Monday morning, training with J. And despite my nightmares and concerns about being late for our appointment, I got to the gym with plenty of time to warm up and prepared for our session.

And I know I say this all the freaking time, but it was glorious. For someone who initially thought an 8 lb. dumbbell was heavy, it’s exhilarating to casually pick up a 20 lb. dumbbell and actually use it. More than that, though, we revisited other things we have done – walking lunges, walking deadlifts (better name for them, but that’s how I always think of them), this new forward squat combination thing, and a sumo squat. It was a full body workout sequence and a lot of things J has previously taught me, but a new rotation and order and revisiting of them. Many of these have not been on Lists in months.

Before I get too far ahead in my excitement, here’s what we did today:

A1  Walking lunge
A2  Bent over row
A3  Hamstring lunge
A4  Curl to overhead press to front squat
B1  Sumo squat
B2  Glute bridge 1-arm DB press
B3  Swiss ball hamstring curl
B4 Swiss ball “stir the pot” plank
C1  Mini band dead treadmill finisher

I am ridiculously excited about today’s session, possibly more so than ever before. Of course, I’m not going to spend the time poring over prior recaps to find a single occasion where I came home more invigorated or enthusiastic about my training sessions. Because probably most of my recaps are pretty happy-happy-joy-joy in tone and description. So we are going with a “50 First Dates” premise (J should appreciate that reference) that this is the best ever.

Pondering why I think and feel that way today, part of it is that I have obviously made progress through the months. Walking lunges were not effortless – slap my fingers if I ever type those words about any exercise – but I was proficient and much, much improved over the last time I did them with any regularity, which would be last quarter of 2015. Same with the walking deadlifts. I am competent and confident with both, although I admit to carrying lighter 10 lb. DBs in each hand. I was just not at all stressed out or worried or  harried about them; I just picked up the DBs and got to it. Talking to J, asking questions as I moseyed along, listening to him with cueing but mostly just talking about weekend stuff, normal stuff, and most importantly for me – not overthinking or obsessing about falling over, etc.

I am thrilled. I am something beyond thrilled. I am undiscovered country kind of thrilled. I need a bigger vocabulary, apparently.

J remarked, somewhat jokingly, that I am addicted, and I do not deny it. In fact, I may be embracing it for all I’m worth. For the first time perhaps ever, I actually have something akin to a hobby. As friend and commenter SAK reminds me, we are gym people now. In my wildest imaginings I never thought anyone would say that to me out loud, much less repeat it in print, and have it actually be true. Then again, I never thought I’d stick with blogging either; I have been known to start enthusiastically and lose fire with prior attempts at long-term projects that require an ongoing commitment.

Also part of my excitement today, it’s time to replenish my session bank. I have 5 sessions left, and either Thursday or sometime in the next couple of weeks it will be time to sign on the bottom line and purchase the next block of hours. Sounds dorky and possibly kind of bad for an accounting person and a former budget coach to admit to being excited about such a luxury want, but I cannot remember the last time I was this happy about spending a chunk of change all at once on something just for me. Last time I was not this happy about the prospect, although I was pleased that continuing was an affordable luxury. It is truly an investment in my health, and I will be delighted to sink back into my oblivion of not having to think about it for several more months.

I know, I know – me and my first world problems.

Honestly, it was such an amazing boost to go through a couple of sets of walking lunges and only feeling tippy/off-balance on a random occasions. Last I did these a couple/few months ago, it was a bit arduous to get through them intact without thinking about my knee on the ground or that balance was an issue. Lunge anxiety was a real thing for me. Now? Not so much. I feel as if I might look like everyone else I see doing lunges in the gym, and it’s hugely gratifying to believe myself invisible in the crowd. But seriously, not like anyone cares or is looking at what I am doing.

I go to the gym, I do my practices, I meet with J and learn new things. I do these things and see myself doing these things, but it is unreasonably difficult for me to accept on a day-o-day basis that I am actually making genuine forward progress with the exercise. Then I step away from them for awhile – like many aspects of today’s routine – and I come back after weeks of doing other types of squats or deadlifts and it translates into stronger, better performance on these other exercises. The Bulgaria split squat muscles do not connect to the forward lunge muscles in my mind. I have been doing Bulgarian split squats for the last couple of months, and it never occurred to me before today that doing and mastering those strengthens and builds the same muscles used for forward lunges. The partitioning in my brain is pretty fierce when it comes to the connectedness of the exercises J selects and puts together into a List for me.

Then there were the glute bridges – not my favorite. But doing them today was not so bad as I recall from our last encounter. Maybe it was the distraction of pushing the DB up and down in the single arm press portion of the equation that made it okay. Whatever it was, I am not at all discouraged with my effort or ability. In fact, I am pretty pleased with how well it wants and that I recognized and felt the need for adjustments.


Not everything was rainbows and unicorns today, though. The “stir the pot” plank was … interesting. I need to spend some quality time with that one to wrap my brain around it more fully. Of course, I kind of dislike planks on many levels anyway, but I was having so much fun and it was such a truly awesome day that I just see possibilities for making friends.

That mini band dead treadmill finisher – OMG I think J’s test kitchen is working overtime on dreaming this stuff up. But it was effective, I will give him that. And I am now determined to test my limits with grim determination to get through the ranges he recommends.

As I have mentioned previously, I have become a huge Scott Abel fan, a coach and author that J introduced me to several months ago. This weekend I finished his book about online fitness coaching, appropriately titled How To Be An Insanely Good Online Fitness Coach. My aspirations for coaching are limited to an occasional budget coaching client who really needs help and direction in creating and sticking to a budget, but this book was available on my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Plus I do like reading about what a successful coach counsels other fitness professionals seeking guidance or help in the same field, plus I like the reassurance that J is not just being nice to me and that I am secretly even more of a PITA than even my crazy brain imagines. 

Fortunately for me, this and anther book I read for personal trainers reassures me that I am no longer That Client. I show up for my appointments and I practice consistently between sessions. I try to keep my bitching, moaning, and complaining to a minimum. There are a lot of things I am doing right in our training partnership, and my anxiety about perceptions is not emanating from J but from my crazy brain and it’s constant churning of comparison, contrast, shoulds, and judgments. But as the months have passed, the negative anxiety-inducing thinking has faded. Set, specific, written in soapstone goals have purposefully been avoided on my horizon, because all the accountability and responsibility I can handle centers on ensuring I am on time for my appointments with J and consistently practicing what I learn in those appointments. From that so much good stuff has just flowed my way. I feeling more and more confident about my capabilities with this exercise stuff; I am capable of learning, even if I am absolutely not a gifted or even natural athlete. With regard to change and forward progress, I am calmer and more focused than before. Most of the time I sleep better and wake refreshed rather than even more fatigued.

The physical, emotional, and mental aspects (Abel’s triangle of awareness) is mentioned in greater or lesser detail in every book I have read, and it is one of many foundational things he writes about that speaks directly to me. So many other things I have read about fitness have primarily stressed the physical aspects of training and exercise. I can respect that, because until I get my ass off the couch I am unlikely to get very far on physical movement. However, for me personally the mental game is just as important once I have decided to try and change sedentary habits. In retrospect, looking back on the last 9 or 10 months with J versus my previous efforts in this regard, I am succeeding now because J spends at least at much time (sometimes more) explaining to me why we are doing something in this way and in this order and at this pacing and this frequency as he does demonstrating and teaching me the actual movements involved. Same is true of the emotional leg. My gym anxiety and crazy is a real thing that puts barriers between me and where I want to be to practice on my own. Being honest about it, despite how humiliating it sometimes felt, was the best thing I could do for myself. J cannot cure me of it, but at least he was aware that this is an obstacle in my pathway and could coach me in ways that at least did not increase my anxiety and my fear.

When I was telling M about the incident with the Freemotion machine on Saturday and that other member’s passive/aggressive behavior, even he remarked that I had come a long way in not just dropping what I was doing and using that interaction send me scurrying out of the building. I had not considered it that way, but it is true, that not long ago I would have used that as an excuse to cut my workout short and left the gym with a big long sigh of relief. Emotionally, mentally I am tougher than I was when I started this leg of my fitness journey.

So while I have been busy applying myself on getting stronger physically, I also see signs big and small that I am building my mental and emotional muscles. TM encourages patience, that I did not become this crazy (my word, not his) overnight and will not undo it without some consistent work and diligence toward that end game. So while far from the most patient of people, I am striving to do the work and the time to make it happen. Like all things in this journey, just do the work and it will happen.

RD has been encouraging me to experiment with plant-based protein powders in hopes of expanding my food pantry. I am not so resisting so much as reluctant to tinker with something that is working well for me right now. But I respect his opinions, the methods to madness, and I will continue to test some of the others in my kitchen. It’s occurring to me more and more that my eating habits are, like my exercise and movement patterns, evolving organically and without a lot of structured decision-making on my part. I am eating more protein, watching the carbs but not with some sort of overzealous obsession, and simply letting sugar slowly fade from view. There is nothing completely off-limits on my eating plan, but there are a lot of things I will politely decline or refuse right now in favor of other things. C is getting married in a few weeks and we are celebrating with dinner followed by cupcakes and ice cream cake that evening. Will I have some? Possibly, probably. It’s one evening in an entire lifetime of future of cake occasions. My bigger concern is that my daughter enjoy her day and whatever restaurant she chooses for dinner.

I am currently in the midst of another Scott Abel book on weight loss. It does have me thinking about a lot of things about dieting and foot and such. At the present moment, I am good and I am healthy, off diabetes medications. What I am starting to think about and to wonder … am I unhappy with my present size? If so, how unhappy am I? How would my life be different or enhanced if I dropped 10 or 20 or 50 lbs.?

It seems when I come to a crossroads with clearer answers for those questions, I will have a better handle and reason to start pursuing a different, more regimented and disciplined eating strategy.

M has been steadily increasing his mileage the last month or so and has been almost at steadily shedding weight. He is currently nearly as thin as he has been in the last 10 years and feeling very, very good about his progress. His goal has been 160, although he would be happiest at 150 to 155. When we met nearly 25 years ago he was long distance runner skinny at 140. I loved him then, I loved him when he was well over 200 lbs. a few years ago, and I love him now in his present configuration. My thought and encouragement has always been that I wish him to be healthy first and foremost, and beyond that, I want him to be happy. If we throw out the books and the guidelines on height and weight and BMI and all that other jazz, if his overall health is unimpacted by weight I simply want him, and everyone else I know and care for and about, to be happy with themselves.

I wonder why I fail to apply the same standard to myself when I am mulling over the potential and what I might like my exercise and diet quests to take me next. M does not pressure me about my weight, ever. M is delighted that I go to the gym, that I train with J, that I have become so committed (addicted) to the daily exercise regimen. He is even happier to have me healthy enough to live my life without the chronic condition medications. Always in the past, when we discussed my health and diabetes and such, he has stated that he wants me to be healthy and around for a long time to come, but he would not bully me to get me to take better care of myself. Probably like most people, I would have responded poorly to those types of efforts and it would have backfired miserably, because until I was ready to take even a single step toward changing and improving my lifestyle, nothing he could have said would have impacted me in the positive way.

But now I am here, sort of organically, and I am trying to figure out what I can or will tolerate next as far as changes. Plant-based protein powder seems like a tiny little step to take, and if it works, great! I have other alternatives. If it does not work, if I cannot get over the taste/texture of those, I will stick to the whey protein for now and experiment with other agreeable pre-workout foods. This is not an either/or situation. It’s a let’s-experiment-with-food situation that stretches out into infinity for me.

RD has been absolutely stellar in this with me. He offers suggestions, encourages me to try different things, sends me gratuitous cat pics, even though he himself is not a huge cat fan (yet another dog person). His advice as an employee was pretty simple – eat more protein, watch the carbs, calories, and fat. His advice as and off-the-leash advisor is more complicated and intriguing. Try more plant-based carbs for a week and see how you feel. Try different vegan protein powders and see if you can tolerate them. Have you tried salmon or other fish species as an adult? What about if it were broiled/braised/made with this kind of sauce? (RD is big on fish.) Then there are the vegetables – I never realized there were so many vegetables and ways to eat them. Being a dietician, he is quite the foodie; occupational hazard, I suppose. But with his interest in weight training and such he has really honed in on diets and dieting from the athletic aspect as well.

Not that he is encouraging me to eat like a weigh lifter or a potential weight lifter, just like J is not encouraging me to explore vegan or vegetarian diets. RD is also a Scott Abel fan and has read most if not all of his books as well as many others in the field. Reading Abel’s book on cycle dieting had alarm bells ringing with him and with J, but no, it was just my reading curiosity exploring. Same thing seems to be happening with food right now; my appetites and tastes are finally growing up (friend J always says I have the tastebuds of your average 4 year old).

So I have these amazing resources for questions about diet as well. I have barely touched the surface of what is available, my personal food preferences being so narrow, but I am striving to keep an open mind.

As for weight loss, dieting, food and calorie restriction and stuff of that nature? I am not trying all that hard. I am working at eating more protein, which for me translates into the normal standard amounts most people need to consume. I try for several servings of fruits and vegetables daily and with all 3 meals. I have made significant cuts to the amount of sugar and crap I consume. I feel loads better in overall, including my outlook and about my efforts, which could be the most important take away from this entire conversation.

Silly as it may sound, this has been a fun and exciting day for me, and possibly I say this every Monday and Thursday writing these recaps. But oh well. I am quite intrigued by the idea of running through this List again tomorrow fora lot a lot of reasons, but mostly because I feel renewed and refreshed by my improvement and progress to date. It does not happen every week that I suddenly realize I can do more now, but when it does … wow, just wow. I feel rewarded for my consistency and plodding daily practices, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

Progress I can absolutely feel.

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