Friday, January 30, 2015

Les Mills BODYPUMP Is a Great Way to Spend an Hour

Admittedly, I’ve never been one for group fitness classes. Up until recently, the only exception had been a Pilates/Yoga combination class that I attended five or six years ago and had good a reason. The instructor was my romantic interest at the time and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I was at least as interested with her downward dog as I was about the workout.

That's all changed with Les Mills’ BODYPUMP, which is the most productive one hour I’ve ever spent in a group fitness class. Using a specially designed Les Mills barbell and a ten inch platform, each student is guided through ten “tracks” of exercises, each choreographed to contemporary music and intended to fatigue essentially every muscle group. Even though I’ve been active, including weight training, cardiovascular training, and martial arts, among others, my first few BODYPUMP classes really wiped me out. Eventually, I got used to it.

While I’d recommend Les Mills’ BODYPUMP to just about anyone, this particular fitness class works very well for single dads. (I’ll bet you were wondering how I was going to tie this into The Single Father’s Guide, huh?) I have my reasons. BODYPUMP:

1)     Uses your time wisely. A total of two hours, one hour in class, a few minutes to drive to and from the gym, and a few minutes to shower, gets it done.
2)     Is a great place to take a date. I firmly believe that two people who workout together, work out together.
3)     Burns more than 500 calories per class. Actually, I think it’s quite a bit more than that for most guys.
BODYPUMP's incredible, INSANE-ly awesome instructor, Fran, at Orange County Sports Club.
4)     Updates its workouts regularly. It never gets dull. The Les Mills franchiser releases a new “track” with new music and modified exercises every three or four months which both keeps it interesting and challenging.
5)     Is a great place to “network.” If you’ve read any of The Single Father’s Guide Blog posts, you already know about platonic female friends (PFF’s). For a single dad, PFF’s can be helpful in numerous ways including childcare advice to image consulting to, if you demonstrate that you’re a “solid citizen,” introducing you to their single girl friends. When you’re ready to get “out there,” PFF’s are great resources. Considering 60% to 90% of BODYPUMPERS are female, the class is a great place to meet PFF's. All of the ladies in the classes I attend are very cool and, obviously, make a healthy lifestyle a priority.
6)     Improves strength and endurance. When comparing notes with the other regulars with whom I share a locker room, we agree that we feel stronger than we ever have.
7)     Can be done by just about anyone. Since the weights are adjustable; participants can use resistance ranging from eight to about 75 pounds, so just about anyone can play. Fellow BODYPUMPERS range in age from 14 year old young lady, who happened to be the Second Beautiful Daughter before her most recent birthday, to an active retired guy who’s probably in his mid-60’s.

Check out the oaf on the left side in the second row of the photo wearing
the sweaty gray tee-shirt. He's the author of The Single Father's Guide Blog.
In the spirit of a fair review, BODYPUMP has a fault and it’s that the class in too much demand. That’s a good problem for the franchisee, I suppose, but there’s often not enough equipment for everyone who wants to attend. Sometimes, gym members who’d signed up for one of the 24 spots aren’t able to participate because others who hadn’t simply grab equipment. That puts BODYPUMP instructors in a difficult spot and leaves some gym members disappointed. (Ahem). The answer may be more classes and roll call, but that may be just a local issue. Still, if it’s a problem in one place, it’s probably a problem in others, too.

Like it is with a lot of things in life, though, if you want to BODYPUMP, the early bird gets . . . to work out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Favorite Son Saga: The X-Box Contract

The Favorite Son and friend hanging out and playing X-Box.
Forget about mastery. I have to admit, there have been more than a few things about parenting that it has taken me a long time to even understand. One of those things is just the nearly addictive nature of the new gaming systems and video games.

For The Favorite Son (TFS), I've struggled to strike a balance that I can live with among school work, extra-curricular activities, responsibilities at home, and gaming systems. On one hand, I want TFS to be able to unwind a little or have a way to entertain his friends during "hang-out's." On the other hand, well, when there's been a gaming system available, TFS tends to play it to the exclusion of everything else. That's a problem for me.

Thirteen months ago, I bought the family an X-Box and 12 months ago, I put it away. With TFS having aged and matured another year, I decided to give it another try and recently re-installed the X-Box with a catch. TFS had to sign a contract:

The X-Box Contract

This X-Box Contract, (hereafter, “Agreement”), made on January 11, 2015 between The Favorite Son and Dad relates to the use of the X-Box or any gaming system, (hereafter, “X-Box”), used, located in any room, or connected to any electronic device located in or on the property located at our house.  In consideration for having the X-Box, The Favorite Son understands and agrees:

1)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days, Saturdays or Sundays unless special permission is given only by Dad;
2)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days only if The Favorite Son does his homework and chores during the previous week without incident;
3)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days only if Dad gives permission;
4)    While playing on the X-Box, The Favorite Son will willingly and without incident turn X-Box off and stop playing when asked to do so by Dad;
5)    The Favorite Son understands that X-Box controllers will be stored by Dad when the X-Box is not in use. The Favorite Son will not attempt to locate X-Box controllers;
6)    The Favorite Son understands that failure to comply with Agreement may result in the removal of the X-Box and temporary or permanent removal of X-Box from our house and The Favorite Son’s privileges to use X-Box.
I promise to comply with this Agreement:

_________________________                                _________________________
Dad                                                                              The Favorite Son

After I printed a couple of copies, TFS and I sat down and we started to read it together. He said, "Dad, this sounds silly."

I answered, "This is the kind of agreement that grown-up's make."

When we finished reading it, TFS took the pen, looked pensively out the window, and did not sign the contract. I asked, "Why aren't you signing."

He replied, "I'm thinking about it. Isn't that what grown-up's do?"

"Yes," I reluctantly answered.


It's too early to tell how much benefit The X-Box Contract will be, but I'll write another blog in few weeks to update our progress.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Single Fathers: Earn Extra Money Driving a School Bus

So, you’re a single dad, right? Maybe, because your value system has guided you toward caring for your children, you have made career decisions to accommodate a lifestyle in which you can be at home. Maybe, you’re self-employed. Construction? Sales? The arts? Property rental? Day-trading? You’re doing all right, but you could certainly use a little bit extra cash. Who couldn’t? Still, you don’t want to take a job that would jeopardize the parenting time you have with you kids.
Have you considered driving a school bus?

Yeah, that’s right. Drive a school bus. It’s true, a school bus driver job doesn’t fit everyone, like dads who already have a full-time job or who don't have another income stream. Almost all school bus driver jobs are part-time and don’t provide the income needed to raise a family. Still, for some single fathers, driving a school bus is a great match. For example:

1)   School bus drivers work on days kids are in school, so school bus driver single dads can be home when their kids are home like during holidays, breaks, and snow days;
2)   For construction and other seasonal jobs which provide hours during the summer, driving a school bus complements annual income;
3)   Single dads who enjoy a flexible work schedule, like sales and creative arts, among others, the part-time split-schedule is ideal. School bus routes typically operate between 6:30 a.m. until about 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. until about 4:30 p.m. That leaves five hours in the middle of the day for other things;
4)   Wages for school bus drivers are typically competitive, especially compared to the average minimum wage-type jobs, and are based in large part on cost of living. In rural areas, drivers may earn $10 to $15 per hour, while in some urban areas, the pay rate could be quite a bit higher. (In New York City, for example, I’ve heard that some school bus drivers earn nearly $30 per hour);
5)   While driving a school bus requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and the appropriate endorsements, many school bus operators, whether privately contracted or managed by a school district, provide free training to applicants to obtain a CDL.
6)   While not universal, many school bus contractors and school districts permit drivers to bring their small children to work with them, which precludes the need for drivers who have pre-school age children from having to get child care;
7)   School bus contractors and school districts which operate their own fleet tend to promote from within. For the right person, in time, other opportunities like dispatcher, safety supervisor, mechanic, or general manager may be available. (Note, these advancement opportunities are typically full-time, so that may require the single dad to make a career path decision.)

All tolled, a job as a school bus driver is a good match for a lot of single dads. In both a day-to-day sense and in a seasonal sense, the hours of a school bus driver “fit” a lot of guys.  It’s also not unreasonable to believe that a school bus driving single father could add $20,000 a year or more to his annual income and a lot of employers are hiring.

Check out the websites of the regional and national school bus contractors or contact your local school district to get more information.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Product Review: Taste of the Wild Dry Cat Food

 I don't know whether she had a hereditary predisposition to a delicate digestive constitution or whether it was my daughters' Polly Pocket doll clothes, which she'd twice ingested during her kitten years and for which she was twice treated by a veterinarian, but my older female house cat vomited when she ate any cat food that contained cereal fillers. What a pain in the rear end! Front end, actually. As my cat's gastrointestinal challenges worsened, it took me a while to identify the source of the problem and then a while longer, through trial-and-error, to find a dry food she could eat and keep down. Finally, I found it: Taste of the Wild Dry Cat Food.

I'm pretty sure the key is the omission of cereal/corn fillers in the recipe, but I believe there probably is another reason, too. (I'd tell if I knew.) I'd tried other foods with no fillers before, but still had the same problem, although not quite as pronounced. Maybe it's

the venison and/or the salmon, which could be more easily digested by cats than other proteins. I don't know. Whatever the reason, I buy only Taste of the Wild for my cat when I buy dry cat food. We adopted another cat from the local shelter a few years back, a then one-year old, and switched him from Iams (which the shelter uses) to Taste of the Wild. All good; five years later, he continues to flourish.

No, I'm not an employee, vendor, distributor, or any other person or entity related directly or indirectly to the manufacturer. The stuff is just really good.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thoughts on the New Year & Resolutionaries

Well, as I see the parking lot at my local gym swell temporarily with what I call, “New Year’s Resolutionaries,” I think it’s time to take look at the way we look at the New Year.

First, an observation that is almost an afterthought – because for many people, it is, we focus so much of our effort on making resolutions at the start of each new year and very little effort making a push near the end of the old year. Businesses focus on collecting receivables before the end of each fiscal period to get the balance sheet in shape for the 10K/10Q reporting. Why don’t I ever see posts on Facebook or Twitter as the "old year" closes about how much people are trying to lose those last ten pounds or spend more time with their children or run that marathon or learn a new language or visit an old friend or save more money or publish that book?

Bird, bird, stone: John Dignam, Jordan Mattingly, and me.
Making resolutions, I believe, is an admission that the Resolutionary is inherently flawed or not worthy. Okay, fine, no one is perfect, but still, creating a list of all the things that a person will resolve to do implies that the person making the resolutions is working from a position in which he or she flawed: overweight, ignorant, obtuse, incompetent, or unhappy. Frankly, that’s no way to live a life.

That, of course, is not to say that every one of us cannot improve. Heaven knows, I certainly can. Still, checking boxes is a far cry from living one’s life in with integrity, character, and dignity. Regularly, daily, take a few moments to reflect on what went well and what could have done better. Then, with or without help, try things to do better and to be better. Then, do it again. And, again. The day, month, year is extremely arbitrary. December 31 is just one day before January 1 just like October 3 is just a day before October 4, right?
The Beautiful Daughters & Friends at the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point. (Go Army! Beat Fordham!)

The annual tradition of resolution making and, inevitably breaking, is a procedure, which implies that once the Resolutionary completes the steps or checks the boxes, well, he or she is finished. Making the conscious effort to be a better person is a process, which suggests perpetuity; an on-going effort to improve continuously each day.

Look, those New Year's Resolutionaries whose cars will clog my gym parking lot and exercise classes will be a little bit of hassle for a month or two. For the rest of us, believe we are okay, be okay, and then be a little more okay each day.

Happy New Year.