20-month consistency span

Recaps from the last 2 weeks have not been published. There are a couple in progress, maybe half written before stalling out completely. It’s not that I am less into training, writing the recaps, losing my interest in blogging. It’s not even that I am busier than usual or being particularly lazy about taking care of business. There is perhaps a trace of each in the why of it all, but broader truth is that I am extraordinarily stressed and in a funk about work-related events (to the point of losing sleep every night for 2 weeks straight due to nightmares about work and the job) and not motivated or willing to string coherent sentences together. My heart has not been in writing my usual entries, even though I am thinking about it throughout my days, but my mind refuses to slow down and type much outside angry vitriol towards work-related personnel and temporary situations.

Reality bites. Part of why my distaste for work right now is that it makes me feel poorly about myself, including my efforts in the gym. I have had to really fight hard to stay present and in the moment and remind myself repeatedly that I am competent and making positive progress. There has been the occasional urge to just give up and quit. Once this might have been a pity-party type indulgence. Now the thought is a terrifying wake-up call as to how impacted I am by recent events.

So today, instead of trying to catch up on my recent training sessions or the ways I feel kind of crazy, I am choosing to reflect on better health quest positives. Life in general is different now and has taken such a positive 180 since I began pursuing regular exercise.

Blogging and training recaps matter. One of the more upsetting things about life happening is when it impacts my better health quest routines. Training days are Mondays and Thursdays, and I am still in the gym every other day of most weeks. I know practice is critical to me for improvement, understanding, and progression, plus it is a healthier method for burning off venomous rage at things well beyond my control. But more than that, after 2 weeks of not writing my detailed recaps, I am finding that recapping those sessions here on the blog is crucial for me as well. Friend K casually remarked on Wednesday that I am someone who needs a deep understanding of exercise, and writing the detailed blog recaps enhances and cements the cues and the bazillion of small details associated with the exercise. Part of me regrets my lack of discipline to have more control of wayward mind, but under the circumstances, I have to just let it go. At worst, recaps will return the first week in July. But I’m hoping to implement some discipline and return to it next week.

Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity. Who knew this quote is from Bruce Lee – besides everyone except me before just now looking it up. I am extremely proud of myself for sticking with training and regular, daily practice. Not sure my consistency is accurately described as long-term, it has been just over 20 months since I began my commitment toward regular practice at the gym. I began my consistency march in October 2015 – after J gave me The Talk about seeing me in the gym at least twice between that Thursday and our next session the following Thursday – and I took it terribly personally, as if this were not a regular suggestion he provided all clients every single day of the week but something he was using to tree me, personally, for being a slacker client. Other than out-of-town vacations and my attempt to take a few consecutive days off from the gym (only managed 2), I am in the gym pretty much every day most weeks doing something. While 20 months is not much time in the overall big picture, it’s huge for me. As for short-term intensity, I am not sure “intense” is a word that ever applies to me, and I am absolutely okay with that. My better health quest has no finish line; burning out is not an option I wish to will entertain.

Goals are still not my thing. From the very start, letting go of the idea of setting goals immediately brightened my outlook and made me feel like my chances for long-term success increased. I completely understand this strategy does not work for everyone, but for me, not chasing the scale or the weights I can move to and fro relieves me of self-induced stress and pressure. Tiny steps and incremental progress is still progress. The primary objectives I pursue with relentless consistency are ensuring I am on time and prepared for sessions with J each week and then practicing at least 4 other days each week. That’s enough for me.

Progress measures are also still not my thing. I am ready to pitch my scale yet again. Because I am unhappy with the results? Not exactly. Because I am unhappy with my inability to not be negatively influenced by the results. While I limit myself to weighing in only once per week, the sense of dread and anxiety that comes with knowing weigh-in day is coming has impact on my mood and sense of well-being. Maybe I have had a near perfect week full of big-ass salads, fruit, protein shakes. Perhaps every single practice in the gym has me feeling like an empowered badass when I leave for my effort. I have gotten my 7 hours of sleep every night and a work week that while busy and hectic, was not especially stressful or frustrating. I’m feeling good, great, excited about all my good choices and strong forward progress. I jump on the scale, and I am up 2 lbs. from the prior week. As mind reads and processes that result, instant sense of hopelessness. Forget talking to me about hormones and general body weight fluctuations; negative girl is on the loose wreaking havoc with all my good and positive energy. IF I keep my scale, I am returning to weighing in once per month to see if I can cope. If not, scale shall be returned to the garage.

Judgment Fitbit data gathering has it place. M likes me to ensure I keep track of my heart rate at the gym because I am a diabetic. I am a well-controlled diabetic and since modifying my diet there have been no further low events, but still – he likes me to be aware of what’s going on with body if I should start feeling weird. For the most part, I like it for keeping track of my daily exercise, as if I need some sort of proof that I am working hard enough and gotten my 6 hour minimum per week. I also like it for the sleep tracking feature, in that I know for sure I should be tired when I am told “you look tired.” But after having one for a while now, I can see trends and progress in my overall health and fitness. That’s something. On the flip side, it seems like it takes significantly more effort to elevate my heart rate into the cardio zone. If I were someone worrying about closely tracking heart rate, I would be more distressed than I am. Steps and other tracking features – not something I consider or take very seriously.

Empirical measures matter. There are a lot of things I can point to as indicators of my success – well-controlled diabetes without medication, the progression of weightier weights I use routinely, my capacity to do the work on a List. Yet there are other measures that have at least at much impact on me from this period of regular, consistent exercise.

My gym crazy is mitigated. I still have anxiety in the gym, but where it was once centered on the optics of how I look or my ability with the exercise I was attempting to perform, now probably 95% of any anxiety I feel relates to form, technique, and safety. The thought of hurting myself still looms large, so I try hard to be careful without being overly cautious.
The training tribe keeps me focused. My friend K is doing some awesome work with her barbell deadlifts. It is purest joy to watch each progressive weight increase as well as her evolving and improving form and technique. This a bucket-list level dream for her, and to be present and part of watching it become reality is inspiring. From a major, traumatic car crash a few years ago to present day working hard and lifting weights, it shrinks my weenie-whining about being tired or bored or my princess tiara crooked into proper perspective. She and other friends who are kindred spirits in our individual better health quests keep me honest and on the journey.
Self-esteem and relationship with myself are better. This month notwithstanding, my confidence in general and internal view of the person I am has improved and stabilized in the higher/highly positive zone. Negative girl still bleats pitifully from her box, but when I hear her, I am not really listening. I observe that she still exists and move on with whatever pursuit I am chasing. The days of beating myself senseless over imperfect efforts are 99% over. It still happens occasionally, but for the most part, ongoing practice and trying again and again have replaced analysis paralysis.
There may be stupid questions, but I ask anyway. If I don’t understand the way body is supposed to be executing a particular exercise, I speak up and ask. My concerns about safety, my desire to improve – if I don’t know, can’t remember, or would just like confirmation of what I think I know, the fastest solution is to just ask and get clarification. I am not stupid and what other people think of me is less important than ensuring I know what I am doing, especially with weights in my hands.

Getting enough sleep makes a difference and is still hit and miss. My alarm goes off at 4 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. on weekends. While sleep optimum is 7 hours per night, I am happy if my Fitbit says 6 hours completed. Once I began focusing on getting adequate rest, life became a lot easier and more pleasant. I find the early morning exercise a lot easier to bear as well when I am rested. My focus is sharper and I am more engaged and energized by the List I am pursuing. Starting my day with the workout has tended to even out the workday as well. Balance, elusive balance. At least in this area, I can point to ongoing success for the most part.

Diet matters and changes in this area remains difficult. While I have been successful with the exercise portion of my better health quest, I readily admit that less consistency, fewer wins on modifying my diet and improving my overall nutrition patterns. In my own judgment, telling myself it is a process is not quite the same excuse-factory production. Because it is a process. I’m controlling my diabetes without losing tons of weight, because I am adding muscle to my frame. Things I have tried, abandoned, backslid, and continue working on getting my healthy eating choices consistent and in order again – no shame anymore for me. As a component of overall health dropping some weight will make a difference. Deciding not to do anything crazy and unsustainable is also a valid point, not a reason for me to delay making better choices. However, I know there is more mindset work to be done, and from long experience I know it is not so simple as willpower alone. I’m better. I have and continue to do better with food choices. Perhaps there is a time in my future where it becomes more habitual and automatic. But for now, I continue to work at it and strive to make good choices each day.

Writing about general thoughts and feelings about exercise, diet, fitness and the broader impacts on my mental and emotional health – hard to describe what an impact blogging has had on my overall mental and emotional balance. I still have areas (eating!) where work must be done to make consistent inroads. Overall, though, I am healthier, happier than where I was 2 years ago.

Despite the overall ugliness inside my head these last few weeks, I know it’s temporary and has an expiration date. The habits that matter, the smarter choices and positive behaviors I want to expand upon – it will happen. Taking the timeline out of the equation makes a difference for me, and I am getting this better health shit done. Results matter, and while my results are not glamorous, flashy, or social media-worthy, the positive improvements are there. Periodically I have to break them down and highlight them for myself.

Happy weekending everyone! I’m anticipating our regular programming returning on Monday.


#balance, #better-health, #blogging, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #goals, #gym, #habits, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health

New strain of gym crazy

It has been quite a week around here, and fortunately none of the noise and distraction has to do with my better health quest. Except for the stress I am generating, of course, and that is just part of how I seem to roll. I console myself that my stress vibe is significantly reduced from what it once was, if only because I am older, maybe a bit wiser, and care less about stuff well beyond my control. Unfortunately I seem incapable of scaling and crossing over into the caring not at all about the things I cannot control, but at this point my progress is good progress. The work-related stress disrupting my sleep – 2 more weeks and it should be mostly behind me. Always it is the unpredictable unknown that zaps my stress and pressure (stressure) levels. And this seems true for just about anyone, so no special snowflaking here.

I have 2 posts about 50% written recapping this week’s training. Probably they will be posted tonight, this weekend, when I have time to finish writing down all the details I like to capture. This week it’s been hard to block out time to just relax and write; I am either caught up on my hamster wheel thinking about work or actually working. I wonder how I did all this or if life were just less complex before I spent time at the gym.

But an unfortunate side effect of the outside world stress has me pondering work inside the gym as well.

Of late J has been working with me on push-pull routines with heavier (for me) weights and lower (for me) reps per set. All good! Except, I’m using my at-my-desk working time to listen to fitness podcasts and youtube videos. Learning a lot of new terms and gaining exposure to different ideas and opinions. It has me thinking about my own efforts. Finding less fault with me than has been usual and customary, yet still wondering if I could do better or be trying harder somehow.

My type A- personality disorder has been kicking in lately, it with the harshly self-judgmental aspect.

I like my daily gym practice. For me, it is for the best and it works. For me. Unlike M (who is almost a zealot in his passion for running and exercise), I do not ever suggest anyone follow my examples, yet I have been told all sorts of things about how bad or unsustainable going to the gym every day is for me. *shrug* I’m fine, thank you. Despite the doom, gloom, predictions of Very Bad Outcomes if I continue on my current path, I seem to be thriving. Those with the darker outlooks suggest I am some sort of outlier on the exercise and fitness path, but not really. I philosophically understand now that not only our fitness objectives differ but our process for getting from here to there parallels our differences. Perhaps it is as simple as managing our expectations and listening to body and it’s feedback.

With J and in our current training methodology with the push-pull, I am not learning new exercises as much I am learning how to lift heavier weights and maintain good form for fewer reps, typically a range of 6 to 8 (versus my normal 8 to 12, 12 to 15, 15 to 20, etc.). This is all good, of course; everything I do and learn in the gym is ultimately very good for me.

Until it’s not. Until I get injured (superstitiously knocking on wood). Or until some new strain of gym crazy starts to invade my consciousness.

As I said, I like my daily practice. I have zero intentions of giving it up, as tempting as it is to sleep past 4 a.m. during the week and 6 a.m. on weekends. But this morning, running along through my most time efficient huffy-puffy List of the day, I realize that there is some fear and anxiety associated with lifting weightier weights by myself. While in hindsight I recognize this is not that big of a deal – just do something else when on my own – but in my mind during practice it grew and grew and grew until the idea was some 200 foot tall and 300 foot wide elephant bursting through the roof in the gym. Full-on spin cycle in progress. By the time I got home I was practically breathing into a paperbag imagining my ultimate wash out of training and exercise and dying a 600 lb. blob of personhood because I am incapable of doing anything on my own.

Such bullshit. Negative girl must have blown up her cell and been set loose to run free.

Shower and actual food slowed my thinking down and brought me back to reality. The elephant shrunk to manageable beanie baby size, and I got back to the business of dealing with my reality-based thoughts.

I do have some anxiety about using the weightier weights on my own right now. Fair enough. Rational me (obviously not in the wheelhouse this morning) starts brainstorming ideas. Do push-pull only on training days for now, with extra heavy emphasis that for now is not the same as forever. Perhaps more review time with the push-pull we have done thus far? Possibly a fantastic idea! Means less prep work and planning/thinking for J (compiling new List of the day for the week) and boring times standing around hanging out with me while I work at overcoming this latest phase of crazy. But there are dividends. A less crazy client (that would be me) means less chance of phone spontaneously combusting in his hand with overload of freaked-out texts describing massively growing elephants.

For the most part, I do not see myself as rigidly inflexible. However, I like structure and routine. Every week, I have my basics of 2 days of training sessions and 4 days of practice, with freebies on the other day and the evenings I am there to hang out with friend K. For the most part, I rotate through my Lists doing at least a huffy-puffy, a plexes, and an upper/lower every week. The way J writes my Lists, whole body gets some work a few days every week.

Since I am not known for working at or pressed to work at the same sort of intensity J does in his own fitness pursuits, I have really good weeks with daily Lists. Anymore, I tend to be crankier when I fail to get some exercise in every day, even if it is only a meandering stroll with my work pals. When I have tried to take days off or what feels like too much time off, I find myself getting anxious about the break in my routine. Unless I am on vacation and away from home, at which time it equates to I am out of town, gym is out of mind.

This is not a big, life-altering issue. Mostly it is just me recognizing that I’m uncomfortable with The Plan (all in my mind – nothing J or anyone suggests I should be doing) for various reasons and trying my best to address it head-on. I like the weightier weight training, but I am now educated enough to understand that I cannot work like that every single day. Perhaps with enough training I can get there, but I feel somewhat doubtful. To put that kind of pressure on myself is to suck all the joy, peace, balance I have found in the gym to date, and that’s a sacrifice I’m unwilling to make.

However, there is simple compromise to be found. Doing weightier weights only on training days is probably best until I feel more capable in my ability to maintain good form. Confidence increases under the watchful trainer eye that sees all and tends to correct less desirable practices before they become ingrained as bad  habits. It also releases me from the feeling that I must practice or J will believe me to be some super slacker client. (Oh please – there must be some hidden switch in my mind that make clinging to that old thought pattern cease.) I understand that wishcraft is not going to get me from here to some point out there in my foggy forward view, but I also understand no matter how hard I try, how furiously I might push myself, getting there faster does not mean I cross the goal line and am done and can now go out for pizza like the game is over. Nope. The process is a continuous one, a choice I will make every day for the remainder of my life. Acceptance that doing whatever I can to stay active and pursue better health is does not end until illness or infirmity or death overwhelms me – sometimes it’s just hard to believe that I have been at this long enough to call it a habit.

My recent foray and immersion listening to fitness podcasts and youtube videos has more focus on weight training with the weight lifting emphasis. A lot of stuff on the heavy lifting, 3 rep maximums, training to fatigue, personal records. All that stuff does not interest me much, except as data gathering to understand what drives others. It’s fascinating – for someone else. For me, unlikely to be a pursuit. Since I am now around a lot more people who do this kind of stuff as a hobby, it feels good to be listening and acquiring the knowledge and understanding so I can be supportive and encouraging to others in my realm as they pursue their own, differing goals and objectives. And it gives me new batches of questions to ask J about while we’re working together.

But it sometimes leads to new strains of gym crazy. I thought myself mostly inoculated or immune anymore, yet I seem to be feeling the mildest inclination of anxiety. The shoulds are chasing me down today.

#balance, #better-health, #exercise, #goals, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #lifestyle, #work

PT-44.1: Exercise adventurer

Monday morning, training with J. We are still in our push-pull (not press-pull – somehow got it wrong last week) series of events and learned a couple of new machines and things today. Just a whole lot to talk about with a weekend of reading and thinking.

Key Takeaways

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

What We Did

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

How It Felt

Coming in PT-44.2: Exercise adventurer.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

The kitchen sink is rather full today, a byproduct of a weekend spent reading Facebook posts from fitness people J has recommended, liked prior posts, or just crossed my feed and kind of made sense. On top of which, I just had a semi-disconnected weekend, in that work-work and full-time job trauma drama were pretty distant. If anything, I was immersed in fitness-related stuff and not blogging about it. Until today, of course. And naturally, since I was thinking about it, I brought it up with J (and others) in my life in one communication forum or another. All great things.

An unfortunate quirk of mine is to read or hear things in big, broad, anonymous (as in I am just one of the great unseen masses to the author) forums and take them personally, as if this writer posting an opinion or sharing his/her thoughts or information is looming large and pointing fingers and highlighting every real and imagined fault in my better health quest. Hell, doesn’t even need to be related to my better health quest; it could be just my life in general and their framework of “living right.” While I know it is mostly my inner insecure person running in circles flailing her arms in an extremely agitated state, I want to chalk it up to my years of fire-and-brimstone southern baptist church attendance (from age 6 until I turned 12 and decided I no longer wished to associate with the hypocrites I saw there every Sunday and Wednesday), but the more rational, more balance side of me has to take what I have just read or heard in a podcast and really think about why it impacts me. Could be the writer or speaker is just correct in his assessments and opinions, or that I am or have been guilty of the less desirable behaviors he is describing. Anymore, it is only unhealthy for me if I only think I am guilty or continuing poor choice behavior patterns. There are an equal number of positive attributes I have adopted or trying to adopt in my own life. If I am going to turn the mirror on myself for negative behaviors, I need to be balanced and do the same for positive changes as well.

Such is the case this weekend with a post discussing consistency in the gym or with exercise. This post is from Alex Viada via Facebook (dated June 10, 2017):

Integral to consistency is sustainability.

Consistency doesn’t mean never skipping a day. Consistency means doing something today that will ensure you are still doing something next year, five years from now, ten years from now.

And that something you’re doing today may very well be taking a day off. Because dedication isn’t about obsession, it isn’t a sprint, it isn’t some senseless display of self-imposed sacrifice. It isn’t the “hustle” or the “grind”. It isn’t some other nonsense word that just reeks of burnout. Dedication is an ultramarathon, it’s a winding path forward, and it’s all too often taking a step back today to catch your breath, knowing you have the rest of your life to take the next thousand steps forward.

I am kind of madly in love with this post. Because it makes me feel like I finally get M’s simplified “do something every day” with exercise to make progress with getting fitter. For the most part, I have incorporated this into my life and lifestyle. For the most part, I am successful with this concept, or have been recently (about 21 months). Yet I know myself and know how slippery that slope is to backslide down into not going back to the gym for months and years once more. I have done it so many times before it’s impossible for me to feel like I have succeeded, even after almost 2 years (this month) of working with J, even knowing I just resigned and have another 36 weeks of sessions on the books. While hopefully J will be present and accounted for with each and every one of those purchased sessions, I know enough now to feel comfortable that I can and will find resources to help me make it work no matter who is writing future Lists or trying to teach me how to use a machine or another piece of equipment. Maybe I am less likely now than previous periods to fall off the wagon, the possibility exists. Considering my fitness pursuits in terms of sobriety, I am sort of a recovering non-exerciser who is on the path to staying clean and in the gym. It is a choice I make every day, including days to take a day off or go forth and dilly-dally pursuing things that are new, giving me grief, a lot more fun than others.

And that in itself was another topic of discussion. Pat Flynn, another fitness coach I follow on Facebook and am on his mailing list, had an email about Training v. Working Out. In my life, it’s mostly semantics, but the topic was intriguing enough that I had to forward the email to J, friend J, and a couple of other friends for their thoughts and opinions. Because I’m kind of geeky that way.

When I am speaking of training, I am talking about Mondays and Thursdays with J, going through a new or updated List, working on my skills, correcting and tweaking my form, adding more weight, or all of the above. Practice is what I do on my own time, pursuing a List of the day. There is no real structure to it; J does not say “do this, that, the other one between now and Thursday.” No, the only structure is that I try not to do the same List 2 days in a row. Sometimes it’s a huffy-puffy day, sometimes it’s an upper or lower day, sometimes it’s plexes day. I wander to and fro, but left to my own devices, I will nearly always gravitate toward the dumbbells. Because it has the fewest opportunities to be inconveniencing someone else in their pursuits.

As far as working out, that’s what I do on Wednesday evenings when hanging out with gym sistah K. I have usually already completed my List in the morning, so the evening time is following along with whatever she’s doing and having a pleasant gab-fest visit. Lately, she’s been doing barbell deadlifts, and while she is doing that, I am enthusiastically following along with my dumbbell Romanian deadlifts while keeping an eye on her efforts and being a supportive gym compadre. That’s me working out – following no particular program, pursuing no particular goal. Because when I first began my quest to overcome my gym crazy, a “work out” was what everyone else was doing. “Trying to keep up” was my goal with my own pursuits.

But back to Pat Flynn’s missive about training v. working out. Quoting definitions directly from his email (by the way, his blog is www.chroniclesofstrength.com):

Training – Working toward something specific.
Working Out – Trying to fatigue the muscles.

As I said, semantics to me. “Better health” is about the most specific goal I presently employ. Trying to fatigue muscles? In my mind and view, fatiguing muscles seems to still happen pretty naturally, for me, with no “trying” involved. I also understand my definition of fatigue is likely very different than what most of the target audience thinks, so again, this is all about semantics. But interesting semantics all the same. Because J and I never tend to speak in terms of labels, absolutes, and the like, I just meander along through our sessions and my practices without giving too much thought to how the process is described. I’m there. I’m working at something and trying for good form and technique. All good.

Such is the mush in my head about exercise, fitness, better health. Inside and outside the gym. J has neither the time nor the ability to cover all my interests in the hours we spend in session, so I do my research and reading outside the gym, then drag it in when I have questions or trip over something curious. I tend to follow or at least read fitpros J mentions or references, because my geek self likes to understand origins and how the depth of the expanding exercise library.

In our earliest days of training, I would occasionally look up an exercise to try and remember the shape and ways it was supposed to work. Except I very quickly learned that others on the internet may be doing the same glute bridge in some way that looked entirely different to me than when J demonstrated it. Now, I get that maybe their shape and size might have impacted the angles of their limbs, but back then – I was freaked out and vowing never to look up anything ever again.

These days, I do tend to read a lot about weight training and fitness in general; I like the exposure to different ideas and training modalities (another new term just recently acquired). My exercise and fitness education still feels pre-K level to me, but I’m okay with that. Joining the fitpro ranks is neither a goal nor even an objective for me; I am more a dilettante in wanting to know stuff for my own purposes. I enjoy having some less vague notion of what people are doing in the gym and my other fitness wanderings.

Knowledge is security for me. If I can understand it, I feel better about the process – any process – as a whole. There are training methods and sports pursuits that do not interest me at all, but it’s good for me to have somewhat factual basis for my thoughts and inclinations. I dislike organized sports because I find them boring, and because I do not play any, haven’t in years, and sucked at them when I did, largely because I lack the competitive spirit, killer instincts, and coaches who could spend enough time with me to inspire me to consistently practice and try to improve. Not a natural athlete, and after 2 years of training with J, it’s even more apparent that it takes swimming pools of sweat multiple days per week to see any improvements.

Even now, I don’t do well in exercise classes. I don’t mind being in the area and observing what other people are doing around me, but I don’t want to participate with them. It seems a least 48% of why I am not gaining traction in yoga, the other 52% being I am not bendy and any hopes I have of increasing my flexibility will require a lot more intent and persistence than I am willing to muster. One thing to be on my own, or training with J and falling off and out of the 1-legged everything at some point or another, and quite another to be in a class full of people doing everything reasonably well while I struggle mightily and still don’t get it.

Plus I just don’t like class situations, I think. I’m fine if it’s a social thing – going to yoga with a friend, test driving a class in the gym with a pal who wants company – but not my brand for everyday fitness.

Which brings me to crossfit. *sigh* I have several friends who love, adore, worship at the alter of crossfit. If I am addicted to my Lists and the gym, they are something worse with the crossfit. I have run out of words to say or plainer thoughts to share on the subject of why crossfit sounds like a Very Bad Idea for me personally, so we have reluctantly agreed to disagree about our methods and obsessions with fitness. Yet stuff still comes up from time to time, and I cannot resist sharing the links or information that crosses my path that supports my dubious position on the topic. This article  from the weekend (brought to my Facebook feed by Trevor Johnson) – I simply couldn’t resist forwarding it to all my crossfit-crazed friends. (Here is the link to Trevor’s HIFC Show #10 discussing this article and diet-related matters.)

All the crossfitters I know personally are mid-40s to mid-50s. They love it and  have tried many times to get me to consider trying it. Ummm, no thank you. I am far too paranoid about injury in my own gym pursuits to try something that sounds so wrong for me. Of those ladies (they are all women), one is presently recovering from shoulder surgery, another was out for weeks with an ankle injury, and yet another has had to take weeks off for recovery after a mishap or more serious gym tweak. Those tales alone are enough to keep me safely ensconced in my gym with my stretchy bands and dumbbells and machines and at home with my (borrowed for the month) 8 kg kettlebell.

I don’t know enough about crossfit to talk smack about it, yet I know enough to steer clear as not a good fit for me. I want them to be successful in their exercise pursuits, but I worry about long-term sustainability. So when they tree me about being a bad or unsupportive friend (not often, but it happens), I retreat to the “sustainability” argument. Having rebuilt joints may eventually be just as good and as stable as the original equipment, but I vastly prefer the idea of keeping my original equipment joints in good working order. And I have empirical evidence that crossfit can injury you and your joints. Badly. No thanks. Prefer my slow-mo, safe and sane exercise methods.

Yeah, kind of a busy exercise geekery weekend all swirling around in my head this morning. Some of this I chatted about with J, some of it I forgot until I opened this window with my notes about stuff I wanted to talk about today.

Then there is diet and healthy eating stuff. Oh my – this one has been building for the last few weeks.

So trainer J uses his own body like a test kitchen with regard to food and eating. Of the course of our training partnership I have watched him bulk up and lean down at various times. It’s fascinating to watch and to discuss in real time.

Last year it was veganism – J was a vegan much of 2016. This year there has been no real theme until recently, when he began a quest to pursue simpler, higher satiety food choices that are not hyperpalatable. He began what is affectionately known as the potato diet.

Now, this is something I can kinda/sorta get behind. Vegan? I might have starved to death, because I am such an insanely picky eater. Because I actually like potatoes, it is far easier for me to test and even copy a few of his meals with potatoes, vegetables, chicken apple sausage – delicious. However, since I tend to TRY to pursue a lower carb diet, I cannot eat as much or as many plain boiled potatoes for my primary fuel source. But the rest of it – the vegetables, the fruits, the protein powder – these are a lot of things I do already and could definitely amp up and increase my intake and search for food balance.

Listening to him discuss his experiences and alterations to his eating habits, its encouraging. Yeah, eating lots and lots of potatoes seems a bit extreme, particularly for me, but eating more fruit, eating more vegetables, and eating leaner meats and protein sources – these are things that make sense to me and my limited cooking interests.

More importantly, and interesting to the accountant within, the money saved on this version of feeding himself. After his first few weeks, his grocery bill is significantly less. Even a non-frugalista like me can appreciate that aspect of the calorie budgeting process.

Wow, long post already and not a word written about actual exercise today. Definitely a 2-post recap today.


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

PT-43: Pulling forward

Thursday morning, training with J. First appointment of the day was 30 minutes earlier than usual, so J asked if I wanted to come in 30 minutes earlier, giving me a little extra time. All good things. Except first appointment had to cancel and we could have gone back to our usual start time – not a problem for me. All good points that fab trainer J is truly fabulous and generous with his time.

Key Takeaways

What I have learned from all my training sessions: there is good form and technique, some exercises are more effective or productive, but a “bad” exercise has yet to cross my Lists. Probably this is partly why I depend upon J so much; keep me from doing stupid stuff or acquiring even more bad habits. There are things I like less, there are things I will avoid whenever possible, but there is truly nothing that makes me feel physically poorly afterwards.

Perhaps someday I will also develop stronger preferences for things than I have to date. I am more a generalist and interested in everything until it either hurts me or bores me. And even if it bores me, I do it anyway because it’s good for me. Kind of like eating vegetables; I really don’t love most of them, but I eat them because they are good for me. I am always glad to be learning new skills, and learning the big barbell and how to use one effectively falls under this umbrella. Still don’t see myself as a powerlifter or even a serious weight lifter, and that’s okay. I do not need a defined goal to learn new skills.

Those stretchy bands! In the back of my mind I keep thinking they will someday be relegated to warm-up routines, yet they keep appearing and evolving into something more challenging and productive. Not sure why I think I want them to go away, but it just occurs to me from time to time that I should be done with them by now. My wanting them gone is probably most recently related to convenience; every time I want to use one for warmup or on a List, I have to go on a search and rescue mission throughout the gym. Annoying. (Yeah, me and my first world problems, I know).

Heavier weights – oh my, it’s so thrilling! I feel ridiculous admitting this to anyone else, but being able to actually use a bigger weight is exciting. I have never thought I was strong. Sometimes, schlepping crap at the office, I still feel kind of weak (but that could be related to the dress and heels and the awkwardness of of carrying boxes of files and records to and fro while trying to keep them away from my dress). The way things sneak up on me and while I am looking doubtful at the weights J suggests, next I know I am capable with them. Maybe not for higher rep ranges, but once upon a time what I use now was in the 6 to 8 rep range, too.

I am an exercise nerd. My fascination with the way things work – like my own body, for example – seems to know few boundaries. Is okay. I keep it mostly to myself.

What We Did

On our List today:

Barbell RDL (61)
High Tension Resist Rotation Press

1-leg DB RDL (25)
Pullover (35)

SB Hamstring Curls
Seated Cable Row

Seated Hamstring Curls
Dual Cable Lat Pulldown

How It Felt

We started with basic form for the barbell Romanian dead lift and getting the feels for the difference in weight distribution for a 41 lb. barbell and its significantly longer length when compared to a 25 or 30 lb. pair of dumbbells. It was okay, not horrible, not too scary. There were no other members right nearby either so I was not too concerned about accidentally bumping someone while moving it to and fro. After the first couple of times hinging with just the bar, J added light weight plates – a pair of 5 lb. plates for a set, then took those off and replaced them with a set of 10 lb. plates. While it feels very different than my beloved dumbbells, it is not unmanageable, and I am too inexperienced right now to have a strong preference one way or the other. Bad habit that happens with dumbbell RDLs (wanting to soften or bend knees on the rise back to the top rather than keep them straight) also reared its ugly head with the barbell. I think I could learn these, and if I am a bad fit for it, there will be no pouting or tears. Mostly it was fascinating how different the weight feels, almost lighter than similar amounts in dumbbells because it is so spread out.

We have not done the band resist rotation press in awhile, much less the high tension resist rotation press. Only real difference is I don’t remember stretching the band out quite so much, to the high tension. When I was doing it right, aka not leaning away from the band a bit too much to maintain the high tension, I definitely felt it in the abs and the obliques. Best cue EVER – rib tuck – also applies here as well. We were using the lightest yellow band and it was still challenging to keep it tensioned and press properly. These are effective; I was feeling my abs all Thursday afternoon.

Big, huge, honking triumph of the day: the 1-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift with a single 25 lb. dumbbell. When J said to use the 25 as the offset weight, I am quite sure my expression was doubtful. Last 1-leg RDL was with a pair of dumbbells and I struggled – still struggle – with my balance on those. But J has the fully functional, big giant brain and watches people do all sorts of things all day long, so away we went. To my astonishment, I did not immediately fall over or drop the weight on the floor or my foot. Rear leg elevated and weight dropped gracefully for 5 or 6 reps. OMG! I have gained unexpected new balance overnight or am I just stronger now? Could be both. Either way, my excitement over the initial success nearly did me in as I grew more fatigued. But my goodness – I was standing on 1 leg with a 25 lb. dumbbell in my hand! Never imagined such a thing being possible for me. J is a genius.

The pullover is a standard, and I have been doing these with a 25 lb. dumbbell for several months. I kind of love them. I genuinely enjoy the flexibility that has built after months and months of doing pullovers. Today we started out with my standard 25 lb. dumbbell for warm-up and then proceeded on to the 35 lb. dumbbell for a 6 to 8 rep range. While I was extraordinarily aware of when I made the minimum reps, I continued on to the full 8. Because I don’t want to perceive myself as a complete slacker. The one factor I noticed about the weightier weight is the physical size of the 35 lb. dumbbell in my hand being larger than the 25. The way it’s held for the pullover, I could feel the edge of the 35 against my wrist far more than with the 25, the edge of which tends to land more at the edge of my palm. It was not a dealbreaker; I was not complaining to J that this was an unworkable weight because of it’s physical shape. No, I just had to adjust my handhold around the handle and the way my palms pressed against the weight itself. Little things, little tweaks can make the difference between success and less success. I am improving in self-diagnosing what’s a Very Big Deal and what just requires me to change my bit a bit to ensure I am not getting my wrists dug into by the weight. Yay me!

The stability ball hamstring curls are back. I was actually very pleased with my progress since the last time I recall doing these – hips were elevating higher and my curling in was better. However, and I laugh as I type this, J is encouraging to lift hips even higher and curl in just another half inch. I am definitely out of practice, but it feels like my recent streak of kettlebell swinging has done a lot for strengthening my glutes and hamstrings. J as coach is there to coach and instruct and ensure I continually push forward and wring every last drop of productivity out of each exercise. Except I am actually not sure my knee bends in another half inch no matter how high elevated or low hanging hips are off the ball. Like everything fitness and exercise, though, I believe persistent practice will make a difference. I will keep trying.

The seated cable row – every time I visit this machine I feel as if I am relearning technique and proper form all over again. Perhaps from my years of rowing machine rowing or just because my learning curve is steep on this, but there you have it: takes a set (or more) to get into the groove and pick up the right form. Okay, so today it was all about pulling elbows back as far as possible behind you. I am trying hard to remember not to lean back from the waist but utilize the upper back arch and pull with the shoulders and not with the arms. But since we are talking about elbows pulling back, it gets confusing. Always I am thinking about the arch – arch obsessed with this machine as well – and pulling with shoulders back, back, back and that will move elbows back. I need more practice. I cut myself some slack – so many Lists, so few practice days. But for the most I feel as if I understand and capable of performing the basic shape.

My arch obsession follows me around in the gym. It even applies to the seated hamstring curls machine. I understand the shape of this machine; I understand how it’s supposed to work. However, I am also never sure if I should be using lighter weight or heavier weight, and in truth it fluctuates depending on the day. Like the stability ball version, I am watching and thinking about that last half inch of the contraction and the movement. I find myself dilly-dallying with the weights to ensure I can actually feel that last half inch and make it happen. When I use a light enough load to make that last little bit, it feels awfully light for the rest of the movement. If I use an adequately weighty weight load to feel the work all through the movement, the last half inch thing becomes a no-go in the process. So my explorations continue. For today, though, I had a pretty good experience with the last half inch and could feel my hamstrings working that range of movement.

Finally, we moved to the dual cable lat pulldown machine. I always want to lean forward in the shrugged up starting position, where I should be leaned back slightly. Minor correction and easy enough to fix. The arch obsession continues here, with the arching with the upper back coming into full effect while pulling down and feeling a pinch between the shoulder blades. I think anyway. While I am pantomiming it here and writing this paragraph, I’m pretty sure there is a pinch there. But there is no weight involved, and we have had so many recent discussions about arch and pinch between shoulder blades I may be applying it too liberally. But I think I am right; I will have to test my theories in real time tomorrow in the gym.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

While I have had no urgent or burning desire to learn about using a barbell, my friend K has been had barbell deadlifts on her bucket list and has been killing them the last month, 6 weeks. I have been in the gym and hanging out with her on Wednesday evenings and cheering her on with this pursuit. I had asked J if maybe I too could learn the technique, because I want to be able to support my friend in her interests. And as I said, it is good to learn new skills and how to work with different tools.

My impression – I am neither doomed for failure or destined for hot pursuit of this particular type of equipment. My interest in all things exercise and fascination with learning will keep me interested, and working with K once a week will provide enough practice to feel as if I am intent on learning and refining my technique. She and I can dabble with them for awhile, and perhaps we will both develop a yearning to participate in a deadlifting class. Time will tell.

The longer I go with training and practices on my own, the happier I feel about the whole process. It was renewal time for me, so my next block of sessions is purchased, my session bank refreshed. Yay! Sometimes I think maybe there is not a lot more for me to learn, and I laugh at myself and my own silliness. I need only look at the session recaps to see that there is always something new to do, whether it is adding more weight or working on my form or just learning to push myself to keep going when I really wold rather just stop now, thank you.

Like everything else in life my discipline is imperfect, but I give myself good more for consistently trying to improve. Fears about just learning and reinforcing bad habits are very far in my rearview these days. I find myself thinking about offhand comments J might make to me – try to go lower in my squats, butt back butt back butt back in so many exercises, and I realize that the process is like an infinity band. The more I think I know, the more I realize how little I know. And I like that. I hate to imagine me at the end of the learning curve; in my mind that is my time to die.

Since we are venturing forward with weightier weights, it means working in the big boys’ room more often, because that’s where the heavier range of dumbbells live. After 2 years of training (it’s anniversary month! Unfortunately not quite a cake occasion, but maybe we bend the rules.) I would imagine my gym crazy completely conquered. But nope, I still feel the hairs of anxiety dancing on the back of my neck when I go in there by myself and the usual crowd of men and far more confident-looking women are there working. I give myself credit for improvement, but am realistic that it is still a thing. Oh well. Still plenty of time to strengthen my spine and ensure my big girl capris are in place.

Wow – coming up on 2 years. How different my life is now. I’m starting a list and a separate post to celebrate and commemorate. And maybe there is cake? Maybe.




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

PT-41: Seminaring and embarking on new adventures

I love training days. Still. Especially now, after a few lumpy bumpy weeks with illness and vacation. But much of the tribe seems to be settling back in after the holiday weekend and vacations away, and of course J is back from both illness and his well-deserved time off. But we are back to noses to grindstone and getting back to work. I am ridiculously excited about the present day, while of course glad J and others had good times away and that J is completely recovered from the multi-week respiratory crud. Still going around in the gym, though, so hopefully it does not return for anyone else.

Key Takeaways

The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more yet to learn. I have said this many times before, but with exercise and the better health quest, it is as if I am standing at the base of Mt. Everest and looking straight up without being able to even imagine what the summit is like. I know it’s there somewhere, but I am unlikely to reach it. Where that once would have filled me with a sense of “why bother?” and failure, now it’s is just something else to contemplate and file away into future potential thought files. Summit is not my objective, after all. Climbing, seeing what I see from each plateau, and staying present in my moments rather than dreaming of whatever else lies ahead. Having the summit as my destinations is like a goal to me – something that adds stress and pressure and drains and all joy from the process. Going forward, or sideways, or even backward on the journey is a better framework for my better health quest, because I do not wake up one day and voila! I have arrived at healthy. Healthy is here, healthy is now. Better version of healthy is tomorrow, or next week, next month, next year, five years down the road.

I know I don’t know everything in the gym. Hell, I am such a novice that barely knows anything and freely admit it. The construction and reasons why Lists are constructed the way they are constructed still mostly eludes me, although for the most part I can figure out which body part is working when, what kind of huffy-puffy response I’m seeking, and when something is not quite right and needs to be adjusted. These are things I know for me; I could not imagine tutoring or sharing what I know about me with anyone else. All good, because I have zero desire or inclination to challenge J for his crown in the gym. That said, I love my baseline knowledge level about me right now and how that base keeps elevating as the months pass.

The best advice about exercise I got from M and other friends who are or have been long-time fitness enthusiasts was to find an activity I like and pursue it consistently. I thought they were full of s–t – I hated sweat, I hated exercise, there was nothing I was ever going to like much less look forward to doing, it was all a big giant chore. Fast forward to now. Consistency is one of those things that I feel very boring about. Most days I get up, I go to the gym, I do something while there. Training days are always Very GREAT things, and the way I feel when there on my own and pursuing my Lists is what defines good practice, not so great practice. Sometimes I’m there and working for 2 hours, occasionally I can barely push myself for 30 minutes. But at least I’m there. I almost take that for granted. I should give myself a little more credit, as the last couple of weeks illustrated for me. While I have developed a sense of community that inspires me and makes me want to be there, I also do it because it feels abnormal not to exercise every single day anymore. I like me, feel better about myself after I have been through a sweat-fest of some sort where some muscles have moved and stretched and worked. Yoga is not doing it for me – not a flexie or bendy person – and for the effort I have to expend the payoff in feels is inadequate. As an accessory workout (new term I learned today), it’s fine and maybe, eventually will provide more satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. But it will never be something I can do most or even a few days per week.

Mind is going to undergo a bit of a reset with regard to rep ranges. Today we revisited heavier weight, shorter rep ranges, and where I am accustomed to 8 being my minimum on everything, the weightier weights have pushed it to the maximum. No sense of failure about it, more having to remember to stop at 8 even if I have potential to go to 12 or 15. Yep, me and my first world problems.

What We Did

With seminar discussion on a broad range of exercise and fitness-related topics, our List today is relatively brief. For each item we were going for a maximum of 8 reps (per side as applicable) and exploring increasing weight with each set to see where we are on the scale. Also, since this was an informal one-off type training day, there is no actual List for me to get the correct names of things, so I’m winging it and doing my best descriptive. At least I’m not using my personal nicknames for things; we did not do “pop tarts” yesterday, for example.

Squat machine (high set at 13 – maybe 130 lbs.)
Cable horizontal chops

Walking lunges (15 lb. DBs)
Planks off bench – arms bent/leg elevated and on elbows with step out, leg up, knee in

Chest press (sets with 20, 25, 30, and 35 lb. DBs)

Cable overhand face pulls
Cable overhead tricep extensions

How It Felt

I have a love-hate with the squat machine. Most of the time I like it well enough, and sometimes I actually do love it. But it feels different and like I’m trapped with this big giant collar-like structure. The times I hate it are when there is some baseline insecurity about what I’m doing, whether my form is correct under what feels like a lot of weight bearing down upon me. Probably I just need to ask more questions while I am involved with it, because my anxiety and dread about this machine is directly proportional to my concern about all I don’t know and could potentially being doing wrong. Problem is, I need to articulate said questions in the moment, or they escape me. Instead I am left thinking that it went really well with the increased volume of weight for 8 reps for the couple of sets, yet I am vaguely uncomfortable about it. Next time I will be hyper-vigilent about what I am feeling and ask if it’s right, wrong, or disaster is lurking. Probably not; probably it’s just me and my mind in overdrive and overthinking it.

Thursday night friend K and I were discussing chops using bands and cables – neither of us are super fans of these, and since I had been working at them earlier in the day, they were fresh in my mind. Frankly, the closest I usually come to really feeling these is the high-to-low version, if only because I have to serious tuck that rib to get the movement correctly. With the cable horizontal chops we did in training, I confess to not really feeling them, and I am 99.99% sure it is operator error. Or my obliques and core are mostly numb to the subtle nuances of exercise. It works best when I remember to tighten my abs and think of upper body as one twisting rotational unit versus pulling the cable with my arms and then following along with my core, but my focus is not always complete. I typically am not feeling it while in the motion, but sometimes I have some minor soreness the next day. Maybe the fat layer is obscuring all feeling in the area? I know something must be working, because I am starting to have more definable, positive curve in the area, but feels? Not quite there yet.

Walking lunges – I loathe you less, but hard to imagine a world where they crest onto a favorites list. Bumping up to 15 lb. dumbbells in each hand (from the 12 lb. pair I have been using for quite awhile) does make a difference, but so does the minor tweaking adjustment in form to sink the dragging behind leg more and stay ever so slightly more upright (I am quite sure J used other, more technical terms, but that’s the way mind interpreted and processed it). The experience with these is also colored by the aforementioned squat machine squats, with it’s largest ever (for me) volume of weight. Fatigue anyone?

We moved along to a new version of plank off the bench. Planks with a rear foot elevated and elbows slightly bent are a first for me and not quite as terrible as I was projecting. Maybe core is stronger than I realize. Maybe I was doing them wrong (highly unlikely with the laser-focused trainer eye engaged). Maybe my 20 to 30 second hold was actually only 2 or 3 seconds. Who knows? They were not terrible or awful, but planks leave idle mind to do the devil’s bidding and it tests the resilience of the locks on to negative girl’s cell door. Without even noticing I started thinking of all the ways I suck at planks, because I don’t always feel them working. As K articulated so perfectly – if we are doing all this work we want to feel something working. We also did a set of the now regular planks with the step out, leg up, knee in. At least with those legs are more active and moving about, requiring mind to pay attention and not wander.

Big excitement of the day was the flat bench chest press with the weightier weights. We went through several pairs of dumbbells – 20s, 25s, 30s – for 8 reps before arriving at the heaviest I have ever used for this exercise in the 35s. First set I went through 7 reps, second set my right arm started wobbling and threatening collapse on the way up from 6 – that was an interesting experience. But I was completely entranced by my ability to use the heavier weights. Of course I will not be trying those again on my own anytime soon, but I was thinking this morning that I might mosey upward into a 25 lb. standard for my warm up set and move along into the 30 lb. pair when doing the non-huffy puffy Lists. But I gotta say, it’s not the weights that have much of my attention and afterthought thinking – it’s the upper back arch while engaged and starting out with the weights overhead. I am finding it kind of tricky to lay on the bench, get the arch just so, and have weights up in the air all at the same time. It’s not impossible, but J has mentioned it since we were doing these with 10 lb. dumbbells, and I am trying to train myself to be mindful of it in my set-up. Remind myself this is a process and that I want a positive learning experience, not one where I’m squealing in pain and having to be placed on the injury bench.

On to the standing cable overhand facepull. I always smile at the name – facepull. It’s an accurate description, but still – facepull. Anyway, this is another of those shoulder exercises where I can tell my flexibility has increased through the months. When we started, I was continually perplexed by these, in that I could not understand how they were supposed to benefit me, yet I figured I was so grossly out of shape that they were invisibly benefitting me. I also did have the depth of understanding to even articulate a question about them. Now, I feel my shoulders and that contraction in my upper back between the shoulderblades. We have been doing the overhand version for awhile now and I think I have forgotten the other way to place my hands on the rope. Oh well; lots of training days left in the year if the other method appears on a List anytime soon.

And finally, the cable overhead triceps extensions. Not sure what I think about these, other than body should be straight yet leaned forward at a 45 degree angle. The actual work feels like work I enjoy, but I get distracted by my ponytail. I know – me and my first world problems. But thinking about this afterward, I can feel my triceps working, but also in the lats as well. Different than laying down on the bench with dumbbells in hand, yet the same sort of work-related feels.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Before we actually go started with the weights today, J and I had a half hour educational seminar. I am super spoiled – first Thursday of the month, and friend C is away at a monthly volunteer commitment, so the hour-long appointment she typically occupies was free for me/us to run off the clock and into overtime.


6/1/2017 – Whiteboard outlining our present and future training adventures.

We went over what we have done thus far in the last year or so of our List-making adventure: upper and lower splits, PHA-focused (aka huffy-puffy), and plexes that focus on particular body sections. Laid out on the whiteboard like that, I marvel at how much we have done, how many different exercises I have learned and the many ways I am able to exercise muscle groups using weights, bands, machines, etc.

Next we are heading into the land of push-pull exercises incorporating much of what I already know (rows, presses, squats, lunges, etc.) and advancing with weightier weights and a tighter rep range. We have done this before, bumped up the weights and shortened the rep range, but this already this feels different and new. Hence the seminar time. Plus, I’m an aspiring world-class exercise nerd; I completely dig this stuff.

We discussed the different exercises, the pushes and the pulls. Then there was the new terms: compound exercises (movements that engage 2 or more joints) and accessory exercises (smaller muscle groups like triceps and biceps). I always thought compound exercises were like poptarts – my term for power squat to overhead press and the like – which I suppose are more like exercise combinations. Present day rep ranges are typically 8 to 12, 12 to 15, 15 to infinity (or I have to stop). Weightier weight pushes and pulls with be smaller rep ranges, more like 6 to 8.

An interesting fact for me about using heavier weights: whereas J’s rep range for heavier might be 3 to 5 max, mine is more 6 to 8. Safety first always, and obviously he is far more experienced, comfortable, and has different objectives and reasons for wanting to lift more all at once. One of the (many, many, many) topics we touched upon and covered is the different styles of weight lifting and body building and reasons for doing (lots) more weight, less reps (aesthetic, build muscle) versus my version of more weight, less reps (than typical for me). Having been recently reading and following several fitpros on Facebook and elsewhere, the light suddenly comes on about what they are talking about with respect to their own training and what they present as best or better practices. While I was already aware much of that stuff is not applicable to me now (and maybe not ever), it is nice to get it into a context that I can actually understand and see how the principles fit in the bigger picture puzzle.

And because my doc runs a fat loss support group and I try to stay involved, I read the posts from other members including the monthly challenges. This month, the challenge is to do 300 kettlebell swings per day – definitely not something I would consider trying without discussing it with J in advance. On my List where these appear, I typically end up doing 15, setting the kettlebell on the ground and glaring at it, then picking it back up and doing another 15 to complete my set. So 300 per day? Daunting to say the least.

J did not tell me it is a terrible idea, but he did suggest (1) using the lightest weight (at 8 kg) kettlebell and (2) perhaps start at 100 per day and work my way up. I had already borrowed an 8 kg kettlebell from a friend (for whom this is now too light) to do whatever volume of swings possible in the backyard rather than trying to squeeze 300 before, during, and after my morning practices or training sessions. So I’m giving it a whirl.

Tonight I went back to the gym and hung out with friend K and got 100 done over the course of our meandering conversation. Tomorrow I will add a bunch into my warm-up and during my practice. I think I may actually be able to do this challenge. M is so helpful in my fitness efforts. Upon seeing the new addition to the back deck and hearing my hopeful intentions about this month’s challenge, he immediately suggested doing them facing the swimming pool, so if I lose control the kettlebell lands in the water rather than the side of the house or worse. Appreciate that vote of confidence! But it’s true – that vision is part of my recurring nightmare of Very Bad Things that can happen with heavy objects flying through the air.

So, while I am working on glutes and hamstrings of steel with an overload of kettlebell swinging, I am also looking forward to the next chapter in my weights adventure with trainer J.

Even on a briefer workload training day, we cover a lot of ground and get quite a bit done with the overtime session. I am excited about the idea of bumping up with weights I am using and seeing how it feels as we move along. The process and evolution feels very organic, as if this is the natural progression of the journey.

Watching the power lifting ladies group last night, I really do admire their abilities and the type of focused dedication that got them to this place and level. However, I also recognize that I no longer feel like less because I am not there now and have no genuine aspirations to train to lift in the same ways. Part of the learning curve for me is to abandon the idea that having different personal objectives and being on a parallel journey does not make me less than others pursuing strength or a particular aesthetic. I always believe it’s possible to be supportive and encouraging to others with different dreams, yet for me to fall away from the established norm made me wrong, lazy, or worse. As I have noted many times before, my confidence has grown and strengthened as well. Thankfully I am a very different sort of thinker and self-supporter than I was when I started 2 years ago. In fact, this month hosts an anniversary of sorts – 2 years since my first training session with J.

It has been a long and winding road, full of surprises and triumphs, buckets of sweat and puddles of tears. I have made new friends and developed different interests. I started to recognize and believe that I do have strength and stamina and stick-with-it-ness heretofore unimagined.

Whoda thunk? Certainly not me. And I have never been so pleased to be wrong about how weak I truly am.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #flexibility, #friends, #growth, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #knowledge, #mental-health

A little (boatloads!) help from my friends

Trainer J is back from his vacation and was back in uniform at the gym today. Friend C also returned from her week away, back in her usual Tuesday training time.

And I am beyond happy to see them both.

While glad they both were away and had a good time on their respective trips, I am so selfishly glad my Tuesday was more typical and normal and they were where present at their usual time. Honestly, I had not realized how dependent I am on the day-to-day social contact in the club until nearly all my tribe is away at once. I soldiered onward on my own; I even took a couple of days off myself. But while I typically go through my practice on my own, it’s nice seeing others I know go through their routines or to get a glimpse of what J is teaching someone else. There is just enormous comfort for me in the routine and typical predictability of the days.

Plus I just missed them.

I went through a lower body routine today that has been lying fallow for a few weeks, neglected in favor of the newer plexes and huffy puffy Lists. While I thought the yoga might help with the general tight soreness in my glutes and hamstrings, the opposite seemed to be true. But today, after seeing my pals and having my gym right itself once more, I had renewed focus and went through my List with no issues. If anything, it seems to have been the right call; my glutes and legs feel far more limber from the more focused work.

Or I’m just a lot more relaxed because the summer is shaping up and the week will be back to normal tomorrow.

I feel almost guilty for being so happy they are back. But absence made the heart grow fonder in this case, and since I love and adore both these folks, I am completely unphased by admitting my delight at their return.

Friend J asked me yesterday what I would do when things do change, when trainer J moves along to his next great adventure. I’ll miss him, of course, but a more permanent move creates a new normal. Vacation, mine or someone else’s, is like a temporary placeholder until things get back to normal normal. I could almost hear him shaking his head and trying to suppress a laugh on the telephone, but that’s okay. I am patiently awaiting his return and the restart of my next rendition of that normal as well.

It has been a fantastic day thus far.

#emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #inspiration, #mental-health

Life happens

Feels like it’s been forever since I have sat down and published a post. I have 2 recaps from last week marinating in the drafts folder and dozens of other thoughts and ideas that I would love to be talking about right now.

Unfortunately, business is booming and I am insanely overwhelmed with work.

But as I sit here enjoying a protein shake and putting together the balance of my day, I am taking a few minutes to check in here and share a few things. Except again, work interfered and I did not get the post finished and published before departing for the office. So on this Wednesday lunch hour, I am determined to get it done or face further rebellion in my email readership ranks.

No training on Monday (5/15/2017). Trainer J finally admitted that he was sick enough to see a doctor, cancel appointments, and stay home from work. Like everyone else I know, he has been suffering from seasonal allergies, but whereas mine had faded away toward the end of April, his congestion and nasal stuffiness seemed to linger on and on and be getting progressively worse. Out sick Monday and Tuesday, a doctor appointment, and a walking pneumonia diagnosis. I know this is the first time he has ever had to cancel, but I also believe this is the first since our very earliest weeks that we have not been able to reschedule. No  harm, no foul, just a curious milestone in our long endeavor.

Clumsy mishaps still happen. Yesterday I had a minor mishap at a client’s office and barked up my lower leg on a rolling chair. Trying to push back and away from the work table I was using, the wheel caught, my foot slid on the tile, and lower leg scraped against the chair base. This was not a newer, light-weight ergonomic chair either. This was a old-style executive chair with a thick and heavy metal base and heavy wheels. The scrape bled quite a bit, and because it was metal, I made a quick appointment with my local doc to take a look and advise whether I needed a tetanus shot. Well, I was hoping no tetanus shot, because I hate that kind of thing. But because I am diabetic (well controlled or not), I take no chances with injuries to my feet and lower legs. Some of the regular bruising I get there had been getting darker, so I erred on the side of caution and went to his clinic. The scrape itself is relatively benign, but he was concerned about the discoloration location being the beginning of cellulitis and put me on a 7 day course of antibiotics to ensure there is no infection. I’ll be wearing dark tights in the office and long leggings in the gym for the next week or so until the scrape heals and scabs over. Seems to me I get clumsier all over again when I am tired.

I am back shaving sleep. Try as hard as I might, work seems to hypnotize me and make me forget when it’s time to go to bed and stay on track with getting enough sleep. It caught up with me again this morning. Alarm went off at 4 and I was unwilling to rouse from sleep. Second alarm went off at 5, and I made the executive decision that gym was not happening this morning today. Not sure how I feel about it, but it is what it is for today. Clothes and shoes are packed and ready to go to the gym after work. All this is a painful reminder that my private client roster needs trimming again, because meeting the convenience deadlines of a few high-maintenance accounts is taking too much of my time and energy. I have raised my rates and they stay. They grumble a bit, but they pay my invoices without any drama. However, I am going to have to tell them that the work is going to take longer than it has been, because in reality they are not my only clients and as business expands I need the flexibility to better assess and spread out my workload.

My patience is even more limited. In evil, twisted, even mean ways, I am pretty damn pleased with myself today, because I used this in a group email to well-meaning friends:


5/17/2017 – Courtesy of trainer J (no idea where he acquired it).

Summer is approaching (practically here, actually) and there has been a push-pull going on with old friends who fail to understand the vastly different ways my life and lifestyle are evolving. The exercise is one aspect, but I am becoming more and more entrenched in my need to overhaul my eating even further with fewer processed foods and effectively marching toward cutting grains, pastas, breads, and starchy vegetables as part of my day-to-day eating pattern. For someone who loves her carbs, this is a big giant step that seems very necessary. But as with the exercise, saboteurs are everywhere and doing all they can to extend less desirable habits out of affection for me. Thing is, I am taking the time to learn what is best for me and my health, and skipping the gym and loading up on foods I admittedly love is the wrong direction. I don’t need that sort of encouragement, or to be told that I am overdoing it or that my birthday is an annual event and that I only live once. Steps I am taking now are to ensure better results and happier birthdays and rest of my life. Why those who profess to know and to care are failing to understand that remains a big giant mystery. I suppose in aging, people want to age less gracefully and have company to commiserate with.

While it seems like I have less disposable “me” time lately, it is not a bad problem to have. Working at or just over my capacity means I can feel better prepared for leaner times, or actually implement the client cutting that needs to occur. Continuing my regular consistency at the gym can include a day off, planned or not, and I am not going to lose every ounce of muscle gains overnight. Improving and enhancing my eating habits can only benefit me, and change and adjustment is painful and frustrating, the negative associations fade and evaporate relatively quickly.

Change is hard sometimes, balance is not a once-and-done acquisition so much as a state to be planned for and implemented every single day. When I think about it in the bigger picture, I am grateful that I still have options and the opportunity to choose habits to change and ways I can improve my overall quality of life. Choice is a powerful tool and a doorway to great, better, different types of freedom.

And as always, I feel better having gotten something written and posted today. Something had to give, and unfortunately this month it was my regular blogging schedule. But I will catch up and either find my old groove and schedule or create a new one. Like my better health quest, I value blogging and its benefits for me personally far too much to ever abandon it.

At worst, life and my regular pattern of blogging will return in June. Until then, I may be rather hit-and-miss with posting.

#blogging, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #progress