Oh, hi! Haven’t written in a long time. Sorry. Part of that is because I am a busy teacher. But when I’m quiet, it usually means I’m having a difficult time and I just don’t want to write until I’m through it and can reflect back. This might be a long post. I’ll break it up into sections: Training, Diet, and Hair (or why I shaved my head)
That new training split I told you about in my last post in February didn’t work well for me at all. It was too much…everything. I’m an introvert who teaches high school kids – and right now, I have 189 student on my roster. Each of those students is working at their own pace. If you’re a teacher reading this – yeah. It’s like that. So to say my brain is fried at the end of the day is not an exaggeration. Lifting is how I manage stress and bodybuilding gives the lifting a goal so I will do self-care when I realistically have no time for self-care. That phase with whole body lifts pushed my central nervous system too hard each time. And having to deal with RPEs at 4:30 in the morning – it was not fun. It was stressful. When I was in the middle of it and I could not make it work, I was frustrated. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a well-documented technique. Many lifters like it and have had success with it. It was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t do it. I tried to communicate what was wrong to my coach, but I didn’t know how to explain what wasn’t working. Initially, he thought I didn’t understand the philosophy, so we lost a couple of days trading emails about that. There were days I hated going to the gym – and that never happens. I was getting hurt because I was distracted from paying attention to my form. I literally cried during a couple workouts. I felt like my coach and I were not working together well and that bothered me more than the issue with the program. I finally just quit that split. I didn’t quit lifting. I just put myself back onto a familiar split. Told my coach what I was doing. We agreed to just go back to an older split that worked well. I updated a couple of exercises. And since I’ve been back on that split, I’ve hit a couple PRs on accessory movements each week.
Reflecting, I’ve learned…
- I hate whole body lifts. I can handle upper/lower splits, but not whole body. It’s hard to describe, but it almost feels too “confusing” to my nerves. I felt my stress hormones go up during the lift instead of feeling the expected dopamine release. I haven’t done research on it, but I suspect it has something to do with the physiology of being a highly sensitive introvert. The “highly sensitive” part isn’t about emotions – it’s literally about a heightened sensitivity to external stimulation of the senses. Windy days annoy me because I feel like I’m being assaulted by air. As much as I love my job, I crave/need those breaks in the day when I don’t have kids around so I can recharge a bit.
- I hate RPEs because I mentally rehearse my major lifts for hours, or even days, before I do them. When I look on the spreadsheet and see I have a 520 pound leg press coming up in Week 3, I subconsciously psyche up for it. I’m totally fine picking a weight for an accessory movement if you tell me I need to do 3 set of 12-15 reps. Given two conditions, I can select the third variable without stress. But when asked to pick a weight so that I’m using 60-80% of maximum exertion, I get too caught up in the mathematics of that and I stall out. Honestly, I’m perfectly capable of writing my own programs, but I don’t want to think about my lifts other than everything I pay attention to just to execute them properly with correct form. I analyze every part of a rep while I’m doing it to make sure I’m activating the muscle intended. I just want to open the spreadsheet and do what it tells me to do. I hardly ever miss a rep. If it says 3 set x 12 reps x 100 lbs, I will lift that damn thing 12 times just because it’s on the spreadsheet. I will also do 3 sets of 12 because it makes recording it easier. A set of 12, a set of 10, and a third set of 8 looks like this… 1x12x100; 1x10x100; 1x8x100. That’s just a pain in the ass. So I move the thing. Every time. And I believe my laziness in recording is one reason I build muscle.
- I’ve also told my coach that from now on, when things aren’t working, he can expect a text or a phone call – not an email. We’ve worked so well together for over three years that this really was the first time we had something go wrong. I didn’t really know how to handle it. As a result, I feel like I was on a deload for a month. I didn’t lose ground – the number of PRs I’m setting now is reassuring.
Our school district has a two week spring break. Today is Monday of the second week. I told Coach that right now is the best time to dig. I have time to workout and sleep. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Scale has been dropping a little every day. I am now about 1-2 pounds over my scale weight before we did peak week for my last show. I still have 3 months. Conditioning this time will be better. This isn’t a surprise to me. We planned this back in 2015 after the last show. Last week, I brought the calories down to about 10 kcal/pound of body weight for 5 days, then 2 days of slightly more to recover. I will repeat that again this week. Coach decides what happens after that based on where we are at. The actual macro breakdown has my protein set at 160 grams, carbs range between 130 and 150 grams, and fats are coming in under 20 grams. I don’t stress about hitting any number exactly except for the protein and the calorie. I’ve got this thing dialed in most days, though. Since Coach brought protein up, I haven’t felt super hungry. I also figured out that if I split my morning meal in half and eat more frequently after my early morning lift, I feel better.
I’m satisfied with my progress. There are 111 days left in this prep. There is an end-goal for stage, but the real goal is just navigating through these next 111 days as an endurance challenge. Can I do my life while pushing myself physically in ways I’ve never done before? Will I be able to manage stress of life while under the stress of what I’m doing to my body composition? And can I do this with a little grace and sense of humor? I have stayed on course, but I haven’t been that graceful about it over the last month. I hope to have learned a lesson I can use over the next 3 months. This is all for fun, right? Nothing life and death about this thing.
This next show is pivotal for me. I’m heading right back to the same show I did in 2015 that wrecked me a little bit. I have no idea what to expect after what happened the last time I was on that stage in front of those judges. And then I had that frustrating lifting month in February. In hindsight, I see it as a blessing now. I had every reason to quit – lifting sucked, I turned 55, I’m busy, it’s hard to do, and there isn’t a tangible reason to compete… but I didn’t quit. I couldn’t quit. I don’t quit. But there wasn’t much positive pulling me towards something instead of a general “I don’t quit” stubborness. Then one day I woke up and a switch had flipped. I needed to commit and commence with the “ass-kickin’-takin’-names” part of this prep. That morning, I registered for the show.
I’ve felt different since then. It’s about redemption now. Maybe I will always be put in the last place. So what? I’m still showing up, aren’t I? This is amateur women’s bodybuilding. There is no real-world difference between “overall” and “last place”. There aren’t cash prizes. There will be no contracts or sponsorships. Those of us who do this are motivated by something else. If the width of my pelvis screws up my symmetry, I can’t give a fuck about that because I can’t change it. But I can prep hard to lose enough fat so that the glutes attached to that wide pelvis will be visible. If it’s possible, I can do that. I have built my delts and quads a little. That will help with the symmetry a bit. And I can get creative with posing to emphasize some things and distract away from others.
But how can I be braver? How can I make sure I hear that little voice in my head that reminds me to be a badass every day when the doubts can be so loud????
So that happened. This is my signal to myself to remember who I am and why I’m doing this. I get a reminder every time I see a reflection. I get a reminder every time that side of my head gets cold, too. Hahahaha! To be honest, it was an impulsive thought at first, but I thought about it for a week. I pulled my hair back and tried to imagine it. I was beyond excited to get this done. After I walked around with it for a few days, I figured out why I needed to do it. I’ve had it about a week and I love it. Not a single regret yet.
Sorry about the length. Thanks for hanging in there with me! The support I get keeps me going. Thank you!!