Category Archives: Photos

Equipped lifting trial session!

Last Saturday I drove almost 3 hours up to Nottingham to have a trial equipped powerlifting session with Charlie Shotton-Gale and her coach Karl.

In brief, equipped powerlifting involves wearing special suits, shirts and wraps (depending on the lift) which are forbidden in unequipped (or ‘classic’) powerlifting. In the British Powerlifting federation the suits, shirts and wraps are still regulated and should be ‘single ply’ (that is, formed from one layer of material).

I had a go with a squat suit & wraps, and a bench shirt. There are also deadlift suits but they don’t give you a huge advantage over lifting unequipped.

First up was the squat suit. These things are REALLY hard to get on and are super tight and relatively stiff – but as it was my first time, the one I wore was relatively (I stress relatively) loose and soft. It still took a lot of effort to get it on – equipped powerlifting is NOT something you do alone, and you need to be comfortable letting people manhandle you! Once I had the briefs part of the suit on, Karl lifted me up by the shoulder straps and basically shook me into it.

I did a few lighter squats just in the briefs part of the suit (straps down), then put my belt on and did a few heavier squats. Then we put the straps up, Karl wrapped my knees, and I squatted 100kg+.

The wraps are basically long bandages you have tightly wrapped around your knee. The ones I used were soft and Karl wrapped them loosely…but again, in equipped powerlifting ‘loose’ & ‘soft’ are relative! My eyes were watering as Karl wrapped my knees and the last two revolutions made me gasp. Ouch!

Here’s a video of me squatting 120kg for 2 in the suit & wraps. As you can see I’m not hitting depth – apparently it’s unusual to hit depth the first time you squat equipped, as the suit & wraps are basically preventing you from going all the way down. The upside is that you feel REALLY safe and secure in the equipment and you get a huge bounce up at the bottom!

Went up to @realworldfitness in Nottingham today to try out equipped powerlifting with @charliesgale. Had a bash at equipped squats and bench. I couldn't hit depth in the squat suit (but then when can I ever hit depth?!) and I couldn't touch in the shirt but it was super fun. Here is me quarter-squatting 120kg in full kit (my best unequipped is only 97.5). Turns out in equipped squatting you're MEANT to lean forward a lot, like I do (incorrectly in unequipped) so maybe equipped is my future?! 🤣 Still, even if I don't pursue it, it was great to learn about equipped lifting. Anything to make me a more well-rounded person-involved-in-powerlifting (I'm never going to be a great lifter so I'm trying to stay involved in the sport in other ways!) #powerlifting #equipped #squat #kneewraps #squatsuit #titan

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I think that equipped squatting suits me because you’re meant to really lean forward and push your hips back, which is my natural squatting style. I struggle to stay upright when squatting unequipped.

Anyway, you can see how tight the suit & wraps are in the video, and also how unbelievably painful the whole endeavour is! But it’s oddly addictive – everything up to actually doing the lift is pretty horrible, but once you’re doing the lift it’s like YEAH THIS IS AMAZING!

Next up I tried a bench shirt. again, the shirt is tight and stiff and you need help putting it on. When you’re wearing the shirt you have to really pull the bar towards you and fight against the shirt. So inevitably, I ended up not being able to touch (i.e. touch the bar to my chest). Again apparently this is common for new equipped lifters. I have to admit I didn’t enjoy wearing the shirt as much as I enjoyed the squat suit. I was able to press 80kg (without touching) but 85kg proved too much.

Overall I REALLY enjoyed the trial and would definitely try it again. Equipped lifting requires a lot of investment and a good team & coach around you, so I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll pursue myself (the coach at BGWLC doesn’t coach equipped). But it was super fun to try!

So much for giving up on powerlifting though! Although equipped powerlifting is a very very different beast to unequipped, so much that it almost feels like a different sport.

Not so much post-powerlifting

Well, my intention to do less powerlifting and more other stuff hasn’t really gone to plan! I blame it entirely on moving jobs, travelling on business, and working in a temporary office while my new company waits to move into their permanent offices in August.

My new job is fine now, but the first 3 weeks were intense. I had one very busy week in London, then two intense weeks in Estonia (where I only had 1 day off). I did manage to find a gym in Tallinn to work out in, but as I hadn’t taken my knee sleeves or belt with me, I stuck to very light lifts.

Once back in London, things have calmed down a bit. I’m intending to join a new “secondary” gym near my work, but I’ve held off doing that until we move to our permanent office. So in the meantime I’ve been going to my powerlifting gym as usual, and I’ve supplemented that with a session at KOBOX City.

KOBOX is basically boxing fitness, but super-luxe (and super-expensive!). You training in a nightclubby, darkened room on water-filled punch bags, with pumping music. I went last Friday lunchtime and as you can see from my face, it was quite the workout. I loved it! I’m going back this Friday and will attempt to go once a week while I’m still in this office.

But as of August 1st I’ll be about 15 minutes further away, so KOBOX won’t be all that practical. It’s pay-as-you-go so I haven’t subscribed and won’t lose out – I might try to go now & again though. Instead I’m planning on joining a Pure Gym near my new office for spinning/yoga/cardio.

I’m still going to Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club 3 times a week but at the moment I’m not working to a program. I had intended to write myself a hypertrophy program but what with travel & long hours at my new job I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to anything.

Instead I’ve been working off the old Stronglifts 5×5 template, for bench press at least. I’ve worked up to 5×5 @ 52.5kg which I was really pleased with; at the weekend I intend to test my bench press and see if I can hit that magic 60kg.

On squat I’ve been working beltless to try to improve my form and depth. It’s not gone great, to be honest. I can hit depth with low weights, but once I hit 70% (70kg) I lean forward so far that hitting depth becomes really hard. I’m hoping more mobility, and/or a stronger upper back & abs might help me here.

Still I did 5×5 squats with 70kg beltless last week, which I’m really pleased with. I’ve been over-reliant on my belt for too long.

So, I’m just ticking over really. I won’t be competing until December, and I find it really hard to be motivated to train if I have no competition coming up. As for doing other things… I also don’t feel motivated there unless I have something to aim for. And I don’t mean aiming for a certain time or distance for myself – those seem like too-small goals when I’m used to powerlifting competitions! I’ve caught myself Googling white collar boxing, thinking that if I carry on the box fit stuff, wouldn’t it be good to actually, you know, fight?!

Ah we’ll see, eh. For now, I ought to be concentrating on my new job and settling in there! Other sporting things will come along in time, I’m sure.

2016 roundup

2016 is nearly over, so it’s time for a bit of a roundup!

Unfortunately 2016 really hasn’t gone as I hoped. My aim for this year initially was to get a 290kg total, later revised to 300 so I could qualify for the British Classic in my last year as a senior. Instead, I’m ending the year having only competed twice (I usually compete 2-4 times a year), neither time nationally, and with a 285kg total – a measly 2.5kg increase on last year.

I’m not as disappointed as I could have been. As the 72kg senior class QT for the British Classic is now a whopping 325kg, any hope of me doing that competition has now gone out the window. I’m a bit sad to not have the prospect of any more senior classics, BUT as of January 1st 2017 I’m a master, so I get a whole new set of competitions to enter!

The QT for the 72kg M1 class is 227.5kg (at the moment) so I’m safely in. And so, perhaps a bit prematurely, I’ve already booked my plane ticket and hotel for Belfast, so I can take part in my first British Masters in March!

All I need to do now is get over my injuries. 2016 has been a year of injuries – first I hurt my foot doing cardio, luckily only minor; then I injured my left hip running, which meant a few weeks off squatting. Right now I’m nursing an injured right QL, which seems to have pulled my entire lower back & both hips into spasm & out of alignment. I’m seeing a physio, and have decided to abstain from squatting & deadlifting until Christmas to give my back some time off.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting into spinning, using the leg press for the first time and concentrating on my bench press. I’ve often heard it said that the best thing for improving your bench press is more bench press, and right now mine seems to be moving in the right direction. My best competition bench is 57.5kg, and I really want 60+ in March. On Saturday I did board press, hoping for 70kg but in the end working up to 75kg (165lbs!) for 2×2.

My bodyweight this day was 73.5kg so that’s more than my bodyweight in my hands, and let me tell you it feels scary!

In powerlifting-related news, I am now a British Powerlifting National Referee. In practise this was little more than a formality – I’d completed my 2 years as a Divisional Referee & officiated at enough national competitions. But it means I get a new tie, and a newfound sense of power!

So my plans for 2017, so far, are:

  • Try not to lose it too much when I turn 40 in January!
  • Compete in the 2017 British Masters (hopefully not coming last)
  • Take a few Greater London M1 72kg records
  • Organise some more “Introduction to Strength Training” sessions at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club
  • Not injure myself so much – take better care of my body, get more massages and eat some protein!

 

 

Greater London divisional, 27/2/2016

It’s a pretty disgracefully long time since this competition, and I should have written it up ages ago! As usual life has run away with me. I had actually forgotten all about my “Competition Fatigue” post until I logged in to post this entry, and I think that competition fatigue definitely did a number on me. I didn’t do very well at this competition, and a lot of that is probably down to negative mental attitude.

I had been hoping for a 285kg total, to get me a qualification for the All England this year (so I could do at least ONE national competition in 2016, since I may not get a qualification for the British). But I came away with 277.5kg, worse than my last two competitions. Oops.

Squats were the worst. I just can’t seem to hit depth any more. I opened on 92.5kg and got red-lighted for depth. I had intended to go for 102.5kg as my second, but because of my opening failure (which always puts a crimp on your day) I took a relatively safe 95kg for my second, which I got. I then went for 102.5kg as my third, and again got red-lighted for depth.

At this point I decided I hated powerlifting, which I do (some of the time). But I soldiered on. I was hoping for a new bench pb of 57.5kg but as per usual I couldn’t get it off my chest, so 55kg it was.

Deadlift was better, though. I went 115kg / 122.5kg / 127.5kg for a new pb and I got all three! The 127.5kg felt really good and I think I have a chance of getting 130kg in July. The lift was caught on video and I’m a bit worried I might be heading back into hitching territory, so I need to watch out for that. But it was definitely good to get *a* personal best!

I have only been back to the gym once since the competition as I felt I needed a whole week off. I’ve sort of lost my motivation for lifting again (which happens every now & again) but I know it’s going to come back… eventually. Next competition is in July and I will try to aim for that 300kg total.

British Classic 2015

I’ve been trying to sit down & write this for a couple of days, but I think I’m suffering from some sort of post-event comedown (like you get after a holiday) so I’ve spent a couple of hours staring at a blank screen.

The short version is that I did really well at the British, better than I hoped! I didn’t place as highly as I thought I might do, but I still did better than last year (and the year before).

My results, in a nutshell:
Squat: 102.5kg (new personal best)
Bench: 55kg
Deadlift: 125kg (new personal best)
Total: 282.5kg (new personal best)

I got 8/9 lifts – the only one I missed was my last bench, 57.5kg, which I’ve never attempted before.

Overall, I came 16th. There were 24 competitors on the entry list – 4 didn’t turn up and one was disqualified, so I came 16/19 (I wish it was 16/24 – it sounds better!)

[For reference, in 2013 I got 90/50/110 and came last; in 2014 I got 100/47.5/117.5 and came 12/14]


Good things

I made weight so easily, I was honestly shocked.

I was 70.3kg at weigh-in (70kg exactly in my hotel room). As opposed to last year – when I low-carbed for 6 weeks and drove myself into a bad place (mentally & physically) – this year I cut out bread & pasta for 7 days before the competition. The only exception was a bacon roll & a Twix I ate on Saturday, when I was refereeing (the day before lifting). I’d weighed myself that morning & reckoned there was no way a bacon roll & a Twix would make me put on 2kg!

I even had a beer on Saturday night (the night before my competition!) because I was struggling with anxiety and unsure if I’d be able to sleep. Luckily it worked, and I slept from 9pm – 6.30am on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Talking of refereeing, I had a great day doing first weigh-in for the lightweight ladies, and then refereeing the 47, 52 and 57kg classes. I got to officiate for some new national records!

The venue for the competition (LEAF Academy in Bournemouth) was really great – it had a huge warm-up room, two large changing rooms and lots of spectator space. My hotel was lovely too (quiet!)

Bad things

Nothing went badly over the weekend per se. There were a few annoyances, though.

For starters, I woke up far too early on Friday (5.45am!) even though I didn’t intend to leave until midday. Then the drive to Bournemouth took 4.5 hours, which was hellish. By the time i got to my hotel (which was, fortunately, a peaceful haven) I was stressed and frazzled.

I had intended to get a nice long sleep on Friday night ready to referee on Saturday. But my body had other plans and I woke up at 4.40am. For real. So I spent all of Saturday feeling tired, cranky and worried that I wouldn’t sleep on the Saturday night and my lifting on Sunday wold be shit. Even worse, if I was tired on Sunday I couldn’t possibly drive home that evening, so I’d be forced to stay in Bournemouth for an extra night. To say I was stressed on Saturday was an understatement.

Unfortunately I had a bit of a go at my coach as I was leaving the venue in the evening, because he wanted me to go to his hotel for dinner while I just wanted to go to my hotel & sleep. I was also upset & disappointed that I’d had no time to enjoy Bournemouth with my friends. But needs must, and I wanted to lift well & drive home on Sunday. So I was tucked up in bed by 9pm with a sleepytime podcast (Relax by Andrew Johnson) and I slept fine in the end.

The ugly (or just the post-mortem)

I felt OK to drive home after lifting (I’d had a 4-hour break while the afternoon session was on) and happily the journey home only took 3.5 hours. Still, longer than the 2.5 hours Google Maps suggested both journeys would take (thanks Google).

I had a really, really awesome weekend overall, although I was a bit sad that I couldn’t enjoy Bournemouth more. Still, I had a great Vietnamese meal on Saturday night (on my own!) and the bits of the town I saw were lovely.

I met loads of other lifters whose names I only knew from Facebook, so that was fantastic. I did get reminded, though, of some of the aspects of lifting that I don’t enjoy – bro-ness, nutrition stuff, that whole “no pussies” culture. 99% of people involved in powerlifting are absolutely great, but it’s that 1% who can put a shitty veneer on everything.

That said, I’m really proud of how well I did (for myself, obviously I’m never going to place) despite the fact that I don’t do nutrition, I don’t eat tons of protein, I have never read anything by Mark Rippetoe or any of the lifting “gurus”, I don’t read lifting blogs, I am not & don’t want to be lean and I try to stay as far away from “lifting culture” as I possibly can. And that’s really how I want it to stay. I just want that whole mainstream lifting culture (with its emphasis on leanness and sexiness and “gainz” and “skwaaaatz” etc) as far away from myself as possible. If that makes sense?

Yesterday was a good day ⚪️⚪️⚪️ #powerlifting

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What’s next

Well, I haven’t been back to the gym yet, but I know when I do I’ll be told to “just play” for a few weeks. Argh, I hate training without a program! But after the men have done their Classic in October, we will be training for the next London divisional on November 21st. In the meantime, I think I’ll do a little volume work, like I did at the beginning of the year.

Now that I’d got my 280kg total (actually 282.5!) I guess I have to aim for 290kg… 300kg when I hit masters in 15 months? Who knows, it might be possible.

British Classic -1 week

[Content note for more weight talk]

Only a 8 days to go now (this time next week I’ll be refereeing!) and my training cycle is almost over. Only thing left to do is choose my openers & practise them on Monday.

I am very very pleased with how my bench session went on Thursday. I had 3 singles with full commands scheduled, and I was hoping for maybe one at 55kg. In the end I got all three at 55kg (120lbs), and all felt so good. I followed it up with a 10-rep set at 45kg. I don’t really know what’s made my bench so supernova recently – I did widen my grip a little a couple of months ago, and I’ve been working on striking the barbell just below my bra strap – maybe this is what’s made all the difference? It has definitely lessened the bar path, since I can get a decent-ish arch (and I have a big chest!)

I have been having stress dreams about my weight, though. I’ve not been anything like as obsessive about my weight as I was in previous years, which is nice from one point of view, but on the other hand I have no idea how much I weigh and it’s obviously stressing my subconscious out!

Me on 11 September 2014

Me on 11 September 2014

I recently got Timehop on my phone and yesterday it threw up a picture of me 1 year ago. If you’ve been reading a while you might remember that before the last British, I went overboard with my diet and tried low-carbing for 6 weeks or so. You might also remember that I was utterly fucking miserable and my digestive system basically stopped (fun).

I have really mixed feelings about this photo. On the one hand, I look skinny, and obviously I still have social conditioning that says therefore I look “good”. On the other hand, I can remember very clearly how unhappy I was; I was living on a diet of meat, eggs, vegetables and Califig laxative because otherwise I couldn’t poop. Good grief.

So that photo is kind of hard. I remember posting it on social media and people saying “You look great!”, which gave me a boost at the time because it was a reinforcement that what I was doing was OK. But on the other hand, I was too afraid to drink a 300ml glass of juice in case it made me over 72kg! Utter madness.

I feel conflicted at the moment, though, because I’m eating “normally” and trying not to worry about my weight. But if I go all the way to Bournemouth, stay in a hotel for 2 nights and wind up too heavy to compete, I’m going to be so cross with myself.

My goodness, this stuff is hard sometimes. Part of me wishes I hadn’t told everyone I was going to the British, because if I don’t compete that shit is going to be embarrassing. On the other hand, if I go and I weigh in at 71.9kg (which would be ideal!) then I will know I can make weight without fucking myself up mentally with food.

A slight caveat before I start today’s entry: I have no idea if anyone from my family reads this blog. If they do, they’ve never mentioned it. But I’m going to mention stuff on here that I haven’t told my family, so I run the risk of shocking & scandalizing them.

So in advance: Hello family member! If you’re reading this, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to everyone else about it, as it contains information I’d rather tell the rest of my family in person. Thanks!

As you might know from reading my blog, I try to practise body positivity (with varying degrees of success). I’m also currently in the early stages of what I think is a mid-life crisis – turning 38 was hard for me, and 40 is looming in less than 18 months time. I’m sure life does begin at 40 – hell, I remember being utterly freaked out by 30 – and once I’m 40 I’ll wonder what I was so worried about.

I didn’t really start to get to know the body positivity concept until I was over 30, and one of the things I learned was that my body is my own, to do with what I want. Your 30s are definitely late to learn this, and sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t really twig before – that my body was my own thing, and my life is mine to do with as I please, were not principles taught to me in childhood. I won’t go into what was taught, but bodily autonomy wasn’t explictly a part of it.

So when I started learning all about self-love, acceptance and loving oneself, this aspect seemed quite radical. Sometimes I still find it hard to fathom – you kow when you change your hair, and someone says “But what will your boyfriend think??” That voice is stil pretty loud in my head. But I’m gradually squashing it down and learning that I can choose to do things with my body that I want.

Bearing this in mind, plus my mid-life crisis feelings… On Saturday I got my first tattoo.

If you’re a member of my family, I imagine you’re going to stop reading now. You’re going to miss the good stuff, though!

I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was probably 20-21 and I even had a design for one. But it never happened, although I did get a lot of piercings in my 20s. I think what’s prompted me to get one now is seeing so many awesome tattoos on awesome fat babes, many of whom I follow in Twitter and am inspired by every day. I also joined Instagram and discovered a treasure trove of tattoists’ accounts, showcasing not just completed tattoos but designs available.

I’ve had an idea of about a year that I wanted a tattoo of a pigeon, because I love pigeons. Why pigeons? Well they’re intelligent, resourceful, misunderstood survivors (they live pretty much everywhere on earth, often in terrible conditions). They also look beautiful. I’ve had a bit of a pigeon obsession for years, learning the names of all the different colours they come in, following the antics of pigeon celebrities like Camp etc.

One of the tattoo studios I was following on Instagram posted up a painting by an artist called Elmo Teale, of a carrier pigeon. I saw it and thought: that is exactly what I want. I had originally intended to get a totally custom piece, but this design was perfect (plus it’d be “my” design once it was tattooed, not re-used like regular flash). So I made an appointment, went to see the artist, and:

The placement is really important to me too. I like most of my body now (even my poochy, saggy tummy) but my upper legs have been the last things I’ve made peace with. Before the age of 35, I never wore shorts – I thought my legs were too hideous (I have a lot of cellulite, thread veins and large upper legs with fat knees). But in recent years I’ve been able to say fuck it, and have worn shorts in summer as much as I can. I even bought shortie dungarees a couple of months ago! This tattoo is another gift to my legs; sure, they may be large, but large legs equals a large tattoo!

Because of the placement I’m going to have to be careful with it when lifting (I haven’t been back to the gym since I got it done yet!). There’s a real possibility of fucking it up by scraping the bar against it, so from now on I won’t deadlift while wearing shorts. The only exception will be at competitions where I have to wear a singlet with short legs, but I will be as careful as I can. And there are always touchups if I do scrape it too much.

Overall I’m so happy I got it. It’s a little shocking to look down and see it, still – after 38 years with a naked thigh, seeing such a large thing on there is weird. But soon it’ll be a part of me, and I can’t wait to show it off in shorts once it’s healed fully.

Tattooing my body feels like a great way to honour it. The plus size people I see with tattoos look so beautiful. Drawing attention to your larger body with beautiful ink is a radical act (the larger canvas helps too!) I’m really proud to be (eek, it feels weird to say it!) a tattooed person