Another not so great sleep. Another early start to the day. My body feels somewhat achy…a combination of the back, the shoulders, the neck, and mild muscle soreness. I am tired. Sounds like a broken record, I know. Do young people these days even know what a broken record sounds like?

My coach is still away, but I was blessed to be able to train at a friend’s house this morning. She has a lovely squat rack, one with reasonably spaced holes so I didn’t have to worry about awkward rack heights. It was a little odd to train in someone’s home, but it was also kind of nice. And I was glad to have someone “spot” my heavy squat attempts. Although a squat fail is rare for me, heavy weights can be scary and intimidating, so having someone there is comforting.

1. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 205 x 2

I am reasonably confident that my coach isn’t going to read this blog post, which may be a good thing, because I kind of did a little more than he probably would have liked. In my defense though, he had only given me the vaguest of instructions…on Thursday you could work up to 225 for singles…did he say single or singles? I don’t remember, but I don’t always do well with vague instructions, depending on the situation. I’m a details kind of person.

Ironically, my coach texted me as I finished the first rep at 225; however, his feedback was a little too slow to prevent me from going ahead with two more singles at that weight. By the time he texted that the first single was enough, I had already done two more! The first one was alright. The second one was more of a grinder than it should have been, which means I should have stopped. Sometimes I am stupid. The last one was okay, better than the second. The reason I went ahead with the third single was that the second one had issues. As I was stepping out with the bar, I hit the racks significantly. I should have racked the bar and refocused, but I didn’t. Then I was focusing on making sure I hit depth. I survived, but I know that my coach would have shut me down there based on bar speed.

2. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 3, 110 x 3

These were easy and solid today. I just had to keep the bar moving well and with good speed. The heavy bench single will be Saturday.

My Provincials count down is now in single digits at 9 days! It feels so incredibly close but still so far away.


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?

Of Knees, Squats & Sleeves

As much as I was looking forward to this morning’s training session, I was also mildly frustrated before I even arrived at the gym. The right knee has been bothering me again since Saturday in both of the usual areas. The right shoulder has also been bothersome for a few days, although to a lesser degree. It is an exceptionally rare training day that Michael does not ask how my body is feeling. In answering that question, honesty is the best policy, because my coach needs all the pertinent information in order to assess what’s going on and make any necessary adaptations or changes. But sometimes I don’t really want to. I don’t want the weight to be dropped. I don’t want my favourite exercises to be skipped or softened. Still, I have to be honest, so Michael told me to wear my knee sleeves. I half expected it to be difficult to put the sleeves on, since I haven’t worn them since August; however, putting them on over top of my socks makes the task easier. The right sleeve did feel tighter though. With the sleeves on, the pain in the knee at the deepest part of my squat was almost eliminated, not completely but enough.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 9, 95 x 6, 125 x 8, 155 x 6, 185 x 6, with belt 195 x 6, without belt 175 x 6

The squats felt incredibly good today! Last week was my first time doing low bar in quite a while, and my top set at 185 felt heavy and tough. Today, 185 pounds felt much lighter, much faster, and much smoother. Even today’s top set felt lighter than last week’s and easier. I guess I’m also not quite as fat as I thought I was, since I was able to get my belt on to my old notch again. 😉 With each set I was cognizant of ensuring that my stance was slightly wider. When Michael had me widen my stance last week, it felt okay but weird. Today it felt natural, and I could feel the positive difference in my squat.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 75 x 8, 90 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 5.5

I’d say that today’s bench press sets were solid, smooth and consistent, even though they felt a little bit tougher than last week’s. The failed final rep was my fault, according to Michael, and I can own that. Somehow I misgrooved the rep and got into trouble. Sometimes I can feel that a rep is going to be off right from the beginning of the rep. The wrists might not be feeling like they are in a comfortable position. One or both of my shoulders might have slipped from its position. I might breathe wrong. This time I think it was my wrists. Generally my wrists were in a good position each set, but I noticed a sense of discomfort as I set up for the final set. Such little details…

2a. pause squats-low bar, 2 seconds

135 lbs x 5, 160 x 5

2b. Spoto presses-close grip, 2 second pause

85 lbs x 8 x 2 sets

As I settled into position for the first set, Michael made a comment about how he might have misjudged the weight. Seriously?! You make a comment like that right as I am getting ready to unrack the bar! But, I was only a couple of reps in when he said that he had gotten it right.

Although we didn’t have time for it today, I was warned that a lot more ab work is coming my way, like every training session. Joy!

Dreaming of Donuts

Mondays are typically long days for me, but today was especially long. Thanks to a customer ordering 14 dozen donuts to be picked up at 5:30 this morning, I had to start work at 4:00 instead of my usual 5AM, and that meant I was awake at 3:00. It is truly astounding how much one hour can affect the day. I managed to wake up just fine, but I had 2 large cups of dark roast in less than an hour. That is so not typical for me! I only have one small cup first thing in the morning and usually just one grande in the afternoon. Needless to say, my heart was pounding and my brain was racing for almost the rest of my work shift. Unfortunately, while the inside of me felt like a squirrel, the outside of me felt like a zombie, but I got all the donuts done in 50 minutes. The fatigue was the worst between 12 and 2PM, even with my afternoon cup of coffee. I did try to take a 20 minute nap, but naps are mostly a futile endeavor. I quickly fell to the very brink of sleep, that point where you know that you’re still awake but the pull of sleep is strong and you almost start to dream, but then alertness came crashing into my brain and would not go away. I guess that was the afternoon cup of coffee calling. Thankfully, the worst of the fatigue had dissipated by the time I got to the gym. Michael said I could do some box jumps or squat jumps to wake me up, but I assured him that I was fine. Really not a big fan of jumping. 😉

1a. squats, with sleeves, not quite high bar and not quite low bar

45 x 8, 95 x 6, 125 x 5, 155 x 5

with belt: 185 x 3, 205 x 1, 225 x 1, 205 x 3, 205 x 3, 210 x 3

Squats weren’t too bad today…mostly. Michael thought my single at 225 was faster than last week’s. I honestly don’t remember, but last week was not the greatest training session or day for me. I’ll take the improvement and keep plugging away at improving my technique.

1b. bench press, competition grip

43 x 10, 65 x 8, 85 x 5, 100 x 5, 110 x 3, 120 x 2, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

113 x 3, 113 x 3

I think the presses were good today, even if I’m a long way from my goal of 15, 000 pounds.

2a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 15 x 3 sets

2b. pause squats, with belt and sleeves, about a 2 second pause

185 x 1, 195 x 1, 205 x 1

I love pause squats and was happy to be told I’d be doing some today. Am I the only one who enjoys doing pause squats? My form is much better when doing paused squats. Of course, that illuminates a weakness or problem with my regular squats. There’s always something to work on.

Aches & Pains

Since I am laying here staring at my laptop and zoning out when I am trying to compose a blog post, I guess I will just get right down to the training session details.

1a. squats, low bar, knee sleeves

warm-up: 45 x 8, 12kg kettlebell goblet squats x 8, 45 x 8

Michael had me do a warm up set with the bar, then the goblet squats and back to the bar. I’ve been having some issues with the back of my right knee, and he wanted to see how each felt. The goblet squats presented the most discomfort, but it was still not too bad.

95 x 5, 125 x 5, 155 x 5, 175 x 5

I was consciously making an effort to expand my chest more before beginning my squat, and I did notice a difference in my squats as a result. There was less of a sticking point! I also experimented with my hand position…not sure if that was a good idea or not though. I began to feel some uncomfortable pressure in my left shoulder during my last few sets.

with belt: 195 x 3, 205 x 2, 205 x 3

185 x 3 definitely not as good looking or feeling as last Friday’s back down sets at the same weight and I think the left shoulder is the reason

1b. bench press, my wide grip

43 x 8, 63 x 8, 83 x 5, 105 x 5, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

Spoto presses with pause 1 cm off my chest:

95 x 5 x 2 sets

2. reverse hypers

50 lbs x a bunch

I’ve been having some mild pain and discomfort in my lower left back. It doesn’t bother me too much, but there is definitely tenderness and I can palpate the area and feel that something is not the same as on the other side. There always seems to be something…

A Girl and a Bar

Today was my first time using a regular barbell for back squats since the box fell on my neck on May 23. Although I have used the safety bar several times over the past couple of years and I understand the benefits of using it, I’m not much of a fan. Safety bar squats suck! Even though I knew that I wasn’t going to lose strength squatting with the safety bar for a few weeks, with a competition looming I was a little worried about my squats and peaking, and I think that subconsciously tempered my excitement for the competition. With the green light to return to a normal barbell, the excitement began to simmer. Now that I have finished today’s training session, the excitement is starting to boil.

1a. squats, low bar with knee sleeves

45 x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 3

with belt: 185 x 1, 200 x 1, 210 x 1

Although I am permitted to use a real bar, I am not allowed to use a high bar position right now, which is perfectly fine by me as I prefer low bar anyway. These squats felt good, really good. Definitely easier than the safety bar with lighter weights!

185 x 3

185 x 3 but with a thumbless grip to see if that helped me keep my elbows tighter. I don’t know if it made that big of a difference with the elbows, but this set might have looked a bit better overall compared to the previous.

1b. bench press, competition grip about 1″ in from outer ring

45 x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 100 x 6, 110 x 2, 115 x 1, 120 x 1

105 x 3, 105 x 3

2. deadlifts, conventional

135 x 6, 185 x 3

with belt: 215 x 1, 235 x 1, 255 x 1

It was so good to have a decent, heavy session. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that my heaviest deadlift today is close to my gym PR. Squats felt great, easy and light. And I wasn’t surprised at all when Michael said that I could gain a bit of weight over the next couple of weeks; I was actually waiting for it. I will see what I can do!


I Don’t Know Squat

I was a little surprised by the scale this morning, when it said that I weighed 164 pounds. To be honest, I felt a moment or two of panic, not because I think I am fat but because I don’t really want to get further away from my competition weight class. I guess I wasn’t really too surprised, when Michael suggested cutting out sugars and flours so that I can lose a few pounds to make my pre-comp weight cut more reasonable. I’m okay with that. It might not be super easy to cut out the sugars and flours, but then again it shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve done it before, and I am capable of narrowing my focus in order to reach my goals.

Michael said that we’d likely hit a single at 80% of my max with my squats today. I was excited about that, but it never happened.

1a. squats, no sleeves

without belt, high bar:

45 x 6, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 155 x 3

Last week Michael had me try a small adjustment to my pause squats in an effort to protect my knees, since my knees typically push forward quite a bit when I squat. So I tried doing the same thing today. It wasn’t too bad, but I was definitely slower and grindy.

with belt:

high bar, new style 175 x 1…slow and grindy

low bar, new style 175 x 1…still a bit of a grind but felt better than the high bar

low bar, old style 175 x 1…We were trying to see which style felt better and faster, but I seemed to have gotten all mixed up to the point that I didn’t know how to squat anymore. This rep was super deep which caused a heartbeat of panic. I made the rep, but it wasn’t a very accurate indicator for which style was best.

low bar, trying to reclaim my old form 185 x 1

low bar, still trying to reclaim old form:

175 x 5…Made it but it felt harder than it should have. Michael asked if I wanted to drop the weight to work on technique. I agreed, but I didn’t like it much.

165 x 5…slightly better

165 x 5…even more slightly better

I’m trying not to give too much weight to the issues with the squats today, so I’ll just blurt it all out here and then, hopefully, wipe the mental slate clean. It was a little disconcerting to have those struggles today. I know that every training session isn’t going to be perfect, but I suppose I have grown comfortable in believing that the squat is my favourite lift, quite likely my best lift and where I feel the most confident and consistent. Today’s squats rattled that belief and shook my confidence. Just a little. I know I will get it back! Michael pointed out that there are many variables at play. This was really my first time doing squats without knee sleeves for quite a while, so that can mess with my head and possibly make the squats feel a bit more difficult. My lower back was really quite sore over the weekend from Friday’s deadlifts, more sore than it had been for some time. In fact, it might not have been that sore since post-competition last October! Even though the back is feeling significantly better today, there is still fatigue going on there. Those are two of the big and obvious factors.

1b. bench press, competition grip

43 x 8, 63 x 6, 80 x 6, 95 x 3, 105 x 1, 110 x 1, 100 x 5, 100 x 5, 100 x 5

At least my bench press is great! I don’t think there was a bad rep in the bunch today. They were solid, smooth, and consistent.

2a. lat pulldowns, mimicking my bench press

100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 9

2b. reverse barbell lunges

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12

I just spent at least 3 minutes looking at my training log, taxing my brain to figure out why I only had two sets of lunges written down. Did I do three sets and forget to write the last set down? Or did I only do two sets? Why would I have only done two sets of lunges, when I did three sets of pulldowns? My brain is done for the day, but I finally remembered that Michael scrapped the last set of lunges to give my legs a break after all the squats!

3a. hanging leg raises, no momentum, keep my legs as straight as possible and raise as high as I can

x 10, x 10

3b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10 (7 with hands behind the head and keeping my upper back super tight + 3 with hands free)

Okay, now it is time to shake off the less than satisfactory squat session, so that I can fall asleep instead of chasing after a hundred random thoughts.