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It Has Nothing To Do With Age provides self-help principles. The inspirational stories give concrete illustrations of overcoming many of life's challenges. Difficulties pertaining to depression, grief, divorce, and death are presented and worked through by the participants. Physical impairments, injuries, overcoming issues with weight, alcohol, and nicotine are also dealt with and resolved by the athletes.

This book provides a model on how to overcome some of the difficulties that confront all of us . Further, this read sheds a beacon of light on preventive measures for good physical and mental health. Research demonstrates that exercise is an important component in treating such ailments and debilitating illness such as depression, stroke, heart disease, brain or cognitive malfunction,and Alzheimer's disease.

I suggest that proper exercise can be used as a preventive measure for psychological, cognitive, and physical health as well. Follow my prescription and lead a better, more fulfilling, and healthier life.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jim Harbaugh Is Not Perfect

The “game” of football is alive and well. Ohio State reportedly had some 99,000 of its fans attend its spring game in Columbus, surpassing the 80,000 or so who watched Nick Sabin’s Alabama Tides spring game. By comparison, Michigan had maybe 50 to 60,000 fans watching Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines in their spring game, in Ann Arbor. As far as professional football, the upcoming NFL draft has the various sports stations and blogs buzzing about the pros and cons of the various college players expected to make a splash at this next level. Not only that, but Tim Tebow’s recent signing by the Philadelphia Eagles created much excitement for all the many Eagles fans.

There are also articles related to Jim Harbaugh’s coaching of the San Francisco 49ers. And, Harbaugh’s going to be on HBO to talk about his leaving the San Francisco 49ers in December, 2014. This past week, San Francisco defensive lineman Alex Boone talked about Harbaugh wearing out his welcome with the 49ers. While Chris Culliver who spent four seasons with the Niners before signing with the Redskins came to his rescue by saying he was a good coach and that players shouldn’t criticize him after that fact. He went on to say that you may not like Harbaugh, but you have to respect him for what he accomplished while with the Niners.

There are some who think that Jim Harbaugh is more suited to coach the college game compared to the Pro game. Well it’s true that Harbaugh had great success at the University of San Diego and Stanford and is also true that he had great success with the 49ers. His college tenure was longer with his two college teams than, with his one pro team. Also, some are concerned that his personality may get in the way of his coaching.

It is clear that in today’s football world, competition runs high. Regardless of the level, a coach’s longevity is related to its won and loss record period. Coaches character, getting along with management and media, and filling up the Stadium might not get him fired but will not get him a long-term contract extension.

Going back to 1968, the University of Michigan’s Bump Elliott was described as being dapper, well dressed, extremely articulate, pleasantly personable and extremely knowledgeable about the sport of football. Elliott was a handsome man that lettered [12] in football, basketball and baseball. He propelled the Wolverines to a 49-0 Rose Bowl victory in 1948; became Michigan’s head coach in 1959, and coached the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon State University in 1965. Not only that his 1968 team had an eight win and two loss record. However, the second loss was to Ohio State by the score of 50-14. Simply put, that loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in the Elliott firing. Some might question, what does this have to do with Jim Harbaugh?

Coach Elliott’s replacement was Bo Schembechler. Schembechler’s character was described as narcissistic, authoritarian, controlling, competitive, intense, angry, poor impulse control, excessive aggression on the practice field and on the playing field. Coach Schembechler also had the pleasure of inculcating and beating down, a young quarterback with the name of Jim Harbaugh in the 1980s. Actually, Harbaugh as a preteen [Jim’s father Jack was hired by Bo and coached the defensive backfield] witnessed Bo Schembechler verbally and physically getting on his Wolverine squad, while running after errant footballs. Bo Schembechler did not fear anyone at the University of Michigan, as evidenced by his interactions with the presidents of the University. Anyone becoming president at the University quickly realized how powerful the head coach was. However, the current head coach at the University Michigan is under the leadership of the president. With that being the case, coach Harbaugh is not have the same latitude and power as coach Schembechler.

Jim Harbaugh’s character can easily be described as narcissistic, authoritarian, controlling, competitive and intense In no uncertain terms on the field. He rules, he knows the game, and he knows what he wants. Will he rub the wrong people in unflattering ways- more than likely? Will he be criticized-more than likely? Will his tenure be as long as Bo Schembechler’s- possibly not? And will he have a statue positioned in front of a hall named after him- possibly not?

Jim Harbaugh has all the character qualities that make him a winning football coach at the top level. He is smart, football knowledgeable and demands excellence. However, there is no certainty or guarantee, even if he does have character traits like Bo Schembechler that Jim Harbaugh can be as successful as Bo. The only guarantees in life is that we are born and we will die.

 Any recruit joining Coach Jim Harbaugh can expect not to be pampered, receive unconditional love and to be held accountable to Jim’s standards. No crybabies or whiners apply. One better have a thick skin and hold their narcissism in check because if they’re looking just to be praised and admired, they better play the game like the superstars [Reggie McKenzie, Thom Darden, Tom Curtis, Dan Dierdorf, etc.] of years past.

Coach Urban Meyer has a national championship team looking to repeat and so he has a head start. I believe you can catch him Jim and hopefully this year. Remember, it is not guaranteed.

Go Blue Go!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tom Curtis and Jim Mandich were Bo's Warriors

Then, in Tom’s sophomore year he was switched to the defensive backfield while Jim continued to play with the offense. As it turned out, one could argue that Tom’s position change worked out splendidly for him. In fact, Tom became the all-time interception leader for the Maize and Blue [He has more interceptions, 25 than Heisman winner Charles Woodson 18]. The All-American and College Football Hall of Fame Tom was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 14th round [Tom indicated that because he partied while at the College All-Star Hula Bowl game in Hawaii, he didn’t run the 40 yard dash, for the work out with the pros, which resulted in his being a late round draft pick].

Things went well for Jim, as well. Jim became a captain on offense for the Wolverines [Reggie McKenzie still remembers team Captain Jim standing in the tunnel ,prior to Michigan’s historic battle with Ohio State in 1969 , facing his teammates with both fists shaking,  raised , spittle drooling from his mouth speaking- shouting unintelligible words with passion]. That memory is etched in stone in Reggie McKenzie’s cerebral cortex. The All-American   College Football Hall of Fame Jim was the most valuable player on the 1969 Michigan team and was a second round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins.

Some would say that Tom and Jim were inseparable at the University Michigan, in that they were teammates, roommates, and played on the same intramural basketball team. Incidentally, their intramural squad won the championship on an independent team [Their team beat teams that had a few of the Michigan varsity basketball players on them]. Their friendship became solidified during their four year stay in Ann Arbor.

Baltimore head coach Don Shula’s team, in fact, won Super Bowl V against the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Tom’s first year as a player. Unfortunately, Tom was injured during the season and did not play in that classic Super Bowl. Although he received a Super Bowl ring, he was upset by not being able to play in the game. He was released by the Colts and then picked up by the Miami Dolphins who were now coached by his former head coach Don Shula. Then, the Miami Dolphins in the 1973 Super Bowl V11 defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7. Again, Tom was injured and again, he received a second Super Bowl ring although he was disappointed by not playing.

Jim and Tom again became competitors and rivals as they played in an NFL exhibition game with Tom’s Colts against Jim’s Dolphins. In this game, Jim was on the kickoff team, and Tom was on the kick receiving team. He told me that Mad Dog Jim was running down the field towards him, yelling and screaming wanting to knock him not only out of the field of play, but out of the Stadium. Smart Tom did a matador “Ole” and thus averted a massive collision with his buddy. Then, in the AFC 1971 championship game between the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins, the Miami team prevailed 21 – 0. With that win, Miami headed to the Super Bowl, held in New Orleans that year. Tom hung out with his good friend Jim, in the Big Easy. And when the AFC champions Miami Dolphins traveled on the bus to meet the Cowboys, Jim invited Tom to accompany him on the team bus. That would not happen today. Both friends roomed in Miami and remained friends during their Florida years.

 Unfortunately, Jim Mandich   passed away from cancer on April 11, 2011 in Miami Lakes, Florida at the age of 62. Of course, Tom Curtis was a speaker. Other teammates like Nick Buoniconti, Bob Griese and Coach Don Shula attended the service. At that particular service Jim was added to the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll. These exceptional athletes- friends, excelled both on the field and off; and it goes to show you that heated rivals can take negative passion and turn it into a positive passion. Just think how fortunate they were.

Go Blue Go!

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Develop Happiness

Research focusing on long-term happiness has become popular; especially the work of Dr. Martin Seligman. To Illustrate, some of the ideas from his “happiness” research are as follows: 1. Most people can be happy, but it takes work to focus on the positive emotions and behavior that make a good life. 2. Most people are resilient and can survive the bad things that happen to them. 3. Money plateaus as a factor in happiness and making money makes an ever diminishing contribution to subjective well-being, but money can buy happiness if it was spent on other people. 4. Happiness is a cause of good things in life. People, people who are satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school, work, or fulfilling social relationships, and both good health and long life. 5. Happiness is not the result of luck.

And, viewing happiness from another point of view, Dr. Dan Baker has written about a list of things that happy people don’t do. For example, some of his “don’t do’s” include the following: 1. Happy people don’t blame other people for their problems [Was it Brady Hooke’s fault for Michigan’s poor 2014 season?] 2. Happy people don’t overreact to the present moment. [Was it awful that Shane Morris was put back into the Minnesota game after his concussion?]. 3. Happy people don’t focus on a single passion or relationship. [This suggests that it is better to have more than the University of Michigan football in your life]. 4. Happy people don’t dwell on past failures. [In the last 10 years, Michigan hasn’t played well against Ohio State-that’s not your problem] and 5. Happy people don’t spend more time than necessary around unhappy people [This does not mean you should spend more time with Ohio State Buckeyes alumni-or maybe you should but only if they are they are happy individuals

From these ideas, it obviously takes more to create a state of a happiness than being a recipient to the winning of a football game or football games. In other words, the idea of developing happiness has more to do with one’s overt behavior, participating, creating and in being productive and active as opposed to being a mere passive receptor  at a sporting event. It means taking control over things that one can control like oneself. Certainly, wishing, or wanting the Wolverines to score that touchdown are simply thoughts; but we have absolutely no control over the outcome, even if we yell, scream, or stamp our feet.

In fact, some research has shown that while watching “the game” we may be prone to eat and drink more unhealthy foods and even get into automobile accidents when our team loses. But there’s no research that I’ve come upon that suggests that when our team wins that in turn results and changes the overall satisfaction with our life. Of course, the immediate joy of an upset victory over the rival is passively experienced, but it doesn’t seem to last although the pleasant memory might. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t support the Wolverines or any other sporting team.
What it does mean, is that it is significant to find and perform activities in your life that give special meaning, and that includes in creating good social relationships. To watch a game with friends is fun and joyful since you can banter back and forth about the good plays and the bad plays that happen during the game. And, it is important to remember, that happiness is not the result of luck, as it certainly could be in the outcome of the game; but instead in pursuing positive thinking and behaviors about your life experiences during your lifetime.

So, Jim Harbaugh, bring happiness to your life and to your young warriors. Because it is through your involvement, with teaching, learning, practicing and playing those games on Saturday that you can set the foundation or framework for present and future happiness in those that you encounter. Winning and more importantly, instilling a sense of teamwork, kinship and the importance of being part of a team are important for developing a foundation for an emotional state of happiness.

Go Blue Go!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bo's Warriors and Jim Betts

In Cleveland, Ohio, in the year 1966, Jim Betts was the quarterback at Benedictine High School. This handsome, precocious young man played safety on defense, and also lettered in basketball and baseball. At times, he experienced discrimination both from his neighborhood and from the whites at his parochial high school. To illustrate, in one football game, he was called “Uncle Tom” by the opposing middle guard during their competitive and ferociously fought football game. In this one particular game against East Technical High School, Jim dropped back five steps, and then released the ball on a screen pass. Then, he dropped back three more steps in order to get out of the way of the play. It didn’t matter because this middle guard brutally knocked the hell out of him. Jim got up, looked him straight in the eye and yelled, not one to mince words, “You son of a bitch.” The nearby referee immediately threw a penalty flag for the unsportsmanlike hit. In the huddle, Jim called for the same screen pass play and told the center too lightly brush that middle guard with his shoulder and then let him come through cleanly.

Again, Jim took the ball from center and dropped back five steps. He got in a good throwing position and then threw the ball with as much velocity as he could muster, directly at the hard charging middle guard. The ball was released with such great force that it somehow got lodged in that defenders face mask. That middle guard was knocked off his feet on to his ass   and in pain. Quarterback Jim quickly went over and asked “How is that for Uncle Tom?”  Jim quickly looked in the direction of the referee, who smiled, as no penalty was called. Jim Betts knows how to get even.

Jim was recruited by Bump Elliott, Jim Mandich and Don James. During that recruitment, Coach Elliott spent more than three hours talking with Jim’s mother while Jim spent that time, talking with tight end Mandich and position coach Don James. Jim’s reasons for attending Michigan was that he liked their winged helmets, strong academics, relative short proximity from Cleveland and these things  distinguished them from all the other college teams. So, he accepted the scholarship and enrolled at the University Michigan.

When Coach Schembechler became head coach, Jim knew about the coach’s reputation. He also remembered during that first team meeting, when Schembechler stated “I’m going to treat you all the same; I’m going to treat you like dogs.” And, during the fall practice, Schembechler told him “You are the third best quarterback in the Big Ten behind Moorehead and Rex Kern.” Rex Kern was Ohio State’s quarterback. Betts just smiled.

At the end of that 1969 season, Jim talked with position coach Dick Hunter about switching positions [from quarterback to the defensive backfield] for the following season. Coach Hunter replied that the switch would be fine with him. Jim, immediately looked for Coach Schembechler to tell him of his plans. Jim, in no uncertain terms, directly told Bo “I want to play safety. I am not going to sit on the bench behind Moorhead, because he’s your quarterback.” Bo replied to Jim “You son of a bitch, I’m going to tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to play both positions. You are going to play first string on defense, and second string quarterback.” That was typical Coach Schembechler. He had to get in the last word regardless of whether he was right or wrong.

On an earlier occasion, Coach Schembechler told his team “Men if you expect to play like a team, you have to look like a team. I want everyone to look the same. I do not want to see any mustaches, long sideburns, Afro’s or facial hair.” The athletic Jim visited, Bo in his office, the next day, and before practice and said, “I cannot shave my mustache as a black man. I can’t shave because it’s a black man’s heritage to have a mustache. Being black, this is part of me.” Bo responded, “Is this a joke?” Jim told him “I’ll go through walls for you, but you can’t ask us to deny who we are as people.” The coach then threw Jim out of his office, saying, “This is a bunch of happy horse shit.”

The story didn’t end, because every five years or so, Bo Schembechler asked Jim about his facial hair, heritage thing. He wanted to know whether or not Jim had been telling him the truth. Finally, after about 30 years or so, Jim finally came clean and admitted he was bull shitting the coach. As if a dam had burst, Bo said “I knew it” and mumbled a number of the unintelligible words. The coach finally knew he’d been had.

Jim knew and believed that he had a good relationship with Coach Schembechler and that Coach Schembechler liked him as well. Over the years, they had many conversations that covered a wide array of topics including religion and alcoholism. Bo’s second wife was an alcoholic and Jim’s father was an alcoholic. Jim knew that Bo not only related to him he also understood, the difficulties in living in an alcoholic environment. Their relationship was not just between student and teacher and limited to athletics. It was between two men who could share innermost and vulnerable feelings and knew there was an unshakable bond based on mutual trust and admiration. It’s safe to say, that both men learned from each and both evolved in the process. They are good examples of Michigan men.

Go Blue Go!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thom Darden, One of Bo's Warriors

Back in 1968 young Thom Darden from Sandusky, Ohio, was considered to be a top-notch athlete in football, basketball and baseball. Some thought that perhaps basketball was his best sport such as John Havlicek of the world champion Boston Celtics. In high school, Thom simply excelled at sport as he was quite the athlete. His exploits were not unknown as he was recruited by Woody Hayes to play football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Thom and his parents visited Woody in Columbus, and in turn Woody came to the Sandusky home of the Darden’s.

Mr. Darden, of strong religious faith, turned against the legend, Woody Hayes In part because of Hayes’ salty language in describing historic military battles. And Thom, distrusted Hayes after he viewed his position- player ranking on Coach Hayes big chalk board. Thom was also recruited by Bo Schembechler then coach for Miami of Ohio. When Bo Schembechler put Thom through a series of football drills that did it for Schembechler also. He wanted no part of that man as well.

Along came the dapper Bump Elliott and staff [Don James] from the University Michigan. It didn’t take long for the Darden family to connect with the maize and blue. In fact, Mrs. Darden was really impressed and didn’t hesitate to tell her athletic son. So off to Ann Arbor in 1968, to play for Coach Elliott. Must add that Thom initially had some doubts about his ability to play at that level. You can imagine the impact on Darden, when he learned that his coach Elliott had been fired and replaced by that Bo Schembechler that same year.

New head coach Schembechler of course remembered recruiting Darden. And when Darden initially visited, Bo in his new Michigan office, he remembered, Bo’s first words “close the door; you thought you got rid of me” to his new athlete.

On another occasion going into Thom’s senior year, Coach Schembechler talked to his outstanding defensive back about his opportunity for All American candidacy for the 1971 football season. Thom Darden allowed his play to speak for himself as in the UCLA game, Thom intercepted the UCLA quarterbacks pitch out and ran some 90 yards for a Michigan touchdown. Darden did become a Michigan All-American, that football season.

While being a first round draft choice by the Cleveland Browns, and becoming all pro, the NFL Darden came back to Bo Schembechler, and helped him install the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for the Wolverines. Darden also had conversations with coach Schembechler about Schembechler’s interest in becoming head coach for the Cleveland Browns. Darden discouraged his former coach from making that coaching change. Notice how the role  changed between teacher and student. The student was now the teacher.

And on a later occasion he met with Bo Schembechler, in Ann Arbor. Thom Darden didn’t know, prior that Bo had just lost his son in an automobile accident. And when they talked about Bo’s loss, the two men became closer and shared their tears together. It’s clear that Thom Darden’s relationship with Bo Schembechler evolved through the years. Starting out it was “I want nothing to do with this man” to sharing true heartfelt emotion of empathy and love. That emotion was exhibited by Thom Darden’s exuberance, support and energy for Bo Schembechler and the University Michigan football through the years, and even today.

It’s crystal clear that legend Bo  Schembechler  had a tremendous emotional impact on  his players and his players  on him as well. One might conclude that Schembechler was blessed by being involved with so many individuals of solid character. The human connection or human bond, that were formed over the many decades remain as strong as the Gordian knot.

Go Blue Go

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bo's Warriors and Mike Keller

Back in 1969, which seems like the old days, Coach Bo Schembechler inherited a terrific group of young men recruited by former coach Bump Elliott and his staff. At this point, it’s too early to tell if coach Jim Harbaugh 46 years later, will have similar advantages as his former coach. Not only did Bo have at his disposal, a group of outstanding athletes-football players, he had a group of studs with great character, excellent values and good study habits. Athletes such as Jim Brandstatter, Jim Betts, Frank Gusich and Mike Keller for example, all attended parochial school.

Then as well as now, attending parochial school was associated with discipline, order, rule, spirituality and of course learning one’s A’s, B’s, and C’s so to speak, or educational excellence. Make no mistake about it, students, as well as student athletes were expected to learn and taught how to learn. These individuals quickly realized the importance of their task and what was expected of them, not only by the nuns or teachers, but by their parents, as well. Simply put, it was a team approach-the school and the family working together to instill human values such as respect, honor, duty, accomplishment, giving and appreciating.

One example comes to mind, taken from Mike Keller’s educational experience in Grand Rapids, Michigan .Attending St. Stephen elementary school, Mike’s second grade teacher was Sister Rosalie who stood approximately 4’10” or 4’11”. The precocious Mike Keller was about 5’6”. It just so happened that Mike had seen the movie Juvenile Delinquents starring Jerry Lewis. In this particular film, there were a number of juvenile punks that were being questioned by the police. These actors acting like real punk were chewing gum, shuffling their feet, while shoving their hands deep into their pockets looking totally disinterested. In class, the next day or so, Mike did something wrong and Sister Rosalie approached him and asked Mike to stand by his seat. As Sister approached, she started to discipline Mike verbally. Impressionable Mike then became the imitator and did his best movie presentation of one of the young punks in the film. According to Mike, all of a sudden, and out of nowhere, little Sister Rosalie smacked him with her famous roundhouse right hand across his punk face. Mike was stunned, stood up quickly at attention. He added “I never messed with her again.” So, what was the lesson that Mike learned very early in life? Don’t mess with the nuns! Mike didn’t say whether or not she was on her tip toes, when she hit him.

Do you think that Mike went home and complained to his parents about corporal punishment, physical abuse, or a poor me attitude? If Mike had gone home and whined to his parents, especially his mother, about that episode, he would have received double the punishment. Of course, there’s more to the story about Mike Keller and his character development. But it is clear, that with a firm base and foundation, Mike had no difficulty in becoming one of Bo’s warriors on the field. He knew about, and learned more about order, affiliation, and abasement, both on the practice field and on those special Saturdays from coach Schembechler. He carried that further, when drafted in the third round by the world champion Dallas Cowboys, under the tutelage of Coach Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, while learning the famous Flex Defense.

For those of you residing in Florida, you can join Mike on April 9, at the Venice Beach Yacht Club, 1330 Tarpon Center Drive.; Venice, Florida 34285 at 6:30 PM for dinner and presentation. Mike will also be available for a book signing of Bo’s Warriors hosted by The University of Michigan Alumni Club of Sarasota/Manatee. Non U of M alumni welcome.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mental Toughness -. Part 10

 A third  component of Mental Toughness [3] pertain to Success Experiences as they relate to Achievement Goals. Success experiences assist in defining our achievement goals in that they affect our level of aspiration. This means that it is extremely  important for the individual to have realistic achievement goals. So, I did not start out having an achievement goal of running 100 trail miles in one day. In fact, I hadn’t thought of that particular goal until after four years or so of running in ride and tie events.

A ride and tie event was a combination of a trail and equestrian competition and comprised of two runners and a horse or the team. This particular competition took place on trails in the mountains, generally around 25 or so miles in length. The race would start with one rider, obviously on the horse along with a runner. The horse and rider, at the start of the race, would easily get out in front of his partner; and at a predetermined distance, dismount and tie the reins or lead rope to a tree limb. Then that rider immediately became the runner and headed down the trail. The initial runner would eventually reach the tied animal and untie it, mount it, and be off going in the direction of that runner ahead. Upon catching up to the runner, the rider might switch with his partner, or ride on ahead and then tie the horse. This hopscotch process, so to speak, would continue until all three [horse, rider and human partner] cross the finish line at the same time [there could be only one rider at a time on the horse].

My serious running took place in those events so I got an idea about the toughness of serious trail running. In order to compete in ride and tie, I began trail conditioning runs. I even entered an official half marathon [13.1 miles] race and worked my way up to running a full practice marathon distance [26.2 miles]. Then, I entered an official 50 K [31 miles] before running an official marathon.

So I had 4 years of running on the trail that included running a distance of 31 miles, which was my longest run in distance and time. Then, I heard about an opportunity to run a one day 100 mile event called the Western States 100. In order to compete in that event, I had to run a 50 mile trail qualifying event in 10 hours [I was in the 60 year age group]. Prior to running that particular qualifier, I was successful at running in ride and tie and trail running events. In my mind at the time, I rationalized that I had already run 31 miles, and only had to run 19 miles more to attain 50 miles. As it turned out, I was successful and qualified for the Western States 100 mile endurance.

Having all those success experiences in dealing with miles, trail conditions, eating and hydrating properly, with the right gear allowed me to enter the race [a draw of the lottery picked my number]. Statistically, about 50% of the runners complete that particular run. So my success rate of completion was about 50%. The stars were aligned and I was one of the fortunate 50% completers. Success, for me, led to more success with realistic trail running achievement goals. It’s clear that I didn’t start out thinking I was able to run 100 miles before my first ride and tie competition.

More to follow

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Jim Harbaugh Is Not Yet God

Jim Harbaugh’s been involved and around sports, throughout his entire lifetime. Jim’s father Jack was a football coach at various colleges and universities. In fact, when Jim was about 10 years of age, father Jack was hired by Bo Schembechler to be his position coach for the University of Michigan’s secondary.  It was not an uncommon sight to observe young Jim being around [retrieving footballs, etc.] college football players, college coaches and other personnel associated with big-time college football at the Big House. It was an unique and wonderful experience for Jim, to say the least, and it foreshadowed the stage for things to come in Jim’s bright football future.

Being and associating with young athletic and older role models became routine or familiar, but not ordinary for Jim. No doubt, precocious Jim had an opportunity and practice to become at ease and develop interpersonal social skills with these giants playing a game that they loved. Jim observed their mental and physical toughness, their skill, their dedication and their focus regarding practicing with passion the love of the game. He also observed that the adult coaches could be warm, caring, but also extremely verbally and physically tough on the players when necessary. Perhaps, he was frightened at first by the rough language exhibited by these coaches. Perhaps, perhaps not, he became more comfortable, over time. It’s safe to say that he became familiar, and learned how to treat and interact with young athletic men in the process. Jim Harbaugh’s personality was shaped, molded and tweaked by his athletic father, both at home, and certainly by his experience with other coaches in the football milieu.

As an adolescent, Jim was a star athlete at the two high schools [in Michigan and California] that he attended. Attending the University Michigan, the setting that had tremendous influence on his personality, he received multiple honors. Further, Jim was exposed to the limelight of big-time football, which affected his character development along with his narcissism. He was told by many in various ways and received awards that indicated and interpreted that he was both extremely special and unique. Further, he played in the NFL, which further reinforced that he was different from the rest of the crowd. Being the quarterback was the epitome and he reached the top of the pyramid as far as star status was concerned. Gathering and garnishing even more celebrity attention, Jim became an extremely successful football coach at Division Level 1 in college. And then a brighter star shone when he became the head football coach for the San Francisco 49ers, while still in his 40s. Nothing in the Milky Way galaxy could dim his brightness.

Currently, he has been appointed to one of the most prestigious positions [Winningest football team] in college football-at the University of Michigan also known for its academic excellence. Jim Harbaugh is basking in the limelight. Even before he has been credited with winning one football game, he has garnished the love and attention of the 500,000 or so Michigan alumni [in our star struck culture] as well as the excitement for those others who follow Michigan football. In an extremely short time, he has shined at press conferences, has been a buzz on various social media outlets, and even coached first-base [in desert like conditions] for the Oakland A’s at their spring training facility in Arizona.

 We are observing an unheralded preoccupation with a college football coach on our planet. This ongoing excitement reinforces Jim Harbaugh’s narcissism and self-importance. It’s of course important for a football coach at any level to have a proper amount or necessary level of narcissism in their character. Hopefully, Jim Harbaugh will not allow himself to be blinded by the adoring shades of light. Let’s hope that “all” can remain rational in viewing the drama that lies ahead of us, and evaluate Jim Harbaugh the man. He has not yet attained legend, nor savior status.

Go, Blue!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Don't Allow the Tobacco Industry to Kill You

Smoking cigarettes continues to be the biggest contributor to diseases that cause premature death. Again, it’s the largest contributor to diseases in our country. There is certainly an elevated risk for cancers [mostly of the lung, neck, tongue, larynx, esophagus, and bladder]. However, the majority of smokers die from cardiovascular disease. I’ll bet you didn’t read that on a package of cigarettes. And I bet you also didn’t read that on your cigarette pack that passive secondhand smoke elevates the cardiovascular disease risk by 25%.

Looking at the demographics, Americans with GED’s have a 40% smoking rate compared to 24% of high school graduates and 10% of college graduates. So go to school and maybe you’ll be smart enough not to smoke or die from a cardiovascular disease. Further, the highest rates of smoking in the United States are of Native Americans were 31% of American-Indians and native Alaskans smoke. The good news is that quitting smoking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease to the level of non-smokers in 5 to 10 years.

The tobacco industry has gotten away with murder for so many years, even though they are now paying for ads talking about the risks of smoking. But apparently, Native Americans, and/or individuals with GED’s are either not getting the message, or simply continue to engage in self-destructive behavior. Does it matter if you’re enrolled in a good health plan with no pre-existing conditions for exclusion, if you continue to smoke? Is the tobacco industry doing enough to educate the public? Or maybe the tobacco industry could do more to help deal with this health crisis in our country?

For the educational part, perhaps the tobacco industry could be more involved in traditional educational programs as well with the educational programs of Native Americans. It seems to me that this industry is able to do more than provide TV commercial advertisements. That’s not to say that the major networks, religious institutions, government agencies, sports, music, entertainment celebrities, coaches etc. should be coordinated to provide a comprehensive program to reduce the effects of this deadly drug on our citizens.

If you see someone smoking, consider talking about the risks and enter a discussion of why that individual continues to smoke. I have heard excuses such as “it reduces my nerves” or “it helps me to control my appetite.” In weighing the pros and cons, there are certainly better ways to deal with stresses. I know at one time, it was considered cool or neat as something an elite individual would do to do. It was certainly glamorized in the movies though we see it less and less. Let’s start a campaign from the ground up and do our part.

If you want my advice, keep moving, laughing, smiling, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mental Toughness-Part 9

A second component of Mental Toughness: 2. Re-framing is substituting a word or statement with another word or statement, that conveys a different meaning with a different connotation. It’s important to have a positive emphasis or positive idea in place of a negative one. In discussing a physical procedure I eliminated the word “exercise” because for many that has too many negatives associated with it like boring, repetition, grueling, no fun, etc. and replaced it with the word “conditioning.” Conditioning conveys a level of fitness, indispensable to some result or even the state of health. It is simply a word that has an absence of any negative affect. So when I planned one of my runs, I referred to it as a conditioning run. It was nothing more nothing less, it was simply conditioning. In other words, I was always in my conditioning mode.

 Another example was taken when I was running my 100 mile trail run and I had crossed the American River at roughly the 80 mile mark. I verbalized to myself that I had completed 80 miles and “only” had 20 more miles to complete. The key ideas included what I had completed and what was left; and by employing” only “I minimized the remaining task ahead of me. I didn’t get weighed down by my discomfort [I inserted and re-framed the word discomfort for pain], the number of hours that it would take me to complete, the difficulty of the terrain or how tired and exhausted that I felt. The words “I can” were part of vocabulary and not the words “I can’t.”

Believe me, there were plenty of opportunities during that long day to re-frame my thinking. Because I know, that negative ideas and/or negative thoughts create negative emotions which can affect behavior dramatically. It’s important to keep the ideas and thoughts positive or neutral at the worst, so that thinking and emotions do not get in the way of goal attainment. We know that perceptions and thoughts create our emotions. We also know that negative thoughts create negative emotions that can become automatic and can turn into self-defeating behaviors. We don’t want to have negative thoughts that distort the reality of what we want to accomplish and unravel and sabotage behavior.  Yes, there is power in how we think, and the words we employ that accompany our behavior.

More to follow

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

McDonald's, Burger King, Carl's Jr., etc. Are Killing Us

 Of the 2.4 million people that die yearly in the United States, the six leading causes of death include the following: 1. Heart disease 2. Cancer 3. COPD 4. Stroke 5. Accidents and 6. Alzheimer’s disease. Not only that, two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese and about 20% of the people continue to smoke cigarettes causing another 45,000 deaths per year. Further, nearly 11,000 people per year are killed by drunk drivers in our country. And, our own lifestyle habits are the largest cause of morbidity. Many of these risky behaviors develop in childhood and adolescent and continue to be problematic throughout adulthood.

Let me repeat, our behavior is governed by that 3.3 or so pounds of brain located between our ears. I know it’s hard to believe that fact but it’s true. The federal government publishes nutritional recommendations called “My Plate chart” in which a plate is divided into four portions. About 25% of the plate is made up of proteins, 25% grains, 25% fruits and 25% vegetables. Latest studies show that only 2% of us eat in this healthy manner roughly 70% of the time. Of course, a lot of us eat vegetables, but really not the healthy ones. Instead, the most commonly eaten vegetable in our country is a potato and it’s usually in the form of French fries, or potato chips; while, the second most commonly eaten vegetable is a tomato and that usually eaten in the form of ketchup, pasta sauce or pizza sauce. While onions are the third most consumed vegetable, the fourth is iceberg lettuce, which has little nutritional value and is mostly water. So it’s obvious that our citizens engage in poor diet and nutrition decisions that generally start at a very early age.

Not surprising is that over two thirds of Americans don’t exercise regularly and yet 75% of us distort reality by believing they we are in fair to excellent physical condition. And exercise can be 30 to 60 minutes per day attaining 60 to 90% of maximum heart rate [220 bpm] minus age. For me, the number of beats per minute would be approximately 130 at 90%; 115 at 80%; 100 at 70% and 85 at 60%. And I easily accomplish the recommended beats per minute.

More recent studies suggest that sedentary people may benefit the most by starting to exercise. In fact, one study found that exercise is about as effective as drugs in preventing death, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Another study found that inactive people who increased their physical activity by just 15 minutes per day, reduced their risk of death by 14% and increased their life expectancy by 3 years. And for each additional 50 minutes of exercise per day, the risk of death was lowered by an additional 4%. Now of course if one has a healthy lifestyle and is healthy those numbers are appealing. However, if one has an unhealthy lifestyle, poor health and is he won my advice miserable, then why would they want to increase years of misery?

Remember that the hunters and gatherers averaged about 6 to 22 miles per day in their survival mode and consumed unprocessed, vitamin filled foods without pesticides. In other words, they exercised and eat healthier than us civilized types. If you want my advice, keep moving, smiling, laughing, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mental Toughness-Part 8

  As you can see, there are many components or aspects of this thing we call “mental toughness.” There are certainly more questions than answers to the question. In thinking and researching this topic, I decided and applied it to my 2002 Western States 100 mile one day trail run. I believe that I have elicited some of the motivational or psychological components that allowed me to be successful, while running this grueling event that summer day in June.  I refer to the following psychological ideas as principles and they are as follows:

1.       Achievement Goal. In order to accomplish a major feat, task or athletic competition, it’s important that one has a goal. With the goal, the individual is able to look ahead [to future] and plan the various steps necessary for its attainment. It’s important that the goal is concrete, as well as clearly defined. This not only means that the goal must be concrete, but it must be easily measured as well. In my case, my goal was to complete this 100 mile run. Either I completed it or I didn’t. In any case, it was clearly measurable. And, I was going to be either successful or not. There was no ambiguity regarding my task. Further, my goal had to be reasonable and attainable by me. I didn’t want to set up an unrealistic event as far as my athletic and mental abilities were concerned. Also, I had to have complete control over the outcome. The completion of this event was about my performance and my performance alone. My performance was not dependent on any one thing or anyone else. It was my brain, my lungs, my legs alone, etc.

While having a major goal, such as running 100 miles in one day, it was necessary for me to install many sub goals prior and along the way. To illustrate, that meant such tasks as  running the hills, increasing  stamina, running at night etc. or sub goals. It was also necessary for me to figure out hydration, nutrition, and electrolyte balances as well. Proper running shoes, wearing apparel, containers for water, etc. were also part of the program. I even ran a half marathon, one 50 K and two 50 mile running events as shorter or sub goals before my main event.

More to follow

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mental Toughness - Part 7

When it comes to understanding the neurobiology of pain, such elements as individual perception, activation of pain pathways, fight or flight response, neurotransmitters, opioids and hormones are involved in the process. Psychological factors such as depression, anger, grief, and loneliness are also important variables in understanding pain tolerances. Therefore, psychological health and the ability to work through these issues effectively likely play a significant part as well. Even the use of swear words help us to endure and deal with pain more effectively.  For instance, I have sworn a number of times while receiving a deep massage from the “Monster of Massage” in order to get ready for a future running event.

Many factors or explanations seem to be attributed to individuals who are successful in displaying this grit. It is my belief that I can present a model to provide understanding of this mental toughness drive, courage or perseverance. A working definition of ego strength [mental toughness] during a trail running event or some other activity is as follows: the ability of the individual to encounter and effectively deal with threat, conflict, frustration, discomfort, or stress with or without fear.

For me, there were and are plenty of times that I experienced discomfort, fatigue, or periods of exhaustion during a trail running event. Most recently, when I ran the Way Too Cool 50 K on March 7, 2015, and the temperature was higher on that date than any previous training run this past year. That along with inadequate hydration [uneven electrolyte balance] resulted in cramping of my legs and feet roughly after 18 to 20 miles in the run. Even though I loaded up on sodium and drank more water, at that point, it was too late. I did not have fun during the rest of the run. However, I was pleased that I kept on going despite painful conditions. I believed that I wasn’t going to die, and that my issue was only muscle tightening.

During that last 10 or 12 miles, I continued to persevere. I wanted to complete the 31 miles, and thought about mental toughness during the process. It was important for me to evaluate my goal, and complete this tough trail run. I knew that I would feel good and satisfied about my completion afterwards. And my prediction came true.

More to follow

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mental Toughness . Part 6

Does age or the aging process have anything to do with this particular drive [mental toughness]? Are there sex differences that differentiate between this drive? Is there a common thread between self-imposed or other imposed hardships as related to the drive? How do pain thresholds affect this drive? What about the importance of spirituality, religious conviction, or persistence as related to the drive? In other words, why is one individual, able to endure while others seem not able or capable? As you can see, their numerous questions or hypotheses that we can raise in exploring this concept that is commonly used to describe motivation as related to sports, politics or religious beliefs?

Even though my interest is primarily sports, there are certainly other examples of mental toughness outside of sports. Take a look at the countless number of returning war veterans or individuals who suffered some physical injury, loss of limbs, PTSD or other debilitating conditions. Courage or grit can be found with individuals born with congenital disease, such as poor eyesight, retardation, or some other physical impairment. We often marvel at their ability of someone with impairment or disability and their will to persevere and make the most out of their life.

An additional example regarding the mind-body connection comes from holistic psychology. Holistic bodywork practitioners hypothesize that our bodies incorporate and store ongoing psychological trauma. One way to relieve or exacerbate these stored hurts is through bodywork or deep massage. These practitioners illustrate their point when they work therapeutically on different body parts, and their patients express tears or emotional pain during this process. As a consequence, the interaction of the relationship to the mind-body cannot be overlooked in understanding the mental toughness drive.

More to follow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mental Toughness- Part 5

Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the h hills; we shall never surrender” was the inspirational and about courage, will, and hope to a British nation under siege during World War II. He also said “If you’re going through hell, keep going. Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.” This quote has been replayed over and over and lives on because of its imperative meaning.

Motivational concepts of conscience, guilt, or simply doing the right thing versus doing the wrong thing; heroism, being responsible or loyal for your own men; the drive for new adventure or exploration of the unknown; or way of thinking differently in fighting for your life or survival, seem important in describing man’s motivation to endure-mental toughness. But that’s not all there is to mental toughness.

What about the athlete, young or old, who decides to run 100 miles, rows or paddles in extreme water conditions, bikes across America, swims the English Channel, kicks boxes, or competes in some extreme or ultra-event? In these sporting events, these individuals, push on and on despite physical exhaustion or emotional pain. What is that allows some of us to persevere or “grind it out” in these self-imposed competitions? Do we enter these competitions for the coveted buckle; for the temporary are long-lived fame; or some other ego related notion? It is clear that we do not do it for the money. Is this drive related to a certain type of personality or character structure development? Is the competitiveness drive hardwired into our brains; is there a correlation between certain successful or unsuccessful childhood experiences and the component of will; and if so what are they? Or, as Alfred Adler hypothesized that the ability to overcome and succeed is related to some physical or mental inferiority compensation.

More to follow.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mental Toughness -Part 4

Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage” depicted Meriwether Lewis’s, expedition in the opening of the American West. Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame, dealt with many personal demons during and after this momentous journey. As you may know, Lewis suffered from depression, and died at an early age as a result of suicide. In Laura Hillenbrand’s,  bestseller “ Unbroken” ,she depicted Lieut. Louis Zamperini’s, an Olympic runner, experiences as a POW during World War II and his ability to withstand and persevere through various unbelievable and extreme torture ordeals handed out by the “Bird” and others while in Japanese  occupation. Louis’s release, difficulty with alcohol, anxiety and mental illness going from despair, to forgiveness, finding God, and leading a productive and fulfilling life demonstrate his grit and resourcefulness.

First, it is clear there is a mind-body connection. Not only is there simply a connection, there is a powerful relationship between what happens in our mind or brain and the effects on the physiology of our body. One example that illustrates this magnificent mind-body correlation was taken from Viktor Frankel’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning-An Introduction to Logotherapy.” In this book, Dr. Frankel tells the story of a prisoner, in Auschwitz, who had lost his faith in the future and as a result, believed his life was doomed. The story goes like this: a senior block Warden, who was a well-known composer confided to Dr. Frankel when he told him about his dream “A voice told me that I could wish for something that I should say only what I wanted to know, and all my questions would be answered. What do you think I asked? That, I would like to know when the war would be over for me. You know what I mean, Dr.-for me! I wanted to know when we, when our camp would be liberated and our sufferings come to an end.” Dr. Frankel asked “and when did you have this dream?” In February, 1945 “he answered. Dr. Frankel noted that it was then the beginning of March. Dr. Frankel “what did your dream voice answer?” He whispered to me, “March 30” when the prisoner told me about his dream, he was still full of hope, and convinced that the voice of his dream would be right. But as the promised date drew near, the war news, which reached our camp made it appear very unlikely that we would be free on the promised date. On March 29, the prisoner suddenly became ill and ran high temperature. On March 30, the day his prophecy had told him the war and suffering would be over for him, he became delirious and lost consciousness. On March 31, he was dead. To all outward appearances, he had died of typhus.” This dramatic and sad example illustrates how close and powerful the connection between the state of our mind and its resulting deadly effect on the state of our body. In this case we see the dramatic effects when the individual lost all courage and hope, and died.

More to follow. Continue to keep moving, laughing, smiling, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mental Toughness- Part 3

If learning comes into play, then we are talking about or referring to certain developmental factors, psychological principles or characteristics that likely play a significant part in the makeup of mental toughness or perseverance. However before we identify these principles, let’s take a look at some illustrations or examples of historical facts associated with perseverance or mental toughness.

There are numerous illustrations of mental toughness or perseverance found, in fairy tales, film, literature and history. Was in an unwelcome environment and was both physically and mentally abused by her envious stepsisters. She bit her lip, didn’t complain and endured anyway despite these obstacles. In the Passover story, we find the Hebrew people enduring unbelievable physical and/or mental hardships both before and then wandering in the desert during Moses’ 40 years of self-struggle. The Old Testament attributed the motivation; appear to be primarily related to removing the shackles of slavery, the drive for freedom, and the struggle to believe in one God and only one God.

Other descriptions of physical, mental hardships, like battling for independence in the American Revolution seem related to the drive for individual, economic, and religious freedom. Mental toughness or ego strength therefore seemed to have a motivational component in this process. Other examples of mental toughness found in literature include but not limited to the following: Jon Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” illustrated politicians making difficult choices especially when confronted with disapproval by their colleagues and voters. In many cases, the politicians made decisions or choices that affected or ended their political careers. The critical choices made might be attributed to a moral conscience or more specifically Judeo-Christian principles. Kennedy’s own heroism, perseverance, loyalty, courage, and toughness are exhibited in his heartfelt PT 109 story. In the Pacific, during World War II, Kennedy was instrumental and went beyond the call of duty in saving his men during the fight with the Japanese. Kennedy, experienced mental toughness first-hand, and certainly was able to communicate about it effectively as well.

More to follow. In the meantime, keep moving, smiling, laughing, loving, bonding and appreciating.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mental Toughness-Part 2

What was it in the individual make up of Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Marvin Haggler, or Sugar Ray Leonard that allowed them to gather up the strength and courage to succeed or win even when getting severely pummeled? Was it related to physical strength, grit, or the supportive nature of their mother, father, or both? Was this toughness inculcated in early and challenging circumstances during their childhood, or developmental years? Was this strength associated with a positive or negative history of overcoming trauma, illness or physical injury? Was this strength the result of the ability to withstand or tolerate pain? Could this inner strength be related to anxiety, and the ability to manage or deal with it effectively? Could it be related to the existence of a mental illness condition or absence thereof? Could it be that one’s perception of the circumstance affects the drive, the ability to suck it up, and to succeed during periods of extreme stress, and unthinkable conditions? Was it compensating for a physical, psychological, or emotional issue? What about the role of competitiveness, and the desire to succeed and dominate? Certainly there is a faith or belief that the present will end the future will be better. How might revenge enter in the character of the individual? Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive.

As we can see, their many questions; along with many hypotheses about this thing we call mental toughness. Is there a major artery that explains most of the story? Or, are there many veins that contribute to the enhancement to better explain or describe this idea?

More to follow. In the meantime, keep moving, smiling, laughing, loving, bonding and appreciating.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mental Toughness-Part 1

  Have you wondered, like I do, why some individuals are able to persist, persevere, or have the ability to proceed despite various known barriers or obstacles in their path? Some might refer to this as mental toughness or just plain perseverance. Just think a moment about the world of sports and some the accomplishments by such well-known names as Peyton Manning-overcoming physical injury, Sidney Crosby-his history of concussions, Tom Brady-his age, Michael Phelps- all his Olympic gold medals and Dana Torres-swimming accomplishments at her age. Athletes illustrate being able to push through and endure pain while still continuing their sport. Time and time again we view a tired, exhausted, injured, or out of breath, athlete not giving up but still persevering, regardless of the circumstances or the impairment. Even though only a movie, the Stallone “Rocky” film story depicts and illustrates what happens in athletic competition when a beat up and bloody Rocky all of a sudden finds inner strength to conquer and eventually defeat his opponent or foe. However, in real life, we have the real McCoy with the classic Mohammed Ali-Joe Frazier, or Marvin Haggler-Sugar Ray Leonard boxing matches, where each of them gets pummeled and bloodied round after round during their many fierce battles.

Of course, others like Steve Jobs with his cancer or Oprah Winfrey with her poverty also have demonstrated mental toughness or perseverance with their highly successful careers to say the least. It’s obvious that persistence and overcoming barriers is not limited to the athlete alone. Make no mistake about it that many individuals famous or not, in many walks of life, have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments and have overcome the odds. We can certainly call them mentally tough too.

It has taken me a while to have discovered, age plays a role, in what it takes to have achieved and have accomplished at extreme levels. It is also become obvious to us that some people seem to have what it takes-mental toughness, while in others it appears to be lacking. It is also clear that mental toughness cannot be simply explained by genetics or heredity alone. Once again it’s that old nature versus nurture paradigm that comes into play. I believe the development of mental toughness or perseverance is obviously related to nature, nurture, culture and environment. It is also true, that means that learning plays a significant part and is associated with its development.

Stay tuned as more to follow. In the meantime, keep moving, smiling, laughing, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Better Anti-aging Decisions

It’s safe to say that people in the United States would not only like to feel younger, but would also like to have a terrific quality of life. What good would it be to be able to live to 100, but not to be able to fully participate either mentally and/or physically? I would like to be able to age productively while being mentally and physically engaged in life.

In order to continue to live and function productively, I must make certain decisions since there are intended or unintended consequences that correlate. This means that I have to be aware and knowledgeable of anti-aging medicine. There’s information available regarding nutrition. Aside from making a difference in aging, a diet is one cornerstone to our health. A good diet, among other things can decrease risk of cancer, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, senility and depression.

If you have trouble believing that information, it’s likely related to your character and way of thinking. If you have narcissistic character trait issues, that information can be distorted in many ways. Cognitive Dissonance theory states that we would distort the information by not believing and/or distorting the data in some way. One could also distort, downplay or deny their eating behavior could result in developing   some illness or medical condition. One might also rationalize that by “cheating” this one time won’t make a difference.

Other ways that sabotages personal behavior patterns include frequently going out to restaurants, etc. for meals. We should all know by now that the main motive of the restaurant owners is for profit, and not necessarily about whether not the food is healthy for you. Restaurant portions are large; we don’t have information about chemicals and preservatives used; the health and cleanliness of the preparers and food servicers; and when the last government kitchen inspection occurred.

We also know that diet and food is emotionally charged. It is more than a source of nutrition. It also is a source of comfort, symbol of love, recreational pastime, and a connection to family and community. It is not surprising, that individuals in this country are becoming more huge in size; that there are a variety of many diets; many people fall  off the wagon; and a great number of people  do not seem to have the will or grit. So, personality, irrational thinking, and poor decision-making, contribute to the epidemic “unhealthy” in our country.

In essence, take a good hard look in the mirror and ask, “Am I doing the best I can to ensure the likelihood of my living a full and healthy life?” If the answer is “I can do better” that would be a good start.

In the meantime, keep moving, laughing, smiling, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Better Health Can Be a Goal

I read in a January 17, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal that American diets have improved by 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 than in 2007. This number breaks down to a reduction of 78 calories per person per day. However, if you wanted to lose some weight, one would need to eliminate at least 350 calories a day, from diet.

In order to improve one’s health, the following are three suggestions taken from March/April 2015 edition of Double Runner Magazine. Do you realize that Xanthohumol [found in beer] might be able to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, act as an anti-inflammatory agent, and treat menopausal symptoms and obesity? In a 2014 study, this flavonoid actually improved a group of young mice’s ability to navigate a water maize after ingesting this compound. I’ll bet there are volunteers willing to participate in a human study to test to determine if beer can improve their cognitive functioning.  Any volunteers?

Israeli scientists studied whether or not diet sodas cause obesity. In their published study, they found that artificial sweeteners alter the composition of bacteria in the G.I. tracks of mice. This in turn altered the way mice digest food.  The mice became intolerant to glucose which lead to elevated blood glucose levels and other pre-diabetes factors linked to weight gain. Probably, we would find volunteers to participate in a diet soda human study. Personally, I would rather volunteer for the beer study than for the diet soda one.

At one time, people believed that a steady heart rate was a sign of a healthy body. However, in a more recent study, the authors believed that there should be beat variability in beat to beat time. They believe that heartbeat variability is a sign of good health and fitness and the loss of that heart variability indicates the bodies, fatigue, or stress. In their study, they had five healthy athletes exercise on stationary bikes. The researchers found that the body must make constant adjustments to maintain oxygen flow to the brain and to skeletal muscle during exercise. This means that  increased  blood pressure is good since without  increasing blood pressure, that would likely cause brain damage. So employ a heart rate monitor to determine if you have heart rate variability during exercise. The loss of heart rate durability during exercise indicates there is a problem so check it out.

If you are eating less, then that’s a good sign. You now have information about beer, diet sodas and your heart. If only having the correct information was enough for better health. Consider, having a goal of reaching better health. What comes to mind is as following quote: "The tragedy in life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach."
– Benjamin Mays

In any event, keep moving, smiling, laughing, loving, bonding and appreciating along the way.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cuddling Is Good

Should You Cuddle?

By now we should all know that there are problems with getting a good night’s sleep in the United States. There are many reasons given, and many suggestions as well. Briefly, one question that could be raised “Is it healthier to sleep with a loved one or to sleep by yourself?” You may have heard the following complaints: 1.You have all the sheets/covers 2. Quit snoring 3. Having hot flashes 4. Turn off the TV 5. Turn down the TV 6. Open the window, etc. etc. etc.

Historically, going back to the days of the caveman, individuals had little clothes and slept naked. So one way to stay warm was to sleep alongside someone else. So that made sense, along with providing a little more protection from predators and outsiders since two is stronger than one. Well, in our present day society, we have blankets, more sturdy sleeping dwellings, alarm detectors etc. We’re not likely to be attacked and we have additional sources for heat.

But guess what, there are some reasons to spoon. Oxytocin the so-called love hormone is released during many types of touching, including cuddling. And increased oxytocin helps the body relax, reduces blood pressure and promotes healing. Not only has that, cuddling resulted in increased emotional feelings related to affection, security and love. If you’ve ever had a fight before going to bed, I’ll bet that interfered with spooning that evening. And, I’ll bet you didn’t sleep as well that night. Every time, it’s better to make up as quickly as possible and to spoon.

In fact, a recent study demonstrated a link between the quality of sleep and the couple’s daytime interactions. For men,   better sleep resulted in smoother daytime interactions with their spouse. When a woman had less negative interactions with their husbands during the day that led to more restful sleep at night for her.

And don’t forget, that is not uncommon for people and/or families from different cultures and different countries to sleep together. And in the early part of our last century, families with many children slept together. It’s only been since the 50s and 60s, that three and four bedroom homes have been marketed to the baby boomer generation. In any event, spooning is recommended for a number of benefits including better sleep.

In addition to forget to keep moving, smiling, laughing, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Math Made Easy

"Let me listen to me and not to them."
– Gertrude Stein

As early as I can remember, there has been a concern about inner-city kids. They perform poorly in school, [Low graduation rates] become associated with drugs, alcohol, crime and poverty. Schools within our society, for many reasons, have not solved the problem. There have been many programs such as Head Start and different teaching curriculums that have not made enough significant differences. In fact, some economists have stated that schools should be more pragmatic in their educational approach. The objectives should help kids keep out of trouble and teach them practical skills [whatever that means] to help them enter the labor market. They added that launching programs towards 4 year college degrees on a large scale is costly and would be ineffective.

Recently, neuroscience research believes that adolescence is a period of tremendous neuroplasticity. This means that the brain has the potential to change through experience. That suggests that we perhaps should look at creative programs at the high school level.

There is a program in Chicago called Match. This program is designed to deal with the following problems: 1.The average reading and math scores of eighth grade black boys are barely higher than those in fourth grade white girls. Further, Latino boys scored only marginally better. 2. Only 57% of young black men and 62% of young Latino men graduate from high school in four years, compared to 79% of young white men. 3 . In Chicago, these 16-year-old teenagers were as many as 7 years behind in reading -10 years behind in math, compared to third graders. 4. Nearly a fifth of these students had arrest records.

Simply put, the Match program is a tutoring program. Each tutor, recent college graduate, works with two students by individualizing instruction and maybe more importantly, by becoming advocates, friends, role models, and, in a positive sense, big brother like. The results have been spectacular. Not only have the students improved significantly in math, but in their other subjects as well. Their grades have improved, their study habits improved and a love for learning has been nurtured.

These Match tutors are paid roughly $16,000 year plus benefits. The program costs about $3800 a year for each student. By comparison, New York City spends more than $20,000 per student, and even more in schools serving poor neighborhoods. Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to expand the program and reportedly stated “what this shows is, never throw the towel in on the kids,” and added what’s happening in Chicago shows that without breaking the bank, the lives of adolescents can be turned around.”

There is no question in my mind that learning and education are keys to success. They are not guarantees. But they do open more doors. I know we have solutions to these problems. However, the motivation or will seems to get lost. Shame on us. Article found in the February 1, 2015 edition of  The New York Times.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Are You Feeling Lonely?

How many of you are aware that loneliness is on the rise in our country? In 1980, there were perhaps 20% of Americans reported being lonely. Currently that statistic has doubled to about 40%. Further, a study done at Brigham Young University, involving 300,000 participants found that loneliness was a strong predictor of early death along with alcoholism, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, obesity, and/or a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, loneliness is detrimental to your health and well-being. Furthermore, loneliness is different from depression [which is a mood disorder]. Depression can be treated with drugs, while loneliness can’t.

 Contributing factors of the loneliness issue are likely the result of the increasing percentage of one-person households. In the 1970 US Census Bureau, there were 17% of one-person households and now in 2012 that figure has risen to 27% [it’s the baby Boomer generation]. Perhaps another contributor to loneliness is the rapid increase and easy access to electronics and computer like instruments [emails, texting, social media platforms etc.] in the old days, there was an opportunity for more face-to-face interaction. Face-to-face interaction is also a better way to communicate.

So if you’re concerned with feeling social isolation or dissatisfaction with your relationships then you likely fit this category  of feeling alone or lonely. Do you do better with face-to-face interactions or connecting with some group? Taking inventory might be a good first start to determine the next step. In addition, it’s important to possibly reframe your thoughts. Obviously thinking to yourself that “I’m alone, nobody likes me; everyone hates me” is not beneficial to your health. It’s much better to acknowledge feeling alone and then to change behavior or behaviors. And remember that certain things like reading, hiking, running, swimming, are obviously positive ways to spend alone time. Whatever you do, and I mean whatever, employing moderation strategies are appropriate. Just define moderation selectively.

Do not forget my health prescriptions include: keep moving, smiling, laughing, bonding, loving and appreciating. And if you follow that you will likely be okay. Today’s source was the November 5, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal.


Tony joined me in last Saturday’s Jed Smith 50 K trail run. The highlight was going to Baskin-Robbins and Starbucks for treats. This Saturday, I am joining Tony on the Western States trail run.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler, and Russell Wilson Might Have Contributed to a Higher Death Rate in Seattle

Did the Death Rate Rise with the Seattle Seahawks Fans?

There is research that examines what happens in the bodies of fans watching big, important sporting events [The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2013]. The research evaluates what happens to the individual in a close loss or blowout victory. The findings so far suggests that fans tend to drive more pleasure from a close loss than from a blowout win. In other words, with less certainty, there’s greater suspense and greater enjoyment even if fans are disappointed by the outcome. The nail-biting endings make games worth watching. In other words, fans expressed disappointment when their home team lost, but there was no statistical difference in enjoyment, regardless of who won. Enjoyment comes from the close nature of the event itself.

Interestingly, in 2009 when the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl over the Arizona Cardinals, there were 25% fewer circulatory heart related deaths [in the Pittsburgh area]   than average for the next eight days. Other research found when the New York  Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl of 2008,  the number of circulatory heart related deaths in Massachusetts rose by 20% over the next eight days.

In another study, there were more auto related deaths in cities were the home college and pro football and basketball teams had just won by a close margin   [  there  could be as many as 8% of the fans legally drunk after the game]. Possibly, the fans might release more testosterone the hormone responsible for aggression during those nail biters. Afterward, the happy fans testosterone goes up, while the losers drops.

In another study individuals who identified most strongly as fans released the most cortisol and were the most stressed, partly because they had no actual control. Powerless fans may also find themselves losing self-control. After a loss, the ability to say no to a giant plate of food diminishes. After a victory fat consumption goes down by 9% and overall calorie consumption by 5%.

According to the research, when something good happens to you in your life, you’re more future oriented. So when you have good news, you are good to yourself and want to keep feeling good, and likely it will increase your motivation to follow your diet, exercise, visiting the gym etc. Feeling bad elevates short-term goals like looking for food for comfort.

The research suggests that those individuals with more positives going on in their lives are probably more likely to eat better and to exercise more efficiently. Like I say, when you keep moving, smiling, laughing, loving, bonding and appreciating you’re more likely to be future oriented and have goal like behavior ahead of you.


I enjoyed the New England Patriot-Tom Brady victory so much. I think I would have enjoyed it if it was a blowout as well. Further, I’m running, the Jed Smith 50 K this coming Saturday. Tony plans to be there to pace me.  I’m looking forward to it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Do You Have Enough Sex in Your Life ?

One economist [New York Times, January 25, 2015] looked at various sources in attempt to answer the question “How much sex are we having?” He looked at information from The General Social Survey, and Google searches. He believes that we are lacking reliable data as people tend to lie about sex. For example, this young man calculated the number of sex acts per year of both heterosexual men and heterosexual women that indicated they used a condom. According to his calculations, over 2.6 billion condoms were used. Then he went to the manufacturers and found that about 600 million condoms were sold each year. These numbers puzzled him.

Then, he looked at data from Google searches. The top complaint about marriage was related to not having sex. Googling “sexless marriage” had three and half times as many more searches    than searching for “unhappy marriage.” He also found there were 16 times more complaints about a spouse, not wanting sex than about a married partner, not willing to talk. In addition there were 5 ½ times more complaints about an unmarried partner, not wanting sex, compared to an unmarried partner refusing to text back.

This economist, then looked at fears related to sex. The data showed that men make more searches and have more questions about their sexual organs than any other body part. And, one of the most common questions that men Google pertained to penis size.  Women rarely Googled penis size. In fact, for every search a woman makes about the man’s organ, men make roughly 170 searches more. When a woman does go to the Internet, the data showed that more than 40% of the female’s complaint was about their partner’s penis size being too big and pain was most commonly googled word.

Another major concern for men was how to make their sexual encounters longer. Interestingly women most common concerns were related to their boyfriend’s orgasm and wonder why it wasn’t happening at all. Employing an anonymous, aggregate web activity, interest in beauty and fitness were 42% male; weight loss 33% male and cosmetic surgeries 39% male. There were more than 7 million searches looking into breast implants and about 300,000 women go through it annually. Beginning in 2010 bigger butts were on the minds of women. Women like men have questions about their genitals, but their concerns were more health-related. For example, women want to know how to shave it, tighten it and make it taste better.

One major problem in looking at Google searches is the attempt to generalize the findings. Clearly, this information is not gathered from a valid sample of men and women. In the universe, in order to take a random sample, one has to do just that. Google information is not just a random sample nor is it a representative universe. So if you’re reading this information, you probably have a certain motive. You are not chosen at random to take part in the study. However, the data is interesting to say the least. And maybe the economist is correct in that he can’t get reliable and valid information regarding sexual encounters.

Are you getting enough sex? If not, maybe, you need to keep moving, laughing, smiling, bonding, loving and appreciating.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ask Paul Simon About leaving Your Lover

Self-Reflection, Emotions and Breaking Up There was an article in The New York Times, January 18, 2015 that gave an example of the best way to get over a breakup. A psychology professor and graduate student evaluated the self-reflection of 210 individuals ranging in age from 17 to 29 who had recently broke up with her partners. In one group, the individuals filled out a questionnaire pertaining to emotional feelings and then completed a four minute assignment in which they were asked to talk into a recording device and give responses to various questions that pertained to self-evaluation at intervals of 3, 6, and again at 9 weeks.

   The second group filled out the questionnaire at the beginning, as well as the end of the nine week exercise. Then, they did the speaking exercise only once after filling out their final questionnaire. Thus, the first group were given more opportunities to think and to mull over their responses regarding self on three separate occasions. It is suggested that these pertinent questions, assisted, these individuals into insights into their character.

   The researchers found that the first group experienced greater improvements in self-concept clarity [the degree to which you understand yourself as a person]. Briefly, the difference or explanation given by the researcher was that the speaking exercise helped people because it changed their thinking about their sense of self that was independent and separate of their former partner. This researcher thought that getting back a sense of self after breakup was extremely crucial.

   Perhaps another variable not measured might account for the differences in self-concept clarity. Given an opportunity to think about self might have changed an individual’s thinking. Learning, reflecting and thinking that the world is not coming to an end and that one can spend their time differently and productively can add to defining self. I agree that the sense of self is a very important variable and how thinking can change perception of self. The key is separation, individuation or a separate and independent self from partner. Otherwise, symbiotic attachments and other unhealthy components like dependency can surface and be suffocating.
    Thus, looking at the change [process] in thinking might provide more clues as to breakup efficiency. Further, it would be interesting to look at different character types to assess if some individuals can better utilize the self-reflection or emotional tool.

   Paul Simon’s 1975 song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” alludes to this research. For example, let’s take a look at some of the lyrics: “the problem is all inside your head” she said to me….. I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free….. Make a new plan, Stan…… Just get yourself free…… These lines of the Simon song acknowledge that the problem is in your head, which relates to thinking and perception of self. I’ d like to help you in your struggle to be free , suggests the struggle for separation and individuation while make a new plan gets one thinking about other ways to live and do things with their life. Just get yourself free again is to remove dependency issues by becoming separate emotionally.

 While this is going on, keep smiling, laughing, bonding, loving and appreciating.