Right for you, wrong for me

A few of my closest female friends are crossfit fans and encourage, cajole, try to bully me into joining them in this endeavor. Mostly we agree to disagree, but 2 of my friends have completely guzzled the koolaid and are born-again crossfit disciples. L started about 2.5 years ago, and B about 2 years ago. Friend M has been doing crossfit about 5 years. Just some brief background of their longevity in this pursuit compared to my training partnership with J (about 2.25 years).

L is having shoulder surgery next week, her second this year. Both shoulders were injured doing something at her crossfit box. B had to have her knee repaired last year, and just did something very serious sounding to her low back earlier this week. Either way, she’s not going to be doing much other than walking until that heals. M has had 3 serious exercise-related injuries in the last 5 years, 2 of which resulted in surgical procedures, and has been sidelined for more than 12 weeks on various occasions this year due to exercise-aggravated injuries.

All have lost significant amounts of weight: L is down 86 lbs., B is 60 pounds light, and over 100 lbs. for M since taking up this hobby. Each of them average about 4 days in their gyms each week when healthy and capable of that type of exercise. They use their weight loss and lesser time commitment as rationalization in our discussions about diet, exercise, better health. I would not classify them as arguments, but we have many times had discussions escalate and grow heated and shut down that topic by agreeing that we  disagree about priorities and what matters most to each of us in our overall health pursuits and reaffirm that we remain caring friends.

I am not especially strident in defending my methodology, but when the topic comes up, I start ticking off the injuries, surgeries, weeks and months of physical therapy for them as a group versus me with none of the above. And when it comes to their weight loss progress versus my own, I believe we are speaking in terms of apples and oranges. I am diplomatic and tactful in not pointing out how much weight is regained or how much more lock-down restraint must be deployed with diet while they are sidelined with injuries.

There was a time when I would remain silent in such discussions, having limited experience or confidence in my own opinions and no skin in the game. But that’s changed; I have now notched my second year of consistency in the gym and do have some thoughts about the reasons we do not exercise or improve our eating habits.

It’s too hard. It IS hard, especially at first. Social media, television, glossy magazines in the checkout line in the grocery store are full of promises of quicker, easier methods to drop weight than spending hours in the gym or eating rabbit food for the balance of our lives.

I don’t have time. Our world is full of distractions that are far more interesting and pleasurable than slogging through sets of squats and rows and presses or the cardio equipment. There are way too many more cheap and easy food sources than buying and preparing healthier meals at home.

I need to lose weight before I can exercise. Our minds are full of the idea that everyone else in the gym or who exercises regularly is thin and fit and not struggling, not breathing very hard, not sweating, not swearing where our untrained selves want to die on the floor in a puddle of sweat in the first 5 minutes.

I don’t know how. This is one I can completely get behind, because it can be complicated. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Everyone knows how to walk. If that’s all you feel confident to do, go forth and do it. There are also millions of online fitness resources and videos. Or if you have the resources, join a gym and book a few sessions with a personal trainer.

If you’re just getting started, I feel your pain. From direct personal experience, I know how difficult and how painful it is to take the first baby steps into altering our lifestyle habits. But there is no fool-proof supplement that melts fat or minimizes the need for a consistent movement program. There is no magic bullet or perfect program that is fun, easy, and fast. Obesity is an expensive condition, both on our bodies and on our wallets.

So yes, I am well acquainted with the excuses and reasons we don’t take better care of ourselves. Heck, I still employ a few of them on occasion myself. But telling me what I’m doing is somehow less correct than what you are pursuing with regard to exercise and diet is a lot less effective than just letting me go forth to work toward the best version of myself possible. Why does anyone do that? Why do we (sometimes) insist there is only one true way?

I posed the question in an email to my crossfitter friends. They all responded, a bit embarrassed that I perceived it that way, particularly with the specific examples I cited. In their defense, they are very excited about their weight loss and what they have found, what has turned their lives around, and they are eager to share their success. I’m very excited for them, delighted they have found something that works for them and provide satisfaction and success. My polite declining their invitations to try it is not a snub or disapproval; it is simply that their program does not suit me. We are friends, and they were understandably upset that I received their enthusiasm as criticism of my own approach. Faced with their words from prior conversations, they have the grace to admit that they have gotten carried away on occasion. That’s fair; it’s not like they are clubbing me over the head every time we chat. (Most of the time we’re too busy talking about work, parents, kids, other family relationships, and their dating interests to talk too much about exercise and diet.)

In many ways, I understand why it happens. We are middle aged women, taking control of our health and fitness and making genuine forward strides. There are a lot of reasons to be very excited about where we are now, where the path leads next. My concern about the injuries they are sustaining mostly relates to my concern for their health and longevity as well as to their criticism of my own efforts. Fab trainer J describes crossfit enthusiasts as “cult-like behavior” and from my own experience I know it a genuine and accurate observation. Anyone pursuing crossfit as their mode of exercise – I wish you well and hope you get stronger, stay safe, remain healthy. But is it the best method when you are continually getting injured in the process?

I love these ladies and I only want them to remain happy, healthy, and physically capable. Anything that gets all of us up and off the couch is important and to be applauded, and while I have reservations about their choices, I fully support and encourage all efforts to move more and lengthen our lives with regular exercise and movement, better food choices, healthier lifestyles.

With so many injuries between the 3 of them, I simply question the sensibility of their choice of sport.

I freely admit the very idea of getting hurt, being sidelined from injuries is extremely frightening to me. I have worked so hard to get this far and do not want to lose any ground because I am stupid in or out of the gym. As someone who could trip over hairline cracks in the sidewalk, I am accident prone and well aware of all the dangers in the day-to-day business of living my life aside from all the perils of the gym with the weights and machines (death traps, all of them if I am not careful). So I hired fab trainer J to teach me how to do things correctly, to hopefully minimize my access to injuries from poor form or general exercise ignorance. Our training partnership has never been about motivation, inspiration, or even accountability; it has always been about teaching me and expanding my level of understanding with regard to an area of life (exercise) I knew little to nothing about.

Perhaps this is a difference in perspective between me and my crossfitting friends. They are strong-minded, intelligent women, and I suspect that quality alone relates to the depth of our disagreements. But they are more independent and blaze-their-own-path whereas I accept that my natural brilliance has a lot of built-in limitations. I have endured plenty of frustrating setbacks in the gym – everything from completely baffled by hinges and Romanian deadlifts to balance to the limitations of generally untrained muscles getting slowly whipped into shape. I am painfully honest that I can only handle so much disappointment from my own independent effort before I simply abandon the program and the quest.

I strongly disagree that a crossfit gym program is equal or somehow superior to my training partnership with fab trainer J. I also do not believe that one-size-fits-most when it comes to our individual better health quests. So imagine my lack of delight when anyone suggests I’m somehow “wrong” in my approach. Excuse me – off diabetes drugs, losing weight (albeit slowly), reshaping my shape, HAPPY –  please do not be so bold as to tell me I am doing something incorrectly.

The email exchange on this topic has been a productive and ultimately positive conversational interaction and cleared up a lot of misconceptions about what we say and how we say it. Yes, I too have developed strong opinions on best practices when it comes to exercise. I don’t think anyone deserves to get hurt; I know injuries happen no matter how careful we are in our individual pursuits. However, I am true believer in learning how to exercise safely and sanely, including consistent practices between training and absolutely committed to the idea that warming up appropriately before getting started on my List of the day will go a long way to prevent injury. While I am not someone who does a lot of stretching, I do understand the benefits and anticipate that it will become a component of my exercise routine at some point in the future. Time is a finite resource and right now I prefer to spend my available allotment in the gym and primarily with resistance training.

What prompted this discussion among my friends today? Injuries in my fat loss group. Not crossfitters there, but a torn back muscle while doing goblet squats and some other back injury from chest presses. Both were admittedly more inconsistent exercisers utilizing more weight than was wise to burn more calories and fat in this outing. Now they are both gym/weight training sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks and confined to walking and physical therapy. Nothing wrong with walking, but they also lose any flexibility with diet if they wish to achieve their fat loss goals.

I honestly don’t get it.

I know I am far more conservative in my exercise pursuits, but I’m a true believer in the long game. A healthy lifestyle includes a sensible diet and regular exercise, and it is a process, not a goal to be achieved and then celebrated as a triumph. If there was a way I could get from fat to fit significantly faster that did not feel like I am living a miserable life, I might be willing to consider it. Ultimately, I value my joie de vivre too much to be so reckless about abusing my body with exercise or winnowing my diet so severely that I instinctively know is unsustainable.

For me, this is the right path. And as I told my friends, your mileage may vary.

PT-80: Recovering

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday late morning, training with J. I have been sidelined for a couple of days due to illness (fever and severe sore throat/tonsillitis), so I have been quite literally on the couch for the past few days. By yesterday I was feeling significantly better, yet still in a weakened state, and yet I did not want to cancel my session or try to reschedule to what is typically a back-to-back busy Tuesday on J’s schedule. Instead J offered a compromise – a later (11 a.m.) training appointment so I could get some extra sleep if needed.

Key Takeaways

In the last 2 years, I have learned how to do a lot of different exercises in the gym and gained strength from it. I have come a long way in cleaning up my eating habits and lost weight in the process. And I am very proud of those accomplishments. But what I am most proud of is how much stronger, more powerful I have become with my thinking and my mindset. Inside my own head, negative girl still dwells and screeches out messages that can stress me out and lead me down the path of destructive self-doubt if I listen to them. I have grown a much thicker, stronger skin. In my opinion, my self-possession is the most attractive attribute to emerge from this process thus far.

This is my second 2-day streak of not going to the gym this year. First was kind of a mini-vacation, when I resolved to take 4 days off and could not stand it after 2. This time the situation was different – there’s no way I could have practiced even if I was not concerned about spreading my illness germs. But what I found curious this year, both times of skipping practices were essentially non events. This is poignant for me because as focused to the point of obsessed as I am with my exercise habits, I was not worried or upset on either occasion. Maybe I gain a couple of pounds from literally lying on the couch for a couple/few days. Maybe I get weaker from the time away. But so what? I’m in this for the long game, which means I will lose weight I gain and regain strength that may fade.

I appreciate the small differences of doing huffy-puffy on slowed way down pacing to match my ability and energy today. On my very best day, I am the client least likely to push herself too hard to impress the boss (trainer J). Training, exercise is probably 2/3 doing and 1/3 thinking about what I’m doing. It’s part of my process and possibly, probably what will restrain me from making me the poster person for amazing success story in shortest span of time.

What We Did

Because this is a former version of a huffy-puffy List, the descriptions and names may not be typical or how J might label them. But I tried to be descriptive where I lack a formal name for the exercise. Our List today:

Mini band warm-up – kickback, side kick, forward walk, lateral walk, kickback.

Goblet squat
1-arm row
Box elevated plank with kick-out/up/in

KB hip hinge
Pushup
Crunch / leg lift

Landmine 1-arm overhead press
Band facepulls
Band horizontal chops

How It Felt

On the mini band warm-up series: I still love, Love, LOVE my mini bands. And seeing so many others in the gym using them for zombie walks (it is October, after all) and lateral walks and using them for glute bridges and goblet squats, apparently J has been working with other trainers and building the mini band fan base. They are effective and add value to other exercises in the List rotations. Plus it’s absorbing and FUN to be forward, backward, sideways up and down the blue grass with rubber bands around the ankles.

The oldie but perennial goodie – goblet squats with the 25 lb. kettlebell. I do this often yet less frequently than days gone by, but I note how different my reactions to lighter than typical weights and rep ranges is in the present day. Still on antibiotics and recovering from random sickness, I was not in top form for training. Once upon a time, I would mentally beat myself up over my weakness and slacking. Today, I was simply happy to be back in the gym doing something, even shorter sets, lighter weights, significantly slower pacing. Plus squats – I always seem to make room for new improvements and enhancements in my form. Lately, it’s about the feet – always the damn feet! I have to watch my upright-ness and ensure my feet stay flat on the floor and pressing upward through the heels. Slow, slower, slowest-ing the squat points out all sorts of simple corrections too easily overlooked when pursuing the huffy-puffy pacing.

Next up is the 1-arm row with the lighter 18 lb. kettlebell. Since we started doing these with the landmine, things I know about foot placement and form had gotten misplaced. Rear foot turns sideways 90 degrees and knee is bent, stance is wider. Once I got there, everything worked the way it is supposed to work, pulling upward with the shoulder. I do love the row, and with the lighter weight, felt really dreamy pleasant. We did step up with the 25 lb. KB in the second set, and while more challenging than usual, it was not uncomfortable in my recovering state. That was encouraging. I will live to row another day starting with my typical 25 lb. weight.

We used the foam plyo box instead of the bench for the plank with kick-out/back/knee in. Glutes tight, rib tuck, rib tuck, rib tuck, and keep those glutes tight! I am pretty simple with planks – all of them – and staying straight with abs (rib tuck!) and glutes tight has my full attention. With the kick out, go as wide as possible without twisting the body. With the kick-back, rib tuck even more and kick back only until the glute tightens. With pulling the knee in, only about half way, before the tailbone tilts and tucks under. I know how it’s supposed to look and feel, but it is still not easy. Today on the plyo box and from the elbows, it was far easier on my shoulders and upper body, which is as much a point of fatigue as the abs waving the white flag and pleading for relief.

We returned to the kettlebell hip hinge, from the very first of my Lists back in 2015, only now I was using the 35 lb. kettlebell, which is fairly light for me anymore. But no matter; I made it work, and it was certainly more than enough challenge. I do love these, because it took me a long time to get the shape and technique of how they are supposed to work. Now, I am strong enough to hold the kettlebell in a stable position for the hinge and can feel my muscles all working together. It’s gratifying to revisit exercise I struggled so mightily to get some competence with and feel how far I have progressed.

The former arch nemesis and bane of my existence, the pushup returns today. This exercise hops in and out of my nemesis stable, but lately it spends more time on the outside. Progress, right? Today we did them on the foam plyo box, and I do think my habit of doing a set of at least 8 on the TRX or the bench most mornings as part of my warm-up has helped me progress. But I felt really, really good about my effort today. I actually feel them across my chest muscles now. While sweating profusely and breathing hard (even while going in the slowest of slo-mo pacing), I got them done. Glutes tight, ribs tucked, lower down to the point of chest stretch – done, done, and done. I’m improving.

On the latest ab/core template, we have done the crunch/leg lift combination. These are hard. Really hard. But I have been doing at least a set of floor chops most days and core is stronger. Not bullet-proof stronger, but definitely more capable than even 3 months ago. With this version of the crunch, knees are bent and feet closer to the bum, and elevating shoulders and reaching up as far as possible. Maybe there are people in the world whose shoulders actually lift up off the mat while pressing abs into the floor, but mine are not presently in that group. I tried and could definitely feel it in my core, but I don’t think there was any air flow between my shoulders and the mat while I was crunching. But oh well; this is where I dwell right now. On the leg lift portion, this version has elevated to 90 degree angle with knees bent at 90 degrees as well. Press core into the floor while slowly lowering the legs with knees bent. Low, lower, lower just until my abs let go and my back wants to bend, then pull those knees back up and start over again. OMG – these are so awful! Yet for some perverse reason, they appeal to me on so many levels. I like the challenge. I like the feels. As I said, I can actually feel the building strength in my abs, and it’s very exciting. I have never felt very capable in this regard, and I am finally feeling some changes occurring and progress being made.

The landmine 1-arm overhead press without a weight plate remains hugely satisfying for me. I cannot quite articulate how satisfying it is to use the big bar with or without additional weight, but I love that it’s now part of my Lists and rotations. My feeling in this moment is that this is an upgrade in personal responsibility over the dumbbells or machines, if only because I think there is a wider margin for errors that could result in an injury of some sort. Plus they are effective and build better shoulders in lots of ways.

Of all the facepulls I have learned, I like these with the big giant rubber band the most. It is not just the pulling backward against the band but the resistance of the band between my hands and the resistance pulling sideways as well. The feeling is are broader range across the back and through the shoulders.

The band horizontal chops continue, and I will keep plugging away at trying to improve my form and technique. Lean forward, side rib tuck into these, and try not to get so enthusiastic in the chopping motion that I lose my footing and have to reposition and adjust. As in everything, I will keep working at it, keep practicing, keep striving for improvement. But I gotta say – as part of my core template, I am starting to see some carving into the fat around my waistline and the faintest shadow of obliques emerging. Success is always very motivating.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Honestly, this is the shortest section of any training recap in well … forever. My primary thoughts today were that I’m glad to be well enough to be in the gym, period. No longer worried about spreading illness germs, fever had been gone without medication for more than 36 hours, and day 3 of the 7 day series of antibiotics had me feeling so much better. Still low energy, still not my usual levels of strength and endurance, but I did okay and felt good that I was at least in the gym and back to something akin to normal. Big win.

I am such a creature of habit, though, and I do not really enjoy being outside my routine, especially because I’m recovering or something else. The gym has a different vibe and feel at other times of day, and I am not familiar enough with it to feel completely at ease. Far from the end of anything or worthy of comment for anyone else, but I’m more sensitive to such things and like my routine and familiar sights and sounds.

But I was there. I didn’t spend my whole session whining or making excuses. I did what I could, and while I am never going to be voted most likely to push myself too hard in training, I was very conscious of the consequences of over doing it. I’d much rather go light on effort and return tomorrow than go big and have to stay home because I’ve relapsed.

A Tuesday Footnote

I was back in the gym today and going through this List again this morning. While on Monday we went lighter and did only 2 sets of everything, today I was feeling better and wanted to try for my the regular 3 sets of each block.

How I know I am not yet 100% over being sick: what normally would take maybe 40 minutes at even semi-leisurely pacing took me almost 2 hours. I had to stop many time. I have had to pause, wipe the sweat from my face and take a drink of water, and then finish the set. While I do care, I allowed myself plenty of time to spend 2+ hours to do everything I wanted to get done today. My energy is not back to normal obviously, but I remain very pleased with my effort.

I did make a mistake setting up my landmine overhead press, in that the bar got away from me and very nearly wrenched my shoulder. Fortunately I caught it and myself with a very minor pain tweak to my arm and elbow. The distraction as much as my faltering energy is a wake-up call, and I got very focused while I had the bar in my hands.

Experience for me is a great teacher, and the way I am handling my recovery from illness is a good measure of me listening to body and its reasonable requests. I’m not doing anything crazy. I’m not pushing and trying to use my normal weights if the lighter versions feel taxing to my system. But I’m also not giving up or giving in to my lazy side that whispers that I could go back to sleep or consume more calories because I’m getting over being sick.

Weighing myself on Monday – I had managed to gain 3.6 pounds over the weekend not exercising and eating whatever sounded good in the moment (primarily watermelon and Lipton noodle soup). But oh well; I don’t care. Or rather, I do care, but I am not particularly worried about it. I refuse to let the scale dictate the value of my efforts or my better health quest. Back on my feet, in the gym, getting caught up on work, and essentially up and moving around more – the scale will take care of itself. My eating is fine, not doing anything weird or crazy or stalking the nearest donut shop.

Life, and weight fluctuations, happen. So does getting sick and getting better. My freaking out about it is a waste of energy.

And that, my friends, is huge progress for me.

 

 

Another milestone

While I kicked restart with this blog and moved milestones into more a calendar perspective, this one is too significant to me to ignore. So bear with me for a partial year milestone recap.

It was October 17, 2015, when I began my resolution to make the gym a habit. I’ve told the story many times, but between our first training appointment at the end of June and the training appointment on October 15, 2015, I was rarely in the gym outside of training sessions with fab trainer J. The balance of my practice time on my own would not consume the fingers on both hands during that period. In a casual parting comment after our training session on that day in 2015, J remarked that he’d like to see me in the gym at least twice over the course of the next week. It was just a standard, throw-away wish-list comment, something he probably says to clients 2 or 3 or more times daily. Yet me being me, I took it incredibly personally, as if he actually noticed my lack of practice and therefore lack of progress with my program. Deer-in-the-headlights panic overtook me. I was sure I was going to be fired after our 20 appointment run, and while I was not yet sure if I could or should continue, I wanted to retain the choice.

Then and there I resolved to do better.

My thinking at that time was 30 days of daily gym visits would make a habit, and after that, I could be trusted with the training day session, then 2 practices per week schedule. I could do it. I could overcome my gym crazy and do that.

And so 2 days later, I started my 30 days quest. For the last 2 years, I have averaged at least 6 days per week of gym attendance. In fact, for 2017, this weekend is only the second time I have only strung 2 days away from the gym when not out of town on vacation. I take a day off here and there, but for the most part I practice or train every single day. It is not something I preach or judge others for maintaining their own schedule, and at the same time I find people suggesting I’m overtraining, addicted, obsessive, or worse to be tiresome. I am listening to body, and body says go forth and do something every day.

On my calendar, there is a G for every occasion I went to the gym, and some days there are notations for 2 gym visits. But for my purposes of reporting on this milestone, the extra G does not count. Still, the numbers are impressive to me:

Days to date in 2017: 290
Training sessions in 2017: 80
Days in the gym in 2017: 272
Total gym visits in 2017: 299

For a woman who hated exercise and sweat when she first started, that’s a pretty impressive amount of days and chunk of time spent in the gym routinely getting sweaty and gross. A lot has changed in my life. The changes are positive improvements by anyone’s standards.

I’m healthier. First and foremost, good control of my type 2 diabetes without insulin injections or oral medications. Nothing for high cholesterol or blood pressure. I do still take a vitamin D supplement, which makes me feel rather vampire-ish and sun-avoidant (resulting in me being vitamin D deficient). But oh well. From what I understand, nearly everyone is vitamin D deficient anymore.

And I’m leaner. From a purely pounds lost perspective, I am down about 30 lbs. in 2 years. Yay me! I avoid the camera still – some habits and feelings may never fade – but I can tell from the way my clothing fits and comments from others all around me that I have shed fat and gained muscle through this process. Heck, even I can see the sleek little bundles of muscle peeking out on my arms, legs, butt and back. On top of which, I have this new sense of hopeful optimism that I have abs and a waistline lurking. Probably there will be a press release and a news conference once they are sighted and confirmed.

Stronger too. Fab trainer J started me out using dumbbells and stretchy resistance bands. This time last year, I was cresting with 15, sometimes 25 lb. dumbbells for various exercises. I now use a wider range of dumbbell weights, most from 15 to 55 lbs., and while it is important and does matter, it is not something I pursue with any sort of focused intensity. My power-lifting pals are far more capable with weightier weights, but our training objectives are also very different. Building power and strength is not that important or the source of satisfaction for me. Those characteristics of progress are more consequences of my better health pursuit, not a goal.

I’m more confident. Working with J, practicing on my own – I have learned a lot in 2 years and I have grown more skilled with that new knowledge. Exercising consistently, learning to lift weights, becoming a gym hamster in my mid-50s seemed so out of character and out of reach when I began, yet it has become a defining quality of my life. I’m comfortable in my club; I have made friends and know many members by sight. While training with J is a wonderful luxury, I know enough now to continue on my own if he takes an extended sabbatical or even moves on elsewhere in his life and career. Concern about getting fired as a client is a humorous footnote in our history.

New and different outlets for time and energy. Exercise is a huge component of my life now. But it has also influenced the ways I think, work, read, write. Relationships are different now, and friends I had this time 2 years ago are now more acquaintances than people I have known for a larger chunk of my 56 years. And I’m okay, even relieved with those situations. Relationships, friendships are akin to living organisms that grow and change over the course of time and are dependent upon their environment to evolve and to thrive. My new hobby and lifestyle focus was not a good fit anymore. There is no guilt on my part; life happens. I bear them no ill will and genuinely wish them well in any and all future endeavors.

Even the empty can be filled, the broken can be strengthened. Personal growth is very individual, and a lot of my own cannot be measured in blood tests, the scale, or the gym. It cannot be measured in friends lost or friendships born and/or expanded. I have never been a scholar, but I am a good student. Actually, I’m a great student, and one of the most powerful lessons that come with my better health quest is not just confidence, it’s elevated self-esteem and self-assurance. Bad things do happen to good people, and I am good people. My overall self-possession – I’m extremely proud of it.

When I’m blogging here, it is so odd for me to feel so positive and upbeat and talk so openly and with genuine pride in my accomplishments. The idea of becoming so self-centered and saddled with conceit has been a lifelong concern for me. Talk of narcissism – entire blogs devoted to what it is and how bad genuine narcissists are in real life – I can understand my own phobia. Coming from a dysfunctional and emotionally fucked-up family of origin does mess with the mind, and it has taken me a very long time to work through the minefield of self-destructive measures I have laid down in order to protect myself.

I doubt I am extraordinarily vain. I doubt I will develop narcissistic tendencies this late in my life. If only because I try hard to not be an asshat or develop new mental or emotional disorders to replace the ones I cope with now.

I am not a gold standard for which anyone should compare themselves, because I can do better and more than just showing up every day. For me, showing up is 80% of the battle, and in the better health quest, 80% majority of the time means significant, measureable progress.

But I’m very, very proud of my deliberate consistency efforts. It has done more for me than just reshape my shape. It’s truly saving my life. And tonight I’m giving myself a little pat on the back for this accomplishment. I never imagined a day like this in my history, and even if I dared, my hopes of what it might feel like would have been so far afield. I feel as if I started out as Jane average in my unfit, untrained, exercise-ignorant body and mind.

I’m not average anything anymore.

 

 

 

Shame

Winter is creeping up on us here in northern California, and my thoughts are turning to business clothes. While my office tends to be here in my home, I have been spending a fair amount of time in client workplaces the last few months. While normal ratio is 80% of my hours from home, 20% meeting with clients at their offices or elsewhere, I kind of need something other than jeans and gym clothes for such events. Summer I’m all about dresses and skirts – so much cooler than slacks – but winter, I’d like to have a couple of pairs of slacks. For variety. And in a couple of cases, extra warmth.

Friend K has been down this slack-searching road many times before, and she hates to shop. I hate to shop when I’m on a mission to find something appropriate, but I am also fine with ordering several of the same things in different sizes and then returning what doesn’t work. Such is the case with a recent (read: this morning) Banana Republic online shopping spree. Several pairs of slacks and a couple of jackets in various styles and sizes. Hopefully something works out for me from this lot.

I have never shopped at Banana Republic, and the mere idea of setting foot in their store filled me with apprehension and free-floating anxiety. Because up until recently, I felt they did not have clothes that fit me. Not because body was oddly shaped or proportioned (although that may still be the case), but because I was simply too big, or more accurately, too fat. I am, or was, too fat to fit into BR-size range of clothes. The mere thought of going into a store like that and their largest size 16 (if they even carry size 16 – I honestly never bothered to check and do not need it now) not buttoning around my waist filled me with shame.

Shame, my old friend. If there was ever a destructive and near-death like emotion, it has to be shame.

I have written entire volumes on what my gym crazy is like, i.e., the intimidation of entering and using the gym at first. The big machines. The weights. The row after row of cardio equipment. The sleek and fit women. The buff and muscled men. If you have no idea what the machines are supposed to do, how to safely use the free weights, and you are overweight and everyone else seems to be normal-weight slender, of course you feel intimidated and as if you do not belong.

Even if he majority of that is all in my head, and rarely does the vision within my head match the reality of what I see within my club. But in my fear and anxiety, I was just sure those who were heavier knew precisely what to do, how to do it, and I would quickly be exposed as the imposter that was trying to fake it until I made it. As for asking for help – it felt humiliating that I did not know and could not just figure it out on my own. Hiring J to help me – truth is I was amazed I stuck it out long enough to get comfortable. I liked training days, but I was still intimidated when I went by myself. I would not even say hello to J in passing during those first few months, because even in uniform, he was part of those who belonged in the gym versus those of us who were just pretending.

Crazy. Normal, common, regular non-athlete type feelings that I can completely understand, but even recalling that range of emotions, I cringe thinking about my own brand and level of crazy and feel grateful to have overcome it for the most part. I still have issues when the club is very busy and crowded. I tend to retreat to a single piece of real estate and do whatever List that lets me stay there with a pair of dumbbells for company and then get out as quickly as possible. But I can and will stand my ground if pushed by the crowd, something I would have quickly surrendered and scurried away in the beginning.

Shame fuels that. Shame is what makes me feel some other member has more rights to the space I’m utilizing than I do. Shame is what fuels my excuse factory as to why I am not pursuing my better health quest more consistently. Shame will bury me if I let it.

I am still overweight, still feel fat. But far less so. And my attitude – oh well. The fat burning, muscle building, leaning out will happen when it happens. Key for me is to stay the course, keep my nose to the consistency grindstone on healthy eating and regular exercise. The battle of the bulge is never going to end for me, although I expect to reach a truce plateau at some point where my weight is normal and I feel like I have arrived at whatever balance point I am chasing. Trainer J departed on a 23 lb. weight loss journey this summer and yesterday arrived at his 165 lb. goal (with a 164 lb. weigh-in). Yay! I happy for him achieving this milestone and proud t be on the sidelines with his effort and marvel at both his discipline and focus in this pursuit. M too has been chasing weight loss as well and broke through into 150s yesterday at 159.5. At 5’11” I’m hoping he does not drop too much further, but again, his long-distance running pursuits seem to demand a lighter load.

I am genuinely happy for both of them. I want them to be happy and successful in pursuit of their personal goals and objectives with regard to what it takes for their overall health.

Not that long ago, my own reduced sense of self-worth would have tainted those feelings. Shame again. My own efforts would shrink and wither in comparison to them achieving their goals so much more efficiently. I must be not working at hard, slacking in my exercise, overeating in my supposed eating discipline, just an abject failure because it has taken more than 2 years for me to get to 183 and J went from 187 to 164 in 2 or 3 months and M has dropped from 195 to 159.5 in about 6 months. I should just throw in the towel and grab my junk food and sit here waiting to die. If only I were as disciplined and dedicated I too could be more successful in my health pursuits, and my latent jealousy for their success and my real or imagined ongoing failures made me feel even worse and more ashamed. A vicious cycle.

Yep, such is the mindset of negative girl. Shame is a big tool in her arsenal. Unfortunately I think I’m not alone in this quagmire. The paradigm of behavior for obesity is all too familiar.

I would not say I have broken out of it so much as learned to control it. I have had success in my efforts on my own terms and in my own way, and I think finally accepting that patience and flexibility are required had made it happen for me.

Hiring a personal trainer only gets me so far. I still have to be in the gym, practicing what I am learning, trying to improve to make any sort of forward progress. There are so many quick, easy, important and reasonable reasons to not go to the gym and/or to not get any exercise. It seems like I can make myself physically ill, or at least manifesting the symptoms of illness that make exercise seem like a poor choice in the moment.

Having an obesity doctor to walk me through what a healthy diet for weight loss looks like is another luxury I enjoy. But I still have to prepare my meals, and I still have to make myself do that rather than stopping at the nearest drive through when I am hungry or think I am hungry. I still have to find something else to distract myself when stress or boredom creates thoughts and plans to acquire donuts or salty snack foods with sugary soda in my head.

It occurred to me this weekend that I am not so much a lazy slug (although I really am, just to a lesser degree than for what I typically take credit) as overwhelmed with shame at letting myself get into a configuration that made me fat and less capable. Before I can shed fat, I have had to find a way to let go of shame.

I did not want to be fat, and I do not know anyone who wants to be overweight. But once in that configuration, there was this huge, overwhelming feeling of shame that kept me (and others who share this issue) in hiding. I used to talk about this all the time, about my desire and imaginings of an invisibility cloak between me and the rest of the members in the gym, so no one saw me trying and faltering in my exercise efforts. Because it seemed like all I did was falter. J would say 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps, and I’d be dying on the floor in the first set of barely making it to 8 reps. Even now I struggle mightily with some of my current Lists, and I know my pacing is not how J envisions it when writing the program or teaches it when we are in session.

But oh well. I will get there.

This is not that I don’t care, but I also recognize that I am only so capable at any given time. I typically try my best, but my mind gets in my way. And building strength and skills with the exercise takes time. Especially for those of us who do are not athletically gifted, lack confidence, and are always learning. I don’t care how bright I might be; mind-body connection are frequently sometime in conflict with each other.

I feverently wish for a simple, sure-fire way to overcome shame, something I could bottle and sell to those who need it. From personal experience, I know all about overcoming shame. And until as individuals until we are ready to face our demons and slay our dragons, progress will be slow at best. Shame is not an easy emotion to escape. From a lifetime of coping with it in one form or another, shame is not easy to escape. While intellectually I have understood that my insecurities will not be completely alleviated with shrinking myself to ideal weight, behind all the negative noise was a tiny ray of hope that the shame would fade along with the fat.

Nothing is so easy as all that, though. It’s especially difficult when I see the same process occurring with others I care about. Unhappiness, depression, anxiety from being overweight is real; we all see it or deal with it directly. Fat shaming is a thing, and it’s truly awful. So much worse than that is the awful negativity and self-loathing that happens in our own heads.

It’s a complicated problem and takes trained professionals far more skilled than I to unravel the knots that keep us tied down and in place. I know, because without my therapist, TM, I would have likely given up yet again and still be stuck with negative girl in the rut we had dug together. So I don’t have real answers to others suffering from the complications and burdens of not only the excess weight but the expectations from society and those around us, many of who mean well and only want the best for and to help us.

The internet is full of helpful ideas, diets, programs to help us lose weight. I feel the pain, and despite where I am right now in my own journey, I know how impossible it feels to climb out of the deep, dark hole we have created for ourselves.

I have a long list of former close friends that I have released back into the wild as I have moseied along on my journey. Their tendency was to reinforce my old feelings of shame and misery and negative girl then does her best to bulldoze me back into my dark hole and bury me there. It is not my fault, or really, my former friends. Our relationship was built on me being under the influence of negative girl and their liking that version of me. I have always been pretty low-key and unobtrusive within the boundaries of close relationships, yet I am unflinchingly supportive of those I adopt within my tribe. It was very hard for them to accept the changes I am implementing. The cynical side of me says it was a power dynamic, that for my former buddies needed me fat and insecure about my life and times so they can somehow feel better about themselves?

Shame keeps us isolated within ourselves. Shame taught me how to be supremely organized about compartmentalizing my life and emotions and doing my best to keep the darkness from touching my day-to-day life and times. Hiding it, running away from it has made me more driven to work harder at my profession, at my marriage to M, to be a decent parent, to be a caring and supportive friend.

So there is some upside to being fearful and ashamed.

On good days, I like to believe that I would still be driven to succeed professionally, to be a good mom and a caring friend. On really good days, I like to believe I would be even more successful in these endeavors.

On the bad days, I wish I had never been born.

Shame kills. Of that I have no doubt. My better health quest, I am saving myself. For myself, first and foremost. I’m not special in this regard; everyone deserves a normal life. I had tough breaks early in life and have had to work harder my whole life to put it behind me.

And there is no shame in that. I could do well with a lot more of this feeling, and learning how to share it with others.

PT-73: Landmining

Because I am again more than a week behind in session recap posts, back to labeling them with dates. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday morning, training with J. I initially thought we would be doing Monday review and adding in the third block, but somewhere in the intervening days J changed his mind about what to do next. Or he had changed his mind about the order, both of which are perfectly fine things to do. However, today it was mid-session that he changed his mind completely about direction. Full-on teaching day, and it was amazingly fun. Our session quickly morphed from “we are developing a formal List” to “we are putting together something new so let’s throw a lot of stuff at the walls and see what sticks.”

Love that. Works for me. Training. Not a job, not an adventure, it’s awesome-sauce amazingly big fun, balm for an enduring soul.

Key Takeaways

The more I have to pick up and move the big tall bar around the slightly more confident I get about my ability to do so without hurting myself or others. Because it’s 41 lbs. And long, tall, awkward to lift up out of its holder, walk 10 feet, and insert into a landmine.

New trick when using 20 lbs. on the bar is to use use a single 10 lb. plate and 2 5 lb. plates, because the 5 lb. plates are easier to get on and off when paired with the 10 lb plate. For whatever reason I thought there was some scientific trick to using the least amount of plates possible.

There is a shape and angles difference with the landmine and barbell versus the dumbbells. It’s fascinating to observe, and I feel all nerdy girl in noticing the differences.

Because of the way the barbell is positioned, it did not seem like the way I held the bar in my hand on various moves matters. Yet it does, and only through a fair amount of trial and error do I learn the subtle differences.

For the first time in a long time, I spend a lot of time making small adjustments on each exercise. I understand it was a teaching day; this is primarily new stuff. But there are so many small adjustments to make and be made. But oh well. If I have to move an inch or so every other rep (or even every single rep) until I get the feels right, so be it.

What We Did

Today was all about the landmine and learning how to work with it. The teaching List:

Squat
1-arm row (wide stance)
1-arm press
Thruster

Reverse lunge
1-leg Romanian deadlift (2 holds)
1-arm row (narrow stance)
Chest press (demonstrated but not officially tried out)

How It Felt

The squat is intriguing if only with trying to get myself into the correct angle to the bar. For the first time ever, I actually appreciate the mirror across from where I am working. Typically I hate looking at myself do anything in the gym, but with this landmine stuff, I find myself trying to get the angles right and need the mirror to see if I am in the ballpark of correct with my footing. Still using 20 lbs. of plates on the bar and do fairly well with the rep range.

Not sure what it was about this exercise, but I kept reaching for the bar with the wrong hand to 1-arm row. Did pretty well with a 10 lb. plate, but the intermittent forearm weak pain it has me feeling cautious. For the most part I get the basic shape, and while this is framed as a huffy-puffy List, it felt a lot more like a strength-building List with the rows.

There is a definite awkward feeling handing the barbell for a 1-arm press. First the landmine on the floor pivots to and fro, and my first effort has me being very careful to make sure I press it straight ahead versus letting my wrist and arm get loosey-goosey and sort of rotate it around in a circular fashion. I have the shape down down now, and where my elbow should be (in front of me, not all the way down to my side), and foot placement – the oh-so-important foot placement – in a split stance.

Thrusters are in slo-mo or I lean forward too much and elevate my heels. After 2+ years of doing squats, I am back to having to thinking butt back and standing up straight. How strange it is the distribution of weight with the barbell and ensuring my hand placement is correct for both the squat and the overhead press at the top. I’m working on the timing and pacing, but in my head it is not going very well. But oh well. It’s not that I don’t care – because I do care very much – but not too much or I will get lost and overthink all the small details that I ultimately need to memorize and absorb.

The reverse lunge with the landmine requires a lot more focus and concentration than bodyweight or with dumbbells in hands. It was not terrible, but turning the rear foot slightly inward for stability – goodness where have I been? It made a huge difference, and I am trying to retrain myself to always do this with all lunges going forward. But with the barbell in hand, it seems so important to do a side at a time, all at once, rather than alternating. Still, it was tiring. And thinking about and controlling the bar in my hands seems a lot trickier than the dumbbells. Maybe be cause it’s new, but more likely because it’s heavy and awkward and a lot more risky should it slip from my grasp.

We used 2 different holds on 1-leg Romanian deadlifts today. First we did them with me facing the bar and holding onto the end with my palm facing down (in my mind this was the wide way) and then with me standing at the end of the bar with my hand turned to the side (the skinny way). (I learned later that they are referred to as perpendicular and parallel relative to the side of the body.) Unsurprisingly, these were a challenge to stay balanced. But again, foot placement matters. This time, it’s the elevated foot turns slightly inward to square off the hips and keep everything upper body tight and still through the whole movement. I actually did better with these than I would have anticipated, and I feel more confident going forward. The barbell is far more controllable with balance than the cables.

The 1-arm row with narrow stance felt more like a regular dumbbell 1-arm row, in that there was a split stance and pulling upward with the shoulder. The distribution of the weight is different, but I understood the shape, how my feet were supposed to be positioned, and could definitely feel myself pulling the weight upward with my shoulder. I actually have no strong preference for these over the wider stance rows, and unless J is specific about doing one over the other, I would probably alternate styles back and forth between sets.

J laid down on the floor and demonstrated a 1-arm chest press and it looked interesting, but he chose to not have me try it today.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I speak of measures a fair amount in terms of my better health quest. I have dates and time frames in my head. I have lots of other numbers as well – everything from my starting weight to what the scale reported this morning, to my A1c when I started and what it was in August. The range of numbers of statistics that I am aware of and loosely track in are primarily data points; snippets of information that ultimately tell a story about my overall forward progress.

But it is far from the whole story. On its own, it appears to be a smooth, steady line of progress. There is no way to accurately track and measure for the anguish, the frustration, the buckets of sweat, the puddles of tears. The sense of the empty emotional devastation at how my untrained body has struggled and flailed for every tick of the scale or the glucose meter, for every extra pound of weighty weight I can wield safely and sanely. All that negative noise is mostly in my rearview mirror, but I am still close enough to that version of me that my eyes tear up thinking about the uphill slog and how hard that part of any change of lifestyle habit. And how richly satisfying it is to reach the next summit and look backward at my most recent climbing-up point.

The landmines and barbell are just another toolset in my fitness toolbox, yet in my head they loom large like the peak of Mt. Everest. It’s a new and exciting accomplishment for me, something I have worked very hard for without knowing it was looming large as a potential Next Big Thing. I have earned any and all measures of success with it. The weight plates I am using are not meant to impress, but I could be using lighter, heavier, or no added weights and feel the same way. It’s the next phase of training, of being capable enough to learn to use these different tools that makes me feel this strange mixture of pride and humility.

I am a weird emotional headspace, so I question a lot of my feelings and impulses. Of late I have this sense of being underestimated. Or maybe undervalued? Not sure precisely, but the sense of irritation when old and banished to outer circles of friends act surprised at my appearance persists as an intermittent annoyance. Whereas my arms were once judged as getting too big, now they seem perfectly normal and just blend with the rest of body’s pieces and parts. Sometimes I think my glutey-booty needs its own red wagon to be carted around behind me, but it’s a passing sense of self adjustment showing. I imagine M and J – both on a manorexia journey and steadily slenderizing – have similar feelings when they look at their changing frames in the mirror or while going through their own fitness pursuits. Only for them it’s more fist-pumping triumph feelings versus the weird stew of push-pull in my own heart and mind.

My point here, underestimated, undervalued – by whom? No one who matters to me in my orbit. I have made new friends that make me feel awesome. And brave, so very brave. Courage is uniquely individual, and overcoming my gym crazy was just a single step in a very long journey of shedding ugly feelings of inferiority and shame.

Cool new tools today, and while I’m not perfect in their use, that I have come this far and am capable of using them imperfectly is just huge.

True confession: telling M about using the landmine on Monday, I was really happy. Telling him about today, I got all emotional and teary kind of happy with my little baby step accomplishment. I have worked so hard. I have tried really hard to work so hard. My intellectual curiosity about fitness and exercise has grown by leaps and bounds, and it tends to go hand in hand with my efforts to stay focused and actually implement all I am learning about in print, video, random conversations with others while keeping my eye on the better health quest.

All around me, people I know are getting sick with serious illnesses. I’ve learned of 4 people diagnosed with different forms of cancer in the last 6 weeks, and I have heard from clients and friends about other friends or relatives receiving similar bad news. There have been deaths this year, and I am dreading more sad news into the future with a former boss.

Sometimes it’s just genetics or bad luck that brings serious, life threatening illness. However, more often than not there are chronic conditions that can be avoided, controlled, even reversed with a more active lifestyle and  healthier eating choices. With the diabetes, I am living, breathing proof of the possibilities. I am under no illusion that this diabetes drug-free state will last forever, and I have no idea how much damage I may have done to myself before embarking on my better health quest. But oh well. The past is past; mistakes and poor choices were made. It is not something I look back upon with regret or despair. Nothing I can do about it now except to make better choices going forward and enjoy the whatever allotment of good health and vitality comes from present and future efforts. From this point forward, though, I will regret knowing I can do better and yet refuse to undertake the challenges to make those better choices a stronger habit. I am inherently lazy, and if body and mind had not become so smitten with the effects and feelings that come with regular exercise, chances are excellent that I would not be spending quite as much time in the gym honing my skills.

I don’t particularly like where I was when I started. My simplest goal is to avoid having to return to the medication to control my blood sugar. Avoid simple sugar and processed foods. Limit the starchy carbs. Eat lots of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Sounds so easy, but when the sugar/fat/salt evil triad has you in its thrall, it’s so hard.

Nor would I be so happy about the cool new tools that I start to cry happy tears telling M about my training adventure.

Progress? Oh Hell yes. And for once the tears that accompany the sweat were of a celebratory nature rather than angry frustration or recrimination.

Progress. I’ll not only take it, I’ll celebrate it.

My skinniest pair of skinny jeans

When I write posts like this, it feels almost like I’m writing a press release. Alert the media! I have finally winnowed myself down and can now fit into a pair of black skinny jeans – the first pair I ever purchased – without extraordinary measures. They fit so well I pulled them out of the bottom drawer (where the retained thinner me clothes are kept) and was able to pull them on, zip, and button them without having to do much more than stand up straight. There was not sucking in my stomach and lying on the bed to get them closed. I could sit down in them without feeling squeezed, pinched, or uncomfortable.

I am amazed. I am happy. I am ridiculously excited. And I am playing beat-the-clock and on a timer so this post could end abruptly (that’s just the public service message portion of this post).

These skinniest skinny jeans are not the smallest piece of clothing in my closet. Nope, that would be 2 pairs of vintage Levi 501 jeans from high school. Yep, still have clothes from high school. Definitely qualify as vintage, because these jeans are at least 40 years old. Maybe they would be worth more on ebay? Maybe I’ll sell them AFTER I reshape my shape and can put them on and button them.

Thing is, these vintage jeans fit me before I had children and body underwent that dramatic shift in proportions. And maybe middle aged women should not aspire to wear jeans they wore as teenagers. But I presently weigh (183 lbs. this morning) is within 10 lbs. of what I weighed when I got married the first time at 20. But with the way body has rearranged itself with pregnancy, childbirth, age it could be kind of a pipe dream. Still, a worthwhile experiment to pursue. And I have held onto these jeans for this long for some reason. What’s another few months?

This week, the last couple of weeks, have been strangely challenging in my better health quest, and I am taking definitive steps to make my own madness cease. Social media is not my friend. Many, many people can go forth and be on Facebook without any ill effects, but apparently I am not yet one of them. My fat loss group has gone from being something I enjoy and feel good about to me feeling oppressed and irritated that I am looking for discussions and solutions on common issues that crop up with trying to change our lifestyles. Or even successes and setbacks that will happen to and for each of us. Instead, it has devolved into just another place where there are hurt feelings, off-topic comments, and then some chastisement for suggesting that politics has nothing to do with eating strategy and exercise. As in most social groups, there are a small handful of folks who suck all the air and attention out of the group, and my frustration impacts me.

Add to that, struggles with political differences among very close friends. It’s not that M and I are so strident in our beliefs so much as our friends who are more liberal are so black-and-white that they are right and anyone disagreeing with them are evil. How we got here – I’m honestly not sure. It may be the influences of their young adult children, or it could be they are only now breaking out of their social propriety and preaching and lecturing rather than participating in give-and-take discussions and sharing of information. Whatever. It’s exhausting and draining to me.

And once again, I have to step away. It’s not yet to the point of shedding friends completely, but I find that if divorce was hard at 29 (my age when my kids’ dad and I split), it’s absolutely debilitating at 59 (the age when close friends separated and entered counseling). These are good folks, but the level of crazy that had infected has me backing away and maintaining plenty of space between us.

The good of these issues – it opens up a lot of avenues of conversation with M and I. M spends a lot of time on Facebook with his various group activities, and he is comfortable cutting off communication with those who disagree and who lead with attacks when the disparate points of view are disclosed. With our friends, the husband has a different perspective on marital breakdown that his wife, and quite honestly, I am starting to believe there’s something wrong with many women I know that are in my age range. It is as if their sense of self faded as their children grew up and into independence whereas my sense of self has expanded and taken over the entire universe. M and I seem to grow closer as we pursue our own interests as an empty nest couple, whereas so many woman I have known for long periods are become irrational, demanding, entitled princesses. As a consequence, we no longer mix well. They are as frustrated with me as I am with them.

It makes me extraordinarily grateful to the people I have met and become friends with from the gym and my various jobs the last few years. Our interests in our long-term health, taking care of ourselves, and the world around us makes friendship as stimulating and rewarding experience. So many of the female friends I have – there are a few exceptions – are tiresome for me, just as I am for them, I’m sure.

I am glad to have lightness of a decision made and resolve about the future of my social interactions in place. It’s impairing what matters most to me with my better health quest and finding more balance between work-work and the rest of my life.

And my blogging lunch is up for today. Happy weekending everyone!

The shoulds, reality, upgrades

In my head, I should be writing my training recap. But I’m not. Because I’m juggling multiple projects, priorities, and thoughts. Plus I’d really like to eat at some point before I become cranky and hungry. That’s ugly stuff people; we don’t want to go there.

Reality is there is so much to talk about, in addition to the small, fine details and adjustments with training. Nothing big, no major weighty-weight goals to report or crow about, no new digit drop on the scale to be ridiculously excited about either. Nope, all about form, technique, the laser-focus trainer eye picking up small details that require adjustment and could derail progress now or into the future. These are not optional ways to do things; this is not hammer curl versus bicep curl kind of differences. It is small things about shoulders, core, foot placement. And it’s with basic exercises like squats.

But a typical recap takes a little time to write, time I presently don’t have to devote. Instead, in my head and other venues of communications I’m having discussions with people about ridiculous things that practical, pragmatic me does not understand. While I have disconnected and shut down the negative noise, it has the effect of stimulating my thinking and energizing my emotional volume. I’m kind of pointlessly indignant and outraged for not good reason. There are avenues in my life I need to just read the topic, unequivocally and unemotionally state my position (absolutely transparently: frequently the politically incorrect side of the equation), and let the rabble rousing continue without me. I gots other stuff to do.

The important thing I want to talk about, though, is the evolution of training as a component of the better health quest and its overall rippling effect. I can tell you until the cows and sheep and every other barnyard creature that wanders come home about the exercises and how each feels to me. I can tell you about my thoughts. I can tell you the lightbulb moments. And I love doing that. I love downloading all that happened in my mind, transcribing my notes from my notebook and sharing it with all of you.

I just lack the chunk of time to do so. And I’m utilizing the precious little I have right now explaining myself, primarily to myself.

Reading back through many hundreds of posts and emails and things I have written in the last 2+ years, I see the zig and zag of my journey and progress. I see myself with single legged Romanian deadlifts – once upon a time my arch nemesis exercise – and know how far I have come with that even though I continue to struggle with balance, only a far heavier weight or bar in my hand(s). My lunge anxiety and weeble-wobbles with bodyweight lunges of any stripe has given way to this fascination with the rear foot placement, body alignment, whether I am bobbing and weaving with the dumbbells in my hands. The weights I once thought so far out of reach for me are now just another datapoint in my day-to-day exercise experience.

I love that. I love ALL of that. The world’s best vocabularian lacks words to describe my deep sense of joy and satisfaction with all I can do now, how far I have come since I began training with J, and how infinite and exciting the learning curve in front of me with this process. (And who knew that “vocabularian” was actually a thing? Learning is forever.)

But my learning style – it has evolved and adapted, as has the way J and I interact in the trainer/trainee partnership. My capacity has not just grown in less fat, more muscle, increased stamina, it is also more discipline and an increase in my understanding. My body remains a bit of mystery to me, but I know that basic care and maintenance involve eating healthy foods and getting regular amounts of exercise. Even with that, there are quirks and adjustments. Despite my best efforts to maintain and be at a calorie deficit most days, for the first time in my entire life I found it’s possible to be a too much of a calorie deficit and how its impacts can and do take me in the wrong direction. Where I once felt stronger and more engaged while going through my List, I have felt weaker and more fatigued as I tried to press forward. Looking at my sleep and my stress levels, both seemed to be in order, particularly the sleep. I had not changed my diet, but it did seem more huffy-puffy effort was draining my reserves. I started watching my nutrient intake and that helped some, but increasing my overall calories put me back in normal energy range. And guess what? The scale went from plateau and creeping upward to on the march back down.

Yep, eating a little more and restarting my weight loss. Who knew?

As far as the exercise, I’m not always never the perfect client with pacing on huffy-puffy Lists, particularly technical review days where lots of little issue cropping up and creeping in from the List. (I know there probably isn’t a perfect training client; it’s another urban legend along with the rainbow-farting unicorns.) Maybe it’s less routine stuff – my forays into TRX exercises look and feel completely different than in the beginning – or just bad habits taking hold when I’m on my own. No matter. I’m still embryonic enough of trainee to take correction and adjustment and incorporate them into my form and technique. I also do not take it personally, as if I am the tribe idiot who does not or cannot understand. Comporting myself to getting the gazillion small nuances of exercise is not for the faint of heart, but I’m proud of myself for rising to the occasion. Big girl capris holding steady in this regard.

While it appears we’re socializing and having fun in training, I am very serious about learning and absorbing every single detail. Unfortunately there is so much about exercise that is miniscule little details that do not feel different (until it all goes bad) it’s difficult for me to remember everything without pen and paper in hand. In the time I have spent typing this post, I have had my arms stretched out trying to replicate the stance for the TRX tricep exercise and rib tucking while sitting upright thinking of the motion for glute bridges. Long live my exercise geekiness! This also leads me to the conclusion that tomorrow is too late to run through this List again, that I will have lost something while sleeping tonight. So I am will be back in the gym sometime tonight to run through it again to try and cement the nagging little things we went through.

It was that kind of small details-heavy session.

The whole point of this rambling brain dump: to describe that I am upgrading. For lack of a better, more accurate, more precise term, I will use one that sounds like a big and tangible Very Good Thing.

Yep, I am upgrading myself. My habits. My thoughts. My discipline. My cohorts. My work.

This is not me expressing belief that the work I do to improve my health deserves recognition or reward or status boost more frequently or even at all. Nope, this is me acknowledging that I have worked very, very hard and am seeing the natural consequence of those efforts in all aspects of my life. Who knew that developing a new sense of discipline in one aspect of my life would bleed over and color everything else more positively?

I marvel at this process. I was a pretty happy person before I began working on my improving my health, but I am in a superior frame of mind and reference since embarking. Better health – what to do, what to do. I hire a coach, I learn a lot, but there are 2 hours per week jam-packed full of exercise stuff so studying on my own is absolutely imperative. From there I meet others and getting to know them piques my interest in all sorts of things, so my natural curiosity makes me want to know and understand more.

Diving down the rabbit hole of new knowledge so I can reassure myself that I’m an equally interesting and interested conversation partner. Because at my core, I feel pretty damn boring in today’s world. I feel as if I read the same stuff everyone else reads, think along the same biased lines that I think, and when I meet others with different experiences, I like exploring their experiences and what has shaped their own biases so we can share and learn from each other. And rediscovering that I love, Love, LOVE the whole learning-new-things process.

But there is the militant asshole factor. I try to avoid it, and in most of my real-life interactions, my friends, associates, clients, general associations are fine. We are all grown-ups and have genuine give-and-take conversations. It’s online social media – something I pursue extremely sparingly – where the asshole factor comes into play. And I lack the patience and the stomach for arguing with might-is-right sort of mindsets.

The darker down side is my interest in and patience with others stuck and unwilling to try to up their game is waning. It’s a fine line where I am either a knowledge junkie unwilling to repeatedly pour my gathered treasure down some black hole without any return or I grow stagnant in the presence of others.

I know I am quite capable of patience and interest. J gave this spectacular illustration this morning, with potted plants. Get a pot, added the best soil possible, bury some seeds, water it, expose it to sunlight, talk/sing/dance for it. And watch it. Every day, do these good and nurturing things for the seeds. And be patient, while watching it. At some point, something is going to happen. Some little tendril will sprout from the soil, and over the course of days and weeks and months and years you care for this plant and provide all it needs, it grows and thrives.

Such is the case with diet and exercise. I was chatting with my daughter on Tuesday evening about the process, and I told her, truthfully, that it has only been in the last few months that I can truly discern the changes in my body and the scale. After 2+ years of at least 6 or 7 days of resistance training every single week, I have just now tipped the scale of 30 lb. weight loss. I’m physically smaller, have pretty new muscle peeking out on various body parts. There is less fat all over. Yet my BMI calculation says I am still obese.

Oh well.

The thing is, I stopped thinking that I should see results after a set amount of time and an awful lot of effort. My focus is just putting in the effort, doing the work. Everything counts. Every step on my Fitbit, every calorie I burn doing resistance training or weight lifting, every calorie I consume. I get tired, frustrated, distracted routinely and do not push the huffy-puffy pacing on huffy-puffy Lists, or my confidence feels tentative I utilize a lighter weight range. But my effort is not in vain. It may not be as efficient or as effective as if I put forth the all-out effort, but I still do a lot. And I’m satisfied with that effort no matter how reduced it may seem in my own mind.

As my base level of strength and endurance has built, so has my desire to understand the process more. I still come home from the gym after every session and write down in my own shorthand what I learned, what I want to retain, what I know and feel inside is most important. I frequently do the same after practices on my own. Who has the time? I hear this constantly on the rare occasions that I mention it. I make the time. Because what I value, I prioritize and protect. I value my health. I value my time, and J’s, and others in my village. I take notes and write down what I want to remember, including names mentioned in passing that I want to look up later. Because if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget. I am unlikely to even remember to ask for the name later and the potential avenue for learning new things is lost to me.

It’s part of my upgrading process. I make notes for later research from conversations with clients and with friends as well. My memory appears to be good because I have a habit of writing things down, and if I make the effort to write it down, my recall of details is so much better.

So, if I’m a good training client (and I am), I put forth the effort. I do my homework. I possibly have taken the concept of training extra credit to some unforeseen level. And I’m okay with that. This is my process, what works for me, what keeps me focused and interested in my own progress without using the typical, tangible measures.

If I let go of the reins on my discipline in this area, it would not be long before I’d be back on medication to control my blood sugar and those 30 lbs. would be restored. And I have given away all my larger sized clothing.

While I might idly wonder how letting go of my discipline with exercise and diet might impact the rest of my life – in work, in relationships, in interests – I have zero interest or intention in indulging that avenue of curiosity.

I have earned my progress because I do work at it, every single day. And I’m proud of my effort. The success I have enjoyed and the rewards of developing this discipline are far broader than I ever imagined. And as I type this and think about anyone telling me this 2+ years ago, I would have been very skeptical and feeling as if someone were trying to manipulate me. I can write about it until blogs are outlawed and am unlikely to sway anyone who hates exercise or any sort of restriction on their eating habits. It is something we each have to discover on our own.

Still, the effort and developing the discipline is so worth it and worthy of writing endless amounts of words about it.