Training Tuesdays: on working out in a town where the gym is a social space

You guys, it’s only Tuesday, and yesterday was a stat holiday where I live, and my brain is already tired and barely functioning. I had great plans for a super helpful fitness post to inspire your Fall workouts and I just couldn’t muster up the brainpower to get ‘er done. So instead, you get this, which is essentially my rant about living in a town where the gym appears to be a predominantly social space. Here’s hoping my brain resumes its normal function quickly!

I live in a mid-sized town, one in which there are actually a surprisingly large number of gyms to choose from. Many are small and dingy and, for lack of a better description, “murdery” (i.e. a place that looks like somewhere you’d get murdered). The gym I choose was among the biggest and brightest and most well-stocked. I thought I had hit the gym jackpot, but there’s one major problem with my gym: it seems to be a prime social hangout.

Every single time I’m at the gym there are at least two little gaggles of workout dudes (or dudettes…but mostly dudes) who appear to be doing nothing other than catching up on life or whatever it is they talk about at the gym instead of working out. I’m not exaggerating. It’s every single time. Every. Single. Time. And I’m lucky if it’s just two groups of them.

I suppose I should be telling myself live and let live, but the problem for me is that they seem to congregate and gab in the most irritating of spaces.  Do you need to update your buddy on how much your life has changed since you “knocked up” your girlfriend (his words, not mine) right  in front of the TRX? Do you need to have a deep and meaningful moment while occupying not one but two racks? Do you need to have a five minute conversation in between each set of exercises on the one and only cable machine?  Do you need to lay side by side on floor mats alternating between bro talk and checking your phone, taking up the entire (albeit small) section of flooring available for stretching and core work?

Maybe the answer to all these questions is yes, and I am just a grumpy gus who is easily irritated. I mean, I probably am that, but I also think there’s a a time and a place for socialization and that’s not at the gym. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to get in, get my workout done as efficiently as possible, and then get out.  Alas, it appears that I am one of the few that feels this way in my town.

End rant.

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Mid-Week Tangent: Halloween Candy Hierarchy

Happy Halloween from someone who celebrates Halloween in one way and one way only: by eating leftover Halloween candy. I have no interest in dressing up anymore, and can’t remember the last time I engaged in any other Halloween festivities. I’m not anti-Halloween, I’m just Halloween agnostic. Except when it comes to candy.

I can vividly recall sorting my loot bag as a child, being beyond joyful when I stumbled across any of my favourites, and crushed to depths of my soul when I had to discard what I deemed too sizeable a percentage of my stash because it was unacceptable candy. What’s unacceptable? I’m glad you asked. I have a fairly definite hierarchy of Halloween candy, one honed over years of extensive trick or treating and candy eating. It ranges from the insultingly unacceptable to the major score and is as follows:

Insultingly Unacceptable
–Tootsie Rolls
–Popcorn
–Anything home-made (which probably doesn’t happen anymore, but used to in the 80s)
–Raisins
–Sweet-Tarts or any other coloured sugar chunks masquerading as candy
–Whoppers
–Peanut Glosettes
–Lunch time snacks (granola bars, chewy fruit snacks, etc.). It is super uncool to repurpose your kid’s recess treats as Halloween treats.
–Gum
–Super off-brand candy made to look like brand name candy
–Jolly Ranchers
–Fruit (This probably also doesn’t happen anymore, but I used to get apples, and they were always the mushy Red Delicious variety. Sigh.)

Barely Acceptable
–Skittles
–Raisin Glosettes (mildly more tolerable than their peanut counterparts)
–Tiny off-brand bags of chips (still better than no chips)
–Twizzlers (excluding Pull n’ Peel)
–Peanut m&m’s
–O Henry (seriously, who likes these?)
–Chewy Candies (fuzzy peach slices, swedish berries, etc.)
–Starburst (only because the red ones are good)

Acceptable
–Twix
–m&m’s (excluding peanut m&m’s)
–Mars
–Snickers
–Three Muskateers
–Aero
–Smarties
–Impossibly tiny sacks of brand name chips
–Caramilk
–Twix
–Crispy Crunch

Major Score
–Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
–Twizzlers Pull n’ Peel (I have a bizarre and almost obsessive love for this stuff)
–Full-Size chocolate bars of any kind (even if you don’t like the type of chocolate bar it’s still FULL SIZED!)
–Kit Kat
–Coffee Crisp

Happy Halloween! Hope you are left with all the best leftovers. I, for one, have already removed the Kit Kat and Coffee Crisps from our Halloween assortment…Don’t judge. They’re not good for the children anyway.

Mid-Week Tangent: cat-astrophic behaviour

We’ve had our little furball for a few weeks now and, for the most part, it’s been wonderful. We really lucked out. She’s a total lap cat, which is my favourite kind. I like my animals as needy and clingy as me. She joins us while we watch The Voice. She keeps me company while I work. She even greets us at the door now.

And yet she is not perfect. In fact, she has had one notably bad display of behaviour in her time with us. And I am 100% certain that she did it on purpose.

If we travel back in time to when we first got our little bundle of fluff, we had decided that we weren’t going to let her sleep in our bedroom at night. Anyone who’s had a cat knows that they can be absolute terrors with all their walking all over you and licking your face and generally keeping you from sleeping. I used to let my last cat sleep in my room and, thank god he was so freaking cute, because he was often a pain in my ass. I like my sleep. My partner likes his sleep. And thus, the cat was locked out of the room.

For the first few nights, I really don’t think she cared. She was in a scary new place with new people and doing everything she could just to make sense of all the change.  But then she started to get comfortable with us. At first, it was just the odd head butt on our bedroom door, occasionally followed by one, lone (and very sad) meow.  Then it was more meowing and head butting. And she would just sit there, hitting her cone of shame against the door as though to tell us “I know you’re in there, and I want in too.” It was adorable…but not adorable enough for us to let her in.

After a week of this, she’d clearly had enough and was going to teach us a lesson about what happens when we don’t let her in the bedroom at night.  That was the night she pooped on the carpet outside our bedroom door.

You can try to tell me that it was an accident (like my partner did), that maybe her litter box wasn’t quite clean enough for her liking, or that maybe she was simply still adjusting to the change of a new home, but I know better. My last cat was the most clever and conniving little creature I’d ever seen–until this one–so I know how calculating and intentional cats can be.  She knew that her playfully cute antics were getting her nowhere and she saw no alternative but to up the ante. And she did. In spades. And, you know what, faced with the choice between occasionally being woken by a cat walking over me or waking up to a pile of poop on my carpet, I choose the former.

Which is exactly how our cat became a permanent fixture in our bedroom at night, just three weeks after arriving in our home.  So far, she’s been delightfully still and quiet, but I am wisely leery of this easy transition to cat in the bedroom.  After all, when cats are quiet, they’re obviously up to something.

Real Talk Thursday: the slow decline of a 5am day

I rarely travel for work, but when I do I like to complain about it. Because I am a hermit, and a homebody, and generally prefer to stick to my usual routines. Travel interferes with all of that. Today I had a quick, same-day trip to the big city which always entails a very early morning. In turn, the very early morning entails a slow decline to my day whereby by roughly 7pm (about as I am writing this), I have zero mental or physical energy left to give.

Also, I realize a lot of people get up earlier than 5 am every day of their lives. You are amazing to me. I require more sleep. A lot more sleep.

5 am — wake up call. I feel…tired.

5:25 am — out the door. Maybe this won’t be so bad. I feel more alert.

5:27 am — I am not alert. And my contact lenses are blurry AF because my eyes are so tired and dry.

5:35 am — coffee is heaven. I am brilliant for always remembering to set the coffee pot before an early morning.

5:57 am — made it to the airport. This day is going to be okay.

6:35 am — This airplane is fully boarded. This day is going to be fantastic because we are ahead of schedule.

6:55 am — scratch that. we are right on time

7:00 – 7:55 am — cardiologists (two of whom are sitting in front of me and talking very loudly) are clearly morning people. I hate them. It’s still going to be a good day, though.

8:00 am — on the train into the city. Public transit is magical when you get a seat. I am feeling good about today.

8:30 am — I am in Starbucks. More coffee = my day is getting better.

9:30 am — Yawns. Uh oh.

10:30 am — Is it only 10:30? The meeting I flew down for doesn’t even start til noon.

12:00 pm — I can do this. I can survive this meeting. Only five more hours to go.

2:00 pm — Wait, what did that person just say? How long have I been tuned out for?

3:30 pm — I feel like this meeting should be over. We have covered all relevant items. Why are we all still talking???

4:30 pm — I am f’ing tired. Why is this meeting still going?

5:00 pm — Ugh. Transit is so freaking crowded at this time of day. And hot. I am sweating. I want to be home.

5:30 pm — The dude next to me in the food court is playing really loud music on his phone. Really loud. I want to rip his iphone from his hands and hurl it…anywhere away from me.

6:00 pm — What is what the multiple staging lines at airport security? Just. Let. Me. Through. Damnit.

6:30 pm — Why are there no good napping spots while you wait for planes? Finally boarding. So tired. Will still be another two hours until I am home. Why do I do this to myself? I need to get back to my non-travelling, hermit ways ASAP.

As you can see, my optimism lasted roughly until 11 am. And then it was a slow decline into crankiness, whining and complaining. Just be thankful you’re not the one who has to put up with me when I get home tonight.

Mid-Week Tangent: Air Conditioning Wars

We live in a warm climate. It’s been 30 degrees or hotter most days since the beginning of July. I’m not complaining. I’ve actually come to enjoy the heat, at least as long as I’m not sitting in the direct sunlight. When you live in a country with cold winters, it’s nice to have a couple months when you actually feel warm.

My better half does not see things the same way. He loathes the heat. And for the first time in his life, he has central air conditioning, which he is bound and determined to use (in what I consider to be excess).

My happy place inside the house (during summer) is 26 degrees celsius. It is warm without being oppressively hot, and it still feels like summer time. In our climate, air conditioning is actually required to maintain this temperature. This is my way of confirming that I’m not anti-air conditioning, per se, but to keep the house at 26 degrees we only have to run the AC for a couple of hours during peak heat of the day. Really, I’m pro-air conditioning, just in a limited and strategic capacity.

My better half would set the AC to 20 degrees if he had his own way. And I would be  there in a hooded sweatshirt and flannel pajama bottoms. In July. The long and the short of it is, clearly, we have different philosophies on when and to what extent we should use air conditioning. Commence air conditioning wars.

Our air conditioning wars are subtle. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in my office, which due to its upstairs location is one of the warmer rooms in the house, and I’ll suddenly feel a shift in the air, a faint but notable freshness. And I instantly know:  the AC is on.

Sometimes I’ll come home from the gym and notice that all the windows are closed and I’ll know: the AC is on.

Sometimes I’ll come home from the gym and the coolness of the air when I walk through the door will punch me in the face. You guessed it: the AC is on.

Sometimes he’ll tell me how hot he is for like an hour straight, and I know that the second I leave the house, the AC will be turned on. And, sure enough, when I get home the AC is, in fact, on.

Sometimes I’ll just see him walk down the hallway and seconds later the familiar hum of the AC unit will rise from our basement. I’ll look at the panel and see the AC set to 22 or 23 degrees. He thinks that’s compromise. I think it’s insanity. We go back and forth moving the temperature back up and then moving it down, trying not to let the other see that we’ve adjusted it. For the record, I always notice when it’s been set to a cooler temperature, and he does not always notice when I’ve set it to a higher temperature. Ergo, the house is too cool at 22 or 23 degrees.

I’m sure you’re dying to know who’s won this war, but sadly, the battle still wages on, day in and day out. The only end in sight is when summer temperatures fade, but even then we’ll only end up fighting about the heat. Sigh.

Mid-Week Tangent: the rise and (rapid) fall of my Masters dream

For the last couple of years, I’ve dutifully sent in my request for Masters Championship tickets. And I’ve been scorned. Until this year.

I got the email and got so distracted by the word “congratulations” that I immediately started planning my Masters Championship getaway without actually, you know, reading the entire email. I was so enthralled at the thought of driving down the historic magnolia lane to Augusta National that I lost all sense of reason and dove head first into planning mode.

We imagined a week in Augusta to take full advantage of the experience, and so I got to researching what it might cost:

  • Flights were going to cost around $1500
  • Accommodation appeared to be the biggest pain in the ass. Did you know that hotels book up years in advance around the Masters tournament? I didn’t. There were precious few rooms available, and all at ungodly rates. I’m talking close to $400 US/night for a Super 8 in which I am certain we would be murdered. There were similarly slim pickings in the rental housing and condo markets. By my accounts, it would cost us close to $2000 for the week. $2000! To stay in rural Georgia! Ultimately, the best deal I found was alllll the way in Columbia, SC, a mere 1 hour and 10 minutes drive away, and also where I went to grad school. I assure you that I have never had the desire to go back.
  • $500 (US) car rental
  • Actual tickets to the event would set us back around $1500 US
  • Food and entertainment while there would likely be around $1000

Are you doing the math? Because I was, and the math was astounding. This Masters Tournament week was likely to set us back around $6000. Suddenly my dreams of France 2019 (aka what I had actually planned to spend my hard-earned money on before all this Masters talk) were disappearing before my very eyes. But if you’re thinking that the financial implications were the cause of my Masters’ dreams crumbling, you are wrong. The cost was staggeringly large, yes, but we kept saying to ourselves: it’s the Masters.

The real killer of my Masters dreams was my own lack of attention to detail. You see, I did all of this planning and research (which, granted, only took about a half hour) before I actually read the email from the Masters tournament.  When I actually clicked on the link for tickets, it turns out we had only been awarded tickets for Sunday.  I had completely forgotten that you can request tickets for every practice round and championship round, but that you may not be awarded tickets for everything you request. And I sure wasn’t. My allotment: no practice days, and only one out of four tournament days. The Masters dream was suddenly on shaky ground.

Sure, you can argue that Sunday is the best day (and it is), but the cost to benefit ratio for one day of championship play is more than my brain can wrap itself around. We briefly contemplated whether we should just go and hope to score reseller tickets for the rest of the days. They’re out there every year, but you never know what the cost will be, nor if they are legit.  I couldn’t quite get behind dropping thousands on a crap shoot, particularly when it might get in the way of my back up plan (France 2019).

And so, this is how my dreams of attending the famed Masters Championships rose and fell, all in the span of a couple hours.  Let this also be a lesson to you: always read the email carefully first before diving into planning mode. Rookie mistake.

Mid-Week Tangent: the bar snack you (maybe) didn’t know you need in your life

If you are a health junky, opposed to the occasional deep fried goodness, this post is not for you. Today, I am sharing a love letter to one of my all-time favourite bar snacks: the deep fried pickle.

If you haven’t tried deep fried pickles, you are missing out on one of life’s great pleasures, and you know this claim is legit because, truth be told, I don’t even really like pickles. I never eat pickles on their own. In fact, relish on a hot dog is about as close as I get to pickles other than in deep fried form.

Here’s the catch: all deep fried pickles are not created equal.  I’ve done some extensive deep fried pickle comparisons in my day, and I can safely say that Tap & Barrel has the best deep fried pickles by a long shot. My love for them knows no bounds. I have ordered them every time I’ve gone there, which is a lot, never get sick of them, and only the fear of my own deep shame suppresses my urge to get my own, personal order instead of sharing. One day I will get my own order, though, and I am convinced that day will be my greatest day.

Behold. Greatness.

What makes them so great? The pickle is everything. I have been in establishments that have the audacity to use pickle rounds (ugh), which as far as I’m concerned are an abomination of deep fried pickles. More often, they are pickle wedges, but pickle wedges that lack a satisfying crispness. There is nothing worse than biting into a deep fried pickle to find a soggy, slimy, almost oozing pickle centre. That is not what a deep fried pickle is meant to be. Tap & Barrel’s deep fried pickles always have a satisfying snap to them. They don’t need to rely solely on the coating for crunch; the pickle itself retains its firmness and crispness. Pickle perfection.

The coating is also key. Some places use a batter-type coating, almost like a fish and chip coating. Why would you use a batter so prone to quick soggy-ness? It’s completely illogical and clearly reflects a cook with no love for his or her deep fried pickles. You don’t want that pickle. No, you must use some form of breading, and yet you can’t even rely on any old breading to save the day.  So many places use breading, but go with a fine breading that struggles to fry to a can-cut-the-tender-flesh-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth crunchiness (and yes, that’s a good thing–if you bite with caution). Tap & Barrel goes with a breading that’s almost on the verge of being panko, though I don’t believe it is. Whatever they use, it is the crunchiest and most satisfying coating I’ve ever had on a deep fried pickle. The combination of crisp pickles and ultra crunchy coating is beyond winning.

Then we have the dip. Look, I get wanting to put your own creative stamp on a dip. I’ve seen everything from chipotle to wasabi to cheese. While none are inedible, they don’t really add to the deep fried pickle experience. Most often, they are just a distraction.  Tap & Barrel keeps it simple with a thick, cool and creamy dill dip. Dill on dill may sound repetitive, but its perfectly simple and complimentary.

In other words, this is the deep fried pickle of your dreams and you need to drop everything to try them. Of course, if you don’t live in Vancouver, that’s probably not going to happen. I feel sad for you if that’s the case, but also encourage you to seek out deep fried pickle perfection in your own ‘hood (and then tell me about them so I can try them if I happen to visit your ‘hood).  For now, I will just dream of the next occasion for which I might be in Vancouver and be able to reunite myself with these deep fried beauties. Sigh.

 

*This is not a sponsored post. I have no affiliation with Tap & Barrel whatsoever. However,  Tap & Barrel, if you do happen to stumble onto this post, I would gladly accept a lifetime of free deep fried pickles in exchange for promoting them here.