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April 10, 2006

'Upgrading The Road To Nowhere' — for a moment I thought I was reading one of my own headlines in the New York Times

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Turns out I wasn't and it really was in the paper on March 30 over a story by Abby Ellin about the new new thing in treadmill workouts: doing things like "jumping, kicking a soccer ball from one foot to another, hitting a ball with a paddle — while on treadmills...."

These are among the activities in "a new treadmill class called Fre Flo do [which] aims to improve athletes' balance, agility and endurance."

Jennipher Shaver, an editor at Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro, a trade magazine, told Ellin, "The treadmill is a lot less dancey and aerobic — and more sporty."

Excuse me?

Shaver may spell her first name in a hip fashion but she's way behind the curve here — "less dancey?"

Is she not keeping up with fast–breaking developments in the treadmill dancing space being reported as they happen?

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Sheesh.

Here's the Times article.

    Upgrading the Road to Nowhere

    It's 5:15 on a Friday afternoon, and while much of Manhattan is heading home or to happy hour, Jodi Cornish, an instructor at the Wall Street branch of Equinox, is leading 10 regulars through a treadmill workout intended to banish boredom and love handles.

    The class, Tread and Sculpt, begins with a warm-up jog, then participants hop off to do push-ups.

    They get back on and for 50 minutes endure running drills, sprints and power walks at various speeds and inclines.

    Ms. Cornish uses no music; she expects her runners to stay motivated by concentrating on her commands.

    "Put your speed at 3.8 and your incline at 6," she tells her breathless class.

    "For the next three minutes we'll run, and then we're going to sprint for a minute as fast as you can."

    Treadmills may be the most popular aerobic machine at the gym, but running on a road to nowhere can be a snooze.

    The way most people use treadmills — rarely varying incline or speed — doesn't always build stamina or lead to weight loss.

    Now gyms are offering classes like Tread and Sculpt to help members get the most out of running in place, just as instructor-led Spinning revolutionized the stationary bike.

    And participants are flocking to the classes because they offer a challenge on a familiar machine.

    "The treadmill is a lot less dancey and aerobic — and more sporty," said Jennipher Shaver, an editor at Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro, a trade magazine.

    "People respond to it, especially men." She said the classes have been growing in popularity.

    Mark Goldwasser, 47, the chief executive of National Securities Corporation, a brokerage firm in Manhattan, said, "I don't have to do fancy stuff."

    Twice a week Mr. Goldwasser and a colleague, Stephen Jones, 49, attend Ms. Cornish's class.

    "I'm in a high-pressure business, but this is easy: we walk in, do the class, we sweat, and we're back at work in an hour fifteen," Mr. Goldwasser said. "It's kind of addictive."

    Nationwide treadmill classes are taking off.

    They are such a staple at Gold's gyms that some are building special rooms for them.

    In January, Life Time Fitness introduced a 12-week program of group treadmill workouts, with strength training like push-ups before and after the running, at 40 of its 48 clubs clustered in the Midwest.

    The first series of 44 classes, limited to 18 people each, quickly filled. Last fall Tread and Sculpt was introduced at a fifth Equinox branch, in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.

    And the Crunch chain, which began treadmill classes last year, offers them at a third of its 31 locations, including one in which joggers wear weighted vests as heavy as 16 pounds.

    Behind the trend, like many other classes at health clubs, is the recognition that members don't push themselves very hard without a trainer to motivate them.

    Class participants are more likely to see gains, to avoid boredom — and to renew their memberships.

    "We did see clients jumping on and doing the same 20- to 30-minute run while reading a magazine, and the benefits were minimal," said Barry Shingle, an official at Rancho La Puerta, a fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico.

    By contrast, the resort's guided treadmill class incorporates speedwork and increased elevation to ensure that participants push themselves.

    "It's the treadmill's answer to Spinning," Mr. Shingle said.

    For runners who log mile after mile at the same pace, "a class format helps them change up their workout," said Matt Messinger, a spokesman for Bally's Total Fitness, which now has 30 classes nationwide, compared to just a few three years ago.

    In some cases classes have encouraged gymgoers intimidated by the treadmill to hop onto one.

    "I was afraid of stumbling over my feet, so I avoided it," said Sharon Koch, 51, a preschool teacher in Sugar Land, Tex., who joined a class at a Life Time Fitness club.

    Her instructor, Jessica Bartel, coaxed her into trying the treadmill, by starting her out jogging and incrementally adding elevation.

    Ms. Koch now runs on the treadmill five times a week — three times in a class and twice on her own — often at a steep incline.

    "When I first started doing it, I would hold onto the side, but the instructor told us we couldn't hang on or we'd have to do push-ups. So I stopped."

    To invigorate treadmill routines, many instructors incorporate interval training — alternating between steady efforts and all-out bursts — which some experts say can help speed weight loss.

    "Intervals burn fat more efficiently than a long slow steady exercise session and provide a nice safe manner for elevating the heart rate," said Scott L. Danberg, an exercise physiologist and the fitness director at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Aventura, Fla.

    "The average person cannot hold 85 percent of their maximum heart rate for a full 30 minutes, but they can for a short time."

    Studies have shown that individuals also perform better when they receive constant feedback, said Brian McFarlin, an assistant professor of exercise physiology and nutrition at the University of Houston.

    That many sessions include more than just cardiovascular conditioning attracts people looking to cross-train.

    "Running makes me leaner," said Renee Mitchell, 43, a broker at the New York Stock Exchange who attends Tread and Sculpt at the Wall Street Equinox.

    "But the fact that there's calisthenics helps you tone as well."

    A new treadmill class called Fre Flo Do aims to improve athletes' balance, agility and endurance.

    Its creator, Kappel LeRoy Clarke, leads participants through a variety of drills — jumping, kicking a soccer ball from one foot to another, hitting a ball with a paddle — while on treadmills with extra-long decks and no arms.

    Fre Flo Do used to be offered at an Equinox gym until Mr. Clarke decided to start his own specialized studio in Santa Monica, Calif., scheduled to open next month.

    "Fre Flo Do improved my balance, my physical fitness, speed," said Jayme Goldberg, 35, a real estate investor in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., who used to participate in one-on-one sessions with Mr. Clarke.

    "You're faced with challenges you cannot foresee, and you kind of have to deal with whatever's there."

    Therese Iknoian, a founder of Geartrends.com, a Web site for the fitness industry, is skeptical that Fre Flo Do will have mass appeal.

    "This might be dandy for a super-advanced person who's incredibly bored, but it's probably not what your everyday person needs," she said.

    At $200 for the cheapest one-hour group sessions, it's not a class everyone will be able to afford either.

    Even if Fre Flo Do does not catch on beyond a single studio, innovative treadmill workouts will continue to evolve.

    The machine is "classically boring," said Bernhard Schroeder, a spokesman for IDEA Health and Fitness Association, a trade group.

    "People are going to try to develop it and be inventive."

********************

I so expect to hear from the various principals in these clubs within the next several hours, as they attempt to lock me up for future innovations.

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If the phone don't ring, I'll know it's them.

April 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bizarro World Ad Award 2006 Finalist

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It's a high bar indeed to gain admission to the rarified air breathed by the nominees for this coveted bookofjoe prize.

Tip Top Shoes in Gotham nabbed a slot with its superb effort, pictured above just as it appeared on page 14 of yesterday's New York Times Styles section.

You have to read the fine print to appreciate the wondrous upside–down nature of the advertisement.

Under the photos of the shoes is the following:

    WITHOUT laces $45. WITH laces $39.95.

Clearly our influence is spreading — ever so slowly but oh so inexorably.

w00t!

April 10, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to be more productive — Tip #1: Immediately stop reading and go to another website

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Looks like that was a flop, what?

I guess you're consigned to the same old same old wheel–spinning routine.

No matter: even if we don't get anywhere we sure do get there fast.

Once in a while there's even something funny to lighten the collective gloom.

From yesterday's Washington Post comes an article by Zachary A. Goldfarb about the plethora, the proliferation, the plenitude of productivity websites now offering themselves to you in the Calvinist spirit of denial and delay–decrying.

Goldfarb noted five but I'm sure there are many more out there, such that you could spend the rest of your totally non–productive life learning the various techniques, tricks and tools that would render you the world's most efficient person — if only you had the time.

In a sidebar to the article were five sites said to be "among... the most popular for finding tips on how to get organized."

They are:

www.lifehacker.com

www.43folders.com

www.lifehack.org

www.slackermanager.com

www.persistenceunlimited.com

Here's the Post story.

Note: There may or may not be a quiz afterward.

    Productivity Tip No. 1: Check Out the Blogs

    For procrastinators and the easily distracted, Web logs can be best friends, indulging short attention spans with jolts of gossip, commentary and newsy tidbits.

    But a number of Web logs, or blogs, have emerged over the past year that offer a way out of a life of perpetually unfinished to-do lists.

    Ironically, these blogs aren't pushing gadgets or Web services. Instead, they reflect a growing recognition -- especially among the tech-savvy -- that high-tech gadgets and an avalanche of online information can be more of a curse than a blessing for productivity.

    Some bloggers are encouraging readers to revert to manila folders, paper and pencil when they can and not to rely on electronic devices to stay organized.

    Merlin Mann, who runs productivity blog 43folders.com, suggests a "Hipster PDA" -- index cards and a binder clip to keep track of notes -- as a more effective way to keep track of events than an electronic gadget.

    "Whether you decide on a tool that is high-tech or low-tech, the important point is to use it well," Mann says.

    "To think high-tech is naturally more advanced and therefore more useful than low-tech is inaccurate and misleading."

    Gina Trapani, editor of Lifehacker.com, one of the more popular productivity blogs, said the target audience for this type of advice is "people who like systematic methods and logical methods to accomplish things in technology and life in general."

    For some, a pen and notebook will do the job. For others, it's all about the high-tech solution.

    "Computers can be extremely frustrating, time-sucking animals, but used the right way, they can actually make your life a lot simpler," she said.

    Posts by Trapani on Lifehacker show how to block Web sites during work hours or how to set up a personal computer so it automatically backs up its content overnight.

    One article written by Trapani offers a visual suggestion on how to manage what can seem like daunting goals.

    "Break your task down into chunks and track your progress to completion with a level-o-meter," she wrote in a recent blog post.

    "Similar to a fundraiser thermometer that rises with red marker the more money raised, draw yourself a personal progress bar to track your own progress."

    For example, someone getting ready to write a 10-page report might draw out a progress board split into 10 sections before he or she starts writing, she said.

    Each time one page is finished, one section is colored in to track the progress.

    "It's completely mental, but getting to the next level can be a huge motivator," she said.

    John Anderson, a systems administrator in Gaithersburg who surfs productivity blogs regularly, said he tried gadgets to stay organized but had better luck with writing things on paper.

    "You get the psychological advantage of scratching stuff off," he says.

    "The big thing is writing everything down and not trusting yourself to remember anything."

    One of the hottest topics on many of the blogs is e-mail management.

    Mann's advice is to increase the "automatic check" interval on an e-mail reader from every minute to every 30 minutes.

    And Trapani's site lists where you a get disposable e-mail address as a way to register for a specific Web site without disclosing -- and eventually clogging -- your primary inbox.

    Many of the productivity blogs share a major inspiration: "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," a 2001 book by self-help guru David Allen.

    In his book, Allen offers a system to file projects in a series of folders so it's clear what's coming up next without having to worry about what's on the horizon.

    "More and more people are feeling overwhelmed," Allen says.

    "You need to make sure you're having conversations with yourself and constantly renegotiating your priorities so you feel comfortable."

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Oh, I almost forgot — here's one more useful site the article omitted.

April 10, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Timex Acrobat Bendable Digital Thermometer

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Somewhere Marcel Duchamp is smiling.

This wonderful bird–like readymade doubles as a digital thermometer.

But wait — there's more.

It gives you a readout in 5 seconds.

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Not bad for $13.99 (battery included).

April 10, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'I found this growing in my yard today' — Brian Nelson

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Res ipsa loquitur.

April 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Portable Hydraulic Window Blinds Cleaning System

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These folks don't know how to wrap a package, what?

From the website:

    Mini Maids®

    Wash dust and insect residue down the drain!

    Mini Maids make it a cinch!

    High–quality suction cups with hooks secure spine of blind to tile for instant washing!

    Just twist wand to wash reverse side of slats.

    Pat with towel or air dry... you're done!

    Set includes 2 polypropylene end brackets and center support to fit 1" mini–blinds.

********************

You'll be able to stick a fork in yourself, you'll be so done.

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$9.99 (blinds not included).

April 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cupcake Websites

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There are several, actually:

Cupcake Bakeshop

All Cupcakes, All the Time

52 Cupcakes

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It was all I could do not to lick my computer screen, looking at the scrumdiddlyumptious cupcakes pictured on these sites (representative examples above).

[via Katherine Meyer and the Wall Street Journal]

April 10, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Meet Maria Sharapova

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Sorry about the short notice but I didn't see the ad (above) in the Styles section of yesterday's New York Times until after 11 p.m. last evening.

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That's why I'm putting this up much earlier than the usual first post, to give you a chance to pull yourself together and get over to Macy's Herald Square (in Manhattan, for those not familiar with the fabled location).

Sharapova's going to be there today (Monday, April 10) at 10 a.m. sharp in Watches on the Main Floor on behalf of TAG Heuer,

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which pays her in the seven figures annually to wear their timepiece and occasionally show up for things like this.

According to the ad "the first 200 people to meet her will get her autograph."

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So you've got a little less than three hours if you're so inclined and you happen to be in the vicinity.

April 10, 2006 at 07:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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