Sep 01

Will the Big Mac cause America to lose future wars?

In what may the most telling sign yet that our society is in a deep, and perhaps permanent, Fat-soldier decline, comes word that the U.S. Army has dramatically altered its fitness and basic training requirements for new recruits. Why? Because they can't handle it. A jaw-dropping front-page New York Times article reports a 70 percent increase in recruit drop outs between 1998 and 2008 because, as an Army spokesperson pointed out, the combination of a sedentary lifestyle, the reduction of gym classes in public schools due to budget cuts and, yes, good ol' fast food has created a generation of overweight, out-of-shape teenagers. It's no exaggeration to say the Big Mac is playing a key role in undermining our nation's security here and abroad.

In an effort to retain anyone remotely fit, the Army has dramatically altered its physical training regimen for the first time in history. Get this: they've dropped sit-ups and long runs from their training. How sad is it that the average Repman reader can probably bang out more push-ups and run a longer distance than the typical American teen?

There's something strangely symmetrical about America's decades-long decline. Initially, we saw it with our kids' test scores, particularly in math and science. Reports showed the very best engineers, the ones who will be inventing next generation technology, all seem to be coming from India or Asia. Many attend America's top universities since Stanford, Harvard, et al, are still among the world's elite. But, the newly-minted grads quickly return to their place of birth and apply their newfound acumen to solving a different country's technology challenges.

Now, we're seeing the result of years of physical and nutritional neglect coming home to roost (that last line was a salute to our nation's farmers who, as Repman readers will recall, are thought of more highly than PR types).

It's getting to the point where our kids not only can't outthink the competition, they can't outfight them. With each passing day, I'm starting to better understand what the average Roman citizen must have felt circa 476 A.D.

The saddest thing about teenage obesity is that it's solvable. But, there's really no one to hold accountable. Who will force parents to prepare better meals (and steer the kids away from Mickey D's)? And, if the kids aren't exercising in school because of budget cutbacks, how do we encourage them to embrace fitness? And, if Nintendo and Sony continue to churn out reality-based, slash-and-burn video games that keep the teens glued to their computers, how will they burn calories? Maybe the industrial design company IDEO can create a fat-burning mouse.

This is a sad, sad state of affairs. I, for one, am totally embarrassed. I think I'll go climb a mountain to burn off the stress.

Oct 07

In the pink

I just joined 175 other cyclists for the 220-mile Tour de Pink cancer charity ride. It was a great event for a critically important cause. I won't wax poetic about what it all meant to me but, to answer one person's question: 'Yes, it was worth all the pain and agony and, yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.’ So, here are some random thoughts and shoutouts about my epic adventure:

October 7 - pink

– Helmets off to Matt Purdue (pictured here along with erstwhile Peppercommer Trish Taylor and me) for organizing the tour. This is the sixth year that riders have set out from Hershey, Pa., struggled to climb the heinous hills of Pennsylvania Dutch country and finish two-and-a-half days later in Bridgewater, NJ. Matt and his fellow organizers have raised $2 million for cancer research in the tour's six years.

– The survivors. There were about 40 survivors who rode alongside us on various stretches. Whenever my neck, back or legs hurt, I just had to glance at a survivor to suck it up and keep pedaling.

– Don Middleberg for donating $500 to support me. Don's always been a hero of mine (he created a great dotcom agency and chose the perfect timing in selling it). See you at the Kitano, Don.

– The friends, family and co-workers who pledged money. It all helps.

– The Mennonite school kids who would stop in the middle of their baseball game, step out of a 19th century-like existence and cheer us on (Trust me: it was like watching an episode of 'Little House on the Prairie').

– The Tour de Pink support crews. We had unbelievable support teams who carried our luggage, tuned our bikes and fed us along the way.

– Valley Forge National Park. I'd never seen it before. It looked cold and bleak in early October, so I can only imagine the wintery conditions of 1776-77.

– My trusty assistant, Dandy Stevenson, who made sure everything had been arranged in advance ('Not to worry,' the Tour de Pink people would say, 'Dandy took care of that for you').

– The other riders, who were incredibly supportive and only too happy to help with advice, suggestions, etc. The cry of 'car back!' is still ringing in my ears (That's a warning from the trailing rider that a car is rapidly approaching from the rear).

That's it. Check the Fox & Friends coverage and, if the spirit so moves you, donate a dollar or two to the cause.

Aug 04

Being Steve Cody

Guest post by Laura Zanzal

August 4 When my alarm went off Thursday morning, I got up, started to get ready and then thought to myself, “Wait a minute!  I’m the CEO!” I was back in bed faster than you could say, “Laura Zanzal, managing partner and founder.”

To prep for my job role as Steve, I carefully packed my gym bag and studied options for my turkey burger.  All kidding aside, my day as Steve was informative and flew by. It was an eye opener to how demanding his schedule can be as well as how many impromptu, yet important, meetings Steve is expected to attend. Furthermore, it was interesting to see how “quick on your feet” and confident you have to be in this job role. In one particular meeting I sat in on, Steve was expected to work with a select few to come up with some humorous ideas for a client – in just a few hours. While I’m used to brainstorming and deadlines, I’m not in a position where I’ve ever had to think of an idea and run with it almost immediately. It was definitely interesting to watch ideas bounce off one another, with a more serious tone than what’s typically found in a brainstorm.

Being Steve though definitely had its perks. Between a spacious office with a—gasp—door to a personal assistant who happily called my roommate with Happy Hour specials, it was definitely comfortable and I look forward to these perks as my career progresses. As much as I hate to say it though, I did miss being in the trenches. I was disappointed that I didn’t know the “gossip in the cubes” and missed all the casual conversations through the cube walls. Once you are all alone in an office, it really makes you realize how fun your Peppercom family truly is.   

All in all, I think the job swap was an excellent idea. During my reign as Steve Cody, I found myself telling everyone about the swap – from friends and family, to even those employed at Steve’s gym. The common response, “Wow, your boss is really cool. I wish I could do that.” More companies should embrace the job swap, since it was a great learning experience for both myself and Steve, and I think both of us now have a greater appreciation for our jobs.

Jun 29

Reelin’ in the years

June 29 - cupcake It’s my birthday. No big deal in the grand scheme of things but, as Pink Floyd once wrote, ‘Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.’ Maudlin to be sure, but since we’re all mortal, it’s tough not to reflect on what’s been accomplished and what’s still to be done.

In that spirit, I’ve given some thought to what I’m most proud of and what I’d like to do between now and the inevitable appearance of the Grim Reaper. Here goes:

Accomplishments:

  • Chris and Catharine
  • Peppercom
  • McGraw-Hill published book, ‘What’s keeping your customer up at night?’ (continues to fly off the bookshelves in Third World countries while gathering dust here)
  • 75 or so stand-up comedy performances
  • One ‘improv’ performance at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in NYC (easily the toughest mental challenge I’ve yet faced)
  • Mountain climbing, ice climbing, three half marathons and two 18-mile marathons
  • PR industry awards, bylined articles, speeches, panels, agency of the year, yada, yada
  • Mentoring more than one dazed and confused college student

Goals:

  • Learning a second language
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Climbing at least three more of the Seven Summits
  • Rock climbing
  • Antarctica and the Galapagos
  • Acting
  • Completing my swimming lessons and finishing a sprint triathalon

Reflecting on my mortality, I’m reminded of the classic William Saroyan quip, ‘Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.’ If only……

Apr 07

The Penn Station Shuffle

I've just read that one in five American pre-schoolers is obese. That comes as no surprise since Nm_obese_baby_080818_mn
their parents are mostly sedentary and allow the little darlings to vegetate in front of computer screens and stuff their mouths full of fast food and soft drinks.

I actually experience a small part of the obesity epidemic in my everyday commute.

Each day, after my chronically-late 7:28 am NJ Transit train has lurched its way into Penn Station, I fight my way through the hordes of fellow commuters towards the Seventh Avenue exit ramps. And, that's where I witness the Penn Station Shuffle.

As I approach the stairs and escalator, I always make a beeline to the left, because there's always an enormous line on the right. That's where the escalator is. And, that's where sedentary, lazy commuters patiently wait in line to board an escalator that covers the equivalent of perhaps 50 small steps. I always shake my head in bewilderment, wondering why so many obviously harried and frazzled commuters are nonetheless more than willing to wait on long lines just to avoid a little exercise.

Having just toured Scotland and listened to news reports, read newspapers and spoken to countless locals, I can tell you our country's image and reputation is at an all-time low. It's not just the senseless carnage in Iraq or the global credit crunch that many see as being our fault. It's also our self image. Many Scots see Americans as lazy, spoiled and obese. And they like to kid about our nationwide obesity problem.

Obesity isn't a laughing matter, especially when it's becoming an albatross for future generations. But, what hope do our kids have when their role models continue to inhale Big Macs, wash them down with calorie-rich colas and wait on line to do the Penn Station Shuffle?

Oct 02

Exercise Your Mind or Your Body. But Not At the Same Time

I go to the gym for an intense workout. Whether it’s running, lifting weights, cruising through the elliptical trainer or some combination thereof, I like to push my body to the max. It helps me unwind and refresh at the same time.

So, I honestly don’t understand the people who sit on the exercise bike, walk on the treadmill or slowly stride their way through an elliptical trainer workout while reading a book or magazine!

What is that all about? How many calories does one burn while ever so slowly scanning the latest tips from Cosmo?

I wouldn’t mind so much except that it always seems these are the very same people who boast about their regular exercise. Puh-lese. Sure, reading a book while slowly strolling on  a treadmill is better than doing nothing. But, I wouldn’t categorize it as a workout.Campbells

Just last night, ABC World News Tonight ran a segment about the amazing rise in popularity of comfort food.  According to the report, only one major corporate stock rose during Monday’s freefall: Campbell’s. Savvy investors apparently know that people turn to comfort foods (read: fatty foods) during times of extreme uncertainty. While that may be understandable, it’s certainly not laudable. How can a nation with
two-thirds of its population already overweight possibly stand by and watch them load up on even more junk? On the other hand, fewer people mean more jobs for the rest of us.

Americans need to turn away from comfort food, put down their books when cycling and start some real exercising. In my book (which I don’t read while running, btw), exercise trumps eating for stress reduction any day of the week.

Sep 24

An Unhealthy Health Club

Guest Blog by Chris "Repman, Jr." Cody, Newly-minted Junior Account Executive in the Peppercom UK Office

Those of you who are familiar with my father’s exploits in the realm of fitness (Mt. Kilimanjaro, marathons, etc.) will be happy to know that Repman Jr. is a chip off the ol’ block.  I’m what some might consider a health freak (though I do enjoy a pint or three).  So, naturally my first move upon setting up shop in London was to join a gym. 
I require a gym that fits my needs.  I need it to be close to the office, relatively large (yet not so large that it alienates the individual), and, of course, it needs to have copious amounts of barbells and dumbbells.  So, you can imagine my happiness when I found Market Sports Club within two minutes walking distance from the Peppercom UK office that seemed to fit the bill.

After work on Monday, I walked over to the gym and, after a lengthy registration process, I was given the tour of the facilities.  This place was too good to be true.  A huge weight room filled with bench presses and pull up bars was followed by a pool, a sauna and then a steam room.  "This place is jolly good eh what?" I thought to myself in a British accent.

And then the tour ended with the final highlight of the gym:  the tanning bed room.  "Why would you have tanning beds at a health club?" I asked.  Marta, the Polish personal trainer, replied in broken English that they were used to "maintain a healthyTanningbed glow throughout the year."  Rather than argue with this absurd logic, I smiled wanly and quickly wrapped up the tour.  But on the walk home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the mixed messages being sent by this purported health club.  "Have a run on the treadmill, blast your pecs, and contract melanoma. Cheers Mate!"

Jul 09

Who’s to blame when we’re all at fault?

Is there a more disgusting spectacle on television than the now-annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest?Hot_dog
As almost everyone knows by now, the contest’s goal is to challenge contestants to ingest as many hot dogs as possible within a given time frame. Cash awards are enormous. The competition is fierce and the media coverage has escalated into, dare I say it, a veritable feeding frenzy.

Juxtapose this truly gross spectacle against the reality of our country’s childhood and adult obesity epidemic and one is left to ponder: what’s become of corporate social responsibility and/or good old common sense?

Why are ESPN, CNN and all the major networks airing segments from the franks feast yet paying short shrift to the latest set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics? Alarmed at the wave of obese kids in our nation, the nation’s most influential group of pediatricians is recommending that docs start testing overweight kids for high cholesterol at the age of two!

It’s absolutely mind boggling to contemplate that some of today’s kids are already in trouble within 24 months of leaving the womb. On the other hand, it’s not so surprising at all.

Why is Nathan’s dismissing the health and well-being of our country’s kids by promoting a hot dog eating event that literally sickens contestants and viewers alike? Why are the sports channels and mainstream news networks covering the spectacle with jocular, lighthearted segments? And, why are Americans attending the event in person and watching it on TV?

You know our country’s out of control when no one takes responsibility for mitigating a disaster like this. If I were asked, I’d allow the event to continue (free speech, and all, etc.), but I’d display all sorts of warning labels, posters, and admonitions as well as have myriad spokespeople available to warn viewers, readers and listeners to avoid hot dogs if they have any hopes of leading a long and healthy life. I’d also run a few, up-close-and-personal case studies of morbidly obese Americans who’ve gorged on garbage like hot dogs and paid the ultimate price.

To paraphrase the Bard of Avon, the fault lies not in our stars, but in our stomachs. Nathan’s: stop promoting unhealthy eating. ESPN and others: stop publicizing this crap. My fellow Webizens: wise up and stay away from junk like hot dogs. We’ve got to stop the madness now.

Jun 24

Barry Schultz puts it all in perspective

My hamstring hurt. My allergies were bothering me. And, I was than thrilled to be rising at 5:30am thisFundraiser_2
past Saturday to drive 110 miles south to Cape May County, NJ.

It was already hot, humid and windy as hell when I arrived in a godforsaken schoolyard in the middle of the Pine Barrens. I was there along with hundreds of other bicycle riders to compete in a charity fundraiser. It was a great cause. But, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled to be there.

Then, I met Barry Schultz. Barry has been struck down by ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was diagnosed with it two years ago, but shows little ill effects from a malady that carries a prognosis of two to five years.

Words do not due justice to Barry’s can-do attitude. He’s bright, bubbly and outgoing. And, he was champing at the bit to start the fund-raising bike ride.

And, ride we did. And, ride Barry did. And, sure enough, my hamstring cooperated, my allergies subsided and I cruised through the woods to the seashore.

It was cool to finish the race. It was cooler still to watch my fellow riders cheer Barry a few minutes later when he wheeled across the finish line.

Our team raised $19,000 for Barry and ALS research. It’s a drop in the bucket to be sure. But, every dollar counts.

What counts more is the lesson Barry taught us on Saturday. He showed us how one can, and should, live one’s life. Despite the death sentence, Barry makes the most out of each and every minute he has.

What a different world this would be if Barry was the norm, and not the exception. Talk about image and reputation management! Barry could, and should write a book. There are quite a few CEOs and politicians who would learn a great deal from it.

Apr 02

There’s nothing like hot dogs and a beer after an intense 10-mile race

I’m competing in a series of 10-mile, 15k and half marathons this Spring as I prepare for my firstMarathon_2
marathon (San Diego in early June).

Road races are a blast to compete in and provide an amazing sense of accomplishment when completed. They also provide very cool pre- and post-race bonding experiences with fellow runners.

As is the case with other aspects of life, however, there are well organized and not-so-well organized runs (last Summer’s Chicago Marathon, for example, will be forever remembered as the ‘Bataan Death March’ of competitive road racing).

I finished a 10-mile race on March 30th that had a little bit of everything: superb planning, a scenic course, supportive crowds and hot dogs and beers for the finishers. Say what? Yup, the 19th annual Freehold Area Runners Club St. Paddy’s Day 10 Miler provided some very non-traditional food and drink.

And, while I ‘get’ the St. Paddy’s beer part, I was floored to see steaming hot dogs on either side of the finish line. I was even more flabbergasted to see exhausted runners actually downing the dogs. Yuck! How could anyone ingest such dreck immediately after cleansing one’s body?

It was mind boggling and image rattling at the same time. But, hey, to each his own. As for me, I’ll stick with the post-run bananas and quart of cold water, and hope that my more traditional dietary strategy pays off in California.