Dippity-Do

For a while now Mondays had been the end of my weekend, but that has now changed. This is my first Monday which is actually my Thursday. It was odd working yesterday, and I frequently found myself thinking it was Saturday rather than Sunday. I am not used to working on a Sunday, but I will adapt.

1a. tempo squats-high bar, flat shoes, closer grip

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 6, 145 x 6, 145 x 6

My hand position when I squat usually has the outside of my hands touching the outer rings. Of course, I have often noticed that many powerlifters squat with their hands in much closer to their shoulders, so last week I started using a slightly closer hand position with my tempo squats and continued with that today. My hands were roughly a thumbs length from the inner edge of the knurling. The position certainly helps keep my elbows from flaring back, but it is also harder on the shoulders. So far the shoulders are doing okay.

The tempo squats were somewhat easier today compared to last week, although I did a few sets of single leg box step downs prior to last week’s squats. Today my coach let me do the squats before any single leg work. Maybe that made the difference or maybe I was just more familiar with the movement. Really, the breathing is the hardest part of the tempo squats. They were done with a 4 second eccentric, a 1 second pause, and a 2 second rise.

1b. incline bench press, grip about a thumbs length from inner knurling

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 70 x 6, 70 x 6, 75 x 6, 75 x 5 + 1

The second set at 70 pounds was faster and easier than the first set at the same weight. That could be because my coach told me to blast through my sticking point as I was setting up for the set. Sometimes the little cues will help me. Sometimes they won’t. I ran into a positioning problem on the fifth rep of the final set. I had to rack the bar, take a couple seconds to regroup, and then finish the final rep.

2a. barbell split squats-high bar, same closer grip

75 lbs x 10 each, 85 x 10 each, 85 x 10 each

After the tempo squats, I had expected the single leg work to suck. These did not suck. Sure, I was breathing hard, dripping sweat, and shaking like jelly after each set, but the actual work wasn’t too difficult.

2b. hip thrusts with hip circle

with circle below knees x 30, with circle above knees x 30

2c. barbell rows-wider grip comparable to my bench press, trying to keep the elbows out

65 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

2d. dips

with blue band x 7, with orange band x 7, with orange x 6

Dips are one of those things that always intimidate me a bit, because I imagine that they are too difficult for me to do. The set with the blue band was easy enough. As I was setting up for the second set and felt how little resistance there was with the orange band, I imagined that I would not be able to do many reps. That first set of orange band reps actually surprised me. It wasn’t super easy, but it wasn’t as tough as I had expected. The final set was tougher, but my entire body was mostly jelly by this point.

There is still lots of time ahead me, but I have begun to allow trickles of competition thoughts to seep through my protective barriers. My next competition is 4 months away minus a few days. But what took me by surprise was realizing that Nationals will be about 3.5 months following that! It’s still plenty of time, more time than I had between competitions last year. In fact, last year I did 3 competitions within a 3 month span! That was just a little crazy and definitely not ideal. This year is certainly moving at a different pace than the previous year, but I’m okay with it.

Dazed & Confused

It’s been a long week. As much as is possible, while still going to work and the gym, I have been playing the role of a hermit. I am numb, confused, and hurting. There is so much that cannot be said about the situation, and I honestly don’t even understand what has happened. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I feel as if I have lost a friendship.

I have cried an ocean of tears. Food has lost appeal and flavour. I’ve had one completely sleepless night, followed by nights with sufficient hours of sleep but far from restful. On a couple of occasions, I have been literally trembling as nervous adrenaline has coursed through my veins…adrenaline born out of the fear of confrontation and rejection. My smile feels artificial. Laughter only skims the surface. How is it that a heart can be both heavy and shattered at the same time?

I’ve been going through the motions and not even doing those too well. Going to work has been mostly a distraction. I may be an introvert, but I am quite capable of giving good customer service with a smile, even when I’m raining on the inside. But sooner or later I will need to pick myself up from the floor, do some housework, plan some healthy meals, wipe away the tears that seem to be perpetually ready to spill, and feel the sunshine rather than focusing on the gloomy skies overhead. Depression is messy. My struggles with depression have always been mild to moderate, yet every downward spiral leaves me feeling as if I’m scrabbling up a rocky mountain. It is exhausting, and I am left bloodied, bruised, and worn. My confidence takes a massive hit, and I retreat within myself. This is where I feel safe, or at least safer. This is where I feel ugly and unlovable and unworthy. Somehow it always feels appropriate.

 

Pulling Weeds

I’ll be honest…my head is lost in thoughts and emotions that I am trying to process and work through. It will be okay in the end. I will be okay. Sometimes you just take an unexpected hit. Even when you ultimately know that the hit hasn’t harmed you, there is still a sting and rush of emotion. In situations like this I tend to not say much for a couple of reasons, but the main one being that I simply need time and space to process. Another reason is that I realize how volatile and deceptive emotions can be in the moment. I’m currently cycling through several feelings and thoughts, but I know that not all of them are true in this situation. I don’t want to respond or react from a false position. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone else, and it wouldn’t be fair to me. Part of my eternal struggle is with self-confidence and self-image, and the unexpected hits, both harmless and barbed, flood me with all sorts of negative thoughts about myself. I’ve come far enough in this journey to realize that not all of those negative thoughts are true or accurate. Some of those feelings can help me grow and be better. They can be used to my advantage; however, a great many of those feelings simply need to be discarded, since they only tear me down. But in the moment it isn’t always easy to sift through those thoughts and feelings. Even when I allow myself the time and space to work through them, those feelings and thoughts are insidious and quick to plant deep roots. Pulling each negative thought out is hard, emotional work. This is my thing. It has nothing to do with training or work or anything really, at least nothing that I am going to share. Sometimes I withdraw into myself, so if the blog posts become a little sparse or robotic for a time, that’s why. Or I’m just busy with life.

But anyway…

1a. snatch grip block pulls

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 125 x 8, 145 x 8, 145 x 8

1b. double kettlebell bench presses

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

1c. sit ups on the GHD

x 10, x 8, x 10, x 8

This was my first time doing sit ups in a very long time.

2a. single leg deadlifts holding 2-10kg kettlebells

x 10 each leg

2 sets of 20 alternating legs which was much easier for my balance

2b. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 15 each, x 12 each, x 10 each

2c. renegade rows with 10 lb dumbbells

x 10, x 14, x 12

3. a 5 minute circuit

every minute on the minute: 5 pushups and then kettlebell swings (15, 12, 10, 10, 10)

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.

Gratefully Accepting Praise

Now that the volatile emotions have settled into something more sane and typical of Angela, I am able to process my competition and feelings about it in different ways. I didn’t think that I would blog today, but sometimes you just need to go with the moment before it is lost.

My theme for this year is Powerfully Beautiful. This weekend I certainly didn’t feel powerful or beautiful. It’s no secret that I am disappointed and frustrated with the way my Provincials competition played out. Even though I went into it knowing I wouldn’t have my best showing, I was still anticipating something better than what actually transpired. Knowing that I was capable of so much more obscured my vision and how I perceived myself. It’s never easy for me to accept compliments or praise, because I never actually feel worthy. However, learning to accept both compliment and praise is a part of becoming Powerfully Beautiful, so I need to stop cringing when someone showers me with a compliment.

Powerlifting is a wonderful sport full of supportive people. I’ve been involved in many sports in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with one that is as much about the individual result as it is about cheering on your competitors. It doesn’t matter how much weight is on the bar, everyone cheers you on when you struggle. Congratulations and high fives are shared when you make a lift. You are encouraged and supported whether you are a new lifter or an experienced one.

At Provincials, I lifted with some I’ve lifted with before and others who were new to me. I have no idea the story or history of the newer lifters. I don’t know how long they have been powerlifting or how many competitions they have done. I received praise and congratulations from several of these lifters, but I essentially shrugged it off or tried to down play it. My performance was sub-par. I knew it, even if they didn’t, and so I felt awkward accepting their praise. But honestly, even if I hadn’t been performing from a disappointing position, I still would have responded the same way.

One of my best friends organized a little gathering on Sunday to celebrate me and my performance. Never once did I feel like I was worth celebrating, not with the performance I was anticipating or the one I actually had.

My friend’s niece and nephew were at the little celebration. They don’t know me at all, but at one point something was said about me and my competition. They both instantly exclaimed, “That was you!?” Apparently they had watched my lifts on the livestream feed with my friend, and they were impressed. They had no idea what I was actually capable of had I been completely healthy. All they knew was that I had done something amazing. I was strong and capable, and that was all they needed to know.

A friend texted me Monday morning to let me know how much of an impact I have. The words made me cry, because I was still an emotional wreck and I hadn’t expected those sentiments from this person. Why not? Maybe because I seldom think that those around me actually pay any attention to my crazy antics!

Some co-workers have congratulated me, and my natural inclination is to downplay it, to shrug it off. Why do I do that? Why can’t I just accept the praise, the compliment? Why do I feel the need to minimize it? I’m really not in a position to answer that right now, but it is something I need to think about.

I blog but don’t expect my friends to ever read it, and I’m always surprised when someone does. This falls in line with my aversion to the spotlight. I put myself out there in my blog and when I compete, but I really don’t expect anyone to pay attention. I look at myself through my own eyes, tainted as they are, and what I see can differ greatly from what others see. I think this will always be my struggle, but at least I am getting better at recognizing when there is a gross discrepancy between the two. Part of being Powerfully Beautiful is learning to graciously accept praise and compliment without instantly trying to deflect or minimize it.

My Provincials competition was not what I had hoped it would be, even with my lowered expectations; however, I still competed. I stepped on the platform after nearly 5 months of injury and limitations. I stepped on the platform prepared to settle for less than my best, which was a major battle for my mind in it’s own way. When my second squat finished with injury, I was able to keep enough composure and focus to finish the competition. I didn’t have the results I was hoping for, but I persevered and did the best I could with the hand I was dealt that day. That should be something to be proud of!

If you catch me trying to brush off a compliment, please call me on it!

It’s late enough now for someone who had an open shift today. My mind has essentially shut off. I want to crawl into bed and close my eyes. I knew there was a reason why I wasn’t going to blog today…but sometimes you just have to ramble, even if the thoughts come out lopsided and fuzzy.

I don’t necessarily know you, if you’re reading this, but my hope is that you know how to accept a compliment. I hope you have reason to feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments, even when you had expected a different outcome. I hope you know that you are enough, as you are, even if you have room for improvement! It’s true, you know!

Still Angela

I had expected to go to the gym this morning. I had expected an easy and light training session, not only for today but the entire week, now that my competition is over. However, I was not expecting to be told to take the entire week off from training, and I did not react well at all. When I got the news, I was still reeling physically and emotionally from the competition, and I was exhausted from that long day and only 5 hours of sleep after it. That’s not an excuse for my poor reaction…it’s merely an indication of where I was at in the moment. I had been looking forward to the gym this week, because the gym has always been a happy, safe place for me and I knew that being there could help me process, debrief, and re-order my thoughts and emotions. I could agree that my body would benefit from the rest, but I couldn’t see how the rest would help my mind.

Thanks to hurting my back in competition and the beauty of the internet, yesterday I was able to make an appointment to see my chiropractor this afternoon. What would normally be a relatively short appointment wound up being more than double the length of time and probably half of it was just talking. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my chiropractor? I absolutely do! He is a wise, old soul with a lifetime of experience in a young man’s body, and he is someone I respect and admire and gladly call my friend. He listened to me, and I dare say he heard far more than I actually said. Then he spoke and spoke, while I listened. I choked back tears. I smiled, even laughed, I think. I countered. Agreed. Listened some more. After a great deal of talking, he took care of my back and my neck and gently sent me on my way.

Shortly after I had to drop my husband off for a physio appointment at the hospital, so I parked in a shady spot close to the beach and pulled out my “Owner’s Manual” and a pen. “Who am I?” I wrote at the top of a page. The words that followed flowed out of the conversation I had with my chiropractor. Don’t ask me to repeat what he said, because I am seldom any good at taking in information, watching it swirl around inside my head, and then spitting it back out exactly as it entered. Instead of going on about what Dr. Ben had to say, I am just going to share most of my own introspective ramblings.

Who am I?

I was reminded today by Dr. Ben that I am Angela Thompson first and foremost. Being a powerlifter/fitness type person is a part of who I am, but it is not ALL that I am. I know this. I believe it, and yet, it is a truth easily lost in the pursuit of passions and goals. Ben, as much as he understood what I was feeling, explained that I needed to not need the gym to identify myself. He’s right.

A great part of my transformation and journey is because of the gym, but the real source of my success has been me. I put in the hard work. I made the choices and sacrifices. I pulled out all sorts of amazing qualities from within myself. It’s not like I found determination tucked in the back of the closet. I didn’t gain self-control and discipline from an injection or a pill. No one could give me a positive attitude and mindset or the ability to focus on the end goal. These are qualities and traits that have always been inside of me. Other people have definitely been a factor in giving me direction and wisdom and shaping me, but only I am Angela.

I am a powerlifter because I love the sport and the passion and drive it stirs within me; however, who would I be if I could no longer do it? That’s the fundamental question I have been asking myself for years in varying forms. Who am I when I’m not with Kane? Who am I now that my kids are adults? Who was I in my previous job, and who am I in my new job? Who am I when a relationship sours and ends? Who was I when I had to stop running? When a competition doesn’t go the way I expected, am I still enough? The variations to the question are almost unending, but the essence is the same. I am and always will be Angela before I am anything else. Is that enough?

So who am I?

I am Angela Elizabeth Thompson. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a powerlifter, a stranger who writes a blog. I am a person of faith with a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ. All of this is true of me, yet I am still more.

I am loyal, caring, compassionate, quiet, sarcastic, geeky, organized, focused, determined, disciplined, strong, capable, confident, willing to try something new, flexible when necessary, a planner, usually prepared, easy-going, quick to laugh, prone to eye leakage, barefoot loving, a quasi-health nut, a thinker, a writer, a dreamer. This is also all true of me.

I love going to the gym. I love training and powerlifting. A few years ago I could never have believed this would be true about me. I will always want to be at my training sessions, but I am perfectly content to not be at the gym every day. I am not so controlled by training that I need to be there all the time. I know the value in rest days, but I do not like to miss my sessions. Once I got over my initial reservations about going to a gym, I have always viewed my training sessions as an appointment for myself in much the same way as I would an appointment to colour my hair. It is something I do for myself. Do I need to colour my hair? As much as the grey tells me that I do, the truth is that I do not need to colour my hair at all! In fact, I frequently go months between hair appointments. Vanity’s control over me is not so strong. Can I say the same about the gym? I want to, yet I don’t know. Last night and this morning, the prospect of not going to the gym for a week upset me greatly. I wonder if my reaction would have been so intense had I not already been in a state of emotional upheaval. I am far from perfect, but I like to believe that I am generally a level-headed kind of person. Having that little therapy session with Dr. Ben and then writing out my thoughts has found me feeling more calm, rational, and more at peace with not training this week.

I still would like to think that the gym doesn’t control me. I can give up yummy, unwholesome food and wine for weeks at a time for the sake of cutting weight  and reaching a goal. I’m a night owl who can be completely human and functional before the early birds even wake up for the sake of my job. I have learned how to rise above, to overcome, to see opportunity in the struggle…why should this be any different? I will make it through this week, because I am Angela. I am a strong, independent, white woman, and I will be allowed to train again next week! I will learn and grow. I will be stronger for it. Through it all, I am still Angela.

 

Thoughts on Fitness Porn

I follow a number of fitness-related Facebook pages. Some are powerlifting related, some are related to general weight training, and some are specifically geared towards women. I do not read every article. I do not express my appreciation of every post by “liking” it. I read articles that are of interest to me, and I “like” stuff that specifically speaks to me. Occasionally, something will come across my newsfeed that causes me to pause but probably not for the reason it was posted. While I am interested in strength training, I am not interested in fitness porn. Most of the time I simply scroll past it, but once in a while I pause to consider how necessary that page is to my day-to-day life.

This scenario happened a few days ago, when a page I follow posted an article about glute training with a photo of a bent over woman holding a barbell while wearing shorts so short they were halfway up her butt. Now I wasn’t offended by the photo. The woman was obviously in good shape, but it was also obviously a staged photo. How many women actually wear that kind of clothing in the gym? Those shorts were so short they couldn’t possibly be comfortable or sanitary. Initially I just scrolled past the article, feeling inner dismay that someone felt the need to use such a picture. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dismayed, because there was quite the buzz in the comments later about the photo. A few women expressed similar sentiments as to what I feel; however, I was even more dismayed to read how many more women reacted with hostility towards the few who didn’t appreciate the photo. Even the page owner (a man) became rather defensive and almost condescending towards the women who didn’t appreciate the photo. He even felt that the picture was okay because his girlfriend selected it. I found it ironic and sad. The women who stated their dislike of the use of the picture were never angry about it. They calmly and rationally expressed their opinion and accepted that everyone wouldn’t share their opinion. The backlash was less kind. Those of us who would rather not see a practically naked woman with the article were called haters, bitter, out of shape, and jealous.

The comments and opinions have been bouncing around in my head ever since. It’s a jumbled mess, I know, because I see the inside of my head all the time! But I have some thoughts and opinions and need to get them outside of my head.

  • The owner of this particular page is himself a powerlifter, trainer and gym owner. His page is an extension of his business, so he can do what he likes with his page. Totally understand and agree.
  • That said, his page caters to women. I also follow a few strength training pages that also cater to women. While I can’t say that there has never been a fitness porn photo on those other pages, I do know that the bulk of the photos and videos show real women wearing real clothes. When I say real women I mean women of all shapes and sizes, including the ones with amazing bodies. When I say real clothes, I mean anything from leggings and baggy t-shirts to short shorts and sports bras. There is a difference between short shorts and the shorts that expose half your ass!
  • I also follow pages that have a more male focus, and I don’t recall ever seeing a man posed as if lifting while wearing virtually nothing. I did a quick scan through these pages today, and all I could see was men in long, baggy shorts. The only exception is when a guy was trying to show off his quads and had his shorts pulled up as high as they’d go. Double standard much?
  • The controversial photo didn’t offend me. I am not a prude, but I suppose you can call me old-fashioned. I wear shorts when I train, but everything is covered. Sometimes I wear t-shirts and sometimes tank tops. I don’t think I could ever just wear a sports bra, but that’s just me.
  • What bothers me about the photo is that it was unnecessary, especially, in my opinion, on a page/site geared for women. Will some find it inspiring or motivating? Probably! Will everyone? No. Is it even healthy to hold someone else’s body up as inspiration or motivation? I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When I started my fitness journey, I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, because I didn’t like the image I saw in the mirror. Anytime I tried to force myself into somebody else’s box, I never fit. My self-confidence grew as I learned how to use my body and grew stronger. The weight dropped and my body slimmed down, but I could never look like Model A or Model B and would only make myself sick trying. While there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with the photo, I think it has the potential to send the wrong message and create the wrong focus among a gender which has long struggled with body image.
  • I unsubscribed to the mail list for this page today. So far I haven’t stopped following the Facebook page, but I am thinking about it. The photo isn’t the ultimate factor, although it is a catalyst. There is plenty of useful information in the articles; however, the same articles show up in my newsfeed with regularity and that bothers me even more than the photo. I don’t need or want to see the same article every week.
  • Some of the defensive comments pointed out that the only way to see all of the glutes was to wear practically nothing. Okay then. Whatever.
  • Yesterday I was at a commercial gym to do some bench pressing, since my coach was still on holidays. Mirrors everywhere. Since I was without my coach, I took some video of my sets. I wore a tank top and shorts. You know what I noticed in the mirrors and in my videos? Some muscle definition! Even with my butt covered. I may not have a body for stepping onto a body building stage, but I have worked hard to be where I am at. Even though I am 45 years old and not a size 0! I am not jealous of anyone with a sculpted body. I know that comes with hard work in and out of the gym. I just choose to not use another woman’s body as my role model or wish list.
  • Can we just accept that fitness porn is a thing and unnecessary? The other female pages I follow have no shortage of followers, even without showing excessive flesh. Obviously fitness porn isn’t absolutely necessary for a fitness business to survive.

Whew! I think I got most of that out of my head. I sure hope so, because I would really like to sleep tonight. This is going to be a crazy, busy, exciting week! After working four closing shifts last week, today was a solitary day off, and I work 3 opens and 1 midday shift over the next four days. Earlier I tried making a list of all that I need to do (because I make lists), but I found that task more challenging than usual. My week definitely feels crunched for time, especially free time, but on paper it doesn’t look like I have too much to do. Ha! Keep telling yourself that, Angela!