Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Case of Nervous Race Horse Syndrome

If you've spent any time around horses, you've heard it.

The stamping and pawing of the hoof against the ground when a horse gets anxious. The ears go back. The heads lowers. The flanks tighten underneath the warm hide. The mane ruffles. The horse seems to pace a bit, as if unable to settle upon a single mood. Nervous. Anxious. Lively. Engaged. Dangerously irritable. Perhaps even a bit fearful of what the next moment holds...

The anxiety is almost palpable - somewhere between the smell of animal and the salty sweetness of sweat on the verge of being shed.

I tried to sleep off. I woke up in the morning with the same feeling, so I started to talk about it. I picked the right sounding board. Afterall, I'd been sleeping on it for a few days now. I'd mentioned it in my blog and other places, but never really explored the possibility or how to approach it.

You see, in my travels to California, it became crystal clear that I downsized, significantly.

I out ate my brother and my mom at every meal, and we ate just about every meal out.

I made sure I got my pre-workout and recovery drinks in.

I drank more alcohol than I normally do. I also drank a lot of water though.

I trained myself and others, all in an effort to maintain my strength and further my abilities as a coach (and loved nearly every second of both).

So when I was feeling run down after a recovery run on my travel day, and my squats didn't feel right, I started to worry. Was I losing strength? Was I losing muscle somehow?

And then the crazy REALLY kicked in. It's amazing how loud that little voice everyone has can seem sometimes. You know, the one that chooses the weakest moment grab your doubts and inflate them like balloons.

"Maybe I'm not eating enough of the right things?" "Maybe I should go back to logging all my food?" "Maybe I'm not actually going to be able to do this?" "Maybe this is just the beginning of some bigger health problem. Do I have cancer? Healthy people inexplicably lose weight when they have cancer..."

See what I mean about crazy?

Thankfully I have a great team around me. So I took my concerns to two places: A friend of mine who's father used to do weight lifting - to see if he had some easy tweaks I wasn't aware of, and a nutritionist buddy of mine - who is a true kindred spirits in the 'maintainable lifestyle' approach and who understands Paleo eating.

Both were helpful.  My friend provided me with some extra protein that I have on hand now, and my nutritionist buddy gave me some great ways to find out if I'm likely losing muscle instead of body fat. Most of the trips involved a tape measure.

Since I couldn't find mine, I opted to bust out the bi-monthly swim suit and snap a few photos instead.

See, I lost about 5lbs on my trip to California. Dropping five pounds in six days is a LOT for me. And feeling tired and run down... well... that's not the type of weight I want to drop.

Thank God for photogenic evidence...

With the Powerlifting Competition coming up, I've been pretty much focused on keeping up my strength, and with a 5k right around the corner that I'm hoping to PR in, I really needed a reality check. 

And I got it - partly from the photos, and partly from the work out.

Today's time with Trainer Guy included introducing low bar back squats into the routine. I love learning something new and I expected this to feel like starting over at square one.  Admittedly, I've felt a little frustrated with my progress in the gym lately (though I'm not sure why- I've been preforming pretty well...probably just being my own worst critic).  But today's workout helped me further prove that I'm coming right along. Those low bar back squats? I got up to 190+lbs... more than once. Which means I was less than 10 pounds away from REPPING MY BODY WEIGHT! I've never actually done more than 1 lift of my body weight or more in a row. Weighing less is paying off in that respect, but it was also a sign that, indeed, my strength IS keeping up.

The other part of the workout that really gave me a good reality check was the Hanging Leg Raises portion. Now that I fixed my too-narrow grip problem and engaged my shoulders, they feel strong and they look strong. And - I'll admit to a moment of vanity in the mirror. I love the way my arms look when I'm doing these types of movements. Even though I weigh less, I'm by no means a "small" woman. I'm still just barely under 200lbs, and, well, I'm not going to get any shorter.  I'm a sturdy build. Always have been and always will be.  My arms look well capable of dealing with the weight. My gymnastic moves are getting stronger.

While grabbing my bag after cool down and heading back to into the world, I spotted Trainer Guy with his next client and I smiled to myself as I watched him demonstrate cleans and front squats for her.

I remembered when that was me....

I hope I never forget what that felt like.

By the same token, that anxious feeling is worth remembering as well. Though I'm capable of much more now than I was this time last year, I never want to forget that sometimes it takes a few good coaches - and a hot sweaty race - to calm a race nervous steed.

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