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.
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
Lying down hamstring curl machine
Rope cable triceps pressdown
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.