Sandy is not so dandy for exercise

Sandy is forcing many to work from home today — if at all, depending on the power situation in your neighborhood.

I was asked earlier today by a distant colleague how things were going on Cape Cod. I replied that I would certainly not be riding my bike today. Mullet Marathon New England confirms that assessment:

Guess today will be an indoor training day. Thanks, Bobby, for the official word.

(The dog that chases Bobby near the end looks like one that lives right up the street from Commuterdaddy Central. Bad dog! It’s not very neighborly to attack a local reporter providing a public service.)

The bike is back in the commute


Putnam County Trailway
Originally uploaded by spolay

During my regular trip to New York this week, I resumed stowing the bike in the trunk. The training is officially on for at least one century ride this summer. I have my eyes on a second century, depending on how the kids’ summer calendar shakes out.

Temperatures were in the 70s in the Hudson Valley this week, and daylight lingered past 8 p.m. The weather was a far cry from what has been simultaneously experienced on Cape Cod. I actually got to sample a little bit of this thing called spring I keep hearing about. I think it was the first time this year in the Northeast that I was not wearing leggings or a jacket on my rides.

What made me happiest though, was that my two rides while on the road this week were on the first and last days of the trip. I usually don’t ride on my travel days, instead reserving the cycling for the full day that I spend in town. However, rides after work on Monday and yesterday were refreshing, and felt a little like I was stealing time back from my schedule.

The ride yesterday was a double bonus. I tried out a new path — or at least new to me: The Putnam County Trailway. The trail head was an hour into my commute back to the Cape from New York, and just slight detour from my regular driving route. It was a nice way to break up the drive home.

It also was gloriously green throughout, and the section of trail in Brewster, NY, was pristine. The only reason I turned around 10 miles into the ride was I was running out of time to make it back to my car in daylight.

The ride out from the trailhead was mostly uphill, which meant the ride back was a fantastic flying finish. I only had to slow down for a few intersections and blind corners.

We are not moving away from Cape Cod anytime soon, but an instant love affair with Brewster and Carmel, NY, was kindled yesterday. The Putnam County Trailway is sure to be a regular stop on my commute from now on.

It’s a sprint, not a marathon

Halfway into my cycling hills workout — such as a hills workout can be on Cape Cod — I look down at my Cateye. My average speed: 13.2 mph. I quickly look over my shoulder, to see if George Mutai or any other elite marathoners is gaining on me.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize how fast elite marathoners run. Mutai finished the Boston Marathon earlier this month in 2:03:02.That’s an average speed of 12.78 miles per hour. I bow to that greatness. I am not worthy.

Truthfully, any runner has my respect. I’ve tried adding runs to my workouts any number of times over the years. I’ve never accomplished much more than a mile. Blame it in part on my asthma, though I am sure I could overcome that. I’ve just never felt the running magic.

In my youth, I preferred more competitive sports. Baseball was my original love. Tennis too. Later came weekly pickup football games, until my knee zigged while the rest of me zagged during a muddy contest in my early 30s. Goodbye, ACL. Hello, golf.

The one exception to my love of competition has been cycling. I much prefer it now as my primary mode of exercise. I have always loved long-distance rides, and recently spent a few days as a bike commuter while in Austin for SXSW. I rented a bike instead of a car on that trip, and loved the experience.

My regular 1-hour rides constitute a long moment of solitude, reflection, and peace — save for the podcasts filling my ear when I ride solo. My most regular route along the Cape Cod Canal offers a chance for bird watching, catching headwinds sea breezes, and racing boats. Thankfully, the boats are supposed to maintain a 10 mph speed limit while in the canal, so I frequently am triumphant. I am not ashamed at being spotted the speed. Now that I have crossed into my 40s, I can use the ego boost.

I don’t often ride with others. I have shied away from committing to regular rides because of my travel schedule, but after speaking recently to a member of the Cape Cod Cycling Club, I may work more social rides into my training repertoire. I completed my first century ride last year, and while the last 25 miles were a struggle I did enjoy the overall experience. This year my goal is to complete two such rides, so any extra training will help.

The cycling club member I spoke to said she is not competitive, and usually rides with a group averaging 16 mph — a C-level rider, she somewhat bashfully admitted.

Guess I better pick up the pace a little.

Putting my weight to work

Rawlings PL105RP Player Series Youth Little League Baseball Glove RHTA new baseball glove came home last night, an acquisition to replace Mason’s tattered glove that he has had since T-ball.

Mason and Mom decided they would adhere to the old adage of placing it under a mattress, to break the glove in.

“Actually, we have to put it under dad,” Mom declared. “He weighs the most.”

Finally, I get to throw my weight around, guilt-free.

Who needs a gym when you have a fitness-equipped home office?

The heavy breathing you hear on the other end of the phone during your next conference call might be for a perfectly legitimate activity. It could be the result of your colleague multitasking and sneaking in a workout while you walk through that Powerpoint.

Enter GymyGym, discovered this week via Thrillist. It bills itself as the “future of seating technology,” by correctly positioning the body during our 8- to 12-hour days and providing workout options for when the mood strikes.

The videos tell the story better than I can, especially given that I have not yet taken it for a test sit:

http://www.gymygym.com/plugins/content/jw_allvideos/includes/players/mediaplayer/player.swf

The chair in the Commuter Daddy HQ home office is starting to look worn out, thanks in large part to the many hours my butt has been parked in it over the last 18 months during a major project at work. So I’ve been eying replacements lately, including office chairs at the hotels I have stayed at recently (the chairs at the Hilton Back Bay are among the favorites). You know when you are in the market for a new car and you start paying more attention to the vehicles of fellow road warriors for ideas? Yes, it’s just like that when you are in the market for a new desk chair, too.

The GymyGym just might do the trick. I just joined Planet Fitness so I can be more active when I am on the road and the weather and/or the shorter winter days are not conducive to my riding preference. This chair would help me be more active when working from home.

The bungee cords might be overkill, though. Paige Waehner from About.com recommends a regular chair and a water bottle for most desk-bound exercise. Another About.com writer, Wendy Bumgardner, suggests using an exercise ball as the office chair. Livestrong.com also recommends some abdominal exercises that can be done somewhat discreetly at the desk, regardless of seating

Another option is the FitDesk, an exercise bike on which you can mount a laptop of tablet device. It comes in at less than half the price of the GymyGym. I like the FitDesk Professional option, which is essentially a bench-like contraption for a road bike’s handlebars, though a cycling trainer would be needed too. Don’t feel like working while working out? The FitDesk video shows it can easily serve as a video gaming seat too.

I could also build something myself in the meantime. I recently worked with a friend to build some PVC soccer goals for our backyards. Maybe I can build a FitDesk Pro knockoff for myself, though adding in shock absorbers for the shaking laptop might be beyond my handyman experience.

Clearly I have some more research to do.

Conversations with Benjamin: Big bummer

Benjamin was deeply ensconced in a drawing project this morning, and was sharing a seat with Commuter Mommy. She was trying to work, so I tried to convince him to occupy one of the empty chairs, so as not to crowd his working mom’s lair.

Brandy was happy to share, though, and corrected my suggestion.

Benjamin shows off his little bum.

“He’s fine,” she said. “He can stay. He has a little bum.”

“And you have a…,” Benjamin started.

“Easy, Ben,” I warned, anticipating that he might be headed in the wrong direction. “Mom has a nice bum.”

He was unfazed. “Mom has a big bum,” he said, finishing what I feared had been his thought.

I held my breath. Brandy feigned shock and indignity. Benjamin giggled.

“And Dad has a large bum!” he added, with emphasis placed on the word large.

If this were a Batman comic, you’d have seen “Double zing!” in a bright yellow burst with a red border in the subsequent panel.

I’ll be putting in some extra miles on the bike this weekend.

Size matters

As I was patrolling the outfield during Mason’s first Little League game of the season last night, I was doing my best to keep the players engaged with the game, passing on position instructions, game situation reminders, and in one case conversing with an outfielder regarding the merits of the Wii Sports baseball game.

(At this Little League level — a team comprised of 8 and 9 year olds — coaches are encouraged to be on the field during play to help teach the players. It feels a little weird at first, but you learn to strike a balance between staying out of the way and trying to be helpful.)

During the third inning, I walked by the center fielder, encouraging him to stay ready: “You never know when the ball will be coming to you, or when you’ll have to back up the infielders.”

He nodded, and I moved on toward the left fielder. I was a few paces away when the center fielder suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, Coach, you’re huge!”

I spun on my heel, smiling, but wondering if the tyke was commenting on my girth or my height. “Huh?” I muttered.

“Look at your shadow! It’s all the way across the field!”

Sure enough, my shadow was stretching over to the left fielder, well in advance of my arrival there.

Nice save, kid. My children could learn a thing or two from you.

Cycling my way to good business travel habits

I’ve recently been packing my bike in the trunk, along with my omnipresent golf clubs, so that I can sneak in a ride during travel to the corporate office in New York. Turns out I am part of a business-traveler cycling trend, according to the New York Times.

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said health, being green and, more recently, economics were among the reasons more people are cycling to work. Many riders are continuing the habit on business trips. “They don’t want to miss a day in the saddle if they can help it,” he said.

(Of course, reading that, I now feel guilty. I’m taking the week off from riding until I can get a stitch removed from my leg. No worries. Nothing major. Just applying an abundance of caution.)

Why bother with packing the bike? Well, the fact that the Heritage Trail is minutes from my hotel makes an outdoor ride infinitely more preferable to the statioanry bike in the exercise room. And the quote above is absolutely true. I love keeping up with my every-other-day ride schedule. Hitting the road two weeks each month can challenge that exercise pattern. Bringing the bike eliminates travel as an anti-fitness excuse.

The mere presence of the bike on the business trip also provides motivation. Bring the bike 300 miles, only to leave it in the trunk? No way. I don’t dare sleep in when the bike is with me.

I used to excuse my poor diet and infrequent excerise on business travel. “I am always healthier when I am home,” I used to say. Now, I just bring my home habits with me. Voila! No more excuses.

Bellies bounce

One in a continuing series of fitness motivations: “Daddy, your belly is bouncy!” Mason said this afternoon, as he was playfully using me as a punching bag.

Next stop, the bicycle. I was going to pass on a ride today. I have parked a tissue box under my nose , thanks to allergies, and I have some projects that need attention.

Clearly, though, the boys have other ideas. It’s as if my fitness life has morphed into a Cheerios commercial….