Gymnastics Goals!

Gymnastics finally feels good again. I’ve got energy, my workouts are productive and I’m getting skills back. Now it’s finally time to set some goals for this season.

Our biggest competition is Nationals, which is held in early April. I want to qualify for AA finals and 3 event finals. I know that is a tall order, but I think I can do it. I qualified for vault and floor finals in both 2012 and 2013. Strangely, I consider beam my best event and I missed it both years. 2012 I was shaky and was 0.2 away from qualifying. In 2013 they did not give me credit for my series and I scored quite low. Had I been given credit, I would have easily qualified for finals (maybe even won my session). So a beam finals spot is entirely doable.

My biggest hurdle to AA finals is bars. I am terrible at bars. I scored in the 7s in 2012 and in the 6s in 2013 (I didn’t fall in either meet). I score in the 9s on every other event so that is atrocious, relatively speaking. Specifically, Level 9 requires a B dismount, which is a flyaway with a half turn. I can’t do back flyaways so that’s out. Twisting front flyaways makes me incredibly mental. I might give it a go, though. Maybe I can make it work. Both years I was also lacking a C element, though I am capable of 2. If I could break into the low 8s, that would give me a legitimate shot at AA finals (with 3 hit events and an 8.0 I’d score a mid 35, which has been enough for AA finals for years).

So that’s 2 big goals right there: 1) qualify for AA and 3 event finals and 2) compete a real bar routine (real meaning a routine with a C and potentially a B dismount).

I had specific event goals as well. Vault is compete a pike tsuk and not be mental about it. Beam is upgrade my dismount to a front full and switch my leaps around. Floor is compete a new floor routine (it’s time, it’s been 10 years).

Hopefully I can make this happen. It’s a tall order for sure, but now that practices feel good and I have energy, I’m extra motivated. Here’s to improved gymnastics, even at 28!

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Goal Update + Gymnastics Update

Oookay. So. I have not yet attempted a 300# deadlift. I was training for it in November and the beginning of December, then Christmas came (where over the course of 5 days I drove 800 miles and spent 18 hours in a car). Just as I was getting back into a routine I got sick. Nothing terrible, but a pretty bad cold and maybe a sinus infection. At one point, my teeth were aching because of the pressure in my sinuses. I couldn’t go upside down, I couldn’t life heavy, nor could I do anything strenuous. It was about 9 days before I felt okay again, and 11 days before I could workout normally. The cold is basically gone, just a lingering cough and a small amount of congestion.  That brings me to this past Sunday- my first decent workout since before Christmas. Finally.

Let’s back up to Saturday though. We had a mock meet at gymnastics and it went about as well as could be expected. Since a meet is easy, workout wise, I decided to go in on Sunday and do a normal workout. This was an amazing decision. I honestly forgot how good gymnastics can feel. I wasn’t on fire skill wise, but my energy was incredible. Turn after turn after turn and I was not getting tired.  The last 10 minutes I went over to the lines on floor to work on my beam series. I was fully expecting my legs and shoulders to be done- but holy crap they responded and still had strength left. Gosh it was incredible. I felt like the best gymnast in the world. Usually by the last 30 minutes of practice I’m struggling to remain productive but on Sunday I was productive through the entire 2 hours. Wohoo.

Now that my energy is back and my workouts are going well, hopefully I’ll see progress soon. Meet season is fast approaching. Eeeek. So much to do, so much to do.

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8 week goals!

How did this happen?! There are only 8 weeks left in the year.

Back in January I made a list of fitness/miscellaneous goals for the year (that I never posted). Of my 9 goals, I’ve attained 6 of them. Here they are, with my comments.

Lifting Goals:

1. 300 lb deadlift. Haven’t gone for this. Don’t know if it’s even possible. But man, I want it. Currently I can deadlift 252# for 1 and 231# for 5.

2. Press 100 lbs. Check! Did this last week. Strict pressed 102.5#.

3. 10 strict pull ups in a row. Nope. I have gotten 6 though, which I’m pretty stoked about.

4. Learn a barbell snatch. Yup. Haven’t attempted it with any considerable weight, but I can do the movement.

5. 170 lbs back squat. Smashed this. I squatted 182# for 3 and 198# for 1 a few weeks ago.

Other Goals:

1. Find my goal weight. Haven’t quite found it, but I’m getting there. I should revise/ reword this goal.

2. Get a job when I’m done with traveling- Check! Signed an offer 17 days after I got back to the US.

3. Compete in the masters games in Dunedin in February. Did it! Placed 1st on vault, beam and floor and 2nd AA.

4. Go skydiving in Queenstown. Hey oh! One of my favorite activities in New Zealand.

With the 8 weeks left in the year, I want to attack 1 of my not yet attained goals: you guessed it, the 300# deadlift. 8 weeks is not a long time, especially when I’m not terribly close to 300#, but I’m still gonna make a go of it.

What does this program look like? I’m still a lifting newb, so I’m not sure yet. Today I’ve programmed heavy doubles, which is something I’ve never done with the deadlift. That will give me a better picture of how much further I need to go. From there, I’m not sure…. I think copious amounts of article reading and podcast listening are in my future to make this successful.

Update: Did a deadlift double at 110kg and 2 singles at 115kg, then a single at 120kg. Pretty happy with that. Makes my 1RM 264.6#. That means I need a 35# addition in 8 weeks. I think (okay- hope) I can handle that. Plus I wasn’t entirely recovered from my squat workout on Tuesday. Oh and the best part was I did double overhand group until I went for 120kg, then I did alternate grip. We’ll forget the part where when I was reracking my bar after my final attempt my hamstrings almost gave out. And my insanely sore lower back. Moving along…

Despite the heavy deadlifts I had a stellar gymnastics practice on Saturday. My tumbling was great, even tried a new combination, front tuck front full. Strange combo but I think it’ll work for me.

And now I’m relaxing with some Hulu and prepping for the upcoming week!

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Lifting Update

Oh Lifting. You make me feel so badass! Love it.

I haven’t talked about lifting in a while (actually, I haven’t talked about anything in a while). Quick recap- I started barbell lifting a bit back in January with the program outlined in Starting Strength (highly recommended). Over the past 10 months I have become far more serious about it, eventually outgrowing the SS program. From June onwards, I’ve been experimenting with different programs. I read that women, across all lifts, are able to lift more reps closer to their 1RM than men. This is 100% true for me. I can squat 75% of my 1RM for 10 reps across 2 sets. This skews some of the training programs – what would be enough to stimulate growth for a typical male, isn’t enough for me (percentage wise, of course). Recently I tried a new program, but I accidentally flipped the set/ rep scheme. Instead of doing 10 sets of 2 at 75% 1RM for a squat, I did 2 sets of 10. A way different experience, but I did not find the workout too terrible. So the search continues to find a good program. In the meantime  I’ve been following a medley of programs- taking aspects I like from 3 or 4 different ones and mixing them with exercises and routines of my own. The result is probably less than ideal, but I’m making consistent progress, having fun and look forward to lifting. Even if I’m not making progress as fast as I could, I’m happy with the results so far.

What have those results looked like? I’m glad you asked. My numbers have increased all around so I’ll present my results by lift.

Squat- I squatted 90kg (198#) for the first time last week after doing 5 sets of heavy doubles. I was stoked. Going for that PR was not the wisest decision after completing the doubles, but I was 90% certain I’d be successful. Besides that, I upped my 3RM to 82.5kg (181#). I just recently got back to back squats (since August). I was having hip pain and back squats were the culprit so I flipped to front squats to let it heal.

Bench- I am not sure what my 1RM is for bench press. My guess is 145-150#. I did 140# rather easily so officially, 140# is my 1RM but I am positive I can do more. My unresolved shoulder injury is exacerbated by benching so I try not to do it heavy too often. I should probably not do it at all and stick to other shoulder exercises.

Press- My press has gotten better. I can OH press 40kg (88#) for 5 x 3. 2 weeks ago I did 5 sets of 5 at 35kg (77#) and 2 sets at 37kg (81#). That’s a lot of volume. Luckily, my new gym has microplates so gradually adding weight to this lift should be easier than when I was traveling. Most likely I’ll focus on this lift for my upper body rather than bench press.

Deadlift: I don’t think my 1RM has increased from 115kg (252#), but my 5RM for sure has. It is now 105kg (231#), which is insane. That also means my 1RM should be more than 115kg, but I haven’t tried for a 1RM in a while.

Power Clean: This lift has fallen by the wayside for me. It’s become more of an accessory lift/ finisher, with fast sets at low weight being my preferred workout scheme.

Chin Ups: I have not ever focused on these, but now I try to do them once a week, 3 sets for as many reps as possible. Back in June, I was getting 2-3 per set, now I’m getting 4-6. I do strict pull ups, no kipping, double overhand grip, elbows locked out at the bottom.

Clearly I’m improving, getting stronger and most importantly, this leads to gains in gymnastics. My skills came back fast and feel easier, practices don’t leave me worn out and in general, my gymnastics feels good. Each skill is no longer a struggle.

I think I’ve finally found a sport/ activity that I enjoy enough to continue doing for the long haul. It’s been 10 months and I’m still having fun and look forward to workouts. Plus I look and feel better and gymnastics is easier. What’s not to love?

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Back at it!

I’m back! Back to blogging. Back to work. Back to USA. Back back back.

So my trip ended on 30 July, with my last 2 weeks spent traveling with my family and as such, drinking and eating everything in sight. Oh it was fantastic fun. Definitely one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. The food was amazing (though equally shitty at points), but the company was always great. It was sad times at 4am the day I flew home after 11 months on the road. ELEVEN. MONTHS. I still cannot believe I did it.

Once I got back to the USA, I needed to (re)make a life for myself. I found a 1 month sublet for August, up in Boston, accepted a job offer, joined the YMCA and started gymnastics. I knew it was mostly going to be an adjustment period so my goal for August was to “Get back at it!” in basically everything. I’m happy to say that was fairly successful.

But! I still was not happy or comfortable with my body. I had been, back in late June, but then working out got sidetracked for a variety of reasons, my family came and I finally got to eat all the delicious food eastern Europe had to offer. I tried to keep to my workout schedule, but that’s not really enough to make progress.

The last week of August I found Whole30 and it was exactly what I needed. I’ll do a separate post about my Whole30 experience but it was great and I continue to incorporate the main tenants of the program into my everyday life.

My results from the Whole30 were excellent- I lost pounds and inches, looked and felt better, slept great and had beautiful skin and hair. Whole30 is pretty strict though so the last 2+ weeks have been about finding a new normal for my diet. I think I’ve got it (mostly) under control. I’ve indulged a bit too much in the booze recently, but besides that, I consider this way of eating fairly easy to follow.

Gymnastics has been going well. When I first got back it was awful- every practice left me entirely exhausted and everything felt really, really hard. I knew it would be like that, so I focused on progress, no matter how small, from one workout to the next. Today I had an amazing practice! I have most of my skills back and they are getting easier and better week to week.

I’m still lifting as well. Right now I’m trying to figure out the best split/ schedule/ type of workouts to increase my strength but also leave me with enough energy for gymnastics practice. So far that means 2 workouts a week, where each workout is whole body.

Umm… I think that’s all for now. Work. Gymnastics. Lifting. Eating. Pretty much defines my life. My how times have changed.

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Can we talk about lifting?

Since November 2011 I’ve been doing some sort of regular exercise, mostly in the form of gymnastics and my fitness class. Both were excellent for helping me get back into shape, but I have to credit my fitness class to making me strong and increasing my fitness. It also taught me a lot about general strength training and programming workouts. Over Christmas I read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and started thinking about using barbell training as my primary workout. At the end of January I started the workouts outlined in SS. For my remaining time in NZ, I tried to lift regularly but sometimes it simply wasn’t feasible due to cost, accessibility, other types of workouts, etc. My lifting schedule in Eastern Europe has definitely been more regular and as such I’ve seen good progress over the past 2 months.

When I say lifting what do I mean? I mean free weight lifting. The lifting that most women do not do, full on heavy barbell lifting. I follow the program outlined in SS which is a full body workout 3x/ week, centered around 5 basic lifts, squat, press, bench press, power clean and deadlift. Though I was familiar with some of the lifts when I started I had never trained these lifts with the exclusive goal of getting stronger. As such, I considered myself a beginner and followed the beginner plan. The backbone of the beginner program is increasing weight on each lift every workout. Since a beginner by definition has not trained before, they improve rapidly and can follow this plan for months before getting stuck.

My experience, so far, has been excellent. Let’s talk numbers (which are going to be in kg because that’s what I use here and what I’m used to). My first full lifting workout was 28 January. I started at 65kg squat, 40kg bench and 100kg deadlift. The squat and bench were 3 sets of 5 and the DL was 1 set of 5, though I broke that set into singles. My first press and power clean workout was a few days later and that was 30kg and 42.5kg respectively. In a period of 4 months, all of these numbers have increased.

Squat: My squat maxed out at 75kg in late April for 5 sets of 3. In 3 months of sporadic lifting that is a 10kg increase. Unfortunately, I had some crazy hip pain that made squats really painful so I have not been doing back squats, instead I first replaced them with goblet squats, then moved to front squats, single leg squats and bulgarian split squats. I have been slowly reintroducing back squats, at very light weight, just to see how my hip responds. No work sets yet. Hopefully I’ll get back to heavy back squats soon, until then though, front squats are working very well. I’m up to 47.5kg for 3 sets of 8, which I am happy with. I assume once I start back squatting again my max will increase rapidly.

Bench: My bench has maxed out at 57.5kg for 5 sets of 3 (though I have managed 1 set of 3 at 60kg). That is a 17.5kg increase. Obviously, 40kg was light for me when I first started. I’ve had problems recently going much above this weight. First, I got stuck under the bar and since then I’ve had some mental problems going for heavy lifts. I recently did 5 sets of 3 at 55kg so I think I’m getting my bench mojo back. It’s entirely mental. I am at the point where I need a spot but because I don’t speak the language here, I can’t really ask for one. For the sake of my training and safety, I need to start asking.

Deadlift: I think I’ve been doing the deadlift sets incorrectly. I can deadlift heavy with the best of them, but once I start deadlifting for reps, as outlined in this program my weight decreases dramatically. I can deadlift for 1 set of 5 unbroken reps at 90kg, and my PR for a 1RM is 115kg. It’s hard to say how much of an increase this is, but I can say that I’ve had never deadlifted over 110kg, ever. I need to continue deadlifting for reps, it’s a killer but I need to do it. That will really get me strong.

Press: The hardest lift to make progress on. One of my biggest challenges with this lift is that gyms often don’t have 1.25kg plates, never mind anything smaller. A 2.5kg increase on this lift is massive so not having small plates makes training a bit more challenging. One solution, suggested by a fellow lifter, is to micro load with extra clips. I thought that idea was genius. Another challenge is that many gyms over here use 15kg bars (I even had a 17kg bar once!) and I can’t tell if I’m getting stronger or using a lighter bar. For a while I was immensely frustrated but since then I’ve let it go. Training conditions for me are not optimal for many reasons and this is yet another non optimal element that I can do nothing about. So I’ve just been doing my workouts. My arms get tired and my numbers have been increasing. That’s really all I can ask for, at this point. My press is now at 37.5kg for 5 sets of 3, a 7.5kg increase. I am very happy with that (I have managed a set of 3 at 40kg, as well).

Power Clean: I had never done power cleans before so this was a learning experience. A major disadvantage is gyms don’t have bumper plates and steel plates less than 60kg are a smaller diameter, which puts the bar at a different height off the ground. This screws me up so bad. Anyway, my power cleans maxed out at 55 for 5 sets of 3, an increase of 12.5kg. I for sure think I am capable of more but a few things have happened. I got sick then decided to power clean my first workout back. It was a massive failure. Since then I’ve had confidence issues. Additionally, most gyms I go to do not have a platform or bumper plates, which means I can’t miss. This makes me go conservative. I think I also have a small technique issue. The bar hits my right knee every time, without fail. It’s painful and screams “You’re doing something wrong!” I also have a hard time getting under the bar enough for it to land on my deltoids, rather than my clavicle, so I often end up with small bruises on my neck/ top of my sternum, right where the clavicle ends. Yeah. I need someone to take a video of it so I can analyse what I’m doing/ send it to my old coach and see if he has any pointers.

I’ve also incorporated some assistance exercises. In the squat section, I mention Bulgarian split squats, single leg squats and front squats. I’ve made progress on all of those. I also do back extensions and chin ups every other workout or so instead of pulling.

Side Note: I don’t use any wraps or straps for anything. No knee wraps for squats, no belt for squats or deadlifts, no straps for deadlifts either. I can actually deadlift 112kg with a double overhand grip. Only recently did I start alternating my grip and even then it’s only for very heavy weights or when I get to the end of a set.

Additionally, at the end of all my lifting workouts I do a 6-15 minute high intensity finisher. It varies every workout. For a while I was doing 10-1 of 3 exercises, then I had a period when I was doing tabatas, recently it’s been EMOM finishers that incorporate rowing. It’s not so much what I do that’s important, more that it gets my heartrate way up and wears me out. That’s the biggest requirement. Unfortunately, this means my workouts typically last about 1hr and 20 minutes, plus travel time to and from the gym, which is usually 10-20 minutes each way. That means I have to allocate 2+ hrs for a workout. On the plus side I only go to the gym 3x/ week.

Anyway, I am for sure stronger. Plus I love lifting. It makes me feel incredibly badass, especially when I outlift men. Dare I say that one of my goals is to deadlift 300lbs. For serious. That would be awesome. I hope to accomplish that before the end of the year. Better hop to it!

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Where I am/ How do I feel

Currently I am in Europe. Slovenia to be exact. Last time I wrote, I was just finishing traveling with a companion in New Zealand. Since then I have left New Zealand and have been traveling through Eastern Europe. It’s been lovely. I’ve realized that I really enjoy food. Good food. And since I’m in EE where I can afford to eat out, I have been. Usually just 1 meal per day, or 1 meal every other day, but far more than I have at any other point in my life. I’ve also realized I like coffee. Really good coffee, preferable either espresso, a macchiato, which is espresso with a touch of milk, or Turkish coffee; something strong, that I have to savor with every sip. I buy an espresso every day. Another thing I enjoy? Wine. Red wine. I just love it. Also? Cooking. I knew I liked to cook, but even now when I can easily afford to eat out all the time, I prefer to make most of my meals. Partly because of nutrition, partly because I enjoy it, partly because it tastes better than many places and partly because I’m cheap.

I have been working out, too, pretty consistently. I try to aim for 3x per week, but there are some weeks where that doesn’t happen because of my travel schedule. Before Friday of this week I hadn’t worked out in 10 days. Firstly, I missed 1 workout while I was in Belgrade. It was just so beautiful outside that I wanted to spend every moment outdoors. Then the day after that I moved on to Zurich, where it was 37 CHF for a single entry, which is just over $40USD. I can’t afford that, so I didn’t work out for the 5 days I was there. After that I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia. My first 2 days here I experienced a crazy amount of fatigue and absolutely 0 desire to workout. I knew I should have but I would have suffered through it. So I waited two days, and magically my workout mojo reappeared. I finally got in a decent workout on Friday of this past week (and I was subsequently very sore), after 10 consecutive rest days.

I am definitely feeling more comfortable since January. I have lost pounds and inches, so that for sure helps with self confidence. Am I completely satisfied? No. Do I think I will ever get to a point where I feel completely satisfied? I certainly hope so. It would be incredibly sad to go through my whole life in a constant battle with my body. I think I need to be more grateful for that my body can do than caught up in how I look, but at the same time not dismiss the not always positive thoughts I have about how my body looks. Some say it doesn’t matter what you look like, you’re size. Maybe it doesn’t matter to them but it matters to me. And dismissing my emotions on that subject wouldn’t be productive. It wouldn’t solve the problem, only ignore it. So here we go. Things my body can do:

  • Gymnastics; handstands, giants, back tucks, tumbling.
  • I can deadlift 248#
  • Squat 165#
  • Bench 132#
  • I can walk with my backpack(s) for miles
  • I can carry virtually anything
  • My strength doesn’t hold me back from daily activities
  • 40km mountain bike ride
  • Hike up mountains
  • Sight see without taking a bus or using a car

I mean, that’s a pretty good list. There is so much my body allows me to do and I do not appreciate it enough. Instead I focus too much on what I want to change.

For now though, I’m definitely more comfortable. And it doesn’t consume my thoughts. I may finally be getting this portion control/ how much do I need to eat thing under control. Crossing my fingers. Another thing I’ve been doing is giving myself permission to have whatever I want. Not in a cheat day way, but in a no food is off limits way. It makes me feel like I have more control; I am actively choosing to not eat something rather than not eating it to abide by a rule. It’s a subtle but significant difference.

Another significant thing I did was give up sweets for a week. I felt like I was craving chocolate or pastries far too often. So I eliminated them from my diet for a week and big things happened. The first few days were tough, but soon I had no craving for them, and that has persisted. I still eat chocolate but I don’t really crave it. It’s strange. When I have really good chocolate I savor it and love every bite, probably because it’s quality chocolate. I don’t really buy cheap chocolate anymore, I buy chocolate from a chocolate shop. The kind of shop where 1 truffle is a dollar and 1 truffle is usually enough. Occasionally, I’ll have ice cream. I’ve realized the only 2 desserts I really love are chocolate and ice cream. I do love cookies, but its so hard to find good ones (if you can’t bake them yourself) that I’ve basically given up. I also love scones but again, any ones I have bought have been disappointing. Cake does not do it for me. Pie probably would. But I think pie is incredibly American. I haven’t seen it anywhere, whether in EE or NZ or Oz. We’ll see what happens when I get back to the states. For now though, the only sweets I’ve been having is chocolate and ice cream. In the last week I’ve had 1 chocolate and 1 ice cream. That is way better than I’ve pretty much ever done.

Overall then, I’d say I am moderately satisfied. During these past few months I’ve learned a lot about what foods I enjoy, what I am okay spending money on food wise, how I like to eat (3 big meals a day, very few, if any, snacks), portion control, satiety, using meat and fat in my diet etc- a lot of valuable life skills.

So then numbers time. How has this translated to pounds and inches (which for some reason, I am still very hung up on). Well…’steady’ is probably the best descriptor. Today my weight was 146.2. My current measurements are as follows:

  • Waist:  28.5″   (Feb: -0.5″, OA: -2.0″)
  • Hips:    38″       (Feb: -0.5″, OA: -2.0″)
  • Thigh:  23″       (Feb: -0.5″, OA: -1.0″)
  • Calf:     14″        (Feb: -0.5″, OA: -1.0″)
  • Bicep: 13.25″ (Feb: +0.25″, OA: +0.25″)

I didn’t measure my chest or bust. Those are the two hardest things to measure but in actuality, I forgot. Since February, there hasn’t been too much change. Since December though, it’s a decent. I’m sure the difference is visible, but honestly, I can’t really see it. For now, I’m moderately satisfied. I’m glad there is progress, regardless of how slow it is. And I’m happy that I learned so much about myself and my eating habits during these last few months. I am also happy that even though I’m traveling I still lost weight and inches, or at the very least, kept them steady. I’ve also gotten way stronger. My lifting numbers are starting to plateau a little bit, but they did increase a fair amount from when I started. Hopefully this strength gain, along with some strategic HIIT when I get home, will make gymnastics much easier for me.

For the next 8 weeks, the remainder of my time on the road, I’d really like to get below 145. I’ve been trying to break into the 145s for quite some time. I really think I can do it. I’d also like to keep up with my strength and interval training. Consistent workouts make it easier for me to stick to good food choices and increase my self confidence. I feel so much better when I workout. And I’d like to start from a good place when I get back to the USA before I jump in to full on gymnastics training.

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