A Nap or Coffee?

Training for a powerlifting competition is vastly different than the training I am doing right now. The change is good, but it is also hard work. It is only mid-morning and I am desperately wishing for a nap, except I am seldom able to nap and I have to work in a couple of hours. A one hour training session has utterly wiped me out. I might need some coffee before work to make it through my closing shift.

warm up:

overhead squats with 35 lb bar-2 sets of 10

narrow stance windmills-bodyweight x 8 each, with 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

1a. skater squats with 5 lb dumbbells

to 3 folds of the mat x 12 each leg

to 2 folds of the mat x 10 each leg

1b. single arm dumbbell push press

20 lbs x 8 each, 25 lbs x 8 each

2a. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 8, 113 x 6, 113 x 6

2b. chin ups-neutral grip, with small green band

x 7, x 6, x 6, x 3

3. a 12 minute circuit of:

-dumbbell curls with 15 lbs x 15, x 13, x 10

-kettlebell triceps extensions with 10kg x 15, x 10, x 6

-ab wheel x 15, x 11, x 10

-skipping 1 minute x 3 rounds

Maybe I can try closing my eyes for 15-20 minutes…

Super-powered Singlet

Yesterday afternoon I pulled my singlet out of the drawer and put it on to make sure it still fit. It fit just as I expected it to. My little weight cut is going well. There is just nothing flattering about a singlet. Still, I chose to wear the singlet at the gym this morning. I knew I’d be doing some heavy squat singles, so the singlet would make it easier for my coach to judge my depth. Next week my coach will be away, so I will have my few pre-competition training sessions in a strange gym surrounded by strangers. Since I like to wear the singlet at the gym at least once before a competition in order to re-familiarize myself with it, I would much rather wear it at my coach’s private gym than out in public.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves, in a singlet, almost pausing

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 2, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1, 215 x 1

I don’t know what it was, but I felt strong today. I’m losing weight and feeling hungry fairly often, but the bar felt light this morning and moved fast and smoothly. And all to legal depth! Maybe it was the singlet! Maybe I’m finally getting my groove back. Maybe by the time I get to Provincials I will be close to where I was last competition…

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench: 43 lbs x 8, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 5…paused last reps

with legs and arch: 110 lbs x 4, 110 x 3, 110 x 3…paused each rep for last two sets

2. hanging leg raises

x 12

I kept these quite strict with no back swing, so I couldn’t lift the legs too high, but that is also due in part to the back issues. Mostly this was about decompressing the spine a bit without aggravating the back problems.

3a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 15, 30 lbs x 15

3b. dumbbell curls

20 lbs x 10 x 2 sets

3c. TRX rows

2 sets of 20

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

Discs & Disappointment

Normally I prefer to blog about my training session as soon after training as possible, because I don’t want my impressions and thoughts to fade from memory before I am able to put them into writing. Even though I trained at 8 this morning, I was rather intentional about not blogging as soon as I got home. It is now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I think I have delayed long enough. My training session was not what I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was mostly an exercise in frustration and pain. The back wasn’t too bad yesterday, but today is an entirely different story.

Yesterday I left my chiropractor’s clinic feeling more optimistic than I have felt for several weeks. There was a measure of relief in knowing that the SI is fine and that this is all disc-related. I’ve been through the disc thing before, although there was no pain in my back then and it didn’t really affect my training. This round of disc issue is different from the pain in my back to the way it affects my training and daily life. I like to think I am fairly independent and self-sufficient. I don’t always like to ask for help, especially not for something I feel should be easy enough for me to do on my own, but even the most simple of tasks presents significant challenge and pain lately. I’m weary of it all.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 5, with belt 113 x 5

The front squats didn’t feel very good from the start, although the later reps in each set were somewhat easier than the first couple. Just not good enough to continue.

1b. dips

with small green band x 8

unassisted: x 6, x 5, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done dips, so I wasn’t very confident in my ability to do any unassisted. I’m always glad to be wrong when it comes to self-doubts. These didn’t hurt the back really, but there was some mild unpleasant sensations in having my lower half hanging.

1c. seated cable rows

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12, 80 x 4, 80 x 12, 100 x 10

I’m not sure what happened during the second set at 80 pounds, except to say that the back hurt enough that I just stopped.

2a. front foot elevated split squats

x 12 each

with 10kg kettlebell x 12 each

These actually felt kind of good. No stress on my back which was already in a ton of pain.

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 7, 8kg x 12

That’s quite a discrepancy between the first and second set, and I cannot explain why the second was so much better. Sometimes my second sets just are better, because I needed to prime the movement or simply remember how much effort I need to exert.

2c. standing triceps extensions

10kg kettlebell x 15, 12kg x 12

My chiropractor says it is important for me to continue training, and I would be miserable if I had to give it up. But I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can train without pain once again.

Not Epic But Good

SI joint problem. No deadlifts. No problem! There are plenty of things that I can do, and my coach frequently reminds me that I am not going to lose strength. In fact, he’s pretty determined that I don’t get stuck in a negative mindset. Right now, I don’t think he has to worry about that, because I had my meltdown last week and my attitude has refocused once again.

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 8 each

I think this might have been a PR today!

1b. skipping

two 1 minute rounds

I know it is only skipping, but I am impressed with my skipping this morning. Some days sees more tripping and welts. The lower back didn’t like skipping the last time I tried, but today was easy-peasy and smooth.

2a. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 65 x 4 + 4 with push, 65 x 3 + 55 x 5

I thought I’d try a thumbless grip on the second set, and that was probably a mistake. The right shoulder burned for the rest of the training session, likely because the thumbless grip resulted in less lat engagement and more shoulder effort. Lesson learned!

2b. Bulgarian split squats

bodyweight x 8 each, 54 lb vest x 8 each, vest + 20kg kettlebell x 8 each, vest + 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

3a. chest supported rows

35 lbs x 20, 50 x 15, 60 x 14

3b. flat pin presses-elbows at 90 degrees

75 lbs x 5, 95 x 6, 115 x 8

4a. laying double kettlebell triceps extensions

6kg x 10, 6kg x 9

4b. dumbbell curls

alternating supinated 20 lbs x 20

without supination x 7

Lack of Sleep Leg Day

While I have no issues with ‘falling back’, ‘springing forward’ is a struggle. I haven’t slept well for the past two nights, but I don’t think I can wholly blame Daylight Savings Time for that. Yesterday morning was the first time in many years that I actually slept through my alarm! My daughter actually turned on my bedroom light and might have even given me a shake before I actually woke up…all while my alarm had been ringing for at least 10-15 minutes. I went to bed around 11PM last night, fell asleep quite quickly, started to dream, then woke up 15-20ish minutes later. I did not fall back asleep until at least 2AM, if not even later. A morning training session meant I had to get up, even though I desperately wanted to stay in bed. Thankfully, I could try to have a nap this afternoon. Maybe. Or not. I can sleep in a little bit later tomorrow. Also, I have coffee!

1a. split squats

warm-up: 8kg kettlebell x 8 each leg

with barbell: 45 lbs x 10 each, 75 lbs x 10 each, 100 x 10 each, 110 x 10 each

It was nice to have a barbell on my back; it’s been a while! Low bar position. These were relatively easy, although I was gasping for air and had to take a knee after the final set. I might have been content to stay at 100 pounds for the final set, but Michael made a comment and I added some more weight to the bar. The lower back felt perfectly fine.

1b. dumbbell presses while laying on a foam roller

25 lbs x 12, 34 lbs x 10, 34 x 10, 39 x 8

2a. front squats

110 x 4

Quite honestly, this set felt heavy from the moment I moved to unrack the bar. As I was stepping back and preparing for my reps, I could not recall how much weight was on the bar, but I assumed that it was more than what it actually was. It felt heavy. So heavy and uncomfortable. I still have tender spots on the fronts of both my shoulders from last Friday’s front squats. Michael only wanted me to do 3 or 4 reps for this set. I felt like stopping after the third but toughed it out for a fourth rep. Each one felt slow and tentative.

130 x 5

After the first set, Michael said to try a slightly different grip…as in essentially not holding onto the bar at all. I did one rep that way before racking the bar and resetting myself for normal front squats to finish the set. Not holding the bar felt heavier and unbalanced and I didn’t like it. The rest of the set was slightly better but still slow and heavy feeling.

130 x 6 with belt

I don’t know if it was a result of the belt or not, but this final set was the best of the bunch. My reps were faster, smoother, and they felt easier.

2b. bench press-touch and go

93 lbs x 8 competition grip

93 lbs x 10 slightly wider grip, roughly a centimeter in from the outer knurling

This set actually felt and looked pretty good despite the wider grip. It wasn’t a major change to my hand positioning, only a centimeter or so, but shoulder health is always the primary concern when making grip adjustments. The shoulders felt fine this set, but the right shoulder felt ever so slightly sore a few minutes later, which meant that Michael had me go back to my regular grip for the final set.

105 lbs x 8 competition grip

3a. some kind of seated pulldown, around a 45 degree back angle

100 lbs x 12, 100 x 8

3b. flyes

10 lbs x 20, 15 lbs x 15

3c. incline dumbbell curls

10 lbs x 15, 10 lbs x 6 + 15 lbs x 4 + 15 lbs x 11 standing

I just now realized that I was able to set up for my bench press with an arch without obvious discomfort to the lower back! Even though I had been given the okay to arch while pressing, getting into that position hasn’t been achieved without facial contortions from lower back discomfort. I don’t think I felt any of that today. Aside from sitting in the car this morning, my lower back has felt fairly decent over the weekend, which is an improvement over most of last week. I have an appointment with my chiropractor tomorrow, and I am desperately hoping that he will give me the green light to resume back squats and deadlifts. It is time to start prepping for Provincials, and I kind of need to put a barbell on my back. Although I can ultimately do whatever I want to do, I really do want to be smart with my body and health. However, I am fully prepared to beg, bribe, whine or cry tomorrow if my chiropractor isn’t as agreeable as I would like.

Believe You Can

The lower back is still improving and still not quite where I want it to be. My chiropractor still wants me to avoid real squats and do single leg stuff instead. <sigh> Longevity is the ultimate goal, so I guess I can do that. The right shoulder has been a bit cranky for the past couple of days. My shoulders enjoy taking turns being cranky. It was the left one on Monday! Unfortunately, cranky shoulders and SI joints make finding a comfortable sleep position difficult. Sleeping on my sides bothers the shoulders. Sleeping on my back can make the lower back achy if my body isn’t perfectly positioned, and I just do not like sleeping on my back. It’s not the end of the world, but sleep is important.

1. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 6 each

Both arms felt fairly equal using the 8 kilogram bell, but the left struggled more with 10 kilos.

2a. military press

45 lbs x 6, 55 x 6, 60 x 2 + 5, 60 x 3?

These were a struggle from the very first set. Part of that was the fact that my right shoulder was already burning and feeling fatigued, because it is cranky today. And yet, the biggest problem is inside my head. Well, I still struggle with technique and bar positioning, too. I don’t even want to admit just how defeated I felt in the midst of these sets. I was quite thankful to be facing the wall as I waited, as I set myself into position at the bar, and as I racked the bar after another demoralizing set. I understand that there is value in pressing overhead, but in the grand scheme of things there is no reason for me to freak out over my inability to master it. My goals don’t revolve around being the best military presser, but it is frustrating to continuously struggle with the same thing.

Michael had me switch to a Swiss bar. The neutral grip probably made it easier to keep my elbows where they needed to be, plus it left me no choice but to lean back enough to keep the bar from hitting my face. Despite feeling that I do lean back while doing the military press, there are times when the bar scrapes my chin and I am likely wary of the bar in this situation. I think the two sets with the Swiss bar were better.

33 lbs x 6?, 43 x 8

2b. chin ups, neutral grip

with purple + red band x 8, x 8, x 8

with purple band x 8

It’s a rare day when I say that chin ups felt great. Today is one of those days.

3a. bent over rows, underhand grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 12

chest-supported row 35 lbs x 25

The bent over rows were actually not too shabby, but I could feel the low back a bit in that position. It didn’t make the back feel worse, but Michael had me do a chest-supported row instead, still with an underhand grip.

3b. incline dumbbell presses, neutral grip

25 lbs x 8, x 10, x 10

In a way, I am disappointed that I didn’t feel confident increasing the weight for these. After all, I can comfortably use heavier dumbbells for flat presses. The right shoulder wasn’t feeling so great or strong.

4a. lying triceps extensions with two kettlebells, no legs

8kg x 10, 8kg x 4 left + 5 right

The left arm just would not, could not finish that fifth rep. I even took a few seconds rest before trying to get a couple more reps, but the left arm was not going to have any of it.

4b. double kettlebell curls, wrists back

8kg x 8, x 7

This was a mixed bag of a training session. It wasn’t necessarily easy or comfortable, but it wasn’t necessarily all frustration and struggle. In fact, I just realized that I did better on the bottoms up kettlebell presses. Last week, the most I could do with 10kg was 4 per side, and today I did 6! Sometimes there is a good reason for why something feels more challenging! Sometimes you’re doing more than you used to!