How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

read more
6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

read more

Tribute Tuesday #5 – Benjamin Mena

There are people out there that take everything in stride and just let the world unfold around them, and there are people who have decided there is so much negativity in the world it is much easier to be oblivious to everything.  Either way, in my opinion, if it makes you happy, then do it.  There are a few people out there, that have a passion for making the world a better place.  There are those who find one cause and passionately support it, which is phenomenal, but a rare few people out there are able to spread their power of influence, courage, and passion to every cause, organization and individual in need they can.  My friend Ben is one of those people.

Before I tell you about his cool “Run for Cause” fun runs, or the races he has organized and the races coming up, let me tell you about Ben Mena the runner.  Ben and I met through friends from my tri-club the A-Train and some friends from the Run Progressive track workouts.  I knew of him and knew he was fast, but that didn’t justify what I saw when I first ran with him.  I am amazed at people who can run a marathon with 7:30 average per mile pace.  This guy hammers through half-marathons in under 6-minute miles and then will turn around and bike for 20 without skipping a beat.

My favorite memory of watching Ben was actually a cycling workout.  Ben was coerced into joining us and Pete (Tribute #2) let him borrow his road bike.  This bike had pedal cages on it because Ben didn’t have cycling shoes or cleats and this was going to be his first ride.  Well, Ben goes out in front with the “A” group and is really strong.  We all thought, “OK, we will just hang back here and watch him die out and pick him up at the turnaround.”  He reached the turnaround and just kept going and beat us all.  First time out!  A few weeks later he decides to do a duathlon in Orlando for the first time and he finishes first, overall.   Ben’s VO2 max is off the charts.  Maybe that is why he continues to help those in need, with a VO2 max that high, his heart is huge.

Ben organizes a monthly fun run in Brandon, Florida that gives to a different charity each month.  I have been running in every one since July and I have seen no less than 50 people at any of them.  He also is part of a duo with Beth Shaw (Dis-com-BOB-ulated Running), of which they have successfully completed their first race called the Shape Up for Summer 5k and now they have another one coming up called the Corporate 5k in downtown Tampa.  The Shape Up for Summer 5k had well over 750 runners which is well over what they expected and as I used the race as a culmination runs for my clientele, let me just say it was one of the best organized 5k runs I had participated in.  Beth and Ben did a really amazing job, so if you find a race organized by MenaShaw Races, you can be sure to have a great experience.

With that being said, Ben has another race he has organized and this one has an interesting spin on it while helping out some people that can really use it.  I will let him tell you in his own words.  Let me introduce, Benjamin Mena.

Benjamin (Ben) Mena
Birthdate: 8/25/83 – Virgo
Place of Birth: Virginia Beach, VA
Place growing up: Charleston SC and Bremerton, WA
High School: Cocoa Beach High
High School sports: Soccer, Cross Country, Track
College: University of Central Florida
College Sports: Cross Country, Track
Other Sports: Ummmm…..  nope

I usually describe you as one of the fastest runners in the Tampa Bay area. What started you running?
I used to be the guy that would make fun of the runners and throw stuff at them.  (in HS).  I thought running was dumb and pointless.   So after a win-less soccer season, the soccer girls tried to convince me to run cross country to prep for soccer… I said yeah right, that’s dumb… their response was just run behind us.  What teenage guy can say no.   after my first year running (JR year) I developed a passion for it and it quasi-took over my life.
JR year was just an introduction to the sport. Our workouts were easy as hell, but the one thing I loved my coach for (she was hot also) she taught us all how to make running fun and enjoyable.   My Sr year of high school we had a new coach.  She had a background as a professional runner, so she knew her stuff.  She helped give me the dream of being a college athlete.   At that point, I wasn’t good enough for any college team but I worked my ass off as hard as I could.  I had the one gift that every coach wants in their athlete.  Burning desire to make it.
The summer before college was pretty crazy.  I was working 5 jobs to try to get ready for college (until my car died) then I had to drop my job at Publix [Supermarket]because it was a 20-mile bike ride each way).  I would bike to my different jobs, then get home and run and then would be able to start hanging out with friends after 11 pm.   During that time I would never miss a run no matter how bad I wanted to have fun.
I still to this day don’t know why coach chose me out of all the other walk-ons..  but I am thankful she did.  I ran with my heart and I knew I had more to prove that everyone that came in on scholarships.  (I also didn’t have a car… so I got a lot more miles in than most people.   Outside all the running I was walking 5-14 miles a day to and from, and around school)  By the end of the first season, I was granted an athletic scholarship and the following year I was team captain…

Ben doing what he does best

What and When was your first 5k time? What and when was your fastest 5k time?

Year of high school.  I don’t remember the time but I was low 20s, but my fastest was 15:20 in college.

What kind of workouts did you do to get that fast? 
You don’t want to know the schedule.  But my favorite workout was mile repeats!



What was your average weekly mileage?
60-80 was the average.  During the summer we would crank it up for base building.  My highest week was 112 and 90% of those miles were done along the Appalachian Trail.

I mentioned above that you hold a monthly fun run named “Run for a Cause” at the Cork & Olive in Brandon.  How did that come about?
Just had the idea while at the bar.  I love hosting fun events for people…  and it came about from there.  our first event I was hoping for 10 people… and over 50 ended up showing up.

How many different charities have you hosted?  
7 or 8 now

If someone had a cause they would like to have hosted at one of your events what is the best way to contact you? Best is through FaceBook.


The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has devastated the country. You chose to act quickly and do something about it by hosting this Virtual Run. Can you give the details?
This is a virtual half-marathon and virtual 5K. Since it is virtual, you can complete it anywhere in the world. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can. Just complete all miles between now and Jan 31st. This is on the honor system – you do not have to report your miles.
The registration fee for the Half Marathon is $30.
Register Here: http://www.active.com/half-marathon/tampa-fl/sandy-hook-elementary-memorial-half-marathon-and-5k-2013
Event Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/186264894845690/ 

What gave you the Idea?
I am on the board for a few charities, and I was already researching a way to do a virtual 5k. When the devastation occurred, I couldn’t sleep, so I mulled it over for a while and by Sunday I had it up on Active.com and Facebook and 200 people already had agreed to participate. Today on Facebook there are over 1800 that have committed and a little over 250 that have actually signed up on Active.com
It grew a lot faster than I thought. It went viral. I originally thought about a few people here in Tampa to raise around 1000 dollars, but now it is well over that.

Beth and Ben

 

Do you have any other races coming up?
Beth and I have been organizing a Tampa Bay Corporate 5K.
This is an event where the runners choose one of the 4 charities that this race will give back too. Every person that registers for the race will get a vote (fill in the blank) for the charity of their choice. The charity with the most votes will receive a portion of the proceeds along with Little Things for Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (Tampa Chapter), and Operation Helping Hand.
You can get more details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131275133693630
or on the event website: http://www.tampacorporate5k.com/

Ben and his fiance Jennifer
Ben and the Goof
Tampa Treasure Thursday – Jet City Espresso

Tampa Treasure Thursday – Jet City Espresso

There is a secret getaway we have here in Tampa, and it is very famous among Tampa runners and triathletes. Especially if you are a regular runner of the Four Green Fields Tuesday run, the McDinton’s Pub Tuesday Run, and the Yard of Ale Thursday run.  As a result, if you want the finest coffee and espresso drinks, the wildest and most nutritious smoothies and unbelievably delicious homemade scones and baked goods, you need to visit Jet City Espresso.

The Heart of Jet City Espresso

Jet City is owned and operated by Jessica Glover who brings a world of restaurant experience and tastes to her establishment.  She is committed to producing good coffee and freshly baked goods. She converted the sunroom of her house into the shop.  Do you want homemade baked goods?  Well, Jet City is the place to go.  Her scones are as delicious as they are fresh and natural.  Jessica is a fan of the most organic, natural and fresh ingredients possible.  Are you on a gluten-free diet?  No worries. She has gluten-free scones, rice crispy treats, and muffins.  Do you practice a Paleo lifestyle?  No problem there either. She provides Paleo Brownies and scones too.  Your mouth is watering now. Isn’t it?

Speaking of Paleo, what about her espresso drinks?  Do you require Coconut or Almond milk to make your latte or cappuccino? Not only will she make it with your favorite milk, but if you ask her nicely she might even sweeten it with coconut sugar or organic honey.

The Environment

I can continue to go on and on about Jessica’s delicious goods and coffee, but what makes this little secret so special is her rare positive energy that will not allow you to feel anything but happy during your visit. Because of the aura of positivity that the patrons of this magical coffee house also help to continue to create an atmosphere of, well, “home.”  Walk into this place once, and you are on your way to becoming one of the family and before you know it Jessica and the other patrons are calling you by name and you are receiving hugs and kisses on the cheek whenever you enter or leave.  Well, at least that what happens to me.

Most noteworthy, the walls are covered in with paintings of local musicians that were created by Jessica herself.  There are stands with guitars, mandolins, and banjos each of which can be picked up at any time and played with perfection by Jessica Glover herself.  When the conversation is not taken over by stories of races, or upcoming athletic events you might be lucky to find a couple of musicians jamming out.  Maybe you will hear, original tunes, contemporary covers, classic hits, or Jessica’s favorite, Irish Folk music.

You Won’t be Disappointed

In a society where almost all of the coffee shops are commercial, the coffee is burnt, the baked goods and food are shipped frozen and microwaved, Jet City brings you back when coffee was made to perfection, the baked goods were fresh and the environment was positive and friendly.  Beware, walking into Jet City one time guarantees you will constantly be aching to return.

318 S Edison Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
M-F 7a-2p, Sat-Sun 11a-1p
You might remember this woman from Tribute Tuesday #1
Virginia (Maya’s Mom), Elena (Maya’s Aunt), and Maya
Susan and Maya

9-11 : 11 Years Later

September 11th will always remain a significant event in the history of this country.  The day when Osama Bin Laden dared to bring terrorism to the United States and unfortunately succeeded, at least at that point in time.  Where were you on that day?  I bet everyone I ask that question will remember exactly where they were.  Me?  I was getting ready to go on an interview for a job.

I was just coming out of the shower when the phone rang and it was a neighbor and really good friend of mine, Sue.  She told me that a plan had struck the twin towers and to immediately turn on CNN.  I swear I told her it must be a hoax until I actually did turn on the TV.  I was completely wrecked at the site of the replay of the first plane hitting the tower.  As the camera went back live to grab a shot of the destruction,  the other plane struck the towers.  I was completely floored and I felt like my whole body was over stimulated with anxiety.  Then the worst thing happened, I heard another explosion except this time it was not coming from the television.  It came from a distance outside my condo.  Oh, I didn’t mention that at the time I was living just outside of Washington DC and I had recently separated from the United States Army where I was stationed at the Pentagon.

Within three minutes CNN was relaying the story of the Pentagon.  I put some clothes on grabbed my Pentagon badge and left.  When I arrived just outside of the gate, guards were already posted at the parking lots and the entryways were fortified.  A soldier came to my window and told me to turn around, so I flashed my Pentagon badge and told him I wanted to help.  I had people in there and I was a trained EMT and I could at least help triage.  He wouldn’t have it.  I then asked to him to radio the head of security because I knew him and he knew me very well, but he had his orders and he was not going to make any special provisions.  I couldn’t argue with that.  All of the military police, security, and medical personnel were all under a great deal of pressure and being that I knew what that was like, I wasn’t going to argue.  I turned the car around and went home.  It took twice as long for me to arrive at home as it did for me to get there, but after walking in the door and immediately turned on the TV and there I sat, on and off, for two weeks.  I was a sponge for information.  I made frequent calls back to my old unit asking about people I knew.  On that day there were three soldiers who were, subordinates of mine at one time, missing.  Friends in other units also missing and two of my mentors pronounced dead; Sergeant Major Robert Strickland and Lieutenant General Tim Maude.

It was a crushing blow for me.  I had dinner at both of their houses.  General Maude would take me to the Officer’s Dining Room where “a little lunch” was a huge steak and baked potato with all the fixings.  SGM Strickland filled in instructing a couple of classes at Ft Jackson when I was in training and then continued my mentorship when I ended up at the Pentagon after Korea.  The only thing I could think of was that if I felt this bad, it had to be 100 times worse for any of the victim’s families.

My best friend Sean was living outside of Times Square at the time, and his auditions and work took him all over the city.  I immediately picked up the phone and gave him a call, but the circuits were overloaded.  I wouldn’t talk to him for three days.  The mood around DC and Virginia was somber throughout the coming weeks.  It was heavy with dread and confusion, but something positive happened.  I noticed that there was very little hostility toward one another.

Everywhere I went I could see citizens going out of their way for one another.  For example, an incident that happened to me; the roads were slick after a little rain and I ended up in a 4 car fender bender.  Maybe not a fender bender, but a hard love tap.  The front car hit the brakes, the car in back of her hit their brakes, then me, then the guy in back of me.  We all, got out, looked at our cars and we all had some small dents or paint nicks.  My Xterra had part of the bumper had come askew but it looked like it could be fixed pretty easily.  The weirdest thing was, no one was mad.  We looked at each other shrugged asked if anyone was hurt and basically agreed there was just too much crap going on at that time to worry about such a minor incident.  We didn’t call the cops, we didn’t exchange insurance info, we didn’t even exchange names.  We shook each other’s hands and went on our way.  I saw this happening everywhere I went.  Their were customers actually moving their carts to the corral at grocery stores or even helping the employee stack them.  I saw two, three, sometimes four cars stopping on the side of the road when a motorist was changing a tire asking if they could help.  The whole country was supporting each other.  It seemed to last for months before it started to slowly return to the normal disdain.

It was just an amazing sight.  I guess the question is why can’t we always feel that way toward each other?  Why does the country have to go through an incident of massive destruction for citizens to realize we need each other?

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people that read my blog, but those of you who do, I challenge you to take an hour every day and think about other people before yourself.  As you are in your car, and you see another car that is really trying to merge into traffic but no one is allowing them to enter the line, stop and let that person in.  If you notice someone having issues loading groceries into their trunk, offer to help.  It is just these little acts of kindness that can change the world as we know it.  Lets prove that we do not need a major incident to bring our country together again.