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!

One Day at a Time

For once I was kind of looking forward to upper body day, because I figured that it might be an easier day on my lower back. At least it felt like a more productive training day, even if it was still frustrating.

1a. chin ups-with barbell and incline bench

overhand grip x 9, x 8

underhand grip x 7

with rings and incline bench x 6, x 7

1b. push ups-on barbell

x 8

with chains 4 sets of 8 reps

I don’t think I have ever done so many reps with chains before, so I can be happy about these. Getting into position wasn’t comfortable on the lower back, but it wasn’t a difficult adjustment to make.

2a. TRX supine rows-with legs straight + with knees bent

x 5 + 5, x 5 + 6

Then Michael saw how slowly and carefully I was moving to get into position for these rows. The back was fine once I was in position, but getting from standing to sitting to a supine position was uncomfortable. So…

chest-supported row 25 lbs x 17

The weight was super light, and I was keeping the reps strict, not arching the back. Michael wanted 20 reps. I stopped at 17, and I wasn’t happy about it. I easily had the strength to complete the reps, but the lower back wasn’t feeling very nice at all. By this point I was feeling rather frustrated, so I had to have a moment with my water bottle, back turned to everyone, just focusing on breathing and not giving in to tears. <sigh>

So…

a single arm standing row with a band-like thing: 2 sets of 15 each side

Pallof press-standing x 12 each side

2b. braced single arm dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 6 each, 25 x 6.25 left + 7 right

The right arm could have done so many more reps, but the left arm just wasn’t willing to cooperate. Drop the weight to get more reps…

20 lbs x 10 each, 20 x 8 each

3a. alternating dumbbell curls

15 lbs x 30, 20 lbs x 20, 20 lbs x 18

3b. kettlebell triceps extension

10kg x 12, x 12, x 10

At one point Michael asked me what I was thinking, and I said that I’ll never be able to deadlift again. I know that is a gross exaggeration of reality, but right now I don’t see how I will be able to deadlift on Friday. Michael pointed out several times this morning that we can make adaptations and work around the problem. I know it. I don’t always like that, but I know it is true. And important to do when necessary. Then Michael made a comment about maybe needing to take a week or two off from training. My face dropped, but I quickly said that wouldn’t be necessary because I’m going to be fine. Just like that he sucked me into changing my mental perspective from negative to positive. Fine! I will think positive thoughts about whatever is going on with my back, trusting that it isn’t anything major and that it will get better soon. I can do that for at least one day at a time.

 

Uplifting Upper Body Day

While I’ve known for some time that music can help me focus my mind and energy onto a specific task or goal, driving my son’s car this week has reminded me of that truth and especially today. The radio just won’t cut it, and the lack of music made it all too easy for my thoughts to roam and wander in the opposite direction that I wanted them to take. This morning was upper body day…the one training day when I most need the mental focus and determination, because upper body days are challenging. Without Sia reminding me that I’m titanium, invincible, unstoppable and powerful, I’m afraid my positive self-talk took a detour when I turned the corner at Gordon and Guisachan. And yet somehow, I think I managed to pull myself together to get the job done. Yup! I left the gym with shoulders feeling as if they were the size of beach balls, but I am rather happy with what I did this morning.

1a. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 6, 60 x 5, 60 x 5 with the last rep eked out on my tiptoes!

These haven’t been so great of late, and last week was about learning to engage my lats properly. I think I did a better job of that today, although the last set finished a little rougher than I had hoped. As I set up for that set, Michael said that we could up the weight for another set if my rep speed was good. As soon as he said that, I wanted it. Really, I don’t know why…the military press isn’t a favourite. Okay, so  I’m competitive, even with myself. I love a challenge. I love being able to do more, to be better. <sigh> The last couple of reps were a bit tougher, and I was only able to grind out the last rep as I extended myself onto the tips of my toes. Now how being on tiptoe helps finish an overhead press, I do not know. No increase in weight, but my set up was better.

1b. chin ups-using a barbell with my legs on the top of an incline bench

x 10, x 9, x 8 all with an overhand grip

x 8 with an underhand grip

These were easier than I expected but still challenging.

2a. Pendlay rows-bench grip

63 lbs x 10, 83 x 10, 93 x 10, 93 x 10

I feel like these were better today, at least in terms of reps completed. I chose not to go up in weight on the final set in order to maintain my rep range. I’m capable of using a bit more weight than this, but the reps usually drop quickly. My lower back has been a bit achy since Monday afternoon, which I could definitely feel in the position for these rows.

2b. push ups on parallettes

x 8 , x 8, x 8, x 6

The first set was ugly. On one rep the left arm would almost feel as if it were collapsing, but another rep the right arm would slack off. The second set was better for both arms working together properly, but my shoulders were hunching forward. The final two sets, with effort to focus on keeping those shoulders down, were better.

3a. side laterals

15 lb dumbbells x 3 or 4 (too heavy, in my opinion) + 10 lb dumbbells x 10

10 lbs x 10

3b. alternating dumbbell curls, held at end and supination of wrist

15 lbs x 5 (Michael said that was too easy) + 20 lbs x 17

20 lbs x 20

3c. triceps cable pull downs

40 lbs x 11 x 2 sets

 

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