Where I decide to lift things up and put them down

In July 2012, I bought a book on a topic that I’d been curious about but had been incredibly intimidated by for a long time: The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, by Lou Schuler with workouts by Alwyn Cosgrove and nutrition information by Cassandra Forsythe. Cheesy subtitle aside, I was drawn to this book because it speaks frankly about women’s abilities in the weight room. Schuler understands that women can work out just as hard as men and, with the help of his co-authors, provides a six-month training program for women to follow.

For three years, though, this book sat unread on my shelves. Then, two weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to make some changes and fitness was one aspect of my life that always felt out of control. Sure, I biked to work on a regular basis and bragged about how I didn’t need to pay for a gym membership. I was still weak and flabby, though, and I was keenly aware of that. Then, in September, I moved in with my parents and lost my bike commute, putting an end to the only form of regular exercise I had. I began to spend at least two hours a day on a bus—in addition to the 8 hours I sit at my desk—four to five days a week. I also have a weekend gig where I assist at a library reference desk so that’s another 8 hours of sitting and 1-2 hours driving to & from work every week. That left me with one free day a week that I usually spent curled up with a book or Netflix, being too tired to do anything else.

Finally, enough was enough. I couldn’t continue living this sedentary lifestyle anymore so I joined a big box gym. Luckily, my sister is already comfortable in the weight room (with the help of personal trainers and time spent in a boxing gym) so she helped me work out that first day. (We had limited time so we only did squats and calf raises.) Then, later in the week, I took advantage of a LivingSocial coupon offered by a local yoga studio and took my first ever yoga class. I went to a basic yoga session with my sister (who had been to yoga classes at her gym before) and a couple of things happened:

  1. I managed to keep up with the class, surprising myself, my sister, and the instructor (and gaining the respect of my classmates).
  2. I found my sister’s strength and flexibility awe-inspiring, instilling in me a more profound respect for her while motivating me to be more like her.
  3. I cried during savasana (corpse pose), releasing some emotional baggage I’d been carrying around with me since July.

The experience was invigorating and solidified my plans to work out on a regular basis. This is when I pulled out my copy of NROLFW, downloaded & printed the workout logs, pulled out some old workout apparel (that needs to be updated, stat!), and hit the gym one more time with my sister to learn how to properly execute the ten exercises I’ll be doing during the first stage of the NROLFW plan (which lasts 6 weeks out of the plan’s total 6-month regime). I then added each workout to my calendar, ensuring that I would be held accountable for my actions and have no excuse for slacking off.

Everyone, even my sister, thinks I’m insane, though: I’ve scheduled my workouts for 4 in the morning, three times a week. This is so I can catch the same bus to work and be in the office at my regular 7:30 AM start time. (This is so I avoid traffic on my bus commute, something I’d never had to worry about before.) I’m usually home by 5 PM, which gives me plenty of time to make & eat dinner, pack lunch, watch TV or read a magazine/book, spend some time with my cats, and prepare for the next day before heading to bed. On the two “rest” weekdays each week, I plan on taking a spin class at the gym as well as continuing a weekly yoga session at the studio. My energy levels skyrocket after physical activity so I expect to be tired but, really, I’ll be invigorated-tired, not lazy-tired.

This has been my first week following this schedule and I’m loving it so far! I’ve always been one of those people who feels better in the mornings (and succumbs easily to sleep in the evenings) so this is sort of my ideal schedule. The gym is super quiet at 4 AM, allowing me to focus solely on myself and feel less self-conscious of my weak muscles. I already feel stronger, which is a great motivator to keep going.

Onward and upward!


Yesterday, I embarked on the latest biking challenge I’ve set for myself: complete a[n imperial] century. That’s 100 miles in less than 12 hours. This came on the heels of my completing a metric century (100km), which I loved. Luckily, Transportation Alternatives hosts a yearly century ride to raise awareness of bicycling in NYC and uses the proceeds to fund its advocacy efforts. In 2009, I signed up for the 15-mile ride and barely completed that, if I remember correctly. (They no longer offer a 15-mile option.)  This year, I signed up for the full 100-mile ride. In the end, I had to modify the route I took because I simply couldn’t needlessly go over yet another bridge… but I still pedaled over 100 miles!

Map of NYC with 100-mile route highlighted

It was an amazing experience. I was surrounded by thousands of like-minded cyclists. (A group of cyclists all making the same turn around a bend is a sight to behold.) I saw so many parts of New York City that I don’t normally get to see. I climbed a ton of hills. I was cheered on by passersby. Simply, I was reminded of what a truly amazing city I live in. It’s a fantastic way to see the city and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Some of my highlights from this year’s ride:

  • Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:30 AM, before all the tourists were awake.
  • Getting lost in empty & quiet Prospect Park after I got bad intel about the Brooklyn starting line.
  • Climbing up the never-ending hills of Highland Park and Forest Park in Queens.
  • Enjoying the serene ride along the East River on bike paths in Ralph Demarco Park and Astoria Park.
  • Riding along the Harlem River Greenway (along the former site of the Harlem River Speedway!).
  • The spectacular views from the many bridges we crossed.
  • Being called a “roadie” by an enraged cyclist on the Hudson River Greenway on my way home. (I passed him and he got angry. Started spouting off about road cyclists and races: “Oh, of COURSE. Fucking roadies. Do you see a race here? Are you in a race? How’s your race going?”)

Does this look like a roadie to you!?

Allie on her bike, riding along the Hudson River on Shore Parkway, with 1WTC in the background

OK, fine, maybe I was decked out in my fanciest road riding gear. But I had to be safe and comfortable for the long ride that went over many types of terrains with the sun beating down on me! Here’s what all I had on this ride:



Other Necessities

I also brought a bunch of my own food so I wouldn’t have to stand in the long lines, including Clif bars & energy gels, Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit and Seed Bars, Pure Ancient Grains bars, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and fresh fruit (apples & bananas). I burned an estimated 2,300 calories during this ride. My calculations tell me I consumed 1,350 calories during the ride. The green smoothie I had for breakfast adds another 250 calories for a grand total of 1,600 calories that I had to burn during the ride. Needless to say, I was ravenous—on top of being exhausted—by the time I got home around 5:30. And then I was out by 9:30 PM.

Freakin’ awesome day.

Do it for your knees

Today was my first “normal” ride (commute!) with my new clipless pedals and SPD shoes. After the mechanic installed the pedals and wheeled my bike back to me last week, he gushed about clipless, telling me what a world of difference it will be, how much more efficiently I’ll be riding, the new muscles I’ll be using to pedal. Yeah, yeah, I thought, I’ve heard it all before.

Boy, was he right!

I first noticed a difference when I was descending into the Staten Island Ferry parking area. At the bottom of the modest hill, there was a slight incline to get to the bike loading area. I pushed only slightly: my riding was much more fluid than previously so I didn’t have to put in as much effort. My body and my bike were a single unit, working together to move through space.

Then, on the other side of the ferry, I also felt like I was exerting less effort but moving faster. I only had to unclip once at a red light at the beginning of my ride. After that, it was smooth sailing. I compared this ride to a pre-clipless ride two weeks ago:

Monday, July 22, 2014
Monday, July 22, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014

I went a little bit faster (up to 13.8 from 12.6 MPH) and shaved 3 minutes off my commute time! And this was me taking it easy (and trying not to mow down other commuters and pedestrians, despite their sometimes suicidal tendencies). I’m excited to see what kind of improvement I’ll see in hill-climbing!

…Having said all this, it was a little bit of an adjustment getting the hang of the pedals. It took me a while to figure out how the whole “clipping in” thing worked, though clipping out was easy enough with the multidirectional cleats I installed. I did fall during a quick lunchtime ride over the weekend, though, when I had to stop at a red light and, in a moment of panic, forgot which foot I lean on when stopped. The thing with clipless pedals? They become a part of your foot and you can’t help but feel that the pedal is “stuck” so you try to shake it off when it feels bothersome to have it under your foot. Don’t be like me, don’t try to shake off your clipless pedals. Unclip, folks, and you won’t bang up your knee.

And who knows where your adventures will take you next? My quick ride to Ft. Wadsworth had the unexpected bonus of goats (including some kids!). Alex captured this gorgeous photo of our view: