Deadlifts on the Rise

My ability to perform deadlifts was significantly hampered for a great deal of this year because of my lower back injury that occurred at the end of January. I might have attempted a couple deadlift sessions in the first few weeks after the injury and another short session a couple months later, but mostly I couldn’t deadlift until May when I needed to prepare for Provincials in June. I think I worked up to a single rep at 225 pounds, and even that didn’t feel very good. At Provincials, my deadlifts felt really good and easy…because they were easy weights for me. Tweaking my back during one of my squats meant I had to be even more conservative with my deadlift attempts than originally planned. My three deadlift attempts were: 187 pounds, 226 pounds, and 248 pounds. That was the end of deadlifting for a little more than a month or late July.

Deadlifts returned to my training when I got my new coach and program. Even though I had provided him with all of the pertinent information as it related to my injury/recovery and previous training and competitions, the first deadlift session, as programmed, was a little too much. Those first deadlift sessions were from a deficit, but the original working weight was 220 pounds. I never even bothered attempting to use that weight, because my warm up set at 195 pounds felt heavy, tough, and hard on my back. My coach scaled back my deadlift numbers. After a few weeks of deficits with back aches, he took away the deficit. Since then I’ve been feeling the deadlift love once again. Today’s deadlift session saw my working sets at 220 pounds…that same weight I couldn’t do 9 weeks ago!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 6, 220 x 4, 220 x 3, 220 x 4, 220 x 3

The first set felt like it was flying. So good and honestly surprising. The second set still felt decent, but I knew I’d have difficulty maxing out reps for each set. The third and fifth sets were not as good as I’d like, since I didn’t even get the four reps I was shooting for. It was a case of the loss of tension, loss of rhythm in both sets. On the third set, I tried to regroup. I stood up and reset my position, inhaled and tried to lock my body into tension…nope. When it comes to deadlifts, I listen to my body when it tells me to stop. I also know that as the weight on the bar gets heavier, my ability to perform multiple deadlift reps drops significantly. I’ve never been someone who can use 80% of my max for reps. But aside from those two glitches, I think my deadlifts were decent today. It was good to feel progress, to know that I am indeed coming back from injury and getting stronger all the time.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 65 x 4, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6

These felt a little tough today. I’d say each set was an RPE of 9. The fact that my calluses were now tender and sore from the deadlifts probably didn’t help, but mostly I just feel a little fatigued this week.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 4, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Legs felt done like dinner. Grip felt done like dinner. I’d rather pause squat.

4. pull downs 8-12 reps

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12

This is the first time pull downs have been in my new training program, which also means that I haven’t done pull downs for a few months now. My coach left the weight up to me. I did a couple of reps at 50 pounds before deciding that 70 would be a better place to begin. That was relatively easy, so I increased the weight on the second set.

5. planks

x 45 seconds, x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds

The first plank felt almost easy. On the last plank, I could hear my abs screaming in misery.

And now, after two training days which saw increases in weight along with lots of sets, I’m almost looking forward to Friday’s 10 working sets of bench. When I first saw this week’s program, I thought all those sets might do me in, but now I think they might be the easiest part of the strength portion of this week’s program!


It Is Well

“It’s okay if you’re scared about endings and new beginnings. But remember, you do it every single day. All will be well.” ~Nanea Hoffman

Four years ago today I walked into a private gym to meet with a personal trainer for the very first time. I was absolutely scared that day. Stepping into a gym was like landing in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and the food is unrecognizable. I felt awkward and out of place. So far outside of my comfort zone. My only real hope was that I might finally lose some of my excess weight, but even then I was doubtful.

The journey of the past four years has been incredible and life-changing. I am not the same person today as I was then. The road has not always been easy or free from potholes and roadblocks. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. I have reached goals that far surpass my original goal to lose 20-25 pounds, goals that I could never have even anticipated setting for myself. I went from someone who was finally beginning to consider herself a runner to a competitive powerlifter. Four years ago, I hadn’t even heard of powerlifting. I changed jobs. I found myself.

As I reflect on the past four years and where I am today, I can see the road before me disappearing into a shimmer on the horizon. It is very true that every day is a new beginning and you cannot always see what is coming your way. The path of my journey veered slightly this summer with a change in training venue and coaching. Dealing with injury made the road bumpy for most of the year. My husband had major surgery and an ongoing heart issue. Changes at work. Relationship trials. The day-to-day stuff of life. I’ve continued to do it every single day.


Week 9, Day 1

I know I am prepping for a competition that is only a little more than 6 weeks away. I know that I should expect my training to get tougher and the weights to get heavier.  I do expect it, and yet I found myself feeling both shocked and slightly frightened last night when I opened up my training program for this week. The truth is that this week’s training does have increases in weight and such, but it actually isn’t anything extreme. I just feel the fear and try to do it anyway.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 6, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4

My squats felt all over the place today. The first set was tough and ugly feeling. The second was so-so, while the third felt significantly better. Then the fourth and fifth felt just okay. Some reps felt good. Some reps felt like a battle. I was dripping in sweat and trying to ignore the tiny bodied, big attitude girl doing some weird, off balance squats on the Smith machine beside me, the tattooed punk doing micro curls in a squat rack, and the girl squatting 235 pounds for doubles without breaking a sweat.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 100 x 3

main event: 115 lbs x 5, 115 x 5, 115 x 4, 115 x 4

I was worried about my ability to bench 115 pounds without having someone assist me with a hand off. The good news is that I was able to unrack the bar all by myself! I just wonder how much that effort took out of each set. Perhaps I could have managed another rep or two each set…

3. pause squats (3-1×0) 5-7 reps

125 lbs x 7, 125 x 7, 125 x 5

Now I have always liked pause squats, but I want to make a clarification to my love for them. I like pause squats when the eccentric is controlled but not necessarily as slow as this tempo!

4. glute bridges 8-10 reps

135 lbs x 12 x 3 sets

Yeah. I did 12 reps each set instead of the 8-10. They are super easy, even with the jump in weight.

5. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 11, 55 x 10. 55 x 7

Not surprising to see the drop off on the final set.

The Owner’s Manual


Early this year I began writing my owner’s manual. The concept arose from a course of sorts that I was involved in through Precision Nutrition, but I took the concept and broadened it beyond nutrition and fitness. Circumstance dictated that I abandon that course a few months ago, and my manual sat untouched in a pile of my notebooks up until a few days ago. As I purged living room clutter, I dusted off my manual, flipped through the pages, and added a few more things to the pages. It is time to get back to my owner’s manual!

So what is in my owner’s manual?

There is a little bit of everything. I cannot claim to have come up with all the information on my own. Most, if not all, of the information comes from other sources. The information captured my attention in some way. It might be about healthy, balanced nutrition habits. It could be about creating and maintaining good habits. There is information on my personality types (plural because I fit equally into two types). Setting goals. Sleep habits. Values. Stress. Scripture. Mindset. Body composition numbers taken in January of this year. That sounds like a lot of information, yet there are so many pages yet to fill in my notebook.

My owner’s manual isn’t an instruction book on how to fix or operate Angela Thompson. It does not say, “If you wave salted caramel in front of her, she will do your bidding forever.” It also does not say, “If awake before 7:00 AM, do not approach. Do not attempt to engage in conversation.” This owner’s manual is not for others to use; it is for me. My owner’s manual is like a tool box in which I keep facts and reminders which help me be the best version of myself. Sometimes, like lately, I forget about my manual and those facts become less distinct, the reminders lost in the endless cycle of life. My happiness and sense of peace are not dependent on perfect adherence to my manual. I’ve been quite happy and peaceful these past few months that I’ve ignored it; however, I know from experience that living out the principles within my manual can also result in goodness all over.

This short sabbatical has been nice, but I am ready to refocus on what works best for me in terms of what keeps me healthiest mentally, spiritually, and physically. This is why I have an owner’s manual. Well, that and I really like notebooks and lists.


The Monday-Friday Mind Meld

It’s my Monday and the first of my two early morning shifts. Tomorrow is the early, early shift, and I flip to closing shifts for the rest of my week. As much as I am a night owl, I really do enjoy the open shifts. Today was a busy morning, like really busy, but it still felt like a decent day. After work, I hurried home to change and gather my gear, drove my daughter to a friend’s, and hit the gym. I had barely returned home when my husband asked me to go for a drive with him, a drive that would end up including dinner. Now I am finally home and able to recline, relax, and decompress from the entire day. The yawns appeared during dinner, and I took my contacts out almost as soon as we walked in the door. Ideally, I’d like to be in bed in two hours, because I like my sleep. My husband wants to watch a movie. How much sleep will I get tonight?

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 7, 85 x 7

main event: 100 lbs x 7, 100 x 7, 100 x 7

2. low bar squats (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5

main event: 145 lbs x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 5

The final set was where I felt some fatigue. I paused a moment, considering going for another rep or two to max out the set, but ultimately felt it wisest to stop.

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

95 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 6

These felt better, easier than last week, and that shows with an increase in the reps I did compared to last week.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 13

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

And now it looks like we’re watching the new King Kong movie…

All In a Good Day

What makes a day a good one?

The answer to that question would vary drastically depending on the person providing the answer, and perhaps even those responses would vary depending on the day or situation. Personally, I know that my definition of a good day can be extremely broad and diverse. As best as I can call to mind in this moment, here is a partial list of things that can help make my day a good one:

  • sunshine
  • rain
  • a hot air balloon
  • crisp, fallen leaves beneath my feet
  • a productive day around the house
  • meaningful connections with customers
  • a delightfully delicious meal
  • time spent with good friends
  • hanging out with my kids
  • a good training session
  • a good playlist
  • escaping into Star Wars or Wonder Woman or Doctor Who
  • a good cup of coffee
  • a good glass of wine
  • time to myself
  • quiet & solitude
  • worship music
  • freshly painted toenails
  • hot baths
  • holding my husband’s hand
  • freshly cut & coloured hair
  • PRs in the gym or on the platform
  • watching my kids do their things
  • colouring
  • writing
  • journalling
  • making lists and checking things off
  • salted caramel anything
  • chocolate with hazelnut
  • Abby’s artwork
  • board/card games
  • working with amazing people
  • my weird, odd, crazy, random dreams
  • maple trees
  • lions, tigers, jaguars, and cheetahs
  • underdog stories
  • rainbows
  • thunderstorms
  • roses
  • flowers, in general
  • heartfelt cards and notes and gestures
  • Willow Tree figurines
  • books by beloved authors
  • highlighters and coloured pens
  • notebooks, journals, and paper
  • funky socks for a bare food loving girl
  • trips down memory lane
  • daydreams
  • walks (used to be running)
  • finding a perfect gift or card for someone
  • words of unexpected praise
  • a solid night’s sleep
  • flip flops
  • risotto
  • turkey dinner
  • comfort foods like cabbage rolls or scalloped potatoes
  • warm, cozy throw blankets
  • the scents of lavender, lilac, rosemary
  • walking past the treadmills to head to the free weights
  • quotes
  • Winston Churchill
  • silver
  • garnet
  • dangly earrings

Desperately Seeking Energy

I’m waiting for the caffeine to hit my bloodstream and infuse me with some energy, because I feel as limp as a noodle right now. Although today’s training session saw me moving significantly less weight than Monday’s session, I feel done in. Deadlifts can do that to you.

1a. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, 195 x 3

main event, with belt: 205 lbs x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 4, 205 x 6

Today was my first time deadlifting more than 200 pounds since Provincials in June. These felt decent, although I am a little disappointed to have dropped two reps on the fifth set. Deadlifts and I have a complicated relationship when reps are involved, especially when there is a definitive stop before each rep. There is a natural rhythm involving the creation of tension, breathing and bracing against the belt, and initiating the lift. For me, if that rhythm is broken, even just a smidge, I find it difficult to continue the set. That’s what happened in the fifth set. Between finishing the fourth rep and initiating the fifth, something happened to upset my rhythm and I couldn’t do it. The smallest thing can ruin the rhythm…an extra second, an ill-timed breath or the wrong type of breath, the bar rolling. Even though I was already feeling the fatigue, I knew I was capable of maxing out my reps on every set, so I was determined to finish my final set well.

2. competition bench press (2-1×0)  6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6

main event: 100 lbs x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 6

Bench press is my weak link in the powerlifting chain, although I think I can safely say that I am generally solid up until a certain weight. My competition best has been stuck at the same weight forever, but my working sets feel good and strong.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 6, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Today was my first time doing these for a long, long time!

4. barbell shoulder press 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 10, 45 x 6

My dislike for shoulder presses is strong, while my ability to do them well is weak. The first set felt okay, but the right shoulder fatigued rapidly during the second set.

5. plank

x 36s, x 30s, x 25s

I don’t understand how people can hold a plank for minutes at a time. If I was completely fresh, I might be able to hold a plank for a minute, but by the end of my training session I was fighting to maintain form as long as I did.