RUN, HOUSTON

Fred Faour: You are never too old or too out of shape to take up running as a hobby

Start running and you might see views like this one of AT&T Park in San Francisco. Fred Faour/SportsMap

So yes, technically I am on vacation, celebrating my wife's birthday with a trip to San Francisco. And it is a pretty slow time in Houston sports, so I could easily pass on writing my Monday column and no one would fault me.

Alas, I had some time after recovering from a nice run and thought today's missive would take a different direction.

For the past several years, we have been running (well, in my case jogging or staggering) through 10ks as a way to at least pretend to stay in shape. One of our favorites has been the Run Houston Race series, which features five different runs at five different locations around Houston. It is a cool way to keep your running goals, see some different places in the city and get in a nice run (they do 5ks as well). Two years ago, we did them all. Last year, due to travel conflicts, we missed most of them. This year, we vowed to do them all again.

Then this trip came up and conflicted with Sunday's race at UH-Clear Lake, the third in the series. Of the five, it is probably my second favorite (behind the UH run), in part because I spent a lot of my college life (and all my post-graduate work) at the school, and always had a fondness for the area.

Fortunately, the series now offers a "Virtual Race" option for just such conflicts. In essence, you have to run your sign-up distance three days before or after the actual race day to get credit for running. No offense to Clear Lake, but getting to run along the bay in San Francisco was a bit of an upgrade.

 

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The Bay Bridge. Photo by me.

My path took me from downtown San Francisco to The Embarcadero trail. It was along the water the entire way, and allowed me to get sensational views of the Bay Bridge and perhaps the most unique baseball stadium in the country, AT&T Park. My time was almost record slow, but it was hard to not stop and snap pictures quite often, and my always dodgy knee decided to buckle about 7k in. But I finished it, got credit for the third of the Run Houston races and also managed to take in some amazing scenery. (And pretty sure it was about 20 degrees cooler than it was in Clear Lake today).

I don’t run in these things to try to post fast times (not happening) and I don’t care if I finish last. I do them to have a reason to stay in shape, have some fun and push my aging body. As we get older, some of the things we used to do just aren’t practical (basketball, for instance. I am one snapped knee from six months of rehab, and who has time for that?). I was never much of a runner -- I always needed baskets or goal posts to shoot for -- but I enjoy it now nonetheless.

So if you are thinking of getting started, there are a lot of ways to get going. I started with the C2-5k app, which got me off the couch and started a program of running and walking to build up enough stamina to run a 5k. After about a year of 5ks, we stretched out to 10ks, and have been doing them ever since. At one point I actually ran a half marathon, and eventually would not mind trying another, but I am a long way from that at the moment. Regardless, the point is anyone can get out and run, and you are never too old or out of shape. (It's not like I am in perfect shape). Run Houston has two races left in the fall, (UH and Constellation Field in Sugar Land) and you have plenty time to get up to 5k speed.

Plus, there is no shortage of races for different causes every weekend in Houston. I tend to back off most of the summer races because the heat and humidity is so oppressive, but every now and then one crops up and I try it. (And vow to never again run in August, then sign up for another race two weeks later).

So if you have been looking  to get off the couch, and want to try something that can be fun, has a nice social aspect to it and can help you get in better shape, download the app and get started. You might find you enjoy it.

And before you say there is no way you could do it...I am an old, slightly overweight man with bad knees and health issues. If I can do it, what should stop you from getting started?

Then you can feel better about yourself when you blast past me on a run. 

 

H-Town Run Tourist's Honorable Mention

How this Houstonian created a website that is Match.com for mental health

Courtesy of Ryan Schwartz

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Have I told you how much I love writing for SportsMap and Fred for letting me be me? This week, I met with this exceptional Houstonian that I had to give him an honorable mention. Meet Ryan Schwartz (picture above). He is the creator of Mental Health Match, a website like Match.com, where people can choose the therapists that fits them perfectly. Having had both positive and negative experiences with his own therapists, he wanted to develop a site with the client in mind. He wanted to make it easy and confidential. It is the perfect way to finish my mental health series. Ryan and I chatted over calamari and shrimp and avocado toast so that I could learn more about Mental Health Match.

Here is some background: After the sudden death of his mother, Ryan looked for a therapist to help him cope with the transition. He was surprised that it took him a big effort to find the perfect fit. He had friends get so frustrated with their therapist search, he knew it had to be a pain point for more people. This is what led him to get the idea for Mental Health Match. With his background in communications and research for nonprofits for social change and a passion to help people, he knew he was more than qualified to pioneer this effort.

So, what did Ryan have to do to bring Mental Health Match to Houstonians?

First, I interviewed 50 people who were looking for a therapist. I then contacted a number of friends to refer one of their friends in a different city to me to be interviewed. I cold called about 20 therapists with questions. From all those conversations, I made a first draft of the webpage and after a lot of testing began making the website.

So, how does Mental Health Match work?

It is a free service that connects you with the therapists who is best for you. You take a 5 minute survey. We ask about your goals for therapy, what type of activities you are interested in. We match you by your location, how much you want to spend, your insurance, personality traits and styles you prefer.

Nothing like rock climbing to get over life's obstacles.

Pixabay.com

What are the different styles of therapy? What's the most unique?

You can do therapeutic yoga. You can take a walk with your therapist. One of therapist that I have interviewed offers rock climbing therapy.

What a practical way to get through life's obstacles by physically experience those obstacles on a rock climbing wall.

Do you recommend an affordable therapists over an expensive one or are they the same to you?

Therapists who are expensive have specialized experience. Such as? If a client needs therapy for a childhood trauma as well as an eating disorder, then go the more expensive therapist. If you need therapy for general depression, then a more affordable therapist will work just as well.

How many therapists do you have currently on Mental Health Match? 140.

What does it take for a therapist to get listed on Mental Health Match?

Right now, any therapist can sign up for free. We have to validate their license as well.

How did you get them? Many of the therapists have been telling their friends and colleagues.

What type of person uses Mental Health Match?

All kinds. All ages. All genders. It's very diverse.

What is their main concern?

Anxiety and relationships.

What do you do to stay up to date on psychiatry to keep the site up-to-date?

I sit down every week with my therapists to keep up-to-date.

Nothing to be afraid of. Having a therapist is just like putting on a safety harness before dealing with hard emotions.

Pixabay.com

I remember back in the 80's, if you said that someone had a chemical imbalance, it was like, keep that person sedated. We didn't even know what those chemicals were. Now, words like, serotonin, melatonin, oxytocin, and dopamine are in everyday conversation. What, do you think, has changed in the field of mental health? What have they done to eradicate the stigma of mental health?

We have had so many improvements. A big help is when high profile people talk about their mental health and how they sought therapy. People like Jay-Z, Common, Howard Stern, and professional athletes have admitted to being mental health recipients.

So, with sites like Facebook, there is a concern for privacy. This is a super sensitive topic anyway. How does Mental Health Match protect the clients privacy?

Its all anonymous. We never store anything that can be traced back to the client. We use several security measures to avoid being hacked.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about getting a therapist?

We would have a conversation about what they are afraid of or why they are worried. I would put heavy emphasis on the circumstances and the stresses of today, not on them.

What if they REALLY don't want to go?

I would remind them that they deserve it and that they are worth it.

Well said. By the way, I'm stealing that last part. "On belay!" "Belay on."

Join me at Uncle Bean's Coffee at 8am on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 for our inaugural H-Town Run Tourist Social Running Club. Runners, walkers, strollers, and dogs are welcome to explore Woodland Heights and White Oak. Contact me at info@tourismgymhtx.com for more details.


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