Thursday, training with J. It was upper body sequence review day, which is appropriate because I did this recently (Friday or Saturday) and could not remember what the dumbbell chest fly looked like, and promptly forgot about it until today. Ah well. No harm done, because I have lots and lots of other choices with Lists.
It was fun, going over this upper body series. But I say that about every training session, because it’s true every training session anymore. I can think of a couple of instances in the beginning where it was not fun, where it was not exciting, and the sweating I was doing was half from the exercise and half from anxiety. That was then, this is now. Things are so different now.
Looking back a year, where I was, what I was doing, how my life was proceeding – it was very different than now. In profoundly real ways, I am living a completely different sort of life. Work is different. Hobbies are definitely different. Friendships, relationships were not as they are now, with my daughter now married, my son’s wedding officially 3 months from today. M is healthier, happier, and pursuing his passion with a kind of joyous resolve that burns brighter than it has in years gone by. Everything good a year ago is still very good and better now. I like that. I may not always be able to say that every single year, but right now, I can say that with absolute assurance.
Before getting too far ahead, what we did today:
- DB 1-arm Row
- Band Alt Speed Rows
- TRX Pushup
- 2-band Speed (controlled) Chest Fly
- DB Pullover
- Band Speed Lat Pulldowns
- DB Chest Press (30⁰ Incline)
- DB Chest Fly (Flat Bench)
- Alternating DB Shoulder Press
- 1-arm Zottman Curls
- TRX Facepull
- TRX Triceps Extensions
J was a little surprised about the knee issues, but as I told him, had it been a genuine distress issue I would have dialed direct and discussed it with him. But it’s truly not a big problem right now. On the one hand I think it is partly in my head, but mostly I am relatively certain it’s me substituting a leg issue while sleeping (leg cramps from bending my knee) with another (rigidly holding my leg and foot straight). There are slowly-healing bruises on my shins from crossing my ankles while sleeping for an extended period of time. Curing myself of that was what started the bent-knee lower leg cramps, and now we are into intermittent knee aches when I sit too long.
Growing older is an exercise in patience as much as anything else.
Surprisingly, I feel more patient with the exercise than when I began. My ability to relax and simply try my best has slowly, steadily increased as the months have passed. But I am still constantly thinking about technique, about form, especially during review days like today. I recognize there are some things I continue to have to go slowly and think the movement through start to finish or get something wrong in the process.
And finally, that seems perfectly okay. There are some things that look and feel so deceptively easy (looking at you, straight arm pull downs) and yet vex me continuously in one way or another. I think for the most part I am improving, but I recognize that I wish to do better, and that requires more perfected practices. I’ll get there. If I have to remind myself every single day there is no rush, no race, no finish line, I will continue to do so until I stop having even the slightest inkling of frustration about it.
Maybe the exercise is not so much the lead in my life as mirroring the rest of my life. As I have grown more comfortable, more confident, and happier in my work, the same is reflected in my exercise habits. My relationship with M is not nearly as entertaining or unexpected and surprising as friends leading the single life and dating, but I strongly suspect a single me would still not be entertaining or unexpected or surprising. In life I am far more tortoise-like than hare, and I am always going to be toiling responsibly and not terribly interesting to people who like louder, wilder, more flamboyant existences. And I’m okay with that. If we were all like that, there would be entirely new standards for breaking out behaviors. Maybe I am finally growing up and owning my own maturity.
I’m dog sitting for a friend of mine this weekend, and she remarked that I seem so much more “settled” these days. Her tone sounded a bit uncomplimentary, so I asked her to clarify what she meant. It was spoken in the kindest of ways. By “settled” she meant noticeably and notably less stressed, worried, harried, agitated; I am more relaxed, more comfortable in my own skin. My “graceful” extends to myself as well as to others, in that I am kinder and gentler in self-expression than I have been in all the years she has known me. This friend was once someone who worked for me. I hired her after a 6 year break in work history to raise children before her divorce, and I took a chance, mentored her, groomed her for something better than a typing pool. We have remained friends through the years of jobs, promotions, child rearing, remarriage, and have both moved beyond our big firm accounting roots. Like friend J, she knew me when I was also a struggling single mother, trying to have a life outside of a demanding full-time job and raising 3 small children.
It was a nice thing to hear after my second firing incident in a short time period. It is nice to know there are people out there who learned from me and went on to flourishing, happy careers after learning what they could from me. That we are still in contact, getting together and catching up and laughing when schedules permit is very meaningful to me.
J forwarded me this interesting article today about fitness goals. While the writer’s usual audience is not me, the topic of goals remains intriguing to me. Mostly I feel as if I have lost my compulsion to apologize for not being a weight loss zealot about the exercise. I like the way I feel emotionally and physically from the consistent exercise. I like that it influences and impacts all aspects of my life. I feel successful even if I am not conventionally, noticeably, visually altering my shape and form. It is not so much that I do not care about that sort of measurable progress, because of course I care. However, on the priority list of things to obsess about and become compulsive over, I am not certain it would even make the cut on my list. My overall health is first, staying off the drugs can only benefit me. From there, it is doing things safely and sanely, and if its several months or longer before I advance in weight moved to and fro or reps or sets or any other tangible measure, that is what it takes for me to move the needle that much. Plus the positive attitude adjustment that comes from learning and becoming proficient with new skills.
Thinking about this morning, my focus was on listening to the technical critique, having those minor tweaks and corrections soak into my memory. I enjoyed it the way I do all review days, always more to learn. While it may get boring someday (perhaps even now, today) for J to have to demonstrate things I should know by now, or watch me try hard to replicate something I should know by now, or have me staring blankly like this is not something we have done previously … oh well. I mean, I try hard. I practice, and mostly I improve. For awhile I used to think that practicing and not improving were signs of something bad about me – my intelligence, my persistence, my character. I have decided intelligence, persistence, and character have less to do with it than lack of natural talent or athletic giftedness. Plus the movement habits of a lifetime. We mere mortals and average human beings simply have to keep working at it until we become strong enough or competent enough to push through and get it right.
I remain very happy with my progress to date. It has been steady and more stellar than I ever imagined possible.
A work associate asked me today if I were thinking of pursuing more specific goals with the amount of time I spend with my exercise pursuits. I think my goals are clear enough if not especially inspirational or lofty, definitely not courageous or brave. Do I need more? Not right now. Sometimes I think bigger goals might develop someday, when I grow weary of marveling at my lack of diabetes drugs and my ability to wake at 4 a.m. and get my ass into the gym by 5:30 on weekdays. To me, that is kind of a big deal.
But when I’m working on these recaps or working through my List of the day, questions come up that I probably should write down. Nothing critical or world altering. Mere curiosity and wonderings.
Like … barbells versus dumbbells? What is the difference between using one versus the other? Leverage? Placement? Some obscure detail I am completely blind to in my resistance training novice-ness? Okay, just a very brief internet scan and maybe it’s all about training perspective and bias. More importantly, I realize it is something I really do not need to think about right now. And honestly, I do not care that much one way or the other. My curiosity about tools I see lying around in the gym seems endless.
Then there are the machines. The Machines. These things still mystify me in many ways, but that is primarily based in my own “growing up” in the gym. J started me with stretchy bands, TRX straps, and dumbbells, and it has only been this year that we have ventured forth to cable stacks, the Freemotion machine, and even one day of individual machines for various body parts. I find them a lot more challenging, setting the machines appropriately and then selecting the weight plates, etc. My unfamiliarity makes the many months of picking up a weight and utilizing it seem so much simpler. I can and will adjust, of course. I still wander by a machine we have used and am randomly thinking about how many little adjustment notches are available for me to mess with.
But then I start wondering … there are cable machines and then there are those big-boy machines with the weight plates. Does one use the cables when not yet ready to move lots and lots of weight? The big-boy weight machines are still shrouded in mystery. But if I’m transparent about my thoughts on the subject, a lot of the individual cable machines are still pretty damn mysterious as well. And I’m perfectly okay with that. I have plenty of stuff to explore with my present library of Lists and cable machines and stretchy bands and even the TRX. The TRX … I’m probably due to spend some quality time refreshing my memory on several movements. Because I go to sleep and forget which is which.
So the world is still turning, and inside the sun shines on despite the darkness outside. Spin cycles happen; I spent at least 50% of my day worried about what happened to M’s orphaned bird (she expired behind a file cabinet, her little body recovered and removed). Tomorrow is another day and I am plotting and planning my List to pursue. I may change my mind by the time it is actually my moment to choose, but that’s allowed. And it’s a happy thing.
I am coming up on 8 months of consistent, daily training. It has had the most amazing, positive impact on my outlook and attitude. I am more centered, happier, and growing more focused on the work with every moment I spend pursuing my Lists. It’s exciting to me, to achieve this level of competency and success. Small cakes to others who are or have been fit and find the process not the steep learning curve I experience. I remind myself every day that we are all on our own unique journeys, and my learning curve may look pretty darn flat to someone else.
Either way it’s a pretty big f–king deal to me. I am so grateful and feeling so fortunate to be on my way right here, right now. Even sucky days do not seem so bad; training and practice are key ingredients that help anchor and balance me.
Good things do come to those who listen and practice what they learn. My pushups are looking much better than the last review day – J even said so. And I learned how to do dumbbell chest flies; I know we went over these when the List was first introduced, but when it came time to practice, my mind had a big blank space when that one came up. While it happens less than it once did, it does still happen. This is why I was continuously blowing up J’s text with questions, because if I didn’t, the question evaporated almost immediately. I had apparently forgotten THAT as well when I went through this sequence last. But oh well. I know better now.