Sports Analysis

June 16th, 2011

Mmmmh, brownies...

P90X Statistics

June 6th, 2011

I finally got around to tabulating my p90x results. Here are some daily and periodic measurements represented graphically.

resting heart rate

body fat percent


core measurements

arm measurements

thigh measurements

The overall results:

MeasurementDay 0Day 91Change
Body Fat17.515.3-2.2
Chest3737 7/16+7/16
Waist3430 3/4-3 1/4
Hips34 1/431 7/8-2 3/8
Right Thigh2121 7/16+7/16
Left Thigh20 1/221 9/16+1 1/16
Right Arm13 3/413 3/40
Left Arm13 1/413 9/16+5/16

And here are the results of the fit test:

MeasurementDay 0Day 91Change
Resting Heart Rate7060-10
Pull Ups515+10
Vertical Leap1314.5+1.5
Toe Touch+2+5+3
Wall Squats2:494:02+1:13
Curls21 @ 19 lbs27 @ 20 lbs+8
In 'n' Outs2554+29
Max Heart Rate180160-20
1 min Heart Rate130112-18
2 min Heart Rate112100-12
3 min Heart Rate10094-6
4 min Heart Rate9690-6

So there you have it! Next up, photos…

P90X Phase 3

May 27th, 2011

I had never made a serious commitment to fitness before P90X although I generally felt “in shape.”  There was a time when I went to the gym a few times per week.  I ran in high school.  I hike, bike, and kayak.  The dog gets long walks daily.  But for the last 90 days, I basically made fitness my top priority.  It was the reason I rolled out of bed at 4:40 AM, stumbled downstairs to fill my water bottle, and headed into the office/workout room to wake up and Bring It.  I changed the way I ate and paid attention to portions.  I said no to all the sugary good things that would normally catch my attention.  I ignored all of the free food emails at work.  I even restrained myself at the monthly wine and cheese and occasional danish with the director meetings.  Sure, I slipped up here and there.  I went out to eat.  I was away.  Sometimes I was just really hungry (especially before I started adding carbs back in).  But I did my best.  I brought everything I had to almost all of my workouts.  I have been tired, sore, tired, and occasionally (or mostly) grouchy for three months.  I’ve had to give up some of the other things I enjoy doing in my spare time.  I haven’t done as much work on the house as I would have liked.  Sure, some nights I can’t stay up past 8.  But I made it 90 days and I’m better for having done it.  I’m in the best shape of my life.  I didn’t doubt P90X would work.  I saw Tina’s amazing results.  I just didn’t know how good I would feel at the end.  I’ll have another post with some hard numbers and maybe some photos soon.  But for now, here’s my notes on Phase 3 (which alternates workouts from Phase 1 and Phase 2 for 4 weeks then finishes with a recovery week):

Week Nine:

  • Phase 3 started rough.  If you recall from the end of Phase 2, I was rushing to finish up the prep. work for installing some tile in the house.  Phase 2 ended with a missed workout (made up the next day after 4 hours sleep).  On the first day, I borrowed my rest day from the end of the week because I was so tired from tiling that I couldn’t imagine working out.  Then, I spent nearly 12 more hours tiling!  My legs and back were so sore from squatting and bending all day that it took me half an hour to get out of bed on Monday morning for my workout.  Once I warmed up though, I was right back in the groove.  The workout felt fantastic.  The next day I brought my best for Plyometrics and did all of the double moves.  I had to fight a bit of a bad attitude midweek because I was still tired but I pushed through.  On Thursday, I did yoga in the morning and then decided to try to get back on track so I could have a rest at the end of the week by doing Legs and Back in the evening.  That left Kenpo X and Abripper X on Friday.  I did note that 3 leg-intense workouts in a 24 hour period caused considerable pain and also that I was still exhausted.  I gladly took my “rest” day on Saturday and used my energy for grouting the tile.

Week Ten:

  • This week started off really well.  I had a good night’s sleep and felt good after my workout.  This week I finally did a bunch of corn-cob pullups without leg assist.  I went big for pullups later in the week and raised my numbers significantly on all of them.  I did have to back down on some of the weighted leg moves in Legs and Back because my knees were really sore.  I did notice I was feeling a bit more tired toward the end of the week again.  Also, I switched from diet phase 2 to diet phase 3.  This was a drastic shift to 60% carbs!  I did notice that I had more energy during subsequent workouts.

Week Eleven:

  • I was super excited to be back to the phase one workouts again.  I think I like them slightly more than the phase two workouts.  I definitely had more energy overall and biked 3 times during this week.  I also had two good walks with the dog.  It had been a long time since I had been able to walk at a pace she found acceptable as I was usually too tired and just shuffled along.  I had some trouble with my left knee in yoga.  The first 45 minutes were pretty painful but I got through it.  I’m pretty sure this was when I started grumbling about how done I was with P90X.  I think I was just getting weary and my joints and connective tissues were in need of a break.

Week Twelve:

  • Week twelve started good but by yoga day, my knees were bothering me again and my hamstrings were very tight.  I was really getting sick of feeling so weary and worn out but I tried to push through.  My legs are very tired.  Still, I pushed hard on pullups during Legs and Back because it was the last time I ever have to do it!  Kenpo was tough because of the soreness/tightness in my legs.  I was sure happy to get this week over with!

Week Thirteen:

  • Week thirteen began with consecutive rest days and bad eating because we went away and got ENGAGED!  We walked many miles on Saturday.  That helped my hamstrings (after the 2 hour drive on Friday, I could barely walk!) and general leg soreness.  I think the extra day of rest really helped because the first round of yoga was one of the most enjoyable so far.  My knees didn’t complain one bit.  Once again, I doubled up to catch back up with the schedule.  I was so close to finishing in 90 days that I didn’t want to stretch it to 91 so I did Core Synergistics and X Stretch on the same day.  I didn’t notice any negative effects during the second workout.  I was feeling tired again and struggled to get up to do the last three workouts.  I’m mentally and physically exhausted from this, but I made it to the end and I AM DONE!

I’ll repeat the fit test tomorrow to see how things have changed over the last 90 days.  I’m sure that I’ll be happy with the results.  I’m not sure what comes after that.  I think I’m going to take a week off and think about it.  My body needs a break.  I know I can’t keep up with this extreme workout schedule indefinitely because I’m putting off other things I want to do.  I’m not sure that I need to either.  I’m happy with where I’m at.  Now it’s time to find the balance between maintaining my current level of fitness and getting back some time and energy.  I know I’ll be biking a lot this summer and I’m signed up for a 7 mile road race in August so I’ll be doing some training for that.  If I can squeeze in some resistance and core work in between, I think that will do.  Stay tuned for some stats coming soon…


P90X Phase 2

April 27th, 2011

I can’t believe P90X Phase II has come to a close.  Looking back, it has flown by, although I didn’t necessarily feel that way at the time.  In Phase II, Chest and Back is replaced with Chest, Shoulders and Triceps and Shoulders and Arms is replaced with Back and Biceps.  Here’s how things went:

Week Five:

  • My notes for Chest, Shulders and Triceps indicate that I had muscle confusion and brain confusion.  Then I had ab pain!  I was a bit slow with the new routine.  I’m starting to experiment with doubles by rollerblading with the dog.  I did a 3 mile loop in the afternoon.
  • Plyometrics continues to be an awesome workout.
  • Back and Biceps made me realize I need to focus on form a bit.  Ab progress continues.
  • I waited to do yoga until after work and was noticeably more flexible than the last time I did it.  I’m not sure if I’m seeing drastic improvement or an influence of the time of day.
  • Legs and back continues to kill me, partly because I don’t really like the workout.  the 80-20 speed squats at the end leave me feeling dizzy every time.  This time I even took an extended break before continuing on to abs and didn’t feel like eating breakfast after.
  • Made some modifications in Kenpo because some of the back-kicks are bothering my left knee.  I just do extra side kicks or back-steps instead of kicks

Week Six:

  • Since we headed out of town for the weekend, I swapped my rest day for the start of the next week.  It worked out well, except  I woke up with a kink in my neck on Sunday and couldn’t turn my head.  By the afternoon, it had loosened up a bit and we went for a quick (easy) ride on the horses.  My back didn’t hurt as much as it usually does afterward so I think my core is getting stronger!  We got home late from NH and I found myself lacking energy for the next couple of workouts and I didn’t increase the weights like I had planned.  An extra-long night of sleep cured that though.  The rest of the workouts were successful and I saw some increases.  On Saturday, I felt I needed to loosen up so I started the day with X Stretch.  Then I moved a ton of dirt and spent the rest of the day raking the yard.

Week Seven:

  • This week started with a distinct lack of energy.  I’m guessing it is from all of the yard work that was done.  Again, I felt a tweak in my neck during pours and my neck was sore for the rest of the day.  I didn’t sleep well because of my neck and didn’t dare try Plyometrics in the condition I was in, so I waited until after work.  With my neck feeling a bit better, I had the best plyo workout yet!  Legs and Back killed me again and I was completely out of energy.  Thinking I hadn’t been eating enough, I had a second dinner with more protein and veggies.  The next day, my energy was back in a serious way.  Kenpo was great and I even biked home from work (the long way too).  I guess I need to pay a bit more attention to what I’m eating.

Week Eight:

  • I made it to another recovery week!  It was a recovery week in name only though because there was a lot of work done on the house.  Sunday started with bathroom demolition and continued through the week, ending with new underlayment and cement board being installed, then preparation for tiling with many late nights.  Needless to say, I was exhausted!  I even overslept on Friday and had to put yoga off until Saturday morning after only 4 hours of sleep!  Still, I made it through the week.

So that’s my experience with Phase 2 in a nutshell.  Looking back, I see that I’ve been seriously lacking energy.  I need to be a lot more careful that I’m eating enough.  I did notice that when I added some additional carb-based snacks, I lost a few pounds and had more energy.  Perhaps it is time for the next diet phase too.  Although on some individual days I have felt that I wasn’t performing my best, overall, I feel incredible.  I’ve definitely noticed changes in my fitness level and I’m seeing some serious results already.  On to Phase 3.  Bring it!

2010 Biking Summary

April 22nd, 2011

I got back on my road bike this year after it gathered dust in a black-widow infested closet for the two years that we were in Las Vegas. I think I rode once while we lived there.  I was never excited about riding with all of that traffic and the road surface wasn’t ideal for biking either.  I put new tubes in it when we moved back to New England and used it a couple of times to cruise to the beach, but it spent most if it’s time in the back of my truck as we couch-surfed our way through the summer of 2009.  Last year, I decided to get back in the swing of bike commuting.  During the tourist-filled days of summer, it’s faster to bike home than drive.  Additionally it’s good exercise and I find the ride home gives me time to clear my head from all of the day’s chaos.  Finally, on days that Tina and I aren’t able to carpool, I can avoid using the second vehicle.

The first ride of the year was April 22nd, Earth Day.  By then, the weather was fantastic for riding.  The season would have started earlier if I didn’t have to dig through mountains of boxes to find all my necessary biking gear.  I quickly settled in to a routine of riding a couple of times per week when I could.  Sometimes work got busy or the weather was uncooperative and it was easier to catch a ride in the car and other times I was just too tired to ride from all of the work around the house.  Then, on July 12th, my trusty steed let me down.  I was riding in to work on the shore route despite a bit of a headwind.  Everything seemed to be going well at first, though my legs felt a little tired pushing against the wind.  As I made my turn to the north to head up around the harbor, I heard a distinct metallic ping.  Nothing seemed odd, so I kept on going.  As I rounded the harbor, turning back into the wind, I suddenly felt as though I was riding through mud.  I decided that it was the combination of the headwind, my tired legs, and the heat and that I should just push on.  I struggled along the shore and up the big hills toward work.  As I turned into the driveway, I felt as if I couldn’t handle the last hill so I dismounted and started to walk up the hill.  The bike would hardly move!  I gave the back wheel a spin and it quickly came to a stop, rubbing against the brakes.  I could clearly see where it was bent.  No wonder why I felt like I was riding in mud!  Not having my spoke wrench, I tossed the bike in the car and caught a ride home.  Further inspection showed that I actually had broken a spoke.  So that’s what that ping was.  Now, I can’t really complain and I do expect some trouble from time to time with the bike since it’s an ’84 Schwinn that I got for $10 at a yard sale.  I upgraded tires and brake pads a few years ago, but everything else is still original.  Unfortunately, life kept me too busy to get a repair until mid August and I didn’t really get back in the swing of things until September.  The last ride of the season was November 15th.  It was starting to get pretty dark by the time I was getting home and a bit chilly so I put the bike away for the season.  Overall, I spent nearly 23 hours in the saddle covering 360.4 miles of commuting.  Not too bad.  Hopefully this year is even more!

While I was riding, I played around with GPS tracking on my blackberry using GPSed.  It’s not a bad app and what made it even better was that I could download the gpx files.  I wrote a parser in python to stick all of the information into a database so I could play with some data visualization.  Here’s a quick look at speed by segment along various roads that I travel:

Bike Routes

I haven’t gotten too far with that because of other priorities, but the data are there and I’m already adding to it this year.  I had the first commute ride of 2011 on April 15th.  Hopefully more to come soon!

P90X Phase 1

March 29th, 2011

After seeing Tina’s amazing results from her P90X voyage, I really felt like I should give it a try.  But it’s something you have to work up to.  And 90 days is a big commitment.  I started thinking about this last fall but decided to wait until after the holidays were over.  I couldn’t imagine being able to keep up with the schedule with all of the travel we had planned.  The new year rolled around and I didn’t yet understand how I could fit it in to my schedule.  But I wanted to get started, and soon because I didn’t want to cut in to biking season by too much.  I knew I was going to have to work out in the morning and Tina offered to take over dog-walking duty in the morning so I could use some of that time.  The workouts are an hour (2), and 1:15 (3), and 1:30 (1) so it is not an insignificant chunk of time.  I figured if I got up at 5 AM, that would give me enough time to work out, cool down, and eat a healthy breakfast and get to work at a reasonable time.  So I started getting used to getting up a bit earlier every day.  I also spent more time thinking about the diet plan and how I would have to change my eating habits to follow it.  I was also thinking about how I could save money while still following the diet, because it’s not a “diet” in the sense of the word that everyone hates.  The P90X diet plan is not only about eating the right foods, but eating a massive quantity to provide enough energy to get through the workouts.  When Tina was following the program, our grocery bills doubled.  I wanted to try to find ways to eat efficiently so we could avoid that again.  Once I felt that I was able to get up and be awake early enough to do a workout and when I had figured out how I would have to adjust to the diet plan, I was ready to begin.

P90X starts with a fitness test on Day 0 to make sure you can handle an advanced workout program.  I passed, but the test definitely illustrated some weaknesses (upper body and core strength, flexibility).  The next morning, February 27th, I recorded my starting measurements, took some “before” photos, and started my P90X journey.  My goal in doing P90X is to increase my overall level of fitness, strengthen my core, and tone my muscles.  I’m not really looking to build bulky muscles, as I think that would be counterproductive for the sports I tend to enjoy (biking, kayaking, etc.).  I’m hoping that I will see improvements in both of those sports when the weather warms and I get back outside.

I just finished Phase 1 on Saturday (Day 28).  When I started, I had hoped to write some notes daily and perhaps a weekly summary.  After the first couple of days taking dilligent notes, I trailed off.  I was always in a rush to get out the door after the workout and by the time I got home, I was too exhausted and had too many other things to do so I’ll have to rely more on memory.

I felt like I was playing catch-up during the first week because I didn’t know the moves and wasn’t sure how much weight I should be using for the resistance exercises.  Fortunately, I did take good notes during the workout on reps and weight, with indications of whether I should increase or decrease the next time.  I’ve also never really been a huge fan of workout videos or even classes.  I don’t like trying to follow people.  I feel like I’m perpetually behind and likely to fall over from confusion.  These (for the most part) aren’t bad.  I felt like I had enough time to complete each exercise (for the most part) and they were clearly explained, with helpful tips.

Week One:

  • Chest and back was decent.  I was a bit overzealous at the start and ran out of steam toward the end.  Then, Ab Ripper X killed me.  My core was definitely out of shape.  And then I spent the afternoon moving about 400 board-feet of pine from the driveway to the back yard.  I was exhausted!
  • Plyometrics was awesome!  I thought I would like this workout and I was right.  I was completely drained by the end but felt great!
  • On Day Three, I woke up with incredible pain in my right shoulder.  It was beyond soreness and I was stressed that I would have to stop already. Tina convinced me to try the workout (Shoulders and Arms!) and see how I felt. I could hardly bear any weight and couldn’t lift anything above my shoulder, but I managed to push through.  Ab Ripper X was still killer!
  • On Wednesday, yoga helped me stretch my shoulder and also really illustrated how inflexible I am!
  • My shoulder was still slightly sore for Legs and Back but I was able to get through it.  Abs continued to kill me.
  • Friday was my first round of Kenpo X.  I hated it.  This is one of those exercise videos that makes me feel like I’m out of sync and going to fall over.  While I definitely worked up a sweat, I didn’t feel like I got a great workout because of the confusion.  I thought that going for a run might be a better replacement.
  • I took Saturday as a rest day because I didn’t have time to work in X Stretch.  I survived the first week!

Week Two:

  • Week two was better than the first because I knew what I was doing.  I also experienced no shoulder pain.  I felt like the workouts were more effective.  Again, I particularly enjoyed Plyometrics.  I even liked Kenpo X this time around.  Ab Ripper X was still torture the three times I did it.  I did feel like I was running out of energy during some of the workouts, perhaps indicating that it was time to switch diet phases.

Week Three:

  • Week three was smooth sailing.  With the change in diet, I had noticeably more energy during the workouts.  I increased weights in the resistance workouts and pushed harder in cardio.  I found that I could stretch a bit more in Yoga.  Even Ab Ripper X was slightly less painful and I could nearly keep up with the pros!  I started to feel a bit more exhausted in the evenings, though some of that could be from getting up even earlier (4:40) so I could get to work on time.

Week Four:

  • Week four was recovery week.  For those unfamiliar with P90X, that does not mean “take it easy” at all.  Instead, you allow your muscles time to rest while you focus on stretching and cardio work.  This means a double dose of Yoga X, a round of Kenpo X, two rounds of Core Synergistics, and X Stretch.  Stretch is fantastic and I’m sad that I haven’t been doing it as an optional workout on my rest days.  I really felt good afterward but it’s hard to make the time for it when I’m playing catch up to do all the things I was too tired to do during the week.  Core Synergistics is a brutal workout.  I definitely felt it from my chest to my thighs.  All my notes say is superman-banana=ugh.  I was actually pretty worn out by the final yoga workout.

With that, I had finished Phase 1.  I’m pretty happy with how things have gone and the results so far.  I took measurements again and a set of photos.  At this point, I’ve lost about five pounds and a couple of inches on my waist.  I also see definite changes in muscle definition and tone.  Now on to Phase 2.  Bring it!

P90X – more details and pictures!

January 13th, 2011

Ok, I have come to grips with posting the pictures and detailed stats. I’m only putting links to the photos so that, if looking at weight loss photos is not your thing, you can opt out! Be kind, people. When I reach my next goal – in 2 more pounds, I’ll post updated pics!!! These were so 8 pounds ago 🙂

Detailed Breakdown of Progress:
P90X - Stats

Pictures show days 0, 30, 60, and 90:
front view photo

side view photo

back view photo – my favorite – new muscles, yay!

P90X Update – Finally!!!

January 12th, 2011

Ok, I expect to take some heat for waiting so long to post the results. I don’t really have an excuse. Anyway, I finished my first round of P90X on August 27 (in reality, it was P117X for me – had some injury time outs that were unrelated to the program). Remember way back in May when I started? I posted my day 0 stats HERE, and then left everyone hanging!

I cannot say enough good things about P90X. It’s no exaggeration to say that it has drastically changed my life. I feel so much better about myself. I’m healthy, I’m in shape, and I am eating clean! Fitness and good nutrition are now permanent parts of my life, but that wasn’t always so. Those of you who know me well, know that I have always enjoyed being active and athletic – playing soccer 4 seasons per year in high school, doing intramural sports in college and grad school, going to the gym (intermittently), taking fitness classes, never turning down a chance for a good competitive game (bring on the contact sports!!!). Somehow, though, I never had the body that I wanted. Even double sessions in high school didn’t completely do the trick! I just kind of gave up and assumed that “this is just how I’m made.”

I know many people, particularly women, struggle with weight-related self esteem and confidence issues; I have certainly suffered through many years of feeling bad about myself in all different types of situations, but all relating to how I perceived myself physically. If you’ve ever experienced this type of debilitating lack of confidence, you know that it can creep into so many parts of your life: social, personal relationships, even work, etc.

While this is extremely personal for me, I feel an obligation to talk openly about it, because, through P90X, I’ve taken huge strides toward resolving these feelings and becoming a physically and mentally healthier person. P90X has given me the opportunity for a total transformation! I always thought I was doing the right things to lose weight and get in shape. I thought my diet was decent and I exercised a lot. P90X taught me that, in my case, 75% of my problem was diet. I wasn’t necessarily eating bad food, just the wrong proportions – too many carbs and not enough protein. People OFTEN ask “do I really need to follow the nutrition plan for P90X?” The answer is YES, you do! I asked the same question – who feels like dieting anyway?? But, with some prodding from Jesse, I decided to really embrace the entire program, nutrition and all – it’s only 90 days, right? Between the intense (and very satisfying) workouts, and the change in diet, the pounds and inches were melting off. I was never hungry! In fact, I was eating much more than I ever had (very large grocery bills prove it).

I hit a bit of a plateau in phase II. I stayed on the fat shredder phase of the diet for 60 days, instead of only 30. It’s very flexible that way – you just need to listen to your body. I think I stayed on the fat shredder phase for a bit too long, which slowed my results a bit (see phase II results). In phase III of the workouts, however, I moved on to phase II of the nutrition plan. I never got to phase III of the diet (still, to this day). I’m still loosely following phase II. Anyhow, have a look at the results. I have a more detailed version of the results table that shows from where the inches were lost (e.g. waist, legs, etc.), but it’s kind of big, so I decided to go with a summary instead. If there are cries of outrage, I’ll see what I can do to post the deets.

Just as an update, I finished P90X on August 27. Since then, I’ve continued to exercise (4 or 5 times/week) and eat well and have lost about 9 more pounds (more on that in another post). Now I’m just kind of maintaining. I’d maybe like to lose 5 or 6 more pounds, but I’m not going to obsess over it. I am the thinnest I have EVER been. I went from a size 10/12 to a size 6. I wasn’t even a size 6 in high school!!! Thanks, Tony Horton, for showing me the way!!! If I can do it, anyone can do it. It just takes a commitment to eat well and press play every day – one day at a time.


Shed Update

January 2nd, 2011

So you all remember that last post about the shed where Tina and I were trying to figure out if it was going to look too big?  Well, thanks to all the input we got from our readers, we’ve decided to go ahead with it.  This is a highly desired project to free up some space in the basement.  Although we had great intentions of getting this done last summer, work, life, travel, other projects, budget constraints, and the fact that I haven’t finished the design stage yet have kept us from finishing it up.  We have made significant progress with the time we have found to work on it though.  Let me catch you up on what we’ve done…

We started by stringing out the three-foot offset from the property line that is required by the town.  Then, we staked out the potential corners of the shed.  This led us to building the rough frame to get an idea of the size of the shed:

The next step was laying out the actual corners of the shed. I built batter boards so we could put up some string:

We used part of the temporary sidewall frame to get the rough location of the shed:

Tina and I surveyed the topography of the land in the vicinity of the shed to assess potential drainage issues:


Then, we installed the batter boards and strings. Once the strings were in the correct position, we cut grooves in the boards so we could quickly get the strings in place to check our work:

Now it was time for the hard work:

The soil here is actually very nice for digging as it is very sandy with only a few thin clay layers:

The biggest rock was about 2 inches in diameter and the worst problem I had was with roots in the northeast hole:

I finished the holes in one day but then we got busy and they sat covered for 2.5 months:

By November, I was anxious to try and make progress before the weather got unpleasant so I ordered some of the materials to get the site work completed and the deck built. Here’s a pile of 5.5 tons of 3/4″ stone. It’s more than I need for the shed, but I have a few other ideas for it and I didn’t want to pay multiple delivery charges:

Here’s the pressure-treated lumber for the deck and 15 80-lb bags of concrete mix:

And the tubes for the concrete pillars. Also, some of the 500 square feet of tile that we bought that we’re not going to use. Does anyone want any tile? Let’s make a deal:

I cleaned up the holes to get the concrete tubes installed plumb and then started mixing. It was easier than I expected and I was able to finish off the 6 pillars in one afternoon:

I graffiti-ed up the posts:



The following weekend, I was back out in the yard to remove some soil to make room for the stone. That corner of the yard is always damp and I didn’t want the shed sitting right above the damp soil so I’m putting a few inches of stone to keep things a bit more dry.  I marked a line 1 foot beyond the edge of the shed and got to work.  The first task was moving the soil that I had removed for the pillars.  I transfered these piles to a pile up near the driveway.  I’m going to have to find some place to haul this to because we don’t have anywhere on the property where we need that much fill:

Next, we pulled off a couple of inches of really nice organic soil:

We hauled this to the other side of the back yard so we can use it to build some raised beds near the bird feeders in the spring:

I continued digging until I had a nice slope from the center of the shed toward the edges to keep water from pooling underneath. I also dug a ditch around the outside to catch the runoff from the roof. I didn’t finish on the weekend and with some cold weather coming I raced to finish this off one night in the rain by the light of a Coleman lantern:

By mid-December, snow stopped my progress:

When we had a warm spell the week after Christmas, I took the opportunity to continue my work on the site. I shoveled off the remaining snow and laid down some landscape fabric to keep the stones from mixing with the soil and to keep weeds from popping up around the edges:

After countless trips from the driveway to the back yard with the wheelbarrow, I had filled in the hole with the stone:


It took about 2/3 of the pile of stone. It’s nice to be able to walk from the driveway to the front door without climbing a mountain:

Meanwhile, we’ve been stockpiling materials as we come across them. Pops found a couple of replacement sashes at his local lumber yard that were never picked up:

And he had some shingles left over from one of his projects that he was willing to get out of his garage:

I’m hoping that weather and schedules combine to allow me to finish building the deck sometime this month. I will also get serious about finishing up the plans so I can order the lumber and get the rest of the shed built!

Basement Shelves

January 1st, 2011

With work closed from December 23 to January 3, we found ourselves with plenty of time to get some things done around the house. There is plenty of work to be done on the shed but I wanted to plan an inside project in case the weather didn’t cooperate. With some extra money from a credit card rewards check, we decided to move forward with some shelving for the basement. We haven’t unpacked a lot of things because we still have work to do in almost every room of the house. With all of the tools I’ve been finding on craigslist and the assorted piles of lumber and other materials for the house, it was getting hard to move around down there, let alone find anything. I drew up some quick plans for two sets of shelves in SketchUp and ordered the lumber. The plans were for one 16-foot wide set of four shelves for large items along the front wall of the house and a smaller four-foot wide set of six shelves near the basement stairs for pantry-like storage since we don’t have a pantry upstairs.

After a wonderful long weekend spent celebrating the holiday with both of our families, we drove home from my parents house in a raging blizzard. This was perfect, I thought. I’ll be able to focus on the inside project while the weather is bad. When we woke Monday morning, the unusual silence told us that there would be no work done with power tools. The electric company estimated that power would be back by 11:30 PM. Then they called back and revised their estimate to 11:30 AM. Later in the morning, the called again, saying that the power would be back by 4:30 Tuesday afternoon. Undeterred, Tina and I headed to the basement with our headlamps to move the boxes and furniture out of the way.

Power was restored by 2:30 in the afternoon and I was able to get started cutting the lumber. The first and most time-consuming step was routing dadoes into the vertical posts to provide additional support for the horizontal rails. For the large set of shelves, this required removing over 296 cubic inches of material. I really need to invest in a dado stack and tasks like this make me thing that a radial arm saw would be a more useful cross-cutting tool than a chop saw (one of which will probably be my next tool purchase). I could have been done in a quarter of the time. Once I finished the routing, I started cutting the horizontal support pieces. Again, this was more time consuming because I was using a circular saw, which required more measuring between cuts. Just about when I had all the pieces cut, Pops arrived to help out. We were able to quickly assemble the shelves thanks to the labor saving framing nailer. I’m sure glad I found that and the compressor at a yard sale!

Once the big shelves were finished, Pops helped me cut the lumber for the smaller shelves. He headed home for a New Years party but I was able to quickly assemble the small shelves.

Here is the space before the big shelves were installed:

And here are the big shelves:

You can also see the smaller shelves to the right:

The big shelves were assembled by building the ladders first, then nailing in the horizontal beam. The plywood was tacked on top and finally, the trim piece was added to stiffen the whole unit:

Here is a better view of the smaller shelves:

These were constructed by building the shelf frame first, then adding the plywood and sliding the whole unit into the dadoes on the vertical supports. This was quicker and easier but I was only able to do it this way because I had full access to both sides of the unit for nailing:

In the end, we added 172 square feet of shelving to the basement.  Hopefully this helps us get more organized.  We’ve already begun filling up the pantry shelves.  We’ve committed to going through all of the boxes and purging some unneeded items before they are put on the big shelves.  We’re saving that project for another snowy day.  The total cost for this project was about $225.  That money wouldn’t have bought anything nearly as big or sturdy, and it only took about 16 hours to get it done.  I wonder how long before the shelves are full?

Does my yard make this shed look big?

August 23rd, 2010

So we need to build a shed…  The basement is full to the point where we only have paths between the boxes, furniture, kayaks, yard equipment, and tools that are down there.  Plus, I’m sick of dragging the lawn mower up and down the basement stairs every week.  We need to get some stuff out of there so I can spread out the tools in the workshop and so that we can organize the furniture and boxes until we find places for these things upstairs.

Naturally, we want to maximize our storage potential while observing local regulations and without taking up too much of the yard.  There are a few local regulations that constrain our design.  Sheds are restricted to the side or back yards.  Any shed under 120 ft2 does not require a building permit and must be 10 feet from the property boundaries.  Since our house is set quite far back on our narrow lot, the 10-foot offset would put the shed too far into the yard.  Fortunately, any shed under 100 ft2 only needs to be 3 feet from the property boundaries.

With those constraints in mind, I set to work designing a nice 8′ x 12′ shed in SketchUp.  We want the shed to match the style of the house as much as possible.  With that in mind, I’ve roughed out a wood-clad  cape with a 12/12 roof.  I’ve designed the shed with 8′ walls so that we’ll have plenty of room to hang tools and so that standard-height doors can be used.
SketchUp Shed

After we had the rough design, I started working on the actual framing plan.  At some point while I was doing that, I really began to wonder how this was really going to look in the back yard.  My calculations where showing a roof peak just a touch over 13′ above grade.  I couldn’t decide if that seemed too high or not for the space it will be in, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to build a mock-up of one of the gable ends out of scrap wood and actually see what it would look like.  So we did.  Here’s how it looks:
From the bedroom:

From the living room:

From the kitchen:

From the deck:

From the west side yard:

From the east side yard:

From the start of the walkway:

From the driveway:

Please leave us a comment and let us know what you think…

P90X Fitness Test and Nutrition Plan Preparation

April 30th, 2010

Ok, fit test under my belt. For those not in “the know,” the P90X fitness test is a test to determine your level of physical fitness and to see if P90X is appropriate for you. The program requires some baseline level of fitness in order to maximize results. From what I’ve read, if you have more than 20 (give or take) pounds to lose, you may want to try a different weight loss program first, before taking on P90X.

I am right on the borderline as far as weight goes. I would love to lose 20 (hell, 30?) pounds, but I was determined to start P90X asap (barring the results of the fit test). The fit test is a series of exercises that tests your strength, stamina, and cardio and specifies minimum levels for P90X. Somehow, I passed with flying colors! Bring it on!! The test includes curls, squats, jumping jacks, pull ups (um, no thank you), flexibility test, standing jump test, stomach exercises, etc. Yeah, I broke a sweat, but I easily passed.

I also took my before pictures (will post later).

Also, we went grocery shopping to get all the healthy food I’m going to need for the nutrition plan (spent over $200…yipes!). A strange note – I bought like 2 dozen eggs – apparently this is a really protein-intense program! I really want to follow this to a tee. I have NEVER stuck with a diet before. I’ve always been athletic (high school/college althete), and have been active ever since. I’m not as active now as I’d like to be, but that’s about to change in a hurry. I will be so proud of myself if I can actually stick with this for the entire 90 days.

P90X Day 0 – Measurements and Fit Test Results

April 30th, 2010

Ok, here are my Day 0 measurements:

Weight: 151.2
Chest: 38″
Waist: 32.25″
Hips: 38.25″
Right Thigh: 22″
Left Thigh: 21″
Right Arm: 12.5″
Left Arm: 12.5″

Day 0 Fitness Test Results:
Resting Heart Rate: Ooops, didn’t take that 🙁
Pull-ups: 0 (didn’t have a pull-up bar, but pretty sure I couldn’t do any anyway); P90X min: 1
Vertical Leap: 7″; P90X min: 3″
Push-Ups: 12 regular + 15 on knees; P90X min: 3 regular or 15 from knees
Toe Touch: +3″ (3″ past my toes): P90X min: -6″ (6″ away from reaching your toes)
Wall Squat: 1min 56sec; P90X min: 1 minute
Bicep Curls: 21 w/ 10 lbs; P90X min: 10 w/ 8 lbs
In & Outs: 30; P90X min: 25
Heart Rate Maximizer: Immediately after: 150, 1 minute after: didn’t record (had distraction), 2 minutes after: 84, 3 minutes after: 82, 4 minutes after: 80; P90X min: Able to finish 2 minutes of jumping jacks (last 30 seconds as fast as you can).

I know this would all be easier to read if it were in a table, and I do plan to do that. When I do, I’ll replace this mess with the pretty table!! 🙂

P90X – The Start of a New Era

April 29th, 2010

It’s been a while since I have posted anything (Jesse has been great at chronicling our house progress with amazing detail)! I’m inspired to write now, though! I am starting a new workout program called P90X (for Power 90 eXtreme), and thought I would share my experiences as I go along. I first learned about P90X a couple of years ago when my dad mentioned this informercial he had seen on TV for an INSANE workout, and he explained the concept of muscle confusion to me. It sounded really great, but I didn’t have confidence that I could actually do it. A couple of months ago, I saw the infomercial myself, and wow. Ridiculous. BUT, something struck a chord in me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I started googling about it and asking people about it (read here: driving Jesse insane with my inability to make a decision). I saw all sorts of before and after pictures and videos, read blogs, learned about the nutrition plan, etc. After a month and half of going back and forth about it, I broke down and bought the DVDs, a chin-up bar, and some weights – HERE WE GO!!!

A lot of the blogs that I read were so helpful and inspirational, that I thought I would do my part and document my journey with the hopes of helping at least one other person have the confidence to do this workout!!

I will post my day 1 pictures (be nice people…this is hard to do), as well as 30, 60, and 90 day photos. I’ll also provide my measurements and weight (also very emotionally difficult to divulge).

If people are interested, I can post my meals also. I have found this very helpful when other people do it – gives me ideas!!

Most of all, I just want to chronicle my hardships and victories – this program is very difficult, and it’s easy to talk yourself out of doing a workout or into eating something you shouldn’t – I want to share all of these difficulties and prove that I can overcome them and so can you!

Keep checking back!

Stain and Finish the Guest Room

April 4th, 2010

We finally had a nice weekend where we would actually be home so we planned to finish our work on the guest room floor. After running out to get some supplies early Saturday morning, Tina and I began applying the whitewash stain to the floor. The stain went on easily, and the low-VOC formula was quite pleasant to work with:

While we were giving that time to dry, we turned our attention to the yard, which had largely been ignored since we bought the house.  There were tons of leaves to be raked and lots of things in the gardens to be trimmed.  After a couple of hours, the floor was ready for the first coat of polyurethane.  I dragged myself back inside to prepare for the first coat of finish.  The first thing I did was to change in to some clean clothes.  Then, I gave the room a thorough vacuuming.  After I was certain that I’d sucked up every last animal hair and bit of dust, I began applying the finish.  This is also a low-VOC product and it wasn’t bad to work in the room at all.  There was none of the eye-burning, dizzying off-gassing that we experienced with the polymerized tung oil that we applied to the hickory.  I removed a few stray dog hairs that appeared as I worked may way across the room, but otherwise, the first coat went on without a problem.  When I was done, I closed the door and gently pressed a towel up against the bottom to prevent any contaminants from entering the room that way.  When we checked on the floor a few hours later (you can re-coat in 2-3 hours), we were very pleased with what we saw.  The first coat was streaky and uneven, just as we expected, but where the finish had started to build, it looked fantastic:

After a nice long walk this morning with Lilly, I headed back into the room to prepare for the second coat.  I went over the whole floor with a 3M maroon pad to ensure cleanliness and good adhesion.  While I was doing that, I noticed many more embedded contaminants than I had seen while I was applying the finish.  I’m sure they made their way in through the heating system (even though it was turned off) and settled in to the floor as it was drying.  I did my best to remove as many as I could without damaging the floor.  After the light buffing, I vacuumed and wiped the floor with a damp rag.  For the second coat, I applied the finish to two boards at a time, and then vacuumed the next few again before applying the finish to them.  I was hoping this would reduce the amount of pet hair that was somehow finding its way in to the room.  That technique seemed to work pretty well, so I repeated the obsessive vacuuming when I applied the third coat a few hours later.  This is how it looked when it was finished:

Now we just have to wait 7 days for the floor to fully cure and we can get to work on replacing the baseboard trim. We’re really happy with how this came out!