Monday morning, training with J. Today was leg day and a new machine-based routine for me with some new stuff. Specifically:

A1. Leg Press (255, 12-15/15-20, 4 sets)
A2. 3 Point Toe Touch Reaches (5-8/side, 3 sets)
B1. Abductor (120, 15 to 20 reps, 3 sets)
B2. Adductor (90, 15 to 20 reps, 3 sets)
B3. Anterior Reach (8-10/side, 3 sets)
C1. Glute Pushdown (Assisted Chin Machine) (80, 12-15/15-20/side, 3 sets)
D1. Seated Hamstring Curl (12-15/15-20 reps, 3 sets)
D2. Alt. Reverse Lunges (Partial) (8-12/side, 3 sets)
E1. Leg Extension (8-12/12-15, 3 sets)
E2. Bodyweight Squat (8-12/12-15, 3 sets)

As usual, I had a lot of fun. It was a chill, almost zen-like session, and part of me is curious about trying it again and seeing how it goes. And how weird is it that I am evolving into the low-maintenance, no problems, very zen client? These gym wonders never seem to cease these days. But the leg workout today was good. The other leg workouts we have are pretty intense in different ways, and this one feels almost laid back in comparison. Or so I say TODAY. Doing them on my own may make these the hardest things ever. If I have learned nothing else I should know better than to suggest something is less than challenging. More than anything, this is primarily machine-based, and that’s very different for me. The weights are heavier, too. I will have a better feel for it after I run through it on my own.

These are upstairs machines. Different brand than downstairs, and they each seem to have little hydraulic things in the seats that can be tricky. It happened to me on the leg press, and I watched J demonstrate the caution required with the leg extension machine. I expect these things will take a fair amount of thought until familiarity is established. Anytime we have new stuff, I’m very intent on learning what body is saying about it. Pain, of course, immediately has my attention. But since a lot of this stuff does cause muscle burn while I am in the moment, it’s the lingering effects when I am sitting or standing writing the recaps that really tend to speak to me about their effectiveness or whether or not I got it right. While we are going through the new stuff, while J is patiently watching and correcting, I am free to really think about what should be working, what feels like its working, and whether or not I am getting the sensation correctly. Maybe I am not feeling anything at all in that moment, but hours late … boy howdy am I feeling those muscles wake up and chatter loudly.

Upstairs leg press just feels different. The angles and legs positioning is different, and the readings on the plates are strange as well. But downstairs I was at 250, this one was 255, and it feels about the same, so I am evolving into a “sturdy” girl. J said that to me this morning, with the disclaimer that he only said that in this context and meant as a very positive affirmation, and it made me laugh. Because I am a sturdy girl. I could probably acquire an eating disorder and still be a sturdy girl.

The 3 point toe touch – balance, balance, balance! I am showing some modest improvement, though, and I am definitely on the right track of getting better. Watching J do these – he makes them look so easy – make me sure they are ridiculously difficult. Keep practicing, I tell myself; someday I too shall be some shadow of his gracefulness doing these things.

Abductor and adductor machines upstairs are eerily similar to the set downstairs. I feel mostly confident about my abilities with these.

More anterior reaches. Kind of falling madly in love with these all over again, because I am mostly getting pretty good at them.

The glute pushdown with the assisted chin machine was brand spanking new to me. I have seen the chin machine before, but I honestly cannot recall ever seeing or noticing anyone actually using it before today. Once I got the hang of the mount/dismount it was fine, just the right blend of seemingly not that challenging and very effective (aka: feeling it this afternoon writing this recap). Rather than kneeling on the pad as it is designed for, I put my foot on the pad and press down and let it rise back up for glute contraction. Once the weight was adjusted correctly it was fine. And believe me I was taking a A LOT of mental notes about how to get on and off that bad boy safely. This is one of those machines it is very easy for me to envision Very Bad Things happening if I fail to pay attention.

The seated hamstring curl machine is an exercise in patience to wiggle your way in and out of it to actually use it. I cannot recall what weight it was set at, so I will have to experiment next time I test drive this workout. Not yet gotten to the point of crazy about this machine, but maybe it grows on you. Like moss. Or mold.

Another old favorite (NOT!) – alternating reverse lunges. Just like the 3 point toe touches above, J makes these look so darn easy. There is another member I see a couple of mornings each week who has these in his rotation, and he too makes it look like no big deal, a graceful, elegant down up, down up, go-go-go! Me, I feel like some big giant herd animal trying to take a bow and preparing to topple sideways any second now. But I can do them. I just do not look as good as others doing them.

Leg extension machine is the one with the tricky seat that must be watched before it jolts forward and bops you in the head. Again, no idea what weight we used, but it was okay. I think it is still new enough that I do not have any strong feelings about it one way or the other.

Ending this list with the bodyweight squat – always nice to finish with something I am fairly confident about. Not speed squats, just move along at a steady pace bodyweight squats.

One of my takeaways from today is regarding communication. For the most part, I think I do okay. But in the deeper, darker corners of my brain there is niggling fear that I might not be clear about my intent or meaning when casually conversing with someone. Or when I am distracted, like trying to focus on learning how to use machine and listen at the same time. The exercise and fitness realm is so new to me, and I go through spurts of trying hard to catch up to and understand what I see going on around me in the gym or read about on other blogs or my casual internet reading. Already I know enough to be very skeptical, and if I want a more in-depth answer to satisfy curiosity, I ask J or ask him to recommend something that more accurately illustrates what I am seeking to learn.

This morning I had another member chat with me while I was warming up. There is typically a class going on when I am in my warm-ups on Mondays, and he asked me how I liked the class. I had to explain I was not really part of the class, that I just came to use the room and the equipment to prepare for my training appointment at 6. He asked me who I trained with, and after I told him he said he’d heard of J and that he was supposed to be good. I corrected him – J is the best trainer – and he said something about wanting to get a former trainer (Marissa) because she was also a life coach and he needed more than just physical training help. Okay then.

A couple of minutes and after he had completed some barefoot sprints back and forth across the room he asked me what my goals were for the gym, and honestly, it stopped me short for a minute, it has been so long since anyone has actually asked me that. I explained about the better health quest, and he asked me if I had lost a lot of weight. Not really, but then I thought … 10% is 10%. So yeah, a satisfactory amount in the last year. He said something about losing 40 lbs. in 40 days, and I thought he was joking, then he said, well maybe 35, and I realized he’s serious about such a feat. Okay then. If I have nothing productive, constructive, or positive to say, I am not going to say anything.

The exchange with him, and then with J as we moved along, made me wonder if I am getting sloppy and clumsy in my communications with others. There are moments when I think I might be making too light of a topic when describing what I think, how I feel, or whatever message I am garbling while trying to get it across.

As an example, J and friend J are pursuing these really hardcore, heavy-duty workouts. These guys are in good shape, and the 2 different workouts they have been doing lately are kicking both their asses. Now, I have been giving friend J a bit of a hard time about it, because frankly he has been having a minor existential crisis that has become an elephant in our communication room. It is and has been good to see him focused and immersed in something other than his own particular brand of misery (that he does not yet want to talk about openly). Rather than point that out to him directly, though, I may tease him about slacking, or coasting, or whining about how hard his current workouts are, because I know that if I coddle him or encourage anyone else to coddle him it will become this monster we may have to shoot to put the rest of us out of our misery. Think men who become babies again when they get a head cold – it’s that sort of dynamic.

But because the workouts the J’s in my life are pursuing require a much higher degree of fitness than I presently possess, I fear that I am making too light of its intensity and level of challenge or not reaching the right balance in communication. Never do I wish trainer J to feel that I am pooh-poohing his professional expertise or abilities in the gym (or friend J either, but he tells me very directly if I am ever being a bitch). Yet sometime in the last couple of weeks we (trainer J and I) were talking about the powerlifting ladies he coaches, and I had expressed some surprise at their workouts. Now, thinking about it further, I get that they must have a well-rounded routine of whole body strengthening and such, yet their focus and interests are so different than mine and the way they pursue their strength-based focus is far from where I dwell in my gym practices and pursuits. And I know this. And I know that it had just never occurred to me they would be so different because I am mostly clueless about how someone can build to the point of being capable of lifting the volume of weight the ladies are capable of lifting. I am still learning about how other people train, and there was a little twitchy tone change in J’s response while we were chatting about it that made me think I said something offensive. The moment passed quickly and I am quite certain I am more bothered by the exchange even now than he was in the moment, but it’s how I learn. If I feel clumsy in my communication on a topic, it becomes part of my overall incentive to try and learn more so I can understand and ask reasonably intelligent questions and expand my understanding. Not just in the exercise realm either; this is my methodology in other aspects of my life as well.

I recognize these communication hiccups may happen as a symptom of my craving to have a straightforward plan to resolve life’s thornier problems. Diet and exercise, if everything mainstream is to be believed, is a simple math equation of operating at a calorie deficit, i.e., calories consumed are less than calories burned means weight loss happens. Only as I have learned, nothing is ever so simple in the diet and exercise realm.

M has been covering 140 miles per week minimum the last few months. He’s lost quite a lot of weight, his legs are pretty much barren of any excess fat, and he tells me frequently he would like to drop maybe another 5 lbs. to ensure he says at his present weight. I watch. I listen. I nod and smile. And I just keep throwing some vegetables in my protein shake and eating whatever I am eating for the day, that may include dairy and carbs. To his credit, M would never want me doing even a small slice of the shit he tries himself with regard to diet, and no way would I ever aspire (or have time for) the amount of running and exercise he pursues daily. M’s test kitchen is his own private Hell for debunking things he reads about. And I am perfectly okay with that.

We do have our differences of opinions, though, and periodically they escalate into our version of a spat. While these eating habit experiments are not always particularly healthy, they seem to mostly work for him or provide valuable insight for sharing experiences with other, less experienced runners in his realm. I am not following him on any of the harder core eating plans, and he does not suggest that I should and has gone so far as to tell me not to do it. However, he has been coming home with muscle spasm irritations and painful back/hip pain that seem to linger for weeks, and the practical side of me sees some cause/effect here. Granted, my training is different, but for my level of fitness, I am working just as hard and in some ways harder, because I am not as fit and trying to learn at the same time. My bias and personal preference for a more conventional eating plan and a more balanced training experience shows in our discussions, and M can be very hard-line about what he has read, what he knows, what he is doing and why. What I end up stressing over and over again is that I am not questioning his expertise or his experience; I am simply trying to understand it from a position of no or very limited context. M gets that, I know. However, I also know that there is so much bullshit in the running circles where he roams that being able to defend your actions is a well-honed reflex the leaks out even with your very supportive non-runner wife. And it’s fine. I am capable of pushing back just as hard when necessary to make myself heard and understood.

With the J’s in my life, I think my intent and interest is pretty clear. I know very well how capable and experienced both are in the nutrition, exercise, weight lifting realms, and my statements or questions are hopefully not ever perceived as direct challenges or insults to their abilities. But I think about it nonetheless. I am not obsessing about it, merely writing it down as an observational topic to ensure I make myself clear in our future and ongoing conversations.

What I have learned through this many years of adultier-adulting is that there rarely is a lone true pathway to achieving life’s objectives, and communication about how we are each progressing on our journeys is important to me. Several of my friends are involved with Crossfit gyms, and I remember asking J about this phenom very early in our training partnership. I remember his answer being so very diplomatic – that it was not necessarily a good place for the inexperienced exerciser to begin and a lot of the success/failure depended on the coaches involved. And I completely understood that. At the time I asked about it was because my friend had really wanted me to try it with her – she’d been going a few months and loved it – but I suspected then as I now know that I need a little lot more hand-holding in my personal learning curve.

But my pal has persevered and is coming up on 18 months of crossfit training and looks amazing. Her confidence has been soaring lately, she feels so much better about herself and her stronger, fitter, sleeker physique. Depression and anxiety and adjustments to medications used to be an ongoing issue for her, and the exercise has helped get her stable. In the last year she and her doc have been steadily cutting back on the medications that controlled her moods and let her live a mainstream normal life. This weekend we were pondering if it is the actual discipline of exercise focus that causes the better mood stabilization and focus or something physiological and chemical impacted by the exercise that makes us feel more whole? Perhaps a combination of both?

I was trying to ask intelligent-sounding questions about what a crossfit workout is like, and she has invited me, again, to try it. And I am declining, again, because I am happy pursuing my List of the day every day. Plus I have real fears of losing my place, my footing, or both and harming myself or others trying something new and out of my typical environment. I am a creature of habit and need that stability to stay on track.

She laughed when I said that, says we get more graceful as we get stronger and more capable. I was thinking she was right, until I started to dismount this new chin machine thing this morning and was so glad J was watching and correcting me before I mucked it up.

Throughout this and other processes I am toiling at in my life, I want to do my best, improve, be better than I was before. Opportunities to learn new skills and experience new things or old things in different ways abound. While I hear negative girl faintly in the background with her poisonous messages, I choose to believe my intent is clear, and those I interact with on an almost daily basis understand I am not by nature a malicious or cruel person who would make sport of the challenges they are deliberately pursuing or be mocking or derisive about their knowledge and expertise. If anything, I want to be front and center of their cheering sections, supporting and encouraging their efforts in any and all ways I possibly can.

I am rarely to never likely to be the smartest person in the room, and because of that I dislike being careless in word choice or its ability to be interpreted inaccurately. And despite this little tinge of doubt about myself and my ability to communicate accurately, I am not unhappy, feeling disturbed or anxious. Mostly I need to write it down, sort it out so it doesn’t sit and fester as a “what if” possibility in my mind.

it’s been a pretty damn great day. Busy, hectic, even kind of crazy with work and private client crises arising. It does not even feel that hot to me outside, which possibly alarms and elates me in equal measure. Alarms because I am typically greatly bothered by the heat, and elates me because I take this as a sign than going to flaming hot pilates on Sundays and Bikram yoga on Friday nights is enhancing my ability to handle heat.

Even with the phone calls about the screening mammogram findings and additional pictures required, I enjoyed today enormously. Because I know most likely it’s nothing to worry about, and until told otherwise I am choosing not to concern myself with it. And in truth, it has turned me into someone who is eager for tomorrow to get back to the gym, to work on shoulders or chest or something. Because I am in good health and I can continue to work on shoulders or chest or something else that includes those areas of body.

I have a really, really good life, kind of sore legs and glutes notwithstanding. I have no need to borrow trouble and worry about something that is not even a problem until at least Thursday, and probably not even then. Until a doctor somewhere is diagnosing me with breast cancer, I have no new health problems, merely the inconvenience of additional tests to reassure ourselves or define the scope of any issues the tests disclose.

This post is late enough that Monday is now concluded for most of us, so happy Tuesday everyone!

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