Myths about weight loss: Health and fitness tips from an Architect

If you do not like the way you feel, there is still time to do something about it!


I Love My Architect


I recently lost 40 lbs and went from a size 38 pants to 32.  I want to share some of my tips with my readers to help them get health and fit for 2013.

Beat the stereo-types and myths about weight loss and fitness.

Paying for it

  • Don’t believe the hype you hear!
  • It feels good to flex your “wallet” muscles but don’t waist your money on expensive gadgets
  • Buying magic pills, machines and equipment doesn’t mean it will help you lose weight
  • Your body is your best weapon
  • Don’t believe in Magic; Make it a lifestyle change

Lose weight fast

  • Don’t believe the hype you hear!
  • It takes time to lose weight – don’t rush it
  • Don’t go crazy
  • It’s OK to cheat (once in a while)
  • Don’t be ashamed to use Weightwatchers or other similar programs to help you track calories – Check out the Livestrong app
  • Don’t drink your calories…

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As with the cycle of daylight so goes the cycle of my running. I don’t know about you but for me longer days means longer and more intense runs and more mental/physical energy. As the daytime increases so does my intensity and drive. Coincidentally, the opposite happens as daytime hours decrease. As a relatively new, “getting back into the sport after taking a break to get married, buy a home, have kids, find a better job,” runner in the past I would fight this annual, natural cycle. I always lost. As I train more seriously for running and triathlon races over the past few years I realized I have to go with the flow. Literally, go with the flow of daytime daylight. In the spring I ramp up my running, by the late summer, early fall time I peak, then by late fall early winter I start to taper.    


Doing this does a few things that can help you get ready for the next running season:

  1. You can still run races effectively (concentrate on shorter, local runs to support a local organization, church or charity you like)
  2. You can try new things (I try to hit the trails more and enjoy nature, helps with focus and high knees)
  3. You can work on your weaknesses (whether that’s hills, speed training, long runs, etc.) without messing up your training schedule
  4. You have more time for strength training, cross training, yoga and stretching (dear I say cycling and swimming too?)
  5. You can run for the fun of it, which helps get your mind un-focused and re-focused for the spring (running “just” for the “fun” of it, what’s that?) 

I would love to hear your thoughts on your winter / off-season training and how you keep yourself motivated.


Frank Cunha III, AIA, NCARB, LEED Green Assoc.
Principal / CEO / Registered Architect
Licensed in CT, DC, DE, FL, NJ, NY, MD, PA, VA


P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha <at>
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
“If not now then when if not us then who?”
-Winston Churchill

Posted in 5K, Fitness, Motivation, Run, Triathlon, Uncategorized


By Frank Cunha III

A few weeks ago (on August 1, 2015) I participated in the 20th Annual “RIVER TO SEA RELAY” (14 stages totaling 91 miles) with my friends from my Sparta Runners Club.  Unlike any other race I have ever completed before this one gave me an entirely new perspective on participating in a long distance event.  Each member of the team runs two separate legs of the race.  The team’s start time is based on the team’s average 5K time (slower teams start first).  We all start the race in Milford NJ and end in Manasquan NJ.  If you ever decide to participate in this type of event you must know that it is not all about running.  Each team is required to have two vehicles and runners do not (or should not) rest between their legs of the race.  Instead they assist the current runner and bring the next relay runner to the the next check point.  Besides lots of logistics, like knowing where to go next and pumping up your teammates, is your need of support and your reciprocation of support.  On a hot 90-100F day you cannot take for granted your teammates soaking you down with ice water and waiting for you along the route to keep you hydrated.
Perhaps even more important than the support received was the support you give your teammates.  To me that was what made the day so special.  And I am eternally grateful to have served my team mates and their support during my run segments.
My Team Mates:
Frank Cervino
Alessandro Bronzini
Joe Farinella
Ed Curtin
Noah Meineke
Jim Ruiz
Some Photos:

Seven Smart Asses Relay Team


Getting Pumped for My First Stage (The Beast)


Crazy Smart Asses


Hills, Hills & More Hills


Hot Day


Finishing Up My Second Segment (Long & Hot)


With Team Mate Joe (Turning 77 This Year — What’s Your Excuse?)


A Fun Day Running Across the State (From Dawn Til Dusk)

Event Information:
To learn more about the event Click Here.

My Segments:
1) R2C Relay Leg 4 – “THE BEAST” – Lambertville, New Jersey
2) R2C Relay Leg 9 – “Looonnnggg & Hot” – South Brunswick Township, New Jersey
* They were both beasts; long and hotttt!!!

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Lessons learned from my second 50K (notes to self)…..
The Countdown:
Trail 006-2015Trail 004-2015
  • I should have expected the unexpected (spring snow)….I trained often and I trained hard leading up to the race, but I did not train long or hard enough in snow conditions.  I should have “mushed” more and “plowed” through more snow (sacrificing training mile split times).  Lord knows there was enough snow. Some place deep down inside I just hoped that it would have magically melted for the race. Then we got 6″ of new fresh powder.  My mind was not ready for it.  Worse of all, either were my legs.  I expected up to 5 hours of running, just not at such a high intensity.
  • I should have trained specifically, specificity matters (trails, jumps, leaps, time on feet, pain)….I expected to run slower on the trails but I trained for +/- 8 minute marathon, not a 31 mile trail race in the snow. My muscle strength just wasn’t there.  after about 12-15 miles my mind caught up with the my legs.
  • I should have conquered my mind over matter (again)….I made some of the same mistakes as last year….Went out to hard following my friend; I jumped and leaped over obstacles, which I promised myself I wouldn’t do (stretching out my muscles, staining them, expending valuable energy throughout the course).
Trail 001-2015Trail 002-2015
  • Follow the plan (plan? I don’t need no stinking plan)….Plans change I know, but they are there for a reason.  Next time I really need to stick with the plan…. start off slow, even a 10 minute mile is OK for the start; progressively get quicker as you go along.  It is really disheartening (to me) to see my average pace slipping away with every passing mile.  My dream of a 9-min per mile average pace slowly slipped to just below 10-mi. per mile pace by the cross of the finish line.
  • Don’t be stupid (Stupid)….This one is the hardest one.  You plan your run, then you run your plan.  I let my ego take over and I had to swallow my pride at the end of the race as I slowed down, just trying to finish.
  • Fell for it (again)….I thought that I could hang on; and I did great for the first 10 miles; by mile 20 I knew that although my cardio was great; I had to reduce my intensity if I was to finish the race.  Once I adjusted my heart rate from 150+ down to 135 or so I was OK.  The intensity of the first 10 miles killed my chances for a 4 hour 40-45 minute 50K.  I ended up with a slower time than last year, my first 50K, when I didn’t know the course or the race.  I was pretty upset.
Trail 005-2015Trail 007-2015
  • Mental toughness (momma didn’t raise no quitter)….Lots goes through your mind during a 5 hour race.  After the first loop (out of three) I felt good and if I could have continued at that pace I probably would have finished top three for the 50K.  The reality was I did alot of cross training, swimming, biking, and running, and I was prepared to run a solid race for 3-4 hours.  I was not prepared to run an Ultra. I was not prepared to run a Trail run.  I was not prepared to race 31 miles at top speed, especially through old harden snow and fresh powder to boot.  I just did not have the strength or the conditioning for the sort of race I needed to run to meet my goal of a 9 min per mile race.  The good news is that I defeated my mind which wanted me to quit.  My legs paid the price, but I finished, and only a few minutes slower than last year despite worse trail conditions.  Last year was no picnic but there was some relief between the packed hard slippery snow, the mud, and leaping through streams and transversing makeshift plank bridges.  This was a tougher race and I finished within respectable time from last year.  I’ll check that off as a win.
  • Physical pain, the other side (break on through to the other side)….This was the most gut wrenching run I have ever done.  Mentally, I broke through into a zone from miles 26-31 that despite physical discomfort I was able to push through and complete what I set out to do.  Another victory.
  • Mission accomplished, the bigger picture (Off-season)….Maybe the secret is already out.  I’m just a guy, a dad, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend.  I am not elite, I am not great, I am not gifted (I just tell myself all those things when I train so I stay motivated and keep pushing myself, my limits, my boundaries).  I work hard, like to stay fit and in shape and I enjoy mixing things up.  I rather sacrifice a race than my training (fitness).  I rather be strong, above-average all year than peak and dip throughout the year.  I like to be well maintained to do multi-sports at any given time throughout the year, i.e., swim a strong mile, bike solid for an hour or two, run a fast 10K or a half-marathon distance fun run on the weekend, that sort of thing.  Living in NJ, in the off-season, options are limited.  Doing the long race keeps me focused and motivated from December to March.  It takes a lot out of me, but it certainly gives me a great base for the rest of the year.  Recover in April, and start doing some more fun stuff in May and June.
Trail 003-2015
Time and places are not the only productive goals to have.  There are other things that matter.  Things like staying healthy and injury free.  Staying motivated and meeting challenges head on.  Although I am disappointed with certain aspects of this year’s race, overall I am impressed and happy with myself for coming this far in such a short time.  During the end of the race and immediately after I crossed the finished line I thought and said I would not do this again next year, maybe in the future, but not next year.  After resting for two days I am already starting to strategize how I can improve my experience for next year.
This Year: (2nd 50K) on Strava
Last Year: (1st 50K) on Strava
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Posted in Fitness, Motivation, Ultra

Latest Article Published by Clifton Roadrunners Club

CRRC February 2015 Newsletter (1)_Page_12

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Things to Work on for My Swim


Ever wonder what the life-guards are thinking when you are doing your early morning swim workout?  I always did. Well…

Today I found out and it wasn’t pretty. I trust this kid, he is a lean 25 year old grad who is a lifeguard at the gym I work out at. He also happens to be a swimming coach, spinning instructor, and a triathlete (and he mentioned something about Nationals). After talking shop for a while he asked if he could critique my swimming stroke. The results are in and besides my entire swim everything is 100% perfect…. I’m not discouraged, I have a few months to work on these weaknesses and come back stronger this year for my second triathlon season. Here is what he said.


  • Reduce splashing
  • Smoother swim

Cross Over

  • Avoid passing centerline
  • May be result of my kick-board grip

Pull Mechanics

  • Pint fingertips towards bottom of pool

Bi-Lateral Breathing

  • More rhythmic/consistent
  • Switch sides every three strokes

Catch & Finish

  • Improve Technique
  • Poor catch
  • Follow through another 8” at final part of stroke

Vary Intensity of Workouts

  • Do not do a workout at the same speed
  • Swim at various speeds

Other than that, everything is great.

PS In my own defense he was critiquing me after I worked out 5 days straight logging 20+ miles running and 50+ miles biking, but that’s no excuse. I’m humbled and determined to try harder!

Stay tuned for an update soon (if I don’t drown in my self wallowing).

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Run Faster & Longer By Running Less


The best way to become a better runner is to run….of course.

Accumulating lots of miles (volume) will certainly help you become a better athlete.

With increased volume there is also an increased potential for injury or burnout.  The experts say to increase weekly volume (for up to three weeks) no more than 10% of the previous week, recovering every fourth week with fewer miles before slowly increasing mileage again.

The progressive volume of running may look something like this:

  • Week 1 = 20 miles
  • Week 2 = 22 miles
  • Week 3 = 23 miles
  • Week 4 = 17 miles (Recovery)
  • Week 5 = 23 miles
  • Week 6 = 25 miles
  • Week 7 = 27 miles
  • Week 8 = 20 miles (Recovery)


Build-Rest and then Build Back Up – Repeat.

This seems to be the best bet (according to the experts) to give yourself a good pre-season base as well as increase volume for a longer race.

What else can you do to increase (or maintain) fitness without risking overuse and over fatigue of your muscles (mental and physical ones)?

Consider adding some cross-training to your weekly workout routine.  Mix it up.  Here are some potential benefits I have experienced:

  • Stay fresh, less miles = more productive runs
  • Longer recovery period between runs = quicker speed workouts
  • Mixing up your workouts will keep you motivated and break the monotony that comes with increased running volume
  • Avoid overuse of your “running” muscles while developing other “muscles” — swimming increases your “lung” muscles and improves breathing patterns; cycling (or spinning) increases your “cadence” (turn over) muscles with lower impact (to joints; ankles, knees, hips, etc.)

If you choose to cross-training…. Start slowly.  If you train 4 days a week, try swimming, cycling or cross-fitness strength training one of those days.  Your legs (and feet) will thank you for it.

Once you acclimate your body to cross training you can even try to mix up your workout with multiple activities (often referred to as BRICKS, by triathletes), where you swim/bike, bike/run, run/bike, bike/swim, run/swim, etc., with little or no rest between each set.  These are called BRICKS because you are stacking workouts (like bricks in a wall), they make you tough like a brick wall, and because your legs will feel like a “ton of bricks” in the beginning of the second session, especially bike to run.

This should keep things interesting and fun.  If you try it, please let me know how it went (good or bad).  I would love your feedback.

PS I am currently training for a 50K using this “marathon” plan by Hal Higgons (only with added swimming and cycling volume) compared to last year where I logged 50-60 miles during my peak weeks.  I will report back and let you know if the cross-training helped improved my performance from last year’s 50K.


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