PT-20.1: Velveteen Rabbit

Thursday morning, training with J. As it IS Thursday and we are winding down the review process on this series of upper/lower Lists, one would think we would have less to discuss. The one thinking that thought would be wrong.

I have already started on the other sections of my training recap so no worries this time about not getting it done, but I apparently had A LOT to talk about today and found this section simply exploded, necessitating a split post.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

The primary walk-away thought from today’s session and conversation could be a post all its own.  But then what would I talk about here?

I titled this today because my ponderings are centered around perception – what is real, what is imaginary, what floats in the gray bog surrounding both, and what that matters to me. Where do my values lie and how does that impact my perceptions?

The better health quest is not turning out or evolving the way I timidly, tentatively hoped it might. In fact, it is so much more splendid than that. Maybe I am not so timid or so tentative anymore. Maybe the habits of my professional life are leaking into my personal habits as well. Or maybe the stars and moon aligned in just the right ways to bring me all I needed to enjoy sustainable success this time around. Whatever. No reason to seek out explanations for the why I am pushing ahead, just keep inching my way forward.

But again, this brings me back to perception. From my viewpoint, if this were a series of battles in some war against bad habits and declining health, I am mostly winning and making slow, steady progress. Yet, there are moments of weakness when I think that success and winning are imprecise descriptive terms in this case. In the moments of weakness, I see it more as building a 5000 square foot home’s foundational footprint by placing a cubic inch of concrete per day and taking most of the 24 hour day to do it – that kind of slow, almost imperceptible progress until significant time and effort has passed. The moments of weakness leave me idly wondering if I am fooling myself about my own level of commitment and validity of my aspirations.

I vehemently hate moments of weakness. I should also characterize them more accurately as moments of doubt.

Today, though, is not about doubt; it is more an exploration of my perception that could have me diving down that black hole of doubt and insecurity about my path. No one, especially me, wants that, and without any doubt I can say the fact that I am navel-gazing exploring the ideas and impulses says I’m 1000x better than day 1 of this journey.

While getting ready to leave the house for the gym this morning, I was thinking about my Monday evening practice with my associates. They are good sports about it, and while I currently have bragging rights, I am not horrible to them about it. The lesson was a good one for me, because honestly, these are strapping young lads and the picture of youthful exuberance and health. They play basketball a couple of times per week and lift weights in a more traditional way. I train the way I train, practice what J prepares for me, and working from my List, of course I might have an edge. But still – feels really good to be able to keep up and surpass at my own Lists. If they took me out on a basketball court, I would be standing there trying to remember how to dribble and walk (much less run) simultaneously and likely tripping over the ball, my own feet, or both. The washout would happen within the first minute, guaranteed. As for lifting the way they do, if they put a barbell in my hands I would be looking around the room to ensure no one is nearby to get whacked with it, because the few occasions when I have actually had to move one by myself that was precisely what I did (the looking around, not the whacking people). Maybe they would let me use the little faux barbells, the ones with weights that appear to be elongated dumbbells (maybe they are smart bells?), but even then – I suspect they feel and work differently than my dumbbells.

My point – we are different. Our fitness pursuits are different. And the lesson for me is that in my particular brand of exercise, I can hold my own with my own Lists. I am improving steadily and have no reason to be embarrassed, ashamed, feel behind, or like the special needs tribe member struggling to catch up. Not that I do any longer, but I have had some reservations about working out with others because I might hold them back because of my inability to keep up. Perhaps moving forward I will be less concerned with that, because this is a very individual pursuit, and I can be either working hard to keep the peppier pace or cut my rep range back to stay with them. Neither solution is going to have great impact for an occasional social practice, and I am extremely confident any future endeavor with others will teach me something.

This was not a direct competition thing, although these are lawyers and they do tend to view life from an adversarial viewpoint. In my “winning” the evening they did not lose out to me, and I am farther away than I realized from my former viewpoint that someone winning meant I would be losing, even if I won the day. Mindset was confused and predetermined to find the loser in me in every situation. I could feel inspired and excited for those whose efforts I admired; they and their efforts and abilities are amazing, while me and my own pursuits a big pile of poo in comparison. Direct comparison – not only not my friend, it became remains my worst enemy. Mind is much healthier, life so much happier now that I see someone else achieving a goal they have been pursuing and can feel genuine delight and admiration for them untainted by my own “I suck” feelings. I have my own successes to enjoy and appreciate now, and if I want to feel poorly about myself … well, I don’t. Not anymore. But if I did, I would try harder not to go there again.

Which is something I have been exploring further the last several Wednesday evenings with my friend and fellow tribe member, K. We practice together on some List or another, but frankly for me it is evolves into a light sweat-fest and more about the company and conversation. However, if K needs to get a deeper practice in, I can go light on reps and sets and just hang out while she gets the serious practice concluded. More importantly, it is great for my confidence to practice with someone who is on a similar learning curve of exercise, in the same general age range and level of fitness. We help each other with form issues, and questions do come up between us that we can obtain clarification from trainer J at some point in the future. Most importantly, though, it demonstrates the individual nature of each of us, that bodies not only do not come in a single size and configuration, the range of motion and limitations we may each have must be addressed and accepted individually as well. It is both fascinating and reassuring in the strangest of ways.

While we were working and hanging out last night, another trainer and his client were in the room with us. Nice guy, other trainer whose name completely escapes me for even a first name/initial reference, and K asked me if I noticed how complimentary and encouraging he was with everything his client did – every rep was good, better, beautiful, nice. I had noticed, and we both cracked up about how we are in “praise deficit” with J. If it were an issue, it seems unlikely either of us would still be working with him as we each approach the 2 year point. Honestly, J once remarked that I was a “tank” in the gym and I was hugely flattered. I understood the context of his comment – I had been working at the exercise for awhile, improving, and uninjured. When he does compliment me, even in what sounds on the surface like a very backhanded compliment, it’s a Very Big Deal.

Every training tribe member has different needs, aspirations, expectations for training sessions, and I suspect our perceptions and expectations of results, measures of success may differ greatly as well. I like the other trainer; I was half-listening to his cueing and correcting and felt like he was an okay guy from this particular snapshot. But in my heart I doubt I would have been as successful working with him. Like too much correction and adjustment would overwhelm and freak me out, too much praise would initially breed distrust and eventually fall on deaf ears. The balance and structure J and I have created has allowed me to thrive. The “atta girls” are the unexpected glitter bombs that add an extra sheen of luminosity to my journey, but the path is well illuminated without them.

All this adds fuel to my bonfire of thinking on perception.

I have been test-driving the 27 day fat loss prescription program and finding that the first week did not work for me. This is not me saying alluding to it being a bad diet or a bad kick-start to healthier eating; this is me saying it did not work out for me.

However, in my default way of thinking that I am Jane Average in the world, an eating program not working for me is the same as saying that I have failed at the eating program. The witch hunt is then on for all the ways I managed to sabotage my efforts for success. I am not doing that to myself this time. I am instead evaluating it as rationally and unemotionally as possible and figuring out where I go from here.

In a nutshell, the first, very strict, very low calorie week of this plan made me feel terrible. Physically awful in comparison to my present “new” normal day, normal week. It was not that I was hungry all the time, but the headaches and daily low blood sugar events were neither fun nor making me feel good about the effort. After 4 days, I threw in the towel. Because quite honestly, chasing the scale is not worth the self-loathing toward my body that was beginning to take hold. I have worked hard at eliminating the majority of my negative self-talk, and this eating plan gave me the sinking sensation that sticking with it longer seemed more like a prescription for getting worse about negative feelings toward body rather than losing fat and improving the overall version of me.

For someone as active as I have become, 1200 calories per day seems inadequate. I still do not quite understand why the blood sugar events kept overcoming me, but I think the protein shake I routinely down before practice or training sessions, a piece of fruit afterward (about 350 calories total), and then another protein shake and piece of fruit for lunch was too little fuel for me. Weight loss? Sure, about 2 lbs. The cost? I felt like crap. I went from being happy, engaged, and energized throughout my days to mildly miserable, less focused, and exhausted. Part of it is my sleep disruption (allergy medicines, March is an emotionally hard month), but mostly I just felt like a paler version of my usual self. I am not the most patient person on average, but my snappish, short-tempered behavior was appalling to me. It was primarily directed at M, but there were a few count-to-10 moments at work that I should have breezed through on autopilot.

Not good.

It made me reevaluate my values. Do I want to get back to chasing the scale? Do I want to become that obsessed and neurotic? What is my objective with this process?

What I value, what brought me to the better health quest was better health. I am largely on the right track, to the point that I feel no dramatic intervention or overhaul is required. I do not want to be closed-minded about opportunities presented from people I trust, yet I need not brand myself a failure when those opportunities do not work for me. While exercise was dreadful at first with its painful lessons, I stuck with it and I improved. However, exercise was not an all day, every day activity or process. It had a beginning, middle, end within the span of 90 minutes, and that was that for another 24 hour stretch. This eating plan while its first week is severe, is mostly working as described and perhaps the misery and painful lessons will subside. However, the cost of that first week seemed far too steep, even for only 7 days, and I mourned the loss of my usual positive outlook and good feeling about my days. I remain committed to giving it a fair shot for the next 3 weeks, though. I have been assured the first week is the roughest, the second week we drop the lunch meal protein shake and eat a sensible, higher protein, lower carbohydrate meal. I started a few days early and already feel much better with this style of eating. My system responds far more favorably to actual food at lunch than merely drinking a shake and eating a piece of fruit.

This experience has me thinking about the why of it all. Weight loss is always a nice concept, but actually working actively toward it takes a level of commitment I am presently unable to care for or about. For me, making small changes is a better strategy – one I will begin to pursue in April. Old hurts and grief flare in March every year, and I am completely unrepentant for feeling incapable of making healthier choices and having the stamina to see them through right now. Where I once would thrash myself horribly for being such a weak-willed person, I now accept my limitations and look forward to pressing reset on April 1. I am still in the gym 6 or 7 days per week, some days twice per day. I am still making reasonable meal choices. I am not doing anything crazy with sugar although I loosen my bands of willpower and indulge if the mood strikes or opportunity presents itself. No apologies, no regrets; we do what we must to survive challenging periods in life.

It comes back to perception – was I kind of dumb for failing to anticipate my personal March madness? Possibly, but oh well. As late as this time last year, I would judge myself harshly, see my inability to handle my mildly miserable, less focused, exhausted state as failure. This year, I see being even mildly miserable, less focused, and exhausted as an unacceptable state for living my life when mostly happy and engaged is a viable alternative available to me. Not sorry to say I am not much of a masochist.

I am choosing to see myself in a good, healthy, thriving place. I will not win awards for weight loss, there will be no big kudos from my peers in the group for my efforts. But I no longer require or crave that sort of affirmation, and I have put forth honest effort that did not work out as hoped or anticipated. My progress may be slower, or not happen at all. I am enriched by the opportunity to learn new things, to experiment with different ways.

In the online group someone asked if I felt like the few days would make a difference, because abandoning the first week’s program after only 4 days seemed like an incomplete effort and sticking it out for the full 7 days might yield a different result. From the way it was worded, I perceive they feel I am giving up too soon and were trying to encourage me to keep pushing through for the final 3 days. I was not offended or disturbed by the question, because it is a valid one. I responded that the worst consequence for my choice was my potential for weight loss would be slowed, and it is a lifestyle/balance trade-off I accept as a consequence. There will be no whining from me about how stubborn the scale, because I never complain about the scale. Because I do not think much at all about that as a measure of my overall health or progress.

My ego and physical appearance are not what drives me. My overall health is far more important and of highest priority to me. Those are not currently impacted by weight.

For my part within this small group, I really hope for others to succeed at whatever goals or aspirations they have set for themselves and to not feel ashamed or like they have failed if the results fail to materialize in whatever timeframe they may have projected. Bodies do what bodies will do with the input/outgo of fuel and energy. It is not easy to change our eating habits or to try to become more active. It is not my job or my place to judge anyone on their level of effort to reach their goals.

How I feel on session days, on practice days, on rest days – it impacts how I perceive my life as a whole. I love this life that includes regular exercise and pursuit of better form and weightier weights. I love that my understanding has expanded, that I am getting that maybe my form is faltering because the weight is wrong – maybe too heavy, perhaps too light. And as I discovered (again) this morning, I love that writing these recaps every week aid my memory with retaining the things I am learning. While in my job I dislike trainees who ask me the same questions over and over and over again, in the training with J it seems not to matter much how many times I ask the same questions. Taking notes while exercising is impossible, so I write it down now and hope most of it sticks. We were discussing chest flyes this morning, and I think our consensus is that they are just hard. It really doesn’t matter than I have been doing them 6 months or more. It takes as long as it takes for body and mind to get in sync about how to make them happen consistently on demand.

On the flip side, there is this whole library of exercises in my gym bag and a lot of those same exercises in my head that I can actually perform and perform well on demand. I am very, very proud of that.

Perception – what is real, what is imaginary? Today I would say I am very much like the Velveteen Rabbit, once old and shabby, but time and my own ability to love myself and appreciate my efforts to improved and enhance my health is turning me into someone vibrant and real in my own eyes.

Progress. It works in mysterious ways.

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