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…

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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!”

Climb Every Mountain

Last Friday’s training session looked drastically different than today’s. Last week I was in a lot of pain, my front squats were stopped almost as soon as they had begun, and I was still wondering when I would ever begin to feel better. I was trudging uphill, emotionally and physically drained from the effort, completely unaware of just how close I was to the summit. Now that I seem to be on the road to wellness, I find my energy returning, even though my emotions still appear to be all over the place. I can be one motivational post away from bursting into tears, yet I feel hopeful, joyful, determined, focused, excited. Provincials are 7 weeks away. My back still isn’t 100%. It still isn’t wholly cooperative in the gym, but it is time to ramp up the training to peak my strength for competition. Although there has often been some sort of minor problem during my previous competition prep, this is the first time preparing for a meet after such a prolonged, painful and limiting injury, which means I really have no idea what will happen over the next 7 weeks. But I am looking forward to seeing what I can do. In spite of. Despite. Because I believe I can. I will.

1a. squats-low bar, without sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 115 x 7

with belt: 135 x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 7, 155 x 7, 155 x 7

Since we are 7 weeks from competition and I’m dealing with the back problem, we need to work patterns more than spending a lot of time on accessory movements. My squat pattern has been all over the place since the start of the back problems, mostly due to the fact that there is restriction in how my back moves which has affected my ability to hit proper depth. That inability to squat deep also prevents me from taking advantage of the spring reflex coming out of the hole. My eccentric is also slower in an effort to control my descent to avoid going deeper than my back will comfortably allow. Although my knees usually push forward a fair bit when I squat, the back problem has also resulted in my knees pushing forward even more. I’m afraid I’d be a “quarter” squatter if I tried to prevent the forward knee movement. I have never had as much struggle with hitting depth as I have these past couple of months. Today’s squats still had depth issues, but there were also several reps where I had to fight against my body pitching forward.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 12, 63 x 8, 83 x 5, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 110 x 4

These were all done with my feet on the bench and a minimal arch. Without my normal arch and the ability to use my legs, it is more difficult to get (and keep) the shoulders in the proper position. But I’m okay with making things more difficult when it makes me stronger in the end.

2a. glute-ham raises

x 15

with arms straight up overhead x 12

2b. push ups

x 7, x 5

I haven’t done push ups for a while, but I didn’t expect them to be too much of a problem. Weird! Did I just say that? Since when do I think push ups won’t be a problem?! Unfortunately, despite my optimism, the push ups were more challenging than I anticipated due to the fact that holding the proper position caused an unpleasant feeling in my very low back.

2c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

There was more of that unpleasant very low back feeling while doing the ab wheel, although to a slightly lesser degree.

I practically dragged my carcass home after training last Friday, because I was in so much pain. There is still pain. In fact, I must have moved oddly or too quickly when getting up off the bench after one set of pressing, because I had to take a second or two to breathe and recover from the jolt of pain. However, the difference between today and a week ago is like night and day. Now we do our best to push the training while still respecting the injury and allowing it to continue to heal.

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.

One Step Closer

Yesterday I learned that my road to Nationals 2018 in Calgary was shorter than I had thought it would be. Since I’ve never competed at that high of a level before, I have more steps to take in order to qualify for Nationals: compete at Provincials and qualify for Westerns, compete at Westerns and achieve a National qualifying total. As I was preparing for Provincials and Westerns last year, I was under the impression that I would need to do both again this year in order to qualify for Nationals next year. Clear as mud? Basically, I thought I’d have to do Westerns in the months immediately prior to Nationals, and since I am not competing at Nationals this year, I thought that would erase my attendance at Westerns last August. But not so! My Westerns qualifying total holds for 24 months, which means that the only step I need to complete is Provincials this year, and I am super stoked about that. I love competing, and I’d love to do Westerns again. However, there is something freeing about knowing that I have more options available to me. At this point, I don’t even know where or when Westerns will be…could be in Saskatchewan! Not needing to travel so far opens things up for me closer to home without sacrificing my long term goals.

With having meals planned for the week, hitting my fruit/vegetable goals every day, and knowing that I can go to Nationals next year, I feel energized and excited and re-focused. Now I just need the SI joints to hurry up and stop being a bother, so I can get back to the big lifts.

1a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 6, 65 x 5, 65 x 5, 65 x 5

With the exception of an odd rep here and there, these were actually pretty good…for me! The very first set was, according to Michael, the best he’s ever seen me do.

1c. TRX supine rows with legs straight and elevated + a few more reps with knees bent

x 8, x 8 + 3, x 8 + 3, x 5 + 6, x 5 + 6

2a. flat dumbbell presses with a pause at the bottom

25 lbs x 12, 34 x 12, 34 x 12 without legs

2b. single arm kettlebell rows, controlled motion

10kg x 12 each, 12kg x 12 each, 16kg x 12 each

2c. ab wheel

2 sets of 12

I was pleased to notice that I could roll out a bit further today than the last time I did these. The SI joints are not always playing nicely with my training, so I do tend to notice when a previously painful or uncomfortable task feels easier or without the discomfort. Sitting in the car on the way to the gym this morning was brutal. Sitting at the gym to put on my shoes, to try a stretch, to take off my shoes was all brutal. Getting up after the TRX rows was a slow process, and I was hesitant to roll myself up off the bench following my dumbbell presses. The back is getting better, but anything remotely resembling sitting is extremely uncomfortable lately.

I’m Not Loving It

I finished work around 6 last night and, knowing the chances of a family member making dinner were slim, I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home. Although my work day had been good, I was suddenly feeling grumpy. The attitude was likely due to a couple of factors. I was tired. I knew that my ability to relax and decompress would be delayed as I had already agreed to drive my daughter downtown for an engagement. I had been given a warning that my husband was cranky. My frustration with food was rearing it’s ugly head. I didn’t want to make dinner when I finally got home close to 7 PM. I am frustrated by a lack of help and support from the family when it comes to making dinner. They have valid reasons, as well as mere excuses, but I had given basic instructions for what could be made for dinner on Wednesday (when I worked a close shift). Nobody made it. So I gave similar instruction again for yesterday, because I had pork tenderloins in the fridge that were now desperately needing to be used. Despite one person home all day, nothing was prepped, nothing was made. And with all that knowledge, I made the decision to eat crap food and not concern myself with whether or not anyone else in the family had dinner. Because I was grumpy, I ate most of the fries as I drove home. I ate 6 chicken nuggets and a quarter-pounder with cheese while sitting in my car in my driveway. Not a single bite was enjoyable.

There is a lot that could be said about last night’s experience, but I’m not entirely certain that I know where to begin or where to take it. I can be better than this. I have the knowledge and the tools to be better than this. While I’m okay with an occasional treat, my eating habits of late have been more about the treats and crap than about eating for optimal health and nutrition, and I am not happy with myself for it. The good news is, I guess, that it is never too late to start over fresh. Each day presents a new opportunity to make better choices, and I do have the knowledge and tools to make those choices. Okay, so today wasn’t filled with fantastic choices and tomorrow probably won’t be either, but I am determined to turn the corner during my weekend.

This afternoon’s training session did not include deadlifts (or squats for that matter), but then again, I wasn’t honestly expecting either. The SI joints are still an issue, although I feel there is improvement. Since improvement is what I am looking for, I’m willing to accept that my training program is going to be modified in order to allow my back to recover. Still, I’m missing my big lifts.

1a. step-ups (a 4″ block and a box…not sure exact height but a step put my knee well above my hip)

bodyweight x 10

54 lb weight vest x 16, x 16, x 14

Now that felt like cardio…a lot of cardio!

1b. floor presses, with back arch (because I’m allowed to do that!)

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 110 x 8 PR120 x 5 PR

Despite having an arch, I wasn’t really making much use of leg drive for most of the sets and reps, at least not until towards the end sets. At the time I didn’t realize that 8 reps at 110 pounds was a personal record. When Michael said we could do a heavier set and asked what I thought I could do for 5 reps, I wasn’t too sure. He settled on 120 pounds. I kept my mouth shut, even though I knew that I had just set a PR of 120 pounds for 5 reps on Monday for a regular bench press, which meant that I felt a sliver of uncertainty about equaling that task on the floor press. But I did it! 🙂

1c. a TRX ab wheel-like move

on knees x 10, on feet x 10, on feet but slightly harder x 10, x 12 and possibly even slightly more difficult

2a. glute-ham raises

bodyweight x 16

x 5 + x 8 with 8kg kettlebell

8kg kettlebell x 12

2b. swiss ball plank rotations

x 10, x 12, x 13

A Snowy Start to Spring

Hello March! Good-bye winter! Wait. What? It is snowing?! Good grief. If it were December or even January, a glance out the window would make me feel peaceful. The snowflakes are fat and fluffy. The sky is so heavy and grey that I can barely make out the mountain roughly 500 metres from my house. But it isn’t December. This is March 1st and I want spring now. I wore flipflops to the gym this morning, because it wasn’t snowing at that time. Now I will need to brush off my car before I leave for work and likely again once I’m done work later tonight. <sigh>

1. single arm dumbbell clean & press

20 lbs x 3 each, 25 x 3 each, 29 x 3 each, 34 x 3 each with push last rep

with push: 39 x 1 left + 3 right + 3/4 left

That left side! Almost always that left side!

2a. goblet squats, flat shoes

16kg x 8, 24kg x 8, 28kg x 4.5, 24kg x 10, 24kg x 10

We experimented a bit with the goblet squats. The first set was done as I usually squat, while the following sets were done with less forward knee angle. Having my knees far forward generally works for me, but I do tend to get some discomfort at the back of my right knee at the bottom of the squat. Since these goblet squats weren’t super heavy, why not experiment! It wasn’t too bad making the change, although it made me feel uncertain as to my depth. Michael assured me that I was still hitting competition depth, but it didn’t feel like it to me. The set at 28kg wasn’t too heavy, but the lower back felt uncomfortable enough to cause me to drop the kettlebell instead of rising out of the squat. I was given the option of staying at that weight or dropping it and doing more reps. As much as I don’t like dropping the weight, I figured that would be the smartest choice.

2b. chin-ups, using a barbell and inclined bench

overhand competition width grp: x 8, x 9, x 8

underhand close grip: x 6, x 6

3a. rows, underhand close grip

bent over barbell: 75 lbs x 12

This set was actually good, but Michael changed his mind on type of row in order to not make my back cranky.

seal rows: 75 lbs x 15, 75 x 15

3b. standing double kettlebell presses, with eyes closed

10kg x 10, x 10, 12kg x 6

kneeling on a bench, feet unsupported: 25 lb dumbbells x 4, 20 lbs x 4

That was challenging and the left arm/shoulder just wouldn’t cooperate anymore.

3c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

My lower back feels a bit better today, at least first thing in the morning. I could put my pants on with less discomfort. Yesterday’s chiropractic adjustment probably helped with that, but I’m also doing what I need to do to help it along. I am still not allowed to do back squats or deadlifts, but I’ve been told that goblet squats and front squats are okay and I can arch when benching. That’s good enough news for now!