Training #87 – Big girls don’t cry

Except when they are late getting training recaps posted. Complicated week with th election and its aftermath. But finally got my thoughts organized and the post written. So I can get on to the next topic brewing in my brain.

Thursday morning, training with J. Another review day, which is fabulous because I love, Love, LOVE review days. We are in the midst of reviewing recent upper/lower Lists and going through one by one. While I feel as if I am very generally proficient in this exercise themselves, there are so many subtleties and technical details I am/was completely unaware of or have forgotten in my quest.

Our review today:

  • Bent Over DB Row (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Cross Bench DB Pullover (20 lb. DB, 3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Bent Over Band Straight Arm Pulldown (skipped today)
  • Band Row (skipped today)
  • Incline DB Chest Press (20 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 12 reps)
  • Band Triceps Kickback (3 sets, MAX)
  • 1-arm DB Overhead Press (15 lb., 2 sets, 12 reps)
  • Dual Band Reverse Fly (2 sets, MAX)
  • DB Triceps Extensions (15 lb. DBs, 1 set, 12 reps)
  • DB Concentration Curl (15 lb. DB, 1 set, 12/side)

Just when I think there must be nothing new except to go weightier on the weights, J brings up some little wrinkle we have not looked at before. Or brings up some subtlety I have completely forgotten. Maybe both. On the bent over dumbbell rows today, it was primarily about the waist hinge. Well, waist hinge and a 1 to 3 second pause at the top of the movement. We’ve gone over the row part. We’ve discussed the chest up or collarbone spread cues. I am always thinking about the shoulders back as if pinned behind my ears and weights are pulled up low and toward the waist. But today, J stressed the pause at the top and not letting my back round at the waist as the weights dropped down to starting position. It is so much harder than it sounds when I am writing these recaps. But for the most part I got the essential features of rounding the shoulders and letting the weights return to start at a longer stretch, then pretension the back and lats to draw them back up into a row. On top of all these little form tweaks, we are working toward a steady cadence of movement. My head is actually expanding it into a Very Big Deal as I write this, but Saturday is practice day and I can put it all back together and see how it fits. Sometimes it just takes the repetition for me to have my lightbulb moments.

I am actually surprised that I like the cross bench dumbbell pullover. Because it is a weird set-up to go from sitting on the floor with a weighty weight in hand or sitting next to me to hips bridged and shoulders and head supported by the bench and hands supporting the weight and moving it smoothly overhead. In my mind’s eye there is no graceful or guaranteed safe way to get into this position, and from there it seems the potential for disastrous outcomes is huge. While some may view this as negative girl thinking, for me it is simply being real; a lot of what drives my anxiety and fear in and outside of the gym is understanding the appearances and the risks involved in whatever actions and choices I make. To the best of my ability, I have thought about how it looks (so what – people do strange stuff all the time all over the place) and the risks (take the set-up one step at a time and go as slowly as necessary to ensure I do things safely). This exercise has become like a ritualized process for me, which could also be part of the reason why I like it. I have my expectations set and am very focused and in the moment with it. Today we focused on the spreading the elbows wide and biggest stretch possible at the further point. With my particular range of motion movements, I do think about this and try harder to get ever little millimeter out of this and other exercises like it. The trickier part here, though, was the pretensionining of lats and upper chest muscles to bring the weight back overhead. It can be done, but it’s not the easiest thing I will do this week and requires a lot of my concentration. Plus you have this up-close-and-personal experience with the weight skimming your face, so close I can actually smell the weight. Which is disconcerting. It does not smell badly or weird or gross, but reminds me again that I am a one-off weirdo who now knows what a dumbbell smells like. But oh well.

We skipped over the bent over straight arm band pulldowns and band rows for the sake of concentrating our time. J’s Thursday 8 a.m. appointment is back (yay!) after a couple of week’s absence so there was no wiggle room to run late, and I am perfectly okay with that, especially on a review week. Wiggle room to chat or ask questions or simply be thick as a brick when trying to master some of the technical details is a genuine gift and one I do not take for granted.

Next we went on to the incline bench press and all it’s wonder. Been doing these for awhile now, but always something new. But even with lighter than usual weights, it is an ongoing evolutionary experience. We’re working on cadence, the lowering-uppering of the weights and the tempo of the work. Plus there’s the pretensioning of the muscles. For the most part I understand and have a good grasp of the cadence I’m seeking I find the peppier pacing is a challenge. Especially with the pretension messages in my head, and on this exercise the “squish shoulders” at the starting point. The pretension and the pacing cadence have become the recurring themes of late. But all good. I like the ways the challenge of remembering and implementing these steps makes me feel.

The longest, most challenging thing on this review-day List has to be the band triceps kickback. J set these up as a maxium reps exercise, but with a caveat – step as far back as possible and do as many as I could. Then a big step forward and start the count again to maximum reps. Once I reached that point, yet another big step forward and another set of max reps. There was a term for it, but it’s escaping me right now. This is what happens when I have a midday email/text exchange with drunken friends.

From there we went the 1-arm overhead press. Miniscule adjustment of the weight (push up straight and slightly behind) and hello shoulder!

The dual band reverse fly is another one of the exercises with the tricky subtleties. It’s kind of difficult to describe here, but what comes to mind is that stretching out the arms has the maximum effect I’m seeking. I’m working on this one. It’s yet another exercise that seems like it should be simple and is very complicated. Or my brain makes it very complicated.

While doing the dumbbell triceps extensions, we got onto the topic of feet on the floor or feet on the bench and J was kind to demonstrate the difference and what you gain from each foot positioning. I am average height (5’5″) and always foot on the bench or supported on a box at the end of the bench has felt more comfortable to me. That said, at this point in my exercise odyssey I don’t think it matters much at all. Maybe it will someday, but for right now, foot placement on on a flat bench is one of those curiosity things. Tricep extensions, after the megadeath sets with the stretchy tube were an endurance test to get through.

I am still working out my comfort and zone with the dumbbell concentration curls. I find myself wondering if everyone has the issue I do with the sharpness of my elbows, which is truly the least of my problems with this exercise. Somehow in the last week I have managed to irritate my elbow doing these. Not horrifically, just irritatingly. But J worked with my on form and how I should be doing these to avoid hyperextending the elbow. The irritation is not stopping me from doing this List again tomorrow, but it’s irritating periodically throughout the day as I reach for things or my mouse. Because of course it’s my right elbow.

And that was my training day yesterday. Awesome as always, lots accomplished, lots to think about.

At the gym this morning, I was thinking about this recap (being behind already from work) and going through my List of the day I am immersed in a thinking practice. Arms and legs are moving, muscles are being worked, heart is pumping, sweat is dripping … and I am thinking about what each muscle feels like, how it’s working, why it’s working. Along with the rep counting, I am trying to pace and cadence my brain and thoughts about what I am doing with muscles and joints and what feedback they are providing. And it is almost more difficult to train my brain and thoughts as it has been to learn proper form to do the exercises.

So maybe the more cerebral layer is being piled on with the rest of the stuff.

J points out that he the one who shapes my outlook and attitudes and vision toward fitness. I am okay with that. He had steered me toward good, practical, down-to-earth coaches and experts that make sense and cut through the noise of marketing the surrounds the fitness industry. I don’t mind. I listen to others and their views, but what they do would not necessarily work for me, holds minimal appeal. I don’t want to try crossfit – too hard, too scary, too much work! Powerlifting holds zero appeal and from what I have read, it is very hard on the body, especially someone at my age. Running has never been an activity I will pursue, and cardio alone has never impacted me or transfixed me this way. Yoga is something I do to complement my resistance training.

The fitness and exercise education I am receiving from J is working for me. There is nothing crazy about it, the sources make sense to me, and I enjoy the different perspectives presented. What I learn from him engages my mind, makes me think rather than just going through the motions with a blank expression on my face. I am grateful to be fully engaged this way, to learn different methods and myriad of ways to do various exercises.

I’m hugely annoyed by the impact of election information overload and work and its demands on my blogging schedule. There are other topics waiting in the wings of mind to be written, so I wanted, needed to get this written and posted so I could move on with the rest of the backlog waiting to be written.

But training, as always, was fabulous and amazing. Monday we start anew, possibly another leg review day.

Can’t. Wait. Except I’m ridiculously excited about tomorrow (Saturday!) and having time to do as much exercise and fitness as my energy allows.

Yep, happy exercise days ahead.

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