Week 3, Day 1

With today being a holiday and thus the changes in operating hours both at work and the gym, I knew that I had to begin my training session no later than 8:30 this morning if I was going to get it done at all today. I set my alarm for 7:30 and still found myself fighting the urge to shut it off without actually getting out of bed. I’m sleeping reasonably well these days, and I’m fairly good at ensuring I get enough hours of sleep…sometimes the body just wants more! But I got up and dressed and ready. By 8:30 I was at the gym and ready to begin.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event with belt: 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 4, 175 x 3

My coach added an extra working set this week but kept the weight the same. I’m trying to work on my breathing technique, and I have a feeling that will be an ongoing, lengthy process. Still, the squats felt better this week compared to last week, even with the extra set and reps. I felt stronger. The back was less of an issue. With the same weight last week, I only managed a total of 8 reps over 3 sets, so this is definitely an improvement.

2. close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 105 x 3

main event: 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4

The weight jumped a little this week and another set was added, but I think the bar was still moving well. The back felt achy as soon as I started arching on the very first warm up set, but by the time I got to the working sets the arch wasn’t really bothering my back at all. At least not during the pressing…getting out of the arch was a tad slow.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8, 75 x 7

4a. walking lunges

60 lbs x 16, 60 x 16

4b. dumbbell rows

30 lbs x 12, 30 x 10

4c. plank

x 47 seconds, x 30 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

10 lbs x 15, 10 x 13

There was supposed to be 3 sets of all of these exercises, but I called it quits after the second round. Actually, I wanted to pack it in during the first round but managed to push myself to complete two.

 

Thoughts on Fitness Porn

I follow a number of fitness-related Facebook pages. Some are powerlifting related, some are related to general weight training, and some are specifically geared towards women. I do not read every article. I do not express my appreciation of every post by “liking” it. I read articles that are of interest to me, and I “like” stuff that specifically speaks to me. Occasionally, something will come across my newsfeed that causes me to pause but probably not for the reason it was posted. While I am interested in strength training, I am not interested in fitness porn. Most of the time I simply scroll past it, but once in a while I pause to consider how necessary that page is to my day-to-day life.

This scenario happened a few days ago, when a page I follow posted an article about glute training with a photo of a bent over woman holding a barbell while wearing shorts so short they were halfway up her butt. Now I wasn’t offended by the photo. The woman was obviously in good shape, but it was also obviously a staged photo. How many women actually wear that kind of clothing in the gym? Those shorts were so short they couldn’t possibly be comfortable or sanitary. Initially I just scrolled past the article, feeling inner dismay that someone felt the need to use such a picture. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dismayed, because there was quite the buzz in the comments later about the photo. A few women expressed similar sentiments as to what I feel; however, I was even more dismayed to read how many more women reacted with hostility towards the few who didn’t appreciate the photo. Even the page owner (a man) became rather defensive and almost condescending towards the women who didn’t appreciate the photo. He even felt that the picture was okay because his girlfriend selected it. I found it ironic and sad. The women who stated their dislike of the use of the picture were never angry about it. They calmly and rationally expressed their opinion and accepted that everyone wouldn’t share their opinion. The backlash was less kind. Those of us who would rather not see a practically naked woman with the article were called haters, bitter, out of shape, and jealous.

The comments and opinions have been bouncing around in my head ever since. It’s a jumbled mess, I know, because I see the inside of my head all the time! But I have some thoughts and opinions and need to get them outside of my head.

  • The owner of this particular page is himself a powerlifter, trainer and gym owner. His page is an extension of his business, so he can do what he likes with his page. Totally understand and agree.
  • That said, his page caters to women. I also follow a few strength training pages that also cater to women. While I can’t say that there has never been a fitness porn photo on those other pages, I do know that the bulk of the photos and videos show real women wearing real clothes. When I say real women I mean women of all shapes and sizes, including the ones with amazing bodies. When I say real clothes, I mean anything from leggings and baggy t-shirts to short shorts and sports bras. There is a difference between short shorts and the shorts that expose half your ass!
  • I also follow pages that have a more male focus, and I don’t recall ever seeing a man posed as if lifting while wearing virtually nothing. I did a quick scan through these pages today, and all I could see was men in long, baggy shorts. The only exception is when a guy was trying to show off his quads and had his shorts pulled up as high as they’d go. Double standard much?
  • The controversial photo didn’t offend me. I am not a prude, but I suppose you can call me old-fashioned. I wear shorts when I train, but everything is covered. Sometimes I wear t-shirts and sometimes tank tops. I don’t think I could ever just wear a sports bra, but that’s just me.
  • What bothers me about the photo is that it was unnecessary, especially, in my opinion, on a page/site geared for women. Will some find it inspiring or motivating? Probably! Will everyone? No. Is it even healthy to hold someone else’s body up as inspiration or motivation? I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When I started my fitness journey, I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, because I didn’t like the image I saw in the mirror. Anytime I tried to force myself into somebody else’s box, I never fit. My self-confidence grew as I learned how to use my body and grew stronger. The weight dropped and my body slimmed down, but I could never look like Model A or Model B and would only make myself sick trying. While there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with the photo, I think it has the potential to send the wrong message and create the wrong focus among a gender which has long struggled with body image.
  • I unsubscribed to the mail list for this page today. So far I haven’t stopped following the Facebook page, but I am thinking about it. The photo isn’t the ultimate factor, although it is a catalyst. There is plenty of useful information in the articles; however, the same articles show up in my newsfeed with regularity and that bothers me even more than the photo. I don’t need or want to see the same article every week.
  • Some of the defensive comments pointed out that the only way to see all of the glutes was to wear practically nothing. Okay then. Whatever.
  • Yesterday I was at a commercial gym to do some bench pressing, since my coach was still on holidays. Mirrors everywhere. Since I was without my coach, I took some video of my sets. I wore a tank top and shorts. You know what I noticed in the mirrors and in my videos? Some muscle definition! Even with my butt covered. I may not have a body for stepping onto a body building stage, but I have worked hard to be where I am at. Even though I am 45 years old and not a size 0! I am not jealous of anyone with a sculpted body. I know that comes with hard work in and out of the gym. I just choose to not use another woman’s body as my role model or wish list.
  • Can we just accept that fitness porn is a thing and unnecessary? The other female pages I follow have no shortage of followers, even without showing excessive flesh. Obviously fitness porn isn’t absolutely necessary for a fitness business to survive.

Whew! I think I got most of that out of my head. I sure hope so, because I would really like to sleep tonight. This is going to be a crazy, busy, exciting week! After working four closing shifts last week, today was a solitary day off, and I work 3 opens and 1 midday shift over the next four days. Earlier I tried making a list of all that I need to do (because I make lists), but I found that task more challenging than usual. My week definitely feels crunched for time, especially free time, but on paper it doesn’t look like I have too much to do. Ha! Keep telling yourself that, Angela!

Climbing

“My soul should always look back and wonder at the mountains I had climbed and the rivers I had forged and the challenges which still await down the road. I am strengthened by that knowledge.” ~ Maya Angelou

Words are important to me. They have weight and substance and power. I soak them in, for good or bad, to savour or stew. Words have the power to inspire, motivate, encourage, challenge, re-focus, but they also have the power to deflate, to bite and sting, to amplify fear and insecurities, to steal confidence and joy and peace. Unfortunately, I cling to the bad words as much as I do the good and, when you add a lengthy season of pain and struggle, the negative words tend to be overwhelming.

Words in song are just as important to me as words written or said out loud. Back in my running days, the music I listened to as I ran was of the utmost importance, because I needed the right beat, the right attitude to keep myself going when the legs got tired and the lungs were screaming. Ironically, I don’t really care much about what music is playing at the gym, because I am usually too focused on what I’m doing to truly hear the music. However, on my way to the gym, the music I play is of the utmost importance to me. I crank it as loud as I can and sing along. My pre-gym playlist is limited to a dozen songs, but each one speaks to me.

Around this time last year, I had focused in on Eminem’s Lose Yourself as my theme song. I had a big goal, and I wanted to seize my one chance in that first competition of the year. While I didn’t achieve my ultimate goal, I still had a successful competition. As I am attempting to gear up for Provincials, I have settled on my theme song for these next several weeks. Yes, it’s a Miley Cyrus song, and yes, I don’t really care! I like what I like for what it speaks to me.

The Climb

I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

These current struggles, while not the end of the world, certainly feel like an uphill battle and I need to keep pushing, climbing.

 

The Coached Becomes a Coach

Last week my daughter got herself a 3-month membership to a nearby community gym. Abby and her friends have decided to do this together, but not one of them knows a thing about going to a gym. My attempts to convince my daughter to make use of the facility’s staff went nowhere. Apparently there was an attractive young man working there the first day they went, and the girls were much too embarrassed/shy/awkward/whatever to ask him for help. This is part of the reason why I was roped into going with Abby to her new gym this afternoon. She would rather learn from me.

I suppose I should look at that as something to be proud of and encouraged by. It is a rare occurrence to hear my kids say that they are proud of me or any words of praise. As much as I hope that they are proud of me, one never truly knows, or at least I don’t. That’s insecurity at it’s best! But I can understand why my daughter would rather learn gym stuff from me than a stranger. We have a good relationship as mother/daughter, confidants, and friends. She knows how much I enjoy training and knows I care about what is best for her.

I do care about what is best for Abby, but I wasn’t confident about showing her the ropes at her gym. I am not a personal trainer or coach. It’s been a while since I was a beginner, long enough that my memory of those early days is hazy in terms of what I did. Quite simply, I doubt my ability to transfer training knowledge to someone else. I feel like I am not qualified, that I don’t know enough to even make an attempt. My coach is amazing, and I could never fill his shoes.

Despite my reluctance to take time out of my day to go to the gym with my daughter, I did. It was very weird to walk into a public gym without a clear plan of attack. How could I help Abby get started? I don’t use machines in my training, but I couldn’t really start Abby off with squats, deadlifts and bench pressing! Besides, I am not teacher/coach material! Somehow I muddled my way through. I showed her a few simple mobility moves as warm-up, then slowly took her through the circuit machines, carefully explaining proper form and precautions. After making our way through the machines, we ventured into the weight room. The squat rack was so enticing, at least for me, but I thought it best to leave it alone. My SI joint is still cranky and wasn’t even very comfortable sitting on the circuit machines for brief demonstrations, and I’d rather save my real efforts for my own training session tomorrow! Instead, I showed her how to use the cable machine for seated rows, lat pull downs, face pulls and triceps extensions. I showed her how to use the ab wheel and do knee raises and goblet squats. I gave her ideas for things to do for cardio during the circuit beyond the stair climber and bikes. I imparted wisdom on opening up the shoulders, lining up elbows under wrists, stopping if something didn’t feel right (as in actual pain and not mere ‘I don’t like this’ discomfort), neutral spine position and not twisting the head at weird angles, remembering to breathe, making sure her last rep is as good as the first, when to drop the weight and when to increase it or add reps. I wanted to show her how to use the TRX, but there was a young woman doing an entire work out in that itty-bitty space dedicated to the TRX and mobility stuff. I’m pretty sure she was camped out in that spot for the piece of full-length mirror, which is just another reason why I love my gym where I never need to stress over missing out on equipment or floor space due to someone’s vanity.

Despite my reluctance to go, it turns out the experience wasn’t so bad. I think I gave Abby enough information to feel somewhat comfortable and to begin, because starting is really the hardest step of all. I tease her all the time, but I love my girl and want the best for her. She might not get bitten by the iron bug the way that I did, but I’m proud of her for making the decision to go to a gym. Yes, she made the decision with friends, but she paid for her membership and is making the effort to learn and do. My reluctance has now given way to anticipation. Now I am hoping that she enjoys it enough to keep going, so that she will want me to come and show her how to use the free weights. I might even dream that she will want to put on a singlet one day…

The Message

A few days ago I received a message requesting I call this person at Shaw Television in regards to a little segment they had done on me in August 2015. I couldn’t imagine why they were wanting me to call, yet I found my insides fluttering with the same nervous energy that I experienced when I was originally contacted by Shaw. I am not overly fond of conversations on the telephone, especially with complete strangers and particularly when I am unable to mentally/emotionally prepare for the conversation. But I called. It turns out that a piece of paperwork was missed way back when, and I was being asked to fill out a form. I can do that!

The voice on the other end of the phone was very friendly and conversational. She asked if I was still competing and told me to keep in touch, to let them know what I’m up to in competition and so on, possibly for another segment. The entire conversation wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as I had thought it could be, although now I am looking at a form and wondering how I am supposed to fill out half of the page. The form isn’t quite what I expected either. Name, phone numbers, email and signature…no problem! Do I need to fill out the rest? The parts that sound like they are intended for potential stories. I thought I was just going to be signing a permission form or something.

Since receiving that message on Thursday, I have re-watched my Shaw segment a couple of times and shared it with my boss, which means that it was also seen by a co-worker. That’s okay. I really have no idea just how far that segment has gone since it was first aired, but I do know that it has traveled further than I could have ever anticipated. While I will likely never know the impact my little story will have, I have to believe that there is a reason why someone thought my story was worth telling in the first place. It doesn’t seem like much to me. Scratch that. To me, my story is incredibly important, but I never feel as if it is important or special in comparison to anyone else. When I look beyond my four walls, I feel small and insignificant and unworthy of attention.

From my current position, I have a perfect view of my powerlifting medals (all 7 of them), a trio of photos of me competing at Westerns last summer, my daughter’s artist’s statement placard from the sketch she did of me squatting which was displayed in the Art Gallery last spring, and the actual sketch itself. I am a sentimental softy, but I’m okay with it. They are also milestones. Visual reminders of the path I’ve already traveled and guideposts towards my future destinations. My Shaw segment is just another one of those milestones. I look at it and experience a moment of uncertainty…was that really me? How did I ever manage to speak in front of a television camera? Then my thoughts start to wander…just how far have I come since that was filmed? I’m not even quite the same person anymore. I’ve done more. I have grown more. I’d like to think that I am more. At least until the doubts creep back in!

If you haven’t seen the TV segment that I’m talking about, you can watch it here.

Pushing Wednesday

This morning’s upper body session felt different somehow, and I’m not wholly certain why I feel that way. At first I was ready to type out a comment about the upper body stuff being easier today, then I paused to reflect on what I actually did ten hours ago and remembered that it wasn’t really easier at all. It wasn’t any harder, although I have a decent measure of frustration with the push presses. Those took me by surprise…wasn’t expecting to have push presses today when I did military presses on Monday! We also ran out of time and couldn’t get to everything that Michael wanted me to do.

1a. push presses

45 lbs x 10, 55 x 8, 65 x 6, 75 x 4, 75 x 4? + 3 or 4 bottom half push presses

bottom half push presses 65 x 6

I had some issues with the push press today. Sometimes I wasn’t using enough speed. Other times I was pushing the bar forward out of a strong path. Mostly I wasn’t getting enough power out of my legs, which is why there were some bottom half push presses for practice.

1b. barbell seal rows

75 lbs x 15, 95 x 10, 105 x 7, 105 x 7

2a. close grip floor press with the fat bar

75 lbs x 10, 90 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 6

2b. chin-ups, neutral grip

large green band x 8, x 8

small green band x 5, x 4

I get to go to the gym again tomorrow straight after work instead of on Friday, which means my brain has been mentally laying out my day tomorrow and all that I will need to have ready before leaving for work. Mostly that means I definitely need a game plan for food!

 

Squat Shut-Down

Normally I am happy for Mondays knowing that there will be squats, but today my anticipation was muddied by some trepidation. The trepidation had two heads. First, I was well aware of what last Monday’s squat training looked like. Surely I can’t be the only squat-lover who feels a touch of fear with the knowledge that there may be a 20 rep set and pause squats ahead! But that type of trepidation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The other head of this beast comes from the knowledge that I’ve still got some issue with my left glute/ham that I tweaked last Friday. That area generally feels much better than it did Friday night, but there is still discomfort when I get into certain positions, such as a Cossack squat or sumo deadlift. While I was confident that squatting probably wouldn’t hurt the glute/ham, I also knew that my coach would be watching me like a hawk and could shut down the squats if he didn’t like what he saw. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I was more nervous about the possibility of 20 reps or having the squats shut down, but I walked into the gym determined to keep my head in a good place.

1a. squats, high bar, flat shoes

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

As expected, Michael watched me closely, making sure I wasn’t shifting to compensate and was staying balanced. As I expected, the left glute/ham area felt no worse; however, to me, it did feel like I was using my right leg more than the left, so Michael shut it down. <grumble>

Instead…front rack barbell reverse lunges

75 lbs x 8 each, 85 x 8 each, 95 x 8 each

1b. military press

35 lbs x 10, 47 x 8, 52 x 8, 57 x 6 + 1 push press, 62 x 5 + 2 push press (or maybe it was only 1 push press rep! I couldn’t quite get the last rep, even with the push, but I can’t remember how many I actually did.)

2a. good mornings

45 lbs x 20 x 2 sets

2b. weighted back extensions

with 25 lb plate x 16

with 20k kettlebell x 12

Skepticism bubbled to the surface when Michael began to verbally toss out some numbers for what weight he’d get me to do for these. Sometimes my memory can be hazy, and I don’t recall doing weighted back extensions before. The first set wasn’t too bad, and even the second set was better than I expected. As Michael teasingly pointed out as I tried to figure out how to pick up the kettlebell for the second set, I am capable of picking up 300 pounds, so 20 kilograms shouldn’t be a problem!

3. renegade rows

15 lb dumbbells x 8 each

20 lb x 6 each

20 lb x 2 + 1, 15 lbs x 2

The left shoulder wasn’t feeling so great doing these. It felt awkward just holding in the position and with picking up the dumbbell.