Saturday, December 27, 2014

Conversations in the Gym

Today's conversation in the gym that really left me thinking came mid-workout during my time.  It took  me a good 30-45 minutes to warm up today, so I pretty much took over the platform for far too long.  One of the familiar faces in the weight room and I got to talking near the end of my workout. 

He identified me as "that Crossfit chick", which at once made me roll my eyes and laugh. (I am not a regular member at any specific box, but I frequent a few for different workouts from time to time.) He asked 'which' Crossfit Competition I was training for (not 'if' I was training for a Crossfit Competition).
I replied, "I'm not training for a Crossfit Competition. I mean, yeah, I have a Crossfit Coaching cert, but my sport of choice is Olympic Weight Lifting."
"Really?" his eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You mean like you Clean and..." he stumbled over the names of the lifts.
" Jerk and Snatch. Yup. That's me. I mean, I've done Strongman and Powerlifting too, but this is where my heart is. I'm hoping to make Nationals in 2015, well... more likely 2016. I still have about 110lbs to add my totals to get there, so 2016 is probably pretty realistic."
 His eyebrows shot up. "Really? That's a long time to train."
 "Yeah, but whatever gets me there, ya know? May take longer, but I'm in it for the long haul."
 "Yeah? How long have you been training already?" he said with a skeptical smirk on his face. I can't blame him. Lot of people, especially near this time of year, throw around lofty goals like they are cheaply earned - especially in the gym. But he'd seen me work and do my own thing in there fairly frequently, so I had the chops to back it up.
  "Let's see... it'll be about 2 years in January."
  The doubt-filled smirk instantly gave way to a glimmer of excitement. "Really?!"
  "Yeah, I started slow. I didn't really know what I wanted and the bar was heavy.  I've been specifically staring down Nationals for about 6 months or so."
  "Cool! Keep it up!"

   It was my turn to smirk. "Thanks. I have every intention of it."

There are a million uncontrollable variables between that goal and now. Some training sessions feel easier than others. Some days the weight flies up. Some days, it feels like a battle. Some days, it's somewhere in between. But no matter what 'speed bumps' that may come up along the way, it's still an adventure worth having.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Holidays 2015

Chilling out and enjoying the Christmas Tree
 With Christmas coming up this week, it's likely time that I chimed in on the winter holiday season of 2014.

This time last year, I was scrambling to get the house decorated for company. I'd hired a very talented set-designer friend of mine to help and she was amazingly helpful. We hosted my brother-in-law and his girlfriend, as they were considering a move to Seattle, and we certainly had the space for company. (I clearly remember being significantly stressed out about getting it all up to some invisible standard I held of "acceptable levels of hosting Christmas cheer" in time of our visitors - man I can whine with the best of 'em sometimes.)

Odin 'helping' keep our company warm.
On Christmas Eve, we took my Brother-In-Law and his girlfriend to a local Christmas Tree farm to help us pick out and cut down the tree. After they left, we hastily decorated the tree, went to sleep and the next day was Christmas Day.

Christmas Day itself was simple. Both exhausted, we made a normal breakfast, opened the two small gifts under the tree for each other, and let the rest of the day pass fairly unmarked.

This year, the tree is smaller, and isn't 'fresh from the forest', but rather a quick Home Depot purchase. No professional help with decorating this year, just a few things here and there and a few candles to add a bit of glow to the house. My Sailor got me a pair of lovely earrings in my favorite color, and he has yet to open his gift (I'm making him wait until Christmas). 
My mom saw to a practical need of mine (getting the heater in my car fixed - which is wonderful) as well as allowing us to have a little extra fun by loosening up the budget enough for us to allow for a fun night out at Point Defiance Zoo.
Despite the rain and cold, we had a good time and got to see all the lights. I'd been wanting to do it for years, and now, it might just be a tradition. We'll see what others year bring!

The thing that's different about this year is my perspective. I mean, yes, I still miss my family (especially my Dad, which keeps me reaching for my F*ck Cancer beanie on a regular basis), the big Christmas Eve feasts I used to throw for friends and family, and filling the calendar with stage productions and festive events. 
Holiday Gathering with the GUGD Gang
But instead of a slew of parties, I just had one on my agenda this year. The rest of my calendar is a smattering of chores, Navy Wife duties, and helping strong folks get stronger. Instead of a million decorations and lights all over the house, I have a few candles, a tree, and some ribbons.  Instead of dreading having to work over the holidays, I'm actually looking forward to doing forward to every minute of doing my job, despite the date on the calendar.   The baking, decorating, and things I was upset about last year seem so incredibly insignificant now. (Though it's still a milestone that I no longer hate my legs. ;) )

This year, I'm just glad to get My Sailor home for it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Weighing In on Weight Classes

Not me, but no less awesome.
Today I (unexpectedly) nailed a new Personal Record in the Clean. (In case ya'll are wondering, this is exactly why I have a coach. He forges ahead on days when I'm just expecting a 'usual' training sessions and keeps me on track as an athlete. Trust me, as Trainer Girl, sometimes it seems like a huge challenge to make time for care and feeding of Oly Girl.) As if he has some innate sense that we are in "PR territory", we're staring down the May meet excitedly. Only about 6 months until the meet? Sweet.

With all that in mind, the body weight issue has come up.  The way Olympic Weight Lifting works, any woman over 75 kilos is considered an "ultra heavy weight". Now, in US terms, that means any woman over 165 pounds (regardless of height) is in the highest weight class, whether she is 350 lbs or 166lbs.  Hardly seems fair, right? Especially to a leggy girl like me, measuring about 5 foot 8 inches, and weighing in at an average of 185-190lbs (84-86 kilos).

We have had 'the talk' of whether it's 'worth it' or not for me to attempt to cut weight in an effort to be in the 75 kilo (or below) weight classes.

The answer is a settled on "No."

Surprising, huh? Just this week, a friend came up to me in the gym commenting on how much weight I've lost, and she sees me all the time. The scale tells a different story. I've lost inches and gained strength, but my 'weight' doesn't tend to change often.

So far, the body fat has fallen off where it needs too, but even when I was 10 years younger and STARVING myself (long before I discovered the magic of the barbell), my lowest weight was 170lbs (and I was STILL bigger than I am now, for the record)So trying to drop another 20 lbs, despite being at my fittest ever (and getting fitter/stronger by the day) doesn't seem to make any sense.

Me on a liquid based diet. Weight? 175. Those jeans were SUPER TIGHT around the waist.
Now, that does NOT mean I'm giving myself free license to gain as much weight as I can 'just because' I won't be below 75 kilos.  I won't be burying my face in Christmas Cookies or kicking my Paleo-style of living out the door any time soon. It fuels me and keeps me working right, so why on earth would I ditch it and go back to things that didn't work?! (Like, in my case, counting EVERYTHING, or going back to pre-packaged foods.)   The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results.

With that in mind, I still have a 'shit ton of weight' (Trainer Guy's words) to move. BUT as of yesterday week, I had 117 lbs to add to my lifting total. As of today, I have 115.  And, as Greg Everett says, Every Kilo Counts!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Under the Skin of Oly Girl

Seeing my athletes go through similar changes that I discovered along my journey into Olympic and Power lifting made me realize that this blog is probably long overdue. You've seen the 'progress photos' but there are other changes in my life that have held just as much 'weight' (ha ha ha, I know, bad joke...).  It reminds me that there really is something uniquely enduring about being an Oly Girl.

1) Manicures? What are those again? 
 When Bella (my 'Weapon of Choice' - my Olympic bar) first arrived, I sliced my hand open just trying to get her out of the packaging. Within 10 minutes of dragging her inside, I was off to Urgent Care, scared that I would never lift again. Luckily I didn't cut through anything serious, it did mean my hand was wrapped up for a bit, (as evidenced by the ridiculous bar dance video in the above link...) and I bounced back from that with a scar (and its accompanying keloid) that isn't too terribly troublesome. But mostly, for the first year or so, I complained of the blisters that are now my beloved calluses. They protect my hands from Bella's bite (gotta love that aggressive grip). They are no longer painful and far from my enemies. (Even my Sailor has learned to embrace them. I don't need to use my nails to scratch his back.) As TrainerGirl and OlyGirl, chalk has practically replaced any sort of lotion. It's a mainstay for my hands. The white powder seems to be embedded in the wrinkles of my hands, no matter how often I wash them. The magnesium makes them a bit dry too, so polish tends to chip and peel. I've learned to protect the calluses on the palms of my hands. They took over a year to build and, thanks to them, I (finally) have no hand pain when lifting (unless the occasion 'hook grip sucks' moment). I'm in no hurry to relive that first year of blisters...As for my nails? Well, they get painted when I have the time and inclination.

2) People have a lot of misconceptions about what type of woman would be attracted to a sport like this. I kinda love to prove them wrong. 

As a general rule, when people hear that I'm a weightlifting coach and a competitive Olympic Weight Lifter, I'm not what they expect to see. I see it every day on the faces of people I get to speak to at the Y. When they hear numbers thrown around like a 305lb dead lift their eyes bug out, immediately picturing someone the size of a small bus.
When they hear "weight lifter", they don't see 'me' in their mind's eye. 

They don't see a Submariner's wife in her mid 30's, who has battled many impediments to weight loss, battled through loss, silence, and the ups and downs of the adoption process. They have no idea that I love to take my fitness on the road and find ways to WOD on camping trips, at Disney parks, even in airports.  I'm very quickly defined as a 'weightlifter'. While it's a label I love, it's one of many...

Or, worse yet, there are assumptions about steroids and other forms of "pharmaceutical enhancement", none of which I participate or endorse. Sure, it may 'limit my potential', but no lift is worth compromising my integrity for

Once they meet me, they find something in between all that - Something that looks more like this.

  3) Jewelery vs Barbell? Barbell wins EVERY TIME.  While there are silicone rings available, they are generally ugly and, let's be honest, a glorified rubber band doesn't make you and more or less married than a wedding band does. My fidelity isn't defined by jewelery (though, don't get me wrong, I enjoy wearing my rings out and about when My Sailor and I go out. And you can't forget a necklace in the gym - I've had one too many bites from a chain while performing a Clean or Front Squat. Youch.

4) Changing Changes Things.  My Sailor and I are well used to change.  It doesn't mean we're great at it, but we're likely better at rolling with the punches than many who have never faced long distance relationship challenges and struggles. So when I fell in love with lifting, I was lucky he was completely on board. He knows he's part of the small team of people that keep my healthy, happy, and sane during the intensities of training and the stresses of life. He's My Warden when my body could use a rest day, but the rest of me says, "Ya know, that crossfit gym is running a WOD that looks like fun..." But that said, he's also had to deal with other changes neither of us expected (like, the running joke: Our version of "Not tonight, honey; I have a headache," is " hip flexors are shot.") It's changed our dynamic in some ways - and mostly positive ones. I bring a more confident, content, balanced, powerful, happy person to every relationship I'm a part of. But that doesn't happen overnight. Patience is a big part of any transition, and I'm a firm believer that there is little success to be had alone.  It takes a village. Which plays into my next point - 

5) No one does this alone. Despite the fact that it all boils down to the lifter on the platform, Weightlifting is not  a solo sport. When my lifter takes the platform, I'm right there with them. I'm there during warm up and I'll be there when the lifts are over. Pulling with them every step of the way - I can't do the work for them. But no matter the outcome of a lift, I will be there on the other end of it.  It's an unspoken trust between coaches and athletes. 

But this sport goes so far beyond just the coach/athlete relationship -

 It takes a tribe - a special clan of people all looking out for one another, equally as committed - even if not to the exact same goals - to truly be effective.  While the obvious figurehead of this group is the coach, the rest of the members, usually made up of fellow athletes - all with their own unique strengths - are nearly vital as well. As with any relationships, these friendships take time form, but can be incredibly helpful when it comes to injury recovery, prevention, and overall well-being. No man is an island and, while training is largely technical, there is a very personal connection to strength that runs deeper than just 'numbers' on a spreadsheet.  Even in this day and age, many people are taught that self-care or self-empowerment is selfish. Partnering up with other powerful people helps destroy that illusion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2 Years in the Making - Progress Photos (Bikini Babe/Trainer Girl Crossover)

As Trainer Girl, I encourage my clients to rely on a variety of measurable goals (aside from the scale) to help them see their progress. It could be setting new personal bests in different lifts, jumps, runs, rows, or learning new moves that they weren't capable of before they took charge of their fitness and added me to their team. (After all, what's the point of being "the perfect weight" or having "the perfect shape" if you're not capable of doing everything you want to do?)

I'm a big fan of progress photos on the road to self acceptance. For me, that's meant taking progress photos in the same swimsuit, the 2nd weekend every 8 weeks. (And sometimes a few times in between when I needed a reality check... but I digress).

One of my clients put the process to words more beautifully than anything I could ever have written. "I want to feel like I earned my body, not like I'm 'wearing' it." Her words resonated with me. It's still a bit surprising to see my own reflection in a mirror. Leaner than ever, despite being a good 15-20lbs heavier than I was when I dieted down to my lightest (and couldn't run a full mile to save my life).  Knowing I earned the skin I'm in, is just more fuel to keep at it every day. So here are some stats:

December 2012 -
 220lbs following My Fitness, and doing ZUMBA 5 days/week. Still eating lots of processed foods.

November 2013 -

210lbs, just started going grain free, read Your Personal Paleo Code and drank the Paleo Kool-aid. Traded Zumba for Strongman, Powerlifting, Olympic Weight Lifting, and Crossfit style training 3x week, with Soccer on Sundays.

December 2014 -
187 lbs. Eat bacon, eggs, and chocolate every day. Olympic weight lift training 6 days/week, Crossfit training 1-3 times/week. 

What I look like and what I weigh have just came along with reaching for other goals (like PRing my 5k time twice this year, and numerous Olympic Weight lifting goals).  I don't have any goals of being a bikini model. It's not really my scene. I'm more interested in what I can do. While Olympic Weightlifting may seem like an 'extreme sport' to some, it's a power house of a confidence builder. 

And I don't just mean that it builds confidence in the gym or in a tank top. The strength and coordination carries over into so many other things. That said, I can't speak too much to 'transformations'. In as many ways as I look different, I haven't really 'transformed' much. I'm still a Disney nerd extraordinare (seriously - my "I Love Nerds" Disney backpack is my weight lifting back), and as much of a clutz as I've ever been (as exampled by trying to climb this rock for a photo op from the hubs) -
Almost falling about 10 feet... lol
Finally settled, but still laughing it off.
And I can still pick myself apart and be my own worst critic.  But just as soon as those negative thoughts start getting to play an all too familiar tune in my head, I remember what I'm capable of now, and how far I've come. Progress photos, like vacation photos, are a fantastic reminder of how far I've come - rather than how far I have to go. Since I've let go of my body weight 'goals' and embraced my athleticism, the weight has just come along for the ride. Sure, it took me about 2 years to lose my original goal of  33 pounds, but that number honestly means very little to me.

Yes, it's been a significant investment of time assets and energy, but it's been worth every dime and second to have the amazing support network I've found up here in the Pacific Northwest.  If you had told me 3 years ago that I'd be eyeing getting to Nationals in Olympic Weightlifting, I would have laughed myself hoarse.  Now, while I traffic in Snatch and Jerk jokes, and can back squat more than I weighed when I started, a 'front rack' usually refers to high elbows and bar placement, 'weight' is more often referenced as what's on the bar rather than on the bathroom scale, and aches and pains come with the territory.

If you're reading this, and just starting your journey, hang in there. Invest in yourself. Give yourself the time, the help, and the room to grow. You're worth it. Sometimes you don't know what good feels like until you get there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Love the Process

This morning, after my first couple of clients, I took a break and pulled over to watch the sunrise. I'd already been awake, moving, and coherent for several hours.  I sat in My Sailor's warm car with a cup of my favorite Holiday Tea (it's freaking amazing, if you're a tea buff and want to try it, you can buy it here) and I couldn't help soak in the wave of gratitude as Christmas music played on the radio.

I'm so busy lately, that one day mashes into the next pretty quickly. It's an amazing life, filled with the incredibly rewarding experiences with some truly inspiring people. I don't regret a single 3:30 am wake up call or 7pm evening. In fact, there is very little I regret in my life - and that, I'm well aware, is a choice.

As my favorite holiday (Christmas) is right around the corner, we know it'll be a bit of a skinny one this year, but I'm actually looking forward to it more than I can remember in recent years. This is the first year in recent memory that I haven't been able to hit a Disney park over the Holidays.
The Ultimate in Christmas Light Awesomeness
  In some ways, forgoing that tradition makes me a little extra homesick for California, but at the same time, the thought of curling up with My Sailor and the furkids and watching some Disney Christmas movies is incredibly appealing.

That is, if we can make the time. And we're working on hammering that out. It's likely to be a constant tweaking and retweaking of schedules as time goes by.

It's been a big year for us - and not everything I touched turned out. I mean, we expected to be parents by now, but the adoption plans have been postponed until sometime next summer (at earliest).  My path to becoming TrainerGirl at the local Y's had a few more bumps than I expected, but it paid off in spades and I truly love my job. I work harder than I ever have, and I work longer days than I can remember. But I wouldn't miss a minute of it. Seriously.  Best job ever.

The added accountability from my job has given me an entirely new appreciation for my support crew. From My Sailor, who looks out for me in every way, to my fitness friends and my coach, they are a near constant source of encouragement. I truly couldn't ask for a better 'family' away from home.

And don't even get me started on the amazing folks that fill my client roster. Their goals range from increased fitness to the Highland Games, and I couldn't ask for a more inspirational group of people to cross paths with every day.

Add all that to living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet (and there is no convincing me otherwise) and I really can't think of a single thing wrapped under the tree that would make or break my holiday.

Sure, I may need 2 naps to get through any given day, and I may be singing more to the tunes of Barry Manilow than Whitney Houston these days, and those cold commutes to Tacoma can feel awfully long (at last until I can get the heat in my car fixed), but man - what an amazing year it's been!  On my birthday last year, I set the goal to compete this year to earn more street cred.

Though I haven't been able to do every single competition that crossed my path, I've been able to PR my 5k twice in the same year, and my lifts more times than I can count. I'm an official resident of the 300 club now, and I'm continuing to get stronger.

I'm currently in a competition - it's 'mission accomplished' on that front.

I've taken some big trips (Florida, California, Hawaii) and I've swam with sharks.

I'm living the adventurous lifestyle I've always wanted.

I know I still have some holiday shopping to do. (I may not need anything under the tree for Christmas, but My Sailor deserves a goodie or two.)  I know I still have a house to decorate and cards to mail out. And I'm currently in a deload cycle for my lifts, which just makes me itching to get on heavy weights again. (I'm mildly convinced my current programming is an attempt by my coach to make me look like a weakling in the gym - it's a good rest for my muscles and, ya know, it keeps me humble.)

But no matter how things roll out on the actual day, I'm loving the process of getting into the holiday spirit - even as the time flies by too fast. 

So this sunrise (and likely lack of sleep) reminded me that when you love the process, you love the result. Lesson learned.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey, Turkish Get Ups, and Getting F* Out Of The Way

The Highlight Reel I sent to My Sailor during a deployment. It's now woefully out of date, but the reason I'm including it will make sense in just a few moments.  Read on. (Music: Fight For You by Jason De Rulo. Disclaimer: I look at most of these lifts and cringe a bit, but everyone starts somewhere! They barely resemble what I do now in so many

Since today is Thanksgiving (and every blogger in the US is doing a blog about gratitude), I find myself equally nostalgic. Yes, I'm incredibly grateful for all the "usual" stuff - family, friends, good health, shelter, food, etc. But for me Turkey day is a reminder of the power of getting the F* out of the way.

See, on a personal level, about 4 years ago I did something that was pretty scary round about this time of year. I jumped on a plane from my safe and sound home in Southern California to meet a deeply familiar stranger (My Sailor) on the opposite coast. My family thought I was nuts, but knew my single minded nature and were unable to stop me. They had also heard me talk about My Sailor over the years. See, we'd been long distance friends for over a decade by that time.  Big phone bills, a million emails, late night chats, and a few snail-mail packages were proof. My Sailor had always supported me, even when it likely broke his heart to do so. Finally, we'd reached a point where it wasn't really fair to anyone else we attempted to date to have this special person across the country. We either needed to see if this was forever, or put it to bed and see if we are just friends.
An early 'date'
Most people would have considered our first date their worst nightmare. For starters, I do NOT travel pretty. Usually I arrive complete with bags so far under my eyes, they might as well be below my cheek bones, and oily hair to boot. It's not pretty, but I tried to doll up a bit - walking that fine line between 'traveled', 'pretty', and 'not-setting-any-unrealistic-expectations-on-what-to-expect-should-this-thing-add-up-to-a-lifetime-with-me.' When I arrived on the East Coast, all of the rental cars of any reasonable size were taken. So my 'first impression' included arriving in the only car the rental agency had left - a 12 passenger van straight out of some terrorist plot. I arrived at the base where he was stationed, and and was (naturally) detained and not allowed entrance. He had to take a mile plus walk to the front gate to meet me. (Though, for the record, when he walked up, I remember being struck by how cute he really is in person.)  So here it was, about 9pm on Thanksgiving, and he's meeting me for the first time. To his credit, he didn't bat an eyelash, but insisted on leaning across the vast expanse of car between us to hold my hand. We then went to find dinner somewhere. No place was open. Starving (I hadn't eaten - it was a 6+ hr flight), we pulled into a gas station and got Ramen noodles and went back to my hotel room.

So, technically, our first date was Ramen noodles and watching Disney's Aladdin.

Funny thing is, with all that didn't go as planned, it didn't really matter. We were finally together. He knew my baggage. I knew his. We had already figured out how to deal with it and could move into the future together. We didn't waste much time dating.  Those games didn't seem to make much sense. We made a few more trips, but it was already a done deal as far as we were concerned. Even today, no matter what our differences, we manage to find a way to figure it out. Quitting because we're afraid of change simply isn't an option. This Thanksgiving, I got to visit him at work and grab a couple solid hugs in between missile tubes. Several Thanksgivings we've spent apart entirely, so every little day is a gift. We are clearly faced with a choice: live in fear of what tomorrow might bring, or embrace the moment.
So, what does a history lesson cute story about My Sailor and I have to do with Turkish Get Ups?

All of this nostalgia made me realize that I tend to approach fear differently than I used to. Instead of it being something I accept and allow to hold me back, it's something I listen to and (usually) find a way to conquer, if it's irrationally based.

Turkish Get Ups and Olympic Weight Lifting do have an element of fear to them. Granted, once the technique is solid, it's fairly irrationally based, but, as with all things in life, accidents do happen.  I mean, you're putting markedly heavy weights over your head on purpose!  Who WOULDN'T be just a little bit nervous about that?! What kind of sane individual does that WILLINGLY over and over again?!

Apparently I do - to the point where I enjoy it so much, I share the love of it with my clients. Each attempt at a new personal record is a little scary. But I have a choice. I can either say, "Ya know what? I'm probably never to going represent the USA in the Olympics anyway, so why try for Nationals? This is too scary. I'm done."
I can step up to the bar and say, "Alright. You and Me. Let's dance."

My approach may not be for everyone, but it worked for me. For example, when I clipped my tailbone with an 85lb snatch, I proceeded to lift 85lbs just about every day for the next few weeks until I was convinced it wasn't a problem. Now, when I approach an 85lb snatch, I tend to smile, because I know I have it in the bag. I took the same strategy when I had that initial unfortunate accident with my throat against a bar. Once I was pretty well healed, I lifted that 120lb clean 3 times a day at least 2-3 times a week. Now? I'm pretty confident I can make that lift when it comes my way.

Yes, there are certainly some times in life where listening to fear is a completely appropriate reaction. But there are so many others  where ya just gotta get the f* out of the way.

For me, somewhere in the back of my head is the fear that I won't make it to my goal of qualifying for Nationals in Olympic Weight Lifting ever. This is one of those completely irrational fears.
I know that if I keep training and keep doing what I'm doing, I'm bound to make it - even if it takes me longer than I hope.
Afterall, I'm already exactly 2/3rds of the way there.
Fear of never making it, or fear of failing could  keep me from it,
 but only if I let it have that power.

I prefer to tell fear to get the f* out of my way instead.
My Coach and my crew deep down know what I know when it comes to this topic - 

'I Got This.'
Fear can go F* itself.
This one's for me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Defined. Not Defeated.

It's been an amazing month so far in the gym. I can't wait to see where tomorrow brings me and my clients.  There have been lots of moments of growth, empowerment, ever-growing confidence, sweat, swearing, and smiles.  Every single day I'm reminded why this job is important. I get to meet these amazing people that continue to inspire me as they reach for their goals. Getting to be part of that is a privilege that I never take for granted. It's easy to get up and work the early hours when the end of the day feels this good.

In my own training life, gains can be hard to come by. I'm getting to the point where my technique tweaks are the means to gains. Strength is coming up along side, but it's a bit of a slower process than the first year. Or at least, it feels like that some days. This weekend, I was very excited to set a new record on my Clean and Jerk. At first, I eked it out with a tiny gain. I was able to set it at 137.5 lbs. I figured I had a little gas left in the tank and went up one more time to 140. After 2 failed attempts, I nailed it.  It wasn't super pretty, but it wasn't terribly nasty either. I jumped up, did a celebratory swing from the rings (conveniently anchored to the ceiling of the gym).

140 is my max Jerk from the rack right now, and it was a new Clean record for me. It was an encouraging win that I certainly needed. Thanks to the biology of being a woman, I 'should' have been weaker this week. Even Trainer Girl needs a 'win' some days - and this wasn't a one-off. This was the product of putting in the work. How can I tell?

Because I've kept getting them.  At least lately. They've been little PRs (personal records) here and there, in pieces of the full Clean and Jerk and Snatch lifts. Beyond encouraged, I remain driven and reminded that Open and Nationals aren't out of my realm. I just have to stick to it. I'm still a big fish in a little pond, but no matter the size, I'll just keep on keepin' on.

On the other side of things -

This is what the home front looks like lately. When we're in, it's 'down time'.  My Sailor works 36 hour shifts a couple times a week, and demands for coaching are growing. It's really helped me appreciate rest days, weekends and down time. The furkids have kept us on our toes but we always manage to come up on top. Clydas saved us some surgery by self-excising a tumor on his foot, and Odin has been on a late night great adventure himself, but despite time (and, obviously couch space) being at a premium, we always manage to figure things out and squeeze in some quality time while we're all still awake. All in all, we spend a lot of time figuring out the 'living' side while we await his last deployment.

Progress photos are due in just a couple days, and I was lucky enough to get some time to catch up on some much needed housework before we have company this weekend.

The greatest personal lesson of late is that progress is slow - sometimes immeasurably so. But trust that it's a process and keep your eyes on the prize - whether that's qualifying for Nationals, answering the Foster Care question, or  getting to shore duty or something else all together - and it's more than possible to get there. All it takes is Faith, Trust, Hard Work, a good Plan, and, (of course) Pixie Dust.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

From Soloist to Silence - The 'Fly' Swatter

My voice has been a major topic of conversation lately. It's come up in nearly every conversation with family and anyone who knows of my musical past. Since a freak accident injured my throat about a month ago, it's mostly recovered. I'm no longer in any pain, and I can breath heavily without threat of my trachea closing up on me.  I can talk well - just a tiny bit more hoarse than usual. It's so minor that most people don't even notice it, except for My Sailor and my first-thing-in-the-morning clients. (But, hey! Who doesn't sound a bit odd at 5am, right?)

So, for those just tuning into my blog and only know me as a weight lifter, about a million years ago, I was an aspiring singer/song writer in Southern California. Though classically trained, I generally leaned toward what I refer to as a clean R&B or soft rock style. Slotted away as "adult contemporary", lacking proper management and marketing know-how, I did what so many artists do - slipped away into obscurity before reaching anything broader than a minor level local appeal.
Here's one of my favorite songs from that album.

Fly from J Darling on Myspace.

Pretty and cool, right?

Well, I can't hit that 'Fly' note now. It comes out cracked, horribly flat, and feels like someone is pressing on my throat to eek it out.  In fact, to add injury to insult - after my mediocre meet, I was in a room with people singing the National Anthem. While no one likely would have cared or noticed, I didn't sing along. It's not that I'm not patriotic - hell, I'm married to a Navy Submariner - but I couldn't help but remember when I used to sing that solo to introduce small meets in Southern California... and now, there was no way I'd be able to get through it without feeling like someone was standing on my neck - and even then it was likely to sound no better than the drunk a few tables away...

From Soloist to Silence... quite a change...

Anyway, since it's come up about 4 times today alone (and My Sailor is off on one of his crazy duty days), I had no one's ears to offend other than the dogs. So I pulled out every trick in the book to see what was possible.

 Here's what I figured out -

With enough work, I CAN make some of those higher sounds. They are far less dynamic and more breathy than ever. In fact, they are more akin to a boy's falsecetto than anything resembling a soprano and, even with the best technique, there is still a strong choking sensation. With enough breathing tricks, I can figure out how to route sound through my nasal cavity, which saves the voice some stress, but diminishes the tone, pitch, and overall quality into something I'd expect to hear from the aforementioned 'lubricated' gentleman at the pub.

Luckily, this isn't a problem with my speaking voice at all, since I've always had a lower register in that regard. (It won me several roles as a more mature woman when I was younger, and my dad often said he was grateful that I never went through that squeaky high pitched teenage girl giggle stage. I catapulted straight into chuckles.)

So the situation is a bit of a complicated one. It's beyond strange having to work so hard on something that has been pretty much 2nd nature since I could talk. While it was significantly traumatic to my ego, I'm no longer aiming for a professional career in music so much of that pressure is completely alleviated.   
"So, what about outside help?" Any throat surgery is out of the question (Keloids in/on/around my neck?! No thanks!) and all other therapies are considered 'elective' (since I can still do day-to-day activities as long as they don't include singing along to the radio or screaming) and therefore aren't covered by any insurance. Since the pressing problem with the heater dying in my car is taking priority (as it's over $1000 to fix and it's not getting any warmer in WA for those 4am drives to the gym), the project of fixing the throat (if it's even possible - which isn't likely) will have to wait. 

It's been about 4 weeks since the original injury, and there is still a chance it could take another 2-4 to see any significant improvement, but just like in my other training, sometimes the goal is just progress, not perfection. And right now, I'm not in any day to day pain.

For now, that's enough progress for me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Trident, The Barbell, and The Aftermath

Last weekend was the Trident Open at Trident Athletics in Tacoma. I'm still considered a Novice for 2 more meets and this was a great place to get my feet wet. The intimate venue was fun and the event was very well organized.  The staff worked hard to make sure everyone was welcomed and understood how things were to proceed.

The quiet buzz of anticipation was present even in the early morning as the space slowly filled with lifters, coaches, and spectators.  Some people were there to set records. Some people were there to just have fun. Me and my team? We were there to see if this thing we'd been pounding away at for over a year had wheels. 

Me specifically? I've had my eyes on Nationals since May. This event wouldn't make or break that resolve, but it was a sign of things to come.

The first event was the Snatch.  Trainer Guy (my coach) was busy with 2 athletes, and the pressure to compete as an athlete himself in the following session. He'd seen me through my strength training, taught me my technique, encouraged my progress, handled my set backs (which have been thankfully few) with grace - and during this meet, we were putting that relationship to the test.

My first Snatch I should have been able to complete in my sleep. Apparently, being awake was a detriment to me today, because I actually failed my first lift.

I didn't anticipate that. In fact, no one did. Both fans and my coach were shocked. It was a weight that was well within my realm. In fact, it was still bordering on warm up...  In hindsight it was likely an odd combination of over-confidence and nerves that played into the miss.

Taking the platform and taking the stage are two very different things, as it turns out. I'm not sure why I was surprised to make this discovery, but I was.

I only made my middle snatch - which was my 2nd attempt on my Opening weight. And I had to fight a bit to make that. I failed the 3rd attempt (barely - story of my life with 50 kilos lately) and, even a few days later, it eats at me a bit.

I returned to the warm up area for the Clean and Jerk disappointed already, and obviously rattled. 

I committed myself to taking out all of the negative feelings on my Clean and Jerk.

And for the most part, I did just that.

Here is what I discovered:
  • Getting in The Zone and STAYING in The Zone is vital for me.  While in theater, I could goof off, chit chat, joke, and even nap back stage, right up until my cue -  I can't do that before a lift. From the moment I walk into the warm up room until my 6 lifts are done, I need space to remain in that aggressive mind set. Case in point: Before my Snatch attempts, I joked around, warmed up, stood around, made small talk, and waited near the platform for my turn.  Before my Clean and Jerks,  I was someone else. I paced the length of the building alone.  When my name was called, a few commanding strides led me to the platform. I lied to myself aloud, and the hit my lifts, with no real danger of failing. There was no small talk, no standing around, no chit chat, etc.  Just me getting out that anxious energy and living in that place I'd need to be in to pull well over 100 pounds off the floor. 
  •   There is a fine line between 'lazy' and 'back off' week.  While I enjoyed some easy lifting the week before the competition, I feel as though I would have been a tad more confident if I'd kept a heavy solid load going during most of that time frame, and just added in a day or two more of rest.  But that's something I still need to balance out.  Rest is valuable too.
  • Fan clubs are helpful.  It was really great hanging out with The Lady in Grey, Sunshine, Trainer Guy, and a few other small friends from the fitness world.  In fact, without them, I wouldn't have photos, videos, etc, and the sound of that cheer when I finally did find my stride and hit my lifts was empowering. 
  • Giving up isn't in my nature.  I learn a lot from failure. Probably more than I've ever learned from succeeding. I do believe there comes a point when you simply can no longer fail. It just isn't an option anymore. Luckily, this meet, I didn't reach that point, but I won't say I wasn't dangerously boarding on that line after the first event. Several lifters in every division failed all of their lifts. I don't know if they just gave up after their first lift, were sick, injured, ill prepared, or had poor strategy, but either way - I did not fall into this category.  I DID make a showing. And when the chips were down, I showed what I was made of. I didn't give up.

When it comes to sports like this, there will be amazing meets, disappointing meets, and meets that are somewhere in between. The ones that are less than spectacular make us ask ourselves 'how badly do I really want this?'  My sights are still set on Nationals in 2015/2016.  This experience didn't change that.

If anything, it feeds the dream of what it will be like to finally hit that goal during a meet.

Only Trainer Guy set a new personal record, but there will be LOTS of time for records.  Being a bigger lifter means I'll have to work harder and lift heavier than some others. I'll have my own challenges, set backs, and moments of glory. I'll spend hours perfecting techniques and building strength in between clients and keeping up with My Sailor and everyday life stuff.

But I will get there.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Evolution of a Weight Lifter, 'Grace' for Time, and Inspiration

It's been a bit of a long week for lifting. In fact, as of today, I've been at it seven days solid -

In A Row.

And yet, I'm still feeling pretty good. Only one or two workouts were a real 'push through' type of workout. No matter how I come in feeling, once I'm in it, I'm usually in a good space. 

Two days ago, I was invited to do 'Grace'. It's a Crossfit work out done by boxes (aka 'gyms') all over the map of affiliates. And I've been chomping at the bit to do it for months.

I hadn't gone for it before because it requires doing Clean and Jerks for 'time' and I have mixed feelings about that. Since becoming more focused on my Olympic Lifting forms, My WOD expectations have changed along with the overall goals of my Oly lifts. Not to put too fine a point on it, the 'for time' means less and the 'finish the lift and get it right' means more. I hadn't attempted it yet in a minor attempt to mitigate the line between 'training hard' and 'over training'. It's a very delicate wire I'm walking. Luckily for me, I'm pretty good at tight ropes. 

This one was hard to pass up.  Good friends. Worthy Cause (though I wish other forms of cancer got at least 1/10th of the marketing/fund raising that Breast Cancer does). Who could ask for anything more?
Credit: Crossfit SevenCities

Me in the front.
While challenging, this was no Murph. I wasn't worried about completing this workout within the time allowed (10 minutes). The weight for women is 95 pounds, and that's only about 10 lbs more than I warm up with currently. 

That said, events like these are amazing reality checks.

It felt awesome to tap into my coaching side for a few minutes to help them figure out warm ups, gear necessities, and (the sweetest part) to cheer them on.

With Trainer Guy, Coach C, a few of my Strongman Sisters and other familiar faces participating - well nothing quite beats lifting with friends. The friendly rivalry keeps a decent bit of spark to that flame, and this box has some ladies with inspirational strength.

Recent events have given me more than enough fuel for the fire. My personal goal was to get through Grace in 6 minutes or less.

But before I get ahead of myself, I have to admit, I was deeply inspired. In the moment below, One of the coaches was struggling to get through her heavy Grace (lifting more weight than the 95lbs recommended for women). She went for 105 and was struggling to finish. The guy opposite her? He'd finished probably a full minute or two before her. They opted to do the last lifts together as one. Make sure you watch with the sound turned up to truly embrace how deafeningly amazing this moment was.
Another truly inspirational moment was when Sunshine, rotator cuff sling and all, decided that she needed to be part of this event - and rocked out 1 armed kettle bell clean and push presses in place of a bar bell.  I also got to see a lifter who has lifted what my goal is next year (Nationals Qualifying numbers). She was fantastic to watch and talking with Coach C afterwards was encouraging. She started where I'm at now, and was able to get there. It makes my goal of hitting Nationals numbers in 2015-2016 all the more attainable (and exciting).

There were no 'losers' today.  Everyday I'm reminded of a time when the bar felt heavy.  Now? It's practically an extension of my arm. I remember when I never would have considered myself part of this crowd of amazingly fit, heavy lifting, high spirited men and women. Now? I'm a full fledged member.

Yes, I met my goal with Grace and it's been a BIG week for me outside of this event as well. I finished Grace in under 6 minutes. Well under. 5min 1 sec. And I left excited for my next meeting with this famous 'girl' of Crossfit.

I also set 3 new Personal Records this week in my own training. I'm now the proud owner of a 190lb front squat (footage below) and I have 3 new 3-Rep Maxs set in Jerks from the rack (125lbs) and Overhead squats (120 lbs). While I'm a little sad that reshuffling my schedule means that my smartest bet is to miss out on Olympic Weight Lifting Class tomorrow, I'm getting excited about the competition coming up - a week from today.  No matter the outcome, I realized how much I love what events and competitions do for me. They give me a clearer focus. They make me better.

While Murph left me wondering why anyone would willingly inflict such an ordeal on themselves, Grace I look forward to meeting next year.

Special thanks to Crossfit Seven Cities. Always great lifting with you guys!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Miles, Octaves, Kilos, and Pounds

 Recently, My Sailor and I headed out to of dodge and into the mountains! Sneaking away for a weekend (likely his last free weekend for the forseeable future), we spent 2 nights at Lake Cresent Lodge in the Olympic National Forest.

We arrived well after dark (around 10pm) and in nasty weather. It drizzled off and on during the next day, but we got to enjoy some (unexpectedly long) hiking to Marymere falls and beyond! Well, unintentionally beyond....

 My Sailor is a bit of a shutter bug. He takes some great photos, so we took our time getting to the falls. Thinking we'd found a short cut back, we opted to take another trail into the woods.
Well kept log bridge....
 Sure that the trail would curve back around to the lodge, we plowed over ridges with small land slides, and a few less-than-well-kept log bridges.

Pretty sure there USED to be a railing here...

Blazing a trail just off the beaten path to do a little exploring
Perched on top of a gigantic fallen tree stump

Lake Crescent early morning
Did someone say adventure!
I'm always down for a little adventure though, even with 1/2 a wind pipe.

See, a week or so ago, I managed to launch myself into a bar while weight lifting. (The lift is called a Clean - which I'm sure you can find past videos of on some of my older posts.) While I made the lifts I was intending to do, I basically ended up with a nasty (and not uncommon) clothes-line-style injury to my neck. While it's not outwardly bruised, it swells up, and seems to have adequately partially paralyzed my vocal chords. I can still talk and all - but Chloraseptic and warm drinks are good friends of mine. A short trip to the ER the week before the trip proved that it's not truly dangerous to my overall health (as long as I can catch my breath), but it's caused me to slow down considerably. (I haven't executed a Clean in over a week, and with the competition 16 days away, I'll admit to some added nerves.) More than the change in my training plan, is the pain/strangled feeling I get when I try to sing anything in my upper range. Now, while this may not be a 'major issue' for me as Trainer Girl, it's been a very strange place to be... something (singing) that always came so easily to me, is currently cut off at the knees. An activity as simple as singing along in the car the radio is now painful if it's beyond an alto. So it's been a bit of a battle. While I seem to be SLOWLY regaining some range and respiratory endurance, the painstakingly slow progress (especially for something that is outwardly invisible) is difficult.  It's given me a new appreciation to what asthmatics must battle. That is not a battle for the faint of heart.

My Sailor Turned Shutter bug

Climbing between a few overgrown rocks about 10 feet up.
So I spent the entire weekend away from Bella and other barbells - and honestly, I stayed active enough in other ways. I didn't miss lifting. (Shocker - I know.) I mean, I was happy to get back to it on Monday, but it was fun to use all the fitness I've gained to the test in an every-day-way.

This week at the gym was been productive, despite my restrictions. I've been able to get back to running a bit, which bodes well for future Metabolic Conditioners. (After seeing people through them as my job, I'm actually REALLY looking forward to getting back to them, even if I'll be limiting my throat-aggravating activities for a while longer.) 

I can now safely say, I've got over 100 pound snatch, and I can do 105 now with near certainty.

But I'm still working at 110lbs... it'll be a real landmark for me once I break it. Now that the competition is breathing down my neck, my lingo is changing from "lbs" to kilos. Kilos - for the record - are much more depressing. Here I am, FINALLY breaking into the triple digit snatch... but I'm still almost out of the 50's when it comes to kilos. Doh! But no matter. I didn't get to 100 overnight, so if it takes some more time to get to 50+kg, then it takes more time. Every lift gets me closer.

Whether it's kilos, pounds, inches, or miles, there are some things you just can't hurry. Sometimes it just takes what it takes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bikini Babe Strikes Again! Progress Photos - AKA Some Victories Don't Come with Medals

Left: November 2013. Center: June 2014. Right: Today, October 2014
With the Olympic Weight Lifting competition breaking down my neck, and the month I've spent training folks at the YMCAs now, I couldn't be more grateful that I got into this field. While each of my clients are incredibly unique, we all have a few things in common. One of those things is body image issues. Yes, we can find reasons for over eating. They range from "I just like sweets," to "I take comfort from food," etc.  Sunshine and I have had some insightful conversations about how early trauma influences adult behavior - especially as it relates to fitness.

Wounds that start with, "The people who were supposed to love me more than anything in this world, didn't - so I don't know how to love myself," to "I was bullied/beaten everyday for as long as I can remember, and all I know how to do is to continue that legacy, kicking myself because I am convinced that I am not worthy of love, pride, dignity, or a sense of achievement." often end in obesity which feeds into the deep shame and self loathing. It's somewhere along the path to "No matter how hard I work, it will never be enough to fill that void or heal that wound." (Trust me, from the day I was born, someone gave up on me. True, there were good reasons for that, and it worked out for the best in the end, but that kind of thing leaves a scars you just don't shake off; believe me.)

And no matter how idealic our childhoods are, we all have some wounds. And if we weren't wounded in our childhood, we were no doubt damaged in our adult lives.

No one gets through life unscarred.

For me, that's literal. I have a genetic deformity that causes my scars to grow beyond the size of the wound. That means I have no hope of forgetting even small wounds. Years later, they are bigger than then they started. I avoid surgery like the plague because of the inner scar tissue that builds up. The scar tissue presses on (and eventually deadens) nerve endings. It bothered me for years. Even now, I make a face when I cut myself. I know that, no matter how clean it heals, it'll still be there, years from now.

It wasn't until someone mentioned that my skin is like a map of where my life has taken me that I saw those marks in a whole new light.  Some of the marks are of fun memories - soccer games, weights lifted, etc. Others are battle scars marking where I've been and reminding me not to go back (stretch marks that spread from nearly my knees to 1/2 way up my ribs). The funny way my belly button is sown up will forever remind me how I nearly became part of the 5 years mortality rate for Ovarian Cancer. The invisible scars we all carry, and overcome, aren't so different, are they?

Far Left: November 2013, Left: June 2014. Right two photos: Today, October 2014
Sure, scars don't always fade away. Some grow. But in the end, isn't it how we all decide to view them and deal with them that is the victory?

But the greatest victories don't come with a medal attached, or a magical number on the scale. Sure, those victories deserve celebration - but sometimes the greatest victory is the daily process of making decisions to be the victory over those scars (visible and invisible).

So how do I combat this bubble of anticipation as the Oly competition stares me down? I stare right back. I may not be the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most skilled athlete there. But I am always a girl with something to prove - but not to the judges. To myself. Isn't that what setting goals is all about? I've put the work in. I'll continue to put the work in regardless of the outcome of the competition.  I feel the same way about progress photos. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and see how it comes out on the scale and in the wash. Those things don't define me - though it's encouraging to see how far I've come. The belly is flattening out. The lifts are going up...but I digress. No matter the outcome of the competition, I'll get better, stronger, and faster. I have goals. And, sure, there will be set backs and new scars earned along the way. Those are to be expected.

What these progress photos show me isn't just victory over the scale or the body fat, but over the mindset that I'm "stuck" and not worth fighting for. And that's a victory that doesn't come with a medal that can rust, get lost, or be stolen. It doesn't come with applause and it can never be taken away.