Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crossfit Isn't Bad. It's Worse!

It took 2 years to get myself in the mindset to do something about my overall health and wellness, but I think I found the right program.  Crossfit.

What is Crossfit?  Crossfit was developed as a High Intensity Training program.  The workouts are performed in a group setting with a qualified trainer and are never the same.  A typical workout lasts under an hour from warm up to cool down. 

The workout of the day, or WOD, is posted on the main Crossfit website, www.crossfit.com, and affiliated gyms (or ‘boxes’ as they like to call themselves) usually post the workout on a white board where you can see what type of pain you’re going to be in for that day.

The program is a mix of weight lifting, cardio, body weight movements, gymnastics, and stretching.  Thousands of people have fallen in love with this program and so have I.

However, these workouts are not easy.  But that’s the point.  You get results by pushing yourself.  There are alternatives to most, if not all the movements, if you aren’t quite up to speed, yet.  But, over time, you will get stronger and you will be challenged.

When I finally decided to get off my butt, I thought about what type of program that I would like to start.  I hadn’t been in a gym in over 2 years, my job consists of sitting at a computer all day, and I wasn’t sure how much I could push myself.

I thought about re-joining a gym, but that usually ends up with me paying for a membership I end up not using.  I thought about joining a martial arts class, but my immediate thought is that of Kramer from Seinfeld in a class of 11 year olds.

So, I searched online for some alternatives.  Crossfit kept coming up in my search results, so I decided to research it on the main site.  Once I realized that this seemed like a good fit for me, I did a search (also available on the main Crossfit site) for some local boxes.

The main equipment needed are a pair of shorts, a breathable t-shirt, and a good pair of shoes that can handle some short distance running and plyometric movements.  Many seasoned crossfitters recommend the Inov-8 brand due to their weight and comfort for many of the movements of Crossfit.  However, like any other sport, use what you've got until you're sure you want to stick with it for a while.  Then you should start looking for upgrading your equipment.

Within that search, the Crossfit Cleveland location displayed.  It was relatively close to my house and they have a beginner class twice a week in the evening.  For 10 bucks a session, they break down the basic movements used in a normal Crossfit regimen while still offering a great workout.  The only difference between the beginner classes and the regular workouts are that beginners don’t use free weights.  But, trust me.  Body weight exercises in this fashion will push your limits.

In only a couple of months, I have already seen some pretty tremendous results.  I am in no way ready to run a marathon or dead lift 250 pounds, but my gut has decreased, my arms are showing some definition, and I’m more alert and energetic throughout the day.

The trainers that have been teaching the classes are all very knowledgeable, friendly, and don’t hold back when it comes to getting you motivated.  This is the type of workout that might make you puke, but you’ll still come back for more.  At least it is for me, anyways.

This is something that can be done at home, at your local Crossfit box, or even out in a park.  However, the group session atmosphere and the hands on training you receive makes wanting to get up and get fit more fun.

I’ll be posting some sample workouts and other tips that I’ve come across for getting in better shape over the coming weeks.  Until then, it’s time to check out the Crossfit Cleveland blog to see what they’ve got in store for me tonight.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wet Shaving: An Introduction

How was your shave today?  Miserable?  A chore?  A necessary evil to look your best at work?

I have struggled every other morning (some times less often) to drag my sorry bones out of bed, attempt to wake up during my shower, followed by dragging a blade across my face.  I may or may not have remembered to use Barbasol or some blue gel du jour.
It’s kind of a requirement to look as presentable as I can when I go to the office, even if it’s not the most pleasant start to the day.

However, that all changed about six years ago.
One day, as I was surfing around the Web, I stumbled across an article about Double Edge (DE) safety razors.  I did a little research and found a retail site with some quality recommendations.  Trust me, there are a lot more options online now than back when I started on my path to shaving Nirvana.

I was a bit hesitant on spending 30 plus dollars on a razor.  After all, I had grown up using the cheapest disposable razors I could find because the cost of razor blades had begun to skyrocket.  Seriously, a pack of 4 razors was creeping above 10 dollars a pack.
Luckily, Christmas was just around the corner.  A Merkur HD (Heavy Duty) Model 34C Safety Razor was at the top of my Wish List.

My trusty DE:

While waiting for Christmas to arrive, I read a few articles about this “new” old school shaving discipline in order to avoid severing an artery when it came time to try out my new toy.  I had the basics in mind by the time I opened my new DE. 
I started slow.  I was still using canned shaving cream and whatever after shave I had laying around.  As time passed, I got better at mapping my beard growth, which resulted in better shaves and smoother skin.

 I have experimented a lot over the last few years with different methods and products and I have finally found a shaving protocol that works for me.  The results of these experiments have given me a cheaper, more comfortable shave in the end.  A task that I actually look forward to every morning.  Yes, I now shave every day.  And twice on Sundays!
The main benefits of switching to wet shaving, for me, have been excitement for getting my day started and economics.  I was spending about 10 dollars a month for disposables not to mention the cost of shaving cream. 

Most, if not all, of the well respected shaving shops sell razor blades in bulk amounts (think 200 blades for 10 bucks), so that your cost per shave, blade-wise, sits around 3 cents.  You can find a huge array of soaps or creams ranging in price from 5 to 25 dollars.  The difference between these soaps and creams and the store bought aerosols is that they can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
Wet Shaving Basics

-          Safety Razor
-          Quality Blade
-          Quality Soap/Cream
-          Brush & Bowl (optional)
-          Pre-shave cream (optional)
-          Astringent for nicks/cuts (Witch Hazel)
-          After Shave (preference)

Shaving Steps
-          Open up your pores with a hot shower
-          Apply Pre Shave cream to soften the beard
-          Lather up a small bit of soap or cream with your brush
            o   Lather the cream in your hand if you don’t have a brush
-          Apply soap/cream to your face using swirling brush strokes
-          The first pass of the razor will be With The Grain (typically a downward motion) of your beard
-          Re-lather your face
-          The second pass is Across the Grain (sideways) of your beard
-          Re-lather your face
-          The third pass is Against the Grain (typically an upward motion) of your beard
-          Rinse your face with warm water
-          Apply a splash of Witch Hazel to soothe any razor burn or nicks
-          Rinse your face with cold water
-          Dab your face dry with a clean towel
-          Apply an aftershave balm, lotion, or splash

You don’t have to go crazy with the products and the steps.  It took me a few years to find the way that works for me.  All you need to get started is a razor that feels comfortable, a sampler pack of blades to try different makes, and a nice smelling soap or cream.  Maybe even throw in some Pinaud Clubman aftershave for that old school barber smell.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sunday Chicken

Life seems a lot busier these days.  It’s a constant struggle to maintain the proper work/life balance.   Between work, maintaining a household, fitting in some time at the local Crossfit Box, and spending time trying to get my kindergartener to focus on books or flashcards, there isn’t a whole lot of time to sit down to a nice meal.

During the week, we try to prep for it as best we can.  This changes daily depending on work schedules or other obligations.  The basic rule is the first person in the door handles getting dinner together.  Eat when you can. 

Enter the Sunday meal.  I started doing this about a year ago.  For the most part, we reserve our Sundays to enjoy the day as a family.  Parks, playgrounds, walks, relaxing, and enjoying a homemade dinner.  At home.  Together.

One of my favorite recipes is a take on one of Thomas Keller’s chicken dishes.  Roast chicken and root vegetables.   The prep requires a little bit of work, but it’s something even a beginner can handle.  I am by no means a seasoned chef and I have yet to mess this dish up.

You can even prepare the entire dish the night before or early Sunday morning, so you don’t feel like you’re exerting too much effort.  This is supposed to be a fun experience, meant to bring you and your family together.    If you have kids, have them help with some of the prep work.  It never hurts to interact with your kids…just make sure you take the proper precautions with knives and ovens.   Remember to take the proper precautions when handling raw chicken.

We may not have a lot of time to spend with each other through the week, but by making a concerted effort to have dinner together on Sunday, I feel my family and I have grown closer.  Especially since the obligations and responsibilities in our lives probably won’t ever truly go away.

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
-          1 fryer chicken (about 4 – 4 1/2 lbs)
-          8 golf ball sized red skin potatoes
-          3 tennis ball sized rutabagas
-          5 - 6 carrots
-          2 – 3 beets
-          2  turnips
-          2 parsnips
-          1 golf ball sized onion (white or yellow)
-          5 – 6 cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed)
-          1/3rd cup of Canola or Olive Oil (separated in half)
-          6 sprigs of fresh thyme
-          4 tbs of softened butter
-          Kosher Salt
-          Black Pepper
-          Deep roasting pan or 12” cast iron skillet

1.       Preheat the oven at 475° F.

2.       Rinse the chicken with water. Pat dry with paper towels inside and out and set aside on a prep board or plate

3.       Clean and rinse the vegetables
  • half the potatoes
  • Cut the ends off the rutabagas and chop into 1” chunks
  • Cut the ends off the beets and chop into 1” chunks
  • Peel and chop the turnips into 1”chunks
  • Chop the carrots into 1” – 2” chunks
  • Chop the parsnips into 1” – 2” chunks
  • Remove the stems from the Thyme sprigs and chop fine (separate in half)

4.       Put the vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 tbs Salt, half of the thyme, and some cracked black pepper.

5.       Toss the vegetables by hand with half of the oil.

6.       Mix the remaining oil, thyme and garlic together in a small bowl.

7.       Now for the chicken!

a.       Spread the oil/garlic/thyme mixture on the chicken inside and out (get under the skin if you can)

b.      Insert the onion in the cavity

c.       Sprinkle the bird with kosher salt; I like to rain the salt down from a few inches above the bird – a tip from Thomas Keller himself.

d.      Sprinkle a bit of black pepper, to taste.

e.      Top with pats of butter.

8.       Set the chicken in the middle of the roasting pan, breast side up. (I prefer not to use a rack, it seems I get a better crust on the chicken this way)

9.       Arrange the vegetables around the chicken in the pan.

10.   Put the pan in the oven and roast at 475° F for 25 minutes

11.   Turn the oven down to 400° F and roast an additional 45 minutes

12.   Remove the chicken when the juices run clear or the internal temperature reaches 160° F

13.   Place the chicken on a cutting board and cover with foil for 20 minutes.

14.   Try to keep the family from picking and grazing at the veggies while the chicken cools

15.   Carve the chicken and serve family-style on a platter with the vegetables.

16.   Sit down at the table and talk about the week ahead with your family.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back from the Dead

It's been 2 years.  Blogging seemed to go the way of the Dinosaur.  Twitter, Facebook, apps!  Apps that allow you to publish 20 words about how I'm so happy that I had a blow out on the freeway.

No need to design, tweak, write, think, publish, maintain.  Just spew out some nonsense and hit "Post".

But, I'm back.  I need an outlet for my stress, my anxieties, my concerns.  What will I write about?  I have no idea.  Where will it take me?  Who knows.

I just know that I've resurrected this blog in order to get my mind thinking again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, my quiet, keep it to myself, goal for the new year has begun. I had told myself that I need to get my creative thoughts moving again after having set them aside for a long slumber. At the end of the day, writing technical documents tends to wipe out your mind and a mind-numbing activity, whether it's having a drink, watching TV, or playing with the kid, is usually the best remedy for a nice relaxing evening.

I used to write. A lot. Creative stuff, at that. I was a Literature major, so I was constantly reading, researching, and writing papers, essays, poems, and general rants. As I moved into the business world, those extended writings turned into lists because that's what the working world does to your thought process. Then even the short lists I would write would get tossed aside and forgotten about. I now have been reduced to writing down what we need from the grocery store and that's about it.

So, I told myself that I would dedicate this year to getting my mind moving again. The easiest way to do this would be to compile a list of 10 books I've been meaning to read (or ones that looked interesting, at least) and actually read them. Well, so far, I've finished 2 and I'm about halfway through a third. I've also got 2 others that I've already gotten about 20 pages into (this is a bad habit I picked up in school - I'm usually in the middle of 4 or 5 books at once).

However, the ultimate benefit to all this is that I've already got the 1st page of a short story started. Nothing great. Just thoughts and some lines that I thought of this morning while I was dragging a razor across my face trying to get ready for the day.

But, that's the thing. It's been a long time since I've sat there doing some monotonous task and had story ideas or artistic thoughts run through my mind. So, my ultimate goal was to get my thought process moving and it has. I gave up a long time ago the notion that I would be an author. The words may only get stuffed away in a journal somewhere, but for now, it's the type of therapy I need. I need to be able to sit there and say "I created that out of thin air".

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have always loved compiling lists. I don't necessarily follow them, but I love getting things down on paper and organizing my thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise manner. So, in 2010, I've decided to start making my 10 things in 2010 list(s).

10 things to accomplish in 2010, or my 10 in 10 lists:

- Read at least 10 books
- Find at least 10 non-standard books to read to my son (none of that Max and Ruby shit)
- Put a stamp of approval on 10 signature dishes
- lose (at least) 10 pounds
- Come up with activities to do as a family
- and that's about where I'm at right now.....

I've really fallen off the grid with my reading habits. In school, it was common to have to read at least 4 books a week. Taking a full time job, maintaining a house, and keeping up with an active 3 year old into consideration, I've fallen into the trap of T.V., magazines, and the internet.

My mind is starting to feel like mush and I feel I don't have a creative outlet anymore. By the time I get home from staring at test scripts and spreadsheets and Web pages all day, I've barely got enough energy to get dinner ready and play "action figures" with my son. So, the comfort of the couch and the heroin-like appeal of mass entertainment suits my interests quite well. I just have to focus on keeping my eyes open in order to absorb all that is thrown at me.

Enough is enough for me. I like television and movies and entertainment, in general. But, it's doing harm to me and my family. My son is catatonic when a favorite show comes on and don't get me started about Idol and all the shit-stains it produces. My wife is in another world when this show is on (which should be 4 out of 5 nights now that it's just started back up).

I want to get back to being forced to think. I want to read books to my son that don't quite end with "Happily Ever After." I want to sit around the dinner table and talk about what went on in the world, in the city, in our lives. (We currently do this, but it feels so disjointed because the TV or other entertainment item is always on or in focus and we don't usually eat at the table.)

What I get are snippets of my family's life. Just bits and pieces. I've already started getting out of the trap. But, only by a little bit. When I feel that my son has watched too much TV, or I have to stand in front of him to break his attention, so he'll answer me, I turn the set off (to many protests) and get a game off the shelf and sit on the floor with him and play.

I'm not perfect in any of this, by any means. I just want to be able to open a book, go for a run, get my family outdoors, talk about the day with as little effort as it takes to turn on cable and settle into a nice cozy couch.

I'll have to come back and revisit this post in a few days and clean it up. I don't want to come off as negative. I just know that the trappings of comfort and entertainment are very very easy to get used to and I want to lead a richer, fuller life. Hopefully, my family will follow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What I like about Christmas...

In 50 words or Less

- New Snow
- Twinkling Lights in a darkened room
- Seasonal Winter Ales
- Fireplaces
- New food recipes
- Avoiding Crowds
- Cleaning up the house for Santa's visit
- Cinnamon
- Sweaters

Eh, who am I kidding? I like the week leading up to Christmas. Morning traffic is a bit thinned out and so is the office. The workload even lightens up a bit. There are new recipes that bloggers all over the place start sharing. The best recipes can be found over at http://www.suburbanbliss.net/ where Melissa's husband, Logan, has been posting a different drink recipe for every day leading up to Christmas. I love finding a quiet spot somewhere off in the corner at my parents' place on Christmas Eve and take solace in the fact that only 1 of the 6 maniac kids running amok has to actually come back home with me.

I have no idea what to expect in the coming year, nothing is set in stone, but I know my son will be in awe of the fact that Santa remembered to pick up the latest Wolverine toy even though Daddy said we had to leave it at the store.

There's a good chance I may soon join the unending ranks of the unemployed this winter. I try not to think about it, but it's sitting there like a 900 pound gorilla waiting to greet me each morning. I'm just hoping it doesn't treat me like a Samsonite carry-on when my current project finally wraps.

Until then, I'm going to try to sample as many of Logan's 12 days of Christmas cocktails as I can and think about the look on my son's face when Wolverine is finally staring at him face to face.

Next list to come: New Year's Resolutions...I promise I will blog more often than every 6 months...