Tag Archives: exercise

Veterans Memorial: A Long Run for a Good Cause (and would you help?)

IT ALL HAPPENS THIS WEEKEND.

My big race for 2018, the Veterans Memorial, is just a few days away. Starting Saturday in Ludington, it ends Monday in Bay City, a 150-mile route from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. My fellow uber-nuts ultrarunners and I have 52 hours to complete it.

This is my first event of more than 100 miles. I have no idea how the final 50 will go, but you can bet I’m going to give it my best. I’ll have a great crew and pacers to support me, and I’ve trained for it all winter and spring, which included two 50-milers and a “trail marathon and a half” weekend. I’m as ready as I know how to be!

If you’d like to follow my progress, I’ve been told that runner updates will be posted on the Veterans Memorial 150 – VM150 Facebook page. Or, if I feel up to it, I will (oh, God) tweet updates. See handle @RunBikeThrow.

But this post isn’t just about me and my crazy running goals. I want to tell you about the fantastic nonprofit the race is fundraising for, and hopefully persuade you to help them out.

In addition to a real test of physical and mental endurance, the VM150 is raising money for Victory Gym, a veteran-owned nonprofit geared to serving military personnel and first responders. Veteran Mike Emory founded Victory Gym to provide a healthy outlet for those suffering the effects of PTSD, after he discovered how exercise helped him. Before I ran the race I wanted to see the place for myself, so today I went there.

I walked in and explained I was running this weekend, and was quickly introduced to Mike Troutt, their Chief Operations Officer. He will be part of the aid station support team for the race. “Just look for the RV or a big black Harley,” he told me.

Mike’s shirt says, “When life knocks you down, calmly get up, smile, and say, ‘You hit like a bitch.'” I’d say that motto fits him well.

Mike is a 17-year Army veteran, who also spent several years as a smoke jumper, and as part of the disaster response NGO Team Rubicon. Now retired, he spends 80 to 100 hours per week working at Victory Gym. His dedication to helping others, and his passion for the gym and its mission, was evident from the moment I met him.

Victory Gym offers a lot of benefits to veterans and first responders; free membership, a place to hang out with fellow vets, and regular support group meetings for those dealing with the effects of PTSD. Mike admitted to struggling with PTSD himself, and choked up a bit when describing how the gym has helped him and others.

The lounge provides a place for vets to hang out and share stories. On the back wall is a memorial to deceased veterans.

The gym is open every day starting at 7 a.m. While its focus is on veterans and first responders, membership is open to anyone, and Mike said about 40 percent of their members are civilians, who pay $15.00 per month. They also let local youth exercise there in exchange for chores, such as mowing the grass.

But the gym itself is just part of what they do. Part of their building is going to be a wood shop for people who like to work with their hands but aren’t big fans of working out. And they hold regular PTSD support group meetings.

With so little revenue from membership fees, Victory Gym relies heavily on donations of money and equipment. If you’re sufficiently moved by this post to help out, please go to the race website, www.vm150.com, and select the “Gear & Donate” link. You can buy shirts, donate directly, or “buy miles” for a runner. My name (Jeff Jackson) is on the lower pulldown list. All proceeds will go directly to the gym.

Well, I guess all that’s left to say is to wish me luck. But I’m looking forward to this weekend. Should be quite the adventure! If I survive it, I promise you’ll hear all about it in this space.

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Lifestyle Makeover, Part 1: Pillow Talk

Note to readers: My wife is at home for several weeks following major abdominal surgery. The good news is she’s expected to make a full recovery. And we’re using this time to make some overdue upgrades to our house and our lifestyles. In this and upcoming posts I’ll share these changes with you.

One thing my wife and I have had in common the last couple of years: several times a week we get into bed together and moan.

OMG, I thought parents didn’t do that stuff.

No, it has nothing to do with that. This mutual moaning is generally followed by the question, “What did Skip do to you today?”

For we well know what resulted in our conditions, namely our visits to this place:

Photo from Body Specs Facebook page, Halloween workout 2017

This is Body Specs (a.k.a. Tower of London, Ann Arbor wing) where we surrender ourselves to head trainer Skip Bunton and his able crew of assistant tormentors. While the workouts differ in focus and intensity, they get those muscles working, dammit. And so, when in the evening one or both of us takes a little longer to stand up, or just crashes on the bed with a groan, we get it.

At this point you’d be forgiven for asking why we do this sort of thing not only voluntarily, but pay for it as well.

Professional amateur runner. Closed session. Do not attempt.

You see, around age 50 the body begins deciding that if you’re not actively using a muscle, you don’t really need it. As for some bizarre reason I enjoy running and cycling long distances, I need my muscles, thank you very much. But running alone doesn’t do the job; my lower body needs some amount of training under load, and my upper body and core need to stay strong and toned. In other posts I’ve shared photos of some particularly moan-inducing maneuvers. Here’s one of my favorites.

Extension pushups, anyone?

My wife doesn’t share my obsession with running (yet), but she works at a desk all day and has a long commute. She’d been wanting to get into better shape, but wasn’t sure that she could handle the kinds of workouts I’m subjected to.

Finally I persuaded her to talk with Skip, who assured her she’d receive training appropriate to her fitness level and personal goals. While she now shares the post-workout experience with me, she’s glad she signed up. Regularly scheduled workouts with a trainer are her guarantee that she will exercise.

And her training has had an additional unanticipated benefit; when we found out she needed surgery, she worked hard to be in the best possible shape for it. She’s convinced that it’s contributed to her steady, uncomplicated recovery.

Her surgery has put her training on hold for several weeks, but she’s walking every day as recommended to improve blood flow and speed recovery. And she’s looking forward to resuming regular sessions. For we’re making plans to do more activities together, and those will require both of us to be in good shape.

Up next: Changing what fuels us.

Guest Post: Running, My Life Saver

Today’s guest post is from Myla Miller, one of my readers, who wanted to let us know how life-transforming running has become for her. It’s the kind of story I’m hearing and reading about more and more. Could anyone do what she did? Myla thinks so! Here’s her story.

Running is not only a great form of exercise, an excellent weight loss solution, and an activity extremely beneficial to overall health, but to me is also a life saver.

Throughout childhood I was always very active, playing sports and participating in almost every extra curricula that a young girl could, playing outside on every single one of those warm summer days. (Yes, us folks used to go outside and play when we were young – hard to believe these days, thanks to Playstation, Xbox, and Facebook).

Fast forward to my late teens through twenties, and I became less and less active for various reasons such as school, boyfriends, and a few other reasons that, to be honest, were just poor excuses.  The food I ate on a consistent basis was of poor nutrition, my quality of sleep was horrible, and the care I really gave about myself as a whole declined day after day.  During this time, I gained quite a bit of weight and became very unhappy, to put it mildly, with myself and my body.

So a once very active and happy young girl turned depressed, unhappy, and I guess you could say lazy. Lack of self confidence, and shame, were everyday problems.  To this day when I think back to those darker times, I get an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and a sense of, ‘what the hell was I doing to myself?’

At the end of my rope, I sought out help to get my out-of-control self back on the paved road.  It took months to woman up and take this step, but it was the best decision I have ever made.  After a short period of time, I began to bounce back and get those oh-so-great feelings I once had as a little kid.  My depression began to lift, my self-confidence began to grow, and I was starting to feel much, much better.

This enabled me to start putting my life back together and in that plan was exercising and healthy eating.  Healthy body and healthy mind means healthy overall being, and that is what my number one focus was.

Then I sat down and put an exercise plan together.  It was wintertime, so I would start out by simply walking and going to the gym.  My plan consisted of walking a mile on the treadmill for the first month and going to the gym for weight training 3 days a week (those leg days were killer in the beginning).

After the first month I extended my time on the treadmill to 2 miles and then 3, and after that I got the urge to pick the pace up.  After about 2 months it was starting to get nice outside and the flowers were popping up, so it was time to take my activities outside.

Being a long distance runner in my early years of high school, once I got back into the swing of things, walking just was not cutting it anymore.  The urge to step up the pace grew more and more as did the feeling that I could get much more out of my body.

And I discovered my true love, running.

I started with one mile the first week and then 2 miles a day for the next 3 weeks.  After that I stopped keeping track; I would just throw the ear buds in, hit play on the iPod, and run as far as my little heart desired. This, coupled with a great diet, allowed me to shed 25 pounds in the first 4 months of my new life, and my confidence began to soar like an eagle high in the sky.

(Jeff here) My mom once said runners never smile. I just had to prove her wrong!

(Jeff here) My mom once said runners never smile. I just had to prove her wrong!

And during those summer months I was able to get a few of my friends out of the house and turn them into runners like I was becoming.  This was actually a pretty big goal of mine, which was to not only look out for their health, but to get us all like-minded so we could motivate and be there for each other.

It worked out perfectly, to the point where we all grocery shopped together and shared some great healthy recipes with each other.  We all were feeling amazing and our bond really grew a lot that summer.  It really is true that if you surround yourself with great people, you will become great, and that summer we all found this out firsthand.

To this day we still go on our daily runs, share recipes, take turns cooking dinner for each other’s families, and grow each and every day.

I got back to my old self 100% and then some.  I was and still am the happiest I have been in my entire life and I have running to thank for that.  It not only has helped me lose weight, but it has made me feel great overall, grown many friendships, mentally repaired me, and allowed me to get back to that young girl.

Very few things can match the thrill of finishing a goal race!

Very few things can match the thrill of finishing a goal race!

I wrote this to show you how powerful exercising and a healthy lifestyle truly can be.  A diet change and running has brought me out of the depths of depression and has put me on top of the world.  I know that this same exact thing can happen for anyone who is willing and committed.  And it does not have to be running – it can be walking, weightlifting, inter-mural sports, swimming, anything that you personally can do and enjoy doing.  It will be hard to get started, but once that ball gets rolling, you will find yourself disappointed if you miss a day, or are too busy to do your daily activity.  It becomes an obsession. It is funny how it goes from dreadful to desirable!

Don’t be afraid, stop putting it off, there is no better day than today to get started with your routine.  So sit down, come up with a plan, start slow and build up, and before you know it you will be a machine.

Good luck and I’m rootin’ for ya!

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About the author:

Myla is an avid runner who enjoys all things healthy.  Her true love for running started at the age of 23 and has not slowed down since.  Myla runs a website where she reviews running shoes, and shares her favorite pairs.  As you can probably imagine, she has been through a lot of running shoes.  To check out her site go to womensrunningshoereview.com.

Breaking News: Exercise Good, Scams Bad

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS HERE with a couple pieces of information that will be news to you, if you don’t know about them already.

Captain Obvious

1.  The following news is from the New York Times (which is a New York City newspaper):

Study: Exercise in middle age is important to health

Yes, a landmark, ground-breaking study found that men aged between 65 and 83 who exercised several times per week were healthier and less likely to die over the 11 years of the study than men who were sedentary. And there’s more: previous studies have found that not smoking is healthier, as is being moderate with alcohol, and that wealthier people have fewer health problems.

These studies took years to complete and no doubt thousands, if not millions, of dollars to implement. Of course, they could have just asked some middle-aged people why they exercise regularly.

Really, Ms. Times reporter, this is more fun than sitting on my butt eating ice cream.

Really, Ms. Times reporter, this is more fun than sitting on my butt eating ice cream.

Now to give the Times a little credit for running this piece, the study also looked at sedentary people who started exercise in middle age. These people aged nearly as successfully as those who were active their entire lives. All exercisers lived longer and better than those who remained sedentary.

So while exercise throughout one’s lifetime is best, it’s never too late to start and gain the benefits. This is great news. So why are you still reading? Get up and DO something, slouches! Come back in 30 minutes. I’ll wait.

2. There are people online who would love to steal your money during the holidays.

I got a nice message at work today from our helpful SysAdmin, warning us about the proliferation of emails pretending to be invoices, “order confirmations” or offers of free gift certificates. All you have to do is “click here” for details. And if you do, you’re in for a nasty surprise. You, too, can have your identity stolen and your laptop hijacked to join the botnet!

Since I love collecting scam emails (you wouldn’t believe how many lotteries I’ve won that I never entered) I was already aware of the practice. But I just had to share this one.

Home Depot scam email

Looks fairly convincing at first sight, right? Naturally, there are a few clues – like it doesn’t know my name, and the bad grammar. But here’s the kicker:

Home Depot scam email - Sing UpWell, it IS caroling season!

Gotta go. I’m going to do a study to find out if people who stand in the rain get wetter than those who stay indoors. And for a few extra thousand, I’ll also study whether you get wetter walking in the rain, or running in it. Where do I send the proposal?