Mid-Week Tangent: an open letter to my hotel ‘fitness center’

Let’s just forget that I should be posting about gelato, shall we? I didn’t have any over the last week. None. My heart hurts at the thought of wasted gelato opportunities. In the place of my usual gelato sins, I instead express my dissatisfaction with my hotel gym. With any luck, next week I will return with new gelato reviews. Until then, here we go…

Dear hotel “fitness center”,

I have intentionally put quotations around your name because you have over-promised and under-delivered. You bear only a tiny resemblance to an actual fitness center. When I think of a fitness center, I think of an inspiring health venue where I can access a wide variety of equipment that allows me to maintain my fitness. I think of a bright, open space that accommodates many guests. Since this is quite a tall hotel, I can only assume it houses many who may wish to work out.  You, my hotel gym of the week, you should call yourself what you are: a dungeon gym. It would most definitely help to manage guests’ expectations.

I know, it sounds harsh, but sometimes we have to hear the bitter truth in order to improve.  You are literally located in the basement, which is only the first of your many issues.  Because of your underground locale, you are dark and windowless and filled with stale air.  Honestly, I could get over all of that if you weren’t also smaller than my living room. I assure you, my living is not gargantuan. I live in a row townhouse. These are not known for having monstrous great rooms.  It is modest and works for what we need. Your tiny space does not work for what I need.

I imagine that there are something like 300 rooms in this hotel. Even if you are only at 50% occupancy right now, and even if only 5% of your guests actually want to work out, you cannot reasonably support that volume of activity. And we all know that your guests are working out either first thing in the morning or after whatever work day or conference they’ve attended.  You hold four people at a time, max.  And there is no way that more than one person could be doing any form of strength training at the same time, what with the six inches of free space you’ve provided around your lone bench (more on that later). In other words, your size is woefully insufficient. Bigger is not always better, except when it comes to fitness centers.

This is still not your greatest fault. No, your greatest fault is your utter lack of equipment. I get it, you focused on the basics: a couple treadmills, a couple ellipticals, a bike, one bench and some free weights.  The problem is that you overlooked some really simple, and not overly expensive additions that would go a long way.  How about some kettle bells? How about some weighted bars? How about a spin bike that actually costs less than that fancy stationary bike that doesn’t give you half the workout? How about a versatile cable motion machine instead of your random assortment of strength machines that take up more space and offer less options? Give me variety!

Sorry, hotel gym, all I’ve done here is criticize. I suppose it’s not your fault, but rather management’s fault that you are so down and out. Still, I have to be clear: I won’t be using your services on my next stay. Although I despise working out at work, my company does provide a free, and far better, fitness center for me. I will choose sweating in front of colleagues over the dungeon.

All the best.

Monday Musings: new jobs are exhausting

I’m tired. Really, really tired.  This happens to me every time I start a new job and yet, somehow, even though I remind myself before starting the job that I will be exhausted, I always seem to be shocked but just how very tired I get.  I’m lucky if I make it to 9:30 pm before falling asleep these days. I mean, I like my sleep and all, but that’s a little much even for me.

People keep telling me that it’s because my brain is working overtime to process all the new information people are throwing at me all day. I’m sure that’s part of the equation, but quite honestly I think that’s a really small part of it.  The real exhaustion factor for me comes down to one thing: having to enthusiastically interact with people all day long. There have been days when it’s literally been eight hours straight of meeting people. For some, this is a welcome energy boost. For me, it is the opposite.

For a long time, I thought it was just because I’m an introvert.  I’ve come to realize that it’s not just interacting with people that’s draining, it’s trying to project all this enthusiasm and energy for my work that’s the real kicker.  All day long, people are asking me how things are going so far, how I like the company, how awesome it is that the company is so committed to my line of work. I am not a naturally excited and gregarious person (except when it comes to candy and ice cream). I think the job and company seem fine so far, but a) it’s just a job and b) by no means do I get all pumped and rah-rah-cheerleader about it. I feel as though I need to project more than my baseline neutrality, though, because before people know me well my natural demeanour can be interpreted as apathy or negativity.  Nobody wants a debbie downer for a new employee.

Putting on my game face and expressing endless enthusiasm not only doesn’t come naturally to me, but it also saps me of any last remaining energy, the reserve of which is already perilously low thanks to early mornings and stress from outside of work.  Many days, I wish I could wear a sign that reads: “I may not look happy or excited, but I promise you I’m fine/the job’s fine/the company’s fine, I’m just really f’ing tired/don’t visually show enthusiasm.” It’s a bit of a long sign, I suppose, yet I still think it would be helpful. Until such time that this is socially acceptable in the workplace, I guess I’ll just have to stick with faking it and ridiculously early bed times.



TWIR #67: exhaustion reigns

It has been a week, my friends. Starting a new job is no cakewalk for the energy levels. I wrote a whole post about it that never saw the day of light because I was too tired to edit and post it.  My workouts have been the best they could be in light of the fact that my schedule has not been my own and I am still trying to figure out what’s culturally acceptable in terms of mid-day workouts at my new job. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m tired. So, so, so tired.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 6.5 (painfully hard) km
Observations: Have you ever thought it was a good idea to throw your own birthday party? Let me spare you the trouble: it’s not. I spent the whole day running around buying food and drink, and getting the house tidied. I had to cram a run in first thing in the morning, which is my least favourite time of day for a run. It felt awful start to finish, but at least it was early enough that it wasn’t hot out yet.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: cake for breakfast! golf! gelato! more cake!
Observations: Birthdays are supposed to be gluttonous, right? I firmly believe so, and my own personal challenge seemed to be how much crap I could consume in one day.  At least we walked a fair bit and golfed. I doubt either did anything to combat the calories, but you only turn 38 once.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 20 min. strength
Observations: This was by far my worst workout of the week. My legs felt like lead on the bike. I had zero interest in strength training. It was a true workout fail. Mondays. Ugh.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: This workout can be summed up by the following phrase: return of the negative pull ups. Damn I hate those things. Everything else in the workout was hard but manageable, but those negative pull ups leave me hating life. I guess the pushups were also kind of painful, but I am starting to accept them as a necessary evil of working with a trainer.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7 km (without coffee!)
Observations: I forgot to set the coffee maker, which meant a caffeine-free early-morning workout, something that I never do. Apparently, I should do it more often. While by no means was this an easy run, I also didn’t feel like I was going to die. It may have helped that I was able to run oceanside in the cool, morning sunshine.  I have missed my waterfront runs since moving to the suburbs.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: Hallelujah for a decent cardio workout! Fuelled by feeling utterly overwhelmed, I did more sprints that I’ve ever done in the course of a spin workout and I hate sprints. I also had a good, old-fashioned, cathartic cry on the drive home so it was a rewarding day for the body and spirit.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: After an unexpectedly wonderful commute downtown and an earlier-than-expected arrival at the gym, I had high hopes for a stellar workout to round out the week. It didn’t quite meet my expectations. It was a solid strength workout, but not as intense or lengthy as I’d wanted. I might blame forgetting to set the coffee pot (again! ugh!) for this one. As much as it didn’t seem to make a difference for my run, I do think coffee helps with early-morning strength workouts.

Sure, it wasn’t a banner week for workouts, but I am highly impressed that I worked out every single workday. I promise you it didn’t feel easy some mornings when the comfort of bed was almost too much to tear myself away from. Now at least it is Friday. For a moment I thought that meant sleeping in, but I fear weekend sleep-ins will do nothing but wreak havoc on my workday sleep cycle.  Working life, what a drag. I sometimes wonder why I decided to go back…

Mid-Week Gelato Quest: Gelato Repeat Repeat

No, that is not a typo. I am outing myself, yet again, for failing to visit a new gelato destination before my weekly quest for gelato perfection post.  It is trickier now that I’m working, and was made even trickier this weekend when I decided to host my own birthday party, which essentially turned one of my free days into a full-on scramble to get food, drink and decor sorted.  I am really seeing a pattern here, and that pattern is that I am a master of excuses.

Instead of broadening my horizons like I am supposed to be doing, I visited Dolce Gelato for the third time (here’s visit 1 and visit 2 if you’re curious). I’ll spare you the lengthy intros and jump right to flavours, because at the very least I did try two brand-new-to-me flavours. Trust me, that’s harder than it sounds.

Where: Dolce Gelato, White Rock

My boyfriend would like to note what a fine hand model he makes.

The Gelato: 

My boyfriend, who always shows more restraint than I, ordered one measly flavour, Bacio. It’s chocolate hazelnut and it tasted like frozen Ferrero Rocher filling, which is pretty much as good as it gets in the chocolate hazelnut world if you ask me. It was velvety, chocolatey, hazelnutty perfection. If you’re in the mood for pure indulgence, get it.

My flavour choices were difficult. I really wanted the Cassata again, but have a tendency to stick with my favourites. Plus, I knew if I was going to pawn this gelato trip off as a new post, I better at least get different flavours.  In the end, I went with the Variegato and the Stracciatella.

The Variegato is a sour cherry gelato and packs some seriously tart kick. I am not always a fan of fruit flavours, but lately anything cherry has been a go-to for me. Aside from the foresta nera (essentially black forest) gelato that I had at Dolce last time, this is the best cherry gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. It was creamy and its sweetness was perfectly offset by sharply sour cherries.  That probably sounds offensive. Who wants sharply sour cherries? I do. They are amazing.

The Stracciatella was a strategic choice. I’m a firm believer that the simpler the gelato flavour, the more challenging it is to do it really, really well. You can’t get much simpler than vanilla with chocolate shavings.  It was very good, maybe not the best I’ve had, but very, very good. The vanilla base was top notch and ultra creamy. For me, it just needed way more chocolate. I’m also a chocoholic so perhaps take that with a grain of salt.

Overall: I don’t regret returning here. It was the only logical choice since we were golfing/Farmer’s Market-ing nearby. Any other destination would have been way too much driving given that it was my birthday and I had no desire to spend the whole day in the car. Plus, for once I actually picked complimentary flavours instead of cramming two things that should never be together into one tiny cup. That’s learning, my friends. After three visits, I still stand by my recommendation for Dolce Gelato. In a word: yum!


Monday Musings: perks of adult birthdays

I turned 38 this weekend.  It occurs to me that, over the last few months, I’ve referred to myself as 38 years old numerous times on this blog. Clearly, I already felt my age.  Birthdays are a strange experience for me. The morbid side of me is plagued by reminders of my mortality and getting ever closer to the tipping point of mid-life.  The other, and notably less melancholy, side of me revels in the celebration of birthdays; that part of me wants a whole birthday weekend, damnit, and enjoys all the simple child-like birthday pleasures like: cake, presents, parties, and the ability to repeatedly pull the “because-it’s-my-birthday” card whenever I don’t get exactly what I want.

It’s that unabashedly celebratory part of me that recognizes the perks of birthdays as an adult vs. as a child. As a child, after all, you are at the mercy of your parent’s whims.  Your party theme isn’t yours. Your outfit probably isn’t yours. You may not get to pick the cake. Even the invite list isn’t your domain.  Sure, there are more presents, but that’s really the only advantage to a child’s birthday.  As an adult, you get birthdays your own way. If you want to shut the world out and pretend your birthday doesn’t exist, you can do that too. But let me invite you to entertain just how spectacular an adult birthday can be by presenting you with:

Things you only get to do on your birthday as an adult

1. Eat cake for breakfast: In hindsight, this was actually a really bad idea. Yes, I know this from personal experience on my 38th birthday. Still, you can do it, and no one is going to call you on it. Someone (ahem, like my boyfriend) may even join you in this ill-conceived plan and also live to regret it.

2. Throw a birthday party with the nonsensical theme of “fizzy pink” and have your friends accept it without question: It’s not as crazy as it sounds. I had bubbly rose wine and wanted to build my party theme around it. Mostly it meant that people wore pink, which was fine with me. Also fine with me was that someone brought me a bottle of rose. Wine is always a winner in my book, no matter its colour. It also gave me the chance to buy/sport this amazing shirt:

Steal of a deal at $20.

3. Eat a spiralized deep fried potato on a stick as LUNCH: I have no regrets about this one. It was amazing.

4. Ask for excessive foot rubs: Because I have to wear heels to work again, so seriously, my feet need some TLC.

5. Commandeer the television to watch Dateline murder mysteries: The truth is my boyfriend enjoys them just as much as I do, even if he won’t admit it.

In other words, if you’re on the fence about your birthday, about aging, about turning another year older, simply seize the opportunity for an utterly selfish day of whatever your birthday pleasures may be. Adult birthdays can be pretty freaking fantastic.

TWIR #66: oh insufferable heat

We pacific northwesters are so delicate when it comes to heat. We complain bitterly about the never-ending rain and grey skies that plague us for about 10 months of the year, and then when the sun finally graces us with its presence we all walk around saying things like “ugh, can you believe this heat?” You just can’t please us. I am typically a fan of the sunshine and warmth so long as I don’t have to do anything terribly taxing.  But let me tell you, it takes a toll on my running, which has already taken a bad hit this past year.  On top of that starting a new job threw my workout schedule into a tizzy. Translation: this was a bad week for workouts.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 9-hole round of golf + campground-walks-with-wine
Observations: I had really good intentions of running. Really good.  I don’t even know what happened but the option of golf was presented to me and I’m determined to get better so I had to say yes. Then by the time we got back it was hella hot and the only solution was to drink poolside ciders. Obviously.

Activity: sort-of-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 9-hole round of golf + laziness
Observations: I knew a proper Sunday workout wouldn’t happen after Saturday’s cider and wine fiesta. Plus it was hella hot again. We opted for another round of golf. Although not at all strenuous, standing around in the sun waiting for my turn to tee off made me sweat enough to fool myself into thinking I’d worked out.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 6 km
Observations: Determined not to let the whole long weekend get away from me without at least one workout, I forced myself to run. After a weekend of laziness and drinking, it did not feel good. I am amazed I even lasted 6 km.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations:  We were back to our usual training shenanigans, which meant all manner of unenjoyable exercises.  This week’s worst exercise prize went to pulling a prowler loaded with weights while doing walking lunges. I’ve always felt bad for animals that have to haul lazy humans around (horse-drawn carriages, dog sleds, etc.). Now I feel even more sorry for them.

Activity: attempted run
Relevant Stats: 3 km (no, that’s not a typo)
Observations: This run went nowhere fast, literally. I had zero gas in the tank, zero motivation, and it was so, so hot even though it was only 10:30 in the morning. After one particularly long uphill stretch, I called it quits. Also, the steady flow of sweat dripping down my back and into my pants (I know, it’s TMI) was very unpleasant. I thought I’d go to the gym to make this into a decent workout, but it was my last day of freedom before starting work so I opted for 48 Hours Mysteries instead. I think that was the right call.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: first day of work…eek!
Observations: I knew I wasn’t likely to fit in a workout and I was right. Between the ungodly early morning and meeting a million new people, which is about my least favourite thing, I was ready to crawl into bed by 4:30 pm. I haven’t had a headache in ages, but I had a raging one by the time I got home. It wasn’t a bad day, but man going back to work is rough. I barely made it to 9pm before falling into an epically deep slumber.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 20 min. strength
Observations: This wasn’t the workout that I envisioned. I had great hopes of a full hour workout. Somehow I underestimated the commute downtown combined with the walk to the gym and found myself short on time.  I worked up a good sweat but even I know it still wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of the week.

This is a shameful workout recap. I am going to blame the heat even though I know that wasn’t really the cause. I like a good scapegoat.  All I have to say right now is TGIF.

I feel you man.

Mid-Week Gelato Quest: gelato fail

An alternative title for this post could be: the week in which I fail to visit a new gelato destination and instead present you with a gelato post about *gasp* store-bought gelato and my utter lack of motivation. It doesn’t have quite the simplicity nor the ring to it that my actual title has, though, does it?

I had good intentions of going for gelato today, my last day of total freedom before returning to work. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate. But then I got lazy. And it’s hot out. And I didn’t feel like driving. And I couldn’t figure out what to wear to work tomorrow. And I didn’t know if the gelato place would even be any good/worth all the trouble. And, and, and…the excuses could go on forever. At the end of the day, all that really matters is that I didn’t go for gelato.

But we did buy Haagen Dazs Cappuccino Gelato earlier this week because, let’s face it, I always have to have some form of ice cream in the house. I know I promised a quest for gelato perfection and am instead talking to you about commercially produced ice cream masquerading as gelato, but it is all I have. Plus, it still worked for a post-dinner weekday treat.  It tasted like coffee. It was creamy. It was frozen. It was sweet. Those are all winning qualities in a pinch. Perfection? No. Tasty? Sure. Plus you can get a whole pint for less than one small scoop in most gelato shops. Sometimes economies of scale are a good thing.

I know, and I agree, that was a wholly unsatisfying gelato review. You may be pleased to know that, although I failed in my quest for gelato this week, I did manage to locate several promising gelato prospects for future weeks. I also want to be realistic that between starting a new job and some unexpected weekend excursions (which sounds more fun than they really are), I may not get to them as quickly as I hope to. You have my word, however, that I will put more effort into my gelato quest than I did today when, really, I was just too damn lazy.

Too lazy for gelato. What is the world coming to?