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Big Bad Runners

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This is a repost from my blog


As I work with individuals looking to regain health or maybe go to a new level of fitness, the conversation often goes to "lifestyle changes".


I am a big believer in changing lifestyles for lifetime maintenance of health and vitality.  As Zig Ziglar says... "You wouldn't keep a million dollar race horse out all night, drinking and smoking!"  Its critical to long term success to look at life in a different way, find the things you enjoy because those are the things you'll do consistenly that will keep you healthy and quite frankly to place a higher value on your personal health annd well-being.  If you can manage to make these mental changes, you will have success in changing your life and setting up a life of great health.


However... all that being said, there comes a time when if you want to get results (make changes), you are going to have to put in some good old-fashioned supreme effort!  While it is true that once you reach your desired level of fitness and weight you can maintain it doing things you enjoy including anything from bike riding to walking to gardening and even housework, when it comes to getting to your desired goal you are going to have to put in some work... OK... a lot of work.


You don't drop 20,40,60,100 lbs or even more over the course of a year by simply going out and mowing the lawn every other week.


You may hate walking or jogging or running or riding an exercise bike or lifting weights, but if you want to drop the weight and get back into a state of excellent health... well quite frankly you can't avoid them.  And, although you may be able to maintain your health with  a 3 mile run three times a week at a leisurely pace, that's not going to cut the mustard while you are dropping the weight initially.


I'm sorry if I'm the first one to say this to you but... you didn't gain the extra weight overnight and totally by accident.  You didn't just wake up one morning and find you were overweight.  I did not simply go to  my closet one day and find that the only pants I had to wear that I could fit into were size 42!  And quite frankly, I did not just wake up yesterday and suddenly realize I could wear size 32 jeans.


On the contrary, over the last year I  have worked my butt off! (literally)  I have logged thousands of miles both walking and running.  I have done more crunches in the last year than I had done in the previous 45 years of my life.  I've done more pushups and curls and presses in this last year than in any other year of my life including those years when I was bodybuilding in my late teens and early twenties.


I have weeks when I am in a constant state of soreness.  I have ignored pain that in the past would have had me avoiding workouts for days or even weeks.  And most importantly, this time around, I have done it all for me.


As I was out on a run today, I caught myself doing what most of us do at some point... comparing myself to the other runners I saw on the street.  I know I'm not the only person who does this.  For me it usually happens when I'm on a long run and someone goes whizzing past me.  Now quite honestly, I really don't need to compare myself to anyone else and quite frankly, because I'm running  over 10 miles on most of my runs I can pretty easily explain why someone running a couple miles is moving faster than me, but still I can't help it.  The problem is, when I do this I either speed up which only throws me out of my rhythm or I just get distracted and end up slowing down.  Either way the result is not productive.


Today, when I found myself doing this comparison thing, I finally smacked myself and said; "This is not about anyone else!  This is only about you!"  It worked!  And it was true.  This last year of training has not been about impressing anyone else, its been about taking back my life and creating a lifestyle I enjoy and that I can maintain for the rest of my life.


If I have my way, I'll still be running when I'm 100 and loving the freedom it gives me.  I happen to love running.  Maybe you love tennis or walking or yardwork.  Whatever you enjoy that keeps you active, I hope you enjoy it well into your later years in life.  But if you are out of shape now, you are going to have do some work, some of it not  so enjoyable to get back into shape.


I think a lot of people get frustrated with a training routine because they don't enjoy it and quite truthfully, I don't blame them.  I'm not a big "gym" guy any more.  I really don't enjoy weight training and yet, I know that to regain the health of a lifetime, that is the short term price I'm going to have to pay.


I'm here to tell you that there will be pain.  There will be days when it hurts just to run a mile.  There will be days when you will feel like throwing up after a particularly tough strength training session.  You and I made our choices in life up to this point and now if we want to get back to health, we are going to have to put in the effort.


The upside...


One of the best parts of working out is the way you feel when you finish!


The way you will feel when you reach your goal weight or run your PR in a race or finish your first marathon or whatever else it is you're seeking, is absolutely incredible!


Your whole life WILL work better if you have great health and an active lifestyle, its a proven fact!


You will be extremely proud of yourself when you finish a workout that a few months ago you wouldn't even have considered doing!


When you finally throw away your "fat" clothes for the last time, knowing you'll never need them again, it will be one of the best days of your life to that point!


The day will come when you look forward to being active every day!


Here's a bonus thought from today's run.  If you are self conscious about working out in the gym because you think everyone is watching and judging you... forget it.  No one is evaluating you if you are overweight but are working out and trying to improve.  If any one is having thoughts about you at all it is generally thoughts of encouragement.


People do however notice you if you are overweight carrying the double bag of McD's or the two for one pizza deal!  That you should be self conscious about!


Its time to stop making excuses.  Get ready  for a little (who am I kidding.. a lot of) worthwhile soreness!  And look forward to the day when you can do whatever activity you want to maintain your new healthier you!

588 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, active, walking, inspiration, endurance, health, goals, advice, ultra, joy, overweight, tim-vanravenswaay


If you're just getting started in a fitness routine, you probably have a memory in your mind of a time when you were fit and active.  Maybe it was high school or college and as you remember it, you were the Energizer Bunny.



Today however... five, ten, fifteen or maybe more years later you are kind of wondering whatever happened to all of that health and energy.



Where did the flexibility go and when did a 5 pound weight get so heavy and who on earth moved the mailbox so far from the front door that you have to stop half way there to catch your breath?



Fear not, you are not alone.  Many have gone before you!  Even some of those folks you think are fitness buffs have had their moments.  Anyone who has had an on again, off again relationship with fitness has experienced this incredible disappearing act of their athletic prowess.



Welcome to atrophy!  The actual definition... a decrease in cross-sectional size of a muscle resulting from inactivity or immobilization.  It affects not just your limbs but your cardiovascular system as well.  We see it most commonly in someone who has had an injury where they are immobilized for a period of time.  In those cases atrophy can begin to set in as quickly as two to three days.



In our case, where we have been sedentary, it is a slower and more gradual process and yet over time the effects are the same.



Now that I've depressed you, the good news is that it can be reversed and does so at a much quicker rate than it occured.



Muscular strength can be maintained with as little as two moderate weight training sessions per week and cardiovascular fitness can be improved depending on your current level of fitness with as little as 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking,jogging,cycling, etc) two to three times per week.



Research has shown that cardiovascular fitness in folks who have been inactive will improve with an effort in the range of 45-55% of Maximum Heart Rate, and that... is a slow walk!



Remember when, because it will give you something to aspire to!  Actually... forget that because we can never go back.  Create a new picture of the you that's in your future and go for it! 



All you have to do is use it!






526 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, walking, inspiration, health, goals, newbie, advice, atrophy, overweight, tim-vanravenswaay

Walk Your Way To Health

Posted by Tim Van Apr 6, 2009

This is an article I wrote a couple of years ago and it seems as pertinent today as it was then.  Nationally, our overweight and obesity numbers are just not getting any better and it doesn't have to be that way.  Here it is, let me know what you think.






Walk, run, swim, cycle, hike, weight-train, which is the best for your health?


Which one will give you the best, most immediate results in terms of aerobic fitness, muscular fitness and flexibility?


We are all searching for answers.  We all hope to find the quickest way to improve or maybe regain our health.


But what about walking?  Most of us think of walking as something you do maybe to get yourself started again on the road to fitness, but as our primary method of fitness?


Why not?


Here’s some thoughts to consider;


A brisk walk for 30-60 minutes can produce a deficit of as much as 300 to 400 calories depending on your current level of fitness.


Making that same walk just 3 or 4 times a week over the course of a year could result in a weight loss of 16 pounds.  That assumes you don’t change your current diet.


Combine that walking with a reasonable diet and the numbers multiply quickly.


Not bad for one of the most underrated exercises of all.


On top of that, research shows that 10 minutes 3 times a day offers the same benefit as 30 minutes 1 time a day.  Sorry, no more excuses for not having enough time!


But let’s consider some of the other benefits:


Walking impacts the three major areas of health and fitness; aerobic fitness, muscular strength and flexibility.  Not many other activities hit all three at such a consistent level as walking.


When done with proper form walking represents a much lower risk of joint injury than many other forms of exercise.


It can be done almost anywhere.  Want to swim?  You need a pool or a lake or ocean.


Want to cycle?  First you need the equipment and then you need a reasonably safe place to ride.

Still not convinced?


Let’s get personal.  In November and December of 2003, while on an extended visit to Michigan, I decided to walk each day.  It gave me the opportunity to get out and see the town and meet the people.


When I arrived in Michigan I weighed in at 235 pounds and had a 40 inch waist.  I jumped right in the first morning with a good brisk walk.  I probably walked 4 miles that first day, but that was enough.


Now mind you I walked every single day for the 60 days I was there, but when I arrived home in California I was a slim 190 pounds with a 31 inch waist.


Yes, that’s 60 days!  I walked a lot more than 30 minutes, in fact usually it was more like 2 to 3 hours, but still we’re talking about 60 days not 365 days to lose that kind of weight.


And I felt fantastic to boot!


I’m not saying that everyone will get the same results that I did, but if you got even a quarter of the results in 60 days, you’d be pretty happy wouldn’t you?


Walking is definitely not a myth and I’m not sure it’s a miracle either, but it sure does rank right up there as one of the best all around exercises of all time!


Always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.


If you would like to learn more about walking and it’s benefits, I'll be happy hook you up with some other great resources.


Let me know your thoughts!





755 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: walking, inspiration, flexibility, health, goals, fun, advice, obesity, weight-loss, overweight, aerobic-fitness, tim-vanravenswaay, muscular-strength

I Say... Go For It!

Posted by Tim Van Apr 4, 2009

If you've ever had an inkling, maybe just a tiny aspiration or motivation to run a race of any kind whether it be a 1 mile, 5k, 10k, marathon or some other distance and you're on the fence...


I say go for it!




People run or walk races for a multitude of reasons.  All you have to do is read some of the discussion boards in the running comunity to find hundreds of motives for why we run.  Yours, may be similar or they could be completely different.  Still, something inside of you is saying: "This is something you should do."




Maybe it's to lose some weight.  Maybe it's to get in better overall health.  Maybe you want to raise money for a particular charity.  It may be that you want the challenge of the next distance.  Maybe you've run a few 5k's and you're thinking it might just be time for something a little bigger.  It may be your way of saying to yourself; "I'm changing my life, once and for all and it all begins with this race!"




Again, I repeat, Go For It!




The rewards you will gain from completing a race are unimaginable until you've actually done it.  Imagine, seeing yourself crossing the finish line.  Hear the crowd cheering as you cruise down the home stretch.  Soak in the feeling of total accomplishment at knowing you at least for once in your life, made a plan and saw it through to the finish!




They say that in running a marathon you will experience every emotion you have.  I had no idea how true it was until I ran my first one!  I went from mindless to happy to angry to tears of joy to complete and total exhaustion to total elation ... It went on and on!




And I wouldn't trade it for the world!  Having run several marathons now, i still look forward to the emotional roller coaster and mostly to the overwhelming feelings of accomplishment at the finish.




I don't assume to tell you how you'll feel because we're all different and yet, I think most runners would agree that after completing a race of any distance, you ride a wave of incredible energy for days.  For some people, completing that first race is so life changing that their whole life begins to transform, just from the positive energy of reaching a goal.




None of us can fully know until its over, just what that first race or race at a new level will do for us.  I can guarantee that it will affect you and you won't regret it!




Gotta cut this short, time to go run!




Go For It!



575 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, race, marathon, 10k, walking, inspiration, endurance, health, 5k, goals, fun, newbie, advice, joy, experience, accomplishment


What is your running goal? 



Do you have one?



Why not?



Are you unsure of what's realistic?



Do you read all of the discussion room posts and think; "Maybe I'm overconfident"? or "Maybe I'm not being realistic"?



I appreciate and respect all of the advice I read on taking it slow and easy while getting started.  As an endurance trainer, I completely agree with the idea of working into your fitness to avoid injury or something even worse. 






Why is it that we set such low standards for ourselves?



If you are an apparently healthy adult under the age of 45, you can begin exercising at a moderate to vigorous level.  So why do we all go out and dance the slow dance?



Get out there and feel it!  If you want to improve yourself, push yourself!



That being said if you have perceivable or possible health risks, get a physicians approval before getting vigorous; but get cleared and go for it.



Running is 90% mental.  If you want to accomplish a goal you have got to get the right mindset.  I just read a post on a discussion board from a 30-something guy who hasn't been terribly active until the last month.  In the last month this young man has started running 5 times a week.  It seems he has a notion to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon in a year.



The advice was basically, get realistic, slow down, there's no way, set some other goal 'cause that one ain't gonna happen.






Maybe, he won't be able to get himself to a "Boston" level of fitness by next year.  But what if he could?  Stop telling people what they can and can't do based on your personal experience because they are not you!



Maybe, if you were honest, when you tried and failed you weren't as committed as you tell everyone you were.  Maybe you didn't push yourself as hard as you could have.  Maybe you have poor running form that will keep you from ever accomplishing some of the things other runners do.  Maybe you don't have the mental stamina that this kid does.  How can you impose your will on him and try to make your reality his reality?



It doesn't seem to be the best approach to me and yet... that's what we do.  I'm not saying that your experience as a runner isn't worth two cents because it is.  What I'm saying stop trying to squeeze everybody else into your experiences and just saying that's the way it is.



How about if you have great knowledge of running, you think about what you would do if you were in this young runners place and make some realistic suggestions on what he can do to achieve his goal.  And then sign off by saying good luck.  Knowing what you know now about running what approach would you take to accomplish a goal like his?  Share that with him.



Let's be honest.  Running, unless you only run for competition, is a lifetime activity.  Let's say that this young guy gets great advice from the experienced runners here on and he follows it to the letter.  A year from now will he be able to qualify for the Boston?  I don't know and neither do you.  If he does, I'm extremely impressed!  If he doesn't, how much better will he be as a runner if he trained like he was preparing for Boston versus spending his entire year prepping for his first neighborhood 5k?



Knowing how mental running is, I don't think we even closely understand what the human body is capable when  fully empowered by a believing mind.  I don't think we have a clue where endurance will go over the next couple of decades.



I do know this;  I haven't been running as much as I should and yet if I felt compelled I could go out for a 30 mile run.  Would I make it?  Yes!  Would it be my fastest run ever?  Not likely.  Would I injure myself?  Not likely, I have great running form.  Would I be sore?  Absolutely and for me that's part of the joy of running and knowing I'm pushing myself.



My point is I could mentally will myself to run 30 miles tomorrow and it has nothing to do with conventional running wisdom about consistency and mileage buildup and how long all of that is supposed to take to avoid injury or overstressing.



I guess all I'm saying here is unless somebody is asking if running a marathon next week is a reasonable goal for someone who's never run around the block... let them have their goals.  Let them set the bar a little higher than maybe it ought to be and then reach for it at a level more of us should.



Am I nuts here?  Let me hear what your thoughts are on this subject.  Should we discourage other runners from setting lofty goals?






590 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, marathon, endurance, goals, newbie, advice, experience, realistic

A New Year!

Posted by Tim Van Dec 31, 2008

It's always an exciting time of the year.  New beginnings, new challenges and opportunities.  The chance to say; this year will be different!


It can also be frustrating when things don't go the way you planned them to in the new year.


My wish for you in this new year is that you will find and remember the true joy of running!  The joy that comes from just being out in the open, cruising along under your own power and at your own speed.  Nothing in life is quite as releasing as a good long run.  It clears your mind, relieves stress and of course improves your overall well-being.


I challenge you in this new year to learn to just enjoy running for the freedom it gives you.  Instead of always having to run against the clock, just get out there and let yourself go.  You will be amazed at how long and how far you go when you allow yourself to be just in the moment of running.


Let go of your work and your to do list and all of the other things that create stress in your life... just be in the moment with your run!


Running is something that when you learn to do it properly, you can do all of your life, even into your twilight years.  It will, if you allow it, be the friend you can always count on to give you a lift.


So again I say, learn to experience the joy of running this year!


Wishing you and yours all the best in the New Year!

483 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: running, active, inspiration, endurance, health, new_year, joy

A Few Thoughts

Posted by Tim Van Dec 24, 2008

This has been an incredible year!  On so many levels and in so many ways, this has been one for the record books.




Got rid of my car for good.  That's right I don't own one anymore.  I ride my bike or run everywhere I go.


Left a job in the industry I had been working in for almost 25 years.


Finished my Endurance Fitness Trainer Certification.


Had a heart attack.


Lost approximately 50 lbs.


Agreed to start a youth running program for "At risk" kids in the local community.


Made a commitment to organize and run a fundraiser for the local youth health center.


Ran constantly over the last couple of months in preparation for the 24 hour treadmill run in January 2009.


Got a new niece.


8 months later watched video of her taking her first steps.


Finished one of the books I had been working on Decide.


Those are just some of the highlights.  It has been a full year and one where I come to the end of it and say; I am so very grateful for the life I have!  I am grateful for my family, my friends, my health (the fact that I am here at all), and everything else in my life.  I am completely one hundred percent GRATEFUL.


The one thing I'm really grateful for though is running.  When I had my heart attack it was a very strong heart (from running) that saved my life after a blocked coronary artery.  When I needed to lose weight and get myself back on the path to great health and vitality, it was running that allowed me to achieve that goal.  When I needed solace from the stress of life, running provided that outlet.


Running has given me my life back and it is now my business and as such I cherish every moment that I have to run.  Running is not someting you have to do... it's something you get to do.


A quote from the book "Running and Philosophy":


"It was not my thinking that allowed me to run, rather it was my running that allowed me to think."


I believe that about sums it up for me.  Because of running I am clearer, more focused, less stressed, incredibly healthy and vital.


So at this time of the year, as you spend time with family and friends, enjoy yourself and remember that your good friend running will be waiting for you when ever you return to it and it will stay with you for the rest of your life!


Have a Merry Christmas!

594 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, inspiration, health, fun, treadmill, christmas, ultra, contribution, santa, joy, gratitude


When you lay on as many miles as I do in a week sometimes you've just got to do something to lighten things up.



In that vane, I decided to run the local Christmas 5k here in town.  I arrived plenty early... probably too early as it was cold and sprinkling rain.  I don't know about you but there's something about standing around for an hour prior to a race that just takes a lot out of me.  Oh Well!  I thought I was so well prepared.  I ran to the start from my house ( alittle over a mile) which got me warmed up and ...



Wait a minute!  This is not about my poor planning.



I got gypped!  When I arrived at the race I saw Santa in a booth with the annoucer.  I figured I would run the race and then wander over for a photo op with Santa.  Sounded like a good plan to me at the time!



The race came and went. 



Where was Santa?



This couldn't possibly be!



He was nowhere to be found.  I mean come on.  Where else can a grown man have his picture taken with Santa without seeming a little... well... creepy?



Aside from that, the race was a ton of fun, rain and all.  I forget sometimes just how much fun runners can be.  And how much fun running events are.  If you're new to running you have got to get out and go to a race.  Run, Walk, don't even do either, just go to the race.  They can be very inspirational and a whole lot of fun.



When you go to a race you get the chance to be around like minded people.  Some are terribly serious about the race and others like me, are just there to have a great time.  Depending on the race you will find loads of really encouraging people to get you going along the way.



So I missed my Photo op but I got an even greater gift... the joy of running with a crowd!



582 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: running, active, race, inspiration, 5k, fun, santa, joy

A Good Break!

Posted by Tim Van Dec 8, 2008

You might find it odd that the second day I write a post in a blog about training for a 24 hour treadmill run I confess that I haven't run in a week, however...


It was a good break and quite frankly I've been training a lot (I mean 70 - 100 miles per week alot) for a while now. It's not that I've sat at home warming up my couch, I just haven't run for actually six days. I've put my bike to use a fair amount, not with hard training rides but casual 10-13 mile per hour 5 to 10 mile jaunts.



As you can see in the picture, I took a minute to make sure my bike got into the Santa act this year (I know it was really disappointed last year).



Here's the really cool thing; I can tell just by the way I feel on the bike, my running is going to be a whole lot stronger than a week ago. The combination of cross-training on the bike with some just plain old fashioned recovery time has worked wonders. Sometimes we get so caught up in "The Next Workout" that we forget to give our bodies adequate time to recover. Turns out that's what I had been doing.



I know that tomorrow morning when I hop out of bed at 5am to hit the road for a run, I am going to be absolutely rejuvenated and ready for some serious training.



Remember to take time to recover!



See you soon.





680 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: running, active, marathon, inspiration, endurance, treadmill, recovery, ultra, contribution

What On Earth?

Posted by Tim Van Dec 7, 2008

What on earth was I thinking?


What could possibly possess me to think running for 24 hours on a treadmill was a good idea?


Am I nuts?... Well, actually, that one's kind of a given at this point.


And so, here I am getting ready to do my thing. That's right, on January 15th, 2009 at 8am in the morning, I'm going to step onto a treadmill on the showroom of the Volvo dealer in Culver City, CA and proceed to run until 8am the following morning.



Number one most popular question: "You will be taking breaks though, right?"



Well, since I won't be out running in the hills some where, I will need to use an actual restroom to relieve myself and I will likely step off to make a change of clothes or two and of course I will need to check the condition of my feet a couple of times and yet really other than those brief pauses... no breaks.



Number two most popular question: "Why?"



Because I can! And more importantly to raise money for the Culver City Youth Health Centers. These health centers provide medical healthcare to students within the school system who come from families without medical insurance. This is a fantastic organization and a great reason to hop on a treadmill for an extended period of time. I am also in the process of organizing a youth running program in Culver City in partnership with the youth health centers and I thought this would be a great way to garner some attention.



And of course I realize there are probably easier ways to draw attention, but this just seemed like the thing to do at the time and maybe I was just looking for a good excuse to do it.



There are still a lot of things to be done before the actual run. I still need to line up the treadmills (yes, I said treadmills). I am planning on having two treadmills on the showroom. One I will run on constantly and a second for "Guest" runners. If someone wants to come down and support me for an hour or even just for ten minutes they can hop on the treadmill next to me and give it a whirl! I figure that will come in particularly handy in the wee hours of the morning when I am only a few hours from completion and about ready to fall asleep on my feet. At that point I probably wouldn't even care if the person next to me was running, walking or just standing as long as they were making some kind of sleep interupting noise.



Within the next few days the donation site will go up on



Oh yeah and of course there's a whole lot of running to be done between now and then.



Check back soon to see how that's working out.



578 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, active, marathon, inspiration, endurance, treadmill, ultra, contribution

Tim Van

Tim Van

Member since: Jul 26, 2007

Who says big guys and gals can't run? Just because I don't wear tiny racing shorts and custom fitted racing singlets doesn't mean I don't deserve to be in any 5k, 10k or marathon or even ultramarathon I choose to run.

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