Posts Tagged fitness

Holed Up On Island

I just finished off an Italian sausage sub the size of my head. It took me all afternoon, but I did it. I also consumed about a pound of raw string beans, a head of steamed broccoli, a couple of handfuls of pistachios, several tangerines, and whatever I ate for breakfast. I’m still hungry. Before you think that I have given up and given in, you should know I have been doing double workouts every day. Yes, one before work and another after. It’s what I do to pass the time. Borderline OCD, it actually keeps me sane. That and blogging. I have several online. Under various identities, maybe you have already seen them?

Okay, so I do leave the island every now and again to fulfill certain familial obligations, as well as tend to off island business interests. I would rather not leave my island lair, but life is sometimes cruel that way. I wonder how long a reader would continue to read this post if I simply extolled the virtues of my magic bed that remains toasty warm nearly an hour after I drag myself from it’s warm embrace to brew the daily yerba mate’. It calls to me as the Sirens called to Odysseus; threatening to ruin my morning schedule. It is worse in the doldrums of February and March, when then sun does not rise until after 6 AM.

A schedule is the saving grace when the office hardly warrants more than three days of tending each week. Make a plan and stick to it; no distractions, no procrastinating, no excuses. Go to bed earlier rather than sleeping later; stick to getting up at a set time every morning. These are not resolutions, these are rules, people; we all need rules to function in society, or so I’m told.

Getting the morning workout done actually feels liberating. If nothing else is accomplished the rest of the day, the morning workout has been done. The second workout of the day is for those truly motivated individuals that feel the need, like runners and bodybuilders. The best part about working out is the eating; you can eat more to fuel your workouts, which brings me to the food.

This time of the year, the pantry seems to yield staples that have not been seen since I don’t know when. Packets of Indian food from Trader Joe’s get mixed with wild rice that was left behind by some long forgotten roommate. Vacuum packed MREs given as gag gifts are eaten with gusto when given a dressing of green curry. Sure there are occasions when one will splurge on some purchase at Stop & Shop or even Cronig’s, but that is the exception when there are several more months to budget before new revenue begins to roll in to replenish the coffers. I actually set aside one day each week to indulge, just to give me something to look forward to.

So there are several more weeks to go before the Spring Track and Field season starts, when my time is no longer my own; there will be no “home” meets this year, as the track has deteriorated to such an abysmal condition that it has been deemed “unfit for competition”. Long travel days lay ahead for the entire season. Another reason to continue to make the most of the time that is mine, while I bide my time until the days when the sun inspires us all to “rise and shine” and once again be sociable, possibly even civil, once more.

There is another way to guarantee to make an islander greet you warmly, possibly even invite you in for some conversation, bring food; fresh baked goods, savory slow cooked foods, or rich calorie dense desserts. Enough said, go in peace.


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Hibernation in the Fortress of Solitude

Well January passed rather quickly this year; must have been the mild weather. As February came over Martha’s Vineyard, those of us left here suddenly realized that here is a winter planned for us and we should not expect otherwise. It was too good to last really; sunny days, little wind, mild temperatures. Still, we have only had a few bitterly cold spells and the odd day or so where the mercury hits 50 still happens. The days are getting longer, but it will be some time before thoughts shift to a sunset picnic on South Beach or in Menemsha. No, this is the time of year when most of the year round residents tend to hibernate.

Now, I have been known to “call people out” when they call themselves year round residents. Their cars still wear the plates of other states, they disappear for warmer climes between January and March, and complain about needing to “get off this rock” before they go insane. Tenderfeet people that they are, they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. If you want to call a place home, take it for all it is; warm summer days, bitterly cold winter nights, weeks of isolation. They remind me of the tale of the ant and the grasshopper; but I digress.

There are an overwhelming number of artistic and literary type people left in this vast wasteland of winter during the most desolate time on Martha’s Vineyard, and that suits them just fine. Me, I’m just a recluse; days might pass before I emerge from my house. Neighbors cannot even tell if I’m at home. I designed the house like a cocoon, insulating me from all that which I wish to avoid. The internet and the advent of social media have permeated my life, but I need only switch off the various devices to achieve seclusion once more. It can be a blessing.

Festivities do happen here, even now. The Annual Chili Fest just lured hundreds of people to the island with promises of judicious libations and spicy omnivorous delights, but it was for only several hours. Soon hundreds of ectomorphic runners shall descend upon the island for the annual 20 Miler RoadRace, no matter what the weather shall hold for them on their epic run through the course. Other, smaller events will also be held; a film festival, the odd community dinner, etc. For the most part, the people remaining here for the duration appreciate the state that the island remains in at this time of year.

The slower pace allows the smaller, more intimate gatherings for quiet dinners or discussions. For others, it is a chance to work on literary pursuits or artistic endeavors. For me it is a time to hibernate in my personal fortress of solitude and contemplate what ways I might better myself; physically, culturally, financially, intellectually. Never settle, always strive for something more because if you do not, you will miss all of the glorious things that exist in this world, even if they reside in your own mind. Understanding how to discover all that could be sometimes requires a certain time, in a special place, in a proper state of mind. I have found that to be now, on my island, in repose. Now go do the same for yourself before life passes you by.

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Hitting Your Marks

With the holidays winding down, it might be a good time to address the different things in our lives in order to insure that we are where we need to be, when we need to be there.

From the time on a clock, to the steps for constructing some new object that we might have received as a gift there are methods to the madness that permeates all of our lives. As I elucidate below, see if you recognize any in your daily routine.

Living on Martha’s Vineyard, anytime I need to leave the island (I never really WANT to leave the island) the issue of transportation looms large in the plans. I have never taken a plane to or from the island, nor do I ever plan to. That leaves transportation via the water and which of the few passenger vessels would be most appropriate. If I plan on taking my car, I have only ONE “choice”. The Steamship Authority can be difficult to deal with from the perspective that you should always TRY to make a reservation for travel in order to prevent either being stuck in stand-by for endless hours or finding out that there is NO stand-by on the day you wish to travel. That being said, you will need to decide which boat you can have your act together in order to be AT the boat on time. Miss that mark, and all hell could break loose. Trust me, even if you THINK you are ready, think again. I refer you to a December 23rd reservation that was prey to the ravages of the wind, canceling ALL boats, including mine.

When I was training for marathons, I had to maintain a certain cadence to insure that I was “on pace” to make the most of my training. If my heart rate was not high enough, I was not working hard enough, which would tend to negate the purpose of training altogether. If it was too high, I would burn out too soon and not have the stamina to finish the training session, if not the race. So keeping my heart rate in the “zone” allowed me to hit the marks, or splits, during the run. These days my running has diminished to what I refer to as “junk miles” that entail maintaining a pace that allows me to finish the workout before I have to start walking or hitch a ride.

Whether for business or for personal, we all have appointments and commitments that require use to meet with people at a given time, at a certain place. On island you might have to deal with a drawbridge that randomly goes up, even when there are no boats waiting to pass through. Or perhaps a couple of moped riders feel the need to ride side by side from the Aquinnah Lighthouse all the way to the Steamship Authority Lot as you are rushing to make your reservation. Then again, there is always the excuse my clients tend to have most often when they arrive late, there was no parking available. I have always found that it always best to be early than late, but sometimes fate deals you a cruel blow and it just cannot be helped. If you cannot be prompt, be gracious when you arrive. Everyone will appreciate it, trust me.

Dealing with a seasonal economy requires everyone involved to obtain a certain amount of seasonal wealth to carry then through the off season. The most important aspect is to understand that this fact exists before the season has passed; otherwise your options for independence dwindle rapidly. Consider working every day, for long hours, until the business slows to a crawl or until you can no longer function at the given, whether you like it or not. That will be the new “normal” unless you just come to the island to work seasonally, as a parasitic worker, in which case you can be on your merry way whenever the urge strikes you. For those of us with a mortgage, taxes, and a business to maintain, we continue to toil away for fear that it will all end too soon, leaving us short of what we need to pay the bills until the next season arrives. This has been an ever more difficult mark to hit, given that every season seems to be shorter than the last.

As the year comes to a close, I look back and see that I have hit almost all of my marks. Perhaps I could have set the bar a little higher, but given all that I encountered over the past year, I have to be happy that I made it this far. How about you? Here’s to next year!

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Go Vineyarders

So this past weekend was very special for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Athletics Program. Yes, for the first time since 2004 both the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams ran in the Massachusetts (MIAA) All-State Cross Country Championships  at Franklin Park, just outside of Boston. Oh, you thought I was referring to the football game? No, that sporting event did not interest me. After all, I attended and graduated from one of the high schools were the rivalry dates back to 1875. The earliest known game between the two schools was played on May 12, 1875. I never attended a football game in high school, however.

My view of athletics is one that establishes a love for the activities in the individual that will remain with them throughout the individual’s lifetime, promoting a healthy lifestyle that endures. I watched a movie about the American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, where the actor portrayed the runner speaking to a group of kids. He asked them if they liked football. They yelled “yes” and he replied that football wouldn’t be much without running, right? He did the same for several other sports, getting the same response from the kids. My point is, running might seem pretty mundane, but we tend to take it for granted as a sport, for the most part. But I am biased, as I am a runner and I coach runners.

Here on Martha’s Vineyard, I know runners that have run more than 100 marathons, compete in the Boston Marathon year after year, and run road races well into their 60’s. People clamor from all over the country to run in the Chilmark Road Race every year. Every summer residents and visitors alike take to the roads, paths, and trails of the Vineyard to resume running programs lost since the previous season. Running spans the confines of generations like few other sports do. I have been running for more than 25 years, including marathons.

Yet, the weekend the Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams both qualified for the Massachusetts State Finals, a few lines appeared in the local papers; nothing more. The fact that there where kids that stepped up when their team members faltered, enabling the entire team to advance to the next level of competition, well their names and times were not listed or noted. The next Saturday, when the Steamship Authority lot in Vineyard Haven was overrun with people clamoring to board the boat toNantucketfor the football game, the Cross Country Team quietly boarded the boat bound for Wood’s Hole.

The island’s radio station broadcast the football game live. Island businesses had signs posted in their windows cheering on the football players. When the Football Team returned to Vineyard Haven, victorious, they were greeted with a hero’s welcome, or so I was told. Pictures and video of the players and the game were all over the internet. Oh, and the runners on the Cross Country Team made it back to the island, too; just in case anyone was wondering.

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Know Your Limits

I went out for my usual run this morning, but I cut it a little short. Sure, I could have pushed myself past the tightness I was feeling in my hip and made the full loop, but I thought better of it. The older I get, the more I rationalize and make the more conservative choice when the opportunity presents itself. It was not so long ago that I would push every aspect of my life to the limits, just to test them. Oh, we all should live, but also learn the lessons of life whenever possible.

When I first came to Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 1999, I was literally living in a tool shed. Sure, it has a phone line and electricity, but it was still a 9’ x12’ tool shed. I lived there for five full seasons, sometimes deep into late fall when there was snow on the ground. Yet, it was a space that served its purpose; a place to stash my stuff and rest my head. Five years was my limit, however. Outdoor showers after the first frost quickly lose their novelty and I needed the modern convenience of running water to feel civilized.

During those first five seasons I trained for marathons. The first year I had a training partner that showed up more often than not, but usually I was on my own, running ten miles in the morning, another ten at night. The bike paths on the island allow runners to train safely at nearly any hour of the day or night, a luxury found few other places. Still, I was able to train long and hard without injury, even while working the long demanding hours of the summer season. I only slept a few hours each night, but the summer weather was energizing; the cool sea air of morning and night, bookends to the blazing daytime sun.

Though I worked hard and trained hard, I knew the season would end and I would inevitably leave the island for the winter months, waiting for the next season to arrive. The island axiom of “pray for September” signaled the end of the tourists’ siege of the island. Like locust’s ravenous plunder of crops, the tourists and visitors of August would denude the workers of their patience and test their limits of sanity. I might work ten to twelve hours each day, every day of the season, but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel called September.

Well, I have been living onMartha’s Vineyardyear-round since 2003. One year I only left the island for twelve calendar days. I stopped running longer distances as soon as I owned the business I worked at. The number of hours spent in the office has dropped off significantly as well, for a number of reasons. I was here at the crest of the wave, when the economy was booming and people could not spend it fast enough. I have remained through the current “trough” of the economic downturn; occasionally commuting off island in order to make enough money to pay all that was owed.

While the economy might have a ways to go before everyone is able to sleep easy, the people of the island have always seemed to pull together as a community more than other places I have lived. Shop keepers give each other a knowing nod when they meet at the bank in August; they know that it won’t be long before they will have time to catch up on small talk. As the days get shorter and school starts once again, I know that I will be spending less time trying to accommodate clients’ busy social schedule in order for me to book a session. I know my limits, both physically and mentally, better now than all those years ago. We must all seek to reach that balance; if not for you, for those that you live and work with. “Pray for September.”

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Do You Run?

So I have been running for nearly 25 years. I started logging serious miles while attending college in New Haven, CT. Little did I know how long I would continue and how far my feet would take me. It was not until a few weeks ago that I actually reflected on my running history, as well as contemplating the future.

For most, running is a solitary endeavor that requires a bit of persistence and planning. No treadmill workouts here, but rather traversing trails, roads and sidewalks in order to feel satisfied with the run of any given day. You can find the seasonal runners, plugged into their iPods, carrying water bottles and fashionably dressed in snazzy spandex. Others you might never see, unless you have to catch an early boat or you yourself fall into the category of a diehard runner.

I fancy myself a member of the latter, having trained in blizzards, driving rain with gale force winds, and used a head lamp to see in the dark, just to log the miles I felt I needed. There are a number of us onMartha’s Vineyard. We live here year round. Usually we see each other out there on the road or at local races, discussing mileage, splits, and what pace we’re looking at running.

The summer road races onMartha’s Vineyarddraw a motley crew of tourists, diehards, and locals. Everyone loves to talk about the Chilmark Road Race in August. Great, have fun and get a T-shirt to wear back in whatever city you live in. Scoops, Murdick’s, Run the Chop and the numerous races, both past and present, are all great races that are a part of the island’s charm.

However, the races run in the off-season bring out the serious runners that have the heart to brave the elements and test their mettle against whatever the island throws at them. The annual 20 miler in February would be the consummate example of just such a race. Rain, snow, wind or even a perfectly calm day with bright blue skies could greet you the morning of the race. What is guaranteed is that you will not be running it alone. That is a testament to the devotion of a dedicated runner.

My faster days are behind me now. I was able to run the nearly 10 mile loop from Our Market to the Triangle in Edgartown and back in about an hour when I first ‘washed ashore’ more than 12 years ago. I never ran a sub-three hour marathon, but instead peaked at3:08and change. I did run Boston in 2000, with more than 25,000 other runners. I still get up before the sun and enjoy the ritual of it all. I can tell you where run for any number of distances all over the island. Need to train on some hills? Yup, there are a bunch of hidden, little used trails. The island proved to be the place where I excelled in both times and distances, as it has everything a runner needs to train and improve.  I have been working with the next generation of athletes at the high school. The cross country and track teams keep me training and I help them learn from my experiences. In return, they improve and mature in an environment that I feel good about being a part of. Fair enough…

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Running Is A Process

As I compose this blog, it is Sunday morning. Although is not yet 8AM, I have already been up for nearly four hours. I was in the middle of a seven mile run as I watched the sunrise over Vineyard Haven harbor. This Sunday ritual has become ingrained into a part of my life that I take solace in. I am not alone, for the usual cadre of runners and cyclists are also out there, enjoying all the natural beauty thatMartha’s Vineyardhas to offer.

My usual loop takes me through West Chop, downtown Vineyard Haven, and sometimes past the Tisbury Water Works. The pace and route may vary, through the seasons and as time might allow, but running holds a multi-faceted purpose for me, as it does with many runners I know.

Beyond the aspect of fitness, running holds the opportunity to clear the mind and sift through the stresses of daily life. While I run with a GPS computer, mostly to track my progress, I have never run with music. No walkmans, iPods, or the like, as I find them to be more a distraction or buffer between one’s self and the surroundings.

Having run in urban and rural settings, I never want to be too disconnected from the environment where I am. In cities, it is important to hear approaching cars and emergency vehicles, but running on the Vineyard holds something else. Running here, whether it is around West Chop or through a Land Bank Trail, I want to hear the rustle of the wildlife around me. Sure, I want to avoid the skunks that warrant caution, but I also enjoy catching the flash of white as a deer bounds away.

This morning held woodpeckers banging away along upperMain Street, a rooster of note sounding his call, and more than a few squirrels chattering their disapproval of my presence. Other mornings the Nobska fog horn can be heard sounding off, the steamships might be chugging around the chop, or the wind may howl at me in what seems to be a headwind Whether you run or walk, get out there and enjoy all that surrounds you. Leave your cell phone, iPods, and the like at home. Spend some quality time with the island, its offerings, and even with your own thoughts. You might be pleasantly surprised on what you discover.

no matter which way I turn.

Still, there are times that beyond all other sounds, I hear the thoughts in my head. Running provides me time to think with a clear head. I find my cadence and the thought process begins. Perhaps I need to respond to correspondence from an individual, or there a project requires a certain something that I have not yet figured out. Then again, I could compose a blog post, as I did this morning.

Often the distance I run is dictated by physical or time constraints. Other times, I will go just a little farther, just to filter through something that I have been contemplating for some while but just have not yet figured out. That’s where my running has kept me fit, both physically and mentally. Running is my process.

Whether you run or walk, get out there and enjoy all that surrounds you. Leave your cell phone, iPods, and the like at home. Spend some quality time with the island, its offerings, and even with your own thoughts. You might be pleasantly surprised on what you discover.

running is a process

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