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?

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.

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.

Deadlift 1-rep max 232

Friday Dec. 12: 1-rep max deadlift. I did this along with my Fitness Within Reach class. I calculated my 1RM should be 232, and it was. I failed at 240 though I had to try it because I had time.

The WOD was, for time:

  • 800m run
  • 50 DB Snatches
  • 400m run
  • 35 DB Snatches
  • 250m run
  • 20 DB Snatches

This took me over 17 minutes  and made me feel like I was going to lose bladder control, throw up, and have a heart attack. Guess I need to get back in shape! The time includes a bathroom break — I could not face the second run without it. This may be the first time I’ve ever taken a bathroom break during a workout. Also: I ran way too far on the first run. I thought I knew the turn-around point, but someone else had figured it out and told it to me, and I obviously had it wrong. Two very good-natured women ran it with me and didn’t complain too much! Whoops!

Saturday Dec. 13: 1-rep max front squat. I hit 170 and felt good about it. That’s 15 pounds off my all time record. Then we had a team workout. I was part of a trio. Together we did 150 sit-ups, doubleunders, lunge steps, push-ups, and squats. I can’t remember our time, but we had fun. Susie and I were “one person” and the other was Hannah the college student.

Our gym Christmas party was last night. As always, it was very fun and relaxing to hang out with everyone in Teresa’s beautiful house.

Today I stayed home and practiced the Pinan Nidan and the Matsukaze katas.

Disciplined, not driven

My back felt fine today, but my left wrist hurt with pushing or with hanging from the bar. So I deadlifted, up to a set of 5 at 190 and another set of 5 at 175. These felt normal/good. Then my workout of the day was: 15 kettlebell swings 24 kg, 15 butterfly sit-ups, 6 fist (knuckle) push-ups (because these didn’t hurt the wrist), 4 rounds. This took me 6:48 and felt good.

I didn’t feel like working out today. I often can too easily spend too much time in the gym working at the computer or cleaning. Daily I tell myself that if I don’t work out, I’ll be sorry when it’s time to go home and I did not work out when I was between things and had the time. I tell myself that either I’m a lifter and a CrossFitter, or I’m not. You are what you do. “How long ago was your last workout?” is a fair question for a trainer. My expectation is to be able to say that either my last WOD or my last lifting session was within the past two days, unless I had a really compelling reason not to have worked out. Also, saying I worked out in the past two days doesn’t include karate or going for a run — it has to be lifting or CrossFit or both. Running is just a little supplement, and karate is in another category altogether.

I don’t always force myself to do whatever’s on the whiteboard that day or to lift with a certain volume or intensity. I always write out a plan for my workout, on a whiteboard, but on a day like today, with recent back weakness and with current wrist pain in at least two positions, I’ll plan something that doesn’t make me nervous about conditions like those. I can always come up with something challenging enough, and once I get started, I go hard and I never quit unless something hurts in a significant way. For example, I’ll stop doing pull-ups if I realize my palm is going to tear, or I’ll stop doing handstand push-ups if my wrist suddenly hurts.

Sometimes I feel that I’m not fit enough because I’m not as fit as I was five years ago. But it’s not just a hobby any more. That really changes things, even though it’s not an issue of having enough time. I do have time, so I insist on maintaining most of my chosen benchmarks most of the time, but I refuse to try to maintain a standard of some imaginary, impossible perfection.

I was at my fittest in late 2009. Six months after “going paleo,” my weight was down to 123 and I was muscular, skilled, and fast. I clean and jerked more than my body weight and I could do bar muscle-ups. I felt that I looked my best. Today my weight moves between 132 to 135 although I’d like it at 128 or 129 (but really, WHO CARES) and I can’t clean more than 120 or do a bar muscle-up (though I can get those things back if I choose to focus on them). I’m not very self-critical about those things. I have plenty of abilities, I’m a good teacher who helps others, and I maintain my own personal benchmarks so that I’m a good example.

What are my benchmarks? Deadlift and squat over 200 pounds (and deadlift heavier than squat); press 90+; plenty of pull-ups such as 8 dead-hang and able to do at least one weighted pull-up with 35 pounds; cartwheel and handstand, not perfect but confident and competent; brachiate/monkeybar ladder/swing one-handed from ring to ring; pistol on each leg with some sort of weight, though I do have to wear weightlifting shoes or otherwise slightly elevate my heel. I may think of other benchmarks after I’m done here. In general these are the benchmarks I feel are “strong enough.”

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Bench press PR

On Tuesday I deadlifted up to a set of 5 at 205, then bench pressed up to 5 at 120. Mike was there and said I ought to try for 132, which is my body weight, and I’d said I wanted to bench that. So I did one at 125 and then finally one at 132. Awesome.

Later I ran my “daily” one mile, not very fast, 8:40 I think. It is not daily any more now that it’s been raining about every other day. I’m not going to get soaked.

Today I front squatted up to 3 x 5 at 145 and then did several sets of strict and weighted pull-ups, up to two at 20 kg. I did five reps at 8, 12, and 16 kg first. This was all pretty tiring.

Coach Rippetoe always says if you’re not increasing the weight on your bar, you’re not getting stronger and you’re wasting time. I’d like to see him address the desire to maintain strength (that isn’t quite maximal but is pretty darn strong) instead of taking the increased risk of always trying to go heavier, as well as the simple fact that no one is going to get stronger forever. I try to always maintain a deadlift and squat of >200 lbs, a press of >90, a clean and jerk of 100+, and a 16-kg weighted pull-up. I’m not wasting time.

 

Multi-WOD

Today: shoulder press up to 4 at 81 lbs (85% of 1-rep max) then a multi-part WOD.

Max kettlebell snatches (16 kg) in 5 minutes: 107; rest 1 minute
Max burpee box jumps 20″ in two minutes: 16; rest 1 minute
AMRAP 5 minutes: 5 thruster (55 lbs), 5 toes to bar: I got 5 rounds 7 reps

Later I ran a mile in 8:00 around the neighborhood.

I’m especially happy with the 107 snatches in 5 minutes. I was required to do 100 in five minutes for the RKC. At age 50 that requirement would be for a 12-kg kettlebell, but I can still do over 100 with the 16 kg. It was easier this time than when I did 100 of them with Tom earlier this year. I was less spent afterward.

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Press PR; squat PR for reps

Today I wanted to press 100 lbs. I did a very sparing warm-up of 1 rep at several weights: 70, 85, 92, 98. I failed at 100 on three widely spaced attempts, including with a belt. I did lift 98 and that was a PR.

I stayed to work out with Kyle’s noon class. We back squatted. I used the percentage of 1 rep max / Wendler scheme. This was the heavy week where you work up to 1+ reps at 95%. My 1-rep max is 240 most recently, so I finished my squats with 3 reps at 225. They were a mess. I haven’t been that close to having to bail out in a long time. But I got them all done, and the calculated 1RM for 3 x 225 is 248. So I can call that a PR and try 248 sometime soon if I have the nerve.

Then we had a kettlebell workout with cleans and push-presses, 10 of each, 9 of each, down to 1. I used a 16 kg bell and it took me about four and a half minutes.

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On Monday this week we had front squats and a workout of strict pull-ups, strict ring dips, and deadlifts. I front squatted 145 for 2 x 5. The WOD was:
5 strict pull-ups
5 strict ring dips
10 deadlifts at 155 (I used 135)
5 rounds for time. This took me 11:36 and tired me out enough that I didn’t feel bad about using 135 for the deadlift.

Last Friday I deadlifted up to 220 x 5 and 220 x 3. I would like to get my deadlift up to 270 for 1 rep.

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Catching up

My last post was on June 7! I have no idea what I did between then and June 15.

Sunday June 15: back squats up to 3 x 5 at 190 lbs.

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But before I back squatted, I tried the old RKC snatch test, the version I took in August 2009: 100 snatches at 16 kg in under five minutes. I used the clock to help me make sure I did 20 or more per minute, and I finished at 4:28 with 15 reps in that final 28 seconds. I had hit 50 reps at 2:00. This was really gratifying! But it about killed me! My glutes didn’t know what hit them. I was afraid to lie on the floor or sit down for fear I would not be able to extend my hips one more time to stand up.

I waited a while before doing the squats. When I started on them, I got out of breath and tired on my first set — with the empty bar. I rested a lot between sets and felt normal by the end — normal for heavy squats, that is.

Monday June 16: bench press up to 115. I wanted to do several sets of five, but after all those snatches and squats I was too tired. My sets were 4, 4, 2+3, and 3+3. The ones with the + mean I did not get off the bench but only rested 30 seconds or so to break the set.

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Thursday June 19: weighted pull-ups. We were doing them more as stunts than as a workout during the 5:30 PM class, doing one and then making it heavier. I did manage to do one full pull-up with the 24 kg kettlebell attached to me, to the astonishment of the men and to my tremendous satisfaction. Perry got it on video.

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Saturday June 21: karate.

Tuesday: Front squats up to 2 x 5 at 155. I wanted to do that day’s workout too, but I have a cut on my ring finger from Sunday night the 22nd that was still easily aggravated on Tuesday evening.

Yesterday, Weds. June 25: karate class with sensei Aleeta. I’m slowly getting better at a lot of things though I wouldn’t say I’m good at anything. I like practicing under supervision.

Today, Thursday, June 26: Shoulder press to 82 lbs. I managed one set of five unbroken, which was my goal, then did 3 smaller sets not to failure for a total of 18 reps. This is towards my June goal of pressing 100 lbs for 1 rep. I may attempt that on July 1 or 2.

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