Fall Fitness 2015 #18 – Pains, gains, and brains

Monday and Thursday this week combined to make 18 of 20 personal training appointments, because I currently have sessions scheduled with J twice weekly. It was a relatively uneventful week on the training front, and it is suddenly dawning that our time in this series is winding down.

On Monday we reviewed last week’s cardio routine in slow motion. The list of things he’s set-up for me is as follows:

  • Band straight arm pulldown
  • Band alternate bicep curls
  • “Wall ball” (with this 8 lb. squishy beach ball like ball, only it’s gray and black)
  • Band hip hinge to row
  • Band tight rotations
  • Alternative band step to press
  • Kettlebell sumo deadlift
  • Anterior reach lunge (walking deadlifts)
  • DB curl to overhead press)
  • DB forward walking lunge
  • Bent over batwing row

On Thursday morning, J introduced new choices and alternatives to enhance the dumbbell queen workout. The new stuff:

  • Arnold press
  • Hammer curl
  • Front raise
  • Lateral raise
  • Tripod 1-arm triceps extension

What’s interesting about the enhanced dumbbell routine is that it can be a new dumbbell adventure every day, just in case I get bored doing the same things day after day. Generally speaking, if I get bored doing the same things, I switch to basics A or B, do the mini bands routine, or do more sets of the cardio workout. I walk through the gym every day with a fistful of papers describing my possibilities. These days, bored is never a word that comes to mind about doing my time.

If I was a dumbbell queen previously, I have just been promoted to empress with the new enhancements.

As for the cardio, I feel like I have it down pretty well. I have an intense dislike for the wall ball, but I cannot deny it is effective in elevating the heart rate. The other movements are familiar and performed at a quicker pace than my normal.

Literature I have read and been reading recently suggest that diabetics should get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily, so I have it in my mind to do at least one circuit or however much is necessary to stay at it for 30 minutes. Between walking in at 5:30 to walking out by 7:15, I like to squish a warmup, 30 minutes of resistance as cardio training, and a couple of sets from The List of the week in my nearly 2 hours at the gym. This way I can report I am striving to complete the recommended daily cardio. Since I appear to have generous portions of dawdling time in that schedule I truly have no excuses for not getting all my stuff done.

Judgmental HRM aside, I feel like I may actually be approaching something akin to progress. Maybe J will be free of me someday. We joke about the 5 year plan, and how I need at least 30 days notice if/when he chooses to change careers or gyms or both. He has become like a security blanket that keeps me focused and anchored to doing what I’m supposed to do … that and The Lists he keeps providing. Maybe I am addicted to The Lists and J is my pusher? The labels do not really matter. That I am making progress – GOOD progress – is what truly matters most.

On my goals update:

  1. Weight – Drop 20 lbs. ON TRACK?
    Week 18 finds me no idea where, because I am scale challenged. The newest addition to my bathroom must be returned, failing after just a week and one weigh-in for me and the daily M test (yes, he broke it).
  2. Strength training – 3 times per week on my own. KILLING IT!
    Since my prior training session (11/27), I have continued with my early morning gym visits and was at the gym training with J or practicing the routines for another series of consecutive days.
  3. Stretching/Flexibility – 3 to 4 yoga practices per week. NOT A PRIORITY
    Just once this week, on Thursday. I do like to try and stay with this, but it is fading fast. Between being at the gym in the mornings, work, and social commitments this month, it is unlikely to be making it onto my calendar.
  4. Cardio/HIIT – 3 days per week. ON TRACK, SORT OF
    Treadmill desk walking and the daily warmup at the gym continue, and now that J has created my little cardio routine, my plan is to go through it on my practice days.
  5. Post updates each week. ON TRACK
    Here we are – update from session 18 of 20. I cannot believe it has been 18 weeks and this series is so near its conclusion. I have come to enjoy writing the updates, but I feel like the goals are boring.

As for this post title, it has been an unusual yet mostly uneventful week. This certainly seems like an oxymoron. But that could just be me – a walking, talking, writing (too much) contradiction.

The Pains

Since Tuesday morning I have had an ongoing throbbing headache and have been popping Excedrin to get through my days and Excedrin PM to sleep at night. Thankfully this is just a headache and not a migraine; migraines have me cancelling appointments and lying in the dark guest room in absolute silence. This generic headache happens from time to time, usually when I’ve been neglecting water consumption and enduring too much screen time.

Getting up early and going to the gym with a pounding head has been a new and interesting endurance experience.

I do believe the exercise helps. I definitely think it builds character and strengthens my resolve to not bail with the flimsiest of excuses. I am a terrible liar, yet I would feel badly if I ever said out loud that a headache kept me from doing what feels like a mandatory portion of the rest of my life. (It is perfectly okay if anyone else says that; there are the ridiculous standards I apply to only myself.) My new reasoning: if I am okay to go to work, I am okay to go to the gym and exercise. The movement distracts from the throbbing inside my skull. Or the throb helps me count reps. Or some such silliness. Suffice to say I just did it and the pain faded far enough into the background that I feel good about my level of effort the past few days.

Then last night/early this morning, I think I had a touch of food poisoning from dinner or the aspirin I have been consuming. One, the other, or a combination of both sent my stomach into full on rebellion and resulted in repeated middle-of-the-night vomiting. On the bright side, to be fair and balanced, I did not have a low blood sugar crash event in the midst of all that. I know, I know – TMI, but relevant in this case.

I could have texted J at 1:45 in the morning and cancelled our session – I’m sure he would have given me a pass. But I decided to wait and see instead. After all, if he’s sleeping he’s not reading texts, and if I texted at 1:45 or at 4:30 the effect of cancelling is the same and he would likely get the message at the same time either way. However, the only lingering effect when my alarm went off was a minor physical ache in my abdomen (seems normal when those muscles decide to revolt and purge) and the ongoing headache. I was not sick enough to cancel. And I am glad I stuck it out with all the good stuff I have to share.

The Gains

Since we began twice weekly sessions a few weeks ago, it feels as if I am catching on much faster than before. The schedule works well for me, because we have teaching, then we have review, then we might have another review. Or switch-up the order of exercises. Or make them faster and more cardio-focused. Or J adds extra goodies to enhance what I already know. All of this provides enough variety, feedback, and opportunity to practice/master without getting stale or boring.

I actually asked J about his thoughts on our two sessions per week schedule. Sometimes I am really, really slow on the uptake, and it is only now occurring to me that daily practice with my focus on proper form and technique without feedback was making my brain lazy. I would ask questions, I would make the minor corrections to the best of my ability, and we would still have reviews and form checks and generalized check-ins about how things are progressing … and with one session per week all of that training goodness tends to lengthen the amount of time I am working a particular routine. Nothing worse for me in trying to build consistency than boredom and too much time to think and self-sabotage.

I have come a long way, baby.

Dovetailing nicely with reporting on my pains and gains this week, I also had a phone consultation with my endocrinologist about my daily blood sugar crashes the past couple of weeks. I thought these things would diminish once the insulin injections went away, but if anything they have gotten worse. I finally broke down and called him last week – he was in Hawaii. I did chat with him briefly on Monday and was asked to fax my meter readings. He was finally able to call me today to discuss what’s going on.

We talked my ongoing exercise habits, my evolving eating habits, and my life balance in general. Je asked some very specific questions about what I was doing and why, and my responses impressed him enough that he said J was doing a “fantastic job keeping you [me] motivated and engaged” in light of his focus on form over gains and progression.

It was kind of odd when we were talking about it because he was trying to ensure J was not pushing me to exercise daily (he’s not – J merely encourages consistent practice between sessions) by inferring that I would go farther faster. I assured him it was all me making me go to the gym daily and that his (the doc’s) prior advice and my recent reading about 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise for diabetics had me thinking about it and trying hard to achieve it. Since I am there doing at least 45 minutes of resistance training and making significant progress with my lower numbers, he says I do not need to perform 30 additional minutes of focused cardio. So that’s a relief.

Thinking about it now, I believe he was concerned I had fallen under the spell of a weight training guru who was leading me down a fictional easier pathway with drastic, dramatic changes in diet and exercise. My doc has told me previously that diabetic patients do crazy things sometimes, go on no fat/no carbs/low calorie/high protein diets and ratchet up their exercise to unsustainable levels in order to advance with strength training too quickly. Not at all the case with me. I explained how I can only focus on one big change at a time. Now that I seem to be stabilized on the exercise, my attention has turned to diet. I have been cleaning up my eating and systematically reducing the amount of junk and processed foods I consume and it is starting to make a difference … hence the daily blood sugar crashes.

So our final conclusion? Increasing my protein consumption is a good thing, but I need to maintain a reasonable level of carb consumption in my diet right now to ward off sugar crashes. He also reduced the dosages of the only 2 oral diabetes medications I take now, and depending on what my labs say in February, he may eliminate one or put me on something else completely.

Amazing. I think he rendered me speechless for several long seconds. Then the happy tears started. What can I say, I’m an emotional girl.

I had always hoped to get off the insulin eventually, and that wish came true with a lot of sweat, a little blood, and – not going to lie – more than a few tears. But the oral meds? I am so surprised that was the solution he offered right now. I expected he might change something, maybe switch me to a different medication. I did not even imagine reduction in dosage as a possibility.

Makes me start to ponder the possibility of not having to take any diabetes medication. I am starting to wonder if being a well-controlled diabetic through diet and exercise alone could be me in the future. The gains I have made in the last few months make me think … maybe. That type of dreaming is a very long way from just wishing to be able to take fewer drugs. It’s a new and different and terrifying kind of hope. But hey, I tend to excel at scaring myself.

The Brains

No, we have not evolved into zombies and radically altered our dietary requirements. But today J did start me down a new pathway with existing movements.

If there was a name for it, I cannot recall. In my mind I think of it as cerebral training, where I am trying to get my brain to focus on the muscles being worked and increasing the contraction by pre-tightening them or contracting more fully. I am distilling this down to essentially training my brain to instruct the working muscles to work harder. And it is so much easier when I am actually doing it versus trying to describe doing it here.

J has been spoon feeding me the idea for weeks. Looking back, I can recall him saying “pretighten glutes or abs or biceps” on whatever exercise tightening those muscles is applicable. There have been our equivalent of pop quizzes on what muscles are working or where I am feeling the most contraction with each exercise (and let me just say right here that I f—king HATE pop quizzes). Today he formally introduced the concept on things we were doing and indicated he would like me to try and incorporate this going forward, where I am actively thinking about the working muscles and trying hard to tighten or contract more or harder just before they actually engage to do their jobs.

I was also introduced to new little arm muscles (that one right on top the forearm next to the elbow) when he was demonstrating and I noticed the muscle and definition in his arm and started to wonder if I too had one of those (mine blends with the rest of my arm but is now awake and chattering). He talked about this concept with each exercise we did and had me try it as we moved along. And it works! I could feel the difference. Then I started wondering how I have been gripping the dumbbells before, now that I am trying to hold on tighter to engage the muscle more. But as J reminds me, I would get overwhelmed if he tried to tell me everything in one sitting. Since I have not dropped any dumbbells, I must have been holding onto them tightly enough.

While we did not go over a lot of new stuff today, it did feel like an exceptional wowy breakthrough kind of session. Another chapter concluded, a new adventure about to begin. That I had a headache (now FINALLY gone, I think), was sick (but then fine), and still feel this satisfied says a lot.

Forward progress feels pretty damn good.

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