Why we are going to Cincinnati…

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“Where are you and Jesse going again?” is the question of the week for me in clinic so it’s time to give a little run down of what we’re up to for the two weeks we’re away in April. Originally I thought we might just slip off to Cincinnati without really explaining much, but then this morning I thought maybe a little online update would be a good idea. Coincidentally, I had a small breakdown during training today related to the trip. It’s been a looong time since I have written a blog post with personal content in it so it’s time for a little sharesies (I was allotted and stuck to my 2 minutes for bio at the Gym Meeting and Jesse took at least 8 so here is me making up for my lost 6).

My frustration in training today turned out to be a great catalyst for a mindset shift. It always feels vulnerable to share personal feelings on the internet (the internet is so judgey these days don’t you think??), but if you put it out there then maybe someone can relate and be provoked to think about something in a new way. The “process” of training for something is really my personal passion. It’s stimulating on a personal level and I inevitably learn stuff that ties into my work. In the grand picture it is just fitness but, like the CrossFit gym, we know it has more layers of importance than that. And in our own little bubbles it’s something that we invest a lot of time and energy into and that in itself makes it important enough to spend time thinking about. Those of you who were around 2 years ago when I trained for and ran the Angeles Crest 100 mile race know that I take my fitness journeys seriously and get very engaged in the process (it’s a luxury in life that I am grateful for). In many ways this is the 2 years later update to that story.

I came out of that race with some pretty serious adrenal fatigue and a significant strength loss (backsquat down 50#, bench press down 15# and deadlift down 30#). I decided in January of last year that I needed to kick start the strength building process and I moved onto a full powerlifting training schedule. My muscle tissue had become so accustomed to the slow twitch recruitment from running ultras (even though I was CrossFitting full time) that the last year and a bit has been a very long, slow recovery process that has made me lose it more than once. I didn’t even match my old lift PRs until late last summer. Things progressed well through the fall and I felt good about my results in the fall PL meet in Seattle. I took a little break to do “CrossFit” for 3 weeks before the Taranis comp, competed there on the team, and then went straight to Hawaii. While we were away I got an invite from Laura Phelps Sweatt (strongest powerlifting woman in the world, teaches the CrossFit Powerlifting cert, co-owner of Sweatt Shop/CrossFit Conjugate in Cincinnati, amazingly lovely person) invited me to come and compete in the 2014 SPF Women’s Pro/Am Powerlifting meet. If it were a bad after school TV show about powerlifting I would think that it was a giant set up for me to get ridiculed…. how’s that for a crack in self confidence?! But it’s not (I can only hope at this point) and that’s just how lovely and inclusive Laura is. So… like I do with any big opportunity presented to me… I mention it casually to Jesse like it’s a proposition, and 4 minutes later say I’m doing it like it’s a fact.

So that’s where we are going. Cincinnati, Ohio for the meet on April 12th. The last 5 months have been game on. Powerlifting programming is really really hard work for many many hours a week. We look like we are dawdling around and sitting a lot but the energy output is exceptionally high. There are pieces (let’s be honest… 2 of 3 lifts) that I am really happy with right now; and there is one piece that is testing my patience and capacity to withstand repeated failure that’s at a threshold that I am unfamiliar with. The hard part about lifting is that there is absolutely nowhere to hide from your weaknesses. I find in CrossFit that if you aren’t high level you can bury them a bit in a wod and pick away at them on the sidelines. In powerlifting you train the same 3 lifts (in variation) and their accessory movements every single week. You make the lift or you don’t. Pass or fail.

Here is where I get all sharesies with you in hopes that you can take pieces of it and relate. My bench has been stuck at the same PR for 2 years now (minus the huge dip and recovery after AC). I feel like all I do is train that lift and everything around it goes up including the accessory work, but not the lift. My analytical side has been more than stimulated with trying to figure this one out, but my ego is damaged by it. The plan in my head was to have it all fixed by this meet (this is when the problem started) and go to Cincinnati with respectable numbers (this is what showed how naive I was about what goes on in Ohio, the powerlifting nucleus of the world haha). Today’s training session exposed that the gains that I have hoped for with my bench are not there yet. This began a tiny little pity party that turned into a negative head space really quickly. It’s quite remarkable how fast it can escalate. Probably one of my favourite aspects of coaching is working with head space and internal dialogue so its really interesting (in an incredibly annoying kind of way that leads to talking to yourself) to see it happening to yourself in real time.

I usually sport psych myself out of funks but today Jesse and I had a talk that had a character reminiscent of mile 40 in my 100 miler. Today the conversation went something like… Jesse pointing out things that seem really obvious and I would say to someone else but somehow have forgotten, a couple of statements like “you know, even if you benched 160# you’d still get crushed” (sounds mean but is actually quite a reasonable point), a few statements about me having no idea how amazing an environment we are going to for learning, and a couple of reminder points about how long and slow a training curve can be. Why is it so hard to put our egos aside sometimes and see the really obvious facts? I think we do this to ourselves in the gym a lot don’t we? We can lose perspective of the bigger picture really easily.

Cue the pile of self acknowledgements and subsequent realizations: I am a huge fan of experiences that push my comfort zone boundaries, but I think I have really knocked it out of the park with this one. I would say that over the last 5 months I have used a low grade level of nervousness to motivate me. Nervous is not a common feeling for me. Today I also realized that I have been carrying a significantly acute concern for not screwing up the whole thing in front of all of these world class female lifters, Laura and Shane, Jesse and… my whole gym. In no way has this been debilitating to overall training, but it sure did slowly steer me slightly off course in my head space and my expectations of myself. I say it all the time to people in the gym and today Jesse had to say it to me… unless you are actually an elite athlete, nobody really gets all that fussed (outside the moment) about what your results are. The key is to work hard and do what you need to do to make yourself a better athlete (physically and in your head). Trying to perform to meet an expectation that you THINK someone else has of you is a bit nuts when you really think about it. This whole experience is a good reminder to me of how important it is to know where you want to head as an athlete and why, and then to stay on course. This meet is a tool in my bigger plan, not the A event.

So now it’s game on again. I am going to Cincinnati to crush (in the little world of Heather) what I’m good at, play it safe with the bench and hope for the best in the meet. I’m going to soak up every single available piece of information out there about powerlifting and training from the people who are literally the best in the world at what they do. I am so incredibly lucky for the opportunity. And Jesse is over the moon, as you can imagine, about spending a week with people who are bigger than him and want to talk about lifting all day every day. He also says we “have to” have a grilled cheese donut.

Here is the promo video for the meet. No kidding I got a little nervous.

And once that’s all said and done we are heading straight to Red Rocks outside Vegas to climb for 6 days. (Clearly the second week of the trip only gets one sentence of this blog).


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