Thursday morning, time for another training session with J. So. Much. Fun. Kind of a review day on steroids, because nothing especially new or startling, but rearranged and some new goodies delivered in the cueing and the actual doing. Exercise updates or upgrades and enhancements are always appreciated.

Today was all about upper body, a counterpart to Monday’s lower body. As I said, the exercises on this List are things we have done before, but with the subtle enhancements to the cueing so it resounds more powerfully or enhanced with a stability ball or a weight plate. It was so much fun. I know, I say that all the time. But I geek out over the exercise theory and how muscles work and what they are supposed to be doing and how I should be feeling them, so much I was kind of proud of myself this week for succeeding it making my glutes so damn sore. I mean, lots and lots of other things have ached in the course of the last year. But glutes are rare, and Monday into Tuesday they really smarted. Yesterday ran through Monday’s List again and today feel fine, no more aching soreness. M, in his infinite wisdom and running knowledge, told me that I should do the soreness-inducing workouts a little bit every day until body gets used to it.

I should have listened and not burned brain cells contemplating how those big giant butt muscles could possibly become so troublesome to sit on. But oh well. M knows it’s a crap shoot on offering me advice and my following it.

Fun, fun List we went through today:

For the Back
A1 – Lat Pulldown (Wide, Over, Under) (80 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)*
B1 – Seated Cable Row (60 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)*
C1 – 1-arm DB Row (30 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12/side)

For the Chest
D1 – Slight Decline DB Chest Press (25 lb. and 30 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12)
E1  – Slight Decline DB Chest Fly (20 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8- 12)

For the Shoulders
F1 – Seated Rope Facepull (30 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)*
F2 – 1-arm DB Snatch (15 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12/side)

For the Arms
G1 – Slow Tempo Rope Triceps Pushdown (40 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
H1 – Cable 2-arm Biceps Curl (40 lbs., 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

J and I spent a few minutes at the white board going over the “under the hood” of the lower body stuff that made my glutes stand up and take notice of the workload I was putting upon them and then this new rendition of the upper body stuff. The * above is because I’m not 100% sure on the weights I have listed; it was exciting times and I do not remember clearly what setting we were using on the cable machines. I do know it got heavier and heavier as we moved along without J ever touching the pin on the weight plates.

Because the lat pulldown machines are located in the big boy’s section of the gym, I am still somewhat timid about venturing out there on my own. In my defense I am slowly overcoming it, but sometimes the area is wildly busy and I still have enough residual gym crazy to become self-conscious, anxious, and give myself license to avoid it. But training day I’m always fine with it, and into the future, I will work on getting a grip and just get over myself and on with it. I may have to force myself the first few times, but I can do it. With all that preface, I remember what I should be doing, but had a refreshing reboot on the cueing today. Past efforts found me focusing on not leaning back too much, which was first and foremost in my mind. Going forward, don’t lean back too much, chest up to meet the descending bar, bar to just below chin. Fascinating discovery today? How different each different hand placement feels on the bar. The wide is what we have done the most of, but the closer to the center section wakes up the back muscles differently. No plans at the moment to attempt pullups in my lifetime, but J tells me pulling the bar down that way sort of mimics the working muscles. Same with the underhand or reverse grip, mimics working muscles utilized in a chin-up. Fascinating to me when I actually feel the differences in such small changes myself. I am always so surprised, as if I am a special snowflake whose body does not provide feedback like everyone else’s bodies.

From there we went to the seated cable row, which remains a vexing machine. Having used an indoor rower for many years, my ingrained habit it to lean back while pulling on the handles. Only with the cable row machines, you don’t do that. Shoulders down and back, pulling low and sort of flexing the upper back in the sparest of leans backward. It’s so much harder than it looks. But I’m getting there even with my shrug tendencies. Again, this one is located in the big boy’s section of the gym and therefore need a lot more practice with this one. Big girl capris on. Pulled up. On.

Through the months we have done A Lot of 1-arm rows. But today, we did something new. Today we did them standing up and leaning against some other, bigger, badder bench-like structure. It was totally cool. Because to be frank, I am not crazy for 1-arm rows. Anymore they are okay, but I struggle with the heavier weights I am now using. They feel okay when using the 20 lb. or 25 lb. dumbbells for warm-ups, but when I get to the 30 lb. dumbbell gives me the struggles. Then J introduced me to the new stance, going from knee on the bench and hip-hinged at 90 degrees, this was standing up and leaning on the bigger, badder bench-like structure. Oh. My. Goodness. What a difference the standing up makes. It was a small change, but to me, completely changed this exercise for me. Maybe a new favorite is born? At the time is was hard work, focus-focus-focus, but thinking back about it now, oh my it was so much fun to feel successful and doing something old in a new and better (for me) way.

The chest press is a standard staple that we have done for months. I am up to using 30 lb. dumbbells (started with 10 lbs. DBs months ago) and feeling pretty confident with them anymore. So we went through a set as we normally do them, then J introduced elevating the foot of the bench with a weight plate. The slight decline DB chest press is indeed a very slight change. The weight plate was maybe an inch high, but it did change the dynamic of the movement. I know well the feeling of lowering those weights and where to stop before Very Bad Things could happen in the shoulders. With the slight decline, I feel the stopping point sooner, maybe an a half-inch or an inch before the normal, flat bench version. When J talks about the bad outcomes from not listening to body, I am most definitely listening to him and therefore listening really carefully to body. Today it was whispering new things about the mysteries of the slight decline trick.

Just like the slight decline in the chest press, the slight decline DB chest fly has the same sort of interesting effect on the stopping point on the lowering of the dumbbells. The slight decline has no discernable impact on the big bear hug part at the end of this exercise, but I do like these for the focus required to not let Very Bad Things happen to my shoulders.

Up to this point, we did these individually, no switching off. Built in rest pauses. It was really gratifying do each one for its 3 sets before switching it up to the next one. Next series we went back to alternating for each body part.

From the stability ball, we did seated rope facepulls. Oh my – had we always done these this way, I would do facepulls every single day. Not that I have anything against facepulls standing up, but these are so much more pleasant. Love them. New favorite thing in cable machine land.

The 1-arm dumbbell snatch is fairly new in the rotation and are part of my cardio-focused List with a light, 5 lb. dumbbell. When I do them in conjunction with other Lists, I have used 8 lb., 10 lb., and 12 lb. dumbbells as well, because I have been a bit of a scaredy cat and afraid of my form and technique. I have been getting better, more confident in my form and technique, and I am more than capable of using the 15 lb. dumbbell. Today was fine, no issues wielding the greater weight. I really like this exercise. Theme word of the day: these are a lot of fun in a really satisfying way.

On prior Lists when we have done triceps pushdowns, these were different pacing. The slow tempo rope triceps pushdown is different, and my muscle memory says peppy pacing, not this slower down, slower up that I learned today. I can do this, and J even took pictures of the cool little crease I am developing to prove it.

I am not a big fan of bicep curls; well documented in this blog. But, I do like the cable 2-arm bicep curl. First we used the W-shaped bar, because it was handy and available, and then switched to a straighter bar. I do not mind either, but the W-shaped bar the hands are closer together than on the straight bar. I like the control and stationary shoulder positioning of this version of bicep curls. But hey, my biceps are bigger, my batwings are no longer an issue. I am hulking out of lady’s blouses and tops and am thinking of taking commenter SAK’s advice and going sleeveless year round. Definitely thinking of parking my short sleeved workout shirts; I am starting to dislike the uncomfortable way sleeves are riding up my upper arms these days.

And that was my fabulously fun training day.

Of the many things discussed today, I commented that most of the time watching the steam coming out of my ears as I am thinking through each exercise. Sometimes I observe other members working and think their expressions are akin to people in casinos sitting playing slot machines. There is this glazed, vacant expression on their faces as they press buttons almost on autopilot. The days I feel like that, zombie mind demonstrating that I am mentally millions of miles from the gym, those are the days I do 1 or 2 sets and leave, because I’m not in the right headspace. I am glad this happens only once in awhile.

I had been thinking walking into the gym this morning that if trainer J got overwhelmed with new clients or teaching classes or just requests for more of his time from other clients I could probably give up one of my sessions each week. In the space of 3 steps closer to the gym’s lobby I had changed my mind and realized I want to be selfish and continue what I have. Because I deserve it? Well, yes … I work really hard at the stuff I am learning between sessions. No, primarily because I really like it and am feeling very empowered by the learning-reinforcement/review-practice-learning loop. If I feel as if I am not getting adequate practice time with my growing library I have alternatives before giving up one of my training slots. First and foremost would be longer mornings or a second practice in the evenings and/or on Sundays.

Honestly, no idea why the thought even popped into my head. Now is the gym’s slowing down period for holidays and people going on vacation, etc., as I have noted off and on the last couple of weeks when regular training tribe people before and/or after my slots are not coming in as usual. Maybe the week has been so productive and so downright pleasant I needed some heavier thought to bring my head out of the clouds where it was pleasantly floating.

We also talked about my recent doctor visit. As I discussed in this post, I had an amazingly good check-in with my endocrinologist this week. Internal body systems check says everything is in excellent shape and running very smoothly, and still no supporting medications, so I am very happy. J and I were talking about it this morning, and in another conversation, was relating to me a story that really hit home about the impact of our self-esteem and negative reflections and mindset.

Anymore, my own negative girl is amature hour. While I am far from the most confident member in the gym at any given moment, I have improved A LOT and come a long way in my ability to get shit done and not been wholly distracted by what else is going on all around me. That said, even at my worst I never said aloud that I hate my life, a statement that is jarring to me when it expressed, even jokingly, by others. Lots of times I have hated myself, and even now times where I am hard on myself for being human. Nature of the beast, I think. Day I think I have no more to learn, nothing else within myself to improve, hopefully that is the day I am drawing my last breath.

These days, I do not think about hating myself. There are habits and weaknesses I wish I would get busy working out my self-discipline to overcome, but negative girl bleatings about them are weak and mostly ineffectual. I am not a terrible person for stress eating or boredom snacking; I have a habit to break. Big different inside my noggin.

Thing is, I have reached this point of acceptance with my own body that says it is okay, maybe in transition somewhere else. On the insides, under the hood where it really matters, things are humming along in good order. Yes, I could drop weight and perhaps look amazingly better. Or not. In the long game, physical appearance is far less important to me. I have never been cut from the physically beautiful cloth and accepted that a long time ago. Chasing weight on the scale and measurements on the tape only makes me feel miserable, so I should just stop thinking about it now.

And with that, I have decided another 10 days on the fuck moderation eating strategy and then return to simply pursuing an overall healthier eating plan without fads, gimmicks, measuring, tracking food, counting calories/carbs/protein grams, or all the other stuff associated with weight loss. I like my morning protein shakes and will continue with that. I like the lunches I generally consume and will continue that. Maybe I’ll eat lean protein and green vegetables at dinner, maybe I will have another spinach-kale-berries protein shake instead, maybe I’ll eat a vegetarian omelette. Or not eat anything at all if I’m not hungry. The fuck moderation eating strategy has taught me a lot about the reality of how much food I need to consume to get through my days and in so many ways reset my beliefs on discerning what is a fuel need from what is a food want.

I have no idea what will happen with my weight, if I will lose some, stay the same, or heaven forbid, gain weight. The most meaningful numbers measuring my success are those that cover my overall health, not what appears on the scale and the tape measure. I know enough now, have enough guidance and village experts available to make keep myself in the good range without trying so hard.

Which brings me to another thought from this morning. I am starting to truly despise the comparisons which float to my mind and exist all around me. This is kind of a terrible example but something that did come up this week. Friend J has a new pal who remarked that I was “plain and unattractive” when whatever photo he has of me attached to his phone directory popped up in text. This comment did not endear her to my pal at all, and I actually kind of cringed on her behalf because even if she’s a total saint the rest of her life, she’s toast for as far as he is concerned. (One does not say insulting, unkind, or unflattering things like that about his friends she has never met. He’s very territorially protective that way.) While it did not even register a ripple on my radar – I do not know this woman therefore have no reason to give a shit about her opinion and she has now rendered herself unimportant in the grand scheme of things – it did get me thinking about why she would say something like that. Insecurity? Jealousy that I’m close to someone she’d like to be closer to? Because she’s bitchy that way? From there it was a fairly nimble jump to all the ways I myself think in comparative terms and either find myself grossly wanting or kind of smugly superior to others.

This is another habit I am working on breaking within myself. Ultimately, the person hurt most by such thinking behaviors is me, because there is always going to be someone fitter, prettier, smarter. For the most part I am fine with acknowledging those realities and admiring the better qualities of the fitter, prettier, smarter party. It’s the broader, more general, less defined “better” qualities that get me into trouble and start negatively impacting my zen. Perhaps I am better with money because I’ve been poor or overwhelmed with debt and am now not poor and climbed out of the debt pit and stayed out of it. Maybe I seem like a nicer, kinder person because my outlook with others is to try to find a positive spin on most situations. But to think or to feel that I am somehow better than someone else is disconcerting and uncomfortable for me, because there are way too many variables at play in such thinking. Admiring others or desiring to try and improve myself based on another’s attributes seems like a healthier course of action if I must engage in comparative or competitive behavior. But wanting to point out another’s shortcomings in certain areas because I feel inadequate when compared to them in others is just wrong. I am always going to stack up as better in some ways and worse in others in side-by-side comparisons with just about anyone. I am far healthier to simply not go there in the first place.

My objectives in life are fairly simple and completely interconnected – maintain my health and protect our independence. If my health were to begin faltering, my options in older, grayer, less work-dependent and work-oriented years become significantly more limited. Without my health M and I become more and more dependent upon and interrelated with others. Neither of us wants that. We want to retain our ability to move about freely on our own and to pursue our interests for as long as possible. Our hopes and dreams are not extraordinarily extravagant either. Joy is where we find it, and we are fortunate in being able to find it just about everywhere. We want that on our terms. We are both working at maintaining and improving upon our health for the purpose.

Working on my improving the fitness of my mental health has been just as vital as learning to move heavier weights to and fro and how sugar and carbs impact my blood sugar. Kind of sad that it has taken me this long to banish negative girl to her cage, but oh well. The years to now are filled with lots of wonderful memories as well.

So, final summary: absolutely FUN session today. Worked really hard. Learned a lot. Ridiculously excited for Saturday to run through it again. Unless I do something bold and M-like and pursue this List tomorrow? That could be an intriguing experiment. Or not. There’s always Monday’s leg list, because I’m still working at figuring out and ironing out the kinks in form and technique.

And while I already am somebody, I remain a work in progress. The cycle of continuous improvement does not ever end; there is always more to learn and to try and master more perfectly what I already know well. I remain ridiculously excited about the options and opportunities I have created for myself. It is good to be me.


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