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 and 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 call easy, I always feel like it was easy enough that I will be able to get more reps on subsequent sets. Yeah, no.


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!


Imagine All the People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 10 Begins

I almost feel my age today. You’d think that having an extra rest day would make this morning’s training session feel easier, better, but no. That’s not how it felt at all. I felt random aches and pains in multiple spots, although none were of great concern. As I felt the life being sucked out of me while squatting, I reflected on my training over the past year or even two. Without a doubt, my training is significantly harder and heavier these past couple of months than it has been all year. Of course, I was also dealing with an injury for most of the year, and that had a huge impact on my training. Still, without looking back through old training logs, I think my current training is still tougher than what I have done before, even when healthy. That doesn’t mean I’ve never had heavy or tough training sessions before. I certainly have! Just not in the same way all the time. If I wasn’t feeling so drained it might be interesting to compare my current training with previous competition prep. This will be my first competition under a different coach, so I expect that there will be differences in programming and philosophy.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event, with belt: 180 lbs x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4, 180 x 4

The squats felt tough and ugly. My final warm up set felt brutal. The third and fourth working sets probably felt the best out of the bunch.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 4, 85 x 4, 105 x 3

main event: 115 lbs x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4, 115 x 4

Warm ups felt fine. The working sets felt tough. The ache in the right shoulder that started during last Friday’s bench session continued, although it was not as much of a factor today. At least I don’t think it was. But maybe. Even getting those fourth reps was a bit of a grind.

3. pause squats (3-2×0) 5-7 reps

135 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 135 x 5

4. glute bridges

135 lbs x 10, 135 x 10, 135 x 10

These were the easiest thing I did this morning…and I could have done so much more!

5. chest supported rows

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 8

So glad it is my Friday. What are the odds of fitting in a nap before I go to work today?

The Monday-Friday Mind Meld

It’s my Monday and the first of my two early morning shifts. Tomorrow is the early, early shift, and I flip to closing shifts for the rest of my week. As much as I am a night owl, I really do enjoy the open shifts. Today was a busy morning, like really busy, but it still felt like a decent day. After work, I hurried home to change and gather my gear, drove my daughter to a friend’s, and hit the gym. I had barely returned home when my husband asked me to go for a drive with him, a drive that would end up including dinner. Now I am finally home and able to recline, relax, and decompress from the entire day. The yawns appeared during dinner, and I took my contacts out almost as soon as we walked in the door. Ideally, I’d like to be in bed in two hours, because I like my sleep. My husband wants to watch a movie. How much sleep will I get tonight?

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 7, 85 x 7

main event: 100 lbs x 7, 100 x 7, 100 x 7

2. low bar squats (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5

main event: 145 lbs x 7, 145 x 7, 145 x 5

The final set was where I felt some fatigue. I paused a moment, considering going for another rep or two to max out the set, but ultimately felt it wisest to stop.

3. close grip bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

95 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 6

These felt better, easier than last week, and that shows with an increase in the reps I did compared to last week.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 13

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 20 seconds each side

And now it looks like we’re watching the new King Kong movie…

The Workout Before Work

After starting my training week on a Tuesday for the past couple of weeks, part of me really struggled with the decision to go to the gym this Monday morning. The struggle was even harder after a less than stellar night’s sleep, but I actually did set an alarm for this morning and forced myself to get up and moving. My goal was to get to the gym at least 15 minutes earlier than I tend to arrive. My ‘day one’ sessions typically require the most time to get through my program, and I have a limited amount of time available for training and such before going to work. It’s a small thing, but I’m proud of myself for getting to the gym by 8:45 this morning, especially since my alarm was set for 8:05. Although some weeks it makes sense to start my training week on a Tuesday, I am glad that I pushed myself to get it done today. I am glad that I pushed myself to start just a little bit earlier than usual. Even though some of the weights and/or sets increased, I am glad that I pushed through the fear and uncertainty and mild discomfort to do all that I was absolutely capable of doing. While I’m not afraid to work hard in the gym, sometimes I can forget just how much I can do.

1. competition squats (2-0x0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 155 x 4

main event, with belt: 170 lbs x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6, 170 x 6

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6

3. front squats (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 10, 75 x 10

4. glute bridges

105 lbs x 15 x 3 sets

5. chest supported rows

55 lbs x 12, 55 x 10, 55 x 9

As best as I can tell, my gym has only one chest supported row device. As I walked up to it today, I saw that there were four 45 pound plates left on it and no one nearby. I wandered over to ask the one guy in the weight area who actually looked capable of using that much weight if he was using that piece of equipment. He wasn’t, but he was kind enough to help me remove the plates. I’m a little surprised by how happy it made me feel when I had to stop my helper from removing the last plate, and that happiness spiked just a little bit more as I grabbed a 10 pound plate to add to it. So in truth, my rows aren’t anything to get excited about, but I get a kick out of being stronger than expected by others.

I am super proud of myself for putting in the work and crushing it! Today’s total weight moved was 20, 205 pounds…almost 3000 pounds more than last week’s day one! And oddly enough, I don’t feel nearly as exhausted right now as I did last week.

Of Stings & (ham)Strings

funny thing happened at work around 6:00 in the morning…I got stung by a wasp on the inside of my right upper arm. So that wasn’t exactly funny, except that being a barista doesn’t typically come with the risk of insect stings. It has been a very long time since I was last stung, as in my last sting was when I was young enough to forget all about it, even though I had a severe allergic reaction. Or perhaps I forgot because of the reaction!

Despite the allergy, I went through most of my life without further stings and without carrying an Epi-pen. When I was still a runner, I decided that I should probably carry an Epi-pen, because I ran by myself and sometimes encountered wasps and bees along the way. I never needed to use my safety net, and eventually my doctor hooked me up with testing to see if I was even still allergic. Two or three years ago I had a multitude of scratches inflicted all over my forearm to see if I was allergic to all varieties of flying, stinging insects. The result was that I was fine. Sometimes you can outgrow an allergy. Today I was glad that I was no longer allergic. My co-worker was also glad! But gosh darn it, does my arm ever hurt! Even now nearly 12 hours later, that spot on my arm is literally stinging with pain. Okay, so I’ve certainly experienced more painful things in my life, but why does a tiny little pest need to cause so much pain? Had I known that the wasp was crawling around on my shirt, I would have just brushed it off and gone on with my day. Instead, I had no idea it was on me until it stung me, and then I brushed it off and crushed it beneath my foot. I don’t even feel bad about that.

A sting, a crazy work day, and then a training session at the gym…

1. competition bench press (2-2×0) 5-7 reps

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

main event: 95 lbs x 7, 95 x 7, 95 x 7

2. competition squats (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7

main event: 135 lbs x 7, 135 x 7, 135 x 7

Today I had to focus on keeping the bar properly positioned over midfoot. I think the bar path was better than earlier in the week.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

95 lbs x 7, 95 x 6, 95 x 6

I’m not going to lie, but these felt a little tough after the fourth rep.

4a. back extensions 12-15 reps

x 12, x 13

4b. leg raises 12-15 reps

x 15, x 15

Somehow these last two exercises are always the most challenging. It’s not that they are particularly difficult…they just suck. I’ve been doing stiff-legged deadlifts every week on day 2 for the past 7 weeks, which means that my hamstrings are sore by the time I get to day 3, which means that the back extensions take that hamstring soreness and inflict more pain. Each set starts out feeling easy, but that is a complete lie. The leg raises have been challenging because of my lower back issues; however, as the back has been improving, the discomfort in doing the leg raises has decreased. To a degree. Still, I’d rather be squatting…