Defining Success

“You do not determine your success by comparing yourself to others, rather you determine your success by comparing your accomplishments to your capabilities.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Three days until Provincials!

I love the sport of powerlifting. At the end of competition, the winner is the one who lifted the most weight, and yet, each lifter is also working hard to better his/her own previous performance.

Over these past months of dealing with pain and injury, I’ve wrestled with myself over the unlikelihood of having a successful competition at Provincials. I know what I accomplished at my last competition, and I had hoped to do even better at the next one. Unfortunately, injury took those aspirations and shot them to pieces.

My back is getting better, feeling better. My squat technique is coming back. My deadlift is coming back. My coach thinks that my squat could be close to where it had been, but I still know that doesn’t necessarily mean I will PR across the board on Saturday. Without another woman in my age/weight class, I will be competing against myself. But I cannot compare myself to who I was last August. I cannot compare my results on Saturday to those from last August. Such a comparison would not be fair.

I do not know what I will be capable of on Saturday, but I still have goals. My goals might not be focused much on hitting specific numbers. I would like to have a perfect meet…going 9 for 9. I do want to break my Provincial bench record. Mostly, I want to walk away feeling proud of what I accomplished based on my capabilities, knowing that my capabilities had been hampered for several months. It won’t be my best ever competition in terms of numbers, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be one of the most satisfying competitions.

Continuing On

successladder

I think my brain is still in the process of gathering up the pieces, but I have to believe that I will get there eventually. Even if my heart and my brain aren’t there yet, I am too stubborn to stop trying.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

10kg x 10 each, 10kg x 8 each

It’s highly satisfying to hit little PRs in the gym considering, or despite, the limitations I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of months.

2a. split squats-with safety bar and flat shoes

75 lbs x 12 each, 95 x 8 each, 115 x 7 each, 125 x 8 each, 125 x 8 each

2b. floor presses-moderate grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10

I didn’t have to do that many reps for the first set, but I had to fiddle with my leg positioning in order to find what would be the least bothersome to my back. Michael didn’t want any arching, but having my feet in the air and bracing is too painful on the back. Although I’ve been find with my knees bent and feet flat on the floor, today wasn’t super comfortable. What actually felt the best was to have my left leg bent and my right leg out straight on the floor. There was still a small arch in order to have some sort of good shoulder positioning, but I think it was small enough to not be a bother.

65 x 8, 90 x 8, 105 x 8, 105 x 6

I think these were all reasonably solid reps with decent speed.

3a. glute ham raises

x 10 just bodyweight

10kg kettlebell x 10

3b. single arm kb press while kneeling on a bench

10kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These felt a little tough, especially as each set wore on. I’m also not convinced the back liked these a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 12 each x 2 sets

While the weight wasn’t overly challenging and I could have gone up on the second set, I think the better decision was to stay at the same weight rather than risk aggravating the back. There wasn’t significant pain during these, yet I could feel a bit of pressure in the back.

3d. ab wheel x 0

Despite having no troubles using the ab wheel earlier in this injured season, I just couldn’t do it this morning. I started to roll out but didn’t get too far.

hanging knee raises x 12, x 0

These were generally okay, except for the last rep. I’m not sure what I did…maybe lifted my knees too high or too fast or flexed my back a bit…I don’t know, but that last rep hurt. A fair bit. Tried for a second set and the very first attempted rep hurt, so I just hung out until my grip began to fail.

And just like that I had a decent training session, maybe one of the better ones I’ve had in the last week or two. Still so far from where I want to be, but focusing on what I can do is more productive than moping over what I can’t do.

I’m Not Loving It

I finished work around 6 last night and, knowing the chances of a family member making dinner were slim, I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home. Although my work day had been good, I was suddenly feeling grumpy. The attitude was likely due to a couple of factors. I was tired. I knew that my ability to relax and decompress would be delayed as I had already agreed to drive my daughter downtown for an engagement. I had been given a warning that my husband was cranky. My frustration with food was rearing it’s ugly head. I didn’t want to make dinner when I finally got home close to 7 PM. I am frustrated by a lack of help and support from the family when it comes to making dinner. They have valid reasons, as well as mere excuses, but I had given basic instructions for what could be made for dinner on Wednesday (when I worked a close shift). Nobody made it. So I gave similar instruction again for yesterday, because I had pork tenderloins in the fridge that were now desperately needing to be used. Despite one person home all day, nothing was prepped, nothing was made. And with all that knowledge, I made the decision to eat crap food and not concern myself with whether or not anyone else in the family had dinner. Because I was grumpy, I ate most of the fries as I drove home. I ate 6 chicken nuggets and a quarter-pounder with cheese while sitting in my car in my driveway. Not a single bite was enjoyable.

There is a lot that could be said about last night’s experience, but I’m not entirely certain that I know where to begin or where to take it. I can be better than this. I have the knowledge and the tools to be better than this. While I’m okay with an occasional treat, my eating habits of late have been more about the treats and crap than about eating for optimal health and nutrition, and I am not happy with myself for it. The good news is, I guess, that it is never too late to start over fresh. Each day presents a new opportunity to make better choices, and I do have the knowledge and tools to make those choices. Okay, so today wasn’t filled with fantastic choices and tomorrow probably won’t be either, but I am determined to turn the corner during my weekend.

This afternoon’s training session did not include deadlifts (or squats for that matter), but then again, I wasn’t honestly expecting either. The SI joints are still an issue, although I feel there is improvement. Since improvement is what I am looking for, I’m willing to accept that my training program is going to be modified in order to allow my back to recover. Still, I’m missing my big lifts.

1a. step-ups (a 4″ block and a box…not sure exact height but a step put my knee well above my hip)

bodyweight x 10

54 lb weight vest x 16, x 16, x 14

Now that felt like cardio…a lot of cardio!

1b. floor presses, with back arch (because I’m allowed to do that!)

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 110 x 8 PR120 x 5 PR

Despite having an arch, I wasn’t really making much use of leg drive for most of the sets and reps, at least not until towards the end sets. At the time I didn’t realize that 8 reps at 110 pounds was a personal record. When Michael said we could do a heavier set and asked what I thought I could do for 5 reps, I wasn’t too sure. He settled on 120 pounds. I kept my mouth shut, even though I knew that I had just set a PR of 120 pounds for 5 reps on Monday for a regular bench press, which meant that I felt a sliver of uncertainty about equaling that task on the floor press. But I did it! 🙂

1c. a TRX ab wheel-like move

on knees x 10, on feet x 10, on feet but slightly harder x 10, x 12 and possibly even slightly more difficult

2a. glute-ham raises

bodyweight x 16

x 5 + x 8 with 8kg kettlebell

8kg kettlebell x 12

2b. swiss ball plank rotations

x 10, x 12, x 13

The Monkey Off the Back

Last Thursday’s sumo block pulls may not have been a super fantastic idea in hindsight. While the first few sets were fine, the last couple definitely didn’t feel good on the lower back, and I’ve been feeling it ever since. The pain and discomfort are still tolerable and not nearly as bad as a couple of weeks ago but more than earlier last week. I see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon, and I’m not looking forward to telling him that I might have pushed it a bit too much. I can hear his laugh at my foolishness already.

I drove to the gym this morning resolved to be happy with whatever my coach would let me do and whatever my back would allow me to do. I wanted to believe that I had learned another lesson…not to rush into an exercise or movement that my body isn’t ready for. Ha! Okay, so I might not be in a hurry anymore to pull some deadlifts before the back is ready, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be stubborn when it comes to pushing further in other ways.

One of the first things Michael said to me this morning was that he thought we could have some fun and try for a bench press PR. Heck yeah! I don’t get to attempt PRs very often and, with the long gap between competitions, I haven’t been training to peak my strength. The SI joint problem has kept me from doing any sort of bench press with an arch in my back, so I haven’t been using my legs and my shoulders have been in less than optimal position…but I didn’t feel keen on attempting a personal record without the use of my leg drive and an arch to keep the shoulders happy. Most of the warm up sets didn’t bother the back much at all. Getting into position with the arch wasn’t the most comfortable feeling on the last few sets, but the discomfort was not the same as what I experienced on the final sets of block pulls on Thursday. Hopefully the SI joints will agree with my conclusion. If not, then I guess that is something else my chiropractor can snicker about tomorrow. For today, it was worth it!

1a. bench press-squat shoes, with legs and arch!

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 85 x 3, 105 x 3, 120 x 5 PR135 x 1PR

with slingshot-135 x 6

The most I had done for reps at 120 pounds previously was 3, so today’s 5 reps was the first PR of the day. The last time I set a bench press single rep PR of 132.3 pounds was on October 7, 2015 at the BCPA Fall Classic competition. I could probably find an app to tell me exactly how many days it has been since I set that PR, but it is enough to know that was a very long time ago. Since that PR, I have competed three more times. Last May, I failed to press that same weight on my final attempt. Last June, I was successful in pressing the same weight on my final attempt. Last August for my final attempt, I wanted 137.8 pounds but failed. I have been so frustrated by my bench press for so long, feeling like I was capable of more than I was achieving, and today I finally broke through that plateau. The rep was not even maximal. There is more there yet!

1b. Bulgarians-with 54 lb vest + 6kg kettlebell

x 8 each, x 10 each, x 7 each

without the kettlebell x 10 each

The Bulgarians felt particularly nasty today. The first set felt incredibly hard. It seemed as if the bar my foot was resting on had been set too high. Actually, I forgot to put the mat down for my knee to descend to! With the mat, there was some ease but not much. The legs felt shaky and weak. Michael assured me that he hadn’t added any weight to the vest, but it sure felt heavier than last week.

2a. back extensions

x 20, x 17

2b. TRX rows, fairly inclined

x 10, x 11

 

Short & Sweet

We didn’t really cover as much ground as usual during this morning’s training session, even though we took a bit longer than usual. That’s probably due to a lot of talking. Too much talking and not enough lifting isn’t always the best way to train, but I think there are times and situations when talking is just as important as the actual workout. With whatever is going on inside of my head for the past few days, my coach has been talking with me about possible causes and such. Yesterday I raised the question of blood sugar being at least part of the problem, although I honestly don’t think it is the root cause. Over the weekend I noticed that if I got too hungry that my symptoms felt worse. The symptoms are still present even when I’m not hungry, which is why I don’t think food is the culprit. However, Michael and I talked a fair bit today about my eating habits and ways that I can minimize drops in blood sugars. It won’t hurt to make sure that I’m eating often enough and having more healthy fats and protein to even out the carbs. Since I began training I have learned a lot about healthy eating and I’ve made many good changes to my eating habits. That said, it is still very easy to let those good habits slide from time to time, and I have a tendency to forget to eat often enough. I need to get back in the habit of having healthy, balanced snacks in-between my meals.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 7, 125 x 8, 145 x 8, 155 x 5

back squats, high bar

133 lbs x 8, 153 x 8, 170 x 8

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 lbs x 8, 60 lbs x 8PR, 60 x 8, 60 x 8

incline dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 10, 25 lbs x 12, 29 lbs x 8

That’s the extent of my training today! Doesn’t look like much does it? Maybe not, but I’m okay with it. The military press was amazing for me. Not only did I do a personal best of 8 reps at 60 pounds, but I did it three times! Me! Military press! This lift has been a thorn in my side for a long time. Even the incline presses are improving. Provincials are 6 months away, which seems like forever, but I really want to see my bench press go up and we’re laying solid groundwork that is going to help me get there. That’s exciting!

 

Look Ma, No Bands!

I generally don’t think about my job while I am training at the gym, but my thoughts turned there briefly today between sets of dips. A co-worker’s recent blog post talked about pain and physical discomfort while training. As I performed a new personal record for unassisted dips, I began to feel discomfort with my right shoulder. While I was able to perform the dips without too much bother, the shoulder definitely presented significant frustration between sets and as my session progressed. Even now that I am home, my shoulder is most unhappy. This is why I thought about work, or more specifically, about my co-worker’s blog post and pushing through pain or not.

1a. dips

x 5, x 6 PR, x 5, x 5, x 1 and done!

For the first time ever, I completed every rep of my dips without the assistance of a band. Not only was the set of 6 reps a personal record, so was the fact that I completed 4 whole sets. The shoulder started becoming a problem after the second set. By the time I got to the final set, I did one rep and realized that the shoulder was enough of an issue that I no longer felt comfortable pushing through.

1b. Anderson squats, high bar, with squat shoes

45 lbs x 6 or 8, 65 lbs x 8 Michael pointed out that I was staying a little too upright at the bottom, more so than I would during a regular squat.

85 lbs x 8 Leaning forward more made such a difference! Last Friday I could only manage 5 reps at this weight.

105 x 4 + 4 Last week I got one rep at 105 pounds, but, now that I was leaning forward more, this weight felt so much easier. I did run into trouble after the fourth rep though, when I hit a timing issue with reclaiming my body tension and beginning to push. The timing was off and I felt like I couldn’t push.

115 x 8, 115 x 3 or 4

I ran into that same timing issue on the final set, but I’m happy with the improvement since Friday.

1c. rope face pulls

20 lbs x 15 x 2 sets

2a. barbell split squats

65 lbs x 10 each, 85 lbs x 10 each

2b. pushups with slingshot

3 sets of 10

I was skeptical when Michael said he wanted me to do some pushups late in my session, especially when he said that it would deload my shoulder. When he said it would be easy, I laughed. When are pushups ever easy for me?! But, as usual, my coach was right. The first set wasn’t nearly as tough as I expected it to be, and the final set was really quite easy. Can I do pushups with the slingshot all the time? Somehow I doubt it.

 

Westerns Wind-Up

I have been thinking about this blog post since I finished competing at Westerns yesterday afternoon. What can I say? How can I possibly put it all into words without forgetting something? Decompressing from a competition seems to be a process that spans a few days up to a week or two, so I guess I just need to flow with the moment and let misplaced details make their appearance when the time is right.

We were on the road for Kamloops by 7:30 yesterday morning. I am sure that the drive typically takes at least 2 hours, but we arrived by 9:00. That didn’t bother me…I’d rather be early and take the time to settle myself and get comfortable with the venue. This time I also had to familiarize my daughter with the venue and process, as she was acting as my coach for the day. I checked in at the proper time, got my rack heights (different yet again!), got my equipment checked (including a peek at my underwear), and weighed in at a comfortable 70.3 kilograms (had to be 72 kg or under). Watched some of the bench only competition, ate some food and then made my way to the warm-up area.

Since I was without my real coach, I wanted to make my life as simple as possible for warm-ups, as in I didn’t want to have to think more than absolutely necessary, so I came with a written list of what weights & reps I would do for my warm-ups, in kilograms knowing that the plates would all be in metric. Abby did a good job at figuring out which plates we needed to add to reach my desired weight, although she wasn’t as capable at changing the big plates. For each lift, I think the warm-ups went rather well. I was in the second of 2 flights with, I think, 12 lifters in each flight, so the competition moved smoothly and quickly. On average, I think I had roughly 30 minutes to warm-up for each lift, which seemed to be perfect. There wasn’t a lot of waiting, and I didn’t need to put too much thought into the timing of my last warm-up attempt.

I had known for about a month that I would have competition in my class…a woman from Saskatchewan. A few days ago, I was looking over the flight lists I received via email and was shocked to see another woman in my age/weight class that I hadn’t noticed before. That threw me into a little bit of a panic mentally for a moment, but then I decided/remembered that I can’t control anything. I can only go out there and do my best. I was surprised though that I hadn’t noticed a third woman in our class before, but a later look at the flights on the website showed this third woman in a different weight class. I wouldn’t know until right before competition started whether or not I had to compete against one or two, but I tried not to think about it too much. As it turned out, the third woman was in a different weight class. I was temporarily relieved, then I saw that my real competition had an opening squat higher than mine and I started to fret a little. Abby reminded me that I just had to be the best Angela Thompson. Besides, I knew that my opening attempts would be/should be easy and conservative.

My first squat was 97.5kg (214.9 lbs), and it was super easy and fast. As I stood waiting for the command to rack the bar, I could hear the spotter behind me make a comment about that being lightning fast! He made a similar comment to me directly as I walked off the platform. I knew that squat was good and fast, but it was a confidence boost to have the spotter comment on it like that. I came to the competition with my attempts basically all planned out with the option to make little adjustments. For my second squat I was either going to attempt 105 or 107.5kg. Since the first one felt so easy, I chose to go with 107.5kg (237 lbs). There was a slight sticking point, but it was still a decently strong and easy lift, which made me feel very good about attempting to break my own Provincial record on my third attempt. (I hadn’t forgotten about my competition, even though I wasn’t truly watching what she was doing. I did realize that she had failed on her first two attempts. While I wasn’t taking any pleasure in her failure, I did know that my squat would be higher than hers and I couldn’t worry about anything else beyond that. It took the pressure off of me, I guess, at least in a small way. There was still a lot of internal pressure to make my lifts, to reach my goals, to do well.) But about that third attempt…115kg (253.5 lbs). I’ve never squatted that much weight before, so I was expecting the bar to feel very heavy when I unracked it, yet it didn’t. Again, there was a very slight stick, but I pushed through it strongly and made a successful lift that looked and felt easier than my second attempt! I broke my own Provincial record and set a new personal record!

The bench press was up next. My first attempt was 52.5 kg (115.7 lbs) and was good. The second attempt was 57.5 (126.8 lbs) and was good. I felt good about attempting 62.5kg (137.8 lbs), which would be a new personal record and Provincial record, but I just couldn’t get it. That was frustrating and disappointing. I haven’t hit a PR bench press single since last October, and that weight has not always been kind to me since then. Someday my bench press will make progress, but it just wasn’t to be this time.

Deadlifts are always the final lift of the competition. My opening attempt was 120kg (264.6 lbs), and it was super fast and easy. My deadlift attempts for Westerns were the same as my attempts at Provincials in June. I rarely even hit a single at 265 in the gym, and it always feels difficult in training. Yesterday, that opening weight felt like it belonged in the warm-up! Second attempt was 130kg (286.6 lbs). At Provincials, that felt a little tough, but it felt light and easy at Westerns. My final attempt was 140kg (308.6 lbs), a potential new personal record and Provincial record. This was the attempt I missed at Provincials and the one that I most wanted here at Westerns. It was a good lift! In fact, it felt easy. And that successful attempt would also give me a finishing total of 312.5kg (688.94 lbs), which breaks my own personal record and Provincial record for total!

As it turned out, my competitor bombed out with her squats and was out of the competition. That was disappointing. It was good to meet her though.

So, I “won” my age/weight class, went 8/9 on my attempts, set a few personal records and broke 3 Provincial records, and I did it without my real coach! When I learned that my coach wasn’t going to be there with me, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly have a successful meet without him. It took me a few weeks to get out of that funk, but even then I was still apprehensive about it. Having my daughter help me was a last resort kind of thing, but it actually turned out quite well. She did what I needed her to do most: chalk my back, apply baby powder to my thighs, slap my back, gave me high-fives, told me I’ve got this, helped figure out my warm-up weights, held onto my attempt cards & phone, and nagged me to eat. She even threatened to text Michael in an attempt to get me to eat when I didn’t feel like eating. Ha! While she may not have been able to give me practical advice in terms of my technique on the platform, she did a great job. Thankfully, my real coach was in frequent contact via text, offering me encouragement & praise, advice and reminders to eat! 😉

All in all, it was a very good competition, and I am stoked about what I was able to do. This was the most official, biggest stage of my little powerlifting career, and I’m happy that I was able to go out and do well. Even though I fell short of my goal for the bench press, I can’t be too disappointed because the rest of my meet went better than I could have anticipated. Although I wanted those PRs in squat and deadlift, I didn’t expect them to come easily. I believed I was capable of the deadlift, but I expected it to be a grinder. I wasn’t so confident about the squat. Both lifts were much easier than I could have imagined, and I am so stoked about that when I consider that this was my third competition in roughly a 3 month span. I knew that this season of competitions would not be ideal in terms of spacing training and recovery, but I was prepared to endure for the sake of the opportunity to compete on this big stage in order to have the option to go after bigger goals. Despite the stress and strain of 3 competitions in 3 months, I think I’ve held up well, certainly better than expected. In all honesty, the past 3 months have been crammed full of all manner of emotional situations, both positive and negative. At times I felt as if the emotional stressors were overwhelming, and my ability to focus on my competitions felt compromised; however, one thing I have learned over the past few years is that I am strong inside and out. No matter how out of control life feels in the day-to-day, I am able to focus on what is necessary in those moments it is most required. I can be shaken without breaking. My confidence might feel weak at times, yet I know what I am capable of and, even in my doubt, there is still the knowledge that I can!

A remark was made after the competition about how calm I am on the platform. This is just how I am. While I can get super excited about a great deal of things, generally I am a calm and collected type of person. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel nervous or on edge, because I definitely do. I never truly felt very nervous once I arrived at the venue yesterday. Well, only a little bit right before the squats, but the nerves definitely settled with the first successful squat and determining that I only had to do my own thing. There was a bit of nervous energy prior to each of my third attempts, but that is a different kind of nervousness, which is actually more about anticipation and concentrating focus than it is about fearing failure. The slaps on the back actually help at those points, because it seems to narrow the focus even more, settles the nerves, and acts as a motivator. This was a task that Abby took to heart and with vigor. My back has never been slapped so often or with such force. A few times I was inhaling chalk because she was slapping my back so much!

Westerns was a success! I am incredibly happy with my performance, and I am also glad that I am now entering my off-season. As much as I do enjoy competing, I now understand why most powerlifters spread their competitions out much more! I am looking forward to a change of pace and a change in my training. I know there will be many challenges thrown my way and the work won’t always be easy, but I also know that it will be laying the groundwork for more gains when I am ready to compete again next year. Besides, I’m not afraid of hard work!

Oh yeah…the shoulder held up perfectly, too! No pain, no issues with the low bar. 🙂