PT-66: All about abs (day 28+1)

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.

 

 

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #concentration, #confidence, #exercise, #fitness, #focus, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #motivation, #relationships, #strength

PT-62: Negative thinking and realism (day 14)

Monday morning, training with J. We are still on our review, refine, enhance strength-focused Lists, and despite the post title, it was an awesome adventure in learning and working at skill updates. Lots of room for improvement, but if I were good at everything already J would have a client slot to fill.

Key Takeaways

It occurred to me today that I have some (previously) unwritten rules about how I conduct my practices. For the most part, they seem to work. And since I find myself now more capable than before, they are obviously working reasonably well. Specifically: can’t remember how many reps, do at least 15; lost track of where I am in set counts, do another just to be sure; left leg seems weaker, do it first; when it doubt about weights, start lighter. Simple, common sense (to me) type stuff.

Lots of semi-negative thinking going through my head today, ala “I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot.” To be fair, though, some simple-looking exercises are complicated and technical (looking at you, hang-and-bang). It’s not so much I am an idiot so much as some things simply do not always make sense, and even if they do make sense intellectually, translating that sensibility into making body do mind’s bidding is another matter entirely.

I probably have more to say on this topic, but a dear friend arrived tonight and I had to cut this section short to finish and get this post published. 

What We Did

Plate Loaded Squat Machine (2 25s/side)
Overhead Press on plate loaded squat machine

1-legged Leg Press
Bench Elevated Pushup

Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Medicine Ball Vertical Chops
Stability Ball Passes

How It Felt

I have not attempted this List on my own since it was introduced, and in some ways it shows, dreadfully. However, I am mostly okay with the plate loaded squat machine. The shape seems to be coming pretty naturally, and once I figure out where to plant my feet, place my hands, and what the lever (releasing the shoulder weight part) does, thing went very well. There is still some confidence building with it, but for the most part, I feel like I am squatting with proper form and technique. The little refinements noted above, with the exception of the weight release latch, are things that will become more natural and more comfortable with practice. Right now, it all feels new and different about what my hands and feet might be doing and impacting the working muscles.

The overhead press on the plate loaded squat machine brought forth an attack of the shoulds. Because I have not practiced these, it felt a little (sometimes a lot) awkward and like we were reinventing the wheel or discovering fire. I get the concept and know how it’s supposed to work and to feel, yet I was struggling mightily with the overall shape of the exercise. It’s different than when doing this with dumbbells, because the arms go up and forward, slightly away from the top of the shoulder where the overhead press with the dumbbells tends to go straight up and over the shoulder. It is not difficult for me to understand, yet for various and sundry reasons it was difficult for me to implement and execute. I did improve. I did get the stance down more completely by the third set. But damn – it should not be as difficult as I was making it this morning.

Rather than walking lunges or Bulgarian split squats, we returned to the favorite leg press and did single 1-legged leg presses. I was pretty pleased with my effort on these, because at 140 lbs. I was doing 20 without much trauma or drama. I forgot that we are in the midst of a strength-focus series right now and just kept going until I reached the typical 20 reps. Then J asks me how that felt – it was fine. So we bumped it to 160 for the next set, went through another 20, after which I finally realized (when J remarked upon it) that I was going for an 8 to 12 rep range, not the usual 15 to 20 or 25 to 30. Oops! Bumping it to 180 toned my enthusiasm for the bigger range, and I went from 20 to 10. J then went to 200 and suggested I do 5, just to see how it went and how it felt. It went, but it did feel challenging and  heavy.

Bench push-ups FINALLY make more sense today. FINALLY. I now seem to have figured out where to place my hands, how wide apart to put them so the working, feeling muscles are actually in the chest and not everywhere else. My range is still mostly 8 to 10, but I have higher hopes to advance past that now that I figured out how to replicate the feeling in multiple sets.

My secondary “you’re an idiot” soundtrack started with the dumbbell lateral raises. I knew these have not been going well lately, but I have been at a loss as to what to do about it. Sometimes they are better, but generally speaking – I feel like super stinky poo whenever I have tried for a variety of reasons. The bobbing up and down. The arms and shoulders and weird-ass feelings in both – not quite pain, but definitely not productive muscle-conditioning work. Yet it is not always or consistently every time, just most of the time. So today J tackled addressing it directly. Or tried, anyway; we may have to revisit to ensure body and mind are in sync about what needs to happen. Lead with the elbows not with the weights in my hands. Stretch arms out with an elbow bend. Kind of like chicken wings flapping is how I finally interpreted it. All day long when I have a free moment I have been sitting or standing and working and leading with my elbows while raising my arms. I think it might be sinking in, without weights in my hands. Next I try these, I’ll go light weights to get the shape nailed down more fully.

My most accomplished with triceps exercises has got to be the lying down dumbbell triceps extensions. I have been stuck on 15 lbs. for months now, but feel no super urgent rush to bump it up right now. Possibly I could sometime soon, but not today.

New pairing starting with the medicine ball vertical chops. I remembered how to do these, and the biggest issue is ensuring I do not go too far with the ball overhead. Putting a package on the shelf is the way J described it, and it makes my stop point far clearer. I’m feeling it in my core.

And finally, the stability ball passes. We have lately been doing a fair amount of regular ab work, and other tribe members are doing things like floor crunches followed by reverse crunches. I realized today that is kinda/sorta what this exercise emulates, only with the a stability ball going back and forth between hands and feet.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

After showering and getting ready for work, I was processing what we did today and how it feels in both body and mind. Part of me feels mind slip sliding back to negative girl territory in my self-assessment of my progress with this List to date. There was a faint “I’m an idiot” echoing in the back of my mind. In complete transparency, I have been gazelle-intense in examining my own motivation, focus, and drive of late anyway, so this was just more data layered into my analysis and equation.

Bottom line: I’m fine.

Rest of the story: I’m very occasionally terribly freaked out about my slo-mo forward progress to the point of breathing-into-paperbag panic over what it all means.

Reality check: It means nothing except a flashback crisis of confidence that will pass. Unfortunately the “very occasionally” description tends to happen in a condensed period of time, say 2 or 3 days in a month, 6-week period. It feels a lot more intense than it would spread out over the course of the entire period of measurement.

Like everyone who has a job and any sort of responsibilities, my life is not centered around the minutes and hours spent in the gym every morning. It is a definitely a big, giant, huge priority chunk of my daily and weekly routines, but it’s not the sole arbitrator of what I think, how I feel, who I am overall as a person. I’m not a person whose livelihood depends on how she looks in or out of clothes (let us all share a small prayer of thanks for that) or how much weight I can move to and fro. Regular person that I am means exercise and fitness is about my health, and while that does include my weight and body fat percentage, neither are a strong enough drivers at this moment in time to make me push hard, with focus and intensity throughout my List of the day. Not. Hardly.

I judge myself harshly, though, and while I do my level best to avoid compare and despair, I’m far from immune to it. But I also know giving myself too much of a free pass on this stuff leads to an easy laziness or lethargy about the work. I do have a strong desire to improve, advance (whatever that truly means to me), progress, be better. Going at 98.9% of maximum intensity (or even 68.9% if I am completely honest) is going to make some difference in my better health quest, but I am content enough at this moment to not feel the need to have to focus that kind of ooomph to make slow and steady results happen.

Maybe I am a “resistance train 2 to 3 times per week person” doing it over the course of 7 days most weeks. They why doesn’t matter much, because I presently cannot come up with a motivating factor, objective, or goal that makes me want to press onward with higher level of intensity most days of the week.

And I need to make myself get back to my happy place of acceptance. I am struggling with a lot of tiny fears and anxieties that are blocking me from getting there because I am allowing them to mushroom into nuclear bomb size clouds.

I am second guessing myself. In the present tense, I am struggling with how to write this, say it, in my usual stream-of-consciousness/unedited for anything style of blogging. My mindset and thinking are genuine examples of small-ball issues right now. In my effort to keep it real, I tell you everything, no matter how ridiculously silly and shallow it makes me sound.

In real life, what I describe here feels different, is very different, than that headspace I occupied for the better part of my start mid-2015 and well into 2016. However, progression forward for me is always part of a 2-step series where I might take 6 good steps forward and then slippy-slide backwards 3, 4, 5 again before hauling myself off my ass and back into proper training posture. I remind myself multiple times per day on a broad spectrum of topics that I am worthy and do work at earning the good stuff in my life. The cruel and unusual punishment I reserve to direct toward myself have toned down in their frequency if not their intensity. Admittedly that part is a ongoing work-in-progress that makes me squirm with discomfort to admit so openly.

I bring that up to frame this accurately in my own world view. Despite the vaguely uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach (aside from the focused core work that now appears on every List) about devolving into a dilettante about exercise and marching backward toward out-of-control blood sugar, I am doing fine. Food, the ongoing daily push-pull battle, is not the end of the world as I desire to know it. Making good food choices and eating healthier meals 75% of the time is better than 74.9% or less of the time, and it is a ginormous improvement from where I started or even a year ago. There is presently a chocolate cake in my kitchen that offers little temptation for me, and while I do imagine a very small scoop of ice cream this week, such things consumed in celebration are exempt from self-flagellation or over-thinking scrutiny (that’s another new rule). I am stronger than I was once and will again impose enough self-discipline to overcome the craving that single taste will trigger.

Self-doubt and negativity towards myself – this is a common thread throughout my life and times. Years of professional help have taught me a lot of tools to cope and battle back against it, but like diabetes or other chronic conditions, I do not believe it is curable. It’s treatable and it’s manageable, but there is no magical day in my future where the scars that shape me are erased and I am completely free. Acceptance of that means developing a more realistic and balanced frame of reference, where everything less than great is 100% my fault and everything else even 40% good is a stroke of good luck or the kindness of others toward me.

J made a curious, off-hand comment today in our post-session chat-fest. He corrected himself from using the “we” to “you” in an instance where discussing the work we were doing today. While technically more accurate – usually it is me doing the bulk of the sets and lying on the floor breathing hard and sweating through my shirt – I tend to think and use the “we” and “our” terms when describing this journey overall. Good coaching has made all the difference for me and for all the progress I have made – a lot of the credit should rest with J and his patience as well as skill.

And speaking of coaching, I get regular email updates from Pat Flynn (chroniclesofstrength.com), another coach that is involved with my fat loss group. He has lately been writing a fair amount about motivation and mindset, and since he’s a pretty down-to-earth and sensible guy, I find much of what he writes and talks about very sensible indeed.

The last couple of emails have been about motivation, how many clients and people he works with talk about needing motivation before getting started with something and his solution is to get started anyway. Makes perfect sense to me now, and it got me wracking my brain if that was one of my excuses for not getting started sooner when the better health quest began. My guess: probably not. With exercise, my “I hate exercise” was the nuclear option (in my opinion) that pretty much covered it. When I hate something, no amount of pep talking pep talks is going to make me want to get up and get going.

Pat’s advice was the same thing M has told me for years and years: Do a little something every day. And when I made my choice to try to be in the gym twice more between sessions with J, that was my first thought: if I do a little something every day for a month, it will be a habit and I will be capable of moderation and coming in twice a week between training sessions. Seems like a simple choice, but it was a Very Big Deal for me at the time.

Am I motivated in the gym? Not always, but I do it anyway. Because I like the healthier, feeling better results. Such is my navel-gazing mindset right now: I am not really feeling the love for my pacing and level of effort, but I’m doing it anyway. Because it’s good for me, and while in slo-mo, I do like the better, healthier feelings that come from any effort expended.

Perhaps rather than turning negative girl loose in the wheelhouse to run amok and ruin my practices, I am being realistic, that I am not all happy-happy-joy-joy energizer bunny girl however many days I am in the gym per year. Maybe I am never energizer bunny level of energy any days I am in the gym each year. Level of effort and intensity could be unique to each of us, and my slo-mo is my best effort at being hyper-focused. I would never judge or be snarky toward another tribe member or anyone else, so I should be a little less judgey and snarky toward myself. I am present and trying my best, and as I continually remind myself, it is good enough.

And with these continual reminders, someday soon I will actually believe it 24/7. Until then, I will continue with my do a little something every day method of progression. In the 2-step dance, it’s working out for me.

#anxiety, #better-health, #confidence, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fear, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #negativity, #peace, #positivity

PT-61: Refine, review, improve (day 10)

Thursday morning, training with J. Of late we are doing a lot more review and refinement of the push-pull Lists with an eye toward improving form and technique as well as stay focused on the strength emphasis.

Key Takeaways

I still love review days. We could probably do review days forever and I would not notice much of a difference in how I feel about training sessions. It might get boring for J, but he would figure out a way to cope if that’s the direction we chose. Truth of the matter is I am not the one driving the List creation or what we do on Mondays and Thursdays; I like it all, even the stuff that sucks eggs. There are a lot of things I dislike to the edge of hatred and avoidance, but after I’m all done, I feel so great about having my big girl capris in place and showing that exercise who is in charge here. J is the primary decider in what we’re doing. He suggests a new direction – 100% of the time I say yay, let’s do that. If there is a choice I pick one and we do that. Or not. Sometimes he changes his mind at the last possible second and we do something other than the initially proffered choices. It makes no difference to me; I am a pretty agreeable sort anymore. In the big picture, there are other training days ahead and we will surely pick whatever mild preference I may have had during one of those future sessions.

What I don’t practice, my improvement is slow to stagnant. This is not me being a slacker; this is me being the realist that there are few practice days and a lot of Lists to pursue. But as I have been focused on improving my planking and floor chops/sit-ups, I have another pair to tag onto my daily practice for the next week or so to see if I can nudge that improvement and confidence needle in the positive direction. While I have the time to devote, I should utilize it and just spend an extra 10 to 15 minutes on the 1-leg RDL and stability ball hamstring curls as well.

Individual exercises are like icebergs; what you see above the waterline is a very small portion of the actual mass of the thing. Every week I have this realization about something that just walking by looks so easy. Lat pulldowns? Reach up, pull weight up by pulling down on the bar. I watch people do these things every single day in passing, yet I still have to remember all these little technical cues. Same with seated rows. Pull the weight up by pulling handles back toward the waist, let it draw you back. They look so uncomplicated, until you’re sitting in the seat and trying to refine form to wring the maximum work out of the impacted muscles or muscle groups.

Pacing, pacing, pacing! Weightier weights is only part of the story. Progress comes from how much rest between sets, how much idle time spent glaring at the machine that is not working adequately for me. I confess to frequently being indulgent with myself on my own; I am not necessarily going gung-ho full throttle from exercise to exercise to exercise and working, Working, WORKING at each aspect of my List. Not sure how ambitious I am toward this end; maybe this is where having goals comes into play? My mindset is get into the gym, work as hard as I feel capable of working and call it good. If I were working toward something specific, I might be more gung-ho about always pushing hard at improvement. Or my mindset would be locked-in on its present ho-hum sort of speed and I’d be feeling discouraged, disappointed, despairing, and very negative toward my slacker ways. The seeds are planted in my mind, have been for a while. Maybe it’s time for me to turn also put some focus and give some love to the idea of turning up the intensity.

Still, training of the body and learning exercise happens every training session. So does working on the mindset and nudging it along toward a different outcome. I do not minimize my gains in any area; I have worked hard to get this far. Awareness of the large open space that equals room for improvement is part of the long-term strategy, because ignoring it only makes me unhappy and discouraged. When I feel ready to address it in my practice, I will make it happen. Until then, encouraging myself is an adequate enhancement to what I do in the gym on my own.

I am good enough. The mere thought and understanding of how far I have come in being able to say that and mean it makes me feel really proud of myself. Negative girl and realistic girl have their place in my attitudes and impact on my behaviors, but the happiness I derive from being in the gym is so powerful it is truly life-altering and provide a sense of balance and new sort of satisfaction as to what is possible for me in all aspects of my life and times. I love that. I love the feeling of what healthier means for me and how good it feels inside my body right here, right now. Big win for me. Acceptance of where I am on this journey, happy anticipation of the next milestone to be named later.

What We Did

A1        Barbell RDL (ramp up to 91)
A2        Mini-band Lateral Walks

B1        1-leg DB RDL (25)
B2        SB Hamstring Curl

C1        Seated Low “Tree Hug” Cable Rows
C2        Low Facepull
C3        Horizontal Rope Chops

D1        Lat Pulldown
D2        Straight-Arm Rope Pulldown or DB Pullover

How It Felt

Having just done Romanian deadlifts (RDL) dumbbells in the previous 24 hours, I was in a good place to discern the real or imagined differences between the barbell RDL and those with the dumbbell. It’s the weight distribution, with the plates at the end of the bar and not right in front of my legs. I am getting the general shape and execution of these now. Keep upper body still while hinging at the hips, pretensioning the glutes and hamstrings to do the lift, and then pressing hip joints forward at the top while tightening those abs and glutes. We added another 10 lbs. of plates today, taking me from my prior high of 81 lb. to 91 lbs., so that was something new and exciting. Rep range is 6 to 8 for the strength emphasis exercises, and I went through 2 sets of 10 reps each without much difficulty. I got to use my pink weightlifting straps all the time today, too, so that was another win. I am still amazed what a difference they make for me.

Onto the next exercise, the mini-band lateral walks. Keep the upper body still – no swishy-swashy swaying going on – and go sideways. Back and forth a couple of times until feeling it in those outer hips. I do love my mini-bands, and maybe next I try this I will use the red bad (next resistance up). These are fun, effective on the outer hips, yet they seem to offer me no immediate feedback that legs are tired or hips are working. I am starting to really believe I am growing fitter, because stuff that used to be so exhausting and “is it over yet?” now is just sort of ho-hum and on to the next. Progress.

My worst nightmare: the 1-leg RDL with a 25 lb. dumbbell in hand. *le sigh* Okay, not my worst nightmare in the gym; probably my worst nightmares in the gym have nothing to do with exercise. I console myself that at least it is not getting worse; it is, in fact, improving, just not quickly enough for my impatient self. I am slowly improving at self-diagnosis of why I am weeble-wobbling (and after this much time I am surprised I am not more of an expert), and even more slowly correcting myself and breaking bad habits. Bottom line: more practice. Other than the occasions we have done these on training days, I don’t think I have done a single set of these on my own.

The stability ball hamstring curls – it’s becoming a neurotic exercise that makes me feel crazy. I know I am not doing terrible things with it, yet at the same time I feel like I am slowly backing away from the point of forward progress. Maybe my ambition for the last half-inch is eating me away and eroding my progress with other aspects of it. Thinking about it this afternoon, I have something new to try with the positioning of my feet and elevation of hips and angle of my feet on the ball as I am working. There is a short-circuit in my thinking and/or ability with this and I would like to expose and correct it before it gets to be my next tearful nemesis. I haven’t had a tearful nemesis in over a year and have been enjoying very happy and fulfilling practices in that time span.

In our last outing with the seated cable rows, J has been stressing and really working with me on letting shoulders relax into a stretch without allowing arms to completely straighten and elbows locking out. Part of his job and what makes him really good at his craft is finding lots and lots of different ways to say the same thing until something sticks with each individual client. Today he came up with a new term for me: we now refer to these as seated low “tree hug” cable rows. The visual works very well for me; keep my arms “short” with elbows bent on the stretch while leaning forward with shoulders first, not from waist and upper body, and pulling back with the shoulders and arch, not leaning back at the waist. Such an ongoing challenge for me. I have on 2 occasions owned and utilized regularly a Concept 2 rower, and most of that comes from pulling and leaning back from the waist. With the new “tree hug” cue in mind, I focus more on the position of my arms and leading with the shoulders on the return.

From there we went to the cable machine and a low facepull. Facepulls are usually from a higher position cable setting, but this worked fine for me. It’s the overhand/underhand that typically messes with my thinking, but we haven’t had that distinction in a while. I’m feeling pretty pleased with my efforts with these of late, and J was kind enough to snap a couple of pictures to show my emerging muscle definition. It was quite thrilling to actually see the defining creases in my upper arms and shoulder caps. I mean, I actually have such things now.

While I freely admit to not being much of a chop fan (floor, cable, stretch band – you name it, none of them appear on my favorites list), I do get the greatest return on investment with the horizontal rope chops. For the most part I have the foot positioning down (parallel) and the anchoring arm/hand furthest away from the cable, and the partial rib tuck (to tighten the oblique) and the lead with the hip while pressing out with the rope. I understand the cues and what I should be doing, but the execution is frequently awkward and not quite as I see it happening in my head. With the horizontal version, I feel the closest I get to performing a fluid and controlled chop, versus this sort of hail Mary hopefully-in-the-ballpark-of-mostly-correct. But like the 1-leg RDL, these do not get trotted out for practice much, if any at all. There are other Lists with different challenges that get the lion’s share of my time and attention.

The lat pulldown – I feel like the special needs tribe member with the lat pulldown. We are back to the wide bar, and I am up to my old tricks of not learning to naturally let my shoulders relax into a shrug at the top. We had multiple tries today, and after watching J demonstrate (again), I am closer than I was last week. But my stubborn mind does not seem to want to grasp all the technical details of this all at once. Pulling down with my elbows and releasing up with my shoulders – I continually want to lean back from the waist on the way down (versus using my thoracic arch) and lean forward from the waist and shrug up unnaturally at the top. Yes, there is a shrug at the top, but it’s supposed to be from the shoulders relaxing, not from me leaning in from the waist. Walking by enroute to and from the locker room, people doing these make it look so easy. All that plus retain a bend in the elbow. Maybe next I try this I should pretend I have no arms on the way up? I am not sure it could be any worse than what is already going on with me. And that’s not to say I’m doing horribly with it; my mind believes it should be simpler than it is for me. I also get that J emphasizes what he emphasizes because he wants me to learn to get the maximum work for my effort. My usual solution (more practice) applies here as well.

And finally, the straight-arm rope pulldown. I am undecided if I am happier with the rope or the straight bar, but mostly I’m happy that I long ago grasped that correct form for this version is butt back and back and arms straight while pulling down with the rope and then splitting it at the bottom close to the body. I had observed others doing this with a more rounded back, so of course I wondered and had to ask about it. Those other people – maybe it was accommodation for their bodies or maybe they were doing it wrong. For me, I am doing it correctly as taught by J. That is truly what matters most to me, because I’m doing well and improving as the weeks pass.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I read this great term – compare and despair – on another blog today. Having never heard that before, I thought it quite brilliant for encapsulating a process I have had to diligently work at abandoning as unhealthy for me. Without thinking I do still fall into that trap, but I do my best to quickly scurry out and away from it.

Comparison is the thief of joy – and self-esteem. I need no help beating the crap out of myself; I have a built-in negative girl locked in a special space for those occasions. It genuinely shocks me when anyone speaks of something I do or have with even the smallest note of covetousness, because I am so invisibly average in my own eyes. Able to lift more? Who me? Have you seen [insert names of numerous ladies far stronger]? Better control of diabetes? It does not appear to be hard-wired into my genetics; everyone in my family similarly afflicted has lifestyle issues that are direct contributors to this condition.

My blindness to any and all attributes I may possess is essentially 99% complete. As an example: in the big boys’ room at the gym this weekend, I was doing bent over rows and looked up to find some guy sitting across from me on a bench and seemingly staring down the neckline of my top. Kind of ewww when I our eyes met and he didn’t even blink, but whatever. Next set he was still sitting there, so I turned my back and decided my ass was much more attractive and he could stare at that instead. By the time I turned to put my weights down, he’d moved on.

But my initial instinct was not that he was staring at my cleavage, and to be completely fair and balanced, he might have simply been staring into space and not seeing me at all. Nope, my initial instinct was what could possibly be so wrong that the man was staring? My hair? Stain on my leggings? Form completely awful? Handling the weights inappropriately? Turning my back and ignoring him was all about me and my stuff; the least disturbing thought to me was that he was looking down my neckline and I would rather not imagine what imperfection he might be laughing on the inside about so I turned my back and forced myself to stop thinking about it.

Since I am 56 years old and do not dress to attract attention in the gym – I buy and wear clothes that are comfortable and please me and my eye – it shocks me when anyone takes any note of any positive thing I might be doing. Always my mind sinks to the worst case scenario. Compliments, kind words, even silence from J when we are training (because no correction or adjustment is needed) are treated in my mind like rare and precious gifts. But comparisons? Only as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Mindset is changing, slowly, because I have some accomplishments worthy of pride. But it has taken a lot of work on my part, and it is hardly a stroke of luck that got me from where I began to where I am right now.

I know other people work very hard as well, and I admire that. But better health is my priority, so that’s also my focus and what gets the lion’s share of my available time and attention. M and I have discussed working out twice per day, something I do once or twice a week right now and primarily for the social aspect of it. However, I also recognize that my weaker intensity, focus, stick-with-it-ness in my own practices does contribute to a desire to do more work. IF I were only more efficient more of the time, I would probably get more done, make faster progress. But I am realistic; I am not to the point where heart and mind want that accelerated progress enough to pump up my intensity and focus. I work longer at my degree of effort, and sometimes it means I have to work a lot more and a lot longer duration than others. I don’t think that makes me wrong. I do think it makes me and my objectives different or on a longer timeline.

Occasionally, I think I need to try harder, be more of a badass who is into her List of the day to the exclusion of everything else. Unless I am in the right frame of mind or playing beat the clock with my gym time, pressuring myself that way only stresses me out and leads to feelings of being a loser. I know I am pretty far from being a loser; I have made significant positive inroads on my better health quest. But my mind can forget those advances in a hot second, and if I cannot maintain my mental discipline and shut off that negative noise, I am going to find myself sledding down my better health iceberg with negative girl at the helm.

Mindset – it’s not something to be blown off, pooh-poohed, or minimized. I take it seriously enough to stay aware of where my head is at while I am at the gym. Many, many, many Monday and Thursday mornings I have not felt like training, yet my hyper-responsible self insists that I go because we have an appointment. Mostly I shrug off the sense of dread by the time I am halfway through my warm-up, my sense of adventure and desire to learn something new kicking into higher gear. While I might be moving sluggishly during transitions or from exercise to exercise, I am giving it my best effort. There have been times when that has not been true, that I felt my best effort was so inadequate why bother trying? Not me, not in a very long time.

I like the gym as a happy place. There are things I dread, groan, bitch, moan, complain about, but I do it anyway. Because it’s good for me. And when everything is said and done, it leaves me feeling great. Still, I reserve my right to dread, groan, bitch, moan, and complain about that which I dislike. It is good for the soul.

With my inchworm forward progress with exercise, I have to be honest about less success and advancement with healthy eating and diet. The struggle with my fork continues and it’s not pretty, uplifting, rainbow-farting unicorns.

For the most part, I do pretty well with healthy food choices. It’s the non-most part – probably 25% of the time – where I falter and gives the most grief. Protein shakes as meal replacements work well for me, as do big-ass salads and eliminating most processed foods has made an enormous difference. Limiting my carbohydrates makes a bigger difference than I ever realized.

It took me more than a year to get to the point where I mustered the ability and discipline and support-related resources to pay attention and work at this effort consistently. As it is, I am imperfect in my efforts. My stress-eating behaviors still rear their ugly heads, and I give up and give in to temptation. It happens more than I want, but it is not the end of the world.

And this is a win for me – that it is not the end of the world. In the two-step dance of lifestyle changes, this is just another of the one-step back in the enduring, life-long process and quest. Being imperfect in my eating strategy this week is not the hill I die on, but a mere molehill on the upward climb through the rest of my life.

I love that simple yet profoundly fundamental change about me, recognizing that I have overcome more than one obstacle over the course of my life and the push-pull in the day-to-day business of living continues despite of all that happened then, or happens today, tomorrow, the rest of my life. Whatever less beneficial choices I may make in the here and now do not mean I lose all my gains to date. My acceptance of that has been a game changer.

And acceptance – for that I have an amazing cast of people who make me want to be better. May we all enjoy happy, healthy lives for a long time to come.

#august2017, #better-health, #confidence, #consistency, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #positivity

Being the decider

I refer to as my tipping point. Others, their epiphany. Still others, their ah-ha moment. That moment when we decide that our health is important and it is time to take the steps necessary to take better care of ourselves.

This week has brought several posts on Facebook, other blogs, forums I follow about that moment in life when we have to decide between the cookie and how much insulin we want to be using, or the couch and the walk around the block. Or both. I have heard it from others for everything from quitting smoking or drugs or alcohol to living outside their means (way too much for one lifetime) or leaving an abusive relationship.

Change, especially lifestyle change, is hard. Anyone who has successfully made that leap and stayed/maintained that course knows how difficult it is at first. Since I am still in the very embryonic change of regular exercise, I am always hesitant to offer much by way of advice. Except choose to do it, every single day, until you don’t have to think about it and make the conscious choice every single day. Not sure when that happens precisely; I believe it’s a “your mileage may vary” situation. Sometimes it feels automatic to me now, but there are days when the alarm goes off and I lie there and have to run through a list of reasons why getting up, dressed, and to the gym is in my best interests.

Whatever the tipping point that makes us decide to try another way to live our lives, the results are rarely glamorous or easy. The people whose stories I read always sound happy to have made the choice, but the actual road to their personal wellville was rather mundane and boring. Or maybe I just think that because my path seems so mundane and boring?

While I can pinpoint the actual day and if I go back and count the actual session that catapulted me into becoming an exercise consistency junkie advocate, my reaction to a very, very mild tough love statement from J was probably a bit extreme. After 3 months of weekly appointments and very minimal effort to practice or get my sad self into the gym between sessions, he said he would like to see me at least twice more between that Thursday and our next meeting the following Thursday. It was mild, delivered without judgment or anything else. In my head, it was the most scathing thing he could have possibly said to me ever. I was a slacker. I was wasting his time. I was going to get fired. OMG – he was going to FIRE me and I would never, ever be able to show my face in any gym in the chain. I would be blacklisted. I would be banned. I might as well die right then and there.

Yes, negative girl did have a flair for the overly dramatic.

The effect was surprising to me and everyone else I know. I got serious about getting to the gym, told myself I had to go every single day for 30 days and then it would be a habit. It was hard at first – getting up at 5:30 (when I was used to getting up at 7), then 5, then 4:30, then 4, even 3:45 for awhile – all so I would have enough time to get through the List of the day. The effect was unexpected. After about 2 weeks of daily visits, I started feeling antsy about the Lists and blowing up J’s phone every day with questions or tearful meltdowns because I was not getting it. I asked for a second session one week, liked it so much I asked if I could continue that way. While I think he was a bit skeptical at first – the daily gym habit was still very new behavior – he found a second spot for me. And the magic truly began to happen.

When I look back, it was heady, exciting times. I made progress so much more quickly. I made mistakes, I adopted a few bad habits with form J had to train me away from, but suddenly I was not only learning the new material more quickly I was actually improving, getting better with it, and the weights were slowly increasing. My confidence grew, and I began to really look forward to my gym time. M was so pleased to see me getting up every morning without complaint and the overall transition from tired and stressed 24/7 to getting adequate rest and much more balanced in my work/life balance.

In reality, it is and was a lot of hard work and letting go of some things I truly enjoyed in order to have that tenuous balance. Some of my friends are no longer close to me – they don’t call or want to hang out. It is akin to a regular drinker becoming a non-drinker, and my boundaries have changed as a consequence of my pursuit of better health. I go to bed at an earlier hour to try and get my baseline amount of sleep, so going out during the week is more limited. For a long while weekends have been sort of challenging to schedule social events because of M’s running schedule, but now with my prioritizing exercise and the gym, I suppose some of my friends began to feel less important than taking care of myself. It was never my intention that it happen that way, but between work and exercise and other stuff in a pretty normal working woman’s life, I have found myself making different and sometimes more difficult choices in how to spend my time.

The hard work is paying off. I feel better, inside and outside. It is easier for me to feel deserving of compliments and less and less like the imposter gym person and more like a woman who prioritizes her health. While I am still a few months shy of 2 years, I will say that the weight that has not dropped from the scale remains a lesser concern, but I’m sidling up to the point of getting more serious and invested in healthier eating options. Of course, I have been dawdling here in the semi-serious state for a year now, so perhaps my sidling is more a very slow sideways shuffle. M, having been sidelined from high mileage running for nearly 6 months now, is finding that curbing his eating impulses are soon to become a reality once again. So maybe that will be the catalyst that makes me do more in that realm. Or perhaps this 27 day fat loss program I’m beta testing will have more impact. We shall see.

But for today, these are the happiest of days. I feel really good in my own skin, and I like the peace that comes from pursuing my daily Lists. Not every day is a successful, all sets, all reps, good form, good amount of weight moved to and fro days of course. But my gratitude at being capable of getting up, getting out, doing something is very real. Watching friends get injured and have to give up on their goals and aspirations is not easy and most definitely a path I want to avoid if at all possible. So I go slowly and am grateful for the inch-by-inch forward progress.

Forward progress, no matter how fast or how tiny, is something to celebrate every day. In my ability, body has to learn to do new things and accept its limitations. In my attitude toward those new things and potential limitations, I am the decider, and I choose all the good things that come from this grand adventure. The story is rather boring and routine if one is seeking fast and easy results, but that is quite all right. Me, better health – no longer any debate that I am worth all this effort and hard work. I didn’t always feel that way; in and of itself, that progress of my sense of self-worth is priceless.

#better-health, #confidence, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #positivity, #progress

PT-9: The path forward

Monday morning, training with J. Today was another huffy and puffy learning session on the FreeMotion machine.

Key Takeaways

Sometimes it is not so much what we/I do in training sessions so much as how it feels that makes training and exercise so great. I like learning new things, but I have come to realize what I value about teaching days is the deeper, broader understanding of the why of it all. For every time J has to remind me to put my shoulders back, I remember why it is important and how much difference it makes in so many other things. The shrug impulse is well entrenched after so many years of typing and cutting myself a lot of slack for not overcoming a well instilled habit is more liberating than I ever expected. Not in the “woo hoo! I can keep my shoulders shrugged until J tells me to stop” sort of way, but in the habits become that way with lots of time and practice and may take that much and more to change.

When I was in high school, my tennis coach used to tell us the practice did not make perfect, only perfect practice made perfect. It was kind of deflating, because my practice efforts were devoted to becoming competent with hopes for proficient. The coach had told us from day 1 that most of his energy would be dedicated to the top seeds on the team, the girls capable of winning matches. Having never done anything competitive before in my entire life, it was quite shocking to my ears. Then as now, I tried very hard. Then and less like now, I lacked the mental fortitude or experience to know how to get tougher and stay the course when I was ready to throw in the towel. I showed up for practices, I tried and worked very hard to learn and to improve, but stuck on the outside with minimal coaching or feedback, the biggest lesson that season taught me was how to lose gracefully and graciously to sharper, stronger opponents.

I think of that frequently these days, because with proper coaching, I might have been a contender. Actually, I doubt that; there was so much I lacked back then that I now enjoy. To my parents, tennis was not even a hobby; if they were even aware that I was competing, tennis was just something I did that took away from my ability to do other, more productive things. Now I have M, chief cheerleader in my better health quest, and a whole tribe who regularly inquire about my endeavors in this area. Even my work colleagues and private clients have kind and positive words about my efforts.

Gym practice is a solo endeavor for the most part. Even others I observe with training partners, one is doing one thing, the other doing another, then they switch. I am living inside my head in my own practices, plotting or planning or slowing down and speeding up to assess the feedback from body. And I realize – it makes me really happy to be in the gym pursuing my List(s) of the day. I like the process, the evaluation, the feedback, the curiosity and that little professor in my mind seems to be paying attention even when I am caught up in what I plan to do next or what the balance of my day holds.

How shocking the thought is to me now, that I am happy to be there and pursuing List(s) of the day. I plan ahead, usually know what I will do once I arrive and changing my mind is primarily driven by equipment availability. The part of me that craves stability and order sings knowing we we do A1, A2, A3, etc. for X numbers of sets and then proceed to the next block. When we are done with the List, and depending on time available, maybe we will run through a set of arch nemesis, push-ups.

But anymore, even that, practicing arch nemesis exercise, I gain perspective. I am improving, albeit slowly. I can accept that and be satisfied, and happy, with positive progress.

What We Did

A1  Freemotion Squat Machine
A2  Floor Seated Dual Cable Lat Pull-downs
A3  Dual Cable Decline Chest Press
A4  Dual Cable Reverse Fly
A5  Dual Cable Straight-Arm Pull-downs

B1  Squat-Row
B2  Resist Rotation Presses (square stance)
B3  Step-Press

C1  Glute Kickbacks or Donkey Kicks
C2  Long Rope Low-High Chops
C3  Dual Cable Bent-over Triceps Kickbacks
C4  Dual Cable Biceps Curl

How It Felt

Back to the Freemotion squat machine and a few sets of 20 or 30 or however many reps we I did per set. Started in the usual “frog” stance (feet wider apart) like a goblet or sumo squat and then moved to a narrower stance like a power squat. Between uses, I forget how much I actually like this machine. The distribution of the weights, from hands to shoulders, makes it not so much easier as different enough to focus on what my glutes, leg, hips are doing and feeling and less on whether arms, hands, shoulders are tiring.

New to me today – floor seat cable lat pull-downs. Yep, doing these sitting on the floor. And it was fine, actually. I thought the actual getting on the floor would be more an issue, but it was not an issue at all – take FreeMotion machine handles, lean back, bend knees, somehow land gracefully on my bum without causing tremors in the entire building. from that angle on the floor, it feels different than sitting on a bench or on a stability ball. Lean forward with the arms extended overhead, push chest up and then shoulders back while pulling down, work the arch in the slight lean back. Feels somehow more powerful and controlled from the floor. Getting up off the floor – I lack J’s confidence and grace in being able to just hold onto the handles and hoist myself upward. Instead, took a couple of tries but figured out that looping my right wrist through one handle then grasping the other in my right hand and putting left hand on the floor and rising from that position worked surprisingly well.

We did a couple of versions of the dual cable decline chest press today, for feels and such. The normal version – where elbows are elevated and spread wide, and the second version – where elbows are closer to sides while pressing. The new and improve cue – chest up then shoulders back – applies here as well and made my shoulder shrugging less of an issue than usual. While it may seem a small change, it has had a positive impact on me already.

I am not sure what it is about dual cable reverse fly, or flys as a species of exercise, but I find them hugely challenging. Whether I am using the cable machine, the bands, waving dumbbells through the air, or laying down on the bench hoisting dumbbells in the air, I am always probing to figure out which muscles are impacted by the movement. And to be honest, I am not always successful in discerning what muscles or muscle groups are working. Nothing hurts – always an excellent sign – but frequently the areas I think I should be targeting are remarkably quiet and serene. Maybe more weight? Slower more listening to what squeaks and speaks? Possibly more arch? The little professor inside my head will continue her inquiries on Wednesday, when next we visit upper body exercises.

The dual cable straight-arm pull-downs are another beneficiary of the chest up, shoulders back cue. We have not done these on the FreeMotion in awhile, and it feels a little different. Mostly, though, I am pleased with my grasp of the new cue and finding less shrug creeping into my shoulders.

Squat-to-row is part of the warm-up List with the bands. Same movement and general feeling with the cable machine. The complexity of these is not lost on me – squat to hip hinge, tighten glutes and quads to rise, tighten abs, pull back in row, chest up and shoulders back, hands at ribcage. Yet I have now been at this long enough to do them without steam coming out my ears in concentration.

It has also been awhile since we have visited the resist rotation press (square stance), and I had forgotten its impacts and how it feels. We went through a couple of different foot positions, and for all the ways I do not always feel other exercises where it seems I should, I almost immediately got the difference between each different foot position on these. Despite how passive this exercise seems to be, it’s surprisingly effective. Hours later and I can still feel it in my obliques.

The step-press is like a single arm chest press with the step. This one in particular is where I feel the peppier, huffy and puffy pacing coming into play. The entirety of huffy and puffy pacing usually coalesces on the second set, because the first I getting the step and press motions smoothed out. By our third set today I had a much better handle on pacing and heart rate stepping up. Using the band warm-up more frequently will help condition me to the rhythm and pacing of the movement.

While there was a choice today between glute kickbacks or donkey kicks, I went immediately to the donkey kicks, primarily because they give me more issues than the glute kickbacks with the high forward leg start. Between the fluffy cuffies and the regular adherence to a couple of days of lower body work each week, I have grown more comfortable and confident. It shows.

Last week we did high-low and horizontal chops with the rope, today we do the long rope low-high chops. But first we tried it with a handle, and that was okay. The rope – so superior and easier to manage. These rotation things – it seems like it is all about the shape, and finding and perfecting my shape on these chop exercises is a challenging.

A newish exercise is the dual cable bent-over triceps kickbacks. These are effective – I can still feel my triceps this many hours later. After 3 sets of 12 to 15, I can feel they were worked and working.

From there we went directly to the dual cable biceps curls, which is a nice contrast after the triceps work. I have some modest, growing affection for curls these days, having now done enough of them to appreciate the new creases appearing in my arms. Definitely my arms are getting stronger, for everything except the pushups.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Occurred to me on the drive home – I am so pleased and so proud of myself. After over 100 training sessions without missing or even requesting a reschedule (vacations don’t count, nor does any time J needs to move our session because of conflicts with his schedule), I think this may be the first time I have had that thought linger in my head. Not that we did anything new, powerful, awe-inspiring today. Maybe that’s the more significant point – the actual movements and exercises are not personal records every week or even something I track, but the fact that I get up, I go, and I do this week after week with a happy heart. Training days – I genuinely look forward to it. Not just because of the interaction – my goodness we do have a lot of fun and are working really hard – but because I learn something new every single session and I continue to improve.

One of the best compliments I receive from my trainer: You’ve been practicing [insert exercise here]. Today it was the cable donkey kicks, and honestly, it completely thrilled me out. While it is not in J’s job description to make my time in the gym a happy period, it has evolved into a surprising byproduct of our work together.

This weekend, I spent some time with a couple of friends who have become crossfit aficionados. It is not for me, not my style of training, but it seems to be working for them, so I can and will be supportive and encouraging for them to continue anything that makes them feel good about themselves and contributes to their overall health. In this, I wish to model the behavior I hope for from others toward me and my better health efforts (unfortunately, my experiences leave room for improvement).

But whereas these friends have spent days or weeks injured from some mishap in the gym, I have enjoyed an mostly injury-free journey thus far. This is critical for me, because pain would sap my enthusiasm very quickly. At the same time, their results and physique transformations are impressive. As we have discussed numerous times, at what cost? The injuries have not been minor gym-related tweaks, but strains and tweaks that required being on the bench for at least a couple of weeks to a couple of months. The nutrition and diet advice is far more stringent and “tracky” than I am willing to endure. And the downs then creep back ups from being injured and having to rest and recover would be demoralizing for me.

So I am far, far happier in my slow and steady progress, my working toward learning correct form and then perfecting well enough that it becomes a second-nature habit versus trying to go-go-go to the cheers and enthusiasm of others in the gym. Mentally and fatigue wise, I am not the tough girl in the tribe; I readily admit being happy to stop after a few reps and sometimes I lose count and call it good enough. And while I very much appreciate the kind words other members share with me about my efforts, the simple off-hand comment from my trainer mentioned above is more motivating for my continued efforts than all the rah-rah-rah I would ever receive in a class or a Crossfit environment. At the end of our discussions about form and function, it boils down to differences in temperament and what I need to get the exercise done versus what they require on their own journeys. Neither approach is more or less correct than the other; we are very different people with very different needs.

Glad I have settled that in my own head.

Surprisingly to me, such discussions tend to bother me less and less as time marches on. This comes up in discussions M has with his runner friends, particularly when it comes to nutrition and fueling ourselves. There is a vocal facet that is very strong on Paleo and the evil of carbohydrates, still another that is vegan and/or vegetarian. Me, I am all about eating in a more balanced way, meaning I eat carbs, including white potatoes and bread. I also eat more vegetables, more protein sources, more balance.

There are always going to be differences in exercise, in training, in diets and in nutrition. People are insanely passionate about their perspective, and it has been a long slog to get here, where I simply care much less about such differences of opinions between factions of people and they ways we choose to pursue optimal health. I do try to listen –  much to be learned listening to other perspectives. But my own confidence in blazing my own trail has solidified and I am assured in my path. Makes listening with genuine interest and not being swayed or impacted by arguments or discussions.

I believe that is real progress.

January is nearly over, next training session is next month. Because I am a planner, I am already thinking about what happens next. For February, I am going to stick with the upper and lower body splits I have been pursuing – perfect practice and such. I will continue to try and press forward with my pacing, pep it up and work the heart rate, but we shall see.

I have been having such fun with the Lists this month, and I am making strides and improvements. Who knows where I shall be in another month with these Lists, but I am certainly looking forward to finding out. I am making slow and steady progress with the individual exercises and my ability to get through each of them. With the overlap, the benefits are broad and will help my form and technique improve with the PHA lists we are presently pursuing.

I am making progress, and I am getting fitter. In a myriad of big and little ways, it shows.

#598, #balance, #confidence, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #positivity