PT-55: New cool tools

I am still so far behind on training recaps, but working to catch up. A few more still more to come before I am completely current. This catch-up effort is in addition to my August hopeful outcome of daily blog posts about training, diet/eating/nutrition, and daily exercise. It’s going to be a busy month.

July 20, 2017

Thursday morning, early training day with J. My regular Thursday 6 a.m. tribe sister is on vacation, so since it’s all about fab trainer J staying and his work schedule, so we moved my session up to 6 a.m. from 7 a.m. The fact that maybe we got some extra chit-chat time is purely coincidental (spoiled and I know it, try not to be princess-like about it).

Key Takeaways

There is so much depth in fitness, exercise, heck the gym itself that I am completely unaware exists. Today’s new wonder trick? The weight lifting straps. Who knew a couple of strips of fabric (I think it’s technically fabric) could make such a difference? But it does. And my oh my – I don’t think my time toiling in the big boys’ room will ever feel quite the same again. Life-altering for me. Seriously.

At the same time, who knew weight lifting straps could be so complicated to actually operate? For the most part I got proficient enough to feel the difference today, but these strap things are going to take some adjustment and practice. Worth. Every. Second. Invested. Seriously, I feel like my mind and thought pathways about weightier weights were completely scrambled and rewired today. I can actually imagine a day where I am successful and not having J give me that impassive yet frowny-face look as he addresses the bar hanging from my fingertips.

My mind adopts new things and wants to turn them into universal cues or techniques and apply them to everything. The “rib tuck” cue is probably the most prominent example in recent history, but I can already see my new cool tool being adopted into that subset of gym phenom.

There is essentially an ongoing “woe is me” feeling about 1-legged exercises done without the benefit of TRX straps or convenient hand holds to grab. I try, falter, have very brief empathy with cow tipped cows, and start all over again with balance. While I absolutely know how much improved I am with these, it seems like the big wide ocean of “better” is huge and infinite and I’m 30 yards from the nearest beach in my quest. As I remind myself about so many things, if it were easy everyone would being doing it.

What We Did

Continuing on with review of the pull List with a strength emphasis, our List today:

Barbell Romanian deadlift
High tension resist rotation press

1-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift
Dumbbell pullover

Stability ball hamstring curls
Seated cable row

Seated hamstring curl
Dual cable lat pulldown

How it Felt

The pull adventure and my baby steps introduction to and making friends with the barbell continues. We are still working with the barbell Romanian deadlift, and for the most part it is going very well. I say it that way because the bar remains intimidating to me; it’s longer than I am tall and still very awkward for me to lift and move about mentally/emotionally comfortably continues. My imaginings of the various ways I can injure myself, others, or damage property play like a disaster movie on fast forward every time I touch it. and I learn much more thoroughly when we go slowly and take it in steps. I have the basic shape down pat and really appreciate the “ramp up” we do with these before we get to our working weight. It gives me time to get familiar with it and accept that I’m not going to drop it or be startled and ram it into the window or worse, J’s midsection. With the addition of today’s new cool tools, we spent a fair amount of time learning to wrap the straps around the bar with one hand. It got to the point that I had to put my free hand behind my back to suppress the impulse to use it while it was an available option. While I generally do not care much at all about how much weight I am using, these plate things makes it feel a lot more satisfyingly significant.

Today we did the high tension resist rotation press with a big giant  yellow rubber band rather than our usual stretchy bands. I liked it so much better, if only because the big giant rubber band is easier to hold onto than the handles of the stretchy bands. Small cakes issue, I know, but if I have a choice in the matter, I also have a preference on this exercise. Another of my universal cues – rib tuck – applies with this one as well, but it’s almost a partial, one rib tuck with the press to feel the contraction in those obliques. I know I am hitting the target when hours after the fact I am feeling it all through my abs.

A permanent resident of the nemesis stable, the 1-legged Romanian deadlift. I know I’m better with these. I know standing on a single leg with a 25 lb. dumbbell in my hand is not easy or for raw beginners. But it’s an ongoing, continual trying and focusing and succeeding/weeble wobbling over and then trying and focusing and succeeding/weeble wobbling process. Unfortunately I do not have the mindset control discipline down well enough to not give in so readily to the fatigue.

Dumbbell pullovers – I actually do pretty well with these. Now we’re amping up the weight – we’re currently at at 35 lb. dumbbell – which automatically makes it more challenging to maintain good form and my upper back arch. Going heavier this way, I can definitely feel the fatigue layering in when I get to the top of the 6 to 8 rep range we use for the strength emphasis series.

Tricky part with the stability ball hamstring curls is keeping hips elevated and pulling that darn ball in toward the hips for that last half inch. I remain a work-in-progress on these; hamstrings do not seem to want to cooperate any further than their present range.

I have only the vaguest idea of what kind of weight I use for seated cable rows, but mostly mind is running through the cues and trying so hard to relax the shoulders and let them stretch forward on the return, pull back with the shoulders and elbows as far back as possible, arch that upper back … but primarily on the relax the shoulders on the return. I always want to lean forward from the waist rather than let the shoulders relax first and go forward in the fullest stretch. With mind and focus on what the shoulders and upper arch are doing, who has time or brain cells to look at the actual weight pins? I have long equated training days to driving somewhere new with M, in that if I’m not behind the wheel, I don’t have to pay attention to the details of how to get where we’re going. Same with training. I do pay attention to the cues and instructions and focus on what I am supposed to be doing, but unless I am the one loading the plates or moving the pins, or J has conveniently written it down on my List, I rarely remember the details. I am frequently lucky if I remember how an exercise is supposed to go when I am on my own in practice. So when it comes to the seated cable row, I’m thinking about cues, not about weight plates. If I add too much, I take some off. If it feels too light, I add more next time. Somehow I find a working weight. Only I probably won’t remember within an hour after leaving the gym.

There are various hamstring machines we’ve been exploring lately, and while not my favorite, the seated hamstring curl machine is at least a consistent, bearable challenge. Like it’s brother the stability ball hamstring curl, it’s always that last half inch that does the most good work and is the absolute hardest to achieve. Why my mind has this vague expectation that it will be easier “this time” every time it appears on a List, it’s never easier. It’s not more challenging, difficult, or vexing; there is always going to be than last little bit that is going to make me believe suspect my joints have a failsafe stopgap that will not let them go further and hurt myself. J tells me I will get there, and for the most part I believe him. He has been right pretty consistently about my ability to improve and advance thus far.

And finally, an old favorite – the dual cable lat pulldown. Like the seated cable row, I have to somehow force myself to let shoulders relax, shrug up into the stretch and pull me forward, not lean forward from the waist. I feel like I have successfully acclimated to the pull down portion of the movement, for the most part anyway, but somehow it seems unnatural to me. I like that I get the upper arch portion now. I really like that I can feel my lats working. I guess I just want less steam coming out of my ears as I strive to focus on the correct workflow. As I do with just about everything, I remind myself it is a process, that I will get there. Eventually. And then there will be something else, something new, some other challenge I cannot even fathom right now. The circle of making progress and getting fitter continues. Indefinitely.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

My view of the gym was previously seen through a very thick wall of foggy, distorting glass. I saw weighty weights. I saw mysterious machines. I saw treadmills, bikes, ellipticals. And I saw lots and lots of pretty, thin and fit people. Any regular folks or heaven forbid, even bigger, more overweight folks – I was oblivious to them. And if I did see them, they were special and some sort of physiological anomaly. Because they were there. Many by themselves. And carrying on as if it was no big deal.

They were my unicorns. I didn’t dare look too closely lest I call attention to myself and all my socially awkward insecurity. Not to mention my hugely shapeless doesn’t-belong-here self.

And here I am, 2 years later, wandering around the big boys’/girls’ room with weight lifting straps dangling from my wrists. I have transformed into my own brand of unicorn and marvel at the breadth and expanse of my journey thus far. Idly thinking about it, I don’t do this for fame or glory; it is way too much work for just that and I never like being the center of attention. But there is something infinitely satisfying about getting so focused and moving the weights to and fro in correct ways. The pace is infinitely labored, deliberate, sometimes slow, sometimes peppy, but it is starting to feel like movement is inching past food as primary go-to response to my stress and emotion-related triggers.

Sometimes progress feels so enormous I have the strongest desire to write it in a very small font so as to not jinx myself.

But back to my cool new tools. Before today, I’ve probably seen people wandering around with straps on their wrists yet had no idea why. It took a few patient J demonstrations and many tries for me to figure out the wrapping part, and honestly, it’s going to take my own set and more practice to feel completely confident in my own abilities with them. It’s fascinating how much more confident and assured I suddenly feel. If I get into trouble and have to release the bar or the weight, the straps will release it without any hitches, but my grip is better and feels more solid being supported by the leash around my wrist. I don’t quite know why; must be the mind-hand connection that there is one less factor to consider with all the other cues and such running through my mind.

It occurred to me later – is this cheating, and if it is cheating, do I care? No, and no, frankly. Since the only competition going on with me is with myself to not do anything dumb or dangerous, I don’t care if they are outlawed or illegal in the other 49 states. (This from a truly law-abiding citizen!) I also find the idea of being viewed as a dilettante or a lightweight by other folks does not matter at all. I frequently wish I were someone who did not give a single shit about what others thought about me, but it still bothers me a little when the great nameless, faceless, anonymous folks say mean things to me in comments I never publish. So for me to say that I don’t care what others might think about my (future) pink lifting straps is kind of a big deal.

Lately the why of my better health quest has been looming large in my thoughts. I know why – I am a type 2 diabetic and whatever remains within my control to keep this condition under control is so worth it to me. Beyond that, though – simply put, I am happier this much stronger and healthier. I feel better inside my own body and skin. And perhaps most important – I feel far more in control of my life and my health.

If a pair of pink weight lifting straps (on order – should be delivered by Saturday) contribute to that range of good feeling and positive reinforcement of steps forward, worth the $10 investment. My future vision does not include hundreds of pounds of weighty weights on the bar for deadlifting like my friend K or the powerlifting ladies I admire in the gym, but the possibility of me changing my mind and wanting to pursue such lofty endeavors does exist, no matter how remote or miniscule they appear at the moment. The drummer in my mind pounds out her own rhythm and tune; it is unique to me and does not have to compare with others and their pursuits.

I have to continually remind myself that there is no race, no competition, no comparison shopping going on in my better health pursuits. The impulse to shortchange, pooh-pooh, or discount myself and my efforts is a long-term habit that seems to require constant attention and redirection. If I have to work at least as hard and as consistently as I do just to feel like I am keeping up with everyone else, so be it. There are worse things in life than prioritizing something that makes me feel smart and healthy.


Practicing my weight lifting strap technique on a serving spoon. 




#better-health, #energy, #exercise, #fitness, #focus, #gym, #happy, #health, #productivitiy, #progress