Today’s deadlifts

I had not deadlifted in several weeks. At the CrossFit classes I’ve been to lately, the luck of the draw has had me doing squats, bench presses, kettlebell cleans, or doubleunders as the skill, and I’ve missed any deadlift sessions they’ve had.

Today my deadlift workout was uncharacteristically light and high-volume, with a lot of back-off sets. Back-off sets — lighter sets following the heavy one — are also uncharacteristic — usually I work up to one really heavy set of five, anywhere between 205 and 220 pounds, and stop.
Today, 185 pounds felt heavy enough, and adding volume by working my way back “down a ladder” in weight felt really good. I don’t believe this workout will make me stronger in a measurable way — but I do feel, physically and mentally, that it gave my nervous system the work it needed to stay engaged with the daily, unconscious skill of maintaining a straight back supported by strong hip muscles that are “awake.”
“Awake” is a nonscientific, vague, vernacular word that probably has no anatomical or physical accuracy. But I think anyone who’s ever exercised can relate to and understand the feeling of muscles waking up and of skills (nervous system) being refreshed through activity. Maybe that feeling of “awake muscles” is the feeling of putting the brakes on whatever imperceptible atrophy may have been happening.
Strength is a skill that is both practiced and trained. Nervous system (brain, spinal cord and all the rest) learn how to do things and how to recruit the muscles that are needed. This enables the muscles to do work and get bigger and stronger for better leverage.
I feel great after this deadlift workout even if it isn’t moving me directly towards a personal record lift. I set a personal record last August and might train for another one in 2018. If I do, the deadlift workouts will look a lot different than today’s.

This week

This week, my eldest client C came back to train some more after being away for over two months, out of the country. In her training, among many other things, we do sit-stand as a sub for squats. She sits down and stands  up from, or tries to touch-and-go from, benches at heights of 17 inches, 16.5, and 16 inches. Who would have thought those three increments would be so different. I have another trainee who does the same exercise, sit-stand, from the same heights. She is quite a bit younger than C but just happens to have got pretty out of shape. She is benefitting faster than C from the sit-stands, but C is ahead of her in other strengths and skills. Everybody’s unique, that’s for sure.

Another C, a friend from CrossFit 206, trains with me once a week, and I really like her. I think she’s excited to see me, as I am her. I’m glad I have my digital wall clock/timer, so that I can time her rest between sets and don’t get carried away chatting to her. That clock really keeps me honest.

Another trainee, M., had his final two sessions with me this week. He’s gotten stronger and slimmed down but he doesn’t seem to see and feel it in himself. I want him to commit to training more wholeheartedly — he’s off to CrossFit in a couple of weeks — but he seems to feel it’s a luxury he can’t quite afford. To me of course it’s a basic health practice that one wouldn’t consider giving up if other things could be sacrificed that aren’t as necessary as health.

I created a collage image for my business Facebook page using pics of five trainees working in the garage. I think it looks good. One person who gave me permission to use her picture also posted it on FB and kindly enthused about our training, which makes me feel great! Another trainee after only a few sessions noticed she can get on and off the floor easier.

It was a good week. Unfortunately I have a headache now that it’s over. My work is mentally extremely tiring. I’m so glad I decided to have Fridays off.

Mid-October

I’ve had a few classes at CrossFit RE after taking five personal training sessions with BeckyJo. Personal training was great because I had a chance to get to know her a bit more and see how I would feel physically during and after fairly high intensity workouts. It let me vent some of the “here are all of my special needs” blather that I was attached to. Like a lot of people, I just have to get that stuff out of the way early on, and then once I know I’m considered to be a normal person who will fit in, I can forget all that stuff and focus on the workout and on getting to know the other people at the gym.

It’s interesting to be a newbie at someone else’s CrossFit gym. Just the fact that in personal training I had to process the usual insecurities: “What if there are so many doubleunders that I’m about to pee myself? What if we have to do the Filthy Fifty and I can’t get through fifty without it turning into a death march? What if I’m the last one to finish every WOD?” etc etc. These things are not important. I can modify anything I need to. I needed to be told that.

So I’ve been treating every WOD as a practice session. Do a round or a set, rest if I need to, hit the next one. I can focus on doing things well rather than fast. It’s fun and CrossFit still makes me feel great.

Kyle came over today and we did back squats in the garage. He’s been off a bit, so he stuck with me on the weight. I had a one-rep max recently of 220, so we went up to 85 percent today, three sets of five at 185. Then we had lunch. I really appreciate and am grateful for how he and lots of other people in my gym world have kept in touch with me. It’s just a little bit like having a local extended family. Not quite the same, but they are people I can call on for help with certain things, such as feedback on excerpts from my writing project. I’m working on a book on weight training for older women.

Powerlifting meet follow-up

I ended up going to two meets this summer with Bull Stewart and his team. The first one, in June, I did all three of the lifts. My second squat was disallowed for lack of depth. I was so surprised! “Moi?” I’ve busted so many people for not squatting deep enough, so it was great for me to get a dose of my own coaching medicine. My third squat was deep enough and was at 215 lbs. Not a record for me, but a good conservative and confident weight for my first meet following a disallowed lift.

Bench presses and deadlifts went smoothly. I ended with a bench press of 110 lbs (conservative) and a deadlift of 248 lbs. I thought 248 would be on the edge, but with the excitement of the meet, I knew I could have lifted substantially more.

I love the supportive and friendly culture I’ve seen both at Bull’s gym and in powerlifting, at this meet. Really great. I decided later in the summer to deadlift only at the Alki Classic, a meet held on Alki Beach each August. With a busy summer, I was able to focus on training my deadlift only, and this was Bull’s idea because I was going to skip it altogether. I made my own plan to increase my deadlift in the five weeks I had to prepare, because I really wanted to set a personal record on Alki Beach. How fun would that be! My deadlift training plan that I followed is at the end of this post. And I did indeed set a PR of 264 lbs on my final attempt.

I used flat sneakers at the meet, after training in weightlifting shoes, to give myself more of a mechanical advantage. The advantage of deadlifting in flat shoes was something I knew about, but almost for arbitrary reasons I had made up my mind that I’d do all my lifts in WL shoes all the time. A trainer at CrossFit RE, Greg Gerard, suggested I try flat shoes for the meet, and I could not disagree. It worked. As soon as I knew I had lifted the weight about two inches off the floor, I KNEW I had it. If I get stuck, I get stuck right above the floor. I let out a scream to motivate myself to stand it up. I was really happy with this lift! I love the deadlift. Link is to my first deadlift session in September 2004.

It had been a long, hot day, so I got a photo with two powerlifting teammates and then Tom and I took off. I am disappointed I didn’t stay for the team photo because the whole team is so cool!

Here’s the way I trained during the final four or five weeks before the Alki meet in August 2017:

Week 1 – 7/15
Find 3rm: 3rm was 228 and I stopped
Week 2 – 7/21
7/21 I did deficit deadlifts at Bull’s place. Standing on about 1.5 inch planks,
8 singles at 225 then a set of three when someone (Rose Pristell) lent me a belt.
Week 3 – 7/28 – I did 230 x 1 off the blocks, then 230 x 5 off the floor.
Calc 1 rep max = 259 or 268 depending which calculation you use at timinvermont.com
Week 4 – August 3
Plan: Do a set of 3 at 233; actually ended up doing five at 233.
Week 5 -August 10
goal is 239×3 (This is the 3rm for 264×1)
Stiff leg dl from rack up to 155 for sets of 8
Regular DL 175 to 233 for 1 each.
Then take 264 out of rack and lower under control to floor.
Meet on Aug. 19; goal I trained for is 120 kg or 264 lbs
1st attempt 112.5 kg, same as last meet – succeeded
2nd attempt 117.5 kg – succeeded
3rd attempt was 120 kg and succeeded! (264 lbs)

Deciding and preparing to compete in powerlifting

Soon after I started training with Bull Stewart in the group class, in March, I found that I was still pretty strong despite inconsistent, non-methodical workouts during the past couple of years. The gym business had taken up more and more of my personal time. I saw myself creating structure for our clients so that they could gradually, methodically increase their strength, while I learned that my own training was so sporadic that when I had the time and energy, I didn’t really know my high end any more. I only did one or two individual heavy lifts a week. Should I squat to 185 or 205 for sets of five? I was never quite sure.

I would have been satisfied to maintain rather than gain strength, but that’s a tricky thing to do if you don’t lift every week. To be safe, I made up my mind at some point to always squat to a maximum of 185 lbs for five reps, deadlift to a max of 205, press whatever I could for five (usually 75 or 80), and bench press to about 85 for 8-10 reps — keeping that one light for safety reasons as I often had nobody around to spot me. (I had spotter bars, but I didn’t like to actually fail and have to use them.)

It was so much fun to start training with Bull, Hikeem, Asuba, and our group after I closed the gym.  I quickly realized I was still inspired by strength and fitness, suddenly unburdened by the need to keep a business going, and ready to participate with enthusiasm in Bull’s new program that he developed for us at Cha’s request.

The program turned out to involve a little bit of heavy lifting, a lot of dumbbell lifts and abs, and a lot of intense bursts of cardio. A lot of fun, though not strictly a strength program. But it was okay. I was now working out three days a week, like clockwork, and walking an hour on off days, so I regained some general fitness/conditioning. And while we did some heavy lifting, I supplemented that with occasional lifting at home, and I kept careful track of what I lifted each workout. Within just a few weeks I noticed I had methodically added a little weight to the bar each time and was close to the strength levels of five years ago.

This was so gratifying. While I had lost a little bit of “barbell strength,” I had not lost enough to be starting over nor enough to make me unsafe when pushing myself.

When Bull offered me the chance to compete in this meet on his team, I was ready to sign up. I saw no reason not to. Why had I never done this before? I didn’t know. (Now that it’s over, I have some ideas why.) As the meet got closer, I started to practice the pause in the bench press with the help of either Bull or with Tom at home. I tested my 3-rep max and 1-rep max deadlift. I tested my 5-rep max squat and set a personal record. Then it was time to rest during the last six days before the meet.

I’ll write about the meet in my next post. When Tom and I were hanging out by the pool on Friday after checking in, it hit me why I’d never competed before. Sitting there relaxing, I felt such a clear sense of mental clarity and capacity. We sat and watched a few CrossFit Regionals videos, read, and watched kids playing. I thought, wow, just for today I’m an athlete waiting to compete — this is a nice life — I have no responsibilities until tomorrow morning.

When I had the gym, I never had the sensation of no responsibilities. If I had decided to go to a meet, my mind would have been racing with the endless gym-admin mental checklist the entire time I wasn’t actually about to lift or lifting. While sitting by the pool, I would have been making lists, returning emails, brainstorming ideas to solve problems. I would have been talking with Tom about that, not about visualizing my lifts for the next day.

My mind was always on the gym, always searching for solutions to problems or for tasks I may have forgotten to do. I had to train myself not to be so mentally vigilant all the time. It was exhausting. I had to remind myself not to feel bad that I didn’t work out as much as I had in the past.

After closing the gym, I started working out elsewhere on the very first Monday, and I quickly realized that post-gym-closure could turn out to be a really fun period of my life. This has been correct so far. I’m glad my mind “straightened out” so quickly so that I could rediscover my love of working out AND even try a new sport with a new coach.

 

Bench press PR “with the pause”

Today I benched 125 with Bull spotting and “Mailman” (actually Austin — a guy on the team) calling out the meet commands — Start, Press, Rack. I’m no longer freaked out by the requirement to hold the barbell at the bottom and wait for the Press command. Bull said, “You’re ready!” To Austin he said, “She’s tough!” It is a nice compliment that sinks in, but on the other hand, the fact is I’m not particularly tough. It’s more that lifting is one thing I’m well-trained at, and I’m lucky to be able to do that.

Bull was telling stories about other competitions, high-school coaches who encourage their athletes to use gear like bench shirts when it’s counterproductive, athletes who have had to be removed from teams because of the use of anabolics (which can disqualify a whole team, he said), and more. I’m thankful to have learned to lift from good teachers and to be confident and skilled to lift correctly and strongly without accessories. Nothing wrong with some of the gear if you need it, but it’s good to feel that so far all I’ve needed is a belt, and that rarely. I’ll use it for the squat and deadlift at the meet.

This meet is going to be really fun.

Going to compete

I’ve been working out at Columbia City Fitness – Jackson Street location with Bull Stewart and co. Their enthusiasm for strength training, and for the strength I’ve developed after all the lifting I’ve done, inspired me to join their powerlifting team. Most recent heavy lifts:

squat 220 x 3 x 3 today with a belt;
deadlift 235 x 3 and 245 x 1 on May 12;
bench press to 120 x 1 with a pause (the pause is so hard!).

What I know so far about competing on June 3:
I’ll wear a belt for the squat and deadlift.
Opening squat will be 230 (105 kg). I’ll warm up to 205 most likely (93 kg).
Opening bench will be 95 (43 kg) unless I can get a really confident 100 (45 kg) with a pause “right when I roll out the bed,” as Bull puts it.
Opening deadlift will be 245 (111 kg).

Bull says I’m going to have fun at the meet because I’m competitive. Dave and Nancy used to tell me I was competitive. I must not have good self-awareness around that, because I’ve always described myself as not competitive (and Dave and Nancy would laugh at this). Why? For example at CrossFit, I work out without looking to see what my peers had done — that is, I forget to try to beat them. It didn’t even occur to me until I was done, almost every time. If I work out *with* someone, I look at them as inspiration to keep moving, not as someone to try and beat. (Am I being honest?) For another example, I decide what to do in a lifting workout by picking a challenge that I believe I can do, not by thinking about what others my size did.

In what way *am* I competitive? Maybe just the fact that once I decided to go to the meet, my approach was that I want to do well and challenge myself, both, not just go and lift easy to get the experience and have fun. I take it seriously. I don’t know, is that competitive?

Notes from the Microsoft Band 2 today

I had two exercise sessions today: weights at Bull’s place, and then a walk. I wore the band for the first time in months. Below are notes I wrote in Evernote by looking at the band itself while trying to get it to sync.

4/14/17
Band won’t sync, so I may have to reset and lose this data.
Workout 1 at Bull’s place:
Duration 1:15
I ran the watch from just before class started until 15 minutes after it ended.
calories 431
peak HR 155
Avg HR 115
Duration in heart ranges:
17 seconds at 90-100% (so let’s say my peak of 155 = 90%, and max HR = 172 — one flaw in this device is that it doesn’t know my real max heart rage. How does it calculate it? “The Band app predicts your maximum heart rate based on your age and uses it to generate personalized heart-rate training zones. Your max heart-rate value adapts to you. If you consistently exceed your predicted value, your max heart rate will increase.”)
4 minutes at 80-90%
20 minutes at 70-80%
The band has now synced. It says during the workout, I burned a virtually equal number of fat and glucose calories.
Workout 2, walk from Jackson and 26th down to Leschi Mkt and back:
Duration 1:02 (2.5 miles, ~400ft elev gain)
Calories 310
peak HR 141
avg HR 108
Duration in HR ranges is not shown
“The fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your heart-rate reserve.” (from Active dot com — I have pretty much known nothing about the “zones”. I’m more interested in them now, because without all the hours of daily activity of zinging around in the gym, I’m concerned about staying active enough to burn what I eat. Most of the daily burn is not from a “hard workout” of short duration, but from the entire day’s low-intensity activity.)
My resting heart rate in October was 50
Heart rate reserve (Max minus resting) = 122
50% of 122 is 61
75% of 122 is 92
add the resting heart rate to both numbers:
“Fat burning zone”: 111-142 bpm
65% to 83% of max 172
During my walk, I was in this zone all the time.
During my workout, I was in this zone most of the time.
The band has now synced. It says on the walk I burned a virtually equal number of fat and glucose calories.

April 2017

Recent benchmarks:
1 rep max bench press two days ago, 135 lbs.
Squat, 2 sets of 5 at 200 lbs last month; 215 1-rep max in December 2016.
Deadlift, 205 x 5 last month.

I’ve been having a lot of fun since I closed the gym. I work out sometimes at CrossFit RE and (for the past two weeks) mostly at Columbia City Fitness Jackson St. The thing I wish I could change about the Columbia City Fitness class is that I’d like to have a lot more systematic, methodical weight lifting progression. I like the coach (Bull Stewart) and the other trainers a lot. They are high energy, always positive and glad to see us it seems, and they are fit, competitive weightlifters who practice what they teach.

The barbell lifting, though, is just treated as the first “hard” part of a “hard” workout. Sometimes it’s relatively heavy, sometimes it’s high volume. I feel that I’m generally in better shape than I was in for, say, the year 2016, because I am working out on a real and frequent routine, and I’m very active on days when I don’t do a hard workout. I’m really, really happy to find that I’ve gotten a bit fitter instead of softer without owning the gym any more. And I’m happy to feel confident and to be having fun. And on top of that I’m happy to be training with several of my Fitness Within Reach trainees (who I taught to lift and do CrossFit style hard circuit workouts) and with new, fun, inspiring trainers. I am so grateful to have found this place for all those reasons and because it’s always refreshing to try something that isn’t CrossFit. CrossFit will always be there for me. What I’d really like is to keep going to Columbia City Jackson and be more systematic to improve my lifts a little bit. I may be entering a meet, and especially because of that, I feel I really need a system and a plan. Of course I can do this on my own — but if I’m going there to work out, the activity there would thwart my doing it on my own. But for now, whatever, I’m having a lot of fun!

I’m also outside a ton now that it’s a bit nicer out and the days are a lot longer in the evening. I go for at least an hour walk every day that I don’t work out hard.

February 2017

I feel like I’m in a really fun period of my life in some ways (ie, selfishly). At CrossFit 206, as the owner and a trainer, I worked hard not to judge myself for being definitely not the fittest person in the gym. I would have been miserable if I’d felt I needed to compete with my customers.

While not wanting to beat myself up, I also didn’t want to get too far out of shape. I did reasonably well. I maintained the discipline to work out several days a week with either barbells, CrossFit, or both. Despite being the gym owner, it would have been incredibly easy to fall off the habit of working out. What helped me maintain the discipline? Wanting to do what my customers did; wanting to be one of their peers; wanting to be able to talk about CrossFit from the inside and mean it; wanting to be a good example and an inspiration if I could be. I often literally pretended I was among a group of my trainees when I worked out by myself.

Deciding to close the gym, I started to worry about really getting soft. As easy as it would have been to fall off the workout wagon while I owned a gym, it seemed it would be even easier not to work out once I was really on my own.

On the very first Monday after I closed, Feb. 13, I went at noon to another local CrossFit and worked out with them. It was so much fun! I was SO thankful I wasn’t the teacher. One week later, I’ve now had three workouts at other people’s gyms:  two at CrossFit RE and one at Columbia City Fitness/Jackson. I now see. Working out is nothing to be scared of. The trainer’s job is to tell you what to do. You just have to make an effort to do it. It’s up to you whether to try hard or slack off. That’s all. One thing at a time, one moment at a time. Then you’re done.

I am now a lot less worried about getting soft. In fact, I think I have a good chance of getting into better shape than I’ve been since 2010 when we opened!

Today at Bull Stewart’s Columbia City Fitness/Jackson, the workout class was as follows, with just me and Bill in attendance. It will be fun on Wednesday when the others are there.

Back squat 2 sets 5 at 200

Have to get used to someone RIGHT BEHIND ME yelling (“easy weight! Easy weight! Piece of cake! Yeah girl!”) and ready to spot me. Disconcerting at first!

25 to 30 lb dumbbell muscle cleans to push press onto toes

10 lb dumbbell triceps kickbacks

Something else with dumbbells

Upstairs on floor or machines:

Three rounds

Side plank cable pulls, rowing style unilateral

Two arm supine cable pulls with leg raise, similar to toes to bar

Three rounds

Triceps pull downs with handle and with rope

Machine shoulder presses two positions

Leg press

Three or four floor abs things

Stretching

This was a lot of fun because the trainers who worked with us — Bull’s son Hakeem, teammate Asuba, and Bull — were so engaged and nice and positive. They always are.