Italicized text is from part 1 of this training recap post.
Thursday morning, training with J. As has become our habit and pattern we did review of what we went over on Monday. I must say I like this format. Maybe it’s boring for J (unlikely), but for me it reinforces all that I know and fills in some gaps on stuff I only or mostly think I know.
Rib tuck – best. cue. ever. Even if it does sound like some fancy smancy cut of beef.
My determination to not dawdle mostly benefits me more than simply ensuring we finish the List of the day within 60 minutes. It keeps me focused on pacing, even if at times I wanted to go faster and falling out of form. Despite awareness of the clock and time ticking away, there were some enhancements and improvements that made the exercises better or made me understand how to do better.
Maybe there is some conditioning built in to review days, because my legs and lower half feels surprisingly fine from today’s session. While I can tell I have been working my legs, I do not feel like I have overtaxed them in a cement mixer. It’s more the pleasant “I worked hard today” sort of feeling that I typically get from the exercise. Once upon a time I would worry that I did not work hard enough. Today I just think my legs are getting used to the extra stuff I am asking them to do. Progress.
What We Did
Today was review of Monday’s reinvented 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
Back again at the 2-legged leg press machine. As we had a limit on time, we went for 3 sets of 20, but for the third set J increased the weight to 230. Yowza – I felt that. But I was pretty pleased with overall performance and cadence today. My confidence is increasing with this machine and I no longer have to watch the mirror with quite the same focus to ensure I am staying positioned correctly and moving the weight stack low enough. It seems more a matter of pursuing proper peppy speed and getting the blood moving.
The medicine ball vertical chops – rib tuck, rib tuck, rib tuck. Honestly, I think these have potential for the favorites List, once I get the motion down more smooth and solidly. Elongate the spine, shrug upward with the medicine ball in hand and in front. It’s a lot to remember especially when in the midst and trying to actually do the work.
The quad extensions machine is not exactly growing on me unless it is like a case of poison oak, but I’m tolerant because it seems effective. What I really, really want is to get to the point where I’m not fighting so hard against my impulse to just rush through it and get it over with and go slowly enough to feel the contraction yet fast enough so I’m not miserable for an extended period trying to feel the burn in my quads building. Surprisingly it is not the work that harshes any buzz I might have about these so much as that out-of-touch impression that I am not feeling it as much and may therefore be doing it wrong. When the feeling finally set in, it’s like towering inferno sort of burn. But the little professor inside my head says there should be something between barely warm and fiery hinges of Hell going on in my legs. Entirely possible the little professor inside my head will have to accept that she’s wrong.
It seems with all things that are not machine related, I am looking for a baseline “shape” to help remember and put myself into proper form for the movement. While lunges of all stripes have been off and on the List menus for more than a year, it seems what is old is sometimes new again. Dumbbell alternating reverse lunges do not come naturally to me; anything that has me stepping backwards is foreign to me. It was not a big surprise or even much of a disappointment that I got off to a bit of a rocky, unstable start. Then J made 2 small adjustments: turn rear foot slightly inward rather than trying to keep it straight and changed the cue to “elongate spine” to keep upper body tight and upright from the slight bend forward. Occurred to me driving home that this is the shape of right triangle, with lead foot and head forming the right angle part and body rear leg the long side of the triangle. Between the foot turn and the elongate (which works better for me than shoulders back on this one, because of the slight lean forward) I did a lot better, so much so that I am looking forward to my next excursion with reverse lunges to see if my theory about thinking shapes holds.
Trying hard to gain some assurance with the seated hamstring curls machine. Today we emphasized the slight hold at the bottom, discovered my legs want to bounce a bit in that process with our initial weight set, so lightened and had significantly more success. This is another other of those machines with multiple adjustments before getting started, but hopefully with a bit more experience I will not have to have an entire pre-exercise checklist to just go through it.
From now and forever forward, the alternating dumbbell step back to “RDL” hinges will be classified in my head as kickstand RDLs. We have been doing a fair amount of anterior reaches and reach forward type lunges of late, so while this one is a similar shape, the back and upper body are kept stiff versus rounding into the reach-for-the-floor lean. Step back and hinge forward, keep the back straight, keep those shoulder unshrugged and pulled back, and unlike 1-legged RDL the rear foot stays on the ground like a kickstand. In spite of the the step back portion, I am kind of crazy in love with these. I like the way the hamstrings feel, but it also took me so very long to get the hinge thing down that I tend to fall hard for anything that recycles that movement.
Used to be the 1-legged machine hamstring curls was a dreaded event, although not quite as dreaded as the stability ball hamstring curls (still do them, but far from a favorite way to pass time in the gym). This machine, though, requires a certain amount of just-right adjustments to make it work. Plus it took awhile to get to the point of using more than the lightest 10 lb. plate. But now I’m up to 23.5 so there is some progress. More I do these, the more endurance I seem to build in the foot/calf resting on the floor during the exercise. Up until today it’s been a half-and-half set, because my resting calf would cramp or get tired. Maybe I need to wear more heels so I can stay on tippy toe longer? Either way, I am improving in my efforts. Calves while in the stabilizing position will be fine.
Even after all these months, all the other ways I have learned to work my glutes, I still enjoy the challenge and work that comes from mini-band glute kickbacks. While weeks and even months may pass without using them, I love having a set of mini-bands and have utmost respect for how much they add to an exercise. Besides, using them again after and extended absence makes me realize how much fun they are despite the work and challenge the present to the muscles I am trying to work, not to me toppling over in utter clumsiness. It could still happen, of course, but seems far less likely in recent times.
After discovering that there is another adductor machine upstairs on Monday, we were downstairs and the machine there was available so that’s what we used. The one downstairs sits like a recumbent bike, whereas the ones upstairs are more upright. So today I tried sitting more upright in the chair and could definitely feel the difference. Going forward, when I am practicing on my own, I will just go upstairs. Besides, when paired with the mini-band lateral walks, lots more room to roam without running into another member.
Like their sibling above, I am reaping the rediscovered benefits of the mini-band lateral walks. Since this is a side-to-side walk without releasing too much tension on the band, it’s more a hip width than shoulder width apart, which I certainly cannot see and stay upright, so when J mentioned it there was another repetitive “small step, shoulder width” layer to the soundtrack running in my head. Because while doing these, apparently bobbing up and down or side to side is not preferred. Try to stay still and on the same level, so “upper body still, same level, small step, shoulder width” runs in an endless loop through my head as I mosey along down the hallway. Heaven forbid I catch a glimpse of the round top of my shoulder (shoulder caps, J says, and if you develop abnormally huge ones, they are pumpkin patches) and get distracted in my wow! fascination that never seems to erode. Probably that will be when I fall over sideways. Probably I should stay away from mirrors. But still, it’s still neat to realize my shapes have shaped up.
Practices Between Now and Monday
With my particular brand and style of exercise, I’m not sure it matter that much whether I do back-to-back legs or upper body or anything else. Mostly I go by how body feels and what sounds good when I wake up in the mornings. Friday will probably be dumbbell matrix and possibly another leg day with another List. Saturday will replicate today’s workout, maybe. Saturday is tricky with the ebb and flow of people and the equipment consumption.
J had liked a FB post on Tuesday (Valentine’s day) that stated attendance at gyms tended to have a sharp decline starting on Valentine’s day. Intriguing though, so I have been surreptitiously looking around my own club to see if I can discern any change in the ebb and flow of people. Surprisingly, I think it might be true. However, the folks I see on Saturdays are typically the same folks I have been seeing most Saturdays for the last year.
Planning ahead suddenly gives me a vague feeling of unease, as if I may be borrowing trouble thinking about tomorrow and Saturday. But 5 a.m. comes early. I’ll figure it out when I get there if this unease continues.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
I have previously characterized my exercise as “good mood food” and even more strongly believe it to be true. Getting up, getting to the gym, going through List(s) of the day sets a tone for my days that is unmatched by other things in my life’s experience. It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. I occasionally wonder if I was dour and sad all the time before this, because the positive comments and compliments on my outlook have been so kind and flattering. Who knew I needed to or should or could improve that much?
That feels short-sighted to me, though. I was successful, happy, and primarily good tempered before I evolved to where I am now. However, negative girl was in the wheelhouse and the contrast between her influence and my healthier mindset now is pretty apparent. In a conversation with TM (my therapist) earlier this week, we were talking about anger and how I view it as such a negative, nearly shameful emotion. For me. Other people, it seems far more understandable. But when I am upset or I am angry, it takes me to the dark and shame-riddled places that I will never voluntarily visit.
Exercise has become a healthy outlet when I need something more than a mere vent with M or with other close friends. Sessions with TM are always so clarifying, in that he helps me cut through the bullshit and get to the meat-and-potatoes of what is really on my mind that has me dancing around throwing my hands up in the air as if I have no idea. Once upon a time I lived for our sessions, because I continually walked out feeling validated and important; what I think and how I feel were perfectly normal and not weird or funky or dumb, stupid, utter ridiculous. He would always tell me it was within me to feel this way all the time, that I would find my niche that would let me see myself the way others who like and who love me see me. I would smile, nod agreeably, and then discount the living daylights out of his calm and assured assessment of the situation.
In my general fucked-up-ness I was absolutely certain I was an outlier. Because I lacked the discipline or the strength of character or even the baseline intelligence to understand much less actually do the work necessary.
These days, I think about TM sessions past and realize he was right in his assessment and also his practicality that until ready to be open to and embrace the new methods, I would remain blind and oblivious to the benefits. TM – so wise.
I bring all that backstory up mostly because my mind is a jumple of thoughts trying to escape captivity of mind and be expressed here in the blog. But also because I don’t exactly feel that much different than the person I once was. The good mood food every morning starts my day with a success, even if I fell flat on my face (or on my ass, in the case of recent stability ball adventures) pursuing my List of the day. It is testament to my increased comfort and ease level in the gym that I am quite typically relaxed and smiling when I arrive and when I leave the club, rather than the tense resting-bitch-face that I long associated with the gym and exercise of any sort. While I feel more joy just moving body to and fro with more ease and confidence, there is so much lingering good feeling stemming from the changes I have implemented in my life. It is hard for me to want to eat and entire box of chocolate or worse knowing I will be back in the gym the next or worse, training with J. Call it confidence, call it return to common sense values, call it assurance, call it flipper swimming in my brain (aka endorphins) – my need to label it is fading fast. This is my life, my habits, and my way of thinking now. I am embracing it.
But if I have to put a name to it, I would call it hope.
To say that I am broken is like a big warning label that can never be overcome. I have a hard history that I cannot forget and am uncomfortable trying to live with it in any sort of unpacked state. Because of that, I feel that if I am striving to travel a “normal” highway I am always going to be handicapped and limping. Those memories are so profoundly entrenched in my head I cannot forget and forgiveness of the abusive party is a non-starter, which in real ways harms me more. Part of my life’s baggage. But our individual journeys through life are unique, and I do not cling to my broken, victim identity as the primary factors that color and influence all aspects of my life. I am a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a friend, an employee, and an entrepreneur – and so many other things that are not immediately coming to mind. My success within these roles has been hit and miss, some far more stellar and satisfying that others depending on the timeline. But I recognize there is adequate and consistent success within these defining roles to know that I am not the complete and utter worthless failure negative girl wants me believing. Through the years I have learned that I want the defining things about me to be things within my control, not victimhood presented to me because some evil man could do whatever he wanted to a powerless child.
The negative mindset is so crippling. Within that realm, I had stopped thinking at all about my physical appearance. Giving up the fight with the way my body looked and the way I felt, I accepted that I would always be diabetic and some level of less healthy. Giving up on the idea of being anything else gave reason and license to simply not have to explore less comfortable options – like cleaning up my diet and getting more exercise. Even once I started with trainer J and took tentative, baby steps toward becoming more consistent with regular exercise, in the back of my mind I wondered how long I would last this time. My pattern before this was to exercise regularly for a few weeks up to 5 or 6 months and then quit. Completely. I would be tired and miss a day and then be so upset about breaking my streak that I would stop completely. This habit and pattern of quitting too soon directly fuels my obsession with consistency and going to the gym in the same general timeframes on the same days, week after week, month after month. There is huge comfort in predictability of my habits.
This time, maybe I was just more prepared for the message, or my fab trainer just gets me. Being a scary smart and empathetic guy he was and is able to attract and hold my attention long enough to achieve the little successes the bolstered my conifdence. I know it’s not easier this time than the last 10 tries. Small successes, the distraction of conversation directly and less directly related to health and fitness, and a different work/life balance all contribute.
Our session this morning, what I walked away from it with was this huge, satisfied feeling that I worked hard, reviewed hard, and still made good time within our hour. Sometimes I fear that I dawdle too much and waste precious resources within a hard-limit 60 minute timeframe. Today I came into it with the mindset that we WOULD get through the List and the sets, and unless I was way far off the reservation with form, I would not let myself get distracted and stuck in the weeds with the minutiae of this much bend, that much arch, this pace, that pace, the other pace. I gained some new cues and enhancements. I worked hard. I am utterly delighted that the session was fun and educational. And I cannot wait to try it out on my own to see how I fare.
Some days I feel infinitely richer, more successful than others. I am still capable of learning, still able to train body to move and muscles to grow or fat to burn. Thus far I have been very fortunate to have no serious injuries that impact me in my better health quest, and the longer I work at this the more significant it becomes. My admiration for people who have endured injury or been limited by other setbacks is huge, but I am grateful for not having those additional obstacles in my pathway.
And perhaps this is where my renewed sense of hope comes into play.
I always want to be better, kinder, stronger. I do not want to be someone who caves and gives up, gives in, plays the too hard or too difficult cards. As a parent, I have always hoped to be a good example to my kids of hard work and persistence when things got tough. I was not always successful in these things, of course, and I would feel like a single failure on even the most obscure front would be this big wet blanket over anything and everything I ever attempted.
The little successes offer me hope of building, learning, doing more. I see foundations for larger structures now where I once saw only individual pass/fail projects. Better health is not a single component, not a game of winner takes all. Without the healthier mindset and attitude the better health quest and every step forward toward the objective would be an exceedingly hollow victory, because I would not, could not appreciate the benefits of my efforts and hard work. Gratitude has almost seemed an attribute of the meek and the humble, which are qualities I somewhat uncomfortably have adopted in my quest for complete invisibility in life, and therefore qualified myself as almost someone of significantly lesser stature and status than everyone else. No more. Maybe I have to tell myself this 10 or 20 or 100 times a week still, but I do matter, I am not invisible, and I do have impact on those around me.
Patience, while still not a virtue, comes a tiny bit easier in the context of the long game. And the better health quest is my absolute poster child of long game.