Fitness vs. Fatness: Short Ribs and (Watching) the Marathon

Man…life has been hectic lately. Obviously, this has made me increasingly inconsistent with this blog. Actually, to be more accurate, things have been pretty unexciting (so that I have nothing to write about), punctuated by moments of craziness (so that I can’t gather my thoughts to write). This weekend was the pinnacle of the insanity.

Oh, right....

For some reason, long stretches of boredom are always juxtaposed with extremely concentrated mayhem. The past few weeks of relative monotony were suddenly ripped wide open during the latter half of last week and this weekend. Jenny was offered and accepted a job in New York City (congrats!), my dad came to Baltimore for a conference this weekend, Jenny ran the half-marathon in Baltimore on Saturday morning, and Maryland’s homecoming game against No. 8 Clemson was Saturday evening. As someone with a very hard time making decisions, this presented a number of quandaries. As usual, I tried to deal with this by planning to do absolutely everything. It was only as the weekend unraveled that practical sensibilities kicked in and I resolved to get a little taste of everything, if not snag every experience.

I did not.

After work on Friday, I showered up and met my dad in his hotel downtown. Jenny was taking the train into Inner Harbor, so I hung out in the lobby and chatted with him until she was approaching Baltimore, then hustled down to the station to meet her. We picked up her race packet for the marathon down in that area and then grabbed a bus up to my apartment. After a mad dash to get dressed and ready for dinner, we strolled around the corner to meet my dad and his 3 colleagues at the Brewers Art.

Now, the Brewers Art is a very popular little spot, known mainly for its wide selection of beers, including local micro-brews. As with any beer-centric restaurant, this means that businessmen and hipsters alike are drawn there in droves for their shared pretension. Still, I’ve only ever heard good things, its extremely close to my apartment, and the pictures I saw of the interior looked quite nice.

Right?

When Jenny and I first walked in to meet my dad at the bar, I was immediately sure that I had picked the wrong place for this type of dinner. The place was extremely loud and full of youngins, not the middle-aged business demographic that I was hoping for at 7:45 on a Friday.

!@#$

Already in too deep, we greeted everyone and went to the table. I breathed a major sigh of relief when we were escorted to the back of the restaurant, into the nice dining room, and the noise levels dropped precipitously. The sports coat demographic increased exponentially and I was put at ease. Now it was time to get down to business with their small but promising seasonal menu.

After some perusing of the menu, I decided to try a Resurrection Ale (supposedly a local favorite), the Chestnut bisque (not as pretentious as it sounds), and the Korean Short Rib (is anyone really surprised?). For dessert I had the bread pudding. To save you all some time, allow me to summarize my opinions on the meal.

  1. Ale- I’m not really into beer, but it was actually quite good. Had some floral notes or something…not as dark and gross as a lot of that stuff can be.
  2. Bisque- Good god, this stuff was awesome. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten a chestnut, so I’m not sure if it tasted like them, but it was creamy and great.
  3. Short rib (with Kimchi and Lo Mein)- This was also astoundingly good. The rib was HUGE, marinated very nicely, and tender as hell. The lo mein was good and standard. The Kimchi was stylized but tasty.
  4. Bread Pudding- Like all bread puddings, this was really good; however, I was so unbelievably full at this point, that I couldn’t appreciate it 100%.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early, had some oatmeal, and walked down to the Inner Harbor to the starting line for the race. I watched Jenny start, snapped some pictures, and walked back to my apartment for a bit. I watched the marathon on TV for a few minutes, then walked over to meet her at the 12-mile mark. She arrived much quicker than anticipated (hooray!) and I jogged along next to her for the last mile to take some more pictures. By an act of god, we found each other in the finish line mayhem and strolled back to my place.

Thank god for the silver blanket.

After a quick freshening up, we drove to College Park for the homecoming tailgate. We went with our friends to campus, found a parking spot, ate up a storm, played some tailgate toss, and then moved their car back to the metro garage. Originally, we were going to drive back to Baltimore for a reception at the science center and another dinner. Unfortunately, we also had to contend with the option of going to the game or going back to Rockville. In the end, we settled on going back and relaxing a bit; we had gotten to at least dabble in everything we wanted to do, and it had been a seriously exhausting day. Of course, we also wanted to have one last day to chill in Jenny’s apartment before she moves out this weekend. Missions accomplished.

Fitness vs. Fatness: Stereotyping your way to a good run

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Baltimore is a terrible place to be a runner. At any given location in the city, you’ll probably end up in dangerous territory if you try to run in 3 out of 4 directions. Of the single remaining direction that probably is safe to run, you still cannot go much further than 3 miles.¬†Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that in downtown Baltimore, you’re forced to stop running every block to wait for traffic lights to change. As someone who dabbles in distance running, and is also new to the city, these issues present an obvious problem.

Rumor has it that "The Tell Tale Heart" was somehow based on Poe's terrible cardiovascular fitness.

Shortly after moving to Baltimore, I decided to recommit myself to my fitness. With so much extra time on my hands, I would feel guilty if I didn’t. Although I didn’t really know my way around the city too well, I was well aware of how to get to the Inner Harbor. If nothing else, tourist traps are visible.

Historically uninteresting, but nice for a run.

Thankfully, my neighborhood more or less borders the Inner Harbor, aside from a brief section of downtown that is definitely safe until after rush hour. With a little input from coworkers, I was also able to locate Harbor East, a newly developed, upscale neighborhood adjacent to Inner Harbor. With the discovery of these contiguous neighborhoods, I was able to quickly put together a nice little 5.5 mile route to compliment my daily routine of short-and-fast cardio and lifting.

Unfortunately, this route was bound to prove unfulfilling after a prolonged period of time. For one, I’m an adventurer; I thrive on discovering new paths and exploring. This method frequently helps me to run much farther distances with less distress. Furthermore, my strict workout regime has rendered 5.5 miles too short fulfill my distance running needs, even at an increased pace. I know, I live a hard life.

This brings me to today. With today’s absolutely gorgeous weather (who knew that Fall weather still existed? It was looking like it was Winter, Summer, or bust) I was really hankering for a long run. After work I had a quick snack, changed into my cutoff, and headed out the door.

As I was on my way to Inner Harbor, I began to get incredibly frustrated with the constant stop-and-go of the traffic lights. I run outside in large part to feel free, not to sit in bipedal traffic. I was feeling extra good today too, which meant that the breaks were not only unneeded, but were actively ruining my pace.

By the time I reached the end of my little Inner Harbor loop, I knew that I wanted to run farther than usual today. Part of it was weather, part of it was fitness, and part of it was not wanting to get entangled in the downtown traffic scene again just yet. This is where stereotyping comes into the story.

Let me say upfront that stereotyping can be ugly business. Even if a given stereotype is true 99% of the time, it’s really horrible for the 1% for whom it is inaccurate. With that said, it can be very useful in specific situations, especially when you’re new to a city. For example, if you want really good ethnic cuisine, don’t follow rich white people. They’re more likely to land you at P.F. Chang’s than an authentic Chinese restaurant.

By the same logic, if you want to find a good running route, always follow the rich white people. I don’t know what it is, but rich white people absolutely love running. So, as I was saying, I decided somewhere in Inner Harbor that I wanted to run a bit farther today. I suddenly noticed a bunch of people running around a corner, like ants to an old piece of sweet and sour chicken that’s rolled under a desk. It was right at the point where I normally turn around and head to Harbor East, so I decided to follow them.

Suddenly, I was in an entirely new neighborhood. It was pretty uninteresting, in the way that newly developed rich neighborhoods in the city usually are, but it had the smell of fresh water that reminds me of growing up and was nicely paved. By following this little path, and my bit of stereotyping, I was able to expand my current route by another mile and a half and see yet another side of the city. All in all, not a bad way to get a workout. In the coming weeks, especially if the weather stays like this, I plan on using this methodology to find even more interesting places to run. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Fitness vs. Fatness: Find my way around

I was up way too late last night playing video games. What can I say? When the clan is on, you’ve got to be on. It doesn’t matter if they are a time zone or two behind. They are an unforgiving bunch.

'What was that you were saying about not wanting to play tonight?'

Some time after 2 AM I finally hit the hay.

Since my old apartment didn’t have a window in my bedroom (it just had a glass panel into the living room), I’m still getting used to having a massive window over my bed. I mean that in the best way possible though. I actually wake up early for work some days now because I naturally wake up as the sun comes in. Today was no different and I woke up earlier than anticipated courtesy of a beautiful morning.

After messing around on the interwebz for a while and making some steel cut oats (2 cups boiling water, 1/2 cup oats, 3 tbsp brown sugar, splash of milk), I put on my increasingly smelly gym wear (What? I don’t have a washing machine…I have to make it last) and went around the corner to the gym.

In an episode of “It’s Always Sunny”, Dennis insists that Mac doesn’t have the core strength to scale the Phillie’s stadium, because he only works the glamor muscles. Now that I’m enrolled in a real gym and have become a “real adult”, I’ve decided it’s time for me to stop focusing solely on the glamor muscles as well. No more college-era workouts where I would solely do biceps and abs every day.

In order to maintain a more well-rounded regime, I’ve been rotating through my muscle groups each day and trying to switch up my cardio routines. In lieu of running all the time, I’m trying to row and bike on alternating days as well. Today happened to be a running day anyway, so I ran and did a series of biceps and triceps exercises. Then, I did a workout on the heavy bag and speed bag in the boxing room. I’ve never bothered with that stuff before, since I was a little embarrassed about having no idea what I was doing, but an empty room does wonders for confidence. I think I’ll do boxing stuff once or twice a week now; it is an excellent stress reliever.

See? Totally laid back.

After the gym, I came home, dropped one backpack, picked up a bigger one, and carried my bike out of the apartment. Since I moved to Baltimore, I’ve been putting off taking my bike out. No matter how many places I went to in DC, I was just unreasonably nervous about getting hit by a car and navigating the new city. With a plethora of time today, I decided it was time to break down that wall altogether. After all, I knew that if I did it once, I’d be comfortable with it forever.

I took the bike down to Harbor East, where there is a Whole Foods, to grab groceries for the week. Everything JUST fit in my backpack (granted, insisting on getting a watermelon wasn’t the best way to conserve space) and I headed back towards my apartment.

'Hey, it looks like my wallet has been working out too. It's getting thinner'

I learned two valuable lessons on that ride back.

1)Groceries are heavy. Heaviness on a bike is tiring. Legs that have been thoroughly worked out one day previously do not like tiring bike rides.

2)Whole Foods is very much downhill from where I live. Where I live is very much uphill from Whole Foods.

Despite mounting levels of exhaustion, it was nice to get in a little unexpected workout coming home. Getting the bike and bulging backpack back inside the narrow, heavy doors, however, was another doozy. It reminds me of a line from BTMI’s newest album.

Ride the seven blocks to Boerum, carry my bike up two floors, situate the crowded hallway, limp and waddle through my door, throw the package onto my bed and start investigating sores. The cuts are bigger than expected. I guess I shouldn’t have worn shorts. -BTMI

Now that I think of it, I want to listen to that song. As he often does, Jeff writes lyrics that I swear are taken directly out of a day in my life. Anyway, hooray for another adventure completed in Baltimore. Now I just need to decide what’s for lunch and what movie I would like to watch that I’ve been putting off. Tough life, I know.

 

Fitness vs. Fatness: A Baltimore State of Mind

It is no big secret that I’ve been a bit negligent in regards to my health over the last one…two…maybe three months. I’ve got a nasty tendency to pile stress on top of myself, until I’m convinced that I can’t possibly spare the time or energy to go work out.

With the exception of the handful of nostalgia runs I took before leaving DC, I haven’t been serious about working out in quite a long time. The last time I sort of cared was mid-Spring. The last time I really cared was when I found out about having high blood pressure in the fall.

The time has finally come when I can:

1)No longer make excuses

2)No longer want to make excuses

Now that I’m living in isolation in Baltimore with a whole lot more time on my hands, there’s really no reason for me to not work out anymore. I can’t blame it on getting home at 6 or being too busy with preparing for the move (you’ve got to admit, it takes skill to convince yourself that moving preparation takes 4 months).

With all of this said, I decided to find myself a gym in Baltimore. Like all decisions, this stressed me out a whole lot. Two of them had pools, but were farther from my place. Would I still go if it was far away? Would the smaller, closer one make up for it it spirit and style? After a ton of research and thought, I decided to check out the small gym that’s around the corner.

After all, I'm deadset on proving this study wrong.

If my freshman year of college is any indication, having a gym in close proximity seriously reduces the activation energy needed to spark a workout session. Additionally, my meager attempt at joining the club swimming team that year proves that although I really like swimming, I’m not that good at getting myself to the pool without a coach to threaten my life.

Since Jenny is out of town for the weekend anyway and I put away a LOT of cake last week, this seemed like a perfect week to give it a go. I’m two for two so far, making it in yesterday for a run and some chest work, and today for some rowing and leg stuff. Although the place is pretty darn small and rather expensive, there aren’t that many people when I’m there. Furthermore, the place has the coolest architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s in a historic mansion, and despite it’s size, has some tucked away rooms that have a very cool aesthetic. I pretty much feel like Batman when I’m stretching alone in one of the rooms.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to delete everything on my iPod besides the Batman theme.

The great thing about being motivated to workout is that it also greatly improves my eating habits. Although this means it’s a particularly strong killer when I’m not motivated, I’ll take it while I can. The next major step is to just find some good 6-9 mile running routes around the city. I’ll never be able to run that long on a treadmill. The downside, of course, is that I’m not sure I can run that far in Baltimore without hitting a neighborhood where I may be shot. Then again, I guess I would run faster.

 

Fitness vs. Fatness: Birthday Weekend

The past several days have been jam packed with fun. On Friday, we set sail from Baltimore around 4:30 and ran into minimal traffic. About 2.5 hours later, we arrived in my hometown in time for a snack and my parents’ Friday night special: garlic bread with cured ham, provolone cheese, Jersey tomatoes, grilled asparagus, and fresh basil. We then commenced chilling and my sister and I stayed up working through most of Kings Quest 6.

The following morning, I got up around 7 and went to Oh What A Bagel for my obligatory pork roll, egg, and cheese on a poppy seed bagel. My step dad and I loaded the kayak on the roof of his truck and after breakfast, my mom dropped us off at the bay for our trip over to the beach. My mom took several dramatic pictures of us getting the boat into the water, pushing off, and starting to paddle.

About 2 minutes after my mom drove away, we realized that there was no way we were going to make it across the bay. Some maniacal combination of wind and current kept twisting the boat into the wrong position. Nothing short of vigorous paddling one one side of the kayak could keep us straight, and as a result, we made little to no progress.

After a shameful few minutes back to shore, we unsealed our phones from their waterproof bags and hailed my mom to come pick us up. At this point, it was getting to be almost 9:30, we hadn’t picked up lunch yet, and concerns were running high that IBSP may close before we got there. This would have killed my weekend.

Thankfully, we were able to afford a fast stop at Wawa for subs (smoked turkey, american, sweet and hot peppers, and vinegar FTW) and still make it to the beach early enough to get in. Despite my initial concerns that it would not be warm out on Saturday (before we got there) and that the waves would be too small for body boarding (after we got there), my fears were needless. The waves were small, but potent, and actually made for quite fun riding. Regarding the warmth of the sun…my peeling sunburn is a testament to how wrong I was.

Melanoma lures you in with the promise of relaxation.

After several hours of laying, eating, skimboarding, and body boarding, we left the beach and made a pit stop at the boardwalk. One cone from Kohr’s and two caramel apples later, we were back on the road. THEN we stopped at Rich’s ice cream shop for my sister to get ice cream. Don’t ask how it happened, but I ended up with a huge milkshake there too.

One of the many amazing things that started in NJ.

After a nice shower and some more chilling, we had excellent steaks, corn, and tomatoes for dinner. Finally, in one last round of gluttony, we sat down for my mom’s AMAZING carrot cake. Seriously, best I ever had.

It's essentially a health food.

On Sunday, my mom made french toast (the woman has a gift with carbs) before leaving for her business trip. I dragged my feet for a while and finally headed out around 3. My dad and grandparents took us out to eat that night (where I gorged on cheese ravioli with shrimp and a cannoli) and we finally made our way back to Baltimore.

Yesterday, my actual birthday, the three best friends assembled in Baltimore. Work had been especially crazy for some reason, so it was amazing to have a relaxing evening spent exploring my new homestead. We ate at Teavolution (wings and pizza and bread pudding and tea and @#(T^WJEFJSKDNMASKCSD) which was very nice. It also happened to be open mic night, so we got to see some serious characters while we ate.

Thus my birthday concluded with a bulging stomach. My only attempt at health over the weekend, the kayaking expedition, failed so hard that I think it may have made me gain weight. It was all totally worth it though. Now it’s just time to find a gym in Baltimore.

Fitness vs. Fatness: Nostalgia Runs

Goodbye, friend.

In previous FvF posts, I’ve discussed the various tricks, shim shams, and underhanded ploys that I use to force myself to workout when I’m not feeling it. Yesterday, I used an old favorite to break out of my recent slump; 100 degree weather is good for very little, least of which is running.

With my move rapidly (like 2-days-rapidly) approaching, I decided to pull out the good ol’ “nostalgia run”. In this particular ploy, you reminisce on all the pleasant runs you’ve taken on a given route in the past. You then remind yourself that you hardly have any chances left to run an old favorite, so you have to go immediately, before it’s too late. After all, the human brain is too stupid to remember how painful those runs may have been. It only recalls your former glory.

The nostalgia run is a powerful motivator for me; possibly the most effective of them all. It’s the one I use frequently when I go back to NJ for a weekend or occasionally when I visit College Park. It’s also the one that makes the run the least painful. With the mind intent on taking in every detail, there’s hardly any time to experience the pain.

Yesterday’s nostalgia run was done over my classic route from Navy Yard to the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and back. My legs did take a bit of a beating (the blazing sun really takes a lot out of them), but all things considered, it was a nice farewell to my faithful path. With all of my groceries and dishes packed, I settled for drinking a protein shake for dinner while we scrubbed away at the kitchen surfaces and rolled up rugs.

My apartment has reached critical mass at this point. The amount of boxes stacked all over have rendered further cleaning a near impossibility at the moment. I’m stuck playing the waiting game now and praying that all of my crap fits in my dad’s van; if we have to make two trips, I’m out of the will.

Fitness vs. Fatness: Lab Picnic

People seem to have rather varied opinions on work gatherings. From what I’ve heard, they make a lot of people feel extremely uncomfortable; no one wants to cross the line from casual to unprofessional. While I hear that loud and clear, I’m a pretty big fan of work events. Although the planning of the events usually falls to me, which can be frustrating, I enjoy spending time with everyone from work in an atmosphere where no one has any control over me. There’s an immense satisfaction to be found in laying on a picnic table like a bum, with your boss feet away, not having to pretend that you have work to do.

The consummate professional.

As if this intro wasn’t a clear indicator, my annual lab picnic was held yesterday in Gunpowder Falls State Park’s Hammerman Beach. It was a nice venue, albeit overrun with WT. One of my coworkers was proactive enough to get there at 8:30 to hoard 6 picnic tables until the picnic started at 10. Of course, when Jenny and I arrived at 10 (after an hour and a half drive), there were only two people there. Punctuality isn’t a trait associated with scientists.

As with my daily life, all work related activities are almost exclusively a Chinese affair. At this point, I find it more humorous than anything. It can be especially fun to watch my coworkers trying to figure out traditionally American activities, such as starting and using a charcoal grill. I also enjoy the looks from passerby, wondering why there is a white giant hanging out with a gaggle of Asians.

On the whole, the food was very nice. In addition to burgers and bratwursts (I think my boss thought they were hot dogs), there were a bunch of Chinese meat and noodle dishes and 6 or 7 watermelons. I probably ate 2 or 3 of them myself. Someone also brought some of the best store brand cupcakes that I’ve ever had.

Despite the binge eating, I stayed active throughout the day by playing volleyball (which occasionally became heated), strolling around the park, and playing some frisbee. At one point, I ended up surrounded by 3 or 4 of my coworkers kids, aged 3-6, as some sort of ring leader. Luckily, growing up with 3 young sisters was great preparation for this type of thing. Kids remain one of the few things I have patience for (Traffic and most people are two things which I have no patience for).

On the drive back, we took a detour through Baltimore to check out my new neighborhood. It was the first time I’d ever driven there, since I’m usually taking trains and shuttles, and it got me pretty stoked for the move. I realized that I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the things to do in Baltimore.

Way different from where I live now, too.

When we finally got back to Rockville around 6, Jenny and I swung by Microcenter so I could ogle compute components, and stopped by Trader Joe’s. We picked up a Margherita pizza to split for dinner and a pound of bittersweet chocolate with almonds that looks like it’s straight out of Honeydukes. It’s the best for fighting the dementor blues!

Accio chocolate, AMIRITE?

Today was a nice Sunday. Slept in a bit, got a haircut, ate some Korean food (ja jung myun) and walked around DC. I bought a huge watermelon for the week as well. I’ve decided that beginning in July, I’m going to eat two watermelons a week for dessert. It’s in season and it’s my favorite fruit. Why not go to town? Enjoy the rest of your weekend and good luck on Monday!