It’s Best to Think Positive and Not Make Assumptions in Racing and in Business

December 13, 2012

I truly believe in practicing what I preach as a personal trainer and distance running conditioning specialist. When I’m training for a race or series of races, I design a training plan and follow it. With that said, just because someone follows a training plan, doesn’t mean all the training runs will go well. In fact, I’ve never had a training season where every long training run went well. I usually have one or two long runs that go poorly, but that’s not uncommon during a 16 week training season where you’re running three to four times per week.

While training for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k (31 miles) in Kansas City, most of my long training runs were disappointing. This was a new experience for me.

One of the things I stress with clients is that you must train with the products the race is serving on the race course. This particular race was serving products I had never tried. I spent eight weeks trying to get my body to accept the new products, but it wouldn’t. The products made me ill and the runs were unpleasant because of that. I struggled due to a lack of fuel and my body “hitting the wall” causing me to walk some or most of the mileage during the long training runs. While the runs didn’t go well, I sucked it up and finished every run and completed the mileage according to the plan no matter how long it took.

By the time I realized I wouldn’t be able to force my body to tolerate the products, I had accumulated a lot of knowledge. The main thing I knew was the only thing I’d be able to drink on this particular race course was water. So I had to plan accordingly by carrying my own fueling products…products I’d used successfully in the past.

When training for an ultra marathon, or a series of ultra marathons in my case, the most important thing is spending a lot of time on your feet. So, training runs with walking mileage have some benefits. And while I wasn’t happy with how the runs went, I was happy that I completed all the mileage for each training run.

I arrived in Kansas City a few days before the race. K.C. is my home town and my dad was nervous about my running this race. I had been in K.C. four weeks earlier for his birthday and we’d driven the course. All he could say the entire time was, “This is all uphill. I’m exhausted driving this. How in the world are you going to run this?” I explained to my father that while my training hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped, I was ready and had trained adequately for the race. I was prepared, and I would finish within the time limit.

The night before the race, I told my dad I’d be up at 2am to eat breakfast but I’d be very quiet so I wouldn’t wake him, my mom or the dog. He asked me if I was taking a cell phone with me on the course. I told him there was no need. I knew why he was asking this. I explained to him that if something horrible happened to me, and that was highly unlikely, he is the emergency contact listed on the back of my race bib, so the race would call him since I’d be in no condition to do so. Regardless of my logic, my father kept insisting that I take a phone. His next comment was, “What if you get tired or your foot starts hurting and you don’t want to finish? Don’t you want a phone so you can call me to pick you up?” Again, I explained to him that unless they were taking me off the course in an ambulance, I’d finish. I explained that the foot injury from last year was much better and while I had some discomfort during training, it was a muscular issue and not structural. As a trainer I know when to stop and the foot was fine. I told him that I expected to finish in seven hours, based on my training runs going badly, and told him where to meet me at 2pm. Keep in mind I ran a 30 mile ultra marathon in just under six and a half hours the previous year with the foot injury only 60% healed. This year, it was 90% healed, but the training runs were so far below my expectations that I assumed a seven hour finish was what I could reasonably expect.

Race morning arrives. I get up as scheduled at 2am and eat my usual breakfast (six egg whites, a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of black coffee) and head back to bed to rest a bit at 2:15am. I never sleep the night before a race, so resting is relative. It’s more about staying off my feet and visualizing the race I hope to run before I need to get dressed and head out so my dad can drop me off near the starting line.

At 2:20am I hear this quiet knocking on my bedroom door. It’s my dad. He says, “Aren’t you supposed to be up at 2am eating breakfast?” I reply, “I already ate. Why are you up?” He says, “You were so quiet, I didn’t hear you. And I’m up because I’m racing today, and I can’t sleep!” He then asks me again, are you sure you don’t want to take a phone? I have never seen my father this nervous. This is so unlike him. So, to ease his mind, I tell him I will take a phone with me and I will call him on his cell phone when I get to mile 25 so he knows it’s time to head down to the race and pick me up. My father doesn’t leave his cell phone on, so I remind him to turn it on at 1pm since I’m hoping to finish around 2pm. He tells me he will turn it on at noon.

One of the things I regularly tell people is that some days the race course owns you and some days you own the race course. Over the years, I’ve experienced both.

I woke up on race morning feeling great and felt good at the starting line. But once the gun goes off, anything can happen between the start and finish lines.

I start with a pack of about 250 men and women who are running the 50k and we all have a bounce in our step and are filled with anticipation. I remind myself not to start too fast and to find a comfortable pace and settle into it. As I make the third turn, a young woman in her 20s asks if it’s okay if she runs with me. I tell her, absolutely! It’s always nice to have company and make new friends on the course. I ask her about her finishing goal and she tells me it’s purely to finish. I’m thinking that’s perfect. We’re probably going to run the same pace and we can hang out together for a while. As we continue on our journey, I find out her name is Maria, she’s studying to be a doctor and she’s always been a runner ever since she was a kid. With this knowledge I ask, “So, I know your goal is to finish, but do you have a goal time in mind?” She replies that she does. It’s two hours more than her slowest marathon finishing time. Again, I’m thinking I have lucked out and found a good running partner for this race. But being a former investigative reporter, I have to ask the obvious question, “What was your slowest marathon time?” She replies it was four hours. Holy smoke! I know I’m pacing too fast if she’s running with me. But I feel good at that pace, so I stick with it knowing I will adjust my pace as necessary. About three miles into the race, Maria says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to walk to that stop light. I have some leg cramps.” I explain to her that if I start taking walk breaks this soon in the race, I’ll be in trouble. So we agree that she’ll work out her cramp and catch up to me since she’s the fast runner and I’m not. That’s exactly what happened and we continued on together for a few more miles. She got another cramp. Same thing, she stopped to walk it out and caught up to me. The third time, that didn’t happen. I never saw Maria again, but by running with her, I realized I probably started out too fast, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. So, my strategy is to listen to my body and do what it tells me. That’s always a good strategy.

Since Kansas City is my home town, we ran through some very special, sentimental parts of the city that hold lots of fond childhood memories for me. Several of the places we ran by were places my grandmother and I used to go when I was young. My family lost her two years ago, but I felt her spirit with me the entire race.

We also ran through some spectacular places I had never seen. I got caught up in the beauty of the course including a bridge over the river, stairs that take you down to a path beside the river and this overlook where you can see for miles. As I got caught up in the beauty of the course, I really wasn’t paying attention to my pace. I was paying attention to my body and it said it felt pretty good. I took some walk breaks to conserve energy up some steep hills where head winds were beating us up, but for the most part, I was feeling good. Next thing I know, I see a sign that says I’m at mile 20. I look at my GPS watch and realize I’m way ahead of my expected pace. I’d been running for three and a half hours. Doing the math in my head, I realized I might finish in closer to six hours than seven hours and was glad I brought my phone. Father knows best, as they say! But I also knew that, as runners say, the wheels can fall off at any time during a race and I still had 11 miles to go.

When I saw the mile marker and water stop at mile 25 I looked at my watch. It was only 11:40am. My father wasn’t going to turn his phone on before noon. I picked up my phone and called him. My voice mail said, “Dad, it’s 11:40am and I’m at mile 25. I’m way ahead of schedule. When you get this message at noon, you need to get in the car and head down to the finish line to meet me. I’ll see you soon.”

The last six miles were the most exciting. As I looked at my running watch, I realized I really could break six hours. Prior to this point, I’d stopped at almost all the aid stations to get water and make sure I was staying well hydrated. But once I left the station at mile 25, I was a woman on a mission and there would be no stopping or stopping me.

As I rounded the final turn I passed the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, one of my favorite places in K.C. and a place where my grandmother and I spent many afternoons when I was a child. I felt my heart and soul fill with joy and all I could think is that she would have loved this moment and seeing me finish this race. As I headed down the final hill, I could see the finish line. I still had some energy left, and I kicked it into high gear. I was going to break six hours. As I crossed the timing mat at the finish, all I could see was the finisher’s clock…5:52:31. Then I heard this voice shouting, “Lauren, you did fantastic. You had a great race!” It was my dad. He’d gotten the message in time and was able to see me finish the race. My father had never seen me run or race, so this was a thrilling moment for us to share. He was beaming and so was I. I’m not sure who was happier or more proud.

So what does this story have to do with business?
In racing and in business, the road to the finish is an adventure. Sometimes the road is smooth and sometimes it’s rough. But what you have to remember in both circumstances is that just because the majority of the journey is rough, it doesn’t automatically mean that the ending will be equally difficult. Race and business situations can surprise us…in good ways and in bad ways. The key is to take each day and each part of the journey as it comes. If you are prepared, stay focused and maintain a positive attitude, you’re more likely to have a rewarding outcome.

When We Help People Achieve Their Goals and Dreams, We Experience Rewards Far Greater Than Money.

October 25, 2012

Over the winter, I started training several clients to run races of various distances. Their accomplishments are inspiring and I was proud and honored to be part of their journey. And now I want to share their journey with you.

Heidi was a runner in her youth, but got away from it after college. Today, she’s a talented executive, wife and mother. We’ve known each other for years as business associates through my public relations company. One day she called and said, “I want to get back into running and improve my fitness. I need your help!” One of the things that struck me about Heidi was her reason for wanting to be more fit. She wanted to be a good role model to her 3 year old daughter.

Over a period of months, we worked on improving Heidi’s eating habits. She works long hours and travels quite a bit for work. My job was to make eating healthier easier for her, whether at home or on the road. I also wanted her to focus on her nutrition because it’s critical in fueling her workouts.

Summer came and she wanted to run a 5k. She emailed me the link to the race she was considering. I emailed her back that I thought it looked like a fun race and I would run it with her. She was shocked. She called me and said, “Trainers don’t run races with their clients.” I replied, “This trainer does.”

We ran the race together and had a great time. But the best part of the race was seeing the look on her face as we crossed the finish line. She felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. And being there to share it with her was amazing.

Keri and I have known each other through our passion for yoga. Keri is an outstanding yoga instructor. I would take her classes on Fridays to get loosened up and stretched out before my long runs on Saturday during marathon and ultra marathon training season. After class, she and I would talk about my running, my racing and how much she missed running. It broke my heart to see the look in her eyes when she said that.

Keri was training with a running group for her first marathon back in 2006. She got injured early in the training process and never made it to the starting line. Since then, she told me she was never able to run more than three or four miles without being in significant discomfort or pain. Knowing how fit she is and that she’s a fellow fitness professional, I was almost certain I knew what she was doing wrong and what would get her back to running longer distances.

After class one day, she was talking about the beautiful weather and how she used to love running in nice weather. I told her that I wasn’t sure that running longer distances had to be part of her past. I thought, with the right, safe training, it could once again be part of her present and future. I invited her to run with me and see if I could get her past this wall of pain she kept hitting. I told her there were three rules she had to follow: 1. She couldn’t wear a watch. 2. She couldn’t look at my GPS watch. 3. She had to tell me immediately if she felt any pain. She agreed.

The following week, we went for a run together. I could tell she was excited and hopeful. So was I. We talked throughout the run and the time and miles flew by. Every so often, I would ask her if she was feeling okay and if she was having any pain. She replied she was fine. The last time I asked, she told me she was feeling a little tightness, but no pain. I said that’s to be expected and asked her if she thought she could run a few more minutes. She said she could and we did. After a few minutes, I told her it was time for a one mile walking cool down. She looked at me and asked, “So, did we run three miles?” I replied, “No, we ran six miles.” The look of elation and accomplishment on her face was priceless. She couldn’t believe she ran six miles with no pain. I told her that what I suspected was the problem was indeed the issue. She was running way too fast and her body and her old injury were revolting. I told her that training at a more moderate pace would allow her to enjoy the sport she loved and help her be pain and injury free.

She decided to train with me and we did our long runs together every week. As the weeks progressed, she mentioned how much she would like to run a half marathon one day. I told her if that was the goal, we’d train for it and make it happen. We continued to run a little longer each week and maintain a moderate pace. She continued to get more confident that she could run longer mileage and one week I told her it was time to sign up for a half marathon. I had one picked out for months, and I knew she was ready. We signed up to run it together. I could see her excitement building after that.

On one of her long runs, she shared a story with me. She was trying to explain to her three boys how far she was going to run in the race. So, she drove them around on some errands to try to help them visualize how far 13.1 miles is. She didn’t have a lot of errands that day, and only drove about half that distance, but her boys were in awe of how long it took to drive and how far it was.

Race day came and I knew Keri was ready. We treated the race like a training run. We paced evenly and embraced the joy of running together and talking as we ran. The next thing she knew, we were a mile from the finish and she was about to see a dream she thought was impossible, come true. The best part was her husband and three boys were waiting at the finish line. We crossed the finish together with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. Words cannot begin to describe how I felt seeing her achieve this milestone. Her husband and children were so proud of her. They admired her medal and she just beamed. Helping Keri on her journey was incredible. But being beside her as she achieved a dream and met her goal meant more to me than words can say.

Rob was my first client after I got certified as a personal fitness trainer. We’d known each other professionally, through my PR firm, for a couple of years. And our love of running strengthened our professional relationship. When we’d run into each other at Chamber or other business events, we never talked about business. We talked about running.

When Rob wanted to take his running to the next level, he hired me to help him. He had been running 5ks and wanted to run a 10k. I trained him to do that and he had a great race in the spring. After that race, he told me he wanted to run a half marathon. He chose the one he wanted to run and I designed a training program to make sure he was ready. During this time, his wife, Terri, decided she wanted to move up from 5ks to a 10k and I designed her training program too. When I told Rob that I would run the half marathon with him, he thought that was great. We talked and emailed regularly during the training process. We talked about his goal and while we both agreed it should be to have fun and finish, he said he’d like to run the half marathon in two hours and ten minutes. I knew my goal was to pace him. Rob is a fast runner. I saw his training run splits. I also know that racers can get caught up in the starting line excitement and go out too fast. This is not a good strategy. The goal is to go out slow and run what’s known as a negative split…a faster second half than first half of the race. My job was to make sure that happened. It did.

On race day, we started at a moderate pace and every time Rob picked up the pace, I’d jokingly say, “Easy Rocky! We have 10 more miles!” At mile 10, Rob said, “If I’m still feeling this good at mile 11, I’m going to give it all I have for the last two miles.” I agreed that was a good strategy. He kicked it into high gear and finished in just over two hours and seven minutes. We were both thrilled. That was an outstanding finishing time! As we made our way out of the finishers shoot, we went to find his wife who ran the 10k that day. She was smiling as she admired her medal. She had a great race too. It was a fantastic day and everyone performed the way they had hoped they would. Being there to see it, made my day complete.

So, where do these runners go from here? Heidi is going to run faster 5ks and a 10k in the future. Keri is going to run more half marathons and possibly a full marathon. Rob is going to run two marathons next year and Terri is considering running a marathon or half marathon and improving her 10k times in her next races.

Being a personal fitness trainer, sports nutrition specialist and distance running conditioning specialist is so rewarding because I’m helping people achieve their goals and dreams every day. But to be there at the culmination of their training journey and to run beside them is an experience that fills my heart and soul with joy.

So what does this story have to do with business?
When we help others achieve their goals and dreams, we not only help them grow as individuals and professionals; we also help create a stronger, more competent workforce. And that benefits all of us. In addition to that, when we mentor and nurture others, we receive rewards far greater than a raise or promotion. The reward of personal satisfaction in knowing you played a small role in another person’s success is priceless.

So the next time you look around your office, see who you can help professionally. Take the initiative to mentor them and help them get to the next level in their professional career. Train them like an athlete to help them map out their strategy of achieving their goals. And stay the course with them until they cross the finish line. I promise you will both feel a huge sense of accomplishment, similar to getting a finisher’s medal at the end of an endurance race.

I have always said that I’m very fortunate to love what I do and to wake up every morning excited to go to work. I know I’m living the dream and serving my purpose on this earth to help people get more fit and achieve goals they never thought were possible. And that’s one of life’s greatest rewards.

I encourage you to seek out your purpose and help others achieve their purpose too. You have my word it will be an incredible journey.

Sometimes Strategy Is More Important than Speed…in Racing and in Business

May 31, 2012

I had the joy of running the Big Sur International Marathon this year. Running experts say this course is one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the world. I chose to run Big Sur because the race fell on my 49th birthday and several of my friends decided to run it with me. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the day than doing what I love with people I love.

When you read reviews on this race, the course is described as “brutal and breathtaking.” The day we ran it, it was definitely both. The brutal hills, including a two mile climb to Hurricane Point and some short, steep hills in the final miles of the race through Carmel Highlands, were no surprise. The 20 to 45 mile per hour head winds we encountered on race day were.

When I was training for this race, my strategy was to take my time, enjoy the scenery, not worry about achieving a PR (personal record), and pace myself to make sure I finished in well under the six hour maximum finishing time. Since I had run the Flying Pig, a hilly course, in under four and a half hours the year before, I felt this was an achievable plan. However, people I know who have run Big Sur and Boston have said they felt Big Sur was a tougher course. With that knowledge, I knew that I would need a strong strategy to achieve my goal.
As a public relations professional, I’m all about strategy. I truly believe the slogan “The best surprise is no surprise.” Because of that, my friend and I drove the course so we’d know what to expect on race day. Sure, you can look at the course description, elevation map and race reviews. However, driving the course gives you a much better perspective and lets you make any last minute adjustments to your race strategy.

The day before the race, Runner’s World magazine hosted a strategy session for all of us who were running Big Sur as part of the Runner’s World Challenge. During the strategy session one of the Big Sur board members who had run the race every year since its inception told us that a front was coming in that could impact race conditions. He said if it moved through quickly we wouldn’t have windy conditions on race day. If it didn’t move through quickly, we would have high winds. He told us a good gauge was to look at the grass when we got out of the woods around mile 5. If the grass wasn’t blowing hard or pinned down, we would probably not have an extremely windy race.

On race day, we exited the woods and looked at the grass. It looked pretty calm. We all thought the race wouldn’t be windy. We were wrong. By mile 7, the wind picked up. I’ve run in high winds before, but nothing like this. There were times you felt like you were running in place or being pushed backwards because the head winds were so strong. Fighting the wind would be a losing battle, so I slowed my pace when the wind got bad to conserve energy and picked up my pace when the winds died down. This strategy paid off.

As we started up the hill to Hurricane Point, the Taiko Drummers were there to energize us for the two mile climb. The beat of their drums made me pick up my pace because the winds had died down a bit, and I was ready to attack the climb. As we were climbing the hill, we could hear the sound of the grand piano playing, another unique aspect of this course. You’d lose the sound of the piano from time to time during the ascent, but when you crested Hurricane Point and headed downhill, you could hear the music clearly. The pianist’s music filled our hearts and souls. Several of us, including me, were moved to tears. We crossed the beautiful Bixby Bridge. The scenery from the bridge is astounding. Between the scenery and the piano, mile 13 was one of the highlights of the course and a great way to mark the halfway point of the journey.

By mile 20 I had only been running three hours and fifty minutes. I knew I had plenty of time to finish the race, so I slowed my pace down to take in some of the most beautiful parts of the course. One spot was so spectacular; I stopped for a minute to stare at the beauty. The waves were crashing on the rocks and beach, the sun was shining on the ocean and you could hear and feel the wind blowing. It was amazing.

My pacing strategy also meant that I wasn’t feeling pressured to kick it into high gear when I hit the Carmel Highlands at mile 22. This worked out well. The road camber, which we were not aware of, was brutal on this course. Your body was rarely ever running on a flat surface. Between that and the wind, I felt a bit beat up by the time I got to the Highlands, but I had plenty of time to finish, so there was no rush. At mile 23 we were told to be sure to take a handful of fresh strawberries at the aid station. This is another one of the unique aspects of this course. Since I had plenty of time, I stopped and enjoyed the berries while I thanked the volunteers for taking the time to cut the tops off for us. At about mile 25 we were told to breath deep to smell the eucalyptus in the air. I’ve never smelled anything like that. It was so fresh and clean. It was truly breathtaking. That breath of fresh air gave me all the energy I needed to pick up my pace and sprint for the finish.

At the finish line I was given the ultimate birthday gift…a Big Sur International Marathon finisher’s medal. It was my reward for a job well done and a race wisely run.

So what does this story have to do with business?
While there are certainly times when speed to market is the top priority, many times it’s not. The key is to know the difference. Many great ideas stumble along the course or fail because people are in a rush to get to market, but fail to take the time to map out a strategy to ensure the ultimate goal is achieved.

Life is no different. When we rush through it, we often miss those special moments that take our breath away, move us to tears and fill our heart and soul with joy.

So the next time you find yourself in a hurry at work or in your personal life, stop for just a moment and really think about whether speed or strategy is the best course.

You really are what you eat.

April 17, 2012

One of the things I stress with my clients is the importance of keeping a food and exercise log. There are several reasons for this. First, statistics show that people who keep a food and exercise diary are much more successful in achieving their weight loss and health goals than those who don’t. Second, it can be fun to see your progress and the best way to measure that is by keeping a log. Last, it’s a great tool for me, as a trainer, to be able to give clients input on things they can do to improve their diet, exercise performance, etc.

To help my clients with this process, I have them use a tracking program. One of the components of this program is that it emails me their log each week. This way, I can see exactly what they ate, what exercise they did and monitor their progress and make suggestions.

One of my clients started running in the last year or so. He has been running 5k races and doing very well, but now he wants to move up to longer distances. When he hired me, we talked about his training goals. He had two: increase endurance and lose the last 10 pounds he hasn’t been able to drop since he started running.

As someone who has been an endurance athlete for more than five years, I told my client that his nutrition would be the key driver in meeting his goals. It’s the old saying, garbage in, garbage out. We talked about how and what he ate and how he could improve his nutrition with some simple changes. Keep in mind he’s married with kids, so I suggested he might want to consider eating different things than his wife and kids.

I get his report the first week with him using the tracking program. He is following the training program I designed for him exactly. I’m very pleased. Then I take a look at his food log. I see what he ate, the amount of saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium. It’s way too high, especially for achieving his two goals. His fiber is also lower than it should be. I email him that I’m really pleased and proud of how well he’s following the exercise component of the training plan, but I had some suggestions regarding his nutrition. I explained the areas he needed to reduce and why and that he also needed to increase his fiber intake. One of the areas I explained he could fix easily was breakfast. He was eating a frosted cereal with vanilla almond milk. I recommended he eat a whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal or shredded wheat with skim milk and some egg whites. I told him I eat a bowl of plain oatmeal and 5-6 egg whites every morning for breakfast because it’s a lean breakfast that gives me healthy fuel to start my day.

A few minutes after I hit the send button, I get a call from him. Here’s how the conversation went:

Client: “While you’re my trainer, I also consider you my friend. So, I’m going to tell you this and hope you take it in the context in which it’s meant, which is a complement and a bit of constructive criticism. You’re a food freak!”
Me: “So what’s your point,” I say laughing. I then go on to tell him that I will give him the same response I give my public relations clients and that is that you pay me to give you the best possible advice. However, it’s entirely up to you whether you take it or not.

My client laughs too, but goes on to say he is really not interested in being as diligent with his nutrition as I am. I tell him that I understand that his nutrition is up to him. But I’m still going to continue to give him the best advice possible regarding his diet and exercise. What he does with that advice is his decision.

The next week, I see his diary…it’s about the same; however I see some small changes that I’m pleased with. This time my email is a bit gentler in light of our conversation the previous week. Again, I tell him how happy I am with his training workouts and that my comments about his nutrition haven’t changed much from the prior week. I encouraged him to continue to make small, positive changes such as the ones we talked about and ones his log shows he made since we spoke the previous week. I closed by saying the most important thing is for him to be cognizant of the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium he’s consuming and realize those choices have an impact on his goals.

Moments after I hit send, the phone rings. It’s my client. But this time, he’s telling me he’s really looking at the packages more, realizing that this one product he really likes and thought was a good choice, really isn’t because while it’s marketed as a low calorie ice cream dessert, it has a significant amount of fat in it and almost of all that fat is saturated fat! While he cannot see my face, I’m fairly sure he can hear that I’m smiling by the tone of my voice. I tell him that being aware of what you’re eating is half the battle. Making better choices is the other half.

In the months following these conversations, his awareness about what he eats and the food choices he’s making continue to improve. He’s on his way to a successful journey into better nutrition and achieving his goals. And I’m proud and honored to be with him on this journey.

Change is a choice when it comes to your health.

April 9, 2012

Here are actual stories of people I know.

Last year, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. There is no history of cancer in her family. So, once we got over the shock, we all went into information gathering mode. We gave her books, names of the best doctors and a list of a variety of other resources.

One of her coworkers, who is a breast cancer survivor, gave her a book that is considered to be one of the best and most complete on the subject. My friend read the book cover to cover and called me to say, “I need to make some serious changes, and I need your help.

One of the key things the book talked about was the importance of healthy eating and drinking habits. It talked about research that says certain bad eating and drinking habits may increase your chances of getting cancer and that a healthy diet may help prevent certain types of cancer and help prevent it from coming back once you’ve had it. So we set out together to change her nutrition for the better.

On her own, she immediately said, I have had my last soda and alcoholic beverage of any kind. She was not a heavy drinker to begin with, but she was committed to give that up. She has stuck to her commitment, and I know she will continue to do so. She also committed to being more diligent about drinking more water each day. So, she had the beverage battle under control.

Now it was time for us to work on the nutrition battle. She is an executive with a large company. She works long hours. Her husband owns a business and works long hours too. They often go out to eat because they’re tired when they get home and she doesn’t feel like cooking.

To be successful, I knew it would come down to choices. So, we talked about what types of things she should order when they go out to dinner, how to order them, etc. We also talked about what types of foods she traditionally cooks, which ones are healthy choices and which ones are not. We talked about the types of foods she keeps on hand and how to upgrade those foods to healthier options such as brown rice instead of white rice, wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, having more fresh fruits and vegetables and buying leaner proteins. She did all these things.

Next, her doctor told her due to the type of cancer she had, she would need to exercise every day for the rest of her life. She dusted off the treadmill they’d had for years and began using it every day.

The outcome is that she has lost 51 pounds in about nine months and plans to lose about 25 more pounds in the months to come. She looks great. She feels great. And the reason for that is she made the choice to live a healthy life in order to save her life. I’m so proud of her. But I have to say, I’m not surprised. When she puts her mind to something, she achieves it and this lifestyle change is no different.

On the other hand, I know someone whose husband just had his fourth heart attack and fourth surgical procedure. His doctors have been saying for years that he needs to drop a significant amount of weight because he is morbidly obese. The doctors have told him he needs to improve his diet and get some exercise. He hasn’t heeded the warnings from his doctors or the heart attacks.

Then there are some acquaintances that have Type 2 diabetes. One is a couple the other is a widow. The doctor told the couple they needed to improve their diet and get some exercise. They weren’t interested in that. Today, they’re on insulin. The widow joined Weight Watchers but wasn’t really sticking to the program. Because of that, she wasn’t losing much weight. So, she decided to have surgery to try to help her eat less. There was a complication with the procedure and she was miserable for several weeks. Her weight loss since the surgery has been about a pound a week…safe weight loss, but not any different than what she could have done if she was willing to modify her diet and improve her exercise. She is also still insulin dependent, even after the surgery.

Studies show that making healthy lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and getting more exercise can reduce or prevent heart disease and can prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes.

I’m always stunned by people like this. I cannot understand why they won’t make simple, safe, inexpensive changes to improve their health, increase their longevity and take steps to insure they’re around for the ones they love for many years to come.

What it comes down to is choice and willingness to change. Nobody can make the choice for you and nobody can force you to change. You have to choose to change your life and improve your health. If and when you’re ready to do that, I’m here to help you.

The joy and reward of loving your work and the people you work with.

March 22, 2012

I consider myself very fortunate.  For nearly 20 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.  I thoroughly enjoy owning Abel Associates Public Relations (www.abelpr.com), the first company I founded.  Over the past two decades, I’ve helped my clients get the recognition they deserve for their community service work, the innovative ways they run their businesses and much more.  It’s very rewarding seeing good people and good companies acknowledged for their efforts and ingenuity. I look forward to the next decade of owning this company.

This year, I founded another company, Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com).  This company focuses on corporate wellness through nutrition and fitness education and training.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I view corporate fitness as a component of public relations.  Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be able to spend my days doing the two things I love most…public relations and helping people and companies get healthy.

Most of the people and companies I work with have been with me for at least 10 years. Some have been with me as long as I’ve been in business.  So, it’s understandable that I don’t just consider these people clients.  I think of them as friends…some of them are like family.  The business and personal relationships we share bring me great joy and fulfillment.

Over the weekend, the American Heart Association hosted the 35th annual Heart Mini Marathon.  The race offers a 5k, 15k and half marathon.  I have been helping to train two executives that I have known and respected for 15 years.  Their goal is to walk their first half marathon in Indianapolis in early May.  The Heart Mini 15k was a training race to help them gauge their progress and work out any gear or fueling issues for their goal race.

These two women are very driven.  When they put their minds to something, they do it…whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.  So, I had no doubt in my mind they would follow the training plan and be successful in achieving their goal.  But there is more to training than just doing the workouts.  Endurance races require other types of preparation including proper nutrition, hydration, training gear, etc.  So part of my job was to make sure they were fully equipped with what they needed to have a successful and enjoyable race experience at the Heart Mini and at their goal race.

Race day approaches.  I send them a checklist of things they need to do in the days prior to the race.  I’ve fine-tuned this list over the last 6 years with my own training experiences, so my clients get the benefit of that.  I know this dynamic duo is race ready and I feel good that they’re going to have a great race experience.

All races are special in their own way.  But a first race at a particular distance is extra special.  This is their first 15k.  I know how they’re feeling…excited, anxious and lots of other things.  This is also their first race that they will get a medal when they finish.  And that is something special because it’s a tangible acknowledgement of their incredible accomplishment.

In my final email to them on Friday, I wish them good luck because I may not see them in the crowd on race day.  They know I’m running the half marathon.  What they don’t know is that I plan to be waiting for them a couple blocks from the finish line.

I finished my race and went to meet my fellow Pain by Numbers running group friends at our tent, which is in the perfect spot to see people approaching the finish line.  I hang out with my friends as we cheer people to the finish…a few we know, most we don’t.  Runners are that way.  We support and take care of our own. 

I know the pace goal my friends have set.  I look at my watch and just as I comment to one of my running friends that my friends should be coming by us soon, I see Debbie and the look of determination in her eyes as she spots the finish line in the distance.  She’s so focused on her goal, she doesn’t realize I’m there cheering until I get right next to her and say, “Let’s go. I’m running you in.”  As we’re heading toward the finisher’s chute, I ask her, “Where’s Ginny?”  She says she’s right behind us and we’ll meet her at the finish. As we run towards the finish, I tell Debbie how proud she should be and how proud I am of her.  She just smiles and keeps saying, “I can’t believe you’re here and you waited for me.”  I told her I wouldn’t have missed seeing her finish her first big race.  As we get close to the timing mats, I say, “It’s all yours now.”  She looks at me and says, “Aren’t you going to finish with me?”  I replied, “This is your race and your photo opportunity.  I’ll see you on the other side of the timing mats. Go!”

As I watched Debbie cross that finish line, I had tears of joy in my eyes.  I knew exactly how she was feeling.  And I was thrilled to be there to share that experience with her.  Moments later, Ginny crossed the finish line and we were there waiting for her.  She had the same look in her eyes…a look of accomplishment and pride.  The photographers at the finish line can’t capture that look. Being there is the only way to truly see it, feel it and experience it.  It’s priceless. After I gave them both one more hug, I said, “Let’s get the medals that you’ve earned!” Once again, seeing the look on their faces as they got their first finishers medals was incredible. 

After they had a few minutes to admire their new hardware, I told them that they should be proud of their accomplishment for several reasons. Seasoned runners and walkers will be the first to say that the Heart Mini course is very tough due to its relentless hills.  First-timers finishing in under their goal time is remarkable. Also, because the Heart Mini course is so much harder than the half marathon course they’re racing in May, I made it clear to them that they should have no doubt about their ability to complete the half marathon, and I knew they would do so successfully.

On Monday, I got an email from Debbie thanking me for being at the finish line. She said, “You have no idea how it felt to see you there waiting and going that last block with me. Having you run that last block with me warmed my heart.”  Ginny also sent me an email, thanking me for the tips, checklists, etc.  She said Sunday was a great day for her, but the best part was when I told her that based upon the race she just finished, she would do well in Indianapolis. 

You’ve heard the saying, do what you love and love what you do.  I am living that every day.  And the fact that I love the people I work with makes it even more amazing.

The joy and reward of loving your work and the people you work with.

March 22, 2012

I consider myself very fortunate.  For nearly 20 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.  I thoroughly enjoy owning Abel Associates Public Relations (www.abelpr.com), the first company I founded.  Over the past two decades, I’ve helped my clients get the recognition they deserve for their community service work, the innovative ways they run their businesses and much more.  It’s very rewarding seeing good people and good companies acknowledged for their efforts and ingenuity. I look forward to the next decade of owning this company.

This year, I founded another company, Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com).  This company focuses on corporate wellness through nutrition and fitness education and training.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I view corporate fitness as a component of public relations.  Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be able to spend my days doing the two things I love most…public relations and helping people and companies get healthy.

Most of the people and companies I work with have been with me for at least 10 years. Some have been with me as long as I’ve been in business.  So, it’s understandable that I don’t just consider these people clients.  I think of them as friends…some of them are like family.  The business and personal relationships we share bring me great joy and fulfillment.

Over the weekend, the American Heart Association hosted the 35th annual Heart Mini Marathon.  The race offers a 5k, 15k and half marathon.  I have been helping to train two executives that I have known and respected for 15 years.  Their goal is to walk their first half marathon in Indianapolis in early May.  The Heart Mini 15k was a training race to help them gauge their progress and work out any gear or fueling issues for their goal race.

These two women are very driven.  When they put their minds to something, they do it…whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.  So, I had no doubt in my mind they would follow the training plan and be successful in achieving their goal.  But there is more to training than just doing the workouts.  Endurance races require other types of preparation including proper nutrition, hydration, training gear, etc.  So part of my job was to make sure they were fully equipped with what they needed to have a successful and enjoyable race experience at the Heart Mini and at their goal race.

Race day approaches.  I send them a checklist of things they need to do in the days prior to the race.  I’ve fine-tuned this list over the last 6 years with my own training experiences, so my clients get the benefit of that.  I know this dynamic duo is race ready and I feel good that they’re going to have a great race experience.

All races are special in their own way.  But a first race at a particular distance is extra special.  This is their first 15k.  I know how they’re feeling…excited, anxious and lots of other things.  This is also their first race that they will get a medal when they finish.  And that is something special because it’s a tangible acknowledgement of their incredible accomplishment.

In my final email to them on Friday, I wish them good luck because I may not see them in the crowd on race day.  They know I’m running the half marathon.  What they don’t know is that I plan to be waiting for them a couple blocks from the finish line.

I finished my race and went to meet my fellow Pain by Numbers running group friends at our tent, which is in the perfect spot to see people approaching the finish line.  I hang out with my friends as we cheer people to the finish…a few we know, most we don’t.  Runners are that way.  We support and take care of our own. 

I know the pace goal my friends have set.  I look at my watch and just as I comment to one of my running friends that my friends should be coming by us soon, I see Debbie and the look of determination in her eyes as she spots the finish line in the distance.  She’s so focused on her goal, she doesn’t realize I’m there cheering until I get right next to her and say, “Let’s go. I’m running you in.”  As we’re heading toward the finisher’s chute, I ask her, “Where’s Ginny?”  She says she’s right behind us and we’ll meet her at the finish. As we run towards the finish, I tell Debbie how proud she should be and how proud I am of her.  She just smiles and keeps saying, “I can’t believe you’re here and you waited for me.”  I told her I wouldn’t have missed seeing her finish her first big race.  As we get close to the timing mats, I say, “It’s all yours now.”  She looks at me and says, “Aren’t you going to finish with me?”  I replied, “This is your race and your photo opportunity.  I’ll see you on the other side of the timing mats. Go!”

As I watched Debbie cross that finish line, I had tears of joy in my eyes.  I knew exactly how she was feeling.  And I was thrilled to be there to share that experience with her.  Moments later, Ginny crossed the finish line and we were there waiting for her.  She had the same look in her eyes…a look of accomplishment and pride.  The photographers at the finish line can’t capture that look. Being there is the only way to truly see it, feel it and experience it.  It’s priceless. After I gave them both one more hug, I said, “Let’s get the medals that you’ve earned!” Once again, seeing the look on their faces as they got their first finishers medals was incredible. 

After they had a few minutes to admire their new hardware, I told them that they should be proud of their accomplishment for several reasons. Seasoned runners and walkers will be the first to say that the Heart Mini course is very tough due to its relentless hills.  First-timers finishing in under their goal time is remarkable. Also, because the Heart Mini course is so much harder than the half marathon course they’re racing in May, I made it clear to them that they should have no doubt about their ability to complete the half marathon, and I knew they would do so successfully.

On Monday, I got an email from Debbie thanking me for being at the finish line. She said, “You have no idea how it felt to see you there waiting and going that last block with me. Having you run that last block with me warmed my heart.”  Ginny also sent me an email, thanking me for the tips, checklists, etc.  She said Sunday was a great day for her, but the best part was when I told her that based upon the race she just finished, she would do well in Indianapolis. 

You’ve heard the saying, do what you love and love what you do.  I am living that every day.  And the fact that I love the people I work with makes it even more amazing.

Corporate Fitness is a Public Relations Opportunity

March 7, 2012

When I started Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com)  to help companies improve the fitness of their workforces, everyone who knows me asked the same question.  They wanted to know if I was closing my public relations firm, Abel Associates (www.abelpr.com).   I told them absolutely not!  The two companies were highly compatible and would operate accordingly.

When I made that comment, some people understood what I meant immediately.  Others gave me a puzzled look.  For those who seemed puzzled, I went on to explain. 

Abel Associates knows public relations. We understand that public relations is all about perception, and perception is reality. How a company’s internal publics (employees) and external publics (clients, prospects, vendors, etc.) see the company reflects directly on the company’s public image.

Studies show that people who are fit are viewed much more positively than people who are not fit. So if your workforce is fit, logic says your external publics will have a more positive impression of you. Studies also show unfit workers cost American companies billions of dollars annually in absenteeism, lost productivity and higher healthcare costs. Companies that help their workforces become healthier are sending a message that they care. Employees who feel valued and respected are more loyal and that saves companies money in lower turnover. The bottom line is that a fit workforce is a not just a good investment, it’s good public relations.

I’ve had my public relations firm for 20 years. I’m passionate about P.R.  I’m equally passionate about fitness and helping people get healthy.  Now I’m getting to share my expertise in both of my work passions to help others.  I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that.

Fitness is like getting a promotion at work. You really have to want it and work hard for it.

February 29, 2012

In previous Lessons from the Road blog posts, I’ve talked about my “rave run” neighborhood where I do most of my endurance training runs.  If you follow my blog, you know that this neighborhood is very dear to me because the people in it are so kind, supportive and thoughtful.  For years, these caring neighbors have shouted out to me as I run by, “I wish you would help me get fit.”  Many of these same neighbors have seen me at the grocery store for years, looked at all the healthy, fresh foods in my cart, then sheepishly looked at their cart and said, “If you did my shopping, I’d be healthier and thinner.”

So, when I started Abel Fitness Training, I sent letters to all of those neighbors letting them know that I was a certified Personal Fitness Trainer and Sports Nutrition Specialist, and would be honored and happy to help them in their quest for better health and fitness.  All they had to do was call or email me.

Not a single person contacted me.  And I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised.  I know they got the letter, because many of them congratulated me on my new business as they saw me running in the neighborhood.  But none of them said anything about wanting to really do what they had been talking to me about for years. 

The sad part of this story is two-fold.  It’s sad to me that these people who I care a great deal about really don’t want to be fit or put in the work that is required to regain their health.  The sadder part is I see these people with their children and grandchildren in their front yards, unable to run and play with them because they are obese.  They sit on the sidelines watching instead of being an active participant.  They are missing out on so much and will never be able to get that time or those moments back. It truly breaks my heart.

So what does this story have to do with business?  The answer is a whole lot!

One of the first rules of business is that if you want something, such as a promotion, a raise, etc. you are going to have to earn it by working very hard for it.  If we want our employees to be more proactive about their health, we are going to have to encourage them to work hard for it.  Another rule of business is that apathy costs companies money…employees’ apathy about their health is costing American companies more than $73 billion dollars a year.  This figure is due to a number of things including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and higher healthcare claims.

The bottom line is that unhealthy workers are impacting corporate America’s bottom lines.  We need to encourage and empower our workforces to be proactive about their health and wellness…not just so companies can be more productive and profitable, but so people can stop missing out on so many wonderful things life has to offer that they cannot partake in if their lack of fitness is holding them back.

Being healthy and staying healthy is a lifestyle for me. I find it rewarding to help companies and individuals reclaim their health and get fit.  My friends and clients say my passion for fitness and healthy living is contagious.  I encourage you to contact me, so you and your employees can catch what I have.  You won’t regret it!

Know Who Has Your Back in Racing and in Business

November 7, 2011

I was having dinner recently with a friend and we started talking about our training. She mentioned she had added meditation to her regimen. I asked, “Have you discovered any revelations in this process?” She replied, “Yes, I’ve determined the meaning of love.” Intrigued, I inquired what that might be. She told me she’s determined that true love is knowing you can depend on someone and they can depend on you. I can’t think of a more accurate definition. I call that having someone’s back. I found out what that really means over the last few weeks.

Months ago, I signed up to run my first Ultra marathon… the Taterbug 30. It’s 30 miles on a brutally hilly course. People who reviewed this race last year commented about it being like running the Swiss Alps, a clever reference since the race is in Switzerland County, Indiana. I recruited two friends, Tony and Pam, to run the race with me. I met Tony and his wife, Pam, a few years ago through the Runner’s World Challenge. We ran the Flying Pig marathon together and have run a race together each year since.

While I knew the Taterbug would be a challenge, I tend to like hilly courses and was very excited about this experience and running this race with Tony and Pam. I was excited until four weeks before the race when I suffered a foot injury and wondered if I’d be well enough to run the race.
My first stop was to my doctor who treats a lot of injured athletes. As a marathoner himself, he truly understands how athletes feel when they’re injured. He walked into the examining room and saw the look of fear in my eyes. He’d treated me for a foot injury two years ago, but it was months before my next race, so I had plenty of time to heal. This injury was much different. I’d never had an injury within weeks of a race.

He manipulated my foot for what seemed like an eternity, but was a matter of minutes. Then, he looked me in the eye and said, “I have good news. It’s not a fracture and it’s not a bruise like last time. Your injury is muscular and muscular injuries heal faster than other foot injuries. If you rest and ice the foot and do what I tell you, you’ll be well enough to race.” I started to feel better, but there was one little hitch.

I explained to him that I promised a friend that I would work in their food truck at a festival that weekend, which would mean I’d be on the foot non-stop for 10-12 hours. He asked me if I could just tell her I couldn’t do it because I was injured. I explained to him that was not an option. I explained the entire situation to him (which I won’t go into here) and that she was depending on me. I told him, this is someone who knows I always have her back…and that’s never going to change. He understood, explained to me this could set my recovery back significantly, but assured me we’d work through it. I knew my doctor had my back.
I came home from the doctor, and posted on Facebook that I’d injured my foot and was concerned about how it would impact my training and the upcoming race. The first person to post a comment was Tony. His post read, “Lauren, no matter how things work out this weekend Pam and I will have your back at Taterbug.”

During the following weeks, I spent a lot of time getting my foot worked on and doing my runs in the swimming pool in an effort to maintain my fitness and endurance without putting any pressure on my foot. Two weeks before the race, my doctor told me it was time to test the foot. He wanted me to do a short six mile run at a very slow pace. I was really nervous, but I knew I had to do it. I needed to know where my foot was in the recovery process and what to expect. The doctor needed to know that too.

The first pavement run went well. I had a little tightness, but that was it. I reported the status of my run to the doctor, and he told me the following week, I needed to do a double-digit mileage run, 10 to 11 miles. That run didn’t go quite as well. My test run was on relatively flat roads. My longer run needed to replicate race conditions…hills. I had shooting pain in my foot going down steep hills (and these hills were nothing compared to the ones in the race). The good news was that I was able to experiment with foot positions and other options during the training run to try to minimize this reaction. After reporting what happened on my long run, the doctor cleared me to race. His final advice was to take it easy and remember that the goal is to finish with a smile on your face and in good condition.

Tony, Pam and I arrived the day before the race. We picked up our race packets and went to have a pre-race dinner together. At dinner, I explained to them that while we normally run together for most of the race, I didn’t want them to feel obligated to do so this time because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up. Tony assured me that they wouldn’t leave me behind, they had my back and they’d make sure we all finished the race before the cut off time of 7 hours.
After dinner, we decided to drive the race course. I was glad we did. I’m a “best surprise is no surprise” type of person. After seeing some of those hills that seemed like nearly vertical ascents and descents, I was glad to know what we had ahead of us so we could plan our race strategy accordingly.

Race morning, I was more nervous than usual. I was concerned how my foot would react to the steep declines on the course. We hit the first one. It was excruciating and we had more than 25 miles to go. I experimented with foot positions and found something that lessened the pain. My friends kept asking, “How’s the foot?” I replied, “It’s not happy, but I’m determined to get through this.” Throughout the race, we all felt our share of aches and pains, but we stuck together and worked through it together. At mile 28, we were done with the hills and had two miles of flat roads to the finish line. We knew we were going to finish well under the time limit. Tony looked at Pam and me and asked if it was okay to run ahead of us. We both said, absolutely. We’d be fine. He took off and had a great finish. Pam and I finished several minutes behind him. He was waiting for us at the finish line and we all celebrated our accomplishment together.
So how does this story relate to business?

The business climate has been extremely challenging over the last few years and there have been a lot of steep uphill and downhill climbs for most of us. What we need to remember is that no matter how tough the road ahead may be, there are people who have our back…people we can depend on no matter what.
So take a look around your office and within your centers of influence to inventory who those people are. Then take the time to thank them for being there for you and having your back. These people are a true blessing in your life and it’s important that you let them know how grateful you are and that you return the favor when they need your support.