I Am

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“All that time I spent fighting you when you wouldn’t let me track my weight (on my lifts), this cycle you tell me to track and I have to confess I just didn’t. If you need my numbers for the next cycle, I don’t have any to give you.” I say this to Coach like a kid about to get in trouble. He looked at me with a smirk and said “you finally get it after all these years.” I don’t know that I get it, it’s nice to know the numbers, but I am not obsessed with judging my ability and my worthiness to be on the team by the weight on the bar.

We worked the details today for bench press…or should I say detail. The little detail of pushing everything in the first two inches off the chest. Between sets Coach jumped the weight 20 pounds while asking when I noticed the back spasms. I wonder how he noticed them. I tell him I don’t really know. Laying on the bench just feels off and when lifting off the weight, nothing feels right or natural. I am not accustomed to this.

I fail many reps today but Coach says “better”, “you did your work today” and other positive things. Apparently he jumped the weight so much because I needed to work on that first two inch push, something that lighter weight I don’t need to give 100% to but the extra 20 pounds…I’m going to push like hell even if it only moves 2 inches.

Coach was maxing deadlifts between sets. On his last rep I think it was our combined sheer will that completed the rep. At the top the bar was bent in such a way it looked like something out of a cartoon. He limps away from the bar and says what he thought was a problem with the hamstring he now thinks is the tendon. We finish our accessory work.

And then we sat down at the laptop and finally make it official: I fill out the form for my competition. Our day to fill it out was October 1st but various events throughout the week caused me to evaluate who I was. Today was the day to become that person.

Throughout the last few weeks plenty of people were compelled to remind me of who I am not and what I am not. In a phone call with my father he began to tell me what I am “I saw a picture of you and you’ve gotten *(&^%$# huge…” I stopped listening. From him, this is not a complement. A few days ago, when I was telling Coach about another event, he said “Please tell me you expected this. You weren’t disappointed.” I shook my head but I was lying. “You need to stop trying to be good enough. You could do and be everything they want and, knowing you, you would do it exceptionally well, it still wouldn’t be good enough for them.” Fact.

I am a weightlifter. And I want to do more than hide out in a tiny gym in the middle of nowhere. I want to see what I can do. I’ve talked about competing, when I could no longer compete in CrossFit I still believed I would compete in something. We narrowed it down to two comps and then to one, but it still didn’t feel real. I could still change my mind. It wasn’t really who I was yet.

Today we pulled up the form and filled it out. Before we hit submit I looked at Coach and said, again, “you’ll be there? You promised you’d be there.” Yes. And I hit submit. ERROR flashed across the computer. This was not the plan. Coach laughed and said “Calm – you’ve seen this a million times. You’re missing the credit card expiration date. Calm.” I fix my error, hit submit and receive my receipt.

I am a weightlifter. I am finally a competitor. And I am good enough and getting better.

This was a big moment for me. We needed to commemorate it. My trusty photographer could not be present (I never thought to ask, I didn’t think it would be this monumental). So we got a selfie: the day I know who I am, the day I am becoming someone and the person who, through ups and downs and fights and make-ups, is always my strongest supporter and the best little brother a girl could have.

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Deadlifts…One Week Later

Coach coached today. I listened and worked causing Coach to coach more.

At one point he asked “Did you ever notice that everytime I tell you ‘shoulders over the bar’ you move your hips back? Do you feel that?” I looked at him like he was an alien and said “Of course I do. How else am I supposed to get my shoulders back if I don’t move my body back?” He smiled, the only one understanding the little joke that has been played. He moves me away from the bar and does a few deadlifts. “Did you see the difference?”

And now I get the joke. For four years he has been telling me ‘shoulders over the bar’ and for four years I have been pulling my body away from the bar in order to line up my shoulders. He finally figured out my interpretation. I finally understood his language. The day was filled with moments like this. Questions, demonstrations, discussions, clarifications. Eventually he says “you are way over rep count. How does your hip feel?” It is tired I tell him “but it is so rare to have a day that you are patient enough to coach me and I am patient enough to be open to coaching. I want to keep going.” And so we drop weight and keep going.

These rare days are what I live for. These rare days are days that we are an unstoppable force, an unbeatable team. These are perfect days.

And my deadlift form improved by leaps and bounds. What a difference 1 week makes: in people, in lift form, in perspective.

The Greatest Disappointment

Deadlift Day…It has been ages, 14 months exactly, since I left the gym with that overwhelming feeling that I am Coach’s greatest disappointment.

I had a great Bench Press day on Friday. My second workout focused on triceps and that was great. My husband and I discussed financials and the general plan Coach and I have about our future business endeavors. It was general because I only generally know Coach’s plan. Monday brought the best shoulder day I have had in many weeks.

And then today. After lifting I got in my car and heard that voice that resides in my head “why does he bother? Did you see the disgust in his face? Why must you always be his greatest disappointment”. Today it was tinged with a new thought: I am my greatest disappointment too. How many times must I be told my shoulders are too far out in front of the bar? How many days will I mess up my hip because I drive 3/4 of the weight through my right side? How many weeks will I stay at this weight, so far below my capabilities? And looking back over the day, unable to do my mobility work because any movement is painful, I turn into a pouting child.

I just wanted to bench December 13th. He wanted the deadlift included. I could go on like this, the list in this blame game is long, irrational, and not entirely factual. Going down this road would be debilitating.

The truth of the matter is I can, and should, deadlift at the competition. I won’t be back to my best and that is what stresses me out, that is what hurts my ego. Another truth is I am so angry with myself: Every bad pull I have destroys my hip a little more and the corrections aren’t major (hips back further, shoulders over the bar, engage the left and the right glutes), I just don’t make them consistently.

I didn’t get to do any other leg movements today because the deadlifts were so hard on my hip. Coach wanted to start re-developing my squat but I so rarely have the hip in good shape to handle it. People are funny: I was so overjoyed last April? May? when I realized I could compete even if the only movement I could ever do again was bench. And now, as my bench is ready to go, I am distraught at thinking my deads and squats may never be what they were. And maybe I’ve been lying to myself a little. Maybe I don’t want to just compete and do my best for where I am at the moment. Maybe I want to do well in comparison to other competitors.

I desperately don’t want to disappoint Coach. It goes without saying I will be disappointed – I have never done anything without feeling I should have done it better. But disappointing Coach…

Clearly this post illustrates my lack of sleep over many days. The anxiousness that is beginning to creep in while many aspects of my life are “in-between” and will be in that place for the next few months, is allowing my imagination to run wild. I’m beginning to worry about worst-case scenarios.

And the worst of the worst case scenarios? 1) Once we have our facility up and running, he pushes me into an “in-name” only partner or kicks me to the curb; 2) even worse, failing every lift attempt December 13 and enduring the 15 hour drive home…waiting for his voice to finally say what I’ve heard in my head so many times “I’m so disappointed in you.”

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Back Day and Adventures

This will be short.

Back day today. Coach put me on a machine for lat work. I made a face, I hate machines. I didn’t complain though. I remembered that he uses this machine regularly so it must be effective. He noticed my face and after my last set he explained it holds me in place better than the cables do and I can manage my shoulder better. My lats are throbbing tonight and my shoulder doesn’t hurt at all.

Barbell rows: better than the last few weeks. I judged my weight perfectly.

Single arm cable rows, back extensions and hamstring stretching finished the day.

When I arrived at the gym at 7AM Coach was with a client. He ran over, threw his phone on my desk, and went back to work. On the screen was a picture of a warehouse. And here I thought all the recent talk was turning back into dreams.

It would be 3 hours before we could talk and even that would be limited because we have to lift. But the talk between sets was contained excitement. We allowed time to dream but tried to keep the dreams practical. Once we see inside the place it may not be “the one”. Right now it’s like looking at a Christmas present. Fun to shake and imagine what it could be, trying to remember it might not be a PS4 but rather Hanes cotton underwear. We are both pretty good at this, we are both hopeful dreamers who more often than not get underwear.

I remind him that we need to have a good solid plan, short and long term goals, practicalities laid out but that no matter how thorough we are there will be things we miss, problems we didn’t anticipate. We will have to stay calm and I can’t break down when things go awry and he can’t get sick for days from stress. At some point we just have to jump off the cliff and figure it out. It’s a good thing I’ve jumped off so many. He laughs and agrees.

At one point I began “your facility…” And he cut me off with a click of his tongue and said “our. Our facility. We’re a team”. I never finished my thought. I was speechless so I turned back to the bar, lifted it up and said “Zimmermann, you sure do know how to sweet talk this old girl”. And after my rows I promised I would never mention the one present he ever gave me (a jump rope) which he took home to adjust and never returned. This was 2 years ago. “You won’t?”. Nope. I’ll just drive by our facility and say “he gave me that. Best gift ever!”

After agreeing on the lists we need to compile and the questions we need to develop, I realized things may fall through and disappointment will follow or things will proceed and we won’t have time to breathe. I wanted one last moment of pure child-like joy, I wanted to take one moment to experience pure excitement without business worries. I was happy dreaming when I looked across the room at the little brother I love so much and who said “our place”.

Hip be damned and I ran the length of the gym and jumped into his arms, wrapped my legs around his massive frame (all 5 feet of me can’t make it all around him) and said “I know it may end in disaster but let’s just be happy for a few seconds. It happens so rarely.”

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Bounce Backs

Two downs and two ups. Some may say my day was even but the ups are what I hang on to as I end my day.

I received my official notification that I am “on-call” for jury duty for the month of October. I run a business with an employee of one (me) and I don’t get paid if I am not there. The county has graciously offered me $25/day if called. I make enough to pay my bills and have no savings. This doesn’t work for me.

Before you think “nobody wants jury duty” I actually always have. My mom and husband both served – twice each – and I was jealous. At those times, I was employed by a major company who paid us for this patriotic duty.

And never mind that this would disrupt my training as I enter my last cycles pre-competition. I am freaking out!

I also had to “suggest” to My Athlete that she go to Coach to continue her training. It’s been one day and I miss her terribly. Another post on another day will tell the story. But in summary: it was my idea, Coach agreed it was best for her and I, and it hurts like hell to do the right thing when it isn’t what she or I want. I don’t envy his position but I am glad he is a stronger force than I am and a gentle enough force to help us both.

As exhausted as I was last night I did not sleep. It suddenly feels like November though, the air has a scent of possible snow. So I’ve opened the windows and climbed under the big comforter and plan to be out cold soon.

And in exciting news: I just saw the design for my competition T-shirt. It’s awesome! New Mother designed it for me and she blew my mind!

And just as exciting: I ORDERED MY SINGLET!! They warned me each is made to order and will take 3-4 weeks to make so…I paid extra for Fed-Ex shipping.

This just got a little more real. Warrior Girl might actually make something of herself come December!

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Stabbing Pain And Leg Day

I made a critical error this weekend. Due to my hip, I have been limited to the elliptical and those cybex strider machines for cardio work. My hip has had minor issues but overall it has been pain-free and inflammation-free since May (I pat myself on the back for following instructions so well and nursing it). This weekend the thought of the elliptical made me murderous so Saturday I jumped on the treadmill for a walk.

Sunday I realized why Coach has an all-inclusive ban on even stepping on a treadmill. No inflammation but when I moved in certain ways there was a level 5 stabbing pain (scale of 10). This is manageable. 

Monday I was careful moving. For weeks I have been working on an issue with my upper hamstring/lower glute and working the lacrosse ball on it has been helpful. Monday, between clients, I did my foam rolling and ball smashing. I then proceeded to demonstrate lunges and a stabbing pain of 8 shot through my hip. 3 clients to go. All need some leg movement demonstrated and all of them hurt. I handled my sessions well (I am professional after all) but I could barely walk to my car at the end of my day. The stabbing pain reaches a 9. 

Still nothing to indicate inflammation but an ounce of prevention…I climbed into an ice bath. I couldn’t put pressure on my right side to stand up and get out of the tub. I grabbed the side and rolled myself up and over. I laid on the bathroom floor cold, wet, naked and sobbing. I am a little defeated and this mess started with a stupid cardio machine.

Coach has been on me about my sleeping (ha!! more like laying down during darkness, as I don’t sleep) positions – I curl up into the tiniest of balls. In the last few months I have finally adjusted to remaining in corpse pose all night. Last night was a prime night to curl up into that tight little ball and have a good cry but I couldn’t hinge my hip an inch if I wanted to. I crawled to the living room, positioned myself into corpse pose and … fell asleep! That never happens. 

I slept solid until 1:30 AM when I apparently tried to roll onto my right side and pain shot through me. I gathered that the hubs was home as magically there was a blanket on me. I went back to corpse pose and…fell asleep until 5 AM.

My legs workout was scheduled for 10 but I had too much time on my hands and I knew Coach had earlier openings so I just went in. My pain was at a 6. I gave him the details – he told me ages ago to tell him these things but I feel like the biggest whiner with these regular reports. He looked at me and walked away without a word. I used to take this personally but I now know he is thinking and he doesn’t think my dynamic work will cause problems. I continue my work. 

“There must be somewhere I can go for an answer.” A really good specialist may be able to diagnose or an MRI. Either way the likely answers will be cortisone shots (which I won’t do) or surgery (which I don’t need as long as I am lifting and managing the pain). 

Deadlifts. During the warm-up on conventional stance I felt the stab half-way up on every rep. In contrast, every pull felt great for the sumo stance deads. I have 15 sets of 1 rep. I do sumo stance for all of them, not wanting to tempt fate, but this causes me to fail early. I have been alternating stances for so long, one alone can’t take the long haul…or so Coach says and I accept it. My big win of the day came when I failed an early attempt. I took a minute and said “I lost my glutes and hams, I had my butt too high and used all back…mostly upper.” And then I looked at Coach and said “This is a GREAT moment! You have been telling me this at least once every deadlift day since I met you and I would look at you and nod my head but I never understood what you meant! I never felt what you were saying was happening! I did today and I figured it out myself!” And yes, dear reader, I am a trainer. I can see this in my clients, I can cue them correctly, I just never felt it or made the connection in my own lifting. It was a great, great moment!

Squats. These are still wide stance to save the hip. The weight is lighter than last week because of my hip and I just focus on form. The knees are good this week but I am weaving back and forth ever-so-slightly on the way up. 3×5 sets. On the last set, 4th rep I know something has gone wrong and when I finish the rep Coach has me rack it. When the weights are unloaded he looks at me and said “That was scary. You really scared me. I don’t even know where to begin”. Yep, I felt it was terrifying and I don’t even want to know what all the issues were for fear of repeating them. 

Ham curls with sliders…if you haven’t had the pleasure, here’s an at home version: lay on your back (on a linoleum, hardwood or tile floor), put a hand towel under your heels (or a face towel under each heel), go into bridge pose and push your heels in and out – KEEP YOUR HIPS HIGH THROUGH THE WHOLE MOVE PEOPLE!! It is one of my favorite moves but do it 50 times in a row and it’s killer on the hamstrings. And it lit up my hip today.

When all was done, Coach was supposed to give me new quad stretches but instead he says “your hip needed ice 10 minutes ago. Go home. We’ll go over them this evening.” And we did. I took notes. The regulars I know but by the time I got home and tried to stretch again, I couldn’t get the new moves right. I’m feeling them in my knees and I am pretty sure that isn’t just not right…it’s very wrong. 

I took another ice bath and am heading to the couch to hopefully sleep. It was a jam packed day and I am exhausted enough to possibly sleep.

Followers, Facts, and Feelings

I haven’t told many people I know about my blog. Coach knows it’s somewhere out there. New Mother knows, she’s the one who encouraged me to start writing it. I went far out of my comfort zone when I told a former co-worker of mine about it but, as he met me 3 months into my training (I had already gained 20 lbs, that would put me at just over 100 -still a tiny thing) and was always very supportive, he seemed a safe choice. He is an avid bicyclist and I had been following his site to track his rides and races.

I saw him last night at a wedding. It’s embarrassing for me to see people who may follow this, I would never be this open to a real human being (except for new mother who is sensible and grounding and loves me despite my numerous flaws and Coach – who knows why him?). Anyway, I saw Biker Co-worker and he mentioned the blog. He wanted to know if others wrote for it or if it is just me (yep, just me) and he went on to deliver high praise.

I wouldn’t have made it through hip rehab without this place. And I wouldn’t be brave enough to compete without my readers support. And everyone needs a place, even if it’s a virtual reality, where they can connect to someone and lay bare their soul. But it is unnerving to see someone in person who has been exposed to all your failings, who’s read your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. I am tempted to just report the facts from now on.

But here are the facts: I’m a feeler. I am terrified of failing (so I see my failures in everything) but I’m more afraid of dying without finding my potential. I believe in Coach more than he believes in himself and Coach believes in me more than I believe in myself. We are highly dysfunctional but he is more family than I’ve ever had and going to New Coach will tear my heart out. I never miss a lift day, though sometimes I should, and I need my ass kicked lately to do my cardio. As a trainer I have a lot to learn, my biggest failing being my impatience with people not following their nutrition plan, but my people are successful despite me. I never wanted my own business (I still don’t) but I worked like hell to make it successful and I’m proud of hell that it is. I miss CrossFit but I am so relieved I can’t compete in it anymore. And, while we are on facts, I learned I didn’t do such a great job packing Coach’s traitor accusations into a box to be discussed after competition. I learned this Friday when, after the best bench sets of my life, he took my hand and said “you need to know I never doubted you for a minute, even if it seemed that way” and this little tough Warrior Girl broke down in tears.

Just the facts would sound like this: So last week happened. My lifting and cardio was done, my nutrition got de-railed and re-railed, most of my clients were reprimanded for slacking, and New Mother sent me a video of daddy helping baby do burpees (push-up and all).

Without the feelings, the facts aren’t really REAL, are they? This is why I chose so carefully the people I know in real life about my space. And it appears I chose well.

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