“I may be going to hell in a bucket, babe. But at least I’m enjoying the ride.” – Grateful Dead
I have a brother who’s overweight. He’s my height and pretty much has my same frame. He was a great athlete in high school. Just like me, he was recruited to play college football. But that’s where our stories get dramatically different. I went on to play football. When I was done, I was determined not to become another one of those has-beens who gains a bunch of weight. So far I’ve succeeded. Just shy of my 48th birthday, I tip the scales at 169 pounds on my heaviest days. My brother is the antithesis of this. He never played college football. Instead, he picked up a fork. From what I can tell, he hasn’t put it down yet. To be brutally honest, if it wasn’t for that fork, he wouldn’t get any exercise at all. My brother now tips the scales in the 350 to 365 pound range. It fluctuates depending on if he’s at the feeding trough or starting a wacky diet that’s guaranteed to work. He made a statement toward me once saying I’m prejudiced toward fat people. I told him he was wrong. My prejudice is toward fat people who never try to do anything about it, like him. By the way, I don’t look at wacky, lose-weight-quick diets as really trying. That’s like saying I’m a business man, and your business is Amway. The scenario I actually used with my brother was such. Consider this: You’re driving through a neighborhood and all the houses on the street are in fine order. The grass is cut, the garden tended to, the paint is fresh on each house, except for one. This one house is in total disarray. The lawn is brown, the shutters falling off and there’s weeds everywhere. It’s a total mess. I asked, “How do you feel about the people who live in that house?” He said,”I’d think they were lazy and didn’t give a shit.” I agreed. “Now you know how I feel when I look at you,” I said. I told you that to tell you this. There seems to be a new epidemic sweeping the nation. YouTube has no shortage of what’s becoming known as the fattest kids. In some cases I wonder if people aren’t using that Kardashian method just to become famous. I have a video in this blog with a 7-year-old child weighing over 400 pounds.
The sad part, I saw that same kid a couple of years back on a TV show. They were calling her the fattest toddler when she was over 200 pounds. Do I blame the kid? Hell no! It’s the parents’ fault. Because of my acute memory for dumb things, I remember the mom on the show. She had a southern accent, not that this has anything to do with the rest of the story, just thought I’d mention it. The mother seemed to have limited mental faculties. She told the host of the show that she had no control over her daughter. Are you effing kidding me? Oh by the way, mommy was fat herself. In my opinion, the authorities should have rushed in right there and taken this child away. But that didn’t happen. We allow this imbecile of a mother to waltz out of that studio with that child in tow, and go on to pack another 200 pounds on her. Now she’s the star of a YouTube video. Haven’t we gone after people for a lot less? Remember the mom who was caught disciplining her kid in the backseat of an SUV? We were shocked as a country. This woman was tried and hung in the media. Where is the judge and jury on this one? When does child services jump in? Where’s Tipper Gore? I thought she tries to save all the children. I’ve now worked myself into a frenzy. I will now go and find a picture of awoman who’s never had a weight problem, Sophia Loren, to calm my nerves. Thank you and good night.
“We are stardust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” – Joni Mitchell
When I was a kid, there were plenty of fruits and vegetables around. All of my Italian great uncles grew gardens. I’m not exaggerating when I say we probably had in the neighborhood more than five acres of vegetable gardens. You name the fruit and vegetable, we probably had it. From sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli and cauliflower, it was all there. There were fig trees, lemon trees and even orange trees. It was so abundant, my family and my extended family couldn’t eat it all. I remember if I had a hot date or wanted a new baseball glove, I simply picked vegetables and sold my product at the roadside until I got what I wanted. I remember feeling like a real man when I got to work the plow. I always carried a pocket knife so I could scrape the dirt off of a carrot or turnip and eat it while I was working. It might sound like a cliche, but it doesn’t get any fresher than that. The one thing that I remember was that our vegetables looked exactly like the ones in the stores, if not better. As a matter of fact, the only time we bought things from the store was in the off season. Let’s face it, Italians still need tomatoes. Then all of a sudden something happened. Slowly but surely the fruit and vegetables in the store were better than ours. Oranges started coming in a seedless variety. I remember thinking as a kid, if there were no seeds, how would you get the next crop? Oranges also started to come without navels. Tomatoes seemed to get bigger, redder and plumper. There was a new name for these vegetables and fruits: hybrids. That’s right folks, genetically manipulated. You know what else was special about them? They cost more, and the consumer paid. This went on for years. Then something strange happened. We started getting our old fruits and vegetables back, the ones with the seeds. Or else Joni Mitchell said, my apples had spots again. The fruit was back to regular size. It all went back to its original taste. It was that plump, juicy taste that had been missing from the hybrid. There was a problem. My old fruit and vegetables didn’t just come back on the market. They came back with a vengeance. They were called organic. The old stuff that was now new again with its new name also came with a premium. It cost more than the expensive hybrid fruit. And we bought into it. First there was Mrs. Gooch’s, Whole Foods and Henry’s Market, just to name a few. They all had a kumbaya flair to them. The people who worked there were hip and wore Birkenstocks. But trust me, they were plenty corporate. They trade on the open market just like oil companies and dot-coms. I told you that to tell you this. We seem to love nostalgia in this country. Everything that’s old again is new again, then old again, then new again. Take the bicycle world for example. In the early 1900s everything was a single speed fixed gear. Then you had to have many gears. Then you had to have even more gears. Now there’s a throwback to the single speed fixed gear. You don’t have to do much research to figure out that they all came in steel form, then aluminum, then titanium, then carbon fiber and now the world is headed right back to steel. Let’s face it, you have to keep changing it if you want to keep selling bikes.
Running shoes, same thing. First there were very thin flat soles, then more cushion, then a little more, then shoes were rated on how stable they were. Now we’re back to minimum stability and minimum cushioning. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that sometimes we’re all too eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater. If bike equipment has changed so much over the years and diets have gotten so much better, then why are so many old cycling records holding up? Eddie Merckx didn’t have a fancy technical diet, trainers and gurus like cyclists have today. A lightweight bike in his era weight five to seven pounds more than a bike today. Before you go out and buy an expensive bike, look in your garage. Or try going to eBay, you might be surprised at what you find.
Sophia Loren…what was hot then
Paris Hilton…what’s hot now
Which one is better?
“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.” – Queen
I was in Beverly Hills the other day and I saw something that’s bothered me from it’s inception, probably back to 2001. I’m not sure why it bothers me. Hell, I’m an American. I believe everyone is free to do what the hell they want. And I’ll never change that belief. But for some odd reason, I’m bothered by the Segway. For the uninitiated, let me tell you what the Segway is. It’s a two-wheeled balancing device meant to be a portable conveyance. In other words, it’s literally for people too effing lazy to walk. Wait a minute, I just figured out why it bothers me. Let’s face it, there are people in wheelchairs who would give their eye teeth to be able to take one step. Yet here we are with perfectly capable people who can’t be bothered with the simple task of walking. Oh, I’ve seen these devices around. They’re quite popular with mall cops and people who work in warehouses…and generally people who have occupations that require their name to be on their shirt. I told you that to tell you this. There is a motorized vehicle that I do like. It’s been around for a long time and it comes in different forms. What am I talking about? Motorized bicycles. You may ask yourself why a guy who’s telling me to save gas and fat push a motorized bicycle. Isn’t that the bicycle version of the segway? No, it’s not. Here’s the difference. First, the motorized bikes I’m talking about have electric motors. There are gas engines that can be put on to convert it, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the electric bike. When I first started seeing these a few years ago, I had the same problem with it as I have with the Segway. After all, isn’t the whole point to get exercise? Then something interesting happened one day as I was coming over the Santa Susana Pass, leaving Simi Valley. A guy caught up with me and passed me on the up-hill. He was wearing slacks and a shirt and he had panniers on his bike. As he passed me, I noticed he wasn’t sweating. Then I noticed something else. There were two big square batteries on the bike. I caught up with him about three miles later on the Woodland Hills side of the valley. I asked him why he chose to buy a bike with an electric motor. As the two of us pedaled along, he gave an answer I wasn’t expecting. He said he bought it to get in shape. He also told me he had lost 35 pounds since starting the regimen on his bike. He saw the quizzical look on my face. I told him about my Web site and the mission that I’m on. I also asked him how a motorized bike helped him lose weight. He said it was simple. The Santa Susana Pass was the only thing stopping him from commuting to work every day on his bike. The hill was too difficult. With the bike he was able to ride the seven miles to the pass, use the assistance of the electric motor to get up the pass, then ride the three miles into work. He then repeated the same thing on the way home. I asked him how long it took to lose the extra 35 pounds. He said less than a year. Then he said something else. He said, “You know, it wasn’t even about the weight loss. I’m physically fit for the first time in my life.” I asked how he could tell. He said a physical showed his blood pressure was down. “The doctor literally said my blood looks younger.” Then he lowered his glasses and winked when he said,”My wife likes the benefits too.” We parted ways a few blocks later. I had gained a new-found respect for the electric bike.
“Am I happy or in misery? Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me.” – Jimi Hendrix
I hate to go to parties. No wait, I was being too easy. I despise parties. Why? I can’t stand small talk. It makes no sense. Someone will ask you about yourself, yet they don’t give a crap about you. While you talk, they try to think of something about themselves. Maybe something they think I’ll care about. Guess what? I don’t. Turns out, I have to go to parties and social events. The fact that I’m on this planet as a human being, I feel it’s important to socialize with other human beings or else I’ll cease to exist or become the Unabomber. I’m not sure, but I think those are the only two choices. The one thing I have noticed about socializing is how everyone loves to fluff up who they are. For example, no one will tell you they collect garbage at a party. They would pump it up and say they are a sanitation engineer. Los Angeles is famous for this. Everyone seems to be a writer, director or producer. There is a story that goes around that a guy kept telling women he was a director because he wanted to get laid. Two things happened. One, he got laid. And, two, he actually became a director. I think people are amazed when they ask me what I do for a living. The reply is, “I ride a bike.” I usually get a perplexed look. They usually reply with, “Oh, are you a pro, like Lance Armstrong?” I say, “I’m a pro, but the difference between Lance and I is he’s fast and I’m not.” I simply teach people how to become better riders and I get paid for it. I told you that to tell you this. When people find out I’m a fitness trainer, the quizzing begins. What do you think about circuit training, kickboxing, high-impact aerobics, krav maga, Boot Camp, etc. I always give the same answer, “It’s all good as long as you do it.” But there’s one that I get that I have a different answer for…yoga. In my opinion, yoga is not physical activity. Oh, it’s physical. You have to put yourself in pretzel-like positions. I’m a big fan of flexibility. At 48, I’m still able to do splits. But make no mistake, this is not physical activity. The key word in physical activity is activity. In order to stretch a muscle, you have to be the antithesis of active. You have to be relaxed. Is yoga an activity? No. In my opinion, it’s the equivalent of getting a massage. It will do absolutely nothing to increase stamina or aerobic base. It will cause little or not muscle hypertrophy. It will simply make you limber and supple, which in its own right, is a plus. But for those of you who will write to me and say, “But I sweat every time I do yoga, therefore it’s physical.” Think again, I sweat when I forget to turn on the air conditioning before I go to bed.
For your enjoyment, watch this snooze fest.
“Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims and strap your hands ‘cross my engines.” – Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
At the beginning of May I sold my Triumph motorcycle. At the end of May I picked up a brand new Ducati Streetfighter. I love my new bike, but I noticed almost immediately that the bike had a tuning problem. It did a lot of spitting and choking between 2,500 and 5,000 RPMs. I figured it wouldn’t be much of a problem to get it fixed after my first oil change. The guys over at Pro Italia, where I bought the bike, kind of laughed the problem off and told me to thank the tree-huggers over in Europe who have passed laws to choke down these beautiful machines. I took offense to this. I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a tree-hugger myself. I also asked the folks at Pro Italia if they could fix the problem. They said, “Sure, as long as you shell out $2,500 for a different set of pipes and an after-market ECU (engine control unit).” My first statement back to them was, “My bike is under warranty, I’m not going to pay you a dime.” They replied, “This is an after-market part. You have to pay for it.” I just laughed and said, “You can either fix the bike or take it back.” They rolled their eyes, but fixed it, without changing any parts. The fact of the matter is, there is a way to fix the bike under warranty. But they don’t want to do that. They would rather up-sell you. It’s somewhat of a win-win for them, and a lose-lose for me. I didn’t stop there. I went on to investigate these after-market parts, and I learned a lot. Number one, the parts are made by the bike company, Ducati. Number two, the parts are specifically made for track use only. What does this mean to the real world? Basically, once they put these parts on, your motorcycle is no longer street legal. When I asked the manager at the dealership about this, he laughed and said, “But everybody does it.” I told you that to tell you this. I spend most weekends every year on my bicycle. If you want to triangulate where I am on the planet, I’m generally somewhere between Woodland Hills, Malibu and Santa Barbara. Because it’s such a weather-friendly place 12 months out of the year, it’s one of the most scenic places on the planet. It would stand to reason that on any given weekend, hundreds of motorcycles pass me as I ride through the mountains. You know what most of them have? Loud after-market pipes. From my small investigation, this means, if you have a carburetor, it would re-jet it. If they have a fuel-injection system, the ECUs would have to change. In simple terms, this means every time you hear a loud bike, not only are they causing noise pollution, but also air pollution. And all of this, just so they can feel better about their small cocks. I guess the bigger question is, why does law enforcement turn a blind eye to it? Hell, they like to hand out tickets. It’s basic revenue in most places these days. Is it not easy enough for them to figure out who has loud pipes and hand out citations? Oh, and by the way, just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s right.
“I would trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday.” – Kris Kristofferson
I regret to inform my readers of a tragic loss. Today ultracycling has lost one of its own in a cycling accident. Jure Robic could very well be considered one of the greatest cyclists to ever straddle a bike. He’s won what can be considered not only the toughest cycling race in the world, but arguably the toughest event, period, the famed Race Across America. He won it a record five times. I don’t know much about the details, as the accident happened in Robic’s homeland of Slovenia. He’s survived by a wife and at least one child. In a sport that’s generally riddled with doping allegations, Robic was a clean player. He was loved and envied by all. The very last time I saw Jure was as he rode through Borrego Springs, California back in 2008. He didn’t look like a man in the first hundred miles of a 3,000-mile non-stop race. He was riding with the intensity and voracity of a time trialist. That image will live with me forever. Jure, you will live with me forever.
“I gave up cigarettes for my New Year’s resolution, but it didn’t give up smoking” – Blues Brothers
When I was a kid there was a chicken stand in the country known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. I used to love going there, mainly because I grew up in a Mayberry type of town. We didn’t have fast-food restaurants. Back in those days, Interstate 10 almost went from coast to coast. There were a few breaks. One of those breaks in I-10 was between my town and Baton Rouge. Therefore, Baton Rouge wasn’t the 25-minute drive it is today, it was more like 50 minutes. It was were my parents would do most of the back-to-school shopping. As a kid, I didn’t care much about school shopping. But I sure did love going to Baton Rouge. Why? They had places like McDonalds, Burger King and, yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I remember these places as being a real treat. We would only have this once or twice a year. Somewhere along the line, Kentucky Fried Chicken ceased to exist, they started calling it KFC. They tried to sell it down the street by saying kids like to nick everything and shorten it to initials, kind of like BFF. But I got news for you folks, KFC has been around for longer than BFF, and much longer than texting. You might ask yourself why a company with such lucrative branding connected to it change its name. I’ll tell you why. It had the word “fried” in it. Once we decided to become health-conscious as a nation, we couldn’t eat fried food anymore. But you know what we could eat? KFC. Before you start scratching your head, let me help you out. Yeah, we’re that dumb. I told you that to tell you this. KFC is at it again. Here’s why. We’re a nation of dreamers. Hell, we’re Americans, we think anything is possible. You can’t tell us no. We don’t accept no. We want what we want, how we want it and when we want it. And we want it in large quantities. Why? Cause we’re Americans, that’s why. I said it before and I’ll say it again. We love to eat things with total impunity. Tell us what we can eat in unlimited quantities. That’s what we go for. And that’s what Atkins has been selling for years. Have all the bacon you want. Have all the fat you want. Eat protein til you can’t take a dump. We love it. We love Atkins because he tells us what we want to hear. He told us that until his own arteries clogged up and killed him. But you know what? It doesn’t stop us Americans. Now Kentucky Fried Chicken (oh, I’m sorry, KFC) is stealing a page from the Atkins playbook with their new menu item, the KFC Double Down.
Hell, KFC is no dummy. They use a term commonly associated with gambling, yet another addiction of Americans. And we can’t figure out why Europe hates us. For you uninitiated with the Double Down, let me tell you what’s in it. By the way, I’m not making this up. On the bottom you have a deep-fried piece of chicken, followed by cheese, the Colonel’s special sauce, bacon, then another deep-fried piece of chicken. I want to repeat, what you just read is not a typo. This is the actual dish.
The company is banking on this product so much that they’re paying college girls to wear “Double Down” logos on their ass, like Juicy Couture and Pink Couture.
“Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” – Bruce Springsteen
Seems like they’ve re-invented the wheel…again. I said 20 years ago around the first time I saw rolling luggage that if we weren’t the laziest people on the planet before, we’ve definitely achieved it now. How lazy do you have to be that you can’t lift up your own luggage and carry it? I remember telling my friend at the airport that day that this was the beginning of the end for fitness. We had found another way to not do something physical. But then it got worse. Not only did big bags have rollers on it because let’s face it, even I can understand a 50 or 60 pound bag having wheels is a good idea. But carry-on luggage with wheels? Are you effing kidding me? We’re literally turning ourselves into veal. Then when I thought it got as bad as it could possibly get, it got worse. Last year, Tallulah, Serena’s daughter, who I get to influence once every other week when she’s living with us, had a book bag. Guess what it came with? That’s right, wheels. Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve cut physical education out of schools? It was once five days a week, then one day a week, then one day a month. In most cases in the public school system, it may be one day a semester or one day a year. Now we’re further harming kids by not even letting them lift their books. A lot of things are different from when I was a kid. We didn’t even have back packs. They used to literally sell a big thick rubber band with a metal hook to wrap around your books to carry them home. Now we have every device in the world to carry more books than ever before. Yet our nation becomes dumber every time I look. I told you that to tell you this. What does this have to do with cycling? Everything, especially if you are talking about performance. There was a time back when modern-day bicycles didn’t even have brakes. As a matter of fact, in the early running of the Tour de France, they couldn’t include the Alps because the riders had no way to break their downhill speed. There was something else different about bikes back then. They all had fixed gears. Put simply, you couldn’t stop peddling. The bike wouldn’t coast. I read an article once from the early 1900s, which came out shortly after the free wheel was introduced. This meant the bike could coast. The wheels would keep turning as the pedals were still. The whole idea behind this article was that riders would become lazy. They would begin to lose the muscles cycling offered for the legs, along with suppleness. You know what? It was right. There was an old practice of the Italian cycling team coaches, and in some cases still today, where cyclists ride only fixed gear bikes in the off season. This was to gain back what we call their spin. As a matter of fact, a great example of a fixed gear bike is the Johnny G Spinner made by Schwinn, which is the bike used in most spinning classes. Was this method of building a stationary bike an accident? No. When Johnny Goldberg invented the spinner, he was into ultracycling. He was looking for a way to stay in shape once the sun went down, without staying outside. I’ve personally been a fan of fixed gear riding in the off season since the early 1980s, when I started riding. It was a method used by some of the better cyclists around New Orleans. I figured I had to adapt pretty quickly to be competitive. It worked. I think as Americans we are always to eager to point a finger when something goes wrong. Why is America the fattest, laziest nation on the planet? It’s easy to point the finger at McDonalds, they’re on every street corner. Maybe we can point to technology. When I was a kid, to watch a different TV program, you had to get off the couch and change the channel. That’s no longer necessary. Every building didn’t have an escalator or elevator. There was a method we used called stairs. If I wanted to get somewhere as a kid, I either hoofed it or rode a bike. We didn’t have Segways.
Guest blogging today is one of my riding buddies Steve Gruman. – Vinnie
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right. – Robert Hunter
“Oh Miss Crabtree, there’s something heavy on my heart.” Having navigated my first 52 years to my general satisfaction, I can pretty much attribute most of what I’ve learned to the Little Rascals, not least of which is a sometime fondness for older women. Now into my next half-century, I’ve come to realize where Chubsy, Spanky, and Alfalfa left off, my buddy Vinnie has picked up with uncanny seamlessness. Not unlike the lifelong influence of a ragtag group of television’s holy misfits, Vinnie has imparted some life-changing knowledge one could only expect from, dare I say, a buddha. Or perhaps, this Mulholland Moses, who has been dragging a small, lost tribe of the chosen through the canyons and hills of the Malibu badlands for over a decade, provides guidance in the quest for ever-greater wisdom and the ultimate meaning of Yogi Berra. With newly found knowledge and a revived approach to life, I can now continue my journey with a deeper sense of confidence, comfort, clarity, direction, strength, and a painful perineum. I told you that to tell you this — here, in my humblest words, is my attempt to share some of the unique wisdom I’ve gained from this bayou medicine man:
I told you that to tell you this (can I use this again?). You should be OK through the next fifty years or so, but not to worry; there’s always Spanky and the boys to illuminate the path. But I digress.
“In days of old, when knights were bold,
And journeyed from their castles,
Trusty men were left behind;
Knights needed not the hassles.
They helped themselves to pig and peach,
And drank from King’s own chalice;
Oh, it was a stirring sight,
These gypsies in the palace.”
- Jimmy Buffett
My life is kind of strange. I’m a poor man living in a rich man’s world. When I say poor, I don’t mean living in a box under the freeway or even lower-income poor. According to the amount of money I make per year, I guess you can say I’m middle class, even though economists will tell you that doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe I’m the last one. The people I work with are not middle class. They are at the upper end of the wealth scale. They can afford cars that cost more than any house I could afford. Some of them even have private jets. Many of them have second and third homes around the country and the world. It would stand to reason that every summer these people would take off and go live in one of their other homes. Some of my clients do quite well with keeping up their workout by checking in with me on a daily or weekly basis. Others hire trainers and dietitians to keep them honest where ever they are. I applaud this. But others take vacation in the literal sense, and they vacate physically and mentally. I told you that to tell you this. There is one particular client who I love dearly. She has an eating disorder. This type of psychological warfare is far beyond anything I do. Unlike the Jillian Michaels types of the world, I understand that you can’t just yell at a fat person to get into shape. It just doesn’t work that way. After all, these people know they are fat. They have eyes and mirrors. They know. After working with them for all of these years, I don’t know a one of them that wants to be that way. They struggle every day. You know what? I struggle with them. If they fail, I feel like I fail. Not just as a trainer or a professional, but as a human being. I’ve often said I’d do this job for free if I could afford to. I can’t, and I don’t. But I digress. One of the problems this client has, beside an eating disorder, is that she loves the “magic bullet” approach. She’s gone through every diet you can possibly think of. You know the ones. Eat cabbage soup broth on Monday only, eggs Tuesday and drink the piss of a pregnant rabbit Wednesday. Yes, she goes on these diets regularly. Like most people, she loses a few pounds, but gains it back in spades. I had one question for her over coffee this morning, “When did it happen?” She knew what I was talking about. When she left in May, she was in great shape. She said it happened around her birthday. She was in a hotel. She was upset about something and went for the mini bar. She said she ate everything in there, and that was the beginning of a three-month rampage while vacationing. My friend and client said something to me that I had never heard before. She had joined O.A. (Overeaters Anonymous). I was happy for my friend. I think for the first time in her life, she is on the right track with her eating. If you feel like you are one of these people, or know someone who could use help, here is a link to O.A.