PT-59: Under construction (day 3)

Recaps are presently being published out of sequential order as I try to catch up and complete drafts and get them published. We’re also on day 3 of every day in August and still going strong – yay me! Doubtful I will get a catch-up recap posted today as well, but it sure feels fantastic to be current and in-the-moment with today’s recap once again. 

August 3, 2017

Thursday morning, training with J. My tribe sister at 6 a.m. has returned from her vacation, so J and I are back on our typical schedule at 7 a.m. The club itself has been a mess all week, with the big boys’ room getting a makeover with brand new rubber flooring. Hopefully that process will be complete tomorrow and the equipment will be back in place and in service soon, like by Saturday would make me so happy. Mornings it does not make a huge difference, but evenings – it gets crowded upstairs.

Key Takeaways

Training days are such fun. Not a new takeaway at all – I say that every single Monday and Thursday session – but still, sometimes it seems more 10 foot neon in my head.

I am stronger and more competent. More than that, though, my understanding of body and its workings has grown and expanded. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I rarely have sore muscles anymore. Then this week happened, and my hamstrings are squeaking daily. They stretch out, they get busy working when it’s time for them to be working, but there’s a new brand of sore going on, far different than untrained muscle soreness. More like hard work soreness. It’s remarkably affirming.

This week’s new Lists are fascinating to me, and I am looking forward to practice tomorrow and revisiting Monday’s List … which I haven’t recapped yet. Nothing terribly new, but it was a deep technical review and gave me new things to think about. I love that. Evolving exercise geekette that I am, I do love a good review that gives me new theories to test and cueing to process.

In keeping with my more thoughtful pursuit of better health, I think I may actually get almost as much from conversation with J about the industry and its positives aspects and darker influences as I do from being on the floor and learning new things. My appetite to understand the whole picture of options to pursue in this quest seems insatiable at this point, and because there is so much information out there, it’s wonderful to have a guide to also teach me to evaluate the professionals worth reading and listening to and what I can or should ignore. My interest in the subject matter is genuine, which helps. In my mind there is little worse than wasting my time trying explain something to someone who either does not really care or will not bother to follow up on the original query.

What We Did

A1        Lying Hamstring Curl
A2        Dead Treadmill Push

B1        Glute Machine
B2        Abductor or Mini-band Lateral Walks

C1        Dual Cable Lat Pulldown
C2        Dual Cable Reverse Fly

D1        Seated Row Machine (both handles OK)
D2        DB Renegade Row (bench or floor)

How It Felt

Our day began with the lying hamstring curl machine, the current favorite hamstring working machine. Now that I figured out how to somewhat gracefully hop onto/lie down on it (essentially lay down, hop on while pulling myself upward and into position since my feet do not touch the ground when I am situated correctly) I have grown rather fond of it. Hanging onto the handles does tend to tighten and passively work the lats, and I am not always thinking about the last half inch of work at the top of the curl. No, now I am thinking about and focusing on slow, steady, controlled, and not going so fast I throw the pad up to the point they lift off my calves. Plus of course the pre-tensioning and all that process entails. It seems to be a very fine line there, but once I get the pacing down it goes pretty smoothly and feels like the proper amount of work.

The surprising sleeper hit exercise of the day is the dead treadmill push. I was huffing, puffing (and not a straw or stick house in sight), dripping in sweat after a mere minute of stepping forward and pushing a non-running treadmill belt. Makes me realize I should possibly do more cardio, or perhaps just build up my endurance to more than a minute at a time of this stuff. More than that, once I got my posture right – arms up and hands on a higher handhold with an upright forward lean – I could feel those glutes and even the hams working hard. Since mind is training itself and its universal orders to pretension whenever possible, it probably helped with the feels I was getting. Still, I remember learning this a few months after we started working together. And hating it. Now, I’m definitely stronger, got better lung function, and am kinda/sorta looking forward to challenging myself with it again, only I’ll be using my gym timer to keep myself honest about my efforts. Maybe add it to the end of my days to get a little cardio boost. The potential for a new addition to the favorites list looms large. Really, whoda thunk? Certainly not me.

We explored a few new machines today, the first of which was the glute machine. It feels a lot like a weightier weight glute kickback, only with a different weight leverage than the cable glute kickbacks. Lower body and glute work are things I am starting to genuinely appreciate. Now that I have what I think of as “glutey booty” (rounder, firmer ass) for the first time in my entire life, I am rather enjoying having a butt that actually fills in a standard pair of jeans or slacks. I know – me and my first world problems, right? But having never taken much notice of my lack of derriere, I now find myself seeing other trimmer and slimmer women with very flat bottoms and idly wondering if they like it that way. Feel a little pervish to report that here, but hey – women tend to dress and tend to their appearance as much for other women as much as anything. My point here is, I frequently refer to my exercise as the “build a better butt” project. It’s good to know my efforts are succeeding. Even M, who is not really a butt man, says my backside is vastly improved. While he’s not big on compliments and never insincere just to make me feel better, I have the tendency not to believe him anyway. The way he frames it now, though, I absolutely believe him when he says I’m looking trimmer and more shapely.

It has been months since I have used an abductor machine, but we revisited and got reaquainted today. I think it’s all right, but whether it’s familiarity with the mini band lateral walks or a definite preference for them, I found it strange sitting on that machine and going through the sets. Of course some old geezer (and he is – absolutely no concept of common courtesy) sat down in the middle of my series and took over while I stretched out my time on the glute machine until he got up and moved on. Anyway, in the future it’s nice to know I can do either, but right now my preference leans toward the mini bands to work the outer hips.

Back to the dual cable lat pulldown – I feel so much improved in my efforts with this machine. I do still have to consciously think about relaxing and shrugging up to a full stretch on the return, but it’s slowly coming more naturally to me along with not letting my elbows reach full on lock out. What is it about pads across the top of the legs that makes me want to scoot myself in until they are resting against abdomen and legs are as completely and fully tucked under as is humanly possible? Not the way of this machine, or not the way my legs are meant to be positioned on it. Yeah, it still takes conscious thought not to react reflexively and scooch in only to have to scooch back out, but I’m getting there.

New use for the dual cable lat pulldown machine: dual cable reverse flyes. J has been working overtime in the test kitchen and dreamed this up at some point during his very busy work week, but it worked beautifully. I have done this numerous times on the FreeMotion machine upstairs, and it feels the same on this machine with a couple key (but ultimately small cakes) tweaks. I have to stand really close to the seat of the machine or the cables run out of cable, and I have to be extra careful with where my right arm extends to if someone is using the machine immediately next to it. Other than that, it was actually far more pleasant than the FreeMotion, which immediately starts mind scurrying around trying to remember how I set it when last I did these upstairs.

We visited yet another new machine today – another rendition of the seated row machine. This is nothing at all like the Concept 2 rower upstairs or really even the seated cable row in the big boys’ room. There is a similar row machine upstairs, but this one is better. I could not (yet) tell you why I like it so much better, but it’s superior to others I have used to date. The seated row cable machine does not seem quite so impactful right now, and I am undecided if it’s because of the pairing J has chosen previously or if this one is just the latest and greatest bright and shiny object on my Lists. As you can tell by my fan-girl crushing, I really like this machine now that I have used it, I had to date taken little note of its use by other members, and hopefully it remains somewhat incognito and undiscovered since I feel uber so eager to give it another try, to see if it really feels this good or if it was just the newness novelty of it all. Yep, I am shallow and my head can be turned by fancy-smancy new weight machine experiences. I am not even bothered by the idea that my arms might be short, resulting in my having to stand and reach across to snag the handles for set-up. I am consoled by the idea that big tall men are not so cramped if they choose to utilize it.

Who knew that dumbbell renegade rows (from the bench) could have such an impact on my core? More importantly, since the last time I did this exercise, I am a lot stronger and a lot more competent with them. We were using 10 lbs. dumbbells today, but keeping ribs tucked, glutes tight, I was lifting the dumbbell off the bench and pulling back with the shoulder without a lot of difficulty. What I clearly recall from prior outings – first one was close but not quite and when I tried again was better yet hard to maintain the plank form – versus today where I was far more successful. And I have had the aching abs all afternoon to prove it. Big win for me! Disliking planks as much as I do, any and all success is a big, giant victory.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

A couple of things happened overnight that have me thinking a lot about my better health quest.

First, one client’s mother passed suddenly and quite peacefully overnight. She had very slowly been slipping away to dementia and suffered from heart disease from a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices – drinking, smoking, recreational drug use, less desirable eating habits. Not a great combination. During our very first one-on-one meeting she emphatically told me that life is about life, liberty, and especially the pursuit of happiness, and life is also too short to ever feel unhappy. Hence the booze and the cigs and unbeknownst to me at the time, the periodic nose candy. In her younger days, there was apparently quite a bit of recreational drug use, to the point of her son getting a conservatorship and hiring a companion to try and keep her safe, but at that time, he was not able to completely peel her away from harmful influences and suppliers. No judgments on my part; control over anyone else without completely locking them both down is extraordinarily limited. Despite her issues and how her behaviors triggered my own sense of harsher judgment and biases, I liked her and most of the time enjoyed meeting with her each month. Like all of us, she was flawed in really flamboyant ways, and despite her own obvious shortfalls bore and peripherally raised a son I respect and admire.

Second, another client’s sister was taken off life support yesterday and died shortly thereafter. At 37, she was way too young to be having a massive heart attack and then a debilitating stroke. Again, lifestyle choices were a direct contributor to her demise. She was quite heavy – 342 lbs. last Christmas season and at that time had lost about 40 lbs. Unfortunately she gave up on her physician’s lifestyle recommendations and was very sedentary and had terrible eating habits. While I don’t know that she was diabetic, I believe her mother’s passion for baking and sharing of fat and sugar infused goodies made a difference in the decline of overall health. I did not know her well, but I know both her brothers and her mother, and they have my deepest sympathy. For their sakes, I hope this tragedy nudges them toward a different path in their own lives.

Both events remind me of the consequences of our personal choices. While I do not drink alcohol and have never used recreational drugs, growing up with an alcoholic father made a strong impression. It would have been so easy to self-medicate and table my problems that way, and I do recognize a similar pattern of behavior with me and my relationship with food. While it has taken most of my adult life to come to grips and start working directly on making my peace with it, better now than never. That said, I still have my days of wild inconsistency, where I fall off the wagon and lay in the dirt thinking about what to do next (while mindlessly grazing on peanutbutter sandwich crackers). I’m getting up and climbing back into my healthier eating mode, and it is becoming surprisingly easier to just regroup and fall back into my go-to meals and protein shakes.

Examples like this of what not to do with my life and lifestyle reinforce for me that my better health quest is the imperative mission if I want to continue a productive existence. It’s not so much a matter of being healthy enough to enjoy activities with my family and friends. For me, it feels like the desperate choice between living and dying. And while I do not wish to be all dark and dreary and dramatic about it, there are things in life I control which impact the quality of my longevity. I might live to be 90 anyway, but if I don’t stay in good control of my diabetes, I could live to 90, blind, limbs amputated, kidneys failing. Or worse.

That’s a reality of my particular chronic illness, and there is no guarantee that eating well and exercising hard will eliminate it forever. But I like my odds so much better staying on this side of well-controlled blood sugar.

I also love my life right now. I love my exercise, even the ones I dislike and feel the frowny face forming inside when they appear on the List of the day. For the first time maybe ever, I’m competent at physical stuff. Working with my son last night, it was so cool to be capable of doing squats and chest presses and all the stuff I’ve labored over for the last 2 years and not be breathing hard or feeling like my lungs might explode any second. Yeah, I admit being a little lot jealous that he is capable of Bulgarian split squats after one session with J (that took me a couple of months of relentless practice to get me away from the balance props) or that his push-ups look so perfect and almost effortless and I still struggle – after 2 years. But hey, I can do it, even if I struggle. And I get points for having a cool mom vibe – my adult kid is happy hanging out with me, in public – I love that. I never anticipated I would be so fortunate.

On training days, I suppose J and I look like we’re socializing, having fun. And we kinda sorta are socializing, and I am most definitely having fun. It took a little while for me to get that, but I really enjoy the movement and the associated sense of satisfaction that accompanies it. Getting fitter carries quite an addictive kick, yet I would not be in the gym quite so often if I dreaded it as much as I once expected. Not going to ever lie – getting started sucks and it is so hard. But celebrating the little victories is so delightful. Good form, surprising myself by doing something that was really, Really, REALLY impossible at first is the most amazing thing. I never imagined that happening for me and I cannot imagine growing tired of it.

Occurred to me today that part of my thrill with scaling the exercise iceberg is peeking under the hood of how this stuff works. I have always enjoyed learning new things, and since I have never identified as an athlete or had much interest in sports my education has had to start from scratch. There is so much information out there – most of it pure bullshit nonsense or marketing hype, but a lot of genuinely interesting and valuable stuff worth reading and studying. I am extremely unlikely to ever be a body builder or a power lifter or anything else that gives off a hint of competition, but I enjoy reading about it. Not everyone is genetically gifted or predisposed to look like a fitness model, but it’s still interesting to read about working hard to be all we can be in the bodies and with the genetics we are born with. Somehow it’s far more reassuring to know that someone looks a terrific as they do because their genes are different than mine, and while no, I’m never going to be capable of starving calorie deficiting and weightier weight lifting or even surgically altering myself to the same body she may have, I can do a lot more with what I do possess without cosmetic medical intervention.

And that’s a very, very good and healthy place of acceptance for me. Mine is a much more positive mindset now than it has ever been. I am not so much unhappy with the shape of my shape so much as I am pleased with the direction its moving and reshaping through my efforts. Bestest part of all that: I am luxuriating in my fascination with and enjoyment of my forward journey. Sure I get frustrated; sometimes I even still cry over stupid shit that does not even matter in the big giant picture. But I don’t obsess over progress I am not making today, this week, this month and I do regularly celebrate my wins, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Viewed through the marketing lense and viewpoint, I’m an abject failure after two years of this consistent and regular training. So I threw that lense on the ground and stomped it to dust. I’m not beautiful at any size, because unhealthy exists on both ends of the spectrum. I am happier and more confident in my present size because I am healthier now than I have been in years.

Mine truly is a better health quest, not a thin or skinny or body sculpted quest. If that should happen for me, it’s a component of my better health quest, not the primary destination on my journey.

Today, I’m sending sympathy cards out mourning lives that have reached their conclusion. At the same time, I am here celebrating waking up and getting busy living a healthier life.

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