Monday, January 31, 2011

Restaurantville, USA

In the winter, if you can convince yourself to go outside for any reason, it's to eat.  The creators of Madison's restaurant week* know this, and that's why week one of this semi-annual event is scheduled for the last week of January.

And it is quite the event.  First you hear an ad and remember, "Oh yeah, it's going to be restaurant week."  Then you peruse all the menus for all the different restaurants to decide where you want to go.  Have you been there before?  Is the menu different from last time?  Is it substantially different from what is normally served (this can be a plus or a minus in my experience)?  Are you getting a good deal price-wise?

This year we picked The Melting Pot (didn't do a review of this because it's not a "Madison" place), Inka Heritage (with work) and Liliana's.

First up is Liliana's, where Daniel and I went Friday night:

Liliana's is a New Orleans style restaurant and is pretty fancy despite being kind of in the middle of nowhere.  I give them big points for the interior, which is lovely- but honestly the food didn't live up to the ambiance.  I'd heard great things about Liliana's and had wanted to try it for awhile. Maybe it was the restaurant week choices, but neither one of us was wowed.  Everything looked good and sounded good, but it was just nothing exciting.  Daniel had the red beans and rice as his entree, which he said was good but kind of bland, and I had the Cornish game hen, which I liked but- I dunno.  Would I go back?  If someone was paying, sure, I'd try a different dish, but probably not.  I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from going, but it was not my favorite. 

Which brings us to what probably is my favorite restaurant** in Madison, Inka Heritage.

I think I've gone here for lunch with coworkers every single restaurant week (plus one dinner with Daniel) and I have never ever failed to be impressed.  Plus my dining companions- some of whom have very different tastes than me- have always been impressed.  Inka serves Pervuian food- think seafood, stews, rice, and potatoes- with mildly spiced, very flavorful sauces.  I have had both seafood and stew-type dishes and they are always perfectly prepared and taste like nothing I've ever eaten before (unless I've eaten it at Inka!).  This also the home of my all-time favorite (only served during one restaurant week- so sad!) desert ever.  It was this maple walnut flavored (it was actually some kind of Peruvian fruit) ice cream with a churro and chocolate sauce.  Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but it was out of this world good.  So good I went home and looked up the fruit (which I have since forgotten) to see if there was any way to get my hands on one.  Alas, there was not.  I would recommend Inka Heritage to anyone who wants to go out for a nice dinner and likes food- any kind- at all.  Would I go back?  I'm 95% confident I will be there for lunch during restaurant week in August.

And now to work off some of this delicious food at the gym...  

*In brief: Restaurant week is where several local restaurants put together a 3-course meal for $25.  You get one of three choices for each course.
**Quivey's grove comes in at a close second.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday Stroll

This is my third "real winter," and I've tried to be better about getting out and enjoying some of the benefits of sub-freezing temperatures.  Yesterday Daniel and I decided to take advantage of the relatively warm, non-windy weather and walk across Lake Mendota.  After a brief discussion, we elected not to walk all the way across the lake- I think it's about 5 miles in diameter at the widest point and presented the problem of how exactly we would get home.  Instead we cut across Mendota Bay and hiked from Picnic Point to the Union Terrace.

View Untitled in a larger map

Here's a few pictures from about the half way point.

The capitol and isthmus part of the city:

Back toward the west side of campus where we'd come from:

The far side of the lake that we elected not to walk to:

Me + capitol building:

Walking across the lake was actually kind of hard because there was about six inches of snow we had to wade through.  It was not very slippery- more like walking through really loose sand.

Our walk allowed us to get up close and personal with some of the crazy ice fishing culture.

This is either a trap or just a warning ice fishing hole plug:

And in case you were worried about us falling through, there were ATVs driving around out there, and this is the kind of heavy equipment the fishermen were using to make their fishing holes:

The union from the water side:

It was great to get out in the afternoon just to be outside.  It feels like forever since I'd done that.  I've also gotten in three outside runs in the past three days.  Sadly we are forecast for more snow and cold the rest of the week (low of -8 on Wednesday- boo!).  Gotta get the vitamin D while I can!

Hope you are having a good weekend, too.  I *think* we have the comment situation fixed.  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Checkin' the mic and puttin' it on wax

This is the post where you get to hear what I sound like*.  I'm stealing this idea from Sarah (and you can find out who she stole it from if you click through to her blog).

The "rules" of this game are that you should say the following words so the listeners can get a sense of what your accent sounds like:

aunt, route, wash, oil, theater, iron, salmon, caramel, fire, water, sure, data, ruin, crayon, toilet, new orleans, pecan, both, again, probably, spitting image, Alabama, lawyer, coupon, mayonnaise, syrup, pajamas, caught

And then answer a list of questions:

* What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
* What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
* What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
* What do you call gym shoes?
* What do you say to address a group of people?
* What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
* What do you call your grandparents?
* What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
* What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
* What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

According to the What American Accent Do you Have online quiz, I'm Inland North.  I think this is true in that I seem to pick up other people's accents easily and I live in the Midwest, but I would NEVER call soda "pop"**.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North
You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."
The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

*And that I evidently have a lot to say about spiders.
**And I have never "melked" a cow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Heat Wave

Guess where it's 23 degrees with no wind?!?  Here!  Guess who is going for her first outside run in almost two weeks?!?  Me!

The nice days are so few and far between this time of year that I can't pass this one by.  We're going to have a warm but snowy weekend- high of 30 today and Saturday- and then it's supposed to get cold again next week.  However, looking at the monthly average calendar on, we've rounded the corner and the weather should improve from here on out.

And on that note, I'm going to get ready to go.  Stay tuned for two restaurant review posts this weekend.  Oh yeah, and if you want to leave a comment, you have to click through to the actual post.  I'm planning to get that fixed this weekend, too.  Have a great Friday, all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop Hurting Yourself

This is Daniel.

Chelsea is at yoga, so I'm taking over posting duties for today.  I want to talk about injuries.

From 2006 to 2008, I trained like a madman.  I got stronger, yes, but the price was pain, burnout, insanity, and death.  During those years, I trained hard for 8 months, made a lot of gains, then crashed and spent the last four months of the year recovering from the mental and physical burnout of doing more than I could handle.

In 2009, I decided I needed to revamp my training, with a focus on consistency and health.  The result was my most productive year ever.

First, I decided to focus on deadlifting as my main lower body exercise and only use squats as assistance.  I don't compete in powerlifting, so I don't have to squat heavy every week.  This saves a lot of wear on the hips, kness, and low back.

Second, I cut down to two days per week.  I can do all the hard weight lifting I need in two days, then spend my other training days on running or rowing.  My lifts went up, I got huger, but I stayed in condition.

Third, I became very conservative when dealing with pain.  If I have an unusual pain, I back off, try to figure out why and address the problem before it becomes a serious injury.  Being conservative with injuries has three benefits:

  • Consistency.  You can't focus on goals if you're constantly injured.
  • Keeps the program minimal, since I don't have to add extra work to address dysfunction*.
  • Pain sucks.

It's true, professional athletes do sometimes train through pain, but they're doing it for money or medals.  That's basically the job description: Destroy your body for profit.  

In reality, most pros, regardless of sport, wave their training loads, peak at the right time for competitions, then take an off-season period for recovery.  Pretty much the opposite of the typical amateur, who trains as hard as possible all the time, with no goals, no plan, and breaks**.

* As a side point, it's common to deal with injuries by adding more.  More stretching, more corrective exercises, more volume.  This rarely works.  You have to do less to let the body heal itself.

** CrossFit hate goes here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


To everyone for helping me test out the new comment system.  It looks like the only "feature" I need to work through is that you can't see the "Leave a comment" button unless you click through the main page to the actual post.  At Sarah's suggestion, I'm going to uninstall IntenseDebate (Why couldn't they have called it NiceConversation?) and re-install it a different way.

A special "Hi" to TurboNurse.  I saved your blog in my GoogleReader and look forward to catching up on your NICU nursing and Tae Kwon Do adventures!

This is the first day since I began my everyday posting resolution that I haven't had much to say.  I started writing a paper at work yesterday, which turned into a exercise in how many times I could go to the bathroom to procrastinate on writing a paper at work yesterday.  Actually, I think it's starting to come together in my head, and I have some ideas of some reading I can do to help me think about how the paper should be organized.  I have a "Get out of vessel measurement jail free" card this morning to give blood, so from 10:45- noon or so I will be pondering the mysteries of the cataract surgery-refraction-axial length relationship universe while squeezing the squeezy ball and feeling my ears sweat.

Planning on 8mi on the treadmill.  Exciting stuff.  I didn't have to watch the State of the Union speech last night because I'm going to get 1:12 to 1:13 of it this morning.  The forecast is looking good for a warm (high 20's- woot!) run outside on Saturday morning.

Tomorrow I'm going to take a yoga flow class at a local studio.  They offered a Groupon last week for 5 classes for $20, plus your first class there is free so it's a pretty good deal.  I have to leave early to get there so look for another guest post courtesy of Daniel tomorrow.    

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Come out and play

Yesterday I installed IntenseDebate (which might look familiar to some of you :) ) so I can fiiiiiinally reply to comments in a way that people will actually see.  It will be very exciting if it actually works.

So here's the deal- I need people to comment so I can test the system.  If I already "know" you, say hi.  If you are lurking, this is your chance to de-lurk.  Tell me a fun fact about yourself, where you live (like state, I'm not asking for your address- my Christmas card list is long enough) and introduce me to your blog if you have one.  I love to read blogs by "regular people" so don't be shy (like Mommy's Going for a Run - thanks for the comment yesterday- I also really enjoyed Into Thin Air- I only wish it wasn't a true story).

I had a good treadmill run yesterday.  8 solid miles but no hard intervals.  Today will be weights.  I'm kind of sad I didn't pick today as my run day because it's a balmy 26 out.  I was crossing my fingers for tomorrow morning being warm but alas, it's predicted to be "feels like 1" at 6am.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Warming Trend

So no, I didn't go run outside yesterday morning.  Thankfully -18 didn't stick around too long.  It wasn't windy when we left for church so it didn't seem that horrible, but it did that thing where your body doesn't feel too bad but any exposed skin (read: your entire face) hurts.  By the time we got home at noon, it felt pretty warm out, and I thought that maybe -18 had been wrong.  I checked the Weather Channel website.  It was 9 degrees.  Ah, perceptions.

Yesterday was one of those winter hibernation days.  Other than church, the only things we had on our agenda were watching the Packer game*, and reservations at the Melting Pot for restaurant week.  I did accomplish a few things- I prepped lunch for the week, did yoga, moved my baby pictures to a new acid-free photo album, and practiced piano- but I also laid on the couch, alternately glancing at the TV to make sure the Packers were still winning and taking part in one of my many guilty pleasures, reading books about climbing Mt. Everest.       

By the time we got home from dinner, I felt like an anaconda that had laid around in the sun all day, slithered over to a rabbit's burrow, gorged myself on baby bunnies, and slithered back to my rock to lay in the sun again.  Or alternately, like this cat:


Back on the old TM today.  I'm expecting great things.  Every pre-workout dinner should be fueled- at least in part- by Rice Krispie Treats dipped in chocolate mixed with marshmallow fluff and Oreos.

*We got a letter in the mail saying that if we didn't watch the game and cheer for the Packers, the State of Wisconsin would revoke our drivers' licenses. (No- not really)

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I just checked the Weather Channel website and it's currently -18 air temperature!!!!  Click the image for a larger horror!

Fun Facts

About Disney from my AAA Living magazine.  Why?  Because I grew up in Orlando, and because these are actually semi-interesting enough that I saved the magazine so I could post them.

Plus it's not like a gobjillion people come to Orlando to go here

or here.

Okay, let's bring on the fun.  The top 5 things you didn't know about Disney World:

  1. On the Jungle Cruise, a band of headhunters bursts forth shouting tribal chants.  Hidden in the audio mix, you can hear one warrior yell, "I love disco!"- a phrase added by a prankster sound engineer and never erased.
  2. Many US presidents have visited the park, but on Nov. 17, 1973- at the height of Watergate- Richard M. Nixon made history there.  Addressing a conference of newspaper editors at the Contemporary Resort, he delivered his most infamous line: "I am not a crook."
  3. Vacationing at Walt Disney World in Dec. 1974, a guest at the Polynesian Resort received some papers to sign.  The guest?  John Lennon.  The papers?  the documents that dissolved the Beatles.
  4. The Contemporary Resort, one of the resort's two original hotels, was built in a contemporary way:  Each of the 500-plus rooms was built off-site before being lifted by crane and slid into place like a drawer into a filing cabinet.
  5. Walk Disney considered St. Louis, Missouri, as the site for Disney World, but wen local beer magnate August Busch Jr. reportedly told Walt he'd have to serve beer in the Magic Kingdom, Disney turned his focus to Orlando.
And a bonus:  You cannot buy gum anywhere at Disney World.

Rest/yoga.  I think I've been feeling the effects of the tougher running and lifting workouts I've been doing lately and am planning an easy week next week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Sadly, no.
First of all, thanks to Daniel for getting us all huge.  In all seriousness, Daniel is pretty smart about the whole strength training gig and manages to get himself pretty strong when he can make it to the gym regularly.  He's also a big proponent of the "quality over quantity" theory of exercise- something that I am coming around to more and more.

Second, it's really really cold here.  I think it was something like -7 (which was warmer than a lot of the rest of the Upper Midwest) at 10am yesterday.  It's funny because you walk outside and think, "That's not so bad..." and then 20 seconds later you don't feel like you're even wearing pants or a jacket anymore.  The building I work in is tall and creates a wind vortex that blows straight at you when you walk toward it.  It's so cold that it no longer registers as cold- just pain.  Needless to say I ran on the treadmill at the gym yesterday morning.  After a fairly full week with the undergrads, the gym was back to its normal state of blissful emptiness.

We did brave the cold last night to enjoy Friday dinner out at Pasqual's.

We've eaten at Pasqual's on Monroe street many times, but this was our first time at their new location across from Trader Joe's (just opened on 1/20).  We overheard the service staff say they were still having some trouble getting used to being in the new place, but we didn't experience any issues as customers.

Pasqual's bills itself as a Southwestern restaurant, and as a past resident of the Southwest, I can say they have it about 85% right.  Lots of mildy spiced traditional menu items with the option to up the spiciness if that is your thing.  This review will sound a little critical, so I should emphasize that Daniel and I eat at Pasqual's a lot and really like it.  But we know just enough about what this kind of food *should* be like to make us dangerous.

The true mark of New Mexican food is that it's covered with so much red or green chili sauce (or both- that's called Christmas) that you can't see what you ordered. To the right is an example from a restaurant in Albuquerque.  Do you have any idea what that is?  No, you don't.

Pasqual's enchiladas come pretty much like that, but if you wanted a beef burrito New Mexican-style, you'd have to order a "Cowboy-style Pasqual's burrito with red sauce and beef" rather than a "beef burrito with red".  Most of the burritos come with rice and/or beans in them, which is not really a New Mexico thing either.  Normally Daniel orders a burrito or the cheese or pork enchiladas with red, and I get the garden veggie quesadilla, the salad burrito, or one of their salads (all of which are non-traditional additions to the menu that I am happy about).   The only thing I've ever had there that I didn't like was the mole sauce, which was a disappointment because I normally love mole.

Now if they would just bring out honey and a basket of sopapillas at the end of the meal.
So good... So glad they aren't as easily accessible.
Going to the gym to do weights before lunch.  I swapped running to yesterday because I figured the cardio machines would be less crowded at 6am on Friday than 9am on Saturday.  Here's hoping there won't be too many virtuous undergrads there this morning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Question on Running (By Daniel)

In the comments to yesterday's post, marathonmaiden asks
how could this stuff work with a training plan where there are really hard workout days? in the past i've tried lifting on my easy/recovery days but always worry in the back of my head that it's not letting my body recover
This is a bit of tricky thing to answer, because it depends on the individual, the training plan, and the long-term goal.  With that cop-out established, here's what I've picked up in my reading:

  • Don't attempt a hard run the day after lifting weights.  This includes long, tempo, speed, and interval work.  You need at least one easy or off day to keep your legs fresh.
  • As a general rule, I'm not in favor of doubling up workouts to run and lift on the same day.
  • You can probably run hard the day before lifting.  Your weights may suffer a little bit, but your hard running workouts are more important, so that's okay.
  • Take at least one day per week off from exercise.
If you followed all these guidelines, your program would be highly restricted.  You'd have two days per week of lifting, one off day, and only four days left to run.  If you have only two hard workouts, like a long run and an interval day, it could work like this:
  • Intervals
  • Lift
  • Easy
  • Lift
  • Easy
  • Long run
  • Off
If you want more running volume, or a third hard workout, you'll have to modify the plan.  

You could go to one day of lifting per week, freeing up a day for another hard run.  Alternately, you could drop the lower body exercises (except the mobility work) for one of your workouts, so that you only train legs once a week.  Here's a more aggressive plan with three hard workouts per week:
  • Intervals
  • Full-body lifting
  • Easy
  • Tempo
  • Easy / Upper body lifting
  • Long run
  • Off
This has an easy run and upper body lifting on the same day, but it should still work for recovery.

Remember that lifting is only assistance to your running.  If the quality of your runs suffers you should drop or change exercises that cause you problems -- allowing for an initial break-in period if you're new to weights.  Squats, in particular, can really kill your legs.

Finally, don't be afraid to drop lifting completely during high-mileage or peaking phases of your training.  Cut back on lifting during your tapering period, and don't lift in the week before an important race.

Now that you have all the information you need to get Truly Huge, make sure you observe proper gym etiquette.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Basic Weight Training Plan

As promised, here is the second installment of our series on transforming your feeble self into an unstoppable colossus of power.

This is a routine I have used successfully in the recent past.  It's designed to help you make progress on a few important lifts, while still saving time for other activities.

Lift weights two days per week, training the entire body each time.  Each workout contains the following exercises:

  • One main lower body exercise.
  • One upper body pushing exercise.
  • Two upper body pulling exercises.
  • Any assistance or support work.
  • Abdominals.
Questions and Answers
What are some choices for the lower body lift?
Any exercise that uses most of the muscles in your lower body at the same time.  This includes squats, front squats, any type of deadlift, and the leg press.

What are some choices for the upper body pushing lift?
 Bench, incline, and overhead pressing, using barbells, dumbbells, or machines.  Dips, with extra weight if necessary.  Pushup variations, in some cases.

Why use two pulling movements?
Training the muscles you can't see is very important for all-around strength, posture, and appearance.  Most regular trainees benefit by pulling more than they push.

Okay.  So what are some pulling exercises?
Pullups, or lat pulldowns if you can't do pullups yet.  Rowing with barbells, dumbbells, or machines.  Shrugs.  Cleans and snatches, if you're willing to put in the effort to learn them.  Dumbbell or kettlebell swings.  Curls with any implement.  The farmer's walk (carrying two heavy dumbbells for time or distance) is not technically a pull, but trains many of the same muscles.  

There are two ways to turn this into a twice-per-week plan.
  • Choose two different sets of exercises for each day.
  • Use the same exercises on both days, but make one day "heavy" and the other "reps".
Here's a sample program based on the first approach.  We'll use similar combinations of sets and reps on each day, but there will be variety in the exercises.

First day
  • Deadlift:  3 sets of 4 reps.
  • Dumbbell overhead press:  3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Pullups: 3 sets of as many reps as possible (use assistance if necessary).
  • Cable machine rows:  3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Planks: 3 holds for at least 45 seconds each.
Second day
  • Front squat:  3 sets of 5 reps.
  • Pushups:  4 sets of as many reps as possible.
  • Dumbbells curls:  3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Shrugs:  3 sets of 5 reps.
  • Hanging leg raises: 2 sets of 15 reps.  
More Questions and Answers
I hate your choice of exercises, sets, and reps.
First, that's not a question.  Second, I made up the sample plan in five minutes.  You can substitute any exercises and set/rep schemes that make sense to you.

What about that assistance stuff?
You can tack on any assistance exercises you want at the end of each workout.  These exercises should be light, done quickly, and relevant to injury prevention or weak point training.  As a general rule, the assistance work should be done with lighter weights, for higher reps, and take no more than 10 minutes.  For running, you might want to add calf raises, hamstring curls, and ankle mobility exercises, one set of 15 reps for each.

Considering this blog's readership, I feel obligated to say a little bit about mixing this plan with running. 

For runners, lifting should be about total health, injury prevention, and appearance (to the extent you care about your physique).  Programs designed to increase your max strength in a few lifts will only wear you out, give you dead legs, and increase your risk of injury.  Here's my attempt to write down a plan that mixes with moderate volume running.

First day
  • Full-depth front squat:  2 sets of 5 (good for leg power and mobility).
  • Pushups: 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
  • Assisted pullups: 2 sets of 5-10 reps.
  • Machine rows: 2 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Planks: 3 holds of 30-45 seconds.
  • Calves: 2 sets of 15 reps.
  • Ankle mobility drills.
Second day
  • Straight leg deadlift: 2 sets of 5 (strengthens hamstrings and glutes).
  • Dips: 2 sets of as many reps as possible.
  • Curls: 2 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Lat pulldowns: 2 sets of 5-10 reps.
  • Hanging leg raises: 2 sets of 15 reps.
  • Hip mobility drills.
Two important points.  First, this should not cut into the quality of your running training.  If squats give you dead legs, then you should drop squats, or find a variation that doesn't cause problems.  Second, these workouts should be quick and leave you feeling energized and happy, not sad and tired.

If you have any questions, post them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weight Training (By Daniel)

This is Daniel.

Chelsea has nothing interesting to say today, so I'm stepping up and doing a guest post on lifting weights.  I've been lifting weights for more than ten years and I read all the important fitness sites, so I'm pretty much a completely trustworthy expert.

Today, I'll talk about some concepts and terms common to all weight training programs.  In a future post, I'll outline a basic program I've used successfully that can also work for runners.

The Big Picture
There are three reasons to lift weights:

  • Getting stronger (ideally in a way that aligns with other athletic goals).
  • Muscular hypertrophy (get huge, bro).
  • Injury prevention (by strengthening underused muscles).

All programs manipulate four different variables:
  • Frequency (how often you lift).
  • Volume (how many total lifts you perform in a session).
  • Intensity (how heavy you lift, relative to the most you could manage).
  • Exercise selection and variety.

These variables interact with each other.  Emphasizing one aspect requires cutting back on others.  For example, going heavy is hard, so programs that emphasize lifting near-maximal weights require limiting the number of lifts in each session and scheduling sessions with enough time to allow for recovery.

Most training plans can be categorized based on a few different features.

Full-body vs. Split
Should you train all the muscles of the body every time you lift, or should you dedicate each session to one particular group of muscles?  Almost all modern bodybuilders do the latter.  They will have dedicated days for each of the major parts of the body -- chest, legs, arms, back, and shoulders is a typical split.  Training with splits allows for more focused work and more volume on each muscle, but it requires more sessions per week to fit everything in.

Full-body plans use a mixture of exercises to hit every muscle in the body during each workout.  This is more demanding, so most full-body plans require only two or three hard sessions per week.  Full-body work was more popular in the early days of bodybuilding and has made a big comeback in recent years.  Some writers feel that full-body routines give faster results that splits.  On the other hand, traditional splits have more exercise variety, which can help prevent injury.

One other approach is the upper-lower split, where days are specifically dedicated to the upper body or lower body, but not to individual muscle groups.  This is technically a split routine, but often feels more like a full-body plan.

Isolation vs. Compound Exercises
Isolation exercises are those that move only a single joint, such as the biceps curl or the leg extension.  Compound exercises move multiple joints simultaneously, like the squat and the bench press.  Several current popular plans emphasize compound exercises and reduce or eliminate isolation, arguing that compound movements are important and productive, and isolation work is mostly unnecessary.

Isolation exercises are still useful for bringing up lagging muscles, training weak points in a particular lift, or balancing things out to prevent injuries.

Free Weights vs. Machines
Thousands, maybe millions, of lives have been lost over this issue. Basically, the arguments break down like this:

  • The most productive exercises (squats, bench, deadlift, etc.) use free weights.
  • Free weights require you to hold and stabilize the weight.  This develops many small "in-between" muscles.
  • Machines are designed for some "average" body, which may not be yours.
  • There are many useful exercises (pulldowns, leg press) that can't be done with free weights.
  • Machines can be designed to give even resistance through the entire exercise, eliminating sticking points.

The most important part of weight training is progression.  To get stronger, you have to actually add weight to the bar.  Deciding when to do this, and how much to add, is an important aspect of any program. Even the best program is worthless without progression.

Here are four popular approaches:

When you can perform a certain number of reps with your current weight, add 5-10 pounds then drop down to a lower number of reps and build back up.

Start with a moderate weight and add a fixed amount at every or every other session.  When the weights get too heavy to continue, drop down and begin building back up.  This approach works very well for new lifters, as long as the increases are reasonable.

Classic periodization
Start with light weights and high reps.  Over 12-16 weeks, gradually increase the weight and decrease the reps until you reach new personal best lifts at the end of the cycle.  These program are usually percentage-based, with the weights for each phase calculated based on your current personal best.

Exactly what it sounds like.  Build the weights up a little, then drop back, then build up again, with the goal of making each peak a little higher than the last.

There are other popular progression approaches that you're unlikely to encounter unless you train specifically for powerlifting (bench, squat, and deadlift) or Olympic lifting (the snatch and the clean and jerk).

That covers some of the basic differences between strength training programs.  Check back later for a post on a basic routine that's both useful and flexible.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can we be done with winter yet?

I'm guessing the rest of you are with me on this one.

I celebrated being off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day by driving through the slush to the dentist, cleaning and organizing the kitchen (because I was not driving anywhere else), letting Daniel drive through the slush to our optometrist appointments and to our small group meeting (which was very small as there was only one other couple able to make it), and hoping nothing important on the bottom of the car got squashed when we parked in our very snowy parking spot.

All of that makes it sound like I had a bad day yesterday, which is actually not true at all.  The gym was empty and I got in a great treadmill run (yay!), I had a good report from the dentist, I finished some home-type projects that have been on my list for a loooong time, I knocked out a once-a-year appointment without having to take time off work (and I don't need new contacts), and we got to spend time talking to friends of ours in a way we can't really in a larger group.

We also tried our new vegetable of the week last night, baby bok choy,

served in chicken adobo with bok choy from this month's Real Simple.  Say what you will about the rest of the magazine, but the recipes are generally good and easy.

 At the end of the weekend I feel rested, relaxed and just a little bit bored and ready to go back to work.  I think I could go for a 3-day weekend every week.

Would you work a flexed schedule (4 10-hour days, etc) to have extra time off on the weekend?
I'd love to, but I know that those last two hours would probably not be very productive for me.  Eight hours is about the limit of my good thinking time.  Sometimes I also think it would be nice to work one weekend day and have one weekday off to do appointments, run errands, etc. while most other people are at work.

Yesterday was 8mi on the treadmill doing treadmill track workout #1 again.  This time starting at 8.1 and going up to 8.5.  Today will be weights. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shredfest 2011

Yesterday Daniel and I sat down and did our year-end financial review.  I wish I could say this was our annual year-end financial review, but I think this was the first time we've gone through this process together.  I'm normally the one who pays all the bills, works on the budget software, keeps an eye on investment stuff, etc, but we realized that- even though it's not a bad system for us- it would be very bad if something happened to me and Daniel was totally clueless about how/when to pay the bills and what some of our automatic withdrawals are.

First we went through all our files and shredded anything that didn't need to be kept and pulled out any 2010 tax documents to go in the 2010 tax document folder.  Using our file folders as guide, I made a list of all our regular expenses and how they are paid (eg. Car insurance through Progressive 2x per year by check.  Electric bill through and a separate list of all the log-ins and passwords for all the accounts, which we hid in locations we are *pretty sure* we won't forget.  We checked balances of all our accounts online and discussed any changes we wanted to make over the next year.

And it only took about 2.5 hours (which also includes time spent going through a box of equipment manuals and throwing away the ones for items we no longer own).  So my point- other than to get to post a picture of a sheep made of shredded paper- is to encourage all of you to do the same.  I'd say we have about the same or possibly more financial paperwork than your average 20-somethings, and 2.5 hours per year is a great investment in knowing where you (or your family) is at financially.  However, it's one of those things that everyone (including us) dreads doing for some reason.  It's not that bad!  Take part of a cold/rainy Sunday afternoon before tax time and just do it!

Treadmill track workout #1 again.  Hoping the nasty weather keeps the undergrads from being back in force at the gym this morning.    

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You're never too old

To go sledding for the first time
We took advantage of the fresh snow (which we seem to have more and more of every day) to stop by Elver Park and go sledding yesterday.  It's actually a pretty big hill, and the picture below (which I didn't take) doesn't do it justice.  There weren't very many people out which was good because I wasn't afraid I was going to plow into anyone but bad because that was because it was really cold.

We only did a few runs, but it was pretty fun.  You really get going on the end.  Once I got back in the car, it was easy to convince myself I would have liked to go down a few more times, but that but the walk back up to the top was long and windy.  Maybe winter isn't soooo bad afterall.

Or to eat really unhealthy food  

Yes, that would be brownies made with orange soda- a special gift to you from Wisconsin- land of unhealthy food.  Sprecher is a root beer/beer brewery in Milwaukee, and they also sell other sodas and novelty food products.  For Christmas I ordered orange brownies my brother and his girlfriend and root beer cookie mix for J+A and my in-laws, so I had to get something for us to try as well.

The brownies themselves turned out pretty thin, and they didn't taste like orange soda (or look orange).  Daniel's evaluation was that they "tasted like brownies."  I thought they actually tasted kind of like tootsie roll.

And that was the end to an otherwise fairly productive (we gave our apartment it's first good scrub in about a month- mea culpa- we've been gone!) day.

8 sloooow miles in combo dry and slush.  Today is a rest/yoga day.    

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's your sign?

Hopefully not Ophiuchus.  I'm not even sure how to say that word!  Is it a "ch" sounding "ch" on the end or an "sh" sounding "ch"?  Too confusing.  Adding in the new "octopus" sign, I changed from a Virgo to a Leo.  For a brief but thoughtful discussion of the impact of this change, see TutuRunner.*

Last night we ate dinner at Wah Kee,  a Chinese restaurant on the near east side that had high praise from a co-worker ("I would make a special trip in from out of town to eat at Wah Kee") and on Yelp.  I didn't take a picture from the outside, and I guess no one else has either because I didn't get any hits on Google Images.  Just imagine your typical strip-mall Chinese restaurant.

I'll start by saying that I like Chinese food, but I don't have a sophisticated enough palate to really tell the difference between the quality of restaurants.  I wouldn't like something if I felt like it was way too greasy or way too bland (or greasy and bland - ick), but other than that I'm not very discerning.

Like many Chinese restaurants, the menu was extensive.  Daniel picked the pepper steak rice stick (big flat) noodle entree immediately, but I had trouble choosing.  I knew I wanted something somewhat spicy with at least some vegetables and with noodles rather than rice.  When I asked the waiter for a recommendation for a noodle dish, he pointed at the page that said "noodle dishes" and said, "Well, these all have noodles in them."  Thanks for your help.  Actually, he ended up being helpful, and I settled on Pad See Ew.

We both added a little hot sauce to our dishes and thought they were really good.  Just enough grease to make it authentic strip-mall Chinese food but not enough that I went home and emptied the bottle of Tums.  I would definitely make this at least one of our "go to" places for Chinese.  I'd say it was equal in quality to Hong Kong Cafe (as if I really knew) but has the benefit of having more noodle dishes on the menu.

Looks like 8mi of tromping through the snow.  We got a few inches last night.  Yesterday ended up being 6.5 on the treadmill.

*You really should.  It will take you 30 seconds, and you will laugh.

Friday, January 14, 2011


After punting last week and pretending that I'd never eaten frozen spinach in a frittata before, this week I give myself an A for New Year's Resolution #1 - try one new veggie or preparation each week- because I actually tried 3.

#1 - Trader Joe's roasted turnips and carrots (served with sauteed chicken with sage browned butter from this month's Cooking Light).  TJ's has a great frozen vegetable section, but you never know what will be there from one week to the next.  These were nice and firm out of the oven and had a lightly sweet sauce.  Good stuff.

2. TJ's healthy 8 chopped veggie mix - I eat a salad almost every day for lunch, and I wanted a way to add extra veggies without having to buy (and chop and store) a zillion whole vegetables.  I'm not sure if this was a new item, but it was the first time I'd seen it, and it was exactly what I was looking for.  8 veggies, chopped and ready to be added to a salad by the handful.  The only thing this mix contained that I don't like was celery, and it was the last ingredient on the list and easy to pick out.

3. Chicken fried "rice" with leeks and cranberries - This was another CL recipe but instead of brown rice I used cauliflower.  I steamed the cauliflower the day before and stuck it in the fridge overnight.  When it was time to make dinner, I chopped it up into little pieces and cooked it just like the instructions called for "frying" the rice.  This actually worked really well.  Both of us decided the recipe needed some soy sauce and rice vinegar, but the cauliflower was a perfect veggie stand it for the rice.  With all the other flavors in the dish, it didn't taste cauliflower-ey or vegetable-y at all.

I debated on running outside vs going back to the gym this morning and decided on the gym.  It just takes so darn long to get ready to run outside when it's cold, and I'm definitely planning on going tomorrow.  Only 6-7 more weeks of winter- le sigh.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Me Me Me Meme

Thanks to the lovely ladies at The SHU Box and DIVAs Run for awarding me The Stylish Blogger Award.

Here is how the Award works:
  • Make a post + Link back to the person who awarded you this award (done above)
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers so we can share the love
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them they’ve won

7 Things about Myself

1. I would like to be more stylish, but I need a lot of help in that department.  Stacy and Clinton, are you listening?  I feel like I'm missing the artistic/style/design part of my brain.   

2. 95% of my clothes come from Ann Taylor Loft.  That's the best I can do.

3. I have more chapstick and lip gloss than you or anyone you know.  I'm not quite sure how this happened, but I have at least one tube stashed in locations throughout our apartment, at work, an in the bags I normally carry.

4. I finished running the last QC pass for a study at work yesterday.  This means nothing to any of you (except Kerri) but it was a joyous occasion for me.  

5. I've given up on trying to follow blogs where the author posts more than once a day.  It's too much to keep up with.

6. I have a Pound Plus dark chocolate bar from Trader Joe's in my fridge, and it is incredibly messy.  Trying to eat it and fold laundry at the same time is not a good idea.

7. I chat with a woman at the bus stop every morning, and we have never learned each other's names.

Now I have to tag 7 people (I agree with Sarah, 15 is too many):

8mi at various speeds on the treadmill yesterday and weights + elliptical today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday Night Out

Last night I met up with a few fellow bloggers, other runners, and significant others to watch the Hood to Coast documentary.  If you haven't seen any of the promotional material for the movie, it follows four teams as they compete in a 197-mile relay race from Mt. Hood to the coast in Oregon.  

The four teams were:
  • Heart N Sole - Who almost lost a member during the race the previous year when her heart stopped on the course.
  • Thunder and Laikaning- Who's racing strategy was to do as little exercise and drink as much beer as possible leading up to the race.
  • The Dead Jocks - A team of 50-60-something men who are trying to relive their glory days on the course.
  • B. Rowe - Who were racing to remember a friend/family member who died the previous year.
There was enough detail about the race itself and how it was started to be interesting to runners who are- as of this morning- putting Hood to Coast on their bucket list and enough comedy (and drama) for non-runners to not be too bored watching it (at least that seemed to be Daniel's experience).  My favorite scenes were the clips of random people doing/wearing crazy things and the part where the jocks drove around squirting everyone with the giant squirt guns.

Did you see the movie last night?  What did you think?  Would you ever want to do Hood to Coast or a relay like that?

I think it would be fun in theory, but I have a feeling I'd get really frustrated with the logistics and regret the running part on my third leg.

Before the movie we dined at the Madison Mexican restaurant chain Pedro's.  

The food was okay- I just can't get behind non-spicy Mexican food- but they get extra points for fresh tortillas and 1/2 price margaritas.  Plus good company (this counts as my January social dinner) makes everything taste better.

Back to the gym and on the treadmill for an easy-ish run.  Will it EVER stop snowing???

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Race Plans

I've updated my sidebar to show tentative race plans for 2011.  I say tentative because there's probably more races listed there than I can realistically do, and I don't know what my travel schedule will be like later in the year (eg. I expect to travel a lot in May where I have a several races listed).  I've got some old favorites on there and a few new races I'd like to try.

The general theme for this year is to try to run a lot of shorter races.  I feel like I'm better at mid-distance runs (10k or so), and I enjoy speed training more than slogging through long runs.  Will I change my mind later on and decide to run another marathon (TCM in Oct??)?  Will I get inspired watching Hood to Coast tonight and find myself running through Rockford at 3am in the Ragnar Relay this June?  Maybe.  There are so many great runs in the Madison area and the Midwest, you could race almost every weekend from March to November.

Yesterday's treadmill track workout was hard.  It started with 5min at 8.0 and worked up to 2.5min at 8.3.  It's interesting to go through phases during each interval where I feel like I can't go anymore, but then I hang on just a few seconds more and start to feel better.  I think these workouts will be good practice for the mental toughness part of races that I still have trouble with.

Today I'm headed back to the gym (trudging through 4 new inches of snow) for weights.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Running in a Winter Wonderland

Last Saturday was the most geared up I've ever been to go on a run.  I felt like that kid from The Christmas Story...

 if he grew up to be a Medieval executioner.
You stuck my tongue to a pole.  Now you must die!
When I left it was about -7 with the wind-chill with 10-15mph winds gusting off the lake.  Working from the top to the bottom, I wore a ski mask and hat, a short sleeved shirt, two long sleeved shirts, a fleece vest, a fleece jacket, a reflective vest, gloves with Hot Hands inside mittens, tights, athletic pants, and cotton socks with Toasti Toes inside wool socks. 

I was actually a little hot when I started the run, but once I got over by the lake into the wind, I was glad I had every bit of clothing on.  I only ended up doing 8mi because we had to head out of town, but I would have been comfortable to do an entire long run at this temperature.  

Here's me when I got back:

 I don't think you can tell, but I had ice all over my eyelashes when I came inside.  Winter running is fun!

This week should be warmer but with more snow.  Hopefully not so much that all the sidewalks get gunked up again.  As you can see from above, I can live with cold, but icy messes everything up.

Having to wear all this to run has a few downsides.  1) It takes forever to get ready and 2) I can't show off my cute new haircut and pedicure.

I was never much of a girly girl growing up, and I'm still not super fashionable as far as clothing is concerned, but I really enjoy being groomed.  If I were rich and famous, I'd keep one of these monkeys around to pet me every day.

Until then, I'll have to settle for humans every 6 weeks.

I actually got a pedicure over the break, too, but I had a Groupon that needed to be used before February, so I figured I'd keep my hair and nails on the same schedule.  Even though I don't see my feet all that often, I enjoy just knowing that they look pretty good for a runner's feet.  Bye toes, see you again this summer!

Treadmill track workout #3 (at the gym!).  Hoping the undergrads aren't back yet.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

7pm still counts

As the post of the day.

Daniel and I took a road trip to Chicago yesterday to attend a Sacred Harp workshop and singing this weekend and just got home a few minutes ago.  It was a fun trip, and I'm glad we went, but it feels too soon to have to get ready to go back to work again tomorrow.

Hope you all had a fun/relaxing/productive weekend!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Summer Infusion

Camera-phobe no more.  This is my first Madison restaurant review!

After a week of cold and snow, I needed an escape to the islands.  Last night we used a Groupon to try out Jolly Bob's, a "Jamaican" restaurant on the east side of town.

To add to the island experience, we were seated at a table over a heating vent.  For me this was worth an extra dollar on the tip, but Daniel got so hot he had to cover it with a menu.

Dinner started off with wedge salads with four choices of "islandy" dressing.  I chose a curry vinaigrette and Daniel's was creamy papaya (I think).  The oranges were really tasty.

Next came dinner.  I had almond-crusted shrimp in papaya sauce.

And Daniel had chicken curry.

Like pretty much every other restaurant on Willy St., this place looked like a dive from the outside, but had good food.  There are not many places in Madison to get seafood that isn't fried cod.  I would definitely go back, but wouldn't make it a priority because (like pretty much every other restaurant on Willy St.) it's a giant pain to park- especially during the winter.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  25 minutes into a great treadmill run yesterday morning, our downstairs neighbor started pounding on the door, screaming, "Stop! Stop! Go back to bed!  It's too early!".  So I had to get off the treadmill and finish my run outside.  It's frustrating because 1) I was trying really hard to be quiet about it and 2) neither of our previous neighbors complained about it before.  I think it's because there's so many people living in the apartment below us now that there are people sleeping in the living room- and in shifts (like sailors in the 1800s) because they complained about Daniel using it a 3 one afternoon a couple months ago because someone was sleeping.  Oh well, they will probably be gone next year.  I did feel kind of bad about ticking them off, so I left a note on the door apologizing for disturbing them and saying that it wouldn't happen again.  I didn't want to start a large international conflict over a relatively minor event.          

Unfortunately that also means I have to go run outside this morning in the COLD (-5 with gusty winds) because the gym doesn't open until late.  But I'll bundle up and make the best of it.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas vacation show and tell part 2

We're going to Disney World

Having grown up in Orlando, people always ask if I used to go to Disney all the time.  Ummm... it's like $100 a ticket so... no.  I've probably been more times than the national average, but that puts me at about 4-5 vs 1.  But when we were visiting my parents, looking for something to do, we saw that The Grand Floridian (one of the Disney hotels) was displaying a 6ft tall gingerbread house that people could visit for free (the magic word).

  Because none of us had been out to Disney in 10+ years, we decided to ride the monorail past the Magic Kingdom around to all the hotels.

While at the Polynesian, we saw a mother duck and her (probably robotic- nothing at Disney is actually real) cute baby ducklings.

We also drove over to Downtown Disney and saw the giant lego figures and ate Ghirardelli ice cream, but the place was packed so I didn't get any pictures.  In fact, the Magic Kingdom was so busy that a couple days people were turned away because the park was full.  In the words of the guy working the monorail at the Contemporary, "You don't want to go to Disney on the day there's a line for Small World."

We did a few other things- shop in TN, go to a play, see True Grit- but most of the rest of the trip was family-related.

We had Christmas dinner with my dad's side of the family.

Here's a "would have been good" picture of my brother and I and our significant others that I ruined by goofing off.

We spent New Year's with Daniel's family and saw his brother and his brother's wife and his dad's parents

It was a great trip, and I'm thankful that our job/school schedules allowed us so much time off. Even though I had a hard time going back to work Monday, I truly felt rested and ready to go after two weeks of relaxing family time.

Weights + 30 min easy elliptical at the gym yesterday.  I'll say it again, I love UW with no undergrads!  This morning I'm going to try running on our treadmill again.  I thought our downstairs neighbors might be gone, but alas, they are not.  But the weather isn't too horrible, so if they complain I'll just get dressed real quick and finish up outside.