Key to Longevity- Positive Attitude and Avoiding Stress

I recently finished reading Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It?, and would rate the book a solid 9/10. If you are into sports psychology, even at a very general level, and love reading inspiring anecdotes then this book is worth the read. I personally gained a lot of valuable insight from the different techniques explained in the book and felt as though I learned a lot.

I’m greatly interested in things related to the mind and I love sports, so this book fulfilled both those boxes to a T. One topic that really caught my eye that I’ve heard/read bits and pieces about before is longevity. Usually you hear about longevity in terms of diet, exercise, and one’s genetic make-up, but Fitzgerald points out in the book that “research has proven that psychology has the greatest influence” (236). Once again, I’ve been shown how important our mind really is.

Comedian George Burns, at the age of 100, said this before he died in 1996: “If you ask me what is the most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it” (236).

Apparently there’s a lot of scientific evidence to back up Burns. I won’t summarize all the scientific jargon jawn, but Fitzgerald pointed out that “people who have a positive attitude and don’t sweat the small stuff tend to age slower and live longer” (236).

There is also general consensus among psychologists that there are four personality traits that are strong predictors of a longer, healthier life: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and low neuroticism (237).

Personally, I find this information very helpful and useful. Not so much for living a really long life, as nice as that sounds. I find this helpful for right now. Intentionally making today better is only going to help make the future better (karma, baby).

I still deal with anxiety at times in a variety of ways, so this information pertains to my life. I’ve been working hard at coping with/reducing anxiety since my senior year of undergrad with some success thanks to great people, hard work, and mindfulness, but insights like the ones from this book help motivate me to not settle just because I don’t get symptoms as often anymore.

Another technique the book stressed was gratitude and appreciation for life as well as for getting the opportunity to partake and compete in sports. I’ve found that gratitude really helps in building more happiness and peace of mind and would recommend the practice to anyone.

 

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*Pic above= George Burns

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Back to School!

After a year of working at a school as a mentor and tutor with the nationwide service organization City Year, I am back in school. This time, though, as a graduate student.

Honestly, in terms of academics, at least so far, things are not too different from undergrad. The main differences are that I have a lot less time in actual class-only on Tuesday and Thursday evening/nights-but way more work to do outside of class. Eastern relies heavily on their online website called Brightspace, which is kind of like Canvas or Blackboard. I’ve already had a lot of readings to do, multiple online quizzes, lots of discussion response papers, and I have to upload my notes as well at times.

I feel that I’m doing well so far and hope to continue the trend. Things will start to change more in the spring when we start our practicum and I have a certain amount of hours to spend in school. Then after I have classes throughout the summer, the 2nd year will be the most different as I have what they call “internship” both semesters, where I will be shadowing/working in a school 3-4 times a week to attain a certain amount of required hours. To earn my Master’s of Education and certification for K-12 School Counseling I will then have to pass the PRAXIS exam.

The most notable difference from undergrad is the age variance in my classes. I am probably among the 3 or 4 youngest in my cohort. I would guess that the average age is probably mid-later 20s with some older parents in the classes as well.

I am also working on campus as a Graduate Mentor for the College Success program, working with undergrad students on the autism spectrum. I like the students a lot and our relationships are already developing well.

Here’s to health prosperity and more growth 🙂

 

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Premier League Predictions

Continuing the predicting fun of my last couple posts, I thought I’d take a chance with the English Barclay’s Premier League as well. I’ve always loved soccer (football) and having family in England extended my interest in the sport as a player and spectator. I am hot and cold with how much I follow the league throughout the year as the season is long, but I especially love watching the big games between the best teams towards the end of the season.

Here they are…

Top 4 Go To Champion’s League

1) Manchester City

2) Liverpool

3) Tottenham

4) Chelsea

5th Guaranteed a Spot in Europa League Group Stage

5) Manchester United

6) Arsenal

7) Everton

8) Wolves

9) Fulham

10) Leicester

11) Watford

12) Crystal Palace

13) Burnley

14) Bournemouth

15) Brighton

16) Newcastle

17) West Ham

RELEGATION ZONE

If you finish 18-20th then you go down a league for the following year.

18) Southampton

19) Cardiff

20) Huddersfield

 

Leaving Man U out of the top 4 might be the biggest surprise here but I think Man City, Liverpool, and Tottenham are better sides and Chelsea probably is as well based on the first 3 games under their new manager. Man U definitely has loads of time to improve and having Pogba and Lukaku makes them ever-dangerous, but they don’t play a very attractive style of football under Mourinho and I don’t see them winning all the games they should (as can be seen in losing to Brighton last weekend).

City lost De Bruyne for an extended period of time but they should still dominate most games as they have high-quality players to fill in. Liverpool will be extremely exciting this season and look prepared to give City a real run for the title. However, they have to make sure they win games against teams in the lower-half almost without fail. Tottenham will also be exciting this year as they basically return the same team from the previous season. Many see this as dangerous, but their continuity and consistency will ultimately help them see continued success.

Fulham and Wolves both play attractive football and will be fun to watch throughout the season. At least one of them will finish in the top half.

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Centennial Conference Cross Country 2018 Predictions

Last year for fun I made predictions on the 2017 Centennial Conference Cross Country Championship results:

https://schlegelsbagels.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/predictions-for-mens-centennial-cross-country-championships/

I got each pick correct except for Gettysburg and Ursinus being flopped (only by 5 points!). Below I make my predictions for this year with some disclaimers:

  1. These predictions are mostly based on the results from last year’s Conference Championship and the Regional race with assumptions that non-seniors are returning and healthy.
  2. I don’t take potential freshmen contributions into account.
  3. I want all runners to do well and find joy in their performance. I’m not cheering against anyone.

1) Haverford 

The Goats are ready to dominate on their home course. They return 5 guys who finished in the top 11 at last year’s race and will be raring to go come champs day. They have multiple All-Americans from track in the race and they will be ready to prove themselves at National’s as well. Peet, Gearinger, Morgan, Herlihy, McCaplain and more will be fun to follow this year.

2) Johns Hopkins

This team is probably talented enough with the depth to beat Haverford, but it will be very hard to do so on Haverford’s home course. Led by Pourshalchi and Hickson they will most likely return to nationals as a team this year.

3) Dickinson

This team is really talented and could compete for 2nd if they run their best. If Descavish, Hermann, Hopkins, and Chandler all run well on the same day with a strong 5th they could definitely do it. Will have a good shot at a wild-card berth to nationals from the regional race.

4) Muhlenberg 

Corey Mullins has the potential to win the race and Richwall will be competing for All-Conference. There is definitely a drop after those two, though, so the supporting cast will need to run well for the team to finish in this spot.

5) Ursinus

Got my bias going big-time here. J McDaddy leading the way with a legitimate shot at All-Conference after significant improvement from freshmen to sophomore year. Geissinger-Tuttle appears to be back and ready to contribute a lot once again. Following up last year were 4 guys who finished within 7 seconds of one another at champs and will make big contributions again in Haase, Mazullo, Berardi, and Voyack. Along with Voyack, Cope looks to finish his XC career strong and provide seasoned leadership over a team full of freshmen. Delia also looking to continue his rapid improvement from last year with big gains!

6) Swarthmore 

Talented young core of Parts, Kenny, and Hudson lead the way. Will need extra support to finish up in 4th but always a good sleeper pick.

7) Gettysburg

Seem to have the potential to finish all the way up in 4th being led by the talented Robinson and Petrecca. Sheldon, Berson, and McKeever all ran well at last years champs. Will have to show up big time to finish higher than this, though.

8) Franklin and Marshall

Led by seniors Lyman, Manion, and Bryce who finished 45th, 49th, and 55th respectively last year at champs.

9) McDaniel 

Gavin Gibson is an exciting runner who could finish rather high individually.

 

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Bold NBA Predictions

All the NBA news over the summer has me pretty pumped for the Sixers and the rest of the league in general. I definitely have a strong bias, but objectively I do think the NBA is the most exciting professional league in America right now. The players have incredible personalities and the league is super competitive and fun for the fans. I decided to make some way-too-early predictions for the final standings in both conferences.

East

1) Celtics (61-21)

2) Sixers (55-27)

3) Raptors (53-29)

4) Pacers (50-32)

5) Bucks (48-34)

6) Wizards (45-37)

7) Pistons (42-40)

8) Heat (41-41)

9) Hornets (38-44)

10) Bulls (32-50)

11) Nets (31-51)

12) Cavs (30-52)

13) Magic (28-54)

14) Knicks (26-56)

15) Hawks (20-62)

 

West

1) Warriors (64-18)

2) Rockets (59-23)

3) Jazz (55-27)

4) Lakers (51-31)

5) Thunder (49-33)

6) Nuggets (48-34)

7) Spurs (48-34)

8) Mavericks (46-36)

9) Trail Blazers (45-37)

10) Pelicans (44-38)

11) Timberwolves (44-38)

12) Grizzlies (34-48)

13) Clippers (32-50)

14) Suns (26-56)

15) Kings (24-58)

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Waking Up

At some point in life, something extremely challenging happens to everyone. Death of a loved one, an accident, a mental health issue, loss of a job, or something of that variety that severely affects one’s day to day. How one responds, of course, is the question.

Heading into my senior year at Ursinus I was slated to be a cross country team captain and I would be student teaching in the Fall. I was on track to attain “summa cum laude” and had been fairly successful with running. You probably think you can tell where this is going. However, this is not a sappy story or a really sad and inspirational one. Instead, one of anxiety, resilience, determination, proper support, waking up, and more. Now I can tell why those with an anxiety disorder would tell others you can never understand what it is like until you go through it. That sounds condescending and dismissive of those who wish to understand, but the experience can be rather hard to describe.

I started to get a variety of physical discomforts a few weeks before moving back to school. At first there were headaches and nausea, then stomach discomfort and chest pain. I went to the doctor multiple times as I thought these were all separate issues. At one point I convinced myself something was wrong with my heart or lungs. School then started and the symptoms continued. I saw the nurse practitioner at Ursinus a couple of times and she suggested I see one of the school psychologists. I was open to figuring this out in any way possible and thankfully I went. Meeting with my counselor on a regular basis ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made. I learned that all the physical symptoms were manifestations of anxiety. Student teaching was definitely a struggle at first as I was still so naive about the strength of anxiety’s symptoms and I was a 21 year old teaching high school seniors. As I learned more and gained more comfort I’m thankful to say that student teaching ended well and strong.

I think everyone suffers in little ways each day; there does not have to be a large scale issue that pops up. Ever wonder why so many people turn to different forms of addiction? Drugs, alcohol, porn, social media, video games, constantly being attached to one’s phone. When I use the word suffering I do not mean intense pain, rather a range of feelings such as discomfort, anger, jealousy, or wanting. Simply wanting things to be different than they are at a given moment is an easy example of a form of suffering.

 

Now on to what I consider the good stuff.

 

Just to reiterate quickly from earlier, seeing a counselor on a regular basis was a remarkable choice. I think just getting the opportunity to talk with someone about anything you want in a free space is something anyone could benefit from. If you feel like you could really use help in some way, then of course seek assistance from a professional. But even if you don’t feel that way, I would at least consider it. Most don’t because of the stigma. Proper support is essential. Most of this comes from family and friends or community, but a different open space can do wonders.

My counselor also introduced me to mindfulness and meditation. He did so through offering books I could read related to anxiety. I got hooked. As an English major I enjoy reading and I gobbled up some of his suggestions related to the broader idea of mindfulness. I also started to listen to podcasts. One trope throughout them all is that even though meditation is secular in and of itself as an activity, there are Buddhist roots. The books I read were actually all kind of Buddhisty. And I loved it.

The Buddha is not a divine being whom his followers idolize and believe every word he said. In fact, the Buddha specifically said he does not want people to believe him just because he said something. He wants them to find out for themselves. The wise investigation of oneself and the practicality of the practice are attractive to myself along with many others in the West because they align more with the scientific and psychological aspects of our culture. This does not take away from spirituality, though; just because dogma and belief are not as evident does not mean spirituality is totally absent.

What the Buddha accomplished is incredible. He sat down under a tree and figured out how his mind worked. He observed the mind in all it’s different states and gained great knowledge just from doing so. Most of us are scared to spend one minute alone with ourselves without some form of a distraction. The Buddha woke up. I do think he attained enlightenment, but that is besides the point for this modern lifestyle we lead. He woke up in the sense that his mind and all the conditioned habits that come with it did not run his life anymore. He experienced profound awareness and recognized the fact of impermanence in that things always change.

I’m trying to wake up bit by bit. I’m not pursuing enlightenment but I’m trying to improve in a variety of ways. Anxiety can still be hard sometimes for various reasons- the worst being intrusive thoughts-but getting proper support and doing a lot of research and work on my own has helped me gain confidence in dealing with it. Rather than worrying what others might think about my appearance or how I act (contributing factor to anxiety), I’m working on loving myself and who I am without concerning myself with others opinions. I’m finding out what my own values are such as trying to cause as little harm to others as possible or staying both physically and mentally fit. Values help guide how I want to live.

This past year I participated in a nationwide service program called City Year where I worked as a mentor and tutor with 6th graders at a school in North Philadelphia. I enjoyed this experience immensely and recognize the need for quality educators. This helped me develop a new path, at least for the near future. I will be getting my master’s in School Counseling from Eastern University over the next two years. I will miss being in school with my students as they were consistent joys, but understand that more schooling will help me gain knowledge and I will develop skills to be a prepared professional in any school setting.

I’m working hard and find myself incredibly determined to act for the well-being of others. I try to be proud of things I’ve done in the past and those I’ve had a positive effect on. I work on being thankful and grateful for today and our precious human birth. And I keep working to “act for the good” today and in the future.

We love to work on our bodies in the gym and implement all the fad diets, but forget we can train our mind as well. I’m far from competent or consistent at the moment, but will continue to work at it through meditation, intentional mindfulness of the present, generosity, service, and more. We experience everything through our mind, even physical sensations, so working on it and being gentle and caring towards oneself is important. I can be my harshest critic and still am at times, and while the term “self-love” has become over-used at this point, it rings true. If I can take care of myself mentally and physically then I will be better prepared to help others.

Anxiety sucks a big one as it often manifests as fear of irrational things that never end up happening. Probably 90% of the problems in our heads never end up happening. Dealing with difficult emotions and being able to just sit with them is astonishingly hard, but incredibly helpful. The mind is like a muscle in that it can be worked. I’m really trying to work with mine.

To see someone at total peace with themselves and with others in the world is something I look up to. The Dalai Lama talks of inner peace and the ability to handle whatever comes ones way because of this trait, both externally and internally. This is something I aspire towards.

The title of this post, “Waking Up,” is actually a book title and podcast title from my boy Sam Harris. Definitely just borrowing it here.

Thanks for the read! Really appreciate it.

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Signed up for the Philly Half Marathon!

November 16th I plan to toe the line for the Philly Half Marathon. More precisely, I’ll be ready to go in whatever corral they place me in as I’m not quite Elite (far from it lolz).

While the cost was higher than I would have liked, because I ran in Broad Street this past May they offer a cool deal where I get a jacket that says “Philadelphia Challenge” on it. Along with the jacket, I’ll get the race long sleeve T-shirt.

I’m pumped for this race. Broad Street was a lot of fun and I really did not prepare a lot for it. I think I’ll have more time to prepare for this race and as long as I stay healthy I really hope to. I put my estimated time at 1 hour 30 minutes, which is 6:51 pace, and if I can get back into running often I certainly think I can do this.

Excited to rock and roll!

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Found an Old Running Log

I was cleaning my room recently-big sweep clean-and found a running log I used during my junior year at Ursinus. This was a small paper-copy log that I remember buying from a local running store. The log is easy-to-use and really cool as it has tips from running legends. I started to look through and found myself preoccupied for some time perusing old runs and reading my comments.

This was a really reflective experience for me looking through the log. I found I was fairly consistently running in the mid 30s for miles per week during the bulk of the year. The highest week was 53 miles in one week right before XC. I unfortunately missed most of cross that year because of my hip issues, but reading the comments I saw how consistent I was with PT to strengthen the hips, hurdle mobility, and lots of swimming to have some aerobic capacity.

Once I actually got back into running more after basically a month of PT and swimming, it was fun to read the comments of who I ran with and how I felt. This also gave me some insight into how I was mentally handling everything running-related. I’m happy that I seemed mostly positive throughout the year, despite the challenging injury at the beginning.

I do think I under-performed though for my fitness level. We had some solid workouts based on the splits written down and I think I could have run faster if my mental game was stronger. I’ve realized more and more with time how much of running really is the mental game; one’s mental fitness. At the end of the season I ran 4:25 in the last 1500 and 2:08 in the last 800. I remember feeling after both of those races that I ought to have run faster than those times.

I also really wish I had run a 5k on the outdoor track earlier in my career rather than waiting until senior year as I think I could have been competent in that event. Looking back I also wish I had written down my training from sophomore year and especially from freshmen year. I was in rather good shape at the end of each year-particularly freshmen year with Scott’s heart rate training-so it would be nice to see what the training was like day-to-day.

With all that wishing though on things that can’t change, I reflect now as I write on how much fun UC was with my teammates and that I still have lots of room to grow in running as well as with my mental fitness. I’ve been using Strava online for a while now to track my short runs and probably will continue to do so, but I’m looking forward to using pen and paper again to log some training. I actually think it will help motivate me to run more consistently. Here’s to old school running logs!

 

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Drinking That Tea and Looking for More

I try to stick to one cup of coffee a day, sometimes two. But after the morning’s over I switch over to tea. I’d say I drink about three cups a day on average. This habit was definitely sparked by my British Mom’s love of tea; she drinks more than I do daily. Whenever we go to England to visit family I get to witness my Grandma’s love of tea that’s probably been going strong for 70-80 years. Tea is great for a number of reasons.

As of now, my three go-to tea flavors are:

Green:

Full of antioxidants with a slight caffeine kick that is nice any time of the day and especially in the early evening. I enjoy this usually before working out or going for a run.

Ginger and Tumeric:

I used to go with just Ginger as my Mom does but then I heard about Tumeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits and tried out the flavor and ended up loving it.

Herbal Well-Rested Tea:

Trader Joe’s brand that helps put me right to sleep when the time comes.

 

Now I am looking for some new flavors! I know there are so many out there so I’d love to hear suggestions of what people like.

 

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