Thursday, June 27, 2019

No Compression Depression: Life Adjustments of a Former Ultrarunner

If you read my last blog post ("Compression Socks -- A Permanent Part of My Wardrobe") you know that as a guy in my mid-50's I'm now using compression sleeves/socks on a daily basis. One of the earliest studies conducted on the benefit of compression socks for runners was done in 2007 at Massey University in New Zealand -- a year following my run across America. Other important research was conducted in 2009 by Wolfgang Kemmler in Germany with respect to compression gear and endurance athletes, and a 2014 study from Brian Rider with the School of Health Science, Oakland University, on the effect of compression socks with cross-country runners. In the past 12 years, a lot has been learned about the benefits of compression gear for long-distance runners and as a result there are more and more endurance athletes wearing compression socks and sleeves. For instance, compression sleeves/socks have been shown to increase blood flow up to 40 percent during activity, and 30% during recovery. That's significant! Unfortunately, all of the research was conducted when I was at the end of my extreme ultra-running lifestyle, so I wasn't able to benefit from using compression in training and recovery -- not to mention the thousands of miles I ran on pavement across states and countries.

In my last blog writing, I mentioned that for the past few years I've been dealing with some circulation issues in the lower part of my right leg (the area of my body that actually experienced the most trauma during my extreme ultra-running pursuits). I have a couple of varicose veins just below my right knee, which typically occur due to weakened valves or increased blood pressure in the veins. Athletes who are most vulnerable to varicose veins focus on sports that rely on the legs to support additional weight over extended periods of time. In my case, I pushed a 70+ pound jogging stroller of gear for thousands of miles across states and countries while maintaining a 30-mile-per-day average. Repetitive motion activities (like running) increase the amount of stress in the legs and veins. Studies show that certain sports can increase your risk of varicose veins, including:
  • Running – Prolonged periods of time upright can cause blood to pool in the lower legs.
  • Weightlifting – Excessive straining can damage or worsen already damaged vein valves.
  • Cycling – Prolonged periods of time sitting can cause blood to pool in the lower legs.
  • Tennis – Short impacts on the legs can damage your vein valves.
  • Skiing – Increased intra-abdominal pressure can damage vein valves.
  • Football – Extreme physical contact can easily damage vein valves or break existing varicose veins.
Varicose veins are a very common problem. According to the American Society of Vascular Surgery, about 33 percent of women and 17 percent of men will develop the condition during their lifetime. So, I've been using compression sleeves for my lower legs over the past couple of years (while I'm at the office), and now I'll be choosing to wear compression socks and/or sleeves during other outdoor times. Essentially, compression socks squeeze the lower leg (more compression is applied at the ankle and it decreases mid-calf). The socks reduce the amount of blood in the veins at any given time and they also enhance circulation. They're great for people at risk of developing varicose veins -- and I don't want anymore of those!

High quality compression socks feature therapeutic graduated compression. This is the only option for enhancing circulation in the legs. Graduated compression is providing a constant amount of pressure to your circulatory system to fight gravity and pump blood back to your heart. Traditional compression socks are available in four different levels of compression. You’ll find them measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which indicates the amount of pressure the sock/sleeve will apply to your leg. The higher the measurement, the more pressure.
  • Under 15 mmHg: This is considered mild or light compression, and is typically recommended for healthy people who are tired from standing or sitting all day -- such as pregnant women, waitresses, and medical professionals.
  • 15 to 20 mmHg: This is considered moderate compression, and can help prevent deep vein thrombosis or prevent leg swelling for those traveling by airplane.
  • 20 to 30 mmHg: This third tier is sometimes referred to as "medical-grade" compression, and can be used to help prevent and treat varicose veins, edema, and blood clots.
  • 30+ mmHg: Compression that measures 30 mmHg or above is often seen in post-surgical situations.
I must say, for the past 40 years my right leg has taken a beating. Not only has it been the leg on the highest crown of the road's shoulder for tens of thousands of miles as I've run long distances facing traffic on pavement, but between 1977 and 1984 I was an intermediate and high hurdler -- in junior high, high school and college -- who lead with his right leg. It constantly got the brunt of my full weight coming off of the hurdles.

No, I'm not experiencing compression depression. It's just a fact of life for the type of extreme ultra-running lifestyle that I've lead. Life is a series of adjustments and this is simply one that I'll have to make.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Compression Socks -- A Permanent Part of My Wardrobe

For the past five years I've been dealing with an increasing issue with respect to circulation in my lower right leg. I wrote about this over two years ago in a post titled "A Very Honest Blog Post About My Running Life." In that May 2017 writing I shared:

"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 tendinitis 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 tendinitis 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 tendinitis. 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. 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."

So, that's what I wrote over two years ago. Today, as I sit writing this blog post in my office, I'm wearing compression sleeves on my calves. I take off the sleeves when I get home after work, but I really need to be wearing compression socks even when I'm outside running around in the yard with my stepdaughters, or doing yard work. With that said, I'm going to be purchasing a couple more pairs of compression sleeves (which I've worn to the office regularly for the past two years) as well as pairs of compression socks. They make many kinds and I'll get some that are designed for runners/cyclists. They typically cost around $30/pair. The sleeves I tend to wear the most often are called "Run Forever" and have a graduated compression strength of 20-25 mmHg. The breathable, stretchy material is strong enough to compress and hold, but thin enough to breathe.

Several years ago I met a man running across the United States and he wore compression socks every step of the way. He was in his 50's and mentioned that he was an avid runner/hiker. He had already experienced some issues with respect to lower-leg circulation and didn't want it to get more severe as he aged. So, he opted to start using compression socks. I do wish that I could turn back the clock and do all of my extreme training and adventure runs wearing compression socks -- or at least sleeves over my calf muscles. However, as we all know... you can't turn back time. Therefore, I need to deal with this now at the age of 54.

Compression socks apply compression in a balanced and accurate way, accelerating blood flow. This gets more oxygen to your muscles. Better blood flow also helps your body to get rid of lactic acid and other metabolic wastes. Plus, improved oxygenation reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and accelerates muscle repair. It sure would have been nice to have used these socks when I was running 30 to 50 miles per day.

Here's a more technical explanation of the benefits of using compression socks:
The circulatory system is comprised of both arterial and venous blood flow. Arterial blood is pumped from the heart/lungs, is oxygenated and flows at a high pressure (> ~120 mmHg – i.e. your systolic blood pressure). Correct fitting compression socks will not significantly impede this arterial blood flow. Venous blood, however, (deoxygenated, having done it’s metabolic job passing through the capillaries and offloading oxygen and nutrients to the active muscle) flows at a much lower pressure (< ~20mmHg). These veins have special venous ‘one-way’ valves built in which allow blood to go back toward the heart, but not the other way. Muscular contractions squeeze the blood back to the heart which is the main mechanism for venous return. Compression socks utilize this same mechanism.

Currently, it is only my lower right leg that is having issues with circulation. My lower left leg is fine and no other parts of my body are experiencing any issues with respect to circulation. The fact that my right leg was the one that took the greatest pressure on my adventure runs -- particularly since I faced traffic and my right leg took the most strain with respect to the crown of the road's surface -- it is the one that sustained the most damage on each of my endeavors.

As a result of a lifetime of pounding my body into the ground with extreme running, I am now to the point of opting to wear compression socks in an effort to reduce any other vein issues. No, you can't turn back the clock, but you can be wise with the time in front of you. And in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, June 21, 2019

Summer 2006 -- A Journey, A Sacrifice, A Victory, A Painful Memory.

This weekend marks 13 years since I began P.A.C.E. Run 2006, my solo run across America. The photo accompanying this writing is of me and my children in the initial steps of that adventure, which started at Cannon Beach, Oregon. I've written in this blog many times about that 3,260-mile, 108-day, 15-state journey that required me to run an average of 30 miles every day from the Oregon Coast to the Delaware Shore. "P.A.C.E." stands for "Promoting Active Children Everywhere" and although the primary purpose of the run was to keep a promise I had made to some elementary children in Montana, it was also to try and inspire all children to set goals, be active, and dream big.

As I did that journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic (at the age of 41), my four children were the ages of 6, 8, 11 and 13. They were without their Dad for the entire summer of 2006. Now, they are 19, 21, 24 and 26 -- leading their adult lives in states apart from me. I believe that all of us will always remember that summer apart. They were without their Dad and I was without my children. They spent their summer playing, swimming, and doing some traveling without me while I endured the most difficult ultra-running challenge of my life. I experienced not only the pain of pounding out the miles while pushing a heavy jogging stroller of gear, but also the pain of not being able to see them for nearly 4 months. It was indeed a summer of sacrifice and pain, but also of victory in that I made it across America in one piece.

Even to this day I don't believe that my children understand just how much I missed them while I was running those 108 days. I recall countless times ending an evening phone call with them and crying heavily after hanging up the phone. I dreamed of them at night, thought of them during the day, and awoke to their voices every single morning because they made an audio recording on my phone for me to use as an alarm, saying together: "Wake up Dad, it's time to run!" My children were absolutely with me for every single step of that journey, as they are in every step I take in this journey of life. I love them deeper than I had to dig for strength, higher than my emotions soared at the finish line, and wider than the breadth of the distance I ran. I always will.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ring The Bell And Bring "Family" and "Dinner" Back Together!

I grew up as the youngest of seven children. In the 1960's and 1970's, my parents always made family dinners a priority. When I became a father in 1993, it was important to me to have a family dinner at home. As a remarried man with two step daughters living at home, family dinners are still essential and one of the highlights of my day. However, it appears that not everyone feels the way I do. Research shows that family dinners have declined by 33 percent over the past 20 years.

I believe that dinner together as a family is a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s happenings. It can be a real bonding time for a family. Its been said that family dinners foster a sense of belonging and security, and recent studies show that children who eat five or more meals a week with their families are happier, less stressed, and do better at school.

In fact, 25 years of research shows that family dinners are good for the bodies, brain, spirit and health of family members. Children who eat family dinners are healthier, have more self-esteem, and are less likely to be anxious or depressed. They also have a lower risk of eating disorders, smoking, substance abuse and obesity.

A poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that busy family schedules are cutting into family dinners together -- 46 percent of those surveyed said eating together is difficult to do on a regular basis. However, 24 percent of teens say they want more frequent family dinners. The survey found that the typical American family dinner lasts between 15 to 30 minutes and 89 percent of families surveyed said that its very important for families to eat dinner together regularly. Sadly, 40 percent of American families eat dinner together only three or fewer times a week, with 10 percent never eating dinner together at all.

Today, 59 percent of American adults report that their family has fewer family dinners than when they were growing up. Are you having family dinners? If not, ring that dinner bell and gather them up! It's time to bring the family and dinner back together! And remember... no electronics at the table!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Words That Every Father Wishes To Receive From His Child

This past Sunday was Father's Day. I'm the father of four adult children (ages 19 to 26) and am also blessed to be the father of four step-children (ages 11 to 22). I enjoyed a day of hearing from several of those wonderful young people. My youngest son posted some photos of he and I on social media from years gone by. Along with the photos he wrote, "You are my greatest role model and the best dad that I could have asked for." As you can imagine, those words touched me deeply as a Dad.

According to the United States Census, about 50 million children live with two parents, about 17 million live with only their mother, and 3 million live with only their father. Some of you reading this know that many years ago I went through a divorce. My youngest son was only 11 years of age when the process began and I wasn't able to be around for him, and my other children, as much as I would have liked during the teen years. He, and his siblings, resided with their mother and my time with all of them was lessened significantly. I wasn't able to be around my children as much as I was prior to 2011 and there were certainly days that I felt as though I wasn't much of a "Dad" in their lives. Now, 8 years later, my youngest son is a man who is paving his way in life. For him to write that I am his greatest role model and the best Dad that he could have asked for... well... it brings tears to my eyes.

As I ran all alone across states and countries pushing a bright yellow support stroller to promote youth health and fitness, there were several times that people told me I was a good role model. Those are nice words to hear, but somehow to hear from my son that I'm his greatest role model carries a significance that means far more to me than from those who simply watched me pound my body into the ground mile after mile. I wasn't able to be at all of my children's events from November 2011 to present. There are circumstances that come with the divorce process and the aftermath thereof, and there were certainly many times when I felt that my children didn't understand how much I wanted to be a Dad in their lives to the extent I was before -- but simply couldn't be. There were years of struggle, adjustment and changes. Now, eight years later, it means the world to me for my youngest child to convey to me... and to his peers via social media... that I am his greatest role model and that he feels he couldn't have asked for a better Dad. It's humbling. It's unexpected. It's what every father wishes to hear.

The magazine Psychology Today published a report that states sons model themselves after their fathers. They tend to act the same as their father -- even seeking approval from them growing up. Children with hands-on fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and have better social connections as they grow up. Without a father connection, children are more likely to drop out of school, have behavioral problems, and more likely to commit crimes.

From 2011 forward I wasn't able to be around for my children in an in-person everyday sense as those fathers who haven't gone through divorce. However, there hasn't been one day that has gone by that I haven't thought about all four of my children, missed them, and wished that our lives were closer. As adults, they now live in states apart from where I reside and our chances to see each other are quite infrequent. However, they are in my heart with each step I take in life and I pray that all four of them know how much I love them.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 17, 2019

You'll Yodel While Reading This! Laugh Your Way to Better Health!

I like to laugh... and as it turns out, it may be good for my health!

From brain scans and other tests, neuroscientists are compiling evidence that laughter triggers chemical responses in the brain that lead to feelings of pleasure and a sense of well-being, and arteries respond to laughter in healthy ways that could improve blood flow and long-term health. The kind of laughter is that in response to a funny story, joke or situation... not sarcastic humor or other kinds of unfriendly or hostile laughter.

Laughing is good for the heart and can increase blood flow by 20 percent. A Maryland School of Medicine study found that laughter causes the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) to expand in order to increase blood flow, while stress has the opposite effect, constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow. Laughing maintains a healthy endothelium and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. When you laugh, the blood flow increases and the blood pressure rises; but when you stop laughing, blood pressure drops back to its baseline. This relaxing effect helps bring down blood pressure. This generates deeper breathing, which in turn sends more oxygenated blood through the body.

When I was an elementary school teacher and high school track coach, I used humor to help ease moments that would have been otherwise stressful for my students and athletes. I did some silly things and always enjoyed seeing them laugh as they were learning and running. All of my students went on to the next level in their education with good academic performances, and I had several athletes make it to regional and state competitions -- some becoming state champions. I believe that laughter can truly make a positive impact in people's lives.

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. One study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories -- which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

I recently read the following benefits of laughter, and I think this list is pretty accurate:

Physical health benefits of laughter:
  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease
Mental health benefits of laughter:
  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens resilience
Social benefits of laughter:
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding
A recent study found that the average American adult only laughs an average of 8 times per day, while young children laugh a lot more... some studies noting up to 300 times per day. So, adults need to be laughing much more than they are. Let's see if I can help...
Knock knock. 
Who’s there? 
A little old lady. 
A little old lady who? 
All this time, I had no idea you could yodel.
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, June 14, 2019

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes

Let's face it, nobody likes to talk about dying.

You'll never get together with a friend for a casual lunch and have that friend begin the conversation with, "So, when do you think you'll die?" A discussion about death is simply not something that a person navigates toward unless it's necessary.

Benjamin Franklin once penned, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." I think that people would be more inclined to discuss taxes than death. Regardless, death is a certainty of life that cannot be avoided. New research commissioned by the Dying Matters Coalition shows that only 29 percent of people have discussed their wishes around dying, and only 4 percent have written advance care plans. Seventy percent of those surveyed said they wanted to die at home, yet 60 percent of us currently die in hospitals. Of those people who had not discussed any aspect of their end of life care, 45 percent felt it was because death feels a long way off, and a further 18 percent said they were too young to discuss it. Even 8 percent of those age 65-74 thought they were too young to discuss dying.

Clearly, there is a reluctance to discuss death.

I am 54 years of age and in very good health. I require no medications and my annual physical exam shows that physically I am several years younger than the average person my age. My wife is also physically fit with no health concerns. Even though I don't have any health issues, I've planned ahead for my death and I know that my wife -- and my two stepdaughters still living at home -- will be just fine if I were to die. There's a real comfort and security that comes with that knowledge. For instance, maintaining a life insurance policy should be something that every married person should have, particularly if there are children in the relationship. A new study shows that while 84 percent of Americans say that most people need life insurance, only 68 percent say they personally need it and only 59 percent own some form of it.

The average life expectancy in the United States is 78 years. According to the United Nations World Population Prospects report, approximately 7,452 people die every day in the United States. In other words, a person dies in the U.S. approximately every 11 seconds. Heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke remained the leading causes of U.S. deaths. The three most common preventable causes of death in the U.S. are smoking, high blood pressure, and being overweight.

The photo accompanying this blog post is of a headstone reading "STASO." I'm aiming to keep my headstone as far off into the future as I possibly can. My father is currently 85 years of age and quite fit. He and my mother reside in their Alaska home that my father built with his own hands when he was in his 70's. I hope to be as fit as him when I reach my mid-80's! Age is just a number, but it's a number that we do look at more as we get older. I'm going to make the most of the years I have in front of me. As certain as I am that I'll be paying taxes until I die, I am also certain that death will one day come -- and on that day I want to go to my Father in Heaven knowing that I was prepared.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Juneau-Douglas High School -- Drug Testing Athletes For 10 Years

It was ten years ago when I did a solo 500-mile run through Alaska in 18 days to promote youth health and fitness. Alaska is where I attended school while growing up, and I graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1983. In 2009, I was in Juneau to begin a 500-mile run through the state to encourage young people to be more active and health conscious. I was interviewed by KTOO radio in Juneau and had initiated numerous communications with the administrators and physical education staff of Juneau-Douglas High School asking to be able to give a presentation to students -- as I had done at numerous schools around the United States. I didn't receive a response to any of my messages, and on the afternoon that I ran past the high school I had graduated from, the P.E. teacher was outside with his students and completely ignored me as I ran just a few feet past him pushing my support stroller with a sign noting that I was running across Alaska. Clearly, my former high school had no interest in having me speak to the students, even though I was the president of The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation; had been a corporate-sponsored ultra-marathon runner; was a father of four children; had run solo all the way across America; and, had been featured in numerous media stories around the country. In short, Juneau-Douglas High School turned its back on me 26 years after I left its hallways.

The same year that I did my 500-mile Alaska run, the Juneau School District felt the need to implement random drug testing of student athletes. It is still going on today. The drug testing started because of an increase of drug use among young people in Juneau. Yet, the high school didn't want an alumnus to give a presentation to its students about the importance of health, fitness and nutrition! Since 2009, the Juneau School District has spent anywhere from $11,000 to $46,000 a year on drug tests.

The drug testing process is as follows: A student will get pulled out of class to take a urine test, and then a technician analyzes it immediately. They test for a range of substances, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates, oxycontin, tobacco and alcohol. Depending on budget constraints, as much as 15 percent of each sports roster is randomly tested, once a week and only while in season. If the test is positive, parents are notified and the student is asked to produce another sample, which is sent out to a lab for confirmation. Every week the testing service sends the school a report of positive results. The consequences for a confirmed positive test include suspension from sports as well as an online course about the effects of substance abuse. Suspensions from sports range from 10 days to a full year depending on how many times the student has been caught with a positive test.

In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court broadened the authority of public schools to test students for illegal drugs. The court ruled to allow random drug tests for all middle and high school students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. In 2018, areas surrounding Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, Alaska were designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

It has now been 36 years since I graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. I haven't been back there since 2009, and my days of visiting are done. As the old saying goes, you can't go home again.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Will You Be In The 29% Of Those Who Will Read All 535 Words Here?

I started this blog in June 2016 and in that time I've written about 250,000 words here. As many of you know, I had kept a blog for years as I ran across states and countries promoting youth health and fitness from 2006 through 2011. However, I ultimately removed the blog from the Internet in 2012 and took four years away from writing. Today, I'm posting my 400th blog entry after 3 years of writing. I average about 130 writings each year at this blog, and I aim to primarily target the topics of family, faith and fitness. Health and nutrition has always been important to me, so I try to have an array of postings in those areas.

A recent survey of over 1,000 bloggers found that the most common reason for blogging is to make money, with two-thirds of all bloggers naming it as their main motivation. I don't -- and never have -- made one penny off of my blog writings. Look around this blog. Do you see any advertisements? No, you don't. I will not use this blog to promote products, services, events, people, etc. and I am not motivated by money to maintain this blog. I write here because I enjoy writing and sharing information on certain topics. This blog doesn't cost me one penny to maintain. It's on the free Blogger service and I just login when I feel compelled to write.

The most common challenge bloggers face is getting traffic to their blogs. A significant amount of this blog's traffic comes from people who locate my writings from Google searches. Most of my blog audience is from the United States, but each day I have visitors from all over the world who read my writings. For instance, based on my blog statistics software, in the past few weeks I've had visitors from the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, India, France, South Korea, Greece, Canada, Portugal, Indonesia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Japan, Columbia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sweden. This blog offers a translation tool so that regardless of what language the visitor speaks and reads, he or she can choose their language to have this blog's content instantly translated.

On average, I publish about 3 times per week. I know that people's time is valuable, so I keep my blog writings to around 500 to 600 words (requiring about 3 minutes to read). Surveys show that 55 percent of blog readers only spend 15 seconds going through an article. You can see that in each of my writings I bold primary sentences. This is because 43 percent of people only skim blog articles. I want to be sure that visitors read at least the main points of my posts. If you have read every word of this blog post so far, you are in the 29 percent of readers who actually read an entire blog carefully.

The latest research shows that 77 percent of Internet users read blogs. That's a lot of people! I enjoy writing this blog and am happy to reach the 400 mark in 3 years. I'll keep writing and I hope you'll keep reading! And by the way, you just read 535 words.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Watermelon and Hamburger Buns -- Can Those Become A Sandwich?

If you've done any airline travel, you know that most airlines have a 50-pound limit on a piece of luggage. If you're like me, you've weighed your luggage before going to the airport in order to get it as close to 50 pounds as you can. Of course, that's a lot of weight to travel with. Now, imagine 75 pounds... and rather than flying across the country you have to push that weight every step of the way. That's exactly what I experienced on my solo run across America in 2006. Everything I needed (food, water, clothes, tent, sleeping bag, electronics, etc.) to be self sufficient on that 3,260-mile, 108-day journey across 15 states was packed into a three-wheel jogging stroller. At the time, I weighed about 145 pounds, so pushing something over half of my body weight, across all sorts of terrain, and through the second hottest summer recorded in America -- at that time -- was certainly a challenge.

During my coast-to-coast run, there were numerous people who wanted to be supportive by pulling over to the side of the road and handing me something to eat or drink. However, there were two individuals -- on two separate occasions -- that I will never forget.

The first was in Minnesota when I was nearly halfway across the country. A man had been sitting in his car alongside the road waiting for me to arrive. As I approached, he got out and announced that he had read about me in the local newspaper. He was holding a plastic bag in one hand as he reached out the other to shake my hand. He was very enthusiastic about my undertaking and told me that he brought me lunch. It was a kind gesture and as I received the bag from him my immediate thought was "Wow, this is light!" When I looked inside I saw a store-bought bag of hamburger buns... and nothing else. I smiled and said, "Oh, hamburger buns." The man was grinning from ear to ear and said, "Yep, carbos! I know you runners like those." While he was correct that carbohydrates are good for runners, I was puzzled as to why he thought a bag of hamburger buns would constitute "lunch." Rather than question him, I accepted his gift, shook hands again, and headed down the road -- hoping to come across someone with hamburger meat and a grill!

When I was in Iowa I was battling gravel shoulders at the road's edge and dealing with a lot of hills. The stroller was a challenge through Iowa and any unnecessary weight was absolutely not wanted. It was then that I would come across another man, who wanted to give me something much heavier than some hamburger buns. I was pushing up a hill when I saw a man appear near the top. He was holding something with both arms and was clearly waiting for me to reach him. As I got closer I could tell that it was a large watermelon -- at least 15+ pounds. As I came to a stop, he approached my stroller with a "Howdy" and then started to set the watermelon on top of it, saying "I brought you something to eat." I quickly had to tell the man that it was too big and that I couldn't carry an entire large watermelon on top of the stroller... that it was simply too much weight. I asked him if he could cut some off, and he told me (a bit exasperated) "I don't have a knife!" I thanked him for his kind gesture, but had to decline due to the size and weight of it. He wished me well and walked back to his truck with the watermelon... seeming rather disappointed.

I will always be grateful for the tremendous amount of encouragement and support I received while running across America, as well as the other state/country journey runs I did. Whether it's an offer of hamburger buns or a huge watermelon, the kindness behind the offer is what will always stick with me.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 10, 2019

I'm Not a "Dance Dad," But I am a "Dance Step-Dad!"

My four adult children, ages 19 to 26, haven't been on running tracks, baseball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and gymnastics floors for many years, but last year I was blessed to remarry and become a step-dad to four amazing young people -- two of whom are adults and the two youngest are involved in weekly dance classes. Before becoming a step-dad, my experience with youth activities was primarily sports focused. My own children participated on teams that seemed to keep me on the move daily with transporting to practices, weekend games/meets, and some traveling. It was all worth it and I will always treasure the days of watching them participate and compete. Now, I am in the world of dance... a new arena for me as a step-dad.

I recently read an article by a writer and mom who was published at a website owned by the New York Times. In her article, she wrote: "My son plays travel baseball, and I’m glad he does. Competition nurtures resilience, and I love seeing him jump with sheer joy whenever a teammate crosses home plate. But here’s what I don’t love: the hours of my life lost each week taking him to practice and games (easily eight), and the guilt I (kind of) feel about making my husband go alone. When I do show up, I’m either too hot or too cold, and I feel silly shouting things like “Nice cut!”" 

Maybe she's a young Mom and new to the youth sports scene, but I can tell you that after being around youth sports (and even coaching kids) for the past 30 years, I don't believe that any parent should feel as though they are losing hours of their life each week, or feel "silly" shouting words of encouragement, when their child is participating in sports. Is that honestly how parents feel today when it comes to supporting and encouraging their kids in sports? Do a lot of parents feel that they are losing hours of their life and appearing silly in the stands?

Last week, my two youngest step-daughters (ages 11 and 14) participated in three evenings of dance recitals after working hard for 9 months on various dance routines. I, along with my wife and her eldest daughter, sat there with complete joy all three evenings as we witnessed the culmination of their efforts. I even had moments of tears in my eyes -- and not for the first time -- as I was overwhelmed with their heart for dance and how beautiful (and athletic!) they are. No, I didn't feel silly wiping tears away from my cheek. I had taken them to and from dance classes numerous times each week for nine months, watched them practice, and never once felt as though I was losing hours of my life.

Are today's young parents so self centered that they truly feel as though they are wasting time by taking their children to sports activities and cheering them on in their competitions? It's a sad commentary on this generation of parents, and on youth sports in general, if this woman's thoughts about losing time and feeling silly resonate with a lot of other parents.

I am now on a 3-month break from the dance world, and I'll tell you... I miss it. I'm already looking forward to September when I get to take my step-daughters back to the dance studio and be alongside other parents who -- hopefully -- are genuinely excited for their kids; are supportive of their pursuits; are considering the time at practice as a blessing; and, who don't feel silly... but proud. I love being a dance step-dad!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, June 7, 2019

There Are 50 Million Retirees in America. I'll Join Them Around 2035.

A Gallup poll shows that 41 percent of Americans plan to retire at age 66 or older. Age 62 is the minimum age to collect Social Security in the United States and currently there are about 50 million retired men and women in America.

For many who end up retiring early, it can be due to unforeseen circumstances. Nearly half of retirees say they left the workforce earlier than planned -- often to cope with a health problem, or disability, or to care for a spouse or other family member. Other retirees are forced out of their jobs due to changes at their company -- such as a downsizing or closure, new skills required for the job, or other work-related reasons. If you're age 65 or older you will probably qualify for health insurance through Medicare, but younger retirees need to find a new health insurance plan or pay for often expensive COBRA coverage.

Those age 62 and older have the option to start collecting Social Security payments, but your monthly payment is reduced if you claim benefits before your full retirement age, which is typically 66 or 67 (67 for me since I was born after 1960).

I'm 54 years of age and was recently reminded by a sign at a local movie theater that next year, at age 55, I'll qualify for a "Senior" discount. It's difficult for me to comprehend that I'm only one year away from getting senior discounts. Regardless, the calendar doesn't lie. I'm aiming to work full time until age 70, three years past the time when I will qualify for my full Social Security benefits. Why? Because if I delay three years I'll receive 24 percent more in my Social Security amount.

As many of you know, I am still the President of The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc. (EIN 27-0413712) -- which I founded in 2009 to promote youth health and fitness on a global level. That non-profit organization is in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service and is something I may do more with during my retirement years. For now, I'll continue to work in the field of law until I join the 50 million retirees in the United States.

A primary goal before retirement is to pay off my mortgage. For some, that's becoming more challenging to do before retiring. Currently, 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 60 and 70 have a mortgage when they retire, and as many as 17 percent of those say they may never pay it off. About 32 percent of retired Americans predict they will be paying their mortgage for at least eight more years. I don't want to be in that group, so I'm aiming to have my mortgage paid off by age 67.

Planning to go into retirement with a paid off mortgage, a solid 401K, and as much money in the bank as possible is always a wise approach. In just 7 years Kelley and I will be empty nesters and at that point I'll be 9 years away from retiring. I'm going to make the most of these remaining years of full-time work with 'birds' in the nest!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, June 6, 2019

There's No Politics Here, So Move Along If That's What You're After!

Thirteen years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Over the years I've had different blog platforms, but I can tell you that I have never once written about politics. Why? Because it's not something that I care to discuss or debate. Sure, I could constantly fill this blog with political terms, such as filibuster, gerrymander, incumbent, left-wing, right-wing, non-partisan, and so on. I could write posts that would be considered a grassroots effort to advance a certain political position. I could try to be a Muckraker who seeks out the scandalous activities of public officials. However, that's simply not what I'm about.

At the time of this writing, there are 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans who have been named in the race for President of the United States -- and to be included in the list a candidate must have raised at least $500,000 (as of March 31, 2019, according to the Federal Election Commission) or been featured in at least three national polls. The election will take place on November 3, 2020. It will be the 10th election of a U.S. President I will have voted in. Yes, I could spend the next 17 months writing frequently about the individual candidates, political tension in America, and much more. I'm sure that I could increase traffic to this blog if I were to begin dissecting the qualifications of each candidate, as so many blog writers are doing. However, that won't be happening here.

Okay... I'll give you just a bit of political info. Sixteen U.S. presidents (approximately one-third) have won two consecutive elections. The first two of 12 Democratic primary presidential debates will be held in June and July. NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo will host the first debate and CNN will host the second. As of this writing, no information has been released regarding the timing of the Republican primary debates. The Democratic National Convention will be held July 13-16, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Republican National Convention is scheduled to take place August 24-27, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

That completes the only writing you will find in this blog related to politics. And, I'm sure there will be someone who is upset because I didn't state the total number of Libertarian, Green, Conservative, Independent and Nonpartisan candidates running for U.S. President. If you want that type of information, keep surfing elsewhere.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Work-place Burnout is Now an Official Mental Health Concern

The World Health Organization has listed Burnout (extreme stress or fatigue that can lead to an array of health problems) as an officially recognized mental health concern. It is now listed in the International Classification of Diseases -- a diagnostic tool for medical providers.

Burnout is called an "occupational phenomenon" by the World Health Organization and is described as "resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." The handbook says medical providers can look for these three symptoms when it comes to diagnosing burnout: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and, reduced professional efficacy. Signs of burnout can include insomnia, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, apathy, irritability, anxiety and getting sick more often. It can have physical consequences that include everything from respiratory problems to gastrointestinal issues.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. Job burnout accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year and has been attributed to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45. Unfair treatment at work, unreasonable deadlines, unmanageable workload, lack of support from managers, and the added stress from having to respond to emails and texts during off hours are primary drivers of job burnout.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I Was Kissed By An Asian Man I Didn't Know... On a Montana Mountain!

In May 2008, I was in the Helena National Forest on a 42-mile running day from White Sulphur Springs to Townsend, Montana in 28 degree temps, steady winds, and snow starting to fall when I met "Henry," who was cycling alone from Seattle to Boston. I was running 620 miles east-to-west across Montana in 20 days and Henry was crossing the country to "see America." I'm not quite sure which Asian country Henry was from, but I could tell by the smile on his face that he loved seeing America and meeting Americans.

When Henry first saw me coming down a mountain road, he couldn't believe it. He stopped and asked me what I was doing. I explained to him that I was running alone across the state of Montana as students around the world watched my progress via my website online, and that they were virtually running along with me by logging miles at their schools. Henry was fascinated by my story. As we talked, I asked him where he had slept the night before (which was a cold night that got down to 20 degrees). He said that he slept in his tent in a campground... alone. He really didn't have much gear with him aside from a bulky tent and sleeping bag, so I asked him if he had food. He said that he had run out. I asked him when he last ate, and he told me that he hadn't eaten since around 3pm the prior day. I reached into my support stroller and pulled out some granola bars and Gatorade for him. He looked at me somewhat concerned, and then started digging into his bag. I asked him what he was doing and he said that he couldn't accept anything from me unless he gave me something in return -- a custom where he comes from. I told him it was okay and that he didn't have to give me anything. Henry insisted, and kept digging through his few belongings. He then looked at me and said, "I have nothing to give, so I can't accept your gift." I could tell that Henry was serious, because his smile fell from his face.

Just then, Henry's face lit up. His smile returned and he said, "Wait! There IS something I can give you." I asked him what that was. He said, "I'll give you a kiss!" As you can likely guess, I was rather surprised by his reply. Imagine, two guys on a winding mountain road in Montana all alone in cold temps and falling snow... and one wants to kiss the other. I really didn't know what to say. Henry had a smile from ear to ear as he moved closer to me. I had the granola bars and Gatorade in my hands and turned my right cheek to Henry as he planted a big kiss. He held it there for a second, and then took a step back. I looked at him and he was as happy as a fella could be. I gave him the food and he put it into his bag. I then wished him well on his trip and took off down the road in the opposite direction. I don't know if Henry ever made it all the way across America, but I'm sure that he shared that broad smile with everyone he met... and perhaps an occasional kiss!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, June 3, 2019

Rickey, Ali and Piotr -- Runners Who Embarked On Unique Endeavors

Last year, Rickey Gates decided to run every street in San Francisco. That's right, he aimed to run all 1,303 miles of San Francisco's streets in 46 days -- and he did just that. Last year, Ali Butler Glenesk set out to run 262 miles across California by logging a marathon per day for ten days. Unfortunately, just 87 miles short of her goal her body couldn't go another step, so she went home. Earlier this year, Polish runner Piotr Łobodziński sprinted up the 1,576 stairs of the Empire State Building in 10 minutes and 5 seconds. Although he now holds the second fastest time for the ascent of that building, he missed his overall goal by 5 seconds -- which was to do it in less than 10 minutes.

You've likely never heard of Rickey, Ali and Piotr before, but all of them set out to do unusual and challenging undertakings. Not all succeeded, but all toed the starting line and set off on their adventures -- which is more than most dreamers ever do.

I think it's important to have dreams... to visualize... to plan... to believe... and to act on dreams. I've tried to do that in my life and many times my dreams have become reality. This is the time of year when many school graduations are occurring. Young people are being encouraged to chase after their dreams. I first started setting goals in the 5th grade, when I made it my goal to run on the 6th grade track team as a sprinter in 1976. I achieved that goal and ever since then I've been goal setting and dreaming. Throughout my life I've felt that I'll always regret not trying far more than trying.

Scientists out of Cornell and the New School for Social Research decided to explore what people end up regretting. To accomplish this, they recruited hundreds of participants to share their regrets. Then, they divided the answers into two categories:

  • those involving the "ideal self," (who you dreamed you would be or who you felt an inner drive to become), and,
  • those involving the "ought self," (those that dealt with not meeting the expectations or ideals of others).

Which type of regret was more common? Ideal-self regrets won by a landslide. Participants said they experienced regrets concerning their ideal self more often (72 percent versus 28 percent); they mentioned more ideal-self regrets than ought-self regrets when asked to list their regrets in life so far (57 percent versus 43 percent); and when asked to name their single biggest regret in life, participants were more likely to mention a regret about not fulfilling their ideal self (76 percent versus 24 percent mentioning an ought-self regret).

Other scientists have looked at the same question from slightly different angles. A Kellogg School of Management professor conducted a similar study a few years ago and found that people regret things they didn't do far more than things they tried but failed at.

Have a dream? Chase after it. If you're meant to achieve it, you will. If not, then you'll never look back later in life and wonder if it could have become a reality.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso