A rare money/finance post vent

This is a rare bitch-fest about the policies and marketing efforts of my big box gym. I find their behaviors and recent changes in fee schedules more upsetting for how it will impact other members more than the blow it delivers to my own budgetary bottom line. Unless you are in my realm and a member of my gym, this will be blander content than usual.

I enjoy my time in my gym, and I give 96.872% of the credit to my fabulous trainer. Teaching me to exercise safely and sanely is what I sought in engaging his professional expertise. Spoon feeding me enough technique and challenge for many small successes that build upon each other has allowed me to fall in love with moving my body via exercise. Graceful? Only if you think of a lumbering herd of elephants or wildebeest as graceful. Stronger? Oh yes, very much so, and it is shocks, amazes, and thrills me every time I finish something with what seems like such a weighty weight. I am competent at my pursuits, and I am doing things that mind would have balked at as way too complicated at best and just plain too hard always at various points in the journey. It has been almost 18 months, 14 of which have been about daily exercise of some sort, and all without any serious injury (frantically seeking wood to knock upon). The yoga and pilates practices I pursue help, of course. But there is no substitute for good education and a solid foundation of safe movement for my particular body with its quirks.

The funds I have invested in sessions and my gym membership – worth every single penny. Any generosity extended to J in terms of gifts or cash tips at replenishing my session balances have not been because I am such a great person who shares, but because he has earned it and deserves the compensation for the extra time and consideration he provides me. The stupid questions he’s fielded, the tearful meltdowns in text, the happy dancing when I finally conquer something that has vexed and dogged me. Mostly though – the inspiration and fascination that has built and allowed me to take control of my overall health and enjoy that significant success. Yes, yes, yes – I do the heavy lifting. For someone who has started and stopped, started and stopped exercise programs as much as I have, this consistency and stick-with-it-ness comes from finding the right trainer at the right time in conjunction with my own readiness to take the necessary steps to improve my health and my life. Money well spent, and if it meant I had to work longer and harder to continue to afford this sort of health-enhancing service, I would either give up other stuff I fritter money away on or work that much harder to earn greater income.

Yep, I feel very strongly about it. I am also not going to apologize for enjoying this luxury. It is not at the expense of my/our future. And believe me, I understand not everyone can afford the services of a personal trainer. Many people can barely afford gym membership at the least expensive option of gym chains. I truly do know and understand how fortunate I am. I give J such lavish credit because he deserves it. Ours is truly a training partnership, one where he has invested in me far more than just a couple of hours that contribute to his overall paycheck.

The gym itself, I have no such loyalty to, unfortunately. I like it well enough; it is conveniently located and I have met some very nice members and staff there that I enjoy seeing every day. But if J jumped ship tomorrow and went to some other club or a private training studio, I would most likely invest my training dollars there.

The training partnership is what makes my gym an asset to me, not the club itself or its facilities.

Because compared to other clubs in nearby communities, my gym is a red-headed stepchild in the chain. Which is odd to me, because the corporate office is in the same building and I would have thought their home club would be a much nicer facility.

It’s clean enough, has a variety of equipment. For what I am presently using it for, it’s perfectly fine and functional and could continue to be so well into the future. However, I routinely see a number of “out of service” tags on popular equipment. Rainy days like today, I can almost guarantee the roof is leaking and there are buckets and towels on the floors in specific places upstairs.

All these things are manageable. The pool is nice, except I never use it. I have no idea what the steam room and sauna are like, because I have never actually been in them. I get hugely annoyed that they continually run out of kleenex in the group fitness room and it seems to take a village at the front desk to get a replacement box. (This is a genuine problem for me – my sinuses seem to sweat in tandem with the rest of me during practice and I continually need to blow my nose.) But while I might very occasionally need to walk the entire gym to find a set of dumbbells in the weight I need (because someone has wandered off and abandoned them), there is plenty of equipment to get my work completed and usually without having to wait and wait and wait for it.

The members in my home gym are older; median age seems to be about my age, plus or minus a few years. There are a larger number of silver (senior) small group training classes because the demographic skews that way. Our community is not as affluent as others where the bigger, fancier, more feature-, equipment-, and floor space-rich clubs were built. It is my opinion and experience that our club has a more friendly, accepting feel to it, far less meat-market than others I have visited.

Unfortunately, our gym chain is a big box corporate monolith, a fully functional one-size solution across the board. And while I understand the bottom line better than many, I also understand the differences between clubs and facilities does not go unnoticed, particularly since we as members are following the same fee scale no matter which club we utilize. As a regular consumer of personal training services, a regular in the club, and an observer of other members utilizing other trainers and participating in body fit classes, I sense a deep unevenness in the skill level presented by the professional training staff, but again, no difference between getting a scary smart trainer like J who actively works to improve his skills versus a newly certified greenhorn who seems to be clinging to a standardized training plan for every single client.

It bothers me greatly, yet I know there is little to be done other than voting with my feet. I personally am not inclined to do that, because again, training relationship and what I want and need from a gym are being fulfilled. But many of the other members I have met, talked to, gotten to know through the months are fixed-income seniors, now going from a monthly flat fee unlimited group fitness program to a pay-per-class schedule that may cause them to move less because of financial considerations.

I begrudge no one from making a buck, or even lots of bucks. But it feels a bit shortsighted right now on the ground, where I am sitting and observing. I understand the group-think workings of a corporate entity, and I have a pretty good grasp of the economics, even if I do not have all the specifics on the moving pieces and parts with regard to the gym’s financial state.

But on the heels of an average 8% increase in training and small group training classes in November and a just announced increase in membership dues, I am quite irritated with the new investment corporation that purchased the chain in early 2016. I get that they are looking to squeeze more return on their initial investment. However, the data looks very different with the charts and spreadsheets and financial reports and projections they have reviewed and tweaked and the various scenarios they have considered before arriving at these decisions than the boots on the ground I see in my gym 6 days a week.

While I do not have the full background of how they arrived at these decisions, I know that it feels like an almost killing blow within my gym town. Had they simply raised prices 8% for training and body fit (small group classes lead by a personal trainer) it would be upsetting but mostly understandable. While I have not actually examined the new pricing structure myself, I have got enough of an eyeful and enough of an earful from other members to know it has changed as well. We are not talking apples to apples 8% increase; they took the basic 3-tier training packages and morphed it into at least double that number of package options. To get the best pricing – which is now 5.27% more – members must purchase a 72 session package, as opposed to the prior 40 session package. Not only is it a big giant chunk of change in one fell swoop, there are also no guarantees that the trainer I love working with will be the same trainer 72 sessions from now. Refunds should J jump ship? I will have to read the contract much more closely, but doubtful.

These things hit us directly in the wallet, and no matter how well they try to spin it, there is a big difference between 40 and 72 session packages in both pricing and commitment. Again, while I have not seen the schedule of pricing, it would only make sense that higher percentages of increase would correlate to the smaller training packages.

Such a shame. In my club, J is worth the cost, and I have no problem committing to another 36 weeks (we meet twice weekly). Training is a line item in my budget, and I save for the expense in advance of each purchase. Personal bias aside, he is the best trainer in the club, hands down. I do not get to see all the others in action, because they tend to work more evenings and I am almost always there early in the mornings. But I see J routinely in the gym at 5 a.m. working with other tribe members. Other trainers? One once or twice a week. The rest just prefer to start later or they do not have clients training before work.

If that were not bad enough, the small group body fit classes are even worse. They not only raised prices, they went from a monthly fee unlimited to pay by the class and buy in blocks of classes. The silver ladies – I see the same bunches of them every week, and honestly, they are amazing, hustling along from machine to machine and moving very spiritedly from station to station. Some of them are in there 5 days per week, and I know most are retired and on fixed incomes. It is a shame that several will likely be cutting back on the number of classes to maintain their ability to belong to the gym.

And of course on top of all that in November, they wait until December to announced monthly memberships are going up in January. The additional $48/year does not really impact me, but it does irritate me greatly. Because the club I use sees few if any of those dollars for updated equipment or facilities. The increase is in addition to the maintenance and facilities fee billed to every member household. Hard to be okay with paying these increases when there is no upgrade to facilities, equipment, or personnel.

It saddens me on one hand, and absolutely infuriates me on another. I am well aware of my personal aspirations for a perfectly fair and just world in which to dwell and how limited the opportunities to effect genuine change. Yet … it does seem like we are getting short changed on these increases. Our club does not seem to have any major renovations planned and no new equipment has been appearing on the gym floor. I have noted no increase in staff helpfulness or training skills being demonstrated.

I do not truly understand how a fitness center’s business model actually works, but I have some idea that those paying dues and never using the facilities anywhere subsidize those of us who are there all the time. I understand the push to sign up new members, sell more training packages and body fit class sessions. I completely understand a financial statement.

If the investment group were on the ground in town and seeing how things work in the smaller clubs, perhaps they would consider not alienating the large portion of seniors who populate my club. Raise prices if necessary – everything else is going up and it is understandable – but leave grandfather the unlimited package for existing members. Same thing for personal training packages – raise the cost if you must, but reward the members who use the gym and their training by offering the smaller packages with just the small increase in cost. New members are already paying more in monthly dues, I’m sure. Present them with the new cost models for body fit and for personal training and leave the rest of us alone.

Same is true of dues. Why am I paying the same fee if I only use my tiny, less modern club? Granted I could drive across town to the big jewel in the crown, but I’d happily pay less and only ever use my home gym. Given the opportunity, I imagine others might feel the same.

Marketing, how I loathe thee. They package it as membership offers use of any of the 19 facilities! Except I’m not going to drag my sorry butt clear across town to use another gym at 5 in the morning, and that is when I choose to get my practice done. Why am I paying for something I never use? Sounds wonderful in the glossy brochures, but reality is I have not been in another facility in years. Come 2017 I will probably branch out and go to the swanky place in the next town over, just because. I should get something for the extra $48 I’ll be paying each year.

Because while I know they need a steady stream of paying members, I would hate to see them lose existing members. Or referrals from existing members. Next month I am restarting design of a health and wellness program, and I am feeling very angry with my gym’s corporate masters. I work with people working off their law school loans, and while I know the club offered pretty good rates for corporate membership, I’m not feeling too inclined toward them right now. Probably I will get over it, but still.

While I am in a ranting mood toward the corporate overseers of my gym, my reaction is more because their shortsightedness hurts those who need and use the services most. I actually love my little facility, and I genuinely enjoy the people I see and interact with daily. However, I would love to pay these kinds of prices and have a team of really engaged, trying hard trainers leading classes and working with clients. Instead I see J and a couple of others working hard with their folks, and the rest sort of punching in and out and watching the clock while working with the members. I don’t get it, and this could be a shortcoming on my part, having worked in consulting the bulk of my career. In consulting, you become extremely conscious of the billability and building, maintaining, and enhancing the client relationship by doing consistently high-quality work. At the firm, my “clients” are the lawyers, parallels, and even my receptionist as well as the clients paying our fees. If I have high standards of performance for them, expectations for myself are higher.

One of the best decisions I made in my own career was to leave large corporations in favor of small firms and companies was because I began to question my own commitment and expectation of excellence. The level of personal satisfaction and success I have enjoyed cannot be compared to being one of many hundreds or thousands of managers at the same level in a large organization and having no voice either up or down the food chain. Years ago when I was a civil service employee, there was a saying: there’s never time to do it right but always time to do it over. Talk about crazy-making! For me and my personality type, it was a form of slow suicide to stay there and be stifled that way.

The career decisions I have made all rest upon my strong internal locus of control. Right now, I am my own boss in my own little firm or I am the administrative manager for a small law firm. In both cases, I have access to and direct influence with the final decision makers, and in a lot of areas I am the final decision maker. I am part of the body the sets and enforces standards of behavior, and while I am willing to work with just about anyone to achieve success, there is a strong expectation of personal responsibility and doing whatever it takes to achieve personal success. Each person I work with is an individual, judged that way and on standards based loosely their personal/professional strengths and abilities.

I guess my very length rant again big corp is that I am again disappointed by this big box gym not giving two shits about service as long as the members continue their ACH payments every month. In my vision of a more just and perfect world, the gym’s corporate decision makers would look more closely at individual clubs and recognize that the blanket decrees and decisions made are not always in their best long-term interests of maintaining a steady revenue stream.

And I also really want a living, breathing, glitter-bombing unicorn of my own someday.

To add insult to injury, right after reading about how my dues will be increasing by 4.44% next year, I receive another email survey from the marketing team requesting feedback on slogans under consideration. Are you fucking KIDDING me? I have long said the club’s marketing people are dumb as a box of rocks, and after that thought flitters through my mind I immediately think I owe the rocks an apology. Why on earth would they ask me, already a dues-paying member about their marketing slogans? And for goodness sakes, why on earth send me THAT email immediately after the modest 5.27% increase in personal training session fees (IF I purchase 80% more sessions at once than I have to now to get the best pricing available) and a 4.44% increase in monthly membership? My best theory is the marketing people are hoping for raw and honest feedback, because I suspect the pushback is going to be heated and angry.

I may write the gym’s big boss, because I suspect the condescending response I could receive in reply would be worthy of scathing mockery well above the my present level of supreme irritation, likely resulting in yet another 3200 word rant. But so worth it!

 

My dietary equivalent of the no-fly list

Last night I was reading another blogger discussing the perfect cereal. It reminded me how much I love and adore cold cereal. Left to my own devices, I could easily, happily subsist on cold cereal and skim milk. There is far and away plenty of variety to keep me from getting bored, but I have the added bonus of being someone who can eat the same meals for weeks at a stretch without getting bored.

Is is entirely possible there are people in the world who continue happy, somewhat healthy lives living on cold cereal and milk. Unfortunately, I am not a member of this mythical slice of the population. Since I am diabetic, my intake of sugar and carbohydrates must be monitored and controlled. Cereal, even the healthiest, plainest, devoid of sugar versions of cereal are not the best choices of fuel for me. And if I can’t have even the semi-sweetened version (cheerios, raisin bran), cereal has become yet another item on my dietary equivalent of a no-fly list.

Once I gave up skim milk as a dietary staple, it was not that difficult to forego cereal. Of course, now that I am no longer eating cereal, M has taken up eating granola. For the majority of our years together, M has pretty much never eaten cold cereal. Now, it’s a regular thing for him to be eating granola of various types with his protein powder drinks. Thankfully I am far enough away from dairy products and the cereal I love to not be jealous or even wistful about what I’m not able to able to justify and include as part of my diet. Part of me thinks of it as a “cannot” eat it, but in reality it is more a “should not” eat it. I can eat whatever I wish, but there are going to be consequences for falling off the healthier eating wagon.

Which is why I find eating so complicated and tricky. Every body is different, and what works for me to keep body in its healthiest place is not necessarily tastebuds’ happy place. A typical healthy, balanced diet honestly has too many carbs for my unmedicated system to handle without blood sugar creeping upward and scale bouncing back and forth with the same 3 lbs. gained and lost. I have read labels. I have counted calories. I have counted carbs and protein grams. It’s not so much nothing works – I have learned a lot and gained good insight from the experiences and the experiments – but it becomes an additional burden and stressor upon me, another way for me to fail and weaken my firewalls against negative girl.

For awhile now I have known that I must do something to break the cycle. RD, my most fabulous dietician and friend, has told me over and over that maintaining a high protein and low carbohydrate diet is necessary and the transition is not easy. Some people are successful in going cold-turkey, but I am in some big giant camp of special snowflakes who want what they want and go down fighting, kicking, and screaming every step of the way to the healthier lifestyle place.

For almost a year now I have been working at this. For almost a year I have had mixed amounts of success, but I have made some progress. I eat a lot more vegetables. I eat more fruit than sugary snacks. I gave up dairy, not because anyone suggested I do so, but because I don’t really like most of the dairy I was eating (greek yogurt) and I only drank milk in coffee and with cereal or cookies. Giving up cereal and cookies has become a mandatory thing, coffee was not that difficult with the daily protein shakes and amino energy powder, and dairy therefore just got left by the roadside. Pasta became a once a quarter event where it was once a weekly meal. Still, bread and crackers and snacking lingered, and despite my daily protein shakes, I was still light on daily protein intake.

I’ve been working with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky for a few months now, and in a fit of frustration with myself I decided I would try what I referred to as my nuclear option – his crash course to drop 10 lbs. in a 3 week period of time.

Except I couldn’t locate it anywhere on my computer. It must have been a couple of laptops ago, or M wiped it off my former laptop when his PC crashed and we switched things around. I reached out and asked Dr. Spencer for the information again, and after some discussion, he prepared my smoothie solution which is accommodates my picky eating habits yet is based on a protocol he has been using for his in-clinic obesity patients. The eating plan is specific and fairly strict; I refer to it as the “fuck moderation” eating strategy. I’m sure Dr. Spencer will has a kinder, gentler name for it.

I have never been a follower of fad diets, and this is about as close as I come to that. However, I also know that this solution is not a long-term or permanent solution to my eating habits. This will be 4 to 5 weeks, max. My expectation is that being away from “regular” processed foods for this period will ease my craving and addictive habits toward them and allow me to make better choices. By the end of this 4 or 5 weeks I should have a better idea of what tolerable hunger is really like and more resistance to my eating triggers. A girl can hope, right? And think positively about the success potential.

While Dr. Spencer’s protocol indicates 3 meals per day – 2 protein shakes (up to 4 scoops protein powder) and a “lean and green” dinner with 6 to 8 oz. of lean protein, I had to modify this for my life and lifestyle and have essentially 4 meals per day, with a single scoop protein shake before my morning workouts, then 1.5 scoops for breakfast and lunch shakes. Small cakes, really, and again, every body is different in its unique needs. I require fuel for workouts first thing in the morning, and within the confines of how much fuel I am consuming under this protocol, I am making it work for me.

But even with my own personalization, this first week was not without setbacks; it is far and away a learning curve with my addictions and habits are lifetime ingrained and very powerful. I have snacked between lunch and dinner – a package of peanut butter toast crackers in my desk at work. I could not resist a piece of warm french bread with or the croutons on my salad while lunching with a client. A small slice of pizza at a working lunch. A 100 calorie bag of skinny pop after dinner.

I am not going to self-flagellate about my missteps; shit happens. But I am pleased with the 3 days where I did stay on track, stuck to the plan. I found myself not especially hungry-hungry, more addictive mind whispering that it was mid afternoon and time for a snack. Or seeing M’s spread cheese in the refrigerator and wanting to go raid his stash of crackers, which are actually a better, lower carb choice than saltines or snacking crackers. It became easier to simply look at my watch to and calculate how much time had passed since my last meal and get up and freshen my glass of water. This is my new, evolving method to overcome the urge to snack – I get up and walk around, add ice and water to my glass and just drink it down.

Even the imperfect eating days, I understand the circumstances and that this is a new thing for me. Like all things in life, I cannot change the past; I can only view each day as a new opportunity to do better.

I did have a social visit with my scale this morning – down 2.9 lbs. since last I weighed myself 10 days ago. Since I tend to trade the same couple of pounds back and forth, I cannot get excited about this as progress this week. However, I have my reminder sticky back in place to weigh in each morning going forward. Thinking about my A1c results and my daily meter readings, I should not be surprised about the uptick. A big giant part of this fuck moderation eating strategy can be traced directly to that result. If I had not been getting concerned about the up-tick in my meter readings, I probably would still be trying to do a better job monitoring and tracking my food intake. Fluctuations happen; trends are easy to spot with regular data collection. Or so says fab trainer J and equally fab RD.

Which is another tangential thing that has arisen in my electronic communications with friends. My village is staffed with younger folks – even Dr. Spencer is mid-30s at best – and some of my friends are dubious about how much genuine assistance I am receiving from such youth.

Hmmm.

First thought: why on earth would I pay professionals for help if their advice and directives (when followed) fail to produce results? Second thought: why the immediate discount because of their youth?

The first thought was intriguing and complicated, because now being mid-50s (as they are and older) trying to transform my health seems almost a waste of time and resources. Which shocked me, frankly. I mean, when I asked if it would be better to simply sit around and wait to die they kinda/sorta backpedaled. Retirement is looming large in their minds, saving for that is a priority. Their doctors tell them walking 30 minutes 5 days per week is enough. Portion control and balanced diets are adequate for their overall health. I don’t need a trainer to teach me to walk, right? The internet is full of resources and recipes to make healthy, tasty meals. I don’t need a dietician for that. Obesity? I’m not that fat. I surely don’t need an obesity doctor.

Their health issues are not mine, and such basic directions may indeed impact them in very positive ways. I have been there, done that; it didn’t work. What I have now, with my village, is working. Results matter.

But beyond that, let’s do some math. Being a numbers person, some immediate facts and figures came to mind.

Under the high deductible plan I have had for the past year, I have a $3500 deductible every year before insurance even kicks in. When I was taking Insulin, I was taking 2 different types. The cost for a 3 month supply at the was $1058 for 5 vials and $929 for 3 boxes of the fast acting insulin pens. Add to that the oral medications for diabetes, blood pressure (protect the kidneys), syringes, pen needles, test strips, lancets – my total bill for 3 months of medications and supplies was $2387. I know because I called and received exact pricing for drug costs when I started with Kaiser last December. Strange thing about that? I could do better getting most of my supplies on my own without using my Kaiser insurance at Costco or Sam’s club pharmacy.

So, doing the math of using my insurance for prescriptions alone, that’s $9548 for the year of insulin and diabetes care medications and supplies. My deductible is $3500 and my copay is 30% after paying that, so I’m now at $5314.40 annually in prescription medications and supplies to manage my chronic health condition.

Not using that amount of medication more than covers the annual cost of working with trainer J twice a week.

I feel no particular need or compulsion to justify my choices and decisions, yet I do want to understand their perspective, as narrow and illogical as it may seem. These are people with whom I have years and years of money, budgeting, and financial decision-making discussions with through the years. I could understand their fretting about the financial impacts of personal training if I were not putting in the effort to go to the gym and practice what I am learning. I’m in the gym 4 of the 5 days I’m not working with J and quite literally working my ass off. Same is true of RD and Dr. Spencer. I am truly not the princess type, but in this regard I have ben flailing around on my own for so long I absolutely need and require personalized help for forward progress to happen. The argument for return on my investment simply does not compute.

What they do not seem to grasp, and this could be where the big disconnect comes from, I would not be off medication without the level of exercise I pursue. I will not stay off medication if I do not modify and improve upon my eating habits. The trade off in quality of life is not something that can be measured monetarily.

Bottom line for me: we are in different places in our lives. Our outlooks, health, lifestyle choices differ pretty dramatically. On this we simply have to agree to disagree. Choices I make are correct for me, even if they don’t make sense to them and their money-hoarding mindset.

As for the discount because of youth, I think this is a combination of things. The friends I’m thinking of are being slowly downsized and outsourced in their careers and opportunities for jobs and replacement of equivalent income is nearly impossible. It is a very frightening situation. Intellectually, we all know its purely an economic formula; younger, less experienced people are a lot less expensive to hire. Emotionally, it has created an almost crippling sort of fear to find that age discrimination is alive and well and mostly ignored in the workplace. Making less income at what should be the peak of their careers, facing the prospect of an underfunded retirement or being forced out of the job market creates unexpected, unanticipated anxiety and stress in their lives.

I understand that all too well, and I feel for them.

But my village has skills and experience that I lack. Trainer J is a veteran gym guy, with lots of weight lifting experience and education under his belt and acquiring more with every passing week. RD is a registered dietician and spends his days working with people who really do not want to change their eating habits but the consequences of not following his recommendations and advice are dire. Dr. Spencer is an obesity doctor and works with a lot of patients safely modifying their lifestyle through diet, exercise, and medication support.

In their areas of expertise, all of them know far more about diet and exercise than I do, now and probably well into the future at best, probably forever is more likely. Since I am not capable or willing to experiment long enough to objectively evaluate all the sources of information out there, I have had to choose teachers, guides, information gatekeepers. Aside from their education and experience, I truly feel their real talent is their ability to package and present information to me in ways that make sense to me. Maybe a lot of their other clients are enjoying far more success in shorter periods of time, and quite possibly I remain the village idiot in the various training and healthier eating tribes. But so what? Someone is always going to be ahead or behind the average curve. The day I stopped comparing myself to my peers in the groups was the day i began to feel satisfied and allowed myself to be happy to learn what I learn, know what I know now. I try to follow their advice and directions, and I report back when and where I’m having issues. Chasing miracle cures or immediate results is not me, and my expectation of just trying to implement and seeing small, incremental successes has helped enormously. Still imperfect, but I am so much better than I was a year ago. If I learn that from a couple of 27 year olds and a newish physician then great! Yay for the wisdom and education and experience of youth.

Despite my description and reactions to the discussions here, they were not contentious or heated. One friend just received notice that his job is being eliminated at the end of this year, his third such layoff in the last 10 years. While we are the same age he and his wife were married awhile before starting a family and he has 2 children in private school. I sympathize and asked about prospects and at the present time there are none. His situation is sad to me, but our life and lifestyle choices are very different. Another friend is in bracing for round 3 of layoffs in her firm and expects to not miss the cut this time around. After nearly 26 years with the same firm, she’s completely paralyzed with fear about what to do next, how to even go about looking for another job.

Scary times, indeed.

These economic realities are partly why I started my better health quest in the first place. I knew I would be looking for other work at some point, and whether it’s ever acknowledged or not, obesity bias is a thing. Added to the fact that I am an older worker, not classical or mainstream pretty, and find trying to be charming on demand a huge drain on my mental and emotional resources, I was really worried about making a living when I decided to try and get myself into better physical shape. Whether my anxiety was a product of negative girl’s doom-and-gloom outlook or a reality that I just did not quite come face-to-face with, it was a strong impetus for change.

From where I’m standing (at my treadmill desk) right now – happier, healthier, and stronger – it is impossible for me to see a downside to my decision or to the village I have assembled. I know it’s a luxury, but far better than pricey spa treatments many of my friends promote. This afternoon I’m going to the mall to return a blouse my shoulders and upper arms are hulking out of, yet across the bustling and around the waist it fits just fine and is a complete and total 180 on my typical experience. And I’m going out on this mall adventure in another pair of jeans from the smaller size box.

Kind of impossible to argue about the expense and youth of my village when I am enjoying success and tangible results. Along with a chocolate and peanut butter protein shake for lunch.

All is well and the sun is shining in my realm.

Collecting my thoughts

It’s overcast and sprinkling here today, but in my head and my little corner of the world feels sunny and bright. A lot of pinging and ponging in my head today on different topics and this post may be all over the place. But oh well. I’m sure you’re not visiting and reading because I’m such an exceptionally gifted writer and make sense of sense. Half the time I don’t even proofread before hitting publish and then cringe when I read later and see all these glaring typos and sentences that could be written more clearly.

But oh well. Flying my human flag for all to see. *smile*

I am again shaving sleep, staying up way later than I should be and as a result not launching out of bed and making it the gym by my preferred arrival time.

This morning’s List of the day was from Monday’s training session – all about shoulders and abs. Because of my later than preferred arrival time, I was only able to complete 2 sets of each of the 4 quads of exercises rather than the 3 I had hoped to fit into my allotted time.

Today’s particular List – I recall now why I studiously avoided giving it too much of my time and attention. It’s hard! In particular, I am renaming the bird dog exercise to “deranged dog having seizure” based exclusively on my inability to raise left leg, right arm, not try to raise left leg and left arm and then topple over sideways. I figure I will learn to say deranged dog having seizure in sanskrit and it will sound elegant and mysterious, rather than just having a difficult time wrapping my head around the opposite limb movement. So while not as hard as it was when we began working at it, still a challenge to get through what seems to me really ambitious rep ranges. At least, for today. Tomorrow, next I go through this List, it may be fine. Because I will be better rested.

Pulling together those 3 thoughts while running through my practice this morning, I was musing about how vastly improved my mindset and outlook. The consequences of my choices and my actions did not cause me to have an anxious, guild-ridden practice experience, and this is still new enough behavior for me to marvel at it. My attitude toward (1) being “late” arriving for practice, (2) completing minimal sets and fewer reps than prescribed, and (3) how challenging this List continues to be for me – oh well. Seriously, oh well. Today is a single practice morning out of many in my lifetime, and I do not sense some dark and sinister emerging pattern meant to derail my progress. September has been a busy month of distractions. The sky is still firmly anchored overhead behind the cloud cover and there is no need for me to panic that that world as I knew it is ending.

I am also quite sure neither J or anyone else going to express deep disappointment in my less than stellar showing, because I am equally certain neither J or anyone else even noticed I was in the gym much less what I might be doing in my own little corner. My own harsh and negative interpretations of my choices and behaviors have altered with the locking away of negative girl, and I am doing a pretty good job of rocking this laissez faire attitude about exercise. At least, this week anyway; I could be back to overthinking it and getting antsy about missing practices once I am fully back on track with normal routines.

And finally, I realize the elasticity of my competence with exercise has expanded throughout this last year. While I have an overall broader range of movement and capabilities and the hows and whys of a lot of different things, not every day is a perfect practice day where everything feels spot-on and I am firing on all cylinders. I am still trying out and learning how this whole “let it be” way of thinking and feeling works for me. Some days are glitter-bombing amazing and others are fabulous just because I choose to have a great day. Or not.

Which brings me to work. Ahhh … work.

Probably 98.5% of the time I love my job. I have developed profound respect and admiration for my bosses and how they have crafted and choose to manage their firm. Being human as well, they are imperfect as well, with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. They are good communicators, with each other as well as their employees. Of the things I like about being part of this firm, of critical importance to me is the sense that I am heard and my experience and expertise is valued. I certainly do not win every single battle nor do I get everything I want from each discussion I’m involved in, but I never feel as if my input is pointless and the decisions already made before I even have an opportunity to make my pitch. I also play by the rules and respect chain of command. The way the administrative responsibilities are divided, it is possible to get a different answer to the same request depending upon how and to whom the request is made. Since I dislike conflict of that nature, my rule it to go to the boss of primary responsibility unless he’s completely unavailable for an approval.

While I am not naive enough to believe others have some sense of propriety when pursuing firm-related goals and objectives or personal agendas, it was still a bit of a shock to return from vacation to find that this multi-point memo was in the boss’ hands and a discussion item for us as a management group. After a quick read of it on Monday, I was equally infuriated with the young upstarts and with my bosses for being nice guys and indulging the young upstarts. I would have been less infuriated with the bosses if they had not had a hash-out session over offices and office spaces when we began the office relocation planning and budgeting. It was a given that I would be upset with the upstart segment of the firm because I had spent plenty of time explaining to the office relocation and individual space requirements as they required. Some of the questions asked were/are none of their business, and as I pointed out before all this came about, unless they were principals assuming some of the burden of financial risk, it really was none of their business.

So Monday when I found out about all this stuff coming up as an issue and it being presented as me not providing reasonable explanations, I was understandably upset and unhappy. My bosses twisted themselves into pretzels assuring me they did not believe that I was not communicating with the staff, yet at the same time there was a statement that “perhaps I was not being clear.”

Red. Fire, breathing RED kind of angry. Yet so coldly angry I had to excuse myself for a moment to collect my thoughts and become able to speak to them in actual words rather than silent, withering glares.

And this is why I do like working here. We can meet behind closed doors and I can have the equivalent of an ice-storm angry vent and they do not see me as less professional or worse, being overly sensitive and emotional. It helps that I could remind them of their intense negotiations over budget and office assignments, furnishings, and equiment decisions. It helps that I could tell remind them of our meetings every week about the status of the build and plethora of details I am coping with to pull the move together. It helps that I had warned them that disclosing the plans to the staff prematurely was going to have this kind of impact on them and on me and I was overruled in favor of satisfying curiosity and letting people know how we were progressing.

It really helped that I was so personally and professionally aghast at their assumptions based on statement from the staff and assurances provided to mollify a small section of the staff in my absence. I could not have hidden my reaction to the list and their actions in my absence even if I were inclined to do so

I am nothing if not honest and genuine in my dealing and interactions, both professionally and personally. If Monday was bad, Tuesday was even worse. But just like in marriage, we (bosses and I) talked about it, hashed it out, aired our grievances, and finally resolved our issues. Apologies were proffered and accepted, although I did warn them that while it may take me a little while to warm back up to the rabble-rousing segment, I would treat them with professional courtesy and respect in the interim. That said, meeting with the staff was ugly, and they all know just how angry I am at their childish behaviors. They were also all reminded that I am not their mom, not their administrative lackey, and not even their peer. In my capacity at the firm, I am their superior; my place on the org chart is well above theirs and they need to treat my position as well as me personally with the same level of respect and courtesy I extended to them. The separations yesterday sent a very clear statement that our firm while relaxed and fairly open in it communications, not all information is open to all for review and comment. Most importantly, while staff input is welcome and encouraged, this is not a democracy where majority rules and everyone gets a vote on every matter under discussion. For that matter, not every matter will even be elevated for discussion.

Suffice to say, it has been a bit of a rocky return from wedding and vacation adventures. I am someone who hates drama, in or outside the workplace. I will also say that dealing with the latest crop of new hires has been a bit of an eye-opener. Every generation is different, but these millennials … their parents need to be criminally prosecuted for poor child rearing.

Today, though, things are pretty much back to normal. Everyone is pleasant and seems happy, the whiners in the peanut gallery looked suitably chastised yet are trying to retain a game face around me that hopefully means they are putting their heads down and working on their billable projects rather than continuing as activists for their personal agendas and trying to change the firm to suit their own visions of becoming passionate about their work.

You’re lawyers. You’re new lawyers. And the firm you are employed by is not trying to save the world or impact the social justice scales.

My prior second choice receptionist is coming in at noon to revisit the job. He (yep, it’s a male) was very excited when I called and asked if he might still be interested, and while I imagine he will have to give 2 weeks notice at his present job, he did say he would be willing to work here on his weekday days off during the transition. So that’s a plus. We shall see how it works out.

This morning another member asked me how long I had been working with a trainer before feeling like I was ready to go it alone. I was honest and said I still work with J twice a week and have for over a year. For a very quick nanosecond I wondered if that was a bad thing – maybe I am the village idiot? But the nanosecond passed, and I realize that training is what it is – a luxury, an indulgence, a shortcut so I do not have to try and figure things out on my own. And anymore, I have made my peace with it and will continue until it gets to some point where transitioning away seems like a next logical step.

Not an outcome I can imagine right now, but 6 months ago I could not foresee doing a lot of what I can comfortably do now either.

For today, my gratitude in the midst of an intense and stress-filled week is toward trainer J teaching me to exercise safely and sanely. Otherwise I would be in a terrible mood all the time or worse, allowing my emotions to impact my exercise and tossing weights about (assuming I ever used them) about willy-nilly and probably repeatedly injuring myself in the process.

Or even worse – I would be a cardio queen breathing fire and having active bitch face so frequently it would evolve into permanent resting bitch face while going nowhere on a treadmill for hours on end.

Yep, even with deranged dog having a seizure issues today, my regular exercise program improves heart and mind as much as it impacts the various muscle groups. Gym time is a protected block on my calendar, no matter what, for very good reasons. Anyone in the world who has to deal with me regularly should be sending monetary tributes directly to trainer J’s account.

The thought makes me smile. And the feeling that wrongs are being righted in my little universe – priceless.

 

The recovery road

I woke up this morning and about had a panic attack. My phone said 4:45, and I in my half-tablet valium drugged sleep I had either turned off my 4:30 alarm or simply forgot to set it and I have a 6:15 appointment with J and was now off to a late start. Shooting out of bed, my thoughts racing, my head full of recrimination and worry that I would not get through my warm-up before our session start time and all that meant to me, I was fully dressed, testing my blood sugar when I looked at my meter and realized …

It’s only Sunday.

Checking my phone, my alarms are set and are fine. Sunday it does not go off until 6, and even then there’s no big rush because there are no classes on Sundays in the area where I typically use.

I am an idiot. But apparently an idiot whose head and emotions are on the road to recovery, because my hyper-responsible self is kicking in and taking over, even if she apparently is unaware of how to read or utilize a calendar.

Last night, a police officer called to notify me the bad men who had threatened and tried to hurt me had been arrested on another, similar crime, which chilled me to the bone. They are presently tucked away in jail. I do not have the details of their new crime, what that means to me, or why it made me feel scared all over again, but it did. Hence the valium to calm my thoughts enough to sleep. Today, after my false alarm panic about being late for my training appointment, I am still scared yet less so. My anxiety about the unknown, what happens next, what my role will have to be, is familiar to me and understandable. I can mostly cope with that.

I will be heading to the gym soon. Sadly, I have barely touched the Lists from last Thursday. I improve when I practice, but my head is such a mess that I do not want to have to work at trying to master the new exercises or refine my technique at the older ones. I am returning to recent Lists that offer feelings of competency and that make me feel better and stronger. My head is such a mess and become this excuse manufacturing plant as to why I should cancel sessions next week. Slippery slope, that. Cancel once because of anxiety it becomes all too easy to stop going completely.

Crazy brain is waging a hard battle for complete control.

Truth is I feel so weakened and I cannot even rationally explain why. The scene replays in my head and leaves me feeling … guilty. And ashamed. Like I should have handled it better. M reminds me that anything like that where I am physically unharmed is absolute proof that I handled the situation correctly. The battle between the rational and the irrational is normal for me, and the voices whisper that I should not have put myself in such a position in the first place and deserved the threat of if not the actual act of bad things befalling me.

I hate those voices. I have long wondered if there is some surgical way to physically remove that slice of my brain that broadcasts along with its volume control. Or maybe just install a permanent mute button.

Time passes so slowly when trying to repack emotional baggage. Or so it seems. It is accurate to say that I am not having fun in dealing with this situation and its aftereffects. And I am also not helping myself by obsessively reading everything that I can lay hands on regarding crime victims, fear, anxiety, and coping; it just makes me even more anxious, fearful, and wondering why I ever need to leave the safety of home again.

But I do leave the house alone and go about living my life, even if I sometimes have to grit my teeth and force myself to do it. While I have yet to yield to the temptation, knowing Baskin Robbins does not deliver forces me to evaluate the consequences of becoming a hermit. Plus I feel better about me resisting the allure of that particular temptation.

Progress.

Training #2 – Failing and more

My thoughts today are like a great big ball of yarn that the cats have been playing with – lots and lots of substance (relatively speaking) all tangled together. That’s just fair warning that this post might be more jumpled and scrambled than usual.

I had previously decided to report on my training sessions with J for my own future reference as much as sharing with all of you. It’s good for me to write it out, because it helps me remember what I should be doing and also highlights my forward progress. Plus there are moments when I still cannot believe I actually snagged such a superstar trainer who can tolerate me and my neurotic brand of crazy twice weekly for extended periods. Writing it down somehow makes it all make sense. It will be informal and without any particular structure, and I seriously doubt you will ever read that I am working toward some particular weight, rep, or set goal. This truly is about the journey, because there is no set destination on our training itinerary.

J prepared a new rendition of prior exercises:

A1. 1.5 pulse goblet squat
A2. Incline DB bench press
A3. DB triceps extensions
B1. DB Romanian deadlift
B2. DB lateral raise
B3. 1-arm DB hammer curl
C1. Goblet lateral lunge
C2. Band straight arm pulldown
C3. Band rear fly

Like Monday, I am hesitant to use the word “fun” in relation to these sessions, but it was highly satisfying to get through 3 sets in our time together. Some of it sucked – those 1.5 goblet squats are not even close to a favorite or joyous activity – yet I now absolutely know with time and practice I will be feeling a lot less angst and dread when I see those bad boys on this List or any others J may create in the future.

I am making progress. I get that and J’s feedback confirms it for me, and he is not big on gratuitous praise and flatteries just to say something that will make me want to return next week. Those pesky shoulders still want to wander and round and shrug at the wrong times, but I can console myself that it could be far worse. Of course, I am still thinking about what my heels and feet are doing in squats, am I standing tall enough on everything for which standing tall is appropriate, and many other cues for every single exercise. But those cues come far less than anything and everything shoulder related.

J was telling me that other clients have remarked that he is sparing in his compliments, and in truth I have not noticed it much at all. Our interactions are universally constructive, instructive, encouraging, and supportive without being flowery or effusive with praise … if that makes sense. I always go away from them feeling tired yet strangely energized with my brain engaged and tumbling through thoughts and reviews of what we did and new ideas and good stuff from all I learned that day and the general chit-chat interaction we share. I count the fewer number of corrections and cues or search for new ways to cue and correct as an indicators of my improvement and becoming more skilled with learning what he is teaching. When J does compliment me, I take it to heart and tuck it away to be savored and pulled out as a reminder of how far I have come when I am not doing so well or am on the verge of one of my frustration meltdowns. But I also find accepting compliments and praise gracefully very difficult, so I am not typically reactive when compliments come my way. Otherwise I would probably cry, and that would be bad. Trust me, I know from experience how embarrassing it is when I start tearing up because someone says something nice to me.

This week’s routines are a great start to 2016. I now have 2 Lists that I can work at with lots of room for expansion and improvement. I see the opportunity to be more challenged by simply adding additional sets and find it brilliant. Probably everyone else already knows this – add more sets, do more, it’s more challenging – but it had never occurred to me before that I could or should or would someday go beyond the standard 3 set recommendations thus far.

In my defense it feels as if I am so breathless and so tired and so done after 3 sets the idea of going further has been laughable. Now I see the idea as the next plateau in an ongoing, steady climb. Progress, right?

My judgmental HR monitor has also been squawking about these routines, in that I am dwelling in zone 3 (maximum) enough for it to tell me “fitness and maximum training are improving” versus the usual “fat burning and fitness are improving” messages. On my slacking days (aka rest or do less days) it tells me “fat burning is improving.” It’s judgmental, but most the messages are positive in nature.

I rarely look at it – M probably looks at it more than I do – but I do know I have been regularly hitting the magnesium for muscle spasms since the first of the year and that’s a good thing. When I first started with J it was like that on training days. When I got serious and began the daily exercise it became a daily dose of magnesium for awhile while my body adapted to the new amount of effort I was expending. Time passed and I needed it less and less regularly and I went to sleep on taking it. Until this week and the new routines and I am back taking it before bed or waking up in the middle of the night with weird and painful muscle cramps. And I love, Love, LOVE my sleep. I know I am unlikely to quit the daily exercise due to disrupted rest, so I have to make the adjustment and remember the magnesium before bed.

All good things. However, what intrigued me about today was my sense of failure that came with some of the exercises. And I mean that in the nicest, most positive manner possible.

My preference to this point has been to never try to use heavier dumbbells except when I am working with J. I know there have been times when I know I should advance to the next weight up or at least try it out, but I do not do it. Perhaps it is because working with weights is still so new to me, embryonic in its development as an idea and an exercise practice for me. Or maybe it’s because I am at my core a raging neurotic nutball who cannot handle faltering when trying something new. Either way, going from a 20 lb. to a 25 lb. dumbbell is not an adventure I would ever undertake on my own.

I always fallback on the idea of hurting myself or others in the process, and it is a valid concern. However, behind that very flippant excuse is the real reason – I fear failure. I have some sort of pathological anxiety about not making J’s suggested minimums, even though he has repeatedly assured me they are just that, suggestions based on our sessions and his observations of my abilities.

As I have noted previously, I want to change the tune playing inside my head. I want to try to rework the messages I hear the make me dwell on my shortcomings rather than celebrating my successes. I have no idea how to make that happen right now, except to consciously notice when my reflexive thinking starts about what I did not do instead of focusing on what I did do.

How does that relate to today, you’re wondering?

There were a couple of exercises where we stepped up the weight for a couple of sets, and by the second or third set with the weightier DB I could barely make 5; my arms just basically faltered and said no more. Surprisingly, it was okay for me. J was standing right there watching me do it, and I walked away feeling glad to have tried and knowing that in time I will get stronger. Nothing hurt; my muscles just reached that fatigue point everyone talks about as if it common knowledge.

Not so common for me. My experience with it is very limited thus far. But I’m learning. (Broken record post on learning and making progress.)

Thinking about this driving home, I recognize that had that happened while I was practicing on my own, I would have immediately begun the systematic process of beating myself up for failing to meet expectations. I am learning, oh-so-slowly, to manage my expectations and that muscle fatigue is normal and not a result of lack of trying on my part.

It seems odd that it has been so hard for me to tell the difference. I have never wanted to say to J “I can’t do [insert whatever thing is vexing me this week]” and have found it somewhat disturbing on the occasions where it has leaked out of me. I am trying very hard to reframe that to “I cannot do [insert object of vexation] right now.” This morning we were talking about complicated exercises friends are doing and he demonstrated a couple for me. While my brain is screaming “NO WAY I CAN EVER DO THAT!!” what actually came out of my mouth was “I have learned to never say never about anything with you, but I think it might be awhile before I could master something so complicated.”

J possibly did not notice the phrasing and that’s okay, probably better (but I suspect he has a third ear that hears things I say even when I believe his attention is elsewhere). But I was super proud of myself – really, for me it is the littlest things. Improving my mental game is as important to me with regards to training and exercise as mastering the damn TRX pushup (still on my list of things I would really like to conquer). I also have lots more to share about my mental conditioning training but will save it for another post because it wanders well beyond the confines of the gym and training with J.

As I was checking out this morning I mentioned my ongoing love affair with the mini bands he introduced me to several months ago. It is a simple routine, the equivalent of training wheels in my efforts, yet it is very effective in firing up the lower body. But thinking about this exchange further, the training wheels on exercise have been easing their way off all on their own since about Thanksgiving. As 2015 was winding down I could see and feel (even if I refused to openly acknowledge it) that I was getting better, more predictable about my practices and could get through my Lists without blowing up J’s phone with queries or meltdowns. I had actually learned most exercises well enough to practice and correct myself on my own; there were fewer and fewer trouble spots (which does not equal mastery of the exercise, only understanding of how each is supposed to be performed), and I could foresee no tantrums problems while J was away.

So here we are with these new routines and a different cadence and speed to it. I like it thus far, because it feels familiar at a peppier pace. Kind of like beat the clock, only I am not actually looking at the clock much of the time. I am still thinking form, form, form! I am still thinking pre-tighten this/that/the other thing. I am still trying to remember to stand taller and tighten abs/glutes/both. Shoulders back … goes without saying and is a constant correction and adjustment.

I am improving. I am getting better at this exercise thing. And I am stronger. If I own my failures I should be fair and balanced in owning my successes as well. I’m learning and adjusting as we move along.

Next up is food, which I am still struggling with. But that’s another post, too. No particular progress this week, but no huge setbacks either … more status quo than progress. I feel like that’s okay; probably another week of menu floundering will not be my complete undoing.

Happy Thursday everyone!

As 2015 ends …

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we have awesome plans … to have no particular plans. As is typical for us, we are staying in, possibly going to bed before midnight, and looking forward to a nice 3-day weekend.

Hopefully without a blood sugar low. Man I HATE when that happens under normal circumstances, but when it happens during the day on an empty stomach … disaster strikes.

Today has been all about the cars. We had M’s CRV in the shop for annual maintenance and I spent almost 2 hours at the smog shop getting the truck checked. Of course, because I have been disorganized about my personal stuff lately, registration payment was due today, so I had to get the smog done and then check and such off in the mail.

The smog shop wait about crashed my blood sugar, but the drive home was what truly sent me over the edge into the low lands, specifically a 52 (low is about 60). Obviously I am still sort of disorganized in my personal life in general, in that a protein shake before working out with J (aka about 7 this morning) was inadequate to keep me going strong until well after lunch (aka 2). However, I had no idea it would take me so long to get the truck done.

Once I get to that point with low sugar and raging hunger, it is like there is no food in the house that is safe from being raided. The can of juice was adequate to get sugar back into normal range, but hunger then takes on life of its own. And unfortunately we have not been a clean as I might like about ridding our pantry of all the troubling carbohydrate snack foods.Granola bar, snack bag of almonds, can of soup and lots of saltine crackers, plus an orange later … well, suffice to say I feel completely overstuffed and gross. I know it could be so much worse; we could still have chocolate lurking. But still, this was not the lunch I had planned to celebrate the last day of 2015.

Speaking of trainer J, he is back from his vacation and I am so happy! I wish I could be altruistic and say that it is because he seems so rested and relaxed after 8 days away from the gym, but my reasons are mostly selfish. I am happy to be back in Thursday normal training mode, overjoyed that holiday playtime of unrestrained eating and drinking is now concluding (for real this time), and really relieved that I can now have a meltdown over something supremely ridiculous and help is available. J is always terrific about being available via text or even telephone (the super awful emergency situations that have not happened ever) if I have issues, but I was determined to not have issues while he was away. And I didn’t. I stuck with my routines and did not veer too far outside of the weights I have been using. It was only 8 days; my world is not going to end if I stick with 20 lbs. versus the 25 lbs.

is just nice to be back to normal Thursday appointments. Today was different in that we focused exclusively on lower body stuff. About 50 minutes and overcooked spaghetti for legs, I was so done. But new exercises and OCD review on the old favorite goblet squat … all of which is probably on the menu on Monday. Which is fine with me. My plans for starting the new year include continuing with my existing rotation of Lists with additional focus on the goblet squats and TRX pushups.

I especially love introduction of new stuff days. Usually I hate them while we are doing them, because I feel like lots of bad terms I am going to try to break my habit of using about myself. However, after a couple of hours of thinking about our session and reviewing it in my head, I start to imagine the possibilities, several of which include NOT having a meltdown while practicing on my own. Probably the reason I am so engaged in this training partnership is that it has a rhythm and rhyme that resonates with me. We have new stuff day, then review day, then maybe we switchback and do something else, or come back and J adds enhancements or reorders the routines.

So while my 20 weeks of training reports may have concluded, I am sure there will be write-ups from Mondays and Thursdays. Now whether they are on Tuesdays and Fridays or the actual Mondays and Thursdays remains to be seen. I’m sure I’ll find the pattern once 2016 gets started.

I am also, finally, ready to get serious about overwhelming myself overhauling my overall nutrition and diet. The dietician is next week as well, but J has very generously and very sincerely to meet with me on this topic and I will be buying him a cup of coffee and picking his brain over it.

In the last several months I have gone from sedentary to training with J to training with J AND going to the gym nearly every day to pursue practice of what he is working so diligently to teach me. If I put forth the same sort of focus and concentration on diet and nutrition, I will be successful with this if I do the work necessary.

Being healthier surely feels better than anything tastes in the moment I am eating it.

But for tonight, I’m eating celery dipped in ranch dressing and sunflower seeds. Well, there’s also some lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes and chicken in the mix, but really, for me it’s all about the ranch dressing and sunflower seeds. And while I would really love a fully sugared Mexican coke with it, I am drinking unsweetened decaf iced tea. M is eating some weird combination that includes beef brisket, eggs, and something salsa-like, all while swigging hot green tea, because he’s freezing to death in our well-heated home.

Boy, we sure know how to ring in a new year.

Be safe out there everyone, and a very Happy New Year to all of us.

 

Monday training – our last for 2015

Trainer J says I am a client from his mental trophy room for his training efforts. Hugely flattering this final Monday training session for the year, and only a little surprisingly, I do truly believe his sincerity in the comment. Maybe I am also strengthening and improving my “accepting compliments” muscle.

Today was all about OCD technical review of the dumbbell routine. Since J is leaving for a well-deserved break on Wednesday, he was as reluctant to introduce new things as I was to start anything new. So review day happened. J will only be away for 8 days and we will be back at it on New Year’s eve. Bad habits cannot become too entrenched in only 8 7 days (gym is closed Christmas day) where I am off the text leash in the gym by myself. He assures me it’s fine to text, and I know he means it, I am still going to try very hard to avoid it while he is vacationing.

I have written thousands of words about how much has changed and I have learned from J in the last several months. What I noticed today is that the corrections were minimal – nearly unheard of when we do this type of review – and I was actually able to converse with him like a normal person while performing the various movements. We talked a little about my friend James without the added benefit of me bursting into tears, about Christmas and other day-to-day normal chatting. For the woman who used to have to consciously run all the cues in her head and try to count at the same time rendering coherent speech nearly impossible, this was a big step forward.

While J is on vacation, I have ambitious plans to work all 5 of my present routines in rotating pairs every day except Christmas. I am ridiculously excited by the prospect. It’s not that I do not do that routinely during the rest of the year, but I am close to being a whole lot better with a lot of little things that remain troubling or foreign. When there is new stuff introduced I find myself fixated on it figuring it out, determining what is working and what is giving me trouble, what I am simply not getting. Under those circumstances existing Lists get relegated to when I have time available. The sheets in my possession right now are all familiar enough for me to have a few favorite and several less favorite things.

Plus I will experiment with bumped up weights on a couple of exercises. Left to my own devices I might never do so, but once that seed is planted I will at least try to see how it works out. Then there are those less pleasant exercises that I’d probably never do if they were not on a List somewhere, so I will be putting forth extra effort to convert myself into fan-girl status.

And finally there was a mix-up in Christmas card and gift for J. I had gifts leaving the house for various people lined up on the kitchen table but at the last minute had segregated my hair stylist package because I learned she is allergic to chocolate and I needed to make an adjustment. (I am undecided – is that good, because all those calories she cannot consume, or really bad – all that yummy goodness she is having for forego?) For whatever reason M picked her gift up sometime in the night and left it next to my gym bag. This morning I grabbed it and ran out of the house with it, only noticing that the wrong card was with it before presenting it to J, then giving him the wrong package anyway while planning to return with his card. Then on the way home I realized it was not just the wrong card it was also the wrong package. (While always gracious, I am not sure how much J would have truly appreciated a Sephora gift card with his buzzed off hair.) Thankfully I was able to race home and get the correct card and package and swap them out while J was working with his appointment after me.

I will be so happy with the holiday madness passes with all the irresistible yumminess everywhere I turn. My clothes still fit, my numbers remain stable if trending toward the higher end of the normal range. I frequently think I should double up my gym time to burn off all the extra crap I’m eating. But I have not; sleep is far too important to me.