Thursday morning, training with J. And it was destined to be a fun one, just because anymore it is always a fun one. But this was an extra fun one, because I was in an exceptionally cheerful mood. Then we got started, and my exceptionally cheerful mood became exceptionally cheerful mood working very hard and with sweat dripping onto the floor. But, I didn’t care. I was working hard and enjoying every single second of it.

Review day, with the lower body sequences. All that we covered today

  • Full Squats (DB Optional)
  • Lower Body Inchworm
  • Squat Jumps
  • Step Ups (single leg)
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Alt Lateral Lunge w/ Reach
  • Stiff Legged DB Deadlifts off Box
  • Stability Ball Leg Curls
  • Curtsy Lunges w/ Floor Touch
  • 1-legged Glute Bridges
  • 1-legged DB Asymmetrical Split Squat
  • DB Sumo Squats
  • Anterior Reaches
  • Mini Band Swinging Hip Abductions

J added a couple of new things, with the full squats and the inchworm. The inchworm is a good alternative for replacing the burpee in the pilates class I have been attending, as my brain is having some sort of fear-based block on the burpees. Hopefully I can either grow some courage and get busy trying or trick my head into relinquishing its death-grip paralysis that will not let me even ry. I hate the way not trying makes me feel, so I substitute and have been doing squat jumps and/or pushups instead.

While I was there and the only party dripping in sweat doing the work, I was looking at this List and thinking … did I really do all that? I did, because I was particularly happy with a couple of things. The curtsey lunges are another exercise that has been overlapping in the pilates class and causing some confusion. In class she stresses and cues different things, has a different approach, and to me it feels and looks more like a cross between a split squat and a traverse lunge. The way J does them and what he has taught me is different, and if I ignore her cues and labels, I do much better just going with and doing what I know how to do. J’s approach leads to a deeper contraction in the outer hip and no issues with the front knee, whereas the way the pilates instructor does it feels more like a really awkward hybrid squat to me. Going forward, sticking with what I know and the way that I learned them in the first place is going to ultimately be best for me.

I like the pilates teacher, and she continually emphasizes going at our own pace, doing what we can do with each series. My first love remains the resistance exercise and training, as it has taken me so far in terms of health improvement and progress. J’s methodology and coaching have served me well, so if I simply ignore pilates cueing and follow my own instincts and training I will always be better off. There will also not be any lingering confusion when I get back to my own Lists.

My exercise evolution continues. The last few weeks I have been working toward a loose system of List rotation so each week I pursue a practice that results in a shirt-drenched, sweat-dripping experience, something that includes a lot of squats and/or walking lunges. In my experience thus far those are the fastest, surest ways to get my heart rate elevated, and since I am rather hit-and-miss with cardio, I can at least comfort myself with I have done something in that regard each week. I do like the challenge of today’s leg sequences as a stand-alone workout, in the same way that I love the Abel 30 sequence (leg press, walking lunges, sumo squats, hamstring curls); it’s challenging and my legs are so satisfyingly fatigued by the end of the sets.

My fancy-smancy heart rate monitor tracks things like how much time I spend in each of the training zones, and these lower body workouts put me pretty squarely in zone 2 (130 to 139 bpm) at least 50% of the time with spikes into zone 3 (140 to 140 bpm) and the rest in zone 1 (120 to 129 bpm). Regular full body resistance training kind of wanders between 70% in zone 1 and 30% in zone 2. I do not obsess over such measurements, but I do give the readings a cursory and curious look when I remove it to charge. It has been intriguing to see the fluctuations up and down each day. Mostly I continue with the heart rate monitor for M’s benefit; for awhile there he was very concerned about my blood sugar crashing. Now he just likes to see it, to know, because runners seem to live and die by these things.

Regular full body Lists are productive for me, and anymore I find myself pushing to complete 4 sets of each block when it is List of the day. When I am pursuing sequences, it is 3 sets of each sequence, then practicing things in my exercise nemesis stable if I have time afterwards. Time tends to rule anymore, and while I am trying to keep pace and cadence brisk, my warm-up and List of the day typically swallows the 90 minutes I allot.

I can feel myself finding a nice groove, and as I remarked to J a couple of weeks back – so many Lists, so few practice days. But it makes me prioritize and rotate. I am feeling more brave and more comfortable about stepping outside my comfort room and into the gym at large for the cables and the leg press machine. The feeling of missing something, forgetting things, anxiety about not practicing … those emotions have faded away. In my head there are things I need to work at, work on, because they give me grief in some way. The difference now is that I know from experience that time, practice, and patience will smooth out the learning curve and get the job done; there is no reason to panic or think I am about to wash out of exercise training school. It is impossible for me to forget the weeks and months I worried about that happening, and how it was a big part of the spark that made me get busy and become consistent about my gym practice. For so many reasons I hope I never do forget those feelings; it keeps me honest and grounded in reality. Besides, if I allowed my head to swell like that it would suffocate J and anyone else in the gym with me.

The recent A1c results remind me why I go to the gym 6 days per week, pilates or yoga on Sunday, trying for a yoga class on Friday nights as well. Success has not come overnight, but it sure has happened far faster than I ever anticipated was possible. Now to maintain it, keep those medications far away from my personal daily business of living. No matter how hard it is occasionally to drag myself out of bed with the alarm, the inconvenience of getting up and ready to head out the door for the gym or the yoga studio is nothing compared to the way I felt managing my diabetes with drugs. The rare days I am tempted to blow off my exercise I think about that latest A1c result and what it has taken to get here, what it will take to maintain it.

Believe me, these days my worst day at the gym is far better than the range of emotions I felt every time I injected myself with insulin. That I decide in advance there is no bad day at the gym or in pilates or yoga anymore – I realize I have come so far in my attitude as well as my ability. I am not-so-secretly pretty proud of myself for getting this far in my better health quest. Being pretty proud of myself? That’s a good kind of different as well.

I am not a special snowflake who gets a pass on having to be super strict with myself about exercise and watch my diet more carefully (still working at adopting a more favorable methodology toward food; it will happen). None of us are entitled to be healthy just because we hate exercise or restricting ourselves from the sugar/fat/salt we may prefer to eat. There are people out there with far worse health issues, things that cannot be cured or even controlled with lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes – this is where I truly feel some lingering conflict. Before I was ready to make changes to my own, I rarely to never complained about my health, other than being tired or incapable of doing things that M likes to do. That said, I have never been someone who guilted M into staying home and vegging on the couch with me. Now that I am slowly and surely stepping up my own efforts to improve my physical health, it is more of a challenge to hear the complaints whining concerns from others who are struggling and/or suffering. Lifestyle changes remain just out of reach because of constraints on their time, or finances, or ability right now. Fear, anxiety, depression, or some combination of those conditions. Non-supportive partner or family members. They are surrounded by enablers and saboteurs. Okay, I get all that – been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

And believe me, I have shredded the t-shirt and set it on fire in the last several months.

Thing is, I am not a professional trainer or therapist or medical professional of any kind, paid in some manner to try and motivate others to change their habits. Mostly I am someone who cares about others, even if I don’t know them all that well. I simply like it much better when people are not miserable or feeling like crap; I have had too many of those days myself. But I would either rather not talk about the ongoing misery and unhappiness continuously. I would love to hear about taking even the tiniest steps toward feeling better. I know all too well how about the a 1-step forward/2-steps back dance and how hard it is to stand up and get started.

Thing is, I am very slowly learning that no matter what I say to be supportive, encouraging, or helpful, some folks there is always another excuse, another reason, another “yes, but …” statement coming forth. Analysis paralysis? I understand that as well. And this is a very broad, very general statement on my part; I know there are lots of folks out there just like me doing their best, trying hard. They fall over, they fall down, they get frustrated. They look at their Lists, they review their cues, they muddle through imperfectly. But they get back up, they try again. And again. And again. And no matter how boring it is to fall down, fall over, get frustrated so repeatedly with the same vexing Lists, it gets better.

I wish that was something that could be bottled and given away, the spirit that it gets better. Not everyone is going to fall in love with exercise, want to become better, seek out new challenges and skills; I am continually surprised that it has happened for me. But to just get past the frustration of not getting it, not getting better, having to teach ourselves to forget that we are in a public place and moving awkwardly and unnaturally. Or trying to learn something new and mysterious.

It gets better. Not necessarily easier, but better.

Just thinking these thoughts, writing them down here, I have renewed respect for the job J performs, how much shit he has put up with from me and quite probably many of his other clients. Makes me think I need to write an email to TM and thank him, again, for hanging in and hanging on with me, through months and years of my metaphorical kicking and screaming into better mental and emotional health. And RD, the fabulous RD, still hanging in with me and helping me figure out food. It’s a slow slog, but progress happens and inches forward.

Food is not exactly the final frontier, but sometimes it certainly feels like it. Thinking about it today, I realize how many things I like and/or love and have voluntarily moved them into the off-limits food list. Maybe not forever, but definitely right now, until I can gain some mastery and control and restraint with them. Maybe eventually they get to return to the special occasions pile, but never again as pantry staples. There are the obvious things – candy, cookies, ice cream, donuts, other sugary delights. Then there are things like crackers, bread, pasta, and most recently – even my beloved cheerios. Even though I don’t eat them often or add any sugar, I threw out the last couple of servings about a month ago. And with the cold cereal went milk, and with the milk went coffee. Jelly was on the cut list awhile back, but peanut butter recently joined it. I love peanut butter.

Coffee did return on a much less frequent scale and now mixed with protein powder or an amino energy powder that M found.

Looking in our refrigerators and pantry this morning, I suddenly realized we have done a pretty good job of overhauling our eating habits. Our fridges presently have a few dozen eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, bag of shredded cheese, lots of condiments and more variety of hot sauces, bbq sauces, and salsas than it seems like a single empty nest couple should actually possess, especially since I do not eat hot sauce or salsa. There are also bottles of water, cans of sparking water and grape juice (for emergency low sugar occasions), sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts. Looking in our pantry, we have more bbq and hot sauces, beans, cans or jars of soup, fruits, beans, vegetables, peanuts. There are boxes of tea bags, coffee pods, stevia, granola/nut/protein bars, and chicken broth. We have bags of protein powder, oatmeal, sugar (for hummingbird nectar), some miscellaneous baking ingredients, and corn chips (M and his salsa and guacamole). Freezer has frozen vegetables and fruits, chicken, salmon, ground beef, ice and blue ice for coolers.

Quite a difference from just a few months ago. I would clean out the pantry resolving to not purchase more crap food, but then a box of crackers would sneak in, or a bag of cookies. Not anymore and not recently. M will occasionally succumb to the urge for a particular type of seed crackers he enjoys, but no saltines or pretzels or snacking crackers, and definitely no cookies. Ugh. Cookies – our downfall. Other than the corn chips, I cannot remember the last time we had potato chips or the like in the house.


Thinking about all that, I feel better about my eating habits, that I have made improvements over the last several months. I never saw myself giving up milk, but if I am not eating cereal or putting it in coffee, I have no real need for milk. Cereal was hard, but it has a lot of sugar and is mostly gratuitous carbs. Pasta we mostly eat in restaurants anymore, and I miss crackers only when eating soup, which is fairly rare for me. My protein bars are the final holdout in indulgences, being higher in fat than I like at 19g, but at 190 calories and only 6g sugar and 10g protein, they are a much better choice than reaching for a candy bar to satisfy that craving.

Like my exercise efforts, overhauling my eating habits is not happening overnight or even particularly quickly. But I remind myself I am putting forth consistent effort at many small changes. My A1c is down and I am far healthier than I was a year or even 6 months ago. That’s huge. That’s what matters most.

And finally, today’s blog title.

For the second week in a row, I handed J a nice bottle of scotch, part of a thank you from friend J for training program recommendations rendered. I was apparently supposed to give this to him last week with the other, but friend J was clear as mud in his instructions on the matter. Years ago, when this song was popular, it came on the radio while I was driving an extremely intoxicated friend J home after a holiday party. Even though neither friend nor trainer J appreciate (much less enjoy) Garth Brooks, I love the memory and it seemed applicable to the very fun last couple of days.

Happy Thursday everyone!

2 thoughts on “Training #48 – Friends in low places

  1. Great recap. I am so f-ing proud of you. Garth Brooks? Garth f-ing Books? You couldn’t find a better drinking song?

    1. Possibly, probably … but that song is attached to a really special memory! That was the year you vomited on the Santa Claus lawn ornament. Be glad, very glad, there were no smart phones or cell phone cameras in those days. 🙂

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