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.
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
A2 DB RDL
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
B6 DB RDL
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.