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?

The Cuboid Bone

Instead of being at work, not even halfway through my shift, I am at home with the intent to stay off my feet as much as possible. So far, I have surfed Facebook and a news forum, started and finished reading a book, and searched for information on the cuboid bone. This is not what I had expected for today, but then again I hadn’t expected to spend most of yesterday limping in pain.

In between yesterday’s training session and my work day, I had an appointment with my chiropractor. While I had no major complaints for this visit, I did have a lengthy list of rather minor aches and discomforts ranging from my knee to my neck. My chiropractor is great. I love him, even when he laughs at the discomfort he inflicts on that tender spot in my quad or the faces I make in anticipation of the discomfort he is about to inflict as he twists me like a pretzel. Even though I shouldn’t be taken off-guard by it anymore, every time he suddenly yanks on my foot, I am surprised. Especially yesterday. While that action feels violent in the moment, it is generally no worse than any other aspect of treatment. Except for yesterday. I don’t think I could have put into words why it felt different yesterday; I just knew that it did and not in a pleasant way. I thought nothing of it. I am used to my chiropractor poking, prodding, twisting, yanking, scraping, bruising, and inflicting a bit of pain on my body…all in the effort to keep me healthy and mobile and make me a supple leopard.

I left my appointment feeling pretty good. Becoming a temporary pretzel hadn’t felt good, but my back and neck were already sighing with post-adjustment relief. I went home, made myself some lunch, spread out on the floor and blogged about my training session, still feeling fine. Until I got up to get ready to go to work. My right foot hurt when I walked. I was mildly perplexed, uncertain why my foot was hurting and thinking that it would go away shortly. At that point in time, the pain wasn’t very bad and I could walk with a relatively normal stride. Once at work though, the pain increased quite rapidly and my ability to walk deteriorated just as quickly. By the time I was finished work, I was limping quite heavily and could barely move my foot in certain directions. Of course, being the intelligent person that I am, I had managed to put 2 and 2 together to get 4, meaning that I now realized that whatever was going on with my foot was a result of that yank by my chiropractor earlier in the day.

Over the course of my training life, I have had little bumps in the road as far as aches and pains and injuries go. I needed stitches in a finger three weeks before my first powerlifting competition. I’ve had minor shoulder, knee, disc and hip issues. I dropped a box onto my neck three weeks before a competition last year. There have been many sore muscles and tender spots, but I really haven’t had any serious injury. Nothing that has absolutely prevented me from doing what I want to do for very long. Last night, being unable to put weight on my foot without pain and having my ankle mobility greatly limited, gave me reason to think about how this could impact my training. There would be no way I could squat, because a) my ankle wouldn’t bend enough and b) the pressure on my foot would be intensely painful. Then how would I be able to deadlift? How could I push my feet into the floor without crying? I was glad that my first competition of the year isn’t until June, because I had no clue how long it would be for my foot to be better. I had even determined that I would be okay with doing all upper body stuff, if necessary, until such time as I could do the real stuff again. Pain and injury have a funny way of projecting doom & gloom into your psyche.

My chiropractor was able to fit me in first thing this morning. Hallelujah! He was quickly able to determine that the problem was with the cuboid bone. Such a tiny little thing, such a major pain. He said that he gets patients presenting with cuboid syndrome but that he has never caused it before. There is a first time for everything, and I guess I am honoured that I was the lucky victim for his first infliction of cuboid syndrome. (He thought that there was a funny secondary clunk when he yanked on my foot yesterday!) Thankfully, he said that it is a relatively quick and easy thing to fix! He worked some Graston magic and had me step on a racquetball and roll my foot on a dowel. It wasn’t much really, but the difference in how I walked before and after was amazing. There is still discomfort and soreness and a feeling of stiffness, but my foot feels greatly improved compared to last night. It should continue to improve quickly. I can move my foot more than I could this morning. There is still some discomfort in walking, but I am not limping nearly as much. I still like my chiropractor. I will survive.

The Lats Have It

My body currently feels cranky. Generally I don’t think it is too bad, but there are several body parts which are uncomfortable or mildly achy. My right wrist. Right knee. Right hip. Left lower back. Neck. Mostly right shoulder but a little of the left, too. And I’m not even talking about muscle soreness! Some of the discomforts are connected. Because the shoulders are cranky, I cannot sleep on my side for more than 5 minutes (and I am a side sleeper), which means I’m either on my back or on my side with my head propped up enough to somewhat ease the discomfort in my shoulders. The head elevation likely is the cause of the neck and back complaints. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but it didn’t impact my performance in the gym today.

1. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 5, 123 x 5, 133 x 5, 133 x 5

Sometimes I wear my squat shoes for front squats, and other times I wear my flat shoes. It really depends on what else is on the agenda for the training session. With today being deadlift day, flat shoes were what I put on my feet. Squatting typically feels better with the slight heel elevation from the squat shoes, but I don’t have much of a problem adapting to the flats for the front squats. Still, the front squats weren’t the best feeling today, but they weren’t truly horrible. The bar was especially chokey today, which likely made the weight feel heavier. The right hip flexor felt a bit tight during the first couple of sets. The back of the right knee, sometimes bothered with a deep squat, held up okay in the gym, but it is feeling a bit sore now.

2a. bench press-close grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 88 x 8, 100 x 6, 100 x 6, 105 x 7

with slingshot 125 x 6

When the time is right, I am greatly looking forward to seeing what I can do for a max attempt, because my bench press feels solid, smooth and strong…more often than it doesn’t lately.

2b. deadlifts-conventional

135 lbs x 5+

I’m not sure how many reps I did at this weight. I had already done a few, when Michael stopped me in order to give me a new cue to engage my lats. Then I did some more reps to practice the cue…engaging my lats by rotating my arms to show my biceps.

165 x 5, 195 x 5, 215 x 5

The cue seemed to help, and these looked good. Maybe even really good. Michael made a comment about me only having something like 50% tightness previously, but today was about 80%. <laugh> My coach usually knows what he is talking about. Sometimes I just need to be told what to do repeatedly before I actually get it.

2c. some sort of rope face pull thing

20 lbs x 12 x 4 sets

3a. Romanian deadlifts

165 lbs x 10 x 2 sets

The first set was okay, but the second was both more challenging and better.

3b. toes to bar

x 7, x 8

I haven’t done serious toes to bar for quite some time. As I was going on the first set, Michael commented that I should be able to do 6. Of course, I had to do 7. Finding the right rhythm is key for me when doing toes to bar. While not perfect, my body seemed to remember what toes to bar rhythm felt like on the second set and I was able to get an extra rep.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These rows were slightly different than the norm in terms of arm motion and angle. Now I cannot recall exactly what Michael said about it, but I’m fairly certain he said it would target the lats more. Have you noticed a common thread with my training lately? Lats, lats and more lats!

Now my biggest, most difficult decision is whether to sleep on my back (which I hate) or sleep on my side with head elevated, flipping sides all night (which my neck will hate). Sigh.

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!