The 2 Week Plan

“Optimism isn’t a life plan, but it is a great tailwind to have at your back.” ~Indra Nooyi

My Provincials competition is two, yes 2, weeks away! A murky soup of emotions is beginning to simmer within me. How does Shakespeare put it…bubble, bubble, boil and trouble? With the hope that I am mostly through with trouble, I feel like the contents of that cauldron. I am excited to compete again. I am nervous about training this coming week without my coach, although I’ve done it before and survived. I am keeping my expectations in check, because I know it is extremely unlikely that I will be in a position to better my last competition results across the board. And yet, I can’t keep optimism from seeping through the cracks. Sure, I am wholly aware that I am NOT going to have my best performance, but there is a feeling stirring inside of me that I cannot squash. I can’t help feeling that I just might come out of Provincials having surprised myself.

I am reluctant to give voice to any goals or targets for Provincials, mostly because I honestly have no idea what I am capable of at this point in time. Between my SI joints and a disc, I’ve had nothing but lower back pain and problems since the end of January, which means absolutely nothing about my training has been normal these past several months. I have not been able to do a proper peak. My back is still not 100%, but it is greatly improved and still improving. I have barely done any deadlifting since January and nothing heavier than 225 pounds for a few singles. While I do have the expectation that I will beat my previous bench press record, I feel a sliver of doubt. My squat is finally starting to come back, and my coach thinks I could be close to my previous best. Still, I want to be cautious in my optimism, because hope can be a dangerous thing.

My imagination is strong and vivid. I can picture everything that might go wrong, but I can also see everything that might go right, even better than right. I can see both extremes on the spectrum, and yet I will always cling to hope. I am an optimistic realist. I prepare for the worst case scenario, but I’m always expecting sunshine, rainbows, and good things. As much as I know that Provincials will not be the best showcase of my abilities, I still have hope that my results will be better than I anticipate. By that I mean that I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Not blown away. Not breaking all my Provincial records and having personal bests in every lift. Not my best performance ever but not as horrible as I expect it to be. Does that make sense?

My coach jokingly made a comment the other day asking if I’d have a deadlift heavier than my squat at Provincials. I know he was just teasing, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t entertained thoughts of that not happening. I might not better my best squat on that day, but at least I know that I can squat. With my last heavy pre-comp deadlift being 225 pounds, I’m not so certain that I’ll even be able to better the result from my very first competition! But I am hoping that the emotion and adrenaline of competition will help me do more than I think I am capable of. Unfortunately, I think, when a deadlift doesn’t feel good, I am pretty good at shutting it down rather than attempting to pull despite how it feels.

As optimistic as I am, I realize that reality is conspiring against me. I cannot get through Provincials, let alone the next two weeks, on optimism alone. It isn’t a life plan; however, I can let optimism push me along, like a gentle breeze. I can soar on that breeze for a spell, if I like, and let it guide me. It is the hope that fuels my fire and keeps me going.

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Unsinkable Hope

Remember my post on Sunday when I was cautiously optimistic, because I felt a noticeable difference in my level of pain and mobility in my back? Turns out it wasn’t a fluke! The lessening of pain and the slow increase to my mobility has continued, although I have kept a tight grip on my emotions. This morning I had an appointment with my chiropractor, and I was greatly surprised to find that I was able to arch my back in a cat pose. Last week when he asked me to do that same movement, it was difficult and uncomfortable. And I am now able to go full cobra when doing my back extensions homework! Then this evening I had a training session after having 4 days off. It was the best training session I’ve had in about 2 months. I am so excited! The back isn’t pain-free. I can still feel restrictions in some movements, but nothing I did in the gym tonight hurt. The only restriction I felt was at the bottom of the squat if I tried to push my depth, but I generally only went as deep as was comfortable.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6 or 7, 115 x 6, 135 x 5

with belt: 155 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5

Speed was good for all the sets. The weight wasn’t maximal and felt comfortable. With competition being roughly 7 weeks away, I’ve got some work to do, but we didn’t want to push too much on this first good feeling training day.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5

I chose to keep my feet on the bench rather than have them on the floor with my full back arch…didn’t want to push my luck with the back. There was a small arch though, and the back still felt decent. The final rep of each set was paused.

2a. close grip bench press, touch and go keeping constant tension

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 85 x 8

2b. back extensions-without shoes

body weight x 20, 20 lbs x 20, 20 lbs x 17

2c. seal rows

75 lbs x 15, 95 x 12, 95 x 10

It was so nice to have a mostly normal feeling training session! Even the act of putting my knee sleeves on and taking them off was incredibly easier than it has been for weeks. Wonder what Friday’s training session will bring?

A New Hope

It would be extremely premature to get excited, but today my back has felt better than it has felt for a couple of weeks. By better I do not mean without pain. However, I do mean less pain and greater ease in some simple movements. Of course, I have not had to do much today that might be too much for my back, which is why I am keeping my excitement under control.

The last few weeks have been more bad than good. Two days ago was a very bad day for my back. In the gym on Friday, Michael asked me to do some dead bugs, and tears stung my eyes from the pain and effort just to lift my legs into the air and hold them there. Today I did dead bugs without any pain or difficulty. On Thursday, my chiropractor had me do some back extensions similar to the yoga cobra pose. My range of motion that day was limited and the movement wasn’t overly comfortable. Today those extensions were easier, less uncomfortable and with greater range. Even yesterday the basic act of walking often resulted in pain, while today I have been able to stand and walk without experiencing shooting pain. This is the improvement I have been desperately waiting for and not seeing.

There has been improvement today, yes; however, it is far too early to throw caution to the wind and return to normal activities. There is still pain and the feeling of restriction to some movements. But maybe, just maybe the nerves are starting to settle down. Wouldn’t that be nice! That thought makes me feel hopeful. Cautiously optimistic.

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?