Thursday morning, training with J. Today was a late session at 8:30 a.m. (versus our recent early starts at 6 a.m.) and it is rather fitting with the rest of the unusual week. Yesterday I slept in until 5:30 and got to the gym at 8, this morning I got up at 4, realized that it was 4 hours before I needed to be at the gym, and went back to sleep for another couple of hours. It was glorious.
This week has been a little unusual because of taking the day off yesterday, but it is a great week thus far. I feel like my whole cadence with work, blogging, practices, life is a little off compared to the usual rhythm of the weeks, but I am not not rigid that I’m freaked out over it. If my various jobs have taught me nothing else it is every day is different and things can change quickly.
I thought there would be little to talk about today other than training, but as usual, I surprise even myself with the volume of thoughts ping-ponging in my brain. We could lay this at trainer J’s feet, because our work and conversations tend to inspire all sorts of accelerated perking thoughts, but truth is I have been so busy with work that my ability to slow down or put on the brakes on racing thoughts and tumbling to-do lists to download in detail has been limited.
Today was some new, some review, adding new layers to existing sequences. The List for today:
A1 – Bent over DB row
A2 – Walking lunges
A3 – DB 30 degree incline chest press
A4 – Walking lunges
A5 – Shoulder fly series – seated DB lateral raises, standing alternating DB raises, bent over criss-cross rear fly
B1 – Single leg Romanian dead lift – right leg
B2 – Hammer curls
B3 – Single leg Romanian dead lift – left leg
B4 – Tricep extensions
B5 – Alternating side lateral lunge and reach
Every training session, there is something significant that stands out. Sometimes several somethings, and I’m simply crushing like a schoolgirl on the whole hour of training. But today it was mostly just the one thing: walking lunges.
Now, when I started so many moons ago, I had serious lunge anxiety. Probably to be more accurate I had serious everything exercise anxiety, but by the time we got around to lunges it had been narrowed to focus on lunges. I mean, I felt as if I could barely step forward and stay upright much less drop the back knee and straighten up again. Thought the months we have gone through reverse lunges, step-up to reverse lunges, lateral lunges, traverse lunges, walking lunges across the room, walking lunges across the room multiple times. Today I had some choices. J indicated he felt the forward lunges were more effective and the step-up reverse ones could be sent to the exercise retirement home, so we went with those. The reverse lunges are now retired from current lists.
I have been doing more walking lunges lately, yet not quite as much in this last week. I anticipated some issues because of the lack of attention, and yet they were fine. Better than fine, actually. I felt wonderful and focused and really into the moments of going back and forth across the room. There were a few stops and starts, a minor weeble-wobble here and there, but nothing frustrating or significant. I am starting to tell when I am not keeping lats tight, because the weights sway and swing more, a tell that I can feel and see. But I did a lot better than I had imagined, and I feel extra terrific about the effort. Especially since the last outing was the superset version and I was using a set of 10 lb. dumb bells. Today I picked up the 15 lb. set without giving it a second thought. Until I went back and checked my notes, I had not realized I had automatically upped my weight usage. Go me!
There are some new little epiphanies happening in my diet and exercise world right now.
I am gaining some skill with the exercises and staying focused on my form and striving to maintain it throughout however many reps and sets I can attain in a practice. I remarked to J this morning that these things we are doing feel so much like foundational basics, things I will need to know to move forward to somewhere else. The journey is so important to me, of course, and as I move along and evolve the next destinations and waypoints along the way will evolve with it. Sometime in the last week J had made a comment on another tribe member’s FB post that has summed everything up for me:
Process focused > goals focused
Sometimes I need reminders of what I am doing and why. It’s not that I lose focus so much as that part of my brain goes to sleep and my brain starts to get lazy. If I have any goals, it’s pretty much trying to keep going, keep moving forward. I am still unsure what “moving forward” actually means to me, and I am fine with that. When I started this quest, I worried about it constantly. I worried about goals, about progress, about comparisons to the average or the typical gym member training client. What occasionally concerns me and makes me have a moment (or 3 dozen) of concern about the future and where I may wander next is that maybe I am unwilling to venture outside this foundational basics bubble and continue going forward.
Then again, I don’t think so. I don’t feel as if I am going to be resistant to stepping up and outside where I am right now. When the time comes, if the time comes, I’ll be ready.
That said, this is not something I obsess about, at least not anymore. I have occasional concerns. I think about direction and idly wonder about myself and marvel that I am still practicing, still training, still focused and excited about what I am doing, the good things I am doing for myself. Thinking about this post throughout the day I recognized that I have developed some greater measure of faith that when the time comes that I want or need to do move in a different or new direction, I will proceed as appropriate. Fear and anxiety are less and less enduring qualities of my exercise and fitness and gym experiences; fear and anxiety are less and less enduring qualities of my life in general experiences.
The last couple of days the idle imaginings of not going to the gym for several consecutive days flittered through my mind. Mostly, for now, I have dismissed them. Because I recognize the signs of brain fatigue or distraction well enough (work has been crazy busy). Today, yesterday, I have been in the gym at unusual times, off my now regular schedule for training sessions and for practices. And for me, it’s different enough that I can actually feel the ripple through my world of tidy routine and order.
As I said, today we did new things and reviewed other exercises I know already. It is actually not the new exercises and reviews that reboot my enthusiasm or excitement, although of course any new challenge breathes a different sort of energy into my psyche. J tends to weave in additional layers into my exercise library and turns exercises I know into a different kind of challenge and experience. It is more the tiny changes, the little victories that rev up my excitement.
Things I tend to dislike are things I feel I suck at – right now. What I am really liking about my thinking is that I know now I will not suck at them forever, and I may still not love them at the end of achieving competency. I don’t think it is realistic or genuine to think I can or will love everything. Those push-ups? Still not feeling oodles of affection for them. But they are on the mini List of things to do for proficiency and I like to believe I am slowly improving on my form and technique.
I recognized awhile back that my need for twice weekly training sessions is about controlling my brain, keeping it from spinning out of control and my exercise form faltering in its wake. Orderly schedules and habits – RUTS even – are apparently my thing. Every so often I need to step up and get off my hamster wheel and take a break from the gym and do so without guilt or recrimination. Or do something different and switch up my schedule of practices just to step outside my comfort bubble. It seems to be working. In just over a week I will surpass the 7 month mark of very consistent practices.
Single leg anything continues to be a challenge, but I am improving there as well. Every day I try to sneak in a mini set of single leg RDL or anterior reaches, because I fear losing my hard-won proficiency. I will keep working at it until I feel more competent.
J was checking in and asked me if I was working hard during our training this morning. I replied that of course I was working hard, and that I could not imagine me or any other member of the training tribe goldbricking much on his watch. Majority of my brothers and sisters in J training sweating and looking as if they are working when I pass them in their sessions or when our paths cross during practices.
But it brought up a discussion where one of the coaches J admires has stated that most people do not exercise with as much as intensity as they believe they are actually utilizing. I would tend to agree with that statement, if only because I again feel like an outlier who does not ever put forth 100% effort in practices. Typed out in black and white like that it sounds kind of bad, but at the same time, if pressed I could probably muster up something more and push myself to actual failure.
Thinking this over throughout the day, I consider my reasons for not going all gung-ho and for the closer to the max intensity effort. While I might be inherently lazy, it seems a lot more complicated that that very superficial reasoning.
Since day 1, J has always stressed form over everything else. Safety, avoiding injury is more important than making my minimum rep counts. As the months have passed I have taken that to heart and am continuing to learn to listen to my body and what it tells me (besides “we want sugar!”). Sometimes I am just getting fatigued and it’s uncomfortable and makes me want to cease what I am doing so the discomfort ends. Other times my head is just not in it (and yes, friend J, I got the memo with your admonishment on that topic) and I don’t want to be there and have to push through. Most of the time, though, I think I do my best to be present in the moment and try my best to feel the muscles I’m trying to work actually working.
My mental game is as much a learning curve with exercise and fitness as training my muscles to support and balance me standing on a single leg. Once upon a time negative girl would be burying me with her shit and filling me with guilt and anguish about not trying hard enough or measuring up to everyone else and be so far behind all those anonymous, nameless, faceless, everyone elses out there.
So yeah, I get that I am not pushing and working at something close to maximum intensity. Or maybe I am, and my level of intensity is just a lot lighter than someone else?
Which leads me to our conversation about moderation and the context in which it means to me.
Practice, moderation for me means being at the gym every single day most weeks. Driving home tonight I was thinking about tomorrow, what I will do, how I plan to time my arrival time because of the class in the room where I wish to work tomorrow. There is no doubt in my mind I will get up and go to the gym at my usual time tomorrow, probably Saturday and Sunday as well. Because exercise is a huge priority for me, and by that it means I go every day for most weeks. Maybe my intensity is not the same as someone who only goes to the gym 2 times a week; I think that is okay, because I am me and hypothetical other person is hypothetical other person. We are different people, and our processes are going to be different as well.
Geez, it’s taken me long enough to get that pounded through my intensely hard head.
And the moderation conversation leads me back to food and RD.
RD made me this wonderful little columnar list of foods he knows I will eat. There’s a column for vegetables available for every meal, every day, with a subset of more starchy vegetables that are maybe one meal a day, 4 or 5 days per week. There’s a column with fruit. There’s a column for proteins to eat with 3 meals every day. There’s a column for grains and carbs that I should eat more mindfully and sparingly, may 2 or 3 times per week. Then there is a column for fats and condiments that I eat that should be careful with, things like salad dressings, butter, mayonnaise, even ketchup (which I only use on french fries and steak). It is a simple list, but he suggested that I could adapt it into a simple kind of a mix-and-match check box system so I can keep track of what I am eating daily. He borrowed the idea from J’s sequence Lists, where I pick one set of upper body and one set of lower body and do those for a practice.
I totally love this idea and will be making this into my basic meal planning system.
But as J and I were talking about this morning, “moderation” for me is evolving into eating a salad whenever we eat out and then enjoying a portion of whatever I want to order. Last night M and I both had caesar salads (a favorite of mine), and this personal pizza that was truly about twice as big as I expected. But it was fine; I ate my salad and had a couple of squares (they cut the round pizza into the equivalent of 2″ squares) of pizza and felt completely satisfied. Most of the time we eat our meals at home, and I tend to bring my lunch when I am at the office. There’s nothing extravagant or calorie crazy going on at our house; most of the time it is a salad and/or vegetable and some chicken. Lunches are mostly salads with chicken or a cup of soup or half a sandwich. So if I eat 3 meals per day and out 2 times per week (a lunch during the week and dinner with M on the weekends), that’s 19 healthy meals prepared at home, or eating pretty protein/vegetable-heavy meals 90% of the time and everything else 10% of the time. As long as I can stay firm with myself on the mindless snacking I should be in a very good place with food.
RD tells me I am doing great, that I am too hard on myself and allowing it to impact my attitude. He may have a good point. But overcoming my ingrained thinking is as much a process as adopting new habits. Patience, grasshopper, patience.
Meals at home or lunches I bring in to the office, I have significantly more control over calories and fats and proteins and carb counts. I have been experimenting with home prepared salad dressings. Ranch made from the powder tastes a lot fresher and better than what I buy in the bottle and I can use the reduced fat mayo and skim milk I prefer. I have yet to find a vinaigrette recipe I absolutely love, but I have been experimenting with balsamic vinegar and find that a lot of the time I like the plain vinegar just as well as some of the dressing recipes I have tried. A secondary benefit to my better health quest is that I have been forced out of my picky eater comfort zone and to try new foods, new tastes and textures to see if there’s more for me out there. Probably 85% of my experiments have resulted in something I will never, ever make again, but the 15% success rate has me reading recipes and thinking about other news things to try when I have time.
For someone who does not especially like cooking or preparing food, I am doing pretty well with it. And I only make the smallest possible portions of everything I try, so I am not wasting too much food.
This week has been a good one, and today’s training was a fun adventure and reminders of half-formed thoughts and ideas that needed to be captured and archived here on the blog. My little 2 day vacay from normal reality has been good to breakaway from the distraction of too work overload, but tomorrow I return to normal wake up and gym times. I am ready for return to my normal reality and habits.
I be loving my streak of good weeks.