Thursday, September 25, 2014

Testing My Maxes

I signed up for my first powerlifting meet on December 12th here in DC.  My teammate Frak is helping me prepare.  She gave me a new lifting program to follow to help me get ready.  (It's modified from a lifting program called the Texas Method.)  And last week she helped me test my maximum lifts for the first time ever.

Testing your maxes basically involves doing one rep, adding more weight, and repeating until you can't go any higher.  It gives you a sense of what you could do in competition, and for me it is a nice opportunity to benchmark my progress.

We did the lifts in the order they would be done in competition: squat, bench press, dead lift.

Here's a video of me squatting a new PR of 175 pounds.  To give a sense of how much strength I have gained since I started lifting, the first time I squatted out at the strongman gym, the heaviest weight I could do was 100 pounds, and I thought that was astonishing.  A little over a year later, 95 pounds is my warmup.

After successfully squatting 175, I tried 185 and failed.  Watching the video now, it doesn't actually look like I was struggling as much as I thought I was at the time.  You can hear Frak yelling at me to push out my knees, and I think if I had focused on that, I might have been successful.  Frak explained that since it was my first time doing this, I'm not used to struggling to complete the lift.  As my comfort with being on the edge of failure improves, I should get better and be able to push through more.  Although she also said that a lot of the time, your max will feel relatively easy, and then adding just ten pounds will make the next lift impossible, which is indeed how my failures felt.

I want to show my failure video because I think it's important to show that nothing terrible happens to you when you fail a lift.  As you can see, I just kneel back down and let the safety catch the bar.  Easy peasy:

After squat, I got a PR of 95 on bench press and failed my attempt at 100 pounds.  Then came the most exciting part of the night: dead lifts.  I have a complicated relationship with the dead lift.  It's probably my favorite lift, but it also scares me the most because it took me awhile to learn the proper form, and I hurt my back last year while I was still learning.  Last week, I managed a PR of 220 pounds, which is 35 pounds more than I had ever done before.  Frak was encouraging me to add more weight.  She showed me the video and said as fast and "easy" as the bar came up on 220, she was sure I could do more.  I decided to stop, though.  I was trying to be cautious and not hurt myself.  Now I kinda regret that I didn't keep going, but it's probably just as well that I didn't.

Here's the dead lift PR.  So exciting!

After I was done, Frak sent me these weightlifting performance standards, which show how much a person should expect to lift based on how long they've been training.  It's useful to see these charts because it's easy to lose perspective when you're in the gym surrounded by gigantic dudes and women like Frak, who weighs about 20 pounds less than I do but who can lift way more.  (She tested her maxes last week, too, and got 300 on her dead lift!)

It is pretty exciting to see that my squat and dead lifts are right in the middle between intermediate and advanced for my weight class.  (I weigh 155 currently, so I'm looking at the 165 weight class.)  My bench press is novice level, but hopefully my new program will help bring that up a bit.

It was a year ago this month that I started lifting.  I've come a long way since then, and testing my maxes was a good way to remind myself of that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August Review and September Goals

My goals for August were:
  • Lift twice a week.
  • Run once a week.
  • Do chin-ups daily. 
  • Complete two individual skating practice sessions.
  • Be on skates three times a week.
I met none of these goals.  Also, I threw away my goal tracking sheet in a fit of relief and excitement that August was finally over, so I can't even tell you how close I got to achieving them.  I am so done with August.

On to September.  As I mentioned in my last post, I'm taking the month off from roller derby.  I am loathe to set too many goals, since this is supposed to be a break.  On the other hand, I have to set some, since I am also supposed to be getting ready for the upcoming home team season.  I have sort of a three-step plan.

Step 1: This Week
  • Rest and ice my injured knee.
  • Play it by ear with training--Maybe a slow, easy run, maybe a trip to the gym that doesn't involve dead lifting or squatting too heavy, maybe just a bit of strength training at home.  The goal is do something but to give the knee a break.
  • Attempt to get back on to a sleep schedule, ideally one that has me up early enough to run in the morning since that is when I like to run.
  • Chinups daily.

Step 2: The Rest of the Month
  • Five workouts per week.  This will be some combination of running and lifting, maybe even some skating.  Again, playing it by ear.
  • Chinups daily.

Step 3: Mental Preparation
  • Have fun!  I was trying to recall the last time I went to a museum.  Mind you, I live in a city that probably has more free museums than any other place in the United States, at least.  It has been so long that I couldn't remember.  Eventually I did recall that it was a Van Gogh exhibit, last Christmas vacation if I'm not mistaken.  Eight months.  This month, I would like to read some novels and go to a museum or two.  Maybe even go to happy hour with my non-derby friends.  
  • Think about my goals for the home team season.  
  • Watch derby.  The WFTDA Division 1 tournament begins this month, which will be a great opportunity to learn more about derby while not playing derby.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The End of the Travel Team Season

We played the last bouts of the travel team season in Chicago over the weekend.  My team, the B-team, finished our season 7-4.  The All-Stars ended their season with a sixth place finish in their WFTDA Division 2 playoff bracket.

It was a long, grueling season.  By the time I came on board at the mid-season tryout, we were already four months into it, and that was six months ago.  The last six months have been an amazing opportunity to grow as a skater.  Because the A and B teams practice together, I get to practice with the best skaters in our league, and our All-Stars are one of the top fifty roller derby teams in the world.  How lucky am I?  

On top of that, I finally got to live the dream I had back when I first started skating, to travel around the country playing derby.  I felt so grateful for that on Saturday night in Chicago as we skated our final lap around the track slapping hands with the fans.  That final lap never gets old.

Nevertheless, the last couple of months have been hard.  My sleep schedule has been a mess.  My cross-training schedule has been erratic.  My diet has been less than optimal.  Despite all the hard training I did this season, over the last couple of months I have grown less and less confident in my body.  The nagging injuries didn't help, first the sprained wrist followed by a knee injury sustained while squatting about ten days ago, which I think is a strained IT band.  Plus, not having time to run regularly has made me somewhat less confident in my overall endurance.  This last week heading into Chicago I was so exhausted and overwhelmed I kept telling myself, all you have to do is make it through Chicago.  

On Sunday morning, the morning after our bouts against the Chicago Outfit, we got up early to play more derby.  We combined our A and B team rosters to play two more scrimmages against the Windy City Rollers in a second-story warehouse lacking air conditioning.  The scrimmages were optional, and when my alarm went off just six hours after I'd set it, I really wished I hadn't signed up.  As the morning went on, we found ourselves counting down the time until we were finished...Only two more hours, one hour, thirty minutes, ten minutes, two minutes.  Even so, it was so much fun.  And at the end, sore, exhausted, dehydrated, hearing our captain say how proud she was to have been part of this team this season, I got a little bit teary-eyed.

It's always like that in roller derby.  You think you can't make it through another practice, another week, another month, but you always do.  But just because you can doesn't mean you should.  It's time for a break.  I'm taking the month of September off to rest, to lay a good solid foundation of cross training for the next home team season (or as solid a foundation as one can lay in a month), and most importantly to get mentally ready for another marathon of derby.  I don't want to feel like I am crawling on my hands and knees muttering, all you have to do is make it to...whatever is coming next.  

Scrawled on the wall in Windy City's warehouse was the question, Are you better today than you were yesterday?  I'm taking the month of September off from roller derby.  It's what I need to do to ensure that, come October, I can answer yes to that question for yet another season.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The End of the Sultry Downeaster

I spent a month trying to figure things out with the Sultry Downeaster, and now I’m ready to let it all go.  There were communication challenges.  And there was a girl.  Of course there was a girl. 

(Just to clarify, I did not know about the girl until later.)

I’m not judging the Sultry Downeaster.  I still believe that what happened between us was real.  We are all human, after all, and the heart wants what it wants.  Sometimes at inopportune moments.

For a little while, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but when we talked about it last, he told me, “I’m still seeing her.  I can’t tell her I fell in love with a woman in Washington, DC.”

As my very wise father used to tell me, “Can’t means ‘I don’t want to.’”

And I can't blame the Sultry Downeaster for not wanting to.

As Jeanette Winterson wrote:

When passion comes late in life…it is harder to give up.  And those who meet this beast late in life are offered only devilish choices.  Will they say goodbye to what they know and set sail on an unknown sea with no certainty of land again?  Will they dismiss those everyday things that have made life tolerable and put aside the feelings of old friends, a lover even?  In short, will they behave as if they are twenty years younger with Canaan just over the ridge?

Not usually.

And if they do, you will have to strap them to the mast as the boat pulls away because the siren calls are terrible to hear and they may go mad at the thought of what they have lost.

I had two realizations.  

First, I realized that one of the things that was making it so difficult for me to let go of what happened in Maine was a sense that it might be something that would never happen again.  I had a mindset of scarcity rather than abundance, and that is the complete opposite of the core beliefs I have written about so frequently on this blog.  When he said that about the girl, it made me feel like I was suddenly in some kind of weird competition for love with a woman 700 miles away.  But love is not something a person should ever have to compete for.  If you find yourself competing for love, that’s not love, it’s fear.

Second, there is the matter of courage.  When a person can’t communicate openly and honestly, it is generally because whatever they can’t bring themselves to say is a source of fear or shame, and they are prioritizing their own comfort over the right of another person to know the truth.

He said, “I can’t tell her I fell in love with a woman in Washington, DC.”  

And there’s a woman in Maine who is in love with this man who called me up in tears from 700 miles away to tell me he loved me.  I am so sorry for that woman, and I did not have the opportunity to give my informed consent before becoming a cause of potential pain in her life.

I thought about who I am, and it occurred to me that I am a woman who left a marriage to a really wonderful person because I couldn’t bear the thought of never falling in love again.  I left, not for actual love, but simply for the possibility that love could happen to me at some time in the future, and knowing full well that this was a risk, and that it also might not happen.  

A woman who would do a thing like that has to be so brave.  A woman like that must have a partner who is equally courageous, or she must have no partner at all.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote:

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everybody wants.  But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own intention so you can change your life.  A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.  But to live with a soul mate forever?  Nah.  Too painful.  Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.  And thank God for it.

So maybe that is what happened to me in Maine.

Monday, August 4, 2014

July Review and August Goals

July was hard.  It was hard to come back from vacation.  It was hard to be in love with a Sultry Downeaster 700 miles away.  I was very tired.  Here's how I did with my goals:

Lift twice a week.  I met this goal three of four weeks.  The fourth week, I made it to the gym once, and I think that's ok considering it was bout week leading up to a double-header in Texas and I probably needed the extra rest.  This was my first month back at lifting after five weeks off with a sprained wrist, and I was able to build back up easily to where I was before the injury, 150 pounds on squat and 175 pounds on deadlift.  In addition, I was also able to maintain my 80 pound bench press and add five pounds to my overhead press (now 60 pounds), which feels like a huge accomplishment because I have a wonky shoulder and overhead press is really hard anyway.

Lifting, like skating, was an activity I could do that would allow me to put my mind to rest and not think about the sorry state of my love life.  There are some things I don't want to do when I'm depressed, like running, but lifting is something I know will make me feel better, and I looked forward to the reprieve it offered.

Do chinups daily.  I met this goal 18 of 25 days.  (Yes, I know July has 31 days.  I am counting 25 days because I didn't set the goal until a few days into the month, when I had gotten back from vacation.)  Not bad, but I could do better considering the chinup bar is right here in my apartment.

1 individual skating practice per week.  I didn't meet this goal a single week.  I was too busy lying around on the couch reading Jeanette Winterson books and feeling sorry for myself.  Also, I think once a week was too ambitious for this goal as my schedule is already so full.

1 rest day per week.  Well, I met this one.  Thanks, Ms. Winterson!

Here are my goals for August:

1. Lift twice a week.

2. Run once a week.  I have one long lifting workout and one relatively short one, so the plan is to run on the short day.  I've finally accepted the fact that even though I hate the treadmill and would prefer to run outside, I am much more likely to complete the run if I just get it done while I'm at the gym.  It's not ideal, but I want to get a little more endurance training in, and this seems the best way to make it happen.

3. Do chinups daily.

4. Complete two individual skating practice sessions.  Two seems a little bit more realistic than a weekly session, timewise, and I can benefit from even a couple extra hours of practice per month.

5. Be on skates three times a week.  Again, I'm working on balance here and making sure I can fit in the cross training.

Five goals seems like more than enough for one month.  I also want to work on my diet this month, focusing on getting more vegetables as that remains a struggle, and I also want to start reading up on strength training.  At a certain point, if I'm going to keep doing this, I need to develop a better understanding of what I'm doing and why instead of just doing whatever my teammate tells me to do.  Not that this is a bad strategy, since she knows what she's doing, but I need to empower myself, too.  Given that I've already set five goals, though, I hesitate to officially add these two items.  It just seems like a lot.  But hopefully I can divert a little bit of attention to these additional areas of focus.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lovelorn Diet, Part 2: Lessons Learned

My college Shakespeare professor used to say that Romeo and Juliet is a comedy gone awry.  The protagonists break the comedic form by getting married in the second act instead of waiting for things to sort themselves out at the end of the play.

Personally, I blame Romeo.  If you haven't read or seen the play recently, you may have forgotten that Romeo is in love with someone else when we first encounter him.  Romeo is a pretty emo dude, actually, and he's pining for this other girl.  But Romeo is also incredibly impulsive, and he goes to the Capulets' party on a whim and meets Juliet.  It's not long before he forgets all about that other girl and ends up emoting all over Juliet's balcony instead.

For the whole rest of the play, Romeo is at the mercy of his erratic emotions--fighting in the street, running away, and finally killing himself when Juliet is not even dead yet.  I think we can all agree, he probably should have left the poor girl alone.

This is all to say that if Shakespeare's most famous play teaches us nothing else, it's that love at first sight is treacherous, tricky, and not to be trusted.

So there you have it.

After three weeks on the Lovelorn Diet, I'm pretty exhausted.  I have no doubt that what happened between the Sultry Downeaster and me was real, but I am beginning to face the fact that I'm a 39-year-old woman, not some 13-year-old Italian chick, and it might be time to get my act together.  Because life is, apparently, not a fairy tale, and I don't particularly want it to be a Shakespearean tragedy either.

So now I'm trying to figure out whatever possible life lessons the universe could be trying to teach me besides the obvious one, "Don't talk to strangers."  Here's what I've figured out so far:

Your feelings are your feelings.  Readers of this blog know that I have spent a lot of time learning how to feel my feelings instead of stuffing them down inside and trying to ignore them.  So when I say I'm in love, I mean it.  Nevertheless, I felt a lot of shame about admitting it out loud.  That's why it took me three weeks to write about the Sultry Downeaster.  Anyone who knows how hard it is to stay in love over time--and I am, in fact, one of those people, having been married and divorced--has a right to feel skeptical about the idea of love at first sight.  It's easy to fall in love.  So much harder to stay there.  Anyway, I knew that people would judge me, silently or not so silently because admitting to something so fantastical makes you seem...well, maybe a little crazy or overly dramatic.  So I kept quiet.  When I told the story to my girlfriends, I played down my feelings.  Even when the Sultry Downeaster told me he loved me, I wouldn't say it back.  It was too much.  But you know what?  Pretending I didn't feel it, refusing to say it out loud, didn't make me feel it any less.  It only made me feel worse, actually. 

Friends help.  I rarely talk about my personal life, and when I do I tend to downplay my feelings as noted above, but I couldn't keep everything inside me during this romantic crisis.  Confiding in my teammates and other close friends has been absolutely essential to not going insane.  Suddenly all the social outings that usually fill me with dread felt like lifelines.  Being with other people kept my mind occupied so I didn't have to spend every waking moment pacing around my living room.  Opening up more made me feel closer to people, and it made me think that maybe I should work on allowing myself to be more vulnerable with the people I care about.  Vulnerability is, after all, the foundation of all good relationships.

Speaking of vulnerability.  I went to Maine feeling vulnerable on the romantic front.  I actually think that vulnerability may be part of what spoke to the Sultry Downeaster.  I know I was more open, emotionally, with him that night than I have allowed myself to be with anyone in a very long time.  There's a lesson there, for sure, but there's also a dark side.  Because being vulnerable means you can be easily tricked, and I am not a very trusting person anyway.  Vulnerability coupled with the fear of not being good enough can take you to some pretty dark places.  My mind circled back to every man who ever lied to me or took advantage of my trust.  The nasty tape recorder in my mind kept telling me I wasn't special enough to make a man fall in love with me in the span of twelve hours.  It wasn't pretty.  It's still not.  I have some work to do on this.

Love is not all.  That's a poem by my Maine girl, Edna St. Vincent Millay.   It's true.  Nevertheless, I left my marriage because I couldn't stand the thought of never falling in love again.  Of course, nothing ever works out the way it does in the fairy tales, so I would fall in love with someone 700 miles away.  Nevertheless, I fell in love.  Finally.  Undeniably.  And someone fell in love with me, too.  Doomed or not, if nothing else, at least it's a reminder that it's possible.  If I weren't so angry at the universe right now, it might occur to me to say thank you for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Lovelorn Diet

It's more of a lifestyle than a diet, really.  It involves not sleeping, journaling obsessively, bursting into uncontrollable tears at least once a day, and having so little appetite that even chocolate seems unappealing.  Chocolate, people! 

It seems I may have fallen in love while I was in Maine.  I had a completely unexpected, magical evening with a sultry downeaster.  It was like something out of a heartwarming romantic comedy, except for the minor detail that I don't live in Maine anymore.  Obviously, this unfortunate fact adds a lot of drama to the situation and pretty much just means everything is doomed and I am stuck feeling like crap. 

The only time I'm not thinking about the sultry downeaster is when I'm playing roller derby.  Thank God for roller derby and the sweet oblivion that comes with the mental challenge of risking life and limb on skates!

Then, today, as if the universe had not gotten a big enough laugh at my expense, I found out that for the second time in two years, a guy who broke up with me to pursue a whirlwind courtship with somebody else has gotten married.  It was just about six weeks from my dumping to his vow-taking. 

Really, universe?  You've got some explaining to do.