Monday morning, training with J. Training days this year are interesting and intriguing thus far, and today we stepped forth into the big boys room. While I do not necessarily like being in there during busier periods, I do not necessarily mind while training with J. He’s like my security shield, in that I do not necessarily have to deal with the
men people who can be kind of pushy about their own agendas and territorial about equipment.
Who knew elbows were so tricky? Of late here, I am looking at my elbows and what they are doing a lot more than I can remember. This is progress, though. When I have finally gotten the rest of the form down well enough, productively enough to to the point that elbows are next to be addressed.
There is part of me that gets concerned that I do not know how to relax and get the stretch portion of the exercise. That minor concern lives up there with my ongoing shrug challenges. It’s a newish tweak and cue; absorbing and incorporating it into my form more routinely to automatically and set-up will require repetition and practice.
I’m stronger. No question in my mind – I’m physically stronger. M compliments me lavishly on the reshaping my shape, J is very kind in pointing out some of my new muscle creases, and my friends are somewhat uneasy at my more muscular frame. Maybe I don’t look feminine anymore? Not sure. As I was telling another friend earlier today, a lot of people have serious issues with change, even change to friends and members of their realm.
Balance is one of those mysterious, amazing things that snuck up on me. This weekend we were in the sierras scouting snow shoeing locations for M. Wearing running shoes, I was able to walk carefully along snow and ice-encrusted sidewalks without slipping, sliding, losing my balance. The messages from body (all is well; lower body has this under control) to brain that there is no need to overreact with fear are being received. I was walking slowly and carefully – street running shoes are not great for snow and ice – but did not have a quiver or hint of slippage.
Now thinking about winter hiking boots. For the 2 or 3 visits to snow crusted streets and roads each year. Not ever planning to go snowshoeing with M; I am vastly better suited and prefer to stay inside the climate controlled gym and do lots of squats or 1-legged things to continue to improve my balance. But winter hiking boots are on my shopping list of things to pursue. Maybe even this year.
What We Did
A1 Goblet Squat (3 sets, 25 lb. DB, 15-20 reps)
A2 Seated Cable “Stretch” Row (3 sets, no idea, 12-20 reps)
A3 Dumbbell Bench Press (3 sets, 25 lb. DBs, 8-15 reps)
B1 Dumbbell Reverse Lunges (3 sets, 15 lb. DBs, 8-12/side)
B2 Close Grip Lat Pulldown (3 sets, no idea, 8-15 reps)
B3 1-arm Dumbbell Overhead Press (3 sets, 15 lb. DB, 8-12/side)
C1 1-legged Cable RDL (3 sets, 30 lbs., 6-10/side)
C2 Overhand Rope Facepull (3 sets, 40 lbs., 12-20 reps)
C3 TALL Rope Straight-arm Pulldown with Split (3 sets, 40 lbs., 8-15 reps)
How It Felt
The eternal goblet squat was among the first exercises I learned. The little kettlebell I used then was tiny in size, and it seemed so very heavy, maybe all of 5 lbs. Push through the heels, J said, and I tried, and my heels kept coming up off the floor. So we put weight plates under and that worked until I got a better feel for the ways this is supposed to work. Here we are today and the goblet squats make a surprise appearance. With my recent history and form critiquing and tweaking with the power squats, I was much, much better equipped for the goblet squats today. J had coached to watch for leading with the butt up on the rise rather than the straight up return to start, and the one time I felt myself leaning forward and leading that way, heels lifted and J pointed it out immediately. Makes me smile. No matter how proficient and competent I might feel, the trainer eye is still focused and seeing all.
While I know there is no one true, right, correct way to perform any exercise, my head gets wrapped around doing it in the truest, rightest, correctest way possible when J is layering in some new value onto an exercise I have previously learned. The seated row machine has been a tricky one for me. After many years of rowing on a Concept 2 rowing machine, it took some time to break myself of the habit of trying to push a stationary, immovable seat back with my legs and to not lean backward while pulling. Finally for the most part I had mastered the not lean at the waist and pull/row with the shoulders and the arch in the upper back. Today we ventured into the seated cable “stretch” row. Biggest difference that stands out in my mind is the lean forward “stretch” after the pulling back row part. For the most part I have the row pull with the shoulders and the upper back arch. From there back to the deep lean forward, arms extended into a big stretch, but without completely straightening elbows. This should not be as hard as it seems in my mind, yet brain has blown this up into a thing. Repetition and practice.
The dumbbell chest press is a staple and appears on a List a couple of times per week. These are fine, I do fine with them, remember to tuck the shoulders under (think shoulders back while lying on a bench instead of standing up) and work the arch in the upper back. Sometime in the last week we discussed the elbow bend, and eventually I will remember to remember it. After a couple, few weeks of using a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells much of the time, I graduated back up to the 25s. Tuck those shoulders under. Work that arch. The weights feel a lot less weighty when form is right.
One would think with my recent success with the dumbbell lunges that I would do equally well with the dumbbell reverse lunges. Remember the lean forward on the step back, remember the back leg is kickstand and the press upward to the return. Apparently I have not done these in awhile, because honestly, I had forgotten that they are essentially the same thing as the regular walking lunges only standing in place. For the space constraints of the big boy’s room, this was a perfect choice. Working on my hip hinge with this as well and how it all works together. Still, ridiculously excited about the progress and how much better these feel to me. Even a few months ago I was not this competent and accomplished with either rendition of this exercise.
Today we did the close grip lat pulldown, which I only vaguely remember from a few Lists ago. Mind says these are usually a lean back movement in the pulling down, but today there was no leaning back. Today there was just pulling down and feeling those lat muscles go to work, so much so I am still feeling the chatter right now. Seems like this was another one to keep an eye on the elbows, to not let them straighten out completely.
We have done several versions of lat pulldowns – wide grip, closer grip, underhand grip. Today was the first close grip lat pulldown with the actual close grip attachment. Feeling it in the lats, for sure. What seems most different about this one is the not leaning back as the pulling down. Breastbone still up and forward as pulling down, still arch the upper back, but I had to focus on not leaning back with the back this time. Arching upward is good, leaning backward is less good. Not sure I would characterize it as feeling it more so much as feeling the muscles in a different way, more in the lats versus in the center of the back between the shoulders. I think I need more data on this one to be absolutely certain of what I was feeling or not feeling.
I have fallen into deep infatuation with the 1-arm dumbbell overhead press. Once I get myself fixated on the scapular plane (aka the proper placement of my arm in relation to my shoulder), I find this trancy rhythm to elevating the weight up overhead and then lowering it back to the starting position. This is one of those exercises where I feel the fatigue building as we move along, versus other things where I suddenly feel done after some mysterious amount of reps and sets. Today’s version of this exercise was standing upright (versus prior version’s split stance) and lightly holding on to a nearby piece of big boy equipment for balance. For as ease of use as these are right now, it has been a long and winding journey. But for today, doing overhead presses with a 15 lb. dumbbell felt like a satisfying accomplishment simplified.
Former arch nemesis, 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift, remains on the nemesis list. Trainer J, so confident in my abilities, started me with 40 lbs. on the cable. The lasted a few tries, so I moved it down to 30 lbs., still an increase from the 20 lbs. I have been using and the correct weight for today. While I can feel my hamstrings and glutes working, for me this one is all about the balance. I have to focus. I have to go slow. And I have to accept that I may teeter and totter and fall over, fall down. But oh well. I find the more I do these, there are few options on outcome: (1) I overthink it and fall over every other one, (2) I am run the cueing in my head and enjoy more success that falling over, or (3) I slow to a complete crawl and force myself to focus and succeed. Today I had more success with 2 and 3, and that’s progress. I know I can and have done better with these; patience is not a virtue of mine and more practice will bring more improvement. At least I have set aside my internal frustration and feelings of failure.
The challenge of the day was the overhand rope facepull. We have done face pulls standing up, sitting down on the stability ball, on the TRX, with the stretchy bands. However, today was the first time with an overhand grip and it was like learning something brand new completely from scratch. At first, even watching J demonstrate how it was done, I had doubts. I did not see my arms bending in the same way, and mind was refusing to accept the reality of a different grip. When it was my turn, though, despite J having to remind me every single set that we were doing overhand this time, I got the hang of it pretty quickly and felt the effect on my muscles from the different grip. But when these appear on future Lists, I suspect I will be standing there puzzling out how to hold the rope until I get brain rewired to this alternative. It’s like being in kindergarten again when the teacher keeps handing me left handed scissors (to match my left handed writing style) and me finding they do not work with my right hand and not wanting to make waves by asking for the proper tools. I understand my weaknesses with habits; I will adapt in time.
The tall rope straight-arm pulldown with split – ugh. Everything where standing tall is part of the equation I find myself wanting to stand so tall I end up on tippy toes. Which is not a problem – tippy toes are probably fine – but I do struggle with the keeping arms straight on the pulldown and not allowing shoulders to roll forward. It’s a work in progress, because these do not seem to be popping upon on current Lists I am pursuing. That said, I do these most mornings as part of my general warm up with a band, and I do not feel like the shoulder rolling or standing tall is as much an issue. The cables do feel differently, and something happens in my head when I am looking at 40 lbs. of weight plate versus a green or red stretchy band draped over the TRX frame.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
I always start posts in this section, because these are the most transitory of thoughts and ideas.
Today, it’s all about the wow factor. I mean, WOW! I’m still here. WOW! I know what I am doing. WOW! It does make a difference coming in and practicing.
None of these are new epiphanies; I have the same startling realization at least once a month, if not once a week. But it is worth mentioning because my enthusiasm continues and my hopeful pursuit of better performance and higher skill remains.
It’s not that we did all sorts of things that I have down cold, because truthfully, there is no exercise on any List in my possession that I am so extraordinarily confident about. There is always something new to learn, some tweak to master. Dumbbell and cable weights go up, go down, get forgotten and have to try until I figure it out. All good, though. At least I am moving something.
This morning doing overhead presses J was saying how the 15 lb. dumbbell I was hefting overhead used to be the eye-popping dumbbell weight. I can clearly recall starting with a set of 3 lb. dumbbells – so CUTE, like toddler-sized weights – and moving up through the ranks to 5s, 8s, 10s, 12s, and now 15s. At the same time, I am not crushed or disappointed if I drop down and use lighter weights. I have been successful in separating my ego from being responsible in my exercise. Some specific Lists – the dumbbell matrix, for example – uses just a 5 lb. set of dumbbells but the sequence, reps, and pacing of the exercises makes me feel the work getting done. And no matter how light or how weighty the weight, I am working. I no longer even have to remind myself that I am working when I have 5 lb. dumbbells in my hands. In my book, that’s progress.
I had a little crisis of goals, progress, process confidence yesterday, which is why this post is late getting finished and put up (now it’s Tuesday).
M and I – very different people with very different fitness pursuits and ideas about what is most important and enjoyable about the journey forward. M is an accomplished trail runner who finds such intense and incredible beauty in the outdoors. While I would never say he minimizes or trivializes my work in the gym, I would say his belief that I will eventually find more satisfaction and fulfillment in riding my bike outside since there is no way, no how I am ever going to evolve into a runner.
Not sure how to take that when it comes up in one of our offhand, casual conversations. My health – OMG, so grateful for the benefits of this work in and out of the gym. And I know it is a limitation to his own perspective of how much satisfaction I gain from being this far in my journey, much as there is a handicap in my own vision of his accomplishments and the work he does with his legions of runner friends.
But when you significant other takes stellar test results and sort of turns falling in love with exercise into a monologue about how pursuing bike riding or walking outdoors could make me fall into a different type of exuberance with fitness.
It is sometimes difficult for us to understand one another – Mars and Venus at their finest – and exercise and fitness are one of those great swathes of ocean in understanding. Unfortunately is kind of hobbles me momentarily when it occurs.
There is no setback to report. No release of negative girl into the wilds of my head. If anything, my resolve to work harder and do better is reaffirmed. At the same time, the timing is curious. I have just recently been thinking about getting a bike for a few reasons, probably the very least of which is cardiovascular exercise.
What M thinks, how M thinks – both matter a great deal to me. However, M is not suggesting I’m wasting my time or my time is the gym is wasteful. His priorities and interests are very different from my own and some lingering hope remains that I will fall in the same styles of exercise and fitness he enjoys. M suggesting I am wasting my time with the training sessions and practice – that’s the negative girl spin puts me into an intensely uncomfortable position. While I have a great deal more confidence, weaknesses and vulnerabilities remain.
M is fine. We are fine. My head is a little messy, but progress is that I used that small space of doubt and insecurity to double down on my efforts on my exercise efforts. Instead of the impulse to quit, I was more focused on my practice this morning.
Progress measured in success – what a novel idea. I love that.