Fleeing the City

I am currently sitting in a motel room in Hope after consuming a delicious, late dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street. My husband had previously made plans for us to go to Harrison for the weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Before he left for work this morning he said he’d really like to leave today and spend the night in Hope. Even though I am generally the sort of person who likes carefully laid plans, I am still able to be flexible and fly by the seat of my pants…even if I’m praying the entire way that we’ll be able to find an available hotel room! We did. It’s nothing fancy, but we have a king-sized bed and I’m drinking some wine out of a small glass that was wrapped in paper on the bathroom counter. And all of this is perfectly lovely! We aren’t high-faluting kind of people and, when this is your first kid-free, sporting event-free, multi-night trip away from home as a couple, well, let’s just say that we’re grinning like idiots. The rest of our weekend should be a little bit fancier, at least the hotel room, but we shall have a good time regardless.

Since we had already planned on heading out Friday morning, I knew that I’d need to get my final training session of the week done today. My work day was short and sweet, and I was at the gym within a half hour of finishing work.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0) 4 sets @6-10 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5

main event: 90 lbs x 10, 95 x 10, 90 x 9, 90 x 7

Surprisingly enough, the back was probably the least achy while arching in several weeks, which was nice and enabled me to pretty much do my normal bench set-up.

2. high bar squats (3-0x0) 3 sets @8-12 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 95 x 6

main event: 105 lbs x 11, 105 x 12, 105 x 8

Something is going on with my left leg/knee, sporadically and annoyingly. It began to be a bother again during these squats, mostly as I’d finish each rep and lock it out. Even with walking later it would randomly hurt. <sigh>

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 2 sets @8-12

80 lbs x 11, 80 x 8

4a. back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 12

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 12, x 12

The leg raises were less of a bother on the back today as well! Can I call that progress?

 

Friday Fatigued?

It’s been a rather good day. With my current work schedule, Fridays are my Mondays. I don’t often get too caught up in negative feelings about particular days of the week. Sure I look forward to my weekends as much as anyone else, but Mondays have the same potential to be good days as any other day of the week. I slept okay last night but was awake more than asleep for at least an hour before my alarm, which isn’t a good thing when the alarm is set for 4:45 AM, but I got out of bed feeling mostly rested and ready for the day. Work was good, a smooth day with lots of laughter and connections. After work I hit the gym for my final session of week 3. This week was about incurring fatigue; however, for the most part, I felt stronger this week than I have for a while.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4

main event: 100 lbs x 6, 100 x 6, 100 x 6, 100 x 6

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 65 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 12, 95 x 12, 95 x 12

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 11

4a. 45 degree back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 12

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 12, x 10

End of Week 2

I have now completed week 2 of my new training program, and I’m happy to say that this week was better than the first in several ways. I felt stronger. My reps felt and looked better, and there has been less muscle soreness.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 6, 95 x 6, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8

main event: 90 x 10, 90 x 10, 90 x 10

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 9

I kept my feet on the bench for the second set, because the back was feeling achy with the arching.

4a. 45-degree back extensions

x 12, x 10, x 8

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 8, x 6

The leg raises were very uncomfortable on the back, which is why the reps dropped so drastically. But I think it was a good session overall.

Week One Done

The low back has been quite achy since Thursday’s deadlift session.  While still not as bad as it has been previously, I am frustrated by this reappearance and doing what I can to attack it. As I was warming up at the gym this morning, the ache and discomfort persisted and made me wonder how I’d be able to do my squat sets when I could barely do a body weight squat.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 95 x 4

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 2

The back discomfort made arching uncomfortable, so I minimized my arch during the warm up sets by having my feet on the bench…barely since the benches are not very long. I don’t like to do heavy sets without the use of my legs though, so I put my feet down and had a small arch for the working sets. Even then, I was a little slow getting up after each set.

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 x 8, 65 x 10

main event: 90 x 10, 90 x 8, 90 x 8

The weight was light, but the slower eccentric and higher reps made these sets anything but easy. The back was less bothered than it was doing body weight squats earlier, but it still wasn’t completely normal.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0)

65 lbs x 12, 65 x 12

These were done with my feet on the bench again because of the back.

4a. back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 8

4b. leg raises

x 12 , x 10, x 8

The back extensions actually felt good on the low back, but my hamstrings were screaming in agony. The leg raises, however, were like torture on the back.

Week one of the new program is complete.

Keep Breathing

So often lately I feel as if I am walking around holding my breath. Both my coach and my chiropractor frequently tell me to breathe, but this current spate of breath-holding is more figurative than literal. These months of living and dealing with disc and SI joint issues have been a roller-coaster ride, up and down, twisting and turning. Now I enjoy riding roller-coasters. The adrenaline rush of the ride is exhilarating, but then again I also know that the ride will end after a complete circuit. This back pain roller-coaster ride is not fun in any way. The ups are good days with less pain and less restriction, while the bad days have more pain, more limitations, more frustration. Just when I think I’m reaching a plateau, the track gives out beneath me and I’m plunging back towards the ground. So I hold my breath on the days where the pain is less, on the days where I can move more freely, because I am afraid to let my hopes get too high, knowing that the pain seems to keep coming back. I like to think that I am a dreamer, a believer, an eternal hoper of good things, but I sometimes think I am a pessimist. In actuality, I am probably just a realistic dreamer. I cling to my hopes and dreams and look for the positives, but I also see the potential pitfalls, the failures, the alternate realities.

My SI joint was in a lot of pain on Monday and Tuesday. Although it wasn’t quite as extreme on Wednesday, my coach changed up my training and asked me questions that made me grumpy. (I know he has to ask them; he’s just doing his job and being a good coach. There’s more I can say about that conversation…at another time but not today.) Yesterday, the SI joint was feeling even better but still not normal. This morning, I was able to lift things at work that I couldn’t on Tuesday morning. The back was still feeling decent but not normal. This is why I hold my breath. The little positive steps forward make me feel hopeful. What if the positive doesn’t last? What if the back pain ramps up tonight? Tomorrow? But I wore my ‘believe achieve’ socks to the gym today, because I can’t stop hoping…

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 lbs x 6, 165 x 3, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 205 x 1

Here is one of those little positives that cause me to hold my breath. For the first time since the back issues began at the end of January, I did not feel any tightness, pulling, or stretching in my lower back at the bottom of the squat! My depth probably still wasn’t quite where I need it to be, but most of the reps simply felt better, like I was in a position to hit depth.

The first single at 205 was a little slow. It felt a little heavy, and I was tentative. Then again, I haven’t had that much weight on my back since 2016! The second single was better.

1b. bench press-competition grip, with feet on bench and small arch

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 3, 115 x 1, 120 x 1

105 lbs x 3 pause the last rep

105 x 3 with a 3 second eccentric on last rep

105 x 3 with a 3 second eccentric each rep and a pause

2a. barbell hip thrusts

95 lbs x 13, 145 lbs x 15, 145 x 15

2b. seated cable rows

90 lbs x 13 x 2 sets

2c. leg raises using the dip bar

x 11, x 12

The back felt pretty good through my training session, so now I will keep holding my breath.

Out of Sorts

Today was a rough day. My day had barely begun when I started feeling little symptoms that something wasn’t quite right within me. It’s not easy to describe, to put into words. It’s kind of akin to vertigo yet not quite. I’ve gone through the vertigo thing, and this is not as extreme. The world isn’t spinning, but there is a sense of movement inside of my head that is disconcerting. Even something as simple as moving my eyes is enough to cause that feeling of internal motion. It’s an odd feeling, and I don’t like it much at all. And so, I have felt out of sorts all day long. The work day itself was essentially fine and normal, but I don’t think I have felt quite as flustered and uncoordinated as I did today. The day was fine; I was not. As I sat in the lobby during my lunch break, I felt like I was on the brink of tears. I can’t explain why. Out of sorts or not feeling like myself are probably the best descriptions I could use. In talking about it with my coach this afternoon, I still had difficulty putting it into words and I still had to fight back the tears. Same thing earlier tonight when I was talking to my husband about it. Same thing right now as I am typing. I feel like a bobble-head toy, and I want to cry.

Despite the way I feel, I was still looking forward to my training session, because the gym is a happy place for me, even when life isn’t all sunshine and roses. No matter how bad I might be feeling when I arrive at the gym, I always leave feeling better. Sometimes training completely erases the negative mood, while other times the post-gym high is rather short-lived, and such was the case today. I left the gym feeling better than I when I had arrived; however, I was back to fighting off tears as I drove home. Hoping tomorrow is a better day!

Since I wasn’t feeling like myself, today’s training didn’t look quite the same as the past couple of Fridays. That is something that I love about my coach…the fact that he adapts on the fly depending on how I feel, not only physically but in other ways, too. I suppose it helps that I don’t have a competition in the near future, so we have a lot of wiggle room with my training.

1a. front rack reverse lunges

45 lbs x 16, 75 x 16, 85 x 12

These weren’t too bad. The weight wasn’t heavy and the act of lunging wasn’t really difficult, but I did have some trouble with balance here and there throughout the sets.

1b. flat dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 10, 34 lbs x 10, 39 x 8, 39 x 10 PR

The fact that I used 25 pound dumbbells for my warm-up set of presses amazes me. The 25 pounders have often been my nemesis and likely still are depending on the exercise! The flat dumbbell presses seem to be decent for me lately, and I’m not so intimidated by the heavier weights.

2a. trap bar deadlifts

135 lbs x 8, 185 x 6, 185 x 5 + 135 x 9

I’m pretty sure that Michael said that I could do something for fun when he decided to throw these into the mix. I’m also pretty sure that I didn’t find them quite as fun as he might have thought they’d be. The first set was easy. The next two sets were full of frustrations. I used straps, because 185 pounds is a little above my grip threshold; however, using straps on the trap bar isn’t as easy as on a regular bar. Then I had issues with having the bar balanced. While the weight wasn’t truly heavy for me, I did find that it felt heavy off of the floor. Michael, of course, picked up on that and commented on how that was due to the fact that I tend to pull with my back instead of pushing with my legs. I could only smile when he said that, because I know that I do tend to pull more than I push with my deadlift and I could definitely feel the difficulty off the floor with the trap bar. Naturally, Michael said that it would be a good idea to incorporate more trap bar into my training, because it forces me to use my legs.

2b. chest supported rows

16kg kettlebells x 12, x 15 with a long 5 second hold on the last rep

2c. lying leg raises with 6 pound medicine ball

x 8 held between ankles plus a forgotten number of reps with ball held between knees

x 3 between ankles and maybe 2 between knees + 15 hanging knee raises

The right hip was making some clunky, grindy noise during the reps with the ball between the knees, so Michael had me do the hanging knee raises.

3. barbell curls

45 lbs x 8 x 2 sets

Michael asked if I wanted to use a 35 or 45 pound bar. I said that it really wouldn’t make a difference. He made a comment about the attitude in such a response, but I countered that my comment could be taken in different ways. I might have preferred the 35 pound bar, but he gave me the heavier one. Of course. To be honest, I’m impressed that I managed 8 reps each set.

4a. triceps pulldowns with red band

x 25, x 15

These started off easy enough, but those triceps shut down quickly once they begin to fatigue!

4b. incline rear laterals, 45 degrees

5 lbs x 22, 8 lbs x 15 + 10 shoulder extensions

I’m not a big fan of laterals. I know exactly where my thoughts went when Michael said to do these next. He even said that these wouldn’t be easy, but they kind of were! I was actually surprised by the first set. I think I probably could have done 30 reps, but I don’t think Michael was even truly aware of how many I actually did in that moment. The rep with the 8 pound dumbbells was slightly more challenging, especially towards the end, but I didn’t mind these nearly as much as I often do.

Today’s training session was a bit of a change up, and Michael said that he’d be changing up my program again next week. I’m okay with that. Without a competition in the near future, I’m perfectly fine to do whatever he tells me to do. I know that my coach will always be looking to make me better, so I trust his judgement. Besides, I’m always up for a challenge or something different. Of course, I don’t know what next week will look like now and that leaves me curious and full of anticipation, but I fully expect to find trap bar deadlifts in the mix.

Training, Wine & Work

Instead of training this afternoon, I trained early yesterday morning, as in early enough that I would be finished in time to head out for some wine touring with some girlfriends for the day. Since I was out all day, not back home until past my ‘night before work’ bedtime and had to work at 5:00 this morning, I simply did not blog yesterday. So here I am today to talk about yesterday’s training session…hoping I can remember the details beyond the numbers in my notebook.

With this week being my first week of non-competition prep training, I had no idea what was in store for me. Being the end of my training week, I kind of expected some sort of deadlift variation, and I had basically been warned that arms would figure into every day. Really, I just knew that I was going to be worked hard and would feel the effects for days. My expectations were definitely met.

1a. skater squats

I’ve said this frequently this week, but it has been a long time since I’ve done this exercise! I guess that’s what happens when you have 3 consecutive competitions and can basically only focus on the main lifts and a tiny bit of accessory work. Skater squats can be challenging, but I think I actually don’t mind them. Balance always seems to be my biggest challenge though. We used a tri-fold mat for me to squat down to and started with the mat completely folded (or at its maximum thickness).

x 8 each leg with 3 layers of mat

x 10 with 2 layers of mat

x 8 with 1 layer

Leg strength wasn’t an issue! Balance was definitely shakier on the first set, better on the second, and, for the final set, the right leg seemed shakier. The balance also seems to become an issue near the top of the squat and not at the bottom. I was quite impressed with how decent the final set felt. In fact, as I was in the midst of that final set, I had the thought that I was going to add ‘doing a pistol squat’ to my little book of goals. Isn’t it funny how the taste of success in one thing can make you feel hopeful or confident about being successful with something else.

1b. incline dumbbell presses

20 lbs x 10, 25 lbs x 10, 34 lbs x 8

2a. snatch grip deadlifts with a slower eccentric, with straps after the first set

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 155 x 8, 165 x 8, 165 x 8

Obviously I haven’t done snatch grip deadlifts very much lately either! I do like them, but they are most definitely taxing on the upper back, especially with the higher reps.

2b. hammer curls

20 lbs x 10 x 2 sets

Gotta admit that the dumbbells felt heavy when I first picked them up, but then most of the muscles in my upper body are so stiff and sore…

3a. Hmmm…not sure what to call this? dip bar leg raise hold?

Michael wanted me to do leg raises using the dip bar; I think I sort of managed two before jumping down. My arms and shoulders were so shaky and unstable. Have I mentioned how sore my arms are this week? So, he took pity on me and had me use the dip bar for a hold with my knees brought up as high as I could get them. I have no idea how long the holds were. I stayed up there, shaking like a leaf in a storm until Michael told me to stop, but I doubt that it was actually more than 30 seconds, even if it felt like forever. I did 2 holds.

3b. flat bench lying leg raises…sort of

x 8 with a foam roller held under my knees

That variation was actually rather easy. The hardest part was keeping the foam roller in place.

x 3 the same as the first set until Michael realized just how easy it was for me

x 3 without the foam roller, knees bent as I rolled up and legs extended on the eccentric…sooooo much harder, hence why I only managed 3 reps before quitting!

Yesterday was also the final day of my little competition vacation. It wasn’t intentionally planned, but spending the day wine-touring with friends was a wonderful way to wind up my vacation. It also wasn’t planned that I would work 2 days, have a day off, work 2 more days and then have another week off, and yet that is what my schedule looks like. Of course, these 4 days of work are my last days at my current job, and that week off will be my gap before starting my new job on September 6. Today was my last Friday shift. Tomorrow is my last Saturday shift, and I can say the same thing about my shifts on Monday and Tuesday next week! Each of those days/shifts is unique in the people I work with, the feel & flow of the shift, and my responsibilities & roles, which means that each of my remaining days of work is laced with landmines of emotion that threaten me with every step. Tomorrow is going to be a tough one, I think, because my Saturday shifts are my favourite. Unless I am mistaken, tomorrow will be my first final shift with several co-workers and just thinking about that is making me tear up. Monday will be my last bake shift. Tuesday will be the absolute final shift…how can I not get emotional that day?! I am extremely excited about my new job, but saying good-bye to my Tim Hortons family is going to be hard. Three days left…