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-33: Hello again

Monday morning, training with J. If last week was sort of “meh” and ridden with malaise, today my intent came roaring back with “oh HELL YEAH!” type giddy-up and go sort of enthusiasm.

Key Takeaways

Even if I did not always feeling as if I am sidling along and inching forward with spare micro-measures of improvement sometimes, today would still be an eye-opening step forward. On something recent like floor chops, I feel more competent and proficient than I did when they first appeared back on the radar a few weeks ago.

Did I love this workout because I feel more successful with it or am I more successful because I feel greater affection toward it? If I’m honest about it – and I am always brutally, verbosely honest about gym stuff – it is definitely the former. When I look back at the List in its original form, it had dreaded things like floor sit-ups (or chops) and planks and plank-like things. Core stuff is rarely never (thus far) included on my greatest hits.

Most of the time I recognize how far I have come on this exercise and fitness journey. Sometimes, though, it’s highlighted in neon lights and makes me want to happy dance through the gym crowing about my progress. While I am not the peppiest, highest-energy tribe member or even gym member, I do okay with what I do most days. And I love that I can recognize and speak my truth and not feel self-conscious or as if I am putting on airs or casting aspersions at others around me. For each of us, the journey is unique, with its own successes and setbacks, and it most definitely is not a race. Some days, though, I just feel like a bigger victory lap is in order.

This List – it’s been at least 5 months since our last review of it, and I probably have not touched in since early January. While most of the exercises appear on other Lists, the ordering and progression of things does make a difference to me. It keeps it fresh and not boring. The workload distribution is different every day, every List. And if I  have to talk about feelings, it just makes me happy to have some variety and to return to things I had mentally and/or emotionally set aside as hard or too hard and find they are now not as difficult as I recall. Because I am stronger from all the other stuff I have learned and diligently practiced in between.

And sometimes still, I get overwhelmed with gratitude that I have come so far, that I can now do things that I distinctly remember feeling disappointed and borderline ashamed (at the time) that I was not quite up to snuff with when introduced. Maybe the teary emotionalism is that I am over the shame of set-backs and not-quite-there-yet moments with exercise. Plus I have come so far from from where I started, and my willingness to put in the time and energy to practicing on my own consistently and the rewards from that work still humble and amaze me. Not a natural athlete. Never been one to stick with exercise for more than a few months. June marks 2 years since my first training session with J, and I just crested 18 months of at least 6 days per week in the gym. This is not me throwing down challenges or setting a standard everyone should achieve, but my understanding of my own needs and ambitions has expanded as time has passed. Doing my best and feeling proud of my efforts – this is new ground for me. I have worked at least as hard at my mental game and self-talk and celebrate that as well.

What We Did

We are back in quad-plex land – 4 blocks of exercises, 4 exercises per block. And it was completely AWESOME!

Quad-Plex 1
1.  Incline DB Press
2.  Bench Alt Knee In/Step Out/Kick Back
3.  Alternating Dumbbell Curls
4.  Alt Otis + Chopper Sit Ups

Quad-Plex 2
1.  Flat Bench Chest Flyes
2.  Bench Step Throughs w/ rib dip
3.  DB Alt. Hammer Curls
4.  DB “Reach Up” Crunch off bench

Quad-Plex 3
1.  1-arm DB Snatch
2.  1-arm DB Lateral Throws
3.  Band Horizontal Hip Rotations (aka “Choppers”)
4.  Mini-band Standing Contralateral Knee to Elbow Crunch

Quad-Plex 4
1.  1-arm Overhead Shoulder Press
2.  Dual Band Reverse Flyes
3.  Kettlebell Swing to Chest Level
4.  DB Plank “Renegade Rows” off bench

How It Felt

While we have done the incline dumbbell press repeatedly through the months, today we did a couple of things differently. First, threw out the rep count books – for everything – and second, we amped up the weights on each set. We started with a 20 lb. set of dumbbells and along I went through 20 or so, then we went to a set of 25 lb. dumbbells, still fine, and finally finished with the 30 lb. set. Surprisingly, I went through the 30s without much issue at all. Possibly because they are first exercise of the day, but more likely because I am stronger than last I had 30s in my hands for the presses. I have been working hard at my upper back arch and my elbow bend on the press up. No small cakes to me, 30 lb. dumbbells.

The bench alternating knee in/step out/kick back are planks on steroids. J added the knee in to these today, and it adds a new layer. Trying to remember the knee is after doing the step out/kick back cadence for awhile is another matter entirely; I have been doing the other combination so long it is branded into my head. But no matter – I will learn and remember. For the most part, this went really well. I love my “rib tuck” cue and want to use it for practically everything, but for planks and pushups and such, it is a must. Not so secretly, I’m delighted that I could do the knee in part of this exercise, when I remembered to add it into the sequence. It feels as if I have passed some grand new marker in ab work today. Yay me!

Whatever I think about alternating dumbbell curls, I know they are effective. I know I can feel them working my arms. Where I am thinking am I standing up straight, are my abs tight, ribs tucked down, shoulders back, elbows close to the body and staying in place. Am I thinking about my biceps and arms? Not really, other than pretensioning the muscle in advance of the curl, feeling out the weight. The rest of it is all about form. I know how to bend my elbow, but someday I may want or be capable with weightier weights. In my mind, it seems better to ensure I learn and maintain good form, because it will become harder when the weights are heavier. Far better for me to learn the best habits now rather than later.

Yesterday was kind of my light and fluffy day, doing a couple of sets of floor/stability ball core warmup and my beloved dumbbell matrix. But I also included my more recent floor chop series – which is the alternating chopper sit ups combined with Otis ups. J updated this list today with that combo, and I am much more competent and powerful with these. I can feel my obliques. I could curl upper body up without too much difficulty. Still have my feet secured under the bench, but I have yet to try it without that particular security blanket. For right now, I’m so happy to be just capable of doing a series of these without dying on the floor after every series. I am even making some slo-mo progress on the slow lower of upper torso back to the floor.

I am pretty sure we started out this block with the flat bench chest press, but by the second round J redirected and we went to flat bench chest flyes. I am nearly constant in my thoughts about the upper back arch anymore when we do bench-related presses and such, and with these chest flyes, I can most definitely feel the difference between when I am in proper position with the arch and above-the-eye position of the dumbbells when pressing up and more than a little out of sorts when not quite arched enough or letting the dumbbells drift. There is no bad or cautionary feeling so much as the muscle tension across the chest is just less or not really there at all. Hard to explain, but so much of what J has taught me is about the feels of each exercise, so much so that on my own I make minute adjustments to get back to ensure I am hitting the shape accurately.

It has been awhile since we have gone through the bench step throughs with the rib dip. Before, it was step throughs with hip dip, but to protect my lower back we went with a more accurate rib dip. Supporting myself on the bench with straight arms, this is essentially another plank position, rib-tucked exercise, only this time take left leg stepping through to the right side with a small left elbow bend to dip rib toward the floor. This one really works the abs and obliques, keeping the abs tight and ribs tucked down. Definitely a slo-mo version today, getting reacquainted after several months hiatus, and took a little break in the middle of the set after 3 or 4 or 5 (sorry – was no counting and know the rep count was not terrifically high).

Along side the bicep curls, the dumbbell alternating hammer curls follow the same pattern and prescription. Focus on form and pretensioning the muscle. Except I like the hammer curls slightly more than the regular curls for reasons as yet unknown. But again, I am an exercise geek about this stuff. I like the focus on form. Someday these will challenge me in other, new ways. I will be ready.

Potential new favorite ab exercise: the dumbbell “reach up” crunch off bench. With a pair of 12 lb. dumbbells in my hands and arms elevated straight overhead with feet up on the end of the bench, the small crunching up motion of elevating shoulders off the bench is strangely satisfying. This is not a big crunch, like the floor chops, but a small and deliberate movement that I can feel all the way down the length of my core. We have done these off a stability ball without weights, but it’s more crunch up via rocking motion. Still effective, yet not quite impactful in my mind. Sometimes the exercise is not so much what body is doing as much as what mind is learning about body doing the various movements.

While I remain convinced my 1-arm dumbbell snatch technique needs some work, trainer J with the critical trainer eye says they are progressing and had no corrections or adjustments for me today. I am working on the butt back, weight on heels part of the squat and the more explosive upward snatch part. It is difficult to pinpoint what I perceive is the problem with my form might be, but I do not feel completely confident. However, I did a set with a 12 lb. dumbbell and then a set with a 15 lb. dumbbell without pain or suffering. Mostly likely I need more practice with these, more than the once per week from the huffy-puffy List. I anticipate there will be some enhancements sometime in the future. But for now, all is well. More practice.

I still love the 1-arm dumbbell lateral throws. It’s been awhile, kind of remind me of the dumbbell snatches only staying stationary. Stay in the general vicinity of the scapular plane, don’t straighten the elbow completely, and try not to head/shoulder/upper body bob up and down with the throws. These make me feel like I have amazing shoulders.

The band horizontal hip rotations (aka “choppers”) are improving with practice and repetition. With the cable machines, it feels different, harder somehow. Probably there is a very specific, science-based reason for that. But for me, I prefer to think it might just be the return of my beloved green band and how it feels like an old friend. I understand the shape and the feels and why it works, and there should be little difference between the cables and the bands but mind perceives what mind perceives. Ah well. For now, we shall enjoy the feels of this rendition of horizontal choppers.

The mini-band standing contralateral knee to elbow crunch more like contralateral rib tuck to knee, because the elbow is supposed to stay out tucked behind the head. With the band around the foot makes elevating the knee more difficult and ensure that I have to hold on to stay upright. Tucking with the rib rather than trying to touch the knee with the elbow never brings the knee even close to the elbow. But the supreme rib tuck down crunch thing does make the exercise feels a lot more powerful and effective.

I always enjoy the 1-arm overhead shoulder press. With this List, it was about this time that I realized that I am someday going to have these even more bodacious and amazing shoulders. For right now, at this spot in my journey, I get a little rush watching the weight go up overhead and see the arm muscles working.

This is the first time we have done dual band reverse flyes with the new TRX box frame set-up, but they still feel the same. Again, we have done these more recently on the cable machine, and it does feel differently to me. Better, worse? Not really – mostly just different. When the bands are right – back to my green bands – I can choke up enough to get the resistance I need without feeling like it might be too much to stretch my arms all the way outward. If I use the heavier ones, they feel too like too much resistance from the start and I end up feeling like I am having to try too hard, work to hard, possibly hurt myself trying for the complete range of movement. I cannot even express how gratifying it is to now have an opinion on the subject, to know that I can tell the difference between the red band and the green band and how it makes me feel when hunting how the exercise should make me feel.

While it is my perception that everyone in the gym can do a kettlebell swing to chest level except me, I have been practicing and I am improving. Working hard to remember it’s all about the hips, keeping glutes and abs tight, protect the lower back. Again, like so many things that feel like they need more practice, I break my sets up into more 2 (or more) mini sets to ensure I get my full rep count done. Since we were not technically counting reps today, I went for 2 sets of 10 with the 12 kg kettle bell. Like these better than other things, but while these may not be scaling heights of my favorites list anytime soon, it is gratifying to be improving and getting stronger

My big major triumph of the day was the dumbbell plank “renegade rows” off bench. I did not think I could do these; we had tried these once before off the floor, with a pair of 5 lb. dumbbells and I could not budge those bad boys. Now we were trying them off the bench, with a pair of 12 lb. dumbbells as handholds, and I was fully prepared to be disappointed – and again, maybe a teensy bit shamed for not being capable after such an amazing session. Instead, I got situated, rib tucked into my plank position, and pulled up that first weight like I was standing on both feet doing a 1-arm row. It was exhilarating. To my credit I have not obsessed over my inability several months ago, but I am savoring – SAVORING – my victory over them off the bench today. Yep, did a few reps and then took a pause, went back to to it and did a few more reps. Like my arch nemesis the pushup, my arms and upper body does not feel quite strong enough to do these in a continuous set, but I’ll get there. For today, I will relish my surprise, then delight, then absolute elation over how it felt to lift that weight and pull it back into a row.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

While I was writing my key takeaways section one of my bosses walked into my office to ask me a question. I had a tissue in my hand and was blowing my nose, and he thought I was crying. Bosses are not good with emotions in the workplace, unless its passion related to the work itself. Tears? I have had them tell me on more than one occasion that I earn my salary if I can deal with crying staff members, meaning women. I have yet had a male ever get so angry he burst into tears, whereas with women it  happens more often than we might like.

So I answered his work-related question and neither of us said anything about the teary expression. I did not sound upset, because I wasn’t upset, and I matter-of-factly told him that I was emotional about training this morning because of some big-feeling breakthroughs with various exercises. We joked about the idea of me crying because J yelled at me, because the idea is so ludicrous it’s beyond the expanse of my pretty broad imagination. As I said to the partner, it is the same as the idea of them yelling at me – professionally they are all such emotional control freaks the apocalypse might truly be upon us if they lost it so completely.

It was opportunity and opening for an all-around good conversation. Last week, from the suggestion box the partners had brought up the idea of a “biggest loser” type contest here in the office. Considering the circumstances and employees of our firm, I was understandably horrified by the idea, because of the present 25 employees here, only 4 of us are visibly carrying any extra weight and all 4 of us are women. Did they seriously want to encourage something like this with that sort of imbalance? While they and perhaps a couple of other staffers might want to add some muscle or drop a few pounds, I’d vastly prefer we do it by getting on a more formal health and wellness sponsorship program than our present subsidizing everyone’s gym membership or lifestyle-altering dues program.

What was curious – he said that he thinks our firm as a whole is a pretty healthy group and that I (and the other ladies in my walking clatch) are hard-working healthy. I found that a huge compliment – hard-working healthy (says the woman who was thrilled out of her mind when J described me as a “tank” in the gym). Not sure about the other ladies, but a regular source of conversation on our jaunts is lifestyle, healthy eating, all sorts of things fitness and exercise. All of the ladies in the firm are at least 20 years younger than I am and thinking about the future and the potential of having children of their own someday.

What I like about the present staff and environment at work – it is supportive without being suffocating. My crew and I talk about our weaknesses – chocolate, cheesecake, chips, soda, etc., etc., etc. – and our strengths – regular exercise, regular salad consumption, just saying no to most of the crap that appears in our breakroom. We are a pretty well rounded group anymore, and I like that. Junk food Tuesday comes every month, and while I am usually not there (I work from home on Tuesdays), there are plenty of other opportunities to enjoy a cheeseburger on the firm.

Balance, elusive balance in all things. In work, the people I interact with most are a joy to me. They are smart, caring, funny, with all sorts of interesting perspective that differs from my own. Again, the age gap plays into that, yet at the same time, I am curious and I am interested in what interests them. In some ways I relate to my coworkers and business associates as I do my own children, who are in the similar age range. Since I treat my kids with respect and affection, this feels is accurate and appropriate for me. I strive to treat everyone in my realm with respect, until they demonstrate that respect is not earned.

So it occurred to me today that I do not always treat myself with the same level of respect and compassion. Why am I, or why was I once, so relentlessly hard on myself?

My progress with confidence and self-talk is pretty well documented here. I have made great strides with being kinder to myself, staying positive, and appreciating my own efforts. Comparing myself and my progress to others around me has proven to be a ridiculously fruitless, irrelevant exercise. Measuring my progress on a timeline or with preconceived expectations is toxic for me, so I stopped that long ago. I also strive to limit my expectations and hopes to getting myself into the gym to work at something as routinely and as frequently as I can make happen. I eliminated the word “fail” and all its derivatives from any thoughts or speech about my efforts. Setbacks, disappointments, faltering happen; failure is not only not an option, it is no longer even a thing for me when it comes to my better health quest.

Today, I am all about my forward strides, including the headspace where I am dwelling.

Gratitude has become such a stretched out, overblown, unrealistic concept anymore. Like so many good and empowering (yet another overused and therefore overvalued term) concepts, it has become part of the current age hype of feeling good and somehow releasing us from real responsibility for ourselves and our actions and choices as long as people are happy. I recognize that I am making a very broad-brush generalization here, yet I am unapologetic for it. The expectation of entitlement has cheapened a lot of things, and being grateful for modern healthcare and the opportunities of higher education (as examples) means it becomes a right by existence versus something we must participate in and work at and work for the genuine benefits.

In my thoughts of late, I find that people are disingenuous and insincere in their expressions of gratitude. Thanks for offering such rich healthcare benefits, but my portion of the premium is too rich and should be subsidized further. Thanks to modern medicine for creating such superior drugs for chronic conditions like diabetes, so that means I can now eat all the sugar and carbohydrates I want and adjust with an injection 3 times daily until something else fails and I need a new kidney or other costly medical procedures rather than watching my diet and getting some form of regular exercise, at which time I will be angry for having to lose a limb or endure a risky procedure to prolong my miserable life by a few years.

This is on my mind because of my own better health situation. I am working hard to take control of my overall health. For most of my adult life doctors have said diet and exercise are important to improve my overall health.

None of us know how long our lives will extend, and for a long, long time I thought my little tiny life mattered less and did not truly impact anyone. Boy, denial is a powerful drug. In truth, my tiny little life matters a great deal and impacts a lot of folk. And I should know this from my own experiences with family and friends who have passed. M, for example, would be a devoted caretaker, but is that what I want for him? To be wheeling me around or attending to my bedside for our twilight years? Or would I rather be saving my health tokens now by improving my diet and learning to exercise so the long-term benefits maybe extend my vibrancy and make the twilight years shorter and less burdensome?

Obviously I’m accruing and hoarding my health tokens like gold ingots in the safe. Every single day is a choice about going to the gym and completing a List to the best of my ability (or at least trying) or staying home and feeling … something. I would not classify it as guilt so much as regret for lost opportunities. I rarely do that anymore; I have a much clearer understanding of a rest day and its importance. But I also know that rest days can be just light days doing Lists I find more enjoyable or practicing things that give me grief. I love that I don’t go to the gym out of a sense of guilt; I go because sometimes it feels like a guilty pleasure.

So for more than just my better health quest, I have turned my gym time into me-centric time, where I get to do precisely what I want to do and pursue activities that benefit me directly and primarily. Selfish? Hardly. When I was spending a lot of money on prescription drugs to control my diabetes, that was selfish. In some ways a lot more convenient and definitely easier, but still extraordinarily selfish. But since I cannot go back and alter my personal history, I can take better care of myself now in hopes of better tomorrows.

I want to be sensible about taking care of myself and staying the course on my better health quest. Every session where I feel energized and successful is another encouragement stone that paves the path for this journey.

Every session, even when I feel flat and underwhelmed with my own effort, is a step up. Days like today, when I feel powerful and successful in my efforts, the person I was when I started is seems such a distant memory. The scaredy-cat woman with so much anxiety and filled with self-loathing – I know she cannot be completely annihilated or done away with completely. But her path led somewhere unexpected, a place of safety and peace.

And with some kind of badass in training ensuring that status quo remains in place, our life continues, an enduring adventure. Anymore, I will not accept anything less.

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #positivity

Training myself to be hungry

Food and diet seem to be the final frontier in my better health quest. Probably if I had my way, it would be The Thing I put off until the very last minute … like 60 seconds before drawing my last breath or my last rational thinking moment. But life is unfair, and unless I want that very last minute to be far sooner than absolutely necessary, I need to pull myself together in the healthy eating realm.

I kind of thought 2016 would be my year, that I would do better figuring food and portion control out and implement it for me. This did not happen. While at one point I would have characterized this as a complete and utter failure, reality is that my expectations might have been too extravagant and reality of how much change I am capable of processing is limited. Curiously to me, I feel no guilt about it, nor do I beat myself up for not trying harder, doing more, being more successful. If anything, I am mostly philosophical. My big win – being well controlled diabetes without medication and a completely normal A1c – continues into 2017 despite not feeling like I made much progress toward overall healthier eating and food portion control. The much smaller win of eating significantly less junky food is imperfect, but it seems doubtful I would be this healthy if I were still had my old eating habits with lots of processed foods and gratuitous sugar.

But I can do better. I ponder weight loss and I ponder other health markers. While everything about my blood tests says normal and healthy, my BMI, scale (when I can bring myself to utilize it), and waistline say otherwise. Playing the long game, I do not see this as a sustainable situation. And even if it were, there is likely a lifestyle cost to carrying extra weight. Ultimately it impacts my gym time and exercise pursuits. Not sure I am willing to allow that for the longest haul and whatever objectives I may choose to pursue into the future. Will my knees and hips continue to be fully functional with this much extra weight on my frame? What about my shoulders and arms if I ever become entranced with the idea of pull-ups? My thoughts about future endeavors do not include power lifting or supersized weighty weights, but I would like to be the most efficient with the strength gains I will achieve. And yes, maybe there is some super flashy thing that does not interest me at all right now that will evolve into a future obsession.

Sometimes my association with trainer J is almost frightening, like some sort of mysterious and invisible mind-meld. While I have not specifically said “hey, I really need to overhaul my diet and eating” recently, I have been thinking about it. This month was blood tests month. My A1c is holding steady at 5.0, everything else within the normal range. However, there is room for improvement. My “good” cholesterol is squeaking into the normal range and my triglycerides are on the higher side of the normal range. Some miniscule progress in 3 months, but frankly, it feels inadequate. I want better, and I am capable of doing better. These factors are entirely within my control; I just have to pull up my big-girl pants and start taking the steps to improve these healthy markers.

But the mind meld thing with trainer J. Thursday he was telling me about a tribe member who has been having challenges with pain and gym tweaks as well as with weight fluctuations. I want my fellow tribers to be successful no matter what their goals, and from my own struggles with healthy eating and exercise consistency, not being a baby about gym tweaks, etc. I know it’s not easy or fun. The discipline and the hard work is not glamorous, sexy, or all that much fun. Combine that with the day-to-day business of living with the demands of work, marriage, family, friends, and life very quickly gets even more complicated. I sympathize. But I also appreciate J’s tough-love realism about the choices that have to be made to implement sustainable change.

Even before that, he had shared with me a Facebook post from a very sensible woman who writes regularly about diet and fitness. She is infinitely sensible, very down-to-earth and exhibits a common sense approach and “let’s be realistic” attitude. Refreshing. This particular post, she was talking about food. Her opinion that foodies who tend to struggle with their weight like food enough to overeat, and thin foodies tend to be either moderators (a bite, a taste of rewarding food) or possess extreme will power. Truthfully, from where I’m sitting and my own relationship with food, I think being a moderator about food is in and of itself an ongoing example of extreme will power.

While I’m likely watering down and garbling the message of the post, I can still feel the defensive reaction it inspired within me. For all my advances in exercise, confidence, healthier body image and acceptance, a random post written by someone who does not suffer from food triggers practically drew emotional blood from me. It was not upsetting so much as enlightening, a stark reminder that I still have work to do in this area.

Despite my visceral reaction, I am quite happy J brought it up and to my attention. The more we talk about it, the more open we can be about our individual struggles, the less taboo and the less shame attached to not being perfect with our eating and successful in the lockstep death march toward mainstream thin right out of the gate. While there is no taboo about what I talk about with J or even here on the blog, not everyone feels that way. Obesity is no joke, the struggle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is real for so many of us. On top of those general, everyday feelings and thoughts on the subject, I had just gotten my test results and was meeting with my endocrinologist and was in the mindset of what big and small changes are needed to improve some of my test results.

Because while being leaner would be swell, my eye remains firmly on the being healthier prize. While I am within the normal range on everything, I am not comfortably enough in the normal range for cholesterol to have wiggle room for setbacks. This is nothing new; it has been going on for at least a year, occluded by my victory lap surrounding diabetes control. My vision is clear right now, though, and my focus is turning toward the cholesterol and triglyceride results and taking the steps necessary to improve.

The regular, consistent exercise has had an enormous impact. To take it to the next level, though, will require greater discipline with food first and foremost. My particular body type and build, further reducing or outright eliminating any remaining processed food I consume, lowering my carbohydrate intake, and controlling calories are likely a first steps. And already, I can feel mind and body simultaneously reacting with disdain to the mere thought of further cuts and changes to diet, not to mention the immediate rebellion launch at the idea of tracking/controlling calories.

It has to be done. Body has no idea what it’s like to be tolerably hungry because mind’s insistence we are starving at the first twinge of hunger or stress/boredom/other random emotion masquerading as hunger and insisting we must have an immediate snack. Or worse, my using whatever willpower I possess to avoid snacking, only to massively, uncomfortably overeat at my next meal.

I know I am not unique in this cycle. I also know my snacking choices are technically not terrible – multigrain seed crackers with a piece of cheese or a tablespoon of peanutbutter, piece of fruit – eat enough snack food and the calories become a major impairment to the better health quest. What I already know very well – carbohydrates are not my friend. *sad face* (I love my carbs!) Looking at the stark reality, the overhaul is not complicated to plan, but implementing and sticking with it is hard. Ask anyone who has ever successfully changed their lifestyle and they will likely agree with me on that. Or they are somehow far more superhuman than I am.

So as I do everything like this, I am creating a basic plan and starting small. As I did when I began my exercise consistency, I set an objective for a set time period, in hopes it will stick and become a habit.

My first appointment with my new doctor is on May 10, and I would like to have taken some practical, trackable steps to advance my better health quest objectives. With that in mind, my first little change is actually twofold: cut back on snacking AND track food consumption in MyFitnessPal. The snacking will be a walk in the park compared to the food tracking. I have started and I have faltered within a very short period, mostly because it was sort of a random piece in my overall long-term strategy. But I know it needs to be done in order to have a productive and candid conversation about what I need to do to improve my cholesterol numbers (again, presently in the normal range, but lots of room for improvement), become leaner and ultimately healthier.

As much as I shy away from the concept of goals, I have an achievable, measurable objective to improve my next set of test results in a few months. I have not set a specific number or range of numbers improvement to be satisfied with my progress. At this point, any higher numbers in HDL (good cholesterol) or lower numbers in LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides than what I achieved this month will be a win for me.

I am also prepared to be prescribed at least a couple of dedicated cardio sessions per week and am factoring that into my time management calculations, because I am absolutely unwilling to give up my present weight training schedule. By the time our first appointment arrives, I will absolutely be prepared to discuss his recommendations and have at least the framework of a plan prepared to get started.

To that end, trainer J himself has embarked upon a 30 days of dedicated cardio burning 500 calories per session. For someone who lifts most days as well as works in the gym, this is no small undertaking. I respect his dedication to gaining insight and improving at his craft. Do I expect him to start converting the tribe to cardio bunnies? Not hardly. But I can imagine him suggesting some dedicated cardio sessions in addition to pursuing regular, consistent resistance training depending on individual goals. Mostly, though, I am looking forward to the outcome and his conclusions from the process. In the meantime, I am reading his regular updates and enjoying his comments on this process. I believe his experience will have a direct benefit on me, generic training client.

For now, I’m enjoying my lunch and then taking a walk around the block with my cohorts here in the office. Day 2 on my limited snacking quest – thus far I survived 1.5 days without gratuitous snacking and dutifully logging in MFP. I suppose it helps that I am someone who can eat the same things, day after day after day, thus making it easier on myself by using the “copy yesterday” feature for each meal. That’s something. And it’s not cheating; it’s good use of my time and resources.

Happy weekending everyone!

#diet, #food, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #lifestyle

PT-29.2: Red shirt madness

Part 1 is posted here.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

After so many enjoyable weeks of review and improvements to former Lists, a brand new one is kind of a big deal. I have zero doubts about J’s creativity and professional skills to create new and interesting workouts, but from time to time I have my own private doubts about my capabilities. Time between doubt times is stretching out further and further.

It occurred to me yesterday that I could stop training with J tomorrow and probably be okay on my own. Deeply sad and unhappy about my learning days being concluded, but I’d get by on my own. Or I’d be reading and studying harder in my 5 minutes of free time before falling alseep to learn on my own and become my own trainer.

Thankfully I have more time and it’s not something I have to even think much about right now. But I hear that a lot from friends – you’ll be okay on your own. Not just about training. It comes with or work friend changing jobs, friends I used to see all the time relocating to another town or state, or the dynamics of life in general. For the most part I am okay, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss what I enjoyed previously.

During our session and after yesterday, I found myself musing that the exercises themselves are like old friends or old toys I once loved put away and forgotten about until the box they were stored in is reopened and rediscovered. It’s been a little while since I last did stability ball bridges, and I have learned new cues and new tactics that make them make more sense to me.

I have come a long way and covered a lot of ground in the time span I have been working with J. I am not the strongest client in the tribe, nor am I the most disciplined. But that’s okay – everyone has a role, a place, their own unique priorities. It occurs to me I have no concerns about my “standing” in the training tribe; I truly want all of us to be successful in achieving the goals and objectives we have set for ourselves.

But this week, my thoughts turn back to what are my objectives? I already know how I feel about goals – they freak me out. Better health quest is ongoing, but is there more I could or should or would be doing if I knew about it?

My answer – probably – is fine. And I feel as unambitious about identifying what those other tasks that I could or should or would be doing if I knew them. Because in reality, I do not have the time to pursue much more. There are plenty of times when I feel like I barely have the time for the life I am presently leading. And it frustrates me to no end when friends or others who might like to spend more time talking to me complain about my lack of availability.

I am a big believer in personal responsibility, and I truly believe it is important to prioritize what is important to you. My health – very important. But so is my family, my work, my close friends. However, I am less inclined to spend a couple of hours hanging out with friends who have little to do other than complain about the state of their lives while being unwilling to make the changes necessary to improve them in the areas where change is possible. Sometimes a job is dissatisfying and finding something else in your specialized field is nearly impossible. I am extremely sympathetic – M had that same issue most of his career – yet at the same time, there must be something else in your life that makes it less miserable 24/7. Truly, I’d like some balance in time we spend chatting.

But now that I have taken the leap of faith and take more control over the state of my overall health, I know very well how difficult it is, how unglamorous and blood-sweat-and-tears kind of hard it is to reshape lifestyle habits. But while you may have the time to go out and eat, drink, be merry and complain about gaining weight or feeling crappy, I have to be up at between 4 and 5 a.m. to get to the gym and take care of myself and keep such complaints from recurring in my life. Is it fun? Most days, not really. Most nights I want to be in bed and sleeping by 9:30 p.m., but even 9 is better whenever possible. When I get home from my regular job, eat dinner with M, check my self-employment email and maybe do some work there most evenings, it limits my me time to read or watch TV or listen to something on YouTube. But after 18 months of this type of schedule, I’m used to it. My choices are to stop working earlier and get my me time, or catch up with my reading on the weekends, or sacrifice my List of the day in favor of a cardio machine where I can prop up my iPad and catch up on books and such.

As far as relationships go, I have enough single friends to know it’s not easy meeting quality, compatible people these days. BUT if you are going to consistently date the same loser with a different name every few months it’s hard for me to feign interest when it all falls apart, as it inevitably will. I have two single friends who have been on the loser dating cycle for several years now, and every time we get together it’s the same story, with different names but eerily similar problems. No matter how mildly or gently I point out that they are left in this same unhappy state transitory relationship after transitory relationship, I get the “you’re married and have no idea” speech defensively thrown back at me. Apparently being in a mostly stable relationship all this time has inoculated me with a health degree of self-respect. Even at my worst, lowest point of negative gravity self-esteem, my standard of mistreatment was relatively low. While my negative girl mindset might allow me to believe I did not deserve better, my sense of self-preservation said that the alternative of being without the mistreatment was always going to be better.

In my single and dating days, I had an eleventh commandment: thou shall not get away with being a thoughtless jerk.

My point here is – I prioritize my health. I exercise. Heathy eating is a work in progress. I don’t bitch or complain about pounds not dropping quickly enough because I don’t get on the scale. I rarely complain or whine about going to the gym, because I have enjoyed enough success to appreciate the challenges that come with learning new things and more complicated movements. I think know my mind is in a healthier, more positive space.

And the more I grow and learn and become immersed in this area of my life, the less I seem to have in common with old friends. One asked me yesterday when I was going to start acting my age in context with my daily gym practices and trying to perfect my form and technique. I was truly dumbfounded by the question, because I have met other women older than I am who do a lot more than I can even fathom. So I asked – what does someone my age do for exercise? It was actually kind of a serious question, because I was curious about what she really thought. She thought I was being patronizing and snarkily told me to f**k off.

That was helpful.

The exchange was on my mind again today, getting to the gym a little later than usual and seeing a couple of my friends there pursuing their own training sessions and post-training cardio. I realize that my life is very different than it was when I socialized with and saw a lot more of these other friends I have not seen much of lately. I derive more pleasure out of seeing my regular gym pals than I do with people I have known for years who are hardening into petrified middle age before my very eyes.

I have no idea how the coming years will play out for me; I have no idea what tomorrow will be like. But my optimism, my hopes for a brighter, different future – it does feel very different now than it did 18 months ago.

Not sure that I saw myself as an invalid or in a wheelchair, but I could imagine not being very interested in a huge amount of physical activity. I am still not a lover of the outdoors and the mountains and forests – the mosquitos we are enduring right now are driving me batty – but I expect to be fully capable of going the distance for the places we go and the things we do enjoy doing.

Thinking about it today, I am not a preachy person about exercise. I do not suggest that everyone should start going to the gym and get busy learning to move their bodies, unless of course they are complaining or saying they should get more exercise. M has always been a moderation guy with me, suggesting I do a little something physical every day until I found my niche. It’s painful at first, physically as well as psychologically. It’s insanely stressful to get started.

Not sure why this is, but I get the feeling there is a disconnect when I say anything about how much I enjoy the process of going through a practice on my own or how much I enjoy my training sessions themselves. It occurs to me that others have been watching too much TV and see these bootcamp/drill sergeant type instructors and imagine that is what personal training is actually like (I would have quit long ago if that were the case). At the end of it all, I realize that they cannot overcome the painful break-in period of exercise. It took me three months to get serious about consistent practice, so I do get it.

The end result of this meandering thought process is a feeling of gratitude. I’m fortunate to be at this place in my life, to value my health and getting to this happier place of overall being better. Depression has never been a condition that plagued me, but I would be overly stressed and overly unhappy with unexpected and stressful disappointments and bad things that are a part of life and living. While managing my time and finding a reasonable work/non-work structure remains somewhat elusive, emotionally and mentally I am far more even and balanced now that I take better care of myself. For women in particular, it seems to be almost a bragging point to be so busy we do not have time to look after ourselves. I wish I understood why we allow ourselves to be programmed to accept overloaded to burned out as a point of pride.

Perhaps red shirt madness is not such a bad affliction after all. I know how much it has strengthened and fortified me in all aspects of my life and times.

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #hope, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #positivity

PT-29.1: Red shirt madness

Monday morning, training with J. And despite my saying this every single week, today was so much fun. I really mean it this time. Of course, I really mean it every time I write it, so whatever. I probably need more life or at least hobbies because I enjoy my training days so very much.

J has new uniform shirts, and in this replacement style, the large seems to mean for a much bigger, bulkier, longer-torso-ed person. I think the dress I’m wearing today might be only slightly longer than that t-shirt kind of big. Between the sizing and the training and the teaching aspects of today’s List, the post title was born.

Key Takeaways

My new nemesis bodypart: hamstrings. Or hamstrings on stability ball. I cannot make them go that extra inch and get the last little working bits from them, even though I feel like I should be able to bend them to my will. Alas, they seem to operate on their own range of movement schedule and go this far, no farther, and openly laugh in my face if I have any expectations of changing the status quo.

Other exercises I have learned months and months ago were made new by reintroduction and trying to unearth old cues and muscle memory. Muscles plainly forgot that stuff, though, and it feels like a brand new exercise, even though mind recalls doing this, that, the other thing once upon a time.

After a few months of doing sets of two or three exercises, it seems strange to be back to full-on blocks of four, five, six exercises. It was not an issue so much as a change of pacing, once I had not anticipated would even be a blip on my radar. Creature of habit that I am, it will just take a few practices with this to get the new groove and transition tempo a more in hand.

Today might have day of the floating foot. While my single-footed exercise balance is vastly improved in 22 months, it is still a challenge, one I now relish rather that look upon with anxiety and a short track to frustration. Fall out, try again. Fall out, try again. Lather, rinse, repeat. At some point the weeble-wobble becomes less and I am more successful than not. My confidence is now that my primary concern is doing it correctly; balance will happen.

The blocks of exercises today can be describe as challenging, new favorite block, huffy puffy, and working abs (not a fan). ALL good things. Very good things. And while the List seems longer than usual, it feels like time and practice will shorten it to 3 sets doable in my usual block of practice time. And as this is the first new List J has written for me in awhile (we have been doing quite a bit of review since the first of the year), he truly outdid himself. Red shirt madness at its finest.

What We Did

On the PHA (peripheral heart action) List today:

A1 Anterior Reach 
A2 SB Bridge 
A3 SB Hamstring Curl
A4 SB Toe Bridge 
A5 SB Reverse Hyperextension 
B1 Flat or Incline DB Press (20 lb. DBs)
B2 Bent-over Row (20 lb. DBs)
B3 Seated Shoulder Press (12 lb. DBs)
B4 Standing Uprights (not “High Pulls”) (12 lb. DBs)
B5 Lying Triceps Extensions (10 lb. DBs)
B6 Seated Biceps Curls (10 lb. DBs) 

C1 Speed BW Squats 
C2 Alt. Small Step Reverse Lunges (Prisoner) 
C3 Squat-Pops (less depth easier) 
C4 TRX-supported Skater Squats 
D1 Abel TRX Back Extension (leaning back squat to Y) 
D2 Shoulder-safe Fallout 
D3 TRX Leaning Resist Rotation Press 

How It Felt

As noted in my key takeaways, blocks were longer and different today, each with it’s own characteristics. The first block was challenging. One-footed exercises continue to vex me. Exercises that have always been difficult for one reason or another resurfaced. I am still making friends with the stability ball and having only some success. All these things contribute to this first block being taking the prize for most challenging today.

My one-foot challenges with balance continue, and I have become philosophical about it for the most part. One cannot be good at everything right out of the chute, or even almost two years out of the chute. If I improved that rapidly and muscles never forget, J would not have much job security. Anterior reaches with the floating foot are like a whole new ballgame of new ways to balance. New visual feels cue – chest in line with hip at the top – makes a lot of sense. Now, to just get the floating foot to actually float and not weeble-wobble me off balance. I have gotten accustomed to these with the rear foot (now floating foot) as a kickstand; readjustment started today with the floating foot instead. In the ideal world, foot will float all the way through the rep and in the really ideal world, float all the way through the set. Apparently my version of paradise includes standing on one foot indefinitely. While I have little strong feelings one way or the other about anterior reaches in general, I can already feel the difference between this floating foot version. It forces me to not be lazy and really work that stationary leg.

Stability ball glute bridges make their return this week. New cues remind me that press up to bridge with the hips, not by arching the back. What that means to me: tighten glutes and abs on the upward bridge, rib tuck, rib tuck, rib tuck to keep chest in line with hips. So much easier said than done. But I have my magic “rib tuck” cue pounding in my head, so when I actually listen and follow along I keep abs tight and do not let my lower back arch up. Key words here – when I listen. I do believe this one might be kind of like riding a bike, in that once I get back into the groove of the general shape I should be within the ballpark of correct execution and form.

Then newest body part nemesis – hamstrings – got their stubborn on with the stability ball hamstring curls. Like their brethren the hamstring curl machines downstairs, that last inch of muscle contraction does the most work, and apparently it is my hamstrings’ last stand and a bridge too far. I know they can do it with brute force, but mind is apparently unwilling to be that much of a controlling asshole to them and insist upon blind obedience. Combined with maintaining the shape of hips elevated off the ground while pulling the ball toward body – hamstrings go so far and stop. These do not remain in my nemesis stable for nothing, apparently. But I’ll keep working. Maybe I can trick them into go the last inch somehow. Or maybe I just need to get tougher with myself and make them do it. Ugh. Every List, there’s at least one exercise that I see as my dislike of the day.

But if I thought the hamstrings were stubborn and the hamstring curls were challenging, the calves gave me pause and the hamstring curls a run for the money for least favorite on the List with the stability ball toe bridges. These are like glute bridges only legs are extended and toes rather than heels are resting on the ball while pressing upward with hips. Result is big giant cramp contraction in the calves. These were new, and the yowza factor in the calves completely unexpected. Second set muscle had settled down a bit, and I did not have to resist the urge to yelp with every single one of them. Rest, yes; calves are wimpy little girls who would openly weep with the work if they could. Surprisingly, there was no after burn throughout the afternoon and into today; calves feel perfectly normal. As someone who has endured lower leg cramps (until fabulous M introduced me to a magnesium supplement that mixes with water and stops the cramps like magic), I suppose I was anticipating a spasm to flare up. Nope – all is well in my calf land. Kinda sorta strangely looking forward to Thursday and having another go with these, to see if I can maybe gain some mastery over technique.

The stability ball hyperextensions brought forth this new cue. While it seems to be kind of universal (or possibly that’s merely wishful thinking on my part) that everyone has a head-bob form issue upon first learning these (or going away from them for a few weeks), J remarked that he remembers to keep his head down by looking at the crack between the stability ball and the floor to maintain positioning. I like that so much better than my mind’s thinking of it as “kissing” the floor – the mere idea of it tends to gross me out so completely I don’t want to pursue them any further. And like the bad penny, now I cannot get it out of my head. But watching the ball on the floor, that works for me. After that I did much better staying low in the push-up position, although I feel like the hyperextension part could use some focus and some additional work. As we only did 2 sets today – teaching days tend to take longer because I am asking question, watching him demonstrate, trying it myself, asking even more questions – I do feel like it will be better and pacing will be more normal on Thursday. For the most part I like hyperextensions; there is a challenge there that I am cresting and any minute now will be overcoming.

The B block – oh my, this was the fun block of the day. Hard, sweaty-and-gross kind of work, but still so much fun. All of these are long-term favorites, so doing them simultaneously alternating is different than just doing regular two arms at a time. Yep, exercise nerd here; there are worse things in life. 

I usually like chest presses of all stripes, but today we did single arm simultaneous and I fell in love all over again with the simultaneous flat bench dumbbell press. We went slowly the first set, so I could get a sense of the feels and the difference in motion and tempo of going one arm up, one arm down, both arms moving at the same time. I caught on fairly quickly, and I have to say, I just love it. There is the challenge of moving both arms at once in opposite directions, but there is a tempo in my head that coincides with the rep count and the way my chest and shoulder feel with the movement. What always surprises me is the difference in the way the weight feels when we go from doing a two arm anything to one at a time. In this we used a 20 lb. pair, and it felt very much like the usual 25 lb. pair I use for two arm presses. Not sure why that is, but suspect it is something about the way mind perceives body managing the workload distribution.

I absolutely love the simultaneous bent-over row. In truth if I have to pick a row exercise that I like best with dumbbells, it’s probably the single arm row because of the way my shoulder and back move together. Doing this version of the bent over row mimics that feeling, and I can focus on the feeling in one side and one shoulder at a time versus what the whole shoulder/neck/back apparatus is doing all at once. If I were a dancer, I think the thrill I get from doing these simultaneous dumbbell things must be what other people who do like to dance enjoy about it. There is a tempo, rhythm, and synchronicity to the simultaneous movements. It feels different from the standard bent over row, and I really like it.

B3 Seated Shoulder Press (12 lb. DBs)

The standing uprights were new to me. I got the basic shape – slight lean forward, pull dumbbell up like a one-sided V toward the chest, elbow high and back behind the ear and shoulder. Going through these right now in my office clothes and while at the office, I can feel it in my shoulder and rear deltoid (I think that’s what it’s called). Not really sure what “high pulls” actually are, so I have no reference to whether or not I could potentially be drifting into high pull territory, but I tend to think not. We did these with the 12 lb. dumbbells, and once I got the basic shape down, I felt okay to good about going through them. There was no upbeat or escalating tempo; this was purely learning tempo slo-mo and trying to ensure I am feeling the work in the proper places.

We have done lying tricep extensions for a long time; these are a staple on many Lists and not unfamiliar to me. However, today was the first time we have done these single arm simultaneously, and like everything that I typically do with both arms at once, it feels very different. It feels like the triceps are working harder, although I suspect it is primarily a mind game where mind is focused primarily one the work in one arm at a time. Even using 10 lb. dumbbells (versus my usual 15), these felt like triceps were working hard. Plus I found them to be just a lot of fun. My mind apparently likes the novelty of doing things I know in different ways.

Looking for over-the-top excitement about seated bicep curls? Unfortunately, I’m not that blogger. Even simultaneous seated bicep curls, I don’t love bicep curls. However, I will say they are better than they were once upon a time. Mostly when we do these, I am thinking posture: sit up straight, shoulders back, arms at my side, elbow stays slightly bent and in front of torso. Curl, curl, curl. Maybe it’s a guy thing? I dunno. My biceps seem quite pretty, but my vanity is apparently not contained in their bulgey-ness. Maybe that happens when I can use the 20 lb. dumbbell competently and without a genuinely pained expression? A girl can hope. It did make for a nice finish on this block.

This week’s C block is where the huffy meets the puffy, for sure. Not difficult, only one new-ish thing, and a new term – prisoner hold (describes putting hands behind your head during squats and reverse lunges).

J calls these speed bodyweight squats, and for him, the pacing is fast and furious. For me, the pacing is more like rushing through some strange grocery store trying to find items on your list. You want to go faster, but under the circumstances – you just can’t. They are not difficult, although it did take the first 10 to 15 to get used to having my hand behind my head that way without interlacing my fingers so tight my fingertips started going numb. No, mostly they are huffy-puffy kind of fatiguing and inspire this feeling of “is it over yet?” I made it through the first 25, but second set – I am the model of consistency in the tribe, not the model of toughness and keep going until I drop or J says stop, your face is turning some unnatural shade. Nope. During session, I go until I feel like I have had enough and let’s move along to the next thing. On my own, I am more inclined to take a break for a second and finish up on my own timetable.

We did the alternating small step reverse lunges with the prisoner hold. I will say – getting better at my lunge technique the more frequently they appear on various Lists. What I do notice about them – besides my not tipping over sideways every other one – they do cause the huffy-puffy reaction we are seeking in all this stuff. Again, not quite the pepped-up pacing that J urges, but Mondays everything feels kind of new with the difference sequences and order and whatever has gone on before. While I do not exactly feel guilty for not trying harder, there is some part of me that recognizes that I could put more focus on tempo and less on feels. Not sure exactly, but the thought did occur to me with these in particular. But the new hand-hold thing had me contemplating what shoulders and upper torso was doing – kind of a nice little stretch going on there – which distracted me for a nanosecond. Which was plenty of time to feel the weeble-wobble try to creep in.

Squat pops – I do kind of loathe you. The squat part I have down pretty well. The small jump/pop part does not seem that difficult. Yet, I do kind of loathe these. Possibly it’s because I seem to travel forward somehow. Or because they just feel unnatural. Jumping – or in this case, popping – does not seem like normal, typical behavior to me for me. I mean, I see others doing these all over the gym, some on top of the boxes and other equipment, and I admire their ability. Form me, all sorts of scenarios run through my head, none of them where I emerge as squat pop champion in the training tribe olympics. But they do add a lot to the huffy-puffy aspect of this List, so I’ll just give myself a wide berth just in case I evolve into the bunny hopping tribe member.

If I kind of loathe the squat pops, I have much stronger feelings about the TRX-supported skater squats. It’s been quite awhile since we did these, and in that time the rear foot kickstand has been upgraded to floating foot instead. It is because they are new, difficult, and like lunging without a rear leg. Invisible arms are one thing, but invisible legs and floating foot are a lot harder to learn and to implement successfully. At least on the first introduction. I got through them, but little professor the lives in my head is dissecting the whole exercise to figure out where I think I might be going wrong with these. For the most part, it is probably a function of practice and mind and body adapting to the movement without the foot resting on the floor for steadiness and balance. My forward lean also may have been off; another tribe member came up to chat with J and I right as I was starting on these and distraction could play a part in that. Not sure as yet; on Thursday when we review I will be gazelle-intense on my focus and take note of everything that feels weird. For now, they are hovering over the nemesis stable. Too soon to say whether they get admitted or not.

The final block was all about abs. We do not do a lot of core work, there is no dedicated List for that. But all the huffy-puffy List have some ab work on it, which somehow makes it more bearable. Still far from my favorite and definitely don’t love it, but it’s bearable. Besides, it’s huffy puffy; it does not get much better (or worse, if you’re not an exercise nerd) than this.

The Abel TRX Back Extension (leaning back squat to Y) is kind of fascinating and for the most part felt pretty excellent. The leaning back in the squat took/takes some adjustment, but coming up into the Y – the stretch in the shoulders and back is worth the seeming awkward start. I have not done the TRX Y in quite awhile, and with recent shoulder tightness it was probably past due time to reintroduce it. 

Not a big fan of planks, but the shoulder-safe fallout is at least a more active version. Now I have rib tuck, and know how to tighten glutes and abs and keep feet together during them, so all that makes these make more sense to me. Does not make them easier to execute, but I am closer than last time we did these, and I have the feelings in the abs to prove it. That pressing up and then back down just a couple of inches packs quite a punch in the core.

The final big mystery in a day of new stuff, old stuff, and fun stuff – the TRX leaning resist rotation press. And truth is, I suck at these. It is the deceptively simple things that always trip me up and make me scratch my head in wonder. Sideways lean or the press straight forward from the breastbone and voila! Feel big crunch of muscle contraction in the obliques from hold body in that position during the forward press. At least this time I don’t feel like bursting into tears because they baffle me so completely. This time, it’s more grit my teeth, glare ominously at the TRX straps, pick them up and try again. And again. And again after that. Always anymore it’s the ab exercises that give me such grief. 

Practices Between Now and Thursday

It is officially Tuesday, and one practice down, at least one more between now and Thursday. This morning, I went through last week’s huffy-puffy List in the big boys room. My chops continue to be a work-in-progress, felt GREAT about my heavier goblet squats and incline chest presses, pretty amazing with my stretch rows. The lat pulldowns worked pretty well, as did the overhead presses and the forward and reverse lunges. Even at my present slo-mo pacing there was plenty of huffy-puffy working for me.

Tomorrow will be another older huffy-puffy List, probably. I think I need the distraction of something that requires a lot of dedicated focus. Lots of stuff going on in my life right now. but things are balancing out

#better-health, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #hope, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #positivity

Better health – it’s complicated :(

April is my month for medical appointments. Yay!

Tuesday I was in my endocrinologist’s office having a professional-model continuous glucose monitor attached to my arm. During my adventures in restrictive, calorie counting style dieting, I had daily, sometimes 2 and 3 times daily low blood sugar events. Kind of hard to be watching calories so closely if your blood sugar is dropping like a rock and you’re having slam juice to get back to the normal range.

It is perplexing because I am not on any sort of diabetes medication that would drop my sugar so rapidly. Could be the allergy stuff I have been taking to keep my nose and sinuses under control, but I kind of doubt it. I think in that period it was simply not eating enough calories or frequently enough to keep me going. Protein shake in the morning before gym, gym, then an apple until lunch and another protein shake and then nothing until dinner – my system was unhappy. Once I got back onto my more routine eating schedule, the low blood sugar events have mostly stopped – more like once a week during the day and maybe once or twice per week overnight.

After yet another one last night and me keeping track of what I ate yesterday, a new thought has popped into my head about the gratuitous sugar I eat. Yesterday was busy, stressful, crazy with self-employment client work, and I had both a decaf coffee-flavored milk drink and a cookie late in the day, normal dinner, and voila – 5  hours later I’m waking up drenched in sweat and low blood sugar. Sucks. Drank a couple of ounces of apple juice and a couple of saltines, and went back to bed. Just a few hours later, when my alarm went off at 4, sugars were low again and my disorientation and fatigue in trying to recovery made me miss my exercise window.

Totally sucks. I know what to do about high blood sugar; I am having a lot of difficulty coping with low blood sugar.

Hence my doc wanting to see what my system is doing throughout the days correlated to how and when I exercise and fuel body. Other than the early days when I was still on insulin, I have yet to have a drive-to-juice event at the gym. The protein shake concoction I drink faithfully before going every time seems to be my safety shield. I just hope this sensor stays glued to my arm for the whole 2 week cycle. The information it provides will be worth the inconvenience that comes with having to think about it and wear sleeved tops everywhere.

This is also the month for my blood tests and rechecking my A1c. My hope and yes, expectation is that there will be little change from its nice on-the-low-end-of-normal results last time. I like having the buffer that allows me to food transgress periodically without stressing about having to be back on the medications. But with this latest and not so great health issue, I am having that sinking feeling that the potential for penalties for any food sins remains with the realm of possibility.

The specter of a ultra low-carb eating style looming large in my future is occurring to me more and more. While I actually feel as if I am doing that now compared to former versions of myself and the types of foods I love and would eat regularly, I know there is always room to make more adjustments.

Before I get there, though, I will be more deliberate in my food treats and cheats. No cookies. No coffee-flavored milk drinks. Those two things are the worst offenders of late. My bread consumption was already down before this latest round of challenge began, although I do typically consume normal portions of potatoes or rice with my evening meal in hopes of avoiding these overnight events. It is really easy for me to forego desserts and nearly all other sugary treats. Candy, particularly chocolate, is a just-say-no item because kicking back the craving after I start is harsh. I haven’t had french fries in months and while M and I do have cheeseburgers while out and about on weekends at least once a month and pizza night is a staple for during-the-week visits with G and K, curtailing our periodic junk food fix should not be much of an issue.

It’s the things like chinese food, with it’s sugar-laden sauces and carb-palooza noodles and such that are probably going to have to be added to my super special occasions list versus whenever I feel like it or am out with friends or on business. There are a lot of healthier choices available, but unfortunately I do not enjoy them nearly as much. But when it’s business or socializing with friends, I will just continue to remind myself it’s all about the company and the food is a very distant secondary enjoyment factor.

But if any of that is a contributor to these low blood sugar crashes, it becomes a lot easier for me to feel less resentment about avoidance.

Eating healthy – it is just hard. Developing the discipline after a lifetime of not having much discipline is not easy for anyone. But now the blood sugar crashes are starting to impact my exercise, and I simply cannot allow something I can most likely control to impinge upon something I have worked so slavishly to implement and maintain. When I am feeling a little sorry for myself – like this morning, when I was feeling crappy and miserable – I feel persecuted and as if I am being somehow punished for trying to do better. Which is such bullshit and a big reason why I do not indulge much in self-pity; it is a complete waste of my time. If lifestyle changes were easy there would not be gazillions of self-help books on the subject and bazillions of experts offering advice and counsel on making it happen.

In the end, I did not end up calling in sick as I was worried might be necessary – after 2 overnight incidents I was having a very hard time making myself wake-up and then once upright, was feeling disoriented and dizzy. Food helps; a little juice at 4 to get me back from 58 into the normal range and a few hours more sleep. The protein shake for breakfast is infinitely better for me than juice, but makes falling asleep very difficult and uncomfortable.

So I am carefully tracking my food and timing for the next couple of weeks, hoping my doc and my dietician can help me sort out where I am going wrong this time. For some reason it is psychologically easier for me to do this sort of loose tracking when it has a direct impact on my overall health versus the more abstract weight loss objective.

While Wednesday nights are typically a for-fun workout, tonight it is the real deal to feed my need to stay on track with it. The world is not going to end if I slack and go light or even if I blew it off and just went home and to bed early. But I cling to my schedule for good reasons and know I have to make an effort or feel negative girl start nipping at my heels.

I kinda/sorta want to pooh-pooh myself and make my usual derisive comment about me and my first world problems. But something is not right with me lately, and it is becoming a genuine issue for me. I discussed it briefly with my doc yesterday – no, I am not overtraining and continuing my daily exercise is the very last thing I should be cutting back on or concerned about. WHEW! It is possible stress could be a factor, but this was starting to amp up long before the major stressors of last week. Part of me idly wonders if my reactions to the stressors of last week was overwrought because of whatever seems to be ailing me. Which really leaves diet as the next logical subject for exploration. I am going to just hang in and hang on until my labs and this continuous monitoring study are completed and results disbursed, and hopefully my system will settle back down.

Until then, food tracking – I loathe you, but in this instance I can understand the benefit. Getting to bed on time and adequate sleep is back to a highest priority. Gym training and practice will continue as normal, hopefully back on a normal cycle and schedule going forward.

Waiting is hard. But worth it as a step forward in my better health quest. Thankfully no one is telling me I have to actually like it.

#blood-sugar-events, #diabetes, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #health, #healthy-eating, #hope, #impatience, #lifestyle, #positivity

Food shopping and our evolving eating patterns

Once upon a time, M and I were notorious fast food, take out, and convenience food consumers. Between our jobs and the hectic nature of our lives, we just had little energy or interest in food preparation. Then M left the work force, temporarily at first, and his running began to take hold of him, and we went from eating out a lot of the time to eating out/take out about 15 of the time, 50% convenience food, 35% of cooked meals at home. The eating out/take out dropped significantly, probably less than 5% now, and the convenience food and regular cooked meals percentages slowly flipped and then convenience food dropped as M settled in to not being stressed about work 24/7 and started shouldering more of the food preparation burden.

In the last 3 years, our convenience food and take out food consumption has dropped to less than 10% of our eating. We order pizza once or twice a month, eat a meal out at least one day of the weekend. M still eats a can of soup or chili on occasion, but these days it’s simply what it was meant to be – a quick and convenient meal.

The process of cooking and preparing food at home has not been the easiest transition for us, because neither of us like cooking as a hobby that much. M does enjoy it more than I do, but he is a taste adventurer and likes trying a lot of different foods and experimenting with spices and flavor combinations. Me, not so much. Left to my own devices and without anything in particular available to eat, I have been known to chow down on a peanut butter sandwich or a can of green beans. Bread, peanut butter, cans of selected vegetables are nearly always available in our pantry.

Unfortunately our freezers and pantry somehow became overstuffed with stuff. The food experimentation led to new spices and ingredients appearing, and unfortunately the recipes were not always a hit or were sort of meh and then quickly forgotten when something more favorable was prepared. Where I used to be fairly organized about what went into the 3 refrigerator freezers and what was in the chest freezer, between the cooking flurry and my own work schedule things quickly got out of control and remained that way until this year.

Freezers and pantry turned into this disorganized, overflowing mess. Before the new year began M and I agreed to go through our whole stockpile and do an inventory of what we had and figure out ways to use it up before buying more. I will be honest – a lot of food thrown out in that process. Some was freezer burned from sitting way too long, some pantry stuff was so far out of date for our comfort, and some was stuff we’d bought to try and found we didn’t like. Still, by the time we were finished getting things sorted and reorganized so we knew what we had on hand, I estimated we might not actually need to buy food other than fresh produce and transitory staples (bread, eggs) for at least a month.

We actually did our first significant grocery shop of the new year today.

The great eat-down-the-pantry-2017 has been a good exercise for us, and we have done really well with getting things back under control and to a more manageable food stockpile. Our trip to Costco today finally included more than just eggs and our weekly produce haul, so our food budget looks oddly skewed the last couple of months. January spending was less than $120, and February we are ramping up to the $400 range (protein sources are expensive). In my effort to continue our focus on weaning ourselves off overly processed and convenience food, I started breaking down our grocery purchases by category in our budget. Categories are fairly broad:

  • Beverages – Getting its own category next month for juices and the flavored selzer water we drink instead of soda.
  • Carbohydrates – Breads, cereal, rice, tortillas, crackers.
  • Convenience – This would be the occasional microwave meal; happily we do not seem to be eating anything of the sort thus far in 2017.
  • Dairy – Cheese and the occasional milk purchase.
  • Junk – Anything sugar-related, chips and other salty snacks.
  • Pantry – Spices, canned items, juice, salsa, etc. Yes, in M’s world salsa is considered a pantry staple.
  • Proteins – Meat, fish, eggs, nuts.
  • Produce – Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables only; canned goes into pantry.
  • Sundry – Non-food, clean supplies, paper products. Everything except for fluffbucket supplies (they have their own line item).
  • Supplements – Protein powder and speciality protein shake add-ins.

It’s an imperfect and somewhat labor-intensive system, but since we usually only shop once a week it’s not as horrid as it sounds. Plus I’m an accountant; this sort of thing is second nature.

I started this experiment to get a better idea of where most of our food-related dollars were spent. While we’re only 6 weeks into 2017 and have been eating out of our food stockpile, I am estimating that most of our grocery bill is spent on fresh produce and protein sources. While I list supplements here – M and I both consume at least one protein shake per day and the protein powder we use is not cheap – it is a separate line item in the budget. Eye-opening was how much we spend on crap food, usually when we are on the go or planning to go somewhere. M and I agree it is not so much the cash we are spending as much as the fact that we are were spending at least 10% of our grocery budget on crappy food neither of us should be eating, or not eating that much of it. While not all of it is terrible kind of bad – juice bars, lemonade, greek yogurt with added sugar – it is still junk food and not in line with our healthy eating objectives. We agreed that we want to cut that spending in half, which will also mean our consumption of it should technically decrease by the same percentage.

Which does not mean our gratuitous junky food eating is going to be completely curbed. Probably just snuck in one ingredient at a time.

Sometime last year I decided that if I want a cookie or a cupcake or a muffin, I had to bake it from scratch. Since then I have experimented with various blueberry loaves and muffin recipes. I have made cinnamon streusel coffee cakes and my own cinnamon rolls (disaster – never again). Banana bread I have down to a science. Thing is, baking is part of cooking and not something I particularly enjoy. But if I want that cookie, I haul out the apparatus and make it happen. Then I eat/keep a few and give the rest away. So much easier and safer that way.

It’s an illusion of control which is not necessarily all illusion. I probably make muffins and bread loaves the most, and I try to choose healthier alternatives with less sugar and fat than the processed versions in the stores and bakeries. Since we always seem to have fresh blueberries in the house – M really enjoys them in a variety of things – I have experimented and found a few recipes that I really like. Most of it freezes nicely and I have treat foods for a month.

Overall, I feel as if I am doing some things right and on my way to some things better.

Protein consumption – oh my I wish this were simpler for me. My former registered dietician is still an RD but now just my friend, since he relocated to SoCal last year and I left the Kaiser system in November, is always telling me that I need more protein. M is the same way. So I’m trying. Since I do not track food consumption, I am kind of unclear as to how much I am eating, but from my general descriptions of meals RD is certain I remain deficient.

*sigh* It’s always something.

I completely understand my shortcomings in this area, and if I were hard-core in weight loss efforts I would be far more invested in monitoring my eating. As it is, my interest lies primarily in eating both a wider variety of foods and a more balanced diet. The process is a slow slog of learning about nutrition and not getting bogged down in the details. I do read food labels. I do look at the nutritional values of recipes I try. But I admit to being undeterred by the information if it is something I really want to eat or a recipe I really wish to try.

It is so easy to get discouraged in lifestyle change efforts. I get this about myself and have removed most of the obstacles that will trigger some sort of destructive spin cycle. Calorie counting, food tracking, getting on the scale frequently to measure progress – these are things that will wig me out in the worst possible ways. Only by throwing out those measuring devices have I enjoyed any success or sense of peace about the better health quest. While my financial tracking of our food costs is not for everyone, it makes sense to my accounting brain. Small tweaks, tiny changes add up to something more significant and impactful over time.

In the traditional, mainstream senses, my progress is nonexistent. In the real ways that matter to me, I am successful managing my health for the first time in my life.

That is my version of progress, and in this, mine is the only version that matters.

#diet, #eat-more-protein, #food, #food-shopping, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #lifestyle