Thursday morning, training with J. We are on the legs section of Dr. Spencer’s workout plan for me, and J made quite a few modifications based on my present level of experience and ability. It was probably 50% teaching day and 150% hard working day. But so wonderful all the same.

Anymore, there are certain patterns and expectations that come with training days. These behaviors and events are so automatic I only notice when something unusual happens and they fail to occur. As an example, I have some ongoing low-level obsession worry concern about being late for our appointments, so I will double or triple check my alarm the night before to ensure it is set on the right time. Then I will wake up at least an hour before the alarm and check the time to ensure I have not overslept and  already running late. I start to get anxious if I am not leaving my house 40 to 45 minutes before our scheduled start time to ensure I have adequate warm-up time. No matter how tired or not into it I may feel when I arrive at the gym, I know I will have a great time and a grand session with J and come home with mind broadcasting positive thoughts and body pondering which muscle worked the most productively. After training, if I do not say anything to him I will receive a text from friend J within 30 minutes to an hour after training asking about what we did, how it went. And if the recap is not up by 7 p.m. PST, I will be getting texts from at least 2 east coast friends wondering if I am going to post it soon so they can read before sleep.

Every Monday, every Thursday. It is rare for us to switch training days, but it very occasionally happens, and the rest of the tribe following along closely gets confused. Then I get a lot of “no recap today?” texts and emails. It is kind of fun and amusing; I am such a creature of habit even my friends become accustomed to my posting schedule and are thrown off when anomalies happen.

When I think about it, I am truly humbled that I have friends who are so interested and invested in what I am doing every week that they take the time to inquire directly about how it went or to let me know they are waiting to read my posts. My peeps care, are concerned, and have become the biggest and best cheering section and more than it feels as if I may deserve. I do not give them enough credit for their part in getting me this far, from someone who hates exercise to someone who looks forward to the daily challenges and the List of the day. Truly, without their ongoing support, encouragement, and interest in my activities the journey would be far less meaningful and solidified as it has been for me. With them, I am a lot more of something and trying harder to stay the course of continuous improvement.

I am very fortunate in this regard. Not everyone has what I enjoy – a supportive husband, terrific adult children, and a bunch of really amazing people who are better for me than my own family of origin. When I describe my struggles, my nemesis list, my current arch nemesis exercise, there is commiseration, agreement, laughter, and remembrances of when they began on their own fitness journeys, horrified expressive missives from those behind me on similar fitness journeys about what they may or could be facing into the future. My successes are celebrated and applauded, many atta-girls running through my text and email account. Mostly, though, I get a lot of honest feedback about my better health quest. Sometimes we all agree that I am just whining and sucking it up and dealing is the only course of action, and once upon a time there was a lot of “you are too hard on yourself” type replies. Not so much anymore. These days we are talking about exercise and fitness as if it is part of all our day-to-day lives, like work and sleep and eating meals. I am no longer part of the special snowflake class that just doesn’t get it, feels hopeless of ever getting it. While I am not necessarily doing the same things or maybe doing the same things but not in the same ways, I am doing a lot for my level of knowledge, experience, and ability. I no longer feel like the village idiot who requires a lot more hand-holding just to get through the learning curves. I feel as if I have graduated to a new level where I too have something to offer based on the time under my belt now.

And let me be clear – it’s an amazing feeling. You all know that, too, because if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, I pretty much repeat that in some fashion week after week after week.

Good and positive things will hopefully never get boring.

Our List of the day (trainer J’s modifications for me are italicized):

A1. Freemotion Squat Machine (HEAVY) (4 sets, 8 reps, 13 plate)
A2. Anterior Dive (3 sets, 5-8/side)
B1. Machine Leg Press (4 sets, 8-12, 250 lbs.)
B2. 3 Point Toe Touches (3 sets, 5-8/side)
C1. DB Front Lunge (3 sets, 8-12/side, 15 lb. DBs)
D1. DB Straight Leg Deadlifts (3 sets, 8-12, 30 lb. DBs)
D2. Standing Ipsilateral (same side) Crunch (3 sets, 8-10/side)
E1. 1-leg Hip Thrust (3 sets, 12-20/side)
E2. Plank off Bench w/ Alt. Kickback Glute Contractions (3 sets, 10-12/side)
F1. Machine Lying Leg Curls (Seated OK) (3 sets, 8-12, no idea what weight we used)

The first 2 outings with a Dr. Spencer drafted List went very quickly and pretty smoothly. A lot of it was stuff I already knew, or had been doing, and even with J’s extra goodies our session hour passed quickly and we still had a few minutes at the end of it, something that almost never happens. If anything, I get extra time because J has no one immediately after and we go through things at a good pace and do 3 full sets of everything. Today, being a heavier teaching session, we ran over. Still, all good. I value the time we both spend and really appreciate the extra minutes J invests when teaching me new stuff.

That FreeMotion squat machine was pretty dang awesome. I have seen others using it, but frankly my curiosity about machines is pretty limited most of the time. I have plenty of other stuff to do and feel no compulsion to spread out and learn new machines unless it J presents it in context of a new or updated List. Rather than scaring me, himself, or anyone else reading this with the idea of using a barbell across the shoulders, this squat machine was a perfect, safe alternative for me. The goal was to make it heavy enough to be challenging through 8 reps per set, for 4 sets, and we ended up on 13 weight plates, and at the moment I am not sure if that was 130 lbs., 65 lbs., or something other pounds. What I do know is that it was a weigh range I could feel and that 8 reps was not the easiest thing I will do today. But it did not feel impossibly challenging either, like J’s confidence in my ability was way, way out of touch with my reality.

The anterior dive reaches – balance, balance, balance. Single leg, arms straight out, RDL style. While we kept the range low this time, I actually feel like these are not so challenging as other single leg things have been at first. And I really like that.

On the leg press – I was pretty wowed by this. In past outings, I have been doing 170 lbs. for 2 legs, probably 120 lbs. for single legs. Today I ended up at 250 lbs., and I was able to do 8 reps with sweating, focused concentration. It never occurred to me that the weight was too much, that I might falter, and it only crossed my mind after that mind did not put up even a squeak of protest when J set that pin. I am finally getting a feel for what he means by strength training, going heavier for fewer reps. Go me!

Between leg press sets we did this 3 point toe touch thing that is another single-leg balance challenge. This one is going to take some (probably a lot) more practice to feel completely confident. Managed to sort of weeble-wobbled my way through a few reps per leg, and I was kind of getting the hang of it by the time we were done. More practice needed.

Then there are the forward lunges. *sigh* What can I say, these are truly the bane of my exercise existence. However, I did 5 sets of these bad boys on Sunday and did not die from it. (Someday that will be a post title – at least I didn’t die from it.) With my history of lunge anxiety, I always thought my aversion to them was related to fears of toppling over sideways. Nope. I have come to understand these are just really, really challenging to get through, and 3 sets right in a row is a special type of torture that I now understand better. By the time I was finished I was dripping sweat on the floor and my heart rate was cresting 140. The silver linings are (1) not dying from the experience, and (2) feeling powerful because I succeeded and did not stop when I really wanted to stop (that would be after about 2 per side). So really, I cannot help but be pleased by getting through these and having J remind me about perfecting form techniques (chest up to engage the lats and keep those DBs from swinging). There are moments when I am sure I have crossed back over into a new type of gym crazy because I think I should do a set or few sets of these just because I can now do a few sets. Progress.

Romanian deadlifts took me awhile to master; my earliest texts to J were trying to figure out how these were supposed to work, because they felt so wrong to me. Now they are among my favorites, probably because it did take me so long to figure out the right technique, how to hold my shoulders and keep my spine straight, how to pre-tighten the hamstrings and glutes to raise back up, actually feeling the muscles that should be working working. The DBs keep getting heavier, though, and I am presently up to a 30 lb. pair. And I did fine with them. To others that may sound like a really small amount of weight to be deadlifting, but to me it’s huge. When I began we were doing these with 5 lb. DBs that seemed like a pretty big deal at the time. Every now and again I get a little chill-thrill up my spine when I recognize that I have made forward strides.

Then we did some ab variations. I actually liked both for different reasons. The bench plank was in line with other things we have been doing – pushups and sidestep things off the bench – and the standing crunch was just gratifying to effectively feel the abs crunching while standing upright. Either one was good for me, and I see both made the cut in the final list.

The single leg hip thrusts – I have sort of missed these. I dislike them intensely when lying flat on the floor doing them, but do not mind so much when arms are supported on the bench. I am not sure precisely what the difference is, but I feel more competent when we do them that way. Maybe it’s not feeling my hair smushing its way out of the pony holder? That seems as good a reason as any for my preference.

And finally, the hamstring curl machines. Hmmm … these guys are deceptive. They are not horrible, but nothing today was horrible (not even the walking lunges), but they are a little misleading. Things are fine until you get to that last little inch or 2 of possible bend in the knee; that seems to be when all that hamstring work really gets accomplished. Up until then I lying or sitting there thinking this is not that big of a deal, until J points out that last little bit of bend and I feel my hamstrings react. For a first time it was fine, went really well, next time will place my towel next to where my face rests on the lying down version. I have no strong preferences for lying or sitting at this point.

It was quite a full teaching session day. I continue to be surprised by my own capabilities, and that is kind of weird and exciting at the same time. Maybe in time I will adjust to that as well.

Meandering down this better health journey, I am struck again and again how the relationships I have forged and nurtured have shaped my large and small successes along the journey. In yesterday’s post I spoke about how my doctor mentioned that I have dropped 18 pounds in the last 9 months, not an insignificant thing at all. It really doesn’t feel like 18 pounds, yet I can tell from the way clothes fit and the ways the shape of various body parts have changed that there is something going on from the exercise and cleaned-up eating.

Without J, there would be no increasing exercise challenges and improvements from consistent practices. Without RD, there would be no cleaned-up eating. Without TM, there would be no growing confidence, no evolving and positive mindset, and no containment of negative girl. Without my fabulous medical doctors, I might be feeling discouraged, hopeless, and flailing around in my own personal diabetes failure pool. Without M, my kids, my tribe of supporters and ass-kickers when needed I would have perhaps given all that up far too soon, before I got to the plateaus of success that have kept me moving forward.

Without the blog I may have lost my mind from lack of an outlet to write it all down, sort it all out, and reflect on this journey. Without those who read and send words of encouragement, I can see where blogging would be more a slog than a thoughtful download of thoughts.

I am not a huge fan of measurements – my aversion to scales and tape measures is well documented. But when I look back on prior entries, I remember how it felt writing the posts, describing the feelings, struggling to fit into the new behaviors I was striving to adopt. Conversation helps enormously, and I am always so grateful to be surrounded by people to talk with about anything and everything on my mind, including health and fitness. But the simple act of sitting down, opening a vein, and bleeding out these missives is so cathartic and cleansing. I may not state it with proper grammar and spelling, and I may look back and be horrified by the many typos per paragraph. But the gist of where my head was at, how I feel comes through very clearly to me. And let me not understate how gratifying it is to see when I finally made the breakthroughs, when I had a tangible success to talk about, when I stopped thinking in terms of “never going to happen” to “when this happens” with regard to exercise and diet.

My support system is stellar, and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about my well being. From the very much younger to the older within my realm I learn so much, each and every day.

It is interesting to get J’s perspective on the people he works with, the career he is building for himself as a trainer. I joke all the time that he has ruined me for any other trainers, yet he has set a high bar for anyone else I would work with into the future. From my own career I know how much I value positive and productive business relationships, and that certainly carries over in my personal life and those who expertise I need and I value. It’s why Kaiser is not working for me; I am not willing to settle for a good family physician when I actually need a specialist. It seems to me the internet is a double-edged sword for the health and health-related professions, in that everyone is self-diagnosing and looking for quick fixes for complicated problems. It’s not me; I use the internet as a research tool to help frame my own thoughts and ideas about the information I receive about my health. We must all be our advocates for improving our health.

So while I alone have to lift the weights and do the time in the gym, eat the better food, avoid the chocolate and sugar that I so strongly desire, I did not come this far all on my own. Far from it, and why I am successful this time after so many previous stalled attempts is the team I chose to help me get here. I completely understand there are no quick fixes for my brand of health issues or desirable outcomes. I have to do the work, sweat the buckets of sweat in the gym, and eat healthier foods when I would much rather have super convenient junk that seduces my tastebuds. No pill, no procedure is going to improve upon good, old fashioned hard work. And as J has reminded me, everyone is different, everyone responds differently to the activity load and food consumption improvements. Somehow when in the weeds it is an easy to overlook that we are all very different and our mileage will vary.

And sometimes even I lose sight of how long it can take, that I am in this for the long game and my health is not a one-and-done experience. There is no option in my future where I work really hard and eat as healthy as possible right now so I can revert to being a couch potato and eating whatever I want in the future. Each of us are individuals, our bodies unique even from others within our own gene pool. I have not yet discovered my body’s happy place, happy weight, happy size and shape, where I mostly return to with a sustainable level of activity and reasonable level of healthy eating. Bombarded with marketing materials from Kaiser suggesting to strongly implying how much better life will be with weight loss I forgot for a time that better health does not have a specific weight attached to it. Better health is not a destination for me at the end of this road, it’s not weighing a predefined number of pounds or fitting into that smaller size pair of jeans.

Today I remember that my not having a specific goal or destination with my training and eating was for a good reason – my own sanity. I love the J has presented context and contrast of how I train versus someone else with a different focus and goal. For example, the powerlifter lady I so admire is very much stronger than I am, yet cardiovascularly I may be fitter. The differences in our training styles are going to deliver different results. And sometimes I need the reminder of that. I do not compare myself to her or anyone else; the journey is unique to each of us and comparing myself to others is only going to unlock the door of negative girl’s cage.

I strive to keep an open mind, to be receptive to even that which I do not want to hear. Sometimes I want the journey to be easier than it truly is; I want to swallow a pill or mix and drink a drink or have a medical procedure that will make me a perfect specimen of normality and good health by the conventional standards of measurement. Yet even in my crankiest when I wish for such shortcuts, I know I would be extremely skeptical of any and all claims. I have my pity parties when I want to not have to work this hard, not have to eat this healthy, not have to be this good and careful to maintain well-controlled diabetes status.

But that was not today. Today is where I look around with wide-eyed wonder and feel the warmth of my life, all the people I treasure in it, and all the amazing positive energy I have enveloping and embracing me.

And I open my arms wide and hug it all back with everything tender and good in my heart and soul.

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