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!

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!

 

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 Adventures: Back to the New-ture (Jersey)

Sorry, that title was a stretch. I apologize. Nonetheless, in the words of Bruce:

Tonight I’m gonna take that ride.
Across the river to the Jersey side.

Except that it’s tomorrow night. Stop pretending like all wordplay, metaphors, and references were made for your sole satisfaction. Regardless, those lyrics manage to get me stoked every damn time.

With my 24th birthday taking place next Monday, Jenny and I are making the trek back to my home state tomorrow evening after work for a bit of celebration. Along with the obligatory dinner out with my dad and grandparents and listening to the Boss on repeat, I plan on celebrating with the following activities:

  1. Going for a run in Double Trouble
  2. Eating steak from the German butcher, grilled veggies, and Jersey corn
  3. Staying up way later than I normally allow myself, solely because I want to sit around in my old room
  4. Eating a proper bagel. Make that a proper bagel with pork roll, egg, and cheese on it.
  5. Kayaking across the bay to IBSP with my stepdad
  6. Lounging on the unguarded beaches, tossing a frisbee, body boarding, and getting battered by waves
  7. Crushing a caramel apple from the boardwalk
  8. Eating quality pizza
  9. Consuming a single beer with my parents
  10. Pounding a cake

And hopefully many more things that I can’t think of at the moment. I hope you all enjoy your weekends as much as I do.

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: Biology and Pottermore

As much as I complain about having picked the wrong major in college, I am actually quite interested in biology; I just don’t want to stay in the field forever. Ironically, working in the field has made it very difficult for me to talk about the subject. Nothing wrecks your academic self esteem like working with 10+ PhD’s. Still, it doesn’t keep me from thinking about the stuff, as you will soon find out.

I had a granola bar when I got back from work and drank a few cups of water. Today’s running strategy was to plan on doing it from the moment I got up. Regardless of how tired I was, I backed myself into a corner and committed from the get go. After taking my usual digestion break for 30 minutes, I took off for the monuments again.

About a mile into my run, I started to think about one of the many irritating things about running: the simultaneous feeling that you need to drink and need to pee. The earlier in the run that these feelings come on, the more irritating they are. This cruel contradiction got me thinking, the thinking gave me an excuse to discuss biology, and this blog gave me an outlet for that discussion.

My favorite things about biology are the clever little evolutionary tricks that our bodies have worked out. They’re elegant, simple, and effective. Take exercise as an example. When we start to run, our muscles start churning through oxygen to produce energy. The more oxygen they use, the more blood they need to deliver oxygen. As anyone who has worked out knows, your heart rate increases when you begin exercising. Obviously, this is to get more blood to the muscles. The better shape you get into, the stronger your heart gets, and the more blood it can pump with each beat (the amount of blood being pumped is called stroke volume. Get the giggles out now). As your heart becomes able to pump more blood per beat, your heart rate decreases. This is why people like Lance Armstrong have insanely low heart rates (Please note that this only applies to cardio). The longer your heart has between beats, the more time it has to fill with blood, and even more blood gets pumped per beat. Essentially, this is why working out is awesome.

Don't worry, I don't expect anyone to actually look at this.

I personally think this system is an extremely cool positive feedback loop. What I find even cooler is that the act of running, or any cardio-type exercise really, directly affects the amount of blood being pumped. The repetitive contraction and relaxation of your muscles puts pressure on your blood vessels and literally acts as a pump, moving more blood through the system, and getting more oxygen to your muscles. Cool!

There’s also a really terrible bit of biology involving high blood pressure and how getting it starts a downward spiral where your heart works harder, things gets screwed up, and blood pressure needs to be increased even more to maintain blood flow. It’s the reason I freaked out when I found out my blood pressure was high and obsessed over it until I got it down. The bottom line is that you seriously want to keep your heart in good shape.

Anyway, this is all a very roundabout way of saying that the same repetitive muscle movements that pump extra blood also have a tendency to put pressure on the sensory system around your bladder, which gives the sensation of having to pee. At the same time, your body is heating up, losing water, and trying to tell you to drink. So that’s why that little annoying thing happens. Looks like I could have just explained that in two sentences instead of 3 paragraphs.

Now that I’ve finally broken out of my winter/spring workout funk, I’m happy to say that I’m seeing improvements again. Despite my little annoyance with the run today, I felt a whole lot better than I have in other runs recently. It’s always nice when you feel motivated, workout, and find that working out is getting easier; it makes you avoid it a lot less. Another positive feedback loop, yay!

Finally, I need to speak for a moment regarding Pottermore. As you all know, I’m a raging HP fan. I haven’t met anything HP that I didn’t like, except for the new Dumbledore. Even he got better in the Half Blood Prince at least. With that said, I’m cautiously optimistic about this Pottermore business. Personally, if it wasn’t going to be a new book, I was hoping for a MMORPG. I know that there’s supposed to be “game” elements involved in this, but ever since Angry Birds flung itself into pop culture, I’ve lost respect for the term. I sincerely hope that there are engaging interactive elements though; lord knows that I want to be as involved in the HP world as possible.

What is the meaning of this?!

Personally, I can see the whole thing one of two ways. The timing of the announcement makes me a little suspicious. With the final movie coming out, I’m worried that someone decided that they needed to hurry up and find another way to cash in; however, I seriously doubt that JK needs any more money. I hope that the goal really is to extend the HP experience for all those who are getting depressed that our childhoods are dying, not just to sell ebooks.

Finally, although I would have preferred a printed encyclopedia from JK, I am extremely stoked about her releasing information about the HP universe through Pottermore. It would be a serious bummer to think that we already know everything we ever will about the universe. So in closing, I am at once suspicious, curious, confused, and extremely excited about the whole thing. Now if you will excuse me, tomorrow is Friday and I need to wake up at 5:30. Good evening!