A rare and different Monday evening training session. Somehow more relaxed than usual, or just so darn different than our usual meeting time that it felt weird. Plus it was a teaching night – new core exercises, updated and delving deeper into other core stuff I already know. All in all, it was a lot of fun.
Not quite back to normal format, if only because of the timing change, doing something different, and not able to recall all we did. But this Tuesday morning after – my abs! My core! Everyone has a 6 pack waiting to emerge (mine presently lurks beneath a slowly shrinking, narrowing, thinning fat layer), and last night we worked each and every one of them and woke them up to the reality of what it’s like to be worked industriously.
Take it from me, my core does not like it, not one bit. The squeaking while going through the exercises was one thing; the shrieking this morning is quite another.
Still, all good. I had a good introduction to leg raises of various stripes, more crunches than I realized existed, and some new chop variations. We also revisited glute bridges with double mini bands, and planks, my old/new nemesis. Still, all good.
I have to highlight a couple of new favorite intriguing things, not ever to be confused with favorite exercises. But they do capture of my imagination and the challenge of actually doing them is strong with these, and while I am sure there will be a follow-up recap featuring things we did, this is a brief summary of the primary standouts.
There was one that was like an Otis-up crunch with a leg raise follow on – forever forward labeled in my mind as a teeter-totter. J lives in this land of hopeful optimism when he suggests we try for 10 to 12, and inside my head there is this ringing, mocking laughter. But they intrigue me nonetheless. There is almost a rhythm to up with upper body, down slow to some magic point, then elevate legs – all while paying attention to pressing low back into the bluegrass. Teeter-totters seems appropriate.
Then there was a variation of the band high to low chop. Rather than a hinge type movement, it was more like a side bend that I can still feel in my obliques. J remarked it would take some practice to get the movement right, and boy howdy was he not kidding. First order of business is retraining mind/body to not automatically go for the hinge, however weeble-wobble it may appear in practice. Second is to rib tuck that elbow into knee while gripping that band. So much harder in reality that this very brief description can belie.
Not good at either these yet. Then again, I do not feel particularly good at any core exercise. Otis-ups and floor chops? Struggle, struggle, struggle. Grit teeth, resolve one more series, swear repeatedly inside my head, keep going.
I am presently not capable of having legs straight on the ground while raising the upper body. I have to really focus on pressing my low back into the floor beneath me. Leg raises are also not easy, and my hips do not elevate even a quarter inch off the floor. Big change for me: I honestly don’t care. New stuff is still new stuff. Core focus is kind of new stuff as well, and core is relatively untrained compared to other parts of me. Practice will happen, core will take on life of its own and stake out residency in my rotation of thoughts and things I need to do or pay more attention to as the days pass.
The months have passed, and I have enjoyed many big and small successes with my practices, my learning new exercises, and with improving my overall diet. More than that, I am really enjoying my increased confidence and self-assurance. My vanity is not so powerful that it drives my desire to go the gym daily, yet I am pleased with the reshaping of my shape. It’s a big giant boost when I am wearing smaller sized clothes.
Results matter. I will never deny that. My pursuit of results – the diabetes control, the additional strength and physical capability, the lower lower resting heart rate and blood pressure – all these things actually have little to do with my appearance. The weight I have lost and the smaller size clothing is a byproduct and consequence of better health. As I have repeatedly said, the numbers I chase are not measured on a bathroom scale or tape measure.
So for me it is not the big promises of results that marketers push. For me it has been a zillion tiny things that contribute to my better health.
Somewhere under the layer of fat covering my abdomen, my core muscles are waking up and will soon be laboring to grow stronger. Maybe the fat layer eventually burns away and my core muscles reveal themselves. Or not. Finally my understanding has grown past the marketing of what I could have and the correlation between burning fat via careful diet and consistent exercise has me pursuing overall health versus a more pleasing physical appearance. The latter will come, and I have no clear idea of what it will look like when it finally happens.
Once upon a time, at the start of this journey, there was a trainer I saw a few mornings each week that possessed a larger bone structure. She was sturdy and seemed strong and capable, and while not a slender or svelte trainer, she seemed healthy and attractive. As aspirational role models went, she was a good choice for me.
But now I feel past that as an aspirational role model. Not actually sure I want or need one to keep me motivated to pursue my healthier lifestyle habits. The education and learning curve with exercise, diet, and the way it all works together has pushed me past the need for such outside motivation. If anything, I want to expand my knowledge and understanding. I want to know about different exercises and their impact on the body. I want to learn more about food and its impacts on my particular body without having to chase calorie and macro counting.
Through all this, I know my attitude has changed. I have learned quite a bit, from my own training sessions and observing J and the other trainers working with their clients or conducting classes. I am also acutely aware that it’s not a job calling for me, because I lack the patience and diplomacy required to properly teach someone who is floundering around and not ready or willing to invest in the work it takes for any sort of results.
I speak to this from experience. I can clearly recall my own intimidation and paralysis for doing much other than showing up on Thursdays for training sessions. Clearly, this was not trainer J’s fault as a professional; he has always been supremely conscientious and goes above and beyond to meet each of the training tribe’s needs for help, assistance, overcoming learning curves. Nope, the problem was me and my own brand of gym crazy. Overcoming that was primarily on me, and there is no easy way to do that until someone is ready to take that step.
And I know how difficult it is to gain any sort of mastery over exercise and convincing rusty muscles and joints that they are old dogs desiring to learn new tricks for the greater good. I do not perceive myself as looking fabulous working my way through the List of the day. I do not for a single minute imagine my sweaty and gross state is an attractive or desirable picture of good health. The informercials and advertisements always have these ripped models with perfect tans, makeup, and hair going through the routines or demonstrating equipment or telling us how they used to weight 4000 lbs. and are now down to 110 because they took [insert magical solution here].
I have seen trainer J sweating through his own workouts, and I have seen many of the other trainers as well. Out of their red-shirted uniforms, they look just like the rest of us working through their own Lists and routines. It really is not very glamorous or attractive, although there is beauty in the muscle movement and exercise done right. Learning new habits and the safest, sanest methods for exercise is not a simple once-and-done process. There is no easy way, no shortcuts. Hard work. Consistency. Patience. Lots and lots of sweat, probably some tears, maybe even a tiny amount of bloodshed (accidents happen).
I know all this, really, really well. After 2 years there are still struggles and challenges, even with Lists I know well and weights that I can comfortably utilize. Does not mean it is ever easy, and I must be doing something wrong if it looks easy.
My point here is – I have a whine quota. I allow myself a certain amount of whining inside my own head, and a lesser amount outside in the real world. The tolerance I have for myself and my own whining is less than other folks, but still – the stuff I hear from other members I know well or overhear from others working nearby leads me to the conclusion that many members operate under extremely unrealistic expectations.
And a potential character flaw: my tolerance for extremely unrealistic expectations under nearly any circumstances is pretty thin. Hence my assurance to all my friends that if I were to ever attempt any kind of personal training or coaching, I’d get fired in short order. Tough love is not a last resort in a family gym where personal training is a pricey add on; it is probably outlawed and grounds for termination.
I am not someone who shames people for being overweight or much else. However, as it has been pointed out again and again, there is a very small percentage of us who are overweight for physiological reasons beyond our control. As much as anyone else, I know the allure of food as a panacea for all that ails me. No one is especially weak for their inability to eat healthy or start an exercise program, but if the readiness to do what it takes is in place, it seems unlikely to happen.
I do understand that, and I’m sympathetic. Intimidation, fear, anxiety, feeling insecure about knowing what to do or how to do it – been there, done that, still have the t-shirt tucked away in the back of my drawers. I have also offered to hang out and practice with others to help them get started, restarted, or just keep on moving forward. I’ve talked for hours to friends and written what feels like a billion words on various diet, exercise, motivation to improve my health-related issues.
But my tolerance for bullshit is limited under the best of circumstances, and the only lying I seem to do even remotely well is when I try to lie to myself. Thankfully, diet and exercise is not my professional responsibility, so the evolving opinions I espouse to trainer J and other close friends makes me feel like a mildly less awful, judgmental person. I understand my own shortcomings toward others, but friends are a separate classification and kettle of fish, though. I would do a lot and share anything and everything I know to help them be successful and achieve their goals. But I’m not born again zealot about it; ask me what I might be doing right, happy to share. The process is not easy for anyone, and unless some natural athlete crosses my path in the future where I can ask if it is easier for them than it has been for me.
Today, 24 hours later, the abs are still angry shrieking about the unnatural work I put upon them. Anymore it’s so unusual for me to be sore after training I have almost forgotten what its like. But worth it – so very worth it.
And I’m excited about trying it again. While I did floor chops and bench planks this morning as part of today’s List, probably tomorrow I’ll try to layer in something else. Assuming the shrieking has faded a bit by then.
Training days. Way more fun than I ever anticipated.