Monthly Archives: October 2014

Paused squats, and a lost cake

So while I had a stressful week last week, today I have probably reached PEAK ANXIETY as I try to deal with a lost cake. In short, Sponge cakes are really nice, but DPD couriers are pretty much useless when it comes to delivering to gated properties, and right now my mum’s birthday cake is somewhere between their house and a depot in Reading, already a day late for delivery and probably rapidly going off. I am really quite, quite angry, not least because attempting to sort this out has meant I’ve had to talk on the phone a few times, and talking on the phone (even to my boyfriend) ranks up there as Top 5 in the list of Things I Hate To Do.

Have I mentioned that I’m anxious? Yeah, I’m pretty anxious right now.

But I’m not posting here to talk about cake – I’m going to try to get back into the swing of talking about my workouts, despite my utter apathy right now.

Last night I went to BGWLC as per usual, and I had paused squats. Paused squats are working really well for me right now, not sure what it is but I seem to get more out of them than any other squat variation. I worked up to 3 sets of 2 @ 80kg, with a two-second pause on each. I won’t deny, these were hard – mostly in terms of trying to hit depth – but I loved them. For some reason I keep my form much better when doing pause squats than when doing conventional ones.

I’m also quite pleased that despite my less-than-optimal nutrition recently (i.e. hardly any protein), I can go to the gym after a horrible, stressful day at work and do 80kg paused squats (at 71.9kg bodyweight!) without too many problems. I reckon my estimate of being able to do a 90kg single on even my worst gym days is fairly spot-on.

After that I had speed pulls off two mats (6 sets of 2 @ 80kg) and a bunch of accessory work. I think my grip has improved slightly, as I was OK doing sets of 7 barbell shrugs @ 60kg, with a double-overhand grip. Before, I’m not sure I’d even have attempted that.

Because I haven’t been writing about my workouts, I failed to mention that for the last two Thursdays I’ve been working on overloaded bench press, using boards to lessen the range of motion. Two weeks ago I did board presses with 4 boards, managing 3 x 3 @ 60kg. Last week I did 3 x 3 @ 60 to three boards. This Thursday the intention is to go for 3 x 3 @ 60kg on 2 boards (you get the idea). Not gonna lie, I’m quite nervous about this, as holding 60kg over my face is a bit scary. Here’s hoping I manage to get a few reps in, eh?

The other thing that happened at the gym last night – and which resulted in me getting home later than intended – was a bit of a conflab about how we can get more people (and, you know, their money!) into the gym. I think a “beginners’ taster session” type thing would be ideal, i.e. having a small-group session at a time when the gym would otherwise be closed, which you pay a one-off price for, where you can try out weightlifting or powerlifting under the eye of a coach. I reckon a lot of people would love to try lifting, but have no idea where to start. I don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m very up for trying.


I realised, a couple of days after my last post, that I’d actually been talking in slight cross-purposes about why I feel sad at this time of year (well, I feel sad a lot of the time, but this time of year doesn’t help).

When I say “this time of year” I mean Christmas and its dreaded run-up. I think when other people hear “this time of year” they think darkness, and cold. I have to admit, I’ve never experienced S.A.D (and I’m glad for it); but I really really fucking hate Christmas.

This weekend just passed I had a family event to go to, which I was super anxious about and which sent me off into a pretty bad spin. Happily the weekend is over, but now the real pre-Christmas prep starts and I will slowly get more & more anxious as the day approaches. I look forward to approximately 8pm on Christmas Day, when I will hopefully be back home (i.e. my home, not my hometown of Parochialville) again and flopping in front of Downton Abbey. Then the best part of Christmas can start, which for me is volunteering at Crisis at Christmas.

As you may be able to tell, I do not enjoy Christmas.

OK, this blog is supposed to be about lifting, so let’s talk about it. Over the last few weeks my lifting stuff has really slipped into maintenance mode. As I was seeing family on Saturday I couldn’t train as usual, and only lifted twice last week. This week… I am once again busy on Saturday and unable to go to the gym. So my plan is to lift on Tuesday instead. This chucks up a bunch of anxiety of its own, as it means I have no evenings at home this week – lifting Monday, Tuesday & Thursday; massage Wednesday; away Friday & Saturday. It’s good to be busy, but it means not spending much time with my boyfriend or just chilling at home (I will have a couple of hours on Wednesday though). I have ranted before at length about scheduling, guilt and anxiety, so I won’t go into it again; but yeah, you know.

Despite all this I’ve just not really been caring when I do go to the gym; I just do the minimum & push off home. And food-wise – well, I haven’t had a protein shake for weeks and I have no idea how much protein I’m eating (read: not very much). I just don’t care at the moment. I keep thinking that I need to get into the “eating good stuff” mindset that I was in before the British, but I can’t give myself the mental push to do it. I suspect it’s partially because I remember how very, very ill I felt when I went low-carb, and how my stomach still doesn’t seem to have recovered, so I just don’t want to go back there. Not that I will do that low-carb thing again – it was really stupid.

I have no idea what’s going to get me back into a good place with all this. I want to feel more motivated about lifting, of course; but the food thing is still pissing me off, and the more I read about “It’s all about health!” the more I want to stick two fingers up at “health” and do what the fuck I want (seriously, no-one is obligated to be healthy, one day I will get round to writing about that).

Blargh. I am looking forward to my weekend away this weekend, I just have to balance it with the anxiety that coming out of my routine causes (and the guilt I feel at not spending much time at home). And then I have to tackle the joys the end of the year brings. Can it be January yet?

Sad panda update

So things have not been good with the state of the Laura recently. I have been unmotivated to post here, or even write down my workouts in my little book (although I’m still mostly going to the gym as often as ever). Last week I skipped Pilates altogether but still made it to lifting & conditioning (although in conditioning I just felt terrible, like I had no energy at all). This week I’m on track to go to lifting twice, Pilates once & conditioning once; I’d normally go lifting three times, but I have a family engagement on Saturday.

My mood has been pretty low for a while, but this week it’s taken a beating and I’ve been miserable. I’m alright day-to-day, but overall I’m unhappy. When I finally weaned myself off citalopram a couple of months ago I felt OK & pretty stable; but now I’ve definitely gone downhill. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of citalopram or just general life circumstances which have contributed to this lowness. A couple of times this week I’ve considered hauling myself off to therapy again, which I don’t want to do, not yet.

As a result, I’ve not felt motivated in the gym, and in fact I’ve had a couple of incidents where I really didn’t want to be at the gym, and considered taking time off. I can’t do this, though – I have a competition coming up (although I don’t plan to make any PBs at it, I’m just doing it for qualification purposes) and the gym does generally cheer me up. I need to be a bit more careful about who I interact with while I’m there; I think I often forget that not everyone has the same experiences/opinions etc as me. Real-life is not as tightly curated as my Twitter or blog feed!

In happier news, I took my IPF domestic referee exam on Sunday. I won’t find out if I’ve passed for a while, though. The exam was pretty hard, but the good news is that if I fail I’ll have to re-take exactly the same exam paper!! If I pass, I’ll be eligible to referee in divisional & national GBPF competitions (I will have to referee at one national competition in the next 12 months in order to stay registered).

I’m pretty excited about the prospect of refereeing; however it does mean that I’ll probably be open to abuse from people who don’t like my decisions. And, call me a cynic, but I reckon a certain amount of objections will be misogynistic in nature. Do I want to open myself up to this sort of thing? It might not happen – it’s pretty typical of me to assume the worst, especially in the light of everything going on in tech culture at the moment (Gamergate etc) and my experience of working in IT/dev/tech for the last 15-odd years.

One thing someone said to me, though, was that if I get any abuse while refereeing I can just recommend that person for drug testing. That’d be sweet.

Once again I haven’t felt like writing here recently. I have a big, ranty post in my head about fat-shaming, which I want to write at some point *but* I don’t feel I have the time right now to do it justice. (This scrappy post was knocked out in a spare 10 minutes after my lunchbreak.)

I did, however, find two nutrition writers whose writing I think I can get behind. Normally I read no nutrition blogs at all, they don’t interest me and in all honesty they usually give me the rage. But the other day I found an article about paleo that really resonated with me, via Kathleen Joythe Paleo Diet’s Bad Reputation by James Fell.

I have long felt discomfort with paleo (alongside my cynicism about, you know, coconuts and how were my ancestors supposedly eating them before they ate dairy) but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and this article basically spelled it out. Holy crap, there is a lot of sexism & racism in the paleo/ancestral health movement. TONS.

I’m currently feeling pretty unhappy with the state of the world, in light of things like Gamer Gate; some awful fat-shaming an online acquaintance of mine recently received; sexism in tech in general (it’s been really bugging me recently) so to see the sexism problem in paleo spelled out was jarring. And enlightening.

From James Fell’s article I then discovered Antonia Valladares’s piece on The Paleo Problem with Racism and Sexism and YOWCH, more truth bombs. I had no idea that grade-A douchebags like Tucker Max were acting as mouthpieces for paleo, and what the hell is going on with Creationists getting into it? Here in the UK we have far fewer religious fundamentalists/creationists (slightly ironic, given we have a state religion in the UK, unlike the USA) so finding out that there’s a Creationist/paleo tie-in is just…odd. How do you reconcile paleo with a belief that the Earth is only 5000 years old?!

I have yet to really read through more of James Fell and Antonio Valladares’ writings, and to be fair I’m more interested in their writing on the culture of food movements like this than actual nutritional advice/recipes etc. But I like what I see so far.

Big steaks and big benches

This morning I dropped my boyfriend off at the airport for another business trip, so in theory I could be having another week of low-carb, “good” eating while he’s gone. Not that he encourages me to eat “bad” food, you understand – I just find it easier to stay off the bread/potatoes etc when he’s not here.

Of course, it’s all started badly – once I got home I ate an egg & bacon muffin (the English kind) and enjoyed a fantastic bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk x Oreos. Hey ho, it probably fits someone’s macros.

If you can’t eat a steak this large I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but fitting a pound of steak + sides into my gut ain’t one.

I’ve had a pretty decent week at the gym. Monday’s light speed squats left me in DOMS agony for 2-3 days, which is a bit embarrassing given they were only 40kg. I went to Pilates twice, on Tuesday & Thursday; but I didn’t make it to conditioning as I had a random day off work on Friday, ostensibly to relax (instead, I spent most of it worrying about housework, then eating a fantastic 550g Hereford porterhouse steak at Goodman in Canary Wharf).

On Thursday I had possibly my best bench session EVER EVER. As mentioned before, I’ve changed my setup to ditch the blocks & work more on hovering over the bench supported by my legs (but obviously with butt still touching the bench). On the board the requirement was 5 x 5 with a bow bar (or buffalo squat bar).

A bow bar is heavier than a regular barbell, and thicker; the intention of the exercise was to work on explosiveness off the chest, as when the bar is on the chest, the weight is BELOW the chest, resulting in you having to work harder to get past that chest sticking point.

Well, I managed 5 x 5 @ 45kg (no pauses), which is amazing given my 1RM (with a pause) is 52.5kg, and I only managed 47.5kg at this year’s British. I did, however, walk around with noodle arms for the rest of the evening.

The rest of the accessory work was with a nod to Dean Bowring, including single-arm dumbbell chest presses. Myself, my coach and the other lifter we were working with also spent a lot of the evening discussing the IPF technical rules. I have SO MUCH to learn.

On Saturday, I once again had speed squats on the box – this time with a pair of 26kg chains. And, once again, I spent the session getting shouted at to get QUICKER QUICKER QUICKER. Followed by speed deadlifts – 5 sets of 3 @ 80kg, all far too slow as before. I think my protestations about how I’m just slow at everything in life (eating, walking, driving…) are falling on deaf ears.

Plans for this week are the usual – lifting x 3, Pilates x 1 or 2, conditioning x 1. I also want to up the “good” food consumption, but given my track record of forgetting to get dinner out of the freezer (my boyfriend has, as ever, left me a freezer stocked with meals) we shall see how that turns out.

And now I’m going to make some homemade granola, because I’ve been meaning to for ages, I’m bored and I have no more Battlestar Galactica to watch 😦

The unbearable lightness of speed work

Last night was week 1 of my training for the Greater Londons, which is in about 7 weeks time. And yes, it was speed work.

I’m not a fan of speed work. I’m just slow in general – always last to finish my dinner, last in a group of people walking, last to make it up the stairs, last in sprints during conditioning. You get the picture. So speed work is always a chore, and a disappointment – I can’t use as much weight as I’d like, and I spend the whole session getting told to go faster, FASTER, FASTERRRR. Sob.

On the board it said 10 sets of 2 speed box squats @ 60-70% and I ended up with…. 40kg, or 40%. But that was the only weight I could even approach proper speed with (and even then it wasn’t quite fast enough). I tried 50kg & 60kg but for both I was just too slow.

I found the whole squat session pretty hard, as there’s so much to think about when you’re doing light weight, speed work with good form. Knees out; feet wider; keep everything tight, but not your hip flexors – let those relax on the box; pause for a moment on the box; chest up; keep the same shape going in & out of the lift; etc etc.

Despite the light weight, today my adductors huuuuurt and my hamstrings are tight, tight, tight. I plan to go to Pilates after work and hopefully loosen things up a bit.

Other accessory stuff I did:

  • Good mornings: worked up to 3 x 3 @ 50kg (a session where you’re using more weight for good mornings than squats is truly depressing)
  • Single-arm dumbbell rows: 15kg, 3 sets of 7
  • Glute & ham raises, cable crunch, Russian twist
  • 3 gym walks (4 lengths of the gym each time), one holding 15kg dumbbells, 2 holding 17.5kg dumbbells

Oh well, I have maybe another 3 weeks of speed work to go. Fun times!

On Sunday I went on a bit of a road-trip down to Dover to watch the boys from my gym compete in the GBPF men’s Classic.

Look at themmmm!! So adorbs. (Photo from Lauren Calliste)

It was awesome fun and everyone did really well. I got to see Stephen Manuel squat 300kg and Tom Martin deadlift 350kg. The venue was pretty damn fine too.

Now that the women’s & men’s Classics are done, it’s technically the end of my powerlifting year and the beginning of a new one. Tonight I start a new program to run me down to the Greater London championships on November 22nd. Apparently we’re doing lots of speed work. I hate speed work 😦

I’m hoping to get my qualification for the 2015 Classic done at the Greater Londons, because I won’t be competing much in the spring/early summer 2015. I’m off on holiday in January & March, both times to the USA, so I’ll come back from both holidays over comp weight & of course completely out of shape. But it will be worth it for all the buffets I’m going to hit in Vegas 🙂

I think my next competition after November 22nd will be the London Clubs in June(ish) or the All-England in August. Although the 2015 Classic is in September, so the All-England may not be doable. I think 2015 is going to be a 2-competition year, as opposed to my usual 3!


I have no idea how much I weigh at the moment, but I want to compete on November 22nd in the <72s, so I guess I need to start thinking about my weight again. I've been seriously slacking on the nutrients/protein front recently – I think when I'm not training hard/running up to competition, I just don't bother to think about eating 100g+ of protein a day or whatever. I'm definitely not in the "It's a lifestyle change!" camp, as without competitions I just wouldn't have the motivation to eat protein until I puke/force myself to eat the hated vegetables/steer clear of lovely lovely bread & pasta.

Plus, as I was reminded at the weekend, competing is awesome because everyone is lovely (in real life at least; on Facebook not so much) and it’s ace and brilliant etc etc. Just remind me of that next time I’m making weight and CRYING about it, OK?