PT-68: Never gonna let you down

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

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

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

What We Did

The revised huffy puffy List went as follows:

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

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

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

How It Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am very proud of that measure of progress.

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

PT-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

Today, it’s mostly about me (day 9)

Walking out of the gym this morning a regular member I see most weeks was walking in. She works with another trainer, but our paths cross so routinely that we’ve gotten to know one another a bit and exchange pleasantries.

Today we chatted briefly in passing and she paid me a highly prized compliment. She said: “You are looking great and I can’t believe how fit you’ve gotten.” I thanked her for her kindness, and she replied “I’m not being kind, I’m being honest. ”

Still, the spontaneous compliment set me all a-glow. For the whole day thus far. And I’m meeting up with friend K tonight for a push workout (she just got the List J and I went through on Monday) and really looking forward to the practice as well as seeing and catching up with my friend.

Life is good.

But this morning, I was remarking to K that going through a huffy-puffy List with both planks and floor crunches/chops (aka sit-ups) and found myself idly wonder whether or not I really needed a strong core. Sweating, breathing hard, feeling exhausted – I was thinking abs must be overrated if they are this much work to excavate. But after 3 sets, I was primarily happy to be done with them for that List of the day. Kicking my own ass, as they say – I am determined to try and improve my performance on these bad boys and for me that only comes with consistent and overwhelming practice.

But no matter. While I sweat and swear and wish to any higher powers listening to NOT have to struggle through the harder exercise and fitness stuff each day, I nearly always feel physically and mentally amazing afterwards. It’s like every day is a little marathon and I cross the finish line when I do the last rep of the last item in the set each morning. Some days I might have a bonus round – a nemesis thing that disrupts my thinking or something else I feel really good at that was once a lot more challenging – but those don’t count as much in my satisfaction quotient.

Today’s huffy-puffy List included 3 sets of the following (with some revisions and substitutions for general laziness and extra practice):

Bulgarian split squats – 12 bodyweight, 2 sets of 12 with pair of 5 lb. DBs
1-arm row Subbed bent over rows (so I didn’t have to mess with the bench) – 20 lb. DBs
Plank off bench with step-in/step-out/heel up High intensity planks floor (for extra practice) – 2 intervals/15 seconds each per set

Romanian deadlifts – 15 with 30 lb. DBs
Flat bench chest press – 15 with 20 lb. DB; 2 sets of 15 with 25 lb. DBs
Stability ball pass off bench Reach-up crunches/chopper sit-ups – 6 per set

1-arm overhead press 1-arm DB snatch – 8 per set, 15 lb. DB
DB overhead pullover – 15 per set with 25 lb. DB
DB triceps extensions – 15 per set with 15 lb. DBs

I was back in the gym this evening to practice with K. I swear, we laugh and talk and have so much fun together working at the List du jour. No deadlifting tonight – we were busy going through our push exercises and chatting amongst ourselves and with other members. Wednesday nights are a highlight of my week. Extra bonus round: saw my son, who dropped in to use the pool for lap swimming.

So today was pretty much mostly about me. And I enjoy the vast majority of it.

#august2017, #better-health, #consistency, #exercise, #fitness, #friends, #gym, #happy, #health, #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

The Scale (day 6)

Before I get started on today’s brain dump-palooza, let me tell you about my yesterday and today at the gym. Nothing astonishing or amazing happened; I was not bothered by muscle-headed men invading my space and trying to bully me. Nope, just uneventful practices that made me feel so splendid for various reasons.

First there was that extremely rare to the point of hereforeto thought of as extinct Saturday evening practice. My son-in-law was in town last week and we got together with him, G and K for breakfast before G’s workday (and mine) began. So meeting them for a meal at 8:30 and the gym not opening until 7 — no typical practice for me. The good part of having to meet a client and complete a project on Saturday was that the big boys’ update and new flooring was completed and equipment put back where it belongs. I thought I might want to hang out and use that area, but I instead chose to revisit and review Thursday’s List.

New favorite lower pull List. Or is it a push List? Whatever, never favorite. So interesting to me that I went through it Saturday night and again this morning.

I cannot believe how awful and yet productive 60 seconds of dead tread push is or can be. Oh my – it’s dripping sweat inducing, heart raising not much fun at all. But it’s damn effective. Forget trying to do a huffy-puffy List after another workout; I’ll just strive to get a few minutes of this in and call it great. Between that and my new success with renegade rows, I am a very happy camper. I tested the renegade rows from the floor this morning and got through fewer – 4 and 5 per arm in the sets attempted with a set of 10 lb. dumbbells, but so much better than ever before. I managed 10 and 8 reps from the bench last night and this morning. So YAY ME!

Might not sound like a lot to those who are stronger, fitter, or been at this longer, but this is huge progress and major win for me.

Now onto the catch-and-release segment of today’s post.

I have this long-standing hate-hate with the scale, and for the longest time I would avoid it like some terribly deadly and contagious disease. Over the course of the last few months, I have gotten on it nearly every day and carefully noted my weight. It’s gratifying when it reads even a 0.1 pound difference lower than the day before, and unnerving and anxiety-inducing when it moves even 0.1 pounds in the other direction. Looking through my notes, I have days where I have dropped 2.2 pounds overnight, and other days when I have gained 1.8 pounds in the same number of hours. The repeated exposure to such trends has acclimated me to the swings, and my emotions and mental state are far less impacted with the understanding of the variables. Calories I am consuming, exercise I am pursuing, how much I am sleeping. Good days where I operate at a pretty stable calorie deficit I am typically lighter the next day. Other good days when I have eaten heavier meals and/or been less active on my treadmill desk may read higher, sometimes significantly higher. It’s life. It’s an indicator that tweaks and adjustments to my food intake, activity levels, sleep and stress may be in order. It’s not the end of the world as I know it now. I am not buying a ticket on the bullet train back to injectable insulin if there is an upward fluctuation.

My awareness is expanding. I have more accurate information to make smarter decisions. Or not. I always have choices, and I do not always make the wisest choices. Owning it, accepting responsibility for the consequences of my actions is part of this journey and the objective of making progress. The less freaking out over those consequences also makes life so much more pleasant.

The perception of the information is what tends to fuel my fears and draws a reaction from me. Hopefully my response is positive – I make healthier food choices and amp up my activity level as opposed to binge junk food shopping and skipping my gym practice from a sense of failure. For the most part, I can feel moderately confident that I will make good choices. Now, anyway. My mindset is changing, albeit very slowly. I tend to prioritize what I value most, and my overall health has become exceedingly important to me.

Because it has not always been this way, I am somewhat sensitive to the marketing and personalized stories I read on Facebook, blogs, the internet at large. So many of the messages are superficial and in my opinion, dangerous. But this is likely how fad diets and other unhealthy practices are born. My own personality type and strains of crazy – I have long wanted to be successful, to not perceive myself as such a complete and total fuck-up when it comes to managing my weight and appearance, I would be tempted by the quick fix solutions. Rarely would I succumb to them, though, because my more rational mind understands what seems too good to be true all too often is unreal and a scam.

I mostly hope to be smarter than the marketing. And to keep at least a step ahead of my fork.

Making friends with the scale – maybe it happens. Someday. For now, it’s not my enemy. I am happy to just have it be a tool that shares information with me, not something to fear or be anxious about every morning. While it remains a struggle to be rational and not see it as an independent body passing judgment on me every single morning, it is a battle I am mostly winning.

Plus I am making progress on good reports more often than not. Even 0.1 pound down is better than no change at all or worse – 0.1 pound gained.

#august2017, #choices, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #gym, #happy, #mental-health, #progress, #weight-loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for that, I am infinitely grateful.

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