Changing My Mind

A few months ago, I let my coach choose my next goal. He knows me pretty well and I trust him. He picked fat loss, with a sprinkle of powerlifting to keep it interesting. We geared up, changing the focus of my training with him to metabolic conditioning. I checked in with an RD and had my actual base metabolic rate esti-measured (it’s high, at about 1400Kcal/day) and had her work up a diet plan I never followed. I hate diet plans. She’s a great RD, I’m a terrible RD client.

We did okay for a month or so. I started deflating. It was fun to deflate, even if the scale didn’t move much, and then I started a new job and all hell broke looser. There were blog posts about the anxiety I experienced, the uncertainty about training, shifts in focus, flat lifts, and eating school food at 51. I missed the magic of summer, working out five days a week, goofing, sweating, and cussing.

There was a failure in my line of thinking when I accepted the fat-loss goal. This is hindsight and I’m working at a low “B” average, but see if this is plausible. I shrank like crazy when we started lifting to prep for the first powerlifting meet in Atlanta. If not paying attention to how much I weighed could make me shrink, then surely I could become a “normal” sized person if that was the focus! This time I would have my coach, and he’s awesome, and everything would be playing-with-baby-goats awesome and I would finally, finally, finally reach My Goal.

You talk about it a lot.

@coach_cardigan

Fat loss has been a given-goal of mine since kindergarten when Charlie Louera told me, at age 4, I looked pregnant. I talk about fat loss a lot. I rant about fat loss being a woman’s given goal. I seethe with resentment when “fit folk” assume I’m only seeking fat loss and I’m new at this athleticism thing. Seethe. If they knew me as well as my children, the fit folk would run and go clean their rooms at that moment. It was only natural for my coach to pick “fat loss”.

There were a few snags, including the aforementioned anxiety, scheduling, programming, and school food, but most important snag of all was it didn’t excite us enough to pull through the anxiety, scheduling, programming, and school food. My coach isn’t a “get a beach body” kind of personal trainer. He is into increasing sport performance, preferably strength sports, but he was willing to play along and help me out. I learned all over again, stepping on a scale daily or weekly twists my psyche into a pretzel, and the effort required to prep and pack my lunches, take care of my recovery, do cardio, and stay away from the donuts in the breakroom is greater than any excitement over a shrinking hip measurement.

We suck at fat loss, and it’s okay.

me

Not so long ago, flailing at a goal would have meant concentrated self-recrimination, renewed vows of obedience to The Plan, and re-doubled efforts. I’m old now and beginning to see the wisdom of doing what works. We are good at tending to an aging female body and keeping it injury-free. I’ve lifted consistently for a year without new injury, fixed a nagging shoulder injury, crafted a legal squat out of I don’t even know what, added 80 pounds to my deadlift, and laughed a lot. Let’s do more of that. The size of my ass will have to take care of itself. I set a new goal. It’s ambitious. It suits us.

This is the thing, though. In order to reach the new goal and keep myself together body and soul, I will have to do everything for the fat loss goal plus more. Everything has to be on point. Nutrition, sleep, recovery, workout frequency and quality. All of it. I’m pretty excited. It was fun to hear my coach tell other people at the powerlifting meet about our goal. He sounded proud to mastermind the effort.

The red and the yellow, you’re going to pick up a red and a yellow. Visualize that.

@coach_cardigan

At the powerlifting meet Saturday, at the end of a very long day, I rounded the corner of the screen separating the warm-up area from the judging platform for my third deadlift attempt and nearly cried with joy. My coach had been going on about a red and a yellow for weeks and at some level I understood he was talking about plate colors, but didn’t realize what he meant until I spotted the bar. There they were. A red plate and a yellow plate on either side. He said they were going to be there and I was going to pick it up. The whole scene was like the end of a treasure hunt. Seek the red and the yellowwwwwwwww [cue creepy voice].

The bar weighed 234 lbs and the only person who lifted lighter than me was the 11-year-old, but it was a personal best for me by nine pounds and a relatively smooth lift. Every time we follow the plan and the plan pays out, we build trust in ourselves as individuals and as a team. He makes plans, I mostly follow them. Lunches and snacks for the week are packed, laundry is done. It’s time for bed.

Tomorrow starts the next mesocycle, the next plan, the new goal.

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What do they mean to you?

The medals from my first powerlifting meet came today. When I’m talking about a new goal with a client, one of the first things we have to get right is what the goal means. One way to explore the underlying meaning of a goal is to do the classic 5 WHYs exercise. Originally developed to be a part of root-cause analysis in quality improvement efforts, the 5 WHYs can also be used to get to the root motivation.

I never would have thought to do the meet if my coach hadn’t suggested it before Winter Break, and I’m not sure who was more surprised I agreed to it. For this particular goal, I chose to do a powerlifting meet to give me something to focus on while I lifted weights to keep me de-stressed during the last semester of grad school. The meet would also occur after graduation and hopefully off-set the graduation let-down.

None of those reasons ascribe any meaning to the medals on my desk. What do they mean?

The human mind chases after the next thing. Today, I am three weeks post-competition, two weeks into the next training macrocycle, and at least three evil plans deeper in the stack. I have already moved on to the next things.

What did it mean to participate in a powerlifting meet?

It means I kept my commitments. I showed up when it was cold. I showed up when it was hot. I showed up when I was tired. I showed up when I was rested. I showed up to get under the bar when I couldn’t stand to be anywhere. In six months I missed three scheduled workouts.  It means I compromised when necessary. On the days I couldn’t lift the scheduled weight or all the reps, I did what I could. It means my identity shifted. I have always been “a swimmer,” even when competing in other sports I was merely a guest on vacation from my real self. I’m not a powerlifter, nor am I exactly sure how I’ll know I’ve become one of those amazing women who pull and push heavy weights, but at this meet the feeling of not quite belonging was notable by its absence.

It means I have an incredibly supportive spouse and a wonderful coach, who were with me when it was cold and hot, when I was tired and moody, even when I threw a barbell into a set of J-hooks. They were with me at dinner, in the unexpected restaurant with the beautiful live music and the mango sorbet, which I enjoyed more than my deadlift PR.

Don’t leave the story thinking this is some Cinderella tale! There were more awards than women in my bracket and the medals are effectively for participation. Participation can still be packed with meaning.

 

 

Trust

School is over. The first powerlifting competition is in two weeks. What next?

I have a good relationship with my coach, so I let him choose. If you don’t have the kind of coach you could trust with your body, find a new one. Seriously. He’s certified, degree’d, and committed to holistic well-being. We’ve spent more than (2 hrs * 4 weeks * 4 months) + (3 hrs * 4 weeks * 6 months) together and he knows me fairly well. He was also spot-on with his lift estimates for my first meet, even with my wacko eating, stress, and sleeping the last semester of school. We committed to eighteen months. If I had eighteen months to spend on a goal, what should it be?

He chose body transformation with a sprinkle of powerlifting for interest. We agreed to blog both sides of the quest over at groundedsc.com, because AO is also my business partner. My blog is about my stuff, the emotional and mental game, and my response to coaching. His blog is about working with a difficult client on a challenging goal, e.g. balancing the calorie deficits required for fat loss while increasing muscle mass and maintaining powerlifting performance.

You’ll be a different person in eighteen months. So will I.

Body transformation is an ambitious goal. In theory and in practice, I understand nutrition, change psychology, habit formation, blah, blah, blah, so AO has stayed out my nutrition struggles. He’s the CSCS, I’m the LMSW. We have scopes of practice, but I’m having trouble settling into consistent eating habits and my weight loss is stalled. He’s gently insisting on a higher level of accountability because as a client I am back to knowing and not doing. I thought I could count macros and cut once school was out and I was so wrong. As long as I am still inhaling chips and guac or treating myself to a burger and fries this often, he can’t do his job. He is very good at his job.

The plan at the moment is to use Precision Nutrition‘s ProCoach system to manage my return to sane, consistent eating. It will lead me back through thirteen evidence-based habits, while I reflect on what’s important to me and any barriers I experience. On the movement side, AO is anticipating an eighteen-month macro cycle composed of four meso cycles, each of which will culminate in a powerlifting meet. Each meso cycle consists of a fat loss, hypertrophy, and strength microcycle. I’m glad he’s doing the spreadsheet because it hurt my brain just to construct the sentences.

We are also avoiding setting any end-game goals. It was his idea to set micro-goals as we go and not look too far ahead. I suspect, however, he will set secret goals. His eyes lit up and he got a vision when he thought about me being a different person, I saw the thought run across his forehead. We don’t care so much about the scale as we do body-fat and tape measurements. The scale will move, but weight loss isn’t a linear process and I care less about how much I weigh than how much weight I can push or pull. I ordered an inexpensive at-home body-fat BIA device which may not have high validity but should have good reliability.

If you can’t do this with your coach/trainer, find a new one. You deserve better.

 

If I have to tell you…

Is such a chick thing. Quite by accident, today we touched on game-day mental skills. What do you need from me? Are you going to be serious? What are you going to be like? Super relevant questions, certainly worth asking and worth asking now.

I’m so glad you asked.

A performance plan begins months before actual competition. I have two events, bench press and deadlift, at this first meet. Each event has its own goal. The plates will be color-coded.

vtx-colored-rubber-bumper-plates-19__54598.1503414736
https://buckeyefitness.com/vtx-230-lb-colored-bumper-plate-set/

This means I know what my final bars will look like. Those are the bars to plan for. The bench press goal is 125. That’s 45 pounds of bar + 2(yellow + black). That’s why you take Algebraic Systems, so you can do math without numbers. My coach thinks bar + 2(blue) would be cool. 115 isn’t bad, especially considering last spring my left shoulder was a hot mess. However, let’s be positive here. The visualization has to include as much sensation as possible. I have to see the bar, see the plates, feel the bench on my back, smell that gym smell of plates and sweat, hear noise, listen to the official’s instruction, set my shoulders, count the bar off, feel the inhale, then the eccentric motion, listen for “up!”, and feel my chest, shelf, and core engage and watch the bar lift effortlessly through my exhale and then rack the weight. I love that thunk.

The next questions are what happened in the 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes before the lift? Make the plan, practice the plan, execute the plan.

The deadlift goal is 240, which works out to 45 pounds of bar +2(red + blue + green + change). Same process. Make the movie of the successful lift and decide what leads up to the successful lift.

I’ve had a bunch of coaches, some good, some bad. No one has ever asked what I needed to perform. Ever. It’s been a very long time since I executed an athletic performance. Best performances come from a place of laughter and stillness, just hanging out in the garage.

How will I be? The same way I’m lifting every day, Pinky. Thanks for asking.

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