“Kitchen Sink Thoughts” posted here.
Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) (“huffy-puffy” in Janelle-speak) Lists continue to evolve. Today J combined 2 older Lists into a single, hard-driving List. Despite not moving through the exercises at huffy-puffy pacing, my breathing was greatly impacted and the fancy-smancy Fitbit tells the story of an effective PHA workout. Typically my Lists result something like 75% fat burn and 25% cardio (depends a lot on the List; upper body is typically much lower cardio); huffy-puffy sessions are far more evenly split. Today was 53% fat burn and 47% cardio. My interest in such statistics is primarily curiosity and comparison of my perceived exertion versus what the Fitbit measures. Feels pretty accurate today.
Being a non-cardio queen, there is this lingering sense of old anxiety about anything that even has a whiff of cardio-related activity. Which is possibly partially why I have avoided this particular series during the upper/lower splits review weeks.
The insecurity demons – even after this much time and so many successes, newer and improved outlook on life, confidence, new friends, cups running over with positivity and good feelings – those bad boys ride my coattails and rear their ugly little heads when I least expect it. While I work hard at my better health quest and have learned to accept the imperfections of my efforts toward that lofty objective, setbacks happen and are
almost inevitable. Self-awareness is not always an easy or comfortable thing, but in the end, lessons learned through hardship trump all the ease and superficiality in the world. Apparently I am still not a superficial woman, and in then end, I will prevail. Even if it is over my former self.
I do not have to be good at everything on training day. I do not even have to be better on Thursday review day. But I am
reassured absolutely certain after so many months of this pattern that I will take the lessons to my own practices and find my way. Improvement happens, and I have not been afraid of failure for a very long time. But I am apparently still capable of pangs after the fact.
Trainings days continue to be way more fun than I ever anticipated, especially after this much time has passed. I cannot recall a ho-hum, just okay training day since we started our two sessions weekly schedule over a year ago. I marvel that every week is good, better, more interesting and building momentum from the week before. It’s not so much that I am exceeding expectations for improvement by leaps and bounds – although I do improve every week – so much as my interest in the process expands and deepens the further we get into the various things. Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it sure does make training sessions a lot more interesting.
What We Did
A1 Rope High-Low Chop
A2 Rope Horizontal Chop
A3 Rope Low-High Chop
B1 Heavier Goblet Squat (35 lbs. – OMG!)
B2 Incline DB Press
B3 Seated Stretch Row
C1 Goblet Reverse and Forward Lunge
C2 Lat Pulldown
C3 Alternating Dumbbell Shoulder Press
How It Felt
While the chops are the first block on today’s List, they are also probably the most difficult things we did today. Part of me thinks they should be easier, that I should not struggle so much with them, but the rest of me understands that anything and everything ab related has it mysteries. For the first set, we used just a regular handle on the cable machine and it was fine. I think, though, that at this point I prefer the rope, so J wrote it up that way. But either can be used. On the rope high-low chop, I am now in the process of getting the one smooth chopping motion down. Tighten the abs, pretension those bad boys, push with the hip, don’t pull with the arms or shoulders. So many details! Biggest one I have to work at, though: position of the feet to ensure I am getting the most bang for my buck. And now, keeping an open hand versus my usual death grip on the one end of the rope. This is so I am pressing down with my chop versus pulling on the rope with arms. Since my obliques are still chattering, I recognize that I have been this work. I just know that additional practice is required to improve my technique. It’s just taken me awhile to grab the high-low chop real estate as a concept; my mind and body seem to have some sort of disconnect as to how they are supposed to work.
Much more confident with the rope horizontal chop, even if I do still have to check in with my foot position after the first one or two. Big takeaway from this one is the range of the chop, staying within a slightly wider than shoulder width radius. I particularly like the rope on these because I have done pretty well with gaining traction on the holding one end of the rope still and pressing with the other.
Potential new nemesis: the rope low-high chop. The starting position is almost a lateral lunge, which are not my favorites and require enormous concentration. Now add the upward chop to it. I am not going to discount or hate-on these until I get some addition practice hours under my belt. But for sure I will be thinking about that motion every time I do lateral lunges from here to eternity.
Of all the things we did today, the heavier goblet squat is my big triumph for the day. From our second week back in 2015, I have been doing goblet squats. We started with the tiny baby bell and through the months have graduated to today and a 35 lb. dumbbell. Seriously, a 35 lb. dumbbell! I can barely believe I could figure out a way to hold onto it to do goblet squats much less actually do the goblet squats with that huge thing in my hands. But, and isn’t there always a “but” in these conversations, the heavier weight exposes the weirdness in my form and how my right leg is not in perfect sync with my left leg. Bring on the dunce cap – cannot recall the term J used for this condition. So we worked on it. J suggested imagine having a mini band around the knees and pressing out as I am pressing upward. That kinda/sorta work, but the right leg – still wonky. Then we went tried allowing the right foot to bend outward more than the left, as it seems to want to do naturally. Mucho improvement after that. With the heavier weight, I want to ensure I stay cognizant of what is going on with that hip and leg and that I am keeping up with good form. Seems to me that for every pound of weight I add to the exercise, opportunities abound to somehow hurt myself.
Today, after this many months of doing both flat bench press and incline dumbbell press, I finally got around today to asking for a refresh on the difference and the feels between the different presses. Incline feel it more in the upper chest, flat bench is more middle/lower portion. Since I never do one followed the by the other (or have not yet), I trust J’s experience. But after this much time, I am relatively proficient with the incline press. Tuck those shoulders back and down. Work that upper arch. T-Rex those arms on the way up (keep a good bend in the elbows) while pretending my arms are invisible and use my shoulders more. Using 25 lb. dumbbells now (last I checked I was still on 20s) and with relative ease.
Admittedly, I have not done much with the seated stretch row despite it appearing on a few different Lists. My fallback reasoning – so many Lists, so few practice days – holds true. It is also in the big boys room and always seems to be swarming with bodies when I am in walking through the room enroute to somewhere else in the gym or just in search of a free bench. What I learned again today: pull back with shoulders and embrace the arch. More important, though, was the big giant stretch on the front part without leaning forward. Let the shoulders stretch out in front, don’t lean and don’t lock out elbows, and I can do this all the way until the weight stack is just hovering above its complete return. This is much harder that it seems like it should be, like relearning that sometimes shrugging up is appropriate after months and months of training myself to not shrug. Now that I have spent so much time on various things with shoulders back, I am having to train myself to let shoulders relax and stretch forward with the weight on this row machine. I am ridiculously excited to have just watched the weight stack so closely so I have a visual cue to match when my shoulders reach their stretched out point. It truly is the little things in the gym that make me the happiest.
While I have done the goblet reverse and forward lunges previously and they did not seem more challenging than the last time we went through them – actually quite the opposite – I felt both the benefit and the distraction of the new shoes. The benefit was they just felt better on my feet, which is in and of itself kind of distracting, because I keep expecting my toe joints to begin squeaking. Once the novelty of that wore off, my focus turned toward the different feels of a goblet positioning of the weight (15 lb. dumbbell) held under the chin versus a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells held at my sides. This brand of lunge has significantly less lean forward to it, so there is less big steps forward and back and more staying upright. I was getting a better handle on how much forward step, how much backward step by the time the sets were done, and I was definitely feeling it in the lead leg with invisible foot imaginings on the rear foot – unbearable lightness of foot is how I phrase it when doing Bulgarian split squats these days and the same reasoning applies to lunges as well, at least these lunges. Finding my new balance with the weight held in front this way is an ongoing process, but I like the challenge of them. I could definitely feel the huffy-puffy impact and was pleased to have caught on to the lead leg work versus invisible rear foot fairly quickly. I do believe my lunge anxiety may be fading fast in my rearview.
It has been awhile since I have done lat pulldowns on a regular lat pulldown machine, with the big long bar. I have done plenty one-armed ones on a cable machine (sitting on a stability ball, kneeling on a plush kneepad, sitting on the floor) and the dual cable machine, but it has been awhile since I have used one of these machines. So again, it was shoulders back, pull from the shoulders to just beneath the chin, work that arch. (Is it no wonder I am obsessed with the upper back arch?) But the big thing for me was the upward stretch – let the shoulders go up and into a full shrug, again without leaning forward. Like the seated row, I have my share of difficulty relaxing into that deep of a stretch and letting shoulders go ahead and shrug up. Again T-Rex arms, no locking out the elbows. I like the way these feel, with the shoulders pulling down and back and working the deeper, deepest upper arch. I like that I can actually feel my shoulder blades moving and when I am hitting the motion just right. Another one of those ridiculously exciting “ah ha!” moments when the shoulder blades J was just indicating should be moving like thing (by drawing arrows on my back with his finger tips) and then actually feeling it again on my own without the arrows indicating “this is what is supposed to be moving and where you should be feeling it.” But that’s the easier part of this exercise for me. The shrug up? Still a work in progress.
Ever since J provided the diagram and explanation on the scapular plane, I have really enjoyed shoulder presses. Today we did alternating dumbbell shoulder press with a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells. Depending on the day and what else I might be doing, I typically use either a set of 12s or a set of 15s, and I can usually manage just fine with the 15s. Doing the alternating version, key takeaway today was to remember to keep the non-moving dumbbell even with my ear, not slunk down with my tricep resting against my ribcage. I actually enjoy that challenge of keeping an eye on the resting weight while watching my arm press the other weight up overhead. Kind of turning into a vain person, but my arm muscles look darn good pressing that weight up and down.
Practices Between Now and Thursday
In my new resolve to save a huffy-puffy practice for Saturday, tomorrow will probably be a lower body List and Wednesday upper body. I am kind of enjoying the challenges of my mini bands of late and my latest and greatest imaginings with Bulgarian split squats, so probably I’ll be doing a lower body, squat-heavy day. Plus I want to do another test run with my right leg and goblet squats, so my List is default selected. Since it will be Tuesday, should not be too many folks up in the functional training area and I can go through my stuff in peace.
I am going to work on my choppers in warm-up, though, using the bands instead of the cables. Getting a better handle on the shape of those things will help cement the concepts, and the foot position, in my mind.