Can You Feel It?

I was asked today if I am excited about my upcoming competition. Am I? You’d better believe it!

Heading into Provincials this past June had me feeling cautiously hopeful but tempered by the reality of dealing with my back issues since late January. Although my back was greatly improved by June, it wasn’t quite normal and my ability to properly peak for competition was hampered. Knowing that I would not have my best performance was frustrating, and I had to mentally prepare myself for the personal disappointment. The tweak of my back during Provincials was unexpected and demoralizing. These weeks and months since have crept by painfully slow at times, and now the days are passing by at the speed of light.

I am excited for this competition. Training has been going well, and I have been pushed further, harder than ever before. It’s been a good thing, I think. My back has mostly held up quite well. My anxiety about inflicting more harm on myself has settled into the realm of reasonable expectations. I have successfully moved weights that I have not used for a long time, and I’m doing it without pain. Although my current program has me doing more volume at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before, the fact that I am keeping pace with the volume inspires confidence and hope. While I do have two little goals for this competition, I honestly have no idea what numbers my coach has in mind.

I have this tendency to look at my previous best lifts and feel as if those were the best I could ever do. With almost all of this year being consumed by the back problems, it has been a very long time since I’ve achieved those best lifts! It is likely quite normal to feel that my strength has stagnated or that injury has hammered nails into the coffin containing my goals. Recent training successes have been prying those nails off, and I know that my strength is growing, although I cannot say with certainty if that growth has surpassed my pre-injury state or merely brought me back close to it. But I feel optimistic!

Yes, I am excited for this competition! I am always eager to step onto the platform to compete. There is something amazing about being part of a powerlifting competition. I am hopeful that this one will be redemptive. Even if my numbers end up being less. Even if I am not successful in my own goals. Okay, so I won’t be happy if I fail in one of my goals, because I have been stuck there for two years! But even if I should fail that one, too, I know I will be okay. I am excited just to compete again. I am hopeful that this competition will be a little springboard for Nationals in February. Am I excited? More than you could possibly know to look at me!

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18 Days

Competition is 18 days away! That time feels both so distant and so close. Somehow the week or two before a competition is always crazy busy. Last night after I entered my work schedule into my calendar, I paused for a moment, feeling a tangle in my mind that I hadn’t expected. In unraveling it, I realized that I will be working 7 days in a row leading up to the competition. That’s not exactly how I had envisioned spending the bulk of those days, but I can get through it. Training should be minimal that week for a deload, but for now I’m still increasing the weights.

1. squats (2-0x0) 1-2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 205 x 2, 215 x 1

main event: 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2

Warm ups felt really good and moved well, I think. My bladder wasn’t playing nicely with me this morning. When you need to create tension by filling your belly with air and pushing it out against your belt, a full (or partially full) bladder can really interfere with that process. There are mornings when I can train without making a trek to the washroom…today was not such a day! In fact, I had to make two treks between sets. As annoying as it is to disrupt my training for a bathroom break, I’d rather do that and be able to fully create tension and use my belt effectively.

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that I haven’t had 225 pounds on my back since before Provincials in June. During Provincials, a 221 pound squat tweaked my back and set back my competition and training. My confidence has been growing over these recent weeks as I’ve found myself doing more reps and sets at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before. Once upon a time, I did 225 pounds for 2 reps but only one set. As I set myself up for the first set at 225 this morning, I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous. I knew I could do it. I knew I was going to do it. The reps didn’t all feel light or easy, but they still felt decent. Perception is funny. Some of the sets felt ugly, as if the bar was manhandling me, but what I saw on the video wasn’t nearly as bad as it felt. Regardless, I definitely felt my legs working. I am sure that I was missing a few cues here and there. Did I take a big enough breath each rep? Did I keep my chest up each rep? Was the bar over my midfoot each rep? I could watch the videos over and over and pick them apart to the best of my ability or wait for my coach to comment with his feedback. Today was another PR of sorts…my first time squatting 225 pounds for doubles for multiple sets!

2. bench press (2-1×0) 1 rep

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 100 x 2, 115 x 1

main event: 125 x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

These felt solid.

3. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 8, 55 x 8

Although the first set is never what I’d call easy, I always feel like it was easy enough that I will be able to get more reps on subsequent sets. Yeah, no.

Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 3, 225 x 2

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 lbs x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

Week 12, Day 1

Today was the start of week 12 of my new training program. The entire program has pushed me ever so slightly out of my training comfort zone, but the last couple of weeks have pushed just a bit harder. I thought that I was already well acquainted with putting in hard work in the gym! In some ways, this program is simply different, while in other ways it is definitely tougher. It is a good thing that I had already established good work habits and mental toughness, because I have needed to draw from those skills quite heavily. With competition now less than 4 weeks away, the work load is only getting heavier and further beyond anything I have ever done before; however, I am discovering that it is okay. I am capable. All of the hard work leading up to now has laid the foundation. Hopefully that will translate into a positive competition, but a day on the platform can be dramatically different than a day in the gym.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 200 x 2

main event, with belt: 215 lbs x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 2, 215 x 3

From a couple of the videos from my working sets, my coach determined that I wasn’t taking in enough air for bracing. I guess that would explain why I did feel like I had some bracing issues. Aside from that detail, these squats generally felt decent. Again, I am not used to doing so many sets at such a weight, but I was more than capable.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 110 x 2

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

No feet or arch for the first two warm up sets. The back had some mild ache to it, but I think it was okay. The one problem with benching without an arch is that the bar would sometimes hit the safeties, because my chest position is slightly different. The working sets felt a tad heavy and slow, yet they felt solid and decent. I experienced the same thing last week.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

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

The first set felt tough, and my hips protested the pause. I put my belt on for the final two sets. The second set felt better, but the final set was the best. I eased into that pause position with no trouble at all.

4. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 6

Maybe one day I will be able to make all of these reps…

A Thankful Heart

Thanksgiving is near the top of my list of favourite holidays. Being a low-maintenance, easy-going kind of person, I don’t usually go too crazy in celebrating any holiday, no matter how much I love it. For a few consecutive years, my Thanksgiving weekends revolved around running a local race and preparing a family dinner. Now that I no longer run, Thanksgiving plans are even more low-key as we need to tiptoe around several work schedules. One of the joys of working customer service/retail is that statutory holidays really don’t mean anything other than another day at work. With the way my own schedule looked this year, I hadn’t expected to do anything special for Thanksgiving and had told my family the best they might get was a couple of store-bought rotisserie chickens. My kids protested. So, despite beginning work at 5:30 AM on Saturday and then going to the gym after work, we had turkey dinner that night. It was delicious, and it was one of those exceedingly rare instances where the entire family unit was together at the same time around the dinner table. I am thankful for that.

Gratitude is a regular part of my life. I express my thankfulness to people in my life on a regular basis, and I regularly post lists of things that I am happy/thankful for. Attitude affects so many aspects of our lives…for good or bad. Being grateful and striving to see the good in all things, or despite some things, makes maintaining a positive attitude easier. It changes my outlook on so many things. Even on the days when I am tired, grumpy, angry, or sad, the intentional act of noticing positives, of finding the details to be thankful for makes me feel better about myself, about others, and about difficult situations.

I am working all of this long weekend. Last night was painfully slow, like so slow we didn’t serve a single customer in the final hour that we were open. I am off to work soon, and I don’t know whether tonight will be any busier than last night. I enjoy my job, but I can’t say that I always feel glad to need to go to work. Since I work through the weekends, I seldom get to enjoy an entire day with my husband, because he is working during the week when I get my days off. Sometimes it would just be nice to actually get a stat holiday off. Okay, that’s my little whine, now for some thankful, happy things…

  • family & friends
  • laughing so hard while reading an article this morning that my daughter asked if I was dying
  • we close an hour early tonight
  • leftover pumpkin pie
  • the more consistent you are with stretching and rolling, the easier it becomes
  • even though I can’t watch most if it…a Star Wars marathon on TV
  • sunshine through windows
  • crisp air
  • crunchy leaves underfoot
  • the new training program seems to be working
  • nurturing and inspiring the human spirit
  • a good cup of coffee in the morning
  • headphones in the gym
  • flannel and quilts
  • working with great people
  • my so not old-school chiropractor who helps keep this old body functioning
  • creeping towards my weekend
  • the annual Friends of the Library book sale is later this week
  • hearty breakfasts
  • hot baths
  • all the seasons but especially Fall
  • paper and pens
  • lip balm and hand lotion
  • music
  • houseplants that I can’t kill too easily
  • hot air balloons in the sky
  • sunrises/sunsets
  • prairie storms on the horizon
  • mountains
  • time to myself
  • a good book
  • fun socks, if I have to wear socks
  • card and board games
  • feeling strong and getting stronger

 

Thanksgiving Training

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, although I’m working the entire long weekend. Since I had an open shift this morning and closing shifts the next three nights, I hadn’t planned on having a big turkey dinner. Of course, the kids complained, so a last minute decision was made to cobble together a nice meal. My youngest son took care of getting the turkey into the oven, although I had to do all the prep yesterday and leave him detailed instructions. My boys peeled and chopped potatoes, but the bulk of the cooking will fall on my shoulders. Right about now my shoulders are feeling figuratively tired and sore. I had a good work day, then I came home to change before heading to the gym. I had a good training session, too, but now fatigue is settling across my body like a heavy blanket. I even put my pajama pants on once I got home from the gym. I just realized that I have only had the equivalent of 2 espresso shots today, so I could definitely use some coffee. It’s not too late to have a cup, right?

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done with my feet on the bench and no arch…just because.

Pretty certain that I’ve never done so many reps and/or sets at 120 pounds before! That knowledge made me feel slightly apprehensive about today’s plan, but I was successful.

2. competition squats (3-0x0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 155 x 3

main event, with belt: 175 lbs x 3, 175 x 3, 175 x 3

These felt easy today and light.

3. long pause bench press (3-3×0) 3 reps

90 lbs x 3, 90 x 3, 90 x 3

These felt decently good. I have a feeling they would really suck if the weight was much heavier, but these were fine.

4. side planks

x 30 seconds a side, x 25 seconds a side

And although I’m not looking forward to the hassle of cooking, I am looking forward to eating all the food!

 

The King of Lifts

Deadlifts. The king of lifts, or so some say. Opinions may vary. My own opinion of deadlifts has fluctuated between love and hate over my training life. Over the past couple of months I have been enjoying deadlifts again. That might be due to the fact that I am finally able to consistently and regularly deadlift without pain or further aggravation to my back, despite last week’s minor tweak.

Just as I was nervous about squats earlier in the week, I felt the same about today’s deadlifts. The weight jumped again, which is to be expected as I’m gearing up for competition, but it also puts me at a weight I have not pulled since early June. When you throw in the tweak to my back last week and 9 months of recovering from back injury, a bit of apprehension is to be expected. The weight itself wasn’t really scary, as it is still a far cry from my max; however, I am not used to doing a lot of volume with heavier weights when deadlifting. Was that part of my previous coach’s training philosophy? Or was it what he thought worked best for me? I’m not completely certain, and I am striving not to get hung up on what I used to do under the direction of my former coach. That said, I am still in the process of learning what my new coach’s training style and philosophy is, and he is still trying to figure out what works best for me and what I respond to well.

Sometimes I look at my program for the week and think my new coach is pushing me beyond my capabilities or comfort zone. I look at the number of reps and sets and the weight, and I feel a surge of panic. I can’t do that. I’m not used to doing that many reps at that weight! But you know what? For the most part, I have done what I thought I couldn’t. Up until now, I was used to doing maybe one set of 2 or 3 reps at a highish weight for deadlifts and definitely only two or three single reps at high weights. Although today’s weight wasn’t truly high yet, I did more reps and sets with it than I have ever done before…and the back felt okay!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 2, 225 x 2

main event, with belt: 240 lbs x 3, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2

The final two sets were beginning to feel a little tough, especially the final rep of each. My capacity may have increased, but heavier deadlifts are still taxing on the system. Unlike last week, the back was essentially fine. I felt some very minor aching after, but the ache truly was extremely slight. Heavier deadlifts, at least for me, will usually result in some minor back soreness for a day or so, particularly after a competition. That’s normal and to be expected. I just don’t want a repeat of last week where the pain increased throughout the day to a throbbing mess.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

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

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

All of my warm ups, except for the set at 100 pounds, were done with my feet on the bench and no arch. I probably would have been fine to set up normally, but I want my back to get better and stay that way. Although there was that slight ache from the deadlifts, my back felt completely fine benching with an arch for my working sets.

3. plank

x 45 seconds, x 41 seconds, x 36 seconds

 

I also had an appointment with my chiropractor today. My right hip is a tad tight. So shocking! 😉 The tight hip can be causing the back issue, so I need to keep working on that.