Set Backs and Come Backs

July 26th 2015, I competed in my second powerlifting meet. I was the leanest I had been in years. I was strong and I was physically prepared. My numbers weren’t the best. In fact, the weights I was lifting the weeks prior to the meet were much higher. I let myself feel disappointed, but not for long. I knew that that was the last meet I would do. It was a goal and it required a lot of time and hard work, but I was ready to move on.

I actually didn’t want to compete because of the very specific training I had to do which interfered with other goals I wanted to accomplish. I mainly did it because my youngest son, Nigel was competing in his first meet and I wanted to do it together. It was a great bonding experience.

The week I got back, I had much needed surgery on my thumb. I had put it off for a year while I was training and endured a lot of pain. My cartilage was gone and my bones were wearing down from chronic arthritis.

The procedure is Carpel Metacarpal Arthroplasty. They shave down the bones or remove the more deteriorated bone and use the forearm tendon to replace the cartilage. It was pretty invasive surgery. Full recovery can take up to a year. Of course, I knew or rather thought that would not apply to me.

I devised a workout program that I could do to work around my hand. I was quite proud of myself. I busted my ass in the gym despite my disability. Little did I realize that even though I avoided using my hand, that my workouts were stalling my recovery. When the pain didn’t subside and sometimes got worse, my doctor explained that I was still contracting the joint. It was time to take off and focus on recovery.

My lack of consistent exercise soon turned into eating junk and weight gain. It was depressing to see the scale and my body fat go up, yet it didn’t stop me. I ate junk, felt bad and so I ate more junk.

In October of that year, I was slowly working out again but with modifications and then I broke my foot. I spent the next six weeks in a cast. Almost immediately after getting my cast off, I had to have kidney surgery to remove a huge stone and with that came a stint and more time off. Shortly after that, I hurt my back because I rushed back into working out instead of focusing on regaining quality movement and mobility.

Basically, I was injured or recovering from injuries from July through December. Physically, mentally and emotionally, it was one of the lowest points of my life. I ended up completely out of shape and weighing the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.

I was ashamed of my body and felt like a failure as a fitness instructor. Who is going to listen to me when I can’t even get my own crap together?

Last month, after starting and failing more times than I can count, I decided I needed help. Left to my own devices, I will sit on the couch and drown my sorrows in Oreos while watching a Cops marathon. I finally decide to get help. I hired a team of professionals to help me not only with the physical aspects of my life but with the emotional part, which for me is a huge piece of the puzzle.

I got myself a trainer, Beth Andrews,who is helping me reach my next performance goals. I hired a dietitian, Jon Allen to help me relearn to eat healthy and lose this excess fat and I hired a health coach , Carol Donahoe to help me get back on track in all areas of my life.

Having accountability to each of these people is what drives me to succeed. I just started recently and can already see changes in my life. After almost 10 months of being lost, out of control and depressed, I now have a plan of action and a purpose. Although progress is slow since I am just starting with getting my strength back and my eating under control, I feel hope and I feel empowered.

Maybe the last ten months have been a blessing. I now know that if I want to succeed and be the best I can be, I need help. It was a hard lesson to learn but that’s ok because I made the decision to change and I’ve surrounded myself with the right people to help me.

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.


Some Wednesday Inspiration

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of volunteering for the Tallahassee Marathon. I joined some of my fellow boot campers in handing out water, Gatorade, Gu and other race essentials at what I believe to be the best water station at the marathon. Yes, mile 2/25 was rocking!
I didn’t pay much attention to the first wave of runners. Most of them were elite and were gone in a flash. The biggest pack of runners came through a little while after that. I was so happy to cheer on some of our boot camp clients, several who were running their very first half marathon.
The last group of the more than 1,000 runners were the ones who got my attention, my water, my gatorade and my loudest cheers. This group was made up of people that you would never think would be able to participate in a marathon. These are the people who showed me the true spirit of the marathon.
One runner in particular inspired me the most and has inspired me and many others throughout the years that I have known her and that was runner, 1021, Susan Sloan.
Five years ago I received a phone from Susan inquiring about our program. When she told me what kind of shape she was in and how much she weighed, I was worried. As a trainer, I know how to work with people of all shapes and sizes, but she was asking about coming to boot camp and that scared me. I encouraged her to take a month and walk and then get back in touch with me.I didn’t think I would hear from her again. She surprised me.
Susan started boot camp with some very strict modifications to ensure her safety. There wasn’t a whole lot she could do but she did everything we asked of her. One of the things we did as a group was to run around the block. The driveway leading to the road was about 30 yards. Susan struggled just to get up the driveway. Again, I figured that after she completed that first month of boot camp, we would never hear from her. Again, she surprised me.
It’s been just over five years. Susan is still involved in our program. She has lost over 10 dress sizes and over 100 pounds. She has maintained that weight loss for several years. Physically, she is in such great shape that she can run circles around some of the young men that attend our classes.
Sunday, she completed her goal of running her first half marathon. I joined Susan for some of her shorter training runs and I have to admit that I had a hard time keeping the pace with her. Watching Susan accomplish such a huge goal was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had as a trainer and a friend.
This is not the end for her. Tomorrow she begins training for her next goal of becoming a certified Russian Kettlebell instructor. This is one of the most rigorous and physically demanding certifications out there. Participants train for months to prepare for the 9-10 hour days required for this certification. There is a 20-30% failure rate with many people failing because they are not able to handle the physical demands of the weekend.
I have no doubt that Susan will accomplish this goal and many more. I look forward to cheering her on for years to come.
Oh, and did I mention she is 52 years old!?

Super Strong Nana

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to blog more often. As you can see it’s already two week’s into 2013 and I’m just now writing my first blog of the year. Ok, so it hasn’t exactly been a priority lately. I’m responsible for another blog for The Tallahassee Democrat and that one has deadlines. Hmmm, maybe I need to make deadlines for myself.

As a person who procrastinates and is easily distracted, deadlines are important. One of the things that I do as a fitness instructor is to encourage my clients to set deadlines. Whether your goal is performance based, fat loss based, work based or any other important thing you want to accomplish, you must set a deadline if you want to succeed.

Setting a goal without a deadline is certainly a setup for failure especially if you are a procrastinator like me.

I am a very creative person. I am always coming up with really cool ideas for my business. I start the process of making things happen and then I set it aside convincing myself that I will get back to it. I never do. I then lie to myself to justify my procrastination. I convince myself that it was a dumb idea, nothing will ever come of it and that completing the goal is not worth the work that must be put into it. I do that with fitness and performance goals as well as personal and work goals.

So now that I know what the problem is, how do I change it? Deadlines.

If you aren’t already using a calendar or a planner, then it’s time to get one. Just a little FYI, I have also perfected procrastinating on this. I search and shop for the perfect planner and pen. Writing goals and deadlines on a plain pad of paper or a boring planner…Never!

Now it’s time to make things happen. Set a realistic deadline. Put it in your planner. I like to count days or weeks back and jot them down so I know that I have so much time before D-day (deadline day). It creates a sense of urgency.

You nor I are going to magically have our goals accomplished on D-day. We must have a plan of action. My performance goals require that I work out several times a week and that my workouts are specific to my goal. Those get scheduled in my planner…Ok, there are not in there right now but they will be as soon as I’m done with this blog.

I set deadlines for the small goals I want to accomplish to reach the bigger goal. One of performance goals for 2013 (and it will probably be the end of 2013) is to complete the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge of pressing, doing a pull up and a pistol squat with a 53 pound Kettlebell. In order to accomplish this, I have to set goals along the way. Right now I have an 8 week goal of a weighted pull up with a 10 pound bell and an easy consistant press with the 40 pound Kettlebell and a solid pistol squat.

My business and personal goal is to write a book. It’s been a goal since early last year. It’s been months since I did any work on it. So now I will set a deadline of December 31st 2013. That book is not going to write itself and of course I can’t start on December 30th. So I set aside a couple hours once a week to write and it goes in my planner..again, it’s not in there yet, but will be when I finish this blog. I told you that I am a big procrastinator.

I would love to hear about your goals and especially the steps you are taking to reach them. Post them in the comments section.

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.

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.

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.

Super Strong Nana Gets a Trainer

Writing two blogs is a lot harder than I thought. This one is my baby, but the blog I write for the Tallahassee Democrat has a deadline so it’s taken priority.

It’s been 4 weeks since I attended the Summit of Strength and had my movement screen and corrective exercises given to me. My instructions were to do my correctives and not workout for 2-4 weeks. I have to admit, I wasn’t as regular with my correctives as I thought I would be. I ended up not working out for 3 weeks. I found after a week, I was getting somewhat depressed and then after 2, lost all motivation. By the time I was “allowed” to workout, I found it tough to get the motivation to start back up again.

I still wasn’t sure what or how I wanted to train. I have my goals for 2013 but no sure plan on how to get there. So, I decided to invest in distance training with Brett Jones of Applied Strength.

First things first. Just as if I were training with Brett in person, he had me fill out a in depth health form, personal history and a detailed list of my goals along with the all important waivers. I was impressed with his attention to detail immediately.

I had my first Facetime appointment on Thursday. We went over my goals, issues I might face, time I wanted to spend training and to my surprise what I liked to train. I think most trainers forget about what type of exercise or workouts their clients like to do. We discussed adding in a “fun” day to my program in which I can do all the crazy lifting, carrying, wall climbing, handstands etc that I like to do. I was so excited that he listened to me and took into account my lifestyle, my limited time, my business and my likes and dislikes. This is a first for me.

I received a very detailed plan within 2 days. It looks awesome. I will be working (slowly) towards my goals of completing the Iron Maiden in July 2013, passing my RKC re-cert with weights for the under 50 women, getting a 1.5 body weight deadlift and bending a 1/4 inch nail (yes, he is going to help me with that).

Of course my corrective exercises are going to be a big part of my new program after all, it’s Brett were talking about here.

I look forward to beginning my new training program on Monday. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Super Strong Nana gets a Movement Screen

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve blogged. To all of my readers, (mom) I apologize.

I’ve committed to writing a weekly blog for the Tallahassee Democrat and have basically neglected this blog. No more! I’m back and I have so much to tell you.

First of all, after having been registered for almost a year, I finally got to attend the Summit of Strength in OK. It’s my favorite workshop and I’ve attended for the past 3 years.

One of the things I did when I got there was to meet with Master RKC and all around awesome guy, Brett Jones for a Functional Movement Screen. I wanted to be assessed by someone who really knows their stuff and Brett is the man. I was nervous and even considered “practicing” the screen so I would get a good score. Yes, it’s dumb but I wanted to make a good impression. Having movement issues when I consider myself in great shape is kind of embarrassing. I thought it would reflect on what kind of person I am.

I know we joke around about having movement issues does not make you a bad person, but I guess I thought it would. God forbid Brett thinks I’m a bad person.

Getting a movement screen was eye opening. I thought my scores would be much higher. I was a bit embarrassed and wanted to argue some of the scoring. But the beauty of the FMS is that it’s standardized and there is very specific criteria. When done by a certified FMS, there is no discussion. It is what it is AND it doesn’t make you a bad person!

So, many of you know I am freakishly flexible. Doing a deep overhead squat is easy for me. Shoulders move well and I can hit rock bottom. That is all great but what happens in a deep squat for me is that one of my feet turn out. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that tells me that something is going on with that side of my body. I want to fix it and do my squats without any compensations. Brett tested my ankle mobility which I thought would be off the charts…nada. Maybe that has something to do with my deep squat.

The rest of the screen was ok and we started on my corrective exercises. Brett explained that being hyper-mobile without stability was my problem. It’s important to have both to move well and help prevent injury.

My corrective exercises are pretty simple except for the half kneeling balance drill. That sucks! In a half kneeling position with front foot lined up with the down knee, I have to focus on keeping my pelvis level and centered. I can do just a few seconds before I tip over. When I was doing it my way, with my pelvis tilted, I could balance all day. But that is what we call a compensation and a lack of stability. The other corrective is the posterior rock with a stability ball. That one is great and I can feel my core firing but it’s one of those that looks pretty goofy. No way would I do that one in public or even in front of my workout partner.

I was feeling great and pretty excited until Brett told me not to workout (my regular workouts) for 2-4 weeks while I worked on my corrective exercises. I was deflated. I was just getting in a groove and getting strong and the thought of not working out was upsetting.

So during the Summit, I did my correctives and just a few “green light” exercises such as get ups, and super slow, light goblet squats. I missed out on quite a bit but still enjoyed and learned so much from the instructors.

A lot of the weekend was spent on movement, breathing and honing our skills. I know that the better I move, the stronger I will be. Going for max strength or even fitness with compensations is a set up for injury. Compensations are my enemy. I want to move well, be flexible and stable, strong and durable. I want to be able to workout for the rest of my life and I know if I don’t take the time to fix these issues, I won’t be able to.

Corrective exercises are not fun, not sexy (well, maybe the Posterior Rocking would turn someone on) and certainly not exciting. You won’t see me bragging about my ankle drills on Facebook and you won’t see me tweeting about my Thoracic rotations. But I know if I put in the time now, it won’t be long before I’m back online bragging about big gains in my fitness and strength.

If you are local and would like more information on getting a movement screen and corrective exercises, please leave a comment. I am certified in Functional Movement Screening as well as Z-Health.

This was a very decieving name for a workout

This is a workout me and a few friends did last week. It all started as a joke, but you know how that goes. Jerritt (my awesome workout partner) and I were feeling pretty cocky about our workouts and started bragging about them to Ricky and Megan. Ricky and Megan have both competed in the most extreme race on the planet; The Death Race. Ricky was in town for training for the past two weeks and so as part of his training, he challenged us to a workout duel.

In order to be fair and not stack the workout in me and Jerritt’s favor, we enlisted the help of Sgt. James Fairfield, head of our police department’s TAC team. We did not know what the workout would entail until we arrived at the gym.

The 3 page workout was titled Build a Bear. My memories of bringing my kids to the mall and filling sweet little, cuddly bears with soft stuffing and secret hearts quickly faded as I read through the torture James had prepared for us.

Jerritt and I started strong and were actually a head of Megan and Ricky, but things slowed down as more and more weight was added to our stretcher. We finished building our “bear” but did not make the 1 hour (or more) trip (1.5 mile) back to the gym.

Even though we did not finish, we were pretty proud of ourselves for taking on such an enormous challenge.

Ricky and Megan finished…after all, they are Death Racers.

Here it is.

Build a Bear Workout