Training #54 – The good stuff

Thursday morning, training with J. New stuff going on with us, because I just this week began an odyssey of online diet and exercise coaching with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky. While I am working with Dr. Spencer primarily for the nutrition aspect, he also provides a workout program for me. Since I discuss all things diet and exercise with J (and others as well) and keep him informed and up-to-date (aka overshared with *smile*) about all that is going on in my world, especially what affects training and health. To that end, he got a copy of my training plan from Dr. Spencer, and while the good doctor knows I plan to continue working with J and following his training plans, he was kind enough to include some basic workouts for me as well.

After reviewing Dr. Spencer’s plans, J thought it would be a good idea for us to go through the workout plans together and adapt them for me. Dr. Spencer is a weightlifter and some of the exercises he suggested are not yet for me at my present level of strength and knowledge. But J has adapted them somewhat for me, and today was our first venture into a 5 exercise block, where I do the 3 or 4 sets of exercises in a row before moving on to the next one. Very different than what we have been doing, and it took me a few minutes to realize that is what we are actually doing and kind of get the hang of how different it feels.

Something J did differently to adapt this for me is instead of having rest pauses in between sets he snuck in some other exercises in between the sets. We also talked about barbells – I am not sure how much those things weigh, but it seems like they are A LOT heavier than they actually look. No way would I get some wild hair to just go pick one up and use it on my own. J and I also discussed it, and he would not be comfortable turning me loose in the gym with that on a list to complete. So definitely we were already on the same page about it. As an aside, friend J was against the idea of me doing these workouts on my own without going through them with trainer J and actually learning how to do each exercise. My oh my how things changed once friend J decided my trainer was capable and trustworthy.

I gotta say, it’s different doing this weights stuff this way, treating each exercise and its series of reps and sets as an individual block rather than whole blocks of exercise reps as a single set. Not a thing wrong with it, just different. And the muscle fatigue feels very different as well. The way J has taught me up to this point, I seem to get a rest and recovery period on my shoulders while I am working the muscles on my chest. Then I return to the specific shoulder muscle, it feels more recovered than it did today. Today, while I did something else in between each set, I was still doing 4 sets of chest presses and tricep extensions and everything else pretty much right in a row. I know it sounds rather ridiculous, but it feels as if my muscles are much bigger now, a few hours after our training session concluded.

In my mind I was like the Incredible Hulk after this morning’s work, only without the green tint to my skin. And the really bad hair. And my pants are better, too, and my shirt did not split or anything else. Anyway, my arms, shoulders, back, chest all felt so supersize giant. In reality they are not supersize giant by any standard, but the way we feel and imagine is frequently an imperfect match to reality. Still lots and lots of fun. Plus one of the associates remarked my arms look like they have been to the gym today, so that was quite thrilling as well. Really, it is the littlest things.

When I think about and read back on these recaps, I am quite simply super excited about everything we do on training days – new stuff, teaching day, review day, mix-it-up and start over again. It’s kind of silly to be this ridiculously happy about training days after a year of working at it and 9 months of very consistent practices. But there are worse things in life than being silly about loving training days. After this much time, it seems to get better, be more interesting, more fun, and yeah, a unique kind of thrill and excitement. And that’s all very, very good. And no, I do not need to get a life; I have plenty of life, thank you very much. *laugh*

We were chatting this morning about my fan-girl reaction to other members’ successes. There is a powerlifting lady J has coached for a couple of years, and I feel as if I am silently stalking her on my periodic forays into Facebook. Same with another guy J works with on Tuesday and Thursday evenings – he does FB check-ins and it always makes me smile. I am probably the goofiest person in the entire chain, but oh well. I love seeing ordinary people achieving success and meeting their unique and very personal goals.

For me I learn something new every session, every practice. I see and feel myself making my slow and steady progress, inching forward every day, every week. When I got home and was telling M about the newest adventure in training, he was wondering if this is what I really wanted to do, the direction I want to go? M has not-so-secret reservations about me changing my mind one day and choosing to stop training and going to the gym, period, much less every day, which is warranted considering my checkered past with exercise. Even if this is the longest stretch I have ever gone with the daily workouts, M is personal witness to my prior erratic efforts in this realm.

Truth of the matter is, I don’t really much care much what J is teaching me this week, last week, or any week into the future; I have eventually liked it all. Sure there are things I dislike, or like significantly less than other stuff, but I cannot love everything. Even with the ongoing, rolling nemesis stable, I feel so terrific about my efforts and that I actually know, for sure, that I am trying my very best with real, sincere effort to improve. And succeeding, eventually. J’s confidence in my ability seems far greater than my own with new stuff, and I am truly understanding now that just because I’m not successful right out the gate with the lowest rep range does not mean I am an exercise failure. Maybe I cannot complete the rep range today, but I can do as much as I can and work up to it, and it continually amazes me how short that improvement period is when I practice. That is huge for me, setting aside my perfectionism and all-or-failure mindset.

So I reassure M that I love training days every so often, because I do enjoy it, and I do genuinely like the exercise more and more as the days pass. I like learning new techniques and ways of doing things, and I really do love feeling as if I am learning about all sorts of possibilities and methodologies for exercise. While I am doing this program with J on training days, the rest of the time my plan is to pursue mastery over days 1 to 4 Lists. Once we get through all Dr. Spencer’s workouts, I will (hopefully) have a better idea of how much, how often, how appropriate it is for me to pursue that or add it to my rotation of exercise. In the meantime, I’ll be doing days 1-4 Lists on my practice days for now, because I have a long way to go before feeling fully competent. Once J and I get around to reviewing those again, it may be time to increase weight ranges, or reps, or add sets, or chop them up and create something else.

I do not see myself getting stagnant or stalled or bored because I have run out of things to do in the gym. My personal iceberg is pretty ginormous and has a lot of geography and undiscovered country to explore.

And it is absolutely exhilarating to imagine.

So yeah, I’m a pretty happy person when I am in the gym these days. Lost in my own head much of the time, doing my List of the day. I see so many of the same faces every week, and it is good for me to feel comfortable and as if I blend well with the other members. That is big progress worthy of celebrating.

But what we actually did today:

A1. DB Bench Press (4 sets, 8-12 per set; set 1 = DBx2-15; sets 2-4 = DBx2-25)
A2. Stability Ball “Reach Up” Crunch (3 sets, 10-15 per set)
B1. DB Chest Flyes (4 sets, 8-12 per set; DBx2-15)
B2. Floor “Step Off” on DB (3 sets, 8-10 per side per set)
C1. DB Squeeze Press (4 sets, 8-12 per set; DBx2-15)
C2. Band Archer Rows (3 sets, 12-15 per side per set)
D1. Lying DB Triceps Extension (3 sets, 8-12 per set; DBx2-15)
D2. Bench “Step Throughs” (2 sets, 8-10 per side per set)
E1. Plank to Pushup Position (3 sets, 30-60 seconds per set)
E2. Easy Band Rows w/ Hold @ End (2 sets, 12-15 with 1-3 second hold)
F1. Easy Band Pull-aparts (1 set, 12-20)

The exercises in italics are J’s additions, because I am accustomed to a peppier pace without a lot of resting built in between sets. Not surprisingly it worked really well, and I can certainly use the extra practice with the step-offs and step-throughs. Both are new within the last month and are still vexing me in different ways. The rest of it is stuff I already knew and incorporated to complement the rest of this workout.

Those plank to push-up position? O.M.G.! HARD!!! Rather than timing them J suggested doing 6 per set, and then breaking those 6 down into mini sets of 2 with rest pauses. That worked, and I have grand plans to increase it to mini sets of 3 with rest pauses next, but OMG! Did I mention they are HARD?? I was not sure what was worse – the way my chest/shoulders/triceps began to wail or the planking in my abs. I did better once I got the hang and rhythm of the mini sets, but dang, those things may challenge the single-leg cable RDL for the arch nemesis position. The band rows to stretch between sets of those evil monsters worked wonders. The first set I felt like my arm/shoulder/chest muscles all seized and failed at once and I could not quite articulate what was wrong. Yep, me, struck sort of speechless while I’m rubbing my arm and shoulder and saying it was my chest muscle. It was everything. The stretching helped enormously.

The more time that passes, the more I realize this is not just me waking up slowly and realizing my body does this, that, the other thing. Change began the day I decided to hire a trainer, then followed through, and then forced myself to stick with it. The first few months were hard; sometimes it’s still a huge challenge to drag myself out of bed at 3:45 to get to the gym by 5. But while body feels good to run through the List of the day, mind feels better, sharper, clearer. Body barely notices if we go to pilates on Sunday or sleep in and putz around without doing much of anything, whereas mind starts to have something akin to a nervous breakdown and negative girl rattles her saber inside her box. Body is very chill about unexpected schedule changes or rest days, whereas mind is breathing into paperbags and trying not to freak out, imagining the sky falling and remembering those first brutal days of learning to exercise and how painful that whole process and therefore not wanting to stop for anything now.

My better health quest has healed my mind as much as repaired and drawn me back away from the edge of the diabetes. It is so surprising and so unexpected I continually remark upon it, I know. But I am a different person than I was a year ago, and I still cannot quite connect the dots on when or how it truly happened. As in so many things, it is a process, one for which I am grateful to have discovered and embraced.

TM used to suggest that getting more exercise would benefit me. He has a whole sheaf of studies at his disposal about the benefits of regular exercise on depression, anxiety, and a host of other psychological issues people face and struggle to overcome. He used to joke that if he wrote me a prescription to take a 30 minute walk daily would it inspire me to take it more seriously? Unfortunately, no. I know better now.

But like everything, one must be ready to make the commitment to change to make it work, make it stick. This was obviously my time to begin this pursuit, and I’m grateful. While I may be mildly freaking out my friends with their imaginings of me doing unsafe things on my own in the gym, I know they would much rather have their anxiety spike than have me not pursuing this as readily and as seriously as I have been.

And if J wins the lottery tomorrow or relocates to Dubai, I now know what I want and what I need in a trainer. Granted, he has ruined me for anyone else, but at least I know that in advance and will not waste my time or any other less skilled trainer’s time.

And somewhere in Santa Barbara, RD is reading this and likely doing a face palm. Because in the short time he has been away, I seem to have fallen apart a bit with the diet.

Nope, not eating crap, swigging soda, doing all sorts of Very Bad Things with food. My meal plan is flexible and pretty simple – eat more protein, to the tune of 45% of my calories, with the other 25% from carbs and 35% from fat. This is not far off the mark from what RD and I have had endless discussions over. However, I have had 2, almost 3 overnight blood sugar crashes this week since I began buckling down, planning meals, tracking food, etc. You know, all that happy stuff I kind of hate but suck it up and deal with anyway? Why RD is probably banging his head against the desktop is because we had talked about the importance of not only what I eat but when I eat it, particularly in the evenings. And I have not paid enough attention to the carb sources or amount of food in the evenings, resulting in the overnight lows.

So after just 4 days I am kind of falling apart and revamping my meal planning. For whatever reason, I thought I was past this part. Nope. Maybe I never get past this part. Maybe forever I am having to think about my evening meals and ensuring I am consuming enough of the right types of food. There are worse things … like insulin. Yep, I can learn to pay attention and take better care of my sleep.

If I could do it and go to sleep, I’d probably be slamming a protein shake before bed. But it tends to energize me so I to reserve protein shakes for before practices and training sessions and now for mid afternoon energy slumps. J suggested adding berries to the protein powder, and I have discovered frozen strawberries with chocolate protein powder makes this fabulously delicious treat-like thing. I am probably going to hope for a mid afternoon slump every single day because it tastes so yummy. New plan is to move carbs from earlier in the day and add them into dinner, which will hopefully keep my sugar at a sustainable level through the night.

Eating just sucks sometimes.

It was so much easier when I was taking insulin, because then I would just take less of it and problem would be resolved. Since I am still not understanding why I am suddenly dropping it’s a big mystery. But I will revamp and revert to following RD’s initial advice and see what happens. And in the bigger picture, I’d much rather mix-and-match my meal planning than return to taking diabetes management drugs.

Also, the Dr. Spencer has asked me if I have had my thyroid checked recently, and in truth I have not since starting up with Kaiser. I did ask my Kaiser doc to order the blood tests as part of my check-in checkup this month, so hopefully I’ll find out soon if that’s potentially become a bigger issue. Former endocrinologist was watching thyroid nodules via annual ultrasound, but at the rate I’m going I’ll be back with him before it’s time to have another. We shall see what the labs reveal.

Because of my middle-of-the-night sugar crash, I did not get blood drawn this morning as planned. I am so aggravated about that. It’s hard for me to practice on a completely empty stomach, so I either go get the labs done and then go to the gym or I reschedule practice to later in the day or skip it completely. Fingers and toes crossed I can stay stable tonight and get it done tomorrow, because I am eager to get this part done. And I will have to overcome my ansty feeling about missing a morning practice or, heaven forbid! Take a rest day.

Hear that sound? That faint, stifled scream of “noooooo!” That’s mind rebelling against the thought. Mind is completely addicted and refuses to admit it or accept that it might require an intervention. We shall just have to get through tonight and see what tomorrow’s schedule brings. Friday night yoga is definitely a go, and maybe mind will be mollified with just that. Maybe.

Training was glorious, so much fun. Even M loves training days, because I come home happy and full of “I did [insert new and exciting development here] today!” Whether it’s bumping the weights or increasing the reps or simply not staying collapsed in a soggy heap on the mat, there is always something really good from every session. Practice days I come home in an upbeat mood, unless something irritating has happened, but training days I always have something to say about all that we did.

And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing. Just ask M. As long as I come home from the gym in my now typical upbeat mood, his happy wife/happy (running) life is safe and secure.

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