Out the Door

Going to the gym and training by myself has presented me with a new obstacle to overcome. As I was driving to the gym this morning I realized that this “drag myself out the door” mentality was exactly the same thing I experienced back in my running days. Even though I looked forward to running and enjoyed the run itself, most days I would find myself struggling to get out the door; however, the moment I put on my shoes and shut the door behind me, my attitude flipped like a light switch and I was happy to be running. This is what I am currently experiencing whenever I need to go to the gym. I want to train. I am committed to training and won’t skip a session, but getting out of the house is a reluctant process. I’d like to think this will change in time as I grow more comfortable in my new gym surroundings and get to know the people there. And even if it doesn’t change, at least I know that I am focused, determined, and committed to doing what I need to do to reach my goals.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 95 lbs x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event: 195 x 5, 195 x 5, 195 x 5

Oh boy! So, I put my belt on beginning with my second warm up set. I generally wait longer to use my belt, but since the back has been achy for the past week I figured I’d play it safe. I was in the midst of my second working set, when I suddenly realized why the deadlifts were feeling so easy today…I had forgotten all about the deficit and was doing regular deadlifts! Oops! I considered sticking with the conventional for the final set but ultimately chose to grab a plate and get at least one set of deficits in. Definitely a difference with the deficit! Yet, I think they still felt better than they did last week, and the back was less irritated during the sets.

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 15, 55 x 12, 55 x 10

These also felt better than last week!

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

105 lbs x 15, 105 x 8

Unlike last week, there was chalk in the box at the gym today, which meant I was able to maintain a solid grip for all of my deadlift reps. A solid grip helps make the reps feel easier…at least a little bit.

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds each, x 30, x 15

4b. barbell row

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

4c. glute bridge

30 lbs x 15, 30 x 15, 30 x 15

 

Focus Forward

I have been wearing a necklace for a couple of years, one of those trendy ones with a locket you can personalize with various tiny charms. Mine has a background plate with the word ‘Passion’, a running shoe, and a dumbbell. Well, that’s what was in my locket up until yesterday when I removed the running shoe. It has been 15 months since I last went for a run, and I had been considering the removal of the shoe charm for the past several months. Despite my chiropractor’s statements that, for me, running again is a not now thing rather than a never thing, he subtly ignores any reference that I might make about running, which leads me to believe that he isn’t so inclined to ever give me the green light. Others tell me that I can do what I want to, including running, and I suppose there is truth to that. I am certainly no stranger to being stubborn in doing what I want rather than what is best for me at times, yet I am oddly reluctant to be rebellious in this area. Heck, I feel like a rebel just breaking into a bit of a jog to cross the street!

I have been a good girl in following the advice of my chiropractor, but it hasn’t been easy to let go of the desire to get out there and run. My goals have changed to powerlifting, so I have no desire to run long distances. It would just be nice to be able to go for a short run from time to time…because I could. I probably could, but I don’t want to risk aggravating the areas which were the cause of the “no running” ban in the first place. Still, I’ve been taking incredibly small baby steps towards letting go of running. Last July, I finally unsubscribed to The Running Room emails and stopped following their Facebook page. Yesterday I removed the running shoe charm from my necklace, and I didn’t know how to feel. It felt like I was giving up on the prospect of running again. My chiropractor said that I am focusing my intentions.

I’ve been thinking about his response, and this morning I realized that he was correct. My goals are big enough to crush most people, and pounding pavement for 20-30 minutes really isn’t going to help me much in achieving those goals. Even though running hasn’t even been on the back burner for a long time, I’ve been clinging to it, afraid to let go because it felt like giving up, like failure, and I hate to fail. My chiropractor’s comment chafed a bit, because I think I’ve been fairly good at staying focused over the past few years. It felt like a sassy response at a time when I was feeling emotional and low. But I appreciate it now. I am thankful for his response. He’s right. I am focusing my intentions. Is it the end of the world if I never run again? No. I’d much rather stay healthy and keep lifting weights. I do have big powerlifting goals, and I will need to stay focused in order to make them happen.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 125 x 6, 155 x 6, 185 x 6, 195 x 6, 195 x 5, 185 x 6

These weren’t quite as fast or as easy as last week, but that’s okay. 195 pounds felt slightly heavy on my back today, and the second set was a bit challenging. The backdown set was much better, and I was able to find my groove again. I did have some wrist discomfort on the heavier sets which was likely part of why everything felt heavier. A couple of days ago I rolled my right wrist awkwardly at home, and it’s felt slightly uncomfortable off and on ever since.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 85 x 8, 105 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6 pause the last rep, 105 x 6

These were solid, smooth, and moving well.

2a. pause squats-low bar, with sleeves

135 lbs x 5, 155 x 6

2b. Spoto presses-competition grip, 2 second pause

85 lbs x 5, 85 x 6

 

Chiropractor Tales

I had a dream last night of several inches of freshly fallen snow. As November is quickly coming to an end, I suppose it is only natural to anticipate snowfall. There has certainly been evidence of winter on the upper reaches of not-so distant mountains lately. In my dream last night, I saw the snow and made the decision to go for a run. Not just a few steps such as when I am scurrying to cross a road. Nope. In my dream, I ran with intent and purpose. It was glorious!

I love running in the snow. Before I started running, I didn’t enjoy winter very much at all. It was too cold. Snow was a nuisance. But once I started running in the winter, I discovered that there was something special about striding through the snow. The cold didn’t bother me quite as much as it used to, and I looked forward to every fresh dusting of snow.

Of course, I don’t run anymore, and I’m reasonably certain that my last winter run was December 31, 2014. I don’t run anymore, because my chiropractor has told me that it isn’t a good idea for me for now, although he’s been saying that for a long time and doesn’t seem inclined to change his position. I miss running, yet I don’t. I think that I am at peace with the fact that running might just be something that I used to do. It helps that I have something, aka powerlifting, to keep me active and provide me the opportunities to push myself. While I’m sure that running and powerlifting could live peaceably together in one body, the greater reality is that the two typically do not mix well. So, as much as I might like to point out that I miss running, I listen to my chiropractor and follow his advice.

Most of the time.

My chiropractor likes to give homework, which is one of the reasons why I like him as much as I do. He doesn’t just treat the symptoms of the problem; he wants to get rid of the problem and prevent it from coming back. Over the past couple of years, my chiropractor has had me do all sorts of exercises at home, involving foam rollers, dowels, lacrosse balls, voodoo floss, bands, and towels, and working body parts from head to toe. I am the sort of person who will usually do my homework, and I am fairly faithful in doing what my chiropractor tells me to do. After all, it is in my best interests to do it!

Except I skipped a couple of days this week…for no other reason than that I didn’t want to do it. My current homework regime doesn’t take very long, and it isn’t all that difficult or uncomfortable anymore. I foam roll my calf. I foam roll my glute. I sit in a pigeon pose for 2 minutes. I stretch my hip in a 90/90 position for 1 minute. I lie on my back and pull my knee towards my chest for several holds. All of that doesn’t take much time, yet I didn’t do it on Wednesday or Thursday. My knee had been feeling good, and I was just feeling stubborn. Guess what wasn’t feeling good come Friday afternoon? My knee. And I immediately thought about that chiropractic homework that I had willfully avoided the two days leading up to yesterday. Correlation? Possibly. The knee discomfort wasn’t too bad and it didn’t last too long, but it did serve as a gentle reminder that there is benefit to doing my homework and listening to someone who wants to see me strong, healthy and fully functional, even if he won’t let me run. Although I suppose there are still valid reasons for why I am still staring at a red light for running!

 

Challenge Confusion

It has been exactly one year since I last laced up my running shoes and stepped out for an actual run. 365 days without running! Oh how I miss it! Oh how I don’t miss it! Isn’t it strange how equally strong mixed emotions can be.

I remember that last run fairly well. It was a short run, just 2.5 kilometres, but it was only my second run in about five months. That gap was the result of obeying my chiropractor’s advice to stop running for a while in order to deal with a disc issue that was causing me hip pain. While I didn’t like giving up running then, I did it for the sake of my hip and the fact that I was preparing for a powerlifting competition in October. A couple of days after that competition, I went for my first little run in five months. A week later I went for my final run. The run started out tough, because my body was sore from post-competition high volume training and was not used to running anymore, but I powered through the run, feeling like Rocky Balboa. Until the end when the hip started throbbing. In my head I can see and hear my chiropractor’s reaction/response perfectly. Tsk, tsk! He told me to stop running, for now, although he does not seem so inclined to ever indicate when for now will end.

Fall is probably the time when I miss running the most, because there is something intensely satisfying and enjoyable about running through crunchy leaves and feeling the crisp chill of the air hit your lungs. I could go for a walk through the leaves and find a small measure of joy in the crunch, but it just isn’t quite the same as running. (Running in the rain or on fresh snow come close to the same feeling as running on fallen leaves.) So, these are the days when I feel the desire to run most intensely, even though it has been a very long time since I last ran.

The flip side is that I do not miss running all that much. It helps that I train three times a week. It helped even more when I was focused on preparing for a competition. Now that I’m in off-season training, I can’t help but feel like there is something more that I could be doing…like running. Honestly, the goal of running a marathon has come and gone, but I would like to be able to just go for short runs once or twice a week. By short I mean anywhere between 2 and 5 kilometres. Okay, maybe a 10K once in a blue moon.

I think this love/hate running relationship is an example of the restlessness I am feeling inside for lack of challenge or purpose. With no powerlifting competitions in sight, I feel lost and adrift. My gym training still has purpose, but there isn’t exactly a definitive goal there, at least not that I’m aware of. I’m working on technique and weak spots, so I can get stronger and more efficient which should transfer over to improvements in my competition lifts, but the results, at least right now, are not as tangible as having a distinct goal with a deadline. Make sense?

This miracle morning challenge that I started a few days ago was exciting before I began, but now I don’t feel excited about it at all. It feels like a burden, like tasks that are done merely for the sake of crossing them off. Such tasks are sometimes necessary and there can be benefit in doing them, but I suspect that I still need a different kind of challenge. I’m still not allowed to run. I have begun to suspect that my chiropractor will never give me the green light for running, and my resulting emotions are mixed. Competitions are still far off in the distance of next year sometime. I don’t know.

This feeling is yucky and difficult to describe. It’s a combination of boredom, restlessness, procrastination, laziness, longing, listlessness, confusion, desperation, a sense of being lost, cast adrift, a desire for something more, the need to be or to do something. It’s a hot mess.

Macros

A couple of times this week I have been engaged in conversation about macros. Even before I began working at Starbucks, a few of these baristas knew me as a regular customer and a powerlifter. When I was cutting weight prior to my competition this past May, my baristas knew that I was watching my macros. Once that competition was over and I no longer had to work to make weight for my next competition, these same baristas would jokingly tease me on the odd occasion I would break from my norm and order something a little more extravagant. Now that I work at Starbucks, most of my new co-workers are aware that I am a powerlifter, and I still get a comment now or then about my macros. They know I am a powerlifter, but they really don’t know my story.

My current response to the ‘does it fit your macros?’ question is that this is my off-season, which is most definitely true. I honestly have no idea when my next competition will be other than that it won’t be until 2017. While I am not actively trying to bulk up my weight, I am also not worried about the scale, the numbers on the scale, or my macros. This hasn’t always been the case.

Three years ago I was close to 30 pounds heavier than I am now. Even though I had been doing some running for three years already, I was still out of shape and not a very active person. My eating habits were atrocious. I had only recently broken free of an addiction to Diet Coke, but I was still quite addicted to Iced Capps. I didn’t drink nearly enough water. I was depressed and battling all sorts of inner demons.

When I started working out with my trainer, I just wanted to lose weight and get in shape. I didn’t know what powerlifting was, and I had no real athletic aspirations other than to continue running. Managing my micros became a big part of my journey and, in combination with the weight training, I lost 30 pounds, gained strength, discovered a passion I didn’t know existed, and found myself. The specifics of managing my micros has changed over the years. First, it was to help me lose weight; however, once I became a powerlifter, macros were used to gain weight to help gain strength. Sometimes macros were used to help me drop the weight in order to make my weight class for competition. I tracked everything I ate and micromanaged my macros for a long time, but I haven’t done so for about five months now. I’m okay with that.

I am the sort of person who loves routine, and tracking my food and macros was something that became a part of my daily routine quite easily, even though the process of balancing the macros wasn’t always so easy. And yet, I really don’t miss the focus on macros. I will gladly enjoy eating whatever I feel like eating. I try to make good choices more often than not, but I don’t feel any guilt over allowing myself a not-so healthy choice. As my coach often tells me, I now have a very good general idea of what I need to eat. Portion sizes and macro numbers are all floating inside of my head, and I could pull them out when necessary. But I think I am perfectly happy to leave the macros where they are until such time as I really need them. Right now, I don’t need them! No weight cuts. No push to gain weight. No personal stress over what I do weigh. All I need to do is make sure that I do eat and enough to sustain my training.

 

Goodbye to Running

On October 27, 2015, I went for a 2.5 kilometre run. One week prior I went for another run of nearly equal distance. Before that my last real run was May 31, 2015 when I ran a 5K race and finished with a personal best 28:07 time. It has been nearly 9 months since I last went for a run, and just when I think that I no longer miss it…I do.

I first started running early in 2010. It wasn’t pretty back at the beginning, and I can’t really say that I particularly enjoyed it at the start; however, I thought it would help me lose weight and get in shape. Little by little, running became somewhat easier and I grew to enjoy it more. I remember quite distinctly the feeling as I stood at the start of my very first race, a 5K, and the instant feeling of camaraderie I felt with an unknown to me child as we both shared that this was our first race. If my memory is functioning properly, I have taken part in a total of 10 races since 2010, and I believe that four of those were 10K races. My last 10K race was my best 10K time ever…sub 60 minutes. My last 5K race was my best 5K time ever…sub 30 minutes. In 2014, I trained with the purpose of running a marathon that I never got to run, and my running life came to a nearly crashing halt at that point in time, although I did squeeze that final 5K in after that point and paid the price physically for several months.

As disappointing as it has been to take running out of the equation, I’ve been mostly okay with it. There’s just something about dealing with physical pain that makes such a decision slightly easier to swallow. Having something else to focus on, aka powerlifting, more than made up for the lack of running. I enjoy running (strange as that sounds), but I love powerlifting! If being a powerlifter means giving up running, then I’m all for it! And yet, a part of me still misses the run.

I’ve been a part of the Running Room community since the day I first tied my laces in 2010, which means that I have been receiving emails from the Running Room on an almost daily basis. In fact, I think they actually do send emails out daily, because it seems like I delete them on a daily basis. For months, I have simply deleted them without even taking a glance at what is inside. I don’t need to know. I’m not running and have no immediate plans to run. I signed up for the Resolution Run at the end of last year, as I do every year, but I didn’t even take part. My chiropractor has said that I shouldn’t run right now, and I’m taking that seriously, even though it chafes a little sometimes. Actually, he said that last year…wonder if he would say the same thing today! But you know, a part of me really doesn’t care if I can or not. I’m a powerlifter now, and I’ve accepted that running probably isn’t the best for me.

And yet, I’ve watched the Running Room emails land in my inbox every day. I have deleted them unopened every single day, always questioning why I still received them but never taking the action necessary to stop them from coming. Until now.

I just received another Running Room email, but this time I opened it. I clicked on the tab which would allow the email to be properly displayed, then I scrolled to the bottom and clicked on the link to unsubscribe from future emails. I then clicked on the button in my browser to finalize my decision. Then I let loose an audible whine and had to choke back tears.

<Get a grip, Angela! It’s just a waste of an email!>

Yeah, I swiped at tears over the end of a series of emails that would continue to be deleted without ever being read. It feels like the decision to put an end to the Running Room emails was also an acknowledgement that I will likely never run again. Now that might not be true…I don’t really know at this point in time. My chiropractor has told me that running isn’t good for me for now, but he’s never given me any indication that running might one day be on the table again.

I don’t really need useless emails cluttering up my mostly useless inbox, but I’m still grieving the loss of running, even nine months after the last run.

My Happy Place

This morning’s training session was a bit easier than Monday’s, even though it was upper body and I frequently find the upper body stuff to be more challenging. It wasn’t that Monday’s session was brutal or anything, but the sets of 8 and keeping the muscles under tension feels so much tougher when you’ve been doing fewer reps with a competition drawing closer.

1a. braced single arm dumbbell presses

20 lbs x 6 each

25 lbs x 6 each x 4 sets

These were actually not too bad. The goal over the next few weeks will be to add more reps to each set.

1b. chin ups, with green band, supinated grip

x 6, x 6, x 6, x 6, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done chins, so I was somewhat surprised by how decent these felt for the most part.

2a. close grip bench press using Swiss bar, no pause at lock-out/keep muscles under tension (which also means I don’t breathe properly despite my coach’s reminders)

33 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 83 x 8, 93 x 8, 93 x 7

The Swiss bar is an interesting animal. It wobbles and plays with your balance. I really should have, could have done another rep on the final set, but my grip was slipping. I’m not sure if it was just the awkwardness of the bar or if my hands were especially sweaty, but my grip definitely felt challenged towards the end of the latter sets. The insecure feeling of my grip in combination with the command to NOT pause at the top of the press made life interesting for the moment.

2b. bent over barbell rows

75 lbs x 15, 95 x 12, 105 x 12, 105 x 7

The last set was tougher, because Michael adjusted my form just a bit to benefit my deadlift more. I might have done a couple of reps before the adjustment.

3a. lying triceps extensions with Swiss bar

33 lbs x 8, 33 x ?

During the first set, I noticed some tightness on the outside of my left shoulder when I would go into the deepest part of the extension. Partway through the second set, Michael had me stop the extension right before I reached the point I felt the tightness, so I sort of stopped counting the reps and focused on what I was doing. I am sure I did at least 8, maybe even 10-12.

3b. barbell curls

45 lbs x 8, x 7

Curls aren’t much of a favourite, but I tried to remain optimistic when Michael asked if I could curl the 45 pound bar. I kept them fairly strict, because that’s just the way I am. Still not a big fan of the curls. Maybe one day I’ll have big, strong biceps!

The good news is that the lower back is finally feeling almost like normal. Of course, I have sore body parts from Monday’s training, but that soreness won’t last too long. A friend commented today about my ability to jump back into training right after a competition. Even if I didn’t have another competition coming so quickly, I would still be in the gym as soon as I could be. Immediately following one or two of my earlier competitions, Michael would tell me that I didn’t need to come in on the Monday to train, and I would always say that I would be there. I don’t think he has said that for my last two competitions, so I think he realizes that I am just going to be there unless he takes drastic measures and bans me! 😉 But in all seriousness, the gym is a happy place for me (which doesn’t mean I’m unhappy everywhere else!) and going to the gym never, ever feels like a chore. Training has become such a part of who I am…it just feels natural. There are days when I feel tired or cranky or anti-social, days when I don’t want to go to work, to church, to the store for groceries. In my running days, there were days when I would have to talk myself into going for a run. Training is completely different! No matter how tired, cranky or moody I am, I want to go to the gym and I always feel better for it. I may want to avoid the world some days, but I never want to miss a training session. I loved running and I miss being able to run, but I have never once had to talk myself into going to the gym the way that I did with running. Well, maybe I did have to talk myself into going to the gym on that very first day, but I’m not the same person I was then!