Thursday morning, training with J. Upper body review day once more, working the upper arches, the chest up (first), shoulders back (second), and in some cases feet together and thighs squeezing tight. Sometimes it feels as if I have wild shoulders with mind of their own.
Thursdays are review days thus far in 2017, and today did not disappoint. There is no wiggle room in the schedule on Thursday so we have to get our List done. Today we were going to forgo “peppy” pacing and pursue J pacing, as in the pace he would be going if doing this List himself. In another slice on our timeline, I would have heard that as a rebuke, J-speak for me as a slacker, a dilettante, an unserious waste of his time and expertise.
Nope, today I understood it was a time constraint, that a favorite tribe member would be keeping her usual 8 a.m. session appointment right after my session. So we had to get our stuff done in our 60 minute block. Mondays there is a typically an empty slot right after my 6 a.m. so we have wiggle room to go over my time block.
Universal cueing is sticking. Invisible arms are now and forever forward – T-Rex arms. Little, tiny, practically invisible arms and use shoulders to push or pull instead. Feet together, squeeze thighs together to maintain the shapes – this alone may bump push-ups out of the arch nemesis spot.
I love review days.
What We Did
Review day from upper body Monday:
A1 Dumbbell Chest Press
A2 1-arm DB Row
B1 Lat Pulldown Dual Cable, Alternating
B2 Seated Dip
C1 Overhand “Floor” Rope Facepull
C2 Horizontal Rope Chop with Press Out
D1 Rope Triceps Pushdown
D2 1-arm High Concentration Cable Curl
How It Felt
Dumbbell chest press with T-Rex arms – that’s how I think of them now. When I can get my thoracic spine to arch correctly and working right, I can barely feel the weights in my hands. I can, however, feel the chest muscles working. Of late J has been working with me on my elbows, specifically not locking them out or even extending them to perfectly straight. So no I spend my time on upper body Lists thinking about my shoulders and what they are doing and now looking at my elbows to make sure they are not straightening out.
Up, back, and around are what stands out for the 1-arm dumbbell row. That and the lean over as far as possible to be parallel to the floor. As a theme for today’s post, it’s a bit shocking (to me) how far I have come since getting started, when I thought an 8 lb. dumbbell was really heavy. There I am today hefting a 25 lb. dumbbell for warm-up sets before graduating to the 30 lb. unit I most typically use.
Back at the lat pulldown dual cable machine, alternating for sets of alternating, then dual lat pulldowns. Okay, the alternating – remember the shoulder. Pull down one side and the shoulder back without twisting or rotating the upper body. Another slight lean back and work the upper arch. I shadow practicing this at my desk this afternoon to get the shape and the way it feels more clearly focused in my mind. No idea at all where the weights were set, but I could feel it in my lats. Can still feel it in my lats 12 hours later. We worked on not straightening or locking the elbows at the top.
This version of the seated dip has chest emphasis is another where the shoulders are back and the upper spine arch. Anymore, it’s like the doctors with the diet and exercise advice – sounds like it cures just about everything. But I am okay with the diet and exercise advice, even when I was absolutely not following it. The shoulders back and upper arch thing is fine and it works. It’s just me, chest up and forward (first), shoulders back and behind ears (second) – the never ending story. And I’m okay with that. This is why I train with J and practice on my own. Someday it will seem more normal, natural, automatic.
Still love the overhand “floor” rope facepull, if only that sitting on the floor means there is less height to fall from if something goes terribly wrong. Of course, with the overhand part of this particular facepull, I have this really hard time automatically grabbing the rope in the overhand position, and J only had to correct me twice today. So that’s progress, right?
Less issue with how to hold the rope in the horizontal rope chop with press out. Mostly I think I have the shape down, except to not rotate too far with the press and to pretension the abs. The non-pressing arm is bent and held close to the body and to press straight out. Watching the cable as well, ensuring I am behind the rope and it is in a straight line with the rope.
Doing better with the rope triceps pushdown with the split at the bottom. Feet together, thigh squeeze, bending at the waist, with chest up (first) and shoulders back (second) and elbows pinned to the side, rope knobs together all the way down to the split, cable is at a straight angle.
Biggest discovering with the 1-arm high concentration cable curl was the magic words: scapular plane. I have this cool little diagram on my Lists that show where the arm is in the scapular plane to remind me. Biggest reminder on this one was to ensure I am elevating the elbow and keeping it high enough in the air.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Every training day, I drive home with a lot of thoughts about a lot of different things. Many are training related – the what we did as the section above detail – but there is a whole lot more that is either triggered or just part of what is unearthed as we are going through new exercises or in reviewing things I already know.
While it’s been close to 2 years that I have been working with J and 16 months of solidly consistent 6 days per week in the gym working at my Lists, inside I still feel like the grossly ignorant and completely blobby unfit woman who started in June 2015. For anyone who has ever been overweight and slimmed down significantly and maintained it, I imagine there is a period where you still feel like and identify with the overweight people. In my view, this is a good and healthy component of empathy and understanding the struggle for others trying for similar achievements. While I know I am much stronger and fitter than when I began, inside I still feel the intimidation and anxiety about being in the gym and trying to learn and do my best to emulate what J was teaching. In the moments, it is easy enough to focus on the List right in front of me, the weights I typically use, the order I have mostly memorized by now. My confidence in my ability is off the charts improved, and even without my Lists at hand, I could probably put together a decent practice from memory.
But on training days, my awareness is continually zapped by the great divide of day 1 to present day. Learning new cues and techniques that improve my experience and expand my ability with troubling exercises always makes me think about if I had this magical thing sooner how much farther I might be in the process. Truth is, unlikely to have mattered at day 1 or even month 1, or even year 1. The context was not there, because it took a ridiciulously long time for me to figure out that the cue might be “tighten abs and glutes” yet there was a big disconnect in being physically capable of consistently following the cue.
Just because J tells me how to do something and I understand the words, meaning, and concepts does not mean that I will be physically capable of following those instructions.
The awareness zapping I experience is mostly because I see me in the same ways as when I began and everyone else who is just getting started is in better shape, smarter about exercise, and infinitely more capable. The unfit me in my mind fully expects that new training tribe members will surpass me any minute in their strength and capability.
While I can mostly contain negative girl in my day-to-day activities, the scarring from a lifetime of her influence on my thinking process and long-held belief system is a slower and more tedious process to endure.
Last night was a rare evening at the gym, and getting to practice with a tribe friend was just the boost I needed to shake off the gloom-and-doom that threatened to overwhelm me. It was so fun to work next to someone doing the same List and getting to watch her graceful execution and the slightly different ways we do various exercises. I am super proud of myself for keeping up and to see how far we have both come.
That I notice when that cranky mood and bad attitude overwhelm is a great sign for me. I don’t want to be Miss Crankypants at the gym sighing and enduring a pity party as I work through my List, and I definitely do not want that aura to follow me throughout the rest of my days. The exercise experience is a lot more pleasant and infinitely more satisfying when I’m dissecting form, or deciding on weights, or feeling the individual muscles work through their ranges of motion rather than deflecting the underlying “am I done yet?” I love the days when I run out of time and still want to try or practice a few things off-List just to answer some question in my head.
It is an interesting dichotomy that I had not thought about much before today. I am making progress getting fitter in reality, but in my head I’m stuck on basic movement patterns and all the ways I will trip, fall, embarrass myself in my efforts. The underlying fear of injuring myself or others lingers even as my willingness to try new exercises and to practice what is hard or uncomfortable has expanded by leaps and bounds.
Day of a big compliment: J tells me that my fellow tribe member and I look like “gym people” now. Made me ridiculously happy. Because I am still intimidated by the big boys room. I will use it if nothing else is available for what I want to do, but I also will choose another more personally comfortable space in the club if it is available.
We are careening along on our training joy ride, and truly, it is a wonderful and FUN experience. I’m engaged in the process, like obsessively and addictively engaged, and I don’t think it’s anything I need to be ashamed of or apologize for. Exercise has become such a positive expression and enhancement in my life. I was never good at it before. I am still learning, still have a long way to go before I feel like I am good at it now. However, being “good” at the style of exercise I pursue is a judgment value. Proficient, competent, safe is what I am seeking, and succeeding.
Confidence is an outgrowth of my engagement, one I am so grateful to have bloom. More than that, though – I have met some really nice, engaging, supportive, and inspirational women. I truly cannot stress how much joy there is meeting other members and seeing them pursuing their own goals and objectives. Finding camaraderie and a sense of community with a gym – me? Beyond my wildest dreams.
As for the J pacing, we finished in the allotted hour – no slacker here. We even had time to chat with my tribe sister who occupies the Thursday at 8 a.m. slot – she is fabulous. While it was a fast-paced session, there was room for our usual non-training chit-chat as we moved along.
While we were doing something, probably talking elbows, I noticed that J’s bicep stands so much taller than the valley of his elbow. No complaints about my own biceps, merely remarking on the peaks and valleys of his arms and he reminds me that the attachment points may vary from person to person.
And IF I am presently more consistent about my training and practice than J is (as he jokingly remarked to another member), it is only because I don’t work in the club and typically have time to finish my practices in my allotted timeframe.
Training sessions – great, great fun. Today was amazing.