Ten days out…

I’m popping in here, ten days from contest, to give you a little run-down of what’s been happening during my looooonnggg radio silence.

Q: Why haven’t you been blogging, Tenacious Bee?

A: Well, to be quite honest, since I’ve been on a weight cut my mind has been preoccupied with survivin’. And because all I would be writing about is my diet. Which would be a waste of internet space as well as brain molecules for you, dear reader. Diets are fucked and they are a way to control the masses and increase capitalist production while decreasing self-worth.

Q: Well what else has been going on??

A: Well I’ll tell you!

I’ve been making an effort to let training fold itself into the background of my life. I’m consistent, I show up and put in the work that my program demands, and then I leave for the day and allow it to be what it is. My lifting is a part of who I am, but it’s not my totality. This being my first real competitive Strongman contest, I am going to play a lot of it by ear and by feel. And at this point, I’m about as strong as I’m going to be by September 14.

Instead of allowing myself to be preoccupied with the upcoming event, I’ve been committing to focus on the here and now. I’ve been reveling in my amazing garden that’s bursting at the seams with tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, raspberries, carrots, onions, shallot, and zucchini. At least three times a week I make a beautiful salad entirely out of garden delights! My favorite is a tomato, shallot, cucumber, basil, mint salad with a squeeze of lime and hefty dose of salt. It’s fresh and crispy and a delight when paired with baked chicken legs that have been marinating in my favorite spices.

Now that it’s September, we’re planning our fall garden and all the anticipation that accompany new ideas and possibilities. On a recent trip to the North Bay, my sweetie and I picked up a bunch of seeds which we’ll put in our seed starter this week. I’m most excited about the giant white kohlrabi and the watermelon radishes we will be inviting into our garden, but I’m also stoked about the various cabbages and beans we’re about to let nature work its magic on.

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Something’s emerging…. potential! Possibility! Hope… Determination… germination ūüėČ

I’ve also managed to work on several papers and presentations in my field of psychology, which is no small thing to be sure. I’ve even read a book- I read¬†The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. (Powerful- highly recommended.) And finally, I cleaned out two rooms in my house that I left abandoned and neglected for years. Finally these rooms have purpose, light, and fresh air rather than a shitload of cardboard boxes, old paperwork, mold, and A DEAD FUCKING RAT!!! THAT’S RIGHT I FOUND A DEAD FUCKING RAT that apparently my cat dragged in there probably a few months ago? and left there to decay and rot. No wonder we had a fly problem this year, uuggghhh!!! YUCK.

So, yeah, all this is to say- there is life outside of lifting, but I’m still really happy to be on this adventure. I won’t be sad when it’s over and burgers and booze are back in the picture, but damn if I’m not so grateful for the chance to learn what’s really important to me. Stay tuned for more on that….

A “less-than-ideal” training situation

Hey, it’s been a while. Somehow last week I lost a bit of steam when it comes to writing, mostly because I started running a calorie deficit and everything felt like hell. My body is pretty irritated with me, like one might be with a too-rigid parent, for not giving it what it wants when it wants it. But, as one does when all the joy is sucked out of one’s life, my body is complying. I feel sad about making my body bend to my will because I love my body’s unexpected free will, but I have to drop some weight to make it into my qualifying weight class at contest. The calorie deficit means that even last week’s deload week felt like rotten bananas and old garbage.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I DO NOT RECOMMEND being in a calorie deficit while also peaking for strength. Don’t do it. Be better than me.

So then, as if the weakness wasn’t bad enough, this weekend I spent about thirty hours changing my work office around. That meant lugging heavy furniture up and down a flight of fifteen stairs and moving books, bookcases, desks, and tons of paperwork for hours straight. Most of the time I went long spans of time without eating or drinking water. I worked a sixteen hour day on Sunday, including three hours at IKEA. Only one of those hours was spent in line! Someone told me I should call my union rep on myself for forcing myself to work a double with no lunch breaks.

IMG_1609I think that if Buddhists went to hell it would probably be filled with assembling IKEA furniture- it’s an odd combination of meditative and terrible. Buddhists, or maybe engineers. Like, it’s satisfying to see a design take shape, but my poor fingers and back from hunching over and screwing in tiny screws!

So, naturally, come Monday’s programming I was toast. Not only did I not get to sleep until 1:30am and then back awake at 7 to fix more stuff in the office before my work day started, but when I hit my first set of squats below my working weight I felt like I was lifting elephants. I added 20# to that to hit my working weight and I couldn’t even get through the first set. I even peed a little on my last attempt! That is rare for me.

It was also a sign to pack it in. A few things were happening at the same time. One, my body was sore, cramped, and neurodisconnected from itself- I couldn’t “think” of how to fire my glutes or quads, I could hardly feel my abs, and I couldn’t “remember” how to brace (hence the pee, I think). Also, I was at the gym in the evening which is unusual for me. The flow is different, the vibe is different, the people are different, and I felt different. I couldn’t get my grounding.

Plus both Mars and Mercury are retrograding so everything’s a little bananas.

So I picked up my shit and went to the grocery store. Another aftereffect of spending all weekend at the office is that I didn’t get to meal prep so I’m having to do it piece by piece. That meant going to Trader Joe’s on a Monday evening with all the post-work zombies (myself included). As soon as I picked up my heavy grocery bag and headed to the car, my body said NOPE and I knew my heavy lifting was seriously done for the next day or two.

(Don’t worry, I didn’t get injured, just a stubborn NO cried forth from my bones.)

I’m taking the next couple of days off and focusing on stretching and mobility, and will get back on the donkey on Wednesday- it’s peak time for Nationals! Stay tuned!

How I balance life with training

In a recent post, I talked about how I have turned exercise from a form of self-punishment into something that provides me with containment, self-care, and encourages self-love. That transformation did not come easily, and there were several things I learned in the process. I’d like to share with you the most important lessons I have learned so far.

  • I pick a sustainable schedule for my lifestyle, including times of the day and days of the week, and¬†stick to that. Even if all I can muster on the day-of is showing up and stretching, I stick to it. If I find that I consistently am unable to stick to that schedule, or it’s burning me out, it’s not the right schedule for me. I’ve discovered that some of the best gains are had with a 3- or 4- day a week schedule because I have time to recover (that’s where the muscles are made anyway).

  • If I wake up in the morning feeling headachey, sick, stressed out, exhausted, or starving, I take a day off. I eat well and abundantly. If I have a food craving, I satisfy it. I stay in bed instead of go to the gym. I take an epsom salt bath. If I can, I go for a walk in nature. I go to analysis if it’s scheduled. I write. I take it slow and easy. I eliminate extra things in the day like social events and errands that are unnecessary. I drink lots of water and consume sodium. I drink electrolytes. I have learned that this is what overtraining feels like in my body, and it is communicating to me that I am over-doing it.¬† I have learned how to listen to that message and take it seriously.

  • If I don’t “feel like” going to the gym, I go anyway. I train anyway. *This is a different feeling than the overtraining feeling of actually being sick and headachey and starving. The “I don’t feel like it” is more of an emotional experience than a physical one, though it may have physical manifestations. It has taken me YEARS to figure out the difference, but now that I know, I am always honest with myself about which feeling it actually is and respond accordingly.

  • I remember the long game. If I am actually¬†training for a competition, I commit in advance to an exercise and recovery protocol with my coach who works specifically with me to track my body’s response to my program. If there is no competition, I am not training: I am exercising. Exercising is for well-being and health and to support everything else in my life. Showing up at the gym becomes about building on something for the long haul. I remember that if I lower my intensity but keep showing up, my work will accumulate and I will have more strength and skill down the road.

  • The number one thing for me as a Masters athlete and as someone with a very stressful job is to prioritize recovery. I keep a workout schedule that gives me built-in days off to rest so my body can make use of the work I’ve put in. A consistent couple of days off can do wonders for my long-term health and my performance at the gym.

  • This also includes eating. If I’m training for a competition, I do my best to keep my diet abundant with plenty of protein, a variety of carbs, and my favorite fats to keep me satiated and to keep the food delicious. I do my best to cut out most alcohol and sweets and chips unless I am in a position where the craving is sending me a message about giving myself what I need. I don’t see cravings as bad. I see cravings as a communication that I am not getting enough of something. IT IS OKAY TO HAVE ENOUGH. On this note,¬†I take the time to food prep once a week so that I have a better chance of feeling like I always have enough. This feels to me like a form of self-love: To provide myself enough of what I need.

For me, over time and trial and error I have found activities and sports that I enjoy and will keep putting the work into. Sometimes I go through cycles: Swimming in the summer, squatting more in the winter, more CrossFit in the spring, a couple of weeks completely off in the dead of winter. There are so many things to do with your body! I’ve learned that what you love and enjoy may change as you change and grow. It’s an ever-evolving relationship with movement and your body. Soak it up as best you can while you can.

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Sometimes, for those of us who drink, a beer is absolutely necessary. Pictured: A beer with a large foam head next to the book “Killers of the Flower Moon”