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.

Sorry/Excited

notasplanned

My competition is 11 weeks away, and I have been dealing with this SI joint problem for about 8 weeks. Isn’t it funny how oddly time can feel? It seems as if I’ve been dealing with the SI issue for so much longer, while competition seems to be coming towards me like a high speed train. These past 8 weeks have caused me a great deal of pain and frustration, physically and emotionally. I haven’t always handled it well. I’ve been frustrated with myself, because it was my own stupidity that resulted in the SI problem in the first place. I’ve been frustrated with the pain, the discomfort, the restrictions to my mobility. I’ve been frustrated that getting back to normal seems to be taking so long. I’ve been frustrated by the interference to my training, and that interference has been messing with my confidence as I look forward to Provincials and reaching new goals.

I hit a low last Wednesday when my brief deadlift session didn’t go as planned and the SI issue reared its ugly head with renewed fierceness. The day before had been such a good day, probably one of the best since the problem started. I was feeling hopeful that the worst had passed, that I was finally on my way to normal. Wednesday took all of my hope and joy and crushed it. I was in pain. I was crushed. I went to see my chiropractor…in despair and misery. He promptly gave me a hug, because he said I needed one. He made me laugh and “dance”, and he told me we had lots of time yet before Provincials. Simple things. Well, getting me to dance is no simple thing, but he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He was just himself, and a major reason why I even see a chiropractor is because of his character and nature. I needed that hug just like I needed to laugh and dance and be reminded that I would be okay.

That day was definitely a low one; however, each day is new and full of hope and opportunity. I had to remember who I am and what I am capable of. The path behind me is littered with reminders of my character, focus, determination, and ability to press through tough spots. This SI joint issue has become much more than a speed bump, but it doesn’t have to become a permanent road block. My training might not go as I’d like leading up to a competition, but I know how to work hard and smart. I know how to focus on the finish line and to fight for the goals I want to reach. I know the importance of a positive attitude and outlook. I know how to see threads of silver in the storm clouds, and I know the beauty and wonder of the rainbow once the storm has passed.

My focus is narrowing, because I do have goals and I am not content to stay stuck. The SI is still cranky, but my own crankiness is waning. Crankiness is being replaced with excitement. I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold for me, but I am determined to make the most of them.

Bulgarians Bite

This ongoing SI joint issue is super frustrating. In some ways it feels like I’m back at the beginning of the issue but not completely. Some things are better than at the beginning of this ordeal, so I have to trust that this won’t last forever, but I’ve determined that I am going to do everything within my power to get through this with grace and strength. I can do that. Right?

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 123 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 133 x 6

At least I can squat without pain in my lower back!

1b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10, x 5 + 5 with 8kg kettlebell

with 8kg kettlebell: x 10, x 10

1c. floor presses, with a pause at the bottom

43 lbs x 6 + 63 lbs x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 6, 103 x 6, 105 x 6

1d. ab wheel

x 10, x 10, x 10, x 10

Michael said the first two sets were too easy and wanted me to roll out a bit further and slower, so I did. This is an example of how there is still improvement in my lower back, because I couldn’t roll out too far when the SI joint issue started. But the back bothered me too much to do sit-ups on the GHD…

2a. Bulgarian split squats with 54 lb vest

x 10 each leg

My balance was terrible. Although the extra weight isn’t always fun, I tend to find it slightly easier to balance if I’m holding some dumbbells in my hands. No counter-balances today though. I think part of my problem is that my back foot never quite feels secure, and that was definitely the case today. I’m glad I only had to do one set, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to walk.

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

20kg x 15 each

 

Good Morning Glutes

I was grumpy for most of the weekend, likely a combination of the lingering SI joint issue, feeling defeated and frustrated with food, and just my own internal demons. Although my attitude began to shift yesterday afternoon, I think the grumpiness left completely this morning. I woke up feeling as if I needed more sleep, probably due to some tossing to find a comfortable position. As I opened the living room curtains, I realized that I still have another day off to look forward to, and that realization made me deliciously happy. I love my job, but days off are nice. It also helps that the SI issue is improving. In fact, I noticed that I was moving with more ease at the gym this morning than I was last week. Before my back hurt to bend over to pick up a light kettlebell, to lift a 45 pound plate onto the bar, or to even lay back onto the bench. I could do all of those things today without any pain or difficulty. The pain may not be all gone yet, but I’m so glad that there is improvement. Sitting is still a painful activity. As little as I do sit, unfortunately I have no choice but to sit while driving!

1a. goblet squats with kettlebells

16kg x 5, 24kg x 10, 32kg x 8, 40kg x 6, 40kg x 6

This was the first time I’ve ever done goblet squats with this much weight, and it was pretty good. They didn’t bother the lower back, but the 40kg kettlebell was definitely a challenge for the upper back. On both sets I tried for a seventh rep and bailed at the bottom.

double 24kg x 0

Michael thought that this might be easier to hold, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and never even attempted a rep.

double 16kg x 2

This weight felt more doable, but the back of my left shoulder/delt was burning with fatigue and couldn’t hold position anymore.

1b. bench press-competition grip, no legs

43 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 9, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

These got a bit tougher as I went along, probably because of holding the heavy kettlebells for the squats.

1c. plank with 2 small sandbags on my back

4 sets of 30 second holds

I’m not really sure how heavy the sandbags were, but I am reasonably confident they were more than 30 pounds.

2a. landmine presses

43 lbs x 8 each, 53 lbs x 8 each, 53 x 8 each

The left shoulder was still burning at the beginning of these, but that fatigue had faded substantially by the final set.

2b. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 lb vest

x 10 each

My balance was all over the place this first set, so I wanted to hold a kettlebell for the following sets.

plus 10kg kettlebell x 10 each, x 10 each

2c. ab wheel x 4 or 5?

The abs didn’t feel so good.

lying leg raises x 11

3a. dumbbell flyes

15 lb x 12, x 12

3b. hip thrusts with band around knees and large sandbag on my hips

x 30, x 30

Again, not completely certain the weight of the sandbag…maybe 70 pounds?

All in all, it felt like I did something this morning! A personal best for goblet squats! The suggestion that I might be able to do squats on Thursday (depending on the back, of course!) And I somehow managed to complete all 30 reps of the hip thrusts even though my glutes were on fire by the midway point! I’m still thankful that I’m not training three consecutive days this week, and that tomorrow is a rest day!

The Coached Becomes a Coach

Last week my daughter got herself a 3-month membership to a nearby community gym. Abby and her friends have decided to do this together, but not one of them knows a thing about going to a gym. My attempts to convince my daughter to make use of the facility’s staff went nowhere. Apparently there was an attractive young man working there the first day they went, and the girls were much too embarrassed/shy/awkward/whatever to ask him for help. This is part of the reason why I was roped into going with Abby to her new gym this afternoon. She would rather learn from me.

I suppose I should look at that as something to be proud of and encouraged by. It is a rare occurrence to hear my kids say that they are proud of me or any words of praise. As much as I hope that they are proud of me, one never truly knows, or at least I don’t. That’s insecurity at it’s best! But I can understand why my daughter would rather learn gym stuff from me than a stranger. We have a good relationship as mother/daughter, confidants, and friends. She knows how much I enjoy training and knows I care about what is best for her.

I do care about what is best for Abby, but I wasn’t confident about showing her the ropes at her gym. I am not a personal trainer or coach. It’s been a while since I was a beginner, long enough that my memory of those early days is hazy in terms of what I did. Quite simply, I doubt my ability to transfer training knowledge to someone else. I feel like I am not qualified, that I don’t know enough to even make an attempt. My coach is amazing, and I could never fill his shoes.

Despite my reluctance to take time out of my day to go to the gym with my daughter, I did. It was very weird to walk into a public gym without a clear plan of attack. How could I help Abby get started? I don’t use machines in my training, but I couldn’t really start Abby off with squats, deadlifts and bench pressing! Besides, I am not teacher/coach material! Somehow I muddled my way through. I showed her a few simple mobility moves as warm-up, then slowly took her through the circuit machines, carefully explaining proper form and precautions. After making our way through the machines, we ventured into the weight room. The squat rack was so enticing, at least for me, but I thought it best to leave it alone. My SI joint is still cranky and wasn’t even very comfortable sitting on the circuit machines for brief demonstrations, and I’d rather save my real efforts for my own training session tomorrow! Instead, I showed her how to use the cable machine for seated rows, lat pull downs, face pulls and triceps extensions. I showed her how to use the ab wheel and do knee raises and goblet squats. I gave her ideas for things to do for cardio during the circuit beyond the stair climber and bikes. I imparted wisdom on opening up the shoulders, lining up elbows under wrists, stopping if something didn’t feel right (as in actual pain and not mere ‘I don’t like this’ discomfort), neutral spine position and not twisting the head at weird angles, remembering to breathe, making sure her last rep is as good as the first, when to drop the weight and when to increase it or add reps. I wanted to show her how to use the TRX, but there was a young woman doing an entire work out in that itty-bitty space dedicated to the TRX and mobility stuff. I’m pretty sure she was camped out in that spot for the piece of full-length mirror, which is just another reason why I love my gym where I never need to stress over missing out on equipment or floor space due to someone’s vanity.

Despite my reluctance to go, it turns out the experience wasn’t so bad. I think I gave Abby enough information to feel somewhat comfortable and to begin, because starting is really the hardest step of all. I tease her all the time, but I love my girl and want the best for her. She might not get bitten by the iron bug the way that I did, but I’m proud of her for making the decision to go to a gym. Yes, she made the decision with friends, but she paid for her membership and is making the effort to learn and do. My reluctance has now given way to anticipation. Now I am hoping that she enjoys it enough to keep going, so that she will want me to come and show her how to use the free weights. I might even dream that she will want to put on a singlet one day…

Let It Go?!

My coach tells me that I can’t let it get to me. I know he is right. I believe what he says. I agree with that truth. And yet, in this moment, it does get to me. It weighs heavily on my mind, dragging thoughts and emotions deep into the mire where hope gets stuck and tarnished. It gets to me as I feel increasing pain from the simple act of sitting in the car on the drive home. When my husband asked if I had a good workout, I choked out a solitary word negative response and felt the sting of tears threatening. After well more than a year of minimal sitting and many months of still limited but pain-free sitting, to feel pain now while sitting or even reclining on the floor…well, it is requiring great effort not to dissolve into tears. I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it does. Pain does that, and I wasn’t in this pain when I arrived at the gym. Yes, I could feel a mild ache in my lower lumbar area, but only presented in specific positions or movements and generally wasn’t an issue. Right now, all I can feel is that area and it is shouting at me. I did not injure anything at the gym today, but whatever is going on in that spot didn’t like today’s training plan. And I do not like the fact that whatever is going on messed with today’s training plan, or the fact that I am now in significant pain!

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 125 x 6, 155 x 5, 175 x 5

These squats were all really quite good. They were moving well and fast and generally good bar positioning. I was conscious of not dive bombing into the hole in order to keep the bar positioned well, and they were just feeling good. However, even though 175 pounds flew fast, I could feel some moderate aching in the lower back as I’d descend into the hole. So Michael had me grab my belt for the next set.

with belt: 190 x 5

This set was a bit slower, more tentative, and my depth was iffy on a couple of reps. Michael asked if it was due to figuring out how to use a belt again or if it was the back. All lower back. Adjustment to the plan.

Frankenstein squats with belt: 95 lbs x 8, 125 x 8

These were surprisingly easier than I expected and less of a bother on my back. The biggest problem was the pressure of the bar against my throat restricting my ability to breathe. The second set was less wheezy than the first, but I will probably always sound like Darth Vader doing these or regular front squats.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 83 x 6, 100 x 5, 110 x 5

These were good. I felt that they were smooth, stable, reasonably good speed, but I had some difficulty getting into position on the last set. That lower back wasn’t happy about arching. Adjustment to the plan.

bench press with back flat and legs in the air: 93 lbs x 5, 93 x 7

The first set was a little tough. I used to be better at doing these presses without legs, but apparently I have learned how to use my leg drive now! We both knew that the second set would be better, and it was mostly. By the last rep or two, I could feel my lower back beginning to arch just a little in order to get the reps, so it is probably a good thing that Michael called it when he did.

And that was all that I got done today. Quite often Michael will ask if I feel like I’ve done something. Had he asked me that at the end of today’s training session, I would have said no and been most sincere rather than sarcastic. It doesn’t feel like I did much of anything, and, with the exception of the pressing, what I did do doesn’t feel satisfying. I feel frustrated, because it wasn’t the training session that I had planned for. I feel frustrated by the pain I am currently experiencing, and pain has a way of twisting your perspective. Pain also messes with rest and sleep and recovery and life. The unknown is daunting. I don’t know what is going on in my lower back. This is not pain that I am used to having. What if it is the disc problem again? I never really had back pain with my disc problem…but what if it is? What if it persists and drags on?

I can’t let it get to me, I know, but can I pull that optimism down from the shelf tomorrow?

Your Own Beautiful

yourownbeautiful

I have long had a strong distaste for clothes shopping. When I was overweight and out of shape, shopping for clothes came with feelings of embarrassment, shame and stress. The dress that looked amazingly cute on the mannequin made me look like Mrs. Potatohead, complete with lumps in all the wrong places. The sharp skirt that caught my eye wouldn’t get past my hips, or, if it did get past the hips, then the waist gaped grotesquely. Cute tops would be too tight at the shoulders, too billowy for my bosom, and would make my belly bulges too blatant. The clothing that did fit seldom made me feel comfortable with myself, and every trip to a change room hacked away at my self-confidence.

Losing the weight and getting into shape didn’t completely change my opinion on change rooms and clothes shopping. While finding clothing that fit and looked reasonably decent on my body did become easier (mostly), the change rooms were still stressful and demoralizing places. Stripping down to your underwear in front of a full-length mirror in bad lighting isn’t flattering for most people, but especially not for a woman only starting to love herself.

Since I originally lost my excess weight and changed my body, I have seen the numbers on the scale go up and down over a 20 pound range. These changes have been mostly intentional, as my focus has changed to powerlifting, competing, and gaining strength. Most of the time I am okay with what the scale says, although I seldom step on the scale these days. I know where my focus is and what my body needs to achieve my goals, but there are still times when I feel lumpy, bumpy, fat and ugly. Sometimes I feel this way when I look at myself wearing little in the way of clothing and sometimes when I am wholly clothed. Is it any wonder that I still dread shopping for clothes?

I told my daughter that we could go to the mall today. Why I say things like that, I do not know, because I hate the mall and shopping, but I said it. We did it. I survived. I even bought myself four tops and a one-piece Wonder Woman outfit. Yes, I had moments of self-doubt and self-loathing. I was extremely reluctant to even venture into the change room (for the tops), and I’m kind of glad that there wasn’t even a change room option where I bought the Wonder Woman suit or I might never have bought it.

Two of the tops are more for work than anything else, but the other two were emotional purchases. One of the tops is in the photo above, and the other top is similar in colour but says, “She believed she could so she did!” With my theme for the year being Powerfully Beautiful, how could I not buy these shirts?!

A while ago a friend shared a link to an article, How I learned to love my body as a female athlete, that brought a tear to my eye and resonated within me. As a 45 year old mother of three whose previous, half-hearted athletic pursuits took place in junior high, calling myself an athlete feels ostentatious. How dare I call myself an athlete? I don’t always feel like an athlete, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am one. I train hard and with purpose, not only because I enjoy it but to compete against myself and others. I have Provincial and National records, but I want more. I have competed 7 times and will compete again, and I am chasing after bigger competitions on grander stages. I do not have a flat, ripped abdomen (and maybe never will), but there is strength beneath my skin and it’s growing. I have noticed changes in my body from training, and I am completely excited about them. How is it that I can be thrilled with what my body is becoming, while still struggling to accept the image I see in the mirror or the way my clothing fits. I am learning to love my body, but it requires swimming against the current of our culture.

Powerfully beautiful is my theme, and my challenge is to see my beauty, inside and out. I may not have the super lean and ripped body of a younger female athlete whose primary career is her sport, but I am building the body that works for me and my sport. My quads and butt are going to feel as if they’re set to burst out of my jeans. Most shirts and jackets are going to feel tight on my shoulders. I may always have that little bit of belly bulge. Some clothing, no matter how cute, will never look as flattering on my body, because I have a real body, not the lithe figure of a mannequin. Some days I will be frustrated by that realization, but I am learning to accept this body of mine. This is why I had to buy the pink shirts today. You are your own beautiful!