Playing around in our new gym, Crystal Coast Strength & Conditioning.
Training underway for the 2013 Raw Unity Meet 6 in Tampa in February. This week marks the first week of my 11 week pre meet training cycle.
Lot’s of excitement. Last weekend we hosted our first powerlifting meet at CCSC to benefit Hope for the Warriors. Congrats to all that participated and thanks to those that attended to show support for the lifters and injured or fallen service members and their families.
The mission of Hope for the Warriors® is to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families, and families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. Hope For The Warriors® is dedicated to restoring a sense of self, restoring the family unit, and restoring hope for our service members and our military families.
When I injured my calf on Monday afternoon I had an odd sense of calmness pass over me. It may have even been relief in fact. Two days later I recognize that my injury was symbolic of my breaking point. Too much stress and something must give. For the past several weeks I have been in denial about the impact that major life changes are having one me.
Without delving too far into my personal life I will share with you a couple of the major things. My husband and I are moving to another state in three weeks. We are in the process of purchasing a house and all of the stress that comes with the investment. Mac will be changing jobs and going back to flying helicopters – I fear for his safety. I need to make sure that all of my clients have a plan for when I leave. I will be starting my professional life over from scratch. I may or may not have a job when I get there. I will be far from my family. Mac will likely deploy to Afghanistan during our stay in North Carolina and I will be alone….
Yet with all of this brewing beneath the surface I worry about whether or not I will be able to bump my squat weight as planned each week and that I can continue to train my clients without disruption until the last day in Virginia. In my mind, my body and it’s capabilities are totally in my control when other factors are not. I have refused to cancel appointments, take a break from intense training or make any appropriate changes that would be expected at a time like this. People think that I’m nuts or selfless but that it not the case. The truth is that I’m scared. I am scared to stop doing the two things that keep me centered – work and my own training. It is more selfish than selfless.
Training is my coping mechanism. It is my way to release stress and exercise control. It is my way to feel when my defense mechanisms leave me feeling numb. The satisfaction that I derive from training carries over into all aspects of my life. Monday afternoon my right calf decided to teach me a lesson that my brain was unwilling to accept. There are speed bumps in the road that you must slow down for. Maybe I need to settle for maintaining my strength right now instead of improving it. Maybe I need to cancel an appointment or two… Maybe being smart doesn’t mean that I am being weak.
In a couple of hours I will go out to the garage and train to the best of my abilities with my injury. I am afraid. I am not afraid of pain or further injury – I am afraid of failure. I fear not being able to do the one thing that is my steady when the rest of my life seems to be in chaos. Regardless of what happens today in the garage it will all be okay. Today I finally came to terms with the magnitude of the stress and it is an enormous relief.
What you don’t see on yesterday’s training video is the injury that happened at the end. After our strength work was complete, Mac and I went outside to push the prowler. On the very first step – the push off in fact, there was a pop and debilitating pain in my right calf. I stopped, couldn’t stand on the leg and sat on the concrete.
I told Mac to continue as his turn was next but he recognized that something was really wrong. I knew that I would not be able to stand on it. Mac drove the car over to come get me and we made a quick trip to the house to get my ID then off to the local emergency room.
Almost 6 hours later I left the ER on crutches with a prescription for muscle relaxers, ibuprofen, crutches and an ace bandage. Long story short, I was never seen by an ortho and still need a referral from my Primary Care Physician to see one. Frustrating insurance stuff…..
The ER ruled out Achilles rupture and a blood clot through ultrasound. The best logical guess is a minor tear of the gastrocnemius. Based on what I have read online, I can expect a full recovery within 6 weeks.
Today was a scheduled off day from training. I am most sad that I will be unable to attend the Starting Strength seminar this weekend in Atlanta – I have been looking forward to it for months. A modified version of my training will resume tomorrow. Having been an athlete for over 30 years I have coped with and recovered from many injuries. I believe this has had a great contribution to my overall strength and mental toughness.
A short reflection – In 9th grade I broke my ankle and tore ligaments falling off the balance beam at gymnastics practice. I resumed conditioning while still on crutches. I did a lot of push-ups and pull-ups with the weight of my cast. I returned to the gym still in a walking cast and got back up on the beam. I remember being fearful. The weight of the cast was throwing off my balance. I hesitated with fear before executing a skill and my coach said, “Focus, put the fear aside or you will fall and break the other one.”
Getting back in the game asap is imperative to my sanity. I will focus on strengthening weaknesses, continuing to improve in areas that are unaffected and rehabbing the injury. Mac asked me yesterday how I could be so calm. I responded that injuries are part of life and an inherent risk in doing what I love most. I will use this as an opportunity to get even stronger.
Yes, I am feeling sorry for myself and I am mad at the world right now. I would be lying if I said that I was okay today. Luckily I have lots of help and people that care about me. My husband Mac has been amazing. Not a single complaint out of him last night in the ER.
Going to post videos again starting tomorrow…it is going to be tough for me to show weakness and put it out there for everyone to see.
I am also sad for Millie, my bulldog. She was in hardcore training – I was taking her out on conditioning runs daily. She is going to be stuck in the house for a little while and is currently snoring at my feet. Luckily I have recently brought on a wonderful apprentice, Diana Edgell, who will be assisting me with my human clients when necessary.
About 4 weeks ago, my friend and fellow lifter, Margie Lempert told me about this meet. She was planning to lift in it as well as several other people that I knew from NYC. For several months I had been throwing around the idea of competing in a powerlifting competition. I figured this would be the way to truly test my lifts. I did not alter my training until the last week when I took my volume way down and did no olympic lifts. Typically I train 5-6 days per week; I follow the Texas Method for my slow lifts (squat, bench, press, deadlift), alternating press and bench each week with additional snatch and clean & jerk 3x per week. This has been working well and my numbers have been steadily improving. The last week I did my planned openers for a triple on Monday, and my opening numbers for a single on Wednesday.
Friday morning Mac and I left for Philadelphia. We stopped at U Penn to meet and visit Jim Steel and his staff. The facility and the people were amazing – I have never seen anything like it. Tracy (one of Jim’s assistant coaches) and I had bonded through email prior to my visit. I reached out to Jim after seeing a video of Tracy squat on the Starting Strength forum. Talk about motivation!!! If you step one foot inside this facility, your view of strength and conditioning is forever changed. Tracy and I had lots in common – both physically in stature and our personalities. Mac PR’d his squat during our visit and because it was the day before the meet, I just watched. You can imagine how hard it was to be in there and not get to touch a barbell! I’ll be back to train next time!
I weighed myself on the scale there and was within my contest weight range. Yay! That meant that I got to have my first authentic Philly cheesesteak for lunch. Thank you Jim for the recommendation.
After checking into the hotel, Mac and I headed over to the expo center for the technical meeting and to get a weight on the competition scale. Turns out that the technical meeting is for the officials and we were the only one there. This worked to my benefit because the head referee was kind enough to give me a private rules briefing and allowed me to get my rack heights for the meet. I got on the scale, I was 1.4 lbs over. That meant that I was done drinking water and dinner would certainly not be another cheesesteak. We ate at an Italian restaurant where I watched Mac eat a scrumptious pasta dish and dip his bread in the infused olive oil that he washed down with a Heineken. On the other hand, I had a small steak, a small piece of chicken and asparagus with 6oz black coffee.
We were in bed shortly after 8PM. I slept well.
We woke up at 5am Saturday morning and left for the meet at 6. I drank a half cup of “in the room” coffee and realized how addicted I am to caffeine. I honestly feared a caffeine withdrawal headache. Once again, we were the first ones there, and again this worked to our favor . The weigh in and equipment check didn’t start till 7am. – I checked in, gave my opening weights and weighed in first. I made weight – 67.4kg in the 67.5kg class. We left and went to Bob Evans for a real breakfast. 2 cups of coffee, 2 glasses of water, 2 scrambled eggs, 3 strips of bacon and sourdough toast with butter.
The meet started promptly at 9AM. I was in the second women’s flight and the last lifter in the flight. I opened my squat at 264lbs, good lift. I was given a warning though that I did not wait long enough to hear he officials command to squat. The lift was super easy – it felt like I could do 10 reps with it. This weight is normally a heavy triple for me. We chose my next lift to be at 275lbs – we were following the plan that we had outlined at home.
Second lift – no lift! Rookie mistake. I didn’t wait for the squat command. Perfect squat and it didn’t count. I thought I heard the command. In retrospect, I don’t know what I heard. When I am focused I tune everything out and I need to get better at listening for commands. We then made a decision to be more conservative on my last lift. My original plan was to go for 286 but we chose to go for 281 because my confidence was shaken. Third lift – 3 white lights! It was a PR but clearly not a maximal effort.
About an hour later it was time to bench. This was the first time I had ever witnessed people getting in and out of bench shirts. I think I would have a panic attack if I ever tried to get into one of those. Once again, I was the last lifter in the flight. I opened at 187.25 – good lift. The lift was easy – effortless! This was decision time. Original plan was to hit 200 on my second attempt and then to try to set the American Record on the third attempt with 205lbs. This was on the understanding that I would be given a fourth attempt to break a record. During the private rules brief we learned that USAPL had changed the rule and no longer allowed a fourth attempt for any reason except technical fouls not the fault of the lifter. The encouragement from other people got into our heads. They all suggested that we go for the record on the second attempt allowing the opportunity for a second chance should something go wrong or I get called for a technicality. I felt great and we listened to the advice. I missed my second attempt. It was too big of a jump for me from my opener – almost 20lbs. In the gym Mac and I know that I perform best on the bench with 5lb jumps. The missed lift wasted my triceps and left my lower back fatigued. I went for it again without having another option on the third attempt and missed again. We learned a ton from that experience. Mac knows how my body performs better than anyone else as he watches every lift everyday. We can’t listen to anyone else. We also recognize that setting an American record in one lift can be a conflicting goal with going for the highest total. I gave up pounds on the total by attempting to set a record. We won’t make this mistake at Nationals.
There was a long wait before the deadlift because of all of the “bench only” lifters. I used this time to hang out with my family that came to watch, meet other competitors, and eat. I ate a hot dog, gummy bears, chocolate covered raisins, and had lots of water – lunch of champions!!!! I Felt strong on the deadlift warm-up and we decided to bump the opener up from the planned 297lbs. I learned to adjust my set-up slightly and it made a huge difference. I hit 295lbs on the last warm-up and we bumped the opener to 308lbs. This would lock down my elite total on the first lift. Once again, I was the last lifter in the flight. First lift – 308, second lift – 319, third lift 330.5 PR! All good lifts. All easy!
My last lift concluded the morning session of female lifters. Thirty seconds later I was selected by the head official for drug testing. I was escorted to fill out paperwork and had to sit at a table under supervision until I was ready to give a visually supervised urine sample. So much for modesty. Nonna Hubbard, a top Master’s lifter (40-49) that set 3 American records was soon sent to join me. The two of us spent lots of time together – she is an amazing woman. Her husband Peter, was a huge help to us throughout the day yesterday. Peter also set an American Record in the Bench yesterday – he is 73 years old.
The awards ceremony that was supposed to follow was pushed to the evening after the second session because the meet was running so long. Mac and I went out to eat a nice meal and to have a cocktail. The Sangria went right to my head. We got back in time to watch the bench press and deadlift of the 165 and 181 men and spend some time with our friends including Rupa, Paulie and Becca Steinman, Michele, and Margie. During this time a few of my friends from NYC to include Jeremy Fisher were completing, so I was able to support them and their efforts.
The meet was a top notch experience. We left at the conclusion of the women’s awards ceremony so that we could be back home today on our first Wedding anniversary. I took first place, put up a total which is classified as “Elite”, and qualified for Nationals. I am happy. My hamstrings, butt, and lower back are sore today. Back to regular training tomorrow!
Many thanks to my husband Mac for the daily support and coaching, my family for coming out to the meet, the Hubbards (Nonna and Peter) for their help and wisdom, Rip for his continued expert guidance, and Jim Steel for his last minute pointers on the deadlift.
Easy day of weighted pull ups…so we had a little fun in the garage today with a friend’s daughter that is staying with us. She’s an amazing little girl with a beautiful smile and an infectious personality. We’ll miss Mercie when she moves to West Virginia.
I profess to be nothing more than the husband of an amazing athlete, an avid reader, and fan of the sport. I have literally watched Gillian do THOUSANDS of snatches in the 3 years I have known her. I have filmed hundreds of reps and studied them, looking for ways to understand her movement and the lift we call the snatch.
This shot is of a moment that occurred yesterday many times…Gillian in full extension at the end of the second pull. Previous to today, this happened with such infrequency we considered it a fluke with no real means to replicate it.
As a result of training the Split Snatch, Gillian worked through her injury, competed, and was able to replicate FINISHING the second pull. This is a tremendous victory, and as we continue to train together, grow, and experience this exciting sport, we now have the tools to do so.
We start training again on Monday. We’re currently in Ft. Knox, KY to see my daughter graduate from Leaders Training Course. 2500+ miles on the motorcycle, 15 workouts with Rip, and a lifetime of memories.
I frequently get asked about movement prep and warm-ups. In my gymnastics workshop I do a 30 minute segment on warm ups that focuses on preparing the body for activity through increased circulation, core exercises, active stretching, joint mobilities, progressive weight bearing and neuro muscular cuing. The warm-up that I teach is rather extensive. I consider it to be a menu of options and encourage my students to choose movements from it that are pertinent to their upcoming workout. For example, if the day’s workout includes deadlifts, make sure to include the hamstring ROM as well as the core integration exercises. If the workout includes handstand push-ups, make sure to address all of the joints of the upper body with progressive weight bearing.
I am in the process of creating a video library of warm-ups (this is going to take me a while). For now, I would like to provide you with a list of the movements that I include in the workshop as well as an outline of the logic of the warm-ups.
My method to warming up is generally as follows:
1. Increase heart rate and respiration (3-5 minutes)
2. Core integration exercises (all planes including isometric and active work) (10 minutes)
3. Active stretching (ROM) (5 minutes)
4. PNF activity (balance and neuro muscular cuing) (3 minutes)
5. Any pre-workout skill training/ progressions (10 minutes)
Below is a list in order of my 5 parts to a comprehensive warm-up. I am paying special attention to parts 2 and 3.
1. Heart rate and Respiration
3-5 minutes of any large muscle activity. Can include jumping rope, rowing, running, calisthenics or any movement of choice to raise heart rate, respiration and circulation. Should include some functional BW movement such as squats, lunges, push-ups and sit-ups
2. Core Integration Exercise
To include work in prone, supine and side positions both static and active with a mix of flexion, extension, adduction, abduction and rotation. Movements are done on the ground. Basic exercises are as follows:
Supine TVA contractions
Supine Adductor activation
Bridges (static & active, uni and bilateral)
Planks (side and front for :30 hold)
Active planks (all forms of movement while stabilizing in a plank position)
Side lying hip rotation (internal/external hip rotators)
Side lying hip abduction
Prone alternate arm/leg extensions from quadraped position (static & active)
Flexion w/ rotation (sit up w rotation)
3. Active Stretching
Either in place or walking across the floor. Move through these stretches with the cadence of a regular exercise. Designed to increase circulation, cue body positions and activate muscle while the core position remains stable and locked:
Walking hamstring stretch
Walking ITB stretch
Walking Quad stretch
Walking figure 4 glute stretch
Lateral lunging adductor stretch
Kneeling Quad/hip flexor stretch
PVC pass throughs
PVC circumduction (big circles clockwise and counter clockwise)
4. PNF Activity
Include movements such as single leg toe touches to prep the nervous system. An example would be to stand on one leg and reach down to the ground and touch a target with the opposite hand and then reach overhead while maintaining balance.
(more to come on these types of activities in a later post)
5. Skill training/progression
This is where you would include the teaching or progressions of any of the skills that you are doing in the workout. For example: Burgener warm-up for a snatch, my handstand progressions before handstand push-ups, muscle-up progressions from knees (always do these even if you have a muscle-up to prepare the shoulder for an extreme ROM)