Category Archives: Cross Training

Up the (fake) creek

So the rowing machine at my gym is a piece of shit.

That’s not a commentary on the facility’s condition generally. I go to an L.A. Fitness that is pristine by big-box gym standards: it’s bright and clean with new equipment that is always in working order. The clientele consists of midtown professionals and polished residents of the surrounding gayborhood. The drinking fountains dispense ice-cold water. Really, who needs more than that from their gym?

I rarely find reason to complain, but today…well, there’s only one rowing machine in the building. And today, when I strapped my toes in and gave a tentative tug on the wooden handlebar, the screen spit out a mess of random pixels. Cue me trying to explain this to a front-desk gym person who was probably hungover from last night too, and didn’t really care about my cardio issues.

Anyway. In general, I’ve been digging the rowing machine as a quick-and-dirty cross-training device during this training cycle. Honestly, I’ve never been big on XT. Usually, it either:

(a) Takes too long. As in: cycling. I’m sure there are varying opinions on how cycling miles translate to running miles for comparative purposes, but going with what my college coach used (4 cycling = 1 running), I’d need to pedal for at least an hour in order to have a meaningful workout. Plus, I might hit a patch of gravel and fall over or get a flat tire or get hit by a car and die. Too much risk for not enough reward. I’d rather just run.

(b) Requires a whole mess of logistical effort. As in: swimming.  I don’t hate the act of swimming itself, but good lord, I have to practically pack an overnight bag in order to make it happen: goggles, cap, shampoo, conditioner, hefty moisturizing lotion to placate my dry skin, makeup bag with under eye concealer to patch up the mess left by the goggles. Ugh. I prefer a workout where I can take a 30-second rinse and blow-dry the sweat out of my roots, thanks. I’d rather just run.

(c) Is similar enough to running that I feel like I’m not really giving my legs a break from running. I’m looking at you, Elliptical. You’re just contrived, lower-impact running. Unless I am injured and looking for a gentler running substitute, I see no point. Assuming I’m healthy and just looking to give my legs a break, I’d rather do something that gets my heart rate up in a totally different way. If not…I’d rather just run.

So that’s how my butt landed on the padded saddle of my gym’s (busted, as of today) rower. Oh okay, I’ll admit: I was nudged by the devotion of Crossfit and similar style workouts to this machine. Obviously I’m not a Crossfitter (although I remain simultaneously humbled and skeptical, a la this post) but I’ll admit that CF workouts seem to be, if nothing else, highly efficient. And that is what I value in my cross-training.

Anyway. When I use the rower, I typically crank the resistance almost all the way up, and pull hard on that thing for like 20-25 minutes, which is usually about 3K. At that, I feel like I’ve gotten a great little burst of cardio and am all-over warmed up for my strength workout.

Of course, I could have just dealt with a wonky screen today. I could have set my phone’s timer for 20 minutes and pulled hard for that time, in spite of the lack of feedback on my strokes per minute (heh) and average stroke length (double heh) and all of that garbage that is just computer generated anyway because it’s not like this machine is on an actual river, right? It would be like running on a treadmill without knowing MPH. Or pushing up on a random loaded bar without knowing how much you were benching.

Um yeah, not appealing. One thing I like about gym workouts is having that feedback and information. If I wanted to exercise without parameters, I’d go for an easy run sans watch. Which I do fairly often. Because it’s fun.

So I headed to the treadmill (which I hated doing, because if I’d planned on running, I could have run outside) and knocked out two fast miles: the first at 7:45 and the second at 7:10. Efficiency on the brain, I guess.

Then I did an upper body weight circuit:

  • Bench press: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Low row: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Bicep curls: 2 X 15 @ 15 lbs, 1 X 10 @ 20 lb.
  • Shoulder press: 3 X 15 @ 15 lbs
  • Head bangers: 3 X 15 @ 30 lbs
  • Lat raises: 3 X 32 (4-position circuit) @ 5 lbs
  • Lat pull down: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Push-up ladder, 10 down to 1, all on toes (yay!)

It was a good session overall, but I was most excited about the last one. This push-up ladder has been an on-and-off part of my routine for years, and being able to easily complete the whole thing without dropping to my knees at the end of a workout has always been something of a personal benchmark…for me, it’s like running a 6:00 mile. It means that I might not be in the best shape ever, but I’ve got something going.

(And believe me: I am not in the best shape ever at the moment. I’ve definitely put on a layer of fat since my boot-camp shape-up this summer. It comes and it goes, I guess. I’m okay with it.)

On that note, since this post lacks pictures, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of our first day of 2013.



This is appropriate attire for making a stay-the-hell-in-your-car beeline to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. (Chicken McNuggets. With Sweet Chili Sauce. McAwesome. McAlways.)

Is the fast-food drive-thru attendant judging you? Yes, of course. Have they seen worse in the last twelve hours? Absolutely.

As for 2013 goals, I don’t really have any that I’m ready to share, but I’ll say this: I am absolutely looking forward to the first new year in several years where moving to a different state isn’t on the table. Staying put is a huge relief.

Pool problems

Swimming. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but…okay, I don’t really enjoy it.

Especially at my gym’s pool, which seems to disproportionately attract weirdos in snorkel masks and floating band-aids and such.

But: today I swam, and…

…my goggles didn’t leak.

…I didn’t have to share a lane.

…my cap kept my hair dry. (Mostly.)

…there were no creepers lurking underwater.

…I didn’t brush up against any disgusting floating things.

It was almost fun. 

My shins are still stabby so I’ve been laying off running this week. I’ve been hitting the weight room, but felt like I could use a little cardio. So I hopped in the pool for 37 minutes and covered 1500 yards. Not exactly setting any speed records, but it was nice to get my heart rate up and stretch out my chest and shoulders, which were sore from lifting.

And so I’ll say to myself: Hey, that wasn’t so bad, you should get in the habit of swimming as cross-training on a regular basis!

But then I won’t until I’m hurt again.

Oh well.

On another note, I had the awesomest salad for lunch today.

I eat some sort of salad for lunch most days, but I never blog about it because that’s boring. Usually it’s leftover whatever-meat with some cheese and nuts and fruit. Today’s combination, however, was worthy of the internets.

I guess that is still just leftover meat and cheese and nuts and fruit, but this ribeye-chèvre-walnut-pear combo was delicious.

I seared the pears in the same pan I’d used to reheat the steak, which made them extra soft and sweet and delicious. And this dressing from Stonewall Kitchen is amazing:

…especially for a dressing that has no sugar.

Anyway. So I went swimming and didn’t totally hate it, and I ate a great salad.

Not a bad Wednesday.

But I’m hoping to be back to running tomorrow.

Hail the cloud

It’s amazing the difference a well-placed clump of vapor in the sky can make.

When I left for yesterday’s track workout, the skies were blue and the sun was beating down 90-degree rays of misery. Half an hour later, as I pulled up to the high school, it was overcast. A merciful cloud had taken pity on us and moved in to perfect sun-blocking position. I swear it was twenty degrees cooler.

I took it as a sign that I should run hard.

The assignment was 3X800 + 6X400. Our workouts are always three miles of total track work, usually parsed out in some combination of 800s and 400s. This particular combination was one that I don’t think I’d ever done before, so that was kind of fun.

(If your idea of “kind of fun” includes having other people’s sweat flung all over you while you pant and grunt and turn tomato red, that is. Ah, I love the track.)

I was pleasantly surprised at the pace of last week’s 800s, so I set out to see if I could do it again. I latched on to a pack of guys who seemed to be running a couple of seconds faster and tried to hang on.

Can we just pause for a sec and talk about this? I haven’t run a 3:03 800 in a non-race situation since…college?

I paid for it during the 400s.

Definitely fighting a major case of dead legs during the first three quarters. But I fought it off and snuck under 90 for the last three, so that was good.

I can’t say enough how happy I am to have been introduced to this Tuesday track group. There is no way I would have gone out and done this on my own. And having a pack of people to work with makes pushing the pace so much easier.

Anyway. Looking back on last week’s workouts, I think I set a new record low for weekly mileage:

SEVEN WHOLE MILES! I blame the stomach flu.

(Also, G and I finally started that boot camp last week. It meets Mondays and Thursdays, and will basically replace the weight room for the next month, I think. I’ve only been once since I missed last Thursday’s session (flu!) and this week’s Monday session was rescheduled due to thunderstorms. It seemed like a decent workout, though. If nothing else, it’s a nice change of pace.)

I wonder if the stomach flu is also responsible for this…

…or if this eating-healthier-strength-training-more thing is actually working? I guess we’ll see next week.

Off to deal with yet another home-repair-related headache:

And by “deal with” I mean “argue with people on the phone until someone agrees to send a repairman.”

Hail the home warranty.

A day in the life of a ball buster

Have I mentioned that we haven’t had a properly functioning refrigerator/freezer for the last three weeks?

(Today is actually a good day for the fridge. Usually it’s around 40-45.  I’ve never seen the freezer go below 40.)

Obviously this is cold enough to chill beer (thank goodness) but not sufficient for storage of meat, dairy, produce, or anything else I’d like to eat on a daily basis.

To say this is annoying is an understatement.

Fortunately, we have a home warranty covers refrigerator repairs. Unfortunately, the repairmen have visited three times so far and each time, I’ve been told to give it a few hours to cool down and it should be fine. LIES! All lies. They’re coming out tomorrow for a fourth try. And if that freezer isn’t shooting out magical sparkly ice cubes by the time I’m ready for a happy hour cocktail on Friday, someone’s head is going to roll.

That is, I’ll enter the final and unpleasant stage of Dealing With Contractor Bullshit, the one stage that I haven’t yet had to enter with any of the numerous other entities that have been charged with fixing our roof and doors and walls and windows and bathtub and switch box. The YELLING stage.

Those other stages, for the record, go something like this:

1. Inquiring Politely (I’d like you to fix this, if you could, please?)

2. Demanding Politely (I’m sorry, but it’s not okay if you reschedule our appointment for next week. Your technician arrived at 11 AM for a 12-6 appointment window, and while it’s unfortunate that I missed him, that’s not my fault. I blocked off my afternoon to deal with this and I expect it to be done today. Thank you.)

3. Begging. (I’m not sure if you realize this, but we have been without a refrigerator for three weeks now. That’s awful, right? Is there any way you can rush deliver that part?)


I don’t usually enjoy yelling at people. I’m not exactly a doormat, but I don’t consider myself to be an overly aggressive person either. Back when I was in consulting, I dealt with a lot of litigators. Those were aggressive people. Much more so than me.

It’s funny, though: I think playing the role of General Contractor for the last few weeks must be bringing my more assertive side out.

“You remind me of my daughter,” the landscaping guy told me. I’d just finished describing exactly what I wanted done to our horribly overgrown yard, ticking down a mental bullet-point list that I’d been over several times with other bidders for the project.

“Oh? What does your daughter do?” I asked.

“She works for a senator in DC, busting balls all day,” he said.

I wasn’t sure whether to thank him or tell him to fuck off.

Of course, on one hand, it’s totally unfair that when a woman is direct and assertive about what she wants, she’s seen as being a ball-buster or a bitch. I’m sure this is particularly prevalent in the world of construction/landscaping/etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone give me an estimate for something and tell me that I should “tell my husband XYZ” or “have my husband take a look at ABC.”

Hello: just because I am a petite female does not mean I cannot unclog a drain or patch up paint or whatever. That is what ladders are for.

On the other hand, though, I will bust balls all day if it means getting a fair price for landscaping or finally getting the damn refrigerator fixed. The terminology may be sexist, but there’s nothing wrong with being the type of person who isn’t afraid to do a little YELLING now and then. And I’m not going to lie: the guy’s comment made me feel like kind of a badass.

Anyway. It sucks not having a functioning refrigerator, especially when you’re trying to clean up your diet. Pizza for dinner, again:

(We finally tried the famous Antico and it was indeed excellent.)

Unhealthy food just means being a little extra careful about portion size. I guess I’ve managed to do okay so far because I lost a pound last week!

And I’ve been good about sticking to my summer workout plan, with ~20 MPW mixed in with a couple of hard weight sessions and twice weekly yoga:

It still feels weird not to run every day, but I have to admit it’s kind of nice to just go to the gym, spend an hour there, and be done. No chasing mileage targets or worrying about training paces. As for the weight lifting stuff…well, it’s still not my favorite activity but I’m getting used to it. Having a partner definitely helps.

Time to go…just got a call that yet another contractor is on his way. Let’s hope that Inquiring Politely is good enough for today.

The impenetrable cereal box fortress

I care about my cats quite a bit. They are indoor cats, they eat overpriced grain-free cat food, they are theoretically calmed by an expensive electrical diffuser that imitates kitty pheromones, and yadda yadda yadda.

When we moved into our new house, with its multiple direct-outdoor-access doors, I dug out these collars that I’d frivolously bought them a couple of years ago when we lived in New York. Designer collars from this cute pet shop in the West Village, complete with custom tags engraved with their names and my phone number.  Collars that were completely unnecessary, at the time, for a pair of apartment-dwelling felines. Collars that ended up in a box under the sink, because the clink-clanking of the bells and tags was obnoxious in our tiny apartment.

But now? Even though I would never intentionally let them outside, it eases my mind to have them carry identification. Just in case, you know. Especially since we’ve had countless contractors in and out of the house lately.

This weekend, there was a weird and scary moment where my husband and I both realized that we hadn’t seen either of the cats all day.

“Did you feed them this morning?” I asked.

“No, I thought you did,” he replied.

And we both looked down at a pair of empty, crusty food bowls. A situation that would have, under normal circumstances, inspired a feline uprising.

“Shit,” I said, and we each headed to opposite ends of the house in search. As I bounded up the stairs, worst-case scenarios swam through my mind: a roofer had left a door open, a curious kitty had wandered outside and into the adjoining yard of our neighbor – the owner of an ill-trained Rottweiler who growls menacingly at me every time I leave the house….

I heard my husband’s laugh before I heard him call to me that he’d found them.

So: our bedroom is currently kind of a mess. Truthfully, we’re 31 years old and have never owned an actual bed; so I ordered a simple metal model from CB2 a couple of weeks ago. It was attractive and reasonably priced, but apparently the downside is that it’s a bitch to assemble. So this half-functional bed frame, along with the enormous box that it came in, currently presides over our bedroom.

On top of it, in it, on it, around it…it appears that this box is the best thing that has ever happened to our cats.

It’s kind of hilarious. Although our two kitties have always gotten along, they have never exhibited BFF behavior…until now. I’ll peel up the corner of the box top and see both of them sitting in there…almost conspiratorially. I immediately feel as if I’ve interrupted an important meeting, and leave them to their conferences, gently replacing the box’s lid so as not to scare either one in to thinking they’re in trouble.

So the inevitable question becomes: what am I going to do when we finally figure out how to put the bed together? And then it’s time to get rid of these boxes? It will break their furry little hearts.

Of course, there’s no reason to feel sorry for an animal living in this household. Our cats are as doted upon as a cat can be. But it still makes me shake my head when I think of the money I’ve spent on pheromone diffusers and catnip toys and all sorts of other implements to keep them calm and happy during this transition….

Really, all they needed was a big ass box.

In other news, I ran 8 miles this morning. That is as far as I’ve gone since the Gansett Marathon, which was over a month ago. It was slow for me (around 9:00 pace), but I felt okay. I think my legs are still recovering from last Thursday’s hard weight session. They felt heavy and sluggish. Meh.

Bed time for me…I’ll be back tomorrow with a weigh in and weekly workout recap, among other things. Hope y’all had a good weekend!


One. Every so often, I have these moments where I see something that makes me inexplicably happy to be back in a big city again. Yesterday, I saw this guy casually cycling up Peachtree through the heart of Midtown wearing a leopard print unitard and…wings?

I can never articulate exactly why, but things like this always make me smile. Thank you, Flying Leopard Man.

Two. I really don’t get the big deal about Publix. It’s just a grocery store, and an average one at that. What am I missing here?

Three. At track this week, I had one goal, and that was to finish the workout faster than I started it. Bam:

I’m still a little frustrated at my inability to crank out 80-something-second 400s at the moment, but at least I was able to duck under the 90-second mark for a few at the end.

Also, half a mile of cool down is probably not enough. But our workouts don’t start until 7 PM, and by the time we finish it’s all dusky and buggy and I’m ready to go home. Oh well.

Four. I have been so good this week. SO GOOD. NO WEEKNIGHT BEERS. (Or wine.)

But Thursday is practically the weekend (at least it was in college…), and my husband and I have a playdate at a bar with some friends-of-friends tonight, so you can bet I’ll be enjoying a beer or two. As a reward. Or a means or not being an awkward mess when meeting new people. Or something.

Five. Speaking of messes. This has been happening on our roof all week.

I am so thankful that we don’t need a whole new roof. We do, however, need part of a new roof and it’s quite the ordeal, apparently. The roofers should be finished tomorrow, and then I get to finally execute on my portion of Project Roof Deck, which is the selection of patio furniture. I have a hard life, I know.

Six. My gym scam is bust. I finally joined yesterday. And celebrated this morning with a 6 AM workout date with Gesina, during which she introduced me to something called a one-legged squat. I’m going to go ahead and blame her in advance for my inability to handle stairs tomorrow.

Seven. At the grocery store the other day, this women grabbed my arm, pointed at a package of fresh lasagna sheets in my cart, placed her face uncomfortably close to mine, and yelled: WHAT ARE THOSE?

I explained what they were, and she gasped audibly and – still clutching my arm – told me that this was the best idea she’d ever heard of.

(Necessary for Sausage and Butternut Squash Lasagna, always a favorite!)

For a moment, I considered taking credit for the invention of lasagna sheets – hell, perhaps the entire concept of fresh pasta generally. This woman was obviously drunk or high or insane, she probably would’ve bought it. But instead I just pointed her toward the appropriate aisle, extracted myself from her grasp, and moved on.

Ah yes, city life. Crazy, but fun.

This starts today

The last carload of crap has been hauled. The boxes have been unpacked. The major furniture items and appliances have been selected and purchased.

It’s been 23 days since the marathon.

I’m running out of excuses to miss workouts. And the long, physically laborious days of moving and unpacking where I simply must put up my feet and sip on a glass (or three) of Sauv Blanc at sundown…well, those are pretty much over at this point too.

So: this starts today.

I’m not sure what this is, but as I mentioned last week, I do know that I need to take my running mileage down for a few months. Aside from a short break in December, I’ve been in marathon training mode since last August, gunning for high mileage (successfully last fall; not so much this spring) and not really doing much in the way of strength training or cross training.

And that was great. It worked just like it was supposed to. It got me the PR and BQ that had eluded me for a decade.

It also got me a beer gut.

There is a reason why miles make champions. It’s because running lots of miles makes your body really efficient at running lots of miles. And that’s exactly what you want if you’re trying to be a competitive distance runner.

The downside is that most of us who run what I’d call “ambitious hobbyjogger” mileage (say, 40 or 50 miles a week) on a consistent basis spend a lot of time exercising and probably burn relatively few calories for our efforts.

Probably. I’m just conjecturing based on my experience over the years. Factor in the inevitable metabolic slowdown that comes with getting older and I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that distance running may not be the best way for me to stay in shape.*

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing it, obviously. Because that’s not my primary motivation. But in the “off season,” I figure it can’t hurt to focus my efforts elsewhere for a few months and try to get a little leaner for the next training cycle.

So…this, whatever it is, starts today.

No more weeknight beers. (Most of the time.)

No more fried food. (Unless it’s something really good.)

Some running, obviously, but more like 20 MPW.

Track workouts.

Boot camp.


F*cking yoga.

And regular check-ins with this thing:

As of today, it tells me that I weigh 133.6 pounds and am composed of 23.8% fat and 37.8% muscle. (The other 38% is probably Dos Equis and tortilla chips, based on my weekend activities.)

[Edited to add: I’m 5’3″, so while that’s a perfectly healthy weight for me, I do have room to lose a few pounds and still be at a healthy weight.]

I don’t really have a goal, I just want the numbers to move in a direction that indicates less of the squishy stuff and more of the firm stuff.

And I am definitely not going to turn this in to an OMG WEIGHT LOSS blog and then crow about how inspirational I am because I lost ten vanity pounds. (Although if it could get me a book deal? I totally would.)

But assuming it’s not horribly offensive to you guys, I’ll share my progress (or spectacular failure and lack thereof) as it happens.

Anyway. I have a yoga class to get to. So I’ll leave you with what may end up being the final tragic photo of Emmy, on the cusp of her demise:

I could not come up with a worse place to nap if I tried. Unless your goal is to get squished by someone coming down the stairs who doesn’t see you because you are snoozing cluelessly under the first step.

*I’m sure there’s an inflection point somewhere. If I were able to consistently log 80 MPW instead of 40 MPW, I’d probably lean out. And obviously, the vast majority of elite and accomplished distance runners don’t have spare tires…they probably also have more willpower than I do when it comes to their diets. And better genetics. I realize that I’m oversimplifying and there are a lot of factors that affect one’s body composition, but it’s my blog and I’ll make sweeping generalizations if I want to.

The yoga racket

Last night, I made my (in)glorious return to the yoga studio. It had been over a year. After class, I emailed my friend Gesina: “I need a beer. That f*cking yoga nearly killed me.”

Zen, I am not. But since I never stretch and weight lifting bores me, I’m hoping to work on both flexibility and strength by attending this 75-minute Hot Vinyasa class a couple of times a week.

As I was sliding around on my drenched mat last night, hands and feet grasping for purchase, I thought, here is the problem with me and yoga: I’m a major sweater. Add a heated room and it becomes downright dangerous. My down dog hovers precariously on the edge of a face plant; my triangle is moments away from a painful reintroduction to the forward splits, which I haven’t been able to do since the ballet lessons of my youth.

Maybe I need a better mat? Or to slather my hands and feet with glue beforehand?

Most frustrating about this is the fact that this doesn’t appear to be a problem for anyone else in the room.

Oh yes, I know, I’m not supposed to be comparing myself to others while practicing yoga. But I do. Like, before class, when everyone is setting up their mats and waiting for the teacher to arrive. Is it just me, or is that stretch of time super awkward? I never know what to do with myself. Some people are doing complicated vinyasas on their mats (which would make me feel stupid) and others are laying down (which would make me feel lazy). So I just sit there and watch other people and wonder if I’m the only one who is thinking, when is this damn thing going to start already?

But while it sucks that everyone else’s fingers lace neatly behind their backs while mine aren’t even close to touching, or that I have to build a mountain of blocks under my palm in order to coax myself into a proper side angle, what bugs me most is that I’m poring out enough sweat to swamp the room while everyone else looks bone dry.

At one point during yesterday’s class, I was so frustrated that I swore I wasn’t going to return, despite having just plunked down $35 for a new-student-special month of unlimited classes.

Ah, but yoga. It’s a racket, I swear! After an hour of sweaty suffering, you’re instructed to lay down. Close your eyes! Take a little catnap! Here, let me put a cool lavender towel over your eyes. Just listen to this soft music and empty your mind….

What was that about drowning in a pool of my own perspiration? I’ll be back tomorrow, yoga.

But first, I definitely need a beer.