Training #47 – It’s a great day to be alive

Monday morning, training with J. It was and is a great day in my neighborhood, feeling good, feeling strong, feeling more in control of body and mind.

At my request, today was review day. Saturday I had been doing my cables List and somehow startedoverthinking and getting myself on a hamster wheel of confusion over things I already know I know. Somehow, deep inside the recess of my brain, I know this stuff, feel as if I do this in my sleep and in my dreams. Yet I got all cloudy going through it and started toward diving deep down the rabbit hole of whether or not I was doing things correctly. But I stopped myself.

Today’s cable review:

A1a  Seated Leg Press
A1b  1-legged Leg Press
A2    Straight Arm Pulldown
A3    2-arm Row
A4    1-arm Decline Press or Machine Chest Press

B1     Facepull
B2     Triceps Pressdown or Tricep Overhead pulling thing
B3     Hip Rotation (Horiz or High-to-Low)
B4     1-legged Cable RDL or Anterior Reaches

C1      Dual Cable Lat Pulldown
C2      DB Seated Overhead Press
C3      Abductor Machine
C4      Adductor Machine

I had gotten confused between the 1-arm row and the decline press and where my elbow and shoulder were supposed to be and be feeling in the execution. They are similar, and despite months of doing these with bands in warm-ups as well as with cables, dumbbells, TRX, and stretchy bands, doubt seeped into my head and made me wonder if I truly knew what I was doing and if I was going through with accurate cues in my head. Once that starts with a single exercise, my ability and cueing with the whole List becomes suspect.

Of the machines, my new favorite is the dual cable lat pulldown. The shrug, unshrug motion – feels pretty darn awesome. The abductor, adductor machines are interesting, especially the innie version of it. Second set J increased the weight and suddenly it felt like it was off-center or something. But no, it was it simply another illustration of the weaknesses between my left and right legs.

Had an A1c blood test last Friday, outside of Kaiser. My regular doc ordered it for me so I would have an idea of how I am doing. It’s now been 3 months of being diabetes drug free and I have been quite curious and antsy to know how I am doing. My status with Kaiser means they will only order labs and such every 6 months, meaning my next full set of lab tests will not ordered until sometime in July. In January’s I was teetering on the edge of normal 5.8 (normal is officially > 5.7, but my doc says anything less than 6.0 is considered normal), and I wondered how close to “normal” I am sitting.

My A1c results this month? It is 4.8, meaning I am not close to the edge of normal. Meaning it’s extraordinarily unlikely I will be going back onto diabetes drugs of any kind. I have not had the rest of the tests that tell me about cholesterol and such, but I fully expect continued good results in that realm as well. Especially since I am embarking upon a meatless week with a house full of vegetarian guests. I will probably have to supplement with protein shakes, but hopefully I will get exposure to some new vegetarian foods and meals that I can adopt for my own cookbook.

And to be perfectly transparent, the rest of today’s recap is even less about the exercise than usual and a lot about my mental and emotional health as it relates to training, exercise, by better health quest. Both are actually quite fine, but as I have discovered, not infallible. Like the exercises J has taught me through the months, the skills I have acquired to be nicer to me and not allow a cloud of negative to engulf me require practice to keep them strong and viable.

Lunching and hanging out with a couple of old friends on Saturday, I really recognize and appreciate how far I have come in my overall and improving outlook toward myself. There is so much on my personal to-do list of things I wish to change, adjust, improve, but prioritizing and taking on individual tasks is an exercise in patience and forgiving myself for falling short or not getting around to it. Being around normal, healthy, balanced people gives me a lot of perspective. I recognize my own struggle to stay in tune with my objectives and values, and it seems easier to acknowledge and accept my struggles as part of the process and not escalate them to character failures.

My friends and I were chatting about my exercise and the latest chapters in my book of growing up, and like so many of my long-term friends who only get to see me in person a few times each year, they remarked upon my more zen-like countenance. I apparently give off a calmer vibe, exhibit a far more relaxed composure, and am even more effusive and happier about the latest milestones in my life, especially that I am being this level of selfish and taking better care of myself and my overall health.

The exercise has done wonders for my mental and emotional health, and now that I have been toiling away at it for this long, I can give the genuine assessment that it makes a huge difference. Everyone says that – every doctor I have in my village says diet and exercise are foundational elements of self-improvement – and I finally get what they mean, what they are talking about. My mental and emotional balance are much better now, but as I am discovering, I am not bulletproof in this regard. I now recognize that I had not given this aspect of my evolution and development enough thought, treated it with adequate respect. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist and would not go so far as to say there are dark forces out there trying to deliberately harsh my budding positivity buzz, but I know people all around me are struggling to find their groove with life and times. Thing is, negative energy seems far more infectious and influential to me than any brand of positive energy that I may encounter. Negativity from outside sources is not something I am able to avoid completely, and my own brand of compassion and caring does not allow me to shun others even if I could make myself do that. That said, I need to respect myself and my own limits to understand that I am not immune to being dragged into, dragged down by negative energy. When it is something beyond control – tragic events happen everyday, and absolutely I want to be there to aid and support those I care for and about who are caught in such situations – but the mindset and negative outlook is another matter entirely. I have the tools to cope with others in my day-to-day interactions; I just need to remember to put them into place before I get start getting swept away. My mistake, if I could even characterize it that way, is that I had not given thought to potential outside influences.

When I first started working with J, I was insecure, anxious, and completely freaked out by the gym. It took a few months to pull on my big girl pants and get the f**k over myself, and eventually, I did it. Then I start creeping up and bouncing off a new wall, where I was afraid to trust myself or any/all progress I might be making. I was getting stuck, so when it came time for my annual tune-up with TM, I sought his help to keep me from getting mired in the mud and to continue moving along my newly forming, still fragile habits and confidence-building pathways. Had I not been detoured by the experience with the Very Bad Men, I would have tapered off with TM months sooner than we did. Life happens, though, and I know I am both lucky and blessed with escaped physically unscathed as well as having TM as a resource to sort out my emotions and fears.

Having more confidence has been amazing. I like the assurance with with I move to and fro without a lot of anxiety or self-conscious thought. Yet a thoughtless comment, a negative conversation and conflict, essentially things completely unrelated to me and my life have the potential to unravel my hard-won gains. I need to be paying attention, always. Methods to protect myself from negativity – those are skills I possess, have learned, and now must use consistently.

Conversation this weekend with another friend about her marriage (husband cheated, she found out 16 months ago, separation, counseling, working at reconciliation since) and how very hurt and very angry she remains. Her reasons for wanting to reconcile – he made a mistake he genuinely regrets, she loves him – does not prevent her from losing control of her emotions and letting her anger reign free by lashing out at her H and punishing him, and herself, over this breach. I am probably the very worst person in the world to talk to under these circumstances, because the pragmatist in me wonders why why she stays with someone she hates in these moments/periods of blind rage and why he continues to endure her wrath. I am at least as prone to guilt as the next person, but I have a very clear understanding that mistakes carry consequences.

Because I have not experienced this type of betrayal in a very long time and never on this scale, I am pretty clear on where my heart and mind are in this regard. M and I – were are simply not the type to cheat. And while I know probably everyone says that up until and maybe beyond the time they do cheat, I know myself. If circumstances created a situation where I wanted to be with someone else, I would be ending my marriage to pursue a new relationship. Maybe that makes me very shallow in depth of feeling and for not taking my marital commitments more seriously, but if I am that unhappy or dissatisfied with M and our relationship to the point of looking at someone else as a solution, the only thing left to do is announce my intention and engage the legal system to make it official.

But my pal’s anger – while understandable – is extraordinarily hard to cope with from a listening standpoint. After 16 months of listening, comforting, being supportive, offering practical suggestions (budgets, insurance, managing finances, employment, friends, family matters, etc.), having to hear that she’s suffered yet another backslide and was back to obsessively checking his phone, email, whereabouts, showing up at his office, calling/texting vitriolic and self-pitying rage, and then getting even angrier when he has to turn away to get some work done – it impacts me, loosens the foundation under negative girl’s confinement. I have set boundaries in the past, and they get blurred with time and periods of calm normality. I have to be more mindful of it and not let her problem evolve into my issue.

As I said, I am probably the worst friend ever in this regard. It’s been a very, very long time since anyone has cheated on me, and when it happened with a boyfriend, I ended the relationship and spent months wondering what was else was wrong with me that someone could treat me so poorly. He made a mistake, and there were consequences for both of us. But I have not experienced it with M, and quite probably I never will. Since I have no idea how she feels, as I am reminded fairly routinely when I reach the end of my rope and express my frustration about her behavior, I run out of hopeful or comforting things to say in reply during our conversations. My compassion is not infinite, my sympathy is far from endless, and she had known me long enough to know that at some point there is expectation that she will take steps to get some professional help when they hit the wall. In my opinion, she remains stuck and needs more help than I or any other friend or family member can provide. Yet my phone still rings to get together or for a general yak-fest as well as the “sky is falling and I am dying with rage” conversations.

I never want that sort of crap to seep into and stick with me to the point where I have my attitude so severely compromised I am back to timid mouse who is afraid to try to move forward. While it sounds exaggerated, it would only take a little careless relaxation and I would be back to only going to the gym for sessions with J or even bailing on my commitments with him. Negative girl – everything she does starts from a pool of insecurity and fear and she whispers relentlessly in my ear to maintain that status quo. I do not want to regress even a little bit to the point where I am afraid to go to the gym, afraid to try new things out of fear of failure and looking ridiculous in my attempts, afraid that I am the lazy, worthless idiot who is incapable.

I shudder thinking about those voices, those horrible, horrible words and phrases, the reactionary ways I would respond. I will not let anyone or anything send me back to that horrid place. Makes my stomach clench with anxiety just describing it here.

At Saturday’s practice, I could feel myself starting to loose my hold on current reality and backsliding. Fortunately TM has taught me to recognize the signs and understand my tipping points, where I stop my racing brain in its tracks and make a new plan. Where I resolve to speak up and ask for what I need – review day, please. Saturday there was a fair amount of trial and error in the cables, but there was also a  lot of unwelcome blank space and overthinking as well. Once I voiced what felt most appropriate, I instantly felt better, more in control of myself and my emotions. I finished my 4 sets of each block and had a good rest of the weekend.

Sunday morning I ended up doing a Bikram yoga class instead of pilates, a last-minute change based entirely on not feeling like pulling myself together for the 7:30 class. So I did Bikram at 9 instead, and it was satisfying to feel stronger and to enjoy that my ability to stand on one foot has improved so dramatically. I’m still pretty far from being a bendy person, but I am far more willing to try all the postures. It’s hot in there, everyone is dripping sweat on their mats and towels, and all around me others were demonstrating their lithe flexibility. But it was 90 minutes, then I could step out into the air conditioned lobby and from there to my air conditioned car, and go home and take a shower and rinse away all the sweaty and gross. I was smiling and thinking it was a great morning. Because it was. I could not make some postures work for me, and I fell out of others. But oh well. I tried. Anymore, if I can be sincere in my effort, I perceive myself as a happy success.

These days there is a lot of conversation about being “mindful” in our activities. Mindful in our exercise, mindful in our eating habits, and for me, now, mindful in our interactions with others. I am so frequently paying close attention to what they are saying to me and responding to it I forget negative girl is always assessing my weaknesses and looking for ways to creep back into my thoughts.

It is so easy to be distracted and derailed by a thoughtless comment that takes root in my brain. Staying focused is the best thing I can do for myself going through my Lists every day, and opening negative girl’s cage even a crack can have my whole mental and emotional world imploding like a house of cards. Having this new level of peace and mind and few genuinely tough moments in my days give me a false sense of assurance that I have her completely under control. And I don’t, not completely. Mostly, maybe – my confidence and my thinking are such much stronger and more positive. I just need to stay mindful and keep a firewall in place when interacting with the negative in my midst.

I am much better than I was a year ago in this regard. No matter how silly it seems to me in the moment, when it comes to my better health quest in general and training in particular, speaking up and voicing my concerns is always going to be the best choice. My lists have become like a long paper chain to better health, my relationship with trainer J a lifeline that keeps me honest in my intent and my efforts.

Nothing I have learned in the last year has been easy, natural, or even all that instinctive; everything started out as difficult in some big or small way. I still have my stable of nemesis exercises, those things that vex me for extended periods and require concentrated effort and LOTS of practice. But I keep working at it in small allotments when they are not on the List of the day and someday they will take their place on the long list of exercises where once I struggled mightily and now I succeed routinely. Training with J has burned the steps and cues into my head, and regular, consistent practice has made execution of Lists almost reflexive. I may still not love all of them, they are sometimes still  very difficult, but I do them anyway. Because they are on the List of the day. And because now, I can.

I f**king LOVE that part.

4 thoughts on “Training #47 – It’s a great day to be alive

  1. Sadly there are way to many bad people in this world. But knowing you since you started the whole exercise program I think you have done wonders! I am taking small steps to get there but am still amazed at how great you are doing. Plus just having you numbers come down is amazing. You have made all of these changes yourself with the help of J and of course M but I think you also deserve a huge cheer for all you have accomplished

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