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.


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-67: Good things (day 31)

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

I still love teaching days.

What We Did

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

Romanian deadlift with 35 lb. KBs
Mini band lateral walks

Double mini band glute bridge
Stability ball hamstring curls

1-arm row with KB
Band horizontal speed rows

Dumbbell overhead pullover
Band speed straight-arm pulldown

Band facepull
Zotman curls

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

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me, that’s big progress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PT-66: All about abs (day 28+1)

A rare and different Monday evening training session. Somehow more relaxed than usual, or just so darn different than our usual meeting time that it felt weird. Plus it was a teaching night – new core exercises, updated and delving deeper into other core stuff I already know. All in all, it was a lot of fun.

Not quite back to normal format, if only because of the timing change, doing something different, and not able to recall all we did. But this Tuesday morning after – my abs! My core! Everyone has a 6 pack waiting to emerge (mine presently lurks beneath a slowly shrinking, narrowing, thinning fat layer), and last night we worked each and every one of them and woke them up to the reality of what it’s like to be worked industriously.

Take it from me, my core does not like it, not one bit. The squeaking while going through the exercises was one thing; the shrieking this morning is quite another.

Still, all good. I had a good introduction to leg raises of various stripes, more crunches than I realized existed, and some new chop variations. We also revisited glute bridges with double mini bands, and planks, my old/new nemesis. Still, all good.

I have to highlight a couple of new favorite intriguing things, not ever to be confused with favorite exercises. But they do capture of my imagination and the challenge of actually doing them is strong with these, and while I am sure there will be a follow-up recap featuring things we did, this is a brief summary of the primary standouts.

There was one that was like an Otis-up crunch with a leg raise follow on – forever forward labeled in my mind as a teeter-totter. J lives in this land of hopeful optimism when he suggests we try for 10 to 12, and inside my head there is this ringing, mocking laughter. But they intrigue me nonetheless. There is almost a rhythm to up with upper body, down slow to some magic point, then elevate legs – all while paying attention to pressing low back into the bluegrass. Teeter-totters seems appropriate.

Then there was a variation of the band high to low chop. Rather than a hinge type movement, it was more like a side bend that I can still feel in my obliques. J remarked it would take some practice to get the movement right, and boy howdy was he not kidding. First order of business is retraining mind/body to not automatically go for the hinge, however weeble-wobble it may appear in practice. Second is to rib tuck that elbow into knee while gripping that band. So much harder in reality that this very brief description can belie.

Not good at either these yet. Then again, I do not feel particularly good at any core exercise. Otis-ups and floor chops? Struggle, struggle, struggle. Grit teeth, resolve one more series, swear repeatedly inside my head, keep going.

I am presently not capable of having legs straight on the ground while raising the upper body. I have to really focus on pressing my low back into the floor beneath me. Leg raises are also not easy, and my hips do not elevate even a quarter inch off the floor. Big change for me: I honestly don’t care. New stuff is still new stuff. Core focus is kind of new stuff as well, and core is relatively untrained compared to other parts of me. Practice will happen, core will take on life of its own and stake out residency in my rotation of thoughts and things I need to do or pay more attention to as the days pass.

The months have passed, and I have enjoyed many big and small successes with my practices, my learning new exercises, and with improving my overall diet. More than that, I am really enjoying my increased confidence and self-assurance. My vanity is not so powerful that it drives my desire to go the gym daily, yet I am pleased with the reshaping of my shape. It’s a big giant boost when I am wearing smaller sized clothes.

Results matter. I will never deny that. My pursuit of results – the diabetes control, the additional strength and physical capability, the lower lower resting heart rate and blood pressure – all these things actually have little to do with my appearance. The weight I have lost and the smaller size clothing is a byproduct and consequence of better health. As I have repeatedly said, the numbers I chase are not measured on a bathroom scale or tape measure.

So for me it is not the big promises of results that marketers push. For me it has been a zillion tiny things that contribute to my better health.

Somewhere under the layer of fat covering my abdomen, my core muscles are waking up and will soon be laboring to grow stronger. Maybe the fat layer eventually burns away and my core muscles reveal themselves. Or not. Finally my understanding has grown past the marketing of what I could have and the correlation between burning fat via careful diet and consistent exercise has me pursuing overall health versus a more pleasing physical appearance. The latter will come, and I have no clear idea of what it will look like when it finally happens.

Once upon a time, at the start of this journey, there was a trainer I saw a few mornings each week that possessed a larger bone structure. She was sturdy and seemed strong and capable, and while not a slender or svelte trainer, she seemed healthy and attractive. As aspirational role models went, she was a good choice for me.

But now I feel past that as an aspirational role model. Not actually sure I want or need one to keep me motivated to pursue my healthier lifestyle habits. The education and learning curve with exercise, diet, and the way it all works together has pushed me past the need for such outside motivation. If anything, I want to expand my knowledge and understanding. I want to know about different exercises and their impact on the body. I want to learn more about food and its impacts on my particular body without having to chase calorie and macro counting.

Through all this, I know my attitude has changed. I have learned quite a bit, from my own training sessions and observing J and the other trainers working with their clients or conducting classes. I am also acutely aware that it’s not a job calling for me, because I lack the patience and diplomacy required to properly teach someone who is floundering around and not ready or willing to invest in the work it takes for any sort of results.

I speak to this from experience. I can clearly recall my own intimidation and paralysis for doing much other than showing up on Thursdays for training sessions. Clearly, this was not trainer J’s fault as a professional; he has always been supremely conscientious and goes above and beyond to meet each of the training tribe’s needs for help, assistance, overcoming learning curves. Nope, the problem was me and my own brand of gym crazy. Overcoming that was primarily on me, and there is no easy way to do that until someone is ready to take that step.

And I know how difficult it is to gain any sort of mastery over exercise and convincing rusty muscles and joints that they are old dogs desiring to learn new tricks for the greater good. I do not perceive myself as looking fabulous working my way through the List of the day. I do not for a single minute imagine my sweaty and gross state is an attractive or desirable picture of good health. The informercials and advertisements always have these ripped models with perfect tans, makeup, and hair going through the routines or demonstrating equipment or telling us how they used to weight 4000 lbs. and are now down to 110 because they took [insert magical solution here].

I have seen trainer J sweating through his own workouts, and I have seen many of the other trainers as well. Out of their red-shirted uniforms, they look just like the rest of us working through their own Lists and routines. It really is not very glamorous or attractive, although there is beauty in the muscle movement and exercise done right. Learning new habits and the safest, sanest methods for exercise is not a simple once-and-done process. There is no easy way, no shortcuts. Hard work. Consistency. Patience. Lots and lots of sweat, probably some tears, maybe even a tiny amount of bloodshed (accidents happen).

I know all this, really, really well. After 2 years there are still struggles and challenges, even with Lists I know well and weights that I can comfortably utilize. Does not mean it is ever easy, and I must be doing something wrong if it looks easy.

My point here is – I have a whine quota. I allow myself a certain amount of whining inside my own head, and a lesser amount outside in the real world. The tolerance I have for myself and my own whining is less than other folks, but still – the stuff I hear from other members I know well or overhear from others working nearby leads me to the conclusion that many members operate under extremely unrealistic expectations.

And a potential character flaw: my tolerance for extremely unrealistic expectations under nearly any circumstances is pretty thin. Hence my assurance to all my friends that if I were to ever attempt any kind of personal training or coaching, I’d get fired in short order. Tough love is not a last resort in a family gym where personal training is a pricey add on; it is probably outlawed and grounds for termination.

I am not someone who shames people for being overweight or much else. However, as it has been pointed out again and again, there is a very small percentage of us who are overweight for physiological reasons beyond our control. As much as anyone else, I know the allure of food as a panacea for all that ails me. No one is especially weak for their inability to eat healthy or start an exercise program, but if the readiness to do what it takes is in place, it seems unlikely to happen.

I do understand that, and I’m sympathetic. Intimidation, fear, anxiety, feeling insecure about knowing what to do or how to do it – been there, done that, still have the t-shirt tucked away in the back of my drawers. I have also offered to hang out and practice with others to help them get started, restarted, or just keep on moving forward. I’ve talked for hours to friends and written what feels like a billion words on various diet, exercise, motivation to improve my health-related issues.

But my tolerance for bullshit is limited under the best of circumstances, and the only lying I seem to do even remotely well is when I try to lie to myself. Thankfully, diet and exercise is not my professional responsibility, so the evolving opinions I espouse to trainer J and other close friends makes me feel like a mildly less awful, judgmental person. I understand my own shortcomings toward others, but friends are a separate classification and kettle of fish, though. I would do a lot and share anything and everything I know to help them be successful and achieve their goals. But I’m not born again zealot about it; ask me what I might be doing right, happy to share. The process is not easy for anyone, and unless some natural athlete crosses my path in the future where I can ask if it is easier for them than it has been for me.

Today, 24 hours later, the abs are still angry shrieking about the unnatural work I put upon them. Anymore it’s so unusual for me to be sore after training I have almost forgotten what its like.  But worth it – so very worth it.

And I’m excited about trying it again. While I did floor chops and bench planks this morning as part of today’s List, probably tomorrow I’ll try to layer in something else. Assuming the shrieking has faded a bit by then.

Training days. Way more fun than I ever anticipated.



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

PT 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

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

Body disintegration (day 25)

One of my neighbors approached me this morning as I returned from the gym. We have spoken a few times in the last 6 years, but are not close. She lives a few homes away from us and I wave and smile when I see her walking her dog or working in her front yard.

Today I was unloading my gym bag, etc., and she hailed me from the street. I guess she has noticed my gym comings and goings and noted my sleeker physique (her term – how thrilling!) and wanted to ask me what I was doing to implement such changes. We are about the same age – she just turned 56 – and she was curious about what I have done to achieve my present results.

Exercise, exercise, exercise – getting my ass off the couch or from behind the desk and moving more. That is always my basic premise, onto which I add that I spend 6 to 7 days per week every week doing resistance training or lifting weights. Today, I finally feel like I can say I am lifting weights a couple of days per week.

She was really disappointed. I know because she said “oh, I’m really disappointed. I was hoping it was all diet.”

From there we proceeded into a discussion about my dietary changes. Protein shakes 2 or 3 times daily, a decent meal that is lower in carbohydrates, high in protein, and uber generous with the green salads and vegetables. Fruit because I like it, or if I am going to supplement food because I’m hungry or simply desire a snack. Kind of boring. I accepted it long ago – my eating habits are actually kind of boring.

Then she said “oh, that sounds really bland.” Well, it is kind of to really bland. I am a bland food-consuming type of person anyway, only I am retraining myself to eat bland food that is heavier protein and lots of plant-based food and mostly limiting or while trying to eliminate my carb- and sugar-aholic tendencies.

I explained there are no shortcuts for me to lose weight and overhauling my lifestyle was the only choice in the matter. A benefit – not a goal – of overhauling my lifestyle is a sleeker physique. And the choices are simple, not very glamorous, and involves hard work, discipline, more hard work, consistency, buckets of sweat, lots of tears, maybe even a little blood, and did I mention even more hard work with added discipline? It’s not easy. There is not even a walking bridge from here to there – wherever our individual “there” resides.

She says at age 50 her body began disintegrating. Problems with her foot, surgical rebuilds on a knee and a shoulder, something else with her back. Her metabolism or something else changed when she turned 50 and she suddenly began gaining a lot of weight and developed asthma and sleep apnea, had foot problems, then the knee and shoulder issues, a broken elbow, multiple instances of sprained wrists.

Not sure what to say to all that. I suggested she consider joining a gym and hiring a trainer – mine is fabulous, yet after listening to her I was suddenly reluctant to refer her to him. There are classes aimed at mature folks. But she was not interested in real solutions; she wants the magic bullet or the mythical pill that changes her life. Gym is expensive and time consuming; her life is so busy. Fatalistically sure that trainer is going to not be able to teach her enough to slow the disintegration of her body. Her intimidation and embarrassment would not let her do a public class. Cooking is a hobby, eating is an art form, and no way could she eat in the ways I have adopted at the present time for any length of time.

Okay then – there’s your answer. If you are unwilling to change anything that could potentially have a positive impact on your life, I really have no constructive advice or suggestions left to offer.

Sleeker physique or not, there are really good reasons why I would be a disaster at trainer J’s job and others achieving success as trainers. In no way does this mean I hold them in the same respect and esteem as I do fab trainer J, but they are patient, they are kind, they are able to compartmentalize their personal feelings and still work with the client. Or they are far better than I at projecting those qualities consistently enough to be successful in working with clients. In other words, they have skills I simply do not possess.

Having worked (unsuccessfully) with other trainers prior to J, I know it’s mostly his nature, skills, and abilities to make this stuff make sense to me. It’s as much a personality match between us as anything else. But I also now have a better sense of how to choose a trainer that will work with me toward my aspirations and objectives, as fuzzy-muddy as they may be on the steps of the journey. I also feel more confident and capable of articulating my fuzzy-muddy thoughts about the overall better health quest in a relevant manner. And if there is a future trainer that cannot or will not be capable of working with me in ways that make me feel successful, I know how to release them from my realm.

And my neighbor? She told me again how great I look and to keep fighting the good fight. I watched her limp down and across the street home, her little dog prancing along beside her. But for the wiser choices I have made it could be me, without the prancing yorkie. I am glad to be the one working hard learning to lift safely and sanely, to not having any physical impairments to overcome.

For all my present-day heartache, I am on the right track and doing it for the right reasons. And it’s okay if I would be a disaster as a trainer/coach for the average person. My skill set is different than those in that type of caring profession. This does not make me a bad person. Despite my deficiencies in being able to share what I know and have learned, I am still a good person. I work at it, even when it feels like I’m not.

And believe me, knowing that, believing that is supersize progress.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #choices, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #health, #healthy-eating