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.