Have There Been Improvements During My “Improvement” Season?

I still haven’t picked a specific show, but the plan is to compete somewhere in mid July 2015.  There have been so many changes in my life this year (Hubby’s accident, new job) that I cannot assume everything will go as planned for the rest of 2014.  I’m taking each day as it comes, but I need a goal.  So  “July 2015” is the target and I will begin the first cutting phase in August or September. (Coach calls it “the cut before the cut”.   I’ll tell you about it when I know more.)  I have about a month or two left before I have to switch gears.

Am I making any progress???

Body Composition

I’m feel like a marshmallow covered rock.  Very solid on the inside, more so than I’ve ever felt.  But I’m a tad fluffy on the outside.  I haven’t been “bulking”.  I watch my burn and eat as much as I’m using, plus an extra 100 calories  most days.  My current weight has been fluctuating between 151 and 155 pounds for the last two months.  My body weight at the end of last November was 153.  The last time I was on stage was a year ago, June.  It was around 135 then, but it wasn’t what I would call a ‘healthy’ 135.  I did a traditional water depletion for that show, so once I was rehydrated, my weight jumped up to 140.  I don’t ever want to do a water depletion again, so 140 should be considered my last ‘stage weight’, in my opinion, when considering how much over ‘stage weight’ I am right now.  (I wasn’t lean enough at that show.  To avoid water depletion, I need to be leaner. )

I kept my weight under 145 from June until the Strongman competition last September so I could compete in the smaller weight class.  After that competition, I let it creep up to the low 150’s.  Last winter, I did a very gradual cut and dropped as low as 149, but gained a couple pounds back when the cut was over at the end of February.   I’ve maintained in the low 150’s since then.  I feel good in the low 150’s.  I had a DEXA scan done last October and my bodyfat percentage was 26%.  I bought one of those handheld impedence monitors a few days later so I could check it at home.  It’s reading was 27%.  Close enough for me to keep an eye on it.  That number hasn’t changed, so it’s hard to tell from the scale and that device if I’ve improved my body composition much.  I feel like there is more muscle.  But I know from years of DEXA scans that when I’m anabolic, I gain everything – muscle, fat, and bone density.  My bodyfat will always be calculated higher than it appears because I’m older and have more visceral fat around my organs.  Mirror is more important than the number, but I care about the percentage.  If I’m gaining fat, I better be gaining muscle, too.  I am pleased that I’ve been able to keep things fairly consistent.  But is that an “improvement”?

So I looked at other data.

Food

I use a Bodybugg and the website has the capability to generate reports.  This is interesting data.  I compared the month of December 2013 to June 2014.   The reports I ran calculate averages for 28 days.  Remember, my body weight has stayed within a couple pounds of 153 for the last seven months…

Average Daily Calorie Burn Average Daily Calorie Intake Average Daily Carb Intake
Dec 2013 2147 1864 156 g
June 2014 2254 2391 249 g

 

I’m encouraged by these numbers.  I haven’t been cycling carbs according to a plan, but rather I cycle them up and down depending on my calorie burn for the day.  My hope is that I’m setting myself up for an effective contest prep.

Lifting

The programming I’ve been given has been solid, but I haven’t done the big three lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift) consistently.  One of those lifts has always been there, but not all three at the same time.  I’ve been doing a LOT of rowing to bring up my mid back.  I’ve been doing occlusion training to bring up my quads and glutes without having to do heavy squats because I suck at squats.  I use my back too much on deadlifts, so I’ve been doing partial deadlifts since May.  To be honest, I’m not really in love with the current program, but  I’m going to stick it out until August.  I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to address weaknesses, which is why I’m not loving it.  It’s frustrating and I feel like I suck at it.  I record my form all the time and look for problems.  I find plenty.  Good stuff to do.  Just not fun.

Again I ask…how do I know if I’m making progress?

I use an app on my iPad called Gym Buddy to record my workouts.  Not a lot of bells and whistles in this app, but there is some good data.  Check out these screen shots about how my lifts have changed…

 

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Since I’m not doing the big three lifts consistently, I picked few things that I’ve been doing and looked at that data…

Some Upper Body Lift Stats

  • Hammer Smith Row: up 115%
  • Seal Row: up 19.1%
  • One Arm Dumbell Row: up 58.5%
  • Bench Press: up 22%
  • Kettlebell Overhead Press: up 5.7%
  • DB Curls: up 25%
  • Tricep Rope Pushdowns: down 19.4%

Some Lower Body Lift Stats 

  • DB Split Squats: up 29.9%
  • Partial Deadlifts: down 4.1%
  • Hex Bar Deadlift: up 45.8%
  • Calf Raise: up 101.1%

These stats are a tiny bit misleading.  The program uses all the data, no matter how long I’ve been doing the exercise.   Some of these are new to my program.  You can see how many times I’ve done that exercise on the screenshots.  (I may not have included all the screenshots – just wanted to give you an idea of where the data comes from.)  I don’t think my triceps have become weaker – it’s just that I do that exercise at the end of a workout that starts with bench presses.  They are toasted!  I am having a hard time with partial deadlifts.  I don’t like them.  Decided to bring the weight down and work on technique.

Seal Rows

 

Mental Game

Overall, I should be pleased with how things are going with the lifts, but I’m not.  Nothing exciting, just putting in work.  I might just be a frustrated powerlifter-wanna-be.  I want to deadlift 250 pounds!  I know it’s there, but when I tried a couple weeks ago, the bar didn’t budge.  Squats were removed from this phase of my program, so I have no idea what I can do with that lift.  Bench is coming up very slowly.  I’m at the point where I’m not adding weight, but trying to add reps.  Heck, I feel like a wanna-be all the time.  Too old.  Too weak for my size.  Maybe this is just “off season blues” of an intermediate lifter?

So I’m struggling.  Like I said at the beginning, I’m just focused on what I have to do each day.  Small, daily goals to keep progressing.  I feel like I’m just crawling.   After my husband’s accident in February, a lot of things changed.  I’m a little overwhelmed dealing with insurance companies, medical bills, processing the crazy crap at work, the decision to transfer schools, and adjusting to the reality of all these changes.  The thought of competing seems frivolous today.  There is a show next weekend a couple hours from home.  It is one that I might do next year.  I’m going to make the drive to watch and hope it snaps me out of this funk.

And while I’m going through what is the most challenging period of my training life do date, I feel pressure to continue to be ‘inspirational’.  I’m sure anyone who has been following can tell I’ve been off my game.  I haven’t been able to write as much as I used to.  I haven’t been posting as many little pep-talks as I used to.  I’m stalled out.  It hasn’t been easy to be transparent with my program .  I post something meaningful to me on the page, or a current picture, and the ‘likes’ drop.  I am not looking for approval and I’m not interested in being a fitness personality.  I’m awkward and fluffy and OK with that.  I’m an introvert and my inclination is to NOT post.  I’d like to hide, do my thing, and post pictures from my next show.  But that’s not an honest way to document the process, which I want people to see.  I do it because I’m a teacher.  Health is more important than bodybuilding.  And by ‘health’ I also mean self-acceptance.  I like my fluffy self – she’s big and strong and healthy.  I’m not concerned at all about not being stage lean.  It’s not time for that.

I’ve got my daily routines and I love to lift.  No matter what else is going on, I’m grateful to be able to do this.  I know many of my peers cannot.

This is the grind.  I’ve been here before.  It will pay off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Life, My Lifting Log, Nutrition

8 responses to “Have There Been Improvements During My “Improvement” Season?

  1. Thank you for your sensible and encouraging words.

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  2. What’s inspirational for one person can be meaningless for another. What is inspirational and meaningful for YOU is all that matters. Don’t worry about the “likes”. It’s the daily grind and putting in the work that pays off. Motivation and inspiration are over rated.Persistence is the key. And you are persistent.

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  3. I remember after your last show you decided to wait and fine tune your training for 2 years before you do another show. I thought, wow, that’s gonna be a loooong winding road! And that takes a level of commitment that I have not been capable of and admire.
    It’s difficult enough going through the grind, while dealing with people that are accustomed to the instant gratification of glossy “before and after” pictures that doesn’t show the journey to get there.
    Your hard work and your tenacity is the stuff dreams are made of.
    I thank you for sharing. ❤
    Danni

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  4. One Fit Mama

    Tammy, life sometimes sucks! You are one of the strongest women I know and you’ve stuck to you’re well developed “guns”. just finished my own show prep, and starting to decide weather to compete again this fall (I got top 3) but this post just gave me allot to think about. you always said I should be a bodybuilder, not a fitness model or bikini competitor. Cause I LOVE TO LIFT! I get excited over new PB’s. I have been lifting heavy again all week and need to decide what my next goal is. You’re an amazing women, teacher, wife and inspirational. Honestly I want to be you one day. I keep telling my other half that I’ll still be lifting into my 90s. He laughs. But its very true! *** Hugs *** and love.

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