Saturday, January 26, 2019

NBA Midseason Review

It has been a entertaining first half of the season. Time to compare my preseason predictions at the midway point of the season.

Preseason Finals Pick: Boston vs. Golden State
Mid season: Sticking with these two teams. Boston is still adjusting to having its full compliment of players. Milwaukee, Toronto and Philadelphia will be tough outs. They’ll most likely face one or two of them to come out of the East. Golden State has a fantasy team with Boogie Cousins back, enough said.

Preseason MVP: LeBron James
Mid season: With his injury it will hurt his LeBron’s chances. He’ll have to go in a tear the second half of the season. Harden and Giannis are front runners now.

Preseason Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic
Mid season: Luka is running away with this so far. He may not end up being the best player out of his draft class which was loaded with talent. But he was best prepared to have immediate impact with his experience overseas.

When it comes to the hometown team Washington Wizards. They’re not better without John Wall, they seem to be better off without him. They’re still not out of the eighth spot. They play small entirely too much for my liking and it hurts them defensively. But they have been competing and playing hard. As tough of a season as it’s been they’re still not far from being in the playoffs. BradyBeal should be an All-Star.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hampton Joins The Big South: It Was Time To Move On

Yesterday it was announced that my beloved alma mater Hampton University was leaving the MEAC and will be joining the Big South conference beginning July 1, 2018. It was not surprising that the announcement was met with mixed emotions. My freshman year at Hampton in 1995 was Hampton’s first season in the MEAC. President Dr. William Harvey made it known then and repeated yesterday that Hampton’s goal was to be the best midsize athletic program in the country. In order to reach that goal it was inevitable that leaving the MEAC was necessary to achieve it.

It wasn’t a matter IF Hampton would leave the MEAC, just when would they be presented with the opportunity. There are mixed emotions from excitement to asking why, tradition, sellouts, it won’t be the same, etc. This is about growth. It may sound harsh and bias, but Hampton’s overall profile had overgrown the MEAC.
Hampton upsets Iowa State in 2001 NCAA Basketball Tourmanet

Hampton shares common goals in other areas with other MEAC institutions. But in terms of the direction of their athletic departments it’s different. Other HBCUs 'are in a similar position and could follow in the coming years. A move under these circumstances has never happened for a HBCU.

Most HBCUs' (Historically Black College and Universities) don’t share the same aspirations for their athletic departments. The focus is on academics and finances. President Harvey’s approach has been to achieve success academically, financially, and athletically. In 2001 #15 seed Hampton upset #2 Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The image of head coach Steve Merfeld being lifted in the air after the victory is the moment that has been played over and over again the last 16 plus years. The following season Hampton returned to the to the tournament and battled a very talented Connecticut team. The men’s and women’s basketball teams have made a combined 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 1999. Those moments were not fleeting for the university. They were used as momentum to build the national profile of Hampton and improve the other sports but in the athletic department.

The last few years there has been a lot of movement within college athletics of conference realignment. The trickle-down has finally impacted HBCUs’. Initially they will be some bumps with an increase in the level of competition. Hampton will be positioned to recruit better athletes, be a member of a conference with a television deal, visiting teams will bring more fans to games. I have confidence Hampton will adjust and be successful.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NFL, What's Next?

As a big sports fan the NFL the past year has become exhausting. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling to bring attention to police brutality against black men and women and the continuous racial inequities has gotten further away from that. It started soon after his protest. It became about the military, the anthem, patriotism, respect for the country , the flag and other talking points.

Photo Credit; Getty Images
He is still without a team. Ratings are reportedly down. There are opposing boycotts with each side wanting to take credit for the ratings decline. When the drop in ratings is a combination of many factors which include the opposing protests/boycotts. Then there was Donald Trump’s comments at a Alabama rally last Friday that led to the “Unity” moments throughout the NFL this past weekend. That was the tipping point for me to be exhausted with how all of this has played out.

Most of the NFL’s key sponsors have been quiet. “I’d expect most sponsors to stay quiet, at the risk of alienating a significant percentage of their customers,” said Bob Dorfman, executive vice president of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco.

The owners had their business attacked, sent statements and joined players in an attempt for feel good unified moments. The players, coaches, and owners taking a knee, staying in the locker room and/or locking arms were more in protest of Trump and an attack on their right to protest rather than what started the kneeling in the first place. From a political standpoint this was a trick play by Trump straight out of the Nixon Southern Strategy playbook. It shift focus from health care, North Korea, Russia, Puerto Rico and the other long list of issues. Now that the photo ops from this past weekend
are over, what’s next?

This is an opportunity the NFL can take advantage of, but it must be organized and clearly communicated between NFL owners and players. The league does plenty of charity work. Players volunteer their time and resources to worthy causes. For a league that 70% of their players are black it is time to include causes that are a reflection of the concerns that affect them and the communities they came from which Kaepernick has been doing the last year. 

Where was the NFL during the water crisis that is still a problem in Flint, MI? Where was the unity when Michael Bennett had a gun to his head in Las Vegas? JJ Watt of the Houston Texans used his platform to raise over $37 million after Hurricane Harvey with support from other athletes, celebrities, and over 200,000 donors. The NFL didn’t have a league wide coming together to address that on a game day. 

The NFL is an over a $13 billion industry. Visiting their foundations website there isn’t a person of color on their board. Their grants appear to be focused on youth football and physical activity. Both are worthy causes, but how about causes and programs that could impact the conditions in the cities of these teams such as Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit. 

In February 2016 the NFLPA launched a new resource program for player members called Foundation Fundamentals. Foundation Fundamentals works in partnership with The Giving Back Fund, a national nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates charitable giving by professional athletes, celebrities, high-net worth individuals, existing nonprofit organizations, corporations and others who truly desire to “give back.”  

There is a clearly a disconnect. The NFL has an agenda about their causes which is different from their players. This is an opportunity for both sides to come together organize, plan, invest and implement resources and programs that can have a profound impact on communities.

The NFL is always reactive instead of proactive. Recent examples are Ray Rice with domestic violence because of a video and player safety because of lawsuits.

Since law enforcement is a hot topic and local police forces do not invest in mental health, physical health, cultural awareness and education for officers like they should the NFL could create or give funding to existing programs. 

It will take leadership within the league to get things moving past symbolic gestures. Protest are meant for discomfort and create discussion then they need to transition to action.  It’s time for the NFL to start that process.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why I Started Running

Over the course of my fitness journey I have been sporadic doing cardio. I have been active my entire life. Playing sports and exercising since I can remember. During college and into my early twenties I started lifting weights and continued to play pickup basketball. As I got more serious into my lifting and played basketball less I would use machines such as the elliptical and the stairmaster.  Recently I realized it has been many years since I did cardio consistently. I would do circuits with my weight training and attempt new sequences that would get my heart up, but still wasn’t doing traditional cardio. 

I’m blessed with good genetics. My metabolism is very fast and I’m naturally very lean. My concern was to maintain size and strength that took a long time to put on through trial and error. From a health standpoint I realized it was time to increase my cardiovascular training. The best way to do it was to incorporate something I have never been a fan of and that is running!

For the first time in many years I wasn’t concerned about how much I weighed or size. This time it was to improve my endurance. The only sport I still play consistently is softball and that is three months out of the year and only one day/week. I was going to do other forms of cardio besides running. I knew this would a mental challenge as much as physical because it was something I did not care to do.

I train six days/week. I started with running two days, stairmaster two days, elliptical and row machine two days after lifting. The first day I got on the treadmill  I looked down and it was only a quarter of a mile and it felt like my heart was coming out of my chest. I had to keep pushing. I started with a mile. After a few weeks of two days I decided to keep doing the stairmaster on my two legs days and add one day of running. After a week of that I could feel myself turning the corner. I was increasing the speed and mentally I knew when the fatigue would first hit me that I would get a second wind.

It has been almost two months of running and doing cardiovascular exercises consistently. I can see that I’m leaner with more definition and my body fat as decreased. I haven’t stepped on a scale since I started because I don’t care what my weight is right now. During my lifting session my recovery is faster and I’ve maintained my strength. My appetite has been the same, I eat 4-5 medium to large meals/day and 1-2 snacks. 

To preserve muscles I have increased my protein and carbohydrate intake and increased the volume of my strength training. Post workout I consume BCAAs, proteins, and carbohydrates, that hasn’t changed with the increase in cardio.

I’ve increased my running to four days/week for a one mile to 1 1/2 each time. Occasionally I have run for two miles. That has been a good balance because even though I know the weight I will lose is mostly fat I want to maintain muscle and strength. So far I have been pleased with the results. I’m getting more acclimated to running and will continue. I'm still not crazy about it, but the challenge of doing something different is what is driving me so I'll keep running.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer
www.piperfitness.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What’s Stopping You From A Healthy Lifestyle?

With the responsibilities that we have finding the time and energy to exercise and prepare healthy meals can appear to be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I have had experiences working with clients of all ages with various responsibilities on their plate. Those that are determined that their health is a priority will find a way without compromising professional and personal responsibilities. Your focus on taking care of everyone and everything else and not yourself can interfere with your health. What happens is everything suffers because you don’t have the stamina to address it all. Your day is not planned including meals and exercise. The slightest obstacle will throw you off track. In my years in the health and wellness industry here are a few examples of what I’ve observed that are a hinderance to being consistent with healthy habits.

FEELINGS

One of the common excuses why people don’t take care of themselves is their feelings. They like a certain food of drink too much or exercise is too hard. Your feelings should have nothing to do with how you approach your health. Life will constantly throw obstacles and stress our way. View prioritizing your health as a way to prepare you for what inevitably will lie ahead.

Find activities that you enjoy such as walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, and sports. Face head on the things you don't like if there aren't any physical limitations from you doing them. You’re not always going to feel like training and eating healthy meals, but if there’s nothing actually wrong, then you need to make yourself do it anyway. Practicing good habits when do don’t feel like it helps build inner strength, and afterwards you will also feel the benefits of a boost of positive endorphins. 

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold. It's one of the best remedies out there. A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. A second study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercised daily had more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical for getting things done.

EASILY DISTRACTED

You lookup one, two, three weeks have gone by and you haven’t been consistent with your regiment. With all that is going on in your life it has become challenging. For some, they’re looking for a reason to stop exercising and eat what they want. It was easy to grab something to eat that wasn’t healthy because you didn’t meal prep or you just had the taste for something. You were too tired to go to the gym and the days added up.

In order to maximize your health you can’t be easily distracted. Set time aside to exercise with the time you have available. Prepare your meals or have knowledge of the places you’re going to purchase prepared food. The distractions can’t have more power than your desire for a healthy lifestyle. It’s one thing to have a bad day, don’t let it turned into weeks, months, and years.

SHORT TERM GOALS, NOT LONG TERM

Short term goals such as the summer is approaching, a vacation, wedding, etc. are good motivators to make lifestyle changes. But what happens when the event or trip is over? Was the motivation temporary or was it a springboard to being consistent? 

A challenge with long-term goals is that they are far off in the future and it will take a long time before they are achieved. As a result, staying focused on long-term goals can be challenging. You must trust the process. If you have a plan or consulted a professional that designed one stick to it. You will hit fitness plateaus and have to make adjustments. But what can’t change is your effort to press forward. Sometimes it is trial and error as you’re learning your body and how it responds. 

American Psychological Association’s most recent “Stress In America” survey revealed that not having enough willpower was the top reason people cited for being unable to make healthy lifestyle changes. Develop the willpower to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.


Monday, January 30, 2017

You Can't Afford To Stop

Starting and keeping up a healthy lifestyle can be challenging.  In some instances the goals can be superficial.  Other times it is health related.  Layoffs can happen due to injury/illness, stress, and/or being overwhelmed with responsibilities.   But you have the opportunity to get back on track.  Don’t deceive yourself, it will be challenging.  You must have the perseverance and consistency to press through.  Strength and conditioning will not maintain on its own.  There is never room to be complacent.

If you have taken a long layoff from exercising how did it feel once you started back?  Did it feel like the first day?   The time invested in being active was building a foundation of strength and conditioning.  Time off will impact both.   Many studies have been done to track what happens to the body once a person stops training. 

Intensity plays a major role in how much our exercise induced adaptations are reversed over time, both in terms of strength and endurance.  The more intense your workouts were, the more you retain when you stop training, even for prolonged periods of time.

As we age continuing to stay active becomes imperative to function at a maximum capacity.   “We lose so much muscle as we age that by the time we’re 70, we only have about 50 to 55 percent of our muscle mass left,” says Beatrice Edwards, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That explains why we feel weak and tired as we age, and we can prevent some of that with weight training.”

Cardiovascular fitness is related to age, gender, exercise habits, heredity and cardiovascular clinical status. Maximum values occur between ages 15 to 30 years, decreasing with age. At the age of 60, the mean maximal aerobic power in men is approximately three fourths of that at the age of 20. With sedentary lifestyle, there is a 10 % reduction in the mean maximal aerobic power per decade, the reduction with an active lifestyle being less than 5 %.

Studies have shown that weight lifting can prevent bone loss and may even help build new bone. In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength-training program for a year saw significant increases in their bone density of the spine and hip, two areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women. Developing a strength and balance/stability program, especially targeting the hips and core, can help prevent falls with these women.

Continuing strength training with age will assist in performing your daily tasks and enjoy recreational activities.  Strength can serve as the fountain of youth.  It is combats the age-related declines in muscle mass, bone density and metabolism. It is an effective way to increase muscle strength and to shed unwanted inches. Strength training also helps to decrease back pain, reduce arthritic discomfort, and help prevent or manage some diabetic symptoms.

Frequent physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.   Physical activity lowers risk of serious conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer, to name a few. It also helps in the management of high cholesterol and arthritis pain.


Remind yourself why you are staying active.  Besides all the aesthetic benefits it is more important to keep going for overall health.  The quality of your life depends on it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tomorrow the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump will be sworn in.  Needless the say this past election has stimulated a wide range of emotions.  I attended the inauguration eight years ago when President Barack Obama was elected.  It was a very cold day, but I could feel the excitement and optimism.  My thoughts at the time that his presidency would stoke the best and worst of the country simultaneously.

The fact that he was elected and excitement surrounded it represented the best.  The clear resentment from some and how that would play out were my concerns.  It was later reported that on the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered to create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.  After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. Obama had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

I have grown increasingly frustrated with partisan politics.   I’m displeased at both major parties throwing labels at each other.  The left this and the right that.  Our society has evolved and people do not care to be put in a box regarding how they view issues.  The Republicans have become nauseating.  As a black man living in this country the lack of acceptance and understanding of issues pertaining to minorities is plainly obvious.  It’s so sad that I can listen to a politician holding office, surrogate, or political commentator speak on any issue and know their political affiliation before a "D "or "R" appears on the screen next to their name.

When the water crisis made news in Flint, MI I assumed the governor was a Republican, it was.  When the continued issue of voter id in the south, Alabama for example, I assumed the governor was Republican, it was.  There was Republican pressure on President Obama to approve the Dakota pipeline affecting Native American sacred burial grounds.

The Republican party would be the party that would have a Donald Trump win their nomination and the appointments he has made such as Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with his track record on civil rights issues, Dr. Harry Carson for HUD with no experience in housing, or Betsy Devos for Secretary of Education with no experience in public education. 

For Donald Trump to have a campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and that not be offensive to all Americans with our history was very disappointing.  Again means we want to go back to something.   What is that?   

“I’m actually old enough to remember the good old days, and they weren’t all that good in many ways,” he said at a rally in Orlando. “That message where ‘I’ll give you America great again’ is if you’re a white Southerner, you know exactly what it means, don’t you?”

Karen Tumulty of the The Washington Post reminded us how Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had used “Let’s Make America Great Again” in their 1980 campaign.

I was frustrated with the Democratic Party with its insistence that Hillary Clinton be the nominee.  As it became apparent with the email hacking to suppress Bernie Sanders that they didn’t want her to have strong opposition.  After winning the nomination her complacency in not visiting a state such as Wisconsin on the campaign trails was costly.  I was concerned about Clinton fatigue since her and husband former President Bill Clinton have been in the public eye for so long that voters were just tired of them.

The Democratic party’s lack of identity and leadership is evident.  I’m more confident that they are the party that is more reasonably minded and acknowledge the issues that face this country.  They are more inclusive with diversity in leadership.  If the midterm elections during President Obama’s two terms were not a wake up call, Trump’s election better be.

The last eight years I have paid closer attention to local elections.  I’ve always voted when a local offices were at stake, but with many of the events that transpired across the country I’ve gained more understanding of how important those officials are.  Many of the issues that we are not pleased with start at the local level.  

Donald Trump ran a divisive campaign and it worked!  Hillary Clinton did secure three million more votes than Trump, but if you remove California and New York Trump secured three million more votes than Clinton and won 30 out of 50 states.

Donald Trump is a win at all cost person.  Over the years there have been stories on his business dealings and the damage he has left behind.  He saw an opportunity to tap into those that never wanted President Obama to be elected and those that did vote for him who were not pleased with their circumstances after his two terms.

Alexandra Pelosi did a documentary during the 2008 campaign, “Right America:  Feeling Wrong”.   Pelosi visited 28 states and spoke about the fight for the soul of the country with mostly conservative Americans, who feel underrepresented by the mainstream media.  

"The way the press handles the election, we feel like our side's never being really represented, never really given a fair shake," says one man. "It's almost like they think of us as a bunch of hicks, a bunch of idiots. And they don't even wanna hear our side or understand us."

With the growth of social media we have a platform to express our feelings on anything we choose.  It has exposed issues such as police conduct with killings and incidents being filmed and posted.  At times I’ve read comments from articles and post and it is clear we are a divided country.

The division in the United States provides an opportunity.   Whether a person chooses to share their feelings on social media is a personal choice.  But what can’t be avoided is acknowledging the current climate.  We all must take a position.  I’ve heard stories and witnessed of how Trump’s campaign and election has caused strain in relationships between friends and families.  What has been internalized in the past is now more openly communicated.

It is not fair to paint all Trump supporters with a broad brush.  But his bigoted, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric was not a deal breaker.   If Trump was a minority or woman he would not have gotten pass the first primary with his comments and tweets of all those he offended.


I’m past getting upset with politicians, celebrities and entertainers who reveal their position on a multitude of issues.  Thanks for letting me know.  We need to be the change we want to see and continue to fight for what is right and just for all.   It is time to take a stand.  I’m seeing the signs and hope it will continue while he is in office.