Thursday morning, training with J. Review day, teaching day, all about legs today. This was a little unusual, in that we reviewed from shoulders and did not go through all the filler items that are typically on this list. But oh well. It was so much fun!

What we did:

  • Standing 1-arm dumbbell snatch (10 lb. DB, 3 sets, 12-15 reps)
  • Kettlebell swings (8 lb. KB, 3 sets, 12-15 reps)
  • Dumbbell power squats (30 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Dumbbell Romanian dead lifts (30 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Dumbbell walking lunges (20 lb. DBs, 2 sets, 6-8/side)
  • Goblet lateral lunges w/pulse (non-alternating) (8 lb. KB, 2 sets, 5-6 reps)
  • Kettlebell swings (3 sets, 12-15 reps)

We start every session discussing what I have been doing lately. With what we have been doing the last couple of months, I have gone back and forth with reviewing what we are doing in the days after sessions. However, I have been getting better about back into that routine and learned that with body-part splits, shoulders are fine once per week. Yesterday I ended up going down in lighter weights to get through my List of the day, so it was a good lesson. However, I also learned that I am falling madly in love with a couple of exercises on the shoulder’s List.

Such is the case with the standing 1-arm dumbbell snatch. I like this one a lot yesterday, and today we went through it again and I feel like I got the form down better and cemented in my head. Maybe it’s just me, but these are technically complicated and have lots of little details to think about going through them. Once I get the fluidity and how it should work, it very quickly becomes absorbing as well as challenging. Mind likes working along side body apparently. Today’s big discovery was not gripping the dumbbell in a death grip hold. The difference was remarkable. It went from shoulder being super tight to sort of loosey-goosey and far more fluid. I had no idea until mentioning it to J and he demonstrated to me what was happening and why.

Last year when we got started, J and I discussed kettlebell swings. Everywhere I looked in the gym someone seemed to be doing KB swings and they made me nervous. All I could think was what happened if someone lost their grip and the KB went flying across the room? I was so raw and clueless that what they were trying to achieve from doing this exercise never entered my mind; all I saw was disaster, destruction, maybe death when someone lost control. We are now more than a year away from that conversation, and finally J started teaching me how to perform this exercise. We used the big pink kettlebell that is deceptive in its light weight – only 8 lbs. Again, these are far more technical than even I anticipated. J explained the motion was like a Romanian deadlift, and once I got back into the hip-hinge groove, it became the day’s super fun movement. I clearly remember how long it took me to master a basic deadlift – unshrugging the shoulders, keeping the upper body tight, hinging up sharply. After a year of doing them in various forms I have a good understanding of how the exercise is supposed to work, where I should be feeling the muscle contractions, and mind/body have learned the habit of pre-tightening the glutes and hamstrings before hinging up. I am really looking forward to continuing practice to work on and perfect my form. I love teaching day.

Also improving on the dumbbell power squats. Sometimes I think we spend a session discussing the fine details of each movement, and it is one of many things I love about training sessions. Watching others do a lot of the stuff I do it looks so easy, effortless, and fluid. Me actually doing it is another matter entirely. With me, I can’t just watch J demonstrate, go through it under supervision once and then be turned loose on my own, never to revisit again. It’s why there are a lot of review days. It’s why stuff I have been doing for months sometimes turns ugly or I my brain and all exercise memories contained therein falls out and I confuse which foot goes where or how to do something that was probably well known to me last week. Such is the case with this strain of squats. Granted, we’ve only been through this one a couple of times, and I have been practicing. However, today there were a couple of updated cues about the sequence of things (butt back first, then bend knees and lower, back up quickly without shrugging). Now in my mind I have a stick-figure drawing of the curvature body should be presenting, making it easier to have a better picture of what I am doing, when, and how. Little things. Little details. I like the small technical corrections. I love that. I love the tiny details that make a difference going forward. Because who knows? Someday I may be using some other type of equipment and the tiny details we learn and practice, practice, practice will make a huge difference.

The Romanian deadlifts, after a segment with KB swings, seem like old friends. Because I was a little fatigued already, I did not go for the heavier 35 lb. dumbbells, but I will on Saturday when I go through this next. Thing with me, the amount of weight I’m moving matters less to me than feeling competent and as if my form is holding true. It took me awhile to set my ego aside in this regard, but now that I’m here, I enjoy the technical aspects of the exercise so much more. There is no disappointment about having to step down or stepping down because it is more convenient (like today). Real disappointment will be hurting myself, and I can easily see that happening using too much weight and/or letting the weight unduly skew my form.

I have a hate/hate/feel empowered relationship with walking lunges. I am now using a set of 20 lb. dumbbells with these, and while today I feel there could have been a bit of slacking going on with only 2 sets and only 8 per side, I know that in my own practices I am pushing for the 3 sets on the List and 10/side. Thing with these bad boys – I doubt I will ever completely escape them, so I continue to try to make friends. Mind says I need to do them more than once a week, that the empowered comes on the second (or third) performance in short span of time. The first time they come up on a List, I feel dread. I feel hate and discontent. I feel relief when they are over. Second time they come up on a List, though, I start at resignation and determination to get through them better this time and end up somewhere in the empowered range. Familiarity and regular practice breeds a lot more positive emotions in this case.

The goblet lateral lunges are almost worse than their walking brethren. I have yet to figure out precisely why I dislike these, because even without the pulse they would be among the first things I’d vote off the island. It could be a balance issue, the lateral movement not really feeling normal or natural to me. It could also be a range of motion thing with my knees not wanting to bend as much as mind thinks they should be bending. I have the same issue in yoga classes with similar poses, and a good part of the problem is all in my head, the bleating out of “I hate you!” ever time I see them on a List or while going through the process. Stuff I dislike the normal tendency is to want to rush and get them over with, which never works out for me on these. So I have to force myself to slow down and ensure I am doing them in a manner that body says feels right enough. One day they will start to feel better, then they will their own empowering moment. Until then, I’ll slog on and do my sets and my reps and try to keep a more neutral expression plastered on my face. But definitely I am using something other than the larger pink KB. It’s larger size feels awkward in my hands.

On the newly updated List, trainer J offers me the option to do the KB swings as a warm-up and then a “finisher” as we did today, or to do the List as originally written with glute bridges, planks, clamshells, and band resist rotations. My loosely-written plan at the moment is to do both – go through today’s workout as written above and add back the missing exercises. Saturday will be here before I know it and I will decide then.

So that was training today, and again, lots and lots of fun for me.


Today’s training had very faint echo of our earliest sessions, learning basic movement patterns, the difficulties I had with deadlifts and squats (press down through heels, don’t shrug), all my lunge anxiety about falling over and how even now, months later, I still have to remind and self-correct to ensure my upper body stays rigid and my shoulders stay back. Old cues and technical corrections remind me that now is a new era and time of great excitement and enthusiasm for me. I have grown so accustomed to and comfortable with J’s style of training I do not even flinch or reflexively apologize anymore. I just try to follow his cues and directions, listen to my body and the feedback it’s providing as well.

I once wrote that I am becoming a student of my own body, learning about its functions and capabilities. I was thinking earlier, while working and writing this post in my head, that nearly all I knew before starting down the exercise pathway was my limitations. I could tell you everything about what I couldn’t do and had this tremendous fear and anxiety that someone would come along and challenge me to change the situation. It would be something akin to being exposed as a fraud for pretending to be a physically impaired invalid.

Being able to do what I can now do in the gym is like discovering I have had a secret superpower all along and I am only now exploring how to master and use it. My delight comes not from being able to move bigger weights so much as knowing what muscles are engaged and working when I am moving weights correctly. Moreover, the simple education of how different disciplines and focuses in the gym train gives me a lot more insight to how meaningless it truly is for me to have a specific goal I am chasing.

Because I am curious and like to know lots of things on a broad range of topics, I asked J this morning how frequently his powerlifting ladies come in and practice on their own. They meet twice weekly with him for a pretty intense 2 hour group workout, with an option for another 1 hour group class on another night. For the ways they train, that certainly seems like plenty to me, but J says most of them probably come in a couple of days each week on their own or to pursue other interests. I never, ever think everyone else needs to practice as train the way I do or they are obviously posers on the beach, but it’s intriguing to me to see what other tribe members can and do with what they learn each week. My own discipline started as fear and anxiety, and I am not even certain those roots do not still linger. I have genuine concerns of not going to the gym for a few days and having to struggle to make myself return. As time passes the fear and anxiety has evolved into habit, and even that is becoming more an addictive kind of challenge to see how sharply focused mind can stay and from that how far body will be pushed.

For me, it is definitely a very good addiction to develop. Perhaps someday I will reread these entries and shake my head, wondering why I was so crazy. I imagine when that day comes I will be significantly fitter and confident in my abilities to separate from my routines for a few days and return without stress or drama.

Or not. Either way, it is one of many more bright days into my future.

Eating front, I am really putting concerted effort into clean eating right now. The Wedding looms large, and it is so easy to allow stress to have me mindlessly eating and snacking. I am not worried about The Dress – I have it in 3 sizes and will decide next Friday whether it’s the large or the medium, as the extra large is no longer in the running and I cannot even imagine all I would have to eat to gain the extra pounds to make that be my choice.

A bridesmaid is a new vegan, and as I am hosting the ladies of the wedding party for brunch next week, I am testing vegan brunch-like recipes. Thus far we have a winner in a berry pancake recipe and a lemon blueberry loaf. With some cut up fruit and a berry mixture salad it should be enough. I think. I simply cannot bear the idea of someone coming to my home and eating nothing but a fruit plate. I am going to try some apple-based muffins this weekend and C is trying her hand at a fruit-based syrup; it will be fine. Worst comes to worst, I will throw myself on the mercy of a vegan restaurant and a specialty bakery.

The rest of my overall eating patterns seems to be going well. Meal plan in my fitness pal and eating a lot of vegetables and fresh fruit. Eating more protein remains an issue, but I have protein powder supplements and will not apologize or be upset for having to continue to use them. Besides, with the vegetables I toss in there with them, they are practically complete meals in and unto themselves.

While the August challenge ended yesterday, I find myself still taking a 30 minute stroll with my associates at lunch. Now we are talking vegan-recipes and places online to find vegan food and what sounds good, what sound simply awful, and maybe it would not be all that bad to be a vegetarian. All good! It is certainly an improvement over some of the crazy diets that have been batted around as ways to shrink themselves for upcoming significant events. My thoughts – and it must be the 20+ difference in our ages – ditch the fad diets, eat sensibly, get your asses into the gym while you have time, and most importantly, find a forgiving dress style and enjoy the event.

See how zen I have become after a year of wedding planning and both my kids getting married within a few months of one another? I feel some pressure about The Wedding, but nothing like K, who went for a “final” fitting for her wedding dress today and finding it is still too tight in the hips and thighs. Her weight fluctuates throughout the month, and unfortunately her gown is rather unforgiving. She returns Saturday for the next rendition of alterations, and fingers and toes crossed it fits well this time. I just keep reminding her to breath, she cannot, does not need to lose any more weight, and it will work out. Because it will. The dress will fit one way or another, and she will look lovely.

It has been such a fantastic Thursday.

On my way to the office this morning I was listening to the soundtrack from Chicago (the movie) and this song came on and was the perfect title for today’s post.

Every week I seem to think about and privately celebrate my village and family/friend tribe who are so influential and important to me in not just my overall health and wellness, but the whole quality and fabric of my life. While I have to do the actual heavy lifting, I know very well that I do not do this alone or without a lot of behind-the-scenes teaching, advice, support, and kicks-in-the-ass when needed. I am so fortunate and so thankful. I am so lucky to feel this good, this happy, this content with my lot in life.

While I still feel as if my new-found confidence comes with training wheels, it is becoming so much a part of me as the days pass. I do still remember quite vividly what it was like before contrasted with what it’s like now. However, I know – I feel – the time coming where my own rampant insecurity and fear and anxiety over things that have always been within my control have mostly faded into deep background in my memory. The change from feeling like a failure for being unable to or unsuccessful in physical tasks to feeling that I am just not quite there yet has overtaken me in zillions of tiny little steps. The attitude, the entire mindset change is like having a diseased organ removed and replaced with something brand new and with unimaginable new-to-me features.

And I am so ready to embrace that completely.





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