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

Like my life depends on it (day 27)

I have lots of questions. Sometimes the answers are simple, often they are more complicated and lead to even more questions. Perhaps it is the ongoing search for answers that keeps me questing on multiple fronts.

Of late, I am been feeling slack-ish in my better health quest pursuits. Even before friend J’s passing, I was not feeling as gung-ho and in-it-to-win-it as I judge is my minimum participation factor. About myself, I know how inherently lazy I am. Or as J puts it (so nicely and diplomatically when speaking of the body and it’s tendencies), efficient. To be fair and balanced to myself, I am never going to be as tough or as competitive as others. Maybe I could evolve into someone who is tougher and more competitive, but in the present moment, I am not. And it’s okay. They are okay, and so am I.

Today I wanted to be better. I wanted to see myself as doing better, completing my List with good intention and level of effort as well as good form and normal weight and rep ranges. Lofty ambitions? Not really. Normal ambitions.

But as is always the case, I was thinking about it pretty carefully while going through my List of the day this morning. I had resolve to go through full sets and rep ranges and do the ramp up sets as noted. Thinking about the whole “if my life depended upon …” finishing this set with full rep ranges, doing another set will full rep ranges, not stopping, not resting, not pausing until it was done mostly worked pretty well.

It was an interesting theory and mental training exercise. Mindset is hard. Staying focused, staying consistent, staying with it when I want to stop – it is not easy transformative process. My more comfortable, comforting conclusion is that this process is a process, not a destination. And as in all things in human hands, the process is not a perfectly straight line from here to there. It is an imperfect zig-zag, and understanding that makes me feel better. Always there is a desire for a clear roadmap, because I am a minor league control freak. My fuzzy-muddy acceptance of this fact makes it easier to not loosen the reins on negative girl and turn her loose to thrash me for my human imperfections.

I did well with the bigger stuff and 5 sets of everything until the last block. At the end of it all, the ab work was my undoing. I really, really wanted to do my prescribed 2 sets of planks and floor chops (Otis ups and chopper sit-ups combination) with predetermined maximums of 60 seconds and at least 8 full sets of the floor chop series. Second set, I collapsed on the floor after 25 seconds and was so over after 5 of the floor chops. Another go-round with the planks and then a few more chops and I was so done for the day. I feel great about my effort, and I did learn a little bit about my mindset.

Mostly, my mental focus is not the same as other ladies and people I know. This is a neutral thought, neither positive or negative. However, it does give me other objectives to contemplate while I am pursuing my Lists or working with J or with my gym pals.

I do work hard. I enjoy my daily dosage of exercise, even if I am not the peppiest or most enthusiastic of gym members. I try for steady consistency, and today took me 90 minutes to get through the List working steadily and as efficiently as I could muster with the additional sets. My distraction factor was better today as well.

I’m very sad still. Grief takes awhile to process anyway, but in my compartmentalized way it seems to be a less efficient process.

But I’m happier today. Someone I like and love like a brother is gone from my present day reality, but better health is all about me, for me. Letting go of that goal or allowing detours to disrupt me, that’s all about me as well. As I have said many times before, I’m not that woman anymore. Better, stronger, more determined than when I took the first step more than 2 years ago.

I am proud of me and my ability to pick myself up, dust myself off, continuing the forward steps. And use a 50 lb. dumbbell for 3 sets of goblet squats. Big triumph that still makes me happy inside.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #exercise, #fitness, #focus, #friends, #grief, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #motivation, #sadness

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

Today, it’s mostly about me (day 9)

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

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

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

Life is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear, anxiety, not surrendering my training wheels (day 5)

As I noted in yesterday’s post , there were two events on Thursday evening that have me thinking and navel-gazing about my own reactions, actions, behaviors, and impulses. I started to write about both as one blog post, but on reflection it seems they are significant enough to break them into different posts. Besides, on my quest for posting something every day in August, I hope there is some meat with the potatoes.

When I was a kid and learned to ride a bike, I did so completely on my own and without training wheels. My dad was not available to put them on my bicycle, nor were he or my mother much interested in teaching me how to ride. Being semi-resourceful and already accustomed to having my little girl heart disappointed with strings of empty promises, I set out to learn on my own.

Down the street, there was a house with a low chain link fence. It was perfect height for tiny me to learn about 2-wheeled balance and still having something to hold onto or to grab when the inevitable weeble-wobble took over. The fence itself was maybe 30 yards long, and I painstakingly would go up and back every afternoon and on the weekends for a couple of weeks until I go the hang of staying upright on my bike. I fell repeatedly and had skinned up knees and elbows and even my chin to show for it, but I persisted. After what seemed like forever, I could successfully ride down the street under my own power without the benefit of my fence. Or training wheels.

I was really anxious those first few trips down the street away from my fence, and I kept coming back, practicing my craft with that security blanket, until I had enough confidence to go farther. But every time I fell – which that first year was practically every day – I would return to my training grounds until I was sure I was ready to go it alone again.

My friend K is killing it with her work in the gym. It is/was a lifelong dream to learn to be strong, and she has crossed off that item and is well on her way to updating it with new achievements. Thursday night she deadlifted 250 lbs., a new personal record, and she is so stoked about it. I share her excitement and am so happy for her in this latest, greatest milestone, as she has only been doing barbell deadlifting a few months. K was involved in a very serious auto accident a few years ago, and she and J have described for me how painful her efforts when she started training a couple of years ago and look at her now. She is an inspiration to me, a shining example of hard work, disciplined dedication, and overall toughness.

Yet my excitement for her accomplishment has a thread of anxiety running through it. What if she hurts herself by pushing too hard?

Fear is a long-running theme in my life, and I recognize the bias in my reaction to the news. I’m overjoyed, excited, thrilled to death for my friend, yet inside I can feel that curl of anxiety in the pit of my stomach about whether or not she should be attempting this much weight at this point in her weight lifting career. The fear, anxiety, concern is not warranted. Learning to lift safely is what brought me to J in the first place, and K is of a similar mindset. Nevermind that I used that anxiety and fear as a crutch to not do the work, at least initially, but I am self-aware enough to know when I am making excuses to give in to my fears and stay safely ensconced in my happy comfort zone and when I am being irrational and unwilling to even try.

I certainly do not want my bias and strain of gym crazy to unduly influence my friendships. I do my best stay aware and couch my concerns in a positive way that does not sound like the panic and anxiety I may actually feel.

Thoughts about perception and fears were brewing in the back of my mind writing my training recap Thursday. Partly triggered by my kitchen sink thoughts that come with training, partly by stuff on Facebook and anecdotes shared in my fat loss group.

I completely understand how my fear and anxiety will hold me back, both in my better health quest and in other aspects of my personal and professional lives. I am not brave or courageous or noble or anything else particularly admirable for setting fear aside and donning my big girl capris and turning down the volume on that negative noise aside and just trying, faltering, even failing, and getting up and doing it again until those F words fade into the background of my thoughts and activities.

I’m not an especially extroverted personality and actually feel pretty damn socially awkward much of the time. Yet I meet people, present proposals where they pay me money to do work for them, and they hire me and frequently are happy with the service I provide. It’s uncomfortable for me, meeting new clients and presenting myself in a way that feels competent and trustworthy. And even when I don’t particularly want the engagement it feels like rejection if they choose to hire someone else.

This is part of who I am, and I have learned to accept it and make it work for me. I freely admit to still having to work at not giving a shit what people think. Mentally preparing this post in my head, it has occurred to me that I fear the casual cruelty that I perceive when some random stranger says something negative to or about me. It hurts my feelings and is very hard to hear. And while I am infinitely tougher about that stuff now, I have not yet deadened all those nerve endings. Probably, hopefully I never will, lest I too become the mean and insensitive person in my nightmares.

But I have come to understand it is the words that are hurtful, not the person uttering them. The mean guy saying unkind things is simply manifestation of the internal megaphone of what I think about myself, and therein lies the difficulty of facing that person again, hearing their words in the echo chamber of my mind and forcing me to face up to humiliating thoughts I hold true about myself.

As I have grown more confident and shut down the falsehoods negative girl propagates, realistic girl has stepped up to take her place. Realistic girl is not the Pollyanna Positive that manifests for everyone around me, because I so want to perceive the world in the best light possible and think so highly of those with whom I associate. I think realistic girl keeps me grounded, so my heart is not broken 20 times daily by the disappointment of people being people.

I frame this post with that much background about my fear and anxiety because it is relevant. For so long I was afraid of change, afraid of the hard work and complicated steps involved with change, afraid I was not up to the challenge and lacked the intellect and other resources necessary to effect the change I desired. Hell, I was afraid to want to change, period.

Then one day it really hit home that I wanted to live a productive life and not be a burden to my husband and family with future me in failing health. I became more fearful of that outcome than paralyzed by my anxiety of the hard work and potential for failure in trying now to change it while I still have the physical resources and mental capacity to try.

So began the tiny little steps toward my better health quest and its unintended conseuences.

I’m trying hard to be smarter, to listen to fab trainer J and others whose opinions I trust. I am reading experts, involved with my fat loss group. Things are going well.

Then again – I wonder if I should take my newfound confidence and start *gasp* setting some goals? I have overcome my aversion to the scale; maybe I can do the next step and set more specific goals?

I don’t think I’m ready for that, and I tell myself it’s perfectly okay to be a mostly goal-less person. Objectives are good; I am striving to get up out of bed and into the gym most days. Check – habit primarily established. Healthier eating? Working on it. No particular timeline, no deadlines to miss, no falling short of preconceived expectations. Success is the series of little wins that slowly lead to long-term changes.

Training wheels, safety rails, balance aids – they do make me feel safe even if I no longer need them to keep me upright. I know they are there to help catch me and soften the falls I am likely to face as time marches on and the work becomes more detailed and complex. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. So in my better health quest, I still need the guidance of my village of experts and the give-and-take support and encouragement of our tribe. As a body of influence they insulate and protect me, mostly from myself and the doubts that would otherwise cripple me and have stopped my progress long ago.

And for that, I am infinitely grateful.

#anxiety, #august2017, #better-health, #challenges, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fear, #fitness, #friends, #goals, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #mental-health, #progress

Fat empowerment (day 4)

Two events happened on Thursday evening that have me thinking and navel-gazing about my own reactions, actions, behaviors, and impulses. As an aside, my own gym adventures were cut somewhat short today with a hip tweaking pain that made me eliminate a couple of lower body things from the List in order to return and exercise in future days. Not sure what I did or why it was giving me so much grief, but I believe it was the right call. 

Lately I have been particularly focused on the “beautiful at any size” message. It is not something I talk about a lot in casual conversation, but my stronger feelings on the topic came out in discussion with a friend last night.

Having never been a thin or small woman, I remain clueless as to what it’s like to be very slender or have anyone express concern about my not eating enough. Knowing ladies of that particular body type, I understand it can be annoying to be questioned about how much they are eating and if they weigh enough to be healthy. Thin shaming is apparently not the social taboo that fat shaming remains.

I have been overweight, obese, fat, heavy – however you describe weighing more than a realistic ideal weight for my frame, I am it. I have spent several years treating type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol with medication and feeling depressed and helplessly hopeless about the impact my sedentary lifestyle and crappy eating habits had on my health. Having never been someone who identifies as beautiful or with any potential for that standard, my only desire has been to remain invisible to mean people, the casually cruel (but with good intentions) who would suggest that I would be so much prettier if I just lost the weight or some other silly, pointless sentiment. Fuck good intentions – that sort of conversation is and was humiliating to me and everyone else I know who has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight.

If I am being charitable, I can see that there is good intention behind the “beautiful at any size” messages. Again, fuck good intention. Sorry, but beauty is a superficial standard and only skin deep. Putting forth an “empowering” message like that should include the warning labels of all the risks and chronic conditions carrying too much fat and extra weight present.

From this evolving mindset, conversation with a friend last night. Early 40s, divorced, she has gained about 40-plus pounds in the last few years, a combination of aging and hormones, ongoing sedentary lifestyle, food choices. Having never really had much of an issue with her weight, though, she’s having a hard time adjusting to this new reality, where she has to work at maintaining a healthy weight. We have talked about it many, many times through the years, and she has even joked for every pound I lose through exercise and improving my eating habits she picks it up and adds one of her own. Shortly after I started working with J, her physician had just diagnosed type 2 diabetes in addition to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and put her on the first step oral medication in addition to what she was already taking to treat her other preventable conditions. She chalked it up to stress – tax season had just ended, she was eating a lot of crap, now that the stress storm had passed it would level out. The weight gain had started, but it was just a few pounds. Fast forward to now, her medication dosages have steadily increased every few months when her numbers continue to go up instead of down. Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, treating all with mediation, doing nothing to modify her diet or increase her activity. Her diabetes is advancing quickly enough that her doc is making noise about insulin injections.

I wince every time we discuss it. I talk about my own journey – I can painfully recall pretty much the exact same conversations with my own doctor and the steady increase in medication to treat what I refused to try and help myself with. I have invited her to join me at the gym, introduce her to trainer J to see if she can work with him, talked to her about resources I have found that are helping me with adjusting my own eating habits. No interest at all. I get it; she’s not ready.

Understand I do not do this with the zealotry of the born again; I am not that type of person. However, when she is complaining about limitations to clothing choices – she hates shopping in the plus size department – or pain in her knees/back/body in general, I offer the things that have helped me. I recognize her unwillingness to own her problems, though, and I recognize the limitations of influence and her readiness to hear the harder truths. The matter drops until the next time we’re hanging out and I’m eating a salad and drinking water and she’s having fully loaded pizza and drinking beers. No judgment, but I also grow weary of the whining and am not shy about calling her out on contradictory behavior in a kind and caring manner.

Apparently no one likes to be called out on contradictory behavior, especially by someone who up until recently always outweighed her by at least 20 lbs.

But unlike many other friendships, our relationship has weathered these storms. Last night she called me very upset about a first date experience. While I am sympathetic and sorry to hear it did not go well and left her feeling this upset, I was alarmed by the double standard she was employing based on her recent adoption of “beautiful at any size” empowerment.

No one I know is an outright fat shamer, or we would not be associating much at all. However, I judge no one too harshly for their preferences. The single and dating people I know – each of them has qualities he seeks out in dating partners and physical appearance does play into those choices. People in my tribe tend to be really honest about what is politically incorrect to admit, and I don’t think any of us should have to apologize for desiring a partner that meets our minimum standard requirements. Just don’t be an unnecessarily harsh dick about it when someone you meet falls short.

My friend met this guy through an online dating site and were both seeking a relationship partner. They had been talking and chatting a couple of weeks, had exchanged pictures, seemed to have a lot in common and got along really well. My friend is bright, accomplished, vivacious, and caring; she is a quality person worth knowing and gives her all when she involved with someone. Anyway, last night was their first date, and she says she could tell by his reaction to her appearance when he walked into the restaurant that he was turned off. They had dinner, but there was a lot more formality and distance to their in-person interaction than she perceived when they were talking and chatting online and on the phone. They parted after the meal and she called me shortly after getting home.

In her mind, her weight and appearance should matter less; he had never said a word about seeking “Barbie” or a “Victoria’s Secret model.” I called her out on those very bitter descriptions. Most reasonable men know that Barbie is made or plastic and VS models are less than 1% of the female population and probably not seeking an attorney working for the state of California. I could practially hear  her waving her hand around dismissing my practical reply; point of fact, he didn’t openly state he wanted someone small. I rephrased it: you mean he did not say he wanted a woman who was less fat.

Yep, used the dreaded F word. I am a terrible friend.

Because this is an ongoing problem for me and all such “I am [insert wants to be a protected class of people here] hear me roar.” He was not interviewing her for an accounting job and rejecting her because she’s overweight. IF her weight was the issue – and we do not know for sure that it is – it is well within his right to have that preference. He’s an active, outdoorsy kind of guy that likes to hike and cycle and do all sorts of physical stuff. Probably he would like a height/weight proportional partner to share in such activities with him. The photo she has posted is a few years old; she looks similar but her face (and body) are both 40 lbs. fuller. That in itself is an issue for me, one we have discussed numerous times. If we are talking honesty and truth in advertising, she needs to update her profile and be a lot more realistic about who she is today. She’s still bright and funny and interesting, but she does not hike or cycle or even walk much at all anyone. “Too busy” she says to exercise or pursue a healthier diet. My average client fillability is 50 hours per week and I still make it to the gym nearly every day and have somehow learned to restrain my fork most of the time. Stop making excuses for your lifestyle choices.

Tough love girl was most definitely in the wheelhouse.

My friend is technically part of the BBW ranks now, and I am sorry to be the realist in her life pointing that out. She still thinks and has the same attractiveness preferences as she did when she was lighter, and I do not condemn her for that either. But I think her preference bias has great impact on her level of disappointment when the men she finds attractive do not reciprocate her interest. While in her mind it should not matter, reality is that it does matter. And the men she desires that would prefer a woman that is height/weight proportionate are not necessarily douchebags for having that preference. Unless they are unnecessarily harsh dicks about it, then all bets are off.

Her hereforeto unwillingness to update her profile to reflect present-day reality is telling about that issue as well. Intellectually she understands the disconnect. Emotionally she’s unwilling to accept responsibility for her choices.

Maybe I am the terrible friend to be practical and pragmatic when she was so upset. Perhaps I could have avoided expressing the obvious. But to trash a man who treated you nicely and politely during your time together because he did not seem attracted to you is just plain wrong. When I was single I was rejected more often than not, and yeah, it smarted. But then as now, I would always prefer a guy be honest about it than try to lead me on and fake it.

She agrees I am probably correct in my assessment, then complained that I don’t have her back. I do, but empowering delusions about the evils of the common man because he has his own attraction points for a dating partner is not in my life’s job description.

Now, as I write that, I recognize that when I met M, he was a reigning ultra marathon champion and I outweighed him (at that time 136 lbs. on a 5’11” frame) by at least 40 or 50 lbs. I was not grossly overweight, but I was not fit nor was I slender/skinny. At that time the diabetes had not yet manifested, so I was in pretty good overall health.

Time, marriage, stress, life – I’ve added more weight to my frame and so has he. M has never told me that I need to lose weight or even that I should, but he has known when I have been unhappy and my self-esteem in the toilet and quietly encouraged me in whatever effort I would put forth. He is delighted that I am as active and engaged as I am in my gym pursuits, and he compliments me lavishly (for M) on the evolving shape of my body. Does he like me better, love me more now that I’m in better physical condition? Hardly. But he’s far happier that I am healthier, more confident, more competent physically. While I do not really want to go hiking with him every weekend, I will enjoy it more when we do. Our interests and fitness pursuits are different, and we have long accepted and learned to celebrate and enjoy our differences as well as our commonalities.

I suppose that’s what bothers me most about the fat empowerment movement, its inherent demand that we not only accept obesity as a lifestyle choice but we embrace it and not hold it against those who choose to let it be a ruling priority in their life. Physically and emotionally – it’s unhealthy. Change is hard. I know it and live it every day. But enabling unhealthy choices is not the answer either. Demonizing people of any gender who have different preferences and priorities from your own is wrong as well. I hate to lose another friend to delusional craziness of the only right answer is her poor choices, but I also refuse to try and be someone I am not. We can agree to disagree, or she can grow tired of my pragmatism in the face of her complaints and distance herself. Time will tell.

#august2017, #better-health, #choices, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fat, #fitness, #friends, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #obesity, #relationships