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!

ROUND TWO - "Meet Prep" & Starting Early

After my first meet in March I set the goal of having a 700 pound total by my birthday (August 2nd), and I decided that I wasn't going to compete again until I had reached that goal. I've now been through two training cycles since that meet, and I've added 58 pounds to my total. That number looks pretty good to me. In just three months I've been able to add almost 60 pounds to my total. I'm now sitting at 675 pounds after testing my 1RMs yesterday.

In the first cycle after the meet I was on a program written for me by a powerlifting coach. That afforded me 42 pounds onto my total. In this second and most recent cycle after my meet I ran Candito again. (The same program I used to peak before my meet.) I did a lot of things differently during this second round of Candito, and I only saw a 16 pound increase overall... That'll teach me to go off program and take long breaks and hike Mount Washington right before testing 1RMs... -_- *badchoices*

So, now I'm looking to gain at least another 25 pounds onto my total in the next ~6 weeks. Cue anxiety.

Right now I plan on taking the next week and a half to focus almost solely on my weaknesses both in my lifts and in my lifestyle. I have recently REALLY let my diet slip, and while I don't care as much about aesthetics as I do about my weights, eating inadequate amounts of protein pretty negatively affects both. I've also slipped into a sort of "rut," I suppose, in my lifting. In the past two weeks, I've started to feel really lethargic about it. I remember feeling this way towards the end of Candito last time as well, and I attribute it to the reduction of workout days (just 3/week) and the monotony of doing the exact same exercises in the exact same order for 6 weeks... I get bored very easily. So, this lethargy and my protein-lacking diet are definitely some weaknesses to be addresses.

On the lifting side of things, I have quite a few things to correct if I want to continue seeing big gains.
SQUAT - weakening torso/core, slight knee valgus, internal hip rotation, minimal glute activation
DEADLIFT - weakening hips, minimal glute and hamstring activation
BENCH PRESS - this is honestly my strongest lift, and I'm not finding too many weakness specific to bench
OVERALL - mentality, breathing, and power

I've put together a list of exercises I want to use in the next ~2 weeks as accessories to help bring my lower body up to speed, and I'll probably continue bench pressing like normal (maybe a 5x5?) since it's been pretty strong lately.

But let's talk about the overall weaknesses; mentality, breathing, and power. These are things that I have always kind of said "meh" too. I've always been a very internal, low-key, mellow lifter... especially when it comes to heavy weights. I've never been one to "pump myself up" or get really psyched before getting underneath heavy weights. I don't necessarily think there's anything WRONG with that, but I do think that it's starting to affect my progress, because I approach 100 pounds the exact same way I approach 200 pounds. But the two are entirely different ballgames. Lower weights that are 100% within my wheelhouse require so much less thought and effort, but those higher weights really demand a lot of cognition and focus, and when I approach them as if they're within my wheelhouse in the same way, I'm just not giving it my all... Maximal lifting definitely requires 100+% effort. Every. Time. This is something I've been lacking and I'm definitely starting to pay the price.

In addition to my fairly nonchalant approach, I tend to fill my head with the negative. This is the only different in the way I approach lower weights versus higher weights... When I'm stepping up to squat 165 lbs, I know I've got that. It's just a fact; that weight is going to move, and it's going to move smoothly. But when I'm approaching anything over 200 pounds I constantly feel unsure that I'm going to be able to stand the weight back up (or in the case of deadlifts, even lift it a centimeter off the floor). So, not only am I completely "un-pumped," but I'm also usually down on myself at the front of a heavy set.

That shit has got to go if I want to continue competing in this sport.

And then there's breathing. This is really something that I continue to question... Does it really help? Does it make THAT big a difference? Really, though. Really? But I'm slowly learning and accepting that it does make quite the impact. Some of that may just be a general readiness for the weights when I'm taking the time to focus enough to breath properly, but I do think that using my breath to help me has made the difference between failing that last rep or not a couple of times. So, now I just need to take the time to harness that for every single set. (Again, back to the cognition of approaching maximal weight.)

With all this being said... I have a LOT of work to do.
I'm starting my prep right now. It begins with this first week and a half to two weeks of accessory work to specifically address my weaknesses. From there, I'm not sure yet. I may run Candito again, or I may pick and choose some things from it that I want to use. I may try 5x5, I may try creating my own rep schemes, I may even try Smolov (or Smolov jr). But I do plan on squatting and deadlifting at least 2 times a week. And I plan on starting this journal up again to follow my prep, which is certainly going to be a much longer process this time around.

Alright, let's get at it! #lovetheprocess

Post-meet recap

So the meet was about 3 weeks ago, now, and I still haven't posted a conclusion here! Mostly that's because I got overzealous and posted all my videos on facebook, so there wasn't much left to share. But it's also because the meet went much better than I'd expected. I didn't really have anything to say other than, "wow! That was awesome," and that wouldn't have made for a very exciting blog post. :P

Now, though, that I'm a few weeks removed from the meet, I do have a few reflections to make...

(1) I honestly wish I had been more ambitious with my attempts. 
Now, this isn't just me tooting my own horn, here. I purposefully took the conservative route when choosing my lift attempts. My openers were quite low, my second attempts were either right at old PR's or just above, and my third attempts were very small (10-15 pound) PR's. Based on the absolutely awesome adrenaline rush I got every time I stepped on the platform, and based on how other lifters were choosing their attempts, I wasn't nearly ambitious enough. Next time, and there will be a next time, I'm going to think much bigger.

^ Video of the meet! ^

(2) Holy camaraderie!
There was an amazing amount of support at this meet coming both from my own spectators and people I'd never met before; audience, staff, other lifters, etc. There were plenty of volunteers working with lifters on the warm up equipment and taking us newbies through all the cues to help us get comfortable with them. The crowd was very animated, and that definitely helped; being cheered on feels awesome. And the other lifters were all very open to making new friends. I had no idea what to expect, and it definitely blew my mind how welcoming the atmosphere was!

(3) Diet and weight class
For this meet I dropped weight to get to the 132 weight class. I only had to drop ~4 pounds, and I wound up weighing in at about 130. I think I'd really like to work on my diet between now and the next meet, and instead of going down in weight, I want to go UP. I'm going to aim for ~145 pounds, and I'm reallllllly hoping to be able to put on *mostly* lean mass. But, for right now, the goal is pure strength, and I have to be eating enough/properly to fuel that goal. 

(4) Post-meet program
So, I have a coach now! (FINALLY.) He wrote me a 6 week program that, so far, is already making me feel like a beast. Again, the goal right now is purely strength-based, so if I keep eating well and following this program, I should be making huge strides towards my goal. Ultimately, I want to hit a 700+ pound total by August 2 (my birthday). Once I've hit that total I will begin training for another meet. It'll kind of be my reward. 
On another note, I'm very interested in running through the Candito 6 Week Strength Program again; the one I used to prep for this meet. It definitely helped me gain strength, and it had really positive effects on my mentality. Plus, it's basically designed with the intention of being repeated, so I might as well reuse it!

(5) In the meantime...
I'll be following my current program, eating lotsa good foods, and hopefully getting back on my rifle spinning game as the weather warms up. I also plan on incorporating more and more core work into my off days, and mayyybeeee some cardio (but I always say that and then never do it). I'll be updating my facebook page and my instagram with videos/pictures/nonsense related to my own training and fitness in general. 

When it's time to start prepping for my next meet (aka: once I get that 700 pound total), I'll start up with this journal again! Until then, stay strong, my friends, and thank you for following my journey. 

TWO. WEEKS. OUT.

Well... even less than that; about 12 days out. :O

I now know what all of my openers will be.
Bench press - 120 lbs (2nd: 135 lbs, 3rd: 150/155 lbs)
Squat - 185 lbs (2nd: 200 lbs, 3rd: 210/215 lbs)
Deadlift - 235 lbs (2nd: 250 lbs, 3rd 260/265 lbs)
Weight class - 132 lbs 

I'm being pretty conservative with my first two attempts, and to be honest, I'm being pretty conservative with my 3rd attempts as well considering that 3rd attempts are meant to be PRs. 

To find my first attempts I took a weight that I can triple and subtracted 5 pounds. This is basically a way to be 99.99% sure that I WILL nail the lift despite the new environment and the total lack of knowing-what-I'm-doing that will be going on. :P 

My second attempts are within 5 pounds above and below my current PRs. This, again, is kind of a way to *hopefully* be sure that I'll nail the lifts... I've done it before, so logic would predict that I'll be able to do it again. We'll see.

My third attempts will all be PRs if/when I hit them. As you can see, even my range of guesses for my third attempts are within 5 pounds. I'm just not sure at all how I'm going to perform. I've got my fingers crossed for 3 for 3 on all lifts, and I did set myself up so that that might be possible. However, I AM prepared for 2 for 3, or even 1 for 3, on all lifts. Gotta be realistic! 

TATTOO?
I have decided that if I achieve a meet total that I'm satisfied with and proud of that I will tattoo the number behind my ear (nice and small). Essentially, a total of 600+ will meet that criteria. My current nonmeet total is 585, and 600 has been a goal of mine for a while... my long-term goal is 700+, but for where I am right now, the jump to 600+ would be a pretty huge achievement.
This tattoo would carry a lot of meaning for me. It will be an example of not only my ability to succeed in surprising myself and achieving big goals, but it will also represent me stepping out of my comfort zone and competing. It would likely be a great conversation starter, too. :P

WORKOUTS
My last heavy workouts will be this week, and I will be hitting weights either at or below my openers for "triples." But it won't be one set of three, it'll be three sets of one; resetting in between each rep so that each one is "fresh." This tactic was suggested to me, and I really liked it. I think the set up practice will be really valuable, and I know that not going too heavy is basically a cardinal rule in the week or two prior to a meet. 

DIET/WEIGHT CLASS
I'm managing, miraculously, to stay within my weight class, and right on the cusp, even. :) I think I failed to give myself enough credit for the dieting (aka: eating at maintenance) I've been doing for the past couple months, because I have a tendency to do well 5 out of 7 days of the week and to completely splurge for the other 2 days. Being such, I certainly expected some weight gain, because by "splurge," I mean SPLURGE. But, the number on the scale either stays the same (131.5 lbs) or decreases (the lowest has been 128 lbs). I can't even explain how much of a relief that is... I suppose, despite my own disbelief in myself, I really did set myself up for success with my diet and staying in my weight class. 
Additionally, I've heard a lot of advice along the lines of eating much less than normal in the day or two before weigh in, and to be dehydrated for the weigh in as well. There are other smaller details I've been suggested to help drop  my weight down (no salt, low sugar, low carb, etc. etc.) specifically for the weigh in. However, I've decided NOT to actively pursue these tactics. I don't want to make myself miserable for any amount of time, even if it means the difference of a couple pounds. This should be a fun and positive experience for me, and being starved and dehydrated is a surefire way to make it NOT fun and positive. 
This is a personal choice of mine and does not reflect my opinion on OTHER people choosing to utilize such tactics. I just know that they will not go well with my personality. 

TEXAS!
I'm so incredibly excited to head to Austin. Not only is it home for me, but it's warrrrrrm, and there's NO SNOW. I'm more than ready to get out of Boston for a little bit. I'm stoked to see my friends and parents, I'm pumped for my meet, and I'm craving the warmer weather. (Watch, I'll be there during a freakin' cold front. -_- )

TWO. WEEKS. OUT. 
This is both terrifying and very exciting. 

 

Snow Storms, Productivity (or lack thereof), and A Powerlifter's Diet

I probably could've separated this into three different entries, because I have so much to say on each topic, but I'll do my best to keep it concise (and entertaining, of course). ;D

Snow Storms
These little bastards just keep tearing up the East Coast. I mean, wow. In the past ~20 days we've been hit with FOUR different storms, and a total of about 6 feet of snow. What does this have to do with training? Well, when legitimate snow storms come a'knockin' it basically means the city shuts down. Better safe than sorry! Which I certainly agree with, but DAMN it makes me lazy. When you're stuck inside your house for 24+ hours, literally snowed in, and you get multiple days off of work due to weather, it tends to turn a person into a world class couch potato. (Or maybe that's just me? It's probably just me.) But, in any case, I've been a slug. For, like, weeks now. I haven't actually missed any training sessions, but there's so much more to fitness than just making it to scheduled workouts. There are 24 hours in a day, only 1-2 of those are spent in the gym, and that leaves about 22 hours left to work with. Which leads me to my next topic...

Productivity 
It's been abysmal to say the least. I mean, I don't even know if abysmal does it justice. With the time I have outside of work and my own training I have basically been doing nothing. Unless sleep is something? Which it can be. In fact, sleep is very important. But do you know who doesn't need 10+ hours a night? Me. I don't. (Just to clarify here, I'm still a functioning person. I clean my house, take care of my chores, and provide for all the little critters in my possession. What I mean by "nothing" is that I haven't taken on any tasks whatsoever outside of the "chores" and "maintaining sanitation and wellbeing" realm.) It can be, well, depressing, honestly, to spend all my time either (1) working, (2) training, (3) cleaning, (4) caretaking, or (5) sleeping. Luckily my job has a pretty heavily creative side, because I do all of my own programming, but there is still a huge chunk of creativity missing from my personal life. I could paint, or craft, or build, or write, or draw... if I wasn't so damn lazy. 
I would really like to blame this streak of profound sluggishness on all the snow storms and the general bad weather, but even if it's a contributing factor, I know it can't be blamed more than my own self. This is a battle I always find myself fighting, and hopefully I'll eventually figure out how to win for good. For now, though? Day by day. 

And here comes the culmination of all my recent complaints...

A Powerlifter's Diet 
This is a silly thing. For some, a healthy diet of whole foods (meats, fruits, veggies, and grains) comes easily. For others, not so much. One of the most freeing aspects of weight lifting for me was that it helped me transition from eating to lose weight to eating to gain strength. The two are very different. The day I realized that starving my body was actually counterproductive to my goals was a huge turning point in my fitness career. I began to eat with the goal of getting ENOUGH nutrients each day rather than strictly limiting them. But then, the struggle became a new one of trying to eat better quality foods in order to reach my nutrient needs each day. A bag of cheetos is certainly less nutrient dense than a chicken breast, though each offer a similar calorie count. My struggle now is aiming to eat the chicken instead of the damn cheetos every time.  
...And then came powerlifting. Now, what I'm about to say does NOT apply to every single powerlifter out there, but it is very pervasive among the community. We basically live by IIFYM; If It Fits Your Macros. Aka: eat whatever you want as long as you hit your macronutrients (calories, carbs, fat, and protein) each day. This, plus the added fact that powerlifters generally earn a higher caloric intake thanks to our choice of activity, equals a lot of non-whole-food eating. Donuts, and pizza, and ice cream, and nachos, and burgers, and mmmmmmmmmm. Now, like I said, this doesn't apply to all powerlifters. It doesn't even always apply to myself. But, for the most part, I fill up my allowed calories with foods I'm craving, and I'm almost NEVER craving chicken breast and broccoli. (I mean, really, though? Who craves that stuff? Who's like, "you know what would be good? A plain ass chicken breast and some raw ass broccoli on the side.")

I have no problem at all with the IIFYM style of dieting, because I don't believe in "good" or "bad" foods. I don't like the word "clean" to describe foods, because it implies that there are foods that are "unclean." Instead, I think that any food (or beverage) is okay in moderation. I think it's better psychologically to allow yourself to eat what some people may consider to be "bad" or "unclean" foods if they make you happy, but to do so in moderation. That's always the key here. 
But, because I'm human and because I love to eat, moderation isn't always the first thing on my mind. Usually it's more like, "HOW MANY OF THESE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS CAN I FIT IN MY MOUTH AT ONCE?! DOES PIZZA GO WITH MUFFINS? WHO CARES. GIVE ME THAT BEER." And, almost always, these bouts of unmoderated eating coincide perfectly with my string of highly unproductive days. Laziness for me breeds a garbage diet of vast proportions. And, lately, those lazy days have been perfectly timed to the snow storms we keep getting. It might even be fair, right now, to say that snow storms breed laziness and that laziness breeds beastly eating for me. OM NOM NOM.

But you know what's funny? 
All that eating I've been doing during the recent weekends is actually helping me towards my powerlifting goals. I told you, a powerlifter's diet is a silly thing. When I focus on eating whole foods and more nutrient dense foods I tend to eat less. (Again, the chicken breast vs. cheetos sentiment.) So, when I eat what I crave, and especially when I do so without abandon, I eat a lot more than normal. In the world of weight lifting, we call this "bulking," which is actually a specific type of eating used to gain strength. It's not always done in the IIFYM style; some people are able to eat insane amounts of lean meats and vegetables for days on end, but not I. I've been bulking on accident, but it's functioning for me just the same. All the calories I've been stuffing in my body have made me much stronger when I hit the platform. I may have some trouble maintaining my weight class for the meet, though luckily I've been floating around ~2 pounds above and below the cut off, but I WILL be as strong as possible for it. #silverlinings

The Pressure Might Be Getting To Me

I'm about 4 weeks away from my meet. 
Missing workouts is completely counterproductive to my progress at this point - more so than normal as I now have a sort of "due date."
Eating over my allowed calories is unnervingly counterproductive to my goal of making my weight class, and the pressure to stay at or under maintenance is much greater the closer the meet gets.

I'm trying to approach this meat as leisurely as possible since I don't realistically expect to do well in any capacity. I'm using it more as a learning experience and to satisfy my competitive side. If it's fun, I'll continue. If it's not, this will be my first and my last meet. Either way really is fine with me. But no matter how nonchalantly I tell myself I'm going into the competition, the fact of the matter is that it's a competition, and I love to compete. I also love to succeed. (I'm still unsure how success will be defined for me in this meet.)

If I don't make my weight class my chances of succeeding immediately take a huge dip. If I skip workouts, fail lifts, or screw up my prep in the week before the meet my chances of doing well will suffer as well. But, you know what? This is all part of the experience for me. This is what I wanted; to see what it's like to compete. Well, here it is.

It's a huge mental challenge.
It's definitely messing with me. 
I'm the kind of person who doesn't do well with deadlines and "you can't have that," or "you have to do this." As soon as I tell myself I can or can't, I immediately want the opposite. Oh, you mean I absolutely can't eat above maintenance until the meet? The next thing I know I've blown over my calorie max for the last 5 days. I can't skip today's workout, it's written for today for a reason! Suddenly that day's workout is wayyyyyyy on the back burner, and I can't seem to make myself want to. 

It's definitely frustrating, and the worst part is KNOWING exactly what I'm doing. It would seem as though the more I understand about my responses the easier it would be to control them, but unfortunately, that has not become a truth for me yet. So, instead, I remind myself that I have goals to meet and that those goals happen to have deadlines this time. Then I watch myself actively take huge steps away from those goals, and I feel pretty powerless to stop it. Very frustrating.

But there is good news... 

Today was shaping up to be a pretty terrible one. If you were to follow my posts on facebook or instagram you might not even believe the reality of my day today, because social media is so much like a highlight reel of my life. But here's how things really went... today was a snow day, work was closed, and I slept until 1:00 pm. I reluctantly woke up, thought about everything I had to do today (laundry, dishes, shovel, workout, etc.), and collapsed on the couch. I barely motivated myself enough to get up and make food three different times, and on each occasion ate until my stomach literally was throbbing. I fell asleep twice before 6:00 pm while watching TV. Then, around 7:30 pm I felt so disgusting I had to do something about it. Too many of my recent days had looked something similar to this... lounging around, napping, sleeping late, going to bed early, doing nothing productive. It's gross. Plain and simple. So I finally got up and showered. I did all the dishes, finished up the laundry, and went out to shovel. I'm not gonna lie, 45 minutes into shoveling when I was only about half way done I considered quitting. But I didn't. I finished shoveling the entire driveway, and then I went to the gym. I finally got there around 9:45 pm, and I did it. I did the thing.

Honestly, the rest of my day doesn't matter. I can either choose to dwell on it and be disgusted with myself, or I can choose to focus on the fact that I got up and did something about it. I hit a major rep PR on squats today of 190 x 3.5 (I failed the 4th rep). THAT'S what I should be focusing on, and that's what I will focus on. 

I'm always going to have bad days and good ones. The past few weeks have been wrought with bad days, but that's okay. I'll have good days again, and tonight was a great start. :)

Feelin' Stronk

I just finished Week 4 of my program, and I'm feeling really strong. Like really. 

I've been having some trouble sticking to whole foods (meats and fresh fruits and veggies) in my diet as freaking always, but it's actually working in my favor, because it helps me eat enough each day to keep my strength up. One major flaw in my previous program was that I completed the entire thing on about a 300 calorie deficit, and my strength definitely suffered as a result. I upped my intake to ~maintenance (small 50-100 calorie deficit), and the benefits are really showing.

As mentioned in my last post, when I look at what's programmed for a day part of me thinks, "man, I don't know if I can do that..." but then I nail the workout, and it feels pretty damn good. I haven't failed any programmed lift yet, and I hope it stays that way. Additionally, for many of the heavier weights I'm given a range of reps to shoot for, and so far, I've been able to hit the maximum number of reps within those ranges every time. That also feels pretty freakin' awesome. 

I really think this program has done wonders to bring my confidence back up. I was feeling really good before going on vacation in November, and for the first part of that vacation my progress continued linearly, but then I lost access to a gym, I got really sick, and my progress dropped off dramatically for ~3 weeks. It wasn't until mid-December that I was able to start following my old program again, and even that program was bringing down my strength and confidence, because there were so many things wrong with it. It wasn't at all conducive to my progress, but I was too stubborn to come off of it early.

Then, as you all know, I tested my maxes again before starting this current program (Candito 6 Week Strength Program), and that was extremely disappointing, because my numbers either DROPPED or stayed the same after 3 months of work. That was one of the worst experiences I've ever had with weight lifting...

But, luckily, this program brought me back up. Four weeks into it and I FINALLY feel like I've gotten back to (and maybe even gone beyond) the strength level I was at before going on vacation last November. Unfortunately I wasted a lot of time and energy on a crappy program, but it happens. It was poor timing with my meet coming up, but you know what? I've got the rest of my life to keep getting stronger. This was just one little 3 month set back, and I'm finally back on top of the hurdle.

It feels great to feel stronk again. ;)


Lifter's Mentality & Bench Press Excitement! (~5 weeks out)

One of the great things about the Candito program is that it incorporates "max rep" days where the lifters get to surprise themselves by usually nailing more reps than they initially though they could. The mentality of walking away from a workout thinking, "wow, I just nailed something I didn't think I'd be able to!" is monumental. Rather than a program that consistently and systematically adds more and more weight to your lifts (5 pounds each week, 2.5 pounds each workout, etc. etc.) and leaves you thinking, "wow, that was just grueling." 

I'm not saying that workouts shouldn't be challenging. In fact, every single programmed day of Candito has been extremely challenging for me but in a way that's enabled me to feel positively once it's over. (I look at the program and usually feel pretty skeptical. "Damn that's a lot of weight for that amount of reps," sort of thing. But it's not so outlandish that it seems impossible, and then it winds up being both difficult but doable.) The right balance of challenge and achievement then has me seriously looking forward to my next programmed workout. Often times I hear stories about programs people are following that are so hard they dread their next workout, and though those programs produce results, I'd rather follow a program that lets me maintain my positive mentality throughout. 

In addition, many programs that consistently and systematically pack on the weight have to be paused or the weight has to be reduced. At some point your body can't keep up with the non-personalized nature of progressive overloadThe resulting mentality when you have to deliberately make your workouts easier isn't very uplifting, trust me. 

So, with all that said... Today was a max reps (MR) day on bench press. 
It wasn't the first, but last time I did a MR day for bench I didn't have a spotter, so I wasn't really able to push myself as hard as I'd have liked. Today, though, I DID have a spotter. 

My MR weight was 100 pounds, and I got 13 reps. (Though my spotter counted 14, so we may never know for sure.) Thirteen?! I was honestly shooting for at least 11, and then I blew it out of the water with 2 more. *I didn't go all the way to failure. I should have, but I wimped out, because it was really hard. Looking back I really wish I had attempted that next rep, though I'm almost certain it would have been a fail.* 

Based on 100 lbs x 13 and 4-5 different 1RM calculators, my current 1RM is anywhere from 145 - 155 pounds, and I'm only HALF way done with this program. That's a projected 5 - 15 pound increase after just 3 weeks. On bench press! The hardest of all lifts to increase. 

Yeah, you could say I'm excited. :)

~6 Weeks Out!

Things are getting more and more real by the day... I'm continuing to move successfully through my training program (Candito 6 Week Strength Program). When I wrote my last entry I had only completed a couple days of the program, so even though I was enjoying it, it was hard to say if I would continue to be successful.

Well, I'm now half way through week two, and things are consistently improving for me. In addition, I've made a couple of monumental changes outside of the Candito program that have helped move my progress along:
- I'm eating right at maintenance whereas before I was eating at about a ~100-200 calorie deficit,
- I'm doing much less high intensity cardio (though I still include some moderate intensity cardiovascular work, because conditioning is my weakest point),
- I'm working actively on strengthening my posterior chain (low back/hams/glutes/etc.) for squats and deadlifts,
- I've added in some low-intensity work to correct my lumbar lordosis, and
- I've done well with adhering to my restorative work pre and post workout, and especially on "off" days.

All of these changes have really combined to make my lifts feel SO. MUCH. STRONGER.

> My knee pain is virtually nonexistant these days. Unless I demo an exercise to a client without being warmed up, I don't experience the same knee pain I was living with before. (THANK YOU, FOAM ROLLING.)
> My squat and my military press feel exceptionally stronger than they ever have before. I used to feel very unsure underneath the bar, and I almost felt like I was moving the weight via any means possible. Now, though, I'm actually activating the right muscles, and I feel much less frantic underneath the weight.
> My bench press is being majorly challenged by this program in ways that I've never challenged it before. It's really fun to push my limits with upper body, because I'm discovering that they're much higher than I previously thought.
> And, lastly, deadlifts. Deads went from being my strongest to my weakest lift. However, I've been religiously researching form and working on tweaking my own, and it continues to feel stronger every session. I FINALLY feel my lats and my hamstrings firing during the pulls; something I was missing before. (That's a red flag, by the way. It signaled to me that my lower back was doing almost all of the work, and it should NOT be.)

On the more administrative side of things... I still haven't received confirmation of my payment for the meet. I've emailed the director twice, and I did receive responses, so it's just a matter of waiting now. *fingers crossed all goes well* And I haven't received any further information regarding my singlet order. I placed it about 2 weeks ago now, but there was no delivery estimate in the confirmation email. So, I just called and emailed about that. (I know custom orders for this like this can take a while to process and ship, so I expected it to take some time... but I only have 6 more weeks. I need some kind of update!)

So, in conclusion, things are going really well overall. I'm definitely in a better mental place than I was before I started this program. I was majorly struggling before, because I was doing quite a few things wrong - too much volume in my program, too much cardio, too high intensity cardio, eating at a deficit, etc. etc.  I've got a better handle on how to keep chuggin' along on the gain train, so now all I have to do is be sure that I maintain my weight class!

Candito 6 Week Strength Program

After my less-than-glorious attempt to nail some new PRs this past weekend, I took an active rest day and recovered mentally in anticipation of starting my new program - The Candito 6 Week Strength Program, which available online for free at this link. Pretty amazing! 

This program is absolutely wonderful, because it's based on the theory of periodization, which is basically the idea that you need to challenge your body in a variety of ways in order to continue to see adaptations (aka: progress). If you lift maximally every time you train for weeks on end you're likely to hit a plateau, or even lose some progress. Just the same, if you are always lifting moderate weight for higher reps you're never going to see strength gains. The key is to practice multiple styles of training in a systematically varied program. The Candito program is just that, and it is geared specifically to gaining strength. See below:

Week 1 - muscular conditioning
Week 2 - muscular hypertrophy
Week 3 - linear intensity over time
Week 4 - heavy weight acclimation and explosiveness
Week 5 - intense strength training
Week 6 - deload
Week 7 (for me) - peak; THE MEET!

The styles, intensity, and frequency of the exercises varies week to week with the goal of making me stronger in the end than when I started. Perfect. And, it's even more perfect, because I will be at the peak phase (my body's strongest point, the "peak", throughout the program) right at the time of my meet. Just in time to smash some new records!

Another amazing feature of this program is that, since it's periodized as you see above, it can be repeated. Often. You could literally cycle this 6 week program for the entire year since it has a built in deload week. It gives you plenty of rest days to do cardio, ab work, or restorative exercises, and there are plenty of supplemental exercises programmed so that you aren't just wearing out the Big 3. 

Lastly, this program works with, rather than against, the mentality of the lifter. Some programs like 5x5 (where you do 5 sets of 5 reps of the big lifts and add 5 pounds to the bar) can really drain the lifter as the workouts get harder and harder, and therefore less and less achievable, as they go. Some people work well in this kind of structure. Other people, like me, work better in a more varied and achievable, but still challenging, structure. The Candito program is exactly that; challenging, varied, achievable, and rewarding. It sets a high bar of expectation with the work you're going to be doing (which is personalized based on your own 1RMs on the lifts), but it's a bar that CAN be reached and often times surpassed. It leaves you feeling accomplished and confident after the workout rather than beaten down and worked to the bone. 

Mentality is a wickedly huge component of weight lifting and powerlifting. 
(See more about the program here. Click on the PDF "overview" of the program.)

My Experience with the Program So Far

I've completed two lifting days of the muscular endurance portion, and I already feel the positive effects of the mentality it's put me in. I've done all three of the Big 3 lifts, and it's going really well. I won't lie; when I first looked at the weights and reps I was going to be doing I was skeptical that I'd be able to complete the sets fully, but I did it. I smashed it, even. I surprised myself, and it felt really great. 

I really really REALLLY needed that confidence boost after such a lousy mock meet this past weekend. I hope it continues to go well, and now I have my brand new belt (and deadlift socks) to try out! ^_^


A Rough Day On The Platform

Today I tested my maxes for the first time since last October and for the last time until my meet in March. It was highly disappointing. 

I won't even lie, my time on the platform today almost ended in tears.

But it didn't, because I understand why I failed my attempts at new PR's, and I know exactly what I'm going to do about it. I have about 7 weeks until my meet, which means I have 7 weeks to build up some new strength. I didn't necessarily LOSE any strength; I just stagnated. Majorly. See the following numbers:

STATS as of Oct 2014:

S: 195 lbs
DL: 250 lbs
B: 140 lbs
TOTAL: 585 lbs
Body weight: 135-138 lbs

MOST RECENT STATS as of Jan 2015:

S: 195 lbs
(Stayed the same)
DL: ?? estimating around 240 lbs
(These just weren't in the cards for me today)
B: 140 lbs
(Stayed the same)
Body weight: 131-133 lbs
(Decreased by 4-7 lbs)

Now, while I was actually testing all my maxes I was feeling EXTREMELY frustrated and defeated. (See the video linked below.) Obviously it's pretty disheartening to start with squat and deadlift attempts of 205 and 265 respectively only to be knocked back down to my previous maxes. 

However, now that I've been removed from the workout for a while, I'm starting to recognize the merits of the today's performance...

Just having stagnated really isn't too shabby when you take into consideration the weight I lost, the horrible program I was following, and the fact that I got sick and had to take a couple weeks off. No, when you put it like that it hardly seems so bad. 

So, I will keep my head up moving forward. 
I will continue eating all my calories at maintenance since I've ascertained my weight class.
I'm going to be following the Candito 6 week strength program, which came highly recommended from many people when I asked around for program suggestions.
I'm going to move on from this plateau I seem to be stuck on. 
I'm going to be ready and confident in my own progress for my meet in March.

And, here's the video proof of my complete and utter frustration with today's time on the platform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77jk0JqLNoI

**I should NOT have started my attempts high. I should have started low and worked up. Noted.

Testing My Maxes

I will be testing my new maxes in a "mock meet" style this Saturday.

And, if I'm being totally honest, my mental game is just not in the right place for it.

I've been eating at a small deficit (100-200 cals) on-and-off for about two months now. I've had success losing a little weight/body fat, which is great for my aesthetic goals and my goal to compete in the 132 pound weight class. BUT, it's not so awesome for my strength... Last time I tested my maxes (Oct '14) I was pushing 140 pounds and feeling strong. Now I'm floating between 131 and 133, which may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it makes a huuuge difference.

This, coupled with the break I had to take from lifting, has put me in a place where I'm just not feelin' strong. 
(I also believe that the volume-heavy nature of my previous program really derailed some of my strength gains.)

I know that going into it with this mindset isn't a great way to achieve the results I want, so I'm going to work on boosting my confidence before Saturday. But, regardless of whether it works or not, I'll still be updating those numbers at the top in just a few short days. Hopefully to higher numbers. :)

8.5 Weeks Out - January 5, 2015

My Previous Program:

So, here's what my previous program looked like:
MONDAY - max effort, lower body
TUESDAY - cardio
WEDNESDAY - max effort, upper body
THURSDAY - cardio
FRIDAY - dynamic effort, lower body
SATURDAY - dynamic effort, upper body
SUNDAY - off
x 4 weeks
DELOAD WEEK - week 5
TEST MAXES - week 6 
BACK TO PROGRAM - weeks 7 and 8

Max Effort = 70-90%, rep ranges of 6 to 1, 7 to 8 sets
Dynamic Effort = 50-70%, rep ranges of 10 to 6, 7 to 8 sets
Lower body = squats and deadlifts
Upper body = bench press

The accessory exercises I used were curls (added in on the max effort upper body days), and military press and pendlay rows (used on dynamic effort upper body days). 
**Because I was on vacation out of the country for a week and then got sick right after that vacation I wound up being ~2.5 weeks behind on the program as it was written, so I took out the deload and max-test weeks as well as two more programmed weeks.**

A Reflection On Said Program

So, IMMEDIATELY after looking at the program I can see two flaws:
(1) Way too much cardio for a program meant to build strength
(2) Very volume heavy based on the "7 to 8 sets" for squats, bench, and deads

After actually PERFORMING this program I can report on one additional flaw:
(1) Too many reps at too high a percentage, aka: the program was WAY. TOO. DIFFICULT.

When I first started this program it was definitely very challenging. It was doable, and I did it, but it was noticeably more taxing than it really should have been. After I went on vacation and got sick the program became downright unreasonable. I lost a fair amount of strength (and conditioning, too) in the time I took off, and I had to alter the daily regimen in order to even be able to complete it. It's my opinion that, yes, a program should be challenging. But when you're in a position where you have to take a break from it like I did, then altering the program by CHANGING THE WEIGHTS ONLY should be enough to make the program doable with the strength loss. However, I found myself having to alter number of sets, number of reps, AND the weights I was using.

This past Saturday was my last day on the program *thank god*, so this week I'm doing a REAL deload week. (I've had trouble actually sticking to one in the past, because I much prefer to push myself to the limit even though I know deloads are good for the body. #stubborn) Next week, probably on Monday, I'll be testing all three of my maxes! HOPEFULLY I will see at least a 5 pounds increase in each lift despite my strength loss. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. 

8.5 Weeks Out!

I'm officially eight and a half weeks away from the meet! (Assuming all goes well with registration.) So, my immediate to do list looks like this:
- Research proper procedures for testing max weights on the Big 3
- Look for, ask around, and brainstorm a new program... something much different that what I did last time!
- Schedule a weigh-in session
- Fantasize about the belt I'm going to buy :P
- Buy plane tickets

I'm extremely excited! As I mentioned in my first entry, the results of this meet hardly matter to me. I mean, yes, it would be super awesome to do well, but I'm not at all expecting it. I'm just expecting to have a great time doing what I love, and I get the chance to go home and visit family and friends in the meantime! :)