I began writing this post on Monday as usual, only did not get it completed on my typical schedule. A last-minute decision to join my daughter-in-law and work friend at a new (to us) yoga studio resulted in my gym bag getting stolen when a staff member left the building without locking the front door. I was so upset by this theft that I did not get back to finish the post last night. Back today catching up on my next-to-last training recap for 2016.
Monday morning, training with J. Due to vacation, this is our last session until a week from Thursday, which will wind up 2016.
Today was fun. Amazingly fun. We were upstairs on the Freemotion cable machine, and it has been awhile since I have had a day where my lats and shoulders feel
worn out worked hard and tired. Good tired, but definitely as if I have been doing something aside from typing at my desk.
What We Did
As noted above, we were back upstairs on the Freemotion cable machine. Our List today:
A1 Kneeling 1-arm high row
A2 Kneeling 1-arm lat pulldown
B1 Kneeling wide grip pulldown
B2 1-arm low row
C1 Decline chest press
C2 High-low choppers
D1 Dual cable straight arm pulldown
D2 Dual cable horizontal triceps extensions
How it Felt
Ever since discovering that I could take the blue kneeling pad from the Body Fit room, I absolutely, positively do not mind if there are kneeling exercises on the List. Using a rolled up mat works pretty well, but it’s not convenient and it is an absolute pain to move it around. The blue kneeling pad is like a 2″ thick piece of heavenly memory foam encased in vinyl and makes kneeling a far more tolerable experience. Yep, it is a life-changing experience with this List and should be celebrated more enthusiastically. (I obviously have plenty of room in my life for changes.)
The kneeling 1-arm high row is done with the underhand grip, and I managed it like I actually know what to do and how to do it. Sometimes … well, frequently … I even amaze myself. But I like this because I can feel it in the back of my shoulder and feel it moving smoothly the way it’s supposed to be moving. I am finally to the point where I get a stronger sense of being positioned incorrectly when it happens.
The kneeling 1-arm lat pulldown is another that I get the positioning right the first time with minimal adjustments. Directly under the cable, cable going straight up and down. There is no wiggle room for me on this, so it’s simpler. Again, I can feel it working the lats like it is supposed to be doing, and I can feel. My ongoing confusion with these, that J cleared up in session? Which knee is on the pad, and it doesn’t matter. I figured it probably didn’t, save for logistics, but still – good to know.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of these first 3 kneeling exercises is the kneeling wide grip pulldown. This one is a more complicated in how the arm is positioned and then pulling back toward the ribcage, elbow in more scapular plane. Essentially the uber fancy way of cueing so I know better where my limbs should be while pulling the weight (elbow in front at maybe 30 degree angle from body and forearm perpendicular). I have to actually be in the gym and trying to perform this to ensure I am doing it right, but I have a more complete understanding of body and arm positioning. Love review days.
Possibly even more in need of review is the 1-arm low row. This one is like starting a lawn mower, only how I could have forgotten so much about the form of this is an enduring mystery. Suffice to say – I really needed this review. For starters, I completely neglected the split stance, and even then – this split stance was more a bent over, squatty split stance. Pulling leg is back (thank goodness – I do not want to admit how long it took me to remember which leg went where on the basic 1-arm row), and it is a WIDE split stance (J notes have WIDE is all caps and italicized for emphasis). Got to remember the elbow flare, too while doing my lawnmower starting. It is no wonder I have issues with this one; I have never actually pull-started a lawn mower in my entire life.
Probably my favorite of the day – decline chest press. For whatever reason, I love, Love, LOVE this version of the chest press. I like the bench and dumbbell ones plenty, but this exercise on this machine has evolved into a favorite. It makes me feel powerful, like the Incredible Hulkette in training I imagine myself to be someday (only with normal colored skin and nicer clothes).
It’s been awhile since we did high-low choppers. J describes these as a crunch standing up, and I sort of get that. But for whatever reason, I feel like more practice is going to be required before I feel more confident with the twist, rib tuck/crunch down toward the foot this requires. It is most definitely an improvement over the last times this appeared on a List, but I also can feel there is this timing disconnect with the twist and rib tuck that should likely be a bit more fluid and natural.
It seems to me there is nothing shoulder related where my shrug tendency does not rear it’s head. Such is the case with the dual cable straight arm pulldown. Despite doing these nearly every single day as part of my warm-up, I still have to remind myself to push my shoulders back and stand tall. The new cue – grow tall as breastbone pushes forward – is a good reminder to not let the shoulders roll forward at the conclusion of the rep, as I am prone to doing. While I absolutely know I do better with these, I guess I cannot undo years and years of unconscious habit sitting at a computer in a mere 19 months.
The dual cable horizontal triceps extensions seem so much harder than their brethren lying on the bench downstairs. But no matter, I soldiered onward. I think the issue is mostly one of familiarity, in that I have been doing these with the rope attachments. Or my arms were fatigued and ready to rebel. Still feeling my triceps now, typing this, so all good. I like feeling as if I have been doing something.
What happens when it takes me 24 hours to write a recap? I actually completely forget what a particular exercise looks like. Such is the case with the overhead cable rear debt, which I think of as the criss-cross shoulder one because of the positioning of my forearms and the cables. This one – I am still feeling these bad boys today. But in good ways. I am still using light, light weights on this, and if I cared about that kind of measurement I might be very disappointed in my lack of progress. But I don’t care, and whatever those plate numbers mean 2 of them are plenty for me. I find myself sneaking glances out of the corner of my eye to keep an eye on what my arms are doing, because as I move along and grow more fatigued they want to drop like stones to my sides. Of course I never let them go that far, but they do wander from their shoulder height parallel to the floor to hands drooping 15 or more degrees downward. At least I am mostly aware of myself trying to develop bad habits.
Maybe a close favorite of the decline chest press is the high cable 1-arm concentration curl and most definitely my favorite flavor of curls, hands down. Whether it is the set-up (face the machine, turn out 10 to 20 degrees) or the actual work being done, I find these to be very trance-inducing sort of focused exercise. Or maybe it’s because bicep is right there in front of my face and I become fascinated watching arm moving back and forth. Whatever it is, I find these are a nice way to end a List.
Upper body may be overtaking lower body on most enjoyable exercises in the gym. But not really. There are a few things on lower body Lists that are currently thrilling me with every successful outcome. As there are no balance-related exercises in the upper body rotation, it is difficult to have the same level of happy-dancing excitement. Using the weightier weights comes close, though, and there is the same sense of deep satisfaction upon finishing a List.
After a year plus of a steady schedule of exercise, I thought I would be bored, restless, resentful of my time in the gym. I am none of those things. It’s FREAKING cold in the mornings in the run from my car inside, but other than that very brief discomfort, I have the routine down and actually feel regretful when the gym is closed during my regular Monday through Saturday schedule. Occasionally, when I am particularly intent on a List or something on a List, I will go on Sunday as well just to practice whatever has me all a-flutter. But Christmas both the gym and the yoga studio will be closed, and I am glad that the employees will have the holiday off to spend in their own pursuits.
A rest day is not a bad thing.
Funny, but until our recent forays into upper and lower splits, I was pretty damn oblivious to what my back muscles did, lats in particular. I mean, I assume they were mostly underutilized, maybe are still underutilized in day-to-day life. But now that I can feel them working, I’m far more aware of them and their potential for work-related stuff. And since I never actually look at my back without specifically seeking it out in the mirror, I have no idea if it’s changed much or not. I rely upon M for these things, and he assures me that it has indeed shaped up.
I do notice it in clothes, and I fear never ever wearing a long-sleeved button down shirt again unless it’s made for Incredible Hulkettes. And I am surprisingly okay with that. When I have tried recently to find something suitable, either it’s way too tight in the arms or shoulders or to get it to fit there it hangs like a flour sack over the rest of me. Per my friend SAK, sleeveless is definitely the way to go. Besides, cardigans are everywhere and I can make those work.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
The year is winding down, and with the review days of the last few weeks comes more reflection on our journey throughout this entire year. I have made a lot of progress, and I am being absolutely transparent in that I never thought to make it to this place with this depth of exercises I know contained within my library.
There are things I know that I am still working at perfecting, but more than anything it feels like undoing some workarounds and habits that have snuck in and taken root. Shallow root, but still; they must be dug up and removed. Time and more perfect practice will erase these issues, and I am not worried that they are terminal and going to sideline me as a bad exerciser or something worse. While it seems truly odd to be as old as I am now and say this – my perspective has matured over the course of this process. It is a more accurate description of where I am and how this feels.
While I would never describe myself as a control freak, I am someone who develops expectations of outcomes and hopes they are closer than not in reality. When I started the year, my expectations were still very low, to nonexistent, to perhaps even backwards in scope. In my 2016 projections and imaginings there was no outcome where I got better and had greater success, lost weight, became trimmer or stronger. I just stayed at the status quo. The self-imposed limitations were far too real to be set aside easily or without prejudice.
Here we are with less that 2 weeks left in the year, and I am noticeably stronger, trimmer, fitter. Weight loss? I have not climbed on the scale in at least 2 months and have no plans to do so until after the new year. I have muscle even I can see and at least once a week am asking M if this crease is new, or if that muscle seems larger, or has he noticed the new definition and positive curve somewhere. While I have not become the Incredible Hulkette, I am also not the gym’s incredible shrinking woman. I am pleased to see that I actually have some muscle growing. And more importantly, my eye is now drawn more to the new little muscles as muscles rather than pockets of fat or flab.
To say I am very pleased with the way this journey has progressed would be a vast understatement. While the most important changes have occurred on my insides, being able to see some evidence of my efforts on the outside is gratifying. Along with all that, my mental and emotional reserves have expanded and grown tougher. I have not given up. I could say I have stuck with it, but the reality is that I have come to really love the challenges and rewards of the exercise. I have tried hard and I succeeded in the most unexpected and rewarding of ways.
In my wildest imaginings, I never thought this would happen for me. And I know I talk about the psychological aspect of my better health journey probably as much or more than the actual physical parts, because it just amazes me that I am in this groove and persevering. You might be surprised by this, but it is not that exciting to follow me around the gym, List in hand or nearby, pondering what I am doing and how it is supposed to feel and to look. My technique is not new or amazing to watch, and I am typically my own worst critic. But I’ve learned a lot about how to lighten up, how to be more productive with my own critical eye. The I can even take a sly peek at myself in the mirror while doing this stuff is a major step forward.
While Christmas is this weekend, I realize that I have been quietly, stealthily, celebrating all year long. In this, the training I do with J, the daily practices I am pursuing, the way I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally, this becoming a regular, consistent exerciser has changed and continues to alter the course of my life. Better health is a gift that continues to give, day after day after day, and it is big piece of what is making all my dreams come true.
Yesterday, today – I am truly fortunate to be me.