Training #86 – Twist and shout

A day late with this recap! I ate some cold cereal Monday night for dinner for the first time in over a year and had it sent my blood sugar to the moon and me into a narcoleptic coma-like state. Needless to stay, this post did not get completed in its usual timeframe.

Monday morning, training with J, and it was review day. I love review day, especially now. Now I feel like review day is more like lets get into the weeds of the exercise and examine the roots and analyze the dirt where its planted. Seriously, I finally feel like I have grasped the majority of the basic movement patterns and am now getting into the refinement and fine little details that “real” people who lift.

The last few weeks, we have fallen into a pattern of Mondays lower body, Thursdays upper body. Yesterday we went over our first lower body List:

  • 1-legged Leg Press
  • 1-legged RDL (Cable) 
  • Stability Ball Glute Bridge 
  • SB Hamstring Curls 
  • Machine Hamstring Curl 
  • Quad Extensions 
  • DB Power Squats
  • Bodyweight Bulgarians
  • Adductor Machine
  • Stability Ball Lateral Squats  

Since it was review day which means dissecting and correcting and commenting and moving things around. It’s an opportunity for me to ask new questions to talk about experiences I have forgotten about in my own practices. Love review days.

We started out with the 1-legged leg press. I have very specific things I watch on this machine. I want to ensure my leg is straight, not going criss-cross to the left or right. I am watching the weight stack go up and down, especially on the down, where it comes close to being rock bottom but not quite. For the most part, I have this exercise down pretty well. However, as happens in review days, we got into a discussion of muscles targeted and how placement of the foot dictates which muscles are worked and the way different foot placement feels to the body and what I am feeling and where I am feeling it. The way this List is written, we do minimum of 5 sets (up to 10 sets) of 10/side. Yesterday machine was set at 140 lbs., and after 5 (maybe 6? 7?) sets of various foot placements, I have a much clearer idea of what having a high heel placement and pressing off impacts the glutes. Still feeling it today.

Next up was the 1-legged Romanian deadlift, cable edition. Even after months of off and on doing these, this exercise remains my arch nemesis. Even with that dubious honor, it is testament to my maturity with regard to exercise in general that I do not inwardly broad and wish to be doing something, anything else. Or getting myself so worked up and tense about it that I either give up or have such a frustrating experience that it taints the whole rest of my day. I still struggle mightily with these. For all the ways I teeter-totter and topple over sideways or cannot find my balance, there is at least one matching good effort where I do the exercise correctly. Focus lately has been on maintaining tight upper body and holding the closer to the body rather than extending the arm outward. Arch nemesis, I am coming for you.

I kind of love the stability ball glute bridge. Even if I am still sort of struggling to figure out where my feet belong on the ball. Glute bridges of various stripes without stability ball, benches, or anything else are a staple in pilates classes, so I go through these in some fashion fairly regularly. But my favorites thus far are these with the stability ball. Trickiest part has been ensuring good foot placement on the ball to ensure I get the right contraction and stretch.

Another foot placement issue is the stability ball hamstring curl. The real work on this exercise is in the last couple of inches, and getting positioned to the point of curling in far enough with the hips elevated is tricky. J made some corrections to my foot placement and I felt that contraction kick in the hamstrings. This and the glute bridge are on a warm-up List; I think they may soon be finding their way to a daily warm-up sequence to work on my proficiency.

The hamstring curl machine is sooooo hard! Starts out okay, but once that fatigue starts hitting, it’s nearly impossible to bend my knee and lift that weight up even half the way. But I will keep working at it. We lightened the weight and of course that helped, but I can still feel how difficult this machine is when fatigue hits. Maybe I need more work at the mental aspect of my training and practice, although I do not know that is me being lazy so much as this is all of a newish machine my poor hamstrings can take.

Same story with the quad extension machine – the last couple of inches are a lot of the work.

Onward to dumbbell power squats. I’m really working at these, trying to get some depth to these, and it does not seem like it is progressing very productively. But I am persevering. For now I am chugging along, striving toward maximum reps per set.

Then there are the Bulgarian split squats. I have come far with these, working on balance and listening to body’s feedback going through each. It is a process, one that lasts the balance of my lifetime. With the Bulgarians, I have done these almost daily as part of my warmup series. Yet I still struggle to maintain good form (per body’s feedback) and to stay focused and in the moment.

We skipped the adductor machine this session. Time was running short and the stability ball lateral squats remained.

The stability ball lateral squats remain a challenge. In fact, I would go so far as to say lateral squats are a huge challenge in general. What I gained from this review day was keeping knee from moving too far forward over the toe. Instead, the glute should be pushing backward instead of knee going forward. New cue, new lightbulb moment of pushing hip back and keep knee from going too far forward. I have a much better understanding of where I am going wrong with lateral everything.

And that was review day for this section of lower body stuff.

Because it’s Tuesday, I had another practice this morning, upper body stuff, which always gives me more insight on what we go over on training days. I have found myself thinking more and more about the mental aspect of my practice and training. Trying to build on my focus and thinking through each aspect of every rep in every exercise. It’s not always easy, and now that I am thinking about it, trying to practice this additional skill set, and like everything on this journey, it’s not easy. But I’m trying, and succeeding, much of the time.

I speak a lot about attitude, about negative girl, about how my outlook and confidence are expanding and growing. It’s imperfect, as Saturday’s encounter with another member demonstrates. Maybe I let it bother me far more than it should have, but the most important takeaway from the experience was that I did not quit or let it get the better of me. I was in the gym yesterday training with J; I was there again this morning on my own going through a List and a half and working on multiple levels at improving my form and technique.

A couple of weeks ago J introduced me to a podcast hosted by Scott Abel, a very practical, pragmatic coach with very down-to-earth diet and exercise advice for regular people (like me). His accomplishments are broad and he presently has a new book out targeted at those of us over 50. While I have zero aspirations of being a body builder or power lifter or any sort of competitor, I am highly motivated and very interested in learning to exercise very safely and sanely. Through almost 18 months of exercise and training with J, I am slowly maturing into the mindset and discipline that is required to have sustainable success in this realm.

I am very proud of my progress, my stick-with-it-ness about getting up and getting to the gym. For someone who has given up so many times, to finally find my groove has been nothing short of amazing. But listening to a few hours of podcasts while working at my desk yesterday, there was one statement by Coach Abel that really resonnated with me and neatly summed up the progression of my improving attitude toward and consequently, my aptitude for exercise. This is not a direct, word-for-word quote, but what I was able to capture the essence of Coach Abel’s comment:

Glass is half empty, glass is half full – both of those are perceptually wrong. As a realist, the glass is just too damn big. It’s not about half empty or its half full, the glass is too big. That’s the realist approach. The pragmatist approach is “I don’t even care about the size of the glass; I care about what’s in it.” Pessimism to optimism to realism to pragmatism – and that’s what excellent coaching is all about.

This is from smartersculptedphysique.com, podcast episode #10, at about minute 46.

Many months ago, even before he began following Coach Abel, J said the same thing to me during one of our sessions. He is an excellent coach and was the best, luckiest of draws in my life as far as getting matched with a trainer that I can work with and usher me along to a place of success despite my own resistance to the idea. I have become obsessed and fascinated with exercise and the progress I have achieved thus far, and the training schedule I maintain can be traced directly back to our training partnership. If you have an interest in real, down-to-earth information on weightlifting and supportive nutrition, I cannot recommend this podcast series enough or Coach Abel’s various books. I’m currently on episode 13, after listening and relistening to parts of the previous dozen, and poor J and other friends who are or have been resistance training enthusiasts almost daily have to read a text from me saying “episode [insert current episode here] is my current favorite because ….” Since there are now 30 of them, and I believe a new one comes out each week, it could be a long stretch of daily texts.

Tomorrow is another day, lower body practice. I think my glutes and hamstrings will be ready for it by then.

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