Thursday, May 25, 2017

Goodbye Running. You Blessed Me With 42 Years of Experiences!

Those of you who have been following this blog know that as I approached 52 years of age last April I began to ponder my athletic life and what might be on the horizon. I retired in November 2016 from running solo across states and countries, and I thought seriously about trying to return to track and field as a hurdler in the USATF masters program. However, with age comes wisdom and as time has unfolded I have come to a conclusion about the running lifestyle I've maintained since the age of 10. After 42 years of striding through track races, road races, and conquering distances across states and countries... it's time for me to say goodbye to running. And, I'm okay with that!

I've logged nearly 50,000 miles of running in my lifetime, which is closing in on two laps of earth. I've done over 5,000 miles of that distance while pushing an 80+ pound stroller over every type of terrain and through just about every weather condition imaginable. I have literally pounded my body into the ground promoting youth health and fitness through a non-profit organization I started many years ago called The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation (PACE standing for "Promoting Active Children Everywhere"). I am still the President of that foundation and time will tell what I'll be doing with P.A.C.E. in the future.

Running has given me many amazing experiences and it has been incredibly rewarding to know that I've been able to encourage and/or inspire others through my efforts in the sport. However, it's time to move on... to reach for new mileposts via different means.

Cycling has always been my favorite cross-training activity. I've bicycled countless miles as I've prepared for solo ultra-endurance adventures. Some of you know that I attempted a solo bicycle trek across America in 2007, but was struck by an inattentive taxi driver — which brought that endeavor to an end. Over the years I've bicycled in various places, such as Alaska; Idaho; Oregon; Montana; Delaware; Maryland; Virginia; Indiana; and elsewhere... often taking advantage of the rails-to-trails pathways. It seems like a logical transition for me to go from running to bicycling. Through my youth fitness foundation, I've promoted walking, running and bicycling to children and formerly teamed with the Safe Routes to School program to encourage kids to walk or bike to school.

Running will always be connected with me. For so many years I've been the "Gotta Run!" guy... loading my stroller with gear and running off toward the horizon. However, I'm 52 and am ready for a new means of reaching for life's adventure mileposts. The means I am choosing is cycling. However, my 'adventures' on a bike seat will not be to the magnitude of the adventures I had while wearing my running shoes.

I know this is the right time to say goodbye to running. I've accomplished all that I truly wanted to, and actually more than I ever thought I would. How many people do you know that have actually run solo across the entire United States, or across Germany, or across the Mojave Desert? I've accomplished running adventures that most people cannot fathom attempting. I don't write that to come across as superior, prideful or arrogant. I am simply well aware of the rarity of what I've done, the blessings I've been given through running, and am fortunate to have experienced success in what I've set out to do. I am at complete peace with leaving the sport of running after 42 years. Physically, I've given running everything I have to give and am fortunate to have survived some of the situations I've been in. Emotionally, running has brought me to the edge many times and has made me a stronger person. Spiritually, running has given me a greater appreciation of creation and has strengthened my faith. Socially, running put me in contact with people of every walk of life and each of them had an impact on me.

I wear many hats in my life. I'm a father; a son; a brother; a fiancé; a friend; an employee; a co-worker; a writer; a speaker; a fitness advocate; and, an adventurer. Throughout my life I've put on the "runner" hat nearly every day. That hat has served me well and I will always look back with fond memories, tremendous gratitude, and a sense of pride in what I was able to do through the strides that I took.

I thank each and every coach, spectator, encourager and supporter who has helped me conquer each and every mile that I've endured as a runner since 1975. Without you, the journey would have been far more difficult and far less sweet. There are many more mileposts in front of me on life's road and I look forward to all that lies between me and the horizon.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jack London's Perspective on Life is Worth Pondering

Jack London was a U.S. adventurer, author, and sailor who lived between 1876 and 1916. In his brief life, London sought adventure in the far corners of the world, from the frozen Yukon to the South Pacific, writing gripping tales of survival based on his experiences — including The Call of the Wild, White Fang and The Sea Wolf.

Before passing away at 40 years of age from kidney disease, London wrote 52 books and 200 short stories. During the 20th century he was one of the most extensively translated authors in America. His perspective on life is one that has echoed around in my mind for nearly my entire adult life:
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
I've run alone through Denali National Park in Alaska with bears, wolves and moose as my spectators. I've run alone through a German military base with automatic weapons pointed at me. I've hung from a guardrail 50 feet above trees in zero degree winter weather to avoid being hit by a car. I've been robbed, spit upon, and nearly run over on purpose by rude people while on my running adventures. I've been on the borderline of heat stroke and have suffered hypothermia on my adventure treks. I've had some in passing automobiles throw things and yell/curse at me. I've had police officers interrogate me on the side of the road, news sources report falsely about me, and have received countless sponsorship rejection letters. I've suffered tendinitis multiple times; blistered shoulders from sun exposure; loss of all my toenails; extensive foot blisters; and, have literally cried in pain to keep pushing forward on my running endeavors. I've endured fierce and relentless winds; a sandstorm; drenching rain; life-threatening lightning; bitter cold snow; quarter-size hail that I could only get shelter from by laying under my support stroller; and, have been in the Great Plains while hearing tornado sirens going off in the nearest town.

I've experienced the difficulties of solo running adventures across states and countries, and like author London states: "I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot." I believe that I've aimed to live and to not just exist.

It has been one week since I wrote an honest blog post about my running. My body and mind know how to do endurance. That has been a part of me since 1984. My body and mind also know how to do adventure. There is a part of my spirit that comes alive when I am pursuing an adventurous goal that I've set for myself. I believe that is a part of "living" life and not just "existing" in life. My body and mind know how to do both endurance and adventure. After 33 years of pounding my body into the ground through long distance running (often at a level most runners never experience), what should be the next step I take in my athletic life? That's a good question — and I'm still thinking about it.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Very Honest Blog Post About My Running Life...

This is going to be the first in a series of writings about my running... what it has done to me and where I should go from this point forward.

In all honesty, I'm unsettled when it comes to my current level of fitness, my running, and future goals in a sport I've done for 42 years. I've run thousands of miles across states and countries to be a visual example of the importance of setting goals, taking care of your body, and persevering when adversity arises. Over the past 3 years I've actually done very little running -- especially in comparison to years and decades prior. Life changes and priorities can also change. I simply don't have the time to train endlessly to run across states and countries like I have in the past. There was so much energy and emotion poured into each adventure run I did. All of them took absolutely everything I had to give. I would run all day... speak at schools... talk to sports teams... visit with host families... pour over logistics for the next day... and much more as I ran from one border to another. I'm older now, and my body is aging.

At 52 years of age, I'm now seeing some of the results of my extreme ultra-endurance lifestyle. I notice most change in my lower right leg -- which is the leg that has sustained the majority of tendonitis I have experienced at times while logging mega-mileages. I believe there has been some blood vessel damage, blood flow restriction, and now there is some discoloration in spots. You can see an example of the swelling in the picture accompanying this post. I experienced tendonitis many times, and usually it was the right lower leg. As you can see in this picture, the swelling is quite noticeable when you compare my right leg to my left. The veins in my lower right leg (in the photo) are not visible due to the restriction caused by the swelling. I would continue to run on, 30 to 40 miles a day, with such swelling... and often no ice to treat the tendonitis. As I've reached for endless mileposts, I never wore compression socks --  like many ultra-runners do now to reduce swelling and promote blood flow. Those socks were not as popular with endurance athletes back when I was pounding out miles across states and countries. I've recently purchased some athlete compression sleeves for my lower legs and will be wearing those more often to see if I gain any benefit. Perhaps I can do some repair work on my lower extremities.

My legs took an extreme beating all throughout my 40's. Many times, like in the Mojave Desert, I wasn't able to properly repair my body at the end of each day. Micro muscle tears accumulated and deep tissue damage happened on each run because I was solo and often didn't have access to ice to combat muscle swelling and damage. My training miles were significant and the journey runs I did pushing an 80-pound stroller were definitely extreme. Pushing off of my feet while pushing over half of my body weight in front of me put incredible strain on my calf muscles (not to mention my shoulders and back -- and in 2011 I suffered two herniated disks as a result of my successful solo run across the Mojave Desert). If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to train less. Running across a state or country is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Yes, you do get blisters and sore muscles, but it is the mental component that is the most difficult -- especially when you don't have a support crew. Back in November 2016 I announced on this blog that I was retiring from running across states and countries. I am engaged and will be getting married, and my fiancé is a wonderful woman and I don't want to be apart from her as I'm reaching for countless mileposts during weeks or months at a time. She and I also talked about the danger factor of what it takes to do such extreme ultra runs, although I am a pretty defensive runner and often feel safer on the edge of a road with a stroller than I do in a car.

Earlier this year I thought about returning to the track lanes to see if I could hurdle competitively again. I can still hurdle... finding that even at 52 years of age I can clear an Olympic height of 42 inches with decent form. However, as I've been working on trying to regain the flexibility and speed necessary for hurdling ten 36-inch barriers (which is the height for my age group), I've come to the conclusion that my body is simply programmed for endurance. That is all that it has known for 33 consecutive years. My fast-twitch muscle fibers are nowhere near as abundant as my slow-twitch fibers. My body functions far more optimally in an aerobic state than it does in an anaerobic state. I am a believer in muscles having "muscle memory" and although I can still go over a hurdle with pretty good form, I believe my muscle memory isn't strong enough to propel me toward a fast time in hurdling. My body knows how to go far. It has done it repeatedly for decades. My body's true muscle memory is in endurance. So, where does that leave me in my athletic life? That's a good question. I'm thinking about it.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 12, 2017

My Favorite Bible Verse Has Carried Me Through Countless Miles

Today I want to share with you my favorite Bible verse. As a Christian for over 40 years, I have leaned on many Scripture verses throughout my life -- and that 'leaning' has been at times of both joy and sorrow, adversity and peace. However, there is one verse in particular that I've recited in my mind and heart more than any other. In fact, I have recited that verse to myself each day of every adventure run across a state or country I have ever done.

The verse comes from the New Testament book titled Philippians. The verse is found in the 4th chapter, 13th verse: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Depending on which translation you're reading from, the verse may read differently, such as: "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" or "I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power."

The words of this verse were written by the Apostle Paul. Most theologians are in agreement that he wrote Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Philippians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Philemon; Ephesians; Colossians; 1 and 2 Timothy; and, Titus. These 13 “letters” (books) make up the “Pauline Authorship” and are the primary source of his theology. The Apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril.

Through the words of Philippians 4:13 (which Paul wrote while imprisoned), Paul attributed his spiritual muscle to its true source — Jesus Christ... "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Paul rejoiced not in his own will and courage, but in the power of Christ in him. By that example, we know that we also have access to the same spiritual power and courage. Paul's words in Scripture reveal that whether we face adversity, persecution, affliction, hardship or disaster, God’s remarkable purpose for us is far greater and is not to be compared with this life’s struggles or sufferings. I know without a doubt that God has truly strengthened me to accomplish tasks and endure situations and circumstances that I honestly don't believe I could have done by my own willpower. I've learned to accept (and appreciate) that when I am weak, God is most strong in my life.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Could a "Smart Shoe" Make You a Better Runner?

Statistics show that for every 100 hours of running, the average runner will sustain one injury. Novice runners are even more vulnerable than more seasoned athletes. One running company wants to try and change that.

Utah-based Altra has added a set of sensors to one of its flagship running shoes. The Altra Torin IQ (priced at $220) is among the first commercially-available “smart shoes.” Inside the midsole are pressure sensors, a tiny battery, and a microchip that connects with your phone via Bluetooth.

As you run, the sensors measure the pressure your foot exerts with each footfall. Data on impact force and location, contact time, and cadence are collected with the aim being to improve your stride and make you a more efficient runner. The concept is meant to improve running form, which helps runners avoid injuries, move faster, and run longer.

The app divides the bottom of the foot into sectors: heel, toe and left and right sides. A built-in audio assistant helpfully offers tips for correcting runs in real time. And when a run in finished, it shows a breakdown of how you landed. The data also tells you the time spent running, cadence, distance, pace and more. The sensors in the shoe hit a Bluetooth transmitter which communicates to the Altra app connected with the shoe. The app records the data according to four different metrics that provide runners with more information about how they’re running.

Aside from recording time, pace and distance, the shoe also provides the following data:
  • Impact rate: how hard each foot is hitting the ground.
  • Contact time: how long each foot is in contact with the ground.
  • Cadence: how quickly the runner is taking steps or their “pulse."
  • Landing zone: the part of the runner’s feet that are making contact with the ground.
The app will then take all of this data and give verbal tips to the runner on how to improve technique and form while running (usually about every mile).

Golden Harper, Altra’s co-founder, has been noted in the press as saying "It might tell you, 'It looks like you’re overstriding, try to do this to fix it,'... or, it might tell you to keep your elbows back behind your hips because if your elbows extend beyond your hips, that’s going to cause your foot to land out in front of your body... Altra is all about teaching people how to run properly, helping people become better, more efficient runners and avoid injury."

So, are you ready for a "smart shoe?"

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Keeping A Promise -- What Does That Look Like In Action?

In 2006, I ran 3,260 miles all alone in 108 days simply to keep a promise I had made to 97 elementary children whom I had told I would try to do the 15-state journey. Why did I make a promise like that? I'm going to attempt to answer that question today.

By definition, a "promise" is a commitment to do, or not do, something. It's important to note that you cannot make a promise on something that you are not in control of. Unfortunately, we live in a world where promise breaking seems more common than promise keeping. For example, politicians make promises to help get elected, and all too often break those promises once in office. Couples will make promises to each other and then suffer the consequences when promises are broken. Children will promise to clean their room and get distracted to the point where the promise is easily forgotten.

In September 2005, I stood in front of a group of elementary children and promised that I would try to run across America all alone if they could collectively log the 3,200-mile coast-to-coast distance in PE class before the end of the school year. The run across America challenge that I posed to them had never been accomplished before by an individual elementary class and during the 2005-2006 school year the 4th graders and 5th graders of that school had a friendly competition to see which class, if either, could do it. My promise helped to motivate them. Both grades finished the feat within 9 months and their effort -- and my promise -- put me onto the highways of America during the summer of 2006.

Many times during my U.S.A. run I shared with the media that I was running to keep a promise I had made. It was surprising to me to see the reaction of people across the country. Most simply could not believe that I was putting myself through the physical strain, and at times agony, of running from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean alone while pushing 80-pounds of gear through the second hottest summer ever recorded in America... just to keep a promise. I took over 6 million steps and pounded my body into the ground to keep that promise. It literally took blood, sweat and tears to accomplish. However, in the end I had kept my word. That meant the world to me.

Every day there are people who have genuine and admirable intentions of keeping promises that they have made, but who ultimately fail to act on them. Why do people fail to keep promises? I believe that many times they fail to look at the whole picture... what is truly required to keep the promise they have made. Some begin down the path of keeping their promise, but lose heart if adversity becomes too much or if their interest fades. Some never even intend on keeping the promise that they've made. Keeping a promise can be incredibly difficult at times. Often there is personal sacrifice that must be made and frequently a selfless heart is needed. Why make a promise public? Sharing your promise with others makes you more likely to actually follow through with it and makes you feel accountable to someone else.

I had stood in front of 97 elementary children and promised to try and run alone across America if they could virtually do it first. I then shared that promise with friends, family, and the media. In other words, I truly put myself in the public eye with the promise I made in September 2005. Why did I make that promise? Because it was actually more important to me to try and teach those young students about the importance of keeping your word than it was about the benefits of exercise.

On July 23, 2006, the Washington Times reported: "In a world of broken promises, Paul Staso is a man of his word." The article went on to talk about my promise run across America. I wasn't running to raise money for a charity. I wasn't running to be in a spotlight. I wasn't running for a world record or fame. I simply ran across 15 states to keep my word. That's all. Before my coast-to-coast run began I had been on the receiving end of broken promises. In 2005 I was at a point in my life where I wanted to visually demonstrate to students (and everyone) what a promise looks like in action. I aimed to do that with all 6 million steps I took between two oceans. I hope my effort resonates somewhere in the corners of the hearts of those 97 elementary children... all of whom are now in their early 20's.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

You Can't Catch Me, I'm The Gingerbread Man!

"Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!" I've run thousands of miles during my 42 years of running and I can tell you this... you have to watch out for the sly foxes on life's road. For those of you who are aware of the Gingerbread Man story, you know what I'm talking about. Sometimes the fox is closer than you think. Run fast!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 8, 2017

My "BOB" Stroller Is Not For Sale, Trade, Bargain, or Free!

A couple of months ago I received a message from an ultra-endurance runner who had read a blog post I made last November about retiring from running across states and countries. Did he congratulate me on my accomplishments? No. Did he have questions for me about how to plan and execute a solo run across a massive land mass? No. Instead, he wanted to know if I was interested in giving up "BOB" (my trusty stroller) because he wanted it.

I'll write this once and I want to make it very clear: MY BOB STROLLER IS NOT FOR SALE, TRADE OR BARGAIN -- AND ESPECIALLY NOT FREE. I used the same stroller to conquer my solo runs across America, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert. That stroller got me through every mile and although it may not be worth much monetarily, it means a lot to me from the standpoint of what I endured with it.

The stroller is a BOB Ironman Sport Utility Stroller from 2006. Back then it retailed for around $300+ and was considered to be the toughest stroller on the market. Of course, I added various components to it (CamelBak water reservoirs, a solar panel for charging electronics, lights, and more), so it's actually a bit more costly than people may realize. On my run across America website I share some details about BOB and anyone who wants to put their own stroller together for doing an extreme solo ultra-run may learn something from how I set mine up. However, my BOB stroller will not be going anywhere with anyone. And yes... the stroller sits in the corner of a room in my home and looks just like it did after I finished crossing the Mojave Desert in 2011. And for those of you who don't know, "BOB" stands for "Beast Of Burden" -- which it truly was as it weighed about 80 pounds and I had to push it every step of the way! The picture I've posted here is one I took early on during my 2006 run across America.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 5, 2017

Breaking News: A Sub-2 Hour Marathon Attempt... has reported that three of the world’s best distance runners are about to attempt a sub-2 hour marathon. The current world record for men is 2:02:57, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya on September 28, 2014 at the Berlin Marathon. For decades men have been chasing the 2-hour barrier in the marathon -- similar to the pursuit of breaking the 4-minute mile, which Roger Bannister did in 1954.

Here’s what you need to know about the sub-2:00 marathon attempt, which is sponsored by Nike:
WHAT: Olympic marathon champ Eliud Kipchoge, two-time Boston winner Lelisa Desisa, and half marathon world record-holder Zersenay Tadese will try to break two hours for the 26.2-mile marathon distance. Of the three, Kipchoge, age 32, is the most likely to go sub-two hours. His personal best of 2:03:05 makes him the third fastest in history on a record-eligible course. The Nike attempt involves only runners sponsored by Nike. 
WHEN: Saturday, May 6, 5:45 a.m. Central European time. In the United States, start time is 11:45 p.m. Eastern and 8:45 p.m. Pacific on Friday, May 5 -- tonight! 
WHERE: The Formula One race track in Monza, Italy. The runners will do roughly 17.5 laps of the 2.4-kilometer circuit. 
WATCH: The attempt will be livestreamed at, beginning 15 minutes before the race starts. The stream will also be available on Nike’s Facebook page. The coverage will include commentary from marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe and veteran broadcaster Craig Masback, a former elite miler and former CEO of USA Track & Field who now works for Nike. 
HOW FAST IS A SUB-TWO HOUR MARATHON? Running 1:59:59 for the marathon entails averaging 4:35 per mile for 26.2 miles! 
WILL A WORLD RECORD BE RATIFIED IF THEY SUCCEED? According to "Given what is currently known about it, most likely not. Nike has strongly indicated that its attempt is focused on producing a sub-two under parameters of its own choosing. One or more aspects of what’s required for a performance to be ratified as a world record are likely to be circumvented. The course used for the attempt will be certified in accordance with rules for record eligibility. In the case of the Formula One oval, that means that the distance will be accurately measured. Because the attempt will occur on a loop course, the other aspects of course eligibility (the separation between the start and finish lines being less than 50 percent of the race distance, and the net elevation drop being less than one meter per kilometer) are automatically met. However, if the runners were to be led the whole way by an ever-changing roster of pacers, or if they drafted off a phalanx of vehicles for 26.2 miles, or if they could receive fluids and other aids on demand, such features would violate current rules of competition."
Nike has looked at every possible element known to affect marathon performance, including weather, course, pacing and nutrition -- as well as shoes and other gear. Nike has created a shoe with a spring plate in the sole to be used in its sub-2 attempt.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thank You, Meg Penisten, For Encouraging Me To Try!

The other day I shared a story of a sprinting injury that I sustained during my freshman track season in high school. Today, I want to share with you a short story from just 4 months following that injury, which would have been August 1980. I was going into my sophomore year at Chugiak High School -- which is just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Back then, a friend of mine (Meg Penisten) called me up one day and suggested I try out for the cross country team. I had only been a sprinter up until that point, but Meg felt that my body size/type seemed like a good fit for cross country. I decided to give it a try. I figured if nothing else it would keep me fit for track season when I would return to sprinting. What I didn't know is that right after that cross country season at Chugiak High during the autumn of 1980, my family would move away to a different part of Alaska.

During that first season of cross country running I became good enough to run on the varsity team. I was able to get my 3.1-mile course time down to just under 17 minutes on very hilly terrain and qualified for the regional championships. Meg was right... I seemed to be built to run long distances. I last saw Meg back in 1982 when I was at the state track and field championships in Anchorage, Alaska -- 35 years ago. We haven't been in touch since then. Sometimes I wonder if she knows what I managed to accomplish in long distance running with my solo runs across America, Germany, Alaska, and the Mojave Desert. Thanks to Meg, I was encouraged as a 15-year-old sophomore to give cross country running a try. Back then I had no idea just how far my legs would carry me!

In the picture that accompanies this blog post, I am in the front row at the far left. That photo was taken the day before my first cross country competition. Coach Ray Reekie is seen in the cap near lane one and was a wonderful cross country coach. It was his first year coaching at Chugiak High, having transferred from another school in Anchorage. Renee Henry also coached the team and Danny Crow assisted. I learned a lot during that season of running the trails in and around Anchorage. I still have all of the newspaper clippings and my workout log from 1980. It was a privilege to run with such wonderful athletes. Meg finished the girls' season as the 7th fastest cross country runner in the state.

The Chugiak High cross country team in 1980 consisted of myself, David Beckley, Loren Sickles, Mark Kiehl, Tim Roberts, Karl Stoltze, John Wanamaker, Jenny Martin, Tammy Huffer, Kaye Moeller, Vernetta Green, Terry Lane, Tim Powell, Ben Powell, Glen Smith, Matt Stoen, Robert Campbell, Ole Jordan, Bill Gould, and team captains Meg Penisten, Don Homan, and Tim Martin.

I'll always have fond memories of my one season of running cross country for Chugiak High School. It truly created a foundation for the many miles I would run after 1980. Wherever you are Meg, thank you for encouraging me to try!

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Beer Belly Fun Runs -- Do Alcohol and Endurance Running Mix?

Last September, I wrote a blog post about the fact that I don't drink alcohol. Yet, you can Google search "Beer Belly Fun Run" and come across various races that involve and/or promote beer drinking. In November 2015, Erin Kelly wrote an article that caught my eye... about running and drinking alcohol (not at the same time!). Essentially, the question is -- Do they mix? Kelly is a writer, triathlete and RRCA-certified Level 1 running coach living in New York City. I want to share with you some parts of her article.

Matthew Barnes, Ph.D., studies the effects of alcohol and exercise at New Zealand's Massey University. While there isn't a ton of research on how alcohol affects endurance training long-term, Barnes’ research has shown there’s evidence that drinking alcohol directly after exercise is likely to inhibit recovery and impair performance, especially for endurance athletes. After all, alcohol is a toxic substance, Barnes says. “It impacts the immune system, hormonal system, musculoskeletal system, and nervous system.” Here are a few more ways it negatively affects the body:

1. It messes with your blood sugar levels.
A night of drinking can lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, in the morning, says Greg Whyte, professor in applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University. This is also the reason drinkers tend to crave sugary, high-carb foods when hungover. This alternating in glucose handling can lead to a drop in energy levels, which isn’t good before a long training run.

2. It can affect your heart.
If you exercise intensely after drinking alcohol, it’s possible to induce unusual rhythms in the heart, which is not only detrimental to performance but your health in general, Whyte says.

3. It can lead to poor sleep patterns.
Sleep, which as you’ve probably heard is a pretty crucial factor of overall health and athletic performance, is also altered by alcohol. Drinking can disrupt sleep patterns, decreasing the quality and total hours slept, Barnes says. And research shows that sleep deprivation for athletes in particular can lead to poor performance in training and competition. So even if you abstain from drinking the night before a race, drinking the night before a long run (or at any point during your training) could harm your race day performance.

4. It can pack on the pounds.
If you continue to drink through your training plan, the additional boozy calories (providing no nutritional value) can cause you to gain weight and adversely affect your overall performance, Whyte says. Some experts say that for every pound you lose, you shave two seconds off your mile time.

5. It can cause additional stress on your body.
And let’s not forget about our brains. “A big race, like a marathon, stresses the brain, and alcohol is a physiological stressor,” says Leigh Leasure, Ph. D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston. “So if you don’t drink, that’s one less stressor for your brain to deal with.”

6. It can cause nasty hangovers.
As a final important point... the more you drink, the worse the hangover. Alcohol dehydrates you, which can lead to headaches, stomach cramps, and overall fatigue — all symptoms that you want to avoid before any long training run, and especially on race day.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Maximum Health Benefits For Seniors Through Treadmill Walking

Walking on a treadmill can reap positive health benefits for anyone, including senior citizens. However, to benefit the most you should aim to walk at a pace which places your heart in the best range. When it comes to treadmill walking, setting the proper speed is essential.

The American Heart Association recommends you raise your heart rate to 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate to achieve health benefits. If your target heart rate is 115 beats per minute, and you achieve that at 3 mph, then that speed is perfect for you.

How do you configure your target heart rate? The simple equation is as follows:

220 - Age = Maximum heart rate (MHR) 

Multiply your maximum heart rate by 50 percent and 85 percent to find your target heart rate (THR) range.

MHR x 0.50 = THR

MHR x 0.85 = THR

The 50 to 85 percent target heart rate range of a 65-year-old person is 78 to 132 beats per minute.

The Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion, RPE, scale is another way to determine if you are challenging yourself on the treadmill or during any exercise activity. The scale works well if you are on a medication that lowers your heart rate or are unable to keep track of your heart rate.

When exercising, you need understand how your body feels at different intensities and rate it on the 6 to 20 scale -- 6 is no exertion, and 20 is unable to continue exercising. For example, if you are walking at 3 miles per hour and feel like you are at RPE 7.5, you need to walk faster. On the other hand, if you feel like you are at RPE 19, you need to slow down. Here's a scale to help you make a determination:

  • 6: No exertion at all
  • 7 
  • 7.5: Extremely light
  • 8
  • 9: Very light
  • 10
  • 11: Light
  • 12
  • 13: Somewhat hard
  • 14
  • 15: Hard (heavy)
  • 16
  • 17: Very hard
  • 18
  • 19: Extremely hard
  • 20: Maximal exertion

If you are unable to walk faster, using the incline on the treadmill is a great way to increase your heart rate. Walking up a hill is harder than walking on a flat surface, making your heart beat faster and increasing your heart rate.

Walking on the treadmill is an excellent way for seniors to stay active. With 30 minutes a day of brisk treadmill walking, you can be well on your way to meeting the recommended daily physical activity to reduce your health risks and maintain fitness. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program if you haven't been exercising or if you have health concerns.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Freshman H.S. Track Coach Taught Me How NOT To Coach!

When I was a freshman on my high school's track team in Alaska, I was a sprinter. It was that year when I would learn the magnitude of mistakes that a coach can make.

One of the races that I was a part of as a freshman was the 880-yard relay (now called the "4 x 200-meter relay"). I ran the third leg of the relay, handing off to Craig Johnson, a senior on the team who was very fast. At the end of April 1980 we were competing in the 880-yard relay against some very fast teams. I ran my 220-yard leg of the relay really hard and ended up badly straining -- slightly tearing -- the left quadriceps muscle at the rectus femoris. The strain happened just before I handed off the baton, and after getting it into the hand of the next runner I collapsed onto the infield of the track in serious pain.

My sprint coach immediately understood what happened and told me to lay back and extend my left leg. However, what I would hear from the head coach was absolutely ridiculous. He simply yelled, "Enough dramatics Staso. On your feet!" To say that his harsh and unconcerned response angered me would be an understatement. However, I bit my tongue (nearly off!). I limped through practices the following week, doing more watching from the sidelines than being on the track, and my sprint coach was looking to replace me on the relay for the next meet. However, the head coach told him to keep me on the relay.

The picture shown above was taken in early May 1980, one week following the meet I was injured in. I was 15 years old. I can be seen with my left thigh taped up, trying to hold the muscle in place as I raced my leg of the 880-yard relay. I'm handing off the baton to anchor leg runner Craig Johnson. This particular photo reveals the poor judgment of the head coach... making an injured runner go full speed for 220-yards. I believe my face in this picture says it all (and yes, our relay team lost). It was the last race that I would run in my freshman year because the injury was made worse due to the head coach making me run on that relay rather than taking a little more time to get the leg better. He belittled me in front of the team as I had a serious injury for a sprinter, and he made me run when I shouldn't have -- and yes, there were other sprinters who could have filled in for me. When my season was over due to injury, another sprinter was put into my spot on the relay for the rest of that track season.

So, why am I sharing a 37-year-old story and photograph? Because last week I was at a middle school track meet and was so disappointed to see the poor instruction, or complete lack thereof, by some of the coaches. I first started coaching school runners in 1988 and have seen all sorts of coaching styles over the decades. For example, last week I saw a female 40-something coach that was more concerned about her appearance than her athletes. Her skin had been darkened considerably by hours in a tanning booth. This is early spring in north-central Indiana and we haven't had near enough sunshine yet to get a Hawaii-style tan! She was wearing either a running skirt or a tennis skirt (hard to tell) and was color coordinated from head to toe... even down to her clipboard. Her 8th grade hurdle athletes all had wrong technique/form, yet she would say "good job" after they completed their races. I didn't really see any 'coaching' out of her, but she definitely did a fair amount of chatting with other coaches. Next year, her current 8th grade hurdlers will be in high school and their high school coaches are going to shake their heads and wonder why the middle school coach didn't teach them proper technique. How do I know? Because I've been one of those high school coaches who have had to correct what the middle school coaches didn't.

I understand that many coaches volunteer their time, and that some are teachers who are told by administrators that they have to coach because the school needs someone in the position. However, coaches who are more concerned about their appearance than their athletes... who are more concerned about keeping an eye on the clock for when they get to go home rather than the time their athletes cross the line... and who just want to be the athletes' buddy and not an actual coach... well, they really need to look for something else to do. I always took coaching seriously when I was in the role. My athletes laughed, and they sweated. They were worked hard in practice, and that work showed in track meets. They had fun while being competitive at the same time. They were taught the proper technique for their events so that they could have a solid foundation for future improvement.

I didn't respect the head coach of my high school track team when I was a freshman. He clearly enjoyed being in control and using harsh words and belittlement as a coaching strategy. His discernment when it came to handling an injured athlete was poor and I was fortunate to run track in a different region for my sophomore year -- having a far better coach and experiencing greater success as a track athlete. As someone who has coached an array of track athletes and runners, as young as age 12, I encourage all coaches to take genuine interest in both the sport and your athletes. Do whatever you can to bring out the best in your athletes while coaching proper technique, proper sportsmanship, and proper commitment. Make it fun, make it challenging, and make it a rewarding experience -- regardless of whether they come in first or last across the line. As a coach, you have an opportunity to impact your athletes lives in many ways. Don't take that opportunity and responsibility lightly..

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso