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.

 

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?

Recent stuff

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve been working out and I re-took the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certificate course a couple of weeks ago. Erin N went with me and it was really fun! I still love CrossFit after 11 years and even after learning that not all of its precepts are strictly correct. It is fun, and it’s so interesting to see it as a system that has developed out of one person’s experimentation on a few clients.

This week I did some hard workouts. On Tuesday I deadlifted to a 3-rep max of 225. Technically my 3-rep max is higher, because I actually did 3 sets of 3. Before that I also had done several 30-second row sprints to see the fastest pace I could attain and how long I could keep it (1:41 and 6 seconds). After the deadlifts I did the day’s Tabata: row for calories, box jump, rings push-ups, barbell row.

Yesterday I didn’t do much, just went for a 40-minute walk to Martha Washington Park and stretched.

Today at 6:30 AM I did the day’s WOD with Carroll: run 800m, 40 6-inch target burpees, 20 box jump-overs, 3 rounds for time… in the time available (32:10), I got through two rounds, the run, and half the burpees. The time included a bathroom break. I used a 12-inch box. I had already planned to test this Saturday’s workout, and had not planned to do the WOD, so I went “easy” (it wasn’t easy).

The WOD coming up for Saturday is a barbell complex that I was afraid would be too hard, but scaled to a lighter weight it was no harder than other barbell WODs. So today I did two WODs. Tomorrow I get to sleep in.

Press, barbell complex WOD

Today: shoulder press trying to improve my calculated 1-rep max. I don’t think I improved it, because I didn’t get five reps. I finished with a set of 4 and then a set of 3 at 82 lbs. If I had gotten five reps unbroken I would have had a new 1-rep max. Oh well, maybe next week.

Workout of the day — from what we did in the gym yesterday:
6 deadlifts
4 power cleans
2 push jerks
10 toes to bar
10 minutes AMRAP with 75 lb bar

My toes to bar were just high knee raises some of the time. My first set of 10 was two “warm-up/cheater” knee raises followed by 8 strung-together toes to bar. It degenerated after that. With the barbell complex and that, in 10 minutes I got five rounds, 17 reps.

20150827_110702 20150827_113005

Front squat, burpee, KB swings

Today: Several sets of pistols on each side with weights up to 16 kg, in my Reeboks (very slight heel lift, which I can’t do pistols without).

Then, front squat to a set of 4 and a set of 2 at 170 lbs. This was hard and was based on my calculated 1-rep max from when I did three at 175 recently.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 burpees and kettlebell swings at 24 kg for time: 6:25. I worked hard on that.

“Fran’s Fave” revisited

Today’s strength workout was back squats and I got 4 at 190 lbs. I’ve now done a 3-rep max or close enough on all the basic lifts, so I can work out based on an estimated 1-rep max and try to make progress again for a while.

Today’s WOD: a kettlebell complex from a long time ago at CrossFit North. I had done this one several times and named it Fran’s Fave, and also used it on my kettlebell class at CrossFit Seattle. When I did this one in 2007 my finish time was 15:25. Eight years later I’m slower at 17:42 with 16 kg.

“Fran’s Fave”:
kettlebell 1-hand swing, clean, squat complex x 10 reps
10 squat-jumps with no weight
10 rounds for time.

I *think* my faster time so long ago was also with 16 kg, because I remember the first time we did this in Dave’s class, I had the 16 and the 12 kg kettlebells out because I thought I would not be able to do it with the 16 — but then I did. So it was memorable.

3-rep max lifts for mid-2015

Recent 3 rep maxes or approximately:

Front squat 176 x 3

Shoulder press 84 x 3

Deadlift 220 230 x 3

Bench press 122

Back squat 190 x 4

7/7/15: front squat to 3-rep max of 175. It was hard enough that I felt sure I would fail with more weight. I was surprised I was able to go this heavy. I waited at least two minutes between sets.

7/8/15: shoulder press to 3-rep max of 38 kg in our garage. (83.77 lbs for a calculated 1-rep max of 88 lbs.) Not bad.

I plan to test several more 3-rep maxes this month to re-establish a baseline. I’ve been working out, but not methodically. I quit karate because I wasn’t getting enough down time and I wasn’t fully committing to karate either.

7/18/15. Wanted to find a three rep max deadlift but got to a two rep max of 225. I had done a 15-12-9 workout of cleans and dips earlier in the morning.

8/10/15. I did a 3-rep max deadlift  on Friday the 7th and got 220, for a calculated 1-rep of 233. Today I got a 3-rep max bench press of 122 lbs.

8/15/15. Back squat “3-rep max” based on an estimated 1 RM of 210; I actually did 190 x 4 for a calculated 1-rep max of 216.

8/17/15: deadlifted according to this week’s Wendler scheme of 1+ at 95% of 1-rep max. I got 3 at 230 for a new calc. 1-rep max of 243.

Barbells

Today I did front squats up to 5 sets of 2 at 85% of a 1-rep max of 180, so 155 lbs. Then I did a bunch of clean and jerks, working up to 103 lbs. Feels good. On Tuesday we worked on pistols, then we had a WOD that was EMOTM 20 minutes of clean, front squat, push-jerk. I worked up to 90 lbs.

That night I went to karate. We did some complicated (for me) moving basics with more than one ingredient per step, for example: step in, down block, reverse punch, step in, outside block, reverse punch; then another one, for example, step in, down block, up block, reverse punch, step in, outside block, inside block, reverse punch. I felt like a toddler learning to keep track of all the limbs.

Catching up again

Thurs. Jan. 8
WOD:
5 minutes AMRAP:
5 burpee
7 toes to bar (I did knee raises in order to practice stringing them together)
9 thrusters (Rx was 65 lbs, I used 55)
Rest 2 minutes, repeat for 3 rounds
I got 9 rounds 4 reps
2-1/2 hours later: back squat up to 200 lbs x 5, 5, 3.
Weds. Jan. 7
Bench press to 95 for 4 x 5
Tues. Jan. 6
Front squat to 150 for one set of 5. REALLY heavy. Immediately after I racked it, I wondered if I had hurt my back, right in the middle on each side — but that soon felt normal again and i was (am) just really fatigued from it. I was going to bench press today, but decided I’d done enough, especially since it was Tuesday, my longest work day, and I would have had to bench after 1:00 (quitting time).
Went to karate that night.
Sunday and Monday — nothing much.
Saturday Jan. 3 — karate.
What I remember from before that…
Tuesday, Dec. 30 — Back squat, testing 3-rep max, 225 x 3 for one set. This works out to a theoretical 1-rep max of 249 — so 225 for 3 is a PR. My actual 1-rep max this fall was 240.
Friday Dec. 26: “Fran” Rx in 6:28, far off my record, but nice people kindly complimented me on that being a fast time.
Dec. 20 — Twelve Days of CrossFit — my time was 35:43. We changed it this year so it wasn’t exactly the same as the last three or four we’ve done.
My last blog post here was on Dec. 14 and I know I worked out between then and the 20th… but I didn’t write them down.