New Coach

I have a new coach. I don’t have t time to write about it at the moment but as this year draws to a close, I wanted to note my tearful and heartbroken farwell to Coach and note my excitement starting 2015 with fresh eyes and uncomplicated relationships.

For those who have followed me from early on, I am going with THE Trainer…the strongman competitor who travels the world and wins big comps. I asked many people and all said “Go to Jason”. I have spent years avoiding him and, out of respect for Coach, I wanted someone outside of our building. But I love lifting more than anything, enough to conquer fear and heartache.

I cried as I told Coach. It’s been 4 years and I don’t want anyone else. Coach knows me. I adore him.

Today was my first session with THE Trainer and I received more positive feedback in one hour than I have in 4 years. My form and technique are crazy good. He’s way out of my price range but he said “I know how dedicated you are and I won’t charge you that much…” I can now afford him, simply because I work hard.

The next time I lament “I work my ass off and I never catch a break”, feel free to remind of this. This is the motherload.

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Another Competition

I gave myself a wonderful gift yesterday: I registered for my next competition. The only way to overcome my fear is to repeatedly face it and if too much time passes, what happened in NC will become a monster and monsters are much harder to defeat.

I will be deadlifting only. Monday I will ask for clearence from The Athletic Trainer and I have no doubt he will understand and remove his restrictions. 

The Husband has said he will go with me and My Athlete wants to come. The Athletic Trainer has said repeatedly what I need in a coach is a motivator, what better motivation than a teenage girl who thinks I am amazing, failures and all.

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Another Adjustment & Limitations

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I need to do laundry. Because of this fact I wore my competition shirt in for training today and The Athletic Trainer laughed and said “why pitbull? You’re about the sweetest thing I ever met.” So I explained that I’m a fighter and once I attach myself to a goal I don’t let go until I accomplish it.

He pulled and twisted and tugged and pushed until my hip was sitting correctly. After my hip was aligned he went on to see if the 18 months of the misalignment did any damage to my back. Of course it did (though he was expecting much worse). There is a muscle that is supposed to run vertical to the spine that is now horizontal. This is on the left side only and it shifted in order to add support to my core after my injury.

This news means no deadlifting from the floor until further notice. Pulls from mid-shin and practicing lock-out is fine.

And then we added more to the “do not” list. No overhead pressing of any kind. Shoulder movements are limited to raising my arms to “just under” shoulder height and anything I can find to strengthen my rear delts.

The good news from today: none of my problems are physical, they are all physiological. I don’t have to wait for anything to heal. I can actively heal myself. My mobility and flexibility is the best he has seen.

A bit sad with all the things I can’t do, I was sent home with the following “to do” list: 1) continue with my stretching, find someone to hold my hips in position so I can reset my joint, 2) lay over a stability ball (stomach on the ball) several times a day, 3) foam roll IT band several times a day, 4) continue to lift heavy within the perameters noted, 5) DO NOT adjust my sleeping position (I sleep on my right hip & shoulder), sleep is more important than any resulting issues, 6) when I sit I am to cross my left leg over my right, when I drive I am to put more weight into my left glute, and when I stand I am to either evenly distribute my weight or lean on my right leg.

Fascinating stuff.

The Athletic Trainer said that in their search for a coach for me they are not necessarily looking for the most technically knowledgeable coach (obviously, that would be Coach). They feel I know the technical well enough to take care of that side of it and they feel I need a coach that is motivational, someone to give me a pep talk before lifting and a kick in the ass when I mess up.

I surprised myself when I found myself agreeing with this assessment.

It’s A Wonderful Life

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I always manage to bring the best toy for my niece and nephews! They adore my husband. Yes, Christmas came early this year and it was beautiful.

The Athletic Trainer figured out all my kinks today. It is NOT piriformis syndrome. It isn’t even my right hip. The problem began with the injury in the right hip and 1-1/2 years of over compensating has caused my left to become too strong. The left now tilts differently than the right and we need to not only balance the strength but change how my left hip sits. The solution is, and I quote, “a lot of hours of hard, frustrating work doing unilateral movements”. Then he said “I find it a little scary that your eyes lit up when I said that”. He doesn’t know me well enough to know how much I like hard, frustrating work.

The best news is all muscles of my legs and hip are “the most flexible he’s seen in a weightlifter”, ROM is remarkable, muscular development is shockingly even, and bone density is fantastick. Once again I note it is amazing that 20 years of anorexia didn’t destroy me beyond repair.

My shoulder problem is due to my biceps tendons slipping in and out of the groove they are supposed to sit in and glide through. Every time he moved my arm my whole shoulder joint would “pop” unless he was holding the tendons in place. The solution is as simple as building the shoulder muscle to allow my shoulder to sit locked down and back. I am only allowed neutral grip presses, neutral grip pull-ups, and chin-ups. As part of my shoulder rehab he is programming rotator cuff work with the added benefit that it can add 20 lbs to my max bench (and here I thought I was near my maximal max)!

I have been cleared to lift heavy with rehab work post major lift for that day.

Months ago I was considering applying for an internship with them but this may be working out even better than I could have hoped. The Athletic Trainer said he will be having The Expert in on our sessions so I can learn from both of them. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He said he wants me to learn from both of them so I can be a more effective trainer for my clients. How awesome that I didn’t ask to be mentored but they are taking me under their wing to teach me AND fixing me at the same time.

As I was driving to my mother’s for Christmas I received the best gift. A message from someone I greatly respect reminding me of who I am.

Every time you stop to say hello and converse with me, it makes me click up my own passion to do more…My take-away today, and with every visit from you, is that I wonder what new stage of a challenge, will Elizabeth be telling me about on her next visit.

There was much more but this summarizes it very well. What an amazing quality for someone to see in me: to inspire others to find/heighten their passion. How lucky am I to be able to do that simply by pursuing mine with all my heart and by refusing to give up?

Merry Christmas!

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40 Begins

This week has been one of the biggest growth spurts of my life…appropriate as this week also marks the end of my 30s and the beginning of my 40s. Growth spurts are bound to happen.

I still haven’t sat down and just cried about last weekend. I feel like the time is approaching but I am also beginning to feel that, when that time arrives, I may not need to cry at all.

One of my favorite people said to me “I just can’t believe you saw all those people and didn’t run out to the car and hide. I would’ve bet the house you wouldn’t even walk in the room. We worked together for 2 years before you even spoke to me.” And even then I was only compelled to speak because I overheard him say Iron Man was better than Batman. Even my excessive anxiety has its limits.

What I keep holding onto is for me I am the bravest person I know. For most people, having hundreds of eyes on them for 60 seconds may not cause paralyzing fear or they may have coping mechanisms to deal with it. But for me it was horrifying to be alone and in front of all those people but I did it anyway. And I can’t wait to do it again. The only way for me to take control of my panic is to repeatedly face it.

I am glad we hit that deer and had something to laugh about all the way home. Even the little joke of “just like my pitbull (my nickname from Coach) the deer panicked and didn’t keep going” makes me giggle when I think of it. I suspect I have let him down beyond comprehension (unknown as he won’t speak to me at work and he won’t train me) but maybe he doesn’t fully understand my journey. It doesn’t really matter, it isn’t his journey. And so I am glad we ended it with laughter instead of a fight. I love and admire him so, it would be awful to part ways with harsh words.

I still don’t have a coach but The Athletic Trainer has me off lifting until next week anyway. My rotator cuff and piriformis are a mess and he wants me to just rest and rehab for 2 weeks. Not an easy thing to do when I want to get right back to work. I have learned to listen to my trainers though.

Yesterday was my birthday. I am not a fan. An unwanted kid of an unhappy marriage rarely looks forward to that day. But 40 was probably my favorite. My mom sent 2 cards (on purpose!), my teen athletes listed the ways I am shaping their lives, and my clients all sent beautiful texts or e-mails. For an unwanted kid, I sure have grown up to serve a purpose. I matter.

Unfortunately, The Husband finally out-did me in the gift giving department. For years I have held the title due to finding limited editions of Star Wars IV, V, VI unadulterated (the original theater release). I thought I would die being the best gift finder ever. Last night, with a smug look on his face, he handed me a gift bag. I could only laugh and think “Whatever…not going to top Star Wars”. But it contained the one item that could top it. I have spent 5 years looking for this little gem. I have come across it twice for an insane amount of money. I do know The Husband did not spend that on this but I can’t figure out where he found it…The Adventures of Brisco County, Junior. As the jacket containing the DVDs says “Just under over-the-top”.

We got our first apartment together in 1997, our senior year of college, when Brisco County was being re-played on Saturday mornings. We would get up on Saturday mornings, sit on the couch we found in a dumpster, drink our coffee, watch it and laugh. Last night we sat on our new couch (bought in a real store), drank decaf coffee (we are 40 now and caffeine is limited), watched and laughed.

It’s been one helluva week.

Competition Review: The Professional Version

The following recap is from my work blog. When I do sit down to write the “real deal” you will be lucky enough to get the details of the Kentucky deer…and why we were in Kentucky to begin with. You will get all those fun stories I am saving for my book. We all know the professional site is a little softer but I do have to say: I haven’t cried. I am not dwelling in “what I should have done”. And the things I have listed here as my learning opportunities don’t even begin to cover what I have learned. It truly was an amazing experience. Coach was the best, the absolute best. On that 15 hour drive home we laughed for 12 hours (hitting the deer helped) until he fell asleep. And I wouldn’t trade this experience for one that would include a PR for anything in the world.

“Inner excellence is a way of thinking and a way of acting. It is a quality of mind, a mentality that says no matter how difficult things become, you are responsible and accountable for your thoughts, feelings, and actions”     -Elisabeth Akinwale

Coach and I loaded up the car and I said “…I am not proud of my performance today but I will be proud of how I conduct myself post-competition”. And so far I am.

I have been composing this post in my head since leaving the competition site. My original version was pretty good but after pulling into my driveway at 4AM after a previous 24 hours that included bombing out (for those not familiar with powerlifting rules: if you no rep a lift 3 times you can’t move on), a post-comp cheat meal that was awful, hitting a deer in Kentucky with my new car, and fog that slowly thickened from Milwaukee to Appleton…well, I don’t remember exactly what I planned to say. The post-comp stories are hysterical but I need to keep some for that autobiography I will write one day. For this post, I’ll stick to real-life lessons.

Let me start by thanking everyone that supported me and follow that with how much I can’t wait to take what I learned Saturday and begin developing those things Monday morning.

I won’t lie. I am disappointed. It is hard to wake up this morning knowing that I benched more weight during warm-up than was on the bar when I failed…3 times. It is hard to acknowledge that these 3 failures were all on me – I can be such an anxious thing that I forget how much I love the feeling I get when I hold a heavy, round, cold, silver bar in my hands. It was hard yesterday to walk past the experienced girls all eating together before their deadlift while I was getting in a car for a long ride home…I want to be one of the experienced girls. But the good news is: I am 3 failures and one meet closer to being one of them.

So what exactly happened? I panicked. This isn’t the first time and NOT panicking has been the cornerstone of my program for the last six months. I have made a lot of progress but come game time I forgot my training. I am glad I have video (though it will be while before I review it) because to do a play-by-play…well, I don’t remember anything about the actual lift as it was an out-of-body experience. But regardless of what the video shows, it was all in my head. My form is the best it has ever been, my recent training maxes are amazing, and (in training) my confidence in my lifts is solid. It was all in my head.

And what did I learn? I don’t know where to start.

Failure serves a purpose. I don’t like failing in private so to fail in front of 150 people, knowing I would have to publicly tell this story over and over to all the people who believed in me…well, I learned that failing isn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t tell many people Saturday of the result but I did message my big brother who said “don’t sweat it. 99% of people I know don’t try…so kudos to you” and Coach said “Well, at least we know the next one isn’t going to be worse”. And with those reactions I realized the world didn’t end. I’m in the top 1% and I can only get better.

I learned I need to practice patience (and maybe work on my trust and control issues but that’s for another story). In a last-minute decision I chose to have their loader load me instead of Coach. In the last 4 years, I have only had Coach or his brother do it and we have an unspoken system. We just work. On my first attempt, I laid down, set up and…took it off the rack myself. According to Coach the loader wasn’t even on the stand behind me yet. I didn’t even realize.

I learned that I am aces on waiting for the lift commands. I am proud of that.

I learned that competition benches and racks are different from anything I have ever been on and the way I set up needs to change. And while I may not be able to recreate these things, I can approach training as if  I have them. I learned I need to practice adjusting quicker to unexpected situations.

I learned I need to stop making competition the most important day of training and break the day down to the bare bones. One of the mom’s of the experienced girls, who is well-practiced at assessing these things, said to me “if this is the first time you exposed your crotch to a room of over 100 people, nerves are expected and you were just great!” Basically, yes, that is bench pressing in public. And here I was so worried about making a fool of myself I didn’t even realize the comedy of competing. I learned that remembering to have fun makes all the difference. Another new girl, also named Elizabeth, remembered to have fun and while she failed her first reps of every lift, she recovered and always nailed the second. I never saw the smile come off her face. We exchanged e-mails and I can’t wait to hear how she finished.

And most importantly I learned I have the power to make the most of this. There are many ways that I can handle this failure which means I have been given a priceless opportunity to choose who I am becoming. I sometimes have questioned if I really am an “athlete”. It is a revered title in my opinion and I sometimes wonder if I am worthy of the term. I have been thinking of Elisabeth Akinwale (my favorite athlete) and Stacie Tovar (an amazing athlete) and how I have been blessed to watch both of them fail several times. They both have strength, grace, and gratitude in their failures and they both use failure to become better athletes. I have the power to choose to be that caliber of athlete, to follow in the footsteps of my role models. And I, myself, am a role model and I want to be the kind of role model that my role models are.

I am disappointed but I am chalking it up to experience and moving on with strength, grace, and gratitude. I have a workout come Monday morning, it is time to move on.

Too Tired to Type

I thought I would blog apbout the competition the second I got home. But 30 hours in a car over 3 days, getting home at 4:30 am, I am tired. It needs to wait until after a nap.

I can probably sum it up with the words I said to Coach as we were getting in the highway: I am not proud of my behavior over the last two weeks and I am not proud of my performance today, but I am going to make damn sure I am proud of how I conduct myself post-competition.

And this little note from my big brother after I sent him a text telling him the results and that Coach will kill me if I cry: Don’t sweat it!  You made it there, now just make it home safe… 99% of people don’t even try to do something…so kudos to you right!…

And then Coach hit a deer with my new car (we are safe, deer is dead) so that helped keep things in perspective!