Monday morning, training with J. It was shuffled review day, where he took an existing List and rearranged it and added and/or subtracted exercises to make something new. Since we are now in the final month of 2016, J will be on vacation for a Monday and Thursday this month for the holiday, we will be doing review and such for the balance of our 2016 sessions. Which is perfectly fine with me. Last thing I want is to be frustrated or avoiding doing new things because I have questions and he is away on well-deserved time away from the gym.

Besides, I love review days. I always learned something either brand new or that I have forgotten along the way. Complacency has evolved into a genuine enemy and results in bad habits I end up having to break at some point.

What We Did

A1  Lat Pulldown Dual Cable (60 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
A2  Seated Dip (Chest emphasis) (80 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)

B1  1-arm DB Row (25/30 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15/side)
B2 Slight Decline DB Chest Press (25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15 reps)

C1  Cable Row or Rope Facepull (80 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
C2  DB Arnold Press (10 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

D1  Triceps Pushdown (30 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
D2  Standing DB Curl, alt. opt. (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

How It Felt

We began with the lat pulldown on the dual cable machine. I am torn between really, Really liking this machine and being crazy in love with it. The single cable machines in the big boys room use a long bar, which feels different and does not have the bonus of being able to alternate arms. But I admit to liking both, just liking this one a shade better. I haven’t always liked this; in the earliest days of training J introduced it and even included it on a List, yet I rarely to never went forth and pursued it. My gym crazy was still on full display in those days. Now, though, I feel very competent and confident with the lat pulldowns. I can feel them where I am supposed to feel them, and body can perform the movement smoothly and competently. J took a quick little video of my back muscles moving while I performed this exercise, and call me vain, but I was pleased and impressed. I mean, how often does a girl get to see her back in action while doing lab pulldowns?

The seated dip machine has been sitting dormant for awhile, although I did really enjoy the reintroduction today. I confess when J said the word “dip” in our pre-session conversation I was thinking of bench dips or worse; I had completely forgotten about the dip machine. So this one, we had to go through a set and a half before I got the positioning correct to work the chest rather than the triceps. Not beating myself up over it; this machine has bunches of little adjustments and ways to sit and work various body parts. But once I grasped the basic of how it should feel under J’s watchful eye, I have the framework of how to replicate this on my own in practice. And I will be working at it to improve. Along with my push-ups, newly elevated back to arch nemesis status.

I have a love-love thing going with the 1-arm dumbbell row. Ever since J introduced me to the stand-up leaning version, I feel as if I have improved with it. Maybe I would have improved with it in the knee-on-the-bench version as well if I continued to do them that way, but I vastly prefer the standing version. It just feels as if I have more control and can feel it more fully. Today J noted there was a little flex of the arm at the end, and now I am cognizant of this little flex at the end. I do have a whole string of queues on this one – pulling leg backward, pull weight toward the hip, use the shoulder not the arm. In my head, I do pretty well with these. In practice, I generally feel relatively confident that I am doing them correctly, which makes me like them. As is typically my habit, I do the first set with a lighter weight. Started today with a 25 lb. dumbbell and stepped up to a 30 lb. dumbbell for sets 2 and 3 and it went very well. This is one of those exercises that reminds me I have made considerable progress in the last year.

We are back to the slight decline dumbbell chest press. While I have been doing these awhile, it always seems like the potential for something new on review day. J reminded me about where the dumbbells should be on the up portion of this bad boy, but other than that, it went pretty well. Also, I stepped back up to 25 lb. dumbbells, as I had been using 20 lb. dumbbells when this was paired with the chest fly. The contrast between working the back with the 1-arm row followed immediately by the chest press for the chest – I guess I had not noticed it previously. Today, doing these particular super sets, I most definitely noticed it. Now, whether I would have ever made the connection all on my own remains the bigger mystery. Moot point really, but considering my generally overwhelming curiosity about this exercise and fitness stuff, it is difficult to believe I have not wandered down this particular pathway sooner.

Next we continued on to the cable row. While I have improved at this, my years of rowing on a rowing machine gave me some different habits in how rowing is done, habits I have had to unlearn in order to improve on this exercise. It feels as if I am still unlearning, but improvement has been achieved and is ongoing. Striving for the upper back arch is almost as difficult as breaking myself of the shrugging habit. But I’m getting there. I feel much better about the incremental progress. No facepulls for me today; maybe Wednesday when I revisit this List in practice.

New today was the dumbbell Arnold press. It seemed very vaguely familiar, but it could have been a demonstration at some point that did not make the final cut to List status. J told me he does not teach this one much, which set off and immediate, “OMG! It’s really complicated and difficult!” alert in my head. So I just asked why he did not teach it much, and he explained that it was a lot of shoulder work all at once. Good enough for me, and once he demonstrated and got me started, I completely understood what he meant. I have been using 15 lb. dumbbells for shoulder presses, but today we dropped to 10 lb. dumbbells and toward the end of each set I was starting to think that 8 lb. dumbbells were sounding really good. Going from arms positioned in front with dumbbells facing me, then spreading out sideways and overhead into a press, then down to the side and back to start. Sticking with the 10 lb. dumbbells for awhile to come on this seems very prudent. And I now understand why J does not teach it much; it is complicated.

The triceps pushdown is mostly fun. Having done these enough through the months I get the basic motion and know where it should be working and how it feels. The standing up machine I happened to be working at today is right across the aisle from a mirror and J remarked it was a perfect station for viewing the triceps at work. Yep, upper arms have more muscle on them, and in my view it looks nice. Then again, I am not a small woman; the thickness of my bone structure alone does not bring forth visions of small or petite.

Finally, the standing dumbbell curl, and while alternating is an option, today I liked the 2-arm version. Curls are still not a favorite, but they are okay and recurring enough that I do a fair amount of them in some form or another. This is probably the only exercise in my entire library of Lists that ever makes me think I should be using weightier weights. The rare occasions this thought flitters through my mind I push it away as irrelevant, because it truly is irrelevant. One thing I have learned is if I ever feel like the weights feel light do more reps. So sometimes I do more reps, and sometimes I struggle to get through the 15 dictated by the List.

Key Takeaways

I am feeling very good, very pumped, and very powerful about today’s session. While in my head that all sounds newish and a little different to write that sentence for the me I know, in my head it also sounds like me turning into a massive egomaniac. I struggle with false modesty as a concept, because my self-depreciation is a deeply rooted habit that is meant to deflect attention, even positive affirmation type attention, away from me. But I am far more hesitant and self-critical about any sort of real or imagined conceit and vanity. The balance is an ongoing challenge for me, so much so that I have to include this warning paragraph. Public service announcement is now concluded.

Having had a mother who was both small and petite – at 130 lbs. she was 25 lbs. heavier than I had ever seen her in my entire life – I understand and accept I’m never going to be the tiny girl in the group … unless I’m standing with a bunch of lady sumo wrestlers. And you know what shocks me even more? I am fine and happy with that. Body is body; I can starve weight off of it by withholding food, build muscles with exercise, try to twist it into pretzels with yoga, but I am never going to be able to shrink it down to doll clothes like a 100% cotton sweater in a super hot dryer. My frame and bone structure will not be altered no matter how desperate and misguided my transformation efforts. Acceptance and appreciation for the physical assets I have is the first step on the path to blissful peace with my appearance.

Friend J asked me a few weeks ago if I understood why the exercises were set-up the way they are, and I replied they were on the List that way so I follow the instructions and work the exercises in that order. I mentioned that to J today, because as I understood it, the method to the List madness differs from List to List. And I’m okay with that. Most of the time I am so focused on the minutia of mastering form and such I cannot think too much about the why of it all. Besides, in my mind anymore, this is why I engage trainer J, to write me beautiful Lists to learn and to follow. But to be fair, I do know trainer J has explained some of the under the hood of program writing to me in the past, but with the multitude of other details I am working on retaining, the why of the order is not high on the priorities. This is why he writes them down, so I do not have to remember the big picture details.

When we were on the last set of the triceps pushdowns and bicep curls, I idly asked J if we were done, a first in all the months we have been working at this. It was not that I was ready to be done so much as I was going to put the dumbbells we had been using away, but if there was more I would leave them. He laughed, I laughed, and I felt rueful about the clumsy and blunt way I put the question out there. It was just another of those funny, awkward me moments that still happen from time to time.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

J and I had a long-ish training-related conversation before we got started this morning. In hindsight, I recognize that he was kinda/sorta responding to my funk-light post from yesterday. Either that or he is practicing his mind meld on me again. While our chat was sort of free-ranging, my key takeaway was that boredom with exercise or the Lists I am pursuing could be a factor in an overall fatigue or burnout with my evolving practice and training habits and routines.

While this time last year it was impossible for me to imagine ever overtraining, that was then, this is now, and it does seem like a possibility, however remote. I am not there yet, do not feel bored or burned out, but as a manager I can appreciate J’s foresight in hoping for the best and planning for the worst. There is no boredom at play right now, but the colder weather makes me want to stay huddled under the covers rather than drag my sorry butt out of bed at 4 a.m. to get to the gym for practice or sessions.

If anything I feel excited about the work we are doing and the Lists I am working to perfect. There is still much work to do ahead. On top of which, my random student of exercise pursuits have been somewhat scattered and random thus far. Now that I feel more solid in my experience and knowledge, I am contemplating ways to be more structured and focused in my studies. Because I’m interested and motivated to continue to learn.

It is also now December, and we are counting down to our final sessions of 2016. Today was the second of the 7 we will most likely schedule and complete this month with J’s Christmas holiday, and I realize by the time we are all done it will be 99 personal training sessions this year. This is of course barring illness, injury, or flight delays.

Thinking about this and other things this morning, I realize I am not much of a numbers person anymore with regard to my better health quest. While I still wear my fancy smancy Fitbit Blaze watch and remember to turn it on 99% of the time while I am at the gym or yoga or pilates class, the numbers are pretty meaningless to me anymore. There was a time when I’d feel disappointed and mad at myself for not achieving a greater calorie burn in 90 minutes. Or I would be frustrated at my inability to get my heart rate higher despite being breathless as well as sweaty and gross. These days, if I feel weird I will look at the watch to see what my heart rate is doing, but that’s about it. Majority of the time I am looking at my watch I am checking the time to gauge my progress through a List. Heart rate? More an “oh that’s nice” type data point.

On the actual Fitbit site that tracks my progress on these things, I am far more interested in my sleep statistics than anything else. If I wake up feeling tired it’s a great indicator of how restfully I slept, but even that is more a curiosity than anything else. But I keep it because (1) it’s reassuring to M to know that I can keep on it, and (2) it works perfectly for me as a watch, and (3) I like the alarm feature. The fitness aspects are pretty much meaningless anymore.

Such is the case with training sessions. I thought I would feel unhappy or disappointed for falling short of 3 digits, but no, I am not. I marvel at 99 over the course of a year, and I feel pretty damn proud of myself for sticking with the weekly recaps for each and every one of them – thus far, anyway. December is not over yet. The only place I feel a bit concerned was Thanksgiving week when it took a few days to pull it together. Rest of the year I have been pretty consistent about getting it written and posted.

Perhaps I will remember 2016 as my year of consistency. Other than my week of vacation, I have been in the gym at least 6 days per week most of this year. I have done a fair number of yoga and pilates classes even if I do not talk a lot about them here. Rarely has more than a couple of days passed here on the blog without a new post.

I know I will remember 2016 as a year of better health taking root. Not just with the exercise either. My eating and food consumption has improved as the months passed, but it’s still far from more perfectly balanced, or even just imperfectly balanced. At times it is wildly out of balance, when I seem to be consuming all sort of junky food and way too many carbohydrates for a well controlled type 2 diabetic. Through the months this year I have lightened up considerably on beating myself into the equivalent of an emotional bloody pulp.

Over the course of the past week I have been involved with several conversations about food and the holidays and eavesdropped on a few more. I hear words like “tracking” and
“calorie counting” and “measuring” and the hairs on my arms start to rise up in rebellion. I have tried various methods of food tracking, and this along with the person scale in M’s bathroom and the tape measure I threw is just another measure of failure for me. My happiness and contentment quotient reached new highs when I discontinued MyFitnessPal on all my devices and completely cancelled my account. Other than listening to body (when it speaks sensibly and does not plead for chocolate, soda, sugar) and striving to eat fruit and/or vegetables with my daily meals, I do not really track anything.

I am very aware of how much sugar is sitting invitingly in our breakroom kitchen right now, and I know tomorrow I’m having lunch with a client who traditionally hands me a lovely box of Godiva chocolates and a nice bottle of adult beverage. The chocolate will be delivered immediately to the office, where the younger and fitter can enjoy it, and the booze will find its way to a new home later in the week. This weekend there are bigger client events both Friday and Saturday evenings, with lots of yummy food and drinks. I will eat what I eat, drink what I drink, and hope for the best. But I will not obsess about it in advance or punish myself afterwards for real and perceived food and drink sins.

That said, I do not perceive myself as losing gazillions of quarter ounces or pounds this month. My clothes are fitting fine, some getting looser, others just fitting differently. Next month’s blood tests will let me know if I remain on a good track or need to make adjustments. I don’t cycle diet – I do not actually diet at all – nor do I have free-for-all eating meals or days. If I want a piece of chocolate I have it. If When I want the entire box of chocolate I restrain myself.

For me, this is a huge step forward in my relationship with food. I can always do better, but right now, I am doing well enough. For me, I am learning to celebrate my wins, not matter how small they may seem from the outside looking inward, and not mourn or feel regret for the “shoulds” I did not meet. One is real, the other imaginary. I have learned to tell the difference.

In some ways this seems to be my year-end post, where I recap all my successes and short comings for the year past. And I suppose in some ways it is just that. But I am evolving into a more reflective person and thinking about this stuff all the time. Only difference is that in a few weeks, when we are closer to the end of the year celebrations, I am as likely as not to have forgotten all about this train of thought.

I will restate the obvious: I am incredibly fortunate to have financial means to afford personal training sessions with uber fabulous trainer J twice weekly. It is a luxury item for most everyone and not something I take for grated as my just due. While my husband, my kids, my closest friends are incredibly pleased and proud of my efforts, I find myself thinking this morning that *I* am incredibly proud of me. And that’s a pretty new admission for me, and I am almost embarrassed memorializing it here on the blog. Because it feels very vain and self-centered to be on my own damn blog talking about being proud of myself.

Another thing to fall away in 2016 – self-consciousness about being pleased with my accomplishments. I’m sure I have mentioned crowing about newly discovered creases from the exercise, also new behavior. Confidence? VERY new behavior. But all good. All very, Very good behaviors.

Some things are still pretty much as they always have been. The feelings of inadequacy continue to rear their ugly little heads from time to time, that I am not thin enough, strong enough, interesting enough, smart enough, kind enough, self-aware enough, enough enough. In my ongoing flawed humanity I have found new strength and facets of my personality that make me unique and interesting. And I like myself better now than I did at the start of the year.

Progress, amazing and beautiful (2 words I so rarely use about myself or anything directly associated with me the person) forward progress.

Love my life and the ways I see it so clearly in the present day. I am very rich indeed.

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