Goals, motivation, attitude

Ugh. Just … ugh.

This morning in my email was a huffy-puffy-fluffy motivational sermon-istic email about what it takes to be healthy and fit. Buff, even.

And it depresses the living daylights out of me and reminds me again why I should not be reading fitness professionals’ blogs, emails, facebook posts. Those people mean well and really want to make a good living restructuring people’s bodies and minds. But I have to remember first and foremost: they are not talking to or about me.

I don’t have goals for good reason: the stress of failure. Rather than being energized by how much closer I am with every pound of weight lifted, I fret about the days (like today) where I did not catapult myself out of bed, shower, dress, Vitamix my protein shake, and dash out the door to get my workout done. Or obsess about the 0.2 lbs. the scale says I retained from yesterday and what it all means. Or carefully weigh everything from the protein powder I mix before the gym to the leaves of lettuce in my big ass salad tonight. For goodness sakes – it’s freaking LETTUCE, one step above water but with nutrients.

But I become mired down in the weeds and the minutia of details. I seem to set myself up to fail in a big giant ball of frustration that ends with a pint of Baskin Robbins chocolate chip mint ice cream.

So I prefer to avoid setting results-oriented goals. If anything, I set simple goals for the next 24 hours – like get up, shower, dress, consume protein shake, and ass in the gym with at least 90 minutes before I have to enter into the fray of getting ready for work and the rest of my day. Most of the time, anymore, I am successful. Days like today, where I half plan to call for a rest day. Except not really, because I’ll be in the gym this evening with friend K and doing something for a set amount of time.

But I have been mulling motivation lately. With work-related changes underfoot and new challenges ahead, do I even feel much like working and pushing ahead toward my good intentions these days? Then again, what does it matter if I feel like it or not? Hyper-responsible self will not let me get too lazy or too slack too much. A little, for sure, but not that much.

I had not intended to sound like all that ails me is related to my piss-poor attitude about the better health process, but in my head, it’s coming across that way. Weenie-whining because I don’t get to be gym-free and eat whatever I want whenever I want – oh woe is me. Yeah right – me and my first world problems again.

My food-related battles are never ending. Understanding it’s not what I am eating so much as how much and how frequently is not translating into improving those impulses. Stress is off the charts right now. Even if I look calm and relaxed on the outside, on the inside it’s hair-on-fire panic because the entire world is teetering on its bitter end and I am the only one aware enough to make it stop.

Yeah, me and my delusions of grandeur again as well.

The feels I have right now about my better health quest are circling around burnout, for lack of a more descriptive, all-encompassing term. Much of the time life soldiers onward. Get up, go to the gym, strive for healthy balance in eating, work really hard at work-work, have some fun, enjoy some me time. Seek balance between responsibility to good citizenry in my personal community and selfish pursuits of my wants and whims.

June has been a month of imbalance, with uncertainty and emotions running high all around me throughout the work day and beyond. Family and tribe are mostly well and thriving, a few friends facing milestones in life that come with aging, faltering health or injury, circle of life type changes. I recognize and value the good things in my life that keep me grounded and stable: my relationship with M, work that keeps me engaged and financially afloat, grown children who are pursuing their own hopes and dreams and thriving as well. I also desire to be a good friend and tribe citizen and help others whenever and wherever I am able. Unfortunately, sometimes personal stability is not enough to keep me from being mightily buffeted by outside forces, and even the most resilient among us has to make allowances for life’s turbulence, floods, tsunamis.

I feel deflated from the month’s events, as if need of a change of scenery or reordering of the daily schedule. Change of scenery is not on the agenda right, because of other responsibilities we have at home AND it is essentially a holiday weekend. The idea of reordering the daily routine also causes my hand to hover over the panic button. What would I do, what would I change, how does it impact the big picture? At the end of that particular exercise (which takes place routinely every single week on something or another), I recognize that things are fine, the circumstances causing the current level of freaked-out-ness are temporary and will fade, regular programming resumes.

It just does not feel good in the moments.

At the end of this long and rambling post, I feel better. Sometimes just talking about my brand of crazy backs me away from the edge of doing something I may come to regret in the future, like that pint of Baskin Robbins chocolate chip mint ice cream that seems to be in grocery store freezers everywhere these days. I deliberately took the morning off from practice because yesterday I was having elbow pain. Elbow pain! Of all the things I think of that could go wrong and cause me physical issues, elbows would be awfully low on the list of potential suspects. Shoulders, knees, wrists, ankles, even glutes, hamstrings, palms – for sure. But elbows? Not even in the top 5. Anyway, I am following J’s usual recommendation for gym tweaks – 24 to 72 hours to let it pass – after a fashion. I read that and had another sort of anxious panic attack, ala “nooooooo! Don’t make me bench myself for 24 to 72 hours!” Ridiculous, I know. But since I knew I wanted to meet friend K tonight, I prioritized and compromised and skipped out on practice this morning. And voila! No elbow pain as yet today. Then again, not nearly as much mousing either.


#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #fitness, #goals, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #stress

PT-48: Old & new review

Monday morning, training with J. We had an older List review day, because Sunday going through an upper body List on the FreeMotion (FM) machine – I haven’t pursued it in practice in weeks and  had completely forgotten the shape of several exercises and had to substitute other things. So it’s good we went through it again with enhancements to make it even better.

Key Takeaways

Anymore, my List library is fairly vast. In the current routines I like to pursue with some regularity, I have 12 to 15 pages, 2 to 3 workout sessions per page. Granted a few of those sheets are warm-ups or “mini” Lists that are my go-to Lists when I am tired, short on time, or just not into being at the gym (human – it happens). These are active pursuits; my file of retired Lists I have outgrown or have become outdated if at least this expansive. Because I return to a few favorites in each category, I tend to periodically marvel at my array of choices.

Because I have my preferred Lists that I am familiar with and mostly confident in my abilities, they are my go-to Lists. However, I do wander back to other Lists, and truth of the matter is that if I don’t practice, I lose the cueing and forget the shape, form, technique associated with it. Such is the case with Sunday’s practice and the former version of this List. Some things – I simply could not unearth memory of what to do or how to do it. Progress is there was no shame attached, nor did I feel inappropriately stupid for losing the context. I was far more philosophical about it; review day, refresh, and definitely put this back into the practice rotation.

Training days in general are highlights of my week. I thrive on the interaction that comes with getting down into the weeds and adjusting, correcting, improving form and technique. Or learning new exercises or becoming familiar with new machines. All good and wonderful things. But review days are probably my favorite, especially review days like today when issues are exposed and changes and adjustments to Lists result. Yes, we went over everything, even things I know and have a good understanding of and can perform proficiently, competently, confidently. But what I continue to learn week after week, the weeds surrounding each individual exercise are thick and dense. There is always something new to learn, some new tweak to try, some new muscle area to feel. Because I am not a specialist – my interest in fitness remains that of the broad-based generalist beginning who just wants to learn to do this stuff safely and sanely – every little tweak that wakes up some other piece of muscle (or makes it burn like cooking on a  gas burner) is this new and amazing discovery for me.

I don’t get tired of trying, or of learning. I don’t always feel the feels in the first go-round, and I have some difficulty articulating the differences between new shapes and things that we test drive. That’s okay, though; progress is I allow myself some time to figure out what is different on my own and may have to report back later. Even if body came with an owner’s manual, I would have to test the theories before knowing for sure that my body worked like the standard model.

Always it seems to be the simple exercises that are deceptively complicated. No wonder there are times I feel like the village idiot because I am not getting the full benefit of an exercise because it seems easy and yet I am missing form pieces and parts or doing enough incorrectly to feel as if I am mostly doing  it wrong.

Finally, after writing about each of the various exercises and versions we tried and experimented with today, I only now realize the method to the order of each block. While we had to reposition arms from side to side for various things, arms were either up, horizontal, or down low for each block. When J is doing most of the repositioning, I don’t even notice. When I am having to schlep my own stuff, reposition the equipment, change my own weights – I notice and am able to keep track. But training days, I’m lucky if I can even remember the order of exercises as they occur. Ah well. The luxury of training days.

What We Did

After a Sunday practice where I had numerous issues remembering the set-up and/or how the exercise was supposed to work, J and I did a review and revamp of the FM machine upper body List, taking it from supersets (2 exercises) to tri-sets. Today’s updated List:

A1    Decline Chest Press
A2    Lat Pulldown
A3    Straight Arm Pulldown

B1    Row
B2    Horizontal Chops
B3    Horizontal Shoulder Presses

C1    Rear Fly
C2    Triceps Pushdown
C3    High Dual Biceps Curl

D1   Lateral Fly
D2   1-arm Kickback
D3   “Arms behind” Biceps Curls

How It Felt

For the most part, I have the decline chest press down pretty well. As with all presses, remembering to pretension the chest muscles is an ongoing, uphill battle.

We did the lat pulldown off the stability ball. I have done these kneeling, sitting on the floor, sitting on a stability ball. Today’s choice was stability ball. Up until today, we have been doing these with the FM arms closer together to replicate the dual arm lat pulldown machine downstairs. The works really well – lean forward slight to relax with arms at the top, pull down with an upper back arch and pull the elbows as far back behind the back as possible. J then moved the arms further outward, so pulling down in the same manner now felt more like the lat pulldown machine with the wide bar attachment. Exercise weeds – they are everywhere. Plus J has this entire exercise library in his head and ready to deploy it on demand. #jealous

The straight arm pulldown is so deceptively simple and I almost feel like a moron for still having the ongoing struggles with it. Shoulders back, chest up, abs tight, arms straight and pull straight down while pressing chest forward. Simple right? Not for me. I swear, I must be the only person in the entire gym who cannot remember to puff up her chest while pulling down with her arms, but there you have it. When I do it correctly I feel it all through my upper body, but I think I am getting it right about 50% of the time if I am being generous. More practice, more work. Probably this is related to what a basic push-up continues to vex me after 2 years of training.

Today was 2-arm row from a standing position. I love rows. Now that mind has mostly adapted to the idea of pulling with shoulders versus pulling with arms I have made meaningful progress with them.

Surprisingly, no squeaks of distaste from me about the horizontal chops today. Chops of all stripes are not usually my favorite, but I think maybe improvement is underfoot with the horizontal version. We have been doing some horizontal press-outs with the bands on press day that make these seem easy peasy, so that could be part of the appeal. Or the fact that I haven’t been pursuing many Lists with cable or band chops lately – all my chop energy has been directed toward the dreaded floor version.

I learned the horizontal shoulder press today, which is an utter delight compared to the overhead version on the FM machine. We started out with a regular chest press, exploring the differences between the flared elbows version that I originally learned to a lower, 30 degree angle version to see how that felt in the various chest muscles. The exercise adventurer within me loves this stuff – figuring out how each one feels differently and what is working harder depending on elbow position. From there J demonstrated the shoulder press, which is leaning forward more and elbows lower, which I just realized the 30 degree angle position puts them in the scapular plane I learned about doing overhead presses (such are the benefits of mimicking what I was doing in the gym while writing the blog recap). I love this version of overhead pressing so much more than the actual overhead pressing on the FM machine. When I tried it Sunday, I kept trying different ways to make the cable not rub against my entire arm pressing upward, until I finally gave up and got some dumbbells and did them that way.

I kind of love the triceps pushdowns. We did one set with both FM arms and pressing down with the handles – some standing upright and pressing down, some bent at the waist and pressing down from that position. All good enough with the handles, but I prefer using the rope attachment, probably because I am more familiar with it. Either way, my triceps are looking pretty damn swell this summer. I have been paying attention and doing the work to purge the vast majority of my batwings.

On Sunday trying the rear fly, I had the upper arms of the FM machine set wider apart. Today, I learned that no, they should be on the narrowest setting. Yesterday, I wondered what was wrong with me, that I was struggling mightily and just not getting why on such a low weight setting (5 lbs. per side) it felt so difficult. Well, the angles were wrong. It was a lot more pleasant and a lot more productive having the machine set correctly.

Previous versions of Lists have had the high single arm bicep curl, but today was the high dual bicep curl. We started out with the high single arm bicep curl, because it’s review day and we start with what I think I know. It feels really awkward at first, keeping your elbows and arms elevated above your shoulders and pulling back with the cables, and very quickly I caught on that I feel it in my biceps, my triceps, and very distantly in my shoulders. Standing at my desk with a 3 lb. dumbbell in hand trying to mimic the movement and remember where the muscles fired, I definitely there’s something going on with the backs of my shoulders and my lats. At the time we’re going through this stuff I am thinking about form and technique, am I doing it correctly, what questions do I have about it while J is standing here to answer them, and less about the muscles squeaking. These are kind of fun, and hard, and complicated, because of the whole body positioning. Everything like this where I am standing upright, I am thinking glutes and abs tight, which tends to manifest as rib tuck (best cue ever). They probably look so simple to the casual observer. Who knew these engage so much of the whole body?

The lateral fly was new today, but very similar in feel to the regular lateral raises with the dumbbells. Feels a little different with the pull of the cable, but for being new they went pretty smoothly. My biggest issue with any version of lateral flyes is remembering to keep palms down and not turn my hands so thumbs are pointing toward the sky.

New favorite tricep exercises is the 1-arm kickback. Except yesterday I was absolutely certain it said 2-arm kickback, and I could not figure out how to do that so it felt like my triceps were getting some productive work done. Leaning forward and trying hard to press back on the handles with both hands – take my word for it, not very effective and VERY frustrating. Immediately when J demonstrated how it is supposed to work a couple of things happened: (1) I recognized the movement from doing these with the stretchy bands, and (2) I turned the wrong direction away from the working arm immediately on my first try. Not sure what it is that is hard-wired in my mind about left and right but this happens routinely (getting mixed up on everything between directions to turn out or in or which hand/foot to use). I typically catch myself almost immediately after the first tries, but still. It reminds me of being in kindergarten again and the teacher kept handing me the lefty scissors because I use the crayons and pencil with my left hand. Apparently the experience traumatized me forever.

On the bicep curls, we went through 2 different versions – facing the machine, where I am leaning back slightly and have arms in front of me and then facing away from the machine, where I am leaning forward with shoulders back pulling arms forward and up and into the curl. I vastly prefer the “arms behind” bicep curl (facing away from the machine) because it’s easier for me to stay focused on keeping the tension of the weight/cable forward and curling with my elbow. It feels more controlled. Having to focus on keeping shoulders still and back tends to keep me from trying to cheat and use my shoulder as part of the curling motion for the most part. Plus it just feels overall more engaging. Bicep curls seem so boring to my mind, and it’s really easy to lose my focus and drop out of my form while mindlessly bending my elbow up and down.

simple straight-arm pulldown or understanding the allure of a bicep curl. There are so many small nuances missed observing from afar or even thinking I mostly got it, only to find out that I’m leaving out chunks of form-related details or putting undue and unnecessary stress on a related joint. A timely reminder that I can never be too careful no matter how simple something appears.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

The last few weeks, I have been down in the dumps. Not quite depressed – I always hesitate to use that term knowing so many people who genuinely suffer in ways I cannot even imagine – but most definitely off my game and in a funk. Whereas earlier phases of my life I would be eating tons of crap, sleeping more, reading bodice-ripper romance novels by the dozen, and awaiting the zombie-apocolypse on the couch with the TV blaring mindless background noise, this latest rendition was not that bad. I eat less crap food in general but there was a definite up-tick from my new normal. Sleep was actually less rather than more, and it was lesser quality sleep. Not reading enough right now and of my growing wish list of books in the queue, there is not a single romance or light-and-fluffy beach book reading. I have been listening to a fair number of podcasts and YouTube on a variety of topics that are realistic and about current day events and not necessarily very positive, but there have been some that made me laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of human behavior. Biggest difference of all though: I have a death grip hold on my exercise routines and have not relented in my daily pursuits.

Apples to apples, present day and my methods of coping are better. But there’s always room for improvement. I recognize the importance of blogging, of writing. When I feel helpless, writing it down works wonders for my psyche. It’s as if the power of the negative emotion is drained away with each syllable typed.

The last couple of weeks of not writing my recaps, I feel as if I am lessened in my own practices. I still go, I still do the work, and much of the time, I feel engaged and as if I am doing a lot of things right. In the back of my mind, though, the reproachful thought of how much better it might have been lingered.

Part of me has felt diminished this month, as if I am again the incredible shrinking woman. All in my head, of course, but when a good portion of your life occurs in your mind, I notice and the perceived slights and shortfalls are magnified and I feel insanely stupid and very dumb. Practice is a solitary experience for me, where I try really hard (or not – let me be perfectly honest that it happens routinely) and frequently have to puzzle my way through to excavate what I know and have forgotten or buried under a lot of other things. Sometimes I have the patience and persistence to keep trying and working at it until the epiphany happens. Other times I simply abandon what I feel like I temporarily don’t know and substitute something else that seems kind of like it. Progress is being able to substitute without guilt or feeling like a training tribe washout.

So while I am handling stressful periods better than I have in the past, there is an entire palace of rooms for improvement. Not seeking perfection, but I’d like to manage my time and energy better. I would like choices to be not quite to black-and-white, where I am either being really good and on the wagon with food and nutrition or have fallen down completely and justifying continued poor choices because I am already sitting in the dirt. While I am incrementally better at this, because to be fair, my poor choices of today are much different than poor choices of even a few years ago. Poor choices today might be binging on saltine crackers or having a peanutbutter sandwich for a snack (versus a piece of fruit) when I am barely even hungry. A few years ago poor choices would be guzzling sugary soda with a bag of puffy cheetos and/or a candy bar (or several) candy bars. I know it’s progress, but in the midst of a funk it is easy to backslide into beating myself up for less desirable behaviors because of the funk.

Will the funk pass? Of course; it’s a temporary situation that ends this week. Next week, next month may be rocky, but probably less so. For the most part, I like structure and stability – a definitive beginning, middle, and end works best for my particular personality type, and since things are winding down and Saturday officially begins the next phase of life and times.

And I’m thinking about that – next phase of life and times – and wondering if it holds any particular meaning for me in the better health quest. Anymore, anytime I think about my life in terms of changes that impact my life overall I ponder and consider how it could or would or should impact my better health quest. Directly. Independently. Could, would, should this overall life change impact my better health quest?

The ambitious, type A- aspect of my personality is starting to wake up in the exercise and fitness realm. Not competitive, unless it is with the me of last year, last month, last week. As the residue from this month’s June funk is starting to dissipate, new ideas and positive aspirations are beginning to bubble to the surface. Truly, anything that contributes to getting my butt out of bed and off to the gym in the morning is a Very Good Thing. Riding the habit habit is a great thing, but it’s nice to be able to have some other reasoning to be pleased about every day.

So from today, my thoughts are on The Future. Change need not be looked upon with anxiety or fear. There may be challenges (likely) and even potential falling flat sort of missteps (more inevitable than not). But oh well. If I learned everything from doing it right the first time I would be someone else. As I have previously noted, the more I learn, the primary takeaway is how little I truly know. And if it looks easy just observing, it’s damn difficult in reality. Or more clearly, it’s damn difficult to master proper form and technique in reality.

As of this recap, I have no clear view of what The Future might look like or shape up to be. Maybe I change my mind about the concept of goals (unlikely, but sometimes I like to shop and actually try on clothes, too, so anything is possible). Or maybe I test drive how long it actually takes these days to do max reps and sets on my library of Lists. Perhaps I return to a more orderly rotation rather than clinging to my favorites and those I know well. Diet and nutrition are ongoing topics and battles for me – not to understand the concept of healthier food choices, the actual ongoing discipline to implement them consistently. My wigginess in June is a good example of modified stress and emotional eating, but I know I must do better. Not “must” because I want to be some thin and svelte figure, but because my long-term health goals remain at risk. Unfortunately that has been inadequate to make me overcome a lifetime of poor habits, but every day is a new day and an opportunity to be better.

Then again, positive mindset progress is a thing for me. I knew the funk of June is temporary and driven by forces beyond my control. While the issues themselves are winding down and resolving, there will be lingering feelings and impulses to process as I continue forward. But unlike other times in my life when the sky was falling on me and me alone, I am sure this is a temporary situation, the feelings and weenie-whining inside my head will fade and resolve itself, and I will not relinquish my hold on forward strides or release my responsibility in the better health quest. Looking around at my own stable of glitter-bombing unicorns and the inspiration they provide in all areas and aspects of my life, I know I’m in really good company and good hands with plenty of practical, positive paths and trails to follow and pursue.

Choices are not always going to be correct, but I’ll learn something no matter what the outcome. Even if I temporarily forget or have to get up out of the dirt, dust myself bum off, and try again, that better health wagon is not going anywhere without me.

#choices, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #sleep, #stress

20-month consistency span

Recaps from the last 2 weeks have not been published. There are a couple in progress, maybe half written before stalling out completely. It’s not that I am less into training, writing the recaps, losing my interest in blogging. It’s not even that I am busier than usual or being particularly lazy about taking care of business. There is perhaps a trace of each in the why of it all, but broader truth is that I am extraordinarily stressed and in a funk about work-related events (to the point of losing sleep every night for 2 weeks straight due to nightmares about work and the job) and not motivated or willing to string coherent sentences together. My heart has not been in writing my usual entries, even though I am thinking about it throughout my days, but my mind refuses to slow down and type much outside angry vitriol towards work-related personnel and temporary situations.

Reality bites. Part of why my distaste for work right now is that it makes me feel poorly about myself, including my efforts in the gym. I have had to really fight hard to stay present and in the moment and remind myself repeatedly that I am competent and making positive progress. There has been the occasional urge to just give up and quit. Once this might have been a pity-party type indulgence. Now the thought is a terrifying wake-up call as to how impacted I am by recent events.

So today, instead of trying to catch up on my recent training sessions or the ways I feel kind of crazy, I am choosing to reflect on better health quest positives. Life in general is different now and has taken such a positive 180 since I began pursuing regular exercise.

Blogging and training recaps matter. One of the more upsetting things about life happening is when it impacts my better health quest routines. Training days are Mondays and Thursdays, and I am still in the gym every other day of most weeks. I know practice is critical to me for improvement, understanding, and progression, plus it is a healthier method for burning off venomous rage at things well beyond my control. But more than that, after 2 weeks of not writing my detailed recaps, I am finding that recapping those sessions here on the blog is crucial for me as well. Friend K casually remarked on Wednesday that I am someone who needs a deep understanding of exercise, and writing the detailed blog recaps enhances and cements the cues and the bazillion of small details associated with the exercise. Part of me regrets my lack of discipline to have more control of wayward mind, but under the circumstances, I have to just let it go. At worst, recaps will return the first week in July. But I’m hoping to implement some discipline and return to it next week.

Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity. Who knew this quote is from Bruce Lee – besides everyone except me before just now looking it up. I am extremely proud of myself for sticking with training and regular, daily practice. Not sure my consistency is accurately described as long-term, it has been just over 20 months since I began my commitment toward regular practice at the gym. I began my consistency march in October 2015 – after J gave me The Talk about seeing me in the gym at least twice between that Thursday and our next session the following Thursday – and I took it terribly personally, as if this were not a regular suggestion he provided all clients every single day of the week but something he was using to tree me, personally, for being a slacker client. Other than out-of-town vacations and my attempt to take a few consecutive days off from the gym (only managed 2), I am in the gym pretty much every day most weeks doing something. While 20 months is not much time in the overall big picture, it’s huge for me. As for short-term intensity, I am not sure “intense” is a word that ever applies to me, and I am absolutely okay with that. My better health quest has no finish line; burning out is not an option I wish to will entertain.

Goals are still not my thing. From the very start, letting go of the idea of setting goals immediately brightened my outlook and made me feel like my chances for long-term success increased. I completely understand this strategy does not work for everyone, but for me, not chasing the scale or the weights I can move to and fro relieves me of self-induced stress and pressure. Tiny steps and incremental progress is still progress. The primary objectives I pursue with relentless consistency are ensuring I am on time and prepared for sessions with J each week and then practicing at least 4 other days each week. That’s enough for me.

Progress measures are also still not my thing. I am ready to pitch my scale yet again. Because I am unhappy with the results? Not exactly. Because I am unhappy with my inability to not be negatively influenced by the results. While I limit myself to weighing in only once per week, the sense of dread and anxiety that comes with knowing weigh-in day is coming has impact on my mood and sense of well-being. Maybe I have had a near perfect week full of big-ass salads, fruit, protein shakes. Perhaps every single practice in the gym has me feeling like an empowered badass when I leave for my effort. I have gotten my 7 hours of sleep every night and a work week that while busy and hectic, was not especially stressful or frustrating. I’m feeling good, great, excited about all my good choices and strong forward progress. I jump on the scale, and I am up 2 lbs. from the prior week. As mind reads and processes that result, instant sense of hopelessness. Forget talking to me about hormones and general body weight fluctuations; negative girl is on the loose wreaking havoc with all my good and positive energy. IF I keep my scale, I am returning to weighing in once per month to see if I can cope. If not, scale shall be returned to the garage.

Judgment Fitbit data gathering has it place. M likes me to ensure I keep track of my heart rate at the gym because I am a diabetic. I am a well-controlled diabetic and since modifying my diet there have been no further low events, but still – he likes me to be aware of what’s going on with body if I should start feeling weird. For the most part, I like it for keeping track of my daily exercise, as if I need some sort of proof that I am working hard enough and gotten my 6 hour minimum per week. I also like it for the sleep tracking feature, in that I know for sure I should be tired when I am told “you look tired.” But after having one for a while now, I can see trends and progress in my overall health and fitness. That’s something. On the flip side, it seems like it takes significantly more effort to elevate my heart rate into the cardio zone. If I were someone worrying about closely tracking heart rate, I would be more distressed than I am. Steps and other tracking features – not something I consider or take very seriously.

Empirical measures matter. There are a lot of things I can point to as indicators of my success – well-controlled diabetes without medication, the progression of weightier weights I use routinely, my capacity to do the work on a List. Yet there are other measures that have at least at much impact on me from this period of regular, consistent exercise.

My gym crazy is mitigated. I still have anxiety in the gym, but where it was once centered on the optics of how I look or my ability with the exercise I was attempting to perform, now probably 95% of any anxiety I feel relates to form, technique, and safety. The thought of hurting myself still looms large, so I try hard to be careful without being overly cautious.
The training tribe keeps me focused. My friend K is doing some awesome work with her barbell deadlifts. It is purest joy to watch each progressive weight increase as well as her evolving and improving form and technique. This a bucket-list level dream for her, and to be present and part of watching it become reality is inspiring. From a major, traumatic car crash a few years ago to present day working hard and lifting weights, it shrinks my weenie-whining about being tired or bored or my princess tiara crooked into proper perspective. She and other friends who are kindred spirits in our individual better health quests keep me honest and on the journey.
Self-esteem and relationship with myself are better. This month notwithstanding, my confidence in general and internal view of the person I am has improved and stabilized in the higher/highly positive zone. Negative girl still bleats pitifully from her box, but when I hear her, I am not really listening. I observe that she still exists and move on with whatever pursuit I am chasing. The days of beating myself senseless over imperfect efforts are 99% over. It still happens occasionally, but for the most part, ongoing practice and trying again and again have replaced analysis paralysis.
There may be stupid questions, but I ask anyway. If I don’t understand the way body is supposed to be executing a particular exercise, I speak up and ask. My concerns about safety, my desire to improve – if I don’t know, can’t remember, or would just like confirmation of what I think I know, the fastest solution is to just ask and get clarification. I am not stupid and what other people think of me is less important than ensuring I know what I am doing, especially with weights in my hands.

Getting enough sleep makes a difference and is still hit and miss. My alarm goes off at 4 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. on weekends. While sleep optimum is 7 hours per night, I am happy if my Fitbit says 6 hours completed. Once I began focusing on getting adequate rest, life became a lot easier and more pleasant. I find the early morning exercise a lot easier to bear as well when I am rested. My focus is sharper and I am more engaged and energized by the List I am pursuing. Starting my day with the workout has tended to even out the workday as well. Balance, elusive balance. At least in this area, I can point to ongoing success for the most part.

Diet matters and changes in this area remains difficult. While I have been successful with the exercise portion of my better health quest, I readily admit that less consistency, fewer wins on modifying my diet and improving my overall nutrition patterns. In my own judgment, telling myself it is a process is not quite the same excuse-factory production. Because it is a process. I’m controlling my diabetes without losing tons of weight, because I am adding muscle to my frame. Things I have tried, abandoned, backslid, and continue working on getting my healthy eating choices consistent and in order again – no shame anymore for me. As a component of overall health dropping some weight will make a difference. Deciding not to do anything crazy and unsustainable is also a valid point, not a reason for me to delay making better choices. However, I know there is more mindset work to be done, and from long experience I know it is not so simple as willpower alone. I’m better. I have and continue to do better with food choices. Perhaps there is a time in my future where it becomes more habitual and automatic. But for now, I continue to work at it and strive to make good choices each day.

Writing about general thoughts and feelings about exercise, diet, fitness and the broader impacts on my mental and emotional health – hard to describe what an impact blogging has had on my overall mental and emotional balance. I still have areas (eating!) where work must be done to make consistent inroads. Overall, though, I am healthier, happier than where I was 2 years ago.

Despite the overall ugliness inside my head these last few weeks, I know it’s temporary and has an expiration date. The habits that matter, the smarter choices and positive behaviors I want to expand upon – it will happen. Taking the timeline out of the equation makes a difference for me, and I am getting this better health shit done. Results matter, and while my results are not glamorous, flashy, or social media-worthy, the positive improvements are there. Periodically I have to break them down and highlight them for myself.

Happy weekending everyone! I’m anticipating our regular programming returning on Monday.


#balance, #better-health, #blogging, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #goals, #gym, #habits, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health

New strain of gym crazy

It has been quite a week around here, and fortunately none of the noise and distraction has to do with my better health quest. Except for the stress I am generating, of course, and that is just part of how I seem to roll. I console myself that my stress vibe is significantly reduced from what it once was, if only because I am older, maybe a bit wiser, and care less about stuff well beyond my control. Unfortunately I seem incapable of scaling and crossing over into the caring not at all about the things I cannot control, but at this point my progress is good progress. The work-related stress disrupting my sleep – 2 more weeks and it should be mostly behind me. Always it is the unpredictable unknown that zaps my stress and pressure (stressure) levels. And this seems true for just about anyone, so no special snowflaking here.

I have 2 posts about 50% written recapping this week’s training. Probably they will be posted tonight, this weekend, when I have time to finish writing down all the details I like to capture. This week it’s been hard to block out time to just relax and write; I am either caught up on my hamster wheel thinking about work or actually working. I wonder how I did all this or if life were just less complex before I spent time at the gym.

But an unfortunate side effect of the outside world stress has me pondering work inside the gym as well.

Of late J has been working with me on push-pull routines with heavier (for me) weights and lower (for me) reps per set. All good! Except, I’m using my at-my-desk working time to listen to fitness podcasts and youtube videos. Learning a lot of new terms and gaining exposure to different ideas and opinions. It has me thinking about my own efforts. Finding less fault with me than has been usual and customary, yet still wondering if I could do better or be trying harder somehow.

My type A- personality disorder has been kicking in lately, it with the harshly self-judgmental aspect.

I like my daily gym practice. For me, it is for the best and it works. For me. Unlike M (who is almost a zealot in his passion for running and exercise), I do not ever suggest anyone follow my examples, yet I have been told all sorts of things about how bad or unsustainable going to the gym every day is for me. *shrug* I’m fine, thank you. Despite the doom, gloom, predictions of Very Bad Outcomes if I continue on my current path, I seem to be thriving. Those with the darker outlooks suggest I am some sort of outlier on the exercise and fitness path, but not really. I philosophically understand now that not only our fitness objectives differ but our process for getting from here to there parallels our differences. Perhaps it is as simple as managing our expectations and listening to body and it’s feedback.

With J and in our current training methodology with the push-pull, I am not learning new exercises as much I am learning how to lift heavier weights and maintain good form for fewer reps, typically a range of 6 to 8 (versus my normal 8 to 12, 12 to 15, 15 to 20, etc.). This is all good, of course; everything I do and learn in the gym is ultimately very good for me.

Until it’s not. Until I get injured (superstitiously knocking on wood). Or until some new strain of gym crazy starts to invade my consciousness.

As I said, I like my daily practice. I have zero intentions of giving it up, as tempting as it is to sleep past 4 a.m. during the week and 6 a.m. on weekends. But this morning, running along through my most time efficient huffy-puffy List of the day, I realize that there is some fear and anxiety associated with lifting weightier weights by myself. While in hindsight I recognize this is not that big of a deal – just do something else when on my own – but in my mind during practice it grew and grew and grew until the idea was some 200 foot tall and 300 foot wide elephant bursting through the roof in the gym. Full-on spin cycle in progress. By the time I got home I was practically breathing into a paperbag imagining my ultimate wash out of training and exercise and dying a 600 lb. blob of personhood because I am incapable of doing anything on my own.

Such bullshit. Negative girl must have blown up her cell and been set loose to run free.

Shower and actual food slowed my thinking down and brought me back to reality. The elephant shrunk to manageable beanie baby size, and I got back to the business of dealing with my reality-based thoughts.

I do have some anxiety about using the weightier weights on my own right now. Fair enough. Rational me (obviously not in the wheelhouse this morning) starts brainstorming ideas. Do push-pull only on training days for now, with extra heavy emphasis that for now is not the same as forever. Perhaps more review time with the push-pull we have done thus far? Possibly a fantastic idea! Means less prep work and planning/thinking for J (compiling new List of the day for the week) and boring times standing around hanging out with me while I work at overcoming this latest phase of crazy. But there are dividends. A less crazy client (that would be me) means less chance of phone spontaneously combusting in his hand with overload of freaked-out texts describing massively growing elephants.

For the most part, I do not see myself as rigidly inflexible. However, I like structure and routine. Every week, I have my basics of 2 days of training sessions and 4 days of practice, with freebies on the other day and the evenings I am there to hang out with friend K. For the most part, I rotate through my Lists doing at least a huffy-puffy, a plexes, and an upper/lower every week. The way J writes my Lists, whole body gets some work a few days every week.

Since I am not known for working at or pressed to work at the same sort of intensity J does in his own fitness pursuits, I have really good weeks with daily Lists. Anymore, I tend to be crankier when I fail to get some exercise in every day, even if it is only a meandering stroll with my work pals. When I have tried to take days off or what feels like too much time off, I find myself getting anxious about the break in my routine. Unless I am on vacation and away from home, at which time it equates to I am out of town, gym is out of mind.

This is not a big, life-altering issue. Mostly it is just me recognizing that I’m uncomfortable with The Plan (all in my mind – nothing J or anyone suggests I should be doing) for various reasons and trying my best to address it head-on. I like the weightier weight training, but I am now educated enough to understand that I cannot work like that every single day. Perhaps with enough training I can get there, but I feel somewhat doubtful. To put that kind of pressure on myself is to suck all the joy, peace, balance I have found in the gym to date, and that’s a sacrifice I’m unwilling to make.

However, there is simple compromise to be found. Doing weightier weights only on training days is probably best until I feel more capable in my ability to maintain good form. Confidence increases under the watchful trainer eye that sees all and tends to correct less desirable practices before they become ingrained as bad  habits. It also releases me from the feeling that I must practice or J will believe me to be some super slacker client. (Oh please – there must be some hidden switch in my mind that make clinging to that old thought pattern cease.) I understand that wishcraft is not going to get me from here to some point out there in my foggy forward view, but I also understand no matter how hard I try, how furiously I might push myself, getting there faster does not mean I cross the goal line and am done and can now go out for pizza like the game is over. Nope. The process is a continuous one, a choice I will make every day for the remainder of my life. Acceptance that doing whatever I can to stay active and pursue better health is does not end until illness or infirmity or death overwhelms me – sometimes it’s just hard to believe that I have been at this long enough to call it a habit.

My recent foray and immersion listening to fitness podcasts and youtube videos has more focus on weight training with the weight lifting emphasis. A lot of stuff on the heavy lifting, 3 rep maximums, training to fatigue, personal records. All that stuff does not interest me much, except as data gathering to understand what drives others. It’s fascinating – for someone else. For me, unlikely to be a pursuit. Since I am now around a lot more people who do this kind of stuff as a hobby, it feels good to be listening and acquiring the knowledge and understanding so I can be supportive and encouraging to others in my realm as they pursue their own, differing goals and objectives. And it gives me new batches of questions to ask J about while we’re working together.

But it sometimes leads to new strains of gym crazy. I thought myself mostly inoculated or immune anymore, yet I seem to be feeling the mildest inclination of anxiety. The shoulds are chasing me down today.

#balance, #better-health, #exercise, #goals, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #lifestyle, #work

PT-44.1: Exercise adventurer

Monday morning, training with J. We are still in our push-pull (not press-pull – somehow got it wrong last week) series of events and learned a couple of new machines and things today. Just a whole lot to talk about with a weekend of reading and thinking.

Key Takeaways

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

What We Did

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

How It Felt

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

The kitchen sink is rather full today, a byproduct of a weekend spent reading Facebook posts from fitness people J has recommended, liked prior posts, or just crossed my feed and kind of made sense. On top of which, I just had a semi-disconnected weekend, in that work-work and full-time job trauma drama were pretty distant. If anything, I was immersed in fitness-related stuff and not blogging about it. Until today, of course. And naturally, since I was thinking about it, I brought it up with J (and others) in my life in one communication forum or another. All great things.

An unfortunate quirk of mine is to read or hear things in big, broad, anonymous (as in I am just one of the great unseen masses to the author) forums and take them personally, as if this writer posting an opinion or sharing his/her thoughts or information is looming large and pointing fingers and highlighting every real and imagined fault in my better health quest. Hell, doesn’t even need to be related to my better health quest; it could be just my life in general and their framework of “living right.” While I know it is mostly my inner insecure person running in circles flailing her arms in an extremely agitated state, I want to chalk it up to my years of fire-and-brimstone southern baptist church attendance (from age 6 until I turned 12 and decided I no longer wished to associate with the hypocrites I saw there every Sunday and Wednesday), but the more rational, more balance side of me has to take what I have just read or heard in a podcast and really think about why it impacts me. Could be the writer or speaker is just correct in his assessments and opinions, or that I am or have been guilty of the less desirable behaviors he is describing. Anymore, it is only unhealthy for me if I only think I am guilty or continuing poor choice behavior patterns. There are an equal number of positive attributes I have adopted or trying to adopt in my own life. If I am going to turn the mirror on myself for negative behaviors, I need to be balanced and do the same for positive changes as well.

Such is the case this weekend with a post discussing consistency in the gym or with exercise. This post is from Alex Viada via Facebook (dated June 10, 2017):

Integral to consistency is sustainability.

Consistency doesn’t mean never skipping a day. Consistency means doing something today that will ensure you are still doing something next year, five years from now, ten years from now.

And that something you’re doing today may very well be taking a day off. Because dedication isn’t about obsession, it isn’t a sprint, it isn’t some senseless display of self-imposed sacrifice. It isn’t the “hustle” or the “grind”. It isn’t some other nonsense word that just reeks of burnout. Dedication is an ultramarathon, it’s a winding path forward, and it’s all too often taking a step back today to catch your breath, knowing you have the rest of your life to take the next thousand steps forward.

I am kind of madly in love with this post. Because it makes me feel like I finally get M’s simplified “do something every day” with exercise to make progress with getting fitter. For the most part, I have incorporated this into my life and lifestyle. For the most part, I am successful with this concept, or have been recently (about 21 months). Yet I know myself and know how slippery that slope is to backslide down into not going back to the gym for months and years once more. I have done it so many times before it’s impossible for me to feel like I have succeeded, even after almost 2 years (this month) of working with J, even knowing I just resigned and have another 36 weeks of sessions on the books. While hopefully J will be present and accounted for with each and every one of those purchased sessions, I know enough now to feel comfortable that I can and will find resources to help me make it work no matter who is writing future Lists or trying to teach me how to use a machine or another piece of equipment. Maybe I am less likely now than previous periods to fall off the wagon, the possibility exists. Considering my fitness pursuits in terms of sobriety, I am sort of a recovering non-exerciser who is on the path to staying clean and in the gym. It is a choice I make every day, including days to take a day off or go forth and dilly-dally pursuing things that are new, giving me grief, a lot more fun than others.

And that in itself was another topic of discussion. Pat Flynn, another fitness coach I follow on Facebook and am on his mailing list, had an email about Training v. Working Out. In my life, it’s mostly semantics, but the topic was intriguing enough that I had to forward the email to J, friend J, and a couple of other friends for their thoughts and opinions. Because I’m kind of geeky that way.

When I am speaking of training, I am talking about Mondays and Thursdays with J, going through a new or updated List, working on my skills, correcting and tweaking my form, adding more weight, or all of the above. Practice is what I do on my own time, pursuing a List of the day. There is no real structure to it; J does not say “do this, that, the other one between now and Thursday.” No, the only structure is that I try not to do the same List 2 days in a row. Sometimes it’s a huffy-puffy day, sometimes it’s an upper or lower day, sometimes it’s plexes day. I wander to and fro, but left to my own devices, I will nearly always gravitate toward the dumbbells. Because it has the fewest opportunities to be inconveniencing someone else in their pursuits.

As far as working out, that’s what I do on Wednesday evenings when hanging out with gym sistah K. I have usually already completed my List in the morning, so the evening time is following along with whatever she’s doing and having a pleasant gab-fest visit. Lately, she’s been doing barbell deadlifts, and while she is doing that, I am enthusiastically following along with my dumbbell Romanian deadlifts while keeping an eye on her efforts and being a supportive gym compadre. That’s me working out – following no particular program, pursuing no particular goal. Because when I first began my quest to overcome my gym crazy, a “work out” was what everyone else was doing. “Trying to keep up” was my goal with my own pursuits.

But back to Pat Flynn’s missive about training v. working out. Quoting definitions directly from his email (by the way, his blog is www.chroniclesofstrength.com):

Training – Working toward something specific.
Working Out – Trying to fatigue the muscles.

As I said, semantics to me. “Better health” is about the most specific goal I presently employ. Trying to fatigue muscles? In my mind and view, fatiguing muscles seems to still happen pretty naturally, for me, with no “trying” involved. I also understand my definition of fatigue is likely very different than what most of the target audience thinks, so again, this is all about semantics. But interesting semantics all the same. Because J and I never tend to speak in terms of labels, absolutes, and the like, I just meander along through our sessions and my practices without giving too much thought to how the process is described. I’m there. I’m working at something and trying for good form and technique. All good.

Such is the mush in my head about exercise, fitness, better health. Inside and outside the gym. J has neither the time nor the ability to cover all my interests in the hours we spend in session, so I do my research and reading outside the gym, then drag it in when I have questions or trip over something curious. I tend to follow or at least read fitpros J mentions or references, because my geek self likes to understand origins and how the depth of the expanding exercise library.

In our earliest days of training, I would occasionally look up an exercise to try and remember the shape and ways it was supposed to work. Except I very quickly learned that others on the internet may be doing the same glute bridge in some way that looked entirely different to me than when J demonstrated it. Now, I get that maybe their shape and size might have impacted the angles of their limbs, but back then – I was freaked out and vowing never to look up anything ever again.

These days, I do tend to read a lot about weight training and fitness in general; I like the exposure to different ideas and training modalities (another new term just recently acquired). My exercise and fitness education still feels pre-K level to me, but I’m okay with that. Joining the fitpro ranks is neither a goal nor even an objective for me; I am more a dilettante in wanting to know stuff for my own purposes. I enjoy having some less vague notion of what people are doing in the gym and my other fitness wanderings.

Knowledge is security for me. If I can understand it, I feel better about the process – any process – as a whole. There are training methods and sports pursuits that do not interest me at all, but it’s good for me to have somewhat factual basis for my thoughts and inclinations. I dislike organized sports because I find them boring, and because I do not play any, haven’t in years, and sucked at them when I did, largely because I lack the competitive spirit, killer instincts, and coaches who could spend enough time with me to inspire me to consistently practice and try to improve. Not a natural athlete, and after 2 years of training with J, it’s even more apparent that it takes swimming pools of sweat multiple days per week to see any improvements.

Even now, I don’t do well in exercise classes. I don’t mind being in the area and observing what other people are doing around me, but I don’t want to participate with them. It seems a least 48% of why I am not gaining traction in yoga, the other 52% being I am not bendy and any hopes I have of increasing my flexibility will require a lot more intent and persistence than I am willing to muster. One thing to be on my own, or training with J and falling off and out of the 1-legged everything at some point or another, and quite another to be in a class full of people doing everything reasonably well while I struggle mightily and still don’t get it.

Plus I just don’t like class situations, I think. I’m fine if it’s a social thing – going to yoga with a friend, test driving a class in the gym with a pal who wants company – but not my brand for everyday fitness.

Which brings me to crossfit. *sigh* I have several friends who love, adore, worship at the alter of crossfit. If I am addicted to my Lists and the gym, they are something worse with the crossfit. I have run out of words to say or plainer thoughts to share on the subject of why crossfit sounds like a Very Bad Idea for me personally, so we have reluctantly agreed to disagree about our methods and obsessions with fitness. Yet stuff still comes up from time to time, and I cannot resist sharing the links or information that crosses my path that supports my dubious position on the topic. This article  from the weekend (brought to my Facebook feed by Trevor Johnson) – I simply couldn’t resist forwarding it to all my crossfit-crazed friends. (Here is the link to Trevor’s HIFC Show #10 discussing this article and diet-related matters.)

All the crossfitters I know personally are mid-40s to mid-50s. They love it and  have tried many times to get me to consider trying it. Ummm, no thank you. I am far too paranoid about injury in my own gym pursuits to try something that sounds so wrong for me. Of those ladies (they are all women), one is presently recovering from shoulder surgery, another was out for weeks with an ankle injury, and yet another has had to take weeks off for recovery after a mishap or more serious gym tweak. Those tales alone are enough to keep me safely ensconced in my gym with my stretchy bands and dumbbells and machines and at home with my (borrowed for the month) 8 kg kettlebell.

I don’t know enough about crossfit to talk smack about it, yet I know enough to steer clear as not a good fit for me. I want them to be successful in their exercise pursuits, but I worry about long-term sustainability. So when they tree me about being a bad or unsupportive friend (not often, but it happens), I retreat to the “sustainability” argument. Having rebuilt joints may eventually be just as good and as stable as the original equipment, but I vastly prefer the idea of keeping my original equipment joints in good working order. And I have empirical evidence that crossfit can injury you and your joints. Badly. No thanks. Prefer my slow-mo, safe and sane exercise methods.

Yeah, kind of a busy exercise geekery weekend all swirling around in my head this morning. Some of this I chatted about with J, some of it I forgot until I opened this window with my notes about stuff I wanted to talk about today.

Then there is diet and healthy eating stuff. Oh my – this one has been building for the last few weeks.

So trainer J uses his own body like a test kitchen with regard to food and eating. Of the course of our training partnership I have watched him bulk up and lean down at various times. It’s fascinating to watch and to discuss in real time.

Last year it was veganism – J was a vegan much of 2016. This year there has been no real theme until recently, when he began a quest to pursue simpler, higher satiety food choices that are not hyperpalatable. He began what is affectionately known as the potato diet.

Now, this is something I can kinda/sorta get behind. Vegan? I might have starved to death, because I am such an insanely picky eater. Because I actually like potatoes, it is far easier for me to test and even copy a few of his meals with potatoes, vegetables, chicken apple sausage – delicious. However, since I tend to TRY to pursue a lower carb diet, I cannot eat as much or as many plain boiled potatoes for my primary fuel source. But the rest of it – the vegetables, the fruits, the protein powder – these are a lot of things I do already and could definitely amp up and increase my intake and search for food balance.

Listening to him discuss his experiences and alterations to his eating habits, its encouraging. Yeah, eating lots and lots of potatoes seems a bit extreme, particularly for me, but eating more fruit, eating more vegetables, and eating leaner meats and protein sources – these are things that make sense to me and my limited cooking interests.

More importantly, and interesting to the accountant within, the money saved on this version of feeding himself. After his first few weeks, his grocery bill is significantly less. Even a non-frugalista like me can appreciate that aspect of the calorie budgeting process.

Wow, long post already and not a word written about actual exercise today. Definitely a 2-post recap today.


#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health

PT-43: Pulling forward

Thursday morning, training with J. First appointment of the day was 30 minutes earlier than usual, so J asked if I wanted to come in 30 minutes earlier, giving me a little extra time. All good things. Except first appointment had to cancel and we could have gone back to our usual start time – not a problem for me. All good points that fab trainer J is truly fabulous and generous with his time.

Key Takeaways

What I have learned from all my training sessions: there is good form and technique, some exercises are more effective or productive, but a “bad” exercise has yet to cross my Lists. Probably this is partly why I depend upon J so much; keep me from doing stupid stuff or acquiring even more bad habits. There are things I like less, there are things I will avoid whenever possible, but there is truly nothing that makes me feel physically poorly afterwards.

Perhaps someday I will also develop stronger preferences for things than I have to date. I am more a generalist and interested in everything until it either hurts me or bores me. And even if it bores me, I do it anyway because it’s good for me. Kind of like eating vegetables; I really don’t love most of them, but I eat them because they are good for me. I am always glad to be learning new skills, and learning the big barbell and how to use one effectively falls under this umbrella. Still don’t see myself as a powerlifter or even a serious weight lifter, and that’s okay. I do not need a defined goal to learn new skills.

Those stretchy bands! In the back of my mind I keep thinking they will someday be relegated to warm-up routines, yet they keep appearing and evolving into something more challenging and productive. Not sure why I think I want them to go away, but it just occurs to me from time to time that I should be done with them by now. My wanting them gone is probably most recently related to convenience; every time I want to use one for warmup or on a List, I have to go on a search and rescue mission throughout the gym. Annoying. (Yeah, me and my first world problems, I know).

Heavier weights – oh my, it’s so thrilling! I feel ridiculous admitting this to anyone else, but being able to actually use a bigger weight is exciting. I have never thought I was strong. Sometimes, schlepping crap at the office, I still feel kind of weak (but that could be related to the dress and heels and the awkwardness of of carrying boxes of files and records to and fro while trying to keep them away from my dress). The way things sneak up on me and while I am looking doubtful at the weights J suggests, next I know I am capable with them. Maybe not for higher rep ranges, but once upon a time what I use now was in the 6 to 8 rep range, too.

I am an exercise nerd. My fascination with the way things work – like my own body, for example – seems to know few boundaries. Is okay. I keep it mostly to myself.

What We Did

On our List today:

Barbell RDL (61)
High Tension Resist Rotation Press

1-leg DB RDL (25)
Pullover (35)

SB Hamstring Curls
Seated Cable Row

Seated Hamstring Curls
Dual Cable Lat Pulldown

How It Felt

We started with basic form for the barbell Romanian dead lift and getting the feels for the difference in weight distribution for a 41 lb. barbell and its significantly longer length when compared to a 25 or 30 lb. pair of dumbbells. It was okay, not horrible, not too scary. There were no other members right nearby either so I was not too concerned about accidentally bumping someone while moving it to and fro. After the first couple of times hinging with just the bar, J added light weight plates – a pair of 5 lb. plates for a set, then took those off and replaced them with a set of 10 lb. plates. While it feels very different than my beloved dumbbells, it is not unmanageable, and I am too inexperienced right now to have a strong preference one way or the other. Bad habit that happens with dumbbell RDLs (wanting to soften or bend knees on the rise back to the top rather than keep them straight) also reared its ugly head with the barbell. I think I could learn these, and if I am a bad fit for it, there will be no pouting or tears. Mostly it was fascinating how different the weight feels, almost lighter than similar amounts in dumbbells because it is so spread out.

We have not done the band resist rotation press in awhile, much less the high tension resist rotation press. Only real difference is I don’t remember stretching the band out quite so much, to the high tension. When I was doing it right, aka not leaning away from the band a bit too much to maintain the high tension, I definitely felt it in the abs and the obliques. Best cue EVER – rib tuck – also applies here as well. We were using the lightest yellow band and it was still challenging to keep it tensioned and press properly. These are effective; I was feeling my abs all Thursday afternoon.

Big, huge, honking triumph of the day: the 1-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift with a single 25 lb. dumbbell. When J said to use the 25 as the offset weight, I am quite sure my expression was doubtful. Last 1-leg RDL was with a pair of dumbbells and I struggled – still struggle – with my balance on those. But J has the fully functional, big giant brain and watches people do all sorts of things all day long, so away we went. To my astonishment, I did not immediately fall over or drop the weight on the floor or my foot. Rear leg elevated and weight dropped gracefully for 5 or 6 reps. OMG! I have gained unexpected new balance overnight or am I just stronger now? Could be both. Either way, my excitement over the initial success nearly did me in as I grew more fatigued. But my goodness – I was standing on 1 leg with a 25 lb. dumbbell in my hand! Never imagined such a thing being possible for me. J is a genius.

The pullover is a standard, and I have been doing these with a 25 lb. dumbbell for several months. I kind of love them. I genuinely enjoy the flexibility that has built after months and months of doing pullovers. Today we started out with my standard 25 lb. dumbbell for warm-up and then proceeded on to the 35 lb. dumbbell for a 6 to 8 rep range. While I was extraordinarily aware of when I made the minimum reps, I continued on to the full 8. Because I don’t want to perceive myself as a complete slacker. The one factor I noticed about the weightier weight is the physical size of the 35 lb. dumbbell in my hand being larger than the 25. The way it’s held for the pullover, I could feel the edge of the 35 against my wrist far more than with the 25, the edge of which tends to land more at the edge of my palm. It was not a dealbreaker; I was not complaining to J that this was an unworkable weight because of it’s physical shape. No, I just had to adjust my handhold around the handle and the way my palms pressed against the weight itself. Little things, little tweaks can make the difference between success and less success. I am improving in self-diagnosing what’s a Very Big Deal and what just requires me to change my bit a bit to ensure I am not getting my wrists dug into by the weight. Yay me!

The stability ball hamstring curls are back. I was actually very pleased with my progress since the last time I recall doing these – hips were elevating higher and my curling in was better. However, and I laugh as I type this, J is encouraging to lift hips even higher and curl in just another half inch. I am definitely out of practice, but it feels like my recent streak of kettlebell swinging has done a lot for strengthening my glutes and hamstrings. J as coach is there to coach and instruct and ensure I continually push forward and wring every last drop of productivity out of each exercise. Except I am actually not sure my knee bends in another half inch no matter how high elevated or low hanging hips are off the ball. Like everything fitness and exercise, though, I believe persistent practice will make a difference. I will keep trying.

The seated cable row – every time I visit this machine I feel as if I am relearning technique and proper form all over again. Perhaps from my years of rowing machine rowing or just because my learning curve is steep on this, but there you have it: takes a set (or more) to get into the groove and pick up the right form. Okay, so today it was all about pulling elbows back as far as possible behind you. I am trying hard to remember not to lean back from the waist but utilize the upper back arch and pull with the shoulders and not with the arms. But since we are talking about elbows pulling back, it gets confusing. Always I am thinking about the arch – arch obsessed with this machine as well – and pulling with shoulders back, back, back and that will move elbows back. I need more practice. I cut myself some slack – so many Lists, so few practice days. But for the most I feel as if I understand and capable of performing the basic shape.

My arch obsession follows me around in the gym. It even applies to the seated hamstring curls machine. I understand the shape of this machine; I understand how it’s supposed to work. However, I am also never sure if I should be using lighter weight or heavier weight, and in truth it fluctuates depending on the day. Like the stability ball version, I am watching and thinking about that last half inch of the contraction and the movement. I find myself dilly-dallying with the weights to ensure I can actually feel that last half inch and make it happen. When I use a light enough load to make that last little bit, it feels awfully light for the rest of the movement. If I use an adequately weighty weight load to feel the work all through the movement, the last half inch thing becomes a no-go in the process. So my explorations continue. For today, though, I had a pretty good experience with the last half inch and could feel my hamstrings working that range of movement.

Finally, we moved to the dual cable lat pulldown machine. I always want to lean forward in the shrugged up starting position, where I should be leaned back slightly. Minor correction and easy enough to fix. The arch obsession continues here, with the arching with the upper back coming into full effect while pulling down and feeling a pinch between the shoulder blades. I think anyway. While I am pantomiming it here and writing this paragraph, I’m pretty sure there is a pinch there. But there is no weight involved, and we have had so many recent discussions about arch and pinch between shoulder blades I may be applying it too liberally. But I think I am right; I will have to test my theories in real time tomorrow in the gym.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

While I have had no urgent or burning desire to learn about using a barbell, my friend K has been had barbell deadlifts on her bucket list and has been killing them the last month, 6 weeks. I have been in the gym and hanging out with her on Wednesday evenings and cheering her on with this pursuit. I had asked J if maybe I too could learn the technique, because I want to be able to support my friend in her interests. And as I said, it is good to learn new skills and how to work with different tools.

My impression – I am neither doomed for failure or destined for hot pursuit of this particular type of equipment. My interest in all things exercise and fascination with learning will keep me interested, and working with K once a week will provide enough practice to feel as if I am intent on learning and refining my technique. She and I can dabble with them for awhile, and perhaps we will both develop a yearning to participate in a deadlifting class. Time will tell.

The longer I go with training and practices on my own, the happier I feel about the whole process. It was renewal time for me, so my next block of sessions is purchased, my session bank refreshed. Yay! Sometimes I think maybe there is not a lot more for me to learn, and I laugh at myself and my own silliness. I need only look at the session recaps to see that there is always something new to do, whether it is adding more weight or working on my form or just learning to push myself to keep going when I really wold rather just stop now, thank you.

Like everything else in life my discipline is imperfect, but I give myself good more for consistently trying to improve. Fears about just learning and reinforcing bad habits are very far in my rearview these days. I find myself thinking about offhand comments J might make to me – try to go lower in my squats, butt back butt back butt back in so many exercises, and I realize that the process is like an infinity band. The more I think I know, the more I realize how little I know. And I like that. I hate to imagine me at the end of the learning curve; in my mind that is my time to die.

Since we are venturing forward with weightier weights, it means working in the big boys’ room more often, because that’s where the heavier range of dumbbells live. After 2 years of training (it’s anniversary month! Unfortunately not quite a cake occasion, but maybe we bend the rules.) I would imagine my gym crazy completely conquered. But nope, I still feel the hairs of anxiety dancing on the back of my neck when I go in there by myself and the usual crowd of men and far more confident-looking women are there working. I give myself credit for improvement, but am realistic that it is still a thing. Oh well. Still plenty of time to strengthen my spine and ensure my big girl capris are in place.

Wow – coming up on 2 years. How different my life is now. I’m starting a list and a separate post to celebrate and commemorate. And maybe there is cake? Maybe.




#addictive, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation

PT-42: Pressing onward

Monday morning training with J. It was somewhat low-key, the start of newest adventure into training with heavier weights, lower rep sets.

Key Takeaways

The drama in my mind about heavier weights is not present this go-round. We experimented a bit late last summer, and the prevailing memory of the period is some low-level anxiety. I do not like disappointing J or myself with lack of effort, and while I did try hard while in that phase, I felt less successful. Partly it’s fear of the weightier weights on my own precludes me from my typical consistency with practice on my own. I have not pursued the heavier weights Lists once we went on to other things. This time, with the push-pulls, I feel more experienced and capable. I certainly do not think J would recommend I try to go heavier weights, fewer reps every single day, but I can see weaving them into the rotation of Lists each week.

The strength seems to have snuck up on me. I am in the gym regularly; I am practicing what I learned/am learning and striving to improve my form and skills. But until J suggests we bump up weights, I tend to stick with what I know. I have a healthy respect for what harm could befall me by trying too much on my own. Last Thursday, today, we used heavier weights, lower rep ranges, and I managed pretty well. Kind of astounding to me that I can do 8 reps with some of these bigger dumbbells. A very good and exciting surprise, to find I am stronger than I expected or realized.

Way back when, J described fitness as a giant iceberg with a lot of avenues, methods, areas to explore. While I am relatively certain that body building or power lifting or competitive anything does not interest me, I feel like I am an exercise adventurer or a dabbler in various things. Using heavier weights seems like just another avenue we should explore and see where it takes us next. The choices are not so stark and segregated and it is fine and important to meander down this brand of yellow brick road. I mean, between the huffy-puffy, the plexes, the upper/lower splits, plus the miscellaneous other random Lists, I have lots and lots of choices with how I want to exercise each and every day. But I like it. I like all of it. And I am okay with that. Being goal-focused on outcomes is not something that has ever bothered me. Outcome-based goals are still not a factor in my day-to-day exercise pursuits.

What We Did

Today was our first step toward the pressing aspect of the press-pull series of exercises with heavier weights, lower rep ranges than we have been pursuing. Our List today:

Heavy Goblet Squat (40)
Flat DB Chest Press (30s)

DB Walking Lunges (15s)
1-arm DB Overhead Press (15, 20)

Seated Hang n’ Band Laterals (10s)
1-legged Bent Elbow off bench Plank

Heavy Rope Triceps Pushdowns
Kneeling Rope Crunch

How it Felt

Thinking about the heavy goblet squat, is it slacking when I fail do not immediately choose to go as low as I can potentially go from rep 1? In the span of time it took me to type that question I decided definitely not. There is an element of fear about squats and falling over backwards that I am oh-so-slowly overcoming. This must be at least part of the reason for the offset weight in my hands. At the rate I’m going, the anxiety about falling over backwards will switch to falling over forwards with a much weightier weight in my hands. For the present time, I’m good with the 40 lb. dumbbell for my set of 8 reps. I am even remembering (or trying harder to remember) the speed pop-up of the return to the top. Since the springing up with power is crossing my mind on other Lists as well, the idea is obviously taking root in my mind.

Anymore, when I think about the flat bench dumbbell chest press (or any other chest press for that matter), I am not thinking about the weights so much as I am about the upper back arch. Yep, still obsessed with the arch. But the best thing about today’s chest press process was 8 reps with various dumbbell weights – from pairs of 20s, to 25s, and up to the 30s. And I did really well, particularly with the 20s and 25s that I use routinely before we ventured forward into this pressing series. My arch is still pretty good, but in my ponderings I see room for improvement, part of which is ensuring I either put my towel down on the bench or wear a top that covers my shoulders so I can ensure my skin is not sticking to the bench and preventing me from arching appropriately. Arch obsessed – that’s me. But it’s okay; better to be obsessed with form than not giving a crap about it. If I have learned nothing else throughout this journey, good form is always going to be more important than the weights I am using.

I am still not a big fan girl of lunges, particularly walking lunges. But I am more competent now; I do not live in fear or have chronic dread when they appear on a List. However, with a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells in my hands, they become a lot more challenging. Amazing what a difference it makes going from a pair of 12 lb. dumbbells to the 15s. But I can do them. New things to watch are not leaning too far forward and ensuring I do not let my shoulders round or fall forward with fatigue. That translates to me as not letting weights swing, because when weights start to swing, it usually means I am letting upper body form slip in some way. Also, keeping shoulders and upper body in proper position puts more of my weight on the lead leg, especially when dropping deeper with the rear knee/leg and how it feels lighter. Continuing to work at these. Feel light years better and more confident than my lunge anxiety days, but still working to improve my form and technique.

One of my favorite exercise things is the 1-arm dumbbell overhead press. For this session we did 3 sets of 8 reps with the 15 lb. dumbbell and a set of 8 reps with a 20 lb. dumbbell. I have been doing these with the 15 lb. dumbbell most of the time for at least the last 6 months, and last Thursday when we decided to venture forth on the heavier press-pull venture, we had used the 20 lb. dumbbell. So anyway, point of this is (1) love the 1-arm dumbbell overhead press, and (2) doing well enough, am now strong enough to use the 20 lb. dumbbell for a 6 to 8 rep set.

I still struggle with seated hang and bang laterals and the 10 lb. dumbbells feel heavy to me. On my own, I have tended to use a pair of 8 lb. dumbbells. But the challenge is good, and while I can just barely make the 8 to 10 rep range, I am proficient enough right now. Time and practice means I will get stronger and become better at these.

Planks, of any shape or form, are not now, not likely ever going to be a favorite. But they are effective and I can do them. While we were training and I did not have the benefit of the timer on my phone and had to count to guesstimate time, I would say it was maybe 15 seconds. The 1-legged bent elbow off bench plank are not easy, pleasant, or fun, but they are effective. The bent arm part makes my triceps burn, the plank – with strong rib tuck and tightened glutes and then elevate the rear leg – it is hugely challenging for me. I have practiced these every day since, and in my mind it’s the longest 30 seconds per leg of my entire day. But I will continue to practice and work on my form. “Rib tuck” continues to be be best cue EVER, and honestly, I know abs are stronger, even if they still feel uber weak to me.

New term:  accessory exercises. Love that, and triceps are apparently accessory muscles. We did the heavy rope triceps pushdowns (in keeping with our press theme). No idea what weight we actually used, but it definitely felt heavier than I typically use. Burn baby burn on the triceps, particularly after the planking in the prior block. Still satisfying, though; I think my arms are looking pretty damn sleek in these days of sleeveless dresses and tops.

New ab exercise of the day: the kneeling rope crunch. The cable machine thing is set up high and I am kneeling on the floor with the rope in my hands, knobs on the rope sort of pressed against my forehead. Crunching down toward the floor, then coming back up without elevating the hips. Sounds so much easier than it actually is in practice. Impulse is to lift those hips up while rising up, versus pulling myself up with the abs and more of an arch in my upper back. When I am doing it right, I can feel it in my abs. Practice is in order to get more proficient.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

For the first time probably ever, I simply forgot to finish writing this recap yesterday. It was an unusual day in many ways – it was non-office day for my full-time job (because I needed to be here for a couple of meetings today, one of which has been rescheduled) and had an unusually busy day of meetings and appointments that were more hurry-up-and-wait than typical. Instead of writing or working on other work-work matters, I indulged in retail therapy. Not the end of the world, but a bad sign of stress. That and emotional eating this weekend (donuts, of all things; I do not really even like donuts all that much), I am detoxing from sugar and fat this week and hoping to get back to my regular eating methods and schedule.

I am extraordinarily stressed about work right now. Busy, hectic, crazy as usual, and stressed because my full-time job is on the bubble and I am neither patient nor happy when left in a limbo-like state. Not that much of a control freak much of the time, yet in this I find any and all control freak tendencies flaring badly. It’s kind of ugly inside my head right now.

That said, I find there is a soothing sort of consistency about the gym and the List of the day. Monday night I went back after finishing up my scheduled work day to meet with friend K and give her a small gift. I stayed to half watch the first part of her training session with J – she’s learning barbell deadlifts and killing it – and we had a nice gab-fest during and after. I feel semi-dreadful about interrupting her session and did try to stay quiet on the sidelines, but it’s an exciting time for her and she is very generous in wanting to share it with me. It’s inspiring to see her excitement and triumph.

The outside world stress – this too shall pass. While in the midst of it, though – it sucks. Big time. Weirdly, though, I find myself doubling down in my engagement in gym-related pursuits. This (Tuesday) morning, I was completely immersed in my lower body, counting reps and ensuring I got past minimum or to maximum side of the prescribed range. And I pushed myself a little, trying for the heaviest weight I can remember using. Must be all the kettlebell swinging I have been doing, but it was not that bad. And it kept the ugly inside my mind from tainting all aspects of my life.

In the beginning, I felt kind of odd working with J because of his youth. Plus I had my gym crazy, my anxiety, my self-consciousness, and negative girl in the overall wheelhouse running much of my personal life. Perhaps his youth was the least of my concerns? Of course, in the beginning, I did not imagine training much past a few months – either I would quit or he would fire me, nevermind that his manager would not allow that to happen, that she would have moved me to some other trainer if I were too high maintenance or worse.

Mindset is so important, and mine is better, healthier, because I exercise regularly. The crazy in my life is full-tilt ON right now, yet other than not getting this blog post written on my usual schedule, everything else is calm, peaceful, moving along without much of a hiccup. Sad stuff with work, but the people, the relationships that are meaningful and matter to me, those will continue no matter what happens with the work. Through it all, working through my Lists helps maintain my balance with the rest of the shit going on in my life outside the gym. I knew my confidence had grown and my mental game improved as well, but I see it more sharply and clearly outside the gym as well. While physically I am still not very flexible, bendy, or graceful, I am definitely stronger and have some pretty muscle peeking out from where there was once only or mostly layered fat.

Anymore, I have a much deeper understanding that fitness is a process and a lifestyle, not some magic bullet or diet or gadget. Forever and ever, I will be monitoring my eating habits and in the gym or doing something else to build or maintain optimum balance of muscle and fat and in good health. All around me, I have female friends seeking some quick fix or setting goals that will (hopefully) motivate them to get up and get moving. When I hear them speak of the goals they are setting for themselves, I hear this hopeful earnestness that reaching that goal will be life-changing in real and significant ways. The hopeful romantic in me wants that to be true; the practical realist says it is unlikely. Time will tell. I just know that for me, the only “goal” I have is choosing me and my health every single day. Choosing me and my health is making better, smarter choices, by getting to the gym and exercising, eating a balanced diet heavier on the protein, not avoiding doing the work involved with keeping myself in a good, healthy place. It’s not easy. It’s definitely not glamorous. But it makes me feel better in all ways.

And better is just … better. Calmer, happier, healthier me. I may even be getting a little more self-aware and possibly even a little brighter for the good people and good information that comes with it.

It is now Thursday, another training session (recap in a separate post coming soon), and I am obviously quite behind on my training recaps this week because of work-related events. Ugh – I hate when life interferes with my blogging, because this week has been quite exciting for me in the gym.

#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health