Aches, Pains & Injury

It’s no secret that this year hasn’t gone as well as I might have planned or hoped in terms of my training and powerlifting. The “little” SI joint problem that began all the way back at the end of January has been an ongoing presence in my life. Although it has greatly improved, especially over the past couple of months, there remains an ache, a discomfort that is just there more than it is actually an issue. Midway through Monday’s training session, I began to feel little aches in other parts of my body. A bunching up sensation behind my right knee when I’d squat. An entirely different sensation behind the left knee as if I had hyper-extended it. There was a general sense that something was out of sorts in my pelvis. Some of my disc issue symptoms are subtly shifting into my perception again…a bit of tingling/numbness in the big toe of my right leg and a heavy, achy feeling at the bottom of my hip. Everything combined truly is not all that much to complain about…it is just there and I can feel it. Maybe I’m just acutely aware of what is going on with my body, and I suppose that makes sense considering the nature of my training over the past few years. But let me just say that coming back from an injury sucks! I hesitate to call my SI joint issue an injury, but I suppose there really is no other way to look at it.

With only two competitions this year and the first one being less than what I would have liked, I am hoping for a much better performance in November. Of course, I have a goal in mind for that competition. It isn’t out of line with my capabilities, at least my capabilities pre-SI joint problem! As much as I believe that I am still entirely capable of achieving this goal, I’m hesitant and cautious, knowing that this has not been my best year. Over the past few weeks of training with a new program written by a new coach, I’ve had moments where I felt as if I was so far removed from what I know I can do, moments when the weights felt so much heavier than they actually were and I wasn’t completely confident that I could regain my strength. Yet, there have also been moments when I have felt strong and confident and could envision being capable of more. The line between those opposing feelings is paper thin. Today’s deadlifts made me feel strong and confident and capable, but then my incline bench left me feeling weak and frustrated. The feedback from my coach was that my incline sets were looking perfect, that struggling is expected at this point. Hallelujah!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 5

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8

main event: 65 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 65 x 5

These were definitely tougher today. The rep range was 8-15, but I stopped each set with maybe, maybe one rep left in the tank.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

115 lbs x 15, 115 x 13

4a. side plank

x 25 seconds, x 25s, x 25s

4b. barbell row

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

4c. glute bridge

60 lbs x 15, 60 x 15, 60 x 15

The weight for the glute bridges is not a struggle at all; however, that weight is becoming uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to getting into position and having the weight across my abdomen.

 

 

Dippity-Do

For a while now Mondays had been the end of my weekend, but that has now changed. This is my first Monday which is actually my Thursday. It was odd working yesterday, and I frequently found myself thinking it was Saturday rather than Sunday. I am not used to working on a Sunday, but I will adapt.

1a. tempo squats-high bar, flat shoes, closer grip

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 6, 145 x 6, 145 x 6

My hand position when I squat usually has the outside of my hands touching the outer rings. Of course, I have often noticed that many powerlifters squat with their hands in much closer to their shoulders, so last week I started using a slightly closer hand position with my tempo squats and continued with that today. My hands were roughly a thumbs length from the inner edge of the knurling. The position certainly helps keep my elbows from flaring back, but it is also harder on the shoulders. So far the shoulders are doing okay.

The tempo squats were somewhat easier today compared to last week, although I did a few sets of single leg box step downs prior to last week’s squats. Today my coach let me do the squats before any single leg work. Maybe that made the difference or maybe I was just more familiar with the movement. Really, the breathing is the hardest part of the tempo squats. They were done with a 4 second eccentric, a 1 second pause, and a 2 second rise.

1b. incline bench press, grip about a thumbs length from inner knurling

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 70 x 6, 70 x 6, 75 x 6, 75 x 5 + 1

The second set at 70 pounds was faster and easier than the first set at the same weight. That could be because my coach told me to blast through my sticking point as I was setting up for the set. Sometimes the little cues will help me. Sometimes they won’t. I ran into a positioning problem on the fifth rep of the final set. I had to rack the bar, take a couple seconds to regroup, and then finish the final rep.

2a. barbell split squats-high bar, same closer grip

75 lbs x 10 each, 85 x 10 each, 85 x 10 each

After the tempo squats, I had expected the single leg work to suck. These did not suck. Sure, I was breathing hard, dripping sweat, and shaking like jelly after each set, but the actual work wasn’t too difficult.

2b. hip thrusts with hip circle

with circle below knees x 30, with circle above knees x 30

2c. barbell rows-wider grip comparable to my bench press, trying to keep the elbows out

65 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

2d. dips

with blue band x 7, with orange band x 7, with orange x 6

Dips are one of those things that always intimidate me a bit, because I imagine that they are too difficult for me to do. The set with the blue band was easy enough. As I was setting up for the second set and felt how little resistance there was with the orange band, I imagined that I would not be able to do many reps. That first set of orange band reps actually surprised me. It wasn’t super easy, but it wasn’t as tough as I had expected. The final set was tougher, but my entire body was mostly jelly by this point.

There is still lots of time ahead me, but I have begun to allow trickles of competition thoughts to seep through my protective barriers. My next competition is 4 months away minus a few days. But what took me by surprise was realizing that Nationals will be about 3.5 months following that! It’s still plenty of time, more time than I had between competitions last year. In fact, last year I did 3 competitions within a 3 month span! That was just a little crazy and definitely not ideal. This year is certainly moving at a different pace than the previous year, but I’m okay with it.

Yokes & Blocks

Generally if you were to ask me which day in my training week is my favourite, I would hesitate with uncertainty. Upper body work is not really a favourite, because my upper body is basically weak; however, I do enjoy most aspects of my training. Picking a favourite day isn’t an easy thing to do. Since my last competition, my training has looked vastly different than it has for a long time. This is not a bad thing, but it has been tougher than training for a competition in some ways. As I was driving to the gym this afternoon, I thought about what I’d be doing today and felt almost a sense of relief that I’d most likely be doing block pulls. My training lately has been a lot of single leg work. I’m not complaining…not really! I know there is tremendous value in switching up the training, and I am more than willing to put in the work. Somehow block pulls just feel less challenging than the single leg stuff. In fact, I was given the option today to do block pulls or trap bar deadlifts. I chose block pulls, which was probably the better choice anyway, since the blocks are about the height where I tend to run into trouble when deadlifting.

1a. single arm landmine presses

45 lbs x 6 each, 55 lbs x 8 each, 65 lbs x 7 each, 65 x 6 each, 65 x 7 each, 55 x 20 each

1b. block pulls, with a pause hovering just off the blocks

75 or 95 lbs (not sure what was on the bar) x 6, 135 lbs x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 8, 185 x 8

These were really good. Lowering the bar to barely skim the blocks and pause there helped with keeping the bar close to my legs. Back positioning was good. I was using my legs. All good.

1c. V sits

x 6, x 8, x 6, x 5 or 6

2a. walking lunges with kettlebell in opposite hand, one side at a time, with knee raise

12kg x 8 each, 16kg x 10 each

These were actually rather easy. The hardest part was resisting the natural inclination to step forward with the opposite leg after each rep.

2b. supine rows on the rings, with legs straight + with knees bent

x 5 + 6, x 5 + 8

2c. hanging leg raises

2 sets of 10

2d. standing kettlebell triceps extensions

12kg x 10 x 2 sets

3a. yoke walk

185 lbs x 4 lengths (about 60 feet), 205 lbs x 4 lengths, 205 lbs x 5 lengths (about 75 feet), 205 lbs x 5 lengths

I haven’t done yoke walks very often and not for a long time, but they’re super fun.

3b. close grip floor presses with a pause at the bottom

75 lbs x 12, 75 lbs x 9

 

 

A Nap or Coffee?

Training for a powerlifting competition is vastly different than the training I am doing right now. The change is good, but it is also hard work. It is only mid-morning and I am desperately wishing for a nap, except I am seldom able to nap and I have to work in a couple of hours. A one hour training session has utterly wiped me out. I might need some coffee before work to make it through my closing shift.

warm up:

overhead squats with 35 lb bar-2 sets of 10

narrow stance windmills-bodyweight x 8 each, with 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

1a. skater squats with 5 lb dumbbells

to 3 folds of the mat x 12 each leg

to 2 folds of the mat x 10 each leg

1b. single arm dumbbell push press

20 lbs x 8 each, 25 lbs x 8 each

2a. front squats-flat shoes

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

2b. chin ups-neutral grip, with small green band

x 7, x 6, x 6, x 3

3. a 12 minute circuit of:

-dumbbell curls with 15 lbs x 15, x 13, x 10

-kettlebell triceps extensions with 10kg x 15, x 10, x 6

-ab wheel x 15, x 11, x 10

-skipping 1 minute x 3 rounds

Maybe I can try closing my eyes for 15-20 minutes…

6 Minutes of Torture

It was so good to be back at the gym this morning, and I can still say that after a training session that left me dripping in sweat and gasping for breath. I knew my training would look different and would not focus on powerlifting, but I did not know exactly what to expect. By the time I finished my last rep, I could only collapse on the floor, breathing hard and muscles rubbery. My coach told me that he hadn’t intended to kill me, but I think he kind of did, at least subconsciously. Somehow I’m okay with it. The true intent is not to slaughter me but to make me better and stronger. Variation is good. Conditioning is good. Working weak spots is good. Moving is good.

warm-up:

Turkish get-ups with 8kg kettlebell x 2 each side

single leg box step downs x 10 each side

1a. single arm kettlebell presses + carry

10kg x 10 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 8 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 6 each + 4 lengths

1b. single leg box step downs with the box on top of 15 lb bumper plates

3 sets of 10 each leg

I was actually surprised with how “easy” these were. Single leg stuff can often be problematic for me. My balance isn’t always very good, and single leg stuff is just tougher. The warm up set with the box on the floor was rather easy, still I was skeptical when Michael increased the height with the bumper plates. Indeed it felt like I was lowering my leg a very long way, but I powered through my reps with much more balance and ease than I had expected.

2a. trap bar deadlifts-touch and go

75 lbs x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 10

2b. barbell push-ups

x 12, x 12, x 8

2c. hanging leg raises, keeping a posterior pelvic tilt

2 sets of 8

Hanging leg raises and toes to bar have been more challenging for me since the problems with my SI joints began. Actually anything requiring a posterior pelvic tilt has been more challenging, because my back feels like it doesn’t want to move that way. It’s not so much pain, at least not anymore, so much as a sensation of the muscles being tight and not wanting to move that way. I’ve been working on making the back happier with that position, so there has been improvement…it’s just not completely there yet. The hanging leg raises today were definitely tougher to do with maintaining that pelvic position, but I will get better.

For the last portion of my training session, Michael had me do some conditioning work. He gave me 3 exercises. 30 seconds for each one followed by a 30 second rest. Repeat 3 times. You can call it whatever you like…I think I’m going to call it ‘6 minutes of torture’.

a) double clean & presses with 10kg kettlebells

I didn’t get more than 4 or 5 reps the first round, because I’m not so great at the clean & press. I think I got at least 6 reps on the second round, but the final round dropped back to 4 or 5 from sheer fatigue. I also anticipate seeing some bruises on my upper arms/shoulders over the next couple of days!

b) bear crawl

I think I managed to crawl a little bit further and with better form each round.

c) ab wheel

My brain can no longer recall how many reps I got each round. As Michael noted, my roll-outs were not very far either. Seriously, by the time I got to the ab wheel, my body and brain was rebelling against me. Every muscle was shaking. I needed oxygen in the worst way, and, on the final round, I probably came the closest I have ever come to feeling as if I might puke while training. I am glad to report that I did not.

This conditioning torture is going to be a common occurrence for a while, I think. As much as I am not looking forward to it, I am also oddly saying, “Bring it on!”

Confidently Stubborn

Okay, so this week without training hasn’t been too bad, but I am definitely looking forward to walking into the gym in the morning. I have no idea what my coach is going to have in store for me, although I can be fairly confident that my training will be designed to make me stronger and work on weaknesses. I’m ready.

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

It would be easy to let my experience at Provincials shake my self-confidence. Although I have grown quite confident in my abilities, I am still humanly prone to stumbling along in the darkness of doubt. Whatever it was that happened in my back on my second squat, it flooded me with fear, uncertainty, frustration, and doubt. I still knew what I was capable of when healthy, but I was suddenly afraid that I might have done more damage to my body. I knew that I have determination and toughness, but are those qualities enough when you’ve been thrown into the fire? In all honesty, as much as I knew that I wasn’t about to throw in the towel and quit, in the midst of the pain and volatile emotions I wasn’t giving much thought to being tough enough to follow through. I just wanted to survive the day as best I could. Earlier this week my coach complimented me on being a person with strong character by pushing through when it was emotionally and physically tough. It’s not always easy for me to accept a compliment, but I’m trying.

Perhaps the biggest knock against my confidence was my failed bench press attempt. My competition bench press has been stuck at 60 kilograms since October 2015, yet I have only attempted a heavier press while competing twice, at Westerns last August and at Provincials last week. Having pressed more than 60 kilos in the gym means that I know I am capable, but my string of failures also plays with that confidence like a cat toying with a mouse. I will keep striving though.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” ~ James Michener

With my next competition not until November, I have lots of time to heal and train and focus. I definitely have goals for November’s competition, although I am not going to say too much about them for now, partly since a lot can happen between now and then but also because I don’t really have specific targets yet. So far my goals are general. I know I am capable. I just need to be tough enough to push through and to keep trying. Or maybe I am just that kind of stubborn.

The Week’s Post-Mortem

Exactly one week ago, I was roughly halfway home after a long day of frustration and disappointment at my Provincials competition, and yet, I didn’t hit the depths of despair until the next day. By Monday afternoon, I was pretty much back to normal.

Not only was I required to take this week off from training, my Precision Nutrition course, quite ironically, also had a week off of sorts. Although I have been okay with not going to my training sessions, I am looking forward to resuming my training on Monday. This week has been nice, but it has also felt quite long. I’ve enjoyed my down time. I’ve gone for some walks. I’ve enjoyed just having extra time to relax, hang out, do whatever. I have eaten whatever I have wanted, and I’ve enjoyed a fair bit of wine and a couple of sugary drinks that I typically avoid. My eating habits have been mostly controlled for the past month or so as I had some weight to cut to make my class for competition. I cut roughly 10 pounds without too much effort; in fact, I had to relax my self-control in order to not lose too much weight. Even then I likely lost too much, since I weighed in more than an entire kilogram under the limit. This week I’ve enjoyed burgers and fries, poutine, pastries, wine, Frappucinos, and ice cream. I stepped on the scale this morning and weighed in at virtually the same weight as I did for my competition! That won’t last for too long though. My next competition is with a different federation with slightly different weight classes, and I’ll be competing in the 75 kilogram class, which means I can add a few pounds to my frame.

One thing I have noticed with this week “off” has been that I am finally starting to sleep better again. I haven’t taken my ZMA for at least a week, but I’ve been falling asleep fairly quickly. While I still wake up at least once or twice a night (and toss a fair bit throughout), I am falling back asleep more quickly. It is a rare occurrence for me to actually be woken by my alarms. Yes, I have two alarms. One is through my sleep app, and the other is your typical alarm clock. My sleep app alarm is set to go off within a 10 minute window, which I always set so my real alarm would go off in the middle of that 10 minutes. For someone who is never late and never sleeps through her alarm, I go to a lot of trouble to make sure that either situation never happens! One day this week, my real alarm did actually wake me up! It had been a long time since I’d heard that annoying beep.

Despite the way the back felt during my second squat a week ago and the pain I experienced on the long drive home that night, my back actually feels pretty good this week. Sure, it’s still not perfect, but I am back to how things felt prior to the competition. For reasons unknown to me, my back feels the worst when I am sleeping. There is a great deal of achiness in my back whenever I need to change position in the night, but it feels basically okay once I’m up for the day. Go figure! I’m still doing my stretches, and I am determined that this will get better!

So, a week post-competition and I’m sleeping better, feeling better, and chomping at the bit to get back to training. I think those are all good things. My head is screwed on properly. My attitude has been re-adjusted. Tomorrow will be one more day of rest. I shall drink coffee, especially since I am staying up late tonight. I might go for a walk. I will do some laundry and housework and make dinner for the family. And, I will prep my gym bag for Monday morning.