When I was a girl…

Thursday night was historic. Whether you agree with the politics or not it was an historic night – or rather an HERSTORIC night. And quite literally it is the night I have been waiting for since I was a twelve year old girl. And I realized how incredibly lucky MY nieces (ages 7-12 and 26) are to be living through this moment in time. Now that there is no ceiling, the sky’s the limit for them and all the young girls and women to come.

These posts by my sister Janine made me realize just how important Thursday was:

Responses of two of my nieces to Hillary’s speech.

But let’s look back to 12 year old Donna and why this moment is so important to me, so impactful.

I was very lucky to be raised by parents who instilled the virtue of “civic duty” and the idea that you could do whatever you wanted, no matter who you were. They followed politics because they knew that even though it happens thousands of miles away it has very real impacts on our daily lives. Because of this I was introduced to the political process early – my earliest political memories are of Jimmy Carter, though only vaguely, I was only 8 when he lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. I think it was the Reagan assassination attempt that made me realize that politics were here and now.

It was the election of 1984 that really caught brought my attention to politics and the feminism (I think I was a 12 year old feminist, even before I knew what that meant). I was a smart, bookish dreamer with a love of history and a desire to make the world a better place. Enter Walter Mondale, Democrat from Minnesota (this is important – that’s my home, too) as the Democratic party’s nominee. Now this was a man running against a VERY popular president. I mean, Reagan WAS a movie star. And who did Mondale choose to run with him? Senator Geraldine Ferraro. A woman. My 12 year old brain and heart nearly exploded. This really meant I could do anything.

Up until that moment I don’t know that I had thought about politics and the President as anything other than in an historical context. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who had one of the BEST political spouses – Eleanor). But now there was someone who looked like me, someone I could relate to (even if I was only 12) running for vice president – picked because she was smart and qualified and AWESOME. (That’s how 12 year old girls think, right?) I was in love. She was so strong, so wonderful. So historic. I loved catching glimpses of her on the evening news (I’m really dating myself, aren’t I?). Poised. Articulate. Respectful. It wasn’t meant to be, however. As progressive as I thought we were in 1984 the country chose to stick with Reagan. After the loss (yes, I remember) I was a little heartbroken.

But I was paying attention for the first time to Senators from other states – Olympia Snowe (who always makes me think of Olympia Dukakis) and Barbara Boxer are the two who stand out. They were there, in the Senate, fighting for me. They had power and people listened to them. I had a new dream: Senator.

Why Senator? I always said it was because that is where the real power lies, that the President can’t get things done without them. And while this is true I now think it was because I had never seen someone like me embraced as Presidential. I mean, Eleanor Roosevelt was wonderful and smart and had all the qualities I want in a President but even she had to settle for being “First Lady.” That was the highest office a woman could achieve – being the wife of the President. And I certainly didn’t want to be anyone’s wife.

I didn’t realize how long I had been waiting for another woman to be passed the torch Geraldine Ferraro had lit until 1992 when a man from Hope, Arkansas introduced the country to his wife. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary Rodham Clinton. So progressive. So liberal. So real. So much her own woman. No, she didn’t have time to bake cookies. She had shit to do and much to accomplish in her own life. I had found a new love. She was tough, smart, and said what she wanted. She couldn’t be “handled.” And I wanted HER as my president. I settled for her husband.

In the intervening 20-odd years (and I mean odd) I have waited and hoped and gotten excited and heartbroken each time a smart, articulate woman came close to matching the fire lit by Geraldine and Hillary. When Minnesota finally elected Amy Klobuchar I was over the moon. We joined the progressive states who needed and wanted women in power. (I’m still waiting for one to fill the Governor’s office.) There were several female candidates during the 90’s and early 2000’s but the country still hadn’t found the one.

Then it happened. In 2008 my second love decided to run for the Democratic nomination. Hillary.Rodham.Clinton. My fire was re-lit and my excitement for the race was high. She was fierce. She fought hard. But it wasn’t meant to be – though if she had to lose, losing to Barack Obama was alright. And I thought it would be many decades (if it even happened in my lifetime) before I would have the opportunity to see my dream of a female President. It seemed to me that the patriarchy (took me long enough to get to them, didn’t it?) would never allow a woman into that most exclusive, exclusionary of clubs: President of the United States of America. So many other successful countries had benefited from female leaders and yet we, the progressive country that we are, couldn’t make it happen.

Until Thursday night. When we came one step closer to shattering the highest of glass ceilings. And I am so proud to be part of it, to have nieces as excited as I about this moment in herstory.

What does this story have to do with powerlifting? Mostly nothing. Except this: if you don’t try you won’t know how far you can go. And I’m trying so the sky’s the limit.


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.

But what do you do for fun?

I’d like to say a lot of things but lately I’ve been working more than funning. And between work and training there isn’t a lot of energy left for funning. But on the weekends I can be a little looser with my time and tackle some of those fun things. 

This long weekend I’m tackling things like enjoying nature, bicycling, and painting my garage door trim. Yup, that’s the kind of funning I do. But I do them with gusto and enjoy every minute!

Saturday was a blast – spent most of the day at the Minnesota Landsacpe Arboretum and didn’t see enough. I visited some old friends and made some new. There are so many wonderful plants to explore within 100 yards of the main building that you get absorbed and don’t wander into the excitement that is the 3-mile loop. And once you get to the 3-mile loop you can spend time getting lost in the trails and looking for that certain “Norwegian” maple tree. And then there is the sculpture garden. I know, right?!?! A sculpture garden – art at the arboretum. Not to mention the carnivorous plant and giant bugs exhibits! So.Much.Fun. 

Sunday was full of activities. I have an awesome recumbent bicycle and went for a long for me bicycle ride – 23 miles. It started and ended at a regional park (Coon Rapids Dam for those of you in the know), along a nice regional trail (Rush Creek Trail) and then around another regional park (Elm Creek Park). It was good to stretch my legs in a way I normally don’t – sadly this was the first bicycle ride I’ve been on this season. I really have to remedy that! 

Then it was home to a 45 minute nap. It wasn’t so much a nap as lying down quietly with my eye closed. And it was so refreshing. Sometimes that just needs to be done. 

After my nap it time to sand and paint the garage door trim – both the car doors and the people door. And while we were at it we sanded and painted the (small) front porch railings. It was a long, hot job but so satisfying. Everything is so fresh looking it makes me feel good. Now if only I felt up to washing the deck…

And finally we end up on Monday. Today I woke up early – 6 am for those keeping track. Instead of going back to bed (as I am wont to do on days I don’t have to work) I got up, checked some news, made coffee and headed for the deck (yes, the one that is in need of washing). And here I sit, planning my day in the cool morning shade listening to the birds and enjoying my coffee. 

There is nothing that says a person has to be perpetually busy to be happy and that busy is the only way to have fun. Sometimes the most fun I have is sitting quietly on my deck, listening. Mourning doves. Crows. Jays. Chickadees. Cars in the distance. Nature in the ‘burbs. This is going to be a good day, whatever I end up doing. 

How did you get into powerlifting?

How did you get into powerlifting? This was a question asked on the registration form for the USAPL Raw Nationals. I typed an innocuous answer, something about a coach at my gym (JVB) asking if anyone wanted to try powerlifting and I decided sure, why not? I like lifting heavy things. But as I lay in bed after submitting that I realized it was only part of the answer, the easy part. What was missing was the answer to WHY did you get into powerlifting.

I alluded to my answer for WHY in my very first post but even that didn’t get to the heart of the answer. And maybe the answer is ever-evolving and what I am about to write is just the most current understanding I have of WHY.

I got into powerlifting because I believed that having a strong body would influence my state of mind. Strong body = strong mind = strong person. And at the moment in life when I began powerlifting I did not have a strong mind. Or rather, I didn’t have confidence in my strong mind. I was looking for something of a magic bullet to help me believe in myself again and lift me up from the outside in.

As we are learning more each day, being a woman is really hard. From birth (it seems) we are inundated with images of what girls are, should be, and should aspire to be. I never fit any of those molds – I am a smart, short, brunette with a “solid” frame. My eyes I affectionately (OK, derisively) call “shit brown” and I am sarcastic to a fault. And I have always been strong. And not just for a girl. I was the one people asked to lift heavy things and to literally pick them up when they were down.

What did this do for me, growing up in our society? It marginalized me and instead of learning to live my own life I was trying to live the life that I perceived society expected of me: girls should be delicate and tread lightly, not rock the boat. Girls should not be physically stronger than boys – that intimated boys and you would never get a boyfriend that way. Girls should not be intellectually smarter than boys – boys preferred their girls dumber so they could feel superior.

Did I actually believe those things? On some level I must have believed because they certainly influenced me. I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I thought I was too physically aggressive and not “delicate” enough – I outweighed him and it freaked me out. I didn’t try dating anyone else because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me. I didn’t believe in myself.

Until I met my husband. And boy did he believe in me. Remember that first post where I mentioned rock climbing and kayaking and everything else that I love? Because he believed in me I was better able to believe in myself and try everything that I wanted – whether it was “normal” for a girl or not. These activities helped me gain strength and confidence. All was good but there was a nagging in the back of my mind, like I was missing something. And then in the midst of dark times in my life I found it: lifting heavy things.

Lifting heavy things was like getting back to my roots, getting back to me. I once again felt strong, like the one people could call when they needed help, when they needed someone to help them out of a jam – emotional or physical. In my search for me I found powerlifting and through powerlifting I was lucky enough to find a tribe of supportive women and men, people I can turn to when I am not strong. People who lift me up and believe in me. It’s kind of like Santa exists only as long as you believe in him – I can be strong mentally and physically only as long as I have a group of supportive people who help ME believe in me.

So, what is my REAL answer to the question: how did you get into powerlifting?

I got into powerlifting to strengthen my body and to use that physical strength to help strengthen my mind and my belief in myself. I got into powerlifting to learn who I am and who I will become.


It’s been a week. What happened?

Twin Ports Raw Open Run Down

Last weekend at this time (as of Saturday at 7:15 AM) I was already weighed in and waiting for the meet to start. I was waiting with Ellie for our turns to lift. This was Ellie’s first meet and my first meet-aversary and it promised excitement. Newly enforced rules meant I was weighed in almost two hours before lifting was set to begin. Pre-meet time for me is pretty laid-back. I was mingling with fellow Belles of the Bar, eating oreos, and generally letting off steam before the meet because once the meet starts I’m all business.

I came away a silver medalist. It was about what I expected. But was it what I wanted? To be honest, no. Am I satisfied with my day? Yes. And like you I am struggling a little to reconcile my desire for better and satisfaction with the way I performed.


First off, I went 7 for 9 on my lifts – I missed my third attempt on both bench and deadlift but I hit all three of my squat attempts, topping out at 308 pounds. Both my bench and deadlift tied meet records so I didn’t lose any points so to speak.

My third attempt for bench is probably what I regret the most – I made the lift but was called on a technical – I jumped the press command at the bottom. Even as I pressed and THEN heard the command I knew the lift wasn’t going to count. My 165 pound bench was void.  But, in my defense, I finished the lift and boy was it pretty. Up so smooth. It proved I can bench 165 which means I’ve got more in me. A lot more. And JVB is going to help me out and so I can introduce it at USAPL Raw Nationals in October.

So, you may be asking about the deadlift, my lift. Well, first attempt at 315 flew up – just as expected. Second attempt at 330 went up with no problems. And then I decided to go for it, a cool, hard 363, a 23 pound PR. And you know what? It was heavy and and felt like it didn’t move. BUT, watching the video revealed the truth: it DID move. A fraction. Off the floor. Which means it is within reach. The last time this happened to me in a meet was with 330 – and now I can lift 340 for reps. So I know 363 is there, within my grasp (ha!). So maybe 370, or 380 is within reach for nationals. Afterall I have four months of training ahead of me.

I’ve been taking it easy for the past week, gathering my thoughts and my plans for the next fours months as I begin my training for USAPL Raw Nationals in earnest.

Oh, and here are the final stats for those keeping score:

  • Squat: 308 pounds (140k)
  • Bench: 159 pounds (72.5k)
  • Deadlift: 330 pounds (150k)
  • Total: 799 pounds (362k)
  • Wilks: 312
  • Age-adjusted Wilks: 321

Thanks for all the support. I’m looking forward to continuing to share this journey with you.


One week out…

It’s one week out. Twin Ports Raw Open is June 11th and I’m struggling to get my head back in the game. So many things are happening and I felt that I was on the verge of losing my Destroyer-ness. I know, it happens to the best of us, we can’t all be at the top all of the time, if we didn’t have these times we wouldn’t know what happiness is. Blah, blah, blah.

Back story: 

For the past few years I’ve been struggling periodic bouts of mild depression and for the past two weeks I’ve been in a funk that has thrown me off my game. I’ve been more isolated and less involved in life and it’s hit me where it hurts: my lifting days.

When I began powerlifting about a year and a half ago I was coming out of a pretty dark time – I had been half-heartedly going to the gym once a week and mostly going to work and going home and sleeping. But I was coaxed into the light when someone at the gym mentioned training for a powerlifting competition and I waded in slowly, committing to the training but not the meet because I wasn’t ready for the deep end. By the time that first training cycle had ended I was hooked and I was leaving that dark period behind.

Present day: 

Until recently. What changed? I can’t pinpoint an exact moment or thing but all of a sudden I looked up and the light was receding. Work was becoming overbearing and life had begun to swallow me again. I was working, going to the gym and going home – day in, day out. And this time even lifting hasn’t been able to pull me out. Maybe because I am too close to it now or maybe because I’ve put pressure on myself to perform at a certain level. I don’t know. But I’m tired of it.

I will say that my squat session yesterday and my practice bench press session today were better. And for that I am giving a shout out to JVB, my fearless leader. She said something to me yesterday that in my head I know but needed to be said out loud: at this point in training I shouldn’t be missing lifts and all I should be doing is building confidence – the weight on the bar doesn’t matter.

The weight on the bar doesn’t matter. Do you know how much my heart needed to hear this? My heart and my head have been having a lot of battles lately – they don’t always speak the same language and right now I’m not even certain they are speaking to each other. And now, finally, the heart heard what the head knew: the weight on the bar doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t mean I’m giving up my goals or am going to go light at my meet, it means that I don’t have to reach my goals all at once. Didn’t I have a great deadlift session last week? And how about the squat PR I had a couple weeks ago? Both were legit and valid but my heart was so stuck on a number that it affected my head and prevented me from doing anything. Now I don’t have to focus so much on those numbers.

Today I put on my pretty fuchsia Strong is the new STRONG tank and super hero tights and headed to the gym to practice my bench press setup and do some very light reps. And you know what? It was good. I was able to experiment with different setups, lift a moderate amount of weight and feel good. Yup. I felt good about what I did.

Does this mean I’ve climbed out of the funk? I don’t know. It does mean that I’m not necessarily STUCK there any more. I have options and in a week I’ll have a new set of goals to begin working towards: USAPL Raw Nationals.

Strong is as strong does.


Training Week in Review 2: The Sequel

We all know it to be true: the sequel is never* as good as the original. And in the case of my training this past week this is doubly true. While I hit a new deadlift PR (340 pounds, thank you very much) my bench and squats really paid the price. It was as if I forgot how to do a bench press and what squat depth meant.

I’m not telling you this to elicit a pity response but rather to show you how I’m continuing to  redefine failure for myself. You see, it’s easy for me to be discouraged and want to crawl under a rock and feel sorry for myself and think that I’m not good enough and that my goals are WAY out of reach when weeks like this happen. But I’m not going to do that this week.

You may be asking why? and I’ll tell you: because the only thing I did was not hit a couple of training lifts that I wanted to hit. It doesn’t mean everything that I’ve done up to this point is null and void. It doesn’t mean that I am suddenly less than I was last week or that I’m a bad person. It just means that this week there were factors that prevented me from performing like a I did last week. And that’s life.

What happened during the week? Life and it’s stressors, I suppose. Number one is that my work schedule has been incredibly hectic and my sleep schedule hasn’t caught up. Getting up at 4:45 am and working from 6:15 am until 4:30 0r 5:30 pm isn’t as conducive to recovery as one would think. Plus, all those meetings! Sitting and thinking and making decisions all day leaves a person drained by the time they walk through the gym doors at 5 or 6 pm. And then again, the previous week was so stellar that I’m sure there was some residual tiredness (plus, did I mention 340 pound deadlifts – for 5 sets of 2?).

What’s my plan going forward? Since work isn’t going to change soon I really need to step up  my recovery for the next two weeks (YIKES! It’s less than two weeks until Twin Ports Raw Open!). Eating better, getting more sleep (I’m gonna feel like an old person going to be bed at 9 pm), making better decisions at home, work AND the gym. It’s only two weeks – I can handle it.

And in the long run I’ll figure out how to manage my work commitments (I’m hiring some people so that’s a step in the right direction), take more breaks from work (hello vacation time), and learn more effective recovery techniques. I’m sure there’s someone out there who can help…

* I know there are exceptions, but I am using this for dramatic purposes so let’s just go with it, ok?

Training week in review – beginning of the end

This week marks the beginning of my last 4-week training cycle for the Twin Ports Raw Open meet on June 11th. I must admit it didn’t begin well – I got a head cold and decided NOT to train Monday and Tuesday to recover my body and begin my final training cycle training refreshed. This meant I had to figure out how to get my training in Wednesday through Saturday, knowing I had a graduation to attend Friday night. So training on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday it was.

Day 1: Deadlifts

Lovely Wednesday Deadlifts. We all know I love deadlifts. And that I have a pretty specific goal in mind (400 pounds). I have had some ups and downs during this training cycle but I’m going out on a limb to say it’s picking up for the better now.

My session this week ROCKED! I don’t know if it was the extra time between training sessions (Saturday to Wednesday) or the extra sleep I’ve been allowing myself but I was able to confidently pull 330 pounds for 5 sets of 2. And after that I did some rack pulls (deadlifts with a raised bar) at 365 pounds so I could practice my lock out and feel that weight in my hands. It was heavy but I was confident.

I’d say I’m coming along nicely for my next meet even if I don’t reach the 400 pound mark quite yet.

Day 2: Bench

Thursday was Bench day. What can I say about my bench press? Being positive I can say that I haven’t lost anything for the upcoming meet even though I’ve been battling a shoulder twinge for much of this training cycle.

This week I was able to press 155 pounds – not the best but not the worst. The presses themselves looked pretty good so my plan is to keep working technique and pushing the bar up. I should be able to beat my meet PR (160 pounds) and I’ll be happy with that. I’ll pick up more specific bench training for October to help improve that number but for now I’ll be happy not back sliding.

Day 3: Squats

Saturday SQUATS! I’m excited about my squat progress so far and this week I hit a new gym PR: 295 pounds! Not far from my goal of 300, so who knows – I may go for a big PR at the meet.

Training was working up to 9 RPE (meaning I could probably crank out one more rep if I had to) and that took forever! Forty minutes. And I still had the 3×3 at 265 pounds that I had to get through to call my primary lifting complete. PLUS the accessory movements that help me get stronger (remember those Anderson Squats? I got to do more of those as well as some other fun stuff). Saturday open hours at the gym are 10am – 11am. I was able to convince one of the coaches to let me come in at 9:30 and I finally left at 11:30. The coaches are pretty awesome to let me overstay open hours (plus the yoga class enjoyed some of my heckling).

So overall the beginning of the end is going well. I’m proud of the consistency I’ve put in at the gym and the progress I’ve made. To some it may seem like small potatoes but to me it’s just the beginning.

Next up: picking my lift attempt weights. I’ve already had a dream where I was at the meet and hadn’t done it yet and had no idea what to lift. I think this is the powerlifting version of the “being unprepared for a major test” dream.

Into the fray

Westside, Conjugate, Wendler, 5/3/1. Bulking, cutting, de-load. Peaking, volume, periodization. Seriously, WTF?

With all these words flying around the powerlifting world I finally realized I have jump into the deep end and figure things out for myself.

I’ve been powerlifting competitively for a year now (OMG! I’m a competitive powerlifter!). I know I’m strong. But now I have to learn what it takes for me to stay strong, be healthy, and become the master of my universe I think I am (I’m in the Masters division so I decided to rename it the Masters of the Universe division).

For the last year I’ve followed the lead of my trainers and have been training successfully, continuing to make gains. They provide me with most excellent training, keep me healthy and help me get stronger. Now I want to learn what they know. Understand why they recommend one exercise over the another. Take charge of my training (even if it is continuing to have them program it for me) and really understand what I am doing. So I have to jump into the fray.

There is a wealth of information on the internet about powerlifting and strength training. So much I don’t even want to look. It exhausts me just thinking about it – especially after a long week of work. Who are the best resources, how do I know what is right for me?

If you’ve ever wondered entering the term “powerlifting training” into a google search returns about 630,000 records. 630,000. That’s a lot. Too many for me. So what am I going to do?

Listen to my Movement Minneapolis trainers of course!

JVB (Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake) is half of the Barbells & Bone Broth podcast AND she wrote the Unapologetically Powerful powerlifting program. David Dellanave wrote the book on deadlifts and Jen Sinkler is a phenomenal trainer with a wealth of knowledge and little gems like the Lift Weights Faster programs. And I would be remiss if didn’t mention Mark Schneider and Martin Rittenberry because they are seriously great trainers. I’m surrounded by incredible people with great knowledge – I just have to listen to them when they talk about the people they look look up to and respect.

So now it’s my turn to delve into the vastness of powerlifting and training information out there and understand what I’ve been told. I’ve got my reading assignments – and I’m going to start at the very beginning (which I hear is a very good place to start). Someday I hope to have a fraction of the knowledge of my trainers.



Get out of my head!

I thought I was over it – that feeling of anxiety about the amount of weight on the bar. But this week I realized I’m not. Squats, deadlifts, and bench (to an extent) have me pausing in reflection instead of asserting myself and just lifting.

I am cautious by nature. I take my time acclimating to new experiences and approach change slowly. But I had assumed that knowing my goal (a 400-pound deadlift, 300-pound squat, and beating my previous 159-pound meet record for bench) would make it easier for me to increase weight on the bar and be appropriately assertive (or aggressive) when lifting.

Last week I had a massive deadlift PR: 3×5 sets at 315 pounds- beltless. So this week (with my eyes on 400) I thought a 3×5 at 325 pounds beltless would be a breeze, or at least very do-able for me. I loaded the bar, chalked my hands and stepped up to the bar. Hah! I was only able to pull one rep without my belt. One. It was kind of a let down. My heart sank a little because I wasn’t able to continue without a belt. Somehow I forgot that I just lifted 325 pounds. By myself.

Instead of dropping the weight I put my belt on and began again. One. Two. Annnd three. I was able to pull 3 reps but they felt heavy and hard. One of my Movement coaches (David Dellanave) asked me what RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) it was, whether I had anything left after last lift. In my head I didn’t. It felt like I could have ground through one more rep, still shy of the 5 reps in my programming. It just felt heavy.

My second set went up easier, but I was exhausted by the 3rd rep. (Side note: David thought my initial RPE assessment may have been skewed because of the ease he saw in the second three reps.) By my third set it was all I could do to lift because I had decided it was heavy (sometimes it IS heavy – especially when you are seeing stars) and my final lift was a grind. I got it up and locked out, but it wasn’t my easiest lift.

And then there were the squats. The lovely, difficult, heavy squats. It was much the same as the deadlifts earlier in the week. Last week I was doing sets of 5X3 and this week it was sets of 4X3. My first set at 265 pounds was beltless and HEAVY. My second beltless set? I didn’t get the third squat up (yay for squatting inside the rack with safety bars set). So I put my belt on and everything was  much lighter – with better form. Slight disappointment that I couldn’t complete the sets without a belt, but happy to come to the conclusion (thanks Mark) that any squat up to 250 pounds can be done beltless but above that, belt on.


Why was it so much harder this week? I’m blaming the fact that I’ve got numbers running around my head, messing with me. I have it in my head that each week I have to be at least incrementally better at my lifts than I was the previous week – without a belt. And each week the weights get heavier and my mind gets more anxious – “what if I can’t lift what I did last week?”, “what if I can’t lift more than I did last week?”, “why do I need my belt?”, “I am not progressing fast enough” and so on.

So, how will I get over it? I don’t know. But I know I’ll have help.