Thursday morning, training with J. Today was a mixture of review, revisit, and repurpose … only not precisely. Repurpose adds a flowy sound to the sentence, and what I mean is there was a new way of doing a previously learned exercise. So kinda/sorta repurpose.

Semantics aside, I have a lot to talk about today in addition to my training recap. I know these recaps tend to run long, longer, OMG-does-this-post-ever-end longest, but the learning, the reviewing, the doing, and the conversational flow tends to stimulate a lot of thinking. Plus sharing with J what happens with TM and RD also reminds me that I forgot to write something down in their own individual recaps.

I used to wonder why that was, and it occurred to me today it’s because I see J twice a week and TM and RD every other week at the very least unless I’m having some sort of a crisis or issue that needs more thorough discussion and review. Emotional skill building stuff with TM requires processing, reflection, and some practical application that does not lend well to more frequent interaction. Refining my healthier eating practices now requires less hand-holding oversight, although RD and I talk outside official channels fairly regularly.

Today with J, we are back to sequences. Today’s List (I will update this post when I get the official List from J):

Leg press
Walking lunges
Goblet squat
Hamstring curl

DB chest press
TRX pushup
Band chest thing for back muscles
TRX row
Band chest thing for front chest muscles
Band straight arm pulldown

Bicep curls (low, upper, full)
Band rotations

I remember how to do the band chest things (and don’t you just love those very specific descriptions?), but I did not catch the technical name for them. Possibly I might not remember anyway.

Last night J texted me to confirm our time this morning. Thursday’s have been a little floaty on start times, because his prior appointment has been a little squirrelly about his start time of late. J understandably prefers to have consecutive appointment times with clients, and I am fine with starting at whatever works best for him and his schedule. Sometimes it’s 6, sometimes 6:15, this week it was 6:30, but had moved from 6:15 between initial scheduling and final automatic confirmation from the gym. It is okay – I actually read my emails from the gym – and I can understand early client being squirrelly. It feels a bit grim to get to the gym at 5 a.m., and if I had appointments with J at 5 a.m. I’d be arriving with whoever unlocks the place at 4:30.

Anyway, last night J texted me and then sent me the nicest text about yesterday’s post, followed by “want to work hard tomorrow?” My “But of course!” reply was sort of automatic and typical, and I did not really give his question much thought or reaction. Until I was starting to go to sleep and it floated to mind again. Don’t I work hard every session? Maybe he was asking if I want to work harder than usual? Maybe I have been slacking in training? Pointless, circular thinking that actually made me laugh. I mean, really, my awesome trainer asks a question like that and what else am I going to say? Well, I suppose if you’re me and I really did not feel like working that hard at it, I would have said so in the plainest of terms. Something along the lines of “no, but I’ll do it anyway” because that’s pretty much the sum total of my truth about training. But I look forward to it, because there are always challenges, even on review days. I am always learning, some subtle nuance, some layer or characteristic I have completely overlooked, some previously unidentified something.

I could work harder. I could try harder. Whether he just wanted to enjoy the glow of imagining the suckiness of his new dastardly plan or something else is completely irrelevant. My attitude is let us go forth and explore new challenges. If I collapse in a pool of sweat gasping on the floor we will have discovered a new limit.

Today’s lower body was all about longer sets. Walking lunges were 15 per leg, everything else was 30. Brutal. I have done all of these exercises frequently enough through the months to be competent in execution, and I have done longer sets of them on occasion. But today it just seemed we were determined to flash-fry those legs and glutes to extra crispy goodness through the boom-boom-boom in cadence and the joy of higher-than-usual reps as well.

But it was glorious to be able to do the boom-boom-boom cadence and higher-than-usual reps, very much like an A-for-effort type accomplishment. I particularly like the leg press machine – it feels different than the various squats and lunges and such we have done – and the counting and the methodical objective of keeping my knees and the weight plates in a certain position to get the greatest possible contraction and work from the muscles makes me feel kind of powerful. To know that I am getting it done and done correctly is invigorating. J had a new cue today for the walking lunges –  “spring forward” (on the lead foot) brought forth visions of jackrabbits springing to life in my head as I tried to follow that cue and focus on  pushing off with the lead/front foot without assistance from the rear foot. It worked beautifully, and I felt as if I did better as I got tired. Goblet squats I do every single day, and after the first 20 in the first set I was ready to be done, but I kept going, kept counting, and I was happy to be done when I reached 30. It was liberating to go through the sets of hamstring curls and know that I could and would reach that 30 count, even if I had to break it down into sets of 10 to get it done. The harder part was getting up off the floor and starting all over again after finishing that first set.

With those 2 sets of lower body stuff, I am supremely conscious of my sitting muscles today. Maybe my butt is not quite as big and cushy as it was in a previous version of my life. In the office, sitting at my desk and doing my work, I am wondering if anyone else notices what muscles they use sitting down throughout the day. Legs of mush, for sure, and getting up and walking around a bit is mandatory every 20 or 30 minutes. I fear my legs and ass may stiffen and congeal into cement if I stay seated too long.

I have decided this is a good problem to have, though, because it makes me conscious of the exercise-related work I am doing. Rarely am I sore 24 hours after training or practice. In practice I periodically still think it’s because I am not working hard enough or not trying. Even when we increased weights on some of the exercises I was not sore or feeling it the next day. Maybe “no pain, no gain” is simply one of those platitudes I consciously exclude from my life. Some muscle soreness after an arduous training or practice is rewarding, but not something I wear like a badge of honor anymore. Or use as an excuse to avoid returning to the gym.

Mostly now I imagine I am doing things more efficiently, with better form. Sometimes I know I’m slacking – maybe using a lighter weight and doing a few more reps when I am capable of using heavier and doing more. I allow it, because I do not slack every practice or even every set during a single practice. Sometimes I am fatigued but want to get to some pre-defined set or rep objective, and sometimes I just do not really want to be at the gym and make this compromise with myself. The reasons vary, and I am realizing I have made my peace with lightening up sometimes without guilt or recrimination.

On the new items in the upper body segment, it’s tricky. I feel those muscles in good ways, and I look forward to trying this sequence again tomorrow. The new things are new, though, and I am still feeling my way along for how many reps per set and torn between challenging myself or lightening up on the bands. Probably I will try it tomorrow just as we went through it today, because that’s more typical than not. I will practice it this way and if I still have concerns or general wigginess over it I’ll talk to J on Monday about adjustments.

But I liked the new ones. I have seen others in the gym doing the first chest thing that works the back with the cable machines and it always makes me think of the Incredible Hulk doing his rousing, angry growling scream. But now faced with the stretchy band version, I am thinking less about the Incredible Hulk and more about my incredible back and shoulders, how those muscles feel (different in good ways). Before I started working on resistance type exercises I never took inventory of my musculature and how each of them worked, where they were located, what precisely they did for me. Boy am I learning now.

I also believe I am an agreeable client; most of what J presents I absorb in session with minimal whining and pursue on my own in practices. However, as I do here on the blog, I refer to the “dreadful core work” in precisely those terms to J in person. Not a big fan of most core work, because it seems so hard for me and I never feel as if I am making strides toward some amazing breakthrough I can perceive in my own type of emotional currency. And that’s okay; I will not love everything we do. Some of my friends talk about how much they love core work and cannot understand my feelings, just like J, M, every other guy I know cannot understand why I am not a huge lover of arm curls. I ask my pals why they love planks or sit-ups or whatever core thing they are doing, they tell me it is because it is so effective. Maybe this is me flexing my judgment gene, but I do not think it is the core work alone so much as it is the cardio and the eating better and the overall effort toward a slimmer silhouette. But whatever works for them, makes them happy, keeps them moving sounds absolutely terrific to me. I just like to know the why behind the generalized statements people make to me.

Usually my favorites become favorites for specific reasons. A present fave happens be the Bulgarian split squats. Not because they are so effective (but I imagine that is true), more because they were so hard to learn and now present a certain satisfaction and peaceful challenge to perform. If I were a one-trick pony I’d be very proud of this being a trick I could perform consistently. Chest presses also feed a certain happy pride point, with the particular nuances it took me awhile to discover and master. Same thing is true with the various versions of squats.

Of course, anything that feeds my growing love affair with movement and with regular exercise is a big giant favorite in my book.

It occurred to me earlier that I have a new threshold for amazement with exercise. Whereas once I was thrilled to death just going to the gym and staying long enough to do something, it is now such an ingrained habit for me that it feels weird not to go there and do an entire List of somethings. Today’s higher rep count and perky cadence? That’s kind of amazing, but not a make-me-say-Wow! event in my life anymore. I actually look forward to tomorrow and trying again, going 3 full sets, and if I stay lying on the floor for an extra amount of time after that last hamstring curl, such is the price of my practice life for that day.

No, what is kind of giving me pause today is my expectation that tomorrow I will get up at 4, try really hard to be at the gym by 5:15, and go through my Abel-inspired sets of 30 all over again. No fuss, no muss, no expectations of compliments or applause or fawning over my sacrifice. Nope. None of that is expected or will leaving me pouting in disappointment if it fails to materialize. This is my life now, and I am taking the longer reps in stride as just another phase in this ongoing process.

As an aside, I rarely to never expect compliments and applause and fawning over my efforts at anything. And I am not much of a pouter. If I’m not happy, I am unlikely to keep it to myself. Emotionally, I am easy to read and will typically voluntarily spill my guts about how I feel.

But that little realization led to all sorts of other thoughts today.

C is getting married next Friday, a simple courthouse ceremony. There is still some up-in-the-air plans about what happens with the celebratory dinner plans, etc., and I am fine with that; still a week left to decide and make decisions. She and her new husband are leaving the following Monday for a week in Florida at Disneyworld, which they will both really enjoy and hopefully return with many amazing memories. It made me think of Disneyland, which advertises itself as “the happiest place on earth.” Since I loved our visit a few years ago, I would not necessarily disagree. For M and I, the time we spent there was magical, fun and so relaxing.

But I was thinking this morning, the happiest place on earth is where I am right here, right now. And that is a refreshing and new outlook for me to contemplate.

I love training days – just look through a few of my recaps and you’ll find I say that just about every week. There is so much to learn about exercise and the ways to use the equipment at the gym, and maybe my little snowflakes have now been banded together into a snowball. So today one of my happiest places on earth was in the gym working hard with J on this new sequence of exercises. It was exhilarating.

My job, my life is not big, flashy, glamorous, or even terribly interesting to anyone on the outside looking in. And that’s okay. It’s my life, and the qualities of it are unique to me, tailored to my likes, my comfort, my desires, my dreams. I feel better prepared now when the naysayers try to suggest I am overtraining, or going about improving my health in the wrong ways, or not doing it right because weight it not melting off or my arms are too big.

I really have grown happy, comfortable, excited about the simple life I lead. And at least as important as that, I am growing more and more content in my own skin and body. It’s a process, but one that now seems to be working for me rather than against me. Progress.

The village of experts that I have – J, TM, RD, probably others to be named later – are near perfect matches to me, my needs, personality, challenges, and strengths. If they were not good for me, helping me making progress in ways that I can actually feel, we would have been so over long before now. And a surprisingly, it seems to be a very reciprocal thing. I never feel as if I am a paycheck for them. I am enough of an empath to understand when someone is actually engaged with me on my issues or our mutual project, which in my case is learning how to exercise, or learning how to eat, or learning to trust myself and my own instincts. That’s the shortest answer possible for what I get and gain from these relationships, but it is nice to know and truly believe that I am not just another client who is taking up space on their calendar.

In my own work I know the level of engagement and cooperation I receive directly impacts the amount of satisfaction and enjoyment I receive from the work. I do truly love what I do for a living, and I know it’s not necessarily a normal or usual situation. I used to think it was because I had no other real hobbies outside of work, and my satisfaction and happiness in my work life somehow carried over and enhanced my non-working life. For a long time I thought perhaps it was income, dollar bills that made that difference, but looking back to when I made very little I was still a mostly happy soul on a very basic level. I suppose it is true, because being happy at work means I come home in a generally positive frame of mind and open to enjoying my off duty time. M used to hate his jobs and needed to frantically pursue hobbies or fun to escape the rigors and stress it left hanging on him like a suit of clothes. I have never been like that, and if a job got me to that point I found another job and returned to the normal life/work balance.

So it has evolved with my own little coaching village. My perspective on balance leads me to people who are willing to actively engage with me on a professional level, not just go through their checklists and sign-off on the protocol the mothership has decreed is appropriate for working with each client. I am coming to believe we are conditioned to accept the mediocre as the most common standard, that we are the ones who must conform to the services we are purchasing with our hard-earned dollars. Me, not so much. I have learned that if I am paying for all or even a copayment portion of a service, I should have a provider who sees me as an individual with diabetes, or with gym crazy, or with insecurity and anxiety. Maybe I have diabetes, but the obstacles to my control are not going to be precisely the same as the patient before me or the one after. I may be just another middle aged woman trying to get more exercise, but I know the other ladies in my age range have different issues and challenges than my own. Any and all mental/emotional issues I have to cope with and overcome, I get that the causes and manifestations may be the same or similar, but how to improve a person’s coping abilities to lead a satisfactory life seem very individual and person-dependent.

If I am going to have to exercise consistently the rest of my life, I needed someone to teach me how to go about doing so properly and hopefully learn things that keep me engaged and continuously pursuing the process with best practices to protect me from preventable injury. Through the months J has taught me more than just how to perform exercises, how to lift a dumbbell, a kettle bell, or engage the weights on a cable machine. He has taught me about the whys of doing each exercise in particular ways, detailed the injuries that can occur with bad form, and listens actively when I share my fear and anxiety and general freaked-out-ness of gym pursuits. J has been very careful and strategic about writing workouts that build my confidence and gradually offer exposure to new things, different areas of the gym, and I am grateful for his sensitivity to my gym crazy. This morning we were working on floor work as well as the leg press machine in a busier area of the gym, and I was fine. I am already plotting my strategy for using the same equipment and areas tomorrow.

Food is a necessity, but hopefully diabetes-controlling drugs are not, so I need to find the pathway to successful food management through choice and/or portion control or, most probably, both. The further I get from being on any medication for diabetes control, the more I want to stay on this side of that line. It may come to pass that my body simply requires medical intervention and assistance to process sugar, and if I am doing all I can do and it still breaks that way, I can accept that I need to go back on medication. But if I am sitting around swilling sugary coke and consuming mass quantities of chocolate and wondering why I am having high blood sugar, I am obviously dumbing down and will deserve that outcome. My endocrinologist and RD have both suggest dropping some weight is a next step and part of my overall strategy for well-controlled, drug-free diabetes management. If I can have more peace of mind about that option and opportunity by losing 20 or 30 or 50 or more pounds, then I want to pursue losing whatever amount of weight is required to not dread the quarterly labs. If that means a couple of weeks of meal photography and as much calorie, fat, carb tracking as I can possibly manage, I will do my best. It is a reasonable tradeoff and something I should be able to handle for a brief window of time. RD is a wiley one that way; he has learned that 2 weeks is about my maximum discomfiture for enduring such practices.

Overcoming the mindset that puts obstacles in the pathway of a healthy, happy life, when what I am doing on my own is not working out all that well and there is no shame in asking for help from a professional. My anxiety and insecurity were starting to interfere with my healthier lifestyle objectives, so I took/am taking what seems like the best course of action. It is working out well for me, the work we have done together is something I can really feel and those closest to me remark upon it as well. M has grown accustomed to my gym routines and remarks to friends about my new discipline, particularly I am not bitching and moaning and complaining about it. My kids and closest friends say I look better, happier, more relaxed. And of course everyone is delighted that my diabetes is in check without medication.

Working with my professional village … I get that I might not be the easiest client in the whole wide world. And I am very okay with that. Trust is not something that happens easily, nor should it be given blindly because someone has a series of initials at the end of their name certifying them as educated in their field. I have worked with other registered dieticians and licensed mental health professionals and personal trainers of various stripes. The other RDs did not work out that well because I sensed they were going through a formulaic checklist rather than listening to me, hearing me. Therapists and their ilk – some have been fantastic yet came with a built-in shelf life for how far they could or would travel with me on my journey, some were just a very poor fit. Trainers, I have known and worked with a few. Again, I was a checklist – show me the basics of each machine, or demonstrate how to do various exercises, and that was about the extent of their willingness to interact with me.

This is coming to mind today in particular because a blogger friend from another parcel of my life is pursuing a health advisor certificate and asked me directly about my experiences with my coaches. Honestly, I prefer the separation between church and state, as if were, with the amount of overlap in between. RD is in excellent shape, lifts weights and cycles regularly. TM is also very fit, a runner and cyclist and gym goer as well and part-time vegetarian, so knowledgeable about nutrition and overall health and wellness. J is obviously a fitness enthusiast and always learning, reading, studying, the latest and greatest in health, fitness, and nutrition. And truly, you cannot do his job without picking up some advanced listening and communication skills.

If there was a one-stop shop for all these things, I would stick with my multi-person approach and the unique specialization and slant they each bring with them. For me, these are my experts, my go-to sources for help and information, and I respect their expertise in their individual fields as well as their opinions on other topics and my personal situation. While I might have questions and require clarification about the things they share with me, I have great faith in their capabilities and do not question their qualifications. There is a difference between my trying to understand what they are trying to teach me and my questioning their competence, another debate with another friend just recently. But I’ll spare you all that story right now and wind down this ginormous post.

At the end of all these paragraphs, I am so pleased with today’s training session and eager to try again tomorrow on my own. J has to maximize our time together, so 2 sets of everything took up our hour today. Tomorrow I have plans to time it, see how long 3 sets takes, so I can plan accordingly in the future. Plus meal pictures begin tomorrow! Exciting times, I know.

I thought about bringing in a pillow since I seem to have less cushion on my sit muscles, but I doubt it would help. Throughout the day I have found plenty of ways to work in my office standing up as frequently and for as long as I needed. If it continues as an issue tomorrow … oh well. It will be a good one to endure.

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