Training #79 – Home

Thursday morning, training with J. A good day from the moment I woke up, because I had already decided no matter what it would be an exceptionally good day no matter what. But I got plenty of sleep and was up with adequate dawdle time this morning. It’s Thursday, so later arrival time to the office and just feeling pretty relaxed and good about life and times.

Today was our first foray into a kettle bell routine. Most definitely a teaching day, which was in itself very exciting. I love teaching days. Even when I mostly suck and barely grasp the basics, I love teaching days. Because anymore, someday I know I am not going to suck at whatever I’m trying to grasp. Exercise is complicated enough without mentally beating myself into a blood pulp.

The KB routine itself went pretty well. However, I am reasonably certain J has no intentions of retaining it as an independent, stand-alone List. Today was more a throw it all out there, see if anything sticks kind of training day. And that was fine with me. Some of the exercise series were extra swell, some were just okay, and some I would possibly be tempted (not necessarily giving in to temptation) to skip if they were on a stand-alone List.

Still, it was fun. KBs feel different than working with dumbbells; the balance is different. For the first time in a very long time, I thought with some minor longing for weight lifting gloves, if only to keep my palms from getting so sweaty and gross. Last time I considered them was when I was also rowing at home a lot and getting calluses on my palms; the ridicule of friend J over being a baby about such things made me rethink it. For today my towel worked pretty well and accomplished the same thing.

For what we did today, a couple exercises are missing because J erased them before photographing the white board where it was written down. Which is okay; since they are not memorable for me, I am obviously fine with eliminating them from future consideration.

What I already knew/know and worked well:

  • Kettle bell goblet squat
  • Kettle bell swing
  • Kettle bell sumo squat

New stuff I learned:

  • Kettle bell halos
  • 1-am kettle bell press
  • Chest supported kettle bell row
  • Alternating kettle bell floor press
  • Kettle bell high pull

We did some other things as well – variations, experiments with the non-standard KBs, test driving other shapes and ways of accomplishing the same things. It was a fun, fun, fun teaching and experimenting day. I am delighted with that. And I refined my technique and learned a few new tips and tricks along the way.

The kettle bell goblet squat is a gym staple for me, something I learned my first month of training. It’s been something I do daily for the last year as part of my warmup and frequently peeks out from the various Lists in my library. New kernel of wisdom imparted by J today was about the depth of the squat. Honestly, I never really pay attention; I am grateful for any and all that have me bending knees appropriately, pushing with heels, and not falling forwards or backwards. Today it was let’s try to get deep enough into the squat that at least elbows to forearms wind up between the knees and to pause at the bottom for that extra stretch and contraction. I’m sure he has said that to me before – it sounded oh-so-vaguely familiar – but I have conveniently filed it away until unearthed and reminded today. No obsessive slice of mind will be thinking about it every time I am doing this exercise. And that’s a Very Good Thing. Until I am falling over forward or backward or losing form some other way.

Then we are back to the kettle bell swings. No idea why it’s hard for me to remember to tighten glutes and abs on the up part of the swing to protect the lower back, but I was doing them yesterday and trying to figure out where I was going wrong. They just didn’t feel quite right. I am resolving to add this portion of today’s session to a warmup sheet so I can make myself memorize the appropriate way to do this exercise. I like my low back in its good and healthy state. I certainly do not want to do anything stupid that makes it give me grief.

The kettle bell sumo squat was the very first squat I learned how to do way back when. And believe me, it took weeks before I finally felt the shape was right. These are among my favorites, and I especially like it when I get to use the lighter weight pink KB (8 kg).

As I said, I think these will be tacked on to one of my warmups so I can get more practice on the KB swings. If there is such a thing as muscle memory mine is not yet working or hasn’t accurately memorized this movement yet. Plus I see people daily doing these and find myself wondering why their form bothers me. Sometimes it is the arch of the back or the height of the swing or both. Sometimes it’s just worry about sweaty palms and rouge KBs flying through the air.

First brand spanking new thing I learned today was the kettle bell halo. I was watching J demonstrate at least half a dozen times before it was my turn to try it. In those half dozen times, watching that thing go round and round, I was absolutely certain the my shoulders did not work like that. While I had to be reminded just about every time the KB should be upside down for this one, the halos themselves were surprisingly gentle and good-feeling on my shoulders and upper arms. It was more like a gentle stretch than anything else. New favorite thing to do on a shoulder-heavy List day.

Not sure if I will be attempting a 1-arm kettle bell press on my own anytime soon. While I watched J demonstrate how to pick it up and the shape it should be getting into position with the KB draped over the hand and resting on the forearm, the cost/benefit of these does not seem to be there for me. Yes, they feel different than preforming the same movement using a dumbbell. But I would have to acquire more confidence and experience with the balance before I’d feel comfortable doing these routinely. But maybe. J then demonstrated and had me try balancing the smaller, non-standard KB from the handle with the bell part overhead. Shaking hand, shaking forearm, sweaty palms making the KB slippery – very quickly felt like I had lost control of the weight. I am far too much of a scaredy cat to try those again on my own.

We have done something similar to the kettle bell high pull with the dumbbells, only I think they were called high rows or inverted rows. They fell off the Lists in the second review, because I struggled mightily with my shoulders and arms doing what they were supposed to do. The KB high pull was definitely easier, because with just the one weight supported in both hands it is significantly more difficult to have one arm or elbow or shoulder wandering around and off the reservation. It seems like I would have to awkwardly move the KB into some obviously wrong position to have the same issues that I did with the dumbbell version.

For the chest supported kettle bell row, I am lying down face-first with chest pressed against the bench and feet supporting me on the ground, then pulling the KBs up in a row. The issues were not what J suggested might be an issue – pressing boobs flat against the bench is not really the most “oh goody!” moment in the gym. But no, that didn’t bother me. I had my towel to rest my chin and face against, except with my feet braced on the floor it kept my head neatly above the edge of the bench. But, each of my feet slipped on different occasions. And I really longed for a shorter bench, so I didn’t feel the need to smash myself so high to keep my head above the edge. Honestly, I think it more an issue of familiarity. I could adjust to the minor discomforts. Then we did bent over rows with hand resting on the back of the incline bench, and again, the weight distribution feels different with the KB. If J wanted to make these a staple I would learn to acclimate to the difference and make my shoulder do what its supposed to do on the pulling movement.

From the floor we did a single arm kettle bell floor press. The alternating did not happen, because of the logistics of learning how to hold and balance a single KB and move it up and down in a chest press type motion. It’s intriguing to me how different the KB balance is from a dumbbell. Or I have been using dumbbells for so long I have more issues adapting to the weight’s different shape.

Teaching days typically have fewer exercises, because it takes more time to adapt and to learn these new and different movements. It was fun because I got introduced to several new things. There was no specific thing that I disliked so much that I would ask J to not include it on a List now or into the future, but the KBs are different enough, feel differently enough from the dumbbells and cable machines to make me cautious about trying things out on my own. Seems to me that there is a lot more room for error and injury in my inexperience with the shape and the balance.

And really, it’s okay if I don’t pursue most of this on my own this week. I have plenty of other Lists to work on perfecting that still off plenty of challenge and room for growth.

But I do feel comfortable enough, confident enough with the squats, the swings, and the new halos to try them as part of my warmups. I use a light enough KB to kick up the heart rate and feel ready for the next phase of things.

Great, great training day. Love Thursdays just for this particular hour of power.

I have been investigating gyms for our firm as a possible perk of offering a subsidized corporate membership. My gym has an awful lot to offer my crew, and I am hopeful we choose to go this route. Most of my coworkers do some form of exercise, many of them belong to other gyms, but mine is a little more expensive than some other local options. With the corporate discount and subsidy, I think they could all become members and be happier. Or so I hope.

But one of the associates has asked if he can tag along and work out with me sometime. I’m certainly open to it – he asks me every week about my training sessions and thinks it really great that I am so religious about my exercise. I remind him that I have a chronic health condition that I am trying to keep in check, but he still thinks my commitment is admirable. He does what I describe as regular weight lifting – not trying to bulk up, merely trying to stay lean and healthy – and he has expressed some interest in my workout library. I mentioned it to J today and he said if I let him know in advance he’d come work out with us. That would be fun! Of course, J is in a  bulk-up phase right now, so it would be interesting as well. One thing about working with trainer J regularly, he grows more muscular, he gets slightly less bulky, then he expands and bulks up again. It’s fascinating to watch.

My head feels clearer of the foggy clutter today. I think perhaps I need to plan my weeks a bit better – know in advance what List I will be pursuing on Tuesday and Friday and have a back-up for Wednesday and Saturday just in case the Monday and Thursday sessions require more review before I strike out on my own.

I am back to feeling really, really good and positive about the effort I’m putting forth and my plodding toward mastery of my Lists. Some I am most definitely better at than others, some I have to try 10 times harder to get through. But yesterday, today my hope bank has been refilled and I’m not feeling off about my effort or willingness to try harder. Whether its boredom or fatigue or some combination of factors, not every day is going to be a more perfect union of my efforts and abilities with the Lists. And gym life is simpler and better when I approach it with a positive outlook.

Reading through J’s fitness likes on Facebook gives me welcome perspective on my very tiny steps into the fitness world. I still have so much to learn, and I feel no despair or disappointment that I still know so little. What I do know I have mostly learned and with a lot of practice have learned pretty well. It’s nice to look around the gym and casually observe other members doing the same or slightly different things and be able o catalog in my head what they are doing, what muscles they are working, recalling how it feels when i do the same or very similar movements. It’s actually better than nice. It took awhile, but it is thrilling to feel like I am gym people, I am finally at home and belong in my particular club.

My smoothie life is continuing for the most part, although I have switched the dinner and lunch meals. Now I eat a salad or protein/vegetable midday and protein shake and banana for dinner. It’s far easier for me to go to bed with a little hunger than it is to get through an entire afternoon of work. I have also been avoiding the scale. Mostly not on purpose; focusing on sticking to my new morning routine (for more sleep and less dawdling) makes me forget about hopping on it. But my sense is the needle is moving in the right direction.

Despite that, I am looking forward to returning to a more typical eating life. Smoothies 2 times daily is unsustainable for me for longer than a few weeks. I do not feel significantly better than I did eating regular food, but I do not feel badly or worse for wear. I have to watch my sugar pretty closely, and I am a lot better about the snacking and carb cravings. This is what I hoped for from this experience, and I’m hoping the feelings and lack of craving stick when I am back to only drinking breakfast rather than breakfast and dinner.

It has been this amazing, exciting, peaceful, productive, and fulfilling day. Work has been extraordinary in its frantic pacing this week, but all good. I make time for what’s important to me, including lunch with my daughter and son-in-law, and to write this recap.

Prioritizing what matters most to me – how do we lose sight of these things in the go-go-go of our daily grind pursuits. Maybe because we classify living our lives as a grind. Words do have consequences, too.

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