Monthly Archives: February 2012

Building a Solid Foundation

“Only when the foundation is strong, can the structure be stable enough to stand the test of time”……

I stole this from one of my siblings, who wrote it over a decade ago as the first line in a description of our company’s history.  It’s not only a concept I buy into….it’s one I live by.  At it’s very deepest meaning, to me – this is what ENDURANCE is all about – not just in the traditional “running marathons” or “completing triathlons” (although that’s certainly an exciting part of my life and what I’m going to talk about in this blog), but broader than that….to me, having a solid foundation means being mentally strong, physically fit, emotionally deep, and spiritually rich so that I may take life in stride – navigating its turns, climbing its mountains, and soaring on – or enduring with purpose.

So, as I start to wrap up another period of “foundation training” (also known as base training) in my endurance athletic efforts, I thought some may get benefit in reading about the strategies I’ve employed to build a solid foundation or base.

Running – if you’ve read along since I started this blog, or know me personally, you know that since graduating from Cornell University in 2003 (where I wrestled for two years and played “sprint” football for the next two), running has filled the empty space that was once occupied by a lifetime of competitive sports.  And while I dabbled in endurance running as early as 2005 with  my first half marathon (1:31:39), I didn’t get serious about running until 2008, completing my first marathon in 3:18:50.  Since that time I’ve completed at least one half marathon per year, and an additional four marathons (including the 2011 Boston  Marathon), dropping my personal bests to 1:27:04 (in the half), and 3:02:00 most recently in the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.

Throughout the process I’ve dealt with my share of minor bumps and bruises – I’ve had your typical IT band tightness, patella femoral pain, and the dreaded plantar fasciatis (still working through this one).  I’ve learned a great deal about running specific workouts….I’ve done tempos, cut-downs, fartleks, intervals, hill repeats, long slow distance…and more.  I’ve trained alongside (when I can keep up) a handful of professionals, been rehabbed by some of the best….and coached by a National Champion and 2012 Olympic hopeful.  Maybe needless to say….I’ve learned a lot….and with all these incredible resources at my finger tips – one thing remains consistent – a solid foundation sets you up for future success.

So in 2010 I was introduced to a (new to me) concept known as the Maffetone method (developed by Phil Maffetone) by my brother Mike – an Ironman triathlete and self-proclaimed “endurance geek” who is always looking for new ways and research that will help “up his game”.  Maffetone, a famous endurance coach, is most known for his work with 6x Ironman Champion Mark Allen.  Simply put, Maffetone found in his research that if athletes focused on building a solid aerobic base by training at (traditionally lower) intensities (as measured by heart rate) where the body uses oxygen to metabolize fat as it’s primary energy – the aerobic system would get more efficient and effective throughout training – allowing the body to perform at higher running speeds without necessarily increasing one’s heart rate….and thereby allowing the athlete to remain in the aerobic zone and continue to go for longer periods of time (some estimates state the typical body has enough stored fat  to fuel you for hours or even days).  Sorry about the ridiculous run-on sentence there!

It should be noted however, that as an athlete transitions to higher intensities (as measured by heart rate), he or she will then rely primarily on the anaerobic energy pathway – where the body creates ATP for energy by glycolysis…or the breakdown of carbohydrates….the bi-product being that nasty lactic acid.  And while the anaerobic system is incredibly good at what it does….relying primarily on carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy is only a short-term solution without supplementation (this is one reason why endurance athletes take gels, gu’s, sports drinks, etc. while racing).

So…..duh….why not see if you can get to your “race pace” while still remaining in the aerobic zone?  And that’s just what I’ve attempted to do for the last couple years as part of my “foundation” or base training.  Using Maffetone’s “180 formula” (where he found through comparisons to physiological evaluations like V02 max testing, etc.) that if an athlete were to train at a heart rate of approximately 180 minus age, they would be training near that max of their aerobic zone.  Read more about this method here or Mark Allen’s take on things HERE.

Of course, as a Health & Fitness professional, and being the skeptic I am….I didn’t totally believe this would work (even though the methodology totally made sense to me) until I saw my results.  Day 1 training at 180-age (150bpm) I was having to run a 9:30 / mile pace to keep my heart rate low enough……day 50…..consistently can run 7:30-7:45 / mile pace!  10 more days to go for me (I’m only able to do 8 weeks this go around b/c my next event, the 2012 Boston Marathon, is less than 2 months away!

Want to know more – I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Maffetone, and published it as part of Pro-Activity’s monthly “Elements” newsletter.  Click on the “MOVE” icon for February.

Stay tuned next week for Day 60 “Almost Vegan” results!

Happy Training….


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What’s Love Got To Do With It….

So it being Valentine’s Day (or actually two days after Valentine’s Day) – I thought I’d take a minute to share a story, and a little lesson I recently learned about the big “L” word……after all, love and human connection are a vital part to healthy living.

Now, I have to admit – I think Valentine’s Day is pretty stupid….I know, I know…my poor wife, she’s married a miserable man (tell me something I don’t know)……but before you get the urge to feel so bad for Amy, or any loved ones in my life for that matter…know this, I have no problem expressing my feelings….telling or showing people just how much I love them….and doing it regularly….on any (or every) day of the year, not just Feb. 14th.  I don’t feel the need to buy something in the card store, just so I can steal someone else’s words and pretend their mine.  And while I agree that some of those “Hallmark” writers are pretty talented in their phraseology – I choose a simpler (and in my opinion) more effective, direct approach….I say “I love you” everyday.  And I think if you’ll ask the loved ones in my life….they’ll hardly feel deprived.

But all of this said – this is NOT what I’ve learned about love recently…in fact I heard “I love you” everyday growing up from my parents….but I think it’s taken me till now to really understand just how much they meant by that.  See, a funny thing has happened to me ever since Emma (our first)  entered this world…and I’m just now grasping it in it’s entirety.  It started with a statement by my oldest sister a few hours after Emma’s birth, “You love you brothers and sisters, you love your parents, you love your spouse….but then your kid comes and love is taken to a different level!”.

When Teri said this to me, mentally I understood what she was saying, but probably because of the drama that went along with Emma’s delivery, I was pretty numb to it, and didn’t grasp it emotionally.  And then it happened….after we had gotten Emma home, the drama had settled, and Amy and I  were relaxing with Emma as a family on the couch, the big “L” hit me like a ton of bricks in a way I had never felt before – and I’m pretty sure I’m changed forever….and then I started thinking…..”Wow, how must my parents feel about me and my siblings!?”.  It’s really incredible to reflect on, and leaves me in awe and appreciation for my parents (and all parents in the world)….for all they’ve done and given to us over the years, and I thank them for that.

So with this post, I hope you’ll take a minute and reflect on the loved ones in your life…take a moment and give them a call, send them a note of thanks or publicize it in a blog like this….tell them just how appreciative you are for what they’ve given you…and that you love them.  And if they’ve past on…tell them anyway…they’ll still hear you, cause they’re always listening…..and if you do this, I’m willing to bet you’ll feel good knowing you just brightened someone’s day…and by feeling good, you’ll have done something good for your health!

To my parents, to my wife, and all the loved ones in my life…both family and friends…..thank you for all you’ve given me….Happy Valentine’s Day….I love you.

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A Super Bowl of Nutritional Train-Wreckage

Super Bowl Sunday is notorious for a few things – each with a special place in our hearts….some figuratively, some literally (scary)!

  1. Football (congratulations to all the Giants fans out there – very impressive performance!)
  2. Entertainment (seriously?  Madonna is 54?)
  3. Commercials (don’t know about you but this year left a little to be desired)
  4. and Nutritional Gluttony (got this one covered)

If you read last week’s post, by now you know that I’ve been going “Almost Vegan” for a little over 30 days…with the plan to hold strong till day 90.  It’s a bit of a self-experiment, and the results thus far have been impressive (weight loss, body fat reduction).  I’ve not been obsessive about my eating choices (hence the “Almost” factor), but have been doing a pretty good job of making healthy & mindful choices along the way.  Sunday was a bit of an outlier to say the least – but in my defense…my biggest failure probably occurred about an hour before I indulged in what I call “Nutritional Train-Wreckage”.  

You see, it was a busy day and I somehow managed to squeeze a 12 mile run in between church and a visit to the grandparents, before heading to the in-laws for the game.  Unfortunately, the “squeeze” factor left zero time for one of my favorite post-run recovery meal, the Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie (Fuel Good style).   So instead, I chugged down the last few drops of my gatorade…grabbed a water bottle and some almonds for the road, and we were off to the grandparents….hardly an appropriate re-fueling strategy after burning an estimated 1,400 calories.  And after an hour with the grandparents….I was so far behind the hunger-curve, I felt like it had beaten me to death and like most people get when they are hungry and tired….I was craving food…..not just any food…but CRAPPY FOOD….the kind full of fat, sugar, salt….anything that would give me a blood sugar spike.  Thankfully (or unthankfully as the case may be)….Super Bowl Sunday brought plenty to go around.

  • Chili – sure why not: + 300 calories calories
  • Chicken Wings – yup…but not 1, 8 (at least): +480 calories
  • Chips & Guac – of course: + 640 calories
  • Beer?….how bout 2: +200 calories
  • Brownies with my coffee…..well at this point you might as well drive that final nail in this coffin: +800 calories
Nutritional Train Wreckage = estimated 2,420 calories…..YIKES….that is more than the average human needs in one whole day.
What’s worse….if I were truly watching my weight…I would have fallen victim to the same mantra so many people do….”exercise a lot, and it doesn’t matter what you eat”.  Consider this, in calculating the rest of my daily intake (1,150 calories) and my daily energy expenditure (1,600 for my basal metabolic rate + 1,400 on the run), I wound up + 572 calories on the day.  This trend, on a daily basis would add 1 pound of body fat to my frame weekly!  AND I RAN 12 FREAKING MILES!

So with Monday – I’m back in the “Almost Vegan” saddle.  Here’s an example of my typical day (for those that asked last week):


  • Oatmeal with craisins, raisins, & brown sugar & Coffee: 250 calories

Snacks (late morning, mid afternoon, late afternoon) – I eat a snack after breakfast, after lunch, and before dinner

  • Apple: 105 calories
  • Banana: 110
  • Fiber One bar: 150
  • Almonds – small handful: 340 calories



Total Calories = 1,899

Of course, it’s not just about calories…there’s more to nutritional success than that….but I’ll save that for a future post.  Until then, enjoy your day!

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