Parents

Out and about at lunch today with one of my associates, she asked me if I miss my parents. Second anniversary of her father’s death is Saturday and she is already feeling the oppressive sadness processing her ongoing grief.

At work, in most of my face-to-face life, I rarely think about much less mention my parents. When I do, it is typically in the context of their shortcomings. While I wish to be fair and balanced in my observations and remembrances, truth is there is not a lot of positives to talk about my childhood or my family of origin. There truly are few happy memories.

The simplest answer is no, I do not miss my parents. When I think of my mom, it is the last few months, and then only when M and I are doing something or are somewhere that she might have enjoyed. It is the reflexive part of me that wants to be kind, even to people I do not especially like as people. With my dad, it is more a curiosity of who he was, what he was like as a young man. All I know about him, really remember about him, is that he was drunk much of the time and seemed miserably uncomfortable during the periods of my life he was trying to get and stay sober.

My associate comes from a closer family. Her mother and twin sister live in southern California, and they talk on by phone or text every single day. Her vacations are spent with them or her boyfriend’s family. And right now, her ongoing grief over her father’s sudden death 2 years ago still weighs on her heart. I feel for her, yet wonder what that’s like. Tempering that grief this year is the eager anticipation of birth of her first niece or nephew later this year. She will make a wonderful aunt, and someday, when she has children of her own, I strongly believe she will be a wonderful mother.

She has good examples to draw upon.

Me, not so much. And I wonder whenever I depart from this life, if my kids will miss me and mourn my passing. Not something I dwell upon, but it is a point of curiosity that I will never know for certain. #relief

Despite not having good parenting examples to draw upon, I did okay. I own my mistakes – I married the wrong guy and had children with him, then divorced him and broke up a family. There are scars there, I’m sure. While I do not apologize for making a poor choice in their dad as a husband, I worked very hard to be a responsible parent and give my kids the tools they needed to grow up and successfully launch into independent lives of their own. In his own way, I feel equally certain their father did the same. My relationships with my children and their spouses are loving, honest, open. M and I am parents who respects boundaries and their sovereign adulthood, but if they need us, we would do just about anything to be there for them. And truly, I believe the same is true of them for us. Thankfully there has not yet been a situation that tested those theories.

Relationships change with time, because we have different experiences that alter our perceptions and beliefs – I believe they call it growing up. Does not mean we all grow up well, or evolve into better, smarter, more powerful or intelligent people; growing up to me just means we are not exactly the same people with the same thoughts we were the year before. Or such is my hope, anyway.

In the last couple of years – it feels like big growing up years. I started taking better care of myself, getting regular doses of exercise, learning how to use weight training machines and equipment in the gym, making better and healthier food choices. For most people this is just one tiny aspect of what they do in life, a hobby, but for me, it’s become The Hobby and The Gamechanger for most aspects of my life. I went from an employee working for an employer to expanding my side hustle (accounting) into a full-time, self-sufficient small business and back to full-time employee with part-time small business and now back to full-time small business owner. The impacts of these two things on my overall health – I went from insulin-dependent diabetic to well-controlled diabetic without any medication. I lost long-time friends along the way, people who perhaps felt threatened by a trimmer, healthier, freer, more financially empowered me. At the same time, I have made and added new friends that share my hopes and dreams, understand my health aspirations and mindset. Other relationships deepened, the bonds of our tribe strengthened and became closer. Both my kids, while living on their own for awhile, married their partners and solidified and expanded our family.

How does this all come back to my parents? Expectations. Or lack thereof, in my case.

I had no sense of my parents investing in me growing up. Go to school, get good grades, get a good job. Nothing at all against blue collar families, but my parents had no idea what was involved in getting into college, how much it would cost, how much – if anything – they would be willing to contribute for me to get my degree. So I was middle aged before I finally finished my degree. I got a job, got married, had a family, got divorced, got married, raised a family, and through it all got better, progressively more responsible, high paying jobs before I finally finished college. My success – I’m perfectly frank and honest that my parents did little to nothing directly to contribute to it. They had relationships with my children, until the kids grew up and into the initial stage of independence.

I did learn a few things from my folks. From my dad, don’t drink alcohol – you have no self control and will be an alcoholic. From my mom, don’t try to trade on your physical appearance – you’re not tiny, pretty like me, and learned helplessness presents more like a mental handicap than charming, attractive, rescue-worthy. And from both: we cannot or will not protect you from the predators of the world, so resign yourself to being a disposable commodity and expect everyone to steal your virtue, your dignity, and anything else you value.

There was such obvious favoritism between my sister and that it disturbs me to this day, yet made my adult life so much simpler despite that. The great hopes and dreams landed squarely on my sister’s shoulders, and when you are not expected to amount to much, the bar is set so low it is not that difficult to step right over it. It created this huge sense of resentment and distrust between my sister and I, because while accepting the benefits of being the golden child she resented the responsibility of being the older daughter and having to cope with the conflict of blazing her own trail. Me, I didn’t much care. Being viewed a the fuck-up (or the potential fuck-up) for having a mind of my own and speaking frankly has its benefits.

Because of that family dynamic, with my own children I have some very hard and fast rules about treating them equally. I do not see or sense the resentment between them that once existed between my sister and I. And I am very happy about that.

At the same time, I cringe and squirm in discomfort when I recognize my shortcomings and challenges that have been passed down from my to my kids. My bitter battles with food – C shares that. My hesitation and freaked-out-ness about school and education – I see the same sort of challenge with discipline and focus on topics and subjects of less interest with G. At the same time, I see a lot of good qualities that come from their father and I as well. They are both intelligent, have personal integrity, and are good citizens within their own communities. Far more than I was at their age, they are fiscally responsible and not buried in credit card debt, so they obviously learn from mistakes, mine as well as their own.

My associate and my friend, I am glad she loved her dad so much that she continues to process her grief 2 years after his passing. It’s moving to me that she tears up a little when talking about precious memories, that her family are people who express love in ways she could and can feel.

Breaking cycles, breaking family patterns – it may take generations to get to the right and more perfect balance. For me, it’s enough to come from my background and having children who grew up into balanced, responsible adults that I like as people well as love because they are my children.

My parents did the best they could, and their imperfect, flawed examples taught me to try other ways. My mistakes are mostly original and my own. For that, I am grateful. But I still do not think of or miss them much. That’s my character flaw to bear.

Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

My life has indirectly been touched by the issues dividing our country. Trainer J is a Berkeley grad and close friends of his were physically assaulted in the February 1 melee on campus. Listening to an interview J’s friend’s gave on what happened to them, I am so saddened and so struck by the very personal nature of the story and upset by the continuing narrative.

I am not a terribly political person. I tried to write about it yesterday and failed. The anxiety and fear surrounding the divisiveness in our world right now makes me hesitant to even relate the story here in my own blog.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead. To thine own self be true.

In truth, I am truly appalled, disgusted, and angry about what has happened, yet not at all surprised. I live in California, within a reasonable driving distance of Berkeley and San Francisco, accurate hotbeds and depictions of the liberal and progressive thinking that has dominated the federal government the last 8 years and continues to dominate the governing authorities of California. My little townie suburb is the epitome of the flyover states; referring to it as a redneck hicksville is not far off the mark.

Like most others I know and speak to routinely, we are struck by how those whose lips move and present sincere-sounding platitudes of tolerance are so gravely intolerant. Living in this state my entire life, I understand how desensitized and business as usual such behavior seems to me. Except now it has indirectly hit home for me. Someone I care about has close personal friends, practically family, and they were assaulted, beaten, because they wanted to attend a lecture by a man whose views the UCB campus roundly and publicly condemn. It hits far too close to home and for my comfort. I want my home state to be better than that. I want people to be better than that.

But I’m a realist, and I understand that the extremes of both sides of any argument get the most attention, make the biggest splash, and strongest impressions. Unfortunately it also makes more acceptable and allows people to show little or no restraint when it comes to their emotions.

Except for those of us trying to maintain boundaries of restraint, common sense, and civility toward one another. I know what happened in Berkeley is simply par for the course in the day and age we are living in, but it’s still very hard to swallow.

Yesterday while I was driving to the gym, a truck ran a red light near my home and made a left turn into the intersection I was traveling through. I saw him in plenty of time and was able to drive around without incident. However, he followed and drew up alongside me as I was making a left turn, and then made an illegal left turn alongside of me, then proceeded to match speed with me as we traveled another couple of blocks. I slowed down, he slowed down. I speeded up, he sped up to match and stay right next to me. When I looked over, he was making faces and flipping me off. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began taking photos of him. While driving. As the flash goes off, the truck sped up and away from me.

It struck me at the time that in the civility war, common sense and restraint are losing. In the quest to be right, to WIN the arguments at any and all costs trumps all. Intimidation, violence, and falsehoods are the norm these days. An impartial press? Not for a very long time. Social media is a powerful influence; everyone has a voice. Even those of who blog about our quiet little lives have our space to share our thoughts and express our opinions.

Thing is, thoughts and news shared via blogs is not unbiased reporting of facts and events. Same is true of Facebook and other social media platforms. And equally unfortunate, great swathes of our population cannot tell the difference between the hysterical “sky is falling” screeching and the impartial dissemination of information and reporting of events.

I used to think, to have hope, that my children and future generations would go to college and learn to think more analytically, more rationally, be smarter and brighter and better than me. I had this hope for a cycle of continuous improvement, that they would be better, smarter, kinder than those I know and grew up with. The years pass and I lose a little of my shining hope that the world will be better place when I leave it.

What I see now from my window is how my peers have made mistakes and missteps, how overindulging and smoothing the pathway of growing up has resulted in this paralyzing fear of making mistakes and loss of entrepreneurial independence has been stifled. And that’s what I see – homogenization and attempts to reshape everyone so we all look alike, think alike, and act alike. Is there safety in numbers? Cries of diversity seem to contradict the slow, steady, march to be a somehow kinder and gentler people by government decree and enforced by government authority.

I am not a political person. I respect reasonable people and any differences in opinions. But violence and intimidation have crossed paths with me. And I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate having my right to drive to the gym impeded or people harmed for sport.

Even here on my own blog, I stepped back and away for month because of an unpublished troll who was unrelenting. Before today, what I talked about was routine reporting on my life and times. It’s not harsh or harmful to anyone else. Peace, balance, life is hard. It’s unfair. There is no regulating fairness. Or making people behave appropriately and try to be better, kinder, and gentler versions of themselves.

Corollary to my final 2016 training recap

Last year, trainer J introduced Scott Abel into our training routines. Whether he had been reading and following Coach Abel for awhile or I just start paying more attention when he was discussing technique and theory seems irrelevant at this point, although I do believe it was the former. Or maybe I was just finally in the headspace to hear what Coach Abel has to say about exercise, diet, physique transformation.

Under most prior circumstances, I would discount Coach Abel almost immediately because of his history as a physique competitor and trainer/coach. His message would not apply to me, unfit and hapless/hopeless middle aged woman. Negative girl was starting to pump up the volume during this period, and I would be slowly backing away muttering about not being in that realm of exercise and never, ever being capable of and therefore not interested in that aspect of gym life, all the while thinking “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.” Fortunately by that time I was already moving away from setting specific goals, counting calories, learning about macros, and seeing food, body, exercise as my enemy. Fortunately by that time I had enjoyed some surprising success with managing my diabetes and having medications cut and numbers dramatically improving. Fortunately by then I was more focused on improving my overall health than on what the scale read or how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin.

I am a success story in this regard, and as hard as it is to write that down and publish it publicly (lest you all judge me some ginormous egomaniac), I am standing by it.

Abel writes a lot about the inside-outside transformation. From a Facebook post today:

After this many years and decades Coaching people to physique transformations, it still amazes me how people tend to overlook the elements of lifestyle that will make or break being able to accomplish and sustain a physique transformation. 

So many people form a goal to take better care of themselves and to transform themselves from the outside-in, and then get all caught up in incidental elements of this transformation process. They start focusing on counting calories and number-crunching macros and searching for the “magic training program” and all the rest. But they miss and overlook the most fundamental aspects that make sustainable physique transformation possible – and that is lifestyle considerations. 

Lifestyle is the FOUNDATION that supports all these other things. It is not the other way around. That is the illusion. 

And lifestyle is also one of the hardest life habits to change. But make no mistake; things like time-management, mindset and attitude, sleep patterns, meal times, stress-management – these things together ALL fundamentally matter more than does the right workout program or the right diet-strategy. If you don’t have the right lifestyle and the right mindset to fit these things into – then it is never going to work for long.

Such sentiments resonate deeply within me. I have worked very hard at transforming my mindset, at locking away my negative girl and shutting down the voices that whisper that I can’t exercise, that I’m fat, gross, out of shape, never going improve. Nothing I do every day in the gym or the yoga studio even compares to the difficulty of transforming that part of my life and lifestyle.

The timing is just right for me at this point in my life. My jobs are flexible enough that I can spend up to 2 hours at the gym every day and be in bed by 9 or 9:30 so I can get up and 4 a.m. to get my exercise done and crossed off my daily to-do before I even consider doing anything else. I simplified my eating down to a few basic meals and I eat those over and over and over again. Since I am not much of a foodie or a cook, it’s easy enough for me to drink a protein shake or eat a bowl or oatmeal every day for breakfast and have the same turkey and cheese sandwich almost daily. Weight loss when it occurs will be a nice perk, but these less I thought as an earned consequence of my actions the happier, calmer, and more enjoyable life became.

I have worked hard and deserve the success I am presently enjoying; I have earned it. However, in my reading and trying to learn more about the science behind physiology and human body systems, I recognize and accept more and more that decades of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits and food choices are not reversed overnight or even over the course of the year. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. That said, I have no basis for complaint. None at all. Everyone ages and maybe complete recovery and some shadow of socially approved slender, svelte figure is not possible for me at this stage of my life. Oh well. I have a fabulous husband who loved me when I was fatter and loves me more now not because I am this much fitter but because he loves that I am happier and more comfortable and confident in my own skin. My health is excellent and I am rarely sick, allergies aside. I have been careful and cautious in my exercise pursuits and avoided injuries thus far, a trend I hope continues. As long as I can continue to manage my vanity and my ego, I can continue to dwell in my present level of happy, mostly balanced headspace.

In my own mind, I am Jane Average – normal level of intelligence, common sense, and ability to get through life and learn from my experiences. This was me comparing myself to others, and over the course of the last year I have learned just how dangerous that behavior can be, because I will always find reasons for fault with me. Stopping myself from comparing me to others has freed me to pursue my own thoughts and make better choices and exercise more realistic judgment about what is possible, what is not. I am far less susceptible to the endless drone of marketing that tells me I can be more than I can in 10 minutes per day. It also gives me a lot more room to be completely genuine in my support and enthusiasm for other people’s successes. Envy is an ugly emotion; self-flagellation for not having the same level or type of success is far worse.

The resulting overall physical improvement from my exercise efforts is wonderful, but the ways it has impacted all aspects of the way I conduct myself and live my life is unexpected. My mindset and interest in continuing the process is such a huge boon and benefit. I don’t know that Scott Abel is 100% right in his theories and opinions 100% of the time, but I do know his approach generally makes sense to me and has impacted me far beyond any tiny expectations or hopes I might have harbored this time last year.

Self improvement gets talked about an awful lot, and I have read far too many articles, books, even blogs on the subject. A lot of it was simply gobbledygoop. These days, I’m more capable of reading their words and making realistic judgments about whether it is something worthwhile for me in my life or simply a empty platitude that looks pretty in print. When I saw TM a couple of weeks ago he remarked upon how well I look and seem overall, and how our tune-up appointment next month might just be a one-and-done type year. My village – they don’t blow smoke in my direction much less up my skirt. His comment meant the world to me.

As I slowly close out 2016, anyone reading this or having followed my journey this last year and relating to my struggles as well as my successes, I leave you with the following though from Coach Scott Abel, also posted today on Facebook:

You will be amazed how much you change from the outside-in, when you focus first and foremost on change from the inside-out!

I am living, breathing, happy proof of this concept. Happy new year, everyone!

The weight of expectations

Christmas 2016 is now past, and the beginning of a brand year begins in less than a week. While it is an exciting time to me, so many I know struggle up to and through until the middle of January. The holidays are difficult.

My theory is that the heavy marketing of Christmas and the holidays to drive sales leaves people with this impression of what the holiday season “should” be like. Like so many, I grew up in a dysfunctional family and had no particular holiday traditions. There were presents, lots of presents, and stockings overflowing with candy and such, but we did not have anything even close to traditional family rituals. As an adult and with my own family, I really, Really, REALLY wanted to establish family traditions that of our own. And when I did, I found myself getting more and more stressed trying to get everything done just so and then depressed when Christmas day passed. The decorations, the traditions, the symbols of the holiday did not make me happy or feel more connected to my family. If anything, it made things so much worse.

Letting go of the expectations of a “perfect” holiday or having some traditional ritual we performed every season was among the smarter, wiser choices in my life. As a divorced mom I had to share my young children with their father. At first I wanted them Christmas morning; their dad could have them Christmas eve if he wished, then bring them home, then we’d do Christmas at my house and with my parents and then drop them with him and his parents on Christmas day. When they were young, we had presents, stockings, all the traditional stuff of a commercial Christmas holiday. As they got older, if the kids were with us we might go to the snow and then to a buffet in Tahoe or in Reno. Sometimes I’d put up a tree and decorations, but just as often I would not.

And guess what? It works for us. Being together to celebrate is the most important thing for us, either before, during, or after the actual Christmas holiday. And I still sometimes put up the tree and decorate the house, or not.

This year M and I celebrated quietly home alone. We grilled steaks, made salads, baked potatoes, and had a nice dinner together. We dropped a card and gift off at a friends home, drove until we found some snow, got out and stomped around a bit, then got back in the car and drove home. We talked with friends by phone or email or text. My daughter and son-in-law in Florida both worked, my son and daughter-in-law chose to spend the day at home alone and then have dinner with G’s paternal grandparents. Not seeing them on Christmas because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean much to us; we will have dinner on New Year’s day and celebrate new beginnings.

I’m not unhappy with the way things went this year. The past few years we have had guests for the holiday and a lot of fun and special times. This year it didn’t happen as we had all hoped, but we will be together again soon and celebrate then. For our family celebrations and occasions, what the calendar says doesn’t matter.

And so it goes for us. Perhaps it comes from being unsentimental, but growing up in a pretty cold home makes me feel like every day I spend with those who love and accept me is an unexpected gift. I strive not to take it for granted, yet have the hope that the good feelings, the warmth, the love continue for a long time to come.

Because we have no set traditions, there is no sense of boredom or obligation associated with doing the same things, year after year. I love that M and I are happy just being together, chatting with our family and friends, making and consuming a simple dinner.

I like to believe the spirit of Christmas is with us all through the year. I always hope to have a heart open to giving and receiving from the nearest and dearest as well as others that may cross my pathway.

I feel no sense of disappointment. M and I have not exchanged gifts in years, and even in our earliest days of romance, we both tended to pursue practical needs rather than wants or uniquely personal things. Of course, there was not a lot of spare cash lying around, but we were happy then, are still happy now.

And now that the silly season has mostly passed, we breath a sigh of relief that we made it through another year without the Christmas crazy touching us enough to bring forth angst and disappointment. Perhaps this is the best gift we could provide for one another.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2016

Pretty quiet on the homestead this Christmas eve, and I am so happy about that. I slept later than anticipated – this no alarm policy could be a problem if allowed to continue unchecked – but I enjoyed the most restful sleep I have had in days, maybe even weeks.

I woke up with the tiniest tinge of guilt about the confrontation last night, but there were literally a dozen supportive, encouraging, “don’t you dare feel guilty!” texts from friends overnight. That made me feel better. The difference between this year and last year says a lot for how much I have grown and matured (for lack of a better word) as a person in a year. Certainly I did not go out seeking to pick a fight with her, but she’s a bully and rarely gets called out on it. I stood my ground and calmly made my point. No blood was shed, no voices raised, and I acted appropriately. My biggest concerns were for the elderly host and hostess, but when we were saying goodbye they were all smiles, warm hugs, pleas to come visit them in their new home. The son, the snarky bitch’s husband and one of my old friends, was not upset about the encounter, said she tends to bring such things upon herself and want to play victim. He knows me too well and for too long to take offense.

The gym today was the most crowded I have seen it the last time I went in the middle of the night. And for me and the gym and my schedule of attendance, anything after about 5 p.m. is the middle of the night. The combination of it being a Saturday, Christmas eve, and my arriving 2+ hours later than usual all made a perfect storm for seeing a lot of other members.

But I did run into one of my favorite tribe members today and had opportunity catch up. I arrived with the vague idea of fluffy-cuffies and lower body, and there she was, on the Freemotion machine I might have chosen if she had not already been set up for her upper body List. She offered me the extra side, but I had squat machine and hyperextensions first. I was fine with the other cable machine on the other side of the gym, as it is closer proximity to other machines on my List of the day. Still, so fun to see a kindred spirit. Texted trainer J a selfie of the 2 of us, all sweaty and gross. Such a great Christmas eve gift, because my tribe sister is on opposite ends of the practice and training session schedule.

For today M and I have mostly lazed around. He went off to his bestie’s open house tonight, I’m staying home and catching up on reading and writing. Tomorrow we are having breakfast with some other friends passing through town enroute to family further up the freeway, and then we plan to just simply relax and enjoy the day, maybe take a drive or something equally leisurely.

I feel sort of impatient for the year to be over, because I have several projects starting the first week in January that are very exciting to me.

Gym and yoga studio are both closed tomorrow, and I am on the fence about doing a workout here at home or simply bagging a rest day. I’ve been going light on workouts this week – between holiday/work stress and the allergy flare from the lawn removal, it’s not been my best week. I am seriously wondering if I have an allergy-related condition affected by the smell of dirt. I guess I will decide tomorrow morning. Maybe I am obsessed.

More importantly, though, I have been eating a lot of crap and junky foods. It’s Christmas and this is what happens. I am not especially alarmed by it. If anything, I am philosophical about it. For the last year I have exercised, I have eaten better, I have enjoyed a lot of success and grown my confidence. A few weeks of less desirable choices and a few days of lighter-than-typical exercise is not the end of the world. Come Monday the holiday is over for another year and I can continue to prepare for the new year ahead.

The real holiday happens next week, when the calendar changes to a new year. We see a lot of people we love in December, but for me the new beginnings and reasons to celebrate start in January.

Tonight I’m huddled up alone, after chatting with my daughter in Florida and my son and daughter-in-law across town. Things are good, quiet, peaceful, and quite honestly, just what I need. I have lists of things to write about and work-work yet to be done. But just for tonight, I am doing what I want to do, which is finish this post and another email to a brotherly friend too far from home this Christmas.

All is calm, all is bright in our little world. And it is just as it should be Christmas eve.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.