The Old Familiar

The back felt pretty good during and after yesterday’s deadlifts, so I was a bit perplexed and dismayed to feel soreness creeping into my back as I was working this morning. At first I thought the aching was due to the way I was twisting as I reached for hot water while making some beverages at work, so I tried to make sure that I wasn’t twisting more than absolutely necessary. However, as the morning progressed and I was no longer contorting, the soreness in my back continued to increase. It still wasn’t too bad…certainly not the same as last week’s pain. Then I finally figured it out. This soreness was different yet vaguely familiar.

The discomfort in my back today is good old-fashioned post-deadlift muscle soreness! This is what I am used to feeling the day after heavy deadlifts, the day after a competition. While yesterday’s deadlifts weren’t maximal in terms of weight, I did lift more weight than I have for months and for more reps than I’ve ever done at such a weight. This ache is normal muscle soreness, and that makes me happy.

Of course, I still did my mobility/rehab work when I got home this afternoon. Couch stretch. Mashing my abs into a medicine ball. Mashing my ql into a lacrosse ball. Pigeon pose. Foam rolling.

A co-worker asked at one point if I was hurting. Yes, I was, but I could honestly say that it was a different, normal kind of hurt. It was a hurt that I haven’t felt for a long time, but I don’t mind it now. This is a reminder of hard work and effort, not an indicator of injury or harm.


A Weighty Subject

Competition is a month away. November 4th will arrive before I know it.

I guess I should start taking my weight seriously, or at least make sure I am more aware of where I stand on the scale.

For this competition with 100% RAW, I decided to move up a weight class rather than do a decent cut to stay in the weight class I’ve competed in since my first competition. RAW’s weight classes vary ever so slightly from the CPU’s classes. With RAW, I have always competed in the 67.5 kg (148.8 lbs) class, while in the CPU I compete in the 72 kg (158.7 lbs) class. RAW’s next higher class is 75 kg (165.35 lbs).

Last year, I cut about 16 pounds to make weight for my RAW competition. The bulk of the cut was done gradually over several weeks, while the last 5 pounds or so were lost in the final few days. I was successful, but it wasn’t exactly fun. Since my weight tends to sit between 158 and 165 pounds anyway, I decided that I’d save myself the hassle and move up. Of course, I still need to make sure that I weigh in on the day below the cap!

I have stepped on the scale now and then over the past few weeks, so I have a general idea of where my weight is at right now and I’m fine. I am hovering right around 165 pounds. Ideally, I could even be a few pounds heavier and cut it over the last few days before competition. Not sure if I want to take that route, but I also don’t need to be too far below weight. Such a tricky business this is! Mostly, I just need to make sure I’m giving my body good fuel and proper hydration.


Smooth Sailing

In training, as in many aspects of life, there are good days and bad days. The exact same weight can look and feel completely different from one day to the next. It might feel super easy today, but then you might feel crushed beneath the same weight next week. I have experienced these ups and downs over the course of my 4 years of training, and I’ve been blessed to have wise and seasoned individuals in my life to remind me that those ups and downs, good days and bad days are completely normal. They happen to everyone, and I’d like to think that the ups and downs are actually beneficial. Smooth sailing is pleasant and safe, but a lack of adversity can actually make you weak. It might even prevent you from venturing into faster, rougher waters for fear of the unknown dangers that could be waiting ahead. Easy is nice for a season, but I think we grow best in the storm and struggles, in the gym and outside of it. Fighting to reach a goal. Pushing through adversity. Swallowing pride, disappointment and frustration. Sweating. Straining. Determination. Resistance. Those are the catalysts for growth, for change.

This is why I try not to let tough days get me down for very long. I might feel frustrated in the moment, but I’ve been learning to embrace the suck. As I approach the bar for a set that feels hard and maybe more than I am capable of, I feel a hurricane of emotions raging inside. Fear. Doubt. Anger. Pride. Insecurity. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Despair. I feel them all and more that I cannot put a name to. I feel them battering away at my confidence, then I batten down the hatches and do what I need to do. Am I always successful? No. Sometimes I need to drop reps. Sometimes my body hurts. Once in a while, I simply fail. But I do the best that I can in the moment, knowing that a tough session doesn’t equal failure. I’ve got competition goals, and those goals can only be achieved on the platform. I can perform those goal weights in the gym, but I would only get personal pride in the achievement. On the flip side, fighting through 5 tough squat sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds does not automatically indicate that I will bomb my squats at competition.

Last week’s squats, those 5 sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds, felt tough and some of the reps felt ugly. The exact same weight, sets and reps the week before also felt rather tough. Until today, 180 pounds was the most weight I’ve had on my back since June 10 and that resulted in re-tweaking my back. Today’s training called for squats at 200 pounds, and I was respectfully apprehensive. That’s what months of injury and rehab will do to your sense of capability. I expected 200 pounds to feel tough. I expected that I might struggle through the reps and sets. The rep range was 2-3, and I was already mentally preparing myself to strive for 2 reps and not stress out over not getting all 3. I was even expecting that my back might erupt into pain again. I expected all of those things, but I walked into the gym with confidence in my step, in the knowledge that I am a fighter, determined and focused. Good, bad, or ugly…I was going to meet it head on.

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

main event: 200 lbs x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3

Remember how I said 180 pounds has felt tough for the past two weeks? The final warm up set at 185 pounds felt a little bit heavy, but 200 pounds felt lighter and easier. Although I had prepared myself to simply strive for 2 reps, I had no trouble getting 3 reps for all 5 sets. While there might have been a rep here or there that wasn’t quite perfect, most of the reps felt and looked (at least the ones that I had video of) pretty darn good! My coach said I crushed it, and that’s exactly how I feel about it. After the first working set, I racked the bar and walked over to stop my video and broke into a big, sassy grin. I had approached the bar for that first set with trepidation and determination, and, as I was squatting, I realized that I was going to be okay. Confidence surged within me.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 2

All those sets were done with my feet on the bench. The back was feeling decent, but, knowing how much arching can quickly aggravate my back when it is irritated, I am going to take whatever measures I can to minimize the aggravation. At least until my back returns to normal function again!

100 x 2, 110 x 2

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

In the same way that I haven’t squatted 200 pounds for almost 4 months, I also haven’t benched 120 pounds for just as long. Bench press is by far my weakest of the big 3 lifts, and my bench press in competition has been stuck at the same weight for two years. Now that is frustration if I ever experienced it! The programming given to me by my new coach has pushed me and my bench press further and harder than I’m used to going, but so far I’ve been able to keep pace.

The fact that a heavy squat has the ability to crush you like a bug will always make me feel more apprehension than a heavy bench press; however, once I crushed those heavy squats today, I had to look 120 pounds in the eye and tell myself that I was capable. And I was. The bar felt a bit heavy and the reps felt a little slow, but everything looked good on the videos!

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

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

4. chest supported rows (2-0x1) 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 10, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

Having completed my session, I walked to the change room with my head high and shoulders back. Maybe there was some swagger in my step, too. I’ve had a fair number of tough training days lately, but today was a good one. Day 2 will see more apprehension when I attempt to deadlift the most weight I’ve done since June. Day 3 will test me again when I am supposed to bench 120 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps. Those could be good days or bad ones, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. Tomorrow will be 31 days until the competition!

Here I Go Again?

Something happened in the midst of my deadlift sets this morning, and my back has been cranky ever since. Only this is the right side of my lower back, while the left side has bothered me most over the course of the year. <sigh> Just yesterday my coach had asked how the SI was feeling, and I said everything was feeling good. <sigh> About 5 weeks out from competition and this is not what I want to be feeling right now. Fatigue? Yes. Minor aches and pains? Okay. This? No. But I know what to do and I am motivated to do what it takes to get this back under control again.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-5 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 7, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, with belt 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 5, 220 x 5, 220 x 4, 220 x 4, 220 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good up until midway through the third working set when I felt a mild ache on the right side of my lower back. It could be felt throughout my final sets, too. In fact, the final set was cut short, because I lost my tension while trying to stretch my back a bit between reps.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

The mild back ache gained some intensity during my bench sets thanks to the arch. I put my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat for my final two warm up sets.

main event: 110 lbs x 5, 110 x 6, 110 x 4, 110 x 3

Feet down and as much arch as I could tolerate which seemed to get less and less each set. These felt tough today, and I certainly had better numbers with the same weight last week. Thankfully my shoulder wasn’t an issue, but the back certainly was.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 5, 145 x 5, 145 x 4

With the way my back was feeling, I expected that these would be problematic and hard; however, they actually felt pretty good. I was definitely fatigued by the final set though, and there was a lovely burn in my glutes by the time I’d finish a set.

4. pull downs

70 lbs x 8, 80 lbs x 6

My coach programmed 90 pounds for these today, but I could barely get the bar to my chest. I dropped the weight and then added a bit on the second set. Again, I had better numbers for these last week.

5. plank

x 50 seconds, x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds

I came into the gym expecting a tough but good session, so what I experienced was a bit frustrating. Tough is acceptable, but I am so done with the back issues! And right now, I’m in a bit of pain. I’ve got some stretches and rolling to do at home, and I’ve been instructed to take an extra rest day. I will. That will mean making adjustments to next week’s training days, but I need to keep this back issue from becoming a major thing again.

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.