Training #84 – Build me up Buttercup

Monday morning, training with J. I probably say this most Mondays, but this is a fabulous way to begin my week.

Today was all about glutes. What we did:

  • Squat Machine “Frog Stance” (100 lbs., 4 sets, 15-20 reps)
  • Stability Ball Reverse Hyperextension (3 sets, 15-20 reps)
  • Cable Glute Kickback (20 lbs., 3 sets, 12-15/side
  • Cable 1-legged RDL (12.5 lbs., 3 sets, 8-10/side)
  • 1-legged Glute Pushdown (3 sets, 12-15/side)
  • Adductor Machine (110 lbs., 3 sets, 15-20/side)

While this is “only” 6 exercises, they are 6 pretty darn brutal and hard exercises. That said, they are also infinitely satisfying to complete and exciting to be in the sweaty and gross moments and trying so desperately to keep my head in the game, focused on my count and getting past the minimums and march onward toward the elusive maximum. Of course, I am also running cues in my head, wondering if I am doing this stuff right.

It has been awhile since I have been upstairs where we were working today. The squat machine lives there, and I have conveniently forgotten how brutal that thing can be on the glutes. In today’s “frog stance” squats on the squat machine, we went slightly lighter than I recall last we did this, but then again, we doubled the rep range as well. All is great, though. While nothing has been said (until today, and even that was an almost off-hand and mild coaching comment from J), I have been paying more attention to and trying hard to ensure I am pushing for the deeper knee bend on the squat things. Is that what they mean when they talk about full range of motion? Not sure on the terms, because as I said, until today it has never really come up. But today J encouraged going for a deeper knee bend. In my mind I have been wondering if I fail to try harder because I am lazy, am not paying particular attention. or am afraid of the Very Bad Things that could happen of pushing too hard or the body too far. As I have slowly becoming more cognizant of the thought, I have been equally deliberate in my slo-mo speed of trying for it. Today went pretty well. Squat seemed a bit deeper and nothing bad happened. I am encouraged and will work toward that goal on Wednesday.

The newbie on the block was the stability ball reverse hyperextension. I would say it’s a big giant name for essentially laying across the ball on your stomach and then kicking up the feet without bending the knees, but I realize now that the descriptive name is not really all that long and only sounds super fancy. I have not seen anyone else doing these, but I guess I need to pop in to the gym in the evenings when J is working with other tribe members. Anyway, this was actually kind of fun, and by Wednesday and next outing it could cross over onto the favorites list. It’s brutally effective, probably looks really strange to others walking by, but the only place I feel it is squarely in the middle of my glutes. I actually thought it might bother my lower back, but once I got into right position – ball rests right below the hip bones and feet should be touching the floor – could not feel it anywhere except my glutes. Wrong position, yep, feel too much aggravation in my lower back.

Another we have not visited in awhile, the cable glute kickback. While tricky to get the handle secured around my foot, once there it is a matter of focusing on kicking leg back in appropriate manner to feel the contraction in the glute. There is a certain challenge in thinking my way through each rep – am I feeling it? Is my kickback high enough? Is the weight right? Is the handle wandering and about to fall off my foot? Since some time has passed since my last effort with these, it felt like I was getting reacquainted with how these work and what I should be feeling. All good, though. I like doing these.

My arch nemesis STILL – the 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift resurfaced today. Honestly, no matter how mostly proficient I have gotten with other versions of the single legged exercises, holding onto that cable pulls me into the wobble more than half the time. But today, today I have renewed hope of conquering these bad boys. The primary way I have conquered my wobble bias in almost all single legged exercises is to focus hard on the upper body tightness. With the cable yanking at one arm, it has been really hard to maintain that upper body stiffness. Today I figured out that if I kept the elbow bent and the cable closer to the body, it’s a whole lot easier to keep the upper body tight and maintain the single leg balance. J was okay with my newly discovered technique, because the wobble was considerably less, I was more successful with the balance the muscle contraction, and my lats and upper body stayed tight. And as a footnote to that, feeling some bonus after effect in my lats today as well.

The 1-legged glute pushdown – there is something so relaxing about this motion that it is almost mesmerizing. While I can feel the glute working as I am moving the weight stack up and down, it is a rather trance-like experience to climb up on that machine and go through the sets. As glute exercises go these are fairly benign and seem just harmless-enough to be almost boring in execution. That’s always where I start getting nervous, though. Something that seems this easy is always dangerous, because it’s really easy for me to lose track and focus and do something stupid and quite probably hurt myself. I need to stay present and focused and not allow myself to become overconfident or I’ll fall over, fall off, or screw up my knee somehow. Still, despite my reservations about my own attention span, I am kind of crazy about these.

Finally, we have the upstairs version of the adductor machine. I am not a big huge fan of these, because while effective, they are sometimes downright painful as well. I feel like this is the one machine I should sit down and force myself to do 3 sets of every single week no matter what else I might be doing, or I’m going to pay for it the next go-round with it. The same machine, different manufacturer is downstairs, and I have the debate as to which machine I like better every time I happen to use the upstairs equipment. Upstairs is easier to adjust and has a shorter seat (downstairs is made for much taller folk than my 5’5″ height), but downstairs is more my typical stomping grounds for exercise.

And as I said, while it does not sound like we did  lot today, I was sweaty and gross after the first block and went home with my usual sweat-head of hair. Several inches shorter hair does not seem to impact this phenom at all.

It’s Halloween, and I have this big giant bowl of chocolate bars and plain M&Ms and thus far only 2 trick or treaters. Leftovers will be going somewhere tomorrow, for sure. M and I cannot be alone in the house with that much chocolate.

Today is also the last official day of my smoothie life, although I have been slacking pretty routinely the last several days with social events, etc. It’s completely unsustainable for longer than the month I have tried it out, but I did find it not completely horrible. I like the smoothie breakfast shake – the taste of spinach and kale can be concealed beneath a batch of berries and a single packet of stevia. I love the taste of the powdered peanut butter and chocolate protein powder, but it did not work out very well for dinner for me. I probably defeated the entire purpose of this exercise when I moved it to mid-afternoon snack and at something else for dinner, but oh well. I found myself falling hard for salad again and addition of other vegetables, garbonzos and other beans was not the taste disaster I feared. Still love the sunflower seeds and almonds, especially once I discovered how much I loved the almonds lightly toasted in the oven first.

Did I lose any weight? Yes, a few pounds. However, more and more I’m finding chasing a food structure and strategy that does not suit me only stresses me out more than if I just relax and strive for sensible balance. Going forward, I have no replacement plan or strategy in place other than the idea of continuing with my usual pre-workout protein shake, my greens-and-berries smoothing for breakfast, salad at least 2 or 3 days for lunch, and something sensible for dinner. Maybe I will have another epiphany in December.

I know I cannot expect to outrun my fork with exercise, but I also know there have been days where my blood sugar dropped like a stone and I had very little energy with the smoothie life. After finding so much of my zen with the (almost) daily workouts, I found it disturbing to feel tired and deflated where I typically feel upbeat and energized each morning. Hence implementing adjustments in smoothie life eating to suit me and my fuel needs.

With most of experimenting I have done with eating and eating strategies, I find the simple ideas of balanced nutrition are most suitable for me and definitely easiest on my nervous system. Intellectually I enjoy reading diet books (written by people I feel are both sensible and trustworthy) and about how other people utilize food, but I’m weaning myself off of any self-imposed pressure to try and conform or to be swept up in the marketing. There are foods that work out pretty well for me, and I will retain those. The rest of it, I am a normal person. I have no aspirations beyond better overall health, and I seem to have found a good pathway toward that objective. There is no body building or powerlifting or size 0 planned for my future.

What works for me tends to work well in ways I can feel and appreciate. I really like the way getting up early, getting to the gym and going through my workout makes me feel. In the earliest days it was absolutely exhausting, but those days are now months in my rearview. These days I feel far more content in my own skin. My gym crazy is (mostly) well controlled. My future feels bright even if I still see people doing things in the gym that perplex and make me skittish.

For example, I have observed only one use of a Bosu that makes any sense to me. A couple of ladies in a class meeting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings use it as a burpee aid, which watching them made the burpee make sense. Still not doing burpees. Still vastly prefer inchworming my way down to a planky push-up and back. But watching them with the Bosu – burpees seem like a maybe possibility someday rather than the previous open-and-shut Hell no. Today, I was walking from the locker room and saw a guy balancing on a Bosu with a weighted bar across his shoulders doing squats. Why, I wondered. Is it balance? Is challenge? Is he just batshit cray-cray? No clear answers at all, but I comfort myself in knowing that’s not in my foreseeable future. Like, ever.

I took yesterday off completely and didn’t die, nothing bad happened, and I felt refreshed and energized this morning. If my entire body has rebelled and refused to cooperate I did not notice.

And finally, one of the best things about this journey is expanding my knowledge base. I am evolving into quite an exercise nerd, because J continues to share and introduce me to various resources pursues and experts he follows. This weekend he turned my attention to The Smarter Sculpted Physique podcasts (http://smartersculptedphysique.com/episodes/). These are about an hour long each and cover a broad range of exercise, nutrition, and fitness topics. For me, they are now my new addiction and/or obsession, and likely will continue to be at least until I get caught up and have listened to all 29. In so many ways, this is intriguing to me, regular person. Not now, probably not ever a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or any sort of competitive athlete. I am just a someone who wants to understand the deeper why of my better health pursuits. I listened to several today while working, and now I want to read the summaries and notes from each podcast and listen to them again.

It was a great training day. Learned some new things, have yet another List to pursue, and find myself excited and looking forward to tomorrow and the upper body List. It’s going to be an amazing week. I love when I learn new things and find new content to read or to watch or to listen to that engages me and teaches me stuff.

Yep, it’s true: I am such a geek.

And damn proud of it.

 

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