Gratefully Accepting Praise

Now that the volatile emotions have settled into something more sane and typical of Angela, I am able to process my competition and feelings about it in different ways. I didn’t think that I would blog today, but sometimes you just need to go with the moment before it is lost.

My theme for this year is Powerfully Beautiful. This weekend I certainly didn’t feel powerful or beautiful. It’s no secret that I am disappointed and frustrated with the way my Provincials competition played out. Even though I went into it knowing I wouldn’t have my best showing, I was still anticipating something better than what actually transpired. Knowing that I was capable of so much more obscured my vision and how I perceived myself. It’s never easy for me to accept compliments or praise, because I never actually feel worthy. However, learning to accept both compliment and praise is a part of becoming Powerfully Beautiful, so I need to stop cringing when someone showers me with a compliment.

Powerlifting is a wonderful sport full of supportive people. I’ve been involved in many sports in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with one that is as much about the individual result as it is about cheering on your competitors. It doesn’t matter how much weight is on the bar, everyone cheers you on when you struggle. Congratulations and high fives are shared when you make a lift. You are encouraged and supported whether you are a new lifter or an experienced one.

At Provincials, I lifted with some I’ve lifted with before and others who were new to me. I have no idea the story or history of the newer lifters. I don’t know how long they have been powerlifting or how many competitions they have done. I received praise and congratulations from several of these lifters, but I essentially shrugged it off or tried to down play it. My performance was sub-par. I knew it, even if they didn’t, and so I felt awkward accepting their praise. But honestly, even if I hadn’t been performing from a disappointing position, I still would have responded the same way.

One of my best friends organized a little gathering on Sunday to celebrate me and my performance. Never once did I feel like I was worth celebrating, not with the performance I was anticipating or the one I actually had.

My friend’s niece and nephew were at the little celebration. They don’t know me at all, but at one point something was said about me and my competition. They both instantly exclaimed, “That was you!?” Apparently they had watched my lifts on the livestream feed with my friend, and they were impressed. They had no idea what I was actually capable of had I been completely healthy. All they knew was that I had done something amazing. I was strong and capable, and that was all they needed to know.

A friend texted me Monday morning to let me know how much of an impact I have. The words made me cry, because I was still an emotional wreck and I hadn’t expected those sentiments from this person. Why not? Maybe because I seldom think that those around me actually pay any attention to my crazy antics!

Some co-workers have congratulated me, and my natural inclination is to downplay it, to shrug it off. Why do I do that? Why can’t I just accept the praise, the compliment? Why do I feel the need to minimize it? I’m really not in a position to answer that right now, but it is something I need to think about.

I blog but don’t expect my friends to ever read it, and I’m always surprised when someone does. This falls in line with my aversion to the spotlight. I put myself out there in my blog and when I compete, but I really don’t expect anyone to pay attention. I look at myself through my own eyes, tainted as they are, and what I see can differ greatly from what others see. I think this will always be my struggle, but at least I am getting better at recognizing when there is a gross discrepancy between the two. Part of being Powerfully Beautiful is learning to graciously accept praise and compliment without instantly trying to deflect or minimize it.

My Provincials competition was not what I had hoped it would be, even with my lowered expectations; however, I still competed. I stepped on the platform after nearly 5 months of injury and limitations. I stepped on the platform prepared to settle for less than my best, which was a major battle for my mind in it’s own way. When my second squat finished with injury, I was able to keep enough composure and focus to finish the competition. I didn’t have the results I was hoping for, but I persevered and did the best I could with the hand I was dealt that day. That should be something to be proud of!

If you catch me trying to brush off a compliment, please call me on it!

It’s late enough now for someone who had an open shift today. My mind has essentially shut off. I want to crawl into bed and close my eyes. I knew there was a reason why I wasn’t going to blog today…but sometimes you just have to ramble, even if the thoughts come out lopsided and fuzzy.

I don’t necessarily know you, if you’re reading this, but my hope is that you know how to accept a compliment. I hope you have reason to feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments, even when you had expected a different outcome. I hope you know that you are enough, as you are, even if you have room for improvement! It’s true, you know!

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.

 

Numb

I don’t know where to begin this blog post, or if I even want to write it now or at all. Okay, so I do want to write it, but I’m not sure I am ready. Yet, I feel like I can’t wait too much longer lest I lose thoughts and emotions along the way. My current state of mind is exhausted, frustrated, disappointed, angry, a blink from dissolving into tears, pained and numb. The numbness is comforting in a way, because it helps keep the tears from pouring down my face and softens the sting of the negative emotions, at least for a time.

Yesterday was my Provincials powerlifting competition. Even though I wasn’t expecting to have my best performance, I was hoping to go 9 for 9 and break my Provincial bench press record. I didn’t achieve either goal yesterday.

My first squat was 92.5kg and moved well. Michael opted to be conservative with my second attempt, and that turned out to be a wise decision. My second squat was 100kg, which should have still been an easy 220 pounds. I did more than that last week in training. It felt fine when I unracked the bar. I believe that I did everything that I usually do. The eccentric felt fine. I began to rise out of the squat and felt a kind of pop and something giving in my lower back, which then caused my back to round in a way that is not typical for me. It hurt. I managed to finish the squat, barely remembering to hold until the command to rack. I walked off the platform feeling pain, fear, and crushing sadness. Michael instantly decided that we’d pass on my third attempt, then we headed to the warm-up area for some chiropractic treatment. As the chiropractor poked, prodded, bent and told me to push here and there, I fought to maintain some composure. By the time I got up from the table, the pain had dropped a couple of notches, but it was still there.

As we waited for my flight and the next to finish squats, I did the things the chiropractor told me to do and I gingerly tested my ability to set up for the bench press. Arching wasn’t too bothersome on the back, so we felt okay to stick with our plan there. My first two bench attempts, 55kg and 57.5kg, were decent. I am the current Provincial record holder with 60kg, which is the weight I have been stuck at since October 2015. Although I had some options, I chose to make a third attempt at 60.5kg in an effort to break my Provincial record. I was so close but failed. Words cannot express how I felt and still feel. Even as I lay on that bench, desperately trying to finish pressing the bar and realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, I felt so utterly crushed by disappointment and frustration. I know I am strong enough. I know I can do it. I have lifted that weight in the gym, including just last week, and it was easy. I came into this competition knowing that my squats and deadlifts would be sub-par, but the bench press record was something I knew was within my ability and I wanted, WANTED it!

My deadlifts weren’t going to be super heavy, but, with the fresh back injury, we opted to drop my opening attempt even more. An opening deadlift of 85kg wasn’t anything I could fake pride in, but I just needed to get a number on the board. It was embarrassingly easy. My next attempt was 102.5…again easy. My final attempt was 112.5kg or 248 pounds. Still easy. That final deadlift was 60 pounds less than my best deadlift. I think it would have been easier to feel some peace about low deadlift numbers if the rest of my competition had turned out differently. If I hadn’t hurt my back. If I had broken the bench record. If only. But, the last thing we wanted to do was inflict more harm to my back. Thankfully, I was able to deadlift without any added discomfort or pain to the back, which is something I wasn’t sure would happen after that squat.

At some point in the competition, Michael pointed out that there was another woman in my age/weight class after all. She hadn’t made her weight class and was bumped up into mine. Being the competitive person that I am, as soon as I realized that I could potentially lose, I wanted to win! However, I was no longer operating in a position where we could give any thought to making sure my attempts put me in a position to win. I still kept an eye on her numbers, chafing inside with the desire to win and re-familiarizing myself with a positive mindset in the event that I lost. Both my squat and deadlift were far from my actual ability and potential, but I still managed to come away with the win.

This was my 8th competition, and, in my opinion, my worst one. I had my third lowest total. The two lower totals came from my first two competitions. My Wilks score was my second lowest. The only one lower was my first competition. This was my second 7 for 9 meet. Not a single personal best. The first time I’ve ever passed on an attempt. The first time I’ve hurt myself in competition. The only goal I achieved yesterday was checking off the final requirement for competing at Nationals next year.

As much as words cannot express how I am feeling, there is so much more yet to say, but it will have to wait for another day. I left my house at 7:50 yesterday morning, and I didn’t get home until 12:30 this morning. I was in bed by 1:00 this morning but woke up before 6:30. My back is sore and achy, and I am exhausted. I need to decompress and process. I need to go hang out with some friends in a couple of hours, feel loved and celebrated, even though I don’t feel worth celebrating. Then I need sleep. Precious sleep. Tomorrow I will walk into my gym and begin the process of rehabbing (again) and rebuilding.

Tuum Est

Today my youngest son graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Human Kinetics degree. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ceremony. How I managed to avoid bawling today is a complete mystery! I was moved to the brink of tears on many occasions, yet the tears never quite left my eyes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I was not emotional.

Casey didn’t enter high school with his future planned out. In fact, he was aimless up until April or May of his final year of high school, when he suddenly decided that he was going to apply for the Human Kinetics program at UBCO. We supported his decision, but we were also a little skeptical. It felt like a rushed decision, and Casey has always been an ‘act first, think later’ kind of person. Yet here he is four years later with his degree! He has worked hard, and we are so proud of him.

Way back at the start of his freshman year, there was an orientation day for the parents and new students. Perhaps the university’s motto was mentioned that day, but if it was I have no memory of it. When I saw the motto, Tuum Est, displayed at the ceremony today, I wondered what it meant. Then the President of the school gave his opening remarks and illuminated the motto in an especially powerful way. Naturally, I cannot recall his exact words, but I can take what I do remember and put my own spin on it.

Tuum Est, he said, essentially has two meanings.

  1. It is yours.
  2. It is up to you.

Tuum Est projects the ideal of choice.

Okay, so that’s the nutshell of the President’s remarks. Now for my thoughts and spin…

My daughter and I talked a bit about this after as we were both quite taken with the motto and concept. She found it applicable in her own life and schooling, and I also found it applicable to my own situations. There is a sense of power in this motto. Choice? Absolutely! But there is a sense of power in the choice, in the possibilities. And freedom. Freedom to be yourself, to do your own thing, to chase your dreams, to have those dreams in the first place, to seize the day and give your all. No one else can make it for you. No one can do it for you. It is yours. It is up to you.

As I am shifting from celebration mode into competition mode, I find a sense of purpose in Tuum Est. I have modest goals for tomorrow, but it is up to me to claim them. My goals are my own, and I want to step on the platform and grab hold of them.

Numbers

One day until my youngest son graduates with his Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics. Two days until Provincials. Three days until a little celebration with friends. Four days off work. For someone who has never been fond of math, I’m all about the numbers right now!

I have previously competed 7 times. Only once have I had a perfect 9 for 9 competition. Once I went 7 for 9, which was also the only time I ever failed a squat in competition. The remaining five competitions were all 8 for 9, with the missed lift being either my final bench or final deadlift. I have had 7 Provincial records and 11 National records. Thanks to my months of back problems, I’m really only hoping to get one Provincial record this time, but I’d also really like to have another 9 for 9 outing.

Today’s training session was predictably easy and light. We basically worked up to about 70% and kept the volume low. Mostly my session was about practicing technique.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 4, 135 x 4

with belt: 155 x 2, 175 x 1, 175 x 1

During the second set, I hit the safety on the second rep. That’s how much my back is not limiting my depth anymore!

1b. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 3 all these sets were touch and go

103 x 2, 103 x 2 the first rep of each of these two sets was touch and go, the second rep was paused at the top and bottom with commands

2. deadlifts-conventional

135 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 155 x 3

I kept the bar nice and close to my legs, took the slack out of the bar…basically did everything the way that I am supposed to!

Now I get to rest, more or less. I still have a list of things to get done between now and early Saturday morning. It will get done!

Defining Success

“You do not determine your success by comparing yourself to others, rather you determine your success by comparing your accomplishments to your capabilities.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Three days until Provincials!

I love the sport of powerlifting. At the end of competition, the winner is the one who lifted the most weight, and yet, each lifter is also working hard to better his/her own previous performance.

Over these past months of dealing with pain and injury, I’ve wrestled with myself over the unlikelihood of having a successful competition at Provincials. I know what I accomplished at my last competition, and I had hoped to do even better at the next one. Unfortunately, injury took those aspirations and shot them to pieces.

My back is getting better, feeling better. My squat technique is coming back. My deadlift is coming back. My coach thinks that my squat could be close to where it had been, but I still know that doesn’t necessarily mean I will PR across the board on Saturday. Without another woman in my age/weight class, I will be competing against myself. But I cannot compare myself to who I was last August. I cannot compare my results on Saturday to those from last August. Such a comparison would not be fair.

I do not know what I will be capable of on Saturday, but I still have goals. My goals might not be focused much on hitting specific numbers. I would like to have a perfect meet…going 9 for 9. I do want to break my Provincial bench record. Mostly, I want to walk away feeling proud of what I accomplished based on my capabilities, knowing that my capabilities had been hampered for several months. It won’t be my best ever competition in terms of numbers, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be one of the most satisfying competitions.

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!