The Girl Who Never Quits

Two years ago this very date, on a heavy day of Smolov, I squatted with 285# and my already damaged hip crumpled underneath me. I thought it was one of the worst days of my life. It was, in fact, the worst day in the life of whoever that Warrior Girl was.

What I forgot at the time – what everyone forgets when they go from the happiest moments of life to utter darkness in less than a second – is that I was exactly where I needed to be. Who I thought I was becoming wasn’t who I was supposed to become. I just needed to have a little faith, continue working hard, and patience. Wow, did I need to learn patience.

I walked into Coach’s room and set up the squat rack. Coach walked in and we had our normal “conversation” (see yesterday’s post) and I warmed up as he unpacked his stuff. He threw weight on my bar and we worked our way up to 180#. I have been back to squatting 6 or 7 weeks since that fateful day 2 years ago. I have learned to appreciate every squat I can do: body weight, light weight, kettlebell, back, front. It took me all this time to not care about my squat numbers and instead remember the beauty of doing them. So I was proud of that 180#. Last year I could still barely squat to a chair without pain. I told The Cool Girl I was starting a post-injury PR list because the comparison to pre-injury doesn’t do me any good, it only makes me sad and I want to be proud of these small steps.

Coach told me to line up all my shoes and he stripped the bar down to 95#. He then had me put on my low converse and worked my way up to 140# in each. He stripped the bar back to 95# and had me put on the high tops and worked me back up to 140#. ¬†We repeated this for every shoe I own. Last, but not least, I put on my oly shoes. And this time we worked past 140#. I didn’t do the math. I still didn’t know what was special about this particular day.

We ended the day and as I put notes in my journal Coach said “2 reps at 200#”. And I smiled and recorded it in my book. I’ve been wondering how long it would take to get back in the 200’s.

I have been trying (and actually succeeding lately) to not look back. There’s no purpose. But things will always feel heavy come mid-June. I decided to pull out my journals from June 2013 and read about that fateful day. 2 years to the day I went down. How fitting this day, years later, I would have the biggest squat accomplishment I could imagine. I have to be honest, many times I doubted I would ever make it back. I just never quit. And in those writings I can see I am not who I was. That Warrior would have been ashamed to type “I squatted 200”. This Warrior Girl will always cherish 200.

I e-mailed my old coach “on the 2 year anniversary I hit 200 on my squat. I fought my way back and it’s too big a moment not to share with you” (I would want to know news this big about one of my girls) and as I hit send a text came in from Coach. All it said was “I’m so glad for you”.

My client list is full. I kept 2 adults and the rest are high school and college athletes. Throughout this day, what once was the darkest day, I received random messages from some of the girls and some of the moms “S said she had an amazing day with you”, “thanks for listening today and being so cool”, NCAA sent a picture of her poolside in Florida with a note “you are my inspiration”. On the really hard days, these girls are the reason I never quit.

So I did not become the Warrior Girl I pictured myself becoming 2 years ago. I suspect this Warrior Girl is becoming something more amazing that I can even imagine. Isn’t this exciting?!

It’s good to be the girl who never quits.

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Warrior Girl Has A Tribe

My sessions with Coach begin with the same conversation everyday. Coach “how’s it going?”. I smirk. He laughs. Then he calls out “Deadlifts” or “Bench Day” or “Squat Day” and I set up the area and put on the appropriate shoes (converse low-top for deads, oly shoes for bench, converse high-top for squats).

Deadlifts have been crazy fun. Coach always mixes lbs and kg weights so I can’t quickly do the math between sets. Every week we inch towards that glorious 300#. I’m so close but starting next week he’s bumping me to reps of 3 at the current weight. It’s the right thing to do but I really want to keep maxing. It’s a good thing I have a coach.

He’s been sending me videos daily. I’ve finally caught on to the message: the best lifters all lift differently. They know what feels good to them. The average lifters follow the “rules”. I told him I finally caught on and he replied “your old coach taught you how to lift technically and that’s important. You follow the rules very well. But that can only get you so far. Figuring out what is best for you – and only you – will take you as far as you want to go”. I have ¬†started playing a lot and he never discourages or gets mad at me. He always smiles (sometimes laughs) as he critques what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong: he’s tough and he expects a lot but he expects what I can give. He said today “I love the journey my athletes are on. I want everyone to do well but I don’t really care about the outcome or the ending. I like being a part of the story”. I finally have a Coach that coaches like me. A coach that my New Mother always said I deserved.

Bench day was great. It has been a sore spot for me since December. Coach has been keeping me sane throughout with his words of wisdom (which when he says them The Wife – his wife – and I look at each other and roll our eyes. She too has been struggling). The Wife then said she started using her oly shoes to bench in. The bigger heel allows her to plant her feet. We are both all of 5 feet tall. Keeping Coach’s words in mind, I laced up my oly shoes Tuesday and benched. No PRs but I got 3 sets of 3 reps at a weight I failed the week before. I left the gym yesterday the happiest girl in The Middle of Nowhere.

As I put on my shoes Monday, I mentioned to Coach that the meds were kicking my ass. He said “you should be adjusted to them by now. Has your diet changed?” Not really. Well…I’ve been having ice cream. Daily. A gallon of chocolate milk. Every few days. “And how clean was your diet until the last few weeks? How much sugar did you have?” Extremely clean. I listed my daily food intake for the last 5 years (easy to do since I ate the same food every day). No sugar – except for my 4 oreos a month which was really only every-other-month. He laughed and said “Holy shit.” and I replied “It’s the food that’s making me exhausted! I’m such an idiot. But I want to have a normal life. I want to get ice cream with The Husband sometimes (for 15 years we’ve talked about walking to the Dairy Queen 4 blocks away but we never have) and I want to eat a piece of pie – everyone says I make amazing pies and I have never had a bite. I want to have those moments”. Coach said my body just needs to get used to it and I can have those things but I need to slow down and let the body adjust to sugar. Start with once a week and build up. He basically told me what I would tell a client who was too strict for years but I forget to apply these things to myself. He said The Wife is having the same problem.

Today I got to introduce Coach to the man whose name is on the Credit Card I pay him with – The Amazing Husband. And they chatted quite a while. As I was leaving The Wife stopped me on and we spent 20 minutes lamenting our sugar withdrawal headaches. I have been trying to talk her into doing a powerlifting meet and she is going to!!! I may just change mine set for September so I can lift with her. Then Coach joined us girls and we talked about all the big names in lifting, some they are good friends with (worldwide!), and talked about all the big meets said friends have been doing. The Wife and I mocked our own shortcomings and how Coach has to remind us both of the obvious. And then they announced they were getting a puppy toy poodle this weekend. I squealed for her and made fun of him. Seriously? One of the world’s strongest men is getting a toy poodle? How could I resist!

Coach left and The Wife and I continued talking. Some of the other lifters drifted in and out of our conversation. Two hours after I started leaving I picked up my bags and on my way out the door I said to The Wife “Thank you for making space for me in the group” and she smiled and said “you bring a lot to our little group”.

The Husband had dinner on the table when I got home. “You look happy” he said. I curled up in my chair and started eating. “I’m so glad you got to meet everyone. And…I have a group. I’ve never had a group. I drifted around until you and in college your friends were the group and even now, your friends here are the group. I’m friends with them but they aren’t my group. And my few friends aren’t in the same circles. But I realized tonight I belong to a whole little group.” He smiled and said “I knew you would find your way”.

Tomorrow I squat.
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The Good and The Medicated

The news ticker:

1) I am solely a strength coach for high school and college lady athletes! Woot woot!! I have kept one lady that is my age because we have connected so well and I placed the others with trainers that I have faith in. One day Coach said “It’s the best feeling to be able to choose your athletes instead of taking everyone” and even better, I can specialize. I am surprised daily that my young ladies like me as much as I like them (I am so hard on them). They constantly amaze me.

2) I hit the heaviest squat I have had in 26 months. To be fair I was sidelined for a year and off squatting the next year but still, it feels amazing. I’m still 80# off my PR but I’ve decided: new coach, new technique, new muscle recruitment…I am celebrating this as a new PR. I am ecstatic!!

Now on to other news…The Husband and I have had a flurry of activity this past week. Dinner out, Neighborhood bonfire, friends get-togethers. The things you cram into the summer when you live in the north and are trapped inside by winter for 9-10 months a year. I always had more than enough energy for these summer activities even when I didn’t sleep for months at a time.

Now I sleep all the time. If I am not coaching my girls or lifting with Coach or studying, I am completely checked out. The Husband and I were talking about it and I said “I feel like I am stoned all the time” and he replied “you look like you are stoned all the time. We realized today that my meds have kicked in 100%. I have to be honest: I want off them. Sadly I have gone off them (for this very reason) enough times in my lifetime to know that I can’t go off them again.

A good friend of mine is bipolar and has been back on her meds since November (she went off due to pregnancy). We had a long talk today. She said she is just now getting over the stoned feeling, that I just need to hang in there and push through for the next couple of months. It doesn’t feel like it will go away.

I haven’t finished a programmed lift day in the last month. If I am lucky I get two accessory movements in before I burn out. I have added yet another full rest day. I tell myself constantly I won’t reach 300# if I don’t get my ass in gear and then I usually fall asleep. If it weren’t for the skills of my Master Chef Husband or the awesome Thai restaurant that knows my special order and lets me do take out, I wouldn’t even have the energy to eat. Yes, I was on these exact meds for many of the years I weighed 80#. It is the reason the doctor has me weigh in every 2 weeks.

I had been med free for 7 years – the longest of my life without- prior to December. They were rocky years, sometimes downright scary but overall they were the happiest too. I had more self-growth in that time, I did amazing and daring things. I became a new person. And before things fell apart, I saw plenty of danger signs but I didn’t stop and evaluate. I buried myself in a hole that I don’t think I will ever get out of.

To my credit, I do believe I am a great role model for my girls, my deadlift and squat numbers continue to go up every week (Coach says neither of my goals is far off), and I have learned to rest when I need to rest. I can still feel pride and joy in these three things. Maybe the meds have allowed me to feel those things. Maybe The Friend and The Husband are right to say just give it a few more months.