It’s Monday, so it’s training session day with J. Yesterday I had gone through the entirety of the last three routines J had prepared for me – one set of each exercise – and finally concluded that I can competently execute these movements, some better than others. The two that still give me trouble are the step-up/reverse lunge and the TRX one-leg deadlift, both of which relate to balance. After a couple of years of intermittent yoga classes and practice, I know myself quite well and understand that it is going to take time, focus, and practice to become completely confident. So I texted J and somewhat reluctantly agreed that it is time to move into new and interesting things. He replied that he told me I would get those movements, and I remarked that it must get boring to be right so much of the time. Smug in this context is endearing.

So today J had a new series of dumbbell exercises for me. And because he is really good at his job, these new movements all build upon the well-prepared foundation of the past few months. He had me using lighter weights – even in one instance tiny little 2 lb. dumbbells – in order to teach me proper form without overwhelming me. All in all, it went very well. I mean, J is not one to present gratuitous compliments on performance or provide false encouragement, and this learning session was not 50 corrections in 60 minutes. I went away pleased with my grasp of it, even if I cannot recall 12 hours later what the exact names or order of things covered. (This is why I cling to the cue sheet he prepares and carry them around until a new one is delivered.) More about this on Friday combined with Thursday’s workout.

But before I got to the gym there was a brain meltdown brewing, and afterward the brain meltdown became slow-moving lava from a mostly dormant volcano.

There is another J in my life, a long-time friend of M’s that has morphed into the brother I probably never wanted but enjoy now that he’s landed and grown up. He quizzes me almost daily about my protein intake and never fails to ask how my training sessions are going, this morning no exception. After 3 cups of fully caffeinated coffee (busy morning with my most demanding client), his simple inquiry of how training went allowed the dormant volcano of restrained crazy brain to become really volatile and active.

How does all that relate to my stroll through emotional weird-ville today?

Social anxiety is a tricky thing. On a few different occasions I have taken the Briggs Myers personality test and have consistently scored as an INFJ (Introverted/Intuitive/Feeling/Judging), and there are many occasions in my life where I truly understand the introverted portion. Getting up and out of my house can be a huge challenge, particularly when it is something new and as challenging as exercise. Getting out of my own head can be many times worse.

As I began training with J a few months ago, I was hopeful yet realistic about who I am and my ability to commit to something so uncomfortable. It started well enough – J and I chatting, getting through that first warm-up – and then I took another month to get back to the gym. If I am honest, and I am always honest, it was a relief. I had legitimate reasons for rescheduling, yet in my heart I know I could have made it work. Fortunately, J did not give up on me. He called, texted, emailed until I made my second appointment and kept it. That went well; I didn’t die. And I came back the following week and actually committed to our initial 20 session package. I remember J saying he appreciated my confidence in him as a trainer, and at the time I thought he should not appreciate me yet, because it was entirely possible that I would never make it through 20 sessions.

As the weeks have passed and I have grown more comfortable working with J, my overall anxiety has faded. The last 4 weeks of daily gym visits to practice the routines he designs has done wonders to make me feel more comfortable in the gym and the room where we practice and the cable machines I utilize. The immersion habit is working for me in more ways than one.

Last week I shared with him the entries from this series as well as other posts about my thoughts and feelings with regarding to our interactions and health and fitness in general. I thought about it long and hard, because context is important, and some of the raw thoughts and emotions expressed here are not necessarily flattering, to me or to those I might reference. In the end, though, I decided that ours was a rather personal relationship and my anxiety and apprehension about what I am learning and doing is such that it might be good for him to hear it more directly from me in this form.

This morning my gym-related anxiety was back with a vengeance. Because we would be starting something new and my comfort zone is narrow. But I forced myself to get there, go in, warm up, and then got started on the new things with J. And again I didn’t die, harm myself or anyone else. As I said, all in all it went very well.

At work, after 3 cups of fully caffeinated coffee with the most demanding, micromanaging client on my roster, my trip to anxiety weird-ville began. It continued through being stood up (second time in 2 weeks) by number 4 on my irritating-but-well-paying clients list, and I realized I am waiting for the other training shoe to drop. I did pretty well today (confirmed by J in another one of our little text chats that occasionally make me want to drop through a crack in the earth in embarrassment) and yet I was/am (maybe) quite sure there must be something wrong with that assessment. My niggling doubt reflects poorly on J’s professional judgment and capabilities, and that hard slap of reality sent me traipsing off down the yellow brick road of navel-gazing self-recrimination.

I have touched upon my shitty childhood. My dad was an alcoholic, my mother was emotionally distant, and I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. Oh, mom was also a denier that what happened to me happened; until the day she died it was a bone of contention between us that I could not bear to discuss further because my rage might cause me to have a stroke or worse. Because of all that, I was a shitty adult daughter as well. Intellectually it does not surprise me that I have self-esteem issues (said derisively and with a sarcastic snort) and my actions/feelings/thinking are quite possibly justified. If I were anyone else I would cut me a lot of slack and be fountains of encouragement and positive affirmations. But it’s me, and I hold myself to the impossible standard much of the time. Still, my background does allow me a little wiggle room with the uphill battle of my emotions.

Most of my life I have yearned to believe I am just like everyone else. I imagine my invisibly average exterior will allow me to blend seamlessly with the rest of the herd everywhere I venture. While I am pretty far from the most vacuous or appearance-obsessed person I know, my preoccupation and thinking in this realm do tend to take a dark turn. I am constantly thinking about what strain or drain I could be imparting on someone’s personal resources, time, space. In my quest to not be high maintenance I inadvertently become high maintenance in the exasperated reassurances that I am NOT high maintenance. It becomes a vicious, self-absorbed, hate-myself sort of cycle. My brain starts its production of all the terrible, stupid, awful person qualities I potentially possess. Just saying no and making it stop can be hard (understatement of the day).

My discipline in policing my negative thoughts of late has been weakened, but even I recognize that it is better than a few months ago. Today was mostly an anxiety-riddled stroll down weird-ville lane. A nice side effect of my daily gym practice is that it strengthens my overall mental focus, yet the negative voices are still released to roam free from time to time.

When it happens, when my negative self thought invades my real-life reality, it colors the wonderful, competent, and caring individuals who populate my world. My perceptions of my short-comings, both real and imagined, reflect poorly on those who invest their time, attention, and care on me. If I can maintain my focus on my life and times from that perspective, I will continue to mute the effects of crazy brain.

And I did do fine today with the new things J is teaching me. Just because I do not necessarily trust myself holding a dumbbell much less waving it around over my head is another matter entirely. That confidence will come in time. J assures me of it and I absolutely believe him.

3 thoughts on “Training Monday, anxiety, perception

  1. Great post. You mention how you have yearned to believe you are just like everyone else. I’ll let you into a secret…..we often all do that very thing and even the most confident appearing individuals have anxieties and self doubt. It is when you wake up and realise that you don’t want to be like everyone else that suddenly you begin to accept yourself, scars, niggles and all. Acceptance allows us to confront and move on…. You are doing a fantastic job and never forget that for one minute. It is ok to be you and you, sounds like a wonderful person.

    1. Thank you for your kind and touching words! Life is not always easy, sometimes those scars still sear me, but it’s worth fighting for those moments of success in getting back to my feet when I really want to stay down.

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