PT-17: Another coin drops

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #progress

Peer pressure

From Saturday midday …

My zen has been disturbed and negative girl saw an opportunity to undermine my efforts. For the most part it was an transitory gesture, but there were a few minutes in practice this morning and a few hours spread out over the day that she had a brief joyride in the control center.

Maybe I need that reality check every now and again. Maybe I need to be reminded how far I have come to fully appreciate my place in the world right her and right now. Maybe falling back into a fear-based mindset will give me the boost I need to finally finish the post on the topic that has been lingering in my drafts folder.

Or maybe I am not more active on Facebook for good reasons.

Okay, some backstory here and the drilling down to what I am really thinking, since I have mostly finally figured it out. Took all day, but I’ve been busy with work as well, so my navel-gazing had several other more pressing priorities in front of it.

Last week I sat in on a couple of different webinars for the fat loss prescription beta program I have agreed to join. Overall, I am really excited about the program and the opportunity to participate and contribute to improving and enhancing this initial offering. For me, too, it will be an interesting exercise in 27 days of kick-start on fat loss and aggressive diet-style eating.

One of the benefits of this program is opportunity to join a private Facebook group with other participants in the program. I do not use FB much. This is the first “group” I have ever joined, and I am recognizing that it is for very good reasons. In my experience and perception, there is always one or two voices that dominate the group and seem to control the narrative. Plus it seems like a confined space for group therapy with mean people and no active moderator. While head understands this is just social media at its normal setting, I am recoiling from these people before we even get started.

The leaders of this program are both very knowledgeable and understand that there is no one size fits most when it comes to diet and exercise. However, the compliance junkie in me that wants to get along and at least try to fit in can feel the rebellion and the “I can’t” building over the exercise. And if presented to the program’s leaders, they would completely understand the tell me what I am presently doing with exercise is fine and good and no need to change. Their message, their style of training is geared more toward the sedentary person just starting out.

Dr. Spencer and Pat Flynn are both more exercise minimalists, in that they aim to do more in less time. Or at least that’s what I have gotten from their comments and very general descriptions of what they envision as far as exercise. As it was stated in the webinar, strength train with good form and with intensity, as heavy as you can, for 5 reps. Most people do no do that; most people (present company included) do not really know or go through the process of determining their maximum weight lifting threshold.

I do tend to agree with that, because I am overly paranoid about injury and want to be safe, sane, conservative, and well supervised in my experiments. In truth, I allot more time in the gym because the type of exercise I like and that J has tailored for me sometimes takes more time than doing 5 heavier reps. We have done weightier weights and it’s been fine. But we always seem to come back to higher reps and lighter weight ranges. It works for me, and while I don’t mind mixing it up with variations of resistance, for the life of me I am failing to see the joy in moving heavier weights to and fro.

I post that, and it gets drowned out by two other participants who honestly sound like body builder types enroute to dropping fat for better muscle definition. Or something. Essentially, I believe they are pompous asses, and working on my steely glare on FB … I am mystified on how to make it work. Hell, I am still mustering it for the big boys room at the gym, opting instead to just spread my crap out on my bench and space and daring one of them to move it when my back is turned.

I am also a form junkie. After this many months, J has drilled into my head about form, Form, FORM (damnit!). However, knowing I was about to embark on this escapade and knowing the style of strength training recommended, J was already priming me with advice tailored to me and my needs. Do one set of heavier weights as the first set (after the warm-up) for 5 or 6 reps, then return to my normal weights. Sounds good, right? So I tried it this morning with my first series and found myself with a sore shoulder afterwards. Not sure why, except maybe I was so tense about having lifting an unusual weight for me all by myself that I practically issued engraved invitations for shoulder soreness to come visit me.

And things tried to go downhill from there.

Now, the shoulder is nothing serious – I have had worse gym tweaks. Somehow the mere fact of the tweak occurring while I was trying something different makes it worse and fuels my fears.

And this reminds me, again, why trainer J is so integral to my success in the gym.

But by the time J texted me from his own workout, I had mostly turned it around. Negative girl was mostly contained, save for the occasional squawk, and I was in full-on work mode.

Thursday I had said to J that maybe the people who believe that fat turns into muscle do not realize that there is muscle underneath fat but that you have to burn off the fat to expose the muscle. While I have always understood the difference, it’s only been recently that I am starting to see muscle starting to peek out. Back, arms, legs, even my abdomen I am starting to realize there is muscle beneath the layers of tummy fat.

After my practice and getting ready to meet a client, I was thinking about fat loss and while admiring my backside in the mirror. I asked M if he thought my back look more muscular and he said yes, my whole backside was trimmer and firmer with smooth muscle from my time in the gym. I then remarked my back fat seemed less than before, although some remains. He agreed, but said it was far thicker previously and had been steadily winnowing off through the months. Since M rarely compliments, if I want to know something I just ask.

If you never have any hope or expectation of reshaping your shape, it comes as a really pleasant surprise when it actually starts to slowly happen.

So after 21 months of working with weights, I’m starting to realize I have burned away fat, that there is pretty muscle underneath that is starting to peek out. And that has not come from trying to lift as much weight as I possibly can in the shorted amount of time. Whatever I’m doing, have been doing, is working for me. Life is long, I have time. And if I don’t, does it really matter?

From Saturday evening …

But back to this morning and why I am impacted by this group and the peer pressure I am feeling because of it.

My lack of expectations, goals, milestones from exercise and healthier food choices has served me well. I do not get discouraged by lack of progress, because every day I make it to the gym is progress all in itself. Un-brainwashing myself about beauty standards and body acceptance remains a work-in-progress, a week-by-week battle in a long war.

I work with a big giant group of type A+ on steroids attorneys, so I get my fill of goal-chasing overachievers. For the most part I admire that quality, even if in my own more laid back personality style puts me more into an A-/B+ personality framework. But in my leadership roles, I try hard to let people have personal space to get their work done. For the most part, there is no one standardized way to do anything, and if J and others in my world have taught me nothing else about exercise, there is not necessarily a single correct way of doing most things. Every body is different, and what may work safely and most productively for me and my body may need to be modified or abandoned for someone else. So unless someone tells me they are eating cookies while planking or some such (in my mind) absurdity, I do not question their methods or what is working for them. Heck, I’d be unlikely to really question the cookie-eating planner either, except to know such technique would not inspire me to dread the planking process less. I also do not see the long-term upside of such technique for me.

Unfortunately, there are other who are true-believers, zealots firmly convicted that their way is the one, true path and anyone who deviates is misguided, wrong, or worse. Those who disagree must be brought back into the fold no matter what.

I am likely too sensitive. I am pretty sure I am not tough enough for regular social media consumption. And most of all, my expectations of civil discourse are way too unrealistic.

But oh well. Onward we go.

Had a nice text exchange with trainer J, but by then I had for the most part resolved my exercise crisis. But when it flitters through my mind that I am wasting my time with exercise and should quit, I stop and I snap to attention. When it happens at the gym and I am lofting a 15 lb. dumbbell overhead, I slowly lower the weight before stopping and giving the heinous thought my complete, undivided attention.

Even a nanosecond of a thought like that needs to be excavated and incinerated before proceeding, lest it fester and spread like an aggressive form of cancer.

By the end of Saturday’s practice, I was for the most part on track. I would quit the beta program before I would quit training and abandon my practice at the gym, and I would carefully explain the reasons why I am a poor fit. I was being a baby, though, and can objectively recognize that my childishness needed to stop. I had a busy weekend of work and no time to be entertaining a “poor me” mantra in the background.

I’ve worked hard to change my habits. My slow progress is still progress, and the only opinions on this that matter are my own (I may soon have that taped to my forehead to remind me every day). While I am not yet impervious to the strong opinions and methods of talking down that come from other unknown parties, I have big girl capris in the drawer and plenty of energy and resolve to stay off Facebook.

Now Sunday evening …

A long weekend of work and semi-crappy eating. Anymore, there is a price for eating less desirable foods. Saturday night M and I met at a local diner for pancakes. The waffle I consumed was actually an awful choice, even with the very sparing way of consuming maple syrup. But for whatever reason it sounded really good at the time. Probably because I was tired and my resolve weakened from work.

Good practice this morning. Sunday is my fun day if I go to the gym, and I pretty much do whatever sounds interesting to me in whatever greater or lesser capacity rep and weight range I feel like. It’s even okay with me if I skip it as well; I have a pass to take the day off if it seems prudent.

But mostly feeling burned out from too many work-work hours too many days in a row, poorer food choices, and just malaise and fatigue build-up from the deadline-driven stress that is professional services firms and consulting. Thankfully these peaks are less than once upon a time in my career, but still jarring to my nervous system. Fluctuating blood sugar resulting chills and fatigue, pink and white flower trees blooming everywhere in the neighborhoods making my sinuses and allergies flare. Time for zyrtec. Off and on throughout the day I have feared maybe coming down with something, except seeing all the flowering trees today reminds me that allergy season is here for me. Oh joy.

The “tone” of the support group has toned down considerably in the last 24 hours since I last checked in. Maybe it will be okay for me. Or not. I remind myself that I can just say no to the support group and merely sit in on the webinars and follow along that way. FB is completely optional.

Early night for me, because mind is exhausted and training at 6 and the start of a new, even better week ahead. I say that not just being optimistic, but the weekend’s hard work is paying off in that the bulk of the work is done well in advance of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. deadline. Tomorrow is review, there will be some edits, corrections, and changes, but nothing at all like the marathon of this weekend’s work. Proud of my associates, my staff, and myself for pulling together with minimal stress sniping.

 

#diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #stress

Distraction pondering

I am frustrated. A minor blip on the frustration scale, but I recognize and understand the feeling and have to purge it from my system before it takes root and grows 20 feet tall.

Our gym is undergoing a facelift, and like all moves of this sort, a lot of things have changed and a lot of stuff is not where it has always been or anywhere else that seems logical to me. For the most part I can work with that, even think I am getting an extra dose of cardio with an extra trip up and down the stairs to get equipment I need or using a red band instead of my beloved green one. Not the end of my practice experience as I know it, and truly, not the source of my distraction.

The new space, though, is taking a bit of adjustment for everyone. I like the openness of the space, like that there seems to be more opportunities for people to pursue their own Lists and such. However, with the present state of disarray from the reorganization, it’s a process.

This morning, while working my List in one corner, a couple chooses to set their mat down and do their thing a bare 12 inches from the bench where I’m working. In the old space, would not have bothered me at all. Because it was familiar and I had acclimated to the layout and whatnot. New stuff – it seems fine as long as I have room to pursue my Lists until things get more familiar. Not even close to that point yet, and my psyche registered these people as crowding into my personal space. Unfortunately, there is only one bench up in the new area and I had no way to efficiently move it across the room. So I was suck with either sucking it up and dealing or moving downstairs. I pulled up my big girl capris and carried on.

So between these 2 people standing right in front of my bench and the bench being at the edge of a claustrophobic alcove, I spent half my mental energy fighting distraction instead of focusing on my work. I got it done, but the effort feels herculean for what seems like a minuscule gain.

It’s the addictive side of me talking here, writing this post. It’s the addictive side of me that thinks a do-over practice is in order tonight. It’s the addictive side of me broadcasting frustration, hate, and discontent when none of those emotions are necessary much less appropriate.

I rather hate the addictive side of my personality and am a bit disgusted with myself for being such a baby about the stressure.

But I also get it’s not just about the gym, the practice, or whether or not I burned enough calories in proportion to the volume of brain cells. It is something we are all feeling to a greater or lesser degree and trying to come to terms with in our own ways. At least I am not trainer J, who has to cope with this one some level with every single client as well as deal with his own irritation with management. Tough job right now.

My addict is screaming because the gym and exercise is usually my stress-relieving happier place, where I go to sort my shit out and feel better about things. Work is – OMG, work is INSANE the last few days and will be following me around all through the weekend. This is not lack of planning on my part so much a perfect storm of circumstances between my day job and own little business. And now my zen-inducing place is in disarray, so I am feeling a bit out of sorts.

The allure of retail therapy calls out to me. But I just did that yesterday and cannot allow that aspect of my addictive personality to come out to play yet again. I will regret it, especially as I am in the midst of major clothes and shoes and accessories purge. And this time I mean it.

Ah well. Me and my first world problems. Now time to stop my whining and get back to work.

#addictive, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #obsessive, #work

PT-16: Adventure awaits!

Let me preface this by saying I have an overly abundant kitchen sink today and will likely not get much else posted today or this week as far as actual session recapping. It was a review day, same List from Monday, and since Monday was so deeply technical, a lot of what we did today skimmed lightly across that while at the same time adding enhancement, encouragement, constructive form critique. I have also gone a couple of days without posting here – damn work-work – and some of today’s post covers events and such from Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Thursday morning, training with J. Review day, peppy pacing, lots of minor enhancement critique. Perhaps it is the sunny days or the club’s interior facelift, but I am just a ridiculously excited bundle of energy today.

Yep, our club is being remodeled, updated, improved – pick your term. Our former body fit room where the small group training classes were conducted has been moved upstairs, and the former space is presently home to a number of older machines. Since this happened sometime in the middle of the day yesterday, J was texting me last night to not freak out when I arrived today for our session. As it was, I had planned to meet a training tribe sister for an extra practice last night, so I got to see what the maintenance/construction crews had been doing first hand. It is quite different. However, rather than freaked out, I am actually quite curious about the changes ahead and how it will work out. Because while I can easily imagine the downsides of what they have done, I can kind of see why they did it. As time passes, present members will adapt and adjust and new members will not know anything different.

The positives though? It seems to me there will be additional open space both upstairs and downstairs. The new body fit area seems more spacious, plus the big metal box that has replaced the former TRX A-frame offers a lot more versatility. Much of it is probably things I do not now nor will I use in the future, but I am not the only member in the club and my training is not generic and just like everyone else. The few simple things I use the TRX frame for, though, will be easier and better. More open space is always welcome. I may have to pull up my big-girl capris and start spending quality practice time in the big boys’ room. I can certainly work at developing a more steely gaze to deal with the small percentage of bozos who might want to hassle me about equipment or space I am utilizing down there.

The tradeoff is that some equipment seems to have been removed from the club, which is not happiness-inducing. The bodyfit space is more open, the cardio crew may not appreciate the music the trainers play while using that area. Complaints about everything from equipment removed to the new layout to having to climb the stairs are already abounding, but change is hard sometimes.

Either way, club management will do whatever they wish to do, whether I like it or not. To my way of thinking, this is a new challenge and adventure J and I navigate together, and from that, there is no downside. I HATE that the big corporate mindset does not take the trainers-on-the-ground input into consideration when evaluating plans and design changes. I HATE the big corporate mindset that did not advise members other than some signs in the impacted areas. They plaster notices about other stuff on ever door in the place, on every mirror in the ladies room, yet about a club remodel? Notices in places in the club I do not venture, and had J not told me about it a few weeks ago, I would have just been shocked by it.

Which is probably why I do not work for a big corporation.

So with all that stuff going on around us, we pursued peppy pacing this morning to complete our work within the 60 minute Thursday block. My thoracic arch is improved and improving, and I am very happy with my progress on this List. While we were going through the bench dumbbell pullovers, J remarked upon the increased flexibility in my shoulders. Since he highlighted the remarkable difference in my shoulder flex between my left and right shoulders, I have spent the last 2 days paying a lot of attention to my right shoulder and focusing on loosening it up as much as possible in warm-ups and every other occasion I have to use it. Today, being more mindful is starting to pay some dividends. I could feel it more – not in bad or painful ways – and just paid attention to my form and movement to ensure it was not about to turn into something bad or painful. I’m rewarded in seeing the dumbbell much, much farther over my head, and my arch more pronounced.

Things are looking up. I clearly remember the early days of doing these and being barely able to get the weight over my head, much less having to reposition to ensure I wasn’t banging it on the bench.

Change – it’s in the air. Not just in the club’s physical landscape, but perhaps I am starting to truly recognize the physical changes in body as well as it my heart and mind.

I’m a lot more flexible and relaxed in life these days, so it’s not just my shoulders. The remodeling of the gym not so long ago would have had me feeling anxious and tugging at my invisibility cloak. Practicing with my tribe sister K last night, we were talking exercise clothes and how I don’t care much about how I look in the things I choose to wear to the gym. I love my gym clothes and I feel good in them. I’m unlikely to be the fit and skinny girl, so why not own the getting fitter woman I am right now? I suppose I could run amok with my Lists in shapeless, baggy clothes just as well, but I doubt I would feel better about the work. Frankly, I simply stopped caring much what others think or having any concerns about someone look at me.

I get that reshaping my shape seems to go in fits and starts, or I am mostly oblivious to my reshaping shape. It is ridiculously exciting to find that an experimental smaller sized piece of clothing does not quite fit right in the upper arms and shoulder across the back and not because of batwings and back flab, but because I have grown some muscle on my frame. While I keep my expectations low so I can be wholly focused on the work, the changes continue to sneak up on me. Body has more muscle now, and that muscle is starting to show through any remaining fat.

While drying my hair on Sunday I noticed that I could see the faint outline of the bottom of my ribcage and that I was starting to develop more of a defined waist. I do not do a lot of ab-specific core work, although I do have an entire List devoted to it. There have been a fair amount of exercises sprinkled throughout Lists that focus on the obliques, so perhaps that is the culprit. Or maybe body’s way of shedding fat in the last on, first off method is finally starting to pay attention to the abdominal area.

I have no idea. I do not want to dwell on it too much, because then I will start to get distracted by distress that change is not happening sooner or faster. Other than the weights I am moving or the number of sets and rep counts per, I do not like to be keeping score on progress. The daily get up, get to the gym, do the work process can be difficult enough without the added stressure of demands for results.

And anymore, I am not even sure I can describe the process as difficult. I love starting my days with exercise anymore, because there is nothing that compares to the sense of satisfaction that comes from completing my List of the day. I rarely speak of it, because this is my new normal, but the difference in physical and mental energy is pretty amazing. Before experiencing it myself, I always thought M and others who exercised regularly were some sort of weird species of human that enjoyed getting sweaty and gross from exercise. I  thought it strange how much they enjoyed the exercise activity itself.

I feel differently now. Probably I am part of the weird species of human being as well now.

All this change inside the club reminds me how far I’ve come in nearly 2 years. I’m not freaked out, more curious. I’m also not feeling much like the high-maintenance or special needs client I once was, and that is both a big thrill as well as a huge relief. There are new friends in the tribe that I see routinely and reminds me I’m part of a community of smart and interesting people.

Which brings me to my next project – working on fat loss.

Now, I know that I have done a lot of work in this area, almost by accident. I mean, I know I get up at least 6 days and spend an hour, 90 minutes in the gym moving weight of some sort to and fro. Do enough of that correct and almost cannot avoid burning fat and building muscle.

Unfortunately diet has a role in reshaping my shape. Cosmetically, I do think about it, but it’s almost an abstract thing, like some far off dream that I dare not get too involved with because it is less likely to be a success point. Whether that’s me being lazy about counting calories or tracking food consumption or some belief system that weight gain and less physical attractiveness is part of aging I cannot be completely certain. I know I have improved my eating habits over the course of time. It would be impossible for me to spend this much time in the gym and not at least try to eat less crap food. I was telling J this morning about eating a cheeseburger last week and sort of wishing for a salad instead. Not because I felt guilty about eating it – I no longer feel guilty about anything I do in the food realm, because I have a good understanding of the consequences of my choices – but because my tastes are changing and the salad appeals more to my sense of taste and desire for texture. I still eat plenty of crap; I have no concerns of running out of crap food choices to consume on a whim.

To that end, I’m embarking on what I expect will be a very rough interesting 27 days of adventure eating, because I have signed up for a 27 day fat lot prescription program. While patiently awaiting next Thursday’s kick-off, I am already expecting and preparing for a relatively severe limit in daily calorie consumption. It’s 27 days; I can do this. And I anticipate it will be like a kick-start program with a lot of meal replacements with protein shakes, and that’s fine because I tend to be protein deficient left to my own devices. But it is not intended that I or anyone else eat this way forever. So we shall see.

Not certain what I expect will happen, except perhaps dropping a few pounds. I am hoping for a psychological boost, that the change will exhilarate and energize me into doing better, doing more with my eating potential, even within the relatively narrow parameters of my picky eater range of foods.

Whatever the outcome, I anticipate learning something new about my level of discipline and commitment. My stick-to-it-ness with the exercise surprised me for a very long time, so perhaps this fat loss program will take me someplace new in adventure eating. But since I am not very good about getting focused on food, this will be a good experiment. Once committed to something formalized like this, my hyper-responsible self will not let me just bail because it gets too hard, boring, or seemingly pointless. My judgment becomes a lot more flawed when I am uncomfortable with the road I am traveling.

I loved today. It was a good, busy, hectic, crazy day, but so much fun at the gym mad for light work with the rest of my work-related insanity.

Plus, I’m excited about tomorrow. It’s lower body List day, and starting in March, I will be doubling back to the huffy-puffy Lists we did in January. There is a lot of simple, little things I find spark joy. Adventure awaits!

#diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #positivity

PT-15.2: Into the gloaming

Monday morning, training with J. I do love starting the week this way. Sets a nice, positive, productive tone for the week. It is raining again, cold and dark when I arrive at the gym, but I chose the title today based on the cats. Twilight comes and there is this tangible excitement about them. They pace and prance and swish their big fluffy tails, looking forward to the night. I feel the same sort of excited restlessness warming up for training days.

Key Takeaways

Before exercise, I had never really given much thought to the ways my back arches. Now I am learning a lot about the thoracic (upper spine) and lumbar (lower spine). Shoulders (down and back or shrugged up) and back arch are on my latest list of things to think about when mind is quiet.

My left shoulder has far more flexibility than my right. I am left handed, but a couple of tumbles while hiking a few years back left me with some cautious stiffness in my right shoulder. Plus the amount of mousing and such that comes with the type of work I do – I guess it’s no surprise. Still, it was kind of surprising for J to comment on it a couple of different occasions, so it must be noticeable. Pondering it off and on throughout the day, I find it not especially surprising or disturbing to me. If anything, it is another data point to consider when I am working at shoulder-related exercises. I will be paying more attention to the right arm, right shoulder form to ensure it is being all it can be. So easy to be lazy and unaware and take the path of least resistance. I vastly prefer to understand body and it’s quirks.

Yet again, let me reaffirm my exercise nerdiness. While I know the exercises on this List pretty well, talking it over with J, him demonstrating, me going through a set, J demonstrating again, me going through another set – them weeds are deep rooted and vast. For a long time I thought I wanted to learn good habits so I would advance to some new level. Now I’m not sure such a ladder truly exists for me. Perhaps my objective is to perfect my form to protect myself from injury and advance from there to somewhere with either heavier weights or peppier pacing or both. Either way, I like the details. I like the knowing about what I am doing, what is supposed to be working, what I should be feeling. I am starting to really understand that I need to see the shape of the movement in some detailed pattern in order to get to the point of moving body in the correct ways with good and proper form. I like that I now have a broader range of weights on various exercises, that I am not necessarily limited to an upper range of 12 or 15 lbs. I don’t care if I drop down to little or no weight, but it is a thrill knowing there is a higher ceiling than when I first learned.

I have a new trick to stretch out my shoulders and spine to loosen up and better work my arch. Today we tried a set of incline dumbbell chest presses, did a front and back band pull apart with the green band (I’m sure there is a formal name for them, but it’s escaping me right now) and then tried it again. Arch was much easier to shift into and maintain after that. That was exciting. For someone with as many shrug-related issues as I have, anything that helps get me into the correct position is a big giant bonus.

I would really love to have a candid word with the equipment buyers at my gym. Seriously, we have small stability balls for the more petite among us, and big giant stability balls for the taller among us. Medium for the rest of us? Not sure where they went, but my latest theory is they have been abducted by aliens.

It was an awesome, AWESOME deep dish session with lots and lots of technical stuff that has not crept into our discussions previously. My fitness hobby continues to expand, my interest in learning and understanding the science has me reading more and more and seeking out new sources and following things J will mention in passing. I do not always understand it, but I find the learning and trying to educate myself reassuring. Instead of getting into a panic over what I don’t know or the urgency of marketing, I can relax that anything not covered today, next week, or even next year is either something that does not fit my interest profile at this time or I may not yet be ready to attempt. And that’s fine. My pace, and my progress, are both more than I imagined possible. Now, maybe the sky is not my limit, but Mount Everest certainly seems reasonable.

What We Did

Today was actually upper body superset review day, and I have updated it with my own descriptions for now. On the List:

A1  Bent Over DB Row
A2  Incline DB Chest Press / Single Arm Incline DB Chest Press

B1  Cross Bench DB Pullover
B2  DB Chest Flyes

C1  1-arm Split Stance Seated DB Overhead Press
C2  Bent Over DB Reverse Flyes

D1  Lying Down Triceps DB Extensions on the Stability Ball
D2  DB Concentration Bicep Curls on the Stability Ball

How It Felt

I love rows, especially the way J has been cueing and enhancing them lately. It feels more active and engaged. While the bent over dumbbell rows are not my number 1 favorite, I do like them a lot and feel as if I am capable with them.

We really worked at the arch today on the incline dumbbell chest press and I feel like some amazing progress was made in both my capability and my understanding of how it is supposed to be working and where I should be feeling the muscles working. Then J switched it up to a single arm incline dumbbell press, which is the first time in over a year this has even appeared on a List. I feel surprisingly great about these, and I say “surprisingly” because I’m typically a little more wigged about newish stuff. But we went from a 15, to a 20, and ended with a 25 lb. dumbbell without incident, so I feel really good about these. I not only got the general principle of the single arm press, I feel like my competency with them was successful.

Since we were focused on the arch today, we did away with the cross bench for the dumbbell pullover and just laid on the bench itself as I originally learned it. The positioning on this is not difficult, but I typically forget until I go through the first couple reps and am banging the weight on the bench’s legs. Head slightly off the bench works better, which usually mean hanging ponytail off the bench is perfect, and it moves the weight far enough away to not bang and clang. This was the first exercise where J noted my right shoulder being less flexible than my left, and very gently reminded me to try and flare that right elbow more each and every set. Good he brings it up, because I can feel the difference when I move more deliberately as prescribed.

Not quite arch nemesis material and most definitely not the bane of my gym existence, but the dumbbell chest fly remains a challenge. Perhaps its status on the “exercises to never do at the gym” lists is what intimidates. Or they are just hard. I am really glad we worked on these as much as we did today, because mind blows them up into this big giant complicated process, possibly quite rightly so. Bottom line, though: when I am doing them right and working the arch, these are far smoother and more effective than when I am fighting with myself over details. Work the arch, slowly lower the arms, t-rex arms pushing back up. Keep the weights above the eyes is my new big thing to watch.

Today’s version of the seated dumbbell overhead press makes it easier to maintain good posture and eventually a peppier pacing. The thoracic arch was in place yet again, and the weight up directly above the shoulder without locking out the elbow up top. Anymore, I am always looking at my arm to ensure it’s in the scapular plane to protect my shoulder. Something hypnotic about watching the weight go up, come down, go up, come down.

Like their brethren the dumbbell chest fly, the bent over dumbbell reverse flyes are hard. Really hard. I find myself vacillating about where I feel this, where I am trying to feel it, and what I need to be doing differently to ensure it hits in the right spot. Deep bend at the waist so I am nearly parallel to the floor, stretch arms out from the shoulder without locking elbows and feel the at the back of the shoulders. I know how it feels when I hit the target, and I know how it feels when I am off target. Now to just go at a pace so I hit target more often than not.

After mostly making peace and being extended olive branches of friendship by the instability ball, the latest batch of new ones seem both tiny and laden with hostile intent and I don’t trust them. But we are making it work. Today we did triceps dumbbell extensions on the stability ball, and for the most part it worked out. At least I did not fall off. What I liked: the arch is sort of built in by the way I have to lay across the stability ball to support the head and shoulders. The weeble-wobble was present, though, and it will take some practice to find the balance. More than that, though, I’m not precisely sure my lower body was positioned correctly. Where I envisioned more an abs tight and sort of reverse planked positioning, it felt sort of awkwardly balance my my entire back wrapped around the ball I was lying across. Practice is the only cure for this, because I was so focused on not falling off the ball I was doing anything in my power to stay stable.

Finally, we did bicep curls on the stability ball. Again, the weeble-wobble was present, but it is far easier to stay upright once seated on the ball. J confused me a bit on these – I thought he had some slick way of doing double concentration curls while seated. Turned out I misunderstood – he said and mimicked bicep curls, I heard concentration curls. All good, although I still ponder the person with the limb structure to do dual concentration curls. Curls have been slowly growing on me through the months, but still far from the favorites list. And the favorites list is pretty damn long, too, so competition cannot be that fierce.

Practices Between Now and Monday

Back to legs and lower body tomorrow and ridiculously excited about it. Saturday I went through the latest legs List and am eager to give it another run. Wednesday will likely be a dumbbell matrix and abs day.

I am closing in on a successful 10 rep run with the pushups, so I do try to fit at least a set in daily as part of my warm-up. Seems to me they need to be retired from arch nemesis status after this much time.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Very occasionally, I wonder what I am doing in the gym. I mean, big picture, long term, end of time. And the answer I come up with is simply: learning and honing my skills.

When I began my better health quest, I thought I would exercise, eat healthy, and the end result would be a svelter, sleeker me. I’d lose weight. I’d look more mainstream fit. The experience would be magical and inspirational for me.

Thus far, 20-something months into it, such lofty ideas have not materialized into reality, because my thinking about such lofty ideas has altered. Instead of weight loss, I have had scale loss, in that I ditched the scale completely and rely more on how my clothes fit as a measure of my success. Mainstream fit is a marketing innovation used to enslave me and separate me from hard-earned money in pursuit of unrealistic promises and dreams. As far as magical and inspirational, my present-day reality is far richer and more profound than the shallow dreams of being more a person who attracts positive attention and attractive in appearance. I am a good person, with many positive and attractive attributes that are not necessarily captured in the mirror or a photograph.

In my gym, majority of the folks are average people pursuing their individual goals and objectives. There are some really, really pretty folks, with admirable bodies and lovely faces. I feel no jealousy or aspiration to be like them, to be fit like them, to be pretty like them. Bodies and bone structure comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are real limits to how much change I can achieve without drastic, surgical intervention. Fat loss, weight loss, strength and muscle building are governed by so much more than simply lifting some predefined amounts of weight for a predetermined amount of reps for so many sets and voila! less fat and more muscled me emerges. I no longer grow frustrated that I am not making faster progress, because my preconceived hopes and dreams were completely unrealistic. Changing my views and measures of progress to something more practical for me was smart and allowed for more realistic and sustainable progress.

The negative girl imprisoned inside my head believes I am a fat girl uncomfortable inside her own skin and powerless – powerless! – to be anything different. In reality I am a lot more vibrant and powerful than I give myself credit, and just lately here, I give myself A LOT of credit.

Many times, M being the endurance monster athlete he is has inadvertently hurt my feelings. When going out with his friends or people he is working with, there’s a certain amount of vetting involved in who is invited. Because there is responsibility there that few are willing to voice honestly or accept. If someone cannot keep up, they become a drag on the rest because someone has to babysit and ensure the less fit newbie makes it back safely. That and his tale of a running group leader telling an overweight woman she was too fat to run with them. While both situations sound terribly harsh, rude, and downright mean to my ears, to M it is a personal liability issue. If he takes non-runner me to a 20 mile mountain run, he is responsible to ensure I make it through, which means he cannot run at his pace. If he is an irresponsible person, he just abandons me and hopes I make it to the finish in the mountain, on unmarked terrain I do not know. But because I would be significantly slower, he is also stuck waiting for me to finish. Or go back and rescue me from where I have fallen down and am slowly limping along and hoping I am not lost. As far as his former running group leader, that woman was not ready to be running with people who routinely ran 5 or 10 or 15 miles per day and would lag behind the group and ultimately slow them down. What I heard was “too fat” and it hurt and overwhelmed all my sensibilities and hearing. From my perspective, people are being rejected based on their body composition; from his perspective, they need to train more, train harder, and come back when they have more ability to keep up with the group.

From my more stable platform of new assurance within the gym, I have a much clearer understanding of his perspective as well as others who push back against the promotion of unhealthy lifestyle habits, including embracing obesity under the guise of body acceptance. Not all of us can have physiological conditions that make and keep us fat. Poor lifestyle choices – I own mine. I also own the struggles to break bad habits and create new, better, heathier ones. It is hard, painful, and in some ways shameful work. It was embarrassing to have to ask for help, to hire a trainer/coach to help me help myself. It’s also a luxury, I know. But if I am locked in battle with my money or my life, hopefully I have the good sense to choose my life.

The discussions with J today reminds me that being fat is not an easy road no matter what the reason. Accepting our bodies is one thing. Trying to do our best and make smart choices in caring for our long-term health and our bodies is equally important. My methods are not the only way, but for me it is the best way.

A good friend of mine started with a crossfit gym 18 months ago and is facing rotator cuff surgery now. She was once much heavier, and what she sees is having lost 60 lbs. in 18 months and not the toll the crossfit is having on her body. After 2 previous shoulder injuries, after being told by her orthopedist she should find some other fitness endeavor, next week she is scheduled for surgery and likely not doing any exercise for another several weeks, if not months. She admits being addicted to results on the scale, the smaller size clothes, the praise from her family, her friends, her crossfit peers. She also allows that perhaps those factors had her ignoring professional advice until now and facing a serious surgery to repair an injury that need not have happened.

I shudder thinking about it. I do not feel morally superior for being uninjured after this much time, but I am also know that being clear-headed about my objectives and keeping my overall health first and foremost has guided my decisions and choices on how to proceed. While every journey is different and unique, the one that leads me to a surgeon’s table is not the right one for me, no matter how significant the weight loss I might have enjoyed. It is simply not worth it to me.

My point is – I have picked my battles carefully. Dropping weight would be nice, actually pretty damn fabulous. But what am I willing to give up to make it happen? What am I willing to risk for that? Apparently not much, or not enough, and I am doing very well with this reasoning and rationale. Exercise is one component of better health, and for me it was the most challenging piece to implement. Now that I have found a groove, I’m not giving it up. Protecting it, and myself, is worth reshaping my shape in a slower fashion.

J was showing me X-rays of an overweight person versus a normal weight person this morning; it was startling. Not just the layers of fat – that’s to be expected – but the way the bones were shaped and bowed and bent in the heavier person. While it would not have been enough to scare me straight at the beginning of this journey, it is quite fascinating and enlightening to review now. Someday soon I may identify more closely with the normal weight person, but for right now, I see myself in the heavier person’s X-ray. It is one of the thoughts that keeps me so immersed and engaged in this learning journey.

Maybe inside a fit woman has been waiting to emerge. The thought makes me smile. I am daring to imagine that fit woman inside and working hard to make her happen.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #positivity

PT-15.1: Into the gloaming

Monday morning, training with J. I do love starting the week this way. Sets a nice, positive, productive tone for the week. It is raining again, cold and dark when I arrive at the gym, but I chose the title today based on the cats. Twilight comes and there is this tangible excitement about them. They pace and prance and swish their big fluffy tails, looking forward to the night. I feel the same sort of excited restlessness warming up for training days.

Key Takeaways

Coming in PT-15.2: Into the gloaming.

What We Did

Coming in PT-15.2: Into the gloaming.

How It Felt

Coming in PT-15.2: Into the gloaming.

Practices Between Now and Monday

Coming in PT-15.2: Into the gloaming.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Very occasionally, I wonder what I am doing in the gym. I mean, big picture, long term, end of time. And the answer I come up with is simply: learning and honing my skills.

When I began my better health quest, I thought I would exercise, eat healthy, and the end result would be a svelter, sleeker me. I’d lose weight. I’d look more mainstream fit. The experience would be magical and inspirational for me.

Thus far, 20-something months into it, such lofty ideas have not materialized into reality, because my thinking about such lofty ideas has altered. Instead of weight loss, I have had scale loss, in that I ditched the scale completely and rely more on how my clothes fit as a measure of my success. Mainstream fit is a marketing innovation used to enslave me and separate me from hard-earned money in pursuit of unrealistic promises and dreams. As far as magical and inspirational, my present-day reality is far richer and more profound than the shallow dreams of being more a person who attracts positive attention and attractive in appearance. I am a good person, with many positive and attractive attributes that are not necessarily captured in the mirror or a photograph.

In my gym, majority of the folks are average people pursuing their individual goals and objectives. There are some really, really pretty folks, with admirable bodies and lovely faces. I feel no jealousy or aspiration to be like them, to be fit like them, to be pretty like them. Bodies and bone structure comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are real limits to how much change I can achieve without drastic, surgical intervention. Fat loss, weight loss, strength and muscle building are governed by so much more than simply lifting some predefined amounts of weight for a predetermined amount of reps for so many sets and voila! less fat and more muscled me emerges. I no longer grow frustrated that I am not making faster progress, because my preconceived hopes and dreams were completely unrealistic. Changing my views and measures of progress to something more practical for me was smart and allowed for more realistic and sustainable progress.

The negative girl imprisoned inside my head believes I am a fat girl uncomfortable inside her own skin and powerless – powerless! – to be anything different. In reality I am a lot more vibrant and powerful than I give myself credit, and just lately here, I give myself A LOT of credit.

Many times, M being the endurance monster athlete he is has inadvertently hurt my feelings. When going out with his friends or people he is working with, there’s a certain amount of vetting involved in who is invited. Because there is responsibility there that few are willing to voice honestly or accept. If someone cannot keep up, they become a drag on the rest because someone has to babysit and ensure the less fit newbie makes it back safely. That and his tale of a running group leader telling an overweight woman she was too fat to run with them. While both situations sound terribly harsh, rude, and downright mean to my ears, to M it is a personal liability issue. If he takes non-runner me to a 20 mile mountain run, he is responsible to ensure I make it through, which means he cannot run at his pace. If he is an irresponsible person, he just abandons me and hopes I make it to the finish in the mountain, on unmarked terrain I do not know. But because I would be significantly slower, he is also stuck waiting for me to finish. Or go back and rescue me from where I have fallen down and am slowly limping along and hoping I am not lost. As far as his former running group leader, that woman was not ready to be running with people who routinely ran 5 or 10 or 15 miles per day and would lag behind the group and ultimately slow them down. What I heard was “too fat” and it hurt and overwhelmed all my sensibilities and hearing. From my perspective, people are being rejected based on their body composition; from his perspective, they need to train more, train harder, and come back when they have more ability to keep up with the group.

From my more stable platform of new assurance within the gym, I have a much clearer understanding of his perspective as well as others who push back against the promotion of unhealthy lifestyle habits, including embracing obesity under the guise of body acceptance. Not all of us can have physiological conditions that make and keep us fat. Poor lifestyle choices – I own mine. I also own the struggles to break bad habits and create new, better, heathier ones. It is hard, painful, and in some ways shameful work. It was embarrassing to have to ask for help, to hire a trainer/coach to help me help myself. It’s also a luxury, I know. But if I am locked in battle with my money or my life, hopefully I have the good sense to choose my life.

The discussions with J today reminds me that being fat is not an easy road no matter what the reason. Accepting our bodies is one thing. Trying to do our best and make smart choices in caring for our long-term health and our bodies is equally important. My methods are not the only way, but for me it is the best way.

A good friend of mine started with a crossfit gym 18 months ago and is facing rotator cuff surgery now. She was once much heavier, and what she sees is having lost 60 lbs. in 18 months and not the toll the crossfit is having on her body. After 2 previous shoulder injuries, after being told by her orthopedist she should find some other fitness endeavor, next week she is scheduled for surgery and likely not doing any exercise for another several weeks, if not months. She admits being addicted to results on the scale, the smaller size clothes, the praise from her family, her friends, her crossfit peers. She also allows that perhaps those factors had her ignoring professional advice until now and facing a serious surgery to repair an injury that need not have happened.

I shudder thinking about it. I do not feel morally superior for being uninjured after this much time, but I am also know that being clear-headed about my objectives and keeping my overall health first and foremost has guided my decisions and choices on how to proceed. While every journey is different and unique, the one that leads me to a surgeon’s table is not the right one for me, no matter how significant the weight loss I might have enjoyed. It is simply not worth it to me.

My point is – I have picked my battles carefully. Dropping weight would be nice, actually pretty damn fabulous. But what am I willing to give up to make it happen? What am I willing to risk for that? Apparently not much, or not enough, and I am doing very well with this reasoning and rationale. Exercise is one component of better health, and for me it was the most challenging piece to implement. Now that I have found a groove, I’m not giving it up. Protecting it, and myself, is worth reshaping my shape in a slower fashion.

J was showing me X-rays of an overweight person versus a normal weight person this morning; it was startling. Not just the layers of fat – that’s to be expected – but the way the bones were shaped and bowed and bent in the heavier person. While it would not have been enough to scare me straight at the beginning of this journey, it is quite fascinating and enlightening to review now. Someday soon I may identify more closely with the normal weight person, but for right now, I see myself in the heavier person’s X-ray. It is one of the thoughts that keeps me so immersed and engaged in this learning journey.

Maybe inside a fit woman has been waiting to emerge. The thought makes me smile. I am daring to imagine that fit woman inside and working hard to make her happen.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #positivity

The day of rest

At 6:30 a.m. I was struggling with exercise or no exercise. I had actually planned for a rest day, to not go to the gym or even to yoga/pilates today and instead just relax and focus on other matters. But at 6:30 a.m., I was wavering and trying hard to listen to body. Body was ambivalent and could go either way. Mind, however, was ready to go and do whatever I wanted until I was ready to stop. Mind’s idea of R&R is doing whatever I want to do and whatever makes me  happiest. Mind won. Mind nearly always wins.

It was a light day. Dumbbell matrix, an extra couple of sets of bench push-ups (current arch nemesis), and then a quick run through stability ball core List. I thought I might do 2 sets of abs, but at the end of it, it was enough. Time to go home and attend to other matters.

Starting to get a better feeling for the whole rest day concept. Part of me (the one where negative girl is incarcerated) wants to state in a very matter-of-fact tone that I do not work hard enough the other 6 days per week to warrant a rest day. But I call bullshit on that. I work plenty hard the rest of the week and am as deserving of a day of rest as anyone. So yay me!

But while body might be capable and even willing to go another go-round with another List, mind is the one that gets fatigue and burned out, a concern just as real as physical injury from the actual work. Through the months I have learned to relax my death-grip on sticking with a schedule and rotation of Lists. I can mostly trust myself. Not completely, maybe not ever completely, but enough to know that a rest day is just a rest day, not the end of consistency as I know it. Maybe when I have been at this 5 years (okay, maybe 10 years) I will feel confident in my ability to take a few days off just because and return not have some fear that a cataclysmic shift in my world view has occurred while my back was turned.

Today, mind was restless and interested in trying something. So away we went.

This was a play day more than a rest day. I worked on my form and pacing. Pacing was not super peppy, but form was good. We have been doing so many things, with new cues and subtle adjustments, and they cross over into other things we do. Plus the work on my push-ups. Feet together, rib tuck (best cue ever), and I am up to 9 before having to stop and finish number 10 (and 11 to 12 to 15, because doing just a single push-up seems silly).

What I found refreshing about today – no pressure on myself. It was a play day, since I have already done my 6 days and (this week) 7 check-ins (5 practices, 2 training sessions). If I look at Sunday as a bonus day rather than a mandatory practice, it becomes a relaxing way to spend part of my morning.

The better health quest is far from a simple for me or anyone else. There are some ridiculously painful, hard, awful days – sometimes with exercise, frequently with diet. The shame game still preys upon me, although rarely as powerfully as the first year. My eating is better but far from anything close to consistently healthy or proper. But the learning curve is steep. Trying, failing, trying again inches me closer to better habits every time.

Not giving up is new to me. Seriously new, learning-as-I-go behavior. It’s why I am in the gym as frequently as I am, the root of why I take the training as seriously as I do and find myself celebrating the tiniest of successes with over-the-top happy dancing. Turning away from how I did this right but so many other things wrong – tide began to turn when I embraced success and just kept trying at everything else. I can’t think of the right term that does not make it sound like I thing this was a noble, virtuous quest. It was a battle I had to fight and to win, but I am not curing cancer here.

I spend a fair amount of time talking about diet and exercise in general, and an awful lot of time discussing the mental and emotional aspects of changing my lifestyle. IF I do not address and pay attention to the mental and emotional aspects of lifestyle changes, I am doomed for failure. I will be quitting and starting over again at some point in the future when I get depressed and unhappy enough about the state of my life. At 55, how much more time do I have to dilly-dally with this stuff? And what else would I be missing out on if I were not trying to maximize overall good health while the opportunity still exists.

Maybe the actual day of rest does not include actual rest per se so much as the pleasant distraction of other pursuits. Life is long, pacing myself is certainly justified.

My continued enthusiasm for exercise seems driven by my small successes, which in turn come from the regular practices and trying hard to absorb the lessons. Blogging about it certainly helps as well. If I could develop some enthusiasm for talking this much about food I wonder if there would be better, more consistent, healthier eating results. But I am simply not that interested in food and I have a super boring diet. I could probably post one menu on Monday and just copy and paste the rest of the week – that kind of boring.

But my interest in food is simply not there. Perhaps someday. Blogging about food feels uncomfortably close to counting calories and food tracking. I would likely stop eating altogether before I could bring myself to do that regularly.

It has been a pretty good day, actually quite relaxing doing laundry and bulk cooking for the week and catching up with various things. Rest day – today it’s been about taking a mental recess, preparing for the week ahead, and catching up on my reading for fun.  I don’t know that I could do this every Sunday, but for today it was perfect.