Training #66 – Too much Heaven

Thursday morning, training with J. And it was some new things, remix of things I already know, and in its way completely knocked my socks off. You’re tired of me writing this, but DAMN I love training days!

So today was a review/revamp of the chest and back routine. We did:

A1. DB Bench Press (25 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
A2. Stability Ball “Reach Up” Crunch (3 sets, 10-15 reps)
B1. TRX Pushups (4 sets, 8-15 reps)
B2. Bench “Step Out” or “Glute Kickback” (3 sets, 8-10/side)
C1. Leaned Forward Seated Dip Machine (4 sets, 8-12/reps)
C2. Band Archer Rows (3 sets, max reps/side)
D1. Triceps Rope Pushdown with Split @ Bottom (3 sets, 8-15 reps)
D2. Bench “Step Throughs” or Plank-to-Pushup (2 sets, 8-10/side)
E1. Easy Seated Cable Rows (long bar overhand) (2 sets, 12-15 reps)
E2. Rope Facepull (2 sets, 12-20)

I am such a creature of habit. We were starting today with chest presses, and somehow mind translated that as rows. In mind’s defense, there were several months where rows always preceded chest presses. This body part splits is still new in the whole training curve of activities. But I really do like it a lot. The way it progresses seems so much simpler and in weird ways easier.

On the dumbbell chest presses, nothing new to see here except the kinda/sorta fun way we conducted the warm-up today. Only I would probably phrase it that way, but it’s little things that make me happy. Once I realized we were doing presses and not rows, we did a set with 20 lb. DBs. Then put those away and did a set with 25 lb. DBs. Then put those away and got out the 30 lb. DBs. And honest to Pete I could barely get through 8 reps my arms felt so tired and weakened. But by set 4 with the 30 lb. DBs I was pretty much over it and feeling a lot stronger and fluid. What’s up with that? It was exciting nonetheless. I get very excited when things go better than expected later on into my exercise period.

The stability ball “reach up” crunches have become a favorite exercise. I love the way it makes my back feel to be draped over the ball for a period, and I’m not someone with back issues. This is an exercise I can feel working where it is supposed to be working, does not make my lower back feel poorly, and they overall feel better than sit-ups on the floor or just about everything else abs available to me.

We went back to the original nemesis – TRX push-ups. I would love to say I am rock star amazing at these by now, but truth is I am so not. They are probably permanent residents in my nemesis stable. Not precisely sure what my problem is with these despised bad boys – maybe it is my piss-poor attitude toward them? I will try again on Saturday. Or go back to doing a few every day until my competency improves (I plan to live at least another 15 to 20 years, so that is a lot of days available to hope for improvement). With my love of geometry when it comes to exercise, I suspect it is an angles thing and the floppy availability of movement with the straps. The bench version seems more friendly, probably because the bench is in a fixed position.

Then there is the bench “step-out” or “glute kick-back” – the planky things. I forgot to ask J about this while going through it, but we have done them from the push-up position on the bench (arms straight, shoulders over hands) and planky position (elbows bent on the bench, shoulders over elbows), and from the floor with both straight arms and bent elbow planky position. I have actually forgotten which is the upgrade/harder version, but I think going from bench to floor is a natural progression.

J introduced me to the dip machine today and taught me a “lean forward” positioning and to ensure my form stays good and the shoulder work gets done correctly. I think I am crazy, madly, deeply in love with the dip machine. It’s satisfying in so many ways, and I am pretty excited about trying it again. Sometimes when I kinda/sorta get how it is supposed to work and feel on the first run it becomes my new favorite thing.

The band archer rows in the main room was fun. These are my absolute favorite of the band rows and paired with my new favorite machine makes for a very fun block for me. My oh my how things have changed – describing a block of exercises as a “very fun block” of exercises.

Today’s triceps rope pushdown with split at bottom was a very subtle variation on the basic triceps cable motion I have learned and mostly mastered. (I say “mostly” because I seriously doubt I will ever be perfectly perfect at any of this stuff.) It still shocks me how one very subtle tweak makes such an amazing difference in how an exercise feels and how much work is suddenly being done.

We did bench plank-to-pushups today and no bench step-throughs today. Bench got slippery with sweat on the plank-to-push-ups, so in the future I will put my towel down on the bench. Periodically I believe myself to be getting better at these. They were not terrible today, but they will be better in the future.

We have done the seated cable rows with the narrow attachment, and today we used the long overhead bar attachment for a different, more typical (for me) rowing experience. After so many years o rowing on my indoor rower, I have to train myself not to lean back from the waist and with my back but to use arms and shoulders to pull back. I will just continue to be thinking “don’t lean, don’t lean, don’t lean” every time I use this machine.

The rope facepull is the same as it has always been, only today was a different cable machine. These were another of those mysterious exercises that I did not quite understand, until one day we were doing them and J said something and the lightbulb went off. Sometimes I think the gym could be powered for my training sessions by the breakthroughs I have in understanding what is supposed to be going on when I learn these new Lists.

I think on these I may test limits on J’s counsel on number of sets. Anymore, I think I like doing a minimum of 3 sets of everything. Of course, we may have been running out of time today in our session, and my time and energy management in my own practices may vary as well.

While we are working, I am also quizzing J about various topics of interest. Today it was intermittent fasting. Completely not something for me for a lot of reasons, most of which revolve around I do not see any benefit for me personally and the point of it completely eludes me as well. Still, I am always curious. And my lunch time walking associates are all a-buzz about it, so I like to see if they are basing their decisions on the marketing or if this is something they have actually researched as a potential thing.

RD … gosh I love and miss RD. When I brought it up with him in an email earlier this week, I was predicting and could practically feel and hear his sigh coming and suspected he would be strongly against the idea. Sometimes I think I ask these diet and nutrition things just to see how far RD’s head will spin completely around on his shoulders. While he knows I am mostly sensible about my diet, he also knows the ledge of mainstream diet information is right there and normally sensible people fall off routinely. What he forgets – I am tethered to my village. I mostly ask because I am curious, but if there’s some potential there I should explore, so be it. But there will be no falling off the edge for me.

Trainer J was telling me about his experience with intermittent fasting, in that he would essentially not eat all day long and then have some massive, pig-out feast in the evenings. He does these things because of clients like me, who will periodically get some wild hair and ask him about his experiences, so I suppose I feel kind of good about keeping him on his toes about stuff. That alone is enough to make me sure intermittent fasting is not for me – I truly hate it when I overeat and have that super-stuffed feeling in my stomach. That alone is enough to turn me off the idea.

Our discussion went past intermittent fasting, though, as is typical. I get a lot of interesting insight from conversations with J about fitness and nutrition trends, things I do not typically think about or notice. For example, he was telling me how in the fitness industry its been noted we have gotten away from talking about actual food we are consuming, instead talking about fat, carbs, protein. And it’s absolutely true. I tend to eat the same foods over and over and over again, so I pretty much know when something is carb- or protein-heavy. Because I have looked it up once and feel not urgency to do so again and again for the same answers.

The biggest issue for me is how food impacts my blood sugar, and my blood sugar has been pretty much rock solid for awhile now with occasional trends toward overnight lows, and I have learned and adapted in managing that with small snacks before bed. My struggles with food and healthy eating are not unique; I love my sugar and junk foods. However, what I am noticing lately is that I almost reflexively reach for the crap food in response to something completely unrelated to hunger. I can pretty much handle being hungry, but I apparently have a much lower tolerance for being uncomfortable. As in bored, upset, angry, unhappy, stressed and overwhelmed. And being uncomfortable is not necessarily limited to negative emotions. I’ve been known to reflexively reach for the soda or the chocolate when I am feeling happy, triumphant, victorious, or generally excited about something. You know, all the things that come with a working person’s life and lifestyle. Hell, all the things that come with the average person’s life and lifestyle, working or not.

I have been experimenting with curbing those impulses by eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. The season for summer fruit is extremely small in my estimation, so I tend to eat a lot of fresh berries and things I love while it is still available. It’s been a minor concern, but not enough that I had any plans to stop eating them anytime soon. I still test my sugar 4 times daily, because I am paranoid mindful of what could happen if I wander too far astray from the healthy nutrition standard I have set for myself. In my reading and conversations with doctors and others I trust, I have never been told to not eat as much as I presently consume, only to monitor my sugar to ensure it’s not being negatively impacted. And the fruit seems to be fine.

The starchy carbs (pasta, noodles, breads, etc.), however, do have a longer, less desirable impact. So I tend to save those for special occasions and always pair them with a protein. I’m fine eating a sandwich with actual bread assuming I have it with meat. Or oatmeal with protein powder mixed in (my breakfast staple). I’m gravitating back to a lot of salad and a lot of chicken with said salads. Or sometimes just the salad and a protein shake. Or some new combination of the staple foods I eat all the time, day after day, week after week.

A step I am exploring is a food journal, something RD tried to get me to adopt and I strongly resisted. I am still kind of strongly resisting; tracking is bad enough. However, I have now gotten to the point of eating so repetitively I have most of my meals preprogrammed and merely have to cut and paste to make 80% of a weekly meal plan. It is on my agenda to explore next month, after the wedding and after I return from vacation. I really want to simplify my life, not complicate it more by jotting food for future thought about food.

 

I just renewed for the next batch of sessions, and as is my custom, I wrote him a short thank you note. Sometimes I try for something cute, but this time was just a simple card. But every time I have renewed, I have thought about all the exercises and the training sessions we went through the previous 20 weeks. I think about the things we do week after week, session after session, practice after practice, and all those hours in the gym and what I have to show for it.

I have more mass to my ass, definitely. But it’s not jiggly fat mass, more like compacted muscle. And it sits differently. Unless you’re someone who has never really had much of a butt, it is kind of difficult to articulate the difference. I feel it, and I notice it. Perhaps an unexpected benefit that no one talks about when you start to exercise and do all those squats and such.

As for the rest of me, I’m trimmer, leaner than when I started. I have interesting little wrinkles and creases where there were none before, and I shamelessly admire them in the mirror when they catch my attention and endlessly quiz my husband about whether or not they are new or have always been there.

My strength and endurance have increased; I do not feel as weak or as powerless. It’s exciting to look back and think what weights I was using then, what I am pushing and pulling and moving to and fro now. Progress for me is not the weight I am moving, but the learning to do so safely and without injury.

Surprisingly, I have been at this for over a year now with minimal aches and pains. My habit has been to go slowly and carefully, be conservative with the weights, and try very hard to keep myself (and others) from injury. I enjoy the challenges of the exercise and stay awake enough to the Very Bad Things that can happen if I am not paying attention.

I have more fun in the gym by myself than I ever thought possible. Every now and again I think it might be nice to have a buddy to work out with, but in truth I am happy with my solo practices and crossing paths with the friends I have made there and the other tribe members I know. It’s nice seeing the same faces most days as they move along through their own workouts; being this level of creature of habit, there is a lot comforting in that familiarity.

In the card this time, I wrote “knowledge junkie met exercise and the learning began; knowledge junkie fell in love with exercise and the learning never ends.”

Among the truest words I have ever written. And I am so lucky, and really shocked, to feel that way. It’s not easy, and definitely it is not always fun. The emotional response to exercise is petulant and resentful as well as exhilarating and triumphant. When I have looked examined the way my feelings and instincts have evolved, I think the exercise and the path I am on is like a primal response to something my soul has needed for a very long time.

I never thought this change would enhance, expand, and impact my heart and my head as much as it has. Happiness, joy, contentment, peace, even love – these are words and concepts and terms bandied about and discussed endlessly across all forums of human communication. There was nothing especially new or exceptional about today, or this week, yet I feel all those things in abundance. The inside changes that no one actually sees are far more profound than the mass to my ass or the lower sugar and fat streaming through my veins. Body is changing and improving every day, every training session, every practice, but those enhancements are far more subtle.

And I have developed enough confidence to be happy and patience as that reality unfolds.

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