Italicized text is from part 1 of this training recap post. Also added a new section to contemplate practices between now and my next training session.
Monday morning, training with J. Never again will I underestimate the impact of the sun returning after extended periods of dreary rain. Still, even the cold, dark, dreary rain days do not dampen my spirits for training days, but it sure makes me appreciate my office window and keeping watch on the cars in the parking lot.
We are on a new and improved review journey, reinventing and updating an older lower body List. As as I noted yesterday, I am experimenting with breaking my session recap posts into 2 separate posts. So for my tribe that read and look forward to these each Monday and Thursday, here is part of 1 of 2.
Sometimes I have one of those shocking developments that makes my eyes pop. Today, it was the 2-legged leg press when J bumped it up to 220 lbs. OMG! I’m not only in triple digits, I’m in triple digits starting with something other than 1. In my own mind there was grave doubt about that weight stack moving up no matter how many of my legs were pressing, but after a quick warm-up with 150 lbs. (because I thought we were doing single legs), J blithely bumped it up and I surprisingly made it work.
I got to demonstrate my work-around for climbing into the leg press sled at the setting which works once I am settled. It’s basically me sort of sitting high in the seat and then scooching down until my bum is in place on the seat. My hip/leg flexibility does not seem to work well enough to allow me to just sit down and fold my legs enough to be situated appropriately without the scooch down. Me and my first world problems.
There is this whole undiscovered country section of the gym upstairs that I have walked right by thousands of times without much notice. Found the adductor machine there quite agreeable, as well as the long walkway for doing mini-band lateral walks. Truly, it’s little things like space to move about freely that makes a difference to me.
J updated this workout so it more similar to what he himself is pursuing in his own workouts, on a scale, weight and rep range suited for me and my current level of ability, of course. And despite the zoom-zoom-zoom like pacing – which it really wasn’t, because I had plenty of time to stop and ask questions and figure stuff out that was either not working quite right or him correcting me doing something not quite right. All good things.
This update may catapult this leg/lower body List into new favorite position. I pursued the earlier version routinely, because I only truly go numb and indifferent on Lists that I do not pursue in my own practices. But honestly I don’t miss the glute bridges and the stability ball hamstring curls at all, as I get plenty of exposure to them on other Lists. However, I am reminded again today how glad we pursued floor work, TRX, and dumbbell List so much before being introduced to the cable machines and such.
What We Did
Today was review and reinvent another older lower body List:
A1 2-legged Leg Press
A2 Med Ball Vertical Chops
B1 Quad Extensions
B2 DB Alt. Reverse Lunges
C1 Seated Hamstring Curls
C2 Alt. DB Step Back to “RDL” Hinges
D1 1-legged Machine Hamstring Curls
D2 Mini-band Glute Kickbacks
E1 Adductor Machine
E2 Mini-band Lateral Walks
How It Felt
Big triumph today: five sets of 20 with 2-legged leg press with 220 lbs. A Very Big Deal for me, even if that’s chump change to other people. It was exhausting, and I am pretty sure my glutes are still squeaking loudly 12 hours later.
While I know these have appeared on a List in the past, it sort of felt like the medicine ball vertical chops were new. With a little more practice, I will feel more secure in my ability. However, today it’s all about the shrug up portion of the medicine ball in front with arms extended and the proper rib tuck to tighten abs and not allow myself to arch through the lower back. No idea how heavy the ball was – it was a sky blue colored one – but it was not unpleasant in my hands or arms. I spend so much of my time working on not shrugging it takes a set (or 3, 4, maybe 5) to get back into the shrug up momentum.
Continuing my quest to improve with the quad extensions machine, but honestly, today it was burn baby burn on this bad boy. No idea what weight we ended up with – next I do these I will go through my usual down and up or up and down to find the right weight. A couple of new breakthroughs with this one: (1) I may have found the right seat setting that let me get the appropriate contraction, and (2) that upper back arch – who knew it made such a difference? Once I tried it both with back flat against the seat and with the arch, I felt the difference in the lower legs. Finally – key tweak that keeps this from my nemesis List. My legs felt very done at the end of each set rather than just me scratching my head wondering if I was working hard enough. Today, I worked plenty hard enough and then some.
Then we went into the dumbbell alternating reverse lunges so I could protect my quad extensions machine and work legs in a different way. Form on lunges – need to keep the dumbbells back rather than too far forward and reaching. But easier than it once was, when I had terribly lunge anxiety, and these were better. Slightest lean forward, chest up and shoulders tucked back, dumbbells back by hips, not hanging out in front by knees. Devil is in the details.
Seems like a very long time since the seated hamstring curl machine was in the rotation. Not terribly difficult, other than the various ways to adjust the machine. Very tall people had been using it before I came along, because between adjusting the back and then the bar that secures the legs in place, it seems a lot more complex than it probably is in reality. But with some direction as to where the switches are kept and then reminders to adjust it, I figured it out. No idea what weight it was set at, but I do clearly recall how my muscles are feeling flabby and lazy getting off and walking to the next space for the next exercise. While I know I work on lower body and legs at least a couple of times per week, the variety and types of different things are working them in different ways. Either that or I am so grossly out of shape overnight that I need to start over again from scratch.
That whole muscle memory thing? I think it might actually be a thing. We have been doing the alternating dumbbell step back to “RDL” hinges with the dumbbell matrix, only in the dumbbell matrix I am using 5 lb. dumbbells and this version I am using 12 lb. dumbbells. First couple I very nearly toppled over on the bend, expecting the weights to be much lighter. Once body adjusted to the weight, things went pretty well, other than legs feeling burned out and not keeping track of the counts. I am really pleased about my progression with these.
Speaking of complex and machines, the 1-legged machine hamstring curls takes the top prize for complicated. I have taken to photographing the setting so next time I have some hope of getting it set up and working for me in one or two tries, rather than different set, different setting. I also have to break these down into a couple of smaller sets, because the foot resting on the grown gets a calf cramp while curling the other leg. Relatively sure it’s an endurance issue rather than a form issue; standing on tippy toe definitely works better than a flat foot, but it’s like trying to do a single leg anything in high heels. Takes some practice to build enough stamina to keep my food and lower leg working that hard.
For the glute kickbacks, there are choices – I could do the cable version with the fluffy cuffies or I could whip out my mini-band and do them that way. Since the nearest cable machine was in use, we went for the mini bands. So, while they have not made an appearance on a List in quite awhile, I still love the mini-band glute kickbacks. We did a slightly more bent forward version today than I am accustomed to, but I actually think it works better for me that the more upright positioning I have been pursuing. The lean mimics the cable kickback more closely, and I can tell it was pretty effective this morning.
We used a new (to me) adductor machine upstairs in the undiscovered country. Not sure if the beating my legs had taken previously was the culprit or if this particular machine is built differently, but I was using a different, lighter weight and feeling every single ounce of the weight stack. Because these are at the end of leg Lists, they do tend to the get less play and intensity than other stuff we do. However, I like this particular machine so much better than I will be returning to it going forward.
Mini-band lateral walks have not been on a List in quite awhile. I think of these as crab walking, because the shape one assumes going sideways there and back across the room seems like what a crap would look like if it took to walking on only 2 of its legs. But I digress. Keep the upper body still – I do remember that from learning these way back when – and I discovered glancing in the mirror to ensure no undue swaying side to side that there is pronounced shoulder cap at the top of my arms. The was actually very cool and made me want to redouble my no-swaying efforts. Still love my mini bands.
Practices Between Now and Thursday
Late summer, before we wandered off and into a heavier lifting body-part split routine from Dr. Spencer, J and I were working on a series of quad blocks for body part splits. At least that’s how I remember it. I am in the process of revising that series now. Last Friday I went through day 1 (lower body focus) and Sunday I went through day 2 (abs and upper body). Since we did lower body/legs today and will likely review on Thursday, I am going back to day 2 tomorrow since it’s my luxury work-from-home day and I can take the extra time this series of Lists requires when I am refamiliarizing myself with it. From the way my abs feel/felt today, I have been neglecting my planking and crunching.
Occurs to me it might be fun to do a brief summary of that as well; we shall see. I find that when I revisit older Lists, writing about it helps me sort out where I am still having issues. Because unless I have phone in hand to text blow-by-blow, question-by-question in the moment, I will most certainly forget by the next training day session. It will also keep my real-life exercise peanut gallery entertained.
Wednesday will be the dumbbell matrix and an upper body of some sort. Since I have this whole big blog dedicated to my better health, diet, and exercise pursuits, I may as well actually use it that way. Even if it’s just a simple “this was my List today” type post, it will help me keep better track of where I am with things. My library of Lists is now so abundant that it sometimes feels as if I do not get around to pursuing all that I like with enough regularity.
The fancy-smancy Fitbit Blaze also gives me all sorts of information … to which I barely pay much attention. However, it might help me get into the habit of turning it on and then turning it off if I were actually looking at my statistics every day. I have thus far resisted the addictive urge to try for a particular average heart rate range or so many minutes of greater activity and will continue to do so. However, it is a swell watch and gives M some reassurance I’m at least trying to pay attention and knowing when I might want to see where my blood sugar is lurking.
All sorts of new idea perking. We shall see how much energy and time I have throughout the week to put them into practice.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Exercise impacts me far more than just the shape or capabilities of the body. I have these intriguing new lumpy-bumpy muscles peeking out. I am stronger and more capable. I know stuff about the gym and its mysterious cache of equipment. More than all that, though, I am far wiser, more confident, and generally happier. The better health quest has had a direct effect on all those things.
This morning I was huffing and puffing and determined to make the rep count values. For the most part, I succeeded … when I remembered to keep counting. The rest of the time, I winged it and at times called it good enough. But inside, I was secretly pretty damn impressed with myself – 220 lbs. on the leg press? Wildest dreams – never imagined it happening. Was it heavy? OH F**K yes. But I did it. And only after driving home and while writing a quick note to a close friend (as I do every Monday) did I realize how thrilling the accomplishment.
More than that, I have made it thus far without serious injury other than the occasional gym tweak. When that has happened, J suggested a rest day, or multiple rest days, so now I tend to take at least one day off every week or two weeks. Personally I would rather just listen to body and maybe go lighter some days than actually deviate much from my Monday to Saturday schedule. For the most part it has served me well, and the weekly day of rest or doing something other than weights and gym recharges my physical and mental batteries. I can feel the difference when I string together more than 10 days of consecutive gym days.
Going lighter to me may mean 2 sets instead of 3, or 15 lb. dumbbells instead of 20s. If I get too tired, avoidance mode starts to set in to my routine. And when I am in avoidance mode, I get wrapped up in a zillion small details that make slacking off or skipping completely a justified excuse. Climbing into the leg press sled feels awkward? Good reason to bail and do something else today. Too much low back arch on the upright choppers? Good reason to stop at 3 and move into another block. Cannot remember what weight to use on a machine? Dump that block completely. Too tired, too busy, too not into it? Let’s skip the gym today. And on and on and on. My excuse factory is always ready and willing to power up and get busy cranking out reasons to avoid the responsibility I have assumed for my overall health.
For me, I presently need this short of a leash schedule to stay on the straight and narrow. Fortunately, for the most part I am enjoying the challenge of the journey. I was reading something this weekend that described happiness as solving life’s problems, and the author may be on to something with that supposition. Every time I have a new epiphany about something in the gym there is this spark of pure joy that seems grossly out of proportion for the level of success. I could self-abuse and suggest that I have no life, but I am not going to allow negative girl enough room to even whisper such thoughts into my head (versus reporting the thought objectively here). I am the decider on how big or small my happy-happy-joy-joy over finally grasping an exercise method or tweak. The concepts of right/wrong reactions do not have a place in this dialog.
With every successful day that passes and I learn something new, crest some new quarter inch in height with training, have a small or large triumph, I experience a fleeting wonder about old friends leaving me on the curb in my better health quest. Was I dropped because I became more focused on taking care of myself rather than external friendships and relationships? Or was I usurping my role as the fat chick in the group and therefore threatening to those more conventionally thin, fit, beautiful?
I still do not completely understand it. Unless someone is doing something I view as harmful, immoral, or illegal, I want to be supportive rather than dismissive of or critical toward their efforts. But I have heard the same type of story from enough people who took steps toward healthier lives and lifestyles to know this behavior is not unique to me and my former friends.
Even now, more than a year into the journey, I wonder about the why of it all. I wonder if they ever really liked the person I am inside, and it is both uncomfortable and disturbing for me to imagine responses to such a query. I am not completely insensitive or stupid, yet losing friends over positive changes seems like the plot of a bad movie. There are a lot of years, memories of good and bad times warmly colored by the closeness and comfort that comes with genuine friendship. Or perhaps what I merely perceived as genuine friendship. I miss those old friends, in theory mostly, because reality is that their actions are very hurtful and awakened this sleeping anger ball within.
I could literally drive myself nuts all over again spinning round and round trying to find clear answers. While I might mourn the loss of relationships, to try and resurrect or revive the camaraderie will only disappointment all over again.
Another thing, another reason to be grateful for my better health quest – the belief in my own worth as a human being. And with that, the scorching affirmation that I need not be around anyone who does not value me and what I bring to the table at least that much.
How I look – truly, what does it matter? To me, very little, or I’d be obsessing over the scale and my dress size. I see the creases of newly emerging muscles, and frankly, it’s delightful. This morning getting ready for work, I caught a flash of my upper arm in the mirror and immediately, reactively thought it must be batwing fat. Then I realized – that’s not fat, that’s tricep. OMG – I have a tricep! Rush into the kitchen – M, look, I have triceps! M nods, smiles, dutifully admires – his “happy wife, happy life” mantra still in place. Silly, I know; I see my arms daily. But I go through my lists day after day, week after week, and the ways I feel inside have a far more powerful impact upon me that what I see in the mirror most days.
Walking through the gym and seeing others I know pursuing their objectives, any envy or despair of ever being good enough to be sharing the same space have been vanquished. I admire their efforts and am frequently impressed by the smooth ease with which they do things that are outside of my realm.
So yeah, I love that my outlook is healthier. I love, Love, LOVE that I can appreciate my own efforts and the big and little ways I am improving. Confidence does not come naturally to me. Thinking (much less saying out loud or writing it in black and white) that I am good at anything is kind of unnatural and has felt wrong to me. Not so much anymore. Tiny improvements add up, or I don’t notice that I am making much headway or worry about progress. What I do know is that one day I will no longer be bitching, moaning, or dreading a List of the day.
Feeling comfortable in my own skin and taking my place in my spaces within the gym without a whole lot of intimidation drama, bravery is surging. I could possibly even go to a strange gym and be confident enough with my Lists and my ability that I get the job done. Chatting with my daughter about Tampa this morning, I realize that vacation does not need to mean that I take a week off from my dumbbells and the gym. I could in theory go to some strange club chain and use their equipment if opportunity presented.
This should not be construed as worry or concern about trainer J moving on to his next great professional adventure. As he told me very early in our training journey that part of his job was to create gym independence, to get me to the point where I knew enough about exercise to go forth and thrive on my own. I can say with direct honestly he has succeeded, with a big, giant disclaimer that I am absolutely not ready to be released into the wild on my own as long as he is training and allows me to stay in the tribe. And I have zero worries of being booted for cause anytime soon.
Life is long and until I am sidelined by health-related issues or injury, I am in this for the balance of my life. And ridiculously excited about the prospect.