Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tobacco, Bowling, and Vintage Home Gyms

While browsing local vintage boutique Retro 101, I stumbled upon packaging that would catch anyone’s eye – manly muscles in a contradictory happy, yet formidable pose. Whatever was in the box, it had to be mine. So goes the power of marketing. Mad Men, eat your heart out.

The Whitely Super Jiffy Gym looked promising. Best guess was with the invention of plastics, came the Super Jiffy Gym – a simplified version of the springed “chest pull” popularized by cartoons…you know the one that Tom and Jerry get tangled up in. Or was it Daffy Duck…

Now I too, could create an array of perfect Grecian poses with my new, vintage Jiffy Gym. Were the trunks required too?



But once taken out of the box, I could barely move it. It wasn’t quite the elastic band you might get from the physical therapist. No. The tension was somewhere between a strap to hold elephants at bay and a rock.

Verdict? The Jiffy Gym was a dud. Could use it to hang plants. The packaging was mesmerizing, however and a little research was in order. It appears Whitely Gyms offered a large array of classic home gym equipment throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s, bizarre precursors to the fitness props and home gym toys of today.

Turns out, Whitely Gyms of Hackensack, NJ, was owned by AMF Incorporated. AMF Incorporated was founded in 1900 New York, as the American Machine & Foundry Company Inc. The company manufactured automated machines for the tobacco industry.

AMF, Inc. expanded the automated machinery into all kinds of  industries, including the one they would ultimately be known for, the automatic pin-spotter. Yes, as in bowling. The war delayed the introduction of  the pinspotter until the late 1950’s when it revolutionized tenpin bowling and touched off a boom in the sport. Kingpin was born.

Involvement with bowling led AMF into a broad range of sports and fitness equipment during the 60’s and 70’s including; tennis racquets and skis, golf clubs, inflatable balls, scuba gear, (my Jiffy Gym) and other recreational products such as snowmobiles, bicycles, yachts and even Harley Davidson motor cycles.

From jump ropes, gym bars, bands, balls and pulley trainers, AMF’s Whitley Company offered it all.  The funny thing is, these same gym gadgets are constantly being reinvented every decade, purporting to be new, safer, more convenient, modern, and perhaps greener.

The Whitely line of home gym equipment quietly went away in the 70’s, only to be rediscovered now and again in vintage shops and yard sales by cultural fitness anthropologist such as myself. The Jiffy Gym is a shining reminder of how little has changed in American fitness, not to mention the influential power of good advertising. Afterall, I did buy it.


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Marketing With Food Dares


Some people consider eating chicken feet and head cheese a dare, but in the US it’s not so much about oddities as it is about going big. With popular shows like Man vs. Food and the recent onslaught of fast food dares, it becomes obvious the recipe for success comes down to extreme comfort food, extreme Americana, and extreme calories…all in the name of entertainment, of course.

Perfect example: The Double Down

KFC Double Down

KFC’s  testoterone alluring monstrosity got the attention they had intended, making headlines all over by taking two pieces of fried chicken and using them to sandwich two slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese, two slices of bacon and a special sauce. An LA times blog says it has 800 calories 46 grams of fat, while the Washington Post says only 540 calories with 32 grams of fat. -90 calories lighter than McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich. It contains 1,380 milligrams of sodium while 1500 a day or less is recommended.

Carl's Jr Footlong Burger

Most recent to the extreme caloric scene is the Carl’s Jr. hamburger footlong. That’s right. 8 patties of meat and probably 1500 calories. Nutritional information is not yet available.

Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt

Stephen Colbert recently touted the news of Friendly’s new grilled cheese burger melt. At 1500 calories (seems to be the standard) and 2090mg of sodium, I think no one can express their excitement over this sandwich like Colbert can. I urge you to check out his food thoughts on the grilled cheese burger melt here.

When did this madness begin?

In recent memory, the team making calories work for them in the biggest way was the Gateway Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team in Southern Illinois, just outside of St. Louis, MO.  The Grizzlies, known more for their death-defying ballpark food than their hitting, touched off the craze in 2006 by adding a $4.50 donut burger to the concession lineup. Going the extra mile, the Grizzlies deep-fried their glazed donut before slapping it on the bacon cheeseburger. Attendance soared.

But wait! It’s just keeps getting better! Moving the trend ever forward, the marketing gurus for the Grizzlies now sell a new gutbuster made of 1.6 pounds of meat topped with salsa, sour cream, chili and Fritos. Cost: $20 and 4,889 calories.

I’m gonna stick with chicken feet. A 60 calorie dare that’s still hard to swallow…mainly you just chew.

Meditation. It’s not just for Sissies anymore.

(Watch out phone viewers…quite a few videos below)

Yeah that’s right. Meditation is being claimed by the resistance movement. Quiet strength and mind body centering is attacking the establishment…silently.

As the benefits of meditation become more widely known, its new age stigma is being shed for a reputation of focus, skill and all around quiet bad ass…ness.

Breathe deep, growl low.

Take the Dharma Punx movement.

Noah Levine, a former druggie and multiple-time convict, learned how to meditate in jail and carried it out to the disenchanted masses. Levine’s meditation movement is gaining momentum among the disillusioned seeking something more from life than drugs, sex, MSNBC, and garage bands.

Although the Dharma Punx are bringing Buddhist philosophy to the streets, it must be mentioned here:  The Wu Tang Clan was first.

While Wu Tang’s philosophical references began with martial arts films, their inspiration validly comes from yet another, older, bad ass group – the Shaolin Monks. There is nothing wimpy about this club. Meditation is their way of life, creating focus, discipline and a centeredness from which they move. I can safely say a 60 year old man able to meditate while balancing one finger…is hardcore.

While meditating on your head might not be in the cards, there is still much to learn from their way of life. For example, here in this video are the simplest elements needed to meditate.

Russell Simmons

Of course, meditation has its celebrity fans. Tiger, Russell Simmons, Sting. Hands down, my personal favorite is David Lynch. Here is a guy who goes fishing into the human psyche, catching all the dichotomies (good and evil, black and white, etc) and exploring them in wild nonlinear, multidimensional ways. Doing things like this:

…while meditating twice a day for the past 35 years. Lynch is one of the most prolific artists out there today. Disturbing, beautiful and compelling. Taking concepts and running with them in various directions. Lynch is a badazzzz.

In the end I defer to The Man, Clint Eastwood. Yup, Mr. Eastwood has been practicing meditation everyday since the 1970’s.

So I gotta ask, Do you feel lucky Punk? Well do ya?

If not, perhaps a little mediation would help….

(I know. Oh so cheesy cheese, but hard to resist.)

Here are a few links for more information:

2009 Scienceline Article

June 2010 – Diane Rehms Show on the power of meditation

The NIH overview on Meditation

ACL Pre/Post Surgery Knee Exercises

Torn ACLs and knee injuries are surprisingly common, and a prime example of how muscular imbalances create wear on the joints. Proper awareness, balance, and strength training are key to preventing and rehabbing any and all injuries… knees included.

For a knee injury, it is important to build the entire leg: maintain quad strength, build stronger hamstrings, and focus on balanced strength in the hips. Pay attention to proper traction and alignment of the ankle, knee and hip as you exercise – in other words, make sure everything is lining up. You can easily do a movement, but without proper alignment of the joints, muscular imbalances can be created, resulting in continued strain.   The best way to build overall strength and better alignment is to incorporate some form of balance into your exercises. Balancing coerces lesser developed muscles to engage, as well as to kick in a little core support.

Your doctor or PT will probably gave you some similar movements, like squats, leg presses, and lunges, but my recommendation would be to try to incorporate an element of balance with each:

Wall Squats with a balance ball behind the back – Angle out the legs and work your way to bringing them under your hips. Pay attention that the knee lines up with the center of your foot. Don’t let the knees extend into flexion past the toes, or a 90 degree angle. Hold the squat for 30 seconds.

Single leg wall squats – This is a challenge. Be careful with these.


Standing on one foot Hip hikes
– Using a yoga block, encourage balance work on the standing leg. allow the opposing leg to tap the floor and lift up. Works the hips and standing leg stability.


Balance on one foot
– Balance on an upside down bosu ball, foam roller, or a wobble board at the gym
Practice balance on this for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time.


Lunges with bosu ball – You can flip the bosu either way.  Arm movements are optional.  Here’s an alternative with the Bosu Ball flipped.

Swimming over balance ball – Lying over the ball. Core is centered. Opposing hand and leg lift, other two remain in contact with the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds each. Keep both arm and leg completely straight, hold and balance. Switch.

Hamstring curl, pelvic lift series on balance ball or bosu ball – Lying on the floor. Soles of the feet flat on the ball (don’t hang in just heels), curl hips up towards the ceiling and roll back down through the spine. Keep ball stable. Can do with legs together (harder) or shoulder width apart. Curl up and down 10 – 20 times.
1. Next progression: you can keep hips elevated and carefully push the ball out and in. Don’t move hips as you move legs. Be careful with this one.
2. Next progression: you can do single leg pelvis lifts, with opposing leg stretched upward towards the ceiling – again, be careful with this one.

Leg presses on the gym equip. Don’t just power through. Keep body aligned and lengthen spine and low back away from the leg movement.


Foam Roller IT band massage If you have a foam roller at the gym, you might want to roll out the outside of the leg. Actually, investing in a roller for home is a wise purchase. There are a multitude of uses and benefits. Rolling out the IT band can be painful, depending on how tense is. The roller helps release hip and leg tension, while reducing strain on the knee.