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The Dynamic Life has Relocated

 

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Don’t miss this train!  I’ve graduated to my very own domain and a new design for the blog.  I’m still working on the design and some of the features, but it’s never going to be perfect, so I figured I’d make the move now and adjust on the fly.

I appreciate all of my readers and look forward to interacting and learning from one another at TheDynamicLife.com.  To start things off with some great momentum, my first post on the new domain is my humble review of blogger and globetrotter Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity:  Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World.

(I’m not positive whether email subscriptions are transferable.  It will be a trial and error type thing, so please let me know how it works for you and if you have any problems.)

Click HERE to go to the new Dynamic Life.

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What it takes to Run a 26.2 Mile Training Run…By Yourself

As some of you know, I’m in the thick of training for my marathon debut at the Philadelphia Marathon on November 21.  But being the competitive athlete that I am, I’m not training just to finish.  I’m training to finish in under 3 hours.  I’ll be the first to admit, it’s quite an aggressive goal for a marathoner, let along a rookie such as myself.  We’re talking a 6:51 pace for 26 miles, 385 yards.  But thanks to my intense training plan from Cool Running, I am right on track.  Over the past 5 weeks, I’ve averaged just under 50 miles per week.  Yesterday’s training run was supposed to be 24 miles.  I was up for it, but I figured if I’m going to go through the trouble of running 24, why not run the extra 2.2 to reach the full marathon distance?  What’s another 18 minutes after I’ve been running for over 3 hours?

Answer:  as long as I was feeling strong, I told myself, I would go for the marathon training run.  Aside from logging the extra mileage, running the full marathon distance during training would give me the confidence come race day.  Having the distance under my belt would eliminate pre-race jitters, nervousness, doubt, and all of the other feelings that first-timers generally feel.

Well, needless to say, I felt great yesterday.  The weather was a perfect 65 degrees and breezy at the Jersey Shore.  I maintained my steady training pace, although several times I had to tell myself, out loud, to slow down, and I completed my personal marathon in a little under 3 1/2 hours.  I felt great during the run, after the run, and I feel pretty well today.  So how is a regular runner like me able to go out for a 26.2 mile jog by himself and feel fine?

That’s a great question. To answer it, I’ll give you some of the tips that have worked for me during my training this summer and fall.  Every runner is different; these are just the things that worked for me and that I believe can work for anyone as long as you listen to your body. Here we go…

Find a Good Program and Stick to It – If you’re training for an event or just serious about running regularly, it’s best to have a plan of action.  There are a ton of samples online at sites like Runner’s World and Cool Running.  Or just Google “Training Plan” and you’ll find a sea of good information.  Once you get your plan, print it out and put it in a place where you can access it daily.  Or, if you’re so technologically inclined, download it onto your smart phone and sync it to your calendar.  The point is that you want this plan to stare you in the face at least once per day.  Now, I know that we all have crazy schedules and the truth is that Life Happens.  We have to be flexible with our plans and tailor them to fit our individual lives.  Whatever your personal plan is, Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan!

Build Up to Marathon Distance – It’s not very smart to wake up one day and decide to go for a 26.2 mile jog.  It’s entirely possible, but you’ll probably do damage to your body and you won’t be able to run again for several weeks.  Follow your training plan and be sure you are ready to go the distance.

Rest – During the week leading up to your 26.2 mile jog, be sure to get as much rest as you can.  Eight hours of sleep per night is ideal.  The reason – you want to make sure your muscles are completely repaired from all of your training before you put additional stress on them.  You want them to be as fresh and rested as possible.  Also, the day before your run, try to stay off your feet as much as possible.  Baby your legs so they can get as much rest as they can.

Hydrate – If you’re a runner, you should always drink a lot of water.  I drink between a gallon and 150 ounces of water per day.  Yes, I know that’s a lot more than necessary, but it’s what works for me and makes me feel well.  Make sure your pee is always clear.  Dark yellow pee is a sign of dehydration.  The day before your long run, drink as much water as humanly possible.  Friday, the day prior to my run, I drank nearly 200 ounces of water.  If you’re drinking this much, make sure you’re also eating, else you could fall victim to hyponutremia, which is not good.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, drink water.  And then, as soon as you wake up, drink as much water as you can prior to your run.  Tip:  I usually run as soon as I wake up in the morning.  however, for long runs like this, I like to wait about 3 hours.  This gives me time to hydrate, eat, and digest before hitting the pavement.

Eat – Again, if you’re a runner, you should know your body’s food needs.  Follow your regular eating habits during the week.  Then, the day prior to your run, fuel up as much as you feel comfortable with.  I’m NOT a believer in the gigantic pasta dinner a night before a run or event.  Sure, you can eat 2 pounds of pasta in one sitting, but your body just can’t process all  of that food at once, so the extra food is extraneous.  Rather than the big pasta dinner, I fuel up all day the day before a run.  I’ll eat a little more at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while making sure I have larger healthy snacks in between those meals.  I will eat more carbs during the entire day.  For instance, in addition to my usual lunch of a garden salad with grilled chicken, I’ll add a serving of whole wheat penne or linguine.  Then, for an afternoon snack, I will have another serving of this whole wheat pasta with some steamed broccoli.  The downside is that I feel bloated, but the upside is that I know I will be properly fueled for my long run tomorrow.  I burn about 120 calories per mile run, so during a 26.2 mile run, I’m burning well over 3,000 calories in 3.5 hours.  Simply put:  my body needs a large store of calories to draw from during this time.

Wear Comfortable Clothes – I don’t spend more money than I should on running gear because it looks cool (which it does).  I spend it because it’s functional and comfortable.  You’ll learn from running long distances that the tiniest of discomforts can ruin your day.  You have to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible for the long haul.  As an example, my outfit of choice yesterday was very typical of my summer running gear:  Under Armour Cap, Sunglasses, iPod, Nike Dri Fit tank, Nike Dri Fit running shorts, Under Armour wicking socks, and my new Asics Gel Cumulus running sneaks.  Note, I don’t make any money off of these or any other links in this post; I just like to share what works for me.  If you’re a runner, you’ve heard the adage, “Nothing New on Race Day.”  It’s true.  I’ll never wear a new piece of clothing, especially sneakers, for a long run or a race.  Make sure you road test everything on a shorter run before you go long.

Bring Fuel – If you don’ t pay attention to anything else in this post, heed this advice.  You cannot run 26.2 miles without fuel!  Despite your efforts to eat and drink as much as possible in the 24 hours leading up to your run, you need more.  You don’t need to go crazy and have a pizza delivered to you while you’re running like ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes did, but you do need to fuel your muscles intermittently.  During my run yesterday, I sucked down 3 of the 4 GU Energy Gels that I had.  Plus, I stopped 4 times for water.  A note about water:  It depends on the course, but sometimes I will stash water around the course and sometimes I will just bring money with me to buy water along the way.  Yesterday was a long out-and-back run so I just tucked a $20 bill in the pocket of my running shorts and bought water along the boardwalk on the way.  This only involves a 1 minute stop and let’s you get water without carrying one of those clunky race belts.  The rule of thumb is to fuel up with a GU (or similar) and water every 45 minutes on a long run.  Stick to this schedule whether you feel you need it or not.  When you begin to feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  You have to stay ahead of the curve with fuel and hydration.

Relax and Run a Steady Pace – I’m a pretty fast runner so I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to break any records on my long runs.  I like to shoot for an 8:00 pace and sustain it for the entire run.  My final average pace yesterday was 7:55, which I was happy with.  It’s tempting to run faster when you’re feeling a burst of energy or an awesome song comes on your iPod, but you have to maintain discipline.  Sure, 7:55 is over a minute slower than my goal marathon pace, but I know that my weekly long runs combined with my mid-week speed workouts will get me to my goal, no problem.

Listen to Your Body – This is huge and not something I’m always great at following, much to my wife’s chagrin.  At this point, I’ve been training for this marathon for a couple months.  I feel absolutely fantastic.  I’m very thankful that I feel as well as I do.  It’s so easy to get injured when you’re running 50 miles a week.  You have to do a lot of things right – rest, eat, sleep, hydrate, stretch.  I also know that I’m one stupid run (running harder or longer than I should) away from not feeling so well.  The minute I feel like I’m injured or not feeling well, I will slow down.  Your body doesn’t lie to you – it will tell you when it needs a rest.  And when it does, you have to listen to it.  Don’t be short-sighted.  If you’re hurting during a run, stop.  Live to fight another day.

Recover – You’ve just run 26.2 miles.  You need to rest and recover.  What’s this mean?  Pretty much the same as your pre-run routine.  Eat, drink, rest, stretch.  You’ll be thirsty for the rest of the day.  Drink a ton of water.  I’m not a fan of Gatorade, as I outlined here.  I prefer good old-fashioned water.  Eat a bunch of carbs and some protein immediately after.  That night, treat yourself to a hearty dinner; you’re still recovering.  Continue to drink water.  Stay off your feet.  Go to bed at a reasonable hour.  Get some sleep.  The next day, you’ll be sore (I was this morning).  Continue to drink water.  Go stretch or ride the stationary bike or go for a light jog to get your muscles moving and your blood flowing.  Contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what you will want to do, sitting around on the couch all day won’t help you.  You need active recovery.  Stimulate your muscles a little bit, but don’t stress them.  Right after I finish writing this awesome post, I’m hitting the boardwalk for a 3-4 mile recovery jog.  It may not be easy, but it’s good for me.  You know that John Mellancamp song, “Hurts so Good”?  That’ll be the theme song for my run today.  It may hurt, but it’s for my own good.

So there you have it – some of my tips for running a marathon by yourself.  Granted, most people don’t run marathons by themselves for fun.  I realize that.  The good news is that you can apply the tips in this post to any distance.  You won’t need to eat as much the day leading up to your run, but everything else is applicable.  The bottom line is to know yourself and know your body.  Everyone is different.  I consider myself fortunate enough to have (somewhat) figured out my body and what I require to perform at my highest level.  Be patient with yourself, it will come to you.

Although this is a very wordy post, it’s in some ways just a brief overview of what it takes to run the marathon distance.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at josephwhughes at gmail dot com.

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Don’t Be Fooled: Gatorade is Garbage

So what’s the real truth about Gatorade?  It’s all over the place.  We’re supposed to drink it during our workouts, our runs, and even for hangovers.  The world’s top athletes are endorsing it and even Tiger Woods has his very own line of Gatorade (okay, that doesn’t mean much anymore).  It’s an amazing concoction of electrolytes that provides hydration and increased performance for all of our athletic pursuits.  It makes us run faster, longer, jump higher, lift more weights, and recovery more quickly.
Or does it?

Is Gatorade really healthy for us?  Is it the true miracle drink that it’s marketed as?  Will it really make us perform better and longer than our non-Gatorade drinking competition?

Instead of giving you the answer, I’ll just present my case and you can decide.

Gatorade was invented at the sports laboratories at the University of Florida in 1965 and tested on the football team, the Florida Gators (hence the name Gatorade).  The original concoction consisted of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate, and lemon juice.  The football coach and his players hailed Gatorade as a savior to their hydration problems during hot summer workouts and the long, intense football season.

The Florida Gators went on to win the Orange Bowl in 1967 and gave credit to Gatorade as one of the reasons they won.  Thus began the national phenomenon and craze.  “I definitely don’t want to compete without Gatorade.  My competitor may be drinking it and I’ll be at a disadvantage” was the prevailing thought at the time.

I’m not a scientist, but I don’t doubt that this formula worked.  After all, Gatorade was made up of a couple of the most important electrolytes – sodium and potassium (others are calcium, magnesium, and chloride).  These help to replenish hydration levels after massive fluid loss during intense, prolonged exercise.

But, like everything else, someone along the way discovered that Gatorade could be produced less expensively by using artificial sweeteners and corn syrups.  Until this year, Gatorade’s top two ingredients were water and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the evil artificial sweetener that’s in everything these days from soda to bread.  In 2010, Gatorade changed its formula from HFCS to a sucrose-dextrose mix.  Same animal, different name.

So what exactly are we drinking when we pick up a bottle of the nectar?  Let’s look at Gatorade’s ingredients in comparison to the ingredients of Pepsi Cola.

Pepsi
Carbonated Water
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Caramel Color
Sugar
Phosphoric Acid
Caffeine
Citric Acid
Natural Flavors

Gatorade
Water
Sucrose Syrup
Glucose-Fructose Syrup
Citric Acid
Natural Flavors
Salt
Sodium Citrate
Monopotassium Phosphate

Turns out they’re strikingly similar, aren’t they?  True, Gatorade no longer has HFCS, but what do you think those other syrups are?  Yep, you guessed it.  They’re just manufactured corn syrups with different names, all made in the same factories with the same cheap corn used in HFCS.  And after reading the ingredient lists, does this still sound like something you want to suck down during a 10-mile run or an intense gym session?  Gatorade and soda aren’t too dissimilar when you really look at it.  Pump some carbonation into your bottle of Gatorade and it’s soda, isn’t it?

So why the hype?  Why does everyone think Gatorade is still the go-to beverage for increased athletic performance and hydration?

For the same reason we believe nearly everything else.  Marketing.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but Gatorade is manufactured by Quaker Oats, which is a division of Pepsi Co, who, along with Coca Cola, is one of the most successful marketing juggernauts of the past half century.  Their marketing campaign for Gatorade is genius.  It should be studied in every university marketing class across the country.  It’s strong, it’s omnipresent, it’s compelling, motivating – everything you want in a marketing message.

The new 2010 campaign, G-Series, outlines a 3-part strategy for performance.  Now, according to the marketing message, you’re supposed to drink Gatorade Prime before your workout, Gatorade Perform during your workout, and Gatorade Recover after your workout.  Are you kidding me?  It’s the same junk, just packaged and marketed differently?  You’re drinking non-carbonated soda.

So what’s this all mean?  I’m not telling you that you should never drink Gatorade, but next time you want to prepare yourself for a hard run or workout, think twice about what you’re putting into your body.  It’s nothing but non-carbonated soda with an impressive and frighteningly effective marketing campaign.

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Don’t Be an Obesity Statistic – Change Your Life Now

Alyssa sent me this Wall Street Journal article this morning, which lays out some eye-popping stats on obesity rates in America.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the obesity problem among Americans has become one of the worst problems we face today.

Quite simply, Americans are way too fat, way too sedentary, and way too ignorant about what it takes to live a healthy life.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found, through a 2009 survey, that 26.7% of Americans are obese.  This percentage is up from 25.6% in 2007 and 19.8% in 2000!  Given that modern humans have roamed the Earth for about 200,000 years, you would expect any human growth trend to be very gradual.  Yet, the obesity rate has increased 35% in under a decade.  Excuse the annoying buzzword, but that is unsustainable.

If we keep up this trend, we’re going to eat ourselves into extinction.  It’s a HUGE problem that people don’t give enough attention to.

The article goes on to explain that these results are based on adults who self-reported their body measurements.  The CDS’s January 2010 report, which was based on actual measurements, found the obesity rate to be 33.8% (however, the sample size was considerably smaller; only 5,500 people were measured vs. 400,000 responses for the new study).

How is obesity calculated?  The standard is the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale.  You can find a good one HERE. The critical flaw of the BMI is that it doesn’t take into account muscle mass; the two input variables are simply height and weight.  Thus, at 6’0” and 185 lbs., I’m considered overweight.  If you know me personally, you know that I’m anything but overweight.  At 8% body fat, I have a decent amount of lean muscle mass, which weighs more than fat, which puts me into the “Overweight” category.

However, despite the BMI’s chief flaw, the scale has been used for decades, so we can compare apples to apples when looking at obesity rates over time.  Sure, the number (1 in 3) is staggering.  But just as bad is the rate of increase in obese Americans.  There’s no end in sight.  We’re getting fatter every single year, yet knowledge and information has never been so freely available to us.  So what gives?

It all boils down to education.  We are responsible for educating ourselves about our bodies and how best to treat our bodies.  Why is it that we are so knowledgeable about how to feed and take care of our dogs or race horses, but we haven’t a clue how to take care of our own bodies?  We change the oil and tune up our cars like clockwork, but we don’t visit a doctor regularly for a check up.  Why?

We need to get to know our bodies better.  We need to think more about what we put into them, how we treat them, whether we sleep enough, exercise enough, what’s good and what’s bad for our bodies.  Like anything else, this takes effort.  We have be proactive about the way we treat our bodies, not reactive to mass consumer marketing campaigns that tell us what to eat.  We have to take control, take responsibility.  We need a hunger – not for Big Macs, but for knowledge about our own bodies.

It’s time to wake up, to stop making excuses.  Stop sitting around.  Get out there an exercise.  Go read a health magazine.  Join a gym.  Lace up those dusty sneakers.  Just do something.  Be the other 2 people, not the 1 in 3.  Please.  Your life depends on it.

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Treat Yourself Like a Prized Racehorse

(Bing Images)

If you bought a $1,000,000  race horse, would you feed it soda and chips?

Would you buy it a 500-calorie mocha latte and a buttered croissant for breakfast?

Would you let it party on the weekends and gulp down dozens of beers and other alcoholic beverages?  Then devour a greasy pizza when it got home?

Would you take it to a restaurant and let it eat as much as it wanted until it felt sick?

Would you let it sit around all day without exercising?

Would you let it get only 5 hours of sleep for consecutive nights?

Would you work it so hard that it never had time to rest and recover?

Would you let it worry and stress out about what all the other horses are doing and saying?

No?  Then why do you do these things to yourself?

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Can You Be One-Dimensionally Excellent?

My high school basketball coach was an excellent coach and I learned a lot from him.  He was always good at explaining how basketball skills translated into life skills and vice versa.  One of the things that he always stressed is that you can’t cut corners in the game of basketball and not cut corners in the rest of your life.  Conversely, you can’t be a person who cuts corners in school or everyday life and not cut corners in the gymnasium.

The short version of what he is saying is that if you’re the type of person who cheats, cuts corners, lies, and otherwise not an upright citizen, you will never be a great athlete.  Great athletes are those who are great, or at least strive for greatness, in all other aspects of their lives.

So the question here is, can a person be morally upright in one area of his life and less than virtuous in other aspects?  Can a dishonest family man be successful in business?  Can a cheating spouse be a good teammate?  Can a swindling businessman be a good church parishioner?

My answer is an emphatic NO.  A person who is excellent strives for excellence in all aspects of her life.  An excellent person is someone who does the right thing at the office even when no one is looking or no one will find out.  It’s this same person who runs the extra mile in the wee hours of the morning because he wants to improve his 5K time.  This same person will rearrange his work schedule to catch his son’s soccer game in the afternoon.  Get it?

When you apply this rationalization to the world of fitness, I don’t know how someone can be an excellent CEO or business owner if he or she doesn’t first take care of his or her body.  If you think about it, you don’t see too many ultra successful obese people in this world, do you?  It just doesn’t work that way.  You can’t be one-dimensionally excellent.

Do you disagree?

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Why I’ve Cancelled All My Magazine Subsciptions

I recently cancelled all of my print magazine subscriptions.  Done.  For good.  I’m going digital.

I’m going digital not because I want to save the world one tree at a time (although I do my best to limit paper in my life both for simplicity and environmental concerns), but because I’ve come to the conclusion that blogs are far more valuable to me than print mags.

There were a couple major catalysts for this sudden change of heart.  Primarily, I realized that print mags are nothing but massive billboards and advertisements.  Sure, there are some valuable tips in every mag I read, but they are sandwiched between so many ads that it becomes a difficult task of separating the wheat from the chaff.  Further, when there are valuable tips or anecdotes, I’ve come to realize that they are seldom unbiased.  I won’t call myself a cynic, but I do realize that the incentives of the writers and editors aren’t always aligned with my, the reader’s, incentives.  I’ll give you the three publications that led me to this switch.  I have no problem calling them out:

Men’s Health:  Up until last week, I was an email subscriber to two of their newsletters.  I had been deleting them without reading them for the past few months.  Why?  Instead of having links to articles in their email blasts, they began compiling lists.  For example, The 50 Best Men’s Health Sex Tips Ever, on their homepage right now.  Click on it and you have to click on each of the 50 tips one-by-one and wait for the page to reload each and every time.  The worst part is that they’ll throw in a Men’s Health pop-up every few tips, which is a huge annoyance.  Their goal is not to inform us, the readers, but rather to sell us all sorts of Men’s Health and ancillary products.  No thanks.  Sorry Men’s Health, I’m gone.  By the way, the print version is just as bad.

Travel & Leisure:  One of my life passions is travel.  Although I don’t get to travel as much as I would like, my dream list is a mile long and grows daily!  I used to love this magazine until I could no longer distinguish between real content and advertising content.  There would be a seemingly great feature on beautiful Caribbean beaches and I would begin reading it, until I saw the fine print on top, “Special Advertising Section.”  Why can’t I just enjoy a feature without being pitched?? This is hardly something new – travel writing is notorious for lack of objectivity.  This is well-documented in the controversial book Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?  A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism by Thomas Kohnstamm.  If that title doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!

ESPN and ESPN.com:  I’ve shied away from these two recently not because of excessive advertising (although ESPN / The Disney Family of Networks is a master at self-promotion).  ESPN.com has become a source of sensory overload for me personally.  Every time I click on a link or a story, a video and a bunch of ads pop up.  I don’t necessarily want to watch videos on my computer.  If I wanted to see highlights, I’d turn on my television.  I just want to scan the sports news so I can talk the talk at the water fountain, ya know?  My new primary source is The Bleacher Report.  Check it out (no affiliation or anything) for all the sports news with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor sprinkled in.

So when I combine all those reasons with the fact that blogs simply offer more valuable, up-to-date, unbiased information, it’s a no-brainer to ditch the paper and ink for the digi version.

Has anyone had the same experience with print publications?

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