Week Six, Day 22

I just completed the 22nd workout of my Twin Ports Raw Open 2017 training cycle and I’m finally feeling it. All it took were some heavy weights and a little reflection. Man, I think this gets me EVERY training cycle. 

What was up? To start with I started a new training notebook (I filled my last one in February at the Minnesota State Women’s Championship) and didn’t have any reference with me for my lifts. Also, my memory of my last training cycle was that it was pretty much all smooth sailing – everything felt good, my low days didn’t leave me feeling like shit emotionally, I didn’t have weird aches and pains,  and the new training program suited me perfectly. 

Last page of my first training journal

I think one of the biggest reasons it has taken me half my training cycle to get here is that I hit a low point emotionally and had trouble coming out of the hole. <– See what I did there? Squat metaphor. I think means I’m officially a powerlifter. Anyway, back on track. Once in the hole I couldn’t see that I was making progress, things felt hard and heavy and I had aches and pains I didn’t like. No matter what they said it didn’t feel right. No matter what I knew it didn’t feel right. 

Maybe it was the rainy start to spring, the dry winter, too much pressure on myself, I think part of it was that I wasn’t talking about my problems with anyone. Once I started talking to people things started to shift in my brain and I now realize that my training is going just fine. In fact, being the data nerd that I am I started looking back at my last training cycle, the one that felt so good, and discovered that not only am I doing fine but I’m lifting more now than I did at the same point last cycle. 

Here are the comparison pictures. The left is my previous training cycle and the right is my current training cycle. I must admit that I’ve made progress. 

First day logs
10×2 deadlifts
6×3 Deadlifts
5×3 Bench
Day 22: 5×3 Squats

The moral of my little story? The best way for me to get out of my hole is to talk about it and just stand up with the weight. <- I did it again, finished with a squat metaphor. I know I’m going through some shit right now but when I keep it bottled up I can’t see the good that is happening around me and the progress I’ve made. So I’ll keep talking about it. 

I’m looking forward to Day 23. And hopefully I’ll tell you all about it! 

You’re the lucky shit

I just told that to one of my friends. That she’s the lucky shit who gets all of my attention right now. Why? Because she’s training for her powerlifting meet and is worried about what everyone worried about: I’m not strong enough, not lean enough, not this enough, not that enough. And I’m trying to be her #1 fan right now and help her through it. She asked me why I was being so nice, so this is what I told her (edited slightly for any kiddos who may read this):

You wanna know why I’m cheering you on so much? Because I competed at nationals last year and I felt like I was totally an imposter and had no right to be there. But I DID have a right to be there because I worked damn hard. I thought I wasn’t strong enough or lean enough or any of it. But others cheered me on and I did it. So I want to return the favor and you just happen to be the lucky shit who gets all my attention 😘😂

The moral? 

You always have the right to be show up. No matter how much you lift, how much you weigh, how much what you are doing goes against the grain of what you’ve always considered acceptable. 

In fact, I’m so damn proud to call her my friend because this is something that is so outside of her comfort zone. She has committed to the training and is working through her anxieties and its wonderful. She is an inspiration in so many levels – the least of which is competing in powerlifting. She is quietly showing her inner strength each time she picks up the bar and each time she questions why and does it anyway. 

Part of me is even jealous – she gets to experience the power of the community for the first time as a competitor. She gets to feel the empowerment of the women (and men) cheering her on as much or more than they cheer for themselves. To have a stranger hug you at the end of a lift is wonderful, a feeling I want everyone to experience. 

So, when you see me cheering someone at a meet or at a game or in life just remember that at that moment they are the lucky shit who gets my attention – and you’re next!

Up Next: 12 weeks to Twin Ports

It’s my favorite time of the year again. It’s training for the Twin Ports Raw Open time. This is the third anniversary of my very first powerlifting meet and I am so excited. It’s hard to believe that I only found this sport in 2015. A lot has changed since I started my first non-meet training cycle at the gym: I’ve competed in seven powerlifting meets, set and broke 28 MN state records (currently hold 10 in two weight classes), and competed in a National level competition. 

That’s a lot for a newbie athlete who’s still learning the ins and outs of training cycles, powerlifting jargon, and feels like she doesn’t know what she is doing half the time. 

So what’s my focus for this training cycle?  Get stronger, for one. Get solidly into the 84 kg class, for two. I HATE water cuts so I’m going to try and avoid that going forward. Only 12 pounds to go. And I guess learn how to balance other hobbies with powerlifting training (hello kayaking, archery, bicycling, and others). 

How am I going to get stronger? Once again I am following the training of my very talented coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. Our last collaboration was stellar. I’m still amazed at the gains I saw in my last meet. Though this first block of the cycle seems to include a lot of eccentric movements. Slow is not necessarily my style – but I think I’ll learn to love it.

Training will be four will be four days most weeks – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and s means two bench days, one squat, one deadlift and yoga on the side. I guess that’s one of my focuses for this training cycle: weekly yoga to keep me a little more bendy. Powerlifting is such a singular plane sport that it’s nice to have an hour devoted to stretches and twists to keep me well rounded. 

Ooh, and how will I cut the weight? I’m not quite sure. I’ve got a couple templates I’ve followed in the past, so using them and having a meal prep strategy should help. Cutting out the wine and cheese should be good for me, too. And maybe the bread. God I hate giving up bread. But if it helps me perform better…

And the last focus? On other hobbies? That one is going to take more time and effort to figure out. Maybe better time management and meal prep will help here. If I don’t have to come home and cook I may be able to do the gym AND something else in the evening. And weekends will need to be parsed wisely. There are only so many days of spring and summer…

Well, that’s enough rambling about my next twelve weeks. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

New Training Log

Training Day 1

Training Days 2 & 3

Recap: MN Women’s State Championship

My latest meet has come and gone and I’m left sitting here with a hard-earned bronze medal thinking about where I started and where I’m going from here.

My first powerlifting meet was the Twin Ports Raw Open on May 30, 2015. I was so nervous – about wearing a singlet, lifting the weights, I didn’t trust that I knew what I was doing or that I even trained right. I didn’t know anything, I was shy and had a fear of failure and didn’t know how to talk other powerlifters – they all knew what was going on and I wasn’t in on the secret. I didn’t let that stop me from doing my best. On that day my best was a 248 pound squat, a 154 pound bench press, and a 292 pound deadlift. I took Bronze in my age class and set some age/weight class records. Since that day I have grown in many ways but my essence has remained.

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2015 Twin Ports Raw Open Totals vs. 2017 MN Women’s State Championship Totals. The numbers have changed but the passion remains the same.
I’ve posted the recap and numbers previously, but here they are again with a little more depth and substance.

The 2017 MN Women’s State Championship meet was truly one for the books. First off, there are now so many women competing in USAPL in Minnesota that we warrant our own championship meet. There were 70 women competing across the spectrum and it was a sight to behold. This group of women is competitive and driven to do our best but we don’t forget that everyone competing has put in the same effort and has the same goals: to be better than before. We cheer everyone on and get excited for each other’s victories. 

My training was pretty much spot-on and going 8 for 9 with the miss due to a technicality was incredible. I weighed in at 83.69 kg to make it just under the 84 kg cutoff. Just where I wanted to be. 

My squats were 275, 297, and 303. I rocked 275 for 3 white lights. No big deal. I squatted and stood up with 297 but was called on a technicality – I didn’t hit depth. Oh well. I had the lift so Coach JVB and I called an audible and I went for 303 pounds for my final attempt (my goal was 314). I squatted and stood up and lo and behold it was good – 2 white lights. 

That squat face, though.
Next was bench. I have been all over bench this training cycle and man have I improved. I have been stuck at 165 pounds for so long I didn’t realize how much I wanted the plateau to be over. I opened with an easy 154, jumped to an impressive 170, and finished solid as a rock with 182. And as a side note, once I realized that my 182 was going up I slowed it down to savor the moment. This was a 17 pound meet PR AND a 2 pound lifetime PR – WITH GREAT FORM!

182 pound bench press. Yes, I did break my plateau.

Finally we got to the Deadlift. Oh the Deadlift. It has a tendency to be a fickle beast but this time I prevailed. Opener was easy at 319. OPENER. Next was 341. This was a little harder and it did roll forward a bit. Because of this we called another audible and I went for 353. And it was GOOD. And a 3 pound lifetime PR and a 16 pound meet PR. 

And this is the face that earned me my name.
I got it.
Another look at that face.
But I didn’t fall over.

All this earned me a 380 kg total (836 pounds) and an age-weight adjusted wilks of 354. I’ve qualified for the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals and I’m tickled pink with the results. I took the bronze in my division and broke three State records in the Masters 1 84 kg class: squat, deadlift, and total. Apparently I have to work a little harder to get the bench record.

The best hug of the day. Thanks JVB.
Did I just do shot I think I did?

All this was great but there was something else special about this meet. Not only were my biggest supporters there (yes, I’m talking about you, Mom and Dad) but one of sisters and her girls were there to cheer me on, too.  This was pretty special because kids these days are crazy-busy and they gave up a Saturday (the first session was from 9am – 3pm) to watch a sport they knew very little about. They quickly learned that this sport has amazing GIRLS as well. Eight year-old Myla knocked their socks off and may have inspired them to give it a try. So excited for the next generation of lifters!

Team Destroyer at the ready. Thanks for cheering me on!

So yea, this was a pretty good day. 

Wanna see me flex?
Masters 1 Podium – Lara, Michelle, Donna
Coach JVB starting her long day.
Fans.
Traci and me getting our selfie on.
Never too serious
Team Green always represents.
The gang plus Geno.
Look! We’re medal twins!
Yep, they’re real.
Because of course acro-yoga.
Until next time…

It’s all over but the waiting 

Today was my last heavy day before next Saturday’s 2017 MN Women’s State Championship meet. My training cycle is over and now I’m on rest and recovery for the next week. 

This was by far my best training cycle, mentally speaking. I think coach JVB and I have cracked a code that was elusive and now it’s all up to me to make it happen. As I’ve eluded to in the past this cycle was broken into 3 blocks, each with its own characteristics. 

Block 1 was an extension of sorts of my hypertrophy training. There was lots of volume at lighter weights, really working on building my muscles. 

Block 2 shifted to lifting the heavy shit. I loved this block. Each week I got to work up to a heavy single of the three lifts and each week I was able to remember that I can lift heavy. Strength was being built. 

Block 3 continued with the heavy theme with less volume and more intensity. And with intensity came focus and a little more mental clarity. 

And so we come to today, my last heavy squat day. I’m not going to lie, squats have been a trouble spot for me in the past couple of meets. But I’m feeling good about my progress – I’ve successfully squatted 300 pounds and whether or not I make that at the meet I’m happy. I’ve overcome so many negative thoughts to get here and I’m excited to see how it translates into action. 

A little high on depth. It may have squeaked by.
A little lower. Will still need to watch depth.

Not only have I made strides on getting my head in the game with my squats, but my bench has improved tremendously. To me the bench press is the hardest and most mystifying of the big three. The technique needed to complete the lift (especially in USAPL) is tough and to top that off with needing to strengthen muscles not normally used its hard to get the weight to move. But I did it. As of this writing I have lifted 15 pounds more during this training cycle than I did at Raw Nationals last year. That’s a heck of a jump for bench. Needless to say I’m pretty pleased. 

Not successful. Failed to stay tight in my brace.
Stayed tight and locked it out. Consistency paid off.

And then there’s the Deadlift. What can I say about one of my favorite lifts? Just that I keep improving my total. Slow and steady and consistently I’ve been pulling my weight. I won’t be surprised if I hit 400 by the end of the year (I’m not shooting for that next week but I’ll come close to double body weight). I’ve learned more about bracing and tightening my core and engaging my lats and all the good things. Now I just have to apply it. 

Rounded back and loose brace made this attempt a learning experience rather than a success.
Straight back and braced canister made this a sweeping success!
The hardest part of the coming week will be my meal planning. I still have 5 pounds to cut by Friday so I’ll be watching my food and water intake and getting that weight down. I’m grateful that I have a nutrition coach helping me out otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d miss the weight class cut off. I so want to be in the 84 kg weight class. 

And right now? I’m enjoying a soothing epsom salt bath, relaxing my muscles and willing the week to be over. I just wanna lift and show you what I’ve got. And if you are in the area, why not stop by and cheer me and #TEAMGREEN on? 

An Ode to Half-Time Show Comments

This has been in draft state for a while but with recent comments about Lady Gaga’s body I thought it was time to dust this off, polish it up, and publish it out to the world.

Recently I saw the film “Embrace: one woman’s journey to inspire everyBODY” and I came away with a realization: I am still on this journey and probably always will be.  I know I preach the ideas of “be at peace with the body you have now,” “dress your current body,” “love yourself” and so many more but I haven’t done a lot of soul searching to understand why these revolutionary thoughts mean so much to me. I kind of skipped a step in the healing process and this film has made me want to go back and explore that a little more.

Of the MANY images shown in the movie of how the media portrays the “ideal woman” there was a shot of Kate Moss and reference to “the waif” look of the 1990s that really gave me a gut punch. This was prime time for me developmentally and I certainly didn’t have that “waif” look – once puberty hit I got ALL the curves and that hour glass shape was in direct contrast to the “ideal beauty” of the day. To make matters worse for me (this is not meant to be a slight or anything) both of my sisters were (and still are) taller and thinner than me – one was even literally a princess having come in second in the local beauty contest (she did it for the scholarship money, but she was still a princess).

Me? I was (and am) of average height and larger than most of the people around me. Plus, curves and a chest for days. Totally NOT the ideal. I hid myself fairly well in baggy clothes – thank GOD grunge and the waif thing were happening at the same time! Baggy flannel covering EVERYTHING suited me just fine. I judged myself harshly against others, covering up what I saw as my flaws and failures based on what society was telling me was acceptable. For years I hid myself in oversized clothes and a smile.

But why? Why would I let my happiness and acceptance of myself be dictated by the nameless, faceless masses? Probably because I’m a normal person and not above the images that were bombarding me daily. Ugh. Growing up being different didn’t feel like an asset. It felt like all eyes were on me, judging me against impossible standards. I didn’t know then that my differences were my strengths.

How did I break through my own thoughts and preconceived notions? I’m really not sure. Maybe age, maybe relationships. Definitely by finding my tribes.

Let’s start with relationships, always a good place to start. I met my husband when I was 20 – young, impressionable, naïve (oh so naïve). One of the best things about him was his total acceptance of me as I was – something I hadn’t been able to do for myself. It was great having someone outside my immediate family love me for who I was but it wasn’t a total break through. I still felt like I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t conform to society’s “ideal.” I was thick and strong when the world (or at least the world I was exposed to) was looking for small and delicate. 

As I grew older I knew I was missing something but I didn’t know what. I was smart and successful and had the things society told me I needed – a husband, a career, a house, a nice car. But I wasn’t whole. I was still trying to live up to what others expected or what I perceived that others expected of me. Until I found two things: a reality TV show and a gym. 

Now you may be scratching your head about that reality tv show thing but I’ve got to tell you that “What Not to Wear” helped me in no small way to realize that you didn’t have to be a waif-thin model to dress to kill. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly taught me to dress the body I have and to wear what makes me feel good. They were my first therapists and my cable bill was worth every penny. They accepted everyone and really tried to keep the makeovers true to the person. And I loved it. 

Next was the gym. The first gym I found that encouraged me to be who I was – a thick, strong woman – was a crossfit gym. I was able to move heavy weights and my body responded positively – building muscles and strength like it was going out of style even as I was learning what my style was. There was a strong community, tribe even, of like minded women (and men) who helped me on that initial part of my journey. 

And then my world was rocked by injury and depression. I quit the gym, kind of quit life and sat on my couch for a year trying to figure out what was next. My self doubt was so very strong and the voices of convention were gnawing at my heels. I let those voices into my head and they kept telling me I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t doing it right, I wasn’t good at anything and couldn’t move myself forward. 

Until one day I did. I had had enough of the voices and I found a new gym. One focused on training the mind as well as the body. And slowly, class after class, month after month I realized I had found my new community and my new tribe. The focus wasn’t on comparing yourself to others it was on being better everyday. And being better meant being better at anything that mattered to you. And what mattered to me was improving my self love and remembering that I’m the best at being me. 

I have learned to accept myself – most days. I love my current incarnation and am working hard to strengthen myself inside and out. But I can still be derailed by a comment or sideways glance. The difference now? I can stop myself before I spiral into old habits and thoughts. Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me. 

So, what did I think of the film? I think it should be in everyone’s list of must-see documentaries. The media and pop culture are starting to get it but we still have a long way to go when children see themselves as fat and in need of dieting. Children need to be loved and taught they have value, not that they need to look or behave a certain way. 

I’m going to continue to be a voice for acceptance of who you are and being proud of YOUR accomplishments. No matter what you do I will be there cheering you on, cheering on your better every day. And I’m going to encourage you to brag about your accomplishments because dammit, you deserve it. You can hear me brag on the Women Inspired podcast, hosted by April Seifert. 

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some of my favorite photos – of me being me. 


This month in training: My hormones and me.

This month in training has been pretty awesome (for the most part). I’m loving this training block: on each of the main lift days I work up to 1 heavy rep that I could do for another and then back off to my working weight for the scheduled set/rep routine. It keeps me feeling strong by reinforcing that I can lift heavy and my strength continues to grow. 

Bench

I’ve really upped my bench game. I’ve gone from a meet PR of 165 pounds to a training PR of 180 pounds. 


Squat

What can I say about my squat? It has gotten heavier relative to my size so I’m pleased here, as well. And I’ve got to play with heavy walkouts. Can I tell you how fun it is to walk out 385 pounds and then only have to squat 185? It’s pretty awesome. 


Deadlift

Oh how I love th deadlift. And how it has loved me back. This cycle I have beat my plateau and I’m ready to take it on th road for a meet test drive. All I can say is “I’m a f@&!ing UNICORN” when I deadlift. 

I’m learning more and more about how my body reacts during my cycle and it is oddly soothing. I know now that it’s “normal” to have days and weeks where heavy shit feels like heavy shit and days and weeks where heavy shit feels just right. That these days correspond to the phase of my menstrual cycle is great knowledge – I now KNOW that shit feels heaviest right before and during my cycle and it’s ok to back the weight down and do the prescribed reps as pretty as possible.

Why is this good knowledge? Because I have found that most people, women especially, who are training for a competition feel like we should always be improving, increasing the weight we are moving during each training session. It gets frustrating when the weight on the bar this week or this session feels so much heavier than last week. 

So did you know that it takes longer to recover after a max lifting attempt and that it will be harder to lift as heavy the following week? Yea, neither did I. Or rather, I didn’t acknowledge this fact until recently. Until this training cycle, really. So try as I might, I couldn’t keep the weight from feeling really heavy on subsequent training days after my really good sessions. Now I don’t fight it and when I plan what I am going to lift I take last week’s accomplishments I to consideration. 

How did I come to this realization? Was it just aahappenstance? Nope. There are a lot of resources out there on the interwebs and I happened upon this article from T-Nation on the hormone cycle and female lifters and it was a jumping off point to understand this. 

Armed with this knowledge women can take a step back and ask a couple of questions going into there training session and plan accordingly: 1) did I max out on my lifts recently? and 2) where in my menstrual cycle am I?  The answers to these questions will help you understand why things are feeling heavier or easier. 

I do ask these questions as I plan my warmups and working weights for any given training session. There are many more variables that affect my lifting each day, but these two are key for me. I have a very competitive nature and even if I’m competing against myself I can get easily discouraged when I don’t increase or improve on my previous stats day after day. Now I look at each session individually and check in with myself to see if today is a day to go for it or a day to drive strength gains. 

Since I train for Powerlifting competitions and my training cycles are based on competition dates, I don’t know that I will necessarily adjust my training routine but this is good knowledge to have and I can do micro-adjustments to keep myself feeling strong.