Training #20 – The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

Thursday morning, training with J, and it is such a monumental and happy event. Our first official session since I am diabetes management drug free, and I am looking forward to handling this chronic condition on my own with diet and exercise.

But before I get more into all that, here is what I remember we did today in training even if the order looks a little off:

Band Row
Band Straight Arm Pulldown
Band Chest Press
Band Shoulder Press
Band Curl
Band rotations
Band Triceps Extension
Band Rear Fly

As you can see, we were working with the stretchy bands this morning. These and my mini bands were among my first joys in the gym, and while I still adore my mini bands, the stretchies had sort of faded into old, fond favorites.

Until today when they roared back and remind me they are still powerful and can literally kick my ass. But it’s all really, really good. I’m determined to overcome my shrugging habit issues, these exercises will help, and J really drilled and critiqued and reminded me of where my limbs should be to get the most bang for my buck. And since I got to the gym 45 minutes early today, I had plenty of time to warm up and get half a lower body practice done before my session time. Someday soon I may regret writing this down here in black and white, but I am starting to really enjoy the Bulgarian split squats and anterior lean things. It’s primarily a balance thing – 1-leg anything that I feel successful with floats near the top of my favorites lists. But it is happiness-inducing progress this morning. M is meeting with his running buddies tonight so I am undecided whether or not to miniband through the house tonight again or return to the gym to do a real lower body and a run through dumbbell sequences. Lots of time left to decide on that today.

I always intend these recaps be about the actual training and wander far off the reservation on other topics and thoughts related to training. Today is no exception, particularly with yesterday’s monumental, life-altering and life-affirming verdict by my doc. I am still eager to meet with him tomorrow, but the worst of my edge-of-my-seat anticipation was relieved with him taking me off my final medication. If you were hoping for my views and opinions on the effectiveness of stretchy band exercises compared to the TRX, dumbbells, and cable machines, I am genuinely sorry for disappointing you, probably again. Let me just say that 30 reps of anything is not easy when you are really in it to learn and perform it correctly and get as much as you can out of each exercise. I can feel it in my arms, shoulders, and back this morning.

I have been growing more confident in the gym, following my lists and doing whatever I plan to do each day. My papers are my security blanket, and I feel safer with them in my hands. Besides, I have the memory of a gnat for this stuff the first few days on my own, so I have to read the list to remember what I am doing and in what order. My selection and choices of sequences is also large enough now that I need to refresh because there is some overlap between various upper and lower body sections. It is only the dreaded core finishers that I have pretty much memorized.

After yesterday’s happy news and then that terrible, terrible text, I was determined to get back to my elated state and stay there. We had an impromptu celebratory dinner with the kids and their partners, plus tomorrow is G’s birthday and I got to give him his gift. The many texts, emails, and phone calls from friends near and far were so appreciated, as were the comments and Likes here on the blog. From the bottom of my heart, thank you one and all for your kindness, your encouragement, and your ongoing support. I honestly cannot imagine how I would have gotten this far without the blog to download each week.

Today J and I were debriefing on this monumental event. He asked me about M’s reaction, other than very happy. M is a bit of a cynic about medicine, believing that the healthcare industry is a business and desires to keep people sick, coming back for physician visits, labs, taking very expensive medications to maintain some level of health, and that level of health may not be very good. Like so many systems in place and under more governmental control, we have “dumbed” down to a level where people are not dealt the cold, hard truths about their situations and instead spoon fed something and handed a prescription to cure what ails them.

Diabetes is a terrible disease, and for those of us who are type 2, there are measures and things we can do to keep it manageable with lifestyle changes and perhaps some level of medication. But where I was – OMG I’m truly embarrassed to admit how much medication I was consuming daily to keep me in the ballpark of healthy. Most of the doctors I have had through the years have been good, caring people who wanted to help me and would tell me to walk for 30 minutes 3 or 4 times per week and send me to dieticians to help figure out how to eat. I take full responsibility for mostly ignoring their advice and not developing a good working relationship with the dieticians I have seen (present RD is the exception, but that could be all about my mindset). I would get my labs done every 3 months, meet wtih the doctor again, then off I would go for another 3 months with bottles of pills and eventually insulin and syringes and pens and pen needles.

I am not a stupid woman; I am very capable of understanding precisely what they were saying to me and all the information they were leaving out. M is a retired world champion ultramarathoner who worked in medicine and understood what was happening to me and the road I was taking with my health. To his credit, and I appreciate this quality in J as well, until I was ready to do the heavy lifting there was nothing he could do except continually fight with me about my choices … or lack thereof. M, being a very smart man, decided he preferred to be happily married for however long my poor choices allowed rather than fight me about it and make me dig my heels in further in anger and resentment.

The harder part for me was I was a mostly asymptomatic diabetic. Other than the chronic yeast infections when my sugar was uncontrolled and flying high (sorry if that’s TMI), I was in very good health. I was rarely sick, no more tired than any other full-time parent with a demanding full-time job, and not so obese I was wearing plus-size clothes. In other words, I felt just like everyone else I knew with a similar lifestyle and circumstances.

Through the years I had tried and failed at dieting, at exercise, at being in better control of my chronic condition. I would have labs done every 3 months and meet with my doctor about the diabetes, until it remained so out of control he had to refer me to an endocrinologist. From there we added a new medication, then 6 months later a new insulin, and from there it was just a slow and steady creep upward with the amount I was injecting each day.

Commenter and friend SAK put it to me this way in an email:

You got super lucky with J – but I believe the universe gives us what we need when we need it – we just have to be open to it.  And eventually you were!!

When I was ready to change my life, I found the people and the tools to help me succeed. I decided last year that I needed to get more serious about my health, and it took some concerted energy and hard work to figure out what that would look like for me. I give J great and well-deserved kudos for his patience as I figured out how to work with him, and he with me. I have heard him very modestly say “Oh I just coached” when one of his people succeeds. “Just coached” my ass; I would still be wandering in the better health wilderness without his unwavering guidance, encouragement, and support. Yeah, I have had to do the actual work to make success happen, but I would never have continued if I gave in to suppressing every dumb question, obvious statement, or simple incomprehensible obstacle I ran into during the last 9 months – and believe me there were a whole truckload of each. Good coaches and trainers make their clients believe there are no dumb questions and that obstacles happen and can be overcome.

M is a good coach … for other people. For his wife, he needs to be a good husband and let someone else work through her thornier exercise and diet issues. He deserves great husband awards for stepping aside and letting me handle my own problems in my own ways while being 100% supportive of my efforts and not saying a word in my initial waffling on the topic.

First I was off insulin, I thought it was the best feeling ever, and I am also happy to admit that I was wrong – yesterday’s feeling was even better. I also began realizing this was not journey with a beginning, middle, and end, but more a circle that continues the continues without beginning and definitely without end. While I am elated over being drug free, truth is the real work is only beginning. I knew when I was taken off injectible insulin that my crutch was being taken from me and that I had to get more serious about controlling my eating in order to maintain this level of control and overall good health.

Being without diabetes management drugs means I need to continue to refine and be careful about my diet and stay at least this level of consistent with my exercise. I will still be testing 4 times daily, because sticking my head in the sand is not an option for me anymore. That said, I know there are days off from the gym, vacations, and cake occasions in my future. I am also not quite so OCD about the fluctuations in my blood sugar as I am about my weight or measurements. I have a much better understanding of the effects of diet and exercise on my blood sugar, and if I see an upward trend, I am prepared to deal with it my modifying my eating or increasing my exercise. That said, I will also continue with labs every 3 months for awhile to reassure myself that things are under control, and I cannot imagine my doctors objecting.

But J and others have broached the subject of how I feel should I have to return to the drugs to control my blood sugar.

IF I am doing everything I can with diet and exercise to keep my blood sugar under good control and it’s is just not working out for me, I am okay with going back on the drugs. But if the only possibility of staying drug-free is unrealistically restrictive dietary practices and extended exercise daily, I am okay with supplementing with meds to maintain my health. A piece of cake at celebrations or an ice cream cone at Disneyland should not be banned forever and will not tip me back over the edge and onto the meds. My view is to simply stop depending on drugs to manage a condition so I can eat whatever and however much I want to whenever I want and not exercise at all. Discipline need not mean deprivation.

When I hired J, I really wanted him to teach me, to train me how to exercise safely so I did not harm myself or others. In wanting to learn to do exercise correctly, my reasoning was if I knew what I was doing I would not look or feel so ridiculous. I was, and to a degree still am, hyper-aware and self-conscious about my awkward weakness and ignorance in the gym. It never occurred to me that hiring a trainer would remove my responsibility to do the actual heavy lifting, but I can see how many feel excused and vindicated from actually exercising by telling others that they “work with a personal trainer.” If you’re doing that every day or several times per week, I can see how you will make forward strides toward your objectives. But meeting and working with J once a week would not have gotten me to this point. I bumped up to twice a week with him and 5 days of solo practice supplemented by lots of text conversations and idle chit-chat in passing to get this far. I have quite literally worked my ass off to get off the meds.

And from where I am sitting right this second, it is so sweet and so worth it. Every single drop of blood, sweat, and tears shed in this quest was well placed and utilized. And I know there will be more as I move forward – lots and lots more sweat, hopefully significantly less blood and tears.

As I have said, now the real hard work begins: to do everything I can to stay healthy and off the medications. I feel as if I have slayed one dragon while watching another egg hatch. Now I have to remain mindful of my diet and how much and how intensely I exercise. A positive in that equation is that I no longer hate exercise with a passion born of ignorance and fear. The more knowledgeable and understanding I become of my challenges (looking at you, shrugging shoulders) and what it takes to overcome them, the more in control of my body and it’s possibilities I feel. Same with food. I am and will likely remain a picky eater, but there is a lot of possibility and range of foods available to me within the narrow boundaries of what I like and will willingly consume. If I do not constrain and hamstring myself by clever marketing, fad diets, bleeding edge workout plans I should be okay.

Even clothes … oh my clothes. I just ordered a couple of new t-shirts from my favorite vendor for spring and found the sizing now fits strangely. They felt too big in the body of the shirt but the sleeves were about perfect, so I ordered the same shirts in a medium and am keeping my fingers crossed the arms are not too tight. If they are, I guess I will be in the market for a new style and/or brand. It is not something ruining my day.

And neither is the idea that I have to exercise and I have to watch my diet. I can honestly say this level of control and success feels better than any time spent lounging when I could be practicing and tastes better than any sugary snack I might strongly crave and desire.

That, my friends, is the progress I have pursued and could never really fathom until it finally happened. for me.

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