Can You Feel It?

I was asked today if I am excited about my upcoming competition. Am I? You’d better believe it!

Heading into Provincials this past June had me feeling cautiously hopeful but tempered by the reality of dealing with my back issues since late January. Although my back was greatly improved by June, it wasn’t quite normal and my ability to properly peak for competition was hampered. Knowing that I would not have my best performance was frustrating, and I had to mentally prepare myself for the personal disappointment. The tweak of my back during Provincials was unexpected and demoralizing. These weeks and months since have crept by painfully slow at times, and now the days are passing by at the speed of light.

I am excited for this competition. Training has been going well, and I have been pushed further, harder than ever before. It’s been a good thing, I think. My back has mostly held up quite well. My anxiety about inflicting more harm on myself has settled into the realm of reasonable expectations. I have successfully moved weights that I have not used for a long time, and I’m doing it without pain. Although my current program has me doing more volume at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before, the fact that I am keeping pace with the volume inspires confidence and hope. While I do have two little goals for this competition, I honestly have no idea what numbers my coach has in mind.

I have this tendency to look at my previous best lifts and feel as if those were the best I could ever do. With almost all of this year being consumed by the back problems, it has been a very long time since I’ve achieved those best lifts! It is likely quite normal to feel that my strength has stagnated or that injury has hammered nails into the coffin containing my goals. Recent training successes have been prying those nails off, and I know that my strength is growing, although I cannot say with certainty if that growth has surpassed my pre-injury state or merely brought me back close to it. But I feel optimistic!

Yes, I am excited for this competition! I am always eager to step onto the platform to compete. There is something amazing about being part of a powerlifting competition. I am hopeful that this one will be redemptive. Even if my numbers end up being less. Even if I am not successful in my own goals. Okay, so I won’t be happy if I fail in one of my goals, because I have been stuck there for two years! But even if I should fail that one, too, I know I will be okay. I am excited just to compete again. I am hopeful that this competition will be a little springboard for Nationals in February. Am I excited? More than you could possibly know to look at me!

Advertisements

Remembering

It’s not often I post twice in one day…and who knows, maybe I will delete this or save it for myself. It’s Tuesday night, but it is my Friday night. I’m done work. I’m sipping a glass of Pinot Gris, unwinding from the day and the week, while the rest of the house settles into sleep. My brain isn’t quite ready to shut down for the night, and I have no demands on my time first thing in the morning. The TV is off, the house silent except for the creaks and the sound of traffic outside. I’ve been surfing Facebook, because why not. As I scrolled through my feed, I chanced upon a post that caught me by surprise. A post that sends my thoughts careening like a pinball through a maze of memories. Good memories now tinged with something else. Sadness maybe, mixed with a touch of anger. Tears threatened to spill and succeeded in making my nose stuffy enough to send me into a sneezing fit.

Being blindsided by memories isn’t always an enjoyable experience. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes you feel scorched by the flames of anger. It’s usually an awkward experience, at least for me. Why do I feel this way? Is it okay for me to feel this way? And more importantly, what can I do with these feelings, with the artifacts of a friendship that is no more? Must I purge everything in sight? Do I take the pictures off of the fridge but keep the thoughtfully given gifts? If I take the pictures off the fridge, do I toss them or stick them in a box with other mementos and souvenirs?

I’ve walked this road before. I’ve tiptoed across the tightrope from close friend on one side to stranger on the other. I have agonized over memories and gifts and cards and notes and all the ways I’ve been impacted and loved by someone who no longer sees me as worthy. This time feels easier, although there is nothing easy about the death of a friendship. Perhaps I am simply stronger now and able to see the truth as it applies to me in this situation. I am definitely not the same person now as I was all those years ago. Even though back then I knew that the fault wasn’t within me, I wasn’t mentally strong enough to not feel the sting of rejection. I took it personally, and it sent me into a downward spiral. With this more recent rejection, I am not taking it personally. I know I have done nothing wrong. There is a very clear distinction, for me, between what was said and what is truth. If anything, I have been more confused than hurt over this situation, but I’ve also been able to move on quite easily. Except that sometimes I can be blindsided by a memory, a tangible object that connects us, or by a random Facebook post or some other means. Most of the time I can blink once or twice and resume life without disruption, and, on rare occasions, emotions swell within me and threaten my peace temporarily.

I am not a saint. I am as human as they come, complete with every emotion known to mankind. There are instances when I feel all of those emotions within minutes! But that might just be part of being a woman. And yet, despite the loss of this relationship, I am at peace. Mostly. Most days. A couple of days ago, I “wrote” a letter expressing my feelings about the end of this friendship. I will never mail it. It isn’t for anyone’s viewing but my own. Writing it was an exercise for myself, an opportunity to give flesh to the thoughts that would pop in and out of my head at random times. Although I no longer have the opportunity to defend myself, writing the letter was my opportunity to say my piece. There was some hurt within that letter but mostly anger. I am angry that someone who claimed to understand me would, for lack of a better word, confront me in a way that would surely place me at a disadvantage. I am angry that someone who claimed to know and understand me would so horribly misjudge and malign my character…and so suddenly. I am angry that I was lied to. I am angry that my husband was dragged into the drama while he was in the midst of a chaotic and stressful situation of his own. I am angry that my husband’s confusion in such a situation, without hearing the other side of the story, was most likely taken out of context and used to justify the position against me. I feel that anger. I do. I acknowledge it, let it go and move on. Yes, I will feel it again, and I shall repeat the process. I can forgive, but I’m not able to forget about it the way that God does. I remember, so the process is continual.

That letter, as I said, won’t ever be sent. That’s not why I wrote it. Sometimes I find the act of putting thoughts to paper to be cathartic. Crying can be cathartic, too, but I’ve not shed many tears over this relationship for a long time. It just hasn’t been worth it. Don’t get me wrong! I did highly value the friendship. I expected the loss to leave a massive hole in my life, but surprisingly it hasn’t. It’s not that there isn’t a hole. I think there always will be one, but it is not nearly as large as I anticipated. I am okay. I am more than my friends or my family. More than what I do for work or fun. More than the records I hold or the goals that I hope to achieve. All those things add colour and flavour to my life. They shape me, but they do not define me.

For the record, I took down the pictures from my fridge weeks ago, but the gifts still remain where they have always been. I can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. A relationship might be no more, but that doesn’t negate what once was and the impact it made on my life. There is still value to be found in the gifts, the words once written or spoken, even if they bring a measure of grief with the remembering.

18 Days

Competition is 18 days away! That time feels both so distant and so close. Somehow the week or two before a competition is always crazy busy. Last night after I entered my work schedule into my calendar, I paused for a moment, feeling a tangle in my mind that I hadn’t expected. In unraveling it, I realized that I will be working 7 days in a row leading up to the competition. That’s not exactly how I had envisioned spending the bulk of those days, but I can get through it. Training should be minimal that week for a deload, but for now I’m still increasing the weights.

1. squats (2-0x0) 1-2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 205 x 2, 215 x 1

main event: 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2

Warm ups felt really good and moved well, I think. My bladder wasn’t playing nicely with me this morning. When you need to create tension by filling your belly with air and pushing it out against your belt, a full (or partially full) bladder can really interfere with that process. There are mornings when I can train without making a trek to the washroom…today was not such a day! In fact, I had to make two treks between sets. As annoying as it is to disrupt my training for a bathroom break, I’d rather do that and be able to fully create tension and use my belt effectively.

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that I haven’t had 225 pounds on my back since before Provincials in June. During Provincials, a 221 pound squat tweaked my back and set back my competition and training. My confidence has been growing over these recent weeks as I’ve found myself doing more reps and sets at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before. Once upon a time, I did 225 pounds for 2 reps but only one set. As I set myself up for the first set at 225 this morning, I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous. I knew I could do it. I knew I was going to do it. The reps didn’t all feel light or easy, but they still felt decent. Perception is funny. Some of the sets felt ugly, as if the bar was manhandling me, but what I saw on the video wasn’t nearly as bad as it felt. Regardless, I definitely felt my legs working. I am sure that I was missing a few cues here and there. Did I take a big enough breath each rep? Did I keep my chest up each rep? Was the bar over my midfoot each rep? I could watch the videos over and over and pick them apart to the best of my ability or wait for my coach to comment with his feedback. Today was another PR of sorts…my first time squatting 225 pounds for doubles for multiple sets!

2. bench press (2-1×0) 1 rep

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 100 x 2, 115 x 1

main event: 125 x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

These felt solid.

3. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 8, 55 x 8

Although the first set is never what I’d call easy, I always feel like it was easy enough that I will be able to get more reps on subsequent sets. Yeah, no.

Respect for 225

I opened up the week’s training plan this morning. This might have been the first time in recent weeks that my eyebrows didn’t pop up and my jaw didn’t drop while reading what my coach had programmed for me. I actually find that fact quite interesting. With competition less than 3 weeks away now, the volume is dropping. Hallelujah! Of course, the weights are still increasing, although not beyond anything I’ve done in the past. I will be doing more reps at those weights than I’ve done before, but I think multiple single reps shouldn’t be a problem. Having had a couple of weeks with strong results recently, I feel very optimistic about the week ahead.

And yet, there is that teensy sliver of apprehension with tomorrow’s squats. 225 pounds for 1-2 reps. It is only 10 pounds more than I did last week for triples. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I haven’t had that much weight on my back for a long time! I keep saying that because it is true. It’s been more than 4 months. The last time I squatted 225 pounds was leading up to Provincials in June. Hitting that weight in training then was fine; however, my second squat attempt at Provincials was 220 pounds. Although I was successful in the lift, something tweaked in my back in the process and the squat was painful and ugly. What should have been an easy second squat wasn’t and the back issues continued.

I think my back is generally doing quite well now. There was a little flare up a few weeks ago while deadlifting, but I’ve been aggressive in rehab and it seems to be doing fine. Squats have been feeling good the past couple of weeks, so I honestly have no reason to expect anything drastically different tomorrow. They could feel a bit heavy or tough and still be good. The first set will be important as it is where my confidence can be made or broken. My first set isn’t always the best, but being able to push through to finish well can fill me with the confidence needed to regroup and improve the next set. Alternatively, a really tough first set can make me feel weak and incapable. I am not either of those things.

225 pounds should be a relatively easy weight for me, but I also know that you need to respect the weight on the bar. That is a decent amount of weight! There are grown men who weigh that much…and I’m figuratively about to throw one of them on my back and squat once, twice, and over again.

21 days…

Competition is 3 weeks from today! I am excited and eager to see what I can do, but I’m not putting much energy into dwelling on what may or may not transpire. At least not yet. Most of my focus has been on making it through each training session and keeping my back healthy. Some training days feel easy. Others feel tough. As the weights, reps and sets have increased, I’ve felt apprehension and fear, because I am training harder than ever before. As far as what is happening in the gym, the hard work is paying off.

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 105 x 3, 115 x 2

main event: 125 lbs x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3

All of my sets were done with an arch today! My training times rarely coincide with my husband’s availability to train, but our schedules lined up today. I wanted him to assist with hand-offs and to spot me for the working sets…because I was a little nervous about the weight for reps for multiple sets. Honestly, I figured I could probably get 2 reps but wasn’t confident about 3, not for all 5 sets; however, I desired hand-off help because the heavier weight is harder to unrack by myself without expending too much energy or putting me out of position.

As I finished the third rep on the first set, my husband said, “Easy!” I racked the bar and said, “That was easy!” By the third set, my husband was asking why I needed his help. Every set was easy!

2. squat (3-0x0) 3 reps

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

main event, with belt: 185 lbs x 3, 185 x 3, 185 x 3

The warm ups felt easy and strong, but the first working set was quite the opposite. The second and third sets were better.

3. long pause bench (3-3×0) 3 reps

95 lbs x 3, 95 x 3, 95 x 3

Super easy!

4. side planks

x 25 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 3, 225 x 2

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

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

main event: 110 lbs x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

Week 12, Day 1

Today was the start of week 12 of my new training program. The entire program has pushed me ever so slightly out of my training comfort zone, but the last couple of weeks have pushed just a bit harder. I thought that I was already well acquainted with putting in hard work in the gym! In some ways, this program is simply different, while in other ways it is definitely tougher. It is a good thing that I had already established good work habits and mental toughness, because I have needed to draw from those skills quite heavily. With competition now less than 4 weeks away, the work load is only getting heavier and further beyond anything I have ever done before; however, I am discovering that it is okay. I am capable. All of the hard work leading up to now has laid the foundation. Hopefully that will translate into a positive competition, but a day on the platform can be dramatically different than a day in the gym.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 200 x 2

main event, with belt: 215 lbs x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 2, 215 x 3

From a couple of the videos from my working sets, my coach determined that I wasn’t taking in enough air for bracing. I guess that would explain why I did feel like I had some bracing issues. Aside from that detail, these squats generally felt decent. Again, I am not used to doing so many sets at such a weight, but I was more than capable.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 110 x 2

main event: 120 x 2, 120 x 2, 120 x 2

No feet or arch for the first two warm up sets. The back had some mild ache to it, but I think it was okay. The one problem with benching without an arch is that the bar would sometimes hit the safeties, because my chest position is slightly different. The working sets felt a tad heavy and slow, yet they felt solid and decent. I experienced the same thing last week.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

155 lbs x 3, 155 x 3, 155 x 3

The first set felt tough, and my hips protested the pause. I put my belt on for the final two sets. The second set felt better, but the final set was the best. I eased into that pause position with no trouble at all.

4. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 6

Maybe one day I will be able to make all of these reps…