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.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Take It From An Under Dog... What Breaks You, Makes You.

I spent the first few months of my life in Foster Care. By just about every definition, I started life out as an under dog. The product of an unplanned pregnancy, receiving little to no pre-natal care, I came into the world as an under dog. In fact, it took infant CPR to get me breathing. But I made it.

Being an underdog is practically my birth right. It's in my blood.

And it hasn't stopped in my adult life either.

Earlier this year, I competed in my first Crossfit Throwdown.   Enrolled at the last minute, I walked into my first Crossfit box alone - and not for a workout, but to compete.  My Sailor had recently deployed, and Trainer Guy was unable to attend.  If you've never been into a Crossfit box, most look like a large, industrial space. A few scattered weight racks and various kettle bells, medicine balls, 12-30 inch wooden boxes, barbells, and rubberized weights litter the space. There are no mirrors, but more than a few people who will make you question your fitness level loitering about. 

To say it was 'scary' would be the understatement of the year. It was all I could do to quietly swallow my panic.
My First Crossfit Throwdown - just before the first event
I doubted I would place. I suspected weight lifting would be my strong suit, but looking around at all of the fit people surrounding me, how in the world was I going to compete with these people?! I didn't even go to a Crossfit box! I trained at the YMCA!  I was easily on the heavier side of the women competing, tipping the scales at about 210 pounds (at the time). Part of my brain screamed, "What's a fatty like you doing here?! You are SO out of your element."

But I was there. I had snagged a highly coveted spot to participate and, let's face it, what was THE WORST thing that could happen? I'd fail and be embarrassed.

A few friends showed up to support me, which was invaluable. They were the positive voices that drowned out the panic. They were also the accountability I needed. Sure, all I could think of at times was, "Geeze, my belly is bigger than fill-in-the-competitor's... What am I doing here?!" But what the hell - I was already there. Might as well.
So I swung, lunged, burpee box jumped, lifted, split jerked and thrustered my way through it.

And, what do you know, I took 3rd in the first event! Me! The underdog who had the odds stacked against her from the start. Every other competitor was familiar with Crossfit boxes. I'd never even gotten past the door way of one!  While that's largely a testament to the work with Trainer Guy, it also is a great example of what's possible when we get out of our own way. Ever time I wanted to walk out, I wondered, "Yeah, but what might be happen if you didn't?"Life isn't about 'winning' everything.  Life also isn't about having the flattest belly either (thank GOD).

Even more recently, I finally lost the 30 pounds I'd aimed for nearly 2 years ago.  Sure, I celebrated a bit and smiled when I hit that number, but it didn't trigger any thoughts that I was 'done'. Now, the goals have changed. Sure, I've lost 30 lbs, but, if I were to listen to one voice, I would hear, "It's not enough. You still have that extra skin. You still have thighs. You're still a 'big girl."  But, if I listen to the other voice, I'm reminded - "Man, when you started, the BAR was heavy. Now you can dead lift over 300 pounds. You can clean over 135 pounds. You can back squat around 230 lbs. You can rock climb. You can run fast and without pain! Sure, your still a big girl - but no one messes with you! And hell, look at all you can DO!"

See - I don't think I'm too different from anyone else. We all have two inner voices inside. The one we listen to is the one that gets louder. Feeling ashamed of having those feelings and voices is pointless. It's part of the human experience. Beating myself up for feeling the way I feel just makes that negative voice LOUDER.  It's my scars and imperfections that make my story unique. Now, there is no erasing those negative voices, but, well, the dog you feed is the one that gets stronger. The challenge isn't in attempting to cleanse myself of all negative feelings.  It's in choosing to listen to the other voices. The ones that whisper that "I am Able". The one that whispers in awe, rather than the one that slams my esteem with sarcasm.

I have every reason (and then some) to be a victim. I could listen to that voice that wonders if my life is worth more than the $500 my parents paid for me (adoption fees).  I could drown in a pool of tears because My Sailor deploys and misses sharing milestones and holidays with me. And yes, I vent and complain from time to time. Why? Because I'm human.  I can choose to live in that place and complain all the time, or I can channel that towards something that makes me better.

 Never  Under estimate the scrappy nature of the underdog.
If you're a fellow under dog - Welcome to the pack.
As long as you are on this side of dirt,
You have the choice -

Be a Victim, or be a Fighter.

Me? I'm a Fighter.