Monday evening was post-vacation training with J. And I have to say, being in the gym for a 5 p.m. appointment after a week away is like being in a completely different gym. There were 5 other trainers present in addition to J, 3 of whom were working in our little room with their clients and one was preparing for a body fit class. Plus the sheer number of other members moving around on the weight machines was at least double my usual early morning time.

It was weird. It was a little intimidating. It was kind of overwhelming after a long afternoon and being out of touch with my typical routines for a week.

On the other hand, it was another excellent example of how far I have come in the last year. Yes, I was a little (okay, maybe a lot) freaked out inside by all the people and seeing red-shirted trainers I’d never laid eyes on before that night and the confined little space we set-up shop in as compared to having the run of the room on Monday and Thursday mornings. All that was just the beginning of new things I learned in a very rare evening training appointment.

My energy levels are completely different after work. Granted, yesterday was a pretty stressful afternoon, but many of my work days have a similar type of tension and stress laced through them. While I am not always an energizer bunny first thing in the morning, it feels as if body is attuned to morning equals exercise, evening equals work or writing or reading or relaxing. Something, anything other than List-based exercise. First thing in the morning, mind is waking up and thinking about the movement. After work, I arrive distracted and have to push through to focus on what J is teaching or cueing or coaching me on each exercise on the List.

I have been training myself into a Friday night yoga trance, and it seems to be a nice way to end the week. Yoga or the occasional pilates class after work seems to be working out for me. Because I’ve made myself go and get adjusted to this activity, although anymore it seems almost as much a social event as an exercise class.

If I was an evening/after work exercise regular, I would acclimate and adjust. But I’m not doing that. I’m the drag myself out of bed in the early morning hours and haul my ass to the gym. After nearly a year of doing this just about every day, I have a groove worn into my sleeping patterns and it feels completely unnatural not to get up and to the gym or the pilates studio at my first activity of the day.

What we did yesterday:

Alt Seated Side Laterals (still “hang n bang”)
T-stab (arm rotation) Push Ups (torso elevated on bench)
Band ABC Extensions (2 works well – new orange-ish bands)
Front Alt Raise w/ Side Step (step to raise side)

1-arm Lying Chest Press from Stability Ball
Band Low Speed Rows
1-arm DB OH Press (split stance press side=back leg)
Bird Dogs

Band Chest Flyes
Good Mornings (bar held in cross arms FRONT/hip hinge)
Any Push Ups (used TRX)
TRX Fallouts

Med ball Alt Reaching Lunge off Step w/ Press
1-arm Band Chest Press w/ Rotations
Stability Ball DB Pullovers
Stability Ball “reach up” Crunches

Looking at this List today – we really did a lot! While I was there and know we did not do full sets and reps of each and every exercise, we went through everything on the List, and tomorrow I better get myself out the door and to the gym on time if I expect to completely the full sets and reps of each of these things in my allotted time.

The alternating seated side laterals we used a pair of 10 lb. dumbbells. They felt a little heavy, but not to the point that I wanted to reduce weight. It had been a week of very little lower body exercise and my shoulders began with the crackling noise but very quickly settled down and into their groove. Most importantly: nothing hurt. I felt out of sync and out of practice, but not so far out of sync and out of practice that I needed to proceed with lighter weights. This time J demonstrated and had me putting a little more english on the lifting of the weight, turning it into an almost throwing motion. Had a different feel to it, one that I will go slowly with to ensure I have the motion down pat tomorrow before I moving into the peppier pacing of this series.

Having been away from this List for a couple of months, I remembered the T-stab arm rotation/push-ups quite vividly and without much fondness. I clearly recall the struggle with these things, the feeling that my arms and shoulders and upper body in it’s entirety was never going to be strong enough to perform these proficiently. So imagine my amazement when they did not feel all that bad. Push-ups are an ongoing battle – maybe they are back in arch nemesis territory – but off the bench are not nearly as dreadful as other styles of them, probably because I have been doing a lot of bench push-ups lately.

Band ABC extensions are an exercise I see on the List and groan inwardly. They are cardio on steroids and J always puts them as MAX reps and I have to force myself to not drop the bands after 3. When I am on my own I force myself to do at least 8 the first set, and then 10, and then 12. If I don’t have some minimum I might very well stop at 3 and call it good. Between the pulling and the twisting and the remembering to breathe, these things kick my ass. Other things I seem to improve; these, not so much just yet.

The front alternating raise with side step got funner became more enjoyable by the third set. Once I catch on to the rhythm of an exercise I feel more confident and in control of its execution. I am liking more and more the “throwing” type shoulder movements we have been exploring lately, and these incorporate that.

Who knew that a 1-arm chest press from a stability ball would be such a challenge? I am focusing on what my arm is doing while thinking about the tension in the opposite leg while pressing the dumbbell upward. We used a 20 lb. dumbbell, and it feels completely different than a regular chest press. Granted, there’s the whole ball under the head and balancing the body without a bench thing going on, but I still had some minor expectation that it would feel something like a regular chest press. Nope, not to me, anyway. Thinking back about it now, I want to check in with what my abs and hips are doing tomorrow when I do this again. It seems to me now that I was not quite as stabilized with my feet on the ground/head on the ball as I would have liked. Which is why I practice, so I can be ready with things I’m unclear about on Thursday.

I am really glad we do as many rows as we do on every List. Shoulder creeping up into their shrugged state is becoming more and more apparent to me, and every row-like event has me thinking about where my hands are, what are those shoulders doing (usually shrugging up when they should be down and back). The band low speed rows are another MAX reps, and I really want to stop after 15 and call it good. Depending on the stretchy band we’re using, though, I can go farther even when I really want to stop. Now that I am trying hard to rehabilitate and break myself of my auto shrug habit, it is good for me to make MAX rows actual MAX rows.

The 1-arm dumbbell overhead press makes me smile thinking about it. J has to write me these little notes so I do not get confused about which hand is holding the weight in relation to the split stances; I get them backwards at least as often as I do them correctly. I am pretty unremarkable at these, other than having to stop and think about where my feet are in relation to the weight in my hands. Other than that, I like the way these make me feel the need to stand up straight.

Bird dogs – how I loathe you. We did them as holds once and then as back and forth for 2 sets. My “OMG – I so suck at these” has no strong preference of distaste for static versus moving back and forth. The hostility I have toward them is primarily balance; this is the only List to date with these on it and I have not gone through this List in a couple of months. If I practiced more, I would improve, hostility would lessen, and life of bird dogs would return to rainbows and unicorns. Since we are not even close to that right now, I will keep working at them. And force myself to focus and not thinking swearing thoughts while in process.

I was doing dumbbell chest flyes this morning and they were okay. Doing band chest flies is significantly less complicated, so much so that I kind of get lost in the movement and the count and then start to wonder if I am doing something wrong because it appears I have them down pretty well.

While I like the good mornings, I actually find the name kind of incongruent with this type and style of exercise. It’s like whoever is in charge of naming these things came from a yoga class and decided to make gym exercises sound more outgoing and positive. I know, I know – me and my first world complaints. Now that I finally kind of get how to do deadlifts correctly, the 18 lb. bar J handed me seems mostly awkward to get a good hand-hold and into position. I have vivid imagining of conking him or some other passerby while trying to get it situated so I can get started. No one was injured in my efforts yesterday, and I will make sure I am away from others tomorrow morning.

If I loathe the bird dogs, I can at least comfort myself that they are fairly rare in List land and not a recurring something I have been working at for the last 15 months. I have no such cushion of innocence when it comes to TRX push-ups. It has been at least a year, probably closer to almost the entirety of 15 months that these have been around. And I still struggle mightily. These days I am now experienced enough to recognize the insidious shrug effect in play, and going forward I need to get back into the habit of doing 5 every day if only to get myself into the habit of checking in with the shoulders and forcing myself to pay attention and relax them away from their shrugged up position.

Same story with the TRX fallouts. These have not appeared on a List recently, but they are an oldie but despicable goodie. One would think with all the planky stuff we have been doing lately that these would be easier or more natural to me; one would be dead wrong. Hips want to hinge up when arms move up and down, not stay still and tight and fully planked. Only practice and vigilant attention to this little details is going to get me better on these.

While J lists this as Med ball Alt Reaching Lunge off Step w/ Press, what I remember doing is anterior reaches with a medicine ball (it was burgundy; I have no idea how much it weighed) and ending that with an overhead press. And I like this one, because I am getting pretty good with the anterior reaches. I admit to not challenge myself by lifting the rear foot off the ground, but I feel good about how it went with rear foot resting on the ground.

The 1-arm band chest press with rotations was probably my favorite thing we did yesterday. It feels kind of like a punching motion, and it was rather enjoyable to imagine certain faces at the end of that rotation reach. Exercise most definitely is good therapy for bleeding off some work frustration, and no, I have no plans to take up boxing anytime soon.

Everything feels different on the stability ball, but I have come a long way in making friends with the darn things. The stability ball dumbbell pullover feels remarkably similar to doing them on the bench, but again, tomorrow when I am working on this List I want to check in with how the rest of body feels with its balance and form. It seems to me I could be more stable if I ensure my glutes and abs are fully engaged.

Of all the crunches we have been doing lately, the stability ball “reach up” crunches have fallen to 1.5 on my ab exercise favorites. In the 1.5 position they remain a favorite, but now that I have learned I can actually do sit-up crunches on the floor, they are presently residing in the happy place position.

There you have it – all we did in the rare evening training session.

All in all, I am very pleased with how much we covered and how well I did on the work. I would like to continue to improve; I would love to feel less TRX push-up challenged. Sometimes I feel like I need a practice day where I do nothing but work at the things that continue to vex me. And then I realize that I do actually do that by rotating and working the various Lists every week.

J did say something to me yesterday that gave me pause for a quick, spare second. We were talking about a diet and exercise guide another training tribe member is reading and J’s negative opinions regarding the faulty advice for my fellow tribe member’s unique needs. There are things I hear about from others that I will run by J to see if he has read it, heard about it, has any opinions on it. Because he told me very early on in our partnership that he would be my gatekeeper on fitness information, and I have held him to that. Quite frankly, there is a lot of crap out there, and I have only so much time to read or pursue additional education and want to use that time wisely. If J has already read and discarded or disagrees with something I present to him, I tend to accept his judgment and move along to something else.

Because to my way of thinking, J has to work with me twice a week on this stuff and it is in both our interests for me to be focused and paying attention to what he is trying to teach me. It has now been over a year of working together, nearly a year of daily exercise of some sort, and I remain healthy and injury free (knocking on wood). If my head is going to be turned, I would rather it be in a direction where he does not have to break me of newly acquired bad habits or deprogram me from crazy ideas I might absorb from fitness marketing. It is a choice I make, and truly, it simplifies my life. If I were someone who believed body could be transformed in 10 weeks with minimal pain and deprivation, my relationship with J would not be so productive. He’d be spending probably at least a third of our time explaining to  me why something I’d read or wanted to try was either ineffective, unsustainable, or simply a bad idea to pursue for me and my uniqueness.

Is there a moral to this story? I don’t know. What I do know and why this sticks with me – J remarked that he is my sole source for fitness guidance and information. And for the most part that’s true. M, friend J, others in my world who are into exercise – they tend to shy away from even attempting to influence me. I’m doing well under J’s tutelage; I ain’t broken, no need for them to try and fix me. Do I need to have my head turned to tune in to other channels? I don’t think so. Dr. Spencer does provide me with workouts every month or so, and I in turn hand those off to J to decide whether we edit it for our own purposes or set it aside. In reality, J is the one who is going to have to teach and work with me on the List, whatever List. If he pronounces something is a poor fit, I accept his judgment and move into whatever we are doing next.

This works for me, and I happily hand over my credit card every few months to replenish my session bank and retain his expertise. I do pilates on Sundays, yoga Friday nights, and occasionally I pick up another class with a friend. I discussed these activities with J before adding them to my schedule, and in truth if he had said that sounded like a bad idea because of X, Y, and Z, I probably would not have continued. But the pilates and the yoga tend to complement my List of the day endeavors, as it is the bread and butter of my fitness regimen.

Maybe my actually listening to him as my primary (if pretty much only) exercise coach is one more way I am a one-off anomaly in the client tribe.

But oh well. At least he can be assured I am listening, even over the roaring din of a busy Monday evening in the gym.

With the vacation last week, my eating and diet got a little wonky and it’s going to take a few days (and a less hair-tearing work environment) to get back into my eating groove. I love my protein shakes. I am having some minor discomfort on my coffee/caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And tomorrow or Thursday I will actually have time to grocery shop for something other than bananas, apples, and grapes. In the meantime, I am not eating enough protein, but I am eating my fair share of fruits and vegetables and drinking a lot of water.

From a healthy eating perspective, things could be so much worse.

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