Friday, February 5, 2010

Top Ten Ways To Get More Free Time

10) Stubble

According to Wikipedia the average man will shave about 20,000 times between the ages of 15 and 75 for an accumulated time total of five MONTHS of their lives. Months! Now take a look at the cover model for Men's Health. Then check out People's Sexiest Men Alive. Go ahead... I'll wait. Now see that stuff on their face? Stubble! By adopting a shaver level 1 beard for Monday that morphs into a shaver level 4 beard by Friday, you'll not only look better... you'll save literally weeks of your life.

9) Find Exercise Opportunities In Your Daily Routines

We all need to exercise but, as last week's post suggested, it doesn't have to eat into our precious free time. Waiting for the microwave? Drop and give me 20! Don't just take the stairs at work... take the stairs AND a heavy box. To observant colleagues your bizarre box carrying will smack of lunacy, but to the majority of automatons at the office, you'll just look extra hard-working! Work out in front of the television. Bike to work. You get the idea.

8) Take The Bus

Hear me out on this one because, admittedly, riding the bus takes longer than zipping to work in your unstoppable Toyota. Let us first take a moment to consider what many men consider to be completely "free" time: No to a wife, girlfriend, offspring, partner, parent, or priest. Yes to reading, video games, watching sports highlights, eyeball resting, and movies. Now if you're attempting any of the latter list whilst steering past the other stressed out commuters of the world, I might recommend a coffin for your free time hours. However, equip your round trip bus ride with any electronic iSomething and it's like an empty living room traveling with you for maybe 45min a day. You'll also save a boatload of money AND be the thoughtful guy who leaves the car for his girl.

7) Go Digital

As a fellow member of the blogosphere you're probably already banking and shopping online. But have you also banished Blockbuster from your DVD player? Driving anywhere to pick up a movie only to return it a day or two later is a regular siphon on your time. It's time for Netflix or iTunes or XBOX Live or really anything that keeps your butt on the couch.

6) Hire a Housecleaner

This certainly isn't for everyone (including myself at this cash-strapped present) but, if you have even the minimal means, ask yourself this question: "How much money is an hour of free time worth to me?" If your answer is more than the cost of an hour of cleaning (by someone who will appreciate the work in this economy) then you should go for it.

5) Use Your Sick Days

If your aim is to break the office version of Cal Ripken Jr's baseball record by stoically walking through work's front door regardless of your physical or mental state until they nail an Employee of the Month plaque to your aforementioned coffin, I will salute you from my lazy boy/Call of Duty Battlestation. If, however, you're willing to pursue the mission statement of this blog (a happier, healthier life) then take a few sick days even when you're perfectly fine. It's preventative medicine. I recommend a Wednesday.

4) Make More Food

Every Day With Rachel Ray? Seriously? EVERY day? How about, "Once a Week is What you Seek" Ugh. I wish my delete key was working. Here's the only recipe you really need:

176 oz of giant pan
327 oz of cutting board
1/2 of a cow
trough of vegetables
10 tupperware containers
1 vat of sauce

Making multiple servings will save you time throughout the week AND keep you away from fast food at lunch. If you NEED variety in your food week, substitute 7 shots of different sauces for the single vat approach.

3) "One Off" With Your Partner

This one is a particularly essential free time generator for anyone who has children. Answer the following series of questions in your head: Does tiny infant Damien need two sets of eyes staring at his mood swings? Does it take four hands to lift him out of the crib at 6am? Assuming dinner is already made, does it take two mouths to encourage Johnny to start in on his homework? If you answered "no" to any of those questions, then maybe it's time you and partner discuss making "shifts" a larger part of your schedule. Is it unreasonable for you to watch uninterrupted TV from 4pm-5pm on Tuesday if she gets an uninterrupted bath from 6pm-7pm on Thursday? My wife and I keep sane in a world of twin babies by "one offing" overnight feedings, outings with friends, and weekend sleep-ins as well. It's a beautiful thing to play video games guilt free while your partner takes care of the kids. Just make sure the trades are as equal as possible.

2) Schedule Everything

Yes, even sex if need be... though happily my wife and I don't yet. However, I'm referring mostly to your nights out with the guys that will never happen unless someone logs the event into their phone a week in advance. Or the "one offs" mentioned in #3. Or your gym sessions. Or your date nights. Remember the last time you told someone you actually WANT to hang out with that you'll get together "soon." Did it happen? Do you even remember the person's name anymore? True, this is more about the QUALITY of your free time rather than the QUANTITY, but fiddling with semantics is a known time-waster. Moving on...

1) Sleep Less

If there is one debate that I am constantly having with friends and family it is this one. Most of them believe that each person is different and that more sleep obviously equals a more rested state. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for anyone seeking more time in their lives, their intuitive opinions don't stand up to the science. Sure, everyone is different, but sound research (which you can Google at your leisure) has found that getting between 6.5 and 7.5 SOLID hours of sleep per night is the ideal average. In fact, studies show that people who sleep 9 hours per night are no better off than those who sleep 5 in terms of longevity of life AND overall energy. Two years ago I switched away from the oft-cited 8 hour target to a 7 hour night and, after a short adjustment period of a week or so, have never looked back. Since that time I have actually had a bit MORE energy and about 700 hours of extra living... and plenty of it has been free time. (Despite my small battalion of children)

Next Week: Top Ten Threats To A Solid Night Of Sleep

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top Ten Ways To Use Your Child(ren) As Free Weights

Don't have kids? Just read the preamble and go get yourself a decent workout book and some actual weights; THEY are less likely to puke on your head.

So everyone should know the basic benefits of exercise by now. Better sex, more energy, sounder sleeping, and, of course, a better looking body. Unfortunately, when Ace the stork drops a smart bomb on your place of residence (or in my case, a cluster bomb) one of two scenarios tend to play themselves out over the following months and years:

a: Exercise is de-prioritized. You and your partner are so tired/stressed/baby-obsessed/homicidal that you daily decide to forego the very thing that would create more time, energy, and sanity.

b: Exercise is inequitably scheduled. To cite an example for a stereotypical year of maternity leave, Dad gets the gym membership and goes after work; Mom gets the Thai Cho KickPunching DVD set and plans to use it while the wee one naps. Logical, economical, efficient... and a total recipe for disaster. Here's why:

Mom gets a rotten night of sleep followed by an equally rotten day with little Damien. Maybe the workout happens... probably it doesn't. Meanwhile, Dad strolls into the gym, rocks out to Linkin Park in a room full of toned women, and glides through the front door refreshed and stress-free. Mom might not say anything... but the bitterness is there. (Possibly some guilt as well for not having worked out)


Mom lights the Brat Signal and summons Dad home early. Dad, not having witnessed the 360 head spinning and record setting poop jet, might not say anything... but the bitterness is there. (Possibly the stress of a tough day as well)

Solution: Mom gets the regular, scheduled gym escapes- Dad gets the baby... and some glory...and a happier partner... and one hell of a unique exercise regime.

I give you the Top Ten Ways To Use Your Child(ren) As Free Weights

10. Double Car Seat Shoulder Shrugs

Unless your home (like mine) features identical and therefore equal-weighted twins lurking around every corner, you need to spend some money here. Get yourself a used and disastrously unsafe (cheap) near-match to your good one. No need to replace Tickle Me Elmo's stuffing with ball bearings... your baby's weight in plates will do. With the car seats facing each other, slowly shrug your shoulders whilst keeping your back straight. If you want to know what muscles this works out... Google it. I just know from the three weight lifting books I've read that shoulder shrugs are a good exercise.

9. Return-To-Sender Arm Exercises

If you believe in a God above, formally offer him your baby by holding him high in the sky. Then slowly change your mind. Repeat as many times as you can

8. Double Car Seat Bent-Over Rows

An even better core-builder. Bend your knees as close to 90 degrees as you can, KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT by sticking your behind out as far as you can, grab the handles with your palms facing up, and slowly lift the car seats up and down.

7. Video Games

Specifically things like the Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution. Haven't you always wanted to downhill ski, hula hoop, and head soccer balls with a baby in your arms? No? Well your baby has. In fact, your free weight will be laughing and smiling so much that you MAY just forget how much you're sweating. The only reason this option isn't #1 is because I favour muscle building over cardio. Personally, I would rather look like Ryan Reynolds in Wolverine than the last cover man for Runner's World.

6. Baby Bjorn Pull-Ups

If you're in the early stages of weight training (ie. noodle arms or basketball gut) you may want to skip this one. Otherwise, install a chin-up bar in a door frame, strap Baby into a carrier (which are INCREDIBLY handy by the way) and start wearing down your will to live by doing as many controlled, slow pull-ups as you can.

5. Double Car Seat Deadlifts

Along with bench presses and squats, the deadlift stands in the holy trinity of efficient and effective strength building. Assume the starting position of the shoulder shrugs and the bent over posture of the rows, then stand tall and drop slowly. Your quads, the best possible muscle to build if you're interested in burning fat, will be screaming at you within minutes. Your baby won't be though. As with the other exercises, Baby is having a blast. Just keep reminding yourself that she's not laughing AT you.

4. Crunches

Since deadlifts do more for your abs than any other exercise, I'm not fond of this one. However, it's high quality baby bonding time and doesn't require you to strap them into anything.

3. Piggy Back Push-Ups

By now your 3-7 year old IS laughing AT you. They also want in on the fun. That's when I lie face down on the floor, tell my four year old to climb on my back, and try to do as many push-ups as I can. Arms wide, back straight, SLOW throughout. For extra fun, tell your kid to count for you... or cheer for you... or scream, "Work those pansy noodle arms, Private!" until your ear drums explode. Either way.

2. Chair Stands

Hug your child in the centre of your chest while sitting on a firm(ish) chair with your back arrow straight. Now stand up. Now sit down. Now stand up. Now sit down.

1. Lunges

If you don't know what this is, just search it on YouTube to see its proper form. Whether you're like me with a baby in each arm, like most with a single baby, or bold enough to let your baby hold the ball bearing-loaded Elmo doll, this exercise can be done almost anywhere. I can't say enough about working those quads if you've got some pounds to lose.

Next Week: The Top Ten Ways To Get More Free Time

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Top Ten Things This Blog WON'T Be

1. Impractical

Having neither the time nor the GQ Playboy wisdom to create irreverent top tens for everything from political sex scandals to models men want to have sex with, this blog will have an almost singular focus: Men helping men to lead healthier, happier, and hopefully monogamous lives with the people they love; filled with plenty of sex of course. Topics will range from "The Top Ten Signs That Your Kid Might Have Autism" through "The Top Ten Tips For Giving Terrific Oral Sex."

My imaginary "Guide to Blogging" book told me to include the word "sex" four times in my first paragraph to help with "hits." Check.

2. Just About Me

So who the Hell am I to be dishing out such advice!?" you might exclaim. First of all... don't yell at me. Secondly, you're absolutely right. My love of words and abundance of children make me more like Dr. Seuss than Dr. Phil. My hope is that the comment sections will be filled with criticism, alternate top tens, anecdotes of failed/successful use of the blog, platinum credit card numbers, questions, and more. I also plan to recruit some of my friends from time to time.

3. Daily

You know why the NFL is so wildly popular and profitable despite the fact that your team only plays 16 games? (Mine plays more of course :)) It's because they ONLY PLAY 16 GAMES. And even a busy fan's life usually allows them to see most if not all of them if they so choose. I'm hoping for the same kind of lazy loyalty with this blog. I intend to write one every weekend. Unless no one reads it. Or unless it turns out that I actually don't like writing.

4. Long

My polite friends at work have oft-referred to my emails as "a bit wordy." Others have tightened up that criticism to "asshole." I hereby commit to you, my family, and whatever indentured cyborg entities patrol this blogging Interweb that no entry will every be longer than this inaugural constitution of sorts. You know what to call me if I break this promise, but good luck counting all those letters!

5. For Single Men

Here's where I probably lose half of the 7.5 readers my blog and I were hoping to one day ensnare. Observe this well-known fact that I just made up: Single guys have more time, money, and inclination to write helpful blogs, subscribe to Men's Health, any pay their butler to research whatever wild Top Tens strike their surprisingly well tanned fancy. Relationship guys simply don't get the same attention in modern media... and we should. Frankly, I always thought I'd carve out a niche with a sword and territorial peeing, but I guess this is an acceptable e-equivalent.

6. Politically Correct

I'm the father of a 4 year old girl and an infant set of twin girls. I am a middle school teacher who is rarely permitted to speak his mind with students. I am an athiest who is happily married to the love of my life who, oddly enough, happens to be rather religious. I walk on eggshells around an ex-wife for fear of losing even more time with my oldest. In other words, to say that my walking-around life is PC would be to put it mildly. My typing-around life intends to be nothing of the sort. Though I'm told you can't swear on here. And I guess I probably wouldn't anyway. Damn it!

7. Nonymous (Not an acutal word apparently)

I'll be honest with you: My real name won't appear anywhere in this blog. I will not be telling my friends to follow my posts. The reasoning here is simple. The Top Ten Ways Of Dealing With A Bad Teacher could get me fired. The Top Ten Ways To Strike Up A Bromance could earn me an eternity of mockery from the male friends I cherish. (And you should too. Not my friends though. Get your own) And, of course, the Top Ten Sex Toys (That's 6 now) that Men and Women can Enjoy Together could get me uninvited to Thanksgiving Dinner.

8. Macho

Let me be clear. I have absolutely nothing against guys who can fix a gasperator with one hand whilst crushing a beer bottle in the other. Guys who scoff at romantic comedies and would probably scoff at a dragon too. I am just not one of them. I may play sports, watch football, and lift weights, but I also love candles and have never changed a tire. The male gender deserves better than to be pigeonholed and stereotyped into a certain tiny box of so-called "manliness." Men are complex. In other words, this blog won't help you thatch or de-thatch your roof.

9. Angry

I think there are enough angry blogs out there already. Next.

10. Perfect

The only reason I feel remotely qualified to attempt a blog such as this is because, despite my short life to date, I have managed to experience both failures and successes in the realms of health, parenthood, and most spectacularly... love. I read widely and intend to recruit experts when necessary, but I will inevitably screw up anyway. When I do, I hope one of my 3.75 readers will call me on it.

Next Week: The Top Ten Ways To Use Your Child(ren) As Free Weights