PT-67: Good things (day 31)

Thursday morning, training with J. Back to our mostly regularly scheduled programming. It has been an odd week, with Monday’s unusual evening training, and while today was nothing out of the ordinary, it just feels out of the ordinary. But productive. And FUN! And a lot of hard work.

Key Takeaways

I continue to be amazed by the difference in feels between weights equipment in the gym. Today, it was the kettlebell versus the dumbbell. We were upstairs and using 35 lb. KBs (because the 35 lb. dumbbells live in the big kids’ room downstairs) and boy howdy did they feel heavier and have a different sort of swish to them. Of course, if I had “grown up” using KBs I’d probably be giving my beloved dumbbells the WTF? look instead. J and I have talked about this before, but the distribution of weight is so very different between the shapes. Not being a science or engineering person, I always thought 35 lbs. is 35 lbs. and it all feels heavy. Now having done exercises with the dumbbells, the barbell, and the kettlebells, I have new respect for just how unique each weighted tool.

The big giant rubber bands are now part of my reality. Before a month or so ago, the only time I saw those in service was when someone else was using them for an assisted pull-up. Now I have my own yellow one on order to add to my growing collection of gym paraphernalia that I simply cannot live without and must lug around with me everywhere I go. M had told me that as I got deeper into my routine of choice I would start acquiring stuff to support it. I also broke down and ordered a larger bag to cart my day-to-day crap in, as my assortment of bags small and medium bags to repurpose for gym equipment use seems to have hit the wall.

Speed bandwork is kind of like my version of beat the clock on my favorite huffy puffy Lists, but the objective is to keep going until my arms refuse to work anymore rather than continue until the time beeps to switch to the next exercise. Kind of looks like I was a complete abject failure, choosing to stop when it felt like my arms were just going to be sore later because of trying to get there (and I was right – they are kind of sore). Still, I do not really see it as a failure, more of a new challenge and mind obstacle course to overcome. It has been over a year since J has introduced this concept to me, so not the end of the world that I am rusty on it.

This week, feels like a lot of things returned or were reintroduced and/or repurposed and I am insanely out of shape on them. Mini bands – love, Love, LOVE my mini bands – but not so much in conjunction with glute bridges. Body refuses to remember the endless glute bridges we did week after week in 2015 in the original dumbbell A and B Lists. I am going to have to put forth some consistent practice to get myself whipped back into glute bridge shape.

I still love teaching days.

What We Did

The List is not yet updated, so the names could be changed later. But after forgetting a couple of exercises and their proper ordering (so had to confirm with J to get this right), here’s the List:

Romanian deadlift with 35 lb. KBs
Mini band lateral walks

Double mini band glute bridge
Stability ball hamstring curls

1-arm row with KB
Band horizontal speed rows

Dumbbell overhead pullover
Band speed straight-arm pulldown

Band facepull
Zotman curls

TRX lat pull-up (bonus exercise – just for fun)

How It Felt

Right out the gate, we got started with Romanian deadlifts with 35 lb. kettlebells. Yep, we used a pair of those bad boys this morning, and they felt very strange and heavy in my hands. It’s been awhile since we have done RDLs with anything other than a barbell, and this was a first with 2 KBs. The distribution of the weight makes it feel like a different exercise, or just a much weightier weight.

Mini band lateral walks are a staple in my life anymore, but big novelty of the day was J had a brand new mini band for me to use. Now I have my own and typically have them with me on training days, but he had a matching pair. I feel a bit like a mini band connoisseur and can tell the difference between a newer band and the same band I have used a few dozen times and stretched out. Surely there is a day in my future when the heavier mini bands get all stretched out and feel like the lighter ones when new. The fact that I think about such things and can tell when my bands are getting less elastic speaks volumes about my progression. I am a simple woman in such matters, and it thrills me to know that I’ve worn some out and have to buy another.

I am ridiculously out of shape with a basic glute bridge, much less a double mini band glute bridge (band above and below the knee). I understand and remember the basic concepts – elevate the hips by tightening the glutes and tilting the pelvis, tightening the core and pressing navel into the floor, rib tucking – whatever term I think to use, essentially it all comes down to raise the hips as high as possible while not arching the lower back. While doing all that upward glute and pressing hip bones skyward, press legs against the mini bands to engage the side hips. A lot to think about when glute and hip joints do not seem cooperative about that whole getting butt off the floor action.

I am engaged in a like/don’t hate relationship with the stability ball hamstring curls. They are getting easier, yet still challenging enough that the urge to rush through and be done with them is very powerful. But I do force myself to slow down and try for that last half inch of pulling the ball in toward me. Today I had this weird cramp in my glute doing these and I know it is from sitting and working much more than has become typical for me. I took a brief pause, explained to J that I was having a weird glute cramp, and got back to it. He suggested not raising hips as high – going about half of what I’m usually trying for – and that did make a difference. Not sitting in an office chair for hours at a stretch will make a much bigger difference, though.

The 1-arm row with 35 lb. kettlebell was new today. This is/was a step-up in weight for me, and the KB shape difference also had an impact. I have done these with a 35 lb. dumbbell and while heavier it is manageable, but my present customary weight is 30 lbs. So while this KB was heavier, the 5 lb. difference felt a lot more significant and the round bell part of the weight created a distinct swish urge. What I mean is, with a dumbbell I pull the weight up through my shoulder with my hand and wrist steady toward and toward my hip. Even with the heavier dumbbell, my arm and wrist stay stable and still while pulling with my shoulder. However with the kettlebell, the urge to unbend my bent elbow and swing the bell toward my hip is strong. I don’t think it is the weight itself so much as the distribution thereof. I mostly resisted the urge to swish it, but the fact that I’m detailing it here tells me I might have flickered my wrist and arm more than I realized.

Band work for speed returned today with the band horizontal speed rows. I like these because we don’t count reps and the objective is to maintain good form while going as fast as I can until it feels like my arms are about to fall out of my shoulder sockets. Cues here were the usual ones – chest up, pull back with shoulders and relax forward into the stretch – and keep that up until shoulders start to round forward with fatigue and then do at least 5 more. Signs of growth and forward progress? That actually makes perfect sense to me.

A favorite is the dumbbell overhead pullover, today with a 30 lb. dumbbell (when not downstairs to snag a 35 lb.). Since I have be retraining myself to put my feet on the floor (rather than on the bench), I think I might like these even more. It’s almost like a whole body exercise, since we’re focused on pulling the weight back overhead and tightening those lats and abs and stuff while hefting the weightier weight.

For the band speed straight-arm pulldown, we used the lightest yellow band over the highest bar on the TRX rack, and believe me, both points make a difference in the way this exercise feels. Usual cues are in place – chest up and shoulders back, pull bands straight down – only once I get the groove down go as fast as possible while maintaining good form until shoulders start to round and then do 5 more (before collapsing to the floor in a heap). (Okay, that last was just the thought that flitters through my mind; J would never suggest such a thing out loud.) After the work we did today, I was feeling the fatigue and ready to stop almost immediately after starting, but I kinda/sorta hung in to get the feel for what the speed work actually feels like to me. After the first set, I gave up trying to hold onto the handles and went back to my usual grip on the band just above the handles. No idea why it makes a difference, except for the habit that comes with 2 years of doing straight-arm pulldowns with that grip. I am still feeling the work in my lats and back muscles from this block of exercises.

Or maybe it was the new band facepull exercise I learned today. More and more lately we have been using the big giant rubberband loop rather than the 2-handled stretchy bands for various things, and I have come to appreciate it more than that regular stretchy bands. For the facepull, J secured it to the rack and then showed me how to grip the band about shoulder width apart to mimic the rope attachment on the cable tower. The rest of the facepull action works my back and shoulder muscles in similar ways as the cable tower. Fascinating to me how effective this is as an exercise, but when people discuss resistance training they are usually thinking weights or cables and overlooking the effectiveness of the bands.

I remain sort of ho-hum on most bicep curls, and the Zotman curls are so unmemorable I had to text J to ask what was paired with what because of the last 2 blocks of exercise pairings I could only remember 3. The Zotmans I find interesting if only because I have to keep an eye on my shoulders to make sure they are not wandering too far back or trying to shrug up. While I most definitely have more bicep mass than I can ever recall having, I suppose I don’t care enough about them to expend a lot of focus on what feels like a boring exercise. When curls appear on Lists I do them, but it’s not an “oh goody! Bicep curl!” type experience.

Someday I might want to do a pull-up, but that someday is so far into the mysterious future I cannot even envision it. I learned today how to do a TRX lat pull-up, though, and it was plenty enough work to keep the regular pull-up a very distant future aspiration when I have conquered and mastered everything else. The basic shape was easy enough to understand – shorten the strap handles to absolute minimum, grab shortened handles and squat with arms extended overhead, then step forward so upper body is at an angle as if doing a lat pulldown. From there, pull up with arms and lats, using legs as little as possible while pulling up. It was hard, but absolutely captured my imagination as not that impossible for me to improve upon with practice. I love that. J says this can substitute for the overhead pullover, but since I love that one too, it will remain kind of a standalone bonus exercise for this List.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Pondering a multitude of things today. With all the stuff going on in the world, with Harvey and the fallout of that natural disaster in Houston, I do have an attitude of gratitude and hopeful heart for those who have lost their homes and possessions and remain displaced. Since one of my biggest clients is sort of from that area and still maintains a home and large business presence there, it has been something I have been dealing with this week. He has several investment properties there in flooded neighborhoods and will soon be getting some first-hand reports about damages from his local property managers. In the meantime, families are displaced and completely devoid of possessions. It’s impossible for me to even imagine how that feels.

I was reading a few things this morning about survivor’s guilt that gave me pause. One of my nearest and dearest passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week, yet of the range of emotions I feel, guilt is conspicuously absent. I am incredibly sad and insanely angry at times, but mostly happy and grateful for the rich cache of memories, painful as they feel in this time period. It makes me wonder what drives that. I am a survivor of a few things, and perhaps I have had enough therapy through the years to cleanse my system of anything as wasteful as guilt.

With the better health quest, I periodically get questions and comments akin to “don’t you wish you started earlier in life?” I am not a worrier by nature, nor am I someone who looks back with regret, so I find such inquiries perplexing. Worry and regret imply opportunity for different outcomes, an issue of control and decision-making and obsessing over aspects of both outside my sphere of influence. I tend to be pragmatic about things, look at my options and make the best choice possible, and yes, sometimes there is an emotional bend to what course I select. Depending upon the situation, I might be plagued or crippled by insecurity and self-doubt about the various ways to do things, but once the decision is made, it is done and no amount of worry about rightness or wrongness of my choices would alter the situation. If the decision rested with someone else, I would offer an opinion, sometimes passionately argue my point of view, but I respect our individual autonomy. I am not an “I told you so” sort of judgment being. If things don’t work out based on choices made, it’s part of life’s learning curves.

Such is the timing and ongoing nature of my better health quest. Of course I knew 20 or even 30 years ago that regular exercise and healthier eating would benefit me, but during those periods there were other goings on in my life that made better long-term health decisions a far lower priority. I think about it now, as I have young adult children with eating habits that directly relate to their upbringing and it does come up in our discussions. Mom guilt is definitely a thing, but not one that has infected me directly. I can tell you I did the best I could, but that’s inaccurate. I made choices based on the circumstances and situations in my life at the time, and while many of those choices were very good, sound, practical – near as I can tell both my kids are productive members of society – not every decision I made as a parent was in the kids’ best interests. I do not feel defensive about my parenting, and if someday they tell me they hate me and that I am/was a terrible mother, well okay. They are adults and have complete agency and independence to base their own impulses, choices, and beliefs upon their own truths, hierarchy of values and needs, and I absolutely respect that. Unless there is something specific for which they can cite and I should from my own judgment apologize for, I am/was a good and imperfect parent. Just like every other parent I personally know.

I can look back with regret for not gaining mastery and control over my diabetes before it became an issue for which injected insulin was required. But why? Energy is a finite resource; why waste it on something I cannot change now? Hence my tendency to dismiss worry and regret. Going forward, I am fortunate to have a body that responds as well as it does to regular exercise and adjustments to the fuel I feed it. Key for me: in the present moment, while I am training with J or practicing on my own or planning my meals or drinking my protein shakes, I know I will regret any conscious decision to stop if I quit now. Beginning, middle, end of story about why I focus on consistency and developing better habits.

In the gym, I try to be super careful about form and not getting hurt. Because I don’t want to be sidelined for doing something stupid. With my current healthier eating strategy, I am ruthlessly cutting back on processed foods, especially carbohydrates. I eat bread 2 or 3 times per week in meat and cheese sandwiches. I have single portion servings of potatoes and rice with a few dinners each week. Pasta has become something for special occasions or when I just have some amazing craving for spaghetti or lasagna. Pizza remains my one big splurge food, but I am pretty disciplined about no more than 2 slender slices or cutting one bigger slice in half. Fresh fruit is my primary gratuitous sugar source, and I eat A LOT more vegetables and green and leafy salads. Protein shakes are fast and easy and my staple before morning practices/training and occasionally as a midday meal (if I am overwhelmed with work) or snack (if I am returning to the gym for a social practice).

The effort is starting to show. It feels like owning up to that feels right and normal and honest, not like I am claiming premature victory. In fact, if I can own when I do not work as hard as I think is reasonable (slacker me), then I can own that the scale is being nudged along by the changes in my eating habits and consistent efforts in the gym.

For me, that’s big progress.

I still do not chase the scale. I have desensitized myself to it as merely a tool for data gathering and hop on every morning, make note of the reading, and continue on with my day. The angst and self-flagellation for lack of positive outcomes is a distant spot in my rearview mirror. As long as my glucose meter reports predictably normal results I have no real concerns.

Kitchen sink – so appropriate for the randomness of my thoughts today from and about training. While I could tell you about the theological and anatomy discussion, some things that happen in training need to stay in training. Besides, my training recaps are overly long as it is anyway.

I was pretty wrung out by the time we finished today, but in good ways. Work has been busy/hectic/crazy, and because of the type of project I have been working on this week I have actually sitting for extended stretches analyzing spreadsheets rather than standing or walking on my treadmill desk. Who knew sitting like this would be detrimental to my hips and glutes? I had this weird cramp in my hamstring/glute this morning doing hammie curls and had to stop for a quick rest, but I got back into it and saved the set. Standing at the treadmill desk for extended periods is having some better effect than sitting, but I am paying attention to my Fitbit alarms to move and stepping down and walking around for the 250 step minimum every hour.

The really great thing these days: I like the way I feel. Granted fitting into smaller sized yoga pants is a huge rush, but I simply like the way body feels and the budding confidence that I can and will get up from the floor under my own power and without needing assistance. Huge. My mind feels clearer and my focus sharper. I’m starting to consider things like getting my trusty beach bike cleaned up and ready to deploy again, because I believe myself far more capable now than the last time I was last it was out and about on it (that’s like 5 years if I am counting). Maybe there is a “real” bike in my future. Or not. Time will tell.

While I would like to step out and take more walks to clear my head and wind down from an intense workday, temperatures have been 100+ all week and not something I want to go out into just to clear my head. But I am thinking about the cooler fall and winter months, how it might be nice to step out in the middle of the day and take a 30 minute walk as I did when my days had more structure with a lunch hour in the middle. That my mindset has adjusted to go to the gym for a huffy-puffy List or take a walk (when it’s not blisteringly miserable outside) is a huge victory for me. Before, it might have been surf the net or take a walk to the kitchen and eat crackers or other tasty (but so not good for me) snack foods.

Last week a lost friend returned to the friendship fold after being away for a short marriage and longer divorce proceedings. She had heard about our friend’s death and reached out. We had a very nice 2+ hour conversation by phone and will get together when she returns to the area in October. But chatting with me, she marveled at my attitude of self-assurance and self-acceptance. While at times it seems I should have been here long before this point in my life, some life lessons take longer to master. Again, looking forward to whatever comes next rather than look backwards with regret at the coulda/shoulda/woulda factor is far healthier for me.

I apply that to the exercise as well. We did some new things today, and I always like learning new things, even new things I dislike. I now have my own big giant rubber band on order so I need not chase around the gym to find one when I want to use it, nearly always when I am downstairs in the big kids’ room (more accurately renamed by my son because there are plenty of women using that area that comfortably own their places) and the bands are kept in the storage locker upstairs. Where I once looked back at training days and grimaced for all I failed to do properly or with enough intensity or commitment, now I look forward to practice on my own and figuring out where I feel weak or have questions or need a do-over on the demonstrations. It is what it is – sometimes I just don’t get it – and I have lost any and all shame about having to ask for help.

But what really cements this for me – recently I think I have been trying to do things with too heavy or too light of weights. Too heavy is always easier to diagnose – struggle, struggle, fail, or worse, something hurts in sharp and unnatural ways. Too light is tougher, because there are a lot of exercises where we do lesser weights or resistance and pursue longer sets. Where I began to take note is when form started to suck eggs and be sloppy, so I had to slow down and analyze where I was going wrong (this time). When it has been a long-standing exercise that reappears on various Lists, I feel/felt sort of dumb for having to ask for refresh.

I know I should not feel dumb. I also know my lack of recall on everything is not something I market or wear like a brand for fame and glory, which is a not-so-private fear of mine. So when I have one of those moments, better to make note of it and text my question while it’s fresh. Maybe it’s a big step forward that those types of texts are fewer and farther between than the random chit chat we typically exchange.

Which is another topic simmering in the recesses of my mind – mindset is such a curious thing. How do we change it or improve upon it? How do we make ourselves develop the discipline to be consistent at something beneficial that is a whole lot of painful work?

Near as I can tell, the habit of doing the same things over and over and over again eventually breeds success. Muscles become more resilient and capable of the workload. Tastebuds change and what once tasted so amazing (eventually) becomes overwhelming in less than positive ways.

I can speak with far more assurance in the exercise realm. There was a new variation on the high-to-low chops on Monday. Every single time I have tried the newer variation these last few days, I inevitably revert to the original version. If there is such a thing as muscle memory, my muscles remember how I learned this movement and forces me to consciously change shape and direction to make myself perform the other one. And high-to-lows are not even something I feel especially good or gifted at doing either. But my habit says “hinge” when the new version is more deliberate side bend.

Healthier eating is an ongoing battle and likely will be into the foreseeable future. My love of sugar and junk food is a lifelong addiction and must be respected as such. I know people who are absolute models of consistency when it comes to practicing moderation, but at this point in my life with food, it’s absolutely not me. And I suspect it will always be some measure of struggle, and I have learned to accept this as part of my reality. Putting that into perspective, over the course of my life to date I have overcome much bigger and much greater challenges. Time and practice, I will gain some mastery over this as well.

Finding balance is another skill that has me surfing the learning curve in knowing how and when to utilize it appropriately. Yet another tool in life’s toolbox. Gaining enough experience with that skill to utilize it effectively and efficiently is quite the trial-and-error learning process, though.

I love my job, and the biggest chunk of my time is spent in front of computer screens. However, my next challenge is not so much juggling all the work I have to do so much as it is learning to stand or find the right slow-mo speed for the treadmill desk to lull me into the focused trance that I need to get through a tougher project without having to sit down 10+ hours per day. As J pointed out to me this morning, it is not so much the sitting so much as it is the staying in one position for extended periods of time.

For me personally, I need to be on my feet more of the time anyway. The discoloration and swelling in my left leg tends to return when I sit for extended periods. I have grown complacent with my more active workdays, and it was disappointing to see the darkness return to my left shin. Another insistent reminder that sitting for extended periods is something to be avoided if at all possible.

Writing about all this today and triggered (positively) by several posts in my fat loss group to think about the why of it all, I thought about John Kennedy’s famous quote about space exploration:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

My time to learn to exercise, to eat better, is now. For me, my life does depend upon the better health quest, adopting and learning habits that will carry me through more gracefully into even older and grayer twilight years. While I have no clear idea what retirement may look like, I do know that my hopes are pinned on being an active participant, to not be sitting on the sidelines and wishing to be younger and stronger so I could move more freely through my life. Already it bothers me that my hips and glutes are trying to solidify and turn to stone after a few days of mostly sitting and staring intently at my computer screen. The regular exercise and healthier eating strategy is hard, but not impossible and definitely not beyond reach. In this struggle I am and was just like everyone else starting out or falling out of the habit. Finally I have managed to get far enough out of my own way to feel successful, so much so that it no longer worries me how I might fall down or falter in my quest. I now have enough experience and enough tools to know I can and will get back up and reclaim my present level of success.

But I would really rather not fall down, so I focus on my consistency in the better health quest over everything else. The rest will fall into place eventually.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #consistency, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #positivity, #productivitiy, #progress, #weight-loss

Shaving sleep (day 19)

For numerous good reasons, I have not been sleeping well or enough this month. Last night I was up until well past midnight, and when the alarm went off at 4, and then again at 5, it got shut off and shoved under the pillow as I slumbered on.

Needless to say, no gym practice for me this morning.

Thinking about it throughout my busy workday morning, the extra 3 hours of sleep were almost mandatory. A bothersome trait I have about my better health quest is my inability to consistently implement a flexibility of mindset – I remain rather all-or-nothing when it comes to exercise and when I am at the gym. Slowly, oh so slowly that is changing, but it’s still hard. The apocalypse is not taking any notice of my activities (or lack thereof), because I wasn’t in the gym by 6 a.m. this morning nothing happened. Most likely the apocalypse will still be occupied elsewhere if I do not make it by 6 p.m. this evening. Heck, at this point I might need 6 consecutive days off to really fall completely out of my exercise habits and I am quite sure the apocalypse will remain oblivious.

But I think about it, probably way more than is actually necessary for any normal person. I imagine all the doomsday scenarios, everything from never getting up and to the gym in my preferred early morning hours and having to go evenings when it is busy/hectic/crazy everywhere to never going again at all. Of course none of that is likely to happen. Of course it has been a busy and strange month in a life of busy and strange days and weeks. I fear my own nutball craziness enough to respect that for all my good intentions, it is so easy to relax too much and find myself falling away from my hard work and good effort. Uncontrolled diabetes, weight gain, loss of strength is merely a few choices and justifications away.

As always, it is the small kernels of casual tossed-off information from training sessions that take root and bloom in my mind. J said something yesterday about another tribe couple he’s working with talking about his ability to get up and down off the gym floor with such alacrity, something I have also noted and admired and mostly chalked up to youth and fitness. But secretly – I aspire for something like that myself. I would like to be able to just get up off the floor after planking or hamstring curling or floor chopping and not be envisioning it as a strategic problem equivalent to unsinking the Titanic from the ocean floor. Little things, life’s more practical tasks – these are the stuff that compose my better health and fitness dreams.

So I’ll go to the gym tonight. Friend K once described a Friday night at the gym as the lonelyhearts club, which makes me laugh. I don’t care if people are dateless and desperate; I would just like it to be quiet enough to use whatever equipment I desire without having to negotiate for it.

And speaking of friend K – she deadlifted 270 lbs. last night. So very proud of her in this pursuit and even happier I was there to see it happen.

Just in case you’re keeping track, day 18 is a training recap and did not get finished yesterday. I am hopeful that it is published before the day is over. 

#august2017, #better-health, #choices, #consistency, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #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

Today, it’s mostly about me (day 9)

Walking out of the gym this morning a regular member I see most weeks was walking in. She works with another trainer, but our paths cross so routinely that we’ve gotten to know one another a bit and exchange pleasantries.

Today we chatted briefly in passing and she paid me a highly prized compliment. She said: “You are looking great and I can’t believe how fit you’ve gotten.” I thanked her for her kindness, and she replied “I’m not being kind, I’m being honest. ”

Still, the spontaneous compliment set me all a-glow. For the whole day thus far. And I’m meeting up with friend K tonight for a push workout (she just got the List J and I went through on Monday) and really looking forward to the practice as well as seeing and catching up with my friend.

Life is good.

But this morning, I was remarking to K that going through a huffy-puffy List with both planks and floor crunches/chops (aka sit-ups) and found myself idly wonder whether or not I really needed a strong core. Sweating, breathing hard, feeling exhausted – I was thinking abs must be overrated if they are this much work to excavate. But after 3 sets, I was primarily happy to be done with them for that List of the day. Kicking my own ass, as they say – I am determined to try and improve my performance on these bad boys and for me that only comes with consistent and overwhelming practice.

But no matter. While I sweat and swear and wish to any higher powers listening to NOT have to struggle through the harder exercise and fitness stuff each day, I nearly always feel physically and mentally amazing afterwards. It’s like every day is a little marathon and I cross the finish line when I do the last rep of the last item in the set each morning. Some days I might have a bonus round – a nemesis thing that disrupts my thinking or something else I feel really good at that was once a lot more challenging – but those don’t count as much in my satisfaction quotient.

Today’s huffy-puffy List included 3 sets of the following (with some revisions and substitutions for general laziness and extra practice):

Bulgarian split squats – 12 bodyweight, 2 sets of 12 with pair of 5 lb. DBs
1-arm row Subbed bent over rows (so I didn’t have to mess with the bench) – 20 lb. DBs
Plank off bench with step-in/step-out/heel up High intensity planks floor (for extra practice) – 2 intervals/15 seconds each per set

Romanian deadlifts – 15 with 30 lb. DBs
Flat bench chest press – 15 with 20 lb. DB; 2 sets of 15 with 25 lb. DBs
Stability ball pass off bench Reach-up crunches/chopper sit-ups – 6 per set

1-arm overhead press 1-arm DB snatch – 8 per set, 15 lb. DB
DB overhead pullover – 15 per set with 25 lb. DB
DB triceps extensions – 15 per set with 15 lb. DBs

I was back in the gym this evening to practice with K. I swear, we laugh and talk and have so much fun together working at the List du jour. No deadlifting tonight – we were busy going through our push exercises and chatting amongst ourselves and with other members. Wednesday nights are a highlight of my week. Extra bonus round: saw my son, who dropped in to use the pool for lap swimming.

So today was pretty much mostly about me. And I enjoy the vast majority of it.

#august2017, #better-health, #consistency, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #progress

PT-32.1: Level of effort

Thursday morning review day. Since it has been a busy, hectic, crazy week on all fronts, I did not get the other half of my recap written on Monday. So it’s a big giant learning day and review day recap here.

Key Takeaways

Every week, I am reminded there is so much yet to learn. Fab trainer J has always been transparent about his ongoing journey to learn more and gain insight, and that is so encouraging for me.

Despite my low energy Monday and significantly better Thursday, training this week was particularly challenging, mostly because of events well outside the gym with work (bananas!) and family issues (serious illness recovery, job searches, and work spillage). All these things are temporary – work will calm or I will find better ways to manage, family members are on the mend, job searches will resolve, and work spillage into the rest of my life will be contained. Growth, progress, maturity for me is knowing these things are just part of the ebb and flow of life, not signs that I am losing my enthusiasm, commitment, discipline, and becoming terrible tribe member/training client. Unusually busy, personal stress on several fronts with several family members all at once, not getting adequate sleep (because of unusually busy, helping/supporting family) is not business as usual for me.

I find my ability to care whether we are recycling the same exercise in different ways is practically nonexistent. I also find that not recapping Monday leaves me feeling lost and unprepared for Thursday, which is kind of a new-ish experience. The mild overachiever within me wants to know what to expect and not have to have J reminding me that this is next, or that is next, or worse – repeating cues from Monday. But oh well. This week was particularly challenging, even for a huffy puffy, yet ultimately I know it takes time and practice. I will get there.

Part of me is torn between wanting another review week of huffy puffy Lists and leaving J to do whatever it is he wants to explore next. While I am feeling the newness of calf-building exercises, I am more interested in expanding my proficiency with the various Lists so I can peppy up my pacing. Sometimes I get lost in the minutia of form details and sacrifice my pace to go off on a mental tangent of whether or not I am doing something correctly or not. I marvel that I am not beating myself up for this transgression. Part of the huffy puffy training is learning to push myself to another level or different type of workload. I am learning it and I am improving overall. But I get back to my so many Lists, so few practice days concern. It works out, I know, but that does not mean I’m not thinking about it all the time.

While I am significantly stronger and have a much better sense of balance, i.e., I rarely trip over the pattern in a piece of carpet anymore, there are still so many ways to balance and find body tweaks out and freaks out and leaves me falling over somehow. I suppose it was a bit cocky of me to assume that I had most conquered all the ways I can fall over. Oh well. Live, learn, keep trying, keep practicing.

I’m not sure how to characterize this week – it was good, just not as enthusiastically amazing as has been typical. My energy level and distraction are at highs not seen since our very earliest days, but I feel like my level of effort and at least trying to follow J’s directions was normal. One of the biggest weapons my negative girl mindset would use against me is that I was not trying hard enough to succeed or to learn what J is teaching. Everyone now and again that rears its ugly little head, and I have to rationally evaluate my behaviors to see if I am indeed gold bricking my way through session. I don’t think so, but it’s one of those legacy thoughts that always surfaces when I feel as if I am somehow falling short with the List at hand.

I am infinitely better at overcoming my own doubts and negative girl impulses. Maybe I need another refresh on the List. Or maybe I just need some time on my own to practice and gain more mastery. I am in the gym most days, and most of the time I am pursuing a List to its conclusion on those days. The rest of my time I am working on things giving me grief or exercises I really happen to enjoy or what sounds like a good idea for that day. But I am serious enough. Negative girl cannot accuse me of being a dilettante.

What We Did

The List for this week:

A1  DB Reverse Lunge
A2  DB RDL
A3  DB Good Morning
A4  DB Front Squat
A5  DB Push Press
A6  DB Bent-over Row
A7  Floor Press/Fly Hybrid*
A8  Floor Triceps Extensions

B1  DB Hammer Curls
B2  DB Alt. Overhead Presses
B3  DB Alt. Step Ups (low box)
B4  DB Bent-over Alt. Row
B5  DB Alt. Reverse Lunge w/ Overhead Press
B6  DB RDL
B7  Standing DB Calf Raise (off 10 or 25lb plates)

How It Felt

The dumbbell reverse lunges – I do pretty well with these anymore. I have to remember to stand up straight at the top and before going into the next one – a J reminder on Monday  that I mostly did better implementing today – and peppy up that pacing. While I want to be really deliberate and make sure my foot is just so, huffy-puffy is all about pepping up the pace while maintaining good form. The weights in my hands were lighter than usual (10 lb. set of dumbbells first set, 12 lb. set second and third) and mean that I should be able to go at a faster steady pace. Part of this is all in my head, sending out shockwaves of anxiety and fear about what Very Bad Thing could befall me. I know this, though. I know how my foot wanders too far one side or the other I will weeble-wobble and have to adjust. But so what, Janelle? Weeble wobble if that’s what it takes but peppy the f**k up out of these Lists. Or so goes the dialog in my head. For everything.

I love, Love, LOVE this version of the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, and not just because the weights are not so weighty. Nope, other than keeping long arms and shoulders down, I seem to have these pretty well dialed in. Now with the new cues of ensuring my shoulders are low and arms lengthened, I can let the weight be further out in front of my legs and still feel the work in the hamstrings and such. Tighten hamstrings first before elevating torso. I am not even second guessing myself that I am doing these correctly, only trying to find some peppy rhythm that keeps up the huffy puffy pace.

Still feels like a learning curve with the dumbbell good mornings. Holding the dumbbells on the shoulder while doing a Romanian deadlift feels … different. I don’t hinge/bend as far forward holding the weight this way, but it sure feels like it, in that the workload feels very similar. The balance is not what I’m used to, and I am very conscious of those dumbbells resting on my shoulders. I don’t know exactly what I think about these, except I feel the need to be precise and careful about form.

The dumbbell front squats for this List are also done with dumbbells resting on shoulders, but these are less alarming to my nervous system than the good mornings because I am going up and down versus leaning forward. It is intriguing to me how the different ways I hold the weight end up feeling in the ways the muscles work and feel. This is part of the general learning curve for exercise, because before starting with J, I had no idea there were so many versions of squats, rows, pushes, pulls, chops, etc.

While J has this formal name of the dumbbell push press, which is essentially a front squat to an overhead press, I think of these as pop tarts, because toast does not sound nearly exotic and complicated enough. Plus while pop tarts are a guilty pleasure, as in most things food I am very specific and particular about them (as in I will only indulge in the unfrosted blueberry, and thankfully those are very difficult to find). But anyway, in my mind, these are pop tarts. For the most part, I can get through first couple of sets without too much drama and angst, but that third one – I am really having to focus on the momentum to get those weights elevated overhead. And still not always successful. Huffy puffy effective? You betcha, especially with the pacing. I have a feeling the nickname for this exercise might be because it ultimately worms my way onto my favorites List. But for now, the struggle is real and the challenge makes me smile.

Rows are a favorite, but today we had a new thought/cue on the dumbbell bent-over row that makes them make more sense to me. J has been telling me to spread the chest on this one, which makes sense in the moment yet seems rather distant the rest of the time. I get it. I understand it. But from where I am sitting right now, it is hard to envision in my mind. Then, today the magic cue was born. J suggesting thinking of it as the rear fly, and cha-ching, coin drop moment. I completely get the “chest spread” cue now once associated with that other exercise and am feeling as if more consistency in my rowing became reality today.

For some people, the idea of lying on the bare gym floor to do chest press/fly hybrids would be a horror story. Not me; this may be my equivalent of going outside and getting dirty. For this one, J had me bring legs up, bend knees, and try to keep my back flat on the floor while doing the press in order to engage the abs more, kind of a lying down rib tuck. And boy howdy, it works out pretty well for me, because I can still feel my abs 12 hours later. Very different, too, is that on the bench I am so very focused on my upper back arch, whereas doing these I am trying harder to focus on pressing small of my back into the floor. As for the actual movement, it is surprisingly easy for me to grow accustomed to having my elbows on the floor be the determiner of the bottom. What has been trickier is using my shoulders to turn the weights at the top outward so pinkies would be meeting in the middle if the end of a dumbbell was not in between. The easier path is to simply turn arms and wrists to achieve this objective, but after a little experimentation I came to understand the difference and what it feels like to me. This does not mean I did so correctly each and every time. Nope, only that I know what I am supposed to be doing and how it feels and what I am striving to achieve.

Doing the floor triceps extension is also just like doing them on the bench, only the weight makes this very satisfying and soft thud over my head as it lands on the rubberized floor in the gym. Again with the legs elevated and trying hard to remember to press small of the back into the floor, these are also very effective on the abs. Peppying up the pacing and max reps until triceps burn up – these are fun in their challenge. Truly, it’s little things that make the exercise interesting and takes it away and long past merely endurable or bearable.

Second block we began with the dumbbell hammer curls. Not a lot to say about these, except I am not a big giant fan-girl of most bicep curl-like exercises. But they are effective – my upper arms are looking pretty bodacious and have have interesting little creases in my forearms from muscle finally peeking through. So yeah, I should just quit whining about how I do not especially care for these and just suck it up and deal when they appear on a List. Because they are effective and getting the job done.

Typically, I love dumbbell alternating overhead presses. But after a few rounds of pop tarts in the first block, I arrive at these feeling a little pre-fatigued. Maybe this List is partly an endurance test to work my focus when I’m tired? Who knows. But since they are alternating, I can usually find my happy place of balance and get through these without too much of an unhappy expression.

Oh my – the dumbbell alternating step-ups on the low box. It’s not the step-ups themselves or even the dumbbells in my hands that give me grief. Hands down, it’s the confusion of remembering which foot I am on in the alternating part. In theory, I step up with one foot, step down first with the same foot, then step up again with the last foot to hit the floor. In practice, it’s probably better for me to step up with one foot, step down with the other foot first, leading to a better cadence of alternating and not mind-scrambling confusion about where I am in these things. I am quite sure this has something to do with my left-handedness and early childhood attempts by misguided adults to turn me into a right hander. To this day I still have to stop and assess which is right, which is left before offering any sort of directional assistance.

Probably my favorite row (and I do love rows) is the dumbbell bent over alternating rows. I feel like I mostly have these down pretty well, although J rightly points out that keeping back still (my tendency is to bob up and down slightly to wildly) while pulling. I did much better today – maybe I need to get my own had to perch on my back while going through these? J does that to emphasize the gratuitous movement and I tend to focus on staying still. It is easier to huffy puffy pace these out as well.

If I had concerns earlier in this block about overhead presses and fatigue, by the time we get to the dumbbell alternating reverse lunge with overhead press I was feeling like my arms may be numb. But I soldiered onward, because I am becoming fascinated again by the potential fluidity of this movement. Reverse lunge, then curl the weight upward, then press weights up overhead while pressing through heel back to feel, then on my way back to next reverse lunge while lowering the weights on the next. Lather, rinse, repeat. Between trying to keep up a faster cadence and my own fascination with the movement, these have potential. Now if I could only develop enough discipline and focus to be able to think about all that stuff while automatically executing a successful reverse lunge consistently. And finish the minimum reps per side. At least I won’t be bored anytime soon.

In this block, the dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are to be significantly more reps. I believe on Monday J said “shoot for 30.” Today I heard no such suggestion, but it’s been burned into my mind until overwritten by some new guideline. I strive for at least 15 or 16 and cannot remember where I lost count. Because in truth, I do lose count. I feel like stopping so I stop. Then J says “let’s do 5 more” so we do 5 more. It’s a very good system for training day. On my own, I tend to be better about rep counts.

Then we come to the bane of my present week’s exercise existence – calves. Specifically this week, standing dumbbell calf raises, or tippy-toes off plates as I think of them. Having spent much of my adult life wearing some semblance of high heels for work, I would think I would be better at these. Honestly, I completely suck at everything calves right now. I’m falling over. I’m not feeling it in my calves. Suddenly calves wake up and oh my they feel all cramped and uncomfortable. Then I’m falling over yet again. Do 30 of these in a single set? Even bodyweight, I suck at these. It is a temporary condition; I will practice and gain mastery, but for right now, could be embarrassing if I actually cared what other people think about my exercise ability. I have long suspected my learning style is to bang head repeatedly against the nearest wall until the epiphany happens and understanding blooms. Apparently I will just have to learn to balance on tippy toes resting on weight plates; hopefully it will not take as long as the single legged everything. Today J suggested adding a slight knee bend, only I am conditioned to do squats and kept wanting to do that form instead of just bending knees slightly while staying upright. Barefoot on my bathroom run, I got the basic shape down. Replicating that next I do this List? We shall see. At least I have the plate placement memorized so they are not wiggling around beneath my tippy toes.

Practices Between Now and Monday

I believe this will be a huffy puffy List review. My library now has 5 PHA (periperhal heart action) Lists and I would like to revisit and review the first 2 tomorrow and Saturday. Assuming my energy continues to build as it has since Monday (yet is not quite back to 100% yet). Sunday, I think will be a lower body day, just because it’s been a week since I have done a dedicated lower body List.

#consistency, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #hope, #inspiration, #mental-health, #positivity

31.1: Low energy, good tidings, feeling fortunate

Monday morning, training with J. It was a weirdly productive session, with both of us arriving with some sort of low-level, low-energy malaise. J at least has a reasonable explanation; an entire week of suffering with and struggling through a head cold/sinus infection and zero opportunity/ability to work out himself. Me, I trained or practiced daily, enough to develop a gym tweak in my right knee, but other than a running nose, I’m perfectly healthy. It’s possible I might want/need to cut back on the caffeine intake, because I was stress slamming black tea last week to keep myself focused and pushing with work. I already know I am going to regret this with the weaning off headaches, but at the time it seemed so necessary.

Despite all that, we had a fantastic teaching day session. I am already looking forward to review day Thursday because life outside the gym will be quieter and calmer for me, and I am starting my wean-off the caffeine today so I will hopefully be sleeping more restfully as well.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Today was a measure of a lot of little things. Some things I have taken for granted, some things I obsess about with inertia, some things that I forget in the day-to-day business of living my life and some things that were once a flashing neon sign are now not even the faintest blip on my radar. For the most part I see this as yet another notch on my progress belt.

We go session after session, week after week, and it’s a hugely positive and makes me incredibly happy to feel successful at a process (exercise) that has eluded me the majority of my life. Being a realist, I have idly wondered what would happen when the training day happened where I am just not feeling it, or J is not at his 100% professional best. Because even people who have one-on-one clients are not 100% on their best professional services game 100% of the time. We are both extremely conscientious people, and it’s unfair of me to expect that J will be bring the high-level great game every single week into infinity. That I am so extraordinarily spoiled and his average so-so game is 1000 times better than every other trainer at my club – yeah, it is noticeable to me when he’s not feeling it.

BUT, I expected that long before J brought just his A-game (versus the typical A+) teaching to our sessions, I would have a low energy, low enthusiasm day and it would be less fun, rewarding, enjoyable for either of us. Today was one of those days. I felt unusually fatigued and kind of blah. My boring was shining through.

Despite my deep-seated fears that I’d lose every inch of ground gained in the last 2 years (almost), the session was excellent, as always. Was I high-energy go-go-go? No, but in truth I rarely feel like I am the high-energy go-go-go client in the tribe. I try my best, and occasionally my best feels like it’s falling flat, falling short, not good enough. Such thoughts flitter through my mind on occasion every now and again, but so rarely these days that their flittering makes me stop and take notice. What was I doing that made me think THAT?

For the most part, nothing unusual. In my somewhat weakened, fatigued state negative girl made a random no-guts-no-glory run for the roses. It happens, the world doesn’t end, I barely missed a step in whatever it was I happened to be doing at the time. Most significant detail that stuck with me today? That my overhead presses felt so heavy and challenging. Far from the end of the world as I know it. If anything, it’s just a small reminder that review day is Thursday and I sure better be better rested and have my head back in the game. Heck, I have scheduled a mostly personal day tomorrow to kick-start return to normalacy after a crazy April.

Because I was so low energy this morning, I had no idea what to expect. In the end, it was fantastic and fun. It was a slow-mo teaching day, yet another branch on my PHA (peripheral heart action) (aka huffy-puffy) tree. I learned some new movements. I gained some insight and refinements on things I already know. And while I was not blazing new trails with my pepped-up pacing or blinding other gym members with my super speedy sets, I got my sweaty-and-gross on and was breathing in a more labored manner. It was all very good. I also came away with fresh perspective on new things, the way we do things, and the larger blocks of exercises. As is my habit, it gives me a lot of little things to chew on in practices on Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s review day. Because in addition to writing these recaps, I am thinking about Lists my while going about my days. Sometimes I even stop and run through them in my mind and within the confines of my office.

Exercise geekery at its finest.

Pondering this morning off and on throughout a pretty busy day, I recognize that I have a positivity expectation and bias attached to training. This is a Very Good Thing and probably doesn’t matter a whit to me if J is in a cranky mood (hey, it could happen). When I don’t feel like showing up, I do it anyway because hyper-responsible self says I better REALLY be sick to last-minute cancel. After the oversleeping event a few weeks ago, I wake up every hour for several hours before the alarm goes off to ensure I get to the gym on time. So there’s that. But as more time passes, and as I sort out my Wednesday morning practices that seem have not been happening for about the last month, I will overcome and figure it out. My mind has settled down into a place of acceptance that maybe this is what I need to do right now. It does not make me some super slacker or worse.

I have been enjoying my Wednesday evenings in the gym, preferably when I see tribe sister K and have time to catch up. But even on nights when I’m there by myself doing whatever, it’s a nice change from the morning crowd that I enjoy seeing every day. J’s Wednesday class of ladies are always warmly welcoming as well, so it just feels like my time as well. It makes my lollygagging and sleeping in later on Wednesday mornings not quite so bad or a reason to beat myself up for phantom sin.

Low energy today – not the end of my exercise career. I will sleep better tonight and have a mostly personal stuff day scheduled tomorrow, so it will be a nice break from work. I am actually very excited about starting my solo practice with last week’s List, including those nemesis-worthy stability ball toe raises. This new calf work is going to take a little adjustment.

I am very pleased with how my exercise odyssey is evolving. Of late my interest in some extra allotment of time for dedicated cardio outside my daily gym List of the day practice has been elevated. If nothing else, 30 minutes on my arc trainer would give me 30 minutes of productive reading time. In truth that’s what I miss about doing time on a dreadmll at the gym – an uninterrupted block of time to read. But, not sure I want to do another 30 day challenge. Professional life will calm considerably after tomorrow’s tax deadline, so perhaps it’s something to consider. Or not. Maybe it will just be a novelty item I add to my rotation just in case I need to lace up some yet-to-be-purchased hiking shoes or boots and hit the great outdoors. Heck, maybe I’ll even learn to like the great outdoors – it could happen.

Something else to think about after what seems like a very long April thus far.

My most important impression and thought from today: I’m very lucky to be capable of doing all I am doing in the gym right now. I’m fortunate to be able to still learn how to do things, and to grasp the why as well as the how of it all. There is so much where I instinctively know that more practice and technique improvement are needed, yet there is no anxiety or fear anymore that I might ultimately fail or be unable to make myself try hard enough. Even if I am going slo-mo on my own for an extended period, sometimes that’s what it takes to make it sink in for me. This is also why I love our recent methodology – teaching or introduction of new or revised or revived List on Monday, review of Monday’s List on Thursday.

I don’t want to get to the point where I take my fitness progress for granted. I don’t want to get complacent and lazy and start believing I know enough now. The way Lists are created remains this big giant mystery to me, but I don’t care if J utilizes other fitness professional resources and adapts them for me. I feel challenged by the Lists, not so much the exercises themselves as the higher rep ranges or the weightier weights. I have falling hard for the mixing it up process, because I had no idea the rhymes or reasons behind the strategies of good fitness habits. Now I could possibly, probably puzzle it out on my own, but the feedback loop I have established with J is invaluable for me and is most definitely the fast forward to progress while bypassing the early frustration.

In fact, we were talking this morning about a blog post I’d read about the people just started t exercise and folks who have been at it awhile and are well trained. Thankfully, I finally identify with the latter group. This does not mean I know more or am more skilled so much as I just have been working at it consistently for awhile and have decent work capacity. While I wish I had read this article 2 years ago before I started, reality is I would have had no context for understanding what the Coach Patrick is describing. So much of this applies to me 2 years ago or even a year ago. I could probably go back through my archives and pinpoint when I became more comfortable and more confident in the gym and my exercise pursuits, but my scaling new plateaus has been so slow and steady it is as if I am suddenly 1000 feet up and wondering how I climbed that far without noticing the change in altitude.

There are moments when I think I have started taking that for granted, that I will always be meandering upward and forward and not suffering a setback that knocks me on my ass. Maybe a low-energy session is warranted every now and again, to remind me that while no one is perfect, some things are so amazing and make me feel so accomplished and good that it feels as close to it as an experience and journey can get. Same with the occasional gym tweak. Even though it is hugely annoying to have something hurt (this weekend, it was my right knee) and have to stop my usual rounds of activities, it is a good reminder that I am far from invincible and need to continually be mindful of my form and technique no matter what else is going on around me or how confident I might feel.

Silver linings? Absolutely. I have worked hard to earn my Pollyanna nickname for seeing them everywhere. 

#consistency, #energy, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #positivity, #progress

PT-28.2: A waypoint on the road to gym badassery

Part 1 of this training recap is posted here.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

J and I were talking this morning as we do on all our days. Yeah, we talk exercise and Lists and the good, bad, ugly of my efforts with said Lists, but we also talk about a bunch of other stuff as well. Frequently our conversations trigger other thoughts and discussions.

I have no natural athletic talent or ability. I am not naturally thin, fit, strong, or anything else that would benefit me on my better health quest or to make exercise easier or more fun in flashy, show-offy ways. Extending that to life outside of the gym and any physical pursuits, in truth I really do not have any extraordinary or natural talents or abilities. Much of my life I have thought of myself as Jane Average. Or perhaps more accurately, I aspired to be Jane Average.

For many of us, our family of origin is not a Norman Rockwell painting or the stuff that is presented on family-oriented television series. For many of us, we have demons and ghosts and scars, physical and psychological, that follow us into adulthood. I remember my father telling my mother that my “inferiority complex” was a real thing and not getting better, and at 14, it struck me that my alcoholic father had more clarity than I ever realized. Like most people I know, my parents broke my heart repeatedly as a child. I forgave, because I loved them. Reality of the matter is that I grew up and once capable of making my own choices about who is part of the fabric of my day-to-day life, I did not much care for them as people.

The “inferiority complex” term stuck with me for years, mostly because it is or was true – that’s a debate that still comes up from time to time in my own mind. I felt helpless, hopeless, not good at anything, and not at all good enough. At everything – sports, athletics, school, life.

I decided really early on that the only way out of that was to try harder, work harder. It is a habit that seems to universally apply to all the endeavors in my life. Hard to explain family dynamics in the context of a blog post, but suffice to say there would be a winner (my older sister) and a loser (me) in the race to successful adulthood. In this day and age I am a serious law-abiding, rule-following Pollyanna, but as a child, I seemed like some sort of rebel with my curiosity and questions and desire to know about stuff beyond the superficial presentation.

Once the training bug got its claws into me – I have worked hard to ensure that I am at least as good as the rest of the training tribe, not a drag on J’s time, energy, and expertise. My fears of being the special needs trainee are well documented, yet so far back in my rearview it was like a different person who thought and felt and acted that way.

But it has occurred to me more than once in the last six months that I am not the average bear trainee. I work hard, I try hard, and I take on extracurricular study projects. I read and follow various coaches and fitness experts on Facebook. I have read more fitness blogs in the last year than just about anything else business or finance or even fiction related.

I am pretty much obsessed.

Early on in this journey, J suggested letting him be my gatekeeper as far as what I read or follow on Facebook. I did that exclusively for a long time, and now I find myself following links and hopping from site to site, blog to blog. For the most part it is interesting and educational on some level. The journey with J is pretty well established so that I am not led astray or my head turned by the mainstream marketing craziness that passes for diet and fitness expertise. It is fun to see things he has taught me on Facebook or other places.

There is no temptation for me in these other coaching or fitness sites. Occasionally I might ask J about something I see, but it’s not “teach me that!” type statements. More like, why are they doing that type questions. That said, my achilles heel is when they talk about results and goals and how if you’re falling short you’re not doing X, Y, Z, or all of the above. Anything that ever suggests I might not be working hard enough puts a little tiny chink in my confidence armor.

So going forward, I think it best for me, for right now, to cease reading such things, particularly posts or articles or opinions on anything to do with healthy eating and weight loss. Mainstream marketing and online voices, even well respected voices, are not doing much to advance my journey in a positive direction. IF I were completely capable of being objective, neutral, and evaluate what I read without taking it too personally, following the news and trends would be fine and good to stay abreast of the latest buzz. But I can’t be objective and neutral, and I believe it ultimately harms me.

With exercise, I am for the most part just fine. As I said, it’s interesting to me to read through what coaches J has mentioned in passing or follows religiously. It’s the “intensity” comments that tree me lately and that I will choose to bypass for now. I don’t need to let my insecurity flag fly or antagonize myself and sabotage my primarily positive outlook with my better health quest.

Which brings me to the meat-and-potatoes loitering in my kitchen sink: insecurity and a fear-based mindset. I know, had to wade through a lot of gunk to get here, right? But this is what happens when I go from the brief bullet-point phrases to actually expanding upon my thoughts 24+ hours later.

Since I got started on my better health quest, I have been a pretty consistent model of stability and consistency. I am at the gym at least 6 mornings per week, and one of the other members I see in passing most days has said to me twice in the last few weeks that I am clockwork in my routine, which I found very flattering.

Until I’m not. And then the rumblings of panic girl jitters start sounding in my mind and it feels like a major earthquake is about to occur.

To be completely fair to me, I have missed the last two consecutive Wednesday mornings for very good reasons: I could not rouse myself adequately to pull myself together and get to the gym on time. That said, I typically go on Wednesday evenings as well, for a lighter practice for me with tribe friend K, so it’s not like I am missing a lot of practice.

Thing is, I have a very healthy respect for my ingrained habit of giving up positive habits and good practices because of negative girl mojo and impulses. If it is not work related or somehow tied to a direct responsibility to someone else, my tendency to quit and abandon things before seeing them through to completion is typical behavior. If it is something I just do for myself, I may stop for a wide range of negative emotions – guilt, shame, selfishness, undeservingness. The debate of whether I am hard-wired this way or if the training from infancy is so powerful is actually irrelevant; my legacy of taking care of myself is one that I simply do not and will at some point stop, with or without advance notice and reason.

So while every perfectly reasonable soul in my life will tell me it’s fine to skip a practice from time to time, take a rest day, I have to not open my mouth and spill out the negative, self-loathing crap that skitters through my mind. It saddens me not only that I think that way about myself, but that others once closer to me thought it part of a need for reassurance and flattery. How I wish it were so simple. How I wish I did not have the mindset that does not hear or believe reassurance, flattery, or even the genuine compliments paid to me and my efforts.

Changing that – it’s work. It’s hard, arduous, apparently my whole life’s work. And I cannot relent on my discipline in this regard, and my fear of what I may do, what might happen if I loosen my grip even a little bit is very real. While in my heart and forefront of my mind I know I do not want to backslide and cease my ongoing effort with exercise and better health, a lifetime of poorer choices in taking care of myself have me genuinely afraid of relaxing and becoming too confident about it.

I do cling to my schedule, my habits, my routines. While on the outside I may look like a model of hard-working consistency in the gym, what drives that is primarily enjoyment of the challenge of mastering what I am learning and the process directly powered by a healthy fear of losing ground and gains earned thus far.

My professional success is rooted in the same sort of discipline, but different because I have a direct reward of compensation and the responsibility of being the wage earner in our family. Our economic present and future depends upon me, and it seems to tip the balance in favor of a healthier work/life balance.

In various therapeutic forums, we have discussed why I do not view taking care of myself in the same way I see making a living and ensuring M and I have the money needed to support our life and lifestyle. It comes down to this feeling of worth and self-loathing. Through the years, I have yet to find the path to complete acceptance without shame and harsh judgment. Sometimes I can do it, for awhile, yet it always seems to return to it’s natural, baseline state.

It is not so much I have completely given up on overcoming it so much as it is I am finding more productive work-arounds until they are no longer needed. Some wounds cannot be healed, only kept clean and sanitary and separate so they do not fester and infect the rest of me. In this, there is wisdom and empathy, and kind of a practicality that insists life goes on no matter how much you’re limping and bleeding behind the band-aids.

I’m closer now than I have ever been to emotionally, mentally, and overall physically healthy. And to keep pushing ever onward toward that – maybe it means continuing with a bit of a fear-based mindset. I work hard because it is the only way for me to feel productive and positive about myself. I certainly know how to do most everything half-assed, but I will feel poorly about those efforts and it will extend to feeling badly about myself. Even locked away in her cage, negative girl’s influence is never completely contained.

It has been a tough couple of weeks, and my optimism about my progress is mildly tainted by that. I know I have come a long way and the fitness highway stretches out before me into infinity. I’m excited about that. It’s exhilarating to imagine the challenges lying in wait and overcoming them, because I am quite sure it will happen for me with a lot of sweat equity invested. The hard work does not intimidate me, and I will not let self-doubt cripple me.

Just yesterday, someone in my real-life, face-to-face world asked me why I have a trainer and could I not do this myself, since I am on my own most of the time anyway? In context, this person sees it as an unnecessary expense, since he and his wife have always been athletes and are good at it. I explained some of us are not so gifted, and without someone to teach me how to do things, I would never know for sure if I was doing them right or not. Then he asked when it ends? What I said – when J retires or feels he has nothing left to teach me. But what I meant, it never ends; I will never stop learning or working to perfect my form, technique, ability.

And that, my friends, is my cheery thought for the day.

#consistency, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #habits, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #progress