Moguls

Last week was mostly a write-off for me. Two weeks ago I was given an unexpected deload in my training program, which was deloaded even more in an attempt to facilitate some healing in my left shoulder. So I had fewer sets and reps for everything, and the weight for any upper body accessories was cut in half. Then last week, I was given a 2-day training program to allow me an extra couple of days to “recover.” I also started a new medication last week, and I am still trying to determine whether or not some of my new-ish symptoms are related to the medication. I have been hurting a lot, dizzy, and more tired than I’ve been through 4.5 months of poor sleep, so I didn’t do the second day of training last week. This morning, I did that day of training.

In some ways, this morning’s training felt better; and yet, I still felt utterly fatigued through the entire thing. And it was, at times, tough. I couldn’t help thinking about just how tough some exercises felt compared to what I was capable of before injuring my back. Last October, I was squatting more than 200 pounds for 2-3 reps for multiple sets, while today I used 30 pounds for goblet squats for three challenging sets. That’s one of the hard parts of recovering from an injury…knowing you have taken massive steps backwards in what you used to be able to do. Even though I know that healing from this injury can take a long time, it’s almost impossible to maintain a Pollyanna attitude day after day after day for months at a time. And so, sometimes I mentally chafe against my limitations, even as I go through the motions of rehab and self-care.

As I was benching this morning, my thoughts sifted through the memory banks and settled upon one particular memory from roughly 28 years ago. Although the memory is fuzzy around the edges, I believe that was my first downhill skiing experience here in British Columbia. I may have been born here, but I grew up in Saskatchewan, where mountains are non-existent. While there may not be real mountains on the prairies, I did actually get to go downhill skiing once in Saskatchewan at Fort Qu’appelle, and it wasn’t exactly my favourite activity. A few years later we moved to BC where the mountains are real and skiing is an activity enjoyed by many. The memory that came to mind today was during my youth group’s outing to a local ski hill.

I fell a lot that day, and I definitely felt out of my element. Most of my friends had been skiing for years and a natural grace that eluded me. But I kept going. At some point, I found myself down a run that was extremely bumpy. I didn’t even know what moguls were until that point, but I quickly learned that moguls and I were not destined to be friends. I’d hit a mogul and fall down. I’d get back up, hit a mogul, and I’d fall down again. Over and over again. One friend laughed as he watched me struggle and made a comment about how I don’t give up, or something along that line. I cannot recall what I said in response, but I honestly had few choices available to me. This was a lengthy section of moguls, and there was no going around it. I had to go through it either on skis or walking. I chose to continue to ski a few feet before wiping out and getting back up.

It’s interesting that this memory popped into my head today, but I think it was also a timely reminder of who I am and what I am made of. I also think the visual is quite timely after yesterday’s sermon, and that is something I will need to chew over for a while. In the meantime, I will just keep getting up again.

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5 Days!

Competition is in five days, yet it sometimes feels still so far away. I am so excited and nervous and aware of every little ache and pain and twinge in my body. As long as those aches remain minor annoyances…this is normal at this point in time. The biggest area of concern is my back, especially since last Friday’s day of pain for no apparent reason. Since then the back has been okay, and I say that tentatively. While the pain is gone it leaves a palpable presence lingering in the shadows, which has me figuratively holding my breath, waiting for the back to explode and destroy my hopes and goals for this competition. So far, so okay.

Today’s training session was relatively easy, although not nearly as easy as Wednesday’s will be! The hard training work has been done. This morning I did all three lifts, working up to my openers or thereabouts. I worked up to a 225 pound squat, a 120 pound bench, and a 270 pound deadlift. Generally I think everything moved fairly well. My back is still intact with no explosions or implosions yet. The other achy body parts just have to be accepted as part of the family for now.

18 Days

Competition is 18 days away! That time feels both so distant and so close. Somehow the week or two before a competition is always crazy busy. Last night after I entered my work schedule into my calendar, I paused for a moment, feeling a tangle in my mind that I hadn’t expected. In unraveling it, I realized that I will be working 7 days in a row leading up to the competition. That’s not exactly how I had envisioned spending the bulk of those days, but I can get through it. Training should be minimal that week for a deload, but for now I’m still increasing the weights.

1. squats (2-0x0) 1-2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 205 x 2, 215 x 1

main event: 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2

Warm ups felt really good and moved well, I think. My bladder wasn’t playing nicely with me this morning. When you need to create tension by filling your belly with air and pushing it out against your belt, a full (or partially full) bladder can really interfere with that process. There are mornings when I can train without making a trek to the washroom…today was not such a day! In fact, I had to make two treks between sets. As annoying as it is to disrupt my training for a bathroom break, I’d rather do that and be able to fully create tension and use my belt effectively.

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that I haven’t had 225 pounds on my back since before Provincials in June. During Provincials, a 221 pound squat tweaked my back and set back my competition and training. My confidence has been growing over these recent weeks as I’ve found myself doing more reps and sets at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before. Once upon a time, I did 225 pounds for 2 reps but only one set. As I set myself up for the first set at 225 this morning, I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous. I knew I could do it. I knew I was going to do it. The reps didn’t all feel light or easy, but they still felt decent. Perception is funny. Some of the sets felt ugly, as if the bar was manhandling me, but what I saw on the video wasn’t nearly as bad as it felt. Regardless, I definitely felt my legs working. I am sure that I was missing a few cues here and there. Did I take a big enough breath each rep? Did I keep my chest up each rep? Was the bar over my midfoot each rep? I could watch the videos over and over and pick them apart to the best of my ability or wait for my coach to comment with his feedback. Today was another PR of sorts…my first time squatting 225 pounds for doubles for multiple sets!

2. bench press (2-1×0) 1 rep

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 100 x 2, 115 x 1

main event: 125 x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

These felt solid.

3. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 8, 55 x 8

Although the first set is never what I’d call easy, I always feel like it was easy enough that I will be able to get more reps on subsequent sets. Yeah, no.

The Introvert Paradox

Despite looking forward to training, I have been feeling the urge to procrastinate my departure from the house to hit the gym. I’ve previously compared it to a similar phenomenon that occurred prior to going for a run back in my running days, but this gym procrastination had never occurred until I started training at a commercial gym by myself. In the short drive to the gym this morning, I gave more thought to the reasons for the shortage of “get up and go”. I still love training and lifting weights. I still want to see myself growing in strength and ability, to reach new PRs, and to compete at higher levels. So why is it suddenly harder to get out the door? Because that is where the challenge lies…getting myself out the front door.

Some might suggest that the loss of my previous coach could be a reason for my struggle to get out the door, but I think that is a very minor piece of the puzzle. I think he is a good coach, but he certainly isn’t the only good coach out there and coaching will only get you so far. After a great deal of thinking, because thinking is what I do, I believe there are three main reasons:

  • I’m training by myself. There is no one to give me feedback in the moment. No one to praise or critique or assist. I don’t have anyone from whom I can draw positive energy. I feel very alone despite the presence of many other people in the gym.
  • There are many other people in the gym! Yes, I know that is a complete turn from my previous point, but such is the mind of an introvert. I am a stranger to virtually everyone in the gym. That’s fine. However, I sometimes feel irritated or drained from the antics and energy of everyone else at the gym. This is a complicated thing to explain, so I’m not even going to try.
  • Even though I am committed to training 3x a week, my training times are no longer tied to someone else’s schedule. Before, my training was booked to work with my schedule and my coach’s, so it was important to show up and be on time. Now I have more flexibility, even though I still have a general timeline planned in my head.

This is a deload week and I am super stoked about it and excited to get to the gym, yet I still took my sweet time waking up, eating breakfast, and getting myself ready to leave the house. Despite my snail’s pace to get ready, I still managed to be at the gym by 9:05 this morning, which was really only 5 minutes later than I had wanted to be. Not too shabby for a procrastinator!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 lbs x 2, 190 x 2, 190 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good and easy.

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 6

main event: 65 lbs x 6, 65 x 6

Incline bench continues to feel tough. Today’s rep range was 6-8, and I obviously didn’t feel strong enough to go for more than six.

3. stiff-legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

115 lbs x 8, 115 x 8

4a. side plank

x 32 seconds each side

4b. barbell row

75 lbs x 12

4c. glute bridge

60 lbs x 15

 

 

 

Week 5 Deload

I’m not gonna lie…I was excited to see “unloading week” in my coach’s message to me this morning. I was even more excited to see that I am only needing to do one round of the accessory work. With a left knee that is still acting funky, I’m not going to complain about an easier training week.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 6

main event, with belt: 160 lbs x 3, 160 x 3, 160 x 3

2.  close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 85 x 4, 100 x 2

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

4a. walking lunges

70 lbs x 14

4b. dumbbell rows

35 lbs x 10

4c. plank

60 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

12 lbs x 12

Everything felt fairly good. There was some bother here and there with the knee during squats, but that was minor and annoying more than a hindrance. Despite only one round of accessories, they still managed to make me sweat more than the heavy lifting.

Last Day in the Gym

This morning was my final training session before the competition on Saturday, although I feel hesitant to call it an actual training session. This is my deload week after all. I wasn’t sure what Michael would let me do this morning, but I didn’t even bother putting on my squat shoes. My training log page looks quite bare, too. It’s all good though…just part of the process.

1. squats, low bar with flat shoes

45 x 6, 95 x 5, 115 x 3, 135 x 1, 135 x 1

These were super easy. The flat shoes didn’t seem to present any issues; in fact, they felt kind of good. Of course, there was really nothing physically taxing about these sets or weights.

2a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 15 x 4 sets

2b. bench press, competition grip, with flat shoes

43 x 6, 63 x 5, 83 x 3, 83 x 3

Easy peasy.

And that was the end of my training session. 😉

The water load is going well, perhaps too well. My coach might be a little stressed out about my weight, not wanting me to lose too much and wanting me to be able to recoup enough weight after the weigh-in. It feels very scientific and complicated, although it probably isn’t quite so difficult as that implies. At least I don’t have to cut my food intake and do the water-loading!

 

The Workshop

I went to a workshop this morning put on by my chiropractor which was about injury prevention and health strategies for long-term success. It was a good workshop, informative and entertaining. While I wasn’t quite sure what sort of information would be imparted, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I already implement most of the things that were mentioned. The information was really quite simple, but then again simple is often the best solution to a problem, even if we think the solution should be complicated.

I had the thought to bring a notebook with me to take notes, but I completely forgot until I had already arrived. I know that I will forget points or totally butcher the original intent of others, but I want to share a bit about the workshop.

In simplest terms, these are important:

  • foam roll (upper back, hips, thighs and calves) frequently, even 30 seconds per area
  • eat breakfast. Eat protein with breakfast.
  • plan meals and snacks. Be prepared. Eat well.
  • omega-3 and vitamin D
  • get enough sleep
  • ZMA (zinc, magnesium and B6) can help with sleep, so can melatonin; keep your bedroom dark and cool
  • don’t sit more than you need to; move often
  • deloads and rest are important
  • meditate; control what goes into your mind
  • have a good support system (coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, medical doctor, etc.)

Quite honestly, I am not always perfect at doing the things on this list, but I definitely do some of these almost all of the time and others frequently. I know that I can only say that because of the good support system that I have! My chiropractor said that your coach is the most important part of that support system, and I couldn’t agree more. While I did own a foam roller before I ever had a coach, I seldom used it before I began training. My eating habits were not horrible before I began training but also not as good as they are now. Michael encouraged me to start taking omega-3 and ZMA. I am probably biased, but I think Michael is an amazing coach. He has my best interests at heart and is smart with my training, including deloads. In big ways and small, Michael is always sharing his knowledge and experience with me which only makes me better, too!

I did get an internal thrill over one thing that was said at the workshop, and I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my daughter all about it. Routine was being mentioned, including listening to the same music on the way to the gym, approaching the bar the same way every time, and so on. The part about listening to the same music almost made me laugh out loud, because I do exactly that on my way to the gym. Every. Single. Time. In fact, I can and often do listen to the same song over and over in my car. (My current song on repeat is The Impossible Dream by The Temptations.) My daughter, on occasions when she is driving somewhere with me, gets a little exasperated by my repetitious music. That and the fact that I won’t let her play her music!

It was a good workshop, but really I wouldn’t expect anything less from my chiropractor.