Lungs vs. Lunges

I finished my training session a little more than an hour ago, yet I have already been asked by two different people if I had a good session. Most sessions are good. They might not always be easy. I might not always get to do the main lifts I love the most, but training is always a good thing. Today’s training session was generally good, although there was a rough, tough spot.

1a. glute-ham raises

5 sets of 8 reps

1b. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 6, 113 x 8, 128 x 6, 128 x 6

1c. band pull-aparts-orange band

5 sets of 15 reps

1d. bench press-close grip

paused reps: 45 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 95 x 8, 105 x 6

touch and go: 105 x 6

2a. low bar reverse lunges-alternating

43 lbs x 16, 93 x 16

This is where I hit a tough spot. The first set of lunges with just the bar was fine. The second set started out okay but soon felt incredibly difficult. Breathing became a challenge, the bar felt heavy, and a sense of panic began to flood my brain. Finishing the set required every ounce of self-discipline and determination I could muster, and even then it was tough. We opted to stay at the same weight for the next set, but my coach told me to stop sooner if breathing became an issue again.

93 x 6

I don’t know which set felt harder! I struggled with balance from the beginning with this set. Honestly at this point in time, I do not recall if my breathing was as much of a struggle after only 6 reps, but I suspect that it was to some degree. As much as I wasn’t keen on quitting after only 6 reps, that feeling of panic filled me again and so I stopped. I know I am wholly capable of doing reverse lunges with that much weight, if not more, on my back, and I am not prone to panic attacks in general. As much as there are moments or situations where I feel anxious, I am not someone who goes full out panic mode. So this was odd and disconcerting. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I hardly slept last night. Perhaps it was my breakfast of cold brew coffee and Fruit Loops. The heat? The pace? My own inner turmoil? All of that or none of it? Some random combination of the above? I don’t know.

2b. glute-ham sit-ups

x 12, x 10, x 15

2c. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 12 each

with a strap: 20kg x 12 each, 20kg x 12 each

Pushing a PR

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said I’d be starting off with block pulls and push presses. Since front squats have been on the agenda for the past several Wednesdays and they’ve been feeling tough, I was so happy about the block pulls that I almost forgot what the push presses were and how much I do not like them. It wasn’t until I was tying my shoes that I finally realized that my coach had actually said push presses. <sigh> What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

1a. push press

45 lbs x 5, 55 x 6, 65 x 6, 75 x 5 PR?, 75 x 5, 75 x 5

I am reasonably confident that I hit a PR today. Last September I did two sets of 4 at 75 pounds. PRs are always a confidence boost, especially when doing an exercise that always seems to be a struggle.

35 lbs x 11 behind the neck presses

1b. block pulls

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 8, 195 x 8, 195 x 8

All of my sets were touch and go except for the final set. The first set at 195 found me moving my hips a bit more than normal, so my coach had me stop each rep for the final set. I think I did a better job keeping my hips from dropping on that final set.

2a. glute ham raises

x 11, x 12, x 10

2b. pull ups-wide, pronated grip

3 or 4 reps with just the small green band which wasn’t going to assist me enough to hit the target rep range, so added a blue band with the green and did another 8 reps for the first set

then x 9, x 9

2c. side laterals

10 lbs x 12, 15 lbs x 4 + 10 lbs x 8, 10 lbs x 11

Laterals are not a favourite, but using the 10 pound dumbbells seems to be okay. Sadly, the jump to the 15 pound dumbbells always seems to feel super heavy. The left shoulder had some clunking going on, so I was trying to minimize that by controlling my shoulder and arm positioning. The left shoulder also fatigued more quickly than the right, so my face would contort towards the end of each set in an effort to keep that left arm moving.

 

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.