Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Final FWSW Entry

Well, it's the day after the mid-season finale ... and my wife and I went to Spiece and worked out together this afternoon. The excitement from the weekend has died down and we're still overweight. We've not crossed the only finish line that matters, which is getting to a truly healthy weight. It feels good to have a lead in the competition, but you don't get medals for holding a lead at half-time. I fully intend to play the full sixty minutes.

We've had a long weekend with uncharacteristic food choices. There was a wedding rehearsal dinner, wedding reception and the FWSW finale after-party. We repeatedly found ourselves trying to figure out what the heck we were doing with our calories. I could talk to wait staff and ask for exceptions in how they prepapred my food, but there was no bar code for myfitnesspal to make it easy to calculate what I actually ate.

The food was good, and was actually healthy. The real surprise for me was that "eating out" wasn't as much fun as I remembered. It was far more hassle than it seemed to be worth. On top of that, I think my wife's flank steak tastes better than the expensive fare I ate at a posh restaurant. Don't get me wrong ... it was good food and I enjoyed both the meal and the company. It just was a lot of extra work trying to track things, and I'm finding that I appreciate a home-cooked meal so much more than I would ever thought possible.

Before FWSW, I routinely ate fast food meals at least ten times a week. Seriously. Just about every lunch was McD's, Culver's, Qdoba, etc. and dinner was rarely any better. I hadn't packed a lunch for work more than once or twice the entire time I've been married. I always ate out, and I did it for the convenience. Over this weekend, I found that all the extra work now entailed in successfully eating out breaks my cardinal rule ... to do as little possible.

If you want to lose weight, you've got to watch your food. If you're going to watch your food, you've got to keep a journal. If you're going to keep a journal, you've got to do it right. Eating out makes that ten times more difficult. As crazy as this sounds, preparing your own meals is not only healthier, but far less stressful.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mid-season Finale

I know that I said tonight would be my last regular blog ... but I want to do a proper recap, so I'll probably do another tomorrow. For now, let's celebrate the mid-season finale.

Well, the public division's season is over, and my wife came in first! I am in awe of how well she has done. The public division contestants didn't have the same degree of oversight and resources that the regular contestants did. I, on the other hand, had all the benefits of a regular contestant AND her pushing me as well.

Are you curious to know who officially won Murphy Family Smallest Winner? I did. Take a look at pictures of my hot wife and you'll see what I'm talking about. I'm definitely that guy who somehow got the girl who was way out of his league. My wife is my prize and has been for twenty-three years and counting ... and what makes it even sweeter is that the quality of our lives will be so much better because we are now so much healthier.

I'm so proud of my first-place sweetheart!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Going to the gym

I ran to Spiece Fieldhouse (FWSW's home) this morning from home ... had to get up at 3:50, get dressed and hit the road.

It was really dark, but nice and cool. Morning runs are so much better than evening runs!

After this little 4.7 miles jaunt (50:08, 10:39/mi), I had an Amber workout to get through. It wasn't easy, but I did it.

Blind Weigh-in

Well, tomorrow will be my last regular blog. When this season started, I wanted to blog at least a little each day, and I will have done that. I've enjoyed recording my thoughts and I hope it's been encouraging and helpful to you. If you're thinking about trying something like this, I'll give you a few final pieces of advice ...

1) Go for it. When I applied, I wasn't too sure if I could finish this season. The manly man part of me said, "of course you can." But there was a little voice in the back of my head saying, "what makes you think that? You've never finished anything else like that before. You'll give up." It turns on that the little voice in the back of my head is an idiot. It didn't know what it was talking about. I finished my final "boot camp" workout this morning. I went for it. I finished. You can do it too. I'm willing to bet that the voices in the back of your head are as stupid as mine. Go for it.

2) Follow good instruction. Trainers and nutritionists know what they're talking about, so follow their lead. If you don't, you'll have a much harder path. They will push you and you won't always like what you hear. Tough noogies. Just do what you're qualified instructors tell you to do.

3) Don't cut corners. That includes stuff like rounding off a corner when running laps, or not getting deep enough into a squat, or not doing the full burpie, etc. If you cut corners, you cheat yourself. It's not worth it.

Is there more advice? Sure, but these three things are golden words. If you can get started, listen and focus, then you'll do well. It's going to sound a little cliche, but if I can do it, so can you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fine dining

Short one tonight ... it's been a long day, and I want to get a good sleep before tomorrow's finale "boot camp" weigh-in.

Tonight, I ate out at a restaurant for the first time since March. I know the timing is kind of weird with the weigh-in tomorrow, but I am officiating a wedding tomorrow, and the rehearsal dinner was at a posh dining establishment. Fortunately, FWSW has prepared me to place an order in situations just like this.

I think I aced it. I ordered the salad with dressing on the side, asked them to remove the shredded cheese, skipped the dinner roll, ordered my steak to be cooked without sauces or butter, got steamed peas instead of the less healthy options, skipped dessert, and so forth. I was actually able to speak to the chef as well and explained my situation. I ate only 2/3 of the steak and was full. All in all, I believe the entire meal for less than 400 calories. The waitstaff were very accommodating and it was quite painless.

Being fit doesn't mean you can't have meals like this. It does mean being careful. I know I can do this, and will have to repeat my success of today during the wedding reception tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An old challenge

Back on 4/2, I went to the gym in the evening for my first solo workout. I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes on a recumbent bike. I went 1.5 miles and 4.5 miles respectively. I also said that I would try it again at the end of the program and report my progress. I did that today.

Before I tell you my time, I'll chase a few rabbit trails. When I started this program, I thought I would spend all of my time on the treadmill and the bike because those machines were the most familiar to me. As the season progressed, I stopped using the bike (probably by week 3) and the treadmill (because I started running outside instead). I gave them up because I wanted better, more intense workouts. When I tried my repeat today, I actually did 30 minutes on the stepper as a warm-up before moving to the bike. That probably cost me some time, but I was okay with that. I wanted to burn calories more than I wanted to improve my time on the bike.

I've also been really sore this week. I've been sore ever since I ran that 13.8 miles four days ago. I realize now that I could have seriously injured myself and I'm very fortunate that I didn't. I pushed myself too hard with too little preparation and wound up needlessly beating myself up. My knees have been really tender and it wasn't until today that I felt comfortable giving them a test. I'll be okay, but I realize that I dodged a bullet on this. Let this be a warning! Push yourself but recognize your limits. You've got to be smart too.

Anyway ... my numbers on the challenge were 6.75 miles on the bike and 2.8 miles on the treadmill. Could I have done better? Yes. I'm not really that disappointed though ... that first workout only burned 380 total calories. Today, I burned 1240 counting the stepper and 720 without it. It feels pretty good to know that I can step into a gym and burn that many calories in a workout. My take-away from this little experiment is that I've become a much more capable and efficient fat-burning machine.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


After thinking about Lugh and Nuada (yesterday's blog) and getting jealous about their cool names (the Long Arm and the Silver Hand respectively), I decided I wanted one of those. How about Frank of the Big Guns? Works for me.

If you been reading this blog, you'll remember I talk about a lot of personal records I've set over this season. Setting records clearly means something to me, and I've recently come to realize that records can be grouped into two categories: 1) records that were meant to be broken and 2) records that can't be broken.

In that first category, I've set records for distance and pace. I was so proud of my first sub 10:00 mile, and then my first mile in the eights, and then my first sub-eight mile. I'm hoping to continue to improve. I've set a bunch of these records, and when other contestants or friends hear about them, I sometimes get a "well, I'll just have to beat that." The competition drives me, and I like it. Even if I don't hold a record for long, I know it was mine, and it feels good while holding it.

But the second category of records are awesome, and it doesn't matter who you are, you can obtain these frequently and meaningfully. What is a record that can't be broken? Doing something first. You can be the first among a team to do something, and that's cool. I've done a few of this season too, and it feels good. However, for now I want to consider personal milestones instead. For example, I've ran a lot of miles this season, but the first one I ran without taking a walk break is crystal clear in my memory. I've since ran it faster, but that first one is pretty darn special. Every time I try something I've never done before, I think "virgin territory" and I want to conquer. I want to do the never done.

Think of Neil Armstrong. Other people walked on the moon after him, and they were there longer, they covered more territory, they gathered more samples, and accomplished greater scientific objectives ... but most people need google to find their names. The guy who did it first? His name is etched in our collective minds as a hero. Be like Neil. Do something never done before, and in doing so take not a small step, but a giant leap for yourself.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Long Arm

Weigh-in was tonight, but they didn't tell us the numbers. It was a "blind" weigh-in. I think I did pretty good. I ran over 35 miles last week and did over 1300 flights of stairs. Maybe not an earth-shattering loss, but still a respectable one. That's my guess, at least.

This season is drawing to a close, and it reminds me a bit of of a mythical Irish hero, Lugh of the Long Arm (with a name like "Frank Murphy" and a love for high fantasy, it was only a matter of time before I went Old Irish). He sought admission to the court of King Nuada, but the steward of the castle wouldn't grant him an audience with the king. Lugh was highly skilled in a variety of disciplines, and offered his services as a builder, a smith, a swordsman, a harpist, a poet, a historian, a craftsman, and more. The steward refused him because the king already had someone in his court with each of those abilities. Lugh responded by saying, "I understand that, but does he have one man who possesses all those skills?" Of course, he did not. The steward allowed him to meet the king, he demonstrated that he was telling the truth and became the people's champion. Later, he led them to a great victory over the Fomorians (the bad guys). Lugh rocked!

FWSW hasn't pushed to make us excel at one thing in particular. They intentionally tried to expose to a wide variety of exercises in our workouts so that we're well-rounded athletes (see the Lugh connection now?). For instance, Amber has put us through step aerobics, dance, muay tai, and more. The intent is that not every exercise is going to equally appeal to every person. I know a lot of my fellow pre-alumni looked forward to the pool workouts, while I didn't. We're just different, and there's nothing wrong with that.

If you've tried to get a workout routine going, but gave up because it just wasn't working for you, then try something else. Maybe you got on the treadmill a few times and thought it sucked. It probably did. Don't sweat it and move on to the elliptical or rower or stepper. Maybe you tried a Zumba class and thought it was stupid ... try core or step aerobics or kickboxing or yoga or something else. Give the various exercises and classes a fair shake (two or three sessions sounds reasonable), and if it's not floating your boat, look at other options. If you're serious and persistent, you'll find something that works for you. I promise. There's more than a one way to thin a cat.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I am a bald man, and with smooth scalp comes great responsibility.

Last year's winner was a cue ball, and I think the season four winner was a skintop. I'm not too sure about the other seasons of FWSW, but I wouldn't be surprised if all the previous winners were also baldies. And of course, there's Rick ... the quintessential glabrous, fit man. There's just something special about being a follically-challenged FWSWer ... we're awesome!

As this season's lone chrome dome contestant, I carry enormous weight on my shoulders. It's a lot of pressure to live up to the lofty standards of those waxed noggins who preceded me. It appears that the non-hirsute of FWSW are also a bit emotional, so I'm going to have to cry in public before the finale. It just comes with the territory of having a shiny pate. I think being depilated makes me a little more aerodynamic as well.

You know what they say about baldness, don't you? It's the phenomenon of having a face that looks so good, it's takes over the entire head.

(Credit the assist to Google for helping me find synonyms for "bald" ... where else do think I got "glabrous" from?)

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Pikermi ... it's a new word that I learned today. It's the name of a small city in ancient Greece. It's also halfway between the cities of Marathon and Athens. The modern marathon foot race is named for legendary run that a soldier named Pheidippides made from the battlefield of Marathon to report the outcome in Athens. He ran the entire distance, delivered his message, and then died.

About halfway through his run, he passed through Pikermi (what do you call people that live in Pikermi? Pikerminians perhaps?) There's a small, but growing movement to stop calling races of 13.1 miles a "half marathon" and call it a pikermi instead. The city of Marathon gave it's name to a race, so why not do the same Pikermi?

I like the idea. Saying you ran a "half marathon" sounds like you only did half of something. That's a long run. I'd rather say I ran a "double quarter marathon" or something more impressive sounding than sounding I only did something halfway.

It's a bigger deal to me now than it was yesterday. You see, this morning I ran a total of 13.84 miles. It was a training run and not an officially timed event (that's coming in September), but it was still 13.84 miles no matter how you slice it. I shattered my personal best distance by nearly five miles!

It wasn't easy. I was felling pretty good about halfway through the run, and then I got caught in a downpour. The water got into my smartphone, which in turn freaked out and fortunately wasn't permanently damaged.

I've secretly harbored this goal for several weeks now. I think I'll be dialing the distance down for a few weeks and work on improving my pace, but I wanted to complete a full pikermi before the mid-season finale. I've seen a lot of "13.1" stickers in car windows, and I wanted one for myself. I definitely don't want to be one of those guys that sport a "I did ____" bling without actually doing the (fill in the blank). Today, I qualified for the sticker, so I bought one. It's in my car's window right now.

I was tired. I was sore. I felt half dead.

I am a pikerminian.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Victory Mile, part II

Well, today was the hyped-up rerun of the one mile sprint. TJ of the "Tropic Blue" also ran his mile under eight minutes, so we were challenged to go head-to-head. Of course, that meant getting to Spiece half of an hour early ... I led about 95% of the way, but TJ wound up taking the crown with a final sprint. The official time was 7:29 for TJ to my 7:30. I'm a competitive person by nature, and its not a secret that I wanted to win. While I lost the head-to-head challenge, I still set a personal best. I would be a lot more disappointed if I hadn't given it my best shot. I'll run that sucker again in a few weeks and try to get my time down even further. My next goal is 7:12.

I also set another personal best today on the stepper. I remember the first time I completed 100 flights over two months ago. The machine fritzed out on me and I couldn't get a pic. It would have been about 36 minutes, and I was rightly proud of that accomplishment. I got it under 30 minutes on my next attempt and that's when it really started to dawn on me that the sensation of setting personal bests was addicting. It wasn't too long after that and I went 200 flights in less than 45 minutes, and eventually I got 300 flights in one hour. After pushing the distance envelope, I started pushing for speed and have since done 100 flights in 13:24 and 200 flights in 26:58. I know there a lot of numbers here and if you've not seen the machine, it may not mean much to you, but those are good numbers. Trust me.

The personal best I set today? 400 flights in 59:42. That was a response to Rick's challenge to do 200 this week. I wanted to push into new territory and leave my mark on this challenge. I felt like crap for the first 59:41, but the sense of accomplishment when I broke 400 was worth it. I'm going to repeat myself here, because it's worth emphasizing  ... setting a personal best is a great feeling. I got to have two big gulps from that cup today. Now the question is "what can I do tomorrow that I've never done before?"

Thursday, July 4, 2013


A lot of folks have commented that I look different. They say things like "I didn't recognize you at first" or "you look so different." It's nice to hear that. I can see the differences too, but I'm noticing additional differences as well.

For example, Michael and I ran this morning. For me, it was a personal best in distance ... 9 full miles. I did it in 1:29:50, which equals a 9:59/mile pace. The seventh and eighth miles were pretty rough, and the fact that I can say that blows me away. The very idea of running for eight miles and then picking up the pace for another mile after that ... who is that guy? I don't recognize myself any more.

Fat Frank from four months ago would have never even thought of trying such a thing. Slimming Down Frank pushed himself to run. I like Slimming Down Frank a whole lot better than Fat Frank, and not just because I'm thinner, but because I'm more willing to challenge myself and push my limits. I may look different (and thanks for noticing) but that's just the "skin deep" kind of looking different. It's the other ways that I'm different ... ways that aren't as obvious to others ... that really mean a lot to me.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Some random thoughts on hair from a bald man ...

I was considering going "Michael Phelps" for the mid-season finale, which is a body-building show combined with a FWSW program. I thought it would be classy if I came out all glistening with a coat of vegetable oil and wearing a leopard print loincloth. After a Tarzan yell or two, I'd  settle down and let the program continue peacefully. The only thing keeping me from doing this was my abundance of hair ...

I'm not sure how I wound up with such hairy legs, back, and stomach, but I have two theories: 1) while I'm asleep the hair on my head detaches from my scalp and relocates in the cool of the night, 2) there is no theory two (I couldn't think of another plausible explanation). I thought I would look into getting one of those waxing treatments to remove all my unsightly and superfluous hair. It would be great for the final weigh-in (I'd lose at least a pound) and I would be all shiny smooth! My mind was irrevocably changed this morning.

You see, my knees have been sore from a lot of running. At my wife's suggestion, I put some medicated patches on my knees overnight. While my hair was busy relocating (remember theory 1?), those patches slowly released soothing medication into my knees. It was glorious. When I woke up the next morning, I tried to remove them, but the adhesive was quite firmly connected to my leg hair. After several painful minutes of trying to take one off, I finally did the quick yank method.

I cried.

There was so much hair on those patches that I think I'll try to sell them at the upcoming Johnny Appleseed Festival. I'm pretty sure I could pass them off as genuine otter pelts (otters smell like eucalyptus, right?). I may be hairy, but I'd rather be hairy than teary.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Chaplain Plan

Two big milestones ...

1) Rick had everyone run a mile on our first day, and I clocked a 14:33. Rick told us then that we were going to run another timed mile at the end of the program so we'd have something for the sake of comparison. Today Rick had me run that follow-up lap ... in 7:35. I really can't believe that my body moved that quickly under my own power. Three months ago I might not have been able to do that on a bike!

2) I passed the 185 pound barrier. This number has personal significance and I want to dedicate this milestone to my dad. Here's why ...

About 4.5 years ago, I lost my job as a school teacher. The private school where I taught was struggling financially in the "economic downturn of 2008" and had to "involuntarily furlough" several staff members, including me. If you've ever lost a job you loved, you know how much it can hurt.

While I've never been kicked in the stomach by a mule, I assume it would feel pretty much like I felt for about three months straight. I was so depressed.

Looking for another job made it even worse ... I was looking for another ministry position, which is unlike other professions (there are search committees, twenty page applications, church votes, etc.). I applied for jobs all over the country and received enough rejection letters to wallpaper my study. It was rough for several months.

I decided to look into entering the military as a chaplain. I talked to the appropriate personnel and went through the requirements checklist. I was pretty close to having everything I needed except for the weight restriction. At the time, I was thirty-five pounds over the limit and they couldn't take me unless I got down to 185. With no other prospects on the horizon and a lot of free time on my hands, I decided that I'd try losing some weight. If I got down to 185 before I found another job, then it would be time to salute Lt. Murphy.

I had no clue what to do about fitness, so I called my dad. He's an advanced black belt and an Zumba instructor ... and he's in his seventies. He's the most fit old man you'll ever see. We talked about it, and he came up here from Texas to put me through a two week boot camp to get me started. It was tough, and he worked me hard. I made some nice progress in those two weeks and as he returned home, I got an interview with Brotherhood Mutual.

I wound up getting that job at Brotherhood, and I'm still amazed that I work there. It's a great company and I have awesome coworkers, but once I no longer *had* to lose weight, I fell of the fitness bandwagon pretty fast and hard. I wound up gaining another twenty pounds in my first four years at Brotherhood (all those ice cream sandwiches, cheese danishes, and fast food for every lunch probably didn't help).

FWSW was the big turn around. My dad planted the seed that I could succeed, so I suspected that I could do the exercise. Rick, Tina and the rest of the FWSW staff took the baton from dad and helped me finally hit that 185 milestone ... 4.5 years too late.

I'm now slim enough to join the chaplain corps, but I'm too old. It's a good milestone and I'm proud of it, but I'm also disappointed in myself because of the wasted opportunity. I'm ashamed that I let my dad down back then. I wish I had got fit years ago and could have been enjoying the benefits of health that are now mine. If I can maintain this healthy lifestyle, I'll be the spitting image of my fit dad at 75.

There's no one else I'd rather be like.

This 185 milestone is for you, papa. Thank you for believing in me and showing your blue-eyed son the way.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dude, where's my car?

Another month begins! With three full months under my belt there are now 55 pounds that are no longer under my belt. 5.0 pounds off at tonight's weigh-in!

I ran with Michael this morning. I'm not sure why I do it. It's a Monday and we don't have a required morning workout, so I could sleep in. To make it even worse is that instead of getting up like I normally would for a Tue-Fri workout, Michael has me there a half hour early ... so not only no sleeping in, but it's like getting extra credit with Rick!

Before we started, he said, "we'll go at an easy pace." I thought that meant 12:00 minutes per mile. We wound up averaging 9:54 per mile, which is a pretty smart clip for me. I was laboring near the end ... it felt like something was sucking the oxygen directly from my lungs. I probably lost a full pound from all of my "Tanky Hanky" maneuvers (which is what I'm not calling a "snot rocket").

Then there was the distance ... eight miles. I've done better than 9:54 on other runs, but never that many miles at that pace. To get the full eight miles, we ran the perimeter of every parking lot we entered (we ran around the Glenbook Mall). The mall cops likely thought we were a couple of elderly men looking for our car.

Was it really that bad? Pushing myself further and faster wasn't easy, but it was genuinely enjoyable. We chatted a little while we ran and the time passed a bit quicker that way. I wouldn't change my Monday morning runs at all ... well, I'll change them eventually ... we'll get that time down to 9:45 and the distance up to 8.5 ... and then we'll need to change it again after that.

Whoever came up with this mentor idea must have ate all their oatmeal that morning ... it has been a really good idea.