Out the Door

Going to the gym and training by myself has presented me with a new obstacle to overcome. As I was driving to the gym this morning I realized that this “drag myself out the door” mentality was exactly the same thing I experienced back in my running days. Even though I looked forward to running and enjoyed the run itself, most days I would find myself struggling to get out the door; however, the moment I put on my shoes and shut the door behind me, my attitude flipped like a light switch and I was happy to be running. This is what I am currently experiencing whenever I need to go to the gym. I want to train. I am committed to training and won’t skip a session, but getting out of the house is a reluctant process. I’d like to think this will change in time as I grow more comfortable in my new gym surroundings and get to know the people there. And even if it doesn’t change, at least I know that I am focused, determined, and committed to doing what I need to do to reach my goals.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

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

main event: 195 x 5, 195 x 5, 195 x 5

Oh boy! So, I put my belt on beginning with my second warm up set. I generally wait longer to use my belt, but since the back has been achy for the past week I figured I’d play it safe. I was in the midst of my second working set, when I suddenly realized why the deadlifts were feeling so easy today…I had forgotten all about the deficit and was doing regular deadlifts! Oops! I considered sticking with the conventional for the final set but ultimately chose to grab a plate and get at least one set of deficits in. Definitely a difference with the deficit! Yet, I think they still felt better than they did last week, and the back was less irritated during the sets.

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 15, 55 x 12, 55 x 10

These also felt better than last week!

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

105 lbs x 15, 105 x 8

Unlike last week, there was chalk in the box at the gym today, which meant I was able to maintain a solid grip for all of my deadlift reps. A solid grip helps make the reps feel easier…at least a little bit.

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds each, x 30, x 15

4b. barbell row

65 lbs x 12, 65 x 12, 65 x 10

4c. glute bridge

30 lbs x 15, 30 x 15, 30 x 15

 

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!

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.

One Step Closer

Yesterday I learned that my road to Nationals 2018 in Calgary was shorter than I had thought it would be. Since I’ve never competed at that high of a level before, I have more steps to take in order to qualify for Nationals: compete at Provincials and qualify for Westerns, compete at Westerns and achieve a National qualifying total. As I was preparing for Provincials and Westerns last year, I was under the impression that I would need to do both again this year in order to qualify for Nationals next year. Clear as mud? Basically, I thought I’d have to do Westerns in the months immediately prior to Nationals, and since I am not competing at Nationals this year, I thought that would erase my attendance at Westerns last August. But not so! My Westerns qualifying total holds for 24 months, which means that the only step I need to complete is Provincials this year, and I am super stoked about that. I love competing, and I’d love to do Westerns again. However, there is something freeing about knowing that I have more options available to me. At this point, I don’t even know where or when Westerns will be…could be in Saskatchewan! Not needing to travel so far opens things up for me closer to home without sacrificing my long term goals.

With having meals planned for the week, hitting my fruit/vegetable goals every day, and knowing that I can go to Nationals next year, I feel energized and excited and re-focused. Now I just need the SI joints to hurry up and stop being a bother, so I can get back to the big lifts.

1a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12, 30 x 12

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 6, 65 x 5, 65 x 5, 65 x 5

With the exception of an odd rep here and there, these were actually pretty good…for me! The very first set was, according to Michael, the best he’s ever seen me do.

1c. TRX supine rows with legs straight and elevated + a few more reps with knees bent

x 8, x 8 + 3, x 8 + 3, x 5 + 6, x 5 + 6

2a. flat dumbbell presses with a pause at the bottom

25 lbs x 12, 34 x 12, 34 x 12 without legs

2b. single arm kettlebell rows, controlled motion

10kg x 12 each, 12kg x 12 each, 16kg x 12 each

2c. ab wheel

2 sets of 12

I was pleased to notice that I could roll out a bit further today than the last time I did these. The SI joints are not always playing nicely with my training, so I do tend to notice when a previously painful or uncomfortable task feels easier or without the discomfort. Sitting in the car on the way to the gym this morning was brutal. Sitting at the gym to put on my shoes, to try a stretch, to take off my shoes was all brutal. Getting up after the TRX rows was a slow process, and I was hesitant to roll myself up off the bench following my dumbbell presses. The back is getting better, but anything remotely resembling sitting is extremely uncomfortable lately.

Focus Forward

I have been wearing a necklace for a couple of years, one of those trendy ones with a locket you can personalize with various tiny charms. Mine has a background plate with the word ‘Passion’, a running shoe, and a dumbbell. Well, that’s what was in my locket up until yesterday when I removed the running shoe. It has been 15 months since I last went for a run, and I had been considering the removal of the shoe charm for the past several months. Despite my chiropractor’s statements that, for me, running again is a not now thing rather than a never thing, he subtly ignores any reference that I might make about running, which leads me to believe that he isn’t so inclined to ever give me the green light. Others tell me that I can do what I want to, including running, and I suppose there is truth to that. I am certainly no stranger to being stubborn in doing what I want rather than what is best for me at times, yet I am oddly reluctant to be rebellious in this area. Heck, I feel like a rebel just breaking into a bit of a jog to cross the street!

I have been a good girl in following the advice of my chiropractor, but it hasn’t been easy to let go of the desire to get out there and run. My goals have changed to powerlifting, so I have no desire to run long distances. It would just be nice to be able to go for a short run from time to time…because I could. I probably could, but I don’t want to risk aggravating the areas which were the cause of the “no running” ban in the first place. Still, I’ve been taking incredibly small baby steps towards letting go of running. Last July, I finally unsubscribed to The Running Room emails and stopped following their Facebook page. Yesterday I removed the running shoe charm from my necklace, and I didn’t know how to feel. It felt like I was giving up on the prospect of running again. My chiropractor said that I am focusing my intentions.

I’ve been thinking about his response, and this morning I realized that he was correct. My goals are big enough to crush most people, and pounding pavement for 20-30 minutes really isn’t going to help me much in achieving those goals. Even though running hasn’t even been on the back burner for a long time, I’ve been clinging to it, afraid to let go because it felt like giving up, like failure, and I hate to fail. My chiropractor’s comment chafed a bit, because I think I’ve been fairly good at staying focused over the past few years. It felt like a sassy response at a time when I was feeling emotional and low. But I appreciate it now. I am thankful for his response. He’s right. I am focusing my intentions. Is it the end of the world if I never run again? No. I’d much rather stay healthy and keep lifting weights. I do have big powerlifting goals, and I will need to stay focused in order to make them happen.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 125 x 6, 155 x 6, 185 x 6, 195 x 6, 195 x 5, 185 x 6

These weren’t quite as fast or as easy as last week, but that’s okay. 195 pounds felt slightly heavy on my back today, and the second set was a bit challenging. The backdown set was much better, and I was able to find my groove again. I did have some wrist discomfort on the heavier sets which was likely part of why everything felt heavier. A couple of days ago I rolled my right wrist awkwardly at home, and it’s felt slightly uncomfortable off and on ever since.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 85 x 8, 105 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6 pause the last rep, 105 x 6

These were solid, smooth, and moving well.

2a. pause squats-low bar, with sleeves

135 lbs x 5, 155 x 6

2b. Spoto presses-competition grip, 2 second pause

85 lbs x 5, 85 x 6

 

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.

2017 Training Day 1

It’s been 10 days since I have done any training, so I was excited to get back at it this morning. Although my training journal still has a few blank pages left, I decided that the start of a new year was the perfect time to make the transition to a new journal. (I am such a journal/paper addict!) The sun was shining as I was driven to the gym. Driven because my husband decided that he would do so, although I’m really not sure why. What I do know is that his presence in the car made me grumpy, both on the way to the gym and then after on the way home. I like my space. While I am more than happy to share my space with others, there are times when I am less tolerant of space invaders. But my grumpiness took me by surprise this morning. I didn’t expect the act of being driven to the gym to bother me the way that it did. As is my custom, I played my theme music in the car, but my husband sang and shimmied to the music while I stewed and glared out the window. I guess those minutes of travel to the gym are precious to me. That is when I shift my focus from everything else to what I am going to think, believe, and do in the gym. That short period of time is about me. I suppose that might sound selfish or self-centred, but there is a lot of noise inside my head and I need to shut most of that noise out for a while. I love my husband, but he is not me. He is not an introvert, and he barely understands what being an introvert actually means. He is loud, boisterous, fidgety, and often subconsciously seeks attention. This is his personality, and I try to understand and accept it; however, it is not me. I accept it and sometimes tolerate it plenty of times, but occasionally, I simply need my own space to be and do my own things. My drive to the gym is one of those times, I guess. But we both survived and I got to train.

1a. squats-low bar (as low as I could comfortably go!!!)

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 125 x 8, 155 x 6, 185 x 6

The squats were feeling decent until I hit 185, then the bar suddenly felt very heavy. Michael told me to use my belt for the next set at the same weight. <gulp> I’ve not used my belt since August…and I am a few pounds heavier than I was then. Would I even remember how to use my belt?

with belt: 185 x 3

Michael called it after the third rep. I honestly cannot recall how those reps felt. I think I did remember how to use my belt though, and perhaps the bar didn’t feel quite as heavy as the previous set. But Michael commented that my stance had somehow gotten slightly narrower and wanted me to try a few more reps with a wider stance. He also dropped the weight just a bit for it.

with belt: 175 x 3

I don’t know that three reps was enough to truly know which stance was better. In a way, the squats felt a bit easier with the wider stance, but the stance also just felt different. I did definitely feel some tightness in the right hip flexor though.

1b. bench press-competition grip

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 8, 87 x 8, 102 x 6, 112 x 6

It’s been a long time since I’ve done competition bench pressing, but these felt good. I could have easily done several more reps at 102 pounds, but Michael called it after 6. Pretty sure that the final set was a PR for reps, and I had a definite pause between reps, more so than I did during the earlier sets.

97 lbs x 8 AMRAP leaving 1-2 in the tank

2a. pause squats-low bar, wider stance, 2-3 second pause

135 lbs x 5 or 6 reps, I can’t remember or count

155 lbs x 5

2b. close grip bench press, touch and go

77 lbs x 10, 77 x 10

The first set was okay but a little tough. With close grip it feels like I am pressing so much further…well, I suppose I actually am! The second set was a bit smoother though as I had adapted to the change.

All in all, I had a good training session. I’m excited to do some competition style lifts again, excited to push myself and challenge my numbers. Taking care of myself is going to be a big part of what will make me successful. I have to keep the shoulders happy and the hip and everything else that isn’t usually a problem but has the potential. I need to rest well, hydrate well, and eat well. Bring it on!