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Homegrown Cup makes for family tradition

12 Jul

By ALEX MATTHEWS–Commentary | Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:39 am

HUDSON FALLS — Friends through the years and competitors by design, two father/son teams descended on Kingswood Golf Club on Sunday for an annual event.

Months ago, 23-year-old Ian Mikutel marked his calendar and arranged to fly nearly 3,000 miles home from his Microsoft job in Seattle for the summer classic. His father, Gary, fit the 18-hole tee time between being regional manager of Xtra Mart convenience stores and co-owner of Sprinkles Ice Cream in Queensbury.

Gary Mikutel, left, and his son Ian, second from left, pose with the winners of the 2011 Kenutel Cup, Brian Kenyon and his father, Doug, far right, at Kingswood Golf Club in Hudson Falls on Sunday.

Their opponents and the defending champions, Doug Kenyon, the executive director of Section II Athletics, and his son Brian, a web program manager, also made time for the Kenutel Cup (pronounced ken-you-tell, a combination of Kenyon and Mikutel).

Brian, 33, drove from Somerville, Mass., with his pregnant wife, and Doug coordinated her baby shower so as not to conflict with the Cup.

Thank goodness Derek Jeter hit 3,000 on Saturday, when the Mikutels were sitting about 12 rows behind home plate at Yankee Stadium. They couldn’t have watched baseball on Sunday.

“It’s one of the things I look forward to most every year,” Ian said of the annual golf match that involves no money. “Especially because we’ve been losing.”

Heading into Sunday, Team Kenyon had won the Cup six out of seven years. After they won the first in 2003, Doug bought a trophy and engraved the two family names on the side to keep a running tally.

On the left, the Kenyons owned a long list, while 2004 went in the Mikutels’ right-hand column. The Cup was not contested in 2006 because, frankly, “life happened,” the group agreed.

Upon greeting the Mikutels to start the day, Doug held the golfers’ trophy in a hand towel.

“I brought the Cup,” he said. “The Cup is here, baby!”

Doug put it in the back of his golf cart and the four proceeded to the driving range. Twenty minutes before their 9 a.m. tee time, the Mikutels wasted no time practicing their swing with a bucket of balls.

The Kenyons, meanwhile, appeared more relaxed. Doug was considered the best player in the group, and Brian hadn’t played a round of golf in nearly a year.

On the second hole, Brian, who said his job at COMSOL Multiphysics catered to rocket scientists, pulled out his phone and checked into Facebook’s Foursquare location application. The last time he played golf was seven months ago, he said.

“Every year, I really look forward to (the Kenutel Cup),” Brian said. “At least I get one competitive game of golf in.

“As social media progresses, the trash talk might slightly advance,” he said.

“I send (Brian) messages on Facebook all the time,” Ian said. “Like, ‘28 days ’til the Kenutel Cup.’ ”

Whatever form of intimidation Ian initiated petered out by the 16th hole, where the Kenyons secured possession of the Cup with a three-stroke lead in the match play/scramble format.

Even if the Mikutels won the last two, they couldn’t catch the reigning champs. The Cup would probably return to the Kenyons’ home in Glens Falls, but there was talk of displaying it in Sprinkles.

“It’s more bragging rights than anything,” Gary said. “Competition is fun, I guess. Like Ian, he’s already thinking about next year and how he can win this thing.”

“I have to put a lot more hours in,” Ian said.

A former Glens Falls basketball player and teammate of Jimmer Fredette, Ian spent the last few years getting golf tips from high school coach and golf pro Stephen Zurlo. With a camera on his golf bag, Ian filmed his swing and sent the video to Zurlo to critique.

“I practice a lot,” Ian said.

“I’ll try to do even less,” Brian said.

As for the future of the Kenutel Cup, the four planned to keep it going, even with Brian’s baby coming in October.

Doug suggested bringing other families in.

“We can expand it into a little father/son tournament,” he said.

Brian wanted to invite Fredette and his dad.

“I think I can beat Jimmer at golf,” Doug said, laughing. “I know I can.”

Original story:


Durfee breaks gender barriers in Death Race

4 Jul

By ALEX MATTHEWS — Commentary | Posted: Monday, July 4, 2011 11:45 pm

HAMPTON — Inside a tidy log cabin at the end of a narrow dirt road, Grace Cuomo Durfee sat on her sofa, wide-eyed and beaming as she recalled a harrowing tale of grit and endurance from almost a week earlier.

Grace Cuomo Durfee

Grace Cuomo Durfee holds daughter Quinn at their home in Hampton on Sunday. Durfee was the first female finisher and fourth overall in the Spartan Death Race on June 24 to 26. She said her husband, Seth, met her at every checkpoint on the 40-plus-hour challenge, and her daughter was her motivation.

The Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt., from June 24-26 had left her sore, but after an overdue massage on Sunday morning, the 27-year-old said she was feeling pretty relaxed as she flipped her long blond hair behind her feathered earrings.

It wasn’t easy to picture Durfee, a 5-foot-7 mother of one, completing arguably the most extreme race in the world. Not only had she finished the 40-plus-hour event, she was the first female finisher and fourth overall in this year’s Death Race.

Out of 154 people who started, 35 finished, five of which were women. She estimated that the next closest female had been about eight hours behind.

A 2003 Whitehall High School graduate and four-time track and field state qualifier, the then-Grace Cuomo was known as a sprinter. She had set eight school records in the hurdles and short distances, she said, but nothing compared to the nearly two-day survival test she put herself through for the first time last year.

While pregnant with her daughter, Quinn, more than two years ago, Durfee resolved to get fit. She said she ended up in the best shape of her life. In 2010, Durfee was the third female finisher and 12th overall in Pittsfield’s comparably easier 35-hour Death Race. But it was harder for her at the time.

“Last year, I don’t think I was emotionally as strong,” Durfee said. “Different things bothered me. … You have to keep a smile on your face. … I kept telling everybody, ‘My back doesn’t hurt, it feels awesome,’ after carrying a 40-pound log with me for 20-plus hours.”

She said the same thing after six hours of lifting boulders to chest height. A member of the smallest group for the first of about 14 tasks, Durfee and seven others had to rotate through a circle of rocks ranging from 30 to 80 pounds. Moving from one rock to the next, they each had to complete the circuit 175 times.

Because her group was so quick, the race directors assigned more repetitions. They finished around 2 a.m.

“They want you to quit,” Durfee said. “They want to get in your head. They want to break you down.”

They also make up the rules as they go, she said. Courses are never the same, the obstacles are always different and racers never know what to expect — not even on race day. They follow tags on trees and listen to instructions at each checkpoint.

After the rocks, six hours of splitting wood, a 3-mile hike up a waist-deep stream to a pond of 48-degree water (which Durfee crossed in the dark seven times by holding onto a cable), there were raging rivers to go down, waterfalls to climb and streams laced with barbed wire to crawl along. Durfee carried a log for at least half of the race, and by the time she had reached one of the final checkpoints at 11:30 a.m. that Sunday, she was ready for it to be over.

After about 45 miles of trails had badly blistered her feet, Durfee dissected the final task. She had a choice: repeat a climb that took her four hours at the beginning of the race and make it to the church (where the race started) by 3 p.m., or go up after the church service. If she chose to go right away and didn’t make it by 3, she would be disqualified.

“My trainer taped my ankles and I took off running,” Durfee said. “I was on a mission to get it done. They said, ‘You could win the whole thing. … But we know you can’t do it,’ So I was like, ‘ ‘F’ you! I’m going to go for it!’ ”

An hour later, after climbing the same waterfalls and barbed-wire streams with her heavy pack, Durfee was met by the race directors, her husband and a camera crew. It had been a test. The race was over.

“Nobody else took the challenge to think they could get this done in time,” Durfee said. “So everybody joked around and said I should’ve won, but it wasn’t a big deal.”

The organizers brought her back down to pretend she failed the last challenge. With a 40-hour time limit in mind, the organizers stopped others on the trail and awarded them for finishing. Durfee said she was one of seven to complete every task and ended up with a skeleton trophy.

In her toughest moments, Durfee said she never considered quitting. At one point, her husband, Seth, hiked with her and talked about their 2-year-old daughter.

“The whole purpose of me doing really good and the whole motivation is I want her (Quinn) to be proud of me,” Durfee said. “I want her to realize if you set goals for yourself, that you can do them, and there’s nothing wrong with being a strong woman.”

But after risking her life in a race, what’s next? Maybe triathlons, Durfee said. On Aug. 6, she’ll take advantage of her free entry in the Spartan Beast Race, a 10-mile challenge in Killington, Vt. She was told ESPN will be there following her.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, nothing like putting added pressure on me,’ ” she said.

Active Advice

Grace Cuomo Durfee, a massage therapist in Whitehall and fourth overall finisher of the 2011 Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt., gave some tips for anyone looking to try a similar event.

* Don’t whine. Don’t complain. A cheerleader in high school and by nature, Durfee said she smiled throughout the 40-hour challenge. When your muscles cramp, you have to ignore it she said. “You have to be like, this does not hurt me,” Durfee said.

* Don’t let inexperience get you down. You can walk all 45 miles, she said.

“Try it, why not,” Durfee said. “I don’t think it matters how physically sound you are. It’s how mentally strong you are. It’s what’s inside your brain … just push.”

* Expect to get dirty. Durfee learned to split wood in her first Spartan race last year, and this year, she broke three axes doing so. Part of the race involved slogging through streams and cold ponds, planting cucumbers and dealing with thunderstorms. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

“Eventually he (Spartan Death Race founder Joe DeSena) wants it so that nobody finishes the race,” Durfee said. “I think he would be so happy if nobody finished.”

For more information on the Spartan Death Race, visit

Original story:

USA Luge slides into Schuylerville

28 Jun

By ALEX MATTHEWS — | Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 12:31 am

SCHUYLERVILLE — Fourteen-year-old Nikolaus Steg said his teachers never really understood where he was off to.

PHOTO COURTESY FRED ZIMNY -- Schuylerville freshman Nikolaus Steg helps an elementary student down a luge ramp outside Schuylerville Elementary School on June 21. A member of the U.S. junior development team, Steg, 14, helped bring USA Luge to the school for a two-day 'Slider Search' gear for students in grades 4 through 6. p

The Schuylerville freshman would ask for packets of homework in advance. After long weekends of training in Lake Placid or weeks away in Park City, Utah, or Calgary, Alberta, he’d be back in class telling his classmates about luge.

Many couldn’t picture him soaring down an ice track while laying face up and feet first on a sled, and others couldn’t pronounce the sport’s name.

With the cooperation of the Schuylerville Elementary School and its gym teachers, Steg was able to share luge with them rather than explain it.

An incoming high school sophomore with dreams of becoming an Olympian, he brought USA Luge and its “Slider Search” to Schuylerville last week. With the help of his U.S. junior development team coach, Fred Zimny, Steg and another 14-year-old on Lake Placid’s ‘D’ team put on a two-day demonstration class last week.

For nearly five hours each day, he and Hannah Miller, of Rome, N.Y., assisted students in grades four through six as they tried the sport in gym class. Last Tuesday in the school parking lot, they led individuals up a 30-foot aluminum ramp and briefed each before sending them down.

Addressing all the students before each session, Zimny said to lay flat with your head down and toes pointed.

“You do want to lift your head just a little bit so you can see where you’re going,” he said inside the gym on a rainy Wednesday. “Right before the pads (on the other side of the room), put your feet on the floor.”

The students listened for the most part, eagerly circulating through and dragging the wheeled sleds back to the USA Luge ramp, which was outside under a tent and pointed in through open doors. According to Zimny, it was the first time they had tried the indoor setup and it worked.

It was also the first time USA Luge’s East Coast team in Lake Placid had brought its Slider Search to a school. (There is a West Coast development team in Park City at the only other Olympic luge track in the nation).

Zimny, who has taught luge for 20 years as a recruitment, development and national coach at the Olympic level, said the team was looking to attract youngsters, particularly those aged 11 to 14.

“We’re hoping to capitalize on putting 440 kids down the start ramp in the last two days (at Schuylerville) to maybe getting a dozen of them up to Lake Placid and getting them involved in the program,” Zimny said.

“To put a kid on a sled for the first time and then maybe 12 years down the road, see them make an Olympic team, that’s what it’s all about.”

Zimny said children are recruited at a young age to give them enough time to develop into an experienced, safe and competitive racer in what’s known as the fastest sport on ice. With the most aerodynamic sled and positioning, it beats out bobsled and skeleton.

“You do have to be fearless of course … (but) you really need to be smooth, controlled,” he said. “The whole idea of going fast on a luge sled is to be relaxed, and to be relaxed at 90 miles an hour isn’t easy.”

For Steg, whose father, Nik, brought him to his first Slider Search two years ago, the adrenaline hooked him. After the search, he was invited to a screening camp and later asked to be one of 15 members on the national development team.

This year at the Empire State Games, Steg placed third, and at the youth national championship, he was eighth.

Now up to the third-highest start, the Olympic women’s start, Steg said he reached 70 miles per hour.

“We work our way up and every step gets faster and more technical,” he said. “When you’re up at the handles and you have 30 seconds to go and you know you’re going to be doing 50, 60, 70 miles an hour plus going down the track with nothing but basically a helmet on, it’s pretty fun.”

Steg said he was happy to spend his time with the elementary students who tried it. Zimny explained that the searches were important to extend the sport’s reach and show parents that it’s not that dangerous.

According to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, more curling competitors were injured in the 2010 Olympics than lugers, by a ratio of 4 percent to 2 percent of all athletes.

“When (parents) see it and they see what these kids are doing, then they understand that it’s not this crazy sport,” Zimny said.

Active Advice

Nikolaus Steg, III, of Saratoga Springs got his son, Nikolaus, interested in luge at age 12. He explained how he became involved and eventually selected to the U.S. junior national development team.

* First, find a “Slider Search.” Fred Zimny, Lake Placid’s development team coach and the head of recruitment for USA Luge, plans to host free “learn to luge” Thursday night sessions in Lake Placid for boys and girls ages 8-13. No experience is necessary and participants receive a T-shirt. Call 523-2071 ext. 105 to register.

* Do your best and have fun. If you have natural talent and control of the sled, as well as a body type best for luge (Zimny said big, strong kids usually do well), then you could be invited to a screening camp. There, you could be asked to join the development team. If not, there are club and recreational opportunities to keep trying or * Fourteen-year-old Nikolaus is one of 15 members on the national team. He participates in about six camps a year, each a couple of weeks long, and spends most weekends training in Lake Placid.

* Don’t force it. “We try to keep him involved,” said Steg, III, about his son, who plays three instruments in Schuylerville’s high school, prep and jazz bands. “But you can’t make a kid go down the track.”

Original story:

Warrior Run at West a true test

21 Jun

By ALEX MATTHEWS — Commentary The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:08 am

QUEENSBURY — We should have listened to the woman in the West Mountain parking lot.

“It was worse than childbirth,” she said with a straight face.

TJ Hooker -- Post-Star: Columnist Alex Matthews leaps a flaming hurdle near the finish line of the inaugural Warrior Run at West Mountain in Queensbury on June 18, 2011. Organizer Steven Conklin said approximately 1,600 people took part in the four-heat, 3.1-mile race.


After finishing an earlier wave of the Warrior Run 5K race up the mountain on Saturday, she knew what it was like up there, more than 1,000 vertical feet above the start. Just awful.

She pointed toward the long incline up the grassy face. See that? There were six more of those, she said.

I wasn’t counting, but the woman’s warnings turned out to be warranted. The 3.1-mile Warrior Run was quite a physical test in its inaugural year at West and not because of its obstacles. Heck, my fun-seeking friends and I would have traded a few more of those in exchange for the torturous climb.

Nearly 1,600 competitors participated in the ski area’s first extreme trail race, which was organized independently by race director Steven Conklin and modeled off larger franchise events, such as the Warrior Dash at Windham Mountain.

As a few hundred runners waited for the start of the second of four waves, I stood back to watch. I had expected a flat start. They started up a hill. After passing through the first of eight obstacles — a muddy section — the racers pushed onward up the face of the mountain.

After the wind tunnel, created by three inward-facing snowguns shooting water, the course continued uphill and didn’t ease up until the summit.

I knew this because I suffered every step of it. On an 85-degree day up ski trails, shade was hard to come by.

“It was definitely a test of will,” said Mike Arpey of Lake George, who chose the Warrior Run for his first running race. “I’ll never forget seeing the peak of that mountain, that’s for sure.”

The downhill wasn’t much easier. The slopes were steeper and the legs that screamed on the way up were close to tears on the descent. I barreled through, trudging over three 4-foot wooden barricades and tripping over rubber tires and pile of hay.

By the final flat stretch, my enthusiasm was nearly dead. Funny comments from other racers and a finish-line crowd by the final hurdle — the fire pit — cheered me up.

Upon finishing, I was awed by how difficult the race was, yet humbled by the people that finished it.

One man, Jim Eaton, ran the fastest time in 28 minutes, 24 seconds. Others wanted to break an hour and did so. Many were thrilled they finished.

Some, like me, considered it the hardest race of their life.

“I had to design a course that satisfied a guy that ran it in 28 minutes and a guy that ran it in two hours and 27 minutes,” Conklin said. “Some people said it was too easy, you should have had ropes and more obstacles. … There were some people that have never run a race in their life and I said, we can’t tax these people for three hours on the mountain.”

After having a few people test run the course, Conklin decided to remove some of the 11 advertised obstacles. That led to criticism, which added to the complaints about his lack of water, free food and medical staff.

Some felt the race was unsafe on an especially humid day. Marty Baker, a West Glens Falls Emergency volunteer, raced and stayed late to help with four others from the squad. According to Baker, they were the only EMTs on site. Conklin said there were nine paramedics.

“My biggest things are safety, water, and (the organizers) by no means promised what all the hype was about,” Baker said. “They were missing obstacles, they promised you two helicopters, there were supposed to be showers. Nobody really knew who was staffing this because nobody was really identified.”

“Part of the reason so many people did (the race) was the appeal,” said Barbara Cearley, a registered nurse at Glens Falls Hospital who ran in the first wave.

“It was supposed to be a fun, different activity and because the obstacles were lacking it took away from it a little bit. The fact that safety was an issue took away from it more.”

Both Baker and Cearley said the event was good for the community and they would do it again.

While Conklin said he wasn’t satisfied on race day, a fun run at West on Sunday with his children and more than 200 others helped him plan for the future.

“There were a whole bunch of people that were patting me on the back, saying, ‘Hey, we know it’s your first year, but we know it can be better,’ ” Conklin said. “One of the nicest parts of hearing constructive criticism is it means they want to do it again. That’s great. I love to hear that.”

Active Advice:

Warrior Run race director Steven Conklin addressed a few concerns after the first extreme 5K trail race at West Mountain and explained how the race could be different next year.

* More water. Conklin learned that 1,800 bottles and 75 gallons of water for 1,600 racers wasn’t enough. Besides more water stops, he mentioned free food and possibly a beer token for finishers.

* More obvious staff. While he said the race staff wore white “Warrior Run” T-shirts, he planned to have them in more visible clothing next year.

* An easier option. Conklin said he’d like to create two elite waves (for those that qualify with a certain 5K time) with all the obstacles on a tough course. The two other waves could be easier with a more gradual course and fewer obstacles.

* Better registration. Conklin said he made the mistake of leaving registration open and making special accommodations. He planned to close registration a few weeks before the event next year.

Original story:

Miles with a personal message, motive

27 Jul

ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 12:15 am

While some 2,600 Ironman participants geared up for Sunday’s 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in Lake Placid, Katie Mannix fought tears following the 5K “Miles with a Message” race at the Queensbury cross country trails on Saturday.

Runners take off at the start of the Miles with a Message 5K at the Queensbury school trails on Saturday, July 24, 2010. The inaugural event, founded by recent Queensbury graduate Katie Mannix, benefited the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Capital Regional Chapter.

For Mannix, a cross country and track runner who graduated from Queensbury this year, the 3.1-mile event was more than a run. She innovated the race idea to raise suicide awareness while on the Hike for Hope-Cody’s Climb more than a year ago.

Atop Prospect Mountain in Lake George, Mannix paid tribute to Cody Miller, who committed suicide at age 15 in 2007, and remembered her cousin Robert’s suicide at age 18 in 2008.

“Once I was able to pull myself together for the most part, because it was so traumatizing, I knew I wanted to do something,” Mannix said after the race. “I tried awareness groups, and I went through all these possibilities.

“When I went to the Hike for Hope it just clicked,” she added. “I’m a cross country runner, why don’t I do something along those lines?”

Five other Queensbury students joined the cause and formed a committee to make the event happen on the Queensbury school district’s wooded trails.

After about five months of focused planning, which involved sponsors, donations and the T-shirts Mannix designed, the inaugural “Miles with a Message” took place with more than 150 participants, raising more than $4,000 the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Capital Region Chapter.

“I think it’s cool that it’s all local people,” said Stephen Satterfield, Mannix’s cousin and Robert’s brother. “So most of the people (here) were definitely affected by the people that were lost to suicide in some way.”

Two adult advisors, Queensbury coaches Kevin Sullivan and Bob Underwood, could not make the event, but Mannix, who will pursue psychology at St. Lawrence University, said they spoke of its return.

“We’ll be back next year,” she said with a smile.

Miles upon miles

Preparing for his third Ironman triathlon, Underwood had a legitimate excuse to miss Mannix’s race. On Sunday, he and his wife, Heidi, completed the ultimate endurance test, a race requiring a vastly different mindset than a fundraiser 5K.

While Heidi had her best Ironman performance in her fourth Lake Placid triathlon, finishing 476th out of more than 2,600 athletes in 11 hours, 22 minutes, Bob was less satisfied with his result (11:33:37), but said finishing is always rewarding.

“You’re pretty elated when you finish,” he said. “Even when you have not had your best race, it’s pretty neat to think that, holy cow, you did this.”

For a decent competitor, well over an hour of swimming, six or more hours of biking and a 4-5 hour marathon would elicit that response.

As I biked on parts of the hilly course, catching a few of the elite athletes in action – the top man finished in 8:39:34 – I can’t say I was inspired. Humbled, yes, by what they were achieving, but not so much by the pain I figured they must have felt.

The day after the race, Underwood expected the soreness to linger, but said he will recover better than he would from a marathon alone.

“There’s such a volume of training over such a long time, your body is used to it,” he said.

I’ll stick with the feel-good 5Ks.

Original story:

The road to eating better, feeling better

8 Feb

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Monday, February 8, 2010 11:50 pm

When it comes to eating right, most of us are looking for simple solutions. Eat this, not that. Steer clear of such-and-such, while loading up on painfully healthy items.

As a licensed and certified nutritionist, Mary Beth McCue of Saratoga Nutrition said this is why she avoids the word ‘organic’ and never forbids foods.

“It turns some people off,” she said inside her consultation room at Roosevelt Baths in Saratoga Spa State Park. “(I recommend) whole, clean foods, clean meaning sustainable.”

Whole Foods, I thought. Like the organic grocery chain I used to shop at in Boston, but can’t find anything remotely like in Glens Falls.

Whole foods, the holistic dietician explained, meaning unprocessed or minimally refined with mostly natural ingredients.

Beyond listing some places to shop – a natural food store in Saratoga, a co-op in Albany and perhaps the organic section of a major food store – McCue pointed out common nutritional pitfalls and their remedies. Here are some of her recommendations.

1. Lose the stress and processed foods: Easier said than done, but controlling food-related anxiety can help.

“A lot of things cause stress in our lives,” McCue said. “The cause of any imbalance is stress and toxicity. What is stress caused by? Many things, including processed foods.”

This includes foods altered from their original state, often for preservation (i.e. canned, frozen, dehydrated), which may contain high amounts of sodium and sugar, as well as trans and saturated fats.

“Most people are eating real fast on the run, and they’re eating processed foods,” she said, explaining this can lead to digestion problems and hormonal imbalances.

Translation: weight gain and stress.

2. Eat right, not less: People need to get back to eating for nutrients, and weight loss will follow, McCue said. Those with overweight or obesity issues often stumble on the fact that eating less of the same processed foods leaves them exhausted and without results.

Too many simple carbohydrates, such as honey, table sugar, fruit juice and most packaged cereals, can be to blame.

“The diet should be a plant-based diet,” she said, acknowledging that this is not what most people want to hear.

The complex carbs that should account for 50 to 60 percent of an average daily diet include whole grains, beans, seeds, some nuts (excluding peanuts and macadamia), most green vegetables, and non-citrus fruits (not sugar-loaded oranges).

3. Small steps for change: While trading chips and cake for organic fruits and veggies can be intimidating, McCue said to seek fresh, local produce for nutrients whenever possible. She recommends asking where organic foods are grown because those from outside the Northeast typically lose their nutritional value in storage.

“Even if you get organics a couple of months out of the year (from local farms), that’s better than no organics,” she said.

“Everything that you do is going to dictate how you’re going to feel at the end of the day, at the end of the month,” she added. “So if you cut your processed foods in half, you’re going to feel a lot better.”

Active Advice

Saratoga Nutrition integrative dietician, Mary Beth McCue, provided her rendition of the recommended daily diet.

* 50-60 percent complex carbohydrates: vegetables, fruits, legumes or beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

* 15-20 percent protein: fish, poultry, wild-game, whey protein powder

* 20-30 percent healthy fats, including olive and flax oil to ease digestion. Also, almond and nut butters. Avoid peanuts.

* Miscellaneous: dairy, breads and pastas account for carbs. Have a few “simple” sugary and white-flour carbs as little as possible.

Read more:

Running in winter

2 Feb

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 1:00 am

Most people don’t wake up every morning with a driving desire to hit the gym, trails, roads, whatever.

It takes some effort to get our bodies in motion, which is why fitness centers tend to quiet down by February. New Year’s and its resolutions are out of sight, out of mind, and it’s cold out.

Take last Friday, for instance, when the temperature was forecast at a high of 13. I had told Mark Regan, a member of The Adirondack Runners and associate executive director of internal operations at the Glens Falls YMCA, that I would run with him.

The 53-year-old consistently runs outside five to six days a week — year-round — and he invited me to join one of his “easy” 5- to 6-mile jaunts.

“It’s kind of nice when it is cold outside to get out in the sunshine,” he said.

I had to point out that he works in a place with more than a dozen treadmills. He said he has only used the machines twice — both stress tests at the doctors office.

“I figure I’ll probably walk off it and embarrass myself,” he said. “That’s mainly why I run. I don’t have any hand-eye coordination. I don’t play basketball, football, anything like that, but I can keep one foot in front of the other.”

That he can. I ran with Regan in all of 7 degrees on his 5-mile route from the YMCA parking lot, down Fire Road to Dixon and out to a hill on Old Forge Road and back. He chooses roads with wide shoulders and stays far left on the left side, insisting runners need to actively watch oncoming traffic.

“They’re not necessarily looking for you this time of year,” he said.

At least weekly, Regan runs with fellow Adirondack Runners for the social and sometimes-competitive aspect. While anyone can join their runs, especially Sundays at 8 a.m. in front of the Y, he said finding a running partner or training group can help lagging motivation.

Each spring, Fleet Fleet, a running shoe store in Colonie, hosts a “No Boundaries” 12-week program for those wanting to run or walk their first 5-kilometer race. Regan worked with the program last year and said people can look online or ask YMCA staff for information on similar groups.

While I was glad I joined Regan and logged some outdoor miles, winter running may not be for everyone.

“I just like being outside. I sit inside all day long,” Regan said. “You’re stuck in winter for four or five months out of the year so you might as well get outside and enjoy it.”

The indoor option

Outside of the Regan’s hardy circle, there are those of us who would rather stay inside.

While training for a spring marathon in Burlington, Vt., two years ago, personal trainer Melissa Lemery built up with 20- to 30-minute treadmill workouts to avoid running on icy roads.

An avid cyclist and spinning instructor, the self-described casual runner said she prefers to mix up her workouts with short, interval runs. She recommended starting at a 1 percent incline on the treadmill, then steadily increasing and decreasing the incline and speed to simulate speed bursts on varied terrain.

“For me, if you only have 30 minutes, it’s the best thing you can do,” Lemery said. “It gets your heart rate up quickly, it’s therapeutic, and it burns a lot of calories.”

The Y’s adult wellness coordinator, Lindsay Lentini, explained that running at least once a week can combat boredom while producing feel-good hormones.

“People will talk about the runner’s high,” she said. “A person on an elliptical just might not get that endorphin boost.”

Best of all, the sport doesn’t require a gym membership — only motivation.

“You don’t really need any piece of equipment other than your sneakers,” Lentini said. “It’s just easy to do because you can do it anywhere.”

Original story:

Taking playtime outside

26 Jan

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:45 am

For about 15 preschool children in the Warrensburg Head Start program, the choice was simple: pink or blue. The number of girls in the hour-long snowshoe outing last Wednesday was slightly larger than the boys, and soon the pink pairs were down to one.

As a teacher guided the last five girls — parkas, snow pants and all — out of the Warrensburg elementary school to the playground, it became clear there might not be some happy trekkers at the Project Snowshoe event.

“Pink!” the girls shouted, when asked their preference. As I helped one into a remaining blue set, provided by the Council for Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, her excitement overrode her initial disappointment.

“I’ve never snow-sledded before,” she said as I strapped the small plastic pair on. “I’m going to go off a big jump!”

A couple of awkward steps and a fall or two later, the kids began to grasp what snowshoeing really was. They scurried around on a scavenger hunt for about 20 minutes before taking the shoes off, but the intention among the parents, teachers and organizers present was met.

“The main premise for the (Project Snowshoe) program is really to help families build attachment and bonding,” said Jenn Wood, school-based program coordinator for the Council. “… The old adage is the family that plays together, stays together. The family that establishes family relationships early on, their kids are more likely to stay away from substance abuse later.”

Six months ago, Wood and the council’s program director, Keith Kelley, came up with the idea to offer free outdoor activities for families with young children. Both snowshoe enthusiasts, they realized snowshoeing was a relatively simple and inexpensive winter option.

“It was real doable for us,” Kelley said. “How many kids do we have out here today? Sixteen? Seventeen? Can you imagine them all on skis? That’s like butterflies, you couldn’t keep track of them.

“So this is nice and manageable,” he added, “and it’s something that’s affordable too. (The equipment) lasts a good long time.”

The Greater Adirondack Perinatal Network and Glens Falls Foundation granted the council a total of $2,000 to purchase 37 pairs of snowshoes: 15 for toddlers, 10 for elementary school children and 12 for adults.

The council also bought fleece jackets, gloves, boot covers, tissue packets and scavenger hunt supplies to offer at various sites around Warren and Washington counties.

Fortunately for the Warrensburg Head Start crew, the morning was mild with light snowfall.

“This is our gift, really,” Kelley said, looking up at the floating snowflakes, “and for the children to miss that they can be out and have fun in it, that’s a loss.”

Dale Lilley of Thurman accompanied his 5-year-old son, Nolan, at the school on their own snowshoes.

“It was a nice day for it, and he wanted me to come,” he said. “There’s no freezing toes or fingers, so that’s good.”

Three Project Snowshoe events have taken place since January – first in Hudson Falls, then in Salem and Warrensburg.

Wood, Kelley and their equipment-filled van will visit a nursery school in Salem on Tuesday, travel to the Whitehall Head Start on Thursday and give elementary students with the Fort Edward 4-H a chance to snowshoe on Saturday.

“It’s meeting our needs as a council, in terms of helping families to do more things that are positive together,” Kelley said, “but at the same time, it’s keeping them healthy.”

Get out and go

The council purchased its snowshoes online at, but several local sports shops sell them as well. For rentals, Inside Edge in Queensbury has adult and kid sizes for half- or full-day (overnight) use.

This Saturday from 7-9:30 p.m., the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park will host an annual Moonlight Ski & Snowshoe at Camp Saratoga on Scout Road.

Candles will light 2 ½ miles of groomed trails at the free event, which includes two bonfires and hot chocolate. Limited ski and snowshoe rentals are available for $3, and people should be aware of the 7 p.m. rush, according to the preserve’s executive director, Sarah Clarkin.

Given the heavy rain, the event could be postponed to Feb. 27. Those interested should check the Web site,, or call 450-0321.

Active Advice:

Dr. Douglas Girling, an emergency room physician at Glens Falls Hospital who specializes in sports physiology and wilderness rescue, explained the benefits of snowshoeing.

“Snowshoeing is fantastic because it requires a huge amount of energy …”

“Going out for a half hour on a pair of snowshoes really gives you a phenomenal workout. You get much more of a workout than you would just pure running.”

“Even walking flat (with snowshoes) is equivalent to walking uphill without snowshoes, just because you’ve got to lift your leg up and you have these 3- or 4-pound snowshoes attached to it, plus whatever amount of snow is on top of that as well.”

“The key about some routine exercise is something that you actually enjoy doing.”

Original story:

A different type of workout

19 Jan

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 1:30 am

Fifteen years ago, a Tylenol commercial gave personal trainer Todd Smith the inspiration to start a business.

“(There was) a trainer getting out of his van, going to people’s houses to train them,” he recalled inside his center, Fitness in Motion. “…I had never seen anything like that around here.”

He came up with his own house-to-house personal training, towing a trailer with weights and a few portable machines around Queensbury and Lake George.

Within a year and a half, Smith, who previously worked at Adirondack Nautilus, had about 15 clients and decided to settle his business in one location. Now less than a mile away from his original space in the Mt. Royal Plaza on Route 9, Smith offers group personal training in his building across from Queensbury Tire.

Back in junior high, my weight-lifting regimen began with Smith, who assists ages 10 to 80. My mother took me to Fitness in Motion three times a week, and there, I’d embark on his hour-long, ever-changing circuit while he loaded the weights and gave me pointers on proper form.

Instead of being thrown into an intimidating gym setting and left to my own devices, I received guidance and technical tips that I still use. Best of all, the attention is divided and unobtrusive, as Smith and his wife, Cheryl, help four to six people at a time.

The division also drives down the price from an average $50 per hour for 1-on-1 training to $12 per hour for the group, Smith said.

“(It) was more economic,” he said. “This way, I can train a lot more people. I actually make a little more than I was, but the clients save.”

After nearly a decade since my last visit, I ventured back to Fitness in Motion for a muscle-burning workout.

Smith showed me to the infamous white board, a to-do list of cardio, agility exercises, weight lifting, and core and balance training. Some days, it features one long circuit, others are broken up and shorter, and sometimes three sets of the same exercise are clumped together.

“Every time we come in, we do something different,” he said, explaining that prevents boredom while targeting various body parts. “There are trainers in this country that change their workout every three months. … That’s unbelievable to me.”

My circuit called for 10 exercises divided into groups of two, which were each repeated three times. The core pushup squat worked my arms and balance on a stability board, and the side squat on an unfamiliar functional training machine was not easy.

“One of the things I say to people all the time is, ‘The only way you improve balance is in a safe, unstable environment,’ ” Smith said.

Everyone needs a push to reap results, and it helps if someone spots your fall.

Original story:

Cutting down on the skin-cracking issue

11 Jan

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Monday, January 11, 2010 11:50 pm |

‘Tis the season to feel uncomfortable dryness and most of us are in the thick of it.

“The best thing you could do is go on a nice trip to Florida,” said Dr. Stephen Verral of Gateway Dermatology in Glens Falls. “Unfortunately, most of us aren’t able to do that.”

And for many – skiers, snowmobilers and outdoor enthusiasts – winter is a time for play and our skin just needs to deal with it.

“That exposure to the extensive cold absolutely makes the skin worse. It dries it out and causes cracking,” Verral said. “Protect your skin as well as you can from the elements. If you’re skiing, wear a face mask. If your snowmobiling, cover your face, and if you’re just outside walking around, wear a scarf.”

Inside advice

Unfortunately, keeping your skin healthy isn’t as easy as covering up – the battle is also waged indoors.

Rachel Vaughn, an esthetician and co-owner of Rejuvinations Spa Services in Queensbury, said turning up the heat inevitably causes dryness.

“I know my home is in the 30 (percent relative humidity range) whereas the average home should be in the 50’s,” she said. Vaughn and Verral recommended humidifiers in the bedroom and warned against steaming-hot showers.

“The hot water actually dries you out more,” Verral explained. “There’s a protein in our skin called NMF, natural moisturizing factor. It’s what our body tries to produce when our skin starts to dry out. The steam actually sucks that right out.”

He said to keep the temperature lukewarm and moisturize before toweling off. Look for lotions containing ceramide, another water-absorbing protein, and pat rather than wipe yourself dry, he said.

In moisturizing at least once a day and more frequently as needed, Vaughn pointed out a new, effective ingredient: hyaluronic acid, which attracts and maintains moisture. She said it can come in the form of a serum to be applied before moisturizers.

Braving the cold

For those readying for a hardy day outside, Vaseline-based products containing petrolatum are best for preventing wind burn or frostbite, Verral said. “If you’re going to be skiing on the top of a mountain, the serum is just not going to cut it.”

He recommended Vaseline for skiers and those exposed to harsh conditions. “It absolutely helps,” he said. “It just feels gross.”

Vaughn made a case for Burt’s Bees products and body balms as thicker moisturizers to protect the skin. She said Vaseline can help heal chapped lips when applied at night.

Most importantly, Vaughn and Verral advocated sunscreen. Vaughn said to go no lower than SPF 30, while Verral pushed for 45.

“People forget that the sun is still shining on them,” Verral said, “and the reflection off the snow is actually worse than the sun shining directly on them.”

Closing remarks

Aside from lathering up in an array of oils and goops, removing dead skin cells through exfoliation is also key. Vaughn likened repeatedly moisturizing extremely dry skin to putting sunscreen on a pealing sunburn.

“If you’re not getting rid of all that flakiness… then all you’re doing is putting lotion on dead skin,” she said, recommending refined rather than gritty scrubs.

Facials can also be professionally done every four to six weeks to clear out blackheads and exfoliate, she said.

As a dermatologist, Verral recommends facials as often as once a month as well.

Finally, drink more water. “Typically (experts) say six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day,” Verral said. Another esthetician at Vaughn’s day spa, Anke Jenne, said people can aim for a gallon, or 16 cups.

“For every one cup of caffeinated beverage, you have to make up for it with two cups of water,” Jenne said.

That applies to soda, coffee and other dehydrating fluids such as alcohol.

“If you’re hung over, your skin isn’t going to be at it’s glowing best,” Vaughn said.

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