Thursday morning, training with J. And not really wedding bell blues so much as The Wedding is tomorrow and I’m mildly freaked out and counting down to the moment of blissful relief that it as an event has concluded. Low on sleep, trying hard to get sick (more about that in a minute), socially overwhelmed, and just looking forward to tomorrow night and being done with this project.
I am nothing if not honest about what I think and how I feel. I do not go around saying that to the happy couple, but in truth it is all in the back of our minds that our excitement is tempered with gratitude that the brunt of the work is done.
Just a quick aside on the wedding: gown drama concluded yesterday when K picked it up and tried it on to an absolutely PERFECT fit. All the ladies in the family and the wedding or in town for the wedding went to get mani/pedis done last night, so it was a lot of fun to sit around and drink wine (I stuck with water) and get pampered. Tonight is the rehearsal dinner, tomorrow I am hosting groom and groomsmen for lunch and getting into their tuxedos and having getting ready pictures taken, which necessitates a day off today to do an extra thorough speed clean on my entire house. But all good; end is near!
But I have been trying to get sick. All week my allergies have been going crazy, so I thought the sore throat when I woke up yesterday and continuing during practice was just part of that. Then I got to work and felt as if someone cut my strings I was suddenly so weak and so tired, and apparently running a low-grade fever. Yep, trying to be sick 2 days prior to my son’s wedding. Quick call to my doc and I have a z-pack of antibiotics for the probable sinus infection that is brewing. By the end of the evening last night I was so tired and so ready for sleep, and still with a mild fever. I bit the bullet and took the first of the z-pack.
This morning, I felt fine. Fever gone, nose remarkably clear, no headache or sore throat. I am a little more thirsty than usual, but that could be from working my ass off with trainer J this morning. All good, though.
I have been hesitant to discuss not feeling my normal healthy self. For me personally, shaving sleep comes with a cost. The wedding commitments and stressure has taken a light toll, but it is one more thing on top of juggling jobs and just a lot of work the last couple of months. I should not be at all surprised that I have gotten a little run down, particularly since my eating has been crap all week.
J is very good at his job, and I know he would have advised cancelling this week and taking a few days off to rest and kick whatever is trying to take my allergy flare-up to the sinus infection level had he known or even suspected I was mildly under the weather. Except I wasn’t feeling poorly until yesterday; it’s perfectly normal for me to have to blow my nose half dozen times in a practice or in a training session. Perhaps I could have taken yesterday off, cancelled today and tomorrow and it would have helped, but the exercise does so much to maintain my overall life balance. It did appear to me yesterday that whatever is/was going on had already taken root and I needed the drug intervention to make it stop so as to not feel poorly on Friday. So I did. I am not a complete idiot, though, and I would have done a last-minute cancel this morning had I not felt significantly improved. I would have felt terrible about not giving J advance warning, and I would have insisted he charge me for the session (whether he actually did that or not is a mystery for future exploration if this should ever occur again). I felt normal and fine this morning when I woke up; as I said, no stuffy nose, no runny nose, no headache, no sore throat, and most importantly, perfectly normal body temperature. I felt absolutely confident in my ability and raring to go, and I had this amazing, fantastic training session today, feeling very strong and competent in revisiting this List. I know a big part of it is the end is near with The Wedding distraction. It’s going to be beautiful and magical, but I’ll be relieved when the part of my brain occupied thinking about all the little details is done with all that.
But back to the “feeling very strong and competent” part of our recap and The List. Here’s what we ran through today:
Incline DB Press (20/25/30 lb. DBs, 3 sets (obviously), 8-12 reps)
Bench Alt Step Off/Kick Back combo (3 sets, 8-12/side)
Alternating dumbbell curls (15 lb. Dos, 3 sets, 12-15/side)
Alternating Chopper Sit Ups (3 sets, 6-12/side)
Flat Bench Chest Flyes (15/20 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
Bench Step Throughs (3 sets, 10-12/side)
DB Alt. Hammer Curls (15 lb. DBs, 12-15/side)
Stability Ball Crunch (3 sets, 10-15 reps)
1-arm DB Snatch (15/20 DBs, 2 sets, 6-8/side)
1-arm DB Lateral Throws (15 lb. DBs, 2 sets, 10-12/side)
Band Horizontal Hip Rotations (aka Choppers) (2 sets, 10-15/side)
Standing Contralateral Knee to Elbow Crunch (2 sets, 15-20/side)
I love, Love, LOVE training days. But we all know that. What I especially love is training days where I feel like everything is firing and I’m 117% present in the session. This is not to be confused with getting everything and being able to replicate perfectly. However, being on the pathway of getting everything and maybe someday with patience and practice being able to replicate almost perfectly is a big, giant win in my book. Today was like that. Plus, since we have not reviewed this List in a couple of months, there has been progress.
While we have done the incline dumbbell press in connection with other lists, it is another of those progression exercises for me. The first sets went off without a hitch and 15 reps concluded without any fuss or muss. But the third set and stepped up to a 30 lb. set, I could feel the heavier weight but still not overly worried about completing my minimum. Seems like I had just stepped up and into the 30s the last rendition of chest-focused lists inspired by Dr. Spencer. I was very happy to still moving along and able to handle that weight.
The bench alternating step-out/kick-back combo is one of the “filler” exercises on another recent list but that was presented as an either/or choice. I actually really like the combination of them, step-out once, kick-back next. All from the plank position. All to distract me from holding the plank for as long as possible. These are a slow-mo improvement for me, and I measure that not only by how many step-outs/kick-backs I can do in a set but by how many time times I have to remind myself to body is straight and planked and hips are staying level. My check-ins on the planking part of this are less frequent and my ability to step sideways and kick back have improved. Dramatically. Now I just watch to ensure my shoulders stay above hands in the set-up and away I go. There is no measure for how fantastic it feels to know I have made improvements I can feel.
I still cannot fathom why
everyone so many love curls. The alternating dumbbell curls recur fairly regularly, and I am growing accustomed to doing them. However, they are hardly a favorite. For a long time I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, that maybe if I found my groove with form and weight that I would totally love this exercise. Not happened yet, and I think form and weight I am using is fine for me. I guess I am just not a tried and true curl monkey. There’s always tomorrow, though.
The alternating chopper sit ups are the triumph of the day. First time we went through this List, then reviewing it, this exercise was an ongoing train wreck. I did learn a lot, like that I have been doing sit ups wrong forever, and probably I have been doing sit ups wrong forever. And they are hard, really, Really, REALLY hard. Whenever I have gone through this List on my own, I have substituted crunches on the stability ball for these alternating chopper sit-ups. Until today, anyway. Today, they were shockingly smooth. Today, I did these with fluidity and almost ease of motion. Today, even J admitted he was anticipating a much less successful event. Obviously, the crunches on the stability ball, the planking in various forms, the pilates on Sundays have offered up some additional ab strength. There may be a point in my future where I do not have to anchor feet to the floor to do these. Believe me, that’s real progress.
I continue to periodically lose my head and confuse a flat bench chest fly with a flat bench chest press. Today, oh well … J is standing right there to correct my hand placement. Again these have been on other lists, and I have done pretty well with the slow, controlled movement and not letting my elbows drop too low.
The bench step throughs have been used as more filler for the Dr. Spencer routines, so I know I have been doing them fairly consistently in the time away. Like the bench step off/kick back, the planky position requires some concentration to maintain. These are another one of those things where I feel I am improving, even if I do not even realize I am improving. The contraction in the obliques is sort of subtle, and I periodically find myself wondering if i am actually feeling it or if I am just imagining that I am feeling something in that area. Like their planky brethren, I measure my progress on not only how many reps per side I do per set, but how many times I have to check in and adjust my planking.
Then we have the alternating dumbbell hammer curls. These are still not a favorite either, but for whatever reason I like the hammer version every so slightly more than their brethren. They do pass quickly and make me think about shoulders and abs and glutes and posture – am I standing up straight? Most of the time, yes.
Any and all ab work we do, the stability ball crunch is probably my favorite, which immediately made me think I was doing something wrong. No, they are fine and good, feeling it in my abs as projected. The draping backwards over the ball setting up feels like a really wonderful stretch, and most importantly, these have never hurt my low back.
The final block was the really interesting and intriguing part of the day. We started with a 1-arm dumbbell snatch using a 15 lb. weight. I was slightly hesitant at first – last time we had used a 10, but I know how this is supposed to work and knew that I would and could stop if needed. These are still in the learning column of my master library of exercises, but I was fine with the 15 and then with the 20. If I start to feel my concentration is impeded or something just feels off, I stop and regroup. Hurting myself is never going to be worth my pride in finishing a set. When we upped the weight to 20 the second set, I felt a lot more confident in both the movement and my ability to control the weight. We are not doing a lot of reps on this one at these weights, but what we are doing is plenty.
The 1-arm dumbbell lateral throws are also in the “still learning ” section of the master library. We went up to a 15 on these as well, and once I get going with the general notation of the effort my confidence grows. Not so much that I am tossing the weight about willy-nilly, but that I can restrain my concern about doing it wrong and the Very Bad Things that could possibly happen. Plus it is just odd to me how some exercises where it is perfect acceptable, even encouraged to bend or to keep knees straight I get it in my head that knees should stay bent or straight throughout the movement and that is not the case.
Band horizontal hip rotations (aka choppers) should be on the easy peasy list of things I remember how to perform. However, lately I have been getting foot placement confused to the point I am spying on other tribe members doing similar things to try and cement it into my head. I’m getting there. Sometimes I wonder if this is the same slice of my brain that controls lett-hand/right-hand dominance, because I spent two-thirds of my life having to stop and think which is left, which is right. I am left-handed; when I started school they were either handing me lefty scissors (which I cannot use – I cut with my right hand) or putting the pencil into my right hand (definitely I am left handed). Some left of confusion in my forming brain reigned for decades.
This last crunch, the standing contralateral knee to elbow crunch, is kind of a secret cult favorite. I think of the “tuck the rib” every time we go through it or I am doing this List on my own in practice, and for whatever reason the idea makes me smile. Today’s nifty new trick was to raise the raised leg slightly higher than 90 degrees and then crunch. It shortened the crunch motion and certainly made me feel a deeper contraction inside.
So that was training day today, and it was gloriously fun. And I also know I say that every week, but compared to the last 2 sessions – which have been oodles of fun on their own – this time was just different because mind was completely in sync with what we were doing, talking about, learning. I am absolutely serious about how much weight is off mind with the wedding tomorrow.
Plus, even though I know I am in the gym a lot, I know I am putting forth the effort to practice the exercises every week, measuring progress is not like taking a multiple choice test. Since I have not hurt myself or anyone else I figure I am doing fine, and believe me, I know that I am. Then we return to a list like Monday and today, and I recognize the difference between training styles that we were doing and back to my roots of what I know so well. More significant to me, I see and feel the differences in exertion and effort from before to now, and it has only been a couple of months.
I actually have no strong preferences for one to the other as far as training styles. As I put it to J yesterday, the body part splits we were doing last week with heavier weights and fewer reps for minimum 4 sets are like a sprint – stay focused for a short time and get through it. Monday and today’s style of List and training is a broader concentration for a longer time, more like a marathon where I have to keep up the pacing and stay with it to see the series through to the finish.
And frankly it amazes me that I have any kind of insight on this stuff. What does not surprise me is that I am not more discerning about preferences. I now have enough Lists to pick and choose every day what I want to do in practice, to the point that if I want to do whole body I have List for that. If I want to divide and conquer body parts over the course of a week I have Lists for that. Since I have no specific goals other than to stay in my groove about consistent exercise, I am free to pursue and test drive whatever J throws at me each week.
My preconceived notions of me on exercise have been turned upside down and tossed out as laughably naive. I always imagined me doing cardio and throwing in a small slice of resistance training with the weights for variety and to ensure some tone in newly exposed muscles. Instead, I rarely do just cardio (unless doing a ridiculous amount of speed cleaning throughout my whole house today counts). I walk most days with my associates at work, but that’s as much social fun as anything else.
This week, I got to see and more importantly feel the work I have done these last months and see it in my increased ability and competency. I am extremely excited about being more capable, and if I needed more incentive to keep up my training with J and my daily practices, the pilates on Sunday, the yoga on (most) Friday nights, I found it this week.
Not enough time to go into great detail about how I am eating more than my fair share of crap this week or skipping meals and not eating at all. It’s been a little or a lot ugly on that front, but lots of socializing and lots going on in my world. Back to our normal healthier options on Saturday. Tonight it’s Chicago Fire’s caesar salad and probably a couple of pieces of pizza. We are hosting this wing-ding, so I
should get am going the eat some food I love. Forget the entitlement or “deserving” whatever I consume tonight. My son is getting married tomorrow and I simply want to relax and enjoy the evening.
Despite my crap eating or not eating at all, it has been a gratifying, satisfying week. And … GO ME! I kicked ass today.