the knee saga

Dr. Bean walked into the room today wearing a silver Tiffany bean pendant. I commented on how I’d received the same necklace from an awkward date in college after we’d had a conversation about eating beans. She shared that she has a collection of them given as gifts because of her name. First appointment off to a good start.

Finally, after three months of hoping my knee would heal itself, I made an appointment so a doctor could tell me exactly what I already knew. If I want my knee to heal I actually need to stop doing the stuff that’s making it worse. That includes but is not limited to bike commuting to work, sprinting to catch Aviv’s school bus, breaststroke and flip turns in the pool, burpees in baby boot camp, anything involving lunges or squats in TRX and all spin classes. And that leaves me with what exactly?

Note to self: when something hurts, stop doing it! The knee saga began on a Sunday morning in May when I needed to get to work but also really wanted to swim and really wanted to pick up some farmers market produce. In my usual way, I opted “in” to everything. My knee had been bugging me for a few days but I didn’t have the car that particular morning. I did have two hours till rehearsal began so I hopped on my bike and pedaled to the market. Beautiful, fresh produce in hand (actually in pannier bags) I rode up the Arguello hill and down to the Presidio Y pool. I raced through a short swim workout then me and my several pounds of produce sped up and over the city toward the Opera. After rehearsal I added a violin to my back and started toward home with the usual headwind. Climbing the Hayes hill my knee was in pain but once home I forgot about it until my Monday night spin class, when it hurt badly enough I decided to quit.

I took it (sort of) easy for a few weeks during the Ring Cycle then I did (almost) nothing besides swim while we were out of town this summer. It’s easy to choose a daily half mile in the water when you’re swimming in warm lakes and a gorgeous outdoor hot springs pool. (Side note: I was pretty pleased by my ability to swim half mile easily at altitude and commented on this to a local athlete in Steamboat Springs, CO. He smiled and informed me that the Elevation 10,568 printed on my Steamboat t-shirt is the elevation at the top of the ski mountain, not the pool in town).

Anyway… my knee felt fine swimming all summer but since we’ve been home and I gotten back to my usual activities it’s been worse. So alas, I need to stop doing everything that is causing the patellofemoral pain symptom (inflamed tissues underneath my kneecap, in regular words). Try as she might this morning, Dr. Bean couldn’t find any muscle weakness or imbalances (yay!) but it turns out my hamstrings are tight (no kidding) and I also need to ice the knee for 20 minutes at least 3 times a day to get rid of the inflamation. Weirdly, I think making time to sit and ice for a hour a day presents my biggest challenge but Aviv has already been suggesting ice every time I mention pain so he’ll help me remember.

IMG_7751After my appointment, I figured the best way to celebrate nothing really being wrong with my knee would be swimming (since freestyle without flip turns is still on my “okay” list). I was a few blocks from the newly renovated Chinatown Y saltwater pool and curious. The locker room has not been recently renovated and is carpeted so I was pleased I’d remembered my flip flops. The pool water, actually chlorinated saltwater, is slightly warmer than the Presidio Y pool. It was perfect for my speed and distance today but would be too warm for an intense workout. Unlike the Presidio, there’s no space for a warm pool or hot tub, just 5 lanes, split between lap and recreation. The length is “just under 25 yards” in the lifeguard’s words and my expensive smartwatch wasn’t smart enough to catch this deviation from the usual 25 yards. Good thing I bought the watch for its looks, not functionality.


After dim sum and wandering through the Chinatown markets I eventually made it home for my first 20 minute icing. Turns out, though our freezer is bursting with jars of Ariel’s delicious homemade pesto it does not contain a bag of frozen peas or any sort of flexible ice pack. I rigged up an icey knee swaddle using two lunchbox ice packs and a kitchen towel then sat down to practice.

So, here’s the plan moving forward: Only participate in activities that don’t aggravate the knee, ice it at least 3 times a day, continue applying arnica oil or cbd topical lotion and boost my turmeric intake. Check back with me in a couple of weeks.





boot camp burn

We prepared to leave the house yesterday morning at 9am, Aviv disguised as Superman and Eitan screaming at me. The yelling had something to do with chocolate chip vs blueberry pancakes and not wanting to get dressed. I finally packed up Eitan’s breakfast and calmly told my naked, noisy three-year-old that he could get in the car naked if he wished. As we drove down the street (Eitan fully clothed and munching contentedly on the chocolate chip-decorated blueberry pancakes) I mentioned to Aviv that tomorrow morning he’d be starting school at the same hour he’d woken up this morning. He groaned and slouched behind his superman mask. I silently calculated how much earlier I’d be setting my alarm and realized only the prospect of a really great workout could have motivated me to pack the kids up and drive across the city instead of lounging at home on our final morning of summer break.

When my friend invited me to Baby Boot Camp a few weeks ago my obvious question was, “Am I allowed to attend?” I mean, my kids aren’t exactly babies any more. Turns out several of the moms have older kids and since the class is held in a park, they roam in a pack while we do hill repeats and Tabata sets. IMG_7678I love high intensity interval training (HIIT) but had never heard the word Tabata before so looked it up. This Self article defines it clearly and calls it “a fat-torching, sweat-pouring, hard-as-hell workout”.  It turns out a Tabata is a type of HIIT but is distinguished by shorter intervals with higher work to rest ratio than usual HIIT, resulting in a higher heart rate.

After the workout I felt energized despite the San Francisco gloom and my glutes were burning. I suspect this was a combined result of Baby Boot camp and Sunday morning’s YouTube BeFit Better Booty Camp Butt Workout. (great 10 minute blast at home!)

Today’s school drop-offs went relatively smoothly compared to last year’s first day when Eitan threw his shoe out the window into four lanes of traffic. I’m pleasantly sore everywhere and craving a swim but the washing machine has stopped draining so I’m waiting for the electrician.

the workout: Attend boot camp with a friend! Research shows that working out with friends is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, work harder and even burn extra calories.

hotel training

Laura’s Training On theGo has strayed from its original theme of travel and workout but this past week I was thinking about this as I spent nights in two different hotels. Here are my reviews, from an athlete (and mom) perspective.

#1.  The Standard in NYC on the High Line

Basically an awesome location in general but for athletes, you can’t do better. Why? A couple blocks away you’ll find the 11 mile Hudson River Greenway path, perfect for running or riding a Citi Bike. If you do choose to rent one of those bikes, you’ll feel like you rode 4 times the mileage you actually did. Bonus!  If you’re there during the cold winter months and don’t feel like freezing outdoors, choose a Peloton Bike and join a live streaming class from the exercise room on the 14th floor. From your perch high above the Hudson, you can laugh at the crazy suckers running in the snow. Aside from the state of the art exercise room, the hotel offers a fantastic service. They’ll wash four items of workout clothing and return them to your room by 6pm. No (extra) charge.

And in no way connected to working out but my favourite feature of this hotel, here’s the video from the elevator, set to Prokofiev’s Cinderella ballet.

#2.  limelight in Apen, CO

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t even set foot into the workout room in this hotel. Though, I did peek through the window and noticed it’s small but equipped with a lifestyle spin bike and a few other machines. The reason I think this is a great hotel for athletes is the breakfast spread. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. It’s included with the room price and it’s enormous. There are the usual cereal, eggs, bagels and pancakes but also a salad bar with several varieties of greens, black beans, seeds and nut butters. Delicious oatmeal, granola and several varieties of yogurt are just begging to be topped with fresh or dried fruits. On Saturday there was smoked salmon.  Every day there were pre-made smoothies. My favourite treat though was doughnuts and coffee by the fire. Speaking of keeping warm, the outdoor pool and hot tubs are open year round. Nothing better after a long day on the slopes than a soak until you can’t stand the heat then a cold plunge. Mine was inspired by several tipsy Europeans who seemed to think it would be great fun.  I jumped in and hopped around like a lunatic while my body acclimated then convinced my boys it wasn’t really that cold. Aviv joined me and swam a few laps. Eitan began shrieking immediately and was passed back into the hot tub. Despite the slushy ski conditions (hard work for the legs) I wasn’t even slightly sore by the end of our trip. I attribute this to my hot-cold therapy.

The final thing worth mentioning about this hotel is the shuttle services from the airport and to Snowmass Mountain, where our kids loved the ski school. Little details make a big difference.



kids, can we please go to the playground?

Said no mom ever when given the choice between a late afternoon playground adventure which would surely end with a meltdown or a free hour of childcare. Except for me yesterday when the hour of childcare was attached to my attendance of Monday night spin class – a class I dearly love and don’t miss except under extenuating circumstances. Yesterday I was exhausted and positive I’d never survive the class.

My boys won, as usual, so I signed them into Y kids and found the energy to get through class. I left the YMCA feeling better than when I’d walked in, which is true 99.9% of the time. Sometimes I just need a little push from my pint-sized coaches.

Today I returned to the Y of my own free will and pushed myself harder in yet another spin class.  I have a nifty little app that connects to the spin bikes so upon comparison I can see that today I was averaging 20 watts higher than yesterday and also burned 40 more calories during my 40 minutes on the bike. Basically boring information but useful to me as self-motivation. Yay! I’m stronger than I was yesterday! Or maybe it was the good music and the cute instructor who walked around stalking our computers. Either way, I worked harder and feel awesome because of it.

the workouts:

If you want to try working with wattage, I suggest reading this article to begin. In both classes we were working with establishing challenging wattages we could hold 2-4 minutes. In Amy’s class yesterday we were sustaining 3 minutes with a comfortably high wattage then 2 minutes at +5-10 watts. 1:00 rest interval between the two. Then 8 x :20 all out with rest interval :10. Rest and repeat the entire thing. Today Luis was working us for 4 minute intervals, high wattage 85-90 rpm broken up with 1 minute very heavy climbing 65-70 rpm.



noise regulation

Any orchestral player who complains about the volume of their brass section has clearly never taken a spinning class in Tel Aviv. Three trumpets pale in decibel to the stereo system in Gordon Pool’s spin studio. That was my first observation at 7am this morning. My second observation was that our tiny but mighty instructor had an ear splitting whistle, which she sounded throughout the class (through her headset microphone) to cue each position change.  There were eight of us in the studio, including our class cheerleader, a plump middle-aged man with a perm and muscle shirt who spent most of the hour standing on the pedals waving his arms to the music. Two of us wore earplugs. All of us clapped and cheered enthusiastically on cue. The hour flew by and in spite of the noise, I enjoyed my workout.

I spent nearly twice as much for a one month membership here as I pay at my home YMCA and they don’t even supply towels. I forgot to bring a hand towel and had to use my shirt to mop sweat during class. Then I had to wear it to breakfast. Gross. The spin bikes are old and without computers. I’ve grown accustomed to training with wattage and rpm’s so without these numbers it’s tricky to train smart.

The upside: I have a one month membership to Gordon Pool!!! Anyone who’s known me since we’ve been coming to Israel has surely grown sick of hearing me talk about this spectacular 50 meter saltwater pool overlooking the Mediterranean. Usually when we’re here I run outside and buy a swim pass but this year I splurged on the whole shebang, which includes many classes and the use of a Japanese-style bathhouse spa. I was tickled to realize I’m now comfortable enough with my Israeli-ish-ness to walk into a gym, request a tour, then attend a spin class. Of course everyone speaks English, but I can read the signs posted in Hebrew and I’m trying to begin conversations in Hebrew.

The Israman half ironman is in 23 days. While my training hasn’t exactly been thorough, I’m enjoying the process and doing the best I can at this moment in my life.

new year’s day sunrise run

strong like mommy

A while back Aviv told me he was eating a ton of food so he could be strong like me. My instant reaction was to lecture about quality vs. quantity – it matters more that he eats “strong foods” (like the snap peas he loves and the peppers he hates). Then I stepped back and digested what he’d just said. My 5 year old thinks I’m strong and that makes me proud. In his own 5 year old way, he’s understanding the example I’m trying to set for my boys – of living a strong, healthy lifestyle. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me the same.


Last week in spin class my favorite instructor said she’d been using me as an example in her other classes. Though I’m small, I can sustain a high wattage on the bike while keeping good form, which must mean I have a strong core. There’s the s – word again!

Today in the pool I was admiring the strength and speed of the woman next to me. She raced by me on her kickboard while I was moving my quickest with swim fins. I asked her what she does besides swim. Nothing. She grew up in the pool. I watched a few more laps and was still contemplating her extremely powerful kick as I walked directly into the men’s locker room. Oops.

I’ve been trying to follow my own advice to Aviv and eat more “strong foods”. For me this not only means more veggies, but fewer refined sugars and a better balance toward lean proteins. I’m in the middle of week 6 training for a half ironman at the end of January and nutrition matters! Toward the end of a recent long ride I pulled an energy bar from my pocket and as I tore off the wrapper the bar flew into the middle of the street. 10 second rule! I wasn’t about to let a little dirt and grease get between me and the energy I need to climb out of Sausalito.

So, what about strength? Obviously it’s been on my mind lately. While I can’t squeeze in any more weekly gym time dedicated to strength training, my mutu program core exercises have done wonders for core strength. I’ve also safely rehabilitated my DR (the gap between the 2 sections of the Rectus Abdominis [or 6 pack] abdominal muscle), which was a couple finger widths after two pregnancies. Various other exercises I’ve learned through the years in PT round out my TV-watching / Opera intermission strength training routine. Since this blog is about having a virtual training buddy, please join me! Tonight we’re doing wall-sits, squats, grand plies, clamshells, crab walk (is there a seafood theme to my exercise??), and side planks.

Be strong!

a punch in the face

Did you know that if you forget to wear your fitness smartwatch when you exercise, the workout doesn’t count? I repeated the beginning of a cardio dance workout today so it would “count” – and then I forgot to stop my watch at the end. At least I didn’t punch myself in the face during the repeat.

Seriously, I punched myself in the face during the first round of the punching bag drill in the kick-boxing set. I really should be more coordinated than I am.

This workout is perfect for doing in the living room during your kid’s nap time or in a hotel room where you don’t care if noise bothers the downstairs neighbors. It alternates between cardio (tons of bouncing up and down like a cheerleader) and separate sets of arms (you need 3-5 lb weights or water bottles), glutes (I barely managed to stand after these) and core (I never want to hear the term “perfect plank” again). A mirror is a plus for checking your form but a window works in a pinch!

I may not be able to move tomorrow but fortunately my lip isn’t swollen!