Monday morning, training with J. After dramatically shortened Saturday practice and a whole day rest day on Sunday, I was well rested and 100% healthy this morning. It was a good session, back to working at building strength.
No major breakthroughs with exercise today, but some internal realizations from external observations. Occurred to while J interacted with other members while we were working – how much do I trust my trainer? In my case, absolutely. I can tell him something hurts or is bothering me, and he adjusts the List to suit the situation. When left to pick what I might want to do, I’m nearly always going to revert back to a something where I have a lesser degree of confidence in my own ability. Part of this is simply my personality; trainer-trainee partnership says he is operating from a much wider, more diverse library of exercise that I possess and can on-the-fly pick and choose what we’re doing without the laborious thinking and research would be required for me to do this for myself.
My concern about weighty weights and backsliding with progress is less about weights I may be using or the competency I may surrender by not practicing them than it is about the habit of being in the gym doing something on a regular, consistent basis. If I did more or were habituated to cardio, I would probably not be as addictively obsessive about my various Lists. But I don’t do steady state cardio, and I do think about my core work and have dreams of various exercises where I have a strong desire to practice and improve. Last we did this particular push List, I was using more weight. But oh well. I’ll get back there soon enough.
Good health comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and forms. I love my emerging self-confidence outside of my professional pursuits and endeavors. There is a real sense of the long-term benefits of all my present-day pursuits in my getting regular exercise and making better food choices. The scale is still not my friend – it’s a data point-generating device that inspires a lot less feeling of anxiety and dread.
Online sources of support and shared objectives with regard to fat loss and improved fitness are not working for me, and only partly because I am a bit of an awkward weirdo with social media. Going forward, other than the few friends I have made outside of the groups, I’m likely to step even further away from participating in either. Either that or risk irking trainer J with my questions of obscure concepts I come across in my reading. I learn few things of any value, and I can live a very long and happy life without ever exploring further.
What We Did
Today was the push version of our push-pull Lists:
A1 Heavy DB Goblet Squat (45 lb. KB)
A2 Incline DB Chest Press (30 lb. DBs)
A3 DB Biceps Curls (15 lb. DBs)
B1 DB Bulgarian Split Squat (15 lb. DBs)
B2 1-arm DB Overhead Press (20 lb. DB)
B3 Bent Over DB Rear Fly (5 lb. DBs)
C1 DB Sumo Squat (35 lb. KBs)
C2 Seated DB “hang and bang” Lateral Raises (5 lb. DBs)
C3 Lying 2-DB Triceps Extensions (15 lb. DBs)
How It Felt
We are back to the weightier weight version of goblet squats. Last we visited this List, it was with a 55 lb. dumbbell. Today, the 45 lb. kettlebell felt like this ginormous chunk of vinyl-coated metal that was never meant for me to elevate off the ground without help. I did okay, but I continue to be amazed how a 45 lb. kettlebell feels so much heavier than a dumbbell equivalent. I already know that I have to work hard at staying upright – I think of it as “tippy-tippy-break” when form goes all wrong – and pressing down through heels. It also seems like after this much time it should be easier, or more routine. But nope, not for me. Every day, every time I do squats of any stripe, I am thinking and wondering if my butt back is back enough or if my knees are breaking first enroute to the bottom of the squat. At the bottom of the squat, what are my heels doing? So many times I catch myself with heels elevating and the tippy-tippy-break in progress before I can catch myself and make it stop. Consoling factor? How boring an hour it would be for fab trainer J if I form were more perfected more of the time.
On to the incline bench press, starting with a pair of 25 lb. dumbbells and stepping up to the 30 lb. dumbbells. Okay, I admit to being a lot proud of myself with these, if only because the rest of the day contained so much conversation about form, technique, correcting my arms and hands flailing around in a mostly uncontrolled manner. I am particularly liking chest presses lately because I can really feel the muscles working the weight and I have trained myself to not lock my arms out at the top. It’s so tempting to just press up until my elbows lock, and I seem to be into the habit groove of stopping with elbow bend remaining. Big win.
I am still not quite given over to being a full-blown curl monkey, but I have a strong preference for the alternating version of dumbbell bicep curls versus the 2-arm version with a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells. We did start with a few 2-arms, for compare and contrast, and while I flunked the pop quiz (the 2-arm can include more shoulder involvement), I truly thought it was all about personal preference and how it felt easier and not so heavy to do an arm at a time. There has been issue with my right forearm in the last several weeks, but it seems to be coming along nicely. Hammer curls with a 15 lb. dumbbell – probably not this month, but forearm is improved and my babying it is now an afterthought than an ongoing issue that I am considering every single day. As for the bicep curls, they went well and I can still feel that I was working them this morning. My biceps getting stronger, but I’m far from bulky or sporting the biggest guns in the gym. All cool with me. I’m happy to be capable of doing the exercise no matter how boring I find it.
I don’t think I know anyone who looks forward to Bulgarian split squats, and these are not my favorites either. However, I’m improving. Last week I did bodyweight on at least 2 occasions, so I felt more ready today with 15 lb. dumbbells in hand. J reminded me of the learning curve with these – overcoming the balance with a single foot on the floor – and look at me now. My competency with everything in the lunge family is a huge point of pride for me, because I had genuine lunge anxiety when we began and it took quite a long time for me to come to learn and gain baseline proficiency. Today we used 15 lb. dumbbells, but I looking through my notes I see that I have used a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells in the past. Either way, I’m glad I have no lost any significant ground with basic shape and ability.
The 1-arm dumbbell overhead press – we switched from a split stance to a squared stance today, a new progression in stability. Other than retraining my habit from split stance to squared stance, I was surprisingly ready for the transition and handled it well, even with hoisting a 20 lb. dumbbell overhead. Maybe it’s the relative simplicity, or maybe it’s just that I like the feels and impacts on my shoulders, maybe it’s that I have a good understanding of the scapular plane positioning, but I like when the standing version appears on Lists.
First troubling exercise of the day was the bent over rear fly. Even with 5 lb. dumbbells, this is the most corrected exercise in quite awhile. For whatever reason, my arms and hands do not want to cooperate and instead wish to flail around like some sort of crazed windmill. Or so goes my thinking as I am trying so hard to keep them in line. Problem first arises with hands wanting to turn sideways and flash the whites of my lower forearm. No, no, no. Hands are supposed to stay level, with pinky fingers above the thumbs gripping the dumbbells, elbows flare. In my case the hands want to flip upside down and who knows where the heck elbows are in the process? Have to work on keeping upper body parallel to the floor, knees slightly bent. And pulling from the shoulders, not flailing with the arms. Ugh. These look so easy. I watch J demonstrate; carefully observe exactly what his hands, arms, elbows, and shoulders are doing. Can I replicate it? Not easily. I am oh-so-slowly getting the hang of it, but crap – talk about thick-headed slow learner. Overriding the separate impulses of hands and arms is going to take some concentrated practice.
It’s been awhile since I have done dumbbell sumo squats, today with a pair of 35 lb. kettlebells rather than just a weightier weight dumbbell. First thing I noticed: how heavy those kettlebells are to lift, much less do squats with. But going along through the exercise, no way was I going to reach the 12 to 15 rep range J tossed out there. I did make 12, but after that – I was so done with those. One of my knees made a poppish sound, loud enough for super-hearing J to take note of and give a closer look at my foot placement (turn outward more). For the record, knee was and remains fine; no idea what the poppish sound was and doubt it anything serious. BUT, there was another member working out near us, resulting in a well-deserved spontaneous compliment for trainer J’s abilities. And it’s a small, small world: she’s also a runner and knows and “loves” my son G. That made a pretty awesome training even that much better.
On to the second troubling exercise of the day – the seated dumbbell “hang and bang” lateral raises. Like their close cousin, the bent over rear fly, arms and hands have independent ingrained habits that are going to be some work to break. I’m going to be going in slo-mo on these while I am trying to get hands and arms and shoulders doing the lifting all in line and working together. Another deceptively simple exercise. But something closer to perfect practice is required in this, because I am not hitting the right muscle groups if I am losing track of what all my limbs are doing while we are focused on the lateral raise. At least my wild misstep exercises are in the same general family and can be worked at and worked on together.
And finally, an established favorite, the lying down 2-dumbbell triceps extensions. These remain a constant on the favorites list, and only marginally because I feel like I have well and truly learned the shape and the way they are supposed to work to be most effective. I love them because they are effective, and after doing them faithfully for the last 2 years, I can actually see and feel the triceps muscle. Before, I only saw or felt the batwings. Now, I see the sleek little muscle there and greatly diminished batwing. That’s huge for me: actually being able to see the new muscle emerging.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
An interesting thing to me about training days is this section of the recaps. Frankly, I’m never sure what I might be thinking about before, during, and afterwards. Usually I am all a-glow with happy-happy-joy-joy for new things I learned, exercises I am improving upon, weightier weights I have used. Plus I just feel very good, as if this were a grade-worthy event and I came out with a better that expected score. But I don’t know what will stand out as most relevant to talk about here.
I have had a lot of thoughts lately about why I continue to train with J, quite probably because we are in the fourth quarter of 2017 and my plan is to renew and purchase my next chunk of sessions using 2017 dollars (money geek; I divide my planned spending into buckets and like to clear it out as much as possible before the end of the year). I have certainly learned a lot in the last 2+ years. Days like today, when we are working at and breaking down my form and technique on specific movements, I remember why I have not quite with a defeatist attitude, choose to train with him, and plan to continue for the foreseeable future. Chatting with another member about her needs for her session and what she wants to do in it based on how she feels, I have a better sense of who I am in trusting J’s judgment, knowledge, and experience to get me wherever we go next. I speak frequently of exercising safely and sanely, and other than talking about it in passing conversation, I never say to him “remember I have this, that, the other thing ….” as far as aches and pains. If something hurts, I tell him and we work around it.
Why I choose to continue training with J: he makes me better.
Strong word, “makes.” Like he’s standing there with the bullwhip primed and ready and forcing me to do this stuff. Sometimes I think this is the vision most people have when they think of personal trainers. Or that they are standing beside you with encouraging and inspiring platitudes and happy dance celebrating every single squat or curl. Or giving you the frowny face when you confess eating tons of crap and sugar all weekend and not being in the gym since your prior training session.
It’s been a long, long while since no practice between sessions has been an issue for me. Confessions of eating crap and sugar are no longer an issue either, and even if they were, there are worse things in life. Whatever visions I once had of what training is like, reality is our sessions are all about teaching, modifying, correcting, improving, and enhancing form and technique. In my experience with J, it is all about the teaching than it is about motivation and accountability and all those cool marketing words and terms used in gym advertising that trainers are available for hire to assist members in reaching their exercise objectives.
Motivation? That comes from me, and in truth, most days I don’t even think about it. I chose to avoid thinking motivation and went straight for creating exercise as a habit, so I didn’t have to seek another external force that I could use as an excuse to prevent me from getting up and to the gym and busy working at something. Motivation is like candy to me; something really enjoyable yet absolutely unnecessary for a healthy life.
Accountability? J and I are both pretty well-grounded in reality and its reflected in our training partnership. He’s not going to chastise me for falling off the healthy eating and regular practice wagons when it happens. Worst case scenario he will point out the consequences of my actions and choices, but most of the time – honestly, he does not care. Or more accurately, he does not manifest the caring emotion in the ways expectations of mainstream populations seem to anticipate and project. I’m a client; of course he has high hopes that I will practice what he’s trying to teach me, that I will improve and move closer to achieving my current objectives. That said, he’s not my babysitter or my conscience. If I’m struggling with something, I have to speak up, tell him that I just don’t get it (although he can usually read that clearly from my expressions) and we figure out where I’m going wrong (this time) and break it down and keep breaking it down until something sticks and I can gain some traction. I’ve learned there is no shame in not knowing, making mistakes, having to break bad habits. I know now that I am not the village idiot, and the exercise impacts and changes different bodies different ways.
Perhaps it is just time and maturity that comes with regular practice, achieving some success, and building on what I know, but I have written extensively about how my mindset has healed and improved as I continue my odyssey in the gym. When we first started, I took correction extremely personally and with an intense sense of shame for all I could not grasp and replicate in the first couple or few tries. The basic methodology of a lot of practice to mastery of the same basic things works well for me and improved my overall sense of confidence. Corrections to form are just corrections to form, not being called out for real or imagined character flaws that should be addressed. Big difference.
I don’t precisely feel weaker returning to this series than I did last we visited, but I do feel rechallenged by it. J did forewarn me that with the months of huffy-puffy focus that I may not be quite as strong woman in the same sense, so I was anticipating that the potential issue existed. But I was not disappointed; I did okay, probably could have pushed hard, but I think that every training day. Maybe I need to change my attitude, become the trainee seeking to impress the boss in session and go light the rest of the days on my own. But … doubtful; so not my style. Session days are learning days for me, my opportunities to ask the questions in the moment, to try out the cues, to find the best practices. I have 5 other days every week to do more sets and more reps, to up my intensity and practice what I am learning.
I am somewhat of a one-off weirdo in how seriously I try to learn and adapt to the exercise, but from firsthand experience I know what an impact is has had on my overall health. Today feels a bit like a crossroads. Finally over a bug, weather turning colder, going to yoga with a client on Tuesday – I’m thinking about what I want to do next with my fitness pursuits. Someday soon I will strike a balance with practice that includes a push day, a pull day, a couple of huffy puffy days, and then of course, training sessions. And one day per week, probably Sunday, a get outside day. Ultimately I think that’s my bigger picture and still quite tentative plan for routine weeks.
But I’ll see. I love the challenges being in the gym every day brings, love trying to improve and to get better. In my living room sits a Cybex arc trainer, for all that dedicated (and boring) cardio I’m not doing. I am going to a yoga class with a client, because he invited me and it will be fun seeing his self-professed non-bendy self in action. I think about more stretching, but to be perfectly candid, it holds about as much appeal as going on the 20 mile death march (for me) that M calls daily workout.
I have a lot of options, and no burning need or rush to make a decision or try something new immediately. As always, I’m thinking about it. Improvement is an infinite cycle available for me, and the only thing stopping me is me. I feel confident I am in the strongest place of my life to keep moving forward.
And speaking of improvement, having another brand of push-pull with diet. Healthy food choices – the bane of my existence. Well, not really – that would be or at least could be still be reserved for the single-legged everything and push-ups in the gym. But still; I don’t know why I continue to torture myself with trying to make food work better for me. Stick with what you know, Janelle; new things are less likely to work for me than they are for other folks.
Yep, starting to think my fickle-picky eater habits are having a somewhat adverse effect on my better health quest. Since I seem to only like/consume certain foods, I eat them over and over and over again. Day after day, week after week, month after month. Just writing that down – no wonder I find my eating so tiresome.
I am, however, learning. M and I ate out both days of the weekend, which is kind of rare for us anymore, and burger joints – extremely rare for us. Saturday was my favorite casual burgers (The Habit Burger) and Sunday was his (Islands). Saturday I did indeed have my cheeseburger quota, and it was divine. Sunday I went with the chicken caesar salad, my usual choice for this location, but the waiter either didn’t hear me or forgot to input my request to hold the parmesan cheese. Rather than send it back, I figured it would be fine and ate it anyway.
Or tried to eat it. A few bites into the salad, and it was far too salty for me to finish. So I ate the plain grilled chicken and some of the drier lettuce leaves and called it a day. I have always been more sensitive to salty foods, but rarely has anything overwhelmed to the point of abandonment. Fab trainer says this is a symptom of clean(er) eating, that I will become more sensitive to flavors. Boy howdy – I had no idea. Next time I’ll not be so agreeable and send the not right dish back to the kitchen.
I suppose it worries me (the tiniest bit!) because I am already such a fuss-bucket when it comes to food, as in there is so much I don’t really care for and will avoid if at all possible. Unfortunately stuff I love tends to be heavy in fat and carbs, so I am practicing moderation, most of the time (anymore) successfully. But I don’t let myself get to fixated on favorite things (pizza comes to mind immediately) and have a reasonable portion a couple of times per month. In the case of pizza, I will order a tiny personal size and a side salad. If I’m lucky, I’ll be eating with a friend willing to split it with me, otherwise I eat half and take half home for M. Pasta was once a weekly staple in our diet, but now it’s maybe once every 2 or 3 months and always in a restaurant. Once I discovered how high it spiked my blood sugar, pasta was moved to the treat column. Same with most chinese food, with all its sugar and carb-laden goodness.
My nutritionist friend suggests this could also be a good thing, perhaps I will find new foods or preparation methods for vegetables that make me enjoy them more. Perhaps. But I feel like such an old dog at this point; I’m not sure teaching my tastebuds new tricks is in the cards.
But maybe. Hope is eternal, after all. At least in my world.