Sorry for the delay on getting this training recap posted. My own blog locked me out and required technical support to get me back in to publish this post.
Monday morning, training with J. We are still in our review of last year’s upper/lower Lists and adding/subtracting/enhancing as we move along. This was once one of my most delightful lower body Lists, but now it’s a close second to another one with different machines in another part of the gym. But oh well. I still like it a lot, and I kind of like it even more with the new upstairs portion and the current equipment rearrangement.
After what seems like years of doing single legged Romanian deadlifts with the cable machine, I had this epiphany yesterday of why it all goes wrong when it falls apart. Now, to be fair to me, I’m vastly improved with these after months and months of regular practice on both the cable machines and with the TRX warm-up and no weight. Having the cable in my hand pulls me forward and when I fail to pay attention, it pulls me off balance. J has coached and cued and done everything sort of immobilize my shoulder to keep this from happening over and over again, but it is one of those things that only consistent, more perfect practice cures. But today, when I began running into trouble, he reminded me to keep shoulder holding the cable back, to not let it shrug up and pull me off balance.
Sometimes the cues are like coins falling into a piggy bank, and once deposited, they sit there until needed and recalled. On the single legged RDL, the pull back (like single arm row) on the upright portion was something J mentioned months ago. It stuck in my mind, because no matter how much or how often or how badly I would topple, I could typically manage to pull back on the cable at the very end. That part I was nearly always successful with, so it has stuck with me.
My legs are stronger. My balance is better. Using the fluffy cuffies today for donkey kicks and glute kickbacks, I can feel the additional flexibility and balance through my hip joint and all through my legs.
The variations and subtleties of the various exercises is ridiculously exciting and keeps review days fresh and far from boring. Of course, there is nothing on this list that I actively dislike or wish were not on this List or any other. Most of this stuff, I feel at least proficient, and some of them I actually feel great about my ability. I then start to think – if I feel great about my ability, is it time to add weight and challenge myself that way?
I still cannot really tell when it might be time to try weightier weights. Left on my own for extended periods of time, I would probably not add a little then put it back down and vacillate until it became really obvious that the lighter weight was becoming a bit too comfortable. Maybe that is an ongoing experience thing that comes with more confidence?
Training days are so much fun. Once upon a time it was a lot of hard work, but I have found that I adapt to hard work and it becomes a lot more fun when I practice and build upon what I am learning.
What We Did
A1 Freemotion Squat Machine “High Wide”
A2 Stability Ball Reverse Hyperextension
B1 Freemotion Squat Machine “Low Narrow”
B2 Stability Ball Hamstring Curl *
C1 1-legged Glute Pushdown (assisted chin)
C2 Adductor Machine
D1 Cable Straight-Leg Glute Kickback
D2 1-legged Cable RDL
E1 Cable Donkey Glute Kickback
E2 Cable Outer Hip Abductions
How It Felt
The Freemotion squat machine is not a favorite machine, but it is effective. Like the downstairs leg press, there are all sorts of different ways to place your feet to get a different effect in the legs and lower body. I have been through the high and wide stance thus far, but today we did the lower, narrow stance to see how that felt (more in the front of the thighs). J also demonstrated a single leg, but we are not there quite yet. With all the focus on arch of late, I’m extremely conscious of where my back is and arch/no arch even with the squat machine. As such, I asked J about where my back should be in relation to the back rest on the machine. Really fun for me? Seeing J have to think about it for a sec, hop on the machine to see what feels natural, and then tell me there is no one true way. Love my trainer for his alway transparent, honest ways. And I was perfectly happy with that response. Nothing hurt either way, but looking at the illustrations on the machine, it sort of looks like the back is flat against the pad.
Just a touch disappointed with the stability ball hyperextensions. In the first set, and since we have not reviewed these in a month or more, there was the bob – sort of like teeter-tottering up and down. Second set, J says to focus on staying low, only brain interprets that as sort of staying more upright. Of course, getting accustomed to stability ball pressing against my stomach versus being positioned in the hip joints was different as well. Not horrible, not painful, not even uncomfortable; just different. Third set, I finally got it – lean forward like the lowered push-up position and stay there while lifting the legs and hips like a big giant whale tale. Okay, cha-ching – coin drop moment. Still going to have to keep my eye on the bob – the urge to push up with the arms as if doing a push-up as legs are lowering is weirdly normal urge.
While we did not do the stability ball hamstring curls in this session – that was a J inspiration later in the session as we were discussing other issues – I fully anticipate pursuing this on Thursday.
Every List has at least one favorite thing; some Lists have multiple favorite things. This is one of the latter type of Lists, so please don’t hate me because I like a variety of things. The 1-legged glute pushdown (assisted chin) machine is probably a favorite thing because I have mostly mastered what I should be doing and how it is supposed to feel. Today we ran through various foot positions on the pad – foot balanced and centered on the pad, heel forward, ball of the foot at the back – as well as “the lean” forward versus standing more upright. The heel forward feels like a Bulgarian split squat, the ball of the foot back feels like a forward lunge. Or maybe that’s backwards? Either way, I could feel the subtle differences in the leg and glute.
The adductor machine is back in place in its new home across the gym. While under construction, seems like equipment is located in the most inconvenient locations. But for now it seems to be settled in its new space. There are 3 of these in the gym, and each has its own quirks and things I like, things I dislike. But this one is more agreeable, and now that I have discovered sitting more upright (versus leaning back into the backrest), I am far more comfortable and confident about using it. This is the one machine I can for sure feel my forward progress. The first few times we used it – holy moly I was not sure walking, sitting, anything involving moving my legs without pain was going to be possible. Now it’s possible to go through the reps and sets and weightier weights (I think it’s 90 lbs. on this one) and not think about it until writing this blog post later in the day. Still plenty of work to do and adductor muscle to strengthen, but small it is a small victory worthy of celebration.
Return of the fluffy cuffies! Okay, I love my ankle cuffs and the cable machine. While most recently I was using mini bands, today we did the cable straight-leg glute kickback version instead. Last week using the mini bands, I actually had to bump up to the extra heavy band because the heavy was too light and would snake up to my knee on the kickback. Taught me a valuable lesson about wearing long leggings versus capris whenever possible with the mini bands. Then as with the cable, I’m sort of amazed at how much additional range of motion I have from when I began this process. My leg actually kicks back fairly high now with a slight bend or bent and almost parallel to the floor. For someone as un-bendy and clumsy as I am, this is a Very Big Deal. Super pleased that my regular practice is paying dividends.
For the longest time, the 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift was the arch nemesis. They remain hugely challenging, but I am far more confident that I am closer to doing them correctly most of the time now. My new thing is running through 8 to 10 per leg each day after warming up, just so I can continue my forward progress and remind myself to keep the shoulder back and not let the cable pull me over. Now that I have that cemented in my mind, I have to practice frequently to ensure it becomes more automatic. But honestly, 1-legged anything where I am not toppling over 90% of the time is a Very Good Thing for me. And finally, after what seems like eternity of practice, I am less topple more success with these. I no longer have visions of me as the special needs client on these even flitter through my head on training days.
Feeling good about the cable donkey glute kickbacks as well. Finally, progress I can feel and I can see. For the most part, I have finally captured the “shape” of how these are supposed to look and to feel, and for the most part I can kick with heel upwards and not feel lost and wondering if heel is going in the right direction or not. Having watched other girls do these (other than J demonstrating, I don’t think I have ever seen a man doing donkey kicks), I always admire their grace and power. Now I sneak little looks in the mirror and admire my own leg going through the movement and kicking upward.
Not loving the cable outer hip abductions, but not hating on or dreading them either. They are just the vanilla ice cream at Baskin Robbins for me, and while I don’t mind them, this is not the “oh goody!” exercise on the List. Possibly it’s a lack of confidence, because it does seem the set-up is a little trickier in my head than it seems to be in reality, which of course makes me certain I am doing something wrong or missing a step. I remind myself that I cannot and do not love everything, but the mini band lateral walks appeal for their simplicity and their challenge. Plus staying upright and having significantly less anxiety about falling down is a big selling point for me.
Practices Between Now and Monday
Tuesday will be an upper body List, likely the big boys room downstairs since I have not pursued that one in a week or two.
Wednesday, with the new month, I will begin practice on the huffy-puffy series that we began in January. I could potentially be left gasping on the floor in a puddle of sweat, but maybe not. It will be FUN (or so I keep telling myself). And it will be, because I become completely absorbed in the exercises and focused on trying to shake my cue piggy bank and make that coins sing.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Progress – such a value judgment for me. There are things I know – well controlled blood sugar, more strength, muscles peeking out, thinner fat layers. M says the build a better butt project is working and that I should wear leggings all the time. (So I splurged on a pair of black ones for outside the gym wear, and even on sale – there goes my spending money for the month. Worth. Every. Penny.)
Other things are more subjective. Like flexibility. Balance. Proficiency. Competence. Confidence. I am getting better. I am learning to do some self-correcting. And I am ridiculously excited when one of those lightbulb progress moments happen for me.
Chatting with J and my friend J this morning about stuff and what happened this weekend in the Facebook support group bolsters my confidence that I am doing fine, that maybe I’m not tough enough for social media because of the work I have done in accepting differences rather than believing in one size fits most. Plus I am kind of naive to expect courtesy and respect for differing points of view.
Training days also remind me of how my interpersonal relationships have evolved through the process of learning to move body in specific, predicable, measured ways (aka regular exercise). M has been rock-solid in his ongoing support, encouragement, and admiration of my efforts. He is not big on compliments, so if I want to know what he thinks about something, I either ask directly or say something that he will agree/disagree with (my backside is more muscular, for example). My taking better care of myself and my overall health is happiness-inducing for him, because hopefully I will be around longer and in good health well into our older and grayer years. It has also opened up new opportunities for me to meet other people that share my interests in gym and weight/resistance training versus the vast majority of his/our friends that are runner people.
Beyond that, though, my long-time friends who exercise regularly – our conversations have new depth as I start to understand terms and concepts they have simplified for me through the years. What began as concern for me (overtraining, being pushed too hard, trainer who did not “get” me well enough to learn how to help me, too much weight too soon, etc., etc., etc.) has evolved into an eager excitement to share my small victories and successes with me as well as explain where they are in their own endeavors. I love the new sense of camaraderie and more frequent communication.
Unfortunately the same is true of other friends who are less interested in lifestyle changes – their own or what anyone else may be doing. I am not a born-again exercise convert; I will happily babble onward about what I am doing in the gym because it’s very exciting to me. However, I am not suggesting they themselves MUST join me in the better health quest or predicting Very Bad Things befalling their health if they persist in an unhealthy lifestyle. Because it’s not my style; most people I converse with on a regular basis are well over 18 and capable of making their own choices and decisions about how to manage their lives. Those once closer friends I talked to all the time have slowly dropped off my horizon, and when I was thinking about it earlier, I find I do not really miss their presence in my life that much.
I spent enough time in the gym now to have made some new friends, or at least acquaintances that I enjoy seeing most days and chatting with as time allows. I love watching their progress as they learn new things or achieve new goals, even if I do not yet always understand what it is they are pursuing or how precisely they get there. These are small interactions in the bigger fabric of life, but it sparks a genuine type of joy and unique happiness that I have found my exercise groove and am pursuing it with this much intensity and seriousness.
Fact of the matter – I like who I am as a gym person far more than who I was this time in 2015. Running through a practice on my own, even on a bad day where my focus and concentration are not there and I am falling out of form or at least feel like I am not putting forth effort toward good form, is a good day. Because I am there. I am trying. I am doing something that is important to me, even if I feel like I am not doing it well for whatever reason.
I have learned that even my most imperfect efforts are pretty damn good, and when I choose to take a day off from practice the world is not going to collapse and take all my newly formed baby muscles with it. I think I feel good enough and deserving of the praise and compliments I receive and try to accept graciously. My success does not mean someone else out there is failing, which is what negative girl had me believing for an embarrassingly long while. Nope, I am a bit unsettled like everyone else with the facelift the gym is undergoing, but my focus has been building these last 21 months and I am less and less bothered by what others around me are doing or what they may be thinking.
On a review day like today, where it seems like a fun morning of hanging out with J for awhile, I know we are both working hard. Exercise is fun? Gym is my happy place? Wow – that’s progress I would never have been able to predict when I started. But I am so enjoying my present day reality.