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 It's now woefully out of date, but the reason I'm including it will make sense in just a few moments.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.