GIRLS CAN LIFT

A Dainty Diary of Lifting


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Week 10 in review

I don’t even know what to think about this week. Partially I am just too tired to think about anything.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping . I have no issues falling asleep, but then every morning this week, I’ve found myself wide awake at 4 am and unable to fall back asleep. And I’m pretty sure my iron levels are currently in the gutter. Between those two factors, it’s been all I can do to avoid having a mid-afternoon nap all week… and I clearly failed at that on Tuesday, when I fell asleep on my yoga mat before class.

I did yoga three times this week and I’m considering becoming a full-time member. At first the vibe of the studio near me kind of bothered me – it’s all upper class white women who are 90lbs and quite clearly look down down on lululemon. Actually, that aspect still kind of bothers me. But having gone a few times, I’ve noticed that my hips are feeling great and when I feel anxious, I know I will go to yoga and deal with it.

And since I can work myself into an instant anxiety attack a dozen times a day just by thinking about how much I need to go to the dentist, I am considering taking up residence at the yoga studio.

I did notice that my hips felt great while squatting. I’ve intentionally chosen “Yoga for Runner” and the “Hip Opening flow” to work on my mobility issues, and that seems to be working. However, lifting was crap overall, which is unsurprising. When I feel rundown before I even walk into the gym, it’s hard to crush my workouts. I was supposed to squat 295 for a set of 3 yesterday. Five weeks ago I was pissed off because I squatted 295×3 when I wanted 5. Yesterday I got three singles and that was good enough. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in there.

On the plus side, I did force myself to do intervals a couple of times. I have seriously been slacking on my cardio in general, and then I didn’t lose any weight this week (less than 1lb). I feel like I’m not making any progress, and consistent cardio would probably help with the weight loss, which i’ve obviously made my priority at the moment.

I could also go for a head check-up. I don’t know why I don’t feel like I’m progressing. I had to take my 2-month progress picture for PNLE this week. Exhibit A: Unofficial gym selfie progress pictures.

There is quite clearly progress there, regardless of how I feel. Seeing that I am objectively succeeding on my body transformation is making it a bit easier to deal with the strength loss.

But since I just feel like I’ve been sucking at the gym and feeling kind of down, I did reach out to my PNLE coach and I had a good dialogue with her this week. Initially she suggested that I should try increasing my carb intake. Although I have not consciously been restricting my carbs, I was surprised by how scary this prospect sounded. It’s like I have a mental block where quite simply, “more carbs = bad”. I even tried to rationalize to her what a bad idea this was: I sit at a desk all day! I don’t do cardio! I am so inactive! And had the follow-up realization that no matter how I perceive myself, if I go to the gym 4x week, I cannot truthfully say that I am inactive.

Anyway, much to my relief she then looked at my progress to-date and revised her suggestion. Apparently losing 21lbs in 8 weeks is not generally conducive to high-energy levels. So she suggested generally eating more protein and carbs post workout. (So my relief was somewhat short lived.)

I am not sure how successful I’ve been with that recommendation. I am trying to consciously eat a serving of carbs before and after my workouts. I don’t don’t why this suddenly became so difficult. I get home and I make a meal of chicken and veg and then I go, “Oh shit! There are no carbs and I can’t be bothered to make rice.” And mostly I just want to skip the carbs, but that has left me with a case of the post-deadlift flu at least once this week, so I made a pumpkin and oat loaf just to have on hand…. And I lost less than 1lb this week, so maybe that’s somehow a success? I don’t even know.

Sometimes I feel like I try to eat to 80% full, but I have an appetite of 800%.

Either way, I start a new habit on Monday and lo and behold: it’s eat “Smart carbs”. So I will keep practicing this one. Last round, my coach was paleo and I had time relating to her carb habits. This round my coach said, “I keep bread on hand. It’s pretty delicious! It’s just not Wonderbread.” Which I feel is a more suitable and sustainable approach for me. I ordered 25lbs of rolled oats through my co-op this week, so I really don’t think I’m giving up grains any time soon. Hopefully they’re just what I need to recover my strength (but not the weight I’ve lost!!!)


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Week in review

4 weeks from today, I will be competing in my first meet in almost 2 years.

I know I said I didn’t care about the meet, that I was feeling totally apathetic. But then this week I got into the gym and I failed work sets of bench, squat, OHP and deadlift. Hell, I failed a 185lb warm-up set on deadlift this afternoon and laughed because I was otherwise speechless. And I cried at the gym yesterday when I failed my squats. I was supposed to squat 290×3. 290 was my 5RM a month ago! And instead I got one measly rep, which led to ugly-crying in front of the two ultimate frisbee douchebros that I absolutely can not stand, followed by an all encompassing rage for everything. It’s been a long time since I cried at the gym. Guess I do care about the meet a little bit after all.

But… this morning was my weekly weigh-in. I lost 4.9lbs this week. So I really have no reason to be angry.

Just like I was surprised that I failed weights I’ve hit comfortably before, I was a bit shocked by the weight loss. I’ve been eating 4 meals a day, and I often think that I’ve eaten more to more than 80% full. Oh, and I’m supposed to be eating 5 fist-sized servings of vegetables every day for PNLE and I feel like I have just consumed an ungodly volume of food this week. Like, I wasn’t keeping track or anything, but I would estimate that I was only eating ~3 servings per day before this habit.

On the one hand: this is great. I don’t feel like I’m eating at a deficit at all and I’m losing weight. Isn’t that what every female dieter dreams of? And having lost 21lbs in the past 7 weeks, I just feel better walking around. I fit into my work clothes again! My “perfectly fitting” jeans are getting saggy in the bum and crotch and thighs. I fit into my medium lever belt, after I had to go out and buy a large. I’ve also noticed that my blood sugar is more stable – I don’t have that mid-afternoon slump that I always thought was genetic. And since my weekly update wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my digestive issues, everything is functioning super smoothly which I love, love, love after having so many issues in the past.

And on the other hand: if weight loss is my priority, that’s fine. But dropping 5lbs in a week is pretty strong evidence that I haven’t eaten to support to my lifting, so I can’t even bring myself to be disappointed in my body. I went back and looked at my diet this week: by increasing the amount of vegetables I’ve been eating, some of my dense carb sources seem to have fallen off. Basically, I’ve been having a handful of berries at breakfast and all other carbs have come from a serving of oats pre-workout and beans (or lentils) that were actually my protein source.Normally my diet looks more like: an english muffin at breakfast, potatoes at lunch, oats pre-workout and rice at supper. Therefore I strongly suspect that this week’s weight loss was induced by my body going into shock over carb withdrawal.

Like, I said: energy levels have been fine, I don’t feel deprived and it’s okay if I want weight loss to be my priority. I’m more than 2 months into PNLE and my compliance (or “consistency”, as they call it) is still at 100%. I feel like I have a ton of flexibility to eat whatever I want, but I’m still making good food choices. I am awesome. I’m going to continue eating like this, and as a result, I’ve thrown my goals for my meet out the window. I am probably not going to set a 10lb squat PR without injuring myself. And I know I said that it would be okay if I competed at 84kg, but to be honest, I wasn’t very good at heading that counsel. I want to compete at 72 and now it might actually happen. New goal: improve my wilks from 2 years ago.

In other news, my trip up North totally screwed my hips. I had hip tightness, bordering on pain in my right hip all week and I could not get my left glute to fire. After coming back from that extended break, I was totally pain free and now I’m back to my old “grinding / popping / painful” routine. Or at least I was until yesterday. While squatting yesterday, my left hip made a loud popping sound and visibly shifted. It felt glorious, and today has been pain free. However, on Tuesday when I was walking to work and freaking out about how uncomfortable my hip had gotten, I decided to join hot yoga to try and manage my hip while I’m preparing for the meet.

I chalk this up under my “big accomplishments” list. The last time I did hot yoga, I passed out in half moon pose and caused a huge scene. So I was too embarrassed (and freaked out) to go back. Luckily I’ve got through a couple of classes at this new place and I’ve managed to remain conscious. I did get a condescending “If this is too difficult, you can go into child’s pose” from one of the instructors, though.  I’m signed up for a tune-up class tomorrow. It’s the class I’ve been waiting for all week, with a focus on recovery. Unfortunately it falls during the same timeslot as the Pats home-opener. They had better win without my viewership. I’ve had enough of failure this week.


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10 weeks out / Difficult – difficult

I’ve spent the past 3 days trying to draft a blog post to explain why I’m not feeling excited about my upcoming meet. I’m 4 weeks out, and when I think about the meet, I just feel an overwhelming sense of apathy. I want to pull my usual modus operandi which is to withdraw ~3 weeks before a scheduled meet. I’ve been sinking money into meets for the past two years and yet I haven’t actually participated in one. I just seem to hit this hump where I realize I might not hit my overly ambitious goals and give up.

I tried to make a list outlining all of the reasons I’m feeling this sense of ennui. I was convinced it was a pretty good list and I even had 2000 words of justification laid out for all to see.

Then I weighed myself this morning and I saw a very optimistic number on the scale. Briefly, I was convinced that I might actually make it down to 72kg in time for my meet in 4 weeks. Even though I’m back to doubting possibility, I looked at my list of excuses in a new light and I realized that they all boil down to: “I might fail.”

That’s a pretty shitty reason to avoid doing a meet. Yes, the possibility exists that I might fail really, really hard. And I might be disappointed and angry and embarrassed. But I would get over it. Not to mention that there’s always the possibility that I might actually succeed. In fact, that seems pretty likely given the fact that I’ve done successful meets in the past.

I started thinking back to some of my PNLE lessons. I think I should feel excited about doing a meet. Except, I’m trying to act less on the noise in my life. Instead of doing things because I should do them, I am trying to rely on noticing and naming how things actually are. Objectively, there is no reaI reason to feel excited. Instead, I can simply recognize that I’m not feeling totally psyched up about competing, but there is no reason for me to act on that feeling.

I keep thinking back to the concept of difficult-difficult. Going to the gym and even going through the motions to prepare for a meet is my “difficult-easy”. It makes me feel like I’m doing something. Actually showing up to participate in the meet seems to be a lot harder for me. Why? Because putting myself out there is terrifying. I might fail.

This is actually a big deal. I avoid social situations because I might fail. Being anti-social is my difficult-easy. It’s lonely, but there is zero risk that anyone will reject me for being terribly uninteresting and fat. See also: my dating life. I am lonely but again, too afraid of being rejected. See also: nonexistent applications to grad school. Because I would really like to go, but what if I don’t get in? What if I’m not smart enough? And if we’re being completely honest, losing weight is difficult-difficult because I self-sabotage time and time again – and I tell myself it doesn’t matter because I was bound to fail anyway.

Self-confidence? Apparently I have none. (Which is actually nothing new. A guy I was seeing once told me I was “just fine, except I had no self-confidence” and the intervening years don’t seem to have countered that ringing endorsement.)

The task of finding my self-assurance seems a little insurmountable at the moment, so where else can I start? Well, in explaining difficult-difficult, PNLE uses the analogy of shoveling snow: If you’re just shoveling for the sake of moving snow around, that’s difficult-easy. It’s hard work but it achieves no real purpose and allows you to avoid doing more productive tasks. So how can I shovel a clear path through the snow and do what is actually difficult-difficult for me?

The answer is obvious: I said I would do North Bay in 4 weeks. I said I would lift at Provincials in order to qualify for Nationals. And I said I would go to Nationals. That’s a full year of powerlifting to correspond with my nutritional journey on PNLE. And if stepping on to the platform is difficult-difficult for me, then just getting there will be good enough.

So: I signed up for Provincials. I reserved a hotel room. I’m 10 weeks out. I don’t feel worried. I don’t feel excited. I just feel normal. And why should I feel any differently?


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Weekly Review: Trip to Yellowknife

I spent most of the week in Yellowknife, so it was not the greatest week for meet prep. I did manage to get in all of my workouts – Monday I got up early enough to go lift before flying, and Wednesday I did a workout in the “fitness centre” at the gym. (The workout was 80% goblet squats but whatever. It counts.) The best part was by far on Thursday morning when my “active recovery” consisted of a trail walk through the boreal forest. It was so relaxing, which was exactly what I needed.

Now that I am back, I can focus on rest and recovery, which I know have been on the back burner the past few weeks. Yesterday I had a 6 hour nap after my workout, and I still slept through the night. It’s going to be a lazy weekend and I’m looking forward to working regular hours and sleeping regular hours and just generally getting back into my routine this week.

Despite the fact that I was travelling and totally out of my routine, I really feel good about the nutritional choices that I made while I was away. When I went to Pride for 4 days in June, I came back 10lbs heavier! Mentally, I told myself I wasn’t able to deal with a repeat of that entire episode. This time, I told myself that if I ate until 80% full and had a protein every time I ate, I would consider it a success.

I wasn’t perfect: there were a couple of times where I ate to “comfortably full” instead of 80%. But I did avoid snacking between meals – the meeting was catered and there were more than enough opportunities to eat muffins and cookies and bread. I ate a reasonable meal for breakfast every day, despite the fact that it was a buffet with french toast and pancakes! I brought some Quest bars along and ate them when there wasn’t a full serving of protein being served. And I was quite happy to order fresh Arctic Char every time a menu was placed in front of me.

I will say that I am glad that my nutrition habit was protein while visiting the Arctic. Fish was always an option, but veggies and fruit were a bit harder to come by. My insides were painfully backed up after 4 days, and one of my first orders of business yesterday was to make “Detox soup” aka cabbage and lentils.

Now that it’s all said and done, I am down 3.2 lbs this week. I ate restaurant food all week, enjoyed myself and still lost weight! I am so happy I could do a victory dance in celebration.

I consider this week a huge victory, and a key example of where having a minimum really helped my attitude towards food.  Eating to 80% and eating protein at every meal was relatively easy. I still got to eat a nanaimo bar for dessert one day, and I still got to eat the tiny chocolates they leave on your pillow without feeling guilty. But being away from home didn’t mean that I just fell off the deep end and ate whatever was put in front me, just because it was there and this was a “special occasion”. Instead, I kept a level head: when faced with airplane food on Thursday evening, I tasted everything on my plate, and concluded that it was all too bland and not worth eating. I can’t even say I feel deprived about passing on airplane food.

I was even a bit shocked on Wednesday night. We walked into Old Town, ate a massive dinner at one of the local landmarks and then walked up to the Bush Pilot monument. My boss took a picture of me and back at the hotel when I looked at it, my reaction was simply “I don’t look fat.”  Just having that thought pass through my head came as a bit of a shock. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a picture of myself and had that reaction.

Of course, coming back to reality, I was confronted with my reflection in the fun house mirrors of the gym yesterday. I can’t say I felt very positively towards my body then. But I do feel like my perception of myself and the actual fact of how I look are slowly converging, which has not always been the case. I swing wildly between thinking that I look morbidly obese (because my BMI is morbidly obese) and thinking that I look quite fit (because ate salad for lunch two days in a row). But I think that as I’ve been losing weight over the past couple of months, I’ve also noticed a shift in my attitude and identity: I’ve stopped counting how long it’s been since my last binge eating episode, because I am not someone who eats well in public all week, and then scarfs down junk food all weekend long. I am a person who orders salad at a restaurant, not always fries. I am a person who finds the time to workout, even when I’m away from home. And I don’t have to do these things because I’m the fat friend who perpetually needs to lose weight, but I do them because I feel good about these choices, in the moment and afterwards too.


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Week in review

This week’s recap is mostly a gastro-intestinal overshare. My weight was actually up for my weekly weigh-in yesterday, despite the fact that my nutrition has been on point. But I’ve been walked around feeling bloated and gassy and backed up all week. On Wednesday I even joked that I was 5 months pregnant because my stomach was just that distended.

After talking to my coach, I am going to try cutting back on dairy and moderating my bean intake. Although… I am travelling up North all this week. I am bringing a suitcase full of protein bars, but who knows what my nutrition will end up looking like. When I get back I might attempt the “strictly no dairy, including whey” experiment, but I’m not willing to commit to that while I’m away. I’ve switched over to a vegan protein powder for now, at least and we’ll see if that helps.

When I get back I’d also like to play around with my meal and lifting schedule. I’m eating 4 meals a day, but I think with some adjustments I could happily get by on three. Right now I feel like I’m bordering on overeating everyday. 

Preparing to travel has also totally screwed up my lifting. I am so stressed out. I stayed late at work every day this week, and only had 45 minutes at the gym on Friday. I hit 280×3 on squats but it was basically a “Oh, I’m in the hole? Better use some leg drive to get back up.” kind of day and then I failed my final OHP workset. Poop. (And I don’t even want to talk about deadlifting yesterday.)

I am really excited for my trip. I’ve worked for this program for three years and I’ve never been up North, so this is going to be a great experience for sure. I just feel like my training has suffered as a result, and six weeks out from a competition I’m not feel quite as confident as I’d like to feel. I’m hoping that I will more mentally invested when I get back on Friday.

I will say that mentally, I am totally okay with where I’m at. Despite the fact that shit is crazzzzzy, I’ve been making decent nutrition choices. Even if they’re not perfect, I am exceeding my minimums. Maybe it’s not my main focus at the moment, but it’s not being neglected either. Probably the first time in my life I’ve ever felt this way, because normally when everything goes to shit I find myself at Harvey’s / A&W / MacDonald’s / Burgers ‘n Fries Forever. 

One thing I think is helping is that I’ve started taking 5-HTP on the recommendation of one of the PN coaches. She gave me a solid scientific explanation of how it helps increase serotonin production. I’ve been reading about how this is an alternative SSRIs although instead of preventing reuptake they actually increase serotonin and melatonin production, but since it’s not patentable, there is not a ton of interest in research / prescribing it. I have noticed that my mood is more stable. I am still feeling anxious about my meetings next week and the fact that I am bloated and got a terrible haircut this week. But I haven’t felt the need to cry about any of it, and that’s a big freakin’ deal for a cry baby like myself.

And I feel like my head space is good enough to see that even if I didn’t lose weight this week, even if I had a crappy week in the gym and even if I’m so bloated that my fat pants are tight, if I just keep doing what I am doing, I will get to where I want to be soon enough.


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6 week PNLE update + deadlifting

After max testing last week, this week was pretty quiet. While max testing, I managed to drop a 45lb plate on my left foot, so I’ve working around some discomfort all week. Even if I hadn’t managed to injure myself, I think max testing would have left me feeling wiped on its own. And work has really been killing me. 

I am supposed to travel for work next week and I am really excited for the trip: I have worked for an Arctic research program for over three years and I’ve never been up North. Well, now I’m finally going. But I’ve been concious of the fact that getting ready for the trip has been incredibly stressful and my recovery has suffered as a result. Friday, I worked late, went to the gym for an hour and then came home only to fall asleep at 7:30, before I could find the energy to cook some dinner.

And squatting on Friday was hard. A single set of 275×3 looked so measly on paper, but I really struggled. The second rep had a huge pause because I got down into the hole, and then had to find the energy to stand back up.  

Yesterday was probably my best session of the week: I pulled 335×2. When I tried for 335 four weeks ago, all I got was one really shaky rep and that left me feeling like shit.

While I was doubtful about my ability to pull 335×2 and happy to prove myself wrong, watching the video is kind of frustrating. My deadlift has two very distinct and separate phases: Phase 1 is the pull and Phase 2 is the lockout. And man, that lockout is painful. This is not a new discovery by any means, but I swear it’s getting worse. And if I miss a competition PR because I can’t lockout, or get called for hitching because I have to think about pulling my hips through then I might lose my god damn mind. 

I know that I struggle with glute activation on all of my lifts and this is where it really starts to become a factor. It is a mystery to me that my glutes can be so huge and yet so useless. I am debating hitting the gym this afternoon, just to punish my glutes with approximately 1 million angry hip thrusts.

On the other hand, there are several parts of my body saying that recovery would be a good idea, especially since I’m already running a recovery deficit and anticipating that this week will be even crazier than last week.

Lifting and recovery aside: this weekend was my 6-week check-in for PNLE. I was absolutely shocked by my progress pictures. Even though I don’t feel like I’ve really been restricting myself or “dieting” and I don’t really notice any changes in my body day to day, those pictures showed quite unmistakable proof that my stomach is shrinking. *Fist pump*

Crazy statistic: I’ve lost more weight in the past 4 weeks than I lost in 7 months of following the program last year. This is honestly the difference between 80% compliance and 90% compliance, which has come from trying to be more engaged in the program.

One of the coaches also proposed a strategy that has really resonated with me: the idea of setting a minimum. For me, that minimum has been to avoid overeating. So instead of fixating on how I didn’t meet an overly ambitious goal on any given day or week, I have felt like I am successful and on track because I’m able to easily meet that minimum, even if other circumstances were less than ideal. It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve had a true binge eating episode, which I consider a bigger accomplishment than any lifting goal.

I’m still a bit nervous about how travelling will affect my food choices, but I think I can cope. I know that I can eat to 80% full regardless of where I am or what food options I have available. I think that I’m anticipating the situation enough that I won’t use it as an excuse to eat chicken fingers and fries at every meal. I’ve got some good momentum built up so I want to keep moving forward. Right after I get some rest.


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8 weeks out: Max testing

I am 8 weeks out from my meet! Eep! This is normally around the time when I decide my training isn’t going well and I should probably withdraw and do another meet later, when I feel more ready. (Spoiler alert: I won’t feel ready later, either.

After failing my squats and bench on Friday, I considered just resetting but I wasn’t really sure by how much, and I figured that it didn’t really make sense to do a minor reset, max test 2 weeks after resetting. Plus, I had no energy yesterday and deadlifting wasn’t going to happen so I needed to justify my sloth somehow.

So today, I max tested.

Squat

Got: 305lbs x 1. Missed 320×1.

I got 320 out of the hole but just couldn’t fight to get it up the rest of the way. However, I feel like 319 is totally plausible by the time my meet rolls around.

I am going to reset and start working with triples tomorrow. Intensity day this week will be 280, which should get me to 305×3 the week before my meet.

Bench

Got 140×1. Missed: 145×1

Since 140 felt really solid, I’m tempted to aim for 148lbs at the meet, but even if I get 143, I will be happy. Going to continue running 5×5 and 3×5 until I stall, and then reset 10%. This should get me two full cycles before the meet. I need to work on holding the pause both cycles. 

Deadlift

Got: 360×1 Missed 375×1

This video was hard to watch. WHY COULDN’T I JUST LOCKOUT THE BAR?

Ugh. I will have this in 8 weeks no problem. Meet goal is 380lbs.

So, all in all, I am totally ok with this. None of these lifts were PRs, but my absolute strength is back to where it was when I kind of gave up on training. I just have to keep progressing and it will be easy PRs in 8 weeks when I actually step on to the platform. And, even if I just maintain my strength: my total today was 805lbs. That more than qualifies me to compete at provincials even if I lift at 84kg. So even if I’m the weakest person in my weight class, I will still be able to achieve my personal goal.

Furthermore, despite the fact that I’ve spent the past 2 days subsisting off chocolate covered pretzels, my weight has been under 180 and that means that my wilks was higher than my last meet.

I think I still need to do a bit of thinking about what my attempts will be. It’s tempting to just open with the numbers I successfully hit today, but I’m not sure that’s the best strategy. I will have to see what my weight does and how the next six weeks of training progress. But overall, I have to say I’m feeling good. I know where I want to go, I feel optimistic that I can get there, and I don’t need to postpone doing a meet any longer.

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