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.


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