Return to Lifting, Part 2

Wednesday I have 2 of my teen girls. They are both making excellent progress. Another one of my teens, a quiet and somewhat timid spirit, comes in to do his first solo workout. He was the last one I expected to do this voluntarily. My kids amaze me. I begin to feel guilty that I am no longer an example for them. I have quit.

Thursday’s are my day off from my bill paying job and I realize, courtesy of Netflix, all my newly found free time has allowed me to watch 2 seasons of New Girl, 3 1/2 seasons of Parks and Rec, numerous George Lucas documentaries. This is not a positive moment in my life. I exist to lift and teach, not to watch TV.

I arrive much earlier than my first appointment. When I am lost and have no place to go, I always come here. This is my holy ground, my safe place. I do paperwork. Coach sits at my desk and says I have to stop letting the opinions of others get to me. And I tell him he doesn’t understand. People adore and respect him. He has a whole team. He has people to lift with all over the state. He is my team and I am a joke to him. I can fend off the others knowing he’s got my back but his neglect validates them, invalidates me. I am tired of being the forgettable person, especially to the person I respect most and whose respect I work so hard to earn. I am tired of him getting me excited about events just to have him not show up when the time arrives and then telling me it is my fault.

In the last three weeks I have needed him to allocate 1 hour to me, 1 hour to write a program I have been waiting all summer for, and he didn’t do it or bother to communicate. Again. If the program is going to be late that’s fine, but let me know. I, yes I, apologize for my program being late. Again. The Professor wants to strangle me and says the next time I want to apologize for his inability to do his job, I am to text her first. My confidant looks at me and says “you realize you apologized because he didn’t do his job. A job you pay him for.”

I do realize this. But as often as he forgets, he also goes above and beyond for me. I don’t know how to reconcile these things. If only he would communicate. After my client leaves I go over to Coach’s desk and we watch live streams of MMORPGs. “Can you re-write day 4?” He already has a plan.

Friday I have to lift. I can’t quit because this is who I am. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am a weightlifter. The person I have been the last few days is familiar and I know it never ends well for her. I need to start fighting NOW if I am going to change the course of this battle. I am not giving up the only thing in this life that has ever helped me, the only thing I have ever loved. I show up and Coach says I am going to bench. It’s a chest day with leg and core work. The original day 4 squat overload has been divided up and lifts have been reorganized. Friday included leg presses and bottom half squats, core was V-ups and leg lifts. Coach said something which spurs me to say “you just don’t feel right with a pain-free ass?”. He smiles and says “I don’t like to be too comfortable”.

And so, I begin again. I get back to the work of becoming.

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Return to Lifting, Part 1

Life’s messy and it kicks you in the ass. My first week back was a little like that. Nope, it was that. Oh, and I didn’t go back.

I spent the weekend in splendid anticipation, knowing Monday would bring a new program. With the doctor’s good news, we can get back to serious work and progress, no more treading water. No more fear with every twinge. Coach was just as excited as I was. And when the news was delivered to those close to me, who are supposed to support me, it became open season to question, attack, and outright make fun of me. They don’t understand my lifestyle but they did witness my abuse, the years of starvation, and the suicide attempts. They witnessed how lifting saved my life, gave me purpose, made me strong. Hoping for support from them was expecting too much.

I’m used to it. I have Coach who understands, who was as overjoyed at the news as I was. He is the one this Warrior Girl depends on to have my back. I can manage these others because he is on my team, he understands. I will begin new workouts on Monday and my 3 months of treading water will end. I can get back to becoming. He is on my side.

But Monday comes and there is no plan. No workout. I send him a text “I’m going in soon, do you have a workout for me?” which gets no response and the negative voices in my head begin to do battle. The text was short, no “pain in the ass” quality about it. I am being reasonable. I remind myself that when I have a bad weekend, he is usually having a bad weekend – we share a similar moon cycle or something. I will be patient this time, give him a chance to explain why this wonderful, long-awaited day has been totally neglected. I go in to do my work, I will simply repeat last week, and am shocked to see him there, his usual happy self, having fun. And I realize, he has simply forgotten. Again. He once said I was special but then why does he always forget? The only thing I say to him is “send me a workout”. But it is too late, the voices in my head have already won.

Monday night I receive it, with no explanation of why it was late, and one of the days is impossible. I feel like a dying dog that receives one last kick by its owner. It contains a variety of squats for a total of 120-150 reps and there is no way my hip will survive. I decide to quit. It is time to accept that my teammate has had his fun with me. The person I admire most, the only opinion I care about, views me just as my family always had: easily forgettable until they need a laugh or a punching bag (metaphorical in terms of Coach). This Warrior Girl is fighting a battle – a war that has been raging for years – alone. I am exhausted. The Professor, seeing that I have lost my “never say die” spirit, insists I make an appointment with THE trainer. She says Coach and I will save our brother-sister relationship but that I need a different coach. I won’t do it. Coach is my coach and I am done.

Tuesday Coach sits at my desk and in the midst of reviewing things I look at him and tell him to stop, I am done lifting. I was brought up to be a runner, running keeps me sane. I will go back to running. I say the words I never thought I would say: I quit. His face changes ever so slightly and I think he is genuinely shocked. He quietly says “You were the one person I never expected this from”. I am gutted. I want to say “Then why am I the one you so easily and repeatedly forget? You were the one person I never thought would turn on me” but I remain silent. I am tired of fighting. I am tired of upsetting him. The silence, which lasts for 10 minutes, is broken once when he says “I did it because I wanted to”. This is an answer to a question I haven’t asked in months: why do you help me? It is easily the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me.

My client arrives and begins her warm-up and I tell myself teaching people to lift is just as good as lifting. Maybe even better because teaching leaves a legacy, I will be happy (and indeed later that day I am beaming at the progress this client has made in her form). Before Coach and I part I whisper “What will happen to me? Lifting is the only thing I have” and he puts his arm around my shoulder and says “I know”.

Preparing For New Programs

Thursday: I am doing military presses when Coach walked over.

I give him an update on my last 3 weeks of lifting so he can write up my next 3 week cycle, which will be also be without him. He has to take this info, the doctor’s orders, anticipate the pain levels and write me something that will cover all that and get me back up to speed.

“Your Warrior Girl is dying to do 100 burpees for time this weekend”. No! BUT my next 3 weeks will incorporate a bit more hip movement: push presses are in, jerks are out. “Please put in box jumps!” I can see he is seriously considering giving me one of my favorite things. He sighs. He stares at me. He sighs again. He shakes his head. He looks almost sad when he says “you’ll be too excited. You’ll land too hard and jar your hip…”. He’s right, box jumps excite me and I always land the first reps too hard but I always straighten them out. “I won’t, I swear. I’ll do them right from my first rep. You know I can do soft landings and you know how serious I take my hip. I won’t destroy it. I will stop at the first sign of a problem. Please!” I’m getting box jumps. I will land softly. I will have a hip on my anniversary.

I am beyond excited for my anniversary workout. Three weeks away and I want to anticipate it forever but I can’t wait for it to come. I have always been one to enjoy looking forward to an event more than the actual event. I still have wrapped Christmas presents that my mom gave me 10, 12, 15 years ago in my cedar chest.

But especially with Coach this is true. So many times he has forgotten, one of us has gotten injured, or the man who never gets sick gets food poisoning, a blinding migraine, an emergency trip to the dentist. Sometimes enjoying the anticipation is all the enjoyment I get. I want to take the day off from my bill paying job so we can make sure there will be time for my little party. I ask his thoughts and he replies “doing that almost guarantees I will get polio”. No day off.

I smile and tell him “I was told I have a binary mind”. He says he’s told me this several times, it’s why we argue so much.

But he hasn’t said this. “Binary mind” I understand, saying that would not make me cry, it isn’t a character assassination. Coach has said “I want to drop kick you with your rigid lines: success and failure, good and bad. You have no in-between. You’re impossible!” and variations of such a speech. It almost always begins with “I want to drop kick you”.

“That’s not what you’ve told me. I know it’s the same thing but…” He smiles and says we’ll work some 2s and 3s into my 1s and 0s mind someday, somehow.

Thank God he has rugby games this weekend – between reprogramming my lifting and my brain he will need to work out some frustration!

The Healer’s Assessment

Deadlifts yesterday. No pain today. I was tempted to cancel the doctor. My greatest fear? That Coach was wrong and I do have a labral tear. It turns out Coach has still been worried about this as well. I just don’t want to hear the words “tendon, tear, MRI” together in the same sentence. Coach said to send an e-mail about the appointment and then a text to tell him that it was sent. This is a new level of serious. I usually accuse Coach of not taking things seriously enough but this request…if he is worried about the official ruling, there is cause for concern. If he cares, there is something to worry about.

Once again the same nurse that has been there for years, with my file in hand clearly and boldly stating I am NOT to get on the scale, tells me to get on the scale. I tend to be overly nice most of the time but today, with tension building, I simply look at her when she powers up the scale and I say “I am NOT supposed to be weighed”. But then I feel bad and as she gets the rest of my vitals I try to make small talk. She is probably relieved when her time with me is done.

Enter the healer. My doctor is amazing and slightly more brilliant than Coach. I said to Coach once that she and him were the only two people I would trust with my life, that I allow to invade my personal space. Today proved once again that I have chosen my people well.

I tell her the whole horrible story from the beginning: the pull in February, the final squat in June, what Coach prescribed for rehab, the repeat offender (the deadlift), the pain when turning over in bed, the mysterious loss of strength in the once-too-strong adductors.

She smiles and says she just spent more than $10,000 over the last year taking her daughter (a hockey player) to specialists for her hip, having MRI after MRI done, one orthopedic wanted to cut the tendon of her 17-year-old because “maybe it would help relieve the pain”. This horrified me (and her). Yet another reason to only trust my doc and Coach.

We do ROM. I stand and with her hands on my hips I bend over and touch my toes, she applies pressure along my spine and on various parts of my hip and glutes. She has me lay down and adducts/abducts my legs, raises one up at a time and pokes and prods. She has me walk the hall to monitor my gait.

She tells me to get ready to take notes, knowing what she is about to type up will not be thorough enough for me. I will start the list with the least of my issues:

1) Piriformis syndrome: Coach has been programming for this possibility since rehab began
2) Slight pronation of right foot (this I have known my whole life): wants me to track my foot and knee slightly out when lifting
3) Right IT band is slightly tighter than my left (10 degrees less ROM): wouldn’t be an issue for most of the population. This is a problem for weightlifters.
4) She wants me to monitor the nerve root in my lower back, as there was a small amount of tenderness
And moving on to the real issue:
5) Bursitis.

I wanted to hug her. I wanted to climb to the top of the building and scream with joy! Under normal circumstances this is not a great diagnosis. These are not normal circumstances. I can lift with pain and inflammation. I can suck it up – it’s what I do, who I am. I don’t have a torn tendon. I don’t have a career ending injury. I can squat! I can deadlift! I can get back to work on DUs! I can sprint before the snow arrives! I can toes-to-bar again!

She would recommend a steroid injection at the site immediately for most of her patients but not her athletes. The injection requires a week of no activity. Her advice to me: work through it until I can’t tolerate it any longer or I enter an extended rest in my program, whichever comes first. She said Coach and I will both have to monitor the situation as he will probably call time before I do. Until then, ice and Tylenol daily. I then ask if I will be in pain as long as I continue lifting. Most likely yes, as long as I am lifting there will be some degree of pain. Expect the injection to alleviate it but always expect some. A little pain doesn’t scare me – pain is part of being a Warrior Girl!

She has total faith in Coach to program for the piriformis, IT band, and add/abductor issues. She gave me the name of the Sports Medicine doctor she has chosen for her daughter along with a doctor who will fit me for shoe inserts to solve the pronation issue (something she said has helped her daughter’s hip). Starting now, I am cleared to proceed/progress my lifting. When I ask if I should have come in sooner, I am told until 2 or 3 weeks ago I would not have gotten a clear diagnosis because it was still too inflamed. At that time she probably would have recommended the specialist and a contrast MRI. Waiting was best.

I email this (and more!) to Coach and follow up with the text. I have an hour before my client arrives and I am planning on having some fun first. I don’t even notice Coach has arrived until he is jumping up and down beside me. I warned him in the email that I would tackle him with hugs the next time I see him but instead I jump and yell “suck it – even YOU can’t break this Warrior Girl”!

His thoughts: Until I get the steroid injection and see a result from it, we cannot totally rule out a labral tear (doc said this as well). Since I didn’t get the injection today, it will be 4 weeks before I can get it – he has a special celebration workout planned (squeal!!) for my 2 year anniversary of lifting/since I weighed 80-some pounds and was threatened with another hospitalization. No injection until after my party.

With the injection he said I will feel better after 3 days, he will ban me from activity for 5 (2 less than the doctor’s ban – yay!) and I probably won’t need them as frequently as the doctor said. I should plan on every 6-12 months. He knows me very well and says “when she says ‘until you can’t tolerate it’ it does NOT mean you are laying on the ground unable to stand! It means you can still function but it is painful to function. I will help you assess it but you can’t have a repeat of June.”

The day I dreaded turned out pretty darn good!

Warrior Girls, Missions & Changes

Deadlift Day. Discussion with Coach Day.

My chest lifts are feeling awesome. I realize that this is the most useless of all the days in regards to getting back to crossfit. But it is my most powerful day. The day I feel like my Warrior Girl self. Pressing 50# dumbbells makes a girl feel pretty special. It is the one lift I don’t have to think about, therefore I don’t risk over thinking. I just do it, I am good at it, I feel powerful and indestructible doing it. And I can do it perfectly on my own. I look forward to it every week. Every week it ends too soon.

Deadlifts: Two weeks ago there was a snapping sensation in my hip with every rep and for the next several days there was some amount of pain. I took last week off and worked my legs in other ways, painless ways. But the doctor is tomorrow and I must be able to clearly describe my problem. Coach originally agreed to be there for them but I asked him let me go it alone. He was in the building though and at one point gave me a thumbs up, later saying my form was great (hey, when we aren’t training together I guess he will toss me a compliment). I only had a sharp feeling, I can’t say it was painful, every 3rd rep or so. I can’t wait to find out how it will feel in the morning.

The Discussion: We began reviewing programs. I did learn from the best so I guess it is no surprise that I am pretty good at developing programs. He didn’t correct anything but I did learn more about the logic behind certain workouts. I like to know the why’s. I think it makes me a better trainer and a better athlete.

We ended by extending our hiatus. I miss Coach but this extension is my choice. At some point chasing my goal changed me. When lifting and crossfit became a mission, I slowly stopped loving it. Coach, who my long time readers know is much more than just my coach, became my enemy. The injury didn’t help and to be honest, because it is easier to be honest with a computer screen, I blame him a little. I blame me too. I distrust both of us. Ever try lifting with fear and distrust? Everything that was already a mess became plain disgusting. For the first time since I began this journey, I dreaded my workouts.

Forces out of my control pushed me into time off from Coach. It seemed awful at that moment. But left with just the bar, I am beginning to remember what I love about this life, what I love about the bar. I am remembering who I am (one bad-ass Warrior Girl, in case you were wondering). I just want some more time with my love, more time to fully return to myself, before I let someone else back in. I have always been a solo Warrior. I am not good at the apprentice-mentor thing. I suspect when we do re-unite, we will take more but shorter breaks.

It may take more time to get to regionals this way. But at least when I do, I will have my sanity. I will be there because I want to be, because I love it. Not because it was a mission.

Another Positive Sign: Pull-Ups

Since my injury I have only been permitted to do assisted pull-ups. The assist keeps my hip locked in place preventing any accidental movement or jarring. Maddening! I hate having to use the assist and my hip has been feeling so good the last few days.

So today happened: I walked in and not one person was there. I don’t know what I was listening too – my gut, my brain, my inner sensible voice or pouty inner child – but whatever the voice was it said “you should try to push things before your doctor’s appointment to see if the pain comes back”. Made sense to me. I went this long in pain without medical intervention, now that I am spending the money to go I should see if I can make it hurt. Coach, if he had been there, would probably have pulled my body off the bar, carried it out to my car, and ban me from the property until I am back under his supervision. But, like I said, no one was there.

I walked over to the bar, jumped up, pulled up, did my set and dropped down. All pain-free! I did the rest of my sets the same way. These were followed by pain-free front squats and OH squats.

Tomorrow I try back squatting. Next Monday or Tuesday I will attempt the deadlift. My last-ditch effort to see if I truly am clear. If not, I will be paying close attention so I can be as specific as possible in relaying information to the doctor.

Strict pull-ups and deadlifts – all in the name of medical research. At least that is how I am going to justify it to Coach when he finds out.

Warrior Girl On A Mission

It seems I may have found my mission, or possibly the mission found Warrior Girl. Little by little it is unfolding that most of my clients are teenagers. Of those, most of them are girls. What? I don’t view myself as relating to kids well and what do I know of girls (beyond the fact I am one)? Even as a teenage girl I stayed away from teenage girls. I couldn’t relate. Just to be clear, I stayed away from people regardless of age or gender but teen girls were particularly foreign and scary. So how did this happen?

I have been (gently) battling one girl who is making wonderful progress during her sessions but outside of sessions, at her gym, she refuses to go into the weight room. Saturday she begged me to join her gym so there would be another girl to lift with. I can sympathize.

I remember 23 months ago shaking as I entered the weight room of my former gym. All the big boy lifters putting up obnoxious weight and there I was, all 80 or 90 pounds of me, sneaking my way in to lift 5lb dumbbells. I was petrified but I had a mission. I was going to someday lift every plate in that building and the big boys weren’t going to stop me. Some of them did cast glares my way, some even talked crap within my earshot. But I showed up everyday, did my work, kept my focus, held onto what I loved. After a few months those same big boys knew my program, made way for me in the group, offered to spot and asked for spots. Without even trying to impress them, I earned their respect. I now lift more than many of them.

I don’t want my girls to lift heavy if that isn’t what they want. Olympic lifting doesn’t need to be the goal. Physical strength means little if they don’t also develop mental fortitude. I want them to know they can claim their spot in the weight room, regardless of the weight they lift and the program they run. They don’t need to be frightened by the big boys. They simply need to go in, do their work, know the smart questions and when to ask them. They need to know etiquette. I wish I had someone to introduce me to this world when I was 15.

And so, with that in mind, I will pay the guest fee to go to her gym a few times to get her comfortable with her place in the big boys club. I won’t charge her for a session as I will be leading by example and working out alongside her. I won’t hold her hand, she will need to go in shaking, claim her space, find her weights and work her program. But I will be another female in the room. A familiar face in her anxious moment.

I ran into Coach today and he asked about my kids. I told him about my girl, her dilemma, my solution. He shook his head, disdain for going above and beyond and without reaping financial reward. But I tell him what he often forgets: It is personal. Lifting saved my life and it is personal.

I often find myself in discussions about females and weightlifting. Granted, most of these discussions are with those ignorant enough to think women should stay on the elliptical until such time as they are barefoot and pregnant. But among the groups that lament the fact that more women don’t embrace lifting, among people like Coach, I would ask what are they doing to encourage it? My girls are interested, they are in awe, they want to learn but are slightly intimidated and bombarded with the messages from the former group.

And what will be my reward for undertaking this mission? I get to share what I love with people who want to learn. They may not stick with it. It may not change their lives like it did mine. But they will have knowledge, gain self-esteem and self-confidence, they will never be in the group that think women who lift are abnormal or unfeminine. They will walk into many intimidating situations in their lives and they will have the inner strength to claim their space. This is more rewarding than financial gain.

As for my teen boys, who work just as hard, they will respect those girls, their strength, their work ethic. Instead of being bumbling idiots when one walks in the room, their pick up line will be “how much weight did you put up today?”

And maybe, just maybe, this mission will end with one girl falling in love with the bar.