Tag Archives: exercise

Spartan

My Spartan Race is scheduled for tomorrow on the muddy ski slopes of Pennsylvania; this is how I planned to prepare for the brutal 5 mile obstacle course: over run Prospect Park for distance familiarity, while alternating between sprint intervals and weight training for strength conditioning. As adults, we generally get over the spectacle of walking after we learn to do so as toddlers, unless yesterday was leg day, and you wake up with quadriceps contractions.

I came a long way from the super skinny competitive guy who hated losing, and mocked losers. I have always been competitive and obsessive enough to be good at anything I set my mind to; however, I wasn’t always equipped to excel at physical activities. Being slender, among people who intermittently exercise to lose weight, has earned me quite a few “good genes” and “divine metabolism” remarks; nonetheless, being scoffed at for eating small portions never gets old; neither does a lack of fat translate into an abundance of muscle. I learned the difference one summer when I went to visit my sister on an Army base, and was demolished on a basketball court by muscular men, the likes of which never make it from the pull-up bars to the basketball courts in Brooklyn.

By my mid-twenties, without professional aspirations, I finally adopted an active lifestyle to challenge myself. By that, I mean: I stand in trains cars, even the empty ones. I look forward to flights of stairs, two steps at a time! If not for sweaty shirts and winter months, my bike would be my primary mode of transportation. After paying for multiple gym memberships, I bought my own weights and weight vest to spontaneously break out into workouts. Without fail, I feel bigger, faster, stronger every year. Always trying to one up myself, I joined the New York Road Runners Club with the intention of running the 2014 ING New York Marathon. Now I have to run 9 club sanctioned races before the end of 2013, just to run another 26 miles next year; and I can’t wait.

In the mean time, without an option for “IT professional” on the Spartan Race application, I was told to represent; which means I plan to finish in the top 10% and Instagram a deluge of post race photographs. This isn’t the last of my personal challenges this year either: see my five minute plank if you haven’t already, then look forward to my race against a train; yes, a train, you read that right. Madness?

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Two Roads Diverge

During this wait for my scheduled Firefighter’s Physical Fitness Exam, numerous training programs have reached out to offer strength and aerobic preparation. I met one such program at Prospect Park during one of my routine laps: I’m an athlete; then I passed them: I’m a competitor. And during the weekend that just passed, gratefully filled with humid 60 degree days, I biked from Brooklyn College to 138th Street, and took multiple back and forth journeys in between, which amounted to some 40 pedaled miles. I was accompanied on one such ride by a friend, who submitted my quote of the week:

You don’t just bounce off of cars and continue living.

False. I have. Crossing Flatbush Avenue on Bergen Avenue (pictured above), a car attempted to park through my bike lane, while I tried to round a routine corner. I instructed that driver on proper driving etiquette, hopefully enough to save another biker from a similar experience. My point though, is that my idea of living is not “not dying.” I have seen fear turn “try or quit” choices into “life or death” scenarios. Things happen; stay aware, don’t over react, and respond appropriately. Maybe my assessment isn’t fair, considering my next chosen professional endeavor is designed to face death.

Don’t be misled, I’m a responsible adult who doesn’t play real life Road Rage. I brake at red lights and stop signs then go through them if there isn’t traffic. I pay attention to my surroundings, which way upcoming streets are directed, car indicators, and last minute wheel turns. I should probably wear a helmet more often. At the same time, I will ride twenty miles exhausted, fueled by no more than a Starbucks bagel and Chipotle burrito. It’s in my nature to jump off of my bike and play intense basketball games wearing a pair of khaki shorts and polo shirt; because that sedentary life isn’t for me. A while back, a friend asked why I quit smoking and drinking alcohol, I told him that I wanted to experience my prime in its prime; this same dude got ripped on P90X months later and I couldn’t be prouder. In lieu of wishing for an easier life, I work for greater resolve; so go ahead and chase the path most traveled, I will not be joining you. For everyone else, let’s do this.

Some pertinent tweets from this weekend:

Why I Walk in the AM

My warm weather mornings used to begin with a jog, or sprint intervals between pot holes; ever progressing towards a healthier lifestyle, I recently decided to walk in the mornings instead. While it’s a given that my ethnicity is particularly at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, it’s less well known that mornings are a terrible time for anyone to strenuously exercise.

We’re 40 % more prone to suffer coronary emergencies between the hours of 6 am and noon. My mother rehashes every story about young adults who keel over and die moments after shoveling their driveway. You’re aware of reports of fit athletes losing consciousness and being pronounced dead in the middle of morning practices. Like the quiet carcinogenic effects of working the graveyard shift, without the declaration of a Public Service Announcement, it’s easy to believe these fatal occurrences are merely coincidental, rather than the result of a series of unfortunate circumstances.

After hours spent sleeping in a horizontal position, our blood circulation slows, allows blood to sit, and results in a body filled with the thickest blood supply of the day. Imagine drinking juice from a fresh straw, then a milkshake from a used straw, the difference is that stark.

Taking it easy on your body doesn’t mean you need to sit around either. Although I barely regard walking as exercise, a brisk walk is a great morning activity substitute. The pace prevents you from feeling rushed, the atmosphere allows you to think, and weather factors are less likely to keep you indoors. Have a good morning, every morning, for a long time!

Five Minute Plank

A friend of mine challenged herself to work towards a five minute plank, then she quit. I decided to record my attempt at an inspirational video, to gut through the pain; even when it feels like nobody cares. My personal best at the time was approaching the three minute mark. On the difficulty scale, the five minute plank ranks far less intimidating than 100 pushups or the four minute mile. One day I may challenge myself to maintain the Oprah Mile over the course of a full marathon.

The final result I posted to Youtube (embedded below) was my third attempt. My first attempt was a success if not for the restricted camera angles. Following my disappointment with the initial footage, I began and failed the second attempt half an hour later. Two days later and determined, I added a twist to my third attempt, to stress the fact that there isn’t always a television audience cheering our pursuit of personal goals. My co-star, who hesitated at first, grew more comfortable as the minutes ticked away; he’s a natural weight.

My strategy was to adjust at each minute: start wide for the first minute, go narrow at the second, balance on one foot at the third, then the other foot until the fourth minute, and gut it out for the remaining sixty seconds. Truth be told, my solid strategy failed after the third minute, switching feet at that point provided zero relief.

Crossing the five minute mark was less rewarding than the collapse. My entire body caught the shakes towards the end; I was genuinely exhausted. It’s unreal how much you can sweat from keeping still. Being me, I’m still unhappy with my back’s fluctuating height; being you, I’m forgiven. Thanks, looking forward to the next challenge!

My Father Exercised Once

My father was allegedly a soccer savant in his heyday, despite the lack of recorded evidence, his good posture and trim suits have historically swayed belief surrounding fitness in his favor. In my twenty odd years of life, I cannot recall my father ever participating in a physically strenuous activity, much less exercise; therein lies how he thoroughly impressed me.

After weeks of expressing a desire to buy sneakers, only to repeatedly reject the notion of actually doing so, we finally went to Modells and bought him a pair of yellow and gray Nikes. After loosely browsing through sweat pants and track shirts, my father confirmed that he already owned proper exercise attire.

Quick side tangent, the Modells employee who assisted us attempted to guess my age, started with 19, then 23, then 25; she made a not so young man’s day.

My father accompanied me to exercise wearing what can best be described as a pair of windbreaker cargo shorts and an Ed Hardy t-shirt. We intermittently walked and jogged the track and stairs (*click through for video re-enactment), then completed two sets of Betty White modified push-ups, pull-ups, and dips. Still, it’s not how well, or realistically terribly he performed, my father’s effort truly impressed me out there.