Shaving sleep (day 19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making up for missing a day (day 15+1)

So just after weenie-whining about my List of the day not sparking joy, I go roaring back to the gym and have this simply amazing experience. Not even sparks; more like sparklers or sky-filled fireworks sort of joy.

Well, okay, I might be exaggerating a touch with the ski-filled fireworks. But it was an awesome practice. I had donned my big girl capris and ventured over into the corner of the big boys’ room where the squat racks reside, determined to use them all by myself. It helps that the gym was relatively empty at that time of the morning (yet filled up to well past my comfortable capacity by the time I left 90 minutes later) and that a recent gym acquaintance was using the other machine opposite me.

Not sure why I get mildly to wildly freaked out being alone in that part of the gym. Probably because I do not yet know the rules of the place, if I am potentially stealing from someone else by taking a plate from another machine rather than the common area racks. To be fair, though, the jumping man was walking up to that rack just as I turned away from it with absconded 25 lb. plate in my hands. He didn’t say anything, though, so I skulked back across to my rack and tried not to feel like a criminal. Because somewhere out there, the guy who left multiple 45 lb. plates on my bar is roaming without a care in the world.

Anyway, I did pretty damn awesome, even with my rookie mistake. J taught me to do this version of the Romanian deadlift in ramp up sets, meaning a warmup (or 2) of just the bar, no weight, then add a 10 lb. plate to each end for a set (or 2), then another 10 lb. plate, and finally at 5 lb. plate for a total of 25 lbs. per end or 91 lbs. with barbell. Simple really; he even wrote it down on my List. Except I was ridiculously excited in my big girl capris and doing this all on my own and somehow forgot that it was 10 lb. plates I was using and instead added a 25 lb. plate to each end. Ooops.

No tsunami hit the gym and wiped me off the face of the planet. It did feel significantly heavier than I remembered (of course), and after 12 reps I was so done with that set. I then looked at the List on my phone more closely, realized my mistake, and texted J my oopsie. I could have dropped back down, started over with the 10s and worked my way back up, but he merely agreed with me on not increasing weight further today with added reassurance that this was not the apocalypse (true – no zombies spotted). Nothing snapped, crackled, or popped within body either, so I did my remaining 3 sets with 25 lb. plates and call it very, very good.

Other than that little hiccup, the rest of my day progressed pretty splendidly. Even the very end, when my lat pulldown machine was overtaken by a couple of elderly men who threw my towel on the floor and took over, did not harsh my buzz. I just picked up my towel and gave them a pointed (and completely ignored) look. Apparently as far as they were concerned I was some ditzy member who leaves her towel on equipment. I was in a pretty good mood, though, and not contemplating ways to rip their heads off and use them as bowling balls down the walkway to the front desk.

I felt better about the tree-hugging seated rows and remembered to keep elbows bent. I got through at least 3 to 4 good and 1 or 2 decent single legged RDLs with the 25 lb. dumbbell. I did not swear profusely at the stability ball with the hamstring curls and forced myself not to think about what kind of ick might be on the floor I was lying upon.

A good morning in my better health quest.

#august2017, #better-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #healthy, #positivity

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

What We Did

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

1-legged Leg Press
Bench Elevated Pushup

Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Medicine Ball Vertical Chops
Stability Ball Passes

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

Bottom line: I’m fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#anxiety, #better-health, #confidence, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fear, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #negativity, #peace, #positivity

New shooz! (day 11)

I have been on the hunt for treadmill desk shoes and have not been enjoying a lot of success. I have tried running shoes, but the toe box seems to do something to one or both of my big toe joints and caused enduring pain. I have used my gym cross training shoes – soles are kind of rigid and stiff for multiple hours of walking and standing. Keds? Chucks? Vans? Casual sneakers? Yep, unsuccessfully tried them all.

Then I read about Kuru on a budget software forum. The ladies there were raving about how comfortable they were for walking and such, so I hopped over to the site to check them out. After reading reviews and about their various offerings, I decided on these, in white, because I anticipated mostly wearing them inside on the treadmill desk.

IMG_1642

8/11/2017 – KURU Carrera Mesh in white and gray mist. 

After having them for 4 days and wearing them steadily on the treadmill desk, none of my usual issues have arisen. Actually, I have had no issues at all, other than they are white and if I wear them outside the house they are going to be dirty in very short order. They are not terribly stylish and attractive, but their boat-like appearance and feeling is mostly in my head. Granted the soles do look heartier than my minimalist gym shoes that I love, but we are not in the land of Hoka as yet. M was very concerned about the ankle collar – it is quite high in the back – but that feature does not bother me at all.

At $125, these are not economy model footwear. However, I now recognize the depths of my addiction to the gym and to exercise. I will spend $125 for shoes I am wearing primarily in my house and on my treadmill desk because they are not uncomfortable on my feet and not causing pain or injury that may impair me in my exercise and fitness pursuits. I have never been a slave to fashion and mostly gave up the mainstream sexy heels years and years ago (to M’s infinite sorrow). Now I am even more protective of my feet and legs; I even limit my flip-flop wearing because too much causes joint pain in my ankles and feet.

Aging kinda/sorta sucks.

This is not a paid promotion for KURU shoes, either. I am thrilled to death to have found something that appears to work with my feet for all day treadmill walking while working. If they continue to feel good and comfortable in this application, I can see a second pair in my future. Unfortunately the black and the gray color schemes are a little wild for my tastes, but I can adapt. For kick-around shoes, I just want something that is less obvious about the dirt and muck in my travels than the bright white I’m presently sporting.

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

PT-61: Refine, review, improve (day 10)

Thursday morning, training with J. Of late we are doing a lot more review and refinement of the push-pull Lists with an eye toward improving form and technique as well as stay focused on the strength emphasis.

Key Takeaways

I still love review days. We could probably do review days forever and I would not notice much of a difference in how I feel about training sessions. It might get boring for J, but he would figure out a way to cope if that’s the direction we chose. Truth of the matter is I am not the one driving the List creation or what we do on Mondays and Thursdays; I like it all, even the stuff that sucks eggs. There are a lot of things I dislike to the edge of hatred and avoidance, but after I’m all done, I feel so great about having my big girl capris in place and showing that exercise who is in charge here. J is the primary decider in what we’re doing. He suggests a new direction – 100% of the time I say yay, let’s do that. If there is a choice I pick one and we do that. Or not. Sometimes he changes his mind at the last possible second and we do something other than the initially proffered choices. It makes no difference to me; I am a pretty agreeable sort anymore. In the big picture, there are other training days ahead and we will surely pick whatever mild preference I may have had during one of those future sessions.

What I don’t practice, my improvement is slow to stagnant. This is not me being a slacker; this is me being the realist that there are few practice days and a lot of Lists to pursue. But as I have been focused on improving my planking and floor chops/sit-ups, I have another pair to tag onto my daily practice for the next week or so to see if I can nudge that improvement and confidence needle in the positive direction. While I have the time to devote, I should utilize it and just spend an extra 10 to 15 minutes on the 1-leg RDL and stability ball hamstring curls as well.

Individual exercises are like icebergs; what you see above the waterline is a very small portion of the actual mass of the thing. Every week I have this realization about something that just walking by looks so easy. Lat pulldowns? Reach up, pull weight up by pulling down on the bar. I watch people do these things every single day in passing, yet I still have to remember all these little technical cues. Same with seated rows. Pull the weight up by pulling handles back toward the waist, let it draw you back. They look so uncomplicated, until you’re sitting in the seat and trying to refine form to wring the maximum work out of the impacted muscles or muscle groups.

Pacing, pacing, pacing! Weightier weights is only part of the story. Progress comes from how much rest between sets, how much idle time spent glaring at the machine that is not working adequately for me. I confess to frequently being indulgent with myself on my own; I am not necessarily going gung-ho full throttle from exercise to exercise to exercise and working, Working, WORKING at each aspect of my List. Not sure how ambitious I am toward this end; maybe this is where having goals comes into play? My mindset is get into the gym, work as hard as I feel capable of working and call it good. If I were working toward something specific, I might be more gung-ho about always pushing hard at improvement. Or my mindset would be locked-in on its present ho-hum sort of speed and I’d be feeling discouraged, disappointed, despairing, and very negative toward my slacker ways. The seeds are planted in my mind, have been for a while. Maybe it’s time for me to turn also put some focus and give some love to the idea of turning up the intensity.

Still, training of the body and learning exercise happens every training session. So does working on the mindset and nudging it along toward a different outcome. I do not minimize my gains in any area; I have worked hard to get this far. Awareness of the large open space that equals room for improvement is part of the long-term strategy, because ignoring it only makes me unhappy and discouraged. When I feel ready to address it in my practice, I will make it happen. Until then, encouraging myself is an adequate enhancement to what I do in the gym on my own.

I am good enough. The mere thought and understanding of how far I have come in being able to say that and mean it makes me feel really proud of myself. Negative girl and realistic girl have their place in my attitudes and impact on my behaviors, but the happiness I derive from being in the gym is so powerful it is truly life-altering and provide a sense of balance and new sort of satisfaction as to what is possible for me in all aspects of my life and times. I love that. I love the feeling of what healthier means for me and how good it feels inside my body right here, right now. Big win for me. Acceptance of where I am on this journey, happy anticipation of the next milestone to be named later.

What We Did

A1        Barbell RDL (ramp up to 91)
A2        Mini-band Lateral Walks

B1        1-leg DB RDL (25)
B2        SB Hamstring Curl

C1        Seated Low “Tree Hug” Cable Rows
C2        Low Facepull
C3        Horizontal Rope Chops

D1        Lat Pulldown
D2        Straight-Arm Rope Pulldown or DB Pullover

How It Felt

Having just done Romanian deadlifts (RDL) dumbbells in the previous 24 hours, I was in a good place to discern the real or imagined differences between the barbell RDL and those with the dumbbell. It’s the weight distribution, with the plates at the end of the bar and not right in front of my legs. I am getting the general shape and execution of these now. Keep upper body still while hinging at the hips, pretensioning the glutes and hamstrings to do the lift, and then pressing hip joints forward at the top while tightening those abs and glutes. We added another 10 lbs. of plates today, taking me from my prior high of 81 lb. to 91 lbs., so that was something new and exciting. Rep range is 6 to 8 for the strength emphasis exercises, and I went through 2 sets of 10 reps each without much difficulty. I got to use my pink weightlifting straps all the time today, too, so that was another win. I am still amazed what a difference they make for me.

Onto the next exercise, the mini-band lateral walks. Keep the upper body still – no swishy-swashy swaying going on – and go sideways. Back and forth a couple of times until feeling it in those outer hips. I do love my mini-bands, and maybe next I try this I will use the red bad (next resistance up). These are fun, effective on the outer hips, yet they seem to offer me no immediate feedback that legs are tired or hips are working. I am starting to really believe I am growing fitter, because stuff that used to be so exhausting and “is it over yet?” now is just sort of ho-hum and on to the next. Progress.

My worst nightmare: the 1-leg RDL with a 25 lb. dumbbell in hand. *le sigh* Okay, not my worst nightmare in the gym; probably my worst nightmares in the gym have nothing to do with exercise. I console myself that at least it is not getting worse; it is, in fact, improving, just not quickly enough for my impatient self. I am slowly improving at self-diagnosis of why I am weeble-wobbling (and after this much time I am surprised I am not more of an expert), and even more slowly correcting myself and breaking bad habits. Bottom line: more practice. Other than the occasions we have done these on training days, I don’t think I have done a single set of these on my own.

The stability ball hamstring curls – it’s becoming a neurotic exercise that makes me feel crazy. I know I am not doing terrible things with it, yet at the same time I feel like I am slowly backing away from the point of forward progress. Maybe my ambition for the last half-inch is eating me away and eroding my progress with other aspects of it. Thinking about it this afternoon, I have something new to try with the positioning of my feet and elevation of hips and angle of my feet on the ball as I am working. There is a short-circuit in my thinking and/or ability with this and I would like to expose and correct it before it gets to be my next tearful nemesis. I haven’t had a tearful nemesis in over a year and have been enjoying very happy and fulfilling practices in that time span.

In our last outing with the seated cable rows, J has been stressing and really working with me on letting shoulders relax into a stretch without allowing arms to completely straighten and elbows locking out. Part of his job and what makes him really good at his craft is finding lots and lots of different ways to say the same thing until something sticks with each individual client. Today he came up with a new term for me: we now refer to these as seated low “tree hug” cable rows. The visual works very well for me; keep my arms “short” with elbows bent on the stretch while leaning forward with shoulders first, not from waist and upper body, and pulling back with the shoulders and arch, not leaning back at the waist. Such an ongoing challenge for me. I have on 2 occasions owned and utilized regularly a Concept 2 rower, and most of that comes from pulling and leaning back from the waist. With the new “tree hug” cue in mind, I focus more on the position of my arms and leading with the shoulders on the return.

From there we went to the cable machine and a low facepull. Facepulls are usually from a higher position cable setting, but this worked fine for me. It’s the overhand/underhand that typically messes with my thinking, but we haven’t had that distinction in a while. I’m feeling pretty pleased with my efforts with these of late, and J was kind enough to snap a couple of pictures to show my emerging muscle definition. It was quite thrilling to actually see the defining creases in my upper arms and shoulder caps. I mean, I actually have such things now.

While I freely admit to not being much of a chop fan (floor, cable, stretch band – you name it, none of them appear on my favorites list), I do get the greatest return on investment with the horizontal rope chops. For the most part I have the foot positioning down (parallel) and the anchoring arm/hand furthest away from the cable, and the partial rib tuck (to tighten the oblique) and the lead with the hip while pressing out with the rope. I understand the cues and what I should be doing, but the execution is frequently awkward and not quite as I see it happening in my head. With the horizontal version, I feel the closest I get to performing a fluid and controlled chop, versus this sort of hail Mary hopefully-in-the-ballpark-of-mostly-correct. But like the 1-leg RDL, these do not get trotted out for practice much, if any at all. There are other Lists with different challenges that get the lion’s share of my time and attention.

The lat pulldown – I feel like the special needs tribe member with the lat pulldown. We are back to the wide bar, and I am up to my old tricks of not learning to naturally let my shoulders relax into a shrug at the top. We had multiple tries today, and after watching J demonstrate (again), I am closer than I was last week. But my stubborn mind does not seem to want to grasp all the technical details of this all at once. Pulling down with my elbows and releasing up with my shoulders – I continually want to lean back from the waist on the way down (versus using my thoracic arch) and lean forward from the waist and shrug up unnaturally at the top. Yes, there is a shrug at the top, but it’s supposed to be from the shoulders relaxing, not from me leaning in from the waist. Walking by enroute to and from the locker room, people doing these make it look so easy. All that plus retain a bend in the elbow. Maybe next I try this I should pretend I have no arms on the way up? I am not sure it could be any worse than what is already going on with me. And that’s not to say I’m doing horribly with it; my mind believes it should be simpler than it is for me. I also get that J emphasizes what he emphasizes because he wants me to learn to get the maximum work for my effort. My usual solution (more practice) applies here as well.

And finally, the straight-arm rope pulldown. I am undecided if I am happier with the rope or the straight bar, but mostly I’m happy that I long ago grasped that correct form for this version is butt back and back and arms straight while pulling down with the rope and then splitting it at the bottom close to the body. I had observed others doing this with a more rounded back, so of course I wondered and had to ask about it. Those other people – maybe it was accommodation for their bodies or maybe they were doing it wrong. For me, I am doing it correctly as taught by J. That is truly what matters most to me, because I’m doing well and improving as the weeks pass.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I read this great term – compare and despair – on another blog today. Having never heard that before, I thought it quite brilliant for encapsulating a process I have had to diligently work at abandoning as unhealthy for me. Without thinking I do still fall into that trap, but I do my best to quickly scurry out and away from it.

Comparison is the thief of joy – and self-esteem. I need no help beating the crap out of myself; I have a built-in negative girl locked in a special space for those occasions. It genuinely shocks me when anyone speaks of something I do or have with even the smallest note of covetousness, because I am so invisibly average in my own eyes. Able to lift more? Who me? Have you seen [insert names of numerous ladies far stronger]? Better control of diabetes? It does not appear to be hard-wired into my genetics; everyone in my family similarly afflicted has lifestyle issues that are direct contributors to this condition.

My blindness to any and all attributes I may possess is essentially 99% complete. As an example: in the big boys’ room at the gym this weekend, I was doing bent over rows and looked up to find some guy sitting across from me on a bench and seemingly staring down the neckline of my top. Kind of ewww when I our eyes met and he didn’t even blink, but whatever. Next set he was still sitting there, so I turned my back and decided my ass was much more attractive and he could stare at that instead. By the time I turned to put my weights down, he’d moved on.

But my initial instinct was not that he was staring at my cleavage, and to be completely fair and balanced, he might have simply been staring into space and not seeing me at all. Nope, my initial instinct was what could possibly be so wrong that the man was staring? My hair? Stain on my leggings? Form completely awful? Handling the weights inappropriately? Turning my back and ignoring him was all about me and my stuff; the least disturbing thought to me was that he was looking down my neckline and I would rather not imagine what imperfection he might be laughing on the inside about so I turned my back and forced myself to stop thinking about it.

Since I am 56 years old and do not dress to attract attention in the gym – I buy and wear clothes that are comfortable and please me and my eye – it shocks me when anyone takes any note of any positive thing I might be doing. Always my mind sinks to the worst case scenario. Compliments, kind words, even silence from J when we are training (because no correction or adjustment is needed) are treated in my mind like rare and precious gifts. But comparisons? Only as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Mindset is changing, slowly, because I have some accomplishments worthy of pride. But it has taken a lot of work on my part, and it is hardly a stroke of luck that got me from where I began to where I am right now.

I know other people work very hard as well, and I admire that. But better health is my priority, so that’s also my focus and what gets the lion’s share of my available time and attention. M and I have discussed working out twice per day, something I do once or twice a week right now and primarily for the social aspect of it. However, I also recognize that my weaker intensity, focus, stick-with-it-ness in my own practices does contribute to a desire to do more work. IF I were only more efficient more of the time, I would probably get more done, make faster progress. But I am realistic; I am not to the point where heart and mind want that accelerated progress enough to pump up my intensity and focus. I work longer at my degree of effort, and sometimes it means I have to work a lot more and a lot longer duration than others. I don’t think that makes me wrong. I do think it makes me and my objectives different or on a longer timeline.

Occasionally, I think I need to try harder, be more of a badass who is into her List of the day to the exclusion of everything else. Unless I am in the right frame of mind or playing beat the clock with my gym time, pressuring myself that way only stresses me out and leads to feelings of being a loser. I know I am pretty far from being a loser; I have made significant positive inroads on my better health quest. But my mind can forget those advances in a hot second, and if I cannot maintain my mental discipline and shut off that negative noise, I am going to find myself sledding down my better health iceberg with negative girl at the helm.

Mindset – it’s not something to be blown off, pooh-poohed, or minimized. I take it seriously enough to stay aware of where my head is at while I am at the gym. Many, many, many Monday and Thursday mornings I have not felt like training, yet my hyper-responsible self insists that I go because we have an appointment. Mostly I shrug off the sense of dread by the time I am halfway through my warm-up, my sense of adventure and desire to learn something new kicking into higher gear. While I might be moving sluggishly during transitions or from exercise to exercise, I am giving it my best effort. There have been times when that has not been true, that I felt my best effort was so inadequate why bother trying? Not me, not in a very long time.

I like the gym as a happy place. There are things I dread, groan, bitch, moan, complain about, but I do it anyway. Because it’s good for me. And when everything is said and done, it leaves me feeling great. Still, I reserve my right to dread, groan, bitch, moan, and complain about that which I dislike. It is good for the soul.

With my inchworm forward progress with exercise, I have to be honest about less success and advancement with healthy eating and diet. The struggle with my fork continues and it’s not pretty, uplifting, rainbow-farting unicorns.

For the most part, I do pretty well with healthy food choices. It’s the non-most part – probably 25% of the time – where I falter and gives the most grief. Protein shakes as meal replacements work well for me, as do big-ass salads and eliminating most processed foods has made an enormous difference. Limiting my carbohydrates makes a bigger difference than I ever realized.

It took me more than a year to get to the point where I mustered the ability and discipline and support-related resources to pay attention and work at this effort consistently. As it is, I am imperfect in my efforts. My stress-eating behaviors still rear their ugly heads, and I give up and give in to temptation. It happens more than I want, but it is not the end of the world.

And this is a win for me – that it is not the end of the world. In the two-step dance of lifestyle changes, this is just another of the one-step back in the enduring, life-long process and quest. Being imperfect in my eating strategy this week is not the hill I die on, but a mere molehill on the upward climb through the rest of my life.

I love that simple yet profoundly fundamental change about me, recognizing that I have overcome more than one obstacle over the course of my life and the push-pull in the day-to-day business of living continues despite of all that happened then, or happens today, tomorrow, the rest of my life. Whatever less beneficial choices I may make in the here and now do not mean I lose all my gains to date. My acceptance of that has been a game changer.

And acceptance – for that I have an amazing cast of people who make me want to be better. May we all enjoy happy, healthy lives for a long time to come.

#august2017, #better-health, #confidence, #consistency, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #mental-health, #positivity

Today, it’s mostly about me (day 9)

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

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

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

Life is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another day in paradise (day 8)

I mean the title very genuinely: it was another day in paradise at the gym this morning. A tribe sister and her husband are back from a dream trip to Paris, so it was nice to see them and touch base, catch up a bit. Then I crossed paths with my friend C and got some catch-up time while J put her through her List paces. We were hoping to break bread together on Friday, but C is off to exotic places with old friends on Thursday. We will reschedule.

My List and time spent working went very well. Mini band lateral walks and glute kickbacks, then the 45 degree hyperextensions on the V-shaped stand thing, then the wide bar lat pulldowns. Interesting fact I learned today – the V-shaped stand thing is the only thing probably in the entire gym that is not labeled with what it is or what it is actually used for. Who knew? Now me, after having to ask J what the reverse hyperextension is when there is no stability ball referenced. Typo on his part, admission that I have not pursued this List in a few weeks on mine. And apparently it shows. No finger-pointing condemnation toward me, merely yet another acknowledgment of so many Lists, too few practice days.

Pretty happy with the 45 degree hypers, other than a traitorous right foot that wants to twist with the torso elevation and as a consequence twist ever so slightly and cause unanticipated pain in my knee. Soooo – new note to self about pressing hard on heel and keeping that foot still. And until I get there, I need to watch it from my upside down pose and make the tiny adjustments as needed. The rest of the work went well enough – tighten glutes, partial rib tuck at the top to keep back from arching. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From there I moseyed along to the lying down hamstring curl machine and the TRX trio of rows, Y, and face pulls. This segment goes pretty quickly, yet … not so much. Keeping the straps taut and focusing on the back and shoulder and that whole range of muscles that should be working together and working, period. But I still love the lying (autocorrect had my first misspelling as “lounging”) hamstrings machine. I feel as if I am improving with this set of exercises.

The final block in today’s List was the standing tall straight-arm pulldown, the lean forward straight arm pulldown, and the underhand high row. All I can say – I really need to practice this List more frequently. I can still feel the squeaks in my back and shoulders.

Kind of sends shivers up my spine thinking about the pleasant nature of body squeaks.

Since I had some extra time today, I went upstairs to work on the latest nemesis corral. Bent arm planks and floor chops (crunches and sit-ups), renegade rows, also from the floor with the pair of 10 lb. dumbbells. Since I did not have my phone and headset for music, I’m had to count the breathing and the seconds on the planks. Hopefully I made it at least 10, but who knows? I’ll be better tomorrow. Floor chops – J says MAX as a rep range, and today I made it through a series of 6 in the first set, 5 in the second. Not terrible. Renegade rows – 5 in the first set, 4 in the second. Not great, not terrible. But better than nothing, and more practice should benefit me in the long run.

It is a good day.

I was wandering through the grocery store at today enroute to the deli and my weekly sandwich indulgence. But in my travels up the beverage aisle (to my new favorite flavored seltzer water), I passed a couple of ladies about my age shopping. Snatches of conversation overhead in passing one was lamenting the cost of gastric bypass surgery and the other was talking about the pain in her legs. Twinges of sympathy went through me, because it is so easy to imagine myself in the same place and having the same thoughts and feelings about my body and my health. I certainly do not feel smug or superior for making the choices I have, because I don’t know them at all and am in no position to pronounce judgment on total strangers. Mostly I’m grateful to have the time to still make different choices, that there are still options available to me.

While for the most part I am making better food choices, I am still imperfect in this regard, most definitely a work in progress. But for today, my sandwich was delicious, a nice break from my usual protein shake and piece of fruit. I can tell when I’m not eating a lot of junky food, because I just feel better. I often think that alone should be enough to keep me on the straight and narrow with regard to diet, but I am all too often wrong. There are consequences for every decision I make, and I know that to be true. Sometimes I just feel like eating the junk, and usually there is an unacknowledged emotional component. Changing that behavior, acknowledging that I am eating a cheeseburger because I’m stressed or angry or unhappy about something makes me really tends to put the brakes on what I order.

My weekly meal plan – I include a sandwich day when I’m working at a client’s location, because I like a normal lunch to break up the food boredom. Nothing wrong with meat or with cheese, or sliced sourdough bread. I am striving to learn how to exercise some self-discipline and moderation in my eating, one meal per week at a time.

In all honesty, when it comes to food, that’s about all I can handle right now.

And I am good with that. I’ll be in the gym in the morning and reminding myself that my Lists, even the nemesis list, is more fun now because I am stronger and I am physically lighter. It’s a decent sized carrot dangling in front of me when food temptations begin whispering in my ear.

#august2017, #better-health, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #weight-loss