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After heading back home to Los Angeles for Mother’s Day weekend I began to think a lot about the people in my life and what roles they play in helping me to be my best. Those that are in my circle, my friends and family, are those that I turn to for advice and support and they do the same to me. Trusting in that support from the people in your life that mean the most to you is a vital tool in living better. Bottling everything up or solely working through it on your own are not healthy tactics. Instead, rely on the people around you who are positive influences on your life and work to be the same to them. Join me today in a quick reminder of the importance of your circle.

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Throughout my journey of personal betterment I have found that a key tool is to list out what is working and what I can improve upon. This tactic led me to realize that I am have not been incorporating functional exercises, bodyweight workouts, at all into my running regimen. To improve as a runner you cannot only focus on running, you must also put in work outside of the run. Strengthening muscles throughout the entirety of your body allows you to become a more well-rounded runner that can confidently and safely tackle any challenge. Your body is a machine and you have to care for the entire machine, not only a few parts. The complex mechanics of that machine require a runner to be strong from their head to their toes. Today I explore why building strength outside of the run is a vital tool to becoming a better runner.

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“The race doesn’t matter, the experience does and we shouldn’t be creating situations where there’s exclusivity, we should instead be creating experiences where there’s inclusivity.”

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Sometimes a quick reminder that the small things matter too can be the best help. Join me today as I explore why the little things that you do in life, like crossing the street or pushing in your chair after a meal, are what count. Those are the moments when you train your self-discipline and commitment. By paying attention to the little things, you better yourself to be disciplined in the big things, like a daily workout or meditation.

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Having spent the past two weekends camping, in Pinnacles National Park and at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterrey, I have had quite a full plate during the weekdays. I wanted to have a present mindset to best enjoy the beauty and adventure of Pinnacles and the chaos and wildness of Sea Otter but in order to do that, I had to make sure that I took care of all of my responsibilities before Friday each week. If you’ve never heard of Pinnacles National Park, it’s a magnificent place filled with incredible trailrunning amongst massive rock formations and views of soaring condors. If you’ve never heard of the Sea Otter Classic, it is regarded as the largest cycling festival in the world and I attended with friends of mine from here at Cal Poly. For their individual draws, I wanted to be present when I was camping in Pinnacles and hanging out at Sea Otter, which led my weeks to be filled with many things to get done. There were a few moments where I was on the verge of becoming overwhelmed and stressed but by applying mindfulness lessons and the all-important tool of to-do lists I was able to stay focused and accomplish what I needed to get done.

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“Learn about how to look at the quality of the instrument itself with which [you] learn things.”

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Throughout my time here in college, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I have often felt like I have lost running. Now I don’t mean that I stopped running, I have run a substantial amount while here in SLO. What I mean is that I have been plagued by the recurring feeling that I have lost the running ability that I had during times of my life like the lead up to the Bryce Canyon 100 in June of 2017. That feeling of setting out for a run, knowing that you will enter that pain cave but remaining confident in your fitness to bring you through the discomfort and emerge on the other side better for it. I spent so long tying those two concepts, discomfort and enlightenment, so closely together through running that when I lost that fitness, due to the various challenges I have faced here in college that led running to take a backseat in my life, I felt like I lost running. However, since the New Year I have been training with focus and drive for one goal: the Santa Barbara Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run, which took place a week and a half ago. The race, with the 11,700’ of elevation gain that a runner covers across the 35 miles, is known for its difficulty and I was determined to use the race as a platform to reset my outlook, perspective, and mindset on running and on what I was capable of. Stepping across that finish line was a deeply emotional experience for me because it told me that I could still run far, that I still loved it, that I wanted to do more with it, and that I could still learn from it. Join me today as we explore Nine Trails, my experience with that race, and what it taught me.

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“I’m in pain and I’m suffering here and it’s a wonderful thing.”

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“It’s amazing to me how little some have and amazing even more that the people that have, don’t do.”

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When your body becomes run down you are more likely to get sick. That simple truth is clearly apparent when you are fatigued and stressed because often those are the times when you become sick. The science backs this up, with many studies corroborating the fact that fatigue can weaken your immune system, leading to an increased risk of infection. As I am just overcoming a recent cold I have been thinking a lot about the best practices that one can employ to prevent fatigue and therefore prevent sickness. The key is to listen to your body. During times of tiredness and stress your body sends clear signals that you need to slow down and rest. Often, when you don’t listen to those warning signs, you become sick. The more that you can return to center and stay focused on keeping your body healthy the less likely it will be that you will get sick. Join me today as I explore a few key practices to stay energized and prevent sickness from day to day.

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This past Friday I turned 20 years old and now I am officially no longer a teenager. As such, I have been thinking deeply about the paths that we take in our lives. I recognize that my path, throughout my teenage years, led me to do and accomplish more than what is expected of the typical teenager. I have consistently subverted what is considered to be “normal” and that has led me to consider how to continue that practice into my 20s. One aspect of that practice, of living my individuality, that I know will be for certain is that the journey will not be easy, it never is. However, I have come to recognize that that challenge, inherent in our trails, is the key because it is the teacher. By enduring through adversity, engaging with it, and learning from it we emerge from the other side of the difficulty better for it. Join me in today’s episode as we explore the mathematical concept of fractals to illustrate the use of difficult situations as tools for personal betterment.

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I particularly enjoy finding new lines of questioning to pursue with the guests that I have on my show, to get a unique perspective. In our conversation on Ep. 161, Thomas Reiss and I explored the relationship that he has with his sons which has been deeply shaped by engaging in transformative adventures in the outdoors, much like the relationship that I have with my father. A unique father-son relationship, often shaped by running or some other endurance sport is always a topic of conversation that I enjoy exploring because it speaks so deeply to my own life. So when Thomas suggested that I get his teenage sons’, Luke and Dylan, side of the story I was intrigued. Luke has trekked with his father all over the world, to Everest Base Camp, Mt. Baker, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, and the area surrounding Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Dylan has adventured with his dad all over the Sierras and Western US. These experiences, coupled with the fact that they are dedicated athletes in their day to day lives, made them perfect guests for me to sit down and chat with. My conversation with Luke and Dylan delves into how running, international travel, having a strong father-son and family dynamic, adventure, and hiking have shaped them. We explore what it means to have a deep connection to getting out of your comfort zone through adventure in the outdoors shapes a young person’s life.

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The relationship between order and chaos has always fascinated me. That dynamic was recently exemplified to me on a train ride from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles. Outside of the train car, a storm raged in full force, with sheets of rain beating the windows, but inside the car, the passengers and I were peaceful, warm, and relaxed. We watched movies, read, talked, or slept while we exerted no extraneous effort to get from point A to point B. That ride got me thinking about our relationship to chaos and how we can form a more beneficial relationship than the one we typically have. Our typical relationship is marked by being swept up in the tide, becoming overwhelmed or stressed, and letting the chaos control us. However, I have found that, through a shifting of perspective, we can approach chaotic situations as tools to better ourselves. Through an exploration of the scientific idea of entropy, my experiences in the hectic downtown of LA, and the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching I explore the usefulness of chaos as an opportunity to grow.

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I deeply believe that a key aspect of education is repetition. As such, your spiritual education must include that aspect. Today I delve into a reminder that in all cases both the answers and questions are found within. That the path that is your most fulfilling life is found through learning who you truly are. That act of meeting yourself is one that is painful, emotional, and difficult but ultimately worth it. Using parables that examine the virtue of going within from Buddhist and Hindu perspectives I hope to remind you today that this tool has been discussed for thousands of years and it has not lost its usefulness. Indeed, it is probably the most valuable tool for bettering yourself because it allows you to peel back the layers obscuring who you truly are, through such techniques as meditation, getting out of your comfort zone, and broadening your mind, all of which are ways to go within.

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“I motivate myself, I think that’s important. If we don’t motivate ourselves then no external person or thing is going to get us out of bed and get us to do what we need to do.”

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“If you challenge yourself and you do hard things, suddenly the things that you think are hard in regular life are not really that hard.”

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An aspect of the health and wellness world that is too often not discussed or explored is honesty, honesty with ourselves and with the world around us. Here on Touching the Trail, I work to present my life, and the ups and downs in it, with an honest voice. I am not perfect, far from it, and as such, I often feel inadequate, insecure, stagnant, or like I have no idea what I am doing. However, I have learned that if I allow myself to become depressed or distracted by such thoughts I am allowing those demons to control me, I am their prisoner. Instead, if I acknowledge their presence and then simply crack on I have found that I can lace up my boots, push through the muck of the challenge, and get to the dry land on the other side of the mud. Instead of becoming mired in the slime I can move forward with a perseverant mindset. We have a responsibility, to ourselves, to better ourselves, but we can only do that if we are strong enough to push through the challenges that arise within.

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“If you remove borders, we’re all the same.”

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There are often times in our lives, I definitely know there have been in mine, where we let the stressors and responsibilities that surround us control us. Often that situation stems from losing balance, from putting too much focus on one thing and then, when something unexpected emerges, we become overwhelmed. This simple equation has played a major role in my life over my time in college, so going into this new quarter I have realized the importance of making balance a priority. One way of doing that, I have come to recognize, is by broadening my horizons and exploring the aspects of myself that I have not before. By being unafraid to try new things beyond the horizon of my comfort zone I may very well find something new that provides me supreme happiness. Exploring this complexity is a way to help teach yourself more and more who you truly are and what honestly fulfills you, by doing so you learn where to place your time, energy, and focus. Join me today in examining this technique for finding balance.

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Life rarely, if ever, turns out exactly the way one expects it to. Often the case is that it turns out completely opposite to your expectations. 2018 was a year that, for me, turned out completely opposite to my expectations. This year held the highest of highs and lowest of lows for me, but through it all, I realized two key aspects of personal betterment. The first is to embrace the personal growth that comes with facing the unexpected, which this year held a lot of for me. The second is to embrace the fact that change is a constant which, despite the paradoxical-sounding nature of that statement, means that we are never the person we were a year ago or will be a year from now. Personal change is an important aspect of life, if we steer that change in a positive direction. Learning that has been this year’s journey. Today I delve into the ups and downs of this year to illustrate those points. Happy New Year!

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“Sometimes the mind limits us, when in reality we can do a whole lot more than we really believe we can.”

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“Things aren’t as easy as just snapping your fingers, you have to work at it.”

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“Humanity evolves not because of physical need, but because of spiritual need.”

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The stressors of life are like a wave: you can easily be pummeled and pulled under. However, you have it within your power to break free of the imprisonment that is caused by allowing yourself to be chained to your stressors and distractions. One of the tools you can employ to break free is preparation. I always say ‘prepare for the future, learn from the past, but live in the present’ and practicing to follow this saying is a daily process. Each week you have the opportunity to prepare for what is to come and, therefore, provide yourself a greater peace of mind. That is what preparation does: provide you confidence in your ability to weather the ebb and flow of life. That confidence, in turn, provides a greater degree of happiness. Listen in as I delve into how to be happier through planning better.

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Sometimes when life does not go in the planned direction that change of course can become a gift, instead of a curse. I have spent the majority of my running career using races as the barometer for my success and ability in running far. This year’s busyness and additional responsibilities helped me to realize that not only is racing not always possible, but sometimes it just isn’t smart. After recently having an upcoming race canceled on me I realized that I should take the time given to me to focus on other aspects of running that I haven’t explored before. The idea of engaging in self-powered adventures, employing a bicycle, my running ability, and possibly even my climbing skills, has always fascinated me. Acknowledging that races are not everything I have made it my mission to focus on those human-powered adventures in the months to come. This focus will allow me to broaden my creative skills in exploring the world around me in new and interesting ways, all from my front door and back again. It is vital that we take the unexpectedness of life and do our best to learn from it. Which is exactly what running has taught me: take it one step at a time.

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By building, and committing to, a routine we teach ourselves how to endure challenging times and be present amongst positive times. Along the wild ride that 150 episodes of this podcast has brought me one of the most important lessons that I have learned is to be consistent. Consistency is applicable to all facets of life and it allows you to build not only your skills at the task at hand, but also yourself. By committing each day to accomplishing activities that positively fulfill you, you are bettering yourself. I would never have been able to reach where I am at in life without the practice of consistency. However, life is a process and you will fail and falter. You will not always be consistent with your tasks, but perfection is not the goal. Being better is the goal and that only comes through taking each step along the journey, as I have done on this podcast, with peace, presence, and perseverance.

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Due to all of my talk of paradigm breaking one may think that voting would be an aspect of society that I would also have issues with. However, I have found that voting, in and of itself, is a powerful form of paradigm breaking. To me the act of voting is the opportunity to shape the world around you for the better and what, if not that, is paradigm breaking? The established order does not, indeed must not, constantly remain the same and voting is the mechanism through which we, as citizens of this democracy, forge that change. To vote is to use your voice to shatter the status quo. The greatest rebels in history, the Buddha, Jesus, Paul, MLK, Jr., used only their voices to radically change the world for the better. Voting is your opportunity to do the same. Listen in today as I discuss the power of a vote.

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I have always had a deep fascination with the perimeter of conventional society, the domain of weirdos, rebels, and paradigm breakers. It is not only a fascination, but a lifestyle, because I am very much on the outskirts of “normal” society. The common thread between the various subcultures that I have interacted with on the outskirts, from Comic Con attendees to ultrarunners, is passion. Everyone in these various groups is deeply passionate about their oddity and has surrounded themselves with people who are as well. That support network provides them the platform to let their freak flag fly and, therefore, be themselves. We are complex creatures that cannot, indeed must not, by fit into a singular box by society. Letting our freak flags fly isn’t only life advice, but a social necessity to build a world where we can all work to be our true selves.

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Over the past few weeks, and for a few more weeks to come, I have spent each weekend in places other than San Luis Obispo, where I’m living right now. In other words I have been moving around a lot and in that chaotic environment, coupled with a heavy load of schoolwork, I have been thinking a lot about how I can best find peace in the moment. As a rock climber, cyclist, and runner I have recognized the commonality between the three distinct sports: finding fluidity will make for a much better climb, ride, or run. I realized that that mantra, find fluidity, is not only beneficial to sport, but to daily life as well. It allows us, if we focus on it, to recognize that we must not fight the situation we are in, but work with and learn from it. So listen in today as I discuss the benefits for your personal peace of finding the fluidity in the moment.

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Throughout my entire life I have been fascinated by the act of shocking people out of their automatic modes of living. As such, I was intrigued by Salvador Dalí’s revolutionary perspectives on morality and society. He was a rebel and the genre of art that he worked under, Surrealism, was as well. Surrealism, Futurism, and Avant-garde are all thought provoking movements on the act of breaking the paradigm. To subvert the status quo is always my goal, to help my peers redefined their perception of what is possible, and those movements have evolved into something wholly unique: a New Surrealism that I believe is led by artists like Marilyn Manson and Megadeth, comedians like Key & Peele, and athletes like Anton Krupicka. A disparate bunch, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they break the paradigm. Blazing our own trails is not only an artistic mission, but an actionable tool for positive societal change and so always remember this: stay true to yourself!

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“A lot of the work is giving enough to get them curious and willing to look inside and see.”

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How do an art & literature Bible class, Robert Browning’s 1842 poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” and building a steel frame fixie bike with gravel geometry from scratch all relate? Through research, is how. Research is the key component in understanding, interpreting, and/or executing all of these projects and topics. Research for your personal edification is not an intellectual’s pastime, but a vital activity for everyone to become conscientious media consumers. In our world of passionate opinion making, “alternative facts,” and lies from the highest office, it is important to process this onslaught of information using the sieve of your own knowledge. But, that knowledge can only be helpful if it is fueled by multiple perspectives, has a strong foundation, and helps you to become more well-rounded. Listen today as I delve into the process and topic of doing you own research.

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The stories we tell ourselves and each other are reminders on how to be better. That is what I try to achieve each week in this podcast. As I worked this weekend on my various endeavors I slowly, but surely checked off items on the to-do list that I had made for myself. However, that got me to thinking about the near constant reinforcement of the idea that the more you get done the better you are that I see in the media. Our culture is obsessed with productivity and people, too often, invest their happiness in judging how much they have gotten done that day. The more the better, right? Wrong. Happiness does not come from productivity and productivity must not be your prison. When accomplishing tasks, whatever they may be, you must stay present, stay focused, and remember to take a step back from what you do to gain a better perspective. Fall in love with the process, as I always say.

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While I may talk a big talk on this podcast week to week, in reality I am human and I am not perfect. The truth of the matter is that I often allow myself to be controlled by stress and distractions, leading to sometimes calamitous results. On the small and large scale I allow myself to be prisoner to stress, it shaped my emotional wellbeing last year, and it is rare that I have the complete self-awareness to recognize it. I may talk, but I don’t always act. That imperfection is where I can learn, however. It provides me an opportunity to grow, something I will need to do to best enjoy this new school year. Going forward I hope to reshape my perspective into something that supports me, instead of tears me down. Listen in today as I discuss the consequences of my flaws and the perspectives that I must take to learn from and better them.

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There are countless people throughout, and currently in, each of our lives who positively influence us. Those mentors hold a powerful sway on your path and your betterment, but no one is perfect. When those mentors go astray you must realize that their past message, that at one point positively influenced you, still can. Their current mistakes or negativity does not cancel out their past influence. However, the current mistakes or negativity should cause you to let them go and move on, all the while holding dear their message that does influence you to be better.

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Too often we speed through our lives without taking the time to recognize the multitude of opportunities we have available to us to find personal peace. The practice of cooking is one of those opportunities and yet our society has forgotten the importance of cooking at home. Today's episode is a simple reminder of the importance of cooking and eating at home, because it is not only an opportunity for mindful peace and presence, but also an opportunity to fuel your body right. For me, cooking is a metaphor for life, because it allows you to be present amongst each step while workings towards the whole. Let's all remember that.

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In each moment of our lives we each blaze our own personal trail and that trail must be crewed by those who truly have an enlightening influence on you and challenge you to be better. Whether they are friends or family those that surround you must be positive influences on you and your path. If those that surround you are negative influences who hold you back you must make the committed decision to let them go, with compassion, so that you can be better. It will be a difficult process, but one that will, ultimately, free you to live a life even more true, happy, and fulfilled. Today we delve into stories of the benefits of letting go those negative influences and how to embrace the people that truly support you.

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Let's talk about tea, because while the US may still be a coffee culture, tea is becoming more popular and is a staple of many people's daily lives. I am an avid tea drinker and have been so for probably longer than I have been a coffee drinker. For me, tea is a much gentler experience and one that provides more overall benefits than coffee. One of the main attributes of tea that I love is the fact that it can so easily be a positive personal ritual, an active meditation, that benefits me each time I take the time to focus on the process. Today I make the case that tea can and should be an active meditation for all of us to center us in the moment. Join me as I delve into tea's vibrant history and its numerous positive and negative health effects. I hope we can all be better from this discussion.

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Let's talk about coffee. The wonder drug of our society and a staple of most our daily rituals. To me it seems that coffee is so readily available and commonly used that we don't think much about it, at least I don't. After many years of coffee consumption I've recently done some thinking on my, and society's, relationship with coffee. As I look around me day to day I see so many people who live in a state of fatigue and use coffee to temporarily drag themselves out of it. However, I believe that coffee must be used as an added bonus to our day, for its flavor and energetic properties, but not as a crutch. To combat our state of fatigue, and shift into living in a state of energy, we must learn to listen to our bodies and respond intelligently. That intelligence only comes by equipping ourselves with the right knowledge of how to treat our bodies as machines and temples. So listen in to today's episode as I delve into the lush history of coffee, its scientific benefits and drawbacks, and how we can all redefine our relationship with coffee to learn to listen our bodies.

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As humans we constantly have ups and downs. Whether those ups and downs are emotional or physical, we feel them each day. Over the past few weeks I have, quite honestly, been feeling down. It is not constant nor overwhelming, but I have noticed a distinct shift in my mental wellbeing towards the negative. The main reason I believe that shift has occurred is because I feel like my business and sport endeavors have come to a sort of stand still. That perception of staleness is only a matter of perspective, I know, but it is still difficult to walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk of betterment. I have realized that one of the key ways I can work through and with these feelings is through not beating myself up about how I feel. Instead, I must listen to my body, work with it, and learn from it. As such, I hope that you can learn from these musings that I share today. 

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There are many aspects of our day to day lives that we take for granted or simply don't think about. Over the past few weeks, as I have been working to manage my fatigue and injuries, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time each day. For any of us, what we do with our time each day must be things that are positive and fulfilling, that better us. One of those things, something I have refocused on recently, are hobbies. Having a hobby may seem childish, pointless, or just not possible to some, but I posit in today's episode that hobbies are vital aspects of building a peaceful mental headspace and a truly fulfilling life. Hobbies have a multitude of benefits that contribute to becoming a more well-rounded human being. They can become part of our process of personal betterment and presence, if we let them. Listen today as I delve into hobbies and how you can find and focus on yours.

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"That's the ticket: putting energy into it, even when no one else can see it."

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We all deal with it, but we rarely take the time to step back and focus on it: fatigue. Our hectic lives are so easily negatively impacted by a string of heavily fatigued hours, days, weeks, or even months. The causes of fatigue are so common in our lives, as well. Personally, it has been an issue that I have been dealing with for the past few weeks and I have only recently made committed, planned efforts to solve my high level of fatigue. Today we delve into the causes of and solutions to fatigue, a topic that I think will benefit us all. Just remember this: play it smart and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

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Whenever I sit down to record an episode for this podcast I always hope that whatever story I may tell, you may take what you will from it and use it to better yourself. Today I tell the stories of my past few weeks. I have completed my first year of college, adventured, road tripped, and spent time with my family. I delve into the stories of those experiences and how they have shaped the end of my first year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I also delve into two events that have recently transpired in my life that took a toll on my mindset, instantly redefining my preconceived notions and preconceptions about who I am and what I am capable of. It is hard to not let these events stop me or slow me down, but I can only do so by focusing on acceptance and diligence. Those two focuses are what have driven me over the past few weeks, so let's dig into how I am learning from them.

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“It doesn’t matter what happens to us, it only matters what you do about it.”

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“I find comfort in uncomfortable situations.”

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Welcome to the shantytown, to the freak show, to the extravaganza, to the world of the Born to Run Ultramarathons. Held once a year in May in Los Olivos, California I was able to finally make it out, for the first time, to this wild event. The core theme of running carries a common thread through all of the passionate people who attend: we all have a deep love for running far. That love for pushing our bodies transcends into other wild antics that populate the days of crazy that is the Born to Run Ultras. There was everything from a Tarahumaran bola race, lucha libre wrestling match, and race between legends Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimare to a beer mile, talent show, and wedding. Today, in a special episode, I chronicle the events, tales, and experiences of my weekend at Born to Run utilizing a multitude of perspectives from people who attended the event and who each had their own story to tell. Sit back and enjoy the absurdity!

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