Monthly Archives: September 2014

The week after comp; and 2 articles about Bethnal Green WLC

I haven’t felt like blogging for a few days and I think I’m in that post-competition MEH phase. I went back to the gym on Thursday, but since I don’t have a program at the moment it all feels a bit directionless, which isn’t fun. The Men’s Classic is next Saturday & Sunday, after which (I hope!) I will get a new program to run me up to the Greater London Championships on November 22nd.

On Thursday & Sunday I therefore spent a bit of time squatting in my new Adidas Powerlift 2.0 shoes. I’m still not convinced they’re going to work for me; I tend to tip forward a lot on heavy (90%+) squats so the small heel on the Powerlift shoes will probably make me tip forward even more, unless I can do something dramatic to correct the lean.

Oh well, if the shoes don’t work out I will stick them on eBay. Or just keep them. Because it’s not like I have too few pairs of shoes or anything!!

I spent the first few days after the competition eating a bit more than I was when i was trying to make weight. Then on Saturday my boyfriend came back from his business trip, so all bets are off. I had a Dominos pizza & wine on Saturday night, waking up feeling terrible (I haven’t drunk alcohol for weeks!); yesterday I had some Buffalo wings and beer, and I feel OK today. I really shouldn’t eat Dominos – for a “treat” it sure does make me feel rubbish. I don’t think it’s the gluten (dear lord please don’t let it be the gluten) but something mysterious that makes me feel ropey. Or maybe it’s the wine.

My coach Martin wrote a nice little report about mine & the other Bethnal Green ladies’ performances at the British. He is always very complimentary to me, despite my inherent rubbishness, which is nice. However, he did say the other day that I will never deadlift 140kg and now I’m sort of wanting to prove him wrong, dammit! Although I think 125/130kg is a more realistic lifetime goal. Maybe. I’m torn between wanting to be realistic, and wanting to throw all limitations out the window. But I do have to remember that I’m not that far off 40, and at some point my lifts are going to have to go down instead of up 😦

Another excellent thing that happened at the weekend was the Gentle Author from Spitalfields Life came into the gym to interview some of the members for a feature. I’ve been trying to arrange this for quite a while, with the author/photographer arriving at the gym when the senior members were away, and vice versa. Eventually I managed to find a time when both groups could be at the gym at the same time, and the resulting article is great. It’s nice to have a record of some of the history of the gym. Unfortunately one of the photos of me is terrible – I have no idea what I was thinking with this outfit!

Photo by Sarah Ainslie.

At least I’m squatting 80kg, which isn’t clown-like (even if the clothes are).

This week, as well as practising squatting in those shoes, I have a feature to write for the Bethnal Green website about another one of its lifting legends and sorting out a bunch of archive photographs. God I love my gym.

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Post-comp comedown

Sexy deadlift face

Photo via Grant Hendry-Horne.

So the results are out, and I came 12th out of 14 in the 72kg class, which I’m pretty pleased about. Even if I’d got my anticipated 52.5kg bench I wouldn’t have placed any higher, so I did as well as I could. If you ever think I’m strong, take a look at the full results and be amazed at the standard out there. I’m pretty damn weak compared to this lot 😉

I think I’m more or less back to normal now. On Sunday I had a sore back; on Monday I had sore adductors and was exhausted (which made for a fun day of meetings at work). This afternoon I have a sports massage booked, which I’m very much looking forward to! I’m going to go back to the gym on Thursday to do a few light squats; I want to start practising squatting in my Adidas Powerlift shoes – I didn’t use them at the British because I wasn’t quite used to them. We’ll see if they make a difference.

I’m going to compete in the Greater Londons on November 22nd in the 72kg class, so I need to keep an eye on my weight for the next 2 months. I do feel more normal in the gut/weight/food department, though. I think part of the reason I was so exhausted on Sunday & Monday was because I didn’t eat enough on competition day. It was so hot and the day was so long that I didn’t really feel like eating. I had my customary 2 cream cheese bagels before lifting, and 2 bananas & a packet of Jaffa Cakes between lifts, but once I got home I couldn’t face my treat pizza & garlic bread so I went to bed without any dinner. In fact the pizza and half of the garlic bread are now in my freezer to be eaten another time. I think my stomach just needs a bit of time to get used to all the lovely lovely food after being restricted for a few weeks!

I have to say, getting that 117.5kg deadlift has made me feel so much more confident. I’ve hated deadlifts for such a long time, feeling like 115kg was all I could ever hope to manage. I don’t really remember how it felt at the top of the lift (I was too busy concentrating on things other than my grip) but I know I didn’t feel like I was going to drop it. 120kg in November? If I can get that, then I will feel a bit less like a deadlift loser among the others in the 72kg class who were all pulling 130++!

GBPF Women’s Classic 2014

So, I just did my second GBPF British Classic.

In the week leading up to the competition I had intended to go to Pilates twice, just for the stretch factor, but work being work, I was booked into meetings over both times I’d reserved for Pilates so I couldn’t go. I mark the time in my calendar as “Busy” but no-one ever seems to notice 😦 I guess that’s what happens when you have some sort of interlekshul job like mine where you have to sit in meetings and discuss things, meh.

Is it any wonder my desk nameplate features a picture of Grumpy Cat?

Is it any wonder my desk nameplate features a picture of Grumpy Cat?

The evening before, I managed to escape work early, got home and… had no idea what to do with myself. My boyfriend is away at the moment, I had no-one to distract me and no more Battlestar Galactica to watch. Argh! I ended up going a bit stir-crazy & put myself to bed by 9pm.

Next morning I had my alarm set for 8am and intended to get to the gym for 11-11.30. As it was, I woke up at 6.45am (my weekday alarm time) and forced myself to stay in bed reading until 8am. I hopped on the scales and I was 70.4kg, perfect (if maybe a little bit too light!). Hopped off again, then hopped on again just to be sure. 72.7kg. What?! Tried again – 70.4kg. Aaaarrrgh. My home scales aren’t super-accurate but this was crazy.

So, plans changed. I decided to get dressed & go to the gym early, so I could weigh myself on the gym scales before weigh-in, then either relax or panic as appropriate. I was only going to go even more stir-crazy at home on my own anyway.

I arrived at the gym just before 10am, and just before the first flight started lifting. Hopped on the scales there and… 70.4kg. FFS. So, off to the beigel shop for a cream cheese beigel and a coffee.

We weighed in officially at 12.30pm (70.5kg in the end) and started to wait for the morning lifters to finish. We were due to start at 2pm but I knew there’d be an overrun. And there was – we started at 4.15pm! I’d been in the sweltering-hot gym for over 5 hours by this point and I was knackered.

Squat

Ugh, finally. To be honest, by the time I’d warmed up I just wanted to go home & nap, not lift! I wasn’t even sure that 90kg was a sensible opener. But I did it, and I got it… just. My back (at the old injury site from April) really hurt, though. We decided to go to 95kg for the next. This time it was like I was lifting in a totally different body – no pain, no real difficulty. Pb at 72kg! So we decided to go all-out and try 100kg.

100kg was tough, no doubt about it – and I got a red light from the centre ref (for depth). But 2/3 is still a pass! I’m really pleased I have 100kg @ 72kg in the bag, I know I can do it now.

Fuck yeah 100kg squat face (Thanks to Rachel for the pic!)

Fuck yeah 100kg squat face (Thanks to Rachel for the pic!)

Bench

I decided last week to go conservative with my bench opener – my bench has just been going poorly for ages and I’m not sure why. And oh god am I glad I did! I would normally go for a 50kg opener but chose 47.5kg on the day, which I got… and then failed 50kg twice! Normally I can do 50kg in the gym with no problems; but this time I had no leg drive, the hand-over felt weird, everything felt wrong.

So that put a huge crimp in my ebullient mood after the squats. Fucking bench. 47.5kg at 72kg is really quite a poor show. Blah.

Deadlift

By this point I just wanted to go home, stupid fucking bench, stupid fucking powerlifting. But hey ho, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

110kg opener was fine – god knows it ought to be, I’ve been opening on 110kg for 18 months. Second attempt was 115kg – an equal pb, and a pb I’ve had for nearly 2 years. I knew I could get it – it’s just a case of whether or not my right hand can hold it. And…it did! Thank god.

Then the question of going for 117.5 or 120kg. I know I can theoretically pull both, but the reality of my right hand is different. I decided to go for 117.5kg – it’d be a pb & was the safer bet. And I got it!! But not without some, er, personal humiliation, in the form of peeing myself. Hurray. There’s nothing to put a dampener on your jubilant mood than seeing them get the mop out after your attempt. CRINGE.

My red face jut kinda gives it all away, doesn't it? (Thanks to Rachel for the pic!)

My red face gives it all away, doesn’t it? (Thanks to Rachel for the pic!)

I’m never going to live it down, so instead I’m just going to start telling people that if there’s no pee, poop or vomit involved, or you didn’t faint afterwards, then it wasn’t heavy enough, dammit!

(I have to say, if you don’t like reading about pee or my unhappy guts, you may be reading the wrong blog! 😉 )

So! On that lovely note – a 265kg total @ -72kg, 15kg more than 2013 and equal to my total in the 84kg class!! The full results haven’t been released yet, but I don’t think I was last (unlike last year). Doing better than 2013 was all I really wanted.

Me, coach Martin and British champion Anna!

Me, coach Martin and British champion Anna!

After the competition ended I stayed behind to help tidy up the gym, which was a mess. I finally left at 8.45pm, getting home just after 10pm. Normally the journey takes 40 minutes but I had to wait ages for a bus back from the tube station. All in all, an 11.5 hour day. Powerlifting is actually an endurance sport.

I have pretty mixed feelings about competing at the British. On the one hand, it’s brilliant that you get to see some amazingly strong women, everyone is lovely and supportive and it’s a great atmosphere. On the other hand… good god, it’s a painful reminder that I’m not a very good lifter at all. OK, so I was pretty firmly in the middle of the squats, but I was ultimately bottom of the deadlifts, and even if I hadn’t fucked up my bench I would have been near-bottom there. If it was still my first year or whatever I might feel OK about it, but I’ve been doing this for years longer than many and I’m still pretty shit. But in powerlifting, as in programming and education, I’ve always been “just good enough to get by”. And I’m still programming after 15 years, so there’s no reason I won’t be powerlifting in another 10, too…

The silver lining is that I have finally broken my deadlift plateau after TWO FUCKING YEARS (I first pulled 115kg in November 2012) and like as if the majority of lifters (or at least the vocal ones) would still be plugging away at lifting after all that time with no pb. People who whine about 2 months with no pb can kiss my giant butt. I am truly the Queen of the twin cities of Perseverance & Persistence.

Today, I feel like crap. My back hurts, I had a poor night’s sleep full of anxiety dreams, and I didn’t eat enough yesterday (I didn’t feel like my treat pizza at 10pm!). Hopefully I’ll feel more human tomorrow.

I’m going to take a week or so off and then… well, the Greater London Championships are on November 22nd…

Some ramblings on “works”, and other things

You may have figured out by now that lots of things in the fitness/healthy living “world” irritate the crap out of me. One of those things is blanket statements about food, eating, what “works” and what doesn’t. For this reason I don’t generally read blogs or blog posts about nutrition, because what I don’t read can’t rile me. But sometimes I can’t avoid it (because I click on a link Tweeted by someone whose opinion I value, for example). And at those times I want to write a coherent, eloquent blog post about why X or Y blanket statement is misguided (or plain wrong). Sadly, coherent & eloquent blog posts don’t come to me very easily, so you get this sort of thing instead.

For starters, I don’t believe ANY food is defacto “good” or “bad”. Food is not moral, it has no moral value, we need to stop talking about food using loaded terms. Every foodstuff has its place – not necessarily in everyone’s diet, but no food is just good or just bad for everyone.

For example, if you’re doing Whole30, you might call rice “junk food”. But if you follow ETP, rice is most certainly not a junk food. Sugar is almost universally reviled, but not if you follow Dr Ray Peat’s style of eating (and many do). Is whole wheat a “clean” food? Well, it depends on whose book you read. Ditto potatoes (and seriously, how are potatoes not “clean”?) Suffer from gastroparesis or a similar gastro-intestinal affliction? Then “healthy” fibrous greens like broccoli are probably going to make you very sick indeed. And so on and so on.

Another thing. I’ve discovered – in comparing my prep for this competition vs my prep for the London Clubs, that I actually train very well on sugary carbs, thank you very much. This goes against pretty much every single nutrition blogger ever (except maybe Dr Ray Peat) but it’s what works for me. I ate cheesecake 3 times in the week running up to my last competition and felt as strong as an ox. I’ve been eating lots and lots of green veg & fatty meats in the run up to this competition and I feel…meh. My guts are a mess (still!), I don’t feel strong. In fact I really don’t feel ready for this competition full stop.

As for dairy giving a person spots? Well, it doesn’t for me. In fact I have never been so spotty as I am when I’m making weight for competition & switch from dairy milk to almond milk. As it happens, I kinda don’t really care too much about spots – I’m more concerned about wrinkles, and one thing having a high body fat percentage helps with is smoothing out your wrinkles 🙂

Nuts. Loads of people advocate eating them for fat loss. However, I avoid them completely when making weight. I haven’t eaten a single almond or cashew for the last 3 weeks, when normally I eat them every day. They just make me heavy, which is a shame. I will be back on the almond butter on Monday, though!

And the oft-repeated cry of “toss the scale”? Good lord are you crazy? If you’re making weight for a competition, then not diligently weighing yourself is shortsighted at best. OK, so most CrossFitters don’t rate things based on bodyweight, but if you’re going to move to Olympic lifting, strongman or powerlifting (or any of the combat sports) then bodyweights matter. I’m quite lucky in that weighing myself isn’t that much of a headfuck (but weighing & measuring my food really skeeves me out – go figure) so I can hop on the scale every morning with no problems. In fact, this close to competition I’m weighing myself day & night, and sometimes even pre- & post-poop. It’s all about knowing exactly how much you weigh under certain conditions, so you can manipulate your bodyweight to best advantage.

I’m not claiming to be the grand arbiter of eating – god knows I’m not. What I am is a massive skeptic, picky as fuck and less & less willing to let blanket statements slide these days. The key with so many things is to find out what works for you but BEFORE you do that, define “works”.

What does “works” mean? Does it mean fat loss? Weight loss? Weight gain? Fat percentage maintenance? Convenience? Palatability? The ability to be comfortable buying food out of the house, instead of prepping everything at home? Being able to enjoy the meal your partner and/or children are eating, instead of preparing & eating a separate meal? Being happy in your body, whether it’s a size 10 or a size 30? Fitting into last year’s swimsuit? Having a bigger butt? Having a smaller butt?

For me, right now, “works” means being <72kg at 12pm on September 20th & not being as weak as a kitten as a result.

So often I see "works" used by people who assume everyone understands it as “weight/fat loss”. Well fuck that. I like my fat (in fact, during this session of making weight I’ve been alarmed to notice my boobs deflating), I like my body and having to be <72kg is one of those necessary evils to take part in a sport I (mostly) enjoy.

So really, I guess what I'm saying is:

What works for everyone is different.
But "works" might mean something completely different for the person next to you.
Screw blanket statements.
By all means read nutrition blogs, but question e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

As if my competition couldn’t go any worse, what with my crap final training sessions and, ahem, “gastric distress”, on Monday I woke up with an stinking, streaming cold. I decided to call in sick to work, thinking that me with explodey sinuses = not much use to anyone.

2 days and lots of Sudafed later, I feel…bleh. Breathing is an issue. Really, could my prep go any worse? Although I fear if I ask that, I will jinx myself even further.

I did, however, manage to make it to the gym to set my squat & bench openers. I managed a pretty nice 90kg squat, and a hard-but-OK 50kg paused bench. I’m probably going to open on 47.5kg for my bench, though – just to be super-safe.

I have an idea of what my second attempts will be but like any seasoned competitor, I won’t be choosing my third attempts in advance. When I see people choosing all three attempts beforehand I confess, I do roll my eyes a little – you really don’t know how you’re going to do on the day (especially if you’re making weight). It’s fine to have a ballpark idea, but set attempts – don’t bother. Just see how attempts one & two go.

In terms of the old gastric funtimes, today I have eaten carbs carbs carbs. Oat bran, sunflower seeds & raisins for breakfast; a salad featuring red kidney beans & more sunflower seeds for lunch; and a couple of those Actimel probiotic yogurt drinks in-between. Tonight’s dinner features lots of rice. If this doesn’t sort my gut out then, oh god, I dunno. New gut please.

I’ll see how if affects my weight tomorrow, I guess. If push comes to shove, I can have a low-food day on Friday. And an Epsom salt bath in the evening.

I really cannot wait for this competition to be over now. I want to focus on… prepping for the Greater London championships on November 22nd. Not like I’m a total glutton for punishment, or anything.

Well, my weekend hasn’t gone to plan. In fact, none of my prep for this competition has gone to plan. Not only have I completely failed to have a good training week, I’ve approached making weight in a daft way and managed to screw up my digestive system. Normally, I have the constitution of an ox and have no idea what it’s like to feel ill after eating certain foods (ones that aren’t rotten or anything); but cutting down on carbs has changed all that.

I had planned to spend Saturday doing fun things with my boyfriend, as I wasn’t going to the gym & he is at home briefly in between business trips. Instead, I spent it in my pajamas, on the sofa, with stomach issues. FUN TIMES. Remind me to never, ever go so low on carbs again. I mean, I was eating my fruits & veggies (mostly in the form of savoy cabbage, green beans, melon & figs, as they’re all in season) but I still wound up in digestive agony. Urgh.

As I’m currently cutting out dairy & bread/pasta (but not “hidden gluten”, if you know what I mean) and experiencing gastric distress for the first time in my life, I’m getting paranoid that when I start eating those things again after Saturday, I will have become intolerant to them. That can’t happen, can it?! 😦

Today I feel a lot better, but only because I ate a bowl of oatmeal yesterday, along with some rice & raisins. Today I’ve eaten oat bran & more rice. I have no idea how many grams of carbs that equals, but my tummy is definitely happier. I will have to be more careful next week – I can’t spend next Saturday on the sofa!!

I think it’s kind of interesting that supposedly healthier diets can do this to you. I understand that everyone is individual (although sadly a lot of nutrition blogs don’t seem to allow for that) but I didn’t think I’d wind up feeling so bad just from cutting out rice/oats/wheat/root vegetables. Similarly, I obviously have a well-honed tolerance for lactose & gluten – if cutting these things out makes me intolerant of those foods, is it really “healthy”? (I.e. is removing a tolerance for/the ability to eat a food group “healthy”?)

I’ve been thinking recently of the phrase “find a diet that works for you” and what “works” means. I think it’s usually presumed to mean “weight/fat loss”. For me, “works” is a diet that doesn’t screw up my guts, as well as one which allows me to enjoy the food my boyfriend cooks me, fits with my (eating in restaurants!) lifestyle, and includes lunchtime foods I can buy at places like Pret or Abokado 😉

End of peak week

I am quite, quite glad this week is nearly over as it’s been a bit of a tough one. After having my disappointing peak bench session on Monday, I had my peak squat session last night; despite it not going as well as I’d hoped I don’t actually feel as despondent as I did about my bench. I suspect this may have something to do with upping my carbs improving my mood in general. I was feeling so, so bad on Wednesday until I decided fuck it, and drank 250ml of apple juice. The result was nothing short of a miracle.

My competition pb squat at 72kg is 92.5kg; last night I weighed 71.5kg at the end of the day (TOO LIGHT! TOO SOON!) and squatted an easy 80kg x 2, a comfortable 90kg and a hard 95kg. I attempted 100kg twice but no dice. The first one I just couldn’t lock out, and the second one I got stuck in the hole.

But, I’m feeling sanguine. Yes, I squatted 100kg twice before, but I was 3kg heavier and eating more (sugar, fast carbs, overall calories etc) than I am now. 95kg is a gym pb for me, so if I get that in a week I’ll be happy. I’ll be happier if I can get 97.5 or 100kg, but y’know…. 😉

I took a photo of myself in the changing room at Urban Kings after Pilates because I was actually a bit shocked at how I looked. The low-carb experiment left me feeling like crap but looking quite good (fsvo “good”). I feel like a traitor for liking how I look with a bit less belly bloat, but the payoff is that restricting what I eat is m-i-s-e-r-y and I don’t want to feel how I’m feeling, or eat what I’m eating, long-term.

I feel kinda vain posting this pic 😐 Especially since I don’t enjoy being this size!

Eating like this has definitely been helped by my boyfriend being away on business, because I just eat fewer potatoes/fries/chocolate/wine when he’s not around (and I watch more Battlestar Galactica). He’s back now, only for the weekend, then is away again for 2 weeks. So the final week before my competition will be easier in terms of what I eat, but harder in terms of not having him around to reassure me/use as a sounding board for my angst. Expect more angst on here, friends!