Colleen’s report on working out with a world-record holding personal trainer

Hi, it’s Colleen again. It has certainly been a long time since I’ve put my two cents on this blog. The first time I wrote a blog post for Mom I was 10 years old. Next month, believe it or not, I will be a freshman in high school.

Starting high school isn’t going to be about class schedules or who to sit with at lunch. It’s going to be the beginning of the first time I will not be hindered by my size.

This summer I have been working out with a personal trainer. And not just any personal trainer … Lalane is actually a world record-holding power lifter. She is shorter than I am and weighs like 132 pounds but she can squat and deadlift more than 300 pounds!

Lalane has been putting me through some tough workouts, but I love working with her. She is incredibly motivating. I have started running almost every day, lifting weights multiple times a week, and even doing yoga. YOGA! (It really must be serious if I’m doing yoga.)

Items of clothing that I had given up hope of ever wearing again are fitting better than ever. For the first time, I’m making progress… and it isn’t short-term.

My goal, for quite some time, has been to make the softball team. I’ve played on the travel team for a few years. Last year, I started going to the open gyms with the high school team. The coaches know that I work hard. Often, I can be seen running extra laps or flipping the tractor tire after practice/workouts. It has been established that I work hard during softball, but I needed to step it up if I wanted to really succeed. Just being able to hit the ball and field a grounder isn’t enough. I had to change my entire mindset.

I’ve still got a ways to go, but I know I’m going to get there. Thanks, Lalane!


During one of our workouts earlier this summer Lalane was having me do rapid dead-lifts for cardio. 


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A startling ‘use it or lose it’ realization

quad stretchFor years, this simple quad stretch was part of my pre-run routine. Then I got to feeling pressed for time and my stretching routine pretty much shrunk down to a single maneuver: that calf stretch where you push against your car or a wall.

Then one day, looking to kill some time as I waited for my sister to arrive for a run, I reached back to grab my foot … and discovered I couldn’t. Not even close!

This is a textbook example of the “use it or lose it” principle of aging. Stop using even a select few of your muscles in a particular way and they become too rusty to rely on.

Luckily, it’s reversible. With some concentrated, frustration-prone effort, I’m now once again able to do this stretch. 


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Reframing the obstacle

Earlier this year I wondered if it was better to try to “run through” plantar fasciitis or take a couple months off to help heal my heel.

Now I’ve got a chance to try the road not taken, as I’ve developed the same condition in my right foot.

Given that my running goals for this year have pretty much evaporated, is there anything positive to take away from this? Is it possible to reframe seven months (and counting) of pain and frustration as an opportunity for gratitude?

obstaclebookcoverThe fact that these questions even occur to me is a reflection on what I’m getting out of Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way.  It’s a collection of historical examples of stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of turning adversity into advantage. (Advantage, by the way, doesn’t always mean some tangible, tactical edge. Sometimes it’s just an opportunity to sharpen your mental toughness. But while no one would ever purposefully sign up for lessons in suffering, developing confidence in your ability to endure can pay off in other ways that are hard to imagine at the time.)

Holiday’s book feels a bit trite at times, a little too much cheerleading in between the historical nuggets, but it’s a decent introduction to stoicism that makes me want to read more on the subject.

As for the answer to the questions raised above, here’s what I came up with:

*I now appreciate how much I love running for its own sake, regardless of how many races I can sign up for or how well I do in them.

*I’m much more aware of all the parts of my foot that work together to help me run. I’m trying to feel grateful when the pain goes away for even a little while – and to be patient when it’s excruciating, knowing that I don’t really have shards of glass in my heel but just need to stretch and/or ice the inflamed ligament.

*Finally, this whole experience is forcing me to eat better. I’ve actually dropped a few pounds because I’ve had to be more disciplined. So maybe the extra time involved with this second injury phase will help seal in that mindset.

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Overcoming failure in building a healthy habit: Will low expectations help?


This time I’m keeping it simple…

My youngest daughter is trying to build a daily running habit and I’m trying to build a daily gardening habit. Which one has more health benefits? The answer isn’t as much of a no-brainer as you might think.

Gardening tasks such as hoisting bags of soil build strength, while bending down to tend plants increases flexibility and dexterity. Many gardening chores also burn more calories than you think: up to 320 per hour of raking, 360 per hour of weeding and 400 per hour of digging, depending on your body size. No wonder gardeners tend to have a significantly lower BMI than their non-gardening neighbors and are typically thinner than their own non-gardening siblings as well.

In a 12-year study of 4,000 people over age 60, those with a daily gardening routine or similar activity had a 37 percent less risk of heart attack or stroke and a 30 percent reduced risk of death from all causes. Believe it or not, the report, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, showed that the daily gardeners were at no less risk than similarly aged marathoners.

It’s not like I’m planning to give up running for gardening. I have a long history of starting and then abandoning garden projects. I get “too busy” and then several days or even weeks go by when I don’t go out there at all and by then it seems hopeless. After several years of this, I had pretty much concluded that I’m just not cut out to be a gardener.

But I’m making one last attempt, and this time I’m keeping it simple. Just a handful of plants I’m trying to keep alive in a small patch of ground salvaged from what had been a burn pile.

The goal is to go out and do something in the garden every day for 21 days, which is supposedly the length of time it takes to build a habit. Colleen’s trying to do the same thing with running, which is something she’s tried and then abandoned many times as well.

In both cases, we plan to measure our success not so much by what we have to show for our efforts at the end of that time, but simply by whether we’re still showing up every day.

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The plank ball game

Colleen and I have been doing these “ball pass planks” the last few days, only we’ve been rolling a softball back and forth. Technically it makes the planks that much harder to do, but also more fun. (Not hard to raise the fun factor, as doing a regular plank is zero on the fun scale, in my opinion!)

Like the kids in this video, we’ve been aiming for 30 passes. We have yet to get there before messing up. But the main thing is, we’re getting ourselves to do planks every single day. It’s a lot easier to say, “Let’s see if we can beat our current high in ‘plank ball’ ” than to nag each other about doing an exercise neither of us likes.





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A new hunger game


lion hunt

What if everyone exercised before eating?


Hunger has always made me feel weak. The voices in my head – what a blogger friend aptly calls the “melon committee” — start whining and bickering until it’s hard to focus on anything else. Once the rabble rousers identify an appealing target, their shrieks and screams meld into a single powerful voice that will not be denied. The chanting mob seizes control of my hands, my mouth. The battle is lost, my good intentions trampled in the frenzy.

Periodic experiments with fasting, cultivating an inner parent who calmly reprimands individual melon committee whiners before they can rile the others, has helped.

But there’s nothing like a game to help control a crowd of inner children. Lately I’ve been distracting mine with the Lion Hunter, an idea that comes from the most disciplined person I’ve ever met.

When I first got to know Bonny Damocles, I assumed that the willpower behind his strictly enforced diet-and-exercise routine had something to do with growing up in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation of World War II, when his family sometimes went days at a time without food.

There’s no doubt Bonny’s inner child is way tougher than mine. But it turns out he’s not above playing mind games to stay focused on a goal. And one way he stays on track when he feels hungry is to visualize a lion in the wild, going out for a hunt before it can satisfy its hunger.

This is what helps him put in at least one 15-minute session of stair climbing before each meal.  An hour’s worth of stair climbing a day, coupled with a diet that allows him to eat as much as he wants twice a day of unprocessed food containing no sugar, keeps the weight on his 5-7 frame at just under 140 pounds. More importantly, it’s helped him control his type 2 diabetes without medication for nearly 26 years – a feat currently under consideration for a Guinness World Record, as well as the subject of a new book we’ve collaborated on, Type 2 Diabetes Pioneer

I’ve learned a lot from Bonny over the past year. Treating diet and exercise as medicine, whether preventative or to help treat a specific health issue like diabetes, makes all kinds of sense. But it’s one thing to recognize a good idea, and another matter entirely to implement it into your own life, to build a workable routine.

“The way I do things is generally to simplify, to make things easy to do all the time,” Bonny says.

After 26 years, he knows that every single Lion Hunt he goes on will be successful. At the end he always finds a hearty meal that’s especially satisfying because he knows he’s earned it – along with his good health.


Does this man look like he’s had type 2 diabetes for nearly one-third of his life? 

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The beauty of the baseline on a DIY bike tour


Our  destination on a Memorial Day bike ride: Payne’s British pub near Gas City, Ind.

Once you’ve identified a Pinterest-worthy British pub and a 100-flavor ice cream sundae shop with just a few miles of rolling rural roads in between, it’s only natural to draw a line between the two with a bicycle.

Ideally, the calories burned traversing that distance would equal the calories taken in. Unfortunately the Union Jack flying above Payne’s at Gas City, Ind., is only 4 miles from Ivanhoe’s in nearby Upland, even if you take the back roads. To add mileage and interest to an out-and-back route that would have us finishing at the dessert destination, my plan was to explore the Taylor University Wilderness Area along our route on the way back.

Ben and Colleen agreed to accompany me on the Memorial Day ride; my parents would bring Cassie and meet us for lunch at the pub.

My mental sketch of the potential awesomeness of this experience fell apart almost immediately. Driving the route before we started, we discovered that there were no trespassing signs at the entrance to the Wilderness Area. I knew that inside were at least 6 miles of hilly, forested trail, because that’s where the Taylor University cross country meets are held. The site was listed on Google Maps but I hadn’t been able to find much about it otherwise. Who knew the university was so protective of its property?

Meanwhile, Ben was growing antsy about our time constraints. He had plans for afterward, and now he was hesitant to commit to the return leg of the trip. We parked at Ivanhoe’s and set out for Payne’s as planned, but my dad drove our van over to the restaurant in case we needed to load the bikes and leave from there.

The upside was, it was a beautiful day after a stretch of what felt like monsoon season. We saw more cyclists than cars along the rural road heading out of Upland. It was hilly, but not debilitatingly so, especially knowing we were only going a short distance. And at every intersection I saw more appealing roads that looked like they would be fun to explore in the future.

We did get to explore one of them. Getting to Payne’s didn’t take nearly as long as we’d guessed, and with a mile to go we realized the restaurant wouldn’t even be open by the time we arrived. So we followed a sign pointing toward a campground, wondering if maybe it was connected to the Wilderness Area.

It wasn’t. The rustic, rural road wound around and dead-ended in a campground along Interstate 69. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to camp there, but I could see how it would be fun going for a bike ride once you left the place heading in the other direction.

Payne’s had opened up by the time we arrived, and it was just as cool as I’d remembered from stopping there with the girls once last fall. The waitress brought our menus tucked inside old children’s books, our water in mismatched but interesting goblets, and listened patiently to my dad’s endless questions about an eclectic menu devoid of his usual whitebread ordering preferences.

“You are going to hate that,” I said when he settled on the curry as a delivery mechanism for grilled chicken. But he persisted, and at least pretended to enjoy his meal. (Good thing they didn’t bring him the cock-a-leeky soup I’d tried last time, a 400-year-old Scottish recipe that includes stewed prunes.)


The cock-a-leeky soup at Payne’s is better than it sounds, considering stewed prunes are one of the ingredients. The leeks are grown in a garden on the restaurant’s grounds.

Ben is a huge fan of fish and chips, and he was not disappointed. Mom liked her huntsman breakfast, which was two fried eggs and potatoes layered on top of a thick slice ham of ham. Colleen was surprised her waffle and strawberries came with an ice creamlike custard that made it seem more like a dessert than a late breakfast, but she didn’t object.


Was that breakfast, or dessert? Good question!

Cassie knew she’d like her barbecue pepperoni bourriche, because that’s what she ordered last time. It was like a pepperoni pizza encased in a grilled bread bowl. She wasn’t sure she could finish it, which led Colleen to scan the photo card on my camera.

“You ate it all last time,” she announced.

What I like about Payne’s is that the food is so pretty and interesting that it makes me want to savor and experience it rather than just wolf it down in pig-out mode. With raspberries and walnuts tucked inside, my goat cheese-and-spinach wrap was a medley of flavor and texture. I  ate more of it than intended – just one of the two halves would’ve been plenty – but I consoled myself that part of what made it so thick was all those fresh spinach leaves.

It’s too bad we didn’t order dessert, because the various custard options the girls and I tried last fall had been amazing – just as good if not better than the all the ice cream concoctions at Ivanhoe’s, to be honest.

Out in the parking lot, though, Ben suggested that even though we didn’t have time to ride back to Ivanhoe’s, we probably had time to drive there and dash in for some ice cream to go. (We used to stop at Ivanhoe’s after his pitching sessions there during high school, so he was well acquainted with the 100 flavors of shakes and 100 separate flavors for sundaes.)

The legalistic part of me wanted to argue against this: No ride, no ice cream. But I’m a pushover when it comes to ice cream, and so is my dad – who no doubt was eager to wipe out the spicy memory of his chicken curry.

For me, a baby chocolate cone served as the endpoint of a would-be adventure that, in the end, wasn’t too far removed from just another dining-out road trip.

I was disappointed, but not as much as I might have been because I’d put my mind in “baseline” mode beforehand.

On a baseline workout, you don’t worry about how badly you perform. You’re just getting an initial time to improve in the future. Viewed this way, a poor performance is almost an asset: Because you know it will be that much easier to beat next time, there’s extra incentive to try it again.

I already know this is an experience I want to try again, after scouting out some interesting mileage to add to our route. And it’s almost impossible that it won’t go better next time.



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Please keep your python off the Greenway!

I’ve gotten pretty good about not freaking out when I spot a snake on a run. But passing a python wrapped around a woman’s neck on the Bluffton Greenway last week really pushed my buttons.

My first thought, immediately after putting a good bit of distance between us, was to call the cops. I’m sure this snake wasn’t dangerous, except maybe to an untended baby or a small pet. But was it fair for this woman to scare snake-phobic trail users?

This happened in a small town, where the police get called all the time for incidents far more trivial, in my opinion. But I resisted, because I could already imagine the snake owner’s outcry: Why are people so biased about snakes? Other people get to take their pets for a walk. And so on.

Other than ranting to my sister, who wasn’t scared but gamely joined me in leaving the Greenway to run on the road as far away as possible from the snake carrier when we passed her again on the way back, I didn’t make a fuss.

But after reading about a guy who was fined last month for taking his python in a South Dakota park, now I wonder.

The Sioux Falls animal control official involved in the case said all pets must be restrained, either on a leash or in a cage or other enclosure. In the case of a snake, it could be held. The arrested man was just letting his slither on the ground.

“That’s my purpose in life: To let people know that snakes aren’t killers,” he said. “What better way to give back than to help people understand these misunderstood creatures?”

Um, okay. I get that my fear of snakes isn’t rational. But other snake lovers don’t necessarily agree with taking pythons out in public, either. Besides the potential for bad publicity, apparently it stresses out the snakes as much as it does me.

There is “absolutely no benefit for the animal to be taken in public places,” wrote a woman named Deborah in a recent post on “The benefit is only for the owner looking for attention.”

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Get inspired by Armani the underdog


Armani the Yorkie, left, and his human handler, seventh grader Jaiden Eastom, in a 5K duel with local running legend Doug Sundling and his husky mix, Ginger. 

I witnessed an incredible race over the weekend – a 5K neck-and-neck duel between a Yorkshire terrier and a husky mix and their respective humans.

Believe it or not, the short-legged Yorkie pulled it out at the end, with a heroic effort to match the sprint of the girl holding his leash – a seventh-grader who’s a 5:45 miler.

The K-9 Klassic 5K wasn’t timed, and it wasn’t entirely clear where the finish line was. Jaiden Eastom said somebody told her her time was around 20 minutes, which is noteworthy in itself because that would put her in the top half of Indiana’s best high school runners.

Still, Jaiden’s feat wasn’t nearly impressive as Amani the underdog’s.

I happen to know Ginger, his opponent, who belongs to Bluffton running legend Doug Sundling, winner of dozens of area races over the years from 10Ks to marathons. If Sundling were 40 years younger – he’s a little over 60 now – this would’ve been no contest.

But while Sundling still puts in plenty of miles on both the bike and running to stay fit and keep Ginger happy, he only races for fun these days. He and Ginger had a lot of fun keeping pace with Jaiden and Armani. As you can see from the photo above, Ginger wasn’t working nearly as hard as Armani. But in the end, youth and Yorkie won out.

The amazing thing is that Jaiden and Armani haven’t run together that much. Armani usually runs with Jaiden’s grandma, who runs 3-5 miles a day but at a much slower pace. Due to excitement and inexperience – Armani’s just 18 months old – he wasn’t always entirely focused, occasionally getting tangled up in Jaiden’s legs.

“At one point he wrapped himself around a light pole,” Jaiden said afterward.  “It was bad. But he still did it!”

Needless to say, it was quite the spectacle. (To see more photos from the dog race, check out this week’s News-Sentinel column.) But Jaiden and Armani have a long way to go if they want to challenge for the world record human-dog 5K.

Earlier this year a 22-year-old Canadian who goes by the name Jessey the Elf knocked out a 15:26 running a race called the Frosty 5K in southern Ontario with his pooch, a Hungarian Viszla named Hunter Buxbaum.

If Jessey – who started out life as Ben Sayles before he legally changed his name – ever accomplishes his dream of making the Canadian Olympic triathlon team, he will get some time in the spotlight whether or not he’s running with his dog: to go along with his new identity he underwent 5 hours of surgery to have his ears sculpted into pointy elf ears.


Armani transformed into a horizontal blur and he and Jaiden pulled away at the finish.

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The choranaptyxic workout


The Occamy, a creature from the Harry Potter universe, is a bird-snake creature that can grow or shrink to fit the available space. 

I rarely make time for movies these days, so it really bugs me when we choose wrong. While our  younger girls were entertained by the expansion of the Harry Potter universe in “Fantastic Beasts  and Where to Find Them,” I found it incredibly tedious.

Still, the creatures themselves were cool, as was Newt Scamander’s suitcase (like Dr. Who’s Tardis, it’s WAY bigger on the inside). I was particularly intrigued by the Occamy, a bird-snake thing that can grow or shrink to fit the available space, a property known (both in that world and now in ours, thanks to the incredible popularity of all things J.K. Rowling) as choranaptyxic.

I was thinking about the Occamy a couple of days later when I needed to get in a workout but only had a limited amount of time in which to do so. The situation called for an HIIT workout, but I haven’t done enough of those to find one I liked – and I didn’t want to waste time searching for one that didn’t have burpees or any of the other exercises I despise.

What I really wanted to do, but didn’t have time for, was a second session of a baseline Yasso workout I’d tried the previous week. A Yasso is designed to gauge your marathon pace, based on a series of ten 800-meter intervals. Which is ridiculous, because I’m coming off four months of barely running at all due to plantar fasciitis. But I figured that if I at least went through the motions of the workout, and kept doing it a little better each week, eventually it would become a bit less laughable, and maybe I’d finally get back in marathon shape again.

In my fantasy world, someday before I get too old and creaky I’ll run a 4-hour marathon. According to Yasso, if I could run ten of those roughly half-mile intervals in 4 minutes each, with a recovery jog in between, that would predict a 4:00 marathon.

I knew I couldn’t do that. But I also knew that no matter how awful of shape I’m in, I could always will myself to jog for 4 minutes ten times in a row, with a 2-minute recovery walk (instead of the jog the workout actually calls for) in between.

No real runner would call what I did a Yasso workout. But hey, it’s my fantasy world, and I’ll call it what I want. The beauty of it was, my baseline effort was so slow I was practically guaranteed a faster time the second time around. (Heck, even if all I did was turn up my recovery walk by .1 mph on the treadmill, I’d have a slightly faster time.)

But I didn’t have 60 minutes. Maybe half that, if I took a super quick shower and blew dry my hair by sticking it out the car window on the way to my interview. That’s when I remembered the Occampy, and decided to shrink my imitation Yasso down by keeping the same pattern and just shrinking the interval times.

Doing intervals of  2 minutes rather than 4 allowed me to go slightly less painfully slow. I started the first one at 5 mph (a 12-minute mile pace) and increased by .1 mph each time. The cool thing about this pattern was I could easily remember how many I’d done just by looking at the speed, which was always one less than the interval I was on. (For example, 5.2 mph meant I was on the third interval, while 5.7 mph indicated I was on the sixth interval.)

Trouble was, this workout was still taking too long. But I didn’t want to just quit; I wanted to somehow preserve the “integrity” of the workout.

In my fantasy world – the only place where such things matter – that meant I needed 10 intervals of 2:00 each to fit the available (shrinking) space.

I wanted to continue the stair-stepping speed increases, because I liked that pattern. But because I’m in such awful shape, I would need at least a brief recovery period in between.

Here’s how that played out:

Finishing up interval 8 at the 25-minute mark, I gave myself 30 seconds before starting interval 9 (5.8 mph, a 10:20 minutes per mile pace).

Finishing that at 27:30 meant I had 2 minutes and 30 seconds left in which to get in one more (brief) recovery period, a 2-minute interval AND, ideally, a (very brief) cooldown.

I took a 30-second recovery walk, launched into interval 10 at 5.9 mph (10:10 per mile), and then decided that I would make this final interval do double duty: It would start out on time and at the correct speed to fit the pattern, but then, having achieved that part of my made-up rule, it could morph into a cooldown jog in the second minute.

I made it to my interview on time, and felt secretly pleased all day about my Occamy-inspired, choranaptyxic workout.

Even better, I’ve since picked up a library copy of The One-Minute Workout, by one of those Canadian scientists who recently showed that one minute of turned-all-the-way-up intensity  pays off as much as 45 minutes of moderate exercise.

Next time the Occamy wants to come out and play, I’ll be ready.

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