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.