Remember the Deadlift

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said that we’d do some deadlifts if my back was feeling okay. I’m sure he was hoping that my back was feeling okay, because, aside from wanting me to be healthy again, being able to deadlift is kind of important heading into a competition! Last week I was allowed to do one super light set of deadlifts at 65 pounds, and those felt good. I did have a couple of deadlift sessions in March, but the second one was cut short because of the back. Really, I have hardly deadlifted at all since the beginning of my back problems at the end of January. As excited as I was to be allowed to deadlift this morning, I was also tentative and nervous. What if the back screamed in pain? What if deadlifting set me back again? Only one way to find out…

1a. deadlifts!

but first a set of Romanian deadlifts 45 lbs x 10

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3

with belt: 185 x 2, 205 x 1, 205 x 1, 205 x 1

Although I haven’t deadlifted for a while, we kept my reps low, because why run the risk of aggravating the back for the sake of more reps! The first couple of sets felt pretty good. I think I first “felt” my back during the set at 165 pounds. It was fine as I set up and even as I created tension, but I could feel some discomfort and pressure in the low back as I lifted. I think that first “heavy” set was the worst in terms of how the back felt, but there was a measure of discomfort, maybe even pain for the rest of the sets. As a result, I was probably more tentative than I should be. The second rep at 185 was too far from my body from the start, but I was using a double overhand grip beyond what I would normally be able to manage. An alternated mixed grip for the heavy singles worked well, and each single improved on the previous. The deadlifts weren’t all perfect, but I was able to deadlift. The best part is that there was no pain or discomfort in the back beyond each rep. After my training I went to work and still felt no change or increase in back pain or discomfort! Hopefully the back will still feel as good tomorrow!

1b. bench press-close grip

feet on bench, small arch: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 93 x 5

with legs and arch: 103 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 120 x 3

With how much benching I’ve done over the past five months, I am beginning to dislike the close grip. The range of motion is just so huge, and I always seem to have more issues with bringing the bar down to the same place on my chest consistently. My last set at 115 was the best and fastest. The set at 120 was kind of slow, and I’m pretty sure the second rep’s bar path was a mess.

2a. reverse hypers with long strap

60 lbs x 20

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 15 each

 

Don’t Cry Out Loud…

Yesterday I set out the top and socks that I would wear for training this morning, and I had selected a Wonder Woman tank and my FIGHTER socks. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed a different tank top, one that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again!” There was no rhyme or reason for the change. I just felt like it. Little did I realize just how appropriate the shirt slogan would be…or how frustrating my training session would be.

Most of the time the gym is my happy place, and even a difficult session can still be a rewarding and positive experience. While there were glimpses of smiles this morning, they were rare and weak and merely attempts to keep tears at bay. I suppose, in that regard, the smiles were effective. I did not shed a single tear at the gym today! At least I can claim that as a victory. My coach could tell that I was frustrated, although I’m sure it was rather obvious. He reminded me that one bad workout isn’t the end of the world…but it has been more than one. Over the past two months, there have been more bad training sessions than good ones in terms of being able to do what I need to do without pain or physical limitation and discomfort, and I am extremely frustrated by that. Frustrated doesn’t even accurately describe how I am currently feeling.

When it comes to personal pain and situations, it is easy to be myopic. For all my frustration and angst over this ongoing back issue, I do know that my struggle is actually quite small. There are so many people who struggle with issues and pain much greater than what I am dealing with, and the fact that I can’t train the way I want cannot compare to the true limitations many people experience on a daily basis just living life. I understand that. I really do. My husband is scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of April and has been in pain daily for years. I can complain about not being allowed to back squat for several weeks, but my husband literally cannot squat. I can complain about how uncomfortable it is to sit long enough to put my shoes on, but there are days when my husband cannot even put his own sock on. In the grand scheme of things, my current struggle is minor. I know it, but it is still frustrating and disappointing to feel as if you are stuck and going nowhere. The ‘one step forward, two or three steps back’ thing gets really old, really quick.

The back felt pretty good yesterday. Not 100% normal but really good. Then I woke up this morning. It seems that the back is stiff and achy almost every morning when I get up. Then add a little bit of necessary sitting, like using the toilet and driving to the gym, and the back just gets crankier. And then training doesn’t go as planned either.

1a. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

After this warm-up set, Michael asked me how it was or if I just like to make faces on warm-ups. The weight itself was fine, but the back wasn’t exactly thrilled with deadlifting. The discomfort was just that…uncomfortable but not unbearable.

135 x 8

Same as above.

165 x 1 + 1 + 2

There was stronger pain on the first rep, which is why the reps were disjointed. Now I could get into position just fine, but the back started to hurt as soon as I created tension prior to initiating the lift and then as soon as I initiated lowering the bar.

with belt and straps: 165 x 0

I think it was about this point that Michael asked me what my body was telling me, and this was when frustration reared it’s ugly head. Michael pointed out that my response to his question was my mind talking and not my body. <grumble> So, then we tried a bunch of variations to see if one would feel better. Deficit deadlifts were a no-go. Block pulls were a no-go. Sumo block pulls were a no-go. Even kettlebell swings were a no-go. By that point, the fighter in me wanted to fix my ponytail and try again, but that inner fighter was also mentally sitting in a corner, sobbing her eyes out.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 7, 53 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

The last two sets were a bit tougher and likely sloppier, but the previous sets were decent and the bar moved well. The military press has long been a trouble lift for me, but I feel as if I am finally feeling more comfortable with it and struggling less. It used to be that my shoulders would burn with fatigue just holding the bar in the rack position between reps, but I didn’t feel any of that today. And that is one thing I have going for me…that no matter how frustrated, upset or defeated I feel, I can still manage to find a positive somewhere!

2a. reverse hypers

x 20, with 10 lbs x 20, 10 lbs x 20

I’m capable of doing these with more weight than this, but I’m also used to doing reverse hypers without discomfort in my lower back! It didn’t take many reps for me to appreciate the fact that my coach was keeping the weight light.

2b. back extensions

x 25, with 10kg x 25

3. single leg deadlifts

2-10kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2-12kg kettlebells x 10 each

The first set was pure ugliness. My balance was horrid. The second set was a bit better with slightly less balance issues, especially with the right leg planted.

 

 

The Calm Before the Volume Storm

Just like it had been a while since I last did back squats, it has been equally long since I have deadlifted. As excited as I am to have the green light to resume both, I have to admit that I was most nervous about the deadlifts. Yesterday’s squats may have been tentative, but I was mentally more concerned about how the lower back would hold up to pulling heavyish weight.

1a. deadlifts

95 lbs x 5 + 5 RDL

95 x 5 sumo + another 4 after refining start position

135 x 5 sumo + 5 conventional

There was slight discomfort in the right knee during the sumo reps, so we stopped doing sumo.

165 x 5 conventional and with double overhand! I usually use straps for reps when I get to 165 pounds.

195 x 5 conventional with straps

195 x 1 + 5 with belt

The lower back wasn’t happy with the first rep. Most likely I wasn’t adequately tight and I pulled with my back instead of pushing with my legs. The reminder to get tight everywhere and to my my legs made the next 5 reps feel better.

1b. bench press-close grip, touch and go

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 105 x 8, 120 x 5 PR, 105 x 8

The PR is for a close grip bench press.

2. deadlifts with a pause right below the knee

135 lbs x 1 without straps and probably using my back again

with straps 135 x 5 or 6

There was some throbbing in the lower back immediately following which eased up within a few minutes. Now, a couple of hours later, there is no throb, but there is some slight achiness. Actually, it feels much the same as after a competition. I’m not about to panic. I’m sure the back will be fine; it just needs to get used to deadlifting again.

I’m Not Loving It

I finished work around 6 last night and, knowing the chances of a family member making dinner were slim, I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home. Although my work day had been good, I was suddenly feeling grumpy. The attitude was likely due to a couple of factors. I was tired. I knew that my ability to relax and decompress would be delayed as I had already agreed to drive my daughter downtown for an engagement. I had been given a warning that my husband was cranky. My frustration with food was rearing it’s ugly head. I didn’t want to make dinner when I finally got home close to 7 PM. I am frustrated by a lack of help and support from the family when it comes to making dinner. They have valid reasons, as well as mere excuses, but I had given basic instructions for what could be made for dinner on Wednesday (when I worked a close shift). Nobody made it. So I gave similar instruction again for yesterday, because I had pork tenderloins in the fridge that were now desperately needing to be used. Despite one person home all day, nothing was prepped, nothing was made. And with all that knowledge, I made the decision to eat crap food and not concern myself with whether or not anyone else in the family had dinner. Because I was grumpy, I ate most of the fries as I drove home. I ate 6 chicken nuggets and a quarter-pounder with cheese while sitting in my car in my driveway. Not a single bite was enjoyable.

There is a lot that could be said about last night’s experience, but I’m not entirely certain that I know where to begin or where to take it. I can be better than this. I have the knowledge and the tools to be better than this. While I’m okay with an occasional treat, my eating habits of late have been more about the treats and crap than about eating for optimal health and nutrition, and I am not happy with myself for it. The good news is, I guess, that it is never too late to start over fresh. Each day presents a new opportunity to make better choices, and I do have the knowledge and tools to make those choices. Okay, so today wasn’t filled with fantastic choices and tomorrow probably won’t be either, but I am determined to turn the corner during my weekend.

This afternoon’s training session did not include deadlifts (or squats for that matter), but then again, I wasn’t honestly expecting either. The SI joints are still an issue, although I feel there is improvement. Since improvement is what I am looking for, I’m willing to accept that my training program is going to be modified in order to allow my back to recover. Still, I’m missing my big lifts.

1a. step-ups (a 4″ block and a box…not sure exact height but a step put my knee well above my hip)

bodyweight x 10

54 lb weight vest x 16, x 16, x 14

Now that felt like cardio…a lot of cardio!

1b. floor presses, with back arch (because I’m allowed to do that!)

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 110 x 8 PR120 x 5 PR

Despite having an arch, I wasn’t really making much use of leg drive for most of the sets and reps, at least not until towards the end sets. At the time I didn’t realize that 8 reps at 110 pounds was a personal record. When Michael said we could do a heavier set and asked what I thought I could do for 5 reps, I wasn’t too sure. He settled on 120 pounds. I kept my mouth shut, even though I knew that I had just set a PR of 120 pounds for 5 reps on Monday for a regular bench press, which meant that I felt a sliver of uncertainty about equaling that task on the floor press. But I did it! 🙂

1c. a TRX ab wheel-like move

on knees x 10, on feet x 10, on feet but slightly harder x 10, x 12 and possibly even slightly more difficult

2a. glute-ham raises

bodyweight x 16

x 5 + x 8 with 8kg kettlebell

8kg kettlebell x 12

2b. swiss ball plank rotations

x 10, x 12, x 13

A Snowy Start to Spring

Hello March! Good-bye winter! Wait. What? It is snowing?! Good grief. If it were December or even January, a glance out the window would make me feel peaceful. The snowflakes are fat and fluffy. The sky is so heavy and grey that I can barely make out the mountain roughly 500 metres from my house. But it isn’t December. This is March 1st and I want spring now. I wore flipflops to the gym this morning, because it wasn’t snowing at that time. Now I will need to brush off my car before I leave for work and likely again once I’m done work later tonight. <sigh>

1. single arm dumbbell clean & press

20 lbs x 3 each, 25 x 3 each, 29 x 3 each, 34 x 3 each with push last rep

with push: 39 x 1 left + 3 right + 3/4 left

That left side! Almost always that left side!

2a. goblet squats, flat shoes

16kg x 8, 24kg x 8, 28kg x 4.5, 24kg x 10, 24kg x 10

We experimented a bit with the goblet squats. The first set was done as I usually squat, while the following sets were done with less forward knee angle. Having my knees far forward generally works for me, but I do tend to get some discomfort at the back of my right knee at the bottom of the squat. Since these goblet squats weren’t super heavy, why not experiment! It wasn’t too bad making the change, although it made me feel uncertain as to my depth. Michael assured me that I was still hitting competition depth, but it didn’t feel like it to me. The set at 28kg wasn’t too heavy, but the lower back felt uncomfortable enough to cause me to drop the kettlebell instead of rising out of the squat. I was given the option of staying at that weight or dropping it and doing more reps. As much as I don’t like dropping the weight, I figured that would be the smartest choice.

2b. chin-ups, using a barbell and inclined bench

overhand competition width grp: x 8, x 9, x 8

underhand close grip: x 6, x 6

3a. rows, underhand close grip

bent over barbell: 75 lbs x 12

This set was actually good, but Michael changed his mind on type of row in order to not make my back cranky.

seal rows: 75 lbs x 15, 75 x 15

3b. standing double kettlebell presses, with eyes closed

10kg x 10, x 10, 12kg x 6

kneeling on a bench, feet unsupported: 25 lb dumbbells x 4, 20 lbs x 4

That was challenging and the left arm/shoulder just wouldn’t cooperate anymore.

3c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

My lower back feels a bit better today, at least first thing in the morning. I could put my pants on with less discomfort. Yesterday’s chiropractic adjustment probably helped with that, but I’m also doing what I need to do to help it along. I am still not allowed to do back squats or deadlifts, but I’ve been told that goblet squats and front squats are okay and I can arch when benching. That’s good enough news for now!

 

Too Tired for a Title

I didn’t expect to have the greatest sleep last night, and I wasn’t disappointed. No, that’s not right. I was disappointed by the quality of my sleep, because I know the value of a good sleep. My low expectations, however, were entirely accurate. I knew I had to get up early this morning. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get 8 hours of sleep, because I wouldn’t be ready to go to bed as soon as I got home from work. I knew that I’d start out on my back, because keeping the shoulders happy is more important than sleeping on my side right now. I knew that I would likely wake up at least once or twice in the night. I knew I would eventually toss and turn, desperate to be on my side but uncomfortable once there. All these things came to pass, which made the alarm at 5:50 most annoying. But I got up. I don’t always train at 8:00 in the morning, but it is kind of nice to get the work done first thing.

I haven’t done any deadlifts for the past two weeks, not since the SI joint problem reared its’ ugly head. As much as I don’t like it when the main lifts are temporarily taken out of my training, I honestly didn’t mind in this case. When the low back pain started, bending over hurt. Simple tasks like putting on my pants, tying my shoes, bending over to pick something up, getting into seated/reclining position on the floor, putting on boots, lifting a 45 lb plate from its place on the rack to the bar…all of those tasks were difficult and painful. With how much discomfort there was with the simple act of bending and lifting, I knew that attempting deadlifts was not going to be a smart idea. Along with the reduction in general pain, I have slowly been noticing an increased ease of movement, especially over the past week. Those simple tasks that hurt last week do not hurt quite as much, if at all, this week. I can put that 45 lb plate on the bar without feeling pain. I move faster and more smoothly getting down on the floor or up from it. I can bend over to put on my shoes or pants without pain. Still, last night I was thinking about today’s training session and resigned myself to the fact that deadlifts would not be on the agenda again. In thinking about training today, somehow I knew that Michael would ask if my chiropractor had vetoed deadlifts along with the squats. My chiropractor did not mention deadlifts, so I told Michael that must mean they are okay. As long as the back feels okay. Happy was I to be allowed to do some form of deadlift today!

1a. sumo block pulls

45 lbs x 8, 135 x 9

with belt:

135 x 2

155 x 7

175 x 0 + 8

175 x 0

The sumo block pulls started off feeling okay, but I soon ran into some uncomfortable feeling in my lower back. At first the discomfort was when I initiated the pull and as I would begin to lower the bar. Making sure my body was completely tight and that I took the slack out of the bar helped reduce the bother on the back, at least up until 175 pounds. The false start on the first set at 175 was due to feeling a fair bit of pressure in the low back as soon as I got myself into position and tight. Michael was ready to drop the weight, but I resisted and got the set done. On the final set, I set myself up twice and experienced the same uncomfortable low back pressure and decided that enough was enough. Pushing through a bit of discomfort is fine, but there is no need to push too far.

1b. braced single arm kettlebell row

12kg x 15, x 15, x 15

16kg x 12, x 12

All of these saw the kettlebell row closer towards my hip. The first three sets were kept under fairly constant tension.

1c. floor presses, keeping back flat

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 10, 83 x 8, 100 x 8, 110 x 6

For the most part, these were good and solid. I probably could have done another couple of reps on the final set. There was the odd rep with poor elbow positioning. Doing floor or bench presses without arching and leg drive is a bit more challenging, but it also makes me feel strong when the weight moves well despite the lack of advantages. It’s hard to keep that back flat, but it is even more difficult to get my shoulders into the best position without arching. I will be so glad when I can return to normal pressing again. Of course, that also depends on the low back. In the meantime and all the time, I need to be working my shoulder mobility.

Three Days

Earlier this afternoon I saw a meme which stated, “I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.” That is exactly how I feel! I did sleep mostly better last night; there just weren’t enough hours of sleep. Exhaustion is oozing out of my pores, and I cannot even begin to imagine feeling well-rested when I wake up tomorrow. It would be nice to be wrong though.

I trained first thing this morning, which means that I was at the gym for three consecutive days. That is not typical for me, but it is how it had to be this week. I’m okay with it. But it is tiring. Thankfully, I’m not in the midst of a heavy, pre-competition training block, but then again…do I ever really have easy training sessions? I keep wanting to say that the past two weeks of training almost feels like a deload, because I haven’t deadlifted or done real squat. There is some truth to that. It does feel like a bit of a deload, and yet, I’ve still been pushed and challenged and worked hard in different ways.

1a. front rack alternating reverse lunges

43 lbs x 12, 73 x 12, 93 x 12, 93 x 12

I just knew that lunges would show up today! Since my chiropractor wants me to do lots of single leg work to help my SI joints and I’ve already done Bulgarians and split squats this week, predicting the arrival of lunges wasn’t all that amazing.

The first few sets were okay. The final set was tough, not due to the weight but simply fatigue. Michael pushed me to finish the final half of the set, and that was okay, too. Sometimes I need that little push, the reminder that I am capable of a little bit more. My coach is pretty good at recognizing when I can keep going or when I should stop.

1b. flat dumbbell presses-without legs

25 lbs x 12, 34 lbs x 9, 39 x 8, 39 x 8

Michael almost had me do military press here, but then he decided against it in order to avoid putting my back into a potentially bothersome position. I’ve got to say that I am loving the flat dumbbell presses lately, even without using my legs. While pressing a 25 pound dumbbell for reps while standing presents a challenge for me, I am no longer intimidated by the bigger dumbbells when I’m on my back.

1c. single arm, single leg plank

x 10-15 seconds each side

x 10-15 seconds each side

x 15 seconds (actually timed for this set) each side

2a. back extensions with 25 lb dumbbell

x 15

x 18 with an 8 second hold on last rep

2b. TRX supine rows (legs straight + knees bent)

x 5 + 6

x 5 + 5

2c. triceps cable pulldowns

40 lbs x 11

40 lbs x 8

I don’t want to get too excited prematurely, but I can’t help but notice that my back feels better than it has for the past 11 days. It isn’t pain-free yet, but it will get there. At one point this morning, we joked about the list of ailments I am either currently experiencing or have recently experienced: hip, knee, back, etc. I pointed out that I am 45 years old! Then I tacked on that I also feel great. It’s true! Despite the current back pain, despite the off and on again knee pain, despite all of the little tweaks, twists, and boxes dropped on my head, I do feel great. I almost never get sick. Current fatigue level aside, I have more energy than I did in my thirties. I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I am strong and getting stronger, and I do things many, if not most, women my age cannot.