A Brief Glance Inside

Maldives, South Asia, 2020 – An empty Maldivian Resort gym
Source: Gym Stock photos by Vecteezy

As a semi-companion to my last post, I thought I’d give an update on my personal training. A glance inside, if you will. You all know by now that training is key to my recovery from SDR surgery, right? If not, click here. My first trainer got promoted, so I’ve got a new trainer now. We’re still focused on strengthening, with some differences in my training regimen. Both trainers have different styles and ways of training, which I don’t mind. that I keep up with my strengthening and incorporate stretching, too.

I’ll try not to bore you with my fitness routine. Instead, I’ll take you through a typical session with my new trainer. My most recent session was the other day, after I fortunately made it out of the locker room without slipping on its wet floors (again, see previous post). We started our session like we’ve started every session so far: using the arm bike (no idea if that’s what it’s really called, so just bear with me). It’s that machine where you cycle your arms around in a circle, and it kinda feels like you’re wading through water as you push. My new trainer, let’s call him T, wanted me to start with some cardio and build up a sweat. Fine by me. We did five minutes in total on that machine, two minutes on, one minute off, and so forth, all while keeping the rpm a certain number (between 50-60). Mind you, this is after I walked the 0.7 miles to the gym from my house. By the time I checked in, I was already sweating from the walk over! Didn’t mind at all, though. Hard work means results, right? Hopefully?

Next, we strengthened. T pointed directly to the leg extension machine to target my quadriceps. I followed. Often like to say that my quads are deceptively strong. Guess it doesn’t really look like they are, but they can hold their own in most cases. Even I’m surprised by them sometimes. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, I was shocked when I raised 50 pounds with my legs for my third set on the leg extension machine. Yes, 50! By comparison, I personally prefer the leg extension machine to the leg curl machine, only because the curling motion is quite difficult for me to complete, not to mention awkward, as I don’t normally bend my legs that way all the time (ie, bending my knee down from straight to a 90 degree angle). T actually asked me “do you like the leg curl machine?” It was as if he could tell I hated it or something. My bad.

“….It’s ok.” I tempered my answer, and I could tell when he began chuckling softly from behind his mask. “I’ve never really liked the leg curl machine, to be honest.” There I go with my honesty. What else was I supposed to do? Lie? Nope! The leg extension machines feels much more manageable and like I can actually accomplish something, whereas the leg curl machine is just downright frustrating and annoying. I mean, I know the leg curls are strengthening my legs (when done properly), it’s just more difficult, a challenge. Not saying I like to shy away from challenges. That’s never been true. I do think it’s ok to prefer some machines over others, though.

After leg extensions, we moved on to the shoulder press. I did the shoulder press machine with my first trainer. I remember he once said “it sneaks up on you!” He was right. I was all confident on my first set with 20 pounds. Thought it was easy. Then on the second set, my arms started to strain. A lot. Definitely felt the burn there!

Next machine was the seated low row. This machine is a little hard for me to get into on my own. When I’m exercising alone, I avoid it. I’m always appreciative when T is around to help me sit on the bench and swing my legs over. The row machine has no bars to hold on––essentially the only thing to hold onto is the handle that pulls the weight when I pull back. Does that sound scary to you at all? Because for some reason the other day it was for me. Really scary. Kept feeling like I was going to fall off the bench. T noticed. “Try adjusting by moving your body more to the right,” he said. I did.

“Feels a bit better.” Still though, the Fear remained. Let me just say again, there was nothing to hold onto, and my feet were propped up in front of me. Even though my feet stayed put, I still felt like I was gonna go flying off the side of the bench onto the floor. T was about to hand me the handle to pull the weight when I said, “Wait, it still feels weird.”

“Move back on the seat.”

One of the things I love about T is that he adapts exercises and doesn’t just exclude them if I have trouble with the original form (my first trainer adapted exercises, too!). T doesn’t just give up on me and move onto something else. For example, our very first session together, T wanted to see if I could do a bench press. I anticipated it was going to be tricky to get on the bench, lay on it and keep my feet on the floor, but I was willing to try just to show him what I could do. Well, I was right. It was too difficult for me to keep my feet planted on the floor and press the weights in my hands without being terrified of falling off the bench. T wasn’t deterred. “We’ll just do the presses with you laying down on the floor.” Genius! Major points for T! Now we often incorporate presses on the floor with seven and a half pound weights into our sessions.

T and I end every session with some stretching. The other day, he stretched my hamstrings and my quads. My quads are often super tight, so when T stretched them…holy crap, it hurt. But like, in a good way. Almost like knowing he was doing a good thing made it hurt a little less. Almost. He used a foam roller and rested my leg on top of it, but that didn’t make the stretch hurt any less. Ow. Really wish it were easier to stretch my quads on my own so they’re not so tight, but my legs just don’t cooperate. When I pull on the strap so that my heel goes toward me, my leg often strays off to the side. It’s pretty much unavoidable unless I have someone else there to guide me. That probably sounds like an excuse. Nope. Just me being honest. Quads are a pain for me to stretch. Did I mention it hurts like hell?

When T asked me to flex after stretching my quad muscles, we both noticed that I could actually bring my right leg in much easier than when we started, and a lot easier than when I tried with my left leg. Makes sense, since my left leg is weaker than my right. Still, though, I was really happy when I saw those improvements. Small, but significant! Being able to really build muscle with reduced spasticity thanks to SDR has been pretty cool. Maybe one of the coolest improvements I’ve experienced so far! Personal training has been something of a blessing. It’s hard work, but I’m grateful for it.

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