Archive for December, 2013

Training on a Busy Schedule


Many excuses are made for why we don’t exercise but the most frequent one I hear is “I just don’t have time”.    My response is always the same, “how can you not make the time?”.    Exercise actually increases your energy level so you need to make the time to exercise so you can take on more.  So if you have a busy schedule and struggling to find the time to exercise, consider the following.
My top 10 ideas to consider for those on a busy schedule.

  1. Workout Early in the Morning – Getting up early takes some discipline, but it can be very rewarding.  I use my morning runs as “Me Time”.  It is the one part of my day that I control.  I travel a great deal and sometimes work 12 hour days so working out in the evenings was unpredictable.  Besides, by the end of the day, I’m usually exhausted and my energy level is not what it is in the mornings.  You can change your body clock to adapt to early morning workouts and it is a great way to start the day which is why it is my #1 recommendation.  A lot of people workout in the early mornings and you might find a friend willing to do so with you.
  2. Walk/Run at Lunch – This is a great option and a good way to revive your energy during the day.   Or even better, if you have an option of working out at a gym during your lunch hour, you should take advantage of it.   This beats sitting at your desk and working through lunch which many of us do these days.  Most likely you will find you are more productive at work after your lunch time workout.  Also it will make your evening time more enjoyable, knowing that you have completed your workout during the day.
  3. Work out at Work – if your company allows, sit on a stability ball at your desk to strengthen your core – you will be surprised at how this will help!  Also, if you can keep dumbbells at your desk and squeeze in a few dumbbell curls during the day.  You can also do ab crunches in your chair (but don’t try this if your chair is on wheels!), leg lifts under your desk, lunges, or squats.  Be creative and look around your office area to see what you might use as a means to workout.  Who knows, you might even motivate your co-workers to do the same.
  4. Take a Walking Meeting – have you thought about having a meeting with a co-worker while walking?  If you can do this while on the job, it is a great way to improve your fitness while working too.  Studies have shown that we actually think better during activities so who knows, you might have a great idea during a walking meet.
  5. Take the Steps – One sure way to improve your fitness level is to take the stairs when you can.  I usually always do this unless I am climbing more than 5 floors in a building.  Also, I avoid the moving express walkways in airports and other locations and use that as a means of exercise.
  6. Park further Away– Instead of parking in close to your designation, consider parking farther away.  I do this when going to a business meeting, grocery store, movies, shopping, etc.   Use the distance to get in a short little exercise but make sure you park in a safe location and be aware of your surroundings.
  7. Make it a Social or Family Event – Take your spouse, kids, pet, or a friend with you on a walk / run around the block.  It is a good way to stay connected and pass the time.  Involving others (including pets if you have one) helps keep you motivated.  It is better than sitting on the coach watching TV!
  8. Invest in a Treadmill – If you can afford it, consider using a Treadmill in your home.  Watch the news and other shows on TV while working out at home.   It beats sitting on the couch.  A friend of mine uses a treadmill to walk and she reads while walking (she lost 25 pounds over an 18 month period doing this!).
  9. Get off the Couch – We are a society that enjoys the tube but that does not mean we have to be couch potatoes while doing so.  Next time you are watching your favorite show, consider doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, lunges, etc. during the commercials.  Make it intense and see how many you can do during the breaks.  It is a great way to work out and enjoy your favorite show too!
  10. Stay True to Your Weekend Schedule – regardless of your busy schedule, make the time to get your longer workouts in over the weekend (or when you have time off from work).   There is no excuse to missing a weekend workout.  Over time, your fitness level will improve and your walks/runs will become a habit.   Tell yourself, you must do these workouts and accept nothing less.  Keeping yourself fit will not only improve your mood, but you will find over time you can better manage stress, your energy level increases, and you will feel better overall knowing that you are living life to the fullest.

Coach Dan

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Why be “merry” today?

“Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning.”  (from “O Come, All Ye Faithful”)

I asked a lot of questions in The Race Before Us.  It seems sometimes I cannot leave good enough alone.  But, for a few weeks now we have been greeted with and have greeted others with “Merry Christmas”.  I thought it appropriate to remember why we are merry – and, just to get the obvious out of the way, its not because there may be a new iPad, a pearl necklace, a dollhouse, or “Rock ’em – Sock ’em” Robots under the tree “just for me”.

So, why be “merry” today?  The obvious answer is because Jesus was born, and while the birth of a new born is typically a happy occasion, there is no birth in history that is remembered and celebrated more than the birth of Jesus.  So, the question becomes – why are we or should we be merry because of Jesus’ birth.  Last night we sang many traditional Christmas songs with well-known lines like “Christ the Savior is born” (“Silent Night“) and “Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns” (“Joy to the World“).  These hymns also included such familiar verses as “God and sinners reconciled” (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing“) and “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today” (“O Little Town of Bethlehem“).


I know what you’re probably thinking – “Why did you have to bring ‘sin” into this? I was with you when you were talking about Rock’em – Sock’em Robots”.  Last year I taught a class at Sunday School called “66 Books – One Story,” where we discussed how the Bible has a single story line – from Genesis to Revelation, there is one story about man’s relationship with God – how it went badly and how God initiated a plan to rescue or redeem his people.  (The fancy words for this are “biblical theology”.)  It is in that context that I’d like to answer the question of “why be ‘merry’ today?


Our hymns speak of the “savior” being born – so, we should ask, “from what are we being saved”?  And, “how is it that Jesus is going to save us?”  Fortunately, the hymns offer the answers as well.  Jesus will save us from sin, which keeps us from a right relationship with God.  Hence, it is Jesus that “reconciles” us with and to God.  Back to the biblical theology – Jesus completes God’s plan to rescue us, to put us in a “right” relationship with God – and (while it is Christmas time, not Easter) Jesus completes the rescue/reconciliation through His death on the cross.

So, if you wanted them (as I so badly did as a child), I hope the Rock’em-Sock’em Robots are under your tree this morning.  But we really should be “merry” today (and everyday) because the birth of Jesus begins the final phase of our salvation – our ultimate reconciliation with God.

I know you knew all of that, but the question occurred to me and I wanted to remind myself of the answer and it always helps when I write things out.




Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  (Acts 4:12)



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My Christmas List

If you’ve read a post or two here previously you know that I often take disparate observations and see in them some thoughtful or meaningful connection or message.  You also know that I usually try to make some connection to The Race Before Us in these posts.  So, with that warning, here’s “My Christmas List.”


Sometime this past weekend, after spending most of the prior week in New York City on business, I realized it was time to try to get myself more into the Christmas season.  So, I used my iTunes buttons on my cell phone to call up the Christmas “genre” – which gave me a list of my saved “Christmas” songs.  (Not to be too cynical, but I do wonder – and worry – how long it will be before our secular society convinces Apple to change the name of the “genre” to “Holiday Songs.”)  Probably my favorite (with apologies to Nat King Cole) are a few by Amy Grant, including “Grown-Up Christmas List.”  I am really enjoying listening to both classic and modern songs celebrating the season, including of course “Grown-Up Christmas List” (and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at your nose,” formally known as “The Christmas Song”).

Monday I got around to reading a new Religion Today article (from Friday, December 13, 2013) from my new friend Jim Tonkowich.  (If you read the “Acknowledgements” in the book, you will see a note of thanks to “Jim Tonkowich,” who helped to edit an early version of the manuscript.)  At the end of the article (warning:  Jim is a little critical of our America, entitlement culture), Jim presents his own “grown-up” Christmas list (yet, I do not think he had Amy Grant in mind), which is as follows (although I urge you to read the full article):

For Christmas I want virtue, duty, responsibility, commitment, and sacrifice. Don’t you?

And, as connections go, this recalled our discussion at Sunday School the prior week when we investigated the “moral argument” as discussed in The Race Before Us  (more about that in another “Doubt, Faith & Truth” post – coming soon), where we asked:  “If humans are solely the product of time, matter and chance, from where do we get our sense of altruism and self-sacrifice?”  [Jim’s Christmas list also recalls a great book by Os Guinness – A Free People’s Suicide, in which he argues, rather persuasively I might add, that absent a citizenry that is virtuous and willing to constrain itself – values that are derived from belief in God – the American democracy and freedom as we know it will not survive.  Dramatic stuff, but worth a ponder – better yet, its not to late to put it on your Christmas list.  Come to think of it, its not too late to order The Race Before Us for your friends and families, even if its not on their “list.”]

Here is a portion of “Grown-up Christmas List” (written by David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner):

“Grown-Up Christmas List”

Do you remember me, I sat upon your knee

I wrote to you with childhood fantasies

 Well I’m all grown-up now, And still need help somehow

I’m not a child, But my heart still can dream

 So here’s my lifelong wish

My grown-up Christmas list

Not for myself, But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart

That wars would never start

And time would heal all hearts

Everyone would have a friend

And right would always win

And love would never end

This is my grown-up Christmas list

Yesterday I did two other things.  I sent my law partner (who has a fairly new daughter – his first after two boys) one of my favorite books – Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (he now agrees, “there’s nothing like daddy’s little girl”).  I also sent my family my list of things I wanted for Christmas.  My list had 5 items:  three “entitlement” times (things for my plans to walk the Camino de Santiago in April), a “date” with my wife, and “schedule our dad-daughter weekends.”

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Exercising in Cold Weather


For many of us cold weather is a normal part of our lives so we have to adapt to the conditions when exercises (running or walking) outside.   Here are some tips you might find useful for exercising outside in the cold weather.




Dress for Cold Weather – as a rule of thumb, you should dress for the outside as if the temperature were approximately 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.  For example, if it is 25 degrees outside, you should dress as if the weather is 45 degrees.   This is because your body temperature rises during exercise so you don’t want to overdress when your body starts to heat up during exercise (which usually happens within a few minutes of exercising).   When mom would tell you to put on a hat because you lose over 50% of your body heat through your head, she was partially correct.  Because our bodies are a source for heat, keeping as much covered as possible will help us retain more heat.  You will lose just as much heat through your leg if it were not covered, but mom knows best so let’s keep the hat on when it is cold outside.   Also, it is important to remember to cover other extremities like your hands and ears, especially when it outside temperature is below freezing.   The real key to dressing is to dress in layers, which helps keep out the colder air because no two pieces of fabric are sewn in the same pattern, making it difficult for air to easily flow through each layer.  Plus, layering allows the sweat to move through layers of clothing more easily and away from your skin, especially if you are wearing wicking base as a layer.  At all costs, avoid cotton in colder weather since cotton absorbs moisture and can become cold very quickly.   Since technical clothing (moisture wicking and non-cotton fabric) is readily available, there is no need to ever wear cotton when exercising, during any type of weather.


Here are some things to consideration when running in the cold weather:


Thermal hat: A fleece or wool hat is perfect and should cover your ears on cold days.


Neck Gaiter: A neck gaiter can be extremely valuable on frigid days to warm the air you breathe in.


Chapstick/Vaseline:  Good protection to prevent windburn and chapping on nose and cheeks.


Wicking Base Layer: The layer closest to your body should be made from a synthetic wicking material, such as DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, polypropylene, or silk. If it is over 40 degree F, you can usually wear just a long-sleeve base layer.


Second (Insulating) Layer: Consider for very cold weather (below freezing).  Should be an insulating material, such as fleece (polyester, micro or Therma), Thermax, Akwatek, Dryline or Polartec work well for this layer.


Wind- and Water-proof Outer Layer: This layer should protect you against wind and moisture (rain, sleet, snow), but at the same time allow both heat and moisture to escape to prevent both overheating and chilling. A zipper jacket works well and you can regulate your temperature by zipping it up and down. Suggested outer layers include: ClimaFit, Gore-Tex, Microsuplex, nylon, Supplex, and Windstopper.


Gloves/Mittens: On cold days, wear gloves that wick away moisture. Mittens are warmer on colder days because your fingers will share their body heat.


Tights/Running Pants: Your legs generate a lot of heat so you don’t need as many layers on your lower body. You can usually wear just a pair of tights or running pants made of synthetic material such as Thermion, Thinsulate, Thermax, Coolmax, polypropylene, and/or silk. If it’s below 10 degrees F (temperature or wind chill), you may want to consider two layers on your lower body: a wicking layer of tights, and a wind-proof layer such as track pants.


Shoes: Your feet also stay pretty warm, as long as you keep them moving and dry. Try to avoid puddles, slush, and snow. Look for a running shoe with as little mesh as possible, since that’s where the water will seep through to your feet. Or, if you can’t avoid running in the snow, you may want to think about buying trail running shoes, which are somewhat water-proof and will give you a little more traction in the snow.


Socks: Never wear cotton socks (in cold or warm weather) when running because they won’t wick away the moisture, leaving your feet wet and prone to blisters. Instead, be sure to wear a good pair of wicking socks made of fabrics such as acrylic, CoolMax, or wool (in the winter).


Extremely Cold Weather (below 10 degrees): I have run in weather with a wind chill factor of -35 degrees using only 3 layers and I am sure others have similar stories.  The best advice I can give is to use your best judgment for running in very cold weather (below 10 degrees).  If you are uncomfortable running outside in extreme cold temperatures, then I would suggest running inside on the treadmill.


NO COTTON – Remember, cotton absorbs moisture very quickly, and if you’re sweating during cold weather, you will become cold very quickly!  Ideally you should try to wear products that touch your skin that are breathable, and that “wick” moisture away from the body like the materials listed above.


Again, it’s all about LAYERING!  I would suggest 3 layers on your upper body, a thermal hat (fleece or wool), neck gaiter that can be pulled up over your face will help a lot, and a good pair of warm gloves.  As mentioned above, stay away from cotton, especially against your skin. Women should also consider a non-cotton sports bra.


And, keep in mind that these are tried and true GUIDELINES.   Modify, adjust, and experiment ACCORDING TO THE TEMPERATURE and your comfort level.  Sometimes, only one or two of the three layers will be needed so experiment and find what works best for you.





Cold Weather Hydration – There is a misconception that you don’t need to take in water since you may not feel as thirsty during cold weather exercising.  Cold weather studies at the University of New Hampshire (2005 study) actually show there is an increased risk for dehydration in colder weather.   So YES, you want to maintain the same level of water intact, and in fact, you may want slightly more when running during cold weather running.   We lose a great deal of water from our bodies in the winter due to respiratory fluid loss through breathing. Our bodies also are working harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in cold, dry air.   Yet the loss of fluid from our bodies, which triggers thirst in warmer weather, does not elicit the same response when the temperatures dip.  Another study in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows that cold actually alters thirst sensation (which is why we often times are not as thirsty as in warmer weather).


In summary, following the tips above will help you get the most out of your outside exercises and hopefully make it a positive experience.   I run outside year round as a way to stay fit and you can too.  Layering, staying away from cotton, and drinking plenty of fluids when it is cold is the key to enjoying your outside activity.   Now, let’s have a cup of hot chocolate and hit the roads.


Happy Trails.


Coach Dan

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Doubt, Faith and Truth – Part II

In the movie version of Angels & Demons, the prequel to The DaVinci Code, Tom Hanks’s character responds to a question about belief in God by saying, “Faith is a gift I have yet to receive.” My regular golfing partner John had used this quote during a sermon he had given on lay Sunday, explaining that he never remembered a time when he didn’t believe. When my friend, Carl, read the earliest drafts of this manuscript, he said the same thing. Wow! I thought. Why wasn’t it that easy for me? (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

A little over a week ago we featured “Doubt, Faith and Truth – Part I,” which touched on a Sunday School class I am teaching based upon my book:  “Doubt, Faith and Truth in The Race Before Us.”  We said then that the class was in two parts.  It has grown, but this is Part II:  “Truth”

Obviously this is a massive topic to try to capture in a blog post.  The focus of the class was not an in-depth philosophical investigation of what is true and how do we know (that might take 2 blog posts), but a discussion of the methodology used in The Race Before Us.  I recounted a story about a lunch I had with a friend that somehow turned to questions of doubt and faith.  This friend was very resistant to revisiting his own faith (he is an aggressive agnostic) explaining his negative experiences with “the church” and explaining his problem reconciling a loving god with evil, pain, and suffering we find in the world.  We had a good discussion and he agreed to read my book (which was in the printing process at the time).  My closing thought to him was that I did not think that he would regain the faith of his earlier life until he became convinced that Christianity is true.

That then was the introduction to the topic of “truth” in the context of “Doubt, Faith and Truth.”  I then reviewed the manner in which the book lays out the investigation and analysis that I undertook, but before doing so we discussed that this was not the only way and not necessarily the best way to come to faith in Christ.  As indicated by the opening quotation, many cannot recall a time that they did not believe.  Moreover, a reliance on an evidentiary approach and the use of rigorous logic is not crucial for many believers.  But, the methodology for me became very much a lawyer’s cross-examination of numerous, traditional reasons (in true attorney fashion, “arguments”) that support a belief in the existence of God.  In particular, much of this analysis begins with a chapter entitled “Beginning the Race – Philosophy 101” which recalls my college classes that looked at classic philosophical questions such as how we know what we know and whether God exists.

Without doing anything other than very briefly touching on the topic, we hurriedly listed out most of the “arguments” examined – again, not to take those arguments apart or to even understand them, but to provide some insight into the methodology employed in the “journey of faith” set out in The Race Before Us. That said, the arguments include the following:

– the ontological argument

– the cosmological argument

– the teleological argument

– the anthropic principle

– the moral argument

– the historicity of Jesus Christ

– the reliability of scripture

– the truth of the resurrection

– and other “arguments” (explanation of beauty, existence of conscience, argument from desire, “knowing” without evidence, uniqueness of human beings)

So that’s what we did in 50 minutes.  The Race Before Us is approximately 70,000 words over 222 pages (but a very snappy read).  A little more than half the book is devoted to the journey of faith outlined above.  Needless to say, its hard to cover all of those things in a Sunday School class – in fact, we are extending the class so we might talk more about many of the “arguments” above.  So, look for Part III and Part IV – and maybe more.

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Safety First

One day early in my running journey, I came home from work just after dusk. As I turned a corner in our neighborhood, which had no streetlights, I came dangerously close to a couple walking their dog. They were on the side of the street, and I was neither going too fast nor driving outside the middle of the fairly narrow road. It startled and scared me and made me see that—although I saw very few vehicles—the drivers couldn’t see me most winter mornings. I realized cars that came uncomfortably close to me probably did so because the drivers could not see me until they were right upon me. Most runners will not fare well in a collision with a motorized vehicle. Our mothers were right: it’s better to be safe …  (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

Editor’s Note:  Beginning right after the first of the year – hopefully to coincide with your New Year’s resolutions – Coach Dan will begin and post regularly a simple plan to get you on your way to walking and/or running.  This post is preliminary to actually stepping out for that first walk or run.

Coach Dan Blankenship

Coach Dan Blankenship

Running or Walking Safety Principles – a must read before heading out for a walk or run

Before heading out for a walk or run, it is important to review some safety rules first.  Here are a few safety rules to keep in mind.  Most are common sense but still a good idea to review these rules every now and then.

  • Be aware of your surroundings – It is important to never stop paying attention to your surroundings and your instincts no matter how safe you think it might be.   Simply being aware, trusting your intuition, and making smart decisions is key to running alone or in small groups.  The best advice you can take with you on a run is to that inner voice and if you are unsure of a place or a person, avoid it.  Preferably, run in familiar areas and consider alternating your routes and times so that you are not predictable.  This also helps with boredom too.
  • Bring a buddy – avoid running alone if you can, especially after dark and stay away from poorly lit areas.   As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers so find a friend or running group to run with if possible.
  • Run facing traffic – You should always be aware of motorists on the road and always run facing traffic.  Stay out of the vehicle and bike lanes and run on the side of the road or sidewalk where available.  Unlike a bicycle, you need to see the traffic coming your way so you can move quickly out of the way if you have to.  It is important to make eye contact with vehicles so you know they can see you.  If you can’t see the driver’s eyes, most likely he can’t see you.  If you are running in a group, run single file when on the roads.  Remember, you can’t outrun a 3,000 pound car!  Be reasonable and use sound judgment when running on the roads.
  • Be visible – If you are running in dark, wear brightly colored or reflective clothing.  A lot of running apparel, including shoes, have reflective material that will help make you visible at night.


  • Don’t wear headphones – They don’t belong on the roads or in traffic.  New studies have shown a significant increase in pedestrian deaths in the past few years because more people are using headphones.  You can’t hear traffic or someone coming up on you so save the music for a track, trail or a treadmill.
  • Don’t wear jewelry – it can attract attention that you may not want.
  • Don’t challenge a car to a race – if you come to an intersection and see a car approaching, yield to the motorist.  Trust me, they are faster than you and the car will win every time!
  • Stopped cars making turns – Be aware of stopped cars waiting to make a right turn.  Stop and wait until they make a turn or run behind them.  A car making a right hand turn is looking left and not at you crossing in their path so be aware of turning vehicles.
  • Running alone – If running alone, carry your cell phone, a noise maker, pepper spray, or some other defense item with you if possible, and always have some form of identification on you.   If you have a medical condition, be sure to wear a medical bracelet.  Many first responders look for medical information and emergency contact information are critical in the event something happens.  One idea is to wear a road ID like the ones sold by
  • Write down your running route – or tell someone where you are running and when you expect to return so they can check on you in case something happens.  A great application to consider is the which provides a service that allows you to record your routes and emergency contacts if you do not log back on within a certain time from starting your run.


  • Don’t stop or give directions to someone, even motorist if you are running alone.   Your intuition and common sense will go a long way here.
  • Call police immediately – if you see something suspicious.  Don’t always assume someone else will call.  If you have a cell phone, dial 911 if you need to.

Always practice these principles to have a safe and enjoyable walk/run.  Best overall advice, use common sense and if it does not feel right, don’t do it, and if you see something suspicious, call the police immediately.

Coach Dan

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