Category Archives for "exercise"

5 Actions to Help You Overcome Your Weakness

“Try to look at your weakness and convert it into your strength. That’s success.”

Zig Ziglar

Saturday night, Leanne and I went to the Walnut Street Theater for a performance of Saturday Night Fever.  We had a great evening in the city.  We started with sushi at Fat Salmon on Walnut Street.  Then we strolled through the historic district taking in Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell on a beautiful night.  We wandered back over to Walnut Street for some ice cream at Scoop DeVille before heading over to our show.

The show itself was excellent – filled with lots of music and dancing.  The audience was full of people who were excited to be there.  During the customary intermission, Leanne and I walked down stairs to Barrymore’s to stretch our legs and use the rest rooms prior to the second half of the show.  As we climbed the steps back up to our normal mezzanine seats, Leanne moved on ahead of me.  My legs were moving a little slow, and Leanne noticed.  My knees haven’t been nearly as flexible as they were, and it’s probably time I do something about it.

I am fairly active.  I go to the gym 4-5 times a week, and I want to remain active for a long time.  Unfortunately, my running and jumping over the years has taken it’s toll on my knees, and I haven’t taken all the measures I should have to keep my knees strong and flexible.  It’s time to take action!

As I was thinking about my knees, I realized my path forward might help others to overcome some of their pains and weaknesses.  Today, I’ll help you identify a clear-cut plan for tackling your area of weakness.

5 Actions to Help You Overcome Your Weakness

  1. Recognize my areas of weakness.  Obviously, I need to do something to improve the flexibility and strength of my knees.  What is your area of weakness?  If you need help finding it, ask your wife (or a good, honest friend).
    “Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness.”
    Jean Vanier
  2. Decide to do something about it.  I have a choice.  I can put up with my knees as they are knowing they may only get worse, or I can do something about it.  This is my choice, and I have to make the choice for myself.  What are you going to do about your weakness?  You can do nothing, or today could be the day you decide to change something in your life to positively move you forward.
    “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

  3. Seek out help.  I’m an engineer, not a doctor.  In the case of my knees, it’s time for me to seek out professional help – a physical therapist should be able to help me.  Who can help you overcome your weakness?  Schedule an appointment with them today.

    “Nothing makes one feel so strong as a call for help.”
    Pope Paul VI
  4. Follow the instructions.  See a physical therapist for me knees doesn’t do me a lot of good if I don’t follow his instructions.  I must be willing to take the time to stretch and strength train if I want to see real improvement with my knees.  What instructions do you need to follow in order to overcome your weakness?  Are you following the instructions?
    “It’s about discipline. It’s about following instructions. It’s about the execution of the plan. That’s what sport is.”
    Ian Millar
  5. Take preventative measures.  I’m confident my knees will get better if I take the first steps; however, they will quickly return to their current state if I don’t continue with preventative measures.  It’s easy to step with the instructions provided by experts once we feel we’ve arrived.  We must remember the actions we took to overcome our weaknesses, and we must be diligent in staying with these actions so we don’t slip into our old pains and patterns.
    “Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable.”
    Bill Gates

What steps have you found helpful when it comes to overcoming an area of weakness or pain in your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

9 Essentials For Those Who Want To Start Running Long Distance



Last night, my brother tagged me in a Facebook post.  Here’s what he had to say:

Ok so I gotta improve my running in general, but especially before Tough Mudder next month. To this point running has been little more than an afterthought to my workout regimen.

Distance runners (looking at you Jon Stolpe): Any suggestions for making improvements in distance running? I’m mostly looking for endurance/stamina and general motivation rather than pace. Any ideas welcome – workout ideas, exercises, mental exercises…

Have never been a strong runner and not expecting miracles, but I want to be able to say I did my best.


His Facebook post go me thinking.  There are probably other people who would like to find ways to start running long distance.  While steroids and other performance enhancing products might help a little, I wouldn’t recommend these (especially based on the impact of steroids we’re seeing in NFL and MLB players who used PEDs, etc.)

So how can someone who has done little distance training make improvements to become better distance runners?  In today’s post, I’ll help you identify several keys to become a stronger distance runner.  This advice is primarily geared to people who haven’t done any major distance running for a while, but it could also apply to someone who is simply stuck in a rut with their distance running.

9 Essentials For Those Who Want To Start Running Long Distance

  1. Slow down.  Many people who jump into distance running believe they have to run a four or five-minute mile repeatedly.  They take off rather quickly on their training run, and they soon collapse failing to make it very far.  Several years ago when I started running, I fell into this trap.  It wasn’t until I started running with a friend who told me to slow down that I realized I could run much further and for a greater length of time by simply slowing down 30 to 60 seconds per mile (or even slower).  If you want to go further, slow down.  (You can always add speed later.)
  2. Set a weekly goal.  It helps to have goals.  I would recommend having a weekly mileage or time goal.  Start small.  If you run 2 miles a day four times a week, 8 miles would be a great initial goal.
  3. Keep track of your mileage.  It helps to have a running log.  I use a calendar to keep track of my daily running activities.  So far this year, I’ve run over 1,000 miles.  Keeping track of your mileage and your run information helps you learn more about what went well on your runs and what didn’t go so well on your runs.  For me, it’s also inspiring to see my mileage totals climbing.
  4. Slowly increase the goal from week to week (add no more than 10% each week).  Many people who start distance running think they should run 30 miles a week right out of the shoot.  Increasing your mileage too quickly leads to injuries and kills your motivation for running.  If you ran 8 miles last week, go 9 this week.  If you ran 20 miles last week, go 22 miles this week.
  5. Don’t overdo it as far as mileage goes (especially at first).  As I mentioned above, starting at 30 miles is probably not healthy.  You need to give your legs and the rest of your body an opportunity to stretch and become stronger.
  6. Find an accountability partner (you might even want to consider a running partner).  I really helps to have someone who will hold you accountable to keep running.  For a long time, I got up early and ran with my friend, Joe.  It was so helpful to know he would be waiting for me at 5AM.  I didn’t want to let him down, and he didn’t want to let me down.  When I was tempted to hit the “snooze” button on the alarm clock, I was reminded that Joe was waiting for me.  Accountability is essential to excelling at running and at life.
  7. Cross train and rest.  Especially at first, don’t run every day.  You need to work other muscles, and you need to rest.  Cross training and scheduled rest days are key to keeping your running motivation as high as possible.
  8. Have fun.  For me, this means listening to music or podcasts while I run.  It means playing math games in my head as I run.  And it means hanging out with other fun people.  Throwing in a little fun into your running routine will help you sustain your new distance running habits.
  9. Sign up for a race.  There is nothing more motivating than signing up for a race.  When you’ve put money down for the race registration, you have made a deeper commitment to show up to the race.  And you don’t want to show up to the race unprepared.  A pending race will provide a lot of motivation to keep training.

When I was younger, I hated distance running.  It just didn’t seem to be fun.  In fact, it seemed a little boring.  This changed several years ago when I started following the steps above.  Now, I look forward to going for a long run.  Utilizing these nine ideas and adding a little initial persistence, you will be off and running in your pursuit of improving your distance running.

Have you ever tried distance running?  If so, what has helped you improve?  If not, what is holding you back?


Webster’s Online Dictionary defines solitude as “the quality or state of being alone or remote from society.”

Why would anyone want to “practice” solitude?

Limited amounts of solitude can give us a chance to get away from the distractions of regular life and routine.  We live in a day and age when we are bombarded with noise, activity, and motion.  These things can crowd out the voice of God.

So for today, I’m going to keep my post short.  I’m going to get away in solitude even if it’s for a short time this morning.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

When was the last time you practiced solitude?  How has God been speaking to you lately?

My Dad’s Morning Routine

This morning, I woke up in another part of the country to green grass, fully leaved trees, and warmer temperatures.  As I walked to the back door to get a glimpse of the sunshine, I saw my dad lying down on the back porch.

He laid there wearing his “exercise” clothes doing his daily calisthenics and having his daily time for prayer and meditation.  My dad could give you all the details of his routine which has been part of his daily morning ritual for the past several years.  (Here’s a link to his blog where he shares the details of his prayer time.)  The general gist of it includes stretching, abdominal exercises, and push ups.  Then it moves to a time of prayer when he faces different directions and prayers for his family, his church, his community, and the world.  My dad uses the Psalms as he moves through his exercises.  He has a method for reciting all 150 Psalms.  He used to do this when he went swimming.  Now, he recites the Psalms as he warms up on his mini-trampoline.

As I watch him out there practicing his sermon for Sunday and going through the rest of the routine.  I’m inspired.  I’m amused.  I’m intrigued.

Many of you may know that I’m a guy who thrives on routine, patterns, discipline, and schedule.  I can see where it came from.  My dad is a man of discipline.  My grandparents were both very disciplined.  My guess is that there was some type of routine in their families before them.

Okay, now the routine has gone a bit far.  My dad is singing.  If you’ve ever sat next to my dad in church, you know this isn’t a good thing.  Actually, it’s pretty neat to hear…in the privacy of my parents’ backyard, my dad finds oneness with God.  I’m certain that his singing is sweet, sweet music to the Creator.

As we prepare to visit my parents’ church tonight for their Maundy Thursday service (we don’t have this at our home church), I’m looking forward to a day together.  What a great way to start the day!

What’s something quirky about your parents?  What quirkiness or trait do you have that you can see came from your parents?

Thanksgiving Marathon Recap

The race started and finished at the tortoise and the hare statue

As promised, here are some of my reflections on completing this year’s Thanksgiving Marathon in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City, NY.

As I’ve shared before running a marathon is an ambitious task.  Most don’t just get up and decide they’re going to run a marathon today.  It takes time, energy, and lots of training.  But something I’ve relearned through my experience on Thursday is that you can be a runner at any distance.  People can get so caught up in the “I could never do a marathon” or “I’m not a runner” or “I admire people who can run, but it’s not for me.”  What I loved about Thursday’s race is that runners could choose from a multiple of distances – 5K, 1/8 Marathon, 10K, 1/4 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 3/4 Marathon, and Full Marathon.  It was also clear that you didn’t have to be Ryan Hall, Jesse Owens, or Carl Lewis to get out there and run.  There were runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.  I loved it!

Regarding my experience, the day was perfect – sunny and cool.  We arrived at the park in plenty of time to find a parking space at the Van Cortlandt Golf Course.  As we walked through the park, we could see people gathering across a flat open field.  I thought to myself that this is a good sign the course will be somewhat flat.  Was I ever wrong!  As we arrived at the starting line, I grabbed my runner’s bib.  I love that they give all the runners number one for these holiday races.  I stretched out and began to find my place at the starting line.  Before the race started, the race organizer gave some instructions at informed runners that the marathon course had been changed due to the previous two days of rain.  Now, we were running 8 hilly trail laps instead of 4 flatter trail laps.  That didn’t sound too exciting, but there was nothing I could do about it besides get moving.

Coming off the trails for a lap around the field

As the gong went off to start the race, I started my watch and my GPS to track my time and mileage, and I started my marathon journey.  About 1/2 mile into the race, we split off of the flat open trail and turned onto a gradual uphill trail that began to narrow.  Every twenty or thirty yards there was a railroad tie to hop over.  I’m pretty sure they were placed to control erosion, but they became quite an obstacle as the race wore on.  The course proceeded to run up and down through the wooded and sometimes single track trails.  As I popped out of the woods the first time, I was greeted by my own personal cheering section.  It was such an encouragement to see Leanne and the kids throughout the morning as I made my way through the course.  (Apparently, they were the only spectators for the race, and they received many thanks from other runners.)

Bringing me into the finish

Despite the challenging course, I was off to a good start.  I ran the first half of the marathon on pace to finish at 3 hours and 20 or 30 minutes which would have beat my marathon PR by a huge margin.  But…  I kind of knew that this was probably a bit too fast for me – especially on this course.  As the race continued, the uphills became more and more of a challenge.  Eventually, I was walking most of the uphills and trying to run the downhills and the flats.  It’s amazing how the body breaks down over the course of a marathon.  I didn’t quit, but it was a real challenge to keep my body moving as fast as I wanted it to go.  As the laps continued, I also realized that a marathon course that requires this type of repetition is probably not my favorite type of course.

The Gong - The privilege of the finisher

Nonetheless, I kept going until the finish.  My daughter ran the last quarter-mile with me as I approached the finish line.  You could tell that she was proud of her dad.  What more could you ask for in a marathon experience?

If that wasn’t enough, Leanne and the kids reminded me to hit the finisher’s gong after I crossed the finish line.  I collected my finisher’s medal – a 12″ serving fork!  And I signed into the race log book where I entered my time of 4 hours 1 minute 0 seconds.  Years ago, I would have been more disappointed that I didn’t break 4 hours but not this year.  I was happy to run!  I was happy to finish!  And I’m already thinking about the next one!

Slow and steady wins the race

Hope all is well with the Stretched Community!

How was your Thanksgiving?  How did you counteract the calorie intake?

A Quick Marathon Update

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll provide a more detailed update when I get home, but I thought you might enjoy hearing that I did receive the 12 inch fork finisher’s medal for finishing today’s Thanksgiving Marathon! I finished the very hilly trail course in a time of 4 hours 1 minute. I can’t complain.

Hope you’re doing well today. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

(My 1st post from my Blackberry.)

Tomorrow Is Marathon Day

Tomorrow I’m running the Thanksgiving Marathon. I’m ready. I’m excited. And yes, I’m a little nervous. Training for marathon is a long process. I started training back in May or June. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get to this point. I’ve logged miles on local streets and trails. I’ve run on trails in Canada. I’ve run the streets of Cape Cod, and I’ve run around Gifford Pinchot State Park. I’ve even run on the boardwalk along the New Jersey shore. I’ve run in the rain, in the heat, in the light, in the dark, and in the freezing cold. I’ve run when I wanted to and when I didn’t want to run. Tomorrow’s race will be the longest run of my training season. And as tough as it sounds, I”m picturing it more as a celebration of the journey. I don’t know for sure what tomorrow has in store, but I’m thankful for this chance to remember that life is a journey and a marathon – it’s not a sprint. Life takes work, and it’s not always easy. So tomorrow I’ll celebrate running, and I’ll celebrate life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

What have you worked hard for in your life? How has life been like a marathon for you? What keeps you going when you don’t feel like you can keep going?

Running Over Mountains

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  I Corinthians 9:24-27

I love running analogies!  As a runner (I think I can say that), I especially resonate with a few of the scriptures that tie running or other sports to living our faith.  The scripture above is definitely one of my favorites.

From yesterday’s post, you’ll remember that I ran over 20 miles on Saturday morning.  I ran the Perkiomen Trail from Green Lane to Oaks, and I finished up my run at the parking lot by Pawlings Road.  If you’re not familiar with the trail, there is a “mountain” in the middle of the trail.  Seriously, Spring Mountain (our local ski “resort”) is 7.5 miles south of Green Lane.  Skiers in our area joke around that it should be called Spring Bump, because it’s not that big compared to some of the ski mountains just an hour or two away in the Poconos.  But I can tell you, that whether it’s a bump, a hill, or a mountain, it’s not easy to run up Spring Mountain.  But it is possible.  I did it Saturday in the middle of my long run.

How did I do it?  That’s a good question.  First, I knew it was coming.  I’ve run every part of this trail several times.  I knew that this obstacle was inevitable.  Second, I stayed focused on one step at a time.  I literally shortened by stride, put my head down, and concentrated on the next step.  Third, I remembered that there was more to come.  I still had 13 miles to run.  I couldn’t let my mind and body give in now.  Fourth, I thought about the prize waiting for me at the end.  Leanne was scheduled to pick me up at 10 AM.  I had to keep going in order to reach my bride.  Finally, I remembered that this run was necessary to prepare me for my upcoming marathon.  How would I survive the marathon if I gave in now.

I think Paul’s running analogy is so appropriate to life (and ties into my running experience this weekend).  First, Paul talks about the importance of going into strict training.  I think this means studying God’s word and finding how it applies to our lives.  Second, Paul seems to point to the necessity for strategy in living out our faith.  Living our faith aimlessly isn’t fruitful.  Third, Paul realized that more was expected of him.  Training wasn’t the end, there was more to come.  There was more preaching and sharing that lied ahead.  Fourth, Paul clearly had the end in mind as he trained to share his faith with others.  He clearly pursued that through his life.  And finally, he knew it would be hard, he knew it would take effort and hard work, and he kept going.

This speaks to me.  I want to run the race of life in such a way that honors God and brings Him glory.

As for my running, my body is still recovering from Saturday, but I’m happy to say that I got back to running this morning.  Just a few more weeks until the marathon!

How’s your training going?  What are you doing to prepare for “the race”?

Running Partner

Jon Stolpe – Facebook Status

Saturday, November 6, 2011

20.87 miles 3 hours 10 minutes 40 seconds. The last 4 or 5 were pretty tough. I definitely could have used a running partner (or FIGILC – Joe will get this). I saw 68 people – 2 whom I knew, 6 deer, and a bunch of dogs. What a beautiful morning for a run on the (entire) Perkiomen Trail!

This was my Facebook status an hour or so after finishing a big run on Saturday morning.  There’s a lot of different things you can pull from the update like the fact that I’m a big numbers guy (who counts people and deer while they’re running?), I must be serious about this running a marathon thing (who runs 20 miles for fun on a Saturday?), or that I was still positive after putting my body through over three hours of pure torture (did you notice how nice it was on Saturday morning?).

But I keep coming back to two sentences in this update.  “The last 4 or 5 (miles) were pretty tough.  I definitely could have used a running partner.”

I guess that would be expected.  After Saturday’s experience and the soreness I’ve been dealing with since, I’m not sure the body was meant to run this long.  For me, Saturday’s run was such a great reminder that we need people in our lives who will “run” the tough miles with us.  Life will not always be easy.  We will face times in our life when we want to give up, when we doubt ourselves, when we feel like we just can’t go on.  These are the times when we need people who can push us, encourage us, and maybe even carry us.

While I didn’t have anyone with me for those last few miles on Saturday, I did have the anticipation of seeing my wife at the finish – that thought definitely helped.  When it comes to the rest of life, I know there are people in my life who will “run” the tough miles with me.  I’ve experienced this.  When my wife and I went through tough times last year, we had family and friends who surrounded us with meals, prayer, and all kinds of support.  I’m so thankful for these “running partners” in my life.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

How about you?  Do you have any “running partners”?  Who’s got your back?  Who in your life will “run” those tough miles with you?

It’s Official – I Signed Up For A Marathon

Last week, I mentioned that I was toying around with the idea of running a marathon in the near future.  On Saturday, I signed up for The Thanksgiving Marathon that takes place on Thanksgiving morning in the Bronx, NYC, NY.  So naturally, I kept up with my running over the weekend to stay on track for being ready for this target race.

Saturday, I ran 5 quick and easy miles on the beloved Perkiomen Trail.  It felt good!  And it was beautiful to run on a section of the trail that I haven’t been on for a while.  And then Sunday morning before church, I ran 18.7 miles (again on the Perkiomen Trail).  Overall, the run went very well.  I definitely ran more quickly than I should have, but it felt fine up until the last two or three miles.  I think I’ll need a day or two for my legs to recover from this run.  Going up and down stairs isn’t meant to be such a challenge.  My legs better recover soon though, so I can get back to training for the upcoming marathon.

So our family is starting to plan our trip to NYC.  We’ll miss seeing members of our extended family over the Thanksgiving holiday, but I’m sure we’ll have many new exciting memories as we embark on this adventure.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?  Do you have any fun, crazy, or interesting traditions?