Italicized text was previously published in PT-18.1: We *heart* review days.
Thursday morning, review day with J. For sure, I am loving the way we structure our weeks and our training in this splits review series. There is something to be said and gained with each review, yet on Thursdays it is far more free-wheeling and fun than when it is a teaching day with lots of questions, lots of trial and error, lots and lots of “feeling” may way through the exercise. Today was definitely more a let’s review, let’s practice what we know, let’s iron out a few kinks and
bad less desirable form habits I have adopted.
My favorites List grows longer every passing week. While I still prefer my other lower body List just a hair more than this, there is so much I like doing on this List it is a very close call.
Where in my mind I feel like a slacker with regard to my pursuit of exercise, I actually know this to be only mildly true. My self-talk is so much less abusive these days, but on one or two things it might be mildly uncomfortably true. Some exercises I enjoy a lot less than others and therefore naturally do not put forth the same effort as I do things I like or love. Those are things where I must put forth concerted effort to make friends and convince body is it a good idea to do these things correctly and to the fullest extent possible. Lateral lunges – all of them – are on that dubious list, along with posterior reaching lunges, and now stability ball hamstring curls. I have overcome worse things in my better health quest.
While it is not on today’s List anywhere, I was in the gym Wednesday night doing a bonus practice and had opportunity to do a couple of sets of my arch nemesis, the push-up. My friend J is recovering from a serious illness and is an avid follower of my better health quest. He tells me – mostly jokingly – that I am probably stronger than he is right now, but at least he can still out push-up me. Makes me determined to get better at these so I am not a complete embarrassment in this particular, narrow regard. I am slowly improving, but they are still a huge challenge. Maybe they are permanently in the arch nemesis spot?
I am starting to have a sense of not so clumsy, not quite as imbalanced. My adventures with fluffy cuffies have me feeling stronger and more graceful in my kickback and single leg pursuits.
Not sure how I feel about the squat machine, particularly when compared with the leg press downstairs, but I am enjoying the adventure of learning the different ways I can work my legs by moving my feet on the platform.
Some muscles and muscle groups are easier to “feel” that others. Trying very hard to pretension working muscles and sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out what is supposed to be working when. Really glad J always explains and demonstrates what and where things are supposed to be working.
I love, Love, LOVE review days.
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 my friend. The Freemotion squat machine “high wide” stance is what I am most accustomed to and may have to add weightier weights next time. It is a challenge to figure it out, but today seemed a little lighter than Monday. Not the end of the world as I know it, new baby muscles are not turning to mush because I was not using enough plates on this machine. I am working at feeling my way on the hip bend contraction part, because I wonder if my squats are deep enough, low enough, enough enough. I have to review rep ranges, but in my mind I am thinking 20, minimum. This is based almost exclusively on the downstairs workout where we do 5 sets of 20 on the leg press.
When I speak of undoing
bad less desirable habits I have acquired, I am thinking of the stability ball reverse hyperextension. The teeter-totter effect is starting to fade, in that I am now thinking “down pushup” on endless loop while doing these. Working hard at the feet elevation and trying to decide feet together, feet slightly apart, going with what feels right in the moment (typically feet together) and holding position at the top for a second. Once I get a better handle on these, I will feel a lot better about them. Right now, I am just overthinking it through the entire series and counting reps.
We do a fair number of squats with this List, and next was the Freemotion squat machine “Low Narrow” foot placement. With all the exercises on this List, I am trying to remember to pretension the working muscles. Particularly this stance – it seems harder. Where I feel it most is in the front of the thigh and it’s nearly impossible for me to feel like I’m pretensioning that area. Instead, I am just trying to pretension the whole flutes-quads area and hope that includes the targeted area. Since they are burning like a funeral pyre after I step away I think the point is being made about the difference between the high wide and low narrow stance. Kind of glad J broke these up into 2 different blocks or I might never remember to pursue the low narrow.
There are exercise that are fairly standard yet on Lists that do not get reviewed for extended stretches. A couple of these exercises are kind of standouts because I know there are questions lingering, but if they are not on the List of the day during session, they might not get asked. Such is the case with the stability ball hamstring curl. To be perfectly transparent, these are so not on the favorites list. They are not in the nemesis stable either, but they are kind of blech. Maybe there is a new classification of exercises brewing – the Dread Pirate Roberts list? (Reference from The Princess Bride.) Anyway, not a huge fan of these, but like everything I dislike, they are effective. Seems to me the distance between reviews makes it easier for me to conveniently forget that last kicker that makes these most effective, when you are supposed to dig the heels in and draw that ball in toward the rear another inch or two. If we are not reviewing, I can tell myself I am doing my best and my legs or body just does not have that extra inch or two in it. But of course it does. When J’s standing there observing and cueing the “dig heels into the ball” I find that extra inch or two and feel it all over my hamstrings. This is why I pay J the not-big-enough bucks to teach and remind me how to get the most out of every exercise. Especially when I would be kind of happy to go to sleep on that little extra measure. Ugh. More practice is required on these.
Lots of things I do like on this List, and among the more enjoyable, satisfying exercises is the 1-legged glute pushdown (via the assisted chin machine). Left leg wants to lag and not lift as high, but now that I am aware and watching it, I do find this one really enjoyable and I can do it competently. Plus, I am using 120 lbs. for the pushdown on a machine with a 160 lb. maximum – kind of awesome. But it makes me wonder precisely how this helps when doing assisted chin ups or pull ups. If you need more support to lift yourself up do you use more weight for displacement? So if I weigh 200 lbs. and did max on the machine (160 lbs.), does that mean I am only pulling up 40 lbs.? I don’t do chin ups or pull ups, assisted or otherwise, but it occurred to me earlier thinking about the machine and has me thinking that I need to read the instructions next I am using this machine.
Not sure how I feel about the adductor machine, except I can never stop using it for an extended period or it will hurt a whole lot when I come back to it. I like this paired with the 1-legged glute pushdown, because it’s like my whole glutes and thighs are being worked in unison from the different machines. After our session was over J and I were chatting and he was tinkering with mini bands. Sit down, put one around your legs just above the knees and then use the adductor motion – almost the same sensation as using the machine. Wowy new breakthrough I came home and showed to M, since he is recovering from a groin pull that could eventually benefit from such an exercise.
Feeling pretty good about the cable straight-leg glute kickback these days. We were using the Freemotion machine and not the regular cable machine, so no mirror to get a quick glimpse of my leg moving, but I can feel it in my glutes and know my range of motion is better than when we began this type of exercise. We have experimented with different angles on this one – from hinged with upper body nearly parallel to the floor to a more 45 degree angle – but today I forgot to check in and see if I have any strong preferences and went for the parallel hinge. All good, but I am still an exercise nerd who likes to have a better understanding of how things work.
After months and months as arch nemesis and what seems like even longer than that with concerted practice, the 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift has been much smoother and with less weeble-wobble. Monday we had a breakthrough with the side holding the cable – keeping the shoulder back and in place and not letting the cable pull me forward and off balance. Except today, it was the non-cable-holding side that got all loosey-goosey out of the control and dropping and unbalancing me. So J reminds me of the very earliest cue on the RDL – tighten the upper body. Well duh – dim bulb reignites. All went better after that, because kept the free hand/arm back and shoulders in a straight line so there was less weeble-wobble opportunity.
Despite this being a cable donkey glute kickback, mind refers to them as donkey kongs. On individual exercises J makes subtle adjustments sometimes, and I am not always sure if I am faltering on the original and require a modification or if I am not quite getting the shape correctly. Today I was trying hard to focus on lifting the knee in front and kicking heel upward toward the ceiling, but then he said to unbend the knee to more a 60 degree angle from the more 40 degrees where it was when we began. For the most part, I think I have it down pretty well, but I am going by feels and not able to observe what leg is actually doing behind me. Truly, I am getting this and getting there, but it seems bewilderingly more complicated than the straight leg glute kickbacks. But I still like them.
Every time I do the cable outer hip abduction, I am thinking about the angles. I was showing J today about how i figure out where I am supposed to be standing, how much angle away from the cable and then go from there. I can feel them hitting the target on the hip, but it wasn’t always that way. Now that I have the angle of body in relation to the cable, I can relax somewhat knowing my general set-up is at least in the ballpark of correct. The actual doing, I need to remember to lower the weight. Part of the past issues could be I am trying with far too heavy a load on the fluffy cuffy.
Practices Between Now and Monday
Tomorrow I think will be a run-through of either this List or the downstair’s lower body List. While I might typically wait for Saturday to do the lower body split, the number of people in the club and the good ole boys club that tends to gather near equipment I use makes me not want to pursue these choices.
Saturday will likely be another huffy puffy List rerun. I need practice with those in order to feel more confident about it.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
I have written before about how M rarely compliments me, and I have adapted well to this particular personality trait. If I want to know what he thinks about something related to me or to help me decide, I ask. Of course, I have also adapted to the idea of him saying something I do not necessarily want to hear or may not receive as especially flattering. Cost of productive marital communication.
J and I have had this discussion a few times, and I always marvel at his level of confidence that makes compliments an almost extraneous part of his life and world. Which in an earlier format of our interactions would make me exceedingly uncomfortable. I am not prone to insincere flattery or shallow statements to make people feel good, but if I like, appreciate, feel grateful for, or some positive emotion to be named later for service and help received I tend to express it openly. Because I do not like to simply point out the shortcomings when those happen. Or whine, complain, fall on the floor in a full-on tantrum routinely (not yet happened, but life is long and big box gym chains can drive people to do the damnedest things) and without any positive ballast offset. Fair and balanced is far more effective in building positive relationships of any sort. Including with my gym at large; J and I are fine. The rest of the chain, we have our struggles.
It comes to mind today because I am having my own little streak of positive self affirmations and increasing confidence about my ability to improve. In my head, this is HUGE. Also in my head, from the negative girl containment center, come whispers that I am an egomaniac waiting to happen. My response to that is kind of novel and new for me as well: what do you mean, waiting? It has already happened. Said that to friend J earlier today and I think he might have been sucking a valve laughing so hard.
Other than my potentially out of control ego, what is very exciting to me is hearing the progress of other tribe members who have been working at their exercise journeys far longer and yet are still making discoveries and having breakthroughs. I am ridiculously excited by stories like that, because while I have zero worries about running out of things to learn or ways to expand my fitness horizons, it’s nice to hear it actually happens to other people.
The adjustment to the remodeled spaces continues. For the most part, it is not terrible and offers up some new open space and possibilities for me personally. On the other hand, things are chaotic, equipment is here, there, everywhere – it offends the planner in me. But not my issue to resolve and there are plenty of members willing to take up the mantle of complainer-in-chief. I do miss the A-frame TRX set-up we had downstairs, and having never seen anything like the metal box we have now I could not envision anything so different. But now that the metal box is part of my reality, I am choosing to adjust my expectations and acceptance of what I cannot change and figuring out how to make it work for me. For the most part that is how to make it work for me when other people are around trying to do the same thing.
This new and improving very zen version of me is a surprise. Of course, it helps that J is my guide and figuring out the order of forthcoming Lists is more his headache than mine. As it is right now, my upstairs Lists are manageable. Everything I like and love about them remains in the general vicinity of access. And I will not be at all surprised if they are not done rearranging the equipment. It is difficult to develop new routines after nearly 2 years of being in the same place week after week for the start of our training sessions. It has only been a week and we are creating new habits and behaviors. What makes it difficult is that we had no problems with the former habits and behaviors.
With all this change in my home gym, it has occurred to me to pull on my big girl capris and test drive my Lists in another club, just to see if I can manage on my own in new surroundings. At the moment, though, that particular pair of big girl capris are in the laundry. I need to spend some more time thinking about it and contemplating the ebb and flow at other clubs and considering the time of day with the least amount of traffic. In other words – nope, not quite ready to go forth and experiment so brazenly. It seems a sure-fire path back to my gym crazy.
Besides, I have a new issue to navel-gaze contemplate: intensity.
My experiment this week with the peripheral heart action (PHA, aka huffy puffy) List has me wondering if consistency of practice is adequate. Do I need to be closer to perfect with rep ranges and sets before evaluating my intensity? Am I an intensity slacker? Makes me laugh, because anyone I trust in this regard will tell me consistency trumps intensity. But what about when you are mostly in the groove with the consistency? Is it then time to turn our attention somewhere new?
Not sure I want or am ready to know just yet, and it brings me full circle back to my original thoughts about compliments and asking for what I want to know. I find my ponderings have less to do with reassurance that I am working hard enough at this as much as curiosity as to whether I should be somehow working smarter at it. Since J and I are both satisfied with the progress and ways I train, I am going to leave the thoughts here as another avenue I explore when my mind is left to its own devices. I will get better with the huffy puffy, but I did not do badly after a month or not practicing that series of Lists. Lungs will toughen up just like other muscles.
My curiosity and interest in level of intensity with regard to exercise also comes about from the 27 day fat loss program participants and their focus on exercise efficiency. For many of them, it seems to be about lifting the heaviest weights possible for the shortest amount of time. I respect that, yet I also know it is a very individual pursuit. Lifting lighter weights for more reps and sets is working for me, and I walk away happy with my effort even if I have to allot 90 minutes to 2 hours daily to get it done. From where I sit, that offers more opportunities to refine my form, to ensure my exercise “shapes” look and more importantly feel right to me. My mind says that 5 heavy reps offers little room for error or experimentation or learning from my mistakes. While this could be just be a “style” difference, I wonder if those who lift heavier for shorter rep ranges just have to master good form more quickly by default. It is not a debate I want or plan to enter; I do not feel informed enough as yet to be able to defend my thoughts and opinions in a fact or personal experience based way.
The beauty of my better health quest? I have a village of advisors willing to help filter out what is important, what is not, what is completely irrelevant to me, where my attention is best focused. And right now, I am having way too much fun with my Lists and daily pursuits to want to change just for the sake of efficiency. For the past few weeks, I have even added a Wednesday night practice just for the additional thrills of a low-pressure, do-whatever-I-want practice and to socialize with another tribe member when we are able to coordinate schedules and meet up to work together.
Writing this section of this post, I realize I might be using “intensity” as too broad of a term, that perhaps I am thinking of it as weightier weights, fewer reps when I actually mean pushing myself harder with the weights and rep ranges I am presently using. Not sure, actually. I do know there has been some overlap between the weightier weight thinking and the huffy puffy List. At the end of this journey down the rabbit hole, I am pretty sure that not much will change in my pursuits, except maybe an extra huffy puffy List each week. Maybe. If I go my usual route of parceling Lists out to cover body head-to-toe as evenly as possible, it would be 2 each of upper/lower/huffy puffy, with a mostly-for-fun play days on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. What can I say? I like structure.
And if my system and List rotation is not broken, no need to continue my quest to overthink it or tinker with it much further.
Today, this week – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Finally, we got into a brief discussion about gym rat-hood. I dislike rats – big, ugly, creepy creatures, and while I am most definitely skipping down that pathway, I desire a better animal label. Gym bunny sounds like a dilettante, and I also do not fit the stereotypical physical profile that term brings to mind. Gerbil? Guinea pig? Hamster? Gazelle? Musk ox? Bear? Cow – while I love them, gym cow sounds offensive. Same as pig, chicken, goat, donkey, ass, horse – basically farm animals in general don’t fit the profile. More thought is obviously required.