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Monday, July 26, 2010

14 but bound for greatness

The boy was just 14 years old. He’d enjoyed running to get ready for wresting season. He’d enjoyed running road races. He played baseball in middle school. The thought of running cross country seemed a little foreign but he decided to give it a go anyway.

It was September of 1987 when this young man arrived for the first day of cross country practice. For the last 11 years he’d lived with his mom and now his world was turned upside down when he moved 150 miles to live with his dad.

A new school. A new sport. A whole new life. After a summer of work and shooting a basketball now it was time to become a freshman in high school and start something new. It was time to try cross country.

He loved to run. He’d been doing it since he was 9 years old when he ran his first road race. He won the 5th grade mile years before. He’s been in the top three for the 600 yard run in the presidents physical fitness test. This was different. This was high school. New people and a new sport.

The boy was scared and nervous. What in the heck was cross country anyway?

The only person he knew was the coach. He’s seen the coach at the local youth center.

They had played basketball, ping pong and foosball together. Then one day they crossed paths outside the walls of the Dennis Youth Center.

At a local 10k the coach was promoting a race he was putting on and ran into the young boy trying out his first 10k. “You run? You should come out for cross country! I’m the coach”.

Not knowing what that even was the boy said yes. That next week the boy had a training schedule in hand. He didn't like running for more than 20 minutes. His knees hurt so he stopped after just a couple of training runs.

Thoughts of his failed summer of training hung in the boys mind on that first day.

Some instruction, a mile warm-up around the track with some trivia questions, some stretching, some more instruction then a choice.

4, 6, or 8 miles. The boy knew that the “varsity” was doing 8 miles. That wasn't an option. The boy, at 14 years old, has a serious sense of optimism. “I am going to be GREAT.” He chose 6 miles and off they went.

The boy hung with the group for a while then tired to a walk. The turnaround finally came and he realized there was only one guy behind him. While he was walking the senior “body builder” caught up. They ran together on the warm September day.

“I’m trying to get into shape for the military” was what the big senior had to say.

The 14 boy had nothing to say. He did have doubts.

At the end of the first day it was the boy who was the last one back. On that day he was the slowest.

Nobody waiting. Nobody realized the greatness that was out there.

Nobody saw the potential of the future school record holder. Nobody knew at that time the future greatness of the boy out on the trails struggling to finish the run.

Nobody knew.

In the ensuing days and weeks the young boy would get better. He would move through the team on the runs. At the first meet he won the junior varsity race. At the first big meet he won the freshman race.

He wasn't  done. Oh no.

This boy was the last one back on day one.

The last day of the season saw this new runner, this young man, finished as 5th runner on the team at the state meet and earn his varsity letter. This young man would earn a letter ever season he was in high school.

This young man was the last one back to the school on his first day of practice. Yet, this boy would lead his team in the coming years. Oh yes, he would.

In 1989 he led his team to the Class B District Championship. He didn't stop there. At the All-State meet his 17th place finish led his team to the All-State Championship. Just 2 years after being the last kid to return to the school he led his team to victory at the most important meet there is. He led his team to the state championship.

The next year he did it again.

The spring of his freshman year the young boy told his coach he wanted to be a miler. The coach laughed a little. Sorry, “You are too slow to be a miler”.

The boy turned into a man and laughed for the 18 years that he held the school record in the mile.

The boy did many great things in high school.

The boy would grow into an accomplished runner. As a collegiate he would run 4:16 for the mile. Eventually he’d run 15:22 for 5000 meters. The boy who was last back to the school on day one would go one to finish 7th in his age group at the world championships in the XTerra Off Road Triathlon. This same boy would finish 12th in his age group at the Half Ironman Distance triathlon World Championship.

This boy turned into a guru. This boy became a leader in his field. This boy went on to inspire many hundreds of people to be and do their best.

This boy. This boy I know all about because this young man was me.

I hated being the last one back to the school that day.

I hated that feeling with a passion.

I didn't blame the world. I didn't cry. I didn't make excuses. I tried my hardest to change that result.

I ran 6 miles on my own every Sunday. I tried my absolute hardest at every practice. I gave EVERYTHING that I had to give. Being the last one didn't suit me. I said no. I said NO.

Did you hear me? I said NO f’ing way am I going to be last again.

I am going to pass the next guy, then the next guy, then the next guy… I am going to do whatever I can to pass the next guy and to face and overcome the next obstacle.

Stand up. Yeah, you.

I want to speak to you in very simple terms. Ready?

You are the last one back. What are you going to do now?

To your success!

Rick Copley, Your Best Fitness Coach 
"Empowering YOU to be a champion

Monday, July 19, 2010

I climbed the slippery rocks to the top of the ledge and peered over the edge to the water below. I stood tall and took a deep breath. As I exhaled I absorbed the beauty and the serenity of the place. I became awestruck by the moment and the risk I was about to take. I was about to truly live.

It was a 2.5 mile hike to Abrams Falls in the Cade’s Cove region of the Great Smokey Mountain National Forest in Tennessee. I hiked ahead of the group with my son. We enjoyed the cool water, the remoteness of the falls and the beauty of the day. It was truly epic just to be there. Sometimes, though, simply being there isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to be and do.

On this day and in this place I chose to stand a little taller and be a little more. I chose to step into the batter’s box of live. I chose to risk. I chose to live. Some spend their time going with the flow. Not me. Today I chose to stand out and do something special. Carpe Diem. I seized the day.

I knew the water was deep enough. I knew I could do a 30 foot jump off a waterfall. It really isn’t that hard. It’s the fear that’s the challenge. It’s the letting go of control. It’s the 2 second fall where you are literally flying that is the hard part. The landing was sure in my mind. But there is always that risk with jumping off a rock and falling 30 feet to the water below. Things can happen. The risks really aren’t worth it. Or are they?

Sometimes I believe we need to test ourselves. Sometimes we need to just let go of what we know and have faith that things are going to work out. Faith can mean a lot of things. To me a simply in trust in yourself and what is going to happen next. It’s something that we need to have and we need to test.

Jumping 30 feet off a waterfall into the churning water below is a test of faith.

Some run from tests of faith. Sometimes we have to. Sometimes we need to. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I saw a cherished friend run recently from a test of faith. If she tested the faith instead of running things may have turned out different for her. Now she will never know. The opportunity is gone.

When have you tested faith? Have you ever just left a job or took a big risk? Usually things work out, right? Not always but often they do.

Have you ever been totally wrong? Yeah, me to. That’s OK also because it’s in these times that we learn and become better.

Think about how you can stand on you waterfall. Think about that leap like I did that day. Think about the risks but do not dwell. Get some good footing. Make sure you have a place to land. You will be safe. Now… take the leap.


I stood for a long moment on that ledge. People down below may have thought that I wasn’t going to jump. Not true. I was going to jump. I just wanted to appreciate the process of conquering my fears and conquering my life.

I proudly held my hands high for all to see. I wasn’t showing off. I was showing the world that I am one of the lucky ones. I get it. I know what life is. I know that to live life you need to live life and accept only the best from yourself.

I jumped.

The flight through the air was magic. It was only a couple of seconds but it made me feel like a champion. I hit the cool water cleanly and shot up instantly for air. I had made the jump. It felt so good.

You don’t need to jump of a waterfall to truly live. That’s what I like to do. For you it may be simply going for an extra 10 minutes on your walk. Maybe it’s starting a blog. Maybe it’s quitting soda or alcohol. Maybe it’s asking out that person you met at a road race. Maybe it’s joining a fitness program. What the risk is does not matter. What matters is that you… stand tall…. breath …. appreciate what you’re doing… then… jump with all your might with faith that what your doing is right.

Let others judge if they want. For you the action and the faith is what drives your bus.

Do it with all your heart. Now then YOU are truly living.

Doesn’t it feel good? Yeah, it does.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Banana????? Nut????? Cheerios

I’m going to do something a little different with my blog entry today. Today we eat! Today we eat a totally nutritious meal from General Mills! Mmmm… Sounds good, eh?

Yeah, not so much.

I was in Publix the other day and a big ol’ BOGO sign jumped out at me. I love BOGO cereal. That stuff is normally expensive. Two for one? I’m all over that. Anything healthy?

“Banana Nut Cheerios”. That’s got to be good for you, right? I bought 4 boxes.

OK, on the front of the box General Mills completely blows smoke up your butt. It’s pure marketing genius. Across the top is a blue strip (blue is a nice color, right?) with the words “Whole Grain Guaranteed”. A huge checkmark is there to prove this fact. There are also “Nutrition Highlights” that show that BNC is low in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars (really? More on that later) and it has good stuff like Calcium and Vitamin D. Love the use of the buzz words.

The rest of the front of the box is YELLOW (the other happy color). Written in beautiful cursive above “Banana Nut Cheerios” are the words “Naturally Flavored”. Below it says “Flavored with Real Banana and Natural Banana Flavor.”

I guess if you CAPITALIZE, underline and bold stuff then it makes it real. I am the GREATEST triathlete in the world. Nope; doesn’t work for me either.

Did you catch that sly little thing they did? I didn’t miss it. WTF is “Natural Banana Flavor”. That’s not included in “Real Banana”. Really?!?

Before we get to the ingredients and actually see what is in this box of crap let’s see what the lies are on the rest of the box.

The back of the box has some gems:

“Delight in the taste of real banana!”

“The wholesome goodness of Cheerios cereal with the taste of REAL banana baked into every delicious bite.”

When was the last time you baked banana into corn. Huh? Read on.

“Heart-healthy nutrition baked into an incredibly delicious cereal!”

Heart-healthy? Hoooo-lee shit! Really?!?

“Great Taste Your Family will Love, with the Goodness of Cheerios! Ready to brighten up breakfast? Heart-healthy Cheerios cereals delivers nutrition you can trust and whole grain goodness in every serving, along with great tastes your entire family will love.”

What a load of crap. This is why America is fat. People actual believe these lies.
Boy, are we good at marketing though. Look at the buzz words we see on the back of this box: Delight, great taste, wholesome goodness, real banana, every delicious bite, heart healthy, incredibly delicious, nutrition, goodness, deliver, entire family will love. Whatever.

The side panel opposite the nutrition info (the only truths on the box) has more crap that we don’t need to regurgitate. There actually is one thing that’s pretty cool. It is a web address:

I’m not going to talk a lot of about this website. View it yourself. Honestly it makes me a little sick. It’s all lies and mis-truths. The front page actually has a picture of a WHEAT field (Remember this point. We will come back to this) and a bunch of boxes of cereal. Nutritious gems like Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Are you kidding me?

Now, what really matters. I wonder why the nutrition info (The actually info and not just the buzz words) is in black plain typeface on white background. How bizarre.

OK, the top part of the nutrition panel has the Calories and Total Fat and Vitamins; I give little credence to this part. It’s all perspective and it doesn’t matter. Protein that you get from beans is going to be vastly different from the dead and useless protein you get from this box of cereal. It means nothing to me.

Now what means something (Actually everything) are the ingredients. OK, time for the big reveal. Hold onto your hats. This is going to get ugly.

Here they are in the order presented on the box. Presumably this is the largest quantity to smallest.

1. Whole grain CORN. Corn? Corn? C O R N? Corn really isn’t that good for you anyway but all ground up and cooked? Worse. Heart healthy?,9171,994390,00.html

2. Sugar. There’s a shocker. Uh, sugar is bad for you. Ever hear that before? I’m not making this stuff up.

3. Whole grain oats. OK this seems fine. Oats are good. I’m sure those that the “oats” here are cooked and dead. This is cool. is a website that gives you lots of info about Whole Grain Oats, right? Sure. Now go there and click the “home” button. What do you find then? If you look closely you will see the General Mills logo. That’s right. General Mills created the website. This, my friends, is the world in which we live.

4. Brown sugar syrup. WTF is Brown Sugar Syrup? Brown sugar is simply sugar and molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of processing sugar . Brown sugar syrup is presumably the byproduct of processing when you add the two together.

5. Corn syrup. Uh sugar. So we have 5 ingredients now and three of them are sugar. No wonder it tastes good.

6. Canola and/or Rice bran oil. Really? I don’t know where to begin on this one. Well, which is it? Canola or Rice Bran oil. Honesty I have never even heard of rice bran oil. Why do they not know which one it is? That’s weird. By the way, Canola is from the rapeseed plant. Canola was a word invented by marketers because rapeseed doesn’t sound that fun. So far we have corn, sugar, oats and rice. On what planet is that “wholesome goodness”?

7. Salt. 160mg per serving of sodium. That’s quite a bit.

8. Dried Corn Syrup. Mmmmm. Tasty! Again this is simply sugar.

9. Banana puree. Wahoo! Something good! The 2nd biggest word on the front of the box is “BANANA”. Why is it the 9th ingredient after four different forms of sugar?

10. Corn bran. ???

11. Corn starch. Holy crap. 11 ingrediants and five of them have the word “corn”. You might as well be eating deep fried and sugar coated corn on the cob. (with salt)

12. Modified corn starch. Huh? 6/12 corn. I guess “Corn Nut Cheerios didn’t sound as appealing. Oh yeah, what about the nuts? Where are the missing nuts?

13. Trisodium Phosphate. A preservative or something.

14. Color Added. What is the blue hell does that mean? Color added? Is that an ingredient? That is exactly what it says on the box. Huh? What color is it? Why does it say that? WTF.

15. Sodium citrate. Third use of the word “sodium”. Still no nuts and only one mention of “banana”.

16. Natural Flavor. OK, you have to wonder why they don’t put which natural flavor it is. Don’t you think if it were a true natural flavor they would be happy to put it here? Yes, the term “natural flavor” could be MSG. I wouldn’t make this up.

17. Natural Almond Flavor. We have a winner. Number 17 on the list. Wait a gosh darn minute. Why not just almonds? What is almond flavor? Real almonds and associated nutrients don’t cook well. Almond “flavor” does. Sorry you get no real nourishment from almond flavor. Shocker.

So there you have it. Now can you tie together the magic marketing words on the box with the above ingredients? Did you spot the “heart healthy”.

It tastes good but there is no nutrition there.

Please realize something. If most of your diet comes from a box or a bag then you are getting tons of chemicals and sugar but very little in the way of nutrients that will support you through the day. Look at the box. You will see.

I encourage you to eat whole natural food like fruits, vegetables, clean meats, brown rice and fish as much as humanly possible. A bowl of Cheerios every so often won’t push you off the cliff; it’s just going to bring you one step closer.

Eat right. Move your body. Have a positive attitude. Is there really anything else?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A slice of Americana

I remember my friend Cara talking about the husband of her best friend Dana. This guy’s name is George and he is the definition of Hillbilly. He is as deep south as they get. This is the kind of guy that you can literally picture shootin’ squirrels and supperin’ on homemade squirrel pot pie. Think Larry the Cable Guy. Yeah, you get the picture.

I finally met him and his family this past 4th of July weekend while camping in Tennessee. George did not disappoint. He is the real deal. He had me mesmerized. He was a super funny, unique and witty guy. I could barely talk with the dude because I was in stitches the whole time. He is so funny! He was a cool person to hang with for sure.

You know I’m not writing this article to describe a man crush on a real life hillbilly.

If you have read my articles in the past you may have seen one of my favorites called “Thanksgiving at the Pharmacy”. Another good one is called “Killing me Softly”. If you’ve read them then you know where I’m going with this article. If you are not familiar then you need to get my book and read them:

If you are then you have an idea what is coming next.

George is a big dude. His wife Dana is also very big. VERY nice lady but very big. They have 3 kids ages 11, 9 and 7. The older boy Tyler is 135 lbs. Christine, the middle child is very heavy. Lucas at only 7 years old is already 105 lbs.

Are you getting the picture?

Typical American family here; a slice of Americana. Great people but a perfect example of what is wrong with our society and how we are literally killing ourselves one 4th of July at a time.

George always had a dip in his mouth. That’s just gross. I don’t know how someone can do with. People that chew are almost guaranteed to get cancer. It’s a matter of time. Sucks when the person earning the income in a home can’t work. George is also the master of the barbeque. Man that dude can grill. Wonder how much grilled meat this family eats? Barbeque sauce is mostly sugar you know…

One of the most telling moments for me in observing this family was when the kids ran to the cooler after tubing. While I was drinking from my water bottle (which I tubed with the entire time) their kids were in the cooler for Mountain Dew.

I don’t want to be seen as judging but letting your kids have Mountain Dew is just not a good idea; especially when all three of them are obese. Christine cracked open a Dew at 9pm. Really? Seriously?!?

I didn’t do a full assessment on the family. We were enjoying the 4th of July so I didn’t want to pry. For some things I really didn’t need to.

George had either a Mountain Dew or a beer in his hand the entire time. (Truth be told it was 4th of July so I guess this isn’t a big deal. Just as observation)

All three kids had something weird on their legs. Looked like chicken pox. I suspect it was some sort of allergy. Not sure but it didn’t look comfortable.

A couple of disturbing behavioral issues came to light with Lucas. While tubing the river I saw that kid throwing rocks more than once. OK, my kid was throwing rocks also. Not a big deal, right? My kid was skipping stones where no people were. Tyler was picking up huge boulders and throwing them very close to strangers. This wouldn’t be worth mentioning if I hadn’t been there for the other incident.

We were getting out of the cars to see the fireworks when I noticed little Christine crying. It was a little bit of a tense family situation. Apparently Christine was giving Lucas a hard time about something and Lucas up and bit her. Twice! Hard. I could see the bite marks. Again, I’m not judging but the rock throwing and the biting added together look to me like some serious behavioral issues.

When we were standing around waiting for the fireworks Lucas wanted to tackle everyone. His siblings put up a good fight. My son Colby is 10 and about 94 lbs. Even though Lucas outweighed Colby my boy could not be taken down. I was actually kind of proud.

Upon seeing this, the older boy Tyler decided to take on Colby in a wrestling match. Big mistake for young Tyler.

Colby had the kid pinned in about 20 seconds. Colby is shorter, younger and 40 lbs less yet he dominated the other boy. Why? I think it’s because Colby is so active that he has just developed some good coordination and strength. I assume the other boy isn’t nearly as active. Don’t get me wrong. Colby is not a child prodigy athlete. He’s just an active boy and I don’t think this kid is nearly as active.

I like to observe people and sometimes I make assumptions that may or may not be true. I have taken some liberties with my observations of this family.

Believe me I get that.

I hold no grudges and I don’t mean to judge.

I am simply writing here what I saw from my perspective. It is obvious to me that the food choices of this family are not as good as they could be. There really should never be 5 overweight people living in one house. There is a problem here. On the surface there appears to be health and behavioral issues developing from poor food choices.

They are good people but I don’t think they are all that healthy.
I highlighted this family because I was there and I saw them firsthand. Are they normal or are they out of the ordinary?

I think this is starting to be the norm.

The health of our children is declining. The health of our children’s parents is also declining.

Why is this?

Truth be told it’s so simple. They and we are not moving enough. We are making poor food choices for them and for ourselves. When we feed our kids crap and let them have an over abundance of candy and soda they get fat and sick. We do it to ourselves so why not do it to them as well?

It’s sad really.

Problem is that the trend is hard to change. It’s like turning around a cruise ship. It can be done but it just takes a lot of effort. How though?

I wasn’t going to say anything to the hillbilly family. Dana wasn’t going to say anything to her best friend about the health of her family. How do you help this family?

I think that we need more leadership from teachers, coaches, doctors, nurses and the like. You tell your friends they are killing their kids and it may not go over so well. This the doctors can do though. Teachers can educate the kids also. How about if a 10 year old kid says, “no thanks on the soda, water is better for me.”?

How about the food industry stepping to the plate and…

OK, another article for another day.

We all know a family like the one above. They are literally everywhere. I might even say that they are now the majority of families. This is where disease comes from. I don’t know how to help them. Do you?

I can only help those that want to be helped. How do you tell someone they are killing themselves and their family? The only thing that we can do is to do our best ourselves and hope to God the ones that need help seek it out. Be ready. They may request your help soon.

If George called me tomorrow and said that he needs to change around the health of his family what would I say? I would tell him to start with 7 simple steps that will guarantee a better level of health for him, his wife and the rug rats.

1. Find a hobby that keeps the whole family outside and moving as much as humanly possible. Fishing doesn’t count. Come on. No activates where you can chew tobacco. Frisbee, hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking, basketball, football…. the list goes on.

2. No soda in the house. On the weekends here and there or camping is OK to indulge. No regular soda.

3. Make wise food choices as often as possible. It’s OK to barbeque a couple of times per week. 3-5 times is too much. How about watermelon as a snack instead of cookies? Little changes. Little, little changes in diet will go a long, long way.

4. Mom and Dad workout everyday for at least 30 minutes to start. Believe me the kids will notice. Eventually they will want to join in. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as there is some moving and sweating going on.

5. Game night! Family time builds relationships and strengthens the family bond. Healthy snacks served and fun to be had by all.

6. Everyone drinks water for nourishment. This is huge. If a kids thirsty they need to grab water and not soda or juice. This is a mental thing. They need to think of water as something that is important to their bodies. Kids need to equate thirst with drinking water.

7. Everyone does an activity they enjoy. This is different than number one. Dad needs to play softball with the boys. Mom needs to join a walking group. Kids need to play a sport of some kind.

Maybe this family does a lot of this stuff. Maybe not. I don’t know. These are some generic suggestions that I would have if asked.

People talk about the declining health of our society all the time. You see it all around you. Maybe you have a chance to help. Maybe you don’t. The least that you can do is take care of yourself. Quit the bad habits, replace with good habits. Move your body, eat right. Have a good attitude. Do your best. That is all you can do.

I leave you today with this question: Are you doing your best? Are you?