PT-72.2: Happy feet

Monday morning, training with J. We are still in the update the peripheral heart action (PHA) Lists (forever and ever known as huffy-puffy Lists).

Key Takeaways

I am obsessed with foot placement, and since getting to know other tribe members and observing the ways they do the same or similar movements, I note they do not always have their feet in the same pattern as my own. Having hung out with friend C while she’s working with J, there are certain chops we both do that her feet are reversed from the way my feet are placed. J has explained it – C has different restrictions than I do – but there are so many things we do with different footing that I have to work at it to keep them straight.

When we revisit exercises, I am amazed by the ways my abilities have changed. Some stuff – shoulders anyone? – I still struggle with. But others, I have improved and my strength shows.

The huffy-puffy Lists are focused on peppier pacing and getting the heart rate elevated. Except, my peppy pacing switch must be out of service. I do okay, for sure, but my effort could be better, a recurring theme, and not a terrible recurring theme. Teaching days like this, though, I don’t much care if I’m leisurely and slow through training days. I will just keep working at it and eventually my peppy pacing switch will be reset.

What We Did

We only got through 2 blocks today, but it was a pretty heavy-duty teaching day today. The List:

Anterior Lunge → Curtsy Lunges 
Band Speed Row→ Band High Row or Rear Delt Fly 
Band Low-High Chop (emphasis: lateral lunge) 
Landmine Squat – 10 lb. plates (2) 
Landmine 1-arm Press – 10 lb. plate 
Landmine 1-arm Row – 10 lb. plate
Landmine Rotations – bar only

How It Felt

As far as lunges go, the anterior lunge is among the more benign. I used to call these walking deadlifts, but the name has been corrected in my head now. No matter – I can do these. I can lunge my way all the way across the room with 15 or even 20 lb. dumbbells in my hands. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel my legs working, and that I’m not delighted with my growing strength and confidence. Just means that for me, these are the easiest of the lunge family.

From there we went directly into the curtsey lunges, not very common on my Lists and on the really challenging stable of Lists. While their formal name is curtsey lunges, in my head they are icepick lunges, because the effective muscle contraction results feels like what an icepick would feel like stabbed into my side glute. But last time we did these, I struggled mightily. I feel that cold hand of icy dread as soon as J said “curtsey lunges.” But despite the distance between their last appearance on a common List and present day, I was better this time. Imperfect, need more practice, but better. Adding these to my warm-up rotation to improve my future efforts.

The peppy pacing switch comes into play with the band speed row. These are supposed to go until limbs catch fire or fall off – whichever may come first – and I rarely pursue it to the bitter end. I don’t typically count reps in session, and I’m sure I am shorting myself pretty dreadfully and am well aware of it. Training days, realizing now that I should try harder when MAX reps is the the goal. This is not me trash-talking myself so much as a reasonable, rational observation of my efforts. Often I am engaged in thinking about what we are doing, questions bubbling, thoughts churning, all while working and engaging in active listening and conversation. In my own practices I put forth a more concerted effort, because ultimately I do want to improve on whatever pace and rep range I can comfortably (or not) manage. Sometimes I think it does not always show up and shine through on training days. And always I am my own worst critic.

What is it about rear delts and shoulders? Using the lightest yellow band and stretching arms out for the band rear delt fly, it’s so hard. Does not seem to make much difference if I try to go faster or slower, these are just hard. Shoulders, I am reminded again and again and gain, are just complicated joints and muscles and gain strength and endurance more slowly. Switching over to the band high row, it was less difficult yet still a challenge.

Oh one more in my nemesis stable, the low-to-high chop, simply because of the lateral movement/lunge emphasis. Intellectually understanding how this is supposed to work, seeing and feeling the shape of the exercise is not really helping in this matter. My hip joints and do not seem to like the side-to-side movement of a lateral lunge. Probably that means I need to do a lot more of them, too. When I hit it right, I can feel the impact and muscle contractions in the core, particularly the obliques, and it is very gratifying. It’s just significantly more mental and physical work to make myself pretzel-bend (or so it feels!) into this chop shape. I’ll keep trying. Chops are unlikely to fade from my List library.

Second block was where real teaching began. It was interesting, fun, and very exciting to utilize new tools. Trying to stay in control of my own body while learning to utilize new tools is always an adventure. It’s been a long while since I have felt so brand new to something. And for the record, while I have used the big barbell in the past and even visited ever-so-briefly with the landmine floor hinge over a year ago, this was my actual first outing with it as part of a List. So while I am surprised by how different it feels to do this essential basics with the barbell/landmine, I probably should not have been caught off-guard. Live and learn.

We started off with the landmine squat with 20 lbs. of weight. While the squat part of the exercise seems universal, positioning my feet with the bar became the tricky part. J’s instruction – look in the mirror and body should be about 90 degree angle to the bar. Except the way the mirror and the bar/landmine positioning makes it a little hard to determine if I am positioned correctly. Experience will make this happen more naturally, without a bazillion tiny baby steps forward and back to ensure heels and feet stay grounded. Between the feet staying firmly on the ground and my hands getting used to being grasped around the end of the bar, a lot more thinking going into this version of the squat.

Next up was the landmine 1-arm press with 10 lbs. of weight. The angle is different than a 1-arm overhead dumbbell press and it seems to work the tiny little top shoulder muscles differently. Either that or those tiny little top shoulder muscles are lazy and weak, because oh my they ACHED the rest of the day. But oh well. No serious issues with these, except for my very first try, when I realized the landmine hinge also twisted side-to-side as well as up and down and arm started to drift wildly. Immediate feedback was MUST pay attention. Other than that, though, the weight is challenging without being too heavy. It feels different than other 1-arm overhead press movements and works the shoulder in new ways. I am enjoying the challenges.

The landmine 1-arm row with 10 lbs. of weight reminded me of our earliest days of training. J demonstrated and I watched closely, observing his foot placement (because I am obsessed with foot placement) and how he pulled the weighted bar straight up and down. So when it was my turn, I got my feet situated and into what kinda/sorta felt like proper position and started the row movement. Except where J’s arm and movement seemed very straight up and down, mine seemed to be going more in a rounded arcing fashion. So I set the bar down, had J demonstrate again and explain to me where I was going wrong (this time), and tried it again. Second time I did much better with the regular straight up, straight down motion, although I have to remind myself to now let elbow lock, keep the bend at the bottom.

Final exercise in the block was the landmine rotations. I immediately felt this in the obliques. My technique was imperfect, but this dancing with the barbell takes some adjustment. Still, the primary discipline is holding the arms still and steady while following through with the twist portion. It was brand new, needs a lot more practice, but not bad.

My Second Kitchen Sink

Mini-version of this – as if the first part of this post were not enough for a few kitchens.

I love teaching days – I always have, always will. Anymore I’m not concerned about all I don’t know with regard to the gym and exercise so much as I am delighted when it becomes my time and turn to learn new tools. Maybe I dig the new tools and want to use them all the time until I achieve some sense of mastery over them. Or maybe I only do them when J says “we’re going to do [insert nemesis exercise here]” on some random Monday or Thursday session. Anymore, a good attitude to have. I am unlikely to fall apart or be horrifically imbalanced because I only do lateral lunges once in awhile.

Attitude seems to play so much a part in this exercise adventure. I’m strive to maintain high spirits and positivity toward the better health quest, particularly in light of it will be with me forever. Life is far too short to live with poor attitudes toward things I must change or stubborn unwillingness to try new things as I become capable of advancement.

The landmines and big bar activities are very exciting, but hard. Once upon a time hard would have been daunting and paralyze me with fear. Now, I might sidle up and examine it closely a day or two (or 5 before requesting a review session) but I know I will return to it and try again.

I’m very happy with where I stand with regard to my exercise and better health efforts. Because I am making noticeable progress getting fitter.


PT-72.1: Happy feet

Monday, September 18, 2017

It’s been a major busy time period with work and such, so I’m behind (again) with training recaps. This week important stuff happened, that I will want to have records of into the future, but I have not had a blocky enough block of time to compose all my technical details. However, since I tend to start these things from the bottom, here’s what I have completed thus far. 

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

For whatever reason, I had a random zinger of a thought warming up this morning. I was idly wondering if I were nearing The End of training because I had pretty much learned everything an exercise generalist is capable of learning. Pretty good idea of where it came from (more on that in a moment), but at the same time I was both not happy with myself for such a ludicrous idea born of the evil triad of insecurity, arrogance, and doubt. The insecurity because once in a blue moon I wonder if I am falling behind some imaginary standard, arrogance because I am an idiot if I think I will ever stop learning (and I am not an idiot), and doubt about J’s level of expertise, creativity, and imagination for all things exercise.

Even if I knew everything that I could know and do without committing to a more narrowly defined discipline of body building or power lifting or something else, I seriously doubt I am even close to my maximum strength ability. I surprise myself nearly every week with my capability to move weightier weights to and fro, and my endurance still has quite a bit of room for expansion. No, The End of training is nowhere in sight. I’m relieved as well as happy to know that I still have a lot more iceberg to explore.

But I know where the thought originated. Over the weekend and again this morning, I had interesting interactions that have stuck with me, some were even about my better health quest and the seemingly recent gains on reshaping my shape. People have been very kind and complimentary about my efforts in the gym, and being nerdy about my eating is paying dividends as well. Still ….

I am not an exceptional person. I am not scary smart. I am not athletically gifted. I am not model pretty. I am not especially humble and/or kind, or at least I am not enough of the time. These are just my realities of being an imperfect human being, and perhaps a fragment of unrealistic expectations lingers in the recess of my mind. But I don’t know that I believe that. I do think circumstances just have me pondering the breadth of my own humanity and how it relates to the general population.

I do have a strong desire to be better. Not scary smart (sometimes feel downright dumb) – I try hard to pay attention, to read, to listen to other viewpoints and learn from the resources available to me. Not athletically gifted – I am fortunate to be able to afford to hire the services of fab trainer J to teach me all that is involved with getting functionally athletic and into reasonable fitness shape, and on my own time I put in the sweat equity to improve and build upon those lessons. Not model pretty – acceptance of this reality has made the business of living a happy life a far smoother and painless journey. Plus I’m now 56 and aging gracefully seems to quell any competitive instinct that I may possess with regard to being competitive in this regard. Being humble and/or kind – always room for improvement in this area, but this is one slice of my life and times where I do not feel inferior in my efforts.

The point here – I do put forth time and energy toward self-improvement. While not a particularly specific goals oriented person, I am also not placidly accepting that this is as good as the life I live gets, nor do I believe treading water will keep me from sinking or falling further behind the average curve. The targets I chase seem to change, come closer or recede farther depending on the day, my mental and emotional states, and my perception of effort. In the self-judgment realm, if I feel good enough, it is good enough. Less than that, I have hopes to be better in my next outings.

I’m happy and I’m grateful for the ability to make myself do the work and put forth the effort. I know many with depression, anxiety, other mental or emotional impairments that would likely be impacted positively with some of the diet and/or exercise changes I am incorporating into my own better health quest. However, we each have our own journeys and have to feel ready to try new things to make ourselves feel better, improve our lot in life. I’ve learned that being supportive sometimes means stepping back and letting others falter and fall down. The thornier pathways I presently face is how to be a positive force that helps them get back up and in a different direction to where their individual better health quest may take them.

The issue I seem to face more and more routinely is that I cross paths with others who want the positive impact yet are unwilling to do the work. Or to be completely accurate, unwilling to try the hard work that has been so influential and game changing for me. It’s hard, because I truly want others to be happy, or at least content with the lives they are living. My own objectives, hopes, dreams for myself are simple: good health and enough resources (money, time, energy) to pursue what makes me happy. Dreams for retirement and the future are modest; M and I agree we have zero desire to travel the world. Maybe we adventure more, which to M means we drive to beautiful mountain places and run (him) and walk (me). Or we bring out bikes out of storage and explore the many biking paths in our own backyard and beyond. Our nomadic spirits are not especially active; there is so much within our own country we have not yet seen, and even if we were to embark on an exploration trip, we always enjoy returning home.

Good health, strength, a higher level of fitness is an integral part of those hopes and dreams. We could be injured or ill – no one knows what the future holds for each of us – but for both of us there is a lot of wiggle room in how much good health we enjoy now and into the future. Our methods of getting there and then maintaining it are very different, and we agree to disagree. But for both of us, investment in regular exercise and healthier eating now pays huge dividends long past 2017. I have come to enjoy my gym time. I like moving the weights to and fro and the slowly-getting-leaner limbs I am presently sporting. It’s good for my body, but it’s the best medicine I have ever experienced for my soul. As for the healthier diet, M is extreme in his training diet, dropping weight as quickly as possible after an injury that him on a greatly reduced mileage schedule. But he can and does eat nearly anything he deems healthy, no matter how distasteful. Me, I am the far pickier eater and more balanced in my approach. But we can both eat the same things over and over again without complaint.

Just lately here, I am finally, FINALLY starting to really accept that my hard work and consistency is paying off and showing. I am surrounded by and associate with a variety of smart and compassionate folks who are very kind, yet they are also honest and do not lie or tell me what they think I might like to hear. My outsides are starting to slenderize and may will someday be closer to the healthier me on the insides. Finding the right balance, though, now that I am feeling the real impact of the work, is becoming more critical.

It’s a significantly AWESOME and motivating feeling to be in smaller size capris and leggings. More than that, though, is the way the fabric feels against my skin. Do fat layers numb the sensitivity of skin? No idea. Maybe it’s just the psychological boost of smaller sized clothes feeling better from the inside out? Again, no idea. But who cares? My positive impulses continue and keep me getting up, getting to the gym every day. Whatever it takes to sustain this mindset is worth it to me.

The last few days, I’ve had colleagues, friends, clients remark upon my efforts and compliment me on the hard work I have put into this process. One of my friends was musing about the expense and how we choose to allocate financial resources. As she is a CPA and quite successful on her own terms, it was a musing related to her own budget and financial coaching activities. I point to the cost differences between being on insulin to control diabetes and mostly drug free (still taking vitamin D) and what I pay for training with J twice a week. I actually save a significant amount of money paying a trainer to teach me how to resistance train and use weights. I still hesitate to say “weight lifting” because it doesn’t feel like that’s what I’m doing. I remain very much a generalist who has little interest in the actual volume of weights I’m using, except as it may hinder or help with my ongoing progress. Knowing that I am making progress is the most important, driving factor for me.

The way this ties into my better health quest: if I am exceptional in this, it is because I am willing to put forth this much effort into the work. It saddens me that someone like me, invisibly average in most ways merely makes a choice and then puts forth her best effort to improve, is ever considered exceptional. My work ethic is my work ethic. Since no success in my life has come without (hopefully) smart choices and a lot of hard work of various stripes, I cannot imagine anything worthwhile coming easy or being handed to me. I did not win the genetics lottery and have to apply myself to achieve any and all gains. While my clients really like me, I toil extremely hard every single day to ensure I continue to maintain that confidence and trust.

Same is true of my better health quest. In the last 2 years I have finally gotten to the point of ready to address the issue. More distant friends comment on my village of experts as if that makes it easier than those without, yet I still have to do the tasks each prescribes, suggests, teaches. J is demonstrating every session, but his (nonexistent) huffing and puffing does not build muscle or burn fat from my frame. That they are available to me for more tailored or personal advice is invaluable to me and the way I learn and retain information, but if all that goes away, I can still access a lot of useful information on the internet or my local library. There is no secret universal formula and the truth is out there and available.

There is a lot within our control available for change, update, improvement, and if you want that change, updating, improvement badly enough, you find a way to make it happen. This does not mean it is easy or happens quickly or you get exactly what you want when you want it, but when it comes to health, even small improvements pay big, long-term dividends.


My fat loss group is a mixed bag of people who want to whine about lack of results yet post pictures of the calorie-laden food and drink they are consuming restaurants or people (like me) who are struggling to find their happy place with diet and exercise. Both can be frustrating, but the former is enough to incite the urge to throw things. Lately there is a whole new crop of people coming in just starting on their individual better health quests, and reading the intros and questions had me diving down the rabbit hole of my own thoughts on the topic. Repurposing it here because it’s the most substantial thing I have published this week.

Mindset and consistent compliance with the program is on my mind a lot lately. I’ve started and stopped a few times since this group began, and I have seen a little improvement with my effort each time. I still don’t do fat funerals – sticking with the basic premise of the program is enough challenge for me – and from the beginning I accepted that results would be or at least could be slowed by that.

But I really don’t care much about the scale. I care more about better health and building sustainable lifestyle habits that will support that effort.

Despite not being obsessed with the scale, I still tell myself daily the it is just a fluttery .1 pound increment data point for me, especially on the days like today when that .1 pound data point is an actual 1.2 pound gain from the day before. My theory is body is adjusting, because it has been a few uneven weeks of steady loss due to unintentional extra calorie deficit by skipping or skimping on meals. The tipping point was when it started to manifest in the gym in unexpected early fatigue and began to impact my regular workouts as well as my efforts to improve. So I have been putting forth some effort to eating in my typical calorie range, and I know from personal experience things will level off. But I gotta say – it’s a little disconcerting to see the scale jump like that no matter what the reason.

What has helped me cope with disappointing data is my attitude toward it. Once I stopped thinking about the judgmental scale in terms of all I have to give up for better health, being consistent with compliance and sticking with my exercise routines has become easier to incorporate into the fabric of my life. I look at all I have gained from eating better, getting more exercise. I’ve made a new circle of friends who share my interests in improving health. I have actually fallen in love with exercise, and I’m stronger and more capable because of the hours I spend in the gym moving weight to and fro. My feelings of dread and despair every few months when it’s time for lab work (I am a type 2 diabetic) have been vanquished because I have enjoyed some success on the insides where it is not visible on the outside.

Giving up a snacks and junkier foods, going to the gym daily, having less screen time (in favor of more sleep) does not seem like such a huge sacrifice when contrasted with these gains. I’m learning and incorporating new skills that make my life better, and while it’s not been easy, it is worth the effort. Balance is no longer eluding me completely so much as being refined and fine-tuned.

My concern about a scale up-tick is actually less than my concern about shoulder and upper body soreness the last few days when it seems I have been doing nothing new or especially heavy. Getting back into my regular routine and menu of foods does contribute to the scale, but so does the extra water I have been drinking lately.

But yeah, my minor emotional freak-out is real. It probably exacerbates the larger freak-out brewing about my gym pursuits. Yet, even though I am using the incendiary term (“freak-out” has historically had very bad implications), it is just a flare in me overthinking it. This is not something where I’m deploying nuclear options on J’s brand new phone with frenzied texting while having a meltdown about my faltering with Lists; I’m mostly thinking about it and prioritizing the thoughts and feelings in the overall better health quest.

My evolution in the gym is simply that: an evolution. While it does not seem to me like I am doing more or putting forth greater effort, maybe I am? Perhaps my adaption is cresting some new, unforeseen level? To be perfectly honest, any “next level” is pretty much unforeseen for me, so yeah, it will happen. Whatever it is, for the first time in what seems like forever I reached out to trainer J yesterday with an actual training-related question about what else I might do as far as upper body warm-up. I have my basic warm-up routine I do religiously before every practice or training session morning that includes squats, single leg RDL, rows, pulldowns, chest and overhead presses. Sometimes I mix it up and do the squats and single leg RDLs and then add the upper body portion of the dumbbell matrix List. But my conclusion regarding the stiff and sore lats and tiny shoulder muscles, I felt I might be was missing something in my preparations. Being off-base about the warm-up is fine, too, because more warm-up is not going to harm or hurt my ongoing efforts.

I do take the warm-up process seriously. I want to be prepared for whatever comes next on the List or in training, so I allot time and energy to doing something List-related in advance. I’ve done my fair share of reading on the subject and judge no one for their efforts and process in their own exercise pursuits. For me, it’s as much about sharpening my mental focus as well it is physical preparation, my time to go through and listen to any joint creaks and corresponding ouchie-ness that may occur. I’m not tough; if something hurts or has potential for hurt, I use my words and report it, versus letting the bad thing happen and then yelping (in pain) my concerns.

Soooo, other than very busy with work, things are good in my world. While my FB comment is the most substantial thing I have published this week (thus far), I have Monday’s recap in progress and hope to get it posted soon. Like before tomorrow.

Until then, hope you are all well and thriving in your own better health pursuits.


It’s said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but I don’t think I’m headed for Hell. At least not this month. That said, I really wish I had the time and energy to write all the stuff crowding my head right now. Since I don’t, only the loudest, most strident thought gets the 25 minute bucket I presently have available.

The last couple of months, I have found myself getting reaquainted with hunger and what it actually feels like. Part of me feels like an absolute moron for saying that outloud (to trainer J this morning) or in print (to my fat loss group yesterday), but apparently I am not alone in this particular defect. My doctor is an obesity specialist and hears this same sentiment a lot from patients. Honestly, just having him tell me that was a major relief. And trainer J, with his recent return to intermittent fasting as an eating strategy, knew precisely what I was talking about as well. It apparently comes up routinely when chatting with clients about weight loss.

Apparently it’s far more common that I realized.

For me, as I have been slowly falling into a better habit of healthier food choices and routines as part of following an outlined eating strategy, I am finding myself actually becoming hungry as my reason for eating. Before arriving at my present spot on the impulse scale, I would eat because I was bored, I was craving a specific (junky, sugary, salty) food, eating/food just sounded like a good idea, because of the time of day or the activity I was pursuing. None of those impulses have anything at all to do with hunger.

Now, I drink a protein shake before I go to the gym, because I feel like I need some fuel to get through my workouts. Distractions abound for me in the gym, and if I feel anything remotely like a food trigger, it is worse than any friend coming up to say hi and chat for a minute. I’m typically very hungry when I get home – a sign I am doing something right and burning calories – so I eat a piece of fruit. It’s kind of a 2 part breakfast. Lunch lately has been a sandwich with meat and cheese and a piece of fruit, typically about 5 hours after protein shake and 3 hours after fruit. The way my day goes, though, I don’t always get to eat my whole lunch in one sitting. So maybe it’s half a sandwich at 11 and piece of fruit at 1:30 in the afternoon. I feel hungry when lunch time arrives, and if I don’t eat both pieces at once I am ready for that piece of fruit when I have a moment to eat it. Dinner can be tricky – sometimes it’s 5-ish, more often it 6-ish. But since I now understand my hungry feelings, I can tell the difference between desperate hunger (blood sugar approaching 60, eat NOW) and regular time for dinner hunger (make something, sit down and eat it while it’s still hot).

While it might not sound like much, it’s a major breakthrough for me with my eating consistency. At first the habit withdrawal from my routine snacking and mindless consumption made me think I was in desperate hunger, but testing my sugar stated clearly that no, I’m in psychological food withdrawal and body does not require more food.

I think I am taking the first cautious steps toward trusting body and the biofeedback it provides me. For years – years! – I have found that body would says things like “I’m hungry! Let’s have a cookie!” (or worse) all the freaking time. As I have begun educating myself and developing my self-discipline muscle, I am learning that mind is very powerful and addicted to its own hedonistic wants.

And it’s not so much denial as redirecting. I still eat the occasional cookie. I still eat pizza with a salad a couple of times per month. What feels different in my own head is that I can sometimes stop with the single cookie, but not always, so I limit my temptation to when I am somewhere and can obtain just a single cookie. The pizza – the only junk food I allow myself with any regularity – I have trained myself into only so much (1 slice if it’s a large pizza, no more than 2 if it’s a small or medium pizza), no more, and always with a salad. The compromise is working for me and makes it far easier for me to forego other less healthy choices.

But eating when I’m hungry is retraining my thinking and hopefully reshaping my relationship with food and the nearly lifetime habit of constant, unrestrained grazing. I eat A LOT of chicken and broccoli, but I happen to really like both chicken and broccoli. However, my range of foods and tastes I enjoy is pretty limited, so I tend to eat the same meals over and and over again, week after week. Most nights it’s chicken on a salad, or with vegetables and a smaller portion of rice or potatoes. I do not eat a lot of beef and even less pork, so I work with chicken and shrimp, both of which are mainstays on the grocery list every week. Thus far it’s helping me overhaul my eating habits.

Cutting out snacking has been a challenge, but a challenge I am overcoming. On the nights I got to the gym after work (in addition to my mornings), I have a protein bar or protein shake midafternoon, then eat a late dinner, typically a salad. Other than that, though, I don’t snack anymore. I might break my midday meal and eat my apple or whatever else I’ve brought in midafternoon, but I don’t really count that as a snack. It’s more like extending lunch.

It took more than a year to get here. In January 2015, I started thinking about and thinking I would work at overhauling my eating habits. I had done a pretty good job of getting consistent with the exercise and believed I was ready to address my eating. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I did better, but in truth it’s only been the last 3 or 4 months where my full attention was directed at the eating process and my own personal strengths and weaknesses.

To be clear: I do not diet. I am pursuing an eating strategy (higher protein, lower carbohydrates, LOTS of vegetables and fruits). I don’t have expectations of quick and easy results or quick fixes. My habits and behaviors have to change permanently, so I have to discern what I can and am willing to implement as far as feeding myself. Like with the exercise, I celebrate my tiny successes and work at evaluating circumstances that may cause me to backslide into old behaviors and habits. I accept it is also a process that spans the balance of my life, and no, I cannot live the rest of my life without a cookie or slice of pizza, so I try to be realistic and find the balance between moderation and zero self control. Right now, things where I know I have zero self control I simply avoid, period. It’s not forever, but I’m in a new phase of training and have to develop some discipline.

My reintroduction to hunger and what it feels like – a big step forward for me. Even if it does sound kind of silly.



Fly-by post

While I would love to say I have been slavishly working so hard at the gym and eating like the fittest gym bunny in the hutch as explanation for my absence, truth of the matter is that I’ve been busy with work and not utilizing my computer time writing. Major bummer, but clients have to come first. So their needs have been consuming most of my time.

But today I had to share a couple of little things that happened. Because they made me feel so awesome.

Because I have been so busy, I have a big laundry basket full of my regular gym clothes. It’s a testimony to how much I actually have for the gym that I’ve now gone almost 2 weeks without washing my workout wear and am only now at the bottom of the drawer. I took to my gym ninja outfit today – black top, black leggings – and its the first time since winter that I have worn long pants. All I needed today is the long sleeved cowl for my Batman … err, woman … look to be complete. But winter is coming; I will be accessorizing appropriately before we know it.

Trainer J, he of the very sparing with compliments and always, Always, ALWAYS authentic and sincere, remarked more than once on the reshaped slenderization of my legs. I know it’s reality, but for whatever reason it seems to show up more in long leggings versus my typical capri pants. For the ladies who say they do not want to lift weights for fear of getting too bulky, shapely is not the same as bulky. My legs – definitely at least a third of the size they were when we started, and the muscle is more clearly defined. I think I now live to discover the new and emerging crinkles where there was once just smooth fat.

The other thing was my former nemesis, the Scale. Friends, I am now officially in the 180s at 188.5 this morning. A couple of weeks ago I finally, FINALLY broke through into the 180s at 189.9, after more than 9 months of lingering in the 190s. While I feel very healthy and good and am not obsessed or even concerned with the judgmental scale’s readings, every ounce less is meaningful that I am moving in the right direction and creating better lifestyle habits.

The slow drop in weight comes after a long weekend of food debauchery. There was a cheeseburger, a couple of onion rings with it, pizza, chinese food, and other junk I cannot even recall. It’s telling that Monday’s training was sort of lackluster, and yesterday I ended up cutting workout short because of stomach rebellion. Body’s messages about  how much crap I feed it is loud and clear, and I’m grateful. While health eating remains an imperfect process, it is happening whether I am conscious of it or not. A busy, hectic, crazy stressful week with cutting sleep and eating crap food for several days straight does not benefit me at all, but I can and do recover from it. I also learn how much salt and sugar there is in restaurant food. While it’s not unusual for me to have something not directly beneficial to my better health quest every couple of weeks (pizza is still a regular thing), I have learned restraint in how much I will consume and will always eat a salad or side of vegetables with it. Several days straight of junk food now means I have a very bad day with my mostly cast-iron stomach and digestive system. My aversion to vomiting under any circumstances is fast-track way to teach me the consequences of an unintentional junk food eating spree.

I also learned we have done a fantastic job of purging the house of snack and processed convenience food, which is also a contributor to our junk food spree. With work overtaking laundry and grocery shopping, bulk cooking also did not get done. When scrounging around in the fridge and pantry for quick and easy meal fixings, I found we were sadly understocked. Not at all typical (we usually grocery shop every week) or all that bad for us, but annoying. I am adjusting my planning for such future events.

The busy week continues, but will be winding down. Grocery shopping happened on Tuesday, laundry is going as I type. The lightening workload helps, and I am enjoying this brief respite before it heats up again later today.

But next week I hope to be back to my regular blogging schedule. If opportunity presents, I may do a larger recap post of what’s been happening with the better health quest.

PT-68: Never gonna let you down

Monday morning, later training with J because of the holiday (gym did not even open until 7, so unless we wanted to be training outside in the parking lot, 6 a.m. was not going to work out). Fabulous thing, training days, even when the gym is mildly vexing me with building maintenance (Saturday) and holiday schedule (today).

Key Takeaways

Every time we begin a new training chapter and J says anything that sounds like “make it harder,” I inwardly flinch and cower and want to say out loud “noooooooo!” But I don’t. Because as he remarked today (and it was quite a thrilling moment for me), I am so much stronger and more capable now. Which is actually true, as impossible as I find believing it at times.

So we are revising and reworking the peripheral heart action (PHA) workouts. I had to look up the term again, because in my world the PHA Lists are known as “huffy puffy” Lists. I even have J and friend K referring to them that way as well, at least when they are talking to me. But seriously, PHA is that mouthful of words that could mean anything. Cardio brings to mind me on an endless treadmill/stairmaster/arc trainer/elliptical to Hell (or in this case, nowhere, which may as well be Hell) to burn a decent amount of fat and calories. Huffy puffy gets the heart pumping, sweat dripping, heavy breathing (all in a completely G-rated way) in a much more efficient manner.

Of many things I genuinely enjoy about training days, the flexibility about what we do each week is among the most satisfying. If I had a specific agenda, if I wanted to learn to powerlift or get busy lifting heavy more of the time, I could speak up and J would engage put his big giant brain creating the programs and progressive challenges to make it happen. On the flip side of that, the fact that I have no burning goals to meet or specificity in what I want to do or destination to explore makes the fluidity of our List-creating process a pretty painless process. It is an extremely rare occasion that I care much about what we do on training days, and the days I have voiced a preference, it is because of my own struggle with a specific sequence or series. Left on my own with my library of Lists, I would likely not make much if any forward progress or advancement. My natural reticence, conservative outlook toward progression, and lingering anxiety about self-sabotage would keep me in check long past appropriate expiration.

Some training days body simply refuses to engage as I expect, and I find myself wondering if I am just wimping out too soon. Today it was arms and shoulders – they were just not warmed adequately or the mind-body connection had a server down, but it wasn’t happening. I wanted it/them to work better, but for whatever reason they were giving up and giving out in a most disappointing manner. It speaks to me about warming up adequately, particularly today when I feel like a spare 5 minutes was not enough. The reason why for this particular and hopefully random experience matter less than paying attention and being mindful of it going forward in the week. Gym schedule and life return to normal tomorrow.

What We Did

The revised huffy puffy List went as follows:

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
1-arm “Body Supported Dumbbell or Kettlebell Row
Floor Pushup Position Plank w/ Steps

Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Bench Elevated Pushups
Sit-ups w/ Chops

2-Dumbbell or Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
1-arm Dumbbell Snatch
Band Horizontal Choppers

How It Felt

I am super-duper proud of my progress with Bulgarian split squats. I cannot think of a single person who has ever said to me “I love Bulgarian split squats.” They are hard. They are soooooo hard. But with enough practice (read: do a few sets on a List every single stinking week), they become more manageable. And now that I am adding dumbbells to the mix, they seemed impossible for awhile. But practice anything enough one becomes competent and more confident. Today I was only using a pair of 10 lb. dumbbells, and it was challenging enough. Yet if I had chosen the 15s, I would have been fine. Next time. Maybe. Or I’ll use the 10s again and remind myself that I am doing lighter and need to increase my rep range.

Today I learned new way to do 1-arm dumbbell rows with the 35 lb. kettlebell without a leaning post or a bench, kind of unassisted body-weight 1-arm dumbbell rows. And it was so cool! (Yes, little things make me ridiculously happy.) I believe with a bit more practice my form and competence (and standardized foot positioning) will improve to the point that I may prefer to do them this way all the time. Funny to me, last we did these with the 35 lb. kettlebell that big ball of metal felt like it weighed a lot more than 35 lbs. This time, the weight and the weight distribution was not so bad, because mind was all fascinated by the body shape and foot positioning. I admit being eager to try this again on this or another 1-arm dumbbell row List.

We moved from the bench elevated to the floor for push-up position planks with steps. The urge to zoom-zoom-zoom through these (because they are HARD!) is strong, but it feels so different I have to slow myself down to make sure I get all the steps (step out, kick back, knee in) done with each sequence. Other than don’t drag my foot on the floor with the knee in, they are not all that different than from atop the bench. Except they are harder. But I can do this, even if it feels like I don’t really want to do these. I’m getting better at them and will continue to improve, and eventually, someday, I shall advance past the 5 or 6 sets I get through.

Tough morning with the kettlebell goblet squats (35 lb. kettlebell again pressed into service). First stance started out too wide. Then it was down slow, peppy up, stay upright. Not sure what it is about that darn round piece of metal, but it throws me off. I can do this with a 50 lb. dumbbell and can barely function properly with a 35 lb. kettlebell. It MUST be the shape and distribution of weight, of course, and nothing to do with me shaving sleep and having a piss-poor Sunday. Excuse factory has been decommissioned and dismantled. But, snapping back to normal happens; I will be fine.

Back to basics and the bench elevated push-up. I am improving. I am feeling these through the chest muscles. And I am nearing the tipping point where they are no longer a permanent resident of my exercise nemesis stable. While I do push-ups from the floor from time to time (usually because I’m already down there for something else), the bench makes it so much easier and more pleasant. Which could possibly mean I am ready to spend more time on the floor and less time using my bench as a crutch.

While I tend to refer to the sit-ups with chops as floor chops, however they are named does not matter at all. J recently taught me how to do these with my toes and feet propped up against the wall, but today I was using my bench supports as the place to prop my feet up against while doing these today and it did work better. With floor chops, practice practice practice is going to be my lifelong mantra. Also today I was fine without a mat.

Second 35 lb. kettlebell was MIA this morning, so we used a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells for the Romanian deadlifts instead. Working hard at the cuing on this – pre-tension the glutes and tensioning them on the up, keep core tight to protect the low back. There is a sort of hypnotic rhythm to RDLs that I particularly enjoy, but I am looking forward to the challenge of the kettlebell weight distribution.

The 1-arm dumbbell snatch (with 20 lb. dumbbell) is a work in progress. Am I improving? Somewhat. Lower to something akin to a power squat and stay tight, then pop up explosively with elbow elevated above hand before pulling the weight up overhead. My goodness, that sounds so simple, but it’s dang hard work. Like everything else on this List, practice practice practice. But I’ll get better.

And finally, the horizontal band choppers. With the big giant rubber band, these are challenging and 12 hours later, I can still feel the work we did this morning. I am crazy in love with the big giant rubber band, so much so that I ordered my own. But holy moly, my obliques are squeaking and screeching tonight. And I cannot wait to go through and do them again.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Several of my friends do various forms of exercise – yoga, crossfit, walking, running. Majority of the time it’s fine; we compare notes, talk about what’s working, what’s not, try to get together for an occasional overlap. Except the crossfitters. I am unwilling to go to a box to even try out a routine, but happy to join just about anyone for a walk, a hike, even a yoga class.

For the most part there is at least a respectful level of agree to disagree about what works for each of us. Why the need to be right, the one true way baffles me, but it’s human nature and just another thing i do not especially understand and therefore cease to concern myself with contemplating the why of it all. If my pals are happy doing what they are doing and achieving desired results, I’m delighted. Our journeys are unique and our mileage will vary.

But it does make for interesting conversation when some new idea takes hold and is shared like a new health and fitness discovery.

A pal recently discovered intermittent fasting and over the weekend was very excitedly telling me about it. Only in her version, she can eat “anything she wants” in an 8 hour period and fast the other 16 hours and lose weight. Since J and others in my fat loss group use this as an eating strategy, I am familiar with the concept and its pros and cons and know it’s not for everyone, myself included. Hey, I think I’m doing swell just cutting out gratuitous snacking between meals. On top of which, my body seems to work better with regular fuel stops. If I am careful about said fuel stops and consistent in my exercise, the scale moves and I slowly drop weight. If I am careless about fuel input then scale moves upward and I gain weight.

If i were freed from restraint and could eat whatever I wanted, no amount of exercise could save me from gaining weight at a very rapid pace no matter how many hours I fasted per day or per week. Which is what alarms me about my pal’s thinking about intermittent fasting.

So I talked this over with J this morning, because it’s part of what we do during training hour. He agrees with me, that this is a fatal flaw in her current thinking, and pointed me in the direction of some more J-approved resources for reading on the topic. With my current focus on diet and healthy eating, it’s helpful to read everything realistic (i.e., non-marketing, non-rainbow shitting unicorn hype) I can lay hands upon. So I am well armed when someone crosses my path with bright ideas that will rock my world and super-juice my better health quest. To those who are so well intentioned toward me, I want to calmly, not defensively reply that my world is rocking just fine and my better health quest is great without rocket fuel. But hey, I do sincerely appreciate the interest and concern.

Because lately I’ve been pondering my own wussy-ness about standing up for myself with well-meaning friends. I am not a victim of bullying so much I am a passive participant in allowing it to continue. My dislike of conflict is pretty well ingrained, and in today’s culture of polarization it seems impossible to avoid. More than that, though, is that many of my real life friends have strong opinions and personalities, and the only method I had was to explain my choices in harder, stronger terms. In days gone by it has been far easier to just let them steamroll over me and my objections.

Increasing confidence and some specific training from TM has me in a better position to state my preferences and opinions without rancor or challenge. My body, my choices after all. The subtle changes in attitude and more responsive directness in expressing my desires and needs has not gone unnoticed, and among my circle of pals it has required some adjustment and realignment as well. Not all my relationships have survived, and from this far away I can see it was for the best. But at the time, letting go of long-term friendships was very difficult for me. I’m growing up and I’m learning.

Who knew exercise would have such a positive impact on interpersonal relationships?

I have been pondering the huffy puffy Lists and the way things seems to be proceeding to a more time efficient practice every day. It’s not so much that I feel compelled to spend 60 to 90 minutes at the gym doing something, but I am kind of in that groove and wondering if I should be pursuing a huffy puffy and a regular List at least a couple of days per week. Or expanding my rep range. Or lifting weightier weights and taking more rest breaks. Or putting myself into mechanical Hell by doing straight cardio.

But mostly I’m starting to thinking a run through huffy puffy-ville and then a List of the day could be in order. Maybe lighter huffy puffy – only 2 sets rather than 3 – or something. A work in progress.

With the emotional funk nipping at my heels for various reasons or conking me over the head and pinning me to the floor, exercise is my one true weapon against it. Well, I suppose I could abuse food and/or drugs and alcohol as well, but that tends to conflict with my hyper-responsible self and my need for some measures of self-control. Regular exercise and challenging myself offers tangible benefits that do not wear off quite so quickly as shopping. And since I have an entire pile of stuff going to a worthy cause, the exercise does not abuse the emerging minimalist within me.

Plus, I get ridiculously excited about the improvements I can actually perceive. While I judge my work this morning as sort of “meh” to an alarming “OMG! I must practice!” range of reactions, what I know is it’s one training day out of many ahead in the future. I will practice. I will improve or regain my footing back to my normal range. There is no need for me to panic or be upset that my imperfection on stuff I should know well is judged (by me) to be so far off the mark.

Yesterday was a bad day, and it’s been a couple of weeks of restless nights of sleep. Today I was driving out of the gym parking lot and heard the Cobie Caillat song “Never Gonna Let You Down” and it made me smile and cry all over again. I miss my friend J so much, but while he would never enjoy such a sappy, sentimental chick tune, it is something I’s send him in an email and he’d reply with something profanity laden that was his love language. It reminds me of him and the type of person and friend he was for me and many others.

I do the quite literally do all the heavy lifting to make progress, to move forward, to advance, to improve my overall health, strength, and competency with moving weight to and fro. And while I do it for me and jokingly refer to the effort as all about me, it’s not just about me. It has and does take a village to get me from there to here, everyone from trainer J and my medical experts to the friends I’ve made in the gym and beyond to the folks who read this little blog. It all matters to me. It is the weight of knowing that people care for and about me and my effort that helps me peel myself up off the floor and trying again when I just want to stay where I’d landed.

Grief sucks. Sometimes the days are hard. But I keep going, trying to be better. And I succeed.

I am very proud of that measure of progress.

#balance, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #grief, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation, #progress

Being the decider

Dinner out last night with dear friends has me pondering adultier adulting. Or, I’m thinking about decision making and how it works for me.

I was listening a very brief FB chat yesterday with my fat loss group about motivation. Pat was talking about the role of motivation in adopting healthier lifestyle choices, and how he does not believe motivation should be emphasized as much of a factor. Rather, expectations are far more important when it comes to anything in life where we seek improvement.

Pat stated his opinion that tying actions to level of motivation is not a good idea, because motivation tends to run in cycles – we all have periods when we are very motivated and times where we are not. Building habits is what matters, and we build habits through repetition. I agree with him as well that shifting from an “all or nothing” to “always something” mindset is crucial for ongoing consistency in any area where we are struggle to implement significant change.

For me, motivation is dependent upon my personal perception of success. Using motivation as a driving component in our model for change, it is no wonder that we become wildly inconsistent in regular exercise or healthy eating if we are waiting on or depending upon motivation to get us or keep us moving forward. If I have a mindset of all or nothing and it’s anchored to motivation, first low motivation day and I will quit. I know this about myself from personal experience, i.e., many many tries and fails.

Pat stressed that the fat loss program was created around building habits, something that absolutely resonates with me.

Lots and lots of days I do not feel motivated to go to the gym or to eat healthier foods. Once I decided that I would go to the gym in the early morning, I had to create a process to get me up, out of bed, and to the gym each day. I experimented with time to wake up, arrive at the gym, time to leave to ensure I made it to the office on time each day. After much trial and error: my alarm goes off at 4 a.m. during the week with a goal of arriving at the gym by 5:30 each morning. Sometimes I’m earlier, frequently (anymore) I am much later. But I am still up and out of bed shortly after 4 a.m. on weekdays. It is now my habit and really does not matter much if I feel like it or not.

I am noticing a similar process with healthier food choices and eating strategy.

Every day I have a protein shake before the gym. Every day I make it in the same way with the same ingredients – 1.5 scoops of protein powder, 2 scoops of branch chain amino acid supplement (because it makes the shake taste even better, not because I think the BCAA are so mandatory for me), 1.5 cups ice water, 5 ice cubes. It’s a habit and I do not get tired of drinking the same meal each morning for the last 2 years. Every now and again I go wild and use M’s vanilla protein powder and feel very free spirited for not being so stuck in a rut. I also take a piece of fruit out of the fridge – right now it’s a peach, but most of the time it’s an apple, because apples are so universally available – and when I get home from the gym I cut it up and eat it with a glass of water. That’s breakfast. Every single day.

I decided a few months ago that I needed to stop snacking between meals, which had continued to be a self-sabotaging habit. My blood sugar is well controlled and holding steady in the normal range, but my reshaping my shape progress seemed to be glacially slow. Food and eating habits were the root of this issue; it is not a problem because my overall health is so much improved. I decided to make some small changes: no more snacking, no more soda with our restaurant meals out (typically one lunch or dinner on the weekend). No more occasional sugary treats, because the cravings and desire for more are so painful to deny.

Essentially, I decided I want to see if I could jump-start something by being more faithful to the fat loss program as it was designed.

The results are not amazing, overnight success level of achievements. But after nearly 6 months of averaging about 70% compliance with the basic framework of my fat loss program, I finally feel like I am making inroads toward whatever vague appearance objectives I might have secretly harbored. For me personally, tiny measures of success are huge indicators that the small changes are working as well as huge motivator to continue to do the hard work toward building better habits.

I have done pretty well with adopting more flexibility of mindset when it comes to exercise and eating, but it is still a work in progress, likely always will be to some extent. I don’t feel guilty about my choices, because I am well aware of my food and exercise sins as I make them. But I do still have moments when I wish for more backbone, more strength of character that lets me have near perfect impulse control nearly all of the time. Such is life with all its imperfections.

The process of my better health quest is understanding and accepting that the choice is not made once in the beginning and then implemented over the course of the rest of my days. The choices associated with pursuing a healthier lifestyle are made every single day and then implemented on each of those days. Some days I make really good choices, other days I may choose something with less desirable outcomes. I now have the confidence to know that one or a few poorer choices does not doom me forever. I can and will adjust, adapt, and return to the foundational pillars of my better health quest.

I am really a big proponent of personal responsibility. I am also a recovering self-flagellation expert for failing to meet the lofty, unrealistic expectations of perfection I have created for me and me alone. While intellectually I completely understand that no one is 100% compliant with good choices and decisions 100% of the time, emotionally I have felt inferior much of my life for my own basic humanity. It’s a legacy scar and part of what defines me as a person, but I know it has become part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, a habit of setting myself up for failure. It’s a habit I have broken many times in many areas of my life. Perhaps with my improving sense of self-esteem, I can put that fork in it and call it done when it comes to exercise and healthier eating.

Directly, success in any endeavor is more than just a choice to succeed or to fail. Improving ourselves or building skill at anything is bunches of smaller choices or decisions that build and lead to overall success, a distinction that seems to be lost in the instant gratification culture we seem to be living. I have agency to make a choice even if I dislike the choices available to me. In my view doing the hard work now does mean opportunities for different, likely more desirable choices later. After nearly 2 years of consistent resistance training, I’m stronger and more capable now and I genuinely enjoy the escalating challenges presented in the gym. After 6 months of mostly compliant with a lower carb and lower calorie eating strategy, I find choosing to eat a salad or plate of steamed vegetables an acceptable and enjoyable choice for meals out. Days I choose to take a day off from the gym or eat a sandwich instead, I feel no guilt or anxiety. The habits are established and stable enough now that it is just a day off or just a sandwich.

I am not a victim of circumstance. I am the decider and in control of my own choices available about and attitude towards such circumstances.


And that was the super positive takeaway from dinner last night as well as just an enjoyable evening. Being with dear friends, just talking about a free range of topics and ideas, I recognize that I have come a long way. I am consistently making better choices in the company I keep. The difference it has made in how I feel about myself is astonishing. Life is long and stretches out further than the boundaries of my own imagination. To have such companions woven into my journey is a truly priceless to me.

#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #influences, #mental-health, #motivation, #positivity