Of Stings & (ham)Strings

funny thing happened at work around 6:00 in the morning…I got stung by a wasp on the inside of my right upper arm. So that wasn’t exactly funny, except that being a barista doesn’t typically come with the risk of insect stings. It has been a very long time since I was last stung, as in my last sting was when I was young enough to forget all about it, even though I had a severe allergic reaction. Or perhaps I forgot because of the reaction!

Despite the allergy, I went through most of my life without further stings and without carrying an Epi-pen. When I was still a runner, I decided that I should probably carry an Epi-pen, because I ran by myself and sometimes encountered wasps and bees along the way. I never needed to use my safety net, and eventually my doctor hooked me up with testing to see if I was even still allergic. Two or three years ago I had a multitude of scratches inflicted all over my forearm to see if I was allergic to all varieties of flying, stinging insects. The result was that I was fine. Sometimes you can outgrow an allergy. Today I was glad that I was no longer allergic. My co-worker was also glad! But gosh darn it, does my arm ever hurt! Even now nearly 12 hours later, that spot on my arm is literally stinging with pain. Okay, so I’ve certainly experienced more painful things in my life, but why does a tiny little pest need to cause so much pain? Had I known that the wasp was crawling around on my shirt, I would have just brushed it off and gone on with my day. Instead, I had no idea it was on me until it stung me, and then I brushed it off and crushed it beneath my foot. I don’t even feel bad about that.

A sting, a crazy work day, and then a training session at the gym…

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 85 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 7, 95 x 7, 95 x 7

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

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

main event: 135 lbs x 7, 135 x 7, 135 x 7

Today I had to focus on keeping the bar properly positioned over midfoot. I think the bar path was better than earlier in the week.

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

95 lbs x 7, 95 x 6, 95 x 6

I’m not going to lie, but these felt a little tough after the fourth rep.

4a. back extensions 12-15 reps

x 12, x 13

4b. leg raises 12-15 reps

x 15, x 15

Somehow these last two exercises are always the most challenging. It’s not that they are particularly difficult…they just suck. I’ve been doing stiff-legged deadlifts every week on day 2 for the past 7 weeks, which means that my hamstrings are sore by the time I get to day 3, which means that the back extensions take that hamstring soreness and inflict more pain. Each set starts out feeling easy, but that is a complete lie. The leg raises have been challenging because of my lower back issues; however, as the back has been improving, the discomfort in doing the leg raises has decreased. To a degree. Still, I’d rather be squatting…

 

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Looking to November

Over the past couple of training sessions I have begun to feel the stirrings of ambition, focus, and determination, along with the thrill that comes with pursuing a big goal. I’ve had a big goal for a long time now, and the competition where I will potentially have the opportunity to challenge that goal is now less than two months away. Although I’ve been eyeing this goal since before this year began, my grip on it has purposely been kept loose. I’ve been injured for most of the year and not lifting to my full potential. I am currently feeling better than I have felt all year, but I need to stay healthy and continue to rebuild my strength. That’s the main reason for the loose grip on my goal, but a secondary reason is that there are still opportunities for someone to move the marker on my goal. My goal involves a World record, but there is always the potential that someone could break that record (even multiple times) between now and my competition, possibly even breaking it beyond my ability to challenge. But regardless of what happens with that record between now and November 4th, of far greater importance is how I feel and what I am capable of doing. Breaking records is exciting, but it doesn’t define me. Being able to put in a solid competition after a disappointing Provincials would feel redemptive and rewarding, and my ultimate goals are to place well at Nationals next year and qualify for Worlds. Breaking a record in November would be super cool, but it won’t help me win Nationals or get to the World Championships. And yet, I am beginning to feel confidence in my ability to have a solid competition in November. Even when the training is tough or there’s an exercise I don’t like doing, I am finding the grit and determination to push through with my eye focused on November. This girl has goals and each one is a stepping stone on this journey.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6

Deadlifts are feeling good and moving well. The back isn’t bothered in the slightest.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

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

main event: 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 7

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 12, 115 x 12, 115 x 8

4. BB shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

50 lbs x 8, 50 x 7

This is one exercise that I do not enjoy and struggle to see improvement in.

5. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds

 

Of Exhaustion and an Ear

It was difficult to get out of bed again this morning, even after more than 9 hours of sleep. My sleep quality was a little less than the previous night but still a respectable 75%. Some eucalyptus helped with the nasal congestion, but I could still feel that lingering headache. Then my right ear began to bother me at some point in the night. I wear earplugs when I sleep, because I cannot fall asleep with noise or snoring. There was occasional painful pressure in the right ear which had me wanting to remove the earplug; however, the snoring beside me wouldn’t allow me to fall back asleep if I did. Right now I feel nothing in my ear, so I’m not sure if that was just a random experience or a part of whatever is trying to attack my body. At any rate, I slept until almost 8:30 and honestly could have stayed in bed to sleep some more, but I had to go to the gym.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 4

Generally these felt good. I did feel a little exhausted by the third working set, but I was mentally prepared to go the distance on the final set. The first rep of the final set felt strong, so I thought I’d be able to get the full six reps. Take my little pause before the fifth rep, breathe and create tension, and realize that I can’t. No tension. No lift.

2. competition bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8

main event: 90 lbs x 6, 90 x 6, 90 x 6

These felt okay for the first few reps of each set, but the sixth rep always felt like an RPE of 9. It was possible that I could have squeaked out at least one more rep each set, but the likelihood of finding myself unable to press that extra rep was just as possible.

3. stiff leg deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 10, 115 x 8, 115 x 6

I should have been able to do more here, but I dropped reps because of fatigue and the arrival of some aching in my lower back. The lower back has been feeling pretty good lately and was fine until the stiff legged deadlifts.

4. barbell shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 12, 50 lbs x 8

It’s been a while since I’ve done overhead pressing, and overhead pressing is not something I enjoy or excel at, which meant that I wasn’t completely sure where to begin in terms of weight. My coach left the weight blank for me to decide. That’s a good thing since he doesn’t know how much I suck at them, but then it leaves me to decide whether I want to play it conservatively or push myself. Oh boy! I did flip through my old training logs to see what I have done in the past, so I knew that I’ve not done a heck of a lot of multiple sets of high reps with significant weight. Play it conservatively, Angela! And that’s what I did. I used just the bar for the first set and managed to max out on the reps. It felt okay, but I could also tell that my shoulders were fatiguing by the final rep. I had thought about sticking to the same weight for the final set, but I figured an extra 5 pounds should be a reasonable increase.

5. plank

x 37 seconds, x 40 seconds

 

The Introvert Paradox

Despite looking forward to training, I have been feeling the urge to procrastinate my departure from the house to hit the gym. I’ve previously compared it to a similar phenomenon that occurred prior to going for a run back in my running days, but this gym procrastination had never occurred until I started training at a commercial gym by myself. In the short drive to the gym this morning, I gave more thought to the reasons for the shortage of “get up and go”. I still love training and lifting weights. I still want to see myself growing in strength and ability, to reach new PRs, and to compete at higher levels. So why is it suddenly harder to get out the door? Because that is where the challenge lies…getting myself out the front door.

Some might suggest that the loss of my previous coach could be a reason for my struggle to get out the door, but I think that is a very minor piece of the puzzle. I think he is a good coach, but he certainly isn’t the only good coach out there and coaching will only get you so far. After a great deal of thinking, because thinking is what I do, I believe there are three main reasons:

  • I’m training by myself. There is no one to give me feedback in the moment. No one to praise or critique or assist. I don’t have anyone from whom I can draw positive energy. I feel very alone despite the presence of many other people in the gym.
  • There are many other people in the gym! Yes, I know that is a complete turn from my previous point, but such is the mind of an introvert. I am a stranger to virtually everyone in the gym. That’s fine. However, I sometimes feel irritated or drained from the antics and energy of everyone else at the gym. This is a complicated thing to explain, so I’m not even going to try.
  • Even though I am committed to training 3x a week, my training times are no longer tied to someone else’s schedule. Before, my training was booked to work with my schedule and my coach’s, so it was important to show up and be on time. Now I have more flexibility, even though I still have a general timeline planned in my head.

This is a deload week and I am super stoked about it and excited to get to the gym, yet I still took my sweet time waking up, eating breakfast, and getting myself ready to leave the house. Despite my snail’s pace to get ready, I still managed to be at the gym by 9:05 this morning, which was really only 5 minutes later than I had wanted to be. Not too shabby for a procrastinator!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 lbs x 2, 190 x 2, 190 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good and easy.

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 6

main event: 65 lbs x 6, 65 x 6

Incline bench continues to feel tough. Today’s rep range was 6-8, and I obviously didn’t feel strong enough to go for more than six.

3. stiff-legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

115 lbs x 8, 115 x 8

4a. side plank

x 32 seconds each side

4b. barbell row

75 lbs x 12

4c. glute bridge

60 lbs x 15

 

 

 

Aches, Pains & Injury

It’s no secret that this year hasn’t gone as well as I might have planned or hoped in terms of my training and powerlifting. The “little” SI joint problem that began all the way back at the end of January has been an ongoing presence in my life. Although it has greatly improved, especially over the past couple of months, there remains an ache, a discomfort that is just there more than it is actually an issue. Midway through Monday’s training session, I began to feel little aches in other parts of my body. A bunching up sensation behind my right knee when I’d squat. An entirely different sensation behind the left knee as if I had hyper-extended it. There was a general sense that something was out of sorts in my pelvis. Some of my disc issue symptoms are subtly shifting into my perception again…a bit of tingling/numbness in the big toe of my right leg and a heavy, achy feeling at the bottom of my hip. Everything combined truly is not all that much to complain about…it is just there and I can feel it. Maybe I’m just acutely aware of what is going on with my body, and I suppose that makes sense considering the nature of my training over the past few years. But let me just say that coming back from an injury sucks! I hesitate to call my SI joint issue an injury, but I suppose there really is no other way to look at it.

With only two competitions this year and the first one being less than what I would have liked, I am hoping for a much better performance in November. Of course, I have a goal in mind for that competition. It isn’t out of line with my capabilities, at least my capabilities pre-SI joint problem! As much as I believe that I am still entirely capable of achieving this goal, I’m hesitant and cautious, knowing that this has not been my best year. Over the past few weeks of training with a new program written by a new coach, I’ve had moments where I felt as if I was so far removed from what I know I can do, moments when the weights felt so much heavier than they actually were and I wasn’t completely confident that I could regain my strength. Yet, there have also been moments when I have felt strong and confident and could envision being capable of more. The line between those opposing feelings is paper thin. Today’s deadlifts made me feel strong and confident and capable, but then my incline bench left me feeling weak and frustrated. The feedback from my coach was that my incline sets were looking perfect, that struggling is expected at this point. Hallelujah!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 5

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8

main event: 65 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 65 x 5

These were definitely tougher today. The rep range was 8-15, but I stopped each set with maybe, maybe one rep left in the tank.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

115 lbs x 15, 115 x 13

4a. side plank

x 25 seconds, x 25s, x 25s

4b. barbell row

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

4c. glute bridge

60 lbs x 15, 60 x 15, 60 x 15

The weight for the glute bridges is not a struggle at all; however, that weight is becoming uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to getting into position and having the weight across my abdomen.

 

 

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

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