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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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10-8-16-back

 

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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 100

Day 100 was last Sunday.


An interesting, unsettling, and maybe a bit impulsive decision was made on Day 100…

Facebook deactivation.

I know – so what?  Who cares? (Is it ego to wonder if anyone noticed?  Probably.  Is it ego to write about it?  Definitely.)  It’s not a statement about social media – I’m obviously still involved since I’m writing this blog post.   I had to find a work-around to keep the Lifting My Spirits page up and plan to keep posting there. Thought about taking a hiatus from that page, too, but it has a purpose and the people who comment there are amazing. They inspire me.

I think I’ve been getting ready for this for some time.  Had a privacy violation a couple years ago that bled into real life.  I stopped accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know and have been posting less.  I’ve been more careful.  I’ve “unliked” or “unfollowed” pages that posted things that yanked my chain.  Deactivating for a time could be the next step in that process.

I like how it has forced some changes in my head the last couple of days.  It’s quiet in here.   I love my job, love the kids, but I am an introvert and working with full classes of teenagers all day drains me a bit.  I’m working about 55 hours a week, training, and I’m working on earning some CEU credits I need to renew my teaching license next year.   My plate is always too full.  (Figuratively, not literally.)  I started paying attention to things I did away from work that recharged my batteries and what cause my brain to spin.  I deactivated Instagram last year.  It took a few days to get out of that habit, but it felt good to share less.  I’ve been on Facebook a lot longer and this feels like I just fell off the planet.  It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but a good thing for me to have less external input in my day.

It’s hard, though.  I don’t want to lose touch with people, so I need to make a new habit to stay in contact.  Learned that Messenger still works and that’s a relief.  Fits my personality better to have private conversations, anyway.  This may be a temporary decision – when my prep is done and I have a little less on my figurative plate and more on my real one, I’ll probably activate it.  It does feel weird.  How did we do this before??  We didn’t even have email growing up.  Were we just…quiet?  The fact that it feels like I’m in withdrawal just confirms that it’s a good thing for me to do.

Whatever…what about bodybuilding??

Training went well this last week.  Got a PR on leg extension this morning.  Coming off the deload week, my loads were scheduled to increase.  Hamstring feels better, but the ankle below it is still tight.  Seems like the hamstring healing up might be pulling on everything below it.  I plan to do more stretching in that area.

Less walking needs to happen since my feet are feeling beat up.  We have a 20-year old recumbent bike at home.  Most years, it was out in the patio.  It’s weathered and a bit beat up.  This adorable puppy has used a pedal as a chew toy when she was working through separation anxiety.  It still pedals, so it’s all good.  Jump on there for a bit on days when my normal activity was low.  We’ve had many of those days here the last few weeks thanks to some winter weather.

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Oh, and weight is still dropping, but not fast.  Much more scale bouncing these days, which is expected.  So far, over the last 100 days I’ve lost about 12 pounds, give or take a daily bounce.  Stage weight goal is in another 13 pounds.  If I make it, this stage will be 4 lbs lighter than last one.  It probably won’t be easy to get there, but it’s part of the game.  The reverse diet out of this one will be just as hard.

So that’s my update for Day 100.

Recap…

  • Training is good.
  • I’m now a hermit.

 

 

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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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2017 Prep Update: My 275 Day Project

My prep will be 275 days long, but I changed my life 2750 days ago.  Started – didn’t stop.  I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.  Things that worked for a while stopped working. Other things that were hard at first, like logging food, have become second nature.  Sure, some things have been disappointing and frustrating.  But this sport challenges me in unexpected ways.  It has made me a better wife.  It has made me a better teacher.  Training calms me and helps me handle life.  I’m careful and train safely.  I’m proud of what I’ve done and grateful that I’ve been able to do it.

I need to apologize for my long absence from this blog.  It’s true that I’ve been busy – I’ve retooled my geometry class to be one where all students move through curriculum at their own pace.  I have about 170 students who needed to master 38 skills before Christmas break.  During this break, I’m organizing the activities for them to do during second semester.  Yeah, I’m busy.

That’s not the only reason I haven’t been writing.  I spent most of 2016 learning how to disengage my ego from what I’m doing as a bodybuilder.  The problem isn’t that I think I’m so awesome.  It’s the opposite of that.  I don’t think I’ve accomplished much at all and have been battling the urge to give in and “be realistic” about competing.  I haven’t had a healthy perspective on this thing.  I’ve worked hard, so part of me feels like I “deserve” to have some tangible success, but based on some things I cannot control, it’s possible that I will always place poorly.  Hard work doesn’t matter.  That’s a given.  Everyone up there worked hard.  Do I keep going anyway?  Others have quit.  If this isn’t going to be about being competitive, what is it about for me??  The initial excitement is gone, I got knocked on my ass, and I’ve spent a long time finding a way to get back up.

It’s been a hard year and a half of self-reflection about what I can control, what I can’t control, and what is it about this sport that keeps me engaged.  The July 2015 show really rocked my confidence.  I am afraid to compete again.  I’m not getting younger – 55 next time I’m up there.  Genetics aren’t going to change.  How do I justify continuing when I’ve had so little success?  I have a full plate.  I have people who depend on me.  I have responsibilities.  Why am I spending time and money on this bodybuilding thing at my age?

Why? Because I love training.  And it keeps me from sliding back into my old, unhealthy habits.  Based on what the doctors told me back in 2009, it’s critical that I do self-maintenance if I want to have a normal life-expectancy.  I’m goal-driven and the scarier the goal, the better.  In my mind, it feels more like an individual quest for excellence.  If my measure of success becomes improving form, increasing strength, being consistent, grinding on days I need to grind, learning when to push and when to hold back, controlling all the variables that are mine to manage – can I do all of that?  And can I make myself stand there for another stinky spray tan, get back up under the lights, and be vulnerable again?  I think I can. I think I can keep doing this for a long time, too.  I also think there is something more I’m supposed to learn.  There is something more going on here – I just don’t know what it is yet.  So I’m “all-in” with this thing, I guess.

Ok, so how do I prepare for the next show when I have so much anxiety wrapped around the idea of it?  I’ve been working with the same online coach for three years, so he’s handling the nuts-and-bolts of the prep.  It’s on me to handle the mental game.  If you’ve been following the few posts I’ve made, you know I’ve been on it.  Lots of audio books.  Lots.  After some frustrating experiences, I’ve chosen to limit my exposure to almost everything online that relates to bodybuilding.  That alone has cut down on a lot of stress because my value system is a little different.  I never feel so old as I do when I look at what people post.  If I avoid it, it is easier to focus on what’s important to me and what I need to do.

Most people who compete talk about prep in terms of a countdown.  “I’m 20 weeks out”, etc.  I’ve done it that way before because I was excited about the destination.  Thing is, I’m not now.  Counting down to something that scares me increases my anxiety about it.   Plus, it’s too ‘future-focused’ for me.  I prefer to focus on what I need to do TODAY.  So let’s flip that around.  The project is now the prep itself.  It is not a “means to an end”.  It is the goal.  Can I do this?

The day I started prep on October 14th was Day #1 and there will be 275 days in this project.  The overall goal is to push fat-loss farther than before.  This is NOT something a non-competitor should attempt.  If you’re not going to compete as a bodybuilder – literally in a division called “bodybuilding” – don’t do what I’m going to do.   Can I, a formerly obese 55-year-old woman, get “shredded”?  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t done it.   And can I do it safely so that I won’t have issues later?  I have a smart, protective coach and we have worked our way through a plan over the last three years to be in a position to make this attempt now.  But I can already tell we are way ahead of our 2015 prep.  Months ahead.  I don’t think July 2017 will be my ‘final form’, either.

The result of the 275 day project will be an accumulation of what I do each day.   That makes each day a separate challenge and the goal is to do that day as well as I can.  Did I make every rep of each set count?  Did I do what I needed to do with food?  Did I get enough sleep?  Did I have enough energy to take care of life?  AND… am I not getting my undies bunched up about how I do that day?  Yes, it’s true.  “Not caring that much” is really a daily goal.  I refuse to up-end my life just to get a little leaner.  Sure, there are some sacrifices to be made, but gosh, this is just for fun, right?  It’s just my version of climbing Mt. Everest.

I hope to find time to write every so often and update this blog on where I’m at inside this prep, my 275 Day Project.

CURRENT STATUS:

Today is Day 76.  This phase of the cut has been aggressive, but calories were increased a couple weeks ago and will be increased again soon.  So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  I am also about 10 pounds over my previous stage weight, but the plan is to come in lighter.  There is more muscle, so coming in even a couple pounds lighter will look a lot leaner.  My personal goals are more about things that have been issues for me on stage.   There are certain poses that have always been hard for me because I wasn’t lean enough to perform them properly.  I don’t want to deal with that issue this time around.

I will do today as well as I can.  And I will do that 199 more times.  And my undies will remain as unbunched as possible.

Here is part of my video report to my coach last week showing my workouts for days 65 through 71.

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Transforming Into an Athlete in the Second Part of Life

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The first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  I’m now 54.

Some people say my age is an irrelevant point about me as an athlete, but they are wrong.  It’s extremely relevant.   I was a fully formed adult with scars and strengths from living life before I decided to live a completely different way.  And my decision impacted a lot of people who thought they knew who I was before I decided to be someone else.  I’m still working on making sense of all this.  Something yanked my chain this last week and I need to write to figure out what I think about things.  Sorry – I need to be a bit cryptic about it because it’s private.  But I believe humans have similar responses to things, even if details are different.

Please forgive me for veering into the past for a moment.   If what I’m going to say later is going to make any sense, I need share parts of my personal history.  I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I don’t want to give the impression that I think my life has been difficult.  It’s just been a “life”.  But these things are a bit relevant to why I think what I think as I keep transforming into an athlete in the second half of my life…

  • My scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school and I was pulled from all sports. I was told to be “careful” for the rest of my life.  Between the ages of 17 and 24, I had at least two episodes when my back would freeze up and I could not move for about a week.  I remember my mother pushing me around in a wheel-chair at the hospital to get x-rays.   I believed all the adults who told me I was fragile.
  • In my 20’s, I got a job at a gym as a receptionist. That’s when I first saw female bodybuilders in magazines.  They were about my age, but they looked so strong – not fragile.  I wanted that, but I was intimidated by it for a couple of really good reasons.  1) I have scoliosis and shouldn’t lift, and 2) women aren’t supposed to look like that – guys didn’t like it.  I didn’t question those beliefs at the time.  I accepted them and set other goals for my life.
  • My mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 and I was 28.  I was the family member who was tasked with the decision to remove her from life support.  I watched her die.  I know some of you have had to do that, too.  It’s not exactly like how they show it in movies or on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • I decided to get a degree in mathematics and teach math because I was intimidated by it. That was when I began to do battle with my fears.  The time span from my first day of college to my graduation with a degree in mathematics was 16 years.  Mom died during this time and I lost my job because I needed to take a leave of absence to handle my mother’s affairs out of town.  Once I could get back to work, I had as many as three part-time jobs to support myself and still have a schedule flexible enough to attend school during the day when the classes I needed were offered.  This was the first time I set a scary goal and achieved it.
  • For the last 20 years, I’ve taught math to teenagers, ages 15-18. Takes a little courage to show up and do that every day.   Not many adults would want to attempt to manage a room of 30+ teenagers.  Fewer can handle it when a whole bunch of them are anxious about what you are asking them to do.  Math teachers are in short-supply these days.  Burn out is high.  Many students believe they will fail before they try, so they won’t try.  They will do a lot of other things to avoid trying.  While teaching geometry, I teach a lot of other things, too.

And that brings me back to my first point – the first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  All of these other things happened years prior to that.

To decide to become a female bodybuilder at that point in my life, I had to challenge and beat down a lot of my own thoughts about what women can do, what a person with scoliosis can do, what a busy teacher can find time to do, and what a post-menopausal woman can accomplish in bodybuilding.  I’m not saying my journey has been harder than someone else’s, because I know it hasn’t been.  There is no comparison to what others have had to deal with to just get through another day.  I have not had to survive trauma.

That said, I’ve still accomplished enough hard stuff to feel like I can do more.  It’s my journey.   I’ve already lived a life and I’m still in the mix.  My ego tells me that I should be respected for that, but I can’t control what others say or think.  (Yeah, something happened a couple days ago. I was hurt by it, but I learned something useful.)  I remind myself what I’ve done to get here.  My ego wants to puff up – that’s what others do, right?  But that’s not going to help me do anything except become an asshole.  I don’t need to defend my thoughts.

I am sensitive.  I am scared.  I am brave.  I reflect.  I learn. I overthink.  I lose my focus sometimes, but I get it back.  I tell my ego to shut the hell up.  She just wants to generate negative thoughts that feed uncertainty about whether I will ever have tangible success as an athlete.  I may always be a novelty act in public, she tells me.  Ageism is alive and well, we all know that.  Is that my only obstacle?  Of course not.  But it’s there.  I can’t get younger, but I can improve.  I may always be switched to the outside of the youngest, most novice bodybuilder in the line.  If I’m a better bodybuilder than I was the last time I showed up, I guess that’s going to be enough.  My voice may shake when I say “my journey on my terms“, but I’m still saying it.  I’m still insisting on it.

“Why bother?”  I ask myself almost every day.  Almost every day, I quit.  And then I recommit to what I’m doing as an athlete.  The last year has been difficult.  I may not be able to break this cycle until after I compete again.  That last competition experience needs to be replaced by a new one before I’m going to get closure on what happened that day.  Simply getting on stage again will be a win because I will be able to put away two years of trying to make sense of what will now be called the “2015 WTF Happened? Blesson”.

And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity.  I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym.  Lifting still fixes me.  I love to train.  That’s why I bother.   Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal.

 

 

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Filed under Competing, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

Binging On Audio Books

A year ago today was the day before my most recent competition and my nerves were off the charts.  I was unpleasant to be around.  I ended up having an EPIC anxiety attack that evening, sat in the bathroom of the hotel, texting my coach who calmed me down a little.  The next day, I had the most humiliating public experience I’ve had in my life.  You know that nightmare where you go to school in your underwear?  Yeah.  That.  To say my ego was dented and damaged – well that’s accurate.  I’ve spend the last year trying to sort things out.  If I were a normal person, I’d probably walk away from this sport.  But I’m not normal.  I’m stubborn.  And I love this sport.  What happened was a little bit shitty, yes, but it shouldn’t have rocked me like that.  Something about it kicked every single insecurity I’ve got like a gut shot.  No – more like drilling a tooth before you’re numb.  I did not see it coming.

After a few years of investing in my physical health and discovering that competitive bodybuilding added value to my life, I came home from that show wondering if I had it in me to ever step on stage again.  A long time ago, I promised myself to never let fear define me, or rather, never let fear stop me from doing something I wanted to do.  Unless I break that promise, I have to do this work now, too.  I might blog about the things I’m learning and how I will apply them, but I’m not sure yet if that’s something I want to share publicly.  A big part of my work is to disengage my ego and just do the work.  Haven’t really reconciled how to share that process in public yet.

However, the list of books I’ve devoured might have some value for others.  All audio.  I don’t have time to read, but while I’m grading, walking, or driving, I listen and learn.

Here is a list of the audio books in my Audible library that I have found the most enlightening.  “Enlightening” in the sense that I enjoy uncomfortable self-reflection and forced psychological growth.  Putting introspection on Beast Mode, I guess.  Hahahahaha!  They are in order of how I listened to them.  In some way, each book led me to the next.  Some I’ve listened to a few a couple of times.  I revisit parts when it seems I need a refresher on that particular lesson.  Each time I listen, I pick up something new.

Almost all have had an impact on my teaching, too.  I think that’s what has hooked me the most.  While following my own instincts about what I want to learn personally, I’ve enriched my practice as a teacher of teenagers.  I had a conversation with someone once who said he thought we were all stuck at 17 on the inside forever.  That might be true.

The last book, “The Ego is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, has been the most beneficial in addressing my competition experience, but I don’t know if I was ready to hear it until after I had listened to the others.  It also wasn’t published until last month, so it wasn’t available.  It’s probably that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” thing, huh?

I’m grateful for the lessons in all of these books.   I got something from each.  (It’s a bit overwhelming to see the list together – this isn’t even all of them.  Just the best ones.  And there were a few fiction books in the mix over the last year, too.  Brain needed a break every so often.)

Pictures are linked back to Audible descriptions for each book.  Just click…

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Filed under Competing, Life, Teaching