Training #97 – Walk this way

Thursday morning, training with J, and the doomsday vacation countdown clock continues. One more session before J leaves on his vacation, and then one more after he returns and before the end of the year. For someone who does not watch a lot numbers in  fitness-related things, I am acutely aware of how many sessions until off the training session leash for a week. Not that anything will be all that different, other than 2 extra practice days in lieu of training sessions. But I am a creature of habit, and I very much appreciate as much notice as J has always provided about his planned vacations, etc.

Thinking about it this morning, though, this year is a little different in that I have a huge library of Lists and exercises should I get tired of pursuing the most recent Lists from these last couple of weeks of deeply technical review. But also, the deeply technical review has been enormously rewarding for corrections and paving the way for other small breakthroughs with other Lists and exercises.

What We Did

Our List today as listed, but not precisely as performed:

A1  Dumbbell power squats
A2  Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats

B1  Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts
B2  Dumbbell curtsy lunges

C1  Dumbbell step-ups with hip hinge
C2  Dumbbell lateral lunges

D1  Dumbbell sumo squats
D2  Dumbbell anterior reaches

How It Felt

Started out with the dumbbell power squats using a set of 30 lb. dumbbells. Working, working away at this one, because I still feel as if my cadence is not quite there yet. Slow, slow, slow down, pause, pop up with the brakes on at the top and then start all over again. In my head it sounds easier. In reality, not so much. Improving, though. Today we went over the upper body positioning, the way I am holding the weights, how upright I am standing, where my shoulders are positioned. Before today I would not have said my lats are as engaged as they were apparently need to be in doing this series. Learning, always learning.

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squats are a staple in my exercise library. For months I did at handful (8-12) every single day as part of my warm-up. However, lately here, as I have been pursuing other warm-up activities, they have not been part of my typical rotation. It has been mildly curious to me that I never seem to progress in my rep range due to a building ache in my lower back. Today, we did these without weights, as J had the trainer eye on laser focus and brought forward some minute corrections and adjustments that had me leaning forward, tucking ribs under, shoulders back and arms tight against the body and lats engaged as I proceeded, and voila! No more low back engagement. Part relief, part booster shot of encouragement, I feel as if forward progress had been kick started. The shape, as I now think of most set-ups, is more the angle of me about to get test-fired from a cannon, sort of 70 degree angle and in line with the elevated back foot. No idea how I have drifted away from these, or why I have not mentioned it to J before now, but today it came together and I will remember the cueing going forward. Lean forward, rib tuck.

The dumbbell Romanian deadlifts now seem more mysterious and complicated than their 1-legged cable brethren. Again, there is this new focus on the upper body tightness and maintaining the arm position and engaging the lats. Funny, but I now know for sure what lat engagement actually feels like and that I should be actively seeking that. But on these RDLs, my new thought is keeping the weights pressed tightly down the front of my legs as I am hinging forward. Up until now, I know it’s been sort of a loosey-goosey thought in my head, but today, I have the cue stuck in my head and how different the feeling is from before. Still, a very long way from the earliest beginnings when I could not quite figure out how this was supposed to feel with the hinging forward.

Then there are the curtsey squats. I have this tendency to avoid these, because they are like ice picks being inserted directly into my ass glutes. I am also not sure where exactly I fell off the wagon, but I was not getting it right today. J was trying to suggest and cue me to get me in the right direction, but it really wasn’t working. Brain was just throwing up a big giant wall and not hearing. The demonstration portion – epiphany much? Seriously, he was trying to explain to me how to turn the spine away, in the opposite direction of the rear foot, and I was thinking twist the spine and brain was rebelling against the idea. Watching him more closely, I finally realized it was not turn or twist, merely get the body and spine in alignment with rear foot, which does equate to turning body sideways in the opposite direction in my head. In my head it was a lot more complicated than it actually is in reality. I had been standing too tall, trying to face forward as if doing a standard split squat, and it did not feel good or precisely right. Now I have it that the shape is similar to the Bulgarians and considering myself about to be shot from a cannon at a 70 degree angle. Once I saw the shape when J demonstrated the correct posture, the coin dropped and mind absorbed what he was cueing and saying. Still feels like ice picks, but at least no low back engagement or potential for wrenching. Other sets went well once we got that part figured out.

Okay, big giant early Christmas gift was the step-ups with hip hinge. Again, we did these without weights because J added a hip hinge (lean forward from hips on one foot, elevate other foot) at the end. Watching him demonstrate, I had doubts, but I am always willing to try. The first couple I stepped up and hinged, but after the second one J said to put the other foot down on the box, recenter, then hip hinge. I am quite sure I smiled at the way he said it – I’m going to have to insist you put the foot down and then do the hip hinge – because I never argue about anything. He says “do it this way” and I try valiantly to do it that way. So for him to use the “insist” word still makes me laugh. But anyway, back to the step-up/hip hinge – I was hugely, amaze-balls, OMG-I-am-actually-doing-this-without-faling-off-the-box successful. I mean, even thinking about it now, I cannot believe I was standing on that box and hip hinging without falling sideways every other one. Last we did these, I struggled with the step-up, balance being one of my ongoing challenges. Today, I stepped up like it was not an anxiety-inducing crisis exercise … once upon a time. Not today. Probably not anymore.  And I’m over the moon with excitement. For me, it really is the littlest things in life that make me happy.

One of my least favorite exercise has got to be the lateral lunges. Today we did them with a 15 lb. dumbbell held in the goblet squat position, and they were not as dreadful as I have found them in prior Lists. I attribute this to my recent pursuit of the dumbbell matrix and building some confidence as well as ability and strength. Strangely, the right side feels less fluid and than the left, as there was a pause on the way back to starting position. J suggested shortening the step on that side until the fluidity of the movement builds. While I still do not love these, I know continuing with the dumbbell matrix gets mind and body more comfortable with doing them.

Who knew there were so many variations of squats? Probably my favorite is the dumbbell sumo squat, today with a 30 lb. dumbbell. I kind of love these, if only because I have been doing them so long in some fashion I have actually gotten pretty good at them.

The dumbbell anterior reaches are also part of the dumbbell matrix, so I feel a lot more confident with them. The matrix I always use a 5 lb. set of dumbbells, and with the List version we use 15 lb. dumbbells. I kind of love the way these feel in my lower back, the stretch of bending forward and then standing back up, unless I forget to tighten abs to protect the lower back on the return to the starting gate. But pain is typically a pretty great reminder of where I am going wrong on these, so I pull myself together pretty quickly.

Key Takeaways

Today was a lot of technically relevant adjustments that have either been forgotten or my progress is such that they became significantly more relevant. I have no doubt there are some bad habits acquired in my own practices, and I also believe my performance on different exercises looks different in conjunction with the order on other Lists. But no matter; I had some very relevant lightbulb moments today and am ridiciulously excited (as per usual) about going forward on my own in pursuit of perfecting my practices.

Way back when, within the first 3 months of our training sessions, J had told me that if I have a weaker side with individual side exercises to always do that first to max the reps and keep it even. He also said the weaker side could vary from exercise to exercise, which I have also found is true. It came to mind today while we were doing step-ups, and I reminded him today of that conversation more than a year ago that I still think about every time I do individual side exercises. Some gym and exercise wisdoms are universal.

The dumbbell matrix that I have been striving to do 4 days per week has impacted my overall progress in ways I did not realize until today. I do not always do 2 sets of everything – depends on time and what List I have planned to pursue – but on non-training days I go through it as part of my warm-up routine. Until today, I had not really realized how much it has done to improve both my balance and my overall progress. I know it is also the rest of my library of Lists and the level of practice I put forth. Funny, it never occurs to me how important my consistency with practice makes a difference in getting better and stronger, yet it is at the forefront of my mind whenever I contemplate something occurring that will keep me out of the gym.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Today was so much fun, and I wonder if it is fun because it’s productive and beneficial or if it’s fun because it’s fun. How far I am ventured from my early beginnings in the “I hate exercise” camp.

I had never considered what one of these technical reviews looked or felt like from J’s perspective, other than the potential for sighing inwardly about bad habits I may have developed or the fact that I still do not get it or cannot execute the movement in a higher quality fashion. There are things to correct, of course, but there is progress to be applauded and technicalities to be layered into the mix. The thing about learning new exercises all the time is that aspects of similar shapes get added to other exercises when it is not necessarily appropriate. I am not beating myself up over it or feeling like the village idiot, merely recognizing that I have learned so much and sometimes my very human self adds or subtracts in the wrong equations.

It makes what I think I mostly know so much more exciting, to know I can delve deeper, pursue more perfect shapes and angles and deeper muscle contractions. Refreshing it so something even newer and exciting for the definition and my own ability to understand the bigger picture.

This exercise habit has become so ingrained in my days that I very nearly take it for granted that I will get up and go to the gym or to the yoga studio (Sundays). Of late I have been relaxing ever so slightly on Tuesdays, because I work from home and typically have no where to be at before about 11 a.m. so I either sleep an hour later until 5 a.m or dilly-dally or occasionally even work and get to the gym between 6:15 and 6:45 rather than my usual 5:15 and 5:30. Because it is what I do every day and because I tend not to track results in pounds and inches lost or gained or weights used, progress after time has passed and I revisit a List and I am more successful or at ease with it truly surprises me. I expect on technical review days there will something little or occasionally something that shocks the Hell out of me big that I must adjust to be safer or more productive. But I love review days. I love the affirmation that I’m doing things mostly right, or J’s text would still be blowing up with questions or worse rather than the idle chit chat we exchange. I also love the updated cueing and seeing and feeling my progress.

J remarked this morning that I win the attendance awards, and that was an extraordinarily meaningful compliment to me. As I remarked in an earlier post, I have not missed or had to reschedule a training session this year, and with only 2 left in 2016, it seems that record will remain intact. Of all my accomplishments with exercise, I am probably most proud of that, because never before have I been so committed to prioritizing my own health and wellness. Granted I am hyper responsible about keeping appointments I make, but when I get into that mode of not wanting to do something for whatever reason, I find ways to make them not happen. Immediately my mind begins manufacturing good and valid points about how I have a supportive spouse, no children at home requiring my time and attention, flexible work schedule, good health, bottom line is that I made it a priority and stuck with it. I get to accept a little credit for my success in this endeavor.

The year is winding down and my plans to change and rearrange in 2017 continue, with a new exercise-centric blog debuting on 12/31. I will still be posting here regularly, but I want this to return to more personal ponderings, and my friends in real life and out there in blogville who are primarily interested in my exercise, fitness, and health aspects will have an exclusive home. If I want to talk about the gym daily for the entire year, the message and progress is not lost or mixed up with my family’s adventures and friend drama. I would like to grow that audience and feel okay about telling my friends in the gym about my blogging, so they do not have to be bored by my car issues or work stuff or anything else outside of exercise and fitness. I’m also hoping to entice some guest posts by family members (M, my son, trainer J, friend J, others I know with their own fitness interests that differ from m own). For whatever reason, I will feel far more comfortable inviting other voices on something as focused on our shared interests rather than this, my personal blog that discusses all aspects of my life.

While I will not know for sure until January about where I stand with regard to the diabetes, I feel stronger and healthier. I have maintained my drug-free status for a this last year, and honestly, other than an allergy storm and a couple of food-related stomach aches, I have not been sick this year. Outside the diabetes, I have been ridiculously healthy, especially for not getting the recommended flu and pneumonia shots. Now, I feel like I have actually earned my feeling this good and being this energetic.

Food and healthy eating is not something I am thinking about much right now. We have crap food arriving daily and getting shuffled into the office kitchen, and I probably eat more lunches and meals out in the last couple of months each year than I do the entire first half of the new year. It’s not the end of the world, I am not especially stressed about it, more aware and resigned to doing my best to not give in to every temptation.

After the first of the year, when diet and weight loss resolutions abound, I plan to just return to brining lunches or not eating the same volume of less desirable food.

I was realizing earlier today that my body mass is continuing to reshape itself with the exercise. Every week there is some new lumpy bumpy or crease that I will show M with shock and awe, because it is still hard for me to believe that my consistency with exercise is actually yielding such visible results.

After 97 training recaps this year, I am very pleased to have more than just thousands of words to show for my progress. But I admit – I’m generally very pleased with my thousands of words as well. It’s fun going through and reading random entries, to see where I was 6, 7, 8 months ago.

I have come a long way, baby, and have miles to go before I sleep.

 

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