Oh Monday!

Today I am tired and slightly cranky since getting home from work two hours ago. When my husband asked how my work day was and I said it felt long, he asked if it had been good long or bad long.

“Is a long work day ever good?” I asked.

He seemed to think that it could be, while I am not convinced, although I am probably not in the appropriate frame of mind to be agreeable in this moment.

Let me clarify. My work day was not bad. It is simply that my little shift felt very long, and my body hurts and aches and I am tired. Having worked until dinner, I am also a little miffed that the bare minimum was done in getting “dinner” made. Chicken was cooked and nothing else. I had eaten some leftovers for lunch and wasn’t exactly thrilled about having more of them for dinner to round out the chicken. I also wasn’t wanting to do anything to address the deficiency, because I was hurting and tired and needing to get off my feet. So tortilla chips and salsa rounded out my meal, more or less…and a glass of wine.

Today was work day number two out of five in a row. This is the first time I will work five consecutive days since last November. In fact, I’ve only had three consecutive work days once in the month I have been back to work from my medical leave. I think I can manage these five days in a row, because they are all short shifts. I am just hoping that my body will handle it all as well I hope it can. Yesterday was a decent shift for my body, but I’m feeling like more of a toll was taken today. Since I am not used to working several days in a row, I am not certain if today feels harder because of that or just the nature of today’s shift. Some tasks definitely have the potential to cause my back to hurt more by the end of a shift, like doing several loads of dishes or carrying in the patio furniture, but both of those tasks are ones that I try to avoid or limit as much as possible. Maybe everything is just catching up and compounding…the busy week last week, the extensive sitting as I volunteered at the powerlifting competition, and now work and another busy week.

Three more work days left in the week! I can do it. I can make it. I think I can. I know I can. I am holding out for Friday, when I have my appointment for a caudal epidural steroid injection at the pain clinic. I’ve been told that it won’t do anything for the permanent numbness in my foot, but maybe, just maybe it will help with the constant pains in my legs.


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?

Weekend Warrior

Between yesterday and today, I am completely exhausted and wiped out. And sore. It’s been a busy week for me, although my current state means an appointment or outing every day of the week is busy. My energy comes in little bursts and evaporates just as quickly. I can actually accomplish a fair bit in the course of a day, but I require frequent periods of rest. These last two days of the week have pushed my body and endurance further than they’ve been pushed since my injury.

My youngest son moved out yesterday. Whether this is a short-term or long-term thing remains to be seen, but he is excited to be out on his own for a while. Since everyone else was working, I was asked to help him move most of his stuff after I was finished at the gym. So, I worked out at the gym, bench pressing the heaviest weight I’ve pressed in 7 months and worked my arms and upper back. Then I came home to help load a night stand, a fan, and numerous boxes into my car and my son’s. Most of the boxes were a manageable size and light enough being filled with clothing and such. My son was mindful of my back and handled anything too big, heavy or awkward. Still, there was an awful lot of squatting down, safely lifting, carrying, walking down stairs, loading, and walking upstairs again. Of course, the entire process was repeated once we arrived at his apartment. My “work” day wasn’t done yet! Then I had to take him to Superstore to buy some groceries.

My back held up pretty well until we got to the grocery store, and then it began to hurt and ache. The good news, at least in my opinion, is that the back soreness was broader than normal. It wasn’t just in my low back, which leads me to believe that part of the pain was simply from the excessive physical activity and being on my feet for roughly 6 hours straight. Once I was finally finished all of the necessary activity and was able to do some rehab exercises and lie down, the back pain settled down significantly. The low back felt cranky, but I think that was to be expected. The pains in my legs were still present and accounted for, but they were no worse than usual. And I was physically wiped out. I was so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I have barely even given thought to the fact that my baby boy has left the nest.

Today’s busyness revolved around my daughter, as she graduated from college with an Associate Degree in Arts. She needed to be at the college by 9:30 this morning, and we were not able to leave until about 12:45. I was happy to watch my daughter’s convocation, but my body was in pain from all of the sitting. Even standing or walking was bothersome. I could feel tightness in my left foot and calf, as I tried to alleviate the tingling and numbness in my legs. The ceremony was outside. In the sun. It was quite warm. I’m sure the sun and heat only exacerbated the fatigue I feel throughout the day, and I am still too wiped out to dwell on the fact my daughter will be moving out in September to attend Columbia Bible College.

By the time we got home this afternoon, I was desperate to lie down and rest. Due to the length of the ceremonies, we ate a very late lunch and I was feeling bloated and gross, hot and tired, limping and hurting.  I wish I could nap, but I can’t. I reclined in my zero-gravity chair, impersonating a slug. The nice thing about lying down is that it takes away the strain and stress in the back; it’s hard work holding everything upright and together! The not so nice thing about lying down is the leg symptoms: burning, tingling, numbness, electric currents of pain from buttocks to calves. Late this afternoon as I laid down, the extra back aches disappeared, leaving only the low back aches and discomfort from all of the activity and sitting. Once I no longer felt quite so gross, I got onto the floor to go through my rehab exercise routine, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to do them.

I am still wiped out. I will miss my boy. I am proud of my girl, and I don’t need to think about September yet, even if she’s been thinking of it for a year! Tomorrow, I think, will be a quieter, slower-paced day, and that is just fine by me.

Enter Sandman?

It is two o’clock on this Saturday afternoon, and I desperately would like to have a nap. Sleeping during the day is not something I normally do. I might try to nap, but it seldom works for me. I wonder if I’d be able to nap if I wasn’t in pain while lying down, but then again, if I wasn’t in pain I would probably sleep better at night, wouldn’t need medication that makes me drowsy, and wouldn’t feel exhausted all day long! I’m stuck in a vicious cycle.

My ability to maintain some semblance of sleep for as long as possible has been fading. It’s like the earlier sunrises is connected to my sleep patterns. Despite a bedroom that is very dark with the blinds tightly closed and never sees the morning sun, I have been unable to hold onto sleep beyond six most mornings. Some mornings are earlier. If I am extremely lucky, 6:30 or 7:00 would be “sleeping in.”

I was awake and out of bed by six this morning. Not even a half-hour later, I began to notice a disturbance in my vision which was getting worse by the second. Ocular migraine with aura. I’ve had them a handful of times over the past four years. The visual disturbance part doesn’t last very long; in fact, my vision was back to normal within five minutes. It’s the headache after which is most bothersome. Almost eight hours later and half of my head is still hurting. The headache is moderate enough to be a nuisance but not debilitating.

Despite the headache, I did get out for a few hours with my husband this morning. He had a few little work-related errands, so I tagged along for the ride and the neighbourhood yard sale being held at one of his destinations and we finished off with a stop at Costco. Sitting in the car was painful. Walking through the small neighbourhood was tolerable but uncomfortable. By the time we got back home, I was wiped out and done in. My feet are burning and tingling with shots of pain. Pain is running down both legs from buttocks to ankles: burning, throbbing, crackling live wires.  Muscles are twinging and moving in my calves, hamstrings, and feet. Half of my head feels hazy, pained, and heavy. Closing my eyes for ten or fifteen minutes would be wonderful, I think, and yet, how could I possibly nap through all this pain?



This is how my mind works…

Several days ago already, I was mentally planning and arranging my time between then and my competition, because time seems to be something I don’t have a lot of right now. Today is day 6 of 7 consecutive work days. Two open shifts. Three closing shifts. Today is 10:30-6:30. Tomorrow is another open shift. I knew that I would need to go to the gym on Monday and Wednesday. Monday wouldn’t be a problem, but Wednesday wasn’t looking appealing with a mid shift sandwiched between a close and an open. I like sleep. I need sleep. I am usually drained by the end of my work week, and I am feeling that way already but I’ve got two shifts to get through yet. When would I be able to get to the gym on Wednesday?

Obviously I had two choices: before work or after work. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t thrilled about either choice. Before work would mean sacrificing some sleep after a late night. Going after work would have me scrambling to train, eat, and unwind before getting myself to bed early enough to get enough sleep prior to waking up at 4:45. As unappealing as my choices were, I knew that I could make each of them work. I could get up early and go. I could survive an open shift on less sleep. I can do all of that and more, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’m in the process of water loading, which means drinking a ton of water and making frequent trips to the bathroom. It feels like I have so much to get done before the competition and no time to do any of it before I finish work early tomorrow afternoon. Excuse my little whiny moment!

In my brain I like to look at all the angles and options and then come up with a plan. My plan usually also has options in case I hit a snag along the way. So, I decided that it would be better to potentially lose a bit of sleep last night in order to get to the gym early this morning. I can function on less sleep than I get, but I definitely do not like having my time crunched together at the end of the night, trying to fit everything into a tight space. I was awake at 7:10 this morning and at the gym ready to train at 8:00. Today’s training was super easy, because I am 3 days from competition. I performed all three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlifts. At 50% for 3 single reps. Twenty minutes later I was finished without even breaking a sweat. Everything moved well and felt good.

Shortly I will be on my way to work. Hopefully it will be a day that seems to pass quickly, because I definitely feel exhausted and it wasn’t from the gym. But at least now I only need to worry about eating, drinking more water, and unwinding in the 2 hours between finishing work and crawling into bed!

End of Week 9

I am glad that this training week is finished. It’s felt like a long, tough week, and I suppose I shouldn’t expect much to change over the next few weeks. There’s a competition to prep for, after all!

1. competition bench (2-1×0)

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

main event: 100 lbs for 10 sets of 3 reps with 90 seconds of rest between

Although I felt fine enough when I arrived at the gym, my right shoulder felt a little funky from the very first warm up set. It still feels a bit off almost two hours later. I don’t think it is anything to get excited about yet, but I should make sure I’m doing some band pull-aparts on a daily basis and try to minimize how much I sleep on my right side. As I continued warming up, I made sure to do some stretching and also felt a few more reps at 65 pounds would be beneficial. I was able to perform all 10 working sets without too much difficulty, but I could foresee difficulty coming my way in a short while with close grip bench also on the agenda.

2. competition squat (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 95 x 5, 135 x 3

main event: 155 lbs x 6, 155 x 5, 155 x 5

These squats felt decent. They even looked decent when I watched the videos I took, but they did feel a little tough. Not tough in a “that’s too heavy or difficult for me” kind of way, but rather in a “my body feels drained of it’s life force” kind of way.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

105 lbs x 6, 105 x 4, 105 x 4

Just as I predicted, the close grip bench sets were super tough and not at all fun. I managed to get the minimal number of reps on the first set but barely. The RPE for that set was 9.5 and stayed that way for the next two sets. I don’t like dropping reps, particularly when I’m not even achieving the lowest number in the rep range; however, I’d rather drop reps than put myself into a potentially bad situation, like complete and utterly catastrophic failure. Even though I always have safeties when I bench, I am not a fan of my gym’s benches and safeties. Quite frankly, they suck. There are times when it appears as if the safeties would be too short compared to my bar path. Since I could barely finish the fourth rep each of those final two sets, I figured I should stop there.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 12

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 25 seconds each side

Now I am looking forward to a couple of rest days and hoping to feel fresh for Monday’s training session…whatever it may look like. I have a feeling it’s going to be another long, tough, sweat-filled session.

17 290

As much as I love squats and going to the gym, I was kind of dreading today’s training session because of the addition of an extra set of squats. My training over the past six weeks has seen me do 2-4 working sets depending on the exercise and purpose. This week is the first time I’ve been told to do 5 working sets of squats on day 1 and of deadlifts on day 2. Although the weights used aren’t unreasonable, for some reason I still felt a measure of fear about the extra set of squats. Why is that?! I think, for me, squats can be as unpredictable as a wild beast, brutally savage yet equally beautiful. Squats can take a lot out of you, and, if everything isn’t firing properly, a squat can crush you. I approach the bar knowing that I have to be as strong mentally as I am physically, because there are so many tiny details that can go awry and cause my brain to throw out emergency flares. This morning was no different. I felt the fear, acknowledged it, and steeled myself mentally. It’s what I do.

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

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

main event, with belt: 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6

The first working set was a little scary. The weight felt fine, but my depth felt out of control deep. The next few sets were a bit better, I think; however, the final set probably felt the best, the most controlled.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 4

3. front squats (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

75 lbs x 9, 75 x 8, 75 x 8

4. glute bridges

95 lbs x 15 x 3 sets

5. chest supported rows

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

And just because I sometimes like to amuse myself with random facts and numbers…

Today’s total weight moved was 17, 290 pounds! That’s almost 2000 pounds more than last week’s day 1. I am currently in need of food and coffee and a nap, yet I still feel the post-training high of a good work out.