Monday, October 17, 2011

The Overcash Award

If you haven’t met Ted Overcash by now, you’ve missed out on one of the great benefits of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. Ted is now 66. He’s been a fixture for years, although he’s slowed down a bit, he’s still alive and kicking.

Ted hasn’t set any records recently, although he and I held the over 60 Tandem record for about a year. But Ted would come out and run the course, time after time and year after year. His times would slowly work their way down as he trained and trained.

Ted is not a very big guy. He stands about 5’5”, weighting around 160. But Ted has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve seen. From the beginning in 199#, he struggled mightily, to the point that he scared me. But he would never give up.

Some years back, Ted was diagnosed with cancer. In his characteristic style, he battled back and became a cancer survivor.
He found out that he had a tumor in 2002, weeks after receiving the first GNC award in Deerfield Beach.
In May 2003 he ran his first Challenge 11 weeks after surgery.

In the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, we have a number of World Champion awards that are sponsored by Lion and named after our fallen comrades. We decided that while this was a proper way to honor their memory, why not name an award after one of our competitorsbefore they died? How much more fitting?

And so, the Overcash Award for the person who accrues the most points was created. Ted has been present to make the award for a number of years. Recently in Tinley Park, he asked me if we were still going to give out the award and would it be named after him?

“Of course,” I responded. “We wouldn’t have it any other way.“

Ted seemed pleased. So, if you’re in Myrtle Beach and see Ted, stop for a moment and let him tell you a little bit about his life’s journey. It’s always a great perspective to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a cancer survivor; just ask Ted.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge?

In 1984, I was running a company called Institute of Human Performance. We provided occupational health services to a variety of local and federal government emergency service organizations. The backbone of our business was a mainframe computer manufactured by Data General (DG). It was the size of two side-by-side refrigerators and required its own climate-controlled room. My 250MB Fujitsu Eagle drive for my DG cost over $10,000 and was so heavy that a small forklift was required to move it. One the features we provided our police and firefighters were computer generated customized health and fitness reports and individualized exercise prescriptions.

A friend of mine with a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland introduced me to the Macintosh computer. I had dismissed his entreaties to test-drive his for months. Finally succumbing, I told my wife that I’d be heading over to Phil’s house and would be back in an hour.

I was of the opinion that this could not be a real computer because there were not shelves of manuals required to document everything. Five hours later, I was still exploring and amazed at a computer that had no manuals and a mouse. That Sunday changed my life and the pathway of my company. I went to Sears the next day and purchased a Mac. They were over $2,500, with a whopping 1MB of Ram and no hard drive. From that point, we never looked back. We dumped the Data General and assembled a number of connected Macs.

One of the immediate uses was a contract with the US Navy. I wrote their fitness manual and produced 18 Command Fitness Coordinator certification programs, hauling my 22-pound Mac cube with me around the world. All of this was done with floppy disks!

The ability to create graphics, typeset technical reports, edit video was all within our grasp, and best of all, in-house. It has had a profound impact on every nuance of what we have done over the past 27 years. Steve Jobs’ death at 56 is a tragedy. His contributions to society are staggering. The productivity that we as a company have gained is enormous.

Steve went out on top; he created the world’s most valuable company and has been vindicated and richly rewarded. But the sad, sad part of this whole story is that there is no amount of money that he would not have spent to have his health back.

Isn’t amazing how people can easily disregard or fail to appreciate the very precious gift of life. Like the words of the song, “…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Life can be cruel. I have no idea as to what Steve’s health and fitness habits were. And maybe, he was one of those statistical flukes, where he did everything right and still got run over by the cancer bus.

But, there are a lot of things that we do know about that contribute to health and the avoidance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Taking responsibility for our behavior is what makes us good animals. Right now, a disproportionate number of our population are on a collision course with diabetes. There will not be enough money to take care of the huge epidemic that is approaching. And this condition is avoidable and remediable by simply moving more.

I sometimes wonder if some people are just plain predestined to end up as casualties? Warnings screaming from cigarette packages in 24pt type: Smoking Kills! “This is a free country!” they respond. Were it only so; someone’s going to pay. I just don’t want it to be me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Still Need Proof?

One of the sixteen initiatives for reducing line of duty deaths (LODD) in the “Everyone Goes Home” campaign is physical fitness. What troubles me about this program is the mouthing of a platitude without any real follow up. It’s like dental hygiene: don’t have to floss every day; just those teeth that you’d like to keep. By that I mean we continue to preach about the need, but really don’t follow up with standards.

In a study conducted by Harvard University School of Public Health and published today in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, men who engaged in vigorous exercise had their risk of fatal heart attack cut by 22%.

“We studied vigorous exercise because of its stronger association with coronary heart disease,” said Andrea Chomistek, Sc.D., the lead author of the study. “While we discovered that vigorous-intensity exercise decreases a man’s risk of heart attack, we also were able to partially determine why. The benefits of exercise on a man’s levels of HDL-C, or ‘good’ cholesterol, account for approximately 38 percent of that decrease. Other important markers included vitamin D, apolipoprotein B and hemoglobin A1c.”

There were 18,225 men who participated in the study, of which 454 suffered a nonfatal heart attack or died from CHD (coronary heart disease) during the 1994-2004 data collection window. After the 10-year period, 412 men with CHD were matched to controls based upon age, smoking status and their date for providing a blood sample.

“As expected, traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors were more common among cases than controls,” said Chomistek. “Men who suffered a nonfatal heart attack or died from coronary heart disease had less ‘good’ cholesterol, more ‘bad’ cholesterol and were more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”

The study, “Vigorous Physical Activity, Mediating Biomarkers, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction,” is published in this month’s issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, the official journal of ACSM.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks heart disease as the nation’s leading cause of death among men. Between 70 and 89 percent of all sudden cardiac events occur in men, and nearly half of men who have a heart attack before age 65 die within eight years. And of course, heart disease continues to lead the list of LODDs for firefighters.

None of this really comes as a surprise. But regrettably, until we actually start to recruit and select the most fit- people who have a real penchant towards fitness being a priority, we’ll continue to see the results of sedentary living.