22 August 2011

How To Ship A Bicycle

When traveling with a bicycle, one must observe the carrier's regulations and specifications. For example, I will be flying British Airways back to Washington, DC, via London. British Airways allows two checked luggage items of 23 kilograms or less each for such international flights. One of those items may be substituted for appropriately packaged sporting equipment of equal or lesser weight for no additional charge. For bikes, packaging must be a bike box or bike bag.

But what does one do when one lives in Saudi Arabia and the local bike shop doesn't seem to understand that bicycles actually get shipped in boxes, not fully assembled on the back of pick-ups?

I gave a thought to just wrapping the entire bike up in some clear plastic like a bag, but I wanted a modicum of protection. So I cut up some small cardboard boxes and taped them together around the bike to fashion my own bike box--at just under 17 kilograms, I'm certain this feat of engineering will protect my bicycle while en route to DC.

My only concern is the British Airways employee I'll encounter at 7:15 AM on Wednesday--will s/he accept my second item of checked luggage? S/he better...!

18 August 2011

Cycling: 18 August

I made a rice and chickpea vegetable stew today followed by peanut butter sesame seed scones.

Both were delicious. But I ate a ton.

So I went for an hour-long bike ride. I went out to one of the as-yet unopened beaches and climbed a sand hill for a while, then I followed along the tall security fence with the chicken wire on top for a bit. I traipsed around the undeveloped desert area that will at some point be... Something.

I don't know if it's dehydration, lack of frequent activity, or just that I didn't do it in a group, but I didn't push myself as much as when I went on the group ride a few weeks ago. I wish I had time for it in the past few weeks, but, y'know, something always came up. This, my last week at KAUST, will be no different: my house inspection is at the same time as the ride on Saturday, and my last night in the Kingdom is the Tuesday ride. I could probably ride then--but I just cleaned my bike and I plan on breaking it down, padding it, and creating a makeshift bike box for airport transit.

12 August 2011

Cycling: 12 August

It's official: I'm moving back to Washington DC for gushy romantic reasons. My last day in Saudi Arabia is 23 August--my flight back leaves at 5 AM on 24 August, and then it'll be a whirlwind of activity for DC State Fair on 27 August.

So I've been keeping very busy, organizing contests for the Fair, planning and packing for an international move, and attempting to find employment back in DC. It's quite stressful, so on top of the emotional trauma of moving in general, moving internationally, starting a new job, and all of that, I now am going through it all again, but in a shorter time frame, with a bunch of other stresses on top of it.

So, I needed a break. I have been feeling hella fat lately (and I am, because of Ramadan. I basically feel as if I'm sneaking any meal during daylight--it makes me eat even more, if that's possible.), so I thought going for a bike ride would be great to relieve a bit of tension and make me feel a little better about my physical shape.

Not so! I went out for about 40 minutes this afternoon. But there is apparently sand all up in my chain, and I might be a little dehydrated--it was a rough ride, even on mostly paved surfaces. And, because of Ramadan, I've been told it's considered uncouth to drink water in front of people during daylight hours. So I had to find hidden places to sneak a drink of water. Which means I didn't really drink any water.

One of the impatiences I have at KAUST is the physical activity--not that it doesn't exist, because it seems to, but the lack of a culture of support (thus this blog, which does actually help, but I still need more). I miss parkour, but I could get over that--yoga has been interesting, and there are other classes I could have seen myself getting into. But my motivation isn't there. The environment in Washington DC is really a lot more conducive to physical and nutritional health. Or, rather, it's easier for me to be healthy and active there.

I look forward to my return--when I get there, this blog will most certainly be updated more frequently, because I'll be more active. Although I packed most of my personal possessions for transport already, I still have my gym clothes and bike--they'll come with me on the plane, because I fully intend to use them up until my last day here.

08 August 2011

Yoga: 8 August

I went to yoga tonight. I actually enjoy it, which almost surprises me. But the holds, movements, and stretches really do work a lot of muscles. Especially ones that I seriously need to either develop, tone, or loosen--arms, abs, and hamstrings, respectively, pretty much.

I will be hurting tomorrow. And Wednesday. But I'm going to continue doing physical activity every day, because I eat like crazy every day. I need to balance it somehow!

Gym: 8 August

Continuing on my theme of "short workouts are better than no workouts," I went to the gym for lunch again today. I can tell that my arms will be sore from yesterday's workout, but it does usually take two days to feel the full burn. I spent less time on weightlifting and more time on the bike, anyhow.

I did 20 minutes on the stationary bike: my average heart rate was 147 beats per minute with a high of 163 and my average speed was 27.96 kilometers per hour (or 17.37 miles per hour). Not bad, I think, considering that my resting heart rate falls below 60 bpm and I kept slowing down on the bike today.

After bicycling (and rehydrating--in the middle of the day during Ramadan, even!), I decided to hit the lat pulldown machine. I hadn't been able to recall the weight I had used the last time (it had been so long!), and feeling that the machine was a familiar friend, I decided to stick the little pin under the 60 kilogram plate. Yup, 132 pounds. That's about 15 pounds more than I ever did in DC, even, and of course I didn't figure that out until after the fact. And yet, I struggled out 2 sets of 10 reps each, although the last few reps in the second set were, well, weak. Looking back, the last time I used the machine, I had done 50 kilograms (110 pounds)--not very different, but I remember that being a struggle!

I decided to call it quits after that and stretched my gluts, hamstring, quads, and more hamstring for 5 minutes. I will be going to yoga tonight, also--that'll work the abs that desperately need that help!

07 August 2011

Gym: 7 August

It's been a hella long time since I was last in the gym, it seems! I haven't done a great deal outside of the gym, either--just bicycling and snorkeling, once each. In general, at least, I'm a bit more active by bicycling to and from work each day. But it's Ramadan, and the idea of fasting makes me ravenous, so I've been eating even more--but less often, which isn't really the way to go.

At least I have cut back on my latte intake. And at least I have been a little bit active--it's an improvement from nothing at all! Tiny steps.

Keeping that in mind, today I had something of a light workout.

I warmed up on the stationary bicycle for 10 minutes at what initially was a nice intensity but quickly became drudgery. Probably because during Ramadan, I cannot drink water in public, and my office is encased in glass.

Abandoning the aerobics, I did 2 sets of 12 reps each of low rows with 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds). Then I thought that it was too easy and did a third set of 12 reps.

On the pec machine, I did 2 sets of 12 reps with 40 kilograms. My muscles weren't happy with me on that one.

By the time I got to the shoulder press, my muscles were unhappy with the activity they weren't used to doing anymore. So I did 1 set of 10 reps at 30 kilograms (about 66 pounds).

I finished off the workout with 2 sets of 10 reps of plank walks.

I think it was about 30 minutes, all told. Tomorrow night, I have a yoga appointment with a friend. Gotta keep it movin'!

Machine: Low Row

The low row machine is something I am not sure I used prior to coming to KAUST. The machine primarily works the lats, with a dash of biceps tossed in for good measure.

Machine: Shoulder Press

These machines are named so creatively, aren't they? The shoulder press works the shoulder muscles--the deltoids, as well as a bit of the triceps and traps.

Machine: Stationary Bicycle

The stationary bicycle works, of course, the legs. For me, primarily the quadriceps. I'd love to work my hamstrings, but I don't pull my leg up on the uppedal--I only push down, which works the quads. Either way, I mostly use the stationary bicycle as a calorie-burning warm-up activity. I don't focus terribly on developing muscle in my legs, I have way too much there as it is! Other activities are needed to tone and hone the muscles there.

05 August 2011

Snorkeling: 4 August

For my birthday yesterday, I treated myself to a snorkeling adventure that's organized every Thursday from the campus marina. About 16 of us went out to this awesome, really long reef somewhere in the Red Sea and hopped in to swim around. I don't have a protective underwater case for my camera, so I don't have any photos of fun coral or fish. Which would have been nice, because I'm not conscious enough in the mornings to remember to put contacts on for such an outing and I couldn't wear glasses with the snorkel mask--I was pretty damn well blind unless I was right up next to coral and fish. Next time I go snorkeling, I'll definitely remember the contacts. It was still awesome, and I was exhausted afterward. I think I might have been out for an hour or an hour and a half of swimming.

In the photo above, you can see waves break against the reef and the bright blue patches of water where the reef is.