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

Keep Breathing

So often lately I feel as if I am walking around holding my breath. Both my coach and my chiropractor frequently tell me to breathe, but this current spate of breath-holding is more figurative than literal. These months of living and dealing with disc and SI joint issues have been a roller-coaster ride, up and down, twisting and turning. Now I enjoy riding roller-coasters. The adrenaline rush of the ride is exhilarating, but then again I also know that the ride will end after a complete circuit. This back pain roller-coaster ride is not fun in any way. The ups are good days with less pain and less restriction, while the bad days have more pain, more limitations, more frustration. Just when I think I’m reaching a plateau, the track gives out beneath me and I’m plunging back towards the ground. So I hold my breath on the days where the pain is less, on the days where I can move more freely, because I am afraid to let my hopes get too high, knowing that the pain seems to keep coming back. I like to think that I am a dreamer, a believer, an eternal hoper of good things, but I sometimes think I am a pessimist. In actuality, I am probably just a realistic dreamer. I cling to my hopes and dreams and look for the positives, but I also see the potential pitfalls, the failures, the alternate realities.

My SI joint was in a lot of pain on Monday and Tuesday. Although it wasn’t quite as extreme on Wednesday, my coach changed up my training and asked me questions that made me grumpy. (I know he has to ask them; he’s just doing his job and being a good coach. There’s more I can say about that conversation…at another time but not today.) Yesterday, the SI joint was feeling even better but still not normal. This morning, I was able to lift things at work that I couldn’t on Tuesday morning. The back was still feeling decent but not normal. This is why I hold my breath. The little positive steps forward make me feel hopeful. What if the positive doesn’t last? What if the back pain ramps up tonight? Tomorrow? But I wore my ‘believe achieve’ socks to the gym today, because I can’t stop hoping…

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 lbs x 6, 165 x 3, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 205 x 1

Here is one of those little positives that cause me to hold my breath. For the first time since the back issues began at the end of January, I did not feel any tightness, pulling, or stretching in my lower back at the bottom of the squat! My depth probably still wasn’t quite where I need it to be, but most of the reps simply felt better, like I was in a position to hit depth.

The first single at 205 was a little slow. It felt a little heavy, and I was tentative. Then again, I haven’t had that much weight on my back since 2016! The second single was better.

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

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 3, 115 x 1, 120 x 1

105 lbs x 3 pause the last rep

105 x 3 with a 3 second eccentric on last rep

105 x 3 with a 3 second eccentric each rep and a pause

2a. barbell hip thrusts

95 lbs x 13, 145 lbs x 15, 145 x 15

2b. seated cable rows

90 lbs x 13 x 2 sets

2c. leg raises using the dip bar

x 11, x 12

The back felt pretty good through my training session, so now I will keep holding my breath.

One Step at a Time

Provincials is 10 weeks away and registration opens on Sunday! The SI joint is still a problem, but I privately celebrate every little bit of progress no matter how small. As I closed the store last night, I was able to lift stacks of patio chairs without the discomfort that was present the night before doing the exact same task. I can lift my right leg higher to put my pants on without discomfort and without needing to hold onto something as I bend forward. I could get out of the car with slightly less pain. There is a bit less pain from sitting on the toilet. But a sneeze can make the lower back feel as if it is being ripped apart. Lowering myself to the floor is still a slow, tentative process. I’ll take those small forward steps, even if they seem to come slowly, sporadically. Progress is better than regression. Although it feels as if this issue is going to last forever, I have to trust that there will come a day when this is but a memory. Until that day, I am just going to do my best to stay positive and upbeat, to focus on what I can do and continue to improve on those things, and trust that I will be successful at Provincials.

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses:

8kg x 5 each, 10kg x 8 each

box jumps:

…can’t remember how many I did…we were focused on making sure that my back wasn’t being bothered by the jumps that I don’t recall the reps…guess I should get in the habit of writing down more of my warm up stuff in my training log…ironically, the back was completely fine with jumping up onto the box, although I was bending my knees to absorb the impact; however, I did have to step down softly as that was more jarring on the back!

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 6, 73 x 6

with belt: 113 x 6, 135 x 6, 135 x 1

I wouldn’t normally require a belt for these weights, but Michael wants me to use it as much as possible leading up to competition and also just to be mindful of my back. The first belted set was with my own belt, while the other two were with a softer, velcro closure belt of Michael’s. Before I even did the first rep with my belt, something didn’t feel quite right on the left side of my lower back. It wasn’t the same discomfort and it settled down by the next set, whether because of the softer belt or just no reason at all. Speed and bar path were good. Breathing sucked but that’s front squats! The final set didn’t get very far though. I did the first rep and felt enough discomfort in the lower back as I came out of the hole that I paused at the top, considered a moment and then racked the bar. Michael said that was enough.

1b. floor presses-competition grip

45 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

with slingshot:

95 x 6, 115 x 6, 120 x 4 or 5?, 115 x 6

Using the slingshot for floor presses is interesting, because you don’t get all of the benefit of the slingshot due to the limited range of motion. Again, I am not sure if I completed 4 or 5 reps at 120 pounds before failing. Michael said that he wouldn’t count that as a missed rep…that it didn’t happen! But I know it did. I think the bar got out of position on me, but Michael chose to drop the weight anyway.

1c. prone trap raises

5 lb dumbbells x 11, x 12

band face pulls with wrist rotation, orange band

2 sets of 15

2a. barbell reverse lunges-low bar

75 lbs x 16, 95 x 16

I expected these to feel tougher. The first set was super easy. Although the second set did get a little harder towards the end, it was still surprisingly easy.

2b. back extensions, with 25 lb dumbbell

2 sets of 15

I have been given homework…doing 100 band pull aparts today, tomorrow and Sunday. Always need to work on that upper back! Maybe one day I will look like I actually lift weights! 😉

 

 

SI Sighs

Today felt a little rough, or I felt rough. A headache settled in fairly early and stuck around all day. As my work day wore on, I deteriorated. I’m not sure if I was feeling a lack of caffeine, mere fatigue, a tight neck, or finally succumbing to something. I’ve woken up with a touch of a sore throat the past couple of days. While the throat hasn’t been too bad, it’s enough of a bother to make me desperately hope that I am not getting sick. The sore throat, the headache, and a sense of being overly warm made my work day feel long. I almost never get sick, and I don’t have time for getting sick. I am not sick. I refuse to get sick!

I arrived at the gym this afternoon feeling okay…of course, I arrived sipping a quad tall Americano (my second one of the day). I wasn’t feeling super amazing, but I was at my happy place. As is often the case, a training session has a practically magical ability to make me feel better, no matter what the issue may be. So, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. See, I refuse to get sick! 😉

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 6, 93 x 6

with belt: 123 x 6, 143 x 5, 143 x 5, 143 x 5

I might have had some minor difficulties with the front squats today. I had to re-rack the bar at the start of a couple of sets, because I realized upon un-racking that I wasn’t properly centred. The sets at 143 pounds were a little challenging but still not maximal. I suppose it makes sense that they were more of a struggle considering how I felt today. Michael wanted me to use my belt today for every set over 100 pounds. The first set felt a little weird merely due to re-familiarizing myself with my belt. The lower back felt fine though, and that’s really my main concern.

1b. incline close grip bench press

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 73 x 8, 83 x 5, 83 x 7PR, 83 x 7

For incline, I think these were pretty good. The range of motion was ginormous, but I am generally happy with how these moved. And I just looked in my little book of PRs…to discover that I set a new PR!

1c. rope face pulls

30 lbs x 15 x 6 sets

These felt easier today, almost too easy really.

2a. hip thrusts

95 lbs x 7

This first set was with a barbell and really should have been easy-peasy. I’m capable of using significantly more weight for hip thrusts, but the lower back was not happy with the barbell hip thrusts today.

bodyweight with hip circle x 20, x 20

For reasons unknown, the lower back was completely fine with bodyweight hip thrusts! I did these with a sandbag a few weeks ago without any bother to the back, so we thought we’d try a set with the sandbag. Or at least a rep or two…

70ish lb sandbag with hip circle x 20

And no bother to the lower back at all! I really don’t understand why the barbell caused such a bother to the back. Actually, there’s a lot that I don’t understand about the ongoing issues with my SI joints. I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve done everything that I need to be doing to help the issue. I’ve not been sitting anymore than absolutely necessary, like for driving. Heck, I don’t even sit while on my break at work! I have a competition in 3 months…kind of need to start lifting heavy things soon.

2b. hanging knee raises

overhand grip x 12, x 12

neutral grip x 12

Despite my angst with the SI joints and lower back, I am happy to say that the back didn’t bother me doing the hanging knee raises today, which has not been the case since the back issue started. The back actually felt okay with these today. I guess that’s improvement! The right shoulder felt a bit sore after each of the first two sets, so I thought I’d try a neutral grip on the final set. I think the neutral grip helped, although it is really difficult to say that with certainty. In all honesty, I’m just relieved that I was able to do an exercise that I haven’t been able to do since the SI joint issue first presented.

And you, despite how I felt for most of the day, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. I’m one more day away from a long weekend. I am not going to get sick!

 

 

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!

 

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.

 

Triceps & Abdominals

Upper body day has left my triceps, my lats, even my armpits sore. The abdominal muscles are also quite sore. I’m really not surprised, and I guess I should expect to have sore abs for a few days longer as the ab work will be a regular part of my training.

1a. kettlebell swings

24kg x 10, x 5, x 5, x 5

28kg x 8

These were easy, but they weren’t intended to be challenging, I think.

1b. deadlifts, conventional

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 7, 185 x 6, 215 x 5

with belt and straps: 230 x 2 + 4

The set at 230 pounds was supposed to be 5 reps, but I ran into a snag after the second rep. Michael had pointed out after the previous set that I had been dropping my hips too much. As I began the 230 set, I felt that I dropped my hips again on the first rep, tried to correct it on the second rep, but then I had a very quick break in my rhythm and that never bodes well for me on a heavy deadlift rep set. I lost the tension and couldn’t recover to pull the third rep. Took a moment to recover and reset, then pulled 4 reps. Honestly, I think that was a PR set.

Then Michael dropped the weight and wanted a speedy set of 5.

215 lbs x 0

Yes. Zero! I set myself at the bar, wholly prepared to grip it and rip it, but I just could not do it. I don’t think I could even create the necessary tension in my body. My brain simply said no.

Drop the weight some more for a set of 5 touch and go reps.

185 x 5

Hey! I do still know how to deadlift!

1c. GHD sit-ups

bodyweight x 10, 6kg kettlebell x 10, 6kg x 8, bodyweight x 8

The drop in reps was entirely due to the abdominal soreness.

1d. dips-unassisted

x 5, x 5, x 5, x 4

I honestly wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do any unassisted dips with how sore my triceps are, but I was pleasantly surprised. The reps weren’t necessarily easy though.

2a. TRX triceps extensions (because the triceps weren’t sore enough already)

x 12, x 5

2b. barbell curls

45 lbs x 9 x 2 sets