Confidently Stubborn

Okay, so this week without training hasn’t been too bad, but I am definitely looking forward to walking into the gym in the morning. I have no idea what my coach is going to have in store for me, although I can be fairly confident that my training will be designed to make me stronger and work on weaknesses. I’m ready.

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

It would be easy to let my experience at Provincials shake my self-confidence. Although I have grown quite confident in my abilities, I am still humanly prone to stumbling along in the darkness of doubt. Whatever it was that happened in my back on my second squat, it flooded me with fear, uncertainty, frustration, and doubt. I still knew what I was capable of when healthy, but I was suddenly afraid that I might have done more damage to my body. I knew that I have determination and toughness, but are those qualities enough when you’ve been thrown into the fire? In all honesty, as much as I knew that I wasn’t about to throw in the towel and quit, in the midst of the pain and volatile emotions I wasn’t giving much thought to being tough enough to follow through. I just wanted to survive the day as best I could. Earlier this week my coach complimented me on being a person with strong character by pushing through when it was emotionally and physically tough. It’s not always easy for me to accept a compliment, but I’m trying.

Perhaps the biggest knock against my confidence was my failed bench press attempt. My competition bench press has been stuck at 60 kilograms since October 2015, yet I have only attempted a heavier press while competing twice, at Westerns last August and at Provincials last week. Having pressed more than 60 kilos in the gym means that I know I am capable, but my string of failures also plays with that confidence like a cat toying with a mouse. I will keep striving though.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” ~ James Michener

With my next competition not until November, I have lots of time to heal and train and focus. I definitely have goals for November’s competition, although I am not going to say too much about them for now, partly since a lot can happen between now and then but also because I don’t really have specific targets yet. So far my goals are general. I know I am capable. I just need to be tough enough to push through and to keep trying. Or maybe I am just that kind of stubborn.

Future Me

“There’s a future version of me who’s proud I was strong enough.” ~Khanos

Five days post-competition finds me emotionally balanced and rational, maybe even beginning to resemble the future version of me who can be proud of what I did do on that day. I haven’t been spending a great deal of time actively thinking about Provincials, but my brain is always ticking and grinding away even when I am busy with other thoughts and tasks.

A few months ago, I began to prepare myself mentally for a lesser performance at this competition. I am the sort of person who always wants to improve and do more, which can be both a positive and a negative trait. Positively, I am not content with stagnation. I want to learn and grow and push myself. However, when failure comes, and it always does at some point, the desire to always improve can blow even the smallest failure into an apocalyptic event. All my efforts to prepare myself seemed to crumble into dust at the moment I felt my back give on my second squat. I was prepared for lesser numbers, but I wasn’t prepared for that unexpected happening.

I still cannot explain what happened in that squat. I cannot explain why I failed on my final bench attempt. Watching the videos a dozen or more times hasn’t helped me to figure out either situation. Does it even matter? Something wasn’t right in my back on that squat. I failed that bench press. I know what I am capable of, what I have done before and will do again.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

I have something else going for me…the ability to pick myself up, shake off the dust, and continue on. I am not afraid of starting over or hard work. Emotions might choke me up for a moment, but I have the ability to re-group and re-focus. There is no point in wallowing in my Provincials disappointment. Instead, I am choosing to enjoy this week of rest and casting my gaze forward to November when I will compete again. A lot can happen between now and then, but I’ve got my eyes set on a few goals. These past several months have been dark and gloomy, but I’m growing through it.

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” ~Christine Caine

“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” ~Bethany Hamilton

Wax & Clay

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~Erin Hanson

That’s a great quote, isn’t it! I love it for the hope and courage it inspires for the simple act of trying. But about when you actually do fail? Sure, it’s great to think about soaring with the eagles, proud and victorious, but reality isn’t always like that. Sometimes we crash and burn. We choke on the ashes of our hopes and dreams and feel searing pain. Quite often we suffer alone. Even when others may be sympathetic to our pain, very few can actually see the depths of our disappointment and suffering. They mean well, and I appreciate their efforts to sympathize and encourage. I know it isn’t always easy to wholly know another person’s innermost hopes and dreams.

Going into my competition, I had thought that I was mentally ready for disappointment, because I had months to prepare and come to an understanding of what I would or would not be capable of on the day thanks to my back troubles. And yet, for all that I was truly ready for a lesser performance, I was still blind-sided by the the struggles of the day. It certainly didn’t feel like I was flying…I had crashed and burned.

Processing the results of a competition, for me, can be a lengthy process. Perhaps that is due in part to the fact that there can be months of physical and mental preparation leading up to a competition. Then the day of competition is often long and somehow still a blur. It takes time to work through my thoughts and emotions, even when the results are positive. I’ve competed enough now to know that this is a process that cannot be rushed or forced; it happens in bits and pieces that push their way to the surface in their own time. Usually I have the opportunity to rehash details with my coach, which is part of the process and often helps, but since I’m not allowed to train this week that step in the process is missing. For now.

Perspective is also an important piece of the process, although it isn’t something that I can always just pull out of my pocket and apply to my situation. Obviously when the emotions were still raw, I had no perspective. Now that the emotions are once again under control, I can find perspective.

This was not my best competition in so many ways. I failed on the one lift I wanted most of all, and I didn’t even bother attempting one lift that might have caused me more injury or pain. It is easy to focus on those disappointments. The squat that hurt my back again…that was a scary moment that I have never experienced before. It took a great deal of focus and determination to not give up on that squat at the moment I felt my back give. Once I got the bar off my back and myself off the platform, I was assailed by a storm of emotions: fear, frustration, anger. I could have quit. Maybe the smart decision would have been to quit, but I was determined to finish.

It’s easy for me to look at my numbers from the competition and be frustrated, knowing I am capable of so much more; however, perspective properly applied creates a new outlook. Although I am capable of more, I still moved a lot of weight that day. In fact, I moved more than 1300 pounds over the course of the competition, and that isn’t including my warm-ups! My final deadlift was only 248 pounds. It’s a far cry from what I can pull, but that is still as much or more than picking up a large man. My competition bench press seems permanently stuck, but I still pressed the equivalent or more than the body weight of a Victoria’s Secret model. As I talk about that unlucky squat, I am quick to point out that the weight was easy for me, because 220 pounds is typically an easy weight for me to squat. But 220 pounds is still a lot of weight! It is still a large man or a couple of models! Those lifts might not have equaled my best weights, but I wasn’t on the platform using fake weights. I still worked hard, even if most of my lifts were not too physically taxing.

It’s all about perspective!

“The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay
And the mighty wind that knocks us down
If we lean into it
Will drive our fears away”

 

Numb

I don’t know where to begin this blog post, or if I even want to write it now or at all. Okay, so I do want to write it, but I’m not sure I am ready. Yet, I feel like I can’t wait too much longer lest I lose thoughts and emotions along the way. My current state of mind is exhausted, frustrated, disappointed, angry, a blink from dissolving into tears, pained and numb. The numbness is comforting in a way, because it helps keep the tears from pouring down my face and softens the sting of the negative emotions, at least for a time.

Yesterday was my Provincials powerlifting competition. Even though I wasn’t expecting to have my best performance, I was hoping to go 9 for 9 and break my Provincial bench press record. I didn’t achieve either goal yesterday.

My first squat was 92.5kg and moved well. Michael opted to be conservative with my second attempt, and that turned out to be a wise decision. My second squat was 100kg, which should have still been an easy 220 pounds. I did more than that last week in training. It felt fine when I unracked the bar. I believe that I did everything that I usually do. The eccentric felt fine. I began to rise out of the squat and felt a kind of pop and something giving in my lower back, which then caused my back to round in a way that is not typical for me. It hurt. I managed to finish the squat, barely remembering to hold until the command to rack. I walked off the platform feeling pain, fear, and crushing sadness. Michael instantly decided that we’d pass on my third attempt, then we headed to the warm-up area for some chiropractic treatment. As the chiropractor poked, prodded, bent and told me to push here and there, I fought to maintain some composure. By the time I got up from the table, the pain had dropped a couple of notches, but it was still there.

As we waited for my flight and the next to finish squats, I did the things the chiropractor told me to do and I gingerly tested my ability to set up for the bench press. Arching wasn’t too bothersome on the back, so we felt okay to stick with our plan there. My first two bench attempts, 55kg and 57.5kg, were decent. I am the current Provincial record holder with 60kg, which is the weight I have been stuck at since October 2015. Although I had some options, I chose to make a third attempt at 60.5kg in an effort to break my Provincial record. I was so close but failed. Words cannot express how I felt and still feel. Even as I lay on that bench, desperately trying to finish pressing the bar and realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, I felt so utterly crushed by disappointment and frustration. I know I am strong enough. I know I can do it. I have lifted that weight in the gym, including just last week, and it was easy. I came into this competition knowing that my squats and deadlifts would be sub-par, but the bench press record was something I knew was within my ability and I wanted, WANTED it!

My deadlifts weren’t going to be super heavy, but, with the fresh back injury, we opted to drop my opening attempt even more. An opening deadlift of 85kg wasn’t anything I could fake pride in, but I just needed to get a number on the board. It was embarrassingly easy. My next attempt was 102.5…again easy. My final attempt was 112.5kg or 248 pounds. Still easy. That final deadlift was 60 pounds less than my best deadlift. I think it would have been easier to feel some peace about low deadlift numbers if the rest of my competition had turned out differently. If I hadn’t hurt my back. If I had broken the bench record. If only. But, the last thing we wanted to do was inflict more harm to my back. Thankfully, I was able to deadlift without any added discomfort or pain to the back, which is something I wasn’t sure would happen after that squat.

At some point in the competition, Michael pointed out that there was another woman in my age/weight class after all. She hadn’t made her weight class and was bumped up into mine. Being the competitive person that I am, as soon as I realized that I could potentially lose, I wanted to win! However, I was no longer operating in a position where we could give any thought to making sure my attempts put me in a position to win. I still kept an eye on her numbers, chafing inside with the desire to win and re-familiarizing myself with a positive mindset in the event that I lost. Both my squat and deadlift were far from my actual ability and potential, but I still managed to come away with the win.

This was my 8th competition, and, in my opinion, my worst one. I had my third lowest total. The two lower totals came from my first two competitions. My Wilks score was my second lowest. The only one lower was my first competition. This was my second 7 for 9 meet. Not a single personal best. The first time I’ve ever passed on an attempt. The first time I’ve hurt myself in competition. The only goal I achieved yesterday was checking off the final requirement for competing at Nationals next year.

As much as words cannot express how I am feeling, there is so much more yet to say, but it will have to wait for another day. I left my house at 7:50 yesterday morning, and I didn’t get home until 12:30 this morning. I was in bed by 1:00 this morning but woke up before 6:30. My back is sore and achy, and I am exhausted. I need to decompress and process. I need to go hang out with some friends in a couple of hours, feel loved and celebrated, even though I don’t feel worth celebrating. Then I need sleep. Precious sleep. Tomorrow I will walk into my gym and begin the process of rehabbing (again) and rebuilding.

Numbers

One day until my youngest son graduates with his Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics. Two days until Provincials. Three days until a little celebration with friends. Four days off work. For someone who has never been fond of math, I’m all about the numbers right now!

I have previously competed 7 times. Only once have I had a perfect 9 for 9 competition. Once I went 7 for 9, which was also the only time I ever failed a squat in competition. The remaining five competitions were all 8 for 9, with the missed lift being either my final bench or final deadlift. I have had 7 Provincial records and 11 National records. Thanks to my months of back problems, I’m really only hoping to get one Provincial record this time, but I’d also really like to have another 9 for 9 outing.

Today’s training session was predictably easy and light. We basically worked up to about 70% and kept the volume low. Mostly my session was about practicing technique.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 4, 135 x 4

with belt: 155 x 2, 175 x 1, 175 x 1

During the second set, I hit the safety on the second rep. That’s how much my back is not limiting my depth anymore!

1b. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 3 all these sets were touch and go

103 x 2, 103 x 2 the first rep of each of these two sets was touch and go, the second rep was paused at the top and bottom with commands

2. deadlifts-conventional

135 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 155 x 3

I kept the bar nice and close to my legs, took the slack out of the bar…basically did everything the way that I am supposed to!

Now I get to rest, more or less. I still have a list of things to get done between now and early Saturday morning. It will get done!

Defining Success

“You do not determine your success by comparing yourself to others, rather you determine your success by comparing your accomplishments to your capabilities.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Three days until Provincials!

I love the sport of powerlifting. At the end of competition, the winner is the one who lifted the most weight, and yet, each lifter is also working hard to better his/her own previous performance.

Over these past months of dealing with pain and injury, I’ve wrestled with myself over the unlikelihood of having a successful competition at Provincials. I know what I accomplished at my last competition, and I had hoped to do even better at the next one. Unfortunately, injury took those aspirations and shot them to pieces.

My back is getting better, feeling better. My squat technique is coming back. My deadlift is coming back. My coach thinks that my squat could be close to where it had been, but I still know that doesn’t necessarily mean I will PR across the board on Saturday. Without another woman in my age/weight class, I will be competing against myself. But I cannot compare myself to who I was last August. I cannot compare my results on Saturday to those from last August. Such a comparison would not be fair.

I do not know what I will be capable of on Saturday, but I still have goals. My goals might not be focused much on hitting specific numbers. I would like to have a perfect meet…going 9 for 9. I do want to break my Provincial bench record. Mostly, I want to walk away feeling proud of what I accomplished based on my capabilities, knowing that my capabilities had been hampered for several months. It won’t be my best ever competition in terms of numbers, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be one of the most satisfying competitions.

B is for Bench

I am a bit surprised to realize that I wasn’t nearly as nervous about this morning’s bench press session as I had expected to be. I was back at a commercial gym, and I managed to bribe my eldest son to come along as my spotter. It might have been harder to convince him to come with me than it was to actually bench, but I am glad that he did agree. He thought it was weird, but it would have felt weirder and more nerve-wracking for me to have had to ask a stranger to do it. Since I knew my son was already reluctantly agreeable, I decided to only do my bench pressing and band pull-aparts, which made for a short and sweet training session.

1a. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 95 x 3, 105 x 3, 115 x 3

125 x 1, 135 x 1

115 x 3

Today was my last heavy bench day. My coach’s instructions were to work up to 125-135 for singles without grinding or missing a rep. I’ve been mildly stressed all week thinking about the heavy singles. I knew I was capable of hitting both 125 and 135; however, I’ve only hit 135 pounds once and that was a couple of months ago. Even though I’ve always felt I was strong enough for more, my competition bench press has been stuck at 132.3 pounds since October 2015. Every time I’ve attempted to do more, I’ve failed and that has been frustrating. It’s messed with my head a fair bit, I think; so I have been nervous all week, wanting to hit 135 again but afraid that it wouldn’t happen, especially knowing that I shouldn’t even attempt 135 if 125 was slow. But this morning, I didn’t feel stressed out at all.

One positive to come out of my lengthy back pain battle is that I have done a lot of benching without an arch and without leg drive, which essentially put me in a less advantageous position, making pressing harder even with lighter weights. While I can’t say that 100% of my reps have been perfect, I have really dialed in my technique. It is more consistent, smooth and solid. Although we don’t test my maxes very often, we do believe that my bench is stronger. Okay, so sometimes Michael probably believes that more than I do! But I believed it today.

My warm-up sets all moved well. The single at 125 was fast and smooth, so I had no doubts about going up to 135. In the moment, the single at 135 felt a bit slow but decent, but it looks a bit faster in the video than it felt. Perhaps I can walk away from Provincials next week with a new bench personal and Provincial record!