PT-27.1: Making lemonade

Monday morning, training with J. And OMG – for the first time in the entirety of training partnership, I was texting him 45 minutes before our appointment time that I was likely to be late and requesting a 30 minute delay if possible. Not a problem, he says, but I felt terrible about it. I was walking through the gym doors at 6:03 and J was already at the desk and doing his paperwork, necessary drudgery that it is, but I hate being late.

Why was I late? Mostly because I’m kind of stupid sometimes. This morning, I apparently slept right through my 4 a.m. alarm and when I got up with my 5 a.m. alarm (yes, this is my system to ensure I stay on track), I mistakenly thought it was only 4. So I was in no rush, enjoying my protein shake and reading my email, when I glance at the computer clock and it says 5:15. Mind says that cannot be right, so I go tearing through the house and every single clock reads something close to the correct time. Since I leave my house no later than 5:30 for the 10 minute drive to the gym, I was officially and irreparably late. Even 5:30 typically has me thinking I am pushing my luck, because I require at least 10 minutes of warm-up time. I truly believe it’s hardwired into my DNA or something.

Anyway, I hate being late for anything. Hyper-responsible self can become very unhinged when stuff like this happens. But all was well. No one died, was maimed, or injured by my tardiness.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Last week was not a great week. A lot of personal stress from a client’s child committing suicide (at 13) and a serious communication breakdown at work. It caused disruption in my sleep patterns, allowing me to blow off my first alarm without any hint of coming to wakefulness.

I am now mostly philosophical about the week that was, which in my mind culminated this morning in training with J. We have been reviewing huffy-puffy Lists the last couple of weeks, and whether I realize it or not in the moments, I really feel differently about them than I do the body part splits variation Lists. Maybe it’s my sense of responsibility to try to peppy-up the pacing or the upper/lower changes that happen. Not sure precisely, but when J introduced this series to me, I clearly remember him saying that twice a week would be adequate, and to pursue huffy-puffy on training days and pursue other Lists on non-session days.

Perhaps it is all psychological conditioning, but I was particularly exhausted last week. MOST of the days I was pursuing practice on a huffy-puffy List or with peppier pacing. Muscle soreness and just malaise seemed to hit Friday through the weekend, though I soldiered onward and finished my List of the day with lesser enthusiasm. I dislike it when I have lesser enthusiasm about exercise for an extended (read: more than one day) period of time. This is my me time, where I feel focused, centered, good about my efforts, and have happy blood cells flowing freely. If my me time becomes littered with rest-of-my-life type issues and pollutants, it is less enjoyable and productive; I feel bad attitude syndrome trying to invade.

To other people in my life, it sounds like me crying wolf about my exercise habits. It’s one bad few days, Janelle, and one day of oversleeping; you’re overreacting. I have had a similar response from several friends and exercise compadres today as well as other various times, and I completely understand their measured and reasonable responses. But – and isn’t there always a “but” in these types of discussions – I have worked too hard to allow even a smidge of allowance in my discipline. While other people on the outside looking in at my schedule might think I am consistent and disciplined and hardened into a habit, I know myself. I know how easy it would be for a single cookie (slacking on practices) to evolve into eating entire packages of cookies (not exercising at all) several days per week.

My wariness of relaxing my standard of consistency is such a non-issue for most people I feel like a one-off weirdo for even bringing it up. But I am a one-off weirdo in a lot of ways, and having to be nearly fanatical about sticking to a schedule and List rotation to stay on track with my consistency is probably small-ball on the weirdness scale. I actually do not advocate my methods for other people, because I like to believe most are emotionally and mentally as healthy or healthier than I am in their lifestyle pursuits. But if clinging to my schedule and having a standard of exertion is the only thing that keeps me moving forward with my better health quest, so be it.

The bells ringing in my head for oversleeping are probably a teensy bit overkill, like alerting the fire department with 3-alarm fire call for a cooking via smoke alarm event (been there, done that, far more familiar with the process that I am comfortable admitting). But unlike where I was when I began my quest, I don’t care if it sounds like overkill, overreaction, or even being a little silly. Yes, I know I am not training for any sort of competition event. Yes, I know it’s only a few days out of a single week in many, many consecutive weeks. Yes, I am likely even more neurotic than the average bear about this stuff. But I don’t really don’t care about those reasonable, sensible thoughts and ideas. In this, mine is the only opinion the carries weight and matters to me. If this mildest version of malaise were to continue, I would consult higher authorities – like trainer J, who would likely say a few days off to clear my head is in order. Right now, the something that seems wrong and off is within my purview to diagnose and correct and yes, a few days off could be in order. I may be overtaxing my system, not eating right, not getting enough high-quality sleep, but what seems most likely, allowing outside the gym distractions seep into my exercise routines.

Musing about this throughout my morning and other work-related discussions, I find my elevation of my own opinions to be refreshing, new, and kind of bold for me. While I do not view myself as especially wishy-washy, I know when it comes to fitness and appearances, I have a pretty wide range of old insecurities to contend with. Affixing regular, consistent exercise to health has made me far more focused on having to do this for myself. There is no way to hire someone to exercise my limbs and get my body moving to the point of huffy-puffy; I literally have to do the heavy lifting. J is a fabulous trainer, teacher, coach, but even if he wanted to, even if I could pay him boatloads of cash, there is no way he (or anyone else for that matter) can do my Lists for me every day and make me healthier. There is no quick and easy way to get from where I was, to where I am right this minute, to where I desire to be 3 months from now and beyond.

Staying within my wheel and running my gym hamster legs off for all they are worth requires that I retain my focus and keep eye on the List of the day. Distractions happen, and I am grown-up enough to understand that. But I cannot allow myself to be derailed.

Today’s tardiness is a wake-up call for me, if I have the desire to put a positive spin on it, not self-flagellate, and not find myself resisting the urge to apologize to J every time our paths cross this week and next and the one after that – until I prove to myself I am again trustworthy with regard to appointments. Nope, not going to do it. I am evaluating what has been going on in my life and making adjustments where I see fit. My conclusions:

  • I think while we are pursuing review and training with huffy-puffy Lists, I will limit myself to one practice with prior week’s huffy-puffy for now. Way back when the huffy-puffy was introduced, J said twice a week would be adequate. How did I file that away in the “do not heed” file? In my mind, huffy-puffy are more exhausting than other Lists. Maybe they are, or maybe it is all in my attitude and my own head pumping them up to bigger and badder than they are in reality. Whatever the case, my progress will not stall if I push the huffy-puffy practices off to Saturdays.
  • Body is telling me something, but message is kind of garbled with all the more pressing events of the last week. For the most part I know it is outside distractions and my tendency toward some small degree of perfectionism pressuring me that causes this sense of disorganized dishevelment. Choosing to slow down my thoughts and being more deliberate in my focus will certainly help clear up that communication channel.
  • Possibly I am being obsessive, hyper-vigilant, and overreactive about a single bad week. But again, I don’t care. We each do what we have to to protect our priorities from being encroached upon by other things, and there are few other higher priorities than taking care of myself. Big, huge, giant part of that is staying focused on getting into the gym and putting forth my best efforts with List of the day. Granted my best effort may be a warm-up session or a lighter List, and I am perfectly happy with that on days where low energy or short timeframes require it. My perspective on my intent and my effort – that’s where distraction causes me to falter.

One of the best things about blogging and the training recaps is sorting out my stuff with regard to my better health quest. I posted this weekend about my quest for replacement gym shoes, and quite honestly, I am truly amazed at the impact the new kicks have had on my gym efforts. They were awfully stiff at first, but already, mind and body have made the adjustment and they feel like an extension of my feet. They feel far more comfortable and appropriate than other shoes I have tried in the past, and in this I think it is a combination of my experience level with the training I am doing and the advancement of my skills. I feel as I now have the basis for opinions on equipment I am using – everything from my preferences of machines to my clothing and footwear. This was unexpected. Having never been much of an athlete, I chose things that seemed like they worked well enough and did not really think anything made much of a difference for my level of exercise efforts. Oh my how times have changed.

And I do kind of feel like a footwear stalker with J, having not only followed him to Reeboks, but also to the exact same style of shoe (except mine are women’s and have lots of pink). Per Oscar Wilde: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness. Plus J just knows what works and generously shares his thoughts and opinions with the tribe if we bother to ask. (Plus he is helping me advance enormously with that whole mediocrity issue.)

On the healthy eating and diet front, my 27-day fat loss prescription program has now concluded. At the end of it all, I am down 4 pounds and feel satisfied with both my effort and results. It is not a sustainable eating plan for me, although I console myself noted many of the folks who enjoyed 15 to 32 lb. losses were both very disciplined about following the program and have a more significant amount of weight to lose. I did have some good takeaways from the experience, most notable being that if I want to lose any amount of weight quickly I should likely just shelve the idea immediately. Despite my best effort to follow the plan to the letter, I am extremely intolerant of blood sugar crashes, low energy levels, and (as illustrated above) just about anything that impacts my daily exercise routines. The kick-start of this program was a triple whammy in that regard, and after just a few days I went from a couple of protein shakes per day as meal replacements and a low-carb dinner back to my usual one protein shake per day and lower carbohydrate and higher protein lunches and dinners.

As I said, my starting weight was also significantly less than all the others who posted on the support group’s Facebook page. I also began and ended this experience far more consistent in my dedicated exercise than the rest of the participants, so I suspected knew my experience would differ. Strangely, I did not feel shame or disappointment with my very modest weight loss, and I am delighted for the others and their more successful efforts. What I did find curious was that the focus of the group was far and away more about changes in eating habits, which in my experience as well is more difficult than picking up the exercise. But in this group as well as others I have participated in or observed, “exercise” encouragement is primarily focused on walking 20 to 30 minutes at least a few days per week. To their credit the leaders did try to incorporate some weight training and “simple” kettlebell exercises, some of which I myself still find challenging to execute correctly under J’s tutelage (looking at you, KB swings).

I am really glad to have participated in this program, if only to reassure myself that weight loss groups are probably not very beneficial for me. I am pleased that my backbone has strengthened and that I was not negatively impacted by ability to follow the program as strictly and resulting lesser success (as measured by pounds lost). It was nice chatting with folks about their experiences, getting to read success stories and how happy people were to have lost the varying amounts of weight. Counting calories, weighing portions, replacing meals with protein shakes for extended periods is not within my range of self-discipline, and I continue to be okay with that. Cutting back on the carbohydrates or making different carb choices can make a difference. But for my body, expecting quick results is unrealistic and the path to disappointment. Slow and steady seems to be the frequency we thrive on.

Despite the real and perceived setbacks in my exercise efforts this last week, I continue to make forward progress, even if so slowly it is hard to recognize any movement for extended periods of time. The measures that matter – blood tests! – are being taken this month, and I fully expect to be stable and thriving. If something has ticked upward, I am now in a stronger position to understand what is going on, what is going wrong, and make appropriate adjustments. These days, I am very proactive about my overall health. But if something has changed where I need to make stronger adjustments, I will be quite surprised.

At the end of this weight loss group experience, my primary feeling is one of gratitude. I am thankful that I am still capable of going to the gym and running through a List, huffy-puffy or otherwise, without feeling as if each labored breath is among my last. In fact, while today I was most definitely breathing hard, I went away from the gym feeling so happy with the effort expended and more clear-headed about where I am with my better health quest. Progress is not always a straight line; there are many zigs, zags, and U-turns in the process. But the measure that matters – I am still going, still trying, still learning, still perfecting my form and technique. I get better, every session, every practice. Even when it feels like I am standing still or going backwards. Mistakes, corrections, enhancements, back to basics, forward to something more advanced – all great things.

The most important thing: movement. I do something every single day, and it is enough. I cannot let myself lose sight of that very basic, very simple principle. Keep going, keep trying, the rest all takes care of itself.

Life has its lemons, and I am becoming an expert in juicing lemons and preparing lemonade. Probably if I applied myself I could whip up lemon meringue pie or lemon bars from scratch. I dunno, maybe its the thought of sugar that make me smile, but I do love lemonade.



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