Closing doors, opening windows, emptying spaces

Last night I received a nice email from a former friend. It was an apology for things that have disrupted and eventually ended our long friendship. I read it last night, again this morning, and am now organizing my thoughts here before composing my reply.

I had the pleasure and privilege of lunching with trainer J and new tribe friend C yesterday. While J and I have had many, many free-roaming and far-reaching conversations over the months of working together, this was my first real opportunity to have an extended conversation and get to know C. I am not kidding when I say her charm, kindness, and wisdom have turned me into a huge fan-girl. Funny that a 3-hour lunch with people of such a varied age range – J is 28, I am 55, and C is 67 – could be so lively and entertaining.

One of the things C stressed as topics arose throughout our lunch, life is all about our choices and the ripple effect of the consequences. I wholeheartedly agree, even as I am not always so assured or as confident in my own, particularly when it comes to relationships.

This old friend made her own choices about our long 50+ year friendship and through the years has said many hurtful, stupid things. To be fair, I am quite certain we both have, because we are both very human. Looking back on the final series of events in my mind, I recognize that the choice to cease all communication and to terminate our friendship was more mine than hers and was my defense from what I viewed as relentless and ridiculous personal attacks.

I have zero regrets about that decision. At the time, it was among the hardest things I have done in recent years, yet it was important for my own emotional health and growth.

Now she has apologized for her words and her behaviors, and I believe the apology to be genuine and her regret for the cruel words and harsh judgments between us is real. She expressed the desire to close this chapter, reconnect and renew our long friendship. I now that is what I find myself mulling over today.

Forgive her? Of course; it would have been far more harmful to me to withhold that or to remain hurt and angry. Throughout the time since our friendship ended we have crossed paths at least half dozen times. While it was awkward at best to outright frosty hostile the rest of the time, I do not think or speak poorly of her. We had a falling out, but I wish her every happiness and success. The shortcomings in each of our personalities are well known to all who know both of us, and I have bent over backwards in my pleas that mutual friends not take sides in this dispute. There are so many things about her that overcome the qualities of her personality that I dislike and I seek to enhance the positives I found within her. For my own peace of mind, it is always better to focus and remember that she was my friend for most of my life and through some of the best and worst of events any person should have to endure.

That said, I am not sure our shared values are now enough to overcome the empty spaces that continue to exist. Many of my closest friends will refer to me as a Pollyanna or my generation’s rendition of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. I take no offense at such characterizations; I really want to be someone who sees the good in people and merely be aware of the extent of the less desirable aspects. I have had enough issues overcoming my own negative girl; I did not then and certainly do not now need the embodiment of her message in someone in the friendship realm of my life.

With the conversation with C and trainer J ringing in my ears and both their thoughts on choices, I recognize that the woman I am today is an enhanced model of the one who struggled mightily to let go of a harmful friendship. I am not immune to the weight of the years, shared memories and experiences. I will never cease begin grateful for her support and encouragement during some really impossibly painful periods in my life, nor will I ever stop caring for and about her and her welfare. In the fair and balanced backward view, I have to acknowledge that her methods and her thinking, her overall negative outward voice are in contrast with the person I am and what I truly value in those in my realm. As my confidence and my own sense of self have evolved, I recognize that I do have choices in who I invite to be part of my life and how we spend our time. I am not so dreadful that I have no choices in the matter, that I should be grateful for anyone who is capable of tolerating being around me.

I cringe inwardly realizing how much of my adult life has been spent feeling inadequate and inferior to others in my personal life. Sometimes even in my choice of employment, I have undervalued myself and my contributions and sought acceptance and validation from peers and superiors, a few of whom had questionable values or quality of character.

After thinking about this off and on throughout this day, I recognize that my old friend and I will always be connected, that I value our shared history. However, as adults, at the places we are in our lives now, trying to rekindle the closeness we once enjoyed is not a task I want to pursue. Trust once broken is hard to rebuild, and while there is no specific instance that could be labeled betrayal, sometimes the harshness of our judgments and that ways we hurt those we profess to care so deeply alienates affection to an irreparable state. When our paths cross, I will be courteous and genuine in my interest in her life and times. But I have little desire to pursue anything that involves direct sharing of my successes and disappointments or leaving myself vulnerable to the impact of her thoughts and judgments. Where once I was completely transparent and unguarded in sharing my thoughts and feelings, I have finally matured a bit and learned to be more guarded with sharing my personal treasures with those who have wounded me with carelessness or casual cruelty.

In the perfect world people are not careless or cruel to others, yet I know I myself have been guilty of both on occasion. I have been stricken with regret when I realized my error, and I deserved the consequences of those actions. But I learned, and I try very hard to not let my temper or impatience or insecurity overwhelm my values and code of good personhood. Being human, though, means the only thing I am perfect at is my own imperfect actions.

But as I remind myself, life is long and there are many more opportunities to make good and better choices.

For today, I will acknowledge the apology and graciously accept it. As for the rest, I have no idea what may happen between us and what the future may hold. I will retain an open mind on the topic, yet with a very guarded heart.

Rocks, cars, year-end brain dump

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I actually feel on the verge of feeling crappy. I know that sounds sort of vague and mysterious, but I have felt “off” since last night with a stomach ache that is not going away yet not getting worse. Bad food was my first choice, because M and I ate a quick fast-food-like dinner last night (Noodles and Company) while out doing a zoom-zoom-zoom through landscape places. Landscape designer (and M’s best friend) REALLY wants us to consider at least a tree in the front yard, despite M telling him repeatedly that he’s doubtful I will go for such an idea (yep, still resisting it). However, when M brought it up, I did thaw ever so slightly on the idea and suggested maybe the lace leaf maple M is so fond of? Except (1) it will likely die because of our black thumbs and general negligence, and (2) lace leaf maples would not occur naturally in the simulated granite forest we are created. My good natured “So? Who the f–k cares? This is our rendition completely not based in reality,” was agreeable to M, but he/we are sensitive to our friend’s talent and business. We don’t want to be THAT friend and client.

So we went to the landscape superstore to examine tree possibilities. Hated all of them. No way do I want something in my yard that has to be groomed to look like cake pops or columnar swirls – as if either of those things occurred naturally in the wild. In the end I caved and agreed on some pretty ground cover that occurs naturally in our mountains and will not spread and overtake the entire front space, grow too tall and need to be trimmed every 3 weeks, and not require sprinklers or drip system to keep alive. We shall see what landscape bestie says on Monday.

Anyway, something is not agreeable with my virtually cast-iron stomach. Mildly nauseated, low energy, sort of yuck. But I thought the gym might make me feel better, and for the most part it did. I say it that way because for as empty as it was, every single machine was occupied and no fluffy cuffies were deployed. Frustrating, and I was not in the mood to negotiate or wait them out. So abandoned the rest of my lower body List and finished up with my dumbbell matrix. Now just feeling general malaise and like I’m trying to become ill. Yuck. So not the way I want to end 2016 or start 2017.

Yesterday, the rocks in my head became the rocks in my yard.

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12/30/2016 – We have rocks! Granite boulders delivered and placed.

Yep the granite boulders were delivered. Took them 2 hours to place them just-so, as the rock place owner is an artist and has an artist’s temperament with rock placement. Still, the yard is truly starting to take shape.

 

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12/30/2016 – Retaining wall. One more row of stones and capstone to add.

Monday the rest of the retaining wall stones will be delivered, and M and I are going to a couple of landscape places to check out their decomposed granite and such today. I know, I know – such an enthralling life I am leading today. Honestly, I don’t much care if the decomposed granite is light gray or reddish gray, but M wants what he wants (lightest gray possible) and would like to know in advance so as to adjust his expectations.

I will mostly be happy when the dirt is no longer being tracked everywhere the way it is right this minute.

But after 2 years of waiting, our front yard will finally look like we have done something to make it attractive. I am delighted with the way things are progressing, and even if I do relent and we get the tree, I will insist upon nice decorative rock at its base. Our expensive tastes already have it selected for this application if it comes to that, because it will be a small enough area to justify the cost.

I was putting fuel into my car this morning and contemplating the filthbomb it inside right now when a brand new version pulled up on the other side of the pump. I drive a 2013 Rav4, and after 3+ years it has just over 30K on the odometer. This is essentially less than 10K mile per year, and M and I have tentatively agreed that we keep it at least another 3 or 4 years before deciding whether or not to upgrade or get something else.

Temptation is everywhere, though, and while admiring it’s 2017 twin, I was idly thinking maybe we should advance our timetable, upgrade sooner. This is the terrible accountant in me coming to the surface, because my car is practically brand new, extremely reliable, and the present level of filth bomb interior will be restored to its usual clean and tidy state with a vacuum (yard dirt is everywhere even though Rav lives in the garage) and a dust rag. M’s car is approaching 200K on the odometer and is our primary go vehicle, so our dollars are better spent ensuring it continues to enjoy its present level of robust good order. I don’t know what it is about a brand new car; perhaps I am influenced by the new car smell? A good interior scrub, having M hand wash and detail the exterior and I’ll be over the moon again abut my car. But for a few moments I was dreaming of bright and shiny objects I do not really want. I am far more comforted by the replacement car cash building and driving our paid-for vehicles.

And in all fairness, I’m not 100% sure I want another SUV when the time comes. M will always have an AWD/4WD SUV because of his hobbies and places he goes. Me, my next car could be a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Or a Rav with a bigger, more powerful engine. Things may change with environmental regulations under the Trump administration, so probably best to wait and see what happens with cars on our present planned trajectory.

M and I have been discussing our plans and projects for 2017, and this may be the year when we do not have a big home improvement. The deck last spring and the front landscaping now pretty much leave us wanting to let things settle a bit before we decide on what to do next. This year was so busy, hectic, crazy with both kids getting married and then C moving to Florida, so we may need to revisit our plans and priorities for the new year. Definitely we will want to go to Florida to visit C and A, but when is in question right now. Summer does not appeal to me in the slightest, G and K would also like to go, but they have a destination wedding in Mexico in March, so it does seem more prudent to let some time pas and savings build for them to join us. I like the idea of October, but M kind of wants to go to Portland and visit our friends up north and support them in an ultra race. He may also go to Colorado to support his bestie at Leadville, and while he would love for me to go as well, I’m not that excited about the idea. The primary reason I like the Portland event is that a lot of our runner friends up in that group have non-running spouses that I genuinely enjoy hanging with. We shall see.

Work continues to be an evolving adventure. While a bunch of my tiny self-employment clients have found other accountants to help them, I did pick up 2 new regular clients that I could not turn away. When one of my existing long-term private clients refers someone to me I always say yes, no matter what. I doubt I will regret these addition, although I feel mildly intimidated by the volume of catch-up that must be done and the challenges of working and educating them to avoid such mishaps into the future.

Sometimes it seems the biggest disconnect that M and I suffer is the fact that he is essentially retired and I feel as if I am only just now cresting my peak working years. While I have zero resentment about being the breadwinner in our relationship, he feels some hesitation to pursue his hobbies and interests when larger cash outlaws are involved. I’m grateful for our baseline communication, where we can talk about things honestly and openly and figure out whether or not we can make things happen. That he might travel without me is of no consequence; if I really wanted to go I would make it happen. Fact is I truly love the work I do and it satisfying the little slave-driver within that keeps pushing to do more, more more, as well as the organizer who wants to find balance and manage the time I have available.

My hope for the new year that the quest for balance continues to evolve into a life that satisfies my needs as well as fulfills more of my wants. In 2016 I came face to face with the idea that success in personal development is not just a fluke or something that happens to the gifted and the blessed. Persistence, hard work, discipline have their place, and surprisingly, I am capable to stepping up when it matters. Perhaps I always have been capable, yet not quite ready to embrace and accept that it happens even when not gifted or blessed with any special talents.

The desire to learn and challenge myself in new ways sparks joy in unique and exciting ways, and pursuing the various tendrils of new and evolving interests is invigorating. Either commingling that with my jobs or finding time to prioritize my pursuit is part of what makes my life interesting. I am, at heart, a very simple soul.

I do love the beginning of a new year. If I view every month as a chapter in my personal book, I see a year as a volume in my book of life. I am always excited about new beginnings, fresh starts, resets. For me, 2016 was an absolutely amazing and wonderful year. The plan is to continue to build on that, and with the zeal of the born again, I plan to make it happen.

Happy new year, everyone! Please be safe tonight.

 

The view from the gym floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

While trainer J is away …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training #97 – Walk this way

Thursday morning, training with J, and the doomsday vacation countdown clock continues. One more session before J leaves on his vacation, and then one more after he returns and before the end of the year. For someone who does not watch a lot numbers in  fitness-related things, I am acutely aware of how many sessions until off the training session leash for a week. Not that anything will be all that different, other than 2 extra practice days in lieu of training sessions. But I am a creature of habit, and I very much appreciate as much notice as J has always provided about his planned vacations, etc.

Thinking about it this morning, though, this year is a little different in that I have a huge library of Lists and exercises should I get tired of pursuing the most recent Lists from these last couple of weeks of deeply technical review. But also, the deeply technical review has been enormously rewarding for corrections and paving the way for other small breakthroughs with other Lists and exercises.

What We Did

Our List today as listed, but not precisely as performed:

A1  Dumbbell power squats
A2  Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats

B1  Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts
B2  Dumbbell curtsy lunges

C1  Dumbbell step-ups with hip hinge
C2  Dumbbell lateral lunges

D1  Dumbbell sumo squats
D2  Dumbbell anterior reaches

How It Felt

Started out with the dumbbell power squats using a set of 30 lb. dumbbells. Working, working away at this one, because I still feel as if my cadence is not quite there yet. Slow, slow, slow down, pause, pop up with the brakes on at the top and then start all over again. In my head it sounds easier. In reality, not so much. Improving, though. Today we went over the upper body positioning, the way I am holding the weights, how upright I am standing, where my shoulders are positioned. Before today I would not have said my lats are as engaged as they were apparently need to be in doing this series. Learning, always learning.

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squats are a staple in my exercise library. For months I did at handful (8-12) every single day as part of my warm-up. However, lately here, as I have been pursuing other warm-up activities, they have not been part of my typical rotation. It has been mildly curious to me that I never seem to progress in my rep range due to a building ache in my lower back. Today, we did these without weights, as J had the trainer eye on laser focus and brought forward some minute corrections and adjustments that had me leaning forward, tucking ribs under, shoulders back and arms tight against the body and lats engaged as I proceeded, and voila! No more low back engagement. Part relief, part booster shot of encouragement, I feel as if forward progress had been kick started. The shape, as I now think of most set-ups, is more the angle of me about to get test-fired from a cannon, sort of 70 degree angle and in line with the elevated back foot. No idea how I have drifted away from these, or why I have not mentioned it to J before now, but today it came together and I will remember the cueing going forward. Lean forward, rib tuck.

The dumbbell Romanian deadlifts now seem more mysterious and complicated than their 1-legged cable brethren. Again, there is this new focus on the upper body tightness and maintaining the arm position and engaging the lats. Funny, but I now know for sure what lat engagement actually feels like and that I should be actively seeking that. But on these RDLs, my new thought is keeping the weights pressed tightly down the front of my legs as I am hinging forward. Up until now, I know it’s been sort of a loosey-goosey thought in my head, but today, I have the cue stuck in my head and how different the feeling is from before. Still, a very long way from the earliest beginnings when I could not quite figure out how this was supposed to feel with the hinging forward.

Then there are the curtsey squats. I have this tendency to avoid these, because they are like ice picks being inserted directly into my ass glutes. I am also not sure where exactly I fell off the wagon, but I was not getting it right today. J was trying to suggest and cue me to get me in the right direction, but it really wasn’t working. Brain was just throwing up a big giant wall and not hearing. The demonstration portion – epiphany much? Seriously, he was trying to explain to me how to turn the spine away, in the opposite direction of the rear foot, and I was thinking twist the spine and brain was rebelling against the idea. Watching him more closely, I finally realized it was not turn or twist, merely get the body and spine in alignment with rear foot, which does equate to turning body sideways in the opposite direction in my head. In my head it was a lot more complicated than it actually is in reality. I had been standing too tall, trying to face forward as if doing a standard split squat, and it did not feel good or precisely right. Now I have it that the shape is similar to the Bulgarians and considering myself about to be shot from a cannon at a 70 degree angle. Once I saw the shape when J demonstrated the correct posture, the coin dropped and mind absorbed what he was cueing and saying. Still feels like ice picks, but at least no low back engagement or potential for wrenching. Other sets went well once we got that part figured out.

Okay, big giant early Christmas gift was the step-ups with hip hinge. Again, we did these without weights because J added a hip hinge (lean forward from hips on one foot, elevate other foot) at the end. Watching him demonstrate, I had doubts, but I am always willing to try. The first couple I stepped up and hinged, but after the second one J said to put the other foot down on the box, recenter, then hip hinge. I am quite sure I smiled at the way he said it – I’m going to have to insist you put the foot down and then do the hip hinge – because I never argue about anything. He says “do it this way” and I try valiantly to do it that way. So for him to use the “insist” word still makes me laugh. But anyway, back to the step-up/hip hinge – I was hugely, amaze-balls, OMG-I-am-actually-doing-this-without-faling-off-the-box successful. I mean, even thinking about it now, I cannot believe I was standing on that box and hip hinging without falling sideways every other one. Last we did these, I struggled with the step-up, balance being one of my ongoing challenges. Today, I stepped up like it was not an anxiety-inducing crisis exercise … once upon a time. Not today. Probably not anymore.  And I’m over the moon with excitement. For me, it really is the littlest things in life that make me happy.

One of my least favorite exercise has got to be the lateral lunges. Today we did them with a 15 lb. dumbbell held in the goblet squat position, and they were not as dreadful as I have found them in prior Lists. I attribute this to my recent pursuit of the dumbbell matrix and building some confidence as well as ability and strength. Strangely, the right side feels less fluid and than the left, as there was a pause on the way back to starting position. J suggested shortening the step on that side until the fluidity of the movement builds. While I still do not love these, I know continuing with the dumbbell matrix gets mind and body more comfortable with doing them.

Who knew there were so many variations of squats? Probably my favorite is the dumbbell sumo squat, today with a 30 lb. dumbbell. I kind of love these, if only because I have been doing them so long in some fashion I have actually gotten pretty good at them.

The dumbbell anterior reaches are also part of the dumbbell matrix, so I feel a lot more confident with them. The matrix I always use a 5 lb. set of dumbbells, and with the List version we use 15 lb. dumbbells. I kind of love the way these feel in my lower back, the stretch of bending forward and then standing back up, unless I forget to tighten abs to protect the lower back on the return to the starting gate. But pain is typically a pretty great reminder of where I am going wrong on these, so I pull myself together pretty quickly.

Key Takeaways

Today was a lot of technically relevant adjustments that have either been forgotten or my progress is such that they became significantly more relevant. I have no doubt there are some bad habits acquired in my own practices, and I also believe my performance on different exercises looks different in conjunction with the order on other Lists. But no matter; I had some very relevant lightbulb moments today and am ridiciulously excited (as per usual) about going forward on my own in pursuit of perfecting my practices.

Way back when, within the first 3 months of our training sessions, J had told me that if I have a weaker side with individual side exercises to always do that first to max the reps and keep it even. He also said the weaker side could vary from exercise to exercise, which I have also found is true. It came to mind today while we were doing step-ups, and I reminded him today of that conversation more than a year ago that I still think about every time I do individual side exercises. Some gym and exercise wisdoms are universal.

The dumbbell matrix that I have been striving to do 4 days per week has impacted my overall progress in ways I did not realize until today. I do not always do 2 sets of everything – depends on time and what List I have planned to pursue – but on non-training days I go through it as part of my warm-up routine. Until today, I had not really realized how much it has done to improve both my balance and my overall progress. I know it is also the rest of my library of Lists and the level of practice I put forth. Funny, it never occurs to me how important my consistency with practice makes a difference in getting better and stronger, yet it is at the forefront of my mind whenever I contemplate something occurring that will keep me out of the gym.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

Today was so much fun, and I wonder if it is fun because it’s productive and beneficial or if it’s fun because it’s fun. How far I am ventured from my early beginnings in the “I hate exercise” camp.

I had never considered what one of these technical reviews looked or felt like from J’s perspective, other than the potential for sighing inwardly about bad habits I may have developed or the fact that I still do not get it or cannot execute the movement in a higher quality fashion. There are things to correct, of course, but there is progress to be applauded and technicalities to be layered into the mix. The thing about learning new exercises all the time is that aspects of similar shapes get added to other exercises when it is not necessarily appropriate. I am not beating myself up over it or feeling like the village idiot, merely recognizing that I have learned so much and sometimes my very human self adds or subtracts in the wrong equations.

It makes what I think I mostly know so much more exciting, to know I can delve deeper, pursue more perfect shapes and angles and deeper muscle contractions. Refreshing it so something even newer and exciting for the definition and my own ability to understand the bigger picture.

This exercise habit has become so ingrained in my days that I very nearly take it for granted that I will get up and go to the gym or to the yoga studio (Sundays). Of late I have been relaxing ever so slightly on Tuesdays, because I work from home and typically have no where to be at before about 11 a.m. so I either sleep an hour later until 5 a.m or dilly-dally or occasionally even work and get to the gym between 6:15 and 6:45 rather than my usual 5:15 and 5:30. Because it is what I do every day and because I tend not to track results in pounds and inches lost or gained or weights used, progress after time has passed and I revisit a List and I am more successful or at ease with it truly surprises me. I expect on technical review days there will something little or occasionally something that shocks the Hell out of me big that I must adjust to be safer or more productive. But I love review days. I love the affirmation that I’m doing things mostly right, or J’s text would still be blowing up with questions or worse rather than the idle chit chat we exchange. I also love the updated cueing and seeing and feeling my progress.

J remarked this morning that I win the attendance awards, and that was an extraordinarily meaningful compliment to me. As I remarked in an earlier post, I have not missed or had to reschedule a training session this year, and with only 2 left in 2016, it seems that record will remain intact. Of all my accomplishments with exercise, I am probably most proud of that, because never before have I been so committed to prioritizing my own health and wellness. Granted I am hyper responsible about keeping appointments I make, but when I get into that mode of not wanting to do something for whatever reason, I find ways to make them not happen. Immediately my mind begins manufacturing good and valid points about how I have a supportive spouse, no children at home requiring my time and attention, flexible work schedule, good health, bottom line is that I made it a priority and stuck with it. I get to accept a little credit for my success in this endeavor.

The year is winding down and my plans to change and rearrange in 2017 continue, with a new exercise-centric blog debuting on 12/31. I will still be posting here regularly, but I want this to return to more personal ponderings, and my friends in real life and out there in blogville who are primarily interested in my exercise, fitness, and health aspects will have an exclusive home. If I want to talk about the gym daily for the entire year, the message and progress is not lost or mixed up with my family’s adventures and friend drama. I would like to grow that audience and feel okay about telling my friends in the gym about my blogging, so they do not have to be bored by my car issues or work stuff or anything else outside of exercise and fitness. I’m also hoping to entice some guest posts by family members (M, my son, trainer J, friend J, others I know with their own fitness interests that differ from m own). For whatever reason, I will feel far more comfortable inviting other voices on something as focused on our shared interests rather than this, my personal blog that discusses all aspects of my life.

While I will not know for sure until January about where I stand with regard to the diabetes, I feel stronger and healthier. I have maintained my drug-free status for a this last year, and honestly, other than an allergy storm and a couple of food-related stomach aches, I have not been sick this year. Outside the diabetes, I have been ridiculously healthy, especially for not getting the recommended flu and pneumonia shots. Now, I feel like I have actually earned my feeling this good and being this energetic.

Food and healthy eating is not something I am thinking about much right now. We have crap food arriving daily and getting shuffled into the office kitchen, and I probably eat more lunches and meals out in the last couple of months each year than I do the entire first half of the new year. It’s not the end of the world, I am not especially stressed about it, more aware and resigned to doing my best to not give in to every temptation.

After the first of the year, when diet and weight loss resolutions abound, I plan to just return to brining lunches or not eating the same volume of less desirable food.

I was realizing earlier today that my body mass is continuing to reshape itself with the exercise. Every week there is some new lumpy bumpy or crease that I will show M with shock and awe, because it is still hard for me to believe that my consistency with exercise is actually yielding such visible results.

After 97 training recaps this year, I am very pleased to have more than just thousands of words to show for my progress. But I admit – I’m generally very pleased with my thousands of words as well. It’s fun going through and reading random entries, to see where I was 6, 7, 8 months ago.

I have come a long way, baby, and have miles to go before I sleep.

 

Training #95 – Best day of my life

Thursday morning, training with J. And I confess – I have this doomsday clock countdown going on in my head realizing that his well-deserved holiday break is 2 weeks away and we are down to 4 sessions remaining in 2016. Okay, so maybe doomsday clock is a bit (okay, maybe way over-the-top) melodramatic, but I am cognizant of another year concluding. Thinking about it, there is no sadness, doom, or gloom about it; the calendar is winding down on 2016 and the new year will begin. This is also no hurry-rush-push to end the year and start fresh with a new calendar. If anything, 2016 has been a deeply satisfying year for me; I got a lot of shit done.

But here we are, at training session 95, and honestly, I am amazed that I have stuck with the weekly recaps this whole year. Granted, there are still 4 left to call this year a complete success, but I am engaged and in enough of a well-worn groove to be confident that I will not falter and fall off the recap wagon now.

What We Did

Lower body review day today, and anyone who has read even a couple of these entries knows I love review days. Okay, being fair, I love all training days, but review days do not bore me or feel like anything other than lots of opportunities to ask questions, discuss techniques less traveled, or just learn more about the why of it all. After almost 18 months of training with J, the method behind the master plan is still shrouded in misty cloud. And I’m okay with that. We talk about a lot of stuff, much of it even training and exercise related, and retaining everything is just not happening for me. Hence my love of review day. Here’s our List today, although we skipped the D block due to time constraints:

A1  1-legged Leg Press

B1  1-legged RDL (DB, KB, or Cable)
B2  1-legged Machine Hamstring Curl
B3  Stability Ball Glute Bridge
B4  SB Hamstring Curls

C1  Quad Extensions
C2  DB Power Squats
C3  Bodyweight Bulgarians

D1  Adductor Machine (skipped today)
D2  Abductor Machine (skipped today)

How It Felt

I was mostly engrossed in our conversation and trying hard to stay present with the exercise and hopefully within the ballpark of rep counts and was not paying much attention to the weights used. On top of which, I am learning in my travels to and from the cable machines that they all feel different. Setting one on 30 does not necessarily mean the one around the corner set at 30 is going to feel the same way. Then there the fancy smancy (and much loved) Freemotion machines upstairs – I don’t even know what their weight plates mean. My point here, there is no apples to apples comparison. And in truth, it barely registers to me. As long as I feel in the ballpark of some work in the muscles that should be working I call it good.

The leg press machine, I wonder why I do not do more 1-leg presses. Or even 2-leg presses; that machine quite literally kicks me in the ass, and I still feeling it hours later. On the list, set/rep range is 5 to 10 sets of 10 reps/side, which gets to be a lot. I lost count of sets after about 5 or 6, so I know it was well within the 5 to 10 sets range. And it felt amazing. Which could be indicative of the need to use weightier weights – I typically use 150 lbs., but today started at 130 (set myself so I do remember that one) because I haven’t been on this one in what seems like a very long time. It’s very hypnotic to sit there alternating between watching your foot press the plate and the keeping an eye on the weight stack to ensure it drops not quite to the bottom and complete rest.

Former arch nemesis, 1-legged Romanian deadlift with the cable, is improving. Every time we do these, I learn a little more about the “shape” of the exercise that helps with balance and feeling the muscles work harder and more productively. I know to keep my shoulders and spine straight, but knowing and doing while trying to stay balanced on one leg can be a tall order for me. But we went over it again today, and I must say the new cue about the stationary/grounded foot hip pressing forward while elevating the torso helps. While we have had this cue previously, I always think about the leg descending at that hip pressing forward. Yes, that makes some sense as well, but from a balance/working muscles perspective the new clue cue today focuses me more clearly on my objectives.

While I really like it, the 1-legged machine hamstring curl is hard. It just is not natural for me to try and lift a cable weighed down with 30 lbs. (I think) by bending my knee. Plus, this machine is tricky on the set-up, and when I am on my own, if it takes me 5 (or more) tries to get it right then that’s what it takes. Today was not bad – only had to adjust the kick pad. But I always have to adjust it, then climb in and get situated with the weight before starting. But anyway, it is more complicated to set-up, but once there it goes pretty well. Except it’s not natural behavior and I have to really focus, dig deep to make my rep count. I’m trying very hard not to rest mid-set, but sometimes there is no other way to get it done. I will get over it.

Oh me and the stability ball have this long and checkered history. From my days of referring to it as an “instability” ball to now when we are mostly friends, I still have my reservations about it. Into this comes the stability ball glute bridges, which are not terrible, not horrible, and should not be all that challenging. The glute bridge was on the very first PT Basics A or B Lists this time last year, yet it feels as if I have not made that much progress in a year. Key word here: feels. Truth is I am sure I have, but maybe I just do not like them all that much. I watch J demonstrate and think my hips are not as flexible or elevate that way. With my current obsession with exercise shapes, I understand where this feeling emanates. Still hard to shake, even if I understand its root cause. Only thing I can do is practice them more, do my best when they appear on Lists. I will get better; my shape in this exercise will improve.

Into this mixed feelings about the stability ball in general comes the stability ball hamstring curls, and again, my shapes need some work toward improvement, even if could be primarily in my own head. I do dislike these things – they are a huge challenge – while at the same time they are effective as well. More than anything, I will continue to pursue regular, consistent practice at these to improve my technique. Maybe then they will become less of a genuine pain in my ass. Okay, not really … but I associate them that way because they appear on lower body glute-focused Lists that usually do result in tight and aching sit muscles.

The quad extensions machine is another one of those complicated machines with little adjustments necessary besides just setting the weight. While intellectually I understand what is necessary and should be done, there is something in lizard brain that rebels and freaks out with the idea of it. Still, I will persevere and not let the lizard brain win this round. Once I get past the brain meltdown over the complications of this machine, I go along just fine. It’s not the easiest or most natural feeling exercise, but I know what needs to be done, how it should feel (quads – burn -check). I just have to overcome the initial intimidation and make it work for me.

The dumbbell power squats are a staple. I realized awhile back that I now know a few ways to do squats, but these power squats are still a bit unique with the weightier weights we utilize. Today’s big reminder was not slow-slow-slow on the descent, up like a poptart in the toaster, and keep those shoulders back and the spine tall. Seems so much easier and nicer to roll the shoulders forward. So I mostly got this – slow-Slow-SLOW on the descent, pause 2 seconds, pop up, shoulders back, spine straight. Yep, along with the “butt back” on the slow-Slow-SLOW descent portion, this is pretty much the sound track in my head. Unless my palms and hands get tired of holding 30 lbs. of dumbbell and want to just let them fall, at which time we mind starts projecting “grip tighter, grip tighter” alerts as part of the soundtrack.

Once upon a time, I did the bodyweight Bulgarian split squats daily as part of my warm-up. They they became less of a thing in favor of other warm-up activities. I think it may be time to bring them back a few days per week. Not that I am faltering failing, but just because I feel sort of stiffly awkward with these, especially when using the quad extension machine as the foot elevating holder. I know how these work, how they are supposed to feel, but I felt a little out of practice after months of doing at least 10 to 15 per side just about every day. For the last set J added the offset weight, just an 8 lb. dumbbell, and boy howdy does that make a difference in how much I felt them. All good, but I feel I could do better. I will do better. I did not work so hard on these for so many months to feel as if I have given up some hard-fought ground only to have to learn the balance and how painful these bad boys can be when sitting idle for too long.

Key Takeaways

Occurred to me this morning that review days are not that involved or exciting for J, but not every session can be amazing and exciting glitter-bombs of discovery and new beginnings. Still, it’s so much fun just running along through a List I am familiar with and always coaxing some new kernel of information from it. Whether it’s shoulders behind the ears on the power squats or what the grounded side hip should be doing on the Romanian deadlift, I learn something new or remember something I have somehow forgotten with each and every review day.

I have come a long way since this List first became a thing in October, yet I still feel there is a lot more practice to be done with it, a lot more to learn. Then again, and this has been a gradual process and realization for me, that perfection is an impossible bar that remains comfortably out of reach, just like the average unicorn. But sticking with practice and staying consistent with the gym and the Lists means I stay closer to the good enough standard I have set for myself. And while that may sound sort of pedant and mundane, it is important to me to stay the course with regard to practice.

Funny thing about regular practice: I rarely get frustrated with exercise anymore. Being bored, distracted, or tired is common enough and I have developed my own skills in overcoming each. But frustrated rarely happens. I find that my exercise knowledge has expanded and my abilities increased to a point where I am stronger and can substitute if something is just not working on a particular day or List.

Part of the reason I genuinely enjoy review day is that it helps me remember where I have had issues, why I may set aside a List in favor of another that I feel more confident about and competent with. Another part is its an opportunity for me to explore and appreciate my own progress, however great or small. Thing is, I do make progress. I am getting better and stronger, and equally important, I feel so superior than I did even a year ago. Depression? Funks? Reflective states? Of course they still happen. However, the regular exercise and my elevated level of fitness has done so much to improve my overall mental health. Granted I start from a baseline neutral, where I do not suffer from any sort of medical issues that cause depression or anxiety or other mental/emotional health conditions, but being overweight, being insulin-dependent diabetic, the ways that being less fit and healthy drag me to edge of sadness is not to be discounted. I now know enough people who have stepped away from their own emotional ailments by working at improving their overall health through diet and exercise to recognize that it is a real thing.

The holidays are hard for so many folks, and even M and I are not immune. My daughter and son-in-law are on the road for their new home and next chapter in their life clear across the country, and it has it’s own emotional challenges for me even as I am happy for them. Change is not always easy to accept. One of my very dearest friends has struggled with a serious health condition that continues to plague him and concern me, even though I believe he will overcome and be better. Home for Christmas? Maybe not, and it saddens me. However, sacrificing one holiday now for many, many into the future is well worth it. But I’m selfish enough to admit I wish he were for sure able to come home for even a brief visit, if only to reassure myself that he is improving and will soon be completely well again.

But my issues are small ball issues, and I think them through, work them out every morning in practice. Or in the evenings during yoga class. I write my pal a note every day, filled with boring and mundane details of our life. M sends regular texts and missives as well. It makes little sense to anyone else, but for me it’s hugely comforting to write down the minutia and share it. Every Monday, every Thursday I train with J I send a text from my car in the parking lot of the gym, giving a quick and happy response to whatever we happened to do that day. To anyone else it is weird and maybe even a little (or a lot) off-beat, but beside M, he is such a huge cheerleader for my fitness efforts. I like reminding him how much he matters to me and to others, to keep his sometimes flagging spirits from leaning toward permanent deflation.

My point here is – the regular exercise has changed my life in so many big and little ways. I am still not a morning person; if not having to get to the gym at my preferred time I would happily sleep until 7 a.m. every day and even later on weekends. As it was this morning, I felt less perky than usual in our session this morning for lack of my usual caffeine boost. Every morning I drink a protein shake boosted with amino energy powder, which is kind of fancy smancy caffeine infusion, only I allowed myself to run out. The horror! I know, I know – me and my first world problems. Thank goodness for Amazon prime and the very fast shipping.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I love success stories. I love when other tribe and gym members make big or small strides toward goals or just improvements in their technique and exercise mastery. Even on days like today, where I feel kind of tired in the nicest possible way and feel no new wowy-zowy breakthroughs, I am delighted others are doing well.

And in truth, I am equally delighted that I am doing this well as well. Once upon a time, I would be feeling depressed and anxious that I did not have some success to write about. Anymore, I can appreciate the simplicity of having a good week. I am making tiny step progress toward my focused List – of late it has been the dumbbell matrix that is more cardio intensive. Some of the movements seem to require more coordination that my brain can process gracefully, so what does not come naturally must be practiced until it feels like an accurate mimic of gracefulness. And again, every day i get up and get myself into the gym is a good day, one more thing crossed off my to-do.

When J demonstrates or I see others in the club doing exercise I struggle or have struggled with, I no longer wonder what is wrong with me that I struggling. Anymore, my admiration for their efforts has taken over any inward negativity, and I am relieved that I can be a big enough, grown-up enough to accept the different waypoints on individual journeys. My pathway is my own, and its got piles of glitter along the way from prior wins and steps up, steps forward.

More than the little lines and creases I celebrate and ask my husband repeatedly if he notices (he does … at this point how could he not? *laugh*), I genuinely appreciate my mental and emotional gains from the routine. While I think about the long game, what I will be like at 60 or 70, I do not imagine myself sitting around waiting to die. This was not the way I felt 2 years ago before I started, but I was sort of resigned to never being an athletic sort or someone with health-minded hobbies. Now it seems that’s a lot of what I discuss with friends and associates at work, partly because they are all young and active when not strapped in behind their desks, and partly because it is where life and its focus seems to find us right now. The ladies I work with and walk with regularly – we are always discussing the diet trends, the newest books, cookbooks, recipes, eating plans and programs. I learn a lot from them, even if I do not follow the same guidelines or like the same types of food. Same with the fitness reading and listening I do; it expands my horizons.

I am plowing my way through a list of business and marketing-related books clients and peers have or are reading, because it intrigues me on some level. I feel so far behind the times, working with young, hipper, scary smart folks, yet it is good to be excited and invigorated to follow along and see the world from their perspective. I like being able to relate … eventually … with what they are doing, thinking, talking about. I am not their peer nor would I ever want to be again. Just like with my kids, though, I like to have a general grasp on what their interests and things they follow in their own realm.

To have a good attitude – I never truly realized how poor my inward attitude was until it improved. I have all sorts of reasons, all kind of backstory that supports my flawed reasoning and skewed self-image, and healing those breaches will be an ongoing effort that will span my lifetime. Thing is, what I was accepting as adequate and enough was neither. A little (okay – a LOT) of hard work and I could have more, and I do have more. But strangely, the work does not seem so much effort anymore. New stuff, sure – lots of energy expended in the learning, adapting, mastering, perfecting. And then you set that aside for a little while and start a little farther up the learning curve when you return to it. This is where my improving outlook has gotten me – to understanding that the learning curve is not so steep the second, third, or twentieth go-round with something I learned a year ago.

I continue writing my own success story – one line, one paragraph, one post, one chapter at a time. And there will be no epilogue or final credits rolling anytime soon.

 

 

Training #94 – Peaceful easy feeling

Monday morning, training with J. It was shuffled review day, where he took an existing List and rearranged it and added and/or subtracted exercises to make something new. Since we are now in the final month of 2016, J will be on vacation for a Monday and Thursday this month for the holiday, we will be doing review and such for the balance of our 2016 sessions. Which is perfectly fine with me. Last thing I want is to be frustrated or avoiding doing new things because I have questions and he is away on well-deserved time away from the gym.

Besides, I love review days. I always learned something either brand new or that I have forgotten along the way. Complacency has evolved into a genuine enemy and results in bad habits I end up having to break at some point.

What We Did

A1  Lat Pulldown Dual Cable (60 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
A2  Seated Dip (Chest emphasis) (80 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)

B1  1-arm DB Row (25/30 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15/side)
B2 Slight Decline DB Chest Press (25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15 reps)

C1  Cable Row or Rope Facepull (80 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
C2  DB Arnold Press (10 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

D1  Triceps Pushdown (30 lbs., 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
D2  Standing DB Curl, alt. opt. (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

How It Felt

We began with the lat pulldown on the dual cable machine. I am torn between really, Really liking this machine and being crazy in love with it. The single cable machines in the big boys room use a long bar, which feels different and does not have the bonus of being able to alternate arms. But I admit to liking both, just liking this one a shade better. I haven’t always liked this; in the earliest days of training J introduced it and even included it on a List, yet I rarely to never went forth and pursued it. My gym crazy was still on full display in those days. Now, though, I feel very competent and confident with the lat pulldowns. I can feel them where I am supposed to feel them, and body can perform the movement smoothly and competently. J took a quick little video of my back muscles moving while I performed this exercise, and call me vain, but I was pleased and impressed. I mean, how often does a girl get to see her back in action while doing lab pulldowns?

The seated dip machine has been sitting dormant for awhile, although I did really enjoy the reintroduction today. I confess when J said the word “dip” in our pre-session conversation I was thinking of bench dips or worse; I had completely forgotten about the dip machine. So this one, we had to go through a set and a half before I got the positioning correct to work the chest rather than the triceps. Not beating myself up over it; this machine has bunches of little adjustments and ways to sit and work various body parts. But once I grasped the basic of how it should feel under J’s watchful eye, I have the framework of how to replicate this on my own in practice. And I will be working at it to improve. Along with my push-ups, newly elevated back to arch nemesis status.

I have a love-love thing going with the 1-arm dumbbell row. Ever since J introduced me to the stand-up leaning version, I feel as if I have improved with it. Maybe I would have improved with it in the knee-on-the-bench version as well if I continued to do them that way, but I vastly prefer the standing version. It just feels as if I have more control and can feel it more fully. Today J noted there was a little flex of the arm at the end, and now I am cognizant of this little flex at the end. I do have a whole string of queues on this one – pulling leg backward, pull weight toward the hip, use the shoulder not the arm. In my head, I do pretty well with these. In practice, I generally feel relatively confident that I am doing them correctly, which makes me like them. As is typically my habit, I do the first set with a lighter weight. Started today with a 25 lb. dumbbell and stepped up to a 30 lb. dumbbell for sets 2 and 3 and it went very well. This is one of those exercises that reminds me I have made considerable progress in the last year.

We are back to the slight decline dumbbell chest press. While I have been doing these awhile, it always seems like the potential for something new on review day. J reminded me about where the dumbbells should be on the up portion of this bad boy, but other than that, it went pretty well. Also, I stepped back up to 25 lb. dumbbells, as I had been using 20 lb. dumbbells when this was paired with the chest fly. The contrast between working the back with the 1-arm row followed immediately by the chest press for the chest – I guess I had not noticed it previously. Today, doing these particular super sets, I most definitely noticed it. Now, whether I would have ever made the connection all on my own remains the bigger mystery. Moot point really, but considering my generally overwhelming curiosity about this exercise and fitness stuff, it is difficult to believe I have not wandered down this particular pathway sooner.

Next we continued on to the cable row. While I have improved at this, my years of rowing on a rowing machine gave me some different habits in how rowing is done, habits I have had to unlearn in order to improve on this exercise. It feels as if I am still unlearning, but improvement has been achieved and is ongoing. Striving for the upper back arch is almost as difficult as breaking myself of the shrugging habit. But I’m getting there. I feel much better about the incremental progress. No facepulls for me today; maybe Wednesday when I revisit this List in practice.

New today was the dumbbell Arnold press. It seemed very vaguely familiar, but it could have been a demonstration at some point that did not make the final cut to List status. J told me he does not teach this one much, which set off and immediate, “OMG! It’s really complicated and difficult!” alert in my head. So I just asked why he did not teach it much, and he explained that it was a lot of shoulder work all at once. Good enough for me, and once he demonstrated and got me started, I completely understood what he meant. I have been using 15 lb. dumbbells for shoulder presses, but today we dropped to 10 lb. dumbbells and toward the end of each set I was starting to think that 8 lb. dumbbells were sounding really good. Going from arms positioned in front with dumbbells facing me, then spreading out sideways and overhead into a press, then down to the side and back to start. Sticking with the 10 lb. dumbbells for awhile to come on this seems very prudent. And I now understand why J does not teach it much; it is complicated.

The triceps pushdown is mostly fun. Having done these enough through the months I get the basic motion and know where it should be working and how it feels. The standing up machine I happened to be working at today is right across the aisle from a mirror and J remarked it was a perfect station for viewing the triceps at work. Yep, upper arms have more muscle on them, and in my view it looks nice. Then again, I am not a small woman; the thickness of my bone structure alone does not bring forth visions of small or petite.

Finally, the standing dumbbell curl, and while alternating is an option, today I liked the 2-arm version. Curls are still not a favorite, but they are okay and recurring enough that I do a fair amount of them in some form or another. This is probably the only exercise in my entire library of Lists that ever makes me think I should be using weightier weights. The rare occasions this thought flitters through my mind I push it away as irrelevant, because it truly is irrelevant. One thing I have learned is if I ever feel like the weights feel light do more reps. So sometimes I do more reps, and sometimes I struggle to get through the 15 dictated by the List.

Key Takeaways

I am feeling very good, very pumped, and very powerful about today’s session. While in my head that all sounds newish and a little different to write that sentence for the me I know, in my head it also sounds like me turning into a massive egomaniac. I struggle with false modesty as a concept, because my self-depreciation is a deeply rooted habit that is meant to deflect attention, even positive affirmation type attention, away from me. But I am far more hesitant and self-critical about any sort of real or imagined conceit and vanity. The balance is an ongoing challenge for me, so much so that I have to include this warning paragraph. Public service announcement is now concluded.

Having had a mother who was both small and petite – at 130 lbs. she was 25 lbs. heavier than I had ever seen her in my entire life – I understand and accept I’m never going to be the tiny girl in the group … unless I’m standing with a bunch of lady sumo wrestlers. And you know what shocks me even more? I am fine and happy with that. Body is body; I can starve weight off of it by withholding food, build muscles with exercise, try to twist it into pretzels with yoga, but I am never going to be able to shrink it down to doll clothes like a 100% cotton sweater in a super hot dryer. My frame and bone structure will not be altered no matter how desperate and misguided my transformation efforts. Acceptance and appreciation for the physical assets I have is the first step on the path to blissful peace with my appearance.

Friend J asked me a few weeks ago if I understood why the exercises were set-up the way they are, and I replied they were on the List that way so I follow the instructions and work the exercises in that order. I mentioned that to J today, because as I understood it, the method to the List madness differs from List to List. And I’m okay with that. Most of the time I am so focused on the minutia of mastering form and such I cannot think too much about the why of it all. Besides, in my mind anymore, this is why I engage trainer J, to write me beautiful Lists to learn and to follow. But to be fair, I do know trainer J has explained some of the under the hood of program writing to me in the past, but with the multitude of other details I am working on retaining, the why of the order is not high on the priorities. This is why he writes them down, so I do not have to remember the big picture details.

When we were on the last set of the triceps pushdowns and bicep curls, I idly asked J if we were done, a first in all the months we have been working at this. It was not that I was ready to be done so much as I was going to put the dumbbells we had been using away, but if there was more I would leave them. He laughed, I laughed, and I felt rueful about the clumsy and blunt way I put the question out there. It was just another of those funny, awkward me moments that still happen from time to time.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

J and I had a long-ish training-related conversation before we got started this morning. In hindsight, I recognize that he was kinda/sorta responding to my funk-light post from yesterday. Either that or he is practicing his mind meld on me again. While our chat was sort of free-ranging, my key takeaway was that boredom with exercise or the Lists I am pursuing could be a factor in an overall fatigue or burnout with my evolving practice and training habits and routines.

While this time last year it was impossible for me to imagine ever overtraining, that was then, this is now, and it does seem like a possibility, however remote. I am not there yet, do not feel bored or burned out, but as a manager I can appreciate J’s foresight in hoping for the best and planning for the worst. There is no boredom at play right now, but the colder weather makes me want to stay huddled under the covers rather than drag my sorry butt out of bed at 4 a.m. to get to the gym for practice or sessions.

If anything I feel excited about the work we are doing and the Lists I am working to perfect. There is still much work to do ahead. On top of which, my random student of exercise pursuits have been somewhat scattered and random thus far. Now that I feel more solid in my experience and knowledge, I am contemplating ways to be more structured and focused in my studies. Because I’m interested and motivated to continue to learn.

It is also now December, and we are counting down to our final sessions of 2016. Today was the second of the 7 we will most likely schedule and complete this month with J’s Christmas holiday, and I realize by the time we are all done it will be 99 personal training sessions this year. This is of course barring illness, injury, or flight delays.

Thinking about this and other things this morning, I realize I am not much of a numbers person anymore with regard to my better health quest. While I still wear my fancy smancy Fitbit Blaze watch and remember to turn it on 99% of the time while I am at the gym or yoga or pilates class, the numbers are pretty meaningless to me anymore. There was a time when I’d feel disappointed and mad at myself for not achieving a greater calorie burn in 90 minutes. Or I would be frustrated at my inability to get my heart rate higher despite being breathless as well as sweaty and gross. These days, if I feel weird I will look at the watch to see what my heart rate is doing, but that’s about it. Majority of the time I am looking at my watch I am checking the time to gauge my progress through a List. Heart rate? More an “oh that’s nice” type data point.

On the actual Fitbit site that tracks my progress on these things, I am far more interested in my sleep statistics than anything else. If I wake up feeling tired it’s a great indicator of how restfully I slept, but even that is more a curiosity than anything else. But I keep it because (1) it’s reassuring to M to know that I can keep on it, and (2) it works perfectly for me as a watch, and (3) I like the alarm feature. The fitness aspects are pretty much meaningless anymore.

Such is the case with training sessions. I thought I would feel unhappy or disappointed for falling short of 3 digits, but no, I am not. I marvel at 99 over the course of a year, and I feel pretty damn proud of myself for sticking with the weekly recaps for each and every one of them – thus far, anyway. December is not over yet. The only place I feel a bit concerned was Thanksgiving week when it took a few days to pull it together. Rest of the year I have been pretty consistent about getting it written and posted.

Perhaps I will remember 2016 as my year of consistency. Other than my week of vacation, I have been in the gym at least 6 days per week most of this year. I have done a fair number of yoga and pilates classes even if I do not talk a lot about them here. Rarely has more than a couple of days passed here on the blog without a new post.

I know I will remember 2016 as a year of better health taking root. Not just with the exercise either. My eating and food consumption has improved as the months passed, but it’s still far from more perfectly balanced, or even just imperfectly balanced. At times it is wildly out of balance, when I seem to be consuming all sort of junky food and way too many carbohydrates for a well controlled type 2 diabetic. Through the months this year I have lightened up considerably on beating myself into the equivalent of an emotional bloody pulp.

Over the course of the past week I have been involved with several conversations about food and the holidays and eavesdropped on a few more. I hear words like “tracking” and
“calorie counting” and “measuring” and the hairs on my arms start to rise up in rebellion. I have tried various methods of food tracking, and this along with the person scale in M’s bathroom and the tape measure I threw is just another measure of failure for me. My happiness and contentment quotient reached new highs when I discontinued MyFitnessPal on all my devices and completely cancelled my account. Other than listening to body (when it speaks sensibly and does not plead for chocolate, soda, sugar) and striving to eat fruit and/or vegetables with my daily meals, I do not really track anything.

I am very aware of how much sugar is sitting invitingly in our breakroom kitchen right now, and I know tomorrow I’m having lunch with a client who traditionally hands me a lovely box of Godiva chocolates and a nice bottle of adult beverage. The chocolate will be delivered immediately to the office, where the younger and fitter can enjoy it, and the booze will find its way to a new home later in the week. This weekend there are bigger client events both Friday and Saturday evenings, with lots of yummy food and drinks. I will eat what I eat, drink what I drink, and hope for the best. But I will not obsess about it in advance or punish myself afterwards for real and perceived food and drink sins.

That said, I do not perceive myself as losing gazillions of quarter ounces or pounds this month. My clothes are fitting fine, some getting looser, others just fitting differently. Next month’s blood tests will let me know if I remain on a good track or need to make adjustments. I don’t cycle diet – I do not actually diet at all – nor do I have free-for-all eating meals or days. If I want a piece of chocolate I have it. If When I want the entire box of chocolate I restrain myself.

For me, this is a huge step forward in my relationship with food. I can always do better, but right now, I am doing well enough. For me, I am learning to celebrate my wins, not matter how small they may seem from the outside looking inward, and not mourn or feel regret for the “shoulds” I did not meet. One is real, the other imaginary. I have learned to tell the difference.

In some ways this seems to be my year-end post, where I recap all my successes and short comings for the year past. And I suppose in some ways it is just that. But I am evolving into a more reflective person and thinking about this stuff all the time. Only difference is that in a few weeks, when we are closer to the end of the year celebrations, I am as likely as not to have forgotten all about this train of thought.

I will restate the obvious: I am incredibly fortunate to have financial means to afford personal training sessions with uber fabulous trainer J twice weekly. It is a luxury item for most everyone and not something I take for grated as my just due. While my husband, my kids, my closest friends are incredibly pleased and proud of my efforts, I find myself thinking this morning that *I* am incredibly proud of me. And that’s a pretty new admission for me, and I am almost embarrassed memorializing it here on the blog. Because it feels very vain and self-centered to be on my own damn blog talking about being proud of myself.

Another thing to fall away in 2016 – self-consciousness about being pleased with my accomplishments. I’m sure I have mentioned crowing about newly discovered creases from the exercise, also new behavior. Confidence? VERY new behavior. But all good. All very, Very good behaviors.

Some things are still pretty much as they always have been. The feelings of inadequacy continue to rear their ugly little heads from time to time, that I am not thin enough, strong enough, interesting enough, smart enough, kind enough, self-aware enough, enough enough. In my ongoing flawed humanity I have found new strength and facets of my personality that make me unique and interesting. And I like myself better now than I did at the start of the year.

Progress, amazing and beautiful (2 words I so rarely use about myself or anything directly associated with me the person) forward progress.

Love my life and the ways I see it so clearly in the present day. I am very rich indeed.