Tides

Emotionally, feeling the bounce toward my typical push-pull life balance. Gaining perspective doesn’t happen in a vacuum with all my sadness and grief under lockdown. Unfortunately grief is a process and there are no shortcuts.

Tuesday mornings I have a standing 5:30 conference call with an east coast client. It is typically an energetic phone call, because they are rather dynamic people and nearly always have something new and interesting for me to do in the days or weeks ahead. Funny me we have now been working together for over 2 years and have actually met in person exactly twice. But I got a really strong recommendation from another mutual client/friend, and they are very happy with the work I am doing for them as a group as well as individually. So it’s always a boost because they are appreciative of my time and efforts on their behalf and express it every week. I know they mean it; we all know they don’t have to carrot-and-stick me to get their work done. Our conference call is just a highlight of my job-related work week. So that makes me happy, too.

My former big corporate firm (BCF) wants me to do some limited consulting, so yesterday I looked at my September calendar and emailed them a proposal with a discounted hourly rate and how much time I could give them for the month. I thought it very fair, considering how they tried to screw me over and now find they need me. Cynically, I fully anticipated they would come back with either an observation that I’m already getting paid (via my severance package) or protest my rates were high. Sure enough, this morning there was an email expressing their surprise at the rate quoted. Dumb asses. I guess they figure I am sitting around eating bon bons and living off my severance package rather that hustling for self-employment clients and keeping myself well over scheduled with work. Laws of supply and demand, lady; I’m in demand and will be billing more than 40 hours per week through the end of the year with or without the 10 hours per month I have offered to you.

Yes, I suppose I am a still hostile toward these people. I have not yet responded to her counter proposal, because I’m in a particularly snarky mood and not willing to be tolerant and diplomatic in light of her bullying bullshit. Her undervaluing my ability is a huge issue for me, but my not needing the work is going to prove tricky for her. Whatever happens, I will remain profession and reasonable, but BCF is so far from a non-profit and I am unwilling to volunteer or donate my time to people who do not respect or value me. If I am merely a commodity, they can damn well pay for my services.

Assholes.

Really, I am only hostile toward them the firm management, not my former crew or the clients they took over and who are not complaining loudly enough to make BCF approach me for help. Rest of my clients do like me, like working with me, because for the most part I am more than reasonable and easy going about the hurry-up-and-wait nature of consulting. It’s the flow of the business. BCF, though, made what seems like a typical mistake of pooh-poohing anyone who is primarily support or overhead labor. They are paying for it now, and the only reason it’s not a lot more expensive is because of my relationship with the former partners.

Perhaps I just need a good strong dose of indignation to catapult me out of my funk. Or the long weekend is over (for everyone else) and my phone/text/email are blowing up as clients and business associates get back to work and reach out. Whatever it is, I’m grateful to be focused and fully engaged on something other than misery and grief.

This, that, the other thing(s)

Kind of mish-mash post of things I have been meaning to write about and just have not had time to write and publish.

Decluttering Efforts Continue

Time just slips right by me these days. I have had a glorious 3 days working on my house, the various storage spaces, and yard, yet it seems like this never-ending battle with crap. Or as I console myself, 25+ years of crap. But still – it’s a lot of stuff, much of which has not seen light of day in years. So many years that I doubt we would miss it or think about it further if it ended up in the landfill or dropped off at Goodwill. M disagrees. M also disagrees with me on a lot of crap I have tossed, but he’s more sentimental than I am. He also did not grow up with my parents, have my childhood, and is not triggered by seemingly innocent or charming objects. It’s hard impossible to have a rational discussion with an emotionally irrational me. M expresses himself and his opinions, but knows that when it comes to that pile of stuff, I am the final and only decider on its fate.

I did keep a few things from the piles I thought sure were destined for the dump pile. My mother’s high school yearbooks. A couple of old scrapbooks that belonged to my mother’s sister who died young and before I was born. A senior portrait that has hardly faded in almost 70 years. When I was little I always thought my mother was so beautiful, far prettier than the other mothers I knew, and so tiny and petite. For as abusive of her body as she was (long-time smoker) as she was, mom aged really well. I can only hope the good genes I got work in my favor as well.

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5/30/2017 – Mom’s senior photo

For the most part, the last of the stuff remaining from my parents house has been dealt with and whittled down to an envelope of photographs and a few photo albums. It can stay in storage awhile longer until the next need to purge overwhelms and I can see how I feel about it then.

Otherwise, things are going really well in this effort. M and I are working together toward the common goal, versus bickering and growing impatient with each other about the decision-making process. He has his stuff – his racing career memorabilia and childhood mementos – and I have my stuff to deal, make decisions, organic into defined spaces. Part of our issues, and likely the source of our bickering and impatience with each other, has been the way this stuff has been stored. M has endless numbers of little boxes of things, whereas all my crap is boxed and bundled in bulk, because I knew it would be dealt with and (likely) discarded at some point, after which it would be boxed, labeled, tucked away. We now have the time and sorting space on our pool deck and RV driveway to spread out and figure it out. Our progress is far smoother and more efficient this time.

We were in the garage yesterday moving some of the building supplies out of there and into storage when M caught me staring at the wall of shelving overflowing with crap and suggested I stop staring or I would have an anxiety attack over it. The stuff will be dealt with, but we need to stick with our plan and focus on the pieces and parts in the order and stages. He is absolutely correct; I wander into trouble when I get overwhelmed.

So today he’s dealing with the last of the what we have on site and making a run to the dump with what we’ve agreed it trash. I have the back of his Highlander filled up with donation stuff for Goodwill. After the dump M will be bringing another load of boxes to be viewed and sorted from storage, including everything that is not the box of Christmas lights or Christmas tree. I have at least 6 boxes of Christmas to go through and decide what to keep, what to offer up to the kids, what to donate. My goal is to whittle it all down to just 2 storage boxes, because if we put up our tree, I enjoy it just as much when it’s just the tree with the lights and very minimal to no baubles. I can also easily see a time when we revert to no Christmas tree once more.

Dinner with G

Sunday night we hand an impromptu dinner with my son. K was out of town camping with the pup-pups and a friend, so when I decided to invite them to join us for dinner at a new-to-us local restaurant, it was just G.

I love my kids, all 4 of them, and I love spending time with them as a group and individually. K and I had hung out last week – so much fun – and having dinner with just G was interesting as well. The dynamic is a little different when it’s just one half an established couple, neither good nor bad, just different. Hearing his perspective on their life events and his particular slant on work and their activities is always refreshing and good.

Mostly, I am really glad that they are a thriving, happy couple as well as thriving, happy individuals. Unfortunately the story when hanging out with one half of a couple is not always the happy face united front they present when together. It’s good to hear from them as individuals, to hear the genuine affection and care they have for their absent partner, to listen as they describe their own struggles and triumphs. I’m very fortunate, I know; I probably spend more time chatting with K than I do with my son, particularly lately. But it’s all good. I have always wanted and worked hard to have close relationships with my kids. I’m lucky they chose people that fit well within out tiny family dynamic.

K’s Job Search Success

For about 2 months, K has been seeking a new job. Her former supervisor had left the firm last October and K was promised a promotion and salary adjustment after the first of the year. That came and went without any communication about the promised promotion and salary increase, so finally mid-March she requested a meeting with her supervisor to discuss it. She prepared well, making list of all the additional responsibilities she has assumed, the projects she has shepherded to successful completion, the many accomplishments in the 6 months between her former supervisor’s departure and her increased workload. There was plenty of praise and agreement that she’s done a stellar job, but there was also regret that there was no money in the budget to increase her salary.

We had discussed this extensively before the actual meeting, and privately I hoped she would be successful in getting the recognition, managerial status, and salary bump, but I was not especially hopeful. When they failed to fulfill their promise, I applauded while K refreshed her resume and went to work applying for jobs.

Multiple interviews and 3 offers later, K landed a terrific opportunity in a travel-related non-profit at a 40% increase in salary, shorter commute, and higher quality healthcare and benefits. Trade-off is that the job is likely different type of stress and potentially longer hours, but also offers exposure and networking opportunities unmatched by any of the other firms that sought to hire her.

I am so proud of K for her pursuit and patience through this trying ordeal of dealing with multiple firms, interviews, and offers. Her efforts paid off.

To and fro in Tampa

My other son, A, will be coming home for a brief visit in August. Because of vacation time accrued and their multiple pets, C will not be accompanying him this trip. He has a large family and they are very close-knit, so being clear across the country has been hard on him and he has been terribly homesick since they moved 6 months ago. We will for sure see him for a meal (or 2) while he’s here, but we also understand that realistically he only has a few days with the travel time from Tampa and we will have to share.

M and I are tentatively planning a trip to see C and A in early December, and hopefully G and K will be able to go at the same time as well. With K’s new job, and G’s job in general, it’s a challenge to get all of us together and away for more than a few days. But going clear across the country – I’m hoping for at least a week. C and A will have to work during some of the time we’re there, but that will be okay. We are all grown-up and self-sufficient and can amuse ourselves.

Planning will start in earnest later this summer. But for now, I’m excited about the idea of going east to see my Florida kids. And Disneyworld, too. But really, I’m excited to see my Florida kids. Probably at Disneyworld.

And Finally, Work

Since parting company with a few private clients a couple of week ago, my life has been irrevocably changed. I am getting more sleep – good, solid, high-quality sleep – and my self-employment workload seems lightened by at least 50%. Funny how I barely realized the impact it was having on the whole of the rest of my life.

At the office, we are actively recruiting a new administrative person and another couple of attorneys. There are days when it seems I spend much of my workday reading resumes, scheduling interview, following-up with candidates, writing “thanks but not quite the right fit” letters and emails, or doing some sort of new employee orientation. Comes with my job description, and I do love my job, so I cannot and will not complain about it. The people are probably 89% of my satisfaction with the job; bosses and associates and even clients make even the drudge days more pleasant than other places I have been.

Unfortunately, the work is not always pleasant for me to be around, even if I am only inhabiting the same office space. There are presently a few truly contentious matters going on, the type of thing where voices are raised in conferences and in phone calls to opposing counsels. It is par for the course, even normal, but it jangles my nerves and adds a thin layer of negative stress to my day. To the partners and staff involved, though, it’s like a jolt of fresh energy that lights up their days. They LOVE the fight. Which probably explains whey they do what they do and I do what I do. I don’t know that I will ever get completely used to this side of the lawyering business.

Life continues in a largely positive manner. No (new) complaints here.

 

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.

 

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 #92 – Dolphin music

Monday morning, training with J. And oh my – it is SO NICE to be back on track to something mostly akin to natural order of my universe. With this being moving week, I am in the office all week, including Tuesday, but from my perspective of alarm going off and getting up and into the gym, it’s the return to normal after the holiday week.

What We Did

Phase One
1.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets, 10/side)
2.  Simultaneous Shoulder Level Dumbbell Punches in Front (3 sets, 10/side)
3.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Cross Punching with Pivot at Shoulder Height (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Two
4.  Simultaneous Dumbbell Bent Alt. Dumbbell Rows (3 sets, 10/side)
5.  Alternating Dumbbell Side Laterals with a Contralateral Front Stride (3 sets, 10/side)
6.  Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises with a Contralateral Side Stride  (3 sets, 10/side)
7. Simultaneous Dumbbell Upright Rows or Bent Over Rear Delt Fly (3 sets, 10/side)
8.  Push Ups off Bench, with the Dumbbells (3 sets, 10 each)

Phase Three
9.   Alternating Front Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
10. Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)
11.  Alternate Posterior Reaching Lunges (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Four
12.  Alternating Front Reaching Lunges with Overhead Press (3 sets, 10/side)
13.  Alternating Lateral Reaching Lunges with Push (3 sets, 10/side)
14.  Alternating Posterior Reaching Lunges with Hammer Curls (3 sets, 10/side)

Phase Five
15.  Dumbbell Power Squats (3 sets, 10-20)
16. Inchworms (10)

How it Felt

This is an updated, more action-packed and advanced version of a prior List. There were additions and a few small changes that made this a much more intense and challenging series for me.

Today also doubled as a review day for this, because I was so far off the mark on a few of these things that I know it is not something we reviewed after its initial introduction. However, it is also not something I have pursued with any regularity to date. But that may be changing into the future.

We used 5 lb. dumbbells for the entire series. And believe me, 5 lbs. feels more like 25 lbs. as the fatigue starts layering in as we move along.

Phase One is mostly familiar.

  • The simultaneous dumbbell shoulder press is not new and very familiar, and feels really good, smooth, almost easy with the light weights. I like the way the simultaneous comes into play, where one arm moving down is signal for the other arm to start moving up.
  • First of the new exercises, simultaneous shoulder level dumbbell punches in front, is kind of a new movement and feeling in the front shoulder pushing the weight forward and then the contraction when pulling it back. There is a fluidity to this, almost a rhythm that feels good to my shoulders and my arms even as they tire as the sets pass.
  • While the simultaneous dumbbell cross punching with pivot at shoulder height was on the first rendition of this List, this is one of those mind remembered the teaching day instructions incorrectly. Where today J was directing and showing me how to do this more across and arm closer to the body in the cross punching movement, I remembered it as more forward and off to the side in the original rendition. No matter; I did not harm myself or others in prior attempts, and I do like the way this corrected version feels to my arms and shoulders. The pivot part works better as well.

Phase Two has a couple of additional exercises.

  • The simultaneous bent alternating dumbbell rows were on the original edition of this List. Again with the light weights (other Lists this 2-arm row is done with pairs of 25 lb. or 30 lb. dumbbells) and the simultaneous movement (one arm starts moving up while the other arm starts dropping down) it feel very light and rapidly smooth to run through the entire exercise. Despite the lighter weight, I can still feel the muscles in my back contracting and stretching with the weight going up and down.
  • The alternating dumbbell side laterals with a contralateral front stride is a big long name for step forward with left foot while raising the weight laterally with the right arm and vice versa. At first, this is a lot more complicated than it sounds, but brain adjusts and gets into the groove. A couple of things I have learned about these things, always start lifting with right arm and stepping with left foot while muttering “elbow bend, shrug up” under my breath the first couple of times before rep counting takes over. I feel these in my shoulders as I move along.
  • The alternating dumbbell front raises with a contralateral side stride is the fancy long name for stepping sideways with the left for while raising the weight in front with the right arm and vice versa. This and the side laterals are kind of like a dance steps, and since I do not dance unless absolutely unavoidable, it has been a process to retrain my brain. I particularly like this one, partly because of my deep and abiding affection for the 1-arm dumbbell snatch. These are like that without the squat and snatch part. I no longer fear harming myself with these movements and like the difference in feeling in my shoulders.
  • While we did both the simultaneous dumbbell upright rows and the bent over rear delt fly, I have a vast and strong preference for the bent over rear delt fly. Certainly nothing wrong with the upright rows, I do not especially feel them in my shoulders. I would have to ask J about it, but it just seems they do not do much for me with my particular brand of shoulder mobility. The bent over rear delt fly, however, is a whole other ball game. There is challenge in these and getting the angle just right so I feel the movement in the back of the shoulders as appropriate. Some practice needed, but I will get there.
  • I have done my fair share of push ups off bench in the last several months. However, it’s been a month or more between outings and it showed in today’s performance. I still scrunch my shoulders up when they should be down and back, and my push up muscles are not strong or conditioned in this movement. It inspires me to pursue the series of Lists that had push ups of various stripes and planky side kicks and kickbacks off the bench. No matter what, I should do more push ups either on the floor, the bench, or the TRX straps.

Phases Three and Four were on the original List, but there were some changes in phase four.

  • Alternating front reaching lunges with and without the overhead press were on the original List as written. From other Lists I know these are anterior lunges, and I was very far off the reservation on how this is done. Instead of doing anterior reaches when I went through the original edition of this List, I was doing walking lunges without the walking part both phases. Worked out fine, but not the way this List was written or intended.
  • Same thing happened on the alternating lateral reaching lunges both with and without the front press – I was doing a regular lateral lunge and then overhead press (on original List). In the teaching section our day today J demonstrated a more lateral reach without the deeper knee bend and the press forward with the weights in hand rather than the overhead press. Again, the way I performed the exercise yesterday worked out fine, just not the way this List was written or intended.
  • I was completely off the reservation in the alternating posterior reaching lunges with and without hammer curls. This was on the original List with an overhead press, but I had completely forgotten what a posterior reaching lunge actually was. Yesterday I did them as backward reverse lunges, in that I was stepping backward into the lunge rather than stepping forward. Instead, the posterior lunge is step all the way behind with a pivot and then do the bending forward lunge part, then stand upright again and pivot around to the starting position. Still, it was fine, and I do like the way this series is written now that I totally understand how to do it correctly.

Phase Five exercises are both familiar, even if I am out of practice.

  • The dumbbell power squats with 5 lb. dumbbells are interesting without the heavier weights. I definitely need to be pursuing the higher rep range on these and focus hard on form.
  • The inchworms are my burpee substitute, because I don’t do burpees. These are primarily for my pilates classes, but since I have not been there in a few weeks, I am ridiculously out of practice with these. Working up to 10 in a set seems impossible, but once upon a time so was everything else on this List.

Key Takeaways

To be perfectly candid, I am crazy in love with this List. There is enough success to balance and overcome the challenges I am still facing with the new additions and adjustments to this List.

Plus I am feeling pretty pleased with my attitude toward it. There is part of me wants to feel discouraged about the push up and inchworm lack of progress or even regression on these. But that part of me is negative girl territory and she’s been tied up, gagged for the holidays, and locked in her box. So no, I don’t feel especially discouraged or even unhappy about the push ups and the inchworms. When I pursue this List next (probably tomorrow, if body is agreeable), I will do push ups in sets of 3, 4, 5, whatever it takes to get me to the 10 per set. Same with the inchworms. The worst that happens? It takes me longer than I anticipate or expect to finish my allotted sets. Not the end of the world as I know it.

I’m going to have to work at the pivots and focus to maintain my balance. But I feel particularly good about my Phase One block and most of the Phase Two block. With some practice, I will improve. And since I am sketching out plans to ensure this List is in the rotation at least twice per week for a couple of sets, the struggles will be front and center and being worked at consistently.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

When she was 8 or 9, my oldest heard M and I talking about endorphins. M was describing running to me, trying to explain and inspire and infuse me with some enthusiasm of the sport and activity and essentially encourage me to get off my ass and fall in love with the outdoors and  walking and hiking. Yeah, right. Those were years we had young children underfoot, full-time jobs where he was working a night/day shift and I was working days. There was hardly any time to get outside for anything other than soccer games and softball games and little money to drive to the places where he wanted to enjoy hiking. On top of which – completely not my thing. But I have to give him credit for trying. Having never experienced the endorphin rush, he was describing the flood of them into the brain and trying to make it sound as if this was something I too could and would achieve. B, overhearing this, asked what it was like when “dolphins are swimming in your brain” – her interpretation of his description and big words. From the mouths of babes, I have never again heard the word endorphin without having visions of dolphins swimming in my head.

That said, I honestly cannot say that I have ever experienced the “high” so many people discuss. I feel good after practice, after training with J. And just lately here, I notice that body starts to miss certain exercises after awhile, and it’s a strange and mysterious experience for me now. As an example – yesterday I did a version of today’s List, in part because I was almost craving walking lunges. Now, understand that walking lunges are not on the favorites List; there is unlikely to be a day where I’m ridiculously excited about having to do walking lunges. But in the Saturday night debate about gym or pilates with an instructor that leaves me cold, the gym and walking lunges immediately came to mind and stuck in my head.

While I thought it would be the Abel 30s (leg press, walking lunges, sumo squats, stability ball hamstring curls – 30 reps each), the leg press was busy and I chose this workout instead. As noted above, I learned today there are not actually any regular lunges on the List, but oh well; substitution worked fine.

My point here is that I continually surprise myself anymore that body seems to crave certain things (other that chocolate, fat, sugar). Once I get it into my head and pursue certain Lists or series of Lists, it is like a brand new and yet very familiar feeling. I know some things may get neglected or pushed to the back of my mind after a few weeks. When I pick up and pursue those Lists and series of exercises again, I typically feel really, really good and uber gratified and satisfied by the experience. Is that an endorphin rush? No idea. But when I walk out of the gym feeling good about my List and the work done, I always imagine some school of dolphins swimming inside my head. And it makes me happy. Not slacking. Not negative. Not a poser. I have become gym people.

I am a creature of habit. I like structure. A big part of why things work so well with trainer J is because there are Lists, there are whole libraries of Lists. Some I set aside for weeks or months, then pick up on a whim and return to because it sounds like a good idea at the time. Anymore, my only caveats are that I do lower body/legs one day and swap it out with upper body the next. Days like today, when the List involves the whole body, I feel fine about doing it for a set or two every single day, maybe as an interim warmup before moving on to a longer or shorter List with heavier weights. Maybe this works for the long- or short-term, or maybe it does not work at all. My willingness to be flexible and experiment is a Very Good Thing, I think.

Thinking back to this time last year, I have come a long way. I am more capable and more confident. My own skin feels comfortable and comforting to me. It is a happy thing to know that I have stuck with training this long and there is no foreseeable end in sight for me right now.

Cleaning out my gym bag last night, I was struck by the assortment of Lists I was still carrying around. Just in case? I’m not sure. Mostly nostalgia, reminders of where I was this time last year and how far I have come. The original dumbbell routine J and I began working on in January is now something I would pursue with heavier weights, higher reps, more sets to fill the time, and that would still be kind of an easier, lighter day. I still feel it is a good solid workout, but I have others that are more challenging and suitable for my forward progression. Feeling as if I have outgrown something is nothing to be regretful about.

While writing this, I am was listening to episode 9 of “The Smarter Sculpted Physique Podcast,” wherein the coaches are talking about the bench press. But at the end of it, there were quick comments about the consumer bias in the gym for women, wherein they do cardio first with a little bit of weight training in pursuit of a cosmetically pleasing female physique where it should be the opposite.

Which made me smile, because just this morning I was wearing a tank top and crowing to J about new little creases in my front shoulders. I am apparently developing a shoulder cap; good to know it has a name.

But other than my recent foray into a cardio challenge, I don’t do any dedicated cardio. I strive for a yoga class a couple times each week, pilates on Sundays when it makes sense to me. Had I had my fancy smancy fitbit watch on today I could tell whether this hit harder in a cardio sense than usual. It was abandoned on the charger in my haste to get out the door on time this morning. Oh well.

My fitness focus is unique to me, and my way is the right way for me. Or I would not still be working with trainer J or pursuing my exercise with such dogged consistency. The anxiety that was once so focused on the gym itself is now based on the idea of skipping practices or missing training sessions. I know how easy it would be for me to loosen the reins and lighten up, skip a day here and there, reschedule a session just because I “deserve” to sleep later some Monday or Thursday.

If I do not indulge myself in such pointless imaginings it is unlikely to happen to me. My training, my practice will continue to be part of my everyday, every week satisfaction with life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. And good health. This week I have a lot going on at work, yet I have my week structured so I get my practices and training completed as usual, scheduled myself for the usual yoga classes in the evenings.

Prioritizing my better health quest revolved around protecting my exercise time blocks and putting forth an honest effort at healthier eating. Part of me feels very blessed and lucky to be having this much success. But the more honest view – I have worked damn hard for it and have earned my improvements and success.

On this excellent day with a pretty stellar training session and time spent listening to experts discuss various aspects of coaching and fitness, I deserve to feel this good about my efforts.

 

 

 

 

Training #83 – The heart of the matter

Thursday morning, training with J. Big fun happens on training days, and today was no exception.

I spoke yesterday about my clumsiness and not having any sort of falls, tumbles, cuts, or scrapes recently. I also voiced concern about speaking of my lack of mishaps and how it has tendency to jinx me. Sure enough, today I very nearly tripped and fell over the weight bench. Thankful for trainer J’s quick reflexes and steadying grip on my upper arm.

It’s only superstition if shit never happens.

Anyway, today was upper body day. This has been such a fun sequence of events the last couple of weeks – lower body Monday, upper body Thursday. It’s very satisfying to my creature-of-habit tendencies, because I can get myself into a schedule of practices that puts me into a secure, autopilot state of knowing what I am doing each day. Kind of ridiculous, I know. But we each have out things that make us make sense.

One of the best parts of getting into a regular routine of exercise has been blogging about it, but also the conversations it spawns with my real-life friends and associates. Many of my friends scattered around the globe read the updates and email or text me “atta girl” kudos or questions or express concerns about my training schedule. I get that; they do not see me but once a year, or maybe once every 5 years. But even friends here in town that I get together with fairly routinely – it’s become an absorbing educational topic for all of us. Our experience range from people like me who have embraced it fully in a shorter span of time to those who have exercised consistently since childhood to other just starting out on their journeys of discovery. I feel like finally, I have something to contribute to the conversation, and the takeaways are more relevant now that I actually have experience doing squats or lunges or presses. There are still big giant machines in the big boys’ room that I know nothing about, and I’m okay with that. No rush for me and I don’t expect to acquire knowledge and experience overnight. Trainer J is very good, but no one is that good.

My friend Christy has been doing crossfit for about as long as I have been training with J. We got together a couple of days ago and ended up comparing biceps. Yes, I have been elevated to a point of comparing biceps with another female friend. *laugh* But she has a smaller frame than my own – she’s a hummingbird in comparison to me as a T-Rex – so she is absolutely blazing new trails in the gym. I do not think the journey is easier for her, but I know our styles of exercise are very different. Heck, I know our need for different styles of exercise are very different. She’s very focused on goals and pounds and inches lost, whereas the only goal I have is to get to the gym for training appointments and practices and to the studio when I have enrolled in a class. Beyond that, all the Lists and the poses and the things I learn is pure gravy.

The differences in our perspectives remains an ongoing theme. Christy is also someone who tries to understand, even if she herself cannot operate that way in any aspect of her life. This possibly explains why crossfit appeals to her; the group setting, the competition, the goals they set for themselves. I do not do well in such an environment.

I find the idea of even a small group class with J or another trainer holds zero appeal; it is totally not my thing. I’d either be dying on the floor or going through with this puzzled frown on my face. Even in yoga class I find myself getting discouraged periodically because I know something is not quite right and I cannot figure out what it is, where I am going wrong. Yet it has been far easier to stick with it more consistently now that I have my attention on other exercise skill development. Plus I write about it, talk about it, and of course overthink it; having outlets is an enormous boon.

Down to business, though. What we did today:

  • Bent Over DB Row (20 & 25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12)
  • Cross Bench DB Pullover (20 & 25 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12)
  • Bent Over Band Straight Arm Pulldown (2 sets, MAX)
  • Band Row (2 sets, MAX)
  • Incline DB Chest Press (25 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Band Triceps Kickback (3 sets, MAX/side)
  • 1-arm DB Overhead Press (15 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
  • Dual Band Reverse Fly (3 sets, MAX)
  • DB Triceps Extensions (15 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • E2 DB Concentration Curl (10 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

Not a lot of new stuff again this week, which is perfectly fine with me. We are adding weightier weights, or we are working out way toward weightier weights. Either way, it feels like a transitional period, and I’m kind of excited about it.

I have done bent over dumbbell rows many times before, but sometimes it feels as if it has been a very long while since they appeared on a List. Today felt like a long stretch without them, and getting my form and technique back where there are fewer corrections and new reminder cueing takes a few practices.

The cross bench dumbbell pullover has potential for new favorite status. This is like a bridge, where only the head and upper shoulders are supported on the bench. I was surprisingly good at this, because I thought for sure the bridge part would be my undoing. No, it was mostly remember to skim the face with the weight while not bumping it against my face. While it seems like this would be very similar to a regular bench-supported dumbbell pullover, it feels al title different. The stretch, the contraction of muscles working, the focus on keeping abs tight and hips bridged … it wasn’t the terrible experience I envisioned watching J demonstrate.

We moved to the stretchy bands next for the bent over straight arm pulldown. I might have the sequencing confused – I think the pulldown was quick and peppy and the release to starting point was a slower, controlled tempo, but I might have it backwards. These are not hard, yet when J says MAX my mind sort of freezes and fixates on some random number. For future purposes it’s going to be 18; my MAX minimum on these is going to be 20 on this series. I have no idea what I did today as far as counts. Hopefully it was enough.

Band rows are sort of benign as well; I do them all the time. On a List like this, though, I really want to practice sharpening focus so tempo is peppier, form is good, and MAX is truly max, where arms feel so over and done with that at the end of each set. I’m not sure I have ever truly reached that point.

Back to bench for incline dumbbell chest presses. Today there was a new cue and wrinkle introduced, in that we are now trying and focusing on an arch in the back while moving the weights up and down. Up until now I was sure that keeping the back and shoulders flat against the bench was my aim, so this now feels like something new. I was using the 25 lb. dumbbells today, although I have been using the 30s in other recent practices. I am glad, though; with the new twist it was good to have some success without wondering about the why if there was some struggle involved.

Then back to the stretchy band and the tricep kickbacks. I have a new crush on these things; they are just challenging enough with mind focusing on retaining the right elbow elevation that I sort of forget that I am actually working on burning out the triceps until I wake up and triceps are on fire. While this is a MAX exercise, the first set on the weaker side was 18.

I like the 1-arm overhead press; it somehow makes me think about balance, standing upright, and watching what my arm is doing on the way down. While admittedly I am doing largely the same thing when pressing with both arms, resisting the urge to bend sideways at the waist is huge. It makes me feel like my brain is getting a little practice in focus when I have to keep my mind on what I am doing beside counting reps.

While the dual band reverse fly is familiar and has been on recent lists, the cueing or the demonstration seemed a little different today. I have a better sense of what I am doing with this exercise, and now that I am more comfortable with the dual bands and such, it feels like I can move forward and focus on the movement itself rather than the set-up and all that is going on around me while in process. I cannot really explain it, except there is this sense we the exercise is like a tower of legos and we’re making it taller and taller every week.

We have not visited with the dumbbell triceps extensions in awhile, and I was pleasantly surprised to be far more capable with 15 lb. dumbbells than my prior outings. Zero doubt in my mind anymore that arms and upper body are getting stronger.

The concentration curl must be named that because it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right spot where elbow meets leg. We were using a lighter weight – what early on J referred to as teaching weights – and it let me clearly imaging the Very Bad Things that could happen if I ever tried this with something too heavy or allowing myself to lose focus and let the weight drop too far. While it might sound kind of morbid to imagine the worst, I find it keeps me honest and mindful about the exercise.

While looking at the List now it seems a little lighter than sessions past, I am definitely feeling it in my lats and triceps tonight. I am looking forward to test driving this one my own in a Saturday practice as well.

Tomorrow is leg day again, and I think I am going out and using the machines and stability ball from last week instead. Friend J misinterpreted something I said about squats – I actually kind of like squats; it’s lunges and the lunge family that is not on my favorites list – and now I want to get back to the leg press machine and see how that List feels to me after this week’s version of legs.

The year is winding down already – J has planned and announced his Christmas holiday dates and I am starting to contemplate taking some time off myself for a staycation. Part of that is contingent upon when friend J land and takes up residence, part of it is dependent upon when C and A leave the state. But in addition to all that, it’s exciting to realize that a full calendar year is about to flip of this level of commitment to my better health quest.

While I am not a goal-setting sort of person in this realm, I am contemplating some tangible objectives for 2017. Not things like the weight of weights I am moving to and fro or the measurements on the scale or tape measure, but things like improving my counting skills or feeling more confident about my flexibility. K is about ready to commit to my yoga studio as well, so I may soon have a regular yoga companion once or twice a week. I have a whole pile of books in my kindle waiting patiently for some attention, and I have let myself go as far as time spent reading. Part of it is time management, allowing work-work to encroach on more and more of my free time, and it all comes back to personal discipline. I have not so much backslid in this area so much as gone still and stagnant and not exercised any self-discipline.

At lunch we were talking about motivation and inspiration. Succeeding is a great motivator for me. In the gym and my exercise pursuits I have grown less black-and-white, success/failure and more flexible and tolerant with my personal learning curves. I always hope to get some new stuff or have some basic memory of more familiar stuff, but it does not always work out that way. I’m finding that having even a few little wins has made me more focused on going and trying than anything else has done for me in the health and fitness realm.

Some days I do not feel motivated to try very hard or inspired to even try at all. Those days still freak me out, but they tend to happen less frequently and freak me out less period when they do occur. I have a really long list of things that I struggled mightily with at one point or another and now rarely give much thought to when they appear on my List of the day. I’m learning to block out the noise and distraction of people yelling back and forth in conversation in the big boys room and just do my work and move on to something, somewhere else. I still feel like a green newbie in that area of the gym, yet I know I am not all that green or very new to gym attendance.

I suppose if you have been a successful athlete or are generally confident these musings may not be applicable, and that’s okay. In my little gym I blend pretty well with the member population. While I am no young and do not appear hip or fit, I tend to care less and less about that as the days pass. My skin is pretty comfortable anymore, I am not thinking or anxious about what others might think about my efforts.

My friend Christy expressed newfound respect for my efforts and the work I am doing in my exercise and better health pursuits, and the way she said it was almost unkind, although I know she did not mean it as anything other than complimentary. Gyms have a pretty high bar to overcome with the average person, and many who say they go to the gym do not necessarily mean to work the way I work. Some work much harder, of course, but for many it is a social pursuit, a place to see and be seen by others or pursue their fitness objectives in different ways.

Funny how my perspective has changed. Before going to the gym brought forth a reflexive wincing or anticipation of a painful, anxiety-driven experience. Now it’s just another day, another List, another opportunity to put body through it’s expanding paces.

The evolution of a stronger sense of self, more balance in my ability to overcome the anxiety of a place of such discomfort –  I think about this phenom fairly regularly. I marvel that I have come this far. And that is perhaps the most amazing and awesome transformation thus far.

Silencing the peanut gallery

Because of the unexpected trip for The Gown fitting, I had to cut my practice short this morning. In fact, The Gown fitting pretty much threw a wrench in my entire day’s plans, but oh well. I can always return to the gym.

I just feel this unexpected loss and some tingles of guilt about an abbreviated and rushed practice. This is not to be confused with the angsty drama akin to my early days of gym crazy; it is more a feeling of disappointment that I did not get enough time to explore how I feel today about the List of the day. I do know my hamstrings and glutes are still feeling those kettle bell swings and the leg work on Thursday, so I was taking advantage of any and all rest pauses.

Thinking about how I feel about this process, I completely understand that I am embracing my obsessive and addictive tendencies toward the exercise. After a lifetime of avoidance, I am not going to try to restrain or dial-back my own excitement and interest in all I am learning and doing no matter what my more cautious and/or cynical friends might suggest. I am not doing anything crazy. I am not trying to lift or move to and fro humongous heavy weights. If anything, I tend to be more conservative and careful and would rather do 20 reps with a lighter weight than the 8-12 range with what I do with J in our sessions. When in doubt I leave the weight on the bench and go lighter to no to assure myself I have the basic form nailed down.

But it does lead to feeling a little let down when life interferes or happens when I have plans to exercise. My pursuit of balance  is littered with all sorts of emotional highs and lows. It also leads to a complicated mixture of emotions when friends express critical opinions of my pursuits. While I should not care what they think, I am not quite so armored up yet that I can completely ignore the digs or outright hostile comments.

There is stress in my life with the upcoming wedding, work-related commitments and deadlines, and the exercise helps sharpen my focus by shifting it completely somewhere else and letting the parts of my brain running on overdrive rest. We are also going on vacation and will be away for almost a week. In that time I will do a fair amount of sitting around, although I will be doing at least a little something every day in addition to the extra walking.

But even now, after this much time and the groove I have worn into my calendar with the daily practices, I have niggling fear and anxiety that getting off my routine is going to have such a powerful effect and impact on my schedule I will not recover or bounce back when we get home. I console myself that it is only 5 days of being away from the gym, because I will practice as usual the day we leave and hopefully be able to snag an hour of J’s afternoon the day we return. My rational mind understand this is the negative girl habit, that this is my maiden voyage into vacation after nearly a year of daily exercise. The mild anxiety is playing in the background like white noise.

To add to this, friend J made a careless mistake and sent me (and others) an email that sounded like a criticism of me and my exercise habits. What he said:

Once you get to the point that your primary activity in life outside work is exercise and healthy eating it has become as much an addictive obsession as drugs or alcohol. You need to take a breath, take a step back, and utilize your common sense and moderation. No one is meant to work out a few hours every day forever unless you’re some sort of elite athlete. Just f**king get over yourself and accept your place among the average humankind before your body breaks down from overuse and overwork.

Okay, in that standalone context it does sound like he’s telling me I’m overtraining and it’s becoming a problem. Unbeknownst to me, though, it was part of a larger thread on another email we were both receiving and following. The intensity of that thread had escalated to the point that I stopped reading, and my friend was directing the comment at another acquaintance who spends a lot of time talking up her time spent slaving at the gym with her primary results being the aches, pains, and frequent injuries for all the work she puts into it. However, what I saw was an email from him to me with this type of very harsh message.

Context is everything. It was very late where he is when he wrote it and he snipped the rest of the thread so the comment was completely, starkly out of place. An honest mistake, which was cleared up after a barrage of texts from me telling him he’s an ass.

Unfortunately, other friends took this honest mistake on his part to express their own opinions of my exercise habits and once more the chorus of how I am either overdoing it or not working hard enough for such minimal transformative results. To make matters even worse, the debate expanded into healthy eating and recommendations of diets and discussions of carbs and protein and calories

To be fair, not all the comments were directed at me, more a collective “you” of those pursuing a change to a healthier life and lifestyle. But to be completely unfair in my broad characterization, they are all asses as well and entitled to their ridiculous opinions on my life and my habits. I have my own thoughts and opinions about them as well, which I am gracious enough to keep to myself if they serve no purpose other than making someone else feel poorly for no good reason.

Anyway, it was a rough day from the standpoint that an entire swath of real-life acquaintances and friends suddenly turned like synchronized herd and began taking their own little pot shots. Hit someone hard enough they are going to feel it even through the suit of armor. Drowning me in negative words and opinions does eventually take a toll, so I stopped reading and simply began deleting messages as new replies and comments were posted.

Avoidance is sometimes my friend.

Dr. Spencer, my current village advisor on nutrition-related matters, replied to an email from me about food and carb/calorie budgets and how my psyche translates that into a pass/fail exercise every single day. I have been making inroads toward substituting unhealthy food choices with healthier ones, but I am growing weary of the carb is a carb is a carb discussions. From the measures I hold dear, I am far better off eating a piece of fruit than a cookie. I know I do not eat enough protein and have to supplement with the powder. Sometimes it’s not so simple to get all the nutrients a body needs from the food being consumed in a day. Sometimes one person needs to supplement where another person can eat 100% clean and tidy and organic and fresh. Why is it people have become so enmeshed in their opinions and perspectives there is no room for someone else to be deviate?

It’s frustrating. I can think it’s a crazy idea and bad for overall health to follow a fad diet or fast for 5 days out of 7 to lose weight, but unless you are someone for whose welfare I am directly responsible, my thoughts and opinions carry very little weight. I can tell you that I do not believe that is a good idea, but I am no expert and my opinion of your sense is irrelevant.

While I do not understand why the group think thing happens to me, I do know that my lack of response to it tends to encourage it. Instead I sequester the peanut gallery and eventually the noise dies down and fades away completely. It’s a waste of time and energy to try to defend my ways of caring for myself to people who are not listening anyway. If they were listening they would know better than to try and get a rise out of me

My village – they are all well aware of my ongoing struggles with food. I am a picky eater, and while I have had some moderate success expanding my foods I will eat list, the book on what I will not is much longer and more comprehensive. But oh well. I just eat the same things, over and over and over again. I am working hard at swapping out the less healthy and overly processed foods in my diet that can and will likely see me returning to diabetes drugs for other things that are improved contributors to my overall better health quest. I am not terribly patient, though, especially with myself.

I always thought the exercise portion of diet and exercise would be the much harder part of that equation. Instead, I am doing very well with the exercise and have found a good niche that works for me. There is always room for improvement, and while it’s been plenty hard to get started and stick with it, I have been amazed to find myself evolve into a regular presence at my gym and chipping away at my Lists. The healthy eating portion has been so much more challenging, quite probably because I have always eaten and enjoyed the foods I have consumed and changing those ingrained habits is going to be more difficult than simply implementing brand new behaviors.

With the exercise, I feel ridiculously close to some new breakthrough. Heck, even now I celebrate even the tiniest of successes. Everything from I did not lose track of rep or set counting to moving up in dumbbell weights is a happy dance occasion for me. With food, not eating a cookie is not really on the same scale as spending 2 hours at the gym and much of it actually working my way through a List of the day that has me perplexed.

While today has been a little rough and my sense of self took a bit of a beating, I am actually surprised I did not fall further down the rabbit hole. As I said to trainer J earlier, my thoughts were marinating. Objectively I see and read the comments and I understand the source of the sentiments are not really as altruistic as the writer would like me or anyone else to believe. Some of it is ignorance, some of it is jealousy, most of it is self-deflection so they do not have to look in their own mirror and recognize their shape is unchanging and they are growing more unhealthy to some degree with each new day. The months have passed and I’ve worked hard at and enjoyed success in my better health quest. I am not yet immune to the harsher comments from other people, simply because it shocks me they are so openly judgmental and negative toward others. I suppose I should be accustomed to it by now, but I’m not. I’m simply not as interested in hearing it anymore, and my ability to brush off the impact has strengthened substantially as time has passed.

I have the best village because they work very well with me. They are not the source of my motivation to get up and get to the gym or to eat a balanced and healthy diet, although their influence has a direct impact on those feelings. My village works well with me not because they tell me what I want to hear, but because what they share with me makes a lot of sense to me and their theories and techniques work. I have developed a really good understanding of the “your mileage may vary” concept and have been far happier and accepting of myself and my genuine efforts once I stopped comparing myself to others; I always fell short. My success rate soared once I disconnected my ego from the numbers involved with my various Lists. I care about reps and sets completed; I care about the amount of weight I am using. However, I am not upset or offended or even concerned if I have to drop down in any of those things. Every day is different and the variables within my own body and under my control are so far-reaching its impossible to maintain any expectation that today’s reality will be the same or better tomorrow.

I recognize this post in pinging and ponging, much like my thoughts marinating all day long. At the end of it all, it’s not the organization of my thoughts so much as it is just purging them from my head.

My takeaway from all the negative noise today is that I am doing very well, blazing my own pathway with exercise. I am not in competition with anyone, and my slow and steady progress is as satisfactory as it is safe.

Nutrition and changing eating habits of a lifetime does not happen for me quickly. It takes time, discipline, and some intellectual understanding of the process is required for success. The changes I make, am making, will make into the future are sustainable, not something I do for a short time to meet a weight goal.

Better health means changing my forever habits, not this month, this year, until some weight goal is achieved.

Friend J remains one of my strongest supporters and chief cheerleaders. He is not one to hold back if he thinks I am moving in the wrong direction, and I trust his judgment and his opinions. Sometimes he’s still an ass. Then again, aren’t we all?

The rest of the opinion feeding frenzy? If I can ignore it, I cannot form an opinion on it or allow it to engage my feelings in any manner. The people who matter most to me, whose opinions I value and take very much to heart, I trust their guidance and direction.

And finally, my health measures are improving, steadily if slowly. I am doing enough – I am good enough – to have earned the small successes that accumulate into forward progress. No one and their silly, self-serving opinions can take that away from me.

That, dear friends reading this who gleefully weighed in on all this stuff today, is f**king kick-ass progress strengthening of my backbone and my do-not-give-a-shit-about-what-you-think attitude. Hopefully this positive transformative result is one you can all see, feel, and measure for yourselves.

Have a good night.