Ten days until Provincials! Yes, I am still excitedly anticipating the competition and counting down the days. Yes, I still don’t know what my performance will look like or what numbers I will be attempting, but I am choosing not to dwell on that fact for the time being. And yes, I am generally calm on the surface but chaos underneath. I need sleep. I need a little break from the routines of life. Exhaustion is seeping out of my pores, not from over-training but from simply being busy and “on” almost all of my waking hours and from not sleeping overly well.

Life is busy. I’ve said it before and will say it again. Life is busy for everyone. We all have 24 hours in the day, 7 days in the week. Since my husband had his surgery 3 weeks ago, my life feels busier than normal. I feel as if I truly cannot complain much, because my husband is progressing rather well and has been a better patient than I anticipated. He has been washing the dishes at home pretty much since getting home from the hospital, because it is something that he can do easily enough. He just can’t put everything away. He has vacuumed twice, although he really should not have done that. He has been out of the house for appointments, to survey jobs (but not work them!), and even for coffee with friends, but he isn’t permitted to drive for some time yet, which means someone has to drive him around. My eldest son does the work-related driving. The friends have picked him up for coffee dates, but I am the one often called upon to drive here and there and everywhere. Since my daughter does not drive and the bus system isn’t always reliable, I have also been kind enough to drive her around when she needs it most. While all the driving is relatively not a big deal, it cuts into my free time, requires more sitting time (which I try to avoid for my back’s sake), and can be frustrating and exhausting considering traffic and idiotic drivers. I just want to be a passenger again!

The back is still not 100%, and I still don’t know what percentage to put on how it feels at any given moment. Maybe 80-90% depending on the moment. It felt decent during Monday’s deadlifts. It felt decent yesterday morning. In both cases, I would rate my back closer to 90%, but something shifted shortly after I started work yesterday afternoon. That persistent trouble spot on my low back (the SI joint area I believe) began to hurt. A lot. It ached in a way that was instantly familiar but no longer commonly experienced; a feeling that something wasn’t quite rightly placed. Feeling both sides of the back of my pelvis, I am fairly certain that there was a noticeable difference between the two. Now I have no idea if my perception is accurate or true, but every time I have this particular pain in that spot I can physically feel a difference, as if I am in need of a chiropractic adjustment.

The pain yesterday wasn’t severe enough to stop me from doing what I needed to do at work or to make me take some Ibuprofen (although I probably only didn’t more for being focused on my job and forgetting about it until I was already going to bed). I did not sleep very well last night. That’s partly due to the back, partly the fact my shoulders can get cranky about sleeping on my side, and mostly due to a brain that wouldn’t shut off.

The back felt okay first thing this morning, but that trouble spot feels a bit cranky as I am laying here on the floor. Hopefully it doesn’t get worse. It shouldn’t, although it might not bounce back to 90% right away.

Running on Empty

“Mental toughness is finding fuel on an empty tank.” ~ Kent Morris

Life is usually busy, crazy, and littered with bumps and pitfalls and mountains. It can be an adventure. It can also be exhausting at times. That seems to be where I am at right now…exhausted and in need of some breathing room or space.

I am glad that my husband finally had his hip replacement surgery, but I am beginning to feel the strain of having him at home all the time, especially with the knowledge that he will be home all the time for quite a while yet. He is doing well with his recovery and with his attitude, so I really have no reason to complain. Am I complaining? I don’t think so. I’m actually surprised by how well I have managed to keep my own attitude positive over the past two weeks. When he gets a cold or flu, I get grumpy within a day or two. Either I have turned into Mother Teresa or I have somehow acquired a level of patience I’ve never had before.

He is doing well, but he is not allowed to drive for quite some time, which means that my chauffeuring skills are being called upon more often. That also means that my “free” time is also being eaten up by more tasks that fall outside of my schedule and routine. Like the doctor’s appointment of the other day that chewed up free time before work…

With Provincials being two weeks away, I am beginning to feel the pressure of time collapsing around me. While life is always busy, it seems as if these next two weeks are somehow busier than usual. Some of that is by choice, some is just perception, and then there are just things and activities that must be attended to. Although I definitely use a day-timer and the calendar on my Iphone, I really should make a list of what needs doing and when. Seems redundant, right? But I am a maker of lists. I like checking/crossing off items as I have completed them, and I need the visual to help me stay focused and organized. Because, for some odd reason despite being busy, I seem to be in the mood for purging, spring cleaning, and catching up on little household tasks that fell by the wayside while my back was feeling significantly more pain.

After work today, I put my Mother’s Day sketch from my daughter into a frame and hung it on the wall. I also finally hung her graduation photo on the wall next to her brothers’. I changed the shower curtain liner. I did my exercises for my back and some band pull-aparts (because those are always a good thing). I drove my husband to somewhere that he needed to be. I put a chalkboard label on my coffee canister, so that I can note which type of coffee I am currently using. I made dinner. I did some writing in my Owner’s Manual notebook. I still need to prepare my food for work tomorrow…and my clothes, because I start super early and need to be as quiet as a church mouse. My husband needs me to drive him to the grocery store for supplies.

Two weeks. I have 9 work shifts remaining. A chiropractic appointment. Either 5 or 6 training sessions. I have an appointment to drop my car off to have the rear bumper fixed. My youngest son is graduating from university the day before I compete. While not absolutely essential, I would like to get my brows waxed and my hair cut and coloured. It’s kind of my tradition to get my hair done before a competition, and I’ve been seeing the silver in my hair for too long already. With sitting having been so painful for so long, I delayed a hair appointment even longer than is normal for me. I’m sure my husband has more medical appointments, although he’ll need other transportation if they don’t work with my schedule.

Really, I am looking forward to Provincials, because it will allow me a few holiday-like days. Not really holidays but I’ll take what I can get.

National Wine Day?

I’m tired, and apparently it is National Wine Day. Those two facts really don’t have anything to do with each other. My combining the two facts speaks to the current state of my brain and body. I am indeed tired, like mouth-gaping yawns and bones melting into the floor tired. I’d also absolutely love to have a glass of wine. alas, I have none in the house and I’m trying to keep my diet clean until after Provincials. Perhaps I can get a decent sleep tonight. My day wound up being even longer than I expected. It wasn’t a bad day, just long, especially since my day started quite early.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 3, 195 x 3, 195 x 3, 195 x 3

The bar felt heavier today when I got to 185 pounds, but it only felt heavy as I unracked it. I finished my reps feeling like I could have easily done a few more. After my second set at 195, Michael asked what I wanted to do. There wasn’t even a question about adding weight. That second set was a little on the slow and tough looking side of things, so he definitely didn’t want to add weight. However, he knew that sometimes my middle sets can be worse than the rest. Another set would be fine, so long as the reps were good and not grinders. I didn’t know what to say, because lately it feels like my body does not know squat the way it used to. So, I said I’d like to do another set and gave him permission to shut me down if the reps started looking bad. In typical Angela fashion, that final set was the best of the bunch.

1b. band pull-aparts

15 reps before every bench set

1c. bench press-competition grip

feet on bench: 43 x 10, 63 x 6

feet on floor and arch: 93 x 5, 110 x 3, 125 x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

The heavy singles weren’t bad, although at least a couple of them were slower than Michael would have liked.

I am going to have to seriously work to keep a positive attitude towards Provincials and my bench press. My competition bench has been stuck at the same weight for a long time. So long that it is far too easy to feel dread that I’m going to continue to be stuck at that weight, and that dread spikes every time the bar feels heavy and slow in the gym.

2. ab wheel

x 12, x 10

My back still resists certain body movements, like a pelvic tilt when doing ab wheel roll-outs, but these were not too bad today. Certainly better than the last time I did them, and I think I was rolling out a bit further, too.

Inner Turmoil

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” ~ Bruce Lee

“She had a very inconvenient heart. It always insisted on feeling things ever so deeply.” ~ John Mark Green

“When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside.” ~ Rumi

I’m sure I am not the only person with a mind cluttered with thoughts, but sometimes it feels as if I stagger through life, alone with the weight of the world on my back, or inside my head.

I am a thinker more than a talker. I can listen well, but I’m not always very good at getting my thoughts out of my mouth. Give me time and a writing implement, then you are more likely to get a thoughtful response. Ask me to give an opinion or statement without prior warning and I will stammer like an idiot while internally chastising myself for my failure to be eloquent. The gift of gab I do not have.

It’s truly a good thing that people cannot read minds. I’m sure the landscape inside my head is a mad combination of a haunted carnival fun house, science-fiction, hopes, fears, goals, daydreams and nightmares…all suspended in the plasma of every day life stressors.

Some thoughts swirl around in the background, benign and easily ignored, but others flash like lightning, searing and forcibly grabbing my attention. Like last night when I was trying to fall asleep, my mind would not shut off…thinking about Provincials and my son’s university graduation. I try to shut my brain off when I go to bed, but that doesn’t always work out so well. Last night was one of those not so successful nights, but I have a feeling that tonight will be better.

I think I often look like someone who has her act together or someone who isn’t weighed down by much. It’s a good act, don’t you think! The truth is that the weight of the world is on my shoulders all day, every day…I just don’t always show it. Because that’s what I do. I keep it all locked up inside, stewing and fretting without revealing too much. To be perfectly honest, there are very few people who I would ever let see the tempest that is inside my head. Even here on my blog, I don’t reveal all that is within. It’s too sacred, too personal, and it would expose me, making me vulnerable.

The heaviness inside my head often ebbs and flows like seasons, and I feel as if I have headed into a season of inner turmoil. Between the ongoing back issues, upcoming Provincials, my son’s graduation, my husband’s hip surgery…well, there’s a lot going on emotionally. Is it any wonder that my head is full of thoughts of varying weight?

I can’t promise that the next 3+ weeks won’t be a jumbled mess of thought and emotion, because most likely they will be. They should be entertaining though.

6 Weeks and a Challenge

My Provincials competition is 6 weeks away. This is the time when I would normally be twitching with excitement and visualizing the realization of my goals. All of my training would be geared towards peaking my strength for the platform. This time everything is different. Is there such a thing as perfection in preparing for a competition? Somehow I doubt it. While I’ve had my share of pre-competition challenges, this season of suffering has been the biggest, the baddest, the most painful, and the most disruptive. Instead of visualizing what I am going to do on the platform, I’m forcing myself to keep my emotions on lockdown. How can I visualize 250 pounds or more on my back when I can’t even squat to legal depth? How can I visualize pulling more than 300 pounds when I haven’t deadlifted anything for weeks and bending over to tie my shoes makes my back hurt? If I’m not careful my head will hurt as much as my back from all the over-thinking.

With the way that yesterday’s squats felt so strong and smooth, I began to believe that just maybe I will be able to do more at Provincials than I was allowing myself to hope for, but I’m still being cautious. Although the back is improving, the road is far from linear and definitely not smooth. As much as I always want to improve on the platform, the reality of competition is that sometimes you don’t have the performance you want. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you can only do what you can do and that has to be enough. I understand that, even if it chafes against my goals and nature.

For the past few weeks I have been mentally preparing myself to accept whatever limitations I might have when it comes time to compete. I have been telling myself that I will be okay with stepping on the platform and doing my best, even if my best on that day is less than what I am capable of. The problem with preparing to be okay with settling is that I can easily fall into the trap of visualizing the ‘less than’ and the possible failures.

It is important, I think, to have a healthy respect for the limitations of an injury. Likewise, I think there is great value in tempering expectations, especially in light of the wide array of factors that can affect one’s performance. A healthy and reasonable respect for the uncontrollables…that’s what I’m striving for but carefully balanced with hope, aspirations, and my competitive drive. I cannot see the future. I do not know what will happen six weeks from now, but I do know that I am going to do all I can to put myself in the best position possible for success. My definition of success might need to be different this time around, but that doesn’t mean I cannot be successful. The past 3 months have been challenging. The next 6 weeks will most likely also be challenging, maybe even more so, but I am always up for a challenge!

Strong, Independent, White Woman

“Admitting a weakness is a sign of strength.” ~Andy Stanley

I am woman, and I do not like any insinuation that being a woman makes me somehow less in any way, shape or form. I do not ever want to be thought of as weak or incapable or fragile. I am one who likes to be prepared and capable. I don’t like to ask for help, especially when I think I am more than able to do the task. I think I’ve always been this way.

My current state with this disc issue has left me feeling incredibly frustrated with feelings of weakness and the inability to do the most basic of tasks without significant pain. I’ve had a disc issue before, but this time is different. Before I had no pain in my back; this time I do. Last time, the disc didn’t impact my normal daily activities; this time it does. The previous disc issue is why I stopped running. Right now, I am in some degree of pain all day, every day. I cannot put on socks or shoes without pain. A cough has the ability to bring me to my knees. Lifting something out of the oven. Putting on my pants. Sitting. Picking up boxes, garbage bags, or pretty much anything. Anything involving bending forward. Squatting or kneeling down. Lying on the floor or in bed and shifting ever so slightly. Getting out of the car. The list of things that causes pain seems unending…and discouraging. And yet, I am still reluctant to admit that I am in need of help.

During my closing shift on Thursday, I asked my barista to bring in the patio furniture for me. He was quite agreeable, but I really expected no less. The night before my closing barista offered to bring in the furniture without me even asking. Knowing that I would have a big order to put away at work this morning, I was prepared to ask for help putting it all away, but my manager beat me to the punch by saying she would do it for me. I work with some rather amazing people!

It’s not easy to admit that I cannot easily do the simplest of tasks, especially when I know that I am capable of more. I can pick 308 pounds up off the floor, but picking up a box weighing less than 5 pounds sends waves of pain through my back. My mind struggles to accept this reality, and I hate it. My current limitations chafe against my will until all that is left is a raw, bloody mess inside.

I know that this disc issue will get better…I just don’t know when exactly. I don’t know when I will stop feeling intense pain. I don’t know, and I don’t like not knowing. I’m also a practical kind of girl who likes to know such things. But, right now, I need to be the kind of girl who can admit the need for help when necessary. There is no doubt that I am strong and self-sufficient, but there is also no doubt that I am currently in a season where I am not myself. This season of pain is not an indication of personal weakness, no matter what it feels like inside. It is a season, to be sure, but still only a season and not a life sentence. In the words of my coach, “Ang will prevail.”

Eventually, I will.

Talking It Out

Oh dear. It is almost 8:00pm, and I’m only now finally home for the first time since 7:30 this morning. I need to prep some food for tomorrow’s work day. I need to blog, and I fear that a multitude of thoughts are swirling inside of my head, disjointed but unrelenting. With tomorrow being an open shift, I’d ideally like to be in bed no later than 9pm, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. C’est la vie!

After work, I went to the gym. After the gym, I stopped at the grocery store for some necessary items. After the store, I went out for dinner with my husband, to Red Robin, where I enjoyed a greasy burger wrapped in lettuce and some fries, even though I really should have chosen salad for my side. After we were finished eating, the waitress brought me an ice cream sundae, because I had made some comment that gave her the impression that I’d had a crappy day. How could I pass up free ice cream?! I ate it, even as I fought to hold back tears. My day wasn’t all that bad, but the past two months of back issues have been tough both physically and emotionally. Although I am more honest in my blog, my general tendency is to keep the majority of my thoughts and feelings locked up inside, being highly selective about what I share and who I share it with. For good or bad, that’s my nature. So, I ate the ice cream, choking back tears, but I definitely didn’t feel any better for eating it. I actually felt rather gross.

As I lay in bed last night trying to fall asleep, I thought about asking my coach for his honest thoughts about my back, training and competing. I knew I wanted to ask for his thoughts, but I wasn’t sure how to put the question into words. I’d barely finished my warm up at the gym, when Michael began asking me questions about what I was feeling and thinking! I swear that man can read my mind sometimes! We talked. I tried to explain what I’m feeling in my back, but that isn’t always an easy thing to do…it varies and sometimes significantly. I do still want to compete. I plan on competing. I am still hopeful that the back will heal up soon. I would love to break my records at Provincials; however, I also have to acknowledge the fact that I don’t want to do more harm to my body and might need to lower my hopes and expectations when it comes to Provincials. It’s hard to say what that might look like, because I can’t predict what will be going on with my back two months from now. Maybe I can challenge my squat and bench records. Maybe the back will feel great and I can push the deadlift a little. Or perhaps I might need to do a token deadlift at an easy weight just to put up a total. While I don’t like the idea of not giving my best effort, I do understand that it might be necessary. And although I have been entertaining those thoughts for at least a few weeks now, today was the first time I’ve given them voice to anyone. As much as I want to be okay with this (and I basically think I am okay with it), I also can’t help but feel somewhat frustrated, disappointed, and mopey.

1a. trap bar deadlifts

75 lbs x 8 with low handles + 8 with high handles

125 lbs x 6 low handles, 145 x 3 low + 7 high

We thought we’d try trap bar deadlifts, that they might not bother my back as much as regular deadlifts. And they were mostly okay but not okay enough. No more of those. Switch to front squats.

front squats-flat shoes

95 lbs x 6, 125 x 5, 135 x 5

1b. flat dumbbell presses-feet on bench

25 lbs x 19, 34 x 8, 44 x 8PR, 44 x 7

1c. chin ups-small green band, neutral grip

4 sets of 6

2a. Bulgarian split squats-54 lb vest x 10 each leg

2b. seated cable rows

90 lbs x 10?, 90 x 6? + 70 x 6?

Sitting is usually a painful thing for me right now, so I had to position my body angle in such a way as to minimize the discomfort on my back.

And now I remembered that I still have to do my foam rolling. It’s almost 9pm now…sigh.