Sunday, April 8, 2018

12 days



Yesterday, I fell asleep sitting up on the couch at 9am. The cup mostly full of coffee that was being held in my lap slowly drifted to the left with loosened grip. The elixir drenching not only myself but the couch is what brought me to again.

Whoops. Mama is tired.

Let that be the understatement of the year. I'm not sure how to even begin to describe my current physical and mental being. Prepared, but exhausted. For months, the entire thing was for certain--I signed up, sent in the entry fee, procured my singlet and got to work in the gym. For months I did real, tangible things to make this goal attainable. But now as the actual day of competition rounds the corner I look back and see that most of it felt fictitious. Like some far off maybe-thing that would happen but not for a long, long time. A long, long time goes fairly quick sometimes.

Today I bought a tiny tshirt to wear under my singlet, and last night I drafted/wrote down my attempts for all three lifts. Those two things felt like the final big two on my list of stuff to get done. I have to pack my bag, get my snacks/plan lunch for the day of, and get there. That's it. I have one more week of hard work in the gym with lifts practiced in my singlet so I can get used to its constrictive nature.

Being a creature who likes to study, I've read numerous articles and forums on peak week and meet prep. I am at the point in the journey where there isn't much left to do but relax, have fun, and lift my ass off. That's what all the advice offers, in the end--have fun. Don't cut weight, don't make your first attempt too farfetched, and have fun. Enjoy. I want to remember that word from now until the day of is done. I've worked so very hard, and it hasn't all been pleasure. Some of it has straight up sucked. I don't want my meet to feel like that. I have some worries, some stress--I worry about how I will feel the day of. As someone with chronic migraines, pain is always in the back of my mind, a potential that I have to consider. I can avoid all my triggers and still get hit with one(especially with the timing of my cycle). I consider the possibility, but I won't let the potential threat dictate how I go into this competition. I don't want to go into it with dread calling the shots. I'm nervous about making lifts in front of so many people. I know I can do it. I will be in an environment where, competition or not, everyone wants you to succeed.

I am going to focus on each of my final peak sessions this week, one by one. I'm going to approach each lift with the knowledge, the steadfast belief, that I can and will succeed. The lifts will be clean, the form well executed. I will walk into the gym each day hungry, as I have been doing all of these months. I will believe in my ability and I will have a fucking blast doing it.

Now, to daydream about what snacks to pack...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

3 weeks



These days, I am mostly chalk and tiger balm.

22 days out from the meet. 1.5 more weeks of hard work followed by peak week and then lighter loads until go time.

I'm almost ready. I've been taking things one session at a time, focusing on the lifts in front of me. When I lay in bed at night, I let myself imagine the meet setting. I think about it until nerves bloom goosebumps and I have to back off. It all comes down to this: I want to go 9 for 9, and I want to have an amazing, fun time doing it.

I can't believe the meet is almost here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

7 to go



For some reason, things are clicking this week. Every training session has been nothing short of brilliant. I took a deload week and I think that break from heavy lifting also helped clear the proverbial weight in my head. It's true: deload weeks help reset the central nervous system. And boy howdy was in need of that.

I'm just over 7 weeks out from my meet, and I've fallen in love with every inch of this process. My body is tired. The muscles in my legs frequently spasm as I lay in bed at night, trying to go to sleep. I've grown used to their little jumps, will point it out to my partner occasionally. The skin jumps and sinks in quickly, little blinks. I love how solid my lifts have become, how heavy the weight. Nowadays I also like eating two lunches, drinking protein shakes, scooping out tiny lumps of creatine. There is ritual and beauty to it. There is also really hard work. Going to the gym when I don't feel well. Going when I'd rather get something else done, or nothing done in particular. Shit, sometimes I want to simply do nothing. My diet is a carousel of sameness: chicken breast, tuna, rice, spinach, sweet potatoes, eggs. Holy crap can I put some eggs away. I eat at least 3 a day.

But this is a commitment, and commitment often requires a certain amount of sacrifice. I feel really good about it. I'm still very nervous about April, but I know it's coming and I will be ready.

I want to remember this part of it. The not so great days and the incredible weeks where it all comes together and I hit my numbers. I want to remember the drives home from the workouts, always exhausted and a grin slapped on my face. The little moments between the big ones. The coworkers that make fun of me for "eating weird," when really all I do is eat healthy. The night I first tried on my singlet and never, ever wanted to take it off.

It's one fantastic, slightly ludicrous ride. More soon.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

goal in progress



It's fairly well established at this point that I am terrible at updating regularly. I always intend to, but before I know it the days turn into weeks then into months. As more time passes, there is more to say yet I'm never sure where to start. I guess we will just jump in here.

On January 1st I sent in my money and officially registered for a powerlifting meet in April. No turning back now. I was more excitement than nerves until I started reading the meet rules and imagined how the day would go...that's when my hands started getting sweaty and I felt the need to go to the restroom. Ah, the nerves. They finally showed up.

I'm training smart and training hard. I've managed to avoid the hell that is the flu this year(knock on all the wood things, as the winter ain't quite done with us yet), but I did get a week long viral thing, and I'm currently getting well from a nasty cold that lasted just under a week. I fought the urge to return to training early, giving myself a day more rest than I wanted to. Time is precious, and I can't afford to be stupid about it. Better to take the extra rest as opposed to returning too early and staying down longer. As simple as these type of decisions might seem, I struggle with them. I'm stubborn to say the least.

The biggest change is that I've started benching twice a week. I squat twice, bench twice, and deadlift once. My accessory work has changed as well--I do what supports those three main lifts, and trimmed the fat that I could. The second bench day replaced my overhead press--I now do OHP on occasion instead of dedicating an entire session to it. I pummel shoulders with incline bench, lat raises, etc. Adding to my bench volume has made a significant difference in overall execution and the amount of weight I can press. As a matter of fact, I beat my old bench press max today by 3 reps. Totally unexpected, but a big victory for me. To me, it feels like a victory when I gain evidence that my programming is working. It gets a little harder to obtain those milestones the longer you lift--I'm a long way off from those beginner gains. The rep pr is quite nice, but my focus has been more on maintaining form lately.

There's still a lot of volume being done. I finish with heavier reps in the 1-3 range, mainly to lock in that form. As time crawls closer to meet date, I'm also doing more pause bench and squatting with commands--I am hellbent on having all white lights for my attempts. The more I can lock that into my training, the better accustomed I will be to it when it's time to compete. It's a nice new challenge to factor in, keeping me on my toes.

My hands are shredded. My body is often sore in one way or another. When I lay in bed at night, my quad muscles occasionally jump without provoking. But I love it. I love it so much. When I've had a rotten day, the gym is my sanctuary. Hell, when I have a great day I still look forward to my sessions--it makes the great days even better. I'm happy. I'm hungry. I'm working hard on the goal in front of me and that makes all the difference.

Friday, November 24, 2017

my new friend fear

I've found new life in the old idea of befriending your enemies. There is value to be found in exposing yourself more to what frustrates you, challenges you, and/or scares you. For me, fear is mainly rooted in the unfamiliar. I'm learning to turn the no-I-can't/never-have into yes-I-will.

Lifting has clued me into my weaknesses--physical is the part of iceberg exposed, the obvious thing revealed. So much of progress is mental, even before hands touch the bar. For a while I bought into hesitation and allowed myself to back off when things felt maybe too tough or sketchy. I went right up to my limit and hovered for months, setting up camp on the plateau that inevitably happens when you stop truly challenging yourself.

Never has this been more true than with bench press. I cannot explain why fear felt more prominent for that one movement than anywhere else in my program. It might have to do with dropping the bar on my chest one or two times...once getting stuck to the point of needing help from a stranger working next to me. Shaken, but fine. Maybe it's because the bar is overhead, and in the past I've never been really strong in my upper body. I've always been leg dominant. And chest? Forget it. Before lifting I didn't even understand the reason or worth in training chest. Naively I thought bench was for big boys, ground I had no reason to cover.

For close to a year, my 1 rep max on bench press did not move. I kissed it a few times, shakily, but never felt confident enough to work past it. While I've been successful programming linear periodization for my other lifts, I could never lock in a progressive workload for bench. Also, I only exposed myself to it once a week. It wasn't my favorite, it made me nervous, and therefore it was easy to not make it a priority(or even equal to my other lifts).

This summer, I started reading more about programming--what works, what doesn't. I gave more thought to body symmetry--training the back chain as frequent and as focused as the front. I made a decision that I did not want any weaknesses. I broke down the three main lifts and took all the weight off so I could lock in form first. After being asked multiple times by friends and strangers if I was training to compete and always saying no, I started to give honest thought to it. Maybe I should, I'd think after a great session. I had plenty of rep goals, weight-on-bar goals...but a competition? It was an interesting thing to start considering.

Fast forward to now and I'm just finishing week 3 of a new 4 month block that will take me all the way to peaking for my first powerlifting meet in April. There's been a real change as the leaves turned a burnt sienna and drifted off their limbs. I lift with purpose. Going back to the beginning and locking in form helped me understand the numbers are nothing if you aren't lifting them right. I decided to befriend bench. Flat, incline, decline, dumbbells. I went back to having nothing on the bar so I could get comfortable with 45 pounds over my face for as many reps as I could stand. I started to trust myself. I quit approaching the bench with a thought of "there's no way..." or "I'll be lucky to get [enter measly number] pounds off my chest more than once." I started sticking to the numbers I wrote down. I made my back stronger to support the push movement. In the simplest term, I worked my ass off. I hit a new 1 rep max in early fall.

Bench is my buddy now. There's still a bit of that nervous adrenaline, even if I know how to bail when necessary. Instead of letting that residual fear balloon up into blockage, I've turned it into a power source. Fear is motivating. Fear makes me move the damn bar. Fear is giving me some of the best sessions that I've ever had. And for the first time ever, I can see my chest split in the mirror(an unexpected bonus to getting stronger I guess).

At this point I have no idea what my attempts will be for the meet this spring--I have plenty of time to grow and that's exciting. By the time April is here, my current max might be my opener. Ah a lady can dream. And a lady can do.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

new goals

The weekend before last I attended my first ever powerlifting meet(USPA). I've been watching videos, following lifters, and reading everything I can about what goes into competing. I felt as informed as a spectator could get. Still, attending took my knowledge to an entirely new level and, more than that, a spark was ignited. I've been lifting for about two years now, and during that time I've done it for fun and therapy. I didn't give serious thought to competing.

Until now.

I have my eye on two USPA meets in April 2018. My plan is to register for one of them. There are a few in November but I want to give myself plenty of time to prepare. April it is. Since then, I've acquired a copy of the rule book(all 52 pages), and I'm devouring it. I think this decision to put all my work to actual use has been in the works for a while...going to an actual meet confirmed this. I can do it. I have no doubt in my mind that I can do it. I want my first official Wilks total. I keep track of my numbers and progression diligently--I'm confident that I can program for my first meet successfully. It would be an added bonus to have an actual coach, but since it's my first meet I'm not going to create additional pressure.

Since the meet, my training has shifted, both mentally and physically. Physically, I'm obsessing more over form and cue. Lifting in a meet is different than a typical training session--deadlift, squat, and bench involved cues for the competition lifts. Bench requires the most, I think. A competition bench requires a pause with the bar at chest before receiving the cue to "press." In a typical training session, there is a very brief pause at chest level, if one at all. I've started to incorporate this cue into my warm ups, and on my first attempt for each increasing set. I'm making sure I have good form across the entire set before moving onto the harder one.

Mentally, it's game on. The brain, the gut, the heart--all three are on fire now. There is a more precise motivation to get it right, not just to get it done. I'm paying more attention to how I approach the bar, not just getting under it as quickly as possible. I'm filming lifts more as well--form, form, form. If it's sloppy, I can play it back, make note of it and correct it. It's no longer just therapy. It's no longer just work. There's a new hunger attached to it.

I'm incorporating the three lifts into my weeks more--instead of deadlifting and benching once a week, I've increased it to twice a week. More practice, better form. Better form means moving heavier weights. Honestly, this increase has left me much more tired than usual. It's a good tired though--one of accomplishment. I've also started removing my gloves halfway through the majority of my workouts so that I can get used to a bare grip on the bar. I won't be using them in April, so I need to start the weaning process now. This is another thing that you can file under improvement but it also sucks. My hands are tender. The plus side is that every grip feels more purposeful. Increased grip strength has helped my confidence grow, especially in regards to my left hand. My left hand has always been a little weaker than my right.

I'm hoping to chart more of my progress and work in this space as I get closer to competition. I'm pretty damn excited. My bench total is moving, my deadlift total is moving, and I'm nearly ready to retest my squat, which I estimate is comfortably over the 200 mark. Onward and upward.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

progression



Triceps have been a weak point for me. The picture on the left is from February 2017. The one on the right is from June 2017. I'm due to update my progress again(next week hopefully). For growth: close-grip bench press, skull crushers, increase in rope and bar pulldowns, and dips. Nothing too fancy, just a renewed desire to improve and go heavier.