Colfax Marathon & The Gathering Place: There’s Still Time to Donate


The Colfax Marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon and 10-miler (my race) are all coming up this Sunday, May 15. I’m trained up and ready for a fun dash from Lakewood to beautiful Denver City Park. I’m feeling good, strong and injury-free. The weather should be cloudy and cool which is good for a 200 lb. runner such as myself.

I’ve been raising money for a great organization called The Gathering Place which is a drop-in day shelter for homeless women, kids and the transgender community. I’m very happy to be helping the TGP do their wonderful work and I’m grateful to everyone who has donated thus far. Thus far my friends and family have donated $2343.10. I would love to hit $2500 (or more) by Sunday. If you haven’t donated or if you’ve already donated and you still have some spare money sitting around, then you still have time. Follow this link if you’d like to donate.

Charity Fundraising Via the Colfax Marathon 10-Miler


I am very fortunate to be able to live a safe, secure, healthy life with supportive people around me. I want for very little and I have a lot for which to be grateful. Many others in this country live in far less desirable conditions than I. In May, I’ll get do something that I enjoy (running) and help people who are in need.

The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place is Denver’s only daytime drop-in shelter for women, children and the transgender community who are poor or homeless. TGP also offers a wide variety of services to this vulnerable population. I was contacted recently by TGP employee Juliette Lee to see if I’d be willing to run the Colfax Marathon on their behalf as well as do some fundraising for them. I said, “yes.”

I think I’m like a lot of people in that I know I should and I could do some charity work. For all sorts of lazy reasons it seems that at the end of the week/month/year I haven’t done much. Thus I’m very pleased that the process has been made easy for me.

I will be running the 10-mile race on Sunday, May 15. I hope to raise a minimum of $1000 in donations. Contributions will help support the following services:

  • Betsy’s Cupboard: Members may receive 25 lbs of food per month as well as toiletry and hygiene items.
  • Bridget’s Boutique: TGP’s clothing bank features items for members donated by the community.
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Phone access
  • Mail access
  • Physical & mental health services
  • Family program: Our Family Program provides a safe and fun space for children under 18 to be while at The Gathering Place. Staff also provides resources and referrals specifically targeted to families.
  • Housing stabilization: TGP’s only case-managed program, our Housing Stabilization Advocate works with members seeking long-term, sustainable housing options.
  • Nap room: 6 beds are available for napping on a first come, first served basis. Clean linens provided.
  • Community resources: The 1st Floor Resource Desk is a great place to learn about wider Denver Metro area resources. If what you are seeking is not at TGP, our Resource Advocates will do their best to connect you with where you need to go.
  • GED classes: The Education Classroom hosts GED Class twice a week and holds on-site testing periodically.
  • Job readiness: TGP’s Job Readiness program offers support with résumé assistance, interview prep, and job seeking.
  • Computer lab
  • The Card Project: Members create original artwork to be sold as greeting cards at TGP and by local businesses. Seventy-five percent of each card sale goes back to the artist.
  • The Writer’s Group: The Gathering Place has two writer’s groups that meet weekly on the 3rd Floor – one for technical writing and one for creative writing.
  • Knitting & crochet
  • Open art: Open Art time gives members freedom to explore creative self-expression and experiment in a variety of mediums.

Please help

I’m asking for your help. If you want to donate then a suggested minimum amount is a $20 pledge ($2 per mile.) You can follow this link to my donation page. Any donation you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Sleep: Think You Can Do Without It?


This is the cutting edge of health!

A recent TED Talk has grabbed my attention. The topic is sleep. (I’ve written before about this vastly under-appreciated component of health here and here.) The presenter is Dr. Kirk Parsley. Dr. Parsley is a former Navy Seal. He’s been a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine since 2006 and served as Naval Special Warfare’s expert on sleep medicine.  In other words, he’s familiar with lack of sleep and its effects. 

Among other things, he discusses our cultural view of sleep which is one that I’ve observed as well. It seems that a lot of us recognize the necessity of good eating and vigorous exercise as part of getting in top-notch shape but sleep seems to be a footnote. It’s often dismissed without much thought. We look at sleep as an obstacle to productivity. It’s like a leisure activity done only by babies and the weak. The productive go-getters hardly sleep–they work!

I’ve had a lot of people say something along the line of, “Oh well, I can’t ever get to bed that early,” or “Yeah… I know… I just wind up staying up late.” Some people seem to think they don’t need sleep.  “I feel fine with five hours of sleep,” or something like that. Here, from the National Institutes of Health, are a few of the negative health effects of lack of sleep:

In the past 10 or more years, research has overturned the dogma that sleep loss has no health effects, apart from daytime sleepiness. The studies discussed in this section suggest that sleep loss (less than 7 hours per night) may have wide-ranging effects on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, including the following:

  • Obesity in adults and children
  • Diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance
  • Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Depressed mood
  • Alcohol use

The evidence suggests strongly that if you’re not sleeping enough then you’re not performing as well as you’d like and your health is suffering. In my totally anecdotal experience, the days when I get to bed early and sleep in for a little while results in my feeling phenomenal. I’m going to try and do that more often. Here’s the TED talk:

Worth Reading: What Makes a Great Personal Trainer? Recovery, Pronation, Bringing Up Your Weak Spots


What makes a great trainer?

The Personal Training Development Center (PTDC) has a lot of useful, informative articles for personal trainers.  Are Personal Trainers Missing the Point is a recent piece with which I agree. The key observation is this:

“The ability to correctly coach exercises is slowly becoming a lost art in the training world, despite that it’s the most fundamental component of being a personal trainer/coach.”

The article advocates for trainers to teach the squat, deadlift, bench press, standing press and pull-up.  (I would ad the push-up to the list.) It’s also suggested that trainers learn to teach regressions and progressions of these exercises. These exercises are the essentials. They have been and still are the basic building blocks of effective exercise programs and they offer the most return on investment of a client’s training time. Read the article to learn three steps to becoming a better coach.

Running recovery

Alex Hutchinson writes for Runner’s World and the Running Times. He recently wrote an article called the Science of Recovery.  He briefly discusses six methods: antioxidants, jogging (as during a cool down), ice bath, massage, cryosauna and compression garments. Anyone who trains hard–runner or not–may find the article interesting.


Pete Larson at gives us Do You Pronate? A Shoe Fitting Tale. Here, he describes overhearing a conversation between a confused shoe store customer and the mis-informed employee who tries to educate her on pronation. Contrary to what many of us believe, pronation is not a dire evil problem to be avoided at all costs. Larson says it well:

 “The reality is that everybody pronates, and pronation is a completely normal movement… We might vary in how much we pronate, but asking someone if they pronate is like asking them if they breathe. I’d actually be much more concerned if the customer had revealed that no, she doesn’t pronate. At all. That would be worrisome.”

If you’re a runner then I highly suggest you learn about the realities of pronation.

Supplemental strength

I love strength training. I love all the subtleties and ins & outs of getting stronger. One area that I’m learning about is supplemental work (aka accessory work). This is weight training used to bring up one’s strength on other lifts (typically the squat, deadlift, bench press or standing press).  With supplemental work, we’re looking to find weak areas and make them stronger.
Dave Tate at EliteFTS is one of the foremost experts on all of this. Thus, his article Dave Tate’s Guide to Supplemental Strength is very much up my alley, and it should be up yours if you’re serious about getting stronger. He discusses several categories of exercises and how to incorporate them into a routine. Below, the term “builders” refers to exercises that build the power lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift):
  1. Always start with the builders. Do not start with the main lift.
    Examples: Floor press, box squat. Sets: 3-5. Reps: 3-5.
  2. Move to supplemental exercises — exercises that build the builders.
    Examples: 2-board press, safety-bar close-stance squat. Sets: 3. Reps: 5-8.
  3. Accessories — Either muscle-based (for size) or movement-based (for strength). Use supersets and tri-sets, as needed.
    Examples: DB presses, biceps curls. Sets: 3. Reps: 10-20.
  4. Rehab/Pre-hab — Whatever you need, nothing more or less. Examples:
    External rotation, face pulls. Sets: 2-3. Reps: 20-30.
This is just a little bit of the article. It’s very detailed. There may not be much here for recreational lifters but for coaches and those of us who have gotten a little deeper into our lifting, it’s a superb article.

Smoke out weakness

So here’s an idea. Let’s use all sorts of movement patterns, all sorts of loads (volume, weight, speed, range of motion) and see where we start to break down–expose the weakness in other words.  Then find some way to correct the weakness. In this way we should truly raise the ceiling on how strong we can be.

How do we do expose our weaknesses? First, I think it’s extremely important to have someone watch you or find a way to video yourself.  Very often we may be moving poorly yet we don’t know it and it helps to have another set of eyes on the problem.  Then, we need to work to the point of some sort of exertion in order to draw out the poor movement pattern.  That is, we need to a) do enough reps, b) lift enough weight, c) move fast enough, or d) move far enough into a particular range of motion such that we cause a movement fault to appear. By the way, the load that’s needed to cause this movement fault may not be very severe.  We may see a movement fault with just one half-range body-weight squat for example.

  • Squat





PBS’s The Truth About Exercise


“The chair is a killer.”
– Michael Mosley, PBS, The Truth About Exercise

Attention all exercise geeks and anyone fond of learning about the ins and outs of regaining or maintaining your health: You must check out the new series from PBS called The Truth About Exercise with Michael Mosley.  (Actually, it seems that each episode has it’s own title “… with Michael Mosley.”)  I watched the first episode and it’s tremendously interesting.  The second episode is titled “Eat, Fast and Live Longer.”  I just started it.

(Thanks to my mom for telling me about this show.)

Mosley uses himself as an experimental subject as he delves into some of the following topics:

  • How to reduce your insulin response with 3 minutes of (very) intense exercise per week.
  • How and why exercise can help remove fat from the blood stream.
  • The very deadly perils of sitting too much.
  • Why some people are “non-responders” to some aspects of exercise (and why exercise is still healthy for “non-responders.)

I know very little about Mosley but that he seems to be a fairly common sort of guy who’s not in particularly good shape.  He has the questions about his health that many of us have.  He talks to various exercise physiologists, nutrition scientists and coaches as he searches for answers and examines several exercise myths.  I love it because much of what he discovers is informed by the latest science.  He’s not rehashing the “common knowledge” (which is commonly stale and fairly inaccurate.)  It’s a very entertaining show that moves quickly and isn’t overly science-y.  It has a pretty decent soundtrack as well.  I highly recommend it to anyone reading this right now.  Previews of each episode are below.  Go here to watch the full episodes.

Watch The Truth About Exercise with Michael Mosley – Promotion on PBS. See more from Michael Mosley.

Watch Guts with Michael Mosley – Preview on PBS. See more from Michael Mosley.

Kettlebell & Barbell Workout

My Current Workout Scheme

Out of necessity, I greatly reduced my strength training as I was preparing for the marathon. As the stress of running went up, the stress of lifting had to go down. It was a bit tough to give up the weights, but it had to be done. Now I’m back to lifting and I’m loving it. It’s definitely refreshing to let the pendulum swing from the endurance end of the spectrum back to the strength & power end.

I’m a big fan of both kettlebells and barbells. They’re quite different implements but both are very enjoyable to use. Used correctly, both tools can make you big, strong, and powerful. My current workout comes from RKC Mike Mahler and it’s called the Kettlebell and Barbell Solution for Size and Strength Part II. (Part I can be found here. I had to choose one. I picked Part II.) It’s a 4x/week workout with two days on/one day off/two days on/two days off. I like the workout 1) because I get to lift most days of the week and 2) because I get to use kettlebells and barbells in all workouts.

Each workout has one or two of the big lifts (squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift) as the focus with other supplemental lifts included such as pull-ups, renegade rows, bent barbell rows, kettlebell swings and snatches, and core exercises such as the Turkish get-up, hanging leg raises, and windmills. I’ve modified the workout slightly to include barbell cleans, barbell presses, a one-arm dumbbell press, and pistol squats. Ballistic exercises like the kettlebell snatch and swings come at the front of the workout. The ballistic exercises help fire up the nervous system. The big-bang exercises come next, followed by pulling exercises, core exercises, and a finishing metabolic exercises that gets the heart rate up. I plan to cycle various exercises in and out over the course of several four-week blocks.

The scheme

The volume/intensity scheme is a version of Wendler’s 5-3-1 program. In essence, it looks like this: Each workout is centered around one core lift: squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing shoulder press. Each training cycle lasts four weeks, with these set-rep goals for each major lift:

Week 1: 3 x 5

Week 2: 3 x 3

Week 3: 3 x 5, 3, 1

Week 4: deloading

Then you start the next cycle, using heavier weights on the core lifts. Again, the Mahler program is a variation of this, and I’ve modified it further. Here’s my version:


Double kettlebell swing: 5×5

Barbell deadlift: 2×5, 3×3, 6×1

Barbell overhead press: 3×5, 3×3, 5-3-1

Kettlebell Renegade Row: 3×6+ I’ll add weight once I get 10 reps on each side

Kettlebell swings: 3×15, one- and/or two-arm swings. I’ve also used the rower.


One-arm kettlebell snatch: 2-3×5-10 each side

Barbell cleans: 3×3, 5×2, 6×1

Pull-ups: 3×5. I’ll add weight once I get eight reps on the final set. (I’m bad at pull-ups. The cost of being tall….)

Bench Press: as per the 5-3-1 program

Kettlebell windmill: 3×5

Kettlebell front squat: 3×8+ I’m keeping this somewhat light.

Kettlebell swings 3×15 or farmer’s walks.

Wednesday: Off


Double kettlebell snatch: 3-5×5

Barbell hang clean: 3×3, 5×2

Back squat: as per the 5-3-1 program

One-arm dumbbell press: as per the 5-3-1 program. I clean the dumbbell from the ground and then press all my reps.

Barbell bent-over row: as per the 5-3-1 program, except I don’t do a 1-rep max in the 3rd week.

Hanging leg raise: 3×5. Mahler’s workout calls for 3×10 but I’m not up to 10 reps yet.

One-arm kettlebell swings, rower or farmer’s walks


Double kettlebell swings: 5×5

Barbell cleans: lighter than Thursday

Barbell floor press: as per the 5-3-1 program

Weighted pull-ups: 3×3

Kettlebell Turkish get-up: 3×3. These are really tough at this point in the workout.

Pistol squats: 3×3, 2 or 1 depending how I’m feeling.

Kettlebell swings: I’m often smoked by this point so I may only do 1×10 or I may go as high as 3×15-20

Saturday/Sunday: Off


I’m on my third week of the program. I’ve made good progress. I think that since I was away from lifting for several weeks I have a lot of room to move forward. Plus, I’m eating more and I’ve recently started taking creatine which I haven’t used in a while. All of this should contribute to some decent increases in size and strength.


the Pencil Pushup


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What is Z-Health?


The big question that I and just about every other Z-Health practitioner must answer is “What is Z-Health?”  It takes more than one or two sentences to explain this system that I’m involved with.  Key points that I mention in my explanation are:

  1. Z-Health is a performance system designed to take someone from an injured, painful, or inhibited state to the highest level of performance he or she wants to achieve.
  2. The nervous system is in charge.  Neither the muscles nor the bones nor the joints make decisions.  The nervous system decides whether or not you’re in pain.  The nervous system decides whether or not your muscles are tight.  Your nervous system dictates how fast, strong or agile you are.
  3. The aim of Z-Health is better movement.  Period.  If you want to lose weight, you need to move better so you can exercise vigorously.  Chronic pain is often a result of poor movement patterns.  The solution?  Move better.  If you’re an athlete and you want to perform better–then you need to move better.

Threat neuromatrix


But hold on.  How can something we eat contribute to something like Achilles tendon pain or plantar fasciitis? Well, pain does not always equal an injury.  It is an action signal though, to change something. Sure, if you sprain your ankle or receive a cut or puncture wound, then the pain is fairly indicative of the injury. The pain may cause you to hobble to help preserve the damaged ankle or to treat the wound you’ve received.

In the case of chronic pain however, the root of the problem is rarely the site of the pain. Pain in a particular region may be there for any number of widely varied reasons. Pain may be present as part of a movement problem, lack of sleep, job stress, or even poor eating habits–or often a combination of these types of stress. I’ll elaborate more in a moment.

Feeling pain is also a skill. It’s like learning to taste wine, hear and play music, or acquiring the visual senses of an artist. Our brain and nervous system become efficient and skilled at doing something if we do it enough.  The longer we feel pain in an area, the better we get at feeling pain there. So going forward, if the nervous system needs to get your attention, it will choose to create pain along a smooth, well-known, efficient pathway.

We often feel pain as part of something called the threat neuromatrix. Vital to this concept is understanding any type of perceived threat may generate pain. The brain can produce a pain signal in response to any stimulus or event that threatens our survival. Whether that event is emotional, physical, or even spiritual, if our brain perceives a threat to our survival there is a possibility that we will experience pain or a noxious event of some kind. How does this relate to gluten?