Friday, The End & The Beginning

Shoulders day, my favorite day. It’s my hardest day, legs a close second, so I am unsure how it became my favorite.

My back kept me awake most of the night and at work every step I took made me wince in pain. I was becoming afraid that something serious resulted from that split second distraction yesterday. I suspect, had my coach been here, he would have said no to lifting.

But he is not and I refuse to be hurt. In an unusual turn I events, I used common sense and lowered the weight. I focused on form and speed. My back felt its best while lifting. I credit good form.

The process to develop explosive power is painfully slow but I am one day closer. Even though I can’t see the top of the mountain, I sometimes wonder if there even is one, I am going to keep climbing.

Goal to reach consistent 115# cleans before Joel returns: not going to happen. I could blame the back, the fasting, the blood draw, the lack of sleep. But the fact is I just didn’t squat. My hips moved, my shoulders shrugged, my elbows came through (sometimes) but none of these things happened together. And I didn’t squat.

Monday begins 5×2 lifts. My coach returns. Participating in WODs is put on hold. But until then I will be a spectator at regionals, soaking it in. Learning from some of the best. Pausing for a few days to observe the top of the mountain before I start climbing again.

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Doctor’s Orders Vs. My Plan

As self-deprecating as I can be I suspect I am arrogant enough to think I have super powers.

I am used to performing without food. For approximately 16 years I would run 10, 13, 15 miles while surviving on 500 calories.

So I thought nothing of going in for a heavy lift day after a day of fasting. I had a blood draw and they took five vials. We must check everything every year. My doctor is thorough. She takes no chances. And she is my hero. After 2 years of going to doctors saying “something is wrong” and being told I was fine I found a doctor that listened. She wanted one simple scan and discovered a tumor at the base of my brain. This was 14 years ago. They were able to shrink it but it is still there. If she wants me to starve for a day to take five vials, I won’t argue. I can do that and lift.

But I do not have super powers. Lifting and running are different beasts. Lifting requires food and blood.

It was leg day. It only took one attempt at the deadlift to realize my error. I had to keep everything light and just focus on form. I made strides on my technique. I have a tendency to put a little back action into it but today I kept my form tight until the end. On my last rep I slipped and something in the lumbar region audibly popped. My pain tolerance is high so I sometimes mistake a real injury for a tweak. I am on ice, praying the weightlifting gods are merciful, as I type.

I hit bottom on some of my front and back squats. To be brave enough to do this solo, even if it was 50# lighter than planned, is an accomplishment for me. Engaging my core while throwing more into my hips was the only position that made my back feel ok. For once it was easier to maintain good form.

Leg press was my only joy as I was able to stay heavy. Weight matters to me, remember? And, while I am opposed to machines, it was nice to not stress about form, it was nice to lay down. 460# for 6 sets of 3 reps.

By this time I was wiped out and hurting so I skipped my rope work and my clean work.

I don’t think I will make my deadline for cleans. I will work them tomorrow but I am taking time off to attend regionals this weekend. I will not do any WODs or any lifting. Instead I will watch other people being the person I want to become.

I hope this jump-starts my stalled desire. I hope I only tweaked my back. I hope my blood work is normal. I hope I develop some common sense. I hope my super powers return.

I hope Joel brings me a dragon to battle.

Filthy Fifty Fun

About two weeks after my first crossfit experience I stumbled upon something called “The Filthy Fifty” and immediately said “I MUST do this!”.

Knowing the half-way point of my coach’s vacation would probably be my “OK, this was fun but it is time for my coach to come home” day, in my folder was a special gift from him: a piece of paper with two bold, double underlined words: FILTHY FIFTY

Ummm, when I said I MUST do this I think I forgot to add: when I am as amazing as Valenzuela or Foucher or even just my coach. I don’t think I meant when my conditioning is still behind, after working six days straight, when I am beginning a fast because I have a blood draw tomorrow…Excuses. I could just slip out the door but I already said hello to the owner, one of the new girls saw my sheet and said “I’m not going to ask but let me know how it goes”. My excuses suck and now I have witnesses.

I asked my coach for Angie and a month later I got it. I asked my coach for Fran and I got it twice within six weeks. I asked my coach for Jackie and a month later I got a messed up version of it. I asked my coach to focus on cleans and for months I’ve gotten them. I asked for the Filthy Fifty….why don’t I just shut up already? Or at least ask for something useful like a gift certificate for a massage?

So I stopped the excuses, started warming up, and tried to develop a plan. Breathing will be the key to success, take it piece by piece, slow and steady on my weaknesses, pound through my strengths. Unfortunately box jumps are a strength and I pounded through too quickly and lost my breathing pattern. I was behind from the start. I did I ton of pull-ups yesterday so doing 50 more today (even if they were jumping) was a challenge. Kettlebell swings no problem; walking lunges hips cramped around number 30 so I took the rest one lunge at a time; knees to elbow started strong but the last 10 I took two at a time; 45# push press broken but no problem. I didn’t have a place for wall balls today so I just squatted, tossed a med ball in the air, caught it and squatted, no problem. Burpees, normally a strength, just about killed me at this point. I lost the whole breath thing, my stomach was turning. I took them ten at a time. At 30 I stopped (but time kept running) to puke and then finished those. And, as I don’t have my double unders yet, finished with tuck jumps. The stomach wasn’t settled, had to stop again – shocked there was anything left in my stomach – but I finished.

I then did what one should never, ever do after a WOD. What I never, ever do after anything. I fell on the ground and lay there, eyes closed, dripping wet with sweat. When I finally opened my eyes there were two people I have never seen before standing there laughing at me. On Wednesdays I am usually alone in the building. I am not used to onlookers. But it wasn’t my normal Wednesday time. It wasn’t my private space today. I closed my eyes again. And then I, too, started laughing.

I thought I wasn’t ready? Why did I see “Filthy Fifty” and immediately start trying to find a way out? I am a Warrior Girl. I slay dragons everyday. Conquering is what I do. To think otherwise is laughable.

This was fun. And now I am off to find more things I can ask for!

Taking A Break From Constant Critique

Every great day seems to be preceded by a rough one. I wish I had remembered this fact in the midst of yesterday’s turmoil. It may have given me hope. Today, right on schedule, this Warrior Girl had one of her best days in recent memory.

We start a new cycle when my coach returns and he repeatedly said “send me daily updates”. Yesterday my update read “Chest day: nothing to report”. What would I have reported if he weren’t on vacation? If I weren’t hoping he returns relaxed? “It sucked. Weight was low, explosive movements were slower than molasses, I’m an embarrassment to both of us”. What would I have reported had I remembered it was just a bad day? Sets, reps, analysis. But I promised to remain positive in his absence and I forgot about bad days so instead I wrote “nothing to report”.

I am the reason he needs a vacation.

He is the reason I need time alone with the barbell.

Today I decided that focussing on my weaknesses without the constant critique could be relaxing…maybe the Warrior Girl will have fun slaying dragons on her own like she once did. My message today was reps, sets, & weights. I wanted to make a bigger deal of the weight but it would annoy him.

One of the last things my coach said before he left was “I don’t give a crap about your max’s. They don’t mean anything”. But they do to me. They are the only way I can measure my improvements. Max week is my mile marker, what I dream about, what drives me. It is how I distance myself from that 80# anorexic that couldn’t squat an empty bar. Be stronger: this is why I love to lift. Be faster: this is why I crossfit. Slaying dragons is fun for this Warrior Girl and therefore max’s matter. Keep that in mind as you read about today.

Back day: I strung together 6 kipping pull-ups then switched to doing strict. I prefer strict pull-ups and I haven’t done them in months. I wanted to see where they were. In my 6th set I got 10, my last max number. I was happy. I ended my 6×3 barbell rows at 165#, the same as my last 1 rep max. AWESOME! I ended my 6×3 RDLs at 265#, again my last 1 rep max. AWESOME x 2!! I finished the rest of the lifts above what I did last week.

I am 7 weeks away from re-testing my max lifts and I am far exceeding my expectations at this point. Yes, I will set goals. No, I won’t tell my coach.

While the mentor is away the apprentice will play. I enjoyed today and not just because I did well, though that always helps. I attacked what I wanted, how I wanted. Not all my lifts were stellar. I still need to be more explosive, keep my core engaged throughout a set, remain calm when things go wrong. I will be working on these things for the rest of my lifting life. But today I stopped to acknowledge what I did correctly, celebrate the good sets. I didn’t pick at every little error.

I understand his position. Form, technique, explosive movement are the things by which he judges my performance. These are the things that matter to my coach. And his unwillingness to let me celebrate my achievements, whether it be increased weight or good form, is meant to keep me focussed, keep me improving, prevent me from settling for “just ok”. He is only pushing me towards my potential. I have begged him repeatedly to make sure I find my best at whatever cost. He is only doing what I have asked.

Maybe by playing this week, enjoying my achievements, I am actually doing myself a disservice. But it felt damn good to do multiple reps at my last max weight with exhausted muscles. I am excited for what I might accomplish at the end of these 7 weeks. I am ready to level up.

Days to get a consistent set of 115# squat cleans (aka Joel’s return): 5

No Rest For Those In Training

One of the nice things about working on a three-day weekend is that my training schedule remains on track. I still have to get up before sunrise, eat at the designated break time, and punch out and head to the gym. I don’t get thrown by my husband wanting to go camping or friends wanting to get together. Both of these things would entail messing up my (attempted) sleep cycle, no training, and crappy food. I get to say “sorry, gotta work” which in my mind translates to “I have an excuse to live my passion all weekend”.

Strength:
5×2 Hang Clean and Jerk, heaviest possible
7×1 1-1/4 Front Squat, begin 105 and increase as you can
Rest 5 minutes
For Time:
Rowless Jackie, 2 Rounds

Rowless Jackie? Isn’t that just a really messed up, easier version of Fran? More to come.

Yesterday I had my 6×3 jerks at 135# without a problem. I also, finally, got that squat on some of my 6×3 115# cleans. This led me to have high hopes for today. If you are a regular reader, or a regular lifter or crossfitter, you know how this story is going to go. High hopes rarely translate to the bar. Load up 115#. FAIL. Lower the weight to 105#. FAIL. Ahh, my old friend 95#. Let’s just hang out again. Clean and jerk like I am moving air. I am bored with my old friend.

Let me be clear: I WILL GET MULTIPLE CLEANS AT 115# WITH A SQUAT AGAIN BEFORE JOEL RETURNS FROM VACATION.

If you haven’t done 1-1/4 front squats before let me just say “WOW”. I thought they looked challenging on video but I still didn’t imagine it to be what it was. To pop out of the bottom without returning to standing takes considerable concentration and the loss of momentum makes the final “up” partly a force of will. First set 105# and second set 125#. I then upped it to 135#. I wanted to continue increasing but I could feel I was leaning forward a little coming up after the 1/4 squat. My directions are: perfect form and explosive power. So 135# is where I remained.

Rowless Jackie. Why? Why rowless? Because he added a round and thrusters and pull-ups are more important. Why not two rounds of Fran? Just do it. Times: 9:58 and 11:21. I am learning how to pace and when to push. I had the perfect plan in round two but I was running out of steam. Had I used it in round one I think that time would have been closer to 7-1/2 minutes. I think I like Fran better, at least the scenery changes at intervals.

So now I have a plan for next time. But next time it will be the full Jackie and it will be months from now. The plan won’t apply and/or I will have forgotten it anyway.

It was a good day for compliments. The owner of my gym, among others, has repeatedly suggested I get my trainers certification. My usual response is “I couldn’t do that”. But today when he mentioned it I said “I’ll think about it and talk to you more Monday”. I sit here thinking “Why would I say that? I have too much to learn yet.” Then it was brought to my attention that THE trainer in the area is impressed with my progress. I said to my husband “I always think he is noticing all the work I have to do on my form, like he is critiquing me in his head”. My husband replied “he is probably thinking: look at how hard she works on her form. Your are your own worst critic, you know that.”

No, Joel is my worst critic. I am just a close second. In Joel’s defense he IS my coach, that IS his job.

Countdown to consistent 115# squat clean and jerk (aka Joel’s return): 9 days.

My Ego Was Hurt But I Still Lift More Than…Someone

I hurt myself again but this time it is not my body. Today it is my ego that took the tumble. Again. I don’t even know why it bothers to get up anymore because it is just going to get its ass kicked every time.

I don’t often stand back and see, much less say out loud, anything amazing about me. I am one of a billion other people who have a severe lack of self-confidence or any amount of self-esteem. But I put on my workout gear and I feel like a kick-ass Warrior Girl. I walk up to the bar and meet failure after failure, take critique after critique, make adjustment after adjustment. And I still, even in moments of frustration, feel like a Warrior. I continue to know it will come, I will get better, I will be stronger, I am on the road to my potential. And if I can remember to be the humble student following her guide, I will reach it.

But my ego likes the amount I can lift. It doesn’t care about form or attitude or getting better. It cares about more weight and even more weight.

So I have stopped looking at the weight on the bar. Every week, as we work form, form, form, the weight is going down instead of up. I have moments of thinking “I want to squat 305# again” but the moments are short-lived as I think about how those were parallel and I am now hitting the bottom of my squat. It is so much more impressive to see someone hitting the bottom. I am carrying 100 lbs. less when doing it, I don’t always get back up with it, I hurt more than I used to, I am proud of my form. But my ego is going numb.

If you asked me to choose between a parallel 305# or hitting the bottom, I’ll take the bottom every single time. It feels good. But my ego wants big weight again. It sounds good.

Warrior Girl, in a moment of bitterness, said to her commander “no one ever asks: did you give 100% today? how awesome was your form? How low did you get and how was the hip turn? NO! They ask: how much did you lift? What’s the answer to that?” He replied “I usually say: more than you”. I thought that was a little cocky. Joel agreed but said “it’s the truth but you need and deserve to be a little cocky”. With the exception of 3 guys, I can honestly give that answer to anyone I know. But out of my black workout clothes I am nice and lack confidence so I never would. He pointed out I have that cocky confidence around him all the time, I enter the arena with it, but I need to start taking it with me and owning it around others.

I hope my ego, which is still unconscious on the floor, stays there this time. It will be one less obstacle for this Warrior Girl to overcome as I hit bottom and work my way back up. It will allow me to say “more than you” when someone asks “how much did you lift”.

I will probably add, but you are more creative, prettier, smarter…Warrior Girls can still be nice.

Box Jumps? No, Burpees! And a Hit to the Head

Burpees. I really thought I saw box jumps when I looked yesterday. Imagine my shock when I went in and saw burpees instead. Oh well, this Warrior Girl actually likes burpees…usually.

Today’s workout
20 minute handstand walk work

10 rounds for time:
15 burpees
8 toes to bar
3 deadlift 185#

The handstand work was a bit of a mess. A mess I created because I wanted to try different techniques and I do think I learned some things though I couldn’t say what exactly. Reviewing this portion I can feel frustration wanting to creep in so I close my eyes and hear Joel repeating “Calm. Relax. Breathe.” These words I will for the rest of my life hear in his voice. On one of my last attempts I slammed down and, having forgotten to tuck my head properly, hit it hard enough to muck up my vision a bit.

Until this point I had been looking forward to burpees. By my third rep in round 1 the headache came, from the knock to my head I deduce, and I realized all remaining 147 burpees were going to be nothing short of torture.

My toes to bar, which were critiqued a few weeks ago as “not pretty”, are becoming quite the lovely sight. No extra swinging and all movement generated properly from my hip. I am taking some time to be proud of myself. There is still a little clean-up to do but Warrior Girl has been declared the clear winner of this battle.

Deadlifts were my break.

My neck has seized up, I imagine it was jarred when I fell on my head, so I have ice packs wrapped around me like a very cold neck brace. Sweet relief. If only the headache would dissipate. Overall, I had fun today. A little self-inflicted pain adds a little enjoyment for me.

Warrior Girl has two more days left with her commander before he goes off the grid for a week (legs and shoulder lifting). I have some kick-my-ass workouts while he is away and I will be a spectator at regionals in just over a week. Upon his return we begin 5×2 lifting and have our very own little head to head. Judging from my performance today it will take a miracle to win…or at least a Warrior Spirit. Yes, a Warrior Spirit. My odds just got better!