Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Few Words on Intensity

"Those eyes! Intense!" - The Lady in Grey
It's hard to believe September is nearly over.  Since I last updated the blog, I've happily settled into working at the Y's and I'm loving it. I've met some awesome people, from co-workers to clients. They each remind me of the power of living in the moment. All of my clients saw victories this week big and small, and there have been some awesome PR parties going on in the gym. (For those that aren't gym/lifting savy, that's usually a bunch of high fives, the occasional happy dance and jump for joy.)

They each leave their mark on me, and inspire me to keep pushing harder. But it was the conversation with a random member that got me really thinking about a key portion of my movements. And that's Intensity.  On a short visit to Tacoma, I got to chatting with someone who was talking about how Tacoma struggles with poverty and how that community tends to churn out a lot of Foster kids who end up using the local community college. Before you think this conversation had any disparaging remarks about poverty, Foster/Adopted kids, allow me to reassure you that it did not. In fact, it was delightfully the opposite. She felt that Foster/Adopted people have a unique and relentless intensity about them that makes success inevitable. It's as if, once they find their calling, failure only comes from giving up. She admired their drive.

She had NO idea she was talking to an adoptee from the state system, who is a licensed foster parent.

While it's never entirely fair to lump all foster kids/adopted people into one category, I appreciated the conversation.

When I think of "intensity" now, I often think of the more Crossfitish definition of it, rather than the single-minded determination that doesn't allow for failure. But in reality, are they really that different?

And I realized that, at least from my perspective, she was right. In their own way, most of my Washington family have recently commented on the same thing. *Before you think I'm tooting my own horn - hang in there and keep reading.*

"You bring the fire -
right from the start." - Trainer Guy

"Giving up isn't in your vocabulary.

It isn't in you." - Sunshine
"Sometimes you're intense?! Hun, you ALWAYS have this air of intensity about you.
Even when you're calm." - My Sailor
Over the last week, I've seen my clients, many new to weight lifting, or looking to reach new heights in fitness, discover their own limits of intensity. 

Discovering what you're capable of is incredibly empowering. Being able to coax and coach those moments for others, whether they are discovering a new skill, or polishing up an old one, is like a flood. It starts as a trickle, then a small stream of excitement, and then a small flood of "I can do this!".  Intensity is not a trait unique to those who found themselves in foster/adopted care.

Relentless intensity is within each of us. We all have a unique form of it, if only we'd tap into it.
It's something that blooms when the cost of true failure (aka 'giving up') seems unfathomably expensive.

Watching my clients discover and tap into their intensity is incredibly rewarding.

I can't wait to see what next week brings.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Because I lift - By Oly Girl

Lately, I get the question of "Why do you do Olympic lifts? There are so many other ways to build muscle."
And, ya know what? Those people are right.
There are LOTS of ways to build muscle.
In fact, I'll take that one step further and say there are actually even easier ways to build muscles.
(For the record, I have also done - and enjoy - power lifting as well.  I have a good understanding of isolation style movements. They have value all their own.) 

"Because I love it, " is the easy go-to-answer, but that rarely satisfies the curious.
It's akin to telling a child "Because," when asked "Why is the sky blue?" It doesn't compute.

After a few really neat discussions this week with some kindred spirits, I think I've settled on an answer.

It's not short.

It's not simple.

But it's true.

I lift because:
It's hard and I never back down from a challenge
It is a healthy outlet for aggression - because you simply won't make certain lifts without it
It builds muscle, and muscle burns fat. Who likes fat?!
It's empowering - it's not me against the girl running next to me. It's me against yesterday.
It makes me stronger than I was yesterday.

Now, let me turn this on it's head for a moment. Perhaps the best answer is in the question.

Because I lift:When I hear the word 'Clean' - I don't think about a sponge, chemicals, vacuums; I think about bars, plates, and these...
When I hear the word 'Snatch' - I don't giggle or think of kidnappings.
I run faster than I ever have - because my legs and core can handle 7 minute miles.
I jump higher than I'm likely to ever need to. (Olympic lifting increases vertical jump)
I'm closer than ever to my first unassisted pull up.
I am in the smallest adult clothing size I've ever worn (clothes I wore when I was 170 lbs fall off me now - and I'm still a bit over 190).
I can back squat My Sailor, should I ever need to carry HIM away from danger.
I can pick up my Odin (my Great Pyrenees) and put him in the car if I had to get him to the vet.
A bag of dog food is easy to manage myself.
Carrying in groceries (even from Costco) isn't taxing.
I walk with more confidence than ever before - even than my theater days.

My hands have calluses on the inside.
My shins have been mildly scraped.
My collar bone has been mildly bruised.
My muscles are long and lean.
My hip flexors get sore - just ask My Sailor...
My blood pressure is within a safe level, without medication.
My stress is well managed.

But There Is One Overlapping Answer...
I'm Stronger Than I Was Yesterday.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rule #1: The Doctor... er... the Lifter Lies or "How Oly Girl Found Her Summer Goal"

Oh you poor neglected blog! Life has been hectic lately, and I'm doing my best to make my "down time" with My Sailor be non-screen oriented, so blogging as fallen through the cracks of late. Since I've been gone, My Sailor turned 31 - which we celebrated by going indoor rock climbing and later with some drinks at a brewery with friends.

Round about the time that happened - This happened too -

So I'm officially busting down doors and breaking into the Coaching world.

And I love it.

It's cooling down up here and Fall is right around the corner. I'm so ready for the cooler weather, the leaves changing, and the quiet buzz of excitement that seems to resonate in the Fall. (I love living in a place with actual, ya know, seasons!) I love curling up under blankets and trading my tank tops and shorts for jeans and sweaters. Yes - even though I'm smaller this fall than I've ever been. I can't say I'm lighter; I am just more...compact. 

Which brings me to a neat revelation I had today.

This week, I was reading a fitness blog/article and the photo attached had a picture of this woman doing a Snatch (heavy bar overhead, arms and shoulders looked out in a wide grip). I only saw from the shoulder blades up but she had these fantastic shoulders. The definition over her shoulder blades was visable as the flesh had been left bare by her raceback tank top. For some reason, it really struck me. She wasn't "bulky". She wasn't a bikini model training for a specific look. She was just defined. I haven't been able to find the picture since, but I had a "Wow!" moment.

Which brings me to the revelation - today in the gym, Trainer Guy sicked me on some pull ups. Now, I still don't have an unassisted pull up. I STILL weigh about 195lbs, so an unassisted pull up requires a lot of upper body strength - and, well, I'm a woman (yes, I just used that excuse).  Upper body strength is harder to come by. That said,  I'm finding that I should probably be using my 60lb assistance bands in the future to make them a bit harder. I can do 10 unbroken (most of the time, though I still have to work at it) with my 90lb assistance bands.

Um... wait a second... let's do some math here. That means I'm able to PULL UP over 100 pounds MORE THAN ONCE! What craziness is this?!

Those shoulders that girl had? I realized on my drive home from the gym today that I've likely joined her club.

While before my body image issues had to do with feeling fat, flabby, and generally of the rounder persuasion, lately I feel the reality of long, lanky, strong arms clicking into place. I worry less about my fluff and focus on what I can do now that I couldn't do before. And it seems to have happened in the blink of an eye.  I remember when the bar was heavy. I remember when a Snatch felt frustratingly unattainable. Yes, I remember WILLINGLY taking weekends off of lifting because "It still needs to be fun".  Whatever happened in between is starting to blur together and, instead of throwing in the towel, I toweled off the sweat....

And now, I'm reaching my goals - bit by bit. In March, I got 105lb over my head in a Split Jerk from the rack for the first time ever. Now, I've done 125lbs in a full clean and jerk in the same WEEK MORE than once...

And, remember that 100lb snatch I was reaching for by the end of summer?

Okay - here's why this video is funny (aside from my angry-lifter face - which, yes, is hysterical.)
If you've read my blog for any amount of time, or known me at all, I have a habit of talking to myself - especially when faced with a challenge. It's as if the work it takes to say things out loud and listen to them so exhausts my brain that doubt suddenly has no room. So here's a transcript of what you hear in the video (Keep in mind that I'm surrounded on either side of the camera by a basketball team of young men who have been watching me train in my Trainer Girl gear and are already interested in Olympic Lifting, so, yes, I had a bit of an audience.)
100lb Snatch - the Audio drama (Transcribed):
"Same weight, Jay." (Lie - the last weight I lifted was 95 lbs)
"It's just the same." (Lie - No, it's really 100 lbs...)
"Same weight." (Sure... it's the same weight as it was when I loaded it... at 100lbs...)
"OH YES! Wahoo! Over 1/2 my body weight." (True.)

And that was a good day.