Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Gear, No Coasting

I'm finally getting the hang of bicycle commuting around Los Angeles and the solution was to get an old bike and "fix" it. This particular bicycle was a high school graduation for my little brother, nearly 30 years ago. He was cleaning out his apartment and when he decided to get rid of it I snapped it up.

Former life as a 10 speed.

The next part of this project was to clean it up and "fix" it. It wasn't really broken, it's just that the current trend in city bicycles is fixed gear, aka fixie. A fixed gear bicycle as defined on Wikipedia is:
fixed-gear bicycle or fixed wheel bicycle, is a bicycle without the ability to coast. The sprocket is screwed directly on to the hub and there is no freewheel mechanism. A reverse-thread lockring is usually fitted to prevent the sprocket from unscrewing.[1] Whenever the rear wheel is turning, the pedals turn in the same direction.[2] By resisting the rotation of the pedals, a rider can slow the bike to a stop, without the aid of a brake.[1] A fixed gear bicycle can even be ridden in reverse.
 At first this may seem like handicapping the bike, going from 10 gears to one, but riding a fixie is a whole different experience. Maintaining a fixed gear is ultra simple because there are no derailleurs to oil and adjust.

Many fixies have just one front brake or even no brakes at all, applying back pressure on the pedals is all you really need. However, it takes quite a bit of well developed leg strength to make an emergency stop so I opted to keep both front and rear brakes and I'm glad I did, especially going down hills. Remember, there's no coasting so the faster you go, the faster you need to pedal and if your feet slip out of the clips--you're in deep trouble!

My biggest surprise riding a fixed gear was going uphill. You'd think that it would be a weak point but my bike is geared fairly low, 39 tooth chain ring and 16 tooth cog, so that combined with the absence of extra gears, cables and levers makes for a very lightweight climbing machine.

Perhaps the popularity of fixed gear bicycles is an anti hi-tech statement, maybe it is just a fad. It isn't for everyone. I wasn't sure it was for me but since I had a perfect bike to experiment with and lots of inspiration from the posts on fixedgeargallery.com I thought I'd give it a try. As it turned out, it fits perfectly on an MTA bus rack, is easy to carry up and down stairs at the train station and I've been able to conquer every hill I attempted. In fact for the past several months, this bike has been my primary means of transportation to and from work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Optimum Health Institute

Time out. I had a break from my job but I wanted to find a way to have a much longer break, an early retirement. We were thinking about making this life changing move but first we had to clean out the clutter that was holding us back. Like many homeowners our clutter seemed to be concentrated in the garage. Great, our plan was to remodel the garage so we could either rent it out or move into it ourselves and rent out the house. Of course what was taking up all the space in the garage was just the physical clutter, there was also the mental clutter that was not visible but real nonetheless. It seemed like an insurmountable task but we had an ace in the hole, a trump card, an upper hand--we had just taken our health to a new high, an optimum high, we had just returned from a week at the Optimum Health Institute (O.H.I.).

We visited the institute a few years ago and had friends that have gone there. My wife, Rosie, went there for a week with a friend while I was on an extended job and she had a wonderful experience. Many of the visitors go there when an illness, or excuse me, a health opportunity, has eluded traditional medicine. Still others go as a cleansing ritual. My reasoning was that if we could learn a few new things about ourselves and push the limits of what we would do to optimize our health, it would be worth the $1,000 apiece for the week. Of course coming back with the energy to clear out the garage would be ideal.

Optimum Health Institute is healing ministry of the Free Sacred Trinity Church. I'm not much into faith based organizations but people that have gone through the program there assured me that it wasn't a "religious experience" at all. In fact on several occasions the instructors/missionaries emphasized that you go with whatever you're comfortable with be it a belief in God, karma, Chakras but just come to class with an open mind.

About half of the classes and activities are mental, somewhat new age, meditation, self-reflecting and even group psychotherapy. The other half is very much physical. There are exercise classes every morning and afternoon. In addition, there's a popular daily yoga/stretching class. 

However, what seems to be the main focus of O.H.I. is wheat grass.

So what do you do with wheat grass? To start with, you juice it and I mean you juice it, nobody does it for you. Once it is juiced it is only good for a few minutes, maybe an hour at the most.
O.H.I. is one of the largest consumers of wheat grass in the nation. They have to grow it from seeds and harvest it just before juicing. In addition, since the highest quality juice comes from young grass cut only once. Their crop never matures enough to seed.
So how did it taste? Well, like grass. If you swallow it quickly it burns your throat, much like a shot of tequila. I found the best way to drink it was to swish it around my mouth with saliva to take the "edge" off and after a while it actually tasted slightly sweet. Some people never got the hang of it. Rosie could take it at first but as the "detox" started taking affect she couldn't stand the smell of wheat grass and I had to do the juicing for her.
Besides drinking the juice the staff suggested putting the wet pulp on the skin in areas that need healing. I saw people taping wheat grass pulp on dried, cracked skin and heard stories of how a "pulps bra" cured some womens' breast cancer.
Drinking and wearing wheat grass was only a part of the wheat grass regimen it goes deeper, much deeper. Don't forget your E's and I's is a mantra at O.H.I. which stands for enemas and implants. Enemas clean out the toxins in the colon and what they mean by an implant is once your colon is flushed out with water, pour in about four ounces of wheat grass juice into the enema bucket and, yep, suck it in. If you thought holding down a few ounces of wheat grass by mouth is a challenge, wait until you try it in the other end. They suggest holding it for about 15 minutes, good luck. Of course an amateur E and I isn't nearly as effective as a professional one and there are several well equipped colon hydro therapists on the O.H.I. grounds. Of course each session will set you back a few bucks. When we were there the going rate was about $80.
Another focus of the program is "live foods" meaning raw, uncooked, unprocessed and preferably, organic. It can be as simple as either a slice of watermelon or some oranges for breakfast but notice the either/or and not both at the same time. According to the O.H.I. diet, melons should be eaten alone, acid fruits and vegetables shouldn't be combined with alkali veggies and--well, there's a whole class with handouts and charts that cover the proper way to combine food for optimum digestion.
That's not to say that the food is boring, in fact it is very tasty. However, since many people are there with a rather weighty "health opportunity" the servings are somewhat on the small side. Well, there's the three days of juice fasting in the first week of instruction and once that's over, the food not only taste great but the portions are filling.
What about that cracker in my lunch? It is actually sprouted unlevated whole grain bread prepared in a dehydrater that never goes above the magical 150 degrees farenheit which kills the active enzymes and thus turning "live" food into a "dead" meal.
How do you know you're getting the highest quality food? Grow it yourself. On the O.H.I. grounds there's an organic garden where they harvest fresh veggies, salad greens and herbs. They don't have enough space to be self-sufficient, but it does serve as a laboratory for teaching small scale organic farming.
There's Rosie, short red hair, in compost class.
There's also some surprises at O.H.I. like George's Nature Walk. George is one of the missionaries there who likes to forage for food. The walk is done entirely on the grounds and he points out what at first looks like weeds growing in the flower beds and around the organic garden. In fact, many wild native plants are not only edible, they are tasty and nutritious.
What if you don't have the time or space for a garden? Then sprouting class is for you. All you need is a tray of dirt, some seeds and water and in just a couple of weeks:
Home grown sprouts.
Alright, I know that I've mostly dealt with the diet portion of the O.H.I. experience and that's only half of the program. There's the affirmations, sharing, harmonizing with various chakras colors and tones and well, there's plenty of left and right brained activities to get wrapped up in. I had my share of doubts at the start but by the end of the week we both felt great, both physically and mentally. 
The middle of the week was another story. For three days all we consumed was water, wheat grass juice, watermelon juice and green juices. Oh yeah, and a concoction called rejuvelac made from soaking rye or wheat berries in water until it ferments. With all the cleansing going on rejuvelac acts as a probiotic, building up some beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Some people couldn't make it through the juice fast. Some crashed. Then again there were the ones who drove into town for some tacos--like Rosie and a friend she made on this visit.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Something to blog about

I'm back working full-time at DreamWorks Animation and my free time has been reduced to next to nothing. However, a timely item came up and I wanted to blog it.

There was a "health fair" at work last week. One of the most popular tables at the fair was the cholesterol checking station and I waited in line nearly half an hour before getting my finger pricked and blood checked. Of course it was a just a quickie test that didn't measure HDL and LDL but what was very satisfying was that the result came back as "Lo" which the nurse interpreted as under 150 total cholesterol.

Wow, and I did it without drugs. Just for comparison:
                   January   June   August   October
Total Cholesterol 289 215 183 >150

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What the Blog?

There are lots of blogs out there, active, dead, interesting, dull, profit motivated, just for fun, you name it, there's something for just about everyone. The way this blog started was, to use a tired cliche, the horse followed the cart. I built a Linux server to learn something about computers, I used it to handle all of our email services then I found it was also useful to backup the other computers in our home, keep documents on an ftp site, start experimenting with web pages and finally check out some blogging programs. Having a blog with nothing to write about is pretty useless so I started using it as a personal training log when I decided to racewalk the 2006 Los Angeles Marathon. I posted not only my daily training walks but also started posting some research whenever I injured myself. Eventually my posts started going in all sorts of different directions. At times I would post several articles and sometimes, like now, I keep to myself. However, things have been quite active around this household and it is about time that some of our experience gets documented.

The other day I made a list of some things that should get blogged on this site:
  • O.H.I. - Rosie and I went to Optimum Health Institute for a week. We only ate "live" food, we fasted for three days, we meditated, we juiced wheat grass, we put wheat grass juice up where the sun don't shine...
  • Neti Pot - About two years ago I listened to a broadcast on public radio about the benefits of nasal irrigation. It turned out that the Yogis in India have been doing it for years using a simple vessel called a Neti Pot. Since I started using a Neti Pot I have been sick only once for a few days while my colleagues at work were out of it for several weeks...
  • Fixed-Gear - Bicycles are back in style and at the top of the bike culture is the simplest of all, the fixed-gear. You don't need a high priced high-tech, carbon fiber, computer designed frame, that old abandoned rusty steel bike will do just fine. In fact, you're not in style unless you rescued your bike from the dumpster. When my brother was getting rid of the bike my father and I gave him when he graduated from  high school 30 years ago, I snapped it up and turned it into a fixie...
  • E-Bike - I'm becoming a hardcore bicycle commuter but when it gets late, the weather isn't cooperating, or if I'm tired and need a little help, an electric assist is welcome. I did some research and bought the parts to convert my old reliable commuter bike into something more than just a motorized bicycle or moped, at least by California law...
  • Riding the Bus in L.A. - There are buses all over Los Angeles, but trying to get from point A to point B isn't all that easy. My brother has been riding the bus for years but I'm a newcomer thanks to a program at work that issues bus passes to anyone that asks for one...
  • Downsizing - We own a house that has a detached two story garage. No, you can't park on the second story, in fact we never put a car in our garage. The upstairs was the previous owner's design studio which we turned into a comfortable apartment. What was missing was a kitchen and a living room. We decided to remodel with the intention of moving into the garage and rent out our house. That meant turning a huge storage space into a living space. Basically we have to downsize from our house to an apartment, even though that apartment happens to be a few steps away...
  • Home Server to Google - I've been a computer junkie for years but when it came time to decide what to get rid of when we started downsizing it was a no brain er, everything but our laptops had to go. Since we switched to Google we've enjoyed great up time and have most of our data and applications online and available to us anywhere in the world on any computer with a connection to the Internet and a browser...
  • Motorcycle School - Once we decided to become a one-car family I decided that it wouldn't hurt to keep my transportation options open. Then again it might be that I've always wanted my own Vespa...
  • Alternate Car Expo - This year I made it to the Alternate Car Expo in Santa Monica. Surprisingly, electric motor scooters and bicycles were included in this year's exhibits...
  • Toxic Jobs - My father worked most of his life and had a relatively short retirement. Maybe we should think about working less and playing longer. Part of my financial plan is to at least semi-retire at 55, that's just a little over a year away...
  • Walking - Last Sunday I volunteered to videotape a racewalking event where competitors walked around the track at Cal Tech for an hour then went to an after race party where the major attraction was to watch the video of themselves walking around a track for an hour. It might sound crazy but walking is the most accessible of exercises yet most people don't know how to get the most benefit out of walking...
Hopefully other people will find these articles as interesting as I do. After all, if a blog falls in the Forest and nobody hears it...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Human Race

On August 31, 2008 at 08:31:08pm the Human Race began at the Los Angeles Coliseum. This wasn't done by divine intervention but by a shoe company - Nike.

A friend in Israel told me about this event, runners from all over the world would be participating in this, the largest 10k race in history. It was scheduled to be run on the same day in several major cities and if you couldn't get to a major city you could run on your own and post your results. It would be a way to join my friend in a race even though we live half a world away from each other.

After I signed up my wife thought that we should do more activities together so she decided to join me. We planed to walk together and although we didn't do any training before the event, we went with the Nike motto: Just do it.

We did it and lots of other people also walked it, though many of those were probably pooped out runners. We were happy just to be out there and complete the course. I'm so proud of Rosie for being such a good sport.

What really mattered here was doing something that is within our capability and have fun so we'd want to do it again. When I ran the L.A. Marathon in 1993 it took me 13 years before I forgot about the pain and to try it again. For most people running a marathon takes to much of a time, mental and physical commitiment. However, there usually lots of 5k and 10k "fun runs" that welcome walkers. Of course you've got to be in shape and the best way to prepare is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, like walking or biking, three or more times per week.

I know this sounds entirely unscientific and it won't put you on the winner's podium, but believe me you'll feel great and who knows, maybe your cholesterol level will fall and you'll drop a few pounds too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Experiment Continues

We're doing some experimenting recently in an attempt at creating a healthy, financially independent lifestyle for ourselves.

We moved our email, blog and web pages from the dedicated server I've been running in our garage to Google. We sold our 10-year old Mercedes and bought a newer used Prius. We're cleaning out the garage in and we'll be converting it to a rental unit. I'm riding my bicycle to work whenever possible. We switched to a low fat vegan diet.

Whoa - what's that? Vegan?

Being vegetarian isn't something new to me. I've been pretty much meat free for about 15 years. Of course it wasn't always easy. There's the peer pressure to deal with and just because you're a vegetarian doesn't mean that you're eating healthy. After all a veggie pizza is loaded with cheese and I know all too well what that can do to my cholesterol level.

Call me a tree-hugging hippie, I don't care, I feel great and my blood test shows just how far I've come since cutting out cheese, and fish--after all aren't we supposed to eat salmon to get enough Omega-3? Not!

Here's how it went so far this year.

                   January June August
Total Cholesterol    289   215   183
LDL Cholesterol      214   121   115
HDL Cholesterol       48    56    42

On January my cholesterol was sky high so I cut out the cheese, started eating more fish and began running every morning. On June 27 through 29 Rosie and I took a Celebrity Chef weekend seminar put on by Dr. John McDougall and decided to follow his low fat vegan recommendations. I also started riding my bicycle to work as much as possible for exercise.

Oh, but not eating meat-that must really limit my food choices. Well, I thought I'd document my meals, just to prove that a low fat vegan diet doesn't have to be boring.

Skipping the donuts, pastries, eggs and yogurt, I went for a bowl of oatmeal and a plate full of fruit at the studio commissary
Cucumber salad with peppers and couscous, pasta salad, curried vegetables with brown rice and yet some more pasta. What can I say, I like pasta and as long as it isn't loaded up with Alfredo sauce or oily marinara or smothered with cheese, pasta isn't fattening.
Working in the movie industry isn't all that glamorous, I often have to work through dinner. This is the time when trying to pick something out of a "Restaurants on the Run" menu can get quite challenging. No pizza or chicken wings for me, here I went for lentil soup and white bean hummos with pita bread.

You might notice that there aren't any drinks with my meals. Even though I do like a glass of red wine with dinner every once in a while I don't generally drink with my meals anymore. I heard that digestion is hampered by too much liquids, especially cold liquids and the usual cold soft drinks, especially sodas, does not do a body good. Oh and of course milk is out of the question. However, I do take in fluids during the day. I always ride my bicycle with a full bottle of water so that's a couple of liters per day just on my commute. In addition, I sip some herbal tea while working so my toal liquid intake is about 4 liters, about a gallon.

What about snacks? Motion picture studios are notorious for having lots of junk food on the set but if you look hard enough there's also fruit. My favorite snack is a banana. Not banana chips or banana flavored jelly beans or choclolate covered bananas, just plain peel and eat bananas.

So, the experiment continues. Up until now this blog has been just a personal exercise log and scrap book but we're turning a corner and expanding into other areas. In future posts we will be publishing articles about personal finance, healthy living and even some of our favorite recipies. Hopefully it will attract the interest of others looking to improve their health, wealth and life in general.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Moving the Blog

After years of running my own server I thought it was about time I downsized and simplified my digital lifestyle. As of today the Digiola Blog is moving from the computer in my garage to the Google servers located who knows where.

I tried several tools for moving old posts from the garage server running Gentoo Linux and Wordpress to Google's Blogger. The one that worked for me was BlogSync.

At this time Google has a limit of 50 posts per day and BlogSync is showing the posts in alphabetical order instead of chronological order so things will seem a bit wonky until all the posts are moved over.

After moving the posts I'll have to move the photos, videos and other media before I can pull the plug on my server.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Almost Fell off the Bus

In my quest to become a "green" commuter while staying out of the bicycle unfriendly roads in Los Angeles, I tried riding the bus with my bike today. It seemed like a good idea, ride the bike on the wide flat roads and get on the bus to go over the hill with the narrow roads. The buses here have racks that can carry a couple of bicycles. Well, I never used one of those things but how hard can it be?

I timed my commute, just to see how it compared with mashing my way over the hill. First of all it took me a while to find the bus stop. I found one at the Warner Brother's Studio main gate, turned out that there was another bus stop closer to my usual route but I guess that I never noticed it even though I go past it every day. First leg, DreamWorks Animation in Glendale to Warner Brothers in Burbank, about 20 minutes. Next came the wait at the bus stop, there were a couple of kids there asking me when the bus is coming, (I didn't know but I figured that one should come by every 20 minutes or so) how much does it cost to ride, (didn't know that either, I got a bus pass from work) and how much for a taxi (no help there either)--they got tired of waiting and went off looking for another way to get to their destination. I guess I must have just missed a bus because I had to wait about 30 minutes until the 222 showed up. Getting the bike on the rack was no big deal, I just followed the instructions from the Bike Guide I got from the Metro website. I flashed the pass at the driver and took a seat where I had a clear view out the front windshield so I could keep an eye on my bike. It started out fine but it seemed to sway back and forth a bit more and more each time the bus would brake and accelerate. About halfway into the ride the driver stopped the bus. He was quite visibly angry as he honked his horn and said, "Sir, you bike is about to fall off." I jumped out and sure enough the retaining bar that is supposed to secure the bike in place slipped off the back wheel and it was a miracle that my bike, didn't turn into road kill. I flipped it around and tried the bar on the front wheel and it looked like it would hold a bit better. So much for using the bus to keep from building up a sweat--I worked up more of a sweat than riding over the hill! Total time for the bus ride, 9 minutes. I got off on Cahuenga and Franklin and rode down Cahuenga to Melrose, which was a much better route than Highland with it's narrow traffic lanes and traffic that obeys no speed limits. Last leg, about 28 minutes.

Total commuting time: 1 hour 27 minutes.

That's about 20 minutes longer than biking over the hill and fighting L.A. traffic. Not great, but it's an option when I get off work after dark and want to improve my chances of living through the commute.

All I've got to do to make this work is to figure out how to use those bus bike racks. I think the main problem was the big, heavy, steel, front basket on my bicycle. In fact the Rider's Guide states that:
Tandem bikes or bikes with motors, solid
wheels, large racks, child seats or other
attachments are not allowed.

Oops. I guess I should either remove the basket or get another bicycle just for bus commuting. Hum, that bike my brother gave me could make a cool fixed gear conversion.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sign of the Times?

I'm interested in all things somewhat off the mainstream, recumbent bicycles for instance. One of the best recumbent bike blogs, therecumbentblog, recently closed down and the author went with a more "mainstream" bike blog, ecovelo. Furthermore, long time make of long wheelbase recumbents, easyracers, has started distributing folding electric bicyles that they have built or designed.

Of course it does make sense. I'm planning on combining the bus with the bicycle for my daily commute but there is only enough room for two bicycles on the bus bike rack. A folding bike would take care of the rack problem and the electric motor will be a blessing should I miss the bus and have to ride the bike all the way.

Besides, the Ecobike Vatavio is cool!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vespa LX50 HyS - Hybrid Motor Scooter

I'm getting to like being almost car free. Last week the only day I took a car to work was to show it to a co-worker who wanted to buy it.

Although I'm really liking bicycle riding and I just got a free bus pass from work, there's still something holding me back from selling my car. What about when crunch time hits and I'm going home late at night? How about when we have to take our one car to the shop and I've got to pick up my wife? I can't have her ride on the handle bars of my bicycle and although the bus system in Los Angeles is quite extensive, we're spoiled after so many years of owning our own cars.

A motor scooter is one possible solution--I just got my motorcycle permit just to keep my options open. There are some interesting all electric scooters, but what if I run out of juice on the road? Recharging the batteries takes longer than filling a gas tank. In addition, the electricity in our area is generated by burning oil so it isn't exactly clean energy. The old two-stroke scooters are dirty, noisy and don't get great gas mileage, but the new 4-stroke models are a big improvement.

Of course the Vespa is pretty much the standard when it comes to motor scooters and their smaller, 50cc engines, reportedly get up to 80 miles per gallon. However, Piaggio, the company that makes the Vespa, announced a hybrid model that get something around 140 miles per gallon.

So when I'm not riding the bike or the bus I might be running around town on a Hybrid Vespa and saying, "Ciao!" (Eddie Izzard reference.)

Here's the lowdown on the little Vespa Hybrid scooter.
The HyS (Hybrid Scooter) models are parallel hybrids, combining four-stroke combustion engines with electric motors. The electric motor provides power assist, supplying a 25% boost in power for acceleration over the first few meters (a good feature for lunging through urban traffic), while at the same time supporting a 20% decrease in fuel consumption.

The rider uses all the normal controls (accelerator, brakes and additional handlebar commands) as well as a specific switch to choose one of four operating modes:

* Standard hybrid
* High-charge hybrid
* Low-charge hybrid
* Electric-only

In the first three modes the HyS manages power output from the engine and the motor using a drive-by-wire type system. The electronic management system interprets the rider’s request for more torque and selects the assist ratio based on the battery’s state of charge.

Regenerative braking recharges the batteries.

In standard-hybrid mode the battery charge is maintained at optimal traction levels (batteries at 75%). The high-charge hybrid function is geared to maximize the range of the electric motor (batteries at 95%).

If, on the other hand, the rider wishes to recharge the batteries using the 220V battery charger by plugging into a power outlet, he or she can use the low-charge hybrid mode (batteries at 20%) to obtain maximum performance with minimum consumption. (Charging time is about three hours.)

In electric-only mode, the Piaggio HyS shuts down the combustion engine and turns into a silent, zero-emission electric vehicle—an important consideration for those European cities that are increasingly placing restrictions on emitting vehicles.

The control system not only manages the combined power output of the engine and motor, but also forces the engine to work when it can be most efficient, thereby reducing specific consumption, with advantages in terms of lower consumption and emissions.

Why did the Snake Cross the Bike Path?

When commuting by bicycle you get to see all sorts of weird stuff laying on the side of the road. I had to stop and take a photo of this rattlesnake that almost made it accross the bike path.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Picking up my Car with my Bicycle

I've been trying to ride my bike to work as much as possible. Sometimes I've got to use the car--like when I took the car into the shop for service. However, I decided to pick up my car with my bike but how to bring the bike back? Here's my solution, just strap the bike car rack on the bike!

I discovered a glitch with my setup. Notice that the basket doesn't attach to the front hub. That's because the bike is a bit large and has a quick release hub. I thought I had it figured out with the metal and rubber straps I found in a hardware store but as I was getting close to my destination the weight of the bike rack caused the straps to slip down the fork. I've got to figure out a better way to attach that huge basket.

In any case, I did manage to ride my bike twice all the way to work and back and once to the car dealership--which was realtively close compared to my regular commute. I'm not really keeping track of distance, heart rate, etc. like when I was racewalking and running, but even with this low mileage week I rode at least 54 miles. That's about 5 hours on the saddle without doing a weekend ride. When I was racewalking/running in the mornings I'd be lucky to get that much exercise in a week including the weekend.

Hum, getting this much exercise and saving on gas. It all seems great so far, as long as I keep a good safety record.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Basket Case

So I'm working at DreamWorks Animation again and I decided that there wasn't much point to getting up early to run then drive to work so I'm combining exercise and commuting by biking to work. Last time I did it the backpack was rather uncomfortable and I wanted to figure out how to get that weight off my back. Out of all of the racks, panniers, saddle bags, etc. I decided to get a big front basket. Big enough to give rides to my dog--though I didn't take my dog to work! Oh, and I normally ride with a helmet so the photo isn't exactly what I look like riding my bike.

I'm starting out by riding just a few days per week, though I didn't get as tired as I thought I would. It only takes about 1 hour 8 minutes to make the trip. That's not bad considering that driving to work takes 45 minutes and if I add the morning run it's about 1 1/2 hours. The ride home takes the same amount of time on the bike but I've got to deal with the traffic driving home so it often takes me over an hour to get home by car. I have to admit it was fun zipping by the traffic jamed up at the Hollywood Bowl.

I've been debating wearing my Polar heart rate monitor and even getting a GPS unit so I could track my workouts better, but that might turn a pleasureable bike ride into an exhausting workout. I also thought about getting an electric assist for the hills, but that would mean that I'd be exercising less. I even thought about getting another bicycle, either a recumbent or a light weight triathalon model but I'm doing fine with what I've got for now.

Integrating exercise with commuting seems like a good idea. I'm not sure if I'll get involved with the racewalking or running groups on the weekend because at least for now I'm getting plenty of exercise just commuting to work and around town.

Let's see what exercise and a good diet does for my cholesterol. I was able to get it down quite a bit just by being a bit more careful in what I eat, doing some moderate exercise and reducing whatever stress I could out my life.
                             January    June

Total Cholesterol 289 215
LDL Cholesterol 214 121
HDL Cholesterol 48 56

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Too Hot to Run

Since returning from Hawaii I've only been able to get one in 5k training run on June 6. Nothing much to talk about, the pace was just a little slower than my usual 7 minutes per kilometer. However, my left knee was hurting for several days after the run. I'm pretty sure that the cause was simply a matter of not easing back into it rather than bad form or over use.

We went to Puerto Vallarta from the 9th through the 20th. There's a good community athletic park there complete with a nicely surfaced track but the heat and humidity was too much to try it out.

Today we're going on a car trip to Northern California to take a Dr. McDougall cooking workshop. This doctor believes that most health problems, including my high cholesterol, can be solved with diet.

Of course the key to good health is a balance of diet, exercise and happiness. I'm certainly happy not having to report to work every day but I'll be back at work on July 1. Hopefully I'll be able to return to a regular exercise routine soon but for June it looks like 5k for the whole month is about it.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not So Active Lifestyle

Well the first week was quite active. I walked several miles every day between the set where Rosie was working to the hotel in Honolulu. The next week base station was a boat off of Makaha and I spent the week reading and not moving very much. Any little pain that I had from exercising is gone and being replaced by aches from lack of exercise.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Active Lifestyle

So here I am in Waikiki Beach. Thursday was the travel day and Friday I spent mostly walking to and from the Hotel Ilikai to the set at Queen's Beach where Rosie is working. I even made a trip to the local WalMart to pick up some sun screen they needed on the set. Although it might seem like a lazy day it turned out that I walked about 15 miles, much of it barefoot on the sand, so you could call it exercise, work or simply an active lifestyle day. If every day was like that there would not really be any need to take the time to exercise because there's enough activity in the day to keep fit. Hum--give up a life of driving the car to work and sit in front of a computer for 10 hours? Sounds good to me.

There is a lagoon right next to the hotel and it looks like lots of people jog around it for exercise so I went down and did 5 kilometers this morning.

                HR             Pace                Cadence    Distance
Saturday    -   157   6:57 min/km  11:11 min/mi    85         5.0 km

Why a daily run distance on the weekend? Rosie is working today, Saturday, so it feels like a weekday today--Toto I don't think we're in Jerusalem anymore! Besides yesterday was sort of a long day for me and I'm getting plenty of exercise just walking on the beach. I also got a swim mask and snorkel and have been checking out the local marine life. Now I've only got to rent a bicycle and I'd be doing a tri-vacation!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Off to Hawaii

In all the flurry of activity getting ready to go to Hawaii to be with Rosie for a few weeks while she is working on a movie there I just realized that I reached a milestone today--50 kilometers and the week is only half over. Well, OK I cheated. Monday I rode my bicycle to and from work so it doesn't really count!

In any case I did put in a couple of 5 k runs and wanted to note them down before taking off. Interesting, same cadence but different pace, I must have been taking longer strides on Tuesday. Yesterday I was feeling a little tired so I took it easy. I didn't do the daily run this morning.
               HR            Pace                Cadence     Distance
Tuesday    -   161   6:53 min/km  11:04 min/mi    84         5.0 km
Wednesday  -   157   7:19 min/km  11:46 min/mi    84         5.0 km

I'll try to put in some runs while in Hawaii but I'm not sure if I'll keep up my training blog.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bike to Work and Back

Well, since this is bike to work week and I'm working--I did it! I took the long way around the hill through Silverlake to get from my home in West Hollywood to DreamWorks Animation. It went quiet smoothly, though I got a little lost around Los Feliz going to work and it seemed like every light turned red on me when I came back via Melrose. The best part is that I did it on my 10+ year old cheapie bicycle. It was in pretty good shape because it sat in the garage all these years. All I did was clean it up a bit before the ride.

I'm only working Monday for this week. Would I have tried biking to work the whole week? How about biking to work every day? That's something I'm going to have to consider once I get back to work! One thing that I'm thinking about is adding an electric assist to make going over that hill a little easier and not having to arrive at work all sweaty.

The ride to work took me 1 1/2 hours. That's a little longer than I anticipated but considering that I got lost and hit some unexpected hills it wasn't too bad. I don't have a way to measure speed or distance on the bike but according to the mapped route it should have been 14 miles.

On the return trip I decided to come back the same route that I usually drive. Over the weekend I bought a head and tail light for the ride home and I confess that the ride home had me a bit worried. I thought I would have to walk over the Cahuenga pass and when I got there I saw a couple of other cyclists walking their bikes but I dropped it down to the lowest gear and climbed the hill just fine. Coming down the other side was exhilarating to say the least. The trip took just over an hour--about the same as it usually takes to drive home!

One thing that I wasn't expecting was that it felt very cold riding the bicycle. I'm used to getting warmed up when running but I never got warmed up on the bike. Part of the reason was that it was an unseasonably cold day, I was taking it easy for the most part and the speed I was riding generated quite a bit of wind chill.

I wore the Polar running watch and although I didn't have the GPS to measure distance on the bike, once I entered the total distance on the ProTrainer 5 software, it gave me information about pace. The hill looks much more challenging on the graph--since it is measuring time and not distance, the trip home compressed the downhill to make it look like I was going down a ski jump!

In keeping with my exercise log-blog, here are the statistics:
                        HR               Pace              Distance
Home to DreamWorks   -   134    3:58 min/km  6:23 min/mi    22.5 km
DreamWorks to Home   -   120    3:24 min/km  5:28 min/mi    19.3 km

I guess that in bicycling you don't really measure pace in minutes per kilometer or mile but in kilometers or miles per hour. My average was about 10 miles per hour or 16 kilometers per hour.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Changes...whoa whoa whoa

A lot has happened since my last post. First of all, I'm home! Through a series of events that happened at my job in Jerusalem I had an opportunity to move my departure date up by a month so I took it. That last week of April was crazy for me, trying to pack up and scheduling working at my old job at DreamWorks Animation the following week. Needless to say, once again work got in the way of my workouts, though my sore left ankle would have put me down for the week anyway.

I immediately started working out at my old familiar course in West Hollywood. Monday Rosie and I took the dog out for a stroll but I strapped on the heart rate monitor and made it count--the pace was very slow because of all the pee breaks the dog took. Tuesday was one lap around the block to test my ankle. Wednesday Rosie was getting ready to leave for a month long job in Hawaii so I skipped the run--wouldn't you know it, as soon as I get home she leaves, but the good news is that I'll be following her to Hawaii soon. Thursday I started extending the distance and Friday I finally got around to doing a 5 kilometer daily run. My course at home is much flatter than the hilly Jerusalem course so it wasn't that hard to get to 5K.

However, my ankle is still a bit sore so I'm going to give it a couple of days rest and skip the long run.
               HR           Pace                Cadence     Distance
Monday    -    95   12:30 min/km  20:07 min/mi    54         1.7 km
Tuesday   -   164    6:27 min/km  10:22 min/mi    87         1.9 km
Wednesday -   off
Thursday  -   164    6:40 min/km  10:43 min/mi    86         3.7 km
Friday    -   164    6:49 min/km  10:58 min/mi    87         5.0 km

I am just filling in for someone at DreamWorks. It was only supposed to be for a week but he isn't returning until Tuesday so I'm also going to work on Monday. Since May 12-16 is "Ride your Bike to Work Week" I dusted off the old bicycle and am planning on riding to work and back on Monday. At 12 to 14 miles one-way, depending on which route I take.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Backing Off--just a bit

It seems that these past few weeks things aren't going as I had hoped. I was planning on running 3k daily, Monday through Friday and a long run on Saturday--but that was not to be. I've got a pain in my left ankle, last time it was my right ankle and it took several weeks to heal. However, this time I'm pretty sure that the problem was caused not by running, but when I accidentally hit my foot on the bed frame on Monday evening. Trying to be a hero and running too hard on Tuesday only made it worse.

Three kilometers per day, total distance this week: 12k. About average for this month.
               HR           Pace                Cadence
Monday    -   157    6:50 min/km  11:00 min/mi    84
Tuesday   -   160    6:37 min/km  10:39 min/mi    88
Wednesday -   156    7:29 min/km  12:03 min/mi    85
Thursday  -   151    8:05 min/km  13:01 min/mi    80

I took it easy on Wednesday. The pain subsided after about a kilometer warm up and I almost talked myself into training through it instead of taking any rest days. Perhaps stress has something to do with this injury because after a relaxing good phone conversation with my wife on Thursday morning I really felt pretty good, though I took it extra easy to prevent making things worse.

Since Friday was a day off work I decided to wait until later in the day to do the run, but after walking to the market I realized that I'd better take the day off and forget about doing a long run on Saturday.

So this shouldn't be as bad as when my right ankle hurt last month and I don't think it is a running injury this time, but I'm going to back off on my workouts--just a bit because I don't want to just stop and rest. One strategy that might work is to run every other day and see if things get better or worse.

An interesting observation is that the Polar RS800sd measured all of the runs this week 2.9k instead of 3k. Not a big deal, but I'm running the same course so to keep things consistent I'm calculating my times for 3k.

I guess that in the big picture it doesn't really matter too much if my training distance is off my 0.1k as long as I'm getting in a good workout. I'm currently not preparing for a race, unless you consider getting my cholesterol count down a sort of a race. What is starting to bother me though is that I'm running around in circles every morning in order to stay healthy enough to sit in front of a computer in a dark room the rest of the day.

Five weeks to go on this job and I'll be home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Human Electric Hybrid

The most practical alternate form of transportation that will get me to and from work seems to be an electric assisted bicycle. Nothing fancy or very progressive--I've already got a bicycle that can be easily modified. There's lots of information and videos about electric hybrid bicycles, this news report pretty much covers the basics.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pondering Bicycle Choices

Before I came to Israel to work, I was about to buy a tandem recumbent bicycle so that my wife and I could exercise together. My first choice was this Easy Racer tandem.

The problem with this was how to transport it. We weren't ready to sell the car and use this as our main source of transportation so we wanted something we could haul to the beach on a standard bicycle rack with a minimum of hassle.

Then I found this Columbia Tandem from Barcroft.

And it fits on a rack without folding or disassembly.

I was all set to order one of these tandems when I got called away to work in a far away land. So, now that I'll be returning home should I pick up where I left off?

Since I've been gone the price of gasoline has skyrocketed so bicycle commuting to work is an option that I've got to consider. No need to car pool with a bicycle so the tandem will have to wait for now.

So, what are my commuting options? I've got a cheap hybrid bicycle that I was thinking about adding an electrical assist in order to get over the hill between my house and where I work. However, there is this site called veloroutes.org and I was able to map a route that avoided the hill and the heaviest traffic. Here's a route that looks promising.

This got me thinking, could I combine my exercise and commute? When I'm at home I have to get up and hour early to exercise then drive about 45 minutes to work. I should be able to do this 14 mile commute via bicycle in about an hour. Returning from work by car usually takes about an hour because of traffic, sometimes more, much more. However with a bicycle it should take an hour or maybe less because it is mostly downhill and I won't be concerned about building up a sweat and having to stew in my juices the whole work day. The downside is that it is usually dark when I get off work and of course there is the possibility of rain. No big deal, I've exercised in the rain and in the dark, I can deal with it.

So how about a little fun and instead of spending on an electric assist I get a new bicycle? I'm fond of recumbents so a nice fast one would make the commute more enjoyable, like this sleek Bacchetta.

I've been very interested in the front wheel drive Cruzbike and adding an electric assist on this bike is an intriguing option.

Of course if I'm really serious about exercise fixed gear is the way to go. Sure it may be the latest fad, but it is also great exercise (no coasting)--and I don't have to pay gym membership to enroll in a spinning class. I'd probably be a bit of a prude to add a front break, but better safe than road kill. The coolest thing about this choice is that I could get an old frame, convert it to fixed gear myself and have a very hip rig without spending a fortune.

Of course if money is no object, there are lots of carbon fiber tri, trials, road, track, beauties like this Superbike from Bike Technologies Australia.