lines have, as you might imagine, a weight limit. But being big isn't the only thing that should make you think twice before zipping along. If you're pregnant, if you have a heart condition, if you have height-related phobias, if you think the stress just might be too uncomfortable -- take a pass.

6. Wear a helmet

Just do it. And, ditch the flip-flops. Closed-toe shoes only.

Zip lining on a legit course with trained professionals who have safety as their primary focus will give you the most positive experience. Again, there are many kid-friendly courses. So, consider zip lining as a fun, adventurous family activity for this summer!

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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Recess, Don't "Let it Go"

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper in Florida ran a story a couple of weeks ago on a topic that was never a debated issue when I was a kid. There are actually parents and children who are fighting for kids to be able to have recess at school. Recently, it appears their efforts are starting to pay off in Florida.

Seminole County elementary school children are expected to get 20 minutes of daily recess next school year under a new policy. The Osceola County School Board adopted a similar policy in February. However, none of Florida's 65 other school districts make recess a required part of the elementary school day! Whether children get daily recess can vary by school and even by classroom. Last year, the Orange County School Board voted to recommend — but not require — recess, at least on days when students did not have a physical education class.

A group known as "The Recess Moms" has been urging school districts in Florida to mandate daily recess, arguing that students need a break from academics and a chance to play and socialize with classmates.

Recess was a routine part of elementary when I was a young boy in the early-to-mid 1970's, but in many schools across America it is being squeezed out by academic demands -- particularly since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2002. But many parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics say children need time to play during the day, both for their emotional and social development and so they can better focus on school work when they are in class. In a 2013 report the academy called recess "crucial and necessary."

Many school administrators worry that a requirement to have daily recess will tie the hands of educators who, by state law, also have blocks of reading, math and other lessons that they must fit into the school day. Some principals argue that they do not have the staff to supervise recess.

It's sad to see that recess has become such a hot topic of debate in today's elementary schools. However, yesterday I was encouraged to read that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said she'll sign a bill mandating at least 20 minutes of recess at elementary schools across Rhode Island, joking that her kids would be mad if she rejected it. "I am not going to veto that bill," Gov. Raimondo said. "I don't think my children would let me in the house if I vetoed that bill."

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

10 Years Since My Solo Run Across America

Today marks 10 years since I began my solo 3,260-mile run across the United States. The 108-day journey was done to keep a promise I had made to some elementary students. In some ways, I can't believe that 10 years have already gone by. The memories of that run seem so fresh! I was 41 years old back in 2006 and had four children between the ages of 6 and 13. Now, my children are 16, 18, 21 and 23 -- my eldest being an elementary teacher. Being away from my children during the summer of 2006 as I crossed 15 states was the hardest part of that journey and I know that back then they were too young to truly understand why I was doing the run or the magnitude of the challenge. Why in the world would their Dad run 30 miles per day from Oregon to Delaware? They may still be scratching their heads about that one!

Life has presented me with many twists and turns in the road over the past 10 years. Most of my children are now adults and are blazing their own paths in life. I'm so proud of them. Since I completed the coast-to-coast run I have also run solo across Montana, Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert -- promoting youth health and fitness with each stride. I've spoken to thousands of school children through assemblies, was inducted as the first European PTA Youth Ambassador, and given a special award from the Mayo Clinic for my efforts in combating childhood obesity in America. Unfortunately, along the path I was on the receiving end of divorce papers. That occurred several years ago and resulted in some people distancing themselves from me. I can only hope that in time some bridges will be mended.

Just like a journey run, there are peaks and valleys on life's road. Over the past five years since I completed my last adventure run (the Mojave Desert) I've experienced more 'valleys' than 'peaks.' However, life took a positive upturn last year and I'm experiencing more peaks than valleys these days. I have a challenging yet rewarding job and for the past year I've been in a positive, fulfilling relationship with someone that I love unconditionally and who genuinely returns love the same way. I've held onto my non-profit organization, The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, even though it has been sitting dormant since the Mojave Desert run in 2011. I've encouraged a few people who have reached out to me for advice with their own transcontinental running attempts and have done presentations as time and opportunities allow.

As this ten year anniversary of my run across America has been approaching, I've been reflecting back on my running career -- which began in 1975 when I was 10 years old. My running has taken me places that I never imagined my feet would carry me when I was a 5th grader running my first timed mile. I remember a day back then when I ran to the edge of our neighborhood and stopped (because my Mom told me that was the boundary). I looked down the road and imagined what it would be like to just keep going... and possibly run all the way across town. Well, that wide-eyed elementary student who was growing up during the "running boom" of the 70's got to run a lot farther than just across town!

At the age of 19 I wanted to run a marathon. I logged a lot of training miles, but was too broke to get to any marathon races. So, I jumped into my old VW Bug and drove 13.1 miles out from my college campus. I made a chalk line on the road, placed a bottle of water in the bushes, and drove back to campus. Then, I ran out to that chalk line and back again. I had completed my first "marathon." In 1986 I made my first attempt to run across America (sponsored by New Balance, Timex, Gatorade, and a company that was relatively new called "Oakley, Inc."), but I got injured early on and had to stop the run. That was 8 years before Forrest Gump ran across America on movie screens. In the past 4+ decades I've run enough miles to circle the globe a couple times. In so many ways, running has been a constant in my life... something to lean on, rely on, and something that would bring out the best in me. I guess you could say that running has been a significant factor in defining who I am.

So, here I am... 51 years old and the most content and focused that I've been since I ran 506 miles across the Mojave Desert in 17 days. I still have "BOB" (my "Beast Of Burden" support stroller) and have been focusing in on what I want to do with my running and with The PACE Fitness Foundation that I started many years ago. I have a pretty clear picture of where I want my footsteps to go and for what reason. For today, I'm content with reflecting back to June 23, 2006 and what a wonderful day that was. I took the first of what would be 6.2 million steps across America while pushing a stroller weighing over 60 pounds. Starting in front of "Haystack Rock" (a monolith) at Cannon Beach, Oregon was perfect. Friends and family were there to wish me well, and my four children ran the first 1/4 mile with me down the beach. Yes, the memories are still so vivid that it is hard to believe a decade has already passed.

Life is indeed a journey of twists and turns, valleys and peaks. I'm standing on the highest peak I've experienced in the past five years and the view is great. It's time to not only look to the horizon beyond the neighborhood, but to also run there. I hope you'll follow along via my writings and pictures in this blog. It's going to be quite an adventure!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,