Fall Fitness #7 – Getting stronger!

Monday was my seventh of 20 personal training appointments. I am away on vacation Wednesday to Sunday (9/16 to 9/20/2015), with regular training resuming on Thursday 9/24 and our regular fitness updates on Friday 9/25. Since there has been such a short period between training sessions with J this time, it makes reporting on goals and such seem abbreviated as well. We were back to floor and dumbbell work this week after last week’s foray into the cable weight machine.

  • Elevated single leg glute bridges
  • Dead bug (core exercise)
  • Single leg squat review
  • Lunges (my dreaded monster in the closet)
  • Single arm row review (25 lb. and 30 lb. dumbbells)
  • Hinge thing review (20 lb. dumbbells)
  • Chest press review (15 lb. dumbbells)

Of these things we reviewed and learned yesterday, I am probably most ridiculously excited about the lunges. For various reasons (I am clumsy, have issues with balance, bad past experiences), the lunge has been on my list as a big-bad in the exercise toolbox that would be difficult for me to perform correctly and consistently. As the weeks have passed and it has not been introduced, I have not mentioned it nor have I given it any thought during our sessions. Except every time I go to the gym I see people doing lunges across the floors and feel this sense of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I am torn between wondering if they are doing it right (because it looks damn painful from my observing perch) and my sureness that I cannot possibly stay upright and move forward at the same time. Granted I have been doing single-leg squats for several weeks without much issue (anymore) and they are similar to the lunge without the forward movement. But still, yesterday while we were reviewing I remarked in passing and with obvious trepidation that “lunges are coming sometime soon” and J decided in that moment “sometime soon” should be that Monday.

And you know what? I was fine. First he taught me a reverse lunge – which is like a standing in place lunge – and then demonstrated and coached me through a few sets back and forth across the floor. I did fine. I absorbed the cues he gave me, took my time to get set, and barely wobbled at all after the first couple. I call that success.

The dead bug core exercise are deceptive – it looks so simple from afar and requires a much fuller level of concentration than I originally realized. The arm and leg that are supposed to be stationary while the others are moving seem to have minds of their own and unless I focus on keeping them still they move of their own accord. Same with the elevated one-leg glute bridge – the other leg that is supposed to not be touching the mat tends to rise to the sky of its own accord as I was lifting my hips from the floor. I have renewed respect for J’s selection of exercises. He’s a crafty one.

On my goals update:

  1. Weight – Drop 20 lbs. ON TRACK
    This early weigh-in for week seven finds me down one pound since my last report on Friday. Maybe the scale finally caught up? Either way, I am happy about it. Clothes are fitting differently, and I am hoping to temper my desire to shop and buy new clothes with trying on the clothes in my “winter” closet. When we return from our vacation I plan to take things out and test them for fit, because I know there are a few dresses and skirts in there that were too snug to be flattering last year that I can hopefully wear comfortably again this year. If not yet, it’s still warm (and smokey!) here and I have plenty of time to keep working toward reshaping my shape before cold weather actually arrives.
  2. Strength training – 3 times per week on my own. ON TRACK
    Since my prior training session was only on Friday (9/11), I was at the gym only one Saturday practicing my cable weight machine routine, and I continued to do several of the floor exercises at home daily. Since I am writing this post on the Tuesday after my session with J, I went to the gym this morning and plan to utilize the hotel room floor and gym while we are away. I will report on that when I am back on my regular Thursday appointments with J and blog reporting on Friday schedule next week.
  3. Stretching/Flexibility – 3 to 4 yoga practices per week. ON TRACK
    Three practices this short period week – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I am now finishing up the workday to leave for vacation, but I plan to add at least a couple more once I return.
  4. Cardio/HIIT – 3 days per weekKINDA ON TRACK
    I am still rowing daily and been focusing on the corrections J has demonstrated in the last month. Cardio remains a daily thing for me, and I wonder if I need to up the intensity to gain even more benefit? Another of those things on my list to discuss with J sometime soon.
  5. Post updates each week. ON TRACK
    Here we are – update from session 7 of 20. I will be honest – this week’s workout completely kicked my ass. Monday night I felt like moving my arms, upper back, shoulders any more than necessary should be optional until the stiff soreness went away. This morning the muscles that live on top of both shoulders are making themselves known. Still, it was so satisfying to know I was using 30 lb. weights for a few reps on the bench rows today (up from 20 just 2 weeks ago) and pushing 15 lb. dumbbells up and down with the chest press. I AM getting stronger, and to my surprise much so my negative self-talk and insecurity is fraying a bit around the edges. I still have anxiety about going to the gym, being in the group training room with a lot of other people, but it is not so bad. I definitely count that as good forward progress.

An odd and ongoing evolutionary thing about being in the gym – I hate observing other people do their workouts or use the machines. If it is possible to watch something, anything on TV while doing cardio I will do it. If I look at nothing but some inanimate object in the room or on the ceiling while doing my routines I focus my eyes and maintain my concentration on that single spot. I will do just about anything to avoid looking at other members around me exercising.

Because there are those buff bunnies (male and female) who push big giant plates on machines I cannot even fathom; they intimidate me with their obvious discipline or scare me with thoughts of “what if something bad happens” while they are holding big giant plates. This group tends to cause me the least amount of stress, because if I did not have to pass through that room to enter and exit the ladies locker room I would have zero reason to set foot into that room. Eyes forward and I am home free.

Then there are those who look kinda/sorta like me using the other weight machines. My instinctive feeling is that they must be doing something wrong because of the  unnatural ways their joints are flexing or their bodies are bending. As I have tried to explain to J, I have no idea if they are doing something wrong or if I am just such a scaredy cat that I want them to be doing something wrong so I feel better about it. I know I have probably acquired just enough knowledge about strength training to be very dangerous in my opinions of other people’s movements, and that makes me feel like a very bad club member. I should not be judging others.

The worst is those kinda/sorta like me doing similar exercise to what J has/is teaching me and I KNOW they are doing it wrong. Their shoulders are rounded or shrugged, their knees are locked when they should be bent, their backs are bowed when they should be straight, etc., etc., etc. It makes me avert my eyes as if their misaligned form is somehow contagious. It also reminds me of why I hate to go through my own practice when J is around to catch me at it. If allowed the voice in my head whispers that I am indeed the village idiot when it comes to strength training and J will roll his eyes in disgust seeing me struggle to get it right when he just went over it ad nauseum one or two days prior. In reality, no such event would ever occur, and if I were really screwing up J would let me know either right then or next we meet. I tend to be plodding and deliberate in my set-up and going through my sets, because I would rather take a long time and feel each form-related cue to do them correctly than to be observed being sloppy.

I am getting preachy about this stuff – my apologies; zealotry in any form is unattractive. A huge part of why I am using a personal trainer is so I do not hurt myself in trying to be healthier and stronger. Unfortunately not everyone can afford this luxury, and the pictures and directions and youtube videos are not always the best resources for learning. Since I can only focus on my routines and exercises, I am trying hard to avoid looking around and observing anyone else doing their things. It’s not always possible, but I do my best.

3 thoughts on “Fall Fitness #7 – Getting stronger!

  1. Do you have a big tire in your gym that the buff bunnies flip over and over and over? D keeps promising we will get to that – I’m in no hurry. When I work out at D’s gym (vs my apartment gym) – it is nothing but the big machines with big plates. Which is why I won’t go unless D is there – too scared.
    I’m with you on watching other people and just wanting to correct their form. The sad part is many of them got that form from a trainer (intro sessions, etc). Many trainers just aren’t that invested in it (just a job for them – for guys like J & D – a passion). D also says that clients often don’t want/take correction – so some trainers just stop trying to correct them. And some trainers don’t know how to do it themselves (sad but true). Much like with crossfire I worry that they will hurt themselves but I know I can’t fix it. But you are right to be be preachy about form (drag your soapbox over next to mine) it makes such a huge difference in the effectiveness of the exercise and injury avoidance.
    So while you avert your eyes from bad form – you must look and tell me if you have any “chicken leg” guys. They are the ones who put all of their work into building a huge upper body but if you look at their legs – they are super skinny toothpicks. D says it is because legs take longer to develop so guys tend to focus on the quicker upper body results and then stay focused when they see those results. For some of the guys it is really extreme and not attractive – to me anyway.
    Have a great vacation and practice those lunges and planks!

    • OMG – I am DYING over here with the “chicken legs” comment!!!! I now cannot wait to get back to the gym next week and scope it out.
      I’m way too afraid to look to deeply into the big plates room for the rubber tire thing you reference, but I will next I’m there. In my gym they have these long things that look like cloth tubes with something inside and they go thump-thump-thump while people pull them up and down on one end. They have not come up in my sessions with J, therefore they do not really exist to me – yet.
      I often think that being a personal trainer is a bit of thankless job – clients either refuse to take your advice and corrections, do not practice what you teach them between sessions, do not value your time and simply schedule time and then do not show up, or tell you you’re not worth the fees because they are “sitting around” while they (client) are huffing and puffing through the reps. While I know J’s primary interest and passion is weigh lifting, he is supremely patient and consistent with about corrections and new challenges. I keep telling him years from now he’ll probably still be reminding me to breathe on every exercise. And I am such a nerdy person – there I am in the gym this morning with my notebook and my pen and making notes on the weights I’m using on the cable weight machine. J saw me doing it and stopped me on the way out to ensure I was not having issues. No, I’m just someone who takes notes. I don’t think he actually believed me until he saw the papers he’s given me with my notes in the margins.
      Chicken legs … I cannot wait to go see if I spy some of THOSE next week.

  2. To find the chicken legs look up – you want to find the guys with the broad shoulders big arms, etc. they are the best candidates. The rope things – keep ignoring them trust me.

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