Back Day, Giggles, & 20 Year Old Boys

Back day actually managed to put me in a good place. Two weeks without hamstring work and I am welcomed back with heavier RDLs, which is one of my overall favorite movements. Coach’s mark is when he sees my hamstrings quiver and I hit it many times today. I love that feeling and when I turn to walk away, my first couple of steps are carefully taken. Hamstrings worked, I am happy.

But wait…I don’t even know what the next movement is called (plate ham curls?) but they are killer. Nicole blogged about making sex noises while lifting, and I think of that post because there are lots of these during this movement. Part way through I think “but this is so much better than sex” and I start to giggle because I’m probably the only person in the world to think this. As I am giggling my hamstrings cramp. Coach, as astute as he is, has no idea what’s in my brain right now. He notices the cramping though and says “there it is” which sends me into to tremors while I try to stifle my laugh.

I have done these once before but an easier version. Laying down you put two plates on the floor close to your tush, put your heels in the hole, keep hips lifted through all reps, push the plates out and pull them all the way back in. And after 4 sets of 12, I can barely walk. Judging from the mild throb in my hip, I didn’t keep all the movement in my hamstrings.

Rows: I put too much in my biceps and when the back finally got involved, only the right side was working. Coach points out I am getting more and more right-side dominant and I need to fix this soon: right shoulder, right hip, right back, right tricep. I tell him this is all balanced by the fact that I am left brained.

Pull-ups were a slap in the face regarding my muscle deterioration – the once Princess of Strict Pull-ups is now strictly assisted and then I needed more assist than anticipated. Coach says bodyweight work will be easier for me because I am so much lighter than I was but during these I look at him and say all the weight I lost was muscle weight so, yeah, not easier.

I really enjoyed my day. My hamstrings are back in action, I couldn’t get everything where it was supposed to be but I kept trying and adjusting. Pull-ups, well, I have nothing positive to say about those except that even though I am disappointed at their decline, I am not disappointed in me.

Coach asked what I was doing Wednesday and Thursday and if I wanted to lift legs and shoulders with him, his brother and another kid. I have worked out with his brother before but I am a bit…I don’t know how I feel about an upper-30’s year old lady that believes she is a Warrior Girl lifting with a bunch of early to mid 20-year-old guys? My confession: Awesome, I feel kind of awesome. I have worked my butt off and earned my way in. Wow!!

And I am so grateful that this Thanksgiving, I won’t just be thinking of my self-made family but I will be seeing some of them. I will be giving thanks for you all who are so supportive, Char who I get to see more than the twice-a-year obligation and is much more friendly than family, and my dear, dear Rebecca who loves me however I together or torn apart I may be. And if I am very lucky, my good and wise brother (wise because he stays hundreds of miles away from the middle of nowhere) will Skype and his little ones will have trivial but ever-so-important stories to tell me.

Back day exceeded expectations. I just may get some sleep tonight.

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Rebuilding Strength & Family Traditions

Sunday I could still barely walk from Friday’s leg day. I reported after that insane lift day that my excitement had returned and I couldn’t wait until Monday.

Having ground out all lifts at low weight and 6 sets of 15 reps, we would be getting to 4×10, actually completing a workout in the time we have together and at weight that would give me an approximate assessment of just how much strength I had lost in the last 5 months.

I was sorely mistaken. Not 4×10 but 4×12 chest work with only a 20% weight increase from last week. We won’t get through it together. Narrow grip chest press, incline fly, incline press, decline fly, dips (a version I have never done). Nothing good can come from such a day.

As I will be missing shoulder AND leg days (my favorite days) this week, one good thing did actually happen: somehow I managed to turn all my chest lifts into shoulder lifts…even the dips I put into the shoulders. Not good at all, injury waiting to happen if I make this a habit, but my shoulders feel worked and I love that feeling. After the first set of incline flys I toss the dumbbells and they land at my feet, I was aiming for the mirror. After the next set Coach took the foam roller and started beating me with it. And because we are both 5 years old at this point I start kicking back and both of us are laughing – first smile of my day. “Why are you hitting me?” “To make you laugh, you’re too in your head to accomplish anything”.

A family holiday is coming up and it would be nice to have something positive to hold onto going into those days. Today was not it. An “awesome” mantra I could recite in my head to counter-balance the “you’ve gotten so big”, “you used to be pretty”, “why don’t you eat normal?”, “why do you do lift? It’s so unfeminine, look at you”, “have you seen yourself?”, “why don’t you get a real job?” “you really think you’re going to make this work?”. None of these things actually read horrible but if you heard the tone and the constancy…At one point my father will say “dying dogs should just know when to lay down and die” and after all these years, everything I have managed to learn how to process, I have yet to hear that comment and not want to quit, give up, or die.

I’d rather spend the day with my lifting family, or at least part of the day. If before blood family I would feel well armored for the battle, the attacks would not harm me. If after blood family, the void I am left with would be filled, my choices validated, my wounds attended to. I would be able to unload the baggage.

Let’s hope back day gives me my awesome moment, it is my last workout of the week. But the reality of it is: it’s back day of 4×12 strength re-build. I’m not really sure ‘awesome’ is a realistic expectation.

Re-Named

I have several nicknames and today I received another.

The only ones I dislike are shortened versions of my real name. I am Elizabeth – not Beth or Betty or Liz. The one exception being “Auntie Lizzie”, probably because it comes from the mouths of little angels and is often followed by: I love you, let’s play, read to me, please don’t go.

I call myself Warrior Girl. Coach calls me this sometimes but more often I am either his Pit Bull or Pain in the…

One of my bosses calls me The Pink Ninja.

The boss is the one who re-named me. Today I became Pint Size Can of Whup-Ass.

I like it.

The End Is A New Beginning

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Last day of 6×15. Three lifts took 3 hours. Leg day. What does this have to do with Jabba the Hut? Any decent leg day often equates to throwing up and so the plan of attack was eat early, no liquid intake during session. 3 hours later Coach says “I have Jabba the Hut tongue” and I (sprawled on the floor) crack up. “You can put that in the blog.” So I am. No one threw up today, the plan worked.

My right hip was inflamed from yesterday and, when setting up for back squats, I was struck with an eerie feeling that reminded me of the day of my injury. I actually took a moment to figure out if this is one of those feelings I should pay attention to (the one I ignored that awful day) or if I am just being silly. I decide the inflammation is in its infancy, my form is so much better, and if I communicate honestly about the pain, Coach will monitor me more closely. So I put the eerie feeling away and squat.

No repeated injury but the effects of my anxiety could be seen. I would have runs of good reps but then push everything into my left hip. My glutes stopped firing. And then I had 3 near perfect reps, they felt awesome and looked great. On the way up I failed all of them. I hit a sticking point and as much as my brain screamed “PUSH” I would stall for what seemed like an eternity. Then the bar would crash down and I would land on my ass. On one of those failed reps Coach said he wasn’t expecting it, I didn’t give him any warning, any of my tells. I tell him “you always say you have come to expect the unexpected from me so this shouldn’t be a surprise”. After a couple of sets Coach says he will call it in the next one as soon as he sees an imbalance in my hips. I am annoyed. This is the last week of pure brutality and I want to beat the program. I look at Coach and say “I will get it right, I want more squats”. The next set is a little slow but all reps are even and I can advance. The next one is a mess and my day of squatting is done. I don’t know if I was attempting set 4 or 5 at the time. Pre-injury I would have had a meltdown for sucking. Today I say “I didn’t get beaten, I am living to fight another day”.

Coach’s early sets looked great but later on, when I would give him the reps remaining, he would look disgusted. He began to rest during sets. He was still suffering from the lunges on Thursday and going into his last set he said if he got them he would probably not get through deadlifts. He managed the last set but it was ugly. He did 4 out of 6 sets of deadlifts. I love his form on these and I observe intently trying to learn his subtleties. But it is too complex to master it by mimicking.

Between sets a woman came over and said “I think I know you. Did we go to nursing school together? Where are you working?” Oh, this is not any fun for me. Except…except I am doing something I love now. And so I tell her I didn’t take my boards. Around that time I discovered lifting and fell in love with it, finally admitted that I hated nursing, so I decided to pursue what I loved. Should someone say this to me I would be ecstatic for them. How wonderful when someone can admit they made a choice that wasn’t for them? How brave and amazing to have a dream and chase it? But the response was “what a shame, to do all that work. You should have taken your boards at least. You were brilliant. You never got an answer wrong. You were a scholar student” and she turns to Coach and says “she’s brilliant, a scholar student.” I hate this moment and I look at Coach out of the corner of my eye, him witnessing yet another failure of mine. The first person to tell me I had potential of any kind, he is witnessing someone tell me I have wasted it. But what I see is an empathetic smile, he knows how I am taking this conversation and he quietly responds to the brilliant comment with “I know, I am very aware.” I shift my focus back to her and does she love nursing as much as I love training. And before she leaves, she says “You look so great. You were so painfully thin. Good for you.” And as soon as I realize I don’t care about her approval, I can let go of her condescension. A little. It is too reminiscent of the condescension I receive from people I do care about to let go of all together. I am grateful to have deadlifts to take this out on.

I complete all my sets. Some reps are great, some are pushed into my lower back. Towards the end my butt just doesn’t want to go down anymore (hello back!). I slowed it down, when I felt it in my back I took time to reset. Sometimes the reset would come from Coach but more and more I am able to determine when things are off. I am getting better at assessing myself.

On my last rep I grit my teeth and say “I CAN DO THIS” but to one of the other women there it must have sounded like “I can’t” because her encouragement was to yell over “yes you can, I’ve seen you do more”.

Three hours of grueling work and for the first time this week I am at peace. I am not worried or stressed. The point of this cycle was to “kick us both in the ass” according to Coach. We were in a lifting funk and this was supposed to ignite our excitement. Tuesday I was worried that we were nearing the end of the cycle and I still lacked spark. But today…today I feel accomplished. I can’t wait for a normal cycle. I can’t wait to begin my work. I can’t wait until Monday. I am excited to lift.

As many times as we cursed the idiot that wrote this program, it turns out he was brilliant. Motivation restored, mission accomplished.

Gratitude, Failures, And Complicated Relationships

Those of you, you know who you are, that don’t do emotion too well, may want to just move on to my lifting post. You have been warned.

There was no crying today. Mother-to-be would factually state there were tears in my eyes. Coach and I exchange hugs (and hits) on a regular basis but I am not actually a hugger. I don’t like people in my space. Today the future mother and I exchanged hugs before she left. Thank you for that – it gave me the courage to get through the next 3 hours and the conversations that came. The ones you have when people are “adopted” family members, confidants, friends, (former) business partners and your Coach. The ones that you have when one relationship doesn’t stay in its separate space and spills into the others.

I am roping Coach into my gratitude practice. I focus on things I dislike and remind myself someone would be grateful for this (ex. I am able to see the dentist when a tooth breaks). I asked Coach today if he was grateful for his single leg RDL work (something I love but have been unable to do the last two weeks). He made an ugly face (insert my snarky thought here) and then said “Yes, they were brutal though. I wanted to quit part way through but I remembered my Warrior Girl would complete every set unbroken and if I couldn’t beat her I could at least finish for her”. As per usual I think he is making fun of me and I tell him to knock it off, I don’t need his good-natured teasing today. “Seriously”, he says, “I kept thinking about how you just suck those up and pound them out”. Well, all right then. My role model, the best lifter I know, is using me as motivation. That’s pretty cool.

He ran into one of my favorite trainers and told her that his trainer is killing him. “Like you tell anyone I am your trainer” thinking if anyone thought I actually trained the best I would have some clients. “I tell people you’re my trainer. You’re my trainer”.

Remember, dear readers, I had a great lifting day – this often happens when I am rocking an empty-mixed-with-extreme-failure kind of mood. I am grateful – lifting is one failure I don’t need right now.

After session I update him on my amazing teen (who, by the way just texted asking for an extra workout for the weekend…she has a little bit of the best of me inside her). I also ask him to review my workout for my entering 2nd trimester mom-to-be. I am confident in my plan but I want a second set of eyes. This leads me to finally push for his consult fee. I have been asking and asking but with no response. He says he won’t charge me but we’ve been here before and I was slapped with resentment and a bill that will take me years to repay. I know we won’t – I won’t – survive another episode of this. I need to know the cost.

Somehow this transitions into the difference between knowing something and feeling something and that I know his breaking the business partnership was about him, not my abilities but I am still hurt and angry. Being my Coach and seeing him daily makes it impossible to just bandage up the wound and move on. His presence sparks those feelings of being a failure, the failure he knew I would be. I know he doesn’t think this but this is how it feels. Every failure is leading to another (at which point he hugs me) and I tell him that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he thinks this or not, it is how I feel but I am not giving up. I am just working harder and everyday I will work more until I either succeed or am the biggest failure to walk the planet, but either way I will be the best at one of these.

And then I finally say, as pathetic as this Warrior Girl may find it in the morning, “you are never proud of me, of anything I do and I work so hard, struggle so much but just keep going (at lifting, my attitude, my current clients, trying to get clients, working around the clock to pay my bills and pay him back). I just wish you were proud of me”.

Patricia from the blog Imperfect Reason was right again when she said he is more proud of me than I will ever know. Coach’s reply was “But I am. So much, so very, very much. I know how hard your struggle is and you just keep going, keep trying, keep working. How could I not be?”

No tears. I don’t know what spurred me to hug mom-to-be but it was exactly what I needed to get through that talk.

6×15 Nears An End

Last shoulder day of this obnoxious high rep cycle. I was able to get to all my lifts which is exceptionally exciting as I do love my shoulders (vanity). Shoulder presses began easy but ended harder than they should have. Even after the burning just turned to numbness, I was not going to give up on those last reps. I simply gripped the weight for dear life.

I put too much of my traps in my rear delt flys but, in life and in lifting, I am working on pausing when things are getting haywire. Take a moment, take a breath, get things reset and begin again. It worked. Just between me and blogger-land, today is the first day I actually could tell what this movement is supposed to feel like. How long have I been doing this? Nothing slow about me.

Shrugs: This week I kept my focus on what the shrug portion should be like when I clean and, once again, after all this time, I finally had good shrugs: shoulders back, reset if they come forward. Coach had me slow down the release so I could feel the muscles activate all the way down my upper back. It was like a mini-massage.

Weighted lunges: Oh how I hate these. For the first time in weeks my hip flared. I am concerned about tomorrow. I was instructed to ice when I got home but I still had a long night of work ahead and when I am finished here I must try to get some sleep. No ice. For some reason, with my right leg forward, I was truly wobbly on these.

Lateral lunges: I have grown to like them during this cycle. What? I hated these for 2 years and suddenly over the last few weeks they have become my friend. I have been caught doing them at work, at home, in the store.

I missed my core but tomorrow is squats and deadlifts (120 reps of each, thus the need for some sleep) and I figure those are the best core movements around. I am going to forgive myself this one time. I had to get to yet another job.

Coaching Coach On The Rebound

Coach is finally recovering from the flu. His chest day (day 1 post-flu) was pretty ugly and I finally got to say what I have heard so many times “what do you expect when you haven’t eaten for 4 days”. Both of us fell silent a moment and then I said “wow, I’m always on the other side of that comment. Kinda feels good to throw it back at you.”

While he was sick I sent him Elisabeth Akinwale’s blog on awesome thighs and noted not so long ago my waist was 10 inches smaller than one of her legs. After our workout, without thinking, I ran and grabbed the measuring tape and measured my thigh. And even as the thought was dawning on me that I am not allowed to have measurements the words come out of my mouth “why is it so small?” Silence. And then the thought completed itself and we both looked with amazement as I said “whoever thought those words would come out of my mouth?” Coach, while he would never say it, looked…proud of me? No, but happy for me and my moment. His answers were “your 2 month relapse this summer took off some inches. And I, who always expects the unexpected from you, never expected you to say that.” I am still banned from weighing and measuring.

We have entered the last stage of this obnoxious high rep cycle and lifts are all 6 x 15 – 120 total reps per lift, 6 different lifts and 3 core. The two of us get through 2 lifts in 2 hours and I am unable to complete the days, having to sandwich this between clients and adding extra hours to the bill paying jobs. I have never not completed a day when physically able but unless I am to take the few hours of sleep I get and allocate that to the workout, it cannot be done. And so, this one week of my lifting career, I don’t complete my days. Some moments I feel like a slacker – I can’t even make time for the one love in my life – but it is only a week. I can make the most of the two lifts I get, I can learn from coaching Coach (today was a big day, more to come), I have made peace with the fact I will not be competing in The Open this April, I can be grateful just to be lifting again, and: it is only one week. Next week we go to strict 4 x 10 for lifts and we should both be able to complete our work in the allotted time.

Coach had a better day today but he was pulling his rows to high on some reps. He explained how it was affecting him and why it was happening. Without attitude (for once) I say “yes, I saw it. Look I know I am just a counter for you. I know you know what is wrong, how to fix it. You are just letting me tag along and count.” Oh, yes, how quickly I forgot the words of Imperfect Reason, who pointed out even our Coaches need coaching. And, indeed, Coach said he doesn’t notice everything, he wants my feedback, he needs eyes outside of his checking the things he is missing. Hours later I realize he trusts me to do this, that is why he has me “tag along”. I only allow Coach inside my training space and only very rarely allow a passing observer with no critiques. Coach is like me in this. Tag alongs are not allowed…trusted people are. I do notice things on his lifts and now I have a voice.

Today I had to miss all my RDL work – even my single legs. I love single leg RDLs slightly more than I love burpees. I actually do want to sacrifice my sleeping tonight to sneak back in and finish. I miss my hamstrings twitching. I have the best hamstrings in the middle of nowhere but I like feeling them, knowing they are taken care of.

I have managed to get through rehab and 4 weeks of straight lifting before asking an ever dreaded question – dreaded because Coach’s orders are to only focus on the lift and rep at hand and looking ahead has dire consequences like 140 pistol squats – “when can I get back to crossfit?” He very kindly, with only a hint of humor at the risk I took, said ” not until we are through with hypertrophy and are back up to speed with your lifting”. Possibly he chose the nice route because that many pistols are still out of the question for this Warrior Girl’s hip, possibly it isn’t so much fun to assign pistols to someone who loves pistols, or possibly it was out of appreciation that it has been months since I have strayed from the rep at hand.

Even the “normal” schedule would still have me in the off-season and focused on strength building. Possibly I will be back to Rx weight when the on-season begins.

My youngest teen got her first knees to elbows – 45 reps, no misses! She fought for every rep of her deadlifts (24 total) and at the end of both the look on her face was awe mixed with death. She paused a long time before that final deadlift and when she completed it she squealed and said “I did it, I can’t believe I did it!” I asked her if she was proud of that accomplishment and she replied “so proud…my grandma doesn’t understand why I train but this is why.” She has been training for 8 weeks now and today she said “I wonder what the person I was when I first came in would think of the person that just did that? Do you know what I mean?” I do, I think this everyday of myself and find comfort in knowing my old self would be amazed by me. I say to her “I know exactly what you mean. Hold onto that thought especially on the bad days. When you have a train wreck of a lifting day, the person you were would still be completely in awe of you.”

I spent extra time with her before remembering my appointment with the Mentor. I had to race home to make tea first and upon walking in the door I curled up on the floor and bawled for exactly 10 minutes. I then returned to my killer mentality and kept my appointment. It began with “you’ve been wanting to witness a breakdown and you just missed it.” So I gave her a peak at crazy.

Now back to work. My rest day is filled with work, my permanent crown, and work. It is totally possible I could sneak in single leg RDLs between noon and 1pm. Who needs a rest day anyway?