Another Spring Morning in Minnesota

Another Spring Morning in Minnesota

Birds chirping, flowers blooming, kids playing outdoors. Not today! Instead I was greeted with a couple of inches of snow for my morning training walk. No problem: “The show must go on”, “No guts, no glory”, “No test, no testimony”, or something like that. Anyway, I have my thoughts and my tunes with me as I begin my trek from Life Time Crosstown to The Depot coffee house.

At 6:15 A.M. except for a squirrel or rabbit, the Bionic Man, a perpetual early riser, is your trail blazer to cut a path as I trudge through the virgin snow on the LRT path to Hopkins. Maybe this will be the day that I throw in the towel early and do the “smart” thing by calling my wife at The Depot to pick me up rather than brave the elements back. Nah – besides I don’t have my cell phone with me.

As I approach Excelsior Boulevard I can see that the Hopkins residents must have prayed that the spring snow would bypass them because I don’t see much snow on the other side of the path. Apparently, they didn’t pray hard enough though because I was greeted by a sheet of ice as I hit the Hopkins side of the trail. At least I had a chance to practice my balance and skating skills for the next ¾ mile until I reached The Depot.

Today I earned my midway cup of coffee and oatmeal cranberry chia cookie. The way back was much easier due to a slight tail wind and that a few other crazies had hit the trail after me making my footing and traction easier on the back nine.

As I drive home several hours later the sun has risen and most of the snow on the road has melted, and no one knows or cares that a bionic trail blazer cut a path in the snow on the LRT path to Hopkins that day. But 19,000 steps later, I feel great, and I am so glad that I didn’t have my cell phone with me.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning

Reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23)

To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1 NLT)

I went to graduate school in my 40’s, went back to school in my 60’s to learn about personal training, I read 24 books every year, and I follow dozens of blogs so I am a lifelong learner.  Case closed.  Right?  Well, that’s partially true.  However, there are other aspects of lifelong learning which are a bit harder to deal with for an old guy.

Like when your five-year-old granddaughter corrects you for getting impatient with your wife.  “Is that the fruit of the spirit grandpa?” Or how about when you start a new job in a new field and you make every mistake possible in front of your manager?  How do you handle this?  This is all part of being a lifelong learner.

According to the Regent Group, “Continual learning and increased knowledge will promote personal growth, allow you to connect with a broader range of people and keep your mind active, which can have many health benefits including reducing the chance of getting Alzheimer’s.”

This is good, so bring on the books, bring on the classes, bring on the blogs, and yes, bring on the correction too.

Paths to Greatness

Paths to Greatness

There are several paths to greatness in sports.


Ted Williams spent 19 years in the major leagues with a career batting average of .344 which is the sixth best of all time. He also hit for power collecting 521 home runs in his career. Williams was a natural hitter and he is regarded by many as the greatest hitter of all time.  After his playing career was over, Williams managed the Washington Senators for 637 games from 1969–1972, and his team lost more games than it won during his tenure.  He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his athletic performance.


Tommy Lasorda joined the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1949, Lasorda toiled in the minors for years before making his big-league debut in 1954. He spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, and following another stint with the Kansas City Athletics in 1956, he returned to the minors for good. As a pitcher, he compiled a major league career record of 0-4 with 6.48 ERA. He went on to manage the Dodgers for 20 years and won two World Series championships in (1981 and 1988), four National League pennants, and eight division titles. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his managerial performance.


I wasn’t very good at skilled sports – baseball, basketball or football.  I never tried hockey, but I still can’t ice skate, so I probably wouldn’t have been good at that. Golf is not my thing either.  Or bowling.  Or fishing.  Or hunting.  My best sport growing up was stickball which didn’t have much value outside of the streets of the Bronx.  I picked up distance running and group fitness in my mid-30’s and found my niche in these sports.


There is a National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, NY that honors those who have contributed to the sport of distance running. Many of those who are inducted have achieved great success as runners, but some members are enshrined for their ability to bring fame and recognition to the sport of running.  I, however, don’t qualify on either criterion.  If there was a Hall of Fame for Group Fitness, I don’t think that I would qualify for it either.  Lifetime’s Katie Haggerty and Kris Wayne certainly would.


So, on all counts, sports performance is not my path to greatness. I am just starting out in my personal training career, so I don’t know yet whether this will be my path to greatness or not.


There is a third path to greatness for athletes that might punch my ticket to the Hall of Fame someday, and that is the media.  Curt Gowdy was neither a player nor a manager, yet he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his performance in broadcasting. Broadcasting is a type of media. Writing is a type of media too. Many athletes move into the broadcast booth when their playing days are over and excel in this medium.


I read an interesting article in the StarTribune newspaper about football great Randy Moss. ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman keeps a list of current players he thinks will be great on TV. The enigmatic self-proclaimed Super Freak never came close to making that list. “This is one of the most shocking career paths I’ve ever seen in this business,” Markman said. “He had the personality, but I never imagined that he would want to do this. I thought he’d just go hunt and fish.”  The 6-4, 215-pound Moss, with his pterodactyl wingspan, sits at the center of the pregame cram session, seeming larger — and sometimes louder — than life. “He is the energy of our show,” Markman said. “It’s infectious, I think.”  “He’s not afraid to just let loose, be silly on the air, and also speak his mind,” said Suzy Kolber, the host of “Monday Night Countdown.” “He’s incredibly smart. He’s also sharp enough to know what not to say on the air.”


I am not a broadcaster, but maybe my path to greatness will be writing.


Some people have two paths to greatness in sports. Randy Moss apparently does. So does Michael Strahan and swimming great Donna de Varona.  Some even have three paths to greatness by excelling in sports performance, management and broadcasting.  Football’s Mike Ditka and basketball’s Nancy Lieberman do.


And there are other paths to greatness beyond sports performance. Eric Liddell, “The Flying Dutchman” from “Chariots of Fire” went from winning an Olympic gold medal to the mission field in China. Fran Tarkenton made the transition from a successful quarterback to a successful businessman. Alan Page became a judge. Then there are athletes such as football’s Jack Kemp and baseball’s Jim Bunning who also made their mark in politics, but I won’t go there.


Tommy Lasorda reflecting on his career stated, “I started in the lowest league in baseball, and I worked my way all the way up to Triple A and then to the big leagues. I never reached the level that I thought I would reach as a player. But that’s the way it goes. So then I started from the bottom as a manager, and I worked my way up to managing the Dodgers for 20 years.”


You never know what your path to greatness will be when you’re starting out.  Even at 65.


Smart Goals

I have been exposed to the concept of SMART goals in the business world, and I have applied them to my fitness goals.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

A classic example of setting a SMART goal is President Kennedy’s address to Congress in 1962 when he stated, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”  On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. accomplished President Kennedy’s goal.

Two years ago, after a nine year hiatus from racing, I decided to do another 25K road race. I put my stake in the ground and committed to this goal in March by signing up for the Surf The Murph 25K trail run in Savage, MN.  Having done this many times before, I wrote up a training plan to get me from my starting point in March to crossing the finish line in October.  I set SMART milestones to complete a 10 mile walk by Memorial Day, a 12 mile walk by July 4th, and a 15 mile walk by Labor Day.

No sweat (well, maybe a little). Mission accomplished.  It wasn’t like landing on the moon, but I loved the training, the race experience, and crossing the finish line under my time goal.  In fact, this motivated me to set my new current goal: complete two half marathons a year for the next five years to give me a career total of 70 half marathons by the time I reach my 70th birthday.  I completed the first two half marathons last year: one year down, and four to go now.

I have goals beyond my 70th birthday also.  My granddaughter Violet will turn 16 in 2029.  That will also be my 40th year doing group fitness classes. I don’t know what class will be the rave at that time, and what my physical ability will be to keep up, but my goal is to be in the gym with my granddaughter, working out with her on March 3 2029.

The definition of a goal is something that an individual is trying to accomplish; the object or aim of an action.  A more descriptive definition is, “Goals are like magnets that attract us to a higher ground and new horizon. They give our eyes a focus, our mind an aim, and our strength a purpose. Without their pull, we could remain forever stationary, incapable of moving forward . . . A goal is a possibility that fulfills a dream.”

Within the goal-setting literature, three types of goals have been identified: outcome, performance, and process goals (TABLE 4-1).

  • Outcome Goal: In sport, an outcome goal is usually about winning or losing. However, in exercise settings, an outcome goal is usually seen as the end result of some behavior, rather than winning or losing. For example, an outcome goal might be to win a walking challenge with coworkers or to be the first to lose 10 pounds out of a group of friends.
  • Performance Goal: A performance goal specifies end products of performance, but is usually expressed in terms of personal achievement. For example, to lose those 20 pounds, an individual may want to exercise aerobically for 30–40 minutes, three or four times per week, or may want to reduce his or her caloric intake from 3,000 to 2,000 calories per day.
  • Process Goal: Finally, a process goal specifies the processes the individual wants to engage to perform in a satisfactory manner (however that is defined). An example might be keeping the heart rate above 130 beats per minute for 20 minutes of each exercise session. Similarly, to reduce caloric intake, a process goal might be to eat only one serving of food at meals if an individual usually goes back for seconds, or to drink 96 ounces of water each day to reduce appetite.

Outcome goals are a good idea, but they should not be the main focus of a wellness or fitness program because they are out of an individual’s control. Rather, the focus should be on performance and process goals, as these are under the person’s control and help him or her reach the outcome goals.

The chart below is taken from the book “Wellness Coach Behavior Change” published by NASM in 2014. Don’t let Boston Marathon example intimidate you – you can apply the same principles to any goal that you have on your heart to accomplish.