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.

Continuing On

successladder

I think my brain is still in the process of gathering up the pieces, but I have to believe that I will get there eventually. Even if my heart and my brain aren’t there yet, I am too stubborn to stop trying.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

10kg x 10 each, 10kg x 8 each

It’s highly satisfying to hit little PRs in the gym considering, or despite, the limitations I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of months.

2a. split squats-with safety bar and flat shoes

75 lbs x 12 each, 95 x 8 each, 115 x 7 each, 125 x 8 each, 125 x 8 each

2b. floor presses-moderate grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10

I didn’t have to do that many reps for the first set, but I had to fiddle with my leg positioning in order to find what would be the least bothersome to my back. Michael didn’t want any arching, but having my feet in the air and bracing is too painful on the back. Although I’ve been find with my knees bent and feet flat on the floor, today wasn’t super comfortable. What actually felt the best was to have my left leg bent and my right leg out straight on the floor. There was still a small arch in order to have some sort of good shoulder positioning, but I think it was small enough to not be a bother.

65 x 8, 90 x 8, 105 x 8, 105 x 6

I think these were all reasonably solid reps with decent speed.

3a. glute ham raises

x 10 just bodyweight

10kg kettlebell x 10

3b. single arm kb press while kneeling on a bench

10kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These felt a little tough, especially as each set wore on. I’m also not convinced the back liked these a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 12 each x 2 sets

While the weight wasn’t overly challenging and I could have gone up on the second set, I think the better decision was to stay at the same weight rather than risk aggravating the back. There wasn’t significant pain during these, yet I could feel a bit of pressure in the back.

3d. ab wheel x 0

Despite having no troubles using the ab wheel earlier in this injured season, I just couldn’t do it this morning. I started to roll out but didn’t get too far.

hanging knee raises x 12, x 0

These were generally okay, except for the last rep. I’m not sure what I did…maybe lifted my knees too high or too fast or flexed my back a bit…I don’t know, but that last rep hurt. A fair bit. Tried for a second set and the very first attempted rep hurt, so I just hung out until my grip began to fail.

And just like that I had a decent training session, maybe one of the better ones I’ve had in the last week or two. Still so far from where I want to be, but focusing on what I can do is more productive than moping over what I can’t do.

Bulgarians Bite

This ongoing SI joint issue is super frustrating. In some ways it feels like I’m back at the beginning of the issue but not completely. Some things are better than at the beginning of this ordeal, so I have to trust that this won’t last forever, but I’ve determined that I am going to do everything within my power to get through this with grace and strength. I can do that. Right?

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 123 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 133 x 6

At least I can squat without pain in my lower back!

1b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10, x 5 + 5 with 8kg kettlebell

with 8kg kettlebell: x 10, x 10

1c. floor presses, with a pause at the bottom

43 lbs x 6 + 63 lbs x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 6, 103 x 6, 105 x 6

1d. ab wheel

x 10, x 10, x 10, x 10

Michael said the first two sets were too easy and wanted me to roll out a bit further and slower, so I did. This is an example of how there is still improvement in my lower back, because I couldn’t roll out too far when the SI joint issue started. But the back bothered me too much to do sit-ups on the GHD…

2a. Bulgarian split squats with 54 lb vest

x 10 each leg

My balance was terrible. Although the extra weight isn’t always fun, I tend to find it slightly easier to balance if I’m holding some dumbbells in my hands. No counter-balances today though. I think part of my problem is that my back foot never quite feels secure, and that was definitely the case today. I’m glad I only had to do one set, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to walk.

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

20kg x 15 each

 

I’m Not Loving It

I finished work around 6 last night and, knowing the chances of a family member making dinner were slim, I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home. Although my work day had been good, I was suddenly feeling grumpy. The attitude was likely due to a couple of factors. I was tired. I knew that my ability to relax and decompress would be delayed as I had already agreed to drive my daughter downtown for an engagement. I had been given a warning that my husband was cranky. My frustration with food was rearing it’s ugly head. I didn’t want to make dinner when I finally got home close to 7 PM. I am frustrated by a lack of help and support from the family when it comes to making dinner. They have valid reasons, as well as mere excuses, but I had given basic instructions for what could be made for dinner on Wednesday (when I worked a close shift). Nobody made it. So I gave similar instruction again for yesterday, because I had pork tenderloins in the fridge that were now desperately needing to be used. Despite one person home all day, nothing was prepped, nothing was made. And with all that knowledge, I made the decision to eat crap food and not concern myself with whether or not anyone else in the family had dinner. Because I was grumpy, I ate most of the fries as I drove home. I ate 6 chicken nuggets and a quarter-pounder with cheese while sitting in my car in my driveway. Not a single bite was enjoyable.

There is a lot that could be said about last night’s experience, but I’m not entirely certain that I know where to begin or where to take it. I can be better than this. I have the knowledge and the tools to be better than this. While I’m okay with an occasional treat, my eating habits of late have been more about the treats and crap than about eating for optimal health and nutrition, and I am not happy with myself for it. The good news is, I guess, that it is never too late to start over fresh. Each day presents a new opportunity to make better choices, and I do have the knowledge and tools to make those choices. Okay, so today wasn’t filled with fantastic choices and tomorrow probably won’t be either, but I am determined to turn the corner during my weekend.

This afternoon’s training session did not include deadlifts (or squats for that matter), but then again, I wasn’t honestly expecting either. The SI joints are still an issue, although I feel there is improvement. Since improvement is what I am looking for, I’m willing to accept that my training program is going to be modified in order to allow my back to recover. Still, I’m missing my big lifts.

1a. step-ups (a 4″ block and a box…not sure exact height but a step put my knee well above my hip)

bodyweight x 10

54 lb weight vest x 16, x 16, x 14

Now that felt like cardio…a lot of cardio!

1b. floor presses, with back arch (because I’m allowed to do that!)

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 110 x 8 PR120 x 5 PR

Despite having an arch, I wasn’t really making much use of leg drive for most of the sets and reps, at least not until towards the end sets. At the time I didn’t realize that 8 reps at 110 pounds was a personal record. When Michael said we could do a heavier set and asked what I thought I could do for 5 reps, I wasn’t too sure. He settled on 120 pounds. I kept my mouth shut, even though I knew that I had just set a PR of 120 pounds for 5 reps on Monday for a regular bench press, which meant that I felt a sliver of uncertainty about equaling that task on the floor press. But I did it! 🙂

1c. a TRX ab wheel-like move

on knees x 10, on feet x 10, on feet but slightly harder x 10, x 12 and possibly even slightly more difficult

2a. glute-ham raises

bodyweight x 16

x 5 + x 8 with 8kg kettlebell

8kg kettlebell x 12

2b. swiss ball plank rotations

x 10, x 12, x 13

Dreaming Big

I had the privilege of going to the gym after work today rather than tomorrow.

1a. deadlifts

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 6, 165 x 6

with straps: 195 x 5, 215 x 5, 225 x 5

I think these felt pretty good today. Every single rep might not have been completely perfect, but I think I’m getting better, more consistent at keeping the bar close to the legs. I don’t have a chart or the mental capacity at this moment to determine the best record, but I’ve never 5 reps at 225 pounds before. Certainly not without a belt.

1b. dips

with blue band x 6

no band x 5, x 4

with orange band x 5

2a. block pulls, sumo and with straps

205 x 8, 235 x 8

These felt easier than I expected, but then I think I usually find block pulls to feel easier.

2b. glute ham raises

x 9, x 20

I love glute ham raises. I really do! The problem with my first set was the DOMS in my quads. Sore quads pressing into the pad of the GHD is super uncomfortable and painful. I was grimacing with every rep, not from effort but due to the pain. Suck it up, buttercup! The second set was much better. I tend to find that subsequent sets are less painful. It’s almost like the first set hurts until the muscles warm up and remember that they are doing something simple.

2c. flat dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 5, 39 lbs x 7, 39 x 9

Then at home I did a 20 second RKC plank and 15 lying leg raises.

At one point during the session, our conversation touched on my bench press. On Monday I had done 6 reps at 112 pounds. As Michael pointed out today, that works out to a 1RM of 132 pounds, which is where my bench press PR has been stuck at for a very long time. Then Michael threw out a comment about me being able to bench 150 pounds soon. That got my attention. “Seriously?! You think so?” He wasn’t joking. I have to admit that my hopes began to rise in that moment. I’ve had a 150 pound bench as an unspoken goal for a while. Truth be told, I have several bench press goals written down in my little book of goals, because I was/am doubtful about how realistic some of them are. Like c’mon! Why would I give myself the goal to bench 150, when I’ve been stuck at 132 for a year? Quite honestly, my primary bench goal is just to break through that plateau, even if that means a 135 pound bench press. Michael then said that we could test it in a few weeks, but then he asked if I wanted to try 150 today…unless it would-how did he put it-mess with my mental state, or something like that. I had to think about it for a moment. The temptation to see if I could was strong, but Michael knows me well enough to have tacked on the right qualifier to his question.

It is not very often that I turn down an opportunity to attempt a new PR. Even when I am not completely confident that I can, I want to; however, Michael’s comment about the possibility of throwing my head space into turmoil was valid. Setting a new PR would be awesome and would energize me in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, attempting a new PR and failing, especially one I’ve struggled with like the bench press, would be mentally devastating. It’s funny how some things can mess with your head, or at least mine. I have missed PR attempt squats in the gym before, not many but at least two or three, and none of those misses were nearly as crushing as missing a bench press PR. So, I acknowledged that missing such an attempt would mess with my head, and we didn’t pursue it. I’m okay with that for today. While I cannot hesitate to try for fear of failure, there are definitely many variables as to when it is best to try. I trust my coach’s judgement, and we’ll give it a go when the time is right.

Girl Gone Grumpy

I’m extremely glad to not be working tonight. While I had been scheduled to close tonight, a partner had asked if I could work her Monday close earlier this week and she would take mine tonight. I had to give some serious thought to that request, because Monday was to be one of my days off and I had planned on getting all of my last-minute Christmas stuff done. The prospect of having today off meant a 4 day weekend over Christmas, and that was what ultimately made me agree to the request. Of course, that also meant that all of that last minute stuff had to be done today, even though I knew just how much I would not enjoy doing it all today. I know myself. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, so shopping on one of the busiest days of the year is so far removed from my idea of a good time. To compound my frustration, my husband wanted to come with me. <sigh> Well intentioned but still not a good idea. I’m afraid that my descent into grumpiness was swift and deep. I could write a lengthy blog post all about the ways that I get irritated while shopping, but I won’t. I was also starving and under-caffeinated…not a good combination when out in public. I’m home now, with groceries and wine and stocking stuffers. My husband went back out to finish off the rest. But I got my training in first thing this morning…

1a. deadlifts with the trap bar

95 lbs x 8, 145 x 8, 185 x 8, 215 x 8, 185 x 10

1b. flat dumbbell presses, touch and go

25 lbs x 10, 29 x 10, 39 x 8, 44 x 5, 44 x 6 PR

The first set at 44 pounds ended in the midst of the sixth rep, when my right arm just collapsed. The second set was better. Thankfully my coach was spotting me for those heavy sets. While I did avert my head when the right arm gave out, he was also there to make sure the dumbbell didn’t end up in my face. His hands did touch the dumbbells on the sixth rep of the final set. I teased him about touching, but he was just making sure I was okay and didn’t actually assist.

2a. glute-ham raises, pausing with my body essentially horizontal

x 12, x 12

with a 5 lb dumbbell held behind my neck x 12

The first two sets were super easy, and the addition of the dumbbell did present a bit more challenge; however, I wasn’t content to stop at the initial 8 that Michael said I could do. I didn’t even want to stop at the 10 he then said I could manage. I wanted to match my previous two sets, so 12 it was…and it wasn’t completely maximal.

2b. chest-supported rows

90 lbs x 6 + 2, x 6 + 3, with straps x 7 + 2

The first reps were using the angled handles, while the additional reps were with a pronated grip. These felt incredibly heavy and tough. I want to say that grip was part of the problem, because my calluses were feeling chewed up after doing all the deadlifts with chalk and my bare hands. But even with the use of straps for the last set, it was still a struggle. I just realized, or remembered, that my upper back is still sore from Wednesday’s snatch grip deadlifts. Maybe part of my struggle comes from the upper back being sore and fatigued…

2c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

Now the challenge is to avoid getting grumpy with no training until the new year…

14 000+ Pounds Pulled

It has been about an hour since I finished my early morning training session. I start work in an hour and a half, and I sincerely hope that my muscles will have stopped quivering by then, although I highly doubt it. While it may only be 10:00 AM, I feel completely wiped out, but I have eaten enough to satisfy a small hippopotamus. For now.

1. deadlifts, conventional, touch and go, maximum of 2 minutes rest between sets

75 lbs x 10, 125 x 8, 165 x 10

175 lbs x 10 x 5 sets

This was slightly more weight and volume than last week, and it was still all about pushing with my legs and bringing my hips to the bar instead of pulling with my back. For the most part, I think my form was pretty good today, but the short rest between sets had me breathing hard.

2. stiff-legged deadlifts

95 lbs x 10, 95 x 10

Michael seemed to think that I was using too much back and not enough hamstrings and glutes. After the second set, when he asked me if I felt the difference and I said a little, he changed things up a bit. For some reason Michael interprets my “a little” response as meaning “not really”. I suppose he knows me well enough to be able to read me that easily, but sometimes I actually do feel what he wants me to feel a little. This was one of those times. I did feel my glutes and hamstrings working, although I can admit that my brain doesn’t always easily grasp the concept of the movement. So, he had me do the stiff-legged deadlifts with a kettlebell.

24kg x 20 x 4 sets

3a. barbell rows, underhand grip

75 lbs x 12

75 x 10  Michael put a plate on my lower back again. My body so wants to cheat. The last few reps were tough, because my upper body was creeping up and the plate was beginning to slide.

75 x 10

3b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 11, x 12

Normally I love glute-ham raises, but these weren’t so easy today. Guess I was working those glutes and hamstrings!

3c. ab wheel

3 sets of 10

While these were not as brutal as the last time I did them, I did experience some discomfort in my abdominals. About midway through each set, my abs began to feel as if they were going to rip apart. Not literally, of course, but I’m not used to that feeling while using the ab wheel. It didn’t seem to matter how far out I rolled, but maybe it was just fatigue since the feeling began midway through each set.

I don’t usually drink a lot of coffee when I am at work, but I think I just might need to have a cup before I start today. Could I survive without it? Absolutely! But I think it is going to be a long day and I could use a boost. A hot tub would also be nice, but I don’t have one of those.