Thursday and training day with J. We had another review day of the 30-rep lower body sets with some new goodies and adjustments added just for fun.

And it was fun. I always say this, but I love review day. In conversation with J yesterday I had mentioned wanting to pursue this workout, but the space utilized was occupied and representing a lot of logistical thinking, planning to make it happen. So I went with something else instead and was just as happy with my practice. Obviously J listens and files away, and voila! Today was review day on a workout introduced a couple of weeks ago.

What we did today:

Leg press (30)
DB walking lunges (15/leg)
Goblet squat (30)
Swiss ball hamstring curls (30)
Hollow body ab thing (reverse plank)
Swiss ball glute bridge

Double band reverse flys (bands)
Double band chest fly (bands)
Straight arm pulldown (band)
TRX inverted row
TRX pushup
DB shoulder press

I actually really like this workout even if my mind has meltdown tantrums over it and I am learning that I cannot count accurately past about 12 to 15, depending on the exercise. The reasons behind my liking it are kind of irrational, but if you lived my life and had the friends I have and discussions we enjoy you might be able to better understand my point.

For instance, it feels like a “real” workout. Honestly, even I know how ridiculous that reads in print. But when I look at my Lists on paper, they do not look or sound all that difficult, especially with no weight ranges listed for the dumbbell or cable machines and the suggested lower rep counts feeling a little (or a lot) light. Being the one with the DBs or cable attachments or stretchy bands in hand, I am quite aware of how much weight or resistance feels like to my muscles and where my muscles are in the strength spectrum. I have to remind myself that this is not a race to the finish; it’s a process that stretches into what feels like infinity.

Plus I know no one I speak to about this routinely is thinking I’m wimping out on exercise and/or wasting my time. Negative girl and her minions are locked away, and friends dumping on me are no longer tolerate. I think my emotional spine is toughening up and strengthening too.

M is a retired champion ultramarathoner and runs 15 to 18 miles every single day. Many of our friends are similarly accomplished runners. Or they do things in the gym that I cannot even connect with my body on that machine with weights attached. Heck, I walk right by the big boy toy room with the big machines and weight plates everywhere and have no idea what I am looking at right now. Or they are uber bendy and do amazingly graceful, beautiful postures in yoga class.

And all of that no longer makes me feel wildly insecure, anxious, or stupidly, terminally unfit. To be absolutely fair to all of them, none of them ever said, did, or even looked remotely judgey about wading in to the exercise pool. To a person they have all been enormously helpful, encouraging, and supportive. Progress? Damn straight.

Learning about exercise … I do not think I could possibly comprehend how technically complicated it can be or would become for me when I started. In this case, complicated is a good thing. By the time (long into the future) I feel finished with regular training days with J, the layers of exercises I have learned about and possibly mastered could be 700 (or more) stories high.

So essentially, I’m accustomed to being around a lot more accomplished, a lot more experienced people who exercise. Truly they are among my biggest cheerleaders and most ardent supporters. These are the native residents of my village, and I am fortunate to have benefit of their wisdom and experience, even their hands-off approach to advice on training and diet and practice benefits me. I now love hearing the stories of how they started, what they were doing when they began their own journeys. Many I cannot imagine being overweight, out of shape, or smokers! But apparently many were before we met them.

Trainer J’s evil twin, my drill sergeant presently residing in Zurich, completely understands how challenging this transition from sedentary person to daily gym-going resistance person has been for me. Yet at the same time, there have been moments when he has made a comment that made me feel as if I am telling him about what I am doing, how hard I am working, and I am left wondering if he is sitting there reading or listening thinking “is that ALL?” And I know – I KNOW – this is the negative girl effect, that friend J is formulating positive, profanity-laced affirmations meant to make me feel good about my efforts, not sitting there with a frown on his face wondering why I am lunge-challenged or took however many months to mostly get the wobble out of my single-leg everything.

Trainer J (the good twin) was telling me this morning that some of my brothers in the training tribe would have a difficult time doing this 30 rep superset lower body workout, and I jokingly suggested they needed to be more like me and step-up their gym attendance. We laughed about it – I have noticed that our regular tribe are already more present in the gym and seem to work harder than most of the other trainers’ people. Being at the gym daily is a requirement for me, only because I cannot be trusted to regularly go with less than that level of scheduled commitment. It does not make me better at the work we are individually pursuing; it only means I cannot trust myself to practice between sessions unless I commit to going every single day. My focus and my intensity are different than my sisters and brothers under J’s training umbrella, but so are the objectives we are each pursuing.

After so many months of regular exercise and training with J I seem to have eradicated the idea of competition and comparison through my thick head. Others I see are not necessarily more advanced nor am I lagging behind; our journeys and our processes are different and unique to us as individuals. Halleluja! Along with getting stronger and more capable with the exercise, my mind is settled into a positive groove where I am not constantly judging myself as a perpetual failure.

Negative girl is where she belongs – locked away in her private cage. I think I may be building stronger, thicker walls around her as well, because I cannot hear her much at all anymore. Oh my – unless you have been plagued by constant doubts and insecurity you possibly have no idea how wonderful it feels to turn off the volume. Forget progress – this alone is a fucking priceless miracle.

But back to review day.

Monday J and I were discussing the leg press machine, and since the machine we use goes to only 300 lbs., I was wondering what one does when 300 lbs. seems easy. Is there some secret way to add even more weights to it? Apparently a complicated question, and I am cool with that. If the day comes where I capable of easily pushing 300 lbs. up and down on that machine, I am sure J will steer me somewhere else.

In the superset version of the leg press has me going and down in a smooth, consistent pattern that allow no rest at the top or the bottom of the movement. I have found that 30 of those bad boys is a burn-worthy phenom and feels very different than going through 15 in the more deliberate paced manner. My personal goal is always just get through the 30 and worry about what comes next after I am done. Only I find myself losing track of the rep count after after 10 just about every single time. So I go in sets of 10. For whatever reason it’s easier for me to keep track of 10 counts that end with 10, then 20, then 30 than it is to simply count reps to 30. It gets the job done, and that’s all I care about.

From there we go to walking lunges, which are unlikely to ever top my favorites list, especially 30 total, even with 10 lb. dumbbells. Then its hamstring curls with the ball. These are tough, but we do some different adjustments with feet on the ball and find the hamstring works in different ways. I feel those puppies, even now, hours later and sitting at my desk.

Since I am lying on the mat on the floor anyway, J introduces this hollow body core exercise, sort of like the plank while lying on the back rather than the stomach. It’s dreadful, really dreadful. Core exercises – I hate them. But they are effective. My usual methods of making friends has not been working out all that well, or I have not been putting forth adequate effort (maybe both), and avoidance forever is not a good long-term strategy.

Damned dreaded core exercises. Not fun, at all, but necessary. I must make myself do these things.

From there we went back to the glute bridges on the ball. The footing on these on the ball is tricky, and it’s going to take some practice to get better at getting it right. Like the dreadful core stuff, only these really are not that bad on their own. But J went through some different positions and angles of bend in the knee to feel the differences in hamstrings and hips. The last one, where legs are just about straight out on the ball, that was so hard. I remarked to J that I need to walk into the office and really needed those hamstrings to work for at least that long. Thankfully that was the end of our lower body series.

Upper body stuff was piece of cake in comparison, although it is still challenging, effective, and very satisfying. Tomorrow is another day, another workout, and I feel a little jazzed about this or another List of the day.

It has been a very, very happy time this week. For a lot of reasons. Practices have zoomed along well. Work is busy and productive (my current mentee has been on vacation all week). I have been on a cleaning frenzy at home (we have runner friends staying with us tonight through the weekend) so the house is in good order, the laundry is done, and I am pretty well caught up with work.

But the bioidentical hormone treatment began last Friday and tomorrow is my off day (6 days on, 1 day off is the cycle) and thus far it’s going very well. I am sleeping remarkably well and better than I have in quite awhile. For months I have been trying to be in bed by 9:30 or so (4 a.m. is early and comes awfully quickly), but I would frequently wake up still feeling tired, abuse caffeine to try and wake up, and try for much longer hits of sleep on the weekends. Since starting the HRT, I am waking up after my 6 or 7 hours of sleep and feeling more refreshed and awake than I typically do after a 12 hour hit of sleep on the weekend.

It’s been kind of amazing.

On top of the really good sleep, or maybe because of the really good sleep, I have felt more focused, relaxed, and just awake during the day. While I typically have pretty good energy, particularly on training days, I have felt unusually fantastic this week. And that’s another trend that has been slowly increasing and escalating and that I hope continues.

I truly do understand placebo effects, and what my doctor described were possibilities for me could just be my positive thinking going forward. But hey, if positive thinking is carrying the day, I’m pretty damn swell with that.

What I’m saying – I am almost euphoric with the week thus far. Eating has been all over the place, but I am working on getting back on track. RD has been out sick and had to cancel our appointment; he certainly sounded awful when we spoke on the phone.

And now the friend J is taunting me and dangling challenges in front of me on the exercise! Nothing too serious, but we shall see who is the wimpy little girl in this scenario. It’s going to require a bit of technical consultation with trainer J on Monday, but it will be fun all the same.

I have lots more to say about the eating and other stuff, but I have to table it until tomorrow – we have guests arriving tonight and I need to cut this short and not cover everything I wanted to discuss. Priorities, you know.

It has been an amazingly great day.

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