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.
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.