Thursday morning, training with J. While I am still out of sorts from September’s distractions, I am on track back to normality. I am supremely aware and discombobulated by not being there immediately. Patience remains an elusive, improbable virtue.

So while not especially high-energy, over-the-top-enthusiasm this morning, I always love training days no matter what the circumstances in the rest of my life. I like getting to the gym, I like warming up, I like wondering what we will do today with happy anticipation.

And to be completely transparent: of all the posts I write for this blog, training recaps are my favorites. Because I have something to say. I have thoughts to share. Looking back months or even a year from now, I can see and feel measurable progress.

Today was a teaching day. J mixes things up and created a new List that is repetitive in some ways but very much cardio-based. And boy howdy does it take the breath away with that peppy pacing. All that entails:

Simultaneous Shoulder Press for Speed
Y Press for Speed
Alternating Cross Press with Pivot/Rotation

Simultaneous DB Curls for Speed
2-arm to Simultaneous Dumbbell Bent Alt. DB Rows
Alternating Dumbbell Side Laterals with a Contralateral Front Stride
Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises with a Contralateral Side Stride

Alternating Front Reaching Lunges
Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges
Alternating Posterior Reaching Lunges

Alternating Front Reaching Lunges with Press
Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges with Press
alternating Posterior Reaching Lunges with Press
DB Power Squats

When I was reading this List for the first time, I read simultaneous shoulder press for speed and thought no, it was alternating and simultaneous, meaning one arm was going up while the other arm was coming down. Makes me smile to realize that if I were ever doing a List all on my own without going through it with J first, I would be doing it all wrong. These are a mostly known exercise, something we have done many times before, although never in a simultaneous and alternating state for speed. But it was good and I quickly got the hang of the peppier pacing and the one up, one down methodology.

The Y press for speed is a semi new one for me. We have done these on the TRX straps and I believe we have done them on the cable machine as well. With the dumbbells, it’s brand new. Not terrible, not too bad, even. If anything, I was mostly concerned with my shoulders, but there was not snap, crackle, or pop with the stuff we did today.

Another new one is the alternating cross press with pivot/rotation, which is very similar to another exercise on Monday’s List with the bands. So while new, not completely unfamiliar. It seems anything with a pivot seems complicated to me at first, and I typically go slowly to ensure I understand how it works, how it should be working, and to not get ahead of myself. I think this one is a favorite of all the new stuff today.

I mostly do better with the things I am familiar with, and simultaneous dumbbell curls for speed I have a good understanding of the basic form and concept and peppy simultaneous/alternating fashion of doing these.

The 2-arm to simultaneous dumbbell bent alternating dumbbell rows are bent over speed rows to simultaneous/alternating speed rows, so do 10 of these using both arms and then transition to the alternating version and do another 10 per arm. Again, I have a pretty good grasp on the form and how these work, but with my new focus on shoulders low and back I am paying extra attention to form going through them.

There was probably steam coming from my ears when we began the contralateral segment of our List today. For whatever reason, brain has a hard time with left leg/right arm and right leg/left arm exercises ala “deranged dog having seizure” yesterday. Today I must have put that bad boy down for a nap, because I mostly got the hang of these pretty quickly. The alternating dumbbell side laterals with contralateral front stride (sounds very smart and important and complicated on my List) went pretty well, once I got my focus on the left arm raises to the side as right leg steps forward, then reverse, 10 times per side. Once I got brain in sync with the left/right aspect of these, I liked them a lot.

Similarly, the alternating dumbbell front raises with contralateral side stride took a few tries to get the arms and legs that were to be teaming up and working together working. Something about stepping left but raising the right arm in front seems strangely complicated; brain kept having to be overruled and prevented from stepping to the left side and raising the left arm sideways. J is very smart for including pairing these with exercises I have mastered fairly well thus far, leaving plenty of focus to get the left/right right on these. He has pondered, very briefly, marrying them together into one big single exercise, but I think the amount of concentration it took me to get through individual sets of 10 made him table that for some future List.

We then embarked upon the lunging section of our List. First was the alternating front reaching lunges, which I rather enjoy these days. I think I must be accustomed to doing one leg at a time, because the first set J had to stop and remind me we were alternating, so I did 2 on the other leg to get in sync and then finished out the set.

Next up were the alternating lateral reaching lunges, which are never going to be my favorite and I cannot even tell you why. Maybe because I am simply not flexible? For whatever reason, I dislike these more than just about any other type or style of lunge. I always feel like a curtseying elephant trying to make get through these, even more so than the actual curtsey lunges.

Another new one for me today – alternating posterior reaching lunges. These were the most challenging exercise of the day, with it’s 180 step twist behind, do the reaching lunge, and then twist back up to the starting point. Peppy pacing? Not really happening right now, but the potential exists with some practice. I found myself thinking about everything from my starting position, to my pivoting foot on the 180 step, to how straight or how crooked the forward foot. I was definitely getting the hang of it after a few runs through it, but more practice is warranted to make it stick.

The next series included a overhead press at the top of the exercise. The alternating front reaching lunges with press went pretty well, and I began to sense a natural rhythm to the movement that made it all come together and make sense.

The alternating lateral reaching lunges with press – it is difficult to find a sense of timing with these, because it seems to me like the coming back to the upright position without falling over into the other direction takes my full concentration. However, I kind of like overhead press addition to these because it gives me enough focus to pause and center once upright and not let momentum carry me off balance.

For whatever reason, it is easier for me to find my timing and form with the alternating posterior reaching lunges with press than it is with the laterals. By the time we got to the end of these I had a natural sense of how to hold the weights and move fluidly into the overhead press, even if I did not always execute it mostly competently. But with practice I anticipate more fluidity and competence.

With the very light weights, dumbbell power squats are a lot of fun. When I have 35 lb. weights in my hands they are still satisfying, but in a completely different way. I need more experience to describe it better, but it just feels like I am so much lighter and faster whereas with the heavy weights I think of that power push to stand upright and imagine big giant muscles growing in minuscule little pieces at a time.

We did a lot today with a pair of 5 lb. dumbbells. This is all stuff I could easily do in a hotel room and the extra 10 lbs. in my rolling luggage would not be a huge, intense burden.

Trainer J suggested this is a great, quick practice when I am short on time; I could get through 2 sets of the entire List with only 30 minutes to practice. All day I have been thinking about that and how I could or might incorporate this List into my routines. I am realizing that I could do this one at home on Sundays after pilates. Or on Friday nights after my yoga class. Or just about anytime I feel like it and want to do some cardio.

I suppose my bigger concern would be doing it too frequently and stressing out my shoulders. But if the weights are light, the reps fairly reasonable (everything today was 10 or less per set), and it does go along pretty quickly. While I may not want to pursue this every single day, I would like to incorporate more cardio-based work into my practice days. Maybe 2 gym days paired with a non-shoulder focused List and Sunday with pilates? I am such a planner that I already know that when I run through this again on Sunday I will be checking the time as well as my heart rate on the fancy-smancy heart rate monitoring watch.

While J adapted this from a Scot Able workout, I enjoy the fact that he reads and researches workouts other trainers produce and adapts it for his clients. The source of the List matters less to me than my ability to learn and do the work safely and sanely.

In the second block with the laterals and the front raises, we experimented with some upright rows. Upright rows are not my friends, and they were discarded in favor of this final version. Today was a test kitchen experience, and I loved every single minute of it. Most of the time whatever makes the final cut for the List is fine with me, and frankly I really do not miss the upright rows. They tended to vex me with my shoulder shortcomings; my shrug tendencies remain and ongoing pay-attention-to-me type of component of nearly all upper body exercises. That and the stand tall, tight abs have become natural, automatic cues running through my head without J saying a word.

The trying exercises, trying other exercises, learning new versions of exercises I already know – this is part of why I love training days. J is not so rigid or robotic that the List as originally written is the final version – no editing allowed! It has never been like that with us, and I always appreciate the flexibility based on my evolving capabilities.

A friend from another blog emailed me about wrenching her back doing kettle bell swings. Sounds kind of horrible, because she will be unable to exercise or do much for the next few weeks at least. Since I only learned to do these a month or so ago and have been working at this exercise stuff for more than a year (versus her 6 weeks via YouTube videos), I asked her why she chose that particular movement to try. She said because it looked easy. How hard is it to bend up and down with the KB in your hands? How funny the differences in our perspectives. I always thought they looked really hard, because in my mind anything that looks like it might be easy is typically the most technically challenging thing ever. I truly hope she rests and gets to feeling better soon, and I also hope she engages a trainer for at least a few sessions so it does not happen again.

The conversations reminds me of how different our outlooks and views of the world are depending upon our experiences and level of comfort. Because DANG, cardio never looked or felt like what I did today. Next time I choose to undertake some kind of cardio challenge, I know just the List I will be working.

And because I like to talk diet while describing exercise, I have been eating a fair amount of crap this week. Stress eating does that to you. However, my snack food nemesis is not that bad; I have discovered the healthier popcorn in the snack aisles. Yeah, it is an imperfect food and snacking solution, but it’s better than other things I’d love to be eating. Between a 100 calories serving of skinny pop and a piece of fruit (been on a pink lady apple kick), I am doing pretty well on the afternoon snacking.

Meal planning and grocery shopping will happen this weekend, probably on Sunday. Things at the office are smoothing out and my private client workload is amping back up now that I am back in town and able to get organized.

I am super sized happy about today, though, because I love the novelty and different pacing and way this new List feels. While I am an born again exerciser, it still astonishes me how little I know after this much time of work and consistency with my practices. But it’s good astonishment. It means that there is still so much for me to learn and to master and that even with my stiff shoulders and the limits to their mobility, I am still healthy and capable.

Which is another thing … sorry, I keep thinking I’m done with my brain dump in this post and something else comes to mind. While we were in Reno at the air races I could not help noticing how many people around my age were in motorized chairs or wheelchairs or using canes and crutches. Nearly all were some level of overweight. This is a new behavior for me, noticing my peers and their level of obesity and how it correlates to lack of mobility. It is not me sitting in judgment of them and their lifestyle so much as it is me wondering how many more sedentary years it would have taken before I was the one in a motorized chair or walking with a cane or a crutch. The thought is sobering, and I do not believe that I am overthinking it or projecting an unrealistic scenario.

These kind of thoughts and visions do not compel me back to the gym determined to work even harder to ensure that fate never befalls me. But they do make me more thoughtful about how I pursue my exercise, the choices I make in how I exercise, how often, and how long. Going to the gym, running through a List of the day is likely to always be my first choice in exercise. Because I want to stay healthy and injury free, I will be in J’s training tribe for the foreseeable future, and I know I am happy about and comfortable with that and believe he is as well. Mixing that up with a weekly pilates class primarily for ab work keeps me from burning out on List of the day and being in the gym. Friday night yoga has me trying for more overall flexibility. I think, though, I need to add at least one more yoga class to my routine and am looking at my options.

To that end, and since the gym is closed on Saturday morning to install new air conditioning units, I signed up for a restorative yoga workshop at the studio I utilize. I have no idea what this will be like, other than the room will be heated and it’s not the typical Bikram 26 poses, 2 breathing exercises class. Perhaps I need to incorporate some flexibility into my lifestyle and routines as well and learn new things. Hopefully this will be a positive experience and not a mystical yoga-lite experience.

Maybe it doesn’t show in this recap post, but I’m super happy and feeling so excited from today’s training. Writing these recaps brings all the positive emotions and impressions back to me, and I get to ride the waves all over again. Being a test subject – maybe I am the wrong test subject, since I typically like most everything we do in training – I am very honest and straightforward about what I think and how I feel about new stuff introduced. I have also seen the effects of regular, consistent practice on movements I intensely disliked on the first of many attempts. Even now, I cannot say TRX push-ups are a favorite, and they were on the very earliest of Lists. Paying attention to the shoulder and hand position, I can feel improvement in my performance and competency. Still not a favorite, unlikely to ever be a favorite. But I have resolved to do at least 5 a few times per week off List to get better. Once I feel like I can perform this exercise with some basic level of uncorrected competency, I will be very happy, favorite or not.

At the end of this day, feeling this good, this happy, this satisfied about my whole day is what it’s all about. Exercise has become a primary thread in the fabric of my life, and it adds layers of peace and positivity that I never even suspected existed. Every training, every practice, every pilates or yoga class makes me a better, stronger, kinder and more clear-headed version of myself.

Sometimes I wish I had listened sooner when others told me this would happen. But as I think to myself every single morning, I’m listening now. My time is now, and it is not, was not too late to start when I did.

For that, the universe (and especially my village and my tribe) has my eternal gratitude.

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