Monday morning, training with J. We are starting our review and enhancement of the huffy-puffy versions of Lists right now, so it was a partial review, partial teaching sort of morning.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Driving to work this morning an old Jackson Browne song came up on the playlist and inspired me with today’s title. Because my allergies are killing me this year, and after a weekend spent mostly asleep or stoned on Sudafed, I was actually on the fence about keeping my appointment this morning. My own practices Friday and Saturday morning were very light and struggling through 2 sets of Lists I can practically do in my sleep, so I took Sunday off in hopes of being able to make my session with J this morning. I was feeling more in control of my symptoms by Sunday evening, so I felt good about committing to keeping my training appointment time.
Rarely do I lose sight of the value of working with J, but when I’m sick, all things fall by the wayside. I might fret about them, yet it is surprisingly easy for someone as hyper-responsible as me to justify my rescheduling appointments. If I were sick-sick, I would not want to infect anyone else. And while allergies are not contagious, I prefer not to be blowing my nose and sneezing constantly while meeting with clients. With training, breathing is kind of a critical skill.
All these things were on my mind this weekend while I tried to manage my symptoms and get things under control enough to carry on. Maybe it was the meds, but I started thinking about the domino effect of rescheduling on Monday, then on Thursday, because I like to keep things even. But if I am rescheduling appointments, maybe I should not be in the gym. OMG – what would happen to me if I cancelled 2 appointments in a week and did not go to the gym because I had cancelled appointments? The Very Bad Things hamster wheel began to turn in my mind. In the scenarios created – all things pointed to me parked on the couch with insulin injections and not ever showing my face in the gym. Ever again.
Obviously, an allergy medication induced gym crazy period.
While having my nose and sinuses go crazy is not on my list of fun things to do to pass the time, it is a fact of life that occurs routinely each year. This year is particularly awful, with all the rain we have had making the trees especially robust in their abundance of blooms. While plotting my day last night and assessing my ability to train this morning, I started pondering my journey thus far. J has counseled me many, many times that when I tweak something in the gym, if I am not feeling well, the best thing I can do is to take some time off. I interpret that as a few days, maybe up to an entire week, and mind understands the concept of a beginning, a middle, and an end of such leaves. Mind understands that “time off” from the gym is finite, not a forever and ever, amen, type action.
Yet I still do not have complete confidence that missing too much time does not mean the end of my exercise habits. Maybe in another 20 months … or 20 years. My doubts about myself could be the trigger that keeps me focused on returning to the gym and trying to learn and to improve as the sessions and the practices pile up. Despite being a consistent student about practices and training sessions for more than a year, it still feels like brand new behaviors and habits to me. For the most part, this is fine; it is not making me even more neurotic than I am typically. If anything, it reminds me what success looks and feels like. I know how a day without exercise feels, and I suspect stringing a few of them together when I am not distracted with being on vacation or something similar would make me feel resoundingly gross.
I am starting to identify as someone more disciplined and in pursuit of some greater good, for me personally. Changing habits is not easy, changing lifestyle habits is very hard. Especially when things like diet and exercise are involved, because for me, those are habits of a lifetime. For me, I get into a line and follow it from point A to point B and kinda sorta blindly follow it. Forever.
Except not really. I blindly follow the line from point A to point B; it’s what gets me to the gym every morning. From there, though, I have my different Lists and objectives with each. I am starting to be able to tell that weightier weights might be better, or additional reps with the present weight load.
In the beginning of the exercise segment of my better health quest, I was all about just getting my sorry butt into the gym and doing something. I thought I would rediscover my inner cardio queen as well as build some repertoire of basic resistance training.
With a different trainer, or if J and I had a different type of training partnership, that might have been the outcome. The beauty of being a completely blank slate, there was a lot of room to scribble and paint and create something on it. There is so much about exercise that surprises me, not least of which that I am thriving at it.
My goal is to improve at the craft. The rows. The presses. The push-ups (current bane of my gym existence). And all the other stuff I have learned. But what I have discovered through much of my adventure thus far, I am turning into more a student of the body and of exercise that I am a mere gym hamster … although I suppose I do possess qualities of an average gym hamster.
The way J trains with me, he talks about what the exercise is supposed to feel like, where I should be feeling it and how. Because of my genuine curiosity and interest, he goes into greater detail and demonstrates more frequently, even going so far as to sending me videos of other expert coaches performing the same movements. Days like today, where the focus was on the huffy-puffy, there was no shift way from form, technique, what was working, where I feel it, is that where I am supposed to be feeling it? My ego is mostly separate from the weights we use, so when we switch over to no weight to get the shape of something or work on form, I have no feelings as if I am stepping backward or losing ground. For me, it is all about doing things correctly, wringing the most productivity out of each segment of each exercise. My desire to remain uninjured and continuing to exercise is far greater than my need to use heavier weights or flashier, more badass-feeling equipment in the gym.
Every week that passes I look backwards at where I was and ahead to where I go from here. Every practice day I warm up and then pull out my current pile of Lists to choose my List of the day, and I methodically go through it until I finish the recommended sets and rep ranges, run out of time, or fall flat with my energy stores. Rarely anymore is it lack of focus or inability to connect with the work, something I only realized last Friday and Saturday when I simply ran out of energy and could not push through and force myself to do more.
And I can give myself a pass on that. I can accept that sometimes allergy and physical illness happens and impacts my ability to do what I should be doing. I am learning more and more that the shoulds need to be excluded from my better health quest. By now I know what needs to happen, I need to be in the gym regularly, I need to pursue a healthier diet.
But just like my body is different from others, my needs for exercise and for proper nutrition are going to vary as well. It has been quite a slog to that point, acceptance of that epiphany a long time coming. I still do not have a full catalog of the “just right” balance between diet and exercise, yet I am on the right track and have been for more than a year. I remind myself that if I can walk away from training every week with the same good feeling and in a same or similar positive frame of reference week after week, I am doing well.
Before this, most of my exposure to regular exercise was long distance running, biking, and weight training for bulky physiques. As I recall it when I was around it fairly routinely, the latter took a lot of discipline with diet and significant hours in the gym moving lots of weighty weights to and fro. And I have long known that is unlikely to ever be an interest or pursuit. The nice thing, though, is that it need not be all or nothing. I do not have to choose to be strong or to be weak. I can choose to be fit on my own terms, in my own ways, and blaze my own trail getting to that point.
Occasionally I have to step back and realize blazing my own trail in fitness is exactly what I am doing, day after day, week after week. Fitness is not found only in the magazines and in the more sculpted, perfected images we see online. Every recap I write I seem to have to remind myself, pinch myself almost, that I am moving along and making progress, that the gym hamster I have become is so very different than the earlier version of me who stepped through the gym doors in 2015.
I look through the many challenges on Pinterest (typically on my way to find a cool quote or new recipe to try) and the latest, fastest, easiest program to build a better butt. I glance at the pretty pictures accompanying the diets and exercise plans. Once, I may have felt despair about the process, about my inability to stick with a program long enough to make it work. Now, I feel like a tourist having a look at the drive-through menu at the nearest quick and easy cosmetic surgery clinic.
Nothing in better health happens quickly or easily. Nothing in better health comes without some hard work and sacrifice. My mindset, like a computer’s operating system, needs periodic upgrades and enhancements to keep me on the better health path. I have missteps and experiments gone awry. But I feel surer that I am trying and putting forth honest effort toward my objectives.
Fundamentally, one of the things I barely allowed myself to hope for would be my tendency to lose faith in myself and give up too soon. Or to expect some level of perfection that no one can achieve.
Maybe today I get to cross fear of that failure off my to-do List.