The shoulds, reality, upgrades

In my head, I should be writing my training recap. But I’m not. Because I’m juggling multiple projects, priorities, and thoughts. Plus I’d really like to eat at some point before I become cranky and hungry. That’s ugly stuff people; we don’t want to go there.

Reality is there is so much to talk about, in addition to the small, fine details and adjustments with training. Nothing big, no major weighty-weight goals to report or crow about, no new digit drop on the scale to be ridiculously excited about either. Nope, all about form, technique, the laser-focus trainer eye picking up small details that require adjustment and could derail progress now or into the future. These are not optional ways to do things; this is not hammer curl versus bicep curl kind of differences. It is small things about shoulders, core, foot placement. And it’s with basic exercises like squats.

But a typical recap takes a little time to write, time I presently don’t have to devote. Instead, in my head and other venues of communications I’m having discussions with people about ridiculous things that practical, pragmatic me does not understand. While I have disconnected and shut down the negative noise, it has the effect of stimulating my thinking and energizing my emotional volume. I’m kind of pointlessly indignant and outraged for not good reason. There are avenues in my life I need to just read the topic, unequivocally and unemotionally state my position (absolutely transparently: frequently the politically incorrect side of the equation), and let the rabble rousing continue without me. I gots other stuff to do.

The important thing I want to talk about, though, is the evolution of training as a component of the better health quest and its overall rippling effect. I can tell you until the cows and sheep and every other barnyard creature that wanders come home about the exercises and how each feels to me. I can tell you about my thoughts. I can tell you the lightbulb moments. And I love doing that. I love downloading all that happened in my mind, transcribing my notes from my notebook and sharing it with all of you.

I just lack the chunk of time to do so. And I’m utilizing the precious little I have right now explaining myself, primarily to myself.

Reading back through many hundreds of posts and emails and things I have written in the last 2+ years, I see the zig and zag of my journey and progress. I see myself with single legged Romanian deadlifts – once upon a time my arch nemesis exercise – and know how far I have come with that even though I continue to struggle with balance, only a far heavier weight or bar in my hand(s). My lunge anxiety and weeble-wobbles with bodyweight lunges of any stripe has given way to this fascination with the rear foot placement, body alignment, whether I am bobbing and weaving with the dumbbells in my hands. The weights I once thought so far out of reach for me are now just another datapoint in my day-to-day exercise experience.

I love that. I love ALL of that. The world’s best vocabularian lacks words to describe my deep sense of joy and satisfaction with all I can do now, how far I have come since I began training with J, and how infinite and exciting the learning curve in front of me with this process. (And who knew that “vocabularian” was actually a thing? Learning is forever.)

But my learning style – it has evolved and adapted, as has the way J and I interact in the trainer/trainee partnership. My capacity has not just grown in less fat, more muscle, increased stamina, it is also more discipline and an increase in my understanding. My body remains a bit of mystery to me, but I know that basic care and maintenance involve eating healthy foods and getting regular amounts of exercise. Even with that, there are quirks and adjustments. Despite my best efforts to maintain and be at a calorie deficit most days, for the first time in my entire life I found it’s possible to be a too much of a calorie deficit and how its impacts can and do take me in the wrong direction. Where I once felt stronger and more engaged while going through my List, I have felt weaker and more fatigued as I tried to press forward. Looking at my sleep and my stress levels, both seemed to be in order, particularly the sleep. I had not changed my diet, but it did seem more huffy-puffy effort was draining my reserves. I started watching my nutrient intake and that helped some, but increasing my overall calories put me back in normal energy range. And guess what? The scale went from plateau and creeping upward to on the march back down.

Yep, eating a little more and restarting my weight loss. Who knew?

As far as the exercise, I’m not always never the perfect client with pacing on huffy-puffy Lists, particularly technical review days where lots of little issue cropping up and creeping in from the List. (I know there probably isn’t a perfect training client; it’s another urban legend along with the rainbow-farting unicorns.) Maybe it’s less routine stuff – my forays into TRX exercises look and feel completely different than in the beginning – or just bad habits taking hold when I’m on my own. No matter. I’m still embryonic enough of trainee to take correction and adjustment and incorporate them into my form and technique. I also do not take it personally, as if I am the tribe idiot who does not or cannot understand. Comporting myself to getting the gazillion small nuances of exercise is not for the faint of heart, but I’m proud of myself for rising to the occasion. Big girl capris holding steady in this regard.

While it appears we’re socializing and having fun in training, I am very serious about learning and absorbing every single detail. Unfortunately there is so much about exercise that is miniscule little details that do not feel different (until it all goes bad) it’s difficult for me to remember everything without pen and paper in hand. In the time I have spent typing this post, I have had my arms stretched out trying to replicate the stance for the TRX tricep exercise and rib tucking while sitting upright thinking of the motion for glute bridges. Long live my exercise geekiness! This also leads me to the conclusion that tomorrow is too late to run through this List again, that I will have lost something while sleeping tonight. So I am will be back in the gym sometime tonight to run through it again to try and cement the nagging little things we went through.

It was that kind of small details-heavy session.

The whole point of this rambling brain dump: to describe that I am upgrading. For lack of a better, more accurate, more precise term, I will use one that sounds like a big and tangible Very Good Thing.

Yep, I am upgrading myself. My habits. My thoughts. My discipline. My cohorts. My work.

This is not me expressing belief that the work I do to improve my health deserves recognition or reward or status boost more frequently or even at all. Nope, this is me acknowledging that I have worked very, very hard and am seeing the natural consequence of those efforts in all aspects of my life. Who knew that developing a new sense of discipline in one aspect of my life would bleed over and color everything else more positively?

I marvel at this process. I was a pretty happy person before I began working on my improving my health, but I am in a superior frame of mind and reference since embarking. Better health – what to do, what to do. I hire a coach, I learn a lot, but there are 2 hours per week jam-packed full of exercise stuff so studying on my own is absolutely imperative. From there I meet others and getting to know them piques my interest in all sorts of things, so my natural curiosity makes me want to know and understand more.

Diving down the rabbit hole of new knowledge so I can reassure myself that I’m an equally interesting and interested conversation partner. Because at my core, I feel pretty damn boring in today’s world. I feel as if I read the same stuff everyone else reads, think along the same biased lines that I think, and when I meet others with different experiences, I like exploring their experiences and what has shaped their own biases so we can share and learn from each other. And rediscovering that I love, Love, LOVE the whole learning-new-things process.

But there is the militant asshole factor. I try to avoid it, and in most of my real-life interactions, my friends, associates, clients, general associations are fine. We are all grown-ups and have genuine give-and-take conversations. It’s online social media – something I pursue extremely sparingly – where the asshole factor comes into play. And I lack the patience and the stomach for arguing with might-is-right sort of mindsets.

The darker down side is my interest in and patience with others stuck and unwilling to try to up their game is waning. It’s a fine line where I am either a knowledge junkie unwilling to repeatedly pour my gathered treasure down some black hole without any return or I grow stagnant in the presence of others.

I know I am quite capable of patience and interest. J gave this spectacular illustration this morning, with potted plants. Get a pot, added the best soil possible, bury some seeds, water it, expose it to sunlight, talk/sing/dance for it. And watch it. Every day, do these good and nurturing things for the seeds. And be patient, while watching it. At some point, something is going to happen. Some little tendril will sprout from the soil, and over the course of days and weeks and months and years you care for this plant and provide all it needs, it grows and thrives.

Such is the case with diet and exercise. I was chatting with my daughter on Tuesday evening about the process, and I told her, truthfully, that it has only been in the last few months that I can truly discern the changes in my body and the scale. After 2+ years of at least 6 or 7 days of resistance training every single week, I have just now tipped the scale of 30 lb. weight loss. I’m physically smaller, have pretty new muscle peeking out on various body parts. There is less fat all over. Yet my BMI calculation says I am still obese.

Oh well.

The thing is, I stopped thinking that I should see results after a set amount of time and an awful lot of effort. My focus is just putting in the effort, doing the work. Everything counts. Every step on my Fitbit, every calorie I burn doing resistance training or weight lifting, every calorie I consume. I get tired, frustrated, distracted routinely and do not push the huffy-puffy pacing on huffy-puffy Lists, or my confidence feels tentative I utilize a lighter weight range. But my effort is not in vain. It may not be as efficient or as effective as if I put forth the all-out effort, but I still do a lot. And I’m satisfied with that effort no matter how reduced it may seem in my own mind.

As my base level of strength and endurance has built, so has my desire to understand the process more. I still come home from the gym after every session and write down in my own shorthand what I learned, what I want to retain, what I know and feel inside is most important. I frequently do the same after practices on my own. Who has the time? I hear this constantly on the rare occasions that I mention it. I make the time. Because what I value, I prioritize and protect. I value my health. I value my time, and J’s, and others in my village. I take notes and write down what I want to remember, including names mentioned in passing that I want to look up later. Because if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget. I am unlikely to even remember to ask for the name later and the potential avenue for learning new things is lost to me.

It’s part of my upgrading process. I make notes for later research from conversations with clients and with friends as well. My memory appears to be good because I have a habit of writing things down, and if I make the effort to write it down, my recall of details is so much better.

So, if I’m a good training client (and I am), I put forth the effort. I do my homework. I possibly have taken the concept of training extra credit to some unforeseen level. And I’m okay with that. This is my process, what works for me, what keeps me focused and interested in my own progress without using the typical, tangible measures.

If I let go of the reins on my discipline in this area, it would not be long before I’d be back on medication to control my blood sugar and those 30 lbs. would be restored. And I have given away all my larger sized clothing.

While I might idly wonder how letting go of my discipline with exercise and diet might impact the rest of my life – in work, in relationships, in interests – I have zero interest or intention in indulging that avenue of curiosity.

I have earned my progress because I do work at it, every single day. And I’m proud of my effort. The success I have enjoyed and the rewards of developing this discipline are far broader than I ever imagined. And as I type this and think about anyone telling me this 2+ years ago, I would have been very skeptical and feeling as if someone were trying to manipulate me. I can write about it until blogs are outlawed and am unlikely to sway anyone who hates exercise or any sort of restriction on their eating habits. It is something we each have to discover on our own.

Still, the effort and developing the discipline is so worth it and worthy of writing endless amounts of words about it.