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.

Competition fatigue

I think I have competition fatigue. It’s a week and a day until my next competition (a divisional) and I’m feeling¬†meeeeehhh about it. I’m not sure exactly, but I think this is approaching my 20th¬†competition ¬†(I do about 3-4 a year) so it’s not really a big surprise.

In addition to the fact that competing is old hat for me, my training has not been going well so that doesn’t help how I feel. I have what feels like tendonitis in my right elbow, my left knee hurts and I’m significantly over my competition weight class. All the drinking and eating and socialising I did in December & January has really done a number on my fitness. I was originally¬†aiming for a 105kg squat & 57.5kg bench next week, but right now I think I’ll be lucky if I repeat my 282.5kg total from last year’s British.

I’m also not going to conditioning at the moment to rest my achy¬†bits as often as I can, which means my general fitness has gone through the floor (and that’s probably impacting on my bodyweight!)

Can you compete too much? Maybe I need some time off again. I will definitely need some time off from squatting & benching to let my elbow recover after this competition. Maybe once it’s out of the way, I can have a month or so of cardio/spinning/Pilates to make myself feel a bit sprightlier. Then I can start training for my next competition in July ūüėČ

Fitting in

At the weekend I went to my first-ever zine fest at the invitation of a couple of people I know on Twitter. I have never been to a zine fest before, or even read a zine, but I had a great time meeting my friends (and seeing old friends unexpectedly!) and taking in the novel atmosphere.

One of my oldest online friends wrote about the fest later on, about finding “your people” and being yourself, which I found really interesting. I don’t think the zinesters I met at the fest are really “my people” – I’m straight, white, middle-class, not a part of any subculture or anything, pretty unremarkable really.

So I have been thinking about what “my people” might be, and where I fit in. If I’m honest, I haven’t been feeling like I fit in anywhere recently.

I used to define myself a lot by my job, but after I moved to my current role in 2012 I never felt 100% part of the team socially (probably because I don’t go out after work much, and I didn’t always take part in chatrooms and things like that). In the last 6 months or so, that’s changed and I’ve really felt the camaraderie at work. And… that’s ironic, because¬†due to a merger 32 people have resigned in the last 2 months, many of them my friends.

Maybe my people are powerlifting people? Honestly, I don’t think so. I have friends at my gym, but I don’t quite feel like I fit in with them either. And when I browse powerlifting-related media on the internet (be it Instagram tags, blogs, or even the Instagram or Facebook accounts of people I know who lift) I feel alienated. There’s a lot of fatphobia, healthism ¬†and misogyny there that I don’t want a part of. And while I’ve done a fair bit of organising work at the gym in the past (e.g. looking after the website, Facebook & Instagram accounts) I’ve recently decided that I want to do less of that, as I find it quite stressful.

I guess I’m wondering here, what am I like? What do I like? I like writing code, but it’s my job, not my passion. I like powerlifting, but I don’t read about it and I don’t want to be involved in a lifting culture that’s filled with¬†bigotry¬†(internalised or otherwise). I like going to fat-positive events, but as a small fat I’m better¬†as an ally on the fringes. I felt totally accepted at the zine fest, but like I was also an interloper – I have no obsessions or things I geek out about (unless you count writing code every day as “geeking out”).

This is definitely not the first time I’ve felt this way – in my 20s I tried to fit in with the poly, queer, bi crowd and it was a bit embarrassing, because I’m none of those things and they’re not attributes¬†you can (or should!) fake. The follies of youth, eh?

I guess the short answer is to keep looking, or make my own space. Or continue not really fitting in!

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) Р2015 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!

Christmas competition and a Christmas break

Once again I have failed to update my blog with any sense of regularity. But since we last spoke I’ve competed for the final (I swear) time this year and am currently on a break from the gym.

The break wasn’t planned – I just seem to have suddenly had¬†a lot of social engagements ¬†(both planned and not-planned) and gym time was the first thing to be cut from my calendar. My job has required a lot of time in the pub (much to my colleagues’ surprise as I never normally go) plus multiple leaving parties and dinners with friends and and… you get the picture.

Last night I said that next week I will¬†finally get back to going to the gym and eating vegetables…forgetting that next week is actually Christmas, so I won’t be getting back to normal for a while!

On December 6th we had our annual Christmas competition at my gym. I don’t always manage to make the Christmas comp so I was really pleased to do it this year. I had kind of intended to give a 105kg squat a go but I was completely untrained and feeble-feeling (plus it was only 2 weeks since the¬†previous competition!) so I didn’t. In fact I was lucky to get 100kg! Definitely the worst 100kg squat I’ve ever done.

I have the 95kg I did as my second lift on video though…

As you can see, Santa hats were mandatory.

I got 55kg in the bench (57.5kg wasn’t going anywhere, again). As for deadlift – I pulled 125kg with relative ease BUT then proceeded to drop it. Fucks sake.

In 2016 I will be working my grip. Again. As well as trying to get that 110kg squat.

Right now I am out of shape with a half pickled liver, which is not a terrible way to be. But I’m looking forward to all my social obligations being over and my normal routine resuming!

Greater London championships November 2015

Just over a week ago I did my final (official) competition of the year, another Greater London championships at my home gym.

I did OK – not as well as at the British, but a decent 100kg squat, 55kg bench & 125kg deadlift meant I got 3rd place (to two vastly superior lifters!) and another trophy.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get a new bench personal best, though. 55kg (my second attempt) felt really easy, but I messed up my attempt at 57.5kg. In fact I messed up on all three lifts, due to sloppiness and not really paying attention.

My second squat was 100kg and I didn’t get it on depth. I knew as I was coming back up that I hadn’t hit depth, I was so mad with myself. I have this real problem of not concentrating 100% on squats I know I can get, and that’s when I make mistakes. So I took 100kg for my third attempt and got it no problem.

Similarly, for my bench I put 57.5kg on the wrong part of my chest (too high) and that meant I couldn’t press it. Again I was so cross with myself – I think I have a real chance of benching 60kg, but not if I keep making thoughtless mistakes like that.

As for deadlift, I took 125kg for my second attempt and DROPPED IT. What a fool! I think I put my hands the wrong way round, although I can’t entirely remember (I used mixed grip and usually have my left hand under, but I suspect I may have put my right hand under). Happily I got it on my 3rd attempt but ugh, what an oversight!

I think I do get complacent when lifting at the gym AND at competitions (at least, divisional ones – I was focused and on point at the British). I’ve been lifting a long time & sometimes it’s easy to go on autopilot. Still, hopefully I’ve learned a lesson – I could have had a 285-287.5kg total but I threw it away!

Still my aim for this competition was to get my qualifying total for next year’s British in the bag. And I thought I had but…. On Friday the GBPF announced that my qualifying total is going up, from 245kg to 300kg.

So I haven’t qualified after all. I am cross and I feel a bit cheated – I knew the QTs were going up, but by 55kg?? And to add insult to injury, the QTs for the 63, 72, 84 and 84+ classes are ALL 300kg!

I have more to say about this later but for now, it looks like the next 6 months are Operation 300 – 110kg squat, 60kg bench and 130kg deadlift. Yikes. Can I do it? Er, honestly, I don’t think so. I added 15kg to my total between 2013/2014, and another 15kg between 2014/2015, so 17.5kg between now and June/July? Christ. I fear for my knees!

You asked for – feminism! A post about sports and trans* athletes

I’m not going to lie, I was really surprised to get so many replies to the poll in my last post¬†– 43 so far! Honestly, I thought there were maybe 3 of you out there. So that was a nice boost. I won’t lie that I felt a bit drained after pouring intimate stuff into my post on mental health so it’s good to know that some people are reading my posts!

The two highest scorers on my poll were posts about my training program, and posts about feminism. I want to tackle the latter, really, as I’d have to figure out the training program thing (maybe I could ask my coach to guest post, as he’s the one who writes them!) It was a bit foolish of me to put that option in the poll, as I never read about training programs or have any opinion about which ones are better than others. I’m far too passive (lazy) & I enjoy having things worked out for me.

So I’m going to tackle the requests for more posts about feminism. I was going to write a general post about how, yes, I’m a feminist (I hope that was always obvious!) and my feminist beliefs, but that seems a bit dry. One important aspect of my feminism is that it will be intersectional or it will be bullshit (to slightly misquote quote Flavia Dzodan), and that means I am trans-inclusive (and sex-worker inclusive, for that matter).

To bring this post more in line with the (intended!) theme of this blog, I have been thinking about sports and trans*people. I think it’s been a lot on my mind recently because of two things – Janae Marie Kroc coming out as genderfluid, and Ronda Rousey’s comments about Fallon Fox (and other things).

To preface this blog: I am keenly aware that I’m writing on a sensitive subject, and therefore I’ve tried to be as correct with my language as possible. However if I’ve got anything wrong or used any terms incorrectly, I’d appreciate & welcome corrections!

I do believe that transwomen are women (and that transmen are men; although it is usually transwomen who are the more talked about). The idea that gender is solely about what is, or isn’t, in your underpants is an outdated view shared by misogynists and second-wave radical feminists alike. But what about transwomen & transmen in sports? I’m not a member of a sports authority, or a scientist, and I agree that this is a difficult issue. There have already been very highly-publicised cases of women who display “male characteristics” causing controvery in sports (I’m thinking of Caster Semenya and the horrible time she had “proving” she is a woman). There are also cases of openly trans people competing in some sports – think Fallon Fox in UFC.

There are arguments that having male characteristics (bone structure, muscle mass etc) is an authomatic advantage in sports like UFC (and powerlifting). It’s well known that men are, on average, stronger than women. The on average caveat is important, though, as pound-for-pound, one of the strongest bench pressers in the world (IPF) is Jennifer Thompson with 140.5kg at 61.4kg bodyweight. Still, a male body is an advantage. That said, there is scientific evidence that post-hormone therapy, trans women lose muscle mass and bone density, and it’s not uncommon for them to have less testosterone than cis women after two years of estrogen therapy. The IOC agrees with this, for both FTM and MTF athletes.

At the risk of being a bit rude to Fallon Fox – if she had a natural advantage over cis woman fighters, she would beat them more often ¬Į\_(„ÉĄ)_/¬Į

The IOC requires trans athletes to have undergone gender reassignment surgery and had at least two years of hormone therapy before they can compete in their chosen gender. Of course, not all trans* people choose to have gender reassignment and/or hormone therapy, so what then?

As I said before, I’m not a sports authority or a scientist, so I can only state my opinion. I’m also never going to be a placing athlete or a record holder, so my views are tempered by that. But I believe that if I’m going to be true to my feminist beliefs, then of course I would be fine with competing against a trans* athlete at any stage in their transition. There seems to be this right-wing idea that men everywhere will be putting on dresses, “pretending” to be men if this was allowed, but that’s ridiculous (as ridiculous as the right-wing idea that if we let trans* children use their gender-appropriate bathrooms, those bathrooms will be filled with “men in dresses” claiming to be women – that just does not happen).

To bring this post back to the people mentioned above: for those that don’t know Janae Marie Kroc, she is (or was) a very well-known powerlifter and bodybuilder (Kroc Rows were her invention). Last year she came out and prefers the female pronoun, but doesn’t identify as trans and isn’t undergoing any sort of gender reassignment therapy or surgery. I think she is really inspiring – there’s no denying that coming out as anything oher than a red-blooded heterosexual male when you’re a bodybuilding & powerlifting idol must be HARD. Would I compete against Kroc? Well, not in any real-world scenario (because she’s a former world champ and not even in the same weight class as me!) but in a theoretical world, yes. At the moment the IPF doesn’t allow transgender athletes, but if powerlifting gains IOC recognition (as I believe it is trying to do) then it would have to adhere to the IOC’s rules, and Kroc would have to undergo reassignment if she wanted to compete officially. But “off the federation”, I think it would be an honour to just train with her, let alone compete. That said, she does ID as genderfluid, not female, so whether or not she would want to compete in a women’s class isn’t clear.

(I did want to address genderless, non-binary and genderfluid people in this post, but I will save it for another time).

As for Rousey; I know she’s not a powerlifter, but I think she has a lot of fans among people I know. I really wanted to get behind her as a feminist role model, but her transphobic comments about Fallon Fox have really put me off. Plus, I know trash talking your opponents is part of the whole UFC/MMA spectacle, but threatening to beat up Kim Kardashian and denigrating “do nothing bitches”? Not feminist. I know your faves will always be problematic, but it’s OK to let go of a fave if they prove just that bit too problematic; and Rousey is too much for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

As a postscript to this, I read an interresting article from the Orlando Sentinel today, about the case of a body found 27 years ago which was initially assumed to be a woman who had given birth to “several” children. The article is here but it’s paywalled, so the pertinent bits of text can be read on this Tweet (hat tip to Zoe for pointing the info out). If the body of a trans woman can be mistaken for that of a cis woman who has given birth several times, does that not indicate that hormone therapy does indeed affect bone structure and muscle mass? It makes you think.