Do It For The V

I’ve been talking a lot about all these road races I’m doing in the next two months – the 5K (from Sunday), the two 10K’s, and of course the half-marathon. I’m fortunate so many companies have signed on to sponsor me – they have made it possible for me to do these races and to continue to do work for a great cause (please be sure to check out the sponsors page and see who’s helped me out – they’re all great!). I’ve only made a small announcement on Facebook, but the big news is –

I’m fundraising for The V Foundation For Cancer Research!

Yes, this campaign of runs is a fundraising campaign, and the fundraising officially started a few days ago. You can visit my online fundraising page here if you’d like to make a contribution. All of my training, My Story, and My Transformation has made this possible.


So…what IS The V Foundation and why do I (you) care?


 The V Foundation’s mission statement, found on their website, is:

The V Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by helping to find a cure for cancer.  The Foundation seeks to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research and by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer.  The Foundation performs these dual roles through advocacy, education, fundraising, and philanthropy.

The V Foundation was founded in 1993 by former NCAA basketball coach and N.C. State Athletic Director Jim Valvano with the assistance of ESPN. It was announced in a tear-jerking speech at the 1993 ESPY awards (seen below).

Basically, Jimmy V was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wanted to help find a cure. Going through it from the patient side of it, he realized just how slowly cancer research fundraising ended up benefiting the actual patient, so he sought to speed up the process. Jimmy V passed away just two months after his ESPY speech, but 20 years later The V Foundation is going strong, making an impact, and working hard towards realizing his ultimate goal of finding a cure.

So what exactly am I doing to help?

I am running four races to raise awareness and raise money for The V Foundation. One of them has already happened, the other 3 are all in the month of October.

9/22/13 – Tavern to Tavern 5K – Cambridge, MA (finished 200/722 – time: 23:51 – 7:45 min/mile)
10/5/13 – Canal Run For The Troops 10K – Buzzard’s Bay, MA
10/20/13 – 31st Annual Boston Firefighters Local 718 Memorial Road Race 10K – Dorchester, MA
10/26/13 – Cape Cod Marathon Half – Falmouth, MA

I’m currently fundraising through word of mouth and online through social media. You can, again, reach my online fundraising page here:
http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SoTHISIsFitness/ccm13
 I’m in the process of brainstorming a fundraising event to hold locally. More on that soon (I hope!).

Why The V Foundation?

I know there are a million charities out there I could be fundraising for and some people have asked me how/why I chose The V Foundation. The answer is very simple: My college fraternity – The Delta Chi Fraternity, Inc. – partnered up with The V Foundation in 2006. Almost every philanthropy event I did as an undergraduate member of my Chapter was to benefit The V Foundation…needless to say I had a lot of exposure to it and what it stood for. After raising over $2,800 for Dana-Farber through my Falmouth Road Race run, I thought it’d be nice to do something similar for the first charity I ever really worked with and that I had such ties to. All money raised through this campaign will be donated to The V Foundation on behalf of The Boston Area Alumni Chapter of Delta Chi.

So why should I care? And why should I contribute?

These days it seems like everything causes cancer. We’re figuring out every day that something else we’ve gotten used to can give us cancer! Even some of those who do their best to avoid carcinogens can be struck by the disease, and unfortunately, nearly everyone has a friend or family member who has been touched by some form of cancer. Cancer has stumped the world’s top scientists for years, and the research necessary to learn more and figure out how to beat cancer takes a lot of time, training and equipment which, of course, costs a lot of money.  By contributing to fundraising for organizations like The V Foundation, we can help build up the funds needed for grants to help researchers who are working so hard to find a cure.

Please help me make this a successful fundraising campaign!

On behalf of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and The Boston Area Alumni Chapter of The Delta Chi Fraternity, Inc. I thank you all in advance for your help, support, and generosity! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask – Darrell@SoTHISIsFitness.com

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SoTHISIsFitness/ccm13

What Is “Good Enough”? + Tavern2Tavern5K Recap

It’s been a mind-blowing couple of weeks for me. Within the last few weeks so much has happened…finished Body Beast, broke 190 lbs, got heavy into yoga, blowing away PR after PR running…I’m ecstatic to say the least! Then yesterday, I ran the Tavern to Tavern 5K and completely shattered my last 5K time and my expectations for the day.

But why? How?
I decided that everything I had done and accomplished so far wasn’t good enough.
On this beautiful Motivational Monday Morning I want to talk about the words “good enough”. This is partly a Tavern to Tavern 5K recap and partly a breakdown of that phrase so many people use and can’t break past. The last few weeks has really made me think about those two simple words…it’s time for everyone else to think about it too.

So, let’s start with The Tavern to Tavern 5K Recap
This was a fun race! There were 722 runners total – male, female, young, old…a good mix of people to make things interesting. Apparently the race organizer had a hell of a time – due to construction in Cambridge he had to re-map the course route 17 times in the last week or two. Poor guy! I’m sure he had to deal with the hardcore runners who were all bent out of shape that they didn’t know the EXACT course layout, etc etc. I was a little bummed because I was expecting a flat course, but it didn’t really matter in the end – I had fun anyway. Isn’t that the important part? The course ended up being a kind of lollypop loop – out along one street, took a right and did a loop, eventually came back to the street we started on, ran past where the starting line was and went through the finish line “chute”. There were definitely some hills on the course but overall I feel like I was able to power through it. I had to remind myself to do my own thing, don’t worry about everyone passing me. I don’t care HOW fast I was able to go yesterday…there’s still going to be someone faster than me. I mean…the top finisher came in at a little over 15 minutes…are you kidding me? Yeah, I can deal with people passing me. I think that’s what saved me – if I had let it get to me and tried to go even harder I’m pretty sure I would’ve crapped out.
There was a great post-race party too! Sam Adams / Boston Beer Company sponsored the party so there was free Sam Boston Lager and Curious Traveler summer shandy. Pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. The race organizer was also giving away a TON of swag, so that was pretty cool. Ended up getting this year’s shirt, both a regular and performance version of last year’s, plus pint glasses! Whoever says they don’t care about the t-shirts at a road race is either lying or has too many t-shirts. Get it in a medium and give it to me if you don’t want it. Hah.
Thanks again to Flex Appeal Sports Nutrition for sponsoring me! 

So what about this “good enough” thing?
Well, that’s why I feel I can combine the “Motivational Monday” article I wanted to write and my recap of the race…they go hand in hand. In yesterday’s race I was reaching for the sky and shooting for breaking 25 minutes. Considering I ran a 5K in my neighborhood in 26:30…I thought knocking a minute and a half off was a good goal. And what ended up happening?
I broke 24 minutes instead.

It made me stop and double-check the LED time clock at the finish…”did that really happen?” – I SMOKED the time I was aiming for…absolutely smashed it. I finished in 23:51 (in the above pic I had actually already crossed – can’t tell from the angle). Many people would think that kind of progress was plenty good enough and would be completely satisfied with where they had gotten. They’d understand that it was only 5K and perhaps that pace (roughly 7:40 min/mile) might be a bit too fast for a longer race, like a 10K or 5 miler and they’d be OK with that.
I am not OK with that answer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m THRILLED with my performance yesterday! Absolutely, positively pleased as punch that I went that fast and shattered my previous Personal Record (which, by the way, I only set within the last couple weeks).
But why stop there?
I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day – she runs, she’s kind of a fitness person…and she said something that stuck with me. It went something like “I see all these other people and I think to myself – I’m doing better than a lot of these other people…that’s good enough for me.” – I didn’t really know what to do with that. She was basing her goals on her opinion that she was in better shape than a lot of other people and thus, didn’t need to go any further. I don’t get it. For me…it’s not about anyone else. It’s about me, and being better than I was yesterday. There’s no such thingas “good enough”…it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense.
As far as I’m concerned, fitness should be about constant improvement of oneself. Continue to reach higher, go farther, run faster, lift heavier, improve your physique…continually become a better you. “Good enough” is an excuse to stop. “Good enough” is (no offense) the lazy man’s way out. It’s a cop-out, and I think it opens the door for “I Don’t Feel Like It Syndrome” to set in. Why should where you’re at be “good enough”?
You have not yet reached the mountaintop.
Over time, yes, progress will slow down. Your improvements will become smaller and will take more time to achieve. That’s OK. I’m losing weight much more slowly now than when I started, but I also don’t have 100 lbs to lose anymore. I’m increasing my weights a bit more slowly now, but I’m not weak and wimpy anymore. I’m reaching farther in my stretches a bit more slowly now, but I can already reach pretty far.
It’s all relative.
After a while, these things happen more slowly and after more work because…well…you’re already doing so well! Take that as another measure of success! I CAN’T lose weight at the rate I used to…because I don’t have that much left TO lose! Don’t lose faith once you get “pretty good”, and don’t let “pretty good” become “good enough”. “Pretty good” can still become “really good” and “really good” can become “wow, I’m impressed”! Continue to work hard and test your limits. Fitness is about how you stack up against Yester-You. Continue to become a better you. It’s not about anyone else, it’s not about how many people you’re going faster than, and it’s not about how many people you’re generally better off than. It’s about you, you and only you. I finished 200th out of 722…that’s pretty good! Next time I’m sure I’ll do even better. There’s no such thing as “good enough”. Don’t forget…
You can always keep improving. Get it.

Lose Your Limits

Now that I’ve undergone such big changes and my body has transformed so much, I’ve gotten a better understanding of both my pre-fitness mindset and my current boundaries and limitations. The funny thing is…they go hand in hand.

On this Motivational Monday morning, I want to have a (relatively) brief and (per usual) candid chat about knowing yourself, being in touch with your body, and learning your limits. I hope many of you will come to find what I did – it’s all in your head.

When I was 300 lbs part of what was holding me back was The Fear Monster. I was afraid to get up and go, I was afraid of failure. I wasn’t really sure what my physical limits were…where my boundaries lay…but I figured the bar was pretty low. I knew how easily I got winded and I wasn’t too keen on finding out just how little I could really do. So I just assumed I was pretty limited in terms of physical fitness. No running a mile, no heavy lifting, no endurance to speak of…nothing.

Then I started getting fit. I started pushing it, going until exhaustion…and then continuing. This was a big step for me…I had never tested my boundaries…never challenged my limits. But I had to get through the workout. I had to keep up with the people in the video. I had to look impressive for Megan or at least look like I was making progress. Slowly but surely the little victories came…I could do regular push-ups instead of on my knees…I could do the jump a little between lunges instead of having to step quickly through them…progress is progress, right? Slowly, I kept getting better. I even tried going for a run!

Then Something Happened Last Week – 
I finished Body Beast…and I started getting onto my endurance training calendar for the half-marathon I’m running. I went out for a run, and decided to do a fast 5K. Just go and see what I can do. I was cookin’. I got back home and crossed my little “finish line”…and Runkeeper’s audio cues came on when I “stopped” the run – my pace had drastically improved. I’m not talking like baby steps progress, good for you, rah rah rah…I’m talking WHOA…who kicked on the afterburners? I got 8:22 min/mile average – that’s about a minute and a half off my usual mile time. I had no idea how I went that fast or maintained that pace over 3.1 miles…but I did it.

The Next Day I went on a longer run – I had planned on 8 miles but only had time for 5, so I went. As I was running I heard my Runkeeper audio cues over the music of my playlist…telling me 9:15 min/mile, 8:56 min/mile, 8:57 min/mile…um…EXCUSE ME? I was doing it again! This time, I was going farther…could I maintain that past the 3 mile mark? Was it possible?

YES! I did 5.06 miles in 44:36. That’s an average pace of 8:49. You’ve got to be kidding me! The bottom line here is…my initial perceptions have gone out the window…totally shattered. My boundaries have been pushed off a cliff. I don’t actually know what my limits are now, but I’m convinced I can continue pushing them and improving. People like to say “no, that’s impossible” “no, there’s no way I can do that”. Nonsense. One of my favorite quotes out there…is about the word “impossible”.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali

We create our limits in our minds. I firmly believe that, given time and training, anything is possible. Our bodies are amazingly adaptable and will take as much as we are willing to throw at them. The human body can morph from 300 lbs and sedentary to 160 lbs and running ultramarathons. The body will learn to do what you tell it. If you just take the time and train, you can do anything. That’s how professional body builders get so huge. That’s how these people who run 100 mile races get that kind of endurance. That’s how I got where I am. I whole-heartedly believe that, and I hope others will come to figure it out as they too push their limits and learn their potential.

The mind is an incredibly powerful thing – if you believe you’re sick, and you believe it hard enough, your body will manifest that and you’ll get sick (it’s an actual medical thing). If you believe you can’t do something, you simply won’t be able to. If you believe that you can’t run, you will never make it past the first mile. But if you let go of the mental roadblocks you’ve created for yourself and just…well…try…you’ll be amazed at the things you can accomplish. In the last week I have had so many personal milestone accomplishments…its like all of a sudden I broke through to a new place. My body is more flexible, I found  core strength I didn’t know I had, I can run faster…all because I just let go of all the mental roadblocks and limits that I thought I had.

Lose your limits.  

I challenge you not to focus on what you can’t do, or what you think you can’t do…but to work on being better than you were yesterday. Reach a little farther, go a little faster, experiment with  a little more weight…you’ll find that over time, as you try harder and harder, you will go farther and farther. You will shatter your own perceptions of your ability. No matter how out of reach something might seem, just remember –

It won’t come to you…you have to work for it.
So get out there and GET IT!

Body Beast – Results and Recap

Another program finished, another round of “after pictures” and measurements. I’m pretty stoked, not gonna lie. This is the reward after every workout program…results. There is nothing quite like seeing the fruits of your labors. I usually just post a bunch of pictures on Facebook and call it a day, but I decided, this time, to do my “after recap” in the form of an article talking not just about my results, but the program itself.

So, I’ll dive right into my results (since that’s the best part!) then cover a little bit about Body Beast.

Results (only listing changed measurements):
Weight – 188 lbs (from 197.8)
Biceps – 15 in. (from 13.8!)
Waist – 32 in. (from 34)
Chest – 39 in. (from 40.8)
Thighs 23.5 in. (from 25.3)
Calves 17.5 in (from 18)

Neck and hips stayed the same, but I wasn’t really expecting any movement there – tough for those to get any smaller. Overall…wow! More fat was cut all over, and my biceps blew up! Now…before we delve into this…take a look at what those kind of changes look like when done by building muscle while at the same time cutting fat –

All I can say is…wow! A year makes a big difference, huh? So how about some from before and after just this program? (blue shorts are after, neon are before)

So, what happened?
I tried to eat in such a way that I would, essentially, be cutting and bulking at the same time – only adding lean mass (muscle) while at the same time burning fat. While it can be difficult to see some of the differences between before and after bodybeast (yellow/black and blue shorts) I think I can safely say…it worked! I leaned out a bit more, cut inches in some places and added inches in others (biceps), and I can see more tone and definition. Could I have added more muscle if I ate differently? Probably. But I was being careful. Having been so big before…I wanted to make sure I stayed on track and didn’t go back up. I’m not ready for TRUE bulking (which I’ll talk about in a later article). I couldn’t handle it mentally…I’d get unhappy really fast.

So What’s So Special About Body Beast?

Body Beast’s “thing” is it uses dynamic set training. Dynamic Set Training changes things up – you do several types of sets:
traditional “single sets” (eg. 10 reps x 3 sets)
“super sets” (two exercises back to back (eg. 10 reps incline bench then 10 reps incline fly = set 1)
“giant sets” (three exercises)
“drop sets” (final set is really two – 8 reps heavy weight immediately drop to 8 reps lighter weight)
“force sets” (5 sets of 5 reps back to back to back with ~5 sec rest in-between)

It forces your body to work harder, use more muscles, and get bigger. Sagi Kalev, the program’s creator and the big jacked guy in the video, says that if you do it right and eat right your body has no choice but to get bigger. I’m inclined to believe him, seeing my results. The program is split into three phases – Build, Bulk, and BEAST. Build gives you a foundation to work up from, Bulk packs on the muscle with heavy lifting focusing on a single muscle group, and Beast is sort of a combination, designed to help you lean out a bit, get some tone and see the definition you’ve been working for over the past couple of months.

Every workout program out there is all about getting slimmer, tighter, losing weight…if you want to gain weight, build muscle, and get BIG…Body Beast is for you. Next time I’m ready to bulk and get some serious muscle on…I will be coming back to Body Beast. It’s a monster!

So Now What?

Now it is time to put away the pre-workout, leave the iron on the rack, and go back to cardio-land. I’m beginning the serious endurance training for the Cape Cod Marathon Half. I’ll be doing a combination of running training, yoga and a new BeachBody Program – Focus T25 (from the creator of INSANITY). I’ll try to post some periodic updates to talk about how that program is.

Just remember – If I can do this, anyone can. That includes YOU.

Making It Work – Time Management

There really just aren’t enough hours in the day. Life is busy! We have so many things we need to get done in 24 hours…and it’s just not enough. Work, sleep, eat, meetings, chores, errands, meet up with friends…before you know it you’re overdue on a whole laundry list of things…oh and there’s the laundry too! I have a whole screen of my phone (multiple homescreens) dedicated to my “To Do”. That’s it, right there! That’s not even the whole list…those widgets scroll. I even have to color-code it to keep it all straight. I’m sure some of you can relate.

Bottom line is…how are we supposed to be expected to juggle everything we’ve got going on AND get a workout in? It’s crazy! What if you work a 12 hour day? What if you’ve got the kids to worry about? It just. Doesn’t. WORK.

Well…On this lovely Motivational Monday morning…I’m here to tell you…We have to make it work. “BUT HOW?! I just can’t do it!” Yes. You CAN. And it’s not as daunting as it might seem.

OK… I know what you’re probably thinking.

You’re probably thinking I have no idea how busy you are, how much you have to get done, and  how much this just doesn’t work for you. Well…that’s just the thing. It’s not GOING to work for you. You have to make it work. You have to work. Nothing worthwhile in this world comes easy. Your ideal body is no exception to that rule. It’s never easy adding something else onto your plate, and that goes doubly so for a commitment of this magnitude. Last August, if I knew what this was going to become…300 lb me probably wouldn’t have gone for it. 300 lb me would think 188 lb me was insane.

Baby steps. 


What I find is that most people staring a workout regimen in the face aren’t looking at that big of a picture – they’re looking at day one. Or week one. They’re looking at 45 minutes squeezed into their day, or an hour, an hour and a half, even two hours when all’s said and done getting to the gym, working out, showering, coming home…oh no Darrell…that’s SO much time I don’t have!

That’s the thing…

If that’s the mentality…you probably just don’t want it bad enough yet. I know I know…I don’t know you, I have no idea what you want…

Truth of the matter is, when you want something bad enough, you will move mountains to make it happen. If not, you won’t move very far from the couch. I know plenty of people who say they don’t have time, they’re SO busy…but somehow find time to watch hours and hours of TV each day…(“I Don’t Feel Like It” Syndrome, anyone?)

The important thing to know is: There is ALWAYS a way to make it work.

So, I’ve done a lot of talking but I haven’t told you how yet.

You have to take a good hard look at what you’ve got going on in your life. Look at your daily schedule. You probably have a LOT of free time that you don’t even realize you have! My college fraternity – Delta Chi, has a part of their scholarship program dedicated to Time Management – I’m pulling this directly from that program…because it works. Take a blank weekly schedule like the one below (you can download it from http://www.time-management-abilities.com/printable-planners.html under “advanced planners”:

Fill it out in order of:
1. Work (include travel time and getting ready…be reasonable)
2. Sleep
3. Meals (including cook time)
We’ll pause here. All the remaining time, right now, is “free time”. Yes, I know, you have SO MUCH you need to do…that’s not free time. Well…here’s where the next step comes in…Prioritizing.

Yes, there’s a lot you need to get done. Ok, great. This is the time where you need to decide what is ACTUALLY important. You might surprise yourself. Things like doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping (gotta have food to eat, right?) picking the kids up from school or bringing them to sports/activities/etc are going to be high priorities. Many of these things likely have to happen at a certain time, so that’s going to bump them a little higher up on the priority list as well. All of the other little things you need to get done are probably lower priority items. So, let’s go ahead and put those high priority items on the calendar. So now we have

1. Work | 2. Sleep | 3. Meals | 4. High Priority Items

And the rest is free time. There’s still probably a good bit of free time left each day, right? It might be occurring at strange times, but it’s there. This is the part where you can shimmy a workout in.

Yes, I know…you still have SO MUCH you need to get done. That’s what prioritizing is about. If you’re still reading this, you’ve already decided that getting your health and fitness straightened out is a high enough priority that you can shuffle some lower-priority things around. So, let’s find a convenient place to stick that workout. I like to work out first thing in the morning…energizes me, gives me a boost for my day, gets it out of the way and…frankly…at the end of a long day I’m worn out and there’s a good chance I could lose motivation. I recommend you work out as early as you can. The earlier you work out, the more energy you’ll have and the more successful your workout will be.

So now we’ve got
1. Work | 2. Sleep | 3. Meals | 4. High Priority | 5. Workout | 6. Low Priority

Now you can fit all of those other lower-priority items into your day. Throughout the course of the week, I’m sure there’s enough free time to get everything done that you need to get done. You probably even STILL have some free time left after that! This will even work for the people who work crazy shifts.

Yes, this is not a fool-proof system. There are some people out there who work two jobs, three jobs, are going non-stop, and might not think they have time. Well, these are the people who need to take “make it work” to heart. I know plenty of people who will sacrifice something to make the workout happen. Sleep just a little bit less, get up a little bit earlier, go to bed a little earlier or later, take a little less time to eat, get ready for work a little bit faster…You need to look at your schedule once you’ve gone through the list of work, sleep, meals, and high priority items and think hard about what or how you can shuffle, squeeze or re-arrange to make it work.

I challenge you to stay strong and put the workout into the schedule before the low priority items. The only reason I wouldn’t count the workout as a “high priority item” is because it doesn’t have to happen at a particular time. High priority items should be the kind of thing that either HAS TO happen first, or has to happen at a particular time (such as a doctors appt., or getting to a business before it closes, etc).

I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error getting my schedule to work. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Working in a restaurant, my schedule is different week to week…I have to make it work. As I’ve gone through these 5 different programs I’ve done, I’ve gotten a little better at it each time. But, as I get more and more dedicated to my fitness I have to look a little harder at my schedule. I’ve designed an endurance training schedule for my half-marathon run that is pretty involved…I’m juggling a workout program, running, and yoga. I have commitments with Delta Chi, my Masonic Lodge, work, my fiancee, etc etc. I’m making it work. You can too.

In almost every case there is a way to make it work. You just have to find it. If you can’t, reach out to me at Darrell@SoTHISIsFitness.com and I will do my best to help you figure it out. If you find you’re having a hard time keeping your priorities straight (or doing the prioritizing in the first place) or want a community to help keep you accountable and share your struggles, please feel free to join the “So Fit” Family on Facebook. It’s a special community within the “So THIS Is Fitness…” world where we share our successes, seek support during tough days, seek and share advice and keep each other motivated to be and do our best and get to the goal we’re all chasing.

Just remember…