Ahhh, that’s better

Two weeks ago was, well, challenging. Nothing felt right and everything was a bit off. I don’t think I could even tie my shoes without feeling like I was doing something wrong. Be it hormones, mercury in retrograde, or a simple slump. Everything  was harder than I expected.

mercuryretrograde2

Part of this was because of (I LOVE being a Monday Evening therapist) my “research” of the women I will be competing against at Raw Nationals. I had looked at the roster a few times since I registered but a couple weeks ago I really studied it. The Masters 1 class for both the 84 and 84+ classes seemed to have exploded with women. STRONG women. Women I don’t know and have never seen compete before and I’m sure they are sooo much better and stronger than me. And why am I doing this again? Cutting sucks and my lifting is bad and I can’t even do a “normal” set of 5×3 at deadlifts at 315 pounds. I’m sure I won’t hit any lifts…

For me, neither weight class is a “sure thing” for a medal any more (not that I ever really thought they would be) but I chose to cut so I would be more competitive in a weight class. At the time I registered I had the third highest qualifying total in the 84 kilo weight class so I decided to cut weight and see what happened.

I mean, I knew that more women would be registering and that would affect my ranking/standing in my weight class since I registered so early. But I didn’t realize how it would affect me mentally when saw their numbers and where I landed. I’m coming out of my small pond where I’ve been a “bigger” fish in the women’s 84+ Masters 1a division and going into a much larger pond – where I’m a much smaller fish. And it’s scary. And I let it get to me. A lot.

But this past week came to my rescue. Something shifted and (nearly) everything that was wrong before became an opportunity and learning experience. I’m not entirely sure what the shift was – maybe admitting to people I was having doubts and issues – but it happened. I have been able to NOT focus and stalk the roster, which is a good thing.

PLUS it was a training de-load week which meant lighter weights, shorter sessions, and definitely more WINS. Sometimes you have to feel like a winner to feel better. On bench day one I did a little heavier on the Dumbbell Incline Bench and my Sumo Anderson Squats were on point on Squat day. My heavy-ish bench clusters on bench day two? Nice and easy at 135 pounds. I liked it. And I rocked the 4×8 FAST deadlifts at 225 pounds on Deadlift day. That’s 32 deadlifts folks. At 225 pounds. For a total volume of 7200 pounds. And that wasn’t ALL I did in that workout.

So, does it matter to me who I am competing with in four weeks? Not really. Because I’m no longer focusing on them or who I can beat. I’m focusing on being better than I was at my last meet. I was pretty damn fine at my last meet so look out Atlanta – here comes the Destroyer! 

 

Impostor!

There. Now you all know it. I’m an impostor. More precisely, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. An impostor in my own life – everything from home to work to the gym, I’m not who I appear to be. Though mostly I think I’m suffering from a very bad case of Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. (Impostor syndrome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I have felt out of sorts all week and, at least where it concerns my powerlifting training, it has to do with actually looking at and paying attention to the roster of lifters in both the Masters 1 (M1) 84 and 84+ weight classes whom I will be competing against WITH in the October Raw Nationals. I’ve been so used to my inherent strength being able to carry me through competitions and get me one step closer to my goals that its hard to see people I will be competing with who are already where I want to be someday. 

Yesterday it was my bench press. It was supposed to be a 4 x 2, 2, 2 cluster set. OK, I can do that. But I wanted to do it at 150 pounds. I was able to squeak ONE cluster correctly but the rest? My head was in the way. It was telling me that 150 pounds is heavy and that I can’t lift that for reps. All I could concentrate was on that weight. 150 pounds. 150 pounds. Shit that’s heavy. 150 pounds. And I struggled to get 2 singles up. Struggled really hard.

But I’m lucky – we have a resident sage at our gym. Not only is he strong AF, he’s smart AF AND intuitive AF. He just knows things and can see the struggle. And can help you give a name or a voice to the struggle. And so he calmly asked me (not in so many words, but rather with a twinkle in his eyes) to figure out what was causing the swirling thoughts in my head (and nicely didn’t ask too much about those swirling thoughts). My answer: thinking too much about the weight and not enough on the lifting.

I made the joke that maybe I should shoot some archery since it calms me. Instead of saying “yes” he simply asked me WHY it calmed me. Because archery is a mental game and powerlifting is a physical game. I LOVE mental games. But I’ve always struggled with physical games. So, why not look at powerlifting as a mental game, too? Sure, there’s a giant physical aspect but it’s totally a mental game. So I tried. This meant calming my mind of distracting thoughts and focusing on the task at hand.

Bench set up: start behind the bar, hands wrapped tight. Swing body under bar and onto bench, arching back to get better tension. Fix feet and butt positions. Reset shoulders. NOW look up at the bar, breathe deeply two or three times, kick everything else out of my mind. Signal for unracking the bar. Final bracing breath. Pull the bar to chest, slight pause. Push the bar up. Repeat bracing breath, pulling and pushing. Done. Two reps at some weight. More or less easy as pie. I can do it. I have the knowledge.

So while I may sometimes feel like an impostor I know that I’m not – I’m putting in the work to get the results you see. I just have to shut up and let myself do the work.

What I just realized

I knew it was coming. I have been planning for it for months, training for weeks. But today, right now, this moment it hit me like a ton of bricks. October 16th is coming up and I am going to be lifting in a national competition. It’s exactly 6 weeks away. From today. 
I texted my coach, the lovely and powerful JVB of Strong is Fun and Unapologetically Powerful, asking for this weeks training schedule. She responded with it and let me know that this week is heavy week, next week a de-loading week and the last weeks are a ramp up for nationals. Sounds pretty perfect to me. 

And then I was thinking about it. How heavy is heavy? What’s my 5-rep max?   What’s my 3-rep max? What does that calculate into a 1-rep max? OMG! I am freaking COMPETING in six short weeks. How am I going to hit the numbers in my head? What ARE the numbers in my head? Shit. This just got really real (again). Now I have to dial everything in – technique has to be solid, diet needs to be spot-on, I have to incorporate more walking into my week. Everything needs to go just-so. 

I also have to get my transportation lined up. Getting to Atlanta takes a little more coordination than getting to Duluth (which took enough, thank-you-very-much). I am planning on flying so there is a ticket to purchase and figuring out how to pack my gear – can I get it all in a carry on? Or do I have my parents bring it since they are driving? So many options! How do I navigate the competition and check in and all that? Crap. 

I know I can do it. But I really have to buckle down and make it happen. No one else can do this for me but I’ve got great support and am consistent with training.  As long as I keep it up I will be golden. 

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Training Week 2 and a Virtual Powerlifting Meet

A couple weeks ago was about getting back into the swing of powerlifting training, learning how to eat my macros for a successful cut, and a virtual powerlifting meet to test my current strengths and areas for improvement. All in all it was a successful week for all three, though some more so than others.

Getting back into the swing of training is pretty easy though I do sometimes forget what I need to put in my bag on a given day – good thing I mostly remember the important stuff! I can do without socks and extra underwear, and even sometimes my sports bra, but it would suck without the right pants (or shorts) and tops. The other thing is figuring out what my working weights should be to keep increasing my strength – I try to push myself but sometimes I forget and go way too light (no more 16k kettlebell swings for me). But that’s what I have coaches for, right?

The next thing is my diet. Cutting is hard work. I actually have to pay close attention to what I eat and when. And track it. I’m working hard on this one – I really want to be in the 84k weight class by October. But I don’t know how well I’m succeeding. Again, it’s good that I’ve got a coach (Julia Ladewski) out there I can ask the questions to: what about meal spacing and timing? How does one eat 6 meals a day? What?!?!? And so on. And she comes back with answers to all my questions and suggestions to help me along. And then we go through the next week and start all over again. It’s definitely a process.

The fun part of the week was incorporating a virtual powerlifting meet into my workout. When my coach JVB hosts an online powerlifting meet to cap off her 12-week Unapologetically Powerful coaching program the second week of training I can’t help but enter and see how I do. I decided to come into the week using the lifts for two things: 1) baseline for my strength in that lift and 2) a means to learn what I need to focus on during the remainder of this training cycle. And it was good for both. A little humbling, too.

I’ll critique my lifts in the order they appear in competition even though I did them in the order they matched my training days and on vastly different days.

First up, as always, was the Squat. It’s a favorite and I surprised myself with a PR of 308 in the last meet so I was feeling fine. I was totally thinking (OK, hoping) to hit 310, just because I could. First attempt at 265 was totally fine. No problemo. Second at 285 was good for me, too. But that third attempt at 310? Nope. Not happening. I admit to be a little down BUT I had a couple things going for me: 1) a GREAT spotter in Mark and 2) the video that helped identify my problem area – not staying braced through the whole lift. So yay! takeaways are awesome.

285 attempt is so good.

310 attempt – not so good but I’m caught by Mark. Failure teaches a lot.

I’ve been having problems with my bench and asked JVB to help me get a stronger bench by programming my training to help build my back and upper body strength. My goal for my meet lift was to hit 165 pounds – what I had missed at my Twin Ports meet a month earlier for not waiting for commands. My first lift was 155 and it was good – hard, but good. So here is where I need to start working on attempt selection and getting consistently stronger with the bench: I thought I could get that 165 up so I increased bench to that amount. Well, I was wrong. Twice. But I didn’t give up or go home out of anger. Instead I analyzed the stick (a little shoulder positioning, a little too heavy) and now I have goals to work toward.

My 155 bench is good.

My 165 bench? Not so much…

And last, the deadlift. Ah, the deadlift. There is no lift that looks so easy and cause so much joy and heartache. I missed a attempt at Twin Ports – 360 pounds just wouldn’t come off the ground. Why? It was heavy! Or it could have been mental. I’ll never quite know but for this virtual meet I redeemed myself. I pulled 330, 340, and finally! 350 pounds for a tough but fair deadlift. What a way for me to end the meet. Was it perfect? Hell no. Was it lovely for me? Hell yes! I know I have work to do and pounds to before I reach my current goal of a 400 pound lift, but this 350 sure felt good.

My 350 dead? You bet it’s good! (By the way – look at that arm!)

And now I’m off to the races, training those weak spots and getting better every day.

The brains for the brawn

It’s finally happening. My life is about to be turned upside down in the best of ways. It’s a mere 13 weeks until USAPL Raw Nationals and my training is about to begin. I’ve got me a couple awesome coaches for the journey: JVB for strength and lifting and Julia Lawdewski for the hardest thing – nutrition. Yup, I’ve committed to an eating style that will be VERY new to me. But I’ve got a plan and this is part of it.

I’ve always  loved talking goals and making plans. I do it all the time (hellooo retirement in France). But it never seems real until I’m in that moment, the proverbial night-before-school-starts moment. All the jitters and worries and fears come out to play “what if I can’t?” “what if it sucks?” “what if I don’t succeed?” “what if…”

But this time I’m doing it right and I’ve got a team behind me. Yes, I’ve hired the brains to help me gain my brawn (I just thought of that and I love it! I’m changing the title of this post right now!) and cut weight to compete in the heavyweight division. Yikes! Cutting weight!  With the help of the right people and the right tools I’m committing to be the very best Masters I Female heavyweight (if the cut works) that I can be and turn in the performance of my lifetime. And I’m so excited to begin this stage of journey.

So, as you may have guessed by the fact that I’ve never tried to leave the super heavyweight division before, I love food. All food. All the time. And adult beverages (though not usually as much as food) so this whole cut thing has me worried. I’ve never really done a diet before and have definitely never done a cut. A cut for the laymen out there is the practice of losing weight prior to a sports competition (for me, Raw Nationals). And it means carefully watching what I eat and when, and not drinking adult beverages while I’m training to lift heavy. It kind of means that for the next 12 weeks leading up to Raw Nationals I don’t get to have fun in my usual ways. But I know it will be worth it!

How will I get through this? Well that’s why I hired my coaches – they’ll help keep me on track. I mean, they won’t be doing the work for me but they will be there in the back of my mind when times get tough and I just really, really  want that popcorn. Or chocolate. Or adult beverage. I’m counting on them acting upon my sense of guilt (which is quite advanced, I must say) and making me think twice before I do something that could affect the outcome of this cycle negatively.

And to all the food and adult beverages out there (I’m looking at you tequila): This is not goodbye, only “see you later.”

Twelve weeks will go by in the blink of an eye and I’ll be standing on the platform leaner and stronger than ever before. And I will be thinking of only one thing: lifting as heavy as I can.