PT-68: Never gonna let you down

Monday morning, later training with J because of the holiday (gym did not even open until 7, so unless we wanted to be training outside in the parking lot, 6 a.m. was not going to work out). Fabulous thing, training days, even when the gym is mildly vexing me with building maintenance (Saturday) and holiday schedule (today).

Key Takeaways

Every time we begin a new training chapter and J says anything that sounds like “make it harder,” I inwardly flinch and cower and want to say out loud “noooooooo!” But I don’t. Because as he remarked today (and it was quite a thrilling moment for me), I am so much stronger and more capable now. Which is actually true, as impossible as I find believing it at times.

So we are revising and reworking the peripheral heart action (PHA) workouts. I had to look up the term again, because in my world the PHA Lists are known as “huffy puffy” Lists. I even have J and friend K referring to them that way as well, at least when they are talking to me. But seriously, PHA is that mouthful of words that could mean anything. Cardio brings to mind me on an endless treadmill/stairmaster/arc trainer/elliptical to Hell (or in this case, nowhere, which may as well be Hell) to burn a decent amount of fat and calories. Huffy puffy gets the heart pumping, sweat dripping, heavy breathing (all in a completely G-rated way) in a much more efficient manner.

Of many things I genuinely enjoy about training days, the flexibility about what we do each week is among the most satisfying. If I had a specific agenda, if I wanted to learn to powerlift or get busy lifting heavy more of the time, I could speak up and J would engage put his big giant brain creating the programs and progressive challenges to make it happen. On the flip side of that, the fact that I have no burning goals to meet or specificity in what I want to do or destination to explore makes the fluidity of our List-creating process a pretty painless process. It is an extremely rare occasion that I care much about what we do on training days, and the days I have voiced a preference, it is because of my own struggle with a specific sequence or series. Left on my own with my library of Lists, I would likely not make much if any forward progress or advancement. My natural reticence, conservative outlook toward progression, and lingering anxiety about self-sabotage would keep me in check long past appropriate expiration.

Some training days body simply refuses to engage as I expect, and I find myself wondering if I am just wimping out too soon. Today it was arms and shoulders – they were just not warmed adequately or the mind-body connection had a server down, but it wasn’t happening. I wanted it/them to work better, but for whatever reason they were giving up and giving out in a most disappointing manner. It speaks to me about warming up adequately, particularly today when I feel like a spare 5 minutes was not enough. The reason why for this particular and hopefully random experience matter less than paying attention and being mindful of it going forward in the week. Gym schedule and life return to normal tomorrow.

What We Did

The revised huffy puffy List went as follows:

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
1-arm “Body Supported Dumbbell or Kettlebell Row
Floor Pushup Position Plank w/ Steps

Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Bench Elevated Pushups
Sit-ups w/ Chops

2-Dumbbell or Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
1-arm Dumbbell Snatch
Band Horizontal Choppers

How It Felt

I am super-duper proud of my progress with Bulgarian split squats. I cannot think of a single person who has ever said to me “I love Bulgarian split squats.” They are hard. They are soooooo hard. But with enough practice (read: do a few sets on a List every single stinking week), they become more manageable. And now that I am adding dumbbells to the mix, they seemed impossible for awhile. But practice anything enough one becomes competent and more confident. Today I was only using a pair of 10 lb. dumbbells, and it was challenging enough. Yet if I had chosen the 15s, I would have been fine. Next time. Maybe. Or I’ll use the 10s again and remind myself that I am doing lighter and need to increase my rep range.

Today I learned new way to do 1-arm dumbbell rows with the 35 lb. kettlebell without a leaning post or a bench, kind of unassisted body-weight 1-arm dumbbell rows. And it was so cool! (Yes, little things make me ridiculously happy.) I believe with a bit more practice my form and competence (and standardized foot positioning) will improve to the point that I may prefer to do them this way all the time. Funny to me, last we did these with the 35 lb. kettlebell that big ball of metal felt like it weighed a lot more than 35 lbs. This time, the weight and the weight distribution was not so bad, because mind was all fascinated by the body shape and foot positioning. I admit being eager to try this again on this or another 1-arm dumbbell row List.

We moved from the bench elevated to the floor for push-up position planks with steps. The urge to zoom-zoom-zoom through these (because they are HARD!) is strong, but it feels so different I have to slow myself down to make sure I get all the steps (step out, kick back, knee in) done with each sequence. Other than don’t drag my foot on the floor with the knee in, they are not all that different than from atop the bench. Except they are harder. But I can do this, even if it feels like I don’t really want to do these. I’m getting better at them and will continue to improve, and eventually, someday, I shall advance past the 5 or 6 sets I get through.

Tough morning with the kettlebell goblet squats (35 lb. kettlebell again pressed into service). First stance started out too wide. Then it was down slow, peppy up, stay upright. Not sure what it is about that darn round piece of metal, but it throws me off. I can do this with a 50 lb. dumbbell and can barely function properly with a 35 lb. kettlebell. It MUST be the shape and distribution of weight, of course, and nothing to do with me shaving sleep and having a piss-poor Sunday. Excuse factory has been decommissioned and dismantled. But, snapping back to normal happens; I will be fine.

Back to basics and the bench elevated push-up. I am improving. I am feeling these through the chest muscles. And I am nearing the tipping point where they are no longer a permanent resident of my exercise nemesis stable. While I do push-ups from the floor from time to time (usually because I’m already down there for something else), the bench makes it so much easier and more pleasant. Which could possibly mean I am ready to spend more time on the floor and less time using my bench as a crutch.

While I tend to refer to the sit-ups with chops as floor chops, however they are named does not matter at all. J recently taught me how to do these with my toes and feet propped up against the wall, but today I was using my bench supports as the place to prop my feet up against while doing these today and it did work better. With floor chops, practice practice practice is going to be my lifelong mantra. Also today I was fine without a mat.

Second 35 lb. kettlebell was MIA this morning, so we used a pair of 30 lb. dumbbells for the Romanian deadlifts instead. Working hard at the cuing on this – pre-tension the glutes and tensioning them on the up, keep core tight to protect the low back. There is a sort of hypnotic rhythm to RDLs that I particularly enjoy, but I am looking forward to the challenge of the kettlebell weight distribution.

The 1-arm dumbbell snatch (with 20 lb. dumbbell) is a work in progress. Am I improving? Somewhat. Lower to something akin to a power squat and stay tight, then pop up explosively with elbow elevated above hand before pulling the weight up overhead. My goodness, that sounds so simple, but it’s dang hard work. Like everything else on this List, practice practice practice. But I’ll get better.

And finally, the horizontal band choppers. With the big giant rubber band, these are challenging and 12 hours later, I can still feel the work we did this morning. I am crazy in love with the big giant rubber band, so much so that I ordered my own. But holy moly, my obliques are squeaking and screeching tonight. And I cannot wait to go through and do them again.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Several of my friends do various forms of exercise – yoga, crossfit, walking, running. Majority of the time it’s fine; we compare notes, talk about what’s working, what’s not, try to get together for an occasional overlap. Except the crossfitters. I am unwilling to go to a box to even try out a routine, but happy to join just about anyone for a walk, a hike, even a yoga class.

For the most part there is at least a respectful level of agree to disagree about what works for each of us. Why the need to be right, the one true way baffles me, but it’s human nature and just another thing i do not especially understand and therefore cease to concern myself with contemplating the why of it all. If my pals are happy doing what they are doing and achieving desired results, I’m delighted. Our journeys are unique and our mileage will vary.

But it does make for interesting conversation when some new idea takes hold and is shared like a new health and fitness discovery.

A pal recently discovered intermittent fasting and over the weekend was very excitedly telling me about it. Only in her version, she can eat “anything she wants” in an 8 hour period and fast the other 16 hours and lose weight. Since J and others in my fat loss group use this as an eating strategy, I am familiar with the concept and its pros and cons and know it’s not for everyone, myself included. Hey, I think I’m doing swell just cutting out gratuitous snacking between meals. On top of which, my body seems to work better with regular fuel stops. If I am careful about said fuel stops and consistent in my exercise, the scale moves and I slowly drop weight. If I am careless about fuel input then scale moves upward and I gain weight.

If i were freed from restraint and could eat whatever I wanted, no amount of exercise could save me from gaining weight at a very rapid pace no matter how many hours I fasted per day or per week. Which is what alarms me about my pal’s thinking about intermittent fasting.

So I talked this over with J this morning, because it’s part of what we do during training hour. He agrees with me, that this is a fatal flaw in her current thinking, and pointed me in the direction of some more J-approved resources for reading on the topic. With my current focus on diet and healthy eating, it’s helpful to read everything realistic (i.e., non-marketing, non-rainbow shitting unicorn hype) I can lay hands upon. So I am well armed when someone crosses my path with bright ideas that will rock my world and super-juice my better health quest. To those who are so well intentioned toward me, I want to calmly, not defensively reply that my world is rocking just fine and my better health quest is great without rocket fuel. But hey, I do sincerely appreciate the interest and concern.

Because lately I’ve been pondering my own wussy-ness about standing up for myself with well-meaning friends. I am not a victim of bullying so much I am a passive participant in allowing it to continue. My dislike of conflict is pretty well ingrained, and in today’s culture of polarization it seems impossible to avoid. More than that, though, is that many of my real life friends have strong opinions and personalities, and the only method I had was to explain my choices in harder, stronger terms. In days gone by it has been far easier to just let them steamroll over me and my objections.

Increasing confidence and some specific training from TM has me in a better position to state my preferences and opinions without rancor or challenge. My body, my choices after all. The subtle changes in attitude and more responsive directness in expressing my desires and needs has not gone unnoticed, and among my circle of pals it has required some adjustment and realignment as well. Not all my relationships have survived, and from this far away I can see it was for the best. But at the time, letting go of long-term friendships was very difficult for me. I’m growing up and I’m learning.

Who knew exercise would have such a positive impact on interpersonal relationships?

I have been pondering the huffy puffy Lists and the way things seems to be proceeding to a more time efficient practice every day. It’s not so much that I feel compelled to spend 60 to 90 minutes at the gym doing something, but I am kind of in that groove and wondering if I should be pursuing a huffy puffy and a regular List at least a couple of days per week. Or expanding my rep range. Or lifting weightier weights and taking more rest breaks. Or putting myself into mechanical Hell by doing straight cardio.

But mostly I’m starting to thinking a run through huffy puffy-ville and then a List of the day could be in order. Maybe lighter huffy puffy – only 2 sets rather than 3 – or something. A work in progress.

With the emotional funk nipping at my heels for various reasons or conking me over the head and pinning me to the floor, exercise is my one true weapon against it. Well, I suppose I could abuse food and/or drugs and alcohol as well, but that tends to conflict with my hyper-responsible self and my need for some measures of self-control. Regular exercise and challenging myself offers tangible benefits that do not wear off quite so quickly as shopping. And since I have an entire pile of stuff going to a worthy cause, the exercise does not abuse the emerging minimalist within me.

Plus, I get ridiculously excited about the improvements I can actually perceive. While I judge my work this morning as sort of “meh” to an alarming “OMG! I must practice!” range of reactions, what I know is it’s one training day out of many ahead in the future. I will practice. I will improve or regain my footing back to my normal range. There is no need for me to panic or be upset that my imperfection on stuff I should know well is judged (by me) to be so far off the mark.

Yesterday was a bad day, and it’s been a couple of weeks of restless nights of sleep. Today I was driving out of the gym parking lot and heard the Cobie Caillat song “Never Gonna Let You Down” and it made me smile and cry all over again. I miss my friend J so much, but while he would never enjoy such a sappy, sentimental chick tune, it is something I’s send him in an email and he’d reply with something profanity laden that was his love language. It reminds me of him and the type of person and friend he was for me and many others.

I do the quite literally do all the heavy lifting to make progress, to move forward, to advance, to improve my overall health, strength, and competency with moving weight to and fro. And while I do it for me and jokingly refer to the effort as all about me, it’s not just about me. It has and does take a village to get me from there to here, everyone from trainer J and my medical experts to the friends I’ve made in the gym and beyond to the folks who read this little blog. It all matters to me. It is the weight of knowing that people care for and about me and my effort that helps me peel myself up off the floor and trying again when I just want to stay where I’d landed.

Grief sucks. Sometimes the days are hard. But I keep going, trying to be better. And I succeed.

I am very proud of that measure of progress.

#balance, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #grief, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation, #progress

Being the decider

Dinner out last night with dear friends has me pondering adultier adulting. Or, I’m thinking about decision making and how it works for me.

I was listening a very brief FB chat yesterday with my fat loss group about motivation. Pat was talking about the role of motivation in adopting healthier lifestyle choices, and how he does not believe motivation should be emphasized as much of a factor. Rather, expectations are far more important when it comes to anything in life where we seek improvement.

Pat stated his opinion that tying actions to level of motivation is not a good idea, because motivation tends to run in cycles – we all have periods when we are very motivated and times where we are not. Building habits is what matters, and we build habits through repetition. I agree with him as well that shifting from an “all or nothing” to “always something” mindset is crucial for ongoing consistency in any area where we are struggle to implement significant change.

For me, motivation is dependent upon my personal perception of success. Using motivation as a driving component in our model for change, it is no wonder that we become wildly inconsistent in regular exercise or healthy eating if we are waiting on or depending upon motivation to get us or keep us moving forward. If I have a mindset of all or nothing and it’s anchored to motivation, first low motivation day and I will quit. I know this about myself from personal experience, i.e., many many tries and fails.

Pat stressed that the fat loss program was created around building habits, something that absolutely resonates with me.

Lots and lots of days I do not feel motivated to go to the gym or to eat healthier foods. Once I decided that I would go to the gym in the early morning, I had to create a process to get me up, out of bed, and to the gym each day. I experimented with time to wake up, arrive at the gym, time to leave to ensure I made it to the office on time each day. After much trial and error: my alarm goes off at 4 a.m. during the week with a goal of arriving at the gym by 5:30 each morning. Sometimes I’m earlier, frequently (anymore) I am much later. But I am still up and out of bed shortly after 4 a.m. on weekdays. It is now my habit and really does not matter much if I feel like it or not.

I am noticing a similar process with healthier food choices and eating strategy.

Every day I have a protein shake before the gym. Every day I make it in the same way with the same ingredients – 1.5 scoops of protein powder, 2 scoops of branch chain amino acid supplement (because it makes the shake taste even better, not because I think the BCAA are so mandatory for me), 1.5 cups ice water, 5 ice cubes. It’s a habit and I do not get tired of drinking the same meal each morning for the last 2 years. Every now and again I go wild and use M’s vanilla protein powder and feel very free spirited for not being so stuck in a rut. I also take a piece of fruit out of the fridge – right now it’s a peach, but most of the time it’s an apple, because apples are so universally available – and when I get home from the gym I cut it up and eat it with a glass of water. That’s breakfast. Every single day.

I decided a few months ago that I needed to stop snacking between meals, which had continued to be a self-sabotaging habit. My blood sugar is well controlled and holding steady in the normal range, but my reshaping my shape progress seemed to be glacially slow. Food and eating habits were the root of this issue; it is not a problem because my overall health is so much improved. I decided to make some small changes: no more snacking, no more soda with our restaurant meals out (typically one lunch or dinner on the weekend). No more occasional sugary treats, because the cravings and desire for more are so painful to deny.

Essentially, I decided I want to see if I could jump-start something by being more faithful to the fat loss program as it was designed.

The results are not amazing, overnight success level of achievements. But after nearly 6 months of averaging about 70% compliance with the basic framework of my fat loss program, I finally feel like I am making inroads toward whatever vague appearance objectives I might have secretly harbored. For me personally, tiny measures of success are huge indicators that the small changes are working as well as huge motivator to continue to do the hard work toward building better habits.

I have done pretty well with adopting more flexibility of mindset when it comes to exercise and eating, but it is still a work in progress, likely always will be to some extent. I don’t feel guilty about my choices, because I am well aware of my food and exercise sins as I make them. But I do still have moments when I wish for more backbone, more strength of character that lets me have near perfect impulse control nearly all of the time. Such is life with all its imperfections.

The process of my better health quest is understanding and accepting that the choice is not made once in the beginning and then implemented over the course of the rest of my days. The choices associated with pursuing a healthier lifestyle are made every single day and then implemented on each of those days. Some days I make really good choices, other days I may choose something with less desirable outcomes. I now have the confidence to know that one or a few poorer choices does not doom me forever. I can and will adjust, adapt, and return to the foundational pillars of my better health quest.

I am really a big proponent of personal responsibility. I am also a recovering self-flagellation expert for failing to meet the lofty, unrealistic expectations of perfection I have created for me and me alone. While intellectually I completely understand that no one is 100% compliant with good choices and decisions 100% of the time, emotionally I have felt inferior much of my life for my own basic humanity. It’s a legacy scar and part of what defines me as a person, but I know it has become part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, a habit of setting myself up for failure. It’s a habit I have broken many times in many areas of my life. Perhaps with my improving sense of self-esteem, I can put that fork in it and call it done when it comes to exercise and healthier eating.

Directly, success in any endeavor is more than just a choice to succeed or to fail. Improving ourselves or building skill at anything is bunches of smaller choices or decisions that build and lead to overall success, a distinction that seems to be lost in the instant gratification culture we seem to be living. I have agency to make a choice even if I dislike the choices available to me. In my view doing the hard work now does mean opportunities for different, likely more desirable choices later. After nearly 2 years of consistent resistance training, I’m stronger and more capable now and I genuinely enjoy the escalating challenges presented in the gym. After 6 months of mostly compliant with a lower carb and lower calorie eating strategy, I find choosing to eat a salad or plate of steamed vegetables an acceptable and enjoyable choice for meals out. Days I choose to take a day off from the gym or eat a sandwich instead, I feel no guilt or anxiety. The habits are established and stable enough now that it is just a day off or just a sandwich.

I am not a victim of circumstance. I am the decider and in control of my own choices available about and attitude towards such circumstances.

Progress.

And that was the super positive takeaway from dinner last night as well as just an enjoyable evening. Being with dear friends, just talking about a free range of topics and ideas, I recognize that I have come a long way. I am consistently making better choices in the company I keep. The difference it has made in how I feel about myself is astonishing. Life is long and stretches out further than the boundaries of my own imagination. To have such companions woven into my journey is a truly priceless to me.

#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #influences, #mental-health, #motivation, #positivity

PT Monday: Switching things up (day 28)

No training yet today, as we rescheduled from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Trainer J is recovering from summer cold (sounds relatively minor, if what M has is any indication) and was hoping to get some extra rest this morning if I were agreeable to rescheduling. It would be an amazing anomaly if I were disagreeable about such a rare request. He could tell me he was planning to be get very drunk and be very hungover come morning and I would nod, smile, suggest he drink lots of water and maybe take an aspirin before bed, and what time did he want to meet instead? Please note: in our present day universe, that is a story out of a whimsical imagination; J and I could compete to be the most hyper-responsible in our individual lives. Still, I am on the lower-maintenance, easy-peasy client to deal with scale much of the time.

Mish-mash of other things to chat about this morning, though.

Over the weekend J had liked upon another fitness professional’s comment that said something like before you choose to become a trainer, you should be a perfect client. Made me laugh, because while I consider myself a pretty awesome client in comparison to Jane Average (my former aspirational target), I know what a disaster I would be as a trainer much less a coach. So in my case, the corollary does not work. Of course, I have no real ambition to be a coach. The closest I come would be being agreeable to practicing with other tribe members who are struggling with motivation. I mean, for me, if I know I am supposed to meet someone for practice, I show up. But that’s completely different than actually trying to teach them something.

So despite having a training appointment at 5 p.m. tonight, I was in the gym this morning going through an upper body List. Granted I was 3 hours later than my normal Monday arrival time, but I slept an hour later and got some work done before going. Work – always a major time-suck before practices. In my own reasoning, though, I apparently worked the lower body harder than anticipated yesterday – legs were so stiff this morning! Walking the treadmill desk helps enormously, but once I get immersed in something work-related, it’s hard for me to stop until I am done with the task at hand. Hence the 3 hour delay.

And once in then gym, it seems the universe was conspiring against me and my plans. Huffy-puffy List? Class was starting just after my warm-up, bench was in use by someone else, and just other people milling around making me feel claustrophobic. Favorite cable machine had a couple of ladies enthusiastically pulling cables up and down, so I gave up and went downstairs. Not too bad – big boys room was pretty empty and able to snag a bench and room to do my rows and chest presses. The conspiracy against me getting my shit done was back in play when I moseyed over to the other side – a couple of older gents were homesteading on the 2 machines I wanted to use. Plan B – skip to next blocks and cable tower. Found my corner and got to work.

Somehow the time passed so quickly, possibly because of my pondering where all these folks came from today and why were they going out of their way to get into my way. Did they not understand that I am on a mission here? Could have been worse; they could have been cranky towards me rather than just occupying, sweating, and breathing loudly upon machinery I wished to use while texting between their brief and grunty sets. As if me and my desire to complete my block of sets is somehow more weighty and important in the grand scheme of things.

Yep, in a bit of a snarky mood this morning. I think these things in the moment, but I do not react with hostility toward those around me. And I also recognize my limited patience for bullshit is even thinner than usual. I suppose it is to be expected. Compartmentalizing my emotions so I can continue to function in a primarily normal manner is a skill I have honed to master level of certification, yet it is not without its costs. Being on edge and trying to keep myself from flying apart like an exploded suitcase, I’m edgier and even less patient than usual. I cling to the rituals of polite society; it and my hyper-vigilance about fulfilling my responsibilities to others is part of the thread that keeps me stitched together.

Good thing I blog and can say the shit the flitters in and out of my head. It’s like a pressure release valve. So thanks for that.

The upper body List I went through this morning, I wonder why I do not pursue it more often. Or maybe, despite the conspiracy theorist that has taken up part-time residency in my head this morning, I wonder why I do not do upper body stuff more frequently. Or perhaps good days, good feelings just feel so grand I want more than my share of that. Whatever – I have lots of questions and there are even more multiples of answers to each, yet no one answer quite satisfactory and inclusive enough to stave off the production of more questions.

My days start better with exercise. Even though J and I will be doing something tonight, the rest of my day is better because I went to the gym and moved weight to and fro for an hour and 15 minutes. I now know this about myself and accept it as necessary part of my day-to-day existence.

A good habit to have adopted.

Thinking and reading about what others in my fat loss group do, “overtraining” never pops into my head. If I were trying to lift the weightier weights daily it might eventually become a thought, but my methods and practices – not hardly. If I’m tired or tire more easily than normal, I do less weight or slo-mo my sets to diagnose the issue. This is not slacking, or so I have to tell myself frequently lately; this is me pacing and figuring stuff out. Big difference in classification in my mind.

So goes my Monday thus far. Because training is an evening gig today, training recap will post will be tomorrow most likely. Because I’m determined to get back into my groove. New normal is very slowly starting to take shape. I don’t like it, not a bit. But I also can’t change it, so tantrums become a waste of energy and my tantrum quota. Better I save that for something really significant, like nothing to wear to an upcoming wedding. I only have a month to figure it out, but sure as shit my tension over proper attire and going will start to escalate the closer we get to the end of September. The first significant runner people gathering in awhile. Makes me really wish I drank alcohol or smoked dope. I can certainly see how those might help with my tolerance for social niceties.

September’s issue, though. Right now, I feel particularly content with the day and do not want to harsh that thinking too far into the future.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #grief, #gym, #happy, #health, #mental-health, #positivity

PT-64: The lost session (day 21)

Monday morning, training with J.

I unexpectedly and tragically lost a close friend yesterday and feel wrecked about it. But I got up and went to meet fab trainer J this morning anyway, because if I can easily imagine lying on a set of train tracks waiting for a train to run me over I can all too easily find myself canceling sessions, blowing off practices, and returning to a sedentary lifestyle in my grief.

No matter what my circumstances, how crappy I feel today or in the days ahead, I cannot be deterred from my better health quest.

Mercifully, comfort food holds little appeal right now, although I admit I feel the knee-jerk allure of old habits. I have worked so hard to get past that reflexive inclination, and I have new habits and ways to cope.

Life continues, despite a broken heart and wounded spirit.

But I got nothing as far as feedback from this review session. At this point of the day, 12 hours later, I cannot really recall what we did. I know it was review. I know it was upstairs. Beyond that, it all looks and feels like a big blur today. I could look at the List and it will refresh what we did, but nothing stands out other than getting through it without bursting into tears and lying on the floor sobbing and refusing to get back up.

Yeah, I had my fears about that happening.

Since we finished in record time, I know I could care less about rep count or even set count. We could have done one per and I would say it was fine. One low energy, low expectations session matters little to me under the circumstances. Not showing up for it felt terrifying on so many levels.

I’m very fortunate – I have an incredibly caring, supportive tribe that holds my hands and lets me ramble and wander as I stumble along in this haze of grief.

But as I type this – a couple of things do stand out.

I want to be able to climb to my feet from sitting on the floor without having the help of another person or sturdy, immovable object. And right now it does seem to still to require the logistical planning of unsinking the Titantic from the ocean floor, but it will not be like this forever.

The things that influenced and inspired me to get started on my better health quest, those only die if I allow them to die in my heart and mind. Courage, bravery, all those cool-sounding heroic buzz words do not enter into this equation. Discipline, steadfastness, accepting that life continues is the only thing that makes the senseless unlucky sequence of events make sense.

The range of emotions that come with loss are not easy to quantify or describe, and there is no one-size-fits-all patterns to mourning. The amount of anger and rage I feel inside is almost embarrassing, yet who am I actually angry with? God? Some other higher power? Modern medicine? My friend? Myself? I think it normal, healthy, to be upset and full of rage that something I never, ever wanted to happen has happened. It seems yet another side of the complexities of being human and the circle of life.

I learned a long time ago that being a victim is a circumstance, but it does not need to be the defining circumstance. Channeling my anger and my rage has been a driving force to get me past that label and made me make something of myself. While it feels kind of noble to imagine continuing my better health quest for my friend and compadre who means so much to me, it is also a cheap and tawdry self-serving device for which he would gleefully verbally bitch-slap me if he were reading this right now. Always, this has been for and about me and me alone, and to try to twist it into some sort of tribute is both wrong and unsustainable for the long haul. His influence and encouragement does not end because he is no longer walking this earthly plane with me. Perhaps that is the best, finest legacy anyone can provide.

I am so much stronger, more capable, and frankly more physically appealing to my own eye than I was when I started with J. I work hard at my better health quest for myself, for more life in the years I have. But I have new measures of pride and confidence, and I am glad my friend got to see and experience that first hand.

In the throes of grief and loss, I truly remember why I love my life. Because I feel such depths of grief and loss with the passing of a genuine, faithful friend. Eventually I will bear these fresh scars with dignity and pride, and always remember the one who helped me earn them.

Not much of a training recap today, I know. Hopefully our regular programming will return soon.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #grief, #gym, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #motivation, #sadness

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

What We Did

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

1-legged Leg Press
Bench Elevated Pushup

Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Medicine Ball Vertical Chops
Stability Ball Passes

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

Bottom line: I’m fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

PT-60: Sweet spots and happy spaces (day 7)

Monday morning, training with J. And it was way too much fun! I sometimes think that I pack a lot of my fun for the week into the couple of hours of training with J each week. The ranges of our conversation contribute to the sense of accomplishment, and I frequently believe I get more out of our pre- and post-session chitchat than most people get out of the on the floor work.

Key Takeaways

I am getting stronger. This is one of my weird blindness issues in that this small fact continues to surprise me. Not sure why it should, but it always does. From my earliest recollections of an 8 lb. dumbbell being big and heavy to now, goblet squatting with a 50 lb. dumbbell, I have had this continual upward trajectory with weightier weights that confirms the work I do in the gym. Yet I am mostly in denial, until something splendid happens and I realize – wow, I did that!

One of the best aspects of training with J is the experiments in the test kitchen. In the 2 years we have worked together, I have watched him bulk up with muscle, then slowly trim back down, then bulk up again, slowly trim back to “normal” size. Nothing crazy or alarming, but definitely he gets bulkier and then very gradually becomes less so with changes in season or diet and exercise focus. Right now he is in a trim down and retain muscle phase, noticeably losing weight and becoming a more defined V-shape shape. With each of these cycles, though, there has been a dietary change and/or modified exercise focus, sometimes mildly, often wildly. There was the year of veganism – that was interesting. Now he’s working with intermittent fasting and kind of a blander foods diet. Lots of exercise himself, of course, and it sounds to me like more cardio as well. It is pure fun for me to watch and listen to the methods to his madness. But when your job is working with folks trying to reshape their shape, it is good to be aware and to test drive some of the things they/we as clients bring up and question him about.

Older is new again, with skills this time around. I have so much fun training days, and today was like new and off-the-scale fun. If all clients are as happy as I am when we conclude on Mondays and Thursdays, J has the best job in the whole world. Maybe not everyone has this level of fun or are as into training as I am, but it is really great to see and feel measureable forward progress.

What We Did

Today was about both review and layering in some alternative to our existing push List.

A1  Heavy goblet squat
A2  Incline chest press

B1  Bulgarian split squat
B2  1-arm overhead press/1-arm snatch

C1  Tricep rope cable (high, middle, low)
C2  Rope upright row

D1  Bent arm plank
D2  Reach-up + chopper sit-ups

How It Felt

Did I mention the heavy goblet squat with a 50 lb. dumbbell? While I could minimize it and say it was only the final set, I’m not going there. It was a 50 lb. dumbbell! Huge – physically and weightier weight wise. My issues of late with the heavier weights is ensuring form stays good and in place. With the goblet squats, there is this whole subtle hip breaks away first before knees and without too much forward lean. It’s subtle enough that I really have to apply supersize focus to ensure I work the body parts in the appropriate way. Today we warmed up with 30, up to a 40, then a 45, and finally the 50. J explained that trying to extend my strength range, it was fine to try for a few reps with the heavier weight. For whatever reason, I thought we were supposed to start heavier and drop set if necessary.

We did the incline chest press today, and as is our new custom, ramped up the weights. I went from pairs of 20, to 25, to 30 lb. dumbbells and had no issues. In fact, I enjoyed myself far more than is probably appropriate in the gym or legal in the state of California (we’re big on regulating and taxing everything around here). But no, between the new-to-me bench with it’s unused foot rest and feet on the floor or on the tippy toes while pressing, it was a new experience that felt wonderful. If my understanding of the push-pull Lists holds true, we’re still stalking that 6 to 8 range on the heavier weights, and I did well with the 30s. That said, I think there is more to learn and master with them, so in no rush to add more weight. So much fun just to experience the new feels of the my arch and feet on the floor (versus on the bench or foot rest).

Rather than the walking lunges, J put back the Bulgarian split squats. First set was body weight and considered the warm-up, but J noted this tiny little correction: I tend to straighten, push shoulders back, and arch my low back slightly while pushing up. This is not the best for my back, but it also diminishes the work the lead leg is supposed to be doing with the pushing up part. Second 2 sets we added dumbbells – first a pair of 10s, then a pair of 15s. I mostly did okay with the weights in my hands, although I do want to watch and ensure I don’t allow shoulders to sag forward with the weight. For the most part, I’m completely delighted with my efforts with the weights; it’s been months since we added weight, and last I recall it was a single 5 lb. dumbbell offset weight effort. There is still more work to be done with these, but for the most part, I’m super happy with my efforts. Bulgarians are not on my nor anyone else I know favorite’s list, but I have not-so-secret hopes of improving with more focused practice. My good fortune that they appear on several of my Lists and weights can be added and subtracted at will.

Next up was the 1-arm overhead press, a warm-up set with the 15, then a second set with the 20. All good, went well. When J replaced the 20 with the 25, I assumed we were going to up the weights today and try and overhead press with that. Nope, we were switching to 1-arm dumbbell snatches.

Last I recall doing 1-arm dumbbell snatches, it was with a 10 or a12 lb. dumbbell, not a 25 lb. dumbbell, and truthfully it has been awhile since I have pursued those Lists. But here’s the thing about training: I trust fab trainer with absolute faith in his judgment and expertise. If he thinks I can do it with a 25 lb. dumbbell, I am going to give it my best attempts. And the first few, the whole first set – they were ugly. They were tentative, trying to remember how they worked efforts, and there might have been some “holy S**T – what the F**K am I doing?” kind of thoughts flittering through my head. A couple of them got away from me, and rather than elbow bending like an upright row my arm and hand with the weight flew out in front of my like a wildly off-course, uncontrolled front raise. J got out an 80 lb. dumbbell and demonstrated for me once again. He says the weight is not to show off, but what he needs to demonstrate what it’s supposed to look like. My fab trainer is a badass; if he wants to snatch an 80 lb. dumbbell to demonstrate, I am plenty impressed. But I did get the more explosive portion of the movement, the push forward with the hips, and most important cue of the day: lead with the elbow. Not sure what I was doing or thinking the first go-round, but honestly I think if I am doing anything with a weight in my hand mind tends to be focused on it and whatever it takes to keep it under control. Leading with the elbow – cha-ching! Coin drop moment when suddenly it all makes a lot more sense. Still not as pretty or elegant or smooth as J’s demo, but much improved over the first set.

Next up was the cable machine for the rope tricep – high, low, and middle. In my own practices, I will choose one and go through my sets with it. But today, we did a set of each. When next I pursue this List, probably it will be the low setting, if only because I am too lazy to move the cable pulley up and down between exercises. For today it was fun experimenting and doing all of them; on my own, easier to sick with low when paired with the next exercise.

The rope upright rows replaced the rope crunch. Elbows above the hands and shoulders shrug up – these are harder than they appear on paper while actually trying to go through and conduct myself through them. But I am mostly back into the groove, paying attention to the elbows above and the shrugging up part. I can still feel my shoulders and upper back from doing these. Good things.

Planks, always a favorite; the bent arm plank from the floor remain a challenge. But I’m oh-so-slowly rising to that challenge. We have been doing a lot of planking recently, primarily from the bench. My arms tremble and shake, I have to focus, Focus, FOCUS on keeping glutes tight and ribs tucked, not letting shoulders sag, keeping elbows bent. Ugh. On my own in practice, will be using my gym timber to ensure I make my minimum – at least 10 seconds – and keep a watchful eye on my potential for maximums. I was inching closer to 30 seconds off the bench, but the floor changes everything.

The reach up + chopper sit-up – I refer to them as floor chops – resurfaced. I am stronger than I was, and can generally get through 5 or 6 sets of these bad boys. But there’s something about the end of the session, especially when I am aware that I’m in overtime, and I don’t especially want to do more than some spare-bare minimum. Something in my head clicks off and has me stopping, even though I feel pretty confident about form, technique, potential ability to continue.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

No secret that I love training days. I love the learning, the corrections, the tweaks, the old and the new. There is a mind-body connection that I don’t even recognize or really even understand, but it has captured my imagination and the fullness of my attention. Having no other real hobbies (work doesn’t count), I get that this my thing. I love that I improve with practice to the point that even I see and can appreciate that my body is changing, regaining health and gaining strength.

This is my month for labs. I am eager and curious for new measures of my overall health. For the most part I feel really good about my ongoing efforts to keep my blood sugar under good control, drop some weight, and overall feel good in my own body and its abilities.

My mental and emotional health journey continues. There is a sense of disconnect and wonder that there was a 50 lb. dumbbell in my hands this morning and I did not injure myself or others in using it. More than that, sometimes the topics of our discussions while we are training bring to mind other ways and aspects of my life where I am not so normal or traditional and my brand of special needs – I would do a lot to erase that from my history. At the same time, I have grown up into a pretty normal, low-key, non-freaky sort of person. I would even venture so far to say I am pretty bland and boring when contrasted to the proclivities and interests and drama-laden lifestyle of others. And not at all strangely, I really love that about me.

Today was so much fun. My daily check-ins and discussions about exercise and diet leave me with less thought download on training days, although I admit some distraction tonight with other adventures underfoot this week. A weekend road trip may be looming large, and I am so excited I can barely focus on work or anything else this evening.

But I gotta. Such is the life of an entrepreneur with projects and deadlines and meetings ahead.

#august2017, #better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation, #productivitiy, #progress, #weight-loss