18 Days

Competition is 18 days away! That time feels both so distant and so close. Somehow the week or two before a competition is always crazy busy. Last night after I entered my work schedule into my calendar, I paused for a moment, feeling a tangle in my mind that I hadn’t expected. In unraveling it, I realized that I will be working 7 days in a row leading up to the competition. That’s not exactly how I had envisioned spending the bulk of those days, but I can get through it. Training should be minimal that week for a deload, but for now I’m still increasing the weights.

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

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, with belt 185 x 2, 205 x 2, 215 x 1

main event: 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2, 225 x 2

Warm ups felt really good and moved well, I think. My bladder wasn’t playing nicely with me this morning. When you need to create tension by filling your belly with air and pushing it out against your belt, a full (or partially full) bladder can really interfere with that process. There are mornings when I can train without making a trek to the washroom…today was not such a day! In fact, I had to make two treks between sets. As annoying as it is to disrupt my training for a bathroom break, I’d rather do that and be able to fully create tension and use my belt effectively.

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that I haven’t had 225 pounds on my back since before Provincials in June. During Provincials, a 221 pound squat tweaked my back andĀ set back my competition and training. My confidence has been growing over these recent weeks as I’ve found myself doing more reps and sets at heavy weights than I’ve ever done before. Once upon a time, I did 225 pounds for 2 reps but only one set. As I set myself up for the first set at 225 this morning, I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous. I knew I could do it. I knew I was going to do it. The reps didn’t all feel light or easy, but they still felt decent. Perception is funny. Some of the sets felt ugly, as if the bar was manhandling me, but what I saw on the video wasn’t nearly as bad as it felt. Regardless, I definitely felt my legs working. I am sure that I was missing a few cues here and there. Did I take a big enough breath each rep? Did I keep my chest up each rep? Was the bar over my midfoot each rep? I could watch the videos over and over and pick them apart to the best of my ability or wait for my coach to comment with his feedback. Today was another PR of sorts…my first time squatting 225 pounds for doubles for multiple sets!

2. bench press (2-1×0) 1 rep

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 4, 100 x 2, 115 x 1

main event: 125 x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

These felt solid.

3. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

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

Although the first set is never what I’d callĀ easy, I always feel like it was easy enough that I will be able to get more reps on subsequent sets. Yeah, no.

Advertisements

Respect for 225

I opened up the week’s training plan this morning. This might have been the first time in recent weeks that my eyebrows didn’t pop up and my jaw didn’t drop while reading what my coach had programmed for me. I actually find that fact quite interesting. With competition less than 3 weeks away now, the volume is dropping. Hallelujah! Of course, the weights are still increasing, although not beyond anything I’ve done in the past. I will be doing more reps at those weights than I’ve done before, but I think multiple single reps shouldn’t be a problem. Having had a couple of weeks with strong results recently, I feel very optimistic about the week ahead.

And yet, there is that teensy sliver of apprehension with tomorrow’s squats. 225 pounds for 1-2 reps. It is only 10 pounds more than I did last week for triples. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I haven’t had that much weight on my back for a long time! I keep saying that because it is true. It’s been more than 4 months. The last time I squatted 225 pounds was leading up to Provincials in June. Hitting that weight in training then was fine; however, my second squat attempt at Provincials was 220 pounds. Although I was successful in the lift, something tweaked in my back in the process and the squat was painful and ugly. What should have been an easy second squat wasn’t and the back issues continued.

I think my back is generally doing quite well now. There was a little flare up a few weeks ago while deadlifting, but I’ve been aggressive in rehab and it seems to be doing fine. Squats have been feeling good the past couple of weeks, so I honestly have no reason to expect anything drastically different tomorrow. They could feel a bit heavy or tough and still be good. The first set will be important as it is where my confidence can be made or broken. My first set isn’t always the best, but being able to push through to finish well can fill me with the confidence needed to regroup and improve the next set. Alternatively, a really tough first set can make me feel weak and incapable. I am not either of those things.

225 pounds should be a relatively easy weight for me, but I also know that you need to respect the weight on the bar. That is a decent amount of weight! There are grown men who weigh that much…and I’m figuratively about to throw one of them on my back and squat once, twice, and over again.

21 days…

Competition is 3 weeks from today! I am excited and eager to see what I can do, but I’m not putting much energy into dwelling on what may or may not transpire. At least not yet. Most of my focus has been on making it through each training session and keeping my back healthy. Some training days feel easy. Others feel tough. As the weights, reps and sets have increased, I’ve felt apprehension and fear, because I am training harder than ever before. As far as what is happening in the gym, the hard work is paying off.

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 105 x 3, 115 x 2

main event: 125 lbs x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3, 125 x 3

All of my sets were done with an arch today! My training times rarely coincide with my husband’s availability to train, but our schedules lined up today. I wanted him to assist with hand-offs and to spot me for the working sets…because I was a little nervous about the weight for reps for multiple sets. Honestly, I figured I could probably get 2 reps but wasn’t confident about 3, not for all 5 sets; however, I desired hand-off help because the heavier weight is harder to unrack by myself without expending too much energy or putting me out of position.

As I finished the third rep on the first set, my husband said, “Easy!” I racked the bar and said, “That was easy!” By the third set, my husband was asking why I needed his help. Every set was easy!

2. squat (3-0x0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 5, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 185 lbs x 3, 185 x 3, 185 x 3

The warm ups felt easy and strong, but the first working set was quite the opposite. The second and third sets were better.

3. long pause bench (3-3×0) 3 reps

95 lbs x 3, 95 x 3, 95 x 3

Super easy!

4. side planks

x 25 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 3, 225 x 2

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 lbs x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

Week 12, Day 1

Today was the start of week 12 of my new training program. The entire program has pushed me ever so slightly out of my training comfort zone, but the last couple of weeks have pushed just a bit harder. I thought that I was already well acquainted with putting in hard work in the gym! In some ways, this program is simply different, while in other ways it is definitely tougher. It is a good thing that I had already established good work habits and mental toughness, because I have needed to draw from those skills quite heavily. With competition now less than 4 weeks away, the work load is only getting heavier and further beyond anything I have ever done before; however, I am discovering that it is okay. I am capable. All of the hard work leading up to now has laid the foundation. Hopefully that will translate into a positive competition, but a day on the platform can be dramatically different than a day in the gym.

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, 200 x 2

main event, with belt: 215 lbs x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 3, 215 x 2, 215 x 3

From a couple of the videos from my working sets, my coach determined that I wasn’t taking in enough air for bracing. I guess that would explain why I did feel like I had some bracing issues. Aside from that detail, these squats generally felt decent. Again, I am not used to doing so many sets at such a weight, but I was more than capable.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 2 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 3, 110 x 2

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

No feet or arch for the first two warm up sets. The back had some mild ache to it, but I think it was okay. The one problem with benching without an arch is that the bar would sometimes hit the safeties, because my chest position is slightly different. The working sets felt a tad heavy and slow, yet they felt solid and decent. I experienced the same thing last week.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 3 reps

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

The first set felt tough, and my hips protested the pause. I put my belt on for the final two sets. The second set felt better, but the final set was the best. I eased into that pause position with no trouble at all.

4. chest supported rows 10-12 reps

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 6

Maybe one day I will be able to make all of these reps…

Thanksgiving Training

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, although I’m working the entire long weekend. Since I had an open shift this morning and closing shifts the next three nights, I hadn’t planned on having a big turkey dinner. Of course, the kids complained, so a last minute decision was made to cobble together a nice meal. My youngest son took care of getting the turkey into the oven, although I had to do all the prep yesterday and leave him detailed instructions. My boys peeled and chopped potatoes, but the bulk of the cooking will fall on my shoulders. Right about now my shoulders are feeling figuratively tired and sore. I had a good work day, then I came home to change before heading to the gym. I had a good training session, too, but now fatigue is settling across my body like a heavy blanket. I even put my pajama pants on once I got home from the gym. I just realized that I have only had the equivalent of 2 espresso shots today, so I could definitely use some coffee. It’s not too late to have a cup, right?

1. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 2, 110 x 2

main event: 120 lbs x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3, 120 x 3

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done with my feet on the bench and no arch…just because.

Pretty certain that I’ve never done so many reps and/or sets at 120 pounds before! That knowledge made me feel slightly apprehensive about today’s plan, but I was successful.

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

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5, 135 x 3, 155 x 3

main event, with belt: 175 lbs x 3, 175 x 3, 175 x 3

These felt easy today and light.

3. long pause bench press (3-3×0) 3 reps

90 lbs x 3, 90 x 3, 90 x 3

These felt decently good. I have a feeling they would really suck if the weight was much heavier, but these were fine.

4. side planks

x 30 seconds a side, x 25 seconds a side

And although I’m not looking forward to the hassle of cooking, I am looking forward to eating all the food!

 

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!