My thoughts today are like a great big ball of yarn that the cats have been playing with – lots and lots of substance (relatively speaking) all tangled together. That’s just fair warning that this post might be more jumpled and scrambled than usual.
I had previously decided to report on my training sessions with J for my own future reference as much as sharing with all of you. It’s good for me to write it out, because it helps me remember what I should be doing and also highlights my forward progress. Plus there are moments when I still cannot believe I actually snagged such a superstar trainer who can tolerate me and my neurotic brand of crazy twice weekly for extended periods. Writing it down somehow makes it all make sense. It will be informal and without any particular structure, and I seriously doubt you will ever read that I am working toward some particular weight, rep, or set goal. This truly is about the journey, because there is no set destination on our training itinerary.
J prepared a new rendition of prior exercises:
A1. 1.5 pulse goblet squat
A2. Incline DB bench press
A3. DB triceps extensions
B1. DB Romanian deadlift
B2. DB lateral raise
B3. 1-arm DB hammer curl
C1. Goblet lateral lunge
C2. Band straight arm pulldown
C3. Band rear fly
Like Monday, I am hesitant to use the word “fun” in relation to these sessions, but it was highly satisfying to get through 3 sets in our time together. Some of it sucked – those 1.5 goblet squats are not even close to a favorite or joyous activity – yet I now absolutely know with time and practice I will be feeling a lot less angst and dread when I see those bad boys on this List or any others J may create in the future.
I am making progress. I get that and J’s feedback confirms it for me, and he is not big on gratuitous praise and flatteries just to say something that will make me want to return next week. Those pesky shoulders still want to wander and round and shrug at the wrong times, but I can console myself that it could be far worse. Of course, I am still thinking about what my heels and feet are doing in squats, am I standing tall enough on everything for which standing tall is appropriate, and many other cues for every single exercise. But those cues come far less than anything and everything shoulder related.
J was telling me that other clients have remarked that he is sparing in his compliments, and in truth I have not noticed it much at all. Our interactions are universally constructive, instructive, encouraging, and supportive without being flowery or effusive with praise … if that makes sense. I always go away from them feeling tired yet strangely energized with my brain engaged and tumbling through thoughts and reviews of what we did and new ideas and good stuff from all I learned that day and the general chit-chat interaction we share. I count the fewer number of corrections and cues or search for new ways to cue and correct as an indicators of my improvement and becoming more skilled with learning what he is teaching. When J does compliment me, I take it to heart and tuck it away to be savored and pulled out as a reminder of how far I have come when I am not doing so well or am on the verge of one of my frustration meltdowns. But I also find accepting compliments and praise gracefully very difficult, so I am not typically reactive when compliments come my way. Otherwise I would probably cry, and that would be bad. Trust me, I know from experience how embarrassing it is when I start tearing up because someone says something nice to me.
This week’s routines are a great start to 2016. I now have 2 Lists that I can work at with lots of room for expansion and improvement. I see the opportunity to be more challenged by simply adding additional sets and find it brilliant. Probably everyone else already knows this – add more sets, do more, it’s more challenging – but it had never occurred to me before that I could or should or would someday go beyond the standard 3 set recommendations thus far.
In my defense it feels as if I am so breathless and so tired and so done after 3 sets the idea of going further has been laughable. Now I see the idea as the next plateau in an ongoing, steady climb. Progress, right?
My judgmental HR monitor has also been squawking about these routines, in that I am dwelling in zone 3 (maximum) enough for it to tell me “fitness and maximum training are improving” versus the usual “fat burning and fitness are improving” messages. On my slacking days (aka rest or do less days) it tells me “fat burning is improving.” It’s judgmental, but most the messages are positive in nature.
I rarely look at it – M probably looks at it more than I do – but I do know I have been regularly hitting the magnesium for muscle spasms since the first of the year and that’s a good thing. When I first started with J it was like that on training days. When I got serious and began the daily exercise it became a daily dose of magnesium for awhile while my body adapted to the new amount of effort I was expending. Time passed and I needed it less and less regularly and I went to sleep on taking it. Until this week and the new routines and I am back taking it before bed or waking up in the middle of the night with weird and painful muscle cramps. And I love, Love, LOVE my sleep. I know I am unlikely to quit the daily exercise due to disrupted rest, so I have to make the adjustment and remember the magnesium before bed.
All good things. However, what intrigued me about today was my sense of failure that came with some of the exercises. And I mean that in the nicest, most positive manner possible.
My preference to this point has been to never try to use heavier dumbbells except when I am working with J. I know there have been times when I know I should advance to the next weight up or at least try it out, but I do not do it. Perhaps it is because working with weights is still so new to me, embryonic in its development as an idea and an exercise practice for me. Or maybe it’s because I am at my core a raging neurotic nutball who cannot handle faltering when trying something new. Either way, going from a 20 lb. to a 25 lb. dumbbell is not an adventure I would ever undertake on my own.
I always fallback on the idea of hurting myself or others in the process, and it is a valid concern. However, behind that very flippant excuse is the real reason – I fear failure. I have some sort of pathological anxiety about not making J’s suggested minimums, even though he has repeatedly assured me they are just that, suggestions based on our sessions and his observations of my abilities.
As I have noted previously, I want to change the tune playing inside my head. I want to try to rework the messages I hear the make me dwell on my shortcomings rather than celebrating my successes. I have no idea how to make that happen right now, except to consciously notice when my reflexive thinking starts about what I did not do instead of focusing on what I did do.
How does that relate to today, you’re wondering?
There were a couple of exercises where we stepped up the weight for a couple of sets, and by the second or third set with the weightier DB I could barely make 5; my arms just basically faltered and said no more. Surprisingly, it was okay for me. J was standing right there watching me do it, and I walked away feeling glad to have tried and knowing that in time I will get stronger. Nothing hurt; my muscles just reached that fatigue point everyone talks about as if it common knowledge.
Not so common for me. My experience with it is very limited thus far. But I’m learning. (Broken record post on learning and making progress.)
Thinking about this driving home, I recognize that had that happened while I was practicing on my own, I would have immediately begun the systematic process of beating myself up for failing to meet expectations. I am learning, oh-so-slowly, to manage my expectations and that muscle fatigue is normal and not a result of lack of trying on my part.
It seems odd that it has been so hard for me to tell the difference. I have never wanted to say to J “I can’t do [insert whatever thing is vexing me this week]” and have found it somewhat disturbing on the occasions where it has leaked out of me. I am trying very hard to reframe that to “I cannot do [insert object of vexation] right now.” This morning we were talking about complicated exercises friends are doing and he demonstrated a couple for me. While my brain is screaming “NO WAY I CAN EVER DO THAT!!” what actually came out of my mouth was “I have learned to never say never about anything with you, but I think it might be awhile before I could master something so complicated.”
J possibly did not notice the phrasing and that’s okay, probably better (but I suspect he has a third ear that hears things I say even when I believe his attention is elsewhere). But I was super proud of myself – really, for me it is the littlest things. Improving my mental game is as important to me with regards to training and exercise as mastering the damn TRX pushup (still on my list of things I would really like to conquer). I also have lots more to share about my mental conditioning training but will save it for another post because it wanders well beyond the confines of the gym and training with J.
As I was checking out this morning I mentioned my ongoing love affair with the mini bands he introduced me to several months ago. It is a simple routine, the equivalent of training wheels in my efforts, yet it is very effective in firing up the lower body. But thinking about this exchange further, the training wheels on exercise have been easing their way off all on their own since about Thanksgiving. As 2015 was winding down I could see and feel (even if I refused to openly acknowledge it) that I was getting better, more predictable about my practices and could get through my Lists without blowing up J’s phone with queries or meltdowns. I had actually learned most exercises well enough to practice and correct myself on my own; there were fewer and fewer trouble spots (which does not equal mastery of the exercise, only understanding of how each is supposed to be performed), and I could foresee no tantrums problems while J was away.
So here we are with these new routines and a different cadence and speed to it. I like it thus far, because it feels familiar at a peppier pace. Kind of like beat the clock, only I am not actually looking at the clock much of the time. I am still thinking form, form, form! I am still thinking pre-tighten this/that/the other thing. I am still trying to remember to stand taller and tighten abs/glutes/both. Shoulders back … goes without saying and is a constant correction and adjustment.
I am improving. I am getting better at this exercise thing. And I am stronger. If I own my failures I should be fair and balanced in owning my successes as well. I’m learning and adjusting as we move along.
Next up is food, which I am still struggling with. But that’s another post, too. No particular progress this week, but no huge setbacks either … more status quo than progress. I feel like that’s okay; probably another week of menu floundering will not be my complete undoing.
Happy Thursday everyone!