Category Archives: Self love

Giving up

Friendship ended

I’m a week out from what might be my last powerlifting competition for a while. As you might expect I’m not really looking forward to it, and I almost withdrew from competing; but I’m going to do it because if nothing else it gives me a chance to set a qualifying total for the next British Masters.

I’ve gone through several “I hate powerlifting” phases over the last 8 years but this one feels a bit different, a bit more. I think my feelings towards the sport started to change at the 2017 British Masters in March, which I enjoyed but was definitely different to how I was expecting. And now I’m a week away from the All England the whole training/competing cycle feels like an unbearable chore.

I’ve been told that now I’m 40 I can’t expect to lift the same as I did as a senior

I am completely au fait with the “compete against yourself” mindset but it’s hard to stay true to that when your whole training is set around competing against others. Plus, I’m not currently beating myself anyway – my gains all slowed down/stopped a while ago and now that I’m a master (over 40) they’re going backwards. I’ve been told that now I’m 40 I can’t expect to lift the same as I did as a senior, but I didn’t expect my decline to happen only 5 months in!

So I’ve done a bit of soul searching. I considered changing my program, changing my coaching, changing my gym, quitting powerlifting full stop etc etc. But after talks with a few people including my coach, people at the gym and an IPF International referee at the British Masters I’ve noted a few things:

1) This is meant to be a hobby. It’s meant to be fun.

2) It’s not just lifting I do at the gym, it’s the social media, it’s refereeing. A lot of people think powerlifting is just lifting & competing but it’s not (for me anyway).

3) I shouldn’t do the aspects of powerlifting that make it un-fun for me. I should just do the things I enjoy.

4) It’s completely possible to be a referee and not a competing lifter. It’s even possible to be a referee and someone who doesn’t lift!

I’ve had a lot of guilty feelings about stopping doing the things I’ve committed to do at the gym, but as my coach reminded me, no-one ever asked me to do them and if I don’t do them it’s not my problem. This is really far outside my way of thinking – normally I’m the sort of person who takes stuff on and feels awful if she can’t do it!

This is meant to be a hobby. It’s meant to be fun.

Throw into the mix the fact that as of June 2nd I’m starting a new job, which will be a lot more intense than any job I’ve had in the last 5 years and will involve a lot of travel. I can’t really commit to doing things at the gym if I don’t know what my movements will be month to month, and I may not be working a regular 9-5.30 while I’m at home anyway.

So the upshot is:

1) I’ve quit doing the social media stuff for the gym.

2) After the All England I’m not competing for a long time (I will aim to get my QT for the British Masters but I won’t commit to doing it until closer to the time).

3) I’m going to do the aspects of powerlifting I enjoy: refereeing and hopefully more coaching.

4) I’m not going to train for just powerlifting any more; I’m going to do more varied “fitness” things because that will be easier to do if I’m going to be travelling around / not able to get to my usual gym regularly.

The coaching aspect is the most difficult of these – my gym won’t be holding more ladies novice sessions (which is where I’ve been coaching) so if I want to coach, then I have to figure out some way of doing it myself. As I’m not a fitness professional this is easier said than done!

Overall I feel relieved and excited. I’m sure there are people out there who will think I am giving up – after all, one of the big mantras on powerlifting is “never give up”, right? But at what point do you admit that plugging away at the same thing for eight years and not improving isn’t making you happy? And am I giving up anyway, if I’m still committed to being a referee? (I still want to go for my international referee certificate in 2018 or 2019)

The funny thing is there are plenty of people out there who will tell me I shouldn’t care what others think (they’re right of course) but I bet there is a good proportion of them who very much care what others think of them (cough Instagram numbers cough) and who will also think that you should never give up. I kind of feel like I can’t win there!

I haven’t decided on any goals yet for my attempt to fall back in love with the gym again, but I have some ideas: jog 5km without stopping; do some bodybuilding-style workouts so I can actually build muscle (8-10 reps etc); more Yoga/Pilates; more mobility; try to do the splits (!). I think it’s going to be fun and best of all a change of scene.

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Long time, lots of updates!

It’s been a shockingly long time since I updated here! And so much has happened. I believe last time I posted, I was still doing my remedial squats; since then I have competed again but not added any kilos to my squats sadly.

I did a competition last month in which I was hoping to get a 290kg total. Unfortunately my squats & deadlift didn’t go to plan (I wanted 105kg and 130kg respectively) but I did get a new bench personal best & total personal best. I finished with 102.5kg squat, 57.5kg bench & 125kg deadlift for 285kg total at 71.6kg bodyweight.

I’m not going to any national competitions this year, but I will be doing a divisional competition in November. Then in January I’m 40 (eek!) which means I’ll be eligible to compete at the British Masters in March! It’s in Belfast next year, so a road trip (or plane trip) is in order with my other masters pals!

In other news, I wrote a blog post for So She Lifts about creating a female-friendly gym environment. I was inspired to write this after volunteering at 3 women-only sessions at my gym, designed to introduce women to powerlifting without any pressure. I think the gym will be doing more of these sessions, maybe once every two months – it all depends on whether we can get people to volunteer to coach.

I also changed jobs! I got utterly fed up with my old job and am now working at a tiny startup. I was a bit nervous about moving away from corporate life & back into startups as I was worried my work-life balance would suffer. But my new employers are very cool and relaxed about working hours, so I haven’t missed a gym session yet.

Because I’ve moved offices I had to leave Urban Kings (the MMA gym I was a member of) and have joined a cheap Fitness4Less gym near my new work. I’ve done a few bodypump-style classes there, as have discovered that I don’t actually mind running on the treadmill so much (shock horror!). So far I’ve worked up to trotting at 6.7km/h for 30 minutes non-stop! Amazing! I’ve literally never run for that long in my LIFE! Seems aged nearly-40 my cardio fitness is better than ever :bicep_emoji:

2016!

I don’t know about you but I like making resolutions and I always look forward to the beginning of a new year. January is also my birthday month, and while I’m not looking forward to turning 39 (eek) I am looking forward to my birthday – not least because I’m going away to New York City!

My fitness-related resolutions for 2015 were to get a 280kg total, and to look after my immune system a bit more because I got a lot of colds in 2014. Well, in 2015 I got a 282.5kg total (result!) and I also seemed to have fewer periods of illness than before. I put the latter down to being less stressed and taking my vitamins regularly.

My resolutions for 2016 are not too dissimilar really:

  1. Get a 300kg total. I need this to qualify for this year’s British Classic and, if I’m honest, I think it’s a big ask. But I will give it a go, for my coach’s sake.
  2. Go to Pilates regularly. I used to go every Thursday but that fell by the wayside due to work commitments. I hope to take it up again, as I felt Pilates really helped with my core strength & flexibility. And my Zen!
  3. Get better with my hair & makeup.
  4. Get a better job.
  5. Moisturise!!

OK, 3-5 aren’t fitness-related, but definitely wellbeing related.

Regarding 3 (and 5) – 2015 was the year of the selfie for me, and taking regular selfies has been so good for my confidence. I only started wearing makeup every day (ish) when I was 36 and that too has been great for my confidence.

Regarding 4 – my current job as I know it is pretty much over, so I either need to stay put and pivot; or I need to move elsewhere and carry on down the path I’m currently on. I think I prefer to carry on my chosen career.

I had a break from the gym from 23rd – 31st December while I was visiting family and volunteering at Crisis at Christmas. I’ve done two sessions since, and my new program starts tonight. I would nominally like to squat 105kg at my February competition, and 110kg at my July competition (yikes) but I’m not going to beat myself up too hard about the February one – it’s only a few weeks away, after all. Aaand if I don’t make a 300kg total in July, I can see if I can guest at another competition elsewhere before September.

This year is my last as a powerlifting senior – on January 1st 2017 I become a master and a whole new set of competitions, totals and records opens up!

Positive body image

I was getting ready for work one morning last week when I realised that I haven’t had negative body image for quite a while. Despite many things in my life being difficult & taking up a lot of mental space, my body is not one of those things I really dwell on at the moment, and it’s really quite freeing once you realise it.

Even on the approach to my last competition, when I usually fret for weeks about my weight and/or how I’m going to look in my singlet, I quite blithely drifted up to competition day without too much worry about my weight – until the last couple of days, at least (and even then I wasn’t too worried). Which was good, because I had a lot of other things to worry about – like the travel, the hotel and refereeing.

Back when I started this blog, one of the main themes I wrote about was this struggle I had between being happy with who I am and what I look like; and the pressure you get in lifting to be leaner, sexier, eat “right” etc. I’m not sure what changed or when, but I’m feeling a lot more zen about it all at the moment.

This weekend I ate more cake than I think I’ve ever eaten in one sitting, at my mum’s birthday celebration. We went to one of those posh hotel afternoon teas, where you pay a small fortune and they keep bringing cake until you explode. I thought I might feel guilty after eating so much (and not going to the gym) but I just…don’t? I don’t even feel the need to be all “Tee hee I was so naughty!” because cake has no moral value, it’s just cake.

I’m also toying with the idea of throwing all my (very expensive) protein powder out because I can’t remember the last time I had a protein shake. I think everyone who starts lifting goes through this stage where they try to eat a ton of protein & buy loads of powders & mixes etc, but almost all the older masters lifters I know don’t bother with them. I guess I’ve reached that stage!

I definitely think that stopping reading lifting blogs, and surrounding myself with positive role models, has helped. I very occasionally pop back in to lifting “spaces” online; but then I read something about abs being better than boobs or counting macros, and I pop out again.

Of course, all this might go to shit, and in a few months time I might be back to doubting myself, tying myself in knots about carrying so much bodyfat and how big my stomach looks from the side. But it’s nice to remember that right now, I am very happy in my body.

For World Mental Health Day

[Content note for depression, suicidal talk]

This weekend just gone contained World Mental Health Day, which I acknowledge each year but I always feel like I shouldn’t co-opt. I’m not really sure why, because I have mental health problems and am a long, long term veteran of therapy and medication. So this year I am (belatedly) going to write a bit about it.

It’s really hard for me to condense my experiences into one (readable) blog post. I suppose I tend to think that WMHD is not “for me” as I haven’t had any major events, like in-patient treatment; plus the fact that I’ve kept working through all my issues makes me feel they have not been “as serious” as others’.

To jump right into it: I had psychoanalytic psychotherapy from age 26-32 (in 2009), then a break until this year when I started with a more integrative therapist about 5 months ago. I was also on antidepressants for the best part of a decade, before taking a break but having to start again earlier this year.

Going into therapy both times have been off my own back, not prescribed by a GP or other health professional. It’s possible to get therapy on the NHS, but you usually have to wait a long time, and then you get a short series of sessions. I started therapy thinking I might go for a few months, never once thinking I would end up going twice a week for 6 years. It was hard emotionally, and it was expensive, and in all honesty sometimes I wonder why I did it. It was also hard socially, because I made a decent low-20k salary but didn’t have the accoutrements my colleagues & friends had. Why wasn’t I going skiing, why didn’t I have a flat-screen TV, why did I take the bus rather than the tube? I simply couldn’t tell people, you know?

I was also having go work to pay my mortgage, and didn’t have a long-term partner to rely on financially. I had days where getting out of bed was a struggle and life seemed hopeless, but the knowledge that I had to pay the bills (moving back in with my parents was never an option) drove me to do it. I did have two weeks signed off work sick after my dad had a heart attack, but that was the extent of it.

I do feel proud that I survived those years, but also jealous sometimes that others with similar issues had long-term partners or parents they could rely on. And sometimes that jealousy expresses itself as bitterness, because I am quite angry that I couldn’t rely on my family for support. Sure, if I had asked to move in with them they would have acquiesced, but it wouldn’t have been easy and I would have been expected to “pull myself together” as quickly as possible.

As for why I entered therapy in he first place. The only thing I can really say is that I was failing to cope with life. My upbringing was outwardly fine, but once I got to university aged 19 and realised that my childhood hadn’t been like other peoples’, I had bouts of sadness, crying jags that lasted for whole days, etc. I remember trying to get help from my personal tutor, but he & I didn’t have a relationship so I didn’t receive any.

In my mid-20s I had my first very intense, “true love” relationship, which turned out (looking back) to be very destructive. I wasn’t raised with guidance on relationships, except for a few basics which indicated I should do anything necessary to please & keep a man. Obviously this led to some terrible choices. As this relationship was breaking down I knew I needed some sort of help, but not what; and at that time I was also reluctant to take antidepressants (I don’t feel this way now). I had a consultation with BACP, was referred to a local therapist and the rest is history.

It was only once I was in therapy that I really discovered the root of everything. For example, I say above that I wasn’t raised with any guidance on how to be in relationships, but obviously at the time I did not know this. It took many many hours of unpicking to uncover it all. I went into therapy thinking my family was pretty normal; I came out realising that yes, ALL families have their problems, but the particular problems my family had/has have affected my life in XYZ ways. If that makes sense (it does in my head).

Psychoanalysis definitely wasn’t a magic bullet for me, but I finished up when I was 32 (with much relief, I have to admit), had a couple more destructive short-term relationships (for good measure I guess), then life gradually became better. I met my boyfriend when I was 34, we very quickly bought a house together (within 18 months) and I felt happy enough in my life to give up antidepressants about 6 months after we moved in together.

Unfortunately life isn’t always smooth sailing, and starting from about a year ago I started to slide back into depression. The difference this time was that I started having suicidal thoughts, which I hadn’t had before. Back in my 20s, I wanted desperately to “disappear” back then and never see my friends/family again, but this time I did have suicidal ideation. Life had no joy and I felt I was merely existing. Eventually I caved in and saw my old therapist for a session, and together we decided that I should try therapy again although with a slightly different slant – this time I know most of the why I feel this way, but now I needed help with the how to deal with it.

Now I am seeing an integrative therapist once a fortnight (as opposed to twice a week) and it is very helpful. The main difference between this type of therapy and the psychoanalysis I had before is that the therapist guides what we talk about more. In traditional psychoanalysis, I did most of the talking and some sessions were merely me sobbing uncontrollably; in the sessions I have now, we deal more with practical reactions to difficulties. I realise this is not an exhaustive list of the differences (I am no writer, unfortunately)

I’m also back on antidepressants and they help me cope day-to-day; I no longer feel suicidal or there I’m just a blank entity doing repetitive actions in a grey world. Unfortunately my GP will only prescribe them to me on a 28-day basis, so I have to see him every month.

I still have many issues to sort out with my family, not least now my parents are older and we may not have many more years together. I don’t want them to die without feeling more at peace with our relationship. I have also been working through the fuzzy bombshell which was moving in with my boyfriend – after being completely independent until I was 36, building a joint life with someone (even the limited “joint life” my boyfriend & I have) has been very hard. It is still very very fundamental to my mental health that I can look after myself, on my own, and not have to rely on anyone else; and happily my boyfriend is very on-board with that.

Even now I still couldn’t point to one “cause” of all my issues. Depression and its ilk are chemical imbalances in the brain, but there are also social factors. For me, a lot of it comes back to my upbringing, my strange family life (which I don’t want to go into in details because I still don’t know if my family read this!), my unpreparedness for personal relationships, the endometriosis I’ve suffered from since I was at least 15 (probably earlier), working in a male-dominated industry rife with sexism etc. All of this has led to a bitterness and anger that I don’t want to let go of, and a mistrust of love & happiness. I would like to eventually embrace love & happiness, but these things take time.

I do feel sad and embarrassed that it took me until my mid- to late-30s and a lot of therapy to figure out things like: My body is my own! My life is my own! I do not have to do whatever it takes to keep a man! Being married is not a homonym for happiness! Sex is not a horrible thing I have to endure for a man’s sake! And honestly, I’m still not entirely there – for example, I’m still worried about my parents’ reaction to my tattoo, should they ever see it. But I’m trying to live my best life now, to do what I want (and this is scary!). I look back on my teens & 20s as wasted time, never living my life (just living the one my parents or male partner expected of me). But I can’t go back and change those times, I can only try to live my life now how I want to. Although you can’t solely look forward, you know? Because your past is still part of you.

I’m sure there will be people who read this and think “God, why didn’t she just cut negative people out of her life?” or “Why didn’t she just do XYZ?” (I have had many of these comments elsewhere; hi they are not helpful) and I do understand that it might seem baffling that it took me until so late in my life to work things out. What can I say? Everyone’s life experience is different, and this is mine.

God, as mentioned above I am NOT a writer, and this is the usual jumbled mess. I guess the TL;DR version is:

– I have found therapy really useful
– Not everyone with depression has a family/friends/partner to rely on; in fact the family/friends/partner are often a root of some issues
– I am immeasurably proud of the fact that I did this myself
– But sometimes I am sad & bitter that I had no choice
– I want to try to live my best life now, because life is short & getting shorter

If you’re interested in therapy, I started with the BACP and went from there – going for a consultation, finding a therapist. The second time, I tried two therapists out – one recommended by my previous therapist, and the other recommended by a friend. So ask around and see if your friends can recommend someone too. And of course you can go via your GP (although I have no experience of that myself).

You might not remember, but my idea to get a 280kg total in 2015 was based off the GBPF Women’s Rankings, where the results of all the major nationwide competitions are totted up and a top 20 for each weight category is produced. In 2014, the woman at #20 in my weight category had a 280kg total, so I wanted to match that so I might know I was at least somewhat decent.

Obviously, I got a 282.5kg total in this year’s British. Hurray! Then this year’s League came out, and the #20 woman in my weight class has….a 315kg total.

Bollocks. Forget moving the goalposts – the goalposts just got up and sprinted away.

I never really had any designs on getting into the rankings myself, but I couldn’t help look up all the other competing lady lifters from my gym and I am the only one who isn’t in the top 20 for their weight class. I know comparing yourself to others isn’t the done thing, but it’s kind of hard not to when the whole point of competing is…to compete.

Still. Still. I am doing okay. I have longer-term goals, you know? In 15 months time I will be a Masters 1, and all of the Greater London M1 records are there for the taking (for what they’re worth!). Plus the people who run the gym I lift at have asked me to be involved in running women’s only powerlifting sessions, which will be excellent (if we ever get round to organising it!). I am not the best lifter in the country or even in my gym but I do lots of cool stuff.

When I received my participation certificate at this year’s British, the organiser Paul Rees took the time to tell the audience that I “do a lot” for my gym and for powerlifting in general. Which made me tear up a little :`-) It is nice to be recognised.

(Plus I am currently 96th in the combined Wilks powerlifting league so that’s nice!)

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.