Anna's Recovery: Month 5

Each month I notice new self-reflections on where I am at and what I am doing (both productively and bad habit wise). I find that thinking of things in terms of months makes how long I might need to focus on something feel less overwhelming, as well as giving my body time to actually make a change. It also allows me to take one item at a time off the list of things I need to work on or explore, rather than trying to do it all at once which isn’t feasible mentally, physically, or from a time capacity standpoint. Often we want change to happen immediately to gratify our efforts, or we make the task of the change so overwhelming and daunting in our head that we’ll never start. I keep reminding myself that it takes 4-6 weeks of consistent work to notice a change, and it’s also about making sure we gently tap the threshold of our body’s ability to “overload” it. More often than not, consistency is more in our head than reality, but just because we think about it all of the time doesn’t mean we are actually doing it. So when I’m feeling frustrated about a change, I try to honestly look back to see if I’m actually putting the work in that I think I’m doing. Usually, I can see that I need to up my game, which allows me to not be frustrated with myself for lack of change and create a better plan for moving forward.

The overload idea is about challenging the body while not overwhelming it. Yes, we need to do something consistently to build upon it, but if we’re always doing the same thing our brain and body become complacent. This reminds me of people who can dominate a step aerobics class with the 2 pound weights that they haven’t changed for a year, and yet are wondering why they never see a difference. On the flip side, people who went to variability training where they did something different every day (I call this exercise ADD or FOMO) don’t give their body an opportunity to build upon what they’ve established. So it’s a stairstep approach of working consistently on something, reflecting when it gets a little easier, and nudging that bar a little further to reach. Then, after you feel like you’ve exhausted the limits of an exercise, you can still attack the muscle but change course to give it a new stimulus with your approach. That’s why I love MomFit. Sarah did a great job of changing certain things, building upon others, but still not neglecting a muscle so that when you went back to a previous move you haven’t done for a while you’re even better at it!

The last thought about overload is that it’s not always clear what overloading actually is for our bodies. Yes, I felt challenged, my stomach was exhausted, and I quivered. However, because my cheaters (back and psoas) are strong, I am able to do challenging things but maybe bypass the muscles that I actually want to be working (read lower abs and deep stabilizing system). So it’s a bit of a dance with dabbling here, seeing how things respond, then redirecting or progressing accordingly. As long as you are doing a nudge instead of a leap you’ll be fine, but that’s not to say that tightness or slight setbacks might not happen. The road to recovery isn’t straight, but it is enlightening. Time and again I tell people how important it is to use their setbacks or response to exercise as information that our body is giving us. It will tell you areas that you need to work on more, and better set you up moving forward. Jessica pointed out a quote I had shared with her and then forgotten about, “it’s not about bouncing back, but about bouncing forward.”

So this month I reflected on ways I could make things a little more challenging, like adding some balloons, serratus press, or more side planks to my routines. I ended up with some tightness that I had to dig into a bit, but overall it went well and I feel stronger at the end of the month. The beauty of realizing this tightness (I would wake up with my back/sides feeling tight but not painful) is that it allowed me to peel back another layer of my body.

I realized that I am a pec minor gripper and use my lats (which I already suspected but was choosing to get away with and ignore…) for my exhales. I also felt a band of tightness in my right EO when I engaged my abs and my right lats felt a band of muscle despite release work. I started tackling it with overhead breathing with reach every day, twice a day when I could and using that same position when doing dead bugs and 90-90 breathing. The concept is to separate what your chest is doing from your ribs (in a sense, pulling you in two different directions of length through muscle activation) so that I wasn’t in such a tug of war of arms/shoulders moving in one direction and taking my ribs with it, ribs coming down and chest coming with it, or external obliques having to pull down extra hard to fight the tightness in my chest. A week of doing this and my abs felt so different and more balanced with their engagement, as well as my back, feeling less tight overall. I was onto something that I knew had held me back before, and I look forward to continuing to explore it.

Wins

Feeling the quivers and fatigue of a workout.

Discovering and improving upon my ab engagement and breathing strategies.

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