Coaching Volleyball

Being a joke is not something that I handle very well. That being said, I have no idea why I would sign on to coach a sport that I have limited tactical understanding of. That sport is volleyball and I am coaching my school’s junior varsity for the first time. It’s also the first time I’ve ever coached girls. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I’m starting to find my groove as I have learned a couple of things about volleyball and coaching in general.

1. Sports are sports and once you understand a few basic principles for each sport, there are only complications. The KISS principle works for coaching as well as it does for most of life. For volleyball, “read, move, and hit the ball into the air.” Volleyball Einsteins might question my elementary approach to the game, but since I don’t know what I don’t know, I must rely on keeping the game simple. I want the girls to become better players and that is more about improving their self-efficacy (the belief that they can create success) than it is about some crazy formation that has the team running all over the court and me wondering if they are in the right rotation.

We practice skills much more than we do strategy, although, I do have a bit of a basketball background, and I see zone defense principles as being applicable to our strategy. In hoops, a zone defense allows a player to guard a space. Different zones take different spaces away from an offensive team, but a player should always be ready to move wherever they are most needed. Volleyball is no different, players must cover an area. The trick is getting them into the area and the less offensive movement that is inflicted on a team, the less they have to worry about the transition from offense to defense.

I don’t know, I’m just saying…

2. Players have to play. My job is to prepare the students with the skills to be successful and give them a plan that fosters their success. Ultimately, though, the game is up to them. My goal as a volleyball coach is continuing to get the girls to believe that they can make the necessary plays. I really want to win, but a wise fellow told me that his experience with girls volleyball was that it was more about the experience than the winning and losing. His advice allowed me to continue to believe that keeping our practices simple is important. We spend very little time powering through skills or strategies that are not working. Instead, I have short periods of time that allow the girls to be mentally focused, but the drills stop before boredom sets in and any mentally drift allows for physical errors that might negatively affect their confidence.

Again, I want to focus on their believing that they are creating success.

3. Hustle is as hustlers do…I apologize for the cheap Forrest Gump rip-off, but every sport is based on hustle. Hustle is moving at the speed that is appropriate for the play. Being on time is the most important thing an athlete can do. It’s more than just being to practice on time. It’s getting to the ready position on time, contacting the ball at the right time, cheering on a teammate at the right time. Being on time is what hustle is. I joke with a colleague that I’m trying to turn my volleyball team into a pickup basketball team. We are trying to scramble to spots, get our feet into solid position, and sending the ball to a spot where the next hitter can make a play (unless it’s the third ball, duh, as we don’t want the other team to hit it). I chose to talk about playground basketball because it’s a game of hustle, hustlers win and winners get to keep playing. Not only that because often playground basketball teams are made on the fly and a player better know how to play any position and guard every spot. The general understanding of the game is a real plus for any player wanting a long run on a blacktop.

Maybe I’m overstretching my coaching analogy or just acting from ignorance, but over the last two weeks, the girls are starting to move more. We are starting to expect players to get to spots and even starting skills work 30-minutes before the “real” practice starts. I “freaking” love that.

These are a few thoughts from a guy who has little volleyball coaching experience, but this I know, self-efficacy is an important component of success. I mean, I wrote a dissertation on self-efficacy… Finding what works for the talent that a coach has is way more important than the tactical knowledge that a coach has. The relationship that the coach has with his/her players is probably more important than that. Meshing all of that together into a simple plan that promotes success is the lofty goal for getting a team to reach its potential. I think the girls on our team are on the right track and I believe that my continued understanding of volleyball can only help them get better as long as the new knowledge doesn’t create coaching clutter.

Simple…

We won our second match today. We’ve dropped four or five, so our record is not what some would consider successful. Yet we are sticking together and working hard in practice. We are getting more competitive in the games we lose and getting more consistent with our hustle so that we play better in most points. What more could I ask for? The girls are creating an atmosphere that makes me want to come back each day. It’s been fun so far and even though tomorrow is an off day at school, we will be working on our footwork and maybe even housing some Munchkins…

Marathon Journal: 8-19-17

img_1433There are things that we commit to and regret. Maybe it’s a party in the neighborhood. Could it be trying to publish a novel? What about running a marathon? Well, I’m all in for all three, plenty of commitments and a wealth of regret to go around. About a year ago, I set my sights on running a marathon in my fiftieth year. I started out training well for an old guy who had let fitness kind of get away. It’s a funny thing about getting older, some aspects of life get harder. Running has never been the easiest thing for me, but I have managed to finish ten marathons and one ultra. None were particularly fast and I thought those days were over. Then, I had some blood work, got some numbers I never thought I’d have, and the idea of running a marathon was reborn.

Let me say my health is fine. My numbers were associated with too big a gut and a lifestyle that was slipping into that barley, hops, and mash routine. I also found little time to exercise because I began coaching. The only real time to go for a run was in the morning before school and that is great until winter. Even driving over to the YMCA is tougher because it’s so much easier to just sleep. After all, how important is it to run anyway? I noticed my clothes were getting bigger, my ties looser, and my attitude about me becoming worse. I decided that I would run a marathon at my YMCA.

There is a track at the Y and it says 16-laps per mile. That’s 419.2 laps for a marathon. Funny, I’m just realizing the .2, which is a stupid joke people who run marathons like to throw around, “Twenty-six is easy, it’s the .2 that’s hard.” I told you, stupid because I don’t think there is anything easy about going out for twenty-six miles and change. In all the races I did, there were moments of pain, moments of doubt, serious questioning of my sanity, and the realization that I had not trained enough. I always got hurt or justified that I could make up the miles on another day. My times in all the other races probably reflect my lack of commitment to following a training program to the letter of the law.

Whatever…

Besides the coaching, life tended to get in my way. Fifty has been much more difficult than forty. I have wrestled with bulging weight, too much alcohol, an unhealthy diet, and a level of confidence that’s more New Orleans than Mount Everest. I would not say that any of the issues were serious problems, but in my final analysis, each has contributed to a pretty blah year. Once my baseball season ended, I began training again and I had a moment of clarity that sometimes comes from nowhere. I need to get my act together for many reasons, physical, mental, and social. Where did I turn for help? The internet of course. I began binging YouTube videos like they were peanut M&Ms. My go to was Chase Jarvis Live. He does a show where he asks leaders from a variety of areas about their techniques, attitudes, and processes around being creative. I’ve learned a great deal about perspective from the people on his show and they have had a serious effect on how I approach writing, but the moment was, “Why aren’t you putting their lessons to use in your daily life also?” There are too many things to get into with this blog post, but Tim Ferriss, Jason Silva, Steven Kotler, Jamie Wheal, and a host of others dropped nuggets of information on me that took me places my mind had not been in such a long time. I was learning about experimenting with different nutritional aspects on micro levels. I was re-introduced to “flow,” which I knew as “being in the zone.” I started making changes to my nutrition (intermittent fasting, vegetables, cutting carbs) and the weight began to drop (ten pounds in eight weeks). I also began thinking in ways that promoted an easier way of being. I found that when I was exercising or even just hanging out that I could easily calm an over chatty brain. I felt different, but I was still in the awkward-new-skill-way where everything had to be planned and nothing felt natural.

Then I had a couple of evenings that I’d like to forget. Nothing tragic or illegal, but I’ll simply say that in my evolving minimalist attitude, I had to ask myself, “What value does alcohol bring to my life?” Don’t get me wrong, a cold beer or a neat glass of whiskey is amazing, but my ideas of drinking had become too much about bonding. I could go on about how that was symbolic of how I was feeling in other areas of my life, but after my own foul balls with the bottle and hearing of my neighbor dropping into (and thankfully out of) a coma due to alcohol poisoning, I made the choice to give up drinking. Over the last six weeks, I haven’t be 100% dry, but I don’t go seeking a beer and I politely refuse when I’m offered one at a pool or party. Since mid July, I’ve had 8-beers. That’s a big difference from a “nightly pop or two.” It’s weird not drinking and I must say it’s hard. Not because I crave alcohol, but because it is such of an important part of socializing for so many people. Anyway, it’s not something I’m looking for and I feel mostly better because of the change.

So, did you run or not?…

I did. I ran the race today. Just me and the miles on the track. There were other people training. There were exercise classes below on the gym floor. None of them knew what I was doing. It was great. The only problem was that my training had been as weak as ever. Maybe even weaker. My long run should have been in the low twenties a few weeks ago. That was when I was wrestling with the decision to quit drinking, so the training was kind of eh then. In fact, last Saturday I ran ten miles, my longest since 2007. Today, the first ten miles were a breeze. At eleven, I could feel tightness in my legs. By thirteen, I had introduced a survival technique of walking and running (1 lap walking, 4 laps running). Fifteen was the wall. I felt like quitting and sticking with my plan to run the whole thing in September. I texted my daughter and a friend, they both sent positivity that kept me going. The last hour sucked as nearly every step was a push as to whether my quads were going to cramp or allow me to move freely.

Finally, after six-hours and five minutes, my worst time ever, I was done. I didn’t cry like I did after my first marathon. So far, I haven’t had to go down the stairs backward. I didn’t see any actors from The Wire like I did in Baltimore. What I did was beat back some personal demons and prove to myself that all the excuse making and reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms was killing me. I ran for charity, raising a couple hundred bucks for the Y, but the payout to my psyche was just as important for me. I needed this and while some may suggest that this was not that big of a deal, it meant everything to me.

Everyone, go do something big for yourself…

D & Co

Back when I first moved to Williamsburg (VA not NY), my father was a policeman. Right around the time he started the job, William and Mary was hosting a concert of the renowned band, The Grateful Dead. Keep in mind that this was somewhere around 1974-75 and the love happy Sixties had given way to the reckless Seventies. As far as my father was concerned, The Grateful Dead were the most degenerate dudes around. He still tells a story about that Jerry guy that I’ll let rest with Mr. Garcia and allow to linger in my father’s mind. Because of my father’s visceral feelings about the haze-inducing jam band, I was forced to learn about the Dead on the sly. I knew the popular songs, but as far as being a Dead Head, I was nothing close. I was a casual fan.

I don’t remember the band ever playing William and Mary again, but they made their way to Hampton from time to time. For some reason, I never went. Let’s call it respect for my father. Maybe it was fear, but I never did make it to a concert. Years passed, I did what I thought grown ups did…got married… and then did what about fifty percent of grown-ups do, got divorced. I spent a few years solo and capped it off with a jaunt to Bonnaroo. Rat Dog was playing with Bob Weir and I bailed on that show for some other side stage band. I’m not sure why I blew that show-off, but by then, I had started to appreciate the Dead more. Many of the people that I ran around with in those single years were versed in the ways of the band and I started to take an interest actually paying attention to the Grateful Dead.

My son and daughter developed an interest in the Dead and I became more interested in the band at my kids’ insistence. I’m still no expert in the Dead’s history, but I won a gentleman’s wager with my brother in law about the past memberships in other bands of Bob Weir. Still, though, I had never seen the band in person. Not with Jerry Garcia, not with Bruce Hornsby, and certainly not with John Mayer.

That all changed this past Sunday… Sorry, Dad… I had a mostly good time.

First, a little background. Since I teach and have summer’s off, each summer with my step children has had a theme. Painting, reading, math, naps, the Y, and camp have all been themes of our summers. They are a little older now, so I made my own theme this summer and I called it the Phish summer. While working on a school project last week, the first day of summer vacation, I put Phish on Pandora and got lost in the music. While driving, Jam Nation was on the radio and Phish helped me pass the miles. The summer of Phish and by proximity in terms of musical flavor, the Grateful Dead, was born.

My kids had been holding tickets for the show in Camden for many weeks. On Sunday morning, I decided to buy a ticket last minute and then surprise them at the BB&T. Everything went according to plan, although parking was a bit of a hassle. Twenty-seven dollars for a cheeseburger and beer is an abomination…thanks, GUY, you should rethink your branding and gouging strategy. Love your TV show…

The night was perfect, not hot, not humid, sunny and breezy. There was a weirdness about being at the show, but I was totally open to the night. People were walking around with their big blankets, their super expensive margaritas, and an impatience for some whacky tobacky that I’m pretty sure most had already taken in. We got settled on the main vertical path on the lawn which looked like a fairway on the PGA where they let the spectators cross, no grass. Finally, the show started and I was blown away.

An older guy than me jumped to his feet, hit the dirt track, and began some sort of Grateful Dead inspired Tai Chi. He moved through the different movements in time with the music and on several occasions nearly morphed into a break dancer in tie dye. He was in a trance and stole all of the attention of those of us sitting under the blue #3 as opposed to the BIG #3 on the wall. The amazing thing about this guy was that he captivated the crowd more that than tattooed blondie next to him. Her curvaceous sway held no dominion over the scintillating blur that was the Dali dancer. He foretold of the weirdness that would come.

I made a decision that was based on large part finances and hopefully, a larger part, maturity, that I was going to enjoy this show in the comforts of sobriety. The notes were crisper, the songs fresh, John Mayer was awesome, and I was able to take in the freak show that was spinning around me with a fertile infatuation. I became so involved in what was happening that I could feel the music and watch everything going on in my little Dead world with razor sharp precision. There was one woman who was bitching the whole time. There was one guy who was the drug dealer for his group. There were easily fifteen bull ring nose piercings, countless shoes without a match, and one father who was getting ready to be dragged back into reality.

The details of family drama don’t amount to anything good when they are spilled in a modest blog, but let’s just say that I used my belief in independence and people taking charge of themselves to make the greatest dad proclamation ever, “I don’t give a %#!k, you guys figure it out.” As adults, I counted on my children to solve their problem before the intermission was over. I had arrived alone and thought that since I live in the opposite direction of my children, that I would be going home alone as well. More on that later, but I was left to solve the problem due to my stately presence, I suppose, and just as the sun when down, the sky lit up.

Within the crowd, it was almost as if a swarm of lightning bugs had taken flight. I never knew so many people had prescriptions to medicinal marijuana, but for some strange reason, they were all convalescing on the lawn under that relaxing tunes of The Grateful Dead. The lady in front of me who had been herking and jerking through spasms remembered from her days at Studio 54 offered me a hit on her joint. I passed, not my thing. The drug dealer guy partook and then offered her some of his. It looked to be more than just organic and she wisely went Nancy Reagan and said, “No.”

About this time, the Dead went into a drum thing. There are songs that will stop me and have me doing nothing. Star Witness by Neko Case and Brother’s in Arms by Dire Straits are a couple. During the drum thing, I totally forgot where I was. Awe is about all I can say. There was no more watching the mind-altered zombies walking around. I couldn’t hear the people on their phones yelling, “I can’t see you!” As Russ Coale said in True Detective, “I was mainlining truths from the universe.” I’m not kidding, everything kind of stopped for me in the moment. I was glad to be there, to have been abject in the sibling drama, to be seeing the Dead for the first time without any guilt for betraying my father.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. That was my moment, though. The over priced ticket, the bloodsucking parking, the cardboard burger with image-busting impact, and even the family drama went away in that ten or fifteen minutes. We left soon after, to beat the traffic. Enlightened, I noticed a group of people outside the fence dancing. It was something right out of a Kubrick film, sort scary, sort of pity-inducing, but overall really cool. These folks came for the music, not the show, not the wallet-draining treats, just the music. Thinking of them, and really the whole night, made the drive to take my son home cool. I didn’t leave my daughter there. She left with her friend at the intermission. (Drama inducing…)

In fact, the calm allowed me to rationally handle traffic on I-76. It gave me the courage to say, “I don’t think so” when the GPS tried to send me back to the I-76 quagmire. Nearly three hours after leaving Camden, I was home. Normally, it would have taken me about fifty minutes to get home, but the construction and jaunt to Amish country tacked on a few extra minutes. I never knew those guys drove in the dark. So many reflectors… In the wee hours, my dog and I settled in on the couch and that was it for my first (and probably only) Dead and Company show.

I know I’m not as experienced as some, but this did everything nature needed it to do for me.

Marathon Journal: For 7/24/17

There are many ways of looking at exercise. What I am about to write goes against my recent dabbling in high-intensity interval training, but this marathon I’m training for has been about me finding motivation and success and as I’ve written in the past, the clown thing worked for me in some respects and wasted me in others. I had a very hard time keeping my intensity high and keeping my volume of exercise in perspective. Since I’m a habit guy, I need routine and I could never find one suitable while doing CrossFit.

That would be a “me” problem and not a flaw of CrossFit.

I made some real progress this week by reaching into my old bag of tricks, namely, I slowed down and committed to time. However, I also kept with some of my favorite CrossFit methods and relied on AMRAPs this week. AMRAP stands for as many rounds as possible. The goal is to complete as many rounds of the prescribed exercises as possible in a given time. I chose to run on the indoor track this week and set my AMRAP goal for 90-minutes. Essentially, I was shooting for as many laps as I could get in an hour and a half.

I reasoned that I would push myself to run/walk as fast as possible while getting myself mentally in shape for extended runs. For those of you following along, you might be thinking that this would be too long of a time given the lack of training I’ve done, but I also thought walking might become a big part of what I was doing. Since I’m really only concerned with completing the distance, I’m not too concerned about how long it takes me to finish.

So here’s what happened…7.5 miles…disappointing compared to ten years ago but encouraging for yesterday. For stubbornness, I went ahead and finished the last half of mile for a total of 95-minutes of run/walking. I didn’t have any real issues. When my legs were too tired, I either slowed down or walked. Both of the group exercise classes on the gym floor below distracted me from being bothered and there was enough traffic on the track to give me obstacles to keep the monotony from setting in.

Then I woke up this morning… I’ve been sorer (see my first week after my first CrossFit workout), but I was determined to get back over to the Y. At 8:10, I started walking with a two-hour goal of nothing but walking. The gym was empty, the track was empty, and my mind was empty. After an hour there was a crowd building. For about twenty minutes, I talked with a woman I used to work with, but I could not remember her name. Then I followed an older guy who had amazing pace. He knew I was following along and he would surge from time to time. Finally, he turned right for the exit and I was left with about twenty minutes and an unofficial AMRAP goal of 128 laps. I was at about 113 with around 12-minutes to go.

With so little time left, I did what any overly competitive jerk would do, I started to run. I ran a lap and walked a lap. Time seemed to be moving faster at the end of the run, so I just went for it. Making the time felt great and I was not in the least bit bothered by running about six or seven laps during the workout. In fact, I was surprised at how well my legs felt in those short few laps.

The key to the last few days was getting over the mental barrier of time and once again learning that pacing is very important to how well I perform while exercising. I’m not a “balls to the wall” exerciser. I’m probably too analytical about what I’m doing, although some have suggested that I don’t think about things enough. Issues…

Tomorrow is the next big day. It will be my first three-day push and my first with new gear…thanks, Apple… I wonder what kind of nerdy data I can get from this thing.

Parts Unseen

Sitting to write
With Blind Willie Jefferson humming
The most haunting song ever,
Dark was the Night.
My bourbon is cooling in the freezer,
The Phillies are trying, and
All day I’ve been trying to get my head around
The run I took this morning.

This first day of the “Eff-It” list started,
“No exercise excuses,”
With me trying to decide about going to the Y,
Pounding out some minutes on my basement bike, or
Hitting the roads for a run.
The list’s streak was in trouble as fasting was hitting
A critical breaking point with only three hours to go.
A run seemed the best option.

The humidity was down,
Clouds blocked the sun,
Morning traffic at 9:50 had moved on, and
The roads felt like they would accept my plodding pace,
Potential hunger defeatism, and
Sheepish lungs, who long ago lost their endurance.
Besides, I could easily kill an hour and get myself
Closer to the peanut butter smoothie I dreamt about last night.

Runs have a way of taking a person places.
The more adversity encountered the more interesting the journey.
Since I live in the rolling hills of Chester County,
There are plenty of ups and downs along any route I take.
One minute in and the steepness of my neighborhood
Attacked my determination with full force
Making me question my choice to run outside
Instead of hitting the climate controlled air of the Y.

Somehow nature allowed me to continue and my legs
Stretched out for an easy downhill only to be confronted
By they hill across the way.
It sucked and by the fifth mailbox, I was breathing rocks,
Thinking how sad it is, for this used to be nothing but a warm up.
Negotiating the incline became a series of power deals
Where my will gave into to my legs and
My legs agreed to stick with the run.

In ten minutes, I hadn’t gone anywhere yet, but the run took over.
Thoughts of adding feet to the run in an effort to get to an hour
Rose from self-talk to real life action.
I took to the cul-de-sacs of the neighborhood next to mine
Running for as long as I could, before walking to catch my breath.
I saw old people pruning bushes, rows of cookie cutter condos,
Pregnant ladies walking on paved sidewalks, and a woman
On a big tricycle working with therapists to overcome the ravages of a stroke.

I found myself thinking less about agony,
Thinking about all kinds of stuff really.
Gump, Apple Watches, the kids whose father worked at the car dealership,
The one that burned to the ground.
I dodged the weeds in the abandoned site as my legs took me further from home.
Then a water crew guy yelled, “Give me two, buddy.”
I nodded and kept going thinking how wrong it is that I’m off all summer
While he digs in whatever weather comes this way.

A turn up another hill took me towards the Italian Social Club.
Only a mile and a half from my home and nearly an hour into the run,
Lot’s of cul-de-sacs, hills, and walking,
I found myself on a road that I had never been on before.
Nearly thirty years in this town and I had never run down this hill.
My mind was like a camera,
The sagging roof on the Boy Scouts clubhouse,
The abandoned trailer, and kids were playing next to their home,
A mushroom house converted into an apartment,
There were weeds and isolation was everywhere.

And I was pissed.
Five minutes by car are million dollar homes.
These kids are growing up in an area
Just two minutes from where they go to school
And I guessed most of my town knew nothing of this street.
The idea of their living here pushed me further down the hill
Where I planned on turning around and head back home.
This would not be, as the run back up looked to be too much for my heart.

Next was a dirt road next to the railroad tracks. Across the rails was a trailer Park that I pass on my way to school each morning.
It looked different from this side, larger, lower,
A creek, that I heard flooded regularly, snaked through without a care
For the damage it might cause.
My feet crunched with each step,
The homes along the track seemed nothing more than permanent tiny homes
Stuffed on this route to be hidden from the renaissance less than a mile away.

Somehow, I found a groove on this soft pavement.
Another mushroom house was being renovated,
There were tires strewn about, and dust
From the concrete plant drowned the weeds next to the train tracks.
The leaves looked like frosted Christmas decorations
Instead of nature’s deep green that they should have been.
It struck me, I had no idea of the concrete plant, its white powder everywhere
Except under the hose spewing water without an attendant or a current purpose.

Finally, I arrived at something I knew.
The edge of town, the high school fields, a beer garden, a fancy pottery store.
I turned right and ran up the hill, the houses looking well kept,
The yards manicured,
The people the same as the other street, only in better situations.
Another right turn and I was heading towards home.
I let the water guy know I had done his two,
He wished me a Happy Father’s Day and twenty minutes later I was walking my dog.

Running took me somewhere today,
Further from thoughts of fitness, marathons, and split times
And closer to the realities of economic injustice and my lack of awareness
About the struggles of people around town.
Maybe I covered seven miles today, I refuse to run with my phone,
In terms of enlightenment
I think I ran that marathon I’m training for.
Charlie Patton is singing, “I’m Goin’ Home.”

Marathon Journal: 6/10/17

The time sure has passed on this marathon training program. In fact, the projected date for this ludicrous endeavor has long passed.

I didn’t run the marathon.

Boo, you suck, you asked for donations and never did the race, you suck, boo!!!

Well, all of that is mostly true (I sound like a president of something…). Here’s the story, it’s not sad, but it is true.

Life got in the way.

Back in February when I last posted, basketball season was ending and I was sort of geared up for the final push to the “Just Me” marathon (400 and something laps on the track at my local YMCA). For a couple of weeks after the season ended, I basked in the free time and made use of the afternoons to run. Then one day I had a minor meltdown where the arrogance of wisdom met head on with the ignorance of adolescence. On that day, I barked at some baseball players in my school about attitude, commitment, and effort. From my lofty perch of life’s experience, I laughed at their absolute belief in their lack of class effort and how that translated to their prediction for the upcoming season. Early that evening, I went for a run on the track. Coincidently, the baseball team came out to practice on the football field as the snow had melted there.

Hang with me…

I’ve learned over the years to be careful about certain questions from my bosses. The most alarm sound of them all is, “Hey, I’ve got a question for you?” The day after my meltdown and track encounter, the athletic director was in my office posing that very question. I answered, “Uh-oh, that didn’t sound good.” We laughed and he proceeded to ask if I would like to coach BASEBALL. One of the coaches was quitting and the team needed someone to “ride the bus.” After talking to my real boss, Mrs. H., I said, “yes,” and so would begin my quick descent into baseball mode. Fortunately, I ended up doing more than riding the bus and the players and I saw each other in a different light. The season ended up great from that standpoint, but not so successful with the record.

During the basketball season, I sort of managed to keep my running going. Baseball killed that. I thought baseball was so much harder to coach than basketball. I don’t know if it was the time, the wind, the sun, or the standing, but I was dog tired after practice and games. My running stopped and here I am nearly four months passed my last training post. During that time, I lost my endurance, gained seven pounds, discovered Miller High Life (I had the time and they had the beer…), and started to feel really sluggish. All the while, I kept thinking that I needed to run this “race” because I said that I would.

It’s funny how little things can spur some motivation. 231 on the scale is an attention getter. An old blogger resurfacing with those cool Monday posts is another. YouTube can help. Even my AD brought a bit of motivation to my lethargy. So here’s how my “resurrection” began. I was working my way through YouTube. I did Brilliant Ideas and Chase Jarvis. I guess the folks at YouTube thought I would be interested in Bullet Journaling because they kept sending me videos about BOJOs. For kicks and giggles, I watched one and thought it was pretty cool. A couple of days later, I was drawing in a journal and trying to figure out how to use it to make the lifestyle changes that needed to be made. In the journal, I’m trying to focus on creating enjoyment, power, and endurance. The things that I put in my journal should be promoting those ideals. Out of that journal, I began getting better at scheduling my workouts. Even so, I’ve been hit or miss about the running.

Because it hurts, man…

The AD came to me with another proposition, volleyball? I signed on to be an assistant coach and with baseball over, I went to my first open gym. It was awesome! My fear, though, is that this is just something else to jam up my exercise schedule. Back to the BOJO and a few scribbles here and there made the three lifestyle priorities work together. The exercise began to ramp up…

Then YouTube dropped another vegetable on my plate, “Intermittent Fasting.” The idea is that there are big chunks of time where a person fasts and an eating window where the person eats normally. Today is my first day. I’ve committed myself to a month of at least fourteen-hour fasting. Although, I’m waiting until Monday to really start, so I can truly enjoy breakfast with my daughter tomorrow. However, today I rocked out a sixteen hour fast and can see the benefits to doing so. I survived the hunger pangs and never felt tired, even with a workout in the middle of the hunger alarms.

Okay, that gets me to today. I decided to hit the Y and lift weights. That turned into lifting weights and then getting on the track for an hour. Truth be told, I ran one lap and then walked one lap. The intensity was lacking, but I was more interested in seeing if I could stick to a goal. The 1:1 gave me the opportunity to get my legs going without the horrible feeling of over doing it. I got it done despite being asked about my ex-wife (twelve years people…), no music of my own, and the over enthusiastic cueing from the group exercise teacher down on the basketball court. That’s really the time when it sucks to be a visual learner. “Shhh, I’ve got it, bend my knees…”

I like to think that I’m motivated on my own. I guess YouTube, BOJOs, and my athletic director suggest that I am influenced by extrinsic factors, too. I have to give a welcome back to an amazing poet and all around good person from coppercranes.worpress.com. It’s hard to know why things make an influence on you, but I can say about “Ms. Crane’s” work that it is always thought provoking and moving. Better yet, she’s an encourager and while I only know her through the blogging world, I’m glad to have come across her site and wisdom.

So, now it all comes together. If it were a simple math equation, it might look like this: YouTube+BOJO+Volleyball+good poetry+frustration over lethargy=back to training, baby!

More to come!

Marathon Journal: For 2-22-17 (+ a Rant)

Before you read any further, know that this is part of an educational rant and part training journal. The two go together even though the ranting is about Physical Education and the journal is about training for my ridiculous marathon plan.

Still here? Good.

Some background: I have been a teacher for 23-years. I started in elementary school, moved to middle school, and currently teach high school. For a few years, I was also an adjunct to a well-respected teacher preparation college. My subjects are Health and Physical Education. I teach people. I’m opinionated about my profession and believe that my opinion is subject to criticism. Take this as you will…

The delivery of a sound educational program is grounded in some sort of theory. From that theory, programs are developed. The programs must be assessed against outcomes. I cannot cite the article that I learned that from, but please know that this is the foundation for many of the decisions that I make in my job as a GYM teacher. (Those of you in the profession who are offended by “GYM teacher,” I make no apologies. “We are what we are and what we are is an illusion…” Le Cage Au Folles, I believe…). For those of you not in the profession, PE/Gym teachers spend a great deal of time trying to improve the image of what they do. We have a professional organization with a cute name, “SHAPE,” (Society of Health and Physical Education) that works as an advocate for all things health and physical education. State departments of education have created standards, cultivated by physical educators, that stand on a buffet of themes that include, team sports, individual sports, dance, science, decision making, problem- solving, and fitness. All of the standards are meant to show the money brokers that physical education matters in an educational context. It’s as if the profession cannot stand on its own, so it took a shotgun planning approach to say, “Look at all the ways we matter.”

And still, the profession struggles for respectability. There are too many reasons to go into, but the major things that seem to keep people from liking PE are: that people see no reason for a gym class, that people do not want to sweat, or PE is not fun. The “PE Council of Higher Education” will say that the problems stem from a lack of coherent instruction or poorly designed programs. Practitioners will say that the schedules are messed up and that there is a disconnect between what professor types think should be happening in schools and what the constraints of PE in the real world are all about.

“Chris, what does all of this have to do with your marathon training? I don’t need an essay on education. Heck, I went to school. Duh…”

“I hear you. I’m also with you. Remember, I am ranting.”

Learning is a highly complex and messy process. My theory is that the messier the process the better, so I teach, I am purposefully vague with instructions or I place barriers up for students to work around. A member of fictitious PE Council of Higher Education asked me today if that meant, “handing kids a racquet and shuttlecock and sending them out to play badminton without any prior instruction.” My answer, “Why not?” was not received well. Here is my reasoning, people need to learn how to think and make choices. I see badminton as a tool to help my students think and as a means to have them moving around. Through all of that, I want them to have fun. Experience, learning, and research have shown me a few things about how people learn. First, people are capable of more than we believe, so we have to remove ourselves and allow them to grow. I am not suggesting that PE teachers leave a class to chaos, but I am saying to PE teachers that their students will find the answers and develop skills if we give them both the chance and time. We are not coaching a team, so our approach does not need to be limited by skill development, game strategy, or herding students into a large group game. We are facilitating learning experiences, so it’s okay to concentrate on outcomes beyond the physical. How about developing self-efficacy, decision-making, resilience, or sweat equity (I just made that up…)?

Second, the most powerful person in any class is every student. If they don’t buy into what is happening in class, the program will suffer and the profession will stay second class in the minds of the people bringing the next consumers of our product to life. Allowing and expecting that students find a way to understand the importance of physical activity (on their terms) is a very important aspect of what we do. Doing so allows students to participate in a self-directed and personally meaningful experience that has a real opportunity to tap into real life skills and social constructs like self-efficacy, resilience, or joy. Let the program be more than a bunch of rules or “official” looking sports. Allow the program to be flexible and in tune with the individual needs of the students. That individuality is how adults exercise. There is value in team sports, but the edge of the cliff for team sports participation rapidly approaches by high school.

Finally, all of what happens in PE can be around a culture of fun. Dodgeball is fun. Dance is fun. Team sports are fun. Experiencing all of those may not be fun for all students, but finding the types of things that students like should be something that PE teachers strive for. Fun makes everything else easier, more enjoyable, and I believe more meaningful.

“Okay, Chris, do you have data to support your theory and program?”

“Why yes, smarty pants, I do.” (Insert proper emoji)

The quick report on a study I did last year was to measure the general self-efficacy (belief a student can create success) through participation in a strength and conditioning class. Without all the educational research mumbo jumbo (doctoral terms!), the students’ self-efficacy scores rose from the pretest at the beginning of the year to the posttest at the end of the year. Think about this, though, I didn’t make a big deal about standards. I wasn’t cranky about perfect form. I didn’t even ask them to tell me about the scientific appropriateness of plyometrics training on the regeneration of muscle tissue. (I guess that’s a thing…). Strangely, though, students who were unable to sign up for the class again this year talk about how great that class was and how they are still exercising. There you have it…

I know that this rant about physical education teachers is exhausting, but too much of what we do in the gym (and in education in general) forgets that we teach people. We do not teach subjects. “Education through the physical” is my mantra. “Education of the physical” is a side dish for me. Getting students to feel good about themselves because they realize that they can create success (whatever their metric is) is my goal. The rest of this stuff, standards, scripted learning, public versus charter versus private is just BS…

“Marathon journal, yo?…”

“Here it is and thank you for staying with me.”

“Finally…”

Take this marathon I’m running…it’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had. I’m running a marathon on an indoor track. Who does such a thing? Better than that, I’m only halfway training. I could care less about my time. There won’t be a crew, nobody will be getting paid overtime, and there won’t be any litter to pick up after I’m done.

It’s going to be great!

I started out on this journey simply wanting to prove that at my advanced age and level of ignored fitness that I could complete a marathon. My long run right now is about six miles. I’m running in about a month and should have a long run closer to twenty miles, but I don’t really care. I’ve got all day to go the distance. I’m not worried about a standard, pace, or a mileage/skill progression. I’m running for the fun of it. I’ll benefit from the exercise, but I’ll savor the accomplishment.

So in the name of denying essential content, as a protest against something with a #, and in the spirit of anyone who remembers a great day of dodgeball in gym class, I RUN!

Not really, I’m just doing this to see if I can. I believe it so.

Thanks to my PE teachers who understood what was important…

Marathon Journal: For 2/14/17

My Old Running Haunts…

The last couple of days have been about letting go of the coaching laziness and getting back to the running routine. It’s tough making life changes and made more difficult by the “crud” that is going around. I’ve been mixing in running here and there, but the distances have been hampered by lungs that are still trying to get clear. I added some indoor cycling to the mix and I hope that the fitness will come back quickly.

Tonight, as I try to fight off the incredible hunger I have after a Rock-n-Roll ride, I got to ride around some of my old running roads. How did it ever happen? There is no way I ever ran the hills and fought through the funk of the mushroom industry. I guess age has something do with it. When I went through my first running boom, I was about 15 years younger. I’m sure a lot of my running energy was due to being young. I’d bet my recoveries were faster too. Then there is the lighter factor, all those microbrews and Pop-Tarts add up.

When I think about it, though, this time around is not that different than back then. I grinding minutes wherever I can. Sometimes I run the track, sometimes on a treadmill, and others I’m just cruising with my dog. I just go and that’s the best part, just like when I got to the point when I could handle hills and real mileage. Maybe tonight was not so much about an awe of my running past, but instead seeing a hill and waiting for the day when I run it like I used to.

Thank you for reading my blog. I am running this marathon of one to support the Kennett Area YMCA. If you would like to support the Y, I have provided the link to their site below. Since this about running for a charity of my choice, I think it awesome if you would prefer to donate somewhere else. In fact, I would love it…good for this journey’s spirit!

Donate to the Kennett YMCA!

Marathon Journal: For 2-9-17

And now I cough…

The last few days have been up and down. I nearly wrote roller coaster, but that was too cliche, so I settled for up and down. Cliche… Sunday began my battle with the previous week of work where our tiny office served as an incubator for whatever viral-respiratory thing is going around. Since there were only two days left in my basketball season I stayed in the germ-laden environment about forty-eight hours longer than I should have. Finally, Wednesday arrived and I hunkered down for some serious recuperation.

What I didn’t know was that there would be little rest, except for the two-hour nap I took after watching Rectify and listening to the pundits go round and round about the latest whatever is going on in Washington fiasco. I’ll just say this, “Both sides, GET IT TOGETHER!” Did I mention that the temperature was a balmy sixty-three degrees. That’s about fifteen to twenty degrees above normal and all I could muster was a short walk with my dog and some time sitting on the deck. Yesterday was the perfect day to run, warm, sunny, and no real commitments, although I was home from work.

So I slept…

The weather has changed dramatically today. There will probably be about four or five inches of snow on the ground by the time this storm goes through. Schools are closed and when I awoke, the pundits were still lamenting alternate facts, media shaming, executive lies, double talk, and whether the Knicks need an intervention. Since the school cancellation call woke me at five, I watched the heavy snow falling nearly from it’s beginning. I noshed on a bagel and rushed through the New York Times Mini-Crossword puzzle in near record time, but something came over me. I had to go for a run despite the medical advice to sit the next few days out. The doctor pushed hard for me to get a flu shot, but on her recommendation, I held firm. She talked of resting for about a week so there would be less of a chance for my cold to turn into something else. She took my insurance and co-pay quickly after I said, “No.”

And then I ran…

I layered up, found some gloves and a knit cap, and asked my dog if he wanted to go. Since he took about a minute to do his business earlier in the morning, I already knew the answer. Into the white out, I went. The flakes were being blown around by a steady wind that made them feel more like sleet than snow. The salt trucks and plows were out and they had turned the roads in my little neighborhood into a slushy mess. The sky was gray and for a second I thought, “This is not a good day to run.” Still, though, I kept going, slowly of course, and left my neighborhood for the next one “up the way.” I made it past the oil change place, then the Dunkin, past the home style food restaurant and the shuttered ice cream stand, around the loop in the next neighborhood, and finally, home.

It sure felt good. Since then the coughing has started. My lungs are saying to the illness that it’s time to go. I’m not at all bothered by the hack. I’ve got nowhere to go today. So maybe I’ll catch the next episode of Rectify and take another nap. Maybe I’ll even grade some papers. Maybe not…

Thank you for reading my blog. I am running this “marathon of one” to support the Kennett Area YMCA. If you would like to support the Y, I have provided the link to their site below. Since this about running for a charity of my choice, I think it would be awesome if you donated to the Kennett Area YMCA, if you have a cause close to your heart, by all means, use the spirit of this challenge to give to a charity or organization you are more comfortable with. I would love that…good for this journey’s spirit!

Donate to the Kennett YMCA

Marathon Journal: For 2-5-17

What an interesting week of training. I didn’t run at all. For those of you following along, it would be reasonable to think something was up with my calf. Thankfully, there is nothing going on there. I just didn’t feel like running. Instead, I played basketball. Yes, I played basketball and risked injuring my calf again. I know, I’m crazy, stupid, or whatever negative label most appropriately describes my decision-making process. Here is the reality of this marathon training…I don’t care about it. I’m doing this because I want to and I’m going to do it my way. Sure, there are principles of training that I should be following. I know there are all sorts of programs I should be following, but this week was busy and I’m not going to miss the opportunity to shoot some pain free hoops if I can.

I marvel at people who have the single-minded focus to train with a strict discipline. I used to run with a group and there was a guy who was training for a 100-mile race. He would three hours in the darkness of the early morning, squeeze in a run at lunch, run three more hours at night. He was inspiring and off-putting at the same time. I could not fathom his ability to endure the hours of training, nor did I want the aches he often complained about. He ran his race and I think it took him about twenty-seven hours. He also came home with a bump on his head as he fell asleep while running at one point. After his story, I knew that kind of training was beyond me and that I need to keep things in perspective.

So on this day gray day, I write while watching golf in the desert, sipping tea from Mrs. Robinson’s shop, nursing a sinus infection, and glad to have sweated it out on the basketball court this week. Tuesday, my coaching season ends. Then I’m back to the serious training. Rest assured, though, I’m not going to go crazy. I’m not capable of doing that.

Thank you for reading my blog. I am running this “marathon of one” to support the Kennett Area YMCA. If you would like to support the Y, I have provided the link to their site below. Since this about running for a charity of my choice, I think it would be awesome if you donated to the Kennett Area YMCA, but if you have a cause close to your heart, by all means, use the spirit of this challenge to give to a charity or organization you are more comfortable with. I would love that…good for this journey’s spirit!

Donate-Kennett YMCA