Monday morning, training with J. And also happy birthday to my fabulous husband, M. A milestone year: turning 60. Thankfully he is aging well, in exceptional health and busy tearing up the yard and about to start work on an interior project. After a week outside in the rain and working diligently on our yard, he’s earned some quality time inside the warm, dry house.
Even though it was his birthday today, M said the utterly sweetest thing to me: my continuing to push forward with the daily exercise is the best birthday gift.
Yep, he’s a keeper.
I was doing a quick scan of Facebook tonight and found this from Coach Scott Abel.
This morning, working away at the Bulgarian split squats, J repeated that old adage about practicing making perfect requires perfect practice. Because I never refer to my time in the gym as working out; I am either at training with J or I am practicing on my own.
What Coach Abel says here about thoughts and feelings, from my own experience it is completely true. Changing my mindset was well beyond just a choice, unless it’s the choice I made every day for months until it became a habit. I would not say I am skilled at the process of achievement – yet. But I’m toiling at it diligently.
For today, love my review days. Especially when something as vexing as those Bulgarians are on the List. I have been gone through a lower body List that had them on it a couple of times in the last week, and finally yesterday I felt as if I had had a breakthrough that broke me of the habit of bobbing upright at the end and putting an undue strain on my lower back.
Because it is review day, the pacing was not as frantic as it was last week. Which is fine. We slowed down and focused on small technical details which make an enormous difference to me in the long run and ultimately benefit me with the many little adjustments and changes to form.
I know pacing should be, will be peppier in the future. Today, I got so much out of review day, picked up so many things that I either had not realized or had not remembered from prior outings. I feel far more prepared and ready to get to the huffy-puffy pacing when it comes round again.
What We Did
It was review day, repeat of last Monday’s List with 3 full sets of everything:
A1 Bodyweight 1.5 Bulgarian split squats (3 sets, 12-15 reps)
A2 1-arm dumbbell rows (25 lb. DB, 3 sets, 12-15 reps)
A3 Plank off bench with step-outs to kickbacks (3 sets, 10-12 reps)
B1 DB walking anterior lunges (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, “there and back” or 10-12/side)
B2 Slight decline dumbbell chest press (25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
B3 Medicine ball vertical chops (6 lb. MB, 2 sets, 12-20 reps)
C1 Alternating lateral reaching lunges (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-10/side)
C2 Cross bench dumbbell pullover (15 lb. DB, 3 sets, 12-15 reps)
C3 Band horizontal rotations (3 sets, 12-20/side)
How It Felt
The big baddie in the room – the 1.5 Bulgarian split squats – so much a more positive, productive experience this week. As I said, I ran through these a couple or other times this week, trying to habituate myself with the forward bend and staying in that position with the rib tuck, not letting myself bob upwards when straightening the leg. Today, I got through a set of singles and 2 sets of 1.5 without a twinge of even noticing my low back trying to engage. The biggest issues I had were when I started overthinking trying to go deeper and it would somehow break my concentration at first, but it’s a next hurdle to overcome.
My favorite upper body exercise is the 1-arm dumbbell row and today they got even better. Through the months we have gone from knee on the bench pulling, to split stance through the pull with the shoulder versus the arm, and the extra stretch by allowing the shoulder and the weight to extend down. In today’s session, I learned how to keep from letting the arm go completely straight and to stay slightly bent. It makes the shoulder and lats engage sooner … maybe more? Not sure how to describe it exactly, but I can feel the difference between letting the arm completely extend and the elbow straighten versus keeping it slightly bent at the bottom. In my head as I am envisioning myself and this movement, I see it more as my pushing the weight down rather than just letting the shoulder and back tension and contraction release. I am not describing it well, but there is a lot more power-feeling in that simply elbow bend at the bottom. Trust me, feeling it in my back and lats tonight.
Another tweak and enhancement to the plank off bench with step-ups and kickbacks makes this so much harder and profoundly more effective. Favorite new cue – the rib tuck – is very effective with this exercise as well. First off, planks are not my friend. I know they work and are extremely effective on the abs, but dang, they are hard. Keeping the back straight, do the rib tuck, and today, grip the bench tightly with both hands and pull the elbows down toward the core. Makes the regular plank feel like lying on the floor in comparison. But I am determined. I will get that rib tuck and back straight down, grip the bench and pull the elbows back to keep the lats tight, and then distract myself with the step left, step right, kick left leg up, kick right leg up, and hold on tight to that bench. So maybe not just the rows impacting the “I worked hard feeling” emanating from the lat muscles.
The walking anterior lunges are improving, sort of slowly. For the most part I have the bend forward and the weights hanging forward for the most part, with majority of the weight on the lead leg. Tighten the hams and glutes, push the hips forward, tighten the abs on the popping back up part to starting position. Be snappier about it, too. J never puts it that way; my head translates it that way. Doing the dumbbell matrix makes me a bit more proficient with these, but I can do with more practice. A lot more practice. No aches or pains anywhere other than my hamstrings and glutes. Now, just get more comfortable with the huffy-puffy and I’ll be golden.
Still working the arch on the slight decline dumbbell chest press, and for the most part, I am getting better at it. Like the 1-arm row, today J taught me how to keep the elbows slight bend on the press up portion and damn, those weights are back to full weigh of weightier weight-ness. If working the arch gave me the illusion of hefting lighter weights, keeping my elbows slightly bent at the top added it back. Really new cool trick, though.
Last week when we did the medicine ball vertical chops I had to come home and to try them without a medicine ball to ensure I had the basic shape down. Still have to go at a slower, more deliberate pace to ensure I am not arching backward with the momentum of the pop-up part of the movement. I’m improving, keeping arms outstretched and in front of me rather than going too far overhead and backward, using the shrug up to keep arms in proper position. Have to say after all the exercise and ways I have worked to train myself to not shrug, I have to work at it to make myself consciously shrug the shoulders when in the appropriate situations.
Whatever it is about these things, I have disagreeable feelings toward the alternating lateral reaching lunges. I try. I hate them. I try harder. I still hate them. But, I will conquer my distaste and make myself do them. Today we added bicep curls at the top, which helps. Distraction from what feels wrong to me usually works pretty well, and I
Rather than a cross bench dumbbell pullover, we did just a regular, lay-on-the-full-bench version of the dumbbell pullover today. And I’m glad. Because I really wanted to explore the whole thoracic arch thing with full bench support. So J and I went over that today, and now I find myself curious about how it could or does work with the cross bench. Most of the time I am so busy figuring out where my head actually is on the bench that I am paying attention to little else. Now to test the arch with the cross bench set-up.
Band horizontal rotations have been around for a long time, practically forever. Yet, there I am today trying to not bend elbows in my confusion with something else. Okay, keeping arms outstretched for the rotation learned the secret to these bad boys is keeping the shoulders back (unshrug strikes again) is the key that makes this work for me. Finally. Months. A YEAR later. I finally have that epiphany that makes this make sense and actually work for me. It seems so simple – I remember it coming up fairly early in the training Lists. It does not seem that complicated, but when it’s appeared on a List it has been a struggle until today. Today I finally got it. Now I just need to practice regularly until I am sure it sticks.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Some sessions everything just comes together and really clicks. Some sessions I feel sort of hapless and not exactly hopeless, not anymore. Some Lists take more time for body to catch up with mind’s understanding or vice versa. Practice, I have found, is the only thing that makes what J is teaching make sense. If I don’t try on my own, I will be stuck in a fearful place that makes any real progress impossible. I may as well be paralyzed for all the ways and the stuff I am not getting done.
I spend a good portion of training days thinking about what we did, what we discussed, the conversation we had before, during, after training. Checking in with how body feels throughout the day and plotting practice for Tuesday and Wednesday is part of my process. The most astonishing thing about all this right now?
I actually have a process.
At heart, I am a planner. Does seem like I would be a goal-setting fiend, but we all know I’m not. Planning my gym practice keeps things real for me. I have my plans, then I have my backup plans A and B, just in case. Sometimes the gym is busy, equipment I want to use has other people draped over it, or I wake up in a lower body mood when it is an upper body day.
Made the decision to terminate my yoga studio membership at the end of January. Price increases, my favorite pilates instructor moving on to other employment pursuits and not enough time to make my minimum quota of 10 classes per month between studio cancellations and my own hectic work schedule make the need for more fluidity in my yoga pursuits. Chatting with other friends, I realized there are a lot of studios around town offering introductory specials and group-ons where I can get my yoga practice for significantly less money and pretty much on demand.
Healthy eating – oh my, what a mess. I am not eating huge, gratuitous amounts of crap food, but I am not quite as on track as I wish to be either. Still sorting out breakfasts – protein shake before gym, but what to eat after that is an ongoing discussion. Lunches are pretty well planned with a sandwich and a piece of fruit. Dinner remains a bit of a free-for-all, between salads or actual meal preparation. More vegetables, yes. Still light on the the protein and trying to get better.
I had such an amazing training session today. The best ones leave me excited and eager to get back to the gym tomorrow to try something else we did, to work at my nemesis list or especially the arch nemesis. Even the worst one, if there is such a thing, leave me intrigued and puzzling about some major or minor detail.
In exercise, I have found there is a process to it that appeals to the little professor inside my head and presents this way to utilize and improve my overall health, if only I can make body understand the ways to make it happen. When I run into issues with form, something hurts unnaturally and makes me stop, or slows my forward momentum significantly. It still amazes me that I can tell the difference now between an ouchie that means a problem or an actual ouchie and just body doing real, productive work.
Progress comes in small increments. Pounds lifted. Reps counted. Single leg, dual leg, 1.5, simultaneous. Sometimes a step forward means taking a step back first, and mastery means training hard, practicing the same List series for weeks or months at a time for mastery. Boredom, I found, is a vanity emotion that distracts me from putting forth my best effort. Same is true with the disagreeable exercises. No matter how distasteful I may find them, I have for force myself to keep going, seen the rep count through, or they will always be unpleasant.
I tell myself that every single day. Not all days are success stories in overcoming, but I am trying.
Most of the time I am winning, too. Progress.