2017 USAPL Raw Nationals 

Whelp, I did it again. I competed in my second USAPL Raw Nationals meet on October 14th. This time I came in fourth in the Masters 1 84 kg division and got to stand on the podium with three incredible women – Alicia Webb, April Grey, and Lorin Blake. You can watch us here and here.

2017 USAPL Raw Nationals Women’s Masters 1 84 kg class Photo: Dennis Krantz

I know you are thinking: so how DID you do, Donna? I’ll tell you: I successfully squatted 292 pounds, benched 171 pounds, and deadlifted 341 pounds. While none of these are close to personal records they are all better than I did a year ago at the same venue and they qualified me for the 2018 USAPL Raw Nationals.

Before I go any further with my recap I want to call out my coach, the amazing Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. She has been my rock for the past two years, helping me get through personal issues and get over emotional hurdles and giving me the kick I need to do the work. I’ve been following her programming and it’s been what I’ve needed to grow.

I’ll also give a shout out to my gym The Movement Minneapolis and all of the wonderful coaches and teammates there. If it weren’t for my internat stalking of Jen Sinkler and Mark Schneider (yes, I stalked you both) I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And last, I can’t thank Julia Ladewski enough. She had been helping me with my nutrition and making weight since Nationals in 2016. This woman is amazing at knowing how to tell me what I know and then making it stick and actually getting me to follow the plan. She listened to me whine about it being hard to est right to get make sure I was in the 84kg weight class. Kudos to you, Julia.

So as you can see I have an amazing support team and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and helped me believe in myself. Without you I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

So, how do I feel about my performance? Would I have liked to have done better? You bet. Am I disappointed? No way. I gave it my all and then some and can honestly say it was the best I could have done on that day.

This sounds a little anti-climatic but i can trace this feeling to my first training session of this cycle: I kind of wasn’t into it. Part of me felt I had peaked at my first meet this year (MN Women’s State), part of me was disappointed with my performance at Twin Ports (even though I took gold), and part of me was just plain tired and probably needed a break. So why did I continue? Good question. 

I continued because I had made a commitment to myself and my team and family. I continued because it was expected of me. I continued because I don’t know how to quit. I continued a little out of habit.

But really I continued because I knew it would be good for me and would keep me from falling into myself and into depression. You see, Powerlifting is more than a sport to me, more than a passing fad – it’s therapy. Without a goal I am lost and start listening to the negative voices and worse I start agreeing with them.

Powerlifting in general, and training with a competition goal in particular, helps me quiet those voices, ignore their incessant chatter. So I continued even though things were harder than earlier in the year. I wasn’t at the gym on consistent days, I don’t think I hit all my training sessions, and I was more stressed than usual.

These are not excuses I am making for my performance at Nationals. These are explanations as to why I am pleased with how I did – actually showing up and doing the work despite the chaos. And doing it to the best of my ability.

My 314 pound grind during my final squat attempt is a great example of giving it my all: coming off my training cycle I didn’t even think I could walk that out from the squat but I did, and I squatted to depth and got out of the hole and it wasn’t until after I pushed my hips through that I lost it – I actually shifted my right foot for leverage and I knew it was over. But I gave it my all, I didn’t quit.

I went conservative on my bench attempts and crushed all three of them. Ending the day at 171 pounds may not have been my best bench ever but it got me through Nationals.

And my deadlifts. This is the one lift I have a little sadness around. I was really hoping for great things, breaking the 363 pound barrier I’ve put up for myself. But it wasn’t meant to be.

My first lift went up well, no complaints. It was my second lift that threw me off – 341 is an easy weight for me but that day it felt like a million pounds. My setup and start was all wrong. Maybe switching my grip the month before wasn’t the best idea. Oh well, I did what I had to and got that bar off the ground. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t have enough left for my final attempt (again, a weight I knew I could lift) and I started my lift before my setup was even complete! But even in that situation I didn’t give up – I went down pulling hard.

So I guess that’s the moral of the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals – I didn’t give up. I ended up on the platform and performing better than I had a year ago. I improved myself and really in the end that is the only statistic that counts.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

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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.

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.