PT-34: Wishful blinking

While it is now Sunday and I am less than 12 hours away from my next training session, at the end of 2017 I want a complete set of recaps from my training sessions attended throughout the year. Besides, each session deserves its own recap, no matter how many days it takes to write. I started this on Thursday as I do ever week, but did not get back to it to finish until tonight.

Thursday morning, training with J, speed racer edition. We had a lot to get through doing  a new upper body routine (rather than review of Monday’s List, which takes more time than the strict hour session time allotment today). It was fun. It was zoom-zoom-zoom. and it was very good.

Key Takeaways

The zoom-zoom-zoom pacing is not something I’d want to do every single session or practice, but it is good to experience and to know how it’s done and that I can and will if necessary. And work really hard and with focused intent on pacing. I like that. Maybe this will be a new Thursday theme? In truth it doesn’t matter to me at all. The skills I acquire each and every session apply and can be utilized on so many other Lists as well as life outside the gym.

I am more capable than I realize, yet still vulnerable to depth of muscle fatigue the causes lingering ouchies a few days after the fact. Not terrible and not gym tweaks, just muscle fatigue from lots and lots of stretchy band work at a furious pacing.

Mixing it up works well for me, physically and psychologically. I like variety; I will eventually grow bored if I don’t have enough different variations to Lists. Even doing the same or similar Lists at huffy-puffy pacing works for me as well. Having the library I have now, I could probably get through a good long stretch with just them and variations on weights, rep counts, sets.

What We Did

The speed racer edition of our Thursday went like this:

A1 Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown (4 sets)
A2  Band Speed (3 sets, max reps)

B1 Seated Cable Row or 1-arm DB Row (4 sets)
B2 Band Speed Straight-Arm Pulldowns (3 sets, max reps)

C1 DB Pullovers (4 sets)
C2 DB Overhead Press (1- or 2-arm) (3 sets, max reps)

D1 Flat or Incline DB Press (4 sets)
D2 Band Pull-Aparts  (3 sets, max reps)

E1 Rope Triceps Pushdown (4 sets)
E2 Band Speed Alt. 1-arm Curls (3 sets, max reps)

F1 Low Cable Biceps Curls
F2 Band Speed Overhead Triceps Extensions

How It Felt

What I have found with the neutral grip lat pulldown, it honestly does not seem to matter to me what grip we are using, I have the strongest desire to lean back and not shrug up enough at the top. In this peppy pacing session, I felt myself finally starting catch on the correct ways to do this. Back arch seems key as well as pulling to just below the chin. On the up-shrug at the top. I am getting there. I at least know how it’s supposed to feel and how the up-shrug looks and the last little bit of up-shrugging feels like. After months and months and months of training myself not to shrug, it does not surprise me at all that I have to put forth the same effort to train myself to up-shrug.

I have been doing band row since very early in our training program. We have done them high, we have done them horizontal, we have done them alternating arms, warp speed and normal pacing. This particular Thursday, we did band speed rows standing up straight (I always thought it was knees slightly bent for horizontal version) and both arms. Fast. Peppy, peppy pacing until the arms were burned out. First set seemed fresh and new, lots of reps in me, all about spreading the ribs and chest up and pulling with the shoulders. Second set was trying to remember the cueing and the pacing and fatigue came on much more quickly and powerfully, Third set, I thought my arms were about to fall off completely. Been quite awhile since I burned out quite that way. It was quite gratifying.

We did seated cable rows today (none of the optional 1-arm dumbbell rows). Despite doing cable rows on many Lists and many previous occasions, I seem to finally, FINALLY be getting the lean forward with the shoulders and the pulling back with the shoulders. Maybe I do not practice enough where these appears on the Lists. Maybe I find the big boys’ room still intimidates me. Whatever the reason, the same cues and gentle corrections have continued every single time we visit this cable machine. Slowly, I am learning proper form, but the thing with me, the thing I feel better about and that makes training days so valuable for me, I am learning.

Speedy sets of straight arm pulldowns – exhausting in the best ways. I chug along doing my best to max out my sets and it happens so quickly I actually find myself wondering if I am giving up too soon or if I I am really, truly, that tired that quickly and trying hard to going zoom-zoom-zoom pacing. Yep, faster I go, faster those muscles fatigue.

First of my favorite block of the day – the dumbbell pullovers. We used this fancy-smancy bench in the big boys room that offered a lot more supportive space to put feet up on the end and unrestricted room overhead to move the weight to and fro. Part of the reason these are part of my favorite things is I am realizing how much more range of motion and flexibility I have in my shoulders. When we started I was using a 10 lb. dumbbell and barely able to get it extended overhead. These days, I am using a 25 lb. dumbbell and on some benches the weight it touching the floor from where I am lifting it up and over my head. This must be what happens when one learns to work her arch.

The dumbbell overhead press – today we did these seated in a slightly leaned back chair-like thing that I have seen before yet never known what it was used for. Seated, leaning back slightly, it feels just a little different, like I am working the front of the shoulder a bit more rather than the top of the shoulder. This was interesting, and fun, for me. Little professor that lives inside my head was quite intrigued by it. This little chair-like thing was fascinating in the difference it makes. Sitting or standing, 1-arm or 2-arm dumbbell overhead presses are several times per week; the slight incline made the exercise new and different. Speed of this block makes a big difference.

We did incline dumbbell presses – boom, boom, boom. While I did well with the tempo and pacing, the fatigue made my arms wanter on the upward press portion. But I still feel great about the effort, and especially my how my arch continues to evolve. Cannot recall weights we used – whether it was a pair of 20 or 25 lb. dumbbells.

The band pull-aparts are fine in warm-up, but exhausting when going for speed and max reps. A couple of days after the fact, I could still feel the effects of both the presses and pull-aparts. Not a bad thing at all; a rare (anymore) and pleasant reminder that I did some work.

The rope triceps pushdown – hard to retrain myself now to split the rope until the very bottom and then only a small amount. Since my triceps are firmer than they were, and bulkier now as well, the weights we were using were still effective and making their impact. I am not-so-secretly pretty pleased with the way my upper arms are shaping up, especially with summer and sleeveless tops and dresses upon us now.

Been quite awhile since the band speed alternating 1-arm curls have appeared on a List, although I do them fairly regularly as part of my warm-ups. Keeping the elbows in the same spot and speed curl at peppy pacing for as many reps as possible. Biceps were burning before we got into the next block.

We switched to low-cable biceps curls, and after do the alternating speed version, burn biceps burn. I like it when we use the bar on these, because it is a 2-arm curl and the reps pass more quickly. And yep – effective. I do have biceps now.

Band speed overhead triceps extensions are a new preference for triceps and bands. They are effective, and after all the other speed racer work we had already done, I am actually surprised at my ability to do the reps I completed of these. By the time we were done with the third set, I think we had 4 minutes left before my friend C’s session time.

F1 Low Cable Biceps Curls
F2 Band Speed Overhead Triceps Extensions

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Time passes and while we are busy living our lives, it seems to pass in a blink. I speak of this phenomenon fairly regularly, referring to a time when I could not do something and now I am doing so much more than I ever imagined possible. And truthfully, I am not nearly as strong as other women I see and have met who have been working at it longer.

If negative girl weasels her way out in zillions of small ways, inspiration happens at least that often if not even more frequently. And if negative girl is a constant, familiar presence, inspiration is a sneakier, surprising thing that happens unexpectedly. Good things happen, I know this, have always known this. I just never believed it happened or happens for me.

Maybe it’s true – we make our own luck. Or maybe luck, good or bad, has nothing at all to do with any happenstance in life. Perhaps as I have always believed, hard work is typically the great decider in such matters. I do not have great genetics or athletic gifts, so I have to try hard, work hard to get to my next point B.

Sometimes even that’s not enough, though. But more often than not, it is the defining edge that means success or the alternative no so much.

In a blink, things happen and change. Or maybe I have such low expectations for myself I am continually surprised by any positive change. Altering that perception is a slow and steady thing, where I have to continually keep the pressure on myself to believe it and to make it happen. Occasionally a new breakthrough catches me completely off guard.

Or I wake up again and realize just how far I have come in the time I have worked at my better health quest.

Today my friend C was telling me about her plans this weekend, being on the committee planning her 50th high school class reunion. It was a little startling. Not that C would be on the committee but that she is old enough to have 50 years since acquiring her high school diploma.

In a blink, she went from there to here.

In a blink – happens for many of us with our big and small accomplishments. In the context of health and fitness, it is hard to believe that in the time span of working with J and pursuing practice on my own I am using the weights I’m using. But even more than that, my arms and legs have more muscle, less fat. No small feat, not really. I am stronger, fitter, healthier. Blood tests agree.

Wishful blinking. Seems to be the way I live my life. And I am not at all unhappy about that revelation.

At my core, I am a very practical, pragmatic person. I do hope for the best yet plan for the worst, so while I am a glitter-bombing unicorn in life who wants the very best for everyone I know and like, I am realistic that life is frequently about the choices we make and the consequences that impact our lives. Bad things happen that are well beyond our control, but it seems to me that’s much rarer.

After today’s speed racer session, I was pondering choices, how I choose the Lists, and then how I go through them every day. I might think peppy pacing, yet I might not actually pursue peppy pacing in the same way J tries to coach me through it. Part of it is confidence – am I doing this right? – and part of it feels more challenging than it is when I am under the gun with trainer/coach J standing there observing with that super vigilant trainer eye.

Yesterday, I was thinking about the psychology of rep counts, and it flittered through my mind again today. Doing the max reps with the bands, I could see how the fatigue was layering in with each set. It was not so much that I was slacking – a regular thing I have to evaluate and reject or agree with and strive to overcome – but muscles were feeling worked and tired. The pace of going faster – I equate it with working harder. If I am not pursuing the peppy pacing and the speedy band work, I feel as if I am not working hard enough.

I was just reading a description of feelings as a feedback mechanism, not something factual or based on events in reality. Learning to trust the feedback, trust that our feelings are working and accurate is not an easy process for me. But like so much I have read about exercise and fitness, the whole “listen to your body” process, has me evaluating how things feel and what I think about how I feel. Sometimes it feels overly complicated, like I am making a great big something out of a not very big anything.

Counting is something that keeps me focused, most of the time. Like so many numeric measures, though, I wonder if this is another numeric sequence that negative girl uses to judge me with. Once the thought occurred to me on Thursday, I have found myself doubling down on rep counts on other practice days to see how it felt to my mind. There is a correlation, a tenuous one. If I focus more on the rep counts, in some ways I get a more quality practice. I am thinking more about form. I am feeling the fatigue build. And I know when it is time to say when or I have reached the maximum suggested reps, I can make an accurate judgment call about how much work I have done, how much more I am capable of doing, and not feel poorly about my efforts.

It seems the wishful blinking applies to progress. The time I have invested thus far does not seem like very much at all thus far. And I never really thought about what I would do, where I would be at this point in the journey.

Because back when I started, I could not imagine sticking with it this long.

Wishful blinking – it’s a thing.



#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #progress

PT-33: Hello again

Monday morning, training with J. If last week was sort of “meh” and ridden with malaise, today my intent came roaring back with “oh HELL YEAH!” type giddy-up and go sort of enthusiasm.

Key Takeaways

Even if I did not always feeling as if I am sidling along and inching forward with spare micro-measures of improvement sometimes, today would still be an eye-opening step forward. On something recent like floor chops, I feel more competent and proficient than I did when they first appeared back on the radar a few weeks ago.

Did I love this workout because I feel more successful with it or am I more successful because I feel greater affection toward it? If I’m honest about it – and I am always brutally, verbosely honest about gym stuff – it is definitely the former. When I look back at the List in its original form, it had dreaded things like floor sit-ups (or chops) and planks and plank-like things. Core stuff is rarely never (thus far) included on my greatest hits.

Most of the time I recognize how far I have come on this exercise and fitness journey. Sometimes, though, it’s highlighted in neon lights and makes me want to happy dance through the gym crowing about my progress. While I am not the peppiest, highest-energy tribe member or even gym member, I do okay with what I do most days. And I love that I can recognize and speak my truth and not feel self-conscious or as if I am putting on airs or casting aspersions at others around me. For each of us, the journey is unique, with its own successes and setbacks, and it most definitely is not a race. Some days, though, I just feel like a bigger victory lap is in order.

This List – it’s been at least 5 months since our last review of it, and I probably have not touched in since early January. While most of the exercises appear on other Lists, the ordering and progression of things does make a difference to me. It keeps it fresh and not boring. The workload distribution is different every day, every List. And if I  have to talk about feelings, it just makes me happy to have some variety and to return to things I had mentally and/or emotionally set aside as hard or too hard and find they are now not as difficult as I recall. Because I am stronger from all the other stuff I have learned and diligently practiced in between.

And sometimes still, I get overwhelmed with gratitude that I have come so far, that I can now do things that I distinctly remember feeling disappointed and borderline ashamed (at the time) that I was not quite up to snuff with when introduced. Maybe the teary emotionalism is that I am over the shame of set-backs and not-quite-there-yet moments with exercise. Plus I have come so far from from where I started, and my willingness to put in the time and energy to practicing on my own consistently and the rewards from that work still humble and amaze me. Not a natural athlete. Never been one to stick with exercise for more than a few months. June marks 2 years since my first training session with J, and I just crested 18 months of at least 6 days per week in the gym. This is not me throwing down challenges or setting a standard everyone should achieve, but my understanding of my own needs and ambitions has expanded as time has passed. Doing my best and feeling proud of my efforts – this is new ground for me. I have worked at least as hard at my mental game and self-talk and celebrate that as well.

What We Did

We are back in quad-plex land – 4 blocks of exercises, 4 exercises per block. And it was completely AWESOME!

Quad-Plex 1
1.  Incline DB Press
2.  Bench Alt Knee In/Step Out/Kick Back
3.  Alternating Dumbbell Curls
4.  Alt Otis + Chopper Sit Ups

Quad-Plex 2
1.  Flat Bench Chest Flyes
2.  Bench Step Throughs w/ rib dip
3.  DB Alt. Hammer Curls
4.  DB “Reach Up” Crunch off bench

Quad-Plex 3
1.  1-arm DB Snatch
2.  1-arm DB Lateral Throws
3.  Band Horizontal Hip Rotations (aka “Choppers”)
4.  Mini-band Standing Contralateral Knee to Elbow Crunch

Quad-Plex 4
1.  1-arm Overhead Shoulder Press
2.  Dual Band Reverse Flyes
3.  Kettlebell Swing to Chest Level
4.  DB Plank “Renegade Rows” off bench

How It Felt

While we have done the incline dumbbell press repeatedly through the months, today we did a couple of things differently. First, threw out the rep count books – for everything – and second, we amped up the weights on each set. We started with a 20 lb. set of dumbbells and along I went through 20 or so, then we went to a set of 25 lb. dumbbells, still fine, and finally finished with the 30 lb. set. Surprisingly, I went through the 30s without much issue at all. Possibly because they are first exercise of the day, but more likely because I am stronger than last I had 30s in my hands for the presses. I have been working hard at my upper back arch and my elbow bend on the press up. No small cakes to me, 30 lb. dumbbells.

The bench alternating knee in/step out/kick back are planks on steroids. J added the knee in to these today, and it adds a new layer. Trying to remember the knee is after doing the step out/kick back cadence for awhile is another matter entirely; I have been doing the other combination so long it is branded into my head. But no matter – I will learn and remember. For the most part, this went really well. I love my “rib tuck” cue and want to use it for practically everything, but for planks and pushups and such, it is a must. Not so secretly, I’m delighted that I could do the knee in part of this exercise, when I remembered to add it into the sequence. It feels as if I have passed some grand new marker in ab work today. Yay me!

Whatever I think about alternating dumbbell curls, I know they are effective. I know I can feel them working my arms. Where I am thinking am I standing up straight, are my abs tight, ribs tucked down, shoulders back, elbows close to the body and staying in place. Am I thinking about my biceps and arms? Not really, other than pretensioning the muscle in advance of the curl, feeling out the weight. The rest of it is all about form. I know how to bend my elbow, but someday I may want or be capable with weightier weights. In my mind, it seems better to ensure I learn and maintain good form, because it will become harder when the weights are heavier. Far better for me to learn the best habits now rather than later.

Yesterday was kind of my light and fluffy day, doing a couple of sets of floor/stability ball core warmup and my beloved dumbbell matrix. But I also included my more recent floor chop series – which is the alternating chopper sit ups combined with Otis ups. J updated this list today with that combo, and I am much more competent and powerful with these. I can feel my obliques. I could curl upper body up without too much difficulty. Still have my feet secured under the bench, but I have yet to try it without that particular security blanket. For right now, I’m so happy to be just capable of doing a series of these without dying on the floor after every series. I am even making some slo-mo progress on the slow lower of upper torso back to the floor.

I am pretty sure we started out this block with the flat bench chest press, but by the second round J redirected and we went to flat bench chest flyes. I am nearly constant in my thoughts about the upper back arch anymore when we do bench-related presses and such, and with these chest flyes, I can most definitely feel the difference between when I am in proper position with the arch and above-the-eye position of the dumbbells when pressing up and more than a little out of sorts when not quite arched enough or letting the dumbbells drift. There is no bad or cautionary feeling so much as the muscle tension across the chest is just less or not really there at all. Hard to explain, but so much of what J has taught me is about the feels of each exercise, so much so that on my own I make minute adjustments to get back to ensure I am hitting the shape accurately.

It has been awhile since we have gone through the bench step throughs with the rib dip. Before, it was step throughs with hip dip, but to protect my lower back we went with a more accurate rib dip. Supporting myself on the bench with straight arms, this is essentially another plank position, rib-tucked exercise, only this time take left leg stepping through to the right side with a small left elbow bend to dip rib toward the floor. This one really works the abs and obliques, keeping the abs tight and ribs tucked down. Definitely a slo-mo version today, getting reacquainted after several months hiatus, and took a little break in the middle of the set after 3 or 4 or 5 (sorry – was no counting and know the rep count was not terrifically high).

Along side the bicep curls, the dumbbell alternating hammer curls follow the same pattern and prescription. Focus on form and pretensioning the muscle. Except I like the hammer curls slightly more than the regular curls for reasons as yet unknown. But again, I am an exercise geek about this stuff. I like the focus on form. Someday these will challenge me in other, new ways. I will be ready.

Potential new favorite ab exercise: the dumbbell “reach up” crunch off bench. With a pair of 12 lb. dumbbells in my hands and arms elevated straight overhead with feet up on the end of the bench, the small crunching up motion of elevating shoulders off the bench is strangely satisfying. This is not a big crunch, like the floor chops, but a small and deliberate movement that I can feel all the way down the length of my core. We have done these off a stability ball without weights, but it’s more crunch up via rocking motion. Still effective, yet not quite impactful in my mind. Sometimes the exercise is not so much what body is doing as much as what mind is learning about body doing the various movements.

While I remain convinced my 1-arm dumbbell snatch technique needs some work, trainer J with the critical trainer eye says they are progressing and had no corrections or adjustments for me today. I am working on the butt back, weight on heels part of the squat and the more explosive upward snatch part. It is difficult to pinpoint what I perceive is the problem with my form might be, but I do not feel completely confident. However, I did a set with a 12 lb. dumbbell and then a set with a 15 lb. dumbbell without pain or suffering. Mostly likely I need more practice with these, more than the once per week from the huffy-puffy List. I anticipate there will be some enhancements sometime in the future. But for now, all is well. More practice.

I still love the 1-arm dumbbell lateral throws. It’s been awhile, kind of remind me of the dumbbell snatches only staying stationary. Stay in the general vicinity of the scapular plane, don’t straighten the elbow completely, and try not to head/shoulder/upper body bob up and down with the throws. These make me feel like I have amazing shoulders.

The band horizontal hip rotations (aka “choppers”) are improving with practice and repetition. With the cable machines, it feels different, harder somehow. Probably there is a very specific, science-based reason for that. But for me, I prefer to think it might just be the return of my beloved green band and how it feels like an old friend. I understand the shape and the feels and why it works, and there should be little difference between the cables and the bands but mind perceives what mind perceives. Ah well. For now, we shall enjoy the feels of this rendition of horizontal choppers.

The mini-band standing contralateral knee to elbow crunch more like contralateral rib tuck to knee, because the elbow is supposed to stay out tucked behind the head. With the band around the foot makes elevating the knee more difficult and ensure that I have to hold on to stay upright. Tucking with the rib rather than trying to touch the knee with the elbow never brings the knee even close to the elbow. But the supreme rib tuck down crunch thing does make the exercise feels a lot more powerful and effective.

I always enjoy the 1-arm overhead shoulder press. With this List, it was about this time that I realized that I am someday going to have these even more bodacious and amazing shoulders. For right now, at this spot in my journey, I get a little rush watching the weight go up overhead and see the arm muscles working.

This is the first time we have done dual band reverse flyes with the new TRX box frame set-up, but they still feel the same. Again, we have done these more recently on the cable machine, and it does feel differently to me. Better, worse? Not really – mostly just different. When the bands are right – back to my green bands – I can choke up enough to get the resistance I need without feeling like it might be too much to stretch my arms all the way outward. If I use the heavier ones, they feel too like too much resistance from the start and I end up feeling like I am having to try too hard, work to hard, possibly hurt myself trying for the complete range of movement. I cannot even express how gratifying it is to now have an opinion on the subject, to know that I can tell the difference between the red band and the green band and how it makes me feel when hunting how the exercise should make me feel.

While it is my perception that everyone in the gym can do a kettlebell swing to chest level except me, I have been practicing and I am improving. Working hard to remember it’s all about the hips, keeping glutes and abs tight, protect the lower back. Again, like so many things that feel like they need more practice, I break my sets up into more 2 (or more) mini sets to ensure I get my full rep count done. Since we were not technically counting reps today, I went for 2 sets of 10 with the 12 kg kettle bell. Like these better than other things, but while these may not be scaling heights of my favorites list anytime soon, it is gratifying to be improving and getting stronger

My big major triumph of the day was the dumbbell plank “renegade rows” off bench. I did not think I could do these; we had tried these once before off the floor, with a pair of 5 lb. dumbbells and I could not budge those bad boys. Now we were trying them off the bench, with a pair of 12 lb. dumbbells as handholds, and I was fully prepared to be disappointed – and again, maybe a teensy bit shamed for not being capable after such an amazing session. Instead, I got situated, rib tucked into my plank position, and pulled up that first weight like I was standing on both feet doing a 1-arm row. It was exhilarating. To my credit I have not obsessed over my inability several months ago, but I am savoring – SAVORING – my victory over them off the bench today. Yep, did a few reps and then took a pause, went back to to it and did a few more reps. Like my arch nemesis the pushup, my arms and upper body does not feel quite strong enough to do these in a continuous set, but I’ll get there. For today, I will relish my surprise, then delight, then absolute elation over how it felt to lift that weight and pull it back into a row.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

While I was writing my key takeaways section one of my bosses walked into my office to ask me a question. I had a tissue in my hand and was blowing my nose, and he thought I was crying. Bosses are not good with emotions in the workplace, unless its passion related to the work itself. Tears? I have had them tell me on more than one occasion that I earn my salary if I can deal with crying staff members, meaning women. I have yet had a male ever get so angry he burst into tears, whereas with women it  happens more often than we might like.

So I answered his work-related question and neither of us said anything about the teary expression. I did not sound upset, because I wasn’t upset, and I matter-of-factly told him that I was emotional about training this morning because of some big-feeling breakthroughs with various exercises. We joked about the idea of me crying because J yelled at me, because the idea is so ludicrous it’s beyond the expanse of my pretty broad imagination. As I said to the partner, it is the same as the idea of them yelling at me – professionally they are all such emotional control freaks the apocalypse might truly be upon us if they lost it so completely.

It was opportunity and opening for an all-around good conversation. Last week, from the suggestion box the partners had brought up the idea of a “biggest loser” type contest here in the office. Considering the circumstances and employees of our firm, I was understandably horrified by the idea, because of the present 25 employees here, only 4 of us are visibly carrying any extra weight and all 4 of us are women. Did they seriously want to encourage something like this with that sort of imbalance? While they and perhaps a couple of other staffers might want to add some muscle or drop a few pounds, I’d vastly prefer we do it by getting on a more formal health and wellness sponsorship program than our present subsidizing everyone’s gym membership or lifestyle-altering dues program.

What was curious – he said that he thinks our firm as a whole is a pretty healthy group and that I (and the other ladies in my walking clatch) are hard-working healthy. I found that a huge compliment – hard-working healthy (says the woman who was thrilled out of her mind when J described me as a “tank” in the gym). Not sure about the other ladies, but a regular source of conversation on our jaunts is lifestyle, healthy eating, all sorts of things fitness and exercise. All of the ladies in the firm are at least 20 years younger than I am and thinking about the future and the potential of having children of their own someday.

What I like about the present staff and environment at work – it is supportive without being suffocating. My crew and I talk about our weaknesses – chocolate, cheesecake, chips, soda, etc., etc., etc. – and our strengths – regular exercise, regular salad consumption, just saying no to most of the crap that appears in our breakroom. We are a pretty well rounded group anymore, and I like that. Junk food Tuesday comes every month, and while I am usually not there (I work from home on Tuesdays), there are plenty of other opportunities to enjoy a cheeseburger on the firm.

Balance, elusive balance in all things. In work, the people I interact with most are a joy to me. They are smart, caring, funny, with all sorts of interesting perspective that differs from my own. Again, the age gap plays into that, yet at the same time, I am curious and I am interested in what interests them. In some ways I relate to my coworkers and business associates as I do my own children, who are in the similar age range. Since I treat my kids with respect and affection, this feels is accurate and appropriate for me. I strive to treat everyone in my realm with respect, until they demonstrate that respect is not earned.

So it occurred to me today that I do not always treat myself with the same level of respect and compassion. Why am I, or why was I once, so relentlessly hard on myself?

My progress with confidence and self-talk is pretty well documented here. I have made great strides with being kinder to myself, staying positive, and appreciating my own efforts. Comparing myself and my progress to others around me has proven to be a ridiculously fruitless, irrelevant exercise. Measuring my progress on a timeline or with preconceived expectations is toxic for me, so I stopped that long ago. I also strive to limit my expectations and hopes to getting myself into the gym to work at something as routinely and as frequently as I can make happen. I eliminated the word “fail” and all its derivatives from any thoughts or speech about my efforts. Setbacks, disappointments, faltering happen; failure is not only not an option, it is no longer even a thing for me when it comes to my better health quest.

Today, I am all about my forward strides, including the headspace where I am dwelling.

Gratitude has become such a stretched out, overblown, unrealistic concept anymore. Like so many good and empowering (yet another overused and therefore overvalued term) concepts, it has become part of the current age hype of feeling good and somehow releasing us from real responsibility for ourselves and our actions and choices as long as people are happy. I recognize that I am making a very broad-brush generalization here, yet I am unapologetic for it. The expectation of entitlement has cheapened a lot of things, and being grateful for modern healthcare and the opportunities of higher education (as examples) means it becomes a right by existence versus something we must participate in and work at and work for the genuine benefits.

In my thoughts of late, I find that people are disingenuous and insincere in their expressions of gratitude. Thanks for offering such rich healthcare benefits, but my portion of the premium is too rich and should be subsidized further. Thanks to modern medicine for creating such superior drugs for chronic conditions like diabetes, so that means I can now eat all the sugar and carbohydrates I want and adjust with an injection 3 times daily until something else fails and I need a new kidney or other costly medical procedures rather than watching my diet and getting some form of regular exercise, at which time I will be angry for having to lose a limb or endure a risky procedure to prolong my miserable life by a few years.

This is on my mind because of my own better health situation. I am working hard to take control of my overall health. For most of my adult life doctors have said diet and exercise are important to improve my overall health.

None of us know how long our lives will extend, and for a long, long time I thought my little tiny life mattered less and did not truly impact anyone. Boy, denial is a powerful drug. In truth, my tiny little life matters a great deal and impacts a lot of folk. And I should know this from my own experiences with family and friends who have passed. M, for example, would be a devoted caretaker, but is that what I want for him? To be wheeling me around or attending to my bedside for our twilight years? Or would I rather be saving my health tokens now by improving my diet and learning to exercise so the long-term benefits maybe extend my vibrancy and make the twilight years shorter and less burdensome?

Obviously I’m accruing and hoarding my health tokens like gold ingots in the safe. Every single day is a choice about going to the gym and completing a List to the best of my ability (or at least trying) or staying home and feeling … something. I would not classify it as guilt so much as regret for lost opportunities. I rarely do that anymore; I have a much clearer understanding of a rest day and its importance. But I also know that rest days can be just light days doing Lists I find more enjoyable or practicing things that give me grief. I love that I don’t go to the gym out of a sense of guilt; I go because sometimes it feels like a guilty pleasure.

So for more than just my better health quest, I have turned my gym time into me-centric time, where I get to do precisely what I want to do and pursue activities that benefit me directly and primarily. Selfish? Hardly. When I was spending a lot of money on prescription drugs to control my diabetes, that was selfish. In some ways a lot more convenient and definitely easier, but still extraordinarily selfish. But since I cannot go back and alter my personal history, I can take better care of myself now in hopes of better tomorrows.

I want to be sensible about taking care of myself and staying the course on my better health quest. Every session where I feel energized and successful is another encouragement stone that paves the path for this journey.

Every session, even when I feel flat and underwhelmed with my own effort, is a step up. Days like today, when I feel powerful and successful in my efforts, the person I was when I started is seems such a distant memory. The scaredy-cat woman with so much anxiety and filled with self-loathing – I know she cannot be completely annihilated or done away with completely. But her path led somewhere unexpected, a place of safety and peace.

And with some kind of badass in training ensuring that status quo remains in place, our life continues, an enduring adventure. Anymore, I will not accept anything less.

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #positivity

Training myself to be hungry

Food and diet seem to be the final frontier in my better health quest. Probably if I had my way, it would be The Thing I put off until the very last minute … like 60 seconds before drawing my last breath or my last rational thinking moment. But life is unfair, and unless I want that very last minute to be far sooner than absolutely necessary, I need to pull myself together in the healthy eating realm.

I kind of thought 2016 would be my year, that I would do better figuring food and portion control out and implement it for me. This did not happen. While at one point I would have characterized this as a complete and utter failure, reality is that my expectations might have been too extravagant and reality of how much change I am capable of processing is limited. Curiously to me, I feel no guilt about it, nor do I beat myself up for not trying harder, doing more, being more successful. If anything, I am mostly philosophical. My big win – being well controlled diabetes without medication and a completely normal A1c – continues into 2017 despite not feeling like I made much progress toward overall healthier eating and food portion control. The much smaller win of eating significantly less junky food is imperfect, but it seems doubtful I would be this healthy if I were still had my old eating habits with lots of processed foods and gratuitous sugar.

But I can do better. I ponder weight loss and I ponder other health markers. While everything about my blood tests says normal and healthy, my BMI, scale (when I can bring myself to utilize it), and waistline say otherwise. Playing the long game, I do not see this as a sustainable situation. And even if it were, there is likely a lifestyle cost to carrying extra weight. Ultimately it impacts my gym time and exercise pursuits. Not sure I am willing to allow that for the longest haul and whatever objectives I may choose to pursue into the future. Will my knees and hips continue to be fully functional with this much extra weight on my frame? What about my shoulders and arms if I ever become entranced with the idea of pull-ups? My thoughts about future endeavors do not include power lifting or supersized weighty weights, but I would like to be the most efficient with the strength gains I will achieve. And yes, maybe there is some super flashy thing that does not interest me at all right now that will evolve into a future obsession.

Sometimes my association with trainer J is almost frightening, like some sort of mysterious and invisible mind-meld. While I have not specifically said “hey, I really need to overhaul my diet and eating” recently, I have been thinking about it. This month was blood tests month. My A1c is holding steady at 5.0, everything else within the normal range. However, there is room for improvement. My “good” cholesterol is squeaking into the normal range and my triglycerides are on the higher side of the normal range. Some miniscule progress in 3 months, but frankly, it feels inadequate. I want better, and I am capable of doing better. These factors are entirely within my control; I just have to pull up my big-girl pants and start taking the steps to improve these healthy markers.

But the mind meld thing with trainer J. Thursday he was telling me about a tribe member who has been having challenges with pain and gym tweaks as well as with weight fluctuations. I want my fellow tribers to be successful no matter what their goals, and from my own struggles with healthy eating and exercise consistency, not being a baby about gym tweaks, etc. I know it’s not easy or fun. The discipline and the hard work is not glamorous, sexy, or all that much fun. Combine that with the day-to-day business of living with the demands of work, marriage, family, friends, and life very quickly gets even more complicated. I sympathize. But I also appreciate J’s tough-love realism about the choices that have to be made to implement sustainable change.

Even before that, he had shared with me a Facebook post from a very sensible woman who writes regularly about diet and fitness. She is infinitely sensible, very down-to-earth and exhibits a common sense approach and “let’s be realistic” attitude. Refreshing. This particular post, she was talking about food. Her opinion that foodies who tend to struggle with their weight like food enough to overeat, and thin foodies tend to be either moderators (a bite, a taste of rewarding food) or possess extreme will power. Truthfully, from where I’m sitting and my own relationship with food, I think being a moderator about food is in and of itself an ongoing example of extreme will power.

While I’m likely watering down and garbling the message of the post, I can still feel the defensive reaction it inspired within me. For all my advances in exercise, confidence, healthier body image and acceptance, a random post written by someone who does not suffer from food triggers practically drew emotional blood from me. It was not upsetting so much as enlightening, a stark reminder that I still have work to do in this area.

Despite my visceral reaction, I am quite happy J brought it up and to my attention. The more we talk about it, the more open we can be about our individual struggles, the less taboo and the less shame attached to not being perfect with our eating and successful in the lockstep death march toward mainstream thin right out of the gate. While there is no taboo about what I talk about with J or even here on the blog, not everyone feels that way. Obesity is no joke, the struggle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is real for so many of us. On top of those general, everyday feelings and thoughts on the subject, I had just gotten my test results and was meeting with my endocrinologist and was in the mindset of what big and small changes are needed to improve some of my test results.

Because while being leaner would be swell, my eye remains firmly on the being healthier prize. While I am within the normal range on everything, I am not comfortably enough in the normal range for cholesterol to have wiggle room for setbacks. This is nothing new; it has been going on for at least a year, occluded by my victory lap surrounding diabetes control. My vision is clear right now, though, and my focus is turning toward the cholesterol and triglyceride results and taking the steps necessary to improve.

The regular, consistent exercise has had an enormous impact. To take it to the next level, though, will require greater discipline with food first and foremost. My particular body type and build, further reducing or outright eliminating any remaining processed food I consume, lowering my carbohydrate intake, and controlling calories are likely a first steps. And already, I can feel mind and body simultaneously reacting with disdain to the mere thought of further cuts and changes to diet, not to mention the immediate rebellion launch at the idea of tracking/controlling calories.

It has to be done. Body has no idea what it’s like to be tolerably hungry because mind’s insistence we are starving at the first twinge of hunger or stress/boredom/other random emotion masquerading as hunger and insisting we must have an immediate snack. Or worse, my using whatever willpower I possess to avoid snacking, only to massively, uncomfortably overeat at my next meal.

I know I am not unique in this cycle. I also know my snacking choices are technically not terrible – multigrain seed crackers with a piece of cheese or a tablespoon of peanutbutter, piece of fruit – eat enough snack food and the calories become a major impairment to the better health quest. What I already know very well – carbohydrates are not my friend. *sad face* (I love my carbs!) Looking at the stark reality, the overhaul is not complicated to plan, but implementing and sticking with it is hard. Ask anyone who has ever successfully changed their lifestyle and they will likely agree with me on that. Or they are somehow far more superhuman than I am.

So as I do everything like this, I am creating a basic plan and starting small. As I did when I began my exercise consistency, I set an objective for a set time period, in hopes it will stick and become a habit.

My first appointment with my new doctor is on May 10, and I would like to have taken some practical, trackable steps to advance my better health quest objectives. With that in mind, my first little change is actually twofold: cut back on snacking AND track food consumption in MyFitnessPal. The snacking will be a walk in the park compared to the food tracking. I have started and I have faltered within a very short period, mostly because it was sort of a random piece in my overall long-term strategy. But I know it needs to be done in order to have a productive and candid conversation about what I need to do to improve my cholesterol numbers (again, presently in the normal range, but lots of room for improvement), become leaner and ultimately healthier.

As much as I shy away from the concept of goals, I have an achievable, measurable objective to improve my next set of test results in a few months. I have not set a specific number or range of numbers improvement to be satisfied with my progress. At this point, any higher numbers in HDL (good cholesterol) or lower numbers in LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides than what I achieved this month will be a win for me.

I am also prepared to be prescribed at least a couple of dedicated cardio sessions per week and am factoring that into my time management calculations, because I am absolutely unwilling to give up my present weight training schedule. By the time our first appointment arrives, I will absolutely be prepared to discuss his recommendations and have at least the framework of a plan prepared to get started.

To that end, trainer J himself has embarked upon a 30 days of dedicated cardio burning 500 calories per session. For someone who lifts most days as well as works in the gym, this is no small undertaking. I respect his dedication to gaining insight and improving at his craft. Do I expect him to start converting the tribe to cardio bunnies? Not hardly. But I can imagine him suggesting some dedicated cardio sessions in addition to pursuing regular, consistent resistance training depending on individual goals. Mostly, though, I am looking forward to the outcome and his conclusions from the process. In the meantime, I am reading his regular updates and enjoying his comments on this process. I believe his experience will have a direct benefit on me, generic training client.

For now, I’m enjoying my lunch and then taking a walk around the block with my cohorts here in the office. Day 2 on my limited snacking quest – thus far I survived 1.5 days without gratuitous snacking and dutifully logging in MFP. I suppose it helps that I am someone who can eat the same things, day after day after day, thus making it easier on myself by using the “copy yesterday” feature for each meal. That’s something. And it’s not cheating; it’s good use of my time and resources.

Happy weekending everyone!

#diet, #food, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #lifestyle

PT-32.1: Level of effort

Thursday morning review day. Since it has been a busy, hectic, crazy week on all fronts, I did not get the other half of my recap written on Monday. So it’s a big giant learning day and review day recap here.

Key Takeaways

Every week, I am reminded there is so much yet to learn. Fab trainer J has always been transparent about his ongoing journey to learn more and gain insight, and that is so encouraging for me.

Despite my low energy Monday and significantly better Thursday, training this week was particularly challenging, mostly because of events well outside the gym with work (bananas!) and family issues (serious illness recovery, job searches, and work spillage). All these things are temporary – work will calm or I will find better ways to manage, family members are on the mend, job searches will resolve, and work spillage into the rest of my life will be contained. Growth, progress, maturity for me is knowing these things are just part of the ebb and flow of life, not signs that I am losing my enthusiasm, commitment, discipline, and becoming terrible tribe member/training client. Unusually busy, personal stress on several fronts with several family members all at once, not getting adequate sleep (because of unusually busy, helping/supporting family) is not business as usual for me.

I find my ability to care whether we are recycling the same exercise in different ways is practically nonexistent. I also find that not recapping Monday leaves me feeling lost and unprepared for Thursday, which is kind of a new-ish experience. The mild overachiever within me wants to know what to expect and not have to have J reminding me that this is next, or that is next, or worse – repeating cues from Monday. But oh well. This week was particularly challenging, even for a huffy puffy, yet ultimately I know it takes time and practice. I will get there.

Part of me is torn between wanting another review week of huffy puffy Lists and leaving J to do whatever it is he wants to explore next. While I am feeling the newness of calf-building exercises, I am more interested in expanding my proficiency with the various Lists so I can peppy up my pacing. Sometimes I get lost in the minutia of form details and sacrifice my pace to go off on a mental tangent of whether or not I am doing something correctly or not. I marvel that I am not beating myself up for this transgression. Part of the huffy puffy training is learning to push myself to another level or different type of workload. I am learning it and I am improving overall. But I get back to my so many Lists, so few practice days concern. It works out, I know, but that does not mean I’m not thinking about it all the time.

While I am significantly stronger and have a much better sense of balance, i.e., I rarely trip over the pattern in a piece of carpet anymore, there are still so many ways to balance and find body tweaks out and freaks out and leaves me falling over somehow. I suppose it was a bit cocky of me to assume that I had most conquered all the ways I can fall over. Oh well. Live, learn, keep trying, keep practicing.

I’m not sure how to characterize this week – it was good, just not as enthusiastically amazing as has been typical. My energy level and distraction are at highs not seen since our very earliest days, but I feel like my level of effort and at least trying to follow J’s directions was normal. One of the biggest weapons my negative girl mindset would use against me is that I was not trying hard enough to succeed or to learn what J is teaching. Everyone now and again that rears its ugly little head, and I have to rationally evaluate my behaviors to see if I am indeed gold bricking my way through session. I don’t think so, but it’s one of those legacy thoughts that always surfaces when I feel as if I am somehow falling short with the List at hand.

I am infinitely better at overcoming my own doubts and negative girl impulses. Maybe I need another refresh on the List. Or maybe I just need some time on my own to practice and gain more mastery. I am in the gym most days, and most of the time I am pursuing a List to its conclusion on those days. The rest of my time I am working on things giving me grief or exercises I really happen to enjoy or what sounds like a good idea for that day. But I am serious enough. Negative girl cannot accuse me of being a dilettante.

What We Did

The List for this week:

A1  DB Reverse Lunge
A3  DB Good Morning
A4  DB Front Squat
A5  DB Push Press
A6  DB Bent-over Row
A7  Floor Press/Fly Hybrid*
A8  Floor Triceps Extensions

B1  DB Hammer Curls
B2  DB Alt. Overhead Presses
B3  DB Alt. Step Ups (low box)
B4  DB Bent-over Alt. Row
B5  DB Alt. Reverse Lunge w/ Overhead Press
B7  Standing DB Calf Raise (off 10 or 25lb plates)

How It Felt

The dumbbell reverse lunges – I do pretty well with these anymore. I have to remember to stand up straight at the top and before going into the next one – a J reminder on Monday  that I mostly did better implementing today – and peppy up that pacing. While I want to be really deliberate and make sure my foot is just so, huffy-puffy is all about pepping up the pace while maintaining good form. The weights in my hands were lighter than usual (10 lb. set of dumbbells first set, 12 lb. set second and third) and mean that I should be able to go at a faster steady pace. Part of this is all in my head, sending out shockwaves of anxiety and fear about what Very Bad Thing could befall me. I know this, though. I know how my foot wanders too far one side or the other I will weeble-wobble and have to adjust. But so what, Janelle? Weeble wobble if that’s what it takes but peppy the f**k up out of these Lists. Or so goes the dialog in my head. For everything.

I love, Love, LOVE this version of the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, and not just because the weights are not so weighty. Nope, other than keeping long arms and shoulders down, I seem to have these pretty well dialed in. Now with the new cues of ensuring my shoulders are low and arms lengthened, I can let the weight be further out in front of my legs and still feel the work in the hamstrings and such. Tighten hamstrings first before elevating torso. I am not even second guessing myself that I am doing these correctly, only trying to find some peppy rhythm that keeps up the huffy puffy pace.

Still feels like a learning curve with the dumbbell good mornings. Holding the dumbbells on the shoulder while doing a Romanian deadlift feels … different. I don’t hinge/bend as far forward holding the weight this way, but it sure feels like it, in that the workload feels very similar. The balance is not what I’m used to, and I am very conscious of those dumbbells resting on my shoulders. I don’t know exactly what I think about these, except I feel the need to be precise and careful about form.

The dumbbell front squats for this List are also done with dumbbells resting on shoulders, but these are less alarming to my nervous system than the good mornings because I am going up and down versus leaning forward. It is intriguing to me how the different ways I hold the weight end up feeling in the ways the muscles work and feel. This is part of the general learning curve for exercise, because before starting with J, I had no idea there were so many versions of squats, rows, pushes, pulls, chops, etc.

While J has this formal name of the dumbbell push press, which is essentially a front squat to an overhead press, I think of these as pop tarts, because toast does not sound nearly exotic and complicated enough. Plus while pop tarts are a guilty pleasure, as in most things food I am very specific and particular about them (as in I will only indulge in the unfrosted blueberry, and thankfully those are very difficult to find). But anyway, in my mind, these are pop tarts. For the most part, I can get through first couple of sets without too much drama and angst, but that third one – I am really having to focus on the momentum to get those weights elevated overhead. And still not always successful. Huffy puffy effective? You betcha, especially with the pacing. I have a feeling the nickname for this exercise might be because it ultimately worms my way onto my favorites List. But for now, the struggle is real and the challenge makes me smile.

Rows are a favorite, but today we had a new thought/cue on the dumbbell bent-over row that makes them make more sense to me. J has been telling me to spread the chest on this one, which makes sense in the moment yet seems rather distant the rest of the time. I get it. I understand it. But from where I am sitting right now, it is hard to envision in my mind. Then, today the magic cue was born. J suggesting thinking of it as the rear fly, and cha-ching, coin drop moment. I completely get the “chest spread” cue now once associated with that other exercise and am feeling as if more consistency in my rowing became reality today.

For some people, the idea of lying on the bare gym floor to do chest press/fly hybrids would be a horror story. Not me; this may be my equivalent of going outside and getting dirty. For this one, J had me bring legs up, bend knees, and try to keep my back flat on the floor while doing the press in order to engage the abs more, kind of a lying down rib tuck. And boy howdy, it works out pretty well for me, because I can still feel my abs 12 hours later. Very different, too, is that on the bench I am so very focused on my upper back arch, whereas doing these I am trying harder to focus on pressing small of my back into the floor. As for the actual movement, it is surprisingly easy for me to grow accustomed to having my elbows on the floor be the determiner of the bottom. What has been trickier is using my shoulders to turn the weights at the top outward so pinkies would be meeting in the middle if the end of a dumbbell was not in between. The easier path is to simply turn arms and wrists to achieve this objective, but after a little experimentation I came to understand the difference and what it feels like to me. This does not mean I did so correctly each and every time. Nope, only that I know what I am supposed to be doing and how it feels and what I am striving to achieve.

Doing the floor triceps extension is also just like doing them on the bench, only the weight makes this very satisfying and soft thud over my head as it lands on the rubberized floor in the gym. Again with the legs elevated and trying hard to remember to press small of the back into the floor, these are also very effective on the abs. Peppying up the pacing and max reps until triceps burn up – these are fun in their challenge. Truly, it’s little things that make the exercise interesting and takes it away and long past merely endurable or bearable.

Second block we began with the dumbbell hammer curls. Not a lot to say about these, except I am not a big giant fan-girl of most bicep curl-like exercises. But they are effective – my upper arms are looking pretty bodacious and have have interesting little creases in my forearms from muscle finally peeking through. So yeah, I should just quit whining about how I do not especially care for these and just suck it up and deal when they appear on a List. Because they are effective and getting the job done.

Typically, I love dumbbell alternating overhead presses. But after a few rounds of pop tarts in the first block, I arrive at these feeling a little pre-fatigued. Maybe this List is partly an endurance test to work my focus when I’m tired? Who knows. But since they are alternating, I can usually find my happy place of balance and get through these without too much of an unhappy expression.

Oh my – the dumbbell alternating step-ups on the low box. It’s not the step-ups themselves or even the dumbbells in my hands that give me grief. Hands down, it’s the confusion of remembering which foot I am on in the alternating part. In theory, I step up with one foot, step down first with the same foot, then step up again with the last foot to hit the floor. In practice, it’s probably better for me to step up with one foot, step down with the other foot first, leading to a better cadence of alternating and not mind-scrambling confusion about where I am in these things. I am quite sure this has something to do with my left-handedness and early childhood attempts by misguided adults to turn me into a right hander. To this day I still have to stop and assess which is right, which is left before offering any sort of directional assistance.

Probably my favorite row (and I do love rows) is the dumbbell bent over alternating rows. I feel like I mostly have these down pretty well, although J rightly points out that keeping back still (my tendency is to bob up and down slightly to wildly) while pulling. I did much better today – maybe I need to get my own had to perch on my back while going through these? J does that to emphasize the gratuitous movement and I tend to focus on staying still. It is easier to huffy puffy pace these out as well.

If I had concerns earlier in this block about overhead presses and fatigue, by the time we get to the dumbbell alternating reverse lunge with overhead press I was feeling like my arms may be numb. But I soldiered onward, because I am becoming fascinated again by the potential fluidity of this movement. Reverse lunge, then curl the weight upward, then press weights up overhead while pressing through heel back to feel, then on my way back to next reverse lunge while lowering the weights on the next. Lather, rinse, repeat. Between trying to keep up a faster cadence and my own fascination with the movement, these have potential. Now if I could only develop enough discipline and focus to be able to think about all that stuff while automatically executing a successful reverse lunge consistently. And finish the minimum reps per side. At least I won’t be bored anytime soon.

In this block, the dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are to be significantly more reps. I believe on Monday J said “shoot for 30.” Today I heard no such suggestion, but it’s been burned into my mind until overwritten by some new guideline. I strive for at least 15 or 16 and cannot remember where I lost count. Because in truth, I do lose count. I feel like stopping so I stop. Then J says “let’s do 5 more” so we do 5 more. It’s a very good system for training day. On my own, I tend to be better about rep counts.

Then we come to the bane of my present week’s exercise existence – calves. Specifically this week, standing dumbbell calf raises, or tippy-toes off plates as I think of them. Having spent much of my adult life wearing some semblance of high heels for work, I would think I would be better at these. Honestly, I completely suck at everything calves right now. I’m falling over. I’m not feeling it in my calves. Suddenly calves wake up and oh my they feel all cramped and uncomfortable. Then I’m falling over yet again. Do 30 of these in a single set? Even bodyweight, I suck at these. It is a temporary condition; I will practice and gain mastery, but for right now, could be embarrassing if I actually cared what other people think about my exercise ability. I have long suspected my learning style is to bang head repeatedly against the nearest wall until the epiphany happens and understanding blooms. Apparently I will just have to learn to balance on tippy toes resting on weight plates; hopefully it will not take as long as the single legged everything. Today J suggested adding a slight knee bend, only I am conditioned to do squats and kept wanting to do that form instead of just bending knees slightly while staying upright. Barefoot on my bathroom run, I got the basic shape down. Replicating that next I do this List? We shall see. At least I have the plate placement memorized so they are not wiggling around beneath my tippy toes.

Practices Between Now and Monday

I believe this will be a huffy puffy List review. My library now has 5 PHA (periperhal heart action) Lists and I would like to revisit and review the first 2 tomorrow and Saturday. Assuming my energy continues to build as it has since Monday (yet is not quite back to 100% yet). Sunday, I think will be a lower body day, just because it’s been a week since I have done a dedicated lower body List.

#consistency, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #hope, #inspiration, #mental-health, #positivity

31.1: Low energy, good tidings, feeling fortunate

Monday morning, training with J. It was a weirdly productive session, with both of us arriving with some sort of low-level, low-energy malaise. J at least has a reasonable explanation; an entire week of suffering with and struggling through a head cold/sinus infection and zero opportunity/ability to work out himself. Me, I trained or practiced daily, enough to develop a gym tweak in my right knee, but other than a running nose, I’m perfectly healthy. It’s possible I might want/need to cut back on the caffeine intake, because I was stress slamming black tea last week to keep myself focused and pushing with work. I already know I am going to regret this with the weaning off headaches, but at the time it seemed so necessary.

Despite all that, we had a fantastic teaching day session. I am already looking forward to review day Thursday because life outside the gym will be quieter and calmer for me, and I am starting my wean-off the caffeine today so I will hopefully be sleeping more restfully as well.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Today was a measure of a lot of little things. Some things I have taken for granted, some things I obsess about with inertia, some things that I forget in the day-to-day business of living my life and some things that were once a flashing neon sign are now not even the faintest blip on my radar. For the most part I see this as yet another notch on my progress belt.

We go session after session, week after week, and it’s a hugely positive and makes me incredibly happy to feel successful at a process (exercise) that has eluded me the majority of my life. Being a realist, I have idly wondered what would happen when the training day happened where I am just not feeling it, or J is not at his 100% professional best. Because even people who have one-on-one clients are not 100% on their best professional services game 100% of the time. We are both extremely conscientious people, and it’s unfair of me to expect that J will be bring the high-level great game every single week into infinity. That I am so extraordinarily spoiled and his average so-so game is 1000 times better than every other trainer at my club – yeah, it is noticeable to me when he’s not feeling it.

BUT, I expected that long before J brought just his A-game (versus the typical A+) teaching to our sessions, I would have a low energy, low enthusiasm day and it would be less fun, rewarding, enjoyable for either of us. Today was one of those days. I felt unusually fatigued and kind of blah. My boring was shining through.

Despite my deep-seated fears that I’d lose every inch of ground gained in the last 2 years (almost), the session was excellent, as always. Was I high-energy go-go-go? No, but in truth I rarely feel like I am the high-energy go-go-go client in the tribe. I try my best, and occasionally my best feels like it’s falling flat, falling short, not good enough. Such thoughts flitter through my mind on occasion every now and again, but so rarely these days that their flittering makes me stop and take notice. What was I doing that made me think THAT?

For the most part, nothing unusual. In my somewhat weakened, fatigued state negative girl made a random no-guts-no-glory run for the roses. It happens, the world doesn’t end, I barely missed a step in whatever it was I happened to be doing at the time. Most significant detail that stuck with me today? That my overhead presses felt so heavy and challenging. Far from the end of the world as I know it. If anything, it’s just a small reminder that review day is Thursday and I sure better be better rested and have my head back in the game. Heck, I have scheduled a mostly personal day tomorrow to kick-start return to normalacy after a crazy April.

Because I was so low energy this morning, I had no idea what to expect. In the end, it was fantastic and fun. It was a slow-mo teaching day, yet another branch on my PHA (peripheral heart action) (aka huffy-puffy) tree. I learned some new movements. I gained some insight and refinements on things I already know. And while I was not blazing new trails with my pepped-up pacing or blinding other gym members with my super speedy sets, I got my sweaty-and-gross on and was breathing in a more labored manner. It was all very good. I also came away with fresh perspective on new things, the way we do things, and the larger blocks of exercises. As is my habit, it gives me a lot of little things to chew on in practices on Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s review day. Because in addition to writing these recaps, I am thinking about Lists my while going about my days. Sometimes I even stop and run through them in my mind and within the confines of my office.

Exercise geekery at its finest.

Pondering this morning off and on throughout a pretty busy day, I recognize that I have a positivity expectation and bias attached to training. This is a Very Good Thing and probably doesn’t matter a whit to me if J is in a cranky mood (hey, it could happen). When I don’t feel like showing up, I do it anyway because hyper-responsible self says I better REALLY be sick to last-minute cancel. After the oversleeping event a few weeks ago, I wake up every hour for several hours before the alarm goes off to ensure I get to the gym on time. So there’s that. But as more time passes, and as I sort out my Wednesday morning practices that seem have not been happening for about the last month, I will overcome and figure it out. My mind has settled down into a place of acceptance that maybe this is what I need to do right now. It does not make me some super slacker or worse.

I have been enjoying my Wednesday evenings in the gym, preferably when I see tribe sister K and have time to catch up. But even on nights when I’m there by myself doing whatever, it’s a nice change from the morning crowd that I enjoy seeing every day. J’s Wednesday class of ladies are always warmly welcoming as well, so it just feels like my time as well. It makes my lollygagging and sleeping in later on Wednesday mornings not quite so bad or a reason to beat myself up for phantom sin.

Low energy today – not the end of my exercise career. I will sleep better tonight and have a mostly personal stuff day scheduled tomorrow, so it will be a nice break from work. I am actually very excited about starting my solo practice with last week’s List, including those nemesis-worthy stability ball toe raises. This new calf work is going to take a little adjustment.

I am very pleased with how my exercise odyssey is evolving. Of late my interest in some extra allotment of time for dedicated cardio outside my daily gym List of the day practice has been elevated. If nothing else, 30 minutes on my arc trainer would give me 30 minutes of productive reading time. In truth that’s what I miss about doing time on a dreadmll at the gym – an uninterrupted block of time to read. But, not sure I want to do another 30 day challenge. Professional life will calm considerably after tomorrow’s tax deadline, so perhaps it’s something to consider. Or not. Maybe it will just be a novelty item I add to my rotation just in case I need to lace up some yet-to-be-purchased hiking shoes or boots and hit the great outdoors. Heck, maybe I’ll even learn to like the great outdoors – it could happen.

Something else to think about after what seems like a very long April thus far.

My most important impression and thought from today: I’m very lucky to be capable of doing all I am doing in the gym right now. I’m fortunate to be able to still learn how to do things, and to grasp the why as well as the how of it all. There is so much where I instinctively know that more practice and technique improvement are needed, yet there is no anxiety or fear anymore that I might ultimately fail or be unable to make myself try hard enough. Even if I am going slo-mo on my own for an extended period, sometimes that’s what it takes to make it sink in for me. This is also why I love our recent methodology – teaching or introduction of new or revised or revived List on Monday, review of Monday’s List on Thursday.

I don’t want to get to the point where I take my fitness progress for granted. I don’t want to get complacent and lazy and start believing I know enough now. The way Lists are created remains this big giant mystery to me, but I don’t care if J utilizes other fitness professional resources and adapts them for me. I feel challenged by the Lists, not so much the exercises themselves as the higher rep ranges or the weightier weights. I have falling hard for the mixing it up process, because I had no idea the rhymes or reasons behind the strategies of good fitness habits. Now I could possibly, probably puzzle it out on my own, but the feedback loop I have established with J is invaluable for me and is most definitely the fast forward to progress while bypassing the early frustration.

In fact, we were talking this morning about a blog post I’d read about the people just started t exercise and folks who have been at it awhile and are well trained. Thankfully, I finally identify with the latter group. This does not mean I know more or am more skilled so much as I just have been working at it consistently for awhile and have decent work capacity. While I wish I had read this article 2 years ago before I started, reality is I would have had no context for understanding what the Coach Patrick is describing. So much of this applies to me 2 years ago or even a year ago. I could probably go back through my archives and pinpoint when I became more comfortable and more confident in the gym and my exercise pursuits, but my scaling new plateaus has been so slow and steady it is as if I am suddenly 1000 feet up and wondering how I climbed that far without noticing the change in altitude.

There are moments when I think I have started taking that for granted, that I will always be meandering upward and forward and not suffering a setback that knocks me on my ass. Maybe a low-energy session is warranted every now and again, to remind me that while no one is perfect, some things are so amazing and make me feel so accomplished and good that it feels as close to it as an experience and journey can get. Same with the occasional gym tweak. Even though it is hugely annoying to have something hurt (this weekend, it was my right knee) and have to stop my usual rounds of activities, it is a good reminder that I am far from invincible and need to continually be mindful of my form and technique no matter what else is going on around me or how confident I might feel.

Silver linings? Absolutely. I have worked hard to earn my Pollyanna nickname for seeing them everywhere. 

#consistency, #energy, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #positivity, #progress

PT-30.2: Happy, content, satisfied in my present day spaces

Part 1 is posted here. Took me days to get this written – life happens in between paragraphs – and this was an exceptionally long List. But all good; I make notes on things and then just expand for the post.

Key Takeaways

Training, while a solo pursuit, is not something I do alone or completely on my own. I don’t live in a vacuum, and while my gratitude to J and all his knowledge, efforts, work with me, in this I am also speaking of my fellow tribe and gym members. Seeing them succeed – I actually teared up thinking and writing about friend K’s accomplishment with the barbell. It was so deeply meaningful to her, and it reminds me that while our objectives may different mildly to wildly, success is success and so satisfying and moving to be party to someone else’s dream coming true.

Sweaty and gross is not just a new normal for me in the gym, it has become a flexible standard of judgment on my perceived level of effort. Imprecise and mostly unscientific, it’s a feels grade scale that tells me little other than my clothes are icky and must be segregated in their own hamper. But I gotta say, these PHA-oriented (huffy-puffy) Lists are effective at sweat-soaking the shirts and capris. Where I once looked at them with some anxiety and would opt for “easier” Lists, I now believe I could do an entire week of huffy-puffy without second thought. I have not gone there yet, partly because I do enjoy my body part splits Lists and pursuing one of each every week or so and partly because sometimes I feel lazier and want to work “just” my upper or lower body.

While I don’t have to love (or even like) everything on a List, surprisingly I typically do love (or at least like a lot) most everything on every List. There is always a something that is kind of blech because I am not good at it or struggle mightily with it or some other reason to be overanalyzed and determined later. Where I want everyone else to be happy, the line to happiness starts with me. And I understand so much better now that this is as it should be, for everyone. In my day-to-day pursuits, in and out of the gym, I want to make good choices, and my hopes is that the majority of those choices spark joy. Overcoming my anxiety about huffy-puffy, that does bring me heaps and heaps of satisfaction and joy.

Looking at weightier weights and huffy-puffy, there is even less concern about how much weight I am using. Using the dumbbells or the machines or even the occasional kettlebell when appropriate, and I find there is a sense of adventure in figuring out what weights I could or should be using. Sometimes I start too heavy and go down – which does not bother me at all, especially compared to the idea that I might do myself harm that will sideline me – but for the most part I am inching up 5 lbs. or 10 lbs. per set until I find the sweet spot for me.

What We Reviewed Today

On the PHA (peripheral heart action) List for today’s review:

A1 Anterior Reach 
A2 SB Bridge 
A3 SB Hamstring Curl
A4 SB Toe Bridge 
A5 SB Reverse Hyperextension 
B1 Flat or Incline DB Press (20 lb. DBs)
B2 Bent-over Row (20 lb. DBs)
B3 Seated Shoulder Press (12 lb. DBs)
B4 Standing Uprights (not “High Pulls”) (12 lb. DBs)
B5 Lying Triceps Extensions (12 lb. DBs)
B6 Seated Biceps Curls (12 lb. DBs) 

C1 Speed BW Squats 
C2 Alt. Small Step Reverse Lunges (Prisoner) 
C3 Squat-Pops (less depth easier) 
C4 TRX-supported Skater Squats 
D1 Abel TRX Back Extension (leaning back squat to Y) 
D2 Shoulder-safe Fallout 
D3 TRX Leaning Resist Rotation Press 

How It Felt

Oh the anterior reach with floating foot. How cruel it seems to become so confident about anterior reaches with the rear foot as kickstand, only to learn that there was a floating rear foot version in my future. But like everything else, I am adapting. Today was much better, even if imperfect with the balance. Learning super secret ninja tricks (not really, but sounds a lot cooler than the reality of reaching across to maintain balance) to keep me balanced on the grounded foot. I do feel the hamstrings speaking positively about the work over the weeble-wobbling chatter about balance. Part of me, a very small part, wants to say screw balance; it will happen someday. But the rest of my mind obsesses over focus, concentration, strength, technique to make it happen sooner. And as if I could ever blow off something about exercise form; it is sort of like me trying on and then trying to sell a bad-girl persona. So not happening.

I want to like stability ball bridges more than I actually do like them. I want them to not be that bad, or easier than I actually find them to be, or somehow less complicated than what mind suggests they are for me. Succinct truth in exercise: I find these hard for a lot of little reasons. Keeping the ball still. Tightening the abs and lifting with the hips versus arching the back. Keeping the ball still. Keeping heels dug into the side of the ball. Rib tucking. A lot of thinking going on for something that seems like it should not be that complex. There is hope, and some modest improvement from Monday. Just keep working at them until they feel more natural.

My hamstrings remain the nemesis body part that refuse to bend to my will. The stability ball hamstring curl? Hate them. HATE them. But they are effective. Trying to just raise hips as far as possible and roll the ball in as much as possible and then try really, really hard to bring it in another inch. Except the last inch is not working for me. Trying to roll the ball closer and closer is not working all that well as well. But I will have to keep working at it. Maybe pursue the dedicated abs List a little more often for a little more practice. (Oh boy, can’t wait.)

Out there on some circle of Hell resides the stability ball toe bridge. Okay, not really that bad – maybe a wanna be on some circle of Hell. But these are tough and make me rethink my nemesis List. Toughen up calves? Yes, most likely the only thing that makes me feel more competent and willing to sacrifice rep counts to get them over with. In other words, practice, practice, practice.

So much more excited about my new-found progress with the stability ball reverse hyperextension. Now that I figured out to stay down as if I am doing a push-up and watching the ball roll forward and back as I elevate my legs and tighten glutes seems so much better now. The urge to bob up and down is easier to resist watching the ball on the floor and imagining what legs raising and lowering must look like. Makes me smile every time I see someone else doing these as well.

This block is all about simultaneous one-arm versions of each exercise and remains my favorite part of this List. Today was flat bench dumbbell press with the 20 lb. weight. Feel the chest muscles working – yay me! And definitely it feels different doing one side at a time. Good different, though. Once I get going, get started, picking up the pacing for the maximum huffy-puffy effectiveness makes it a very satisfying experience.

If I had to make a choice, I would easily choose one-arm rows over bend-over rows as my preferred rowing with dumbbells method. However, the simultaneous alternating bend-over row version would make the choice much, much more difficult. Happily, J writes all versions into Lists, so no choices necessary. Heck, I could probably substitute one for the other if I wanted and to keep things interesting. But with these huffy-puffy Lists we have been pursuing lately, the peppy pacing of this version makes a lot of sense. Plus it’s big giant fun.

Simultaneous alternating (or is it alternating simultaneous?) seated shoulder presses go pretty quickly. But I notice my arms more if I happen to be seated in front of the mirror, because there is more pretty muscle hanging on there now. Funny, I look in the mirror and don’t really see it at home, unless I go looking for it, but when I glance in the mirror while pressing the dumbbell overhead, I see it far more clearly. Talk about motivating. Having less flabby arms is a definite motivational perk.

A new fascination with the simultaneous alternating standing uprights and getting the muscle feels just right. Seems to me there is this tricky spot between the back shoulders that these connect with pretty directly, and finding the just right spot of leaning forward and pulling upward takes a couple of tries to make it happen. But dang – feels fantastic once I find that perfect place. Who knew that in between spot had such interesting things to say when pressed into service. Sure does seem to have an impact on my overall posture sitting and working at my desk.

There is something so intriguing and far more interesting doing lying triceps extensions as a simultaneous one-arms rather than just the usual double arm movements. Possibly in the way mind perceives the work. Either way, these are fun. Effective in that I can feel the triceps working as individual muscles. The feels are so different than doing these with both moving in the same direction and doing the same work at the same time.

While not a bit huge fan of seated biceps curls, I did learn something new today that engages mind and makes me perk up and want to pay more attention. In truth, that’s quite possibly part of my issue with them: mind is bored. Keep arm bent and elbow at side, slightly in front of rib cage, bend elbow up into curl with weight, lower weight to starting position. I am probably not quite ready for a lot weightier weights, but it is easy for me to sort of check out while doing these. Well, today J reminds me to turn my hands so pinkies are turned and facing one another, almost turning inward. Not sure why exactly but it perked me right up and plugged me back into the process. Lately the best I have been able to hope for is focusing on sitting up straight and ensuring shoulders are tucked back. Good posture without being labeled as such is practically its own thing in all these seated exercises. 

The title of the speed bodyweight squats always makes me smile, because I certainly do not feel anything akin to “speed” when going through it. We do 25 on these – at least that’s what J suggest we shoot for – and I got through the first set of 25, felt like I might collapse on number 21 on the second set so I stopped. But despite my wimpy resistance to the peppy pacing of seemingly endless squats, I actually feel great about my effort. Now, I just need to remember the prisoner hold, because in actuality it feels pretty good and keeps me more upright until my hands and fingers go numb. Big clue I discovered: if I don’t interlace in some sort of death grip, hands and fingers do not tend to go numb.

Same hand/finger numbness was not an issue when I remembered (gentle reminder from J) about the prisoner hold. I can feel myself getting a better groove on the alternating small step reverse lunges, if only because I am starting to enjoy lunges more and feeling less intimidated by them as an exercise series. We have been doing a fair number of them lately, and now that I have gotten better and not having to pause at the top for balance, I am feeling sort of emboldened about my abilities.

My squat-pops feel a lot more like bunny hops waiting to happen. I understand the concept, but it is either fatigue or distraction or general laziness that makes me want to lean forward and go places with the pop part. That said, I know an attitude adjustment is required toward these, because they are not so difficult that I should be struggling so mightily with keeping my mind in the game and doing my 25 in one long, continuous, huffy-puffy outing. Today J talked about the landing, how I am falling back into the squat rather than just landing, then going into the less-depth squat, then doing the little jump at the top. I get it. I understand the shape. I find them huffily-puffy and sort of boring at the same time, so I know they are effective. Attitude adjustment. Reminds me of the ball slams, that I should strive for consistency of my landings. Something else to think about other than mind whining “is it over yet?” as I am counting feverishly toward 25

The TRX-supported skater squats – these are an excursion in balance, discipline, focus. Or in my usual terms – these are hard. I would not say I am faltering so much as struggling, but today got some new clues as to how to make it better. Keep the TRX at tension with my hands together in front of me and kind of at my chin (I think – no TRX straps handy to practice with). Elbows are bent at 90 degrees, slight lean forward, and I need to maintain all that while doing a split squat with a floating back foot. IF I keep that my hands together and in front of me, the TRX straps stay tensioned, and I maintain that slight lean forward, I seem to be able to maintain my balance and lower my and rise on the one leg. I think my rib tucking comes into play as well with the lean; I’ll have to examine it more closely next time I try these to see what that part of body is doing. But who knew? The minute I lost focus and let my hands part or let the straps go slack, I was weeble-wobbling my way out of good form and tipping sideways. 

Now that I am finally getting accustomed to the feels of the leaning back squat portion of the Abel TRX Back Extension, I am starting to feel more comfortable and confident about being able to do them accurately. (Is “accurately” even a term appropriately applicable to exercise, or am I back continuing to making up my own terminology?) Anyway, for the most part I feel like I have the Y part of this down pretty well; I am starting to get my shrug back on for the shrug-worthy exercises (standing at my treadmill desk practicing the shape – multitasking at its finest). I may sneak this one into warm-ups on other days to loosen up my shoulders. 

I am feeling a lot more confident in my abilities with the TRX shoulder-safe fallout, and only partly because I can still feel more core now, hours after the fact. I have the whole soundtrack cueing running in my mind – feet together, tights pressed together, ribs tucked down, abs tight, glutes tight, everything straight with all that tight, press upward and back just a couple of inches, do not elevate hips coming back to starting position. And when I am actually listening to the cues running on the endless loop, I do a lot better, have to fight body less in wanting it efficiency and lifting hips to remove the work on the core. While I am not yet to the point of wanting to combine with the TRX pushup, I can see why tribe sister K prefers that, and maybe after I remember how to do the fallouts more consistently I will step-up and try that as well.

Being completely transparent and honest, I am sort of baffled by the TRX leaning resist rotation press. For the most part of I understand the mechanics of how body and muscle groups work, but finding a way to make this exercise work for me is another matter entirely. Second set, J took it all the way back to bare-bones basics: standing upright, split stance, hands around the handles and positioned at the breastbone. From here, we went tiny little step to very slight leaning position. I could still feel in the obliques and was maintaining good form, even if I was not actually leaning into the lean part all that much. But that’s okay; at least I now have the press part going on correctly, whereas before I was kind of wandering all over the place and reaching around to maintain that center of the breastbone positioning. And let us not even talk about the set-up on the lacing of the handles. For a reasonably intelligent person, I completely blew it both times I tried it on my own before the first set. J had to unlace them both times and show me, again, how to thread them so they stayed. It’s now one of those things I am unlikely to ever forget. But oh well. I believe I was traumatized in kindergarten when they tried to break me of my left-handed writing, but right-handed everything else. To this day I have to think about left and right when those types of directions are used.

Practices Between Now and Monday

While I WANTED to be I in huffy-puffy week, a stiff knee on Friday afternoon/evening made me rethink my plans. Friday was plenty huffy puffy and made me feel really great about my efforts, but Saturday I returned to upper body splits with a generous dosing of mini bands and Romanian deadlifts (suggestions of trainer J), carefully avoiding squats and lunges to give super annoying gym tweak a bit of rest. Today was a different upper body series, kind of a Sunday play day in the gym. Gym tweak is much improved after a couple of days of not too much bendy on the knee.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #inspiration, #mental-health, #positivity

PT-30.1: Happy, content, satisfied in my present day spaces

Thursday morning, review day! It came up this morning how organically the training week has evolved this year – Monday we start a different List (i.e., not always brand new material), and Thursday we review what we did on Monday. For someone like me, for whom none of this stuff comes naturally, it works really well. For me personally, who started with this really negative, down-on-myself, not a kind word to think about myself, this schedule reinforces that getting it right, being perfectly adapted the first time out, matters less than trying hard to learn and pick up all I can from teaching and reviewing and practicing on my own. My successes are consistent as well, even if there is long lag time in between. Practice, practice, practice. Mastery in exercise and fitness is not like instant pudding – add milk and stir, voila! Dessert is served. And for as much time and energy as I have to put forth to get a good grasp on anything and everything, my finalizing products are so much richer and more satisfying.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Wednesday night I had the opportunity to work out with my friend and tribe sister, K, as we try to do most Wednesday evenings. Monday evening, when K trains with J, she had a bucket list moment doing a deadlift with the barbell. J had sent me pictures, and I dropped the phone in excitement when I opened and saw what she had done. My goodness – she looked so completely confident and happy and natural with that bar in her hand. Knowing how important this was for how, how it was something she looked forward to and dreamed about, I was beyond thrilled to see her succeed.

But what was even better – we were warming up last night and she was gesturing to the plates she had been using and expressing how happy it made her just looking at them. Her face just lit up talking about it, giving me the warm-fuzzy shivers as well. Honestly, now that I am making friends and associating with others who are as into the exercise learning process – it’s like a big new breakthrough for me. I have friends who exercise and who lift weights, but it’s not precisely the same. They are either pursuing a different type or style of fitness – M with his running, my friends who do Crossfit, my friends who have trained and lifted weights for several years – and while we have some overlap and commonality, there is little substitute for my fellow tribe members who are surfing the same sort of learning curve, even if their ultimate objectives are different.

At my core, I am a cheerleader. Not the stereotypical cute, perky, ponytailed cheerleader, more a supportive, motivational speaker-light, Pollyanna sort of cheerleader. You have goals? Yay you! What are you doing to make it happen? I actually love hearing about other people’s efforts with stuff – what works, what doesn’t, what vexes the living daylights out of them – and I really, really love it when things come together and success is achieved. Yay!

But – and there are lots of folks in my life who might smile indulgently in mild disagreement with this statement – I am realistic about life and ranges of possibility. For example, I might have a goal of being taller than my present 5’5″ height, but no amount of exercise is going to elongate my frame to make it happen and I will have to settle for wearing higher heels. (Thankfully I am perfectly happy at my present height and limit my heel-wearing to work and insist they must be comfortable high heels.) A pal who wants to be stronger and learn to use a barbell? Absolutely, it will happen. And I am delighted with and for her joy with this initial successful endeavor.

Thinking about this in relation to this week’s List, never going to lie on the blog – it has been tough. Everything about it feels difficult in one way or the other, yet I am not deterred, frustrated, unhappy, bored, ready to move on to something else. I find myself thinking about in idle moments, or when I need a break from the work in front of me. Those damn hamstrings – how dare they continue to defy me and not work the way I think they should be working? Or my idle ponderings about squat pops and the up and down motion and maybe I need more cardio? And I can barely bring myself to think about the TRX leaning resist rotation press because they seem so ridiculously out of reach difficult for me right now.

But even thinking all these less than positive thoughts about this week’s List, I am happy and satisfied overall. Because I’m not naturally gifted and I will have to work hard, practice more, and from that turn my present floundering effort into something far more gratifying from a success/not so much standpoint. I can and will improve. Hamstrings will gain strength and increase flexibility, but it will take time. Patience, while not my virtue, is easier to endure when I am not obsessively focused on one List.

My exercise library is quite flush; I suddenly realize I actually know more than I realize I know. This week’s challenge is not that big of a deal anymore, just the next big thing on my personal challenges. I am not on the verge of washing out of the tribe because my skill with the toe bridge falls a lot flat. Sunday I will be back to pursuing a full-on three set practice with this List, because I can use as much time as it takes to get through three sets and still self-correct as needed.

Being able to look at today, this week with its pluses and minuses and take it all in stride – big progress. I do not cry in frustration anymore. I do not get especially flustered or frustrated or even embarrassed. In this quiet time after the training session I plot my next steps. I do body weight movements of what crosses my mind and that I want to remember. I write my blog entries and tell my associates all about my successes and my no so muches (“failure” has been exorcised from my vocabulary and the blog with regard to training and practice). I think about what I want to do tomorrow and imagine how good it will feel to conquer another List of the day.

I don’t dwell at all on what I have not learned yet. If J has not bothered to write it in to a List as yet, it does not really exist in my universe. There are lots of things I see on Facebook from pro coaches and fitness experts I follow; there are lots of things I see other members in the gym performing. My mind process that as “that looks hard” or “wow, look at them go” and I move along to wherever it was I am headed next. I am in absolutely no rush to get somewhere else or attempt something that looks really cool; my library is full of things where I can do competent right now but know in my heart I want to be better. I am always, Always, ALWAYS scaling a new plateau even if it does not look like it from another nearby perch.

I believe the same thing is true of others as well. And I love that. I love that everyone I see in the gym every single day is chasing something only they see in their private view. My own Pollyanna hope is that they feel good about their efforts and that however they measure their progress it feels successful to them.

Most days, I cruise into the office with a smile on my face. I’ve been at training with J, or at the gym practicing on my own. Except Wednesday mornings; for whatever reason, last few Wednesdays have found me sleeping in until 6 or even 7 without any guilty for needing extra sleep. I feel fortunate and lucky to have the jobs I have and genuinely enjoy my coworkers – all of them. Where I have been happy in my non-exercising years, the sense of satisfaction I feel right now adds a new color and texture to my days.

On the days/weeks where I struggle or have to work really hard to struggle and still be perplexed to some degree with a List, this is kind of new height of normal for me.

Hopping onto Facebook, I find this little beauty from Coach Scott Abel:

Image may contain: 1 person, text, outdoor and water

My life is extraordinarily ordinary. M and I live pretty simply and are just an average couple striving to enjoy the life we have as individuals and as a couple. Do I have an extraordinary attitude? About things that are important to me, the things in my life I prioritize – I certainly hope so. Every day I learn more about myself, the people I love, the people I interact with routinely, even the strangers that cross my path. Maybe it is our personal pursuits of what matters most to each of us that inspires an extraordinary attitude and adds so much zest to an ordinary life.

Life is long, even if it last only another few hours or quite a few decades. With what I know now, with how I feel now, with how open my heart and my eyes. I want to use my remaining days trying to figure it out for sure.

The adventure continues.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #inspiration, #mental-health, #positivity