Hips, Knees, Benches & Bretzels

My husband had his hip replaced yesterday. It seems to have gone well, and he’s already been up and taking short walks down the hall of his hospital ward. Assuming that everything continues to progress as expected, he will likely be sent home tomorrow morning and that’s when the real fun will begin. Found out that we will need to switch sides of the bed, which means I now need to make some adjustments to the furniture layout in our bedroom so he can get the walker between the wall and the bed on that side. I will also need to move my alarm clock to the other side. Although it will be quite a few weeks before he is able to do a lot of things, at least his recovery should be fairly smooth. I hope.

As for me, I definitely feel as if my back is finally seeing more progress and fewer set-backs. It’s still not normal or without varying measures of pain and discomfort, but it’s exciting to realize how much more I can do. This morning at the gym, I sat on the floor to put on my socks, knee sleeves and shoes, which is something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time! Although I still avoid sitting as much as possible, I have had to do more sitting over the past two days than I am used to, and the back has held up fairly well. Okay, so for a while yesterday I was mildly concerned that I was about to take backwards steps again. The SI joint was a bit achier than it had been for the previous few days, not too bad but not quite as good; however, it seemed to settle back down by mid-afternoon. One of my biggest questions these days is always how far can I push myself without negatively impacting my back/SI joint. Unfortunately, I cannot always answer that question until I try to see what I can do. My coach often has exercises that he would like me to do in the gym, and he will ask me if they are okay for me to do. There are a couple that I am reasonably certain would not feel good on my back at all, but most of the time I simply can’t say until I try it. There is also no guarantee that what felt fine before will always feel fine and vice versa. Ab wheel roll-outs were fine early on in this ordeal, but the last time I did them a couple of weeks ago they were more uncomfortable. I couldn’t do hanging leg raises at all a while ago, but I managed to do some leg raises last week using the dips bar. One thing I am fairly certain would not be a good idea is sit-ups on the glute-ham device, so I’ve rejected that option every time Michael has presented it. The biggest tests will be once I get heavy enough weight on the squat bar and when I get to try deadlifting again.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 1, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1

215 lbs for roughly a 10 second hold, twice

Squats didn’t feel too bad today. A few reps felt a bit deeper but probably still not quite deep enough, although I honestly felt like at least one rep might have been legal depth. The single at 215 felt a little heavy, tough, and ugly, so Michael had me do a couple of holds with the weight to get used to having it on my back again. The first hold felt super awkward, because he didn’t even want me to walk the bar out, which meant I couldn’t have any forward lean to make the low bar position remotely comfortable. For the second hold, we raised the safeties and I was allowed to walk the bar out. It felt a bit better but still not nearly as good as it should. This is one of those areas where Michael has ideas that he wants to incorporate but isn’t always certain it will be good for my back. Obviously I need to re-familiarize myself with having heavy weight on my back, and I don’t have a lot of time to get to that point. He thinks doing some holds or walking with the yoke rack would be good. I don’t disagree with him, and I’d be willing to try. He just wants to be careful with my back.

1b. bench press-competition grip, with feet on the bench and small arch

47 lbs x 10, 67 x 6, 87 x 5, 107 x 5, 112 x 5, 112 x 4

Benching with my feet on the bench allows me to better keep the arch in my back small, which should help me to avoid aggravating the SI joints. It’s akin to deadlifting from a deficit. It will make me stronger, but I do miss being able to use my leg drive. My butt came off the bench on the fifth rep of the first set at 112 pounds. That is not typical of me, but I suspect the need to use leg drive was too strong to resist on that last rep. Oh well! In powerlifting, only the first rep matters. šŸ˜‰ As for the final set, there was supposed to be 5 reps. Shake it off! I know I am stronger than how my bench felt today.

2a. Spoto presses-with feet on the bench still

97 lbs x 6, 97 x 6, 97 x 6

I think the first set felt a bit tougher than the next two. Sometimes that’s just how it is…as if my body needs a set to remember what it is supposed to be doing.

2b. back extensions-holding a 20 pound dumbbell

x 20, x 9, x 10

This is another one of those exercises that is hit or miss for how it makes the back feel. Actually, today these were completely hit and miss. The first set was horrible. I felt so much strain around the back of my knees that I had to drop the dumbbell midway through and repositioned myself before picking up the weight to finish the set. Honestly, I have no idea how I managed 20 reps that set.

Michael told me to keep my knees slightly bent to avoid the strain, so I did that on the following sets. It alleviated a great deal of the knee strain but not quite all of it. I was wearing my squat shoes for the first two sets and took them off for the last set, thinking that might be part of the problem. The last set wasn’t a whole different than the second. Maybe the pad was set a bit too far? I don’t know. Also, although the extensions didn’t make my back feel worse, I could feel some discomfort while doing them, which between that and the knees made me cut the reps short. However, it did feel sort of nice to carefully drape my body forward over the pad so my head was hanging down, stretching out the lower back in a way that it hasn’t liked to move for a while.

Yesterday my chiropractor gave me a new stretch to do…the Bretzel. If that makes you think of a pretzel, then you’re thinking in the right direction! If I’m not careful, this stretch will threaten me with a cramp and it doesn’t feel too pleasant on the quads, but I kind of like it. Not the unpleasantness, of course. I can see why my chiropractor says this is one of his favourite stretches, and I think it is one that I will continue with for a long time.


Unsinkable Hope

Remember my post on Sunday when I was cautiously optimistic, because I felt a noticeable difference in my level of pain and mobility in my back? Turns out it wasn’t a fluke! The lessening of pain and the slow increase to my mobility has continued, although I have kept a tight grip on my emotions. This morning I had an appointment with my chiropractor, and I was greatly surprised to find that I was able to arch my back in a cat pose. Last week when he asked me to do that same movement, it was difficult and uncomfortable. And I am now able to goĀ full cobra when doing my back extensions homework! Then this evening I had a training session after having 4 days off. It was the best training session I’ve had in about 2 months. I am so excited! The back isn’t pain-free. I can still feel restrictions in some movements, but nothing I did in the gym tonight hurt. The only restriction I felt was at the bottom of the squat if I tried to push my depth, but I generally only went as deep as was comfortable.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6 or 7, 115 x 6, 135 x 5

with belt: 155 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5, 165 x 5

Speed was good for all the sets. The weight wasn’t maximal and felt comfortable. With competition being roughly 7 weeks away, I’ve got some work to do, but we didn’t want to push too much on this first good feeling training day.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5

I chose to keep my feet on the bench rather than have them on the floor with my full back arch…didn’t want to push my luck with the back. There was a small arch though, and the back still felt decent. The final rep of each set was paused.

2a. close grip bench press, touch and go keeping constant tension

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 85 x 8

2b. back extensions-without shoes

body weight x 20, 20 lbs x 20, 20 lbs x 17

2c. seal rows

75 lbs x 15, 95 x 12, 95 x 10

It was so nice to have a mostly normal feeling training session! Even the act of putting my knee sleeves on and taking them off was incredibly easier than it has been for weeks. Wonder what Friday’s training session will bring?

SI, Sleep & Squats

Yesterday’s visit with my chiropractor wasn’t as gloomy as I dreaded. I think my disc is fine. The issue seems to be that the SI joints do not take kindly to hanging out in a squat for an extended length of time. They weren’t designed to do that. So, I learned my lesson, and now I have a couple of exercises to do at home and lots of single leg stuff to do at the gym. The home exercises are super easy…probably the easiest homework my chiropractor has ever given me! Still, I spent most of the rest of the day flat on my back and in pain, and I had yet another less than stellar sleep. Well, I slept okay from 10pm until 2am, but four hours is not nearly enough. I went to the gym this morning and did better than expected considering my morning cup of coffee failed to perk me up.

1a. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 4 each, 10kg x 3 + 3 each

29 lb dumbbell x 3 each

The left shoulder sucketh. The right arm was completely capable of doing a few more reps, but the left arm just wouldn’t, not even if I tried to give some assistance with a push from the legs.

1b. decline single arm kettlebell rows

12kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10 each, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10

2a. incline barbell push ups

x 10, x 8

with 30 lb sandbag on back x 6 + 8 bodyweight

I think the sandbag is 30 pounds. Those six reps felt really tough, so I’m kind of amazed that I could finish off with eight more reps once Michael removed the sandbag.

2b. chin ups

with barbell + incline bench x 8

with red + small green band, neutral grip x 9

with both bands, wide pronated grip x 8, x 8 with a 6-8 second hold on last rep

2c. elevated split squats, both feet on 4″ boxes

x 16 each side, x 15 each

x 15 each with hands behind head and shoulders tight

Oh how the legs burned by the end of each set of split squats! Yesterday’s 20 rep belt squats and Bulgarians combined with these split squats means that my legs are going to be a little sore and rubbery. At this moment in time, I don’t know if my final training session of the week will be early tomorrow morning or later Friday afternoon. I could end up training three days in a row, which wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and would not be the end of the world. I just need sleep.


Back At ‘Er

I slept last night! In fact, I slept very well, and what a difference that made to my outlook upon waking. What a difference it made to my training today! Today wouldn’t normally be a training day, but that’s how it worked out this week. There is no way that I could have made it through tonight’s training without having had a good night’s sleep, although I’m sure that Michael would have changed things up if I wasn’t up to the task.

I also had a chiropractic appointment today. The headaches areĀ improving, I think, and there doesn’t seem to be much point in getting too worked up about them. The potential variables are many, and those variables can change on any given day or time. Basically, my neck is feeling pretty good. The headaches are getting less frequent, less of a disturbance. My right hamstring got most of the attention today, and I’ve been given some homework to deal with that soreness. This is probably related to my disc issue. Does that make it good news? I don’t know. I don’t think it was presented as bad news.

1a. reverse hypers

50 lbs x ?, x 15, x 15

1b. incline dumbbell presses

20 lbs x 12, 25 lbs x 8, 29 lbs x 8, 29 x 8, 29 x 8, 29 x 9

These felt good today, easy enough…certainly easier than last week.

2a. deadlifts, squat stance, keep the tension each rep

without straps: 95 x 8, 135 x 7, 165 x 5

with straps: 185 x 5

175 x 10 x 4 sets, all touch and go

The third set of 10 was the best. Now that may have been because, prior to my starting that set, Michael said I would do one or two more sets depending on how that set went, and there is no better way to ensure that I have a really good set than to suggest dropping the workload. The second set was okay but weird, because I couldn’t seem to touch both sides to the floor. Since I was doing touch and go reps, I’d touch down quickly but only the left side actually touched for virtually the entire set, even as I realized the discrepancy and tried to correct in as I continued. Maybe that is why Michael said the third set might be my last…

But the deadlifts felt good today! These were certainly easier than the snatch grip ones I had been doing of late. It was certainly more volume than I’ve done lately. Today I pulled 10, 455 pounds! Last week’s deadlift total was only 4455 pounds.

2b. glute ham raises

x 14, x 14ish, x 12

3a. single leg hip thrusts with a 70 lb sandbag

x 10 each leg for 2 sets, the last rep of the second set with a 4-5 second hold at the top

3b. toes to bar

x 10, x 6

I worked hard today, and it felt good after two less than stellar training sessions earlier in the week. Isn’t it amazing what a good sleep can do?


Alligator Pie

My Fridays are not always enjoyable days, but today was a pretty good day. I’ve had an ongoing headache since the handstand push-up rib tweak on Wednesday morning. The pain in my trap is significantly less than it was yesterday, but my neck still feels tight and a little sore. Neck mobility is better than yesterday…not normal yet but improving. I’m sure that I’ll feel even better tomorrow. However, I don’t think my coach is going to let me start off on my head for the handstand push-ups anymore!

1a. front squats, with knee sleeves

warm-up: 45 x 8, 75 x 6, 95 x 5

main event: 125 x 4, 145 x 4, 160 x 4, 170 x 4

The front squats felt pretty good today. Michael didn’t ask me to do a slow eccentric (thankfully!), but I generally descent a little slower with the heavier weights anyway. The sore trap wasn’t an issue. Michael did say that I could use my belt for the final set, even though a belt really wouldn’t help much for a front squat, since it is typically the upper back that collapses. And so, I opted not to use my belt. I figured that my belt is still new enough that I need to get used to the different feel, so I didn’t want to mess up my heaviest set by throwing in an unfamiliar variable.

You know what…I kind of think that 170 pounds for 4 reps was a PR, and it is getting closer to my best single rep at 185.

1b. incline dumbbell press-single arm

15 lbs x 15 each, 20 lbs x 15 each, 25 lbs x 17 each, 34 lbs x 5 each, 29 lbs x 9 each

Michael had me do these one arm at a time today. I think that was because of the soreness I am experiencing.

2a. snatch grip deadlifts, with straps

115 x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 7, 185 x 6

165 x 7 touch and go

I was to work on keeping my shoulders back and down and everything tight.Ā  Honestly, I’m not sure if it was easier to reset each rep or hold the tension with touch and go. Scratch that…I think it was easier to reset each rep. Sometimes I find it easier to keep the tension constant, but I think the wider grip made it more of a challenge to keep the shoulders in the proper position.

2b. toes to bar

x 6 slippery hands, x 12 with chalk, x 8

x 8 hanging knee raises, exhaling on descent, x 7

As much as I might groan a little when Michael tells me to do toes to bar, I have to say that I think my technique is definitely improving. With freshly chalked hands, I was able to equal my previous PR of 12 touches. I really would have liked to eked out another rep to break that PR, but my lungs were working overtime just to get the 12. But, my swing feels a bit smaller, more controlled, and I think my core is engaging more than it used to. Of course, that’s all just my opinion and what do I know.

Week one of the new program without back squats is complete! Only 5 more weeks to go! But really, who’s counting? Okay, so I am counting, but this first week was a good one. So, I tweaked a rib doing a handstand push-up requiring an unplanned trip to the chiropractor and oodles of pain. Call me crazy but it was worth it to realize that I am making good progress with the handstand push-ups!

I did have a moment of panic last night as mentally rehashed what Michael said I would be doing today and realized that he hadn’t mentioned deadlifts. I had to shoot him a text asking about it, even though I was supposed to be going to sleep, because I know I would have kept thinking about it anyway. He made a joke today about removing bench presses and deadlifts from my program, too, which really wasn’t very funny, even if I knew that he was only teasing. Strangely, Michael never seems to want to remove laterals or chin-ups from my programs.

And here is an example of how my brain operates:

As I am thinking about Michael taking away my back squats and joking about taking away my other lifts, I cannot help but hear the poem Alligator Pie in my head. If you aren’t familiar with it, Alligator Pie is a poem written by Dennis Lee and published in 1974. As a Canadian kid, I grew up with Alligator Pie. Here is just a piece of the poem:

Alligator pie, alligator pie

If I don’t get some,

I think I’m going to cry!

Give away the green grass,

Give away the sky.

But don’t give away my

Alligator pie!

Call the Chiropractor!

The little tweak that I felt in my trap during yesterday’s handstand push-up practice didn’t feel so little by the end of the day. By the time I went to bed last night I had a raging headache, could barely move my head and was in a fair bit of pain. Throughout the day I thought about checking if I could get in to see my chiropractor, but I was reluctant to make the call. My next chiro visit was scheduled for February 1. As much as I love my chiropractor, I really do not want to see him for treatment more often than necessary, but I was hurting.

Sometimes my threshold for pain is quite high. I’m pretty sure that my trainer doesn’t quite take me at my word when I say that I feel fine. It isn’t really my intention to lie if something doesn’t feel fine; I’m just used to dealing with little aches and pains without making a big production out of them. Although I am getting better at being honest about how something feels in the course of training, I am still generally the sort of person who sucks it up and deals with it. Except that sometimes the pain tolerance crashes. It’s one thing to feel pain in a muscle, but it is something else entirely to have so much pain that you can barely move the affected body part. There is also a difference between the soreness and discomfort of muscles that have been put through a good work-out and the soreness and discomfort that flows from an injury or health issue.

So, I called and made an appointment to see Ben first thing this morning. As day turned into night, I was ever so glad that I had made the decision to call. The pain was only getting worse. Sleep was not the best last night although it could still be considered a decent night. Any movement was painful. Getting in and out of bed was painful, so naturally my bladder decided it would be hyperactive last night. I don’t think I slept for more than an hour at a time, and only a half-hour at a time for the first couple of hours! Morning found me in slightly, very slightly, less pain but still enough to be thankful for my chiro appointment.

My appointment was strangely enjoyable. Ben takes great pleasure in inflicting pain, but at least he makes me laugh in the process. He has a chiropractic student working at the clinic for the next few months, so I had the privilege of being a guinea pig. Ben quite enjoyed the perspective of watching the student inflict pain, while he told Lars all about me. It’s always more interesting to hear someone else explain who you are and what you do for fun to beat yourself up.

The good news is, at least I think it is good news, that this isn’t so much a muscle thing as it is a rib thing. Of course, the muscles are really sore and tender right now, but I am moving a little bit better after treatment. The head still hurts…so does everything else. I have reluctantly taken some ibuprofen, so hopefully that helps the headache soon. I get to go back for more torture on Monday. Lucky me!



The Workshop

I went to a workshop this morning put on by my chiropractor which was about injury prevention and health strategies for long-term success. It was a good workshop, informative and entertaining. While I wasn’t quite sure what sort of information would be imparted, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I already implement most of the things that were mentioned. The information was really quite simple, but then again simple is often the best solution to a problem, even if we think the solution should be complicated.

I had the thought to bring a notebook with me to take notes, but I completely forgot until I had already arrived. I know that I will forget points or totally butcher the original intent of others, but I want to share a bit about the workshop.

In simplest terms, these are important:

  • foam roll (upper back, hips, thighs and calves) frequently, even 30 seconds per area
  • eat breakfast. Eat protein with breakfast.
  • plan meals and snacks. Be prepared. Eat well.
  • omega-3 and vitamin D
  • get enough sleep
  • ZMA (zinc, magnesium and B6) can help with sleep, so can melatonin; keep your bedroom dark and cool
  • don’t sit more than you need to; move often
  • deloads and rest are important
  • meditate; control what goes into your mind
  • have a good support system (coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, medical doctor, etc.)

Quite honestly, I am not always perfect at doing the things on this list, but I definitely do some of these almost all of the time and others frequently. I know that I can only say that because of the good support system that I have! My chiropractor said that your coach is the most important part of that support system, and I couldn’t agree more. While I did own a foam roller before I ever had a coach, I seldom used it before I began training. My eating habits were not horrible before I began trainingĀ but also not as good as they are now. Michael encouraged me to start taking omega-3 and ZMA. I am probably biased, but I think Michael is an amazing coach. He has my best interests at heart and is smart with my training, including deloads. In big ways and small, Michael is always sharing his knowledge and experience with me which only makes me better, too!

I did get an internal thrill over one thing that was said at the workshop, and I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my daughter all about it. Routine was being mentioned, including listening to the same music on the way to the gym, approaching the bar the same way every time, and so on. The part about listening to the same music almost made me laugh out loud, because I do exactly that on my way to the gym. Every. Single. Time. In fact, I can and often do listen to the same song over and over in my car. (My current song on repeat is The Impossible Dream by The Temptations.) My daughter, on occasions when she is driving somewhere with me, gets a little exasperated by my repetitious music. That and the fact that I won’t let her play her music!

It was a good workshop, but really I wouldn’t expect anything less from my chiropractor.