Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The winter seems to be full of acceptable excuses not to workout. The days are shorter. The Central Park water fountains don’t work. Bathing suit season is still several months away. House of Cards won’t watch itself.

And of course, the most tangible excuse to skip winter workouts of all: the world outside my apartment today looks like this:

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Some runners appear unfazed by the snow and ice, lacing up anyways for a few loops of the park regardless of the precipitation. I, on the other hand, have little to no balance and appreciate the value of an unbroken ankle. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather keep my fitness routine and my storm systems separate. I think skeptical snow-dog Keira agrees.

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So what to do if you’re training for two spring half marathons and the snow it still falling by the foot come March? I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the art of maintaining peak fitness in the off-season or anything close to it, but I have learned a few tricks along the way to keep myself fitting into my skinny jeans (ok fine, skinny sweat pants) during New York City’s cruel five-month winter. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Time Your Workouts. Weather apps have come a long way in recent years, with most now offering a fairly accurate hour-by-hour forecast for your five-digit zip code. Check tomorrow’s weather before you go to bed tonight, and if the snow isn’t going start until after 8 a.m., squeeze in a quick pre-work run before the storm hits. Likewise, if you see the sleet is going to let up for 60 minutes at mid-day, see if you can hit the park at lunch. The same goes for weekend long runs: I moved my regularly scheduled 8-miler from Sunday to Saturday this weekend since I could see what today’s forecast would bring. Knowing when the winter weather will be lightest and planning your workouts accordingly will help keep you on track even with a nor’easter barreling your way.
  • Move It Inside. I hate the treadmill as much as the next athlete who was nearly murdered by a treadmill in recent history, but it can be a necessary evil during the first quarter of the year. In fact, I’ve even learned to enjoy it. Part of my past distain for the electric running machine was due to the fact that I was using it wrong: I was setting a single pace and plowing forward in unending tedium until the clock ran out. Up your fitness and your attention level by using your time indoors to practice important speed work skills, like tempo runs and intervals and even hill sprints. Put Guy Fieri on the TV in front of you and you’ll be guaranteed to run faster in an effort to end the torture sooner.
  • Stay Home and Workout. Some snowy days, even walking the two (long, uphill) blocks to my gym is a chore. That doesn’t mean you can’t still work up a sweat. Pull up a workout video like this one on your apple TV. Or do yoga in your living room. Or binge watch New Girl and do squats every time Schmidt makes you laugh. Find your favorite show here and follow along, courtesy of my good friend Arianna H.  You’ll have toned quads before Netflix can say “Hey, are you still watching?”
  • Stay Home and Don’t Workout. Some winter days, you’ll get in a workout. Some winter days, you won’t. It’s a tough time of year, and to be honest, you should be proud you’re even considering some self-improvement during such a dreary month. If you don’t workout today, do something else good for the body or soul: curl up with your loved one or a good book, cook a healthy meal, get a good night sleep, and plan to try again tomorrow. March is too cold for lingering guilt.

Don’t believe me? Just ask my snow-adverse mascot.

I'll work out tomorrow, I swear.

I’ll workout tomorrow, I swear.

How are you keeping at fighting weight this winter?

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Lent: Second Time’s a Charm

Insanity can be described any number of ways. Some might say it’s training for a half marathon in this cruel polar vortex. Some might say it’s trying to convince your feminist girlfriends to see the Fifty Shades film with you. Some might say it’s lining up in sub freezing weather for a chain grocery store to open on the Upper East Side.

No, I didn’t do that last one. But I did stop and take a photo of them, which required I take off my gloves, and that was a pretty insane decision, too. So yeah, we’re even, crazy neighbors.

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Define it how you will, I think Einstein’s depiction of insanity is still the most accurate: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Which is why my 2015 Lenten Resolution is downright lunatic: I’m going to plank a minute every day from now til Easter in a solemn observance of the liturgical calendar and/or an unparalleled desire for abs.

Why is that crazy, you ask? Because that was my same exact plan for Lent last year, and if you recall, it didn’t go well. Some of that falling off the commitment bandwagon could be attributed to an overnight flight to Hong Kong that would have seen me planking in the aisles, but some of it was just downright indolence — something Jesus and his 12 workout buddies probably wouldn’t have stood for. Of course, they did their cardio in sandals, so who’s asking them?

I’m already two days in, having planked last night at my first Body Pump class ever and this morning (begrudgingly) as I prepared to write this post. I can do 38 more days of this, right? Considering I may have found a date to the Fifty Shades movie in my most feminist of feminist friends this morning, I now believe anything is possible.

Who’s with me? (In the planking, not the movie, unless you wan’t to come to the movie, in which case, the more the merrier! Unless you’re my dad, in which case, I’m totally not inviting you to see that movie with me, no offense. It would be more uncomfortable than that time I watched Clerks with you as an 11 year old. Ah, the memories.)

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M. Night Shyamalan and I Have Some News

You remember that scene in The Saint where a mustachioed man who looks just like Val Kilmer in a mustache rips off his mustache and – to the shock and awe of all those around him – is none other than clean-shaven Val Kilmer, master of disguise?

In case you haven’t seen this 1997 cinemagraphic masterpiece, my brother narrated the whole clip for me, embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Supposedly “big,” “surprising” twists and reveals that everyone saw coming a mile away saturate our media. Maybe it’s because we enjoy feeling a step ahead of the narrator, or because we like to imagine we figured it out ahead of the crowd. I mean, did Simba really think his bannished uncle was going to have his best interests at heart? Did Han really expect Lando Calrissian to offer a ship of fugatives free room and board? Did anyone really imagine Kanye had been integrated as a functioning member of society since the 2009 VMAs?

It’s with this set-up that I bring you what can only be described as the most unexpected and market-moving announcement that will populate your newsfeed today: I’ve signed up for the New York City Marathon.

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I know, I know, didn’t see that one, coming, huh? I mean, I know I had guaranteed entry into the best marathon in the world that just happens to be located in my home city, but I really pretended for a moment there that I was going to take a year off the big distance to focus on other important things, like getting sleep and having a life. Really: I told friends I was on the fence. I’m planning a Mediterranean getaway during prime training mode. Heck, I even waited until the final week to fill in my application form and cough over my $227.

I almost had you fooled, didn’t I?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. You guys saw that big reveal coming 26.2 thousand miles away.

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And the countdown begins! 262 days to go. Who’s with me? Mr. Kilmer? Maybe your remarkably similar looking friend, too?

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California Dreaming (on Such a Winters Day)

Rumor has it the East Coast was battered by Winter Storm Juno this past week, but I wouldn’t know: the only Juno I saw was a costume jewelry manufacturer on the corner of Sacramento Street in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

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That’s right folks: while my New York and Boston friends were stocking up on toilet paper and bread (and kale) in the ominous hours leading up to the first potential nor’easter of the season, I was stocking up on pork buns in the City by the Bay without wearing so much as a windbreaker.

Oh, California. Where have you been all my life?

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When I booked this trip back in October, escaping the tristate area’s worst weather month wasn’t even on my mind. I just wanted to spend some quality time with my best friend from kindergarten, Meredith. We’d spent a lot of our formidable moments together, from being a freakish 5’10” in fifth grade together to getting tested for mono together after a summer camp skit gone wrong, and I knew this trip was going to be one for the record books.

And it was. Not only did we get to do the four days of fabulous activities we’d planned for my visit, but we got a bonus 24 hours tacked on when my original flight home was canceled due to the snowfall. I mean, it totally broke my heart and everything to have to stay in 60 degree weather with one of my oldest friends an extra day, but I pulled through nobly. You know, for the kids.

Now that I’m back home safely, I’ve had some time to reflect on my mini-vacation. I had a lot of great experiences, and I figured I owe to you all to lay out the DOs and DON’Ts of visiting San Francisco in case this great city happens to make your list of destinations in 2015 as well. So here goes:

DO enjoy an afternoon in wine country with a van full of friends.

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DON’T let everyone know you smooched one of those friends on the car ride home.

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DO go for a run along the Embarcadero at 7 a.m. so as to beat the tourists.

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DON’T plan to do so after drinking two very strong martinis at the Top of the Mark.

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DO use your night out with the San Francisco Roadrunners Club as an opportunity to solicit advice on whether you should run the New York City marathon this year or not.

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DON’T expect them to tell you anything other than “ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY” before requesting more Taylor Swift.

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Thanks for the memories, SanFran. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me soon.

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Nine Months

I’m considering making a monumental decision that will overhaul my lifestyle, change my eating/sleeping habits and have a major physical impact on my body for the next nine months.

No, I’m not talking about having a baby. (Sorry Mom and Dad. Your granddoodle is going to have to hold down the fort for the time being.)

"I'm not all that happy about it, either."

“I’m not all that happy about it, either.”

I’m talking about running the New York City marathon.

Last year at this time, I was all gung-ho about the prospect of running this iconic five-borough road race a second time. After crossing that finish line in 2013, I pledged to run nine local races and volunteer at one in 2014 to gain my guaranteed spot in the 2015 event — and I did it. By clocking those 4M, 5M and 10Ks all year long, I gained myself a coveted lottery-free golden ticket into this year’s November event.

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But now that it’s actually time to fill out that (not cheap) registration form, I’m starting to get cold feet. Do I really want to dedicate 30-40 hours a week to marathon training again this summer? Can I mentally withstand another season of pre-dawn workouts? Do I want to subject myself to the pain and torture that is the 59th Street bridge incline? Is it better to take a year off big races and focus on the shorter distances I know and love?

A big part of me says yes, but part of me is brimming with all sorts of different questions as well.

Will the crowds be deep and deafening again this year? Will the view from the Verrazzano Bridge take my breath away? Will a goal this big encourage me to get back in shape? Will Meb be running in the same exact road race? Will I treat myself to a giant BLT platter after I cross that finish line?

I only have until Feb. 15 to decide, and I could use your input. My head is leaning in one direction, but my heart is leaning in another. Maybe I just need to listen to my gut — which has certainly expanded in the months since I ended my last marathon cycle.

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In the edited words of my favorite Alderaan princess: help me [blog readers], you’re my only hope!

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Out of the Frying Pan

For all the stereotypes about New York City that are ill-founded, at least one rings true: we move too fast.

From whipping out our checkbooks within the first 90 seconds of seeing an apartment to weaving through Times Square tourists like Brer Rabbit in a briar patch, those of us residing in the city that never sleeps move so quickly we hardly have a chance to sit down.

I wish I could tell you that my New Years resolution is to finally rein in my pace, but with a half marathon on my schedule for April and the number of hours in the day stubbornly holding at 24, deceleration just doesn’t seem possible.

Well, except in one area of my life: cooking. Welcome to 2015, folks: the year of the crock pot.

It did not arrive full of meat, although that would have been amazing.

It sadly did not arrive full of meat.

I’ve been wanting a slow cooker for awhile, and that dream became a reality this Christmas when my brother’s fiancée left this New York apartment-sized slow cooker for me under the tree. I might question her taste in in-laws, but her gift-selection skills are downright impeccable.

Why did I want a slow cooker for Christmas, you ask? Plenty of reasons:

  • They allow you to cook entrees without added oils or fats.
  • They do the heavy lifting while you’re at work, allowing you to walk in the door at 8 p.m. to a ready-to-eat home-cooked meal.
  • Owning one makes you feel like a bonafide adult, whether or not you can grow facial hair.
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It’s like looking in a mirror.

I tried my inaugural recipe on the first workday after the holidays: a slow-cooker beef stroganoff. Of all the recipes on the internet, I chose this one because it fit all my requirements: it only used real ingredients, rather than cream of something soup; it let me throw most everything in at once, rather than browning something first; and it said I could cook it for 8 to 10 hours, which I interpreted to mean 13 hours due to a busier-than-expected day at the office. Whoops.

I’m not sure how the 3 to 5 extra hours of cooking may have impacted the ultimate end product, but what came out of that crockpot that evening was creamy and hot and delicious nonetheless. Most importantly, it went from slow cooker to mouth in less than 15 minutes after my walking in the front door, and that’s an all-star performance in my book.

My first foray into slow cooking was a success, and I’m already stockpiling recipes from friends and blogs to make in the weeks ahead. A few in particular that have caught my eye, so long as they don’t mind being cooked for five to six hours longer than the recipe suggests:

  • This one. Chicken tikka masala with a cucumber-cilantro slaw? Sign me up.
  • This one. Steak house chili with big chunks of sirloin? Yes please.
  • This one. Nah, I’m just kidding. That one was just a link to my niece laughing at a joke.

I have a few ideas up my sleeves, but now I need your help: what slow cooker recipes do you make that I can add to my very limited repertoire? 

 

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My Maine Squeeze

Last week as the temperatures hovered around a blustery 20 degrees, my boyfriend and I decided to do what so many other New Yorkers have done before us: we fled the city for kinder climates.

Just kidding. We drove due north.

Why, you ask? Because we’re masochists, no doubt, but also because I wanted him to finally see for himself what I’ve been saying all these years: Maine really is the way life should be.

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Simpson’s Point: where circulation in your toes goes to die.

You might be asking yourself what the Pine Tree State has to offer two New Yorkers during what I can only imagine was the coldest week in the history of the world. What’s that, you say? It gets even colder up there? My God.

I’ll tell you what Vacationland gave us: three of the best meals I’ve ever had in my entire life. Also, some wool socks form Reny’s.

Now I’m hesitant to tell you what these so-amazing-I-could-die bites were because I’m pretty much just recommending everything that pops up in Google search for “best Portland Maine restaurants nom nom nom.” But I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t suggest you drop everything and immediately book a flight to the deep south of the far north to experience culinary bliss yourselves, so here goes. The best things I ate in Portland were:

  • The lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Co. on Middle Street. There was nothing fancy about this lobster roll, and that’s what made it so darn good. Brown butter, melt-in-your-mouth roll and, you guessed it, lobster. Paired with a spoonful of lobster stew and a half dozen Casco Bay oysters, and I was one content once-and-future-Mainer.
  • The Brussels sprouts at The Front Room in Munjoy Hill. We’re talking a dinner plate layered with roasted sprouts, candied almonds, grain mustard vinaigrette, whipped goat cheese and the true meaning of happiness.
  • The Belgian fries and truffle ketchup from Duck Fat on Middle Street. In the words of my boyfriend, “If I were on death row, this would be my last meal.” I’ll be honest: I am actively considering premeditated murder in hopes I’ll get to eat this side-dish again soon. Maybe that was Adnan’s motive.

Our brief but filling trip also took us to the Allagash Brewery, the L.L. Bean flagship store, a local hockey game, and many walks through the Old Port, most of which culminated in a croissant from Standard Baking Co. or an embarrassingly large number of taste tests at Gelato Fiasco. So while the faint of heart/scarf might want to opt for spring before making their trek up North, be sure to put Portland on your travel wishlist in 2015. You won’t regret it, even if your belt notches do.

 

Truck you, loading dock, for ruining this shot.

Truck you, loading dock, for ruining this perfect shot… for Ben, who really took this photo.

 Where will you 2015 travels take you?

 

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