Fleeing the City

I am currently sitting in a motel room in Hope after consuming a delicious, late dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street. My husband had previously made plans for us to go to Harrison for the weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Before he left for work this morning he said he’d really like to leave today and spend the night in Hope. Even though I am generally the sort of person who likes carefully laid plans, I am still able to be flexible and fly by the seat of my pants…even if I’m praying the entire way that we’ll be able to find an available hotel room! We did. It’s nothing fancy, but we have a king-sized bed and I’m drinking some wine out of a small glass that was wrapped in paper on the bathroom counter. And all of this is perfectly lovely! We aren’t high-faluting kind of people and, when this is your first kid-free, sporting event-free, multi-night trip away from home as a couple, well, let’s just say that we’re grinning like idiots. The rest of our weekend should be a little bit fancier, at least the hotel room, but we shall have a good time regardless.

Since we had already planned on heading out Friday morning, I knew that I’d need to get my final training session of the week done today. My work day was short and sweet, and I was at the gym within a half hour of finishing work.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0) 4 sets @6-10 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5

main event: 90 lbs x 10, 95 x 10, 90 x 9, 90 x 7

Surprisingly enough, the back was probably the least achy while arching in several weeks, which was nice and enabled me to pretty much do my normal bench set-up.

2. high bar squats (3-0x0) 3 sets @8-12 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 95 x 6

main event: 105 lbs x 11, 105 x 12, 105 x 8

Something is going on with my left leg/knee, sporadically and annoyingly. It began to be a bother again during these squats, mostly as I’d finish each rep and lock it out. Even with walking later it would randomly hurt. <sigh>

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 2 sets @8-12

80 lbs x 11, 80 x 8

4a. back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 12

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 12, x 12

The leg raises were less of a bother on the back today as well! Can I call that progress?

 

Friday Fatigued?

It’s been a rather good day. With my current work schedule, Fridays are my Mondays. I don’t often get too caught up in negative feelings about particular days of the week. Sure I look forward to my weekends as much as anyone else, but Mondays have the same potential to be good days as any other day of the week. I slept okay last night but was awake more than asleep for at least an hour before my alarm, which isn’t a good thing when the alarm is set for 4:45 AM, but I got out of bed feeling mostly rested and ready for the day. Work was good, a smooth day with lots of laughter and connections. After work I hit the gym for my final session of week 3. This week was about incurring fatigue; however, for the most part, I felt stronger this week than I have for a while.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4

main event: 100 lbs x 6, 100 x 6, 100 x 6, 100 x 6

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 65 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 12, 95 x 12, 95 x 12

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 11

4a. 45 degree back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 12

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 12, x 10

End of Week 2

I have now completed week 2 of my new training program, and I’m happy to say that this week was better than the first in several ways. I felt stronger. My reps felt and looked better, and there has been less muscle soreness.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 6, 95 x 6, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8

main event: 90 x 10, 90 x 10, 90 x 10

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 9

I kept my feet on the bench for the second set, because the back was feeling achy with the arching.

4a. 45-degree back extensions

x 12, x 10, x 8

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 8, x 6

The leg raises were very uncomfortable on the back, which is why the reps dropped so drastically. But I think it was a good session overall.

Week One Done

The low back has been quite achy since Thursday’s deadlift session.  While still not as bad as it has been previously, I am frustrated by this reappearance and doing what I can to attack it. As I was warming up at the gym this morning, the ache and discomfort persisted and made me wonder how I’d be able to do my squat sets when I could barely do a body weight squat.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 95 x 4

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 2

The back discomfort made arching uncomfortable, so I minimized my arch during the warm up sets by having my feet on the bench…barely since the benches are not very long. I don’t like to do heavy sets without the use of my legs though, so I put my feet down and had a small arch for the working sets. Even then, I was a little slow getting up after each set.

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 x 8, 65 x 10

main event: 90 x 10, 90 x 8, 90 x 8

The weight was light, but the slower eccentric and higher reps made these sets anything but easy. The back was less bothered than it was doing body weight squats earlier, but it still wasn’t completely normal.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0)

65 lbs x 12, 65 x 12

These were done with my feet on the bench again because of the back.

4a. back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 8

4b. leg raises

x 12 , x 10, x 8

The back extensions actually felt good on the low back, but my hamstrings were screaming in agony. The leg raises, however, were like torture on the back.

Week one of the new program is complete.

Hips, Knees, Benches & Bretzels

My husband had his hip replaced yesterday. It seems to have gone well, and he’s already been up and taking short walks down the hall of his hospital ward. Assuming that everything continues to progress as expected, he will likely be sent home tomorrow morning and that’s when the real fun will begin. Found out that we will need to switch sides of the bed, which means I now need to make some adjustments to the furniture layout in our bedroom so he can get the walker between the wall and the bed on that side. I will also need to move my alarm clock to the other side. Although it will be quite a few weeks before he is able to do a lot of things, at least his recovery should be fairly smooth. I hope.

As for me, I definitely feel as if my back is finally seeing more progress and fewer set-backs. It’s still not normal or without varying measures of pain and discomfort, but it’s exciting to realize how much more I can do. This morning at the gym, I sat on the floor to put on my socks, knee sleeves and shoes, which is something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time! Although I still avoid sitting as much as possible, I have had to do more sitting over the past two days than I am used to, and the back has held up fairly well. Okay, so for a while yesterday I was mildly concerned that I was about to take backwards steps again. The SI joint was a bit achier than it had been for the previous few days, not too bad but not quite as good; however, it seemed to settle back down by mid-afternoon. One of my biggest questions these days is always how far can I push myself without negatively impacting my back/SI joint. Unfortunately, I cannot always answer that question until I try to see what I can do. My coach often has exercises that he would like me to do in the gym, and he will ask me if they are okay for me to do. There are a couple that I am reasonably certain would not feel good on my back at all, but most of the time I simply can’t say until I try it. There is also no guarantee that what felt fine before will always feel fine and vice versa. Ab wheel roll-outs were fine early on in this ordeal, but the last time I did them a couple of weeks ago they were more uncomfortable. I couldn’t do hanging leg raises at all a while ago, but I managed to do some leg raises last week using the dips bar. One thing I am fairly certain would not be a good idea is sit-ups on the glute-ham device, so I’ve rejected that option every time Michael has presented it. The biggest tests will be once I get heavy enough weight on the squat bar and when I get to try deadlifting again.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 1, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1

215 lbs for roughly a 10 second hold, twice

Squats didn’t feel too bad today. A few reps felt a bit deeper but probably still not quite deep enough, although I honestly felt like at least one rep might have been legal depth. The single at 215 felt a little heavy, tough, and ugly, so Michael had me do a couple of holds with the weight to get used to having it on my back again. The first hold felt super awkward, because he didn’t even want me to walk the bar out, which meant I couldn’t have any forward lean to make the low bar position remotely comfortable. For the second hold, we raised the safeties and I was allowed to walk the bar out. It felt a bit better but still not nearly as good as it should. This is one of those areas where Michael has ideas that he wants to incorporate but isn’t always certain it will be good for my back. Obviously I need to re-familiarize myself with having heavy weight on my back, and I don’t have a lot of time to get to that point. He thinks doing some holds or walking with the yoke rack would be good. I don’t disagree with him, and I’d be willing to try. He just wants to be careful with my back.

1b. bench press-competition grip, with feet on the bench and small arch

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 6, 87 x 5, 107 x 5, 112 x 5, 112 x 4

Benching with my feet on the bench allows me to better keep the arch in my back small, which should help me to avoid aggravating the SI joints. It’s akin to deadlifting from a deficit. It will make me stronger, but I do miss being able to use my leg drive. My butt came off the bench on the fifth rep of the first set at 112 pounds. That is not typical of me, but I suspect the need to use leg drive was too strong to resist on that last rep. Oh well! In powerlifting, only the first rep matters. 😉 As for the final set, there was supposed to be 5 reps. Shake it off! I know I am stronger than how my bench felt today.

2a. Spoto presses-with feet on the bench still

97 lbs x 6, 97 x 6, 97 x 6

I think the first set felt a bit tougher than the next two. Sometimes that’s just how it is…as if my body needs a set to remember what it is supposed to be doing.

2b. back extensions-holding a 20 pound dumbbell

x 20, x 9, x 10

This is another one of those exercises that is hit or miss for how it makes the back feel. Actually, today these were completely hit and miss. The first set was horrible. I felt so much strain around the back of my knees that I had to drop the dumbbell midway through and repositioned myself before picking up the weight to finish the set. Honestly, I have no idea how I managed 20 reps that set.

Michael told me to keep my knees slightly bent to avoid the strain, so I did that on the following sets. It alleviated a great deal of the knee strain but not quite all of it. I was wearing my squat shoes for the first two sets and took them off for the last set, thinking that might be part of the problem. The last set wasn’t a whole different than the second. Maybe the pad was set a bit too far? I don’t know. Also, although the extensions didn’t make my back feel worse, I could feel some discomfort while doing them, which between that and the knees made me cut the reps short. However, it did feel sort of nice to carefully drape my body forward over the pad so my head was hanging down, stretching out the lower back in a way that it hasn’t liked to move for a while.

Yesterday my chiropractor gave me a new stretch to do…the Bretzel. If that makes you think of a pretzel, then you’re thinking in the right direction! If I’m not careful, this stretch will threaten me with a cramp and it doesn’t feel too pleasant on the quads, but I kind of like it. Not the unpleasantness, of course. I can see why my chiropractor says this is one of his favourite stretches, and I think it is one that I will continue with for a long time.

Unsinkable Hope

Remember my post on Sunday when I was cautiously optimistic, because I felt a noticeable difference in my level of pain and mobility in my back? Turns out it wasn’t a fluke! The lessening of pain and the slow increase to my mobility has continued, although I have kept a tight grip on my emotions. This morning I had an appointment with my chiropractor, and I was greatly surprised to find that I was able to arch my back in a cat pose. Last week when he asked me to do that same movement, it was difficult and uncomfortable. And I am now able to go full cobra when doing my back extensions homework! Then this evening I had a training session after having 4 days off. It was the best training session I’ve had in about 2 months. I am so excited! The back isn’t pain-free. I can still feel restrictions in some movements, but nothing I did in the gym tonight hurt. The only restriction I felt was at the bottom of the squat if I tried to push my depth, but I generally only went as deep as was comfortable.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6 or 7, 115 x 6, 135 x 5

with belt: 155 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5

Speed was good for all the sets. The weight wasn’t maximal and felt comfortable. With competition being roughly 7 weeks away, I’ve got some work to do, but we didn’t want to push too much on this first good feeling training day.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5

I chose to keep my feet on the bench rather than have them on the floor with my full back arch…didn’t want to push my luck with the back. There was a small arch though, and the back still felt decent. The final rep of each set was paused.

2a. close grip bench press, touch and go keeping constant tension

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 85 x 8

2b. back extensions-without shoes

body weight x 20, 20 lbs x 20, 20 lbs x 17

2c. seal rows

75 lbs x 15, 95 x 12, 95 x 10

It was so nice to have a mostly normal feeling training session! Even the act of putting my knee sleeves on and taking them off was incredibly easier than it has been for weeks. Wonder what Friday’s training session will bring?

A New Hope

It would be extremely premature to get excited, but today my back has felt better than it has felt for a couple of weeks. By better I do not mean without pain. However, I do mean less pain and greater ease in some simple movements. Of course, I have not had to do much today that might be too much for my back, which is why I am keeping my excitement under control.

The last few weeks have been more bad than good. Two days ago was a very bad day for my back. In the gym on Friday, Michael asked me to do some dead bugs, and tears stung my eyes from the pain and effort just to lift my legs into the air and hold them there. Today I did dead bugs without any pain or difficulty. On Thursday, my chiropractor had me do some back extensions similar to the yoga cobra pose. My range of motion that day was limited and the movement wasn’t overly comfortable. Today those extensions were easier, less uncomfortable and with greater range. Even yesterday the basic act of walking often resulted in pain, while today I have been able to stand and walk without experiencing shooting pain. This is the improvement I have been desperately waiting for and not seeing.

There has been improvement today, yes; however, it is far too early to throw caution to the wind and return to normal activities. There is still pain and the feeling of restriction to some movements. But maybe, just maybe the nerves are starting to settle down. Wouldn’t that be nice! That thought makes me feel hopeful. Cautiously optimistic.