Training

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

“I not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. I’m really good at suffering.”

Amelia Boone (The Michael Jordan of OCR).

Way before I began serious training, I had to work on my mental toughness. I read many books, listened to podcasts and talked to a lot of people who have accomplished incredible events including two of my closest friends who have completed the Death Race.

I had so many doubts about my ability to take on the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy. I have never considered myself the type of person who could take on such an event. So why the hell did I sign up?

My sister and I were visiting my parents who live in Fayetteville. I grew up at Ft. Bragg. I was trying to convince my sister to register for a Tough that was taking place where we both live now, in Tallahassee, FL. She was on the computer looking at events and then said there is one at Ft. Bragg and that we should sign up and stay with my parents. We were both so excited about the opportunity to do an event on the hallowed grounds that my dad trained on for so many years. We registered AND THEN read about what the event entailed. I was terrified and immediately began my typical doubts in my ability and my mental strength.

This was in June and I figured I had plenty of time to train. At this time I had done a GORUCK Tough and a Light. My second Tough was the following month.

The first Tough I did several years earlier, I hated. I was in way over my head and wanted to quit many times. I even thought about falling off a curb and breaking my own ankle to get out of it. Yes, I was that miserable. Seven of us finished and I was one of them. I came home and threw my patch in a drawer and swore I would never do one again.

The following year a bunch of my friends and clients (I am a personal trainer and own my own gym) signed up for a Light so I got suckered into doing it. It was a great event and soon I forgot how traumatized I was about the Tough I had done.

I signed up for the Tallahassee Tough against my better judgment, but again, my friends and a few of my clients were doing it. I succumbed to  peer pressure.

I never work on conditioning and I hate cardio. I had spent the last couple of years training and competing in powerlifting. Anything over five reps was enough cardio for me.

I finished the Tough along with our whole group and not once did I think about breaking my own ankle. Although it was very challenging, I was hooked.

With 7 months until the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy, I figured I had plenty of time to train.

I downloaded a few different programs online and began to focus on becoming an endurance and cardio girl.

I soon found out I was not good at rucking longer distances. One of the first things required for a Heavy was a 12 mile ruck in under 3 ½ hours. My sister, an endurance athlete had no trouble. I on the other hand was dying. I was slow and had all kinds of pain in my feet. My mind began to work against me. I’ve never had much self-confidence and training for and failing the simple task of fast rucking only made things worse.

From the very start, I was thinking about how I could back out.

After screwing around for a couple of months and not getting any better, I hired a coach, Flo Zurkinden who had done many endurance events including the JWBH and several Death Races.

The first few workouts sucked. I was taking a lot of breaks and left gasping for air. The doubt really set in. I made sure that everyone who knew I was signed up, knew I wasn’t sure I had the mental strength to finish. My doubts, my lack of confidence and my fears permeated every part of my life. I became a loser before I even started.

My workouts included running and I hate running. Many times I be out on the trail and as soon as I started getting out of breath and uncomfortable, I quit.

It took a couple of months before I started getting some endurance. I still couldn’t ruck fast even when I added spurts of running. The thing that scared me the most was being last and left behind.

I finally started working on my mindset. I even met with a sports psychologist, things were that bad. We came up with several techniques, the first being to quit telling every one that I lacked mental toughness.

I started training my mind. One of the best things I did, although weird was to read and copy Mark Klemm’s (number 35 in selection) quotes. I had one quote put on a bracelet that I never took off. I had the quote as my screen saver and had a copy in my car. I had my friends and family write personal letters which I laminated and kept in my pack. The other important thing that one of my friends wrote for me was to focus on the task at hand and don’t give any thought to what might be next. That became my mantra.

I covered my weight plate with a picture of my dad receiving his Silver Star after a heroic event he performed in Vietnam. My dad, who served 35 years and is a retired SGM was my inspiration. He spent so much time training at Camp Mackall and I wanted to be there.

Finally everything came together. I was at a place that I was confident in my physical abilities and I began to believe that I could finish. I would finish no matter what.

My sister and I arrived in Fayetteville on the Wednesday before the event. My mom was sick and my sister decided to spend the time with her and not to do the Heavy with me.

My dad is currently in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. We spent the afternoons and evenings visiting with him. Most of the time he doesn’t quite know who I am. Sometimes with coaching, he knows I’m his daughter but doesn’t remember my name.

I don’t want to get into this too much but it’s hard to see my dad, my hero, so vulnerable. I never know what to say to him because he can’t communicate very well anymore. I wanted to tell him what I was about to do but wasn’t sure he would understand.

The afternoon before the event, I asked him if he remembered, Camp Mackall. His face lit up and he said, yes. I told him I was about to do training there. I don’t think he understood that. I wanted so bad to talk to him, ask him questions and share this experience with him but I couldn’t.

I went to War Stories that night. It was great to meet so many people that I only knew from Facebook. I was thrilled to meet, Mark Klemm ie, number 35 from GORUCK’S hardest event, Selection. I wore my, “I finished the day I signed up” shirt. It was a statement he made during Selection that stuck with me. Of course, I got a picture taken with him.

I also took a huge risk by trying to bribe Cadre Dan with a handful of Dons, the official money of Pineland. I figured he’d either think it was funny or he’d make me regret it the next day. Thank God, he thought it was funny.

Bribery

Friday was a blur. I packed and unpacked my ruck several times. I started to panic. I was worried about bringing the right clothes, the right food and the right gear. My sister helped me weed out the contents of my ruck so it wouldn’t end up weighing 100 pounds.

We had one last visit with my dad before we headed to Southern Pines. I met up with a couple of ladies I knew from FB and had met the night before at War Stories. We made plans to stick together.

At 5:00, everyone was ordered to get in line. It was go time.

Stay tuned for Part Two, Joe Warner Bragg Heavy AAR (after action report)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Starting 2016 Feeling Weak as a Kitten

It’s been so long since I’ve added to my blog. I’ve said this before and I’m embarrassed to say it again. I’m dusting off the blog and getting busy again.

I’m realizing that running a business that requires keeping up with social media, emails, newsletters and marketing and that the writing I love to do and that I’m passionate about, falls by the wayside. That has become the case with my blog.

As soon as I received my 2016 Passion Planner in the mail, I sat down and scheduled time each day to write. I made it as important as any other appointment I schedule. I find that I do better when I schedule things in my planner. I’ve scheduled time to work and time to work out as well

I set the timer on my phone for an hour for each and don’t stop until the timer goes off. That means, no Facebook, no chores and no distractions during that sacred time.

This past year has been tough. I have been sidelined by injuries, surgeries and life. I have hardly worked out since July and am now out of shape and carrying an extra 20 pounds.

After my last Powerlifting meet in July, I finally had the thumb surgery that I had put off for a year. Up until my Carpal -Metacarpal Arthroplasty surgery, I had been training in extreme pain. I sucked it up and continued training knowing that my surgery was scheduled the week after my meet.

I had high hopes for that meet but my numbers (weight lifted) went down during the last months of training. My confidence was crushed with each training day. I would look back at my numbers from the previous year and I wasn’t even close. I wanted to back out and use the pain as an excuse, but the real reason was because I knew I would not do well. I also knew I had to compete. The reason was much bigger than me.

My 20-year-old son, who has always lacked confidence and didn’t like to have attention on himself, was competing for the first time. I was so proud that he was finally putting himself out there. I knew it was such an accomplishment for him personally just to register, knowing that he may not be the best.

I had to set the example. I had to show him that I too could step out of my comfort zone knowing that I would not do well. It was important to me because I know that the lack of confidence I’ve had my whole life and my negative self-talk has been his model. I regret that.

He did great. He set PRs and more importantly, ignited a passion within to continue competing

I, on the other hand, have decided not to. It’s not because of my confidence. It’s because I have set other goals that are more important to me; goals that I have put aside so I could focus on my powerlifting.

I got with my coach and set my goal of completing the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge. If you’ve read through my posts you’ll see that that has been one of my goals for several years. That is the goal that I am passionate about.

The Iron Maiden is a huge feat of strength, one that requires consistent training and lots of patience. It’s a goal that does not come easy and may take me a year or longer to achieve.

The challenge is to press, pistol squat and do a pull up with a 24 kilo Kettlebell. That is 53 pounds. Fifty- three pounds of iron; a weight that is so far out of reach at this moment. That is why I have to do it.

My goal goes way beyond just the Iron Maiden. I want to do it to prove to myself that nothing is impossible just because I’m 53 years old. More importantly, I want to inspire and ignite passion in women who think that they cannot accomplish big things because of their age.

So, follow me, better yet, join me in setting a big scary goal and let’s show ourselves and the world that we are strong and powerful no matter our age.

Laurel aka, Super Strong Nana, who is weak as a kitten right now.

playful-kitten-6683

 

 

 

 

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Oh How I Love My Data

I am a data freak! I admit, I am one of those obnoxious runners that take five minutes to set my heart rate monitor,  MapMyRun app, my Round Timer and the perfect playlist. Thankfully, my running partners do the same. I love the data. I want to see my heart rate, how many calories I burn, how far I ran and how fast (slow) I went. The same goes for my weight lifting and gym workouts.

Although I haven’t done a bodybuilding competition in almost 20 years; I still have my workout and food journals. I knew every workout, weights lifted, sets done, how I felt and every morsel of food that went in my mouth. Yes, I was obsessive, but I had to be. I had to know where I was in order to get where I was going.

Setting goals, which I am adamant about and which I blog frequently about are one of the most important things you can do on your fitness journey. Once a goal is set, there needs to be a specific plan. It’s like taking a road trip. You have a destination (your goal) and your plug that into your GPS and follow directions. Next thing you know, you’ve arrived at your destination.

The best way to follow the map to reach your goal is by collecting and keeping data. Obviously, you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am, but you do need to figure out a way to track your progress that works for you.

The easiest way I find is with a good old-fashion training log. My personal favorite is the Convict Conditioning Training Log which you can see below.

My Favorite Training Log

 

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My First Powerlifting Meet

I have accomplished a lot over the past year in my training. Even though I had to take time off to heal from a ruptured tendon in my hand, I was able to set quite a few personal goals including weighted chin ups, a half marathon and a Goruck challenge.

My ultimate goal still remains the same and that is to complete the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge. This feat of strength is to do a pull up, pistol squat (one leg) and a press with a 24 kilo (53 pound) Kettlebell. It’s an exciting goal in that, it may take a long time, possibly a year to reach and it’s a humbling goal for the same reason.

While doing the training towards reaching my IM goal, I decided (was talked into) doing a powerlifting meet. My training partners are all guys young enough to be my kids and I find on many occasions, I get caught up in their goals and their training which for me, is a good thing. I find working out with these guys challenges me to lift more, do more and get a little competitive, so when they decided to do a powerlifting meet, I was up for the challenge.

We picked a meet in Orlando that was three months away. Up until this time, I had done some deadlifting and very little bench pressing and no back squats. My main workouts up until that point were Kettlebells. I contacted my trainer/coach, Brett Jones who has been training me online for just over a year. We discussed new programing and set new goals. What I love about my coaching from Brett is that his first concern is always my movement and my form. I had to send videos of all of my lifts for his critique and approval and only then did he started me on my program.

Training with “the boys” taught me to challenge myself, believe in myself and keep my training in line with my goal. I have to admit, I have training ADD. I have a hard time sticking with my goals or I have too many goals at one time and therefore will not make progress. These guys made sure to shut me down whenever I tried to veer off of my program. If I tried to superset my lifts, they were on me. If I didn’t take enough time between sets, they were on me. When I ran over to do some pull ups while waiting for my next set, they made fun of me.

I had no real expectations for my first meet…until I saw the Florida state records for my age group..and then it was on.

I printed out the records, made them my wallpaper for my phone and looked at them constantly. Even with just a few months to train, I knew I wanted to break those records. I was driven and focused.

Focusing on  strength training and powerlifting taught me a lot about myself both physically and mentally. The physical lessons are pretty evident. Strength is as much as skill as it is just being able to lift heavy stuff. Finding my groove, my foot placement, my hand placement, breathing patterns, perfect form and practicing these with every single lift whether a warm up set or max attempt takes practice. Not taking the time to learn the skill and the right set up and preparation for ME is the difference between making a heavy lift seem easy and not being able to lift a weight I know I am capable of.

Physically, I know I am pretty strong with lots of potential to get stronger. Mentally, I have a whole lot of work to do. My first thoughts upon starting a training session and looking at the weight and reps on my plan are, “That’s heavy”, “I don’t think I can lift that much”, “Has Brett lost his mind”? “I can’t do this”, “I am not strong enough” and then goes the downward spiral until my thoughts center on what a weak loser I am.

Yes, I may be physically strong enough, but if my head isn’t in the game and believing that I can kick ass; my attempts are futile.

It was so bad that the guys would put the weights on the bar and not tell me how much and because I can’t add well or do barbell math, I didn’t know what I lifted until the set was over. At my meet, Vince, who handled Dave and I, didn’t tell me what any of my lifts were. All he did was ask how I felt and then told the judge what my next lift would be. I just went out there and lifted.

I know at the meet, I did not lift as heavy as I did in some of my training sessions and that is ok. I broke the state records for the Masters 50 and over and therefore reached my goal. People back home were asking me how much I lifted and what my numbers were. I had no clue until Vince told me several days later. I think had I known how much my attempts were, I would have psyched myself out.

So I’m going to do another PL meet in the fall. This time I will strengthen my mind as well as my body. I will not allow negative thoughts to rent space in my head. I will approach each set, each rep and each lift with confidence. I will know how much weight is on the bar and I will crush it. I will train with intent, I will follow my program. I WILL break the state records that I have set already.

 

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Super Fun Workout

I’ve recently let the guys from Tallahassee Strongman use my gym for their training. I decided to join them when I could between my other workouts.

These workouts are tough but so much fun. I leave feeling empowered and proud that this almost 51 year old grandmother can accomplish amazing feats of strength. I know that many women and men my age feel that it’s time to slow down. They are afraid that hard challenging workouts are not in their cards anymore. I’m here to tell you that it’s not true.

With proper progression and a solid program that includes joint mobility and movement prep along with recovery, almost anything is possible.

I am constantly inspired by people my age and older who do not let the aging process slow them down. I am in awe of those people doing Ironman, marathons, powerlifting and other seemingly impossible workouts.

They motivate me to continue to get stronger and more fit. My golden years are going to be my best ever!

Here is a video of Sunday’s workout with the guys. I pulled and SUV and did a 115 pound atlas stone lift. Now that was fun!

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New Adventures in Training

Recently I met with Strongman competitor, Dave Covan of Tallahassee Strongman. He was looking for a new gym to bring his crew for training. The typical gym does not think kindly of heavy deadlifts, chalk, Atlas Stones, kegs etc.

One of my goals for last year was to compete in a strongman competition. As I invited his crew to use my gym, I realize, I no longer had an excuse. At my disposal was a competent, experienced trainer, strongman equipment and a group of guys training with the same goal in mind.

I joined them on Sunday for my first strongman/woman workout. I invited my friend, Madeline who like me, enjoys doing weird, challenging workouts.

I already do online training with Brett Jones of Applied Strength, he gave me permission to add a “fun” day of Strongman training. So during the week, I work on my movement skills and do specific training to reach my other goal of doing the RKC Iron Maiden in 2013.

I love turning my training over to experienced coaches and trainers. Left to my own devices, I would probably never reach my goals and worse, I would probably end up hurting myself.

So on Sunday, I had my first taste of strongman skill training and I loved it. While the guys were doing massive farmer’s walks, Madeline and I loaded up other bars with enough weight to equal 85 pounds per hand for our carries. It was tough, but we did it. I am thankful that my nail bending and grip ball pullups have made my grip strong.

We also did our first yoke walks. This was seriously intimidating. We did our first set with no weight. The yoke weighed 135 pounds. After getting comfortable with walking with a huge contraption on our back, we added weight equalling 175 pounds. It was tough but still doable. I stopped myself from going any heavier. If I learned one thing over the last year, it’s that my injuries always occur from going too heavy too fast. I have learned to train smarter, not harder.

So, here is a quick glimpse of my first day of training.

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Super Strong Nana is Getting Stronger

Working out alone is getting easier, obviously the blogging is not. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to write, it’s just that I get lazy when it comes to writing. It’s really a lack of discipline. I’m finally getting more disciplined with my workouts but now I have to carry that over to my home and work life.

A lot has happened since my last blog. I have continued working with Brett Jones. We Facetime every couple of weeks and he sends me workouts based on my goals.

As I have mentioned before, my goals include completing the RKC Iron Maiden Challenge in the next year. That includes a pull up, press and pistol squat with a 24 kilo (53 pound) Kettlebell as well as a double body weight deadlift.

So far I have been doing weight ladders for Turkish Get Ups and pressing. It’s been 4-5 sets of 1 rep using different weights. I’ve also been doing single DL, Squats, pull ups and single leg DLs.

When I received my first workout, I was shocked to see a single get up with a 24 kilo bell. I was directed to just do it as far as I can. I was certain I couldn’t do it, so I chose a lighter weight the first time. The second time, I decided to use the 24k but just do the roll to press and see how that went. I felt pretty solid and I ended up doing a full TGU on both sides!

http://youtu.be/SzNZKej249c

One thing I had to learn about PRs (personal records) is that they are elusive. I just assumed that now I would always be able to do my Get Ups with a 24 kilo and my presses with a 20 kilo. Wrong!!

Some days I can’t even come close and once in a while I can do it with ease.

The next few weeks have me backing off on weight and focusing on reps. One important thing is that you should never train your max all the time. I used to do that and ended up getting hurt. I’m pretty confident that when I go back to the heavy singles, I will be much stronger and my PRs will become my normal.

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Superstrong Nana says, Suck it 50

Just thought I would start a Facebook album with pictures of me defying my age. I hope this inspires you and shows you that age is just a number.

At 50 years young, I am in better shape and much stronger than I have ever been. I am making time for movement prep and proper warm ups so that I can workout for the long haul.

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Superstrong Nana has a new PR

Super excited today. I’ll keep this short but I just have to share.

As you might know from reading previous posts; I have a very hard time working out by myself. I have tried to set my self up for success by having a workout partner or meeting friends for workouts.

My workout partner, Jerritt moved to the other side of town. He used to live a couple miles from the gym so it was easy for us to meet in the afternoons. Not anymore.

We tried meeting after his midnight shift as a police officer but we were both exhausted and our workouts suffered. So I had to dig deep and start flying solo.

It’s tough but so far so good. I guess having a solid goal is what is driving me to workout alone. I am finding although I still get distracted, I am able to do this.

Yesterday was a huge PR for me. After a long, long time trying to get one good dead hang Pull up, I actually got 3 good ones in a row. I never expect to get the third one (see previous post on confidence) but yesterday I surprised myself…and I did it for 3 sets!!

After I finished my workout, it was time to goof off and I thought I would try a two finger hanging leg raise with feet to my head. Just goes to show (me) that you never know what you are capable of until you try.

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Super Strong Nana is Bending Steel and Taking Names

This has been a super strong week for me, full of PRs (personal records) and surprise feats of strength. I also learned an important lesson about negative thinking and confidence. Both more important than PRs.

I have a lot of strong, super-fit friends that I follow on Facebook. At least once a day, I see pictures, videos or status updates on their workouts, incredible feats of strength, weight loss or another amazing accomplishment. My first thoughts are how awesome they are, my second thoughts however become self defeating.

I begin to tell myself that I can’t do that, I’m not strong enough, not good enough and just not enough. I’ve spent my entire life comparing myself to others instead of being the very best me I can be. What I am learning; slowly but surely is that my attitude about myself pretty much dictates whether I fail at a given task or not. It dictates whether I attempt something or not and it keeps me from following through on my dreams and ideas.

Last week I had the honor of having super strongman, Bud Jeffries stay with me and my family while he was passing through town. The biggest perk was spending two days at my gym training with him. Bud obviously sees something in me that I don’t see in myself and he encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. We spent a couple hours on Deadlifting. He dialed in my form and then started loading on the weight. With each increase, I kept telling him I can’t do that. He just smiled and told me to try. To my surprise, I lifted some weight that I thought would take months of training to lift. I also did partial Deadlifts with just over 300 pounds!

The next day was nail bending. Again, we worked on my form. He pointed out that I need to work on my wrist strength (which I knew). I bent a few 3/16 nails which are pretty easy for me. Then he brought in some 1/4 inch nails and a couple of 3/8th inch pieces of steel. Again, I thought he obviously had me confused with someone else.

I worked and worked on bending the 1/4 inch nail but my weak wrists prevented me from getting it. Bud put a very small bend in it and once it was started, I was able to bend it. Let me just add that nail bending is a hell of a cardiovascular and full body strength workout. I was sweating buckets and my heart rate was flying. So since I couldn’t bend the 1/4 inch without a start, I was wondering why the 3/8th. I thought maybe he was going to do something with it.

He did. He gave it to me and showed me how to use my entire body to bend it. You start by getting it started over your thigh, once you have a bend, you start placing it and using other body parts. So bending this piece, involved some crazy isometric full body moves. I bent it!!

Keep reading because that isn’t even the good part.

After some recovery, I was telling Bud that all of my friends were posting videos of themselves doing 2 finger pull ups. I told him that I felt a bit jealous and how I wished I could do that. He then asked me if I had ever tried. The answer was no. I just assumed I could never do anything like that. I had given up before I had ever started. Something I realize that I do a lot….a whole lot.

He told me to try it. We walked over to the rings. I put my first 2 fingers on the rings and all the while was thinking how I’m going to be embarrassed because I can’t do it.

Then, I just pulled myself up. Not only did I pull up, but I held myself up there for quite a while. Holy Crapola!! I couldn’t believe it. I did it again and again.

I did it for several days after to make sure it wasn’t a fluke..it wasn’t.

It was then I knew I had to do something about my negative thinking. I would never in a million years tell anyone that they can’t do something. With others I am encouraging and positive so why the heck am I so hold on myself? Finding the answer to that really doesn’t matter. Knowing why doesn’t elicit change. Changing elicits change. So where to start?

One of the things I will do first is to make friends with myself. I will treat myself as I treat others and how I would like to be treated by others. Secondly, I will act as if I am already a confident, positive person. The old, “Fake it Till You Make it”.

I have a list of affirmations next to my computer and I am redirecting negative thoughts into positive ones. Yesterday, I took things to a whole new level. Instead of putting my goal on paper, I did this.

The Iron Maiden is a major feat of strength with Kettlebells. A lady will perform a Pistol Squat, Press and Pull Up with a 24 kilo bell (53 pounds). I have a great training program and my goal is to complete this in the summer of 2013.

Me and this bell are going to become very close in the coming year.

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