Monthly Archives: November 2014

More mental health stuff, & an attempt at being grateful

I’ve been having a really poor few days, mental health wise. Now that Thanksgiving (not that we celebrate it here in the UK) is over, Christmas stuff is in the final straight and I’m really struggling with seeing people enjoying the season, saying how they’re looking forward to spending time with people they love, etc etc. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not enjoy this time of year at all; and I really find it hard when I see people saying they enjoy it. If I was the type to be thankful, though, I would say that at least it’s only one day (for this year anyhow).

My boyfriend said to me last night that he wants me to start recording my mood every day, because he’s worried that I can’t remember the last time I was happy. To be fair, I think I can remember it, and it was back when I was still taking citalopram, and life was so awesome that I decided it was time to come off it (I was only taking 10mg a day). In hindsight this may have been a mistake 😦

I really really don’t want to go back on it, but I also don’t want to be this unhappy forever. So I’m going to give more of a concerted effort to be happy for a while at least – although I don’t know if I can TRULY relax until Boxing Day, you know?

Earlier today I downloaded two mood-recording apps (because how else am I going to record my mood than with an app?) – Optimism & Expereal. I’m going to give them both a go & see if there’s a pattern to my moods. I suspect there is – I suspect it’s tied to hormones, but it’s hard to be sure since I don’t have normal menstrual cycle markers any more (I haven’t had a period for 2 years now)

I had a realisation earlier that a lot of my problems are to do with catastrophizing. For example: last night I left a parcel on my train home, and while this is not a great thing to happen, I totally lost any sense of perspective and was unable to cope. Back when I was taking citalopram, I would have been upset but able to be pragmatic. I feel like I’ve lost all my pragmatism coping mechanisms.

I also want to try to be a bit more grateful for the things I have in life. Now, I won’t deny – being grateful/thankful for things is really hard for me. It doesn’t come naturally, and while seeing other people do it warms my heart (what there is of one) the idea of doing it myself feels… I dunno. I come from a very “Keeping Up Appearances” family and being grateful for the things you have in life was not a natural part of my upbringing.

So here are my grateful things today (although, god, how it pains me to write that):

  • I am grateful for my very understanding boyfriend, who has a good grasp on mental health stuff and is very good at helping me out when I’m spinning out of control (which can’t be a nice thing to have to deal with). He has tons of amazing qualities, but this is the one I’m grateful for today.
  • I am grateful for Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club, which I’m so proud to be involved with. Working out improves my mood, but even more, it’s the people there who make it great. I spent 2.5 hours there today, of which only about an hour was lifting. The rest of the time was just hanging out, talking, feeling like I belong.
  • I am grateful for my job, which is hard but I have supportive colleagues. I think this is one of the jobs where I’ve felt I fit in least, but I still never dread going to work, and the work is never boring. Plus it’s great to be paid to do something you don’t hate, eh?

Saturday – a bit of a play

  • Squats: 5 x 5 @ 60kg
  • Bench: 5 x 5 @ 40kg
  • Dumbbell floor press: 15kg, 3 sets of 5
  • Overhead press: 20kg, 3 sets of 5

Yeah, all that took me about an hour, then there was another hour of drinking coffee, chatting, mooching about. I’m sure if I was more disciplined I wouldn’t spend so much time at the gym… but who wants to always be disciplined?

(And now I’m going to post this, and hope it’s not too embarrassing if people I know IRL want to discuss it. Eeep!)

BodyMASS London regionals and a bit of a rant about bailing on squats

The day after the Greater Londons my alarm went off at 8am and I felt like utter, utter death. I had tried to go to bed reasonably early after the competition, but my brain wasn’t having it; I also didn’t eat a full meal after competing because I was refereeing, and as a result I don’t think I recovered properly. A couple of quickly-scoffed beigels and pastries (not to mention loads of Haribo) is no substitute for a proper meal!

But, I dragged myself back to the gym, stopping at McDonald’s for an egg & bacon McMuffin & hash browns. No, I’m sure that isn’t a “proper meal” either, but bloody hell it made me feel more human!

The event at the gym this day was the BodyMASS London regional. The BodyMASS is a new GBPF affiliate for students only, and there were about 40 students taking part from universities around London & the SE. The competition was a little different in that the competitors didn’t have to wear singlets, and we were (admittedly!) a little more lenient on refereeing the lifts.

That said, I didn’t know I was going to be refereeing, as the organiser had said the GBPF was sending referees. However, they never turned up, so myself & Neal from the gym (who also passed the referee exam at the same time as me) took over referee duties. As there was only two of us, we decided to have one person judging & one person giving the commands – if two of us were judging there was a risk we’d tie, and that’d be awkward (normally you have 3 referees).

I admit, I was pretty lenient when I was refereeing. I let everyone have at least one attempt at each lift passed, including one girl who didn’t realise you need to touch your chest on the bench press. I probably also let loads of hitching pass in the deadlifts – I was judging from one side, and it’s really hard to see proper hitching from only one side (or just the front).

Overall it was a fun day. I was exhausted, though, and pretty glad it finished by 5pm!! I have to admit, I’ve not been back to the gym since (either BGWLC or my gym near work) as I’ve needed a total break. I’m looking forward to going back on Saturday, though.


And now for a bit of a rant… On Sunday there were a couple of occasions where lifters bailed on a squat by shrugging the bar off their shoulders, hopping forward & letting the bar drop to the floor. I saw this a few times at both the men & women’s British classics as well. I’ve only just started seeing people do it in the last year, and it goes without saying that performing this move, on a platform with people spotting you (a person on either side and one behind) is SO SO DANGEROUS.

Every time i’ve seen it at a competition the competitors have been warned & pre-warned NOT to do this, and yet they still do. I was wondering where on earth it’s come from, as I’ve not seen it before a year or so ago, and never in powerlifting videos etc. Turns out it appears to be taught in Crossfit as the way to fail a squat – and I guess, therefore, that it comes from Olympic lifting too.

OK, fair enough, if you want to do this move in those sports – using bumper plates! – then fair enough. Not my gym floor you’re destroying. However, doing it when you’re surrounded by spotters, and using metal plates? NOT COOL. Stop for a millisecond and imagine what it’s like for the people to your side & behind you, when you shrug 100kg++ off your back and jump away from it. Their natural instinct is to catch it – after all, they’re there to catch YOU if you fail your squat. And even if they don’t go to catch it, there’s a very real possibility the weight will fall on their feet.

Spotters, loaders & refs at competitions are volunteers, so 1) try not to mortally wound them by throwing tends of kilos at them; and 2) if you get told off for doing it, don’t chat back at the referees saying you don’t know what else you’re meant to do (I have seen this!). The referees don’t care if the swole dude you love did it on the YouTube video you watched last week. Listen to the officials and respect them!

When I’m King of the World (which is totally going to happen, BTW) I will ban people who repeatedly dump squats in competition; along with anyone who puts talcum powder on their legs in high-traffic areas (I saw this at the British, too, and it turned the platform into a virtual ice-rink, gah)

For a fun reference, here’s a 585lb squat dump (even though the rack he’s using has safety rails). Notice how he very nearly breaks his spotter’s arms. Nice one, brah! I hope you at least bought him a beer afterwards.

OK, rant over. Phew.

Greater Londons 2014 & my first go at refereeing

A few days have passed since the competition and I’ve been meaning to write it up, but as per usual life gets in the way. In a nutshell: I did OK pretty well, all things considered – a new 267.5kg pb total, 52.5kg pb bench press (at <72kg bw) and a new 120kg pb deadlift.

The night before the competition I did not sleep well – I think I got about 4 hours’ sleep, thanks to anxiety and my brain just churning over & over. I think I was more nervous about refereeing in the afternoon than I was about lifting in the morning.

I’d weighed myself at 71.8kg before I went to bed, and when I got to the gym I was a very, very surprising 70.1kg – the lightest I have ever been in nearly 4 years of competing. And that was without eating much protein, without trying to make weight (I had a full roast dinner the night before; including giant “healthy eating” no-no: gravy out of a packet).

I felt larger than I did before the British, when I’d spent weeks eating a precision diet beforehand, including 100g+ of protein every day, and yet I was 300g lighter on Saturday than at the British. AND (more importantly) I felt much, much better than at the British. So, lesson learned; I definitely will never do a high-protein “healthy” diet like I that again, because it made me feel like shit. Packet gravy and Snickers bars all the way for me.

Here’s an interesting thing – I’ve been training in my Adidas Powerlifting shoes for weeks now, but just before I did my final warm-up squat (82.5kg) I freaked out and decided to swap back to my Gola plimsolls. I don’t know why – I just don’t feel “right” in the Adidas shoes. I’ve never squatted more than 90kg in them, and I didn’t want the competition to be the time I find out that anything over 90kg tips me forwards too much and makes me fail (I have a tendency to collapse in the squat, which heeled shoes only accentuate).

Anyhow, on to the lifts. I opened with 90kg on the squat, which was fine as usual. 95kg was next, and again it was OK so I went up to 100kg, thinking Hey, I’ve got it twice before, it’s no biggie.

I didn’t get it. I was red-lighted 2:1 on depth 😦 Bloody typical really. I knew I hadn’t got it when I finished the lift, but I was hoping it’d been so marginal that the refs hadn’t noticed – but no dice. Oh well. 95kg final lift on the squat then.

On to the bench. I put my Adidas Powerlift shoes back on & got ready to bench using my new setup – no blocks, legs back, lots of leg drive. I’ve never competed using this position before, and I was pretty confident I’d get a 52.5kg bench – maybe even 55kg.

I opened on 50kg and…. red-lighted. Oh my fucking god. Apparently after the centre ref gave the signal I changed my setup & then my bottom came off the bench during the lift. I was gutted. I went & sat down, thinking that this was it, I was going to bomb, I wasn’t going to get any of my other benches (I have never managed to repeat a lift successfully in competition) and that I might as well get my stuff & go home.

But I didn’t do that…. Instead I swapped my Adidas shoes for my Golas, again, and took 50kg for my second attempt with my old setup & blocks under my feet. Bear in mind that I missed 50kg like this at the British, so I was freaking out big time that I wouldn’t get it.

I got it. Then I swapped back into my Adidas shoes, ditched the blocks and went for 52.5kg on my third attempt. This time, I dug my bottom into the bench and I got it! Oh thank fuck for that.

On to deadlifts. I had intended to open at 112.5kg, but I managed to let myself get talked out of that and went down to 110kg before the deadline. 110kg was fine, as usual (I’ve been opening with 110kg for about 2 years!!); so I went for 117.5kg and an equal pb next. No probs. So, 120kg to follow, despite everyone on the judging table telling me to go for 122.5kg. 120kg flew up, new pb for me (and I’ve been trying to get 120kg for TWO YEARS).

However, I was talking to the refs later on, and apparently I twisted one of my knees to tuck it under the bar, which technically is a hitch & not allowed, so I was very, very lucky to be given that lift. Yikes 😐

Overall, I got 2nd place (out of 3) and a new pb total of 267.5kg. I was happy to get 2nd, but if I’m honest I’m kinda gutted I didn’t win – I probably won’t ever have the chance to win anything except the Greater Londons, and I missed my chance this year. If I’d got the 100kg squat, I would have won on bodyweight (the lady who won totaled 272.5kg but was 1.1kg heavier than me – and probably 12 years younger!!). Oh well. A bittersweet 2nd place!

After lifting I had to referee, the prospect of which was terrifying! But it was actually fine… I was so worried that I’d forget all the commands, but I didn’t (mostly!) Being in the chair is definitely a different experience from being on the platform. I did centre & side ref for squats, side ref for bench, and centre & side ref for deadlifts.

The lifting finished at about 8.15pm, which was earlier than any of us predicted. I got a lift home from the gym after we’d spent about 45 minutes tidying up, so I was home before 10pm. I went pretty much straight to bed, ready for…. The BodyMASS the next day!

But that is a post for another time.

Pre-comp day

I’ve just been browsing back through my blog at “competition” posts and it’s funny, it’s all competition countdowns and nerves etc (and a lot of crying about making weight); whereas right now I feel fairly calm and haven’t actually worried too much about my weight (yet!)

I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about the competition… On the one hand, I want to get a huge new total and show off in front of all the newbies and make myself proud. On the other hand, I just want to get a 245+kg total so I can qualify for next year, and not fret about new pbs etc. My back feels a bit ropey, I’m nowhere near as fit as I was before the British, and I don’t really feel like my training’s gone very well (I haven’t exactly been focused!). I don’t want to mess up, but I also don’t want to slaughter myself, you know?

I think it will be an interesting couple of days. We have a ton of new (or at least new-to-me) lifters taking part tomorrow, so it’ll be interesting to see who remembers their commands etc; and also to see what level they’re at (I started competing when I was a pretty shit lifter; but many people seem to wait until they’re more accomplished to start competing now, which I think is kind of a shame).

And, of course, it’s going to be interesting refereeing for the first time! Forget the lifters remembering their commands – will I remember them when I’m in the chair?! God, I hope so!!

I took a half day off work today to relax, since I will have no time off at all over the next couple of days (I expect to be a BGWLC for 14+ hours tomorrow and maybe 8 hours on Sunday!) so right now I’m chilling at home. In a bit I’ll go pack my bag and check my kit. My weight this morning was 70.8kg (on my home scales) which was a surprise – I was 72.2kg the day before. Eh, oh well. Either way, I think I will be alright on the weight front (FINGERS CROSSED)

Oh, and if you’re reading this about to do the Greater Londons tomorrow (or any competition) and it’s your first time, you might like my very irreverent post: What to expect at your first (powerlifting) competition.

See you on the other side!

So I went down to BGWLC to set my squat & bench openers last night. I was feeling pretty good when I got there, but my squats didn’t go exactly as planned, and my final 90kg squat was a tiny bit short of depth (and felt terrible too!) Still, never mind – I’m sure it’ll feel better on the day, once I’m fully rested; I did do heavy deadlifts on Saturday after all.

I think I’m going to open on 90kg squat, 50kg bench & 110/112.5kg deadlift. The bench I’m not 100% sure about – 50kg is completely gettable in the gym, but I have a bit of a tendency to lose the plot with my bench on competition days. Also, I’m still smarting from only benching 47.5kg at the British, and I’m nervous about opening higher than that. 50kg (with a stop) last night was OK, although it lacked a bit of ooomph, if you know what I mean.

After I’m done lifting on Saturday I’ve been asked to referee in the afternoon for the 93kg+ men. So Saturday is going to be a LONG day – leave home 7.15ish, arrive at the gym 8ish, lift, referee… the competition will probably end post 9pm (we have 66 lifters!) and I doubt I’ll get home before 11pm. And then I have to get up & go back to the gym on Sunday for the BodyMASS London divisional competition! (I’m helping out & might ask if I can referee too)

I also had an email yesterday from British Weight Lifting asking if any GBPF refs are free to referee a para bench press competition in December. I’m technically not a BWL powerlifting referee, but I guess they’re desperate for refs. I have said I’ll do it, but I haven’t heard back yet – I hope I can, though, as Ali Jawad will be lifting and I’d love to meet him.

Monday

  • Squat: worked up to 1 x 90kg
  • Bench press: worked up to 1 x 50kg (with a stop)
  • Dimel deadlifts: 40kg, 20 reps x 2
  • Glute & ham raises, cable crunch

I might have mentioned here a few times how I try to avoid reading fitness blogs etc as I find they put me in a bad headspace. I’ve gradually pared back my exposure to them to the extent that I don’t even read the Powerlifting Women group I’m in on Facebook any more (although I’m still a member – I’ve removed it from my newsfeed). I still read the GBPF Facebook group, but mostly because I run my club’s website & need to share info to the GBPF from there.

But because I’m Facebook friends with a lot of powerlifters (mostly ladies I’ve met though the British championships) I still see articles about “female fat loss”, diet, this-food-is-bad etc put into my timeline. I don’t want to unfollow all the women I’ve met as they’re all awesome, but it does make me feel like I’m a lone anomaly in powerlifting terms, that I don’t want to lose loads of body fat and I don’t want to read what (noted misogynist) Jim Wendler has to say today etc etc.

I’m sure in powerlifting terms this makes me some kind of “pussy” (sigh) but fuck it.

My Twitter timeline is more tightly curated than my Facebook, but even then I have days when I read stuff on there that gives me pause. I like to think that my Tweets (and this blog!) make it pretty clear where I stand on the political/social spectrum, but maybe they don’t? Maybe this is one of those things you have to spell out.

This week what’s been bothering me is people I usually admire espousing anti-feminist sentiment, and a nutritionist whose work I thought I liked (rare!) attacking Dr Linda Bacon & HAES. I guess my Twitter timeline needs even more of a trim.

I’m especially disappointed when people who friended me are anti-feminist. I’ve always tried to make it clear that I’m the angry, intersectional type of feminist; I work in STEM and while I’ve not experienced harassment recently, women’s issues in STEM are very important to me (hence I got pretty cross at the Rosetta shirt debacle and people dismissing it as “not important” or “pathetic”). I’m also (did you guess?) very into the work of body acceptance activists like Ragen Chastain and Hanne Blank.

All of these combine to make existing in the world of powerlifting… awkward. Obviously there’s not a lot of love for body acceptance in powerlifting (especially for women, hence the plethora of “female fat loss” advice); there’s a lot of misogyny too (not just from the men!). I find it hard to be truly myself when I’m in lifting circles. I guess I could keep my head down and not engage with the community, but that would be hard now that I’m a referee and because I do a lot of social media stuff for my gym.

On a positive note, the only fitness group I’m active in now is the Fit Fatties Forum, which is much more kind of place because it’s accepting of not only all body types but all sports. I really really hate the positioning of barbell sports as “superior” to other sports; it’s ridiculous and exclusionary.

I guess you could say I’m an intersectional sportist as well as intersectional feminist 🙂

Saturday

  • Glute & ham raises to warm up
  • Deadlifts: worked up to 2 x 2 @ 100kg, then 2 singles @ 105kg
  • Bench press: 3 x 3 @ 40kg
  • Yates row: 40kg x 7; 35kg, 2 sets of 7 (40kg was too much!)
  • Barbell shrugs: 50kg, 3 sets of 7
  • More glute & ham raises

Those deadlifts felt so heavy…. I think me & morning training just don’t get on.

Only one more session now until the competition!

Last night was my final big squat session before the Greater London competition. I walked into the gym, saw “3 x 2 @ 90%” on the board and nearly walked out again. 3 sets of 2 @ 90kg? Gross.

Luckily I had kinda assumed the workout would be something terrible, so I ate a large lunch (Thai chicken curry with rice; a yogurt; half a Snickers bar; a banana; etc etc) in preparation. I’d also done 50 minutes of Yoga at lunchtime, which I wasn’t convinced was a great idea, but oh well.

It’s probably a good sign when I’m nervous before squats, because I’m always nervous before squats in competitions and I usually (touch wood) do OK on squats in competitions. I was bricking it last night. My warmups felt OK, although every time I did a warm-up squat I was thinking “God, I have to put 40/30/20/10 more kilos on this still”.

I asked Anna to video me doing my first set as I never get videos of my squats and why the hell not. Although I don’t think coach was very impressed & suggested I’m turning into one of “those” people who need to video all their lifts. I’m not, honest 😉

I’m kind of glad I have the video because allegedly the second squat was not deep enough, but nuh-uh – I reckon it was JUST there. And I’m a ref.

Bodyweight was 72.7kg, so I’m sort-of on target for next week. Just got to be a bit careful & not go overboard with the Snickers bars.

Thursday – squats

  • Worked up to 3 sets of 2 @ 90kg
  • RDLs: 50kg, 3 sets of 10
  • Machine rows: 20kg each hand, 3 sets of 5
  • Dumbbell shrugs: 25kg, 3 sets of 5
  • Glute & ham raises

Friday – conditioning

Oh god, why did I do this?! Loads of sprints were involved, and now I can barely move. I might have to stay at my desk all weekend.