PT-68: Never gonna let you down

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

What We Did

The revised huffy puffy List went as follows:

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

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

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

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am very proud of that measure of progress.

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

PT-66: All about abs (day 28+1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training days. Way more fun than I ever anticipated.

 

 

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

Like my life depends on it (day 27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PT-64: The lost session (day 21)

Monday morning, training with J.

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

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

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

Life continues, despite a broken heart and wounded spirit.

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

Yeah, I had my fears about that happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

What We Did

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

A1  Heavy goblet squat
A2  Incline chest press

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

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

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

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for that, I am infinitely grateful.

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

A “mom win” and other aspects of today (day 2)

I am a ginormous fan of non-scale victories when it comes to my better health quest. Sometimes those are not even diet and exercise related at all.

My son, G, is a primarily a runner, although he does bike and swim as well. A month or so ago he asked me about joining my gym, primarily for the pool, and I offered to set him up with membership. I also suggested he take a few of my sessions with fab trainer J, because if he wanted to lift a little coaching on form and technique would help keep him on the safe and sane track. He had his first session last week and was feeling it afterwards. But I’d suggested if he ever wanted to work out with me, I’d be happy to have a gym buddy.

Last night he texted wondering if I’d be in the gym tonight (I typically am on Wednesday evenings, hanging out with my friend K) and I asked if he wanted to join me. Sure! he replied, and we set up a meet time.

Made my whole week. My adult son wants to hang out with me. In public even. Where I would introduce him to my kick-ass friend who is a rising rock star in lifting.

The experience was a first for us, made more special in that I could keep up with what he was doing, having been training with J for awhile and understanding all the stuff on his List. We got to chat while he worked (I continue in my regular Wednesday evening supervisory capacity and did not match him set for set) and I go to be fairly impressed by his efforts. For sure I know I do not want to do fab trainer J’s job; if the client didn’t care, I probably would cease caring as well.

It was a super fun evening with my son, getting to see my friend K, and being uncharacteristically rude to a supplement sales rep. On the latter item, I feel a little badly about my unconscious, reflexive response to being accosted about supplements almost immediately as I walked through the front door of the gym. Plus J had just been texting me about the dude’s remarks to him and fab trainer made the mistake of describing the guy to me. So when he came up to me about trying his supplement in that overly hearty, sleazy salesman way, I told him his supplements were crap and he was a douche for pushing overpriced crap I don’t need. He laughed off my remarks – maybe he didn’t hear me or think  I was actually that woman who is that kind of rude – but on the way out I felt a twinge of conscience at my behavior. Not enough to stop and apologize, but still.

Before all that, though, I was in the gym this morning plodding my way through a couple of Lists. First I warmed up, then I went through a core-focused stability ball warm-up J prepared last year. It has been awhile on that one, and I would love to say it was easy-peasy and what was all the whining about when it was new. Nope. Not happening. Still challenging enough to try and reach 20 reps per set (I think I made 15 on most of things, 20 on a couple of them with rest pauses to pep-talk myself into continuing.

Then I proceeded to the FreeMotion machine for a run through an upper body List. Neck and shoulder kink have magically disappeared, and since I had planned to be doing something leg-intense on still slightly sore and tight hamstrings with G and friend K later tonight, I focused on upper body.

So. Much. Fun.

When mind is clear and really focused on the work, the workload feels really good. It was nothing spectacular, no uber special effort or amazing breakthroughs to report. Just a regular day, regular practice, methodically working my way through a List exercise by exercise, set by set, until concluded. An item crossed off my to-do for the day.

But it’s still gratifying to get it done. I enjoy the experience, thinking it through, imagining all my muscles working and maybe growing stronger. Machines seem far more mysterious to me than the dumbbells; I have a far easier time with envisioning body and muscles working and growing stronger with the dumbbells than with the same weight on the machines. Plus doing the same exercise on different brand or style of machine feels like a unique experience that is not working the muscles in the same way, although I can logically see that any perceived differences exist primarily in my head.

And that’s okay. Mind is a powerful tool that either works for me or against me in my exercise efforts. I am continually coming to grips with that reality.

There is no denying how much it makes me smile to know the muscle work in my lats and back is still felt hours after I have left the gym. More than legs or lower body, that sort of worked sensation in the back and upper body makes me think Wow! Legs work all the time. Back and shoulders and arms? Not so much, and definitely not in the same ways.

And finally, M said something this morning that still makes me laugh.

I was getting ready to leave and he said “I wish we had a lot of video of your legs when they were fat.” Yep, he said that as a standalone sentence. I actually laughed out loud and interrupted his thought, because seriously – what sane man uses that F word about his wife ever and stays happily married? Once again, another example of how we are not a normal couple. But then he continued with “Because you could see the difference between what they were like then and how different they are now.”

It is true; I do not perceive the changes in the same way he does. Lately I have been wondering about my seemingly pudgy knees, except they are not so much pudge as the emerging leg muscle makes legs and knees look different. I don’t think my knees were ever that flabby, but maybe they were; we don’t have any video of my legs when they were fat so I will probably never know for sure.

And not knowing is a huge step forward in this particular battle. I am happy that legs and knees continue to work well and serve my purposes.

It was a good day.

#august2017, #better-health, #exercise, #family, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #inspiration, #motivation