Monday morning, training with J. And I am ridiculously excited and brimming over with enthusiasm for the latest and greatest in PHA (peripheral heart action) workouts. Or as I refer to them: the huffy-puffy routines. Partly because it was a teaching day, partly because I am like a puppy (or a newborn calf, if I am to continue with my leaner cow analogy of yesterday’s post) about exercise stuff and feel something akin to rolling around on the ground with excitement about the next big thing.
We are reviewing, improving, enhancing huffy-puffy Lists. So much fun.
While I say this a lot, it is worth repeating: my state of mental health is so vastly improved. After so many years of shredding myself over every perceived “should” in my life or setback that may have occurred, I have become extremely laissez faire about fitness and exercise. Teaching days, while fun, would result in this internal struggle of “I am so shit-worthless because I cannot do [insert anything here].” Teaching days today are like “oh goody!” and how do I break it down into tiny enough bits and pieces to learn and then figure out how to use each piece to put it together at a whole.
I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed of requiring review, or requiring adjustment or correction to my technique. Typically for me, pain of any sort is an big giant red flag that I heed. If something hurts, I stop. If something hurts sharply, I cannot stop quickly enough. But I am a curious Jane; I will put down the weight, break down the steps, and go through them slowly until I figure out what I am doing and where I am going wrong. If it seems really troubling, I make a mental note to ask J next session. Or I pick up the phone and text about the problem. But that happens less than and less frequently as the months have passed; my ability to problem solve is improving.
There will come a time when I figure out the huffy-puffy pacing and am more capable of conducting myself for the whole hour plus in pursuit of Lists. I am pretty pleased with my progress in this regard and the ways the road stretches out in front of me. At least my lungs no longer hurt anymore afterward, and I do believe this is because I am improving and not because I am failing to work hard enough.
Working hard enough – big score for me is recognizing that I am the decider on this. My body, my health, my decision on how hard (or not) to press forward and to try. For the most part, I feel as if I have found a good balance with this. I go to the gym consistently, I rotate and go through my Lists, I improve in form, technique, strength, competency, proficiency. Kind of a big deal for me, to judge myself as good enough and trying hard enough. Not every day is perfect, and not every day is my very best effort. But I don’t have time to waste a time playing at fitness, and my curiosity and interest in the subject expands by leaps and bounds every day that passes. I am energized by my exercise and fitness pursuits and inspired to keep going every day, to keep trying to perfect my form and become better at this stuff. In my books, I am working plenty hard.
On Friday, J made the final payment on his student loan debt, rendering him 100% debt free. Yay J! But he made an interesting analogy about getting out of debt and improving health through more exercise. The debt itself is the correctable health issue with better choices, the regular exercise a payment toward the debt principle, and the interest is the ongoing accumulation of poor lifestyle choices. Buckling down and making regular payments toward the debt (exercising consistently) reduces the interest accruing (continued compromised health) toward the actual debt (correctable health). Debt free, in this analogy, would be improved management of the compromised health condition. Now, instead of making debt payments, you pay yourself first by continuing the exercise to maintain good control and management of a lifestyle-related health condition. While not the most perfect analogy, the accountant in me loves this and completely understands the objectives of why I keep going on my better health quest.
What We Did
A1 Front Squat to Overhead Press
A2 Bent-over DB Row
A3 Alternating chopper sit-ups
A4 Otis ups
B1 DB Walking Lunges
B2 Bench Pushups w/ DB Handle Assists
B3 Squat to ball slams
C1 Kettlebell swings
C2 Bench Triceps Dips
C3 Lateral lunges with bicep curl
How it Felt
It has been awhile since we trained with this List, and it certainly showed in the front squat to overhead press. Nothing terrible, except squats usually have the dumbbells held at the sides, this one starts with them held at the shoulders. No harm, no foul – I managed to get my mind back in line and was pretty quickly back into the rhythm and routine with the hip crease of the squat to the tall-tall shrug at the top of the overhead press. I remain mildly obsessed with squat form and how low do I go and is tailbone tucking (no, not even close). But all good. Worse things in life and in training than forgetting how to start an exercise. If I remembered everything perfectly there would be no need for review sessions, and I love review days.
Still love the bent-over dumbbell rows. With a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells no less. For the most part I have a pretty good grasp of these, except maybe the rounding down of back at the bottom – not 100% sure I was doing that before we got started. But by the time I walked away from these today, I was definitely doing better on the back form with these. Pull from the shoulder, and I am trying very hard to ensure I am pulling around and back. The tiny pause at the top is so miniscule that you don’t even have to blink to miss it, but I am thinking about it every time I do these and trying very hard to make myself implement it. Unsuccessfully for the most part, but I will get there.
Last week sometime I mentioned in passing that I should pay more attention to my abs List. Over the weekend, I shared a meme with J about a woman crying, sobbing, breaking up with her trainer after one sit-up. Today, the alternating chopper sit-ups return. Coincidence? I think not. Not the end of the world, because these things are good for me. Just because I am presently not very good at them is irrelevant. Like everything in this realm, with focused practice comes measurable improvement, and if I were smart, I would be doing these a few times per week until I feel more proficient. On the one hand I am plenty smart, but in reality, I have only so much time per day to spend at the gym pursuing a List. Maybe these will levitate to the fill-in List when I have extra time.
Whoever Otis was, I feel he should be kind be chastised for unleashing Otis ups on the world. Abs need work, I knew, but dang – these and the chopper sit-ups make me realize they really need work. While J indicated these should be done with weights in the hands, today was a teaching session and I was just learning and trying to get the essential shape down and went through the sets without added weight. They are still hard. Doing 5 of them per set and I kept thinking these are hard. Not forever kind of difficult, but oh man, I wish these were easier right now. But I am kinda/sorta enjoying the challenge. I
like to think know I have opportunities to strengthen my core and become better at these.
How far I have come with the walking lunges. My habit up until today has been step forward, lunge, stand up straight, do next leg. Today, J suggested eliminating the pause in the middle and to just step forward, lunge left leg, go directly to step forward, lunge right leg, all the way down the 15 yard blue grass patch. And it was fine. No weeble-wobble, which is what developed the habit of pausing in the middle, to ensure I could recapture my balance and set-up for the next one. While we did one set of the 15 yard length, I might test drive these again with and out and back 15 yard length to see how it feels. I am beyond happy about this new turn of events. Lunge anxiety was a real thing; not so much anymore.
My continuing arch nemesis: pushups. Today’s rendition was the bench pushups with dumbbell handle assists, and I give myself modest credit for doing better. However, I also know the improvement is so modest due to very little attention and practice on my part. The world is not going to end, J is not going fire me as a client because I have not advanced past 10 consecutive pushups and even then they are not full-on, lowering myself as much as possible. Mostly it is mind presenting the reality of not just inconsistent practice so much as no practice at all with this exercise of late. That is a fair assessment, and nothing for me to feel guilty about or begin torturing myself with anxiety over. Writing about it here, I highlight my acceptance of lack of progress due to lack of practice. Simple. What is most important to me is prioritized higher in my time management calendar. It is not that mastering push-ups does not remain a priority so much as there have been so many other things that have my attention and are therefore consuming more of my time. But J took a pic of me going through these this morning, so I share with you:
First new item on the List was a squat to ball slam. This is a variation of sorts on the medicine ball chop from a lower body List. What I learned: these are complicated. I got the squat part down, got to the ball overhead part pretty well, but the ball slam part – practice, practice, practice! Seriously, it’s not that complicated to throw the ball down hard – at least it seems like it should not be that complicated – but it kept landing way out in front of me rather than sort of between my feet. By the end of multiple sets of 5, or 6, or 8 attempts at throwing down correctly, I was showing improvement. Like everything complicated, though, it’s a matter of breaking down the steps and mastering them one by one, which in this case is the slam and return to starting squat position. Still, the reigning emotion coursing through my veins? Excitement. I can kinda/sorta/mostly visualize the shape of this exercise, and while my focus is presently on the slam portion, I know there is more to do with the whole up/slam/down. Once I get better at the shape, I will focus on the feels. That’s for Thursday, though, when we go through this again.
After a few months absence, we are back with kettlebell swings. Now, I see others doing these all over the gym. Within the first half dozen sessions with J, we had a conversation about kettlebell swings. I did not understand them and found myself frequently idly wondering if anyone had ever lost control and had a KB swinging through the air and across the gym. While he was kind enough (way back when) to do a quick demonstration of proper form and technique, J told me then it would likely be “awhile” before these would be included in the List rotation. And it was more than a year before he introduced me to them, and they have been spotty since that time. With all that said, it may as well be a brand new exercise for me. I understand the general shape, but they are far more technical than they appear. So we went through several “batches” of these today over the course of 3 sets. Key points for me are keeping knees locked out and hips forward drive the swing, not arms. While he did not say it, my mind says “invisible arms” with the hip thrust and tight glutes to keep it out of the low back. Have a fairly good handle on these. I think. But for this week, I will go through them with J again on Thursday. In the meantime, I will be thinking about it.
While I cannot precisely put my finger on it, I have a new love affair going with the bench triceps dips. Saw someone else doing these recently with their legs straight out in front of them and thought that looked really hard and asked J about it. He said it is technically correct, but for me, knees bent is better for (because of too much temptation to fall out of proper form). But dang – I can feel these bad boys! Keep those shoulders pinned back, go slowly, and feel the burn in those triceps. Love it.
From the dumbbell matrix, we have the lateral lunges with bicep curl. Still not a huge fan of lateral lunges, but working on improving my technique and form if I cannot improve their likeability. Go through the lunge left, bicep curl at top, lunge right. There is a particular rhythm to these; I just have to keep on trying to feel it and not get distracted by the potential for sidestep tipping over.
Practices Between Now and Thursday
Since this is huffy-puffy week, my plan is to pursue last week’s huffy-puffy List tomorrow and an upper body List on Wednesday. There are new things from last week I want and need to practice and cement in my mind. Plus I am reawakened to the possibilities and workload potential of mini bands, so I will incorporate those into a my warm-up.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Switched things up today and provided the meat-and-potatoes of the recap and saving the kitchen sink thoughts for later. Because I was so very excited and eager to jot thoughts on that aspect of the day. I will be back soon with the second half of this recap.
Of late, I have been keeping an eye on Pinterest for good thoughts to share at the end of these recaps. This one encompasses my thought very nicely: