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.

Advertisements

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!

Musings: Hurricane Waves

 

Well, apparently a storm is a-brewin’. It’s a good thing that the maintenance staff at my apartment LOVES to promise to come fix serious problems and then mysteriously don’t show up. Over 5 times. I could almost understand when it was just a fan problem and they used excuses like “Oh, an apartment had a serious leak that we had to go fix”. Do you know what I don’t understand? WHY I CALLED 4 TIMES ABOUT THE SERIOUS LEAK IN MY APARTMENT BEFORE A HURRICANE AND THEY DIDN’T MAKE IT A PRIORITY.

Anyway, I decided that I have no faith in them anymore, so I armed myself with some caulk and duct tape and (hopefully) fixed the problem myself. We’ll see when the serious rain hits later today. If nothing leaks and a tree doesn’t fall on my car, the whole thing could just be kind of fun. It immediately reminded me of one of my current favorite songs that just came out on BTMI’s new album called “Hurricane Waves”.

Last week, I finally made it out into Baltimore for a run. I’ve been putting it off for so long and I knew it would only take a single, solid run to break the funk. Sure enough, I did end up finding a nice 6-mile path through the city. I ran from Penn Station, down and around the inner harbor, over to Harbor East, and then back up. Allow me to say, if you like to run and want to get into amazing shape, live at the top of a hill. If you ever want to get home, you’ll have to go up it.

Besides that run on Wednesday, I made it to the gym Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Since the Yankees game was cancelled today, I’ll probably go again this morning. It finally came time for me to spring for a full membership, and commitment and money are painful things for me to invest in something, I know that if I should be spending on anything, it’s fitness. Being an adult sucks.

'BACK FOR MORE I SEE, ADULT LIFE!'

After work yesterday, I walked downtown to grab some emergency groceries. Some soup, some PB&J, some water, etc. I sincerely hope that you all have gas stoves, because then you’ll at least have a marginal chance of being able to cook when the power ends up going out. Also, have more foresight then me and grab a flashlight. I can’t find mine, so I’m just going to get a full charge on my cell phone and download a flashlight app. Candles are good too. Be safe and enjoy the show!

 

Musings: When I Grow Up, I’m Living Alone

Without a doubt, moving to Baltimore by myself will likely prove to be the biggest life change I’ve made in a while. Graduating college and getting a job were big deals, but that’s 2010 news. It’s 2011 in America and things have just gotten very different.

I’ve been up in B-more for almost a month at this point (which, may I add, means that maintenance hasn’t managed to get here to fix my lights in almost a month). At this point, I think I’ve had a fair amount of time to assess the pros and cons of being on my own.

Forgoing a roommate is a pretty big lifestyle change, if for no other reason than the fact that you’re unlikely to ever have one again that isn’t a spouse. Think about it. The only time people talk about getting a roommate again is when they lose their job and can’t afford their own place. For me, this was both an appealing and a daunting change.

For those who know me, I’m pretty much a textbook introvert. I like a heaping serving of solitude, I lose myself in thought constantly, and I’m quickly exhausted by trying to please everybody when I’m in a group setting. At the same time, I also really like having people to talk to and go adventure with and I enjoy having someone around to sit down with and play some video games for no apparent reason.

'NOT NOW MOM, WE'RE SOLVING WORLD HUNGER'

Thus far, I’ve felt pretty much the way I expected about the changes associated with living alone. It’s surreal and not always pleasant to come home and know that no one else will be showing up. Sitting around and doing nothing suddenly seems a lot more reclusive and a lot less like two people doing their own things. On the other hand, I never feel like I’m being a downer when I want to sit down and read a book for a few hours instead of going out. Going to the gym becomes more of a personal journey than a lonely escape.

Then there’s the other things that I didn’t expect. Living alone, for example, is both a spark and a detriment to spontaneity. I’m much more likely to just hop up and take a stroll around the city or make an impromptu bike ride downtown. Conversely, there’s no one to propose a sudden late evening bike ride across town to check out something that’s going on, no one to suggest a slightly unnecessary trip to a store, and no one to suggest a run on a day when you were feeling extremely unmotivated. It’s this type of thing that isn’t apparent on a day to day basis, but you slowly realize that you miss.

In Home Alone terms, I’d say I’m about 70% eating ice cream and watching the Grinch and 30% hoping my family comes home for Christmas. On most days, it’s nice to operate on my own schedule without inconveniencing anyone else. Still, there are lots of times when it would be nice to hear someone else’s key in the door and know that you’d be on the verge of sharing some experiences.

In the end, I guess it’s all just part of growing up. I suppose I had a bit of a precursor to this whole thing during college. My junior year was definitely my funnest year, living in a house with 6 close friends who were always up for congregating to complain and study, dressing up in cutoffs and headbands, and most of all, down for an impromptu game of Super Smash Bros. My senior year, when I had a roommate who was rarely around, was my most productive year academically and the year where I got my shit together for getting a job. In other words, it was a progression towards being a real adult. Of course, no matter how grown I become (hopefully not very), I’ll always miss being able to set booby traps for an unsuspecting roommate.

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.

 

Epic Aventures: The Move

Last Friday started like any other day. I woke up. I opened my eyes. Then hell broke loose. Boxes started flying before my eyes, exhaustion clouded my conscious, and I was oppressed by heat. Let’s start from the beginning.

When I roused myself from my bed on Friday, I was surrounded by all of my possessions, stacked in little crooked piles of boxes all around me. The only signs of human life were the hastily made bed, which was now sitting on the floor, and a desk and bookshelf that were to difficult to take apart. Out in the living room, a few more pieces of furniture stood their ground as well.

I got up around 7:30, got dressed, and went downstairs to capitalize on my last free breakfast at the Onyx. I had about an hour until my dad was going to arrive, so I rearranged everything in a way that I thought might make moving out move efficient, and twiddled my thumbs until he arrived.

In all honesty, the Onyx was the best place I’ve ever had to move in/out of. They have a loading dock to park a van, a freight elevator that you can reserve, and carts for ferrying your crap. When my dad arrived, we began shuttling down the largest, most obtrusive objects first. My main fear, that my stuff wouldn’t fit, was assuaged after a brief glance at the van’s mammoth interior proportions.¬† Although it may not look it, a Dodge Sprinter has way more space than a regular sized U-haul truck.

Dodge this, bitch.

Thanks to my old apartment’s many helpful characteristics, my dad and I were able to fully load the van by ourselves in under an hour. I quickly cleaned up after myself at the apartment, taking a few last pictures of its deserted rooms, left a note for my roommate with my keys, and headed to Ikea.

Ever since going to College Park, I’ve been a bit of an Ikea addict after every move. It was always so close that I would take 5+ trips over the first week or two, picking up the plethora of things that I never knew I didn’t have. With Ikea a bit farther this time, and without a car at the moment, I will unfortunately be unable to carry on with the tradition. Still, I made the quick stop on the way to Baltimore to grab a rug and shower curtain liners. And a 50 cent hot dog.

Once in Baltimore, I did a walkthrough, signed my lease, and prepared for the worst 2 hours of my life. Where should I begin?

It was approximately 104 last Friday and my new place doesn’t have AC. I also seemed to have forgotten just how steep and narrow the staircases are in old city buildings. Furthermore, there was no street parking in front of my apartment, so we had to illegally park at a bust stop up the block. If it had not been for my 5 coworkers that showed up to save the day, I would probably be either:

  1. Still moving
  2. Dead by my own hand

As soon as the van’s doors opened, some of my coworkers began shuttling my stuff to the stoop in front of my place. My dad stayed with the van to keep an eye on things (a Baltimore bus stop is an uncomfortable place to leave all of your possessions sitting). A few other coworkers and I began the frantic and demolishingly tiring task of carrying things up to the 3rd floor. I generally don’t sweat very much, but every one of us was drenched. It was beyond pit stain territory. It was neck stains down to the belt line.

I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THIS.

I consider myself to be in quite good shape. I don’t always work out as much as I should, but I’m always confident in my ability to run a decent distance at a decent pace, so believe me when I tell you how exhausting it was to run up and down those steps so many times. Having 10+ foot ceilings is cool. Walking up steps that traverse 3 floors of 10+ foot ceilings is not.

Notice the subtetly in which my coworker's eyes say "!@$# you Chris".

Once everything was safely inside, I bought everyone a bunch of Gatorade’s, my dad took off, and a few of us set to reassembling my bookcase/tv stand. As functional as that thing is, it is horrendous to assemble. There’s not a trace of structural support until it’s 100% assembled, so you have to try to balance and keep everything straight the whole time you put it together. One slip and it collapses. Again, thank god my coworkers were there to help, because I was about to lose it. With that reassembled, everyone left and I began unpacking. Jenny came by later and began doing some unpacking as well. We spent most of the weekend either eating, buying random stuff for the apartment, or unpacking.

Here's my bank statement Target. How much can I get with that?

With the move complete, I’m glad to say that I really like my new place. I just want to forget about ever having to move again.