Tuesday, January 20

Age, gender, and iPods

Very little of note happened while going to and from work today.  I got the shuttle at Medford, followed by the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  There was a scary moment on the latter train when a very large though non-SCA man plopped down next to me at Deer Park and the crushing forces were so great that my insides almost squirted out through my mouth.  Thankfully, he must have realized the impossibility of the situation and after a few moments he got up and went elsewhere.  My insides ended up staying inside of me after all.  Most of them, at least.  A man of only average size – which, in LIRR-speak, means 200+ pounds – took the vacated seat moments later and I rode into Brooklyn relatively intact.  In a change from my usual luck with the subway at Atlantic Avenue, I missed a 4 train by just a couple of seconds and had to wait a good six or seven minutes for the next train to arrive.  That’s quite a bit longer than usual for that station at that time, and it goes without saying that the next train (a 5) was very crowded.  At least the long gap since the prior train meant that we had no delays at all to Fulton.

I got a 3 at Fulton after work and then took the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  It was a definite cattle train, fortunately an average-sized woman of about 35 to 40 sat next to me and left me with sufficient room.  She chattered away for most of the ride, but it wasn’t too distracting because she was talking in Spanish (a conversation you can’t follow very well is less distracting than one where you can hang on every word) and in any event my iPod came riding (so to speak) to the rescue.  Its presence caused me to muse on the use of iPods and other MP3 players on the train, and how this use varies by gender and age.  I’ve been noticing this for a while.  It probably would be more accurate to say “use of earphones” as those of course are what’s visible.  These observations only apply to people traveling alone and not involved in conversations with other riders or on their cell phones.  As a general rule, and keeping in mind that the ages are approximate, women under 30 use earphones at least 75% of the time, while for men over 50 it’s less than 25%.  For both genders use declines with age, and except for the youngest age group is always notably higher for women than for men.  I suppose these differences make sense.  Younger people are more likely to use new technologies, and to be interested in music, while women may see the use of earphones as a shield against men hitting on them (though I’ve seen very, very little of that sort of behavior on trains).  Anyway, mulling over these things, and finishing up Main Street, helped the ride to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle go by quickly.  No delays, this time.

Gym: Dang.  It was supposed to be Leg Day, which I hate to miss, but after seven days in a row I was urgently in need of a rest day.  So legs will have to wait.

Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, January 19

Day off for the holiday, and I got to the gym around 5:30 to find it totally packed. Not sure if it was that crowded because of the holiday or if it’s normally that crowded on 5:30 on weekdays. I don’t get there until 7:30 at the earliest, and on the days I’ve had off from work I usually go earlier in the afternoon. Anyway, I had done some research on Bodybuilding.com about kettlebell exercises, and started out the session with one-arm para presses for shoulder work. I did 4 x10 on each arm with a 45-pound kettlebell. After the first few reps, which were a bit awkward, I started to get the hang of them. I next did 15 minutes on the heavy bag, not as much as yesterday but a decent amount nonetheless. For another change, I next did close-grip bench presses, as those focus on the triceps and I’ve figured out that my triceps are the weak point in my bench presses: 6 x 135, 8 x 185, 2 x 6 x 205. The grip position on a close-grip bench press isn’t all that different than on a regular one, only about an inch or so for each hand, but it greatly changes the whole feel of the exercise. Handling a given amount of weight on a close-grip bench press is also significantly more difficult than on a regular one. Anyway, once I finished the close-grips I did a few regular benches, 4 x 4 x 225. I then ran one mile on the treadmill at 5. 7 mph, the first running I’ve done in a few weeks … and yes, it’s much tougher than ellipting or using the stationary cycle. Speaking of ellipting, I finished the session with 20 minutes on the elliptical at 7.3 mph.

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, January 18

I started out the session with some work on the speed bag. It turns out that the $30 I spent on the gel wraps from Title Boxing isn’t completely wasted. While I can’t fit my regular gloves on over the wraps, wearing the wraps alone works well on the speed bag. Next came about 20 to 25 minutes on the heavy bag, a satisfactory session as I was hitting it pretty well. I then did another 4-minute Tabatha session on the elliptical, just as tough as the last one. I finished up with neutral grip pull-ups, the total of 40 being enough to meet my quota: 5 x 6, 2 x 5. The gym has gotten a set of kettlebells. They’re supposedly very helpful, if not quite the be-all-and-end-all of weight training as some of their almost cultlike enthusiasts claim. I’ll have to check into ways of using them and give them a try.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 10:52 pm  Comments (4)  

Saturday, January 17

A fairly quick session today.  It was deadlift day, and like last week’s session I did 30 total reps, but today with more weight: 4 x 225, 4 x 265, 4 x 275, 4 x 295, 4 x 275, 4 x 265, 6 x 225.  I then did 30 minutes on the stationary cycle at 19 mph.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 6:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, January 16

Adding injury to insult

It was back to Medford today after yesterday’s Patchogue interlude.  As soon as I boarded the shuttle I saw these fliers on the seats.  They looked like the periodic newsletters or other announcements that the LIRR distributes.  Indeed they were announcements, unfortunately they involved proposals for dealing with the budget woes affecting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent agency.  The “unfortunately” part is because the proposals consist of fare increases (but of course!) and service cuts.  True, the service cuts would affect the subway much more than the LIRR, the only cuts for the latter being a reduction in off-hour Port Washington trains, the termination of weekend service on the West Hempstead line, and ending service to Belmont race track except for the Belmont Stakes.  None of those would have any effect whatsoever on my commuting.  Now, as for the fare increases, well those are a very different matter.  My monthly train and subway fare is anything but cheap right now.  Raising the fare is just going to be more burdensome. Of course the LIRR’s unionized employees and underworked bureaucrats will be completely unaffected.  About the only bright side is that the fare increases and service cuts are not yet a done deal and may not go through as planned.  I hope so.

As for the morning trip into work, it was not much if any trouble.  I got the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue, and as befits the post-holiday period it was quite crowded.  An average-sized man took the seat next to me at Deer Park, but he wasn’t much of a bother and got off at Jamaica.  We got to Flatbush Avenue on time and I waited only about a minute for a 2 train to Fulton.

Getting home was rather less pleasant.  I made it to Penn easily enough thanks to a very short wait for a 3 at Fulton, though it was definitely on the sardine-can side, and I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  An older woman sat next to me as far as Hicksville, and between reading and Tetris-ing the ride went by quickly.  Most of the way, that it.  It took nearly 15 minutes to cover the last mile into Ronkonkoma thanks to what the conductor announced as “congestion ahead of us.”  When we finally arrived, there was a further delay of three or four minutes for the shuttle to arrive, as the previous train on its platform took forever to head off to the yards.  I ended up getting back to Medford close to 20 minutes late.  This sort of bad performance was even worse given the fare-hike proposals, though at least I have a 3-day weekend thanks to the holiday on Monday.

Gym: I started out with something new, a Tabatha routine on the elliptical.  In a Tabatha, you sprint for 20 seconds, go at a slower pace for 10 seconds, do another 20-second sprint and 10-second slow pace, and repeat until you’ve done eight sprints.  It takes a total of four minutes.  Although a Tabatha is most commonly done while running on a track, it can be done using exercise equipment.  An elliptical is well-suited for it because there’s no need to change the machine’s speed as would be necessary with a treadmill.  Four minutes may not sound like much but in fact it was quite draining.  I then did neutral grip pull-ups, and set a single-session record with 70 total reps: 5 x 6, 5 x 5, 5 x 3.  This is nearly two-thirds of the way to my weekly quota of 110 reps, and it’s only the first day of my Friday-Thursday cycle.  I finished the session with 30 minutes ellipting – normally, no Tabatha this time – at a pace of 7.3 mph, this being on an elliptical type that doesn’t have a stride count.

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 7:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, January 15

A Patchogue interlude

Out of the house a bit earlier than usual on this cold and snowy morning, I decided to go from Patchogue rather than Medford or Ronkonkoma.  No real reason, other than that I knew I’d be able to get the 6:51 dual mode to Penn and therefore would be able to get into work on time.  Riding in a diesel coach with its spacious seats is always a big improvement over dealing with M-7 torture seats.  This became especially true at Babylon, when a large though non-SCA man sat next to me.  It would have been agonizing on an M-7, but thanks to the larger seats on the diesel coach I was almost oblivious to his presence, but for an occasional mild squirm or elbow-poke.  The train took the Central Branch routing and didn’t encounter any delays, though I’d have to say that the number of stops between Patchogue and Babylon does get a bit annoying.  Not unlike one of the non-express Ronkonkoma trains, in fact.  As I was sitting near the west end of the train it was easier for me to take the Eighth Avenue line once we got to Penn.  It turned out okay, to my pleasant surprise, but all in all I prefer to stick with the 2/3.

I knew that getting the 5:09 dual mode to Patchogue would be a close call after work.  My options if I missed it would not be particularly attractive.  Option A: get a usually cattle-trainish electric train to Babylon at 5:36, switch to a shuttle at Babylon, and get home at maybe 7:40 (vs. about 7:10 for the 5:09).  Option B: get a Hempstead train at 5:51, change to the Montauk train at Jamaica, and not get home until about 8:00.  It’s this lack of decent alternatives to the 5:09 that is why I don’t usually go from Patchogue.  Fortunately, I was lucky today.  I somehow squeezed onboard a monstrously crowded 2 at Fulton and made it to Penn with only a couple minutes to spare.  But I made it onto the 5:09, albeit too close for comfort, and had another decent ride.  This time, the seat next to me was vacant after Jamaica, and once again the trip was via the Central Branch.  Oh, I got what I believe to be my second-highest score at cell phone Tetris, just under 70,000.  My record of 77,000 has never been challenged since I got it a couple months ago.

Gym: A quick session, 30 minutes on the elliptical at a pace of 11,270 strides per hour.

Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, January 14

The shelter that isn’t

When is a train station shelter not a shelter?  When it’s the shelter, or non-shelter, at the Medford LIRR station, that’s when.  I was quite cold this morning, though not as brutally frigid as the next few days may be, and it was windy up on the exposed platform.  Along with 10 or 15 other people I waited inside the small shelter for some protection from the wind.  Unfortunately, most of the plastic wall panels had been kicked out, so that the wind whistled through the (non-) structure almost unimpeded.  Keep in mind, the shelter has been around for almost ten years, and has almost never been even close to intact.  Every so often the LIRR replaces the plastic panels, and as sure as the sun rises in the east they’re kicked out within days.  One would think that maybe the LIRR would’ve gotten the idea that the shelter should be replaced with something a bit more vandalism proof.  Of course … well, you can figure out the rest.

The shuttle was a few minutes late arriving, which of course only made the cold and wind less tolerable.  Once at Ronkonkoma there was a bit of confusion because the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue didn’t pull into the platform from the yard until at least 7:05, which also delayed the 7:04 to Penn.  I hoping this isn’t a sign of more and more cold-weather delays to come.  These delays didn’t directly affect me, as I had gotten something to eat at the station bagel shop and had been planning on taking the 7:19 express to Penn.  It was a cattle train for sure, although the older man who sat next to me wasn’t large, and the fast express run is always a nice change from the 6:56 and all its stops.  I waited only a couple of minutes for a very crowded 3 train to Fulton Street, though we were delayed a few minutes getting into Chambers Street for some reason.  I decided at the last minute to get off at Park Place, to see if the walk to my workplace from that station is shorter than from Fulton Street.  Fulton seems a bit shorter, though it’s close.

Not much out of the ordinary happened after work, with a short wait for a 2 at Fulton and then the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  It was yet another cattle train, a slightly less pleasant ride than the morning’s trip because the man who sat next to me was at least 50 pounds heavier than his morning’s counterpart.  Still, it could have been worse, much worse, and there weren’t any delays to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle.

Gym: It was time for bench pressing, and for some variety I did a 5 x 5 rep combo.  6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 2 x 245, 5 x 5 x 225.  Doing 27 total reps at 225 or better is not a record by any means but still isn’t bad.  After 30 minutes on the stationary cycle at 19.4 mph, I used the Cybex overhead press, 8 x 195, 8 x 200, 8 x 205.  While I wasn’t in much of a mood to do any neutral grip pull-ups, I decided to do just the 16 needed to meet my weekly quota of 110: 2 x 6, 1 x 4.  Tomorrow is the last day of the weekly cycle.  If I’m so inclined I might do some more, but there’s no pressure.

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 4:36 am  Comments (2)  

Tuesday, January 13

Thanks, I needed that

Getting up to go to work this morning was excruciatingly difficult. Precisely why, I cannot say, but it was an ordeal of near-Olympian proportions. Perhaps it was as result of yesterday’s near-death experience at the hands – or, specifically, the body fat – of the elephantine man who plopped next to me at Mineola. In any event, when I drove to Ronkonkoma this morning to get the 7:32 to Penn, I was overjoyed to see that it was an M-3 consist. Salvation might come in the form of a highly coveted single seat. Even if I weren’t able to get one, I’d still have a measure of relief given the slightly larger M-3 seats. It turns out that while the single seat in the first car I boarded was taken, I was able to get one in the next car. You cannot imagine what a relief it was to be able to ride into Penn without having to worry about being squashed into goo. I spent most of the ride reading, and it went by pretty quickly. As has been the case lately I used the Seventh Avenue line to Fulton Street rather than dealing with the Eighth Avenue follies, indeed I waited less than 30 seconds for a 3 train and got a seat right away.

Not much of interest happened after work. I waited a couple minutes for a 2 at Fulton, but unlike the case in the morning there weren’t any seats. I took the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, for a change sitting in the lead (easternmost) car rather than farther back in the consist as usual. An older woman sat next to me and was no bother, and I Tetris-ed away most of the ride.

Gym: Many trap bar deadlifts for Leg Day. 6 x 245, 6 x 265, 6 x 285, 4 x 295, 4 x 305, 4 x 315, 3 x 6 x 225. I’m not sure if 48 reps is a record, but if not, it’s very close. I then did neutral grip pull-ups, 5 x 6, so I’m within 16 of my weekly quota of 110. One slight setback is that I was a bit too worn out by all the trap bar deadlifts to do any SLDL’s, so they’ll have to wait a day.  Actually, there was another setback.  I had ordered these gel wraps from Title Boxing for $35, which are worn under boxing gloves as a more convenient alternative to handwraps.  Unfortunately I simply couldn’t get the 12-ounce gloves to fit over the gel wraps.  With a lot of difficulty I was able to put on the 8-ouncers, but in just about five minutes of work on the heavy bag the tight fit made both my hands go numb.

Published in: on January 14, 2009 at 4:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, January 12

A quick move was a lifesaver

Ugh, Monday mornings.  Not too many peoples’ favorite time.  My Monday morning could have been disastrous, but for a quick move that staved off a catastrophe.  I had gotten the shuttle from Medford, and then the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  It was an M-7 consist (a point soon to be come all too relevant), and moderately crowded, with the seat next to me remaining empty until a young man took it at Farmingdale.  He seemed to be one of the students who commutes to a Catholic high school near the Mineola station, so it was a reasonable bet that the seat would be empty once again at that stop.  Sure enough, he got off … and I saw an extremely unwelcome sight, namely a very large man in late middle age literally waddling down the aisle with his eyes on the now-vacant seat.  It looked certain that I would be crushed between the side of the train and the beached whale’s 45+ BMI blubber.  Was it all over for me?  Thankfully, at the very last minute I bent my left arm and held it so that the point of my elbow extended a few inches beyond my side.  When Moby Dick came ashore in the seat, my elbow prevented him from pushing over as far into my space as otherwise would have happened.  This kept him compressed between the protruding elbow and the armrest.  Don’t get the idea that the result was remotely pleasant for me.  It was still a hideously miserable tight squeeze, but at least I was able (barely) to breathe and (narrowly) survived the short trip into Jamaica, at which point the man-mountain got up (with a hugely labored effort) and went to sit elsewhere.  I really don’t need these close calls, especially not on a Monday morning.  Fortunately, the ride into Brooklyn went by quickly and I waited just a couple of minutes for a 5 express to Fulton.

Getting home was thankfully much better.  A quick ride on a 2 from Fulton got me to Penn about 5:15, though because I had taken the shuttle I waited around Penn until the 5:41 arrived.  No real point in taking the 5:22 and then having to hang around dull-as-dishwater Ronkonkoma.  The SCA who sat next to me on the 5:41 was not slim by any means, but even so must’ve weighed a good 150 pounds less than that, that … thing in the morning. He got off at Hicksville and I had an empty seat next to me for the rest of the trip.  I played cell phone Tetris most of the way, but unfortunately couldn’t get any decent scores.  There weren’t any delays, and the shuttle was as usual right on time.  About the only odd thing was the strong smell of skunk near Deer Park.  Strange odors are common on the LIRR of course, but skunk’s a new one.

Gym: a much-needed rest day.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, January 11

No weights, but a lot of work nonetheless.  A solid 15 to 20 minutes on the heavy bag to start (it’s hard to tell exactly as the nearest clock is barely visible), followed by 20 minutes on the stationary cycle at 18.7 mph, and last of all 30 minutes of ellipting.  The elliptical I used is a different type than the one which allows stride-counting.  This one instead has a speed and mileage counter, and I averaged 7.2 mph for the 30 minutes.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment