PT-54: I *heart* teaching days, too

As noted, I’m seriously behind on my training recaps. I start and write the bulk of it on the same day, but I find letting it marinate a bit tends to bring out more of my thoughts, feelings, ideas about what I want from this experience. I will start putting the date of the recap at the top of each post, and any other days I reference in the bulk of the post. While the time passage between the session and the recap post will not continue to stretch out (into infinity it seems sometimes), I’m glad to be living and enjoying my time in the gym and out from behind my laptop screen as well. That said, I am going to try hard to catch up and get back on track this week.

July 17, 2017

Monday morning, training with J. As we continue on with our press-pull, new machines are slowly being introduced. Such fun.

Key Takeaways

While I mostly don’t much care about the actual weights we’re using, it is exciting when something new results in 100 lbs. of weight plates being added. I know I have used at least that much or more on other machines, but since I am only getting my first glimpses of and actual experience with machines that require plates to be added and removed, the weight feels … weightier. Pull a pin from one position, insert it into another is fast and simple – possibly explaining the popularity of cable station machines. These other machines provide a lot of flexibility with how much weight to use. Perhaps it is the novelty of it all, but I was pretty happy with my ability to do the work today.

Walking lunges remain this enduring mystery, other than they are seriously effective. Mostly I hate them. Still. I do them, because they appear regularly on Lists, and the aforementioned seriously effective clauses in body’s strength, endurance, longevity contract. Because they are effective, even if I (and others) despise them. But I console myself that I don’t have to like them. I can bitch, moan, complain about them publicly and privately. However, there is nothing ever written or said that I have to like stuff to make progress and take advantage of its effectiveness. And I can bitch, moan, and complain while doing them. Be like Nike: just. do. it. (Not a big Nike fan, either, and say that to myself with appropriate levels of derision.)

Someday, I will not feel like a baby elephant trying to lumber to her feet doing low-to-high chops. There’s a certain finesse with them when J demonstrates or other friends are doing these, but with me, I feel like this clumsy oaf trying not to trip over myself in the process. And today was better than it has been in the past. Perhaps it is the lateral move-ness of the exercise; I am still not completely comfortable with lateral lunges, although I seem to be okay with ini band lateral walks. Mind swears there is big honking difference, thank you very much. But casually observing a gym acquaintance go through a series of lateral lunges this morning, I inwardly sigh and realize the un-bendy aspects of my body likely contribute to the overall awkwardness. More practice seems my only recourse.

What We Did

A1 Plate Loaded Squat Machine (2 25s/side)
A2 Overhead Press on plate loaded squat machine (no plates)

B1 DB Walking Lunges (20s)
B2 Hammer Strength Chest Press (1 25/side)

C1 1-arm Cable Lateral Raises (15)
C2 Low-high Cable Chops (35)

D1 Rope Overhead Triceps Extensions
D2 Rope Horizontal Chops

How It Felt

My first thought when we walked up to the plate loaded squat machine, they have rearranged the furniture, or this is a new machine. Last time I was in this area of the club, there was another squat rack next to the squat rack where this now rested. I am a creature of habit; I quickly latch on to the layout of things in order to get and retain my bearings. But lo and behold, this new gleaming white-painted bad boy now stood before me. I will adjust. J demonstrated how it works, then had me try it with no plates. There’s a different feel to it that the upstairs squat machine; the weight distribution on the shoulders with the plates rather than in front of me in the cable stack. Surprisingly, I liked it. This machine made me feel awesomely powerful, like Zeus with his lightning bolts or something similar. Seems to me it takes some legs and glutes to toss about that sort of energy. As as I said, while generally speaking I could care less than less about the amount of weight I am moving to and fro, there is something hugely gratifying about layering the plates to make 100 lbs. Plus, it seems easier when I’m not watching the plates going up and down like the cable version upstairs. Still use it, still appreciate it, but this was the bright and shiny new object and I feel like I got and understood the basic shape and feels correctly.

Next was the overhead press on the plate loaded squat machine, only with all the plates off. Instead of the weight pads resting on my shoulders and released to follow me down into a squat, my hands were pressed against the pads and the apparatus was locked into position and the only place it could go was up. So, I pressed upward and then lowed it back down for the 8 to 12 rep range. Even without any plates attached, it was plenty heavy and I could feel all the right overhead press muscles working. So fun when exercises I really like are done differently or on different equipment, because the variety keeps things interesting. Seems less likely anyone will be killed or maimed if I lose my grip and drop the weight.

Dumbbell walking lunges – with a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells no less. The good news is I am getting better at these – I can make it “there” and back across a stretch of gym floor with 40 lbs. of weight in my hands now. This is progress. I still weeble-wobble somewhat. Sometimes the weights swing in my hands. I don’t always get my lean right so the lead leg pushes off. But I am light years ahead of even a few months ago, so I will take the good progress and continue to try. Still don’t love it. Lots of things I genuinely enjoy and really appreciate the ways we add weight and make it more challenging. I could be doing bodyweight walking lunges and still not love them. But oh well. Difficult to maintain an active nemesis stable without any nemesis residing on that List.

Other new machine of the day was the Hammer Strength chest press. The positioning of the handles is different from what I’ve grown accustomed to; the handles seem lower to the body (almost waist than chest) and wider than others. The universal truth for me continues, that this is not better or worse, not harder or easier. For a first introduction, it is just different. Replicating the feeling with an incline dumbbell press would be a huge challenge for me, but the lower position starting point probably threw me off the most.  Something about new machines; they make me feel all Wonder Woman-esq when I don’ completely screw it up the first few sets. More practice and date collection is needed on this. I feel inexperienced enough with the various equipment to mostly feel some wonder that I’m now to the point of being in the big boys room using plate-loaded machines. Whoda thunk?

Switching things up a bit, new introduction to 1-arm cable lateral raises. We did these on the 2-arm FreeMotion machine previously, but today was a first with the single arm. They were strange, if only because of the holding onto the frame of the machine with the other hand and almost leaning ever so slightly sideways into the pulling hand. For the most part I got the shape and how it was supposed to look and feel, yet it feels different. Maybe it’s the 1-arm part of the equation – everything else from the standing to the seated hang-and-bang uses both arms at once. New, different – more practice to get comfortable and once comfortable to seek competence and proficiency.

Another seemingly permanent resident in my nemesis stable: low-high cable chops. There are still certain exercises that creative negative images in my head, and with these, I always see some musk ox lumbering along. Or maybe an American bison. Or just a regular old ox. But you get the idea; I feel like some big giant lumbering creature trying to rise gracefully and pull the cable across in the chopping action. And this on a day when I feel as if it were my best, most successful effort to date. In other words, despite this and other Lists with this exercise, I don’t quite have the hang of it. Because I am not practicing enough. Maybe I’m rationalizing and justifying or have fired up my excuse factory as to why I’m not practicing (and therefore not improving more quickly), but truth of the matter is I cannot bring myself to be overly concerned about it. I have the cues down. I understand the basic shape. I get my own hesitancy and reticence with lateral everything. But in my own growing exercise library, being weaker in my low-high chops is not going to get me fired from the training tribe without warning. Or even with warning. My head has been turned with bigger, bolder, far more bodacious and interesting things. I’ll get there; I’ll get around to practicing more and focusing on improving. Before that happens, though, I suspect my interest, focus, and improvement with floor chops will become a higher priority reality. Just the way my mind is tracking lately.

Potential new favorite with the rope overhead triceps extensions. I like all the tricep exercises we do regularly, but today, this one grabbed my imagination and feels more strongly than usual. The difference with using the cables versus using the dumbbells or TRX or bands is noticeable, the weight feels heavier or more targeted. Whether it’s the reality of the way my triceps respond to this type of work or it is actual reality I feel with this type of workload, this movement feels more productive that others. Could be that it’s just the newest, shiniest object in my toolbox this week, though.

I feel far better about the rope horizontal chops that I do the other chops named above. There is always the challenge of keeping the pivoting foot anchored; I don’t know precisely how I’m doing it, but it wanders and makes me feel like I’m trying to do the splits while chopping. Pause, reset, restart. But if that’s the biggest issue in all my cable chop issues, I can cope. Even I must admit these are effective. In my lofty ambition to someday perhaps have a definable waistline, I know these and all the other chop-like exercises are have very small yet visible effect. There’s kind of a side indent in my abdomen where there once was nothing but fat wrinkles and rolls. When you feel as if you have never had any discernible definition (of a positive nature) in the contours of your body, you take the small wins and run out and celebrate them.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I spent a good chunk of my available computer leisure time Facebook last weekend (July 15-16). I am part of a fat loss support group and there was quite flurry of discussion about various topics of interest to me. Up until now it’s been mostly rah-rah-rah type posts. People would post their weight loss and talk about their eating, and frankly it was sort of distant from where I dwell. My experiences with the scale is primarily negative – judgmental little piece of electronic poo. But like all things, I am slowly adapting to the reality that I need to don my big girl capris and weigh in daily to collect more data. Recurring theme with me seems to be I don’t have to like it, but there are good reasons to do things I do not necessarily like.

This same (July 15-16) weekend, there was some frustration on the part of my doc that people seem to disconnect from the long-term aspect of lifestyle changes when it comes to diet, exercise, weight loss. Maybe I just need my village of experts to get real and direct and speak plainly and use profanity to have the message hit home, but it actually finally felt like I was part of a group with real people putting forth their best efforts and faltering rather than a bunch of cardboard cutouts.

Anyway, one of the topics that came up was mindset. Admittedly, mine is scattered when it comes to diet and nutrition. I start, I stop, I falter, I stub my toe quite viciously (as opposed to shooting myself in the foot). But mostly I get back up and continue to try, even if it frequently feels as if I am banging my head repeatedly on the nearest wall. Progress is a very slow thing in this realm, and I am either okay with it or not committed enough (yet) to do something different.

But perhaps with this plain-speaking reality check, I am finally ready to get more committed to sustainable healthy eating.

With the exercise, I have become the poster child for consistency. I am in the gym at least 6 days per week, more often than not every day of every week. Maybe I’m not the gung ho, no-pain-no-gain member, but I’m working my way through a List most days. Sundays are my fun day, when I emerge in my true self as dawdler extraordinaire  and practice things giving me trouble or that are just a whole lot of fun and make me feel spectacular. I value my improving health, and I tend to prioritize the things I value most. Hence my consistency. I like training with J; I want our partnership to continue to thrive and feel productive.

Such are days like today, when I’m introduced to something new and feel like I actually feel it where I’m supposed to feel it and those muscle groups are working. Non-scale victory – it’s a thing. But there is very rarely any lingering soreness afterward. Does this mean my muscles have toughened up, or am I not working hard enough? I choose to cautiously accept is it the former, that I’m in much better shape. Even if my effort is not the same as the person next to me, I console myself that we are different, our journeys may be similar yet not identical, and our bodies and experiences – our individual mileages vary. No more comparisons allowed, because in my own head, I always end up in the queendom of negative girl.

When talking about mindset, this seems to be working for me. And blogging – goodness, I can only imagine how lost I would be without blogging. Trainer J block me and get a disposal text number where my blog-esq texts would land, unread. My exercise experienced friends would suddenly be way too busy to talk with me or tell me they were permanently relocating to a small slice of Europe with no internet. My navel-gazing blogging works out for me; it’s part of my process and a contributor to my overall success.

For some it comes easy, and they seem effortless in their ability to remain fit and trim. The rest of us, we have to work at it. Accepting that makes forward progress more pleasant, even if it is not always easier and remains filled with stuff I dislike but know is very good for me.

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

Talking about food and healthy eating

Things have been busy, hectic, crazy hereabouts lately, and I feel so far behind in my blogging. Yesterday’s training recap is in progress, as are both from last week. I will most likely post them out of order, because last week was a train wreck with injuries and the emotions were kind of dark and dreary and a variation of negative girl – angry, emotional girl – was at the helm. I do want to get them finished and posted, though, because it’s important to me to maintain this record of my journey.

But as an aside, I belong to a Facebook group as part of a weight loss program. While this has been a thing for me for about the last 6 months, it as if someone suddenly plugged me in and powered me up. As it was when I started training with J, once I make the decision to move forward with something, I pull off the blinders and get gazelle intense about it. Such is the case right now with my healthy eating.

While I imagine there will be more written in this blog about it going forward, I wanted to memorialize a couple of posts I wrote for this group about what’s going on with me and with food this week. This is from Monday morning:

Crazy work week this week – 11 to 4 at a client’s office. No plans to break for lunch, so having to do lunch shake at 10 and then eat my lunch apple around noon while I work. I’m trying to plan ahead, because this client always has home baked muffins or brownies or other sugary goodness in their break room, plus a tempting snack box and assortment of sodas. I am bringing my own water bottle and will refill from their cooler, but going to do my best to stay out of their break room and avoid any/all temptation. Ugh. Just thinking about it now is giving me food anxiety.

Funny part of this – I had this engagement scheduled for over a week and had not really thought about the culture of their office. Every single time I have been there, their break room is a sugar addict’s version of Hell. Cookies, brownies, pies, cake – always something yummy. Or there is home baked bread and honey butter, or muffins or cinnamon rolls. The business owner’s mother loves to bake and makes this stuff and he dutifully brings it in every day. What’s worse, there is a subtle pressure to partake, and a real sense you have offended him/his mother by refusing even the smallest taste.

My discipline with food is nonexistent right now. I know this about myself, that moderation is not a word I can successfully utilize when it comes to me and foods I love. Right now, avoidance is my only option. By obsessing about it and making a plan in advance, I felt more fortified to decline. I even told the owner that I am diabetic and my doctor has me on a pretty strict eating regimen that has me watching my macros and absolutely no gratuitous sugar. Doesn’t matter that I have no idea what “my macros” are for me, but it sounded really official and ominous. And I was able to successfully report the outcome last night.

Survived the day at the foodie client site with just my apple and several refills of my water bottle. I was able to escape the apple pie, blueberry cobbler, and homemade vanilla ice cream. Second workout and saw my friends, now home for a BAS (big ass salad) for dinner. Hopefully I don’t have to ask Dr. Spencer for doctor’s note to avoid having the conversation that no sugar, no carbs really does mean no sugar, no carbs.

Maybe not everyone needs an outlet, but I find the need to talk about and write about my struggles, setbacks, and ultimately, my successes is part of my process. I credit blogging with being an integral part of getting me off the couch and in the gym every day. Otherwise I’d probably have to train with J every day he works and paying my therapist to let me bleed out my insecurity week after week.

The FB group is extremely helpful for me right now, because we are all striving to follow the same pretty strict kick-start program based on protein shakes as meal replacements twice daily and one reasonable meal. For anyone thinking that’s not sustainable for the balance of our years, it’s not meant to last forever and ever. However, it is meant to be a jumping-off point to teach us how to make better, healthier food choices and curb our cravings for fat, sugar, carbs, processed food, etc. Such critical commentary is partly why I rarely (read: never) discuss this stuff with anyone outside of J and a couple of others in my life who understand that food remains a big giant trigger for me.

But I’m sharing some of my own FB posts here because I think its valuable for me in the long haul, and maybe someone else who reads this will find some value or insight with their own mindset and struggles.

As context for this next message, M and I are heading for the state fair today. Like all fairs and festivals, the food offerings are all essentially crap. High in sugar and fat, and ridiculously expensive to boot. But it’s a fun tradition for M and I, something we look forward to doing every year. This is what I posted about it:

This is apparently my week for needing extra food help and ideas. My husband and I are headed for the state fair tomorrow, and it has traditionally been the one time per year I gleefully overindulge in super junky fried food and sugary treats. That said, this is my year for beginning new traditions, so I am mentally preparing my game plan tonight.

We’re going midday, so I’ll have been through my gym workout in the morning and be fully fortified with my lunch protein shake and apple. I’ll be drinking a lot of water or unsweetened iced tea while we stomp around through the exhibits. Because this is a fun even we look forward to every year, I am planning one midafternoon snack food purchase – the fresh fruit on a skewer dipped in chocolate, only without the chocolate.

I am surfing a 5-day streak of 90% on track with the program – homemade pasta last night at a friend’s home was my glaring glitch. Hubby’s skill with food moderation and restraint is far more powerful than my own, and he has agreed not to tempt me with french fries or corn dogs and does not like the roasted corn on the cobb – traditional favorites for me. He has a meeting tomorrow night, so I’ll likely be in the gym doing a huffy-puffy (cardio-based) practice and then home for a reasonable dinner.

Any and all tips, strategies, thoughts are welcome. This make-a-plan stuff seems to actually be working for me. Who knew?

Some of the replies were very thoughtful and helpful and representative of a hopes and suggestions to utilize a “flexibility of mindset” regarding food. Intellectually, I get the concept. Emotionally, I am not there yet. This final message is my thought for the day:

I like the concept of the mindset of flexibility, and it is certainly something I hope to develop in time. Despite having been part of this group since February, it’s only been the last week or so that I have truly decided that I want to gain some control and mastery over my eating and nutrition. For me, weight loss is almost an afterthought, a by product of better food choices and more balance in my eating habits. What I want most is to develop a reasonable relationship with food, where my habits of a lifetime do not short circuit my ability to make wise decisions about what my body and long-term health require to function optimally. This week is representative of challenges that occur for me a few times each year. I’m doing 1000% better because I’m thinking about what lies ahead and trying to strategize in advance, so when faced with the actual choices, I will not simply react and eat crap food but be prepared to consider the consequences of my choices. Next year, next fair season will likely be very different. But right now, I’m surfing a learning curve. It’s like my first weeks in the gym, trying to learn a basic goblet squat and not getting it at all. At that time I would meet with my trainer weekly but not practice in between, and every time he would go through goblet squats with me again it would be reinventing the wheel. Once I decided I was serious about learning exercise fundamentals and began practicing on my own between sessions, I got better. Now, seeing “goblet squat” on my training program of the day does not make me stop and think about what is required of me to make it happen. Time and practice – I believe I can make the same habits happen with eating. But right now I am thinking about it, talking, reading and writing about it to strengthen my resolve to educate myself about my own body and making better, smarter choices with food.

To date I have been very sparing with my posts on diet and nutrition, because I have been very wishy-washy and inconsistent with my efforts in this regard. I am presently very engaged in trying harder, and it is neither pleasant nor easy to eat in this manner. However, exercise was the same at first – hated it, dreaded it, wanted more than anything not to have to do it. Persistence in pursuit of consistency has its rewards, and I have fallen madly in love with my daily exercise routines. Yep, exercise-hating woman ha learned to fully embrace the ways body responds to movement and increasing strength and capability. The process has had a lot of unexpected lessons as well; it has taught me about myself and my own adaptability, that I am not such an old dog incapable of learning new tricks. It is difficult to imagine a world where I love vegetables more than a cookie, but I know it is possible for me to develop the reflex and “muscle memory” to be more habitual in bypassing the cookie without pangs of loss shooting through my heart and mind. Or being mindful and conscious of the why when I choose to indulge and have the cookie.

The adventure continues. I’m excited to see where I take me next.




#blogging, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #motivation, #weight-loss

PT-51: Exercise geekery

Delays, delays, delays! My excuse factory could go into overdrive as to why this Thursday training recap is going up the following Wednesday rather than the hoped for same day Thursday or next day Friday. Life happens and brings with it work-related deadlines that gobble up all available time allocated for fun things like writing blog posts. The quest for work-life balance continues. 

Thursday morning and training with J. Because we are in the review cycle of our push-pull series, it was a review day. I love, Love, LOVE review days. What I think I know I typically know a little or a lot or that I was somehow doing it incorrectly (rarer) after review days. Room for improvement? Big giant hotel with lots and lots of rooms for improvement in my case.

Key Takeaways

In keeping with the “more I learn, more I realize how little I actually know” theme of late, J suggested, coached, taught me a new wrinkle for training. We have the pretension of working muscles, been doing that forever it seems, and now we’re trying to pretension at the end of the stretch and before the pretension. Confusing, right? Try doing this in a Romanian deadlift with a barbell in your hand. It’s hard. It’s mind-boggling. And it’s soooo cool!

Yep, gym geek girl in the making.

Things we set aside for a time – like more than a year – still have a lot of value and nuances to be learned. This time around, once the memory of exactly how these things are supposed to work returned, I feel more confident about my ability with them. Mostly, anyway. There were probably good and valid reasons I shed tears learning these things, and after some tweaks, reminders, corrections – I finally got back to it. The lessons are valuable for a number of reasons, primarily that the information is not lost forever, even if I don’t do something for a year or more. Granted I don’t necessarily want to be emailing J far into the future asking how precisely I do some obscure exercise I learned in 2015, but I should be able to do majority of this stuff.

What We Did

It was push day (which sounds really awkward, I know) and on the List for the day:

Barbell Romanian deadlift
Mini band lateral walks, kickbacks

1-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift (25 lb.)
Dumbbell pullovers

Stability ball hamstring curls
Seated cable row

Seated hamstring curls
Dual cable lat pulldown

How It Felt

There is something a little special about doing the barbell Romanian deadlifts. Possibly because of my lingering intimidation factor and having to don my biggest of big girl capris to venture into that corner of the gym on my own to try this during my own practices. Typically left to my own devices, I use dumbbells. Heavier dumbbells, but I can feel the difference in weight distribution between the different types of weights. I remind myself every day that it is a process. With the introduction of the overlap – the muscle pretension at the very end of the stretch and just before the actual pretension to return to do the lifting work – I find myself in a completely different type of focused headspace. It’s exciting into my inner geekette.

One my favorite tools remains the under-appreciated mini bands. This Thursday we paired mini band lateral walks and glute kickbacks, a nice change of pace for working the glutes and side hips. The overlap does not quite work that way.

Perhaps my biggest nemesis and victory of late is the 1-legged dumbbell Romanian deadlift with a 25 lb. dumbbell in one hand. Balance is an ongoing issue for me, although I have improved dramatically in the last 2 years. Still, every successful 1-leg anything is a small win to a major victory, depending on the day. The overlap makes me feel like I am relearning this exercise all over again, but my focus is improving and hopefully with time and practice balance will continue to improve.

The weightier weight on the dumbbell pullovers is like a full-body exercise. Got the upper back arch down pretty well now, but the pulling the weight back up and back overhead requires tightening the abs and glutes all at once. There is this half-rib tuck ab tightening thing that I just discovered works well for me, but it’s hard to describe. With the bigger dumbbell weight, it requires a lot more focus to pretension the muscles to do their work, and the overlap helps enormously with it. It’s interesting to me how my whole body seems to get involved and working when I do this one right. I can easily envision the Very Bad Outcomes if I lose my focus and have to drop the weight, and I do know that dropping the weight would be better than other scenarios. But I’m doing pretty well with these, even with 35 lbs. in my hands.

While not in the nemesis stable, the stability ball hamstring curls remain an uphill climb. Keep my feet in the proper position on the ball. Curl in that ball in that extra half inch. Sometimes I imagine how sick J must get of repeating the same instructions over and over again; I know I grow weary of my own screaming whining in my head about how my legs don’t have another half inch to curl or that hips can’t or won’t raise more and are going on strike and refusing to work the rest of the day. Of course it doesn’t happen; hips continue t do their jobs. The exercise is effective, and if it were easy there would probably be a lot more fit folk in the world. Or so I tell myself every time I want to give in and give up on something.

The seated cable row is another that looks so simple and is far more complicated than it appears. Leaning forward from the shoulders and not the waist, keeping a decent bend in the elbows. For the most part I have the pulling back in the row with the shoulders and upper back arch, but that leaning forward from the shoulders and the decent elbow bend – work in progress. Probably doesn’t help that there is an inadequate amount of practice occurring with these right now – that whole big boys room and lingering intimidation factor going on deep inside the recesses of my head.

Unlike their cousin the stability ball hamstring curls, the seated hamstring curls are mostly improving. I found the overlap to be particularly effective with these. Thinking about it afterwards, it seems this machine has a more clearly defined beginning, middle, and end that makes the overlap more easily applicable. Either way, I found the overlap particularly useful for this exercise. I also found this new wrinkle in the exercise iceberg to be extremely useful on the cadence and pacing.

The dual cable lat pulldowns, like the seated cable row, is far more complicated than it seems. I want to overcomplicate this, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Pull down with the shoulders and into the back arch and pull those elbows back behind me. Then like the row, lean forward with the shoulders not from the waist and keep a decent amount of bend in the elbows at the top. I find myself thinking about this concept and applying it to any and all lat pulldowns with both the pulling and the overlap of tension and stretching.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

One of the (few) benefits of being distracted with real life and not getting the recap written the same day is my kitchen sink thoughts overflow and flood the kitchen. Now always a bad thing; frequently I feel clearer about what I am thinking and feeling.

Our latest and greatest adventures into push and pull land are meant to increase my strength. I have apparently not yet completely grasped the 8 rep max for the weightier weights (the 10 and 12 and 15 minimums are burned into my mind), and I lack absolute confidence with my capabilities. But like so many things, forward progress is a process, not a once and done type experience.

There is so much backlog of negative girl baggage still sitting in the storage rooms of my mind that it makes completely purging her impulses and ideas – it’s like addiction recovery in that one is always in recovery, never actually cured. What I have learned over the course of the last couple of years in pursuit of my better health quest, managing my own expectations is imperative to success in nearly all of my life’s endeavors. That and patience; nothing is easy at first and it takes awhile to get acclimated and learn the bazillion and 47 small details that encompass everything. After the initial learning curve, there is the whole mastery of the bazillion and 312 other details that contribute to mastery.

This shit takes a really long time. Patience, still not one of my virtues, is mostly consumed by the bazillions part of both the learning curve and mastery aspects. My vexation is all the other small details that remaining and from that seeds of doubt are sowed.

But while it occasionally seems like a daily battle to beat back my inner self-directed negativity, I know my coping skills have improved as my gym and exercise geekery have expanded. Few people I talk with understand my fascination with the details. Then again, most of the have little understanding of why I even want to know or understand the fine details. To them, it’s more a matter of braun than brain, whereas to me I am older, growing less bendy by the minute, and have to be smarter about exercise or I will be spending more time injured on the sidelines.

The longer I pursue my better health quest, the less competitive I become. My perspective has broadened as the weeks and months have passed, and measuring my progress in ability and competence is far more important to me than the weights moved. It is a huge boost to gradually move up in the weights I’m using, but I want body to feel satisfied and not unduly taxed and overly fatigued to the point of having to stop. From my perch right now, I don’t want to stop until my expiration date is reached. Maybe I cannot extend it indefinitely, but I believe my investments in this pursuit now will keep me comfortable for a longer period of time.

Besides, I have too much fun. From the woman who hated exercise, described “sweaty and gross” with disdain (versus the matter-of-fact way I use the term now), and had to pep talk herself into going through the club’s front doors every day – quite a change in mindset and outlook.

Progress is being comfortable and happy with my own body. Process is accepting my own impatience while working toward the tiny, incremental improvements. If only overthinking burned the same range of calories of squats and walking lunges and other huffy-puffy type activities. Until body learns that evolution, I will have to continue with my exercise pursuits and health and fitness geekery.

It’s good to be me.


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

28 Days

Today is Thursday, July 6, 2017. I’m coming off a long-ish week period of unrestrained eating and drinking because of work-related events and the independence day holiday. Nothing big or crazy (with regard to the eating and drinking), but enough to feel the impact of the excess calories and richer foods that are now more foreign to my day-to-day eating patterns. On top of which, it has made me feel utterly crappy about myself and released my inner negative girl from her bottle. And as anyone who has battled back from the demons of poor self-image, she’s a bitch to get contained once more.

That particularly phenomenon – it is and was enough to want to not just restart healthier eating patterns but to also step-up my efforts and build some insurance against this happening again in the future. After all, Labor day and it’s abundance of BBQs and such is not far away.

My 28 days eating strategy started today.

I decided to blog about the journey a little differently than my training recaps, because I do not plan to talk about it much in real life. Except possibly to poor trainer J, who has the misfortune of spending 2 hours per week with me talking about this, that, the other things on the better health quest. Plus it’s kind of boring when I eat pretty much the same thing day after day after day for weeks at a stretch. It also inspires concern that (1) I’m not eating enough, (2) I’m not eating “real” food, and (3) some reason to be named later. My answer to all of that: I am under the care of an obesity physician who designed this program, and I will be checking in with him every week or even every single day if it seems appropriate and warranted. I have done this off and on for several months, but in truth this is my first honest effort at sticking with it for an extended period. Merely mentioning it here and having a structured plan to post about it in the future is a powerful accountability tool for me, even if no one else ever reads another post.

Rather than writing a daily recap describing my menu, calorie counts, etc., I am going to combine the posts into a weekly log. Format is still being drafting in my head, but I know I will summarize calories in (tracking in; it’s only 28 days – I can do it) and exercise calories burned in the gym (judgmental Fitbit must be good for something, right?) type results at the top with the nitty-gritty details underneath. Also, I plan to post the weekly blog posts all at once. It seems more impactful for me to write them in week by week post format and then publish them all together so the progress (or lack thereof) is more readily apparent. Sort of like binge watching a whole season of a TV show.

But I am hoping to see actual positive progress rather than a rehash of why I am mostly spinning my wheels.

Perhaps I shall surprise myself with my amazing, stellar success, but I expect there will be plenty of setbacks and backslides, probably tears and angry outbursts as well. And I’m okay with all of that – no perfectionista impulses here in this regard. I want to be clear the potential setbacks and backslides have little or nothing to do with about the ways I will write these chapters. Because I know myself and my blogging style very well by now, the good, the bad, the extraordinarily unflattering will always be included. Because I am pretty Jane Average with all my warts and flaws in the self-improvement realm.

Why am I doing this? Raw truth is the feeling of negative self-worth for this part of my better health quest has never completely faded. The big and small successes with regular exercise and becoming more active have been so much easier to focus on than the lifetime habits of being such a picky eater and being self-indulgent about food. Where I thought exercise would be the biggest hurdle in the better health quest, I was staggeringly incorrect and misguided. The longer I put off getting down-in-the-weeds real about my relationship with food the bigger the issue of monitoring and adjusting my eating habits becomes.

Being fair to me, I am so much better about food choices than I was when this journey began. That said, being better has become an inadequate rationalization; I desire to not rest on my laurels and continue to celebrate the anniversaries of past achievements. More and more, I am either growing restless, dissatisfied, and paralyzed in my efforts to reshape my eating habits or mentally and emotionally giving up and giving in to more destructive food choice impulses and feeling crappy – physically and emotionally – afterward. While once upon a time I thought raw sugar was my sole enemy, I am realizing the flaw in my reasoning is bigger, broader, much more insidious. Essentially, like so many others, I am addicted to highly processed and hyper-palatable foods. Being realistic, there is also a lot of sugar and fat and unhealthy stuff in all that I enjoy and that hits that carnal satisfaction button in my head.

So I need to first break that cycle and habit. Even a little or a taste is too much right now. Developing the discipline to just say no and follow through completely is imperative. Will it last forever? I hope not; I hope it does not have to be quite so black-and-white. Like my exercise and gym habits, I hope to be able to learn some limited form of moderation. But right this minute it feels like a life-and-death emergency to me to conquer this bad food choice addiction and tendency, so I need to do whatever it takes to make that objective happen.

To kick-start myself, I’m following my physician’s 27-day fat loss prescription program, modified for me to 28 days for a nice, even 4 week cycle. This also coincides with my next scheduled lab appointment in early August. While I am not expecting any major surprises with labs that might be affected by improving my eating in these 28 days, having a reasonable schedule and timeline always works better for me. I am a planner; it’s why Lists works so well for me.

I have heard it said that if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit. Hopefully I will be close to that after only 28 days. While I do not plan to follow this eating strategy forever, it will give me a good baseline of my basic caloric needs and (hopefully) curb some of my triggering cravings. It’s also coincides with a different style of work-related planning and scheduling, so the stressors that come with that will have to be addressed directly and incorporated as part of the cycle.

While I anticipate revisiting and writing about this subject daily for the next few weeks, this is likely the last I’ll be saying about food and drink until or about August 4. Wish me luck?

And so as I find myself saying a lot lately, let the adventure begin.

#diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #food, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation

PT-50: The steady drumbeat

Monday morning, training with J. Because of the holiday week, schedule was a little mixed. I traded my 6 a.m. for 7 a.m. to accommodate my tribe sister who typically clocks in Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. All good, happy to help. The flexibility of my schedule makes reschedules simple.

Key Takeaways

No matter how much I tell myself and others that I have no concrete goals, progress is another matter entirely. In the last week of celebratory milestones and such, I can honestly say I’ve made slow and steady progress. However, it’s still really gratifying to pick up a never before used weight and be able to do the work with it, not feel any sort of pain during or after, and to be marveling about my success 24 hours later.

With so many Lists in my library now, I cannot seem to grow weary or bored of my time in the gym. Sure, I can feel like I don’t feel like doing anything; I can (and frequently often periodically do) feel tired mentally, physically, or both. But bored? Not yet. The big challenges for me lie outside the gym and Lists anymore. Care with diet and getting adequate sleep are my daily battles. For the most part, they are battles I win.

There is an evenness to life now that pre-exercise did not exist. Maybe because the pushing I do within the gym is primarily positive and only with myself, so it takes the venom and the sting out of the rest of the drama that unfolds with life. Balance, the ever elusive balance, is more attainable. I have a much healthier outlet for frustration and stress, and a built-in period of contemplation available to me most every day.

I’m grow tougher as well as stronger. Once upon a time, corrections and adjustments to form would be hard on my psyche. Negative girl would go all scorched earth and I’d be fortunate not to burst into tears over my inability to do something perfectly on the second rep ever in my whole entire life. Now, while I absolutely trust J not to be judging me harshly for my present uncoordinated or untrained ability with something new (or even not so new), I have this startling realization when writing recaps how under-reactive I am these days to correction and tweaks. Exposure to and getting to know others with different body types, limitations, and natural abilities has tempered me from the self-sabotage of being at fault or not trying hard enough. There’s a tiny word getting used a lot in my vocabulary with all things training – yet. I am not lifting as much – yet. I am not quite contracting muscles as hard – yet. I have not progressed far enough on this journey – yet. Persistence will get me level out the lumpy-bumpy in my path. Progress is mindset healthy enough to be patient and enjoy the big and little victories achieved along the way. They ALL count.

For all my weenie-whining about what I cannot yet do or the habits I continue to struggle with, I was reminded today how much further I am on this journey. Because I stepped up and got started. I took some responsibility for myself and my choices. And I continue to own both my setbacks and stalls as well as my wins. It is still intimidating sometimes to go to the gym and use equipment foreign to me or outside my comfort zone. It’s sometimes difficult to ask someone for equipment they may or may not be using, or to tell someone else I am still using something they may be seeking. But I’m plugging away at it, every single day. Yay me!

What We Did

We are into a review cycle of push-pulls Lists, which is perfectly fine with me. I love review days. Starting with the pushes, our List of the day (weights used in parentheses):

Heavy Goblet Squat (45)
Flat DB Chest Press (30s)

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

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

Heavy Rope Triceps Pushdowns (60)
Kneeling Rope Crunch (85)

How It Felt

Big, big deal today: I used a 45 lb. dumbbell on the goblet squats and had no serious issues getting through a couple of sets of 8 reps. I never imagined picking up a 45 lb. dumbbell with one hand much less actually using it successfully, but there you have – progress in black and white. With the heavier (for me) weights, we do ramping up sets for warm-up with the lighter weights we have used previously. So today we did a set with the 30 lb. dumbbell, moved to the 40 lb. dumbbell (where we have been dwelling), and I seemed to handle it so well J wanted to try the 45, which is what we did for a couple of sets of 8 without any big trauma or drama. If anything, I thought it didn’t feel all that much different than the 40 while do the actual work. Where I noticed was picking it up and getting set-up, but once past that, it felt about the same. We also talked about the breathing – deep breath in, hold it, expel it and empty the lungs at the top. I have been watching friend K do this with her barbell deadlifts and trying to adapt to it myself, but it’s foreign. Practice, practice, practice, though, and now I have practical applications to apply to it.

We are now using a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells on the flat bench dumbbell chest press, a weight I am growing increasingly more comfortable having in my hands. For our warm-up set we used a pair of 25s, which is what I have been using most of the time when practicing on my own. I went through a set of 15 reps (lost count and forgot I could stop at 8) without any difficulties. Big happy moment from this was when J remarked that my upper back arch was looking a lot more natural and automatic these days. That actually surprised me, because my arch obsession remains and I am nearly always thinking about it on everything arch-appropriate. But good to know that the obsession is paying off for me. While J believes I could handle a pair of 35s for this exercise, he thinks there is more to be wrung out of the pair of 30s, which is perfectly fine with me. On my own, I will use the 25s for warm-up sets and go as far as I can with the 30s, assuming I am feeling it.

Former nemesis and ongoing mostly disliked exercise dumbbell walking lunges – always something new to learn with these bad boys. Today is was about the rear leg, dropping knee to the floor and sort of tucking it further back so greater emphasis on the front leg quad, all of which meant take a slightly longer forward step and bit more lean forward as well. Takes a bit of adjustment, and a teeny, tiny backslide of pausing in the middle on the way to the next lunge step was in order some of the times. We started with a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells and then bumped up to a pair of 20s. Brutal. I never thought an additional 10 lbs. of weight could feel so heavy. But, this is why the rep range is 6 to 8, rather than our usual 8 to 12 or 12 to 15.

Doing really well with the 1- arm dumbbell overhead press, which always feels as if there is slippery slope potential of being overly confident or cocky with something, meaning it’s time to bump up the weight or I am about to do something insanely stupid. So I temper my thrill-fest about wielding a 20 lb. weight overhead just a tiny bit, because I am always mindful of lofting a dumbbell over my head and its impacts on my shoulder as well as the opportunities to brain myself if it slips. Still, no way I would ever increase weight on something like this without J standing right there supervising the first several times.

Had a new correction on the seated hang and bang lateral raises. I struggle with these and feel like I might never get past the pair of 10 lb. dumbbells I am presently using. But it’s okay – weights I am using really does not matter to me. However, correct form is imperative to me, and if I have to be corrected and adjusted from now until eternity on these I can accept it. First it was hands turning outward toward the ceiling when they should be turned inward with thumbs toward the floor. Doing better with that for the most part. Today, though, I wanted to do the upward press and then flip my hands and forearms up when they should be staying level. This is pancakes to me, because it is precisely the way and angles of the spatula when I am flipping pancakes. The food cues I use to remember these small details.

Oh planks, how I loathe thee. All of them. But I persevere. The 1-legged bent elbow off bench plank is not quite the worst, but it’s a plank and by definition not as wonderful as other stuff on other Lists. But maybe improvement happens slowly. I know I’m not holding onto the hold for the “right” time span when we’re training, but I also do not have the luxury of my dreaded little gym timer going either. So I am working on adapting to trainer J’s suggestion of counting breaths. Except breathing is hard, too. Whoda thunk? Breathing. Difficult? You betcha. Working on getting the hang of it, though. After 2 years, you’d think I could breathe effectively by now. Remind myself breathing is a process, just like everything else.

I love, Love, LOVE the heavy rope triceps pushdowns, especially now that I’m finally catching hold of the concept of pressing straight down and splitting rope at the bottom while straightening elbows. Before I would sort of split the rope willy-nilly and elbows would never quite straight out completely. Now that the lightbulb moments have finally fired in my mind, I feel the difference and want to do these all the time with the heavier weight.

The kneeling rope crunch is an ongoing work in progress, but I am definitely making some forward progress with them. I seem to have grasped the “shape” of the exercise and have gotten my hips to stay in place and upper back to arch the way it is supposed to arch, but still have to scorch brain cells to make it happen. Important thing, other than hopes that I have unlimited supplies of scorchable brain cells, is that I am understanding what it and should be happening with these. I’ll continue to work at them, which will not be that difficult – they feel simpler to manage than the planks or the floor chops.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Training days I frequently float along on a happy bubble of accomplishment. There are not always big milestones to celebrate or amazing events to report, but feedback and assurance that I am on the right track with how things work makes me happy. Left to my own devices I might practice my same favorite Lists over and over again and mostly without daring to increase weights used. Until we began our recent push-pull series, I had not realized that my own practices with the same weights built strength. Honestly, I’m not sure sometimes where these notions come from, but in my mind it is like doing the same exercise with the same weights week after week is merely a maintenance type regimen. Possibly, but I’m also working with J frequently enough to have weightier weights incorporated and provide enough confidence to eventually try it on my own.

While I am still celebrating my bump up in goblet squat weight, I have been thinking about  how my mind processes that accomplishment. Yes, 45 lbs. for squatting for me is huge and yeah, that dumbbell is not light or something I’d want to walk up and down the stairs with in my hands. But somehow it seems different doing squats with that weight versus a row or an overhead press or something somehow more active and direct with weight itself moving to and fro. I do not tend to measure or feel good about progress measured only in weightier weights lifted or moved, yet when it happens it’s a most amazing and exciting feeling. Perhaps it is more that I am not highly motivated by the idea of lifting weightier weights. It’s extraordinarily gratifying when it happens, but I am in no rush to crest the next level with big honking pieces of iron.

So I ponder my intense excitement and satisfaction on this new threshold of accomplishment and wonder why I am not doubling down on my practice and pursuit of the next level of something. It occurs to me that my core satisfaction comes from knowing I’m sticking with the program, pursuing the Lists, and trying my best to stay focused and on track with regular exercise. In the end, that’s what matters most to me and is my highest priority. I find myself pondering form, listening to J cue and tweak and correct when needed and required. It’s almost impossible to describe the difference in how I “hear” it now with the negative noise turned off.

Not really sure what I imagined when this all began, or even when I began my daily pursuits. I use machines. I use dumbbells. I use stretchy bands and mini bands. And while pretty far from an expert, I am more knowledgeable than I was. That’s enormously satisfying and brings great buckets of happiness splashing through my life and times.

There are far worse things in life to be obsessive about.

If only I can get my head in order about food and healthier eating. The weekend kicked off a fairly unrestrained eating streak. Nothing horrible – no boxes of cupcakes or donuts or chocolate bars were consumed, no bottles or cans of coke were drunk in the open or in secret drinking binges – but near constant noshing throughout the entire 4 days. It was great fun and even better food, but still. Way too much eating and drinking and socializing and not enough sleep.

Still, worth it. Time with our friends tends to involve food, so I tried to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables and protein sources (bbq chicken). But one of our friends makes these major league fabulous dinner rolls from scratch with homemade cinnamon honey butter. Carbs and fat, the LOVE/hate affair continues.

So we are starting anew with healthier eating. Every day is a good day for a fresh start, and I am doing my best to get balance my eating and ongoing socializing. Summer fruit is the best and readily available. The hot weather makes salads taste better. If I can watch my portion control and healthy food options during the week, I should be more capable of doing better while out and about. It’s also a eating/timing issue; sometimes it’s difficult to time my meals to advance eat before an event.

But I will keep trying. Another measure of my progress in the better health quest is that I falter and then try again. I am not staying down once I fall off the wagon, and I have good reason to be pleased with this aspect of my progress.


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

PT-49: Bees and knees

Thursday morning training with J. When I was dashing out the door for work this morning, I noted a meat bee buzzing around the tiny bit of wet cat food left in the bowl. The old “bees knees” expression came to mind, and I idly wondered if bees actually have knees. According to the urban dictionary, the expression means “sweet and good” and solidly applies universally to training days. All of them. Even the potentially urban legend status craptastic ones or the rarely-seen-in-the-wild ho-hum training sessions.

Key Takeaways

The weird things that come up with new exercises often surprises me. Maybe they are difficult or mind just refuses to connect the dots in proper order. This is why there is the nemesis stable, things that vex me continually until I gain some basic level of mastery. A new one got added today.

Of all the cool tools and machines in the gym, it is the humble mini band that still holds my highest esteem and affection. From the glute kickbacks to the variations on walking with it strapped around the ankles, I love my mini bands. Glutes – probably not so much. But the more they squeak after the fact, the more effective I am sure the exercise has been.

What We Did

Mini band kickbacks
Mini band lateral walks
Wide bar lat pulldown

TRX row
TRX facepull
Lying down hamstring curl machine

Rope cable triceps pressdown
Rope facepull

How It Felt

I love the mini band kickbacks. I feel like kind of a big deal inside my own head when we do these, because at first they seemed so awkward. Now that I have figured out placement of foot, the forward lean, and maintaining proper tension on the band, it feels like let er rip – go forth and kick back. MOST of the time, I don’t have issue with the band suddenly curling and climbing up my calves mid-kick. But as I said, I have finally figured out keeping tension on the band tends to keep it in place. Amazing what a small change does to improve overall performance.

Not that long ago, I watched a video on the proper way to do mini band lateral walks, and it got me thinking and wondering if I am doing them correctly. What I know now – “correct” is a broad and potentially sliding scales, because one body composition is different from another and that has an effect. For the most part, I feel fine about these. I’m not leaning too far forward or standing up too straight. I am keeping the band tensioned and pulling against it each side step. Probably the most important part, though – I feel it in my hips and my side glutes.

The newest of exercises was the hyperextensions on a hyperextension stand. While I understand the objective and methodology, those things are killers! First I was doing them incorrectly and stressing out my low back by lifting upper torso with low back rather than squeezing glutes and hamstrings, tucking ribs and protecting lower back on the way up. Once I figured out how they are supposed to work … holy HELL those things are hard! I get the basic shape now, but feel like my glutes and hamstrings are weak and/or underperforming in this exercise. Also noted that while pressing up against the ledge of the stand device, my right heel wants to bend inward and put some stress on my knee while fight-tighter-tightest-tighter still on those glutes and hamstrings. Thinking about it today while eyeballing the stand, believe I need to simultaneously grind heel straight down as well as pressing back agains the lip of the foot holder. Whatever it takes, I must stop that right heel from wandering.

Lat pulldowns are not really my forte. They seem to be a combination of  shrug up (after years now of working on my un-shrugging) and then the pull down and elbows back with the upper arch. Of late we have been focusing on the pull elbows toward the back and really tension those lats. I need more work on these. I like the wide bar possibly more than the little V-shaped handles, but not precisely sure why. More practice and study is obviously required. The problem as I see it – the lat pulldown machines are in the big boys room and I only go there when absolutely necessary or severely deserted. Must find those super-power reinforced big girl capris in my drawer.

We were back at the TRX straps for the first time in a very long time, perhaps more than a year. While I use them just about daily for warm-up, I like them primarily for balance. But today we went old school on the TRX row, an early staple in training. Most interesting to me about these – I am stronger than I was last we did these. I had to move my feet further forward to get the row angle right in order to feel it. I have to suppose that all the dumbbell rows, band rows, cable rows, and other types of rows have been having a positive impact.

The TRX Y is another oldie resurrected. I clearly remember one night after learning these and crying – CRYING – and texting J from the gym floor because I could not get them right.  A low point in my gym and training career. This time, I found it appealed to the little professor in my mind. J reminded me to keep the straps taught, not just throw my arms back and up. It’s a slow, deliberate thing, with arms slightly bent. I can do these.

Doing the TRX facepull is all about the goal post shape at the conclusion. Pull myself up by pulling back on the straps to 90 degree bend in arms and then bringing hand up in that shape like a goal post. Only it’s not quite so mechanical as pull elbows back to 90 degrees and then twist hands and arms up to the goal post shape. It is supposed to be a single, fluid motion and takes practice. Since this is the first time I have done these in more than a year, it’s going to take awhile for me to get the shape and motion back.

The lying down hamstring curl machine is interesting. It seems taller than other machines I have used in the past, but this one requires a little hop and scooch to get into the right position. I do like this particular curl machine, far more than similar machines in the other room. My hamstrings were squeaking for a couple of days afterward, but all good.

We used a weightier weight on the rope triceps pushdown, so I felt these more. I am torn between these are productively manageable and I am a slow learner or poor rememberer on the various tweaks associated with this one. Today is was actual cable, that I could pull the cable back and away so I wasn’t tempted to slide the cable up and down my face. I see my triceps are less flabby fatty and more muscle-y, so doing a lot of things right.

Next up and final exercise on today’s List was the rope facepull. I still have a tough time discerning the overhand facepull from a regular facepull, but for this rendition it doesn’t matter much at all. Again we did heavier weight and I like it. It’s definitely more challenging, definitely not something I feel like I can do 10 reps much less all day long. But it’s a good feeling.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Having no particular goals other than continuing to learn exercise and refining my technique has its downside. It makes me wonder if I disappointment is lurking when we revitalize something older from the earliest of days. Legacy traces of preconceived notions and expectations of what training and exercise might be like are imprinted in the dinosaur section of my mind.

Nothing is simple, easy, or even particularly straightforward. The marketing materials we are all bombarded with, the gloss magazines, the zillions of online success stories, plus anything and everything on social media. Its insidious and all around us, and even when I feel like I am not paying attention, I am being indoctrinated with ideas of what equals success and failure.

I hate that as far as I have come in this ongoing battle, that  still have moments where I feel inadequate, not trying hard enough, not doing well enough. Because otherwise I would been somewhere farther forward on this journey.

Today was not big, flashy, new records with weightier weights or extraordinary huffy-puffy efforts. I can feel the differences in the way body process the work now, versus last time I did a TRX Y or TRX facepull. As mightily as I struggled with the hyperextension, I know I did better than anticipated and that improvement will happen. It’s not quite the same as a new record with weight lifted, and I feel as pleased and proud of myself as the first times we ventured to the big boys room out of necessity, because that is where the heavier dumbbells live.

While intellectually I understand that my genetics and body composition contribute to how much or how quickly I will achieved success and positive progress, it’s hard sometimes not to want to have a meltdown tantrum that I’m not doing something flashier or more glamorous than TRX. Today was not that day. But I remain acutely aware of the optics of gym efforts to those around me.

I am far and away my own harshest critic; no one I know would pooh-pooh my efforts or suggest I am not putting forth enough effort or not trying. Yet the thoughts flitter through my mind from time to time, particularly in times of stress and distraction and weakness in other aspects of my life. The day I can completely break myself of lofty perfectionism regarding my own behaviors is the day I take a big giant leap toward curing my own neurosis.

For right now, I cling to my absence of weights and measures and rep counts as the measurements of progress. Sometimes it’s hard, and awkward, because others are careless in their words and judgments about the behaviors and habits of others. It’s been awhile since anyone suggested that after this much time I should be showing more progress. I like to take a small measure of credit in that I am learning this is not alway all about me, that people could speak in generalizations about stuff they know a superficial little about and say it with such authority. I have to remind myself that they do not live inside my mind, cannot hear my thoughts or know my feelings unless I articulate them clearly and directly. Just about every day I remind myself that I am enough.

Tomorrow marks 2 years of training sessions, quite an accomplishment for someone who has to date never stuck with anything so consistently for this long. Vanity aside, I am proud of my efforts. I’m proud of me for being excited about a simple, low-key pull day that provided concrete measures of my success and consistency.

My physical health seems to be in good order, my mental and emotional frames of reference as strong and as powerful as I can ever recall. For once in my life, I feel personally very powerful and my ability to grow and change and become more so – maybe the sky is the limit. Patience is not a quality I am known to possess, but the thing about better health is that it teaches me to be patient whether I want to be or not. Because to be rushed means the effort is not real, the results are unsustainable. I take my blood sugar and it reads something nice, normal number and I know and feel the reality. I make the choice for a piece of fruit instead of a cookie another good habit is closer to becoming a reflex. Every morning I get up on time and am in the gym as planned and pursuing my List is the start of a better day no matter what else comes to pass.

And it’s not just training days that are the bees knees. My whole life feels very good and sweet. I still have truckloads of crap to be sorted out arriving daily, but the task is not unwieldy or unmanageable. I got this.

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitnes, #focus, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health

Wow! It’s been 2 YEARS!

Yesterday marks 2 years since my first training appointment with the fab trainer J. It’s a Very Big Deal in my world, and I am not someone who celebrates my birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my wedding anniversary with M, etc.

But training anniversary – it’s a milestone. Considering my checkered history of starting and stopping exercise, that I am still diligently pursuing fitness and exercise every single days – it is a Very Big F**king Deal.

I did not commemorate it last year. I made note in my personal journal, but at that time I was chasing my first year consistency milestone – which for reference did not happen until October last year. So this year I celebrate my training anniversary. Next year, maybe it’s something else; time will tell.

Being a no-specific-goals and not-chasing-the-scale person, I address my gains and progress far more generally, as in all the ways regular exercise has made me a healthier, happier, more confident, more balanced in my imbalanced personhood.

Diabetes control. I have now been off the insulin and prescription drugs for about 16 months and my A1c is remaining on the low side of normal. This. Is. Huge. Yes, I have made some alterations to my diet, but nothing super dramatic or in my estimation completely far enough. Mostly, I’m in the gym daily doing something. Most of the time its at least an hour of resistance training, although there are days when I do 30 minutes including warming up and call it good. But I’m very aware of the trends and impacts of what I’m eating and more importantly how much I exercise have on my blood sugar. I still test 4 times daily and keep an eye on my averages. Whereas in the beginning I was averaging in the 180s – with a couple of different insulins and an oral medication cocktail as well – now my 7 day average runs 98 to 100, peaking out at 112 in the last few weeks due to reasonably unusual stress-eating patterns and a lot more carbs than usual. But since >140 is my target, I was not freaking out about 112.

Resting heart rate. M is a lifelong trail runner and pretty damn serious about it. Before a groin injury last year, he was running 20 miles every day for almost 2 years. For him, this is normal behavior. For me, no, not happening, not ever. But one of the things runners talk about is resting heart rate. When we first rejoined the gym in 2015, I took some time and checked my resting heart rate for 10 days or so and calculated that my resting heart rate was 93 or 94, on the high side of normal (60 to 100 BPM) for adults. Pretty much expected for a sedentary woman in her 50s. These days my resting heart rate is somewhere in the 70 to 72 BPM range, and I know this because the first thing I do upon waking every morning is shut off the Fitbit vibrating on my wrist (from silent alarm) and look at my heart rate. It has been as low as 61, but that was more an outlier reading. I do not do a whole lot of dedicated cardio, so I’m pleased that this is now trending toward the lower end of normal.

Weight management. While I would love to tell you I have dropped significant amounts of weight in this 2-year journey, truth is it is all of 22.3 lbs. My highest recorded weight was 217.9 about a month before I began working with J to this morning’s 195.6. In the last 2 years I have not ever posted real numbers on the blog, and it gives me twitches of anxiety doing so right now. But what the Hell – I value my safe space and need to honor my desire to continue to be candid and transparent about the struggles as well as my successes. I have never been brave enough to have my body fat measured, so I cannot tell you how much fat has burned off or muscle added, but I can say I see and feel a lot more firm mass where there was once squishy fat. M is not an effusive complimenter, so when he says something nice, I know he means it. The struggle to believe his positive comments is also far less now than it once was, because I see the subtle new muscle-y lines and creases where there were fat wrinkles before. Always, if I want to know what he thinks or is thinking, I ask. But he has spontaneously commented more than once on the muscle I am adding and the slowly disappearing fat. Whereas I am obsessed with and examining the remaining blobs of batwing flab on my arms, M is stating that he wishes I could see my back, because where it was once a sheet of fat, there is now more clearly defined and visible muscle.

Let’s also talk about other numbers associated with the better health quest and the last 2 years.

Sessions count. For the record, we completed 32 sessions in 2015, 99 in 2016, and 49 to date in 2017, for a total of 180 sessions in 2 years. I know because I blogged about all 99 sessions in 2016, a lot of them in 2015, and majority of them (thus far) in 2017. Plus I went back through my history and painstakingly counted to be accurate.

Personal training and better health costs. The average cost of training at my club and purchased in blocks of sessions has been $50/session, so that is $1600 in 2015, $4950 in 2016, and $2450 in 2017 thus far, or $9000 for 2 years of training, most of which has been twice per week. This is in addition to the monthly membership dues for use of any of the gyms in the chain. Gulp.

On the surface, that sounds like a lot of money, and in reality, it IS a lot of money. However, I put this into perspective by evaluating the cost of diabetes treatment for me. In 2015, insulin costs alone totaled $5691 – and that was the negotiated drug price under my insurance plan for the 2 different insulins. This does not include the oral medications I was taking, the needles, the testing supplies, the labs, and the in-office medical visits. The sadder part to me, before I started my regular exercise routine, my blood sugar was still not in very good control. My total medical costs in 2015 were $8867 with a $6000 health insurance deductible before Anthem began paying for any services or supplies. In 2016 my total healthcare cost was $1902 ($4000 deductible plan), and thus far is 2017, it’s $683 ($2000 deductible plan).  It seems like my healthcare costs are higher for as healthy as I am, but getting down in the weeds I believe it is primarily because I utilize bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and it is significantly more expensive than the synthetic equivalent ($142 per quarter for bioidentical versus $10 for 3 months of synthetic), so I am not completely prescription drug free. But still, big drop in medical supplies and services once I was able to get off the diabetes drug regimen. Glucose test strips are not cheap either, but like the training, completely worth it for the knowledge of what is going on with my body and sugar processing systems.

While the fruglistas in my realm or even reading this might get the pinchy-grinchy face about continuing to invest in personal training, logically pointing out that I now know enough to continue on my own, all that I get from training days cannot be measured in dollars and cents or amount of weight moved to and fro or sets and reps or even calories burned. It is also not about ongoing motivation and accountability, neither of which are or should be part of the personal trainer job description, at least in my very strong opinion on the subject. During our sessions or when I am there on my own pursuing practice, J is not crucifying me with the hairy eyeball if I fail to do minimum reps on whatever List of the day, nor is he the rah-rah-rah-ing to keep going when I want to collapse in a sweaty heap. I have learned an enormous amount in the last 2 years, and yet for all I now know, I also know there is an infinite amount yet to learn. And that’s just the tiny slice of exercise techniques and training styles I want to pursue.

Training day feeds the little professor in my mind that craves knowledge and understanding. While I now know lots of variations on lots of exercises, there is always something more to learn irrespective of adding additional weight to make it more challenging or forcing body to adapt. Good form does not just happen, and once good form is finally learned, there is better, deeper tweaks to layer on top of the basic good form that makes body work harder and grow stronger.

On my own, I am ill equipped to seek out that knowledge or how to evaluate what’s real and what’s bullshit. Even if it’s real, solid, sound information, I lack the background and the experience to understand or figure out on my own if it has realistic application to me and my life and pursuits. Perhaps if I had the time and inclination to experiment, probably injury myself in the process, and learn from those experiences I would be able to get along without training days. But I would rather invest in someone who has the interest, experience, and ability to evaluate information and then strategically apply and teach me. For that alone, trainer J is worth his weight in precious metals.

Then there is the byproduct of gaining mastery over body evolving and adapting to experience: confidence. The intimidation that comes from being a clumsy and awkward middle aged woman in the gym trying to exercise was my lifelong normal. Now, I am gym people; I belong in my club. The big boys’ room with the weight machines still gives me pause, but I am well armed with lots of pairs of big-girl capris. I remind myself that I got this, I need the weightier weights contained therein, and no, I will not be pushed around, damnit! This is the pep-talk I have with myself when I go in there to claim my bench and pursue my List. It’s rare anyone bothers me – if anything, I’m more disturbed by people occupying equipment I want to use to text or read their email – but my gym crazy lurks and waits to trigger the fight or flight response.

J reminded me of his experience getting started on this journey. It makes me laugh now, but at the time, I was none too pleased with the way my lift-off was handled by the gym’s management.

M and I rejoined Memorial day 2015. The membership manager at that time was the poster child for gym membership sales – young, taller, good looking, fit young man. We signed our paperwork and of course he inquired about our goals for membership. I told him I was interested in perhaps a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn how to use some of the machines safely, etc., but it would have to be someone with a lot of patience because I am clumsy and really exercise dumb. He signed me up with a 3-session package, asked if I had a preference for gender of trainer (nope, just patient), and said he’d have trainer J call me to schedule my first appointment.

Tick tock. Weeks passed, no phone call. Finally I get an email from the then-fitness manager, who made it sound like I was dragging my feet or being the problem about getting scheduled. It was irritating, to say the least. I get that salesmen generally overpromise and underdeliver, but since I felt their goal would be to sell me more sessions, I could not understand why trainer J or someone else had not contacted me earlier about scheduling. Of course, J had had no idea that he had a new client to contact. Then his manager, this irritating Veronica person, sends me an email making it sound like I am the problem, so I was a little sharper than typical in my reply. But trainer J followed up and called me the next day, a couple of times and a couple of messages (because I was at work and busy and honestly could not return his call immediately), and set-up our first appointment. Just after Veronica left the club for greener pastures, J told me about she had said to him that I was “difficult” and unlikely to turn into much of a client. Boy, was she ever wrong.

And here we are, 2 years later, training twice a week, in the gym for practice nearly all other days. I’m a great training client and responsible tribe member. I am far healthier, happier, more confident than I think maybe ever in my entire life. I have worked hard to get here, and I will (hopefully) continue to make good choices every day for the next 365 days ahead. While not chasing numbers on the scale, maybe I will start reporting them here each month when I do my monthly weigh-in. Having an obesity doctor for your primary care physician does have this very minor downside.

I am braver than I realize, and stronger than I imagined. And right now, I am pretty pleased and proud of my efforts. I earned this little victory lap.

Take that, icky former manager, wherever you are now.



#blogging, #diabetes, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration