John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Parking Lots

jyb_musingsWhen you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.

When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.

But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.

In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”

And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.

Josh Bowen: I Can’t Squat

joshIf there are any trainers that read my rants you can sympathize with me on the following statement made by a client, “My doctor told me not to squat.”

Oh he did, did he? Well isn’t that great, what in the world am I going to do to strengthen your legs?

Hold up!

Do me a favor and get up and down from that chair. So you know what I am getting at. There are some uneducated people out there that tell patients to stay away from certain activities, not realizing that those activities could potentially help the situation.

I’ve incurred this situation several times in the 11 years I have been a trainer, nothing surprises me. The squat is the most basic, primal movement that humans do. We squat when we get in and out of a car, we squat when we get up and down from a chair and when we have to go to the bathroom (#2 for men and always for women) we squat.

So how on earth could someone tell me that I can’t squat? Most doctors are not as educated on fitness and it impacts the body, so its easy to tell people what to stay away from. If you have a bum knee its probably not wise to load a bar up with 300 lbs and go at it. But what doesn’t make sense is why you wouldn’t perform the movement at all, without weight.

Have you ever looked a baby and how they sit back on their heels and drop their butt to the floor in a full squat? The point I am trying to get at is humans were meant to squat, in some shape, form, or fashion. It’s true so you cannot argue!

So how does squatting benefit me if I have knee problems? Well let’s first look at your “knee problems.” More often than not (general statement here) the problem is not your knee. Huh? Yes, the problem often stems your ankle or your hip causing the pain to occur in and around the knee capsule. This is called “site VS source.” The site is not always the source of the problem. So if you have hip issues or ankle issues, proper squat technique can actually realign the body to its correct movement pattern. Also becoming more flexible in the hip flexor and hamstring area will help as well.

Here are the benefits of proper squatting (body weight progressing to weighted):

  1. Neuromuscular coordination Squatting (weighted or bodyweight) will train the brain and the muscles to work in harmony. If you have trouble squatting correctly place a box or bench behind you and sit back and touch and explode up.
  2. Lower Body Strength No exercise (no exercise!) builds strength better than squatting. Everyone needs strength, whether you are a stay at home mom or a professional athlete, our lives demand a certain amount of strength.
  3. Injury Prevention/Rehabilitation To prevent injuries you must make sure the body can handle and create force. Squatting allows the body to build muscle and strength required of everyday life. Also, allows the body to become flexible in the lower extremities (cause of a lot of injuries).
  4. Squatting Makes You Look Great Naked I call it like I see it. Move for move, exercise for exercise, if you had to pick one to do the squat would be it. The sheer amount of muscles that is used during the squat is enormous, thus the caloric expenditure is magnified. This burns body fat and helps build muscles. Plain and simple.

 

So, in conclusion if your doctor tells you not to squat or advises you against the resistance training, please take the facts and apply it to logic. Squatting is a must for anyone including those who want to be fit.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Positive Self Talk

jyb_musingsThis morning as I walked briskly from the parking lot to my first meeting I saw my reflection in a store window and thought to myself,

“I may be 51 but I have the gait of a 40 year old. Bam!”

===

When I see a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt I know it is because he is genuinely slim. (I also know that I probably won’t like him and definitely don’t trust him.)

But when a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt looks at a guy wearing a “classic fit” shirt, I wonder if he knows that “classic fit” is really just a euphemism for “out-of-shape and portly?” And if so, is feeling sorry for us and knowing we are not a threat part of the reason slim-fit guys seem inclined to like and trust us?

===

I have just finished going off a medication and suffering withdrawals that no woman should ever have to endure. And that many men shouldn’t ever have to endure either. And I am in that group of men.

Lauren Mayer: Celebrating Fox News – No, Really!

Left-leaning satirists have always had an interesting relationship with right-wing media like Fox News.  On the one hand, as liberals we are often dismayed by the partisan tone of their coverage, just as I’m sure conservatives are irked by MSNBC.  On the other hand, as satirists, we are truly grateful for the endless inspiration- face it, Stephen Colbert’s entire persona for his recently ended show was mocking the typical Fox News blowhard anchor, and anytime The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow wants to call out right-wing hypocrisy or inconsistency, there is almost always a clip from one of the Fox hosts to make their point.  And not that I put myself in the same league as those illustrious figures – oh hell, why not?   Writing a weekly song can be difficult enough, but the hardest part is finding a topic – that is, until Fox comes up with yet another colorful turn of phrase or oddball guest “expert.”

However, in all the months I’ve been doing these songs, I never thought I’d see Fox back down from one of their way-out-there-but-easily-debunked claims.  So last week’s apology/retraction of the Muslim ‘no-go-zones’ story deserved a unique musical celebration:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Aging Optimist

jyb_musingsI have a feeling today is going to be a great day. But don’t know what it is that is going to be great today in my life.

But since I am in my 50s and won’t be able to remember tomorrow whatever great thing happened in my life today, I am OK with not needing to know specifics about today’s great things that I feel are going to happen.

I am content just knowing today is going to be a great day. Involving something. I just don’t know what and, even if I did, I wouldn’t remember it anyway. But because of my “can do attitude” that won’t stop me from being an optimist.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Travel Lessons Revisited

lmost a year ago we wrote about the lessons we’ve learned from travel.  After five more countries as diverse as Australia and Nepal here are the things we think we know.

HE SAID…

Arriving in India from the developed world highlighted the contrasts and taught me more than if I had arrived from another developing culture.  Moving from some of the most functional democracies in the world, Australia and Singapore, to arguably the world’s least, India and Nepal, showed me that good governance is the difference.  These are the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past year.

  • Government services and infrastructure matter. I said this last year after enjoying the epic infrastructure of China, Japan and South Korea.  Seeing perfectly functioning societies with huge infrastructure investment isn’t nearly as powerful as seeing countries without it.  India and Nepal don’t have trash collection, reliable electricity, water or roads.  Without focusing on providing these services and projects the countries will never advance.

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A Chinese bullet train station above versus an Indian train station below.  China’s investment in transportation will pay dividends for generations…

  • Justice must be blind. Laws and legal decisions must be made in the name of justice, not family name, bribes, or to gain favor.  If everyone doesn’t have to play by the same rules, a country cannot fully develop as those that are disenfranchised have no incentive to innovate and create.  While the riches will accrue to the few that aren’t bound by laws, the society as a whole won’t benefit.  You can see this in Mexico and India, home to some of the world’s richest people, surrounded by some of the poorest.
  • It’s a big world out there. Entering our third year of consecutive travel we have barely scratched the surface of seeing how people live, interact and make a life.  While there are PhD’s that have super-specialized knowledge on cultures and people, traveling is still the best way to get a sampling of what makes us all different and similar at the same time.

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Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Travel Lessons Revisited

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What does Walgreens know about me that I don’t know?

jyb_musingsI love Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong.

But the “Be well” mantra from every Walgreen’s employee at the end of each verbal exchange is making me more than a little paranoid. And has me wondering what is wrong with me that the Walgreens employees know and aren’t being straightforward about with me.

I went to Walgreens today to buy some vitamins and toiletries. The sales clerk who helped me was very helpful and as I walked away she said sincerely “Be well.” I took it as a kind of encouraging “atta boy.” It seemed like a natural –if somewhat meddlesome—thing to say to me. After all, she had helped me find vitamins that will make me healthier or “weller,” in the Walgreens parlance.

But before leaving Walgreens I looked at some phone chargers for my phone and the sales clerk who helped me told me that didn’t carry what I was looking for. I thanked him and he, too, told me to “Be well.” He said it in a more concerned tone and almost knowing manner. I thought that was odd and, frankly, it scared me a little. I don’t know him personally and I was just looking for a phone charger –not something that affected my health. Had he talked to the sales clerk who helped me with the vitamins? Did he know I was taking a vitamin supplement because I worried my diet wasn’t sufficient? Or was he just repeating a catch phrase he was told to say to every customer and was only pretending to be deeply concerned about my health (and, presumably, my phone charger situation)?

As I walked to the check-out counter I wondered if Walgreens had somehow gotten involved with the Church of Scientology. I remember meeting some members of the Church of Scientology years ago and they seemed “programmed” and had certain buzz words they used as they encouraged me to do a personal “audit” within the Dianetics program. Interacting with Walgreens employees is always pleasant. In fact,a little too pleasant. Almost robotic And every conversation ends with the same mechanical “Be well” farewell and hope that my health (physical, mental and emotional health?) will somehow improve. But it isn’t clear what they are really saying to me. Do they know something about my health failing that I am not aware of? Or maybe Walgreens employees are using this hypnotic “Be well” chant to “guide me” to a better level of “being” within the Dianetics framework of personal growth.

I thought to myself I could easily see Tom Cruise and John Travolta shopping at Walgreens instead of Rite Aid. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

As I checked out and tried to pay the sales clerk, he asked me if I was a “Balance Rewards Member.” I said I didn’t know what that meant. I figured it must be one of the levels of Scientology but didn’t say anything. I gave the sales clerk my phone number as requested and he told me I was at the “Balance Rewards” level. As I watched him type in my phone number all sorts of data about me was processing before his eyes.

I was informed I had reached a level of 27,000 points. I couldn’t tell if that was good news for me –or if perhaps it meant my health was in jeopardy. As I took my bag and walked away the cashier, who was a thoughtful and quiet man, he kept staring at the floor and muttered to me against his will to “Be well.”

Obviously he didn’t mean it and was saying it merely as part of some Scientology “group speak” based on all the information he had about me. I think he knew I wasn’t going to make it. I turned back to him and motioned toward the vitamins I had purchased. I wanted him to know I was at least trying. But he said nothing. Not even “Be well.” again or “Hang in there. You can still make it.” Just silence. What else could I conclude except he knew I didn’t have much longer to live and that he was just trying to let me down easy by not being more direct and specific?

I left Walgreens with my vitamins and toiletries. But when I got home I felt like it was pointless to even start taking the vitamins. My fate was sealed and based on my interactions with Walgreens employees, I figured it was time for me to get my affairs in order.

Who knew that the Walgreens employees and their creepy and overly solicitous “Be well” comments would convince me to update my will and to start making peace with the fact that my days are numbered? I just needed a multi-vitamin and some shaving toiletries. Geez!

I wonder if I should try going to CVS for a second opinion?

Saul Kaplan: The Kids’ Table

Do you remember being stuck at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner growing up? I do. There were always too many of us to all sit around one dinner table, so we had a secondary table off to the side, sometimes even in a separate room, to which the younger generation was relegated. I remember asking every year if I would be able to sit with the grownups. The conversation at their table ranged from sports to politics to family gossip, and whatever the topic it was always more animated and intense. I know why now: it’s because adults love to talk about the state of their world and how it should get better. But what an irony: those of us with the biggest stake in the future-the kids-were not even hearing the conversation. Back then, all I understood was that the main table was where the action seemed to be, and I wanted in.

These days, I do get to sit at some main tables, but I try to stay mindful of whose voices aren’t being heard there-particularly when they are young and presumed not to have anything to add. I feel this most acutely in the debates around education reform. We keep kids off to the side while the adults talk and talk and talk about how to improve student experience and outcomes. And there’s another similarity to Thanksgiving meals: a lot of loud conversation and not much action! The talk at the grownup table never stops, yet year after year the education system in the US continues to atrophy and our students fall further behind the global curve. Every 29 seconds in America another student gives up on school, adding up to nearly a million high school dropouts a year.

Saul KaplanWhat if we put students at the center of the education innovation conversation? Could we get past our suspicion that they would make ignorant or irresponsible suggestions, and tap into what they know better than any of us: what works for them as learners? If we engaged kids in the problems facing schools, and gave them access to design tools, they might imagine a learning experience they would be more likely to engage in and commit to. What if we didn’t stick our youth at the kid’s table?

The notion of bringing kids into the conversation about what serves them best is beginning to take hold in various quarters. Ellen Galinsky did it in the midst of a cultural debate on whether children were better or worse off when their mothers entered the workforce. The audacious approach of her study became the title of her book Ask The Children. Architects who design the places where kids spend their time are doing more asking, too. Check out, for instance, these photos of the Erika-Mann Grundschule II in Amsterdam. “The school’s recently revamped environment is amazing,” wrote one commentator, “perhaps not surprisingly as it was designed by the kids themselves ….”

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Saul Kaplan: The Kids’ Table

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Lost Baggage

jyb_musingsWhen you arrive home at the airport at 11:30pm after a long cross country flight and discover that the airline left one of your family’s three pieces of luggage in Dallas, it is easy to feel frustrated and angry.

But I try to avoid that selfish and petty inclination by keeping a broader perspective and reminding myself of all the positive things going on in my life right now to counter-balance this momentary and small inconvenience.

For example, we are coming home from a nice family vacation. We made it home safely. Our car started on the first turn of the key. We all have our health. And, besides, all of my things are in the two bags that made it home.

Julie Rath: 10 Quick and Painless New Year’s Style Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are so cliché, I almost can’t stand writing about them. But the truth is, when a new year rolls around, it’s nice to take stock and see what you could start doing differently. The usual suspects here are diet and exercise, and often such resolutions are overzealous and set us up or failure. So this year I’m here to help boost you up with some totally doable style-related resolutions that will require very little of your time.

Read on for this year’s top 10 style resolutions.

Men's Style Advice: New Year's Resolutions1) Try one new thing with your wardrobe. It can be easy to find one thing that you’re comfortable in and that feels easy to you. But it can also be really boring! Give 2015 a fighting chance and add some sort of new element to your look — maybe it’s starting to wear more color, or swapping out your logo’d/free event t-shirts for something nicer (here’s my guide for how your t-shirt should fit).

2) Don’t shop without a plan (or on an empty stomach). The last thing you want to do when shopping is make mistake purchases. And shopping without knowing what you’re looking for — or when you’re hungry — will put you on the fast track to a shopping fail.

3) Donate anything with holes or stains that won’t come out.  This one really doesn’t need explaining. I’ll just say that when you wear torn-up, crappy clothes, the message you send is that you feel torn-up and crappy about yourself. This then becomes an unfortunate vicious cycle which causes you actually to start feeling that way. (Confirm with whatever charity you’re donating to what condition they will take clothing in.)

4) Take your oversized clothes to the tailor. This is an instant, low-cost (at least compared to buying new things) option for upgrading your wardrobe. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about how to know what’s worth tailoring.

5) Think before you stink (a.k.a. avoid strong aftershaves). This one was on last year’s list, but I had to include it again. I did a lot of traveling in 2014, and one of the biggest conclusions I drew is that there’s an Old Spice epidemic in the US. Nearly every morning flight I took, I felt as if I might become asphyxiated by the scent of the man sitting next to me. Trust me, just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean others can’t either. Ask one or two lady friends with good taste to tell you honestly if any of the product smells you’re wearing are offensive. And if the initials for any of said products are O.S., drop it like it’s hot.

Men's Style Tips: New Year's Style Resolutions

6) Wear a watch. I get it, watches are no longer necessary since we all use our phones these days. But if you’re not wearing a watch, you’re missing out on an excellent opportunity to distinguish your look. Above is a serious arm party courtesy of one of my clients. You don’t need to break the bank when adding a watch to your look, however. There are plenty of good choices under $200 (including this one for $185 from Miansai). Choose something that resonates with you personally and that you’d feel good wearing — not what others would expect you to wear.

7) Make sure you have one suit that fits you like armor. Chances are, sometime in 2015 you’ll have a wedding, funeral, or job interview you’ll need to attend. And you’ll need a great-fitting suit for those situations — one you don’t have to think twice about. Often such events spring up out of nowhere, so it’s to your benefit to have a suit ready and waiting in your closet. And if you think you can get by with that old boxy one from ten years ago, think again. There are few things less flattering on a man than an ill-fitting suit, and there’s definitely no way to disguise a poor fit.

8) Buy flattering jeans. Most new clients I meet are in need of a jeans refresh. Even if you have a pair that was flattering when you bought them two years ago, chances are at this point they’ve stretched and faded, and it’s time to replace them. If you’ve never had a pair of jeans you feel great in, it’s time to add that to your wardrobe. Here’s my guide for how to find flattering jeans.

Men's Style Advice: Square-Toed Shoes

9) Lose the square-toed shoes. These were cool in the 90’s. But the 90’s is not now. Do yourself a favor and get them out of your closet so you aren’t tempted to wear them.

10) Take your dress shoes to the shoe guy for a cleanup and to be resoled. This is another low-cost way to refresh things, and in fact a good cobbler can make your shoes look almost new. If you don’t already have someone you use, look on Yelp or other user-review sites in your area for one with high ratings, or ask any well-dressed guys you encounter where they take theirs.

How many of the tips on this list are you able to implement? I guarantee that even if you do just 3 of them, you’ll be in great shape, and you’ll feel that much better about yourself.

Wishing you a very stylish 2015!

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