The Wall

For as long as I have been on medical leave from work and barring conflicts with medical appointments, my habit has been to do my work outs first thing in the morning. In the handful of years that I have been training, my regular schedule has seen me working out as consistently as possible through the inevitable changes in my work and life schedules. I have never grown accustomed to training only at one time of day and would usually have both morning and late afternoon training times each week. Since being off work for an extended period, my schedule has only been hampered by the ongoing medical appointments and my own mental or physical state. With the odd exception, I have been training in the mornings since being on leave.

Over these past months, my definition of “first thing in the morning” has generally seen me arrive at the gym between 8:00 and 9:30. These days I seem to be waking up by at least 6:00, but I am really not mentally prepared to hit the gym before 8. A few months ago, I had trouble dragging myself out of bed at 8:00. I am not certain which scenario I like better. I am generally more of a night owl than an early bird; however, my work schedule over the years has enabled (or forced) me to adapt to being functional by 5:00 AM. But these months of pain, lack of sleep, and medication have left me dragging my butt around as much as I am wide awake. I go to the gym in the morning, because I know I need some sort of routine and because morning is still better than later in the day when I will have definitely crashed.

Over the past few days, or has it been almost a week already now, I have begun to feel more hopeful that positive things are happening in my body. My chiropractor seems to have nailed down a plan of attack that is making a difference in how I’ve been feeling these recent days. There is still burning, electric current-like pains down the backs of my legs from buttocks to calves. There is still numbness in my left foot and small toes. The back still feels achy at times. However, I am now actually experiencing moments without tingling in my feet, which is a huge thing! My doctor gave me the okay to stop taking my medications, since I have never felt that they were actually helping. I might still have a ways to go before I am normal, at least it seems like we’re finally making progress.

At the gym this morning, I started off my training program with some bench press. It wasn’t a maximal weight, and the rep range wasn’t crazy. Aside from some shoulder issues which have been lingering for a while now, my bench press felt good today. I’ve been doing seated machine rows for quite a while now, at least when it doesn’t bother my back, and those felt decent this morning as well. The remaining workout was a struggle, even though I’ve been doing the same exercises for weeks and had been having solid results recently. The shoulder issues affected the band pull-aparts, so that I had to return to a thinner band than what I used last week and spread the total reps out a bit more evenly. Dumbbell curls and prone incline dumbbell shrugs both sucked. I hit the wall!

I am used to training “tired” these past seven months. It isn’t uncommon for me to yawn frequently through my workout, despite having a cup of coffee prior to heading out to the gym. But hitting the wall this morning was something different entirely. It wasn’t merely a case of being physically or mentally tired; I literally had nothing in me. I managed to get a few reps done each set, but I was well short of what was called for. I don’t like leaving reps on the table, but I also haven’t figured out how to magically make reps appear out of nowhere! I might be able to grind out a tough rep once in a while, but when the first rep of the first set is almost too much, there’s something else going on.

So what’s going on? I don’t know. Probably nothing! Apparently it can take quite some time to flush out the medications I’ve been on, which can account for the usual fatigue I feel all of the time. I haven’t been sleeping well for the past couple of nights, in part because of the shoulder issue and one aspect of the new treatment focus. The past week or so has also been kind of busy for me, at least in terms of what I am physically used to. Maybe all of those factor in and maybe none of them do. Who knows,  and does it matter?

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Nationals, Fallen Records & Pain

Yesterday, instead of competing at my first Nationals, I watched my fellow competitors from the comfort of my zero-grav chair in my living room. I wasn’t sure what I would actually feel in the watching, but I think I made it through the hours in a good mental space. My heart sank a little when I saw the opening attempts put up by my group, because I knew that all of my BCPA Provincial records were about to be smashed to pieces. And they were. Every single one of them!

I am competitive. I don’t like to lose, but I am gracious in losing. The woman who broke my records is very strong, and she made her attempts look easy. Congratulations to her! I’ve always known that there were stronger women than me, and I knew that my records wouldn’t last forever. It is hard to be disappointed in the loss, when you can see the bigger picture. There is almost always someone better than you. Had I been able to take part in Nationals as I had hoped, I expect that I would have placed either 4th or 5th out of 5 competitors. The four women who were actually there ARE strong!

Even if I didn’t have a realistic chance of winning Nationals, I really wish I could have been healthy enough to compete just to have the experience of not winning. I have never been in a competition with that many direct competitors, so that would have been an amazing learning opportunity. Of course, I’d love to challenge for those records again, but that might not be realistic for me for a long time, if ever. She set the bar high! Without this injury, I’d be hard pressed to reach those heights. With this injury so much is in doubt. I don’t know when I’ll be able to squat with a bar or deadlift. I don’t know when I’ll be able to compete, but I am about 95% certain that it won’t be this year. I am still healing. Will I even be able to get back to where I was? I don’t know. So yeah, I am a competitor who wants to strive for new goals, but right now I need to just focus on being cleared to return to work.

Last night was not a good one for sleep. Maybe 3 hours and finally out of bed at 2:30. Thank goodness the Olympics are on TV at that time of the morning these days! Leg pain was the culprit that kept me awake most of the night. I almost put off going to the gym until tomorrow, but I changed my mind and went early in the afternoon. It wasn’t super great. The back seems to be handling the return to having legs down and an arch for my benching sets, and the shoulders are loving being in a proper position once again; however, almost everything else was less than stellar.

The shoulders, despite feeling fine on the bench press, are still sore and feel unstable. As much as I’m not a fan of laterals, I shouldn’t feel like I need to scrap the second and third sets. The left shoulder felt especially unstable throughout several exercises, like dumbbell curls and dumbbell floor press. The back felt fine all morning and through the bench press sets, but it did not like the single arm triceps pushdowns. The left hamstrings are still feeling the effects of IMS treatment from Monday, but the bigger leg problem today (and last night) has been throbbing and shooting pain down both legs between the hips and knees. This pain is quite familiar…I’ve only lived with it in varying degrees of severity since herniating my disc, but the level of pain in the legs had settled down substantially over the past few weeks.

I’m not thrilled with the way my body seems to be fighting me on multiple fronts right now, but I need to respect the fact that healing isn’t always a straight line. It’s often bumpy, especially with some types of injuries. Here now at the end of the day, the back is feeling okayish again. The shoulders aren’t throbbing, but I can feel the instability depending on how I move my arms. Honestly, the shoulders are the least of my worries, because I know they are just over-used and annoyed. They will get better. What feels the worst right now are my legs. I’m still experiencing throbbing and shooting pain in both legs, and there isn’t much I can do about it. I can increase my pain medication dose tonight, and I will, even though the medication has never erased the pain. But, if I’m really, really lucky, maybe it will help me sleep tonight.

 

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.

Start of Week 4

I think the only thing I don’t like about Mondays is the accessory work in my training program. There is just something about this day’s accessory work that fills me with a sense of dread as I walk into the gym. This is not how I feel about the accessory work on my other training days. Today was my fourth week with this program, and I still feel the same. By the time I finish my high bar squats, close grip bench, and front squats, I’m exhausted and muscles are quivering. This morning was no exception. I didn’t mind the main lifts, but I had to dig deep to find perseverance to complete the accessories.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4

main event: 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6

The first working set felt off. I realized that I hadn’t put my belt on, and it felt as if my stance was a touch wider than normal. The second set felt somewhat better with the belt and better stance but still a bit tough. The final two sets felt the best; however, I did get a random discomfort/ache in my left leg below the knee.

2. close grip bench press (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4

This felt tougher than last week even though I did the same weight for the same number of reps and sets.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8

4a. walking lunges

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 10, 70 x 10

4b. dumbbell rows

35 lbs x 10, 35 x 10, 35 x 7

4c. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 27 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

12 lbs x 12, 12 x 12, 12 x 10

Week 3, Day 1

With today being a holiday and thus the changes in operating hours both at work and the gym, I knew that I had to begin my training session no later than 8:30 this morning if I was going to get it done at all today. I set my alarm for 7:30 and still found myself fighting the urge to shut it off without actually getting out of bed. I’m sleeping reasonably well these days, and I’m fairly good at ensuring I get enough hours of sleep…sometimes the body just wants more! But I got up and dressed and ready. By 8:30 I was at the gym and ready to begin.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event with belt: 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 4, 175 x 3

My coach added an extra working set this week but kept the weight the same. I’m trying to work on my breathing technique, and I have a feeling that will be an ongoing, lengthy process. Still, the squats felt better this week compared to last week, even with the extra set and reps. I felt stronger. The back was less of an issue. With the same weight last week, I only managed a total of 8 reps over 3 sets, so this is definitely an improvement.

2. close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 105 x 3

main event: 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4

The weight jumped a little this week and another set was added, but I think the bar was still moving well. The back felt achy as soon as I started arching on the very first warm up set, but by the time I got to the working sets the arch wasn’t really bothering my back at all. At least not during the pressing…getting out of the arch was a tad slow.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8, 75 x 7

4a. walking lunges

60 lbs x 16, 60 x 16

4b. dumbbell rows

30 lbs x 12, 30 x 10

4c. plank

x 47 seconds, x 30 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

10 lbs x 15, 10 x 13

There was supposed to be 3 sets of all of these exercises, but I called it quits after the second round. Actually, I wanted to pack it in during the first round but managed to push myself to complete two.

 

Procrastination Delayed

It feels like I half-dragged myself to the gym this morning. My intention was to go first thing in the morning, assuming my coach sent me week 2’s program before I was ready to head out. I got up this morning, had a bite to eat, and got ready for the gym. Looked for my car keys and could not find them. I am not the sort of person who misplaces or loses things very often, so it didn’t take long for me to realize that my husband likely had taken my car. A look out the window confirmed my suspicion. Since I work this afternoon and late into the evening, I had a small window of opportunity to hit the gym this morning. I determined that I’d have to train tomorrow morning if my husband didn’t bring my car back by a certain time. Thankfully, he brought it back and I was able to go today. I’m glad I didn’t have to push it off until tomorrow.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 95 lbs x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 175 x 3, 175 x 2, 175 x 3

My coach gave me a couple of new cues to use for my squats, so I was trying to incorporate those today. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I tried. The new cues made the heavier sets feel a bit tougher; however, I think these still felt better than last week’s sets at 165 pounds.

One of the things my coach wanted me to do was to face out of the squat rack rather than facing the mirror. Mirrors are a new thing for me in the gym, because my old gym simply didn’t have any. There I would squat facing the wall or facing the open gym…neither bothered me very much, even when there were other people training in front of me. While I am not fond of seeing my reflection while I squat, I found facing the gym today to be rather disconcerting. In competition I am used to focusing on one spot, having tunnel vision and blocking out everything around me. In the gym during my set, I am still quite capable of focusing my attention and ignoring my surroundings, so I don’t know why I was bothered so much today. Maybe it was the fact that there was someone using the rack directly beside the one I was using…close enough that I had to wait for her to finish her set before I could change my weights.

2. close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 5, 95 x 3

main event: 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5

These definitely felt stronger and easier than last week’s sets at 100 pounds. I was nervous about these this morning, because I didn’t have my husband to give me a hand-off for the heavy sets. Somehow I figured out a way to get the bar off the rack by myself without putting my shoulders into a bad position or sapping my strength. The back is still achy and cranky, so the arch wasn’t super comfortable.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8

Even though the weight increased from last week, I’m so glad that it is still relatively light, because the legs turned into gelatin in the midst of the second set.

4a. walking lunges

60 lbs x 12, 60 x 12, 60 x 10

4b. dumbbell rows

30 lbs x 10, 30 x 10, 30 x 8

4c. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

8 lbs x 13, 8 x 12, 8 x 10

 

 

A New Beginning

I received week one of my new online coaching program yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get to the gym until after work today. It probably wasn’t the best time to train, but sometimes you just got to do what you gotta do! I worked a closing shift last night, and the night owl woke up pretty much as soon as I slipped into bed. Between a brain that wouldn’t shut off and shoulders that couldn’t quite seem to get comfortable, I didn’t sleep too well. I worked until 5:00 tonight, which meant I wanted to hit the gym as soon as possible, before eating dinner and winding down for the night and my weekend. I was under-caffeinated, tired, and feeling sluggish.

I am actually quite excited with my new program. The first day didn’t feel super great, at least not all of it, and I did drop some weight and sets. It will get better. I know it will. My most recent training had a different focus, so my body has forgotten what it is like to do these sorts of things. It will remember!

1. high bar squats

warm up: 95 x 6, 135 x 6, 165 x 4

main event: 185 x 2, 165 x 4, 165 x 4

The warm up set at 165 felt tough, so I put my belt on for my working sets. 185 pounds felt tough and ugly. Ironically, when I looked at the video after, my form actually looked good, certainly better than how it felt. Still, that weight was tough and I was supposed to do 4-6 reps. I dropped the weight in the hopes that I could at least get more reps in, but the second set still felt quite tough and ugly, especially the fourth rep where I’m sure my chest was lagging behind. The final set was the best. It didn’t exactly feel easy, but the reps felt better.

2. bench press, close grip

warm up: 45 x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6

main event: 100 x 6, 100 x 5, 100 x 4

Warm ups felt great. The first working set felt good. The fifth rep on the second set misgrooved a bit and felt tough enough to call the set, and I was basically done after the fourth rep on the final set.

3. front squats

65 x 15, 65 x 10

I was given a decent weight range for the front squats, since my new coach is only just learning what I’m capable of and what works for me. Since the front squats have been feeling tough lately, I stuck with the lowest weight in the range…well, for that reason and also that I was feeling wiped out and weak already!

4a. walking lunges

40 lbs x 15, 50 lbs x 15

4b. dumbbell rows

20 lbs x 12, 25 lbs x 12

4c. plank

x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

8 lbs x 12, 8 lbs x 12

These four exercises were supposed to be done for 3 sets, but I cut it at 2.

First day done and so am I. Tomorrow I’ll be back for day 2, and then I can get back on track with my regular training days.