Wednesday, February 28, 2018

1 in 5 American Children and 1 in 3 American Adults Are OBESE!

Between 2006 and 2011 I ran thousands of miles across states and countries to promote health and fitness -- trying to make an impact on a growing amount of inactivity in people and a growing amount of waistlines. Unfortunately, the tide of obesity is simply not changing.

When I ran across America in 2006, 15 percent of American children were obese, and 35 percent of American adults were obese. When I ran across Montana in 2008, 17 percent of kids were obese, and 34 percent of adults were obese. When I ran across Alaska in 2009, 17 percent of youth were obese, and 36 percent of adults were obese. When I ran across Germany in 2010, 17 percent of children were obese, and 35 percent of adults were obese. When I ran across the Mojave Desert in 2011, 17 percent of kids were obese, and 35 percent of adults were obese. Today in the United States, about 20 percent of young people (ages 2-19) are obese, and nearly 40% of adults are obese.

It would be very easy for me to read the ever-increasing numbers of obesity in both American children and adults and feel as though my thousands of miles of running to promote health and fitness were worthless. However, I have to believe that I made a positive impact on at least one person through my efforts of reaching for all of those mileposts. I know that all of those miles had a profound impact on me!

Obesity can contribute to Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other health problems. It’s currently estimated that U.S. healthcare costs related to obesity-related medical illnesses and conditions are somewhere between $147 to $210 billion a year.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Noise... An Axe Handle... And Fear... Deep in The Mojave Desert

On several occasions, I've told a particular story about my Mojave Desert running adventure. As the 7-year anniversary of that run approaches, I thought I'd share it.

The 506-mile Mojave Desert route that I ran all alone in 2011 consisted of Arizona, Nevada and California. This is a desert where you can find Coyotes; Bighorn Sheep; Mountain Lions; Mule Deer; Bobcats; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Desert Kit Fox; Pronghorn Antelope; Bats; Red Tailed Hawks; Desert Tortoise; Black-tailed Jackrabbits; Tarantulas; Scorpions; and more!

After logging a 40-mile day in very difficult windy and sandy conditions while pushing my support stroller weighing about 100 pounds (6 gallons of water, food, gear, camping equipment, electronics, etc.), I settled into my tent just prior to sunset. My location was about 90 miles from the nearest population. After gazing upon the most magnificent sea of stars, I zipped my tent closed and laid down to get some rest. I drifted off to sleep quickly. However, I was awakened by a sound that truly startled me!

I distinctly remember hearing a "Grrrrrr" sound which appeared to be very close to my tent. The only protection I carried with me in the Mojave was a 3-foot hickory axe handle, which I kept right next to my sleeping bag as I slept. Upon hearing the sound, I sat up in my sleeping bag and grabbed the axe handle. I sat silently... listening for whatever it was to make another sound. Then, I heard it again! I was in the one-man tent which is shown in the photo accompanying this writing. I believed that whatever it was -- perhaps a bobcat -- was immediately to the right of me on the other side of the tent's nylon. I held firmly to the axe handle, ready to thrust it at anything that may try to claw through the tent.

As I sat there gripping the hickory handle, my focus was to stay still and quiet. Then, I heard it again! Well, that time I figured out exactly what it was that I was afraid of. It was ME! The sound I was hearing was my stomach growling! I remember that I laughed out loud and then laid the axe handle down as I reached for a granola bar. Yep... my hungry stomach woke me up and made me believe that a wild desert animal was about to attack me! I must have been really tired after that particular day of running... and apparently quite hungry!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The 7 Principles of "Leave No Trace"

I have run tens of thousands of miles in various locations, many in forests and deserts. Whether I was running alone through Denali National Park in Alaska, the forest in Bavaria, Germany, or across the Mojave Desert, I always followed the seven principles of the "Leave No Trace" program. The principles provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. I want to share those principles with you and encourage you to adhere to these the next time you are out in nature.

Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas (relating to or situated on the banks of a river) by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas, disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails and avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Leave What You Find
  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Respect Wildlife
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
  • Click Here To Learn More

Be Considerate of Other Visitors
  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
  • Click Here To Learn More
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, February 19, 2018

Some Runners Are Thinking: "Go Fund Me" so I can "Go Run Me"

"Go Fund Me" is a fundraising website with over 50 million users. People wanting to raise money to help pay for medical costs account for nearly half of all fundraising done via the Go Fund Me portal. However, there are just about as many fundraising campaigns as your imagination can come up with!

There are people who will donate to just about anything, and there are fraudsters who are counting on that. I've never given or received money via a crowdfunding website like Go Fund Me, but raising money online for everything from vacations to new dentures is certainly growing in interest.

When I ran across the United States in 2006 to keep a promise to 97 elementary children, I had to pay for most of that adventure myself. The total cost was about $7,000 and I would say that approximately $2,500 of that amount was donated -- money being given by friends and some donated by strangers who would stop me alongside the road after reading about me in a newspaper. Back then, there were no fundraising websites like Go Fund Me available to use. Nowadays, raising money online for a walk or run across America is quite popular. Here are just four that I saw today from the Go Fund Me website:

Within the past year, those four people set up fundraising pages to help cover the costs of their journeys across America. All combined, those four people raised a total of nearly $38,000 just by having a Go Fund Me page with a little bio about themselves, their run, and their purpose. By posting a fundraising page, they were able to raise most, if not all, of the money they needed to be on the road for months to cross the country one step at a time. Again, I didn't have that luxury. In fact, even in 2006 it was hard to get the word out about my solo run across America. There are so many online avenues that crossers can use today in order to get their journeys known about and funded. However, be careful if you choose to send dollars to any coast-to-coast adventurer (or anyone else!) whom you don't know. Fraud does happen! You certainly don't want to give funds to a Forrest Gump wannabe who may end up taking your money and running... but not actually across America! Do your research!!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, February 16, 2018

School Shootings: This Has To Stop!

As a father of four grown children, a former 5th grade teacher and high school track coach, and guest speaker at schools in America and Europe through my youth fitness foundation, I feel mixed emotions when I hear news reports of school shootings. There is, of course, a feeling of heartbreak and sadness for those families who have lost a loved one due to the bullet of a school shooter. But there is also growing frustration and anger with each such news report that I hear. Students should be able to attend school without fear of execution!

I graduated from high school in May 1983. Based on my reading of school shootings, it appears that during the first five years of the 1980's there was only one U.S. school shooting reported -- that being in January 1983 at a Missouri middle school when an eighth grader fatally shot one classmate and wounded another.

According to a recent Washington Post article, since 2000 there have been more than 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 others at colleges and universities. At high schools, including preliminary data from the Parkland shooting earlier this week, there have been almost 70 people killed and nearly 200 wounded.

At elementary and middle schools, about 60 people have been killed and about 60 wounded. Those deaths at elementary schools are, of course, driven upward by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. However, there have been shootings at elementary schools in seven other states as well since January 1, 2000. There have been five times as many shootings at high schools since 2000 than at middle schools.

The Washington Post reports, "Since 2000, there have been school shootings in 43 of the 50 states, according to our data. (The exceptions: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Wyoming.) The shootings have taken place at a rate of about one a month and left about 250 students and teachers dead."


Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, February 15, 2018

More "Nutritious" Happy Meals by 2022?

Fast food giant, McDonald’s, has pledged to make its Happy Meals more nutritious by the end of 2022 (and I have no idea why it's going to take 5 years to do that!). By then, at least 50 percent of Happy Meals listed on menus worldwide are to have caps of 600 calories -- 10% of calories coming from saturated fat, 650 mg sodium, and 10% of calories coming from added sugar.

One of the changes McDonald's plans to implement is making cheeseburgers available in Happy Meals only if customers request them. McDonald's also plans to reduce the size of the fries order that comes with the six-piece Chicken McNuggets, and will also cut the amount of added sugar in chocolate milk. It also plans to add bottled water as a featured beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards. In addition, it will also explore adding new foods to Happy Meals, like the Junior Chicken -- a grilled chicken sandwich.

McDonald's reports that since it removed soda from the Happy Meal menu four years ago, orders for it with Happy Meals have fallen 14 percent. Time will tell if McDonald's latest planned changes to the Happy Meal will be accepted and effective.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pope Francis Urges People to Slow Down and Rediscover Silence

This date marks Ash Wednesday, a Christian day for peace and the first day of Lent -- which is six weeks of repentance before Easter. Today, Pope Francis, leading Catholics into the season of Lent, urged people to slow down amid the noise, haste and desire for instant gratification in a high-tech world to rediscover the power of silence. I must admit... I really like that. We do have a world that seems to run full throttle 24/7/365. There is indeed great power in slowing down and rediscovering silence.

I've been a Christian for about 45 years and was baptized at the age of 12 in the Baptist church. My faith is very important to me and I give all credit to God for the abilities I have, the successes I've experienced, and for the blessings I've received. As I read the words of Pope Francis I recalled a time when I was forced to "slow down" and to rediscover silence. That time came after I completed a solo ultra-endurance run that nobody had ever accomplished before -- my run across the Mojave Desert from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin at Death Valley. In order to accomplish the task, I pushed 100 pounds of water, gear and food 506 miles in 17 days, my running steps touching the states of Arizona, Nevada and California. The cost? Two herniated disks in my lower back which required physical therapy and slowing down!

The picture accompanying this blog post is me standing with a cane, the day I was diagnosed in 2011. My facial expression clearly shows that I was not happy. Although I made it across the finish line at the end of the Mojave Desert run, there was indeed a price to pay. During the latter part of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, I did the work necessary to get my back repaired. However, the two herniated disks did indeed stop me in my tracks, forced me to experience a silence in my running career unlike ever before, and made me slow down and reflect on life in a very unique and magnified way. In many ways, that injury was a blessing.

There are often many wonderful things that can come from slowing down and rediscovering silence. If you haven't tried it for awhile, take Pope Francis' advice!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Little Known Facts About The Winter Olympics

I've been watching the winter Olympics, as my time allows, and recently read some interesting facts that I wanted to share with you.
  • Doing a backflip in a figure skating routine is considered an "illegal figure skating move" by the International Skating Union. The reason is because the landing is made on two feet instead of one and is not a "real jump."
  • It's completely legal to kick the puck in Olympic hockey games. However, if the player is kicking it towards the goal, the puck must come in contact with an attacking player's stick before going into the goal.
  • Skeleton is where athletes hurl themselves head-first down an icy runway. This sport mandates that while athletes must cross the finish line on their sled, they are allowed to leave their sled earlier in the run to push or move it, if necessary.
  • If you're a bobsledder, the maximum weight for the sled including the crew, runners, and other equipment is 860 pounds for a 2-man bobsled; 1,389 pounds for a 4-man bobsled; and, 717 pounds for women's bobsled.
  • Unlike NHL games, the Olympics rarely see fights break out on the ice. The New York Times reports that there have only been eight Olympic hockey fights since 1960. But, if there is a fight, it's better to be the one swinging second, as a player who retaliates (instead of instigating) will only get put in the penalty box for 2 minutes.
  • Ski jumpers are brave to fly through the air off a giant ramp. However, the rules say that when they land they are not allowed to touch the ground with their hands, even for a second! If they do, the jump doesn’t count.
  • Curling involves stones, ice, shouting and sweeping with brooms. If, for some reason, the stone was to break while being played, there’s a rule called the “Spirit of Curling” to decide where the replacement stone should be put. If the teams can’t agree on where to put it, the play starts again.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, February 9, 2018

U.S. Life Expectancy Now at 78 Years

I was reading the other day that rising obesity rates in the U.S. may be responsible for as many as 186,000 deaths per year. Many people are literally eating their way to an early grave! Currently, the life expectancy in the U.S. is around 78 years.

Between 1880 and 1945, U.S. life expectancy rose from 40 to 65 years old. Rising life expectancy preceded the discovery of most antibiotics, vaccines and many modern treatments for cancer, heart disease and kidney failure. However, now we're seeing a decrease in life expectancy (see chart below). Drug and alcohol abuse are often blamed for reductions in life expectancy, particularly among young Americans, but recent research suggests that the U.S. faces multiple challenges when it comes to longevity and public health. For instance, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in America, killing more than 15 times as many people as drug overdoses.

Research shows that 74% of all deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease; cancer; unintentional injuries; chronic lower respiratory disease; stroke; Alzheimer’s disease; diabetes; influenza and pneumonia; kidney disease; and, suicide. Major increases in deaths are reported to be unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and suicide.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Remembering The 620-Mile, 20-Day Run Across Montana of 2008

This year marks 10 years since I did my solo run across the state of Montana. That run was to promote youth health and fitness through my non-profit foundation, The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation (PACE standing for "Promoting Active Children Everywhere"). Between April 28 and May 19, 2008 I ran 620 miles east-to-west across Montana averaging 31 miles per day. During those 20 days, I ran from the Great Plains at the North Dakota border to the top of the Northern Rocky Mountains at the Idaho border, in temperatures from 19 to 90 degrees.

Approximately 8,000 school children from 8 countries participated virtually, logging more than 42,000 miles as they tracked my progress through my online classroom. During the 620-mile run I battled two snowstorms, sleet, rain, relentless headwinds, 90+ temperatures, and more – logging 247 miles in the final mountainous week of the journey.

My website for the run across Montana remains online and contains daily writings, videos, audio files from the road, and more. I also have YouTube videos of the run, as well as an online photo album. Below is a music slideshow of the Montana adventure featuring pictures from the run as well as photos of the school children around the world that ran with me virtually.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

C'mon Runners! Use Some Common Sense!

Early this morning, I was driving to work in north-central Indiana after a night of significant snowfall. I saw a runner in the driving lane endangering himself and being a hazard. I grew up running in Alaska and then ran for 32 years in western Montana where winter running was always a challenge. However, I never did anything so ridiculous as I saw this runner doing... nor would I ever! Sometimes I shake my head at the complete lack of common sense that some runners display.

I began running in 1975 at the age of ten and in the 40+ years of being a runner I've probably logged less than 200 miles on a treadmill. I prefer to be outside in the elements. As a winter runner you have to be courteous and lawful, and you should not make yourself a hazard to drivers. If there is no place to safely run on the sidewalk or shoulder of the road -- outside of the driving lane -- due to snow accumulation, then you shouldn't be out there. That's right... you shouldn't be out there! Instead, choose a different form of fitness activity for the day, or run on a treadmill.

There are certainly runners out there who think that they can run in the driving lanes, and some of those people are no longer runners... but are now paralyzed or dead. C'mon runners, use some common sense!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso