While this post is primarily a recap of training with J on Monday, I have to say Sunday’s practice was a complete 180 from Saturday, almost … dare I say it? I dare … almost fun. Usually on Sunday I take it easy and do a lesser workout, but yesterday I was putting forth my best efforts at Thursday’s List. It was still hard, but I was determined to stay focused on getting each exercise done correctly and to the maximum suggested reps per set. Mostly I was successful; I felt something off (read: tweaky sort of painful) in one shoulder and dropped the weight on one exercise (from 15 lb. dumbbells to 12 lb dumbbells), which was apparently a correct call because I have not been bothered since. There were a couple of questions on something else as well, but they were completely obliterated from my mind before they could be texted or even written down for today. It’s okay; probably the questions will return the next time I am working on this List.

Being in more positive frame of mind certainly makes gym life so much more pleasant and smooth; the effort did not even melt my brain as I feared it might. I also spent the afternoon on the couch reading an anti-diet book J has loaned me and now feel that addictive pull to spend every free minute reading it and the others on my shelf and get busier about overhauling my eating habits. I console myself that I could be dealing with far more destructive hobbies. As I have rid the house of junky food – the only remaining exceptions nuts of various sorts – I am not even snacking with my reading binges.

As for today, it was all about review.

A1. Bodyweight 1 leg hip thrust (kind of hate these after first set of 20, really hate them after second set of 20)
A2. Gravity pullup (now on level 5, up from level 4 last week)
A3. 1-arm dumbbell triceps kickback (10 lb. to 15 lb.)
B1. Bodyweight Bulgarian split squat (these are hard!)
B2. 1-arm dumbbell row (35 lb. KB, up from 30 lb. DB last week)
B3. Dumbbell biceps curl (12 lb. to 15 lb.)
C1. Glute bridged dumbbell floor press (pair of 20 lb.DBs, up from 15 lb. DBs last week)
C2. Deadbug
C3. Seated 1-arm dumbbell overhead press (12 lb. to 15 lb.)

Sunday’s tweaky shoulder is the primary reason for the lighter weights; I will likely try a the heavier end again on Wednesday when I revisit this workout. An oddity during our session, in that I felt nauseated and weak and needed to take breaks between exercises toward the end of our session. I almost never feel nauseated and I hate when this weakness happens. When I’m on my own it’s one thing, but I dislike wasting using J’s time by faltering in a session. Another attack of the “shoulds” ensued, but I overcame them fairly well. My watcher watch (aka HR monitor) indicates I did work pretty hard. Testing in the locker room after we were done shows blood sugar was holding steady. Just another growing pain of training, I suppose.

I am rather torn about this post, because I do mostly try to keep them on point about the actual exercise session and such. Yes, frequently I fail staying on point, but it’s my blog I can wander off the reservation on impulse if I want to. At least this is what I tell myself when I am rereading what has come out of my fingertips after I finish typing.

This week’s training was review, and usually with review week there is a lot of correction and adjustment. This week there was some but truly not a lot of either. I am doing pretty well with performing each exercise and striving to maintain the peppier cadence J is trying to instill. It’s challenging (read: really freaking HARD sometimes) yet satisfying because I am making progress on gaining some mastery over form and completing each set. Doing all that without absolutely collapsing in a puddle of sweat on the floor during or afterwards is my vision of success.

A lot of big and little fallout from my very bad day on Saturday and I suppose I am programmed to revisit it and download my thoughts. Sorry in advance if my high maintenance crazy gets boring.

One of the things I have noticed as the weeks and now months have passed with training and reporting here are small, incremental steps forward. I do not necessarily celebrate those as frequently as I might with proper levels of happy dancing. But today it a Very Good Day I put on a pair of khakis this morning that required a belt to stay in place, and said belt is now a notch smaller – go me! Same with my gym tights, getting looser yet I am not quite ready to replace them just yet, mostly because my search for replacements has been fruitless thus far. I mean, I was prepared on Saturday to spend lots and lots of money on capris at Nordstrom, Macy’s, or the frou-frou yoga stores that are cropping up at malls near me. I tried on several pairs and liked none of them enough to drop that kind of full-price cash. Am I being cheap? Possibly. More likely I am trying not to make a decision on pricey capris I’ll be wearing pretty much daily for months while under the influence of crazy brain. These are little victories I can actually see and feel.

Then there are so many other positive impacts of my exercise journey.

J and I chat during our sessions. I work, he teaches, corrects, adjusts, and advises; he also demonstrates. We talk about diet and other areas of health, and it’s all enormously helpful. Our chat ranges from training, how he himself exercises and struggles and slays his own gym dragons to our lives before, after, and outside the gym. You know, like regular people conversation. (Why I have ever imagined or thought I might have a professional relationship with anyone and stick exclusively to the business at hand is completely beyond me; there are only rare occasions in my personal and professional life when the other party has been so strictly business that I did not know at least a little about them and they about me outside of whatever business we happened to be collaborating on.) J said something curious to me today, about how he feels a dynamic has changed somehow in our training partnership in the last few weeks. It is not something he can put a precise finger on, yet he feels as if something is different. For once I took that to mean different in a positive way, not reflexively reacting as if he were being critical of me somehow. Yay me! Progress right?

My reply was that all relationships have plateaus, sort of like levels you scale as trust and intimacy build. I do not think I am wrong or far off the mark, because it’s something routine for me with clients and coworkers. In my mind we truly turned a corner and became a team when I got serious about practice between sessions and was daily blowing up his text with questions or whines. When I started sharing the blog posts with him – the good, the bad, the crazy – it was a new and interesting experiment. That in itself was a leap of faith; I decided to trust him with my thoughts about the work we are doing. It’s sort of ridiculous that I will open a vein and bleed out all sorts of words and emotions and thoughts here and share them with all of you, but I was hesitant to provide a peek to someone I spend a fair amount of time working with and who benefits from knowing where my head is at regarding that work. Occasionally I still have twinges. Not because of what he might think about what I post, but because I never want anyone to feel obligated to read what I write. It’s always optional. For everyone. The posts are for my benefit, sort of a mental purge to make room for new stuff. That you read, like, comment is merely a big giant bonus. (But THANK YOU!)

While I feel as if I am the most open and easy-going of people in the get-to-know-you department, I recognize I am pretty far from it in reality. Too many years of keeping secrets make me a little less superficial than I appear at first, and I still struggle with how much to overshare, here and in real life. The balance I have struck is just beyond what is comfortable for me, because childhood sexual abuse combined with poor parenting has very deep roots. Living with it, making peace with it and the lingering consequences is like trying to dig up and eradicate crabgrass.

End result is periodic outbursts of my brand of crazy.

Part of my science experiment with this go-round of personal training is my tolerance for the relationship itself. When I have tried it previously there was a level of military-like structure and discipline that was demoralizing. I felt like failure was a very personal thing, something I did to vex the trainer and the program she created for me. Looking back, I am surprised I lasted 6 weeks of 3 times per week appointments. Friends remember that period vividly. I was definitely showing the results of the regular exercise, but I was also looking pale and stressed from the experience. Friend J reminded me of that this morning (he’s very impatient about the training updates and texted to me to see how it went). This was actually about 10 years ago and friend J was still living in town and spending a lot of time with M and I. We have not talked about that woman or my first attempt in several years so I had completely forgotten about how he termed it, but he describes that period in my life as “the time you went on the personal training death march.” I remember how upset I was the first time he said it after I quit working with her, but he was right. I was miserable and thought that was simply the byproduct of what happens when someone like me began working out regularly.

I have to say I do not “tolerate” J in any semblance of the word. I enjoy our sessions and find his training style well suited to my learning style. And no, no one in the rest of my tribe refers to my present attitude and appearance toward exercise as a “personal training death march.” They might occasionally want to nominate J as a candidate for sainthood for the good work he is doing with me, but I do not believe he is Catholic.

Related to this how-I-feel post, I was trying on Louboutain shoes this weekend, and they make a truly beautiful, sexy shoe. But am I going to spend $675 or more (the ones I really liked were $1095) for something that admittedly makes my feet and legs look incredible? Even if I could learn to walk in 4” high stiletto heels, my jobs and the rest of my life do not really call for that type of high fashion. And really, I would feel ill the first time I scraped up a heel walking around in such expensive shoes. I also wandered into Sephora and came out looking like a refugee from clown school. Smokey eyes and glossy red lipstick are beautiful on many women, but on me … well, let’s just say I felt like I had more in common with the raccoons we chase off the deck at night than I do some glamorous version of myself.

But it was really fun for a few hours to try on and contemplate another type of life.

I use that and the comparison with prior training/trainers to illustrate the night and day differences between then and now. Ten years ago I signed up with someone to help me learn to strength train, and what I got was someone who had a very regimented style that was more drill sergeant than teacher, someone I did not really even like much less trust. Contrast that with J, who is more team leader in a training partnership. When I first got started with J, it took some time for the sessions to really stick, for me to feel like me under the tutelage of a personal trainer was still me. For many weeks I did feel as if I were test driving another type of life, and it showed.

Last night I was telling J about the defining moment, when he offhandedly said that he would like me to practice at the gym twice between that Thursday and our next session the following Thursday. I have described his comment as offhand, because there was no tone of boredom or malicious intent behind his words. But what I heard was J growing weary of my being a dilettante about our meetings. My brain projected him counting the weeks left on our agreement and just waiting to be done with them and with me. Because I was dabbling and not serious about exercise, fitness, health. In that moment I found I did not want him to ever think that about me, because it’s not really true, not really me. Yet until he said it I had no idea how badly I wanted to be better, to learn and advance in the exercise and improved health science.

My definition of this regular person leading a regular life now includes daily exercise and training with J twice a week (a luxury that I am fortunate to afford). It includes trying really hard to master complicated things, remembering to breathe, watching my dang shoulders try to wander hither and yon, and staying in the moment with each individual exercise, reps, sets. I depend on J for his knowledge and perspective, and our partnership has become a significant, important relationship for me. Heck, we’re even friends on Facebook now, which is kind of a big deal because I barely use FB and do not friend any of my other real-life friends. I am a text, phone, email, blog communicating sort of pal.

M and our friends joke that it’s like I have discovered my body has an instructional maintenance manual and I am reading it one page at a time. Makes me laugh, but it’s true in so many ways. And no death march references are ever utilized in the course of this journey.

And that’s how today’s session progressed. Thousands of meandering words to say it was very good.

4 thoughts on “Training #3 – Let’s review and talk about feelings

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