PT-59: Under construction (day 3)

Recaps are presently being published out of sequential order as I try to catch up and complete drafts and get them published. We’re also on day 3 of every day in August and still going strong – yay me! Doubtful I will get a catch-up recap posted today as well, but it sure feels fantastic to be current and in-the-moment with today’s recap once again. 

August 3, 2017

Thursday morning, training with J. My tribe sister at 6 a.m. has returned from her vacation, so J and I are back on our typical schedule at 7 a.m. The club itself has been a mess all week, with the big boys’ room getting a makeover with brand new rubber flooring. Hopefully that process will be complete tomorrow and the equipment will be back in place and in service soon, like by Saturday would make me so happy. Mornings it does not make a huge difference, but evenings – it gets crowded upstairs.

Key Takeaways

Training days are such fun. Not a new takeaway at all – I say that every single Monday and Thursday session – but still, sometimes it seems more 10 foot neon in my head.

I am stronger and more competent. More than that, though, my understanding of body and its workings has grown and expanded. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I rarely have sore muscles anymore. Then this week happened, and my hamstrings are squeaking daily. They stretch out, they get busy working when it’s time for them to be working, but there’s a new brand of sore going on, far different than untrained muscle soreness. More like hard work soreness. It’s remarkably affirming.

This week’s new Lists are fascinating to me, and I am looking forward to practice tomorrow and revisiting Monday’s List … which I haven’t recapped yet. Nothing terribly new, but it was a deep technical review and gave me new things to think about. I love that. Evolving exercise geekette that I am, I do love a good review that gives me new theories to test and cueing to process.

In keeping with my more thoughtful pursuit of better health, I think I may actually get almost as much from conversation with J about the industry and its positives aspects and darker influences as I do from being on the floor and learning new things. My appetite to understand the whole picture of options to pursue in this quest seems insatiable at this point, and because there is so much information out there, it’s wonderful to have a guide to also teach me to evaluate the professionals worth reading and listening to and what I can or should ignore. My interest in the subject matter is genuine, which helps. In my mind there is little worse than wasting my time trying explain something to someone who either does not really care or will not bother to follow up on the original query.

What We Did

A1        Lying Hamstring Curl
A2        Dead Treadmill Push

B1        Glute Machine
B2        Abductor or Mini-band Lateral Walks

C1        Dual Cable Lat Pulldown
C2        Dual Cable Reverse Fly

D1        Seated Row Machine (both handles OK)
D2        DB Renegade Row (bench or floor)

How It Felt

Our day began with the lying hamstring curl machine, the current favorite hamstring working machine. Now that I figured out how to somewhat gracefully hop onto/lie down on it (essentially lay down, hop on while pulling myself upward and into position since my feet do not touch the ground when I am situated correctly) I have grown rather fond of it. Hanging onto the handles does tend to tighten and passively work the lats, and I am not always thinking about the last half inch of work at the top of the curl. No, now I am thinking about and focusing on slow, steady, controlled, and not going so fast I throw the pad up to the point they lift off my calves. Plus of course the pre-tensioning and all that process entails. It seems to be a very fine line there, but once I get the pacing down it goes pretty smoothly and feels like the proper amount of work.

The surprising sleeper hit exercise of the day is the dead treadmill push. I was huffing, puffing (and not a straw or stick house in sight), dripping in sweat after a mere minute of stepping forward and pushing a non-running treadmill belt. Makes me realize I should possibly do more cardio, or perhaps just build up my endurance to more than a minute at a time of this stuff. More than that, once I got my posture right – arms up and hands on a higher handhold with an upright forward lean – I could feel those glutes and even the hams working hard. Since mind is training itself and its universal orders to pretension whenever possible, it probably helped with the feels I was getting. Still, I remember learning this a few months after we started working together. And hating it. Now, I’m definitely stronger, got better lung function, and am kinda/sorta looking forward to challenging myself with it again, only I’ll be using my gym timer to keep myself honest about my efforts. Maybe add it to the end of my days to get a little cardio boost. The potential for a new addition to the favorites list looms large. Really, whoda thunk? Certainly not me.

We explored a few new machines today, the first of which was the glute machine. It feels a lot like a weightier weight glute kickback, only with a different weight leverage than the cable glute kickbacks. Lower body and glute work are things I am starting to genuinely appreciate. Now that I have what I think of as “glutey booty” (rounder, firmer ass) for the first time in my entire life, I am rather enjoying having a butt that actually fills in a standard pair of jeans or slacks. I know – me and my first world problems, right? But having never taken much notice of my lack of derriere, I now find myself seeing other trimmer and slimmer women with very flat bottoms and idly wondering if they like it that way. Feel a little pervish to report that here, but hey – women tend to dress and tend to their appearance as much for other women as much as anything. My point here is, I frequently refer to my exercise as the “build a better butt” project. It’s good to know my efforts are succeeding. Even M, who is not really a butt man, says my backside is vastly improved. While he’s not big on compliments and never insincere just to make me feel better, I have the tendency not to believe him anyway. The way he frames it now, though, I absolutely believe him when he says I’m looking trimmer and more shapely.

It has been months since I have used an abductor machine, but we revisited and got reaquainted today. I think it’s all right, but whether it’s familiarity with the mini band lateral walks or a definite preference for them, I found it strange sitting on that machine and going through the sets. Of course some old geezer (and he is – absolutely no concept of common courtesy) sat down in the middle of my series and took over while I stretched out my time on the glute machine until he got up and moved on. Anyway, in the future it’s nice to know I can do either, but right now my preference leans toward the mini bands to work the outer hips.

Back to the dual cable lat pulldown – I feel so much improved in my efforts with this machine. I do still have to consciously think about relaxing and shrugging up to a full stretch on the return, but it’s slowly coming more naturally to me along with not letting my elbows reach full on lock out. What is it about pads across the top of the legs that makes me want to scoot myself in until they are resting against abdomen and legs are as completely and fully tucked under as is humanly possible? Not the way of this machine, or not the way my legs are meant to be positioned on it. Yeah, it still takes conscious thought not to react reflexively and scooch in only to have to scooch back out, but I’m getting there.

New use for the dual cable lat pulldown machine: dual cable reverse flyes. J has been working overtime in the test kitchen and dreamed this up at some point during his very busy work week, but it worked beautifully. I have done this numerous times on the FreeMotion machine upstairs, and it feels the same on this machine with a couple key (but ultimately small cakes) tweaks. I have to stand really close to the seat of the machine or the cables run out of cable, and I have to be extra careful with where my right arm extends to if someone is using the machine immediately next to it. Other than that, it was actually far more pleasant than the FreeMotion, which immediately starts mind scurrying around trying to remember how I set it when last I did these upstairs.

We visited yet another new machine today – another rendition of the seated row machine. This is nothing at all like the Concept 2 rower upstairs or really even the seated cable row in the big boys’ room. There is a similar row machine upstairs, but this one is better. I could not (yet) tell you why I like it so much better, but it’s superior to others I have used to date. The seated row cable machine does not seem quite so impactful right now, and I am undecided if it’s because of the pairing J has chosen previously or if this one is just the latest and greatest bright and shiny object on my Lists. As you can tell by my fan-girl crushing, I really like this machine now that I have used it, I had to date taken little note of its use by other members, and hopefully it remains somewhat incognito and undiscovered since I feel uber so eager to give it another try, to see if it really feels this good or if it was just the newness novelty of it all. Yep, I am shallow and my head can be turned by fancy-smancy new weight machine experiences. I am not even bothered by the idea that my arms might be short, resulting in my having to stand and reach across to snag the handles for set-up. I am consoled by the idea that big tall men are not so cramped if they choose to utilize it.

Who knew that dumbbell renegade rows (from the bench) could have such an impact on my core? More importantly, since the last time I did this exercise, I am a lot stronger and a lot more competent with them. We were using 10 lbs. dumbbells today, but keeping ribs tucked, glutes tight, I was lifting the dumbbell off the bench and pulling back with the shoulder without a lot of difficulty. What I clearly recall from prior outings – first one was close but not quite and when I tried again was better yet hard to maintain the plank form – versus today where I was far more successful. And I have had the aching abs all afternoon to prove it. Big win for me! Disliking planks as much as I do, any and all success is a big, giant victory.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

A couple of things happened overnight that have me thinking a lot about my better health quest.

First, one client’s mother passed suddenly and quite peacefully overnight. She had very slowly been slipping away to dementia and suffered from heart disease from a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices – drinking, smoking, recreational drug use, less desirable eating habits. Not a great combination. During our very first one-on-one meeting she emphatically told me that life is about life, liberty, and especially the pursuit of happiness, and life is also too short to ever feel unhappy. Hence the booze and the cigs and unbeknownst to me at the time, the periodic nose candy. In her younger days, there was apparently quite a bit of recreational drug use, to the point of her son getting a conservatorship and hiring a companion to try and keep her safe, but at that time, he was not able to completely peel her away from harmful influences and suppliers. No judgments on my part; control over anyone else without completely locking them both down is extraordinarily limited. Despite her issues and how her behaviors triggered my own sense of harsher judgment and biases, I liked her and most of the time enjoyed meeting with her each month. Like all of us, she was flawed in really flamboyant ways, and despite her own obvious shortfalls bore and peripherally raised a son I respect and admire.

Second, another client’s sister was taken off life support yesterday and died shortly thereafter. At 37, she was way too young to be having a massive heart attack and then a debilitating stroke. Again, lifestyle choices were a direct contributor to her demise. She was quite heavy – 342 lbs. last Christmas season and at that time had lost about 40 lbs. Unfortunately she gave up on her physician’s lifestyle recommendations and was very sedentary and had terrible eating habits. While I don’t know that she was diabetic, I believe her mother’s passion for baking and sharing of fat and sugar infused goodies made a difference in the decline of overall health. I did not know her well, but I know both her brothers and her mother, and they have my deepest sympathy. For their sakes, I hope this tragedy nudges them toward a different path in their own lives.

Both events remind me of the consequences of our personal choices. While I do not drink alcohol and have never used recreational drugs, growing up with an alcoholic father made a strong impression. It would have been so easy to self-medicate and table my problems that way, and I do recognize a similar pattern of behavior with me and my relationship with food. While it has taken most of my adult life to come to grips and start working directly on making my peace with it, better now than never. That said, I still have my days of wild inconsistency, where I fall off the wagon and lay in the dirt thinking about what to do next (while mindlessly grazing on peanutbutter sandwich crackers). I’m getting up and climbing back into my healthier eating mode, and it is becoming surprisingly easier to just regroup and fall back into my go-to meals and protein shakes.

Examples like this of what not to do with my life and lifestyle reinforce for me that my better health quest is the imperative mission if I want to continue a productive existence. It’s not so much a matter of being healthy enough to enjoy activities with my family and friends. For me, it feels like the desperate choice between living and dying. And while I do not wish to be all dark and dreary and dramatic about it, there are things in life I control which impact the quality of my longevity. I might live to be 90 anyway, but if I don’t stay in good control of my diabetes, I could live to 90, blind, limbs amputated, kidneys failing. Or worse.

That’s a reality of my particular chronic illness, and there is no guarantee that eating well and exercising hard will eliminate it forever. But I like my odds so much better staying on this side of well-controlled blood sugar.

I also love my life right now. I love my exercise, even the ones I dislike and feel the frowny face forming inside when they appear on the List of the day. For the first time maybe ever, I’m competent at physical stuff. Working with my son last night, it was so cool to be capable of doing squats and chest presses and all the stuff I’ve labored over for the last 2 years and not be breathing hard or feeling like my lungs might explode any second. Yeah, I admit being a little lot jealous that he is capable of Bulgarian split squats after one session with J (that took me a couple of months of relentless practice to get me away from the balance props) or that his push-ups look so perfect and almost effortless and I still struggle – after 2 years. But hey, I can do it, even if I struggle. And I get points for having a cool mom vibe – my adult kid is happy hanging out with me, in public – I love that. I never anticipated I would be so fortunate.

On training days, I suppose J and I look like we’re socializing, having fun. And we kinda sorta are socializing, and I am most definitely having fun. It took a little while for me to get that, but I really enjoy the movement and the associated sense of satisfaction that accompanies it. Getting fitter carries quite an addictive kick, yet I would not be in the gym quite so often if I dreaded it as much as I once expected. Not going to ever lie – getting started sucks and it is so hard. But celebrating the little victories is so delightful. Good form, surprising myself by doing something that was really, Really, REALLY impossible at first is the most amazing thing. I never imagined that happening for me and I cannot imagine growing tired of it.

Occurred to me today that part of my thrill with scaling the exercise iceberg is peeking under the hood of how this stuff works. I have always enjoyed learning new things, and since I have never identified as an athlete or had much interest in sports my education has had to start from scratch. There is so much information out there – most of it pure bullshit nonsense or marketing hype, but a lot of genuinely interesting and valuable stuff worth reading and studying. I am extremely unlikely to ever be a body builder or a power lifter or anything else that gives off a hint of competition, but I enjoy reading about it. Not everyone is genetically gifted or predisposed to look like a fitness model, but it’s still interesting to read about working hard to be all we can be in the bodies and with the genetics we are born with. Somehow it’s far more reassuring to know that someone looks a terrific as they do because their genes are different than mine, and while no, I’m never going to be capable of starving calorie deficiting and weightier weight lifting or even surgically altering myself to the same body she may have, I can do a lot more with what I do possess without cosmetic medical intervention.

And that’s a very, very good and healthy place of acceptance for me. Mine is a much more positive mindset now than it has ever been. I am not so much unhappy with the shape of my shape so much as I am pleased with the direction its moving and reshaping through my efforts. Bestest part of all that: I am luxuriating in my fascination with and enjoyment of my forward journey. Sure I get frustrated; sometimes I even still cry over stupid shit that does not even matter in the big giant picture. But I don’t obsess over progress I am not making today, this week, this month and I do regularly celebrate my wins, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Viewed through the marketing lense and viewpoint, I’m an abject failure after two years of this consistent and regular training. So I threw that lense on the ground and stomped it to dust. I’m not beautiful at any size, because unhealthy exists on both ends of the spectrum. I am happier and more confident in my present size because I am healthier now than I have been in years.

Mine truly is a better health quest, not a thin or skinny or body sculpted quest. If that should happen for me, it’s a component of my better health quest, not the primary destination on my journey.

Today, I’m sending sympathy cards out mourning lives that have reached their conclusion. At the same time, I am here celebrating waking up and getting busy living a healthier life.

#august2017, #better-health, #choices, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #progress

August already – Let’s talk hopeful outcomes (not goals)

July was a very busy, train-wreck-with-work sort of month. I’ve got posts half written yet to be published. On top of which, somehow my blog went offline and was made private. Worse yet, my password no longer worked. Some troubleshooting and recovery and various other security checks, rechecks, and possibly upgrades (aka: an even bigger pain in the ass) in security and voila! Back in business.

A lot of thoughts, ideas, things to discuss flailing wildly in my noggin right now. And rather than rev up my factory production model barrage of excuses, suffice to say it has been a busy and distracting time. I would like to say I am over all that and changing my ways, but I am a terrible liar. Instead, I will simply say I may be mixing up the blog quite a bit in how I do things.

August will be an experimental blogging period for me.

Anyone who has read anything on this blog ever knows I’m a bit obsessive about my exercise pursuits. I love my training days, love, Love, LOVE posting my recaps, but I also think they run a little long (a LITTLE? says everyone in unison) and I might be better served doing them differently. Or not. I actually have no clear idea where I am headed next with the blog, except on a couple few points: (1) I want to be more consistent about my posting, (2) I frequently really want to talk in painfully minute detail about my exercise adventures, and (3) diet, nutrition, eating in general is like the nuclear mushroom cloud poisoning my system and must be purged here for my own good health.

So August is kind of my new test kitchen here on the blog. I’m going to be trying a few different things – like daily recaps, for one. I don’t keep a log book; I am not one of those folks walking through the gym with notebook and pen nearby carefully noting exercises they did, weights they used, reps they completed. Nope. Me, I’m more a think about it, try (or not), succeed/falter/swear, wish to rearrange the gym equipment for my convenience, navel gaze, think about it more, and then wish for a memory that lasted until next training so I could ask the questions that occur as they occur. I could (and have) sent a text in the moment, but it tends to disrupt my rather chaotic flow of getting shit done. No wonder I have to allot 90+ minutes in the gym to get a List completed.

Okay, my gym time is not like that every single day, but it happens frequently enough that I have little and big breakthroughs or spectacular metaphorical face plants that make for good blog fodder. Only I don’t necessarily talk about it because I already use all my words (and borrow liberally from everyone else around me) about the better health quest. It does seem a bit lot self-centric.

Then I suddenly have that familiar epiphany: it IS a lot self-centric around here. This is my blog; since I don’t write gossip columns or fake news, of course it’s going to be all about me. While that should not necessarily make me feel better, it does. I have never been an audience blogger, and while I hope there are folks out there who might find value here, it’s okay if it doesn’t happen. Hey, I have been plagiarized; it was almost flattering.

Anyway, my hope is that I can do this every day, even if it is just a short, light-and-fluffy blurb about nothing significant. I don’t know if I will succeed, or if I will indeed bore myself to death and possibly put us all out of our collective misery by not writing about it. I have 31 days to see how it goes, how it feels. It’s kind of like trying on clothes when I am in the mood to be in the mall actually shopping for clothes.

Part of what inspires this is my fat loss group on Facebook. Sometimes we’re all really active talking about our little victories and ongoing struggles. Unfortunately for me, I’m not really gaining much traction there with that group, because I’m simply not that focused on the food I am eating or I am far too picky of an eater. No one seems to chat about exercise or fitness much – so sad to me – and I can only take so much conversation about The Scale. I’m probably more interested in non-scale victories, but with a fat loss support group, it’s primarily about weight loss.

I am not disparaging them, not at all. I actually really enjoy our interactions and reading about their individual progress. But as seems to be true, I need more. Or I really want more. I need whole paragraphs and blog posts about my tiny victories and slaying my demons in the gym (looking at you, nemesis stable). This group – not set up for that. Or the people involved are not interested in that. Maybe a daily missive will not be as verbose and brain-dump-worthy as my recaps tend to become, but I do find it relaxing to talk and hash out my struggles and happy dance my victories.

So there’s 31 days in August. Maybe 31 posts? Training recaps on training days, conversations about diet and exercise the rest of the time. Perhaps from this process an actual system and process for my posting will emerge. A girl can hope, anyway.

After all, it’s not just a blog, it’s an adventure!

Happy Tuesday one and all.


#august2017, #better-health, #blogging, #diet, #energy, #exercise, #focus, #food, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #lifestyle, #motivation, #productivitiy, #progress

PT-54: I *heart* teaching days, too

As noted, I’m seriously behind on my training recaps. I start and write the bulk of it on the same day, but I find letting it marinate a bit tends to bring out more of my thoughts, feelings, ideas about what I want from this experience. I will start putting the date of the recap at the top of each post, and any other days I reference in the bulk of the post. While the time passage between the session and the recap post will not continue to stretch out (into infinity it seems sometimes), I’m glad to be living and enjoying my time in the gym and out from behind my laptop screen as well. That said, I am going to try hard to catch up and get back on track this week.

July 17, 2017

Monday morning, training with J. As we continue on with our press-pull, new machines are slowly being introduced. Such fun.

Key Takeaways

While I mostly don’t much care about the actual weights we’re using, it is exciting when something new results in 100 lbs. of weight plates being added. I know I have used at least that much or more on other machines, but since I am only getting my first glimpses of and actual experience with machines that require plates to be added and removed, the weight feels … weightier. Pull a pin from one position, insert it into another is fast and simple – possibly explaining the popularity of cable station machines. These other machines provide a lot of flexibility with how much weight to use. Perhaps it is the novelty of it all, but I was pretty happy with my ability to do the work today.

Walking lunges remain this enduring mystery, other than they are seriously effective. Mostly I hate them. Still. I do them, because they appear regularly on Lists, and the aforementioned seriously effective clauses in body’s strength, endurance, longevity contract. Because they are effective, even if I (and others) despise them. But I console myself that I don’t have to like them. I can bitch, moan, complain about them publicly and privately. However, there is nothing ever written or said that I have to like stuff to make progress and take advantage of its effectiveness. And I can bitch, moan, and complain while doing them. Be like Nike: just. do. it. (Not a big Nike fan, either, and say that to myself with appropriate levels of derision.)

Someday, I will not feel like a baby elephant trying to lumber to her feet doing low-to-high chops. There’s a certain finesse with them when J demonstrates or other friends are doing these, but with me, I feel like this clumsy oaf trying not to trip over myself in the process. And today was better than it has been in the past. Perhaps it is the lateral move-ness of the exercise; I am still not completely comfortable with lateral lunges, although I seem to be okay with ini band lateral walks. Mind swears there is big honking difference, thank you very much. But casually observing a gym acquaintance go through a series of lateral lunges this morning, I inwardly sigh and realize the un-bendy aspects of my body likely contribute to the overall awkwardness. More practice seems my only recourse.

What We Did

A1 Plate Loaded Squat Machine (2 25s/side)
A2 Overhead Press on plate loaded squat machine (no plates)

B1 DB Walking Lunges (20s)
B2 Hammer Strength Chest Press (1 25/side)

C1 1-arm Cable Lateral Raises (15)
C2 Low-high Cable Chops (35)

D1 Rope Overhead Triceps Extensions
D2 Rope Horizontal Chops

How It Felt

My first thought when we walked up to the plate loaded squat machine, they have rearranged the furniture, or this is a new machine. Last time I was in this area of the club, there was another squat rack next to the squat rack where this now rested. I am a creature of habit; I quickly latch on to the layout of things in order to get and retain my bearings. But lo and behold, this new gleaming white-painted bad boy now stood before me. I will adjust. J demonstrated how it works, then had me try it with no plates. There’s a different feel to it that the upstairs squat machine; the weight distribution on the shoulders with the plates rather than in front of me in the cable stack. Surprisingly, I liked it. This machine made me feel awesomely powerful, like Zeus with his lightning bolts or something similar. Seems to me it takes some legs and glutes to toss about that sort of energy. As as I said, while generally speaking I could care less than less about the amount of weight I am moving to and fro, there is something hugely gratifying about layering the plates to make 100 lbs. Plus, it seems easier when I’m not watching the plates going up and down like the cable version upstairs. Still use it, still appreciate it, but this was the bright and shiny new object and I feel like I got and understood the basic shape and feels correctly.

Next was the overhead press on the plate loaded squat machine, only with all the plates off. Instead of the weight pads resting on my shoulders and released to follow me down into a squat, my hands were pressed against the pads and the apparatus was locked into position and the only place it could go was up. So, I pressed upward and then lowed it back down for the 8 to 12 rep range. Even without any plates attached, it was plenty heavy and I could feel all the right overhead press muscles working. So fun when exercises I really like are done differently or on different equipment, because the variety keeps things interesting. Seems less likely anyone will be killed or maimed if I lose my grip and drop the weight.

Dumbbell walking lunges – with a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells no less. The good news is I am getting better at these – I can make it “there” and back across a stretch of gym floor with 40 lbs. of weight in my hands now. This is progress. I still weeble-wobble somewhat. Sometimes the weights swing in my hands. I don’t always get my lean right so the lead leg pushes off. But I am light years ahead of even a few months ago, so I will take the good progress and continue to try. Still don’t love it. Lots of things I genuinely enjoy and really appreciate the ways we add weight and make it more challenging. I could be doing bodyweight walking lunges and still not love them. But oh well. Difficult to maintain an active nemesis stable without any nemesis residing on that List.

Other new machine of the day was the Hammer Strength chest press. The positioning of the handles is different from what I’ve grown accustomed to; the handles seem lower to the body (almost waist than chest) and wider than others. The universal truth for me continues, that this is not better or worse, not harder or easier. For a first introduction, it is just different. Replicating the feeling with an incline dumbbell press would be a huge challenge for me, but the lower position starting point probably threw me off the most.  Something about new machines; they make me feel all Wonder Woman-esq when I don’ completely screw it up the first few sets. More practice and date collection is needed on this. I feel inexperienced enough with the various equipment to mostly feel some wonder that I’m now to the point of being in the big boys room using plate-loaded machines. Whoda thunk?

Switching things up a bit, new introduction to 1-arm cable lateral raises. We did these on the 2-arm FreeMotion machine previously, but today was a first with the single arm. They were strange, if only because of the holding onto the frame of the machine with the other hand and almost leaning ever so slightly sideways into the pulling hand. For the most part I got the shape and how it was supposed to look and feel, yet it feels different. Maybe it’s the 1-arm part of the equation – everything else from the standing to the seated hang-and-bang uses both arms at once. New, different – more practice to get comfortable and once comfortable to seek competence and proficiency.

Another seemingly permanent resident in my nemesis stable: low-high cable chops. There are still certain exercises that creative negative images in my head, and with these, I always see some musk ox lumbering along. Or maybe an American bison. Or just a regular old ox. But you get the idea; I feel like some big giant lumbering creature trying to rise gracefully and pull the cable across in the chopping action. And this on a day when I feel as if it were my best, most successful effort to date. In other words, despite this and other Lists with this exercise, I don’t quite have the hang of it. Because I am not practicing enough. Maybe I’m rationalizing and justifying or have fired up my excuse factory as to why I’m not practicing (and therefore not improving more quickly), but truth of the matter is I cannot bring myself to be overly concerned about it. I have the cues down. I understand the basic shape. I get my own hesitancy and reticence with lateral everything. But in my own growing exercise library, being weaker in my low-high chops is not going to get me fired from the training tribe without warning. Or even with warning. My head has been turned with bigger, bolder, far more bodacious and interesting things. I’ll get there; I’ll get around to practicing more and focusing on improving. Before that happens, though, I suspect my interest, focus, and improvement with floor chops will become a higher priority reality. Just the way my mind is tracking lately.

Potential new favorite with the rope overhead triceps extensions. I like all the tricep exercises we do regularly, but today, this one grabbed my imagination and feels more strongly than usual. The difference with using the cables versus using the dumbbells or TRX or bands is noticeable, the weight feels heavier or more targeted. Whether it’s the reality of the way my triceps respond to this type of work or it is actual reality I feel with this type of workload, this movement feels more productive that others. Could be that it’s just the newest, shiniest object in my toolbox this week, though.

I feel far better about the rope horizontal chops that I do the other chops named above. There is always the challenge of keeping the pivoting foot anchored; I don’t know precisely how I’m doing it, but it wanders and makes me feel like I’m trying to do the splits while chopping. Pause, reset, restart. But if that’s the biggest issue in all my cable chop issues, I can cope. Even I must admit these are effective. In my lofty ambition to someday perhaps have a definable waistline, I know these and all the other chop-like exercises are have very small yet visible effect. There’s kind of a side indent in my abdomen where there once was nothing but fat wrinkles and rolls. When you feel as if you have never had any discernible definition (of a positive nature) in the contours of your body, you take the small wins and run out and celebrate them.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I spent a good chunk of my available computer leisure time Facebook last weekend (July 15-16). I am part of a fat loss support group and there was quite flurry of discussion about various topics of interest to me. Up until now it’s been mostly rah-rah-rah type posts. People would post their weight loss and talk about their eating, and frankly it was sort of distant from where I dwell. My experiences with the scale is primarily negative – judgmental little piece of electronic poo. But like all things, I am slowly adapting to the reality that I need to don my big girl capris and weigh in daily to collect more data. Recurring theme with me seems to be I don’t have to like it, but there are good reasons to do things I do not necessarily like.

This same (July 15-16) weekend, there was some frustration on the part of my doc that people seem to disconnect from the long-term aspect of lifestyle changes when it comes to diet, exercise, weight loss. Maybe I just need my village of experts to get real and direct and speak plainly and use profanity to have the message hit home, but it actually finally felt like I was part of a group with real people putting forth their best efforts and faltering rather than a bunch of cardboard cutouts.

Anyway, one of the topics that came up was mindset. Admittedly, mine is scattered when it comes to diet and nutrition. I start, I stop, I falter, I stub my toe quite viciously (as opposed to shooting myself in the foot). But mostly I get back up and continue to try, even if it frequently feels as if I am banging my head repeatedly on the nearest wall. Progress is a very slow thing in this realm, and I am either okay with it or not committed enough (yet) to do something different.

But perhaps with this plain-speaking reality check, I am finally ready to get more committed to sustainable healthy eating.

With the exercise, I have become the poster child for consistency. I am in the gym at least 6 days per week, more often than not every day of every week. Maybe I’m not the gung ho, no-pain-no-gain member, but I’m working my way through a List most days. Sundays are my fun day, when I emerge in my true self as dawdler extraordinaire  and practice things giving me trouble or that are just a whole lot of fun and make me feel spectacular. I value my improving health, and I tend to prioritize the things I value most. Hence my consistency. I like training with J; I want our partnership to continue to thrive and feel productive.

Such are days like today, when I’m introduced to something new and feel like I actually feel it where I’m supposed to feel it and those muscle groups are working. Non-scale victory – it’s a thing. But there is very rarely any lingering soreness afterward. Does this mean my muscles have toughened up, or am I not working hard enough? I choose to cautiously accept is it the former, that I’m in much better shape. Even if my effort is not the same as the person next to me, I console myself that we are different, our journeys may be similar yet not identical, and our bodies and experiences – our individual mileages vary. No more comparisons allowed, because in my own head, I always end up in the queendom of negative girl.

When talking about mindset, this seems to be working for me. And blogging – goodness, I can only imagine how lost I would be without blogging. Trainer J block me and get a disposal text number where my blog-esq texts would land, unread. My exercise experienced friends would suddenly be way too busy to talk with me or tell me they were permanently relocating to a small slice of Europe with no internet. My navel-gazing blogging works out for me; it’s part of my process and a contributor to my overall success.

For some it comes easy, and they seem effortless in their ability to remain fit and trim. The rest of us, we have to work at it. Accepting that makes forward progress more pleasant, even if it is not always easier and remains filled with stuff I dislike but know is very good for me.

#better-health, #diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #lifestyle, #mental-health, #strength

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