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Fitness Quest: Mental Prep, Attitude, and Success

A friend of mine is a runner. Not a casual jogger but a real honest to goodness “why walk when you can run” distance runner. If there’s a race, he’s done it. Five Kilometers, 10K, 15K, half-marathon, full-marathon – you name it. But, though he’s put more miles on his shoes than most of us put on our cars, he told me that occasionally he gets negative comments while running. Here he is, working each day to better himself, and some loudmouth feels that it’s his right to pull up beside him and, for want of a better term, taunt him. Things like “run, fat boy” or worse and though he doesn’t have the typical marathoners build, he isn’t fat.

But, instead of letting himself get down over these comments though he keeps running, improving his times, his health, and his outlook on life. This is why he inspires me and kept me going through some of my own struggles (especially the running kind).

His experience though got me to thinking about all the comments I’ve heard or have been made to me about my working out and/or about my physique. These fall into two categories, positive and negative. Here are those I can recall:

Positive: 

  • I can’t lift that much weight (former workout partner after I completed my set)!
  • Your arms are bigger than his (comparing me to someone I thought was bigger).
  • How did you move that?
  • Your inspiring.
  • How do I get calves like yours?
  • You underestimate the size of your triceps.
  • Wow, you’re hard (mind out of the gutter – this was after she touched my forearm)!
  • Looks sort of like the Mississippi and it’s tributaries (comment from a technician about to draw blood from my arm).
  • You’ve been working out.  Your arms just blew up like…(makes a hand motion to indicate the size of a basketball).
  • He’s definitely getting bigger (a guy talking to my “trainer” about the workout I was using).
  • You motivate me to keep working out.

Negative: 

  • You’re fat.
  • You don’t have muscle tone.
  • Are you doing this to yourself (when my Crohn’s was at it’s worst and I weighed about 135 pounds)?

Now, notice that the positive comments I recall from over the years far outnumber the negative.

But guess which ones I focus on more? Right, the negative.

I think, unfortunately, it is in our nature to focus on the negative things that people say about us because deep down we want everyone to like us. So any negative thing is magnified. Sometimes to the point of wearing us down and causing us to stop looking at all the good things we’ve done and, frankly, just give up.

How much further in our fitness goals – or any goals for that matter – would we all be if we just focused on our progress, looked back at how far we’ve come, and kept going?

Try focusing on the positive things someone says about you for a day and see how you feel. Then try two days, then three, etc.

The world is full of jerks waiting to tear us down. Be determined to be someone who builds themselves and others up.

Onward!

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Race Relations in America Today

A few weeks ago I had an experience that in light of recent events in Charlottesville I feel is worth sharing.

In late July I traveled to Florida and was checking in to my hotel. A very nice “high end” hotel by all standards which caters to what would be considered the upscale traveler and conferences.  As I stood in line waiting for my turn to check in I noticed something odd. With the exception of a couple hotel clerks, I was the only white person in the lobby and one of the few men. Everyone else appeared to be African American and for the most part were women.  I looked around and chuckled to myself and even thought, “so this is what it’s like to be a minority.” I figured a group of some sort was checking in and didn’t think much else of it.

I was early for my meeting so I decided to go across the street to a Subway for lunch. Upon arriving I noticed a long line there so I looked walked along the strip mall to see what other options I might have. Again, I noticed something was “off.” On the sidewalk were small groups of people of color here and there, many who were teens. Each restaurant I looked into was filled with more people who’s skin was darker than mine. Even the grocery store’s deli/sandwich line was made predominantly of so-called “minorities.”

I finally settled on the Subway and waited in line as the only white man in a sea of color – and one of the oldest people in the restaurant to boot.

I finally noticed that all the teens and most of the adults had t-shirts with religious slogans (Christian) and also realized there were several vans and buses in the parking lot with the names of area African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches. The hotel I was staying at was hosting a large AME conference. Mystery solved. I finished my lunch and continued on with my day.

Why do I think this experience is significant now? Well, remember my earlier statement that I thought this is what it must be like to be a minority? Well, that thought was completely and utterly wrong. In fact, just being outnumbered by people with a different skin color barely even scrapes the surface of what I imagine is the experience of African Americans and others in this country.

Why? Because at no time did I feel unsafe or threatened. I was always treated with respect and courtesy by those I met (holding doors, etc.) and returned the same. In fact, I even felt a kinship with all these people when I discovered that they were from the AME church since I am a United Methodist and both denominations share the same Wesleyan roots. No security guard gave me a second look, no woman clutched her purse closer because I passed by, no one paid much attention to me at all in fact – except to take an order, hold a door or perhaps smile at me as they passed.

So when someone speaks about “white privilege” it’s worth remembering that many of us experience this privilege every day – even if we (white guys) didn’t get the job we thought we should have gotten or the spot on the team or any other transgression or slight or injustice we feel has befallen us.

Privilege isn’t always about the big things, but sometimes the small things that everyone should be entitled to regardless of skin color or religion.

My two cents.

 

 

Things I Learned from the Internet

Facebook and Twitter have taught me many useful things in life. For example:

1. President Obama was the root of all evil.

2. The best way to express my views is to blindly copy everything I see on the internet which I agree with and share with all my “friends” before fact checking.

3. All comments made on any subject supported by someone else should be negative.

4. Donald Trump is the root of all evil.

5. The only opinions which matter are mine.

6. Cats are amazingly cute and fascinating. We should bow to them as our masters.

7. Hillary Clinton is the root of all evil.

8. All problems in the world would cease if we had more guns.

9. Sasquatch is real.

10. All problems in the world would cease if we got rid of all guns.

11. Bernie Sanders is the root of all evil.

12. Socialized medicine is the root of all evil. Unless it’s medicare or medicaid, then it’s a pretty good deal and hands off!

13. Ted Cruz is the root of all evil.

14.  (Insert the name of a recently deceased celebrity here) was the greatest person who ever lived.

15. Sasquatch is fake – but UFOs, those are real!

16. All movies are horrible pieces of trash and a waste of time and money.

17. Despite number 16 most movies that are “horrible pieces of trash” break box office records.

18. When in doubt about items 4, 7, 11, and 13 see item 1.

19. (Insert the name of a recently deceased celebrity here) was a fraud and should not be honored just because s/he passed away.

20. All major “mainstream” news outlets produce fake news and push a liberal, leftist agenda.

21. The exception to item 20 is Fox News. Which despite having higher ratings than most mainstream news outlets is agenda free and not part of “mainstream.”

22. The only facts which are facts are those that I say are facts – regardless of the scientific methodology used to determine other facts.

23. Lists of opinions are as good as facts.

24. Sasquatch and UFOs are fake – but roads can be fixed by cutting taxes!

25. Seriously, people really like cats.

26. No one knows whose picture is on any given piece of U.S. currency but by God don’t change it!

27. It is a confirmed fact that this list is the best list of its kind. There is no better list so you can stop looking now. Really, I mean it, this is the best list and not fake in anyway.

Onward!

 

 

 

Talking to Strangers

As children we were all told by our parents or guardians “don’t talk to strangers.” This warning was practical advice for children, because there is danger out there for all of us and a particular evil that preys on the young. However, this warning – right or wrong – also goes against our natural human curiosity and trains us to become more guarded in the information we share. Again, this may all be well and good, but as adults I think that we need to be re-trained to do the opposite. To reach out and on occasion at least, talk to strangers.

I consider myself an introvert. Those who know me may find it hard to believe, and probably think I never shut up, but I find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people I know well and nearly terrifying to speak to someone I haven’t met. If they approach me I don’t have much of a problem (though I’ve been told I can come off as cold and aloof). But to start the conversation…well, let’s say that there are many a times when I pull the tactic of just hanging back and waiting for someone else to notice me in both social and professional situations. Like most wallflowers, taking the risk of making a new connection is a learned and forced behavior.

However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I need to talk more to strangers. We live in an ever increasingly complex world and to navigate this world we need to be able to draw upon a wider range of knowledge and experiences both professionally and personally. Google is great, but it doesn’t replace the first hand experiences of someone who has lived through something.

So, I’ve started ignoring my mother’s advice and am trying to talk to at least one “stranger” each day. This may be as simple as a quick “hello” to someone in passing and with the holidays on us I can certainly greet more folks with best wishes for the season. Sometimes, it’s more involved, like noticing an interesting article of clothing or someone doing an activity and making a comment on it and striking up a conversation. Sometimes the conversation is brief and you never see that person again. However, sometimes you “hit it off” and find yourself with a new friend. More often than not, I’ve discovered that the results are somewhere in between.

For example, recently while traveling I noticed a young man at the airport with an athletic bag and a college sports team. I approached him and asked if he played for that team and this began a conversation as we walked through the airport and I learned about his business, which happened to be in a field I’m interested in but outside of my usual work. We exchanged names and a quick Google search later (surprisingly easy to do and not at all stalker-like…) and an invite on LinkedIn and I have a new connection. Will be lifelong friends and best buddies hanging out at the mall after work? Not likely, but I have no doubt we’ll stay in touch and who knows? The old me would have just walked on without taking the chance. But because I reached out, maybe we’ll one day share information that will benefit one or both of us in some way.

And speaking of Google and LinkedIn, what a marvelous world we live in with the advantage of social media. I know that social media has taken a beating in the news and among some circles as an outlet for bullying, pornography, etc. However, used properly it’s power for sharing and making connections cannot be denied and for those of us who are inherently shy it is a “safe” way of making and maintaining contacts we would otherwise never have.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no – I repeat, no – substitute for good old fashioned face to face human contact. We need to meet other people, be friends with other people, love other people, to thrive as humans. Even our rivals and enemies have the potential to make us better. But for those who find it difficult to talk in person and/or are shut in, social media provides at least the semblance of human interaction. Thanks to social media I now have friends, followers, connections, etc. with people I never otherwise would have any contact with. I communicate regularly with people throughout the USA, Canada and much of Europe. Our bond may be as simple as we all have the same disease (Crohn’s), are interested in the same things, or maybe met once in an airport, hotel, amusement park, or hiking in the woods (all places I’ve met people who are now friends).

My point is that, as we say in NACAS, make “connections that count.” Why don’t you go out and make a couple new ones today.

Onward!

 

 

 

Charleston

I’m going depart from my usual type of blog post to comment on a recent tragic event. The murder of nine good people in Charleston. It really is not my intent to anger or upset anyone with this post, thought I may, but to provide some food for thought. I’m sure someone will point out any faults in my logic, and that’s fine so long as it’s pointed out with civility.

So, here we go:

No doubt this horrible event will evoke the following all too predictable reactions among the media and political pundits in this nation:

1. Race relations are horrible in this country. Why do whites hate everyone else?
2. Why is the act of one lone gunman an indictment of all white people in this country?
3. Are you sure the shooter wasn’t a Muslim?
4. Gun control would have prevented this (he got the weapon to easily).
5. Less gun control would have prevented this (if only those poor people had been properly armed themselves).

In fact, I’ve seen all these comments already in the short period since this event occurred and President Obama is already leading the charge to greater gun control and saying that these events do not happen as often in other “advanced” countries because they have greater gun control.

Now, I am not an advocate for gun control as a rule. Even though I can’t understand why any private citizen needs a military grade weapon. I mean really folks, despite what television and movies might lead you to believe there isn’t and never will be a zombie apocalypse and if we are invaded by foreign troops (or even our own) these weapons won’t help much against drones armed with missiles, tanks, grenades, etc. They are only good for taking out most of your neighbors (who may be as well armed as you) and I would hope that in the case of a complete breakdown of society that maybe we all might get along a little better instead of wiping each other out (yes, I know, I’m an optimist who believes in basic goodness in everyone – so sue me).

So, I am going to abandon my liberal roots here and suggest something else. Frankly, something more destructive and harmful to our society than any number of gun laws.

The shooter was said to have made some comments before opening fire along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing) “you raped OUR women and took over OUR country.” Now this statement, if true, tells me a a few things:

  1. The shooter has a poor understanding of American history and doesn’t realize that the same thing could be said by any Native American to him.
  2. The shooter has no concept of the distribution of wealth and power in this country.
  3. The shooter seems to believe that women only have sex with men when violently forced into it.
  4. He felt powerless and a victim. Another sad indictment of the culture of “victimization” rampant in our society. Especially since the alleged shooter is a white male. Arguably the least victimized ethnic group in history.

Now, what also occurs to me is that of the items above two of them (1 and 2) indicate a poor education in both history and economics. The third item reflects poorly on his upbringing, social skills and possibly love life and I won’t comment further on this. The fourth is a bigger issue than I can even think about now. I don’t know why everyone seems to feel that they have been wronged and don’t understand that sometimes life just plain sucks. Maybe I can address this in a later blog.

But I will speak more to numbers 1 and 2.

What also occurs to me is that on the whole other “advanced” countries not only have greater gun control but that they also tend to invest more heavily in education and health care than the USA on a per capita basis. Why? Because in our ongoing effort to pay as few taxes – if any at all – as possible we continue to demand that cuts be made and those cuts usually come from education at all levels. On top of this much of the mainstream media, which despite claims to the contrary, includes FOX, Limbaugh, and other right wingers, suggest on a daily basis that science and history cannot be trusted (global warming, etc).

I recently saw some statistics which said that this next generation (generation “Z” – which does not stand for “zombie”) will be the most educated in history. I disagree. I think you can say that they will have the most degrees in history. But, I don’t think that they will learn as much. Regardless of the number of “advanced” college level courses we insist our children take in high school (and coming soon, junior high in Ohio). We continue to cheapen and dilute it with every election and every vote. Make college affordable again and you remove the main reason for pushing kids into the AP classes – cost. In my opinion, we as a whole would be better off allowing our students to progress through K-12 at the same speed to give them all a chance to absorb the information before being rushed into an advanced courses.  Let the brighter students mix and mingle with the others to discuss current events and other thoughts with their age appropriate peers. And most importantly, stop having the colleges and universities do the job of the high schools!

Likewise, we continue to push education as a means only to get a job. This has resulted in a devaluation of society of the basic liberal arts education which, in my opinion, is the most valuable (full disclosure, I have two degrees in English). Why? Because a liberal arts degree doesn’t teach you how to “do” something it teaches you how to think about something. How to appreciate art, literature, science, history. The very things which separate us from the animals. Things much more important than any job (yes, I realize that you can’t eat a poem – but I’m trying to make a point here). You learn how to think for yourself and to not blindly accept whatever some “talking head” or, as probably was the case here, some idiot online tells you.

So, what I am suggesting is that we as a nation must look beyond gun control and race relations for solutions to these shootings. We need to leave education to the educators and to properly fund and support them at all levels instead of wasting time breaking those “evil” teacher unions and removing tenure – both put in place to keep educators from being fired on a whim and allow for the free exchange of ideas – and start thinking about our children.

Gun control might not have prevented this latest act of evil but proper education might have.

Just my two cents.

NEXT UP: Civil discourse – How to Express Yourself Without Resorting to Cussing.