Fatigue Week

This morning’s training session was a good one, I think. Even though my coach is wanting to incur fatigue this week, I felt pretty good throughout my session. The only instances where I didn’t feel so fine were my final deadlift set and during the glute bridges. The back felt achy and uncomfortable during that final deadlift set, and it also felt uncomfortable the moment I settled the weight across my abdomen for the glute bridges. Still, the back is feeling better every session, every week, so I just hope to continue to increase my weights without further set-backs.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 95 lbs x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, 195 x 2

main event: 205 x 5, 205 x 5, 205 x 4, 205 x 2

As I mentioned already, the back felt fine until the final set here, which is why I only managed 2 reps. Although I most likely could have pushed through to complete another rep or two, I do not want to inflict further harm. Know your limit, play within it!

2. incline bench press (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10

main event: 60 lbs x 12, 60 x 10, 60 x 8

My incline bench is definitely weaker than my regular bench. My shoulders were burning with fatigue by the third set.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

110 lbs x 15, 110 x 10

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds, x 22 seconds, x 25 seconds

4b. barbell rows

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 12, 70 x 12

4c. glute bridge

40 lbs x 15, 40 x 15, 40 x 15

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9

Another not so great sleep. Another early start to the day. My body feels somewhat achy…a combination of the back, the shoulders, the neck, and mild muscle soreness. I am tired. Sounds like a broken record, I know. Do young people these days even know what a broken record sounds like?

My coach is still away, but I was blessed to be able to train at a friend’s house this morning. She has a lovely squat rack, one with reasonably spaced holes so I didn’t have to worry about awkward rack heights. It was a little odd to train in someone’s home, but it was also kind of nice. And I was glad to have someone “spot” my heavy squat attempts. Although a squat fail is rare for me, heavy weights can be scary and intimidating, so having someone there is comforting.

1. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 205 x 2

I am reasonably confident that my coach isn’t going to read this blog post, which may be a good thing, because I kind of did a little more than he probably would have liked. In my defense though, he had only given me the vaguest of instructions…on Thursday you could work up to 225 for singles…did he say single or singles? I don’t remember, but I don’t always do well with vague instructions, depending on the situation. I’m a details kind of person.

Ironically, my coach texted me as I finished the first rep at 225; however, his feedback was a little too slow to prevent me from going ahead with two more singles at that weight. By the time he texted that the first single was enough, I had already done two more! The first one was alright. The second one was more of a grinder than it should have been, which means I should have stopped. Sometimes I am stupid. The last one was okay, better than the second. The reason I went ahead with the third single was that the second one had issues. As I was stepping out with the bar, I hit the racks significantly. I should have racked the bar and refocused, but I didn’t. Then I was focusing on making sure I hit depth. I survived, but I know that my coach would have shut me down there based on bar speed.

2. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 3, 110 x 3

These were easy and solid today. I just had to keep the bar moving well and with good speed. The heavy bench single will be Saturday.

My Provincials count down is now in single digits at 9 days! It feels so incredibly close but still so far away.

The Undiscovered Country

The commercial gym…the final frontier. These are the voyages of Angela. Her mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out a new life, to boldly go where she has never gone before.

Okay, so I have been in commercial gyms before, but today was indeed an entirely new experience. I went to a commercial gym to train this morning, to weight train with free weights…all by myself! There were a couple of instances last year where I had to do some weight training at a commercial gym, but my husband was there to give me a spot and hand-offs when necessary. Eons ago, when I had a gym membership, I never touched the free weights. So training solo today in an unfamiliar gym was a step outside of my comfort zone. Thankfully, I wasn’t planning on attempting any maximal weights, so I felt reasonably confident that I’d be okay on my own.

One thing I do not like about commercial gyms is the equipment. Although I haven’t been to many gyms, my experience has been that commercial equipment is usually awkward to use. The squat racks are impossible to set at the ideal height for me, which means I either need to have an awkwardly low set up or difficulty unracking and re-racking the bar. The deadlift platform had a wicked slope to it, probably just old and worn out. The benches were too short. The markings on the bars were unfamiliar. There wasn’t enough knurling where I needed it. The collars sucked. The rubber plates for deadlifts were a pain to put on and off. No chalk. Too many mirrors. My experience today, however, was not all that bad. Yes, the equipment was unfamiliar and awkward, but I didn’t have to wait for a squat rack or a bench or a platform. No one hassled me. In fact, the only person to speak to me was a guy asking if I was finished with the deadlift platform after I put away all my plates. I was able to do what I needed to do, and the woman at the desk was really quite kind and pleasant. She didn’t charge me the drop-in fee and gave me a 10-day trial pass to use in the future, and she was rather interested in and proud of my powerlifting pursuits.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 3

185 x 3 This set was a little bit ugly. I pitched forward coming out of the hole on the first rep and had to take a step forward to catch myself. Pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes, and I was seriously tempted to rack the bar; however, I took a couple extra breaths, gave myself a little pep talk, and finished off the set.

195 x 3, 195 x 3

The first set here felt a bit tough but not horrible. Yesterday as I was tentatively hashing out what I would do today, I had thought that I might try some triples at 200 or 205 pounds, depending on how 195 felt. Although the first set felt a bit tough, it wasn’t maximal effort. Still, I decided to do another set at the same weight and then possibly go up for the final set. The second set felt decent, I think, but I had some troubles unracking and re-racking the bar (commercial gym problem!). Getting the bar back on the rack required more effort this time and resulted in some awkward body movement, so I figured that adding more weight wasn’t going to be a good idea. Then I decided to scratch the third set for the same reason. The last thing I need right now is to hurt my shoulders or aggravate my disc or SI joints again.

1b. bench press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 95 x 3

I had wanted to do these lighter sets with my feet on the bench in an effort to minimize strain on my back, but the bench was too short for my feet to rest on it. Seriously? Why such short benches? So, I had my feet on the floor, used my leg drive, but tried to keep my arch as small as possible for the lighter sets.

105 x 3, 110 x 3, 115 x 3

I did use a full arch and leg drive for these sets. I didn’t film any of my bench sets, but I think the bar moved well and with decent speed. I even made sure to pause each rep. When I decided to scratch the last squat set, I also scratched doing another bench set at 115. I’m sure I could have done it, but I also didn’t want to end grinding any reps.

2. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 5, 185 x 3

These sets felt good. It seems like every deadlift session feels a bit better than the previous, which is a good thing considering how very little I have deadlifted since January. My coach never actually gave me clear and precise instructions for today’s training (he’s on holidays this week), but he seemed to indicate that I could work up to 205 for deadlifts today. With how good 185 felt, I decided to be a tad more adventurous and try a couple of singles at 215.

215 x 1, 215 x 1

I’d say that those two singles felt pretty decent. Last week I did a single rep at 225 and it did not feel good at all. These singles felt much better than that, and this is a perfect example of how each deadlift session feels better than the one before. Yes, it is 10 pounds less than last week’s single, but it was faster, smoother, and felt better on the back. I’d say that’s progress.

Yesterday I asked my coach what he thinks my opening deadlift will be at Provincials, and I have to admit that I was crushed by his response. His feeling is that I will open with 205 pounds with my final attempt being 255 pounds. I know that I cannot and should not expect to deadlift a personal best this time around, but I felt instantly demoralized upon seeing my coach’s projections. His anticipated final attempt isn’t even as heavy as my opening attempt at any of my previous three competitions! I know I’ve not had the best training because of the back problems, and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for a mediocre performance…but, but, BUT I have to be able to do better than 255 pounds! Of course, everything is variable. It changes day by day, and the day of competition is always unique. The numbers aren’t set in stone, and we can make the final decisions on the day based on how the back feels and how my warm-ups move.

135 x 7

Since my chiropractor wants me to get more light reps in, I decided to do a drop down set at a weight that would be fairly light while still providing enough weight to require good technique. Then I called it a day!

I survived the commercial gym! It was as hot as Hades in there, so I was sweating buckets, but I did it.

Shoulder Selfies

shoulders

I do not enjoy having my picture taken, and I take terrible selfies. So why am I sharing a compilation of selfies showing off my pathetic looking arms? To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure. I know I have had this blog post percolating in my head since last night, but sometimes the idea splits into multiple ideas and I get a little lost trying to navigate my way to completion. I cringed while taking these photos, and I cringe every time I look at them now. Although my theme for this year is Powerfully Beautiful, I still struggle to see the beautiful when I look at a picture of myself. Perhaps that is why I felt the need to take these pictures and post them here…to remind myself of truth I am not comfortable believing and to reject the inner voice which says that there is something wrong with the image reflected back to me.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I have never believed that phrase, because I have been hurt far more often and more deeply by words than I have ever been hurt physically. My body bears scars from injuries I’ve sustained over the years, but they pale in comparison to the scars inside that no one can ever see. Maybe some people can brush away hurtful words like crumbs on a lap. As someone who savours and values words, I tend to soak them all in, good or bad. Over the past few years, I have grown more capable of rejecting words that are false or harmful to my well-being. As I have grown more comfortable in my own skin and in self-confidence, I have found strength in knowing and being exactly who I am. The opinion of others began to matter less, but I realize now that I have also been sheltered in a way. I have changed and grown a lot over the past few years, and that has been amazing and wonderful and good; however, the people surrounding me have been supportive and encouraging and wonderful, too. That’s a good thing! But, aside from the odd comment from a complete stranger, I haven’t experienced much, if any, criticism or negativity in these recent years towards my nature, my character, or what I do. Until quite recently.

To be fair, my recent experience was actually quite mild. It’s not like the comments were spiteful or intentionally meant to be hurtful. I’m sure they weren’t even meant to be directed at me personally. In the grand scheme of things, the comments should have slid off my back like water off a duck, because I know it wasn’t personal or mean-spirited. Actually, I was caught off guard by how much I was bothered by the comments. I had some mopey time, cried a few tears, shared my feelings with a couple of trusted friends, and then shrugged it off.

I know who I am, and I like who I am becoming.

Lots of people comment on the fact that I do not look like I lift weights. I get it…I mean, look at my biceps! They aren’t bulging. But you know what? I’m not a bodybuilder. I am not training to achieve a specific physique. I am a powerlifter, and we come in all shapes and sizes. My shoulders are not as big as a swimmer’s, but I still have trouble finding shirts and jackets that aren’t too tight in the shoulder. Some might find that unattractive or unappealing. Again, I get it. I’m not too keen on the look of women with extremely massive bodybuilding figures, but I can accept that their perspective is different from my own. Sometimes I look at my shoulders and feel unsightly. Other times I look at my shoulders and feel strong and powerful. I suppose that explains, in part, why the recent words stung like they did. Those words latched onto the dark side of my psyche, the side that is critical of self and vulnerable to attack. No matter how strong and confident I become, I cannot completely eliminate that dark side. It is a part of who I am.

So, I suppose I am sharing these awful photos, because that is also a part of who I am. I am learning to laugh at myself, to step outside of my comfort zone now and then, and to see myself as beautiful. (Even here I want to make a sarcastic comment to downplay the ‘beautiful’ comment! Must resist!) I cannot isolate myself from people who might say hurtful things, intentional or not, but I can continue to surround myself with people who love, support, encourage and know me. Who knows? Maybe one day I will even look like I lift weights!

Return of the RDL

There will be lots of squatting and pressing in my training over the course of the next 6 weeks leading up to Provincials. By the sounds of it, I’ll be squatting and pressing three times a week. I don’t mind at all, but I really need my back to agree with my mind. Since this back saga began at the end of January, I have hardly done any deadlifting. My back just couldn’t do it. So when Michael said he’d like me to do some Romanian deadlifts this morning, I was both excited and nervous. I so desperately want this back/disc issue to heal up and go away. I desperately want to be able to go about living and training without the pain and physical limitations I’ve had for three months now. Although the back is finally improving, I recognize that there are still restrictions in my movement and there is still pain.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 113 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 143 x 6, 160 x 1, 143 x 6

I think the first several sets were okay. The set at 143 was a bit tougher, but my RPE was probably 7-8. I no longer remember if that was the set where my back started feeling cranky or if it was already achy the set before. The pain wasn’t sharp or intense, just an all-over achy, sore feeling, which really isn’t a very helpful description but the best I can do. Michael thought about having me do a wave, so he bumped up to 160 and wanted 3 reps but called it after one. The bar was heavy from the moment I unracked it, and I know I felt tentative and doubtful. I think a second rep might have been a bit better, but I wasn’t too disappointed in having that set cut short. I am also second-guessing the final set now that I’m blogging about it. I had written in my book that I did 133 lbs x 6, but I think we actually added 10 pounds more to the bar.

1b. bench press-close grip, with feet on 45 lb plates

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 6, 115 x 5, 115 x 5

The first set at 115 pounds was tough. I had some bar positioning problems. I’m not sure that I was gripping as hard as I could, and I was likely thinking too much about the ache in my back. With the crankiness going on in the back, the act of getting into position and arching was not the most comfortable thing to do.

Early on as I was doing my squats and pressing, I experienced a tightness or sensation of something pressing/squeezing between my shoulder blades. I did a bit of foam rolling and then used a lacrosse ball before a couple of my squat sets. The sensation wasn’t painful, but it did make me feel a bit winded more than normal for what I was doing and simply felt off. The rolling seemed to help.

2a. Romanian deadlifts

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 3

These first ones were done with squat shoes on. Then I took the shoes off and did them in my socks.

95 x 8, 95 x 9

I would like to know how these would have felt if my back wasn’t already feeling achy and cranky. Despite how the back was feeling, I think these felt okay. We had the bar set up in the rack, so I didn’t have to bend over to pick it up. Probably a good idea! The initial act of pushing the hips back to lower the bar was not super comfortable, and I could feel some pressure in the back; however, the discomfort wasn’t too much. The pain wasn’t sharp, shooting, radiating, throbbing, or worse. It was certainly no worse than the feeling during squats and bench. Now, an hour later, my back is definitely achy and cranky, but I think I’ll be okay. Time will tell, I guess, but I’m going to operate on the assumption that soreness is to be expected when you begin using muscles for movements that you haven’t really done in 3 months!

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 12 each, 20kg x 12 each

 

Too Tired for a Title

I didn’t expect to have the greatest sleep last night, and I wasn’t disappointed. No, that’s not right. I was disappointed by the quality of my sleep, because I know the value of a good sleep. My low expectations, however, were entirely accurate. I knew I had to get up early this morning. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get 8 hours of sleep, because I wouldn’t be ready to go to bed as soon as I got home from work. I knew that I’d start out on my back, because keeping the shoulders happy is more important than sleeping on my side right now. I knew that I would likely wake up at least once or twice in the night. I knew I would eventually toss and turn, desperate to be on my side but uncomfortable once there. All these things came to pass, which made the alarm at 5:50 most annoying. But I got up. I don’t always train at 8:00 in the morning, but it is kind of nice to get the work done first thing.

I haven’t done any deadlifts for the past two weeks, not since the SI joint problem reared its’ ugly head. As much as I don’t like it when the main lifts are temporarily taken out of my training, I honestly didn’t mind in this case. When the low back pain started, bending over hurt. Simple tasks like putting on my pants, tying my shoes, bending over to pick something up, getting into seated/reclining position on the floor, putting on boots, lifting a 45 lb plate from its place on the rack to the bar…all of those tasks were difficult and painful. With how much discomfort there was with the simple act of bending and lifting, I knew that attempting deadlifts was not going to be a smart idea. Along with the reduction in general pain, I have slowly been noticing an increased ease of movement, especially over the past week. Those simple tasks that hurt last week do not hurt quite as much, if at all, this week. I can put that 45 lb plate on the bar without feeling pain. I move faster and more smoothly getting down on the floor or up from it. I can bend over to put on my shoes or pants without pain. Still, last night I was thinking about today’s training session and resigned myself to the fact that deadlifts would not be on the agenda again. In thinking about training today, somehow I knew that Michael would ask if my chiropractor had vetoed deadlifts along with the squats. My chiropractor did not mention deadlifts, so I told Michael that must mean they are okay. As long as the back feels okay. Happy was I to be allowed to do some form of deadlift today!

1a. sumo block pulls

45 lbs x 8, 135 x 9

with belt:

135 x 2

155 x 7

175 x 0 + 8

175 x 0

The sumo block pulls started off feeling okay, but I soon ran into some uncomfortable feeling in my lower back. At first the discomfort was when I initiated the pull and as I would begin to lower the bar. Making sure my body was completely tight and that I took the slack out of the bar helped reduce the bother on the back, at least up until 175 pounds. The false start on the first set at 175 was due to feeling a fair bit of pressure in the low back as soon as I got myself into position and tight. Michael was ready to drop the weight, but I resisted and got the set done. On the final set, I set myself up twice and experienced the same uncomfortable low back pressure and decided that enough was enough. Pushing through a bit of discomfort is fine, but there is no need to push too far.

1b. braced single arm kettlebell row

12kg x 15, x 15, x 15

16kg x 12, x 12

All of these saw the kettlebell row closer towards my hip. The first three sets were kept under fairly constant tension.

1c. floor presses, keeping back flat

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 10, 83 x 8, 100 x 8, 110 x 6

For the most part, these were good and solid. I probably could have done another couple of reps on the final set. There was the odd rep with poor elbow positioning. Doing floor or bench presses without arching and leg drive is a bit more challenging, but it also makes me feel strong when the weight moves well despite the lack of advantages. It’s hard to keep that back flat, but it is even more difficult to get my shoulders into the best position without arching. I will be so glad when I can return to normal pressing again. Of course, that also depends on the low back. In the meantime and all the time, I need to be working my shoulder mobility.

2017 Training Day 1

It’s been 10 days since I have done any training, so I was excited to get back at it this morning. Although my training journal still has a few blank pages left, I decided that the start of a new year was the perfect time to make the transition to a new journal. (I am such a journal/paper addict!) The sun was shining as I was driven to the gym. Driven because my husband decided that he would do so, although I’m really not sure why. What I do know is that his presence in the car made me grumpy, both on the way to the gym and then after on the way home. I like my space. While I am more than happy to share my space with others, there are times when I am less tolerant of space invaders. But my grumpiness took me by surprise this morning. I didn’t expect the act of being driven to the gym to bother me the way that it did. As is my custom, I played my theme music in the car, but my husband sang and shimmied to the music while I stewed and glared out the window. I guess those minutes of travel to the gym are precious to me. That is when I shift my focus from everything else to what I am going to think, believe, and do in the gym. That short period of time is about me. I suppose that might sound selfish or self-centred, but there is a lot of noise inside my head and I need to shut most of that noise out for a while. I love my husband, but he is not me. He is not an introvert, and he barely understands what being an introvert actually means. He is loud, boisterous, fidgety, and often subconsciously seeks attention. This is his personality, and I try to understand and accept it; however, it is not me. I accept it and sometimes tolerate it plenty of times, but occasionally, I simply need my own space to be and do my own things. My drive to the gym is one of those times, I guess. But we both survived and I got to train.

1a. squats-low bar (as low as I could comfortably go!!!)

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 125 x 8, 155 x 6, 185 x 6

The squats were feeling decent until I hit 185, then the bar suddenly felt very heavy. Michael told me to use my belt for the next set at the same weight. <gulp> I’ve not used my belt since August…and I am a few pounds heavier than I was then. Would I even remember how to use my belt?

with belt: 185 x 3

Michael called it after the third rep. I honestly cannot recall how those reps felt. I think I did remember how to use my belt though, and perhaps the bar didn’t feel quite as heavy as the previous set. But Michael commented that my stance had somehow gotten slightly narrower and wanted me to try a few more reps with a wider stance. He also dropped the weight just a bit for it.

with belt: 175 x 3

I don’t know that three reps was enough to truly know which stance was better. In a way, the squats felt a bit easier with the wider stance, but the stance also just felt different. I did definitely feel some tightness in the right hip flexor though.

1b. bench press-competition grip

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 8, 87 x 8, 102 x 6, 112 x 6

It’s been a long time since I’ve done competition bench pressing, but these felt good. I could have easily done several more reps at 102 pounds, but Michael called it after 6. Pretty sure that the final set was a PR for reps, and I had a definite pause between reps, more so than I did during the earlier sets.

97 lbs x 8 AMRAP leaving 1-2 in the tank

2a. pause squats-low bar, wider stance, 2-3 second pause

135 lbs x 5 or 6 reps, I can’t remember or count

155 lbs x 5

2b. close grip bench press, touch and go

77 lbs x 10, 77 x 10

The first set was okay but a little tough. With close grip it feels like I am pressing so much further…well, I suppose I actually am! The second set was a bit smoother though as I had adapted to the change.

All in all, I had a good training session. I’m excited to do some competition style lifts again, excited to push myself and challenge my numbers. Taking care of myself is going to be a big part of what will make me successful. I have to keep the shoulders happy and the hip and everything else that isn’t usually a problem but has the potential. I need to rest well, hydrate well, and eat well. Bring it on!