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Friday, December 7, 2012

Improvement

I’m hitting my 3rd week of hard work.  Working hard, eating clean and focusing on my goals.
Not everything has gone to plan in the last 3 weeks but I’ve made the best choices I could at any given point in time. I haven’t missed a training session and have given every last ounce of myself in each of those sessions.
The results are showing.  I’m seeing some downward movement on the scales.  Interestingly I no longer obsess about that number as I once did. I know it’s important for it to continue to go down and that’s the focus of my coach at the moment. However for me I am much more driven by the physical changes and performance improvements.  Yes I know these are linked to that ever reducing number, but for me it’s continuing to develop as an athlete that drives me.
In week 1 my coach James outlined the first phase of my program and he set me a couple of homework tasks. The first one being 20 push ups on my toes every night. Without fail. He didn’t care that at this point I couldn’t go to depth or if I had to break them up into single reps.  I’ve been diligent with this.  I wouldn’t classify what I do as a push up.  The depth I am now achieving is almost ¾ the way to having my chest hit the ground, but for the purposes of this post I will refer them to push ups.   In just over 2 weeks my depth has increased by about 2 inches and I’m doing them in sets of 5 & 6.  I know the standard that is required and the timeframe I have to achieve that so am super focused on getting to depth ASAP then stringing reps together.
The other drill is to work on developing my midline strength and again 20 reps of a candlestick hold and negative release is my nightly prescription.  These are killers and am only able to do 3 at a time. But I get it done.
Our sessions have been hard & intense. Mostly lots of hard endurance style WOD’s that involve me constantly moving throughout the WOD and no time for resting.  Even during the general class sessions the WOD’s have been long and at times quite heavy.
All of this work, along with work I’ve done all year is showing rewards.
Earlier this week we did a WOD that contained Prone Rows (in push up position and alternate bringing each arm to chest with a dumbbell).  Previously I have only been able to do this on my knees and with a light weight.  This week not only did I rip them out in perfect form with 5kg dumbbells, but did 40 of those bad boys!! BOOM!
The WOD also included weighted sit ups with a 10kg plate held overhead.  I’ve done these before but only with a 5kg plate.  Once again I smashed out 40 of them with the 10kg plate and managing to keep my arms locked out in almost perfect position. Shattered at the end of that WOD but stoked.
Tuesday saw James inflict my nemesis upon me........Airdyne. He wanted me to ride for 10mins for max calories. Previously the longest I’ve had to do was 5mins. I was shattered and my legs felt like death. It was brutal so I certainly wasn’t looking forward to spending double the time on it. You fight so hard for every single one of those calories on the Airdyne. James had a goal for me to get just over 100cals for the effort.  I was simply focused on not coming off the bike and making the time. I set a reasonable pace that I could maintain. After I settled in I started doing 20 bursts of increased intensity and then easing back to my baseline for the remainder of the minute.
I found a spot in my brain where I could just switch off everything and focus on what I had to do.  The last minute I really raised the intensity as much as I could and at the end I had scored 128cals.  Hardest 128cals I’ve ever burnt I can tell you.
Checked my stats from the prev 5min effort and realised I had hit a PB for the 5min time and also overall. WIN
Wednesday night was purely a strength session focusing on weighted squat variations.  The last movement was an overhead squat with a plate. The overhead squat is one of my weakest movements. And holding a plate with the narrow grip I just couldn’t hit the right position so I just did regular overhead squats with the PVC pipe.  Yep that’s right no weight. For someone like me who loves to throw heavy stuff around it felt a little like I went backwards. BUT I know that getting the technique right at low weight or light weight is going to help me long term in lifting heavier. We did the same process with snatches etc a couple of months ago and that worked so well.
For the first time ever I was able to hit those squats to depth AND hold myself in a stable upright position. I was really happy with this progression as it’s been a long time coming. It means all the remedial work I’ve been doing to strengthen my midline, lats and also my mobility is paying off.  I did overhead squats as part of this morning’s WOD with 15kg and was not able to get to depth. I was still much improved but know I have a bit more work to do.  But still the win for me was feeling happier under the bar and more confident.
The other part of today’s WOD was ‘Isabel’ which is 30 snatches for time.
I last did this workout in Nov 2011 with an 8kg bar.  I had no confidence with the snatch movement and really struggled.  I got it done in 2:14 but I distinctly remember it was pretty ugly and basically involved me muscling the bar up.
James has done a lot of work with me on my technique for this complex lift. We’ve done a variety of weights and drills to build my strength, technique and confidence. This morning Matt told me to use 25kg for the workout.  I did a couple of warm up reps and it felt heavy and I wasn’t sure how I would go for 30reps.  I said to him I thought it was too heavy and his reply was ‘it’s supposed to be heavy’, argument over.
Funnily enough once it was go time that bar ripped up over my head. I did the first 10 reps unbroken then dropped the bar, shook out my arms and pushed on.  I did the next set of 5 before I started to feel the failure point on the last lift.  Broke up all the remaining lifts into sets of 5 then 2’s.  Before I knew it I joined the chorus of voices yelling time. I clocked out at 2:51. 
So yeah some of you will say well you did it slower so that’s no improvement, but I did do it with an extra 17kg on the bar AND this time I was actually performing the correct version of the snatch.  17kg might not seem like much of an improvement over a year but when it comes to throwing weight over your head it’s pretty decent.  Considering it’s only in the last couple of months I have been able to add weight and land the lift successfully.  For me it’s a big win for a lift I lacked confidence in.
Mentally this couple of weeks has been quite tough. I’ve been adjusting to a few things and finding my focus. But I find CrossFit gives me the goals and purpose to simple engage autopilot to get what I have to do done. As has happened so many times this year, when I step inside that box nothing else matters. It’s me doing what I love more than anything in the world, standing shoulder to shoulder with people I respect immensely.  In that moment it’s my time to do something for me.
This year is rapidly drawing to a close. Part of me is eternally grateful to close the door on what has been one of the hardest years I have ever endured.  At times however there have been some incredible moments which in not for the hard stuff I would never have experienced. 
I would never have competed and 5 CrossFit Games days, and gained enormous confidence from, oh and a new t-shirt collection!! I would never have competed in my first strongwoman event.  I would never have started focusing on my running and enlisted the amazing support of my run coach. I wouldn’t have made it to Melbourne to see my friend Hoffy show true bravery in completing the 2012 Burpee Challenge.  It hasn’t all been bad, and that’s something I need to remind myself of when the dark clouds roll over.
I’ve met some amazing people along the way and shared some incredible journeys, even if just for a brief time.  I’m getting much better at accepting people and relationships for what they are and being ok when they disappear from my life.  It is what it is. I can’t control them but as a good friend pointed out to me very recently I can control how I allow myself to feel about it. Their choices are a reflection on them and not me.  Again something I need to remember more frequently.
I’ve learnt this year life is uncertain, and yes it can be hard and brutal.  There are things to be worried about and afraid of. I am learning however the best way to deal with that is to just do the best I can, to be true to my values and who I am.
The improvements continue in all facets of my life and the learning never ends.  Not every day is going to be a PR day, some days you just gotta go back to basics and refocus, but on the good days make the most of that feeling as the bar passes up so effortlessly overhead. Hang on to that feeling and keep moving forward.

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