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!”

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.

One Step at a Time

Provincials is 10 weeks away and registration opens on Sunday! The SI joint is still a problem, but I privately celebrate every little bit of progress no matter how small. As I closed the store last night, I was able to lift stacks of patio chairs without the discomfort that was present the night before doing the exact same task. I can lift my right leg higher to put my pants on without discomfort and without needing to hold onto something as I bend forward. I could get out of the car with slightly less pain. There is a bit less pain from sitting on the toilet. But a sneeze can make the lower back feel as if it is being ripped apart. Lowering myself to the floor is still a slow, tentative process. I’ll take those small forward steps, even if they seem to come slowly, sporadically. Progress is better than regression. Although it feels as if this issue is going to last forever, I have to trust that there will come a day when this is but a memory. Until that day, I am just going to do my best to stay positive and upbeat, to focus on what I can do and continue to improve on those things, and trust that I will be successful at Provincials.

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses:

8kg x 5 each, 10kg x 8 each

box jumps:

…can’t remember how many I did…we were focused on making sure that my back wasn’t being bothered by the jumps that I don’t recall the reps…guess I should get in the habit of writing down more of my warm up stuff in my training log…ironically, the back was completely fine with jumping up onto the box, although I was bending my knees to absorb the impact; however, I did have to step down softly as that was more jarring on the back!

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 6, 73 x 6

with belt: 113 x 6, 135 x 6, 135 x 1

I wouldn’t normally require a belt for these weights, but Michael wants me to use it as much as possible leading up to competition and also just to be mindful of my back. The first belted set was with my own belt, while the other two were with a softer, velcro closure belt of Michael’s. Before I even did the first rep with my belt, something didn’t feel quite right on the left side of my lower back. It wasn’t the same discomfort and it settled down by the next set, whether because of the softer belt or just no reason at all. Speed and bar path were good. Breathing sucked but that’s front squats! The final set didn’t get very far though. I did the first rep and felt enough discomfort in the lower back as I came out of the hole that I paused at the top, considered a moment and then racked the bar. Michael said that was enough.

1b. floor presses-competition grip

45 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

with slingshot:

95 x 6, 115 x 6, 120 x 4 or 5?, 115 x 6

Using the slingshot for floor presses is interesting, because you don’t get all of the benefit of the slingshot due to the limited range of motion. Again, I am not sure if I completed 4 or 5 reps at 120 pounds before failing. Michael said that he wouldn’t count that as a missed rep…that it didn’t happen! But I know it did. I think the bar got out of position on me, but Michael chose to drop the weight anyway.

1c. prone trap raises

5 lb dumbbells x 11, x 12

band face pulls with wrist rotation, orange band

2 sets of 15

2a. barbell reverse lunges-low bar

75 lbs x 16, 95 x 16

I expected these to feel tougher. The first set was super easy. Although the second set did get a little harder towards the end, it was still surprisingly easy.

2b. back extensions, with 25 lb dumbbell

2 sets of 15

I have been given homework…doing 100 band pull aparts today, tomorrow and Sunday. Always need to work on that upper back! Maybe one day I will look like I actually lift weights! 😉

 

 

A Snowy Start to Spring

Hello March! Good-bye winter! Wait. What? It is snowing?! Good grief. If it were December or even January, a glance out the window would make me feel peaceful. The snowflakes are fat and fluffy. The sky is so heavy and grey that I can barely make out the mountain roughly 500 metres from my house. But it isn’t December. This is March 1st and I want spring now. I wore flipflops to the gym this morning, because it wasn’t snowing at that time. Now I will need to brush off my car before I leave for work and likely again once I’m done work later tonight. <sigh>

1. single arm dumbbell clean & press

20 lbs x 3 each, 25 x 3 each, 29 x 3 each, 34 x 3 each with push last rep

with push: 39 x 1 left + 3 right + 3/4 left

That left side! Almost always that left side!

2a. goblet squats, flat shoes

16kg x 8, 24kg x 8, 28kg x 4.5, 24kg x 10, 24kg x 10

We experimented a bit with the goblet squats. The first set was done as I usually squat, while the following sets were done with less forward knee angle. Having my knees far forward generally works for me, but I do tend to get some discomfort at the back of my right knee at the bottom of the squat. Since these goblet squats weren’t super heavy, why not experiment! It wasn’t too bad making the change, although it made me feel uncertain as to my depth. Michael assured me that I was still hitting competition depth, but it didn’t feel like it to me. The set at 28kg wasn’t too heavy, but the lower back felt uncomfortable enough to cause me to drop the kettlebell instead of rising out of the squat. I was given the option of staying at that weight or dropping it and doing more reps. As much as I don’t like dropping the weight, I figured that would be the smartest choice.

2b. chin-ups, using a barbell and inclined bench

overhand competition width grp: x 8, x 9, x 8

underhand close grip: x 6, x 6

3a. rows, underhand close grip

bent over barbell: 75 lbs x 12

This set was actually good, but Michael changed his mind on type of row in order to not make my back cranky.

seal rows: 75 lbs x 15, 75 x 15

3b. standing double kettlebell presses, with eyes closed

10kg x 10, x 10, 12kg x 6

kneeling on a bench, feet unsupported: 25 lb dumbbells x 4, 20 lbs x 4

That was challenging and the left arm/shoulder just wouldn’t cooperate anymore.

3c. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

My lower back feels a bit better today, at least first thing in the morning. I could put my pants on with less discomfort. Yesterday’s chiropractic adjustment probably helped with that, but I’m also doing what I need to do to help it along. I am still not allowed to do back squats or deadlifts, but I’ve been told that goblet squats and front squats are okay and I can arch when benching. That’s good enough news for now!

 

Believe You Can

The lower back is still improving and still not quite where I want it to be. My chiropractor still wants me to avoid real squats and do single leg stuff instead. <sigh> Longevity is the ultimate goal, so I guess I can do that. The right shoulder has been a bit cranky for the past couple of days. My shoulders enjoy taking turns being cranky. It was the left one on Monday! Unfortunately, cranky shoulders and SI joints make finding a comfortable sleep position difficult. Sleeping on my sides bothers the shoulders. Sleeping on my back can make the lower back achy if my body isn’t perfectly positioned, and I just do not like sleeping on my back. It’s not the end of the world, but sleep is important.

1. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 6 each

Both arms felt fairly equal using the 8 kilogram bell, but the left struggled more with 10 kilos.

2a. military press

45 lbs x 6, 55 x 6, 60 x 2 + 5, 60 x 3?

These were a struggle from the very first set. Part of that was the fact that my right shoulder was already burning and feeling fatigued, because it is cranky today. And yet, the biggest problem is inside my head. Well, I still struggle with technique and bar positioning, too. I don’t even want to admit just how defeated I felt in the midst of these sets. I was quite thankful to be facing the wall as I waited, as I set myself into position at the bar, and as I racked the bar after another demoralizing set. I understand that there is value in pressing overhead, but in the grand scheme of things there is no reason for me to freak out over my inability to master it. My goals don’t revolve around being the best military presser, but it is frustrating to continuously struggle with the same thing.

Michael had me switch to a Swiss bar. The neutral grip probably made it easier to keep my elbows where they needed to be, plus it left me no choice but to lean back enough to keep the bar from hitting my face. Despite feeling that I do lean back while doing the military press, there are times when the bar scrapes my chin and I am likely wary of the bar in this situation. I think the two sets with the Swiss bar were better.

33 lbs x 6?, 43 x 8

2b. chin ups, neutral grip

with purple + red band x 8, x 8, x 8

with purple band x 8

It’s a rare day when I say that chin ups felt great. Today is one of those days.

3a. bent over rows, underhand grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 12

chest-supported row 35 lbs x 25

The bent over rows were actually not too shabby, but I could feel the low back a bit in that position. It didn’t make the back feel worse, but Michael had me do a chest-supported row instead, still with an underhand grip.

3b. incline dumbbell presses, neutral grip

25 lbs x 8, x 10, x 10

In a way, I am disappointed that I didn’t feel confident increasing the weight for these. After all, I can comfortably use heavier dumbbells for flat presses. The right shoulder wasn’t feeling so great or strong.

4a. lying triceps extensions with two kettlebells, no legs

8kg x 10, 8kg x 4 left + 5 right

The left arm just would not, could not finish that fifth rep. I even took a few seconds rest before trying to get a couple more reps, but the left arm was not going to have any of it.

4b. double kettlebell curls, wrists back

8kg x 8, x 7

This was a mixed bag of a training session. It wasn’t necessarily easy or comfortable, but it wasn’t necessarily all frustration and struggle. In fact, I just realized that I did better on the bottoms up kettlebell presses. Last week, the most I could do with 10kg was 4 per side, and today I did 6! Sometimes there is a good reason for why something feels more challenging! Sometimes you’re doing more than you used to!

SI, Sleep & Squats

Yesterday’s visit with my chiropractor wasn’t as gloomy as I dreaded. I think my disc is fine. The issue seems to be that the SI joints do not take kindly to hanging out in a squat for an extended length of time. They weren’t designed to do that. So, I learned my lesson, and now I have a couple of exercises to do at home and lots of single leg stuff to do at the gym. The home exercises are super easy…probably the easiest homework my chiropractor has ever given me! Still, I spent most of the rest of the day flat on my back and in pain, and I had yet another less than stellar sleep. Well, I slept okay from 10pm until 2am, but four hours is not nearly enough. I went to the gym this morning and did better than expected considering my morning cup of coffee failed to perk me up.

1a. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 4 each, 10kg x 3 + 3 each

29 lb dumbbell x 3 each

The left shoulder sucketh. The right arm was completely capable of doing a few more reps, but the left arm just wouldn’t, not even if I tried to give some assistance with a push from the legs.

1b. decline single arm kettlebell rows

12kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10

2a. incline barbell push ups

x 10, x 8

with 30 lb sandbag on back x 6 + 8 bodyweight

I think the sandbag is 30 pounds. Those six reps felt really tough, so I’m kind of amazed that I could finish off with eight more reps once Michael removed the sandbag.

2b. chin ups

with barbell + incline bench x 8

with red + small green band, neutral grip x 9

with both bands, wide pronated grip x 8, x 8 with a 6-8 second hold on last rep

2c. elevated split squats, both feet on 4″ boxes

x 16 each side, x 15 each

x 15 each with hands behind head and shoulders tight

Oh how the legs burned by the end of each set of split squats! Yesterday’s 20 rep belt squats and Bulgarians combined with these split squats means that my legs are going to be a little sore and rubbery. At this moment in time, I don’t know if my final training session of the week will be early tomorrow morning or later Friday afternoon. I could end up training three days in a row, which wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and would not be the end of the world. I just need sleep.

 

One Day at a Time

For once I was kind of looking forward to upper body day, because I figured that it might be an easier day on my lower back. At least it felt like a more productive training day, even if it was still frustrating.

1a. chin ups-with barbell and incline bench

overhand grip x 9, x 8

underhand grip x 7

with rings and incline bench x 6, x 7

1b. push ups-on barbell

x 8

with chains 4 sets of 8 reps

I don’t think I have ever done so many reps with chains before, so I can be happy about these. Getting into position wasn’t comfortable on the lower back, but it wasn’t a difficult adjustment to make.

2a. TRX supine rows-with legs straight + with knees bent

x 5 + 5, x 5 + 6

Then Michael saw how slowly and carefully I was moving to get into position for these rows. The back was fine once I was in position, but getting from standing to sitting to a supine position was uncomfortable. So…

chest-supported row 25 lbs x 17

The weight was super light, and I was keeping the reps strict, not arching the back. Michael wanted 20 reps. I stopped at 17, and I wasn’t happy about it. I easily had the strength to complete the reps, but the lower back wasn’t feeling very nice at all. By this point I was feeling rather frustrated, so I had to have a moment with my water bottle, back turned to everyone, just focusing on breathing and not giving in to tears. <sigh>

So…

a single arm standing row with a band-like thing: 2 sets of 15 each side

Pallof press-standing x 12 each side

2b. braced single arm dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 6 each, 25 x 6.25 left + 7 right

The right arm could have done so many more reps, but the left arm just wasn’t willing to cooperate. Drop the weight to get more reps…

20 lbs x 10 each, 20 x 8 each

3a. alternating dumbbell curls

15 lbs x 30, 20 lbs x 20, 20 lbs x 18

3b. kettlebell triceps extension

10kg x 12, x 12, x 10

At one point Michael asked me what I was thinking, and I said that I’ll never be able to deadlift again. I know that is a gross exaggeration of reality, but right now I don’t see how I will be able to deadlift on Friday. Michael pointed out several times this morning that we can make adaptations and work around the problem. I know it. I don’t always like that, but I know it is true. And important to do when necessary. Then Michael made a comment about maybe needing to take a week or two off from training. My face dropped, but I quickly said that wouldn’t be necessary because I’m going to be fine. Just like that he sucked me into changing my mental perspective from negative to positive. Fine! I will think positive thoughts about whatever is going on with my back, trusting that it isn’t anything major and that it will get better soon. I can do that for at least one day at a time.