Thursday morning, training with J. Since the first of the year we’ve been working at PHA (peripheral heart action) styling in our Lists, what I refer as to the “huffy and puffy” effect. Because seriously, while I have heard the term and know essentially what PHA means, my ears hear “PHA” and “peripheral heart action” and my brain translates that as “huffy and puffy” labored breathing Lists.
Going forward, these will be “big bad wolf” style Lists; the 3 little pigs are just the wrong focus for this narrative. I vastly prefer imagining “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow fat away.” Much better, more positive framing that imagining myself as one of the 3 little pigs cowering in my house and waiting for very bad things.
And all is well with that.
I love, Love, LOVE review days. Sometimes more than others, though. Today it relates to a spike in confidence and understanding with how it goes with some of the chop exercises. While we were working on the cable machine today on chops today, I recognized that my avoidance of a warm-up List with the band equivalent has been languishing because I have not enjoyed or felt good about the chops. With so many other options for warm-up and beyond, why do something I do not particularly enjoy? The “because then I improve” is far too simple and straightforward for me. Nope, had to be nudged back into it by having the cable version appear and be practiced and drilled down into specifics (foot position, hip motion, what I should feel and where and when). I am now ready to revisit that warm-up List tomorrow.
The current series of huffy and puffy Lists are influencing other aspects of my daily practices. New for 2017 is that I am not practicing what we do on Mondays and Thursdays at other points during the week. Throughout 2016 I was faithful in doing my best to replicate what we did on Mondays on Wednesdays and what we did on Thursdays on Saturdays. In 2017, session Lists are mostly done on session days. However, while I am pursuing an upper or lower body List on practice days, I am incorporating a huffy and puffy List in addition to the upper or lower List of the day. But as the first few weeks of 2017 have passed, I find myself using a few different Lists on practice days – a warm-up, a cardio-based (the huffy and puffy component of my days), and then the upper or lower List of the day. It’s interesting how I now feel the weight, and excitement, of my mandatory 90 minute time block to complete what I want to get done in a practice day. I have felt like I could potentially cut back 30 minutes and still be fine, but I actually prefer the longer block to practice and refine what vexes me on any given day.
My judgmental Fitbit is also getting more play right now. I find myself curious about the average heart rate per session, although it is frequently skewed by my failure to turn it off in a timely fashion. But still, the information is there for evaluation. I can slant it to make me feel good, or bad, or guilty, or something worse. I do not want to dive down the rabbit hole of tracking, judging, or worse. Letting it’s judgments color the positive impact practice has upon my day and my attitude, I choose to review the data from in the spirit of curiosity and to evaluate if its reading match my feelings. I do the same thing with it’s sleep reporting. Is the way I feel upon waking in the ballpark of how long and how well the Fitbit says I slept? The Fitbit is a tool, not the decider of whether or not I am working hard enough at this process.
As long as it is merely a data gathering device, I should be fine. The minute I start thinking about improving on yesterday’s average beats per minute or tracking it too closely is a minute too late for me to stop reviewing the information so regularly.
What We Did
It was review day, so it a repeat of Monday. The List:
A1 High-Low Cable Chop (3 sets, 12-15/side)
A2 Horizontal Cable Chop (3 sets, 12-15/side)
A3 Forward Reverse Goblet Lunges (15 lb. DB, 3 sets, 6-12/side)
B1 High Rep Peppy Leg Press (2 sets, 30-50 reps)
B2 1-arm Cable Horizontal Row (2 sets, 8-15/side)
B3 1-arm Cable Horizontal Press (2 sets, 8-15/side)
C1 Cable Glute Pull-Through (2 sets, 8-15 reps)
C2 Rope Hammer Curl (2 sets, 8-15 reps)
C3 Rope Overhead Triceps Extensions (2 sets, 8-15 reps)
How It Felt
Instead of the cable’s handle attachment for the high-low cable chop, we used the rope today. It seems to make a difference, but more than that, the repositioning of my feet in the split stance made a bigger difference. Mind still wants to split the rotation and the dive bomb to foot into a separate sequence, but it’s better. Cut in for the dive bomb sooner toward the side of the inner foot. Moving the foot forward, a wider yet not as deep split stance and rotation on the rear toe. Working my warm-up List with this chop and the cables will help solidify the “shape” in my head and the practice make me more proficient. With the changes to my foot positioning, the cutting in sooner on the dive bomb, the spot next to my foot I am aiming for in the dive bomb help with my focus and my overall sense of confidence. I feel much better about these, much less awkward about the fluidity.
We also used the rope for the horizontal cable chop. When we have done these previously, it’s more a full rotation through the hips and feel it more strongly in the obliques. Today it was shorted the arc on both ends, res position the feet so they are closer to almost in a line. The rotation on the toe does sort of bring the hip forward, but I recall these as being more a “push” with the hip to form the rotation. But with the shortened ends in the rotation, I felt it more in the glute than the oblique. I did better with focus and concentration and did not feel as if I were weeble-wobbling as we went through the sets.
Getting better with the forward reverse goblet lunges, although still imperfect. Part of it is balance, plus I remain deeply suspicious of anything that requires me to step backwards. Mind ponders the possibilities of what could be behind me, what I could be stepping into, who I might accidentally kick behind me, or any number of other unfortunate outcomes that could happen stepping backwards. J rightly points out that there is a big giant mirror right in front of me that allows me to see what is behind me at any given moment. His logic only goes so far with mind, because mind still dislikes watching what we are doing in the mirror. But I am improving. Work my patience, balance, focus.
The high rep peppy leg press is an ongoing work-in-progress. Lower in a relatively controlled manner, spring back quickly yet in a controlled manner, almost like a jump while sitting down with feet on a moving plate. It’s an interesting rhythm and form, and not as if I am pressing so hard and so violently as to press the plate off the stand and into the next equipment station, as my vivid imagination envisioned while going through this. Mostly I am on the right track. Mostly I feel like it’s just getting the cadence down in my head.
There is something about the 1-arm cable horizontal row. Bend knees slightly and pull back with the shoulder. Try hard to keep shoulder relaxed and unshrugged. Today reminded and remembering to keep elbow bent slightly to pull through my shoulder rather than with my arm. Writing it down this way makes it sound strange, because of course I am pulling with my arm; shoulder has no hand attached directly to it. But for as long as I have been doing rows of various stripes, it is still a daily, ongoing struggle to keep my shoulder down and back. The issues and habits of working on a computer all day burned into my neck and shoulder muscles.
All things shoulder means I am paying attention to whether it is relaxed, down and back. The 1-arm cable horizontal press is another of those exercises where I have to pay attention and watch the shoulder. Pull lower to keep this from happening on the row, push forward a bit lower to prevent it on the press. Monday when we did these I had some unusual ache on the right side, always the right side, and sure enough, pulling and pushing lower relieves this ache immediately. So the long slog to keep myself shoulders in proper position continues.
I have spent a fair amount of time contemplating the cable glute pull-throughs while pursuing other exercises on other Lists this week. Every time they cross my mind, the thought is quickly trailed by how weird they may look to the casual observer. But then again, I figure if anyone is spending enough time to think my exercise routine is weird, they need to be paying a lot more attention to their own Lists. But other than that big epiphany – that I do not give 2 shits what other people think about me and what I am doing – I find these things complex. It is an awkward shape to get into and to keep arms straight down, hands near hips, and that last 1/2 inch of hips forward at the can be felt through the glutes. Comes back to the basic precept of everything new – go slow, focus on form, and be patient. I was actually rather surprised to realize today that I am okay with my imperfection and inability to be closer to having new on new exercises down on the first few outings.
The most challenging thing about the rope hammer curls is not splitting the rope at the top of the movement. It is supposed to stay the same on the up as on the down, but the impulse to split it like a wishbone is very quickly something to be suppressed. It’s my new focus point on these – don’t split, don’t split, don’t split.
The trickiest part of the rope overhead triceps extension is keeping the cable out of my pony tail. Yep, me and my first world problems. Actually, it’s not that terrible or that difficult, more a matter of getting the forward lean from the split stance correct so neither the cable or the rope rub against and get tangled up in my hair. Yesterday I may have been using heavier dumbbells on the tricep extensions off the bench and could still feel them squeaking every so slightly this morning. But they are back to speaking more loudly and wondering about my current obsession with working them so hard. I am not-so-secretly enjoying the feeling. It is a very cool thing to have visible muscle on my upper arms.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Every now and then I try to recall how I spent my time before the exercise found such a strong foothold in my life. It is a moot point, because I seem unlikely to drift back to a sedentary life and lifestyle.
So many take up the reins of exercise in pursuit of aesthetic changes. They are seeking weight loss and trimmer figures, and I applaud anything that gets us up and off the couch and moving. While I do occasionally wonder if I have given up on or deprioritized that aspect of diet and exercise objectives because it is not working out that well for me thus far, for the most part I choose to reframe the discussion to one that keeps me engaged and trying. If I am going to be obsessed with anything, I prefer it to be my consistency, in that I am making exercise a priority and into the gym, and from there, perfecting my form and ability exercise correctly.
But what if I have given up any and all aspirations for aesthetic changes? If the critical blood tests indicate I am healthy, how
obsessed concerned should I be about my waistline and fat that body retains? When is my overall level of good health good enough?
For as much time as I spend inside the gym and on the floor pursuing my personal objectives for exercise, I spend at least that much time outside the gym reading, watching, and listening to various experts on diet, fitness, habits, psychology, and lifestyle improvements. Changing and maintaining a healthy, positive mindset is as much a contributor to my ongoing success as any amount of weight I may utilize or how many sets and reps I may complete. Mindset, in both my opinion and experience, is a huge component and seems to be inadequately addressed with most programs. J and I – we talk about it all the time in little and big pieces. Part of that is the special snowflake that is my nervous system, part of it is most people only want to talk about losing weight, burning fat, sculpting pretty muscles – fast. Rarely is the idea of sustainability of effort realistically addressed.
I have done battle with negative girl and have successfully prevailed for the most part. However, one does not easily overcome a lifetime of low self-esteem and insecurity in puddles blood, sweat, and tears from exercise. Unless I am actively distancing myself from the pressure of marketing and the general ignorance surrounding fitness and health, it begins to bother me and weaken my resolve about all I have gained from my better health quest. Education is key for me. Education to overcome my own ignorance of what health and what fitness looks like, feels like, is like in reality is as critical as getting myself up and into the gym for the daily dose of exercise. I have to educate myself about the factors that affect weight loss or weight gain, the positive impacts of regular exercise and healthier food choices, or I would be lost and giving up my quest as hopeless. Because I’m no longer young, or even more likely, I remain unwilling to make what I view as extreme sacrifices to try and mold myself into some low-percentage body fat citizen.
Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is a the thief of joy,” which I have found to be so very true. Measures of our success and progress are unique to each of us, and comparing ourselves and measuring ourselves against others is just an additional method to discount our progress and forward movement and positive motivation for our efforts. The elimination of diabetes medication despite my imperfect dietary choices and lack of significant amount of weight loss is unique to me and my body chemistry and physiology. It is not a standard to be compared to or measured against. Yet, it is difficult to explain to other people, particularly without sounding as if I am making excuses for my lack of mathematical progress, i.e., calorie deficit results in weight loss. What I have read from sources I have come to believe and to trust says it’s not that easy or that simple. What I have been reassured from those sources is that I am not lazy, slacking, overeating, consistently making piss-poor food choices, working hard or hard enough, moving enough, etc., etc., etc. There are forces like hormones, years of imbalanced diet and sedentary lifestyle working against me. At the same time, I am not a petite woman, and I have added a good amount of muscle to my frame in the last 20 months. Better choices, healthier choices, being consistent, persistent, and patient in this quest – I will continue to make progress getting fitter. And with the type of fitness I am seeking, my better health will continue to improve as well.
I stopped apologizing for or hiding my big and small wins, because objectives and reasons for pursuing exercise and healthier lifestyle habits differ for each of us. I continue to exercise restraint expressing my belief in personal responsibility, because not everyone is ready to accept that the first steps are hard and it rarely gets less difficult the deeper we get into the journey. However, while I still find the quest challenging much of the time on the gym floor, I also find my attitude toward the work has improved, my fears of the gym have abated, and my enthusiasm for the exercise itself has increased. These factors have made the actual hard work so much more enjoyable and deeply satisfying.
That I have a fabulous trainer/coach working with me, teaching me, and keeping me safe (from harming myself) is a huge luxury not everyone can enjoy or afford, but I also know there are some wonderful resources online available for everyone. J introduced me to Coach Scott Abel my appreciation for his down-to-earth, common sense approach has made his books, videos, website my go-to resources.
I have mostly stopped caring what others think about my efforts or my progress. Those who matter most to me are unwavering in their support and encouragement. That I have met other members at my club who may be pursuing different objectives yet share my interest in exercise is an unexpected bonus. It is a wonderful thing to be around other people who are on similar journeys.
J and I were talking today about his evolution as a trainer, and in truth, I feel fortunate to be part of the training tribe at this point in his life. Being in the gym pursuing his own fitness interests, testing, adapting, refining workouts for me and the rest of the training tribe shows more and more as I progress forward. There has always been empathy, understanding of my trials and tribulations in learning and mastering technique and form, but I see how his own workouts have evolved and benefitting me directly in updated knowledge and experience. Not to mention that the muscle explosion bulking up that happens is inspiring to observe week after week.
Anymore, I am all about enjoying inspiration in all the places I find it. In the gym, I find so much positive energy and happy hopes interacting with J and the other friends I have made there.
It is an unexpected development. Because while I typically practice on my own, it is nice to look around and see others I know and faces I recognize all pursuing their own individual objectives and programs.
Even now, after 20 months, I feel some amazement that yes, I am gym people. I do feel invested and as if I have made a place for myself there. Not sure this transfers to other gyms, other chains, or if I could go on vacation and use a strange gym in another town with equal confidence, but in my heart, I think I could do it now.
Little things, but my confidence, my engagement in this process – that is progress.