Training #18 – Ain’t no mountain high enough

Thursday morning, training with J. It’s like a milestone in my week, sandwiched between humpday and TGIF for my former typical office life and job. Except since I rarely work a standard Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 existence anymore, my weeks are more measured by Monday and Thursday training days and the standardized days I work at my part-time law office job. The rest of my time and nomadic home-client office/residences-meetings employment existence is spread out over days, evenings, weekends, even the occasional 3 a.m. because-I-am-awake periods. For someone who prefers structure, the pillars of training days and office workdays make an unusual framework for the rest of my life. It is working out well for me, so no complaints here.

What we did today was adding intensity to a dumbbell sequence:

Crush squat
Chest press
Overhead pullovers
Tricep extension

Romanian deadlift
Bent over row
Overhead plate stretch (correct name coming soon)
Hammer curl

These were all as many reps to fatigue, always focusing on form. Everything today emphasized tighten-tighten-tighten upper body and/or working musculature to make it contract as intensely as possible and work as hard as it could. And believe me, after 3 sets of each I was dripping sweat and feeling as if arsonists were at work all over my body. Checking my blood sugar afterward – it was holding steady at 98 – and my judgmental HR monitor, I found that I had been working pretty hard. It is satisfying in the ways only being sweaty and gross can be satisfying. And now, hours later, I will say I can still feel that tighten-tighten-tighten being tight-tight-tight in my back and shoulders … in the nicest possible ways, of course.

I say this every week, but every session with J is good, even when I am still marveling at the few key changes that have left all my upper body’s little tiny muscles having a chat-fest. Way back when, our very first meeting, J and I sat down and talked about my goals (back then I thought I was still supposed to have one; I thought sure it was a rule) and how there are basic movement patterns (seems like they were up, down, sideways, maybe back and forth?) and hundreds of different ways to accomplish and work muscles within this framework. A few months later, when it was starting to become clear that I was finally getting with the practice program and actually sticking with it, he made that comment to me about what we had done thus far (and at that time it seemed like an awful lot) had barely scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg. Looking back it seems like another lifetime, when I was this completely different person with someone else overseeing my actions and my attitude.

Months ago, when we had the iceberg conversation initially, I kinda/sorta/mostly believed him, but there was a big, stubborn chunk in my head that subconsciously thought he erroneously viewed me like a “normal” client capable of learning and progressing further and further. Which was completely unlike the reality I felt I knew, where there are limits to how much I could or would be capable of learning and repeating despite his best efforts. Of course I did not say it out loud, and I suspect he chose to not comment on the doubtful expression that surely crossed my face. Essentially, a big stubborn chunk of my brain, helmed by negative girl, was certain he was being the consummate professional and all around nice guy and blowing smoke to encourage me to continue to try.

Today, this week – I can readily admit out loud to how wrong negative girl was and that the big stubborn chunk of brain mass is slowly losing its impenetrable armor. I absolutely believe him about that tip of the iceberg and that I can and will master my pathway wherever it leads us. Even if we spend the rest of the year layering additional tweaks on things I already learned, already know, I have much more positive expectations for the big expanse of all that health and fitness stuff that exists for me out there. It is entirely possible I will reach some point where I do not want to learn more for awhile, or ever. Or my direction and focus may change and I will want to pursue a presently unknown something instead. It is a heady and exciting thing to imagine where I might be next week, next month, next year. Or even tomorrow – lots of choices of what to do every day.

Of late I have been choosing my titles for these recaps from song titles I hear either in the car or that come up on my playlists during warmups or practice. This has been a good and great week for me on all fronts, and I already knew going into it that today’s session would be fabulous no matter what we did. Unless J was not feeling well, and who really wants to work when you feel kind of crappy? But even on those occasions when one or both of us is not quite with it 100%, it is not a terrible hour of training. For blog post titles, I chose well today, and it encompasses all my present positivity and growing optimism. If I take other people, norms, averages, grading on a curve, etc. out of my personal equation, I have a slow and steady march going forward right now. Thinking about today’s session and how that whole big giant iceberg is there beneath my feet, the adequate exercise mountain truly does not seem high enough to prevent me from continuing to prevail in the process, and it is a very good perception to possess. Today I am choosing not to speak in terms of qualifiers and potential limitations; today I am choosing to feel the whole weight and excitement of endless possibilities.

Which brings me back to Tuesday. TM remarked upon the various advisors in my life and how my selection process has been refined and improved upon through the years since our first meetings. He suggested I consider how that might be applied to other relationships in my life, which of course has me thinking.

But before I wander into that, TM also used my training partnership with J as a prime example of my of my selection progress improving. Part of it is trust, part of it is J’s outlook and seemingly endless well of patience with me, and part of it is just a really good personality match. Ever since I started with him years ago, TM has employed an affirmation strategy with me, where he continually directs my thinking toward what is good and what is positive with less emphasis and characterization of things as negative or bad. J does this in a similar way, plus he indulges my need to know more details and explanations of the why. As I have grown more confident in my practice and learning, I have come to characterize my efforts as good and less good, whereas when we began it was succeeding or failing, good or bad. Whereas I used to routinely use the word “fail” I now say “falter” or describing it as a “learning curve.” There are still trigger words my mind spontaneously uses. In response to a direct question about how my muscles were feeling today I said they were “weak” and J immediately substituted the word “fatiguing.” It makes a world of difference in how I view my progress. It was a subtle thing, and maybe the brains of other clients work differently than my own, but that tiny little word substitution is also a mindset adjustment/correction and becomes something I will remember and endeavor to incorporate going forward.

But about that selection process and the rest of my life ….

When we begin dating someone or dating someone new, it has an impact upon the rest of our interpersonal relationships. Sometimes barely a ripple, sometimes a big giant tsunami. Same is true when we marry, divorce, start a family, become empty nesters, begin a new job or career – life happens and with it comes little and big changes. How the players in our lives react to our changes, and we to theirs, can be the determining factor in what direction the relationship takes next.

Many old friends are legacy relationships from different time periods in my life. Some mesh seamlessly and play well with others, and some must be segregated and kept completely separate from the rest of the group. Despite trying to wrap my head around it, I still have no idea why anyone might be so bothered by my trying to improve myself by taking up and pursuing exercise as seriously as I seem to be am, but clearly it is pushing buttons and is a problem for them. I am not pressuring anyone to be uber supportive, a cheerleader, or sit through hours of navel-gazing conversation about my lunge anxiety – this is why I have a blog, after all. However, I realize more and more that I do not want to endure their criticism dressed up and characterized as concern, that it makes me crazy in ways that I do not need to be crazier. Commenter SAK, in relating her own experiences with this phenom, describes it as stepping out of my assigned role in life, rewriting my script and changing my responsibilities rather than staying in the status quo and toeing the line. More and more, I am evolving into someone comfortable in the digital age versus someone stuck in her own kodak moments of yesteryear.

I have no secret dreams of evolving into model thin with my lifestyle changes or plans to become the Voice of Reason in preaching the importance of diet and exercise. If anything, I feel the poster child for positive things that could happen if you really want to try to improve your life and are open to the idea of hard work and stepping outside your comfort zone. That said, I readily admit to having an entire team of people holding my hand while I tiptoe inside, outside, all the way around my own little box. There are thousands of words dedicated to the topic on this blog alone, and thousands more in texts and emails to friends.

Maybe it’s the idea of hard work and consistency that holds most back from pursuing change? And it is very hard work. While in the moments this morning I was not thinking about what else I might be doing instead, because I enjoy the sessions and the interaction and all the potential that is planted and will eventually bloom in my mind from it. After this much time of training with J and nearly 5 months of being at the gym doing something nearly every day, exercise is as much an addictive, obsessive habit as it is something I do for my better health. I do not exactly feel guilty if I skip a day or take a break, but I am definitely thinking about the impact of it on my psyche. I am not far enough away from the sedentary lifestyle, not ingrained enough in my exercise habits to be allowed just because time off the gym leash. Every time I choose to not go is typically a strategic decision I have carefully considered, even if it may feel like an impulsive choice in the moment.

This change in selecting those I become closer to and adopt into my tribe is not just because I decided to join a gym last May. As the years have passed I have found myself choosing people who offer me realistic perspective and encourage hope. Everyone has issues, problems, and worries to some degree or another, but I have found that my willingness to invest my empathy has narrowed and my insecurity-inspired desperation for friends has abated. I understand my own codependent nature, and periodically I catch myself unconsciously falling into that pattern of behavior. At least I notice it most of the time now and can correct it. Most of the time, anyway.

Those I spend most of my time interacting with in the present sense are positive about and supportive of my choices. Want to go to the gym twice today because I am thinking about something I did or learned or saw and want to test it? M will tell me to be careful driving and ask approximately what time I might be home. Want to go to yoga with my daughters after a morning practice? Supportive group of friends will share stories about their yoga adventures, and M will tell me to bring more water and to check my blood sugar before I leave the studio. Worried about missing a practice or becoming obsessive about exercise? Friend J will tell me to woman-up and stop giving two shits about what other people think (only in extraordinarily colorful language), and M will say streaking training and practices is a good habit and anyone who disagrees is wrong and clueless.

I want and strive to be a supportive, hopeful, encouraging friend and community member. And I am seeing more and more that those I have maintained long relationships with are not necessarily people I might choose to associate with so closely in the present day. Will I ever completely stop caring what others think, especially those who have been part of my life for a while and mean something to me? Probably not. However, limiting access to their negativity is not a terrible thing. It is not that I wish them harm, or to go away and never communicate with me again. I just want something more authentic than what I have received. It bothers me. That they would choose to bully me about something I feel so good and great about pursuing and that I let them do it to the point that I start having doubts and feeling poorly. About me, no less.

J was telling me about that saying “don’t complain, don’t explain” and his view on the topic, and I can see how it applies in so many of life’s situations. Not necessarily with J or most anyone else that sees or spends time with me on a regular basis; that inscrutable expression gene was left out of my DNA sequencing. By now J can take one look at my expression and have a very accurate idea of precisely what I might be thinking even before it comes tumbling out of my mouth. But I am thinking about the simplicity of that axiom and how it applies to me, and definitely I can do better. I also feel certain I will be thinking about the basic concept and meaning for more than just the expanse of this post. There is a whole separate post brewing right now; it seems like I will forever be a few posts behind how much time I have available to write.

Good things have happened for me, some twists of fate, some from my own sweat equity, some just because I was in the right place at the right time. As far as my overall health, it is improving every single day. Right here, right now, this minute, this second … I am reading and learning and trying my best to implement the guidance of my medical professionals provide. The rest of it – my brand of crazy, my mental and emotional balance – I know I have influence and control over how much the process continues. Because my abilities with volume control over the voices in my head are improving every single day.

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