My 500 Mile Challenge

I usually look forward to being with my running group, but was tempted to stay home last week the training plan said “500 Mile Challenge.”

I’m so glad that I went

The challenge ended up being a relay, so runners would go around a 400 meter track then get in line waiting for someone to tag them, and run another 400 meters. Thankfully they brought in people from all of our running groups so there were around 100 of us there (so everyone ran about 18 laps).

At about lap ten I started to notice that everyone was running differently

1. Instead of a relaxed pace they were trying to pass everyone else
2. There was no conversation going on (we normally talk a lot during our runs)
3. Towards the end of every lap they would sprint to the finish

At lap twelve two people from a slower training group blew by me as if I was standing still (though I was sprinting for the finish line) between sips of water I said to one “wow you guys were flying out there.”

She smiled and pointing at the other runner said “I couldn’t let him beat me.”

For the rest of our 500 Mile Challenge I watched runners push each other (sometimes verbally, sometimes by going faster) into racing the last 100 meters in their lap…it was an awesome thing to watch individuals who claimed they had nothing left turn into Usain Bolt when challenged by a friend.

When we reached 500 Miles those who had completed their laps stood applauding as others finished their last ones….

And everyone sprinted.

Our 500 Mile Challenge taught me some very important truths about being competitive, or driven in life

  1. 1. Some of us are born with a strong competitive nature, others aren’t

2. Those without this many times feel they can’t be competitive
3. This isn’t true because amazing motivation can come from a loving friend who challenges us

Last Fall a runner in our group named John simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with him. Many dark nights running around Hanes Park Track when I started lagging behind he would shout “come on Johnny boy you can do this!” and every time I was able to keep up. It wasn’t always pretty or fast but I finished.

I firmly believe if the world had more people like him, then we would accomplish a lot more.

Five Kinds of Gear You Need to run in the Winter

Most of you  know that I’m a runner, but till this year there has been a deep dark secret about my training.  The truths is I’m what’s known as a “warm weather runner.”

This means I faithfully run during warmer months, but there isn’t enough motivation to continue training in the winter.  The problem with this is once Spring comes and the weather gets nice I find myself completely out of shape.  So people who want to set a personal record for speed or distance in May must put the hard work in during December and January.

Becoming a cold weather runner takes more than determination though, your going to need the right running gear.  Since I’ve bought quite a bit of gear since January I thought it would be fun to share some of the items you would need to train twelve months out of the year.

IMG_04611.  Base Layer:  I’m aware that many people (men in particular) have a problem with wearing running tights since there is no way you can look cool running in them.  However having pair of pants or tights and a long sleeve running shirt is incredibly important because it keeps your body warm during the run..oh and don’t worry I did buy both of these items after taking this picture.

IMG_02582.  Reflection and Light:  Adding to the lack of coolness is the need to be seen by traffic or other people.  This is especially important in winter months since it gets dark earlier, and many of us can’t run till after work.  I prefer using a vest that has lights as well as reflectivity (note the flashing red light) and a headlamp to see whats in front of me.

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3.  Running Shoes or Insoles:  I do understand not everyone can purchase a pair of new running shoes, but if you can in the winter months it is a huge help.  If not then buying a pair of high quality running insoles from a company like Super Feet can make older shoes much more comfortable

SAMSUNG CSC4.  Gloves:  It’s been proven that your fingertips are the last things to get warm in cold weather so having a nice pair of gloves is extremely important.  My suggestion would to buy something that is made of synthetic or breathable material instead of wool because that material will absorb your sweat, and make the run uncomfortable.

5.  Hydration:  A common mistake for runners is not to drink water during winter training because they’re not training in hot weather.  However you still lose a lot through perspiration, and wearing layers of clothing will create the need for hydration.

There are a few ways to keep hydrated during a run, but I’ve fallen in love with hydration belts because they also allow me to carry things like my keys, and phone.

Unfortunately you won’t look very cool wearing running tights, a hydration belt, and flashing red lights in the winter, but that’s okay.  You going to look really cool passing everyone else in the summer.

Six ways to get past the one word conversation phase with Teens

Image Purchased from www.fotolia.com
Image Purchased from http://www.fotolia.com

Last year I got involved in a program that connects individuals with High School Seniors in need of mentoring, and envisioned becoming close friends with my student as they shared all of their personal struggles with me.

It didn’t work out that way…In fact I never really got past the “one word conversation phrase” (I ask a question and they answer with “yes” or “no”)

This year I began mentoring again with very different results….

About five minutes into our session last week one of my students excitedly said “okay man I have to tell you something” and proceeded to share his frustration with not becoming part of the popular crowd at school.

What made the difference?  It was six simple changes that I made in my approach to mentoring

  1. First sessions will be pretty much 90% lecture  (you talking) and about 10% discussion
  2. You take the initiative in sharing struggles or challenges:
  3. Start each session with “what do you want to talk about today?” (if they say I don’t know thats okay, but I’ve been amazed how many times we spend an hour talking about something they bring up in the first five minutes)
  4. If they bring up a struggle listen first, don’t cut them off and try to “fix the situation”
  5. Create handouts for your sessions that deal directly with their struggles
  6. Give students space to share deeper or more personal problems

For the sake of illustration let me use some experiences I had with a student called James (not his real name)

  • I spend a few months earning his trust
  • Around Thanksgiving James brings up his frustration with always being stuck with his nieces and nephews on Thanksgiving and never spending time with the other adults
  • We discuss some ways to create boundaries, and how to say no when asked to do something
  • James returns after Thanksgiving excited because our ideas had worked
  • A few weeks later James towards the end of class asked me how to ask a girl out on a date
  • This week we spent a session discussing why he shouldn’t worry about not being one of the cool kids

It’s been a blessing in our sessions to see James begin sharing deeper and deeper struggles in his life.  It is very hard to gain the trust of a teenager (why most people don’t do it), but the good news is once that trust is earned, they will share their deeper needs.

How to Send 250 Emails in Five Minutes

One of the things that I really struggled with in the past was how to communicate regularly with everyone who wanted to get updates about my ministry.

It used to be a real challenge since you had to choose between quality (creating an awesome looking email) or quantity (sending lots of emails that may not be as professional). Thankfully I don’t have to make that decision anymore…but Mailchimp helps me do both.

There are a lot of online services that send emails for you while providing email templates, but in my opinion Mailchimp is the best (and easiest to use). In fact it’s possible to send an email to hundreds of people in less than five minutes.

1. Create an email list by adding email addresses: The bad news is you will have to import all of them the first time, but
thankfully they are saved so from then on you only have to choose the list that receives your emails (new addresses can easily be added)

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2. Choose a template you want to use: I love this because they allow me to create my own templates and then use them over and over again.

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3. Write the Email: Nothing too complicated, just click in the box and write what you want

4. Spell Check and Send the Email

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You can even get reports that tell you who opened the email, how many times, and if they clicked any links

I try to send an email to all of my prayer supporters of around 250 people once a week. This used to take over an hour with other websites but now takes less than thirty minutes using Mailchimp’s tools (that includes writing time so it could be done a lot faster).

Oh and the best news…it’s free

Yes I know it’s hard keeping in touch with friends and loved ones by email, thankfully there are websites like Mailchimp that make our job a whole lot easier