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.

Wax & Clay

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~Erin Hanson

That’s a great quote, isn’t it! I love it for the hope and courage it inspires for the simple act of trying. But about when you actually do fail? Sure, it’s great to think about soaring with the eagles, proud and victorious, but reality isn’t always like that. Sometimes we crash and burn. We choke on the ashes of our hopes and dreams and feel searing pain. Quite often we suffer alone. Even when others may be sympathetic to our pain, very few can actually see the depths of our disappointment and suffering. They mean well, and I appreciate their efforts to sympathize and encourage. I know it isn’t always easy to wholly know another person’s innermost hopes and dreams.

Going into my competition, I had thought that I was mentally ready for disappointment, because I had months to prepare and come to an understanding of what I would or would not be capable of on the day thanks to my back troubles. And yet, for all that I was truly ready for a lesser performance, I was still blind-sided by the the struggles of the day. It certainly didn’t feel like I was flying…I had crashed and burned.

Processing the results of a competition, for me, can be a lengthy process. Perhaps that is due in part to the fact that there can be months of physical and mental preparation leading up to a competition. Then the day of competition is often long and somehow still a blur. It takes time to work through my thoughts and emotions, even when the results are positive. I’ve competed enough now to know that this is a process that cannot be rushed or forced; it happens in bits and pieces that push their way to the surface in their own time. Usually I have the opportunity to rehash details with my coach, which is part of the process and often helps, but since I’m not allowed to train this week that step in the process is missing. For now.

Perspective is also an important piece of the process, although it isn’t something that I can always just pull out of my pocket and apply to my situation. Obviously when the emotions were still raw, I had no perspective. Now that the emotions are once again under control, I can find perspective.

This was not my best competition in so many ways. I failed on the one lift I wanted most of all, and I didn’t even bother attempting one lift that might have caused me more injury or pain. It is easy to focus on those disappointments. The squat that hurt my back again…that was a scary moment that I have never experienced before. It took a great deal of focus and determination to not give up on that squat at the moment I felt my back give. Once I got the bar off my back and myself off the platform, I was assailed by a storm of emotions: fear, frustration, anger. I could have quit. Maybe the smart decision would have been to quit, but I was determined to finish.

It’s easy for me to look at my numbers from the competition and be frustrated, knowing I am capable of so much more; however, perspective properly applied creates a new outlook. Although I am capable of more, I still moved a lot of weight that day. In fact, I moved more than 1300 pounds over the course of the competition, and that isn’t including my warm-ups! My final deadlift was only 248 pounds. It’s a far cry from what I can pull, but that is still as much or more than picking up a large man. My competition bench press seems permanently stuck, but I still pressed the equivalent or more than the body weight of a Victoria’s Secret model. As I talk about that unlucky squat, I am quick to point out that the weight was easy for me, because 220 pounds is typically an easy weight for me to squat. But 220 pounds is still a lot of weight! It is still a large man or a couple of models! Those lifts might not have equaled my best weights, but I wasn’t on the platform using fake weights. I still worked hard, even if most of my lifts were not too physically taxing.

It’s all about perspective!

“The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay
And the mighty wind that knocks us down
If we lean into it
Will drive our fears away”

 

Gratefully Accepting Praise

Now that the volatile emotions have settled into something more sane and typical of Angela, I am able to process my competition and feelings about it in different ways. I didn’t think that I would blog today, but sometimes you just need to go with the moment before it is lost.

My theme for this year is Powerfully Beautiful. This weekend I certainly didn’t feel powerful or beautiful. It’s no secret that I am disappointed and frustrated with the way my Provincials competition played out. Even though I went into it knowing I wouldn’t have my best showing, I was still anticipating something better than what actually transpired. Knowing that I was capable of so much more obscured my vision and how I perceived myself. It’s never easy for me to accept compliments or praise, because I never actually feel worthy. However, learning to accept both compliment and praise is a part of becoming Powerfully Beautiful, so I need to stop cringing when someone showers me with a compliment.

Powerlifting is a wonderful sport full of supportive people. I’ve been involved in many sports in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with one that is as much about the individual result as it is about cheering on your competitors. It doesn’t matter how much weight is on the bar, everyone cheers you on when you struggle. Congratulations and high fives are shared when you make a lift. You are encouraged and supported whether you are a new lifter or an experienced one.

At Provincials, I lifted with some I’ve lifted with before and others who were new to me. I have no idea the story or history of the newer lifters. I don’t know how long they have been powerlifting or how many competitions they have done. I received praise and congratulations from several of these lifters, but I essentially shrugged it off or tried to down play it. My performance was sub-par. I knew it, even if they didn’t, and so I felt awkward accepting their praise. But honestly, even if I hadn’t been performing from a disappointing position, I still would have responded the same way.

One of my best friends organized a little gathering on Sunday to celebrate me and my performance. Never once did I feel like I was worth celebrating, not with the performance I was anticipating or the one I actually had.

My friend’s niece and nephew were at the little celebration. They don’t know me at all, but at one point something was said about me and my competition. They both instantly exclaimed, “That was you!?” Apparently they had watched my lifts on the livestream feed with my friend, and they were impressed. They had no idea what I was actually capable of had I been completely healthy. All they knew was that I had done something amazing. I was strong and capable, and that was all they needed to know.

A friend texted me Monday morning to let me know how much of an impact I have. The words made me cry, because I was still an emotional wreck and I hadn’t expected those sentiments from this person. Why not? Maybe because I seldom think that those around me actually pay any attention to my crazy antics!

Some co-workers have congratulated me, and my natural inclination is to downplay it, to shrug it off. Why do I do that? Why can’t I just accept the praise, the compliment? Why do I feel the need to minimize it? I’m really not in a position to answer that right now, but it is something I need to think about.

I blog but don’t expect my friends to ever read it, and I’m always surprised when someone does. This falls in line with my aversion to the spotlight. I put myself out there in my blog and when I compete, but I really don’t expect anyone to pay attention. I look at myself through my own eyes, tainted as they are, and what I see can differ greatly from what others see. I think this will always be my struggle, but at least I am getting better at recognizing when there is a gross discrepancy between the two. Part of being Powerfully Beautiful is learning to graciously accept praise and compliment without instantly trying to deflect or minimize it.

My Provincials competition was not what I had hoped it would be, even with my lowered expectations; however, I still competed. I stepped on the platform after nearly 5 months of injury and limitations. I stepped on the platform prepared to settle for less than my best, which was a major battle for my mind in it’s own way. When my second squat finished with injury, I was able to keep enough composure and focus to finish the competition. I didn’t have the results I was hoping for, but I persevered and did the best I could with the hand I was dealt that day. That should be something to be proud of!

If you catch me trying to brush off a compliment, please call me on it!

It’s late enough now for someone who had an open shift today. My mind has essentially shut off. I want to crawl into bed and close my eyes. I knew there was a reason why I wasn’t going to blog today…but sometimes you just have to ramble, even if the thoughts come out lopsided and fuzzy.

I don’t necessarily know you, if you’re reading this, but my hope is that you know how to accept a compliment. I hope you have reason to feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments, even when you had expected a different outcome. I hope you know that you are enough, as you are, even if you have room for improvement! It’s true, you know!

Numb

I don’t know where to begin this blog post, or if I even want to write it now or at all. Okay, so I do want to write it, but I’m not sure I am ready. Yet, I feel like I can’t wait too much longer lest I lose thoughts and emotions along the way. My current state of mind is exhausted, frustrated, disappointed, angry, a blink from dissolving into tears, pained and numb. The numbness is comforting in a way, because it helps keep the tears from pouring down my face and softens the sting of the negative emotions, at least for a time.

Yesterday was my Provincials powerlifting competition. Even though I wasn’t expecting to have my best performance, I was hoping to go 9 for 9 and break my Provincial bench press record. I didn’t achieve either goal yesterday.

My first squat was 92.5kg and moved well. Michael opted to be conservative with my second attempt, and that turned out to be a wise decision. My second squat was 100kg, which should have still been an easy 220 pounds. I did more than that last week in training. It felt fine when I unracked the bar. I believe that I did everything that I usually do. The eccentric felt fine. I began to rise out of the squat and felt a kind of pop and something giving in my lower back, which then caused my back to round in a way that is not typical for me. It hurt. I managed to finish the squat, barely remembering to hold until the command to rack. I walked off the platform feeling pain, fear, and crushing sadness. Michael instantly decided that we’d pass on my third attempt, then we headed to the warm-up area for some chiropractic treatment. As the chiropractor poked, prodded, bent and told me to push here and there, I fought to maintain some composure. By the time I got up from the table, the pain had dropped a couple of notches, but it was still there.

As we waited for my flight and the next to finish squats, I did the things the chiropractor told me to do and I gingerly tested my ability to set up for the bench press. Arching wasn’t too bothersome on the back, so we felt okay to stick with our plan there. My first two bench attempts, 55kg and 57.5kg, were decent. I am the current Provincial record holder with 60kg, which is the weight I have been stuck at since October 2015. Although I had some options, I chose to make a third attempt at 60.5kg in an effort to break my Provincial record. I was so close but failed. Words cannot express how I felt and still feel. Even as I lay on that bench, desperately trying to finish pressing the bar and realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, I felt so utterly crushed by disappointment and frustration. I know I am strong enough. I know I can do it. I have lifted that weight in the gym, including just last week, and it was easy. I came into this competition knowing that my squats and deadlifts would be sub-par, but the bench press record was something I knew was within my ability and I wanted, WANTED it!

My deadlifts weren’t going to be super heavy, but, with the fresh back injury, we opted to drop my opening attempt even more. An opening deadlift of 85kg wasn’t anything I could fake pride in, but I just needed to get a number on the board. It was embarrassingly easy. My next attempt was 102.5…again easy. My final attempt was 112.5kg or 248 pounds. Still easy. That final deadlift was 60 pounds less than my best deadlift. I think it would have been easier to feel some peace about low deadlift numbers if the rest of my competition had turned out differently. If I hadn’t hurt my back. If I had broken the bench record. If only. But, the last thing we wanted to do was inflict more harm to my back. Thankfully, I was able to deadlift without any added discomfort or pain to the back, which is something I wasn’t sure would happen after that squat.

At some point in the competition, Michael pointed out that there was another woman in my age/weight class after all. She hadn’t made her weight class and was bumped up into mine. Being the competitive person that I am, as soon as I realized that I could potentially lose, I wanted to win! However, I was no longer operating in a position where we could give any thought to making sure my attempts put me in a position to win. I still kept an eye on her numbers, chafing inside with the desire to win and re-familiarizing myself with a positive mindset in the event that I lost. Both my squat and deadlift were far from my actual ability and potential, but I still managed to come away with the win.

This was my 8th competition, and, in my opinion, my worst one. I had my third lowest total. The two lower totals came from my first two competitions. My Wilks score was my second lowest. The only one lower was my first competition. This was my second 7 for 9 meet. Not a single personal best. The first time I’ve ever passed on an attempt. The first time I’ve hurt myself in competition. The only goal I achieved yesterday was checking off the final requirement for competing at Nationals next year.

As much as words cannot express how I am feeling, there is so much more yet to say, but it will have to wait for another day. I left my house at 7:50 yesterday morning, and I didn’t get home until 12:30 this morning. I was in bed by 1:00 this morning but woke up before 6:30. My back is sore and achy, and I am exhausted. I need to decompress and process. I need to go hang out with some friends in a couple of hours, feel loved and celebrated, even though I don’t feel worth celebrating. Then I need sleep. Precious sleep. Tomorrow I will walk into my gym and begin the process of rehabbing (again) and rebuilding.