Feeling Progress

Last night I went to a theatre production of Anne of Green Gables with my daughter. The show was amazing, and we were thrilled to be there. A couple of weeks ago I suddenly realized that I might have a painful problem with taking in the performance, namely the pain in my back and my inability to sit. Since the back pain issues began late in January, I have severely restricted the time that I sit to what has been absolutely necessary, like in the car, if we were out to eat somewhere without tall tables, or for the few minutes required to do some computer stuff at work. The longest I could sit with minimal pain was 10-15 minutes. How was I going to survive nearly 3 hours of sitting? But then last week was drastically improved from the previous several weeks, giving me hope that I might make it, at least without tears of pain. I think I managed to sit comfortably until about midway through the first act and then the squirming began. Intermission was an opportunity to stand up and walk before squirming uncomfortably through the final act. While I did manage to stay seated for the performance, I was definitely in a hurry to stand up and walk outside as soon as the show was over. I take last night as a small victory in this battle with my back! Sitting is still something that I should and will keep to the bare minimum as much as I am able, but it feels good to discover all of the things that reveal healing and progress. It makes me feel even more hopeful that this disc issue with resolve itself, that I will be able to compete at Provincials in June, and maybe even that I will be able to do more at Provincials than I have allowed myself to hope for considering the past few months.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 115 x 5, 135 x 5

with belt: 155 x 5, 170 x 5, 170 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 5

Last Friday’s squats were a hot mess. The bar felt heavy, and my bar path was all over the place. Today’s squats were sweet and steady. The bar felt light. My bar path was consistently over my mid-foot. No forward pitching. Good speed from the first rep to the last. The only thing not ideal with my squats is the depth, but since the back is resistant to hitting proper depth I’m not trying to fight it. Yet. When it is time to compete, I will need to be deeper. Right now, we just need to peak my strength without hurting my back.

1b. bench press-competition grip, last rep paused

feet on bench: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 5

Because of the back, I’ve been doing most of my benching these past couple of months with my feet on the bench. This has allowed me to bench without too much arch in my back in an attempt to prevent too much aggravation to the original SI joint problem and the current disc problem. I am capable of benching without a full arch and leg drive, but it is certainly more difficult. Difficult isn’t necessarily bad; it’s kind of like deadlifting from a deficit. It’s harder but will benefit you down the road. With all this benching without leg drive, Michael has noticed that my lockout has suddenly become a bit slower, as if my triceps are weaker. I’m sure my triceps are somewhat weak, but it also stands to reason that part of the problem is the lack of leg drive and the lack of arch which helps keep my shoulders in position. So, Michael suggested trying to bench with my feet on plates on the floor. The plates would reduce the distance slightly and hopefully allow me to arch without causing more pain in the back.

with feet on 45 lb plates: 105 lbs x 5, 110 x 5, 115 x 5, 115 x 5

The back felt okay. There was some mild discomfort in getting into position, but everything felt fine once the bar was unracked and I went about pressing. There’s really no reason why I shouldn’t be able to arch. Flexion is where my back really feels restricted. The sets done without leg drive weren’t bad, but these sets with leg drive were so much better! The final set was probably the fastest and smoothest of them all.

2a. pause squats-slow, controlled eccentric, with belt, roughly 2-3 second pauses

115 lbs x 5, 135 x 5

Michael wanted these slow and controlled so that I could find where my comfortable depth was. The bar was super light, but we decided to stay at the same weight for the second set. Right before I was ready for the final set, I decided to add more weight to the bar. The first set was like nothing on my back, and I know I am capable of pause squatting more weight. Even 135 pounds was still super easy. Depth was close to parallel, but not where I need it to be.

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

x 5 + 5, x 5 + 5

Supine rows suck, but I do the sucky things when I am told, knowing they are for a purpose and will make me better. Honestly, these still sucked but didn’t feel as bad as I expected. I’m pretty sure that doing these bothered my back the last time I had to do them! Just another little step forward!

Discs & Disappointment

Normally I prefer to blog about my training session as soon after training as possible, because I don’t want my impressions and thoughts to fade from memory before I am able to put them into writing. Even though I trained at 8 this morning, I was rather intentional about not blogging as soon as I got home. It is now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I think I have delayed long enough. My training session was not what I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was mostly an exercise in frustration and pain. The back wasn’t too bad yesterday, but today is an entirely different story.

Yesterday I left my chiropractor’s clinic feeling more optimistic than I have felt for several weeks. There was a measure of relief in knowing that the SI is fine and that this is all disc-related. I’ve been through the disc thing before, although there was no pain in my back then and it didn’t really affect my training. This round of disc issue is different from the pain in my back to the way it affects my training and daily life. I like to think I am fairly independent and self-sufficient. I don’t always like to ask for help, especially not for something I feel should be easy enough for me to do on my own, but even the most simple of tasks presents significant challenge and pain lately. I’m weary of it all.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 5, with belt 113 x 5

The front squats didn’t feel very good from the start, although the later reps in each set were somewhat easier than the first couple. Just not good enough to continue.

1b. dips

with small green band x 8

unassisted: x 6, x 5, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done dips, so I wasn’t very confident in my ability to do any unassisted. I’m always glad to be wrong when it comes to self-doubts. These didn’t hurt the back really, but there was some mild unpleasant sensations in having my lower half hanging.

1c. seated cable rows

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12, 80 x 4, 80 x 12, 100 x 10

I’m not sure what happened during the second set at 80 pounds, except to say that the back hurt enough that I just stopped.

2a. front foot elevated split squats

x 12 each

with 10kg kettlebell x 12 each

These actually felt kind of good. No stress on my back which was already in a ton of pain.

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 7, 8kg x 12

That’s quite a discrepancy between the first and second set, and I cannot explain why the second was so much better. Sometimes my second sets just are better, because I needed to prime the movement or simply remember how much effort I need to exert.

2c. standing triceps extensions

10kg kettlebell x 15, 12kg x 12

My chiropractor says it is important for me to continue training, and I would be miserable if I had to give it up. But I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can train without pain once again.

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.

The Yo-Yo

You would think that I would be used to the ups and downs after more than two months of dealing with this back issue, but here I am still capable of being blind-sided by pain, frustration, and despair. After a couple nights of less than wonderful sleep due to discomfort in the back and the hip, today has been an exceptionally odd day. I’ve had a piercing headache on one side of my head most of the day. One eyelid has been twitching off and on throughout the day. Despite chiropractic treatment this morning that actually felt kind of good, the back grew progressively crankier as the day wore on and exploded into all sorts of pain and discomfort while at the gym tonight. The icing on the cake is a cough that settled into my chest over the weekend, which sends ripples of pain through my back with every cough. Or maybe the real topper was the bit of smoke seeping out from the hood of my car when I arrived at the gym!

1a. squats: low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 5

95 x 5, 95 x 5 with pauses

After the first set at 95 pounds, Michael asked if I wanted another warm-up set or if I wanted to go up. It’s rather unlike me to want more warm-ups, but I said I’d like another one. The second set with the slight pauses seemed to feel a bit better.

115 x 5, 135 x 6

with belt: 155 x 6 better

165 x 0

The walk-out felt okay, but the back wasn’t feeling too comfortable even as I just stood there. I began to squat but only made it not even a quarter of the way down before deciding the back didn’t feel good at all and calling it quits on that set.

135 x 5

This set was better than the “failed” set, even if Michael said it wasn’t a failed set at all, but it still didn’t feel as good as the set at 155.

It’s hard to say exactly why squats were troublesome today, when I’ve been having forward progress with them for the past few weeks. There is the possibility that alternating my squat sets with bench had a negative impact, especially as I was arching for my bench pressing today. I’m hoping that is the ultimate reason. We shall stop working both lifts at the same time for the next while to see if that makes a difference.

1b. bench press: competition grip, with arch and feet

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 6, 90 x 6 last rep paused, 105 x 6, 110 x 6 last rep paused

My pressing was going well, I think. Of course, as soon as the squats hurt too much, we also stopped benching.

2. back extensions

x 0

I was slow getting into position, and there was a fair bit of discomfort in bending forward. In a way, I’m not really surprised as forward hinging tends to be problematic these days; however, I’ve done back extensions within the past couple of weeks without the pain and restriction I felt today.

Taking off my shoes, socks, and knee sleeves was a slow and painful process. Actually the sleeves were the worst, and the left sleeve was the more difficult to remove. I’m not sure which was worse though: putting all of that on or taking it all off. Driving home was torture, but at least the car didn’t smoke. A cough might rip my back apart, but I’m now able to sneeze without needing to remove shrapnel from my back. This is me, trying to keep my chin up, even as tears well up in my eyes. I will not cry. At least not until I am somewhere alone. Mostly I’m just weary of the up and down, the bad days and the less than bad ones.

Goblet Squats

Since it is Wednesday I walked into the gym expecting military presses to be on my agenda, but my coach surprised me by saying that we weren’t going to do them today…if I was okay with that. The military press. while I will do them when required, is not my favourite lift and I did not mind doing something else this morning at all!

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses 8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 9 each

Since overhead pressing tends to be an area of struggle for me, I am pleased as punch whenever I manage to have strong feeling sets. Michael only asked for sets of 8, but I pushed for an extra rep on the final set in order to set a PR. Of course, I only pushed because I felt confident in my ability to complete the extra rep.

hip thrusts with hip circle 2 sets of 20

1a. floor press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 90 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 4

1b. goblet squats-flat shoes

12kg kettlebell x 8, 44 lb dumbbell x 8, 64 lbs x 8, 84 x 8, 105 lb dumbbell x 3, 95 x 0, 84 x 10, 84 x 6

For the most part, these goblet squats felt really good. Michael intervened after the third rep at 105 pounds, recognizing that the upper back wasn’t going to hold for another. We dropped the weight a bit. Since my back is still an issue, Michael helped me by lifting the heavy dumbbells, so I could just be in position and take the dumbbell from him rather than running the risk of hurting my back trying to pick it up from the floor. He’d given me the 95 pound dumbbell and I held it but decided against attempting a squat, because I could feel more strain on my lower back than I had felt during the previous sets. This was likely due to the fact that the 105 and 95 pound sets were with regular plates on handles which meant a larger dumbbell that protruded further away from my body and required a bit more bend in the lower back. We dropped the weight and the first set was no problem. The final set started out easy enough, but the upper back was done.

2a. chest supported rows

45 lbs x 20, 70 x 3…the low back was feeling a bit pressured

2-16kg kettlebells x 12, x 4…this time the upper back was just done

2b. cable triceps pull-downs: reverse grip + overhand grip

30 lbs x 15 + 10, x 10 + 7

From the very beginning when I was doing the hip thrusts, I had the urge to take a picture of a section of the wall in the gym. My coach has a ribbon of words spanning the length of one wall, and my gaze was drawn to a handful of words over and over again. Ironically, as I am typing now roughly 11 hours later, I cannot recall the exact words that caught my eye. The first set of hip thrusts started out most uncomfortably on the low back, and I focused on the words. It bothers me that I can’t remember the words now. In my defense, there are many words and I have gazed upon them all many a time. I shall have to look at them again tomorrow…and maybe snap a picture. The back is determined to shove splinters of doubt into my confidence, so I need all the positive input I can get.

Of Joints and Discs

The back is cranky today. How else can I describe it when it isn’t anywhere near the worst I’ve experienced but also not close to normal? I haven’t done a whole lot today. I trained between 9 and 10 this morning and had a chiropractic appointment at noon, for which I was dropped off by a son and I walked home. The back was cranky at the gym, but I don’t think the squats negatively impacted anything. My chiropractor put me through the wringer, and I could barely get up off the exam table by the time he was finished with me. The walk home was short, only slightly more than 3 kilometres, but almost every step seemed to jostle the lower back uncomfortably. <sigh> SI joint trouble and a resurgence of a disc issue…I’d rather the disc issue over the SI one.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 8, 123 x 7

with belt:

153 x 6, 168 x 6, 178 x 6, 178 x 6

With the exception of two reps, the squats were generally good. They had good speed, consistent bar path. Depth was still questionable. There was some forward pitch on the final rep of the first set at 178 pounds, and the fifth rep, I think, in the final set had a wee bobble midway up. Not too sure what happened with that rep.

Michael made a comment at one point about every rep looking different and not like Angela. I completely understand what he was saying, because I feel the changes, the tentativeness, and the resistance in the low back. Even though I’m trying not to push for depth too hard, I am perturbed by the ongoing struggle to break parallel. I’m not used to having so much trouble making depth, and I don’t want to head into competition with questionable depth.

1b. bench press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 8 all of these sets were done with my knees bent, feet on the bench. Having my feet in the air hurts the back.

100 x 6, 115 x 6, 115 x 6 these were all done with my feet on the floor and with a moderate arch. It was quite uncomfortable to get into position (and out of it), but I’d rather put up with a bit of that discomfort than end up with shoulder pain because I can’t get my upper back and shoulder blades into the best position. It’s like choosing the lesser of two evils. Arching isn’t comfortable, but I don’t think it is truly detrimental to my back issues. Mostly.

2a. bench press-close grip, keeping constant tension with touch and go, not fully locking out

95 lbs x 6, 85 x 10

The first set felt so heavy, and I couldn’t press the bar off my chest for a seventh rep.

2b. rows

TRX x 15

inverted with rings, knees bent x 8

2c. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 pound vest x 12 each leg

 

Provincials, Problems & Hope

Provincials registration opened today, and I am officially registered to compete in June. The biggest question now is how long it will be before I am able to deadlift again.

Last week my chiropractor told me that I couldn’t pick anything up from the floor until I could bend over and touch the floor. I’m not sure just how well I could touch my toes prior to this SI joint issue, but I’m determined that I will touch the floor with ease. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

I have goals for Provincials. Despite having reasonably modest goals, I wholly expect that I will come back home in June having exceeded my expectations. When push comes to shove, my focus is unparalleled, and I am narrowing my focus on Provincials. I am hungry for competition. My singlet has been sitting in the drawer since last August, and I am oddly eager to put it on again, even though there is nothing at all attractive about a singlet! My little visual collage is posted on the wall directly in my line of sight from my usual spot on the living room floor. I lay on the floor, because I can’t sit on the furniture due to the SI thing. And I am determined to put in the hard work between now and Provincials, even if I am limited in some ways.

I see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon, an appointment for which I am equally eager for and yet apprehensive. My back is not nearly as painful as it was the last time I saw him, when I had an emotional meltdown; however, there is still a fair bit of pain and discomfort, especially with even the slightest bit of sitting, like in the car or the tub or putting on shoes. The reason I am apprehensive has to do with a couple of symptoms which I began to notice over the weekend, symptoms which flash me back to the disc issue I had…a bit of numbness in my right toe and a pinched feeling in my right hip.

The toe tingling numbness is still quite mild compared to what I have experienced in the past, but it has been enough to cause me some mental anguish. The sensation is mostly felt when I am laying down, usually when I go to bed and that is where the anguish kicks in, because my mind cannot help but wander down the rabbit holes of what ifs. Then on Saturday I noticed the pinched feeling in my hip. It’s not a terrible feeling yet, rather it feels as if the hip joint needs to pop but won’t. I hoped both feelings were one-offs, but I’ve had toe tingling since Friday night and a bit of hip pinch today. I really don’t want to tell my chiropractor about this latest development, but I will.

This afternoon I did my homework with the foam roller and lacrosse ball. No big deal. I’ve been doing it for more than a week now, and it is mostly enjoyable actually. The most uncomfortable aspect is when I must rearrange my body and jostle my back in a way that it doesn’t like much. Anyway…I did my rolling and I did my stretching, then I had a hot bath. The bath itself was most uncomfortable and not because of the water temperature. The back was quite cranky about sitting in the tub. I can’t explain why I thought it might be a good idea; however, as I was combing my hair after my bath, I thought I would bend over and see how far I could reach. Honestly, I didn’t expect to bend too far, but I was actually able to bend far enough to touch the floor with the tips of my fingers…with relative ease! It seems like a simple thing, but I was super stoked and couldn’t help but sing little ditties to myself.

There is no guarantee that I will still be able to touch the floor tomorrow. I have no guarantee that my chiropractor won’t give me bad news after learning about my recent symptoms. I have no idea when I will be able to deadlift again. But I touched the floor while bent over at the waist! Despite a back that has been cranky. The rolling and hot bath might have helped a lot, but I choose to see this as progress. What other option do I have?