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