One Step Closer

It feels like I’ve hardly done anything these past few days, yet somehow I feel exhausted. A good portion of my time has been spent at the hospital, which isn’t exactly the most energizing place to be. I sat far too much Monday and Tuesday, which may be why my back feels slightly achy today, but the achiness is within reasonable limits. I think. My husband was released from the hospital this afternoon, so hopefully my extended sitting periods are over.

One thing that I did do today was my Wednesday morning training session. It was an interesting session, mostly good. Internally, the session was good enough for me to let loose a sigh of pent-up hope. Thanks to the disc/SI joint issues, many aspects of my training have been put on hold, because I couldn’t do certain things. With Provincials less than 5 weeks away, I am acutely aware of how long it has been since I’ve deadlifted or even been able to hinge my hip with any kind of load. We tested a little this morning, and I was able to do kettlebell swings, a set of super light deadlifts, and some barbell rows. The back was achy before I even started at the gym, so I think I’m safe in saying that my back is no worse for having done these things.

warm-up with 3 sets of:

16kg kettlebell swings x 10

5 medicine ball passes

5 medicine ball slams

Tested my ability to deadlift with 65 pounds for roughly 6-8 reps. There was a slight sensation of tightness/pulling similar to what I have felt at the bottom of the squat, but this was minor. Of greater concern to me was whether I’d have any pain when I’d create tension throughout my body before lifting, but there was only slight discomfort. Now normally I would begin deadlifting with significantly more weight than 65 pounds, but I was happy with how it felt to go through the motions once again.

1a. barbell rows

65 lbs x 8?, 85 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10

I generally don’t get too excited about rows, but being able to do these put a huge smile on my face.

1b. close grip bench press with feet on bench

45 lbs x 6, 65 x 8, 85 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6

1c. banded monster walks with blue band

2a. seated side laterals, front raises, and clean & presses, 10 lb dumbbells

-2 sets of 10 for the side laterals

-2 sets of front raises with varying reps that I cannot remember

-2 sets of clean & presses, averaging 5 reps, because I could barely press by this point

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 4 + 6kg x 8; 6kg x 7?

2c. kettlebell triceps extension

12kg x 12 x 2 sets

Believe You Can

The lower back is still improving and still not quite where I want it to be. My chiropractor still wants me to avoid real squats and do single leg stuff instead. <sigh> Longevity is the ultimate goal, so I guess I can do that. The right shoulder has been a bit cranky for the past couple of days. My shoulders enjoy taking turns being cranky. It was the left one on Monday! Unfortunately, cranky shoulders and SI joints make finding a comfortable sleep position difficult. Sleeping on my sides bothers the shoulders. Sleeping on my back can make the lower back achy if my body isn’t perfectly positioned, and I just do not like sleeping on my back. It’s not the end of the world, but sleep is important.

1. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 6 each

Both arms felt fairly equal using the 8 kilogram bell, but the left struggled more with 10 kilos.

2a. military press

45 lbs x 6, 55 x 6, 60 x 2 + 5, 60 x 3?

These were a struggle from the very first set. Part of that was the fact that my right shoulder was already burning and feeling fatigued, because it is cranky today. And yet, the biggest problem is inside my head. Well, I still struggle with technique and bar positioning, too. I don’t even want to admit just how defeated I felt in the midst of these sets. I was quite thankful to be facing the wall as I waited, as I set myself into position at the bar, and as I racked the bar after another demoralizing set. I understand that there is value in pressing overhead, but in the grand scheme of things there is no reason for me to freak out over my inability to master it. My goals don’t revolve around being the best military presser, but it is frustrating to continuously struggle with the same thing.

Michael had me switch to a Swiss bar. The neutral grip probably made it easier to keep my elbows where they needed to be, plus it left me no choice but to lean back enough to keep the bar from hitting my face. Despite feeling that I do lean back while doing the military press, there are times when the bar scrapes my chin and I am likely wary of the bar in this situation. I think the two sets with the Swiss bar were better.

33 lbs x 6?, 43 x 8

2b. chin ups, neutral grip

with purple + red band x 8, x 8, x 8

with purple band x 8

It’s a rare day when I say that chin ups felt great. Today is one of those days.

3a. bent over rows, underhand grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 12

chest-supported row 35 lbs x 25

The bent over rows were actually not too shabby, but I could feel the low back a bit in that position. It didn’t make the back feel worse, but Michael had me do a chest-supported row instead, still with an underhand grip.

3b. incline dumbbell presses, neutral grip

25 lbs x 8, x 10, x 10

In a way, I am disappointed that I didn’t feel confident increasing the weight for these. After all, I can comfortably use heavier dumbbells for flat presses. The right shoulder wasn’t feeling so great or strong.

4a. lying triceps extensions with two kettlebells, no legs

8kg x 10, 8kg x 4 left + 5 right

The left arm just would not, could not finish that fifth rep. I even took a few seconds rest before trying to get a couple more reps, but the left arm was not going to have any of it.

4b. double kettlebell curls, wrists back

8kg x 8, x 7

This was a mixed bag of a training session. It wasn’t necessarily easy or comfortable, but it wasn’t necessarily all frustration and struggle. In fact, I just realized that I did better on the bottoms up kettlebell presses. Last week, the most I could do with 10kg was 4 per side, and today I did 6! Sometimes there is a good reason for why something feels more challenging! Sometimes you’re doing more than you used to!

Good Morning Glutes

I was grumpy for most of the weekend, likely a combination of the lingering SI joint issue, feeling defeated and frustrated with food, and just my own internal demons. Although my attitude began to shift yesterday afternoon, I think the grumpiness left completely this morning. I woke up feeling as if I needed more sleep, probably due to some tossing to find a comfortable position. As I opened the living room curtains, I realized that I still have another day off to look forward to, and that realization made me deliciously happy. I love my job, but days off are nice. It also helps that the SI issue is improving. In fact, I noticed that I was moving with more ease at the gym this morning than I was last week. Before my back hurt to bend over to pick up a light kettlebell, to lift a 45 pound plate onto the bar, or to even lay back onto the bench. I could do all of those things today without any pain or difficulty. The pain may not be all gone yet, but I’m so glad that there is improvement. Sitting is still a painful activity. As little as I do sit, unfortunately I have no choice but to sit while driving!

1a. goblet squats with kettlebells

16kg x 5, 24kg x 10, 32kg x 8, 40kg x 6, 40kg x 6

This was the first time I’ve ever done goblet squats with this much weight, and it was pretty good. They didn’t bother the lower back, but the 40kg kettlebell was definitely a challenge for the upper back. On both sets I tried for a seventh rep and bailed at the bottom.

double 24kg x 0

Michael thought that this might be easier to hold, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and never even attempted a rep.

double 16kg x 2

This weight felt more doable, but the back of my left shoulder/delt was burning with fatigue and couldn’t hold position anymore.

1b. bench press-competition grip, no legs

43 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 9, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

These got a bit tougher as I went along, probably because of holding the heavy kettlebells for the squats.

1c. plank with 2 small sandbags on my back

4 sets of 30 second holds

I’m not really sure how heavy the sandbags were, but I am reasonably confident they were more than 30 pounds.

2a. landmine presses

43 lbs x 8 each, 53 lbs x 8 each, 53 x 8 each

The left shoulder was still burning at the beginning of these, but that fatigue had faded substantially by the final set.

2b. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 lb vest

x 10 each

My balance was all over the place this first set, so I wanted to hold a kettlebell for the following sets.

plus 10kg kettlebell x 10 each, x 10 each

2c. ab wheel x 4 or 5?

The abs didn’t feel so good.

lying leg raises x 11

3a. dumbbell flyes

15 lb x 12, x 12

3b. hip thrusts with band around knees and large sandbag on my hips

x 30, x 30

Again, not completely certain the weight of the sandbag…maybe 70 pounds?

All in all, it felt like I did something this morning! A personal best for goblet squats! The suggestion that I might be able to do squats on Thursday (depending on the back, of course!) And I somehow managed to complete all 30 reps of the hip thrusts even though my glutes were on fire by the midway point! I’m still thankful that I’m not training three consecutive days this week, and that tomorrow is a rest day!

SI, Sleep & Squats

Yesterday’s visit with my chiropractor wasn’t as gloomy as I dreaded. I think my disc is fine. The issue seems to be that the SI joints do not take kindly to hanging out in a squat for an extended length of time. They weren’t designed to do that. So, I learned my lesson, and now I have a couple of exercises to do at home and lots of single leg stuff to do at the gym. The home exercises are super easy…probably the easiest homework my chiropractor has ever given me! Still, I spent most of the rest of the day flat on my back and in pain, and I had yet another less than stellar sleep. Well, I slept okay from 10pm until 2am, but four hours is not nearly enough. I went to the gym this morning and did better than expected considering my morning cup of coffee failed to perk me up.

1a. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 4 each, 10kg x 3 + 3 each

29 lb dumbbell x 3 each

The left shoulder sucketh. The right arm was completely capable of doing a few more reps, but the left arm just wouldn’t, not even if I tried to give some assistance with a push from the legs.

1b. decline single arm kettlebell rows

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

2a. incline barbell push ups

x 10, x 8

with 30 lb sandbag on back x 6 + 8 bodyweight

I think the sandbag is 30 pounds. Those six reps felt really tough, so I’m kind of amazed that I could finish off with eight more reps once Michael removed the sandbag.

2b. chin ups

with barbell + incline bench x 8

with red + small green band, neutral grip x 9

with both bands, wide pronated grip x 8, x 8 with a 6-8 second hold on last rep

2c. elevated split squats, both feet on 4″ boxes

x 16 each side, x 15 each

x 15 each with hands behind head and shoulders tight

Oh how the legs burned by the end of each set of split squats! Yesterday’s 20 rep belt squats and Bulgarians combined with these split squats means that my legs are going to be a little sore and rubbery. At this moment in time, I don’t know if my final training session of the week will be early tomorrow morning or later Friday afternoon. I could end up training three days in a row, which wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and would not be the end of the world. I just need sleep.

 

Wednesday Warrior

My Wednesday training sessions are often frustrating and challenging, not all the time but often enough. No matter how determined I am to have a good Wednesday session, somewhere along the way I hit a snag. Today was another one of those days.

1a. military press

45 lbs x 8, 50 x 5, 55 x 6, 55 x 6 close grip, 60 x 3 + 2 with push, 60 x 3

Today’s military press focus was on engaging my lats, because I obviously do not do this already. During the military press, my shoulders usually fatigue very quickly and feel like they are burning from the effort. Apparently this is due to not properly engaging my lats! Making adjustments to technique is usually fraught with struggle, and this was no exception. While I did notice that the shoulders didn’t feel the usual fatigue, it is going to take some time and practice to get comfortable with the change.

1b. chin ups

x 2 unassisted + 5 with small green band

x 1.5 unassisted + 5 with green band

x 1 unassisted + 6 with green band

x 0 unassisted + 5 with green band

x 5 with green band

The military press was frustrating, but I am actually happy with my chin ups today. I doubt that I have ever done so many unassisted reps in one day. Not ever! Yes, the unassisted reps did drop each set and I didn’t even make an attempt on the last set, but my assisted reps didn’t drop like they typically do, too! It would be easy to have missed this little ray of hope, but I’m glad to have found it.

2a. Pendlay rows

65 lbs x 12, 95 x 7, 105 x 3 + 8 underhand/not Pendlay rows

The first set was easy. The second set was kind of heavy feeling. I set up for the third set, didn’t feel good about it, walked away from the bar, and then reset. Michael told me to try rows with my torso a little more upright. I managed 3 reps, but I was getting a nervy kind of twinge down the side of my right wrist with every pull. Michael had me try an underhand grip. It helped with the wrist thing, but it sure didn’t feel natural.

2b. push ups on the parallettes

x 8, x 6 a bit wider, x 9

The first set was easy. The second set was much tougher, and I blame that on Michael wanting the parallettes moved apart a bit more. The third set was easier than the second but not quite as easy as the first. Michael called it on the ninth rep, because my right shoulder was rising more than it should. Agreed. There were definitely reps in which my left arm didn’t seem to be exerting as much force as the right, or it was just lagging behind.

2c. prone trap raises

2.5 lbs in each hand x 15

And these were actually not too bad either.

A little good, a little frustrating…one Wednesday morning, one day down the road, I will crush my training session.

 

A Weak Day Morning

My attitude towards upper body days has been shifting ever so subtly over the past few months. Dread might be too strong of a word for how I used to feel about the upper body work, but it has always been blatantly obvious that I would much prefer to squat, bench press or deadlift than to narrow the focus to smaller, weaker muscles. While I still prefer the main lifts, I realize that I head to the gym with a positive attitude even knowing that upper body stuff is on the agenda. That doesn’t mean the work is always easy, but some of the tasks are getting stronger and more consistent…more often than not. But there are days when everything just feels tough once again.

1a. Pendlay rows-with my bench press grip

75 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 105 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7

I ran into some bar positioning trouble with my first set at 105 pounds. The bar was too far ahead rather than centred over my feet. With better positioning, the final sets felt better, but it was still a struggle to get the reps.

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 65 x 6, 65 x 5, 65 x 5 + 4 push presses

Wrist positioning was an issue for some of these sets. Even though I’d start a set with the bar sitting low on my palms and wrists in good position, somehow the bar would shift during the set and the wrists would bend back.

1c. dragon flies

x 10, x 10, x 8, x 7

Michael had warned me that ab work was going to become a part of every training session. Part of me is looking forward to it, while the other part of me is trembling in fear of the pain coming my way. Michael allowed me to choose which ab move to do today. My choices were heavy GHD sit-ups, ab wheel, toes to bar, or dragon flies, and he wanted 4 sets of 10 reps. In all honesty, I don’t know why I chose dragon flies, as they are probably the most difficult of the options. Obviously I didn’t manage the full number of reps for the final two sets…my abs were pretty much giving out at that point. I could almost feel my abs cramping up on my drive home, and I know that the post-training soreness will come.

2a. chin ups

I was supposed to try to better my record of 2 unassisted reps or at least equal it, but I could barely manage one.

with small green band: x 6, x 5, x 4

I’ve been assured that I do indeed have lats and that activating them will help my chin ups. I think I noticed a bit of a difference on the last set when I followed the cues given to me by Michael. Sadly though, chin ups are a struggle and my reps drop quickly.

2b. push ups on parallettes

x 8, x 8, x 6 + 2 more partial reps

The last set was tough. I almost couldn’t even push myself back up on the sixth rep. Took a 2 second breather and then reset to finish the reps. Although I hadn’t been descending too deep anyway, those final two reps were cut shorter than the rest. I wouldn’t have survived them otherwise. I think my triceps are a bit sore from Monday’s close grip Spoto presses.

Upper Body Birthday

Today is my 45th birthday. Normally I feel almost half my age, but there have been moments both yesterday and today where I feel double my age. I am sore almost everywhere but especially my quads. Squatting or kneeling is a slow, painful process which is usually accompanied by a groan. If I’ve been sitting for a while, then I resemble Frankenstein as I hobble until the legs get used to movement again.

warm-up:

standing single arm dumbbell presses (sets of 3 and see how heavy I could go)

20 lbs x 3 each, 25 x 3 each, 29 x 3 each, 34 x 3 on the right but only 1 on the left

1a. military press

43 lbs x 8, 53 x 8, 63 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

73 x 4 push presses…both Michael and I thought I’d easily have more here but something happened on the fifth rep. Not really sure what that was…maybe just mental sabotage. Maybe just fatigue.

1b. pendlay rows

45 lbs x 6 + 65 lbs x 15, 95 x 12, 105 x 8, 105 x 6, 95 x 8

2a. chin ups

Michael asked if I wanted to try a couple without any assistance.

2!

That equals my previous best which was close to a year ago. While not a PR, I’m happy that I was able to repeat it. Then Michael said that he wanted me to do my sets with a single unassisted rep followed by 5 reps with a green band.

So my 2 reps, then 5 with the band

Next set, I couldn’t do the single unassisted rep! x 5 with band

x 4 with band

The drop-off with my chin-ups is dramatically sharp.

2b. push ups with parallettes

3 sets of 8

3a. single arm kettlebell row, with strap

24kg x 15 each side

You know, I just realized that today’s training session was all upper body, and I didn’t mentally freak out about it at all. Not even once!