Training #76 – Never say you can’t

Monday morning, training with J. Review of day 3 of J’s body part splits routine. What was on our List that we did today:

DB Bent Over Rows (20 to 25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
Triceps DB Extensions (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 10-12 reps)
Mini Band Kickbacks off Bench (20-30/side)
Mini Band Lateral Walks (there and back – 12-15/side)

Seated Band Rows (extra stretch)
Bench Triceps Dips
DB Alt. Front Raises (hammer grip)
Pushups off Bench or TRX Pushup

1-arm DB Rows (30 lb. DB, 2 sets, 6-8/side)
Band Triceps Kickbacks (2 sets, 12-15/side)
Band Squat to Rows (2 sets, MAX)
Low-to-High  Band Choppers (2 sets, 12-15/side)

DB Pullovers (20 lb. DB, 2 sets, 8-12 reps)
Alt Band Archers (2 sets, MAX/side)
Bench Reverse Crunches (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
1-legged Hip Thrust (off bench) (2 sets, 8-20/side)

The past few weeks I have been gazelle-intense focused on my ongoing shrugging habits and undoing them. Every single day in warm-up I go through my rows and my straight-arm pulldowns with the stretchy bands and I think collarbones up, abs tight, shoulders back and unshrugged. It has slowly become more automatic, and today, finally, it seems to be truly paying off. I went through the dumbbell bent over rows without shrugging, so much so that J commented upon it. Finally, at last, it feels more normal and natural to keep my shoulders down and back while going through this exercise.

Someday, I will have amazing triceps from the sheer number of triceps dumbbell extensions and associated exercises I do every week. As it is, my upper arms are more toned and yes, potentially larger than when I started, but I have a lot less batwing flab going on and no longer even think anything at all about that when wearing sleeveless tops and dresses. In face, the biggest change I notice in this area is having to consider size and amount of give in sleeves when contemplating new purchases. Small cakes issue for me; if I need a plain, long-sleeved button-down so badly I’ll shop the men’s department. Or better yet – wear sleeveless under a jacket.

We just did the bench step-off/kickbacks last week. The mini band kickbacks off bench are so much more challenging than anticipated. Or rather, I was anticipating doing them as originally written – standing up and leaning against the TRX frame – and they were more challenging than anticipated off the bench. But I like them. This was kind of genius, which is why J does what he does and lowly client me learning all these cool training tricks.

From there we went to mini band lateral walks, which definitely have a different feel than standing still leaning again the TRX frame and doing the lateral kicks. Last time I did these it was down and back the Reno hallway, so this out and back felt almost like a walk in the park. Almost. I now feel kind of guilty, like I should have gone out and back twice per set.

Seated Band Rows (extra stretch)

In all the library of stuff I have to do, I find things like the bench triceps dips really hard. And harsh. And confusing on where to put your feet. But we got all those lingering questions cleared up this morning, and someday soon these will be better. Practice, practice, practice. And since I maybe only cruise this List once a week, it is one of the ongoing mysteries of exercise and training how I improve and get better and become more competent at these by doing all the assorted other tricep exercises in between.

DB Alt. Front Raises (hammer grip)

This was a fun day, up to and including both the bench and TRX pushups. We did both for contrast and comparison, and for whatever mysterious reason, I still find the bench version easier to complete more reps than the TRX versions. While I have come a long way from the earliest days (and TRX pushups remain confined to my nemesis stable), I am not very competent with these just yet. Arms, shoulders, back, chest – all that myriad of muscle network these tend to impact.

Like their cousin the bent over rows in the 1-arm dumbbell rows are affected by my shrugging habit. Still. While I would love to report miraculous completely overcoming the shrug on these, best I accurately report is some teeny tiny baby steps in that direction. I’m aware of it, but with the big boy 30 lb. dumbbell in my hand, it’s harder to focus on the not shrugging aspect and pulling my shoulder back in the ways I’m supposed to be doing.

The band triceps kickbacks are new this time, although at some point in the past year we did these with dumbbells, then J said no, don’t do these with dumbbells do them with the band looped on the dumbbell stand. But what was months and months ago, until they resurfaced on today’s List. Intriguing feeling, these kickbacks. There are a lot of ways to work triceps in my List archive and this is another one. By the time we reached this point, triceps were getting tired.

We do all sorts of rows. High rows. Low rows. Medium rows. On the cable machines. On the row machine. The band squat to rows are kind of half resistance and half cardio, but effective. The squat part isn’t too bad – working on my form with those for the power squats on the leg Lists – and again I am really focused on the shoulders down and back  on rows of all types. Still room for improvement on these. And who knows where MAX actually lives with regard to reps? Sometimes head is saying 3 and done, other times I’m counting as high as 20. Sometimes I hate the MAX exercises; too many options and choices in that word.

The low-to-high band choppers – not a favorite. Hard to imagine a life where I do not dislike these. Then again, there have been a lot of exercises I have said that about and now like and feel a lot more competent with.

Dumbbell pullovers – like the tricep extensions, I have done a fair number of these in the last year. Today we didn’t feel like chasing down a 25 lb. dumbbell, so we used the 20. I never imagined myself saying this, but it made for a pretty easy set.

Of all the rows we do, band archer rows are probably my favorites. They just flow along in a nice, fluid way and feel pretty good after all the rest of the exercise that comes before.

But then we come to another troubling nemesis exercise – the bench reverse crunches. I am getting better; I am not nearly so out of control. Still, they are hard. Sometime I will have that breakthrough with them, but not today. Today was struggle, try hard, struggle more. Not a terrible thing. No frustration, because I know I will get better. History has shown me that.

And finally, another oldie resurfaces, the 1-legged hip thrust off bench. This time last year, I was doing these a lot. As part of the rotation in my basics A and B, I was either doing these on the mat or off the bench or risers nearly every day. They have been put away in favor of other things lately, and last week when I tried them, it was late in the session and I had spoken up and told J it was bothering my shoulders, so we tabled it. Today we discussed it further, he demonstrated a couple of different things I could be doing wrong and I spotted it immediately. A rolled up mat, some additional cueing, and I was back in business with these.

And that was my training day.

Twice a week I write about training sessions, what we did, what I thought, how it feels. Today was fabulous. Today was amazing and fun and all the positive adjectives I typically use.

The groove in my day that is my morning exercise is well worn and now very much a habit in my life. Where I once had doubts of my ability to learn to exercise properly and without harming myself or there is now a quiet confidence that I can and will learn and execute these things on my own. Imperfectly at first, but improving incrementally as days and practices and more training passes.

But I’m getting ridiculously excited about my forward progress. I have this multi-page library of body part splits and full body workouts. I am semi-whining about 30 lb. dumbbells and only in context of trying to unshrug my shoulder consistently. Next I will try J’s new warmup trick – going from 20 lb., to 25 lb., to 30 lb. dumbbells – to see if I can snap myself out of this habit.

While I was only in the gym 35 to 40 minutes on Sunday, I still managed to burn through my protein shake lunch and into low blood sugar territory. A Dr. Spencer leg routine and a couple of set of the new cardio-focused workout and I had had enough and was ready to leave. Talking about it with RD yesterday, I know he’s falling into mad friendship with me when he remarked that for as intelligent as I am, I am a complete idiot about the workings of my own body. Why thank you RD; so kind of you to notice.

I was not exactly upset about my workout, because it was Sunday and pure bonus gym time as far as that goes. But I was sort of bemused by how going at an unusual time of day could be such a bust to me mentally. Then again, I’m not such a one-off weirdo talking to J and to others. My extreme creature of habit-ness is not so much the culprit so much as it is apparently just human nature.

The past week, 10 days have been a whirlwind of emotions about a dear friend’s health. I have been deeply concerned, even worried, because there is this tolerable disconnect between reality that I know exists out there and what I am capable of accepting and processing right now. M is my gatekeeper and enabler in this regard, and we are all aware of it.

Thing is, in some ways I am an insane control freak. In other ways, I want to bury my head in the sand and not know too many of the gory details until the danger has completely passed or there is something definitive known. It is how I have always been about stuff like this.

But what I have discovered through this long-distance crisis, exercise is an amazing distraction. Part of my anger that someone I care for is suffering is getting snuffed out with each List of the day. It is a good, healthy, productive outlet for me. Finally, I feel as if I understand what the internet blurbs are talking about with their happy-sounding paragraphs on exercise and stress.

I am also in a pretty reflective mood these days, a bubbling excitement of milestones past, present, and bobbing around out there in the future’s ocean. Hope, I have found, in not a one-size-fits-all emotion on a standardized spectrum. Hope comes in all sorts of shades and levels of transparency; none of them are solidly black or solidly white.

Every training session, every practice, I find there is a new thought, a new idea, a new shade of hope about some aspect of my health and my quest to do better, be better. I do not want to live forever, but I also don’t want to have older and grayer years suffering from ailments doing the hard work now could alleviate. It’s humbling. It’s not something I think about with regret for past actions; there is nothing to be done about changing the past. All I want going forward is to be able to be truthful with future self that I have done all I can do to improve and make that part of my life more comfortable.

So I am soldiering on, with my Lists in hand and some vague plan every day on what I will do in practice. And once I decide, I just move along through it, one exercise at a time.

And I’m grateful. I’m thankful to have started this journey when I did. I feel so fortunate to have gotten the message about taking care of myself.

The confidence, the mental and emotional gains, the unmeasurables. I talk about them a lot. It’s the beginning of another month, and a lot of the blogs I follow are talking about goals, and I still have none. Among the best things I have done for myself and this journey are to not set goals, not compare myself to others, and not worry much about tracking traditional measurements. It’s kind of a surprise every time I move up in weights, a pleasant one for sure. But at the same time, I’m not feeling my ego deflate or my confidence erode if I have to step back and down in weights.

I truly believe this is why I have had any measure of success. Because I threw out the rulebook that says goals and measuring progress are part of this process.

One-off weirdo? Sure thing. And it’s working out really, really well for me.

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