Getting the Girl -- Without Losing Your Friends

For most guys, the prospect of approaching a cute girl is too daunting to attempt alone. You need your buddies around you for a bit of support and a safe place to return to just in case, you know, it goes a bit sideways. But your pals may not be what you need when you’re trying to make a move. In fact, if the same girl catches the eye of one (or more) of your friends, it could make things rather messy. So what’s a guy to do?

Scratch Each Other’s Backs
According to dating expert and author Jay Cataldo, it pays to establish a “bro code” at the outset, before you go out with your pals. “True friends don’t compete for girls,” he says. “When I’m interested in a girl we’ve all just met, I will call ‘dibs’ on her and my friends will back off and support my gaming efforts. In other words, they’ll be good wingmen.” Needless to say, you need to do the same for them. (And you certainly don’t need an Excel spreadsheet, but try to be fair. If two of you call dibs simultaneously, the guy who hasn’t had a date in three months wins.)

Guys who take this approach can be a huge asset to one another, adds Adam LaDolce, dating expert and author of Being Alone Sucks! “You can boost each other’s value in the eyes of a woman. If your friend is taking the initiative, support him. Look at him when he’s talking, laugh at his jokes. Tell a story about how funny or awesome he is. Help him, and he’ll do the same for you next time.”

Play to Win (If You Must)
If there’s no way around a contest -- for instance, if you’re out with guys you don’t know that well (or guys who aren’t interested in a “bro code”) -- then Cataldo advises outgunning them. “Display as much alpha-ness as you can until she starts showing signs of attraction,” he says. “Talk louder than the other guys and try to control the conversational topic. Hold strong eye-contact with the girl when speaking directly to her, but glance around the room when she speaks to you. Give her friends more attention than her. And tease her in front of the group.”

This strategy can work (and a group of guys like this would probably just respect you if it did), but keep it as a last resort. Chances are the other guys won’t back down so easily, and most girls find it a turnoff when guys compete over them … meaning everyone loses. Besides, competing for the same girl runs counter to the “many fish” mentality. Cultivate this mindset and you’ll find yourself in a much better position than the guys swarming around the hottest girl in the room like sharks to chum.

Take the “Many Fish” Approach
“Once you realize there are many girls out there for you to meet, you won’t get so hung up on one,” explains LaDolce. “And the key to this is learning how to talk to several different women in an evening.” If that just doesn’t sound like you, try to make yourself do it anyway. Start with women you’re not that interested in; your confidence will grow naturally with repetition and experience, and by the time it comes to talking to a girl you’re attracted to, the pressure will be off just as you’re hitting your stride.

Then, right when she shows some interest, move on. “The best way to get a girl’s attention is to be the guy who’s bouncing around talking to other girls at the party,” says LaDolce. “Don’t worry if your friends are talking to her. Speak to five other nearby women. Believe me, she’ll notice you!”


Getting Ahead in Hard Times

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is showing up. But he’s old. And he doesn’t have to sit in a cubicle every day with the threat of layoffs hanging over his head like a dim fluorescent bulb.

Success during The Great Recession means you need to boost your performance, outshine your co-workers, and more important, let your bosses know what kind of butt you’re kicking without looking like you’re kissing theirs. Here’s some advice from real job experts -- not some crotchety moviemaker -- on how to get it done.

1. Jump ahead a few years
Our economy will never return to the good ol’ days -- and, most likely, neither will your company’s boom times. To survive long-term, you’ll need to think about how your industry is likely to evolve and the ways you can stay ahead of the curve as it does. “You should be setting yourself up now for what your job will be like a few years from now,” says Penelope Trunk, CEO of the employment advice Web site BrazenCareerist. “This doesn’t mean working harder; it means setting personal goals for growth and getting on the right projects for the right experience -- so the right people notice you.”

2. Don’t be a jerk
A startling number of folks at the office have been sent to the unemployment line recently, and your responsibilities seem like they’ve doubled. The urge to let your boss know exactly how hard you’re working -- to get a little credit and to just vent -- is almost too great to resist. Resist anyway and be an enthusiastic team player now more than ever. If you need to complain, do it to your girlfriend, not your co-workers. “You’d be hard-pressed to find an annoying person in the office who’s not getting laid off right now,” says Trunk. “Being kind and gracious, exchanging information and ideas, reaching out to people -- if you do these things, you’ll do better in your career.”

3. Know exactly what doing a good job means
These days, the corporate bean counters are quick to cut any worker who’s not operating at 100 percent efficiency -- and your opinion of what’s efficient may be completely different than your boss’s. Career coach Marie G. McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics, uses the example of an old client: a quality assurance manager who was so obsessed with perfection on the assembly line that he disrupted production. “He thought he was a high performer,” she says. “Management thought he was an obstacle. You never want to be seen as an obstacle or hard to manage. That’s an absolute career killer.” Ask your boss for occasional feedback, whether you like it or not, and even set up a quick monthly meeting to ensure you’re both on the same page. You shouldn’t need an annual review -- or a pink slip -- to discover your flaws.

4. Self-promote without sucking up
You’re not just another anonymous entry on a “clean out your desk” list if the company bigwigs know you and what a great job you’re doing. The trick is standing out without sucking up. “People can tell if you’re insincere,” says McIntyre, “but you need to do something to get out of that cloak of invisibility.” Find ways to strike up conversations with the bigwigs under casual circumstances -- like maybe in the lunch line or the elevator, or at the company softball game. Over time, drop subtle information that modestly tells them what you’re working on and shows that you’re well-plugged into the job. Adds McIntyre: “You shouldn’t have an agenda with every conversation, but you do need to manage relationships to achieve your goals.”

Ramp up Your Summer Pickup Game Performance

You never know when you might get drafted to play basketball, flag football or even toss a flying disc. Here's how you can be better in each.

With all pickup sports, the top goals are simple: Get some exercise and have some fun. (After all, it is summer … and you're probably not in a contract year.) However, to stay in the game -- and be picked for a future one -- being a good, if not great, player goes a long way.

Here are three top warm-month pickup sports and how you can turn it up a couple of notches in each.

Pickup Basketball
If you're playing pickup basketball, often many other players are waiting on the sideline to get in the next game. In other words, helping your team win, and staying on the court, is motivation numero uno.

Offense: Consider this your chance to be that unselfish, pass-first player you always wanted to be. Meanwhile, observe how your man plays you. Does he slough off until you have the ball? If so, fake him out: Go go one way then quick-change direction. And to get layup opportunities, rush for those open spots on the floor.

Defense: Of course, playing defense is half the game, but you'd never know it by looking at most pickup games. If you’re on D, distinguish yourself by shutting down the guy you're guarding. Quickly diagnose if he favors going left or right, then force him away from his strength -- even top-level players often struggle going away from their strong side. Similarly, most players are either penetrators or shooters. Make the penetrator throw “bricks” and crowd the shooter.

You may be surprised at how far these strategies can go to throw off the mental game of your opponent.

Flag Football
First, know the basic rules: Flag football usually consists of seven-man teams rather than 11, all players are eligible to receive a pass, and you need 20 yards (rather than 10) for a first down.

Speed: And now, the stating of the obvious: Speed kills the competition, especially in flag football. Whether you need to get open on passing routes, sprint away from diving defenders, or -- if you're the quarterback -- buy time in the pocket, speed is prized. The best way to achieve it? Always break -- while heading downfield, of course -- toward the sideline after getting the ball, since defenders tend to hover midfield. Also, the fast guy doesn’t lose his flags.

Ball handling: Ability here is also key. To prevent the fatal fumble, carry the football in the arm farthest from a pursuing defender. When catching the ball, always make your hands do the work -- spreading your fingers and keeping them relaxed to ease the catch -- before bringing them into your body. And use the lateral pass, when the opportunity’s there, to further advance the ball and surprise the opponent.

Defense: On defense, adopt an aggressive style that often forces opponents to make blunders, like fumbling the ball or throwing interceptions. Also, attempt to funnel opposing players toward midfield for easier flag grabs.

Ultimate Flying Disc
Like flag football, Ultimate is a fast-paced sport played with two teams of seven people on grassy, football-field-sized turf. Play starts when the defensive team throws the disc to the other team. Once a player catches it, he has 10 seconds to pass. If the 10 seconds elapse before passing or if the disc is dropped, blocked, intercepted, thrown out of bounds or simply not caught, possession transfers to the other team. Passes can go backward or forward.

The hardest part is learning the three throws: the backhand, the forehand (aka flick) and the hammer. You'll need to know how to do all three because the defense will force you to throw to different sides and release at different heights.

The backhand is your standard throw: Grab the disc with your thumb on top, index finger on the inside edge and the other three fingers extended underneath. Hold the disc parallel to the ground and point your feet perpendicular to your target. Bring your throwing arm across your body until the disc is near your nonthrowing shoulder. Begin the throw with your shoulder leading and straighten your elbow. Release it with a snap of your wrist when it's directly in front of you. This toss is usually used to throw left (or right for left-handers).

The forehand is that awkward flicky toss you use to throw to the right (or left for left-handers). Proper form may require practice: Extend your hand as if to shake hands. Place your index and middle fingers on the inside edge of the disc, and your thumb on the outside top. Hold the disc parallel to the ground, right side up. Bring your arm back and bend your wrist so it's perpendicular to your forearm. Drop your throwing shoulder several inches below your other shoulder. Begin the throw with your elbow leading the way. Flick your wrist with a quick snap so your middle finger is the last point of contact with the disc.

The hammer is the loopy upside-down throw that will also require practice to throw … and catch. Its grip is the same as the forehand. Draw the disc back along your head to your ear, much like you're throwing a baseball. Hold it almost vertically, with the top of the disc parallel to your cheek, the palm of your throwing hand about where your ear is, and the disc a little behind. Whip your arm forward, bringing the disc over your head, as you step forward. Extend your arm in front of your body and twist your elbow forward to snap your wrist to give the throw some good spin. The natural spin of the throw released upside down will pull the disc away from vertical toward a horizontal float.

Olympic Hopefuls: A Roundtable Discussion (Part 1)

How exactly do you train for the Olympics? What do you do on a day-to-day basis, in terms of weightlifting, cardio and other training specific to your sport? And what do you eat? Men’s Life Today talked to three U.S. Olympic hopefuls -- all in very different sports, but all of whom are affiliated with the New York Athletic Club -- about how real champions prepare to compete on sport’s biggest stage. These were our participants:

Jake Herbert, wrestler, age 26, born in Naperville, Ill.; 2009 World Freestyle, silver medalist

Seth Kelsey, fencer, age 29, born in Colorado Springs, Colo.; 2010 World Championships, silver medalist

Jarrod Shoemaker, triathlete, age 28, born in Maynard, Mass.; 2008 Olympian, USA Triathlon 2010 Elite National Champion


MLT: Most athletes today do some form of strength training. Can you tell us about your weight-training regimens?

Kelsey: “Pretty typical is three long lifts -- one hour and 45 minutes each session -- on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We do squats, Olympic lifts, single-arm dumbbells, a lot of full-body movements. We always do core -- hanging leg raises and that kind of stuff. Also for fencing, we do a lot of forearm work.”

Herbert: “Right now, we lift three times a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- for about an hour and a half. We have a strength coach there for us, and it’s all geared toward explosive, fast-twitch muscle fiber stuff. So we’ll do successively heavier sets of front squats, cleans, close grip bench, explosive push-ups off the medicine ball, dead lifts. We also do weighted pull-ups. Our coach wants us to get to the point where we can do them with a 100-pound plate strapped to us.”

Shoemaker: “We’re not doing squats and cleans, or really any traditional weightlifting. As endurance athletes, it’s more focused on enhancing and strengthening the core and on functional flexibility … very discipline-specific movements.”

MLT: What’s the most kick-ass cardio workout you do?

Shoemaker: “We do a really hard, tempo-running workout: 2 x 2 miles with five minutes rest between. Then run a mile [2 miles, five minutes rest, 2 miles, five minutes rest, 1 mile]. I’m getting down below a 4:45 pace.”

Kelsey: “What we call our most terrible circuit workouts: incline sprints, kettle ball swings, push-ups and pull ups. Nonstop, five times.”

Herbert: “We do treadmill sprints: 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds off. And every time we do one, our coach raises the incline. And then ups the speed. We do a total of anywhere from 22 to 40 of these, and at the end, you’re on max incline and running 14 miles per hour for 30 seconds.”

MLT: Sounds like you push yourselves to exhaustion.

Kelsey: “I need to know how my body feels when it’s drop-dead tired. Because any moment of hesitation in my sport and you get hit.”

MLT: So I imagine recovery must be a big issue too.

Herbert: “We drink a recovery shake after each workout, to get the amino acids back in us. I get a lot of sleep. And stretching’s huge!”

Shoemaker: “Massage once a week at least, chiropractic once a week, and I shoot for nine hours of quality sleep a night. That’s the most important thing I do for recovery.”

MLT: Let’s talk nutrition: What’s the breakfast -- and lunch and dinner -- of Olympic champions?

Kelsey: “We do a fairly low-carb diet. No refined carbohydrates -- i.e., no white flour, sugar or potatoes. I don’t think those do anything to enhance your training.”

Herbert: “In college, I was living off of Hot Pockets and ranch dressing. Now, I’m eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.”

Shoemaker: “There’s nothing crazy about our diet. We try to eat fresh and healthy, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. We have a pretty high percentage of carbs, but protein is one of the best things for rebuilding muscles, so we try to eat plenty of quality proteins too.”

Photos: Courtesy of New York Athletic Club

Stoke Your Competitive Fire!

Champions share a hard-to-define quality. It’s a combination of competitive drive, focus and desire that makes them winners -- in sports, in the classroom and in life. You want to be that guy, but perhaps you think you can’t be. Maybe you believe that the winners of the world are born, not made.

If so, think again.

Research shows that the will to succeed is as much a factor of nurture as it is nature. A 2009 study compared competitive drive among members of a primarily patriarchal tribe in Tanzania and a community in India in which women have greater authority and social standing. The researchers -- from The University of Chicago and Columbia University -- found that in the Tanzanian tribe, women were less competitive. But in the Indian community, the reverse was true: The women were more competitive than the men.

The implication: Competitive drive is a learned behavior.

“Granted, some may be born with a mentally tougher edge,” says Greg Chertok, a sport-psychology consultant who works with young athletes at The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, N.J. “But any athlete -- any person -- who is willing to put in the work can develop this as well.”

Here’s how to develop the competitive drive and mental toughness of a champion.

1. Identify your opponent

First, stop and consider who or what it is you’re competing against.

“Most of us think of competitiveness as the drive to be No. 1,” says former NCAA wrestling champion Matt Furey, author of a 2009 memoir, The Unbeatable Man. “That’s OK sometimes, but chances are you’re not going to be the best in the world at whatever you’re doing. So does that mean you’re going to hide your talents under a rock? How about, instead, you let the very best you have shine?”

In other words, stop comparing yourself to others, and start playing the game of life as a healthy competition against yourself -- striving to set and meet goals, and to do your best.

2. Cultivate your competitive attitude

“Excelling often means taking yourself out of your comfort zone,” says Chertok. At the point when most people want to quit, real competitors battle on. You can help develop that go-the-distance attitude by practicing it. During moments when you feel like finishing your workout early or closing the book during homework … make the decision. Do one more set. Read one more chapter. “Flip the competitive switch!” says Chertok.

3. Find your peak performance number

We all have a different energy level at which we perform best. Chertok asks his athletes to find that level on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being cucumber-cool; 5, a controlled intensity; and 10, a Ray Lewis-like, frothing-at-the-mouth hunger.

Identifying and then getting yourself to your optimum intensity level (Chertok recommends deep breathing to lower your intensity, and your favorite music to amp it up) is going to raise your chances of coming up big when the game is on the line.

4. Take small daily steps to success

Doing one thing today -- one thing that will make you stronger, faster or better prepared -- will help get you closer to your goal. It’s a technique used by Olympic athletes during their long years of training between the quadrennial Games. “Every day they try to do something, even a small something, that gets them closer to a gold medal,” explains Chertok.

So let’s say your goal is to be the starting centerfielder on your school’s baseball team. What steps can you take now to reach that goal? Maybe you need to get stronger, throw the ball farther, hit better?     

Here are three days of small, realistic and measurable goals:

  • Today, I will bench-press the heaviest weight I can handle for eight to 10 reps.
  • Tomorrow, I will go down to the field and play long toss with my buddy -- and make 10 more throws each time we do it.
  • The day after, I will go down to the batting cage and take 10 more swings.

Over weeks and months, those extra reps, throws and swings will add up to you being a vastly improved ballplayer.

5. Positively the way to go

In his 2007 book How Lance Does It, author Brad Kearns examines the factors that helped Lance Armstrong come back from cancer to win seven Tour de France titles. He lists a positive attitude as Armstrong’s “Success Factor 1.”

“Lance developed a positive attitude so resilient and a perspective so enlightened that he could pedal his bike through all kinds of adversity and obstacles and emerge victorious,” writes Kearns.

Note that word: developed. When cancer threatened his life, he had every reason to be negative. But Armstrong realized that a positive attitude is a choice. Again, that drive to be a winner, to succeed on the field and off, is not in your genes. It’s in your mind.

So will you make up your mind today to start competing like a champion … to be a winner? It’s up to you.