Category Archives: Bodybuilding Journal

2017 Prep Update: Day 164 or Why I Shaved My Head


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)

Training

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.

Diet

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.

Hair

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!!

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Oh Hey – It’s My Birthday Again!

Eight minutes from the exact time I started writing this post, I will precisely be 55 years old.  I always miss my mom on my birthday.

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Me and Mom

Took some progress pictures today.  I’m not competing until July, and based on how this prep has been going, it highly likely that my conditioning will be better than it was the last time I competed.  I’m humbled and grateful that I’m able to do this considering I didn’t become any kind of athlete until later in life.   I’ve become less comfortable sharing my progress pictures for many reasons.  But this blog started when I started this new life, so I also think it’s important to document where I’m at now.

Today’s pictures compared to October when I started this prep…

Oct 2016 - Started Prep

Oct 2016 – Started Prep

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Can’t lie.  I’m a bit freaked out about this birthday.  I remember being younger thinking that being 55 would be close to retirement – which I might be, but haven’t really decided on that yet. (2/16/17 edit – at the end of this day, I’m leaning towards “sooner rather than later” on that retirement thing.  Love, love, love the kids. It will never be anything about them that pushes me out.) Digging what I’m doing as a teacher right now and I passionately believe it’s a better way for humans to learn mathematics.  I’d like to hang in until I work out the bugs and evolve it.

55 is also a big one because my mother died when she was 56.  Intellectually, I think I’ve done enough to alter my own path, health-wise, to live longer than my mom did, but she died of a brain aneurysm.  We don’t know if that was a hereditary condition or a consequence of her smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.

Did I say I am grateful?  I woke up today extremely grateful to be here.

My husband created most of the gifts he gave me.  Aren’t they amazing?  His time and the little things he included in these paintings (he used his thumb print to color the heart with the tree) made these the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received.

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Hubby had to work today, but I took the day off.  I needed to renew my driver’s license since it expired today.  Took my little girl pup with me.  We stopped at a local duck pond for a short walk on the way home.  Poor thing has been cooped up in the house.  Weather here hasn’t been conducive for walks.  I also have a nagging issue with my left ankle and foot.  Nothing serious, but long dog walks aggravate it.

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Started a new training phase this week.  It’s a very different split than what I’ve ever done before.  Coach has me doing full body four days a week for a month with a bit lighter loads.  It’s probably going to be good.  The first week will be bumpy because I need to adjust my habits.  My little gym doesn’t have everything I need, so I have to travel to another one for that one thing I do need on that one day – the logistics need to be worked out.   He also incorporated the use of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exersion) to determine the loads I use.  It’s an uncomfortable adjustment for me to make.  I mentally rehearse my lifts the night before.   When I don’t have an actual load given on the spreadsheet, I ruminate on it a bit – and that’s not relaxing at all.  It’s probably just difficult for me right now because I’m working so much and I’ve been dieting for 123 days.  I’m not mentally flexible right now.

It was a memorably wonderful birthday.  And I will have a carb hangover tomorrow.   It’s all good – I’m leg pressing in the morning.  I’ll turn it all into muscle.  😉

(I didn’t eat all of this candy today. Milk Duds are gone.  And there was a heart-shaped pizza. And a big slice of cheesecake.  This won’t be my last refeed, but it could be my last REFEED until July.)

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2017 Prep Update: Day 94

Crazy week!  Monday, Jan 9 was supposed to be our first day of second semester after a three-week break.  Didn’t happen.  Weather here made it necessary to cancel school on Monday and Thursday.  We had delayed starts the other days.  Roads were slippery.  No sunshine.  No dog walks.  We all had cabin fever.  I was able to get a ton of  work done to set up for the new semester.  That will pay off for me later since I’m prepping for the show in July and taking an online class to earn CEUs to renew my teaching licence next year.  We live close to the gym I use, so I was able to get in and had extra time…but sadly, it was a deload week.

Every four weeks, whether I feel like I need it or not, Coach has a deload week programmed into the cycle.  I appreciate it because I know that is why I have stayed relatively injury-free since I started working with him in 2013.  Usually, to deload, I’ve reduced loads.  This time, I kept the loads where they were the week before, but reduced the number of sets and reps.  I also skipped all hamstring work for a week to give my left one a chance to heal up.

Usually, I’m happy to have that deload week.  This time, it was hard.  The week was stressful because of the weather, scary driving, and the schedule disruptions.  I didn’t want to increase cardio for stress-management because I needed to rest that hamstring.  Also, I’m three months into a contest prep diet.  Even though my calories were increased a bit, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to divert those resources from healing that hamstring.  By the time Day 92 rolled around,  I was in a funk.

Funk = this is bullshit.  Why do I bother?  I’m not built right.  I’m too old…yada, yada, yada.

Sunday, Day 93 = first leg day in a week.  And no hamstring pain!!!  I was able to do what I was supposed to do on leg press.  I was cautious and brought the weight and reps down for leg curls.  But no pain during the movements at all.  I can still feel it when I stretch that hamstring, but it’s much less intense.  And I’ve noticed the ankle on that leg has become slightly stiff – I suspect that’s the issue flowing down the kinetic-chain.  (That knee was a bit wonky last week, too, but that went away.)  I’m hitting those hamstrings again tomorrow morning.  I know I’m still healing, so I plan to continue to be cautious.

And magically, the funk lifted.

Food wise, I have been struggling with logging.  Monday-Friday, I am on it.  Weekends?  Not so much.  I don’t think it matters too much since I eat the same way – I just don’t want to log.   I’m a flexible dieter, so I don’t feel too deprived from food choices (except I miss pizza – I don’t eat celery, but this is just funny).

I’ve been logging food since 2009, so I think I’m just taking psychological breaks while I can.  Prep progress on the scale is still happening.  Things have settled into the “normal” bouncing that I’m used to.  No change for a few days, up a pound, down a couple, etc.   I look at it as a mathematical pattern.  It’s not linear, but it’s still predictable, so I’m good.  At some point, it won’t be predictable.  I’ll stall for a long time…and then it will get going again but I’ll have to fight for it.  I think that will happen sometime around March.  At least I hope I can make it that long before things get frustrating.

I’m not super concerned, but I don’t think I’ve done a good job with making each day of the 275 day project as awesome as it could be.   And I don’t think it matters all that much.  I’ll probably talk about that in each blog because I need to stay centered on that idea… It.  Doesn’t.  Matter.  I do this bodybuilding thing for much better reasons than what is ever going to happen at a show.

Oh, and just between you and me, I’ve decided to toss in a few extra sets of things not in my program on days where they won’t interfere with what IS in my program.  Nothing crazy.  Today, I did some light lateral raises and these face pulls.  Just getting some blood flow in there.   Recorded the face pulls just to see what’s going on with the rear delts.  Haven’t worked them directly in a long time.   Nothing upper body is scheduled for a couple of days, so it’s all good.  😉

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Reasons Why I’m “Doing It Wrong”

If you follow fitness pages on social media, you will see many messages that fall into that “go hard or go home” theme.  They are success stories.  They walk into the gym, abs a blazin’, and are pushing to the limit EVERY.SINGLE. DAY.

I don’t do that. I can’t do that.

Here are few reasons why I’m doing this thing “wrong”.

REASON #1: I do as little work as possible.

I don’t go “beast-mode” in the gym.  I used to.  And I got hurt.  Twice.   Not serious injuries, but they still nag at me.  Lifters get hurt – that’s true.  But actively choosing to avoid injuries means I can keep lifting without interruption or work-arounds.  There is a difference between the loads my muscles can handle and what my connective tissues can handle.  Those little pieces and parts have been moving me around for over 54 years – I am always conscious of that.  Random strangers sometime feel the need to offer critique about how I do a movement, and that’s OK because they have helpful intentions.  They might not realize that I actually do know what I’m doing.  Range of motion is a connective tissue issue for me and I send video to my coach to analyze almost weekly.  We both know that over the long term, things have improved and will continue to improve.  Nothing good comes from rushing a biological process.  My body never lets me get away with that.  I also found a coach who shared my perspective and he keeps me healthy.  (Knocking on wood as I type…)  Now I just show up, do what I’m supposed to do that day.  No more, no less.  Every 4th week, a deload is programmed in whether I feel like I need it or not.

If you’re a teacher, this analogy might make sense – think about IEPs and least restrictive environment.  I do as little as possible to get the results I want.  There is nothing further for me to gain by breaking down more tissue and increasing my recovery time.

REASON #2: I eat ice cream every day.

I worked hard in the beginning to redefine “food”.  When I started, I put everything on the psychological table, so to speak.  I got help and learned what nutrition was all about.  I had to develop a new habit of measuring and tracking.  I do believe micronutritents saved me – I remember when my paradigm shifted.  I had just read about cellular regeneration and BOOM!  It hit me.  I could change every cell in my body by consistently providing better nutrition. That was when I became a clean-eating zealot.  Apparently, upon reflection, I needed to be an a-hole for a while.  Sorry.  I was obnoxiously passionate about what I was learning and I also needed a little validation.  I believe it was just an awkward, emotional, necessary part of my journey.  Eventually, I grew weary of feeling like a food martyr who only ate foods on a short list of “approved” items.  I started to research and learned more.  I learned about macros.  I also learned that because of how I trained, because of how I changed my body composition, not only could I incorporate some of “off-limit” foods back into my life, I knew I could control them, and my body used them differently.

I asked my coach (Alberto Nunez, 3D Muscle Journey) if he thought I had any emotional issues with food.  Paraphrasing, he said “No.  You use food as a tool.  You know when it’s necessary to be precise and you know when it’s OK to relax.”  Please know that I do have days when I’m HUNGRY.  Those are planned and necessary for what I’m doing.  It’s also a natural physical response for hormones to trigger hunger when precious fat stores are being used.  Bodies don’t like that.  Bodies want to be plump and ride out the famine.  My body has not evolved itself to support my first-world goal of improving my conditioning as a bodybuilder.  I still believe micronutrients in veggies are my bestest buddies for recovery and general health, but because I eat a little ice cream each day (until I’m deep in contest prep and I don’t want to), that tub of cookie dough has lived safely in our freezer for almost a year.

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REASON #3: I don’t cut water when I compete.

After I did my first show, I started researching how to compete without cutting water.  I did a water cut again for my 2013 show and that just confirmed for me that I would rather quit competing than cut water again.  It’s just not something I choose for myself.  I’ve worked very hard to get off the path of health complications that I was traveling back in 2009, so cutting water, using water pills (or even fat burners, for that matter) just doesn’t fit into my personal philosophy of how I’m going to live.  I continued to research and learn.  That research eventually led me to my coach.  More and more competitors are learning the science behind a peaking process that makes it unnecessary to cut water.  It’s actually counterproductive because I looked flat on stage when dehydrated.  For the 2015 show, I had a water bottle off stage and was drinking as we were being called out for prejudging.  Yes, I did gain some muscle between those two shows, but if you look at the 2015 conditioning, drinking water didn’t have a negative effect.  To improve my stage conditioning, I need to focus on improving my body composition gradually over a long time.  Just that.  Nothing else.

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REASON #4: I won’t do whatever it takes to improve in my sport.

I’m competitive, but I’m working to keep that drive focused on things I can control.  There is a list of things in my head that I won’t do.  I believe I can do this thing on my terms, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m curious to see what I can accomplish doing it the way I want to do it. I’ve seen this sport wreck people and relationships.  I can understand why the stakes would seem higher for younger people.  Me?  Hell, I’m going to be 55 and one year closer to retirement the next time I post a new stage picture.  To me, I’m in the prime of my life right now.  To the fitness world, I’ve been called a grandma.  (Not blessed with kids, btw, so I’m not literally a grandma.)  I hope the lessons provided to me by the Universe about the irrelevance of my ego are over, but if I have more to learn, I that’s OK.  Seriously.  What do I have to lose if I earn a 4th last place?? Nothing.  What do I have to gain if I win an overall?  Nothing really.   The shows and the pictures are cool, but they are not the endgame.  Progress is the endgame. The true endeavor is to show up each day and recommit.  There is joy that for me, but not all the time.  Passion ebbs and flows.  I’m still motivated just to see what is around the next corner.  In some ways, it’s a very long game of strategy of me vs me.  Win/win or lose/lose depending on how I play, right?

 

 

 

 

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Max Lift Testing Results

Took me nine weeks to get through the last “8 week” cycle.  Such is life.  (The new one is getting off to a slow start, too, thanks to a crappy head cold.) At the end of this last cycle, I tested the main lifts in my program with AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets with a certain weight.  From that, my current 1 rep max (1RM) is calculated and entered into the next spreadsheet sent to me by my coach.  Each spreadsheet cycle is adjusted based on what we want to accomplish during that cycle.  During the last cycle, the goal was to at least maintain strength during a mini-cut, hopefully build some lean mass and get stronger.  My personal goal was to improve strength on my bench press.  That lift has not been progressing at the same rate as all the others.

Results…

Leg Press

This is a hard one to compare over time because I’ve used different machines in different gyms.  And I’ve worked on improving range of motion, so I’ve had to start over a few times.   But I’ve tested on the machine I’m using now a couple of times, so I guess this is a lifetime PR on this machine, right?

Dec 20, 2015: 1RM = 563 lbs

Feb 26, 2016: 1RM = 609 lbs   Increased 7.6%

RDL

A bar with weights.  Easy to compare.  I set a lifetime PR with this one.  This lift just keeps getting stronger, but I suspect I’m going to hit a limit with it soon because of physics.  My bodyweight isn’t going to go up, so the leverages have to have a limit, right?

Dec 22, 2015: 1RM = 264

Feb 28, 2016: 1RM = 270  Increased 6%

Bench Press

Dec 21, 2015: 1RM = 124

Feb 25, 2016: 1RM = 126 Increased 1.6%

Disappointed.  This lift was stronger back in May 2014.  My 1RM then was 127.  This lift just doesn’t progress like the others.  And I lose it and have to start over after each show prep.  So to test this time and miss my lifetime PR by one pound was frustrating.  I actually tested this lift twice, once at the beginning of the week and a second time the following weekend when I had more rest.  Same result, so it’s real.

HS Shoulder Press

I use this machine for my main shoulder work because the impingement issue in my right shoulder makes free weight work feel unstable.  The improvement on this lift was a surprise.  I did what I needed to do with the AMRAP set – and it was easier than it should have been.  So I added weight and did another AMRAP.

Dec 23 2015: 1RM = 45

Feb 28 2016: 1RM = 52 lbs   Increased 15.5%

Barbell Row

Like the RDL, this lift progresses predictably. I hit another lifetime PR with it.   And also like the RDL, I think there is a limit coming up soon.

Dec 26, 2015: 1RM = 169

Feb 26, 2016: 1RM = 186 lbs  Increased 10%

Pulldown

Like the leg press, this one is hard to compare over time because I’ve used different pulley machines in different gyms.  On paper, it looks like it has regressed, but I know that’s not true.  I did use the same pulley machine for these two tests.

Dec 23, 2015: 1RM = 156

Feb 29, 2016: 1RM = 163 Increased 4.5%

 

I passed all my tests.  Basically lifetime PRs in everything that I can compare over time, except the bench.  But it’s progressing and I’ll get there.  And I’m not a power lifter.  It’s just my ego.

It’s worth noting that I’m basically healthy.  My coach has done some smart programming – both in the gym and with my food.  He also makes a point to support me when I’ve decided to back off from something I’m supposed to do if I’m not feeling it.  (I assume he knows I will push when that feels appropriate, too.)  54 years old, scoliosis, lifting heavy things, and the only issues I have are minor.  A little tendonitis here and there.  I’ve got an old quad pull that likes to act up every so often.  I respect these things.   I listen to them.   If something feels funky, I pull back.  I’ve learned my lesson with that.  I have been “beast mode” and ended up getting hurt, nursing something for months – years.  Nope.  Not worth it.  It’s true I need heavier weights to progress, but not all the time.  One more rep is progression.  An extra set is progression.  If I had completed one more rep in that bench press set, I would have set my PR.  But it wasn’t going up easily enough from the bottom, and had I grinded it at the weakest part of my range of motion, I could have injured my right shoulder that has impingement issues.  Not. Worth. It.  I know what PRs feel like when I’m strong enough to get them with good form.  I also know I’m not competing with anyone – I’m setting up the next spreadsheet cycle.  It’s ok to take some more time to get stronger.  Even if I hit it, I’d want to set another one next time, so it doesn’t matter.

Made a video of the lifts.  Sorry, no narration.  I’m sick today, so I’m saving my voice.  Had to teach with a bullhorn on Friday.

 

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The “Shit Sandwich” & Other Lessons From Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, some big ideas from unrelated parts in my brain crashed together in a perfect storm of temporary enlightenment.  An email conversation over a few days with my coach about goal setting happened while I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.  This isn’t a book review – I’m just sharing a couple of things I’ve discovered listening to this book that helped me.

For a couple months now, I’ve explored the shame I felt when I competed last July.  If I don’t deal with it, I won’t be able to compete again because I know there will be an anxiety attack of epic proportions.  For those of you who are familiar with her work, one of Brené Brown’s books has already been listened to – twice.  (I’m sure I’ll listen to it a couple more times). There have been a couple of Wayne Dyer’s books, too, and a couple from authors not so well-known.  Each of these books have given me something I can use to evolve my mental game, just like lifting transformed my physique.

She Called it “The Shit Sandwich”

Ms. Gilbert referred to the sacrifices required to make time to be creative while still being a responsible person as eating “the shit sandwich” for your particular endeavor.  It means that that there will be parts of the process that aren’t fun or convenient, but need to happen.  She gave examples of now famous authors who made the time to write, working other jobs, before they were able to make a living as a writer.  She mentioned Toni Morrison and JK Rowling specifically.   She said we need to be willing to do the inconvenient stuff.

Someday, I’d like to be an author, but right now, that’s not where my creativity is focused.  I don’t expect people to understand it, but bodybuilding is where I feel creative.  I work on it daily.  Lifting, food, rest are my tools.   It’s my sculpture.  I’m working on this one project.   I add to it, sometimes work on details, and I walk around wearing it.  I’m happy to do the hard stuff for my craft – “the shit sandwich” of early morning workouts, getting by on less sleep, saving money to pay for it, and the periods of strict nutrition.  But there are other parts of bodybuilding that feel like it’s not worth it.  I do think about these things.  I work on balance.  And I repeatedly ask myself “why do I need to do this?”  It’s a simple answer.  It brings me joy.

Rejection?

When I step on stage, my “art” is being judged.  Last July, my sculpture was the best it’s been, but I lost sight of that fact.  The table of folks below the stage judged my work as inferior.  (Have I told you what happened?  I don’t remember.  When I was moved after the first symmetry round, I wasn’t just moved to what would be a last place position in my own class.  Women’s open and novice classes were brought out together.  I was in the open.  When I was moved, I was moved away from the open class to the other side of the novice class.   I was far stage right, not being compared to anyone during the mandatory poses.  I did not see a single judge look at me during front-facing poses.  I knew I just earned my third last place finish in three shows.  I fought hard to keep my inner demons quiet the whole time I was on stage.  My photographer husband was next to the stage, so I posed for the pictures.  Those are the only pictures where I’m smiling.)  The reflective work I’ve been doing – listening to books, absorbing ideas, applying some, rejecting others – has helped begin to build the mental foundation that I thought was strong enough to withstand what happened on stage that day.  I wasn’t ready.  I need to be sturdier to do what I’m attempting to do – a competitive female bodybuilder in open classes even though I’m in my 50’s – because I don’t want to be caught off guard on stage like that again.  I can’t control where they move me, but I can control how I react to being moved.  I can control who’s opinion matters more to me on that day.  Mine.  Period.

As I mentioned, there were several emails with Coach last week about goal-setting.  He knows what I’m working on.  We’ve also agreed that I need to complete this work before I can compete again.  He gently steered me towards setting goals about personal progression.  Thought about it.   Turns out, that doesn’t work for me.  I see progression as a logical outcome of smart programming and consistency.  So if I’m going to make sacrifices, expect my husband to sacrifice, spend money on this, I need another big scary goal.  I made a list of the big scary goals I’ve set and achieved, even though they seemed hard or impossible when set.  After a few days of sitting with it, mulling it over, and acknowledging that my experience last summer had landed me in a depressing place called “reality”, Coach helped me find the words to set the next big  scary goal…

Last. Woman. Standing.

(Which means I want to win an overall, earn a pro-card, and compete at a national show.  I’ve always wanted this, but three last place finishes has made it seem too naive to hang on to.  It’s still naive and unrealistic.  So what?  I’ve been disappointed already and know what that feels like.  I didn’t set a time limit.  Just owning the dream.)

This one needs a new name.  It will now be called the Big-Scary-Hairy-Improbable-But-I’m-Going-For-It-Anyway Goal.  I honestly believe I will continue to improve and will present a better sculpture each time I compete no matter what.  I have a good work-ethic and a supportive and smart coach.  But it’s no longer about how hard I work anymore, is it?  This goal will fuel my work regardless.  This is “Fire-in-the-belly” sort of stuff.

I listened to Ms. Gilbert addressed rejection and it occured to me that I can learn a lot from writers about judging and rejection.  This passage resonated with me…

“No doesn’t always mean no.  Never surrender.  Miraculous turns of fate can happen to those who persist in showing up.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

So that’s the plan.  I’ll keep showing up.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Motivation

An Update and A Few Anniversaries

I haven’t updated the blog in a long time, so if you’re here looking for some wisdom or advice, I’m sorry.  Not feeling it today.  We have two weeks of classes left before final exams and I’m wound a bit tight worried about getting kids ready to finish the semester strong.  The job has been – uh – challenging for the last month.  I’m a bit overwhelmed.

Training has been going well since Coach Berto modified my program a little.  I tried to make the first program he gave me work, but I couldn’t finish the workouts during the week – just didn’t have enough time.   I also needed a little more recovery time for some body parts.  After a couple of months of that, I found myself not enjoying my gym time.  I felt like I was too distracted trying to check things off a list.  It felt more like work.  I lift for several reasons, but most days, it’s how I manage stress.   It wasn’t fun when I ran short of time and couldn’t finish.  Now I can finish the workouts and I’m recovering well.

Definitely gaining – fat, sure, but it looks like there could be some lean mass in there, too.  A little.  After five years of lifting, the amount of muscle I can gain now isn’t going to be that dramatic.  Coach calls this an “improvement season” instead of an “off-season”.  I’m supposed to be making improvements.  And in my over-achieving fashion, I’m attacking this “improvement” thing from several fronts.

For a couple months now, I haven’t been tracking or logging food.   It’s been fun and scary.  Controlling food intake has been part of my life since 2009.  It’s time to learn how to feed myself to maintain my weight without being dependent on taking data.  I haven’t done a good job eating intuitively.  I’ve been eating too much.  And even though I’m still learning, I believe the over-feeding is why I’ve been recovering well and why I’ve gained a little muscle.  For the first couple months after my competition, I logged and was careful.  Supervised, I gained weight back slowly.  I did not rebound.  Today, I’m 20 pounds heavier than I was on stage in July.  I’m not comfortable at this weight, but I’m also not alarmed.  It has come back slowly and most of it was deliberate.  The last five pounds I’ve gained are the five pounds that make me feel uncomfortable.  I will track and log food for a little while to see what’s what and then pull things back to maintenance for a while.

While working on the physical, I’m still exploring ways to strengthen my psychology. There are a few things about my mental game that are not helping me.  What happened at my show in July rocked me. (Details withheld on purpose.) I panicked the night before – that’s not a secret.  Got past that, and then I felt humiliated at pre-judging.  For a few weeks after, I was disillusioned.   From what I’ve learned lately, there may be an element of shame to be dealt with, too.  Maybe it’s connected to being an introvert.  I love the process and I want to compete, but stage has not been an empowering experience for me.  (I’m only talking about the competition itself -the rest of the experience was wonderful.)  The more I learn and reflect, I think that show in July was the most courageous thing I’ve done in a long time.  So I need to work through things before I get back on stage again.  I love bodybuilding so much that I can’t imagine not competing, but I need to do this inner work, too.

It’s an interesting phase in my transformation.  Inside out – outside in.  Not going to get into details of the work I’m doing here – it’s a bit too personal.  Grateful to my husband, coach, and friends who are helping me process things by listening.

I wrote before that I was listening to the book, “The Power”.  Since then I’ve found myself pulled towards other books, each one was found by something that was said in the previous one that resonated with me.  After “The Power”, I listened to “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, “The Power of Intention” by Wayne Dyer, “Power vs Force” by David Hawkins, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” another by Wayne Dyer, “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown, and now am listening to “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney.   I’m surprised by the number of books I’ve been able to get through.  Apparently, I’m a good multi-tasker.  I think that’s got something to do with being a teacher (ya think?)  I’m learning a lot.  Not all of it pertains to bodybuilding.  Some of the things will make me a better wife and a better teacher.  Much of it needs to just sit in my brain and stew.

The Anniversaries:

  • This Week: 20th wedding anniversary
  • Last week: 2 years with Coach Berto
  • Today: 25 years since my mother died.  It’s hard to imagine that people have been born and grown into adults in the time that has passed since I last saw my mom.

My introvertness is all flared up right now – words have moved beyond my reach.  It’s time to mentally shut down and re-charge my batteries.  My day tomorrow will be jammed with activity and noise.

Kettlebell Lateral Raises: 265 sets, 2762 reps, 4588 lbs…I see delts.  My back likes to grow and that’s cool.  But delts are being built the old fashioned way.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, My Lifting Log