Friday, April 8, 2016

"I don't care about the weight on the scale - what's the weight on the bar?!"

So, as promised Blogland, this week I got to work with some new stuff - despite being a little sick.
I apparently got this annoying sort of head cold thing that hit me hard for like 24 hours, but was just a nagging stuffy sinus and such for a few days before and after. Happy to report I feel pretty much 100% again, going into this weekend (YAY!).

After spending Sunday recuperating from the powerlifting meet and trying to ward off the pending sickness with a lot of hot tea and good food, Monday meant I was back at it!

We officially started the Couch to 5K program. WOO! For me, I should probably put an (again) at the end of that sentence, but really just semantics, right?

Holly (who's fault this round of C25K is), Stacey and I got together and prepared for battle. Day 1 always seems like the hardest to me, as you're filled with "the unknown"... like, you don't know what it's going to be like, if you can do it, etc. etc.etc.... just question marks. But, I told myself that I should STFU, as at least I'd done this before and more or less knew what to expect (and knew I could do it), whereas Holly was on her first round of this program EVER. She was the only one who got to be nervous on Day 1.

Despite "waiting until Spring" to start our C25K, April 4th graced us with 32 degree temperatures, snow in the air, and ice on the ground. This is not the ideal way I'd introduce a budding runner to running... but, at least it'd all be better from there?

Day 1: 32 degrees and icy! DONE!
I was set up to be the "pacer" for this running expedition, who'd note the walk and jog segments. That's a big responsibility people. Try not to run to fast, don't run too slow, geesh. Since it was Day 1, I went at a real easy 13ish minute pace, so everyone could figure out where we were at. I'm happy to report that (despite dodging ice puddles), I was easily able to complete the minute intervals of running that Day 1 required. Perhaps all my worrying about being so huge and running were unfounded?

Stacey, our entertainment for the run, kept us all laughing and amused, while we got through the work. Holly - our newbie - completed D1 like a boss, with no complaints, no real struggles, and all smiles at the end (maybe I didn't run fast enough!?). Mission accomplished!


I took it easy on CrossFit this week, as my body/breathing just weren't up to speed, but Holly and I then caught at Zumba class on Wednesday.

I admit... I phoned that one in HARD. I thought I felt okay going into it, but as soon as we started moving, my body was like EFFFF this. I had no ooomph, definitely no jumpy-jumpy's, and zero sass. I gave it all I had at that moment... which was probably like 50% of normal. I still got the blood moving a little bit for like 55 minutes, broke a little bit of a sweat... but man, that was rough. Sometimes, Blogland, it's just about showing up and going through the motions.
I definitely went home, hydrated a lot, and then went to bed super early. Always listen to your body!!!


I woke up Thursday morning feeling 100% better. Nothing like a good sleep (and a lot of tea with honey) to get you fixed up.

Holly modeling "monsoon wear"
Still took it easy and skipped bootcamp and such, but Thursday was slated for Day 2 of C25k, so I dutifully spandexed up for an easy romp through the cool weather. It was only drizzling on and off when we started, so all seemed well. I generally find it pleasant running in the rain, as did Holly and Stacy, so it seemed like it was going to be a good day.

D2 is the same workout as D1, so there were a lot less nerves going into this one. We'd all done day 1, we just needed to do it again! Inadvertently, I set a bit of a faster pace (around a 12 min/mile) this time, driven on by the rain I think. Nonetheless, my partners in crime kept right up and we completed our session without incidents or complaints, under a slightly rainy and grey sky.

Where we run is about 1/4 mile walk away from Holly's house. We had literally reached the end of our path, could see her house a 1/4 mile in the distance.... and the sky opened up.
This is my, "shit, it's sleeting!" face
Wk 1, Day 2: DONE! (with the pelting rain in the back...)
The rain (now cold) was driving down and blowing nearly sideways, soaking us through, in a matter of seconds. As we rushed for cover (Holly said, "I think I've got one more run interval in me!!"), it began to solidify and pelt us with sleet? hail? That was... not comfortable.  Seriously, at risk of sounding cliche, it was coming down in BUCKETS. The jacket that was "water resistant" enough to keep out the light rain we'd be running through, suddenly took on water like the Titanic, soaking me to the skin.
Thankfully, Holly's mom pulled up in her car to rescue us! YAY!
We were definitely wet, and getting cold... but Wk 1, Day 2 - DONE!

 Tomorrow, we take on Day 3 to finish out our first week and I couldn't be happier. It feels really good to be out running again (Dare I say, I missed it?). It is also nowhere near as awful feeling as I thought it was going to be at this weight. Just goes to show you people, you can run/get fit/workout at whatever weight you want, as long as you pick the right plan. So far, C25K has been really accessible and the intervals gradually get longer, so you have plenty of time to adjust. Assuming I stay on plan, we should finish up around mid-June and start prepping for a 5K race milestone! (MORE MEDALS!!!!!! AND T-SHIRTS!!!!)


After a mild week, with just a little C25K, today it was back at it, with a training session with Robyn.
First off, let's talk about the important things. I got to me the newest addition to the gym - Spealler - a 7 wk old lab puppy.


Sparing you most of the gushy details, I definitely smushed his face, rubbed his belly and laughed at his silly puppy run. This little goober will definitely not be short of adoring fans, as I'm pretty sure I saw every person there stop to pet him. #GymDogs are the best. Instant mood-boost for the day!

Continuing on our quest to wreck my shoulders (and maybe make me less t-rex-y), Robyn started us out with some ascending weight complexes.... Push Press, Push Jerk, Split Jerk. Worked up to a solid 130-ish, I believe (limited by the push press), but it was not without stupid moments. I swear, my brain was on short circuit today. Definitely had to concentrate hard to clean up my Split Jerk, which is not an intuitive movement for me. Dear Right Foot, I really need to step BACK with you, before good 'ol Left Foot jumps the gun and steps to center first. Geesh.
Nonetheless, it felt good to be pushing around some weight again (even if it was overhead...). My shoulders and back muscles definitely feel as though we did something....

Never one to leave me without a healthy dose of Cardio for the day, Robyn threw in a 14 min AMRAP:
Wall Balls (14#)
Sit Ups
Jump rope

So, what that means is Round 1 was 30 WB, 30 Sit ups, 90 Jump rope... then 20 WB, 20 sit ups, 60 jump rope, etc.

This was..... unpleasant.

I should clarify. Wall Balls SUCK for me. Not because they are hard from a muscle standpoint (my legs are perfectly capable of squatting 14# and exploding up to toss it)... but DAMN if I am completely unable to breathe doing them.

I started out with an optimistic set of 15 out of 30, took a few deep breaths - still feelin' good! - and closed out those wall balls with another solid set of 15. Yeah. Nailed it.

You know what I found is really hard to do, when you can't breathe? Sit Ups. Followed by Jump ropes (although, I only tripped once, and did all of my sets as I planned to!).

As we entered the second round of wall balls ("Only" 20, right?!), I began to feel as though this is how I was going to die. I had set out to attack two sets of 10, when that quickly became a pipe dream. By 2 sets of 10, I clearly meant hope for 4 sets of 5 and Try Not To Die. When  jump rope is going to be your "rest time" you know it's going to be a rough one.

Round 3, I did a little celebration! Only 10-10-30 and then I would be done!! That breathed a little more life into my efforts.... only to realize that the clock was still going, and I definitely had a few minutes left. *long string of expletives*

Somehow, my mind had managed to deal with this workout by thinking that we'd just be DONE after we did 30-20-10..... but suddenly, here we were... back around at 30.

SURE my lungs were about to explode, I stepped up to do 30 more wall balls. They were not pretty, folks. Or fast. Or coordinated. BUT... they got done.
Miraculously, I even manged to get 12 deep into my next round of sit ups.

Thankfully, the clock saved me and I starfished HARD after this one.

My quads would like to keep reminding me that we did 90 wall balls today, and they're not happy about it. Meanwhile, my shoulder and back muscles feel like chiming in their two cents as well. Oh boy. Tomorrow might be reallll rough.

Tomorrow though, is wk 1, day THREE of our running program. The last run, before we can say we successfully completed Wk 1. WOO.

Sunday, it's back to Hatching out my Squats. It's definitely going to get interesting this time around with some bigger weight on the bar.... but, Hatch says I can, so I will.

With that, I'm off to find some food and perhaps a bit of foam rolling.... (I'm coming for you, Quads!)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"...The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. " Henry Rollins

Louis Cyr - Strongman
So this, Blogland, is my great great grandfather, Louis Cyr.
Louis Cyr was a French Canadian strongman, (still) holding the title of "The Strongest Man in Recorded History."
He did had a long and interesting career, with feats like lifting a fully grown horse off the ground, or lifting a 220# barbell with one hand, or lifting 1,075kg (that's literally like a ton) on his back. He even became a circus performer with his wife!
(Other pretty awesome notes, here...)

In my family, we've always joked that we've got some weird mutant muscle genes, as my mother's whole side of the family had some weird predispositions to being strong. My grandmother - at 94 years old - was still picking up her chair (a sturdy reclining wingback) and moving it around the room. At 93, we finally convinced her to stop trying to flip her mattress by herself... Although, who knows, maybe it's just scrappy french-canadian farm family genes. Women gotta get shit done, weight/strength be damned?

In any case, I always found this to be an amusing part of my lineage (I mean, geesh, he's got multiple statues of himself erected in Quebec!).  Yesterday, though, I finally really "connected" with my heritage a bit and competed in my FIRST Power lifting Competition.

The lead-up to it was pretty awful. I mean, obsessing about how much like a sausage you're going to look like in your singlet, plus the concept of having a ton of people stare at you (in your singlet)... plus the phobia of missing a lift or something like that.... It is all very abstract and terrifying if you've never done it before, so I was decidedly nervous. Thankfully, not only was I going to have a buddy - my stellar nutritionist and gym-buddy Charity was also competing - but it sounded like we'd have a cheering section from the gym, too! My Man was coming to spectate and support, as well, so I figured that no matter what happened, I'd be in good company to deal with it.

We arrived at Burlington CrossFit just after 11am, to a room full of people. I was shocked at how many people came out for a power lifting meeting. Not just competitors, but spectators! Apparently, watching people lift things up and put them down is interesting stuff.

As I was getting checked in, I was suddenly asked a ton of questions - what were my opening weights, in kilograms? Oh lord. Thank you for the handy conversion chart on the table. I stuck with the plan - Opening Squat Weight at 286# and Opening Deadlift Weight at 320#. Then, off to find my squat-rack height. Funny enough, the resident heavy-lifter and squat rack master was a dude that I went to school with. He'd also be the squat spotter for the day (more about that later..), but just funny to see a "familiar" face. I've been a spectator at highland games and MMA fights where he's competed, so it was interesting to run into him in yet another burly sort of sport.

Warming up - 225#
All checked in and ready to go, the day was going to start with squats, so Charity and I got around to warming up a bit. I'd been called to Boston for work for the previous two days and was a little worried my legs would be unhappy from sitting in the car so much, but the warm up went well and everything felt like it was working as planned.

When lifting began, the energy became really electric. All the women would go first, as there was only maybe 8 or 9 of us. (C'mon ladies! Where are the rest of you?!)

The squat rack was in the center front of the room, with competitors and spectators forming a ring around the edges. We were announced 3 at a time, so you'd have plenty of time to take deep breaths and get ready to go. The announcer struggled with my name ALL DAY (story of my life), but was a pretty cool guy that really made everyone feel welcome.

When there's only like 8 women ahead of you, it becomes your turn really quickly. Suddenly, it was my turn (ohshitohshitohshitohshit).

New Squat PR: 314.6 pounds! 
I got called up to the rack ("bar is loaded!") and tried to zone out and just take my time to set myself up, just like any other day in the gym.  You certainly do not feel "alone" during this process, because outside of the head judge/announcer staring at you, and the ring of spectators, you also have two burly dudes to either side of you, ready to help catch the bar if you need help, and the rear spotter, all up in your business behind you - just in case. Oddly, it does feel pretty safe, because you never have to worry about getting out of the way or anything, if you can't make it/need to dump it. With a few deep breaths and good thoughts to calm my nerves (I needed to remind myself that you can't lift heavy if your knees are shaking......), I stood it up out of the rack and got the SQUAT! command. Dowwwnnnnnnn..... and Up! No problem. Back in the rack.  Goal Achieved! My major goal coming into this was to just show up and get some numbers on the board. Even if I missed the rest of my lifts, I was going to be okay.  Another couple of rounds and I successfully hit my second lift (303 pounds) and went up to the table to declare what my last lift would be..... oh man. What to do!? I was in totally uncharted territory at this point. 305 was the heaviest I'd ever successfully managed in the gym, although I *almost* stood up 315 the other day... so, what the hell?, I thought. I put my last lift in for 314.6 (kilogram conversions are annoyingly often not round numbers, I found.).

Two lifts on the board, solid lift at just over three hundred pounds, and I was happy, no matter how this last lift went. Although.... being a hugely competitive sort, I wanted to get it. It would mean a new personal record for me, and put me at decidedly the highest women's squat of the day by solidly 40 pounds, I think. Granted, it's probably more impressive when a 125# lady squats 250#, as it's like 2x her body weight... but, still moving 315 up and down would be a pretty solid performance.
AND... awesomely, it worked. And it wasn't bad! I didn't have to fight to get it up. I was working, for sure, but I never got stuck. SUCCESSSSsssss! (Could I have done more? Ooo. Next time.)

Now, with like 2 flights of 10 men (or something like that) to go, then bench presses for men and women, there would be plenty of time for me to rest up, stretch and get ready again before dead lift time. I took the opportunity to eat a protein bar and drink a bunch of water, while watching all the other competitors (note to self: Powerlifting meets are a LONG DAY. Bring more snacks.).
I watched Charity kill her bench presses (my arms were crying, just watching that...) and sat in awe while some of these dudes benched 300 pounds. NUTS I tell you.
That said, I definitely need to get practicing my bench, so that in November I can do a full powerlift (Bench, squat and deadlift).

Finally, the day wore on, and it was dead lift time! Dead lifts may be my favorite (although they're close with squats... just depends on the day..), so I was ready to go for this one. I'd worked through the jitters that morning, and felt a lot more comfortable in the gym.

My opener was a successful and easy 320 pounds. It seems that what Charity told me is true - the dead lifts feel just a little lighter at the meet. Maybe it's the bar (it's more bendy?), maybe it's the grippiness... maybe just the adrenaline you have... but it went up pretty easily.  So, I was right on track with the plan: my second lift would be my former max lift - 340 (although in kilograms, I ended up at like 342 or something like that). That one stood up also pretty smoothly.... uh oh. NOW WHAT? Again, uncharted territory... I didn't want to pick a number I was going to fail, but legitimately had no idea what my capability might be. As I was agonizing over the conversion chart, Charity came running up to me, telling me that was way too easy and I needed to add at least 20 pounds to the bar. Uhm WHAT? my brain said.... but, again... What the hell? right?

I set my third lift to be 358.2 pounds (the closest conversion I could see to 360), and then I went back to my place in the crowd to quietly freak out and watch the other ladies lift, until it was my turn again.

"Bar is loaded!" sounded the announcer, and I stepped up to the bar. Lifting crowds become oddly similar to golf crowds, as they go -completely silent- until you start lifting. I was a little worried about this one, but was feeling strong, so I took a few deep breaths, sat back into my hamstrings and just let it rip.

358.2 pounds for a new PR Deadlift!
This one fought me a little bit - I believe the lingo is that it was a little "hitch-y" - but nonetheless, I got that bad boy stood the eff up. Knees locked, shoulders behind bar, good form. Commence a jersey fist pump celebration. WOO.
I was definitely proud of that one. That is a new PR by 18.2 pounds. YEAAHHH buddy.

I couldn't be happier on finishing that last dead lift. Seriously.

My first meet, I survived the singlet-wearing AND got two new personal records (by significant amounts - 10 pound PR on my back squat and 18. 2 on the deadlift!). You really can't ask for more than that.

I thought I was going to have pulled the heaviest squat and deadlift (for women) for the day, then this woman - Kim - walked out of the crowd. Kim hadn't squatted as heavy as I had, and her opening dead lifts were lighter than mine, so I assumed (very wrongly) that I would out dead-lift her.

Well. Kim walked up to that bar and pulled 385.6 pounds, like it was nothing.

Hot. Damn. You go, girl!

I got the chance to congratulate Kim after, to hear that her goal is to come back in November with a 400 pound dead lift. YIKES.  Looks like I've got a new goal to chase! ;-)

Dead lifts (because of the sheer amount of weight) seem to be the fan-favorite. The men's dead lifts got ridiculously heavy. I got to watch a 17 year old absolutely CRUSH at 600 pound dead lift, to set a new state or national (not sure) record for his age group. Let me tell you - the crowd gets pretty psyched up to see lifts like that happen. I know all the fellow lifters were "lifting" along with him, chanting "up up up!!!" as we watched it sloowly come to height.

As the day wrapped up, I gotta give it to the organizers. Awards were ready and lifts tallied, less than 5 minutes after the last lift of the day.

Charity grabbed a trophy for an age-group first place (Happy Birthday!), and *drumroll* I ALSO got a first-in-my-age-group trophy!
... now, I will say, I'm pretty sure there was no one else in my age group... but. Screw it. LOL.
I'm choosing to use this trophy to commemorate:
1) conquering my fear of the singlet
2) crushing all my lifts that day and
3) Putting up the biggest women's squat for the day. BOOM.
April 2, 2016: Vermont Powerlifting, Age Group Champion 30-34

So, BlogLand, what have we learned here?

Well, it was a good chance to again remind myself to keep taking risks and pushing limits. I feel like I'm doing pretty good so far this year, and it's only April! YEAH.

I have to say though, I found this to be a pretty cool experience. This was legitimately the first time in my life that I've been involved with some sort of "athletic" competition and didn't feel huge and out of place. I've competed in a lot of things - horseback riding, running, obstacle racing, crossfit, etc. - and no matter how well I may do in the scheme of things, I always feel like the biggest chick in the room, or wildly "robust" among long, lean people. I'm just not made that way. Even at my fittest a few years back, running half marathons, I'd be running along side 120 pound chicks that had legs as big around as my arm. I'm telling you BlogLand, it gives you a little bit of complex.

But yesterday, at the power lifting comp, I never felt that way, ever. There were a lot of big people - and I mean big in a variety of ways, tall, muscular, athletic, chunky, etc. - but they were all moving some big weight. If you were there, making an effort, they were right behind you and supportive. After standing up my 314.6 back squat, I got applause and a hearty round of congratulatory "nice lift!" that I never expected. This is a "skill" that comes somewhat easily to me, but it was really cool to be in a room full of people who didn't diminish that skill, or underestimate me, just because I was squishy around the middle. I like these people. :-)

After a pretty intense few months - finishing up my Hatch squat program, completing all the WODS for The Open and gearing up for this competition, it's nice to be returning to my regularly scheduled programming, so to speak.

Tomorrow, I start Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program with Holly. This week, I'll get back into the "routine" - restarting Hatch with some bigger weights, getting back to bootcamp a couple times a week and personal training with Robyn (where I fear she's going to go on a mission to wreck my arms.). No particular "big" things on the horizon, other than long term goal of revisiting this Powerlifting comp in November.

Now, I simply wait for/enjoy the arrival of Spring (Dear VT Weather, WHY did you snow today? WTF.), get back to training, and see what happens next!

Friday, April 1, 2016

'If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don't have enough goals." - Lou Holtz

Well, Blogland... What's NEXT?!

The CrossFit Open is over, Spring is (almost...) upon us and it's exciting to think of what's coming up!

First, in less than 48 hours, I'll be competing in my first Powerlifting meet! I'm only doing two events - back squat and deadlift - instead of a full set, because I wasn't feeling totally confident in my bench press (Goal for the next meet: Do all three!). In retrospect, I should've just done it and it would've been fine, but eh, playing it safe for the first one is fine. My biggest goal was to just get there, deal with the fact I'd have to wear a singlet in person, and compete.

I'm feeling pretty good about it, overall - I've got a plan for my lifts (BS: 285, 305, 310 or 315... Deadlift: 320, 340, 350!), and I'm confident that I can do what I need to do. I have no expectations on the outcome of this meet, as the goal is just to go and DO IT.  My opening lifts are "safe" for me, so I know I'll have a score (and a decent one!) even if I only get that first lift. So... it's all gravy after that!
The biggest challenge will be rocking out with my spandex singlet.... whooa boy. For a fat kid, strutting around in a form fitting, not so flattering unitard outfit, while being judged.... yikes. Just YIKES.

BUT, I am reminding myself that I have done way harder things, and I have a lot to be proud of. Yeah, I'm wearing a spare tire around my middle, yes, I've got a little more jiggle everywhere than I'd like.... But! BUT! I have some #thickthighs that can squat 300#, which is what is on display this weekend - not my midsection! Plus, I have to say, while there are a lot of very trim and fit people in the powerlifting community, there are many of us more "thick" individuals who have found their strength in picking up heavy shit. I won't be alone with my jiggly middle!

That said, I've got big plans for the horizon, to continue on the journey back to a more comfortable weight. I feel like I've turned a new leaf (thank you, Spring!), because I'm actually just excited to do new things, not just looking at it as something I "need" to do to get weightloss.

For example, after my powerlifting comp, I'll be (re) starting the Couch to 5K program and get back in my running groove (I actually really miss it). I have to thank my BFF Holly for this one. She's been on her own journey, but expressed interest in trying to learn to run.... and she wanted me to do it with her. How can you say no to that? If she's willing to go out on a limb and try something she's never tried that's going to be hard, how can I not do it with her? So, I'm excited. On Monday, we do our first Week 1, Day 1. My wonderful man, Hans, is also going to join in on the fun (although he'll be doing it all over the east coast, while he travels for work). Last, but certainly not least, we've even got my long-time Battle Buddy, Stacey to get going again with us. Sounds like a party to me! One accounta-buddy is good... 3 Accounta-buddies are better!

I admit, I'm a little afraid of re-starting C25K. The first time I learned to run, I was about 40-50 pounds lighter than I am now (Wow. that hurts to write down.).... but at the same time, I wasn't as "fit" as I am now (Yes, it's possible to be super heavy and still have a decent amount of fitness). In the light of full disclosure, I'm terrified that I'm going to fail because I'm so heavy. I'm afraid that I won't be able to even do Day 1. I'm afraid that it's going to hurt, because my knees are shitty, etc..... BUT... I have at least learned over the last 4 years or so that you just can't let the fear stop you. You can't wait until a "better" time. There's never a better time, you're never going to be less afraid until you jump in. That's why I did the CrossFit Open this year. That's why I'm headed to Powerlifting. Yes, I'm bigger, but so effing what. I'm doing these things - are you?

AND... (more fun things!) my awesome gym just announced that it's Rowing month! Oddly, I actually kind of like rowing. So, I'm definitely looking forward to the little extra focus and motivation and team spirit to log a few extra meters every time I'm at the gym. I wonder how much I can row in a month??
I think it will complement lifting days and boot camp days just great!

Maybe it's just the spring weather, or the increased light, but I'm definitely feeling more optimistic about moving forward, than I was over the winter (it was a tough winter this winter).