A little (boatloads!) help from my friends

Trainer J is back from his vacation and was back in uniform at the gym today. Friend C also returned from her week away, back in her usual Tuesday training time.

And I am beyond happy to see them both.

While glad they both were away and had a good time on their respective trips, I am so selfishly glad my Tuesday was more typical and normal and they were where present at their usual time. Honestly, I had not realized how dependent I am on the day-to-day social contact in the club until nearly all my tribe is away at once. I soldiered onward on my own; I even took a couple of days off myself. But while I typically go through my practice on my own, it’s nice seeing others I know go through their routines or to get a glimpse of what J is teaching someone else. There is just enormous comfort for me in the routine and typical predictability of the days.

Plus I just missed them.

I went through a lower body routine today that has been lying fallow for a few weeks, neglected in favor of the newer plexes and huffy puffy Lists. While I thought the yoga might help with the general tight soreness in my glutes and hamstrings, the opposite seemed to be true. But today, after seeing my pals and having my gym right itself once more, I had renewed focus and went through my List with no issues. If anything, it seems to have been the right call; my glutes and legs feel far more limber from the more focused work.

Or I’m just a lot more relaxed because the summer is shaping up and the week will be back to normal tomorrow.

I feel almost guilty for being so happy they are back. But absence made the heart grow fonder in this case, and since I love and adore both these folks, I am completely unphased by admitting my delight at their return.

Friend J asked me yesterday what I would do when things do change, when trainer J moves along to his next great adventure. I’ll miss him, of course, but a more permanent move creates a new normal. Vacation, mine or someone else’s, is like a temporary placeholder until things get back to normal normal. I could almost hear him shaking his head and trying to suppress a laugh on the telephone, but that’s okay. I am patiently awaiting his return and the restart of my next rendition of that normal as well.

It has been a fantastic day thus far.

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

Gym vacation – FAIL!

I had really great intentions of figuring out my head stuff by taking a few days away from the gym. I felt just sure that doing something else for 3 days would be a miracle cure, that I would come back refreshed and recharged and recommitted to my better health quest and do better with my Lists. I knew better than to expect miracle cures, that I would somehow be transformed in my absence from the club into someone who can perform push-ups with elegant ease and appear confident and assured doing inchworms or the dreaded burpees, but I thought I might miss my routine enough to feel completely reconnected to it. After all, I reasoned, it was only 3 days.

Fail. Big fat FAIL. I barely made it 2 days without finally throwing in the towel and deciding to f**k this vacation crap and get back to my roots.

So I did. I came back a day early and was in the club this morning and back to toiling away at a huffy puffy List with as close to appropriate pacing as I could manage. And OMG – I feel so much BETTER now.

Was I stellar and miraculously energetic and precise in my performance? No, just no. But  my head was in the game, even body felt like it was still in a food coma from too much bbq yesterday with all that amazing potato salad.

Of course, I know how good chocolate tastes when I have abstained for extended periods as well. But I console myself the gym Lists are actually beneficial to me. After all, it helps build strong bodies in at least 12 ways, whereas chocolate? Chocolate hits the happy button in my brain for about 30 seconds until body screams for more and blood sugar starts climbing and staying elevated for longer and longer periods the more I consume. There truly is no comparison, other than body is addicted to both.

Bottom line: feels good to be back in the gym, doing something that feels like “normal” to me.

For the 2 days away, I had mixed bag of success.

I went to yoga both Friday evening and Saturday morning, and it was okay. I am not a bendy or flexible person AT ALL and it seems to have only gotten worse as the months away from yoga have passed. This is actually part of the reason I think I need more yoga in my life, but at the same time, I do not especially enjoy it. The classes I took this time were different from the Bikram-based yoga I am more familiar with, but like everything new, it will take some adjustment and learning to improve. No worries at all that it will ever replace my gym and resistance training, and if I go another bunch of months again in between I am okay with that.

That said, I am going to try to make another class this evening, to see how it feels to go after a morning of pursuing my more typical exercise pursuits. As this is the long weekend, I have some extra time to experiment and see what works for me. Right this minute, I believe maybe a Sunday class of some sort until my pass expires is my best exploratory pathway. Surely by the end of July I will have a better sense of whether yoga is something I will incorporated into my better health quest once more.

Assuming I carve out some time for this pursuit. Life is busy and full of other priorities that could easily overwhelm this desire.

On the walking, not a problem for me at all. I was out and about in my neighborhood for at least an hour, just taking a casual stroll, and easily exceeded 20,000 steps on my Fitbit both days thus far. I am back in business with my treadmill desk as well, so getting plenty of walking workout in this process. I may not even collapse in a heap on the side of the road walking or hiking 300 yards.

For the most part I have exorcised and banned the “fail” term from my vocabulary; it is but one of many ways I abuse and beat myself up for not living up to my own lofty (and primarily unrealistic) expectations. But in this select instance, it is appropriate. More than that, it is an accurate description of what has happened.

And I am okay with that. If I have learned anything in the last almost 2 years, my habits have been molded and shaped by getting up every day, getting to the gym, and going through a List of the day. Sometimes I am energetic and almost perfectly on-point with everything, and others I struggle and have to really work at it. A process, for sure, but my process, one I am familiar with and has become ingrained in my day-to-day life.

All very good things.

Because I feel better getting some version of exercise every single day. The walking feels good, the yoga feels pretty good after a shower and quart or 2 of water, but nothing really replaces being in the gym and my Lists.

But I knew that going into it. My super secret fear that I did not voice is that I was getting tired of my routines and stuck in a rut. Thing about me – I tend to thrive on routine and the hamster wheel that I run on much of the time. New stuff, reordering the sequences, and varying the pacing works for me. I am looking forward to returning to our regularly scheduled programming.

The 8+ hours of sleep the past 3 nights is a big plus for me. As I always say, sleep is the great equalizer for me.

#better-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #sleep, #yoga

Gym vacation

What for most people is a simple choice feels to me like a major life-altering decision. It has been months since I took more than a single day off from my gym pursuits, but I am coming to realize it is not necessarily beneficial to me to go long stretches without a regular break. Like vacation days off from work, I think I also need to take a break in my exercise routines. My mind has been mulling on the idea of taking a break, not taking a break for the better part of a month. One day I am very gung-ho to take a break, the next day I am paralyzed and just sure I will never again set foot in the gym if I allow myself to pursue other interests.

As previously discussed, trainer J is away on vacation, so there was no training session to recap on Thursday and no session scheduled on Monday, so I am officially off the training leash for about 10 days. When I have that anchoring me, it is good to get into the gym and work at what I am learning, lest I forget and become some hapless trainee once more. Work has been busier and crazier than usual with the 3-day weekend looming large, and I have been tired, distracted, and almost completely disconnected from my practices this week, something unlike me and concerning. Mind has inclinations of its own and requires only a little nudge toward the idea of not that into activities anymore. I cannot allow that to happen with exercise, and before I reach the point of burning out, I am wise to heed the signs and take a break. It is warranted, likely very wise, but my fear of losing ground is almost greater than my common sense in this regard. It would be so easy for me to take one or two days off, then next I know a couple of years have passed and my hard-won gains are gone. Or so says my anxious, fearful, distrusting, and judgmental part of my mind. It knows me well; it knows how I can become a major excuse factory. There is good basis in experience and history for this anxiety.

But this time, this time it will not happen. A lot of things are different now. I have worked hard at building my consistency, and along with that, I have built a community of friends and other friendly faces that make me want to return to my routines. Trainer J – we will be back on track this time next week. My friends at the gym I see most days – I would miss that interaction if I stopped going. The other members I see nearly every time I set foot in the club – while I do not know them beyond saying hello or waving across the gym floor, it makes me feel like I am part of the community. I’m no longer an outsider peering in; I am now part of the daily fabric.

So last night getting home from work and feeling asleep on my feet, I resolved to take today and the weekend off from the gym. I have other movement-related plans for the days ahead, but I will set aside my Lists and ruthlessly restrain myself from driving to the gym for my exercise.

I purchased a 20 class pass for a nearby yoga studio, so I will be trying out a couple of different types of yoga classes. A daily long walk through my neighborhood is on the agenda as well, part of a potential new trend to train my legs in a different way. Maybe I will unchain my bike and ride with M on one of his daily runs.

The point here: I’m not using the break with intent of dissolving into a pile of sludge on my couch. I am going to use this time to try something new and different. The yoga is feeling more and more necessary, either that or doing more stretching on my own. The new studio is further away than the one I have used in the past, but it seems far more stable and consistent in its offering of classes throughout the day, every single day of the week. Its rates and options for class purchases is also a lot more favorable to me. The walking is just something I should do anyway, because it is good for me and someday I may agree to go hiking with M or other friends. While I am definitely stronger now, not sure my lung capacity it up to snuff. Longer daily walks can only help with that. With all that said, the way yoga and the walking are meant to supplement to my resistance training exercise regimen, not replace it. Yoga and walks would get thrown under the bus (and likely in that order) immediately if I had to triage and make choices about my better health quest activities.

Assuming I can overcome my typical anxiety about trying something new and going to a new studio, of course. I will be fine once I get through the front doors, settled with my mat, and class begins, but it’s new and my brand of social anxiety crazy is making a fresh appearance.

Strange how this morning I woke up at 6 and immediately freaked out about sleeping through my gym time, until I remembered making the decision to turn off my usual alarms and not go to the gym this morning. Instead I packed up my clothes and yoga mat and double-checked the yoga class time for after work this evening.

I got this. Besides, I have been so exhausted this week I apparently needed the additional rest.

Just in case I don’t make it back, happy weekending everyone!

#balance, #better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #yoga

Pinterest is tormenting me

Over the weekend I was browsing Pinterest for recipe ideas for a celebratory cake occasion. I am the most unimaginative baker and must have a recipe or invite food preparation disaster. I found a couple of ideas that looked manageable, printed them out (because I am old school like that and would rather not have to clean my iPad or laptop screen of random bits that go flying off the mixer) and filed them away (i.e., posted them on the side of my refrigerator) with notes of ingredients I do not have on hand and must purchase next time I go to the grocery store.

Now every day Pinterest is sending me tempting looking things. I have new pins all over the place, all of them food-related and laden with sugar, fat, carbs.

It is food porn at its very worst.

Thankfully none of these things are items I can just buy equivalents of in at my local grocery store bakery section, and any and all bakeries I enjoy keep banker’s hours, are far from me, and the closest is closed on Tuesdays when my resolve may be weakest.

The struggle seems real enough, though. Just don’t open, look, or allow myself to be sucked into that particular rabbit hole of time-sucking browsing.

Since I am writing about food today, I have been doing very well lately with my healthier eating patterns of late, which is now surely jinxed because I am taking step toward victory lap. But my biggest sin was eating cheese and crackers when I got home starving last night while I was cutting up a salad. The streaking of not giving in to temptation is enough to keep me mostly on the straight and narrow with regard to healthy food choices.

If anything, I find myself extraordinarily tempted by saltier foods, dill pickles and tangy salad dressings probably the worst offenders. But my latest salad dressing of choice is a vinaigrette and much, much lighter than my beloved ranch. I am very picky about pickles and they are limited in their food pairings. The reason this seems remarkable to me is because typical salty junk food is usually too much for my tastes, yet right now I seem to want to eat more salt than it likely healthy.

Yeah, I know – me and my first world problems. But it is a pretty quiet week in my better health quest world. Trainer J is on well-deserved vacation and our next training is not until next Thursday (June 1), so unless I get really ambitious about writing about my Wednesday morning exercise malaise (as in: really not much enthusiasm for whatever reason), it may be a pretty quiet week on the blog.

All is well, though. And Pinterest will stop sooner or later. I can wait it out.

#better-health, #diet, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating

PT-40: Weeee! Rocking skills review

Monday morning training with J. While it was technically a huffy-puffy List review and revision, it was long enough ago that it kind of felt more like a regular List review yet with more emphasis on individual exercise skills updates and enhancements.

Key Takeaways

It does not seem to matter if I have been doing an exercise 20 months or 20 seconds, there is always something to tweak or new to learn. Personally, I find this exciting and keeps my interest in the journey fresh and focused.

My fatigue fog is dissipating. While not discouraged or feeling poorly about my better health pursuit, shaving sleep and shorting myself on time, patience, and ultimately best effort in practices has contributed to my overall malaise with the exercise.

While my nemesis stable is alive and well, so is my favorites List as well. There are some basics that feel so far out of reach for self-assured competency (looking at you, every push-up method known to man), and still others that make me know time, patience, and consistent practice will eventually cure. I have haunting memories of trying to do sit-ups in junior high and being mortified at how impossible they were for me. I am working steadily toward erasing those memories and replacing them with new ones of me being able to do a whole set comfortably. Someday soon – it will happen.

Something I like about me – I am okay stepping backward and taking apart an exercise I have been doing and learning its pieces and parts to make myself improve. Sometimes the big picture fluidity eludes me and J has to go back to basics and break things down into building blocks so I can improve and advance to some other level.

What We Did

Huffy-puffy go-go-go pacing for 3 sets of each block:

Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats (body weight only)
1-arm dumbbell row (25 lb. DB)
Plank off bench with step-outs, kickbacks, knee-in

Alternating dumbbell step-back to RDL hinge (15 lb. DBs)
Dumbbell chest press (20 lb. DBs)
Alternating Otis-up/chopper sit-ups

Alternating lateral lunges with bicep curl (15 lb. DBs)
Dumbbell pullovers (25 lb. DB)
Dumbbell triceps extensions (10 lb. DBs)

How It Felt

Maybe I am the one-off weirdo in the exercise and fitness world that actually likes Bulgarian split squats. Or perhaps I have not crested the part that makes them so deplorable. Or option 3 is that it took me so long to feel decently skilled at them that I am mistaking my gratitude for developing the strength and agility for actual enjoyment. Whatever. Right now they are not that bad or terribly unpleasant; they have safely been released back into the wild from the nemesis stable. I like the part where foot slides itself into proper position much of the time without me having to stop, restart, test repeatedly over and over again. Lately we have been doing bodyweight, but this next 10 days or so I will get the 5 lb. dumbbells off the rack and experiment and test my new-found skill. Worst outcome I will allow is that the teeter-totter balance effect returns and I have to try a lot harder to get back to where I am right now. There are much worse outcomes.

From there we went to 1-arm dumbbell rows on the bench. Kind of feels like I’m almost hugging the incline bench with my knee supported and my elbow resting on the incline slant, and I am somewhat undecided whether I like it better that way or with my arm stretched out to get the bend angle right. Rows of all stripes are enjoyable. In the realm of huffy-puffy Lists, the weight is generally manageable for a higher (for me, more than 8) rep set. We have done these in various configurations, this incline bench shape the latest. After doing these in their various forms, I always walk away feeling pleased with myself for the effort and like I have some sort of bodacious shoulders in the workshop under construction.

The planks off the bench with step out/up/knee in remain a challenge. Find myself moving along thinking rib tuck! Rib Tuck! RIB tuck, damnit! Which is what I always think when doing planks or anything plank-based. But it occurred to me this morning that in my mind chant should be amended to tighten glutes/rib tuck/tighten glutes. I do not seem to have the habit of doing both simultaneously and can feel varying degrees of engagement of the wrong spots (low back) or lack of engagement (abs). When I get my focus dialed in on the tightening glutes and abs (rib tuck), my efforts are far more successful and fatiguing. That said, I do like these more than your standard plank, because it gives mind something to do besides count the seconds and come up with all the weenie-whining reasons why time passes too slowly, all of which revolve around how much I hate planks because they are so difficult.

Of the bigger ah-ha moments today relates to the alternating dumbbell step-back to RDL hinge movement. Today J suggested I try turning the rear foot more inward and see how that felt. When he said it, my mind’s knee-jerk was it would not make much difference or would feel wrong. However, made a significant difference in how the muscles fired and actually felt more natural to me. Whoda thunk? Seriously, I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about what my feet are doing while going through my Lists every day, because every time J has made an adjustment, correction, or suggestion about foot placement, it has made some kind of difference for me. By the end of the third set, I was still having to consciously think about that inward turn when stepping back. However, I could immediately tell the difference when it was straight and forward-pointing as well.

Not a whole lot of new stuff to report about dumbbell chest presses – still love them, still focused on arching back, and feeling a bit as if I am slacking on this – but my chest muscles this many hours later say I did reasonable work this morning. Between the arch, ensuring elbow does not unbend completely at the top, and keeping weights above the eyes makes these an enduring challenge and a favorite. Because we are using higher-rep weights, these go pretty smoothly for the full range for the huffy-puffy experience.

Working really, really hard at not hating floor sit-ups, a battle I am actually winning. Ever since I saw a really fit man in the gym doing sit-ups (at a really brisk pace) with his feet secured under a piece of equipment, I have felt infinitely better about using the bench this way. Besides, for the first time in my entire life I feel like I am succeeding and doing these correctly, if not terribly efficiently and at a good, steady clip. Today we reviewed alternating the Otis-ups/chopper sit-ups. For the most part, I have the shape and movement pretty well down, but it has been a bit of a trial and error process. I have gone from somehow arching/twisting lower back up to rounding shoulders and sort of curling up to our present rendition of straight up pulling with abs for the Otis-ups, then following the same pattern with the chop-turn at the top and leading with the opposite arm (right arm across to the left, left arm in the air, and vice versa). No low back ache (at all) today, but definitely feeling like I have been doing something with my core. So happy about that.

I have had an ongoing hate-intensely dislike relationship with lateral lunges. Cannot truly explain why, except they are hard and I’m ridiculously clumsy and feel off-balance stepping sideways. So what do I do? Avoid them like the walking dead. If they appear on a List, I do the bare minimum. Or less. Because I despise them that much. Today, maybe there is hope for reconciliation. Today’s bigger ah-ha moment came with deconstruction and an innocuous (for everyone else) foot placement adjustment became total game changers for me. J, still recovering from his walking pneumonia and unable to exercise much himself, enthusiastically demonstrated the lateral lunge with bicep curl for me. My heart sank a little, because the day had been going so very well up to that point. But I was wearing my big-girl leggings and pulled them up and stepped up to the plate. We went through a few, with some encouraging coaching about butt back first, then knee bend and into the lunge. As is typical, I struggled. But then he suggested I try turning my foot outward more, then butt back, then knee bend with the lunge part lean forward, weights over the knee. It was like I was standing in pouring rain, then clouds parted and the sun came out – suddenly I got it. Epiphany moment! The foot placement made my knee and hip align more correctly, leading with the butt back and into the knee bend/lunge part suddenly made these make sense. Coming back up to center, bicep curls were fine. Repeat on the other side, and it still worked. I feel clunky and mechanical right now, but there is genuine hope of making friends eventually. Of all the various types of lunges I have learned, these have been the worst. Maybe now they will not be so bad, and with some practice I will become more fluid with them. Again, foot placement – whoda thunk?

Love me some dumbbell pullovers, they of the whole body work to make the exercise work. I know I am pulling the weight overhead with arms and working my shoulders, but I feel it in my glutes, abs, whole body lying on the bench during and after the set is concluded. We went back to a 25 lb. dumbbell today, because this was a huffy-puffy List and was all about the max reps and working the heart, but since I learned about the pretensioning the rest of the body to maximize the work, it feels like a lighter weight and I feel capable of significantly more reps. While I go through these on a List a few times each week, I marvel at the way my shoulders actually flex and move now in their range of motion. Another of those realizations that continue to surprise and delight me.

Since successfully learning and not having to convince myself that doing dumbbell triceps extensions lying on the gym floor is no big deal, I now have mixed feelings about them when I go through the regular on-the-bench version. They feel a little different on the bench, like here is more room for error, but hey me, we’ve been successfully going through these for almost 2 years without mishap. Probably it’s the lovely of the satisfying little thud of the weight on the floor or the effort expended pressing the small of the back flat to the ground, because I find maxing out a set of these on the bench to leave me feeling like a job well done. It’s truly the little things that make me think about it, and next opportunity I get, I will try a set on the floor for comparison purposes. My curious mind wants to know about these things.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

In the almost two years we have been working together, the pendulum of how I view myself as a client has completely swung. In the beginning I saw myself as the special needs client, the sole tribe member who needed extra help with everything and did not progress satisfactorily and was constantly on the bubble of being fired from the tribe. Negative girl’s expert  hand at work.

Warming up this morning I was pondering that I am a ridiculously easy-going tribe member and that J’s job might be more interesting if everyone had more interest in the minutia of the exercise and training process. Then I was a little ashamed of my big giant ego swelling and attempting to smother everyone else in its hot air enormity, because we are all very different in how we learn and what we hope to achieve from the training and learning process.

More than my curiosity and interest in what I am learning and how my body’s pieces and parts are supposed to work, I don’t care much at all what we do each session. We can learn new things, or start the process of learning new things. We can review older Lists. We can go throguh a get down in the weeds and examine the soil type review of individual exercises and critique the living daylights out of it. Honestly, I don’t care much at all what happens to be on the agenda. And if by some wild hair I have a burning question or ongoing trauma drama with something, I speak up and we will go through it. Very give and take. J wants to take a week or weeks off from writing new training plans it will be fine. Because there is always an enhancement or improvement to discern going through and reviewing a List all over again.

This is week 2 of 3 where we train together in a single session due to illness and vacation plans. My creature-of-habit-ness craves structure and repetitive patterns, so I am really into List on Monday, review List on Thursday pattern we have established. When it is only a single training session week, skills review works fine for me. Always I learn something from the time we spend working, and its value is not limited to just learning how to lift a weight. Our ranging conversations expose me different ideas and the exposure helps with my mental focus during my time on my own working through a List. I see Bulgarian split squats and my mind will go through not only the cues for this but the general gist of everything else we talked about. Frequently it is what we did over the weekend, or something we are reading, what’s going on in my world, what’s going on in his.

Family, friendships, relationships of all stripes are important to me to varying degrees. The closer I am to someone, the more inroads and interest I develop in what interests them. J, being a philosophy major in college, is a knowledge junkie, a quality I value and appreciate about him. It’s not limited to exercise and fitness or philosophy-related topics; he is an equal opportunity learner and seems to have a diverse interest in examining and making decisions about the various perspectives on nearly everything. So our conversations are very free-ranging, and I take his recommendations seriously about what he is reading and pronouncing as worthwhile of pursuit. Unfortunately I do not have the amount of time or energy to pursue knowledge on the same level, and our interests are interactions with others are diverse as well, but I do listen to his suggestions and use what time I have available to investigate further. Sometimes things stick and become part of my own repertoire – the couple of fitness pros on Facebook are direct introductions from J’s comments and likes and because they seem like sensible people who exhibit common sense that makes sense to me.

My point here, we’re not always talking exercise; to other members walking by, it may look like we’re standing around shooting the breeze. Not that I care a whit. But it struck me today how if the cueing has evolved into its own soundtrack, the rest of our conversation is the background music that accompanies it. It makes retention of what I am supposed to be doing and how do it more productive.

Over and over I stress the importance of how personal and unique our individual better health journeys. In spite of that, I still periodically cross paths in my own life with people who have no comprehension of how difficult it is to learn the fine little details that enhance and improve things I already know pretty well. And that’s okay. Some of my friends are immersed in either cardio-based pursuits or Crossfit, both of which seem so far removed from my daily gym experience. We are different; I can deal with that and slowly, eventually, kicking and screaming they will as well.

Tiny details are huge in my better health quest and always have been. Telling the vast majority of my friends about the details of turning my foot in on an RDL hinge or out on a lateral lunge – sometimes I feel as if I am speaking in tongues to them. Mostly it’s okay; I  can accept that we are different in our pursuits. The upside of our differences: it has forced me out of my own comfort zone of close friends and to expand my circles beyond was is neat and comfortable and safe. I am socially awkward and feel inept in personal interactions so much of the time, and it is this that makes that makes me feel unsure and on so many fronts.

But the fronts I found so scary when I started are not the same things that give me anxiety and feel like the ground beneath my feet is uncertain right now. Things is, my limbs are stronger, my balance more confident, and if the earth moves beneath my feet, I am better prepared and equipped to cope with those surprises. Every day my world feels a little more solid, the ground a little firmer, my whole body stronger and my balance truer.

It matters less and less to me that close friends do not get my “wow!” factor with a tweak of the foot and the deconstruction and smoothing the pieces and parts to string it all back together. I don’t need their affirmations or understanding of what rocks aspects of my better health quest world – we can still be friends. I love that I get my own wow! factor and can appreciate the quirks of my method of learning and retaining details.

Progress is not just working on shedding fat and growing pretty muscles. But it sure helps make the better health quest come together.

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #family, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health

Experience is a great teacher, but I’m (sometimes) a poor student

Some days I think staying in bed and in denial with covers pulled up over my head is the best possible solution. Unfortunately I always think that long after the fact and events that need not have transpired have transpired. What is far worse – I totally know better. I made poorer choices and paid consequences.

What happened this morning? Low blood sugar during my practice. It has been quite a while since I have felt the need to test my blood sugar because I feel weird, even though I never leave the house without my meter, testing supplies, and a couple of cans of juice – just in case. It is actually a habit for me to get a can of juice every morning and put it into my gym bag. Just in case. It has been so long since I needed it for this application, in January I replaced my gym bag juice for a fresh can, because the other had run out of its best buy date. It tasted fine – I diluted it with diet soda and drank it as a treat – but still. When I really need it, I want something that tastes like it’s supposed to taste and is probably not going to poison me.

Anyway, I was going through a short List of the day that is more cardio focused but not especially intense. Light weights (5 lbs.), and a series of upper and lower exercises. But my heart rate zoomed up quickly and by the third block I was feeling weird, by the fourth I was feeling dizzy. Time to throw down the towel and test. Result was 59 and 60 or less is considered low. For me, though, anything at or below 70 has me reaching for food.

I know this should not have surprised me, because my whole morning was off in ways that invite this sort of thing.

  • I was up until midnight finishing financials that a soon-to-be-former client had to have for a 9 a.m. meeting, so I turned off my alarm and overslept until 5:30.
  • Blood sugar was a little lower than usual at 78, but still well within the normal range.
  • When I got to the kitchen to prep my protein shake, I remembered that I had run out of protein powder, my absolute go-to before training or practice every morning.
  • I substituted a banana instead, rationalizing that I was going to do a lighter workout because of my late start and it would be okay. Eating a protein bar with or without the banana would have been the smarter choice.

While not a terrible disaster, it is disheartening when I do really dumb things and know I know better. My body does well on a 1.5 scoops of protein powder with some powered caffeine-like substance. A banana has minimal protein in comparison, and it burns up quickly in my system once I get going. I know this, and what is worse – I had a couple of protein bars sitting right next to the fruit basket that I did not even consider.

Sometimes my short-sighted idiocy knows no boundaries, and most of the time I learn from my missteps. Except when it comes to self-preservation and taking care of myself; in those case, while I am improving, it is a slow, arduous process. Today is just another, albeit minor, example.

But disappointments and shortfalls are not the tools I use to beat myself up, more the catalyst that make me try a new process or system to improve into the future. Running out of protein powder is virtually unheard of in our household. I have mine that I love and use daily, M has his preferred brand and flavor as well. We occasionally cross-contaminate, as it were, and he’ll use some of mine, I can choke down some of his. Until today, with then supplement pantry was bare of protein. How did this happen? I am the one who always orders more when the back-up jar is opened.

M has wanted to try something else, but not decided what and has not requested I order anything in particular. M’s empty bottle was left on the shelf and misled me. More is on the way – thank goodness for Amazon prime and one-day free shipping on my protein product – and I have removed the offending empty imposter.

What this all means, other than I have my really dumb moments? I am truly overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities and it is leaking into all aspects of my life. Not just forgetting to buy more diet staple food, either; lunch with K on Saturday had me checking my calendar to see if I had any work-related commitments.

These are just the latest symptoms of my general too damn busy state.

So, something has to change. I am a capitalist and have no issue working hard and making money, but it is time to cull the herd on private clients and commitments. It’s harshing my better health buzz.

Balance must be one of those head-banging experiences that either results in brain injury or the epiphany that something must change to avoid the repeating the same unpleasant experiences. I typically succeed in recognizing the conclusions and pathways to improving my circumstances and implementing them. Eventually. But there is some level of angst and headache in between. The cost of being me.



PT-39: New brand of review

Thursday morning, training with J. Funny, but after weeks and weeks of his congested tones, I had grown accustomed to the way he sounded congested and stuffed up. It seems odd to me now to recognize a different quality to his voice when we are talking and working.

Key Takeaways

When I was driving to the gym this morning and thinking about training today, I was idly wondering what we might be doing. J being sick on Monday, going on vacation next Wednesday (so no training next Thursday or the following Monday) means three straight weeks of single training days. I mean, I am well aware most of the rest of the tribe trains with him once a week, but my creature-of-habit-ness means I have given over to the twice per week pattern and is burned into my mind as our groove. When something else comes up – vacations, illness, holidays, wild hairs, phase of the moon – and our sessions are cut to once per week, it impacts me and the pattern we have established. My thought was today’s session should just have some fun, throw out the List of the day and just work at whatever J’s test kitchen comes up with in the moment. As it happens, that is what we did.

We began our day with J’s loosey-goosey plan to go through, update, enhance an older plexes List, only we would be focusing on adding weight and lowering reps on certain choice exercises. I say “loosey-goosey” because we had an hour today and we would not be reviewing again this week. It’s also me, which we can play it by ear and I’m neither going to complain or worry that I am somehow falling behind or worse. The training pattern as it has evolved works really well for me, and if we spend our next few single session per week going over choices exercises from this plexes List I am content with that. As it was we did not approach the weightier weights much, although at the rate we are moseying along we may someday soon be downstairs in or around the big boys’ room where the heavier than 30 lb. dumbbells reside. No rush at all, but it seems a natural progression.

It does not take a large number of exercises or multiple blocks of plexes to get my huffy puffy going. From what we did today, there were no straw or stick houses safe from my huffing and puffing.

No matter how well I think I know something, no matter how proficient or competent I may feel, there is always another tweak or change that affects the way an exercise feels to me. Funny how J cannot yet read my mind – he really needs to work on that. (*smile*) But I said something about I should know the things we were fine-tuning and digging into today and through is mantle of experience and philosophical studies heard that as “ought” or my own near and dear negative girl’s enunciation of “should” in this context. I actually meant it as I should learn and know about these things because going forward, into the future and building upon them, they will be the little tricks and tweaks and more perfected form that may save me from potential injury. They are subtleties I should have in my toolbox.

While this was not a teaching day, not a review day, and not even a technical review day – those are the normal series of steps that come with new exercises – it was more a skills review and enhancement day. Love that. These are all things that have shown up in one form or another on various Lists as the weeks and months have passed, and I have done well and become capable. New plateau approaches.

My idea of “fun” in training is relative. I love all of it, even if I actually despise some of the exercises I am learning or we are reviewing – there is always at least one that is either on the nemesis List or has been in the past. Does not seem to matter; little professor living in my mind likes the challenge that comes with learning and striving to improve and perfect. I suppose there could be a day when I’m sitting down to write a recap and bitching, moaning, complaining about how much I hated every single second of what we went through. It could happen. And someday pigs will be flying through sky under their own power and delivering packages from Amazon enroute to becoming pork chops and ham steaks. I have fallen hard and madly in love with exercise; anything seems possible to me now.

What We Did

Power squats (20 lb. dumbbells)

Bulgarian split squats
Stiff-leg dead lifts (30 lb. dumbbells)

How It Felt

If I stop and think about it, I would be almost embarrassed about going through four exercises in our 60 minute allotment of time, especially things I am mostly very familiar with. But nah – not my style, not for a very long time.

Today was actually a lot about basic skills I know and should integrate more deeply into my routines. While we talk a lot about pretensioning the muscles, it is still pretty far from automatic for me. Then there are the small adjustments that make for a smoother, more consistent movement pattern. Or the many ways I overthink the exercises that intimidate me.

The power squats – been awhile since we have been here looking closely at these. It was timely that this came up today, because lately here, I have been examining what my knees are doing and what direction they are pointing when doing squats. There are moments when I ponder using a mini band around the legs to ensure I feel those knees pointing in the correct direction. On the power squats, they are relatively straightforward. Squat down in a controlled manner, then power up on the elevation portion. Like pop tarts (because just plain toast is boring for the purpose of this analogy). Usually I think pop tarts when these are combined with an overhead press, but in reality the pop tart analogy is applicable here as well. We did these with 20 lb. dumbbells today, although I do believe the intent is to eventually utilize the weightier weights for lower rep sets.

J initially taught me to do inchworms as a substitute for the burpees that continually appeared in my Sunday morning pilates classes, and they have remained a standard for any List where burpees might appear, primarily the cardio-focused or huffy puffy based. Honestly, want to see me at my most lumbering and awkward, cruise by for a gander at my inchworm technique. Not. Pretty. Today we worked at them pretty intensely and morphed them into a inchworm-hybrid, where I am starting to get the little jump at the end that is part of good burpee technique. In my mind, these have been renamed as baby burpees, where I walk it out like an inchworm, take a couple/few steps back toward raising myself back to standing upright, then bend knees and jump forward. Oh my – these are so hard. But like everything I have conquered and overcome in this journey and better health quest, I will just keep trying, keep practicing until body learns. Someday I may ever master the art of a burpee. For now, though, the inchworm/baby burpee will remain in my nemesis stable. They, along with my arch nemesis the push-up, will have to be things I do a few times per week outside the List of the day until the small improvements become more routine and second nature.

We went over a lot of things with Bulgarian split squats, everything from how to anchor the rear foot to how far to be away from the bench. We did a fair number of these, a lot of them bodyweight as I experimented and struggled to find the right spot for my foot on the bench, the distance between forward foot and the bench, and making the minute adjustments to improve my posture and form. I learned how to slide my foot back to the anchored sweet spot without stopping or lifting my foot in between reps, and I remembered to focus more on what the rear leg is doing rather than so exclusively on the forward leg on the floor. Exercises I struggle mightily with to learn and gain some proficiency with tend to stick with me. However, once I gain basic proficiency, it is easy to cling to just meandering along and getting through it. Bulgarians most definitely fall into this category. These are not easy, everyone I know seems to dislike these to greater or lesser degrees, and enhancing my skills only benefits me long-term.

The differences between a Romanian deadlift and the stiff-legged deadlift were almost invisible to me before today, which is how it is when time passes between styles of doing various things. But I like that we go through the different methodologies from time to time. So, I had to really observe and listen to the differences and feel it in the actual doing. The hinge part I have down pretty well, but honestly, I was having a hard time recalling if I bend my knees doing Romanian deadlifts or not. However, I can feel the difference in these with the dumbbells being closer to my legs and extending deeper toward the floor. I have also been really trying to work my focus on the pretensioning the hamstrings and glutes and keeping everything tight all the way through for the lifting part. I can feel it in my lower back if I forget or allow myself to become distracted, and protecting my lower back is really important to me. J had me experiment with foot placement – who knew foot placement would become another obsessive point for me? There is a definite difference in my back when feet are too far apart on these, and I do find myself sometimes making minute adjustments with my feet if I am pretensioning the working muscles and still feeling something in my back.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Trainer J has been sidelined from exercise for almost a week, and now that he is finally feeling better, he really wants to get back to the gym and working out. Always energetic about demonstrating exercise and to illustrate what he is trying to get across to me, today there was this type of enthusiasm that was almost palatable. I can completely understand his eagerness to get back to his routines and how his body craves exercise, but I am also really glad that he is being smart about his health and taking it easy.

While these few weeks of single trainings per week is not ideal, but we make it work. I feel so unapologetically spoiled in my exercise routines. The life and lifestyle I lead is not flashy or exciting, and old friends are either whole heartedly in favor of my efforts or exhibiting destructive and sabotaging behavior. For the most part, I understand and perceive their actions as fear and anxiety. Unfortunately there is no reassurance I can offer that will comfort or satisfy their need for me and others in our social circle to stay precisely the same. Every choice we make, every action we take has consequences; my better health quest is all about making choices that will impact me and each of my days in more positive ways.

There are anecdotal stories all around me about short-term decisions that have avoidable long-term consequences. I’m mindful of that, particularly this week when I am watching a big scrape on my lower leg and the bruising that had developed there before it happened. Diabetics not taking adequate care of themselves while they still had options and having limbs amputated. Fear and anxiety about that fate befalling me far outweighs dealing with friends who worry about my judging them for their choices to continue pursuit of a less healthy aging process.

I am inspired by people making good choices. Little things, big things, trying, failing, trying again. Those who do not give up. Funny part of that, I am inspired by their stories and the ways they share their experiences and what they have learned along the way, yet I do not identify in ways that make me feel like I am on the same level or even close; it’s a place I aspire to reach.

One of the things training teaches me, how to control my fears and anxiety about exercise and my better health quest. Exercises I dislike? Not good at them – yet. Maybe not even competent much less proficient, and I still have some level of anxiety and fear every time I practice on my own. The reasons why are not always clear to me, because even when I mostly know what I am supposed to be doing, I have concerns about doing it right and not hurting myself. Those are quell-able. Then there are the very faint whispers that distract me and break my concentration and focus. Those are a lot more challenging.

Taming my mind to stay with the work lies in building my focus and concentration skills, which is why I appreciate J’s emphasis on pretensioning the working muscles and where I should be feeling the exercise effects. I have evolved into this level of form junkie just to keep my mind on what I should be doing and keeping my eye on the ball. For me, exercise is not an elective option; if I want anything close to a happy, healthy rest of my life. Better health means growing older gracefully, with all my limbs intact.

J asked me earlier if my legs were sore. No, not really, but my glutes feel like I have been sitting on a seat of icepicks from the work we did. That pretensioning and maintaining it – when we spend 60 minutes focused on that, it has an all-day impact.

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