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

Goblet Squats

Since it is Wednesday I walked into the gym expecting military presses to be on my agenda, but my coach surprised me by saying that we weren’t going to do them today…if I was okay with that. The military press. while I will do them when required, is not my favourite lift and I did not mind doing something else this morning at all!

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses 8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 9 each

Since overhead pressing tends to be an area of struggle for me, I am pleased as punch whenever I manage to have strong feeling sets. Michael only asked for sets of 8, but I pushed for an extra rep on the final set in order to set a PR. Of course, I only pushed because I felt confident in my ability to complete the extra rep.

hip thrusts with hip circle 2 sets of 20

1a. floor press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 90 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 4

1b. goblet squats-flat shoes

12kg kettlebell x 8, 44 lb dumbbell x 8, 64 lbs x 8, 84 x 8, 105 lb dumbbell x 3, 95 x 0, 84 x 10, 84 x 6

For the most part, these goblet squats felt really good. Michael intervened after the third rep at 105 pounds, recognizing that the upper back wasn’t going to hold for another. We dropped the weight a bit. Since my back is still an issue, Michael helped me by lifting the heavy dumbbells, so I could just be in position and take the dumbbell from him rather than running the risk of hurting my back trying to pick it up from the floor. He’d given me the 95 pound dumbbell and I held it but decided against attempting a squat, because I could feel more strain on my lower back than I had felt during the previous sets. This was likely due to the fact that the 105 and 95 pound sets were with regular plates on handles which meant a larger dumbbell that protruded further away from my body and required a bit more bend in the lower back. We dropped the weight and the first set was no problem. The final set started out easy enough, but the upper back was done.

2a. chest supported rows

45 lbs x 20, 70 x 3…the low back was feeling a bit pressured

2-16kg kettlebells x 12, x 4…this time the upper back was just done

2b. cable triceps pull-downs: reverse grip + overhand grip

30 lbs x 15 + 10, x 10 + 7

From the very beginning when I was doing the hip thrusts, I had the urge to take a picture of a section of the wall in the gym. My coach has a ribbon of words spanning the length of one wall, and my gaze was drawn to a handful of words over and over again. Ironically, as I am typing now roughly 11 hours later, I cannot recall the exact words that caught my eye. The first set of hip thrusts started out most uncomfortably on the low back, and I focused on the words. It bothers me that I can’t remember the words now. In my defense, there are many words and I have gazed upon them all many a time. I shall have to look at them again tomorrow…and maybe snap a picture. The back is determined to shove splinters of doubt into my confidence, so I need all the positive input I can get.

One Step at a Time

Provincials is 10 weeks away and registration opens on Sunday! The SI joint is still a problem, but I privately celebrate every little bit of progress no matter how small. As I closed the store last night, I was able to lift stacks of patio chairs without the discomfort that was present the night before doing the exact same task. I can lift my right leg higher to put my pants on without discomfort and without needing to hold onto something as I bend forward. I could get out of the car with slightly less pain. There is a bit less pain from sitting on the toilet. But a sneeze can make the lower back feel as if it is being ripped apart. Lowering myself to the floor is still a slow, tentative process. I’ll take those small forward steps, even if they seem to come slowly, sporadically. Progress is better than regression. Although it feels as if this issue is going to last forever, I have to trust that there will come a day when this is but a memory. Until that day, I am just going to do my best to stay positive and upbeat, to focus on what I can do and continue to improve on those things, and trust that I will be successful at Provincials.

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses:

8kg x 5 each, 10kg x 8 each

box jumps:

…can’t remember how many I did…we were focused on making sure that my back wasn’t being bothered by the jumps that I don’t recall the reps…guess I should get in the habit of writing down more of my warm up stuff in my training log…ironically, the back was completely fine with jumping up onto the box, although I was bending my knees to absorb the impact; however, I did have to step down softly as that was more jarring on the back!

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 6, 73 x 6

with belt: 113 x 6, 135 x 6, 135 x 1

I wouldn’t normally require a belt for these weights, but Michael wants me to use it as much as possible leading up to competition and also just to be mindful of my back. The first belted set was with my own belt, while the other two were with a softer, velcro closure belt of Michael’s. Before I even did the first rep with my belt, something didn’t feel quite right on the left side of my lower back. It wasn’t the same discomfort and it settled down by the next set, whether because of the softer belt or just no reason at all. Speed and bar path were good. Breathing sucked but that’s front squats! The final set didn’t get very far though. I did the first rep and felt enough discomfort in the lower back as I came out of the hole that I paused at the top, considered a moment and then racked the bar. Michael said that was enough.

1b. floor presses-competition grip

45 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

with slingshot:

95 x 6, 115 x 6, 120 x 4 or 5?, 115 x 6

Using the slingshot for floor presses is interesting, because you don’t get all of the benefit of the slingshot due to the limited range of motion. Again, I am not sure if I completed 4 or 5 reps at 120 pounds before failing. Michael said that he wouldn’t count that as a missed rep…that it didn’t happen! But I know it did. I think the bar got out of position on me, but Michael chose to drop the weight anyway.

1c. prone trap raises

5 lb dumbbells x 11, x 12

band face pulls with wrist rotation, orange band

2 sets of 15

2a. barbell reverse lunges-low bar

75 lbs x 16, 95 x 16

I expected these to feel tougher. The first set was super easy. Although the second set did get a little harder towards the end, it was still surprisingly easy.

2b. back extensions, with 25 lb dumbbell

2 sets of 15

I have been given homework…doing 100 band pull aparts today, tomorrow and Sunday. Always need to work on that upper back! Maybe one day I will look like I actually lift weights! 😉

 

 

Not Epic But Good

SI joint problem. No deadlifts. No problem! There are plenty of things that I can do, and my coach frequently reminds me that I am not going to lose strength. In fact, he’s pretty determined that I don’t get stuck in a negative mindset. Right now, I don’t think he has to worry about that, because I had my meltdown last week and my attitude has refocused once again.

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 8 each

I think this might have been a PR today!

1b. skipping

two 1 minute rounds

I know it is only skipping, but I am impressed with my skipping this morning. Some days sees more tripping and welts. The lower back didn’t like skipping the last time I tried, but today was easy-peasy and smooth.

2a. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 65 x 4 + 4 with push, 65 x 3 + 55 x 5

I thought I’d try a thumbless grip on the second set, and that was probably a mistake. The right shoulder burned for the rest of the training session, likely because the thumbless grip resulted in less lat engagement and more shoulder effort. Lesson learned!

2b. Bulgarian split squats

bodyweight x 8 each, 54 lb vest x 8 each, vest + 20kg kettlebell x 8 each, vest + 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

3a. chest supported rows

35 lbs x 20, 50 x 15, 60 x 14

3b. flat pin presses-elbows at 90 degrees

75 lbs x 5, 95 x 6, 115 x 8

4a. laying double kettlebell triceps extensions

6kg x 10, 6kg x 9

4b. dumbbell curls

alternating supinated 20 lbs x 20

without supination x 7

Squats & Presses

The lower back is still cranky, very cranky and achy. It’s little things that cause the most bother and discomfort and pain. Sitting which I try to limit to the toilet and the car. Getting out of the car. Laying on my side with my knees pulled up. Bending forward to pick something up. Sitting on the floor at the gym, leaning forward to put on my socks and shoes. Getting up from the bench after pressing with heavy dumbbells. Lowering my body to the floor. At times I feel as if I am moving like an old lady, but I also think that most of the time my level of pain or discomfort isn’t even noticeable to anyone but myself. My coach notices most of the time…when I can’t quite keep it hidden. 😉 But, for all that is not easy to do right now, I am glad that there is still plenty I am able to do without too much bother. I might not be able to deadlift for a while yet, but I can still squat.

1a. squats-low bar, sleeves

45 lbs x 10  Michael had me experiment with bar position for the last several reps to see the difference in my back angle between high and low bar. There wasn’t much difference.

95 x 7, 125 x 7, 145 x 7

with belt: 155 x 7, 165 x 7, 170 x 7

total volume: 6435 pounds

Depth is still questionable. I’m not entirely certain if that is due to an actual restriction in the lower back or just a subconscious restriction to protect the lower back. Either way, it is a little frustrating. My depth isn’t super terrible…probably right about parallel, but another inch deeper would be better when it comes to competition. I’m not too worried about it yet.

Despite the depth issue, these squats were pretty good. Michael said he’s happy with them and that they are an improvement…that I’m getting my squat mojo back! The final set was virtually as fast as any of the earlier ones, and I believe my bar path was good overall.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10  I think Michael noticed the expression on my face as I got up from the bench after this set. Of course, the weight was negligible; however, the lower back wasn’t too happy with arching. Michael recommended benching with my legs up, because doing so would only make my bench stronger without putting more stress on my back.

63 lbs x 7 I had my feet in the air for this set, but the lower back actually hurt more in this position than it did with the arch.

83 x 7, 100 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7

total volume: 3622 pounds

The working sets were done with my feet on the bench rather than in the air. This seemed more comfortable on the back, and I managed to keep myself from using leg drive.

2a. barbell split squats-high bar position

95 lbs x 10 each, 105 x 10 each, 105 x 10 each

Split squats are a funny animal. With the left leg planted on the first set, my balance was atrocious. Same set, right leg planted was so much better. For the second set, my balance troubles switched legs. The final set was easier overall, but finishing off the final rep was torture and there was a definite pause between finishing that rep and being able to rack the bar thanks to jelly leg syndrome.

2b. chest-supported rows-keeping constant tension, using 2-16kg kettlebells

3 sets of 12

2c. flat dumbbell presses-with feet on the bench just like the barbell presses

34 lbs x 10 x 3 sets

I think these presses were okay. My biggest struggles were in getting into position on my back with the heavy dumbbells and then getting back up after. Michael has some pity on me since my back is injured, so he’d take the dumbbells from me so I could sit up. Normally I could do it on my own, even with the dumbbells, but the current state of my back makes that uncomfortable and difficult. He did offer to hand me the dumbbells once I got into position, but I’m too stubborn and managed to get into position without too much trouble.

 

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

 

Don’t Cry Out Loud…

Yesterday I set out the top and socks that I would wear for training this morning, and I had selected a Wonder Woman tank and my FIGHTER socks. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed a different tank top, one that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again!” There was no rhyme or reason for the change. I just felt like it. Little did I realize just how appropriate the shirt slogan would be…or how frustrating my training session would be.

Most of the time the gym is my happy place, and even a difficult session can still be a rewarding and positive experience. While there were glimpses of smiles this morning, they were rare and weak and merely attempts to keep tears at bay. I suppose, in that regard, the smiles were effective. I did not shed a single tear at the gym today! At least I can claim that as a victory. My coach could tell that I was frustrated, although I’m sure it was rather obvious. He reminded me that one bad workout isn’t the end of the world…but it has been more than one. Over the past two months, there have been more bad training sessions than good ones in terms of being able to do what I need to do without pain or physical limitation and discomfort, and I am extremely frustrated by that. Frustrated doesn’t even accurately describe how I am currently feeling.

When it comes to personal pain and situations, it is easy to be myopic. For all my frustration and angst over this ongoing back issue, I do know that my struggle is actually quite small. There are so many people who struggle with issues and pain much greater than what I am dealing with, and the fact that I can’t train the way I want cannot compare to the true limitations many people experience on a daily basis just living life. I understand that. I really do. My husband is scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of April and has been in pain daily for years. I can complain about not being allowed to back squat for several weeks, but my husband literally cannot squat. I can complain about how uncomfortable it is to sit long enough to put my shoes on, but there are days when my husband cannot even put his own sock on. In the grand scheme of things, my current struggle is minor. I know it, but it is still frustrating and disappointing to feel as if you are stuck and going nowhere. The ‘one step forward, two or three steps back’ thing gets really old, really quick.

The back felt pretty good yesterday. Not 100% normal but really good. Then I woke up this morning. It seems that the back is stiff and achy almost every morning when I get up. Then add a little bit of necessary sitting, like using the toilet and driving to the gym, and the back just gets crankier. And then training doesn’t go as planned either.

1a. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

After this warm-up set, Michael asked me how it was or if I just like to make faces on warm-ups. The weight itself was fine, but the back wasn’t exactly thrilled with deadlifting. The discomfort was just that…uncomfortable but not unbearable.

135 x 8

Same as above.

165 x 1 + 1 + 2

There was stronger pain on the first rep, which is why the reps were disjointed. Now I could get into position just fine, but the back started to hurt as soon as I created tension prior to initiating the lift and then as soon as I initiated lowering the bar.

with belt and straps: 165 x 0

I think it was about this point that Michael asked me what my body was telling me, and this was when frustration reared it’s ugly head. Michael pointed out that my response to his question was my mind talking and not my body. <grumble> So, then we tried a bunch of variations to see if one would feel better. Deficit deadlifts were a no-go. Block pulls were a no-go. Sumo block pulls were a no-go. Even kettlebell swings were a no-go. By that point, the fighter in me wanted to fix my ponytail and try again, but that inner fighter was also mentally sitting in a corner, sobbing her eyes out.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 7, 53 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

The last two sets were a bit tougher and likely sloppier, but the previous sets were decent and the bar moved well. The military press has long been a trouble lift for me, but I feel as if I am finally feeling more comfortable with it and struggling less. It used to be that my shoulders would burn with fatigue just holding the bar in the rack position between reps, but I didn’t feel any of that today. And that is one thing I have going for me…that no matter how frustrated, upset or defeated I feel, I can still manage to find a positive somewhere!

2a. reverse hypers

x 20, with 10 lbs x 20, 10 lbs x 20

I’m capable of doing these with more weight than this, but I’m also used to doing reverse hypers without discomfort in my lower back! It didn’t take many reps for me to appreciate the fact that my coach was keeping the weight light.

2b. back extensions

x 25, with 10kg x 25

3. single leg deadlifts

2-10kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2-12kg kettlebells x 10 each

The first set was pure ugliness. My balance was horrid. The second set was a bit better with slightly less balance issues, especially with the right leg planted.