Fall Fitness 2015 #19 – We *heart* bands

Monday and Thursday this week combined to make 19 of 20 personal training appointments, because I currently have sessions scheduled with J twice weekly. It was another relatively uneventful week on the training front, on this second to last week of this series. J has been busy updating and refreshing workouts with mini bands and stretchy bands, so Monday we reviewed the updated mini bands and on Thursday the stretchy bands. Here’s the lists:

  • Mini band square walk
  • Mini band side and back kickouts
  • Mini band squat
  • Mini band glute bridge
  • Mini band scissors without crossovers
  • Mini band bicycle legs
  • Mini band clam shells
  • Band assisted squat
  • Band high row
  • Band straight arm pulldown
  • Band reverse fly
  • Band triceps pressdown
  • Band biceps curl
  • Band 1-arm overhead press
  • Band pull aparts
  • Band row
  • Band resist rotation press, hip dominant
  • Band chest press

I never think or feel I know everything or have even reached knowledgeable status about anything we do week to week, because there is always something else to boost the exercises or add value to evolve each of the movements. This week is certainly no exception. While the mini band and stretchy band routines are both familiar, with the cerebral training of pre-tightening or pre-engaging the working muscles it actually does feel different and in some cases like a whole new learning experience. Each movement certainly seems to take me at least 13.7% longer (and I am totally not exaggerating!) to complete and there is a probably steam coming out my ears from running through the scripts in my head with the added benefit of thinking about the working muscles and pre-tensioning them. Pre-something the darn muscles – I keep changing my mind of what exactly it is I am striving to describe here.

I am also going to cease saying that I have certain favorites, because in J-speak that means “this is too easy, time to twist it back into something sucky” whereas many times they are favorites because I feel a sense of accomplishment in actually being able to perform them successfully. And maybe they are no longer as sucky as they once were.

On my goals update:

  1. Weight – Drop 20 lbs. ON TRACK?
    Week 19 finds me no idea where, because I remain scale challenged. Apparently by choice? I mean, I could hop on Amazon and order a new judgmental bad boy for the bathroom, but I’m not doing it. I could also weigh in at the gym, and I’m not doing it. Ostrich behavior is nothing new for me; I feel particularly entitled right now. Plus I really do not want to feel depressed about what truths it might potentially reveal.
  2. Strength training – 3 times per week on my own. ON TRACK
    Since my prior training session (12/3), I have continued with my daily gym visits and was at the gym training with J or practicing the routines for another series of consecutive days. This is not a super-duper concern of mine, because I know someday I will get to a point of trusting myself to miss a day without falling into the sedentary abyss once more, but that day did not occur this particular week. But it might before the end of this series.
  3. Stretching/Flexibility – 3 to 4 yoga practices per week. NOT A PRIORITY
    Only once this week, on Thursday evening only. The pendulum of sticking with this is swinging back, because December is stressing me out with work-related social commitments this month. I feel like I need to go somewhere and intentionally sweat myself into a dripping mess and maybe relax my smiling, happy-looking face muscles. I doubt it will do much to help me with my ability to schmooze and make polite small talk with what appears to be absolute sincerity, but hey, anything is possible.
  4. Cardio/HIIT – 3 days per week. ON TRACK, SORT OF
    Treadmill desk walking and the daily warmup at the gym continue. I went through my resistance-as-cardio this week again, and it is floating back near top of my list of things to do at the gym.
  5. Post updates each week. ON TRACK
    Here we are – update from session 19 of 20. Now that I am facing the final update next week, I feel a little apprehensive and sad. This series has done amazing things for me and I am going to miss the routine of it. New things will take its place, but it will obviously not be quite the same.

It was a relatively uneventful week on the exercise front, unless you count the rare evening gym visit that had me contemplating ripping my ears off to make the blaring country music stop. I would not say I am bored, because I really am not, but I feel distracted in ways that have more to do with juggling work, social commitments, and coordinating schedules with my kids and their other families as well as friends coming in for Christmas.

The bands are good for me and the routines are challenging but not super exciting. Not that trying to move dumbbells or doing wall ball and cardio is terribly interesting, but there is a difference that my brain perceives and is unenthusiastic toward. I cannot quite put my finger on it, which tells me I need to work at it more to figure it out. It could just be fatigue as well. The whole “listen to your body” concept is generally pretty sound, but right now there is a disconnect between what it’s saying (all is well, but we should watch the carbs and eat more vegetables and get more sleep) and what I’m hearing (all is well, except I am stressed and anxious from work and the silly season, therefore I need chocolate and Christmas cookies and regular soda; it’s also the holidays, so let’s also stay up late eating crap food and reading or working). Body talk is absolutely not to be trusted right now.

I cannot deny the band routines are very effective, particularly the mini bands on the glutes and hips. Tuesday I felt like sitting comfortably was an issue – a rare occurrence anymore – and Wednesday I could feel my hips chattering. Today already it’s my shoulders and upper arms. If I had to do these two routines daily for an extended period I would be whining about it, but the routines as J has written them make time pass quickly, or as quickly as I can let it pass with my brain and its raging debate over the cerebral aspect of training.

The cerebral muscle engagement process continues to vex me daily, but I chalk it up to it being new and forcing me to be patient with myself. I am thinking about my cues, thinking about how form is supposed to be, and then starting to think and overthink pre-tensioning and it’s like time stands still. Inside my brain lurks this perfectionist waiting to happen and she starts wondering if I am pre-engaging the muscles correctly. Seriously. I have this ongoing debate in my head whether I am pre-tightening the right amount, or could I do it better? What if I do it this way, longer, does that make a difference?

I am an ongoing science experiment inside my own head every morning.

I think my relentless pursuit of practice may also be taking a toll. Tuesday night I had a sharp pain in my calf doing walking deadlifts. While it was only a momentary thing, the last couple of days it manifested as an annoying ache from knee to ankle. It does not bother me while I am actually at the gym practicing, but it does chatter enough after the fact that I notice when I am walking to and fro at my treadmill desk or sitting around working or reading. It’s like some enormous itch that will not go away.

Consultation with J results in the advice to take a few days off, or at the very least focus exclusively on the upper body work while I am at the gym. Probably I will do the latter, because I cannot bear the idea of losing my hard-won ground in my gym anxiety battle. Tomorrow is Friday, meaning an even lighter-than-usual crowd in the early mornings, and weekends are typically nice and quiet as well. I may cut my time down and simply focus on upper body stuff we did today until the achey breaky leg pulls itself together and gets back with the program. Does it not understand I do not have time for such frivolous breakdowns?

It also occurs to me that the high heeled pumps I have been sporting are the culprit. I rarely wear them for the work week anymore, but the last few weeks there have been dress-up type events several times per week and more standing on my feet in pointy toed heels than my feet/legs/body are used to anymore. I feel the need for a new pair of shoes, just because of my present level of suffering is making me feel sorry for myself and demanding retail therapy. See? Body talk is not to be trusted. Not that I have time to shop right now, and Nordstrom (my favorite shoe shopping grounds) is no where I want to be during December.

While I utterly respect J’s advice in this matter, I cannot help feeling a bit like a failure for tweaking something to the point of speaking up about it. I mean, I can frame this as I am not working hard enough at the exercise to tweak anything or as my progress is so slow and I am in such an awful place that I am overtaxing myself after just a few weeks/months of working at it regularly – both sound terrible and negative and insulting inside my own head.

The simplest solution is to frame the issue as everyone needs regular rest, and when I look back at my notes I have not taken one in several weeks. The last several Sundays I have become engaged and next I know I am through 3 full sets of one List or another. Understanding all too well how my anxiety and laziness work, M echos J’s suggestion that I go lighter for a few days rather than not go at all. Maybe. Tomorrow is another day and I will see what happens when I wake up.

Worse still … my mind is compounding this conundrum by whispering its insidious reminders that I have no clear measurements of forward progress. No doubt at all my physiological health has turned around dramatically, and the exercise certainly helps stabilize mood and stress. However, I don’t know what or if I should base success/failure on anymore. Is it weight loss? Inches? Ability to recognize weight lifting terms and watch videos of people doing the exercises J has taught me and wince at what they could be doing to themselves?

I feel stronger – at the office I can schlep and replace that 5 gallon water bottle myself these days without feeling overwhelmed or as if I did something significant – but have no scientifically sound way of discerning that I am stronger. The scale and the tape measures are instruments of instant disappointment and depression in my life, so I will have to make friends with them at some point. (Maybe.) Still no specific goals brewing, and I am mostly okay with that. I must resist the peer pressure to have lofty and SMART fitness goals. No, I just have to make sure I get my ass out of bed and to the gym and do my time; that’s about as lofty a goal as I can manage right now.

I also start with a new endocrinologist at the end of this month and then enter into the nutrition zone with a registered dietitian first week in January. There will probably be workshops on being a good diabetic – it’s the Kaiser way – so I have to get to know and learn to work within a new system. Fingers crossed it is a positive change.

All told, it’s been a challenging week, even while it was not particularly eventful. I routinely make life harder on myself than it needs to be, and apparently exercise is not going to be the exception. At least I’m trying to be consistent at it; that’s something.

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