Monday morning, training with J. Monday fun day, and today, ridiculously matchy-matchy in our attire. J was in work uniform of course – red trainer shirt, black shorts, and training shoes (New Balance minimalist), and then me in a new sleeveless red shirt, black capris, and the same New Balance minimalist shoes. It was kind of a funny fashion faux pas when I realized it, although I am now never wearing that shirt again on training days. But this is the closest I will come to ever aspiring to J’s job or playing a gym trainer in real life, so it is kind of fun to imagine me in another type of role. Never going to happen, of course; I would be a disaster.

We are continuing our journey on lower body stuff. J is updating older Lists and adding new stuff to make them more challenging or meet my current level of ability. Both sound very flattering, right? Like I am being rewarded for forward progress. I kind of love that spin on it – I am being rewarded with heavier weights on existing exercises.

Except glutes are not thankful and happy and expressing copious amounts of gratitude. Nope. They are instead back there whining about about what did they ever do to me that I would again put them through a workout that causes such pain and suffering? My response, if I were actually talking to my ass, would be something along the lines of shut the f**k up and deal with it. To do otherwise is to slink back into negative girl territory and no one wants that.

The List today is headlined “Essentializing and Loading Quad-blocks,” a fancy-smacy way of saying working glutes until they scream for relief. J’s wording does sound far less intimidating than my own, though. What we did today:

  • Dumbbell power squats (30 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Dumbbell bulgarian split squats (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
  • Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts (30 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Dumbbell curtsey lunges (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
  • Dumbbell step-ups (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
  • Dumbbell lateral lunges (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
  • Dumbbell sumo squats (30 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12)
  • Dumbbell anterior lunges (walking or off box) (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12/side)

These are all things we have done previously, but many have been bodyweight or lighter dumbbells. And believe me, I was feeling every single one of those pounds in my hands.

The power squats are nothing new, not even with the 30 lb. dumbbells in hand. I  have a new theory that they are somehow magical and ward off the painful parts of the rest of the training session until after I am away from the gym and sitting at my desk, minding my own business. Then the ache starts, sitting down, standing up, crossing my ankles. It’s a mysterious thing that I walk out of the gym thinking I have done some work, I know I have done some work, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Until a couple of hours have passed and then holy moly – I definitely WORKED. As for the squats themselves, who does not like squats? I mean, really, if you dislike these, you’re probably in the wrong type of training. Seems to me if there is an occasion, there is a squat for that. Thankfully I mostly like the challenges that come with these. I am still pretty critical of my efforts, though; I want to work at this more deliberately so I can figure out why I feel like I am perhaps not making much progress with them, other than magically numbing the glutes for the rest of the hour.

Bulgarian split squats, my old friends. For months I have done these almost daily in warmup, and for the most part I feel good about them. However, put a couple of 15 lb. dumbbells in my hands and all bets are off. Balance is impacted. Getting foot situated on the bench may take 5 tries per leg. Then there is the actual performance and staying upright – the weight changes everything. New (old?) cue today, though – press up from the heel. I don’t know where I have been pressing from, but it made a huge difference in stability with the weights. As weeble-wobbly as I felt today, it was still a far better experience than when I began these and needs all sorts of props to help me stay upright. And while the bigger and stronger reading may not be very impressed with my 15 lb. dumbbells, trust me they are plenty of weight for me for starting out this exercise with weights.

We have been doing Romanian deadlifts for a very long time, like second week of training long time. Yet, the heavier the weight, the more reminders I have that time doesn’t mean crap if I am somehow wandering off the good form reservation. Not that I was doing terrible things with potential for injury, but after a few sets of the first block with the weightier weights fatigue sneaks up and surprises me. Such is the case with today’s first set of RDLs. I had fresh ache in my lower back, and while J was demonstrating, I was sitting on the bench, which is unusual behavior for me. I typically stay standing unless we are embarking upon a sitting or lying on the bench exercise, none of which we did today. But there was a familiar ache in my lower back, right at the top of my hips. I knew it was nothing serious and not as if I had hurt myself, but it’s annoying all the same. J demonstrated and reminded me to keep the weights closer to the legs on the way down to alleviate and delay this issue, and sure enough, it made an enormous difference. Obviously why J gets paid the (not nearly enough) big bucks. As if I need a reminder of why I am probably his forever training client. These were such an insane mystery to me at first I am not at all surprised I periodically need a refresh on proper form and technique.

Today was my first outing with curtsey lunges with dumbbells in hand. I think, anyway. Sure seemed like it, and I struggle mightily with these under the best of circumstances. When we started doing these, I described the sensation as ice picks straight into the outer sides of my ass and the assessment remains unchallenged. Except it’s quite possibly worse with the weights. As much as I am not crazy for these, they are extremely effective. I like when they appear on a List as part of a block. Put the word “optional” next to them and then are much less likely to get practiced. Fatigue is my enemy by the time we get here, which tends to make me want to just do some bastardized version of a reverse lunge. Wednesday when I review this List in my own practice I will be focusing a lot of energy on doing a better job with form on these.

Oh the return of the dreaded step ups, now with a 15 lb. dumbbell in each hand. Okay, confession – I was kind of worried about these today. The shoes I was wearing do not get much play because when I hurt my foot last year, I was wearing these particular shoes and had the yelping owie doing step ups on the lowest box possible. So here we are again, having a sense of deja vu with the same shoes I associate with an owie and doing the same movement that made me yelp. But it was fine. Shoes are not to blame, and it was just one of those weird coincidences that I put these back into service today. The step ups themselves, now on the middle sized box, are not really easier, and the dumbbells do not make something already challenging any less so. However, I did pretty well. It does require an intense amount of focus to make myself do the time and reps and listen closely to what body is saying beneath it’s usual resistance to everything nonsense.

When it comes to the whole lunge family, the most disliked thus far is probably the lateral lunge. Cannot really tell you why, except they just feel wrong to me. I have watched lots and lots of other members do them to different depths and in different ways, and it always seems like they are somehow more competent and proficient. I have to work at turning off the comparison monitor inside my head, but it’s stubborn. I force myself to make my minimum, and I will say I certainly like today’s version with the dumbbells held straddling my leg much, much more than the goblet position with pulse. However, if I have to do these, I actually like the version from last week, where one foot is elevated on the stability ball. It’s just as difficult if not more so, but for whatever reason I feel more fluid and in control than with the regular version on today’s List.

We did sumo squats today with the dumbbell versus the kettlebell we have been using. These are among my favorites in the whole squat family, and if the dumbbell feels different it’s all in how I have to hold onto the weight. I’m glad these are on the list; makes me feel as if I have a strong finish.

And finally, the anterior lunges, this time with 15 lb. dumbbells. We did walking ones first, which have not been on a List in quite awhile but remain an old favorite. Second set we switched over to the anterior lunges off the box, which is tricky because of the stepping backward back onto the box. Different feel to it this way, with the rear foot staying on the box versus elevating slightly into the air, but manageable even with the weights in hand.

All in all, a very successful, productive, glute-ache inducing day.

Considering the start it got off to, today was extremely successful for me. I had a sugar crash a few hours before our appointment at 6 – still have no idea why – resulting in a small dose of juice at 3 a.m. By the time I was rolling out of the house for the gym, I had recovered and was fueled by my usual protein shake. However, the boomerang effect of recovery made me feel tired out of the gate. Once we got going and I got my head into the work, I believe my effort was appropriately adequate.

With K trying to decide whether or not to join my studio for yoga, I have been doing more yoga than usual. Yesterday was pilates, tomorrow I may be joining her for hot yoga instead of my usual gentle class. Wednesday she’s trying restorative with me, and Thursday we are doing hot yoga again. Could be something with the extra heat throwing off my system.

This is my last week of smoothie life, and to be perfectly frank I have not touched the scale in days. It’s just not something that makes me feel good, better, or somehow empowered in my better health quest, so I am again relegating it to something I do once a month. Maybe my mind will toughen up to the realities it presents, but for now, life is so much more pleasant without being tense and stressed over the daily weigh-ins.

I do plan to continue with my pre-workout, breakfast, and probably mid-afternoon smoothie snack. I have fallen hard for the chocolate protein powder and powdered peanut butter that I have been consuming for dinner meals, so much so it may be implemented as an afternoon snack on office days. The rest of it, though, I think I can be trusted to eat a couple of regular lean protein and vegetable meals without gaining 50 lbs.

But I’m not sure about continuing as a private coaching client with Dr. Spencer. His coaching service is valuable, especially if you need help with workouts and eating advice. J writes my workouts and teaches/trains me to do them appropriately, and eating advice going forward – I know what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. No amount of ongoing consultation is going to make me do it, though. I have a few more days to decide, but I think for me it is no longer a right fit. I’m far too picky about food.

I also think my focus is still not losing weight. I see it as a byproduct of better lifestyle habits, not a primary goal to become gazelle intense about. I want to be healthier and now have enough trial and error under my belt to know what is going to work, what is not. My eating habits have improved and will likely continue to do so. I believe at this point I would rather put my financial buying power to some other priority.

The new Lists J has been preparing make me feel energized and excited about what comes next. Thought flittered through my mind that I am actually doing “real” exercise now, which is so silly because I am not sure how that line of thinking classifies what I have been doing for the last year. I like that it’s a little more challenging, a little more difficult, requires me to pace myself differently and to listen to the cues playing in my head as I move along.

A very good day in the gym today. Ridiculously excited to get back tomorrow and run through the upper body List from last Thursday once more. I feel stronger. I feel successful. I feel competent and able to hold my own in my patch of flooring and the machines I am supposed to be using.

I’m on my way, yet this is a journey I have been pursuing for awhile. This month, it has started to really feel as if anything is possible. Maybe even the sky is not a limit anymore.

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