Smooth Sailing

In training, as in many aspects of life, there are good days and bad days. The exact same weight can look and feel completely different from one day to the next. It might feel super easy today, but then you might feel crushed beneath the same weight next week. I have experienced these ups and downs over the course of my 4 years of training, and I’ve been blessed to have wise and seasoned individuals in my life to remind me that those ups and downs, good days and bad days are completely normal. They happen to everyone, and I’d like to think that the ups and downs are actually beneficial. Smooth sailing is pleasant and safe, but a lack of adversity can actually make you weak. It might even prevent you from venturing into faster, rougher waters for fear of the unknown dangers that could be waiting ahead. Easy is nice for a season, but I think we grow best in the storm and struggles, in the gym and outside of it. Fighting to reach a goal. Pushing through adversity. Swallowing pride, disappointment and frustration. Sweating. Straining. Determination. Resistance. Those are the catalysts for growth, for change.

This is why I try not to let tough days get me down for very long. I might feel frustrated in the moment, but I’ve been learning to embrace the suck. As I approach the bar for a set that feels hard and maybe more than I am capable of, I feel a hurricane of emotions raging inside. Fear. Doubt. Anger. Pride. Insecurity. Anxiety. Hopefulness. Despair. I feel them all and more that I cannot put a name to. I feel them battering away at my confidence, then I batten down the hatches and do what I need to do. Am I always successful? No. Sometimes I need to drop reps. Sometimes my body hurts. Once in a while, I simply fail. But I do the best that I can in the moment, knowing that a tough session doesn’t equal failure. I’ve got competition goals, and those goals can only be achieved on the platform. I can perform those goal weights in the gym, but I would only get personal pride in the achievement. On the flip side, fighting through 5 tough squat sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds does not automatically indicate that I will bomb my squats at competition.

Last week’s squats, those 5 sets of 4 reps at 180 pounds, felt tough and some of the reps felt ugly. The exact same weight, sets and reps the week before also felt rather tough. Until today, 180 pounds was the most weight I’ve had on my back since June 10 and that resulted in re-tweaking my back. Today’s training called for squats at 200 pounds, and I was respectfully apprehensive. That’s what months of injury and rehab will do to your sense of capability. I expected 200 pounds to feel tough. I expected that I might struggle through the reps and sets. The rep range was 2-3, and I was already mentally preparing myself to strive for 2 reps and not stress out over not getting all 3. I was even expecting that my back might erupt into pain again. I expected all of those things, but I walked into the gym with confidence in my step, in the knowledge that I am a fighter, determined and focused. Good, bad, or ugly…I was going to meet it head on.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2

main event: 200 lbs x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3, 200 x 3

Remember how I said 180 pounds has felt tough for the past two weeks? The final warm up set at 185 pounds felt a little bit heavy, but 200 pounds felt lighter and easier. Although I had prepared myself to simply strive for 2 reps, I had no trouble getting 3 reps for all 5 sets. While there might have been a rep here or there that wasn’t quite perfect, most of the reps felt and looked (at least the ones that I had video of) pretty darn good! My coach said I crushed it, and that’s exactly how I feel about it. After the first working set, I racked the bar and walked over to stop my video and broke into a big, sassy grin. I had approached the bar for that first set with trepidation and determination, and, as I was squatting, I realized that I was going to be okay. Confidence surged within me.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 2

All those sets were done with my feet on the bench. The back was feeling decent, but, knowing how much arching can quickly aggravate my back when it is irritated, I am going to take whatever measures I can to minimize the aggravation. At least until my back returns to normal function again!

100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 2, 120 x 2, 120 x 2

In the same way that I haven’t squatted 200 pounds for almost 4 months, I also haven’t benched 120 pounds for just as long. Bench press is by far my weakest of the big 3 lifts, and my bench press in competition has been stuck at the same weight for two years. Now that is frustration if I ever experienced it! The programming given to me by my new coach has pushed me and my bench press further and harder than I’m used to going, but so far I’ve been able to keep pace.

The fact that a heavy squat has the ability to crush you like a bug will always make me feel more apprehension than a heavy bench press; however, once I crushed those heavy squats today, I had to look 120 pounds in the eye and tell myself that I was capable. And I was. The bar felt a bit heavy and the reps felt a little slow, but everything looked good on the videos!

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

155 lbs x 3, 155 x 3, 155 x 3

4. chest supported rows (2-0x1) 10-12 reps

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

Having completed my session, I walked to the change room with my head high and shoulders back. Maybe there was some swagger in my step, too. I’ve had a fair number of tough training days lately, but today was a good one. Day 2 will see more apprehension when I attempt to deadlift the most weight I’ve done since June. Day 3 will test me again when I am supposed to bench 120 pounds for 5 sets of 3 reps. Those could be good days or bad ones, but I’m looking forward to the challenges. Tomorrow will be 31 days until the competition!

Advertisements

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

decide

Week 11 of my training program begins tomorrow, and this week will see a shift in focus as competition is now less than 5 weeks away. The accessory work will shrink significantly, while I put in a lot of practice for my competition lifts, heavier weights and fewer reps. It’s an exciting time, even if the hard work continues.

I have experienced a wide range of emotions in the weeks leading up to prior competitions. Right now, I feel strangely disconnected. Competition is 4 weeks plus a few days away, and I have barely given much thought to it. Yes, I have thought about it, a little, but there is no emotion attached to the thoughts. It’s a date on my calendar…a date that I’ll get excited about as it draws near. Maybe part of the reason for this is the fact that I now train by myself. Also, with so much of the year spent dealing with injury, I have had to accustom myself to having tempered emotions in regards to training and competing. Last week’s back pain flare up barely caused a ripple of emotion. The timing sucked. The pain sucked. The potential of being thrown back to the beginning sucked. But I didn’t wallow. I didn’t panic or freak out. I breathed. I carried on with life and allowed myself some extra rest. I used every tool in my toolbox to help the problem. I did not stress out over how this set-back could possibly impact my competition. I carried on, knowing that I am okay. I will be okay, and I am not defined by the things I do.

The back has been improving quite rapidly since last Thursday’s whatever it was that happened. I finished off Week 10’s training yesterday, but my coach did make changes to my loads, reps, and sets. The back held up fine, but now I am facing Week 11. Tomorrow’s squats call for working sets at 200 pounds. On the one hand, it will be exciting to feel 200 pounds on my back again. However, it has been a long time since I’ve had 200 pounds on my back! I am almost 100% confident that I haven’t had that much weight on my back since Provincials in early June, and that sparks a bit of fear within me. Especially in light of the recent back pain flare. What if? That question taunts me. What if the back hurts again? What if I can’t do the squats?

Lifting heavy weights is fun, but it is also scary. You need confidence in your ability to lift heavy, and yet, I think having a healthy level of fear is normal and beneficial. Too much fear can paralyze you, make you too tentative and run you into trouble. Too much confidence can put you at risk of injury from over-reaching your ability. There is a happy road down the middle…I just need to find it and stay there.

 

Why Write?

 

“Just write,” she said.

I wrote

Set free from expectation

Pen to paper,

An empty sheet of white.

Slowly, hesitantly

Like a mouse

Nibbling cheese from a trap.

The spring has sprung!

I’m trapped, ensnared

In words and thoughts

And emotions;

Spilling from my heart

Onto the page,

Once white, no more.

Now colour-streaked

In shades of pain,

Sorrow, joy

And exploration.

~Me! May 2005~

The other day I was asked why I write.

“Why do I write?” I echoed, as my mind rapidly flashed back to a slightly similar yet decidedly different question that was thrown at me several months ago. On that occasion, the question had been more of an accusation than an inquisitive interest. Although I was never given specific examples, the insinuation was that my writing was somehow inappropriate. “Why would you write that?!” Well, this is my journey, my thoughts, my experiences. This is about me!

So much of that conversation was confusing and odd and potentially destructive. Here and now, I don’t understand what happened there any better than I did then, except that I know myself and I know what I have or have not written. I know that I am not at fault in that situation, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering, from time to time, how someone could twist my words into something else completely. But this blog post isn’t about that old conversation, even if the more recent question about my writing brought it to mind.

Why do I write?

I think I have always loved writing. While I may never have enjoyed the more technical aspects of my high school English classes, like grammar and punctuation, I always looked forward to the creative writing parts of class. For my two years of high school in Saskatchewan (before moving to British Columbia for my final year), I was part of a school club which published a collection of student writing every year. I still have my copies. Although I don’t have many of the writings I did for class, I do still have many of the poems that I wrote in my youth inside a manila folder in my bedside table.

As an introvert, my ability to open my mouth and have cohesive thoughts spill out is practically an impossibility. My reality is that I have amazing and wonderful thoughts. I open my mouth and out comes…nothing. Or jumbled up thoughts that are completely unrecognizable from the thoughts inside my head. My inability to speak increases among strangers or in high stakes situations. Like many introverts, I require time and space to think and process before speaking. Writing allows me to do that and makes me feel as if I actually do have a voice.

Writing is how I make sense of my world and myself. It is how I process my thoughts and feelings. Some things I share on my blog, while some writings are kept for myself in a journal. I write, because I must. I know my grammar is terrible and my punctuation shoddy. I know there are thousands of writers with more talent and interesting content than me. It doesn’t matter. Not to me. I don’t write for the purpose of attracting readers or followers. I don’t write for fame or fortune or even acknowledgement. I write for myself. One thing I’ve discovered over the past few years is that writing for myself in a public forum such as a blog allows my voice to resonate within others. And obviously, writing in a public manner also opens me up to being misunderstood and maligned.

So be it.

Most of all, I write for myself.

Imagine All the People

People are weird. It’s true. They are! I see it all the time at work, at the gym, while shopping or driving.

I see people at the gym doing things I cannot even begin to understand. What purpose is there in doing squats on the smith machine with your feet so far in front of you that you couldn’t possibly maintain that position without mechanical assistance? Maybe I’m just not aware of the benefits of such an exercise. Or maybe you’re just weird.

There is the woman who I see at the gym on a regular basis…the one who quarter squats 65 pounds with a pad and doesn’t put her weights away when she is finished.

Every. Single. Person. at the gym who cannot perform a basic exercise without looking at themselves in the mirrors. Having trained more than 3 years at a gym without mirrors, I find the whole concept of mirror worship to be strange and unappealing. I do not get it. Especially when technique takes a back seat to appearance.

I frequently come upon an intersection with a dual left turn lane. More often than not, I will pull up behind a vehicle in the outer of the dual left turn lanes waiting for the turn signal. Again, more often than not, once the turn signal activates, I am flabbergasted when the vehicle in the outer lane makes the turn and immediately proceeds to move into the right lane. You had two lanes to choose from for this turn and you chose the far left lane, but what you really wanted was the right lane. Why? Why were you in the far left lane to begin with? I don’t get it.

I see people at the gym training in all sorts of inappropriate footwear. Untied shoes. Really? Sandals. Really? Now I live 3/4 of the year or more in flip flops, but I can’t imagine ever training in sandals. Why? What purpose does it serve? How does it benefit your training? And shoes untied? Are you serious? Or are you here for show and not to actually put in the work?

Even though my clientele has changed significantly since I started working at Starbucks, there are still the occasional oddities that leave me scratching my head. Like the woman today who made a face behind the back at the customer before her. She seemed extremely put out by the gentleman I had just served, even though his order wasn’t anything complicated, yet she felt it necessary to silently shriek at him behind his back as he walked away from my register. I didn’t understand her frustration, since his order didn’t take that  long to process. However, her order was significantly more complicated and time-consuming. Of course, I treated her with the same courtesy and respect I had shown the previous customer, while I inwardly sighed at the insanity of it all. Seriously, get over yourself!

My heart broke when I realized that a young girl was quite likely without a place to go tonight, after she asked if we were open all night (we closed at 9pm). She was wearing only a t-shirt, pants, and flip flops. She didn’t order anything, but proceeded to concoct a drink of water with copious amounts of sugar stirred in. I’m horrible at guessing ages, but I’d estimate she was between 11 and 14 years of age.

People that do not understand technology annoy me. Like really! I don’t understand a lot of technology, but I figure it out. If you tap your card on the POS terminal and it doesn’t work, the problem most likely isn’t with my terminal! You do know how tap works, right? Here’s how my tap works…I can tap my card up to a limit of $5o a transaction. More than $50? I need to insert the chip and enter my PIN. Simple. Even if my transaction is less than $50, if I have used the tap feature so many times in a row, then I will be required to insert my chip and enter my PIN before I can use the tap function again. Simple. Now, I don’t have a fancy debit card, but that is how my card is set up. I don’t know how your card is set up at your bank, but I suspect that there are more similarities than differences. So, if your tap doesn’t work at my establishment, then perhaps you just need to insert your chip and enter your pin rather than giving me a condescending look and attitude about it. Maybe you should understand your banking features? Just a thought.

I always get a kick out of the customers who apologize for their complicated orders, even when I do not consider their order to be complicated at all! Thank you for thinking of us, but we’ve got you covered! A triple grande, non-fat, half-sweet caramel latte with no foam and extra caramel drizzle is not a complicated order. Trust me on that. Also, I don’t care if you ask for a medium sized drink instead of a grande! I worked at Tim Hortons for 12 years before switching to Starbucks…I understand how foreign the Starbucks language can feel.

To the woman in the pick-up with Alberta plates…when you pull up to a red light at an intersection, it is generally considered the right thing to do to stop your vehicle in front of the road markings indicating where to stop rather than completely covering the crosswalk with your vehicle. I know this is British Columbia, but I suspect the driving laws aren’t that dissimilar in Alberta. Just a guess though.

So, you are a Christian. Great! I’m a Christian, too! So why is it that you have no concept of a garbage can when you are a guest at my workplace? You are a regular customer. I know you by name. And yet, you never fail to leave your garbage on the counter or table where you sat. Why? I raised my kids to always put their garbage into the trash receptacles whenever they were outside of the house, even if they were at a cheap, fast food establishment. I consider that basic decency, courtesy and respect. It has nothing to do with my religious beliefs, but your lack of decency speaks volumes to me about your beliefs.

It’s no secret that I hate shopping. I hate shopping for many reasons and encountering people is actually quite low on that list. However, I am frequently irritated by people when shopping. The people who leave their shopping carts unattended in the middle of an aisle. People who slowly wander aisles while blocking anyone’s attempts to pass. People who stop unexpectedly in crowded spaces. People who are more concerned about Costco’s samples than they are about blocking the flow of traffic. Stores and businesses that don’t open until 10am. When I have a free morning, I like to get stuff done first thing in the morning, including shopping! Who has time to wait all day to go shopping?! So you charge for bags? Okay…I’ll pay for bags. Hey! I’m paying for bags…why are you shoving everything into as few bags as possible, so the bags will rip before I even get home? Paying for bags or not…why are you packing the bags so full and awkwardly so that box will rip a hole in the bag before I get home?

So you work in customer service? Great. Me, too! Why can’t you smile? Why are you doing your best to shuffle me through as quickly as you possibly can without any effort to engage me as a customer? Seriously? Would it hurt you to smile and have a bit of personality? I know it’s been a long day, but I’ve been there, done that and smiled my way through it.

People. There are many reasons why I prefer to stay at home and avoid them, but sometimes it’s nice to be out in their midst. Sometimes though, I need frequent reminders of why that is a nice thing!

It Is Well

“It’s okay if you’re scared about endings and new beginnings. But remember, you do it every single day. All will be well.” ~Nanea Hoffman

Four years ago today I walked into a private gym to meet with a personal trainer for the very first time. I was absolutely scared that day. Stepping into a gym was like landing in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and the food is unrecognizable. I felt awkward and out of place. So far outside of my comfort zone. My only real hope was that I might finally lose some of my excess weight, but even then I was doubtful.

The journey of the past four years has been incredible and life-changing. I am not the same person today as I was then. The road has not always been easy or free from potholes and roadblocks. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. I have reached goals that far surpass my original goal to lose 20-25 pounds, goals that I could never have even anticipated setting for myself. I went from someone who was finally beginning to consider herself a runner to a competitive powerlifter. Four years ago, I hadn’t even heard of powerlifting. I changed jobs. I found myself.

As I reflect on the past four years and where I am today, I can see the road before me disappearing into a shimmer on the horizon. It is very true that every day is a new beginning and you cannot always see what is coming your way. The path of my journey veered slightly this summer with a change in training venue and coaching. Dealing with injury made the road bumpy for most of the year. My husband had major surgery and an ongoing heart issue. Changes at work. Relationship trials. The day-to-day stuff of life. I’ve continued to do it every single day.

 

The Owner’s Manual

ownersmanual

Early this year I began writing my owner’s manual. The concept arose from a course of sorts that I was involved in through Precision Nutrition, but I took the concept and broadened it beyond nutrition and fitness. Circumstance dictated that I abandon that course a few months ago, and my manual sat untouched in a pile of my notebooks up until a few days ago. As I purged living room clutter, I dusted off my manual, flipped through the pages, and added a few more things to the pages. It is time to get back to my owner’s manual!

So what is in my owner’s manual?

There is a little bit of everything. I cannot claim to have come up with all the information on my own. Most, if not all, of the information comes from other sources. The information captured my attention in some way. It might be about healthy, balanced nutrition habits. It could be about creating and maintaining good habits. There is information on my personality types (plural because I fit equally into two types). Setting goals. Sleep habits. Values. Stress. Scripture. Mindset. Body composition numbers taken in January of this year. That sounds like a lot of information, yet there are so many pages yet to fill in my notebook.

My owner’s manual isn’t an instruction book on how to fix or operate Angela Thompson. It does not say, “If you wave salted caramel in front of her, she will do your bidding forever.” It also does not say, “If awake before 7:00 AM, do not approach. Do not attempt to engage in conversation.” This owner’s manual is not for others to use; it is for me. My owner’s manual is like a tool box in which I keep facts and reminders which help me be the best version of myself. Sometimes, like lately, I forget about my manual and those facts become less distinct, the reminders lost in the endless cycle of life. My happiness and sense of peace are not dependent on perfect adherence to my manual. I’ve been quite happy and peaceful these past few months that I’ve ignored it; however, I know from experience that living out the principles within my manual can also result in goodness all over.

This short sabbatical has been nice, but I am ready to refocus on what works best for me in terms of what keeps me healthiest mentally, spiritually, and physically. This is why I have an owner’s manual. Well, that and I really like notebooks and lists.

 

All In a Good Day

What makes a day a good one?

The answer to that question would vary drastically depending on the person providing the answer, and perhaps even those responses would vary depending on the day or situation. Personally, I know that my definition of a good day can be extremely broad and diverse. As best as I can call to mind in this moment, here is a partial list of things that can help make my day a good one:

  • sunshine
  • rain
  • a hot air balloon
  • crisp, fallen leaves beneath my feet
  • a productive day around the house
  • meaningful connections with customers
  • a delightfully delicious meal
  • time spent with good friends
  • hanging out with my kids
  • a good training session
  • a good playlist
  • escaping into Star Wars or Wonder Woman or Doctor Who
  • a good cup of coffee
  • a good glass of wine
  • time to myself
  • quiet & solitude
  • worship music
  • freshly painted toenails
  • hot baths
  • holding my husband’s hand
  • freshly cut & coloured hair
  • PRs in the gym or on the platform
  • watching my kids do their things
  • colouring
  • writing
  • journalling
  • making lists and checking things off
  • salted caramel anything
  • chocolate with hazelnut
  • Abby’s artwork
  • board/card games
  • working with amazing people
  • my weird, odd, crazy, random dreams
  • maple trees
  • lions, tigers, jaguars, and cheetahs
  • underdog stories
  • rainbows
  • thunderstorms
  • roses
  • flowers, in general
  • heartfelt cards and notes and gestures
  • Willow Tree figurines
  • books by beloved authors
  • highlighters and coloured pens
  • notebooks, journals, and paper
  • funky socks for a bare food loving girl
  • trips down memory lane
  • daydreams
  • walks (used to be running)
  • finding a perfect gift or card for someone
  • words of unexpected praise
  • a solid night’s sleep
  • flip flops
  • risotto
  • turkey dinner
  • comfort foods like cabbage rolls or scalloped potatoes
  • warm, cozy throw blankets
  • the scents of lavender, lilac, rosemary
  • walking past the treadmills to head to the free weights
  • quotes
  • Winston Churchill
  • silver
  • garnet
  • dangly earrings