Hello again

I have been MIA – again. While I have been pretty busy – because we’re all pretty busy – it’s essentially a lame excuse.

My focus of late has been on my better health, getting my big girl capris out of their twist and bitch-slapping myself back to reality. I’m doing fine. I’m not slacking. I’m not faltering, failing, fucking up. I’m locking down my negative girl and letting reality seep in … which is that things are good and the sky is still up there above me.

It is August and the grand plan has been to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Florida. M and I were thinking after Thanksgiving, but G and K have commitments that make that just about impossible. Since we have the more flexible schedule, we are now looking at the week between Christmas and New Years. K has the week off at her new job, and it’s either insanely busy or completely dead for me. This year, I’m inclined to work it out so it is mostly completely dead.

Next problem is that C and A both have to work that week – it’s kind of a no vacation period for them. From my perspective, it will be fine. Unfortunately, this is where the first big hurdle in family dynamics comes into play: managing expectations.

Between air fare and lodging – it’s going to be expensive. Add in attractions like Disneyworld or Universal Studios – it’s going to be ridiculously expensive. M and I will likely get a rental car, which I will build into the budget. And meals out, etc. – cheap and/or economical is not going to be part of that equation.

I am extremely sensitive to it. We have (mostly) agreed we’re not doing Christmas gift exchanges this year in lieu of the trip. I am withholding my consent for us because we are able to contribute cash toward the trip or whatever else they wish to use it for and call it a Christmas gift.

Then there is the concept of together time. This one is trickier.

For us, if M wants to spend 4 days visiting all 4 Disney parks I’ll suck it up and deal. Timing is imperfect – I am envisioning zillions of people and very long lines everywhere we go – but I do this because M really wants to and I want him to be happy. C and A have annual passes and are happy to spend their days off with us visiting Mouseland. While I know G enjoys theme parks, between the crowds and the waiting and it not really being K’s thing, they have maybe 2 days if we’re lucky.

We are perfectly fine with that. K has 4 very close friends who live in the area and of course she wants to see/spend time with all of them, and the rest of us strongly encourage that. Instead of spending money not having a very pleasant time with us, she and G should accept her friends’ offer of hosting them for several days and perhaps rent a car to meet up with us in Tampa once M has gotten his fill of theme parks in Orlando. C and A will also be back at work and their time is going to be limited to meals out with us during our stay, so we will have to find activities to amuse ourselves. This is a huge part of the tradeoffs that come with planning a trip around the holidays.

I am actually not sure K sees it precisely that way, and there will have to be a lot more conversation and communication about plans as we move forward. In my mind we are all going to be on vacation, except for C and A, who unfortunately have to work, But any time we can spend all together will be irreplaceable and should be celebrated.

This is our first foray into a joint family vacation, and I expect there to be a learning curve as we figure things out. But because we’re family, I expect we will be honest about what we want, how we feel, what is affordable, what is financially out of reach.

Now just to make it happen without anyone getting the wrong message or hurt feelings.

Ahh family. On the scale of family relationships as I hear from others and read about online, we are a pretty simple group that actually gets along well. No real reasons for complaint. Right now, I think it is just a struggle to manage expectations.

Training #99 – Nothing’s gonna stop us now

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 Adductions

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

 

Puddle jumping all over the place

It’s cold and raining and blustery here today. Not nearly as cold and miserable as other parts of the country, but for we wimpy Cali folk, it’s plenty cold and wet and windy enough.

Despite that, I love the rain … when I am mostly indoors and warm and dry and away from it. For the times I actually have to be out and in it, I love when I get to don my rain boots and run through puddles with absolute impunity. As it is with most things, when I have the boots on, there is not a puddle to be found anywhere I wander. If I am wearing street shoes of any sort, there is not a just wet pavement spot in sight.

Partly why I remain miffed about my gym bag theft. While I had removed my gym-related inner bag with my mini bands and fluffy cuffies and current Lists, my extra socks and sneakers were in there as were other must-haves like hair brush and extra pony holders. Nothing worse than having a pony holder break just before beginning a practice. But now I have to decide which other pair of sneakers becomes my back-up shoes for the gym. It’s early in the season; I have yet to step into a big puddle on the way into the club, but the longer they are absent from my gym bag the more probably it becomes that I will need the dry shoes and socks at some point. I feel as if I have been tempting fate running around without spares these last several days.

While I am actually not working at the office today, it has been quite a busy, hectic day for me. Gym this morning, then last-minute scheduled a coffee/breakfast meeting with a client, then had lunch with RD this afternoon. He looks great, despite gaining 12 lbs. with a broken ankle. Now without cast or boot, back in regular shoes and starting to hit the gym once more, he will bounce back and recover quickly. I was so happy to see him again and sorry he has to leave on Monday for the long drive back to Santa Barbara.

Tonight M and I went to a Christmas party with old friends of mine from high school. We hosted this gathering for several years, but this year an old friend’s parents really wanted us to gather at their home one last time. They are selling their home and moving into assisted living in January and while still vibrant and fairly active, they are in their 80s and frail. My friend, their only surviving child, lives a few states away and worries about their well being. Being in a senior community will ease his mind.

This was in its way a wonderful evening, but there was an edge to it I was both anticipating and hoping to avoid. At least I handled myself and the situation much better this year.

I am now about 18 months into training with J, and almost 15 months of near daily time in the gym. But you all know this; I talk about it constantly. However much I have reshaped my shape, the scale remains somewhere in the 10 to 15 lbs. down range. I think. It has been at least 2 months since I climbed on the scale. My point being, I am not notably skinnier even while being notably fitter. Sometimes that does not show in the way clothes hang.

Anyway, this gathering is of friends I have known since elementary school. Some of us still live nearby, but many moved away and return for the holidays to see family members or old friends. We try to get together one night around the holidays at someone’s home.

My friend whose parents were hosting has been married to his second wife for about 15 years. First wife and mother of his grown sons was beloved by all of us and died in a boating accident. Present wife is at best okay, but mostly tolerated because she’s a snarky bitch. I cannot fathom what my friend saw in her – not especially intelligent or pretty or known for her kind and gentle disposition. She tends to be very direct in a manipulative and cruel way.

I avoid her whenever possible. Truthfully, I cannot stand to be around her and she challenges and pushes the boundaries of my tendency toward good manners and politeness.

Anyway, back to the training and exercise timeline. Last year, I cut ties with a long-time friend over her bitchiness about my Incredible Hulkette apprenticeship, and it was a very tough transition and situation for me to endure. I was still in the embryonic stages of developing my confidence and finding my way with the exercise. The thoughts and opinions of my friends mattered a great deal to me and this former friend’s thoughtlessness caused me a great deal of anxiety and anguish. I tried hard to not let it bother me, I tried harder to brush it off, but in the end, the only way I could cope was to terminate a life-long friendship. Because my arms were too big and my weight loss inadequate. The former friend is a bit crazy with her own vanity, and I was still battling my own gym and other types of insecurity crazy. She and her husband were there tonight, and other than a very cool hello and holiday wishes directed toward the group I was chatting with, she barely looked at me much less spoke to me directly.

Fast forward 12 months and boy howdy things are different now. With all that backstory and dramatic scene setting, here’s what actually happened tonight.

I’m standing there with M and other friends talking, laughing, catching up on hilarious stories from the year. The people I’m chatting with I/we have known for years and year and usually only get to have face-to-face interactions during the holidays. We do stay in touch in other ways, but our holiday party time is something I look forward to every single year.

Into this comes our hostess to both greet us and chide us for not paying for more attention to her in-laws seated across the room. As we stood there, her in-laws were 3 and 4 couples deep saying hello and catching up, just as we all had before moving out of the way so they could spend time with their other guests. My friend S smiled brightly as her almost invisible fangs elongated at the thinly-veiled rebuke that we were having too good of a time without paying homage to her. S suggested the should have had stickers printed – “I greeted N and M” instead of “I voted” – so she could tell who has good manners in the group. The rest of the group laughed, but snarky bitch (SB) did not even crack a smile. If anything, her lips and faced closed inward into that disapproving pucker she gets.

She then turns her gaze toward me, and I could actually feel M tense beside me. With that really sickeningly sweet fake smile she tells me so brightly that I am looking well, and how is that diet and exercise working out for me? I smile back, very blandly, and say it’s going very well, thank you. Then she proceeds to tell me (1) she thought the pictures of G and K’s wedding were lovely and I was “very brave” to wear that dress, and (2) if I am still working with a gym trainer, did I think I was getting full benefit for my money?

I was very calm about this, and said yes, I was still working with trainer J and he was worth every single penny I pay and then some. If she were a smarter woman, she would know better than to push it further from my tone. But no, she believes herself so clever and nods knowingly and says J must be a one-trick pony training women to be big muscled body builders.

Okay, bitch, it is ON.

Why do you say that? Because I’m not rail thin? Well, she demurs, if she was in the gym as much as I am in the gym, she would have lost half her body weight, but of course, she’s a much smaller woman than I am.

I physically step in front of M to keep him from opening his mouth. I smile and say yes, because while you are smaller than I am, I will bet you dollars to donuts that I have less batwing fat under my arms and more muscle mass on my legs than you do. Plus, I’m off blood sugar medications and far more capable, more confident than I was. With those types of wins, who the fuck cares if my ass is bigger – yet more shapely – or if my arms are fucking huge? Yes, I have a  discernible bicep. Get over it.

She was wearing a sleeveless dress. I was wearing a sleeveless sweater with a cardigan over it. And yes, i whipped that cardigan off and flexed my pretty damn admirable bicep. And the people near us who overheard this exchange? They are looking at my flexed arm and its barely there (anymore) batwing, versus her arms at her sides and its smaller physical size but obviously higher percentage of batwing to muscle.

Needless to say she was suddenly needed elsewhere at the party. And I was neither embarrassed or upset at the throw down. For 15 years I have either been avoiding her completely or ignoring her snarky to be polite and keep the peace. Tonight I had simply had enough. She can say what she wants about me, but please, never insult my family or my tribe.

The rest of our evening was really pleasant and really fun. Most of these people have known me since grade school, and I have grown up significantly since I was the chameleon girl who was camouflaged completely by her surroundings. I am typically extremely pleasant and easy going; I still was tonight, only unspooled a bit when pushed. Cest la vie!

Thinking about the month past, particularly the last 10 days, I really need some me time to recharge my batteries. Poor M has been dragged hither and yon to various client dinners and events this month, but he has all day to be at home alone pursuing solo projects. I’m at the office, where I love the people but my time is not my own. Or I am at home working or attending client wing-dings, going to yoga too much, and not sleeping deeply enough to feel refreshed when I should. Late last week M’s bestie began working on our front yard remodel, so there have been rocks and materials to be chosen, designs to be discussed and approved, and while I love M’s bestie, it is one more person I am interacting with when I really just want to crawl into bed with my kindle and read in peace awhile. Essentially, I have not only been burning the candle at both ends I have been setting bonfires on the candle mass in between.

I think a break may be in order. Yes, Christmas is Sunday, we’ll likely be hanging out at home with few to no visitors. It will be amazing. But tomorrow we’ve been invited to M’s bestie’s holiday open house, which is a big thing for M because the volume of runner friends. I asked him on the way home tonight if he minded I bailed this year, for the simple reason that I am absolutely exhausted. While he really wants me to attend, he understands. He also understands that I have far less in common with the runner friends he enjoys so much and will likely enjoy himself far more if we either take 2 cars or he goes alone. Reality of our long marriage is that we have different hobbies and interests and the 2 do not always mesh seamlessly.

It has been a long week, long month. I need the “me” time. I need to write, to read, to relax without a lot of distraction or the pressure of the clock. Maybe tomorrow will be the start of a long weekend of that … after the gym, of course.

Which today did not go so well. I had a client text and then call last night to get an urgent appointment with me, which was the coffee/breakfast today. It was a pretty good problem to have – unexpected windfall – but it was also stressing him out to the point of not wanting to wait until after the first of the year to meet with me about it. I am tired already, battling something attacking my sinuses, and then feeling the pressure of an appointment when I anticipated a more leisurely morning. Result was a unfocused, distracted effort.

I follow Scott Abel on Facebook, because he is a very smart fitness coach who also seems very sensible in his approaches. Several of his posts the last few days have resonated with me, while at the same time make me feel a lot like a miserably bad client in that maybe I am not listening, trying hard enough, want it (whatever “it” is for me) badly enough, have an inadequate work ethic, am to dependent on outside validations.

None of that is true, and I know it. But I am just worn down enough to be vulnerable to shredding myself over my potential to be and do all those things.

Ugh.

At the end of it all, been a very long day with a lot of good and great things. Holiday celebrations are cresting this weekend, whether I like it or not, whether I feel ready for it or not.

Sleep is the great equalizer. No alarm for me tomorrow morning, and hopefully my internal body clock will let me get all the rest I genuinely need.

The view from the gym floor

Since no training session and no recap today, I seem to have had some other blog pondering to share today, as this is post number 3 for today. No matter; it’s Thursday and even with trainer J’s absence, it is kind of weird and difficult for me not to write something about my exercise excursions.

To start off with, the parking lot was practically empty. The section where I usually leave my car – there were 2 vehicles parked right next to the curb and the rest of the spaces were empty. None of the usual sprinkling of cars at 6 a.m. this morning. If I thought it was light yesterday, I thought the club must be close to empty today. And for the most part, members were very few and far between. I was actually a little disappointed, because I woke up this morning with a stuffy nose and mildly sore throat and was not much in the mood to do a full lower body sequence. Instead I went through my dumbbell matrix and stability ball core Lists, technically a light practice for me, and called it a day.

I have been doing more yoga classes over the course of the last 2 weeks. My usual 2, sometimes 3 morphed into 8 in 10 days, and Monday when my bag was stolen – with my sweat shirt and shoes in it – I ran to the car in my bare feet and damp yoga clothes (capris and a thin tank top) in the cold temperatures. When I got home M asked why I didn’t call him to bring shoes and jacket, and I replied that my phone and wallet were locked in my car, but thankfully I always keep my keys and glasses with me in the hot room. Then he says, “No one else had a phone, there was no landline at the facility?” I admitted being so distraught over the theft that I had not thought of that. Perhaps I deserve to feel slightly under the weather for having a mild case of idiocy or temporary insanity.

No matter – I decided this morning that I will not be attending another yoga class until after Christmas. I have been perhaps pushing myself a bit too hard, with work, socializing, my usual exercise in the morning, and not shaving sleep so much as not sleeping well. Part of my reason for pushing myself on the yoga has been to support my daughter-in-law in the 60 day challenge our studio will be presenting next month. I personally cannot do 60 classes in 60 days, but I had committed to trying to do a few more during the period. However, she has now accepted a part-time gig starting in January and also cannot devote the time to this endeavor, so I am off the hook. The gym and my resistance exercise will always be my highest priority, the yoga practice a pursuit that interests me in how it will enable me to go farther in my resistance training. I like it well enough, but I do not love or appreciate it the way I do my gym practices and training sessions.

Practice this morning went fine, although I did lose my balance on one posterior reach and fall down. Nothing injured, except perhaps my pride, and even that was barely bruised. I was nearing the end of the series and fatigued, having done the core work first. Next time I should probably do the dumbbell matrix first and then the stability ball, since it is on the floor from the get go.

The sore throat and congestion have not gotten worse through the day, and my suspicion is that the stripping the remaining layer of grass from the front yard is the source my sinus issues. I’m going to bed earlier tonight and to the gym a bit later tomorrow, so it should be a more typical lower body practice for me. But if it’s mostly empty tomorrow, I may sneak in some of my other favorite things that are not on the lower body List, just because I can. If I am not feeling it, I will run through this one again and have another light day. As long as get there and do something I feel fine about my effort.

I expect the next couple of days will be pretty quiet in gym-land. All good for me; I can dawdle and ponder and think about what I am doing, what I am feeling versus what I should be feeling, without someone loitering as if waiting for me to finish. That happened yesterday and from a gent I see nearly every day I am in the gym. He never said a word, but I got the strongest sense he was waiting for the Freemotion machine I was using. And I was actually very proud of myself for not growing self-conscious about monopolizing equipment and packing up and moving on before completing my List. My practice is just as important as whatever he was pursuing, and to me, even more so. He could wait. Progress.

Today was our potluck at work, and plus a self-employment client dropped off some work and a gift. I swear I have and associate with the most generous business people in the whole freaking world. The gift cards, the gifts – so much stuff! I am not at all ungrateful, but a lot of it M and I cannot or will not utilize, so I readily regift to others. My son and K, trainer J, even some of my work associates. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I have my own hierarchy of regifting swag received throughout the year. I console myself that J, G, K, RD, and a few others are now well fed, well hydrated with adult beverages, and over-caffeinated for at least a little. Even C and A over in Florida – if something they like crosses my path and they have one in Tampa, off in the mail it goes.

The holiday season is going proceeding. While not feeling especially Christmas-y this year, I am very grateful and very happy with the abundance we have and to be able to share freely with others. Our lives are very rich, something we do not and I hope never ever take for granted.

Looking forward to a work-from-home day tomorrow, since the law firm is closed. I would say looking forward to sleeping in as well, but anymore, “sleeping in” means 6 a.m. versus my usual 4 a.m. Ah well. An extra 2 hours is cushy luxury indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

While trainer J is away …

clients tend to work harder? Or not – gym was looking and feeling pretty empty this morning, as if the rest of the tribe has already checked out for the holiday.

I was texting good travel wishes with J at 4:20 this morning, because he had an early-early flight and I was up anyway getting ready to go to the gym. Kind of surreal, actually; typically the only people I text with that early live in other, later time zones.

Ran through Monday’s upper body List again, and honestly, wanted to take a selfie of drooping arms and shoulders by the time I was all done. Today I was paying close attention to elbow and arm placement for the most part, and between playing cues in my head and actually turning my head a few times to see what my arms and elbows were doing I made some excellent progress on the new form techniques unearthed at the technical review.

I did better with the lawnmower rows by going very light with the first set to get adjusted to the squatty and wide split stance. Kind of felt like a frog all hunched over and pulling with elbow flaring outward, but I definitely felt the difference in how I started and where I finished on Monday.

But by the end of my sets, boy howdy I was feeling those shoulders and upper arms. Chest and back must be hardier than the shoulders and upper arms, because they seemed just fine. I will be happy to take a day, maybe 2, away from this part of the body and pursue legs and lower body.

It’s not the I feel hurt or overworked exactly, more that I just learned some new tips and tricks and am delving deeper in the smaller muscles and muscle groups and joints. I was at a restorative yoga class tonight, which is slower and even more controlled than most of the other classes I pursue, and it always reminds me how much sitting I do and how impactful the sedentary work I do is on my body. While my shoulders are less hamstrung than they were when I began, they are still pretty damn tight. I am sure a lot more yoga practice could potentially help me become looser and more flexible more quickly, but I don’t love yoga. I appreciate the practice and the classes, but it does not do the same thing for me mentally than the gym and training with J does for me. Finding my balance between the disciplines is an ongoing process. As long as I keep that I am the decider on the balance things should continue to progress without advanced mental or emotional complications.

So definitely picking up a lower body List tomorrow, and Friday we will see what feels like a plan. Thinking about the holidays and the week ahead, the time for J being away suddenly does not seem like very much time at all.

Driving to work this morning I was contemplating the measures of progress. I made the mistake of looking at the very judgmental heart rate monitoring watch this morning and noted I burned less than 400 calories for just over 90 minutes of work. And I felt my spirits droop every so slightly. Surely for the amount of sweating and huffy-puffy-ing I should have burned more than that?

This is the stuff that gets e into immediate negative girl territory. I stopped looking because it makes me feel poorly about my effort, which from experience I know leads very quickly to being both discouraged and disheartened. I like leaving the gym feeling deeply satisfied with my effort and its outcome. I like know that I tried very hard no matter how successful or how challenged I was with the List and the exercises. At yoga we were talking about how getting to class is 90% of the battle; once we are there, the class and the instructor can help us cross the finish line to getting it done. Same is true of the gym.

I would never say that my method of not having and tracking specific, measurable goals is the only or even the best way to get things done. I would simply say it is the only method that has worked for me. My shoulders, arms, legs, whole body looks a little different now. It has been subtle shading through the months, and as M can attest, it is not something even I notice all at once. It is as if I go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning with a new contour to my shoulder that was not there the night before, as if the muscle fairy came overnight and injected a new coating of muscle.

But I am unlikely to give up my fancy smancy Fitbit; I like the big face and using it to tell time. Plus it tells me interesting things about how much sleep I am getting every night.

So, despite my sort of achey-breakey shoulders, biceps, and triceps tonight, I remain pretty excited about the work I did this morning and what I will get up and do in the early hours of Thursday morning, whatever it turns out to be in addition to my dumbbell matrix.  When I think about yoga and pilates classes, there is no lasting “high” from them, not the same way I feel when I leave the gym in the morning. And that’s okay. I use the yoga in a different way, for other purposes. What those are is another post, once I can articulate it more intelligently.

Hopefully trainer J is busy having too much fun with his family to read along here, although I did commit to a little daily exercise recap while he is away. Part of my Christmas gift for he and other fitness-pursuing friends in my world.

Training #98 – You make my dreams come true

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.

Key Takeaways

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.