Monthly Archives: April 2014

Post-competition plans

Pic © Richard Chapple

© Richard Chapple

I got this nice photo from Richard Chapple of my 110kg deadlift on Saturday. Despite the belly & double chin I think it looks pretty badass (and is probably an accurate reflection of what I really look like, as opposed to those posed selfies where I pick out the most flattering one!)

In the car back from the competition I was musing about performance & weight classes etc with everyone else. It’s no secret that I hate making weight, and that back pre-injury I was feeling very strong while sitting at around 74.5kg (and eating lots more carbs than I did post-injury, when I was trying to cut weight). (Of course, I should bear in mind that possibly one of the reasons I lost weight post-injury was down to muscle wastage, not necessarily diet changes).

Given that I’ve already qualified for this year’s GBPF Classic in the 72kg class (in November; and again on Saturday) it was suggested that maybe I shouldn’t bother making weight for July’s London Clubs championship. Obviously I’m going to have to keep an eye on my back, but maybe I should instead focus on getting as strong as possible while eating whatever I like and not worrying about my weight. Maybe that way I can finally get my coveted 100kg squat – I know I felt as if I was heading that way a few weeks ago!

Not surprisingly, there’s a downside to this plan, and that’s that if I compete in the 84kg class in July I won’t be able to make an attempt at the 72kg Greater London divisional squat record (97.5kg). But I think I want a 100kg squat more than a record (although both would be nice!!) There’s also another downside in that I will look bigger; for all my joshing I do feel a little self-conscious about the size of my belly in that picture. But that’s my demon to battle with.

And if I don’t make a decent total in July at 84kg (where to me, a “decent total” would be 270kg – the British qualifying standard) then I can always cut my weight again for September, so I can compete at the British in the 72kg class. It’s not as if I’m aiming to get to 84kg – by “84kg class” I mean my bodyweight being around 74-75kg.

I feel sort of in two minds about all this. On the one hand, it would be nice to finally be able to embrace the “GAINZZZZZ” mentality that is so prevalent in *lifting among smaller (and not-fat) lifters. And I felt really strong at 74.5kg, when I was guzzling Total Breakfast every day and not paying too much attention to my diet. On the other hand, I won’t end up freakishly strong like some of the other larger ladies in lifting (I’m thinking of people like my BGWLC teammate Anna Macnab, who is in a league of her own!) so I worry people would think going up a weight class was pointless (I’m not competitive in the 72s, so I’ll be even less competitive in the 84s!). Plus, I will have my body image demons to fight with; you know, looking even larger in my singlet than I do already.

So, we’ll see how it turns out. If if all goes horribly wrong I can, after all, go back to the 72s for the British. Or I might love being bigger and embrace the 84 class with gusto 🙂

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The Farm Classic, 26th April 2014

Well, I did it – I competed in the end, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t get any pbs – not even on bench 😦 – but I had lots of fun & really enjoyed myself.

My alarm went off at 5.50am on Saturday. Luckily I’d had a good night’s sleep; the previous evening I’d been in the pub for a colleague’s leaving do and, TBH, I was feeling quite miserable so wasn’t good company. I’m not sure why I’ve been so blah recently – probably a combination of work stress, feeling stressed about my back & lack of feel-good gym sessions. So I went home early & was asleep by 10pm.

I got up, had coffee, weighed myself of my home scales (72.0kg!) and set off for Bethnal Green at about 6.40am. We had planned to leave the gym (driving) at 7.30am but by the time everyone arrived it was more like 7.45. So I was quite stressed – I hadn’t eaten, and I needed to be weighed by 9.30am & fed before 10.

We got lost on the way up – inevitably! – and arrived at Moulton College at 9.20am. So I had 40 minutes to get weighed in, changed, eat & warm up. Not surprisingly, I was quite stressed and had the mickey taken out of me *sadface*. But I weighed in at 71.65kg and had brought nice easily-digestible food with me (ham sandwiches on white bread + peanut M&Ms) so by the time lift-off came around I was ready.

One of the best things about lifting at Moulton College is that you always get a t-shirt. Sadly this year’s features the utterly hated (by me, at least!) “Keep Calm” meme, argh!

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One for Keep Calm Must Die, I think.

I initially put 85kg down as my squat opener, but on warm-up I just wasn’t feeling it & changed that to 80kg. 80kg felt OK, as did my second attempt at 85kg. I admit, because of my back I was only intending to do 1 or 2 squats, but the first two were good enough that I decided to go for a third. But, 90kg wouldn’t be a pb, so what would be the point? 95kg would be a pb though. So I put that in. However, while I felt strong on the way down, I just couldn’t lock it out, so no lift.

For bench, I was really hoping for a new pb of 52.5kg. I opened on 50kg, which felt heavy but went up fine. On my first attempt at 52.5kg, the bar felt controlled on the way down, but stuck like glue to my chest. So I tried it again, and utterly failed to control it on the way down. Sigh. I always seem to go to pieces in competitions with my bench.

Finally, deadlifts. I put in 100kg for my opener, but TBH I wasn’t really sure about it – after all, I haven’t deadlifted more than 70kg for 5 weeks! But 90kg felt nice & comfortable in the warm-up, and 100kg on the platform was easy. Next lift was 110kg; again, felt nice & easy. So I decided to go for 117.5kg for my third – it’d be a pb. But as soon as I picked up the bar, I knew I was going to have to utterly grind it out to get it, and grinding…. well, not so good for my back. So I dumped it.

So my final total was 85/50/110 = 245kg. At 72kg this actually qualifies me for the GBPF British Classic (just!) and is actually the same total I got in November 2012 when I qualified for the first time. So not too bad for someone who’s not trained properly for 5 weeks!!

All the other Bethnal Green lifters did amazingly well, too.

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Big Dave (you can probably tell which one he is) posted 545kg; Anna 425kg and Diego (on the right) 617.5kg. Ernie Parkes, world-record holding masters 4 lifter from BGWLC also totalled 480kg. Sadly my little 245kg total is dwarfed by everyone else 😉

Then I went home and ate ALL THE PIZZA.

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I’m so glad to not be cutting weight any more, I find it misery-making. In fact I’ve been having some ~thoughts~ about my weight class, which I will muse on in a later blog post.

Pre-competition nerves

I’m currently going backwards & forwards on my decision to compete at the Farm Open on Saturday. I’m not so much worried about injuring myself again, I’m more worried about doing crap lifts and making a fool of myself – which goes against everything I believe in regarding competing. I believe that people should be able to compete no matter what their standard, because competing is fun & satisfying; however I can’t seem to apply that to myself at the moment. It won’t even be “me vs me”, because I won’t be able to approach my current pbs in squat, deadlift & total.

On the other hand, I really like lifting at Moulton College (it’s one of the few venues with proper ladies’ changing rooms!); I would feel bad about having a meet t-shirt when I hadn’t lifted; and I have a decent chance at getting a new bench pb.

So I don’t know. I think I will leave it until the day. I still plan to go to the competition whether I lift or not, so I could decide when I get there.

I’m a bit nervous about the schedule of the day, too. We’re meeting to set out at 7.30am; weigh-in lasts until 9.30am and lift-off is at 10am. So if we get there at 9.30am, I will have exactly 30 minutes to weigh in, eat (because I need to make weight, I won’t be eating that morning) and warm up. Bloody hell. I’m almost tempted to drive myself up so I can get there earlier. No-one else I’m traveling with needs to make weight, so they can eat whenever they like 😦

On Monday I tried to set my openers for the competition. I had hoped to open with an 85kg squat, but trying it on Monday was a mess – I barely made it, plus I moved my right foot on the way up, so that’d be a red-light anyhow. I suppose I could open on 80kg but it seems so little.

I haven’t even set a deadlift opener. I lifted 70kg on Saturday for a few singles, which felt OK. Again, I guess I will have to see how I feel on the day. I’d like to open on 100kg, but I think 90kg is more realistic.

Five flippin’ years

So April 22nd (today!) is 5 years since I walked through the door of Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club, thinking I was going to a taught weightlifting class (I didn’t even know what powerlifting was). I was a devoted LiveJournal-er back then, so luckily I can look back and tell you all exactly what I did and what I thought of it.

So the class last night was not what I was expecting. It turns out that “class” is a bit of a misnomer – bascially, there is a weightlifting club at Bethnal Green adult education centre, and the only way you can join is by signing up to a “class” with the centre. But there is no class, really – you just end up effectively joining the club.

There are two instructors – one who does powerlifting and one who does weightlifting. I’m still not 100% sure of the difference, but I think it’s mainly down to the different sets of competitive moves. All of the people at the gym last night were old hands & were just doing their own workouts, so it wasn’t a “class”, IYSWIM.

Because I was new, the instructors asked me what I did at the moment, exercise-wise, and what I wanted to achieve. They decided that powerlifting might be better for me. So! I did:

– Box squats, 5 sets of 5 reps with 20kg bar. Box squats are where you sit down on a box & then power up again (with the bar on your shoulders). Much harder than the barbell squats I do with my trainer.

– Bench press, 5 sets of 5 reps with 20kg bar. Much more weight than I’ve used before, but I found them surprisingly easy.

– Deadlift, 3 sets of 5 reps with a 40kg bar. I was meant to go 5 sets but had to give up after 3. My technique is terrible, apparently. I really liked doing them, though, as hello, 40kg!!!

– Barbell curls, 5 sets of 5 reps with a 12kg bar. I can definitely do more weight next time. Again, my technique is not great: my shoulders tend to curl forward too much, I need to remember to stick my chest out & shoulders back.

– Weighted crunches. Jesus christ. I have new muscles in my abdomen I’ve never felt before.

I also did 10 minutes on a stationary bike at the beginning & end. And something called good morning – where you hold a light wooden bar over your shoulders and bow as far as you can go.

The instructor was initially dismissive of my personal trainer, which was a bit weird. I guess there is competition between spit & sawdust trainers like him, and the idea of a more “polished” trainer like my personal one. But…in the end he was very impressed at how strong I am. At one point he said to the one other lady powerlifter in the room that maybe they’d found another lady powerlifter for their team. Hmmm.

He wants me to go more often than just once a week, which I’m considering. It’s definitely a possibility after I stop seeing my PT (I can’t afford to keep going to her forever).

Today, my legs are really quite sore, but more than that – they feel ENORMOUS. that’s just my perception, I’m sure, but it does feel very weird.

“Traditionally”, a post like this would involve before and after photos; you know, “I took up weight lifting and went from being an obese slob who drowned her sorrows in food to a GODDESS!” or whatever. Thing is, those posts always – inevitably feature a deliberately unflattering before photo, and an artifically flattering after photo. Sorry guys, but we know you’ve chosen a terrible photo for your before, and you’ve got your tummy sucked in/hair done/tan applied for that after photo. I’m not fooled.

And besides – for me personally, taking up weightpowerlifting wasn’t about getting thin (or slim, or “normal size”). So here’s your “before” photo – my 32nd birthday party, drunk as a skunk, at one of my favourite restaurants (Hot Stuff in Vauxhall), having an absolute blast:

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And here’s me now (or at least, recently) – in Orlando for my 37th birthday treat, drunk as a skunk, at the House of Blues (in Downtown Disney), having an absolute blast:

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PLUS CA CHANGE, BITCHES!!

No huge noticeable differences? Aw, that’s a shame. Honestly, the main differences between the two are that in the last 5 years, I’ve exchanged my then-boyfriend for a vastly superior model.

Of course, I’ve also swapped by 20kg box squats for 75kg ones (well, 75kg is my best box squat; I’m not sure I could do it now in my untrained state), 20kg bench presses for 50kg, and 40kg deadlifts for 115kg (although I couldn’t do those for sets of 5). Plus I got hench, as demonstrated in the previous post.

And what I’ve learned goes far beyond the lifts: I’ve made loads of new (non-developer!!) friends; got involved in a community project I really believe in; been utterly baffled that white Western humans have evolved to eat coconuts but not dairy (huh); and found that nobody, and I mean nobody, looks good in that stupid singlet.

And confidence. Seriously, confidence. Confidence for me doesn’t come from being able to fit into size 12 jeans, or “looking good” in a bikini (“looking good” is COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE anyhow, fuck your white Western beauty standards). Confidence comes from being able to put on that stupid singlet and pull a face like “something in one of those David Attenborough programs when he’s at the bottom of the sea” [© my coach] in front of 200 strangers and not care. In fact, you care so little that you put the photos on Facebook. Confidence is deciding to do a talk at a conference about powerlifting, even though you’ve been to hardly any conferences, let alone talked at one (Jebus Christ though, I still can’t quite believe I signed up for that). Confidence is enjoying your body for what it does, not just what it looks like (although it’s nice to be henchfat).

I won’t deny there have been dark times, too. Irritating my rotator cuff; injuring my back; peeing myself on the platform at the British Classic (oh yeah, I went there); loads and loads of self-doubt around whether I was “good enough” to go to the British at all. The money – oh god the money – spent on physio and sports psych and hotel rooms and those SBD knee sleeves, which cost me £54 and my cat peed on. The know-it-all wankers on social media, telling me my squat “wasn’t in line with” my deadlift, just after I qualified for the British; or the usual boneheaded sexist garbage (not too dissimilar from being in tech, really). Pressure to look a certain way; pressure to lift a certain amount. Not forgetting the people who assume that just because you’re not a very strong lifter, that you must be inexperienced/a newbie. I’ve been very liberal with the block function on Twitter, I tell you now.

Probably the worst thing about having lifted for so long is the plateaus. Sure, if you’ve been lifting for a few months or a year, you’re probably breaking those PRs all over the place; but mark my words, one day – one day! – you’ll plateau so hard it’ll make you weep. And then the true test of your mettle is whether you keep plugging away at the gym, or you give up & do something else. Maybe some people would regard me as a loser, but I’m going to keep trying to better my deadlift if it kills me (or my spine pops out). 2 flippin’ years, you bastard lift.

I don’t know if I’ll still be lifting in another 5 years. I like to think I will be – I’ll be 42, and maybe (if I’m lucky & don’t get injured) I might be a vaguely competitive Masters lifter. Or my knees might have exploded by then, and I’ll maybe just be watching (or refereeing) and being all sage & knowledgeable. Seriously, who knows.

In the meantime I’m going to carry on pulling faces like this in public.

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Who loves ya, baby?

I haven’t had much to write about here recently as, well, I’ve just not been training very much. My back finally feels 95% normal, and on Monday I’m going to set my squat opener for the Farm Open. Yes, I think I’m going to compete – I may regret it, but then again I think I would regret not competing.

On Thursday I ran up to max on bench. My current competition pb is 50kg (paused) which I’ve struggled to reproduce in the gym. On Thursday I had two attempts at 52.5kg without a pause – on the first one, I needed a little help to get the bar out of the hole, but on the second one I go it all by myself. I think on my first attempt I was surprised by how heavy it felt, hence I failed it. The second try felt so much better.

My coach then had me attempt 55, 57.5 & 60kg. On the first two I needed more help to get the bar off my chest, but the lock-out was all me. But the 60kg attempt was (understandably) so heavy, and I couldn’t control it down to my chest at all. I woke up during the night on Thursday/Friday with a sore left elbow, which was unsurprising.

At the gym yesterday I did 3 x 3 squats at 60kg without any back pain, and a few deadlift singles at 70kg. Today I feel fine, which is a good sign.

I’m thinking that at the competition I will do a token squat & deadlift (maybe 80-85kg & 90-100kg respectively) and attempt a new bench pb. So it won’t be a total waste, hopefully. This also means I don’t have to worry too much about getting <72kg bodyweight, as I'm not going to be making any record attempts!

I'm pretty sad that I won't be making an attempt at the squat divisional record next week (97.5kg) as I'd really hoped to get it before my talk on powerlifting at Bacon 2014. But oh well; I guess I can talk about the challenges of injury instead!!

Shrinking

Well GOOD NEWS about my back… after my second round of acupuncture yesterday, today I woke up to an almost normal feeling back. I had my first round on Thursday & the physio warned I’d probably feel worse before I felt better…and I did. But today I feel pretty good. In fact I was thinking I’d go to conditioning this Friday, until I remembered that it’s Good Friday this week, so I won’t be at work. Doh!

Unfortunately, 3+ weeks of not lifting heavy has resulted in me shrinking. At first I thought it was due to my diet changes, but quitting oats for protein at breakfast while still eating plenty of chocolate (= my diet recently) can’t realistically result in the sort of weight/size loss I’m seeing. I can only conclude that I’ve lost quite a lot of muscle 😦

On Monday this week I tried some light squats (40kg) and light deadlifts (50kg) which felt OK. If I still feel good on Saturday, then I might up the weight a bit. In the meantime I’m testing max bench tomorrow.

Still, at least I haven’t lost so much muscle that I don’t appear HENCH (your version of “hench” may vary). I was brushing my teeth yesterday & realised that at some point over the last 5 years, I got hench without really trying.

Classy bathroom shot there

Classy bathroom shot there, Laura

You know the difference between you and me? I make 30% bodyfat look GOOD (with apologies to Men in Black)

fitspo boobs

I have talked at length before about the minefield that is being a chubby chick who lifts and doesn’t want to lose fat/get lean. Back when I used to read a lot of lifting/fitness blogs, a trope that came up time & time again was that women might not want to lift/get lean, because leanness means smaller boobs. The refrain from those bloggers was usually that abs > boobs; and lower body fat = health, which is allegedly a better payoff than the joys of big boobs. I’d respectfully disagree, for myself personally, as I won’t deny that one of the reasons I don’t want to get lean (along with sheer laziness) is that I like my boobs & I think I look pretty good at 30% bodyfat.

Probably not surprisingly, I get a lot of hits on my blog from people searching for boobs. In fact, probably 40% of my hits are boob-related.

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So in the spirit of giving the public what they want, let’s talk about boobs – guided by some of my blog hits.

big boobs fitspo

So yes, I am large of boob. I have always been large of boob, and honestly, it’s not something that has ever bothered me. I never liked wearing button-down shirts anyhow.

There are a lot of myths about having big boobs that seem to endure – that they’ll inevitably give you backache; that only larger boobs sag; that they will prevent you from exercising etc. In my experience, none of these are true.

For starters, life with large breasts is 100x easier if you have one thing nailed down: wearing the right bra. Not even just the right sized bra, but one which fits your breast & body shape. If you’re currently struggling with uncomfortable bras, feel at the end of the day that you just can’t wait to rip your bra off, have backache and/or shoulder pain, then take some time to check out the many bra bloggers around these days. Don’t rely on getting a bra fitted at Marks & Spencers (or other department store where they wield a tape measure).

My favourite bra bloggers are Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, Curvy Wordy, Thin and Curvy and Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed. There are loads more out there if you have a good Google. These ladies really know their stuff regarding bra size, breast shape and bra types. There’s so much more to it than just size – boobs can be shallow, top/bottom heavy; shoulders can be narrow or wide-set; and all these things make a huge difference to how your bra fits & feels.

With regards to sagging: I’m afraid, IME, boobs tend to sag whether they’re large or small. Sure, the effect of gravity means larger ones might seem more likely to, but a few visits to the communal changing rooms at your local swimming pool will reveal that pretty much all boobs succumb to its effects eventually. And guess what? It’s natural. No, it might not be desirable (to our Western ideals anyhow), but nature’s a bitch like that.

As for not being able to do some exercises: this is true, to an extent. There are two things I can’t do easily – one is upright rows with a bar (my boobs just get in the way); and the other is a shoulder stand (my boobs sort of fall onto my windpipe and I can’t breathe). Everything else, though, is fine – I can live without those two. Sprinting? Yes, it’s possible; you just have to (wait for it) wear the right bra.

booty and small boobs fitspo

This is, of course, another perfectly cool configuration. In fact it seems to be the default one. Rock on, my small-boobed sisters! (But do it in a good bra.)

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I am a 32FF. FF, eh? My boobs must be THE SIZE OF MARS! Except they’re not.

You see, there’s no such thing as “FF-cup” boobs. Or “DD-cup” boobs. Or even “A-cup” boobs. Why? Because band size is as important as cup size.

I’m going to refer to George’s excellent posts about bra sizing, here (and steal a few of her pictures).

Take a look at this picture:

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Image via Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, from Curvy Kate

Yes, both of those women are wearing D+ cup bras. The bras are by Curvy Kate (who I recommend highly!) who only make bras in a D-K cup. Do they look like D cups to you? The secret is in the band size. As band size decreases, cup size decreases too – so the cup on a 38D and the cup on a 28D (which these women likely are) are very, very different sizes.

Here are some other great images of D & DD cup women:

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Image via Fuller Figure Fuller Bust; originally created by Lobby Biuściastych/Stanikomani

And finally, G cup women (the band sizes are European, so e.g. a 65G is a 30G in UK sizing):

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Image via Fuller Figure Fuller Bust; originally created by Lobby Biuściastych/Stanikomani

OK, these ladies all have ample bosoms, but we’re not talking BOOBS THE SIZE OF MARS, are we? So if you’re someone who thinks that anyone over a DD cup has hilariously over-inflated comedy boobs, or is a virtual cripple, think again.

I do find it irritating when women in the public eye mislead us on the size of their boobs. For example, the lovely Coco Austin (I’m a huge fan!) has her measurements on various websites as a 39D or 34E. Looking at the images above, do you think that’s right? For starters, her back is tiny, far smaller than mine – and I wear a 32 back. Secondly, a 39 back size doesn’t exist anyway. Thirdly, those implants are much more than a DD or E.

Back in ye olden days I used to do web development for an “adult entertainment” company (hey, porn sites need web devs too!) and even then the bra size mislabelling annoyed me. There seemed to be this idea that models could only be labelled a DD/DDD at most, so once they were obviously beyond that, the magazines & websites would add inches to their back sizes (no matter what size the model was wearing in her daily life!). So you’d wind up with a very petite model, with a tiny back & large implants, being labelled a “40DDD”. No, no and no!

Please, media, can we have some realistic bra sizes used? If nothing else, it’s going to make women who do wear DD+ bras feel less, well, freakish.

So there you have it. If you think big boobs are a barrier to exercise – they’re not, you just have to work with what you’ve got. And if you think DD+ boobs are comedy melons, maybe I’ve helped change your mind (or not; I guess the idea of “big boobs” is pretty arbitrary – if you think anything over an A is big, then so be it).

As for my favourite bras – personally I couldn’t live without Freya, Curvy Kate and Fantasie. My sports bra of choice is the Freya moulded sports bra (seriously, I can leap about in this thing and my boobs stay put). Hopefully I’ll review a few more sports bras on here in the next few months.

And finally, here’s me & my boobs, Google boob hounds. Happy Googling.