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.

Strong, Independent, White Woman

“Admitting a weakness is a sign of strength.” ~Andy Stanley

I am woman, and I do not like any insinuation that being a woman makes me somehow less in any way, shape or form. I do not ever want to be thought of as weak or incapable or fragile. I am one who likes to be prepared and capable. I don’t like to ask for help, especially when I think I am more than able to do the task. I think I’ve always been this way.

My current state with this disc issue has left me feeling incredibly frustrated with feelings of weakness and the inability to do the most basic of tasks without significant pain. I’ve had a disc issue before, but this time is different. Before I had no pain in my back; this time I do. Last time, the disc didn’t impact my normal daily activities; this time it does. The previous disc issue is why I stopped running. Right now, I am in some degree of pain all day, every day. I cannot put on socks or shoes without pain. A cough has the ability to bring me to my knees. Lifting something out of the oven. Putting on my pants. Sitting. Picking up boxes, garbage bags, or pretty much anything. Anything involving bending forward. Squatting or kneeling down. Lying on the floor or in bed and shifting ever so slightly. Getting out of the car. The list of things that causes pain seems unending…and discouraging. And yet, I am still reluctant to admit that I am in need of help.

During my closing shift on Thursday, I asked my barista to bring in the patio furniture for me. He was quite agreeable, but I really expected no less. The night before my closing barista offered to bring in the furniture without me even asking. Knowing that I would have a big order to put away at work this morning, I was prepared to ask for help putting it all away, but my manager beat me to the punch by saying she would do it for me. I work with some rather amazing people!

It’s not easy to admit that I cannot easily do the simplest of tasks, especially when I know that I am capable of more. I can pick 308 pounds up off the floor, but picking up a box weighing less than 5 pounds sends waves of pain through my back. My mind struggles to accept this reality, and I hate it. My current limitations chafe against my will until all that is left is a raw, bloody mess inside.

I know that this disc issue will get better…I just don’t know when exactly. I don’t know when I will stop feeling intense pain. I don’t know, and I don’t like not knowing. I’m also a practical kind of girl who likes to know such things. But, right now, I need to be the kind of girl who can admit the need for help when necessary. There is no doubt that I am strong and self-sufficient, but there is also no doubt that I am currently in a season where I am not myself. This season of pain is not an indication of personal weakness, no matter what it feels like inside. It is a season, to be sure, but still only a season and not a life sentence. In the words of my coach, “Ang will prevail.”

Eventually, I will.

Everything Changes

“When a woman feels her own strength, it’s empowering. She believes in herself and knows she can do more. It changes everything.” ~Kathrine Switzer

I just about burst into tears when I came across this quote yesterday. I absolutely adore this quote. Although I had never heard or seen it until yesterday, the truth within these words has resonated within my heart and soul for more than 3 years now. The journey from recreational runner to working with a personal trainer to powerlifter has provided me with the opportunity to feel my own strength, and that has most certainly been empowering. I have learned to believe in myself, to know that I can do more. My life has changed. In fact, everything has changed.

With this empowering comes incredible joy…and sometimes frustration. Once you know who you are and what you are capable of, then the appearance of setbacks and obstacles can at times weigh heavily on the emotions, the psyche, the self-confidence. The bigger the setback the greater the toll it takes.

I am no stranger to setbacks and obstacles over the course of this journey. I’ve had a stitch put in my finger a couple of weeks prior to my first powerlifting competition. I dropped a box on my neck three weeks before my first competition of 2016. I’ve had a disc issue which put an end to my goal of running a marathon and running at all. There have been little tweaks and aches from my shoulders all the way down to my toes. As much as those situations provided frustration, I think I handled them all with a decent measure of grace and positive attitude that I would get past them. I even felt the same way with this current back problem…back in February when it was still fresh and new.

But now it is almost mid-April and my back, in many ways, feels just as bad as it did back then. I am trying to maintain a positive attitude. I am doing everything that I am told to do by my chiropractor. There are bad days, not so bad days, and okay days. Just when I have a run of mostly okay days, the bad rears its ugly head and leaves me feeling like one floundering at sea. On the dark days my thoughts wander down dim rabbit holes of self-doubt and despair. Even though I know my strength and character, I must fight an internal battle against myself to believe it these days.

It’s easy enough to put a smile on my face and to say that I’m doing alright. The truth is that most people truly don’t want to know all that goes on within a person, and in many circumstances that is okay. There are instances when I don’t actually want to be honest about how I’m feeling, too. I don’t always want to be honest with my coach, when he asks about my back and how it is feeling and impacting my performance, but I also can’t actually hide the truth from him. Doing so would not help me in the long run, and he would see through me awfully quick. Still, he believes that I will overcome this, because I always do! If tears weren’t already tracking down my cheeks, my coach’s belief in me would unravel my fragile emotions.

Goblet Squats

Since it is Wednesday I walked into the gym expecting military presses to be on my agenda, but my coach surprised me by saying that we weren’t going to do them today…if I was okay with that. The military press. while I will do them when required, is not my favourite lift and I did not mind doing something else this morning at all!

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses 8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 9 each

Since overhead pressing tends to be an area of struggle for me, I am pleased as punch whenever I manage to have strong feeling sets. Michael only asked for sets of 8, but I pushed for an extra rep on the final set in order to set a PR. Of course, I only pushed because I felt confident in my ability to complete the extra rep.

hip thrusts with hip circle 2 sets of 20

1a. floor press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 90 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 4

1b. goblet squats-flat shoes

12kg kettlebell x 8, 44 lb dumbbell x 8, 64 lbs x 8, 84 x 8, 105 lb dumbbell x 3, 95 x 0, 84 x 10, 84 x 6

For the most part, these goblet squats felt really good. Michael intervened after the third rep at 105 pounds, recognizing that the upper back wasn’t going to hold for another. We dropped the weight a bit. Since my back is still an issue, Michael helped me by lifting the heavy dumbbells, so I could just be in position and take the dumbbell from him rather than running the risk of hurting my back trying to pick it up from the floor. He’d given me the 95 pound dumbbell and I held it but decided against attempting a squat, because I could feel more strain on my lower back than I had felt during the previous sets. This was likely due to the fact that the 105 and 95 pound sets were with regular plates on handles which meant a larger dumbbell that protruded further away from my body and required a bit more bend in the lower back. We dropped the weight and the first set was no problem. The final set started out easy enough, but the upper back was done.

2a. chest supported rows

45 lbs x 20, 70 x 3…the low back was feeling a bit pressured

2-16kg kettlebells x 12, x 4…this time the upper back was just done

2b. cable triceps pull-downs: reverse grip + overhand grip

30 lbs x 15 + 10, x 10 + 7

From the very beginning when I was doing the hip thrusts, I had the urge to take a picture of a section of the wall in the gym. My coach has a ribbon of words spanning the length of one wall, and my gaze was drawn to a handful of words over and over again. Ironically, as I am typing now roughly 11 hours later, I cannot recall the exact words that caught my eye. The first set of hip thrusts started out most uncomfortably on the low back, and I focused on the words. It bothers me that I can’t remember the words now. In my defense, there are many words and I have gazed upon them all many a time. I shall have to look at them again tomorrow…and maybe snap a picture. The back is determined to shove splinters of doubt into my confidence, so I need all the positive input I can get.

Provincials, Problems & Hope

Provincials registration opened today, and I am officially registered to compete in June. The biggest question now is how long it will be before I am able to deadlift again.

Last week my chiropractor told me that I couldn’t pick anything up from the floor until I could bend over and touch the floor. I’m not sure just how well I could touch my toes prior to this SI joint issue, but I’m determined that I will touch the floor with ease. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

I have goals for Provincials. Despite having reasonably modest goals, I wholly expect that I will come back home in June having exceeded my expectations. When push comes to shove, my focus is unparalleled, and I am narrowing my focus on Provincials. I am hungry for competition. My singlet has been sitting in the drawer since last August, and I am oddly eager to put it on again, even though there is nothing at all attractive about a singlet! My little visual collage is posted on the wall directly in my line of sight from my usual spot on the living room floor. I lay on the floor, because I can’t sit on the furniture due to the SI thing. And I am determined to put in the hard work between now and Provincials, even if I am limited in some ways.

I see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon, an appointment for which I am equally eager for and yet apprehensive. My back is not nearly as painful as it was the last time I saw him, when I had an emotional meltdown; however, there is still a fair bit of pain and discomfort, especially with even the slightest bit of sitting, like in the car or the tub or putting on shoes. The reason I am apprehensive has to do with a couple of symptoms which I began to notice over the weekend, symptoms which flash me back to the disc issue I had…a bit of numbness in my right toe and a pinched feeling in my right hip.

The toe tingling numbness is still quite mild compared to what I have experienced in the past, but it has been enough to cause me some mental anguish. The sensation is mostly felt when I am laying down, usually when I go to bed and that is where the anguish kicks in, because my mind cannot help but wander down the rabbit holes of what ifs. Then on Saturday I noticed the pinched feeling in my hip. It’s not a terrible feeling yet, rather it feels as if the hip joint needs to pop but won’t. I hoped both feelings were one-offs, but I’ve had toe tingling since Friday night and a bit of hip pinch today. I really don’t want to tell my chiropractor about this latest development, but I will.

This afternoon I did my homework with the foam roller and lacrosse ball. No big deal. I’ve been doing it for more than a week now, and it is mostly enjoyable actually. The most uncomfortable aspect is when I must rearrange my body and jostle my back in a way that it doesn’t like much. Anyway…I did my rolling and I did my stretching, then I had a hot bath. The bath itself was most uncomfortable and not because of the water temperature. The back was quite cranky about sitting in the tub. I can’t explain why I thought it might be a good idea; however, as I was combing my hair after my bath, I thought I would bend over and see how far I could reach. Honestly, I didn’t expect to bend too far, but I was actually able to bend far enough to touch the floor with the tips of my fingers…with relative ease! It seems like a simple thing, but I was super stoked and couldn’t help but sing little ditties to myself.

There is no guarantee that I will still be able to touch the floor tomorrow. I have no guarantee that my chiropractor won’t give me bad news after learning about my recent symptoms. I have no idea when I will be able to deadlift again. But I touched the floor while bent over at the waist! Despite a back that has been cranky. The rolling and hot bath might have helped a lot, but I choose to see this as progress. What other option do I have?

Sorry/Excited

notasplanned

My competition is 11 weeks away, and I have been dealing with this SI joint problem for about 8 weeks. Isn’t it funny how oddly time can feel? It seems as if I’ve been dealing with the SI issue for so much longer, while competition seems to be coming towards me like a high speed train. These past 8 weeks have caused me a great deal of pain and frustration, physically and emotionally. I haven’t always handled it well. I’ve been frustrated with myself, because it was my own stupidity that resulted in the SI problem in the first place. I’ve been frustrated with the pain, the discomfort, the restrictions to my mobility. I’ve been frustrated that getting back to normal seems to be taking so long. I’ve been frustrated by the interference to my training, and that interference has been messing with my confidence as I look forward to Provincials and reaching new goals.

I hit a low last Wednesday when my brief deadlift session didn’t go as planned and the SI issue reared its ugly head with renewed fierceness. The day before had been such a good day, probably one of the best since the problem started. I was feeling hopeful that the worst had passed, that I was finally on my way to normal. Wednesday took all of my hope and joy and crushed it. I was in pain. I was crushed. I went to see my chiropractor…in despair and misery. He promptly gave me a hug, because he said I needed one. He made me laugh and “dance”, and he told me we had lots of time yet before Provincials. Simple things. Well, getting me to dance is no simple thing, but he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He was just himself, and a major reason why I even see a chiropractor is because of his character and nature. I needed that hug just like I needed to laugh and dance and be reminded that I would be okay.

That day was definitely a low one; however, each day is new and full of hope and opportunity. I had to remember who I am and what I am capable of. The path behind me is littered with reminders of my character, focus, determination, and ability to press through tough spots. This SI joint issue has become much more than a speed bump, but it doesn’t have to become a permanent road block. My training might not go as I’d like leading up to a competition, but I know how to work hard and smart. I know how to focus on the finish line and to fight for the goals I want to reach. I know the importance of a positive attitude and outlook. I know how to see threads of silver in the storm clouds, and I know the beauty and wonder of the rainbow once the storm has passed.

My focus is narrowing, because I do have goals and I am not content to stay stuck. The SI is still cranky, but my own crankiness is waning. Crankiness is being replaced with excitement. I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold for me, but I am determined to make the most of them.