Consistency

Consistency can be defined as a pattern of sticking to one way of thinking or acting, and I considered the importance of consistency as I went through my motions at the gym this morning.

Last week I was finally allowed to put a barbell on my back for the first time in a year. My range of motion was intentionally restricted and no weight was added to the bar. This morning I was able to increase my range of motion slightly but still without added weight. Today and last week, I set up for each set and rep the same way that I would set up before my injury, when it was common to have almost two hundred pounds on the bar on a regular basis. When it comes to lifting heavy things, there are many ways for it to go sideways and mess you up, which is why it is important to treat the light weights the same as the heavy. Being consistent in your training habits can help you avoid injury and see positive results.

Even though my training over the past year has had a significantly different focus than the previous years due to the injury, I have worked hard to stay consistent while being flexible and gracious in respecting my recovery. It hasn’t just been about treating light weights the same as heavy ones. It has also been about simply making the gym a priority. When my body hurt too much to train one day, I felt no guilt in putting it off to the next day, but I still got my training in each week.

Consistency should be applied quite liberally over all areas of life, I think, although I still quite enjoy having a measure of freedom and whimsy in what I do and when I do it. I know the importance of sleep and make a point of maintaining consistency in how many hours I can potentially have each night. With slight variations depending on my schedule, I wake up or go to bed about the same time each day. Self-care consistency is often more difficult to maintain but so very important.

And just like my unweighted barbell set up, being consistent in the little things is just as important as being consistent with the big things. Telling someone you love them. Picking up after yourself. Taking out the garbage. Scooping the cat litter. Performing a shoulder check before changing lanes when driving. The number of thoughts and actions we perform each day is really too many to even begin to quantify, and I know how often I go through periods of my day without giving a second thought to what I’m saying or thinking or doing. Is that the end of the world? Probably not but it also probably isn’t always the best way to live. I don’t think that means we need to expend copious amounts of energy or time to menial tasks or inflate their importance in the grand scheme of things, but I do think that part of consistency is doing small things properly and with intention. Shoulder checks should always be done before changing lanes, and they should be done with intention and purpose…not just a rapid twist of the neck as you swerve into the adjacent lane. Do you see the difference?

 

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Bumpy-wumpy

“Time isn’t a straight line. It’s all…bumpy-wumpy. There’s loads of boring stuff. Like Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays.” ~The Doctor, The Impossible Astronaut

Most of my days are heavily laden with boring stuff especially of late. I miss going to work with my amazing co-workers and interacting with our wonderful customers. Being on a medical leave is boring. Almost every day my husband asks me what my day is going to look like. I haven’t had anything overly interesting to say in response, although I suppose I could make something up. My days look almost identical. Drag myself out of bed. In varying order: eat, drink coffee, get dressed. Go to the gym three times a week. Do my rehab exercises at home every day. Eat lunch. Drink water and more coffee. Apply heat to my back. Walk around aimlessly in search of something to do. Perform a few light cleaning tasks or tackle a cluttered spot. Read the news online. Make dinner. More heat to the back. Go to bed and lie awake for 2 hours. Sleep. Wake up once or twice and lie awake some more. Repeat.

The good news is that as the back continues to heal so does my ability to move and engage in somewhat normal tasks for short periods of time. I might not be doing much in the grand scheme of things, but I am making progress. I can do more, but I still need to listen to my body. Yesterday I was finishing up sorting the stuff stored under my bed. All I was really doing was putting a few bins back under the bed after sweeping up all the dust bunnies. It didn’t take long for my back to ache from the forward bending, even though I was on my knees. I’m healing but not finished yet.

This week I have been doing a little bit of light weight bench pressing with my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat. It has been so good to touch a barbell again, something I haven’t done since November 4, 2017 when I herniated my disc. As exciting as it is to be able to do some almost normal bench pressing, I also realize that I still need to be mindful and slow with my progress. As I was benching today, there was one rep where my lower back arched ever so slightly. Seriously, it was barely perceptible, but I immediately felt mild discomfort in my back. I made sure I flattened my back before the next rep and all was okay again.

A couple of weeks ago I tried some goblet squats with maybe 10 pounds and felt discomfort in my back. The goblet was abandoned, but I was able to use that same weight to squat with the weight held with arms straight down. Today I tried the goblet squats again using 15 pounds, and it was all good. A forward step of progress! But I still know that putting a barbell on my back is not going to happen anytime soon.

The left leg continues to be a nuisance. You know, I think that the numbness in my left foot is slowly diminishing, although watch it flare up again now that I’ve made such a bold statement! 😉 A lessening in numbness is progress, no matter how slight the difference. In general, the left leg pain has been slightly less since last Friday, but it was slightly more again last night, waking me up a couple of times. I skipped doing leg curls today, because of the surge of leg pain last night and the way the leg was feeling today. It’s a process and a reminder that healing takes time and that timeline is not straight at all! It’s all bumpy-wumpy.

But tomorrow actually is Saturday and I feel kind of excited about it. No particular reason why and no particular plans for the day yet. There is just something lovely about have a wide-open Saturday.

Rise of the Machines

Being injured is not my idea of a fun time. If I had broken an arm, I would quite likely be having a cast removed any day now and on my way to regaining strength, but a herniated disc doesn’t necessarily have a predictable and tidy healing schedule. I’d rather have a broken bone or a pulled muscle, a sprain or stitches, or a week long flu. This is not fun.

I feel like two different people. One is the optimist who knows how to dream big and work to achieve it. The other isn’t quite defeated yet but is broken, frustrated, and despairing. I am both people, flipping back and forth sometimes as frequently as a heartbeat.

My training routine since the injury has been little more than rehab exercises. Everything has been careful and slow and simple. I’ve not been allowed to touch a barbell or perform certain movements. While I appreciate the necessity of the rehab and the restrictions, I miss moving some weight and training more like an athlete than an injured person. I might have a World record squat, but these days my prowess is pretty much limited to bird dogs and body-weight glute bridges.

With my training playlist blaring in my ears, I go through my rehab motions fighting an internal battle between determination and despair. It’s an ugly battle of hand-to-hand combat, trenches, and no man’s land. One day a song might bolster my spirits and fan the flames of positivity and determination, while the same song the next day might shoot down my hope in a fiery hail of bullets. The ongoing numbness in my left leg weighs heavily on me. It’s bad enough that I can feel the weakness in that leg and the tentativeness that comes with diminished physical sensations, but the thought of potential long-term nerve damage is rather frightening. Having resigned myself to missing out on Nationals, I have also accepted that there is no specific timeline for stepping back onto a powerlifting platform. Although I have seen some improvements over the past five weeks, my physiotherapist has pointed out that ideally there should be more. My worth and sense of self are not dependent upon being or training like a powerlifter; however, I do still greatly miss doing those things that I enjoy doing in the gym.

I smiled last night when I opened up this week’s training program from my coach. Not only did he put in a reference to the new Star Wars movie opening later this week, but he also changed up my program to incorporate a bunch of machines! This is both exciting and out of my comfort zone. It’s exciting, because machines means I get to use some weight, even if I’m still starting out low and slow. This is potentially uncomfortable and scary, because I’ve never really used machines before! I’ve seen them in the gym, but I’ve always looked at them as strange, wild animals that you look at but don’t touch. I have no idea what they are or how to use them, so I quite literally need to google each exercise/machine before going to the gym. I need to know what machine I am looking for and how to use it properly. That’s the easy part. Then I need to find those machines at my gym. My gym has two floors with machines on both levels. Some are labelled, some are not. But I think I found all of the machines I need for now.

I’m still a long way from deadlifting, bench pressing, or squatting with a barbell, but it was so good to use some muscles that haven’t been used since the injury. The weights I’m using must start off low. I need to take each rep slowly and carefully, but I was able to work biceps and triceps, pecs and delts, quads and hamstrings. It’s been a long time since I’ve had so many muscles quivering from exertion. I felt the effects of a lack of strength training and the ongoing left leg nerve impingement. Standing body weight calf raises…the left calf is weaker and lagging. The same is true of the left hamstring when doing leg curls. Even though my left quad is unaffected by the herniated disc, when doing leg extensions I can still feel a lack of involvement in my left foot, or at least the numb half of my foot. As I’m extending both legs, my right foot feels engaged and active, while the left foot isn’t engaged and feels as if it is merely hanging out for the ride. <sigh> Small weights. Small steps. Turtle’s pace.

Desperately Seeking Energy

I’m waiting for the caffeine to hit my bloodstream and infuse me with some energy, because I feel as limp as a noodle right now. Although today’s training session saw me moving significantly less weight than Monday’s session, I feel done in. Deadlifts can do that to you.

1a. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, 195 x 3

main event, with belt: 205 lbs x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 4, 205 x 6

Today was my first time deadlifting more than 200 pounds since Provincials in June. These felt decent, although I am a little disappointed to have dropped two reps on the fifth set. Deadlifts and I have a complicated relationship when reps are involved, especially when there is a definitive stop before each rep. There is a natural rhythm involving the creation of tension, breathing and bracing against the belt, and initiating the lift. For me, if that rhythm is broken, even just a smidge, I find it difficult to continue the set. That’s what happened in the fifth set. Between finishing the fourth rep and initiating the fifth, something happened to upset my rhythm and I couldn’t do it. The smallest thing can ruin the rhythm…an extra second, an ill-timed breath or the wrong type of breath, the bar rolling. Even though I was already feeling the fatigue, I knew I was capable of maxing out my reps on every set, so I was determined to finish my final set well.

2. competition bench press (2-1×0)  6-8 reps

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

main event: 100 lbs x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 6

Bench press is my weak link in the powerlifting chain, although I think I can safely say that I am generally solid up until a certain weight. My competition best has been stuck at the same weight forever, but my working sets feel good and strong.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 6, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Today was my first time doing these for a long, long time!

4. barbell shoulder press 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 10, 45 x 6

My dislike for shoulder presses is strong, while my ability to do them well is weak. The first set felt okay, but the right shoulder fatigued rapidly during the second set.

5. plank

x 36s, x 30s, x 25s

I don’t understand how people can hold a plank for minutes at a time. If I was completely fresh, I might be able to hold a plank for a minute, but by the end of my training session I was fighting to maintain form as long as I did.

Looking to November

Over the past couple of training sessions I have begun to feel the stirrings of ambition, focus, and determination, along with the thrill that comes with pursuing a big goal. I’ve had a big goal for a long time now, and the competition where I will potentially have the opportunity to challenge that goal is now less than two months away. Although I’ve been eyeing this goal since before this year began, my grip on it has purposely been kept loose. I’ve been injured for most of the year and not lifting to my full potential. I am currently feeling better than I have felt all year, but I need to stay healthy and continue to rebuild my strength. That’s the main reason for the loose grip on my goal, but a secondary reason is that there are still opportunities for someone to move the marker on my goal. My goal involves a World record, but there is always the potential that someone could break that record (even multiple times) between now and my competition, possibly even breaking it beyond my ability to challenge. But regardless of what happens with that record between now and November 4th, of far greater importance is how I feel and what I am capable of doing. Breaking records is exciting, but it doesn’t define me. Being able to put in a solid competition after a disappointing Provincials would feel redemptive and rewarding, and my ultimate goals are to place well at Nationals next year and qualify for Worlds. Breaking a record in November would be super cool, but it won’t help me win Nationals or get to the World Championships. And yet, I am beginning to feel confidence in my ability to have a solid competition in November. Even when the training is tough or there’s an exercise I don’t like doing, I am finding the grit and determination to push through with my eye focused on November. This girl has goals and each one is a stepping stone on this journey.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6

Deadlifts are feeling good and moving well. The back isn’t bothered in the slightest.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

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

main event: 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 7

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 12, 115 x 12, 115 x 8

4. BB shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

50 lbs x 8, 50 x 7

This is one exercise that I do not enjoy and struggle to see improvement in.

5. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds

 

Head Case

Something happened on the way to the gym this morning.  It was nothing tangible, nothing observable. It was completely internal…my head messing with my emotions or my emotions messing with my head. Either way, my training session felt tougher than it should have because of the turmoil inside.

1a. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 6, 93 x 6, 113 x 6, 123 x 6, 123 x 6

1b. chin ups using barbell and inclined bench, underhand grip

x 10 with bench at knees

with bench at mid-calf: x 5, x 5, x 5, x 3 + ? 3 or 4 or more? with bench at knees, I forgot to write that part down after and now I forget

2a. single leg deadlifts with single kettlebell

10kg x 8 each, x 9 each, x 10 each

16kg x 10 each

The last two sets were the best.

2b. seal rows

75 lbs x 12, 85 x 10, 85 x 10

2c. hanging leg raises with posterior pelvic tilt x 15

3a. barbell curls

45 lbs x 8 x 2 sets

3b. cable triceps pulldowns

40 lbs x 12, 40 lbs x 7 + 30 lbs x 10

Monday Morning Blues

It’s Monday and I feel a bit discombobulated. After a lengthy period of usually having Mondays off work, I am now working them. Not the end of the world but I do tend to prefer having two days off in a row rather than one day at a time, and I also prefer some semblance of consistency. I am able to be flexible and spontaneous when necessary, but there is a mental toll to the adjustment. Also, my husband is currently at the hospital getting his heart shocked. It should be fine, but he’s there and I am here. There are a million thoughts racing inside my head. My neck hurts. A lot. I am wiped out and wishing for a nap, but I work in a couple of hours and napping doesn’t come easily to me.

warm-up:

windmills: body weight x 5 each side; 10kg kettlebell x 8 each side

Turkish get-ups: body weight x 1 each side; 10kg kettlebell x 2 each side

1a. single leg box step downs

x 8 each

with box on block: x 10 each, x 12 each, x 12 each

1b. single arm kettlebell press

10kg x 8 each

with carry: 12kg x 8 each + 5 lengths; 12kg x 7 each + 4 lengths; 12kg x 5 each + 4 lengths

2a. trap bar deadlifts

115 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 135 x 10

2b. Pendlay rows

75 lbs x 8, 85 x 8, 85 x 8 + 4

2c. push ups on barbell with feet on box

3 sets of 6

2d. hanging leg raises with posterior pelvic tilt

x 10, x 10, x 8

3a. double kettlebell curls bottoms up

6kg x 10 x 2 sets

3b. skipping

10 double unders; 1 minute