Training #12 – Breathing in the happy gas

It’s Thursday, so training with J this morning. While I fear jinxing my training sessions, it continues to get better and better, and for various reasons I think this was the best yet.

Boy, that’s kind of frightening, like the bar has been raised and expectations are high and maybe Monday falls short somehow. Yet I have no anxiety or worries about it. This method of just pursuing the process and letting it be the goal is working out really, really well for me. If I am not actively pursuing pounds dropped or sizes down or inches lost I am free to simply learn to make my joints and limbs and muscles learn their present limitations and expand upon them wherever possible and build their strength with time and with practice.

Inside out, I feel healthier.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there is no happy gas in the gym. There’s stinky sweat smell sometimes, the medicine-like scent from the sauna, and I always smell the chlorine from the pool and spa, but near as I can tell they are not pumping in any sort of nefarious or artificial happiness-inducing air.

I believe all that happiness-inducing is coming from me and the work I am doing on several fronts. But it’s nice to imagine there might be some tangible albeit completely invisible to the senses phenom occurring to fallback on when life dumps a big stinky load of poo in my positivity pathway.

Things are changing in my life. Today I was kind of excited to get to the gym and get started warming up. No idea what J had in mind. No thought about if we might review and work at those vexing single legged everything and hamstring curls. No clue if it might be new stuff or escalating the suck factor on present rotation exercises. And truth be told I did not really care much one way or the other. I arrived with expectations that it was going to be a good session no matter what. I was feeling well rested and energetic and excited to be learning something new or working at old stuff that I am still struggling to master.

Attitude, while not everything, makes a difference. I was going to be here anyway, because my hyper-responsible self says I made the appointment and I had better keep it, but the rest of me finds new joy and satisfaction in this pursuit. I was not-so-secretly thrilled about the doing. I get a lot more done and feel better about the effort if I can simply relax and give whatever is on the agenda an honest effort.

If I had a whiteboard or even a chalkboard, I would be writing “I am going to have a great day” every single morning this week. No white board, no chalkboard … yet … so I think it while brushing my teeth. Thus far, I have not disappointed myself either – I have enjoyed a couple really great days.

It’s my TM assignment this week. And while I feel a little silly thinking it, like his other simple exercises it makes me examine my feelings and my attitude and improve them – no “if I can” or other disclaimers allowed. Like the Nike saying, Just Do It.

And today I did. And I feel rather fierce right now.

On the list today:

Supine Hip Bridge March w/ mini band
DB Step Up to Reverse Lunge
DB Anterior Lean Split Squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians)

DB Alt. Bent Over Batwing Rows
DB Alt. Pullover
DB Alt. Chest Press
DB Alt. Side Laterals
DB Alt. Seated Hammer Curls
DB 1-arm Triceps Kickback

90/90 Curl Up Crunch
Two Up, 1 Down Lowers
High Tension! Plank

The upper body DB stuff is slightly expanded, so I can do them as 2 separate mini sets or a single super set. I like the options within the option, because my attention span feels short sometimes and a burst of 3 exercises for a few sets and then moving along to the next seems preferable to what feels like an endless series of exercises. Not always, but the choices appeal to me.

J does not typically prescribe a lot of core work, but he has new people training with him and I suppose they are bewildered why they are not spending entire hours doing nothing but variations of crunches and planks. So we have some additional core finishers in the rotation. They are dreadful, simply dreadful, because truthfully core work is so difficult. But I understand why he is including them, and it will be good to perform these and improve my ab strength. I still hate them, but maybe they too can be rehabilitated with practice. Plus there are some really thick and plushy-feeling new mats at the gym that make lying on the floor slogging through ab work not as terrible. Sometimes the little things make all the difference.

But truly, it was the lower body stuff where J has outdone himself in bringing on the suck.

My imagination does not yet expand far enough to imagine the universe where step-up reverse lunges are a favorite, but I am getting better at them. Progress.

The supine hip bridge march with mini band sounds really grand and complicated and hard, and it does not disappoint. That said, I liked it. Imaging lying on your back, heels supported on the bench with legs 90 degree bend at knee and 90 degree bend at hips. Mini band is wrapped around the feet on the bench.From here, hips lift off the floor (bridge) by pressing heels into the bench, which on any day is not exactly a picnic. From there one leg with knee still bent 90 degrees lifts in a “march” while stretching out the mini band and pressing hard against the heel remaining on the bench. Then elevated/marched leg returns to its place on the bench and hips return to the floor. Rinse, repeat, alternating legs.

Yeah, it sucked, big time. But at the same time, I realized I know how to do this. It’s a variation of something we have not done in awhile, but I completely understand the concept behind it and know what I am supposed to be doing. That made it exciting. Actually doing it for 8 to 12 reps, not so much. Yet … I have become some sort of exercise geek because I am very eagerly anticipating the day that with practice I can just do the march without dropping hips back to the mat between reps and with a stronger band. There is a lot of room for progression.

The DB anterior lean split squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians) is another one from J’s training test kitchen. Like the Bulgarian split squat, standing on one foot with the rear foot elevated behind on a bench, but rather than bending lead leg and dropping the knee of the rear/elevated leg in a split squat, you instead bend forward at the waist as if performing a Romanian deadlift. We went through this twice today without the DBs, because believe me I was having issues just learning the basic form and maintaining balance. What I came away with is that my left side is truly weaker than my right and my body does all sorts of interesting things to try and compensate. But I am more onto body’s tricks right now and will be trying to correct some of its inclinations and habits.

This one also sucked, big time, but I have high hopes for getting better with the balance and performance with time and practice. But they are effective; I can still feel those bad boys, both of them, in all of my lower half. And I cannot wait to try them again on my own and see if I can make some progress on my issues. Even that is all good; at least I know where body is compensating and needs to learn the proper routing.

I am getting such a kick out of being part of the training test kitchen.

So today we were going through this new stuff with this sense of building excitement. It is challenging, yet I enjoy that. If it were easy I probably would have been doing this my whole life along with everyone else. J is teaching and demonstrating, and we are talking, correcting, learning which muscles are supposed to be burning like … ummm … wildfire. Then learning that when said muscle is not burning so fiercely it is because body is taking shortcuts. Which let me just say – the corrections, even as gently and kindly as J does it, used to send me on a spin cycle complete with internal thrashing and shredding because I was not getting it immediately. My head is better. Now, it is a “just is” experience. My mind finally accepts new things take time to master and that does not mean I’m a complete and utter failure. Progress.

I was not a gifted student, probably ever. I was the student banging my head against the wall in “I don’t get it” frustration until the epiphany finally kicked in and I just got past the roadblock and everything on top of the frustrating concept fell into place. And truly, it was like that with just about everything. But once I learn something, I rarely completely forget it. I might go to sleep if I fail to use the information for awhile, but most of the time I can recall all the details when reintroduced.

The need to have exercise concepts built from the ground up is why I thought hiring a trainer in the first place was my best shot at success in the exercise realm. I have and would likely again wither and flounder and back away slowly from group exercise classes (because running away screaming only draws more attention to yourself). J just happens to be an excellent match for me in that he recognizes the need to break it down, all of it, into simple movements and then build and layer as we move along.

This morning he told me about a quote he read from another trainer about the trainer/trainee relationship. It was something like “the more you care about the client, the more the client cares about himself.” I get what he’s talking about and where he’s coming from, but I am not entirely sure I agree from where I am sitting right now.

For one, I have never ever felt like I was part of the cha-ching in J’s paycheck. As wiggy and self-critical as I am, I have actually learned to trust my instincts and intuition about people. From my hours of random observation in the gym I do not believe he sees other clients as dollar signs either. But the reality of any service-oriented business is that there are some clients you like to work with more than others. The feedback and return on investment of time and energy is different in rewards and satisfaction terms with every client I have, and I have no reason to believe I am unique in this perspective despite the differences in industry.

For another, our first meeting he told me to “text him anytime” with questions or concerns. I sensed then that he meant it, that it was not just a sales toss-off to make me feel special and important to him as a client. Because we had just met, I did not know him at all and I had no reason yet to feel special or important as a client. However, the potential existed. Since this is something I also do for my clients, I felt like it was reasonable and realistic. We are in service businesses, and anymore, that means being flexible about availability to our clients.

All that said, sometimes I think you can care for all your worth and it is not going to inspire or make someone take their life and their health more seriously until they themselves are ready. And I know he gets that, too.

What encourages me about the concept is that it keeps you honest about trying. I do care about every client I have and every employer I have worked for through the years, but I also acknowledge that I care to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances and state of the relationship. In my case sometimes clients really listen, take my advice and ideas seriously, and are willing to let me work with them to make improvements and/or changes. Sometimes measurable results happen, sometimes not. I appreciate being respected and trusted enough to be able to try another way to achieve objectives, measurable or not.

Other clients and employers truly could care less and are completely uninterested in growing their business or being more efficient in how they utilize their financial resources. Or they just hate change, period. And I am okay with that, but it disincentive effect is a real thing and sometimes disheartens me about the work.

J and I have a very positive feedback loop, and it works really well. It feels powerful enough, resilient enough to endure my periodically mercurial emotional bellwether and is something I want to endure throughout our training relationship. I am committed to improving my training abilities, and that inspires J to want to do more to help me increase and build upon my success. The things I am learning, the time we spend training has become a fun perk to my weeks; the hours I spend practicing incite a sense of anticipation about what comes next. I recognize that the relationship itself is part of that, because if I did not like and respect him I would not continue to train, period. No training, no practice, no focus on improving, and no ongoing success and sense of satisfaction.

Harshing my happy and upbeat vibe just thinking about it. Thankfully that is not our reality. Yuck.

Ours is an instant gratification age, and let’s be real – exercise is HARD when you have a sedentary job and first get started. And most people have specific goals they are chasing – weight loss, muscle gain or definition. Add diet into that prescription and life suddenly becomes a cycle of denial and struggle – hard to be happy and hopeful when embarking on that type of journey. My progress from an insides perspective has been stellar, and for me it is infinitely more motivating than any 5 lb. or even 50 lb. weight loss. While it unexpectedly took only a few months, I can clearly recall feeling hopeless and disappointed about the process when the scale did not move or inched upward instead. Between the blog and conversations with M, with J, and with other trusted sources, I would have given up long ago if I pinned my hopes on the damn scale.

As anyone who has been reading my blog this past year knows, though, it has not always been like this. The first few months I was showing up every week and going through the motions, but not really making much progress and definitely not practicing much on my own. Looking back, it was not because J could care less if I showed up and practiced as long as I was there for our weekly sessions. Believe me, I could feel his reserve toward me building as those first weeks passed, and in my mind I started imagining him looking forward to exhausting my sessions. If I didn’t care, why should he? was the feedback loop in MY head.

When J finally found the magic words that reached me, it was like he had the biggest cattle prod available in hand and zapped me in the stomach with it. While I do not recall his exact phrasing, I do know what my brain heard was “I want to see you in the gym at least twice before next week or I will be disappointed in your ongoing lack of effort.” By nature I want people around me to be happy, and of course I do not want people around me to be unhappy because of my behaviors. I really understood then that he cared about my progress, and since I cared about his opinions, I got my sorry butt out of bed early the next morning and into the damn gym. And I have not looked back since.

So maybe it’s not the caring about the trainee itself but more the expression of that investment in them that matters. Only the trigger for each client is going to be unique to them and not a one-size-fits-most situation.

A simple quote and my navel gazing goes wild! And maybe that’s what this other coach is trying to address – not letting up on having hope for clients when they are struggling or have lost hope for themselves. Perhaps it is just another of those messages we all need to hear to remind us to keep pushing, keep trying when life gets difficult.

And finally, in this whole positivity journey …

At a session several weeks ago we were talking about my improving outlook and attitude toward the gym using the glass being half empty or half full as our measurement standard. J said he looks at that glass and wonders why not use a smaller glass in the first place? I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment, and I have not looked at drinking glasses in the same way since.

Yep, breathing the happy gas in and out today. Vaporous progress.

Screenshot 2016-02-12 08.19.03

Edited to add this little snippet of our text exchange yesterday. Still makes me smile.

6 thoughts on “Training #12 – Breathing in the happy gas

  1. L was wondering if J does training in the pool also? They are starting that at her gym and she is not sure how she feels about it. More of a resistance training and also water exercises

    • Crossed paths with J this morning at the gym. Here’s his take on this: it’s not something someone should pay extra money for, unless they have some sort of serious physical impairment, like a stroke or something. If it’s aqua classes included with the cost of membership, yes, definitely worthwhile. But otherwise, having a trainer work with you in the pool is probably not the best use of your training investment.

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