A Theme to Build a Dream On

I haven’t exactly been living out my theme for 2017 these past few months. Instead of feeling and being ‘Powerfully Beautiful’, I fear I have been more weak, pathetic, and ugly. It shouldn’t be this way, but pain tends to have that effect and such has been my life since the end of January. I haven’t always handled the pain, the frustration, or my limitations well. Although I tend to try to put on a good face in public, sometimes the mask slips. My emotions have risen and fallen like a roller-coaster, but the dips felt steeper and longer than the upwards climbs.

In the downward spirals, I struggle with mild depression. Taking care of myself becomes a chore, and I’m more likely to do the bare minimum of self-care. Although I will always make the time and effort to spend time with my good friends, I definitely ‘turtle’ more when my mood is low. I will do my job serving the public with a smile on my face. I will go to the gym. I will go to my chiropractic appointments. But I have to drag myself out the door for just about anything else. I haven’t been to church for several weeks, because I cannot sit without pain and kneeling for the duration of a sermon is not my idea of fun or comfort. My attempts to plan a week’s worth of meals have sputtered, because it requires too much effort. That and my interest in food and eating well has fallen with my mood. When I am down, I procrastinate more. I take less interest in what’s going on around me, except for grumbling at idiot drivers. All these signs and symptoms are probably quite typical of mild depression or someone suffering with pain. It is understandable, but it not a pretty thing to behold. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel very strong.

This week is different. I was cautiously optimistic on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Yesterday, I carried that optimism carefully into the gym with me, and I left the gym excited with hope flying high as a kite. Today, I am feeling the DOMS in my quads from yesterday’s squats, and I couldn’t be happier about that kind of pain. The back still isn’t pain-free, but the back has stayed consistently better all week. Yesterday I finally felt as if I had reached the turning point. Of course, I’m not 100% yet. I still don’t know when I will be, but I actually feel and believe that the worst is behind me now. Feeling and believing this is making the engines of motivation and drive rev.

And I feel the change in my attitude towards myself. Self-care becomes more important. I’m singing out loud in the car again, and not just grumbling at idiot drivers. I actually skimmed through the local newspaper yesterday before tossing it in the recycling bin. I wrote a card to a friend. I made a decent dinner tonight. I prepped my lunch for tomorrow. But I still grumbled internally when my husband got up and spoke to me super early this morning before I went to work. I will always prefer silence until I get to work when I start work early in the morning. He thought he was being funny by saying, “Don’t worry! I’m not going to say good morning to you.” So, I didn’t think it was funny, but that’s my non-morning person mode rather than my depressed mode.

The first third of the year might have been a fail in terms of living my theme, but there is still plenty of time left to get it right.

Continuing On

successladder

I think my brain is still in the process of gathering up the pieces, but I have to believe that I will get there eventually. Even if my heart and my brain aren’t there yet, I am too stubborn to stop trying.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

10kg x 10 each, 10kg x 8 each

It’s highly satisfying to hit little PRs in the gym considering, or despite, the limitations I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of months.

2a. split squats-with safety bar and flat shoes

75 lbs x 12 each, 95 x 8 each, 115 x 7 each, 125 x 8 each, 125 x 8 each

2b. floor presses-moderate grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10

I didn’t have to do that many reps for the first set, but I had to fiddle with my leg positioning in order to find what would be the least bothersome to my back. Michael didn’t want any arching, but having my feet in the air and bracing is too painful on the back. Although I’ve been find with my knees bent and feet flat on the floor, today wasn’t super comfortable. What actually felt the best was to have my left leg bent and my right leg out straight on the floor. There was still a small arch in order to have some sort of good shoulder positioning, but I think it was small enough to not be a bother.

65 x 8, 90 x 8, 105 x 8, 105 x 6

I think these were all reasonably solid reps with decent speed.

3a. glute ham raises

x 10 just bodyweight

10kg kettlebell x 10

3b. single arm kb press while kneeling on a bench

10kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These felt a little tough, especially as each set wore on. I’m also not convinced the back liked these a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 12 each x 2 sets

While the weight wasn’t overly challenging and I could have gone up on the second set, I think the better decision was to stay at the same weight rather than risk aggravating the back. There wasn’t significant pain during these, yet I could feel a bit of pressure in the back.

3d. ab wheel x 0

Despite having no troubles using the ab wheel earlier in this injured season, I just couldn’t do it this morning. I started to roll out but didn’t get too far.

hanging knee raises x 12, x 0

These were generally okay, except for the last rep. I’m not sure what I did…maybe lifted my knees too high or too fast or flexed my back a bit…I don’t know, but that last rep hurt. A fair bit. Tried for a second set and the very first attempted rep hurt, so I just hung out until my grip began to fail.

And just like that I had a decent training session, maybe one of the better ones I’ve had in the last week or two. Still so far from where I want to be, but focusing on what I can do is more productive than moping over what I can’t do.

Everything Changes

“When a woman feels her own strength, it’s empowering. She believes in herself and knows she can do more. It changes everything.” ~Kathrine Switzer

I just about burst into tears when I came across this quote yesterday. I absolutely adore this quote. Although I had never heard or seen it until yesterday, the truth within these words has resonated within my heart and soul for more than 3 years now. The journey from recreational runner to working with a personal trainer to powerlifter has provided me with the opportunity to feel my own strength, and that has most certainly been empowering. I have learned to believe in myself, to know that I can do more. My life has changed. In fact, everything has changed.

With this empowering comes incredible joy…and sometimes frustration. Once you know who you are and what you are capable of, then the appearance of setbacks and obstacles can at times weigh heavily on the emotions, the psyche, the self-confidence. The bigger the setback the greater the toll it takes.

I am no stranger to setbacks and obstacles over the course of this journey. I’ve had a stitch put in my finger a couple of weeks prior to my first powerlifting competition. I dropped a box on my neck three weeks before my first competition of 2016. I’ve had a disc issue which put an end to my goal of running a marathon and running at all. There have been little tweaks and aches from my shoulders all the way down to my toes. As much as those situations provided frustration, I think I handled them all with a decent measure of grace and positive attitude that I would get past them. I even felt the same way with this current back problem…back in February when it was still fresh and new.

But now it is almost mid-April and my back, in many ways, feels just as bad as it did back then. I am trying to maintain a positive attitude. I am doing everything that I am told to do by my chiropractor. There are bad days, not so bad days, and okay days. Just when I have a run of mostly okay days, the bad rears its ugly head and leaves me feeling like one floundering at sea. On the dark days my thoughts wander down dim rabbit holes of self-doubt and despair. Even though I know my strength and character, I must fight an internal battle against myself to believe it these days.

It’s easy enough to put a smile on my face and to say that I’m doing alright. The truth is that most people truly don’t want to know all that goes on within a person, and in many circumstances that is okay. There are instances when I don’t actually want to be honest about how I’m feeling, too. I don’t always want to be honest with my coach, when he asks about my back and how it is feeling and impacting my performance, but I also can’t actually hide the truth from him. Doing so would not help me in the long run, and he would see through me awfully quick. Still, he believes that I will overcome this, because I always do! If tears weren’t already tracking down my cheeks, my coach’s belief in me would unravel my fragile emotions.

Sorry/Excited

notasplanned

My competition is 11 weeks away, and I have been dealing with this SI joint problem for about 8 weeks. Isn’t it funny how oddly time can feel? It seems as if I’ve been dealing with the SI issue for so much longer, while competition seems to be coming towards me like a high speed train. These past 8 weeks have caused me a great deal of pain and frustration, physically and emotionally. I haven’t always handled it well. I’ve been frustrated with myself, because it was my own stupidity that resulted in the SI problem in the first place. I’ve been frustrated with the pain, the discomfort, the restrictions to my mobility. I’ve been frustrated that getting back to normal seems to be taking so long. I’ve been frustrated by the interference to my training, and that interference has been messing with my confidence as I look forward to Provincials and reaching new goals.

I hit a low last Wednesday when my brief deadlift session didn’t go as planned and the SI issue reared its ugly head with renewed fierceness. The day before had been such a good day, probably one of the best since the problem started. I was feeling hopeful that the worst had passed, that I was finally on my way to normal. Wednesday took all of my hope and joy and crushed it. I was in pain. I was crushed. I went to see my chiropractor…in despair and misery. He promptly gave me a hug, because he said I needed one. He made me laugh and “dance”, and he told me we had lots of time yet before Provincials. Simple things. Well, getting me to dance is no simple thing, but he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He was just himself, and a major reason why I even see a chiropractor is because of his character and nature. I needed that hug just like I needed to laugh and dance and be reminded that I would be okay.

That day was definitely a low one; however, each day is new and full of hope and opportunity. I had to remember who I am and what I am capable of. The path behind me is littered with reminders of my character, focus, determination, and ability to press through tough spots. This SI joint issue has become much more than a speed bump, but it doesn’t have to become a permanent road block. My training might not go as I’d like leading up to a competition, but I know how to work hard and smart. I know how to focus on the finish line and to fight for the goals I want to reach. I know the importance of a positive attitude and outlook. I know how to see threads of silver in the storm clouds, and I know the beauty and wonder of the rainbow once the storm has passed.

My focus is narrowing, because I do have goals and I am not content to stay stuck. The SI is still cranky, but my own crankiness is waning. Crankiness is being replaced with excitement. I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold for me, but I am determined to make the most of them.

Don’t Cry Out Loud…

Yesterday I set out the top and socks that I would wear for training this morning, and I had selected a Wonder Woman tank and my FIGHTER socks. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed a different tank top, one that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again!” There was no rhyme or reason for the change. I just felt like it. Little did I realize just how appropriate the shirt slogan would be…or how frustrating my training session would be.

Most of the time the gym is my happy place, and even a difficult session can still be a rewarding and positive experience. While there were glimpses of smiles this morning, they were rare and weak and merely attempts to keep tears at bay. I suppose, in that regard, the smiles were effective. I did not shed a single tear at the gym today! At least I can claim that as a victory. My coach could tell that I was frustrated, although I’m sure it was rather obvious. He reminded me that one bad workout isn’t the end of the world…but it has been more than one. Over the past two months, there have been more bad training sessions than good ones in terms of being able to do what I need to do without pain or physical limitation and discomfort, and I am extremely frustrated by that. Frustrated doesn’t even accurately describe how I am currently feeling.

When it comes to personal pain and situations, it is easy to be myopic. For all my frustration and angst over this ongoing back issue, I do know that my struggle is actually quite small. There are so many people who struggle with issues and pain much greater than what I am dealing with, and the fact that I can’t train the way I want cannot compare to the true limitations many people experience on a daily basis just living life. I understand that. I really do. My husband is scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of April and has been in pain daily for years. I can complain about not being allowed to back squat for several weeks, but my husband literally cannot squat. I can complain about how uncomfortable it is to sit long enough to put my shoes on, but there are days when my husband cannot even put his own sock on. In the grand scheme of things, my current struggle is minor. I know it, but it is still frustrating and disappointing to feel as if you are stuck and going nowhere. The ‘one step forward, two or three steps back’ thing gets really old, really quick.

The back felt pretty good yesterday. Not 100% normal but really good. Then I woke up this morning. It seems that the back is stiff and achy almost every morning when I get up. Then add a little bit of necessary sitting, like using the toilet and driving to the gym, and the back just gets crankier. And then training doesn’t go as planned either.

1a. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

After this warm-up set, Michael asked me how it was or if I just like to make faces on warm-ups. The weight itself was fine, but the back wasn’t exactly thrilled with deadlifting. The discomfort was just that…uncomfortable but not unbearable.

135 x 8

Same as above.

165 x 1 + 1 + 2

There was stronger pain on the first rep, which is why the reps were disjointed. Now I could get into position just fine, but the back started to hurt as soon as I created tension prior to initiating the lift and then as soon as I initiated lowering the bar.

with belt and straps: 165 x 0

I think it was about this point that Michael asked me what my body was telling me, and this was when frustration reared it’s ugly head. Michael pointed out that my response to his question was my mind talking and not my body. <grumble> So, then we tried a bunch of variations to see if one would feel better. Deficit deadlifts were a no-go. Block pulls were a no-go. Sumo block pulls were a no-go. Even kettlebell swings were a no-go. By that point, the fighter in me wanted to fix my ponytail and try again, but that inner fighter was also mentally sitting in a corner, sobbing her eyes out.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 7, 53 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

The last two sets were a bit tougher and likely sloppier, but the previous sets were decent and the bar moved well. The military press has long been a trouble lift for me, but I feel as if I am finally feeling more comfortable with it and struggling less. It used to be that my shoulders would burn with fatigue just holding the bar in the rack position between reps, but I didn’t feel any of that today. And that is one thing I have going for me…that no matter how frustrated, upset or defeated I feel, I can still manage to find a positive somewhere!

2a. reverse hypers

x 20, with 10 lbs x 20, 10 lbs x 20

I’m capable of doing these with more weight than this, but I’m also used to doing reverse hypers without discomfort in my lower back! It didn’t take many reps for me to appreciate the fact that my coach was keeping the weight light.

2b. back extensions

x 25, with 10kg x 25

3. single leg deadlifts

2-10kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2-12kg kettlebells x 10 each

The first set was pure ugliness. My balance was horrid. The second set was a bit better with slightly less balance issues, especially with the right leg planted.

 

 

The Tell-Tale Heart

“Our heart can never overindulge, for our capacity to love grows as we do it. The heart is a muscle that wants to lift heavy things, so, love-and keep loving.” ~B. Oakman

A television commercial can cause my eyes to well with wetness.

A stranger’s story of random blessing will bring a sting of tears to my eyes.

A beloved book, oft read and remembered, tugs at my emotions every time I take it down from the shelf.

My motherly instincts cry tears of joy with every milestone reached by my children.

Streams of tears flow fiercely for friends facing trials and tragedies and celebrations of joy.

Words, both written and oral, have the power to melt my heart and turn me into a sniveling fool.

Memories move me in a multitude of ways: choking, inspiring, motivating, heart-warming, heart-breaking.

My heart is tender to the cry of a kindred spirit, easily broken for others, by others, by my own doubts and mental self-flagellation.

And yet, my heart is strong and resilient. It beats fiercely with passion and with compassion. It is vulnerable yet indestructible. My character flows forth from every heartbeat. My tears are not a sign of weakness, rather an outpouring of inner strength.

Now I’m Loving It

There is a great deal of irony in the fact that I like to make lists and be organized and prepared, yet I am forever struggling to meal plan. I know the value in meal planning…time and money saved being at the top of the list. Knowledge doesn’t automatically translate into action though, and I’ve been struggling with food for months. Changing my job six months ago came with many wonderful benefits but also the disruption to my schedule and routine. Overall, I am okay with the disruption. I think I am fine with change and being flexible, but meal planning has been one area in my life that I just haven’t been able to get a firm grasp on again. The lack of meal planning in combination with my new variable schedule has left my eating habits in shambles, and I think I finally hit rock bottom the other night as I ate McDonalds in my driveway.

In the aftermath of that night, I had determined that I would make time today to do a real grocery shop and to plan for the week ahead. And I did. I decided that any fancier or elaborate meal would be best planned for my days off. This Wednesday, on a night I work a close shift, I’ve planned a stew in the crockpot. The night I work until 6PM will be a relatively quick and simple meal of perogies, farmers sausage, salad and raw vegetables. One night will be spaghetti…something that will appeal to even my pickiest eater and can also be prepared by anyone, if necessary. I have the entire week planned, including vegetables for each day, with the lone exception of Saturday, another closing shift. The family can fend for themselves or use the frozen lasagna I picked up today. Hopefully there will be leftovers that I can take to work with me.

It feels good to have the week planned out and the fridge stocked. Even if no one is able or willing to help with prep during the week, I feel that my plan will be manageable. Everyone won’t be happy with every meal choice, but there is something for everyone at some point throughout the week. For the first time in much too long, I feel excited about food, about eating well, about reclaiming organization.