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.
The way days and work have been running lately, I get half the recap posted on Monday and the other half on Tuesday. Despite references to “today” as if it were still Monday, it is actually Tuesday when I am finishing and posting this section.
Huffy puffy – goodness, how could I forget we were venturing back into the land of huffy puffy? But it is glorious, because I am not thinking so much huffy puffy pacing during the course of work so much as I am about each individual exercise on the List and making it better. Plenty of huffy puffy breathing going on even without focus on the pacing.
While I always prefer to feel confident about what we are doing – like I am mostly there on the basic premise and J is not having to reinvent the wheel – new stuff is like a heady new drug slamming into my system. I like the way it sinks into my mind with the individual steps that build one by one into something new and exciting. I am evolving into such a fitness nerd.
I have so much fun in training sessions. I mean, seriously, it’s a highlight of my weeks. Trying to explain this to friend J yesterday, about how it is almost a stimulating intellectual discussion of how body works. Not any body, not most bodies, my particular body in a given set of circumstances. And I have become so comfortable with the limitations that I have to work with right now, limitations that could be forever things or are perhaps boundaries that dissolve as I become more skilled or stronger. I no longer feel handicapped or special needs or incapable in negative ways. Because I try to do all I can do, and sometimes it works, sometimes not yet, occasionally it’s a probably not ever.
The training partnership is a bit of a mysterious thing, and it has more depth than I would have suspected or expected when I first embarked on this journey. There is an element of trust that J is being straight with me, that he is not going to lead me down a path of undesirable consequences. It is the undefinable quality that has allowed me to embrace a willingness to try new things without anxiety or fear. Thinking about it as I started this section of the recap, I realize it has been a long, long time since even a flicker of concern about how I might look to the outside world in my efforts. In the earliest days of gym crazy feelings, appearance was a huge handicap on the road to success. I have literally forgotten what it’s like to wonder what other people might be thinking about what I am doing or how my efforts appear to their eyes. Concerns about being fat, awkward, unattractive, insincere in my efforts, or even whether or not I belong in the gym – all that negativity is a distant speck in my rearview. And I must say, it is a both a liberating and powerful reflection. I am free to try new things J is trying to teach me and to not immediately succeed. I am free to practice, stop, run through it again more slowly, break it down into pieces and parts, or file it away for future sessions to ask more questions. Concern about what other people think is not something that occurs to me anymore.
On the tail of that train of thought, if I am not competing or caring about the opinions of others, I have no need to be insecure about my progress. Staying focused and working hard at learning and improving form and technique are measures in and of themselves. Being happy, content, satisfied with my progress, even when it is not measured by conventional standards of goals met or metrics surpassed, is worth more to me than any amount of weight lost or strength gained. I have fallen in love with the process of exercise in and of itself, and that good feeling is not at all based on any physical gains I achieve from it. That’s something kind of special for someone who began hating exercise in all its forms.
Mental and emotional balance aside, I am doing so much better with my physical balance as well. I still struggle with 1-legged everything, but I do better with it now. Outside the gym, I do not trip nearly as much. Far from perfectly graceful, I am no longer the clumsy ox at my starting point. Part of that is my better physical ability, part of it is my overall confidence. All are big benefits of working at the process in a consistent way.
What We Did
A1 Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
A2 1-arm DB Row
A3 Plank off Bench w/: step-outs to kick-backs
B1 2-DB Romanian Deadlift
B2 Flat DB Chest Press
B3 Stability Ball Passes
C1 1-arm DB Snatch
C2 Lying Longwise Dumbbell Pullover
C3 Seated Overhead DB Triceps Extensions
C4 Band Horizontal Choppers
How It Felt
While I still don’t love the dumbbell Bulgarian split squat – with or without the dumbbells – going through them today was like learning a whole new exercise. J has been coaxing and coaching me to go lower, to get the lead leg almost parallel to the floor kind of lower, and finally today I believe the cueing has gelled enough that I am finally getting with the program. I have been proficient, even competent, but focusing on the rear/elevated leg and letting it relax and be light as it bends and I drop down seems to transform it for me. Suddenly lead leg, when I am driving upward again is from the heel rather than the whole foot. Rib tuck is staying in place. I am feeling the lead leg muscles work more fully. While not easier – not doing them at all is the only thing that would make these easier – it suddenly makes a lot more sense to me. Cha-ching! Coin drop moments today.
I do love the 1-arm dumbbell row. I have spent so much time working at these, thinking about whether I am pulling through my shoulder or using my arm – sounds strange, I know, but that’s always first and foremost in my mind. There is this trance-like state once I get started of pull weight, lower weight, pull weight, lower weight that is very soothing to my nervous system. We used a 30 lb. dumbbell and I did fine, other than remembering to not straighten elbow completely at the bottom. I marvel that I have gotten strong enough to wield a 30 lb. dumbbell with relative ease. My forced graduation to the big boys room, where they keep the 35 lb. dumbbells, may happen sooner than I expect. Because no way am I hauling a pair of those bad boys up and down the stairs because I’m too much of a scaredy cat to claim my own bench in that area.
For the plank off bench with step-outs to kick-backs, we started with mini bands around the ankles and then switched to a more lat focused by gripping the bench more tightly. Makes the rib tuck more pronounced, and until we got to the bench gripping aspect of it, I would not have believed how much a difference in made in the hip mobility/flexibility aspect of it. Legs do not step out that far to the sides or kick back up as high as they do when lats and back are not held in a tight formation. The feeling in the abs is different, stronger, and I like that very much. Still not a big plank fan, but I like this newest tweak.
Romanian deadlifts – how far I have come. I love looking back through the many months to getting started, remembering how strange the hinge felt, quizzing J via text exactly how this was supposed to work. That was with the tiniest of kettle bells – the baby bell, as I still refer to it. Today I was using a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells to perform the RDLs, and I enjoyed the sensation. New thing to these (and maybe other exercises) – pretension before standing up straight, but start that pretension just before reaching bottom of the bend. It went much more smoothly once I figured out the timing of the pretensioning.
The new method of pretensioning was very much on my mind with the flat dumbbell chest press. That and the upper back arch – my latest exercise obsession. I have a better understanding now of the pretension, when to start at the end of the lowering the weight and before the upward press and not straightening elbows to lockout. We did the first set with a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells, first time ever, and it went surprisingly well. I was super proud of myself, and after that 8 rep set (all I could manage), the 25 lb. set we dropped down to felt like a nearly perfect weight for the 12 to 15 rep range. I have come a long way since the very early days.
We tried the stability ball passes on the bench and for the most part it works well. Except I seem to have a scooch problem – the reach up to pass the ball from hands to feet seems to scooch me down the bench just a bit. I will try it again sometime, but for today we moved off and onto a mat on the floor. These are not horrible, bad, or terrible. Mostly they are a reminder that I need to get busy pursuing my abs List more frequently. (Written as if I am on the couch eating bonbons with great swathes of my time.)
Learned a new exercise today – the 1-arm dumbbell snatch. Before J had taught me the snatch-like exercise that included a front raise rather than this version with something more like an upright row. So we go from a squat to the upright row to the dumbbell overhead. Watching J demonstrate this with a 25 lb. dumbbell in hand and then have him tell me that he usually does these with a 50 or 60 lb. dumbbell … hmmm, a wow! moment. After J demonstrates with fluidity and grace, I feel like chaos robot in comparison. But onward – it’s new and I cannot expect to be even close to as good right out of the gate. Right now for me, this is a series of steps – squat, upright row, lift dumbbell overhead, bend arm to bring weight back to shoulder, drop back to squat – lather, rinse, repeat. J it looks like one fluid, explosive movement. For the most part I have the series of steps down. Once I retrain mind to upright row rather than front raise, I will be golden. Until that happens, I will be patient and not berate myself when I revert to autopilot and front raise instead.
The lying longwise dumbbell pullover is one of those exercises that I just go until my arms give out. Maybe it’s 8 reps, maybe it 22 (a record high). But not so much that they are easy so much as familiar and I am aware of how sneaky the build of fatigue on my arms and shoulders. That is part of the challenge for me anymore – see how many reps it takes before I burn out each set.
Second new exercise of the day was the seated overhead dumbbell triceps extension. With a 25 lb. dumbbell. Pretty amazing, once J showed me how to hold the darn thing before hoisting it over my head. Visions of it falling directly on top of my head danced briefly through my mind while trying to figure it out. But once I overcame that obstacle, it worked surprisingly well. I have watched others in the gym do this, and I could feel it working both the triceps and flexing the additional flexibility and strength in my shoulders. Only drawback: ponytail maintenance. Must remember to either braid ponytail or tuck it in the stretchy to keep it from becoming a tangled mess.
Band horizontal choppers are okay, but I like them on the cable machine better. I can still feel my obliques, though, so I guess I am doing a lot right.
Practices Between Now and Thursday
Today was lower body day, my favorite lower body List. I just got a new set of mini bands that are insanely more powerful that I remember the others being like. Since we are doing huffy puffy on Monday and Thursday, I will be pursuing body part splits the rest of the week.
Wednesday will be upper body of some sort, possibly the FreeMotion machine if it’s available. With the new pretensioning stuff fresh in my mind, I am eager to apply it to other body parts as well.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Find them here. My final thought from the day: