We did it! Strongman Corp Masters Nationals 2018 is complete!

Whew! I’m a couple of days behind my updates- Day 1 recap was easy to write because I was still high from competition energy, but Day 2 recap is taking a while. There is so much to process: So many emotions, so much happening in my body, and so much in my psychic life. More on all that will come in a later post.

Day 2 started with Rage Butterfly and I going head-to-head on Farmer’s Carry. 160# in each hand for 60 feet for time. The announcer made a point to say that we were carrying, in each hand, more than we actually weigh. Pretty cool.

I’m not sure my time on that carry, but it felt good, and I felt like I could go for much longer than 60′. Prior to the event, I was concerned about my grip, but those 4×8 deadlifts with 80′ carry at 135# in training really helped me get a sense for the pick off the ground and how to hold on even when my arms are beat to shit. Video of the event coming soon!

The second event of Day 2 was stone over bar. We used a “Stone of Steel” aka “Bartos Stone” which is made of metal rather than the traditional concrete. Metal is much more slippery than the concrete, and some athletes couldn’t get much of a grip on the stone even though they were strong enough to do the lift if only they could have picked it up! I’d only ever practiced with a concrete stone, and just two weeks prior even figured out how to get the stone over the bar without actually using the bar as leverage- something we were not allowed to do. Having only ever lifted the 130# stone once, to get two in 60 seconds was a huge record for me. I finally feel like my body KNOWS how to do stone over bar now. It’s all in the extension. I’m pretty thrilled about that success!

Though I didn’t win a trip to the Arnolds, I’m stoked that my training partner Rage Butterfly fought her ass off for a well-deserved win at this competition. She has come a long way in her training, and her fierce determination and competitive energy is something inspiring to witness. I couldn’t have asked for a better competitor. She pushed me hard and makes me want to do so much more! I’m coming for you, RB!! (Also, let’s plan our post- event rosé party, call me.)

I’ve got so much to say about how inspired and motivated I am after this event to do all the things I’ve ever been scared of. I faced some of my most intense anxiety and fears this weekend and was rewarded by wonderful people, great fun, and I proved to myself that when I put in the work, dedication, and focus, I can do great things.

NONE of this would have been possible without some very important people in my life. My partner and the love of my life- you have patiently supported me through all of this, even when the impact on you and our life together has been intense. Thank you for being there for me always- I could not have found the courage to pursue this adventure without your encouragement, patience, and enthusiasm. My brother- you drove all the way out to Vegas to cheer me on, and brought so much love with you. Thanks for being my best friend and my sibling! How lucky are we! My coach- Your programming, encouragement, and advice has helped me fight through my own demons and come out the other side with a personal victory that I have always known I’ve wanted but only now have been able to conceive of. My analyst- you’ll never read this, but without you I don’t even know if I’d be alive right now, let alone not destroying myself bit by bit, wasting my energy and untapped abundance. And all my friends and family who are tired as fuck of listening to me whine about how heavy things are or how hungry I am or how busy I feel or bla bla bla. I have learned something about what I really have inside me and I’m aiming to make better choices about how I embrace my power and privilege, and how I share love and connection with people.

And finally, RAGE BUTTERFLY you are the best training partner I could ask for! I’m looking forward to many more adventures in strength together.

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Day 1 Recap!

Rage Butterfly and I successfully completed day one of our two-day Masters competition. The strongest Masters in the country, the announcer reminded us!

Our first event was Axle clean and press at 112#. RB got two points and I came away with a big fat zero. My cleans looked and felt great, better than in training, but my abdominal bracing and overhead strength were not on point at the critical moment.

The next event was yoke, which is by far my favorite. 350# for a 60′ carry for time. I don’t know my score but it was pretty fast for me! I’ve got a video to upload later but for now here’s a couple of pictures of us waiting to begin.

The final event was axle deadlift. I’ve never lifted more than 265# on the axle at the gym, so the 300# would definitely have been a huge PR for me. Alas, it inched up to mid-shin and didn’t budge. I think I was too far forward! Something to aim for in training, I’m so damn close. RB got 3 reps in the 60s time span. Here’s a picture of me warming up:

Hey though… now that I think about it. This warmup was 280#. So… PR FOR MEEE!!!! 🎉

All in all it was a fun and exciting day. The expo where we’re competing is massive- as are the people in it! I’ve never felt so tiny in my life. I guess this is actually a Mr Olympia expo??? My brother got a great picture of some person huffing a brightly colored liquid that gives you special powers or something. And we saw lots of well-oiled and spray tanned bodies. Body modification through weightlifting, supplements (legal or not) and diet is such a complex and varied culture. We were exposed to so many different ways of being in one’s body here! Some people are super strong and some are precisely sculpted. I definitely feel like I want more tattoos after today. But probably not new boobs. I’m ok with what I’ve got in that department for now.

I’m definitely feeling hungry for that 300 deadlift….. and I’m so close to that 112 axle!!!!

Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow…! Farmer’s carry and Stone of Steel…

Introducing: Log clean and press!

Here is a video of me doing my first set of 3×8 log clean & press (“press” in this case means “get it overhead any way possible”) at 70% of my one rep max.

I do one clean and 8 jerks here, because we’re working on building my overhead strength for contest. My current 1 rep max in log clean and press is 105#, and the log at contest will be 120#.

That’s a long way to go.

A friend asked me, “How is a log different than the regular barbells?” I thought it was a great question that maybe others have, so I’ll share my answer here.

The log is different from a barbell in several ways. First of all, imagine a giant car muffler trying to strangle and crush you. Another friend wondered if it could double as a meat smoker. (Answer: Probably!) After a while, the barbell starts to feel more like a conductor’s baton than an actual weight-bearing implement.

Physically, the log itself is a giant 10 inch cylinder which, in order to hold in the rack position (on your chest between jerks/presses), you have to bend your back and look straight up at the sky. This requires a lot of thoracic mobility and a different orientation for your balance. When pressing with a barbell, you can look straight ahead of you at a fixed point; the sky doesn’t really have that. I once saw a crow flying with a cracker in its mouth, but usually it’s just blue sky ahead. That makes the balance piece much more challenging. Not to mention, the weight is positioned much farther in front of you, so it’s imperative that you keep your elbows high. Otherwise, the log will tip forward, and it will become extremely difficult to press up.

Then, when you’re pressing a log, you’re doing a much bigger loop around your head than you would with a barbell. In fact, with a barbell, you want to minimize the looping around your head by pulling your head back and out of the way. Pressing the bar straight up is key to utilizing the larger muscles in your back and not just the smaller arm and shoulder muscles. The log prevents you from doing this, however, because you’re already in a slight backbend in the rack, so you can’t pull your head back any further. It simply requires a lot more strength in a very awkward position.

And finally, there’s the psychological piece. When you’re in that rack position, you might feel like the log is trying to choke you out. It’s hard to breathe in a backbend with a heavy implement pressing down on your chest and neck. As coach Patrick says, “The log is trying to kill you. Don’t let it!”

For comparison’s sake, my most recent barbell jerk max is 143# (tested in February), and my current log jerk max is 105# (tested in April). So you can see the major difference in weight, at least for me at this point.

Here’s to making it to 120# for reps by September!!

Titanic Lifting: Another name for Strongman

Just a quick note to share a thought I had a while back while training.

As it stands, the sport I’m currently competing in is called Strongman. Sometimes, if the competitors are all women, it’s called Strongwoman. But neither of these sit right for me for reasons I’ve already explained.

So a few months ago, I thought of a better name for Strongman: “Titanic Lifting”. It’s a bit clunky, perhaps, but the name comes from Atlas himself. A Titan who lost the war with the Olympians, Atlas was forced to spend eternity holding the sky upon his shoulders. Now we pick up concrete stones, call them Atlas stones, and lift them onto a platform for time.

We have Olympic lifting, right? Why not Titanic lifting?

Check out a piece I wrote about Atlas stones and psychoanalysis here, which is where the name “Titanic Lifting” first came to me. As always, I’m curious about your thoughts. Feel free to message me here.

That feeling when you “get it”

My hip extension is the WORST.

I mean, it’s no coincidence that when I dance I look like a robotic amoeba. I have no hip flexibility!

A lot of that is due to over-active hip flexor issues from an under-active glute and hamstring duo, which I’m working on with my physical therapist. But I can’t get a stone or a sandbag to platform if my life depended on it. My hips are just like, “Not today honey! How about some ice cream?”

But, today, I got it. That bag flew over that bar, and my hips and glutes worked together. Hips, glutes- you really showed up for me, friends. Thank you. It feels good to have you on my team.

A peek inside my training, part 2: Peaking for Strongman!

Peek, peaking…um… yay for homophones!

In part one of my “peek inside” training posts, I described my program leading up to California’s Strongest Woman. It mainly involved a lot of CrossFit and metabolic conditioning, since at the time that’s what I wanted to be focusing on. Once I felt the fervor, the energy, the femme RAGE of Strongman and saw how fucking awesome these women are, I knew I was ready to get bigger, badasser, and stronger.

I was ready to join the Big Back Ranks!

For about six weeks after qualifying for Master’s Nationals, I had four days per week to train (and sometimes only three) due to my life schedule. At that point, I was doing hypertrophy sets of safety squat bar, deadlift, incline bench, front squat, and press, all of which hovered in the 4×12 rep range at around 60-70% of a maximal effort lift. Plus, because I am an old lady who has been doing kipping pull ups and handstand push ups before she was strong enough do them strictly, I needed to do a lot of shoulder rehabilitation. I would (and still) do lots of sets of banded work, including external rotations and pulls and such. My coach also programmed bodybuilding movements for my back, shoulders, hamstrings and glutes. Strongman is a very back-centric sport, so if you look at people who compete, you’ll probably see their lats and delts before you know what color their eyes are.

This part of the program was tiring and kind of boring, but I saw results very quickly. My body was putting on mass and putting me out of my pants (yeah pants stopped fitting for a bit). This mass was going to be used as a basis for my strength.

In June, summer hit and I was no longer taking classes, so I could increase my program to five days on and two days off. Thus began my strength cycle and my peaking for Master’s Nationals. I got to play with the implements more, including log twice a week, stones and sandbags once a week, sled pulls, and I finally got strong enough to do legless rope climbs. That kicked ass, actually.

Strength cycles are usually in the 4×6-8 rep range and 70-85 percentile of your max lifts (sometimes up to 90%). For me, it includes a lot of supersets of front squat and press, deadlifts, and working on my grip strength.

I’m just now beginning another part of my peaking phase, which will have me playing with more implements, including yoke and the axle, as a part of my programming. I will still be getting stronger and the weights will be getting heavier. We’re also adding in a sixth day of conditioning with my best friend the assault bike, and sled pushes and drags and whatnot. Now that I’m getting stronger, I need to have the speed and engine to move loads quickly.

I also need to get my mind on board. The mental part of heavy lifting is one of the HEAVIEST elements for me. If I can lift the weight, I need to move quickly with it, rather than my default processing time of “Okey, picked it up, cool, how does it feel, are you okay, do you need anything, like a glass of water, or does it remind you of your childhood,” etc. Therapist brain is hard to shut off sometimes 🙂

I’m told there will be no max effort attempts until contest (though I hope I get to measure at least once beforehand), so I won’t really know how my numbers are doing and whether they’re going up, but it’s safe to say the lifts that felt hard before are feeling easier, I’m recovering better, and I can see my back spreading like moss in the forest. So far, that’s pretty good feedback.

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“The log is trying to kill you. Don’t let it.”

Origin story of this blog’s name (warning: envy and comparison inside)

I mentioned earlier that writing is important to me. I keep a blog on my therapist website that’s mostly about topics I think potential clients/patients would be interested in learning about, or things that might draw people to me. I’ve never written anything specific about my strength training, weightlifting, or CrossFit experiences there- that is, until a couple of months ago.

I read a short essay from a therapist who recently tried CrossFit. It was a beautiful piece (it’s linked here); well written and captivating.

It pissed me off.

I felt something red-hot and fiery brew inside like a hot fermented beverage about to pop. ENVY, yep, that’s what it was. I felt envy.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for nearly a decade, I thought to myself. And here she is, four months in, saying all the things I WANT TO SAY!

And that’s when I realized: These are the things I want to say. Envy, it turns out, is a powerful motivator. It lit a fire under my ass straight to my keyboard.

In 20 minutes, I wrote a blog post called “Snatches and Psychoanalysis: The Mental Life of Weightlifting” that is by far one of my favorite pieces of all time. It was the kind of writing that came so fluidly because it had been waiting for me to set it free.

Thanks, other therapist. And thanks, envy, for showing me what I really wanted!

For me, lifting is SO much about my mental game. Weightlifting and strength sports are the playing field where I put so much of my self-learning to the test. And as much as I can prepare for a contest, the anxiety and nerves during competition are a force to be reckoned with.

I hope I can harness this feeling of envy, commitment, and knowing what I want on competition day….

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“And then a miracle occurs”. This awesome image is from HTTP://CROSSFITREGENERATION.COM/2016/04/THE-SECRET-OF-THE-SNATCH