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!

The F Word

My husband needs a new hip. In fact, he is tentatively scheduled for hip replacement surgery for next Monday. I say ‘tentatively’, because he was originally scheduled for last Friday…until he was bumped. Even though he is now a week out from surgery, there is always the potential for being bumped again. I sure hope that doesn’t happen for several reasons, but mainly for his own health & well-being and then so that he might be recovered enough to come to Provincials with me. It’s more important for my husband to get his new hip in order to get back to living without the pain and physical limitations he’s lived with for the past several years, but I’d be presented with a bunch of logistical complications if he weren’t able to come to Provincials. But I can’t worry about those details yet!

I had a chiropractic appointment about an hour ago, and I was in a fair bit of pain once again. The pain drags frustration and despair along with it. My face was long as I stood in the waiting room (standing because I cannot sit), and my gaze was boring a hole in the floor in an effort to keep tears at bay. Has there ever been a time that my chiropractor hasn’t made me laugh when I’ve been in the depths of despair? I don’t think so! As he pushed and poked and determined that the left SI joint was the problem more than the disc, he made a comment about me never being as f’ed up as I think I am. I laughed. Even now, replaying the comment puts a smile on my face and makes my heart feel a few pounds lighter, despite the fact that the SI joint is seriously throbbing.

Since the end of January, I have had an SI joint problem on the right side, a disc problem, and now the left SI joint problem. The pain has ebbed and flowed in intensity and in triggers, but pain has been present every day since the end of January. Quite frankly, my dear, I’m sick of it! I want it gone. I want to get back to being able to do whatever I want to do without pain. Like seriously…tying my shoes? Eating dinner at the dining room table instead of while laying on the floor? It shouldn’t hurt to put on shoes or sit for more than a few minutes. Anything and everything that I have been told to do to help the SI joints or the disc, I have done. When it comes to rehabbing, I am one of the most consistent and committed patients around. I want to be healthy and mobile and active. Being in constant pain sucks. Not being able to move your body the way you want to sucks. I’ve been living the past three months in pain, frustration, and restriction, and I do not like it one bit.

Perspective is important though. I’ve been living in pain for three months. My husband has been living in pain for more years than I can even accurately recall. He needs a new hip. While I might wish I had a different back in this moment, the truth is that I am not as f’ed up as I think I am. Discs heal. The SI joint will heal. One day this will be a memory. These past months will be footnotes in my scrapbook, challenges that I have overcome.

Today’s training session wasn’t all that I hoped it would be; however, despite the pain I experienced in the process, Michael said it was still a decent session.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 5, 155 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5

The back started to feel quite achy when I started at 175 pounds. I think my bar path was generally good and consistent. Bar speed might have slowed a bit on various reps in the final two sets due to the back not being too happy with me.

1b. bench press-competition grip, last rep paused

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 6, 93 x 5, 110 x 5

Then Michael decided to stay at the same weight but slow the eccentric to about 3 seconds.

110 lbs x 4, 110 x 5, 110 x 5

The first set with the slow eccentric felt a bit tough, but the following sets were better.

2a. Frankenstein squats

93 lbs x 8, 113 x 7

These were less bothersome on the back but very chokey on the throat.

2b. flat dumbbell presses-for speed, touch and go

25 lbs x 25, 25 lbs x 22

The second set was done with my feet on the bench, because the back was not happy with arching. My chiropractor thinks the left SI joint might be cranky, because I recently resumed arching during bench presses after not arching for most of the past three months. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t catch a break…

But at least I’m not f’ed up!

Climb Every Mountain

Last Friday’s training session looked drastically different than today’s. Last week I was in a lot of pain, my front squats were stopped almost as soon as they had begun, and I was still wondering when I would ever begin to feel better. I was trudging uphill, emotionally and physically drained from the effort, completely unaware of just how close I was to the summit. Now that I seem to be on the road to wellness, I find my energy returning, even though my emotions still appear to be all over the place. I can be one motivational post away from bursting into tears, yet I feel hopeful, joyful, determined, focused, excited. Provincials are 7 weeks away. My back still isn’t 100%. It still isn’t wholly cooperative in the gym, but it is time to ramp up the training to peak my strength for competition. Although there has often been some sort of minor problem during my previous competition prep, this is the first time preparing for a meet after such a prolonged, painful and limiting injury, which means I really have no idea what will happen over the next 7 weeks. But I am looking forward to seeing what I can do. In spite of. Despite. Because I believe I can. I will.

1a. squats-low bar, without sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 115 x 7

with belt: 135 x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 7, 155 x 7, 155 x 7

Since we are 7 weeks from competition and I’m dealing with the back problem, we need to work patterns more than spending a lot of time on accessory movements. My squat pattern has been all over the place since the start of the back problems, mostly due to the fact that there is restriction in how my back moves which has affected my ability to hit proper depth. That inability to squat deep also prevents me from taking advantage of the spring reflex coming out of the hole. My eccentric is also slower in an effort to control my descent to avoid going deeper than my back will comfortably allow. Although my knees usually push forward a fair bit when I squat, the back problem has also resulted in my knees pushing forward even more. I’m afraid I’d be a “quarter” squatter if I tried to prevent the forward knee movement. I have never had as much struggle with hitting depth as I have these past couple of months. Today’s squats still had depth issues, but there were also several reps where I had to fight against my body pitching forward.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 12, 63 x 8, 83 x 5, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 105 x 4, 110 x 4

These were all done with my feet on the bench and a minimal arch. Without my normal arch and the ability to use my legs, it is more difficult to get (and keep) the shoulders in the proper position. But I’m okay with making things more difficult when it makes me stronger in the end.

2a. glute-ham raises

x 15

with arms straight up overhead x 12

2b. push ups

x 7, x 5

I haven’t done push ups for a while, but I didn’t expect them to be too much of a problem. Weird! Did I just say that? Since when do I think push ups won’t be a problem?! Unfortunately, despite my optimism, the push ups were more challenging than I anticipated due to the fact that holding the proper position caused an unpleasant feeling in my very low back.

2c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

There was more of that unpleasant very low back feeling while doing the ab wheel, although to a slightly lesser degree.

I practically dragged my carcass home after training last Friday, because I was in so much pain. There is still pain. In fact, I must have moved oddly or too quickly when getting up off the bench after one set of pressing, because I had to take a second or two to breathe and recover from the jolt of pain. However, the difference between today and a week ago is like night and day. Now we do our best to push the training while still respecting the injury and allowing it to continue to heal.

Absolutely Terrified

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life-and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” ~Georgia O’Keefe

I came across this quote a couple of days ago and had to add it to my little notebook of quotes. Isn’t that a great philosophy to have? There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling fear. Sometimes our fears are overblown, and we know the truth of that full well. We welcome that slight tremble of fear, because it is reassuring, comforting and even somewhat motivating. However, there is another kind of fear. That fear can make our knees shake uncontrollably, or it can paralyze completely. It makes our palms sweaty, our voice shake, our thoughts scramble, and our resolve crumble into dust. How many hopes, goals and dreams have been sacrificed to fear?

I have been thinking along this line since last Thursday’s training session, when conversation touched on the potential of a 150 pound bench press and the possibility of testing just what I was truly capable of doing. We chose not to test that day, but I know that day will come and the thought of that terrifies me. While I am not afraid to make the effort, the truth is that I always feel a measure of fear going into previously untested weights for my competition lifts. The source of the fear isn’t always the same though. With a heavy squat, the fear comes from the knowledge that there is the potential to be crushed most painfully and humiliatingly. Deadlift fear stems from the possibility of merely failing to make the lift. The bench press hasn’t always inspired fear within me, even though it has always been my weakest lift. I have experienced plenty of frustration with my bench press, and that, I think, is where the current fear originates. I am not satisfied with being stuck at the same weight for my bench press (or any lift!). I want to improve and get stronger, and frustration breeds a sense of despair which can lead to thoughts of never achieving. The more I want the goal, the more frightening the steps that lead me towards it.

There is nothing wrong with feeling this fear, the twist of the gut, or the uncertainty and doubts swirling inside of my head…so long as I do not let that fear stop me from progressing. This doesn’t guarantee success with every step, of course; however, tenacity and determination go a long way in achieving success despite a bumpy road. I do not know exactly when the moment will come that I will test my strength, but I do know that I will feel fear and nervousness. And I will push past those feelings in pursuit of doing what I want to do.

Tenacity

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

Are you a procrastinator? Sometimes I am. It has taken me at least 20 minutes to type this far, because I’ve been distracted both by situations out of my control and some completely of my choosing. I suspect that we’ve all been plagued by procrastination at one point or another, likely many times, and I think that is perfectly okay once in a while. The real problem arises when procrastination becomes our standard setting rather than a temporary delay. The more we delay doing, the more difficult it is to even begin. Society provides plenty of opportunity to postpone tasks that might be tedious, difficult, or menial. Society is a big fan of instant gratification, magic pills, and a lackadaisical attitude towards personal integrity.

I know how tough it can be to take the first step, to determine that change is worth the effort. I know what it feels like to have the desire to achieve a goal or make a change in my life only to remain stuck in the same rut I had always been in. I have felt the sting of failure more times than I can count. I know it isn’t easy, but I also know that it can be done! You can take that first step. You can make a change in your life regardless of whether it be big or small. Goals can be reached. I won’t promise that the task will be easy or without pitfalls; however, I can say that the benefits of striving for what lies ahead far outweigh the regrets that come on the heels of procrastination.

Unless you are a freak of nature, you simply will not lose weight by eating a boatload of fast food and sitting on your butt all day. For a long time I felt that losing weight and getting into shape was something for other people, people who were blessed with better genetics or will-power or athleticism. When I started this journey I wasn’t sure that I would get very far, because the vicious cycle of start-stall-quit was what I was most familiar with. Sometimes I feel as if there are some people who look at me as being on a high pedestal of perfection that they could never hope to reach for themselves. It quite often comes with statements like, “I don’t know how you can do that!” or “I could never do that!” or “I wish I could do what you do!”

It’s not easy to know what to say in the face of such statements. Part of me wants to say that they are completely capable, that they can do that and more if they only make the effort. But then I usually don’t say much of anything. I don’t want to come across as cold or uncaring, when the truth is that I am definitely not either of those things. I just don’t always know what to say or how to say it in the moment…the joys of being an introvert who needs to think before speaking. Perhaps Jane Doe cannot do everything that I have done or will yet do, but that doesn’t mean that Jane Doe cannot do amazing things for herself!

There has been a quote floating around that I quite like but have failed to write down in my little notebook of quotes, which loosely remembered says that you cannot compare your story to someone else’s because you both are not on the same chapter. My story isn’t finished and neither is yours. I don’t know where you are in your story; I only know my own. We each have to live our own lives, and yet, I can tell you that every journal begins with a single step and continues by the act of putting one foot in front of the other. Cliché? Of course, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true! The most difficult thing is deciding to act, truly act, not just the good intention that comes with wishful thinking, but honest-to-goodness action with purpose. Once you make the decision that you want to seriously act, then the rest falls into place by the act of continuing on in similar fashion. That’s called tenacity.

Perhaps great results are more about determination and tenacity than about ability or genetics. I happen to think so.