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Friday, December 31, 2010

Red Bandana: Tubby Santa Claus Should Workout

Read the most recent Red Bandana "Things A Runner Can Do While Sick"

“Twas the night before Christmas…”

What about the day before the night before Christmas? Did Santa Claus carbo load? Carbo loading, as long distance runners know, is when marathoners eat extra carbohydrates, like pasta, so that they have enough energy reserves for later in the race. Claus must deliver gifts to the entire world. I can only assume he, in all his years of experience, knows how to prepare for this all-night, all-world gift-giving marathon.

Let’s be frank. Claus is no slimmy. The folks back at his North Pole ranch don’t call him Santa “Bowlful of Jelly” Claus for nothing. He couldn’t turn away from a plate of donuts if his life depended on it.

I am not an exercise physiologist, nor am I a dietician, but let’s examine the situation:

Fact: Claus stops at the home of every little boy and girl.

Fact: Roughly every third home presents a treat at the bottom of their chimney (my estimate).

Fact: At least half those treats are non-nutritional (again, my estimate). This includes eggnog, cookies, chocolate milk, and even a shot of brandy or two.

Besides the obvious, that Claus has no business drinking while flying a sleigh (with or without Rudolph’s help), he is likely consuming more calories than he is burning. This includes bounding up and down chimneys, reaching and digging into his pack for toys, and springing to his sleigh.

It is normal within a longer endurance event to see snack stations. Energy drinks, as well as water, are made available to athletes to help sustain their strength as well as replace necessary electrolytes. No one, however, is leaving Gatorade or Granola bars for Claus.

So What?
Many of us live like Santa Claus and wonder why we are tubby. We might (as I conveniently do) blame it on growing older, changes in metabolism, and other such excuses. While those might be true in one sense, the fact remains we pretend a good run will eradicate the negative impact of a big-time chow down. Fitness offers freedom, not foolishness.

Christmas is here, and soon following is New Year’s Eve. Like Thanksgiving Day, big meals, complete with pies, drinks, and sugary snacks are part of the celebration. Champagne is not calorie-free, you know.

You teetotalers might not be hung-over on January 1, but you too might be fatter. Remember that even one eight ounce cup of non-alcoholic eggnog will add 258 calories. And, come on, are you really going to have just one of these tasty little drinks?

The real star of Christmas, Jesus Christ, was surrounded by fit people. For example, the shepherds ran in from their fields to Bethlehem to see him, something they could not have done if they were couch potatoes. Similarly, the Magi walked long and far to find Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, not burgers, beer and brats. Their lifestyle was one of good eating and exercise, even if they were not thinking “Chicago Marathon.”

Honesty Tip
A handy website to keep you honest about your diet is the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. It is simple to use. Just enter up to five keywords which best describe the food item. If you like, select a specific food group to sort things further. You will see more info about each food than on retail food packaging.

Good Eating
Speaking of blowing a few calories, check out Butler’s BBQ in Wheaton in the strip mall at Geneva and Main Street. I enjoyed delicious ribs and fried chicken. A thinner, more Southern-style sauce than, say, Sweet Baby Ray’s, but still flavorful. Quick service, friendly people and a relaxed atmosphere makes this a worthy place for a lunch or take-out dinner anytime. Their slogan is “It’s the wood that makes it good.” Taste and believe.

Butler’s BBQ
322 East Geneva Road
Wheaton, IL 60187

Running Playlist Song of the Week
Go Tell It on the Mountain by VeggieTales from “A Very Veggie Christmas” (1996)
Imagine vegetables singing this traditional American song in an overdone country twang. Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato talk about their favorite song, and sing it with enough energy to get you through an end-of-run walk. It hasn’t the oomph to qualify as a true running song, but it is lots of fun and easy to walk to this Christmas season.

“Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born.”

Merry Christmas!

Freelance writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. I look to running as I battle midlife and my mid-section. Click my name above for more articles, fun and tips. See  or e-mail me at anthonytrendl @

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The Red Bandana: Finding Fitness Through the Joy of Running

Friday, December 24, 2010

Red Bandana: Indulge Your Miles at the Brickhouse Bakery and Cafe

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Tubby Santa Claus Should Workout

Let's say you have been good boys and girls regarding working out. Santa will be pleased. He's keeping a list on all of that, you know. Ever-diligent, the old boy is checking it twice. You know how it goes.

The end of the year is here. If you weigh 140 lbs, and have run, say, 20 miles a week, the tally for 2010 will be somewhere in the 100,000 range for calories. More, to be exact. It is closer to 110,000, but who's counting? Besides me, that is?

It is time to snack. You aren't working out so you can eat granola for every meal, are you? No way! Give me sugar, fat, and other unmentionables. I want cake.

Good cake can be found, tucked away in Pickwick Place. Area residents will know it as the strip mall with Binny's and Trader Joes on Roosevelt Rd. in Glen Ellyn.

What's there? Cupcakes. Mini, medium and jumbo ($0.50 to $2.95). What kind? Red Velvet. What's that? Imagine chocolate cake, only better. Just as the nation is going nuts for cupcakes, so are the western suburbs. You see the picture. It really looks like that.

Besides cupcakes, other pastries and goodies can be found, including Chocolatey Buttery Gooey Cake, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake, and the every-so-indulgent Turtle Brownie. Their bragging rights, though, might come from their own creation, the Brick and Mortar. Although gluten-free, this flourless cake has three kinds of chocolate, with Grand Marnier, and is finished with ice cream and raspberry sauce.

The cafe is in full-gear with a complete menu: a vegetarian sandwiches, salads, soups and more. However, they had me at cake.

"Could you wait until after 2:00 p.m., after the lunch rush?" Peggy asked when I wanted to visit. I came by at 2:15, and sat for a few minutes with her husband Mike. The place was still packed. Peggy was busy meeting customers, taking orders. Mike himself needed to hug a few people as they left.

"Guests are like family," Mike said, admitting it sounded hokey, but clearly, at the Brickhouse, this is true. He greeted everyone who came in, and almost all of them by name.

The cafe a mix of French bistro, neighborhood bakery and local coffee klatch. Everything about the place was genuine, from the warm smiles to the cream used in recipes.

While I waited at the counter, a woman came in to pick an apple pie she ordered. "Not over-sweet and syrupy like other apple pies," she asserted. With Granny Smith apples inside, and a brown sugar and cinnamon crumb topping, I am not surprised that the customer skipped the grocery stores. Other classic pies fill out their repertoire, which more than adequately provides area families holiday pies they used to buy at Bakers Square.

Mike and Peggy Wright opened the Brickhouse two and a half years ago after they both spent years in the restaurant industry. Mike, a young, but retired Sr. VP of Operations at Red Lobster helped Peggy open her dream cafe-bakery. Her own resume, packed with an MBA and experience as a GM at Olive Garden, is more than impressive.

They commute an hour each way from Oswego. A car brings them to Glen Ellyn, but passion for good food is what drives them.

Occasionally, they host events and provide a special menu. Recently, the Philanthropic Educational Organization had a party there. They cater as well. Soon, they hope to provide area restaurants and specialty grocers with their bakery items.

Let this place be your motivation this week. Run a good week's worth of miles, think about a tasty sandwich and soup, and the delicious dessert which will follow.

(Don't forget, be sure to leave Santa a few mini Red Velvets.)

Brickhouse Bakery and Cafe
654 Roosevelt Rd.
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

"Step in Time" Dick Van Dyke, from the Mary Poppins Soundtrack
Tune up the wayback machine for this one. In 1964, Dick Van Dyke as Bert the Chimney Sweep, sang this song in an awful faux-Cockney accent. As a longer song (8:43) with varied tempos, it is good for a third or fourth song on the playlist. In the film, he and other sweeps run and dance across the rooftops. I recommend sticking closer to the ground.

"Step in time, step in time
Come on, mateys, step in time
Step in time
Step in time, step in time
Step in time, step in time
Never need a reason,
Never need a rhyme
Step in time, you step in time!"

Freelance writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. I looks to running as I battles midlife and my mid-section. Find out more:  
Author's running blog:

The Red Bandana: Finding Fitness Through the Joy of Running
Running Playlist Song of the Week

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Red Bandana: The Joy of Winter

Early morning. 6:00 am. It might as well be midnight. Who can tell? It is all dark. So quiet. No one's here. Just me.

Like a ghost town in the middle of the suburbs. Everything is bluish-gray. Streetlights and moonlight -- and not a lot of either.

Cold. Man, is it ever cold. It's gotta be minus zero degrees out here. Can it be that? It is.

Did I just say that? Zero? What I am I thinking? I shouldn't be out here.

Yeah, yeah, I got gear on. I'm wearing a t-shirt, turtleneck, sweatshirt, a running jacket and a scarf, plus running tights under my long johns under my wind pants. That, and thick socks and gloves. Sure, sure. So I'm covered? I'm still cold. I breathe in and I'm cold. My face is cold. I should have worn that Spiderman face-hat-thing.

The snow hit again, covering the footprints from last time. Great. Here's winter. Officially here. I'm miserable. It is going to soak through my shoes and I'm not even off my driveway.

Oh well, I gotta do this. Four miles and I'm home. I'll do the neighborhood loop, around that big park on Briarcliffe, and I'll be done. I can't be back until I go.

I ache. I'm too old for this. Why didn't I stretch? I really should have used the treadmill this morning. None of this nonsense out here.

Down the block. I guess I can run on the street. No cars here, and besides, it is a side street. At least it is plowed. I'm glad I have on my reflective jacket and pants, just in case.

Rats. I knew I forgot something. My iPod. I needed it today. Especially today.

Around the corner. Huh? The snow crunches. Interesting. Sounds like toast being buttered.

There we go. Half mile done.

Those trees -- the way the snow is sticking to the branches. They are delicate, sprinkled on the way bakers decorate brownies. How didn't I see this before? Amazing. Yesterday, they were bare, shorn of leaves. Now, they are extravagant.

One mile behind me. I'm feeling better. Warming up. Still, my legs feel tight, but at least it doesn't feel as cold.

Is that a rabbit by those bushes? I see the tracks. I must have scared him; he was next to the tree I just passed. He looks like he can handle the cold. He doesn't have to cover himself in running gear when he wants to go out for a hop. Poor guy. The snow must be covering his breakfast.

Two miles gone, two to go. Time to wind back home. My stride is coming around. It is not as slippery as I expected. My glasses are steaming up. Good thing I didn't wear that Spiderman mask.

I think I can pick up my pace. What's that? Birds? I thought they all left in the winter? Robins? Sparrows? I have no idea, but that's a beautiful morning sound.

One mile to go. I've got this. I'll drop my pace another five or ten seconds for this last mile. Looks like I'm not the only one out here. Is that the guy who works at Caribou Coffee? "Hey, how are you doing?" There is another runner way down the next street.

There's my house. What do I have left? A quarter mile. Oh yeah, baby, I've got this. Let's kick 'er in. A little bit farther.

Ah! My driveway! A great day for a run!

Don't Let Winter Stop You

Snow and winter are here. There will be days you will want to return to your cozy warm bed. In the morning, though, can be found a treasured time. Dress warm, start with a slower pace and discover the morning.

Running Playlist Song of the Week

The song this week is too big for any iPod. It is the sound of birds (robins or sparrows?), feet crunching through cold snow like buttering toast, and the breeze of a December morning so quiet that all you hear are your thoughts and the pulse of morning joy bringing runners from bleak apathy to exalted thankfulness.

Writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. I looks to running as I battles midlife and my mid-section. Find out more: or e-mail me: anthonytrendl at

The Red Bandana: Finding Fitness Through the Joy of Running

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Red Bandana: A Run to Remember

Read the newest article, "The Joy of Winter."

Any of us who run regularly have favorite paths and routes.

It could be as simple as a course following neighborhood roads, with a long stretch leading back home passing an audience of porch sitters.

Do they cheer you on? Or, is it just a certain sense of accomplishment, knowing you delayed dinner an hour to log a few miles in?

Maybe your favorite finishes up a big hill, providing a kind of "man versus nature" battle as you surge to the apex.

One of my favorites is a five mile loop around Bullfrog Lake, in the Cook County Forest Preserve District, near Willow Springs, IL.

I start at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center (9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs, IL 60480). The Little Red Schoolhouse used to be exactly as described, but presently is a nature center. The building itself houses an array of area animals - small birds, amphibians and reptiles, as well as a sharp staff keen on educating all who stop by. Adjacent is a pond surrounded by pear, apple and plum blossoms every spring, and filled with birds all year long.

The run begins with a well-maintained dirt path. Flat and solid, you will feel sure-footed and fast. In the first couple of miles, you will see families touring the area. Signs label key areas explaining whatever flora or fauna is nearby. A waist-high wooden fence separates runners from the small ponds.

By the time you are warmed up, you will be in the thick of the woods. Large, old trees, and hidden prairies show themselves to be the home of white-tailed deer and red fox, and the occasional coyote peeking out to say hello.

Two miles later, you will pop out into an open picnic area at Bullfrog Lake. Stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie, its most famous residents, the frogs, can be heard splashing as you close in on the pond.

A quick left, and 100 meters later, your trip takes you back into the forest. Essentially, the path winds the perimeter of the pond. Slowly, the trail becomes more and more rustic as it climbs, and, as you have run around three miles by this point, you are tired. Suddenly, the shadows of the woods give way to sunlight.

Overlooking eastward toward the lake, you see parents and children playing. The pleasant scent of chicken and burgers grilling has somehow found its way across the lake. Weekend fishermen try their luck at bringing home some dinner. But you are there to run, and welcome the long downhill.

Watch your step. Water has rushed down and eroded the land, creating rumpled, hard earth, more suitable now for mountain goats than 40-something guys and gals trying to lose a few pounds. Still, your inner Olympian finds his way out, and you dash down the hill and work your way around the lake. Give a nod to the fishermen, and toss the wayward Frisbee or 16-inch softball back to their owner.

Up another hill, and you are where you entered this area. Just two miles will return you to your car at the Little Red Schoolhouse. With around a mile to go, you will see again the waist-high wooden fences, and this is your cue to muster up some speed. Somehow, with the fence, the families walking, and a sense of completion looming, every step will feel faster.

Grab a towel and a bottle of water, and take a walk around to the slough behind the buildings, and sit on a bench. Watch the birds fly in and out, look for a deer stopping by for a quick drink, and know that for an hour or so, you were part of this beautiful nature.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
Peanuts Theme ("Linus And Lucy") by Vince Guaraldi
Christmas is coming, and so will "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Snoopy will dance with the rest of the gang as we are reminded that the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Peppy, with a 1960s funky jazz piano and snare drum, this works well as a mid-run song.

For more about nature centers in The Forest Preserve District of Cook County

Writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. He looks to running as he battles midlife and his mid-section. Find out more:

For more about my running adventures, see A Runner’s Dilemma (workout details, videos and more):

The Red Bandana: Finding Fitness Through the Joy of Running

Friday, December 3, 2010

Red Bandana: New Year's Day (A Month Early)

Another holiday? Didn't we just celebrate Thanksgiving? There are still leftovers in the fridge. And Christmas lights -- we are just getting them out of the basement. Why talk about New Year's Day now?

January 1, besides being a day off to nurse the previous day's late night of foolishness, is usually when people begin their New Year's Resolutions. We look at the previous year, and think, "The next year will be better!" Then, we make a list. Maybe it includes to stop smoking, write the great American novel, get a better job, or to run a marathon. All good. I love it.

Why not start your New Year's Resolutions a month early?

There is a fair to middlin' chance, as I warned last week, that some of us, nay -- most of us -- blew our diet at the Thanksgiving table. Family and friends brought treats, made a delicious turkey, and, when the cranberry sauce was passed our way, we lost it. It all went downhill from there. Three slices of French Silk Pie and two football games later, and we've gained 400 pounds. Hand me a napkin, please.

Somewhere out there, Richard Simmons is wagging his finger at us.

Will one day ruin all fitness? Of course not, but it can reset patterns of overeating and laziness. Did this happened to you? Getting back on the wagon should be swift lest you fall back into bad habits.

In early winter, it sometimes gets so dark and overcast here in Chicagoland that we cannot see a month ahead. It is not easy on these gloomy, chilly days to get off the couch and out for a run. Log out of Facebook, turn off the television, or put down the sweater you are knitting for your sweet Aunt Lulubelle.

Summer will be here soon enough, and we will wish we took hold of this opportunity to work off the pounds.

What should a running resolution look like?
1) Be realistic. If you haven't run in 30 years, a spring marathon not only going to be difficult, but a bad idea. A spring 5K is possible. Your body will be happier for it. You can build on this, work up to 10Ks, longer runs, and then, onward to the holy grail of running, the marathon. But all in due time, and not before.

2) Be specific. Sure, you can say to yourself, "I am getting into shape by running a lot." There are so many vagaries in that one sentence that, in essence, it means nothing. "I am going to lose three pounds a month by working up to, and maintaining walking and running 30 minutes a day five times a week." Those three pounds, in a year's time, equal 36 pounds. For most of us, that's more than enough.

3) Find accountability. Find a likeminded friend or family member to join you in this mission. This might be a running buddy you commit to meeting at the Wheaton College track mornings before work. It can also be someone you just talk about the journey to fitness over coffee.

4) Be forgiving. In other words, while it is important to remain steadfast, there will be occasions in which you skip a workout or eat an extra helping. That's OK, and part of living a joyful life. Stay on track by recognizing your goals are long-term. As you do the right things consistently, the right things will result, but this takes avoiding discouragement.

5) Have fun. Sing when you run. Smell the flowers (since it is winter, you will need to pretend with this one!). Look around the subtle, beautiful, amazing nature around you. Smile and wave at your neighbors. Think about how good you will feel after a shower. Remember the payoff comes with each new step, with each new day. In month, you will already be in motion, able to encourage others to join you.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
Released in 1966, "Wild Thing" resonates with pulsing drums, strumming guitars and a guy singing who is passionate about his girl. It is a great song to finish out a hard tempo run.

"Wild thing, you make my heart sing.
You make everything
I said wild thing..."


Writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. He looks to running as he battles midlife and his mid-section. For more about his running adventures, see A Runner’s Dilemma (workout details, videos and more):