Monday, April 30, 2018

Fitness, Workout and Diet "Selfies" -- and Narcissism

In 2013, the Oxford Dictionary announced its word of the year to be "selfie," which is defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." Many believe that the first "selfie" was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Setting up his camera at the back of a family store, Cornelius took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for several minutes before covering up the lens again.

I took my first "selfie" in 2006 as I was running solo across America. Why did I do it? Well, I was alone and I wanted to document the undertaking. My reason in taking selfies while on any of my solo adventure runs across states and countries was to show my friends and family that I was okay, and to try and share with others the locations I was running through -- particularly since I taught about such locations through my online classroom. As a retired ultra-endurance runner, my days of taking selfies from the road's edge have been done for seven years. However, I'll still grab my phone/camera and take a selfie now and then while out cycling or while on a walk with my beautiful fiancé... simply to capture the moment. Selfies date back 179 years and will always be around, especially with the convenience of today's technology. However, certain selfies -- and the frequency of taking/sharing such selfies -- is something that some people should truly examine in their life.

A recent study at Brunel University revealed some interesting conclusions regarding people who take selfies in order to make social media posts about their physical fitness and workout regiments.  The researchers found that people who post a lot of gym selfies, and a lot of statuses about their workout regimen and diet, may actually be suffering from narcissism. They not only want people admiring their physique, but they also crave the attention they gain from posting photos of their toned stomachs, chiseled quads and firm glutes. Narcissism is defined as excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.

Keep in mind, it's not just selfies! People who spend a lot of time posting about their workout routines are most often seeking out the same sort of attention as those who are constantly posting selfies from the gym. The study went deeper, stating that those who spend a lot of time posting about their diets are looking down the same psychological barrel as those posting their exercise routines. The study found that those who spend as much time posting selfies as they do working out get more interaction on their posts than people who don't post anything from the gym. Researchers now believe that because those people were finding so much more interaction on those posts, they were making similar posts more frequently.

The researchers started to notice that those subjects who were getting a lot of interaction on their gym photos were becoming selfie junkies, posting at least one gym selfie per gym visit. However, when the gym selfie stopped garnering the attention the subjects wanted and needed, that's when the frequent postings about workout routines started. Those posts gained the same amount of interaction as the prior selfies did. The diet posts became the next step when workout regimen selfie addicts stopped getting as much attention for their workout routine posts.

However, it's not just the gym and diet posts that pushed researchers toward the conclusion that people who post a lot of workout selfies are suffering from a form of narcissism. Throughout the study, researchers noticed that the people who posted the most self-involved fitness photos and statuses were also the same people who posted the most self-absorbed statuses and photos in general. The fitness selfie addicts tended to be the people most often posting about how smart, how attractive, and capable they are. Many studies have shown that these are all obvious signs of a narcissistic person. The researchers agree that this pattern is not present in every big-time gym selfie poster's life, but the patterns are there and they are far more than suggestive.

As stated in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, approximately 6% of the U.S. population (nearly 20 million Americans) has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and that it is far more prevalent in men than in women — 7.7% vs 4.8%. Narcissistic personality disorder is closely associated with egocentrism, a personality characteristic in which people see themselves and their interests and opinions as the only ones that really matter. We're all narcissists to some extent, but there is a line to be drawn between healthy narcissism and pathological narcissism. Most of the time, it's not ourselves, but others, who can tell us which side of the line we're truly on.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 27, 2018

The U.S. Army is Struggling to Find Physically Fit, Eligible Recruits

I recently saw a headline that caught my attention. At is an article titled, "Facing Fitness Crisis, Army Leaders Look to Change Culture." Officials from U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command say they are working to fundamentally change the culture of fitness within the Army. Their efforts are aimed to impact everyone -- from the nation's newest recruits to its longest-serving soldiers.

For well over a decade I've been writing, speaking, and pushing ultra-endurance limits to promote youth health and fitness. Unfortunately, during that time I've seen a continual decline in America's fitness. Some have said that the lack of fitness in America's youth is a "looming national security crisis."

Army officials say that soldier fitness is of growing importance. It has been reported by officials that more than 100,000 soldiers are unable to deploy. For a large percentage of those soldiers, it's due to injuries sustained during training. Apparently, those soldiers are becoming harder to replace. An improving unemployment rate has caused fewer potential armed forces recruits.

A recent Heritage Foundation report found that, according to 2017 Pentagon data, "71 percent of young Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve in the United States military." Nearly one-third of those young Americans are too overweight for military service. Put another way, over 24 million of the 34 million people of that age group cannot join the armed forces -- even if they wanted to.

The Heritage Foundation report outlines the stakes of having a population largely unfit to serve. "The U.S. military is already having a hard time attracting enough qualified volunteers. Of the four services, the Army has the greatest annual need. The Army anticipates problems with meeting its 2018 goal to enlist 80,000 qualified volunteers, even with increased bonuses and incentives," according to the report.

Historically, the Army's physical tests have been challenging -- but they're about to become more challenging. The "Soldier Readiness Test" is a new commander's tool being developed to assess a unit's physical fitness program. The Soldier Readiness Test must be completed by soldiers while wearing their Army Combat Uniform, boots and fully body armor. The events include a 225-pound tire flip, an agility test, a 240-pound dummy drag, a sandbag toss over a 7-foot barrier, a sandbag stack and a one-and-a-half mile run.

Also in development is the Army Combat Readiness Test. The new, six-event test is designed to gauge five components of physical fitness, including muscular and cardiovascular endurance, strength, speed and explosive power. It consists of a deadlift, standing power throw, modified pushups, a sprint/drag/carry lane that simulates moving a wounded soldier or ammunition in combat, leg lifts and a two-mile run.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kids and Coffee: Things That Every Parent Should Know!

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, the demand for coffee has never been higher. Millennials are drinking more coffee than any previous generation. According to Bloomberg, in the past four years, coffee intake has increased from 34 percent to 48 percent in millennials ages 18 to 24 and from 51 percent to 60 percent in millennials between 25 to 30.

Bloomberg’s data also shows that the coffee craze is starting earlier in life: “Younger millennials, born after 1995, started drinking coffee at about 14.7 years old, while older millennials, born closer to 1982, began at 17.1 years.” But what about today's children? Statistics show that coffee consumption among kids is on the rise.

I was recently reading an article at about children and coffee consumption and wanted to share with you some of the main points.
InsomniaChildren ages 5 to 12 need at least 11 hours of sleep per day, and teenagers need nine to 10. These numbers seen attainable, but with hectic schedules and early wake-up times, sometimes they are impossible. More and more kids are using coffee to boost their energy levels during the day, but this could be a contributor to lack of sleep. Coffee is a stimulant that has five times more caffeine per serving than a soda, and caffeine can last in the body for up to eight hours, contributing to sleep loss, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle. It is best for children and teenagers to avoid coffee to boost energy levels.
Cavities: Coffee is acidic. Acidic drinks can cause damage in the mouth by weakening teeth; this leads to a decline in tooth enamel and an increase in cavities. Children are more prone to cavities than adults, as it takes years for new enamel to harden after baby teeth have been lost and adult teeth have come in. Children who drink coffee are more likely than adults to have oral health issues, such as cavities and loss of enamel. 
Decreased Appetite: Coffee is a stimulant, which can lead to decreased appetite. Growing children need a balanced diet full of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When kids drink coffee, the stimulant effect is likely to lead to a decrease in appetite and a decline in overall nutrition. 
Bone Loss: Coffee is a diuretic -- it increases urine production. Increased urination causes the loss of calcium from the body, which can lead to bone loss. In addition to being a diuretic, it also contains large amounts of caffeine that leach calcium from the body. For every 100 mg of caffeine ingested, 6 mg of calcium are lost. For children, calcium is essential for bone growth. 
Hyperactivity: Coffee can create a host of behavioral problems in children, including hyperactivity, restlessness and inability to concentrate. This is because the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant that increases energy and alertness. While adults may benefit from this side effect, it can be damaging to school-aged children who are required to pay attention and sit still during instruction at school. The effects of caffeine can last for hours -- as long as an entire school day -- and can have negative effects on peer relations, studying and grades.
I recently read a parenting article which notes Mayo Clinic recommendations for caffeine intake by children. In that article it states, "So what should you do if your 14-year-old asks for a latte? Moderation is key. Remember all the sources of caffeine in your child's diet (sodas, chocolate, tea) and make sure that he or she isn't getting too much... Learn about the sugar and fat content of your child's drinks, and suggest the 8-ounce drink instead of the monster-sized one. Make sure your child doesn't drink coffee less than 6 hours before bedtime."

Major health organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggest that children under the age of 12 years should not have caffeine. For children older than 12 years, caffeine intake should fall in the range of no more than 85 to 100 milligrams per day. As a example, one 12-ounce can of Pepsi contains about 38 milligrams of caffeine, and a 12-ounce Coke contains about 35 milligrams. According to the USDA, regular, brewed coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. This is based on average values of home-brewed and fast-food coffee.

Remember, caffeine is a stimulant — a naturally occurring one in coffee and tea and chocolate, but a drug nonetheless. Besides sparking mental alertness, it also increases heart rate and blood pressure and keeps you awake when maybe you should be sleeping. Sometimes it can cause agitation, stomach upset and heart palpitations.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Chasing a Promise -- Coast to Coast!

In December 2006, Running Times magazine wrote an article about my coast-to-coast running adventure. That magazine has since been acquired by Runner's World magazine and the article is now a part of its Web archive. I want to share it with you.

Chasing a Promise
Promoting Active Children From Coast to Coast
Its a picture perfect late fall day in Central West Virginia and a lone runner pushing a jogging stroller makes his way along the shoulder of US Route 50. Just after he passes a yellow advisory speed limit sign that reads "15 MPH" the shoulder disappears and he pulls the stroller off the road and crouches, tucked into the 2 feet between the sheer rock wall and the winding highway as an overloaded logging truck barrels past him down the 9% grade. He waits until his pounding heart is the only sound he can hear before he jumps back onto the road and pushes his loaded luggage around the blind turn as fast as he can. 
The runner was Paul Staso and the jogging stroller was loaded with water, food, clothes, camera, GPS, satellite and cell phones, tent, sleeping bag and other essentials. Between June 23rd and October 20th 2006, Paul ran, alone and unaided, from the Pacific coast in Oregon to the Atlantic shoreline in Delaware - a total of 3,260 miles. It is easy to define Paul’s journey by the bookends provided by these natural boundaries, but that would be oversimplifying the accomplishment. For Paul, the start and finish of the trip were just two of the 108 days of the journey. The other 106 days, while the rest of us worked, ran tempo workouts and local 5K races, cooked dinner for our families and socialized with friends, Paul was somewhere between those two great oceans, alone, running. 
Across the Great Plains, the summer of 2006 was one of the hottest on the record. In the first half of his journey, from Cannon Beach, OR to Appleton, MN, Staso witnessed only 35 minutes of rainfall. While Dakota farmers were losing crops and livestock to the heat and drought, Paul was running in the sun for up to 48 miles/day. His route took him across some of the least populated regions in the country - western Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota. Drinking fountains are hard to come by in areas where houses are miles apart (never mind how widely spaced the towns are), so he carried 2.5 gallons of water with him as well as food to get him through the day. "Eating and drinking was a constant activity," Paul said. "Out West, I couldn't carry anything cold, or chocolate, because it would melt... further east I would stop and actually have lunch somewhere." 
There was only one day, Paul said, that he would have quit. But at the time quitting wasn't an option. He had run 25 of the scheduled 35 miles for the day when he came to the top of a bluff in the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. From this vantage point he could see clear to the horizon, and he sat down and started to cry. What was it that brought tears to his sun-scorched eyes? "I saw nothing," he recounted. "No trees, no cars, no houses. And I thought 'Can I really do this?'" 
He made a lean-to with his tarp to get out of the direct sun and he sat down and cried. "It was really frustrating," he said. "My emotions just started to break and I couldn't stop. It just hit me like a ton of bricks." Over an hour later, he was finally able to pack up and return to the task before him because another 10 or 11 miles down the road was a place to lay his head and there was no way to get there except on his own two feet.  
He struggled along for a few days after the Standing Rock breakdown, but the curative effects of the accumulating miles started to kick in and he got back into the swing of things. Minnesota, he says, is when it really felt like he was going to make it. 
At this point, you might be asking yourself, now why-ever would a grown man, with four kids and a full time job he likes go so far out of his way as to dedicate four months of his life away from said family and job to create such agony as has been previously described? You might be wondering why he took such an odd, difficult and twisting route to get between points A and B (this was the most northerly cross country run and the first to end in Delaware). As Paul will explain to you again and again, "it was all about the kids." 
The plan for a cross country run was hatched at bedtime one evening, as he was tucking in his 12 year old daughter, Ashlin. Paul and Ashlin realized that the kids at her school would be much more likely to run if they had a goal in mind so they started brainstorming places to which the kids could "run". Paul recounted his first attempt to run across the country in 1986 (he only made it 36 miles due to an unfortunate injury). They did some calculations and determined that if each member of Ashlin's 5th grade class were to run 2 miles/week, they could complete a virtual cross country run in the course of the school year.  
Paul challenged the 4th and 5th grades at Russell Elementary School in Missoula, MT. If either one of the classes could complete the virtual cross country run over a school year, he would run their actual cross country route that summer. Ashlin chose the route to go through parts of the country that she was interested in and as she and her classmates ticked off the miles at school, they traced their progress along the way, learning about the cities and states that they were passing through. By the end of the school year, both classes had completed the route and each student had run the equivalent of three marathons. 
Was it ever in doubt that the classes would reach their goal? "Oh yes, yes," Paul said. But one day near Christmas, he came by the school -- it was zero degrees and snowing -- and saw the 5th graders out there, circling the track. He knew then they were going to make it.  
In that same frigid Montana winter weather, Paul started picking up his training as well. He had a promise to keep to 97 grade school kids, and he needed to be in shape to run across the country come summer. 
Rising early to try to beat the heat, ("That never worked!" he said.) he would ease his body into each day's task with three miles of walking, then break into a trot for awhile before he really got to work. He didn't want to be rigid in a schedule so he would let the weather and terrain dictate his pace and rest breaks. Along the way he stopped and talked to groups at several grade schools, YMCAs and sports teams. He sought no media attention but reported back to his friends and family in Missoula as frequently as he could.  
His feat garnered much criticism along the way. Some thought him a fool for trying it alone, or in the middle of the summer, or along the winding route that Ashlin had chosen. Some wondered why he wouldn't contact larger media forces and try to make a bit of profit along the way. He was run into ditches, verbally accosted and spit upon. One straight-speaking old man in North Dakota stopped him asking, "What are you doing?" "I'm running across America," came Paul's reply. "Young man, you've got the brain of a scarecrow." 
"But for every person who wants to hinder you," he explained, "there's far more who encourage you and want to help however possible." And then there's that commitment to the kids back home -- they did their part, now he was doing his. One of the girls in the class reported to the school's PTA president that this was "the first time an adult has kept his promise to me." "Now that's a huge impact," Paul insisted, "there's a ripple effect there." 
Paul frequently receives emails from kids in the class and elsewhere excitedly reporting that they are still running, or that they are going out for the cross country team this year, and teachers and schools across the country contact him about starting a similar virtual running program at their school. These are the reasons that Paul did the run, these are the stories that kept him going through heat, bugs and storms. 
Despite crossing several mountain ranges, logging trucks spraying bark as they pass on narrow Idaho highways, and hundreds of miles of open prairie, it was the rolling green cornfields of Iowa that presented the toughest challenge to Staso. "All the shoulders are gravel," he explained, "the stroller stopped tracking straight." 290 miles of running on gravel shoulders left him with missing toenails and bruised feet that made standing painful -- never mind 44 miles of running in a day, or 16 miles through ankle deep puddles during a flash flood. "It didn't rain many days," Paul said, "but when it rained, it really rained!"  
This summer, Paul Staso got a chance to see the best and the worst this country has to offer. He was victim of an attempted robbery, recipient of many a plate of lasagna, spare change from strangers and inquisitive questions from kids he met along the way. He ran through hail, thunderstorms, heat waves and perfectly cool, sunny fall days. He saw the spectacular views of the Cascade, Rocky and Appalachian mountain ranges, feasted his eyes on the sparkling expanses of the Susquehanna, Mississippi and Columbia Rivers and couldn't help but notice the continuous trail of trash lining the roads that became his home for those four months. 
It's the little things, Paul says: show your commitment, keep your promise and respect your body. This is the message he wants to promote to kids and adults everywhere.
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring Track Runners Compete Inside 8-Foot Snow Walls

Calumet, Michigan (population 700) is located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- the Keweenaw Peninsula, jutting north into Lake Superior. It is one of the snowiest regions in the United States! Receiving around 300 inches (25 feet) of snow a year is common, and the town keeps track of it with its own "snow thermometer." The snow thermometer in Calumet doesn't stop at 300 inches -- it actually goes up to 390 inches, the town's record snowfall during the 1978-79 winter season.

After a recent heavy snow, Calumet is up to 304 inches of snow for the 2017-18 winter season. There have actually been public service announcements asking people to not pile the snow so high that it touches power lines!

The local high school track coach said that this spring the team recruited The National Park Service to use a snow blower attached to a Bobcat to clear the running track. Good luck this season, Calumet tracksters!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 20, 2018

Should School Children Run/Walk a Mile Every Day?

There's a study by a Canadian and Australian research team that claims school teenagers should be required to walk or run a mile every day to protect them against depression. Some experts believe a lack of exercise could be behind rising rates of mental illness among young people.

Statistics show that the amount of physical activity children get drops significantly in high school. Researchers claim that a 'daily mile' scheme -- created six years ago by a primary school in Scotland -- could help beat the blues. To date, the scheme has been copied by more than 3,000 schools. It is in addition to physical education class and has been credited with improving children's health. It can even be done during a lunch break. The study's research team says the initiative could combat the stress epidemic if extended to older groups.

Study author, Professor Mark Beauchamp of British Columbia University, says that The Daily Mile does not require specialized equipment or unique staff training and emphasizes enjoyment, inclusion and social participation -- all of which happens within 15-minute transitions and during times in the day that work for teachers and schools.

Studies have shown that the prevalence of depression and anxiety increases during late adolescence (between 15 and 19), reaching a peak during early adulthood. This age group has to worry about academic performance and various social pressures. Exercise has been shown to prevent depression and reduce stress, as well as combat such illnesses as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Children Age 8 and Younger are Increasing Mobile Device Use

In 2013, children 8 years of age and younger spent about 15 minutes a day staring at a mobile screen, and now they spend 48 minutes a day! This information is according to a report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization focused on the use of media and technology by children, parents, and educators. The report also found that 42% of children 8 years of age and younger now have their own tablet devices, a steep increase from 7% four years ago.

The report also shows that mobile devices are now as common in homes as televisions. Today, 98% of households with kids under 8 have a mobile device. Children age 8 and younger now spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes a day with screen media. Mobile viewing is taking over -- it now makes up 35% of screen time, compared to 4% in 2011. According to the report, nearly half of children age 8 and younger watch TV or play videogames in the hour before bedtime, and 42% of parents say the TV is on "always" or "most of the time" in the home. Overall, 67% of parents whose children use screen media say it helps their children's learning.

A growing trend among parents is to give young children their own hand-me-down smartphone or tablet, which may only connect to Wi-Fi for games, apps and educational purposes. In a recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, 3rd through 5th graders (ages 8-11) who had their own TV or video games in their bedrooms spent more time with media. More time spent was associated with a reduced amount of sleep and reading, and that has been tied to lower grades in school. In addition, those with bedroom media were likely to be exposed to more media violence and tended to act more aggressively than children with no bedroom media.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

20,000 U.S. Children Treated Annually For Playground Injuries

With springtime comes more children playing on local playgrounds. Although playgrounds are safer than they used to be, injuries still happen. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments treat more than 20,000 children (ages 14 and younger) in America for playground injuries each year. Broken bones, abrasions and even strangulation can occur on playground structures. I was recently reading about some ways that playground safety can be enhanced.

It's widely agreed that adult supervision is a key component of preventing playground injuries. Adults can ensure that kids don't engage in unsafe behavior when using playground equipment. Adults can also help kids gauge distances on equipment, help them get up and down from climbing structures, and help make sure that older kids do not test limits too much.

Having safe equipment is also essential for protecting children on playgrounds. Since the mid-1980's, innovations in technology have led to new playground equipment and surfacing requirements. Some safety guidelines include proper signage and labeling, and safe surface materials -- which include engineered wood fiber, pea gravel, sand, shredded rubber mulch, wood chips, and organic mulch.

It's also important that the playground equipment be kept in safe working order. Tripping hazards, such as rocks or tree stumps, should be removed from the area. Sharp edges should be made smooth, and all platforms should be in good repair with working guardrails. Hardware should be checked and never protrude. The cushioned ground surface should extend at least six feet beyond the equipment, and worn out materials should be replaced.

Finally, children should use only the equipment recommended for their age groups and ability levels. Some playgrounds have age guidelines clearly posted on equipment to help adults ensure their kids play on equipment that is right for their ages.

I always loved time with my own children on playgrounds when they were young. It's one thing to make sure your kids are safe on the playground, but it's another thing to make sure that you are building memories with them that they -- and you -- will always treasure. Go play!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Are You an Office Worker? Ever Tried Pedaling at Your Desk?

Most of my 40's were spent on the edge of the road -- training endless miles and running across states and countries through The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, which I formed to promote youth health and fitness. Speaking at school assemblies, flying/driving here and there, planning running adventures, logging miles, and so many other such things were a part of my daily life. Sure, I had a job through a business I had owned and operated for 16 years, but being sedentary throughout the day wasn't something I did. At the age of 49 I decided to return to a profession that I had worked in earlier during my career, the legal field, and I am retired from ultra-running adventures.

I've worked in law at both the private and federal levels. I find the work interesting and challenging, although it can be quite sedentary. Years ago a friend of mine in the legal profession told me that he decided to install a treadmill desk so that he could walk while working at the office during the day. I've never tried a treadmill desk. I simply try to get up from my desk at least hourly to make sure that I'm moving around.

Many studies have shown that long periods of sitting reduces blood flow to your legs, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) as well as diabetes, obesity, and depression. Staying active at a desk job isn't impossible. It's actually a huge trend right now, and numerous devices and gadgets are being made available to help office people stay in shape without even leaving the desk.

For instance, Amazon offers an under-desk elliptical with eight levels of resistance, Bluetooth and Fitbit capabilities, and a connected app to track your progress and set exercise goals. More of a biking fan than an elliptical user? The DeskCycle is another product that lets you pedal in place. Patented magnetic resistance in the pedals is said to operate smoothly and quietly to allow you to focus on your work and not annoy coworkers. The machine's display shows time, distance, and calories burned, along with eight calibrated resistance settings, depending on how much of a challenge you want.

There have been studies done showing the benefits of pedaling at your desk. If you have a job that has you sedentary for 40 or more hours each week, consider trying a device for the office that will promote movement and blood flow.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Night Owls" -- Diabetes, Psychological Illnesses, and Death

A study published in the journal Chronobiology International found that people who identify as “definite evening types” are more susceptible to several health problems, including diabetes, neurological disorders, psychological illness, and a higher risk of mortality than those who identify as “definite morning types.”

Researchers tracked 433,268 adults in the United Kingdom over an average of six-and-a-half years. The participants were asked to put themselves into one of four categories: “definitely a morning person”; “more a morning person than evening person”; “more an evening than a morning person”; or “definitely an evening person.” Over the course of the study, just over 10,000 participants died, and researchers found that those who identified as “definite evening types” were 10 percent more likely to die than their 'morning person' counterparts.

It wasn’t just an increased risk of dying that was more prevalent among night owls. Researchers also found that the “definite evening types” were nearly twice as likely to indicate they had some sort of psychological illness than the “definite morning types.”

The researchers think that what might be happening is that there’s a problem for the night owl who’s trying to live in the morning world. They say that this mismatch between their internal clock and their external world could lead to problems for their health over the long run, especially if their schedule is irregular.

According to the study, the night owls were also more likely to have diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory disorders. Also, regularly staying up late can also cause unwanted weight gain.

The message of this study seems pretty clear: night owls need to realize that they have these potential health problems and therefore need to be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As countless studies have shown, eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all important, and maybe particularly so for night owls.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ultramarathon Participation Increased 1,000% in Last Ten Years!

An "ultramarathon" is any distance beyond the 26.2-mile marathon distance. I completed my first ultramarathon -- a 30 miler -- in 1985 at the age of twenty (although it was on my own because there were no ultramarathon races in the area I was living at the time). I recently learned that in the last 10 years there has been a 1,000 percent increase in ultramarathon participation globally.

Looking back, in 2003 almost 18,000 people in North America finished an ultramarathon. Last year the number was 105,000. Why has there been such an explosion in interest and participation in ultras? Many seasoned ultra runners point to social media, which spreads word of the sport and fuels the imagination of those who have already conquered the marathon distance. Some in the ultra world are not happy about the social media influence, saying it gives rise to people looking for kudos by calling themselves "ultrarunners" for participating in just one event, and that the sport has lost its edge as a result.

Personally, I was never one to enter ultramarathon races. Instead, I preferred to put myself out there alone -- reaching for the horizon solo as I crossed states and countries self supported. To me, that is the ultimate in "ultrarunning." No medical staff nearby; no aid stations; no support crews; no shiny medal or belt buckle award for finishing -- just me... and an 80-pound stroller of gear, food and water to push... and the miles stretched out in front of me. However, it is a very small sliver of the running world that pursues the kind of running that I once did.

Today, many people have conquered the 26.2-mile marathon distance. In some ways, the marathon has lost its mystique and is now commonplace on many runners' lists of accomplishments. Now, many are wanting to go farther and push their limits of personal endurance. The chairman of the Trail Running Association recently said that the ever-growing contrast between our normal, sedate lives and the feeling you get in an ultra of being fully alive and on the edge is key to the sport’s growing appeal.

Essentially, many in the endurance running community believe that the sport of ultra running is acting like a magnet for those who are wanting more than their mundane and sedentary lives are giving them. They want to experience something of their wilder selves, and ultra running can certainly bring a person to the edge of their capabilities and emotions. Getting through the pain barrier, the wall, pushing beyond your limits, was once part of the appeal of standard marathons. However, the feeling you get (the "runner’s high") is much greater in an ultramarathon.

It has been 33 years since I first ran an "ultra" by going beyond the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance. Since then, I have logged tens of thousands of miles... my legs carrying me to places I would have never imagined back when I was that naive 20-year-old college student running over the mountains of western Montana. For decades I pounded my body into the ground, pushed beyond what I thought were my limits of pain, and accomplished running adventures that few ever dream of and fewer ever accomplish. I don't write that with a boastful attitude, but actually an attitude that is grateful and humble for never fully realizing what I had actually accomplished until I retired from the sport in 2016.

Completing any distance beyond the marathon is a unique test of all aspects of a runner's mental, physical, and sometimes spiritual abilities. It makes you dig deeper into yourself than you ever imagined. Regardless of your age, you will learn something about yourself by attempting to conquer a distance beyond the marathon. It will strip you down to your core and reveal to you what you have inside of you at the deepest level. I believe that participation in ultramarathon running will continue to rise as more participants share their experiences via social media. I wish everyone who takes on the quest the very best, and may you never lose sight of what is revealed to you in the process.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 13, 2018

I Never Had a Security Team Protect Me On Adventure Runs

Over the past 12 years since I ran across America all alone, I've been asked many times (usually by people who find my website and want to try a similar run) what I carried to protect myself from either aggressive animals or people. When I ran solo across Germany (making stops along the way at K-12 U.S. Department of Defense schools on military bases to give presentations), I was asked by one concerned person if I would have a security team traveling with me! Humorously, there actually exists a protection company named "Staso Protect" (no relation!). However, I never had my own security team while running across states and countries. What did I have for protection as I did my adventure runs? Pepper spray and a 2½-foot hickory axe handle -- no axe head, just the handle!

There have certainly been those who have run across the United States with support teams -- with some team members' roles being to protect the runner. Usually, these are high-profile crossings aiming to break a record or being done by a well known ultra-endurance athlete. My mega-mileage border-to-border and ocean-to-ocean runs all alone were not for records and were not highly publicized. I never used my pepper spray and actually only used my hickory axe handle once, and that was during my 500-mile run through Alaska when a wild, highly-aggressive, large dog seemed determine to have one of my legs for lunch. I never 'hit' the dog with the handle, but did have to push him away with it as his sharp teeth kept lunging at me.

I never carried any other protection with me on my adventure runs. I can tell you that there once was a time when the support stroller I pushed truly protected me. During my run across America I was suddenly engulfed in a storm while in the Great Plains that began to drop quarter-size hail. I had no place to take shelter and there were no cars in the area. As the painful hail started to impact me, the only idea I had was to lay the support stroller on top of my body to protect me. I flipped the stroller over and slid under it, listening to the hail pound against the frame of the stroller. I stayed curled up under the stroller until the hail subsided, and then crawled out -- thankful that I was able to keep from being injured. Aside from that, there were some occasions when the support stroller acted as a 'buffer' between me and dogs. So, my only sources of "protection" that accompanied me were pepper spray, an axe handle, and the support stroller.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Abusive Parents Causing American Youth Sports Referees to Quit recently reported that youth sport referees across the U.S. are packing up their whistles and going home in response to increased instances of verbal and even physical abuse from volatile parents. The decreasing number of referees has become somewhat of a crisis in that teams are scrambling to find enough referees to hold games.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 80 percent of high school officials quit before their third year. In many states, games are being cancelled or postponed due to a shortage of referees. According to the SC Referee Association, in South Carolina, 70 percent of new officials in youth soccer do not return after their first year.

Scenes of parents behaving badly at youth sporting events have repeatedly gone viral online, and the confrontations occasionally involve physical assaults on officials. In January 2018, a police captain in Wichita, Kansas, was put on administrative leave and charged with battery after he was shown on video pushing a 17-year-old referee at a youth girls basketball game. However, it's not just parents behaving badly. In 2015, a high school football coach pleaded guilty to assault for ordering his players to hit a referee during a game.

There are certainly other factors causing a decline in the number of youth sports referees, such as low pay and the continued expansion of travel and club teams that compete for officials with public school programs. However, poor behavior by youth sports parents is on the rise in America.

As a former high school track coach, and the father of a daughter who coaches youth volleyball, I can tell you that it is not only youth sports referees who are being treated badly by poorly-behaved parents. Coaches are also frequently on the receiving end of unwarranted comments and actions by parents. Being a referee or coach of young athletes is not as easy as it looks. Instead of attacking those who are often volunteering their time, or being paid little, to referee or coach youth sports, parents who think they can do better should do just that! Put on a whistle and give it a go!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Going on an Adventure? Consider Taking SPOT Along!

In 2009, I purchased my first SPOT Satellite Tracker -- a device that allows people to view your location through an online map and which also allows for emergency notification in the event that help is needed. The SPOT was created in 2007, so I wasn't able to have this technology for my 2006 solo run across America. I did use the SPOT in 2009 during my 500-mile run through Alaska, but found that it didn't update my location as frequently as I would have liked. The same can be said for my run across Germany in 2010. It performed the best during my solo run across the Mojave Desert in 2011. In the photo accompanying this post is a picture of my aging SPOT tracker along with a recent advertisement for the device. Over the years, enhancements have certainly been made!

The SPOT Gen3 gives you a critical, life-saving line of communication when you travel beyond the boundaries of cell service. It lets family and friends know that you're okay, or if the worst should happen it sends emergency responders your GPS location -- all with the push of a button. It's rugged, pocket-sized, and essential for adventures that take you off the beaten path!

 As I mentioned, by using the device you can provide people with a link to track your progress online, with updates of location happening as frequently as every 2½ minutes. I had mine set to update my location every 10 minutes. A vibration sensor tells SPOT to send your GPS location when you are moving and to stop when you do. This conserves battery power and avoids sending duplicate tracks. SPOT Gen3 will send track messages until you turn off your SPOT.

It's peace of mind when emergencies arise. With the push of a button, the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center provides your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams. Have a situation that's not an "emergency?" You can alert your pre-programmed personal contacts that you need help in non-life-threatening situations.

SPOT works around the world, including virtually all of the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, portions of South America, portions of North and South Africa, North-East Asia and hundreds of miles offshore of these areas. In Russia, the GPS accuracy of your SPOT is limited (degraded) in accordance with Russian regulations restricting the accuracy of GPS performance for devices utilized in Russia.

The cost of SPOT is around $170. However, I believe it is money well spent for the features provided. The makers of SPOT have already recorded over 5,000 rescues of people using the SPOT tracker!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Celebrating 53 Years of Age... Older Than "Herbie"

Today, I'm celebrating my 53rd birthday. There may be those who read this blog who knew me back in 1982 when I was 17 years old and purchased my first car -- a 1969 Volkswagen Bug. I spent $500 to buy that orange Bug and it served me well throughout my senior year of high school. Then, in college I purchased a 1971 Bug that had a bad muffler which made the car sound like thunder when the gas pedal was pushed. It was chocolate brown in color and was given the nickname "Chocolate Thunder."

When I was a boy in the 1970's, I saw "Herbie" for the first time. Of course, Herbie is from the 1968 movie, "The Love Bug" (and I was born in 1965). The racing car seemed to have a mind and spirit of its own -- capable of driving itself! The VW used in the movie was actually a 1963 model and according to the filmmakers, Herbie's number 53 came from a Disney producer who liked retired baseball pitching star, Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Drysdale's uniform number was 53.

Over the years there have been various "Herbie" movies since the original in 1968, such as Herbie Rides Again (1974); Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977); Herbie Goes Bananas (1980); The Love Bug (1997); and, Herbie Fully Loaded (2005).

The VW Bug has been around since 1938. However, earlier this year Volkswagen announced that after 80 years of Bug production, they are no longer going to produce the little cars. I guess you can say that the bug is hitting the windshield! The VW Bug may be on its way out, but I am aiming for many more decades! The Bug lasted 80 years and I plan to far surpass that! For now, I'm going to enjoy having my age reflect the number shown on the iconic Herbie Bug -- 53!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso