Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 3, 225 x 2

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 lbs x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

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Smooth Sailing

In training, as in many aspects of life, there are good days and bad days. The exact same weight can look and feel completely different from one day to the next. It might feel super easy today, but then you might feel crushed beneath the same weight next week. I have experienced these ups and downs over the course of my 4 years of training, and I’ve been blessed to have wise and seasoned individuals in my life to remind me that those ups and downs, good days and bad days are completely normal. They happen to everyone, and I’d like to think that the ups and downs are actually beneficial. Smooth sailing is pleasant and safe, but a lack of adversity can actually make you weak. It might even prevent you from venturing into faster, rougher waters for fear of the unknown dangers that could be waiting ahead. Easy is nice for a season, but I think we grow best in the storm and struggles, in the gym and outside of it. Fighting to reach a goal. Pushing through adversity. Swallowing pride, disappointment and frustration. Sweating. Straining. Determination. Resistance. Those are the catalysts for growth, for change.

This is why I try not to let tough days get me down for very long. I might feel frustrated in the moment, but I’ve been learning to embrace the suck. As I approach the bar for a set that feels hard and maybe more than I am capable of, I feel a hurricane of emotions raging inside. Fear. Doubt. Anger. Pride. Insecurity. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Despair. I feel them all and more that I cannot put a name to. I feel them battering away at my confidence, then I batten down the hatches and do what I need to do. Am I always successful? No. Sometimes I need to drop reps. Sometimes my body hurts. Once in a while, I simply fail. But I do the best that I can in the moment, knowing that a tough session doesn’t equal failure. I’ve got competition goals, and those goals can only be achieved on the platform. I can perform those goal weights in the gym, but I would only get personal pride in the achievement. On the flip side, fighting through 5 tough squat sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds does not automatically indicate that I will bomb my squats at competition.

Last week’s squats, those 5 sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds, felt tough and some of the reps felt ugly. The exact same weight, sets and reps the week before also felt rather tough. Until today, 180 pounds was the most weight I’ve had on my back since June 10 and that resulted in re-tweaking my back. Today’s training called for squats at 200 pounds, and I was respectfully apprehensive. That’s what months of injury and rehab will do to your sense of capability. I expected 200 pounds to feel tough. I expected that I might struggle through the reps and sets. The rep range was 2-3, and I was already mentally preparing myself to strive for 2 reps and not stress out over not getting all 3. I was even expecting that my back might erupt into pain again. I expected all of those things, but I walked into the gym with confidence in my step, in the knowledge that I am a fighter, determined and focused. Good, bad, or ugly…I was going to meet it head on.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 2-3 reps

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

main event: 200 lbs x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3

Remember how I said 180 pounds has felt tough for the past two weeks? The final warm up set at 185 pounds felt a little bit heavy, but 200 pounds felt lighter and easier. Although I had prepared myself to simply strive for 2 reps, I had no trouble getting 3 reps for all 5 sets. While there might have been a rep here or there that wasn’t quite perfect, most of the reps felt and looked (at least the ones that I had video of) pretty darn good! My coach said I crushed it, and that’s exactly how I feel about it. After the first working set, I racked the bar and walked over to stop my video and broke into a big, sassy grin. I had approached the bar for that first set with trepidation and determination, and, as I was squatting, I realized that I was going to be okay. Confidence surged within me.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 2

All those sets were done with my feet on the bench. The back was feeling decent, but, knowing how much arching can quickly aggravate my back when it is irritated, I am going to take whatever measures I can to minimize the aggravation. At least until my back returns to normal function again!

100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 2, 120 x 2, 120 x 2

In the same way that I haven’t squatted 200 pounds for almost 4 months, I also haven’t benched 120 pounds for just as long. Bench press is by far my weakest of the big 3 lifts, and my bench press in competition has been stuck at the same weight for two years. Now that is frustration if I ever experienced it! The programming given to me by my new coach has pushed me and my bench press further and harder than I’m used to going, but so far I’ve been able to keep pace.

The fact that a heavy squat has the ability to crush you like a bug will always make me feel more apprehension than a heavy bench press; however, once I crushed those heavy squats today, I had to look 120 pounds in the eye and tell myself that I was capable. And I was. The bar felt a bit heavy and the reps felt a little slow, but everything looked good on the videos!

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

155 lbs x 3, 155 x 3, 155 x 3

4. chest supported rows (2-0x1) 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 10, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

Having completed my session, I walked to the change room with my head high and shoulders back. Maybe there was some swagger in my step, too. I’ve had a fair number of tough training days lately, but today was a good one. Day 2 will see more apprehension when I attempt to deadlift the most weight I’ve done since June. Day 3 will test me again when I am supposed to bench 120 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps. Those could be good days or bad ones, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. Tomorrow will be 31 days until the competition!

The Workout Before Work

After starting my training week on a Tuesday for the past couple of weeks, part of me really struggled with the decision to go to the gym this Monday morning. The struggle was even harder after a less than stellar night’s sleep, but I actually did set an alarm for this morning and forced myself to get up and moving. My goal was to get to the gym at least 15 minutes earlier than I tend to arrive. My ‘day one’ sessions typically require the most time to get through my program, and I have a limited amount of time available for training and such before going to work. It’s a small thing, but I’m proud of myself for getting to the gym by 8:45 this morning, especially since my alarm was set for 8:05. Although some weeks it makes sense to start my training week on a Tuesday, I am glad that I pushed myself to get it done today. I am glad that I pushed myself to start just a little bit earlier than usual. Even though some of the weights and/or sets increased, I am glad that I pushed through the fear and uncertainty and mild discomfort to do all that I was absolutely capable of doing. While I’m not afraid to work hard in the gym, sometimes I can forget just how much I can do.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 155 x 4

main event, with belt: 170 lbs x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6

3. front squats (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 10, 75 x 10

4. glute bridges

105 lbs x 15 x 3 sets

5. chest supported rows

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 9

As best as I can tell, my gym has only one chest supported row device. As I walked up to it today, I saw that there were four 45 pound plates left on it and no one nearby. I wandered over to ask the one guy in the weight area who actually looked capable of using that much weight if he was using that piece of equipment. He wasn’t, but he was kind enough to help me remove the plates. I’m a little surprised by how happy it made me feel when I had to stop my helper from removing the last plate, and that happiness spiked just a little bit more as I grabbed a 10 pound plate to add to it. So in truth, my rows aren’t anything to get excited about, but I get a kick out of being stronger than expected by others.

I am super proud of myself for putting in the work and crushing it! Today’s total weight moved was 20, 205 pounds…almost 3000 pounds more than last week’s day one! And oddly enough, I don’t feel nearly as exhausted right now as I did last week.

Clutter & Margins

After finishing work early this afternoon, I spent a couple of hours attacking the clutter that had been accumulating in and on a cabinet that I use to house most of my scrapbooking supplies. I am always on a mission to eliminate clutter, but it isn’t always easy to stay on top of things. A week or so ago I started a list of rooms and areas in need of decluttering or reorganizing around the house, because I live off of lists and my tolerance of clutter is growing thin. The problem with trying to address clutter is that the clutter has a tendency to overwhelm and terrorize one into submission. You see the entirety of the project and wonder how it can ever be conquered. That’s when procrastination begins to seep in. That’s when you start with gusto only to find your gumption has got up and gone before you’ve barely made a dent in the mountain. I fall into that trap on a regular basis, but too much clutter weighs me down in a multitude of ways.

Today’s decluttering session wasn’t overly taxing physically. I was able to sit on a chair while sorting through papers, stickers, scissors, and embellishments. I was ruthless with my sorting of things to keep, recycle, toss in the trash, or pass along to Value Village. As I reorganized things back in the cabinet, my goal was to keep the space looking clean and neat. The last thing I want is to remove some clutter only to have the space continue to look sloppy! It feels so good to have accomplished this one task this afternoon. Not only did I conquer my little craft corner, but I also tackled some of the clutter on the china cabinet beside it and tackled a bit more clutter on the desk. Small steps of progress have the potential to lead to more steps forward, and actually I have been taking small steps for the past few days, a drawer here or a cupboard there.

My ‘to-do’ list of decluttering is quite lengthy; however, part of the length comes from making each job as small and manageable as possible. It might take only a few minutes to purge through the winter mittens and toques or a closet or cupboard, while some jobs will require more time and determination, such as the storage space under the stairs or one of my kids’ bedrooms. Experience has taught me that a smaller task will frequently blossom into more progress than expected, while a bigger task will often end up unfinished.

One of my children has been “cleaning” his room the past couple of days. Today I discovered that he had tossed a throw blanket and two Snuggies behind the loveseat in the living room. Obviously he doesn’t want them in his bedroom anymore, but why does he think that the living room is the best place to dispose of them?! This is part of my struggle…other people causing clutter more quickly than I can remove it. But it is time for me to get ruthless with clutter. I don’t mind my home looking lived in, but I really enjoy having margins in my life. Margins take many forms and not feeling cluttered by objects and mess is one such form.

The Unexpected Deload

A lot can happen in a week, and this past week has seen its’ share of happenings. The week had a bit of a rough start with several unexpected ups and downs, but it smoothed out quite quickly and easily. In a way, everything changed, or at least one thing did. My coach of the past 3.5 years let me go as a client, saying that he felt he was holding me back and could do no more for me.

I could have been devastated by that announcement, but I wasn’t. While I did cry a few tears that night, the tear ducts actually dried up quite quickly and I never did feel devastated. Was my coach holding me back? I don’t know, and it doesn’t even matter. I am at peace with the decision, at peace with myself, and I’m looking forward to this next stage.

Needless to say, I haven’t trained at all this week. No gym. No coach. No big deal. I put out some feelers in search of a new coach and gathered information. I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in on the days I didn’t have to work early in the morning. (Actually, I’ve been sleeping very well all week long.) I was able to get together with a friend for an overdue catch-up. It’s generally been a good week, despite a couple of family matters, like stitches (not me!).

Yesterday, I finally decided on a new coach. I will be doing online coaching, which is something completely new to me, but I think I have a decent understanding of the essentials now. It will be different. It will be okay. Maybe even better than okay. I am always up for a challenge, and I do have goals!

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.

Tenacious Ang

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is mere tenacity.” ~Amelia Earhart

Here I am at 4 weeks out from Provincials. I still have barely deadlifted since January. I have barely had more than 200 pounds on my back since August. I am roughly 6 pounds over my weight class. My husband can’t drive for something like 6-9 weeks, and I’ve never driven to the Lower Mainland, let alone driven in a big city. Of those four statements, the one that causes me the most anxiety is the very real likelihood that I will need to drive myself to Provincials. The weight loss shouldn’t be an issue at all, and I am determined to accept the realities of any lingering limitations I may have when I step on the platform. There is just something terrifying about driving in unfamiliar territory when the population far exceeds my own environment, but I can be brave if I need to be. White knuckles and all!

I am not planning anything drastic to cut weight for this competition. My current weight is easily within reach of the target, so I will clean up my diet over the next couple of weeks and see what happens. So, I’m cutting out breads, fried, and processed foods. Wine will be eliminated, although I reserve the right to have a glass if in the company of friends. Since I don’t go out very often, my wine consumption will be practically nil. No potato chips. No poutine. No pastries. No pasta. No bread. No ice cream. I even turned down the temptation of the freshly baked apple-peach-blueberry pie that was on display at the produce store this afternoon.

Even though I have known for months that I would need to drop a few pounds, the ultimate decision to¬†begin the process of cleaning up my diet wasn’t easy to make. I knew I’d have to do it, but I also was reluctant to give up my treats, even temporarily. I told myself I’d start last week. Then I told myself I’d start when my husband went in for surgery. Then I told my husband I’d start on Wednesday. Yesterday I told my coach that I started that day, and that was mostly true. There was enough wine left in the fridge for one final glass. Who else would drink it but me? I couldn’t just waste it! Aside from that final glass of wine, I did clean up my diet yesterday, and I’ve stuck to it today. Decision made. Now I need that tenacity to kick in.

I know that I can do it. Been there, done it several times, and always made my weight class!