"Lost in the Sauce"

I've grown quite a lot as a powerlifter since that very first deadlift, but even though my relationship with the sport has changed over time it's been a huge part of me since day one. I trained vigorously so that I could compete and finally call myself an official competitive powerlifter, and since that first meet I've melted into that identity. Who am I? Easy. I'm a powerlifter.

Then, when I moved back to Texas I took at job at a kickboxing gym and another very large part of my identity became being a 9Round kickboxing coach. Since taking that job this part of me has gotten larger and larger and larger. And here we are today where being a 9Round trainer is almost ALL of me. Except for the part of me who is still a powerlifter. 

I've never let go of lifting nor do I ever plan to. But the time that I have to dedicate to it continues to shrink, and I have to keep coming up with new and more creative ways to get my lifts in. When I had the luxury of being able to follow a strict lifting program that's what I did. But as my time and energy wanes I have to think up new ways to structure my sessions. I've gone through a handful of different ideas and schemes over the last 4 months, and now I'm rearranging yet again.

While it's frustrating having to sacrifice so much of my time and dedication to powerlifting, I'm just not ready to throw in the towel yet. I'm not done being a powerlifter. I never want to be done. And a large part of me keeps thinking that all I need is time to fully adjust to my new schedule and my new commitments (all the things that have put lifting on the back burner), and once I've adapted I'll be able to make more time for lifting. So I've got that piece of hope pushing me along, and I've got the sheer grit and desire to maintain my powerlifter's identity keeping me determined. 

But I'm not going to lie, it's been hard.
It's been hard to accept that, at least for the time being, there is no way I can compete. 
It's been hard to have to really evaluate how I'm feeling some days and make the choice NOT to lift.
It's been hard squeezing in those last minute lifts after an incredibly busy day when the last thing I want to do is lift.
It's been hard feeling some days like the last thing I want to do is lift...
It's been hard having to prioritize lifting below so many other things.
It's different, and it's been a definite struggle as of late.

I feel like I'm losing a part of me that truly BELONGS to me. I'm going to keep fighting for it and rearranging until something sticks, but right now I'm feeling pretty defeated on this front. :/ (Though other pursuits of mine are going splendidly, and I don't want to neglect to acknowledge the positive things!)

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, and this struggle will only make me strong no matter what the outcome is... But if anyone's been wondering where exactly the LIFT in Katelift went, now you know. She's still here, but barely for the time being. Please hold.

Belts, and Wraps, and Shoes, Oh My!

For as long as I can remember I've been extremely resistant to using ANY kind of implement to help me with lifting. This goes as far back as the very beginning of my powerlifting career when I was hesitant to even buy a belt -- something that I'd consider essential now. 

I have a really stubborn mindset that I don't want to rely on any extraneous item to be able to lift the weight that I can lift. I want to be a raw lifter through-and-through. (Raw is a category in powerlifting competitions that means you aren't using any type of aid for your lifts such as a squat suit, knee wraps, bench shirt, etc. that allow you to lift much more with them than without them.) And even though things like belts, wrist wraps, and squat shoes are meet-legal and still allow you to compete in the raw category I'd been so deadset against these things because of that stubborn mindset I'd been stuck in. 

All the way back to when I caved and bought my first belt, I was convinced that training with it would make me a weaker lifter. I only used it on my very heaviest sets, because I didn't want to create a dependency. But what I've come to accept over time is that a weight belt is absolutely necessary to heavy lifting simply for the added safety and stability it provides. You will hardly ever see a powerlifter compete without a belt, because they are so incredibly beneficial to the sport. But despite being told this over and over and over and over again, it took me probably an entire year after buying mine to accept it. 

Now? I use my belt for every single squat, deadlift, and overhead press session. And, as I mentioned, I consider it essential to the practice of powerlifting. 

And, despite being fully aware of my stubbornness and its lack of base in reality, I'm seeing the same pattern emerging for the wrist wraps I bought just a few months ago and the squat shoes I JUST started using a couple days ago... 

In my mind I'm seriously still convinced that I'll be weaker if i make a habit out of using wraps and shoes. But I KNOW that these things will actually make me stronger. They are meet-legal implements that will help me reach my highest potential weight lifted and that's what the sport is all about. Not only that but they'll keep me safer and more protected during my lifts, too.

The wraps support my wrists and keep them feeling noticeably better during heavy or high rep bench press (and front squats!). The shoes provide better leverage during squats making my weaknesses and bad habits occur less, which in turn protects my knees, hips, and my ankles. 

So, you may be wondering what the downside is... And there truly isn't one. (Except for maybe cost, but these things are only expensive, because they've got to be durable, tough, and long-lasting.)

Belts, wraps, and lifting shoes are perfectly fine for competitive powerlifters, recommended even. And even a stubborn old lifter can be convinced, clearly, because despite my futile resistance I've ended up with all three! And all three of them have had a profound positive impact on my training.

A Very Intentional Hiatus

In my last post I talked about how I was lacking motivation, being inconsistent with my workouts, losing strength as a result, seeing dips in performance, and just feeling very lackadaisical in regards to my powerlifting. My answer to this was to alter my lifting program to try remedying these issues. And, to an extent it did work. I was much more consistent -- almost to a 'T' -- for about 4 weeks until the very same problems started creeping up again; laziness, waning strength, poor performance, lack of enthusiasm, etc. 

During the time while I was on this altered program I posted a squat video on Instagram and in the text I detailed how I'd been feeling recently. I'd like to say that these feelings have been just in recent weeks, but realistically I've been feeling this way for close to 4 months now. On this post someone commented asking me when the last time a took a BREAK from powerlifting was. I answered that it was right after my most recent meet in October of 2016 when I took a little less than a week off but still trained with a barbell. But, if I'm being honest with myself, I don't think that's the kind of break he was really talking about...

Heavy lifting and intense weight training -- which is exactly what powerlifting is -- demands a high capacity for physical performance and mental grit. Over time this can really take a toll on the body and mind, and this toll can occur even if the proper protocols for rest and recovery are followed on a regular basis. 

When I first started powerlifting I read a lot of articles about the sport; how to execute the lifts, how to program appropriately, how to train for a meet, etc. And I specifically remember reading in one of these articles (though I forget the author or the specific source) that for every few years you spending training for powerlifting you should take a nice, long break spanning multiple weeks. At the time that I was reading this it was almost laughable. I'd only been in the sport for a handful of months, and I wasn't even competing yet. My training hadn't reached a point yet where it was so taxing that my body would need to take an extended break like was being suggested. I actually remember thinking it was a silly suggestion. Why would I want to insert a break like that into my training? Wouldn't it just set me back?

Fast forward to today when I'm realizing how spot on that article really was... 

I'm very thankful to my friend who brought it to mind when he commented on the Instagram post I mentioned earlier. He wasn't asking when the last time was that I took a few days off or maybe even a whole week. He was asking me when the last time was that I really gave my body, my mind, and my central nervous system a true break from the stress I'd been placing it under for the past 3 years. He wound up shedding some serious light on the fact that since November of 2013 I'd been training for powerlifting, programming for powerlifting, competing in powerlifting, learning and teaching powerlifting, living and breathing powerlifting, and I never gave myself a moment to step away from it. 

I had been fully submerged since then, and I was so blinded by my desire to continue BEING a competitive powerlifter that I was ignoring what my body was asking me for.
Rest. Reprieve. A very intentional hiatus. 

The symptoms I was feeling -- laziness, lack of motivation, lackadaisicalness, poor performance, decreasing strength -- are all your typical signs of O.V.E.R.T.R.A.I.N.I.N.G But I couldn't see it, because I didn't want to. In fact, even when this friend of mine originally posted his comment I was unable to accept it for truth. I shrugged it off. 'Nah, I'm good. I took a week off after my meet. I've been inconsistent, too, with training, so I'm sure my body is fine. My CNS is fine. My mind is fine. I'm just being weak.'

But at some point I'm going to need to face my very real fear of taking a break... 

Ever since stepping foot into this sport I've been terrified of taking a step away from it. I'm afraid on some level that if I take a break for a little while I'll never come back. I'm also afraid that upon the return from a break I'll have lost a depressing amount of my strength. And, lastly but most importantly to me, I'm afraid that taking a break revokes my title as a competitive powerlifter.

So, as someone who derives so much of her self-esteem and self-worth from the competitive powerlifter title, it's really important for me to come to the following conclusions:
1. Taking a necessary break to allow my mind and body to recover is just part of the powerlifting process. Stepping away for a few weeks doesn't mean I'm not a powerlifter anymore. It's just part of being a powerlifter. 
2. I will not lose all of my strength over the course of 2-4 weeks, especially not if I supplement my routine with other forms of exercise and continue to eat in the quantities I'm used to. In fact, it's possible that I'm going to feel even better, stronger, and more energized in my powerlifting once I return since this break was so obviously needed and belated.
3. It's up to ME to make sure I return to my normal training regimen once the break is over. In 2-4 weeks when it's time to step back into the power rack it's my responsibility to actually do so. The fear that I'll never return is irrational, because I'm 100% in control of what happens.

So, with all this being said, I'll be stepping away from the barbell for a little while. I haven't decided for how long yet, though. All I've planned for is this current week in which I'm going to do my kickboxing at a higher frequency than normal, and I'm going to add in hot yoga to take place of my normal lifting schedule. I'm hesitant to plan too obsessively since part of what I'm taking a break from IS the planning and programming and constantly THINKING about my regimen. I'll stay active, but I want to let my mind rest as well as my body.

This break is hard for me to admit, because I really hate showing weakness in regards to my lifting. 
This break is scary, because even though I don't want to now, I might decide not to return to powerlifting.
This break is a leap of faith, because I truly am terrified of losing everything I've worked for over the past 3 years. 
But this break has also made itself clear that it is no longer an option

I can't keep grinding away at myself trying to force training sessions to happen and chipping away slowly at the love I have for this sport. 

I'll come back stronger. 
But for now I'm stepping away for my very intentional hiatus. 

My Current Program

In the past few months I'd been seeing a rut stemming from three main problems:
- Laziness and inconsistency with training
- Demotivation with regards to the big 3 lifts
- Unhappiness with physical appearance

I was noticing that my program was demanding much more of me than I was willing to give, and that demand was creating some pretty damaging inconsistency.
I was aiming to powerlift 5-6 days a week on top of trying to fit 2-3 kickboxing workouts in. And, not only was my frequency too high for my willingness, but my intensity in each training session was definitely too high as well. All the inconsistency I'd been showing was really draining my gains-train, but regardless of that, I kept trying to lift at the same intensity that I had been when my frequency and motivation were at their peaks. (Note to self: this doesn't work.) Essentially, I was asking way too much of myself and then feeling really defeated when I was unable to deliver.

So, I decided that something needed to change, and I took sort of a drastic approach to designing my current program. I knew I really needed a program that would allow me to ENJOY lifting again, and in order to do that I needed to fix the three main problems I mentioned above. 
Here's what I did:

(1) I took my frequency way down, and I scheduled my lifting on days that I knew I'd be less tempted to skip.
This has been pretty key to my success with this program over the past four weeks. I went from 5-6 powerlifting days each week to just 3 a week, and I put them right in the middle on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 
I knew that Mondays were always long and exhausting days that tempted me to skip my workouts very frequently. Fridays and Saturdays were usually forfeited to my social life, and if Sunday wasn't also for socializing, then it was for resting. So, instead of trying to force myself to workout around those other demands I just eliminated the stress of it.

(2) I changed my intensity such that I wasn't hyper-focused on my lack of strength for the heavier weights.
Because of my inconsistency and randomness with my sessions my strength was suffering. I hadn't lost every ounce of gains, but those 1RMs I hit at my meet? No way I was hitting those again any time soon. In fact I was struggling to hit numbers way below those 1RMs, and it was really toying with me mentally. 
So I decided instead, for the first three weeks of my current program, to focus on volume. This allowed me to actually keep a pretty high intensity but also to lower the weights. And, since higher volume demands lower weights, I was less worried about how much strength I was losing, because I wasn't creeping so high up in numbers. It just wasn't as salient an issue anymore. 
Now, this change couldn't last forever, because it's most efficient to vary intensities and volumes, so I did have to put some heavier work in the program. But I spent three weeks building back up my strength and consistency so that I was able to hit decent numbers with relative ease (as compared to before) once things started getting heavier. 
This change has been pretty key to keeping myself positive about my progress.  

(3) I organized my lifts each day to cater to my current laziness.
LOL this change is hilarious to me...
The one thing I hate the absolute most is all the set up and racking and unracking of weights and warming up just to get to the working sets of a lift. So, to help eliminate as much dread as possible, I organized my lifts each day based on where the J-hooks are:
- Back squats, front squats, and overhead press all use the same J-hook height, so I do all of those on Tuesday.
- Bench press uses its own J-hook height, so I do that lift and some foam rolling on Wednesdays.
- Deadlifts, floor press, and bent over rows all share heights, so they go on Thursdays. 
And, voila, one major stressor is completely removed! 

(4) I intentionally incorporated days for my kickboxing (aka: cardio) workouts to slim back down.
Point blank: I was feeling fat and out of control of how I looked. So, I intentionally programmed 3 days JUST for kickboxing; Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays. (Occasionally I also do these workouts on Wednesday if I have the time, because my powerlifting workout is so short -- just bench press.) 
I'm on week four of doing things this way, and even if it's just a placebo effect, I'm definitely feeling more positive about my body. ...The irony of this, though, is that while I feel the leanest I have in a while my belt actually fits the TIGHTEST it has in a few months! haha

The moral of all this is: just because I didn't want to workout with the same vigor, intensity, and blind passion as before doesn't mean I don't still love my sport. It's OKAY that I needed to make these changes to my program. They probably won't be forever, but if they are, that's okay too. Having a life and desires and interests outside of powerlifitng has been something I needed to get used to after moving back home to Texas. But I've figured out how to best work around everything else while still maintaing a powerlifting regimen, and that's really important to me.

I never want to quit this sport, but this time I needed it to fit to ME rather than me conforming to it's demands. 

Where Have I Been?

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been posting on the Katelift Facebook page as much lately... So, where have I been?

Well, honestly, I've been pretty discouraged and demotivated with regards to Katelift in the recent weeks. Somewhere around 3-4 months ago I realized that I was unhappy with the amount of traffic and viewership my page was receiving. I felt like I was putting out good, quality content that was being underappreciated simply because my reach was so small. This made me start thinking up ways that I could hopefully increase that reach... 

I tried to come up with ways to make my content more enjoyable for its audience and more attractive to potential new viewers:
- I attempted to get more personal with my AMA (ask me anything) videos.
- I tried to create posts that were aesthetically more appealing and less wordy than my normal ones with Quick Tip Tuesdays.
- I also wanted to engage and commend members of my audience in some of my posts, and I used Weekend Shout Outs to do so.
- But I also didn't want to stop putting out the normal content my viewers were used to, so I created the How to Design Your Own Workout Program series. 
- In more recent weeks I even made an attempt to follow popular trends and post exercise videos using a Weekly Ab Challenge.

Occasionally it felt like some of the work I was putting into the page was paying off. I might get a small handful of new likes, or I might have a post that did exceptionally well, but for the most part my reach and viewership has remained stagnant. 

This is extremely discouraging, because I was putting a lot of work into Katelift each week. I'd focus on it after work when I had the time and energy, and I'd sometimes spend my days over the weekends compiling information and content for the upcoming week's posts. And, honestly? For the return I was getting, it just wasn't worth the added stress. I mean, we're talking literally HOURS of extra work for maybe 1-3 additional likes, and even more time spent for 1-3 additional followers. Aside from the stress already mentioned, this just started to seem like a silly thing to be so caught up in...

I have a family.
I have a social life.
I have a full-time job.
I have a training schedule.
Katelift is merely a passion of mine. 

I enjoy sharing my knowledge to those who want it, and I'll never stop doing that. It's part of my job as a personal trainer, and it's one of my favorite things to do. 
But I am genuinely just tired of trying so hard to think out of the box, try new things, and appeal to new people with something that was never intended to be work. It's gotten to a point where the thought of having to get this post or that post out on time was actually depressing me, and the content of said posts wasn't always even to my standards. I just wanted to put something out to stick to the schedule I'd set.
I also started to feel like I was sharing the same or very similar information quite often and repeating myself to a heinous degree simply because I was running out of ideas for the scheduled posts I'd created. So, not only was I bogged down by having to create so many posts, but I didn't even LIKE them most of the time.

That's not what I want this to be.

I want Katelift to go back to being something I ENJOY, and I want that enjoyment to read through the information I provide and the tone of my posts. 

I want to go back to confidently being able to say that I provide QUALITY content. 

I want to LIKE the posts I put out and be proud to share them. 

I want to renew my passion for Katelift, and I want to keep it that way.

So, with all this being said, I've taken a break recently, and I'll be making some changes in the future. I haven't decided if I'm going to do away completely with the scheduled posts I had been doing for the past couple months, but I certainly won't be placing the same emphasis on them if they do stick around. On the plus side, I do have a couple different ideas floating around in my head for some content-heavy posts in the near future, and I hope to start working on those soon! :)

Thanks for sticking around through this lull, and thanks for understanding. 

2016 RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre Recap!

First and foremost, I want to draw attention to the inherent amazingness of this sport with regards to progression. My very first powerlifting meet was 1 year and 7 months ago in March of 2015. Since then I have made immense progress, and my favorite thing about competing is that all of that progress is quantified, recorded, and there for me to look at almost two years later. It inspired me to go back and gather the numbers from ALL of my meets to compare to my performance yesterday, and wow... I'll let the numbers speak for themselves:

MARCH 21, 2015 - RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre
Women's raw classic junior division in the 132 lb weight class
(weighing ~130 lbs)
S: I went 3/3 ending with 209.4 lbs
B: I went 3/3 ending with 143.3 lbs
D: I went 3/3 ending with 264.6 lbs
Total: 9/9 with 617.3 lbs
Wilks: 316.4

AUGUST 8, 2015 - Ironman Classic Push/Pull
Women's raw open division in the 132 lb weight class
(weighing ~130 lbs)
B: I went 2/3 ending with 154.3 lbs
D: I went 3/3 ending with 292.1 lbs
"Total": 5/6 with 446.4
Wilks does not apply to this meet.

NOVEMBER 21, 2015 - RPS Gate City Gauntlet
Women's raw classic open division in the 132 lb weight class
(weighing 132.5 lbs -- riiight at the cut off)
S: I went 3/3 ending with 240 lbs
B: I went 3/3 ending with 165 lbs
D: I went 2/3 ending with 280 lbs
Total: 8/9 with 685 lbs
Wilks: 345.95

OCTOBER 15, 2016 - RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre
Women's raw classic open division in the 148 lb weight class
(weighing 134.8 lbs)
S: 264.6 lbs
B: 181.9 lbs
D: 319.7 lbs
Total: 766.2 lbs
Wilks: 381.85

I was already proud of my performance at the meet yesterday, but up next to these numbers from the past 19 months, I am even more proud of myself and how far I've come. Now for some pictures, videos, and thoughts!

My support system at the meet! My parents, my inlaws, two of my good friends, and one other friend who isn't pictured. I am so lucky to have people like this behind me. <3

Fun singlet and socks picture the day before the meet. As nervous as I was, I'm all about having fun at these competitions, so I like to be the one of the flashiest people on the platform. :P 

Fun singlet and socks picture the day before the meet. As nervous as I was, I'm all about having fun at these competitions, so I like to be the one of the flashiest people on the platform. :P 

The absolutely awesome sign my friend made for me! "Go Katelyn LIFT THAT SHIT!" haha I love it.

I took 1st place and best lifter in my divisions! (And as you can see by the look on my face, I was pretty surprised!)

The immediate results:

- I went 9/9 on my lifts
- I ended with a 766.2 lb total and a wilks score of 381.85
- I took first place in the women's raw classic open division in the 148 weight class
- I took best lifter in the women's raw classic open division
- I set a new Texas state record with my total beating the previous on by ~6 lbs
- I tied the current Texas state record for bench press, so if I weighed less than the current record holder then I will also take that record

Videos & thoughts:

SQUAT:

I went 3/3 on squats, and my third attempt was 264.6 lbs. 
I progress from 231.5 lbs to 253.5 lbs, and even though that second attempt felt good, it was slowing down. I gave myself the option of a third attempt at either 264.6 (which is what I chose) or 270.1 lbs. I chose the safer route because (1) the second attempt did slow down noticeably, (2) 264.6 was already going to be a meet and lifetime personal best, (3) I just didn't feel confident about hitting 270. 
In some ways I wish I had just gone for the 270 attempt after watching the video, but in others I'm glad I didn't, because if I had failed I only would've gotten my 253.5 on the board from my second attempt, which would have messed with my total. 
I think overall I played the numbers correctly here, though the curiosity of 'could I have hit 270?!' will surely nag at me for a bit.
264.6 is a 24.6 lb meet-PR and a 9.6 lb lifetime-PR!  

BENCH PRESS:

I went 3/3 on my bench press, and my third attempt was 181.9 lbs.
I progressed from 165.3 lbs to 176.4 lbs, and again I gave myself an option for the third attempt. I was either going for 181.9 lbs, or if things felt exceptionally amazing, I'd try for 187.4 lbs. As you can gather, things did not feel exceptionally amazing on my second attempt. At no point during the rep was I afraid I'd fail it, and it moved consistently, but wow it slowed down. And with bench press, small jumps in numbers are rather big jumps in ability. 
So I went with the safer route of 181.9 lbs, which is a huge meet PR for me, and I think I definitely made the right choice here. 
The one thing I wish I had taken the time to check during bench attempts were the current RPS records, because I could have taken a fourth attempt to be both the state (currently 181.9 lbs) and world records (currently 185 lbs) in my division. This would have given me the opportunity to try for 187.4 lbs, but if I failed, it wouldn't have affected my meet total at all. I'm really kicking myself for not being more aware of that at the time. 
Regardless, 181.9 lbs is a 16.6 lb meet-PR!

DEADLIFT:

I went 3/3 on deadlifts, and my third attempt was 319.7 lbs.
I progressed from 280 lbs to 303.1 lbs. Things were still feeling really good on my second attempt (by some miracle), and because deadlifts are easier to make bigger jumps with, I decided to go for the more ambitious of my 3rd attempt options. I was chosing between 314.2 lbs or 319.7 lbs, and I obviously chose the latter. I'm really glad I did, too, because the ability was clearly there. Slow or not, this rep moved very consistently from start to finish, and there was no point during it when I thought I would fail it. Was it hard? Yes absolutely. But I felt very confident as soon as it came off the ground. Furthermore, had I not gone the more ambitious route here I would NOT have beat the current Texas state record for powerlifting total. So, once again, I think I played the numbers perfectly with this lift.
319.7 is a 27.6 lb meet-PR and an 11.7 lb lifetime-PR!

OVERALL:

I am extremely pleased with yesterday's outcome. I was more nervous for this meet than I've ever been before. I had told so many people about it, and I had quite handful of people actually coming to the meet to show their support. I felt a fair amount of pressure simply not wanting to let down any expectations. Additionally, with this being my fourth meet, I was getting to be more appropriate and knowledgeable with my attempt choices. Now, even though I felt very confident in my reasoning for picking my attempts the way I did, I was EXTREMELY nervous about them, because the numbers were much bigger than I've ever seen before. I mean, for all of my lifts I was opening with what were my THIRD attempts at my last meet. There was a lot of pressure coming from my own self to really step up my game and hit big numbers. And, then of course, there was the fact that I DIDN'T MAKE MY WEIGHT CLASS. 

I wasn't letting myself get overly bogged down by this. At a certain point, there's nothing more you can do. But I genuinely did not expect to place nearly as well as I did, if at all, being in the 148 lb weight class... especially weighing a mere 134.8 lbs! 

But amazingly enough -- and I throw out a HUGE thanks to everyone who supported me an cheered me on whether in person or from a distance -- I was able to absolutely nail this meet, and that feels incredible. 

MEET WEEK! And A Bit About Openers.

Well, it's here; it's meet week!

I've now tested and decided on all of my opening lifts.
I just completed my last heavy training day this past Friday.
I have no idea what I currently weigh or what I'm going to weigh-in at in a week's time.
I'm just trying to enjoy the last of my prep, be reasonable with my diet, and keep things as normal as possible to preserve my performance come meet day. 

I've been doing really well with homecooked lunches and dinners for the past few weeks, and as I always preach, cooking your own meals is a great step to limiting calories. I've felt really awesome in my training as well for the past few weeks, and I'm definitely feeling ready for the meet. It's crazy to be saying that, though, because right before this nice little stride I've hit I felt completely and utterly UNPREPARED for competition. While it was definitely nerve wracking to be ~5 weeks away from a meet and feeling fat and weak, I wasn't too worried, because I see this pattern with every meet prep I've done:

10-12 weeks out I've got no concerns in the world
6-8 weeks out I start to get a little more series about things but still unconcerned
4-5 weeks out I start to feel extremely stressed and unprepared
1-3 weeks out a switch flips and I feel very ready for the platform

Every. Time.

The only thing that was messing with me in the 1-3 weeks prior to the meet during this prep was picking my openers, and most specifically, it was picking my squat opener...

There are a lot of things to be considered when choosing an opening attempt:

1. You want the weight to be safe enough to prevent against failing all three attempts. 
As I've probably explained before, if you fail all three attempts for any of the lifts you are disqualified from the competition. Additionally, if you fail an attempt, you cannot go down in weight. You can only keep the weight the same or increase it. So, if you pick an opening attempt that's too ambitious (which should never happen, because openers are NOT for PRs), and you fail the rep, then you have no choice other than to try it again or make it even heavier... Chances are, if you fail your opener, you are going to fail all three attempts and then be disqualified. 
Most often, in regards to this point, people will give advice like: "pick a weight you can triple on any given day," "pick your 5rm," "pick easy, daily weight," "pick a weight you haven't fail for a single in 6+ months," etc. 

2. But, even though you want a safe weight, you also want to get some numbers on the board.
Let's say you choose an extremely safe weight for your opening attempt (#200 lbs, for example), and you have a successful rep. Then you jump right into trying to PR on your 2nd attempt (#260 lbs, for example), but you fail it. You try again for your 3rd attempt and fail again. Well, now you only have your opening weight counting towards your total, and if it was TOO safe, that number is going to be TOO small; smaller than you were likely capable of putting up. Furthermore, that is a HUGE jump to make between attempts... Going from super safe weight directly to a PR is probably going to be a bigger jump than you want to make, which brings me to the final point.

3. You want to choose an opener that's high enough to allow for bigger attempts for your 2nd and 3rd.
Generally you warm up prior to your opening attempt, and then all three attempts are completed without going back into the warm up area. This means that you will lift your 1st and 2nd attempts without anything in between other than standing around waiting to get on the platform again. The same is true for your 2nd a 3rd lifts. So, you want to keep in mind the size of the jump your body is used to making in warm ups and regular training. If you are wanting to PR at #315 pounds, then starting at #200 is probably not going to work...

So, with ALLLLLL that in mind, here are my opening weights:
S: #231.5 lbs / 105 kg
B: #165.3 lbs / 75 kg
D: #281.1 lbs / 127.5 kg

-- Sorry, I know the videos are small. (I didn't want them to be too big!) But if you click on the "YouTube" button it will take you to YouTube to see it fullsize. --

Here are my preliminary plans for 2nd and 3rd:
S: -> #255/260 -> #265/270
B: -> #175 -> #180/185
D: -> #300/305 -> #315/320

The exact numbers will depend a lot on their conversion to kilograms and how the prior attempt feels. In the past I've almost always gone with the lower end of my options, but this year I'm going to try to be a little more confident in myself and ambitious with my picks. 

THREE WEEKS OUT?!

Every time I look at the calendar I can't believe how close the meet is! Saturday October 15th!

My new geometric stag tattoo! 

UPDATES:

DIET - It's not awful as of late. It's certainly not been a source of disappointment, but I have no idea how much I weigh. It will honestly be a complete surprise at weigh-ins, and that's kind of exciting for me. While I could almost definitely set some records if I make it into the 132 class, I'm actually okay with competing in the 148 class if that's what ends up happening; comfort and performance over miserable dieting. 

TRAINING - It's going very well. I had an incredible "intensity day" this past Friday on the Texas Method program. However, I just got a new tattoo, so I'm going to have to adjust my program a bit to avoid disrupting the healing. I don't think this will have too big an impact, but it's not something I was planning on. Foolishly I thought I could get a big tattoo on my outer thigh and squat less than two days later. -_- 

This most recent intensity day was incredible. 

SQUATS - #230 x 6
> Projected 1rm of #271 lbs
> Current 1rm: #255 lbs

>> Reps 1-3 looked and felt pretty smooth. Rep 4 slowed down a bit but still looked smooth. Rep 5 was pretty slow and ugly in comparison, but I somewhat randomly decided to go for a 6th... Rep 6 was an ugly struggle bus from any perspective, but it moved, and that was a pretty huge victory.

BENCH - #170 x 5
> Projected 1rm of #195 lbs
> Current 1rm: #185 lbs

>> Reps 1 and 2 were beautiful in all regards, honestly. Reps 3 and 4 slowed down off the chest and elbows started to flare a bit. Rep 5 was really quite slow for the entire ascent. I had originally intended to go for 6 if I was feeling it, and you can tell in the video that I considered it for a quick second, but after the slow speed of #5 I decided against it. 

DEADLIFT - #260 x 5 
> Projected 1rm of #299 lbs
> Current 1rm: #305 lbs
>> The very first rep was actually with #245, and it was smooth, quick, easy, no complaints... that's how I knew I messed up with loading the bar! 
>>> Reps 1-5 were actually all very similar looking and similar difficulty. I definitely see flaws in the pull, but I'm happy with how consistent they were, and I'm very happy with the moderate difficulty. I very likely could've pulled a 6th, but I don't like deadlifts or volume, so I just didn't even consider it. 

7 WEEKS OUT - when did that happen?!

Well, luckily a healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds/week, because I have about 7 more pounds to lose. I weighed in at 139 lbs at 2pm at the doctor's office earlier this week, which was a huge motivator to just do the damn thing and get down to the 132 weight class. I've fluctuated so much in my caring about the weight class since I registered for the meet...

Originally, back in June when I registered, I was all gung-ho for making weight, because I had almost 5 months to do it. I did great for about 3 weeks, but then, of course, diet continued to be my demon, and I sort of gave up on caring. I also developed a love for craft beer that never existed before (bad timing, or what?) that has made it that much harder to cut back on calories. Beer was NEVER an issue for me before. Alcohol in general was the easiest thing for me to omit, but now it's just another hurdle to stare at between my newfound love for craft beers and rekindling of my love for red wines. -_- 

However, despite my total lack of effort on the diet front, I DID get down from fluctuating around 145 lbs to that 2pm doctor's visit weigh-in of 139... which means I'm now fluctuating below 140 lbs. The only thing I can attribute that weight loss to is my job at a kickboxing gym, which was new to me when I first began meet prep. It's an extremely physically demanding job on most days, and I was given a free membership to the gym, so I picked up on those workouts 2-3 times/week. All that added cardio allowed me to completely ignore my diet and still drop a few pounds.

But, now that the initial shock-my-body phase of the kickboxing gym is out of the way, and I've adapted to it, I'm going to have to focus a little more on my diet to keep the progress flowing. But, like I said, luckily the healthy rate is 1-2 lbs lost per week, because I've got another ~7 pounds to lose and 7 weeks to go. Not to mention that the amount of calories I need to eat to lose weight has probably increased thanks to the kickboxing gym. So, theoretically, this should an absolute walk in the park... But it's me, and any time emphasis is placed on my diet I generally go crazy in the opposite direction. 

So, since it's unrealistic for me to try to stop eating out completely between now and the meet I've decided to make it a goal to get a salad any time I do go out to eat to minimize calories. I've also decided, since historically it's been very easy, to stop drinking alcohol between now and the meet. I genuinely think those two changes will be enough to get me to my weight class if I can stick to them. So, we'll see what happens... This weight-class business has easily been my least favorite part of competitive powerlifting. 

But, the lifting, though. I love that part. ^_^ And, it's going well. As mentioned in my previous update, I'm now on the Texas Method program. I'm currently on week 4, and it's just a grueling as expected. The workouts themselves are going fine, I'd say, but because it is so tough a program, the mentality going into them is definitely a bit of a struggle. I KNOW it's going to be a really difficult session, so it's pretty draining both physically and mentally. But I haven't failed any sets yet, so the progress is happening, and my lifts are all feeling good even if a bit weaker than I'd like. (Feeling weaker than I want to be is just a constant in my life since starting powerlifting lol) 

So where am I on meet prep?
I feel like I'm largely drowning with regards to weight-class lol but there was a glimmer of hope when I weighed in at 139 lbs.
And, I feel like my head is above water with regards to my lifts, but I can't help but think of how much further along I'd be if I was able to be more consistent leading up to the Texas Method. (Got sick a couple times and moved into a new house = taking breaks from training. Life happens.)

At this point I'm just really curious to see how I'm going to perform on the platform come October 15th. 

Good luck to me!

Good luck to me!

10 weeks out

It's been a while since I came to update this journal! That's mostly because I was pretty far out from my meet that nothing huge was happening. I also got sick a couple times, which derailed my training as did moving into a new house. BUT, now the dust has settled, we have our home gym up and running, and I'm 10 weeks out from the meet. I just started up again with the Texas Method Program, and I intend to take it all the way to the week before the meet if it'll let me!

THE TEXAS METHOD:

This program is ideal for building strength and is written largely for competitive powerlifters (hence why I'm using it to prepare for my meet in October). It comes from the mind of Mark Rippetoe and all the intimate details, explanations, and variations can be found in the book Practical Programming. But, here's the run down… 

Definitely check this book out if you're interested in the programming aspect of strength training. It covers more than just powerlifting programs (including weight lifting and accessory work), and it gives excellent detail and explanations.

Definitely check this book out if you're interested in the programming aspect of strength training. It covers more than just powerlifting programs (including weight lifting and accessory work), and it gives excellent detail and explanations.

The program works in sets of 5 in varying intensities. It consists of three workout days, and it gets to be pretty grueling a week or two in. Here's how it looks on paper:

DAY ONE - MONDAY - VOLUME DAY
5x5 on squats @ ~90% of Friday's weight
5x5 on bench press @ ~90% of Friday's weight

TUESDAY - REST

DAY TWO - WEDNESDAY - RECOVERY DAY
3s x 5r on squats @ 80-90% of Monday's weight
3s x 5r on overhead press

THURSDAY - REST

DAY THREE - FRIDAY - INTENSITY DAY
1s x 5r on squats
1s x 5r on bench press
1s x 5r on deadlifts

SAT/SUN - REST
(Two days here to complete the week and before you're ready for the volume day again... Trust me, you'll be glad for both of those days when it comes time to do your 5x5's again.)

So, the volume day weights are based on the intensity day, and the recovery day weights are based on the volume day, and each week the idea is to increase every day's workouts by uniform increments. For example, since the smallest plates in the gym are usually 2.5's, the smallest jump we can make is 5 pounds total on the bar. So, each week we would aim to increase every day's working weights by 5 pounds. Eventually, though, that will become unsustainable, and that's when you'll need to get into Practical Programming read up on the nitty gritty details. But here's the rundown on what to do when the 5 pound jumps become unsustainable…

When you start to fail reps it's time to either:
1. change the set/rep schemes to hit a similar amount of TOTAL working reps for the workout but in more achievable numbers (i.e. 2s x 3r instead of 1s x 5r for a similar total number of reps, but with a lower demand on the reps of each set), or
2. regress a week or two and work back up to where you were when you failed to, theoretically, be able to move past that point.

But the main idea being this: if you start to fail reps or otherwise plateau, you need to change something.

And the main idea of the entire Texas Method program is to build pure strength using an enduring scheme of 5 reps over varying intensities. 

This video comes from my first week's intensity day (1s x 5r for squats, bench, and deadlifts.)

I picked perfect weights for week 1 on my squats and bench press; challenging but very achievable. I managed to get 6 reps, instead of 5, for both squats and bench press.
Being that this is week 1, I definitely don't want the weights to feel unachievable already, because the program will ramp up extremely quickly. (In 4 weeks I'll be doing my 5x5 at the same weight I did a ONEx5 today, to give you an idea.)
So, itting 6 reps instead of 5 is totally OKAY, and here's why... Intensity day essentially aims to get AS CLOSE to a 5 rep max as possible. So, theoretically, you should be able to do just at 5 reps and that's it. However, one extra rep won't hurt your progress, and it doesn't veer to far from a 5rm. Failed reps, on the other hand, will derail progress. Since the goal is to hit a 5rm, we want 5 reps minimum. (And, if you find yourself failing reps at all on this program, you should be making immediate changes to rectify the situation.) And, in the same vein, hitting 7 or 8 reps is a good sign that the weight you're using is much too low, because that's veering a little too far from a 5rm. The sweet spot really is 5 reps, maybe 6.

When it comes to deadlifts, though, I ovvershot. You'll see me actually fail a rep in the video before finishing a fourth and stopping there. Because of this I've adjusted my intensity day deadlift weights moving forward. (Again, if you're failing reps at all on the program, you should make immediate changes.)

So, as you can see, this first week sort of serves as a trial and error period in picking the weights unless you're basing them directly off of a prior program, which I am not. I happened to nail it with my squat and bench weights, but I wasn't so correct with my deadlift weight. I had also forgotten how grueling it is to do squats and deadlifts on the same day, and I didn't take into account how my performance would weaken for the second lower body lift. 

18.5 Weeks Out!

Once a meet is on the calendar, it's never too early to start preparing. However, this far out, my training is not focused on prepping and peaking for a meet. Instead, I came off the program that I described in my last post, and I'm in a split routine at the moment. While I did make this choice with my meet in mind, it's not a meet-specific training regimen. When I get to 10-12 weeks out I'll switch back to a competition-specific program that will be geared towards my performance for the event. For now, though, I'm just keeping the grooves greased, the strength gains flowing, and working in some other fun exercises that a more specific program won't have room for. (Oh, and cardio, lots of cardio.)

Why cardio?! Aren't you a powerlifter?!

1

Well, while I may not be following a meet-specific training program for the time being, I AM working towards the meet-specific goal of losing some damn weight to make it back to my weight class. I haven't actually weighed myself in a few weeks, but last time I did I was at about 145 lbs... and I need to be at 132 or slightly below. 

To many of you, this meager ~13 lbs is no problem. (I've had plenty of people swear to me that they can get rid of similar amounts of weight the night before the meet... on which I call total bullshit.) But, for me, the idea of losing any weight at all whatsoever seems basically impossible.

A little secret about myself: I've actually NEVER consistently lost weight with the intention to consistently lose weight. (By that I mean, maybe it has happened once or twice, but I wasn't intending it to happen or tracking to see that it had.) The only time I've actually lost weight was ~3 pounds prior to one of my meets, and it was nothing more than water weight most likely. (A BIG secret about myself: I actually weighed in about 1/2 a pound too heavy for my weight class, but the angel sent from heaven doing my weigh-in put me in the 132 class anyway.) Other than that one time, I have only continued to steadily gain weight since my fitness journey began.

Now, much of this weight is muscle mass, and I don't want to part with it any time soon. I'm also not really interested in what the scale says unless it comes to competition weight classes when I unfortunately have to care about the number on the scale. However, I had reached a point where I was feeling unhappy with my appearance and out of control of my eating behaviors. I genuinely don't care what I weigh until I start to FEEL like my weight in an issue in the ways just mentioned. So, luckily, I signed up for this meet right around the time I was starting to feel unhappy and out of control, so I'd been given a deadline and a tangible reason for losing a few pounds. (As much as it's warned against to lose weight for a specific event or with a specific date in mind, the necessity in this situation really does help me.)

So, my first step was to start doing cardio.
Then step two was to do more cardio.
Step three was to turn the heat up on the cardio.
And here we are.

I've been adhering to the addition or cardio pretty effortlessly, which was a surprise to me. Turns out, I don't hate it at all. I actually rather enjoy it in reasonable doses. 

But then came diet... my last post in this journal actually talks about my issues with dieting and how it's easily my biggest demon. I lack self control and will power in many cases, and until the time of me writing *this* update, I also lacked the true desire to make changes to my diet. (Check out this Facebook post I just wrote about the difference between DECIDING on a change and actually WANTING that change if you care to have a deeper understanding of this concept.)

I muddled around deciding a change needed to be made for about 3 weeks, but I didn't actually adhere to anything. All I did was decide and declare that, "I need to lose weight for my meet." Until earlier this week I hadn't actually wanted it enough to DO anything. But, luckily, I've been able to change that. 

I wrote myself a meal plan, and I did it smarter than I have in the past. (I'm so thankful for that previous experience, or I'd probably still be muddling.)

I wrote out ONE entire day of meals and snacks, and I calculated the calories/fat/carbs/protein and the %s for that day. I intend to eat according to that plan every day for at least a week (I'm on day 4). Then, when I'm ready to change some of the menu, I'll adjust it, calculate the new intakes, and follow the new plan every day for at least another week, and so on... 

My current meal plan for the week (or longer if I decideI want to keep going with this one). Short and simple. Easy to follow.

My current meal plan for the week (or longer if I decideI want to keep going with this one). Short and simple. Easy to follow.

This has made grocery shopping -- which was one of the biggest things I just could not get a grip on -- and packing/prepping my meals SO. MUCH. EASIER. It also takes the guesswork out of eating, which I struggled with when all I was doing was tracking on MyFitnessPal. Sure, just tracking gives the days some variety and some leniency, but I never knew what I was going to eat next, and that meant that I didn't pack or prep food, and THAT meant that I would often wind up eating out instead. 

Furthermore, I am ENJOYING the meals I've written out for myself, because I was smart about writing them. I didn't plan to eat things that I knew I would absolutely hate. I also wrote in deserts and treats and made them fit the macros and %s I wanted to hit. This way I enjoy every meal/snack, and I still get to look forward to a delicious Dove ice cream bar every day. :P

This is breakfast: one egg, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheese scrambled together. 

This is breakfast: one egg, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheese scrambled together. 

Lunch: 3 oz of rotisserie chicken, 3 oz of boiled potatoes, BBQ sauce, and 2 pickles. This is definitely my favorite meal. 

Lunch: 3 oz of rotisserie chicken, 3 oz of boiled potatoes, BBQ sauce, and 2 pickles. This is definitely my favorite meal. 

And lastly, I'm not being debilitatingly strict with it. Last night I went out for one of my best friend's birthdays, and it inevitably this included alcohol. So, instead of either (1) refraining entirely from participating in the shenanigans, or (2) completely saying "F it!" and going nuts, I made adjustments to the day's food so that I could afford the calories and carbs of a few beers while still getting enough protein and fat. I took out a high carb snack, drank about 3 beers, accepted that I'd be a bit over my calorie intake, and had a really good time. 

THAT is the kind of diet change I can stick to, and hopefully I will see more success with this than my many many failed attempts in the past. Additionally, I'm hoping that with all the nutrient dense foods, higher protein intake, and only slightly decreased calorie intake, I won't see the sharp decline in strength I usually see when I've (pathetically attempted) dieting in the past.

I'd definitely say meet prep is going much better than it was when I last updated. 

And, for good measure, some pictures of where I'm at. ;)

Updates On Meet Prep - 05/17/2016

LIFTING

The lifting, as expected, is going wonderfully. 

My best numbers currently are:
Squat: #245 lbs x 2
Bench: #175 lbs x 3
Deadlift: #305 lbs x 1
Overhead Press: #100 lbs x 3

(They're all shown in the videos below.)

Some days I feel stronger than others, but the general trend is that strength is increasing. On the days when I feel 'weaker' or like I've programmed too ambitiously, I've been able to make appropriate adjustments, so that things are back on track by the time that specific training day comes around again. 

I'm following a program that includes powerlifting 3x/week at varying intensities with the goal being to set new rep PRs at the end of each week. 
- TUES - volume day (squats and bench press); lower weight, higher reps -- usually a total of 20-25 reps at the working weight over 3-6 sets
- THUR - recovery day (light squats and OHP); keeping with the neural adaptation and continuing to "grease the groove" of the movements, but lower weights and reps so as to allow the muscle groups to recover before intensity day
- SAT - intensity day (squats, bench press, and deadlift); higher weights than Tues but with lower reps -- usually no more than 5 total reps at the working weight over 1-3 sets

I've added in some additional exercises to aid the growth of the big 3 (chin ups, pull ups, dips, front squats, etc.) as well as some cardio to hopefully help with my weight cut. Which brings me to my next point...

THE WEIGHT CUT (and diet in general)

I'll be the first person to tell you without hesitation that I'm absolutely awful at dieting, but that doesn't come without a bit of explanation, of course...

I remember having a completely benign relationship with food up until my freshman year of college when I had my first experiences with binge eating. I won't say I had a necessarily HEALTHY relationship with food until then, but it was benign in the sense that it didn't cause me any anxiety or otherwise negative emotions. I didn't put much thought into it or really even notice what I was eating prior to that first year of college. Only once I started going to the gym did I find myself hyper-focused on my appearance, my weight, and my eating habits. ((Bit of a side-tangent here: part of the reason I love powerlifting so much is because it took the focus away from just aesthetics for me and placed it more heavily on STRENGTH, which wound up being a much healthier psychological approach to fitness for me. I'd go so far as to say that finding powerlifting saved my fitness.))

Back to diet: early on I was unable to make the connection between my mindset and my behaviors, but over the years I've developed an understanding of the way my perspective shapes the way that I treat my food. What I've realized is that whenever I create any kind of pressure to lose weight, and therefore to change what I eat or to eat less, I find myself completely out of control of my intakes. It doesn't always happen immediately, but eventually over the course of any stint of 'watching what I eat' I will lose control and wind up in varying severities of a binge. 

What I haven't quite developed yet, though, is the understanding of how to overcome this issue. The longest I've stuck with a proper diet (and by that I mean eating to maintain my current weight and aiming to hit my macros -- cals, carbs, fats, proteins -- every day) was a solid month. And then things went awry. 

Now, I'm not denying that my own faults are at play here; laziness, lack of willpower, whatever it may be. But what I *AM* doing is noting that there is a definite behavioral patter. 
> accept in my mind that I need to lose weight
> implement strategies to reach that goal
> wind up in a state of lost control

So, with all that being said, I made it a total of ONE day so far feeling in control of my weight-loss mindset. Luckily, I have 5 months to lose the ~12-15 pounds to reach my competition weight of 132. By no means am I just going to throw in the towel because two days have passed and only one of them reflected positive behaviors. However, I'm essentially walking on eggshells with the way I approach this situation in my own mind, because 5 months isn't nearly as long as it seems when you have trouble with consistency and self-control. And, furthermore, because I know that if I don't manage to make it back down to my competition weight I'll be extremely disappointed in myself, and that will only serve to create even WORSE behaviors. 

So the plan for now is to just keep on trucking. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.) One bad day doesn't have to ruin the rest of them.

And, hey, at least my training is going well. ^_^

The Dust Has Settled & A New Meet Is On The Books

As some of you (probably all of you) may know, my husband and I just moved across the country from Boston back to our hometown of Austin. Once we knew we were going to be moving, I decided that I'd wait until we were (somewhat) settled in Austin before registering for my next meet. I wanted to make sure that I had a job, a steady gym to train at, and a solid training plan before throwing down nearly $100 for a meet.

Images from my very first meet, the RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre, in March 2015.

Images from my very first meet, the RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre, in March 2015.

Well, now that the dust has begun to settle, I've registered for the RPS Texas Gainzsaw Massacre in October! It's exciting to have a meet to work towards again, and I'm really looking forward to stepping back on the competition platform. 

My plan for now is honestly very simple:
(1) Do not overestimate how much time I have until the meet. It may seem like it's a ways away, but really, it's only 5.5 months, and I'll have a lot going on between now and then.
(2) Start a slow weight cut right now. I would really love to compete in the 132 weight class again, but I honestly have no idea how much I weigh at the moment. I just know that the last time I checked I was ~140, and I imagine it's only gone up since then. Cutting weight is NOT my friend, so I'll plan to just be mindful of intakes starting now, and hopefully I'll be in a good place to cut down the last few pounds about a month prior to the meet. 
(3) Going along with that slow cut; add in cardio 1-2 times/week.

That's it. 

That's my whole plan.

My third bench attempt at 154 pounds at the Ironman Classic in August 2015.

The training and actual lifting part of the competition has never been what gave me trouble. Making weight is always the most stressful and difficult part of the whole process. So I'll just keep training like I am (though I may switch up my program to a meet-specific prep when the time is right), and I'll focus on toning down the fat-kid mentality. 

I'm so excited to get back at it and to see where my comp numbers are! 1RM estimations from online calculators are looking goooooood these days:
S: estimated at #258, based on #245x2
B: estimated at #194, based on #155x8
D: estimated at #316, based on #275x5

Now I just have to leave it on the platform. ^_^

My third deadlift attempt at 300 pounds at the Gate City Gauntlet in November 2015. 

My third deadlift attempt at 300 pounds at the Gate City Gauntlet in November 2015. 

My Transition to Low Bar Squats

It took me so long to come around to making this switch simply, because I'm stubborn and resistant to change. I've always squatted high bar, and this, plus the fact that I was competing pretty regularly, made me unwilling to entirely change my squatting style. 

HOWEVER, I just started reading Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength, which advocates heavily for low bar squatting, and I don't have a competition on the books any time soon, so I decided to give low bar a real try. (I've tried once or twice before very halfheartedly, and I gave up very quickly when it didn't feel the same as high bar... but of course it wouldn't feel the same. It's completely different.) 

I am extremely glad I decided to try for real, because I absolutely love how they feel, and I now plan on switching my competition squat to low bar. Why? Well, in short, my tries with low bar have all felt more like a squat than anything I ever did with high bar. They just feel right, and there's no pain (knee or low back) at all associated with the movement for me when using low bar, and I can feel the work coming from all the right places. 

Notable differences for me:

1. Much less stress on the low back: high bar squats, because they demand a more upright torso/puffed up chest, seem to actually facilitate lumbar overextension. (Stick out your chest and feel what happens at your low back without intentional control.) With low bar I find it much easier to control for overextension while in the top position, and there just naturally seems to be less of it during the descent and at the bottom position. This is an extremely big plus for me; someone with lumbar lordosis. 

2. Much less knee cave, and much easier to control for knee cave: in my high bar squat I was noticing that my stance became less and less consistent and less and less easy to control. Like, I would set up in a stance that felt comfortable, then I'd look down, and one foot would be turned out to ~35 degrees, and the other foot would have basically no turn out, and try as I might, I just could not get my feet even much less to STAY that way. This imbalanced and uncooperative stance made knee valgus nearly impossible to avoid as the weight got heavy. My feet didn't know where to be, so as a direct result, my knees didn't know where to be either. However, because of the downward eye gaze with low bar, I find it much easier to get my feet where I want them and to keep them there. (I'm replicating the squat form taught in Starting Strength, which suggests feet at shoulder width and turned out at 30 degrees.) This enhanced control over my stance, and turnout of the stance itself, has made it invaluably easy to avoid knee cave. 

3. Hips UP vs. forward: because the low bar squat demands a more horizontal back angle, the hip drive naturally comes from a motion of pushing the hips UPWARD, whereas in a high bar squat with a more upright torso, hip drive more naturally comes from a forward motion. (Driving the hips UP in a high bar squat would cause the torso to tilt forward and the bar to lean forward of the mid-foot throwing the whole movement off balance.) Hips UP hip drive has proven to be and feel much more powerful in my personal experience and according to Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength. 

All in all, I'm very excited about this transition! 

The "next" phase - 5x5

The last post I made was in Nov '15 just after my last meet, and I detailed what my next steps would be after that meet. During my prep for it I was discovering quite a lot of imbalances and weaknesses that I really needed to address, so that was step one; figure out exactly what needed ironing out and then work on it. Part of that first step was to take a break from the platform, and that phase lasted ~2 weeks. From there I started up on a new strength-based program (5/3/1) and continued my corrective exercises. This was step 2; keep working on the issues, but continue to build strength.

Unfortunately, though, I didn't much like 5/3/1. In fact. I hated it. It felt like it was eating away at my progress, and it was entirely too easy for me; not enough volume, too much resting, too low an intensity, etc. So I switched to a modified 5x5 program, and I couldn't be happier with my decision. 

I've continued working on the imbalances and weaknesses I have on top of the 5x5, and I'm now on week 6. My lifts have progressed rather linearly:
SQUAT: #185 -> #190 -> #195 -> #200 (2 sets belted) -> #200 -> #205 (2 sets belted)
BENCH: #135 -> #140 -> #145 -> #150 -> #155 -> #160
OHP (3s x 5r): n/a -> #70 -> #75 -> #80 (5 sets) -> #85
DEADLIFT (3s x 5r): #225 -> #235 -> #240 (5 sets) -> #245 (5 sets) -> #250

- - - 

REVIEW: 
On my 5x5 days, I'm faced with decently high volume (25 heavy reps), and it's building up an endurance that I previously did not have. It's teaching me to grind through the last reps when I probably would have stopped before using this program. Pretty consistently the first three reps of every set feel smooth and easy, and then the 4th and the 5th feel like they might not even happen. Continuing through to complete those 4th and 5th reps is absolutely invaluable to, not only my mentality, but my strength as well. 

My muscles and my movement patterns had previously learned to stop at a certain level of intensity. Now though? I'm adapting them to push past that point and into a higher level. This is absolutely going to make me a stronger competitive powerlifter since the intensity levels on the platform are some of the highest I'll experience. Learning to grind -- safely and appropriately -- through a lift is extremely specific and functional to my sport, and I've enjoyed it quite a lot. 

On my non-5x5 days I work in different rep ranges and with a variety of barbell assistance exercises (paused, chains, bands, dumbbells, etc.). Occasionally I take these days into the 1-3 rep range just to make sure that I don't lose the skill for a 1 rep max since my sport is based on it. But I try not to lift in such low rep ranges too often on top of the 5x5, because one body can only take so much. In other words, if it FEELS like a good day to go heavy (1-3 reps), then I'll do it. Otherwise, I'll stick to the assistance drills.

- - - 

DELOAD:
I'll be needing a deload week soon. The intensity level is on a steady rise for each lift, and it's feeling like a deload could do me good. And that's what so much of this program has been based on; how I'm feeling. My accessories, and even some aspects of the 5x5 (belted or unbelted? 3 sets or 5 sets for the flexible lifts?, etc.) rely on how I feel that day. This is something else new that I'm learning. Previously I would do whatever was written down on the paper, and then how I felt was based on my performance that day, not the other way around. Currently, using my feeling to dictate my performance is COMPLETELY different, and it's really kind of uncomfortable for me. I'm so used to just doing exactly what is written down and some days it's really hard to take it down a notch when that's what feels right. But I think this is a very valuable way to train, and it's something I wish I had learned much sooner. 

- - - 

SHARING:
If anyone is curious about the details of the program, I'd be happy to share. I'm certainly no pro when it comes to writing powerlifting programs, but I've really nailed it with this most recent one; for myself at least. 

3.5 WEEKS OUT?!

Woah... 3.5 weeks out? But, but... where have I been?!

Yup. I have my next meet on November 21st! I registered a couple months ago, and I've been taking a rather nonchalant approach to my training. In other words. I'm just sort of doing what feels good, and I'm looking to pull modest 1st and 2nd attempts with a (meet) PR attempt as my 3rd for all the lifts. So, I'm really not looking to hulk-out or anything at this meet, and my training has been casual in following with that. 

My last meet in August was a push/pull, so there was no squat, which meant that my squat got rather neglected in training. And, in no relation to that, my deadlift pretty much entirely degenerated. My set up was flawed, and as such, I wasn't using the right muscles for the pull, which led to an almost painful lift. No bueno. 

SO, I've spent a lot of time since my last meet working on my squat and fixing my deadlift. And, miraculously, my bench progress continues to soar. Since the push/pull in August I've PR'd all of my lifts in the gym (in accordance with my training... in other words, I didn't go out of my way to PR, as you shouldn't prior to a meet), and I've achieved my 700 pound total. So, really, my immediate goal for this upcoming meet is to also achieve that 700 pound total in the competition setting with cues and judges. And, of course, it would be nice surpass that number. 

My current gym numbers are:
Bench, 170 lbs (no pause)
Squat, 235 lbs
Deadlift, 295 lbs

Numbers I'd be happy to hit as 3rd attempts:
Bench, 165 lbs
Squat, 250 lbs
Deadlift, 305 lbs

Longer-term number goals:
Bench, 185 lbs (pause or not)
Squat, 275 lbs
Deadlift, 315 lbs
I may hope to hit these numbers within the next year.

So, we'll see how it goes on the 21st! :) As always, the toughest part will be making weight. I'm still aiming to compete in the 132 weight class.

Cut Phase Supplements - THREE DAYS OUT!

I'm not a huge supporter of supplements, though I did go through a phase in the beginning of my powerlifting where I wanted to try everything out there. I've calmed down now and come to the same conclusion that most seasoned lifters reach: real food and plenty of it does the trick. But, with that being said, there are definitely some supplements that are worthwhile for me on a regular basis and others that come in handy when cutting weight. 

Let's start with the supplements that I've been using that are unique to my cut: 

Bodytech BCAA & Glutamine

First and foremost, this stuff is straight up BCAA's and glutamine. There is no flavoring or color in it. My main issue with most supplements is how painfully artificial they are, so the less in them, the better. 

What IS it, though? BCAAs are the amino acids L-leucine, L-valine, and L-isoleucine, and glutamine is another amino acid. These aminos are regularly available via real-food sources, which is why you probably won't see me using the powder unless I'm cutting weight and, therefore, intentionally eating less. A sufficient and well balanced diet should provide plenty of protein and amino acids (including BCAAs, glutamine, and so so many more) rendering a supplement like this largely useless.

It's *hopefully* no secret that the nutrients in food are essential to muscle growth and recovery. Even if you're lifting like an animal in the gym you'll see minimal, if any, muscle growth/strength gain if you're under-eating. (It will also be hard to maintain maximal lifting without the proper amount of fuel in your system for such workouts.) This is where BCAA's and glutamine come in...

I'm taking in fewer nutrients from my food simply because I'm eating less of it. I use this supplement to make sure that my muscles are receiving what they need to grow and repair as I continue to workout at the same intensity while eating ~500 calories less than normal. 

Solaray Dandelion Root

Alright, this one is new to me. Before I explain why I'm using it, I'm going to explain a bit about cutting water weight for a competition weigh in...

Firstly, when you chose your weight class, you want to be at the upper end of that class. For example, I'm in the 132.2 pound weight class, and it would be ideal for me to weigh in RIGHT at 132. This is for a couple reasons: (1) you want to cut as little weight as possible to make weight, because huge cuts generally result in weaker lifts, and (2) the less you weigh, generally, the less you can lift, so you want to be among the heaviest of the lifters you're competing against. Weighing 125 pounds and competing agains 132 pounders puts you at an automatic disadvantage. Of course, this is speaking very generally, but the idea is to never underestimate your competition. 

So, to lose a quick few pounds to make it right to the cusp of that weight class, a lot of lifters will cut water weight. This involves a phase of water loading, a phase of dehydration, and a lot of misery. The idea is to overload your body with a surplus of water for a while to give it the impression that it doesn't need to retain any of it, because there's plenty coming in. After that, you then temporary restrict your water intake, so that you're only taking in a small amount, but your body is still retaining very little of it. This runs the risk, though, of putting you in a wonky and dehydrated condition during the competition, which does NOT lend itself to big PRs. 

Dandelion root was suggested to me as an ideal alternative. Dandelion root is a diarrhetic, which, put simplistically, means it makes you pee pee and poo poo. When you take dandelion root, your body retains less water, because the herb influences the water to move right on through your system. The beauty of this method is that I can continue to drink as much as I want. In fact, when taking dandelion root, it's best to drink MORE than normal to be sure you avoid dehydration. 

I'm three days out from the competition, and I just started taking the dandelion. I plan to take ~1000mg (one serving) 2-3 times a day up until the competition. I'll continue drinking water like normal (I already drink quite a lot), if not more, to make sure I'm well hydrated come meet day. I'll also continue weighing myself first thing in the morning to try and gauge whether or not there's a noticeable benefit. But, even if it doesn't work as intended, the dandelion root was only $7.99, and I won't wind up dehydrated. 

So, now let's move onto some supplements that have their place in my diet on a more regular basis.

PlantFusion Protein Powder

Protein powder is something I've been using for years, though I am working towards using less and less of it for a couple of reasons: (1) shit is expensive, and (2) not only is real food a more nutrient dense choice, but it usually tastes better. However, there are plenty of times when protein powder is appropriate.

Firstly, powdered protein is a supplement, and should be used as such. It is not, and should not be used as, a meal. But, if you're anything like me, you may find that you have trouble getting enough protein in your diet no matter how much real food you're eating. When I find myself towards the end of a day and nowhere near my protein intake, I'll make myself a shake. I'll also use it if I have a surplus of calories left, and I'm not hungry, because drinking a shake is easier than stomaching a whole meal. 

As a general rule, though, I try not to have too many of these in a week; maybe one every other day. And this isn't because protein powders bad for your health but just because consuming nutrient dense, real food sources is a better choice. 

I drink PlantFusion specifically, because it is a vegan protein powder, and I have trouble stomaching whey. Because of this, I'm not a very strong authority on the best wheys on the market. For that, you can turn to Kraken Barbell!

Quest Products

Yes, I consider these snacks to be supplements. Why? Well, they're fortified to be especially high in protein, and they're certainly not real food. When categorizing them in my mind, Quest products definitely find themselves closer to other supplements than a home-cooked meal, but they serve their purpose in a pinch.

Specifically pictured are an apple pie Quest bar and sour cream and onion Quest protein chips. I think both taste great, but I tend to hear the opposite with regards to the chips. Popular opinion supports the tastiness of the bars but largely rejects the protein chips. Try 'em for yourself if you're interested.

I make use of these snacks when I have either no time to cook a meal or less than zero desire to do so. But, because they're not real food, and because they're quite pricey, I try not to make a habit of shoving them down my throat. (I also find that they bloat me, but that's a personal anecdote.) A good general rule of thumb is to eat real, home-cooked food whenever possible... but when it's just not possible, try to make good choices when it comes to snacks. If you're looking to gain muscle or build strength, a high protein bite is ideal.

Closing Remarks

I'm posting this blog cautiously. I get a lot of questions about supplements, so I figure I'll publicize the information I have to give, but I also don't want to give anyone the impression that supplements trump real food. That just is never the case. 

If supplements have a place in your diet or routine then make use of them, sure. But try not to make a habit of eating less and less real food in favor of supplemental products. 

 

ONE WEEK AND ONE DAY OUT!

The competition is fiercely close now. I've already had a couple of nightmares about it... in the first, I didn't make weight (by like, 10 pounds or something absurd!). In the second, I wasn't paying attention and almost missed my chance to deadlift and had to do it without any warm up. Obviously, those are both outrageous scenarios, but I'm definitely MOST nervous about making weight and pulling the deadlift attempts, so the nightmares are lining up accordingly with my actual fears. Pesky, pesky.

As for bench, though, I'm feeling SOLID. Today's workout included singles, and I got three at 160 pounds while also weighing in at 133 lbs. Shit yeah! (160 is also a 2 pound PR for me, hehe whoopsie... not really supposed to PR before a meet.)

I'm a *little* unsure if today is too far from the meet to be doing my last heavy bench workout, though. In my gut, it feels too far away. I definitely won't hit singles again, but I'm thinking I'll go for paused triples tomorrow at the weight I plan on opening with, which is 140 lbs. And, if I do decide to open with 140 -- almost 100% certain I will -- that'll beat the current MA state record (which is what I'm competing for). THAT'S CRAZY. My OPENER will beat the state record. That really makes me feel pretty awesome. 

As for the cut -- it's dragging, but it's going. I've been eating at a 400-ish calorie deficit (~1880 cals) for about 4 weeks now. I started around 137-139 lbs, and I'm down to 132-133. I've allowed myself a cheat day every weekend so far, though, and I think I really need to resist this weekend just to make damn sure I'm below 132 when I weigh in. I'm dangerously close right now, and most days, I weigh in slightly above. 

And, on that note, what am I planning on eating as soon as I can after weigh in? TACO BELL CHEESY GORDITA CRUNCH, and probably pizza hut. Thin crust pepperoni, ya feel me? And, likely, whatever else I can get my hands on. But, with that being said, I do plan to continue this deficit post-comp until I hit ~125-128 pounds, and then commencing another mini-bulk like the (very unintended) one I did a month or so ago. It's given me pretty pleasing strength results, so why not continue the cycle?

Alright, planned attempts (this is actually the first time I've sat down and thought about it):

BENCH PRESS:
1st - 140 lbs
2nd - 150-155 lbs
3rd 160-165 lbs

DEADLIFT:
1st - 200-225 lbs
2nd - 280-290 lbs
3rd - 300+ lbs
*My first attempt is super low, because I'm competing in the combined bench press and deadlift category, so if I fail all three deadlift attempts then my bench press numbers will be voided (which means I wouldn't be able to go for the state record), so I'm pulling something that I KNOW I can pull under pretty much any circumstance.*

A 300+ pound deadlift would MAKE MY LIFE. As would a 160+ bench press. 

Alrighty, until next time! 

Why I Love Powerlifting So Much & This Prep's Progress

Why I Love Powerlifting; A Short Story And Recent Revelation Of Katelyn's

As I sit here writing this blog I'm jamming out to Celine Dion's That's The Way It Is. And I'm absolutely loving it. (This is relevant, I promise.) But, let's go back and start at the beginning of this somewhat silly story...

Yesterday was a bad day. We all have those right?
So, I'm at work (I'm a personal trainer), and I'm just killin' it with my clients. I'm feeling great, truly. The whole week had just been pretty awesome up to that point. I felt like I was on my A game, and I also felt like I was delivering some excellent programming and service to my clients. And then came the "intern hour" in which I was supposed to teach our new intern about primal patterns and basic programming, which is simple information that I feel I have a solid grasp on. However, what I don't have a solid grasp on is transferring that information from my brain, into words, and then into someone else's brain. 

Long story short, my confidence was absolutely shot about 5 minutes into this "intern hour." I had gone from one extreme to another; feeling completely at ease and proud of myself during my client sessions that morning to debilitatingly embarrassed and unsure of myself as I'm trying to teach our intern about things that should be just rolling off my tongue. 

As such, I ended that hour feeling pretty pathetic. I went on to force myself through that day's planned workout, and then Celine Dion's That's The Way It Is came up next on my iPod. Boom. I was immediately catapulted back to a positive extreme in which I was unphasably motivated for the rest of my workout. So, naturally, I wanted to hear that song as least 8 billion more times. I didn't want that amazingly motivated feeling to go away, and I was still a bit down on myself after the "intern hour." So, I as I was leaving the studio, I decided to blast That's The Way It Is in my car (which has an incredible sound system, by the way *drool*) and take a drive.

Then the moment happened. The moment where I suddenly, after 24 years, realized something pretty huge about myself. 
I am confident in almost nothing that I do. 

I pulled up to a red light with Celine Dion blaring, and there was a huge group of kids waiting to cross the street... and then they did cross the street... right in front of my car... while That's The Way It Is was playing as loud as my ears could handle... and they were laughing... and I wanted nothing more than to just crawl inside of myself and cry. (And roll up my windows!) How silly, right? I mean, how do I know they were laughing at me? Hell, how do I even know they could HEAR the song? Furthermore, why should I care what a group of random kids thinks? 

But it didn't matter. That moment ruined me.
And it brought to mind so many other times when I've felt that exact same way; when I've gone rapidly from one extreme of total confidence and happiness to the other of complete and utter shame. In the blink of a freaking eye, and all because I perceive that I'm being judged for whatever it is that I'm doing.

I am not a confident person. 

If anything I like/dislike or do is poorly received publicly, I am immediately less sure of myself. One minute I want nothing more than to drown everything out with Celine Dion's That's The Way It Is, and the next I can't stop thinking how CHEESY AND TOTALLY GIRLY THAT SONG IS HAHAHAHA LOOK AT HER WHAT A LOSER. And this is true for almost everything. Except for powerlifting.

When I get under a barbell I KNOW that I know what I'm doing. Nothing can phase that. I know my weaknesses, I know how to fix them, and more times than not, I'm actively working on fixing them. I know my form is solid. I know that I'm pretty strong. This confidence has been tested many times but has never faltered. 

Powerlifting is the only thing in my life I can think of that breeds such confidence. I just feel like a goddamn badass with a barebell, and I love it. Anything that makes you feel THAT good about yourself, despite your weaknesses, despite all you have left to learn, is something that should be held onto ferociously.

This Prep's Progress

I've certainly been a bit absent with my updates. It's not necessarily because it's been going poorly, I just haven't been overly into it for some reason. But, with that being said, my bench press and deadlift both feel like they're progressing nicely. I've got ~2 weeks left to meet day, and today I benched 155 for doubles. My last deadlift session was 250 for doubles, and they felt surprisingly smooth. I do think my deadlift numbers should be higher, but it's my weakest lift, and having them FEEL good is a victory in itself. 

This morning I weighed in at 132.3 lbs, so I'm essentially at competition weight. I want to lose another pound or two just to feel secure, and then all I have to do is maintain there. I will say, though, that I think cutting this weigh (even though it was only ~4-6 pounds) has been tough. Dieting is not my forte, and there was really no room for slipping up with my time frame for losing the weight. And, I realized (early on, thank god), that the 2150 calories I *thought* was a deficit was still quite a bit too high... so, I took my intake down to ~1850/day. SO LOW! 

I've never ever ever ever ever intentionally eaten below 2000 cals, and especially not for an extended period of time. I can feel my energy and motivation for workouts dipping a bit, and I'm more fatigued than normal. The nervousness for the meet is what's keeping me going. But, I will say that my acne has cleared up nicely ever since cutting out the fast food I was eating. *thumbs up* 

I've been pretty regularly taking BCAA's + glutamine after my workouts to hopefully help my muscles recover even on this deficit. I assume it's working, too, because I've continued to gain strength after dropping a few pounds. Despite lower energy I'm still killing my workouts, so that definitely says something for the BCAA's and the types of home-cooked foods I'm eating. 

My macros are currently:
188 g carbs (40%)
141 g protein (30%)
63 g fat (30%)

I honestly think I was a bit lenient with those numbers. In a perfect world, protein would be a little higher and fat would be a little lower. But, I'm already not great with cutting weight and restricting my diet, so this will certainly do.

At this point, I'm starting to think about what I'd like to hit at the meet. 165 on bench and 300 on deadlift would be AMAZING. My third attempts will likely be 165 and 305. Openers are yet to be determined. My workouts continue to show strength improvements, so it's a bit early to decide. 

Anywho -- overall, it's going well!