Sunday, March 11, 2018

2018 Arnold Grand Prix: Old Patterns, New Expectations

As I sit down to write this, I have no profound thoughts or huge take aways from the meet. Great opening line right? I decide to read my recap from last year to see if there is any profound differences. To search for inspiration. To find a gem. Truthfully, I feel a lot of the same things I felt then.

For instance, having feelings of burnout post nationals, gaining weight, having a smooth training cycle up until a few weeks out. Literally, all of the same patterns for this year. One of the key differences in 2017 and 2018 is that I knew before Nationals I was having feelings of burnout and I had a plan on how to deal with those feelings without derailing my training. I had expectations.

After Nationals last year, because I was new to the USAPL, I knew nothing of The Arnold or the timeline or how huge of a meet it was. 2018, I know I am going to do The Arnold and know in between October and the first weekend in March is a slew of holidays and 20 glorious weeks to hang out with family and friends, to over indulge, to sleep in if I feel like it, to train hungover, to have too many get togethers, to go to too many get togethers, and honestly have fun with training and put a little less pressure myself to be "in the zone". It was lovely. No, I wasn't lazy or missing training, but I was more relaxed than I was during the training cycle for Worlds and certainly fighting this particular mindset less than I was in 2017. Expectations.

I knew before competing at Nationals that I was going to The Arnold as a 63. I debated going to Nationals as a 63 but ultimately decided I needed more time. Had everything worked like I would have liked, I would be going to Worlds as a 63, but no dice there this year. As a disclaimer, this was a bit strategic on my part as at the National level, the 63's are extremely competitive and I know I need longer than 12 weeks to make the transition. This was my attempt at making the transition without having to take a year off from competing at Worlds but it is not to be this year.

All of this to say, in 2017 I was bringing it down to the wire to make weight as a 57 and I feel as though that had a big impact on my meet day performance. This year, obviously not a factor. This year, I knew I wasn't even going to look at a nutrition plan until January. A much needed break!

A couple of other strategies at hand were taking the ramp up to heavy ass shit slow. Lots of high bar squats, took the arch out on bench, and pulled sumo with the intention of taking it all the way to the meet. I really enjoyed this and so did my body.

Fast forward to heavy training. Things are going really well. MY BENCH! My bench was finally moving and I was PUMPED. Still pumped actually. As with 2017, in 2018 about 4 weeks out I am feeling a bit fatigued but that's to be expected. One particular training session, an important one, I fail a deadlift at 192.5kgs. After that miss, I am just toast. Misses don't bother me when they are just misses. Too heavy or a slip in technique, I can handle that. On this day, I just didn't have that gear. I felt like I was hitting the gas and nothing was happening. I decide I am just not feeling well and might be sick and go home. I WENT HOME. This is not typical. I always at least finish my session one way or another but I packed it up, went home and slept for 5 hours. The following week is deload so I figure it is right on time and I will bounce back for the last block of training.

During this deload week, I feel out my conventional pull and it felt like money. So we pull the plug on sumo about 3 weeks out. The week after deload I wake up Monday after a horrible night of sleep, which has been the norm for the past several weeks and look at myself in the mirror. MY FACE. MY EYE. It is red, and swollen, and sooooo itchy. I wake my husband up to confirm that my face is looking weird and I should probably seek medical attention. After training of course.

Go into the gym, ignore my face, say nothing to no one and just get the work done. Go to a walk in clinic. She gives me a prescription for an anti-viral but doesn't actually tell me a diagnosis. She suggests that I go to an ophthalmologist to make sure it is not infecting my eye because blindness is not cool. Long story short: I could not get into the eye doc without a referral, they won't take one from the walk in clinic, schedule appointment with primary care provider to get referral, he says, YOU HAVE SHINGLES, this is a run on sentence but imagine I'm saying it quickly and in one breath, and I say, I'm sorry what?????!!!

Yes, you have shingles on your face, you need to make sure it's not in your eye as soon as possible.

Oh. Well. Maybe that's why I have been feeling so horrible and have been having no energy and have been feeling weak af. HEW. So glad I'm not just fatigued or over trained or lazy. I am relieved to get through these meds and get this out of my system and maybe I still have a fighting chance at having a decent meet.

The meds are for 7 days. I get through the training. I am sleeping better but training is still feeling hard. I am tired and still don't have that low end gear needed for lifting heavy shit. At this point in training, I am suppose to be hitting big numbers but I just don't have it. I look up the side effects of the meds and they include cold symptoms, tiredness, headache, dizziness, etc. Relieved again! So, get through these 7 days and we'll be back on track!

Day 8. Meds are done. Going to bed early. Going to sleep well. Going to crush the last two weeks of training. Nope. I don't sleep at all. My face is itching throughout the night and now I know exactly what's going on. The shingles have returned. Insert blank stare face.

Go into the gym. Tell Wade the shingles are back. Will call the doctor as soon as they are open. Text Aaron that the shingles are back and we all agree to pull back on the training yet again. Aaron also increases my calories in an effort to get past this. Second round of meds on deck. I should finish them with a week to spare. Just in time to taper!

I finish the meds and am super paranoid they are going to come back. I keep looking in the mirror. I can't tell if I'm just being paranoid or if my face just itches like a normal itch??? I get a refill on the meds just in case. Then we head out of town for the meet!

Trust the Process. I actually really had to trust the process here. This was the blindest I have ever gone into a meet in regards to third attempts. I entertained the idea of lowering my squat opener. Instead, I watched training video after training video of me hitting 165kg over and over and over. So I stick with the plan. I can hit 165kgs with shingles. I can certainly hit it without them.

At a heavier body weight, I knew my wilks was going to take a hit. I knew going in that I would have to be aggressive on 3rds and have to make them not just to win, but to even place in the top two. I was so anxious to get to warm ups so I could have an idea of where I was at strength wise.

On to warm ups. The unracks feel like trash but the weight is moving. Last warm up, I unrack it and it still feels so heavy on my back. However, it floated and I knew we were in the money. First attempt is no problem. Always such a relief to get that first attempt in. Go to the planned second attempt, 175kg, the weight I missed at Nationals for a 3rd and it moves fine. Not the fastest I've moved that weight but no real issues. I let Wade and Aaron just make the call for the 3rd. They call 180kgs. We had planned a 180-185kg range for the third. From here, I knew I needed to actually make the lift, and I was confident I would, however I also knew we had our work cut out for us to place with only 180kg going into bench. Lift is good. 3/3 on squat. Also, PR on not making any sketchy walk outs!

Bench! So pumped to bench because I am so pumped to NOT bench 100kgs. Weight cuts and random shoulder issues have had me hovering at 100kgs for what feels like a lifetime. I was so excited when I finally hit it in a meet but I was ready for more. Warm up for bench feels pretty good. I keep touching too high but know I just need to find the groove with touch point and it will be fine.

Opener, 97.5kg, touch too high, but good. Second, 102.5, touch too high AGAIN and it shows but good lift. Buh bye 100kgs! We had planned 105-107.5kg for the 3rd on bench. I don't say anything to Wade and Aaron and again let them make the call. They call 105kg and justifiably so. DAMMIT! I am so mad at myself for making 102.5 look harder than it should. I refuse to make the same mistake on the 3rd. And I didn't. 105 looked better than 102.5 and I'm pissed at myself because I know I am short 2.5 very important kilos in my subtotal.

I am not exactly sure where Jen and Marisa are as far as total or made attempts. I had done enough calculating before the meet to know at this point I might be fighting for 2nd place but it was still going to be really tough without those 2.5-5kgs from my previous 6 attempts.

Deadlift warm ups feel AHHHmazing. Opener 177.5kg floated like a delicate butterfly. I walk off the platform and Wade, Aaron and myself all know we might have something in the dead. Went to 187.5kg on the 2nd and it felt good but truthfully not quite as snappy as I would liked only because I knew I needed a HUGE 3rd to place for a cash prize. 

Wade asks me if I want to go for it on the 3rd. He says he's gonna have to be really aggressive for 2nd place. I said load it. Why not? Deads are feeling good and maybe, just maybe I can make it happen. 200kgs. The first time it's ever been loaded in front of me. I broke it off the floor and was quite surprised! Couldn't get it past my knees. 3rd place it is. I'd be lying if I said I weren't disappointed in my placing. However, I hit some solid pr's, went 8/9, and all in all had a great meet!

22.5kgs on my total from the 2017 Arnold. 472.5kg total puts me in the top 5 for the 63kg weight class. That is nothing to be mad at. Looking back, everything was much the same, but this year, we were better. MUCH better. In hindsight, I wish I would have communicated with Wade and Aaron a little better either before the meet or during the meet about taking bigger risks on the thirds to build that subtotal.

As far as weight classes go, I am making my way back to 57kg for Worlds in June. I've been having this internal debate on when/if I should go up for a long time. The debate lives on. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Goal Achieved


It’s 7:38 pm Saturday, February 24th. We’ve been at a meet all day where the lil hawt tamale, Melissa or Missy totaled Pro/Elite . Yay, yes, I know. It is a big deal. She’s resting now in our bedroom next to my office, watching basketball. She’s a fan, especially of Duke and I chuckle quite often as she is one of those that yells at the refs and players while she watches. It is indeed, quite entertaining. But, there is more and I want to share this with you. I coach Missy. I live and share a home with her and our 4 dogs and our team of Ogres, if you will. But, a story is not told so quickly so, I have to rewind a bit to explain.
April 13th, 2013 I was in Cincy at the Women’s pro/am. This is where I met Missy. I remember vividly the stark look she had. There was something that was just unique and I thought, that is someone I’d like to get to know. We spoke briefly and we became pals on social media and would talk and chat. As we got to know each other a little bit, she knew I coached lifters and would ask questions and just chat training, etc. She even asked me once, “if I was one of your lifters, what would you have me do?” I told her I would have her put on weight and learn to cut. That she was so lean and long that with some muscle and body weight, her leverages would be dramatically improved. Now, she was not keen on the idea, especially when I said 180-185 lbs. She was about 155 when I met her. AS time went on, we got to the point where we chatted daily and spoke on the phone often. There was clearly chemistry but, she lived in Charleston, SC and I in Mt Juliet, TN.  Later in the year, she was going to be back in Cincy interviewing for a job and it was the same weekend of the North of the Border meet and I would be judging. We agreed to spend a couple of days together and see, if this was something, was it a cool thing, could she and I be an item. The morning of December 6th, 2013 was a training day. I deadlifted that morning, jumped in my Kia with my packed bag, and headed north. I literally got 20 minutes from home, in the rain, snow was coming and I was hoping to beat it. But, at minute 21, my alternator went out. I limped to a parts store, ordered the parts, called my son Wes to pick me up, and take me home and I started my little Ranger pick up with 265,000 miles on it and drove back to my Kia, picked up my bag and off I went. It was now 11 am and had been a 3 hour turn around from the first time I tried to leave.
It takes about 3 hours to get just outside of Louisville, Ky.  Wes called and said yes, you will run into some snow but, you could beat it. I got on the bypass in Louisville and it was snowing and parking lot. I got to Louisville in 3 hours but, it would take another 6 hours to get to Cincy. I got there, Missy had ordered food, I had brought a bottle of wine, we ate and spent a couple of days together. I knew at that moment, she was something special. I knew I wanted to get to know her more and see where this would take us.
Melissa got the job and was going to move over the New Year Holiday week. I had some time off and went up to help her move in. She had emptied all the boxes by the time I got there and had returned her vehicle trailer. So, she and I, in the cold and again, awaiting snow, emptied her truck. We had a great dinner and spent the holiday together and the rest is history.
So, how does this tie in to today and her amazing feat of power? Melissa and I have shared and lived so much in our time together. She told me early on that when she and her training partner back at Low Country Strength, Shannon, that she wanted to eventually total elite. That was in 2012. I remember her training and competing the following year at the women’s pro/am and squatting and pulling 300+ and benching 135 which, she thought she’d never hit. The following month, Melissa had landed a job in Nashville, I flew up and we packed up and she came to Mt Juliet with me. Then the flowing month, as she had always wanted to try Olympic weightlifting, she competed in her first meet, totaled 100kg and qualified for master’s nationals. This had little impact initially on powerlifting. Missy and I would have training dates where we’d go to either the Sweat Shop or the Oly gym and train. October/November of that year, she got a bronze at the American masters and then a couple few weeks later, she hit an 800 total in powerlifting. She was 55 away from elite. I made a picture and framed when she moved in and hung it in the office where is still hangs showing what her goals would be for 2014 and what she needed for elite.
2015 became the year of weightlifting over powerlifting. There was great success. A bronze at nationals, a silver at Pan-ams and a bronze at the world cup.  It was later that year, she decided to come back to powerlifting. She also wanted to try her hand at strongman. 2016 she went up in weight. She finally decided that the weight would help. Competed and hit some big pr’s and then later that year, made the cut back to 165, totaled 830-fell short 25. 2017 Missy competed in 3 strongman events. Winning 2 and then getting 3rd as master’s nationals. She also went back to the weightlifting platform and hit some state records. She stayed in the 181’s and hit a big total pr and lifetime meet pr’s in all lifts. It was then she decided that training 3 sports was too much. The focus would be strongman for 2018 but, she wanted to make the cut to 165 once more and take a shot at elite as her lifts at her last meet would have been more than enough,. Sounds so simple, yes? But, it’s not easy. In the midst of training and this weight cut to 165, she would need to do a qualifier for strongman masters nationals. Training was hard. The early hours, did I mention we get up at 4 am Monday through Friday because of her job and it’s the only way she can get the training in? Missy did well and qualified easily at the strongman comp and then a few weeks to finish training. The training cycle was horrendous. Lots of struggles, lots of missed lifts and lots of frustration and tears. I was dreading the meet. I knew she would be devastated if this didn’t go well and she had even said as much. I was very excited for our team but, Melissa just struggled and even with adjustments, less volume and less weight, it seemingly got worse. There were days that both of us were so frustrated that it was just difficult to get through the day. As it always works, meet week comes. She’s easily going to make weight and then, boom, she is sick. It’s a cold but, she is sick and coughing. I spent the rest of the week preparing myself for how I was going to handle it if she missed this shot. Keep in mind, Melissa is a master’s lifter, life time drug free and turned 45 last year. We both know, with the wear and tear of training multiple strength sports, the window was narrowing and with the way the training cycle had gone and how she’d struggled in past cycles with the heart breaking oh so close results, I was worried to say the least.
And so, this morning, here we were. I got up super early, fed the dogs, and trained some light aux and coached Carolyn through her session and off we went. We drove to Murfreesboro and warm ups seemed pretty decent. I decided to have her wrap on her last 2 warm ups and hoped it would give her a boost and make the lifts easier and give her confidence. Opener was 305. We knew she had to have 330 to have a shot. 305 goes up and she’s in the meet. I was going to go conservative but, she wanted the 330. I was pretty nervous. I didn’t’ think 305 went in a manner that a 25 lb jump would be good but, she wanted it. To her credit, she dug in and hit the lift. She hadn’t been this heavy all cycle. I went to 335. I knew we’d need some extra pounds as the weight cut seemed to effect her bench the most. Again, she had to grind but, where she had failed in the past, she dug in and keep the weight where she needed it to finish the lift and earn a lifetime pr of 335. On to bench, her warm ups were fine and I was hopeful. I knew if we could at least get 150, she had a 370 pull. She always pulls well on meet day. Opener of 140 goes solid. On to 150 where she has to grind it a bit and so I call for 155. It’s our only option. She’s tired and misses the lift. In situations like this, all you can ask for is an opportunity to be successful, just a shot or a fighting chance. While not her best lifts, she had a sub-total that if she could pull 370, she’d hit pro/elite and finally hit her goal that started all the way back in 2012. She warmed up to 275 and lifted well. I was starting to believe it could happen. She opened at 315 and was solid. On to her 2nd was 345. It was slower of the floor and it would be a fight but 25 more would give her a 370 pull and the 855 total that has been so elusive. I called for 370 and she set up, loaded and the pull started and the weight did not want to move but, she would not quit and finally, the weight pulled away from the ground, grinded up the shins and then finally broken the knee where she finished the lift quickly. And there you have it. 6 years of training, 3 sports, at that moment, she had achieved her goal.
This is our story, our life. We get up early, have 4 girl dogs to take care of and our team both home and all over. These people are our family. We have traveled all over, judged meets, helped at meets and competed everywhere. Each week, we plan and try to find ways to get better and for Missy, she has to fight and earn every pound of strength. Our week and weekends are packed with activity as the gym runs with a morning and evening crew and a Saturday morning crew. I program mainly on the weekend and she runs the girls. I grill on the weekend to prep for the week and she’s doing laundry. It is truly a crazy schedule and pace of life. It’s just the way it is. We have to tag team the house hold things each day and week just to get through the days and weeks. It is now 9:38 pm. She is now, fast asleep and rest that is well earned. I am a proud coach. It is my honor to coach her. She gets up 6 days a week and leaves me laying there to get ready and once she is dressed to head down to the gym, I get up and she gets the girls fed. I have an old pal that asked me one time during a difficult time, how do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time. When you build it, it’s brick by brick and you have to show up every day. You have to show up when you don’t feel good because, the feelings don’t matter. You have to show up when you are tired because being elite means you do it when others won’t. And, she did that. She did it every day and as a coach, you have to love to prepare and I am so proud of her willingness to keep laying it on the line day in and day out. Elite is forever. I am also her ultra proud man. I have shared the moments of triumph and wiped away many tears. I know the road traveled to do this very well and the price you pay and for Missy, this road has been difficult but, all in one moment, she arrived and now, is forever, an elite level lifter. I am beaming, and everytime I see the video of her last pull and her jumping in elation, I tear up. I could just bust and love her excitement. For me, there is nothing sweeter than to see a dream achieved and a goal met. It’s even a cooler thing to see what someone once thought not only was improbable but likely impossible become a reality. You did it my lil hawt tamale, you did it!

And now, strongman…

And, the journey continues…stay tuned


And until then, Lift Heavy, Train Smart & Eat More Pizza!!!!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

When The Benefits are Blurry

It's December 30, 2017.

Looking back on the year, it seems successful for the most part....I suppose. I have written before about my internal struggle with powerlifting. Honestly, I find myself in the middle of the same struggle.

Once upon time, a long time ago, in a land far far away, I went to lactation school. As in, breastfeeding. SPOILER ALERT! I didn't finish. Why? Because my return on investment (ROI) was going to be extremely low. At the time, in order for me to have a real position as a certified lactation consultant (read: hired by a hospital) I'd need to also be a registered nurse, and I had/have zero interest in that. I won't bore you with the geographical details and success rates, and my lack of ability to be able to predict the upswing in interest and activism for breastfeeding at the time, I dropped out. In short, I quit. HOWEVER, I fully support loving and nurturing your babies and if that means breastfeeding for you, then I can still help at a very normal level and I still love it and I will still recommend you to a consultant if necessary.  So, if you are a mother who just had a baby and you need an ear, PLEASE send me message! I very much believe "the village" is the what is missing from society. I'll be your village. End Commercial.

Back to powerlifting. This other passion of mine. This other "pet project" of mine. At what point do you draw the line? At what point do you really look at your ROI and be honest with yourself? (I'm literally about to write an entire paragraph of rhetorical questions). When do you say that you're "good enough" to coach? When are you good enough to handle day of? When do you know enough to write programming? When do you "deserve" enough sponsorship to pay your way to comps? And can you coach and be one of the best at the same time? When is it justified? And is it ever?

At the end of the day, it is all defined by the individual. I can say, that when I was in lactation school, I learned things that I still to this day use to help women nurse their babies and would not trade that for anything in the world. I can say the same for powerlifting.

A moment that stands out to me in particular just happened the other day. I coach my daughter's basketball team and I scheduled practice over the holiday break, because consistency is key! My practice attendance was very low so I had a great opportunity to work one on one more so than normal. We were practicing free throws, and after several misses by all the players, I told them about a "trick". The trick I told them about was having the vision. I told my player, "imagine the ball going in the hoop before you shoot it. See yourself doing it. BUT, it only works, if you believe it". This particular player, believes me, which makes everything easier! I'll be dammed if she didn't shoot that free throw and it swished threw the net! IT WORKS, she exclaimed!

I may have cried. Just a little though. I owe this lesson to powerlifting. There are many things I have learned through this sport that I pour out money and sacrifice to. And I'm taking a giant exhale and saying that it's worth it. While my ROI may not me monetary (for now), it is serving me in the greater scheme of things. And much like the school I dropped out of, I am at times severely underestimating it's value.

As I continue to learn, each day, the most valuable things we have to offer, are what we have to offer to others by way of experience and encouragement. #bethegasoline 

LET'S GO 2018!





 enouhg

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Going 9 for 9: Worth the Hype or Nah?

Is going 9 for 9 worth the hype or nah? I say (like everyone wise woman).......it depends.

I whole heartily believe that making attempts is what wins titles. If you're a contender, you have to make attempts and as many of them as possible. End of story. Why? Duh. More attempts made means a bigger total and totals win meets. World records do not win meets. Co-efficients and arbitrary mile stone numbers do not win meets. Big totals win meets, which means every attempt matters, every kilo matters. 

HOWEVER. I also whole heartily believe that you should work backwards from YOUR goal. Some (maybe even most), aren't necessarily chasing a title or winning a weight class or best lifter. Which brings me to setting outcome goals for a meet. Powerlifting is a funny sport in many ways, but particularly because it's competitors seem to be eternally dissatisfied with their results. For a long time, I went into meets without any particular goals or worse, goals of hitting very specific numbers (10/10 do not recommend). Eventually, I gave up on hitting very specific numbers and became a little more strategic in my game day plan. The damnedest thing happened when I did this.....I started making national/world record attempts, I started winning titles, I started winning best lifter. Say what?! You mean, strategy and planning have a place in powerlifting? Yes. Yes it does. 

So, how do I set up my meet day goals? First, I set a minimum goal. This is a pass/fail grade. If nothing else, I want to hit this bare minimum goal. Often times, this is something like PR-ing my total. This helps keep you on track if things start going to shit. Then, the ideal goal. This is what you came to do. This is what you're training for. This is what you've set up your training cycle for. Then, stretch goals, just in case you're on fire and crushing it that day. These are "pie in sky" but maybe there's a chance goals. 

Where does going 9/9 come into play? Often times, if you go 9/9, you're going hit your goals because you've been smart about every attempt. Not to mention, with every attempt you make, you're building up momentum, which is building up your confidence, which is building up your enthusiasm, which is building up your probability to hit some big deadlifts, which is building up your total. The only number that really matters. 

The other side effect of going 9 for 9 is you force your competitors to compete. The constant pressure of hitting attempt after attempt can have some psychological advantage because you may just put your competitors into the hamster wheel of chasing your marginal lead. If my strategy is making attempts, I pay no attention to what my competitors are putting on the bar because I'm here to win, and winning means a big total and big total means making attempts. 

Pulling for the win.
Should you pull for the win? It depends. Do you have an actual shot at making the attempt? Or are you willy nilly loading an unrealistic weight you have no shot at completing? If you have a chance at ACTUALLY MAKING THE LIFT, then I say load it. If you've already made 8 attempts, then you've probably closed the gap as much as possible and again, probably feeling like a rock star. So load it. If you have no shot at making the lift, then I say load AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ACTUALLY LIFT. I'm not suggesting sandbagging just to make the 9th attempt, but I am suggesting being smart and strategic and putting a weight on the bar that you think is possible. Make your competitors compete! Make the lift and make them make lifts. I realize this may make you be realistic about yourself and the day you've had. It may mean that on that day, you got beat but at least you can say you literally lifted every kilo/pound you had that day.   

Loading an unrealistic weight and hoping for magic is not a strategy. Loading a weight you think is your limit that day and getting the lift is executing. 

As for me, I don't hope, I execute.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

2017 Raw Nationals: Flipping the Switch

"I leave him there in the airport. Hands down, one of the most gut wrenching things I've ever had to do. When it comes to trauma and dealing with it, I'm reclusive. I prefer to go to a dark cave and be left alone until I figure it out, BY MYSELF, with no one. I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to be touched, I don't want sympathy, I want solitude."

July 2, 2017 is when I finally returned home with my whole family from IPF Worlds piggy backed with family vacation. My first outing at as a National team member was a whirl wind of emotions. When I finally hit the couch in my living room, I felt like I was coming down off of one hell of a bender. I was so grateful for everything that I was able to do, so grateful to be home again with my babies and my man. However, I never did get that solitude I so desired and quite honestly required.

15 weeks. That was the turn around time from Worlds to Nationals. Training for Worlds, I was so focused, it was almost trance like. After I competed, it felt like I had finally come up for air. I had actually done it. I actually did the thing. But a part of the whole thing was missing for me so it was as if I were having the best dream ever, only to be woken up before the end. And now, I had to do it again.

I wanted to train. I wanted to get to that place. The zone. That trance like focus that I know I'm capable of. I wanted to flip the switch. In an effort to be transparent, I'm telling you, I couldn't get there.

I trained. I showed up. I put forth effort. I was even hitting some PR's in training. However, my mind just couldn't get absorbed in it like it had before. I've read that your mind only has so much "will power" or what I would call grit and once it's tapped out, it's tapped out. Burn out. I've seen athletes burn out, I've seen myself burn out and I knew this was what I was experiencing. So, I accept it.

I know this is temporary. I know all I need is a little time and I can build it again. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time. The good news for me, is that I don't have to have the best meet of my life to keep my National title. So I let the pressure release. I stop waiting for the fire to return, for the trance like focus to commence. It's not coming and I'm not trying to force it and risk permanent burn out.

I don't think I ever fully processed all the travel stress that happened for Worlds. I wasn't sleeping well and would have dreams of losing my family. I would wake up and go check everyone and make sure they were safe and sound in their beds. As Nationals drew closer, I felt anxiety creeping in about flying and leaving my family behind. Because of the time Michael took off for Worlds, he was not able to make it to Nationals. So needless to say, I wasn't worrying or focusing much on attempts or totals or making weight. I was just trying to make it one piece.  

So, going into the meet my expectation was to increase my total by a few kilos. I wasn't looking to make a huge splash, just a little bit better than the meet before. I thought if I could manage to go 9/9, that would set me up to have a shot at best lifter and of course win my weight class. Come hell or high water, I'm deadlifting more that 187.5kgs. 

My body weight this cycle was not as cooperative as it has been in the past. Much of that though was my own lack of focus and I think my stress level was a bit high which isn't good for anything. I didn't get extremely heavy but could not consistently get below 130lbs to save my life. Another thing I decide to accept and leave to the water manipulation gods.

Let's get to the lifting! So, warming up, I feel very ok. I'm feeling guilty about not having the intensity I know exists within me....which I believe has also rubbed off on Wade....but again, it's just not coming, so I try to ignore it and just accept things as they are and get the job done. Attempts one and two feel just as warm ups felt and I knew even a small PR was going to be a reach. We call for 175kgs, Wade tells me I'm gonna have to dig.....I know, I freakin know. I unrack and the actual unrack felt strong, but uneven. I'm so used to ignoring shit like this in an attempt to overcome I just go with it. I come up out of the hole and feel the dip to one side and I just can't stand up with it.

I actually feel really horrible about this. It is not very often that I feel a need to please anyone or like anyone ever even thinks about me very much, but in that moment, I felt like I let people down. At this point, I knew we'd have to be pretty conservative to hit the total PR. THIS is why missing a squat is THE WORST. Lost momentum and now playing catch up. Boo. Despite my pity party, I'm still in position to hit my PR total and win my class.

On to bench! Bench, was not friendly this training cycle. It was not picking up any momentum and I'm expecting to simply match my best meet bench (100kgs). Opener, fine. Second, freakin slow. Now I'm pissed. We only have one place to go and that is 100kgs. I absolutely refuse to be miss this 100kgs bench. 100 KILOS is mine forever and always.

On this third bench attempt, I flip the switch. I flipped it to that dark side that refuses to fail and doesn't give one flying fuck about how I feel, what the training cycle has been like, what people think, what happened at Worlds, what meet I'm doing....none of it matters. I'm getting this lift and I'm getting a PR total. The lift is super slow, and good. The feelings I've been waiting for rush over me. In this moment, I feel some redemption and hope.

Deadlifts. If there is one thing that motivates me to hit a PR on a specific lift, it's when it's overdue. I wanted a huge pull at Worlds. It so happened that 1) I wouldn't need it and that 2) I'd be red lighted. I was so very annoyed at my deadlift performances, that it was in the forefront of my mind to make it happen. I actually decided to lower my planned attempts a week or so out. I opened lower than I did at Worlds. This was strategic in that I knew I was going to at the very least make a third attempt and it likely was not going to determine placing so I was just saving up for it. 175kgs and 185kgs for one and two. Now, we have a decision to make. Go for the total PR or a stretch goal. I tend to learn towards the conservative route because pride won't let me total less than my previous total. I tell Wade, let's just hit the total PR and be done. 192.5kgs is what we put in. .5 kilos more than my current total. At the last minute, Wade changes the attempt to chip the American record to 193kgs. I make the lift. My American deadlift record stands for now. Wade is the master meet day manager and thinker and getter of records.

So, I sit here like an asshole, feeling bad about my 463kg total, which unofficially breaks my current world record total by one kilo. So I bested, the best meet of my life and I'm feeling like I let myself, coaches, friends, family, and followers down. And that is the twisted world of powerlifting.

While I am feeling luke warm about my performance at Nationals, I am feeling great overall about the experience. It was really great seeing all of you in internet land in real life. I was able to stay in the meet hotel, something I have not done in the past, which meant that I was able to catch a lot more sessions than I normally do and just being around seeing everyone in passing was nice too. Social PR's all around.

Being able to watch many sessions, and even commentate the 72kg women/93kgs men's primetime session, I quickly noticed a very obvious characteristic in lifters. I could literally see people flip the switch. I could see when top name lifters in prime time flipped the switch after a particular attempt. I could see some that flipped it before the meet even started. I could see some in the early sessions that flipped it too....bound for greatness.

I'm about to contradict myself. While I really believe that flipping switch is necessary for life, I do believe there are varying degrees. So it's more like a dimmer, which is contradictory of said switch that gets flipped. Perhaps getting into "the zone" works more like a dimmer. When the training cycle is set up and going well, the dimmer slowly dims until you are completely on the dark side for meet day. Other times, it's not as successful and the need to go immediately to the dark side arises...some can, at that point flip the switch, while others fumble with the dimmer.

From my very own, very anecdotal, very un-expert opinion, here are few that I either noticed had dimmed the lights to darkness or flipped the switch. In no particular order.

1) Marisa Inda. Marisa had been battling an injury since Worlds. Obviously that can put a damper on any meet prep. However, she showed up to do her job and defend her National title. Marisa missed her third bench attempt. I was in the crowd, and couldn't tell exactly what happened, but knew that was a weight that she could hit in her sleep. Chad challenged the call because the blocks she was using had slipped. Marisa doesn't typically use blocks but was doing so here to protect the injury. The call was overturned and she was able to take a 4th attempt. Marisa came back like a pro, and made easy work of that weight. It is truly a skill to come back from a missed lift and make it. I was so fired up to see Marisa make that lift. She went on to win her weight class and will be in Calgary to defend her World title.

2) Generally speaking, the 63kg women. They were all so incredible. Jennifer Thompson coming back from injury, where no one knew what to expect and quite honestly may have counted her out...walked onto the platform for business. I knew by the end of squats, she was here and here to win. She had dimmed the lights. Quite honestly though, it seemed to me that all the top 63kg women had dimmed the lights. It was great to watch and was one of my favorite sessions. It's gonna be a great session for years to come.

3) Muh girl, Erin Kyle. I met Erin, via the internet. She is part of the #1atperformance team and I was pumped to watch her lift. I feel an unreasonable amount of responsibility for her success. It is unreasonable and unfounded. She is smart and strong and perfectly capable of success on her own. She also works really hard, is sarcastic, dry, and funny, so I'm a softy. She took her 2nd attempt squat, and I was worried for her third quite honestly, BUT the spotters very obviously took her third too early. I am literally screaming like a maniac from the crowd for her coach (and fiance) to challenge it and he does. I feel immediate regret. Dammit. It's going to be a dig. Maybe it's not worth it? I don't know. She comes out, takes the forth attempt. I'LL BE DAMNED if she doesn't get the lift. It was one of the longest, grind-est lifts I've seen, but she stood up with it. She flipped the switch. Literally, my most favorite lift of Nationals.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaP4Fj-HjHa/?taken-by=jenmillican

4) The entire 72/93kg session. Kim Walford, much like Jennifer Thompson, came out for one thing and one thing only, to take care of business. When I watched Kim, I could see the darkness she had dimmed to. Every attempt, she was bringing it, she didn't break. What she did do was break several records, win best lifter and go 9/9......oh and dim the lights all the way to darkness. Honestly, I could see it from the first attempt, Kim was there to clean up.....and for the sake of being candid, I was envious I didn't bring the same intensity.

I saw several lifters in this session flip the switch and at least one other that dimmed to darkness. Kloie Dublin. She is young, and smart, and strong and has a dark side. She was there in the darkness the entire time.  Dave Ricks and LS McClain both flipped the switch when it came time. Watch the recording of the sessions, and tell me you don't see the difference in the lifters.

I had a great time at Nationals. Thank you all for indulging me and reading my blog and following along with my journey. Let's all freaking dim that switch.

Cheers,
Jennifer
   


























































































































































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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Become What You Have Received; My Internal Struggle with Powerlifting

Become what you have received.

These words resonated with me at my daughter's first communion back in May. When I first heard them, I asked myself what is it that my children are receiving? What am I, as their Mother, giving them? The answer I gave myself was a mix of good and bad and a lot in the middle. It certainly gave me another perspective to the ever changing canvas of parenting.

Powerlifting is a hobby. It is not my job. I repeat these things over to myself when I'm stuck in the middle of obsessing and worrying about lifts, and meets, and form, and attempt selection, and body weight, and flights, and hotel rates, and time off from work.

I love this sport. I love training and competing. I love preparing. I love analyzing. I love almost everything that is necessary to be good in this sport. I'm good at it too. Really good. I don't mind waking up at the ass crack of dawn to train (80% of the time at least), I don't mind the annoying aches and pains, I don't mind the physical effort, I don't mind any of it. BUT FOR WHAT? The truth is, I really don't know the answer. Any result, whether internal or external, is and has been at sole benefit of myself.  This is my internal struggle.

But for what?! I yelled at my husband when discussing exactly why I'm pursuing a sport that rarely puts enough money back in my pocket to even break even. A sport that takes time away from children, money away from vacations we could be taking as a family, energy I could be putting into avenues that produce income, attention and validation I could feel from parenting, being a wife, being good at my job that this sport is currently doing for me. FOR WHAT?

Become what you have received. For whatever reason, which has become multifaceted for myself, I have received this gift of being strong. I am workhorse. There is no amount of work, or discomfort that will deter me from fulfilling my potential. I am not the person that needs external motivation to show up. I have a trance like focus and I can't escape it. However, I also have genetics. When I started lifting, I was immediately an outlier. Work and commitment will certainly take you to levels you thought were un-achievable, but those things combined with genetics, and you will become unstoppable.

Who am I to deny these gifts that I have received? What kind of asshole would I be if I received this gift and I were to ignore it? My pursuit of strength has made me who I am. My pursuit of strength has made me a better person, a better parent, a better wife, a better teammate, a better Jennifer. While I may struggle at times with the "WHY" of powerlifting, I am forever indebted to the sport.

I have received this gift, and I will become it. I will become it, I will nurture it, I will evolve it....AND THEN I will give whatever I received to my children, to any of you that read my blogs, to any of you that follow along with my journey, to any of you that reach out to me, to any of you that walk into my gym, to any of you that cross my that path.

I will give you what I have received.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Pressure

Pressure. I've never been very good under pressure. I grew up athletic. My entire life, I love(d) playing sports of any kind. In a neighborhood full of boys, I was never shy about participating in any of the pick up games that came about. Depending on the season, it was always one of the three main sports in the south (at least where I grew up); baseball, basketball, or football. I played all three. In hindsight (such a bitch), I wish I would have actually pursued football a bit more, but because of the fairly obvious gender reasons, I did not (but future Jennifer would have told past Jennifer to sign up and get a helmet and pads, and to start eating). I've always had quick hands and feet, I've always been what most call aggressive (I call it playing to win), and I freaking LOVE studying competition and developing strategy, but I digress.

I was good enough at basketball to play with the middle school team for most of the summer. As mentioned, I've always been fast and aggressive. What I did lack was, uh, finesse. I was a star defensive player. My signature move was to steal the ball and break away. I would make a fast break, pull away from everyone, be all alone at my goal, and BRICK every lay up I attempted. I was also five feet tall. I played with the team all summer, and just before school started, I was told I wouldn't be moving on. I was crushed, but I also inherently knew it was coming.

At this time in my life, I believed that this is just the way I was. I wasn't good at the follow up. I wasn't good at making the basket. I just believed that is who I was. Eternally, almost great.

Softball. I was very good at softball. I was good at both offensive and defense. I started playing when I was eight, and I was started at first base. Quick hands. As I got older, I moved to short stop. There was nothing that could get past me. Growing up, I would beg my father to go out in the yard with me and hit grounders to me. I would ask him to do this after a solid weekend out of town where all I did was play short stop for eight hours a day ( my current powerlifting coaches, Aaron, Wade and my Husband shouldn't feel surprised by this at all). I thought about softball day and night. I loved everything about it, I would sleep in my uniform. I fell in love with this game. While I'm not 100 percent sure, I believe I was the only one (at the time), to hit it over the fence in Mt. Juliet Little League Softball.

I try out for High School Ball. I dominate at try outs and make the team. As a freshman, I get to pinch hit. But they want me bunt??????? What is happening? I am fast, yes, but I can hit the ball. What the hell is happening? I'm no good at bunting. In my mind I'm like, just let me hit the ball and let's move on. I eventually get the chance to start at second base. I am not used to pitchers who are pitching with strategy. I don't know how to handle curve balls, and risers (dude, they fucked me every time), and change ups. When it came to playing defense, second base wasn't exactly the same as short stop when it came to how to play the ball. In short, there was so much more strategy in High School Ball that I was quite unaccustomed to. I lacked so much grooming as a player with potential. I don't like to blame coaching, because after all, this is #poweryourown, but at this time in my life, I could have really used a coach that believed in my potential. I *knew I wasn't good under pressure, and my high school softball career was exasperating it.

I was cut my sophomore year. At that time, it was the most devastating thing that could have happened to me. It literally took my life away. From the time that I was eight years old, all I thought was the game of softball. I should have been BETTER. I should have tried harder. I should have been more pursuant about how to get better. I should have studied harder on how to bunt. I should have sought out help on how to make my throw better. I should have competed at a higher level to understand pitching strategies. Now, I'm sitting here in my coach's office, and he is telling me my life is over. It was in that moment that I decided I would NEVER rely on anyone to fulfill my potential ever again.

So, from here, the majority of my athletic career is over. I tried out again but didn't make it. I have some babies on down the line. Quite honestly, it was my decision to have these babies naturally (without drugs and pain relievers) that awakened this part of me that had been asleep for so long. This part of me that desires competition, that desires overcoming self doubt, the part of me that desires being better than I believed I was at the time.

After my second child is born, I decide I would like some of my shape back. I had gotten really thin and I prefer the curvy back road rather that the straight and narrow interstate as far as physiques go. My husband had been doing Crossfit, and I decide to give it a whirl. I love competing and I love winning so Crossfit really seemed like a great fit to me. Shortly after doing that, I do a push/pull and never look back.

I knew going into powerlifting, that I had loads of potential. I also knew my background and that I didn't deal well with pressure. My first few meets, I most certainly under performed. I never lifted well in meets and I always lifted way more in the gym. I was always so nervous on meet day, I just couldn't get it together when it mattered.

This was very frustrating for me. I have mentioned in quite possibly every blog I have written, an article by Dr. Mike Israetel on the process of training, and how to rely on the process. I hate to be so repetitive but this article was quite a pivotal moment in my career.

I am a person that requires evidence, and if it's anecdotal, that works even better. This article gave me something to work for. It inspired the idea that even if I suck at high pressure situations, I could pull out at the end if I did the work.

From here, I realize that performing under pressure is a skill I can ACQUIRE. I may have been born with these genetics that make me so nervous that I buckle under pressure and leave every ounce of potential I have in the mind of myself. However, I have learned to overcome that.

I know that come meet day, I will be super hella nervous. I know that my brain will not function like it does in the gym. I know that I will forget everything I have done up until this point. I know that weird shit will happen with unracks, and commands, and rack heights, and white lights, and red lights, and starting on time, on flights, and passports, and visas, and hotels, and meals, and water, and literally everything else in world.

What I can tell you is that I DON'T CARE. I have reached a point where performing under pressure is a skill that I have pursued. I have researched it and I have beat it into the ground. I may seem like a crazy person on meet day because I can't speak to anyone or direct my attention outside of myself AT ALL, but what I can do is perform. I can perform because I decided to. Not because I am a person that naturally trusts the process or naturally excels under pressure. I have learned to do that.

My intention in this post is to inspire those of you that may feel like nerves get the best of you come meet day. You can overcome it. You must be intentional about overcoming it. Read about it. Practice it, everyday. It is a skill that you can pursue. It requires trust and practice, but most importantly, self belief. Which is SKILL that you can acquire if you practice it daily.