Thursday morning, training with J. It has been an eventful week in the gym. There is a new kind of oddball guy who has been coming and hanging out in the room where I practice much of the time, and I scoped out the group fitness room on my way in to ensure the coast was clear to go in there to warm-up. It made me laugh, thinking this is what my gym days have been reduced to – checking for the batshit crazy member to avoid. What a change consistency of practice makes.
Today was a review day. What we did today (J’s additions and modifications are italicized):
A1. 1-arm DB Row (25 lbs., 1 set, 15-20 reps, 35 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
A2. Archer rows (3 sets, MAX)
B1. Cable Seated Row (80 lbs., 2 sets, 8-12 reps, 90 lbs., 2 sets, 8-12 reps)
B2. Anterior Reach (3 sets, 10-12/side)
C1. Wide Grip Front Lat Pulldown (80 lbs., 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
C2. Band or Cable Horizontal Hip Rotation (3 sets, 12-15/side)
D1. DB Pullovers (30 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
D2. Seated DB Biceps Curl (15 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
E1. Cable Facepull (55 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12/side)
E2. Band squat to row (3 sets, MAX)
Today was also secondary mammogram day for me, and J also had a medical procedure this afternoon and will be on the couch recuperating the balance of the weekend. I had offered if he needed transport to and fro, and had he been forced to accept my offer, I would have done the mammogram and ultrasound next week. His housemate came through to cover getting him to and fro, so I went off to get my diagnostics done. It’s a solidarity thing with medical stuff today, or so I like to think. Anything to get through the ick factor of more mammography.
Anyway, it was an exciting morning. We worked hard, chatted as we do, and while I lost count (as usual) on various things, I went away feeling as if I had indeed worked very hard and enjoyed a fantastic session. As per usual. Every now and again I have this feeling I could have worked harder, focused better, done more, but it is 60 minutes to cram a lot of learning and/or review into. I do not have the luxury of extra time as I do on practice days. While I do get distracted by our conversation and allow my count to rep count to falter and then forget where I am, it’s one of those oh well situations. I will keep working at it. On my own it rarely happens, because I’m not actually listening closely to the tunes playing in my ears, and I stop what I am doing if I am saying hi or interacting with someone else.
Funny thing – I was joking with J yesterday over text about having a completely uneventful procedure and recovery, because I am in no mood to find and train another trainer to work with me. He told me this morning he’d misread what I had written (happens when reading texts quick at a red light while driving), and thought I was saying I was going to find a new trainer. Ummm … NO! *laugh* He got it once he actually read the text, and I laughingly said if I’m kidding him about moving to Dubai to get rid of me (and then there is always the specter of online training), he’d have to do something really beyond both of our imaginations for me to seek out a replacement just because.
But anyway. Today was fun, as always. But extra fun, I think because of the good mood food (caffeine) and things coming up later in our individual days.
On the 1-arm row, 35 lb. dumbbells are no joke. I am getting there, but I can already see that I need to push this one at least a couple of times per week to build that strength. I am not-so-secretly proud of myself for this milestone, and I smile every time I think about it. Me, hoisting a 35 lb. dumbbell. Seems so surreal. J also paid me another compliment – says I am like a tank in the exercise realm. Other ladies might be hurt or insulted, because out of context it does sound kind of bad. But within the context of showing up, doing what he’s teaching me, staying healthy, and growing stronger – yeppers, kind of a tank. And I’m pleased about that. I’m pleased that I am structurally sound enough, and smart enough, to listen and to learn how to do this stuff safely. Plus if something hurts, I stop. I really do not want to lose ground on my gains, but anymore I am now confident enough to now I can regain my gains. I am no longer this big giant question mark in my own head about being able to achieve in this realm.
The archer rows are primarily for cardiovascular benefit I’m pretty sure. Pace is peppy-peppy-peppy and I am starting to trust body’s instincts and muscle memory will not let me trip over my own feet. It could still happen, but my confidence is growing and that makes it seem less likely to happen. I am also going to have to reset or set some new objectives on the MAX rep count; left to my own devices that might be 3 on each side. When I’m on my own I count to at least 24 (12 per side), but I have been making myself continue to 30. I think my next upper threshold will be 36. It’s always easier in my own practice, because I have a bit more wiggle room in my time when it’s just me. These are among my favorite of the stretchy band rows; they just make me feel potential for physical grace.
The cable seated row machine is in the big boys room of the gym, and apparently there are 2 of them, which I did not realize until today. We started at 80 lbs., moved up to 90 lbs., and it was not horrible, I did not wonder if my shoulders were going to dislocate. Mostly I thought … heavier, yes, but not undoable or unbearable. Go me! At the hour of the morning I am typically in the gym, it is nearly always the same men and women going about their own routines every single day. And 95% of them do not bother, intimidate, or wig me in the slightest, so probably I could do this List on my own without freaking myself completely out in the process. Especially now that the lightbulb came on and I realize there are actually 2 of these machines right next to each other.
A new favorite – the anterior reaches. When I finally – FINALLY! – reach the point where something once very hard seems to work more than 50% of the time I think they cross over to the favorite list. These are definitely a balance exercise, and I grow more comfortable and more confident as I do them more. The Lists where it’s these OR single leg RDLs I usually do the RDLs or alternate sets between the 2, because I have had more and more opportunities with these of late. And it’s fantastic. I remember struggling so mightily with simple TRX version, when I had straps to help me balance, so it’s nice now to be most capable of bending on a single leg and not toppling over without hanging on to something. I do like doing them next to a bench – just in case – but less and less I need the bench for anything other than moral support.
The wide grip front lat pulldowns feel so different than the dual cable machine, and I think it might be the bar that messes with my mind. I mostly get the motion. I mostly get what is supposed to be working working. But I find the furrowed brow in place while I am trying to discern why these feel more troublesome than the other machine. Also today I discovered there are at least 2, maybe 3 of these machines in the same area. I will have to do some additional surreptitious spying while walking to and from the ladies locker room to see how other people use these machines. The last set J had me move my hands in to a closer, shoulder width position and go to the underhand grip, which was very cool as well. Felt that more in the biceps, and definitely like that more than the curls.
Not quite biggest news of the day is the uptick in weight on the dumbbell pullovers, going from my staple 25 lb. DB to the 30 lb. DB today and handling it with relative ease. Another new thing of note was doing these in the big boys room on a bench with a rack thing for holding the barbell. J was saying if I am ever in the gym when it’s busy and using that bench, I may be interrupted by guys wanting to do bench presses, because it’s apparently one of those obsession-worthy exercises like bicep curls. He says there are guys who will ask how much you bench, which friend J had already warned me about a few weeks ago as I was preparing to make my foray into this new body splits thing. Since I don’t bench press, I would simply say I don’t bench press, right? Make sense to me. Because really, why would anyone ask me that? Seriously, while the fat/flab radio has flip-flopped on my upper arms, I am not quite to the point of looking like I have big scary arms. Unless you’re my friend with the obsession with stick figures and then I already have big scary arms.
Which brings us to the seated bicep curls, and it remains one of those mysterious exercises beloved by so many. I simply don’t get it, but maybe someday
soon it will suddenly surprise and delight me because I’ll have an exercise epiphany. Until that moment finally arrives, though, I will do them because they are on the List. I know how to do them, and I am not terrible at it. Perhaps they have just never been the challenge to conquer like so many other things in this realm. I do find myself still counting slowly when lowering them, because J taught this as slow on the lower, whatever speed I like on the curling part. That’s probably the most interesting thing about curls to date. And true to form, I lost count and probably shorted on reps. Quite probably because they do not fascinate me as much as whatever we happened to be talking about … like my telling him a story about friend J from a couple of Christmases ago and his then squeeze telling me I was so kind I should be a life coach … and coke came spraying out my nose. J just cracks up even thinking about my telling him that, because when I said it I had never thought that it presents a picture of me as a nose powder queen, versus the very unglamorous soda choking that happens when someone says or does something that shocks while drinking a coke-a-cola through a straw.
The cable facepull replaces whatever we did on the first outing with this List. J had told me he’d made some revisions, but until I was writing this recap I had forgotten what we did before versus what we did today. I like the facepull, although I always find the name sort of disturbing. It’s one of those exercises that has grown on me through the months, probably because I finally get and feel the muscles working versus just trying my best to get the motion down and done correctly.
The band squat to rows are an old favorite rejuvenated, and they certainly kick the heart rate into gear. Something happened with the judgmental heart rate monitor during the set and there was no readout. When I plugged it into my computer, though, the information downloaded and pronounced me a hardworking trainee today with a maximum heart rate of 152 and an average heart rate of 122 for the session. Mostly I trust it, but sometimes I wonder. Lately here I must be working the cardio series pretty hard, because my average has been climbing. Used to be 112 to 114 was pretty typical for a practice, but just lately here it’s been climbing into the 118 to 120 range. I’ll take it. Anything that means I do not have to do a lot of extra cardio is a Very Good Thing in my book.
We had a lot of fun today, both wired on caffeine and anticipating our little medical adventures this afternoon. While I am working, and I know J’s trainer eye is focused and watching and catching every single detail, sometimes it seems like we’re just hanging out for our hour. Review days – I love review days. I always learn something new, gain a better insight, refine my technique.
But since this oddball guy has invaded my practice space this week, I find myself preparing back-up plans for where I can go to finish my practices and get away from his talking to himself or trying to talk to me while racing barefoot around the room like some sort of mad dog (sorry to be kind of insulting on the comparison to any genuinely mad dogs who may be reading). Without spelling it out for me in words of one syllable, I know J is trying to introduce me to different equipment and provide more exposure to the big boy training room – just in case I need to escape while practicing on my own. And I’m cool with that. I now have enough experience, am familiar enough with the different people in the gym during my practice times that I would not be too wiggy/twitchy out there on my own.
I am really loving the satisfaction I draw from being in the gym and putting body through its paces. It puts me in a good frame of mind for the balance of my day, so even when things go poorly at work or outside the gym walls, I feel more balanced in my responses.
And the reshaping of body parts is kind of cool as well. Mostly. It takes some adjustment, though, and I’m still working at that.
A weird other thing happened today that I am still processing. One of my good friends in my business network made a comment in an email about how much I prioritize my exercise and how there is more to life than being a gym rat. Gym rat? Gym rat? Moi? The very idea does make me laugh, because I always imagine the typical gym rat being very muscular and with a very low percentage of body fat because he eats nothing but chicken and broccoli (trust me, I eat plenty of other things in addition to my fair share of chicken and broccoli).
But of course anything out of the ordinary does give me pause to carefully consider the meaning behind the words. Yes, I spend a couple of hours every day at the gym, doing something. It’s not a social outing for me, despite what it sometimes seems like on training days when J and I are working, talking, laughing. Key thing here – we’re working. Believe me, there are lots and lots of training days when I’d be all too happy to do a single set, chat, another half-hearted set, chat more. But J is a talented multi-tasker; he can talk and trainer eye observe and correct while I toil at the exercise and listen and respond. But I do get my exercise done in the hour we spend, and the workout is not exercise light by any standard. It might be for someone in a more advanced state of fitness, but for me there is plenty of real work getting done every single session.
One practice days, when I allot more like 2 hours, I do it to ensure I have enough time. I am not always efficient. I am sometimes going more slowly, or I am doing 5 sets instead of 3 or 4. But still, to many people spending a 2 hour block of time on myself seems a little (or a lot, depending on the person) self-indulgent. But who cares? Seriously, why would anyone other than M care? We are empty nesters. I work plenty of other hours 6 days per week to ensure we pay our bills and our taxes, save for our older and grayer years. In the personal finance community, my belonging to a gym and having a trainer would be a huge red flag of luxury indulgence, even if I can afford such luxuries. It is as if the self-righteous judgment police are everywhere searching out for sin they can call you out on.
So I suppose it surprises me when it actually happens in my life. I suppose M and I are not really terribly conventional people who go to work and have dinner and watch TV in the evenings. We are sort of unconventional people who now prioritize exercise to a degree that we go to bed early and are up very early to get it accomplished as the first task of our days. We have a wedding and a vacation coming up in September and already discussing how and when M will get his runs in and I will do my workouts; we just take it for granted that it will be incorporated into our days away.
I do not feel guilty or wrong for prioritizing my life this way, but I do feel some curiosity as to why someone would question it. Jealousy that I have time and resources to be this level of self-indulgent? Frustration that I’m boring because it’s my primary hobby? Fear for losing myself to the exercise obsession? Maybe just evolving snarkiness because of shortcomings in her own life? I honestly do not understand, so I asked directly – why does this bother you so much? I am still awaiting an answer.
At the same time, I’m trying to recall feeling this way about anyone I know who was serious about their training and exercise. M had retired from ultra marathon racing by the time we met, and there was a good long stretch of years when neither of us did much more than walk around the block or the mall or trail after the kids at extracurricular activities. During those years, C played softball, G ran cross country and track. Many of our friends were fitness aficionados, and I remember being glad they had hobbies that made them happy, and vaguely guilty that I did not like and was not good at exercise. But never resentful or jealous or anything negative.
So yeah, I don’t get it. Hopefully she’ll respond with an equally candid answer.
On the diet and healthy eating front … the battle continues. I was thinking this morning that I eat the same meals over and over and over again. M, too. But where I am eating a lot of vegetables and fruits and chicken and protein shakes, M eats even less carbs and more protein. He gives me a hard time about the unnatural tinges of color in my protein shakes, but I know he’s pretty pleased that I seem to be striving for balanced meals and increasing my protein intake. It’s just so hard to do so without supplementing.
The calorie counting apps are still a pain in the ass, but I’m being proactive and using it to plan my next day’s eating and meals. It makes life a whole lot simpler.
And I truly do like my simpler life. My blood sugar is staying stable and normal, which I love, and weight is a wiggly line of ups and downs across the page. Weighing in every day is easier, but still not something I look forward to with any enthusiasm. But the ounces shed seem to be adding up slowly in a pound shed here and there, so no complaints. The scale is moving in the right direction, but it’s happening slowly. I can live with that.
Because as J said to me this morning, it’s just a data point; I am the adder of context to that data. I feel great 98.3% of the time these days, even on days when I long for solitude and to be far, far away from most of the rest of the population. I am happy, I am healthy, and I am working at staying on this plateau or climbing higher. And kind of surprisingly, it’s not weighty, hard, or dreadful work. Adjusting to doing what it takes to get to that point
can be is painful. But I have been less happy; I have been genuinely miserable. I have had to work really hard to develop the skill to exercise effectively and safely, and it was not easy to acquire even the basic skills. Once I did, it has surprised and shocked me how much I now enjoy the challenges. Same with the eating. My diet is not exciting or gourmet; it’s probably pretty boring to other people. However, the benefits of my evolving healthier lifestyle go way beyond my normalized blood sugar and the slow process of shedding fat and building muscle. My mental and emotional health have never been better, more balanced, more positive and peaceful.
There definitely is more to life than being a gym rat, but I know that, and I do not fear that happening to me because my life is so much more than just my exercise and healthier eating priorities.
good great is a priority well worth pursuing.