I Love Hotel Fitness Centers

Hotel Fitness Center's Rule

There’s just something about hotel fitness centers that make me happy. Figuring out if there is one and where it’s located is usually one of the first things I do after checking in and getting into my room. I find the information book with all of the stuff in it and somewhere between the room service menu and the emergency escape map are the details on where I can get my workout in.

Part of the fun of finding and using a hotel gym is seeing what all is does (or doesn’t) offer. Depending on where you’re staying this can be vary a lot and just because you’re spending a lot for your room doesn’t mean you’re going to have the top of the line equipment to work with. I’ve been to a lot of different hotels and have seen it all — anything from one broken treadmill and a pull-up bar to rooms full of top of the line machines, saunas and robes to put on after your warm waterfall post-workout shower.

What I like the most about hotel workouts is the feeling of being somewhere new and having to figure out how I’m going to get in what I need with what’s available. It’s also fun because I’m usually in there by myself most of the time. This means I can crank up the ESPN on the TV and do my thing without anyone bothering me. It’s like having my own personal gym for the hour or so I’m in there and for some weird reason I really like it. With only a few exceptions the equipment’s always new, the water’s always cold and there are always plenty of clean towels to go around.

If you never use the hotel fitness centers when you travel, I highly suggest you try one out next time. It keeps you in your workout groove and gets you up and ready to take on the day no matter where you are. I’ve had trips to Vegas where working out was the only thing that kept me awake and moving. Nothing keeps me going like sweating out the night before on a nearly-new hotel treadmill. It’s not fun at the time but I always thank myself for it later.

In other words, Hotel fitness centers are the bomb so be sure to take full advantage of them the next time you’re staying somewhere out of town. I always do and you should, too.

photo credit: boulderlodging.com

 

The 15 Minute Gap

15 Minutes

I’ve got a 15 minute gap problem and I’m not sure what to do about it. The 15 minute gap is the time between when I should start doing something and when I actually start doing it. It’s usually created by getting distracted by something, sleeping in for another few minutes or some other non-productive procrastination.

Instead of moving when I need to I wait until the last minute, which results in all kinda of stuff I don’t want. Things like having to run to the train, being late to meetings and unneeded anxiety. I do this to myself and I do it way too often.

You wouldn’t think that 15 minutes would mean a whole lot in the scheme of things but it does. There’s a big difference between being on time or being 15 minutes late. There’s an even bigger difference between being 5 minutes late (which is usually acceptable) and being 20 minutes late (which is just plain embarrassing). The 15 minute gap bites me every time but it’s still hard to overcome.

I guess it all comes down to willpower and the ability to trade a little bit of temporary discomfort for longer term gain. It’s easy to say that now but for some reason in the moment it’s a lot harder to actually do it. I guess I’m glad that I recognize that I’m doing it and soon the 15 minute gap will be hopefully be something I never have to deal with again.

 

Thoughts On Learning To Snowboard For The First Time

IMG_20130224_113209

This past weekend I was in Tahoe for an isocket offsite and after spending two days inside working me and the rest of the team were excited to go hit the slopes at Squaw Valley. Seeing as it was the first time I had ever been to Tahoe I was really looking forward to trying out snowboarding, even though I had been told it was really hard to learn.

Snowboarding vs. Skiing

While renting my gear it was decision time — am I going to go skiing or snowboarding? I hadn’t done either up to this point so I could have gone either way.

“If this is your first time on the mountain you should definitely go skiing.”, said every single person I talked to. They all told me that snowboarding for the first time is hard an painful. If I was to ski I would pick it up much faster and would be able to get more time on my feet and not my butt.

I had already made the decision of what I wanted to do way before getting to Tahoe. I was going to learn to snowboard. I could tell the decision even surprised the younger guy in the hoodie who was helping me pick the right gear to rent. He was a long-time snowboarder and me going the snowboarding route seemed to put a smile on his face. As he was getting my board ready I asked him every possible question I could in an attempt to better understand what it took to ride a small piece of fiberglass down a really big mountain.

Everything Is New

When I made it to Squaw it was like landing on another planet. Huge mountains with people sliding down them, big machines that were taking them to the top and an overall style and culture that I had never experienced before. A few things I noticed were awesome looking snow pants, lots of dreads and a parking lot full of Subaru Outbacks. “Welcome to Tahoe.”, I thought to myself while walking around the ski resort.

At the bottom of the slopes we followed the rest of the herd into the tram station that was being fed by a handful of turnstiles. All of us made our way into one of the cable cars and before you know it we were practically on top of the mountain. I had my snowboard in hand like I knew what was going on but I had no clue where we were or what I should do next. Everything was new and I was figuring it all out on the fly and thanks to the rest of the guys who were with me.

Stand Up, Fall Down

I like to fall.
Me, on my butt after falling again. 

Then it was time to get down to business. I was all good with the whole “just look like I know what I’m doing” for a while but things got real once it was time to strap my boots to the board. I wasn’t even sure how to do it but even then I figured I would be able to snowboard with no problem once I was ready to go. My friend Dom showed me how it was done and before you know it there was nothing standing between me and my first run down one of the easiest trails at Squaw. I think it was called Golden Flower or something like that.

I remember my first fall being on the softer side as I was still in the area where everyone locks in their boots before carving down the mountain. I had no speed and I had barely even stood all the way up before falling all the way down.

Over the next couple hours I fell down more times that I can remember. In fact, I don’t want to remember them at all because they really started to hurt. A lot. Dom being the awesome friend he is stuck with me through these first two hours and helped me as much as anyone could. But I just kept falling and getting up. Falling and getting up. It was tiring, it was embarrassing and I was only a few shoulder, wrist and butt plants away from giving it up completely. Dom was nothing but encouraging but every man has his limits.

In those couple of hours we only used the lifts twice. It was exhausting and painful for me and had to be just as bad for poor Dom.

The Breakthrough

I was just happy to be there.
It felt good to finally figure it out. 

Just before lunch there was a magical moment that happened. Something Dom said finally stuck and from that point on I felt like I had control of the board and started going faster and faster without falling down. I still caught an edge here and there or lost balance while trying to get started but I was able to snowboard down the entire path that once took me an hour in less than ten minutes. I guess you could say it was my Neo/Matrix moment and it felt incredible.

For the next few hours after lunch I was on my own and things only got easier. I even got to the point to where I could snowboard straight into the entrance of the lift and didn’t have to unclip my bindings to make it in there. It’s the little things.

It Was Worth The Pain

I rode the lift many more times after that and had an amazing time. I was finally able to snowboard on my own and even though it took me falling down more times than I would have liked it was totally worth it.

Getting to the point to where I could feel the speed of the mountain was awesome and I can’t wait to do it again. From here on out it’s only going to get easier and if you’re thinking about giving snowboarding a try I say go for it. I have some ideas on how to make it even easier (and less painful) to learn for first timers but I’ll save those for another day.

Photo credit: My fantastic instructor, Dom

 

First Time To Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
My view from Tahoe. Amazing.

I’ve been living in Northern California for over five years and for some crazy reason I’ve never been to Tahoe. This weekend, me and the rest of the isocket customer team have rented a house right next to the lake and it’s amazing.

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this trip but I’m giving snowboarding a shot on Sunday so that should be pretty interesting. My friend Bobby gave me some tips on how no to crash and burn too much and I’m hoping he knows what he’s talking about.

“It’s all about balance.”, he told told me. Sounds easy enough and I’ll be sure to give you an update on how it goes.

Have an awesome weekend everyone and I’ll be in touch soon.

photo credit: Brady Crandall

I Never Heal Fast Enough


I did this to myself over 9 months ago. My poor, poor pinkie toe. 

It’s surprising how long it takes to come back from an injury. In June of last year (which is almost 9 months ago) I was training for a marathon and ramping up the distance of my runs to the point to where I was running for 18+ miles without any problems. Those long runs were tiring but I guess that’s expected when running for 2.5 hours straight.

So Much For Running A Marathon

Just a few days after going for one of those long runs I broke my pinkie toe in probably the most ridiculous way possible. This not only killed any hopes of running my first marathon but it also stopped me from moving any faster than a really slow walk (limp) for the next month or so.

I can remember how long it used to take me to limp over to the train station from my apartment ever morning. When I’m healthy I can give myself 8-10 minutes to walk there but after breaking my toe it took me over 25 minutes and every step hurt more than the last. I looked pitiful and there was nothing I could do about it.

No More Running For A While

I went from running 117 miles in May and over 80 miles in only half of June to not running over a mile again until the middle of July. In July I only ran a total of 17 miles and it took me many months after that to find the consistency I had before breaking my toe.

The end of running as we know it.
So that happened. 

It was hard during those months of getting back into the swing of things. Getting to the point to where I was waking up early to run again was tough but even after failing over and over I kept trying and eventually it stuck.

I’m Running A Half Marathon In Two Weeks

I didn’t really start getting into my groove again until last month (January 2013) and now that it’s February I’m feeling great about where I’m at and I’ll be running my first half marathon in about two weeks. It’s a trail run in Woodside, CA which means I’m going to be running up and down hills in the mud while looking at some amazing scenery. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Me and a friend usually take on the same trails for our Saturday morning runs so I know what I’m in for and I’m pretty excited to see how it goes. I haven’t run this far in a long time but I feel like I’m ready for it.

It Takes Time To Get To Where You Want To Be

I guess the one thing I would say about this whole experience of getting hurt, healing and finally being back to where I want to be is that it never happens as fast as I’d like. Going through something like this took patience and more time than I wanted to give — it’s been nearly 9 months since I broke my toe. Si yeah, I would have loved to bounce back faster that I did but going through the struggles, slowing down and dealing with the reality of the situation has made me a stronger person along the way and I’m thankful for that.

It’s not always easy to understand this while I’m going through it but having this type of perspective once it’s over only prepares me for more struggles that are bound to happen sooner or later in life.

 

Mo Needs A Job

It’s been an amazing past few months for Mo. He’s officially off parole, he’s finally getting some money from the state and his cooking has never been better. He’s in a great mood and his trademark bad temper is rarely seen these days.

Mo Is A Changed Man

At the ripe old age of 56 he’s taking his life a day at a time and it’s an amazing thing to watch and be part of. Sometimes I look at Mo and wonder where the angry, beaten down and desperate guy I first met at the Caltrain station is at these days. I never see the old Mo anymore and I can’t say I miss him.

Mo has been changed from the inside out and although I’ve played a big part in it there’s no doubt in my mind that God has been using me to transform Mo into a completely different person. Through the process I’ve been changed and molded into a different person, too. Our relationship is far from one-sided and as much as I’ve helped him he’s returned it to me and then some.

Mo Has Free Time

Mo is now free to do whatever he wants and there’s no restrictions on his time. This is obviously a good thing and Mo loves having the ability to do whatever he wants when he wants. It’s something many people don’t think much about but having that freedom is important to Mo and allows him to move on with his life.

So what this means is that Mo has plenty of free time but unfortunately he doesn’t have much to do with it.

Mo Needs A Job

The next thing that Mo needs is a J-O-B (see video above for Friday reference). Now that he has all of this free time he needs to find something productive to do with it. Like I said, he’s getting some money from the state each month and he also has a couple of other paying jobs that he does once or twice a week but they’re not always consistent.

Mo either needs a steady job or something else that’s a good use of his time, like volunteering somewhere in the city. The main thing for Mo right now is to stay busy and to start being more of a productive citizen in society so he can add value to the community and also give a sense of value to himself.

He also needs to get involved with something as a way to get out of the environment he’s in day-to-day when he doesn’t have something to do. There’s no doubt that we’re all influenced by the people we’re surrounded by and hanging out with drug dealers, prostitutes an addicts isn’t going to help Mo get to where he needs to be. I think he could potentially volunteer to help these types of people but he doesn’t need to be all mixed up with them all the time.

Mo’s a great worker and he’s ready to get started with something but he’s going to need some help finding it. He’s got a rough past but a bright future so wherever he ends up is going to have to take a little bit of risk bringing him onboard. I don’t think it will be a completely smooth transition for him but like with everything else, he’ll figure it out and will no doubt end up doing a good job for whoever he’s working for.

Any Ideas?

I’m throwing this out to all of you today as a way to help me understand all of my options for Mo right now. I want the best for him but I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I know exactly what he should be doing at this point.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on what Mo could get involved with in San Francisco, please let me know. He could do some manual labor, cleaning or the probably ideal thing would be cooking. He’s an incredible cook and he really enjoys it.

Thanks for your help and Mo appreciates it, too.

 

Breaking Down The Harlem Shake Internet Meme

The Harlem Shake

There have been a lot of amazing Internet memes over the years and I tend to love them more than most. Some that come to mind are planking, Sad Keanu, Shit People Say and the way over played but still entertaining Call Me Maybe phenomenon. These memes all start in different ways but for me the amazing thing is how fast they can spread and how many people can get involved so quickly.

A new meme that I’ve really been enjoying lately is the Harlem Shake and even though it’s getting to the point of not being cool anymore I’m still having a lot of fun watching the videos that are still being created for it. There are a few reasons why I’m still hooked on them and for me the fun part isn’t just watching them but it’s also figuring out why it became so popular to begin with.

The Harlem Shake meme in particular has a few things about it that makes it more meme-tastic than some of the other ones that have popped up in the past. Here are a few reasons why it’s blown up like it has.

Follow The Taste Maker: There was one guy who started this whole thing and then soon after there was one more that followed. That’s all it took to spark the fire that has now created tens of thousands videos and more than 75 million views.

Fresh Sound: The Harlem Shake is a fresh sound that people love to listen to. The part of the song that’s in the videos is addictive and the lion roar at the end of it is amazing.

Clear Instructions: The instructions were simple for what to do in the video. One person (preferably wearing a mask) dances while other people around them don’t pay attention. Once the song gets to the hight of the progression it quickly changes to lots of people (preferably dressed in costume) dancing like crazy.

Low Commitment: The Harlem Shake videos are around thirty seconds long and only require one simple edit. So easy that anyone can create and upload their own version without having to do a lot of work.

Anyone Can Do It: Whether it’s you and your son, you and your college team or you and your co-workers you’re all able to join in on the fun. Also, once it officially hits meme status being part of it becomes a way to promote yourself or your organization which incentivizes lots of new groups to throw their hat in the ring.

Yep, the Harlem Shake is what I would call the perfect storm for an Internet meme. But don’t take my word for it, here are a few of my favorite videos that will show you just how awesome it is.

SeaWorld

Matt and Kim

The Norwegian Army

University of Georgia Swim and Dive Team

Using A Foam Roller To Stretch Out Your IT Band

Rolling out the IT band
Feel the pain of rolling out your IT band. Aw, yeah. 

A month or so ago I was having some issues with my hip. It didn’t hurt when I was running but it felt really weird for a little while after I was done. I wasn’t really sure what was causing it but thanks to having awesome medical insurance at Kaiser I never wait too long to find out. I love having a co-pay of $20 and believe me, I take full advantage of it. If anything feels a little off I set an appointment online, drive less than 5 miles to the hospital within thirty minutes I usually have an answer.

So I made an appointment with my doctor and he gave me a referral to the Sports Med department. When I met up with the doctor I was relieved to find out that she was an active runner who also happened to be tall (we’re not exactly built to be runners).

After chatting with the doc and having her examine my flexibility (awful), running technique (not too bad) and my hip for a few minutes and she told me something that has completely changed the way I feel before, during and after running. The amazing yet simple thing she told me about was the foam roller and if you’re a runner and don’t know anything about it, listen up.

The foam roller is that longer tube-looking hard foam thing that’s usually sitting in the corner of where people stretch in a gym. I had seen one a million times but I never knew what it was used for. I also had never seen anyone else using it either so I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a clue. Now I know just how awesome the foam roller is and what we’ve all been missing out on.

A foam roller can be used on all different parts of your body but the main thing it does is use your own body weight to roll out tension and other stuff that’s built up in your muscles and tendons. The main thing that the doctor told me to work on was my IT band (iliotibial band) which is a thick and strong tendon that connects your hip to your knee that provides your leg with stability.

IT band
Meet your IT band. 

Apparently over time runners who are increasing their distances put a real beating on the IT band and sometimes it gets a little angry and becomes injured. This is not something that you want to happen as a runner. Not only can the IT band itself become sore but pushing it too far without taking care of it can also cause other injuries to your knees and yep, you guessed it — your hips. (One other thing is that sitting down all day keeps your IT band tight, too so I am basically giving mine a double-whammy).

Your IT band is nearly impossible to stretch so really the only way to work on it is to use your body weight and a foam roller to loosen it up. The first few times I used one of these foam rollers I felt really awkward and rolling it up and down my legs was pretty painful. But, like with anything else, I figured out how to best roll myself on top of it and I now welcome the temporary pain in exchange for knowing it’s keeping me healthy long-term.

I use my foam roller almost every day now — both after running and after my Muay Thai/boxing classes. It’s done wonders for keeping me running pain-free and I haven’t felt anything from my hip in weeks. If you run or if you’re active I highly recommend getting yourself a foam roller, too. It’s the best $30 bucks you’ll ever spend.

If you’re wondering now to use one of these foam rollers head over to YouTube, there are a ton of videos like this one that will help you future it out in no time.

photo credit: RunningRules.com

 

On My Phone While Brushing My Teeth

Brushing and Surfing

I brush my teeth for exactly two minutes, twice a day (thanks to my electric toothbrush that tells me when to stop). That’s only four minutes a day but for some reason I can’t just stand there and brush. Standing in my bathroom and only focusing on one thing for two minutes doesn’t sound daunting but for some reason I just can’t do it.

So what do I do? I grab my phone (that’s already playing music because I can’t shower/brush my teeth without that) and start awkwardly scrolling through Hacker News or some other site so I can fill the two minutes of white space that I can’t stand to have. Most of the time I’m scrolling and pinching with my pinkie, which is completely inefficient but it has to work. I need to be entertained for that short amount of time, I need to learn something, I need to be distracted. I can’t be the only one who does this, right?

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, I actually enjoy catching up on some news while fighting plaque and the bacteria that causes Gingivitis. But I do think it’s interesting how my mind works now that I know I have instant access to unlimited entertainment and information.

I guess this is the end of the white space in our lives as we know it. No more waiting in line and staring into space. No more awkward moments with groups of people we don’t really know. No more standing at a street corner watching the seconds tick down before you can cross. No more spending time while only brushing your teeth.

I can remember not too long ago when I needed to set aside time to find information or to be entertained. I would need to sit at a computer, in front of a TV or go to the library to check out a book (gasp!). Now I need to set time aside to do nothing and just let my mind wander without any interruption. It’s not easy and I don’t see it getting easier any time soon.

cartoon credit: Shaaark.com

 

Love vs. Happiness

Love Vs. Happiness

When I care about someone I want to love them and make them happy. These are both very important parts of any long-lasting friendship or intimate relationship but they’re not the same thing. There are some major differences between the two and understanding these differences is really important.

We all want to be happy and happiness a lot of times is the main thing people are seeking in their lives. Just take a look at all of the self-help-how-can-I-be-happy books that are out in the market and it should give you an idea of how much we all want to feel that way. Keeping someone happy is easy and it means you’re doing what you can to make sure they’re pleased or content. If you please them then they will be happy but pleasing someone isn’t loving them.

I see loving someone as being much different than keeping them happy and pleasing them. Love can mean a couple of things. Initially, love is a strong affection for someone else due to attraction or common interest. This is how most relationships (both intimate and not) start out. You feel an attraction, the more you see the more you like and you want more of it. This stage of love usually involves trying to keep the other person as happy as possible. You’ll change your plans for them, buy them dinner and do whatever you need to do in order to spend time with them. It’s a fun type of love and it feels amazing.

But eventually if you stick with it this first stage love turns into the real deal love. This real deal love is an unselfish, loyal and true concern for the good of another person and this is much more than simply being attracted to someone and keeping them happy. This is when love turns into something much more. This type of love is awesome but it’s really, really hard.

This type of love involves strong communication of things that are easy to talk about and things that are hard. This type of love involves confronting things when you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach, even if you know it will upset the other person. This type of love involves understanding your own weaknesses and being willing to work on them for the sake of your relationship. This type of love involves keeping the love alive even when it seems like there’s nothing left. This type of love involves fighting for each other when you have to. This type of love is a crazy commitment. This type of love isn’t convenient.

So for this Valentine’s day be sure to keep the person you love happy but don’t forget to love them, too.

photo credit: Byways.org