Thursday morning, J is back from his holiday vacation, and it was our last training session for 2016. Going forward and starting on Monday, these and other exercise-related posts will begin appearing in my new endeavor – MakingProgressGettingFitter.com – going live on Saturday, December 31.
Today was our final review day, appropriate since he is just returning from vacation and we can begin anew with different Lists in the new year.
Funny story from this week – I met a couple of old friends for dessert one evening. My one friend C I haven’t seen in almost 2 years, although we keep in touch regularly through email and other electronic channels. I walked into the restaurant where she and her husband were waiting, took off my coat, hugged her, and she says, really LOUDLY, “Oh. My. GOD. Where did you get that butt? D, look at Nel’s butt!” It makes me laugh even now, because her husband was kind of mortified that his wife is commanding him to look at her long-time friend’s ass. I jokingly told her that booty building was part of J’s career mission in life to build his middle age female tribe clients better, rounder, more attractive derrieres with not only lots of variations squats, lunges, and glute-strengthening exercises, but high reps and lots of sets of squats, lunges, and glute-strengthening exercises several times per week.
I laughingly referred to it as the “build a better butt” project and told her I would go home and rename all my lower body Lists the “build a better butt” List numbers 1 through infinity. We just laughed and laughed over that. In high school, C and I both had unremarkable, even flat posteriors.
Not anymore. And as friend C said to me, now that I have it, I should flaunt it. I seriously doubt I will ever have enough confidence or feel irritated enough to go that far, but who knows? I never thought I’d be whipping off a sweater to show off my bicep either, but provoke me enough, shit happens.
What We Did
As I said, review day, except J changed the order and made a few adjustments as well. The List:
1-legged Glute Pushdown
Squat Machine (Frog Stance)
Stability Ball Reverse Hyperextension
Cable Glute Kickback
Cable Side Hip Abductions
Cable Glute Donkey Kick
Cable 1-leg RDL
How It Felt
Still crushing on the 1-legged glute pushdown. Today was a bit of refinement, on trying to get some extra contraction out of the leg by leaning into it and lifting it an extra little bit at the very top of the exercise. This required some readjustment of the resting foot, which when J was saying this used the term “right foot back further on the platform” which my brain interpreted at the left foot on the moving part and the exact opposite of what he meant. A little embarrassing, because having been one of those kids who had their left-handedness corrected in kindergarten, to this day I still have to think what is left, what is right when directions come into play. But mostly amusing, because I am someone who has to think left is left, right is right and not let big words like “platform” short circuit my thinking. Anyway, pressing down I got, lifting up I got as well, but that last little lifting up an extra half inch – that was a little challenging. Doable, manageable, but note to self: never underestimate the effectiveness of the last little bit of work on this and other exercises like it.
From there we were back to the squat machine “frog stance,” the current bane of my existence and the sore glutes I have been sitting upon off and on throughout the day. Not from the regular squats, or even the squat as low as possible in the machine cradle per J’s instructions, but that last set of 1.5 squats (down low, rise half way up, down low again, rise all the way to the top … lather rinse repeat), now that was like the fast-track on the build a better butt circuit. It has been awhile since he tossed that curve into the mix, and I remember now why I have allowed myself to go to sleep on that particular twist on these types of exercise. It is most definitely effective, and I found myself breathing had and sweating hard trying to get through the 10 reps in this grouping.
Coupled with the squat machine squats was the stability ball reverse hyperextensions. These are still lurking on the favorites List, although I am not crushing quite as hard on these as I am the glute pushdown machine. These are part of the rotation in hot yoga from the floor, so it’s actually easier and far more pleasant from the stability ball. I have been experimenting with feet together, feet slightly apart, feet slightly wider apart. Because of the yoga feet tend to be closer together, but not always, not each and every rep. J’s gentle direction to try and hold the shape at the top of the movement was primary focus today, and as I continue with these I will strive to hold the extension at the top.
The fluffy cuffies go on for the rest of this List. We began with the glute kickbacks, which are probably the easiest to master in the fluffy cuffy series. While I think and find these to be easiest of the series to master, they are effective and not easy-peasy exercises. But really, is there any exercise on any List that is easy-peasy for long? In my experience, if something becomes easy-peasy it’s time to add weightier weights or wait for J to notice that I’m barely breathing or sweating and moving along as if I am without a care in the world. I can most definitely still feel these in my glutes, a very good feeling.
We have done cable side hip abductions in prior reviews and Lists. The shape and movement of the exercise is not complicated or even that difficult; it’s getting the angle just right and finding an anchoring place to hold onto that brings the biggest challenge. These seem to be extremely effective on the side hips and do require some focused concentration, but are not unmanageable, no matter what I am thinking at the time I am doing them. Worst case scenario, and I may try this on another cable machine, is that I get a bar to help with the balance instead of trying to find an anchoring point on the machine.
New for the List today was the cable adductions versus the adductor machine, and I am kind of winging it on the name because J has not had opportunity to update the List. Rather than swinging the leg out to the side as one does with the cable abductions, the cable adductions have the leg swinging forward, in front of the stabilizing leg. (This is the test kitchen kind of stuff J dreams up when he goes on vacation.) These are effective, and I can most definitely feel it 12+ hours later.
Cable donkey kick I had to ask J about form. I knew the basic knee up, kick back, but I got confused on whether the knee stayed in 90 degree position or kind of stretched out in back once kicked (leg does unbend, but not to completely straight). These are not bad, but they require some practice. Another staple on the build a better butt circuit.
The cable 1-legged RDL is no longer the arch nemesis it once was, but it lingers on the nemesis list. Yep, still really tough. Since these were at the end of the List today, legs and hips were fatigued, balance was essentially shit. J, being fabulous trainer/coach, tells me and demonstrates slowing down and being very focused on keeping upper body tight and bending slowly and deliberately to stay focused on the balance portion of the movement. Despite the fatigue, I did pretty well with these after that. Did I make it to the full 12 reps? Ummm … no. But I did not do too badly all things considered. These are no longer arch nemesis material, because I have improved through the many months of pursing them in training as well as in practice on my own.
On the fluffy cuffy series, we through each exercise for all sets on one side before switching. It made a difference, even if I cannot tell you right now how or why.
I love training days, and I love review days. But you know that; I say it almost every week.
Monday I was struggling with an upper body List, in that I was experiencing pain in some of my chest pressing exercises. Ultimately I reviewed form without any weights and then used lighter weights and finished the List without further incident. Texted with J about it (from his vacation), mostly to reassure myself that I was doing the right things and looking for issues in the right areas, and came away feeling pretty good about the experience. Yesterday I did a repeat of that List, but I had done some extra warm-up on shoulders with the dumbbell matrix J has adapted for me. It made such a difference. I typically start out a List using a lighter weight for the first set of each exercise, what in my mind is a preparatory set, but J refers to that as part of the warm-up process. Whatever we want to call it, I have been underestimating the value of the warm-up process. I do it, because it’s important and a rule, but I think if I am low on either time or energy, cutting back on warm-up is not the place to start shaving.
With all that in mind, today J made it a point to ensure I did a light set first before we got down to business with the actual work. And it made a difference. While I cannot say I feel how much work we are doing in the moment, I definitely feel the impact of the work after I get home, shower, and dress for the day. When I was getting into my car to drive to the office, all I could think of was burn, baby, BURN! with my glutes and hamstrings. Oh my goodness – what the heck have I not been doing all week? A lot, only working different muscles in different ways.
I don’t have to walk away from the gym every day feeling it in my whole body, but sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. When we change things up or when I put forth a lot more effort to try really hard to ensure I understand what and where I should be feeling it, there is some expectation that I will wander away feeling the training session. No right or wrong answer, just reality of the way life and exercise works with me. There are always new lessons to learn and relearn no matter what day of the week or year.
This year – it’s been uplifting and productive. A new year is about to start, and along with it I expect there will be quite few new faces. Last January, I was so busy and so focused on donning my invisibility cloak and staying out of the way of anyone and everyone else I did not notice much. This year, I am practically a fixture, like the benches and the dumbbells. While I do not expect to see much difference in the early morning hours when I typically practice and train with J, it will be interesting to see what I notice as far as new faces.
Surfing through Pinterest as I do most nights winding down for sleep, I read a lot of quotes about loving yourself and undertaking change for yourself. For the most part, I think I have done that and done well at it. J, M, my personal tribe as well as the extended training tribe all inspire this sense of wanting to keep going, to stick with it, to do better.
I still have no specific goals, and for me, it works. Wandering through various blogs I randomly crossed paths with today I read a lot of 2017 goals and resolutions, most of which include some aspect of diet and exercise. One gal, on a financial blog, had a stated goal of squatting 150 lbs. and benching 100 lbs. That sounds super impressive to me, and it started me thinking – if I were to set some sort of goal in line with that, what would I set? The more I pondered it, just idly imagined what it would be like, the more my stomach churned and I thought I might actually make myself physically ill.
No, that sort of goal setting is not for me. My objectives for 2017 are similar to what they were in 2016 – continue training with J twice a week and practice what I am learning on my own consistently each week. And even that is not a goal, more just continuation with the lifestyle I have adopted and adapted myself to living.
I can certainly comfortably live with that.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
I am struck by the fact that I hung in, hung on, and actually wrote and posted 99 training recap posts. My attention span has rarely been this focused or lasted this long, and it is testament to how committed and involved I am in my training journey. If I ever suggested I would have gotten this far without J, it would be my biggest understatements of 2016. Every training I learn something, or a lot of somethings, and I have so much more life in my life now. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him these last 18 months, and I am looking forward to the all the interesting new things I will learn in 2017.
Looking back over the past year, reading some of my recaps, I am so very proud of my progress and the strides I have made. Nothing is perfect – we are human, after all, so even the tiniest of expectations of perfection is a flawed premise – but I am so much improved in many tangible ways. Everything from my 1-arm rows to my now former arch nemesis, the 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift are better, improved, not vexing or frustrating me to the point of angry tears. Even more than that, though, is how much better my head – the thoughts, the ideas, the ways I think of and speak to myself. Negative girl still dwells, but she’s mostly quiet or her taunts and smack-talk muted by the her cage.
In all aspect of my life, I am a calmer, happier, more balanced person.
There is still room for improvement. There is still so much for me to learn about and ideas to pursue and to ponder. I am never going to be happy standing still; peace for me in the ebb and flow of thinking and ideas and immersion in knowledge. I want to be continually reading, writing, and yes, working on my better health quest, building that better butt and maybe even a leaner, meaner bicep. I know I will not live forever, but for whatever time I get, I do not want to be stricken by some preventable or manageable condition. Diabetes is not curable; it is merely controlled. Right now, I’m doing a very good job with control. A lot of people ask me if it’s hard, and anymore, I’m not sure it’s hard to do so much as being more disciplined about staying the course with good habits. I get up, I go to the gym, and I do something there 6 days per week. On the other day, I go to pilates or to yoga most of the time. But even if I slept late and did not do anything exercise-like at all, I am no longer wracked with guilt or beating myself up for it. Rest days are allowed, even encouraged. Mostly I choose an active rest day, but I am allowed to choose a less active rest day. Or maybe even 2 or 3 in a row. Occasionally. Very, very occasionally. Like long into the distant future type occasionally.
Nearly every Thursday I pass a couple walking their 2 elderly golden retrievers in our neighborhood. This same couple must run a retirement home for elderly goldens, because when we first moved here 5 years ago, there was another older one that every day walked by the house with his toy in his mouth. Sometimes there would be others, fosters just passing through, but typically they are older dogs looking for their final homes.
Since I am leaving the house a bit later on Thursdays, this is the only day I for sure see them out for the daily walk. And every single time, it makes me smile. These mature pups lope along at a gentle pace and seem undisturbed the hyper yorkies that lose their tiny minds over anything, man or beast, that crosses their paths. The golden wag their tails when they meet other walkers who stop to chat for a moment and pet them.
The couple walking them are both type 2 diabetics and these 3 or 4 mile walks daily are for them as much for the dogs. Used to be I would feel discouraged that I did not do at least that much for myself to manage my diabetes, made me feel like a failure for being paralyzed on the couch rather than out in the world. How much confidence I have gained from just sticking with my daily program of getting myself up out of bed and into the gym every day. I got this. I can fall off the wagon, maybe take a day off or week off completely, and return the next day or week and get back to it. Or if I don’t work quite as hard, do quite as much as I feel it warranted or that the List calls for, it is one day out of many days. And I have zero desire to compete in any sort of contest ever. My health, the overall good feeling buzz I am enjoying is the motivation that keeps me trying and moving forward.
J is my trainer and my coach; motivating me should not be part of his job description. Doing his job well, teaching me what I need to know to get pursue practice on my own is what I need most from him. We talk about anything and everything, but my desire to help myself, improve my health is the motivation that brought me to the gym in the first place. As I see it, J’s primary job is to help me build a bigger, badder, multi-layered toolbox so I can get the job done.
While I have no specific goals, SMART or otherwise, the objective is tangible: keep going, keep working. Better health is not a goal; it is a process.
Keep going, keep working at the exercise – same is true of diet. Oh my, the holidays were harsh on the eating front. I did very well, considering the mass quantities of sugar, socializing, food and drink everywhere I went and that followed us home. At some point, though, I decided that the company of family and close friends I only see a few times per year was worth a few thousand extra calories and sugar. I do not regret it, not a single bit. However, I knew then and recognize now that I will likely spend much of January detoxing from these 10 days of feasting on sugar and crap. I have gotten most comfortable and confident about my blood sugar’s stability, and watching those numbers peak out over 240 and be approaching my limit of 140 fasting in the morning is enough wake-up call to seriously curb my behaviors. It was never as bad as it was when I was on medication, but it is bad enough to make me know that the blockade on sugar and gratuitous carb consumption must stop in January.
No doubt in my mind it’s going to be hard; the cravings are back with a vengeance. But I can and will rein myself back in and get my restraint back. I do eat sugar; I am just very judicious and sparing about it. For my birthday I nearly always have a slice of key lime cheesecake, but I cut it in half and either share it with M or someone else or eat the other half one bite daily for a week until its gone (to M’s infinite dismay – who leaves a single bite of cheesecake in the refrigerator?). This holiday season – I ate the equivalent of a whole slice of cheesecake for about 10 straight days. It gives me the willies to imagine my A1c in a few weeks. but if it’s higher than it has been I will already be battening down the sugar hatches and on my way to good and better control. I cannot imagine my endocrinologist writing me a new scrip until a second, non-holiday quarter and elevated readings.
As I told J, I am not going to crucify myself for 10 days of less desirable choices after another 355 of better choices. Perhaps next year I will be better able to resist the temptations for all of December, or at least show a little more restraint than I did this year. That said, compared to 2015, 2016 was a pretty remarkable improvement, and 2015 and was an improvement over 2014. I am getting better at this stuff. I have reasonable expectations and am an improving work in progress managing both the expectations and my behaviors. I consider that good progress.
And dang – I am so very proud of myself for my improved habits and much healthier life and lifestyle.
So this wraps my year of training recaps. It has been a genuinely amazing and awesome year. Thanks for reading along and following my journey thus far. Because as the title says – nothing’s gonna stop us now.