Monthly Archives: February 2012

When Cardio Isn’t Enough

Sometimes I feel like my workouts are not enough. When I first signed up for the gym before the new year, I was making a marked effort to not only focus on my cardio, but also to mix in the weight machines. I could feel my strength building up and even remember thinking to myself, “Wow, weights feel great! Why haven’t I spent more time focusing on these muscle groups in the past?”

The honest truth is that I don’t make the time for them. When I get to the gym, I want the workout that feels like it is the highest impact and will kick my ass butt the most. Hence all the running. I feel like if I can run at least 30 minutes, (sometimes 40, sometimes 50) that I am really giving myself the workout my body craves. But is that really true? Can my body really feel like it’s been run through the ringer after only 30 minutes of moderate-to-high cardio?

While I do notice some of the nice benefits running the last 3 months has had on my body, I still don’t feel like it’s made as much of an impact as it could have if I were varying up the workouts and mixing in some upper body strength builders. A good friend of mine, who is currently in school to become a personal trainer and is just generally a fitness and nutrition guru, recently came up with the idea for a “Train Like a Mofo” site to help connect people in Austin, Texas to Personal Trainers who match their workout style. In a recent post showcasing one of Austin’s finest, she posted one of the trainers who she recently work with’s (awkward apostrophe-s usage?) philosophy on upper body strength,

Apparently, men have about  40% more upper body muscle mass than women on average, but pound for pound in lower body, men and women are basically the same. So when training women, the real game changers come from building upper body strength—it balances out the body, and gives women both the shape and metabolic effects their looking for. (You can read more at Mel Runs.)

So basically, I am thinking I need to start finding a way to vary up my workouts, or at least to incorporate different types of workouts to the running I’m already doing. It might give my recurring, (and incredibly painful,) blisters a break from being continuously tortured. And who knows, it might even make working out fun!

See, fun!

The trickiest part, of course, if figuring out what that next stage in fitness should be. Do I sign up for a Zumba class? Do I hire a personal trainer to show me the ropes? Do I participate in the Dance Aerobic class at the gym? Or maybe even the Dancing in High Heels class they offer? I’d love to hear from readers what classes have gotten you motivated, or what you think works best when trying to get in shape?

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Misdirected Treadmill Rage

So I find that sometimes after a rewarding workout, I am filled with a rage I can’t quell. It happens more frequently than I’d like to admit, and I don’t know if it’s just my body’s instant reaction to “extreme” (let me have this one, guys!) exercise, or if it’s my inability to let go of the stress from the day, even after a successful run.

So usually the anger starts with something small, like the other day when I ran on the treadmill I couldn’t see my mileage, or kilometrage, (yes, I made that word up.) The machine would actually not allow me to switch off of “Time” to “Kilometers” to see how I was progressing. Imagine how frustrating it was when I just wanted to see if I already hit 5 km, and wasn’t able to tell! Or something as simple as the woman on the machine next to me glancing over continuously to see how fast or how far I have run can set me off, (in my own head of course!) I know this is hypocritical of me because I have been known to take a peak at the machine next-door, but I at least do it discreetly!

Then more than a couple of times when I decide I want to cool down for a longer period of time than the 1 minute the machines at my gym allow, I will slow the pace from 10.5 kmh to about 6.5 and the machine automatically goes into “Cool Down Mode” and only gives me the one minute I was trying to avoid. So instead I have to gradually drop from 10.5 to 9 to 8, etc, until I have reached the pace I want to walk at, (which is also the solution if I want a brief few minutes walk before starting up a quicker pace again.)

Pretty accurate summation of how I feel

And, of course, since I live in Germany…the machines are all in German. I have a key card that is programmed to speak to me in English whenever I get on a machine, but on the older version of treadmill 2.0, some of the fixed buttons are only in German and I have no idea what they say. Okay, that’s a lie, I have a slight idea of what they say, (I’ve become excellent at interpreting based on context,) but for some reason on random occassions when I hit the “Kilometer” button, (or whatever the button says that means check your kilometers, since it’s a fancy looking Deutsch word,) it will end my workout. And when I say on random occasions, I really mean it. It is not consistent. So I still can’t figure it out!

So now I am faced with determining if the rage is just the stage before the high of a good workout, if I am really just enraged and maybe the run is actually lessening the level of anger I feel, or if, as my friend Marissa pointed out to me this evening, it is actually better that I am running and taking my anger out on a machine rather than, and I quote, “taking an ax to [my] furniture.”

Does anyone else encounter anger or rage during workouts? Is it just a phase, or is it here to stay?

Staying Connected…But At What Cost?

Living in a foreign country, far away from those you love and know best, can be challenging at times, (to put it mildly!) You are experiencing a new culture, seeing new things, meeting new people, perhaps learning a new language or a new job. And you are constantly trying to make a life for yourself where you are, and to feel “at home”.

But with modern technology being as it is, you have no problems to forge a new path while also staying connected to those you’ve left behind. Between the 100 online accounts I now maintain regularly, (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn, Gmail, AIM, Skype, Tango, WhatsApp – I think you get the point…) there is never a shortage of ways to connect. I even have the advantage of having people to talk to both in time zones ahead of my own, and way far behind my own so that it seems at any point in time there is always someone around or available to chat, (including where I am in the present moment.)

We Are All Connected - Great Ad Campaign for WWF Mexico

While I have to say I am beyond grateful for technology, and I will be the first person in the world to congratulate the internet for making my life a million times easier, sometimes I wonder what all this connectivity really costs me in terms of living. Am I staying connected to those I love too much, (if there is such a thing)? To the extent that I can’t actually get on with my life and experience new things? Or is the connectivity a welcome reminder that I am loved and that my people do still exist in the world…just not necessarily here?

It’s hard for me to judge how much being plugged in all the time really holds me back, or in some cases even propels me forward. I admittedly, and a bit embarrassingly, crave Facebook. I seek to learn what is going on in the lives of others, or apparently actively search for a way to uselessly waste hours of my time reading about people who don’t have any real impact on my life. So why, if it is such a black hole of time, do I insist on multiple log-ins a day? Just to see if Jane had a wild night out on Saturday? Or if John’s wife finally had her baby?

What is even more disturbing, is that when I actually log out and leave home I don’t think about Facebook. I’m not running on my treadmill at the gym after work desperate to log back in to see if Lady X put up some life-changing new insights. Once I step outside it, I couldn’t care less what is going on in my virtual life. It’s only when you sit me in front of the computer without any real-life distractions, (i.e. a concert…or brunch,) that I can’t seem to turn the interwebs off. When did life become something to be lived virtually instead of in actuality, and is it preventing us from experiencing the world around us?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic. Do you feel too connected? Or does being connected make you feel like you’re living?

Seen in Berlin: Part II

Here are some shots from the East Side Gallery between Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn (Subway) Station and Ostbanhoff S-Bahn Station. This is the longest stretch of remaining Berlin Wall, (known in Germany as the Berliner Mauer,) stretching 1.3 kilometers long, that remains intact. It has been used to paint murals as a tribute to the freedoms that were lost during the DDR (GDR) regime over East Germany, and to make political and motivational statements.

Seen in Berlin: Part I

Berlin is known as the culture capital of Germany. There is nothing but freedom of expression here; from the way people dress, to the way they vandalize create art on public buildings, and even the music they listen to. It is hard to miss so many unique personalities when you walk down the streets, as most of the time it’s unavoidably in your face.

While I have often captured some of the art while walking around the city with my iPhone, today I decided to bring my camera along to capture some of the cooler artwork I came across, including some of the murals painted at the East Side Gallery (see Part II tomorrow) on the former wall that divided the city from East to West.

I stayed only in Friedrichshain, but captured some great local art!

Brunch in Friedrichshain – Orange Coffee

I have been trying to expand my brunching horizons since moving to Berlin, since ironically most of my favorites are within about a 5-10 minute walk of my apartment. Coincidence? I think not.

So today I set out to brunch in Friedrichshain. I spent some time looking online to find reviews on some popular English speaking Berlin Websites, (such as Unlike Berlin and ExBerliner,) and then found some random ExPat bloggers who write about everywhere they eat in the city. And there is no shortage of material to write about since there are so many good options and new restaurants and cafes keep popping up all the time.

For today’s culinary experiment, I chose Orange Coffee on Voigtstrasse in Friedrichshain.

The place is cute and relatively small, though they have several tables large enough for groups of people. It is the typical Berlin style cafe/coffee shop where there is a large menu over the counter of what you can choose, or you can take your seat first and a waitress will take your order, (or they make exceptions for clueless foreigners…either way!)

So they had the “Orange Coffee Special Breakfast” on the menu, which sounded enticing enough to choose with fresh squeezed OJ. While Europeans, (and basically anyone outside of the U.S.,) do not know how to do pre-packaged OJ well, they definitely know how to do fresh squeezed! But the brunch was the “standard” Berlin-type brunch where you get a plate filled with different options of meat, cheese, fruits, veg, butter, and spreads along with some yummy German bread to make your own concoctions.

Let’s get a closer look at that plate, shall we?

So I will be honest here. The plate looks fantastic, theoretically it is all perfect, but realistically it was a bit disappointing. I may just be growing tired of the typical mixed plate of the same toppings that you find at any cafe in Berlin, or maybe the quality of this bread was just not as high as at other places I’ve been to, but I don’t think I would rush back here for a “unique” dining experience. If I was in the neighborhood and looking for a bit to eat, I’d certainly consider stopping in again…but traveling the distance from P-Berg may not have been worth it, (especially when I have Cafe Anna Blume in my backyard!)

My Morning Fix

Vending machines have long since been a phenomenon of the modern world. I remember the tech guys at my ad agency in New York slaving away over the latest and greatest Samsung vending machine they were developing with helpful decision-making information and calorie counters, etc. And it’s no longer a surprise that you can find goodies such as ice cream,  iPods, or hot chocolate in various machines worldwide.

So I was running late and feeling hungover, err exhausted, yesterday morning on my way to brunch, so I decided to take a chance with a coffee vending machine (the sugar was already included!) at the S-Bahn station. The machine looked inviting enough, though I’m not sure if you can see how happy the woman on the machine is through the bright glare of underground lighting.

The Ultimate Coffee To Go

So I debated for a while between a double espresso and a Milch Caffee, (coffee with milk – but it sounds better in German.) And finally decided that espresso might make me nauseous, but that milk is always a good idea when your stomach is uneasy…ummmm. So I went to make my choice, and on closer inspection discovered this:

Klare Fleischsuppe???

For those of you unfamiliar with the German language, that last option is offering Clear Beef Broth. On a coffee machine. Um, what???

So I obviously went for the broth instead of coffee. Kidding, kidding. I stuck with my coffee, but am still confused.