A Nap or Coffee?

Training for a powerlifting competition is vastly different than the training I am doing right now. The change is good, but it is also hard work. It is only mid-morning and I am desperately wishing for a nap, except I am seldom able to nap and I have to work in a couple of hours. A one hour training session has utterly wiped me out. I might need some coffee before work to make it through my closing shift.

warm up:

overhead squats with 35 lb bar-2 sets of 10

narrow stance windmills-bodyweight x 8 each, with 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

1a. skater squats with 5 lb dumbbells

to 3 folds of the mat x 12 each leg

to 2 folds of the mat x 10 each leg

1b. single arm dumbbell push press

20 lbs x 8 each, 25 lbs x 8 each

2a. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 8, 113 x 6, 113 x 6

2b. chin ups-neutral grip, with small green band

x 7, x 6, x 6, x 3

3. a 12 minute circuit of:

-dumbbell curls with 15 lbs x 15, x 13, x 10

-kettlebell triceps extensions with 10kg x 15, x 10, x 6

-ab wheel x 15, x 11, x 10

-skipping 1 minute x 3 rounds

Maybe I can try closing my eyes for 15-20 minutes…

6 Minutes of Torture

It was so good to be back at the gym this morning, and I can still say that after a training session that left me dripping in sweat and gasping for breath. I knew my training would look different and would not focus on powerlifting, but I did not know exactly what to expect. By the time I finished my last rep, I could only collapse on the floor, breathing hard and muscles rubbery. My coach told me that he hadn’t intended to kill me, but I think he kind of did, at least subconsciously. Somehow I’m okay with it. The true intent is not to slaughter me but to make me better and stronger. Variation is good. Conditioning is good. Working weak spots is good. Moving is good.

warm-up:

Turkish get-ups with 8kg kettlebell x 2 each side

single leg box step downs x 10 each side

1a. single arm kettlebell presses + carry

10kg x 10 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 8 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 6 each + 4 lengths

1b. single leg box step downs with the box on top of 15 lb bumper plates

3 sets of 10 each leg

I was actually surprised with how “easy” these were. Single leg stuff can often be problematic for me. My balance isn’t always very good, and single leg stuff is just tougher. The warm up set with the box on the floor was rather easy, still I was skeptical when Michael increased the height with the bumper plates. Indeed it felt like I was lowering my leg a very long way, but I powered through my reps with much more balance and ease than I had expected.

2a. trap bar deadlifts-touch and go

75 lbs x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 10

2b. barbell push-ups

x 12, x 12, x 8

2c. hanging leg raises, keeping a posterior pelvic tilt

2 sets of 8

Hanging leg raises and toes to bar have been more challenging for me since the problems with my SI joints began. Actually anything requiring a posterior pelvic tilt has been more challenging, because my back feels like it doesn’t want to move that way. It’s not so much pain, at least not anymore, so much as a sensation of the muscles being tight and not wanting to move that way. I’ve been working on making the back happier with that position, so there has been improvement…it’s just not completely there yet. The hanging leg raises today were definitely tougher to do with maintaining that pelvic position, but I will get better.

For the last portion of my training session, Michael had me do some conditioning work. He gave me 3 exercises. 30 seconds for each one followed by a 30 second rest. Repeat 3 times. You can call it whatever you like…I think I’m going to call it ‘6 minutes of torture’.

a) double clean & presses with 10kg kettlebells

I didn’t get more than 4 or 5 reps the first round, because I’m not so great at the clean & press. I think I got at least 6 reps on the second round, but the final round dropped back to 4 or 5 from sheer fatigue. I also anticipate seeing some bruises on my upper arms/shoulders over the next couple of days!

b) bear crawl

I think I managed to crawl a little bit further and with better form each round.

c) ab wheel

My brain can no longer recall how many reps I got each round. As Michael noted, my roll-outs were not very far either. Seriously, by the time I got to the ab wheel, my body and brain was rebelling against me. Every muscle was shaking. I needed oxygen in the worst way, and, on the final round, I probably came the closest I have ever come to feeling as if I might puke while training. I am glad to report that I did not.

This conditioning torture is going to be a common occurrence for a while, I think. As much as I am not looking forward to it, I am also oddly saying, “Bring it on!”

Confidently Stubborn

Okay, so this week without training hasn’t been too bad, but I am definitely looking forward to walking into the gym in the morning. I have no idea what my coach is going to have in store for me, although I can be fairly confident that my training will be designed to make me stronger and work on weaknesses. I’m ready.

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

It would be easy to let my experience at Provincials shake my self-confidence. Although I have grown quite confident in my abilities, I am still humanly prone to stumbling along in the darkness of doubt. Whatever it was that happened in my back on my second squat, it flooded me with fear, uncertainty, frustration, and doubt. I still knew what I was capable of when healthy, but I was suddenly afraid that I might have done more damage to my body. I knew that I have determination and toughness, but are those qualities enough when you’ve been thrown into the fire? In all honesty, as much as I knew that I wasn’t about to throw in the towel and quit, in the midst of the pain and volatile emotions I wasn’t giving much thought to being tough enough to follow through. I just wanted to survive the day as best I could. Earlier this week my coach complimented me on being a person with strong character by pushing through when it was emotionally and physically tough. It’s not always easy for me to accept a compliment, but I’m trying.

Perhaps the biggest knock against my confidence was my failed bench press attempt. My competition bench press has been stuck at 60 kilograms since October 2015, yet I have only attempted a heavier press while competing twice, at Westerns last August and at Provincials last week. Having pressed more than 60 kilos in the gym means that I know I am capable, but my string of failures also plays with that confidence like a cat toying with a mouse. I will keep striving though.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” ~ James Michener

With my next competition not until November, I have lots of time to heal and train and focus. I definitely have goals for November’s competition, although I am not going to say too much about them for now, partly since a lot can happen between now and then but also because I don’t really have specific targets yet. So far my goals are general. I know I am capable. I just need to be tough enough to push through and to keep trying. Or maybe I am just that kind of stubborn.

The Week’s Post-Mortem

Exactly one week ago, I was roughly halfway home after a long day of frustration and disappointment at my Provincials competition, and yet, I didn’t hit the depths of despair until the next day. By Monday afternoon, I was pretty much back to normal.

Not only was I required to take this week off from training, my Precision Nutrition course, quite ironically, also had a week off of sorts. Although I have been okay with not going to my training sessions, I am looking forward to resuming my training on Monday. This week has been nice, but it has also felt quite long. I’ve enjoyed my down time. I’ve gone for some walks. I’ve enjoyed just having extra time to relax, hang out, do whatever. I have eaten whatever I have wanted, and I’ve enjoyed a fair bit of wine and a couple of sugary drinks that I typically avoid. My eating habits have been mostly controlled for the past month or so as I had some weight to cut to make my class for competition. I cut roughly 10 pounds without too much effort; in fact, I had to relax my self-control in order to not lose too much weight. Even then I likely lost too much, since I weighed in more than an entire kilogram under the limit. This week I’ve enjoyed burgers and fries, poutine, pastries, wine, Frappucinos, and ice cream. I stepped on the scale this morning and weighed in at virtually the same weight as I did for my competition! That won’t last for too long though. My next competition is with a different federation with slightly different weight classes, and I’ll be competing in the 75 kilogram class, which means I can add a few pounds to my frame.

One thing I have noticed with this week “off” has been that I am finally starting to sleep better again. I haven’t taken my ZMA for at least a week, but I’ve been falling asleep fairly quickly. While I still wake up at least once or twice a night (and toss a fair bit throughout), I am falling back asleep more quickly. It is a rare occurrence for me to actually be woken by my alarms. Yes, I have two alarms. One is through my sleep app, and the other is your typical alarm clock. My sleep app alarm is set to go off within a 10 minute window, which I always set so my real alarm would go off in the middle of that 10 minutes. For someone who is never late and never sleeps through her alarm, I go to a lot of trouble to make sure that either situation never happens! One day this week, my real alarm did actually wake me up! It had been a long time since I’d heard that annoying beep.

Despite the way the back felt during my second squat a week ago and the pain I experienced on the long drive home that night, my back actually feels pretty good this week. Sure, it’s still not perfect, but I am back to how things felt prior to the competition. For reasons unknown to me, my back feels the worst when I am sleeping. There is a great deal of achiness in my back whenever I need to change position in the night, but it feels basically okay once I’m up for the day. Go figure! I’m still doing my stretches, and I am determined that this will get better!

So, a week post-competition and I’m sleeping better, feeling better, and chomping at the bit to get back to training. I think those are all good things. My head is screwed on properly. My attitude has been re-adjusted. Tomorrow will be one more day of rest. I shall drink coffee, especially since I am staying up late tonight. I might go for a walk. I will do some laundry and housework and make dinner for the family. And, I will prep my gym bag for Monday morning.

Still Angela

I had expected to go to the gym this morning. I had expected an easy and light training session, not only for today but the entire week, now that my competition is over. However, I was not expecting to be told to take the entire week off from training, and I did not react well at all. When I got the news, I was still reeling physically and emotionally from the competition, and I was exhausted from that long day and only 5 hours of sleep after it. That’s not an excuse for my poor reaction…it’s merely an indication of where I was at in the moment. I had been looking forward to the gym this week, because the gym has always been a happy, safe place for me and I knew that being there could help me process, debrief, and re-order my thoughts and emotions. I could agree that my body would benefit from the rest, but I couldn’t see how the rest would help my mind.

Thanks to hurting my back in competition and the beauty of the internet, yesterday I was able to make an appointment to see my chiropractor this afternoon. What would normally be a relatively short appointment wound up being more than double the length of time and probably half of it was just talking. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my chiropractor? I absolutely do! He is a wise, old soul with a lifetime of experience in a young man’s body, and he is someone I respect and admire and gladly call my friend. He listened to me, and I dare say he heard far more than I actually said. Then he spoke and spoke, while I listened. I choked back tears. I smiled, even laughed, I think. I countered. Agreed. Listened some more. After a great deal of talking, he took care of my back and my neck and gently sent me on my way.

Shortly after I had to drop my husband off for a physio appointment at the hospital, so I parked in a shady spot close to the beach and pulled out my “Owner’s Manual” and a pen. “Who am I?” I wrote at the top of a page. The words that followed flowed out of the conversation I had with my chiropractor. Don’t ask me to repeat what he said, because I am seldom any good at taking in information, watching it swirl around inside my head, and then spitting it back out exactly as it entered. Instead of going on about what Dr. Ben had to say, I am just going to share most of my own introspective ramblings.

Who am I?

I was reminded today by Dr. Ben that I am Angela Thompson first and foremost. Being a powerlifter/fitness type person is a part of who I am, but it is not ALL that I am. I know this. I believe it, and yet, it is a truth easily lost in the pursuit of passions and goals. Ben, as much as he understood what I was feeling, explained that I needed to not need the gym to identify myself. He’s right.

A great part of my transformation and journey is because of the gym, but the real source of my success has been me. I put in the hard work. I made the choices and sacrifices. I pulled out all sorts of amazing qualities from within myself. It’s not like I found determination tucked in the back of the closet. I didn’t gain self-control and discipline from an injection or a pill. No one could give me a positive attitude and mindset or the ability to focus on the end goal. These are qualities and traits that have always been inside of me. Other people have definitely been a factor in giving me direction and wisdom and shaping me, but only I am Angela.

I am a powerlifter because I love the sport and the passion and drive it stirs within me; however, who would I be if I could no longer do it? That’s the fundamental question I have been asking myself for years in varying forms. Who am I when I’m not with Kane? Who am I now that my kids are adults? Who was I in my previous job, and who am I in my new job? Who am I when a relationship sours and ends? Who was I when I had to stop running? When a competition doesn’t go the way I expected, am I still enough? The variations to the question are almost unending, but the essence is the same. I am and always will be Angela before I am anything else. Is that enough?

So who am I?

I am Angela Elizabeth Thompson. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a powerlifter, a stranger who writes a blog. I am a person of faith with a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ. All of this is true of me, yet I am still more.

I am loyal, caring, compassionate, quiet, sarcastic, geeky, organized, focused, determined, disciplined, strong, capable, confident, willing to try something new, flexible when necessary, a planner, usually prepared, easy-going, quick to laugh, prone to eye leakage, barefoot loving, a quasi-health nut, a thinker, a writer, a dreamer. This is also all true of me.

I love going to the gym. I love training and powerlifting. A few years ago I could never have believed this would be true about me. I will always want to be at my training sessions, but I am perfectly content to not be at the gym every day. I am not so controlled by training that I need to be there all the time. I know the value in rest days, but I do not like to miss my sessions. Once I got over my initial reservations about going to a gym, I have always viewed my training sessions as an appointment for myself in much the same way as I would an appointment to colour my hair. It is something I do for myself. Do I need to colour my hair? As much as the grey tells me that I do, the truth is that I do not need to colour my hair at all! In fact, I frequently go months between hair appointments. Vanity’s control over me is not so strong. Can I say the same about the gym? I want to, yet I don’t know. Last night and this morning, the prospect of not going to the gym for a week upset me greatly. I wonder if my reaction would have been so intense had I not already been in a state of emotional upheaval. I am far from perfect, but I like to believe that I am generally a level-headed kind of person. Having that little therapy session with Dr. Ben and then writing out my thoughts has found me feeling more calm, rational, and more at peace with not training this week.

I still would like to think that the gym doesn’t control me. I can give up yummy, unwholesome food and wine for weeks at a time for the sake of cutting weight  and reaching a goal. I’m a night owl who can be completely human and functional before the early birds even wake up for the sake of my job. I have learned how to rise above, to overcome, to see opportunity in the struggle…why should this be any different? I will make it through this week, because I am Angela. I am a strong, independent, white woman, and I will be allowed to train again next week! I will learn and grow. I will be stronger for it. Through it all, I am still Angela.

 

4 Days & Openers

Competition is in 4 days, and today was my first day back in my own gym with my coach. Today’s training was simple and essentially easy. I did squats, bench and deadlifts, working up to my potential openers…so not too heavy. It felt good to be in a familiar gym with familiar equipment with my coach who knows me so well. My back, though not 100% yet, has been feeling very good for the past few days. Like really good.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 2, 185 x 1, 205 x 1

With the exception of the first rep at 165, my squats were all good. The only issue with that one rep was that I dropped a little too quickly which pitched me forward on my ascent, but the second rep was much better. It’s so nice to have my squat back! These past few months have seen me looking like a different squatter almost every training session. Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve not been able to hit proper depth, which was so not like me at all. Everything is feeling good with my squat now.

1b. bench press-with legs and full arch

43 lbs x ? I wasn’t really counting! 73 x 5, 93 x 3, 115 x 1, x 1, 120 x 0, 120 x 1

Today’s bench started out well. The first rep at 115 was a little slow for Michael’s liking, so he had me do another. I don’t know what happened that first attempt at 120, but it was turning into a grinder, so Michael grabbed the bar. I expected it even before he took it, knowing that he wouldn’t want a grinder at this point in the game. I don’t know what happened. Did I bring the bar down to the wrong spot on my chest? I don’t know. Was the bar heavy? I don’t think so. Was it all in my head? Most likely. Michael asked if I wanted to try again or drop down. He didn’t know what happened either, because I am capable of doing several reps at that weight. Of course, I wanted to try again, and it was much better.

2. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 5, 145 x 3, 195 x 1

with belt: 215 x 1

The deadlifts were all good and easy today! Maybe my opener will be higher than 205 after all!

Thoughts on Fitness Porn

I follow a number of fitness-related Facebook pages. Some are powerlifting related, some are related to general weight training, and some are specifically geared towards women. I do not read every article. I do not express my appreciation of every post by “liking” it. I read articles that are of interest to me, and I “like” stuff that specifically speaks to me. Occasionally, something will come across my newsfeed that causes me to pause but probably not for the reason it was posted. While I am interested in strength training, I am not interested in fitness porn. Most of the time I simply scroll past it, but once in a while I pause to consider how necessary that page is to my day-to-day life.

This scenario happened a few days ago, when a page I follow posted an article about glute training with a photo of a bent over woman holding a barbell while wearing shorts so short they were halfway up her butt. Now I wasn’t offended by the photo. The woman was obviously in good shape, but it was also obviously a staged photo. How many women actually wear that kind of clothing in the gym? Those shorts were so short they couldn’t possibly be comfortable or sanitary. Initially I just scrolled past the article, feeling inner dismay that someone felt the need to use such a picture. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dismayed, because there was quite the buzz in the comments later about the photo. A few women expressed similar sentiments as to what I feel; however, I was even more dismayed to read how many more women reacted with hostility towards the few who didn’t appreciate the photo. Even the page owner (a man) became rather defensive and almost condescending towards the women who didn’t appreciate the photo. He even felt that the picture was okay because his girlfriend selected it. I found it ironic and sad. The women who stated their dislike of the use of the picture were never angry about it. They calmly and rationally expressed their opinion and accepted that everyone wouldn’t share their opinion. The backlash was less kind. Those of us who would rather not see a practically naked woman with the article were called haters, bitter, out of shape, and jealous.

The comments and opinions have been bouncing around in my head ever since. It’s a jumbled mess, I know, because I see the inside of my head all the time! But I have some thoughts and opinions and need to get them outside of my head.

  • The owner of this particular page is himself a powerlifter, trainer and gym owner. His page is an extension of his business, so he can do what he likes with his page. Totally understand and agree.
  • That said, his page caters to women. I also follow a few strength training pages that also cater to women. While I can’t say that there has never been a fitness porn photo on those other pages, I do know that the bulk of the photos and videos show real women wearing real clothes. When I say real women I mean women of all shapes and sizes, including the ones with amazing bodies. When I say real clothes, I mean anything from leggings and baggy t-shirts to short shorts and sports bras. There is a difference between short shorts and the shorts that expose half your ass!
  • I also follow pages that have a more male focus, and I don’t recall ever seeing a man posed as if lifting while wearing virtually nothing. I did a quick scan through these pages today, and all I could see was men in long, baggy shorts. The only exception is when a guy was trying to show off his quads and had his shorts pulled up as high as they’d go. Double standard much?
  • The controversial photo didn’t offend me. I am not a prude, but I suppose you can call me old-fashioned. I wear shorts when I train, but everything is covered. Sometimes I wear t-shirts and sometimes tank tops. I don’t think I could ever just wear a sports bra, but that’s just me.
  • What bothers me about the photo is that it was unnecessary, especially, in my opinion, on a page/site geared for women. Will some find it inspiring or motivating? Probably! Will everyone? No. Is it even healthy to hold someone else’s body up as inspiration or motivation? I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When I started my fitness journey, I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, because I didn’t like the image I saw in the mirror. Anytime I tried to force myself into somebody else’s box, I never fit. My self-confidence grew as I learned how to use my body and grew stronger. The weight dropped and my body slimmed down, but I could never look like Model A or Model B and would only make myself sick trying. While there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with the photo, I think it has the potential to send the wrong message and create the wrong focus among a gender which has long struggled with body image.
  • I unsubscribed to the mail list for this page today. So far I haven’t stopped following the Facebook page, but I am thinking about it. The photo isn’t the ultimate factor, although it is a catalyst. There is plenty of useful information in the articles; however, the same articles show up in my newsfeed with regularity and that bothers me even more than the photo. I don’t need or want to see the same article every week.
  • Some of the defensive comments pointed out that the only way to see all of the glutes was to wear practically nothing. Okay then. Whatever.
  • Yesterday I was at a commercial gym to do some bench pressing, since my coach was still on holidays. Mirrors everywhere. Since I was without my coach, I took some video of my sets. I wore a tank top and shorts. You know what I noticed in the mirrors and in my videos? Some muscle definition! Even with my butt covered. I may not have a body for stepping onto a body building stage, but I have worked hard to be where I am at. Even though I am 45 years old and not a size 0! I am not jealous of anyone with a sculpted body. I know that comes with hard work in and out of the gym. I just choose to not use another woman’s body as my role model or wish list.
  • Can we just accept that fitness porn is a thing and unnecessary? The other female pages I follow have no shortage of followers, even without showing excessive flesh. Obviously fitness porn isn’t absolutely necessary for a fitness business to survive.

Whew! I think I got most of that out of my head. I sure hope so, because I would really like to sleep tonight. This is going to be a crazy, busy, exciting week! After working four closing shifts last week, today was a solitary day off, and I work 3 opens and 1 midday shift over the next four days. Earlier I tried making a list of all that I need to do (because I make lists), but I found that task more challenging than usual. My week definitely feels crunched for time, especially free time, but on paper it doesn’t look like I have too much to do. Ha! Keep telling yourself that, Angela!