A Theme to Build a Dream On

I haven’t exactly been living out my theme for 2017 these past few months. Instead of feeling and being ‘Powerfully Beautiful’, I fear I have been more weak, pathetic, and ugly. It shouldn’t be this way, but pain tends to have that effect and such has been my life since the end of January. I haven’t always handled the pain, the frustration, or my limitations well. Although I tend to try to put on a good face in public, sometimes the mask slips. My emotions have risen and fallen like a roller-coaster, but the dips felt steeper and longer than the upwards climbs.

In the downward spirals, I struggle with mild depression. Taking care of myself becomes a chore, and I’m more likely to do the bare minimum of self-care. Although I will always make the time and effort to spend time with my good friends, I definitely ‘turtle’ more when my mood is low. I will do my job serving the public with a smile on my face. I will go to the gym. I will go to my chiropractic appointments. But I have to drag myself out the door for just about anything else. I haven’t been to church for several weeks, because I cannot sit without pain and kneeling for the duration of a sermon is not my idea of fun or comfort. My attempts to plan a week’s worth of meals have sputtered, because it requires too much effort. That and my interest in food and eating well has fallen with my mood. When I am down, I procrastinate more. I take less interest in what’s going on around me, except for grumbling at idiot drivers. All these signs and symptoms are probably quite typical of mild depression or someone suffering with pain. It is understandable, but it not a pretty thing to behold. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel very strong.

This week is different. I was cautiously optimistic on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Yesterday, I carried that optimism carefully into the gym with me, and I left the gym excited with hope flying high as a kite. Today, I am feeling the DOMS in my quads from yesterday’s squats, and I couldn’t be happier about that kind of pain. The back still isn’t pain-free, but the back has stayed consistently better all week. Yesterday I finally felt as if I had reached the turning point. Of course, I’m not 100% yet. I still don’t know when I will be, but I actually feel and believe that the worst is behind me now. Feeling and believing this is making the engines of motivation and drive rev.

And I feel the change in my attitude towards myself. Self-care becomes more important. I’m singing out loud in the car again, and not just grumbling at idiot drivers. I actually skimmed through the local newspaper yesterday before tossing it in the recycling bin. I wrote a card to a friend. I made a decent dinner tonight. I prepped my lunch for tomorrow. But I still grumbled internally when my husband got up and spoke to me super early this morning before I went to work. I will always prefer silence until I get to work when I start work early in the morning. He thought he was being funny by saying, “Don’t worry! I’m not going to say good morning to you.” So, I didn’t think it was funny, but that’s my non-morning person mode rather than my depressed mode.

The first third of the year might have been a fail in terms of living my theme, but there is still plenty of time left to get it right.

Becoming Mrs. Clean

It was going to happen sooner or later, but now that I really should begin I want to drag my feet. What am I talking about? Cleaning up my diet. I knew I’d eventually have to do it to make weight for competition, but I wasn’t expecting to start now. The reason for cleaning up my diet now has nothing to do with making weight and everything to do with reducing inflammation. My chiropractor suggested this due to the inflammation in my lower back. Although I have eaten super clean for periods of time and for specific reasons in the past, right now I feel stubbornly opposed.

I don’t want to give up a glass or two of wine on my weekend. I don’t want to make the extra effort required to prep food for work that doesn’t include flour, sugar, or processed items.

How interesting! Here I have been making small efforts over the past several months to re-focus my eating habits. I’ve been focusing on eating more vegetables again, on planning meals in advance, on eating less processed stuff, so this suggestion to clean my diet even more shouldn’t be as onerous as it feels. I think I just feel unprepared.

Although I have done well with meal planning for the past few weeks, I will admit that I really have nothing planned for this week. I did plan for yesterday’s dinner, but I could only come up with blanks for the rest of the week. My schedule is such that I won’t be home to prep or eat dinner with the rest of the family almost every day of the week, and that scenario tends to be where I struggle with meal planning the most. Unfortunately, when you are trying to eliminate sugars, flours and processed foods, many quick and easy meal solutions are suddenly problematic. A sandwich? Nope. Cereal? No. Forget about treats like muffins or brownies or ice cream. Dairy should probably go, too.

I am working a close shift tonight, which means I need a snack and something closely resembling dinner to eat on my breaks. In cleaning up the kitchen last night, my husband tossed the rest of the rice which I had thought I would bring with some of the chicken and vegetable stew I made for dinner yesterday. The stew without the extra carbs just wouldn’t be enough. This is where the stubborn streak began to tug at my emotions, telling me that I didn’t need to do this. But I do. I am weary of this back pain and the limitations that come with it. I want the problem to resolve, go away and never come back. I want to be able to squat to proper depth without feeling as if my back is stuck. I want to be able to set up for a bench press without wincing and holding my breath. I want to be able to deadlift again. Heck, I’d like to just sneeze without feeling like a bomb went off in my lower back. Or sit! I haven’t done a lot of sitting for well more than a year, but I’d love to just sit for a while without pain. I want to get better, which is why I do the drills my chiropractor tells me to do. I want to get better, which is why I listen to my coach’s advice on when to push and when to play it safe. I want to get better, so I am going to clean up my eating habits…it just might not be perfect immediately.

I already know that I will be starving by the time I get home from work tonight, but I made the effort to prepare some food to take to work with me. Raw veggies to enjoy with some guacamole. A salad of mixed greens, veggies, seeds and nuts, and some roasted chicken I set aside when making yesterday’s stew…and a simple olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. My meal break will be around 5pm and I work until 9:30. I bet I’ll be starving by 7:30.

Safe Squats

Like most Wednesdays, I had a morning training session and then I went to work. At one point at work, I was connecting with a customer as I made his latte. He asked if I had done my powerlifting training already this morning, which took me by surprise. I don’t hide the fact that I am a powerlifter; however, aside from my barbell tattoo on my forearm, I don’t exactly go out of my way to advertise it. This customer didn’t look familiar, and I am generally very good at remembering faces…names, not always, but faces most of the time. There is always the possibility that I have chatted with this customer about powerlifting before, but the fact I don’t recall his face would mean that any such interaction would have taken place quite some time ago. I just find it all rather odd and amusing. It’s not as if I look like a powerlifter!

Today’s training session was not my typical upper body Wednesday type stuff…I got to do back squats…after sufficient warm-up.

1a. squats-low bar, squat shoes

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7, 115 x 6

with belt: 135 x 4 + 1 paused

with belt, 3 second eccentric and 1 second pause:

135 x 5 x 5 sets

After not having done back squats for more than a month, I was super glad to get back at ’em. These squats were okay. The low back was basically fine…just a bit of a feeling of tightness at the bottom. My depth was high or questionable for many of my reps. At first we weren’t concerned with pushing for depth, but I wonder if I’m just subconsciously tentative. It’s quite likely actually. But today wasn’t about setting new PRs. It was about getting back under the bar, working on technique, and getting some reps.

1b. incline bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 83 x 5, 83 x 5, 73 x 7

The first two sets were good, but the two sets at 83 pounds felt a bit heavy. The first set was probably harder than the second but not by much.

2a. chest-supported kettlebell rows

12kg each hand x 15, 12kg x 15, 16kg x 15

These were easier than I expected. Michael demonstrated with 16kg kettlebells, and I was relieved when he gave me 12’s to start, thinking the 16’s would be too heavy. Isn’t it funny how we (or is it just me?) can doubt our ability despite previous successes! I should have gone up to the 16’s on the second set…

2b. push ups

x 8, x 6

Just realized that I never did my final set of these! Oops.

And then, my coach and I talked a bit about my targets for Provincials in June. My competition best results are: squat 253 pounds, bench 132 pounds, and deadlift 308 pounds. What am I hoping to accomplish at Provincials? While I have a bunch of goals I want to reach at any given time, for Provincials I don’t have anything more specific than bettering my last results and breaking my own Provincial records. We settled on a conservative 5% increase, which would give me numbers that I think are just a tad scary but doable. And exciting!

SI Sighs

Today felt a little rough, or I felt rough. A headache settled in fairly early and stuck around all day. As my work day wore on, I deteriorated. I’m not sure if I was feeling a lack of caffeine, mere fatigue, a tight neck, or finally succumbing to something. I’ve woken up with a touch of a sore throat the past couple of days. While the throat hasn’t been too bad, it’s enough of a bother to make me desperately hope that I am not getting sick. The sore throat, the headache, and a sense of being overly warm made my work day feel long. I almost never get sick, and I don’t have time for getting sick. I am not sick. I refuse to get sick!

I arrived at the gym this afternoon feeling okay…of course, I arrived sipping a quad tall Americano (my second one of the day). I wasn’t feeling super amazing, but I was at my happy place. As is often the case, a training session has a practically magical ability to make me feel better, no matter what the issue may be. So, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. See, I refuse to get sick! 😉

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 6, 93 x 6

with belt: 123 x 6, 143 x 5, 143 x 5, 143 x 5

I might have had some minor difficulties with the front squats today. I had to re-rack the bar at the start of a couple of sets, because I realized upon un-racking that I wasn’t properly centred. The sets at 143 pounds were a little challenging but still not maximal. I suppose it makes sense that they were more of a struggle considering how I felt today. Michael wanted me to use my belt today for every set over 100 pounds. The first set felt a little weird merely due to re-familiarizing myself with my belt. The lower back felt fine though, and that’s really my main concern.

1b. incline close grip bench press

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 73 x 8, 83 x 5, 83 x 7PR, 83 x 7

For incline, I think these were pretty good. The range of motion was ginormous, but I am generally happy with how these moved. And I just looked in my little book of PRs…to discover that I set a new PR!

1c. rope face pulls

30 lbs x 15 x 6 sets

These felt easier today, almost too easy really.

2a. hip thrusts

95 lbs x 7

This first set was with a barbell and really should have been easy-peasy. I’m capable of using significantly more weight for hip thrusts, but the lower back was not happy with the barbell hip thrusts today.

bodyweight with hip circle x 20, x 20

For reasons unknown, the lower back was completely fine with bodyweight hip thrusts! I did these with a sandbag a few weeks ago without any bother to the back, so we thought we’d try a set with the sandbag. Or at least a rep or two…

70ish lb sandbag with hip circle x 20

And no bother to the lower back at all! I really don’t understand why the barbell caused such a bother to the back. Actually, there’s a lot that I don’t understand about the ongoing issues with my SI joints. I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve done everything that I need to be doing to help the issue. I’ve not been sitting anymore than absolutely necessary, like for driving. Heck, I don’t even sit while on my break at work! I have a competition in 3 months…kind of need to start lifting heavy things soon.

2b. hanging knee raises

overhand grip x 12, x 12

neutral grip x 12

Despite my angst with the SI joints and lower back, I am happy to say that the back didn’t bother me doing the hanging knee raises today, which has not been the case since the back issue started. The back actually felt okay with these today. I guess that’s improvement! The right shoulder felt a bit sore after each of the first two sets, so I thought I’d try a neutral grip on the final set. I think the neutral grip helped, although it is really difficult to say that with certainty. In all honesty, I’m just relieved that I was able to do an exercise that I haven’t been able to do since the SI joint issue first presented.

And you, despite how I felt for most of the day, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. I’m one more day away from a long weekend. I am not going to get sick!

 

 

I’m Not Loving It

I finished work around 6 last night and, knowing the chances of a family member making dinner were slim, I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home. Although my work day had been good, I was suddenly feeling grumpy. The attitude was likely due to a couple of factors. I was tired. I knew that my ability to relax and decompress would be delayed as I had already agreed to drive my daughter downtown for an engagement. I had been given a warning that my husband was cranky. My frustration with food was rearing it’s ugly head. I didn’t want to make dinner when I finally got home close to 7 PM. I am frustrated by a lack of help and support from the family when it comes to making dinner. They have valid reasons, as well as mere excuses, but I had given basic instructions for what could be made for dinner on Wednesday (when I worked a close shift). Nobody made it. So I gave similar instruction again for yesterday, because I had pork tenderloins in the fridge that were now desperately needing to be used. Despite one person home all day, nothing was prepped, nothing was made. And with all that knowledge, I made the decision to eat crap food and not concern myself with whether or not anyone else in the family had dinner. Because I was grumpy, I ate most of the fries as I drove home. I ate 6 chicken nuggets and a quarter-pounder with cheese while sitting in my car in my driveway. Not a single bite was enjoyable.

There is a lot that could be said about last night’s experience, but I’m not entirely certain that I know where to begin or where to take it. I can be better than this. I have the knowledge and the tools to be better than this. While I’m okay with an occasional treat, my eating habits of late have been more about the treats and crap than about eating for optimal health and nutrition, and I am not happy with myself for it. The good news is, I guess, that it is never too late to start over fresh. Each day presents a new opportunity to make better choices, and I do have the knowledge and tools to make those choices. Okay, so today wasn’t filled with fantastic choices and tomorrow probably won’t be either, but I am determined to turn the corner during my weekend.

This afternoon’s training session did not include deadlifts (or squats for that matter), but then again, I wasn’t honestly expecting either. The SI joints are still an issue, although I feel there is improvement. Since improvement is what I am looking for, I’m willing to accept that my training program is going to be modified in order to allow my back to recover. Still, I’m missing my big lifts.

1a. step-ups (a 4″ block and a box…not sure exact height but a step put my knee well above my hip)

bodyweight x 10

54 lb weight vest x 16, x 16, x 14

Now that felt like cardio…a lot of cardio!

1b. floor presses, with back arch (because I’m allowed to do that!)

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 8, 93 x 8, 110 x 8 PR120 x 5 PR

Despite having an arch, I wasn’t really making much use of leg drive for most of the sets and reps, at least not until towards the end sets. At the time I didn’t realize that 8 reps at 110 pounds was a personal record. When Michael said we could do a heavier set and asked what I thought I could do for 5 reps, I wasn’t too sure. He settled on 120 pounds. I kept my mouth shut, even though I knew that I had just set a PR of 120 pounds for 5 reps on Monday for a regular bench press, which meant that I felt a sliver of uncertainty about equaling that task on the floor press. But I did it! 🙂

1c. a TRX ab wheel-like move

on knees x 10, on feet x 10, on feet but slightly harder x 10, x 12 and possibly even slightly more difficult

2a. glute-ham raises

bodyweight x 16

x 5 + x 8 with 8kg kettlebell

8kg kettlebell x 12

2b. swiss ball plank rotations

x 10, x 12, x 13

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.

 

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!