Thursday morning, training with J. Hard to believe, but today marks 1 year exactly since our initial consultation. It seems so much longer, like dog years longer. And I truly do mean that in the nicest, most celebratory way possible. In fact, I looked back through the archives to see if I wrote anything about our initial consultation and of course I wrote an entire recap of our meeting. It is kind of hilarious and endearing to me now. If ever I doubt my authenticity on this blog, I merely need to look back and read this little snapshot in all its glory. The contrast between 6/30/2015 and today is so amazingly stark how far I have come since that first meeting. From there, to here – I could not envision it or imagine it. But as the title of this post states, there is no place that far.
I almost hesitate to say this, but I believe J has evolved as a trainer as well. I touched upon it last week, and with more I have thought about it, I recognize it is true and appropriate. It strikes me that I should not be surprised at all; just a random scan through the internet and I see the debates that rage over health and fitness concerns, what’s best, what’s most effective, etc. J follows a good portion of that stuff. He has found new coaches and trainers whose philosophy and methodology he admires and incorporated that into his own dialog and workout preparation with clients. That even I, lowly client, can discern the difference says much about his dedication and continuing education efforts with his craft. As I have grown fitter and more competent with my exercise, it has become easier to recognize and understand that things I read and that we discuss each week.
In my own journey from day 1 to now, a lot has changed. My diabetes is well controlled without medication, which is huge; I could easily stop writing right now and be taking a victory lap. Fitness is improved, remarkably; I am stronger and more competent. Confidence has soared. I am a more relaxed, happier, well-rounded individual.
I can say with absolute honesty that I would have never come so far all on my own. M wholeheartedly agrees that hiring J has been one of the best decisions I have made, because I have not only stuck with it, I have found some untapped resource within me that is emerging and finding voice, becoming more powerful and potentially obnoxiously loud in it’s diet and exercise proselytizing. Yep, it has been transformative. My outlook has improved dramatically, and I thought I was generally in a pretty good headspace most of the time. I am more confident and move through my world with a more sure-footed stance. Before I knew I had insecurity issues, and even now I turn away from the mirrors in the gym unless I have to watch for something specific, but I’m not so fearful anymore. I have my stable of nemesis exercises and my arch nemesis, but that list rotates. I get better at something, J introduces something new, an exercise drops off, another exercise is tacked on to this List. What I know now is that at some point in the future I will get better. Maybe it’s a coordination or a bendy issue, or strength, or overcoming fear, or that I need to drop weight from my frame to make it all come together. Possibly it is all of the above. Guilt or shame are far flung emotions now. There are things I have been working on since month 1 – pushups come to mind – that I still struggle with and work at regularly in hopes of perfecting someday. I am improving, and I do try. Sometimes I feel like I give up too soon, that I’m not pushing until I’m puking, but that’s just me – I hate puking. I do not think my avoidance of vomiting makes my efforts any less sincere. Counting? Maybe. There are things I dislike or when fatigue sets in that makes me lazy-crazy on rep counts. I am aware of this tendency and trying to develop more discipline.
But … onto actual training day. Our List today:
- Incline DB Press
- Bench Alt Step Offs
- Alt DB Curls
- Alt Chopper Sit Ups
- Flat Bench Chest Flyes
- Full Sit Outs (or any variation)
- DB Alt. Hammer Curls
- Leg Climbs or any Crunch Variation
- 1-arm DB Snatch from Hang/Split
- Stability Ball “hang n bang” Laterals
- Band Horizontal Hip Rotations
- Standing Contralateral Knee to Elbow Crunch
- Seated DB Shoulder Press
- DB Bent Over Laterals
- DB RDLs
- Plank off DBs
The bigger toe in the water of core/ab work has just escalated to an entire foot up to the knee. And it’s okay – no complaints here. I understand the importance of core work and know how difficult it is for me as an individual. Either I am a supreme anomaly in my own special snowflake-ness (hey, it could happen) or I lack understanding of other people’s expectations about doing core work. I have gotten a fair number of questions from friends over the course of the last year about doing sit-ups, planking, core work, and almost all of them were surprised at how J was teaching me lots and lots about everything else but core work. And that has been fine, a good strategy on his part to slowly lull me in with successes in other areas before tacking this more challenging and potentially frustrating aspect of training.
I mean, who does not wish for flat stomachs and awesomely impressive abs? But being really grounded in my regular person-hood, I completely understand my lack of commitment and dedication to restructuring my body to some unrealistic fitness model standards. That whole married, jobs, friends things tends to keep such pursuits our of reach for me, because if I were to venture down that road, I would evolve into a much more cranky, harried, anti-social, self-absorbed (even more to my present “it’s all about me!” ways), and generally unpleasant version of myself. Nope, I am very satisfied to delighted with the slow and steady changes that have happened for me.
All over the gym there are these ab tables to assist with crunches and doing them correctly, and just this morning, under J’s watchful eye, I found myself wondering if I was perceiving potential low backaches in reality or projecting them into the future from the act of doing sit-ups. In truth it was a bit of both – I needed to slow my descent down to engage the abs versus the low back. I already know I know this, from numerous other things we have done through the months. But it is so easy to forget when I add back the context of the long history of doing sit-ups incorrectly.
More pilates classes and working at these things is
likely the only way to strengthen my core to the point I can do the rep range J has listed on the List; I do not think a core transplant is available just yet. Maybe there will come a day when I have become so accustomed to doing them that they will not fill my chest with dread, resignation, and determination to make myself do as many as I can with good form. I am in a stable mental place that says I do not have to like everything, but everything on every List is there for a reason and should be practiced regularly. Obviously that works much better for my motivation than believing I have a character flaw that precludes me from being successful.
Looking at what we did this morning, it was not as super high-energy exciting as other things, but it was still pretty damn wonderful all the same. I like teaching/review days; anymore I love the simple act of trying out new things. This core stuff is like visiting a foreign country, with its own language and customs. There are so many little nuances with each new thing – am I “planked” straight, what are my arms doing, slow and controlled, etc., etc., etc. Retreating to perfectionism is merely just another excuse to not try to become competent and then good and better at each thing, and I am resisting the allure of negative girl’s desire to make me fall down that way.
I can typically tell how successful a workout is for me if I can feel the pull of the gym and opportunities to try things again, and this one has grown on me in those ways. Tomorrow may be all about last week’s arms and upper body List, but I am looking forward to Saturday and giving this another try.
So many Lists, so few practice days.
Thinking this week about lifestyle changes with exercise, I did some casual research about the impacts it has on mental and emotional health. I know there is evidence that exercise has a positive impact on mental and emotional balance, but I have never actually looked at or read much on the topic other than the casual internet snippets meants to encourage clicks or sell products and services. Now that I can honestly say what an amazing impact it has had on me, of course I wonder what took me so long to get off my ass and get busy. Where the research tends to lose me – it says that even small or moderate amounts of exercise may have an impact. I am not calling bullshit on that – it is quite likely true for some people or even segments of the population. I am calling bullshit on small or moderate amounts of exercise having an impact on ME. As much as anyone, I am a creature who desires instant gratification for my efforts. Taking a 30 minute walk a few days per week did nothing for my overall health or mood when I tried it, and I understand it is as likely as not that I did not invest enough time into the process to allow it to work. It did take me a few months to get into the consistency part of exercise once I started, but even only working with J once a week and sporadic practice between sessions I felt a little better about the effort. Not quite enough to try to set aside my gym crazy, but something.
With the potential for the zeal of the born again, I have taken to encouraging my friends who are crying at my kitchen table (or in my text, email, voicemail, phone) to try to step up and outside their current distress to get some exercise. There are half-hearted agreements that I am right, it would be good, and then a litany of excuses. I completely understand; left to my own devices I am an absolute excuse factory when in avoidance mode. There are also things I am not trained to fully understand – depression, anxiety, other emotional or mental health disorders. The urge to seek out easy distraction as relief is huge. When M was working it was a big part of life and our budget to be doing something, anything to put as much distance between the workweek ended and the workweek beginning. In that frame of mind, no one really wants to put themselves through the painful steps of physical exertion in hopes it makes their heart and head feel better. I know all too well how much I did not want to, only now that I have felt the difference, I am definitely a huge fan.
It has become strange, almost surreal to be me, adopting and adapting and making healthier, smarter lifestyle choices, and then to have friends look at me as if I have it easier somehow because I am now fitter than they are and can exercise without embarrassment or discomfort. The mere thought of exercising without embarrassment or discomfort because of my present fitness limitations makes me laugh, although there is truly nothing funny about that perception. I stumble, bumble, struggle through a yoga class each week. I go through pilates on Sundays wondering at least a dozen times in the hour why this is so hard. Yet in both cases I am back there again trying and impatiently awaiting the day it becomes less arduous. Ask me any day of the week you find me at the gym and I will give you a long, comprehensive list of what I am struggling to complete and everything else I feel could be improved in my work on the List of the day. Just because I have convinced myself no one notices what I do in the gym does not mean I have any less potential for embarrassment or discomfort; I have simply adapted to being there and try to blend with the furniture.
That said, I recognize and remember the huge efforts expended on simply implementing a choice to get up and try to do some exercise-like activity for ourselves. I wish I had answers on how to overcome it, because my responses of “prioritize the time and do what you can” land like a lead balloon.
There are no simple solutions, because if there were, I feel certain I would have heard at least whispers of it in my wanderings and reading. There is no one-size-fits-most exercise prescription, and my Lists may or may not work for anyone else. But that’s okay; I would never suggest someone take out what we did today and jump up from the couch and try to give it a go after years of sedentary habits. J would be a lousy trainer if he tried to get me to do this last summer; it has taken a lot of time, patience, and interaction with me to understand my capacity to learn and ability to do this stuff. My Lists do have some overlap as well, which I like. There are things on this new one that may be on several others, but it’s paired with different exercises and blocks and it seems all new somehow. Boredom is not really an option when I look at my library of exercises and the various workouts available to me.
I know not everyone has the luxury of personal training or even a gym membership, but it’s not really a requirement to choosing movement. Through the years I have heard from every doctor I have seen that getting 30 minutes of walking 3 or 4 days per week can have a profound effect on overall health. But until I was ready to actually do that, I ignored their advice and suggestions as well. I am not taking it personally, but I am growing weary of being asked for quick and easy ideas to kickstart exercise jumping-off points. Sorry, I don’t know any. All I know for sure is that I am now allotting 2 hours of gym time on non-training days to ensure I can get everything I want to get done done. My efficiency factor with this stuff, especially the new stuff, is kind of low right now.
And while I am currently not very efficient with the Lists, I have found something to be most proud of myself for in the last year: I have learned how to manage my expectations for this process. For every success I have enjoyed, there are at least a few other things where I continue to struggle to master. And I came to realize that is okay, that the only person who expected more, better, faster results was me. The no goals, no competition, no race to finish mindset has done wonders for me. I realized last night that for the first time in my life, I am actually very proud of myself and what I have managed to learn and achieve in this realm (exercise) in the last year. J, RD, TM have all participated and done their job in teaching, directing, overseeing aspects of my moving forward, but I am the one who had to do the actual heavy lifting and practicing to make it stick. It is a strange new world for me, being proud of myself, and a place where I am still squirming and taking off, trying on with different accessories to ensure it actually suits me. Like everything else, this is also a process.
Every week M runs canyons with one of his regular buddies. When our paths crossed this morning she was marveling at how much time I am spending in the gym, and being a nurse, she was curious about what results I have achieved. Other than controlling my diabetes, of course. I was really gobsmacked by that, but at 4 in the morning, I am not typically at my most awake and sharpest. After a long pause and probably uncomfortable silence, I told her I really had little else to show for it as yet, but I fully expected something big to happen to me sometime soon.
I think at 4 in the morning she is not at her sharpest and most tactful, either. But runners – different mindset, different priorities, different measuring sticks. I get it. I don’t really like it, but I get it. And these days, it bothers me less and less. Our priorities and our focus are different, and my give a shit about what they think is offline, possibly permanently. If M ever thought much less said such a thing out loud to me, his “happy wife, happy life” existence would be vaporized in an instant and he knows it.
Fortunately I am in a not-taking-offensive mood as well. She’s actually a nice, direct, forthright sort of person, and I do not believe she realizes exactly how her question came across to me. I am not hurt or offended, more bemused by what she was actually trying to ask me without coming right out and asking me.
The day took a stranger turn in the afternoon, when I realized that after a few hours at my desk typing and working rather intently on a short-fuse project that I had this terrible stiffness in my neck and weird ache/pain on the top of my shoulders. We had an ergonomics specialist in the office reviewing our set-ups a few weeks ago as part of our workers’ compensation policy and they had recommended some changes to my desk set-up, including changing my chair and rearranging my desk and monitor setup. That all happened on Monday, and while they were there I expressed reservations – they had lowered both my monitors several inches – but the ergo guy assured me this would be better for the way and type of work I do. I honestly believe he’s wrong. When I went home that night I felt some tension across my shoulders and in my wrist. Tuesday I worked from home and was fine, yesterday I came home after 9 hours with tightness across my upper back and shoulders and particular ache in my mousing arm. Felt fine this morning before training, and then had the worst yet neck and shoulder pain, so much so that I texted J to ask if we possibly did anything this morning that would have such an impact. Just in case there was pushback questions from anyone, I wanted to be ready with answers.
Conversation with the bosses had me coming home mid-afternoon and planning to work from home tomorrow, since the ergo guy is not going to be able to get out there until next Tuesday. Bosses agreed that I cannot work this way, especially since one had expressed concerns that I was hunched over my desk and staring at my monitors. The hunching was what the new set-up was supposed to alleviate; I feel as if I can trace all my shrug challenges to the type of work I do and how much time I must spend at my desk and computer.
After consulting with J, who suggested light upper body work or leg days the next couple of days or perhaps even a rest day. In my mind if it is bad enough to mention to him and ask an opinion, it’s something out of the ordinary, yet I am of course reluctant to give up a practice day. However, saner heads prevailed after I got home and finished my work day. If my neck and/or shoulders feel stiff or achey in the morning, I will take the day off and do leg day on Saturday or Sunday as it plays out. But if everything seems normal in the morning, I’ll go ahead and pursue a leg day tomorrow and play it by ear on Saturday. That seems the fairest, most reasonable course of action to balance my gym addiction with common sense.
But as of right now, I feel fine again. I have not resorted to taking an Aleve or Motrin for it, so I suspect I am right on the office desktop not being correct for me.
In other news, I am starting up a new meal planning and eating program next week. I loathe the word “diet” and all its negative connotations, so I try not to use it except in the most generic, all-encompassing let’s-talk-food sense of the word. That will probably trigger another series of weekly posts, as this is scheduled to be a formal meal planning, tracking, weekly check-in sort of thing. I love, Love, LOVE RD, and he has done so much for me, but I cannot and will not burden him with my small ball food stuff while he starts a new job and in a new city, even if he assures me all the time it’s not a big deal. Uh huh. Until it is. Until I have some freakout over Pandora’s Pantry or wedding cake (we have 3 weddings in July and August plus G and K in September) and blow up his text. Nope, going to try something different and see how that works out for me. My first meal plan and suggested exercise guidance should be arriving tomorrow or over the weekend. Timing is good, because we seem to be pretty much out of food. I did our typical refrigerator purge last night for garbage day and the fruits and vegetable drawers are pretty close to empty. I find the whole real food cooking thing causes me to shop and replenish ingredients on a more regular schedule. We have also had a fair number of visitors this summer and my grocery shopping all out of whack.
All in all, has been a fantastic day. The more I contemplate this morning, the more I am anticipating getting back and trying this week’s List again, although it might be next week to be safe and sane about it. Injury is my biggest, most recurring fear anymore, and I am better off falling safely on the side of caution rather than pushing and truly hurt something that will sideline me for longer than just a day.