PT-67: Good things (day 31)

Thursday morning, training with J. Back to our mostly regularly scheduled programming. It has been an odd week, with Monday’s unusual evening training, and while today was nothing out of the ordinary, it just feels out of the ordinary. But productive. And FUN! And a lot of hard work.

Key Takeaways

I continue to be amazed by the difference in feels between weights equipment in the gym. Today, it was the kettlebell versus the dumbbell. We were upstairs and using 35 lb. KBs (because the 35 lb. dumbbells live in the big kids’ room downstairs) and boy howdy did they feel heavier and have a different sort of swish to them. Of course, if I had “grown up” using KBs I’d probably be giving my beloved dumbbells the WTF? look instead. J and I have talked about this before, but the distribution of weight is so very different between the shapes. Not being a science or engineering person, I always thought 35 lbs. is 35 lbs. and it all feels heavy. Now having done exercises with the dumbbells, the barbell, and the kettlebells, I have new respect for just how unique each weighted tool.

The big giant rubber bands are now part of my reality. Before a month or so ago, the only time I saw those in service was when someone else was using them for an assisted pull-up. Now I have my own yellow one on order to add to my growing collection of gym paraphernalia that I simply cannot live without and must lug around with me everywhere I go. M had told me that as I got deeper into my routine of choice I would start acquiring stuff to support it. I also broke down and ordered a larger bag to cart my day-to-day crap in, as my assortment of bags small and medium bags to repurpose for gym equipment use seems to have hit the wall.

Speed bandwork is kind of like my version of beat the clock on my favorite huffy puffy Lists, but the objective is to keep going until my arms refuse to work anymore rather than continue until the time beeps to switch to the next exercise. Kind of looks like I was a complete abject failure, choosing to stop when it felt like my arms were just going to be sore later because of trying to get there (and I was right – they are kind of sore). Still, I do not really see it as a failure, more of a new challenge and mind obstacle course to overcome. It has been over a year since J has introduced this concept to me, so not the end of the world that I am rusty on it.

This week, feels like a lot of things returned or were reintroduced and/or repurposed and I am insanely out of shape on them. Mini bands – love, Love, LOVE my mini bands – but not so much in conjunction with glute bridges. Body refuses to remember the endless glute bridges we did week after week in 2015 in the original dumbbell A and B Lists. I am going to have to put forth some consistent practice to get myself whipped back into glute bridge shape.

I still love teaching days.

What We Did

The List is not yet updated, so the names could be changed later. But after forgetting a couple of exercises and their proper ordering (so had to confirm with J to get this right), here’s the List:

Romanian deadlift with 35 lb. KBs
Mini band lateral walks

Double mini band glute bridge
Stability ball hamstring curls

1-arm row with KB
Band horizontal speed rows

Dumbbell overhead pullover
Band speed straight-arm pulldown

Band facepull
Zotman curls

TRX lat pull-up (bonus exercise – just for fun)

How It Felt

Right out the gate, we got started with Romanian deadlifts with 35 lb. kettlebells. Yep, we used a pair of those bad boys this morning, and they felt very strange and heavy in my hands. It’s been awhile since we have done RDLs with anything other than a barbell, and this was a first with 2 KBs. The distribution of the weight makes it feel like a different exercise, or just a much weightier weight.

Mini band lateral walks are a staple in my life anymore, but big novelty of the day was J had a brand new mini band for me to use. Now I have my own and typically have them with me on training days, but he had a matching pair. I feel a bit like a mini band connoisseur and can tell the difference between a newer band and the same band I have used a few dozen times and stretched out. Surely there is a day in my future when the heavier mini bands get all stretched out and feel like the lighter ones when new. The fact that I think about such things and can tell when my bands are getting less elastic speaks volumes about my progression. I am a simple woman in such matters, and it thrills me to know that I’ve worn some out and have to buy another.

I am ridiculously out of shape with a basic glute bridge, much less a double mini band glute bridge (band above and below the knee). I understand and remember the basic concepts – elevate the hips by tightening the glutes and tilting the pelvis, tightening the core and pressing navel into the floor, rib tucking – whatever term I think to use, essentially it all comes down to raise the hips as high as possible while not arching the lower back. While doing all that upward glute and pressing hip bones skyward, press legs against the mini bands to engage the side hips. A lot to think about when glute and hip joints do not seem cooperative about that whole getting butt off the floor action.

I am engaged in a like/don’t hate relationship with the stability ball hamstring curls. They are getting easier, yet still challenging enough that the urge to rush through and be done with them is very powerful. But I do force myself to slow down and try for that last half inch of pulling the ball in toward me. Today I had this weird cramp in my glute doing these and I know it is from sitting and working much more than has become typical for me. I took a brief pause, explained to J that I was having a weird glute cramp, and got back to it. He suggested not raising hips as high – going about half of what I’m usually trying for – and that did make a difference. Not sitting in an office chair for hours at a stretch will make a much bigger difference, though.

The 1-arm row with 35 lb. kettlebell was new today. This is/was a step-up in weight for me, and the KB shape difference also had an impact. I have done these with a 35 lb. dumbbell and while heavier it is manageable, but my present customary weight is 30 lbs. So while this KB was heavier, the 5 lb. difference felt a lot more significant and the round bell part of the weight created a distinct swish urge. What I mean is, with a dumbbell I pull the weight up through my shoulder with my hand and wrist steady toward and toward my hip. Even with the heavier dumbbell, my arm and wrist stay stable and still while pulling with my shoulder. However with the kettlebell, the urge to unbend my bent elbow and swing the bell toward my hip is strong. I don’t think it is the weight itself so much as the distribution thereof. I mostly resisted the urge to swish it, but the fact that I’m detailing it here tells me I might have flickered my wrist and arm more than I realized.

Band work for speed returned today with the band horizontal speed rows. I like these because we don’t count reps and the objective is to maintain good form while going as fast as I can until it feels like my arms are about to fall out of my shoulder sockets. Cues here were the usual ones – chest up, pull back with shoulders and relax forward into the stretch – and keep that up until shoulders start to round forward with fatigue and then do at least 5 more. Signs of growth and forward progress? That actually makes perfect sense to me.

A favorite is the dumbbell overhead pullover, today with a 30 lb. dumbbell (when not downstairs to snag a 35 lb.). Since I have be retraining myself to put my feet on the floor (rather than on the bench), I think I might like these even more. It’s almost like a whole body exercise, since we’re focused on pulling the weight back overhead and tightening those lats and abs and stuff while hefting the weightier weight.

For the band speed straight-arm pulldown, we used the lightest yellow band over the highest bar on the TRX rack, and believe me, both points make a difference in the way this exercise feels. Usual cues are in place – chest up and shoulders back, pull bands straight down – only once I get the groove down go as fast as possible while maintaining good form until shoulders start to round and then do 5 more (before collapsing to the floor in a heap). (Okay, that last was just the thought that flitters through my mind; J would never suggest such a thing out loud.) After the work we did today, I was feeling the fatigue and ready to stop almost immediately after starting, but I kinda/sorta hung in to get the feel for what the speed work actually feels like to me. After the first set, I gave up trying to hold onto the handles and went back to my usual grip on the band just above the handles. No idea why it makes a difference, except for the habit that comes with 2 years of doing straight-arm pulldowns with that grip. I am still feeling the work in my lats and back muscles from this block of exercises.

Or maybe it was the new band facepull exercise I learned today. More and more lately we have been using the big giant rubberband loop rather than the 2-handled stretchy bands for various things, and I have come to appreciate it more than that regular stretchy bands. For the facepull, J secured it to the rack and then showed me how to grip the band about shoulder width apart to mimic the rope attachment on the cable tower. The rest of the facepull action works my back and shoulder muscles in similar ways as the cable tower. Fascinating to me how effective this is as an exercise, but when people discuss resistance training they are usually thinking weights or cables and overlooking the effectiveness of the bands.

I remain sort of ho-hum on most bicep curls, and the Zotman curls are so unmemorable I had to text J to ask what was paired with what because of the last 2 blocks of exercise pairings I could only remember 3. The Zotmans I find interesting if only because I have to keep an eye on my shoulders to make sure they are not wandering too far back or trying to shrug up. While I most definitely have more bicep mass than I can ever recall having, I suppose I don’t care enough about them to expend a lot of focus on what feels like a boring exercise. When curls appear on Lists I do them, but it’s not an “oh goody! Bicep curl!” type experience.

Someday I might want to do a pull-up, but that someday is so far into the mysterious future I cannot even envision it. I learned today how to do a TRX lat pull-up, though, and it was plenty enough work to keep the regular pull-up a very distant future aspiration when I have conquered and mastered everything else. The basic shape was easy enough to understand – shorten the strap handles to absolute minimum, grab shortened handles and squat with arms extended overhead, then step forward so upper body is at an angle as if doing a lat pulldown. From there, pull up with arms and lats, using legs as little as possible while pulling up. It was hard, but absolutely captured my imagination as not that impossible for me to improve upon with practice. I love that. J says this can substitute for the overhead pullover, but since I love that one too, it will remain kind of a standalone bonus exercise for this List.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Pondering a multitude of things today. With all the stuff going on in the world, with Harvey and the fallout of that natural disaster in Houston, I do have an attitude of gratitude and hopeful heart for those who have lost their homes and possessions and remain displaced. Since one of my biggest clients is sort of from that area and still maintains a home and large business presence there, it has been something I have been dealing with this week. He has several investment properties there in flooded neighborhoods and will soon be getting some first-hand reports about damages from his local property managers. In the meantime, families are displaced and completely devoid of possessions. It’s impossible for me to even imagine how that feels.

I was reading a few things this morning about survivor’s guilt that gave me pause. One of my nearest and dearest passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week, yet of the range of emotions I feel, guilt is conspicuously absent. I am incredibly sad and insanely angry at times, but mostly happy and grateful for the rich cache of memories, painful as they feel in this time period. It makes me wonder what drives that. I am a survivor of a few things, and perhaps I have had enough therapy through the years to cleanse my system of anything as wasteful as guilt.

With the better health quest, I periodically get questions and comments akin to “don’t you wish you started earlier in life?” I am not a worrier by nature, nor am I someone who looks back with regret, so I find such inquiries perplexing. Worry and regret imply opportunity for different outcomes, an issue of control and decision-making and obsessing over aspects of both outside my sphere of influence. I tend to be pragmatic about things, look at my options and make the best choice possible, and yes, sometimes there is an emotional bend to what course I select. Depending upon the situation, I might be plagued or crippled by insecurity and self-doubt about the various ways to do things, but once the decision is made, it is done and no amount of worry about rightness or wrongness of my choices would alter the situation. If the decision rested with someone else, I would offer an opinion, sometimes passionately argue my point of view, but I respect our individual autonomy. I am not an “I told you so” sort of judgment being. If things don’t work out based on choices made, it’s part of life’s learning curves.

Such is the timing and ongoing nature of my better health quest. Of course I knew 20 or even 30 years ago that regular exercise and healthier eating would benefit me, but during those periods there were other goings on in my life that made better long-term health decisions a far lower priority. I think about it now, as I have young adult children with eating habits that directly relate to their upbringing and it does come up in our discussions. Mom guilt is definitely a thing, but not one that has infected me directly. I can tell you I did the best I could, but that’s inaccurate. I made choices based on the circumstances and situations in my life at the time, and while many of those choices were very good, sound, practical – near as I can tell both my kids are productive members of society – not every decision I made as a parent was in the kids’ best interests. I do not feel defensive about my parenting, and if someday they tell me they hate me and that I am/was a terrible mother, well okay. They are adults and have complete agency and independence to base their own impulses, choices, and beliefs upon their own truths, hierarchy of values and needs, and I absolutely respect that. Unless there is something specific for which they can cite and I should from my own judgment apologize for, I am/was a good and imperfect parent. Just like every other parent I personally know.

I can look back with regret for not gaining mastery and control over my diabetes before it became an issue for which injected insulin was required. But why? Energy is a finite resource; why waste it on something I cannot change now? Hence my tendency to dismiss worry and regret. Going forward, I am fortunate to have a body that responds as well as it does to regular exercise and adjustments to the fuel I feed it. Key for me: in the present moment, while I am training with J or practicing on my own or planning my meals or drinking my protein shakes, I know I will regret any conscious decision to stop if I quit now. Beginning, middle, end of story about why I focus on consistency and developing better habits.

In the gym, I try to be super careful about form and not getting hurt. Because I don’t want to be sidelined for doing something stupid. With my current healthier eating strategy, I am ruthlessly cutting back on processed foods, especially carbohydrates. I eat bread 2 or 3 times per week in meat and cheese sandwiches. I have single portion servings of potatoes and rice with a few dinners each week. Pasta has become something for special occasions or when I just have some amazing craving for spaghetti or lasagna. Pizza remains my one big splurge food, but I am pretty disciplined about no more than 2 slender slices or cutting one bigger slice in half. Fresh fruit is my primary gratuitous sugar source, and I eat A LOT more vegetables and green and leafy salads. Protein shakes are fast and easy and my staple before morning practices/training and occasionally as a midday meal (if I am overwhelmed with work) or snack (if I am returning to the gym for a social practice).

The effort is starting to show. It feels like owning up to that feels right and normal and honest, not like I am claiming premature victory. In fact, if I can own when I do not work as hard as I think is reasonable (slacker me), then I can own that the scale is being nudged along by the changes in my eating habits and consistent efforts in the gym.

For me, that’s big progress.

I still do not chase the scale. I have desensitized myself to it as merely a tool for data gathering and hop on every morning, make note of the reading, and continue on with my day. The angst and self-flagellation for lack of positive outcomes is a distant spot in my rearview mirror. As long as my glucose meter reports predictably normal results I have no real concerns.

Kitchen sink – so appropriate for the randomness of my thoughts today from and about training. While I could tell you about the theological and anatomy discussion, some things that happen in training need to stay in training. Besides, my training recaps are overly long as it is anyway.

I was pretty wrung out by the time we finished today, but in good ways. Work has been busy/hectic/crazy, and because of the type of project I have been working on this week I have actually sitting for extended stretches analyzing spreadsheets rather than standing or walking on my treadmill desk. Who knew sitting like this would be detrimental to my hips and glutes? I had this weird cramp in my hamstring/glute this morning doing hammie curls and had to stop for a quick rest, but I got back into it and saved the set. Standing at the treadmill desk for extended periods is having some better effect than sitting, but I am paying attention to my Fitbit alarms to move and stepping down and walking around for the 250 step minimum every hour.

The really great thing these days: I like the way I feel. Granted fitting into smaller sized yoga pants is a huge rush, but I simply like the way body feels and the budding confidence that I can and will get up from the floor under my own power and without needing assistance. Huge. My mind feels clearer and my focus sharper. I’m starting to consider things like getting my trusty beach bike cleaned up and ready to deploy again, because I believe myself far more capable now than the last time I was last it was out and about on it (that’s like 5 years if I am counting). Maybe there is a “real” bike in my future. Or not. Time will tell.

While I would like to step out and take more walks to clear my head and wind down from an intense workday, temperatures have been 100+ all week and not something I want to go out into just to clear my head. But I am thinking about the cooler fall and winter months, how it might be nice to step out in the middle of the day and take a 30 minute walk as I did when my days had more structure with a lunch hour in the middle. That my mindset has adjusted to go to the gym for a huffy-puffy List or take a walk (when it’s not blisteringly miserable outside) is a huge victory for me. Before, it might have been surf the net or take a walk to the kitchen and eat crackers or other tasty (but so not good for me) snack foods.

Last week a lost friend returned to the friendship fold after being away for a short marriage and longer divorce proceedings. She had heard about our friend’s death and reached out. We had a very nice 2+ hour conversation by phone and will get together when she returns to the area in October. But chatting with me, she marveled at my attitude of self-assurance and self-acceptance. While at times it seems I should have been here long before this point in my life, some life lessons take longer to master. Again, looking forward to whatever comes next rather than look backwards with regret at the coulda/shoulda/woulda factor is far healthier for me.

I apply that to the exercise as well. We did some new things today, and I always like learning new things, even new things I dislike. I now have my own big giant rubber band on order so I need not chase around the gym to find one when I want to use it, nearly always when I am downstairs in the big kids’ room (more accurately renamed by my son because there are plenty of women using that area that comfortably own their places) and the bands are kept in the storage locker upstairs. Where I once looked back at training days and grimaced for all I failed to do properly or with enough intensity or commitment, now I look forward to practice on my own and figuring out where I feel weak or have questions or need a do-over on the demonstrations. It is what it is – sometimes I just don’t get it – and I have lost any and all shame about having to ask for help.

But what really cements this for me – recently I think I have been trying to do things with too heavy or too light of weights. Too heavy is always easier to diagnose – struggle, struggle, fail, or worse, something hurts in sharp and unnatural ways. Too light is tougher, because there are a lot of exercises where we do lesser weights or resistance and pursue longer sets. Where I began to take note is when form started to suck eggs and be sloppy, so I had to slow down and analyze where I was going wrong (this time). When it has been a long-standing exercise that reappears on various Lists, I feel/felt sort of dumb for having to ask for refresh.

I know I should not feel dumb. I also know my lack of recall on everything is not something I market or wear like a brand for fame and glory, which is a not-so-private fear of mine. So when I have one of those moments, better to make note of it and text my question while it’s fresh. Maybe it’s a big step forward that those types of texts are fewer and farther between than the random chit chat we typically exchange.

Which is another topic simmering in the recesses of my mind – mindset is such a curious thing. How do we change it or improve upon it? How do we make ourselves develop the discipline to be consistent at something beneficial that is a whole lot of painful work?

Near as I can tell, the habit of doing the same things over and over and over again eventually breeds success. Muscles become more resilient and capable of the workload. Tastebuds change and what once tasted so amazing (eventually) becomes overwhelming in less than positive ways.

I can speak with far more assurance in the exercise realm. There was a new variation on the high-to-low chops on Monday. Every single time I have tried the newer variation these last few days, I inevitably revert to the original version. If there is such a thing as muscle memory, my muscles remember how I learned this movement and forces me to consciously change shape and direction to make myself perform the other one. And high-to-lows are not even something I feel especially good or gifted at doing either. But my habit says “hinge” when the new version is more deliberate side bend.

Healthier eating is an ongoing battle and likely will be into the foreseeable future. My love of sugar and junk food is a lifelong addiction and must be respected as such. I know people who are absolute models of consistency when it comes to practicing moderation, but at this point in my life with food, it’s absolutely not me. And I suspect it will always be some measure of struggle, and I have learned to accept this as part of my reality. Putting that into perspective, over the course of my life to date I have overcome much bigger and much greater challenges. Time and practice, I will gain some mastery over this as well.

Finding balance is another skill that has me surfing the learning curve in knowing how and when to utilize it appropriately. Yet another tool in life’s toolbox. Gaining enough experience with that skill to utilize it effectively and efficiently is quite the trial-and-error learning process, though.

I love my job, and the biggest chunk of my time is spent in front of computer screens. However, my next challenge is not so much juggling all the work I have to do so much as it is learning to stand or find the right slow-mo speed for the treadmill desk to lull me into the focused trance that I need to get through a tougher project without having to sit down 10+ hours per day. As J pointed out to me this morning, it is not so much the sitting so much as it is the staying in one position for extended periods of time.

For me personally, I need to be on my feet more of the time anyway. The discoloration and swelling in my left leg tends to return when I sit for extended periods. I have grown complacent with my more active workdays, and it was disappointing to see the darkness return to my left shin. Another insistent reminder that sitting for extended periods is something to be avoided if at all possible.

Writing about all this today and triggered (positively) by several posts in my fat loss group to think about the why of it all, I thought about John Kennedy’s famous quote about space exploration:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

My time to learn to exercise, to eat better, is now. For me, my life does depend upon the better health quest, adopting and learning habits that will carry me through more gracefully into even older and grayer twilight years. While I have no clear idea what retirement may look like, I do know that my hopes are pinned on being an active participant, to not be sitting on the sidelines and wishing to be younger and stronger so I could move more freely through my life. Already it bothers me that my hips and glutes are trying to solidify and turn to stone after a few days of mostly sitting and staring intently at my computer screen. The regular exercise and healthier eating strategy is hard, but not impossible and definitely not beyond reach. In this struggle I am and was just like everyone else starting out or falling out of the habit. Finally I have managed to get far enough out of my own way to feel successful, so much so that it no longer worries me how I might fall down or falter in my quest. I now have enough experience and enough tools to know I can and will get back up and reclaim my present level of success.

But I would really rather not fall down, so I focus on my consistency in the better health quest over everything else. The rest will fall into place eventually.

#august2017, #balance, #better-health, #consistency, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #positivity, #productivitiy, #progress, #weight-loss

Muscle tweak – paying the stupid tax (day 13)

I have had a very busy day today with work-related projects and household chores. While there was a tentative Sunday funday planned for the gym, time to get everything I wanted to get done completed was not on my side. I have actually felt as if I have been playing beat the clock all day and still much left to do before I sleep.

This blog entry is also on my to-do for today. Funny how what I anticipated writing about is pushed back yet again.

My biggest fear about regular exercise is injury. I fear the injury that sidelines me for a week or more, so I am very careful about following the cue script running in my head. Thus far, I have had a nice long run of nothing serious outside of the occasional gym tweak that happens to everyone.

I save my more serious boo-boos for at home. While wielding the vacuum cleaner.

M and I have a pretty loose division of domestic chores. He does the vast majority of the exterior clean-up and maintenance tasks and a lot of the day-to-day pick-up and maintenance. I much of the larger domestic chores – vacuuming, changing the linens, cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors. We split the laundry, and both tend to clean up the kitchen and common areas as we are using them. Cleaning the oven, stovetop, and microwave usually falls to me, because even though M tends to cook more, I become more annoyed by the mess that builds up with use.

Anyway, M was busy with other things today as well and once I concluded my out-of-the-house client project business, I got home and got with my chores. I was using the vacuum to clear some dusty corners and overhead sills when I somehow lost control and tweaked my shoulder. Lost my balance and fell backwards on my ass as well, but the only thing injured there was my pride. Thought I had escaped unscathed, but a couple of hours later and I have soreness in my right chest and shoulder muscle areas. Nothing serious, terminal, or that is likely to stop me from training tomorrow, but annoying nonetheless.

So I suppose I will continue to be careful in the gym, warm up appropriately and listen closely to the feedback from body about how it feels and any yellow or red signals it may be flashing toward me. At home, with a light-weight vacuum cleaner, I was caught off guard. I guess weightier weights are more trustworthy than basic household appliances. I know to be careful at the gym; at home, apparently, not so much.

#august2017, #exercise, #fitness, #injury, #productivitiy, #progress

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

What We Did

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

A1  Heavy goblet squat
A2  Incline chest press

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

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

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

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

PT-55: New cool tools

I am still so far behind on training recaps, but working to catch up. A few more still more to come before I am completely current. This catch-up effort is in addition to my August hopeful outcome of daily blog posts about training, diet/eating/nutrition, and daily exercise. It’s going to be a busy month.

July 20, 2017

Thursday morning, early training day with J. My regular Thursday 6 a.m. tribe sister is on vacation, so since it’s all about fab trainer J staying and his work schedule, so we moved my session up to 6 a.m. from 7 a.m. The fact that maybe we got some extra chit-chat time is purely coincidental (spoiled and I know it, try not to be princess-like about it).

Key Takeaways

There is so much depth in fitness, exercise, heck the gym itself that I am completely unaware exists. Today’s new wonder trick? The weight lifting straps. Who knew a couple of strips of fabric (I think it’s technically fabric) could make such a difference? But it does. And my oh my – I don’t think my time toiling in the big boys’ room will ever feel quite the same again. Life-altering for me. Seriously.

At the same time, who knew weight lifting straps could be so complicated to actually operate? For the most part I got proficient enough to feel the difference today, but these strap things are going to take some adjustment and practice. Worth. Every. Second. Invested. Seriously, I feel like my mind and thought pathways about weightier weights were completely scrambled and rewired today. I can actually imagine a day where I am successful and not having J give me that impassive yet frowny-face look as he addresses the bar hanging from my fingertips.

My mind adopts new things and wants to turn them into universal cues or techniques and apply them to everything. The “rib tuck” cue is probably the most prominent example in recent history, but I can already see my new cool tool being adopted into that subset of gym phenom.

There is essentially an ongoing “woe is me” feeling about 1-legged exercises done without the benefit of TRX straps or convenient hand holds to grab. I try, falter, have very brief empathy with cow tipped cows, and start all over again with balance. While I absolutely know how much improved I am with these, it seems like the big wide ocean of “better” is huge and infinite and I’m 30 yards from the nearest beach in my quest. As I remind myself about so many things, if it were easy everyone would being doing it.

What We Did

Continuing on with review of the pull List with a strength emphasis, our List today:

Barbell Romanian deadlift
High tension resist rotation press

1-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift
Dumbbell pullover

Stability ball hamstring curls
Seated cable row

Seated hamstring curl
Dual cable lat pulldown

How it Felt

The pull adventure and my baby steps introduction to and making friends with the barbell continues. We are still working with the barbell Romanian deadlift, and for the most part it is going very well. I say it that way because the bar remains intimidating to me; it’s longer than I am tall and still very awkward for me to lift and move about mentally/emotionally comfortably continues. My imaginings of the various ways I can injure myself, others, or damage property play like a disaster movie on fast forward every time I touch it. and I learn much more thoroughly when we go slowly and take it in steps. I have the basic shape down pat and really appreciate the “ramp up” we do with these before we get to our working weight. It gives me time to get familiar with it and accept that I’m not going to drop it or be startled and ram it into the window or worse, J’s midsection. With the addition of today’s new cool tools, we spent a fair amount of time learning to wrap the straps around the bar with one hand. It got to the point that I had to put my free hand behind my back to suppress the impulse to use it while it was an available option. While I generally do not care much at all about how much weight I am using, these plate things makes it feel a lot more satisfyingly significant.

Today we did the high tension resist rotation press with a big giant  yellow rubber band rather than our usual stretchy bands. I liked it so much better, if only because the big giant rubber band is easier to hold onto than the handles of the stretchy bands. Small cakes issue, I know, but if I have a choice in the matter, I also have a preference on this exercise. Another of my universal cues – rib tuck – applies with this one as well, but it’s almost a partial, one rib tuck with the press to feel the contraction in those obliques. I know I am hitting the target when hours after the fact I am feeling it all through my abs.

A permanent resident of the nemesis stable, the 1-legged Romanian deadlift. I know I’m better with these. I know standing on a single leg with a 25 lb. dumbbell in my hand is not easy or for raw beginners. But it’s an ongoing, continual trying and focusing and succeeding/weeble wobbling over and then trying and focusing and succeeding/weeble wobbling process. Unfortunately I do not have the mindset control discipline down well enough to not give in so readily to the fatigue.

Dumbbell pullovers – I actually do pretty well with these. Now we’re amping up the weight – we’re currently at at 35 lb. dumbbell – which automatically makes it more challenging to maintain good form and my upper back arch. Going heavier this way, I can definitely feel the fatigue layering in when I get to the top of the 6 to 8 rep range we use for the strength emphasis series.

Tricky part with the stability ball hamstring curls is keeping hips elevated and pulling that darn ball in toward the hips for that last half inch. I remain a work-in-progress on these; hamstrings do not seem to want to cooperate any further than their present range.

I have only the vaguest idea of what kind of weight I use for seated cable rows, but mostly mind is running through the cues and trying so hard to relax the shoulders and let them stretch forward on the return, pull back with the shoulders and elbows as far back as possible, arch that upper back … but primarily on the relax the shoulders on the return. I always want to lean forward from the waist rather than let the shoulders relax first and go forward in the fullest stretch. With mind and focus on what the shoulders and upper arch are doing, who has time or brain cells to look at the actual weight pins? I have long equated training days to driving somewhere new with M, in that if I’m not behind the wheel, I don’t have to pay attention to the details of how to get where we’re going. Same with training. I do pay attention to the cues and instructions and focus on what I am supposed to be doing, but unless I am the one loading the plates or moving the pins, or J has conveniently written it down on my List, I rarely remember the details. I am frequently lucky if I remember how an exercise is supposed to go when I am on my own in practice. So when it comes to the seated cable row, I’m thinking about cues, not about weight plates. If I add too much, I take some off. If it feels too light, I add more next time. Somehow I find a working weight. Only I probably won’t remember within an hour after leaving the gym.

There are various hamstring machines we’ve been exploring lately, and while not my favorite, the seated hamstring curl machine is at least a consistent, bearable challenge. Like it’s brother the stability ball hamstring curl, it’s always that last half inch that does the most good work and is the absolute hardest to achieve. Why my mind has this vague expectation that it will be easier “this time” every time it appears on a List, it’s never easier. It’s not more challenging, difficult, or vexing; there is always going to be than last little bit that is going to make me believe suspect my joints have a failsafe stopgap that will not let them go further and hurt myself. J tells me I will get there, and for the most part I believe him. He has been right pretty consistently about my ability to improve and advance thus far.

And finally, an old favorite – the dual cable lat pulldown. Like the seated cable row, I have to somehow force myself to let shoulders relax, shrug up into the stretch and pull me forward, not lean forward from the waist. I feel like I have successfully acclimated to the pull down portion of the movement, for the most part anyway, but somehow it seems unnatural to me. I like that I get the upper arch portion now. I really like that I can feel my lats working. I guess I just want less steam coming out of my ears as I strive to focus on the correct workflow. As I do with just about everything, I remind myself it is a process, that I will get there. Eventually. And then there will be something else, something new, some other challenge I cannot even fathom right now. The circle of making progress and getting fitter continues. Indefinitely.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

My view of the gym was previously seen through a very thick wall of foggy, distorting glass. I saw weighty weights. I saw mysterious machines. I saw treadmills, bikes, ellipticals. And I saw lots and lots of pretty, thin and fit people. Any regular folks or heaven forbid, even bigger, more overweight folks – I was oblivious to them. And if I did see them, they were special and some sort of physiological anomaly. Because they were there. Many by themselves. And carrying on as if it was no big deal.

They were my unicorns. I didn’t dare look too closely lest I call attention to myself and all my socially awkward insecurity. Not to mention my hugely shapeless doesn’t-belong-here self.

And here I am, 2 years later, wandering around the big boys’/girls’ room with weight lifting straps dangling from my wrists. I have transformed into my own brand of unicorn and marvel at the breadth and expanse of my journey thus far. Idly thinking about it, I don’t do this for fame or glory; it is way too much work for just that and I never like being the center of attention. But there is something infinitely satisfying about getting so focused and moving the weights to and fro in correct ways. The pace is infinitely labored, deliberate, sometimes slow, sometimes peppy, but it is starting to feel like movement is inching past food as primary go-to response to my stress and emotion-related triggers.

Sometimes progress feels so enormous I have the strongest desire to write it in a very small font so as to not jinx myself.

But back to my cool new tools. Before today, I’ve probably seen people wandering around with straps on their wrists yet had no idea why. It took a few patient J demonstrations and many tries for me to figure out the wrapping part, and honestly, it’s going to take my own set and more practice to feel completely confident in my own abilities with them. It’s fascinating how much more confident and assured I suddenly feel. If I get into trouble and have to release the bar or the weight, the straps will release it without any hitches, but my grip is better and feels more solid being supported by the leash around my wrist. I don’t quite know why; must be the mind-hand connection that there is one less factor to consider with all the other cues and such running through my mind.

It occurred to me later – is this cheating, and if it is cheating, do I care? No, and no, frankly. Since the only competition going on with me is with myself to not do anything dumb or dangerous, I don’t care if they are outlawed or illegal in the other 49 states. (This from a truly law-abiding citizen!) I also find the idea of being viewed as a dilettante or a lightweight by other folks does not matter at all. I frequently wish I were someone who did not give a single shit about what others thought about me, but it still bothers me a little when the great nameless, faceless, anonymous folks say mean things to me in comments I never publish. So for me to say that I don’t care what others might think about my (future) pink lifting straps is kind of a big deal.

Lately the why of my better health quest has been looming large in my thoughts. I know why – I am a type 2 diabetic and whatever remains within my control to keep this condition under control is so worth it to me. Beyond that, though – simply put, I am happier this much stronger and healthier. I feel better inside my own body and skin. And perhaps most important – I feel far more in control of my life and my health.

If a pair of pink weight lifting straps (on order – should be delivered by Saturday) contribute to that range of good feeling and positive reinforcement of steps forward, worth the $10 investment. My future vision does not include hundreds of pounds of weighty weights on the bar for deadlifting like my friend K or the powerlifting ladies I admire in the gym, but the possibility of me changing my mind and wanting to pursue such lofty endeavors does exist, no matter how remote or miniscule they appear at the moment. The drummer in my mind pounds out her own rhythm and tune; it is unique to me and does not have to compare with others and their pursuits.

I have to continually remind myself that there is no race, no competition, no comparison shopping going on in my better health pursuits. The impulse to shortchange, pooh-pooh, or discount myself and my efforts is a long-term habit that seems to require constant attention and redirection. If I have to work at least as hard and as consistently as I do just to feel like I am keeping up with everyone else, so be it. There are worse things in life than prioritizing something that makes me feel smart and healthy.

IMG_1600

Practicing my weight lifting strap technique on a serving spoon. 

 

 

 

#better-health, #energy, #exercise, #fitness, #focus, #gym, #happy, #health, #productivitiy, #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

The upside

Saturday morning, just home from my gym practice, have not even showered yet (and be grateful you cannot actually see me writing this post – sweaty and gross is not my best look). But – I had to just sit down and say I feel amazing, so fantastic and just GREAT.

Most days are like this, but sometimes I just have to stop and reflect upon my good fortune. Instead of looking backward and thinking of lost years that I could have, should have been exercising, I am always looking forward to the days and year ahead when I will continue to move and to improve. In the beginning, when it was excruciatingly hard to try and remember the cues and how to do everything and so insanely painful to teach long-dormant muscles that they were capable of more than sitting idle, I never imagined a day when I’d get home from the gym bursting with eagerness to tell you how great I feel.

Because I just didn’t do that. I could bitch, moan, whine, and complain about all that ailed me, all those who wronged me, all the ways my life was a challenge, but heaven forbid I be too happy or feeling too good. Admitting I felt exceptionally great was like a flashing neon sign to invite Very Bad Things to befall me. Negative girl was like medication that kept me down and out.

I ponder this turn of events quite frequently. It trickles down into the stuff I read, the way I work and conduct myself in a professional realm, to the person I am within my own tribe family. Maybe the law of cause and effect with regard to the way we vibe is true – the energy we put out into the universe is what we receive back. Except, I don’t buy it. I guess I am not quite new agey enough to take such simplicity at face value. I want to dig in and drill it down to the basic moving pieces and parts. I want to know the why of it all. I am not good at taking such things on faith.

But that’s a discussion for another day. Today, suffice to say feeling this great is better. Ran through last week’s revamped lower body List and while I feel fatigued from the work, I don’t feel tired. Have work-work to do, a tire to get repaired, laundry and domestic chores to complete, probably some grocery shopping as well. It will all get done.

How satisfying it is to know the stuff on my to-do will be crossed off and completed, with time for personal to-dos like email and blogging and reading.

Content and satisfied with my exercise efforts looks good on me. Even sweaty and gross.

#better-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #inspiration, #productivitiy, #progress