Slow Down You Move too Fast

One of my favorite songs is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy” and nothing makes me feel groovier than taking a slow walk Saturday around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. The song goes something like this with apologies for some modifications:

“Slow down you move to fast,

Got to make the Saturday last,

Just kicking down Lady Bird Lake,

Austin is great and feeling groovy.”

Here is a picture I snapped last weekend during my weekly trek.  These turtles sure know how to Slow Down, bask in the sun, and feel groovy.

While the word Groovy may have been out of vogue since the Seventies, slowing down to regroup is still key to a better life.  Even more so in this time of constant noise and nuisance.  Nothing restores the soul and the spirit then a good podcast, a crisp wind and nature all around.

Slowing down is the key to the healthy and happy life.  I seldom miss a Slow Walk Saturday for the following three reasons:

1.  Time to reflect and adjust.  When we are running from one task to the other, there is seldom time to reflect, learn from experiences, and adjust.  I find that when I slow down and quiet my mind that I come up with the answer that I need.  Proof point?  I have been so busy with work and life that I have been having writer’s block.  A few minutes and miles and I had ten new ideas when I had been stuck for at least a week.  Sometimes the best thing when you are struggling for a solution is slow down, quiet your mind and be thankful for the nature all around you. 

2.  Destress and feel blessed.  Nothing stokes compassion and soothes the soul than to experience nature.  It is hard to feel hassled when you see 20 turtles sunning on a log or see a bird take flight.  It is a wonder this world! Our role is to revel and reflect the love of God in his creation.  Not to strive and stifle.  Slowing down makes us thankful for the pauses and pleasures that are in each day!

3.  Listen and learn.  When you are alone with your thoughts and those of a good book, you learn new things about yourself and your place in the world.  I recommend to everyone the library application Libby which provides audio books for free if you have a library card.  I have learned so much while walking and listening from how Changing your Habit can Change Your Life  to  How to be 10% Happier.  Truly my Slowdown Saturdays have made me a better person!

Life is not a sprint. It a slow walk to the better angels of our nature. So, take the time to slow down and feel groovy.

Let in Snow! 3 Tricks to Stay on Track Despite Travel Woes

Keeping on track with your weight loss journey is tough when traveling under the best circumstances.  It can be doubly so when your plane is delayed or even cancelled on a Friday.  But it does not have to be!  You can stick to your healthy habits with these three tricks.

1. When it snows, find a Skywalk!   Getting stuck overnight in a hotel because of a blizzard can curtail your weekend exercise routine.  I do not know about you but walking on a treadmill just does not get it for me.  I like my walks with some scenery and adventure.  One way to switch it up if you can’t get outside is to find a mall or even an indoor Skywalk.  Last weekend I was stuck in Des Moines, Iowa when my plane was cancelled.  Luckily, I did not have to miss my Saturday Morning walk.  I found an entry to the downtown Skywalk about a block away.  After a brief bout with the sub-zero wind chill, I was soon walking and getting lost in the Skywalk.    It was quite an adventure trying to find my way back through the maze of corridors.  Also, felt a bit like Maxwell Smart with all the automatic opening doors.  When I was finally done, I had five miles in, while braving the cold for only a few minutes.

Des Moines Skywalk

2.  Don’t stress, catch up on your rest!  Missing your flight home due to weather can be stressful if you let it.  But it also can be an opportunity to catch up on your rest.  If you can’t get out of your hotel, catch up on your snooze time.  Most of us are sleep deprived anyway and a few extra hours of rest can do wonders for your metabolism.  On the flipside, overly worrying can lead to stress eating. 

3.  If your late, just meditate.  You do not have to get caught up in the noise and bustle when stuck in an airport.  Most airports have a chapel, lounge or quiet space where you can meditate or pray according to your practice to clear your head.  Here is a guide that can help you out.  https://www.sleepinginairports.net/

One of my favorite places is the chapel at DFW.  But you can also find one of the gates that does not have a flight for an hour.  For just type of these delays, I keep meditation applications Headspace, Calm, and the podcast Christian Meditation on my iPhone.

A plane delay or cancellation does not need to be a reason to go off the wagon.  Use these three tips to keep on track when travel sets you back!

Lessons from Three Mister Rogers: Taking Time to Care

This in the sixth in the Be Good Not Great series.  The purpose of this series is to examine the lives of those people that seek goodness over greatness.   Hopefully the lessons from their lives will inspire us all to eschew worldly greatness to store up the more eternal treasures of love and kindness.   You can read the first of this blog series here:   https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/ .

Most of us are familiar with the Mr. Rogers from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the recent Tom Hank’s movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”.  I have had the uncanny luck to have had three Mister Rogers in my personal neighborhood.    Each of these good men taught me the importance of slowing down to listen, teach and learn.  I still struggle with inculcating this lesson in my daily life.  It is sad to say that in this hurried world the loudest voice is often the last voice.  But it shouldn’t be that way.  To connect with another person’s heart, you must take the time to be quiet and listen; to provide guidance in a patient, introspective way.   The three Mr. Rogers in my life modeled this lesson during my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. 

The Mr. Rogers of my childhood was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Each day after elementary school I would watch his show.   I loved the routine to it.  He would come in through the door with the stop light flashing yellow; a signal to all that it was time to slowdown.  Then he would switch into his sweater and sneakers to impart his daily message of patience and love.  He talked in a slow and quiet manner; a contrast to the Saturday cartoons of the day and even a sharper contrast to the hyperactive shows of today.  He provided me a different sort of male role model; no less masculine but more nurturing.  Something that I needed sometimes since I had a larger than life Father, more akin to Fred Flintstone than Mister Rogers. 

In the wonderful book, “The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers” by Amy Hollingsworth linked here:   , Mr. Rogers explains his talent as ‘The Gift of Going Slow”.  As he explained to Amy in the book: 

“…I’ve never been a kind of hyperactive, runaround kind of person.  I think one of the greatest gifts that we can give anybody is the gift of one more honest adult in that person’s life – whether [the recipient] be a child or an adult. 

And so, for me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.”

Indeed, the gift of slowing down is one that we all should strive to obtain.  Taking time to care for one another and to glean from the introspection the needs of the heart.  Also, slowing down to discern the right path forward.  As this first Mr. Rogers sang in one of his many songs:

“I like to take my time
I mean that when I want to do a thing
I like to take my time and do it right.”

The second Mr. Rogers was someone in my actual neighborhood in Chesterfield Township, Bill Rogers.  Bill was co-coach with my Dad Big D on our little league baseball team Red Sox and worked with my Dad at De Laval.  Mr. Rogers and my Dad made a great coaching team leading us to many wins over our arch nemesis the Black Sox and other teams in our little league division.  They made a good team both coaching and work since they had contrasting styles.  Dad would get in the faces of the umpires, rival coaches, and players.  He could be both inspirational but also intimidating.  In contrast, I learned more how to improve my baseball skill from Mr. Rogers, who had a more patient teaching style.  It may have been a Father/Son thing; but when I wanted to learn the technique to properly field a grounder, I went to Mr. Rogers.  He would take the time to show me to follow the ball into the glove, get to low to the ground and use two hands to secure the ball.   I also had the pleasure to visit Mr. Rogers and his family at their home.  I spent time exploring the woods near their house with Glen and talking to his daughter Mandy and Mrs. Rogers.  I was always struck by the kindness, love and respect of the Rogers’ household.

The last of the Mister Rogers that taught me the lesson of patience and introspection was my Sunday School teaching partner for over ten years – Roger.  He was called Mister Roger by our middle school students as a sign of respect.  Mister Roger much like my Dad and Mister Rogers as Little League coaches made a great team as Sunday School teachers.  I was always thinking of crazy ways to teach the lessons of Christ through entertainment.  Roger in contrast would use quieter, more spiritual methods that nevertheless captured the teen’s attention.  I still remember with amazement the popularity of his retelling on the Legend of the Candy Cane.  It is really a great children’s story, but I thought it a little young for our rambunctious, middle schooler audience.  In addition, Roger read the book by showing the illustrations in the book by making slides and showing them on a projector.  Nevertheless, the teens were captivated as Roger read the book that relates the Christian symbolism of the candy cane and its meaning for Christmas.  Sometimes the simple, quiet approach works better than one that is flashy.  I learned this powerful lesson from Roger, a truly devout man and Confirmation sponsor to my two middle children.The three Mr. Rogers in my life have taught me the lesson of quiet, patience, and introspection in a world that is often loud and overwhelming.  During the blessed season of Christmas, it is important for all of us to learn the lessons of the three Rogers and take some quiet time to think about the good people that shaped our life.  And especially God’s only son that came to teach us in the stillness of a silent night.  Merry Christmas!

Mediterranean Magic: 5 Ways to Maintain Weight on Vacation

Recently I and my wife went on a ten-day Pilgrimage to religious sites in Israel, Palestine and Italy. While I looked forward to the trip, I was worried about gaining weight. We went on a tour in which each moment of the day was planned to include where and when to eat. Hearing stories of how people gained 10 or more pounds on a tour had me worried. I was used to controlling my eating habits by eating primarily at home and tracking my food intake and timing consistently through the WW application. Having lost over 150 pounds on this regimen and keeping most of it off for 4 years, I was facing the unknown. I did not know what food would be offered nor did I know if I could even spell it to find in the application! Also, I knew the all breakfasts and dinners would be offered buffet style. I had avoided buffets since losing the weight because they always have been my nemesis. I had images of Golden Corral with numerous desserts and heavy American food and I was worried I could not control my eating habits.

Well, I should have rested easier, especially in Israel and Palestine (although Italy still posed problems due to its Pastas).  The buffets at the Israeli hotels in Tel-Aviv, Nazareth and Jerusalem were a lot different than their US counterparts or those on cruise ships.  There were five main distinguishing factors that made the buffets healthier than their US counterparts on the trip:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!  At each hotel there was an abundance of vegetables.  They were fresh and varied.   They also were front and center taking the place of the heavier entrees that are in US buffets.  Another change were vegetables were available for breakfast along with fruit.  For a devoted WW, it was a zero-point heaven and I loaded down with new and varied tastes. I loved the Israeli peppers and pickles that tasted different than those used in the US.

2.  The best Hummus anywhere.  Sorry Greece.  Israeli Hummus is incredible and varied.  In the morning there was about 5 types and the evening 7.  In the US, I can tolerate Hummus, but it is not my favorite.  In Israel, it is a different story!  It tastes so fresh and tasty.  Sorry American Greek restaurants, Israeli hummus it is where it is at!

3.  Kosher food and whole foods.  All the food in the Israeli buffet is Kosher and is prepared to exacting standards.  It is not processed like its US counterparts and you can taste the difference.  In addition, whole foods are bountiful.  Nothing processed.  Indeed, for the first time, I enjoyed a fish cooked whole from the Sea of Galilee (see below).  I was a little nervous but was able to figure out how to eat correctly from a YouTube video!  It was delicious.

St. Peter’s fish from Sea of Galilee

4.  Portion control.  I was really worried about the dessert table, but I should not have been.  Although I enjoyed a desert each meal, I did not have to worry about overindulging.  No large ladles dipped in Apple cobbler or big slices of cake.  The deserts were smaller so you could have a dessert and not be tempted by overindulging.  The only problem on portion control was the coffee.  We had to get up early each day and the coffee cups were small.  Also, for some reason, Israeli’s love instant coffee and seldom could I find brewed coffee.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.

5.  Fish, fish, fish.  I usually do not like fish but here it was varied, plentiful and the main offering.  I even ate fish for breakfast!  Had my first taste of salmon and pickled herring in the morning and it was surprisingly good!

At the end of my ten-day vacation, I had only gained .2 lbs. while still eating dessert each day.  I think I would have lost wait if the entire trip was in Israel, but we also traveled to Italy for 3 days.  I cannot resist Gelato and pasta.  Also, an Italian cappuccino blows is cheaper than the US and is about 10 times better.  Still, gaining only .2 lbs. while indulging in the Gelato’s for three days is quite a coup!

6 Wellness Lessons From The Waltons

My favorite show of all time is The Waltons for many reasons. I always love stories that tear at your heartstrings and The Waltons is the penultimate show in that catalog. In its 9 years on Television, it tackled such weighty topics as a death of a beloved Grandpa, the loss of a spouse, the breaking up and then reunion of a family after a fire, and a myriad of other topics that we all deal with daily. Through it all, the Waltons showed the power of kindness and the unconditional love of a family for one another.

That is why this weekend, when I got sick and tired of the current bickering of our national family, I binged watched the Waltons.  I did it initially to improve my mental wellness.  I wanted to remember what good old American values looked like and how people used to be able to focus on their commonalties instead of differences.  After watching a few episodes, I realized that the lessons of the Waltons are not just good for your soul, but for overall wellness.  The Waltons are fit, well (but not overly) fed, love the outdoors, well rested and self-aware.   They are a walking, talking commercial for wellness.  Here are six reasons why:

1.  Love of the Outdoors and respect for Nature.  The Waltons spent a good part of their days outdoors.  Whether they were walking to school, climbing the mountain named after them, or fishing with Yancey Tucker, they had a healthy respect and love for nature.  Breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying the sunshine, the Waltons were never in need of a Vitamin D shot or a few rounds in the gym. Grandpa perhaps said it best,  “You can’t own a Mountain, any more than you can own an Ocean or a piece of Sky.  You hold it in trust.  You live on it, you take life from it, and once your dead, you rest in it.”  The Waltons drew life and health from the mountain and in so doing held their land in a sacred trust.

2.  Spend time as a family.  Wellness is not all about physical fitness.  It also includes loving someone and having them love you in return.   The Waltons never tired of spending time with one another.  They drew strength from each other.  Picking each other up when they were down.  John Boy was right when he said,  “I’ve done an awful lot of thinking of what makes this family work, and I think it’s because there’s enough love to go around and some to spare.” Let’s all spare some love!

3.  Eat fresh food in moderate portions.  Another key to wellness is eating fresh food and in moderation.  On almost each episode, there is at least one scene with the family gathered around the table eating what they had grown or caught.  Also, with so many people in the family, it was hard not to eat in moderation.  And when you did, you always had Grandma there to make sure you did not eat too much.  Note this conversation between Grandpa and Grandma.  Grandpa:  “I could do another sandwich”  Grandma Walton:  “You’re the one at this table who could do a little starving.” Grandpa  “Esther, we have got to keep our strength up!”  Grandma: “Strength? I think you just get weak carrying all that around”.  We all need that inner Grandma keeping us from eating too much!

4.  Love your work, but find time for rest and play.  The Waltons worked hard and enjoyed their work.  They enjoyed their craft and the satisfaction of creating something with their hands.  As John  Boy Walton said,  “One of the things that I find distressing about life today is that people don’t really seem to enjoy their work anymore. When I was growing up on Waltons Mountain my father and my grandfather loved their work and they instilled a respect for work in each of us.”   

But when the Waltons were done work, they found time for relaxation. As the good Lord ordained, they rested on the seventh day. We should all follow these words from John Boy’s journal: “Sunday afternoon on Walton’s Mountain was a time of quiet contemplation We took it easy or else worked at a slower pace and enjoyed a brief respite from the cares that beset us during the week. After we came home from church and had dinner, we permitted ourselves the luxury of play and relaxation”. Find time for play after working at what you love!

5.  Get plenty of rest after saying goodnight to loved ones.  Everyone who loves The Waltons knows where I am going with this one.  One of the two keys to wellness is to get plenty of rest and never, ever go to bed angry at a loved one.  No matter how much Jim Bob irritated Mary Ellen or John Boy struggled to write his next chapter, they always ended the night with Goodnight Jim Bob, Good Night Mary Ellen, and, of course, Good Night John Boy. 

6.  Listen and be Thankful.  The two greatest keys to wellness is being thankful for what you have and to listen and be mindful of the beauty around you.   It is amazing the lessons that you can learn when you stop and listen to the wonder of nature.  As John Boy wrote in his journal, “ I think if we learned to listen, we could hear all kinds of miracles.”  Truer words have never been written.   You and this whole world that God has wrought is a miracle speaking to our hearts!  Stop and take time to listen.

March Back to Fitness!

Back in my Army and West Point days, I never thought of marching and carrying a ruck in fitness terms.  It was a necessity.  What you carried on your back is what you brought into combat.   The more you put in, the more you were weighed down.  The less you put in, the more you ran the risk of being ill-prepared.  

Recently, however, I realized the fitness benefits of rucking for civilians.  I started carrying a weighted ruck in preparation for the Shadow West Point March back that happened last week.  The March Back coincides with the annual 13-mile march back of the United States Military Academy’s Plebe Class at the conclusion of summer Cadet Basic Training.  I and about 15  fellow members of the West Point Society of Central Texas finished the march last week. The March included loaded Rucksacks and the Texas Heat!   See the picture below.  The Weather Channel even filmed a piece about us! I will let you know when it comes out. 

Vets  Marching for Fitness

Rucking has many benefits and is my latest fitness obsession.  There is even a community of Veterans that go on rucking events.  It is called GoRuck and raises money for Veterans dealing with PTSD.  I am currently training for the next major event near Austin.

Here are the five major benefits of Rucking:

  1.  Low Impact.  Unlike running that puts stress on your joints, rucking is low impact especially if you pack your ruck correctly.
  2. Burns Calories.  It burns 3 times the calories that walking does (even more in Texas heat).
  3. Carry your Hydration.  A ruck provides a convenient compartment to store water and remain hydrate.  I fill up the bladder from my Camelback in my ruck.  It adds weight and prevents me from passing out int the Texas heat!
  4. Low Cost.  I bought my rucksack for less than 40 dollars on Amazon.  There is no need to get a specialized rucksack unless you want to.  To weight it down, I just evenly distributed 5 lbs. weights that I already had in pouches. 
  5. Fun and social.  I loved marching with fellow members of the Long Grey Line and being out in nature. 

Marching with a ruck is not just for the military.  Pick up your ruck, lace up your shoes and march back to health!

Coffee Cups Are Not Just for Coffee, Anymore!

I have a secret weight loss weapon when traveling on the road – coffee cups.  This wonderful tool is ubiquitous at hotels.  Here are three simple weight loss hacks related to coffee cups:

  1.  The first is the obvious one – use it for coffee.  Nothing gets the constitution working better than coffee.  I drink one cup and you are ready for the rest room.  But stop at one or two or you will have the opposite result since coffee is a diuretic.  Also, if you are older like me and walking to the office you may not make it to the office a second time!
  2. The perfect hard-boiled egg container.  Almost as ubiquitous as coffee cups at the hotel breakfast counter are hard boiled eggs.  They are a perfect source of protein and a great way to satisfy mid-morning snack or for lunch.  A standard coffee cup can hold 3 large hard-boiled eggs.  Place a lid on it and label it and now you have a ready-made free lunch to stick in the office refrigerator!  See picture below of my friend  adopting this new craze. Coffee cups can also serve as containers for the fresh fruit that is often set up on the breakfast buffet (don’t forget bananas and apples in your backpack).  You could also use coffee cups for oatmeal.  All three serve as wholesome snacks and lunch on the run.  You also can save money if not on an expense account (or save your expense account to splurge on dinner!)
  3. Larger cups for infused water.  I love that a lot of hotels are now providing fruit infused water at the hotel.  But I do not love the little dinky plastic cups with no lids.  Answer – use coffee cups with lids and get 16 ounces of delicious water (to wipe away the effects of the second coffee).

There you have it.  Coffee cups are not just for coffee anymore.  Instead, they are a secret weight loss weapon for people on the go!

Listen to Learn and Lose!

Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels

Listen to Lose
Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels
Listen to Lose!

When people start on a weight-loss journey,  they talk too much.  They talk about the latest diet they are trying or the latest fitness craze that they are meaning to get to tomorrow.  But talk is cheap.  You need to listen to lose! Listen to your heart, listen to your body, and  listen to others.

  1. Listen to your heart. The you that you are meant to be is one heart beat away.  So, listen what your heart is telling you to do.  Do not turn to things that stress you out.  The latest fitness craze does nothing if your heart is not in it.  It just stresses you out and will cause you to stop when you are discouraged.  Instead, do what you love.  Also, be thankful for what you have.  A thankful heart is a stress free, restful heart.  Stress is often the reason for losing sleep and gaining weight.  Lastly, strive for a goal that inspires you.  Your heart needs to be in it to win it!
  2. Listen to Your Body.  Your body knows what it wants.  That is the reason too many hamburgers and fries give you indigestion.    Feed your body with the good stuff.  Choose vegetables and fruit over candy and sugar.  Remember, just like listening to someone, you must listen to your body closely to understand what it is saying.  You may think is  saying I need sleep when in  reality your body is saying I need to exercise and get energy, or I am dehydrated, and I need water. 
  3. Listen to Others. Some people are struggling as you are and may have caught on to something new that you have yet to discover.  Others may have won their battle with weight and have inspiring stories and important teachings to tell.  Also, when you have met your target, listen to others to pass on your lessons and to provide you with a reason to stay on track. 

Like all things, you learn more through listening than talking.  So close your mouth, open your ears to Listen, Learn and Lose!

The Fab Four of Fitness and Football

This is the third in my blog series Heroes in Health.  The first two in this series (linked below) examined two recent heroes who have helped me and others on our path to health. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/06/10/heroes-of-health-series-episode-2-corey-the-cycling-king/ https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/05/13/heroes-in-health-episode-1-mother-of-weight-loss-and-a-freestyle-life/

On this one I reach back almost 40 years to examine the lessons learned from four men who were then as they are now on the cutting edge of fitness and health: the four football coaches of Northern Burlington Regional High School in the late seventies – Coaches Charlie Pirrello, Hank Kearns, Carmen Pastore, and Gary Smith.  Beyond football, these four men taught me more than fitness.  They taught me and others how to be men, to put team before self, and to judge on merit not title, race, or creed.

Coach Charlie Pirrello, the head coach of the fab four is a legend in NJ High School Football.  The 2018 inductee to the NJ Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame he has led 7 teams to the State Championship in his 50 years of coaching.  The first of these was led by my 1981 class that won on the last play of the game.  Unfortunately, I had moved to Texas after my Junior season and missed it.  But I still felt part of the team and loved seeing my quarterback (I was a Center), Chris Warrington throwing the winning pass! 

Hank the Tank Kearns, the Defensive Coordinator and JV Coach, was equally a big influence in my life.  His nickname Tank was an understatement; he was more like the Hulk.  I still remember when the linebackers were not deploying correct tackling form, he jumped in there without pads and flattened the running back!  Hank is still a fitness inspiration to me.  I follow he, Coach Pirrello and Pastore on Facebook and Hank is either biking or doing some other fitness activity. 

Carmen Pastore was the Offensive Coordinator. A former college football quarterback Coach Pastore helped orchestrate our vaunted Veer Option Offense that first came into vogue in 1975.  It was cutting edge then as it is now. 

Last was Coach Smith who taught the backs.  My brother’s coach, I remember him for his humor.  One day I went up to look at the depth chart.  Instead of seeing Donnie and Gary Grier the names on the list where Abnormal and Normal Grier.  He gave me the nickname Abnormal because of my intensity, the fact that I was on the line, and the way I yelled at the top of my lungs “Huddle” when gathering the team.  I wore that name like a badge of honor since I was a gruff lineman and linebacker while my brother was a defensive and offensive back.

The Fab Four are great coaches and leaders of men for these four and many other reasons:

  1. Constantly striving for excellence through learning and adapting.   The coaches of NBC were constantly looking for new ways and techniques to get better.  I looked forward to each summer training sessions when the coaches would return with the latest fitness techniques.  Two I remember distinctly are the Total Fatigue Weightlifting Circuit and interval running with proper technique.  Total Fatigue included completing a circuit of weightlifting that went from largest muscles (legs) to smallest muscles (triceps).  I still do the regime today since it has become one of the key approaches to gain muscle mass and endurance.  Back then it was new.  They also emphasized negative training (2 seconds up and at least 4 seconds down).  Next was interval training where we first practiced our running form (I still attempt to run like Hank the Tank taught me to this day) before completing sprint intervals.  One last thing that sticks in my mind is there willingness to adapt when something did not work. One year our football camp included three a days and we really worked hard – overly hard.  The coaches realized that we worked out too much resulting in a few injuries.  The next year they adapted when they added a rest period in Coach Pastore’s pool which resulted in a better record. 
  2.  Inspiration is as important as perspiration.  Each year the coaches made a playbook that we needed to memorize from cover to cover and guard with our lives.  The secret sauce of the playbook was not just the cutting-edge plays from the Veer Option, it also contained fitness and nutrition tips and life lessons.  I wish I still had that playbook because the quotes were so inspiring.  But you can get a good feel for them by reading Coach Pirrello’s Twitter feed.  Here is one recent one.  “I am your coach. When you get discouraged, I will encourage you. When you come up short, I want to help you come up big next time. And I will never give up on you even if you give up on yourself.” Charlie Pirrello.  He never gave up on us and today I still draw inspiration from these four great men. 
  3. Judge each man by his merit.  The late Seventies and early Eighties was a difficult time to coach.  The drug culture was in vogue.  In addition, there was sometimes difficulties in race relations.  NBC had one of the most diverse teams in the state having McGuire Air Force base in our school.  Also because of McGuire Air Force Base, we had new people coming into team each year.  I remember distinctly the day Willie Drewery joined my class in my Sophomore year.  Unknown to the program at the time, he was welcomed in with open arms and became a linchpin. He later went on to a Professional Career.   The coaches never differentiated on race, creed or color. All that matter was your football ability and the content of your character.  One way they enforced this is making the team hold hands in the huddle and by teaming up weight training partners from different races and cultures.  Lastly, our pre-game ritual included listening to equal doses of Bruce Springsteen and Chic that had a big hit at that time.  In this way, we avoided the fighting that went on in some of our rival schools.
  4. Care for Each Player.  The coaches spent time with each player if they gave a 100% and strove to be a team player.  My brother was a football talent, playing Varsity his sophomore year.  I was less of a talent playing second team Varsity and first team JV.  Even so the coaches never neglected me and worked with me to make me the best player I could be.  ,They also were always there for you.  I still have the note from Coach Pirrello to my new football coach when I had to leave for Texas for my Senior Year.   I still choke up reading it and the care Coach P gave.  I was never going to break Franco Harris’s Freshman Rushing record like my brother, but he and his coaching staff still treated me with the same respect and care.  To this day, one of my greatest awards is winning MVP for the Junior Varsity team my Junior Year.  To me, winning that award for NBC was the highlight of my high school athletic career and one of the highlights of my life. 

One last thing to say.  Charlie was not only my coach.  He was more importantly my World History teacher and one of the best teachers I ever had.  He was just as inspirational and engaging in class as he was on the field. 

40 years is a long time and a blink of the eye.  Whatever the years, the fab four still shape the man I am today!

Fitness: A Corporate and Personal Responsibility

Accenture fitness walk to raise money for Vets
Memorial Walk for Veterans

I had the good fortune in my early adult life to be in the Army.  One of the perks in the Army is that you are paid to work-out every day.  It was part of your role description and responsibility.  An unfit soldier will put himself and his platoon at risk.   I therefore had the pleasure and pain both at West Point and later active duty to exercise on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it was exhilarating like singing cadence at the top of your lungs while on a battalion run.  Other times brutal, such as the yearly Obstacle Course administered by the Department with a Heart at West Point. All of it good, necessary and part of your job description!

This all seemed to change when I left the Army and joined the consulting world.  Early morning calls replaced morning PT.  Long hours on planes and in front of a desk slinging code took a toll on my health.  It seemed in my mind at the time that fitness and taking care of myself was no longer part of my job description or even opposed to it.  I and companies at that time did not yet see the impact of wellness on work.   The drive for more billable hours and seemingly higher productivity dominated.   This corporate culture (or my take on it) resulted in weight gain, lost health, and a decline in productivity over time.

Luckily the corporate culture and my thought processes have recently changed.  Corporate wellness programs, such as Accenture’s Truly Human Campaign are now focused on fitness and the human aspects of work.  To read about this campaign, look at my prior blog here: https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/09/04/five-accenture-wellness-programs-that-saved-my-life/

Like the Army, corporations have now come to realize that being fit is a necessary part of the job.  Indeed, wellness is almost as important to the survival and strength of the company as it is to an Army platoon.  Here are three reasons why:

  1.  Improves Decision Making.  The enemy of all good decisions is stress.  Exercise and fitness help relieve stress and keep away fatigue. A simple 20-minute walk will provide a few minutes to clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the problem on hand.  Better yet, get up and walk around the office when taking a phone call meeting when things get heated. The simple step of standing up will shake off the cobwebs that tend to collect during back to back calls. 
  2. Builds Comradery.   The best thing about the Army was the comradery.  One way it was built was through morning PT.  While I am not advocating each company go on a company run each morning, I am recommending a common fitness program like Accenture Active.  This program has really helped me to know my colleagues better through fitness events (MS 150, Annual Veterans Walk, etc.) and programs (active rewards programs, Fitbit competition).  One example was a random competition that I and some colleagues engaged in on one Saturday.  One of my friends started a Fitbit weekend competition and although we were all in different states, we kept apprised with the others’ progress.   We all engaged in friendly and sometimes hilarious banter through the Fitbit app as we each surpassed 10 miles.
  3. Cuts Down on Sick Days.  Staying fit helps to keep you out of the doctor’s office and in yours during working hours.  Research conducted at Brigham Young University, the Center for Health Research at Healthways and the Health Enhancement Research Organization, suggests unhealthy eating is linked with a 66% increased risk of loss of productivity while lack of exercise is associated with a 50% increase risk of low productivity. My experience bears this out.  Before returning to fitness, I was habitually hit with bronchitis and, at least twice a year, pneumonia.  Both resulted in sick days and loss of productivity when I worked through it.  Since returning to my target weight in Nov. 2015, I have had neither bronchitis or pneumonia.  Not sure how many days have been saved but approximate it as at least a week a year.  And, an increase of productivity on those days that I should have been recovering and drove through and worked despite my illness.

These are just the top three reasons why you should consider staying fit as part of your role description as a consultant.  Increased productivity, esprit de corps and better decisions are just three reasons exercise is an imperative in the working world.  Let me close with a cadence I wrote for my team as we run from one project to another:

Everywhere we go,

people want to know,

who we are,

where we come from,

so, we tell them,

we are Accenture,

Pivot Wise Accenture,

Future forward Accenture,

focus on the human Accenture.

Hooah!