Discs & Disappointment

Normally I prefer to blog about my training session as soon after training as possible, because I don’t want my impressions and thoughts to fade from memory before I am able to put them into writing. Even though I trained at 8 this morning, I was rather intentional about not blogging as soon as I got home. It is now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I think I have delayed long enough. My training session was not what I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was mostly an exercise in frustration and pain. The back wasn’t too bad yesterday, but today is an entirely different story.

Yesterday I left my chiropractor’s clinic feeling more optimistic than I have felt for several weeks. There was a measure of relief in knowing that the SI is fine and that this is all disc-related. I’ve been through the disc thing before, although there was no pain in my back then and it didn’t really affect my training. This round of disc issue is different from the pain in my back to the way it affects my training and daily life. I like to think I am fairly independent and self-sufficient. I don’t always like to ask for help, especially not for something I feel should be easy enough for me to do on my own, but even the most simple of tasks presents significant challenge and pain lately. I’m weary of it all.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 5, with belt 113 x 5

The front squats didn’t feel very good from the start, although the later reps in each set were somewhat easier than the first couple. Just not good enough to continue.

1b. dips

with small green band x 8

unassisted: x 6, x 5, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done dips, so I wasn’t very confident in my ability to do any unassisted. I’m always glad to be wrong when it comes to self-doubts. These didn’t hurt the back really, but there was some mild unpleasant sensations in having my lower half hanging.

1c. seated cable rows

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12, 80 x 4, 80 x 12, 100 x 10

I’m not sure what happened during the second set at 80 pounds, except to say that the back hurt enough that I just stopped.

2a. front foot elevated split squats

x 12 each

with 10kg kettlebell x 12 each

These actually felt kind of good. No stress on my back which was already in a ton of pain.

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 7, 8kg x 12

That’s quite a discrepancy between the first and second set, and I cannot explain why the second was so much better. Sometimes my second sets just are better, because I needed to prime the movement or simply remember how much effort I need to exert.

2c. standing triceps extensions

10kg kettlebell x 15, 12kg x 12

My chiropractor says it is important for me to continue training, and I would be miserable if I had to give it up. But I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can train without pain once again.

Continuing On


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.

SI, Sleep & Squats

Yesterday’s visit with my chiropractor wasn’t as gloomy as I dreaded. I think my disc is fine. The issue seems to be that the SI joints do not take kindly to hanging out in a squat for an extended length of time. They weren’t designed to do that. So, I learned my lesson, and now I have a couple of exercises to do at home and lots of single leg stuff to do at the gym. The home exercises are super easy…probably the easiest homework my chiropractor has ever given me! Still, I spent most of the rest of the day flat on my back and in pain, and I had yet another less than stellar sleep. Well, I slept okay from 10pm until 2am, but four hours is not nearly enough. I went to the gym this morning and did better than expected considering my morning cup of coffee failed to perk me up.

1a. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 4 each, 10kg x 3 + 3 each

29 lb dumbbell x 3 each

The left shoulder sucketh. The right arm was completely capable of doing a few more reps, but the left arm just wouldn’t, not even if I tried to give some assistance with a push from the legs.

1b. decline single arm kettlebell rows

12kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10

2a. incline barbell push ups

x 10, x 8

with 30 lb sandbag on back x 6 + 8 bodyweight

I think the sandbag is 30 pounds. Those six reps felt really tough, so I’m kind of amazed that I could finish off with eight more reps once Michael removed the sandbag.

2b. chin ups

with barbell + incline bench x 8

with red + small green band, neutral grip x 9

with both bands, wide pronated grip x 8, x 8 with a 6-8 second hold on last rep

2c. elevated split squats, both feet on 4″ boxes

x 16 each side, x 15 each

x 15 each with hands behind head and shoulders tight

Oh how the legs burned by the end of each set of split squats! Yesterday’s 20 rep belt squats and Bulgarians combined with these split squats means that my legs are going to be a little sore and rubbery. At this moment in time, I don’t know if my final training session of the week will be early tomorrow morning or later Friday afternoon. I could end up training three days in a row, which wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and would not be the end of the world. I just need sleep.


Push Up PR

It’s been a week now since my lower back presented with significant pain and discomfort. While there has definitely been improvement since last Monday, I am a bit bothered by the lingering discomfort. I do not like it when pain or injury disrupts my training plan, but I think I have managed to maintain a reasonable level of positive attitude, at least more recently. Pain is frustrating. Altering training to accommodate the pain is necessary but still frustrating. Staying positive can sometimes be harder than the training but just as important. I’m trying to remember that. I see my chiropractor this afternoon, so I’m eager to hear what he has to say about my back. At least I hope he can give me positive feedback. I don’t want to think about the alternative.

My first training session of the week is usually squat day, but I knew before I arrived that normal squats were unlikely to happen. Still, a squat is a squat, no matter what it looks like, right?

1a. belt squats

body weight x 12, 45 lbs x 12, 90 lbs x 10, 100 x 8

Following the 100 x 8 set, there was some discomfort in the lower back. Not really an increase in pain but a general ache, so we dropped the weight and that eliminated the strain on the back.

45 lbs x 15, 45 lbs x 20

1b. bench press, competition grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 8, 95 x 8, 100 x 8

These were good, solid, dependable…even without an arch and the use of my legs.

1c. ab wheel

x 8, x 10, x 10, x 5

Michael wanted some kind of ab work. I didn’t even want to consider GHD sit-ups, knowing that the back would be most angry with that movement. He had me try some hanging knee raises. I quit after the third rep, because the back was feeling cranky. The ab wheel wasn’t too bothersome last week, so that’s what I did today. I cut the final set short, because…

2a. I was supposed to do some single leg squats. The first attempt hurt the back, so we lowered the height; however, the second attempt was a bust due to quads being completely done.

Bulgarian split squats

body weight x 10 each

26kg kettlebell x 7 each

26kg x 10 with left leg back + only 4 with right leg back

2b. These were supposed to be leg curls, but guess what! That darn lower back!

push ups x 14PR, x 10, x 7

My previous best for push ups was 12. Michael said I could do as many as I could for the first set or two, maybe leaving a rep in the tank. I think I might have been able to grind out a fifteenth rep, possibly even another, but I stopped at fourteen. In hindsight, that was silly. I should have gone for more, but I wanted to have something left for the remaining sets. Obviously my plan didn’t quite work anyway! The last set was made a tad tougher by having a slightly narrower hand placement. That wasn’t intentional. Still, it feels good to finish my session feeling reasonably strong and capable with push ups.

Now I just need the back to feel better, so I can pick up a 26kg kettle bell, bend over to put on my pants or shoes, and sit for 5 minutes without pain.


Solid Footing

My foot feels so much better than it did Wednesday, even though it still doesn’t feel quite right. There were times at work today when I did walk with a slight limp and the foot ached, but it is getting better. On Wednesday, I thought I wouldn’t be able to squat or deadlift for quite some time, but I headed to the gym today thinking that I should be able to do both. But an injury tends to make one feel doubt to some degree. Before leaving the house to go to the gym, I made sure to do my foot homework, rolling the outer edge of the bottom of my foot and then massaging the trouble spot. The rolling isn’t exactly super comfortable, yet my foot feels so much better for a while after.

1a. front squats-with squat shoes!

45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 105 x 6, 135 x 4, 140 x 4, 140 x 4

I didn’t feel anything in my foot during the squats! 🙂 But the back of the right knee took a few sets to warm up enough to not hurt at the bottom. As warm-up, I did a few overhead squats with a dowel, and that was when the knee hurt the most.

1b. flat dumbbell presses-nearly neutral grip

20 lbs x 10, 29 x 10, 39 x 8, 39 x 8, 39 x 8, 39 x 8

I am not afraid of the dumbbells anymore, at least as long as I am on my back. Overhead pressing with a dumbbell isn’t nearly as strong for me.

2a. deadlifts-deficit

115 lbs x 7, 165 x 5

with straps: 195 x 6, 205 x 8

We weren’t sure but thought the 165 pound set might have been a record for me using a double overhand grip; however, I did the same number of reps at the same weight without straps a couple of weeks ago. Still, this is usually the point where I need straps in order to pull the reps. A single isn’t an issue, but it is difficult to do reps when the grip is struggling. While today wasn’t exactly a first, I think today’s set was better than the one two weeks ago.

2b. kettlebell triceps extensions

12kg x 10, x 10, x 9

10kg x 11

3a. block pulls-with belt and straps

205 lbs x 8, 225 x 5

Block pulls are a funny beast. I kind of like them, but they are challenging as they begin right at my sticking point.

3b. toes to bar

x 6 + 6 knee raises with leg extensions

x 4 + 9 straight leg raises

The foot held up just fine. Thank goodness!

Triceps & Abdominals

Upper body day has left my triceps, my lats, even my armpits sore. The abdominal muscles are also quite sore. I’m really not surprised, and I guess I should expect to have sore abs for a few days longer as the ab work will be a regular part of my training.

1a. kettlebell swings

24kg x 10, x 5, x 5, x 5

28kg x 8

These were easy, but they weren’t intended to be challenging, I think.

1b. deadlifts, conventional

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 7, 185 x 6, 215 x 5

with belt and straps: 230 x 2 + 4

The set at 230 pounds was supposed to be 5 reps, but I ran into a snag after the second rep. Michael had pointed out after the previous set that I had been dropping my hips too much. As I began the 230 set, I felt that I dropped my hips again on the first rep, tried to correct it on the second rep, but then I had a very quick break in my rhythm and that never bodes well for me on a heavy deadlift rep set. I lost the tension and couldn’t recover to pull the third rep. Took a moment to recover and reset, then pulled 4 reps. Honestly, I think that was a PR set.

Then Michael dropped the weight and wanted a speedy set of 5.

215 lbs x 0

Yes. Zero! I set myself at the bar, wholly prepared to grip it and rip it, but I just could not do it. I don’t think I could even create the necessary tension in my body. My brain simply said no.

Drop the weight some more for a set of 5 touch and go reps.

185 x 5

Hey! I do still know how to deadlift!

1c. GHD sit-ups

bodyweight x 10, 6kg kettlebell x 10, 6kg x 8, bodyweight x 8

The drop in reps was entirely due to the abdominal soreness.

1d. dips-unassisted

x 5, x 5, x 5, x 4

I honestly wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do any unassisted dips with how sore my triceps are, but I was pleasantly surprised. The reps weren’t necessarily easy though.

2a. TRX triceps extensions (because the triceps weren’t sore enough already)

x 12, x 5

2b. barbell curls

45 lbs x 9 x 2 sets


Routine Chaos

You don’t truly realize how important your routines are until something comes along and throws those routines into chaos. I have no regrets about changing my job, but my carefully constructed routines have definitely been disrupted and I’m still trying to adapt. I haven’t been sleeping well. Regardless of how exhausted I am, falling asleep is like running a marathon…uncomfortable, gruelling, and taking a long time to reach the finish line. Then I wake up frequently between 2:00AM and whatever time my alarm is set for. My routines for drinking water and coffee and eating my meals have been upset the most, I think, because my old work schedule was essentially the same, day in and day out, that it was easy to find a routine, a rhythm that fit. Right now my days off work are not consistent, and that throws off my old routines for doing laundry, housework, errands and scheduling appointments. My gym training times haven’t been affected as much, but they are by no means immune to this season of chaos. Today I was at the gym in the morning instead of later in the afternoon. Not that big of a deal. Eventually, I think, there will be a sense of order and routine in my life once more.

1a. safety bar box squats, with flat shoes, with a full pause on the box to unload the weight unlike the previous weeks where it was only a touch on the box

75 lbs x 8, 125 x 8, 145 x 8, 155 x 7, 155 x 6, 145 x 8

using a sumo stance: 125 x 10

Pausing to actually sit on the box and unload the weight certainly made these more challenging. I worked up to less weight today than I did last week, but today’s sets were tougher. When Michael told me to do the final set with a wider, sumo-type stance, I expected the set to feel even harder; however, it actually felt easier. Michael made sure I realized that he had dropped the weight for that set, which I had been aware of, but I still feel like the set was easier, regardless of the difference in weight.

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 60 x 6, 60 x 6, 60 x 6

50 x 9 AMRAP

You know, I wasn’t convinced that there would ever be a day when the military press wouldn’t intimidate me. Okay, so maybe I’m not completely unafraid of the military press yet, but I think I am finally feeling confidence in my ability to press overhead. These past few weeks have seen me make progress with my military press that I used to think was impossible for me to achieve. I am 99.9% certain that I have never done so many reps with 60 pounds before. My technique, while probably still not always perfect, is so much better than and more consistent than it has ever been. I honestly do not know what has suddenly clicked inside of my brain, but I am glad that the military press mental block seems to be diminishing.

2a. safety bar split squats

75 lbs x 10 each leg, 100 lbs x 10 each leg

Can I just take a moment to say that I do not like the safety bar? Seriously. When I said this out loud this morning, probably between these split squat sets, Michael pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be much of a fan of a regular bar right about this time either. Yeah.

2b. standing single arm kettlebell presses, elbow out to the side

10kg x 10 each side x 2 sets

The second set was easier than the first.

2c. TRX hamstring curls

2 sets of 15

My knees were close together during the first set, and Michael instructed me to have a little separation of the knees during the second set. It doesn’t matter which way I did them…my hamstrings are going to feel it tomorrow!

3. a plank, in the push-up position, with a 35 pound plate on my lower back

held it for about 40 seconds

Of course, that time is based off of what Michael said, and I’m not quite sure if I can trust his judgement in telling time. He counted down the final 10 seconds, and I know his count got slower and slower. It rather felt like the final 10 seconds lasted at least 20!