I have learned that all of us have a sense of adventure within us, a kind of spirit that, by being outside, has slowly been unlocked within me. I never thought that I would ever want to travel, trail run, or climb a mountain. I never thought that was something that I would really embrace. It all goes back I think to that sense of adventure that I think we all innately have.
That is the physical part. Spiritually, I really like my connection to nature. I am usually in Central Park. It is not the woods proper, but there is so much life – people, trees, flowers, animals, dogs – you learn to appreciate your connectivity to your surroundings much more. It has also done wonders for my mental health. To get fresh air every day, meet people, and explain what I do, there is so much to appreciate.
"Mindset in Action" came about through a dear friend of mine, Mitch Aguiar. He and I connected via Instagram. He is a former-Navy SEAL and he is an entrepreneur now. His credo is "Mindset is Everything," and I got to thinking about that. I thought, "Mindset is Everything" is a very inspirational quote. However, inspiration is perishable. In other words, if you are not going to do anything with that inspiration, it just goes into thin air.
Mitch and I have been good friends and he has helped me a lot, so I was thinking about gratitude and thanking someone for helping me along those lines. I thought to myself, people always say, "How can I ever thank you?" or "What can I ever do to thank you." To me, that is BS. The way you thank someone is to embody what their philosophy is, make it your own, and show that person, through your actions, that you are thanking them and that they have made a positive impact on you.
So "Mindset in Action" really came about as a logical step from "Mindset is Everything." Without action, it does not do anybody any good.
Their sense of accomplishment, especially when there are freezing cold temperatures and snow. I think it comes from a sense that they got out and did something different, above and beyond what they would have experienced in a gym.
The rocks I work with range in weight from 10-100lbs. You cannot compare them to balanced implements like a barbell or kettle bell. A 50lb rock is going to feel like an 80lb dumbbell. It has to do with their random distribution of weight and composition. Two rocks may look the same but when you pick them up, they feel completely different. This lack of even distribution makes movement harder and works muscles you would not normally work in the gym.
“The great part about being outside is that you are not compartmentalized. You look around and you see possibilities. You get more creative and start to think about how to use objects that, in everyday life, you would just walk by. When it comes to training outdoors, the sky is the limit.”
There are fewer modern distractions outside. In a gym, there are sounds systems, machines, Wi-Fi, televisions, monitors, mirrors, and LED lighting. When you are outside, it really becomes about the people around you. You feel more connected and in it together.
Training outdoors prepares you for life. It is about doing the hard things and seeking adversity. Most of my clients start in the warmer weather, so it is a gradual progression into the winter. Once that winter loosens its icy grip in March and April, I see it on their faces. They can appreciate the warmth, the sun, and the light because they have gone through the cold, the rain, and the hardship.
When it comes to training through the winter, you burn so many more calories, it is unbelievable how much more you burn, just through the effect of your body trying to stay warm through the cold.
Running a marathon was something I always wanted to do. Six months ago, I decided it was time. Looking through Runner’s World, I saw that the New Jersey Marathon was scheduled for April. Given that it was October, the spring time-frame made sense and as a New Jersey native, I could not think of a better way to start my marathon journey.
Before getting into a routine, I wanted to develop a decent cardio base, so for October and November, I focused on running three miles a day, four days a week. Once I felt strong, I began a program that my sister used for the New York City Marathon. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, I ran. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, I cross-trained.
Like most marathon programs, my runs were scheduled around micro and macro phases. Micro phases were shorter runs that ranged from 3-6 miles during the week. Macro phases were longer, 7-24 mile runs over the weekend. In the beginning, the flywheel started slow, but as weeks rolled into months, so too did my momentum.
When I ran, I did not want to carry my phone and keys, so I invested in an Osprey pack. The one I used was called the Duro 6. It came with a 1.5-liter reservoir that provided just enough hydration for my weekend runs. Designed for trail running, it kept my phone, keys, and wallet dry through snow and rain, and had a bounce-free carry that protected my shoulders and lower back.
In terms of running shoes, I started with Hoka Torrents. When I ventured off-road, they were awesome, but when I hit the pavement, they put a lot of stress on my knees. As an alternative, I tried Salomon's Sonic RA Max 2s. They worked well on- and off-road and had a more comfortable ride. After two months with the Hoka's, I went with the Salomon's.
During the week, my pre-workout routine was simple. Each morning, I started with a banana and a glass of water. After my workout, I recovered with eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, and avocado. For weekend runs, I used Ultima Replenisher (they carry it at Whole Foods), Laird Hydrate, and Honey Stinger Waffles. On race day, my go-to’s were sourdough toast with almond butter and honey, three bananas, and a 1.5-liter reservoir of lemon-lime Gatorade.
Through training, there were a lot of ups and downs. When rising early, climbing inclines, or struggling with long runs, I would hear the same, simple question: Why? Why are you doing this? In these moments, my brain would try to push me toward comfort and if I did not have an answer to that nagging question, I was doomed.
When I was not running to music, I listened to audio-books. One of my trusted running partners was David Goggins’, Can’t Hurt Me. A former Navy SEAL and one of the world’s top endurance athletes, David’s story is one of mental toughness, self-discipline, and relentless hard work.
One of the tools he uses to overcome physical challenges is something he calls the cookie jar. Recounting his successes, he writes them down on pieces of paper, folds them in half, and drops them in a jar. When tough times come, he pulls out a "cookie." Overtime, this physical repository becomes a mental one that he calls from on demand.
I figured, if it worked for him, it would work for me. Following suit, I wrote down a list of my proudest moments, and when my mind started asking me: Why? I had an answer.
When COVID-19 picked up in March, I received an email about the marathon. Due to the outbreak, New Jersey had postponed the race until November. Regardless, I was well-trained. I decided to map out an unofficial route and run it anyway. It was not ideal, but it was something, and a little act of defiance amid the pandemic was something to looked forward to.
On the morning of Saturday, April 25, it was 60 degrees and sunny. Before starting at the Shrewsbury Bridge in Sea Bright, I looked at my Strava map to review my course - a long straight shot down the New Jersey coast that ended in Mantoloking.
Shrewsbury River Bridge, Sea Bright Beach
It took a few miles to settle in, but around mile five, I started moving at a good pace. Reaching the boardwalk in Asbury Park, I took my first pit-stop outside the Stone Pony – the infamous concert venue where Bruce Springsteen got his start.
Stone Pony, The House that Bruce Built
At this point, I was at mile 15 and feeling great. New Jersey beach towns were flying by – Ocean Beach, Bradley Beach, Avon, Belmar – until I hit Spring Lake. Approaching a beachfront hotel along Ocean Avenue, I broke down. My right t-band was wrapped around my knee like a steel cable. Pain hovered around an 8 or 9, and I began to get nauseous.
I was confused. I ran 24 miles in training and, yeah, my knee hurt, but not like this. While stretching out, I looked at the road and noticed that it's tilt was steep. Given its proximity to the beach, it made sense. If there was a flood, the oceanfront had to drain water – the steeper the tilt, the better.
I had been running on the left shoulder for 20 miles. With my right leg on the inside part of the incline, it forced an unbalanced stride and concentrated the impact on my right knee. Even though it was hard to bend, I figured that if I switched to the right shoulder, I could the use the extra length to balance things out. Locking my knee, I walked across the street and began running.
The first few minutes were excruciating, but eventually, blood started flowing and the pain subsided. With my sympathetic nervous system kicking in, I caught a second wind. I outran the pain for two miles before it pulled me to a halt. When it did, I stretched out, locked my knee, and repeated the process two more times.
Finally, I reached Mantoloking and pulled out my phone to look at my stats. Seeing 26.6 miles on the tracker, I let out a sigh of relief and took a precarious seat on the curb of 35 South. My knee was throbbing, but I was happy.
Race day stats
In their quest for enlightenment, the legendary monks of Mount Hiei in Japan put themselves through an excruciating endurance challenge: 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days. In the last 1,300 years, only 46 men have managed to do it. One of these 46 men sat down with the The Guardian five years ago to share his story.
"Sometimes I had slumps," Marathon monk
When I first looked at this photo, it was not what I imagined. Does this pudgy guy look like a genetic marvel born to run? He lives in an unassuming suburb in Kyoto, and, when not in his white robes, he lounges around the house in a tracksuit. Humble and honest, the marathon monk admits that he struggles every day with the same question that all humans are interested in “Why are we alive?”.
To me, running is a type of meditation through movement. It has a simplicity, a power, a way of clearing the mind. Most importantly, it has a job description that I find equalizing: hard work wanted, talent not required.
In this life, there are many paths to the same place. I am convinced that if you are blessed with a full-functioning body, and really want it, anyone can run a marathon. It may not be as fast as you want, or as easy, but you can do it.
The pacing crew
A tremendous amount of thanks to my family. Endurance training is a selfish sport. Without a support crew to pick you up, you can only get so far. And to my sister, without your passion for the New York City Marathon, I would not have found the inspiration to get it done.