In The Moment

When I pull my brain back from tomorrow and my heart from yesterday, I live with joy today.

(I came across that quote somewhere a while back, but I have no idea who originally said or wrote it.)

It’s been a weird week. There was the unexpected follow up appointment with the neurosurgeon and a couple of surprise announcements that are going to take some time to process and accept. After a deload week in my training, I began this week expecting a fresh training week feeling strong and fresh, but that never quite materialized. At the gym on Wednesday, I wanted to throw a kettlebell through a wall, because the back was so achy and uncomfortable, and I cannot always avoid feeling frustrated and stuck. I had no anger or frustration issues at the gym today; however, my mood was drooping and I simply felt tired and weak.

I didn’t sleep well at all last night, probably the worst night in a while now. Sleep has been tricky since the start of this injury, but the past few months has at least allowed me to settle into a reasonable, functional rhythm of lying awake, falling asleep, lots of tossing and position changes, and a few wakeful periods. Last night had plenty of tossing and position changes and lying awake…not so much sleep though. It wasn’t all due to the physical symptoms. The brain was racing for the first hour or two, twisting problems into knots before unraveling them to start over again, but the brain did eventually quiet and settle. Still no sleep. Despite the central air-conditioning and bedroom fan blowing, I felt too hot, too uncomfortable. The lack of sleep probably didn’t help me out at the gym this morning.

Although I stopped taking my prescriptions more than a month ago, I still have them. Lots of them actually because the last refill had been a big one. In all the time that I was on the medications, I never felt like they made a difference in the pain or symptoms, which is why I stopped taking them. I hate taking medication, but there are moments when I pause to consider the vials on my counter. What if I was wrong about the impact they made on the pain I felt? As much as my current pain levels are a far cry from what they used to be, I am still in pain. All of the time. It sucks. It saps energy and life from your body. It eats away at you from the inside and wears you down. Most of the time I can look beyond the pain and discomfort, but there are moments, sometimes days, when that is difficult to do. I think today is one of those days. Perhaps most of the week has been like that, and certainly my body is still re-learning and adjusting to being back at work, even if with limited hours.

I am tired, frustrated, and hurting, yet the day was not all gloom.

I got to go to the gym today! Although this injury has significantly impacted my ability to train as I would like, I am still of the mindset that going to the gym is a positive. My body might not always enjoy working out these days, but I am always glad to be able to do it.

My youngest son came by today. Sure, he was only here to pick up some mail, but that’s two days in a row I got to see my baby boy.

It’s far too easy to allow pain, fatigue, and low mood to throw road blocks in front of any sort of productivity I might have planned, but I managed to get a few things done today.

I laughed. Not the fake laugh one does when being polite but genuine laughter. Mostly at my own expense and that’s okay. It was still the sort of laughter that lessens the weightiness of whatever is sitting on your shoulders. And I didn’t laugh alone, which only increases its’ potency.

I finished off one book and began another. You would think that someone who had been off work and essentially idle for seven months would have read plenty of books, but the pain was too distracting and my head too foggy to focus on written words up until recently.

 

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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?

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.

Thanksgiving Training

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, although I’m working the entire long weekend. Since I had an open shift this morning and closing shifts the next three nights, I hadn’t planned on having a big turkey dinner. Of course, the kids complained, so a last minute decision was made to cobble together a nice meal. My youngest son took care of getting the turkey into the oven, although I had to do all the prep yesterday and leave him detailed instructions. My boys peeled and chopped potatoes, but the bulk of the cooking will fall on my shoulders. Right about now my shoulders are feeling figuratively tired and sore. I had a good work day, then I came home to change before heading to the gym. I had a good training session, too, but now fatigue is settling across my body like a heavy blanket. I even put my pajama pants on once I got home from the gym. I just realized that I have only had the equivalent of 2 espresso shots today, so I could definitely use some coffee. It’s not too late to have a cup, right?

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done with my feet on the bench and no arch…just because.

Pretty certain that I’ve never done so many reps and/or sets at 120 pounds before! That knowledge made me feel slightly apprehensive about today’s plan, but I was successful.

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

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 155 x 3

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

These felt easy today and light.

3. long pause bench press (3-3×0) 3 reps

90 lbs x 3, 90 x 3, 90 x 3

These felt decently good. I have a feeling they would really suck if the weight was much heavier, but these were fine.

4. side planks

x 30 seconds a side, x 25 seconds a side

And although I’m not looking forward to the hassle of cooking, I am looking forward to eating all the food!

 

Week 10 Begins

I almost feel my age today. You’d think that having an extra rest day would make this morning’s training session feel easier, better, but no. That’s not how it felt at all. I felt random aches and pains in multiple spots, although none were of great concern. As I felt the life being sucked out of me while squatting, I reflected on my training over the past year or even two. Without a doubt, my training is significantly harder and heavier these past couple of months than it has been all year. Of course, I was also dealing with an injury for most of the year, and that had a huge impact on my training. Still, without looking back through old training logs, I think my current training is still tougher than what I have done before, even when healthy. That doesn’t mean I’ve never had heavy or tough training sessions before. I certainly have! Just not in the same way all the time. If I wasn’t feeling so drained it might be interesting to compare my current training with previous competition prep. This will be my first competition under a different coach, so I expect that there will be differences in programming and philosophy.

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

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 180 lbs x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4

The squats felt tough and ugly. My final warm up set felt brutal. The third and fourth working sets probably felt the best out of the bunch.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 4, 85 x 4, 105 x 3

main event: 115 lbs x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4

Warm ups felt fine. The working sets felt tough. The ache in the right shoulder that started during last Friday’s bench session continued, although it was not as much of a factor today. At least I don’t think it was. But maybe. Even getting those fourth reps was a bit of a grind.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 5-7 reps

135 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

4. glute bridges

135 lbs x 10, 135 x 10, 135 x 10

These were the easiest thing I did this morning…and I could have done so much more!

5. chest supported rows

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

So glad it is my Friday. What are the odds of fitting in a nap before I go to work today?

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.

The Monday-Friday Mind Meld

It’s my Monday and the first of my two early morning shifts. Tomorrow is the early, early shift, and I flip to closing shifts for the rest of my week. As much as I am a night owl, I really do enjoy the open shifts. Today was a busy morning, like really busy, but it still felt like a decent day. After work, I hurried home to change and gather my gear, drove my daughter to a friend’s, and hit the gym. I had barely returned home when my husband asked me to go for a drive with him, a drive that would end up including dinner. Now I am finally home and able to recline, relax, and decompress from the entire day. The yawns appeared during dinner, and I took my contacts out almost as soon as we walked in the door. Ideally, I’d like to be in bed in two hours, because I like my sleep. My husband wants to watch a movie. How much sleep will I get tonight?

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 7, 85 x 7

main event: 100 lbs x 7, 100 x 7, 100 x 7

2. low bar squats (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

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

main event: 145 lbs x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 5

The final set was where I felt some fatigue. I paused a moment, considering going for another rep or two to max out the set, but ultimately felt it wisest to stop.

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

95 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 6

These felt better, easier than last week, and that shows with an increase in the reps I did compared to last week.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 13

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

And now it looks like we’re watching the new King Kong movie…