The Highlight Reel: 15-21 February

To lamely paraphrase lame philosophers everywhere, “when a snow day falls on a holiday, is it really a snow day?” Regardless of how you choose to answer that question, when it happens, I feel like we should get the following day off, just for good measure. Who’s with me?! Yes, Monday was President’s Day, and we in the DC area awoke to a couple inches of snow and the prospect of not being able to go anywhere because no one in this area knows how to drive in moderately inclement weather. At least it wasn’t another Snowzilla.

Life

Would you believe it if I told you that we had more projects to do around the house? This time, repainting and wallpapering a bathroom.  On that subject, when you move a washing machine to paint behind it, is that OCD or just being thorough?  Regardless, attention to detail is important, amiright?

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Booze

Our halfhearted plans for a Grammy Awards drinking game were basically put to rest by the paucity of awards actually given out during the broadcast. Looking up who won this or that award before the ceremonies is decidedly anticlimactic and would also lead to consuming large quantities of alcohol very quickly, which was never the intent. So instead, just good whisky for me during that glorified music festival.

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Yamazaki 18 Japanese Single Malt Whisky

While the Grammy festival may have been a dud, our own housewarming party was a resounding success.  We made a batched cocktail inspired by this gin-elderflower-strawberry concoction that was so popular it required a second batch.  Recipe coming soon!

Food

One pot chicken lo mein might just have the best flavor-to-difficulty ratio of anything we’ve ever made. Just throw everything in a pot and wait? It’s a veritable epiphany! What’s more, the concept is so versatile that it’s sure to be the basis of many meals and recipes to come.

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One Pot Wonder Chicken Lo Mein | Photo & Recipe: The Wholesome Dish

A party at our place means baked goods, and even though most of our guests were unaware of that, I couldn’t let them down. To that end, oatmeal raisin cookies and a brand new cupcake creation.  And let’s not forget the homemade hummus, a charcuterie spread, and chili lime drumsticks.

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Oatmeal raisin cookies

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Where cupcakes come from

Recipe posts are already in the works, so stay tuned!

[UPDATE] Sweet Baby Jesus! cupcakes recipe is live!

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Fitness

After suffering from serious fatigue issues a few times recently, I decided it was time to change up my routine a bit. I didn’t so much change what I was doing as the order in which I was doing it, building in more recovery time between hard efforts and worrying less about “filler” workouts.  It largely paid off.  I hit a recent squat PR, and I continue to get faster on interval and tempo runs.  My long run didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but not every workout can be a winner, and it’s important to always focus on the big picture.

Interwebs of Intrigue

New “feature” this week: A list of stories/videos that caught my attention over the the past seven days, generally but not always related to the theme of this blog.

See you next week!

The Highlight Reel: 08-14 February

Ugh, I’ve been slacking even with these weekly wrap-up posts.  My apologies to what I assume are the 1-3 of you who actually read my ramblings.  Let’s blame holidays and home projects as opposed to my laziness, k?

The lack of writing might also reflect what I’ve realized is an exceedingly pedestrian life as of late.  No partying, traveling, or racing means I have to be proactive about doing blog-worthy things if I am to keep this up.  Which again goes to the laziness, I suppose.  Any who, here’s the Highlight Reel.

Life

That feeling when you go to eat breakfast and realize a piece of your tooth is missing…
Thankfully, I actually just broke off part of an old filling, so it wasn’t painful.  And I found a fantastic dentist just a short walk from home.  AND my dental insurance covered all but $25 of the repair and cleaning!

On a more positive note, more home projects off the list (which somehow doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter, but that’s for another post).

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Gallery Wall

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Rustic-ated plate covers

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De-brassed door hardware

Booze

With more yet more progress around the house, I rewarded myself with a fancy ass cocktail on Sunday.  Good bourbon makes for better drinks, so boo hoo to you if you think I’m wasting expensive whiskey.

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As-yet-unnamed cocktail

Food

The Missus cooked! The Missus cooked! And it was fantastic! I wish every day were Valentine’s Day.

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Ginger soy salmon with rice and veggies

Oh, and I tried a quesalupa, because I have a strange fascination with Frankenfoods.  It actually wasn’t bad, although I don’t have any urge to rush back for another. Good thing, that, because we’re within walking distance of Taco Bell.

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Quesalupa

Fitness

If you’re going to do a bunch of stiff-leg deadlifts, don’t plan on doing much for the next day or two.  Thankfully I made this mistake Monday, so the entire week wasn’t ruined. Still in the process of dialing back my gym work so that I don’t require an entirely new wardrobe, and I miss it already.  RIP, gainz

On the running front, I continue to make progress toward not being heavy and slow (now just heavy and not fast), which is very much welcome.  I did intervals for the first time in ages, and to my delight I didn’t die or end up like Shalane Flanagan after the Olympic trials.

The Highlight Reel:01-07 February

Booze

Another week of limited boozing, albeit with a bit of Super Bowl and finished-a-ton-of-projects indulgence on Sunday.  On a related note, I made some progress on the long-term project of drastically reducing the number of open whiskey bottles that had accumulated over the previous year.  Hooray, me!  Although I may have opened two others…oops.  At least I took a pretty picture

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Food

We made a couple of The Missus’ tried and loved recipes this week, both of which came together nicely.

Pesto Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Roasted Asparagus
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One-Skillet Mac and Cheese with Sausage and Bell Peppers (sorry, no photo)

In addition, we experimented with a new recipe, BLT grilled cheese, and were quite satisfied with the outcome.
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I also made my famous-among-friends oatmeal raisin cookies for a work thing but somehow forgot to document any of it.  I’m a failure as a food blogger, essentially.  Guess I’ll have to make more.

Fitness

Evidently, I can’t do three straight days of hard workouts combined with a lot of time on my feet and come away feeling refreshed.  Who knew?

Yes, this was a week to remind me that I’m human.  I actually heeded my body’s advice this time and kept to easy efforts until I felt ready for a real workout.  To my utter amazement, the world kept turning, and I didn’t suddenly get fat!  Rest may go against my very nature, but it’s not actually a bad thing.

Life

As alluded to above, huge headway on the honey-do list.

  1. Refinish our cabinet? Check!  
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  2. Hang the crates that The Missus stained?  Check!  
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  3. Caulk in new doorway?  Check!  
  4. Install bike rack?  Check!  
  5. Hang decorative lights?  Yeah, that too, and all over the weekend!

The Highlight Reel: 18-24 January 2016

What a week!  Holiday-shortened weeks are supposed to be breezy, but this was anything but.  I’ll put much of the blame on Virginia’s total lack of preparation for a 1″ snowfall, but more on that later.

Booze

Tuesday was supposed to mark the start of a more-or-less dry spell, as discussed earlier, but Snowzilla 2016 led to my drinking hiatus being put on hiatus.  To commemorate the occasion, I decided to crack one of my most recent finds, a septuagenarian bottle of Seagrams VO.  Despite nearly 75 years in a bottle, it’s still quite tasty!  I’ve never before had a whiskey in which the nose/smell was so different from the palate/taste.  $15 well spent.

Food

Practically nothing to report here.  The prospect of being trapped at home for days and hilariously empty shelves simply put a damper on my kitchen ambitions.  I threw together a basic chicken and veggies dish on Sunday, but we were otherwise eating deli meats and canned soup.

Fitness

With snow wreaking havoc on the roads, this was a week spent largely on the bike.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that I just can’t put out the same power I as I could a few months ago.  I know I’ll get there eventually; I just need patience and hard work.  At least I’m good at one of those.

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I can’t pack on any more mass.  I already blew out the elbow of a suit jacket, and I had to have a seam repaired on a pair of trousers, so unless I want to buy a whole new wardrobe (I don’t), I need to work on maintaining rather than growing.  The Missus is no doubt overjoyed.

On the positive side, it seems my run fitness is coming back around.  A pair of tempo progression runs on the treadmill went much better than expected, with my comfortably holding a sub-7:00 pace for the first time in recent memory since before I was injured. I don’t put much stock in treadmill paces, even at the prescribed if scientifically invalidated 1% incline, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.   Maybe a race is closer than previously thought.

Life

After a delightful date night with the Missus on Wednesday, we were treated to a three-hour traffic clusterfuck thanks to a minimal accumulation of snow and Virginia’s decision not to treat any of its roads.  They didn’t even bother to salt I-66, the major East-West artery from DC, which pushed everyone onto side roads and snarled traffic well past midnight.  After a minor fender bender that occurred when the driver in front of us slammed on his brakes and slid into a parked car, we eventually circled back to Ballston, parked the car in a garage overnight, and took the Metro home, arriving around 00:30.

Lesson: If there is so much as a hint of snow in the forecast, don’t drive.

With Snowzilla/SnoWayOut/SNoChanceInHell expected Friday, we stocked the fridge and prepared to hunker down.  Thankfully, after over a month of being on the fritz, our refrigerator is working properly again.  Two people living out of a “rented” mini fridge was not ideal, and I’m happy to see this season of College Life Redux come to an end.

Rather than just spend the weekend drinking, eating, and watching TV, The Missus and I resolved to make some headway on our various home renovation projects.  She learned how to stain wood, and I began refinishing a cabinet.  I also made my first attempt at an upcycled lamp shade, but it’s not quite ready for primetime.  I think I’ve worked out the kinks in my process, though.  More on that next week!

Reining it in

For many, the holidays are a typically indulgent period.  This year, I was no exception.  I ate a bit too much junk , drank a bit too often, and spent a bit more money than I should have.  C’est la vie.  I’m not terribly worried about the effects on my body or my bottom line—I generally workout and save enough that I haven’t suffered any obvious consequences—but I don’t like what the past few weeks have done to my discipline.

Whereas I can usually pass up having that first cookie, now it’s hard to even turn down a second.  I’ve gotten all to accustomed to giving in to my impulses, and that, my friends, is the path to ruin.  So until Valentine’s Day, it’s time to rein it in, to work on my willpower.  If I have a drink, it will be because I’m out and about, not because it’s 5:00 and I’m pooped.  If I have dessert, it will be shared at a nice restaurant, not a Nabisco impulse buy.  And no snacking on the sofa, period.  Basically, I’ll be a bit boring, but only for a few weeks.

When this is through, I expect I’ll once again be able to pass up that second cookie.  Unless it’s really good.  I mean, I’m not unreasonable.

Universal Gym Truths

No two gyms are exactly alike, but some things are true wherever you go.  A few of those things:

  1. Incorrectly racked weights.
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    No matter how well the weights are labeled and their proper locations are marked, some asshole will put them back in the wrong place. Clearly, the 25 lb. dumbbells don’t go between the 45s and 55s, and the big plates don’t go on the same peg as the small plates. In a perfect world, someone caught doing this would have the blatantly mis-racked weight dropped on their foot. If I ever own a gym, better read the waiver carefully, because that’s gonna be in the rules.

  2. Broken equipment.
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    There is always at least one piece of equipment that is either completely broken or somehow not working correctly. This is true even if this is the first day the gym has ever been open. As a general rule, it will take management approximately half the lifetime of the universe to actually fix or replace the broken equipment. Note: Most often applies to cardio equipment.

  3. “You still using this?”
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    Unless you’re the only person in the gym, at some point in your workout, someone will always ask if you’re still using some piece of equipment. Dude, my towel is still on it. I’m still on it. Yes, I’m using it. And no, my walking to the water fountain does not mean I’m done.

  4. Never enough benches. img_4728-copy-2“You still using this” is particularly true when it comes to the bench. The bench is the most in-demand piece of equipment in the gym. (Unless you’re at a Planet Fitness, but that’s not really a gym). If S is the number of benches in the gym, and D is the number of dudes looking for a bench, then in any gym at any given time, S < D. Oh, and you can S my D if you think I’m giving up my bench. Wait your turn, bro.
  5. Curling in the squat rack.
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    When a piece of equipment has an exercise in its name, there is only one acceptable use for said equipment. Ipso facto, don’t curl in the fucking squat rack. You don’t see dudes doing shoulder presses at the preacher curl bench, which is where you should be doing your goddamn curls instead of taking up the only squat rack in the whole gym. Phew, getting a little amped up. Pre-workout must be kicking in. Time to lift!

BMI sucks. Use the Beast Index™

Roughly speaking, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a relative measure of body mass to height.  Originally developed in the mid-19th century, BMI is an attempt to quantify an individual’s tissue mass and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value.

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There is plenty of criticism of BMI as a measure of health. Because this is my blog, I’ll focus on the issue most relevant to me: the total lack of distinction between fat and muscle. As obsesity researcher Peter Janiszewski put it,

BMI does not differentiate between the Michelin Man and The Terminator.

I’m decidedly not the Michelin Man, but BMI says that I’m overweight. Before you call me vain, there are potential ramifications here—insurance companies use BMI as a measure of health when setting premiums. Oh, and I am vain. And I don’t like being told I’m overweight. Just kidding, I don’t care. Well, maybe a little. But I digress.

Despite the criticisms, BMI is apparently useful at a population level for assessing health, the idea being that the average person falls somewhere in the middle of the Bibendum-Schwarzenegger spectrum.  And it is pretty easy to calculate, which makes it relatively useful to those who don’t have body fat analyzers, skin calipers, or the neuroses to even consider buying such things. But for those of us who do, I propose a new measure: the Beast Index™

The Beast Index™ is a measure of BMI relative to body fat percentage.  Whereas BMI only measures mass relative to height, and whereas body fat only determines whether one is skinny, the Beast Index™ combines both for an approximate measure of swole-ness.  Put simply, the higher your Beast Index™, the more likely you are to be mistaken for a superhero.Beast Index Chart

Scientists are still determining the optimal Beast Index™, but suffice it to say that a measurement around 3.5 is solid—you’re sufficiently swole as to avoid being mistaken for a cancer patient without looking like some sort of science experiment gone awry.  As the chart above shows, the 1-2.5 range is the fat part of the bell curve. If you lose some fat, you can move to the right tail…and probably get more tail.

It’s worth noting that the Beast Index™ corresponds roughly with the venerated Mazzetti scale as follows:

  • 5+: Freak Beast
  • 4.5-5.0: Monster
  • 3.5-4.5: Gym Rat
  • 2.5-3.5: Gym Bro
  • 1.5-2.5: Brotege
  • 1-1.5: Tadpole
  • <1: Primordial ooze