Monday morning, training with J. We are still on our review, refine, enhance strength-focused Lists, and despite the post title, it was an awesome adventure in learning and working at skill updates. Lots of room for improvement, but if I were good at everything already J would have a client slot to fill.
It occurred to me today that I have some (previously) unwritten rules about how I conduct my practices. For the most part, they seem to work. And since I find myself now more capable than before, they are obviously working reasonably well. Specifically: can’t remember how many reps, do at least 15; lost track of where I am in set counts, do another just to be sure; left leg seems weaker, do it first; when it doubt about weights, start lighter. Simple, common sense (to me) type stuff.
Lots of semi-negative thinking going through my head today, ala “I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot.” To be fair, though, some simple-looking exercises are complicated and technical (looking at you, hang-and-bang). It’s not so much I am an idiot so much as some things simply do not always make sense, and even if they do make sense intellectually, translating that sensibility into making body do mind’s bidding is another matter entirely.
I probably have more to say on this topic, but a dear friend arrived tonight and I had to cut this section short to finish and get this post published.
What We Did
Plate Loaded Squat Machine (2 25s/side)
Overhead Press on plate loaded squat machine
1-legged Leg Press
Bench Elevated Pushup
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Medicine Ball Vertical Chops
Stability Ball Passes
How It Felt
I have not attempted this List on my own since it was introduced, and in some ways it shows, dreadfully. However, I am mostly okay with the plate loaded squat machine. The shape seems to be coming pretty naturally, and once I figure out where to plant my feet, place my hands, and what the lever (releasing the shoulder weight part) does, thing went very well. There is still some confidence building with it, but for the most part, I feel like I am squatting with proper form and technique. The little refinements noted above, with the exception of the weight release latch, are things that will become more natural and more comfortable with practice. Right now, it all feels new and different about what my hands and feet might be doing and impacting the working muscles.
The overhead press on the plate loaded squat machine brought forth an attack of the shoulds. Because I have not practiced these, it felt a little (sometimes a lot) awkward and like we were reinventing the wheel or discovering fire. I get the concept and know how it’s supposed to work and to feel, yet I was struggling mightily with the overall shape of the exercise. It’s different than when doing this with dumbbells, because the arms go up and forward, slightly away from the top of the shoulder where the overhead press with the dumbbells tends to go straight up and over the shoulder. It is not difficult for me to understand, yet for various and sundry reasons it was difficult for me to implement and execute. I did improve. I did get the stance down more completely by the third set. But damn – it should not be as difficult as I was making it this morning.
Rather than walking lunges or Bulgarian split squats, we returned to the favorite leg press and did single 1-legged leg presses. I was pretty pleased with my effort on these, because at 140 lbs. I was doing 20 without much trauma or drama. I forgot that we are in the midst of a strength-focus series right now and just kept going until I reached the typical 20 reps. Then J asks me how that felt – it was fine. So we bumped it to 160 for the next set, went through another 20, after which I finally realized (when J remarked upon it) that I was going for an 8 to 12 rep range, not the usual 15 to 20 or 25 to 30. Oops! Bumping it to 180 toned my enthusiasm for the bigger range, and I went from 20 to 10. J then went to 200 and suggested I do 5, just to see how it went and how it felt. It went, but it did feel challenging and heavy.
Bench push-ups FINALLY make more sense today. FINALLY. I now seem to have figured out where to place my hands, how wide apart to put them so the working, feeling muscles are actually in the chest and not everywhere else. My range is still mostly 8 to 10, but I have higher hopes to advance past that now that I figured out how to replicate the feeling in multiple sets.
My secondary “you’re an idiot” soundtrack started with the dumbbell lateral raises. I knew these have not been going well lately, but I have been at a loss as to what to do about it. Sometimes they are better, but generally speaking – I feel like super stinky poo whenever I have tried for a variety of reasons. The bobbing up and down. The arms and shoulders and weird-ass feelings in both – not quite pain, but definitely not productive muscle-conditioning work. Yet it is not always or consistently every time, just most of the time. So today J tackled addressing it directly. Or tried, anyway; we may have to revisit to ensure body and mind are in sync about what needs to happen. Lead with the elbows not with the weights in my hands. Stretch arms out with an elbow bend. Kind of like chicken wings flapping is how I finally interpreted it. All day long when I have a free moment I have been sitting or standing and working and leading with my elbows while raising my arms. I think it might be sinking in, without weights in my hands. Next I try these, I’ll go light weights to get the shape nailed down more fully.
My most accomplished with triceps exercises has got to be the lying down dumbbell triceps extensions. I have been stuck on 15 lbs. for months now, but feel no super urgent rush to bump it up right now. Possibly I could sometime soon, but not today.
New pairing starting with the medicine ball vertical chops. I remembered how to do these, and the biggest issue is ensuring I do not go too far with the ball overhead. Putting a package on the shelf is the way J described it, and it makes my stop point far clearer. I’m feeling it in my core.
And finally, the stability ball passes. We have lately been doing a fair amount of regular ab work, and other tribe members are doing things like floor crunches followed by reverse crunches. I realized today that is kinda/sorta what this exercise emulates, only with the a stability ball going back and forth between hands and feet.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
After showering and getting ready for work, I was processing what we did today and how it feels in both body and mind. Part of me feels mind slip sliding back to negative girl territory in my self-assessment of my progress with this List to date. There was a faint “I’m an idiot” echoing in the back of my mind. In complete transparency, I have been gazelle-intense in examining my own motivation, focus, and drive of late anyway, so this was just more data layered into my analysis and equation.
Bottom line: I’m fine.
Rest of the story: I’m very occasionally terribly freaked out about my slo-mo forward progress to the point of breathing-into-paperbag panic over what it all means.
Reality check: It means nothing except a flashback crisis of confidence that will pass. Unfortunately the “very occasionally” description tends to happen in a condensed period of time, say 2 or 3 days in a month, 6-week period. It feels a lot more intense than it would spread out over the course of the entire period of measurement.
Like everyone who has a job and any sort of responsibilities, my life is not centered around the minutes and hours spent in the gym every morning. It is a definitely a big, giant, huge priority chunk of my daily and weekly routines, but it’s not the sole arbitrator of what I think, how I feel, who I am overall as a person. I’m not a person whose livelihood depends on how she looks in or out of clothes (let us all share a small prayer of thanks for that) or how much weight I can move to and fro. Regular person that I am means exercise and fitness is about my health, and while that does include my weight and body fat percentage, neither are a strong enough drivers at this moment in time to make me push hard, with focus and intensity throughout my List of the day. Not. Hardly.
I judge myself harshly, though, and while I do my level best to avoid compare and despair, I’m far from immune to it. But I also know giving myself too much of a free pass on this stuff leads to an easy laziness or lethargy about the work. I do have a strong desire to improve, advance (whatever that truly means to me), progress, be better. Going at 98.9% of maximum intensity (or even 68.9% if I am completely honest) is going to make some difference in my better health quest, but I am content enough at this moment to not feel the need to have to focus that kind of ooomph to make slow and steady results happen.
Maybe I am a “resistance train 2 to 3 times per week person” doing it over the course of 7 days most weeks. They why doesn’t matter much, because I presently cannot come up with a motivating factor, objective, or goal that makes me want to press onward with higher level of intensity most days of the week.
And I need to make myself get back to my happy place of acceptance. I am struggling with a lot of tiny fears and anxieties that are blocking me from getting there because I am allowing them to mushroom into nuclear bomb size clouds.
I am second guessing myself. In the present tense, I am struggling with how to write this, say it, in my usual stream-of-consciousness/unedited for anything style of blogging. My mindset and thinking are genuine examples of small-ball issues right now. In my effort to keep it real, I tell you everything, no matter how ridiculously silly and shallow it makes me sound.
In real life, what I describe here feels different, is very different, than that headspace I occupied for the better part of my start mid-2015 and well into 2016. However, progression forward for me is always part of a 2-step series where I might take 6 good steps forward and then slippy-slide backwards 3, 4, 5 again before hauling myself off my ass and back into proper training posture. I remind myself multiple times per day on a broad spectrum of topics that I am worthy and do work at earning the good stuff in my life. The cruel and unusual punishment I reserve to direct toward myself have toned down in their frequency if not their intensity. Admittedly that part is a ongoing work-in-progress that makes me squirm with discomfort to admit so openly.
I bring that up to frame this accurately in my own world view. Despite the vaguely uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach (aside from the focused core work that now appears on every List) about devolving into a dilettante about exercise and marching backward toward out-of-control blood sugar, I am doing fine. Food, the ongoing daily push-pull battle, is not the end of the world as I desire to know it. Making good food choices and eating healthier meals 75% of the time is better than 74.9% or less of the time, and it is a ginormous improvement from where I started or even a year ago. There is presently a chocolate cake in my kitchen that offers little temptation for me, and while I do imagine a very small scoop of ice cream this week, such things consumed in celebration are exempt from self-flagellation or over-thinking scrutiny (that’s another new rule). I am stronger than I was once and will again impose enough self-discipline to overcome the craving that single taste will trigger.
Self-doubt and negativity towards myself – this is a common thread throughout my life and times. Years of professional help have taught me a lot of tools to cope and battle back against it, but like diabetes or other chronic conditions, I do not believe it is curable. It’s treatable and it’s manageable, but there is no magical day in my future where the scars that shape me are erased and I am completely free. Acceptance of that means developing a more realistic and balanced frame of reference, where everything less than great is 100% my fault and everything else even 40% good is a stroke of good luck or the kindness of others toward me.
J made a curious, off-hand comment today in our post-session chat-fest. He corrected himself from using the “we” to “you” in an instance where discussing the work we were doing today. While technically more accurate – usually it is me doing the bulk of the sets and lying on the floor breathing hard and sweating through my shirt – I tend to think and use the “we” and “our” terms when describing this journey overall. Good coaching has made all the difference for me and for all the progress I have made – a lot of the credit should rest with J and his patience as well as skill.
And speaking of coaching, I get regular email updates from Pat Flynn (chroniclesofstrength.com), another coach that is involved with my fat loss group. He has lately been writing a fair amount about motivation and mindset, and since he’s a pretty down-to-earth and sensible guy, I find much of what he writes and talks about very sensible indeed.
The last couple of emails have been about motivation, how many clients and people he works with talk about needing motivation before getting started with something and his solution is to get started anyway. Makes perfect sense to me now, and it got me wracking my brain if that was one of my excuses for not getting started sooner when the better health quest began. My guess: probably not. With exercise, my “I hate exercise” was the nuclear option (in my opinion) that pretty much covered it. When I hate something, no amount of pep talking pep talks is going to make me want to get up and get going.
Pat’s advice was the same thing M has told me for years and years: Do a little something every day. And when I made my choice to try to be in the gym twice more between sessions with J, that was my first thought: if I do a little something every day for a month, it will be a habit and I will be capable of moderation and coming in twice a week between training sessions. Seems like a simple choice, but it was a Very Big Deal for me at the time.
Am I motivated in the gym? Not always, but I do it anyway. Because I like the healthier, feeling better results. Such is my navel-gazing mindset right now: I am not really feeling the love for my pacing and level of effort, but I’m doing it anyway. Because it’s good for me, and while in slo-mo, I do like the better, healthier feelings that come from any effort expended.
Perhaps rather than turning negative girl loose in the wheelhouse to run amok and ruin my practices, I am being realistic, that I am not all happy-happy-joy-joy energizer bunny girl however many days I am in the gym per year. Maybe I am never energizer bunny level of energy any days I am in the gym each year. Level of effort and intensity could be unique to each of us, and my slo-mo is my best effort at being hyper-focused. I would never judge or be snarky toward another tribe member or anyone else, so I should be a little less judgey and snarky toward myself. I am present and trying my best, and as I continually remind myself, it is good enough.
And with these continual reminders, someday soon I will actually believe it 24/7. Until then, I will continue with my do a little something every day method of progression. In the 2-step dance, it’s working out for me.