Thursday morning, training with J. And it was gloriously fun! We had our chatty time, J taught me a couple of new things, and he mixed it up and made the shoulders and abs List all new again. I am fortunate, really blessed to be able to afford a trainer in the first place, and super duper lucky/living right to have been matched with trainer J. But every week I am reminded of my weird type of zealous adoration for training days.
I am going to have THE BEST shoulders for G and K’s wedding, and since The Dress is a halter style I have never ever tried before this, I can’t help but admire the tiny little creases emerging in my shoulders. It’s going to be great, although I admit to considering yet another smaller to ensure I have something that fits right in 5 weeks. Surely my figure cannot reconfigure itself even more in a mere 5 weeks?
Ugh. Me and my first world problems. Forget Bridezilla (which K is certainly NOT); I am turning into high maintenance mother of the groom.
But damn, my shoulders are going to look amazing in The Dress whatever size it ends up being.
Most of what we did today (J’s changes and additions are in italics, bold is me winging it with the name and description, and bold/underline is stuff we did not get to today despite running over on time – yep, spoiled me showed up this morning):
A1. Seated Alternating Shoulder Press (15 lb. DB, 4 sets, 12-15 reps)
A2. Band Low-High Chopper (3 sets, 12-15 side)
B1. Incline Bench Press (25 lb. DB, 4 sets, 12-15 reps)
B2. Band High to Low Chopper (3 sets, 12-15 side)
C1. Standing swinging DB lateral raise things (12 lb., 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
C2. Band ABC Band Extensions (MAX)
D1. 1-arm DB Snatch (12 lb. DB, 3 sets, 10-12/side)
D2. Band Horizontal Chopper (3 sets, MAX/side)
E1. DB Bent Over Row
E2. Ipsilateral (same side) Anterior Reach
F1. Rear Delt Machine (30 lbs., 3 sets, 10-12)
F2. Stability ball reach up crunches (3 sets, 15-20 reps)
So I am kind of winging it right now with the descriptions. J writes my Lists, and then sometimes he changes his mind while we’re going through it together. Which is wonderful, fun, spontaneous, and perfectly fine. In this case I will be doing the full list as originally written and then amended on Saturday. Because the stuff left out of today’s session is nothing new or mysterious for me. And because Saturday’s I can run over my usual 2 hour allotment without penalty. M should be out running canyons with his friends, and I can probably even do my 30 minutes of cardio after my List of the day.
Starting from the top, I was doing shoulder presses with a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells. We have been using the 15s for awhile now, and I am pretty competent with them. But not quite so much that I feel ready to advance to a set of 20s. So J added the alternating variation on the second set. We tried going 4 or 5 a side, then switching, until we reached the rep count. I liked it, because it most definitely made this more challenging. Not the pushing upward with a single arm so much as watching the other arm to ensure that elbow did not drop from its 90 degree angle. Believe me, it wanders without constant supervision.
On the low to high band choppers, I finally figured out that I need to let go of the actual handle on the band and just grip the band with both hands; I feel both more in control and overall more successful doing this exercise this way. It was kind of weirdly awkward at first with where I am standing, and it’s only with practice am I going to figure out how and where I want my stance to be for success. In the meantime, just figuring out how to hold onto the darn band itself was a huge victory.
The incline chest presses are an old favorite. On the flat bench I use the 30 lb. Dos, on this I use 25s. And the 25s seem fine. But I am starting to take note of these things, more because I want to be able to remember on my own yet also because I like the way it feels really, really good when I bump up to the next set.
High to low choppers are working better than before, especially since I adjusted my grip on the band from handles to band itself. We (well, me under J’s direction) experimented with how low the low part was supposed to be, and I think I have the movement mostly down now. Or at least I think I know how it’s supposed to feel more effective now. Practice, practice, practice!
The standing swinging lateral raise thing was kind of tricky. Getting my stance right. Getting my head situated and still (always wants to cock to one side). Then the actual hanging and controlled upward throw-like motion of the weight in front of the shoulder takes some acclimation. Like, a lot. There was one that I started to throw behind the shoulder and knew immediately that it was so wrong in every possible disastrous way. Thankfully I caught myself (and heard J’s “whoa!” at precisely the same moment) and stopped myself before inflicting damage upon my shoulder. I could not then and cannot now, hours later, explain what came over me, but I suspect it was position of my hand and arm at the start of the motion. For teaching purposes we started with a 10 lb. DB on the first set, test drove a 15 lb. on the second set, finally settled on the 12 lb. DB. I could feel myself turning my body to help with the upward swing of the weight with the 15 and therefore did not feel like wimpy-wimpy-whiney-woman by confessing that I needed the 12. My goal is to stay healthy, and doing Very Bad Things to my shoulders does not lead me to my happiest healthy place. Once I got settled on the weight and mind caught on to the motion and that weight needs to be in front of shoulder, I enjoyed these. Until just now I had not a single thought of DB slipping from my grasp and flying across the room. And now that the thought has crossed my mind, I will ensure I am holding onto it tightly. I also cannot recall seeing other people doing this in the gym, so now I’ll be on the lookout to see how other people swinging the DB to and fro.
We have done the ABC bands in a prior List, but it’s been awhile. I kind of like these, because they are challenging and definitely impact the heart rate. Most definitely I need to set my own minimum in my head, because MAX could easily be 2 and done if I don’t. They are deceptively tougher than they look.
The 1-arm snatch was probably my favorite thing today. It was kind of fun to go from a half squat to launching arm and weight directly overhead then back down into starting position. Once mind got the starting position settled so arm went straight up and weight was over the shoulder and not off to the side it was much better. It made me feel as if my arms are sort of long and graceful flying through the air that way. I actually felt a little guilty and vain for marveling at them in the mirror. On top of all that bliss, mind figured out that simply dropping arm back the way it went up was fine. No one dies, no one is maimed or injured, no need to bring it back to my side in a 2-step process. It’s little things that make me feel better about my progress.
For this rendition of the band horizontal chopper we doubled up a yellow band. While the yellow is the lightest of the bands, doubled up it makes this exercise challenging. And it feels short and therefore constrained. Not a terrible thing, but I had just been doing the same exercise yesterday on the cable machine and know I like the longer leash.
The rear felt machine J showed me the one downstairs, where the right side feels somehow looser or something than the left. It’s not a huge thing that impairs my ability to utilize it, but he mentioned it beforehand and I noticed it almost immediately. Any OCD I possess would have honed in on that like a heat-seeking missile and idly obsessed about what is wrong with the my right side that makes it lag ever so slightly. Upstairs, the same machine, different manufacturer felt different and a better somehow, and not just because both sides felt even. I can and likely will use both – probably it will come down to whether or not I want to climb the stairs. But it is something new and explore and test drive on my own.
In addition to today teaching new exercises and reviewing other things I already know or mostly already know, we have our chatty stuff. Essentially lot of our conversation on training day is not actually training, exercise, diet, or health related. It’s more life stuff. As I have grown more comfortable and capable, J has less and less to correct and refine watching me go through the sets. Doing these body part splits I have become more and more acquainted with the “rest pause” concept and utilize it without shame or concern that it is sign of weakness or lack of serious intent. As I am learning new exercises, I rarely even think about what I look like performing them, and while I still do not purposefully look in the mirrors I don’t imagine the worst possible thing either. I love, Love, LOVE that I can tell the particular difference in weights, whether something seems heavy, or not heavy enough, or just about right.
I consider all those things really positive forward progress.
And right now I am just starting out on my August challenge … that has grown to 36 people with late entries. By starting out I meant Tuesday evening back to the gym, walking at lunch with associates yesterday and again today. The week has been very busy with work, and I will find some way to schedule this next week so I can actually eat during my lunch breaks without worrying about dripping on to papers on my desk. As of right now I am hoping to get better about working out the scheduling details for my daily 30 minutes.
The days pass and I realize again and again how fortunate I am to have found my exercise niche, fallen hard for moving my body into a sweaty and gross and somewhat breathless state. In the days when I did a lot of cardio, endlessly standing on dreadmills or ellipticals or sitting at my rower, I thought this was the most efficient use of my time, particularly since I thought I could never learn to use weights safely and sanely, much less effectively. This week, I feel the starkness of that contrast, after 3 straight days of deliberately walking for 30 minutes sole for the cardio exercise goal. It has been gratifying to be outside walking and talking with my coworkers, but honestly, I’d rather be in the break room eating lunch and conversing. Does this mean I want to go back to the gym and spend 30 minutes in cardioland after working the day away? Nope, not at all. But I find myself still thinking about it for this month because again, I would rather spend my lunch hour eating and socializing rather than walking and inhaling food at my desk.
The August challenge already feels successful to me because my friends and I are talking about exercise and what we are doing, how we are scheduling and prioritizing some additional time for ourselves. My daughter is participating, and I’m super proud of her for getting her walking shoes on and stepping up and over to the gym every day thus far. We have had many conversations about the anxiety and intimidation, and she is working hard at overcoming hers. Daily exposure certainly helps.
But I am still so grateful that I have my block every morning to pursue my List of the day. The cardio will fit in somewhere, even if I have to go in the evenings after work and just grin and bear it. It’s so boring to me now, and I wonder how on earth I ever managed to get myself to do long stretches for periods of time and completely understand why I quit when I did. My morning time is pretty important to me, sets the tone for the rest of my days. And I love that the tone is a positive one, that sometimes I’m working and feeling the muscles chattering. Or I’m writing the blog posts in my mind. Or I am thinking about the List of the next day and what that will feel like to me.
Funny, but yesterday so many of my closest friends said they were worried about how a bad outcome from the biopsies would impact my better health quest. I thought they meant from a physical standpoint with regard to the exercise and diet, but no, they were worried about my mental and emotional state. It was a fair inquiry and question, but my coping strategy included continuing my pursuit of healthier diet and consistent exercise. Maybe I would have to do a lot lighter weights, particularly on the upper body, but it feels like I have come so far, worked so hard to overcome obstacles I threw down in my own path, I could not let something derail me. Yeah, that “something” would have been a Very Big F**king Deal, but still. I have gained so much from training with J, particularly in the last almost 10 months of consistent, daily exercising, that I would not let myself backslide past the point of having to overcome my gym crazy yet again.
So glad it’s a moot point now and that my plan B is back in long-term storage.
There are moments when I smile inside and wonder if I have superhero aspirations with the stuff I am learning and working so diligently at perfecting. Watching my arms go up and down today, I thought they looked so awesome in their length and graceful arcs. And I never think that way about myself. Maybe the biggest muscle I am building is the one between my ears, the one learning to recognize and embrace realistic reality from the positive side of the looking glass.
And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!
Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart was too small when it came to being able to appreciate myself, just the way I am. Perhaps the exercise is making my heart grow three times its size in respect to how I see and feel about me.
J commented earlier that it was probably to my benefit to not be raised as a princess type, that not identifying as pretty or special somehow made me more resilient and capable. I would also add that it probably made me far less tolerant of princess attitudes and behaviors in others. I do like being independent and feeling capable, and I am ever so slowly becoming more competent at standing up and stating clearly that I am not only good enough, I am actually pretty damn excellent at a few things as well.
Somehow in childhood I had the message burned into my soul that confidence and conceit were interchangeable terms, and too much of one led to the other. Being conceited or even perceived as conceited was akin to patient zero on the deadly sin scale, something to be avoided at all costs. Now that I am gaining small measures of genuine confidence, I recognize the fallacy of that core belief. And I am slowly eradicating it from my heart and mind.
These days I have moments where I start to believe the pain, the shame, the anger, the rage is slowly being burned off in drops of sweat. Or maybe it is being repurposed as the quiet peace and positivity bubbling out of my glitter-bombing tank-like self.
I live, someday I will surely die, and every single day, I will tell my story. With honesty, authenticity, and some appropriate measure of humility. With hope and with compassion. And with every day that passes, with less and less fear. I have no need to be ashamed of who I am, the experiences I have endured as well as those I have enjoyed. They shaped me. They made me me.
In so many way this budding confidence and feelings of competence combine and create a small wrecking ball targeting each brick of the walls that separate me from completely living and loving all aspects of my life. My immeasurable, invisible gains are what I get from every single training day. I work hard, and I earn it.
And I am so worth it.