Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Top 10 Best Running Cities in America

Runner's World magazine recently published a list of America's 50 best running cities. They considered such things as temperate climate; abundant routes, tracks, and trails; a vibrant local running and racing scene; and perhaps some good company.

They started with a list of 250 U.S. cities with populations of more than 160,000 that had the highest number of households per capita reporting participation in running within the last 12 months (according to the SimplyMap 2014 census study). Then, they gathered data from various sources to create five indexes of special importance to runners (run, parks, climate, food, safety), ranking the cities in each index from 1 to 150. They then weighted the indexes and tallied up the scores to create the final list. The top ten are:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • San Diego, California
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New York, New York
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Denver, Colorado

I've been fortunate to be able to run in 5 of the top ten cities.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

10 Reasons Juicing Can Be Bad for Your Health

By Diane Wedner, Lifescript
Reviewed by Edward C. Geehr, M.D., Lifescript Chief Medical Officer

Juicing, or going on a “juice fast” to lose weight or detox, may do your body more harm than good.

You just stumbled out of yoga class. You’re hot, sweaty and need a pick-me-up. Go for a nonfat latte? No, you grab a kale juice instead. Juice is now the beverage of choice for people on the go. Harried moms drink it. So do yoga fans. Celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Jared Leto and Salma Hayek do too. They’re juicing – chugging raw fruit-and-vegetable drinks to “cleanse” their bodies, get a speedy meal, consume more produce or lose weight.

Juice is the new latte. About 92 million gallons of super-premium juices were consumed in 2013, up from 71 million gallons in 2007, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., an industry research firm. No wonder! Juice is an easy way to get fresh vegetables and fruit. It makes for a fast breakfast or lunch, and it’s healthful.

Or is it? Could something this good be bad for you?

Yes, especially if you have a chronic condition or are taking certain drugs, says Adrienne Youdim, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and medical director of the Center for Weight Loss at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Even if you’re a healthy person, too much juice can be dangerous, warns nutrition expert Carol Koprowski, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.

So before grabbing a carrot juice instead of lunch or spending hundreds on a cleanse, read on for the ways juicing can hurt you.

1. You could risk dangerous drug interactions.

The high vitamin K content in a spinach-kale smoothie, for example, can be life-threatening if you take blood-thinning medications, like warfarin. Such anticoagulants often are prescribed after a stroke, deep vein thrombosis or other circulatory conditions.

Kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, parsley and mustard greens – green juicers’ favorites – contain up to 550 micrograms of vitamin K per cup, which can lower the drugs’ anti-clotting activity. If you take anticoagulants, you should only eat a half-cup of leafy greens a day, according to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Eat the same amount every day too, because big changes in vitamin K intake could lead to a blood clot, and a stroke or death.

If you’re one of the 70 million people taking cholesterol-lowering statins, stay away from grapefruit juice. The citrus fruit blocks an intestinal enzyme that controls absorption of drugs such as simvastatin or atorvastatin. You’ll also face a higher risk of muscle and joint pain, muscle breakdown, liver damage and kidney failure if you drink grapefruit juice (or eat the fruit) while taking statins, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Grapefruit also can interfere with drugs for high blood pressure, anxiety, allergies and other ailments, according to the Food and Drug Administration. So ask your doctor if your prescriptions may interact with the fruit.

2. You could develop diabetes.

About 79 million Americans have prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That means they have blood sugar readings that are higher than healthy but not yet high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Juicing could tip those at risk over the edge, according to a 2010 Harvard University study of 187,000 nurses.

Drinking one or more daily servings of apple, orange, grapefruit and other juices increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21%, the study found. If you have the metabolic disorder, juicing could lead to blood sugar spikes because you’re getting all the sugar of fruit without the fiber, Koprowski explains. The fiber in whole fruit and vegetables slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

If you’ve been told you have prediabetes, eat the whole fruit instead. But limit daily intake to one small piece of fruit or one cup of fresh berries or melon, Koprowski advises.

3. You could damage your kidneys.

Beware of fruit and vegetable juices with high amounts of potassium, such as bananas and kale, if you have kidney problems. Four-and-a-half cups of chopped kale – the amount in 8 ounces of juice for a “cleanse” – can be lethal if your kidneys are weak because of high blood pressure, severe infection, an enlarged prostate, certain drugs or pregnancy complications.

Even most lower-potassium foods are off-limits to people with kidney problems because the amounts add up quickly. Adults need 4,700 mg of potassium daily to keep the heart and muscles working. In healthy people, the kidneys generally excrete the excess. But that doesn’t happen in people with compromised kidneys: Potassium builds in their blood, raising the risk of a heart attack and stroke, according to the National Kidney Foundation. They should limit their intake of potassium to 1,500 -2,000 mg per day.

If you have experienced weakness, numbness or tingling – signs of potassium overload – call your doctor immediately, advises Judy D. Simon, M.S., R.D., a clinical dietitian and nutritionist at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Roosevelt Clinic in Seattle.

4. You could threaten your thyroid gland.

Kale, bok choy, cauliflower, collards and spinach are rich in glucosinolates, which form goitrin, a compound associated with hypothyroidism or insufficient thyroid hormone. High amounts of these veggies have caused hypothyroidism in animals, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute. One 88-year-old woman lapsed into a coma after eating 3 pounds (or 2 cups of juice) per day of raw bok choy for several months, according to the institute. But researchers aren’t sure if her condition was caused by the bok choy or another problem, such as an autoimmune disease.

The National Cancer Institute recommends eating a variety of vegetables daily – not just leafy green ones. The CDC’s fruit-and-veggie calculator helps you determine how much you need. But there are no separate intake recommendations for people with hypothyroidism, so talk to your doctor before juicing.

5. You might get food poisoning.

One reason fresh juice is healthful is that it’s unpasteurized, so the taste and nutrients are preserved. But when juices aren’t heated to 154° F for 30 minutes to kill germs, they’re more vulnerable to lethal bacteria, such as salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even if it’s bacteria-free during manufacturing, fresh juice sold in stores may be contaminated after it leaves the plant – for example, in shipping, storage or in your home. If you leave a container of juice on a table overnight, toss it. Otherwise you risk food poisoning and major intestinal problems, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns.

Most store-bought, bottled fresh juices last up to 3 days if refrigerated and unopened, Koprowski says. Drink them within a day once you’ve opened the seal. Flash-pasteurizing – heating juice at 160° for 15-30 seconds – offers a longer shelf life, about 3 weeks in the fridge, while preserving some nutrients. Companies such as Naked Juice and Odwalla treat their juices this way. Products that aren’t pasteurized must say so on the package.

6. Juice cleanses don’t work.

We clean out our houses and cars. So why not our bodies? That’s the reasoning behind juice cleanses, which are intended to rid your body of toxins. Forget about it. The practice is a waste of time and money, because your body doesn’t need “cleansing,” says Dr. Youdim of Cedars-Sinai. “Our bodies have their own elaborate, elegant detoxification system, called the liver, intestines and kidneys,” she explains. “It’s foolish to think the body can’t detox on its own,” she adds.

7. Juices can be calorie bombs.

If you’re downing up to 96 ounces of juice a day to lose weight – which many fasts recommend – stop, USC’s Koprowski warns. Juicing for days to lose weight “can be potentially harmful,” she says. That’s because you’re losing out on important nutrients. And don’t expect to get slimmer, says Dr. Youdim. In fact, you might gain weight, because you’re consuming more calories than you realize – mostly from naturally occurring sugar in the fruits and vegetables.

Some juices and smoothies are more caloric than a meal. For example, a large Jamba Juice Razzmatazz Smoothie, made with mixed berry juice, orange sherbet, strawberries and bananas, rings up at 580 calories. Consume too many, and “you can end up with a few thousand calories of juice a day!” Simon warns.

And still be unsatisfied. “It can take 10-15 oranges or several pounds of carrots to make a meal of juice,” Koprowski says. “Or you could munch on a couple of carrots and feel full.”

8. You’re passing on protein.

Eight ounces of kale juice is packed with vitamins A (3,500% of your daily recommended amount), K (4,300%) and C (1,200%), plus iron, calcium and antioxidants. But you’ll get only about 2 to 8 grams of protein. That’s not enough if you’re drinking juice as a meal replacement. A 130-pound woman needs 65 grams of protein daily to repair cells and create new ones.

Protein also preserves and builds lean body mass, which helps keep you healthy and even burns calories, Dr. Youdim explains. “Fruits and vegetables [alone], however, are not a great source,” Koprowski says.

9. You’re forsaking fiber.

Juicing gives you the nutrients of fresh produce – but removes the pulp and fiber – necessary to keep your colon in good working order, reduce heart disease risk, and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. “When you drink orange juice, you get vitamin C, but it’s not the same as eating an orange,” Simon says. The whole fruit has the vitamin plus fiber, with far fewer calories than a glass of juice. It’ll also keep you full longer.

10. You’ll pay premium prices.

A daily juice habit is expensive – about $3,500 yearly if you buy one a day from a premium juice bar.

Lifescript checked around at local stores and found that:
  • Evolution Fresh costs $2.99 to $6.99 for a 15-ounce bottle at Starbucks.
  • You’ll pay $5.99 to $9.99 for the fresh juice bar at Whole Foods.
  • Premium juice bars in Los Angeles charge $10 to $15 for 8-ounce refreshers.
Cleanses are even costlier. Actress Salma Hayek’s Cooler Cleanse, sold online, runs $58 per day – or $174 for 3 days of fruits, vegetables, coconut water and almond milk.

The bottom line: Juices are better than a burger and fries, and can be a good addition to your diet – if you’re healthy and consume them in moderation. “But if you want to live a healthy life and prevent chronic diseases without spending a fortune, eat whole vegetables and grains, not ‘detox’ protocols,” Dr. Youdim advises.

Before anyone begins to fill my message box with comments as to why this article is contrary to your opinion on juicing, please know that I've shared this article because there is far less information online about the potential harms of juicing than there is of the claimed benefits. Take my post today as 'food for thought!'

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

Visit my YouTube channel --

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

My Old Track Spikes From The Early 1980's Tell A Story

This is a picture of my Puma Hurricane track spikes that I wore in high school -- 34 years ago. It may seem a bit odd to keep something like this for well over 3 decades, but I set regional records in these spikes and they sit in a box of old high school memorabilia. I dug them out a couple of weeks ago when I was watching the Rio Olympics and noticed the cool spikes that many of the athletes were wearing. There's been a lot of advancements in track spikes in 30+ years (design, materials, cost!, etc.) and I was curious to do a little reading on the topic.

Nike created the official track spikes for the 2016 Olympic Games, many athletes wearing the "Zoom Superfly Elite." It was in development for four years! They feature fixed-pin spikes instead of removable spikes. Actually, Nike had well over a dozen different performance spikes and flats that track and field athletes could select from for the Olympics.

Spikes have certainly come a long way since the early 1980's. I'm no longer that 18-year-old sprinter/hurdler running on the oval in my Puma Hurricane spikes. I'm in my early 50's now, but couldn't resist slipping on those well-worn spikes to see if they still fit. Well, they're a bit tight... but memories of preparing to run the 110-Meter High Hurdles came flooding back. To me, my spikes tell a story of persevering in the sport of track during high school.

I attended Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska (which is Alaska's capital city) and our team didn't have a coach who knew anything about high hurdling. So, I watched every TV news sports segment I could featuring hurdling (this was well before the Internet existed!) and would read books on hurdling technique. I would look through sports magazines in the store seeking pictures of hurdlers to study their form over the hurdle. Essentially, I would try to find any information I could and then try to teach myself how to do it. My coach even let me take a hurdle home so that I could work at it outside of track practice. I persevered and eventually figured out the technique and the three-step stride between the high hurdles. I went to the state championships each year and ultimately won the regional competition in my senior year, setting a record. When I look at my old spikes, I see a story of a teenager who taught himself how to do something that he truly wanted to accomplish.

Although I was never on the grand stage of the Olympics, I take pride in my teenage track accomplishments. I have wonderful memories of hurdling, sprinting, and anchoring relay teams. In many ways, my old track spikes tell the story of a guy who taught himself how to do something, and with the confidence acquired I was able to teach myself other valuable skills in life -- both athletically and professionally. Essentially, the spikes from my high school days remind me that you can teach yourself anything if you want to learn it bad enough.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Hooked on Soda? Here's Why You Should Break The Habit!

I've worked in offices where people clock in at 8am and the first thing they do is open a can of Coke. In fact, at one law firm I worked at an employee would bring a six-pack of Coke every day and drink all of it by 5pm! Last year registered dietitian Johanna Sakimura published an article titled "10 Reasons to Break Your Soda Habit." I don't often post an entire article written by someone else, but today I'm doing just that because I believe it hits the mark of accuracy.

10 Reasons to Break Your Soda Habit
By Johannah Sakimura, RD
Published Jan 30, 2015

At this point, I think pretty much everyone has gotten the message that guzzling soda is bad for your waistline, but you may be surprised to learn how many other health problems have been linked to drinking “liquid candy.”

The latest addition to soda’s growing list of health hazards is early puberty in girls. A new Harvard University study found that girls who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary beverages per day experienced their first period about 3 months earlier than those who drank less than 2 servings per week. Sugary drinks may contribute to weight gain and obesity, a known contributor to early puberty, but the researchers found that the effect of sweetened beverages on pubertal age remained even after controlling for participants’ body mass index (BMI), a common measure of body fatness. The results are concerning because starting menstruation at a young age increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer later in life.

This new finding joins a litany of other reasons that people of all ages should kick their soda habit once and for all, including:

1. Weight gain. Studies in adults and children have shown that people who increase their consumption of sugary drinks, including soda, gain more weight over time than people who cut back. Sugary drinks are double trouble for your waistline because they are loaded with empty calories from added sugar, and beverages calories don’t fill you up the same way that calories from food do.

2. Type 2 diabetes. Individuals with the highest intake of sugary beverages have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who drink less than 1 serving per month, according to a 2010 research review. Regular soda drinkers are more likely to be obese, which puts them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. However, sugary beverages may pose an additional risk because their concentrated sugar load spikes blood sugar and insulin levels.

3. High blood pressure. Frequent drinkers of sugary beverages are more likely to develop hypertension, and research shows that cutting back on soda, lemonade, and other sweet drinks lowers blood pressure.

4. Heart disease. A Harvard University study found that men who drank one (12-ounce) sugary beverage a day were 20 percent more likely to have a heart attack compared to men who didn’t drink any sugar-sweetened drinks, and similar results have been found in women. Fructose, a sugar found in drinks sweetened with both regular sugar and high fructose corn syrup, may be especially damaging to the heart because it promotes inflammation and raises levels of blood fats called triglycerides.

5. Certain cancers. A 2013 study found that postmenopausal women who drank the most sugary beverages were 78 percent more likely to develop the most common type of endometrial cancer compared to women who rarely drank sweetened drinks. In men, drinking one can of soda daily was found to increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 38 percent.

6. Kidney stones. Staying well-hydrated protects against kidney stones, but choosing sugary beverages like soda and fruit punch has actually been shown to increase the risk of stones. The fructose found in sweetened drinks increases urine levels of uric acid, oxalate, and calcium, compounds that can concentrate to form stones.

7. Gout. Sipping one sugary drink per day has been shown to raise both men’s and women’s risk of developing gout, a painful arthritis. Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in joints, and a high fructose intake from sweetened beverages is thought to promote uric acid formation.

8. Low bone density. Some research shows that regular soda drinkers have lower bone density and a higher risk of fracture. Soda may take a toll on bones because it displaces more nutritious beverages like calcium-rich milk in the diet.

9. Cavities. Let’s not forget the damage that sugary beverages do to teeth. The heavy dose of sugar found in soda, lemonade, fruit drinks, and sweet tea feeds bacteria in the mouth, which ultimately leads to tooth decay. Sodas also contain acids that wear down enamel, making teeth more prone to cavities.

Finding a Healthy Sub for Soda
If you’re still drinking soda but concerned about its health effects, chances are that you have tried to give it up in the past without success. If that’s the case, I urge you to give it another shot, because it really is a change worth making. I always encourage soda lovers (regular and diet) to swap their drink for naturally fruit-flavored seltzers, because they provide the same fizzy fix but are completely free of sugar and artificial sweeteners. If you’ve tried seltzer in the past but find it too bitter, try drinking it daily for a week straight to see if that changes your mind. I find that it takes people about that long to adjust to the taste. You can also try experimenting with different flavors. In my experience, the tart pomegranate and cranberry flavors are most appealing to seltzer newbies.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stats and Facts of the 2016 Olympic Games

Last Sunday, the flame went out on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, bringing to an end 16 incredible days of sports action. More than 10,000 athletes, representing 207 nations, competed in 31 sports, with 306 sets of medals awarded over the course of the Games. For the second successive Games, and the 17th time overall, the United States topped the medal standings with 43 golds and 116 overall medals -- the country's highest since 1984.

The US were dominant in track and field, winning 31 medals (13 of which were gold) -- 20 more than second-placed Jamaica, who won six golds. The nation also ruled in the pool, winning 33 of the 104 medals awarded, which is 32%. Of these medals, 16 were gold. Their nearest rivals, Australia, won 10 swimming medals (three gold).

Three nations won their first ever Olympic medal -- Fiji (in the first ever Olympic men's rugby sevens), Jordan (the men's -68kg taekwondo) and Kosovo (the women's -52kg judo).

In his fourth Games, Michael Phelps brought his personal medal tally to 28 (23 golds, three silvers and two bronzes). Swimmer Katie Ledecky followed up her solitary gold in London in 2012 with four more, along with a silver, and Simone Biles added four golds and a bronze through her gymnastics abilities.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt confirmed, once again, his status as the greatest sprinter of all time, winning three more golds to achieve an unprecedented Olympic 'triple triple' in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Bolt's haul of nine golds puts him equal with USA sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis and Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi.

Japan's Kohei Uchimura became the first artistic gymnast in 44 years to successfully win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles. He also helped Japan take team gold for the first time since the Athens Games in 2004.

South Korea completed a clean sweep of archery's four gold medals for the first time to continue their dominance in the sport. Of the last 36 archery golds available (over nine Olympics), South Korea has won 23 -- that is 76.67%.

Britain's Mo Farah became the first man to complete the 5,000m and 10,000m double at back-to-back Games since Finland's Lasse Viren at the Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976.

Team GB's Andy Murray became the first ever player to defend an Olympic individual tennis title on the same day that Justin Rose won the first Games golf gold in 112 years.

World-record holder Ashton Eaton of the USA became the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the decathlon since Britain's Daley Thompson at the 1980 and 1984 Games.

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson became the first woman to complete the sprint double at the Olympic Games for 28 years, following Florence Griffith-Joyner in Seoul in 1988.

China's Wu Minxia became the first diver to win five Olympic golds when she sealed victory in the women's 3m synchronized springboard event with Shi Tingmao.

27 new world records were set in Rio within the seven Olympic sports that recognize them -- archery, athletics (track and field), modern pentathlon, track cycling, shooting, swimming and weightlifting.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

McDonald's Restaurant Recalls 29 Million Activity Trackers

McDonald's is recalling 29 million activity trackers from Happy Meals. The company issued the recall Tuesday after more than 70 incidents of skin irritation were discovered. "We are now asking customers who have the activity bands to stop wearing them and return to any McDonald's for a free replacement toy and a choice of a yogurt or apple slices," McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey said. The Step-It Fitness plastic wristbands -- in blue, green, purple, orange and red -- look like watches and are supposed to track physical activity.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

77% of Americans Want to Live to 100 Years of Age

Yesterday I made a post about a village in Italy where one third of the residents are over 100 years old. Today, I'm sharing some information about Americans and the century mark.

According to a recent survey by the Stanford Center on Longevity, in partnership with TIME magazine, most Americans want to live to their 100th birthday. The survey of 2,330 adults reveals that 77% of Americans want to live to 100, and more than a third believe they will live past 90.

However, the data also shows that only one third of people say they’re happy with their current body weight and their financial situation. Of Americans under age 65 who want to retire by the time they reach 65, slightly more than 40% say they will not have the financial means to live to 100.

Americans admit to having overweight bodies and underweight financial strength in preparing for a long life -- and among the Americans surveyed who want to be centenarians, only 42% say they're making a serious effort to get there.

It is interesting to see in the survey results that 77% of people say they're happy with their lives overall and feel that their family, career and education make them happy, and 74% of people surveyed said that when they think about themselves growing older, they think of mostly positive things.

Although most of those surveyed said they think a healthy diet and exercise are critical to a long life, just 25% report eating as well as they think they should, and only 24% exercise as much as they think they should.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Monday, August 22, 2016

An Italian Village Where One-third of Residents Are Over 100 Years Old

The small Italian village of Acciaroli is a laid-back fishing town known for its pristine beaches. However, Acciaroli is also known for residents who defy Father Time. About one-third of the people who live there are over 100 years old. Why? Researchers believe it’s their diet and lifestyle.

You probably won’t be packing your bags to move to Italy anytime soon, but you can live like someone from this remote village to improve your health and live longer. What does it take? A healthy way of eating has been part of life for people living near the Mediterranean Sea for centuries.

Following their example, you should eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, nuts, and some low-fat dairy products. Cook with spices, such as rosemary. Use ample olive oil in cooking, and red wine in moderation. But food isn’t the only thing on the menu for living a long and healthy life. The residents of Acciaroli also believe in the importance of healthy relationships, a relaxed approach to life, and regular exercise.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Is Forrest Gump's 19,024-mile Run Possible?

I can't begin to tell you how many people have yelled at me "Run Forrest Run!" as I've run across states and countries!

In 2013, an article was published online which caught my eye -- "Could Forrest Gump have possibly survived his epic run?" Of course, the author is referring to the fictional character that actor Tom Hanks portrayed in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

Forrest's epic run was a 19,024-mile run across America that he started in 1979 and repeatedly did for over 3 years. Having run solo across America myself, I find the cross country scenes in the movie enjoyable... although a bit impractical since Forrest runs alone and has no supplies with him. I pushed a stroller containing gear, food and water. However, Forrest manages to get by with just the clothes on his back. If you haven't seen the movie, or need a refresher, watch the short video below:

So, Forrest says that he just felt like running. I can relate with that! However, let's take a look at what the 35-year-old fictional character accomplished in the movie. He says that he ran for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, 16 hours -- which is 1,169 days. Based on the map and pacing of his first two years worth of crossings that is shown on a television news report in the movie, he would have run 19,024 miles in the 1,169 days he was on the road. Yes... there have actually been people who have plotted his 3+ year route in Google maps to confirm that it was around 19,000 miles! That means that Forrest would have averaged 16 miles per day as he ran back and forth across America for more than 3 years. I averaged 30 miles per day for my coast-to-coast run (108 days). There have been those who have run more daily miles than Forrest did as they've literally run around the world for several years. So, Forrest's run is not impossible, particularly at 16 miles per day.

I believe that given enough time and resources, anyone can go coast to coast across America on foot. Historically, more people have summited Mount Everest than have actually run across the United States. I must say, I do see some similarities between Forrest's run and my own of ten years ago. For instance, he wasn't running to promote any cause, and neither was I. He ran because he just felt like running. I ran to keep a promise. Also, neither Forrest nor I got rich from our runs across America. In fact, he gained more media attention than I did!

There have been people who have set off to run across America in an effort to mimic the fictional character Forrest Gump. Many get out on the highway and realize the enormity of the task and quit. However, some actually finish and embrace their connection to the Forrest Gump character. Although I've had many people call me "Forrest Gump," the fact is that my name is Paul Staso and I ran across America for REAL... with my sole intent being to keep a promise I had made to a group of elementary children. Also, my first attempt to run across America happened 8 years before Forrest ever ran across movie screens. The movie continues to be aired frequently on television and I believe that the phrase "Run Forrest Run!" will never truly fade away.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Usain Bolt: A Catholic Athlete Who Wears The Miraculous Medal

Since 2008, Usain Bolt has won many gold medals at the Olympic Games for the 100 Meter and 200 Meter races. There is no doubt that he is the fastest man in the world. However, many may not know about Bolt’s deep Catholic faith.

Aside from the gold medals that have been placed around his neck, he wears the "Miraculous Medal." It is a Catholic devotional medal given to Saint Catherine Laboure in a vision in 1830. The Miraculous Medal features an inscription invoking the prayerful intercession of the Lord’s Mother with these French words: “O, Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous” (“O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”). The words appear over an image of Mary standing upon a half globe, hands raised up to her waist, fingers giving off rays of light. On the reverse side of the medal are twelve stars encircling a large “M” from which arises a cross. Below are two hearts with flames arising from them. Thorns encircle one heart and a sword pierces the other. In the vision, Our Lady promised that “those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”

As a devout Catholic, Bolt is known for making the sign of the cross before racing. Additionally, his faith and his celebrity inspired the Vatican to invite him to speak at a conference on global religious liberty.

When Bolt beat his teammate Yohan Blake in the Olympic 200 Meter final in London 2012, he made history by becoming the first man ever to defend the 200 Meter Olympic title. After the race, Bolt posted this on his Twitter account:

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

This Blog's Global Audience: 16 Countries In The Past Few Weeks!

I dusted off this blog a couple of months ago (in June) and have made 50 posts since then. I had taken about five years off from blogging and decided to see if there would be any interest in my writings if I were to start again. Looking at the visitor statistics for this blog, I can tell you that the readership is global and frequent. Just in the past few weeks I've had readers from the United States, China, Portugal, Germany, France, Latvia, Sweden, Romania, United Kingdom, Philippines, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Canada, and Ireland. Of course, my blog has a translation tool to turn my English text into whatever language the reader prefers. That definitely helps to increase my audience.

Some blog posts are more popular than others. So far, my most read blog post has been "Only 9 States Require Providing Recess." This could be because in many locations the new school year is beginning. I'm encouraged by the readership numbers I'm seeing and will continue to write on this blog. I may not post daily, but I will post frequently. Thank you for reading! I appreciate it!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Friday, August 19, 2016

There Are Still 81.6 Million Inactive Americans!

I was recently reading through the "2016 Participation Report," which is The Physical Activity Council’s annual study tracking sports, fitness, and recreation participation in the United States. I won't get into all of the details of how the extensive study was conducted, but there is a sentence in the study that truly caught my eye: "There are still 81.6 million inactive Americans."

Last month I wrote a blog post titled "Is Running in America Seeing a Decline in Interest and/or Participation?" As I read this recent 2016 Participation Report I saw that for those age 45 and older, running is NOT listed in their top ten fitness activities of interest. Even for those in the 35-45 age category, running is ranked 7th in their list of fitness interests.

Individual sports declined slightly in 2015 -- which is what can be seen from the national running statistics for last year. So, what sport is popular for any age? In terms of interest, all age groups continue to look at swimming as a means for future fitness. While both winter and water sports are only participated in by less than 15% of the population, their rates have increased over the past year.

Over the last three years, pay-to-play school programs have seen decreases in sports fees compared to the previous year. However, 43% of parents reported an increase from 2014 to 2015. Since 2013, 67% of parents, on average, spend over $100 on their children's school sports fees. When I participated in high school sports between 1979-1983 there were no fees to participate. It's unfortunate that today's youth must, in many circumstances, "pay to play."

Survey participants, ages 18+, were asked about PE during their past school years. Their responses show that participation in physical education class during school had a extreme impact on participation in other activities. Those who had PE while in grade school and high school were two to three times more likely to also engage in team sports, outdoor activities, cycling, or running/jogging and other activities during that same time. Almost half said that team sports was an additional activity.

Of adults ages 18 and over who reported having PE in school, 80% said they were active in 2015 and 39% were active to a healthy level (151+ times a year). While those who didn’t have PE, only 61% reported activity and less than a quarter participated 151 times or more in 2015.

Perhaps not surprising is the fact that the highest rates of inactivity remains among those ages 65 and over. Senior citizens need to be active to the extent they are able. My parents are in their early 80's and are always on the go! They live in a cabin that my father built (when he was in his 70's!) in the heart of Alaska and are a shining example of how active senior citizens should be. I'm 51 years old and truly hope to be as healthy and active as they are when I reach their age 30 years from now.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Look Back at the Men's Marathon World Records

The 2016 Olympic Men's Marathon will take place this coming Sunday, August 21, in Rio. The existing world record was established in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, who ran the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 2 minutes, 57 seconds. That's a pace of 4 minutes, 41 seconds per mile! My best time ever for ONE mile was 4 minutes, 50 seconds back in 1985 when I was 20 years old. I can't imagine doing that 26 times repeatedly!

I was curious as to how many American men have held the world record for the marathon in the past 100 years, so I did a little looking through the marathon records kept by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. There have been three U.S. men to hold the world record for the marathon in the past 100 years:

  • 1925 - Albert Michelsen (2:29:01)
  • 1963 - Leonard Edelen (2:14:28)
  • 2002 - Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38)

Since 2003, Kenya and Ethiopia have been the two countries to have runners set the world record for the men's marathon. The country who has had runners that have achieved the marathon world record the most in the past 100 years is the United Kingdom (10 times).

In the past 100 years the men's marathon world record has lowered from 2:38:00 to 2:02:57 -- a drop of 35 minutes! How long will it be until a marathoner breaks the 2-hour mark for the 26.2-mile distance? It's hard to tell, but it's only 177 seconds away!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Each Year 200,000+ Kids Go To Hospitals With Playground Injuries

Recess might be the best part of a kid's school day and the playground is all fun and games -- until someone gets hurt.

Last year in the United States, emergency departments treated more than 200,000 children (age 14 and younger) for playground-related injuries, and 45% of playground injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, dislocations or concussions. Children ages five to nine have higher rates of emergency department visits for playground injuries than any other age group. Most of these injuries occur at school.

I'm sharing these statistics because it is important for schools to maintain playgrounds that are as safe as possible, and playground monitors need to be on the lookout for situations that may create a hazard for children. Softer surfaces -- such as mulch, grass, sand and wood chips -- go a long way to preventing serious injuries. However, children tend to play in groups and that can be a recipe for trouble.

When I was a 5th grade teacher and a playground monitor I would see children stopping at the bottom of the slide and not getting out of the way of the next person coming down. I saw children who were not paying attention and walking directly into the path of someone on the swing set. There are many situations for a playground monitor to be on the lookout for in order to try and lessen the number of nearly a quarter million children that go to the emergency room each year with playground-related injuries.

Kids are going to be kids, but we as adults need to do what we can to keep them safe while they're in the classroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, or on the playground.
From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Brief Experience Being Paralyzed and How it Impacted my Life

I was 23 years old in July 1988 when I awoke with a migraine headache. I had never had such a headache and just two years earlier had attempted the world record for running across the United States, sponsored by several companies. I was 138 pounds, running daily, and never had any significant medical problem. However, on this July day I would experience a dramatic health issue that I still recall vividly, even though it happened 28 years ago.

The migraine I had quickly advanced over the course of an hour, to the point where I could not even look at light without incredible pain in my head. I felt nauseous and weak, being unable to stand. Ultimately, an ambulance was called and I was taken to the local emergency room. It was apparent to the ER doctor that I was in excruciating pain and an IV of a pain-relieving drug was immediately administered. Blood was drawn and a CAT scan of my head was ordered. The results showed a mass at the base of the Medulla Oblongata in my brainstem where it connects with the spinal cord.

Fear immediately flowed through me because my mother had battled cancer and I was concerned that perhaps it was a cancerous mass. I went through a very uncomfortable spinal tap and other tests were performed. However, as the tests were being performed I began to lose feeling in my legs. Over the course of hours I eventually lost all sensation in my legs, not being able to stand, walk, or even feel a doctor scrape the bottom of my foot. I was paralyzed at the age of 23.

I will never forget laying in that hospital bed alone the first night with no feeling whatsoever from the waist down. Simply stated, I was scared. As a runner it was a living nightmare to not feel my legs. It was that night when I said a prayer and told God that I would commit my running to positive purposes and not self-seeking medals and glory if He were to bless me with the ability to run again. Up to that point in my life I had focused on setting personal records against the clock and trying to beat as many competitors as possible. My running had been all about ME and was a rather selfish pursuit. In my mind the purpose of running had been about being better than someone else. As I was lying in that hospital bed all alone, my perspective changed.

After a restless night of tears and praying, I awoke to a nurse checking my IV tube. I had to urinate and it was an incredibly embarrassing feeling to have two nurses turn me on my side so that I could use a urination pan on the bed. It was that morning that a local minister stopped by my room while on rounds through the hospital visiting with patients. We talked about my situation and prayed. Then, more tests followed.

Late in the day, and quite unexpectedly, I began to have a tingling sensation in my legs. The nurse called in my doctor and he did some tests to my legs and feet. Over the course of the next few hours I regained feeling in my legs and was actually able to stand. An MRI of my head was ordered and I was excited to have feeling back... but was also confused. The doctor came into my room with two X-ray films -- in one hand was my initial CAT Scan showing the mass and in the other hand was the MRI results... which showed no mass! He couldn't explain it and more tests were ordered. After a barrage of testing  but no definitive determination as to the cause  I was told that they couldn't explain what happened.

I walked out of the hospital and over the course of a few weeks I regained strength and was back to my running. That was nearly 30 years ago and in that time I've aimed to make my running more about benefiting others than benefiting myself. I've run to promote the American Cancer Society, the National Marrow Donor Program, and the World Vision organization. I've also run to promote youth fitness, creating The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation in an effort to encourage young people toward greater health/fitness and goal setting. The focus of my running changed as a result of momentary paralysis.

I've never had another paralyzing episode like that and migraines are not a part of my life. It was a moment when I experienced what it would be like to not have the function of my legs and it gave me a greater appreciation for the health that I have. It also strengthened my faith in a way unlike any other time in my life. Every day I count my blessings... one by one.

Psalm 147:1011
"The Lord does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.."

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Olympic Village Food Waste Feeds Homeless of Rio

I recently read about an initiative at the 2016 Olympic Games that I believe is wonderful and worthy of sharing with my blog readers.

According to the United Nations, around 40% of food produced around the world is thrown away or spoiled – while an estimated 800 million people are expected to go hungry on any given night. The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are center stage right now and Brazil has managed to bring the number of those living without enough food to under 5%. However, with a population of 208 million this still means that millions of residents are starving.

In a move to combat malnutrition in Rio, dozens of volunteers are reclaiming unwanted food from athletes competing in the Olympic Games. Chefs David Hertz from Brazil and Massimo Bottura from Italy have enlisted the aid of over 40 colleagues to help utilize large quantities of excess food leftovers from the Olympic Village.

Their aim is to turn surplus food from the village into 5,000 nutritious meals each day, which will go on to feed the homeless and those in need. The team will produce meals using ingredients that are about to be thrown out, including odd-shaped fruit and vegetables and yogurts nearing their best-before date.

The Olympic Village kitchen prepares 60,000 meals daily, produced from daily shipments of 460,000 pounds of raw ingredients.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Performance-enhancing Drugs Do More Harm Than Good!

Competitive running has seen performance-enhancing drug (PED) use for years. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency reports that 477 American track and field athletes were tested a total of 1,202 times last year. However, even though testing is frequent there are still athletes who try to get away with PED use.

Athletes who are found to have banned substances in their possession, or who tamper with or refuse to submit to drug testing, can receive bans from the sport. Typically, any athlete who tests positive for banned substances after having served a previous ban receives a lifetime ban from the sport of athletics (track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking).

Anabolic steroids, a catch-all term for male hormones, are the oldest and still the most widely used banned drugs in sport. Nearly half of banned substances detected in drug tests are steroids.

Although PEDs can give an athlete unfair advantages on the track, they also bring adverse health effects in the long run. Many of these substances cause cardiovascular conditions, organ damage, tumors and endocrine effects, all of which do more harm to the athlete than good., a drug and alcohol addiction treatment resource, created an infographic to illustrate the effects of PEDs. Click on the graphic below to download it and view a larger version.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

So, What's The Story Behind The Umbrella Hat?

Before I set off to run solo across America in 2006, my then 8-year-old son, Kyler, gave me an umbrella hat to help keep me dry on rainy days. I've taken a picture wearing that hat on each journey run that I've done across a state or country! Today, Kyler is 18 years old and likely thinks his Dad looks pretty silly in that hat. However, to me... the umbrella hat is priceless because it was given out of love and concern for my well being.

I must admit, each time I put on the umbrella hat it turns heads. It's not something you see every day! However, you too can have an umbrella hat. They're not very expensive (less than $10) and come in a variety of colors. I like the multi-colored one that Kyler chose!

The umbrella hat has even made it onto the big screen in the movie Bruce Almighty when actor Jim Carrey (as Bruce Nolan) wears it in the "Maid of the Mist" scene. Actor Bill Murray also wore an umbrella hat in the movie Space Jam.

In December 1880, there was a patent taken out on the umbrella hat (Patent 250,803). Today, the umbrella hat is often associated as a cheap and comical novelty item, but it can be used to shield a person against rain or sunshine hands-free. Umbrella hats are particularly useful to wheelchair users who need the use of both hands in the rain. It is also useful for gardeners, cyclists, walkers, shoppers, hunters, fishers and general manual laborers.

However, you must be careful if lightning is occurring. In 2012, a 19-year-old gentleman was wearing an umbrella hat in the United Kingdom when he was struck by lightning. It is suspected that the metal in the hat may have contributed to the lightning hitting him since he was in an open field at the time. He is quoted as follows: "The umbrella hat has metal spokes, which didn’t help, but at 6ft 4in I was the tallest thing there so may have been hit anyway. But the hat stopped my head taking the full force and saved my life.” Yes, that's right. He believes the umbrella hat saved his life.

Just a couple of weeks ago at a Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels baseball game they were giving away umbrella hats. So, they are around. When is the last time you saw someone wearing one?

I just had to end this post with a picture of my son Kyler, which was taken when he was 8 years old. He's wearing both a run across America sweatshirt and the umbrella hat! I still have the hat and whatever my next running adventure will be I'll certainly be taking along the well-traveled umbrella hat. Thanks Kyler!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Is Your School a Part of the "Safe Routes to School" Program?

When I was planning my solo run across the Mojave Desert, I got in touch with the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. They helped to promote my running adventure to schools in the USA so that children could trek along with me virtually by logging distance while going to and from school.

SRTS programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. I think it's a wonderful and worthwhile program!

Children today are simply not getting enough physical activity, contributing to growing rates of obesity and obesity-related health problems. SRTS projects make it safer for more children to walk and bicycle to school, which helps to address and combat the obesity crisis among children.

The SRTS statistics show:
  • Over the past 40 years, rates of obesity have soared among children of all ages in the United States, and approximately 25 million children and adolescents — more than 33% — are now overweight or obese, or at risk of becoming so.
  • Kids are less active today, and 23% of children get no free time physical activity at all.
  • The prevalence of obesity is so great that today’s generation of children may be the first in over 200 years to live less healthy and have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
  • High rates of obesity and low rates of physical activity mean that more than half of Latina girls are expected to get diabetes over the course of their lifetime, and the numbers are almost as high for African American girls.
  • Today, approximately one-quarter of health care costs in the United States are attributable to obesity, and health care costs just for childhood obesity are estimated at approximately $14 billion per year.
  • People living in auto-oriented suburbs drive more, walk less, and are more obese than people living in walkable communities. For each hour of driving per day, obesity increases 6 percent, but walking for transportation reduces the risk of obesity.
  • Walking one mile to and from school each day is two-thirds of the recommended sixty minutes of physical activity a day. Plus, children who walk to school have higher levels of physical activity throughout the day.
SRTS programs also benefit academic performance through the physical fitness that it encourages children to do!
  • Physical activity and fitness boost learning and memory in children; fitness-associated performance benefits are largest for those situations in which initial learning is the most challenging.
  • Sixth- and ninth-grade students with high fitness scored significantly better on math and social studies tests compared with less fit students, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. Muscular strength and muscular endurance were significantly associated with academic achievement in all grades.
  • Lower performing students appear to derive particular benefit from physical activity.  In addition, short bicycling exercise periods resulted in enhanced neuronal activity and increased cognitive performance for teenagers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • When children get physical activity before class, they are more on task and fidget less.  This is true for both girls and boys, and has been shown to be particularly beneficial for children who have the most trouble paying attention and those with attention deficit disorders.
SRTS projects focus on infrastructure improvements, student traffic education, and driver enforcement that improve safety for children, many of whom already walk or bicycle in unsafe conditions.
  • People walking are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle in locations without sidewalks.
  • More than 7% of high school students reported missing at least one day of school in the past 30 days because they felt unsafe from bullying or violence either at school or on their way to or from school.
  • A safety analysis by the California Department of Transportation estimated that the safety benefit of SRTS caused a 49 percent decrease in the childhood bicycle and pedestrian collision rates.
SRTS projects increase the number of children walking and bicycling to school, which also cuts down on the number of cars. As cars emit pollutants for each mile traveled, reducing traffic can improve the quality of air that children breathe in and around their schools.
  • Children exposed to traffic pollution are more likely to have asthma, permanent lung deficits, and a higher risk of heart and lung problems as adults.
  • Over the last 25 years, among children ages 5 to 14, there has been a 74 percent increase in asthma cases. In addition, 14 million days of school are missed every year due to asthma.
  • One-third of schools are in “air pollution danger zones.”
  • Schools that are designed so children can walk and bicycle have measurably better air quality.
  • A 5% increase in a neighborhood’s “walkability” reduces vehicle miles traveled by 6%.
I was born in 1965 and research shows that if we could return to mid-1960's levels of walking and bicycling to school it would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, and 89,000 tons of other pollutants — equal to keeping more than 250,000 cars off the road for a year! I believe our society has benefited a lot from 'advancements' over the years, but I wish that we could return to the frequency of walking/bicycling to school as we did 50 years ago.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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