Thursday, April 17 – Sunday, April 20

More of a vacation that I had anticipated

I’m compressing two weekdays and the weekend into a single entry because they all were pretty much the same.  Originally, I had been scheduled to work at the Major Home Improvement Retailer on Friday night 8 to midnight and then for eight hours on Saturday, 3:30 to midnight.  Imagine my surprise when I got a call on Thursday informing me that my shifts had been cancelled.  Not that I should have been too surprised, as this sort of thing happens occasionally, including to me a couple of times recently.  As part of MHIR policy that had been explained to me back when I was hired, if sales during the first part of the week fall below expectations, work hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are subject to reduction. Garden sales account for a major chunk of storewide sales this time of year, and due to bad weather early in the week garden customers were staying away in droves. I can’t say I’m happy about the lost pay, but the situation’s not likely to repeat and I actually needed a few days completely off.

So, did I make productive use of my time off?  Sort of.  We had a nice Easter dinner on Sunday, having gone to Riverhead the day earlier to get pies from Briermere Farms (best pies anywhere!) Earlier on, we went to IHOP on Friday around noon, for the first time in ages, and were pleasantly impressed by the food.  I had the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity combo, and let me tell you it was NOT easy saying that with a straight face.

Oh, and I also had two decent gym sessions.  Friday was for legs, and as my left elbow was a bit sore (dunno why) I decided to skip trap bar deadlifts and squats in favor of machine work.  Yeah, I know.  I used the Hoist moveable-seat leg press machine that I’ve sometimes used in the past: 10 x 330, 10 x 350, 10 x 370, 10 x 390, 10 x 410.  Next came lying leg curls, 3 x 8 x 110. On Sunday, going in the late morning as the gym was closing at 2, I did one-arm dumbbell rows, 7 x 8 x 95/95.  Moving up to the 95′s from the 90′s was no trouble at all.  Normally I would have done four sets followed by three sets on the T-bar row, but a group of three people were taking turns using the T-bar and didn’t look as if they’d be off anytime soon, so I just did three more sets of the one-arm dumbbell rows.  Better exercise, anyway. I also did standing calf machine shrugs, 3 x 10 x 330.

Published in: on April 21, 2014 at 3:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, April 14 – Wednesday, April 16

Is this supposed to be a vacation?

Monday marked the start of my week-long “vacation” from my main job.  I use the quotation marks because if you’re not getting paid it’s not a real, quotation-mark-free vacation.  Not that I should complain too much, because (a) I knew long in advance that I’d be off this week, and (b) the Major Home Improvement Retailer is giving me plenty of hours. It won’t make up for all the lost pay, but it will help for sure.

My very long weekend of work at the MHIR left me pretty well devastated on Monday.  All morning I was dragging myself around and was in absolute dread of the upcoming 8 to midnight shift.  By early afternoon I had recovered a bit of energy, just a bit, and decided to do some back work at the gym.  One-arm dumbbell rows weren’t going to happen, nor were T-bar rows at the weights I’d been using.  After giving the matter some thought, I decided to try T-bar rows at a reduced weight, and did 5 x 8 x 100.  I know, that’s down 45 pounds from last time, but I simply didn’t have the energy to muster anything better.  On a happier note, or notes, we had an early dinner at P.F. Chang’s, excellent as usual, and my four hours at the MHIR were pretty easy.

On Tuesday, I didn’t do much of consequence for much of the day, which suited me just fine.  It’s a “vacation,” right? What I did do in the afternoon is go to hot yoga for the first time in way too long.  I’ve rarely attended a 4pm session, and to my surprise today’s was absolutely jammed.  All those bodies made the room even hotter.  It all worked out well, however, as I had no trouble making it through the entire session and my flexibility hasn’t deteriorated too much.  My balance was a different story, missing over a month has definitely been a setback as far as balance is concerned, but nothing too bad.  My MHIR shift was a bit more difficult than Monday’s, but still easier than usual.

Wednesday was when I finally got back to a reasonably serious gym session.  I started with dumbbell bench presses, this time being able to use a fixed flat bench rather than one of the more awkward adjustable ones.  My first thought was to start with the 80′s, but at the last minute I threw caution to the winds and went for the 85′s.  It went well, and I was able to do 5 x 8 x 85/85.  Only on the last rep of the last two sets did I struggle, and even then it wasn’t too bad.  Next came shrugs on the standing calf machine, which I’d forgotten to do on Monday: 4 x 10 x 290.  I finished with Hammer Strength plate-loaded rows, 3 x 8 x 340.  That wasn’t a weight increase from last time, I’ll have to add weight next time.Wednesday night’s MHIR shift, the usual 8 to midnight, was another fairly easy one, about on par with Tuesday’s.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13

I still don’t know how I managed to survive this “weekend.” It defies explanation.  Okay, Friday wasn’t too bad.  During the day I ran the usual errands, and made it to the gym.  It was a nice session, too.  It started out with dumbbell bench presses, 5 x 8 x 80/80.  This jump in weight from last time was no trouble.  What was a bit more bothersome was that I had to use an adjustable bench set at the “flat” setting rather than a flat bench, all of which were in use.  It took some time to get used to the new bench because it’s higher off the ground than the flat benches.  That wouldn’t matter with most exercises, but is more of an issue with dumbbell benches because it’s always awkward getting the weights into position.  After the benches I did Hammer Strength plate-loaded dips, 4 x 8 x 340.

Later on Friday I went into the Major Home Improvement Retailer for an 8 to midnight shift.  I was busy, but as the shift was only four hours it wasn’t bad.  The same cannot be said for Saturday and Sunday, as I worked 3:30 to midnight both days.  More to the point, the garden area was absolutely packed with customers, and even more to the point many of them were buying heavy things like large bags of fertilizer and topsoil, as well as paving and patio stones of various shapes.  While some customers will load these heavy items onto their carts themselves, more often than not the task was mine.  I did not keep a running tally of the poundage I hoisted, but it certainly would have been in the 2,000-lb. + range each day! Who needs the gym?

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, April 9 – Thursday, April 10

Before the break

I’ll be off next week from my primary job, though fortunately I’m getting 28 hours from the Major Home Improvement Retailer. It will still make for an unusual schedule, as on the weekdays I won’t be going into work until 8pm.  Which actually may be a good thing, as I’ll have ample time off during the day.  Of course it also means that I’ll have to get used to going to the gym before work.  That probably won’t be difficult, give the late start times.

Both of the days at the regular job were pretty easy.  I was done by 2:00 on Wednesday and an hour earlier on Thursday. Combined with a conveniently close worksite, neither day seemed like a “real” workday. On Thursday, I had an 8 to midnight shift at the MHIR, and all in all it wasn’t too bad.  Busy enough for the time to go by quickly but not so busy as to be hectic.

I went to the gym on Wednesday for back work. It was a pretty good session too.  I started out with shrugs on the standing calf raise machine, 4 x 10 x 270.  Then, with a bench finally having opened up, I did one-arm dumbbell rows, 4 x 8 x 90/90. I finished with T-bar rows, 4 x 8 x 145.  All of these represented increases from last time, so I’m making progress.

Published in: on April 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, April 7 – Tuesday, April 8

Why is it so hard to find parts?

I’d have to say that both of these days were quite hard and high-pressure at my regular job. Not that I’m trying to over dramatize or anything, I wouldn’t say that they were horrible, but they definitely were tougher than usual. What’s a bit odd is that there was no single reason for this state of affairs.  It wasn’t as if one factor accounted for everything.  It was more like a number of small factors combined, though that’s probably not all that uncommon a state of affairs.

I wasn’t working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer on Monday, which isn’t to say that it was an easy evening.  Over two hours were devoted to an ultimately fruitless wild goose chase trying to locate a tool essential for working on a family member’s car.  It’s funny.  With Amazon and other sellers offering quick, ofter overnight, delivery of just about anything, car parts and tools can be difficult to acquire.  What, are they not “just about everything?”

Tuesday I did the 8 to midnight shift at the MHIR.  It was literally a very dirty time, as I spent much of the shift gathering and trying to tape up ripped bags of topsoil.  My poor apron was filthy by the time I left, not that it was too clean to begin with.

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 4:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, April 4 – Sunday, April 6

Friday was a welcome day off, something that’s not particularly common given my schedule.  It took me a long time to get going in the morning, and I’m not sorry in the least.  What, I’m supposed to be a dynamo of energy every single day?  Really.  Once I finally got going I did a number of errands and other minor chores. While I had been planning on going to the gym in the early evening, that didn’t come to pass, instead we made another trip to P.F. Chang’s.  The same thing that had derailed my gym plans on Monday, not that I’m complaining.  Tip: the hot fish Hunan style is terrific.

Saturday was an early start for me as I had an 8 to 2:30 shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  What made the shift unusual is that I was barely inside the building at all.  Mulch was on sale, at two dollars a bag, and a sales area had been set up in the side parking lot.  That’s where I spent my shift.  People were buying big quantities, typical amounts were 20 bags or more, and along with a couple other people I was helping them load the bags into their vehicles.  While the bags weren’t particularly heavy, the sheer volume made it a pretty tough day.  On the good side, the shift went by very quickly.

My Sunday shift was a bit later, 10 to 3:30.  For the first half hour I worked on the outside mulch sale, but then I got reassigned to pulling online orders.  That’s actually my regular job, one to which I’ll probably returning once the garden season is over.  It wasn’t easy today, for two reasons.  The first and more basic reason is simply that the orders were large, in one case involving almost 200 paving stones.  The second reason, well, it’s sort of my fault.  I recently had bought a pair of steel toe boots at Walmart, paying only about $30 in what I had thought was a terrific deal.  They felt fine when I tried them on in the store, too. Well, suffice to say that upon wearing them on Sunday, within an hour they began to hurt my feet.  A lot. By the end of my shift I was limping and in constant pain, and later found that the horrible boots had left a couple of raw patches on my toes.  Thanks, Walmart!

I made it to the gym on Saturday for leg work.  As my hands were quite sore from all the mulch-loading I had done all day, I decided to use machines rather than do trap bar deadlifts or squats.  I used a Hoist moveable-seat leg press, doing 6 x 10 at the maximum resistance level of 18/18.  That may sound impressive, but in fact it wasn’t all that difficult.  Next came lying leg curls, 3 x 8 x 110.  To finish the session I did standing calf raises, 3 x 10 x 270.

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, April 2 – Thursday, April 3

Dumbbell time

Wednesday and Thursday were reasonably easy days at my primary job.  A new function has been added to the tasks I have to do each day, which means that I have to stay a bit longer than in the past, but I’m hardly about to complain because I still finish up before the “normal” 3:30 quitting time.  As always, I get paid based on staying until 3:30 but can leave earlier if everything’s done.  Not a bad deal.

One thing I didn’t do was work at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  Sunday was my last shift until next Saturday, in fact I’m only getting 10.5 hours this week.  Once again, I can’t really complain, because next week I’ll be getting 28 hours.  Feast or famine.  Exactly how the scheduling works, I don’t know for sure, but it must be a complicated system.

No gym on Wednesday, as I had other things to do after work, but on Thursday I had a chest session.  Not wanting to keep using machines, I decided to give dumbbell bench presses a try.  There’s something about my hand position on a barbell that bothers my elbow.  Using dumbbells avoids that issue because my hands aren’t forced into one fixed position.

As I’m out of practice, I stated very light, with a pair of 60-lb. dumbbells, and did 2 x 10. Then I moved up to 70′s for another 2 x 10, and finished with 75′s at yet another 2 x 10.  Even with the 75′s I had no trouble completing the reps.  What was the hardest part was getting the dumbbells into position.  I expect that with additional practice this will get easier, though it’s always a bit of a challenge.  After the dumbbells I did the Hammer Strength plate-loaded seated dip, 3 x 8 x 320.  I was going to do some overhead presses, but my elbow was getting just a bit sore and I decided not to tempt fate.


Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 5:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, March 31 – Tuesday, April 1

Now that was unexpected

Please note the date in the heading.  Monday was March 31, in other words it was almost April and a week into spring.  A time when it should be getting warmer and, you know, spring-like.  So imagine my surprise when I got up Monday morning to the sight of snow.  Not just a few wet flakes, either.  There was over an inch on the ground and it was coming down heavily.

Now, talk about bad timing, my worksite was near Exit 57 on the Expressway.  Meaning I’d have to drive several miles with the flow of rush hour traffic.  That’s always a distinctly unpleasant experience, and I knew full well that the snow would make things that much worse.  And it did.  Oh yes, it sure did.  It took me nearly 40 minutes to cover the six or so miles from exits 61 to 57.  While some of that time was spent at a dead stop, for the most part traffic was moving … very, very slowly.  Trying to get off before 57 and taking the service road wasn’t an option, as at many points I could see cars backed up endlessly on the service road.

Despite my best efforts, I made it to the worksite about ten minutes late, fortunately that is not a major issue in my job.  It’s just that I really hate being late.  During the morning the snow got even heavier, and by the time it stopped shortly after noon at least five inches had fallen.  And this is almost April? Fortunately there were no traffic woes getting home.  I had planned on going to the gym, but instead we ended up making a repeat visit to P.F. Chang’s.  Word of advice: the Mongolian Beef is excellent.

Tuesday was blessedly free of traffic dramatics.  No April Fool’s joke on the roads.  The worksite was off Sunrise Highway, and I had no particular difficulty getting to or from it.  In the morning there was still some snow on the ground, but by the afternoon it was pretty much all gone.

My troublesome finger being much better, I ventured out to the gym on Tuesday evening and did some back work.  In a blast-from-the-past moment, I decided to start out with an old favorite, one-arm dumbbell rows, keeping  it fairly light as I’m not accustomed to this exercise: 2 x 8 x 75/75, 2 x 8 x 80/80, 2 x 8 x 85/85.  I should be back up to the 100′s in no time.  Then came T-bar rows, 3 x 8 x 135.  To end the session, I did shrugs on the standing calf machine, 3 x 10 x 250.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, March 29 – Sunday, March 30

Saturday’s 9-hour shift at the Major Home Improvement Retailer illustrated the odd but true fact that it’s less exhausting to be busy at work than it is to be non-busy. When schedulers set the day’s schedule a couple of weeks ago, they figured that the garden department would be really busy, given that it was one of the first Saturdays in spring.  Customers would be streaming in to buy fertilizer and mulch and grass seed and other spring-like products.  There were many employees assigned to the department, including some loaned from other departments for the day.

What no one could predict is that Saturday turned out to be about as non-springlike a day as you could get.  It rained heavily all day, with the temperature not much above freezing.  While the store itself was reasonably busy, not too many of the customers made their way to the garden department.  I could scarcely blame them, as the weather would not put anyone in the mood for gardening or lawn maintenance, and in any event the part of the department that was outdoors was not what you’d call inviting.

I did the best I could to keep busy, but there just wasn’t too much to do.  My 3pm to midnight shift, which obviously is quite long in the first place, seemed utterly interminable.  An hour would pass yet the clock somehow advanced only ten minutes.  Trust me, if there were such a thing as a time-warp superpower, I would have used it.

Sunday was a much better day.  After doing a variety of things during the day, I went in at 8pm for a 4-hour shift.  It was the complete antithesis of Saturday, as I was busy nonstop for the whole time.  For most of the shift I was moving and rearranging products in the greenhouse area, which was nice because even though it wasn’t raining it was still unpleasantly cold.

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 1:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 27 – Friday, March 28

I’m sure glad THAT streak is over

Thursday marked the end of two things.  First of all, it was the last day of the two-week cycle at my main job. That’s usually unremarkable, but was welcome in this case because it’s been an unusually tough cycle.  I have reason to believe that the next one won’t be anywhere near as hard. As befitting the present cycle, however, today was anything but an easy day.  I was at the worksite considerably longer than expected.

Thursday evening was the last of my three-in-a-row late shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  While working 8 to midnight isn’t really that bad, doing so three nights in a row is pretty tough.  It didn’t help that tonight’s shift was the physically most draining of the three.  I was very thankful that Friday was a day off!

As for Friday, I did my usual day-off errands, and in the early evening went to the gym for another 30 minutes on the stationary cycle.  Once again I used the “rolling hills” course, though at a higher resistance level.

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 1:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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