Monday morning, training with J. And oh my – it is SO NICE to be back on track to something mostly akin to natural order of my universe. With this being moving week, I am in the office all week, including Tuesday, but from my perspective of alarm going off and getting up and into the gym, it’s the return to normal after the holiday week.
What We Did
1. Simultaneous Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets, 10/side)
2. Simultaneous Shoulder Level Dumbbell Punches in Front (3 sets, 10/side)
3. Simultaneous Dumbbell Cross Punching with Pivot at Shoulder Height (3 sets, 10/side)
4. Simultaneous Dumbbell Bent Alt. Dumbbell Rows (3 sets, 10/side)
5. Alternating Dumbbell Side Laterals with a Contralateral Front Stride (3 sets, 10/side)
6. Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises with a Contralateral Side Stride (3 sets, 10/side)
7. Simultaneous Dumbbell Upright Rows or Bent Over Rear Delt Fly (3 sets, 10/side)
8. Push Ups off Bench, with the Dumbbells (3 sets, 10 each)
9. Alternating Front Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
10. Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
11. Alternate Posterior Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
12. Alternating Front Reaching Lunges with Overhead Press (3 sets, 10/side)
13. Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges with Push (3 sets, 10/side)
14. Alternating Posterior Reaching Lunges with Hammer Curls (3 sets, 10/side)
15. Dumbbell Power Squats (3 sets, 10-20)
16. Inchworms (10)
How it Felt
This is an updated, more action-packed and advanced version of a prior List. There were additions and a few small changes that made this a much more intense and challenging series for me.
Today also doubled as a review day for this, because I was so far off the mark on a few of these things that I know it is not something we reviewed after its initial introduction. However, it is also not something I have pursued with any regularity to date. But that may be changing into the future.
We used 5 lb. dumbbells for the entire series. And believe me, 5 lbs. feels more like 25 lbs. as the fatigue starts layering in as we move along.
Phase One is mostly familiar.
- The simultaneous dumbbell shoulder press is not new and very familiar, and feels really good, smooth, almost easy with the light weights. I like the way the simultaneous comes into play, where one arm moving down is signal for the other arm to start moving up.
- First of the new exercises, simultaneous shoulder level dumbbell punches in front, is kind of a new movement and feeling in the front shoulder pushing the weight forward and then the contraction when pulling it back. There is a fluidity to this, almost a rhythm that feels good to my shoulders and my arms even as they tire as the sets pass.
- While the simultaneous dumbbell cross punching with pivot at shoulder height was on the first rendition of this List, this is one of those mind remembered the teaching day instructions incorrectly. Where today J was directing and showing me how to do this more across and arm closer to the body in the cross punching movement, I remembered it as more forward and off to the side in the original rendition. No matter; I did not harm myself or others in prior attempts, and I do like the way this corrected version feels to my arms and shoulders. The pivot part works better as well.
Phase Two has a couple of additional exercises.
- The simultaneous bent alternating dumbbell rows were on the original edition of this List. Again with the light weights (other Lists this 2-arm row is done with pairs of 25 lb. or 30 lb. dumbbells) and the simultaneous movement (one arm starts moving up while the other arm starts dropping down) it feel very light and rapidly smooth to run through the entire exercise. Despite the lighter weight, I can still feel the muscles in my back contracting and stretching with the weight going up and down.
- The alternating dumbbell side laterals with a contralateral front stride is a big long name for step forward with left foot while raising the weight laterally with the right arm and vice versa. At first, this is a lot more complicated than it sounds, but brain adjusts and gets into the groove. A couple of things I have learned about these things, always start lifting with right arm and stepping with left foot while muttering “elbow bend, shrug up” under my breath the first couple of times before rep counting takes over. I feel these in my shoulders as I move along.
- The alternating dumbbell front raises with a contralateral side stride is the fancy long name for stepping sideways with the left for while raising the weight in front with the right arm and vice versa. This and the side laterals are kind of like a dance steps, and since I do not dance unless absolutely unavoidable, it has been a process to retrain my brain. I particularly like this one, partly because of my deep and abiding affection for the 1-arm dumbbell snatch. These are like that without the squat and snatch part. I no longer fear harming myself with these movements and like the difference in feeling in my shoulders.
- While we did both the simultaneous dumbbell upright rows and the bent over rear delt fly, I have a vast and strong preference for the bent over rear delt fly. Certainly nothing wrong with the upright rows, I do not especially feel them in my shoulders. I would have to ask J about it, but it just seems they do not do much for me with my particular brand of shoulder mobility. The bent over rear delt fly, however, is a whole other ball game. There is challenge in these and getting the angle just right so I feel the movement in the back of the shoulders as appropriate. Some practice needed, but I will get there.
- I have done my fair share of push ups off bench in the last several months. However, it’s been a month or more between outings and it showed in today’s performance. I still scrunch my shoulders up when they should be down and back, and my push up muscles are not strong or conditioned in this movement. It inspires me to pursue the series of Lists that had push ups of various stripes and planky side kicks and kickbacks off the bench. No matter what, I should do more push ups either on the floor, the bench, or the TRX straps.
Phases Three and Four were on the original List, but there were some changes in phase four.
- Alternating front reaching lunges with and without the overhead press were on the original List as written. From other Lists I know these are anterior lunges, and I was very far off the reservation on how this is done. Instead of doing anterior reaches when I went through the original edition of this List, I was doing walking lunges without the walking part both phases. Worked out fine, but not the way this List was written or intended.
- Same thing happened on the alternating lateral reaching lunges both with and without the front press – I was doing a regular lateral lunge and then overhead press (on original List). In the teaching section our day today J demonstrated a more lateral reach without the deeper knee bend and the press forward with the weights in hand rather than the overhead press. Again, the way I performed the exercise yesterday worked out fine, just not the way this List was written or intended.
- I was completely off the reservation in the alternating posterior reaching lunges with and without hammer curls. This was on the original List with an overhead press, but I had completely forgotten what a posterior reaching lunge actually was. Yesterday I did them as
backwardreverse lunges, in that I was stepping backward into the lunge rather than stepping forward. Instead, the posterior lunge is step all the way behind with a pivot and then do the bending forward lunge part, then stand upright again and pivot around to the starting position. Still, it was fine, and I do like the way this series is written now that I totally understand how to do it correctly.
Phase Five exercises are both familiar, even if I am out of practice.
- The dumbbell power squats with 5 lb. dumbbells are interesting without the heavier weights. I definitely need to be pursuing the higher rep range on these and focus hard on form.
- The inchworms are my burpee substitute, because I don’t do burpees. These are primarily for my pilates classes, but since I have not been there in a few weeks, I am ridiculously out of practice with these. Working up to 10 in a set seems impossible, but once upon a time so was everything else on this List.
To be perfectly candid, I am crazy in love with this List. There is enough success to balance and overcome the challenges I am still facing with the new additions and adjustments to this List.
Plus I am feeling pretty pleased with my attitude toward it. There is part of me wants to feel discouraged about the push up and inchworm lack of progress or even regression on these. But that part of me is negative girl territory and she’s been tied up, gagged for the holidays, and locked in her box. So no, I don’t feel especially discouraged or even unhappy about the push ups and the inchworms. When I pursue this List next (probably tomorrow, if body is agreeable), I will do push ups in sets of 3, 4, 5, whatever it takes to get me to the 10 per set. Same with the inchworms. The worst that happens? It takes me longer than I anticipate or expect to finish my allotted sets. Not the end of the world as I know it.
I’m going to have to work at the pivots and focus to maintain my balance. But I feel particularly good about my Phase One block and most of the Phase Two block. With some practice, I will improve. And since I am sketching out plans to ensure this List is in the rotation at least twice per week for a couple of sets, the struggles will be front and center and being worked at consistently.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
When she was 8 or 9, my oldest heard M and I talking about endorphins. M was describing running to me, trying to explain and inspire and infuse me with some enthusiasm of the sport and activity and essentially encourage me to get off my ass and fall in love with the outdoors and walking and hiking. Yeah, right. Those were years we had young children underfoot, full-time jobs where he was working a night/day shift and I was working days. There was hardly any time to get outside for anything other than soccer games and softball games and little money to drive to the places where he wanted to enjoy hiking. On top of which – completely not my thing. But I have to give him credit for trying. Having never experienced the endorphin rush, he was describing the flood of them into the brain and trying to make it sound as if this was something I too could and would achieve. B, overhearing this, asked what it was like when “dolphins are swimming in your brain” – her interpretation of his description and big words. From the mouths of babes, I have never again heard the word endorphin without having visions of dolphins swimming in my head.
That said, I honestly cannot say that I have ever experienced the “high” so many people discuss. I feel good after practice, after training with J. And just lately here, I notice that body starts to miss certain exercises after awhile, and it’s a strange and mysterious experience for me now. As an example – yesterday I did a version of today’s List, in part because I was almost craving walking lunges. Now, understand that walking lunges are not on the favorites List; there is unlikely to be a day where I’m ridiculously excited about having to do walking lunges. But in the Saturday night debate about gym or pilates with an instructor that leaves me cold, the gym and walking lunges immediately came to mind and stuck in my head.
While I thought it would be the Abel 30s (leg press, walking lunges, sumo squats, stability ball hamstring curls – 30 reps each), the leg press was busy and I chose this workout instead. As noted above, I learned today there are not actually any regular lunges on the List, but oh well; substitution worked fine.
My point here is that I continually surprise myself anymore that body seems to crave certain things (other that chocolate, fat, sugar). Once I get it into my head and pursue certain Lists or series of Lists, it is like a brand new and yet very familiar feeling. I know some things may get neglected or pushed to the back of my mind after a few weeks. When I pick up and pursue those Lists and series of exercises again, I typically feel really, really good and uber gratified and satisfied by the experience. Is that an endorphin rush? No idea. But when I walk out of the gym feeling good about my List and the work done, I always imagine some school of dolphins swimming inside my head. And it makes me happy. Not slacking. Not negative. Not a poser. I have become gym people.
I am a creature of habit. I like structure. A big part of why things work so well with trainer J is because there are Lists, there are whole libraries of Lists. Some I set aside for weeks or months, then pick up on a whim and return to because it sounds like a good idea at the time. Anymore, my only caveats are that I do lower body/legs one day and swap it out with upper body the next. Days like today, when the List involves the whole body, I feel fine about doing it for a set or two every single day, maybe as an interim warmup before moving on to a longer or shorter List with heavier weights. Maybe this works for the long- or short-term, or maybe it does not work at all. My willingness to be flexible and experiment is a Very Good Thing, I think.
Thinking back to this time last year, I have come a long way. I am more capable and more confident. My own skin feels comfortable and comforting to me. It is a happy thing to know that I have stuck with training this long and there is no foreseeable end in sight for me right now.
Cleaning out my gym bag last night, I was struck by the assortment of Lists I was still carrying around. Just in case? I’m not sure. Mostly nostalgia, reminders of where I was this time last year and how far I have come. The original dumbbell routine J and I began working on in January is now something I would pursue with heavier weights, higher reps, more sets to fill the time, and that would still be kind of an easier, lighter day. I still feel it is a good solid workout, but I have others that are more challenging and suitable for my forward progression. Feeling as if I have outgrown something is nothing to be regretful about.
While writing this, I
am was listening to episode 9 of “The Smarter Sculpted Physique Podcast,” wherein the coaches are talking about the bench press. But at the end of it, there were quick comments about the consumer bias in the gym for women, wherein they do cardio first with a little bit of weight training in pursuit of a cosmetically pleasing female physique where it should be the opposite.
Which made me smile, because just this morning I was wearing a tank top and crowing to J about new little creases in my front shoulders. I am apparently developing a shoulder cap; good to know it has a name.
But other than my recent foray into a cardio challenge, I don’t do any dedicated cardio. I strive for a yoga class a couple times each week, pilates on Sundays when it makes sense to me. Had I had my fancy smancy fitbit watch on today I could tell whether this hit harder in a cardio sense than usual. It was abandoned on the charger in my haste to get out the door on time this morning. Oh well.
My fitness focus is unique to me, and my way is the right way for me. Or I would not still be working with trainer J or pursuing my exercise with such dogged consistency. The anxiety that was once so focused on the gym itself is now based on the idea of skipping practices or missing training sessions. I know how easy it would be for me to loosen the reins and lighten up, skip a day here and there, reschedule a session just because I “deserve” to sleep later some Monday or Thursday.
If I do not indulge myself in such pointless imaginings it is unlikely to happen to me. My training, my practice will continue to be part of my everyday, every week satisfaction with life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. And good health. This week I have a lot going on at work, yet I have my week structured so I get my practices and training completed as usual, scheduled myself for the usual yoga classes in the evenings.
Prioritizing my better health quest revolved around protecting my exercise time blocks and putting forth an honest effort at healthier eating. Part of me feels very blessed and lucky to be having this much success. But the more honest view – I have worked damn hard for it and have earned my improvements and success.
On this excellent day with a pretty stellar training session and time spent listening to experts discuss various aspects of coaching and fitness, I deserve to feel this good about my efforts.