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.

Blogging – from there to here

Last year I wrote and posted here frequently, nearly every day, sometimes more than once per day. These days, it seems like a Very Big Deal if I get something written and published once a month. One difference – I was blogging A LOT about my better health and exercise journey. Since that part of my life into it’s own blog, much of my blogging energy goes there, with training recaps and anything and everything related to diet, exercise, better health. In case you’re curious, find me talking extensively about my better health quest at makingprogressgettingfitter.blog,

When it comes to this blog and blogging in general, I feel sort of one-dimensional and made from cardboard. On more fatigue-laden days, I feel like recycled cardboard and completely lacking in color and details. Because my life is busy, work is demanding, and my hobbies and interests are primarily health and fitness related, it is often a challenge to muster the energy to write about other things.

Attitude adjustment is in order. Inventory and assessment of my time management as well. Because honestly, my little life and corner of the universe has a lot more color and range than I am presently allowing credit. Not because I am in a bad or negative headspace, more because I am letting life run at whooosh pacing and everything goes by at blurred speeds.

Not a lot big events in progress in my world this year. After 2016 and both kids getting married and C and A moving across the country, it has been a relatively placid period. K is in moving on in her career – accepted a generous offer from another firm only to have her dream job come calling and in the final stages of negotiation for an even more generous salary and benefits package. C and A are doing well in Florida, getting settled and enjoying their annual Disney passes. G is working hard and contemplating the next steps in completing his education.

Busy times for all of us.

M and I are working our summer project of decluttering and reorganizing our stuff. We are still working on the rented storage space, getting rid of stuff we have held on to for far too long, labeling and organizing what he/we feel cannot be separated from us just yet. From there it is our garage – an absolute necessity if M’s dream of a work bench and work space next to where I park my car is ever to come to fruition. There is much crap to be culled and shelving to be relocated to either the storage unit or the small storage building (the little house) in our back yard. The little house is our final frontier, the repository for all the crap treasures we tend to both become irrational about. For me, I cannot fathom why we need to retain the volume of easily identifiable shit stuff M feels is going to be useful someday, and for his part, M cannot understand my craving to live in a house with empty drawers and mostly empty rooms.

And believe it or not, despite the doom-and-gloom tone of my describing this process, our current decluttering effort is a big step forward for us. The truckloads of stuff hauled off to the dump, put in the trash, or donated is testament that this project is long overdue.

Funny, but I was actually considering shutting the blog down, because I seem to find myself incapable of stringing a few sentences together with any regularity. The minute I think that, though, I get this feeling of dread and anxiety that says I am not yet ready to relinquish my personal address in blogville.

Because I’ve said it before – this remains my safe space. I can talk about things here that I rarely to never bring up in the outside world. Or that I need to process in written form so I can behave appropriately in real life. Or work, always a favorite. Or just to talk about whatever so my family and friends do not start avoiding me because I talk too much.

Honestly, from the start of my blogging journey to now, the course has been unexpected. I never thought I would write as much as I have in the past few years, until I blink and realize that a few weeks have passed since I last published here. Maybe that’s a good thing, that nothing so significant has happened that I’ve felt inclined to jot it all down. Yet I know that’s not really true. Life has been busy, but for every hour of busy there are pockets of minutes spent vegging scanning headlines or letting my racing thoughts hypnotize me into paralysis.

I have missed writing here. It seems odd that I fail to recognize just how much until I sit down and just let ‘er rip with downloading my thoughts. In my drafts folder, 90 posts languish. Some will be recovered, updated, published eventually, but the majority are a few short lines or paragraphs demonstrating my distraction and need to process. Always I think I will return to this and publish it soon, but rarely does that happen. Mind and circumstances are different when I log back in, and another draft is begun or an actual post gets written and published. The former fragment sits, eventually forgotten.

Today I am resolving to be better about this, to carve out some me time for blogging, just because. I do have a lot to say, and in the immortal words of Nike’s marketing department, Just. Do. It.

I will. And I will engage my type A- personality and strive to be more consistent about it.

Happy Friday and weekend everyone. I have missed you.

 

Parenting is hard

It’s St. Patrick’s day. In 1984, my oldest child was born. I remember checking into the hospital and the nurse saying I would be having a  St. Patrick’s day baby and in honor of that, they would be tattooing a shamrock on the baby’s butt. Whether my serious expression was primarily fear of this whole birthing process or I was so tired I looked as if I were taking her seriously, she quickly assured me she was only joking.

B was probably 6 before she realized that the St. Patrick’s day parade we took her to each year was not actually held in honor of her birthday.

It’s 21 years this month since she left us, and I miss her still.

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3/17/2017 – B, Jan-1985; about 10 months.

And her final school picture, taken not long before she passed away.

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B – Jan-1996; not quite 12 yet.

March is a challenge every year. Not a day in the last 21 years passes that I do not think about her, and I would not have it any other way. Mostly I smile. Occasionally, I tear up and feel the weight of loss. Mostly, though, I really do smile. So much life and memories packed into 12 years and 5 days. In my heart I cherish all she was to those who knew her and turn away any and all thoughts of what might have been. Our time together was limited. I am glad to be someone who was present with my children, so my regrets about that time are so tiny and insignificant relatively to the balance of my life.

But parenting young adults is still hard.

C called early this morning after a major fight with her husband. Unfortunately this is not the heartbreak drama of teenage angst, but the seriousness of a grown-up married people. Trying to be fair and balanced – out the window. My kid is crying, having a panic attack over the telephone. Forget fair and balanced. A said cruel things and there is blood in my eyes.

Okay, not quite that bad.

Being her mother’s daughter, I cringe at some of C’s decisions and mannerisms that come directly from me. I know that when this kind of dust-up happens, it’s not just because A came home and decided to be a prick that day. Having been in Florida only a few months, there are a billion details that one takes for granted growing and becoming an adult in your own hometown. Finding doctors and dentists and making new friends – it is a process. And when shit hits, the gap between what you had before you moved crossed the country becomes the grand canyon.

I talked her down off the ledge, called and checked in on her more than I have in 20 years, since that first summer that she and her brother stayed home alone while M and I were both working. By the end of the day, she’d calmed down and made significant progress finding healthcare providers and making appropriate appointments … in a few weeks. But she found stop-gap help with a local clinic – a referral from an assistant manager at their apartment complex. And with a little guidance from me, began the outline of The Plan for what she would do if this type of thing should come up again.

As for me, it was a busy day at work with a lot of gratuitous meetings that did little other than frustrate me with stranger’s ability to demonstrate their cluelessness. I am a master at compartmentalizing, though, and chugged along and got through it. By the end of the day, though, I was unrepentantly swigging sugary soda.

Parenting is hard sometimes, something no one really stresses before you take on that role, and I am honest enough, selfish enough, to say I do not really love the responsibility and the job itself. But I love the kids involved, all of them, and my hopes for them hinge on their overall happiness. Even when things are not going so well and they do stupid shit that frustrates and/or irritates me, I have to believe they will learn from the experiences.

Another St. Patrick’s day, another of B’s birthdays in the history books.

I miss her.

 

 

Competitive, compartive, or some other spirit

A few occurrences this week  have me thinking about competition. When it is healthy, when it is less so, when it becomes something destructive to our systems.

I do not think of myself as especially competitive. If pressed, I feel more likely to fold like a house of cards and forfeit. Unless I am having fun or feel more confident about my abilities, at which time I might try harder and finish gracefully. Better than that, though, I simply prefer not to be involved in competitive events. I like it much better when things are friendly and just for fun. Obviously it does not work that way at work – for jobs, promotions, project assignments, etc. But that’s also partly why I work for myself and am the only one who does my particular job with its myriad of functions for the last decade and a half for small firms.

My not confident and therefore not competitive nature is also part of why I do not pursue sports, other than my lack of natural ability or strong interest in learning necessary skills. The tomes on my exercise progress should demonstrate that despite being in the gym daily for the last 9 months I’m pretty far from some sort of brilliant specimen to parade out as an example of a success story. Gains and improvements are inside, not because my physical appearance has altered. I’m okay with these things. Not competing with others has allowed me to avoid getting depressed about my lack of conventional progress.

But despite not feeling competitive, I do frequently find myself avoiding the trappings of it in all aspects of my life. Parenting, and now grandparenting. I mean, seriously, being a grandparent is not something I can or should be concerned about or consider that within my realm of control. And I resent the Hell out of friends who try to frame it as a sad event in my life or worse – that there is something defective about my kids because they believe a child-free life is the correct course for them. Like so many things people are pushy about with their own agendas, I simply don’t get it. I try really hard to have an open mind about people and their choices in life. Why do I seem to be associated with so many who are hung up on their own ways being the only correct ways?

Maybe it’s not a competitive trap so much as it is a comparative trap. There are life and lifestyle choices and it should not be one size fits most. M and I have this discussion from time to time, because he is far more conservative than I am and periodically I grow weary of his narrow Judeo-Christian point of view and beliefs as being the one and only true way. Of course, I did not grow up with the same fundamentalist Christian upbringing and have my own sort of anger toward the hypocrisy of organized religion. But that is truly discussion for another day, perhaps another blog altogether.

This comes up today because of recent work-related challenges and stressors. Seriously, I am about done with the sense of entitlement and “deserve” type flack of late. I do not expect everyone to be cheerful, happy, effusive about how great it is to work at their jobs, but I do have really basic expectations of professional demeanor and behavior on the job. Pouting does not count as professional demeanor.

Tuesdays I do not typically go into the office, because it’s my one sure day dedicated to my business and clients. However, I’m reachable by phone, text, and email, so it’s not like I go into deep freeze and ignore them completely.

My troubled receptionist returned yesterday, with a doctor’s note per our policy. We had a short meeting that was long on specifics regarding duties and office behaviors. She is pouting – and I loathe pouting – but I am trying to make this work for me until I have opportunity to screen and secure a replacement. Since I am in the midst of negotiating for new office space and planning a move this year, it is kind of a crazy time for me at work. Selfishly, I am deciding what is more of a priority in my busy work world – dealing with her bullshit or finding and training someone else. I am leaning toward the latter.

There is part of me that feels personally challenged by her behavior and attitude, like I am a poor manager for not firing her ass right this minute. What spirit camp does that come from – comparative, competitive, or rightfully annoyed by childish behaviors? I knew I would be out today, we have brand new staff interns that started yesterday and there needed to be some semblance of stability in my absence today.

Tomorrow is a completely different ball game.

I have a summer solution, in someone I know is home from college for the summer who would love a job of any sort. I’m brining her in on Thursday to meet with me, talk about the job. With her in place, I have some time to screen and recruit a permanent staffing solution. Either way, I am done with such an immature brat that values herself and her performance far above reality.

So I feel a lot better about the work situation. I also got a lot done with my self-employment client workload today as well as my administrative tasks and May invoicing. We have guests this week, so juggling work and practice and everything else such is more hectic than usual. But I’m hanging in, hanging on, getting my crap done. And enjoying spending time with our friends.

Saturday addendum, Sunday continuation

This post is partly an addendum to yesterday’s post (Gym discouragement? Not anymore). I do not do this often – usually my posts are like epic novels about nothing in particular in the blog worldview – but sometimes I am caught up in other stuff and forget something I want to remember later.

So anyway …

M and I were doing our weekly grocery shopping and errands on Saturday, chattering about the day as we typically do on these excursions. I was talking about my morning at the gym, how hard I felt I worked, dripping sweat on the floor (and being mildly horrified as well as kind of proud), and how the hormone replacement therapy is boosting my energy in the day and my restful sleep at night. But mostly about how I wondered if the sides of my butt cheeks are ever going to cease feeling like I’m stabbing them with ice picks.

My husband is encouraging without being overly rah-rah enthusiastic. During the course of that conversation he reminded me that setting goals does not work out well for most people, at least in his opinion. When I got started the only goal he said I should pursue is to get to the gym and do everything I can do that day with the parameters of my time and ability, and then wash/rinse/repeat for all the days thereafter. He, J, others in my world promised me the consistency would lead to changes and improvements.

I’m glad he/they were right, and I’m really glad M leads by example. As much bitching, moaning, weenie-whining he might do about his daily runs, he gets out there, every single day for years now, and runs or runs/walks or sometimes even just walks for at least a couple of miles. The last couple of months he’s been clocking north of 100 miles per week every week and very happy about his training and having a lot of fun with his buddies, so life is very good for both of us as individuals as well as us the couple. I am trying to imagine how life might look and feel if he were still racing, but if he ever chooses to go that route again, we will adjust.

 

Today’s conversation, as we ran all over the place chasing down loose end items we needed to acquire and nail down for the week, we were talking about how difficult the commitment to regular exercise and healthier lifestyle can be. Or not. We do not really see it that way, but that’s just us and our simple, mostly uncomplicated, mostly drama-free lives. Our days begin early (4 a.m. for me, 3 a.m. for M), so our electronic notifications go off by 9 and we are both typically sleeping by 10 most nights. Weekends I have more latitude – my alarm goes off at 6 – but still, I try to stick to my regular sleeping schedule. Most people we know are unwilling to get up so early, and I completely understand their point of view. However, what I have learned is that my better health quest required some sacrifices that seemed so hard at first yet have made me so much happier to date.

Anymore, I don’t see the time I spend at the gym as such a supreme sacrifice. It’s an addiction, for sure, yet one I could likely quit without too much difficulty if I applied myself. It seems to me only bad habits are difficult to let go of – my battles with soda and sugar are defining moments in this line of conversation. The old “I am so busy” excuse could also be applied very easily, because there is always more work to do, to chase, to market. And I have superior skills in the art of dawdling and wasting time.

But a sacrifice? Not hardly. In considering this process and the choices I make every day about exercising and eating better, I recognize again and again it is a simple matter of priorities. My desire to take better care of myself pushed me out of being comfortable with existing habits and into the big scary world of the gym. When I could not do this by myself, I hired professional help with J. When I stopped making excuses, and stopped allowing myself to accept the excuses as reality-based reasons to not do what was necessary, I got better at the exercise. When my anxiety, insecurity, fear threatened my progress, I went back to TM for more professional help improving my self-esteem. My outlook and confidence have both soared dramatically in all aspects of my life. While I am safely on the healthy side of diabetes, food remains a struggle. It seems as if I have given up so much, I am unwilling to completely commit to going a lot farther and cut even more. That said, the marvelously patient and talented RD continues to work with me to suggest and bully encourage me to implement tiny changes that will add up to significant differences overall. He has not given up and therefore I have not given up either. It will happen.

I have gained so much confidence and simple joy from the experiences, even the less pleasant ones. The challenges before me are not so daunting anymore, although when in the thick of them I have some doubts and feel as if my gym crazy has morphed into another kind of insanity … what most everyone else refers to as self-confidence. Having never really had any in fitness or athletic pursuits, it is as if a whole new world has opened and the black and white monochrome landscape suddenly has a kaleidoscope of colors leaking into the small, fine details. Sure, there has been sweat, tears, even occasional bleeding involved in the process. At the same time, I am more capable. My balance continues to improve. My strength and the shape of my limbs has altered. I pick up and actually use kettle bells and dumbbells with double digit weight ranges and think nothing of it anymore, and when I do stop and realize I am pushing a 25 lb. dumbbell or pulling a 45 lb. kettle bell I am a little in awe of me. J has been working overtime on a new set of upper body sequences, and I am very excited to see what the test kitchen has prepared this week.

Months and months ago J planted a tiny little idea seed that this week, this weekend has been nourished and coaxed into a little more growth – I could be on the road to badass-ery in the gym.

The thought makes me smile and makes my heart happy.

Training #13 – Girls just wanna have fun

Monday morning, training day with J. While it sounds sort of repetitive (read: boring) to say it, sessions continue to be great. Even when we have to review dreadful core exercises. While my head understands they are necessary, that a strong core is necessary, my heart and the rest of me hates their bloody guts. Not just our current blast of 3, all of them. All core, all the time – I have some serious hate on for it.

But no matter. We did them today, they are done until tomorrow. And then tomorrow I will again be thankful for another 24 core exercise-free hours. Review and repetition are my friends, though; someday my dislike of core stuff will fade … at which time J will have something new to bring on the suck.

I am not sure why I find them so awful. Perhaps they remind me too much of high school PE where we we did endless sit-ups and then planky-like stuff that did not feel good anywhere. Flashbacks to awkward beyond belief teenage years is unpleasant any way you try to frame it.

What else we did in review today besides the dreaded and dreadful core exercises:

DB elevated reverse lunge (maybe was supposed to alternate but did not?)
DB alternate side lunge and “reach”
DB alternate single leg Romanian dead lift (forgot to alternate, though)
Supine hip bridge march with mini band
DB anterior lean split squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians)
90/90 curl up crunch
Two up, 1 down lowers
High tension plank

I love review days. As much as I really enjoy training days where J is teaching me new things and/or changing and/or reordering other exercises, I just love review day because there are corrections and adjustments and cueing that make the exercises in current rotation better for me. Not necessarily easier, but better in that mastery feels closer to within my grasp. There are always moments in practice when I feel like I might be getting lazy because a series feels so familiar, almost too easy type familiar. Anything seeming to be too easy for me sets off this big flashing neon sign in my head that says I must be doing something wrong, which can and has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I start doing stupid things and have to break myself of newly acquired undesirable form habits.

Lunges are on my need-to-reframe-more-positively list, but they remain not my finest moments or most beloved of exercises. However, I am determined to improve and will be working at this this week. If I had a spotlight exercise every week (which I do not, and maybe will not ever, but I am toying with the idea) this week it would be lunges. I really have no idea what my problem with them continues to be, but they are eternally aggravating. I am not scared of them anymore, which is a huge something, but there still is no “gee, it’s lunge day!” going on in my mind. Truthfully, there is very little “gee, it’s [insert exercise here] day!” going on very often, but it does happen from time to time.

Some sequences and routines I do like better than others, which J happened to ask me about before we began the dreaded core review. (I recognize the need to reframe that into something other than “dreadful” to get to my happier place about them, but that’s on another, in-the-future to-do list.) But of the dumbbell, stretchy band, and TRX sequences, I had to say it’s dumbbells first, then stretchy bands, then TRX. Which surprises me, because I thought I would really love the TRX more than anything else. But that was way back when we first started, this is now this many months into the future. Things change, and who knows, they may change again and TRX will float to the top spot. I am referring to exercise as “fun” routinely now; anything is possible.

I get why I like the dumbbells – they feel somehow more technical (but no, not really in comparison to other things) and dangerous because I am holding onto something heavy that would be painful if dropped on or accidentally whacked against me or someone else. The bands are similar, because there is a measure of control is required to wrangle with those things or I will find myself suddenly snapped into a different, unexpected place the second I lose focus. The TRX is challenging, for sure, but it seems like fewer Very Bad Things can happen if I do not stay completely immersed in what I am doing. While fewer Very Bad Things can happen, the possibility of making mistakes, being sloppy with form, or just allowing myself to become bored with whatever I am trying has also been cropping up in recent experiences. Thankfully the gym is a lot bigger than just the TRX rack and its straps.

But I also still love the TRX lower body stuff. The skater squats and single leg Romanian deadlifts remain an improving challenge, and those TRX hamstring curls still vex me every time they come up on a List. After what we did today, anything hamstring related is going to give me pause. I am recognizing that I need to do more than just sit on that part of my legs, because my oh my am I feeling every single one of those Bulgarian Romanians today. Happy feelings in spite of the “big muscles working” lingering moan every time I stand up or walk or do just about anything, though. I think the coin just dropped into its slot about correct form and what is supposed to be working, where those hammies are supposed to be screaming out and quaking as they fatigue, and no backaches from doing them less correctly. Progress.

I confess to not going to the gym yesterday – I blew it off in favor of a day at home alone. Plus I made the mistake of starting on work-work and next I knew 3+ hours had passed and I was no longer interested in the idea of getting into my car and driving to the gym to practice. Plus it had been 29 straight days (and a few double workout days tossed in for good measure) since my last absence from the gym. (I had to check my gym account to see how long it had been since my prior no-check-in day.) It was also Valentine’s day and our wedding anniversary. Essentially, I had lots and lots of excellent ways to justify taking a day off, even if the only person who demands any sort of excuse is me.

That whole “listen to your body” thing is mostly working out for me, except I need it to stop pleading for chocolate and soda and potato chips. With the exercise, though, I am starting to recognize the signs of fatigue, both physically and mentally. Weekends are usually my time to enjoy the ability to stay and continue as long as I wish and do as much as I want without limits to my time, but Saturday I had an appointment with a client at 10 and needed to head out by 8:45 or so. However, I had been feeling the fatigue weighing pretty routinely in practices all week. On Saturday had been toying with the idea of making a break for the exit long before my phone reminded me that I needed to leave. So really, the seed of a day off had already been planted and growing inside my head.

I marvel at my most recent 29 day streak of gym check-ins. I no longer plan these things, as I had to when I first began my quest for consistent practice. Mostly I am more habituated to getting up and going to the gym every day. Like Monday and Thursday are training days with J, the rest of the week has its own rhyme and reason as well, but the primary theme is get up when the alarm goes off and get to the gym, after which everything falls into place with regard to Lists and sequences.

Chatting with another lady on Saturday she was expressing how much better she feels after her workouts and it got me thinking about how I feel after practices. At first I really noticed that I had been exercising, but now it seems I have gotten to a new plateau where I just expect to feel this way, this level of good everyday. Maybe it’s not the hamstrings reminding me that I was doing something before the workday, but I have a sense of my musculature now that was missing before. I find myself going through my day and some movement will remind me of something on the Lists, whether it is bending over to pick something up or reaching for something in an overhead cabinet. If I ever choose to stop exercise completely, it would likely be easy to forget what my new normal feels like and how much more physically resilient my body feels right now, something I hope will continue as we mosey along the health and fitness trail. But since I have absolutely no desire to return to my former normal, I am motivated to stay plugged into training and practice.

J also asked me this morning about my comfort level in our little room, and I am better than fine in there. My gym anxiety has mostly dissipated with the habit of going as frequently as I do these days. Seeing many of the same people, same faces morning after morning, doing the periodic evening practice to increase my gym tolerance and strengthen my mental/emotional fortitude. Walking to the ladies locker room I pass a series of the big machines with plates and stacks and people using them and I idly wonder what they are doing and why. The variations I see of the same/similar exercises make me curious – are they doing it correctly or is there a greater possibility of someday hurting themselves in their efforts than the last person I saw doing something similar? I has been weeks since I have been upstairs in cardio-land, so I have no clue as to what new and intriguing things may be going on up there or if they have rearranged the equipment yet again.

The rest of the gym does remain a bit of a mysterious place to me, and I see no real reason to rush into exploring on my own things that have grand opportunities to hurt me, possibly a lot. My imaginings of Very Bad Things befalling me while testing these ideas on my own without J’s guidance and tutelage looms large as a protective cautionary measure. I am inclined to venture out there with J, to learn new things with the bigger tools when it seems appropriate. Until then, though, I have lots and lots to keep me fully occupied with my dumbbells and bands and TRX.

Which brings me back to my head and my attitude about gym stuff, food stuff, health stuff.

As much time and effort as I am putting into my physical practices, I am devoting almost as much time working to upgrade my mental game. Because I utilize a commercial gym, my mind tends to pay attention to their marketing. Their advertisements online, on TV, on the radio, and the various messages being played in the gym as I am working on my practice or just wandering to and fro down the hallways all seem so seductive – all those pretty, fit people doing things and making it look easy. I get that seeing some supersized person trying to huff and puff through a BodyFit session is not really going to sell many (if any) memberships, even if that is their target market.

Even J has been hitting his own workouts pretty hard and building lots more bulky, pretty muscle. It is difficult to recall precisely what he looked like when we first met, but I know he is bulkier now. The hard work and time he has been devoting to himself is paying dividends. While I know this is J pursuing his own hobby and interests while walking the walk he teaches to clients, it cannot really hurt his “brand” to be in a transformative period. I am trying to imagine if his appearance would have made a difference when I started with him last summer. I think not, because it would be very unusual for me to be influenced to the point of immediate go/no go by physical appearance alone. His teaching and coaching methods and style are what make our trainer/trainee partnership work, not the size of his biceps. Now if he smelled bad or was really sloppy to the point of unprofessional in uniform it would have mattered a great deal; I suppose I do have some physical appearance standards.

The gym sells hope and change, hope that me, ordinary person, can with membership evolve and change into the equivalent of the amazing, fit, pretty person on the screen. Never mind that my bone structure or DNA may making achieving svelteness of that level of perfect shape and size impossible. Marketing does tend to be a precise science after all, and I am sure they have professionals advising them as to what works and methods to measure the actual results of each campaign to get bodies into the gym and signing on the dotted line. Consumers looking to join a gym do not really want to hear or to know the raw truth about how excruciatingly hard that transformative journey may be; mileage may vary, after all.

But I find the droning messages tiresome. We can help you lose weight, get stronger, lose weight, gain muscle, lose weight, increase your cardiovascular stamina, lose weight, bulk up, lose weight, fly to the moon under your own power, lose weight … etc., etc., etc. Turning off my mind is not working out for me, so instead I am trying to dissect the noise, break each message down into bite-size pieces that I can throw away as unimportant.

As I have talked about in many of my prior posts, the focus on goals has been detrimental to me, my head, my positive progress, yet I am bombarded with it everywhere I go in the real world as well as online. I cannot expect they or the health and fitness industry to stop for little ole me, so I am obviously the one who has to adjust. I still find myself becoming frustrated or upset with attacks of the “shoulds” from the goal-setting, results-oriented messages being beamed out at me from everywhere, and I can tell in my practice when I have been reading or listening to an overload of such crap.

Before training this morning I was reading blogs and realizing that I am taking in a lot of sad and/or negative stories and information that impacts my emotions and outlook. (This is part of the reason why I shy away from Facebook; the drama is infinite.) I have a lot more control over the blogs I choose to read and to follow, but even that … lately here I seem to be caught up in so much overwhelming sadness and what feels like hopeless situations. And of course that is not always true; sometimes “hopeless” means unwilling to make the tougher decision and enduring the consequences of harder choices. Plus we are gearing up for the next presidential election and all that is filtering in and out and has an effect on me.

My mental and emotional toughness are apparently not where I wish them to be as yet, and I will have to be doing some pruning on the stuff coming into my reader until I can regain some deeper sense of mastery over my mind and emotions. The me I aspire to be is not so swayed by the negativity and negative emotions of others, and until I have more or better control I need to limit my exposure to it. I just finished another J-loaned book on the topic, so it’s been looming large in my consciousness. Review and download of my thoughts and impressions of that is coming soon.

The negative voices in my head are not droning today, maybe drowned out by the happy buzz of success this morning or the still moaning hamstrings? It makes me smile, all of it. I am looking forward to tomorrow, to whatever upper body sequence I choose, but feeling some excitement at the idea of testing more Bulgarian Romanian’s and lunges with new tricks and cues. This idea of focus lingers after this morning’s modest successes, and I am eager to get back and try again and do more of them. It’s not even tempered by the thought of the dreadful core work, because it’s now a thing on the Lists and I may as well suck it up and deal.

Plus yesterday was my last day of the 5 day food tracking. I have never been so happy to be done with food as I was last night. Tonight or tomorrow I need to type it up and get it off to the dietician before our meeting next week, and hopefully he will have some amazing insights to share with me. Fingers and toes crossed my distaste for tracking brings something new and intriguing.

But I must be doing something right. My blood sugar has been steadily dropping, being below 100 every pre-meal test for the last several days. I have not been eating anything new or unusual, although I admit to obsessing about food because of the need to remember to write it down or photograph it and so I could recall later what I had consumed. A really sucky process for me and I am greatly relieved it is now officially behind me.

But today is turning into a fun and great day. Because I really love review sessions, and I feel as if I am having way too much fun with our latest work, even if whatever I am pursuing is difficult to master and frustrating some of the time. I will get there; I have plenty of time.

Progress is being eager to get back to the gym and try again. I am so happy and so glad to be becoming someone who can appreciate this type and level of personal challenges.

Training #12 – Breathing in the happy gas

It’s Thursday, so training with J this morning. While I fear jinxing my training sessions, it continues to get better and better, and for various reasons I think this was the best yet.

Boy, that’s kind of frightening, like the bar has been raised and expectations are high and maybe Monday falls short somehow. Yet I have no anxiety or worries about it. This method of just pursuing the process and letting it be the goal is working out really, really well for me. If I am not actively pursuing pounds dropped or sizes down or inches lost I am free to simply learn to make my joints and limbs and muscles learn their present limitations and expand upon them wherever possible and build their strength with time and with practice.

Inside out, I feel healthier.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there is no happy gas in the gym. There’s stinky sweat smell sometimes, the medicine-like scent from the sauna, and I always smell the chlorine from the pool and spa, but near as I can tell they are not pumping in any sort of nefarious or artificial happiness-inducing air.

I believe all that happiness-inducing is coming from me and the work I am doing on several fronts. But it’s nice to imagine there might be some tangible albeit completely invisible to the senses phenom occurring to fallback on when life dumps a big stinky load of poo in my positivity pathway.

Things are changing in my life. Today I was kind of excited to get to the gym and get started warming up. No idea what J had in mind. No thought about if we might review and work at those vexing single legged everything and hamstring curls. No clue if it might be new stuff or escalating the suck factor on present rotation exercises. And truth be told I did not really care much one way or the other. I arrived with expectations that it was going to be a good session no matter what. I was feeling well rested and energetic and excited to be learning something new or working at old stuff that I am still struggling to master.

Attitude, while not everything, makes a difference. I was going to be here anyway, because my hyper-responsible self says I made the appointment and I had better keep it, but the rest of me finds new joy and satisfaction in this pursuit. I was not-so-secretly thrilled about the doing. I get a lot more done and feel better about the effort if I can simply relax and give whatever is on the agenda an honest effort.

If I had a whiteboard or even a chalkboard, I would be writing “I am going to have a great day” every single morning this week. No white board, no chalkboard … yet … so I think it while brushing my teeth. Thus far, I have not disappointed myself either – I have enjoyed a couple really great days.

It’s my TM assignment this week. And while I feel a little silly thinking it, like his other simple exercises it makes me examine my feelings and my attitude and improve them – no “if I can” or other disclaimers allowed. Like the Nike saying, Just Do It.

And today I did. And I feel rather fierce right now.

On the list today:

Supine Hip Bridge March w/ mini band
DB Step Up to Reverse Lunge
DB Anterior Lean Split Squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians)

DB Alt. Bent Over Batwing Rows
DB Alt. Pullover
DB Alt. Chest Press
DB Alt. Side Laterals
DB Alt. Seated Hammer Curls
DB 1-arm Triceps Kickback

90/90 Curl Up Crunch
Two Up, 1 Down Lowers
High Tension! Plank

The upper body DB stuff is slightly expanded, so I can do them as 2 separate mini sets or a single super set. I like the options within the option, because my attention span feels short sometimes and a burst of 3 exercises for a few sets and then moving along to the next seems preferable to what feels like an endless series of exercises. Not always, but the choices appeal to me.

J does not typically prescribe a lot of core work, but he has new people training with him and I suppose they are bewildered why they are not spending entire hours doing nothing but variations of crunches and planks. So we have some additional core finishers in the rotation. They are dreadful, simply dreadful, because truthfully core work is so difficult. But I understand why he is including them, and it will be good to perform these and improve my ab strength. I still hate them, but maybe they too can be rehabilitated with practice. Plus there are some really thick and plushy-feeling new mats at the gym that make lying on the floor slogging through ab work not as terrible. Sometimes the little things make all the difference.

But truly, it was the lower body stuff where J has outdone himself in bringing on the suck.

My imagination does not yet expand far enough to imagine the universe where step-up reverse lunges are a favorite, but I am getting better at them. Progress.

The supine hip bridge march with mini band sounds really grand and complicated and hard, and it does not disappoint. That said, I liked it. Imaging lying on your back, heels supported on the bench with legs 90 degree bend at knee and 90 degree bend at hips. Mini band is wrapped around the feet on the bench.From here, hips lift off the floor (bridge) by pressing heels into the bench, which on any day is not exactly a picnic. From there one leg with knee still bent 90 degrees lifts in a “march” while stretching out the mini band and pressing hard against the heel remaining on the bench. Then elevated/marched leg returns to its place on the bench and hips return to the floor. Rinse, repeat, alternating legs.

Yeah, it sucked, big time. But at the same time, I realized I know how to do this. It’s a variation of something we have not done in awhile, but I completely understand the concept behind it and know what I am supposed to be doing. That made it exciting. Actually doing it for 8 to 12 reps, not so much. Yet … I have become some sort of exercise geek because I am very eagerly anticipating the day that with practice I can just do the march without dropping hips back to the mat between reps and with a stronger band. There is a lot of room for progression.

The DB anterior lean split squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians) is another one from J’s training test kitchen. Like the Bulgarian split squat, standing on one foot with the rear foot elevated behind on a bench, but rather than bending lead leg and dropping the knee of the rear/elevated leg in a split squat, you instead bend forward at the waist as if performing a Romanian deadlift. We went through this twice today without the DBs, because believe me I was having issues just learning the basic form and maintaining balance. What I came away with is that my left side is truly weaker than my right and my body does all sorts of interesting things to try and compensate. But I am more onto body’s tricks right now and will be trying to correct some of its inclinations and habits.

This one also sucked, big time, but I have high hopes for getting better with the balance and performance with time and practice. But they are effective; I can still feel those bad boys, both of them, in all of my lower half. And I cannot wait to try them again on my own and see if I can make some progress on my issues. Even that is all good; at least I know where body is compensating and needs to learn the proper routing.

I am getting such a kick out of being part of the training test kitchen.

So today we were going through this new stuff with this sense of building excitement. It is challenging, yet I enjoy that. If it were easy I probably would have been doing this my whole life along with everyone else. J is teaching and demonstrating, and we are talking, correcting, learning which muscles are supposed to be burning like … ummm … wildfire. Then learning that when said muscle is not burning so fiercely it is because body is taking shortcuts. Which let me just say – the corrections, even as gently and kindly as J does it, used to send me on a spin cycle complete with internal thrashing and shredding because I was not getting it immediately. My head is better. Now, it is a “just is” experience. My mind finally accepts new things take time to master and that does not mean I’m a complete and utter failure. Progress.

I was not a gifted student, probably ever. I was the student banging my head against the wall in “I don’t get it” frustration until the epiphany finally kicked in and I just got past the roadblock and everything on top of the frustrating concept fell into place. And truly, it was like that with just about everything. But once I learn something, I rarely completely forget it. I might go to sleep if I fail to use the information for awhile, but most of the time I can recall all the details when reintroduced.

The need to have exercise concepts built from the ground up is why I thought hiring a trainer in the first place was my best shot at success in the exercise realm. I have and would likely again wither and flounder and back away slowly from group exercise classes (because running away screaming only draws more attention to yourself). J just happens to be an excellent match for me in that he recognizes the need to break it down, all of it, into simple movements and then build and layer as we move along.

This morning he told me about a quote he read from another trainer about the trainer/trainee relationship. It was something like “the more you care about the client, the more the client cares about himself.” I get what he’s talking about and where he’s coming from, but I am not entirely sure I agree from where I am sitting right now.

For one, I have never ever felt like I was part of the cha-ching in J’s paycheck. As wiggy and self-critical as I am, I have actually learned to trust my instincts and intuition about people. From my hours of random observation in the gym I do not believe he sees other clients as dollar signs either. But the reality of any service-oriented business is that there are some clients you like to work with more than others. The feedback and return on investment of time and energy is different in rewards and satisfaction terms with every client I have, and I have no reason to believe I am unique in this perspective despite the differences in industry.

For another, our first meeting he told me to “text him anytime” with questions or concerns. I sensed then that he meant it, that it was not just a sales toss-off to make me feel special and important to him as a client. Because we had just met, I did not know him at all and I had no reason yet to feel special or important as a client. However, the potential existed. Since this is something I also do for my clients, I felt like it was reasonable and realistic. We are in service businesses, and anymore, that means being flexible about availability to our clients.

All that said, sometimes I think you can care for all your worth and it is not going to inspire or make someone take their life and their health more seriously until they themselves are ready. And I know he gets that, too.

What encourages me about the concept is that it keeps you honest about trying. I do care about every client I have and every employer I have worked for through the years, but I also acknowledge that I care to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances and state of the relationship. In my case sometimes clients really listen, take my advice and ideas seriously, and are willing to let me work with them to make improvements and/or changes. Sometimes measurable results happen, sometimes not. I appreciate being respected and trusted enough to be able to try another way to achieve objectives, measurable or not.

Other clients and employers truly could care less and are completely uninterested in growing their business or being more efficient in how they utilize their financial resources. Or they just hate change, period. And I am okay with that, but it disincentive effect is a real thing and sometimes disheartens me about the work.

J and I have a very positive feedback loop, and it works really well. It feels powerful enough, resilient enough to endure my periodically mercurial emotional bellwether and is something I want to endure throughout our training relationship. I am committed to improving my training abilities, and that inspires J to want to do more to help me increase and build upon my success. The things I am learning, the time we spend training has become a fun perk to my weeks; the hours I spend practicing incite a sense of anticipation about what comes next. I recognize that the relationship itself is part of that, because if I did not like and respect him I would not continue to train, period. No training, no practice, no focus on improving, and no ongoing success and sense of satisfaction.

Harshing my happy and upbeat vibe just thinking about it. Thankfully that is not our reality. Yuck.

Ours is an instant gratification age, and let’s be real – exercise is HARD when you have a sedentary job and first get started. And most people have specific goals they are chasing – weight loss, muscle gain or definition. Add diet into that prescription and life suddenly becomes a cycle of denial and struggle – hard to be happy and hopeful when embarking on that type of journey. My progress from an insides perspective has been stellar, and for me it is infinitely more motivating than any 5 lb. or even 50 lb. weight loss. While it unexpectedly took only a few months, I can clearly recall feeling hopeless and disappointed about the process when the scale did not move or inched upward instead. Between the blog and conversations with M, with J, and with other trusted sources, I would have given up long ago if I pinned my hopes on the damn scale.

As anyone who has been reading my blog this past year knows, though, it has not always been like this. The first few months I was showing up every week and going through the motions, but not really making much progress and definitely not practicing much on my own. Looking back, it was not because J could care less if I showed up and practiced as long as I was there for our weekly sessions. Believe me, I could feel his reserve toward me building as those first weeks passed, and in my mind I started imagining him looking forward to exhausting my sessions. If I didn’t care, why should he? was the feedback loop in MY head.

When J finally found the magic words that reached me, it was like he had the biggest cattle prod available in hand and zapped me in the stomach with it. While I do not recall his exact phrasing, I do know what my brain heard was “I want to see you in the gym at least twice before next week or I will be disappointed in your ongoing lack of effort.” By nature I want people around me to be happy, and of course I do not want people around me to be unhappy because of my behaviors. I really understood then that he cared about my progress, and since I cared about his opinions, I got my sorry butt out of bed early the next morning and into the damn gym. And I have not looked back since.

So maybe it’s not the caring about the trainee itself but more the expression of that investment in them that matters. Only the trigger for each client is going to be unique to them and not a one-size-fits-most situation.

A simple quote and my navel gazing goes wild! And maybe that’s what this other coach is trying to address – not letting up on having hope for clients when they are struggling or have lost hope for themselves. Perhaps it is just another of those messages we all need to hear to remind us to keep pushing, keep trying when life gets difficult.

And finally, in this whole positivity journey …

At a session several weeks ago we were talking about my improving outlook and attitude toward the gym using the glass being half empty or half full as our measurement standard. J said he looks at that glass and wonders why not use a smaller glass in the first place? I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment, and I have not looked at drinking glasses in the same way since.

Yep, breathing the happy gas in and out today. Vaporous progress.

Screenshot 2016-02-12 08.19.03

Edited to add this little snippet of our text exchange yesterday. Still makes me smile.