It’s not exercise at the beach

25Exercising on the beach comes naturally. Many people jog, walk, walk their dogs, play in the surf, dig holes, build sand art, look for shells, fish and hunt for shells at night.
I recently visited my cousin, who has a sixth-floor condo in North Myrtle Beach. My 83-year-old cousin spends most of her day walking the beach, looking for shells in the surf, and if you met her, you would see the benefits from walks, jogs, hunting for shells and walks in the water and think she was much younger!

Morning coffee on the balcony gave me a bird’s eye view of the many ways the beach is enjoyed for exercise and relaxation, which are both therapeutic. A great view of the ocean and people-watching are added benefits! Each morning I took my mat out and did my barre workout. There is something about stepping off the mat and digging those toes in the sand.

The rewards of beach exercise are subliminal because you do not realize how many muscles you use, and there is beautiful sunshine and sand. Digging holes and making sand art involves all the movement patterns and use of muscle groups.

Playing in the surf or hunting for shells requires a test of balance and strength with the force of the rolling waves. Walking seems to be effortless, and before you know it, you have walked a long distance and going back turns into a headwind or vice versa.

There are many benefits to walking and jogging on the beach, and walking in sand is one of them, whether you are barefoot or have shoes on, and it is less stressful than walking on a hard surface. Your calf muscles work harder to push along the surface.

By walking at a slower pace, the uneven variation in the sand requires more effort and about three times more energy than walking on a hard surface. Jogging also requires more energy, and the movement pattern is less stressful on your joints because the sand acts as a cushion.

Jogging on the beach can build your strength while stabilizing your muscles and coordination. It takes more effort to stabilize your core on uneven surfaces. Your body begins to develop a natural and very efficient running form while adjusting to the instability. Running on sand has a long history of training benefits for sports. Top runners have made the beach a part of training for race preparations.
Going into the surf to swim, board or hunt for shells is a good core and balanced workout. Looking for shells in the lapping waves improves your balance and core strength as you brace to stand up or stoop down to find that perfect shell or shark’s tooth.

There are guidelines for walking or jogging on the beach, especially if you do it frequently. Injuries can occur because of the increased demand on your soles, hamstrings and calves. Walking in the sand with bare feet is fine for shorter distances, but longer distances should be undertaken with proper walking shoes to avoid shin splints.

The slope of the beach can provide a challenge for stabilizing muscles, leading to pain or soreness. If you run or frequently walk, change the direction that you are going and go at either high or low tide.
The sun can cause you to underestimate the impact of the temperature and sun rays on your skin. Walking with a water bottle and wearing sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are always advisable.
Live, love life and enjoy the beach!

Before heading to the water, let's talk about swim safety

24Summertime for young people should offer fun, friendship and great memories, and what can be more fun than a cool, refreshing swim? Sadly, every summer brings the news that someone in our community, usually a young person, has drowned. Why is this the case, and what do we need to know before heading to the water?

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death worldwide, largely affecting children and teenagers. Males are especially at risk, with twice the mortality rate of females.

The male brain certainly bears examining. Young males, in particular, are more likely to take risks, such as swimming alone or in secluded waters not authorized for recreational activity. Males of all ages succumb to predictable notions of invincibility and bravado.

The point here is not to assign blame to drowning victims or their families but rather to spark a discussion. It is not they who are tragically tone-deaf. It is society at large for not giving drowning the urgency it demands.
Adults, this is where you come in. First of all, we need to know what drowning looks like. Contrary to the popular notion of someone flailing madly in the water, experts agree it usually happens in silence. It can occur quickly, in as little as a minute.

A swimmer with his mouth open, gasping for air, his head bobbing in and out of the water, needs immediate help. Hair blocking the eyes or forehead and trying to swim in a specific direction but with no progress are other danger signs.

Safety experts agree on a few key suggestions: don't go swimming alone, learn CPR, avoid alcohol before swimming and boating, add fences, alarms and cameras to home swimming pools and swim only in designated waters (secluded spots pose such risks as rocks, debris, currents and extreme depths not always anticipated). Most importantly, encourage swimming lessons. The YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs and municipal pools are the best places to start.

In a nutshell, supervise. Supervise the inexperienced swimmers, and supervise the experienced. In addition to adult supervision, encourage young swimmers to look out for each other.
Fifty years ago this month, I lost a dear family member to drowning. Surviving family members tend to torture themselves, wondering what they could have done differently. We endlessly ponder how far our best efforts go before fate takes over, but, as mere humans, our best efforts are all we have.

News reports alone can't convey the loss felt by families and communities touched by drowning. Individual stories are, in fact, chapters in a national tragedy, but we as a society reflexively write them all off as an unfortunate offshoot of an otherwise carefree season.

My wish is that young people enjoy their summers and let go, if only temporarily, of care and worry while still looking out for themselves and each other. Our job as adults is to foster the perfect balance between having fun and exercising caution. Youth is fleeting enough; let us hold onto its energy and innocence for as long as we can.


Publisher's Pen: Chamber candidate’s forum leaves hollow feeling

4Everyone knows I am a huge Chamber of Commerce advocate. So when our newspaper was invited to assist in moderating the June 30 Fayetteville Municipal Candidate's Forum at the Crown Coliseum along with CityView TODAY and the Fayetteville Observer, I was delighted. The Chamber's Government Affairs Committee hosted the forum under the direction of Eva Henderson, and Gary Rogers emceed the event. The event was well attended by all incumbents and challengers seeking city council elected positions for all nine districts and the office of mayor. Only Deno Hondras, District 9 candidate, was absent due to an out-of-town commitment. The attendance of concerned citizens, estimated at 70, was disappointing considering that this was the final forum before early voting beings on July 7.

I was excited to be a part of this informational exercise. However, I was equally disappointed in the outcome once it was over. It left me with a hollow feeling about the future of our community. Without a doubt, the candidates readily identified and acknowledged the Fayetteville community's needs and its citizens' concerns. Homelessness, the crime and homicide rates, the need for affordable housing, higher-paying jobs, the desire to attract more industry, improve our image and have a cleaner, more beautiful city. But collectively, and with only a few exceptions, after listening to the incumbents' positions, they confirmed what I and many others suspected, they are primarily about maintaining their roles within their districts and have little knowledge or concern for the needs of the cumulative 210,000 citizens. This became evident when I reviewed my notes, which revealed this sentiment was a pattern among incumbents from the mayor on down. When Mayor Mitch Colvin was asked about Fayetteville's homeless encampments on Gillespie Street and the four city center encampments encompassing three blocks between Rowan and Hay streets, he instinctively punted the problem over to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Colvin stated that this city council had done more for homelessness over the last term than in 25 years. I don't remember homelessness being an epidemic problem 25 years ago. Truth be known, the situation has only gotten worse under this administration.

As I listened to the mayor and the nine incumbents responding to questions about homelessness, crime, overall community safety, out-of-control traffic, lack of police accountability and the shameful amount of trash and litter in our city, it became apparent that their main priority was to safeguard and secure their positions. They radiated little concern, empathy or knowledge of the needs of the entire Fayetteville community. Evidence of this surfaced with the incumbent's adverse reactions to the viability of term limits. And again, concerning the pending referendum that will appear on the November ballot for changing Fayetteville's nine district/mayor structure. This structure only allows a resident two votes out of ten in determining Fayetteville's leadership compared to a possible four at large seats and five districts plus the mayor. This change would give all Fayetteville residents six out of ten votes in determining local leadership. Six votes versus two! One would think, “what's not to like about that?”

I'll close by saying everyone needs to look to the future. Go to the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce website and view the Forum video. It says it all. Fayetteville's future is now! Voting starts on July 7, and I will make this prediction hoping and praying it doesn't turn into a sad and disappointing epitaph. “Fayetteville will ultimately get the kind of leadership it deserves.”
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

We must insist lawmakers do the right thing

4President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Certainly good for a chuckle, but also enormously insulting to public service employees, 76,000 of them in North Carolina, according to the Office of State Human Services.

If you live in Cumberland County, the chances are good that you, someone in your family or a friend is a state employee. Cumberland County is well within driving distance to the Triangle, home to our state capital and the workforce that supports state operations.

In addition, various state departments and agencies have offices all over North Carolina, employing workers at all levels, including hundreds in our community.
Most of them take their job responsibilities seriously while under increasing pressure and enjoying little public support in this era of anti-government sentiment.
More and more public service employees at the state and local levels are deciding with their feet and taking their skills and experience elsewhere, many enticed by higher pay in the private sector. While the Office of State Human Resources touts 76,000 state employees, the current reality is much different.

The News and Observer recently reported that the current vacancy rate among state agencies is now 21%, with almost a quarter of all jobs unfilled. Three years ago, that rate was 12%. COVID probably accounts for some of this, but for whatever reasons, the number of state employees has dropped from 61,800 in April 2020 to 57,200 today. Ronnie Condrey of State Human Resources told The News and Observer that unfilled jobs and high turnover are a serious problem for our state.

“We spend a lot of time training people, and they turn around and use that elsewhere.”

It is hard to blame them.

Private sector jobs traditionally pay more. Public sector jobs generally come with more job protections and more generous benefits, although those have waned in recent years. At the end of the day, though, public sector pay has to be enough to live on, and that simply is no longer the case in North Carolina and many local communities.

The North Carolina General Assembly has enacted a 5% pay raise for most state employees over two years, which is significantly lower than the current inflation rate. Cities and counties are scrambling to give raises as well, but even when there is the will, the way is difficult in poorer communities.

Other factors affecting the public workforce include aging public employees and a younger population that is more mobile than ever before.
I cannot speak for you, of course, but I want and expect certain services from my government at the local and state levels.

From the state, I want the roads my family and I drive to be safe, well-maintained and patrolled. I want the schools my grandchildren attend to have well-trained teachers and administrators and enough of both. I want North Carolina prisons to have enough corrections officers to keep themselves and those in their custody safe. I want adequate numbers of health care professionals at state facilities to provide care to people who need it.

From local governments, I want law enforcement officers to show up when we need them. I want someone to answer my 911 call in a timely manner. I want safety inspections for buildings, bus drivers for public transit and lifeguards at public pools. I am also grateful for public parks where families can enjoy each other and public libraries we can all explore.
I will go out on a limb here and speculate that you want those services as well. They are not the “help” Ronald Reagan joked about so cavalierly. They are the services that keep our communities safe and the amenities that make them attractive places to work and live.

If we want to keep them, we must insist our state and local decision-makers fund them.

God bless America

23Independence Day, better known as the 4th of July, is almost here, and many of us will be flying our own American flag. It is such a powerful image that there is even a day dedicated to honoring it – Flag Day.

Technically, Flag Day commemorates the June 14, 1777, adoption of the stars and stripes as the official flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress. (Parenthetically, June 14 also celebrates the birthday of the United States Army, as the continental army was formally established on that day two years earlier). While not a full-fledged federal holiday, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring June 14 as Flag Day, and in 1949 an Act of Congress designated it as National Flag Day.

Still, why all the fuss over a piece of cloth hoisted on a pole?

Flags have long been symbols of nations or other groups and political entities. Among a flag’s many purposes is to stir patriotic feelings among a nation’s citizenry and to mark the representation of that country to other nations.

The etymology of the word “flag” is a bit uncertain, but it likely derives from Middle English, from the Old Norse Flaka, meaning to flutter or flap about. While an apt description of what a flag does in the wind, it is not particularly edifying.

In contrast, the Hebrew word for flag – Degel – has a more elevated meaning (pardon the pun). Degel is related to words meaning prominent, distinguished, praised or to profess. So, a flag is that which is prominently displayed to distinguish a nation (or group) so as to praise and profess loyalty to it.

Some Biblical scholars suggest that the word Degel came from related languages, where it originally referred to a military colony “overseen” by a watch tower. As Hebrew developed, the idea of watching over was extended to the flag flying from the tower. For the ancient Hebrews, Degel came to mean a banner symbolizing God’s watching over them, which by encompassing them, designated them as a constituted group.

While few of us know any of the five verses other than the first, it is striking that Francis Scott Key’s 1814 poem, “The Defence [sic] of Fort McHenry” – later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” – concludes with the words,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
“And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Whether or not God extends a special providence to the United States of America, over the centuries, this land has certainly been a blessing to many people fleeing persecution and struggles, but not to all.
When we as Americans face our national flag, and lift our hands to our hearts or in salute, let us be thankful for our blessings and pray that God extends watchful care over us, our families and all our citizenry; bringing understanding, peace and abiding success to everyone within our borders.

As Irving Berlin, a famous immigrant from my faith, once prayerfully wrote, “God Bless America.”

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