So This is Christmas

I slept well enough last night, but it was also uncomfortable thanks to the multiple pillows necessary for maintaining a back happy sleeping posture. Unfortunately, the pillow positioning changes depending on which side I am sleeping on, and I’m not always awake enough to remember to change the pillows when I roll over. As such, I was awake around 6:00 this morning and coffee has since replaced the blood in my body.

Gifts have been given and opened. For those who know me, there is no surprise at the nature of the gifts that I received. Star Wars. Wonder Woman. Wine. Coffee. Journals. Fun socks. A puzzle. I am so easy to buy for, so easy to please and excite. And as difficult as my boys are to buy for, I think I can safely say that we managed to find gifts that they actually enjoy and will use!

Food is always part of Christmas. After we open our gifts, we have brunch. My husband makes most of it, while I contribute by making some mini frittatas. Normally I am adequately planned and prepared, but my life is not currently normal in many senses of the word. It wasn’t until we were ready to make breakfast that I realized I couldn’t find my old recipe, so I winged it. For the first time in all the years I’ve been making these, this was the first time that the frittatas didn’t stick horribly to the muffin pans! Go figure.

After brunch, the only other meal of the day will be a big dinner with turkey, ham, and all the fixings. The space between meals is left for grazing on nuts, chocolate, and whatever other goodies are laying around.

Games are always a big hit at Christmas, and we added several to our collection today. I think three new games have been cracked open and played already. Having young adult aged children means that time all together becomes increasingly more difficult to find, but it warms my heart to see our little family having fun together.

For the past several years, my husband has had the tradition of giving the kids new Nerf guns at Christmas, and there would always be a massive Nerf gun battle after dinner. This year my husband decided not to get any new guns. One child nearly freaked out upon learning that there wouldn’t be new Nerf guns under the tree. It might be safer for the bystanders tonight!

Christmas Day always means the Doctor Who Christmas special, and I’m looking forward to today’s episode as well.

On the subject of entertainment and Christmas, there is some disagreement in the family as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. My husband and I say it is, while the kids disagree. What do they know anyway!

It’s cold and grey outside, but we’re warm and cozy inside. I wish we had a fireplace, but we don’t. That’s okay though. I have my heating pad that I can enjoy as I recline between periods of standing and activity. The legs are buzzing with electric currents…nothing new there!

So that’s a snapshot into our Christmas. It’s low-key compared to some people’s and likely extravagant compared to others. We are far from rich, but we are richly blessed. I am thankful for all of our blessings, and I am learning to be thankful for those things that are not easily seen as blessings. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope that this is a season of love and joy for you!

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Eyes & Ears

It’s day 4 of my ‘end your year intentionally‘ questions, and I have decided to skip this particular question.

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

I felt as if I have already answered it when I talked about my most recent and successful powerlifting competition. There is no doubt that this competition was my biggest win of 2017, and I’ve talked about that in varying degrees of detail several times. So, I’m going to jump ahead to the next question.

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

What have I read this year? I am someone who loves reading. I am a bookworm. However, my reading tends to go in cycles, which means I can burn through a bunch of books in a short period of time and then not touch a book for months. When I am struggling physically or emotionally, I also tend to read less, and 2017 was a tumultuous year. Sometimes I go on a non-fiction rampage, while other seasons are all about the fiction.

I did pick up Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, which was a sequel to one of my all-time favourite’s, To Kill a Mockingbird. Did it have an impact on me? I don’t know yet, and I suspect that this book will require several reads before feeling wholly immersed in the book.

I got myself a copy of The Gift of Injury, which will probably be the most impactful book of the year for me. Since I am in the midst of my own injury involving my back, this book is extremely insightful with loads of information to absorb and implement in my recovery and return to lifting weights.

The question of what I watched this year that had the biggest impact is an easy one to answer. The Wonder Woman movie. No doubt about it! I have been a Wonder Woman fan since I was a little girl watching Linda Carter on the television. I wanted to be Wonder Woman. This movie was, in my opinion, simply amazing. During my first time watching it, I bawled from the very start until the final scene. I hadn’t expected to be so overcome by such powerful emotions while watching the movie. Yes, I am a sentimental, emotional person, but this reaction was something deeper. The movie was empowering and inspiring. I could ramble on forever trying to explain how I feel about the movie, but I don’t have time for that right now.

As for what I’ve listened to this year? Not so easy to answer. I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t keep up with what’s trendy or Top 40. My iTunes contains a mix of music, yet it barely contains a fraction of what I like. A good deal of my playlists contain music that I listen to over and over again, like my gym playlist. For a song to be worth purchasing, I need to feel some level of connection to it. Sia’s Unstoppable has been powerful and impactful. So has Imagine Dragon’s Believer. Although I have no musical skills to speak of, music speaks to my soul in a language that no one else can speak. It has the power to encourage, to motivate, to inspire and challenge.

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.

 

Don’t Cry Out Loud…

Yesterday I set out the top and socks that I would wear for training this morning, and I had selected a Wonder Woman tank and my FIGHTER socks. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed a different tank top, one that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again!” There was no rhyme or reason for the change. I just felt like it. Little did I realize just how appropriate the shirt slogan would be…or how frustrating my training session would be.

Most of the time the gym is my happy place, and even a difficult session can still be a rewarding and positive experience. While there were glimpses of smiles this morning, they were rare and weak and merely attempts to keep tears at bay. I suppose, in that regard, the smiles were effective. I did not shed a single tear at the gym today! At least I can claim that as a victory. My coach could tell that I was frustrated, although I’m sure it was rather obvious. He reminded me that one bad workout isn’t the end of the world…but it has been more than one. Over the past two months, there have been more bad training sessions than good ones in terms of being able to do what I need to do without pain or physical limitation and discomfort, and I am extremely frustrated by that. Frustrated doesn’t even accurately describe how I am currently feeling.

When it comes to personal pain and situations, it is easy to be myopic. For all my frustration and angst over this ongoing back issue, I do know that my struggle is actually quite small. There are so many people who struggle with issues and pain much greater than what I am dealing with, and the fact that I can’t train the way I want cannot compare to the true limitations many people experience on a daily basis just living life. I understand that. I really do. My husband is scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of April and has been in pain daily for years. I can complain about not being allowed to back squat for several weeks, but my husband literally cannot squat. I can complain about how uncomfortable it is to sit long enough to put my shoes on, but there are days when my husband cannot even put his own sock on. In the grand scheme of things, my current struggle is minor. I know it, but it is still frustrating and disappointing to feel as if you are stuck and going nowhere. The ‘one step forward, two or three steps back’ thing gets really old, really quick.

The back felt pretty good yesterday. Not 100% normal but really good. Then I woke up this morning. It seems that the back is stiff and achy almost every morning when I get up. Then add a little bit of necessary sitting, like using the toilet and driving to the gym, and the back just gets crankier. And then training doesn’t go as planned either.

1a. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

After this warm-up set, Michael asked me how it was or if I just like to make faces on warm-ups. The weight itself was fine, but the back wasn’t exactly thrilled with deadlifting. The discomfort was just that…uncomfortable but not unbearable.

135 x 8

Same as above.

165 x 1 + 1 + 2

There was stronger pain on the first rep, which is why the reps were disjointed. Now I could get into position just fine, but the back started to hurt as soon as I created tension prior to initiating the lift and then as soon as I initiated lowering the bar.

with belt and straps: 165 x 0

I think it was about this point that Michael asked me what my body was telling me, and this was when frustration reared it’s ugly head. Michael pointed out that my response to his question was my mind talking and not my body. <grumble> So, then we tried a bunch of variations to see if one would feel better. Deficit deadlifts were a no-go. Block pulls were a no-go. Sumo block pulls were a no-go. Even kettlebell swings were a no-go. By that point, the fighter in me wanted to fix my ponytail and try again, but that inner fighter was also mentally sitting in a corner, sobbing her eyes out.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 7, 53 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

The last two sets were a bit tougher and likely sloppier, but the previous sets were decent and the bar moved well. The military press has long been a trouble lift for me, but I feel as if I am finally feeling more comfortable with it and struggling less. It used to be that my shoulders would burn with fatigue just holding the bar in the rack position between reps, but I didn’t feel any of that today. And that is one thing I have going for me…that no matter how frustrated, upset or defeated I feel, I can still manage to find a positive somewhere!

2a. reverse hypers

x 20, with 10 lbs x 20, 10 lbs x 20

I’m capable of doing these with more weight than this, but I’m also used to doing reverse hypers without discomfort in my lower back! It didn’t take many reps for me to appreciate the fact that my coach was keeping the weight light.

2b. back extensions

x 25, with 10kg x 25

3. single leg deadlifts

2-10kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2-12kg kettlebells x 10 each

The first set was pure ugliness. My balance was horrid. The second set was a bit better with slightly less balance issues, especially with the right leg planted.

 

 

Wine, Wonder Woman & the Weekend

It is my Friday. Working an open shift this morning means that I have officially been on days off since 2:00 this afternoon. My first plan upon getting home was to have a bubble bath. This morning I had thought about having a glass of prosseco as I bathed, but by the end of my work day I realized that I hadn’t had any coffee yet. An Americano while bathing was what actually happened. I find it kind of funny how drained I feel in this moment despite having a 4-day work week. As I do feel wiped out, I put my Wonder Woman onesie on after my bath and had planned on enjoying a quiet night at home. Then my phone beeped a text notification…

A friend wanted to know if I had any plans for the evening. I paused. Thinking. Mentally weighing my options. I could say that I had no plans but just wanted to stay home and do nothing, or I could open the figurative door to hanging out with my friend. I chose to open the door. A quiet, relaxing visit with a friend over some wine would be rather nice. As much as I truly love my friends and enjoy being with them, we are all busy people and simply don’t get together very frequently. But I wonder if I should give my friend the head’s up that I am planning on coming over in my onesie…because it is warm and comfy and I really don’t want to get dressed in real clothes again tonight.

 

Wondering Why

I have to say that I am feeling a little crushed today. For the first time in nearly three years, my coach seems to think that one of my goals just might be too lofty. Honestly, I am baffled as to why he would react so negatively to this new goal, and my confidence is a bit shaken by his lack of confidence in me. I don’t understand it.

Even though I am a big Superman and Wonder Woman fan, I only just watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie this afternoon. There are flaws in the movie, but I generally liked it a lot. I love Superman. I love Wonder Woman. When we finally see Wonder Woman in all her costumed glory, I have to admit that my eyes got a little teary and my excitement level was off the charts. I am so excited with how they are developing her character. The old TV Wonder Woman was iconic for her time, but this new WW is a thousand times better.

To tie this post together, I was chatting with my kids yesterday about WW and her abilities and such, which resulted in some internet research for confirmation. I stumbled across the following line:

The Golden Age Wonder Woman had strength that was comparable to the Golden Age Superman. Wonder Woman was capable of bench pressing 15,000 pounds even before she had earned her bracelets, and later hoisted a 50,000 pound boulder above her head to inspire Amazons facing the test.                                    

Did you read that? Wonder Woman could bench press 15, 000 pounds! How sick is that?! So, I shared that tidbit with my coach and posed the question that this could be my new goal. He was impressed with WW’s ability, I think, but skeptical of my goal. <sigh>

Wonder Woman

Heading into my sixth powerlifting competition, I do believe that today was the very first time I have been allowed to “train” on the Friday prior to competing! I am not even joking. Actually this entire week has been a little different than the pre-competition norm, but I think it has been okay. Today wasn’t really a training session. Can you call it a training session when you don’t even break a sweat? Really it was all about going through the motions, not a lot of reps and not much weight…just practicing technique.

1. squats-low bar, without sleeves

45 x 8, 95 x 5, 125 x 5, 155 x 3

with belt: 170 x 1, 170 x 1

2. bench press, wide grip

45 x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 5, 95 x 2, 105 x 2, 105 x 2

band pull aparts with red x 15

face pulls 20 lbs x 15, x 15, x 15

band pull aparts with orange x 15

3. deadlifts

115 x 5, 145 x 2 + 1

Now all that is left is the heavy lifting on Sunday! Compared to how I was feeling prior to Wednesday’s training session, I am feeling much better. Maybe I’m still not 100% there for this competition, but genuine excitement is definitely building and I am feeling more focused and determined. Of course, this morning I realized that I hadn’t even begun my typical “to do” lists prior to any competition or road trip. I hadn’t scanned maps to the hotel or the venue. I hadn’t given any thought to snacks, although that isn’t usually that big of a deal for me. No matter how much my coach tells me to eat during a competition, I seldom eat much of anything. But I did pick up some snacks to bring along. The big question is how many of them will I actually eat on Sunday?

My state of mind was also improved by time spent with some precious friends this afternoon. There is just something quite special about being embraced, both literally and figuratively, by people who know and get you, who love and accept you, and allow you the privilege of returning the love. I love this family as if they were my own. My kids like to tease me that my favourite children belong to this family. I trust that my kids know just how deeply I love them, but yes, I do love these little girls. Time spent with them is time well spent; it brings joy to my soul. This wonderful family blessed me with a special gift today, and I love it absolutely!

wonderwomanbag

It is a handmade bag with Wonder Woman inside and out! Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a big Wonder Woman fan, so there can be no doubt as to how much I love this bag! To be honest, I’m amazed that I was able to open this gift without shedding a single tear, but I think it helped that my dear friend started crying before I had even begun opening the package! Noticing her tears brought laughter to my heart, but now that I am home, remembering the moment and storing these treasures in my heart, I just might be crying. I’m allowed.

And now I feel like I might be ready for Provincials. I transferred the necessities from my gym bag to my new Wonder Woman bag. It’s a bit of a tight fit, but I made it work. If I can pick 300 pounds up off the floor, then I think I can fit 2 pairs of shoes, a belt, a singlet, and some socks into a bag! This bag is coming to Provincials with me, and it is going to be very well used and loved.

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I am going to bring my laptop with me tomorrow. We’re heading to Surrey tomorrow and competition, for me, is on Sunday. We’re only staying the Saturday night and heading back after I compete, which means Sunday could be a very long day. I might bring it with me…will give me something to do in the hotel Saturday night, but I probably won’t post a competition update until Monday.