And the weight goes up: Two new squat maxes

The break is coming up soon and Zach has plans for us to start a new training cycle in Olympic lifting when we get back. But before we go, we have some work to finish: finding out the maximum we can lift now.

This week we were tasked with finding a new back squat max (Monday) and front squat max (Wednesday). Considering I haven’t slept enough (when have I recently?!), I’m pretty happy with adding 10# to both.

My new back squat max is 175#. My new front squat max is 145#.

“Now you have to figure out 80% of that, and since your max went up, you’re [screwed],” Zach told us with a grin on his face. I could tell he was happy that my classmate and I did well. Of course, we’ve been working our tails off, so a PR wasn’t completely unexpected. Over the past few months we’ve been squatting a lot of reps at high percentages. There were days I would look at the board and wonder how in the heck I was going to survive:

Back squat 70%x6, 8-%x6, 90%x3, 95%x2

And that’s probably not the toughest of the programming. I may have just blocked most of it from my memory.

Still, it is nice to see something good come from all of that squatting. I’m definitely stronger.

Next week I have a feeling we’ll be going for a new max in the snatch and clean & jerk. Then a nice break. Ahhh….

Wrists and lifts

I visited my chiropractor this morning.  I think he’s a masochist.

He scraped my forearm. Basically, he took this plastic tool, that kind of resembles a dough scraper, lathered my arm in shea butter, and rubbed the tool over my wrist and forearm.

It was painful.  And loud. You could actually hear crunching under the skin. Dave and Sam (the chiropractors at Next Level) say that’s the scar tissue. It’s part of what’s causing the shooting pains that go up my arm into my wrist. Or at least, I think they said that. I was too busy breathing loudly through the pain to really comprehend.

Tonight my arm is pretty red. It’s going to be a lovely shade of purple in a couple of days.

To be honest, I kind of asked for the scraper. Dave scraped my other arm early last week, and even though it was painful for a little while, I haven’t had any shooting pains since then. The stuff works.  I have no intention of being crippled by carpel tunnel. And there’s not way I’m going under the knife if I can help it.

Sometimes I wonder if when my arms and wrists finally get fixed whether it will be easier to turn my wrists in during lifts, like Zach always reminds me to do. I have a lot of trouble keeping them turned in without tensing my entire upper body. Tension puts the brakes on momentum during a lift, which diminishes power. But when I loosen up, my wrists get sloppy and the bar swings out, which is also bad for power.

See how technical it can get?

Monday February 27
Olympic Lifting
Hip Power Snatch + BTN Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×4 → 45/50/50
Snatch off blocks 2×4, 1×4 → 55/55/55/55, 55/55/55/55
Jerk Push Press 3×5 → 65/70/70/70/70/70
Snatch Pulls 110% of max 3×5 → 80/80/80/80/80

Monday felt a little off for me. My sleep was way off. I actually thought “I feel like hell” when I woke up. Not a good sign.

Tuesday February 28
Crossfit Total (Part 1)
Back squat 1-1-1 → 145/155/160 (PR)

I scratched at 160#, but I still hit a PR on back squat Tuesday morning. We didn’t have time for shoulder press, so we’ll do those next week with deadlifts. I’m going for 75# and 195# or 200#!

Wednesday February 29
Olympic Lifting
Max Snatch → 60/70/70
Max Clean & Jerk → 70/80/90 (PR)

I was a bit disappointed with scratching at 70# on the snatch, but some days you got it and some days you don’t. I’m not going to let it discourage me. As for the clean & jerk — a PR!

I’m thinking about using my Pinterest board to create my vision board. I can’t seem to get it together enough to buy art supplies and create one — so why not digitally? Anyone else use Pinterest to inspire yourself and set goals?

Bedtime stories and a week of PRs

Some people think we’re weird, but we don’t watch TV at my house. We ditched the TV years ago. Instead, we read.

Luke has a chair he curls up in with a book, and Mads has started bringing me books to read to her. At bedtime, Andy and I have been trading off reading chapter books to them. They listen and gradually fall asleep.

Unfortunately, I’ve been falling asleep too. That means I’ve been getting a great night’s sleep. It’s a little annoying, because there’s tons of work to do after the kids go to bed, but it’s been awesome for my workouts this week. It’s amazing what a difference a little rest can make.

“Crossfit Total”
Back squat → 135-145-150
Shoulder Press → 65-70-70
Deadlift → 185-190-195

Crossfit Total was split over Tuesday and Thursday.  I had PRs on all of the Crossfit Total lifts this week. I worked hard for each of those PRs — especially that deadlift. I was fighting to lift that 190# bar. I wish I had been able to lift 195#, but it didn’t budge. It’s amazing what a difference 5 pounds made. I’m sure it was partly mental, too.

I like the sleep I’ve been getting, but I’m trying not to let myself fall asleep that early every night. If you know me, then you know I have a zillion side projects and chores to take care of. TV? I don’t have time to watch TV!

Finding focus

Have you ever been really concentrating on something and then been forced to interrupt your thought process so you could do something else? That’s been happening to me these last couple of weeks.

Work is intense. I’m a web designer/developer, and I’m in the middle of a particularly intense part of a website redesign. I basically sit down at my desk in the morning and concentrate on nothing else unless I have to. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I interrupt the process with my Olympic Lifting class. It’s tough shifting that focus.

But I don’t dare go to the gym with my mind on my job or family or anything other than what I’m about to do.  Not only is it bad for training, it’s dangerous. I need to focus on the bar, not be thinking about work, because someone could get hurt.

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” Bruce Lee

I don’t have a trick for shifting my focus away from work. But I do have a couple of strategies that help. The right kind of music helps, and by “right kind” I mean something invigorating. That usually means I have to play a CD and not listen to my usual radio station – KUT. When I leave for Olympic Lifting, John Aielli is hosting, and his kind of music is… well… slow. Or classical. Or folksy.

Not exactly “pump-me-up-for-a-workout” music.

I usually let my mind wander for a bit in the car, but about halfway there, I force out work. It has no place in my brain. It can wait. It’s almost like meditation. I try to think about one thing, related to class — kind of like a mantra. By the time I get to the gym, work is driven from my head and I can focus on the task at hand.

Sometimes, usually near the end of class, my mind will start wandering back to work. I’ve managed to catch myself and force it out. Work can wait until my shoes are off and I’m headed for the car.

I had a great class on Wednesday — I hit a PR!

Front squat max 5-3-1-1-1 → 75/80/100/115/125/130
Hip Snatch + OHS 3+3 x 3 → 45/55/60
Hang Power Snatch w/ pause @ knee & hip → 55/60/60
Snatch Balance 4×4 → 35/35/45/45

Zach had me do 4 singles of the front squats, and he still thinks I have more in me. I’m getting stronger!

The drills of the hip snatch and hand power snatch are pretty much the same as we’ve been doing.  I’m starting to hear more “Good jobs.” And the weight is slowly moving up a little at a time here and there, because I’m more consistent at the lighter weights.

What’s making the difference? Practice, time and focus.

Back squat max day

Doing back squats every week has definitely paid off.  After months of struggling to reach my pre-pregnancy max, I FINALLY got to it again on Monday.

Back squat max 5-3-1-1-1 → 80/100/115/130/145
Hip Power Snatch + OHS 3+3 x 3 → 45/45/50
Hang Snatch w/ pause at hip 3×3, 2×3, 2×1, 1×2 → 50/50/55/60
Push Press 65%x4, 75%x4, 85%x4 →  55/65/70

I am very happy with 145#. It’s not a PR, and I did hit it once back in March. But ever since then I haven’t come close. I just hope this kind of progress continues.

I also really benefited from the hang snatch with the pause at the hip. It was so helpful to be able to see exactly where I was going wrong with the regular hang snatch. I was jumping too soon because my shoulders weren’t over the bar when it reached the hip. I was flinging my chest back, rather than straight up. That’s really hard to feel when you’re moving so fast.

Still much work to do, though.

Crossfit Total for September 2011

Cindy at the top of a 165# deadlift

I have gone back and forth over what to write about this month’s benchmark: Crossfit Total.

I considered being all cheery and focusing on the positive.  I considered writing nothing at all.  And I considered being real, and perhaps revealing a bit more than I would normally, since I’m an extremely private person when it comes to certain things.

I decided to be real. A very tough decision for me, since I know many of the people who read this personally, and it’s hard putting myself out there.

I came home from class Thursday morning and cried.

I cried because I feel like something is wrong with me that is bigger than sleep and training and nutrition. And I don’t know what it is.

Crossfit Total
Shoulder Press

Backsquat 125-135135
Press: 65-7070
Deadlift: 165-185185

There’s nothing I feel like I can add to explain away those numbers. They are lower than previous max lifts. Here’s how I did in JuneHere’s how I did in March. I’m just not strong right now. I feel weaker.

I look back at the past 6-9 months, and there is a common thread. I have been suffering from chronic hives on my trunk, a condition I have been to numerous doctors to diagnose, explain and hopefully cure. It took a while to diagnose. I’ve just gone through a second round of lab tests, knowing that there is only a 30% chance they will figure out the cause. A cure is even less likely, according to the numbers.

I have taken topical medications, oral medications, tried this, tried that. Only this week I was thrilled to be told by yet another doctor that I could stop taking one medication at night, which is kind of like Benedryl. The next morning I felt like a million dollars. It was the first time I wasn’t dragging in weeks.  Too bad it didn’t lead to a better lift day.

Andy and I talk about this craziness a lot. I’ve gotten serious about my nutrition, water, and even sleep (although it’s still not ideal, but hey — I’ve got an infant). It’s taken 6 months for us to start wondering whether the hives have anything to do with how I feel in the gym. But it’s frustrating not to know for sure.

I don’t intend to give up. I’m going to get stronger. Days like I’ve had this week remind me I’ve got a long way to go, but they are just days.

I go home, hug Andy, take my shower and move on about my day. If anything, I have come to an obstacle I must scale to overcome. I’ve done it before.

I’ll do it again.

Crossfit Total — A mixed bag

It seems like everyone is getting PRs when we do Crossfit Total.  Everyone but me, that is.

It’s kind of frustrating.  I want to keep up with everyone and have my own success story to tell.  “Oh yeah!  I PR’d by 10 pounds!”  But that hasn’t happened in a while.

Part of my problem is the same ole same ole — lack of sleep.  Who knows about the rest.  Maybe I’ve hit a plateau.  I don’t know.  The point is, it was Total week, and I’m not all that pleased with how it went.

Back Squat
Shoulder Press

Back squat  — 115-125-145

Shoulder Press — 58-65-70

Deadlift — 165-175-185

On a positive note, I’m back up to 185# on my deadlift.  I haven’t been there in a year, and while it’s not a PR, it’s a good thing to be back at that level.  I’m annoyed my back squat is still stalled out at 125, which is well below the 145# I got to last year.  As for shoulder press, I’m annoyed I scratched at 70# when I was able to press that same weight just a few days before.


Handling failure

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
— Winston Churchill

How do you handle failure?

Be honest with yourself.  No one is listening.

How do you handle it?  Do you get mad at yourself?  Do you gloss over it and try to be positive?  Do you give up?  Or do you turn your failure into a success?

One of the things I have learned as part of being a parent is that feelings are OK.  Mine AND my child’s.  I don’t tell Luke or Mads not to cry.  I don’t tell them not to be angry.  Because that’s stupid. They’re upset.  They’re scared.  Feelings happen. What is important is to acknowledge their feelings.  Let them REALLY feel them.  Otherwise, how can they possible learn to handle them as adults?

It’s important not just to do that for children, but also ourselves.  It’s stupid to gloss over feelings of frustration when we fail just because some self-help book told us we have to stay positive.  Yes — positive attitudes count, but embracing our initial feelings is incredibly important so we CAN move on to being positive.

Where am I going with this ramble?  My perceived failure this morning on Part 2 of Crossfit Total.

Shoulder Press

Shoulder Press — 60-6565
Deadlift — 155-175-195

I’m not happy with how I did.  My shoulder press goal was 80#.  My max is 70#.  And I couldn’t even lift 65#.  (Here’s how I did last time.)

I’m less disturbed by the deadlift.  I had further to go with that after pregnancy.  But my max last year was 185#.  I wanted to return there, and even beat it.  It’s true that I deadlifted more this time than last time, but it still feels like failure.

Here’s what’s going to happen.  I’m going to think about my lifts this morning — probably for the rest of the day.  There may be some pouting involved.  There may even be some excuse-making (“I was tired.”  “It was a bad day.”  “I did a tough workout Wednesday.”).  I’m going to embrace my feelings of failure.

And then, I’m going to let them go.

I will set new goals.  I will add more lifting into my workout schedule with Andy.  I will not shy away from my failure.  I will remember how it made me feel and I will turn it into success.

Feelings are fleeting.  Drive pushes us forward.  Accept what you feel, but don’t let that distract you from your path.

The bar didn’t budge

It’s very apparent I haven’t been doing heavy deadlifts.

Crossfit Total Part 2


As Andy didn’t hesitate to remind me this morning, there is a danger with returning to exercise/weight lifting and thinking you can go right back to where you were.

In June, I set a PR on deadlift (at 6 months pregnant).  In August, I had to step back because of my pregnancy.  Obviously, I’m still building back up to where I was.

The 185# on the bar… well… I couldn’t even lift it off the ground.  The bar wouldn’t budge.  Zach told me not to sweat it — I’ll get it next time.  And you know what?  I will.

Miss positive “Cindyanna” knows that I have come an incredibly long way in the past few months, and while I have my goals and wish I could be bad ass right now, I also need to take care to avoid injury and realize I don’t have as far to go as many other women who just had a baby.

I’m gonna get there.  I’m gonna get stronger.

Answer: All of the above?

The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are right now going into a Turkey Curry recipe, the pumpkin cheesecake was polished off by our resident dessert expert, Luke, and the other leftovers disappeared days ago.

Now that T-Day is behind us, I can feel the pre-Christmas frenzy descending.  It seems like my to-do list grew by feet within just a matter of days.

With everything going on, it should come as no surprise that I’m not quite 100%.  The boys have been sick;  I may be fighting off a virus;  I haven’t taken time to sleep enough; and the weather has been oscillating between hot and cold.  Also I indulged in a piece of gluten-free but highly sugary spice cake on Friday and I’m only now feeling its effects leave my system.

Maybe that explains my off day for:

Crossfit Total (Part 1)
Back Squat
Shoulder Press

I felt really weak, and my numbers showed it.  Not only was I unable to PR, but I also couldn’t even lift the weight I know I can do.

Back squat: 115-125-145
Press: 60-6565

Not my strongest lifts.  Not even close.  Andy’s first thought was the virus.  Then I suggested lack of sleep (Mads got me up in the middle of the night).  We kept naming possibilities when I finally said — maybe it’s everything.

Bottom line, every day is different.  Today wasn’t my strongest day.  On the other hand, I felt really fast during the warmup run.

At least I can look on the bright side.  Hopefully I don’t sound too much like a Pollyanna.