Training #75 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Thursday morning, training with J. It must be Beatles week for training recap titles, and this one suits the peppy pacing and overall relaxed vibe of today’s training. Love training days. Really love training days when I am feeling 100% and completely immersed in it.

While the calendar turns on Saturday, my new month started yesterday. After my pissy mood moaning, I decided to turn myself and my attitude around. I mean, waiting for the Positive Mood Fairy to come bless me with a visit was not working out for me, so I got busy kicking my own ass out of my miniscule funk. Leg List is uber challenging on a good day, and not every day is a idyllic good day.

But today, today was an excellent day, excellent session. I came, I saw, I kicked ass. My shirt and bra were drenched with sweat, my brand new pony tail holder was soaked. Sweaty and gross when I got home, and I was so pleased.

What we did today:

Incline DB Press (20 lb. DBs, 12-15 reps; 25 lb. DBs, 8-12 reps; 30 lb. DBs, 6-8 reps)
Bench Alt Step Off/Kick Back combo (6-8/side)
Alternating DB Curls (15 lb. DBs, 12-15/side)
Alt Chopper Sit Ups (6-12/side)

Flat Bench Chest Flyes (15 lb. DBs, 10-12 reps)
Bench Step Throughs with Hip dip (10-12/side)
DB Alternating Hammer Curls (12 lb. DBs, 10-15/side)
Stability Ball Crunch (10-15 reps)

1-arm DB Snatch (12 lb. DB, 6-8/side)
1-arm DB Lateral Throws (10 lb. DB, 10-12/side)
Band Horizontal Hip Rotations (aka “Choppers”) (10-15/side)
Standing Contralateral Knee to Elbow Crunch with mini band (15-20/side)

1-arm Overhead Press (12 lb. DB, 10-12/side)
Kettle bell Swing to Chest Level (turquoise KB, 2 sets of 10-12 reps)
Double Band Rear Flyes (15-20 reps)
Plank off DBs (20-60 slow hold)

We are in the process of reviewing trainer J’s body part splits series, which we were working on a couple of months back, then detoured into Dr. Spencer Lists, and now we’re back. Biggest difference between the 2 series is that J prepared these as lighter weights, higher reps series, and Dr. Spencer’s series is heavier weights and fewer reps. I do like both, and feel pretty dang tired after finishing any of the Lists in my present rotation. Today was zoom-zoom-zoom pacing, and I did fairly well until about the last block. Last block always gets shorted, primarily due to fatigue anymore. I’m starting to think that lying on the mat for an extended rest pause might not be that awful and have me labeled as some lazy-ass slacker.

We started with the incline dumbbell press. J has me progression-ing with the weights, so we began with 20 lb., then 25 lb., and finally 30 lb. sets. I have done enough of these through the months to feel pretty confident about them. Anymore, the 20 lb. and 25 lb. sets of dumbbells seem kind of light. While were were focused on the Dr. Spencer series, I was routinely pushing the 30s up and down and must have just gotten used to the way they feel. I do like the ramping up weight; it makes me feel like I know what I’m doing with the warm-up.

Funny thing about the bench alt step off/kick back combo – I know I just did this last week, yet I could not recall if I was straight arm off the bench or on the elbows. J said elbows are more challenging – closer to the floor – but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is straight arms are tough on the wrists. But anyway, today we did these off the elbows on the bench. As I progress I wonder if next is floor with straight arms (on dumbbells, please, to save my wrists) and then elbows on the floor? Or is it elbows and then straight arms off the floor ala regular planks? I need not borrow new challenges; I anticipate we will get there soon enough. But now that I see progression into the future, mind wonders. I have actually come to really like these. There is definitely challenge to it – hips down, abs tight, plank position straight – but have a leg moving left and right and up and down distracts from the planky-ness of it all. Believe me I can feel my abs squeaking in protest this afternoon.

While not a curl monkey person, the alternating dumbbell curls are starting to grow on me. Which probably means someday I will have to gravitate away from my beloved 15 lb. dumbbells. For today, it was fine. I do notice that I have discernable biceps now, so that’s something.

The big jewel in this block has got to be the alternating chopper sit ups. Now that I can actually do them competently, it’s kind of very exciting to see them on the List. These don’t hurt my back, and while I still routinely secure my feet under the dumbbell rack, I don’t even care that there are people in the world (probably in my own gym) who are strong enough, capable enough to do these just lying on a mat. Really, who cares? If you are me and have been unsuccessfully doing sit-ups wrong your whole life and hating every second of them, being able to competently get through a set without pain in the lower back is a big, huge triumph.

J has told me in prior training sessions that the flat bench chest flyes are tricky and require steady, determined focus. Okay, maybe he didn’t say it in those precise terms, but his words of caution are strong enough to make me be very careful doing these. Other than staying focused on form, I feel really good about these.

A new element of the bench step throughs in allowing the hip to dip slightly. “Hip step dip” sounds almost like dancing, except I’d suck far more at that. I actually don’t do too badly with these, and again, it was on the elbows versus straight arms and hands on the bench. I am improving.

Like their cousin that bicep curls in the first block, dumbbell alternating hammer curls are not glamorous, exciting, or flashy. But again, I have visible biceps now. And I think the hammer version of these curls do good things for the little forearm muscle. I only remember that muscle because when J was first teaching me these, I noticed a crease on his forearm and instinctively wondered if I too had that forearm muscle.

While the alternating chopper crunches are an enduring success for me, stability ball crunches are still my first favorite in ab exercises. They do not hurt my back. They are easy to feel the crunch in the abs in the right spaces. And they were the first ab exercise I could perform successfully.

The 1-arm dumbbell snatch – still tricky. Still going slowly at first to ensure my form is on-point and I get into some sort of rhythm to the movement. On my own I have been using a very conservative 8 lb. or 10 lb. dumbbell, and today we stepped up to a 12 lb. dumbbell instead. It was fine and I feel as if I have a good grasp on them.

Like their cousin above, the 1-arm dumbbell lateral throws take some work to find the happy form place at first. Get the form down, then into a rhythm of the movement, then feel more confident about doing them correctly, then get serious about counting reps. This is my new mantra.

There is some kind of difficulty with the band horizontal hip rotations that make me dislike them fairly intensely. They are hard. Deceptive little buggers. But I got through them. Did I mention my obliques?

Today we did standing contralateral knee to elbow crunches with a mini band wrapped around the feet. Those mini bands look so innocuous, but they are not; they are evil. I can still feel the work deep within the glutes. Or maybe that’s from the step-out/kick-backs? It’s the mini band, I’m sure of it. Evil little buggers. On Saturday when this List is my List of the day, I will pay a lot more attention to how that band makes me feel. Right now, as I worked on work-work throughout my day, I have been thinking a lot about these. The rib tuck part of the crunch as well as the glute work. Did I mention that I can feel my abs today? Oh boy.

New this outing: the 1-arm overhead press (my List file has not been updated so I’m winging it on the names, but J is practicing his mind meld and just texted me the List for this block after I wrote my first best guess). These were not difficult, more figuring out whether to do them with a slight sideways lean or to stand up straight. Either are apparently fine with J. Interesting effect on the obliques, kind of a contracting stretch beneath the rib cage.

The mysterious kettlebell swings – fun, tricky, technical. And yet I see so many other members doing them. For me, I sense all sorts of ways to achieve a Very Bad outcome. I instinctively know that there are injuries just waiting to happen, so I am listening to the cues and trying hard to make myself follow each. Once I get moving, I did pretty well. And dang yes, they are effective.

From here we went to the dual band reverse flyes (again, List not updated as of writing this recap and winging it on the names, but J has been working his psychic muscles and texted me after I was mostly done with this post). I am familiar with these and honestly? They feel pretty damn great after doing all sorts of shoulder and back exercises.

This list has lots of planky stuff, including the common plank off dumbbells. I believe most folks do these with their hands flat on the floor, but J let’s me cheat and use the dumbbells to help save my wrists. I’m a wussy baby when it comes to my wrists. So I know I didn’t make my 20 second minimum on these, but we were nearly all the way out of time, I was exhausted, and I did not have my handy-dandy phone timer running in front of me. But it was good effort. Did I mention that I’m feeling all this work in my abs?

And that’s a wrap on my training session for this Thursday. It was glorious. Sweat-soaked clothes, sweaty and gross worn like a badge of honor.

After Monday, where I felt off and not putting forth a solid, 100% effort, I came roaring back today determined to do better. And damn, I succeeded.

Fun thing about training days, the minutes pass so quickly. J and I pack a lot of conversation into our hour. Today he showed up in long pants instead of his usual sporty shorts, and I said that it made me think it must be colder than I realized or there was a laundry crisis at his house. He laughed – a little of both.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that M expressed some concern about my adding more to my schedule when I am in a bit of a disoriented funk. J asked me if he was concerned about my overtraining, which actually makes me laugh. As far as M is concerned, the concept of over training is an urban myth. I could go to the gym in the morning, do a 90 minute hot yoga class after work, and then come home and arc train for cardio 7 days a week and that would not be overtraining. That would just be my daily dose of exercise. For M, the concern was more that yoga class is the actual schedule, the “on time” constraint of the commitment. I tend to be hyper-responsible about appointments, and having a class with a time commitment might be a bit too much stressure when I am distracted and out of sync. He has a valid point.

I’m not to the point of training to that level. If I can make 2 yoga classes during the week and pilates on Sunday I will feel as if I am making inroads toward being more bendy someday.

For my mental health and emotional balance, I really do need to be in the gym or doing something exercise-like physical every single day. I hadn’t realized how much the lunchtime walks with my associates at work has come to mean to me for workday balance. Just getting up and stepping outside the office for even 10 minutes makes a huge difference.

Every now and again J will make a comment about “the next level” with regard to another tribe member. Never, ever ever has he made that comment in relation to our work, because it would represent a GOAL and goals for me in this context are bad. Gym and goals become big giant terrible things for me, so if J has thoughts or objectives of that nature for me, he wisely never voices them out loud within my hearing range.

I do not work as hard in our sessions or practice what I have learned as consistently as I do without the personal rewards that cannot be measured by conventional means. And surprisingly (to me), I remain okay with that. I marvel that I have not been swept up in the pounds and inches lost competition with others. Training days, I go to work feeling energized and excited, thinking about the subtle nuances of the List. Even exercises I have done a lot through a lot in the last year can give me pause and make me desire to get back to the gym and to try it again.

And the right headspace makes all the difference in the world.

September and all its distractions are in my rearview right now, even though tomorrow is the last day of the month. The final quarter of a really terrific year lies ahead, and I’m so looking forward to all that comes with it.

Very early into our training partnership, J told me that exercise is like an iceberg, and that things we were exploring were the visible tip and there was so much more to be discovered. While cleaning out a rarely used pocket in my briefcase today I found one of my very first Lists. What a visceral, visual reminder of how far I have come. So often the term “life goes on” is said with a shrug and a fatalistic attitude. To my way of thinking, this is the silver lining in the harder times. Life does indeed go on, and if I am lucky, I will continue moving forward as it continues.

And I hope it goes on for a good long time.

One thought on “Training #75 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

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