Get Down

When it comes to health and fitness, people want simple solutions: sitting is bad, so get a standing desk instead. Problem solved.

Except that the human body is complex, so most simple solutions don’t actually work in the real world. Prolonged periods of standing in a single position often create nearly as many problems as prolonged sitting in a single position.

To understand this better, consider nutrition: kale is healthful, but a diet of just kale isn’t. Instead, to optimize your diet, you need to ‘eat a rainbow,’ trying to get a variety of different foods of every color, because different colored foods contain different vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals: lycopene in red foods, anthocyanin in purple/blue, carotenoids like betacarotene in orange/yellow, etc. You need them all, and so your diet needs to be sufficiently varied.

So, too, with movement. Thus, the answer isn’t just a standing desk, or any other tool or gadget. Instead, it’s making sure that you sit and move in the broadest number of ways that you can.

Perhaps you’re at a traditional desk. Sure, you can sit in your chair. But you can also do a stretch of work kneeling on the seat.

Or perhaps you’re at a standing (or, even better, convertible) desk. There, you can spend part of your time with one foot on the floor and the other up on a chair, and then, after a bit, you can switch feet.

And, either way, you can also do some work (say, taking a call) seated on the floor. That’s a great way to watch TV, too: planted on the carpet in front of your couch. Try sitting in different ways – cross-legged, side-saddle, legs in front of you. With any of those, you also practice getting down to and back up from the ground, a skill that’s highly associated with decreased all-causes mortality.

You can try eating a meal with your family on the floor, as a picnic on the carpet. You can read a book while laying on the ground on your stomach, or your side. You can even flout good manners in the name of health, and climb up on your desk or table.

But across all those possibilities, the underlying strategy remains: get creative, and explore as many ways to sit and stand and move as you possibly can. Each will challenge your strength, mobility, balance, and posture, and expand your body’s ability to perform in and handle the stresses of the world.

[Hearted]

Couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s Day, or a better Valentine. 😍

Taking a Chance

Last summer, I blogged about Chance the Rapper, at the release of his excellent new mixtape, Coloring Book.

Chance isn’t signed to a label, and released the mixtape – like his prior two – for free online. As a result, none of his albums were, at the time, eligible for Grammy consideration.

But, prompted by a Change.org petition that garnered more than 40,000 signatures, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences updated their rules at the end of last year, to keep up with the current realities of the digital music world. Now, unsigned artists and streaming music are both eligible. And, as a result, Chance became the first unsigned artist, and the first streaming-only artist, to win a Grammy, with three much-deserved nods for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (for Coloring Book), and Best Rap Performance (for “No Problem”).

Though it’s plagued with Grammy-standard sound engineering issues (Chance is mic’ed low enough that he’s barely audible for large stretches), his performance last-night – a mashup of “How Great” and “All We Got,” with snippets of “No Problem” and “Blessings,” and featuring Kirk Franklin, Francis and the Lights, Tamela Mann, and a full gospel choir – makes clear that he deserved the wins:

Congrats, Chance; I’m looking forward to hearing what you do next.

Selfish World

“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.”
-George Graham

We’re Number Two!

I follow political news pretty closely these days, and though I primarily stick to US press, I also make an effort to regularly read sources abroad – The Economist, The Guardian, Haaretz, etc. – for the sometimes jarring insights that can only come from an outside perspective.

So, hat-tip to my father (who follows world press closely due to his nonprofit medical work) for pointing me towards this amazing international TV satire meme:

It kicked off when the Dutch equivalent of The Daily Show, Zondag Met Lubach, ran a video pitching a simple idea to President Trump: “America First; the Netherlands Second.”

Shortly thereafter, and not to be outdone, Switzerland’s Deville Late-Night responded with their own similar pitch:

Then Belgium’s De Ideale Wereld got in on the action:

And things just kind of kept rolling from there.

Portugal’s 5 Meia Noite:

Australia’s The Weekly:

Germany’s Neo Magazin Royale:

Denmark’s Natholdet:

And even Lithuania’s Laisvės TV:

All of them are worth watching, and I’m sure we haven’t yet seen the end of this trend. So, for the moment: America first, second TBD?

The Backup Plan

Each Sunday, I chart out a carefully considered set of workouts for the week, following a periodized, balanced approach to strength, conditioning, mobility, and recovery. All in, it’s about an hour worth of stuff each day.

Some weeks, I manage to stick to the plan precisely.

Others, everything more or less goes to shit.

In the past month, I’ve had unexpected work developments dump huge piles of urgent work on my desk. I’ve had a death in the family rearrange my schedule around a funeral and sitting shiva. I’ve even jumped in for a few afternoons of nephew-wrangling when my brother’s nanny called in sick.

On those days, I just don’t have the time – or the mental bandwidth – to commit to hitting the gym.

In the past, when days like that happened, I just wouldn’t work out at all. The perfect – following my program precisely – became the enemy of the good – doing something rather than nothing.

But more recently, I’ve started to use a simple, standard fallback workout: I pull a 24kg kettlebell from my closet and do a single set of 50-75 swings.

That’s it. All in, it takes about two minutes, but it’s still a serious kick in the lungs, and a great way to train the muscles of my grip and my entire posterior chain – from my upper back down through my glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Because I’ve made that one workout the default, I can hop right in, even when I don’t have the energy to think about what to do. And, though it’s short, it’s enough to make a meaningful contribution to my overall health.

Even more importantly, it’s also enough for me to be able to chalk the day up as a fitness success.

I’ve written before about aiming to never miss twice, and I think that’s still an excellent mantra – it’s the surest way to avoid letting one skipped workout become a whole month down the tubes.

But in crazy times, a short, simple, no-thought-required fallback plan also makes it much, much easier to make sure your day doesn’t become a ‘miss’ in the first place.

Skid In

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

—Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway

Super Bowl 2017 Party Betting

Most years, the Super Bowl is our country’s best-watched TV event. Yet while Super Bowl parties are usually excellent fun – the magical combination of great ads and seven-layer dip – a lot of people attending don’t seem to care about, or pay much attention to, the actual football itself.

In years past, especially when I was in film, I often heard from family and friends in the lead-up to the Oscars – another big TV event. They were competing in Oscar prediction pools, and looking for insider advice. Many of them didn’t care much about the outcome of the Oscars inherently, hadn’t even seen all of the movies in contention. But, just by staking positions on the winners (as often as not solely for bragging rights, rather than with money on the line), they inevitably seemed to be more excited about, and better engaged in, the award show itself.

So, this year, at my brother David’s annual Super Bowl party, we’re trying the same thing. We’ve put together a list of 25 bets – about the game itself and the hoopla surrounding it – and are having all the attendees take their best guess on each. Here, too, there’s no money hinging on it, though we’re trying to round up a crown or trophy we can use, a la the Stanley Cup: whoever gets the most answers right will keep it until they have to defend the title at next year’s Super Bowl.

If my theory is correct, that should keep everyone engaged and enjoying much more than they otherwise might.

Here are our questions:

  1. Will Luke Bryan be wearing a hat when he appears on screen before singing the US National Anthem?
    Yes / No
  2. How long will it take for Luke Bryan to sing the US National Anthem?
    Over 2’9” / Under 2’9”
  3. Will any player on the Falcons or Patriots roster be seen kneeling during the National Anthem on TV during live broadcast?
    Yes / No
  4. What will the coin toss be?
    Heads / Tails
  5. Which coach will be mentioned by name first after kickoff?
    Dan Quinn / Bill Belichick
  6. Who will throw the first touchdown pass?
    Tom Brady / Matt Ryan
  7. Who will be ahead at the end of the first quarter?
    Patriots / Falcons
  8. Who will be ahead at the end of the first half?
    Patriots / Falcons
  9. How big will the first half spread be?
    Fewer than 5 points / 5 points or greater
  10. What color will Lady Gaga’s hair be when she comes on stage for the halftime show?
    Blonde / Any other color
  11. Which song will Lady Gaga play first during the halftime show?
    Born this Way / Bad Romance / Edge of Glory / Poker Face / Just Dance / Other
  12. Will Lady Gaga say “Trump” at any point during the halftime show?
    Yes / No
  13. Who will be ahead at the end of the third quarter?
    Patriots / Falcons
  14. Will the game go into overtime?
    Yes / No
  15. Who will win the Super Bowl?
    Patriots / Falcons
  16. How big will the final spread be?
    Fewer than 5 points / 5 points or greater
  17. What color will the liquid be that is poured on the winning coach?
    Clear / Lime-Green / Orange / Yellow / Red / Blue / Purple
  18. Who will the MVP be?
    Tom Brady / Matt Ryan / Anyone Else
  19. Will any player do the the “Dirty Bird” touchdown celebration?
    Yes / No
  20. How many field goals will be made?
    Five or fewer / More than five
  21. Will either team try a ‘flea flicker’ trick play?
    Yes / No
  22. Will either team score three straight times?
    Yes / No
  23. How many Super Bowl commercials will Peyton Manning appear in between kickoff and final whistle?
    One or fewer / Two or more
    (Note: multiple airings of the same commercial will be counted separately.)
  24. How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown between kickoff and final whistle?
    One or fewer / Two or more
  25. How many times will Donald Trump tweet between kickoff and final whistle?
    One or fewer / Two or more

In case you want to try the same thing yourself, here’s a printable PDF of the 25 questions. If you try it out, email me and let me know how it works!