App of the Week: AthleteMinder

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What happens when you hit the gym, dig into a practice or head out to set your best mile time? Aside from that familiar increase in blood flow, you immediately become acquainted with the numbers that attach themselves so tightly to perceived performance.

Every machine at the gym flickers methodically while processing a whole slew of exercise variables. Heart rate monitors beep away, filling you in on cardiovascular strain and whether or not you’re pushing as “hard” as you were yesterday. Your coach shouts that you’re 12 seconds slower than your teammate.

All of this feedback – constantly monitoring, recording and influencing your life as an athlete – is painfully rooted in the very one-dimensional world of physicality.

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Lap times, rep counts, weight targets – all incredibly important, yet lacking in presenting you with an evaluation of your psychological state, which is a chronically overlooked area of sport and fitness in general.

Okay, so you weren’t able to complete your intensely desired one rep max for bench press. You got crushed at last weekend’s tournament. Cue demoralization and self-doubt.

On paper, you were flawless, tirelessly adding weight at the precise increments and never failing to complete every piece of last month’s practices. So what gives? Where do you look for reflection and answers when your routines are completed loyally?

AthleteMinder, the new mental training app from sport psychologist Dr. Mara Smith, might just have the right blend of fresh insight to shed light on otherwise neglected aspects of progression and deliver some healthy improvement.

No stranger to the game, Smith has flexed her 20 years of experience and education through many outlets, including consultation with numerous sporting entities: USA Hockey, USA Gymnastics, US Figure Skating, USA Bobsled and USA Luge.

So what’s up with the app?

AthleteMinder is her latest project, and the app itself is interesting and easy to use. A few workouts in and I found myself pleasantly looking forward to using it, plus milling over some of the useful information on how I was stacking up mentally from day to day.

Personally, I love fitness apps, use STRAVA religiously and looked forward to trying out something that didn’t display the stereotypical variables that make up most of the more popular options. AthleteMinder differs in the fact that it is very personal. No clogged leaderboards or sharing options — just you, your reflection and trends of this over time.

Usability

Actually, using the app couldn’t be any simpler: Just choose from one of three options on what kind of day you had – rest, practice or competition – and then answer five key questions about the session that relates to the mindset surrounding it. These questions were researched and chosen by Smith after surveying athletes from several sports and ability levels on what is most applicable to gauging performance.

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The answers are then recorded, analyzed and presented in a summary graph, which gets plotted on a calendar and spiced up with tips on how to enhance progress. After a few entries, you can see trends starting to carve out, allowing for some really cool insights to be formed.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Smith about AthleteMinder, and her passion for the app was contagious. She has a genuine interest in bettering the mental health of those involved in fitness and a desire to keep developing the app to better meet the needs of users.

“Often times with athletes, when there’s a problem, all they want to do is a train harder, and part of the motivation for this was me saying sometimes more is just more; more isn’t always better, and what a lot of athletes need is a way to think about what they are doing and how they want to try and move forward.”

Not everyone has the chance to work with a sport psychologist or mental strength specialist, but $1.99 sure as hell isn’t hard to come by. If you’re looking to gain an edge on your game, do yourself a favor and check out AthleteMinder.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Russian

the Russian.You know the White Russian and you probably know the Black Russian, which subtracts the diary product but leaves the Kahlua and vodka. Still, I bet the Russian, full stop, is unknown to you, as it was to me until just a few days ago.

I found this drink while pouring over my increasingly well-worn copy of Harry Craddock’s 1930 “The Savoy Cocktail Book” seeking something simple. I’m a bit overwhelmed at the day job right now — no, I don’t make my living doing this — and I really didn’t have the energy to even so much as squeeze a lemon or a lime. And so I stumbled over this little known relic of the days when vodka was a rather exotic ingredient unfamiliar to most Americans who mainly knew whiskey, gin, and probably the once ubiquitous applejack…if they ever dared to enter a speakeasy, that is.

I have no idea if the Russian — actually called “The Russian Cocktail” by Craddock, who called about 90% of his drinks the “the _____ Cocktail” — was an invention of prohibition-era booze marketers trying to popularize vodka in Western Europe and the soon-to-be post-18th Amendment U.S. (See the Moscow Mule, which came a bit later). I do know, however,  that mixing vodka with a chocolate liqueur and the right kind of gin makes for a drink that’s definitely sweet, but with just enough bite to be interesting. It’s also about as easy to make as a cocktail gets.

The Russian

3/4 ounce vodka
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce cream de cacao

Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake very vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass chilled within an inch of its life. Toast, Dostoevsky, who gave the world “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Crime and Punishment, and “The Idiot” and this perhaps tangentially related joke.

“Did you know the Russians are coming out with a new car. It’s called the Dostoyevsky?”

“Really.”

“Yeah, it’s available in a two-door and Fyodor.”

***

To be honest, this drink is about as Russian as that joke. The name notwithstanding, it’s neither the vodka or the gin that dominates this drink, it’s the creme de cacao. If you don’t love chocolate, you won’t love the Russian. That’s not to say the hard liquors don’t play crucial supporting roles.

This drink definitely works far better with a gin and a vodka able to stand up to a chocolate onslaught. My first time out, I used Sky Vodka, the last remnants of my No. 3 London Dry Gin, a flavorful and stout product, and Gionelli white creme de cacao. It was pretty darn delightful. Much less so, however, when I ran out to the local grocery story and decided to pick up a $20.00 double-sized bottle of Gordon’s Gin, which can often work delightfully in mixed drinks, including martinis. This time, however, it just didn’t have the gumption we needed. I was tempted to blame my more photogenic choice of DeKuyper’s brown creme de cacao for my insipid Russian but, on reflection, I decided the two chocolate liqueurs I used were about on par.

I next tried it with the Plymouth Gin that made the Olivette sing last week. Very good. Then, I tried it with 100 proof Smirnoff. Sweet, but strong like a Trotsky icepick.

  

Impotence Has Nothing to do with Machismo: Just ask Pele

Idolised by millions of football fans across the globe for his dazzling skills and sportsmanship, Pele proved to be the perfect role model for aspiring footballers everywhere. When you are someone as famous as Pele and can be considered to be the very epitome of masculinity, it certainly made people sit up and take notice when the Brazilian star of the past and father of five children, became the public spokesperson for one of the great male taboos: erectile dysfunction or ‘impotence’.

Pele was the perfect choice because impotence has nothing to do with machismo or ‘manliness’. Being a very masculine role model, he was in the perfect position of trust and respectability to be able to successfully deliver this important message and bring the subject out into the public arena.

TV appearance

With a glittering career and natural screen presence, Pele was a regular on our screens in his heyday. But his later TV appearances were not to talk about football, but to open up a discussion about erectile dysfunction (ED) and the possible treatments.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Bullz-Eye video interview with Adam Carolla

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This week is Car Week, presented by Edmunds.com. We spoke to the ultimate gearhead, Adam Carolla, the former host of Love Lines and The Man Show, and current host of the most downloaded podcast in the history of the world, The Adam Carolla Show.

In the video below, we spoke to Adam about being a lonely man in a hotel room, his self-anointed middle name (Lakers) and Car Week, sponsored by Edmunds.com.

Check out this video of Carolla helping some unsuspecting Edmunds.com customers:

For any further questions on how Car Week works, call Edmunds’ Car People hotline at 1-855-782-4711 or text ED411.

  

Drink of the Week: The Olivette

Image ALT text goes here.I’ve slipped up again in the holiday boozing department as there’s nothing particularly Father’s Day appropriate about today’s drink. Of course, there’s also nothing particularly un-fatherly about it. If dad likes gin, olives, and isn’t averse to a tiny bit of  anisette/licorice flavor, he might just dig this very sophisticated, very boozy classic martini alternative as much as I do if you serve it up to him this Sunday.

And I do kind of dig it. I wrote last week of my moody martini disenchantment and I’ve found this drink perhaps the perhaps the perfect antidote. It features my favorite part of the martini, the olive, but it’s balanced out by tiny proportions of sugar water and the alcoholic punch in the face we call absinthe. It does come from “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” definitely one of the big daddies of the field. I’ve modified it ever so slightly to better suit my personal taste buds. More about that after today’s recipe.

The Olivette

1 1/2 ounces Plymouth Gin
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
1/4-1/2 teaspoon absinthe
2 dashes orange bitters
1 olive (mandatory garnish)
1 lemon peel (semi-mandatory garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients and shake the contents. (You can also stir this drink if you like…but you’d be wrong.) Strain into a chilled, smallish cocktail glass or coupe over an olive. Mr. Craddock said  you should squeeze the lemon peel on top, and I’m inclined to agree. Toast the olive, for it is green, pimento stuffed, and full of life…or, you can toast your dad if you’re so inclined.

***

I find the Olivette as wonderfully sophisticated as the best traditional dry martini, yet with far more flavor going for it. While the simple syrup might seem a counterintuitive touch for a drink with an olive in it, it creates a very pleasing balance with the orange bitters (Reagan’s for me, as usual) and the very strong anisette flavor of  absinthe.

I’ve altered the Olivette from Harry Craddock’s recipe. Instead of my half and quarter teaspoons, the original calls for two dashes of simple syrup and three dashes of absinthe. I remain eternally befuddled by how I’m supposed to include a dash of something that doesn’t come from a dash bottle and too lazy/cheap to buy one just for the purpose of duplicating Mr. Craddock’s recipes. I prefer being a bit more precise anyway.

Even so, when I tried approximating the original drink with 1/4 teaspoon simple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon absinthe, I found the latter ingredient somewhat overpowered the drink. If you’re a bigger fan of licorice than me, however, you might like it this way. I liked the drink a whole lot better when I reversed the proportions and used 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and just 1/4 teaspoon absinthe — for me the ultimate example of a “little goes a long way” ingredient.

Of course, the primary and most important ingredient of the Olivette is gin, and not just any gin. Plymouth Gin is called for in, we are told by whomever felt like taking the time to count, 23 of the cocktails in “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” It is, as I wrote last year, both a style and a brand of gin. That’s because there’s only one brand of it available, so we’ve essentially got a monopoly on our hands. In this case, the monopoly works very nicely.

The ever-so-slightly less dry, fruitier flavor of gin from the English town that produced our nation’s ultra-abstemious founding Puritans really does seem to be the ideal gin for this lost classic of a drink. I say this with some authority because I also tried the Olivette with a perfectly good brand of regular London dry gin. It kind of tasted like a Dow Chemical spill.

  

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