Here I Go Again?

Something happened in the midst of my deadlift sets this morning, and my back has been cranky ever since. Only this is the right side of my lower back, while the left side has bothered me most over the course of the year. <sigh> Just yesterday my coach had asked how the SI was feeling, and I said everything was feeling good. <sigh> About 5 weeks out from competition and this is not what I want to be feeling right now. Fatigue? Yes. Minor aches and pains? Okay. This? No. But I know what to do and I am motivated to do what it takes to get this back under control again.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-5 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 7, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, with belt 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 5, 220 x 5, 220 x 4, 220 x 4, 220 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good up until midway through the third working set when I felt a mild ache on the right side of my lower back. It could be felt throughout my final sets, too. In fact, the final set was cut short, because I lost my tension while trying to stretch my back a bit between reps.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

The mild back ache gained some intensity during my bench sets thanks to the arch. I put my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat for my final two warm up sets.

main event: 110 lbs x 5, 110 x 6, 110 x 4, 110 x 3

Feet down and as much arch as I could tolerate which seemed to get less and less each set. These felt tough today, and I certainly had better numbers with the same weight last week. Thankfully my shoulder wasn’t an issue, but the back certainly was.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 5, 145 x 5, 145 x 4

With the way my back was feeling, I expected that these would be problematic and hard; however, they actually felt pretty good. I was definitely fatigued by the final set though, and there was a lovely burn in my glutes by the time I’d finish a set.

4. pull downs

70 lbs x 8, 80 lbs x 6

My coach programmed 90 pounds for these today, but I could barely get the bar to my chest. I dropped the weight and then added a bit on the second set. Again, I had better numbers for these last week.

5. plank

x 50 seconds, x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds

I came into the gym expecting a tough but good session, so what I experienced was a bit frustrating. Tough is acceptable, but I am so done with the back issues! And right now, I’m in a bit of pain. I’ve got some stretches and rolling to do at home, and I’ve been instructed to take an extra rest day. I will. That will mean making adjustments to next week’s training days, but I need to keep this back issue from becoming a major thing again.

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Week 10 Begins

I almost feel my age today. You’d think that having an extra rest day would make this morning’s training session feel easier, better, but no. That’s not how it felt at all. I felt random aches and pains in multiple spots, although none were of great concern. As I felt the life being sucked out of me while squatting, I reflected on my training over the past year or even two. Without a doubt, my training is significantly harder and heavier these past couple of months than it has been all year. Of course, I was also dealing with an injury for most of the year, and that had a huge impact on my training. Still, without looking back through old training logs, I think my current training is still tougher than what I have done before, even when healthy. That doesn’t mean I’ve never had heavy or tough training sessions before. I certainly have! Just not in the same way all the time. If I wasn’t feeling so drained it might be interesting to compare my current training with previous competition prep. This will be my first competition under a different coach, so I expect that there will be differences in programming and philosophy.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 180 lbs x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4

The squats felt tough and ugly. My final warm up set felt brutal. The third and fourth working sets probably felt the best out of the bunch.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 4, 85 x 4, 105 x 3

main event: 115 lbs x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4

Warm ups felt fine. The working sets felt tough. The ache in the right shoulder that started during last Friday’s bench session continued, although it was not as much of a factor today. At least I don’t think it was. But maybe. Even getting those fourth reps was a bit of a grind.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 5-7 reps

135 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

4. glute bridges

135 lbs x 10, 135 x 10, 135 x 10

These were the easiest thing I did this morning…and I could have done so much more!

5. chest supported rows

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

So glad it is my Friday. What are the odds of fitting in a nap before I go to work today?

The Sleep Equation

It is Monday morning and I should be at the gym finishing off my first training session of the week. Instead I am lounging in my living room in my pajamas, where the heaviest thing I’ve lifted was my coffee mug. My intention was to go to the gym this morning. Last night, I prepped my training log, filled my water bottle, and made sure my gym bag was ready to go. What I didn’t count on was laying in bed for hours with a mind that would tiptoe right up to the edge of sleep only to dash down a rabbit hole of thought instead of welcoming the darkness. That process repeated itself for hours…almost asleep and then thoughts racing off in a completely different and random direction.

Even my trusty go-to method of quieting my mind for sleep failed me last night. I shall explain this method if you promise not to laugh. Scratch that. I’m certain that you will laugh, and that’s okay. I am not ashamed of being a huge Star Wars geek.

When I have trouble sleeping, I begin to create Star Wars stories in my mind as I lay in bed. Sometimes my ideas come from previous dreams (yes, I do occasionally dream Star Wars), while some ideas come years of reading about and imaging the Star Wars universe post-original movies. I begin by setting the scene and characters and usually fall asleep well before I can get around to enlarging the scene with action. Night after night, I repeat the process, setting the scene from the beginning and fall asleep shortly after. My stories seldom progress very far and almost never reach a conclusion. The goal isn’t the story but sleep, and this activity somehow takes all my mental threads of thought and twists them into a solitary rope that I can follow into dreamland.

But not last night. At the first sign of difficulty in falling asleep, I began setting my scene. In the usual fashion, my mind would shortly begin to drift towards darkness, but then darkness would shatter as my thoughts would veer in a different direction. Instead of my Star Wars lullaby, I’d be thinking about work or training or Nationals or my son’s dead fish or the mild throb in my shoulder or dinner for the next week or the bills I have to pay or the hip pain from 3 years ago or how odd it is to be in a pitch black room with eyes closed yet ‘seeing’ bright light inside my head. No matter how many times I would set the scene all over again, the result was the same. Tiptoe up to the edge of sleep. Retreat at full speed.

When my bladder woke me a couple of minutes before my alarm was set to blare, I debated with myself. Get up and go to the gym as planned or delay the gym until tomorrow and get a bit more sleep today. In the past I didn’t have the ability to even make such a last minute change to my training, because my training time was coordinated with my coach’s availability. Now that I train by myself, I do have more flexibility, but I still need to make sure that I get my training done, especially with a competition on the horizon. In the span of a minute or two, while still half-asleep, I mentally looked at my schedule and shuffled things around. Yes. It would work. So, I opted to stumble to the bathroom quickly and then crawl back into bed for another 40 minutes or so. Although I still would have had time to get to the gym this morning, I think the best decision is to wait until tomorrow. My shoulder is mildly achy. I did not get much sleep at all and what I got was not of great quality. I can tackle Week 10, Day 1 tomorrow.

End of Week 9

I am glad that this training week is finished. It’s felt like a long, tough week, and I suppose I shouldn’t expect much to change over the next few weeks. There’s a competition to prep for, after all!

1. competition bench (2-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6 + 5, 85 x 5

main event: 100 lbs for 10 sets of 3 reps with 90 seconds of rest between

Although I felt fine enough when I arrived at the gym, my right shoulder felt a little funky from the very first warm up set. It still feels a bit off almost two hours later. I don’t think it is anything to get excited about yet, but I should make sure I’m doing some band pull-aparts on a daily basis and try to minimize how much I sleep on my right side. As I continued warming up, I made sure to do some stretching and also felt a few more reps at 65 pounds would be beneficial. I was able to perform all 10 working sets without too much difficulty, but I could foresee difficulty coming my way in a short while with close grip bench also on the agenda.

2. competition squat (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 95 x 5, 135 x 3

main event: 155 lbs x 6, 155 x 5, 155 x 5

These squats felt decent. They even looked decent when I watched the videos I took, but they did feel a little tough. Not tough in a “that’s too heavy or difficult for me” kind of way, but rather in a “my body feels drained of it’s life force” kind of way.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

105 lbs x 6, 105 x 4, 105 x 4

Just as I predicted, the close grip bench sets were super tough and not at all fun. I managed to get the minimal number of reps on the first set but barely. The RPE for that set was 9.5 and stayed that way for the next two sets. I don’t like dropping reps, particularly when I’m not even achieving the lowest number in the rep range; however, I’d rather drop reps than put myself into a potentially bad situation, like complete and utterly catastrophic failure. Even though I always have safeties when I bench, I am not a fan of my gym’s benches and safeties. Quite frankly, they suck. There are times when it appears as if the safeties would be too short compared to my bar path. Since I could barely finish the fourth rep each of those final two sets, I figured I should stop there.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 12

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 25 seconds each side

Now I am looking forward to a couple of rest days and hoping to feel fresh for Monday’s training session…whatever it may look like. I have a feeling it’s going to be another long, tough, sweat-filled session.

Pushing a PR

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said I’d be starting off with block pulls and push presses. Since front squats have been on the agenda for the past several Wednesdays and they’ve been feeling tough, I was so happy about the block pulls that I almost forgot what the push presses were and how much I do not like them. It wasn’t until I was tying my shoes that I finally realized that my coach had actually said¬†push presses. <sigh> What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

1a. push press

45 lbs x 5, 55 x 6, 65 x 6, 75 x 5 PR?, 75 x 5, 75 x 5

I am reasonably confident that I hit a PR today. Last September I did two sets of 4 at 75 pounds. PRs are always a confidence boost, especially when doing an exercise that always seems to be a struggle.

35 lbs x 11 behind the neck presses

1b. block pulls

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 8, 195 x 8, 195 x 8

All of my sets were touch and go except for the final set. The first set at 195 found me moving my hips a bit more than normal, so my coach had me stop each rep for the final set. I think I did a better job keeping my hips from dropping on that final set.

2a. glute ham raises

x 11, x 12, x 10

2b. pull ups-wide, pronated grip

3 or 4 reps with just the small green band which wasn’t going to assist me enough to hit the target rep range, so added a blue band with the green and did another 8 reps for the first set

then x 9, x 9

2c. side laterals

10 lbs x 12, 15 lbs x 4 + 10 lbs x 8, 10 lbs x 11

Laterals are not a favourite, but using the 10 pound dumbbells seems to be okay. Sadly, the jump to the 15 pound dumbbells always seems to feel super heavy. The left shoulder had some clunking going on, so I was trying to minimize that by controlling my shoulder and arm positioning. The left shoulder also fatigued more quickly than the right, so my face would contort towards the end of each set in an effort to keep that left arm moving.

 

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!

Good Morning Glutes

I was grumpy for most of the weekend, likely a combination of the lingering SI joint issue, feeling defeated and frustrated with food, and just my own internal demons. Although my attitude began to shift yesterday afternoon, I think the grumpiness left completely this morning. I woke up feeling as if I needed more sleep, probably due to some tossing to find a comfortable position. As I opened the living room curtains, I realized that I still have another day off to look forward to, and that realization made me deliciously happy. I love my job, but days off are nice. It also helps that the SI issue is improving. In fact, I noticed that I was moving with more ease at the gym this morning than I was last week. Before my back hurt to bend over to pick up a light kettlebell, to lift a 45 pound plate onto the bar, or to even lay back onto the bench. I could do all of those things today without any pain or difficulty. The pain may not be all gone yet, but I’m so glad that there is improvement. Sitting is still a painful activity. As little as I do sit, unfortunately I have no choice but to sit while driving!

1a. goblet squats with kettlebells

16kg x 5, 24kg x 10, 32kg x 8, 40kg x 6, 40kg x 6

This was the first time I’ve ever done goblet squats with this much weight, and it was pretty good. They didn’t bother the lower back, but the 40kg kettlebell was definitely a challenge for the upper back. On both sets I tried for a seventh rep and bailed at the bottom.

double 24kg x 0

Michael thought that this might be easier to hold, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and never even attempted a rep.

double 16kg x 2

This weight felt more doable, but the back of my left shoulder/delt was burning with fatigue and couldn’t hold position anymore.

1b. bench press-competition grip, no legs

43 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 9, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

These got a bit tougher as I went along, probably because of holding the heavy kettlebells for the squats.

1c. plank with 2 small sandbags on my back

4 sets of 30 second holds

I’m not really sure how heavy the sandbags were, but I am reasonably confident they were more than 30 pounds.

2a. landmine presses

43 lbs x 8 each, 53 lbs x 8 each, 53 x 8 each

The left shoulder was still burning at the beginning of these, but that fatigue had faded substantially by the final set.

2b. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 lb vest

x 10 each

My balance was all over the place this first set, so I wanted to hold a kettlebell for the following sets.

plus 10kg kettlebell x 10 each, x 10 each

2c. ab wheel x 4 or 5?

The abs didn’t feel so good.

lying leg raises x 11

3a. dumbbell flyes

15 lb x 12, x 12

3b. hip thrusts with band around knees and large sandbag on my hips

x 30, x 30

Again, not completely certain the weight of the sandbag…maybe 70 pounds?

All in all, it felt like I did something this morning! A personal best for goblet squats! The suggestion that I might be able to do squats on Thursday (depending on the back, of course!) And I somehow managed to complete all 30 reps of the hip thrusts even though my glutes were on fire by the midway point! I’m still thankful that I’m not training three consecutive days this week, and that tomorrow is a rest day!