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! 

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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.

 

Oh. Hi There.

Let me introduce myself. I know we’ve met before but I want to give you a little more of my background, help you understand what motivates me and the reasons I do what I do. And how and why things around here will be changing.

I’m Donna Adams, aka Donna the Destroyer. I am an avid Powerlifter, Software Quality Assurance professional, outdoorsy, liberal woman. My current mood is to let my liberalism out into the world and see where it leads me. Afterall, it is this liberalism that helped me find my voice though powerlifting. You may be wondering how, so I’ll tell you a little story about me.

I grew up in a blue collar, lower-end middle class household, the fourth of five children. This was a strong democratic household. My parents showed through their actions that it is our civic duty to vote, and they leaned heavily democratic. My first memories of politics were in the 80’s – Reagan vs. Carter, Reagan vs. Mondale. I remember being upset that Reagan kept winning even though he wasn’t for the little people, the people NOT in power. I realized that I was a Democrat and that the Democratic party was the party for the people and by the people – ALL PEOPLE. Not just the rich, not just those who looked like me – ALL PEOPLE. And this was important to me then and it is important to me now.

Maybe it was because I was picked on for being different (which is odd, since I look at myself and see a VERY white, privileged woman), maybe it was because I was a girl growing up smart in a male-dominated world (subtle sexism, anyone?), but whatever the reason I always chose the side of the other, the different, the oppressed (if they truly existed in my pocket of suburbia). I have always surrounded myself with people of like mind and always wanted to do more. There were so many good intentions, good thoughts, moments of anger and rebellion where I wanted to take action but didn’t – it wouldn’t do, it wouldn’t be lady-like, don’t rock the boat, your voice isn’t big enough for people to hear. But in the back of my mind I knew that I needed to find and grow my voice.

I am fortunate in many ways, privileged in a few (color, class) and due to this fortune I was able to seek out my current tribe. I had the time and money to go after what I wanted. I began looking for a place where I felt included regardless of who I was and what I could do and where I would learn the ways of the Jedi (ok, not the Jedi but where technique would be the focus, not just “getting done” with the workout). And soon I found the perfect place, the people I whose tribe I wanted to join. These people celebrated the strength of women, cared about the foundations of strength, and seemed fairly liberal.

First I stalked them (social media, facebook, hello interwebs) and then I got the courage to find them in person. In the beginning I was quiet and tried to hide in the background, not making waves, trying not to be noticed. I just wanted to absorb everything and everyone and give the minimum so I could be part of the group. Not because I am selfish (sometimes, but not always) but because I am shy. My voice was still small. But my spirit was growing with all the talk of inclusion and helping and being a community for ALL the people. The liberal inclusive light was shining on me.

It was not until a fateful day in November 2014 (wow, two years ago!) when someone uttered the words “who wants to do a powerlifting meet” that my ears perked up and my voice began to come out. Powerlifting made me feel powerful, strong, able to take on great things. For a long time this simply meant my relationships, my work, my immediate life. But then things began to shift within me, my focus began turning outwards. How could I help other people? I began encouraging other women (and some men, too) to see that building strength on the outside helps to build strength on the inside. My voice began getting louder. And I started a blog to chronicle my powerlifting journey.

I have taken you from my little gym and local meets all the way to the national stage and since then I’ve been trying to figure out where I should take you next. The events of this past week have helped me figured it out: I’m taking you all on the journey as I find out how loud my voice can grow and shout out to the world that while I will accept the president I will not accept the changes that I fear will come. Oh, most of this blog will still focus on powerlifting and my progressions, regressions, aches, pains and triumphs. But here and there, sprinkled amongst the words of strength and encouragement about lifting will be messages of solidarity, hope, and action for the nation.

And here is my first action: I’m marching on Washington in January. I had planned to participate in the inauguration of the first female president but instead I am going to march, show my allegiance to all WOMEN and all minorities. Because this is a stand I have to take. I am not going to let OUR current rights be diminished because someone can’t hear my voice. I’ve finally found it and now is the time for me to see how loud it can grow.

It’s been ONE WEEK

So, it’s been one week since the USAPL Raw Nationals and I haven’t posted anything at all? What’s up with that? Seems kind of odd, what with the premise of this blog and all. Well, let me tell you a little story, starting and ending with the results below.

Summary: Weigh In: 82.8 kg (182.54) Squat 125 kg (275.58 lb); Bench 75 kg (165.35 lb), Deadlift 152.5 kg (336.20 lb); Total 352.5 kg (777.13 lb); Wilks 316.65

  • I came in 6th out of 10 lifters in my age/weight class.
  • I broke 3 of the 5 MN state records (Squat, Deadlift, Total)
  • I am currently ranked 12th in my age/weight class – IN THE COUNTRY
  • Pound for pound I lifted more weight here than I have in the past

In my first EVER national competition I did a few new things: I cut weight from 90.8 kg to 82.8 kg (8 kg or 17.6 lb). I finished with a respectable total. I increased my Wilks score by 4.5 points. And I didn’t let mishaps get me down (for too long).

BUT, it has taken me TIME to gain this perspective. Precious, precious time. You see, I was slightly disappointed with myself during competition, letting things like raw numbers and previous meets and results get to me. I mean, since most of you have followed my journey here for the past seven months you know what I’ve done to get here.

In my qualifying meet (2016 Twin Ports Raw Open) my weights were impressive at a bodyweight of 90.8 kg (200.18 lb): Squat 140 kg (308.65 lb), Bench 72.5 kg (159.83 lb), Deadlift 150 kg (330.69 lb), Total 362.5 (799.18 lb), Wilks 312.08. And then two weeks post-Twin Ports I pulled my gym PR deadlift of 350 pounds. And all I wanted when I started training for Raw Nationals was to best ALL my personal records. Even if it was just by 2.5 kg (the smallest incremental increase).

The two numbers that scared me the most were the Squat (who the hell can lift 308 pounds?) and the Deadlift. I love both of these lifts and I think I’m pretty good at them. But those numbers freaked me out. I wanted to make sure I could hit them repeatedly at the gym – and I’m pretty sure I messed up at least some of my training by trying (and not talking to Coach JVB about my feelings – stoopid feelings).

So, when it came time to lift at nationals I was already feeling the burden of hitting those numbers. The RAW numbers. My attempts were aggressive in the sense that I knew I could lift the first two, with the third being just beyond what I had done before. And instead of focusing on the lift at hand I think I was focusing on the LAST lift a little too much.

My squats were my weakest lift this round: I hit my 275 opener pretty easy. It really felt good. So going up to 297 was not such a big deal. Really. But in my head I was thinking about what my last attempt should be – 308 to tie or 314 to beat my PR. So I bombed that attempt. I lost my focus and my tightness and couldn’t stand out of the bottom. I knew what had happened – I was lifting my last attempt rather than my current attempt. So I sat down and breathed, calmed myself, texted JVB and worked on getting mentally set for my next attempt at the same weight. And you know what, I was able to squat that 297, albeit with a technical call so it didn’t count. But mentally my head was back in the game.

My bench press went exactly as planned. No, really. See what I can do when I focus? Have things go exactly as planned – 148, 160, 165. I probably had something left in the tank and could have pushed for more but I went into the meet just wanting to beat that damn 160 that had been haunting me for over a year. And I did.

My deadlift. This is where I was going to shine. I was going to get that 350 pound deadlift and be so proud. I was going to make up for the technical call on my squat. Because this is my lift. My first attempt at 308 was good – a little heavier than I wanted but it moved quick. Yup, let’s go up and get this party started! And then I missed that second attempt. At 336. I have hit this in the gym many times – and especially on my way to 350. What happened? Concentration. I was concentrating on the wrong thing (when I put my belt on the tongue was not flush with the rest of the belt so it was digging uncomfortably into my side). I couldn’t get past my thoughts. And here is where things took a turn: I decided I needed to change my perspective.

And how does one do this at a powerlifting meet? The only way one knows how: find a piece of carpet and do a tripod. Get upside down, let the blood rush to your head and see the world (and competition) from a new angle. And you know what, it worked. Just like it always does for me. My third attempt (still at 336) went up. I had to fight a little for it but I had cleared my head, straightened my belt and gone out to do what I had to: I lifted the barbell that weighed 336 pounds.

 

img_6118
The ultimate change in perspective

This still left me feeling a little disappointed – I mean, I had just completed a National meet so I was happy. But I hadn’t met all my goals going into the meet. I missed what should have been easy lifts and didn’t come out with the total I wanted.

BUT, and here’s that perspective thing again, I DID come out ahead. I did all of the above (including setting TWO meet PRs) at a LOWER BODYWEIGHT than ever before. So, pound for pound I actually lifted MORE based on my bodyweight than I had ever lifted before. And that Wilks score of 316.65 is proof. Even without the 297 pound squat I increased my score by 4.5 points. So, for raw numbers I may not have hit my goal but I certainly hit them based on percentages. And for that I am grateful. Perspective is a good thing.

Check out this link to see video, scroll down to: Sunday 1A | Sunday, October 16th | Session 1 | Stream A (Platforms 1-2) | 9:00AM | Women’s 84 & 84+ kg & Men’s 120 & 120+ kg weight classes

http://www.bodybuilding.com/ fun/usa-powerlifting.html

  • Squat: My first two squats weren’t captured, my 3rd: 37:13 for 297 (I actually didn’t get credit for this because of my knee bounce at the beginning of the lift); I was credited for my first squat 275 squat
  • Bench: 2:11 for 148; 2:22 for 160; 2:32 for 165
  • Deadlift: 3:58 for 308; 4:05 for 336 (missed); 4:13 for 336

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Happy birthday to me!

Monday was my birthday. I turned 44 years old at 6:29 pm and I feel fine!

Last Saturday I spent the day volunteering at and watching the Solcana Novice Powerlifting Meet and saw the light beginning to shine in the eyes of newly minted powerlifters. I was moved by the emotions of each of the lifters as they walked out onto the platform for the first time did things they weren’t expecting. I was there to cheer on one of The Movement Minneapolis own lifters but as with every meet I attend I was cheering for everyone putting their skill and love of the sport on the line. I will say that my early birthday present was that Dani Saubert had a great meet and PR’d her deadlift! What fun to see.

And afterwards I had lunch and a long conversation with my favorite coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. We talked about many things including the past several weeks of what I considered lackluster performance in the gym, my own expectations of myself and how I should be doing in training (which oddly enough translates to the rest of my life), and how to finish prepping for USAPL Raw Nationals in two weeks. Apparently my expectations were waaay out of whack and she set me straight. Expectations that may have been true as a novice lifter are no longer realistic since I’ve graduated to the intermediate realm – especially with my training cycles so close together. So I had to reset my brain (once again) to focus on what feels right in the gym rather than what I expect should happen in the gym.

What led me to this point (again)? I’m fairly certain it was my misguided expectation that I needed to prove that I can lift heavy things at the same level as my last competition during training for my next meet. I don’t trust a one time deal – my job as a software tester has taught me that until it’s been tested at least three times it could just be a fluke. In my mind setting a PR once is not proof that I am strong and can recreate it in my next meet. I need to hit that weight again and again to feel that I’ve earned the right to say I can lift it. And to me I should be able to hit the weight (or close to it) with relative ease during my training cycle or it was a fluke. I was having a hard time trusting the training and therefore a hard time with training.

This week has been a relative breeze with this mind shift. And I’m hoping it finally sticks. I was able to get through bench, squat, and deadlift days with ease – working up to a weight that was challenging, about an 8 RPE, and staying there. I inched up in each for a final set just to see what happened and even those reps felt good. And because I didn’t try to start too high I finished the sets with my head on straight. I started “comfortable” and inched up a smidge to check on my gainz. Spoiler: I’ve still got it.

I’m going into my last week of training with a fresher mindset and a comfortable plan for USAPL Raw Nationals. I’m treating this as a chance to see how far I’ve come since I began lifting competitively last year and to see where I’ve come since the Twin Ports Raw Open in June. I’ve put in the training, I’ve been consistent. I’ve learned to trust my coach and other trainers. I’ve got two weeks until I compete and I’m going to try to use them wisely. There will be long talks with JVB, recovery, and plenty of quiet time. All of this is will help me lift better, be stronger, and destroy my old expectations.

Oh, and how did I spend my birthday week? Playing dress up, of course! (Bear courtesy of office move).