My Purpose

Over the course of the last year my husband and I have come to be the hang out house for the 20-somethings. I thought it would get on my nerves, but I actually kind of love it…it’s like having kids without the years of rearing them.

One comes to steal our internet and raid our cupboards. Another comes for safe haven…and to raid our cupboards. Another comes for the Playstation…and to raid our cupboards. And there are more which all end with food.

Upon news of losing Tonto they all appeared, some with hugs, one with flowers, and another with chips and milk (his favorite comfort foods). It’s a motley little crew we have! My cats and the kids (and myself) are just all strays that found the same corner In The Middle of Nowhere. My husband is a saint and his social work degree is useful when juggling all of us.

I have many emotional injuries inflicted by Coach but the best thing he gave me was time and at one point he believed in me. One of my high school girls asked for extra workouts this weekend. I could never turn that down. When her dad picked her up he said “don’t let her bug you to death. You don’t have to give up your weekend” but I do. I said to him “because someone believed in me enough to sacrifice his time, I became someone I never dreamed of being. If my kids love it enough to give up their weekend, they deserve me showing up. It doesn’t bug me at all”. I don’t charge for the extra workouts, their enthusiasm is enough. And every kid needs someone to believe in them.

I knew it made a difference but I didn’t realize the power faith had until Coach had some in me. That is a lesson I am so blessed to pass on…to my pets, my “kids”, and my high school athletes.

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Loss

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It seems the theme this year is loss.

My dear sweet Tonto curled up with me last night, as he always did. I rubbed his forehead until sleep arrived. But when I awoke,  a sense that something was wrong was sitting heavy in my stomach.

I don’t remember the wail I made but The Husband will never forget.

I often said I wish I loved that cat as much as he loved me – he never left my side, I couldn’t lay down or sit without him jumping on me, he never left me alone. It turns out I did love him as much, I hope he knows that.

It was one last gift he gave me, not forcing me to make the decision to put him down. One last snuggle until he knew I slept (he never slept until I slept) and settled into the belly of my stomach until his last breath.

He will come home to us in 2 weeks, in ashes. In spirit, he will be with me forever.

I miss you sweet thing.

This is us just 1 week ago, my 305# deadlift celebration:

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Pain Free

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I am where I belong, no matter how hard the good-bye has been. The progress I have seen in two months is unprecedented,  even for me, and the fact that New Coach has total faith in me being able to figure it out is helpful.

I have mentioned before that he is someone of note in the Strongman world and how I didn’t speak to him for years, out of awe and respect. Two months into training with him, silence and distance has been my MO even though he has repeatedly told me to communicate.  But today I think we did more talking than lifting. He’s older than Coach and he loves studying our sports, as do I. We somehow got on the topic of what youtube channels we subscribe to, what books and blogs we read. I totally geek out about this stuff so my silence is broken. And tonight he sent a bunch of emails with links and ebooks and a list of books he is going to loan me.

I always say “successful people surround themselves by more successful people”. I finally followed my own rule. It will make me a better coach and athlete.

Deadlifts for volume today, working with the flipped grip. Not one little twinge in my hip, just minor inflammation in that shoulder. He said at the end “you’ve met goal #1: lift without pain. Next is to lift consistently pain free”. I may not be in total control of it, but it’s nice to have met a goal.

I’ve been studying all night. He said “it’s nice to know someone In The Middle of Nowhere that loves this stuff like I do”. Maybe Coach was wrong…maybe I’m not a pain in the ass. And he said, again, “bring your clients into my room, it’s so much better for them to learn on my bars and plates”. So tomorrow I will.

One of my clients is on vacation and still working out everyday, sending pics of all her PRs. Today she out-deadlifted her 29 year old son and called to report the news. I hate that I can’t witness it all but you can’t imagine how proud I am of her. She was such a timid thing when she started and her self-confidence has shown over the last few months. I have the best job ever!

Yesterday Coach had a moment while we were with clients, it normally would have sent me running in tears but NCAA brings so much joy I just forgot about it. Afterwards, another trainer stopped me and said “I saw that, I hope you remember it’s a reflection on him, not you”. I don’t understand what happened.

But New Coach and his people have welcomed me with open arms and with so much respect for my work ethic, it’s been pretty great and a bit overwhelming. At least in all this heartache I have landed where I belong.

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Diagnosed: Hips, Shoulders

I have 2 seperate hip issues it seems. The stab in the a** when conventional deadlifting is my normal pain. New Coach has the same issue and has determined it is a slightly herniated disc that, when the mechanics are just a bit off,  bumps into the sciatic nerve. I can work around it.

And I finally have an answer to the pain and “gritty” feeling in my hip when squatting, the one I ignored until I was seriously hurt. 2 years later I am squatting again and the pain is back like old times. But before I hurt myself I had an evaluation. One of the ligaments has shortened and tightened which is pulling the femur to the bone inside the hip joint. Had I been diagnosed correctly 2 years ago, I would still be a crossfitter, I would be doing my oly work, maybe I wouldn’t have disappointed Coach so epically.  I am feeling a bit sorry for myself today.

Silliness. After all, powerlifting is my first love and I have always been a disappointment to Coach. Why feel sorry for myself when I am doing what I love with the most sought after coach In The Middle Of Nowhere?

The solution for the hip is laying on my stomach while someone tugs and oscillates the right leg. I’m strong enough and flexible enough in my hips which I need to maintain, my legs are even. As the ligament loosens up, the pain will subside. It’s going to take a long time, I am to baby it at the first sign of inflammation.

Right shoulder assesment today. Two pieces of good news: it is NOT a torn rotator cuff nor is it due to bench pressing. My right shoulder subscapularis is extremely inflamed. It is so over – developed compared to the other muscles in my shoulder girdle that it shifts into a position to hold all the weight when I deadlift! I did not see that coming. The solution, beyond more therapy, is to flip my grip. I will during speed and working sets but NOT when maxing. The Athletic Trainer agreed that when maxing, habits are important to keep.

And besides, my world has changed too much recently,  flipping my grip could very well be the last straw.

It’s all good news truly. So why so blue? I know I have a mom-like figure out in cyber world,  and New Mother always provides a place for me to ground myself, but I woke up feeling very homeless, very much without a family. He said he would always have my back, that we were real family. When that is my first thought upon opening my eyes, the day is a bit long and sad. Lifting gives me moments of peace, sometimes even lets me pretend we are still connected, but after shoulder rehab I can’t lift my arm past 30 degrees so no lifting today.

Just sitting and ice. It’s so quiet, too quiet, so those little whispers that I usually drown out sound like bullhorns.

I miss my baby brother.

305

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305#!!! I’ve been chasing 300# deadlifts for 2 years…about the time I started blogging. And for long-time followers you know all the ups and downs, menatlly and physically, that I have fought through. And 305 is a “sort-of” since they were reverse banded (285 on floor, 305 at the top of the lift) but I’ll take it!

I have always said my best qualities are that 1) I’m a worker, it’s just who I am and 2) I never learned how to quit. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a reward before though. I don’t even have words, and you know how I love the written word.

I wish I could properly record this, a moment like this is few and far-between in life, I would like to remember it. And unlike reaching 275, I never once thought “Coach should have been here”.

New Coach distracted me in several ways, he kept changing how much I would jump (we jumped right over 300, didn’t even try it), used the bands, and he was very chatty on rest breaks. He made a bunch of new toys (straps, crash pads…) and we were testing them out in between. NCAA popped in and watched, was fun for me and quite honestly I wasn’t about to fail in front of her! Even though I didn’t know the number at the time I did know it was challenging and, heaven forbid I get frustrated after I lectured her Sunday!

There it is: Reverse Band Deadlifts 305#. Deadlift and 305 in the same sentence.  I fought so hard to be able to write that, I’m numbed/shocked that I did!

Squatting and Coaching

Today was squat rebuild. New Coach wants me to stay between 120# and 125#. I am actually brilliant with numbers but somehow when it comes to my own program, I too often do the math wrong. 3 sets in I realized I was doing 135#. They didn’t feel bad so I just continued at 135#. Since tomorrow is deadlift day, I am not doing extra leg work. I need New Coach to get my deads back on track and that means an hour plus of deadlifting, I cannot risk my hip today.

Below is my latest blog post on my work site.

Coach-In-Progress

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I have been involved in some kind of sport since the fourth grade which means I have had many coaches in my life. Some that taught me how to work hard for my spot, some that played politics, some that taught fun, and some that taught winning was the only thing. On extreme ends, I have had the coach that let me believe I was the greatest thing to happen to my sport and another that let me believe I was the greatest disappointment. Most of my coaches I respect greatly, including those extreme coaches. Those two are the ones that made me the athlete I am: one taught me to believe in myself and the other taught me to always work harder.

I don’t know that all coaches recognize the effect they have on their individual athletes, for good and for bad. Recently, when someone said to me “Thanks Coach”, it was the best compliment I ever received mixed with a little fright. It made me think of my favorite and most influential coach and I realized that this little part I play in my athletes lives carries a great deal of responsibility: he permanently changed the person I am. For the rest of the day I thought about what kind of coach I want to be, what legacy I want to leave with my athletes. I never want my young athletes to leave thinking they are so good that they under-prepare for the big-market athletes. But I never, ever want one of my kids to leave a training feeling like my greatest disappointment.

Like all sports, powerlifting is full of constant critique. I am pretty good but over the years I doubt one session has passed without me hearing “drive harder” or “tighten it up” or “too slow” or “pull it back”. I have had four lifting coaches and all have said the same things, every session. No matter how far I have come, I will always need to be harder, tighter, and faster. It is amazing to me how four different coaches said the same things to me and I would leave my sessions feeling four different ways: 1) I made progress 2) I’m the bomb 3) I suck and 4) I love my sport and I can’t wait to learn more.

Having been in the coach’s shoes with various young athletes, I also realize I can say the same critiques to each of them and each athlete will leave me feeling differently. It is the best challenge I have ever faced. I love my job, I wouldn’t do anything else, and these young athletes bring more to my life than I could ever give back to them. But first and foremost, I am their coach. It is my job to tell them what they don’t want to hear, show them what they don’t want to see so they can become who they know they can be. It is a concept that can be hard for adults to grasp, imagine being a teenager?!

Last year I took one of my high school athletes on my annual trek to CrossFit Regionals. It was at the 2014 competition where I discovered what kind of athlete I want to be. It is also where I really began to discover what kind of coach I am and what kind of athletes I want to develop. We watched an athlete do rope climb after rope climb and the judge repeatedly no-repped her. Clearly, to those in attendance, the early reps were good but the more this athlete argued with the judge, the more frustrated she became, and her performance began to tank. I looked at my athlete and said between gritted teeth “I don’t care how right you are, you never argue with the judge. You shut your mouth, find out what they are looking for and execute it. I will fight the battle, that’s why I am the coach but if you do my job instead of doing yours, I will not back you up”. It is the harshest thing I have ever said to an athlete. It was said without thought…but had I thought about it I would have said it anyway. I would not have gritted my teeth. What she must have thought, my strong-willed, always-ready-to fight athlete? With such a spirit, how could I tell her not to argue? She looked at me wide-eyed and said “Oh, I know coach”. Recounting this story today, I never said anything like this to her before. I wonder what, during the course of training her, made her realize this was one of my rules?

Every client, regardless of age, athletic status, or goal, requires a different connection with me, just as I needed a different connection with each of my coaches. There are, however, certain things about me that are just part of my coaching (example: never argue with a judge/ref/umpire no matter how right you are; show up to give 100% today but realize 100% today doesn’t always equal 100% of yesterday; I can help you re-focus, motivate, inspire, but I cannot, nor would I, do the work for you).

I love my job more than anything. “Coach” is the title I am most proud of and is one I take as seriously as “athlete” (and if you know anything about me, “athlete” is a revered term to me). I tell my athletes things they don’t want to hear because that is how they develop their potential. I show them things the don’t want to see because that is how they accomplish things they never thought they could do. But coaching is an art.

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Most of my coaches over the course of my life have enriched me and made me love and appreciate sport more than I already did. But there are two that I can think of that made me hate the sports I loved most. I never want one of my athletes to lose the love of their sport. I define myself by my sport, as many athletes do, and I could never forgive myself if I made an athlete lose that identity. This is why coaching is an art: we pick our athletes apart so they can reach their potential but we must do it without causing resentment. And every athlete has a different capacity to handle critiques.

I am a “coach in progress” and I hope to always be progressing. What kind of coach do I hope to become? The kind of coach that I would want for myself. One that shows the weaknesses, says what needs improvement, and does so in a way that cultivates respect and appreciation. One that that helps their athletes become everything (and more) they knew they could be.

A Successful Day

So many “impossible” things became possible today. Bench came first, then the ability to give myself sensible hours, then…I turned away a potential client. Yep, I’m doing well enough to do that now.

So let’s start with work. I get up at 4 AM (which is a treat after nights like tonight, no sleep in sight) to give myself time to wake up and get to the gym by 5:30. No more! One asked to be trained elsewhere at another gym and at a later time. My earliest then came in and said “I don’t want to be a problem but could I train at 4pm.” YES, PLEASE!! I am now in the office from 9-6. That’s when a trainer knows they’ve made it!

Then a lady came in and straight up said “I need someone to push me because I won’t do the work otherwise” and followed that with a long speech,  with a lot of attitude, and ended with you look too nice to be as tough as I need. I have a lot of high school athletes, I need my adults to be adults. And so I said “I’m a hardass with my teen athletes because they need me to push them. I, myself, am the hardest worker here. I expect my adult clients to follow the program and be responsible for their behavior. But I know a trainer that is accepting clients” I left off the “like you”. I am still accepting clients, I just have the luxury to turn away people I simply don’t have patience for. Obviously I push my adults and have them doing things they didn’t think they could do. They haven’t been with me over a year because I let them slack.

And New Coach spent our hour developing bench set up. By focusing on the set up I didnt even realize he had me lifting more than I had since competition. He asked if we should throw on 2-1/2 on each side and I froze.  “What’s up?” “5 more pounds puts me at my failed comoetition events”. “Good to know. So next week we won’t do it, it’s already messing with you”. But how will I progress? “Oh thats easy,  we jump 10 lbs instead of 5”. Well, alright then!

The new set up has me pressing so hard into the bench my back is bruised. I kinda love that! My butt is sore from setting my hips. New Coach likes to yell at me to get it up a lot, a contrast to Coach, and wow that makes a difference. I was told many times my bench looked strong. Learning from New Coach is a great opportunity and I am learning so much, mostly how to relax and have fun while still making progress. He has said from day 1 my problem isn’t form or strength but rather lost confidence. I suspect these minor changes to my set-up is a way to create new habits, ones associated with success.

I finished my accessories between clients. Lat pulldown went up,  DB rows went up,  narrow grip bench went up.

He always wants me to end on a success. Professionally and athletically I had 3 today.

Maybe I’m not sleeping because I’m too excited?!

Update on mom later on in the week.