A Dainty Diary of Lifting

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Movie Review: Hungry for Change



Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Last week one of my co-workers asked me what I was planning to do to ring in the new year. When I said I didn’t have plans, she asked me if I would just go to the gym. Lady, it’s fine if you want to be condescending but I’m not the one complaining that my pants are all too small. Besides, even I wanted to go to the gym, it closes early because it’s New Year’s Eve and normal people have plans. I, on the other hand, happen to have a free one month trial for Netflix.

I refuse to pay for Netflix. Sure, if you’re American, it’s great. But like a lot of things, the experience is not the same for the rest of the world and the selection leaves much to be desired. Basically, I end up spending as much time looking for a movie as I do actually watching one. It was in this aimless browsing of titles that I stumbled upon Hungry for Change, which I am now reviewing because I feel mildly annoyed that I was tricked into watching this documentary.

Let’s start from the beginning: The movie begins by looking at the seemingly infinite number of ways that food in our society is totally fucked up. I’m going to suggest that the first part of the movie will be a revelation to approximately no one, since we live in a society that consumes truckloads of processed food and empty calories while simultaneously suffering from an obesity epidemic. And ya, the fact that we’re all fat and malnourished is probably causing us a lot of emotional issues. I didn’t need an expert to tell me that.

So I’m watching this movie like a good little spectator and I start to feel annoyed. Most of the “experts” here are people who were once fat or who were authors. Writing a book that makes it on to the New York Times Bestseller list does not make you a nutrition expert. See for example, Tim Ferriss. And if you lose a lot of weight, congratulations but again, you’re not an “expert. The fact that I’ve managed to tackle some of my own issues in no way qualifies me to even begin tackling other people’s food issues. So why should I listen to you?

It’s one thing for me to listen when I agree – for example the assertion that we eat a lot of “food-like” products seems like something I want to know more about. But then when you start talking about how all the artificial additives in food cause your brain to ferment and then in turn lead you to gain weight… you’re starting to lose me. Calories in = calories out. But since there do seem to be one or two smart people and I agree in principle that our food system is all out of whack, I continued watching… Actually, in the interest of disclosure, I did take a nap during one of the more tedious segments.

Anyway, when I awoke from my nap, it was just in time to see what these “experts” were recommending as a solution for dealing with all of our modern food and health related woes. Seriously, I’m only writing this review because I feel like I was tricked into watching up until this point. Let’s recap: you make a movie about how our current diets are overly processed, don’t give us the nutrients we need and cause us to be fat? You take issue with lose weight quick schemes that aren’t sustainable? So what do you propose? A change in our manufacturing infrastructure? Moderation? A caveman diet? No. Obviously, the answer is juicing.

Wait, what? This movie makes no sense because you’re essentially endorsing one of the least sustainable diets ever as a long-term solution. Let’s apply some Logic 101 to this bad boy. If your current diet is lacking in essential micro-nutrients, it does not makes sense to advocate a diet that is lacking entirely in one of your essential macro nutrients, namely protein. If your current diet is overly processed, you should eat more whole foods – so you probably don’t need to smash them to smithereens in your blender first. If you need to fix your relationship with food, going on a liquid-only diet that eliminates whole foods probably will not provide you with a long-term solution. And if you think your body is incapable of filtering its food, you should probably reconsider the function of your liver and intestines.

I admit that I will never endorse a caveman-style diet, but at least I can understand and support their philosophies. The same can be said for something like Clean Eating. Personally, I believe I will always be an IIFYM kinda girl because deprivation just does not work. If you tell someone  they can never eat cake again, you risk finding them face-down in a birthday cake, reeking of desperation. Or they’ll throw a slice in the blender and down it in a single gulp – that’s juicing, right?

Juicing doesn’t work, or at least it is not a long-term solution. I feel like since it’s that time of year when everyone looks back at the Christmas baking they’ve consumed and resolves to lose 10lbs. You can probably lose 10lbs with a 30 day juice, but guaranteed they’ll come right back and your critical thinking skills will still be lacking. Don’t do it. You know what, I wouldn’t even recommend watching this movie. There are better ways to ring in the New Year.


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General Update on Life and Lifting

The dust has finally settled from my meet and the holidays. I had a rough couple of weeks after my meet, but now that I’ve stopped using the holidays as an excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast, my workouts are a lot more even keeled. Falling into my routine – working, eating right and sleeping enough seem to make an entire world of difference for me. I don’t think that’s a revelation or ground-breaking new discovery for anyone, but I was having a hard time hearing it over the sound of Christmas baking entering my mouth.

So before the resolutioner crowd takes over my gym, I’ve been re-fining my programming for the spring and into the summer. I’m still not sure whether I want to do CPU Nationals in March, but my rationale for programming remains unchanged. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Squat: Here I will continue with the Texas Method, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve yet to hit a roadblock here, and in order to avoid studying for exams, I even managed to read the second part of the book, which outlines what to do when your linear progression stops being quite so linear. Naturally, now I have to continue on the program so that I can apply all of that brain power to my programming.

Bench: Here my programming is somewhat beyond my control, because I’m continuing to go to Hostyle once a week. I intend to bench once a week on my own, but it will be programmed somewhat by ear. One thing that I’m starting to realize is that I don’t need to be working at my max in order to make progress – and in fact, working so close to my max every time I hit the gym is actually detrimental because it’s cutting into my recovery. The result is a giant positive feedback cycle which perpetuates continual suckage and a bad attitude on my bench. (I was slowly coming to this realization and then Texas Method basically spelled it out in black and white, so that I can no longer plead ignorance on this one.) So…. more volume at a lower working weight and maybe I’ll bench 315 someday.

Deadlift: As much as I love deadlifting, my pull has been feeling a little neglected and needs some more volume. I started Coan/Phillippi last week. I mangled my callouses within 5 minutes of starting so I can hope that I still have all of my limbs (and spine) in twelve weeks when it’s over. I may die, but at least I will die doing what I love and then my life will basically be a Shakespearean romance.

OHP:  This is a lift where my programming is made up and the weight doesn’t matter. Seriously, this lift doesn’t count for anything and I suck at it so why would I force myself to do this once a week? Ideally, I will do this on my TM light day when I don’t need to bench and am still trying to piece myself together from Coan but since I’ve already skipped it this week, I suspect this lift will continue to collect dust in the corner.

Cardio: Where do I go to get my powerlifting license revoked? I signed up to run a 10K in May and am planning to do the Spartan Race in June. Both of those things require more lung capacity than I currently possess, and I’m hoping that some regular cardio will help me lower my weight and bodyfat. Let’s be honest, I only go to the gym for vanity so I should probably be doing some cardio. Right now I’m aiming for one “long” run, working up to 10K and an HIIT session on the treadmill. I’ve also been doing 15 minutes of HIIT at the end of some of my lifting workouts and will probably continue to do that at least once a week.

So that’s my plan. I’m either going to show the slowly growing crowd of resolutioners how it’s done, or I’m going to seriously snap my shit up and give up in February just like the rest of ’em.

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Getting back to the gym and looking forward

Now that my meet is done and out of the way and the dust has had some time to settle, I’m starting to get a handle on where I want to go next. I’ve been feeling a little lost this week, so this rant is simply dedicated to trying to sort out the jumble of thoughts that is bouncing around my head.

Right after my meet, I was pretty jazzed. I had a textbook meet by all accounts, setting three national records and a bunch of PRs. I didn’t see a single red light all weekend and now I’m currently the highest ranked women’s junior in the country. If this is the kind of improvement that I can make in 8 weeks and less than a year’s experience in lifting, imagine where I’ll be at this time next year. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing: outlining my goals for next year. My goal last year was simply to try lifting and to get the gym 3x week – that worked out pretty well for me.

So on the one hand, I love competing. It’s a nice boost for my ego to do well, it kept my training on track and it’s fun to be in an atmosphere that will never be replicated in a gym scenario. That’s why when I posted my meet report the next day, I didn’t even stop to consider whether I wanted to go to CPU Nationals in March.

Now that I’ve had a chance to reconsider, I’m re-evaluating whether that’s the best move for me. Part of the reason it was a big deal for me to do so well at my meet was because of the fact that it was my last chance to compete as a junior. Now I have to compete in Open with all the women who are actually strong – and on that front, I’m only ranked #24 in the country. I won’t be competitive at Nationals in my first year of lifting, and I can’t say I’m losing any sleep over that fact. But there is a chance that I would train obsessively for Nationals and then show up, only to be disappointed by being outlifted by so many women. So from a mental perspective, maybe competing in March is not the best thing for me – and the part of me that is slowly accumulating a student debt agrees that buying a plane ticket to fly across the country during the middle of my final semester at uni just to compete is probably a  really bad idea.

Right now, my long-term goal is to compete at nationals in Niagara in 2014. I have my fingers crossed that I will be totally elite by that point, but I need to be smart in getting there, and it might not happen. Having some experience at that level of competition would be beneficial, but I could probably get away with doing a couple of meets this year and really focusing on building my strength.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I want to do Nationals all week. But as I’ve been mapping out my training and goal setting for next year, I’ve sort of realized that I don’t need to decide right now. My programming will be the same whether I decide to compete or not, so I’ve decided to wait until January to figure out what I want to do. I got back to counting calories yesterday, I went for a run this evening and I will be back in the gym for some deadlifting tomorrow. I’ll re-evaluate where I’m at in a month and in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy the holidays.

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Meet Report: Ontario 3-Lift Classic Championships

This weekend I finally competed in my second meet: the OPA’s 3-Lift Classic Championship, which I’d successfully qualified for at my first (and only) meet on September 30th. Since then, I’ve been running Texas Method of my squat and deadlift. My bench needed a lot of attention, so I’ve been seeing a coach for that once a week. I’ve also been busy eating. A lot. I ended up a week out from my meet, still above my 72 kg weight class. Even though I said I didn’t want to waterload again, I had to do it – and I had to commit for the entire week this time. Luckily, I had expert help and ended up weighing in at 69.6 kg, which was only 0.1 higher than my weigh in at my regional meet.

We had to drive about 7 hours to the meet – but it was more like 8.5 once we accounted for all of the washroom breaks. We stopped overnight at a friends’ house, and then stayed in another friend’s condo the night before the meet. I didn’t sleep well in a strange bed, and ended up playing Bejeweled Blitz on my iPhone until 2 am. I had my weigh-in at 9:30 and then focused on rehydrating, to the point of giving myself a Grade 1 stomach ache. Then it was time to lift.


Leading up to my meet, I was terrified for my squats. Texas Method has been really good to my squat, but I don’t think my confidence increased at the same rate as my ability. Warming up, my 185lb triple felt so heavy, but my opener flew up. My nerves settled somewhat at this point, and my second and third attempts were both smooth as butter, giving me a 5lb PR.


Despite the fact that my bench was the only lift that didn’t qualify for a national record in my weight class, it’s also the thing I’m most proud of. At my first meet, my max was 42.5kg and I was so disappointed in myself. After seeing a coach, who totally changed the way I bench, I was able to open higher than my previous max. That’s huge progress. Even better: I had trouble setting up on my second attempt, as you can see in the video. After re-racking and adjusting, all I could think about during my descent was the fact that mentally, I was probably thrown off my game – but I my technique has improved enough that I made the lift. That was a huge confidence boost for me. Even better: I made my third attempt, which I’d been unable to put up in practice for the past three weeks. That’s a 25% improvement in only a couple of months. I still have a lot of improvement to make, but as long as it’s progressing, I’m happy.


God, I love deadlifting. I had max tested about 4 weeks ago and struggled to lock out 330lbs, so I had originally planned to make that my final attempt. After the rest of my meet had gone so well, and my second attempt felt easy, I went for 152.2 kg which was a 6lb PR. I’m glad I deviated from the plan a little, because I nailed it and got myself another national record. Did I mention how much I love deadlifting?

Deep Thoughts and Reflections

I won my weight class of only three competitors, and I won best junior in the province – again, only a small feat since I only competed against one other junior. More importantly, I accomplished my goal of getting my wilks score over 300, finishing with a total of 330kg, and wilks of 329.6. I think I placed a lot of importance on this meet because it was my last competition as a junior, and on January 1st, 2012, I made a New Year’s Resolution to try lifting. Even though I didn’t start seriously training until the beginning of May, this meet marks my 1-year progress and I feel like I can look back on a textbook meet and be proud of myself. Maybe I need to have a bit of patience with the resolutioners who show up at my gym in a couple of weeks.

Overall, I am ecstatic with the result, obviously. I know my bench still needs a lot of work, but I also made the comment after my last meet that I was so new to lifting that I didn’t have a good handle on what I could achieve until I actually had it under my belt. Looking at the video footage and based on how my third attempts felt, it seems safe to say that even my PRs were conservative. I need to work on building up my confidence in my abilities and get a better handle on what I’m capable of. It will come with time and experience, so I just need to get back under the bar and keep lifting.

What next?

Compete at nationals at the end of March in 63 and total 350.

A million thanks

There are about a bunch of people I would like to thank. Seriously, I live my life in a constant state of confusion and disorder, and so I am forever grateful to all of those who keep me in track. In no particular order, I’d like to make sure that the following rockstars know that I appreciate the help they’ve given me:

  • Matt, who coached me through water-loading and rehydration and answered all of my 5 million stupid questions.
  • Craig, who I’d never met but who still helped me pick my attempts and came down to the meet a day early to help me.
  • My fan club, including Tannis, Tali, Caitlin and some of my internet friends who have been a huge source of moral support to me.
  • Shannon, who was my chauffeur and camerawoman.
  • The whole crew at Hostyle Conditioning, who have changed my bench and more importantly my attitude towards benching.
  • The OPA and everyone who hosted and ran the meet.