The King of Lifts

Deadlifts. The king of lifts, or so some say. Opinions may vary. My own opinion of deadlifts has fluctuated between love and hate over my training life. Over the past couple of months I have been enjoying deadlifts again. That might be due to the fact that I am finally able to consistently and regularly deadlift without pain or further aggravation to my back, despite last week’s minor tweak.

Just as I was nervous about squats earlier in the week, I felt the same about today’s deadlifts. The weight jumped again, which is to be expected as I’m gearing up for competition, but it also puts me at a weight I have not pulled since early June. When you throw in the tweak to my back last week and 9 months of recovering from back injury, a bit of apprehension is to be expected. The weight itself wasn’t really scary, as it is still a far cry from my max; however, I am not used to doing a lot of volume with heavier weights when deadlifting. Was that part of my previous coach’s training philosophy? Or was it what he thought worked best for me? I’m not completely certain, and I am striving not to get hung up on what I used to do under the direction of my former coach. That said, I am still in the process of learning what my new coach’s training style and philosophy is, and he is still trying to figure out what works best for me and what I respond to well.

Sometimes I look at my program for the week and think my new coach is pushing me beyond my capabilities or comfort zone. I look at the number of reps and sets and the weight, and I feel a surge of panic. I can’t do that. I’m not used to doing that many reps at that weight! But you know what? For the most part, I have done what I thought I couldn’t. Up until now, I was used to doing maybe one set of 2 or 3 reps at a highish weight for deadlifts and definitely only two or three single reps at high weights. Although today’s weight wasn’t truly high yet, I did more reps and sets with it than I have ever done before…and the back felt okay!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 2, 225 x 2

main event, with belt: 240 lbs x 3, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2

The final two sets were beginning to feel a little tough, especially the final rep of each. My capacity may have increased, but heavier deadlifts are still taxing on the system. Unlike last week, the back was essentially fine. I felt some very minor aching after, but the ache truly was extremely slight. Heavier deadlifts, at least for me, will usually result in some minor back soreness for a day or so, particularly after a competition. That’s normal and to be expected. I just don’t want a repeat of last week where the pain increased throughout the day to a throbbing mess.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

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

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

All of my warm ups, except for the set at 100 pounds, were done with my feet on the bench and no arch. I probably would have been fine to set up normally, but I want my back to get better and stay that way. Although there was that slight ache from the deadlifts, my back felt completely fine benching with an arch for my working sets.

3. plank

x 45 seconds, x 41 seconds, x 36 seconds

 

I also had an appointment with my chiropractor today. My right hip is a tad tight. So shocking! 😉 The tight hip can be causing the back issue, so I need to keep working on that.

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Aches, Pains & Injury

It’s no secret that this year hasn’t gone as well as I might have planned or hoped in terms of my training and powerlifting. The “little” SI joint problem that began all the way back at the end of January has been an ongoing presence in my life. Although it has greatly improved, especially over the past couple of months, there remains an ache, a discomfort that is just there more than it is actually an issue. Midway through Monday’s training session, I began to feel little aches in other parts of my body. A bunching up sensation behind my right knee when I’d squat. An entirely different sensation behind the left knee as if I had hyper-extended it. There was a general sense that something was out of sorts in my pelvis. Some of my disc issue symptoms are subtly shifting into my perception again…a bit of tingling/numbness in the big toe of my right leg and a heavy, achy feeling at the bottom of my hip. Everything combined truly is not all that much to complain about…it is just there and I can feel it. Maybe I’m just acutely aware of what is going on with my body, and I suppose that makes sense considering the nature of my training over the past few years. But let me just say that coming back from an injury sucks! I hesitate to call my SI joint issue an injury, but I suppose there really is no other way to look at it.

With only two competitions this year and the first one being less than what I would have liked, I am hoping for a much better performance in November. Of course, I have a goal in mind for that competition. It isn’t out of line with my capabilities, at least my capabilities pre-SI joint problem! As much as I believe that I am still entirely capable of achieving this goal, I’m hesitant and cautious, knowing that this has not been my best year. Over the past few weeks of training with a new program written by a new coach, I’ve had moments where I felt as if I was so far removed from what I know I can do, moments when the weights felt so much heavier than they actually were and I wasn’t completely confident that I could regain my strength. Yet, there have also been moments when I have felt strong and confident and could envision being capable of more. The line between those opposing feelings is paper thin. Today’s deadlifts made me feel strong and confident and capable, but then my incline bench left me feeling weak and frustrated. The feedback from my coach was that my incline sets were looking perfect, that struggling is expected at this point. Hallelujah!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 5

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8

main event: 65 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 65 x 5

These were definitely tougher today. The rep range was 8-15, but I stopped each set with maybe, maybe one rep left in the tank.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

115 lbs x 15, 115 x 13

4a. side plank

x 25 seconds, x 25s, x 25s

4b. barbell row

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

4c. glute bridge

60 lbs x 15, 60 x 15, 60 x 15

The weight for the glute bridges is not a struggle at all; however, that weight is becoming uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to getting into position and having the weight across my abdomen.

 

 

Seeking Serenity

I don’t know exactly why I look to the sky on my way to work in the early hours after our opening time, but I do just that every morning when the sky is clear blue and cloudless. I am looking for a hot air balloon, which is perhaps an odd thing to be looking for so frequently, since hot air balloons are not an everyday sighting. Yesterday, as I drove to work at 5:15 AM, I finally became aware of the fact that I was looking towards a specific portion of the sky in hopes of seeing a hot air balloon. Of course, there wasn’t one to be seen yesterday morning, but I found it somewhat amusing to realize what I had been subconsciously doing for many months now.

I didn’t open this morning, but I was still headed for work around 7:30 AM. As I turned the corner, I looked up to the sky as I always do and there it was…a hot air balloon! Although my emotions are not nearly as heavy and gloomy as they were last week, I am still rather a mess of eating poorly, sleeping even more poorly, a hurricane of thoughts inside my head, and emotions still tender to the touch. The sight of the hot air balloon this morning, especially after yesterday’s realization of what I am looking for, almost reduced me to tears. But why? What is it about a hot air balloon that had me unconsciously looking for one? Between work, training, and all the stuff raging inside me, I realized that I find the sight of a hot air balloon in the sky to be simply serene. Peaceful. Calm. Soothing. As much as I am the kind of girl who prefers her feet on the ground, a hot air balloon is free to just flow with the breeze. You don’t see hot air balloons out in high winds or storms. I know what it is like to stand in the midst of strong winds and storms. I know I am capable of standing, but sometimes I just want to float in quiet peace above this crazy, hectic insane world and the storms that rage inside my heart and head, at least for a while. And I am choosing to believe that this morning’s hot air balloon was a little reminder from my God that I am not alone or forgotten or unloved, that He sees deep inside of my heart and He has known from the beginning why I keep looking to the sky.

1a. single leg box step downs + single leg glute bridges, with the box on top of a block

x 10 + 10, x 12 + 10

1b. standing single arm kettle bell presses

10kg x 8 each, 12kg x 8 each

2a. tempo squats, high bar with flat shoes

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 8, 105 x 7, 105 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6

These were done with a 4 second eccentric, a 1 second pause, and a controlled rise. While the weight itself wasn’t taxing, I did find these challenging as I was essentially holding my breath for the roughly 6 seconds of each rep.

2b. flat dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 15, 34 lbs x 10, 34 x 10, 34 x 9

The right hip threatened to cramp on me during the second set at 34 pounds, while the left hip threatened to cramp as I set up for the final set.

3a. TRX T’s

3 sets of 8

3b. seated cable rows

90 lbs x 10, 90 x 6 + 80 lbs x 4, 80 x 9

3c. floor kettlebell triceps extensions

6kg x 11, x 9, x 9

One Step Closer

It feels like I’ve hardly done anything these past few days, yet somehow I feel exhausted. A good portion of my time has been spent at the hospital, which isn’t exactly the most energizing place to be. I sat far too much Monday and Tuesday, which may be why my back feels slightly achy today, but the achiness is within reasonable limits. I think. My husband was released from the hospital this afternoon, so hopefully my extended sitting periods are over.

One thing that I did do today was my Wednesday morning training session. It was an interesting session, mostly good. Internally, the session was good enough for me to let loose a sigh of pent-up hope. Thanks to the disc/SI joint issues, many aspects of my training have been put on hold, because I couldn’t do certain things. With Provincials less than 5 weeks away, I am acutely aware of how long it has been since I’ve deadlifted or even been able to hinge my hip with any kind of load. We tested a little this morning, and I was able to do kettlebell swings, a set of super light deadlifts, and some barbell rows. The back was achy before I even started at the gym, so I think I’m safe in saying that my back is no worse for having done these things.

warm-up with 3 sets of:

16kg kettlebell swings x 10

5 medicine ball passes

5 medicine ball slams

Tested my ability to deadlift with 65 pounds for roughly 6-8 reps. There was a slight sensation of tightness/pulling similar to what I have felt at the bottom of the squat, but this was minor. Of greater concern to me was whether I’d have any pain when I’d create tension throughout my body before lifting, but there was only slight discomfort. Now normally I would begin deadlifting with significantly more weight than 65 pounds, but I was happy with how it felt to go through the motions once again.

1a. barbell rows

65 lbs x 8?, 85 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10

I generally don’t get too excited about rows, but being able to do these put a huge smile on my face.

1b. close grip bench press with feet on bench

45 lbs x 6, 65 x 8, 85 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6

1c. banded monster walks with blue band

2a. seated side laterals, front raises, and clean & presses, 10 lb dumbbells

-2 sets of 10 for the side laterals

-2 sets of front raises with varying reps that I cannot remember

-2 sets of clean & presses, averaging 5 reps, because I could barely press by this point

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 4 + 6kg x 8; 6kg x 7?

2c. kettlebell triceps extension

12kg x 12 x 2 sets

Hips, Knees, Benches & Bretzels

My husband had his hip replaced yesterday. It seems to have gone well, and he’s already been up and taking short walks down the hall of his hospital ward. Assuming that everything continues to progress as expected, he will likely be sent home tomorrow morning and that’s when the real fun will begin. Found out that we will need to switch sides of the bed, which means I now need to make some adjustments to the furniture layout in our bedroom so he can get the walker between the wall and the bed on that side. I will also need to move my alarm clock to the other side. Although it will be quite a few weeks before he is able to do a lot of things, at least his recovery should be fairly smooth. I hope.

As for me, I definitely feel as if my back is finally seeing more progress and fewer set-backs. It’s still not normal or without varying measures of pain and discomfort, but it’s exciting to realize how much more I can do. This morning at the gym, I sat on the floor to put on my socks, knee sleeves and shoes, which is something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time! Although I still avoid sitting as much as possible, I have had to do more sitting over the past two days than I am used to, and the back has held up fairly well. Okay, so for a while yesterday I was mildly concerned that I was about to take backwards steps again. The SI joint was a bit achier than it had been for the previous few days, not too bad but not quite as good; however, it seemed to settle back down by mid-afternoon. One of my biggest questions these days is always how far can I push myself without negatively impacting my back/SI joint. Unfortunately, I cannot always answer that question until I try to see what I can do. My coach often has exercises that he would like me to do in the gym, and he will ask me if they are okay for me to do. There are a couple that I am reasonably certain would not feel good on my back at all, but most of the time I simply can’t say until I try it. There is also no guarantee that what felt fine before will always feel fine and vice versa. Ab wheel roll-outs were fine early on in this ordeal, but the last time I did them a couple of weeks ago they were more uncomfortable. I couldn’t do hanging leg raises at all a while ago, but I managed to do some leg raises last week using the dips bar. One thing I am fairly certain would not be a good idea is sit-ups on the glute-ham device, so I’ve rejected that option every time Michael has presented it. The biggest tests will be once I get heavy enough weight on the squat bar and when I get to try deadlifting again.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 1, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1

215 lbs for roughly a 10 second hold, twice

Squats didn’t feel too bad today. A few reps felt a bit deeper but probably still not quite deep enough, although I honestly felt like at least one rep might have been legal depth. The single at 215 felt a little heavy, tough, and ugly, so Michael had me do a couple of holds with the weight to get used to having it on my back again. The first hold felt super awkward, because he didn’t even want me to walk the bar out, which meant I couldn’t have any forward lean to make the low bar position remotely comfortable. For the second hold, we raised the safeties and I was allowed to walk the bar out. It felt a bit better but still not nearly as good as it should. This is one of those areas where Michael has ideas that he wants to incorporate but isn’t always certain it will be good for my back. Obviously I need to re-familiarize myself with having heavy weight on my back, and I don’t have a lot of time to get to that point. He thinks doing some holds or walking with the yoke rack would be good. I don’t disagree with him, and I’d be willing to try. He just wants to be careful with my back.

1b. bench press-competition grip, with feet on the bench and small arch

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 6, 87 x 5, 107 x 5, 112 x 5, 112 x 4

Benching with my feet on the bench allows me to better keep the arch in my back small, which should help me to avoid aggravating the SI joints. It’s akin to deadlifting from a deficit. It will make me stronger, but I do miss being able to use my leg drive. My butt came off the bench on the fifth rep of the first set at 112 pounds. That is not typical of me, but I suspect the need to use leg drive was too strong to resist on that last rep. Oh well! In powerlifting, only the first rep matters. 😉 As for the final set, there was supposed to be 5 reps. Shake it off! I know I am stronger than how my bench felt today.

2a. Spoto presses-with feet on the bench still

97 lbs x 6, 97 x 6, 97 x 6

I think the first set felt a bit tougher than the next two. Sometimes that’s just how it is…as if my body needs a set to remember what it is supposed to be doing.

2b. back extensions-holding a 20 pound dumbbell

x 20, x 9, x 10

This is another one of those exercises that is hit or miss for how it makes the back feel. Actually, today these were completely hit and miss. The first set was horrible. I felt so much strain around the back of my knees that I had to drop the dumbbell midway through and repositioned myself before picking up the weight to finish the set. Honestly, I have no idea how I managed 20 reps that set.

Michael told me to keep my knees slightly bent to avoid the strain, so I did that on the following sets. It alleviated a great deal of the knee strain but not quite all of it. I was wearing my squat shoes for the first two sets and took them off for the last set, thinking that might be part of the problem. The last set wasn’t a whole different than the second. Maybe the pad was set a bit too far? I don’t know. Also, although the extensions didn’t make my back feel worse, I could feel some discomfort while doing them, which between that and the knees made me cut the reps short. However, it did feel sort of nice to carefully drape my body forward over the pad so my head was hanging down, stretching out the lower back in a way that it hasn’t liked to move for a while.

Yesterday my chiropractor gave me a new stretch to do…the Bretzel. If that makes you think of a pretzel, then you’re thinking in the right direction! If I’m not careful, this stretch will threaten me with a cramp and it doesn’t feel too pleasant on the quads, but I kind of like it. Not the unpleasantness, of course. I can see why my chiropractor says this is one of his favourite stretches, and I think it is one that I will continue with for a long time.

The F Word

My husband needs a new hip. In fact, he is tentatively scheduled for hip replacement surgery for next Monday. I say ‘tentatively’, because he was originally scheduled for last Friday…until he was bumped. Even though he is now a week out from surgery, there is always the potential for being bumped again. I sure hope that doesn’t happen for several reasons, but mainly for his own health & well-being and then so that he might be recovered enough to come to Provincials with me. It’s more important for my husband to get his new hip in order to get back to living without the pain and physical limitations he’s lived with for the past several years, but I’d be presented with a bunch of logistical complications if he weren’t able to come to Provincials. But I can’t worry about those details yet!

I had a chiropractic appointment about an hour ago, and I was in a fair bit of pain once again. The pain drags frustration and despair along with it. My face was long as I stood in the waiting room (standing because I cannot sit), and my gaze was boring a hole in the floor in an effort to keep tears at bay. Has there ever been a time that my chiropractor hasn’t made me laugh when I’ve been in the depths of despair? I don’t think so! As he pushed and poked and determined that the left SI joint was the problem more than the disc, he made a comment about me never being as f’ed up as I think I am. I laughed. Even now, replaying the comment puts a smile on my face and makes my heart feel a few pounds lighter, despite the fact that the SI joint is seriously throbbing.

Since the end of January, I have had an SI joint problem on the right side, a disc problem, and now the left SI joint problem. The pain has ebbed and flowed in intensity and in triggers, but pain has been present every day since the end of January. Quite frankly, my dear, I’m sick of it! I want it gone. I want to get back to being able to do whatever I want to do without pain. Like seriously…tying my shoes? Eating dinner at the dining room table instead of while laying on the floor? It shouldn’t hurt to put on shoes or sit for more than a few minutes. Anything and everything that I have been told to do to help the SI joints or the disc, I have done. When it comes to rehabbing, I am one of the most consistent and committed patients around. I want to be healthy and mobile and active. Being in constant pain sucks. Not being able to move your body the way you want to sucks. I’ve been living the past three months in pain, frustration, and restriction, and I do not like it one bit.

Perspective is important though. I’ve been living in pain for three months. My husband has been living in pain for more years than I can even accurately recall. He needs a new hip. While I might wish I had a different back in this moment, the truth is that I am not as f’ed up as I think I am. Discs heal. The SI joint will heal. One day this will be a memory. These past months will be footnotes in my scrapbook, challenges that I have overcome.

Today’s training session wasn’t all that I hoped it would be; however, despite the pain I experienced in the process, Michael said it was still a decent session.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 5, 155 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5

The back started to feel quite achy when I started at 175 pounds. I think my bar path was generally good and consistent. Bar speed might have slowed a bit on various reps in the final two sets due to the back not being too happy with me.

1b. bench press-competition grip, last rep paused

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 6, 93 x 5, 110 x 5

Then Michael decided to stay at the same weight but slow the eccentric to about 3 seconds.

110 lbs x 4, 110 x 5, 110 x 5

The first set with the slow eccentric felt a bit tough, but the following sets were better.

2a. Frankenstein squats

93 lbs x 8, 113 x 7

These were less bothersome on the back but very chokey on the throat.

2b. flat dumbbell presses-for speed, touch and go

25 lbs x 25, 25 lbs x 22

The second set was done with my feet on the bench, because the back was not happy with arching. My chiropractor thinks the left SI joint might be cranky, because I recently resumed arching during bench presses after not arching for most of the past three months. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t catch a break…

But at least I’m not f’ed up!

Provincials, Problems & Hope

Provincials registration opened today, and I am officially registered to compete in June. The biggest question now is how long it will be before I am able to deadlift again.

Last week my chiropractor told me that I couldn’t pick anything up from the floor until I could bend over and touch the floor. I’m not sure just how well I could touch my toes prior to this SI joint issue, but I’m determined that I will touch the floor with ease. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

I have goals for Provincials. Despite having reasonably modest goals, I wholly expect that I will come back home in June having exceeded my expectations. When push comes to shove, my focus is unparalleled, and I am narrowing my focus on Provincials. I am hungry for competition. My singlet has been sitting in the drawer since last August, and I am oddly eager to put it on again, even though there is nothing at all attractive about a singlet! My little visual collage is posted on the wall directly in my line of sight from my usual spot on the living room floor. I lay on the floor, because I can’t sit on the furniture due to the SI thing. And I am determined to put in the hard work between now and Provincials, even if I am limited in some ways.

I see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon, an appointment for which I am equally eager for and yet apprehensive. My back is not nearly as painful as it was the last time I saw him, when I had an emotional meltdown; however, there is still a fair bit of pain and discomfort, especially with even the slightest bit of sitting, like in the car or the tub or putting on shoes. The reason I am apprehensive has to do with a couple of symptoms which I began to notice over the weekend, symptoms which flash me back to the disc issue I had…a bit of numbness in my right toe and a pinched feeling in my right hip.

The toe tingling numbness is still quite mild compared to what I have experienced in the past, but it has been enough to cause me some mental anguish. The sensation is mostly felt when I am laying down, usually when I go to bed and that is where the anguish kicks in, because my mind cannot help but wander down the rabbit holes of what ifs. Then on Saturday I noticed the pinched feeling in my hip. It’s not a terrible feeling yet, rather it feels as if the hip joint needs to pop but won’t. I hoped both feelings were one-offs, but I’ve had toe tingling since Friday night and a bit of hip pinch today. I really don’t want to tell my chiropractor about this latest development, but I will.

This afternoon I did my homework with the foam roller and lacrosse ball. No big deal. I’ve been doing it for more than a week now, and it is mostly enjoyable actually. The most uncomfortable aspect is when I must rearrange my body and jostle my back in a way that it doesn’t like much. Anyway…I did my rolling and I did my stretching, then I had a hot bath. The bath itself was most uncomfortable and not because of the water temperature. The back was quite cranky about sitting in the tub. I can’t explain why I thought it might be a good idea; however, as I was combing my hair after my bath, I thought I would bend over and see how far I could reach. Honestly, I didn’t expect to bend too far, but I was actually able to bend far enough to touch the floor with the tips of my fingers…with relative ease! It seems like a simple thing, but I was super stoked and couldn’t help but sing little ditties to myself.

There is no guarantee that I will still be able to touch the floor tomorrow. I have no guarantee that my chiropractor won’t give me bad news after learning about my recent symptoms. I have no idea when I will be able to deadlift again. But I touched the floor while bent over at the waist! Despite a back that has been cranky. The rolling and hot bath might have helped a lot, but I choose to see this as progress. What other option do I have?