business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

No matter where you stand in the political spectrum, you have no doubt paused for a moment to wonder if the words dignity and Washington, DC, ever get used in the same sentence. It’s a good question. Life in the Washington, DC, area comes with many special issues from motorcades clogging the streets to advertisements for obscure political issues clogging the airwaves.

Yet, little looms as strange as the parade of people (including celebrities) coming to town and then seeing who is and isn’t branded helpful.

So it’s hard to know what to make of one such visit last week. It featured one of America’s most mocked exercise gurus, complete with his trademark curly hair, strangely upbeat voice and patriotic short-shorts leading congressional staffers in aerobics.

Yes, Richard Simmons stormed the Capitol in his own style and it’s clear that he too has a dream. And, honestly, there was little to argue with in his comments…in fact, the food industry might want to think about embracing him.

Simmons came to Washington to talk about the increasing health problems of America’s youth and the decline of physical education in the schools. As Simmons told a congressional committee, No Child Left Behind was meant to produce well rounded children. Instead, it is producing simply rounded ones.

His comments came only days after a storm whipped up over the prospect of giving various pharmaceuticals to pre-teens to battle the early onset of so many health related problems. There may be some wisdom in doing that, but honestly, I think Simmons makes a whole lot more sense.

Incredibly, I’m old enough to remember gym class for all the good, bad and ugly. I remember the horrors of dodge ball, the death-defying rope climbs, badminton, volleyball and even square dancing. The funny thing is that when I think back on school, I remember a larger percentage of all of those classes than many others. (And, in case you are wondering, I was blessed with an incredibly late growth spurt, which meant that I was always one of the shortest kids in class. So I know the indignity of getting picked late for basketball and yet I survived.)

Common sense is rarely topic number one in Washington. It’s hardly what we’d expect Richard Simmons to bring, but I think he did it.

A great portion of America’s health problems could come from simple, common sense solutions. Washing hands is a really good thing. Handling foods properly is a really good thing. Physical education in the schools is a really good thing. And eating as a family at home falls into the same bucket.

2008 should be glory times for the food at home industry. Consumers are worried about rising costs. Well, eating at home helps on that. Drivers are worried about gas prices. Again, eating home really helps there.

Wait, there’s more. Health and nutrition can both be improved by more home cooked meals as can the social health and welfare of a family getting together around the table. Sure, there are time constraints everyone faces, but there are also increasing numbers of solutions to help battle that problem. In short, 2008 isn’t a tough economic year. It’s a year of endless opportunity.

It’s all a matter of thinking positive. As I recall, Richard Simmons believes in that too.

And just one additional thought from the world of exercise. The Tour de France, the world’s premier bike race ended this past weekend and there’s a lesson in the race for all of us. The New York Times ran an article by one racer detailing the strategy of a teammate in racing time trials, apparently one of the hardest elements of any bike race. The strategy is one we should all consider.

According to rider Dave Zabriskie, time trials make you “dig until you scratch the bottom, then ease off a bit and hold it there until the finish.” In the words of his teammate, “pedal just a little bit less than the maximum and never relent.” Sounds like a pretty fair strategy for business.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .

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