Running in the Heat & Humidity

Working Out in Hot Weather Can Lead to Dehydration and Heat Stroke

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Running in the summer heat
Running in the summer heat
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If there’s one thing runners in Texas understand, it’s heat. Some seem to tolerate it more than others, but too much of it can be deadly. Have you ever wondered exactly how and why it affects you like it does? OK; let’s look into that. It’s a completely different animal than cold weather running. Here are factors to focus on.

  • Thermoregulation. This concept involves maintaining adequate heat production and sufficient heat dissipation; a balancing act, essentially. Your normal skin temp: 33°C (91°F), range 32-35°C. MedlinePlus.gov says, “Some studies have shown that the “normal” body temperature can have a wide range, from 97°F (36.1°C) to 99°F (37.2°C). A temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) most often means you have a fever caused by an infection or illness.”1 But during strenuous exercise the body’s heat production may exceed 1000 W. Some of the heat produced is stored, raising body core temperature by a few degrees. Evaporation of your sweat and an increased skin blood flow are highly-effective mechanisms for the dissipation of heat from the body, however dehydration hampers your ability to sweat and lose body heat.
  • Exercise. Your core temperature increases during exercise in relationship to exercise intensity. Obviously, a slow, easy run will have less effect than speedwork. Heat production is 15-20 times greater than when you are at rest. It has been said that it’s a blessing in the wintertime, and a curse in the summer. Why is it harder to get a head of steam up on hot days? As much as 70% of energy produced is released as heat instead of energy for muscles. This causes an increase in core body temperature by 1°C for every 5 minutes of exercise without heat loss.
  • Heat and humidity. Your heart rate increases up to 10 beats per minute when the temperature is in the range 75-90°F. Your heart rate increases up to additional 10 bpm when humidity is 50-90% because of decreased evaporation. Your performance can decrease by ~20% when temps are above 80°F.


  • Heat dissipation. What areas of body are most important for heat dissipation? Your forehead for one Do you wear a bandana or a cap? Your upper limbs, trunk, and lower limbs are next in line. I’m a big fan of going shirtless or wearing a wicking or cooling shirt like the one below.

Heat is transported by blood from muscles to skin primarily by sweating. This is the first step in the cooling, evaporation process. 75% of evaporated fluids comes from your skin and 25% from respiration (breathing). ScienceDirect.com tells us, “In humans, roughly 1.6 to 5 million sweat glands are found in the skin, and the amount varies between individuals as well as anatomic sites. The region with greatest sweat gland density is the palms and soles of the feet, which contain 600–700 sweat glands/cm2. The primary function of sweat glands is to keep the core body temperature at approximately 37 °C by releasing sweat in a hot environment or during physical activity.”2 So, your soles don’t help matters much. We sweat an average of 1.4 L/hr (max 3 L/hr). Don’t forget to re-hydrate. By the time you get thirsty you are already behind the ball. Use a large water bottle; fill it with filtered water before you leave home.

Your body also dissipates heat by increased skin blood flow (convection). It transfers heat from your core to your skin and stimulates the sweat response.



  • Heat related illnesses. According to the CDC, “Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”3 There are 3 main types of heat-related illness that get progressively more serious. The first is heat cramps-sharp stabbing pain typically in legs or diaphragm. This is caused by electrolyte deficiencies/imbalances. The common treatment is to stop running, ingest a sports drink to replace fluids/electrolytes, and cool your body. The second illness is exertional hyperthermia. Symptoms are a core temp 39-40°C (102.2-104.0°F); excess sweating causing fluid volume loss of 6-10% of your body weight; headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and an elevated heart rate (a real issue for those with high blood pressure). The treatment? all the things mentioned above plus cooling the body via immersion and elevating feet above level of the heart. The third illness is exertional heatstroke. This is characterized by all of the symptoms mentioned above plus core body temperature greater than 40.5°C (104.9°F), mental changes such as confusion, disorientation, and loss of consciousness. Seizures and coma are also likely, and in especially bad cases, death. Treatment includes all of the above but do not take fluids if unconscious/severely disoriented/seizing, etc.
  • Are there risks factors for developing a heat related illness? You bet! These include low fitness level, dehydration, being unacclimated to heat and humidity, overweight/obese (BMI or Body Mass Index greater than 27), medications or supplements, and even lack of sleep.
  • Prevention methods. The first thing to do is be realistic and adjust your pace. Refer to this chart.
Running pace adjustment due to heat and humidity
Running pace adjustment due to heat and humidity

Take walking breaks regularly and often, especially during your weekend long run. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Thirst is not an accurate indicator of dehydration but increased HR and dark urine are. Your body absorbs liquids best when they’re cold (40℉ is ideal); cold fluids will also help reduce your core temperature. Take liquids with electrolytes, eat small amounts of foods w/sodium 12 hrs before running. Acclimate yourself to warmer weather beginning in the spring. 2 weeks of moderate intensity exercise, 30-100 min in duration in the heat, is a good rule of thumb. Keep to a regular schedule; adaptations can be lost in as little as 10 days. Trade in your hat for a visor.

These are the basics of running in the heat and humidity. A little common sense and precautions can go a long way. Above all, have fun; running is good for the soul!

References

  1. MedlinePlus.gov, Body temperature norms, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001982.htm
  2. ScienceDirect.com, Sweat Gland, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/sweat-gland
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Extreme Heat, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html

Further Reading


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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.

Increase Energy with These 10 Habits

In a Slump? Missing That Get-up-and Go? Turn It around with These Behavior Changes

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Sponge Bob rarin' to go
Sponge Bob rarin’ to go
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We all have times when we feel that our batteries are less than fully-charged. In the dumps. Only firing on four pistons. The mayor of blahville. Whatever you call it, it can be an occasional or chronic disorder. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people reporting both an elevated feeling of loneliness1 and the lack of energy.

The INDEPENDENT says, “The way in which our lives have transformed in such a short space of time has heavily impacted our daily routines, as many individuals no longer have to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual for school or work. This has seemingly resulted in an increasing number of people experiencing “grogginess” amid the coronavirus pandemic2.

In a large part, your habits define your energy levels. If you have good habits, you’ll feel energized and be more resistant to burn out, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, if your habits are not lined up properly, you easily fall into a repetitive cycle where you feel worse and worse, until it’s a struggle just to keep up. Let’s look at 10 habits designed to increase your floundering energy levels.

  • Go to Bed Early. Ben Franklin famously said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It was true then and it’s true now. Regardless of what some night-owls might tell you, seven to eight hours of snooze-time are the gold standard if you’re going to stay cognitively sharp in the long-run. Sleep deprivation is cumulative. WebMD says, “The amount of sleep a person needs goes up if they’ve missed sleep in previous days. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that you start to repay the debt.”3 All sleep is not created equal though. You should aim to get as “deep” sleep as possible. How do you know? I use my Garmin 235 GPS sports watch. See the screenshot from the Garmin Connect site below.
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
  • Work Out at Least Six Days a Week. Working out, like weight loss/maintenance, is is a long-term investment in your energy levels. There is no finish line. It’s easy to slack off in the short-term, but over the long haul you’ll not only be less productive daily but you’ll reduce your overall fitness level, making it harder to think straight and stay alert throughout the day. Furthermore, recent research shows that aerobic exercise improves memory and grows brain cells.4 The reason for six days of activity rather than seven is to give your body a time for rest.
  • Nap Daily. Afternoon naps are not just for kids. Why do we forget that when we turn into “big people?” A twenty-minute nap in the afternoon after lunch is just the thing to top off your energy fuel tank for the afternoon to come. A siesta, if you will. As a special treat, come back with a good cup of strong coffee.
  • Plan Tomorrow’s Schedule of Accomplishments. Don’t make your first morning’s activity planning. It’s counter-productive. If you write down a schedule on the prior afternoon, in the morning you can hit the road running. Start with energy, work on your checklist, and keep up the momentum. Will you get it all done? No; not if you’ve given yourself enough work. Prioritize and do what you can. When it’s time to pull down the shutters and you’ve made the next day’s schedule, put it behind you and relax.
  • Set Long-Term Goals. Why long-term goals? Because they are made up of the sum of a line-up of short-term goals. If you focus on the the energy needed for the short-term goals, the long term ones will take care of themselves.
  • Pay Close Attention to Your Diet. Our primary source of physical energy is the food we eat. So, if you are aiming to keep your energy levels up, you should eat healthfully and organically and try to integrate the most nutritious foods into your diet. The energy that you derive from food is measured in calories. MedicalNewsToday says, “If we don’t consume enough calories our bodies may feel tired, as they don’t have enough ‘fuel’ to run on. At the same time, however, if we get too many calories, there’s a system overload, and we may end up feeling sluggish.”5
  • Indulge Yourself in Some Put Yoga, Meditation. Practicing yoga and meditation will also boost your energy levels. Why? Because these practices focus on techniques like mindful breathing that promote a state of calm which in itself is regenerative. It follows that if if your fatigue is due, at least partially, to elevated stress levels, making time for yoga or meditation as a routine self-care approach will make you more resistant to stressors.


  • Learn to Delegate Tasks. You probably feel stifled by your day-to-day responsibilities — from the small daily chores like as doing the dishes, to the less mundane like an important work project that comes with many ramifications. But if you fail to find a comprehensive strategy to redistribute some of your overwhelming responsibilities, at least from time to time, it will likely result in creeping burnout and a constant sense of fatigue in your day-to-day life. This is not at all conducive to your productivity, happiness, and energy level.
  • Do Your Hardest, Most taxing Work in the Morning. The benefits to your energy here are primarily psychological. Your energy level tends to depend a lot on your mood. If you’ve got some important work to do, your mood is likely to be good which fosters productivity. If your are forced to tolerate wasted time on playing email tag, drawn-out meetings, calls, or fail to produce something of substance, you will be frustrated and exhausted as you enter the second half of your work day.
  • Read Better Books! One of the greatest benefits of reading books isn’t just to impart to you new ideas and information. Consider that it’s to reinforce a state of mind that often occurs at your subconscious level. The best books to indulge in aren’t necessarily those that teach you facts, but those that subtly change your entire thinking patterns.

Adopting these 10 habits will increase your energy level right away and raise it to its full potential as time goes on. It will take constant reinforcement, but what worthwhile endeavour doesn’t?

References

  1. Kelly R. Smith, Loneliness as an Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/12/loneliness-as-an-effect-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  2. Sabrina Barr, THE INDEPENDENT, Coronavirus: Why do people seem to feel groggy and tired during lockdown?, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-lockdown-tired-sleepy-fatigue-daylight-routine-a9450196.html
  3. WebMD, How Much Sleep Do I Need?, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-requirements
  4. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Running Improves Memory, Grows Brain Cells, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/11/14/running-improves-memory-grows-brain-cells/
  5. Medical News Today, How can you boost your energy levels?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321938

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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 Improves Memory, Brain Cells

Aerobic Exercise Produces the Cathepsin B Protein


by Kelly R. Smith

Running and brain functionality
Running and brain functionality
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Runners might not all consider themselves to be superior to sedentary people but in all fairness, in our heart of hearts we might suspect it. As it turns out, running and other aerobic exercise does elevate us above the masses, at least with respect to health and mental functionality, all other things being equal. Let’s see how that works exactly.

Scientists now believe that running may help boost memory. This is because the aerobic activity produces a protein which boosts brain cell growth. Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing discovered that when our muscles are exercised they produce a protein called cathepsin B. This makes its way to the brain and triggers neuron growth.

Dr. Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging says “Overall, the message is that a consistently healthy lifestyle pays off.” The key word to focus on here is consistently. It should come as no surprise that one of the fundamental aspects of this healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. It is therefore important to follow a diet for body and brain.

Initial Findings on the Cathepsin B Protein

Praag explains the research this way, “We did a screen for proteins that could be secreted by muscle tissue and transported to the brain, and among the most interesting candidates was cathepsin B. Moreover, in humans who exercise consistently for four months, better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory, is correlated with increased cathepsin B levels.”

Of Mice and Men

Praag’s team initially found that the protein increased when they were studying mice that exercised regularly on wheels. The protein level increased in the blood and muscle tissue the more the mice ran. They next found that when cathepsin B was applied to brain cells in their lab it initiated the production of molecules related to neurogenesis, meaning the growth of neurons.

Additionally, they found that the mice that were genetically modified so that they no longer produced the protein performed less well in memory tests. Dr. van Praag concluded, “We also have evidence from our study that cathepsin B is upregulated in blood by exercise for three species—mice, Rhesus monkeys, and humans.”

How can we as runners reap these benefits? Dr van Praag says, “People often ask us, how long do you have to exercise, how many hours? The study supports that the more substantial changes occur with the maintenance of a long-term exercise regimen.”

Exercising on a Regular Basis Helps Reduces Memory Loss

A Number of health experts have believed in the benefits of running or involved in some other fitness regimen for a quite some time now. Elisa Zied, a member of the American Dietetic Association says, “It’s a no brainer, we know that exercise is something everyone should try to incorporate.”

Another study was undertaken at Columbia University Medical Center that also suggested that exercise may elevate a person’s memory capacity. Researchers in that study were the first to track brain cells in a living brain in an attempt to find the exact area that is the most affected by exercise. What they found is that exercise targets the very region that is associated with the unfortunate age-related memory decline that usually starts around the age of 30.

Participants in this study who were consistently physically active performed better on memory tests than were the participants who neglected exercise. Many health and nutrition experts propose that it’s just one more reason to get active. Zied said, “We’ve known for a long time you get this burst of energy and feel-good chemicals when you exercise, so its not that much of a stretch that it is actually going to preserve your mental function as you get older.”

Increased Blood Flow is an Essential Part of the Process

Webmd.com says, “Researchers found that exercise boosts blood flow to a brain area involved in memory—even in people who aren’t in top shape.” This study shows that just three months of physical exercise was all that was needed for people starting with low levels of aerobic fitness to build up the blood flow to that specific part of their brains and increase scores on memory tests.

In yet another study performed at the University of British Columbia researchers found that consistent aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is involved in verbal memory as well as learning.

Running Improves Memory Both Directly and Indirectly

From a direct point of view, some of the primary benefits of running come from its capacity to lower insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and stimulate the production and release of growth factors. These chemicals in the brain are at least in part responsible for the healthy maintenance and operation of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels internally in the brain as well as regulating the number of, and survival of, new brain cells.

But from an indirect point of view, a regular fitness routine has been shown to improve your mood and regenerative, restful sleep as well as reducing your levels of stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas often cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

A number of other studies suggest that the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling thinking and memory (specifically the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have a larger volume in individuals that are runners as opposed to those who are not.

In a nutshell, if you are a runner, you are doing a lot more for yourself than just keeping the weight off. If you are not a runner, why not start? We can all use an improved memory, and more brain cells as we age.

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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.

Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Sports Watch
Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Sports Watch

This article was updated on 10/27/20.

A high-quality running or sports watch is just as important than the health supplements I take. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the third Garmin I’ve worn over the years and miles. My first one was the 310 XT. Nice watch but it was the early days of GPS and the thing was huge and orange. Not something to wear to work as your default timepiece.

My next one was the 220 which was an improvement in size, aesthetics, and functionality. When it bit the dust after years of loyal service I decided to up my game and buy a 235. It was a smart move.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Features

As I said, the 235 was definitely a step up for my running needs. Here are features that stand out for me.

  • Very fast GPS acquisition. Whereas my 220 would average a minute to be GPS ready, the 235 typically takes 5 – 10 seconds. One less frustration in life, eh? Of course, these numbers will vary by location but the ratio should be about the same.
  • Tracks distance, pace, time, and heart rate. The heart rate is picked up from the underside of the watch. No more bulky chest straps!
  • Activity tracking records daily steps, distance, calories, and sleep patterns.
  • When you are out of GPS sight you can still get your metrics. The built-in accelerometer records distance and pace data when you are running on an indoor track or treadmill. I can’t vouch for its accuracy but it feels to be at least within the realm of legit for my purposes.
  • The ability to customize your data fields, and download watch faces, widgets, and applications.
  • For those who spend all day at their desk, the watch has a red “move bar” on the left side of the face that will appear when you haven’t moved recently (see the image at the top of the page). A trip to the coffee bar and a short leg-stretching stroll will make the bar go away. This is a nice touch for those on a weight loss program; all those steps add up. And face it; too much butt-time is bad for your blood circulation among other things.

Computer Syncing and the Garmin Connect Website

Garmin Connect Partial Screenshot
Garmin Connect Partial Screenshot

The watch uses USB to your computer to sych data, download software updates and third-party apps, and charge the watch, which is fast enough to avoid frustration. After synching with Garmin Express (an app on your computer), one click will bring up the Garmin Connect site. The image above is a partial screenshot of the main landing page. The various blocks give an overview of the various data modules and the menu bar on the left allows drilling for down for details at a smaller degree of granularity.

There is no financial charge for displaying and storing your data; it comes with the purchace. The many charts and graphs are very detailed whether it’s sleep patterns, weight (which you enter manually), cumulative mileage on your shoes, and much, much more. Drilling down from the calendar will show workout details along with a detailed map of your course with street names, which is handy for repeating courses or planning a new one.

Third Party Apps

Garmin wisely has engineered their products to integrate easily with third-party applications. You might be surprised at the vast number available. This is a smart business model because the consumer can buy a basic watch which can be personalized to a degree that frankly, exceeds my expectations.

In my case, I added an app that is designed for walking/hiking. I walk my rescue dog, a Black Mouth Cur, 3-5 miles per day. Another one I installed is the 5 Bretlinge Models Classic watch face. It gives the look of a classic analog watch (suitable for work and dinner parties, ahem). I’m just old-school; I like the hands. But under the hood, it offers many other add-on fields. I added cumulative steps and heart rate so I don’t have to keep pressing that button every time I get curious.

All in all I give the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch 4 out of 5 stars. It fits my purposes with possibilities left over. On occasion (twice in 2 years) the time has just gone off and shown something goofy. Going outdoors and syncing to GPS solved that but I can foresee situations where that would be an inconvenience.


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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.

Body Weight, Fat Percentage, and BMI

by Kelly R. Smith

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Weight loss before and after
Weight loss before and after

This article was updated on 10/29/20.

Here we are. Last January is in the rear view mirror; the new one is fast arriving. Was weight loss one of your New Year’s resolutions? How’s that working out? Weight loss is kind of a nebulous term. What most people really want is fat loss, not to be confused with lean muscle mass loss.

When a person goes on a diet and introduces weight training, the number on the scale starts to lose its meaning and those pounds reflected are not a good way to judge progress. Your “body weight” may not change much but your percentage of body fat does. Why? Because muscle weighs about 15-20% more than fat so the same “weight” of muscle occupies less real estate than fat. The way your clothes fit give a better indication of your progress than the scale does. Of course, if you do not introduce weight training the scale becomes more of a better indicator. This is also true if you take up running.

BMI is the Best Body Fat Guideline

To maintain optimal health it is important to reach and maintain a certain percentage of body fat. There are many components to your weight such as bone density, level of hydration (water), and organs. BMI or Body Mass Index is a method of estimating a person’s body fat percentage based on their weight and height measurement which it assigns a reference number to. It is easy to calculate. Try it below.

It is helpful to continue to weigh yourself on the scale but to get a real grasp on your “weight”, keep referring to the BMI calculator for an assessment of what you really want to know. The longer you are overweight the more chance you have of high blood pressure, stroke, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes. Don’t relapse into your old fat-inducing bad habits.

The relationship between body weight, fat percentage, and BMI is often misunderstood, partly due to commercial marketing and partly due to societal expectations and social media. But now that you know, go fight the good fight and get the results you desire.

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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 New Year’s Resolutions; Path to Success

by Kelly R. Smith

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This article was updated on 12/28/20.

As the old year fades into the sunset and the new one is ushered in, people all over the world will be indulging, not only in partying but in vowing to self-help. Here is a list of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

Running for fitness and health
Running for fitness and health
  • Getting in better physical shape. This is one we should all be doing and there is always room for improvement. Choose something you enjoy — running, walking, cycling, swimming, yoga; the list is endless. Physical fitness can be as frugal or expensive as you want. My favorites are running and walking (with the dog). I only shell out about $200/year in running and/or walking shoes. The walking shoes I currently have on order the Rockport Men’s Activflex Sport Perf Mudguard Walking Shoe model. That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Can’t wait to try them though. When you put in as many miles as the pooch and I do, you have to baby your feet.
  • Stop procrastinating. The largest obstacle keeping most people from closing in on their goals is the natural desire to relax and indulge in some frivolity rather than working hard. As soon as you get used to procrastinating it’s hard to avoid, so be prepared to put in a lot of work to change this normal tendency.
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera

Eat healthier. We could all do a bit of cleaning up our eating habits. The good news is that access to better food choices is better than ever. Try making something new like my low-carb carbonara pictured above. Eating out is fun but spending time in the kitchen will save you money (so you can pay for that workout gear) and allow you to control the ingredients. Go with whole wheat bread rather than fluffy white. James Hamblin of The Atlantic says, “As many eaters of bread came to understand that white bread is a nutritional equivalent of Pixy Stix—the nutritious, fibrous shell of the wheat having been removed, leaving us with only the inner starch, which our bodies almost instantly turn into sugar—it needed some rebranding.” Eat more fruit. Incorporate nuts into your daily eating regimen. Try a new diet. Experiment with new ways of preparing unprocessed food. For example, I’ve recently been making chicken and beef jerky as well as low, low cost dog treats in my food dehydrator.

Expand your confidence and take some chances. Most people don’t exercise their confidence enough and this limits their potential. This is true in the workplace and out of it. In fact, in most cases workers that display confidence are the ones that get ahead. This is true of taking chances as well. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. The best time to start the new you is the beginning of next year when New Year’s Eve is in the rear view mirror. Try making a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and go for it; kind of like a bucket list.

Bring in more money. It’s never enough, is it? While it is important to strike a work/play balance in life, there’s a lot to be said for having a cash cushion. It is never too soon to plan (and save) for retirement. Take up a new side hustle while keeping your day job. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And while we are on the topic of bringing home more bacon, consider improving your credit score.

Stop smoking. This one is a classic. Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest to achieve. I should know; I quit about 35 years ago. While we are on the topic, the jury is still out on vaping. Whichever habit is in question, it’s too much money for too little return. Besides, it really looks dumb. What, are you a whale coming up to the surface to vent your blow hole?

Indulge in more quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough. The recommended amount is 7-8 hours. Do you get that much? According to livescience.com, “About 65 percent of Americans get a “healthy” amount of sleep, or at least 7 hours a night, while 35 percent get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.” My Garmin 235 watch syncs with the computer and one of the things it does is generate a graph of my sleeping time and pattern. It’s very eye-opening.

A money house
A money house

Read more books. Everything competes for our attention today — the internet, TV, radio, the cell phone. Books may seem old school but they educate, entertain, and improve the function of our brains more than anything electronic. And if you use your local library, it’s a (gasp!) free activity! One of my best reads this past year was Dennis Prager’s Rational Bible: Exodus. That said, electronic still has its place, and it can be portable. I favor the Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet because it comes with the Kindle app built in. Here’s a list of my book reviews.

Get out of debt. We’ve already touched on the topic of making more money. If you are in debt (and who isn’t) it is just as important to change that. Look into consolidating your loans. Move credit card balances to a lower interest card. Ditch your bank and join a credit union; you will get favorable interest rates on savings and loans. All these small changes add up.

Learn a new language. This is good for your brain health and communication skills. For example, I am fluent in Spanish. Living in Texas, that’s a good thing. Learn a language that you can use locally. Use it or lose it, as they say.

Maggie the Border Collie
Maggie the Border Collie

Adopt a pet. We’ve got 4 adopted dogs. Science tells us that pets are good for us so we must really be doing great! Of course having a pet involves responsibility so be ready for that.

Take up a new hobby. As an example, my favorite is woodworking. Some people even parlay this into a side gig.

Hopefully this list of top New Year’s resolutions will get you off to a great start. Share it with your friends and social media! Enjoy a bit of frivolity as the old year drifts away.


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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.

Habits that Sabotage Your New Year’s Weight Loss Resolution

If Your Diet Plan has Stalled and You’re Still Overweight, Here’s Why

by Kelly R. Smith

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Metabolism and weight loss
Metabolism and weight loss

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This article was updated on 01/01/21.

It is no secret that your metabolism and the state of your weight are closely intertwined. Your metabolism, paradoxically the opposite of your perception of the passage of time, naturally slows as you age; the Public Health Nutrition Journal confirms this. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is weight loss, you should be aware that some bad habits may be preventing you from reaching your goal. Consider the following unhealthy habits.

Avoid these Habits to Boost Metabolism and Energy

  • Skipping Your Breakfast Meal. Your metabolism slows as you sleep but eating will fire it back up and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. If you miss breakfast your body gets the message that it should conserve rather than burn any incoming calories. Of course, if you are practicing intermittent fasting for weight loss, you might have to modify this tip.
  • Consuming the Wrong Breakfast Food. A sugary doughnut or muffin will set you up for that dreaded sugar crash later. A better strategy is to choose food with filling protein and fiber. Try eggs, ham and onion quiche, yogurt, and berries, or whole-wheat toast topped with peanut butter.
  • Too Much Sitting. Butt-time is not your weight loss friend. If you go from your office chair straight to your car and then to your couch you are developing a very comfortable albeit very sedentary routine. Why? Sitting for long time periods locks your body into the energy-conservation mode, resulting in your metabolism slowing down. It’s best to get up periodically and get the blood flowing. If you tend to get absorbed in your task, you might need a reminder. For example, my Garmin GPS sports watch reminds me when I need to move. The UK’s National Health Service says, “Sitting for long periods is thought to slow metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and break down body fat.”
  • Avoiding Strength Training. Cardio such as running is great, and it can quickly burn many calories, but once you’re done running or cycling, your calorie burn begins to decelerate. When you do HIIT and resistance-based workouts, however, your calorie burn stays elevated for longer as your muscles repair themselves. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says, “Strength training is a key component of metabolism because it is directly linked to muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate.” As a bonus, a pound of muscle burns an additional 4–6 calories each day compared to a pound of fat. Keep in mind that this is where your bathroom scale can mislead you. Putting on muscle mass can make it look like your weight isn’t changing much but you are in fact losing fat. Trust how your clothes fit more than the numbers. If you really want to know what is going on, invest in a digital scale that measures your body fat percentage.
  • Shorting Yourself on Protein. Protein literally is food for your muscles. It also promotes the feeling of being full and it is an important component of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. If you consume too little of it you may have trouble building or maintaining muscle mass. In addition, protein needs more energy to break down than carbs or fat, so you’ll actually burn more calories during digestion. Win-win.
  • Shorting Yourself on Sleep. Just one single bad night’s sleep is enough to leave you feeling lethargic (almost as much as some high blood pressure medication) and impair your thinking process. Compounding several nights in a row or a lifetime of chronic insomnia can be a disaster; the International Journal of Endocrinology tells us that decreased metabolism and hormonal imbalances can result.
  • Being Dehydrated. In yet another study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers determined that consuming 500 milliliters of water (about 2 cups) boosts your metabolic rate by an impressive 30%, and that boost lasts for more than an hour. The takeaway is to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and you’ll get the added benefit of a boosted metabolism.
  • Being Stressed Out. When your stress levels rise, your body produces a hormone called cortisol which triggers increased appetite, leaves you craving comfort foods, reduces your desire to work out, and lowers sleep quality. All four of these things negatively impact your metabolic rate. Since it is unrealistic to think that you can always control your stress levels, using methods to manage stress can go a long way toward regulating your body’s internal fire.

Hopefully this information has helped you to address the habits that can sabotage your weight-loss resolution. If so, share the knowledge and pass the link on to your friends. Getting back in shape is always easier with your support group.


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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 and 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.


Should Runners and Others Supplement with CoQ10?

by Kelly R. Smith

Health Benefits of CoQ10
Health Benefits of CoQ10
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This article was updated on 11/01/20.

To use fitness supplements or not to use fitness supplements; that is the question. Like nutritional needs, the definitive answer seems to flip-flop periodically depending on the most recent studies. Sometimes these “studies” are actually funded by a supplement manufacturer and that is certainly a red flag.

But many times they are conducted independently by reputable sources — these should be taken more seriously. Look for researchers from universities or sports  research labs for the most reliable results.

Do Athletes Have a Special Need for CoQ10?

The general consensus to this question is “yes,” CoQ10 supplements are key. Although sedentary people also need it, runners and other fitness enthusiasts have special needs to satisfy. As the image at the top of this article shows, it helps in areas such as energy, inflammation, cardiovascular, and soreness (think 
DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Another area of benefit is the antioxidant CoQ10 provides. Antioxidants protect us from the damaging effects of free radicals. These are produced in our bodies when we are exposed to things like sunlight, chemicals, and airborne pollutants such as vehicle exhaust fumes. So if you are out running the roads in the daytime…

The Problem with CoQ10 Supplements

There’s always a catch, right? Well, there are many brands on the market but they are not all created equal. The ones you want to avoid are the synthetic ones that are made from tobacco leaves; they are fairly ineffective. These are referred to as the “cis form.” 

The type that really delivers is the “trans form.” This is identical to the CoQ10 produced naturally within the body. The label may say trans form or Ubiquinone USP Grade. Further, absorption can be an issue. Personally I take the Qunol Ulra CoQ110 which boasts 3 times the absorption of regular products because it is both water and fat soluble.

Two More Considerations

First, you should know that the natural amount of CoQ10 present in your body drops as you age. By the time your 50th birthday rolls around the depletion really begins to accelerate.

Secondly, statins, which are prescribed to lower cholesterol, severely deplete your body’s natural levels of CoQ10, which can be very dangerous. A Columbia University study found that within 30 days, your levels of CoQ10 can be decreased by half!

So the bottom line? If you work out, or are approaching 50 years of age, or are prescribed a statin drug, you should seriously consider supplementing with CoQ10.



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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.

Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket Review

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Adidas Men's Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket
Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket

With the weather cooling off and the rain coming more frequently I went in search for a dependable running jacket for running in the cold weather. As an Amazon Prime member I had a plethora of choices. One thing I always do is read the reviews on the Amazon page carefully. I have found that if people actually take time to write the reviews, you can discount some and regard others with credibility but you can always spot common threads. Thus I settled on the Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket.

Fancy name and I haven’t figured out what is “Tokyo-ish” about it but I give it 5 stars. I had narrowed my choice down between this one and a cheaper competitor but the competitor’s Amazon reviews had so many complaints about zippers that I nixed it. The last thing I want to fuss with on a drizzly run is crap zippers.

Water Repellent Features of the Adidas Jacket

First, I should mention that it is super comfortable. Up until this point I had been using a Tyvek jacket from one of the ultramarathons I had done in the past. The problem is, Tyvek material does not breathe although it is perfect for wind-breaking when you are warming up before a race. No wonder it is used to wrap houses before the siding goes on.

The Amazon page claims, “Water Repellency through buttery soft knitted fabric that rejects water and keeps you dry.” This is true. I had to wait for a cold, drizzly day to verify this and sure enough, the rain beads up on it like a freshly-waxed car. While still breathing, I might add. How it does both, I do not know. It brings to mind the old joke of two rednecks discussing the virtues of a thermos bottle. One says, “It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.” To which the other redneck replies, “But how do it know the difference?” OK, bad joke, but that’s just me.

adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket, Semi Solar Yellow, Large

Plenty of Pockets

There is one zippered pocket on the shoulder which is the right size for a cell phone that is lined to keep any moisture out. There are two typical pockets on the outside that you can slip your hands into. Finally, there are two wide pockets on the inside that I like to carry my wallet and keys in when I make that inevitable stop at the grocery store after a run.

I might add here that the jacket did not come with a hood as the Amazon page claimed. It did not disappoint me too much because I’ve never been a hoodie kind of guy, yo. But if this is something that is important to you, take it into consideration.

This jacket also features a “tail” (think of a tuxedo tail without the split). It looks a little goofy but comes in handy keeping your butt dry in the rain. If you are not using it there are snaps to tuck it up inside. Handy, yes?

Many Colors to Choose From

I really wanted a high-visibility color like the orange or lime green but I ended up choosing the blue pattern (see the pic at the top of this page). The solid colors have a kind of “transparent” look on the sleeves that I didn’t cotton to.

So, all in all, I give this Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket five stars for comfort, water-repellency, zipper quality, breathability, and overall workmanship. It is not the cheapest running jacket at about $60 but if you are an avid runner and spend your winter hours pounding out the miles with the chance of rain, sleet, or snow, it’s well worth it.

Tan-Through Shirts and Bathing Suits for Men and W

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Running in the Cold Weather

Modify Your Aerobic Workouts for Optimal Seasonal Training

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Running in the Winter Snow
Running in the Winter Snow
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This article was updated on 03/23/21.

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When I headed out the door this morning to put out the trash and the recycling bin I noticed a small change in the air. OK, the temperature was almost exactly like yesterday and the humidity was not giving me a break, but the air had a certain feel to it. We have turned the corner. It will be a while before we switch back to heat and humidity running.

Fall Season Running

Here in South Texas, fall is the best time for running. Spring is good but fall is the best. Maybe it’s just a feeling of relief from the summer heat. Maybe it’s the fall color as the leaves give up the ghost. Whatever, as long as it cools off I’m a happy camper. An additional benefit? Recent studies show that running improves memory and brain function!

This doesn’t mean I’m ready to start breaking out the singlets or t-shirts yet (those that I still have left after the flood from Hurricane Harvey) but not having my a water bottle run out so fast is a relief. I really like this collapsible handheld running water bottle.

I favor trail running in the fall. The trails can be stifling in the summer heat but in the cooler temps with the leaves falling it can be a mystical experience. One caveat–I still have to remember to keep moving; the mosquitoes will find idle bodies. Don’t let this be you!

Winter Running Clothes

When it gets really cold it’s hard to decide what to wear. I like watch caps (or beanies if you prefer) but they can be itchy depending on what they are made out of.

Long sleeve t-shirts work well for me. The sleeves can go up; the sleeves can go down. Your choice. A windbreaker and a pair of gloves are also nice since they can be put on and removed as the situation calls for. Generally, I don’t need anything on my legs. I don’t know why. Even when I was stationed in the tundra-like state of Maine I didn’t need those long johns on my pins.

That said, I am no stranger to running tights. The better quality ones are light enough to be comfortable without being stifling. Remember that what feels warm enough when you start will quickly become uncomfortable.

Don’t Change Your Running Routine Too Much

When the weather turns cold, it’s tempting to modify the successful training routine. This can be a mistake. What worked before will continue to work. If you are doing marathon training of course continue your yoga or stretching, just do it inside, preferably before and after your jaunt.

Rather than shortening your workouts, search out better locations, especially for your weekend long runs. As mentioned above, trail running is excellent in cold weather because it cuts down on chilling wind. But there are other possibilities. The Weather Channel and other sites can give you detailed info on wind direction and strength. Plan in advance. It goes without saying that if you are training for a particular event, you want to match the environment as closely as possible. That includes the prevailing wind.



Other Just-In-Case Preparations

Running in warmer weather is the ideal minimalist workout; the simplicity is part of the beauty. Winter can be a different story. Consider taking along some cash money in case you, for some reason, have to take a break close to a convenience store. A cup of strong coffee or hot chocolate might be in order. A few packs of long runs. You’ll need a running gear belt for all this.



Running in the cold weather does require a shift in technique but it does not mean abandoning your training plan. It might help to pick a race goal to train for. Setting your sights can also set your outcome.

Further Reading


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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.