The Monday-Friday Mind Meld

It’s my Monday and the first of my two early morning shifts. Tomorrow is the early, early shift, and I flip to closing shifts for the rest of my week. As much as I am a night owl, I really do enjoy the open shifts. Today was a busy morning, like really busy, but it still felt like a decent day. After work, I hurried home to change and gather my gear, drove my daughter to a friend’s, and hit the gym. I had barely returned home when my husband asked me to go for a drive with him, a drive that would end up including dinner. Now I am finally home and able to recline, relax, and decompress from the entire day. The yawns appeared during dinner, and I took my contacts out almost as soon as we walked in the door. Ideally, I’d like to be in bed in two hours, because I like my sleep. My husband wants to watch a movie. How much sleep will I get tonight?

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 7, 85 x 7

main event: 100 lbs x 7, 100 x 7, 100 x 7

2. low bar squats (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5

main event: 145 lbs x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 5

The final set was where I felt some fatigue. I paused a moment, considering going for another rep or two to max out the set, but ultimately felt it wisest to stop.

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

95 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 6

These felt better, easier than last week, and that shows with an increase in the reps I did compared to last week.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 13

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

And now it looks like we’re watching the new King Kong movie…

Advertisements

Week 6, Day 1

Yesterday was Monday and I didn’t go to the gym. <gasp> My brain tends to look and think several steps ahead of the moment, and the decision to postpone Monday’s training until Tuesday flows from it. My work day on Friday is a full day, like a 9-5 shift, which would still make training possible in the evening, just not ideal. Since I am closing on Saturday, I can train that morning. By training today instead of yesterday, I can essentially maintain my routine of training and rest days.

When I received this week’s training program, I was excited to see some changes to my assistance exercises, especially for my Monday. However, I was not as excited to see barbell shoulder presses added to my Wednesday session. Oh well! The changes won’t mean I’m working any less though.

1. competition squats, aka low bar (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 115 x 3, 135 x 4

main event, with belt: 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6

I haven’t squatted with low bar since my Provincials competition in June. Still it felt mostly good. I think my belt was too tight during the first working set, so I loosened it a bit for the remaining sets. My third working set felt ugly, but the last set was much better, maybe even the best of the bunch.

All of the power racks were in use when I arrived, so I had to use the solitary free standing rack which meant no safeties. I wasn’t overly concerned about it, since I knew I wasn’t going to be using maximal weights and I could use the deadlift bumper plates.

2. competition bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

main event: 110 lbs x 6, 110 x 5, 110 x 4

A competition bench for me is a moderately wide grip. The markings on the bar I was using seemed different than other bars, so I had some trouble finding the right distance for my hands to be. The warm ups felt fine until I got to 100 pounds, and then the bar felt heavy. In fact, the first couple of warm up sets had me wondering if the bar was lighter than a standard bar. The working sets disabused me of that notion!

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 9, 75 x 8, 75 x 8

I had the strength to do more, I think, but not the energy.

The back of my throat has been dry and sore for the past couple of days along with a bit of nasal congestion. I don’t get sick very often, but something is trying to hit me. And I haven’t been sleeping well the past few nights, most likely due to the throat and nose.

4. glute bridges

75 lbs x 15 x 3 sets

5. chest supported rows

45 lbs x 12, 55 lbs x 10, 55 x 8

The rep range was supposed to be 10-12 for these, but I wasn’t exactly sure where to start with weight. I haven’t done chest supported rows for quite a while, so I played it conservatively. Or so I thought. The first set actually wasn’t too bad. I completed all the reps and might have had one or two more left in me. I considered staying at the same weight or adding a bit more. In hindsight I probably should have kept the same weight and got a couple more reps.

But the good news is that the back wasn’t bothered at all by the chest supported rows. Part of the reason why I haven’t done them in so long was because of discomfort in the back. The back was also fine with everything else I did today, and I am feeling less discomfort with arching during my bench all the time. Yeah progress!

Although the knee is still giving me random fits of trouble, it did not bother me at all in the gym today, not even with all that squatting!

Now I just wish I had time for a nap before work, because I’m suddenly feeling tired. I also need some caffeine, because I haven’t had any yet today. And I need food!

Lungs vs. Lunges

I finished my training session a little more than an hour ago, yet I have already been asked by two different people if I had a good session. Most sessions are good. They might not always be easy. I might not always get to do the main lifts I love the most, but training is always a good thing. Today’s training session was generally good, although there was a rough, tough spot.

1a. glute-ham raises

5 sets of 8 reps

1b. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 6, 113 x 8, 128 x 6, 128 x 6

1c. band pull-aparts-orange band

5 sets of 15 reps

1d. bench press-close grip

paused reps: 45 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 95 x 8, 105 x 6

touch and go: 105 x 6

2a. low bar reverse lunges-alternating

43 lbs x 16, 93 x 16

This is where I hit a tough spot. The first set of lunges with just the bar was fine. The second set started out okay but soon felt incredibly difficult. Breathing became a challenge, the bar felt heavy, and a sense of panic began to flood my brain. Finishing the set required every ounce of self-discipline and determination I could muster, and even then it was tough. We opted to stay at the same weight for the next set, but my coach told me to stop sooner if breathing became an issue again.

93 x 6

I don’t know which set felt harder! I struggled with balance from the beginning with this set. Honestly at this point in time, I do not recall if my breathing was as much of a struggle after only 6 reps, but I suspect that it was to some degree. As much as I wasn’t keen on quitting after only 6 reps, that feeling of panic filled me again and so I stopped. I know I am wholly capable of doing reverse lunges with that much weight, if not more, on my back, and I am not prone to panic attacks in general. As much as there are moments or situations where I feel anxious, I am not someone who goes full out panic mode. So this was odd and disconcerting. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I hardly slept last night. Perhaps it was my breakfast of cold brew coffee and Fruit Loops. The heat? The pace? My own inner turmoil? All of that or none of it? Some random combination of the above? I don’t know.

2b. glute-ham sit-ups

x 12, x 10, x 15

2c. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 12 each

with a strap: 20kg x 12 each, 20kg x 12 each

9

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.

Super-powered Singlet

Yesterday afternoon I pulled my singlet out of the drawer and put it on to make sure it still fit. It fit just as I expected it to. My little weight cut is going well. There is just nothing flattering about a singlet. Still, I chose to wear the singlet at the gym this morning. I knew I’d be doing some heavy squat singles, so the singlet would make it easier for my coach to judge my depth. Next week my coach will be away, so I will have my few pre-competition training sessions in a strange gym surrounded by strangers. Since I like to wear the singlet at the gym at least once before a competition in order to re-familiarize myself with it, I would much rather wear it at my coach’s private gym than out in public.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves, in a singlet, almost pausing

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 5

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

I don’t know what it was, but I felt strong today. I’m losing weight and feeling hungry fairly often, but the bar felt light this morning and moved fast and smoothly. And all to legal depth! Maybe it was the singlet! Maybe I’m finally getting my groove back. Maybe by the time I get to Provincials I will be close to where I was last competition…

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench: 43 lbs x 8, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 5…paused last reps

with legs and arch: 110 lbs x 4, 110 x 3, 110 x 3…paused each rep for last two sets

2. hanging leg raises

x 12

I kept these quite strict with no back swing, so I couldn’t lift the legs too high, but that is also due in part to the back issues. Mostly this was about decompressing the spine a bit without aggravating the back problems.

3a. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 15, 30 lbs x 15

3b. dumbbell curls

20 lbs x 10 x 2 sets

3c. TRX rows

2 sets of 20

Hitting Depth!

Competition is 3 weeks from tomorrow. Excitement is beginning to blossom, slowly and cautiously. This competition will be unlike any of my previous 7. Indeed, nothing in my training/peaking has been normal for heading into a competition. It wasn’t too many weeks ago that my coach asked me if I was certain I actually wanted to compete still. As stubborn as my intention to compete has always been, the lingering disc/SI joint issues have definitely messed with my head and confidence. My expectations have had to change, which isn’t always an easy thing to accept, but this is reality. Whether I like it or not, this competition is not going to be my best ever. That chafes. I am competitive, and I strive to be better every time. Sometimes that won’t happen, and that should be okay. I know that is true, but I can feel the inner tug-of-war between accepting my limitations and striving for more.

My coach asked me today what I am hoping for at Provincials. That’s a tough question to answer. Obviously I can’t base my hopes on a completely healthy body and ideal peak, but the limitations to my training have been significant enough that I honestly have no idea what I might be able to do. The only personal best expectation that I have is for my bench press, because I’ve been stuck at the same weight in competition for too long and should be able to surpass it. Aside from that, my response to my coach was that I would really be happy just to go 9 for 9.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 2, 185 x 3 (RPE 7), 185 x 3, 185 x 3, 185 x 3

Michael told me to treat each rep almost like a paused squat, so I controlled my eccentric and almost paused at the bottom. And you know what that did? It allowed me to finally make legal depth! Yeah! I think there might have been one rep in the final set that was iffy for depth, but the rest were all good. Finally!

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 3, 103 x 1

with feet on floor and arch: 115 x 1, 125 x 1, 130 x 1, 130 x 1

The first single at 130 was a bit slower than what Michael was expecting. It was slower than I expected, too. I focused on some inner frustrations before the next single in order to make it faster, and it worked.

2. TRX rows x 15, x 20

Just a Squat That I Used to Know

Provincials are 25 days away according to my countdown app…just under 4 weeks, which means I really only have 3 weeks of real training. The final week will be for deloading.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves, slower eccentric

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 2, 200 x 1, 210 x 1

The set at 135 pounds actually felt really good. Michael even said that he might pass most of the reps. The slower eccentric helped a bit, but I’m still mostly hitting parallel for depth. We took video of the 185 and 200 sets to assess. It’s difficult to judge the depth with certainty. Maybe I’ll have to start wearing my singlet. One thing that was quite obvious in the videos was my ankle mobility and extreme angle of my shins! My body is doing all sorts of things in the effort to squat safely, to protect my back, and to try to hit depth. Unfortunately, that also means that my squat looks different almost every time I go to the gym! But my final single did move better than my heavy single last week. Hopefully my body is getting used to the feel of heavy weight on my back again.

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on the bench: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 5

with feet on floor and arch: 113 lbs x 5, 118 x 3, 118 x 3

My back is still not 100%. I’m hesitant to even attempt to rate the state of my back at this time. It is definitely improving and has improved significantly compared to a few weeks ago, but I can still feel a degree of pain or discomfort through most of the day. There may be a reasonable chunk of time with almost no pain, but then the simplest thing, like taking a step up a stair, can jostle the back uncomfortably. Although my back generally feels okay at the gym, I want to keep it feeling that way through my training session and beyond, and this is why I elect to do as much of my benching with my feet up on the bench. Having my feet on the bench enables me to have less of an arch…or no arch, if necessary. It’s not my favourite way to bench, but sometimes you do what you gotta do. Benching was all solid and smooth today.

2a. pause squats-low bar, with belt, 2 second pauses

155 lbs x 3, 175 x 3

I love pause squats! There is something about doing a pause squat that allows me to nail my technique. Michael was hoping that having a slower eccentric on my regular squats would have the same result, but it didn’t. I’m not sure why, except for maybe the difference in knowing that I will be staying in the bottom for a bit when doing pauses. Pause squats have always been a good tool for me, but we mostly avoided using them over the past few months because of my back and not wanting to put more strain there. That was likely a good decision, but I’m glad that I am able to use the pause again.

2b. hanging leg/knee raises

x 12

I started off raising my legs and switched to knees at some point. There was some minor back discomfort doing these, particularly with the legs straight…the feeling of muscles being pulled or stretched more than they want to. That same sensation has been present at the bottom of my squats since the back problems started. It’s only been in the last week or so that I’ve been able to squat without feeling it, so I’d say that’s progress. Several weeks ago, I couldn’t even do hanging knee raises without significant discomfort. More improvement!