History of Labor Day

by Kelly R. Smith

A Labor Day American flag under a blue sky
A Labor Day American flag under a blue sky
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This article was updated on 09/02/20.

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September in both the United States and Canada. Its purpose in America is to celebrate the contributions that everyday workers have made to the prosperity, strength, and well-being of the nation. It is also recognized as the unofficial last day of summer and a day to celebrate national sovereignty.

Origins of Labor Day

Although different labor groups and trade unionists proposed days to celebrate, eventually a September holiday called Labor Day was first proposed in the early 1880s. Alternate stories of the event’s origination exist.

One popular belief is that the event originated in connection with a General Assembly of the Knights of Labor held in New York City in September of 1882. Concurrent with this clandestine Knights gathering, a public parade featuring various labor organizations was held on September 5 under the general organizers of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York.

Another belief holds that the idea of Labor Day was the brainchild of Peter J. McGuire who held the position of a vice president of the American Federation of Labor. He suggested the initial proposal in the spring of 1882. According to McGuire, on May 8, 1882, he offered a proposal to the fledgling Central Labor Union in New York City that a day be designated for a “general holiday for the laboring classes”. He further recommended that the occasion should commence with a street parade as a public demonstration of organized labor’s solidarity and strength followed by a picnic, to which participating local unions could sell tickets as a fundraiser.

There is no dispute that in 1887 Oregon became the first state in the country to name Labor Day as an official public holiday. In 1894 it became an official federal holiday and thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day. Since then, all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories have recognized Labor Day as a statutory holiday. Note that some holidays are not officially sanctioned, such as St. Patrick’s Day.

Is Labor Day the Same as May Day?

May 1 is an internationally-recognized holiday and is known as May Day or International Worker’s Day. Is there a correlation between May Day and Labor Day? Not really. May Day is much more politically charged and has less of a flavor of worker’s accomplishments and more a flavor of Communist, Socialist, and Anarchist politics.

In particular, President Grover Cleveland was one of the people concerned that a labor holiday held on May 1 would become an implicit commemoration of the Haymarket Affair and would strengthen socialist and anarchist movements that backed the May 1 commemoration around the globe.

The Haymarket affair (also called the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the violence that ensued after a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday, May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. It started as a peaceful rally supporting workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the day before by the police. An unknown individual tossed a dynamite bomb at police as they worked to disperse the meeting. The bomb blast and following gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; dozens of others were wounded. It sounds remarkably similar to the mayhem, rioting, and looting conjured up by Black Lives Matter and Antifa today in America, 2020.

Labor Day Activities

Like any federal holiday, it is not just another day off from work but it is also a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Because of the nice weather at this time of year it is an opportunity for outdoor activities like barbecues, fun runs, and ball games. Things will be a little different this year because of COVID-19.

There are also many Labor Day sales since many school years have just begun or are about to begin. Many sporting events are coordinated around this day.  National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams usually play their first games that weekend and the National Football League (NFL) traditionally play their kickoff game the Thursday following Labor Day. The Southern 500 NASCAR auto race has been held on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina from 1950 to 2003 and since 2015.

So whatever activities you choose to do on Labor Day, remember that actual labor is not one of them!



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Top Training and Weight Loss Apps

Myfitnesspal App Screenshot

How many times have you heard, “There’s an app for that!” It’s true; the market is flooded with them for everything from generating prime numbers to identifying flowers. The problem is that some of them are pure junk that just take up space on your phone. With that in mind, here are the top training and weight loss apps. We’ve done the research for you so you won’t have to.

MyFitnessPal

Perhaps the best thing about the MyFitnessPal app is its vast database of more than one million foods, listing counts of calories, macros, and other nutrients.Whether you are on a diet for weight loss or you are just getting the best bang for your buck to fuel your next grueling workout, this app has your back. It can also guide you in setting the applicable weight loss goals that are based on your current weight, how many pounds you are looking to lose, and your present exercise level.

Waterlogged

Hydration is one thing that we don’t always pay enough attention to. Sometimes we just don’t feel thirsty and that’s fine if you are just going to drive home after work. But if you have an afternoon workout planned instead, this can be a bad thing. Waterlogged lets you set reminders at scheduled times or at random intervals to swig more water and track of how well you are at meeting your daily drinking goals.

Talkspace

Talkspace aims its focus on the mental side of your life. Face it, you might be down because you are not meeting your goals. You may be peeved off because that cruel taskmaster of a boss is ruining your workouts by imposing seemingly random work schedules and slamming you with impromptu overtime. Whatever. You just need to vent. This app gives you access to professional counseling anywhere, 24/7.

My Asics

This app is a wonderful planning tool. It will create a training plan for a specific upcoming event. In doing this it takes into consideration your current fitness level and personal goals. And no, you don’t have to be running in Asics for this to work although it is a clever marketing move.

Happy Scale

As handy as they are, weight scales don’t really give you your “true” weight, because it does not take into consideration the state of your hormonal fluctuations or whether you are carrying more poundage due to constipation or water retention. Happy Scale strives to take these fluctuations out of your weight measurements and that makes makes for a nice, smooth curve if you are graphing it.

BioForce HRV

Have you considered your heart rate variability? This is defined as the fluctuations in the amount of time between each heartbeat. Knowing it is important because this metric is a marker of your body’s current stress levels and exercise recovery status.

Too much fluctuation indicates fatigue, and BioForce HRV uses these numbers to determine just how hard you can effectively work out. “I’ve used this for years,” Men’s Health nutrition advisor Mike Roussell, Ph.D. tells us. “It allows me to know how long and hard I should train that day based on the state of my nervous system.”

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Fooducate

Fooducate is impartial and will tell you things that that nutrition label on the box tries to hide. It boasts a database of more than 250,000 items. It works this way — you scan a food UPC label using your smartphone’s camera and it will rate the product with a letter grade with an explanation for why it is or why it is not healthy. It will also give you a list of healthier options that are related to the product you’re eyeing.

Healthy Out

It’s rough for folks watching what they eat to find healthy options when they’re out on the town. HealthyOut uses GPS to compile a list of eateries in your area, as well as recommended menu items for a healthy meal. It will also pony up some additional tips on how you can make the dish healthier, like leaving croutons off a salad.

Yummly

It takes the guesswork out of deciding what to cook. Just give it your dietary preferences (such as Paleo, low-carb, or Keto), favorite types of food, and your cooking abilities This will generate a list of recipes that will suit your food style preferences and lifestyle choices. It will also provide shopping lists from your favorite recipes. One less thing to fret over.

Give one or more of these training and weight loss apps a spin and see if it doesn’t make your life just a little bit easier.


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10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

by Kelly R. Smith

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.
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Article edited on 10/28/18

By definition, we runners are creatures of habit. We simply don’t feel right if we miss a workout and sometimes push harder on the next one to make amends. This makes it a healthy habit in our eyes and occasionally just a bit on the kooky side in the eyes of our sedentary counterparts.

We are also goal-setters. This is easy for beginning runners when the opportunities are as open and unlimited as the blue west Texas sky. The first 5K, the first 10K and so it goes until we have marked off our bucket list so many pounds lost, that first marathon or ultramarathon.

But what happens after that? Do we crater? Hopefully not. Although I must admit that I don’t see as many of the old crew at the races as I used to. I don’t do as many as I used to anymore either; I just focus on the Texas Bridge Series.



But I do keep running. My goal now is just to keep running until I eventually lay down for that long, long dirt sleep, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t claim me. Now that is a worthy goal. With that in mind, lets look at some the 10 habits of successful runners. As I define success, it’s keepin’ on keepin’ on; with 5 ultras under my belt more distance isn’t the answer it once was. For you it might be still climbing that ladder of goals.

Do Your Strength Training. Many runners neglect the weight training and this is a mistake. Building and maintaining lean muscle mass balances us out and reduces the prospect of injury. There is a good reason that those in the know continually stress the importance of maintaining a strong core. Choose exercises that work the upper body, core and lower body. Shoot for 3 times a week. There is really no reason for a gym membership unless you need the swimming pool. Resistance bands are very economical and versatile and will even fit in your suitcase if you spend time on the road.

Chow Down on More Vegetables. You don’t have to adopt Michelle Obama’s school menu, but try to fit more organic veggies into your lunch and dinner meals. The point is that high-quality carbohydrates lend power to your workouts, and their antioxidants help keep the potentially damaging free radicals at bay.  Myself, I’m nuts about salad. Try to select vegetables of different colors since that virtually guarantees that you will get a broad range of nutrients and avoid nutrient deficiency. And don’t forget to add some cheese; calcium and protein are good things. That being said, don’t skimp on high-quality protein; it boosts metabolism and repairs muscle.

Make Running Your First Activity of the Day. After your coffee of course. You afternoon runners know the drill; the later it is in the day, the more things arise to threaten your workout. Plus the fact that it gives you altogether too much time to talk yourself out of it. And isn’t it worth the early wake-up call to already be endorphin-saturated when you are faced with the prospect of a boring meeting at the office? Enjoying another cup o’ joe? When you set your alarm before bed, be sure to allow enough time for your warm-up routine. Be sure to set out all your essentials the night before so you can plug ‘n play. That means shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc.

Get in Some Cross-Training. As good as running is for us, it is very stressful on the body. Some swimming, spinning and time on the rowing machine will maintain your level of fitness while at the same time giving your joints a break. With that in mind, a couple of good times to work cross-training into your schedule is on the day before or the day after a hard run. I’ve found that some slow yet long lap swimming is just the thing to elevate my heart rate while also getting a great all-over stretch in.

Dump the Gadgets Once in a While. We have become obsessed with cell phones, GPS, earbuds blocking out the world and God knows what else. It will do your soul good to leave all that junk behind every now and again when you hit the road or trails; get out of your box. Enjoy the sights. Listen to your breathing. Smell stuff. Do something nice and redeeming that doesn’t reek of “me.” I run early in the morning and stop to pick up earthworms that have slithered up onto the sidewalk and lost their bearings. I toss them back into the deep grass before the ants can attack them like so many Lilliputians on Gulliver. Weird? Hell yeah, but you wouldn’t believe my karma bank account. Besides, all this will remind you of why you run in the first place.



Make Your Weekly Long Run a High-Quality One. If you are not already doing a weekly long run now is the time to start. They are not just to be used as part of a marathon program. The physical benefits are many including beneficial enzyme changes in you legs, new capillary growth, and musculoskeletal strengthening. Remember to follow the 10% rule to avoid injury—don’t bump up the distance more than 10% from one week to the next. If Saturday morning is your long run, Friday is a good candidate for a rest day. You might want to take your music with you; it can be lonely out there.

Be Your Own Cook. Try to say goodbye to restaurants, fast food places, and greasy spoons, at least for dinner and breakfast. Problem is, you can’t control the ingredients or portions when someone else is doing the culinary duty. Case in point: I tend to have high blood pressure and don’t need all the salt that they seem to administer with a front end loader. Can’t cook? Take a cooking class or just practice, practice, practice. Controlling quality an portions is especially important if you are on an intermittent fasting regimen.

Warm-up before Your Run and Stretch Afterwards. Many runners neglect these two steps and that’s just wrong. Warming up will loosen the muscles that you need limber in order to hit your stride. You might not feel like you need to stretch afterwards (you are already loose as a goose) but during cooling down your muscles will begin to contract rapidly. Static stretching, not ballistic, can prolong that action and reduce soreness. A foam roller can work wonders. Focus on your calves, hip flexors and hamstrings.

Slather on that Sunscreen. Running for hours and hours is a blessing and a curse as far as the sun is concerned. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, your chances of developing skin cancer go way, way up. As a general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Ouch. And that estimate also takes those milky-white goth folks into account. Try to use a sports sunscreen; it will not sweat off as easily.

Finally, Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is essential for all of us but it is especially critical for runners because the body undergoes some major repair action when we check into nod-land. In fact people that are taking statin medications to control cholesterol are advised to take it only at bedtime because that is when the blood really gets cleaned up.  Cutting back on sleep can cut the amount of glycogen that your body will store for fuel and may result in weight gain. And besides all those interesting facts, the dreams are just fun, right? If you want to boost the enjoyment level, work on developing your lucid dreaming abilities.

Hopefully, this article provided a bit of inspiration. If you need to work on one or more of these 10 habits of highly-successful runners, now is the time. Start working them in one at a time and chart your results. And have fun.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Running Recovery for any Distance

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This article was updated on 03/05/20.

Upper thigh muscle pain from running.
Upper thigh muscle pain from running.

Experienced runners have learned how to listen to their bodies and know all too well how to tread the thin line between injury and the optimal health that leads to peak performance. They understand and implement running recovery methods for any distance.

The Physiological Reasons for Recovery

First the good news—running causes your body to produce endorphins. These are the chemicals responsible for the so-called “runner’s high.” There’s no need for recovery there.

Not surprisingly, of all the elements of your physical makeup your muscles sustain the most damage during a run. The longer the run is, how challenging the route is and your present level of conditioning are the main factors that determine the amount of damage.

The larger muscle groups such as the buttocks and the thighs shoulder most of the load and consequently sustain the most damage. Generally the damage is temporary and nothing to worry about. This is often referred  to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is usually experienced after adding mileage to your weekly long run or tackling a marathon.

Running Recovery Guidelines for Different Distances

As you might imagine, the longer the distance is, the more involved and important recovery techniques become. Here are some to consider:

  • Typical training runs. Most of your mileage is of the familiar day-in, day-out variety. These workouts may not cause any soreness but it is important to follow these 7 basic running recovery tips. Cooling down properly, stretching and re-hydrating will go far in ensuring that you can lace up tomorrow injury-free!

  • 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Any of these will impose more stress on your body than a training run. You still need to follow the basic tips but you might find it beneficial to take a very slow cool-down run after re-hydrating. Also, do some light stretching before climbing in the car for the ride home.

  • Full-marathon and ultramarathon recovery. Now you are entering into a more complex recovery situation; your muscles are almost certainly experiencing some micro-tearing and need some serious TLC. This calls for a multi-day recovery. Of course you will be building from all the recovery actions listed for shorter distances but you should add more rest to begin with.

Be generous with the ice packs for the next week or so, whenever you note soreness or a twinge of pain. Feel free to be a lazy bum (no activity) the first day following the event but eat copiously and nutritionally. Begin light stretching on the second day. Beginning on the third day short, easy recovery runs are in order but only if you feel like it.

As soon as you feel up to it, get back to your normal base. To insure staying injury-free, don’t neglect to incorporate your warm-up routine prior to every run. It may be tempting to skip but it is one of the best investments you can make.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Some effects of testosterone

This article was updated on 09/30/20.

Regardless of what we might think of transgender bathroom policies or how gender-shifters should be affected by many other social issues, sport is a particularly sticky area. Sports performance is indeed affected by hormones, muscular structure, heat tolerance, and even height.

It’s no secret that this gender issue is huge in the Olympics. In particular, testosterone levels in women, transgender or natural, affects performance. Take the 25-year-old South African woman Caster Semenya for example. She is a natural woman but has an intersex condition. This means she possesses the anatomical sex characteristics of both males and females.

By definition she is hyperandrogenous. Her body provides much higher levels of testosterone than the majority of other female athletes. It follows that this builds greater muscle mass and bone mass which permits her to run faster and train harder with fewer sports injuries.

Should She Compete against Men or Women?

This introduces a moral dilemma. Semenya dominates the 800 meters. Certainly many factors allow her to do this but it is irrefutable that her higher testosterone level gives her a clear advantage. In fact she is built like a man—broad shoulders, narrow hips, very muscular, and even a masculine jawline.

This brings us to the moral question; if her competitors took testosterone supplements in order to even the field it would be considered doping. Semenya isn’t doping but does she have an unfair advantage because of her condition? Since her testosterone is abnormally high for a woman, more like a man, should she compete against them instead?

To address that question, at one point track’s governing body, the IAAF, placed a ceiling on testosterone levels in female athletes. When that happened her running performance came somewhat down to competitive levels and the common speculation was that she began medically suppressing her testosterone production with supplements in order to meet the requirement.

Since the IAAF removed the ceiling she has become virtually unbeatable once again. Depending on one’s personal outlook, it’s easy to draw a conclusion about what is “fair” and what regulations should be in place.

High School Sports are Affected Also

Recently, a transgender wrestler named Mack Beggs from Euless Trinity High School has been easily dominating the girl’s field at a competition at the Berry Center in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district.

Beggs was a girl but is now a transgender boy taking testosterone. Ironically, he/she wanted to compete against other boys but the University Interscholastic League rules force Beggs to compete as a girl instead. If that’s not a case against illogical wrongheadedness, what is? Once again testosterone is a huge factor. The really sad thing is that some of those testosterone-lacking girls were probably hoping for, and training hard for, a sports scholarship.

So, what’s right and what’s wrong? Where should the lines be drawn? Each of us has to decide for ourselves.

Update 02/28/20: A Missouri state legislator has introduced a bill that would ban transgender high-school students from competing on teams that do not match up their original biological sex. Speaking at a state education hearing on Tuesday, GOP State Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin said, “It is a known biological fact that males are born with categorically superior strength, speed and endurance. It has nothing to do with any other issue than trying to create a fair playing field.”


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.