Monday morning, training with J. I always look forward to starting my week this way, particularly if the weekend has been either really busy or kind of low-key and/or boring. It is the way to get centered and moving along in the return to work direction.

Today was review day, and if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know how much I love review days. J has been sneaking in some extra goodies here and there as well to keep things interesting. What we did today:

A1 Seated Leg Press / Seated 1-Leg Press
A2 Straight Arm Pulldown
A3 1-arm Row
A4 1-arm Decline Press

B1 Facepull
B2 Tricep pushdown
B3 Hip Rotation
B4 Cable 1-leg RDL

C1 Outer / Inner Thigh Machines
C2 Dual Cable Lat Pulldown
C3 DB Seated Overhead Press

So essentially a pretty chill session. My new rules for single side exercises (start on the left, do 5 more if I lose count on the second side) are working out pretty well. However, I do find that I am so acclimated to starting on the right side that my setup does not always completely match the left side when I get started – I’m going to have to watch my feet and such when I am on my own and do not have J standing there to point it out to me.

On my own in practice, I am working quite diligently counting each rep and maintaining the peppier pace and cadence as demonstrated in training as I move along. Still, I have developed a method or habit of going to 10 to 12 and pausing if needed, then continuing to finish the set. It’s fine when I’m alone and toiling at practice, but quite different when I am working with J. For whatever reason, I pause and my brain thinks “end.” J is calling me on it, which is good, so my brain will now slowly rewiring itself to accommodate the same habits for training session days. Maybe. Time will tell.

Things are proceeding and I am making good time, good progress. But in my desire to complete List of the day may require a little more time right now to get through it, so I am reevaluating my morning routine to arrive earlier and ensure I can get through 3 sets. My pacing and cadence will become more efficient, but for now I may have to work out my departure so I have more minutes. My sense of challenge and excitement makes this seem like a reasonable trade-off right now. I also know myself and that I will be perfectly okay with doing fewer sets or eliminating layers within to get the most exercise bang for my time buck when I arrive late or must depart earlier.

Like everything else, ideal scheduling remains a fluid work in progress.

There’s another member of J’s training tribe that I met recently. She’s a very nice woman, trying very hard, and talking to her is much like talking to myself when I first began training and while firmly under the spell of negative girl. The fears, the feelings, the anxiety of not getting it, feeling stupid, looking stupid, struggling and falling behind. Oh, I recognize it so well! In my conversations with her I have tried to be reassuring and honest about how I once felt the same way but am now in a much more relaxed, positive, and productive space. Things will get better with time and consistency.

Our paths crossed this morning just before and as my session was ending, and I was again struck by how she sounds now, how I sounded then. I am better, infinitely better. And truly, my hope is she finds her groove and settles into it as well.

Thinking about it brought me back to all those progress measurements available to us anymore. This morning, on a whim, I used my fancy-smancy heart rate monitor’s fitness test feature. I’d done this a couple of months ago when I first got the gadget, and it measured me as “fair” with a VO2 max of 25. This morning I have improved to “moderate” and a VO2 max of 26. M’s VO2 max with his daily running and mileage is 33-34, because he’s in pretty awesome shape. So it feels like gaining even one tiny point is kind of a big deal, assuming I believe in the accuracy of such measurements.

Positive progress is positive progress, so I’ll accept it graciously. It is just a bit startling to be faced with a mildly more extreme version of my prior self. I am glad, and relieved, to have taken much of the edge off my crazy.

I’m not sure what it was, whether the heat settling in for the next several months, battling some sickness bug, or just needing the rest, but I slept more this weekend than I have in months. It was odd, because I did not feel particularly ill or as if I might be coming down with something. However, I was asleep on time Friday and Saturday nights, and I took 2 hour naps in the afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday and had no problem falling asleep and staying asleep both nights. It was just an unusual occurrence.

On top of the weird sleeping pattern, I have also been plagued by a stiff and kinda/sorta sore right knee and hip for the past several weeks. Because it rarely bothers me during practice or training sessions, I have not brought it up with J or given much thought to taking a break from exercise to give it a chance to repair itself. The stiffness, ache, and pain comes during the day and into the night while I am sleeping. It has periodically been bad enough for a couple of motrin midday and/or before sleeping. But today, no stiffness, no aching, no pain. My conclusion? Right hip and knee pain seems more from being too sedentary during the day than anything I am doing at the gym or in the yoga studio. However, I have a brand new chair in the office, and I have returned to setting an hourly alarm to ensure I get up and take a walk around the office at a minimum. At home I have switched back to using my treadmill desk more than sitting and working, and I suspect most of this weird hip and knee stuff will continue to fade away.

This is a kind of a milestone thing for me. Last year knee pain like this would have been an excuse to stop exercising … as if I needed one. Now, it’s part of a larger puzzle that has me wondering if it’s something worthy or just some weirdness of aging that requires minor adjustments of some sort. My way of viewing the exercise has changed, for the better. I’m not doing anything crazy, still not much of a risk taker, but I am striving to listen objectively to my body and its messages rather than just blindly panicking first and asking intelligent questions later.

In my better health quest, I am making better choices. Small ones every day – which List is List of the day, where to set-up shop, pacing, cadence, intensity, reps, sets, etc. And day after day I find myself with the same challenges, same choices. And I find it adds something solid and anchoring to start my days this way. I think back on even 9 months ago, before I was waking at 4 a.m. to get to the gym during the week. The way my brain works it’s difficult to recall what life was like before the way it is right now. And I am really very happy with the way my life runs right now.

I was thinking about this and other things throughout this day. Over the course of the years with TM, I talked and talked and talked about bad things, dark places, emotional devastation, how angry I was and too afraid, too fearful to admit being angry. Layer by layer, week by week, talking about all that stuff was kind healthy. It was like peeling away a thick pile of bandaids placed upon an oozing, festering wound.

These days, I am now talking and talking and talking about the good things in my life. Exercise and the better health quest have soaked into me and leaks out one post at a time. Having started and stopped for whatever reason in the exercise realm, I’ve been at this for nearly a year, my daily habit now sticking for coming up on 9 months. I am still far removed from being or ever becoming a natural athlete, but I am at least competent in maybe possibly at least 90% of what I have learned from J. But still so much more improvement to come with proper practice.

I have a good marriage, one that has not been marred by cheating or betrayal and has weathered and recovered from a serious breakdown. I don’t think that makes me/M any better at marriage than other couples; I do think it made both of us get real about what is important, what we value and prioritize in our lives.

Chatting with RD this weekend … I realize people become part of my tribe in the most serendipitous of ways. It reminds me that I am a good person, that I have much to offer others. There are still moments, still those dark corners where I have my doubts. Fewer and fewer these days, though, a trend that will hopefully continue.

RD has helped me with a meal plan, something unique to me and my individual tastes. It’s actually quite simple, but there are some trades and suggested substitutions for various things to make food lighter and more protein enhanced. Today was only my first real test for it, and it went pretty well. Eating more vegetables and fruit, even less breads and cereals and starchy carbs. Almost no processed foods, which is hard. Sometime convenience trumps better dietary choices, but it is a process with hits and misses. And of course the never ending eat more protein. Only now it’s laid out in nice little grid squares that I can mix and match. I don’t know if it aids in the elusive weight loss, but maybe it does. But it will go a long way toward keeping my blood sugar even and regulated, and truly, that’s still my primary goal. I have this impatient eagerness to get back into the lab for blood tests next month, to ensure I am on the straight and narrow and that the readings my meter is giving me are accurate and that I am holding steady with normal blood sugar.

I was thinking this morning that I am actually smiling, really smiling happy smiles, while counting reps and going through each exercise and the sets today. I’m listening to J talk, cue, and having our typical conversations, and that is always fun to learn new exercises, review and improve upon things I already know, and just get the reinforcement that I am on the right track. More than that, though, I am happy to be doing what has become the first task on my daily agenda and doing it well, with both motivation and enthusiasm. It’s just different every week that passes, just a little better, more comfortable, more part of my life than the week before.

Months and months ago, SAK told me the first time that “we are gym people now.” And when J repeated that to me this morning I realized that yes, I am. And it was kind of thrilling all over again. To be comfortable in my own skin inside the walls of my gym, just methodically pursuing my Lists, without the stress and anxiety that once accompanied me like a giant fur coat. It’s been awhile since it has happened, so long that I rarely think about it anymore. Instead I am taking note of familiar faces and scoping out floor space for myself and whatever I might plan to do that day.

And feeling happy to be where I now belong around 5:30 in the morning each weekday, 7:30 a.m. on weekends. Sticking with the regular exercise ranks really high on my  accomplishments list from the last year, right behind getting off the insulin needles and the oral medications to control blood sugar.

Being successful at something I have quit so many times before – it is the best feeling. Feeling happy about doing the work, more cake to go with all that frosting.

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