I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have not hurt myself in the 2+ years of training. Quite possibly it’s because I am such a baby about such things and stop before something becomes too difficult or challenging (thank you, negative girl, for that completely unproductive opinion). More likely it’s because I am mostly pretty careful and the whole reason for working with a trainer is to learn to exercise safely and sanely. My injury-free record is not something I take lightly, and I am superstitiously looking around for wood to knock on while electronically committing these thoughts to the blog.
Unfortunately, I am not always so careful outside the gym; my clumsiness is common knowledge. However, I’ve improved over the months of regular exercise and tend to trip much less frequently over hairline cracks in the sidewalk. As much as I love a really good night’s sleep, I all too frequently find myself sleeping strangely and causing a crampy kink in my neck that stays with me long after waking up in the morning.
Today was such a day, and it was my intention to work on an upper body List. This rendition of neck kink was severe enough that it impact right shoulder movement with sharp to shooting pain and turning my head to the right was almost out of the question. Another day I would have switched and done lower body work instead, but yesterday we did a pretty awesomely brutal training session that completely shrink wrapped my lower half, especially my hamstrings. It was going to take a lot to get the hammies loosened up, so I decided to roll the dice with upper and see what would happen. I chose a favorite upper body dumbbell List and hoped for the best.
I write a lot about my progress and the ways daily practice has changed me, my outlook, my overall perspective. While I am nowhere near a “no pain, no gain” type trainee, I am also not the wussie slacker I was when my exercise odyssey began in 2015. Muscle tweak? Oh, I have hurt myself! I need to take the day – or the month – off so it does not get worse. Now, I was cautiously optimistic. I recognize what it was – a sleeping tweak – and I know I do not like things to hurt while I am moving weights about. The deal I made with my exercise-addicted “gotta go practice” self was we would go slowly and feel our way through it. If the sharp pain continued, we’d stop and call it a day.
A1 Bent over dumbbell row (4 sets of 15)
A2 Incline dumbbell chest press (4 sets of 15)
B1 Bench dumbbell pullover (4 sets of 15)
B2 Dumbbell chest flyes( 4 sets of 15)
C1 Seated 1-arm dumbbell overhead press (3 sets of 15)
C2 Bent over dumbbell reverse flyes (3 sets of 12)
D1 Lying down triceps dumbbell extensions (3 sets of 15)
D2 Seated dumbbell curls (3 sets of 15)
Typically I’m warming up with 20 lb. dumbbells on rows and chest presses. Today I tried the 20s with both on the first set and dropped down to 15s on the remaining sets. I really thought I would be disappointed or upset about having to take a step backward with the weights I’m using, but I guess I truly don’t care much about how much weights I am using on any given day. It was a curiosity to me to know where I might land with the pain in my neck and shoulder – how low would I have to go to successfully complete my sets? With the lower weight, I completed my remaining sets and top rep range (15) without difficulty and especially without any shooting or sharp pain. By the time I was finished with the first block, the shoulder and neck were loosening up.
I stuck with a 15 for the pullovers (more typical is 25 or 30) and I am still using 15s on the chest flyes, so if my pride were taking a beating (it wasn’t) at least I had some (unnecessary) consolation. Overhead press – I dropped to a 10 and then went back to a 12 without issue. By then my shoulder felt fine although my neck still pinged a bit when I turned my head. The bent over reverse flyes – dropped to an 8 lb. pair (from my typical 10s) and felt pretty much fine. I stayed with the 12 lb. dumbbells for the tricep extensions and dumbbell curls, although by then I felt fine and probably could have used my typical 15 lb. weights.
But I would much rather be conservative and return tomorrow capable of doing another upper body List if I so desired. After spending much of my day working standing up or on my treadmill desk, my neck and shoulder feels 98% back to normal. Assuming I do not sleep in some strange configuration tonight, I expect to be completely fine and pain free by morning.
That I figured out a working weight for me today is a big, giant, HUGE milestone notch in my exercise belt. I know other people probably think it silly or even irresponsible, but for me, it was a very big step forward in my confidence. The advice from J and others to “listen to your body” did not really make much sense to me for a very long time. What my body said – I want sugar! I want junk food! I don’t want to exercise! – and what other people said it should be saying were very different languages. I still hear the grousing for sugar and junk, but I’m far more experienced in selective hearing and ignoring it. The biofeedback as it relates to movement and exercise. I think I am finally fine-tuning my hearing.
That I figured out a working weight without asking J for advice and counsel at 6 in the morning is also kind of a big deal. I feel braver and more assured that I’m not going to make some truly dreadful mistake. I did report my adventure to him after the fact, and since no horrified look crossed his face all is fine and well.
It occurred to me as I was composing this post in my head that I am not going to get stronger faster by stepping backwards and lifting lighter weights. The thought makes me laugh as well. The exercise is a necessity to achieve and sustain optimal health; for me, if I stop I will begin to backslide into preventable chronic conditions. More than that, though, my time in the gym moving weights to and fro fills my soul with a peaceful satisfaction that I never knew was missing in my life. M talks about all he gets from his running and for most of our life together I could not relate. At all. Perhaps it’s me, just another aspect of my one-off weirdo-ness, but I did not get what drove him to work so hard and sometimes suffer so much. While our pursuits and disciplines are different, I have a much clearer understanding of how he feels about his sport. As frustrating as it is for me to be less successful or to struggle mightily trying to master certain movements or whole series of movements, I can remember being far less skilled, muscles far more untrained and straining under the load.
Progress for me is not the big moment of a personal record or reaching a defined goal. The way I pursue weight training also does not really lend itself to such measurements and I am simply not one to have predefined goals. But I’m aware of how weighty the weights I have used in the past, and I remain hopeful that those will increase with time and consistent practice. Today, I am not at all bothered by using lighter weights than typical for the first time in several months. Today, I am actually thrilled that I went to the gym and successfully pursued my practice even with a convenient excuse to blow it off.
Progress for me is the ongoing series of tiny victories sprinkled with setbacks and chaotic, unfocused practices filled with distractions. I love that I celebrate the tiny victories far more than I obsess about the setbacks.