Ah, the glorious Fourth! For the first two-thirds of my life, it was a day for blowing up stuff, eating burgers, and getting in to the swing of summer vacation by acquiring a peeling sunburn and at least eighteen mosquito bites. Now it’s a reminder that the year’s half-over and an opportunity to reflect on how lame summer weather in Britain can be.
This year it also happens to fall ninety days before the IWF World Master’s Championships open in Germany. As my friend Carl said to me on Saturday, “That sounds like it ought to be a lot of time, but it really isn’t.” Nope, not at all. It seems like I qualified about forty-five minutes ago, not back in January.
But my entry fee was cashed last week, so it’s really happening in a matter of a few months. Progress has been… mixed.
Accessories Not Optional
The last six weeks have been patchy. I took a mental health break from weightlifting for about two weeks after the last competition in May. Then I began a four-week block of training which just finished on 25 June and was something of a struggle: I had to cut nearly one-third of my sessions short.
This usually meant blowing off accessory work, which is really important. (Dave takes pains when programming to choose exercises for the individual– in my case, to help sort out my wonky back/shoulders and remedy my shocking lack of overhead strength.) I even missed a few workouts entirely.
Part of this was due to what turned out to be B12-deficiency anaemia. While my diet hasn’t been ideal (see below), I am eating enough animal protein at present to get adequate levels of B vitamins. The current best guess is that my gut doesn’t absorb the stuff very well. This sets off a chain reaction in which my blood cells can’t utilise iron properly, which means they can’t carry sufficient oxygen, which makes me into a weak, weepy hedgehog who thinks everyone hates her and that happiness is a filthy lie.
But it turns out that my brain was just suffocating a bit. That is finally getting treated. I’ve had two B12 injections with another due before I head to America at the end of the month, and I have to tell you, the difference is pretty amazing.
Aside from that, I am also experiencing time management issues as I adjust to being a single parent. Here’s what my days look like when the Child is in the house and school is in session:
- 5:00 a.m. – Up, coffee, journal.
- 5:30 – 7:30 a.m. – Work.
- 7:30-9:30 a.m. – Operation Release the Kraken: school prep and school run (literal, in this sense, as we cab up to school and then I run home).
- 10:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – More work, possibly food, clean something.
- 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Afternoon school run, conducted on various buses.
- 4:00-7:30 p.m. – Food, play, and homework for the Child and/or schelpping by bus to the gym while the Child amuses herself with crayons, puppies, and a packed meal.
- 8:00 p.m. – Child to bed, dinner for me.
- 8:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. – Shower, tidy, (usually) more work, to-do list for the next day and then bed.
I know people with actual, real jobs (hi, Lauren! hi, Dr. Jo!) or multiple children have it rougher than this. I also know that this is an adjustment period and I should be patient with myself and blah blah, etc. But damn if it doesn’t make athletin’ harder than it used to be.
The Child is tolerant and pleasant, but I can’t take her to the gym every day. Sometimes she needs to play with her pals; sometimes we need to see the ducks and swans; sometimes we need to make giant-ass bubbles. You understand.
You’re an Athlete Even When You’re Not at the Gym
There is also the fact that I am still firmly on the Divorce Diet. If you’re not familiar, it goes like this:
- Buy a shit-ton of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Watch it all rot in the fridge
- Eat bits of the Child’s food and occasionally binge on Chinese takeaways
- Supplement with Elvis Juice
- Cry regularly due to overwhelming existential dread (and to shed excess salt from takeaways)
It’s not exactly a setup that’s conducive to the gainzzzz. MiniBIG was not best pleased to hear this. “You’re an athlete even when you’re not at the gym,” she reminded me, while more or less making this face:
I already know this, having been a competitive athlete all through my teen years and growing up with an athletics coach for a Dad. I just haven’t been living by it.
I can’t do much about my schedule at the moment, but I can adjust my lax sleeping and eating behaviours*. Imposing discipline there will actually help me out in the form of more energy to handle the rest my life. As Lauren reminds us, self-care is important.
Aside from all of that bullshit, there is the actual weightlifting aspect. I’ve just finished week one of a new strength block. I’m really enjoying it, not least because I get to slrdl.
Today I found out what a slrdl is, and sadly it isn't a slug-armadillo-owl (a/k/a the Ultimate Animal). #doyouevenslrdl #sharethegrind #girlswholiftweights #fitfam #instafit #motivation #fitness #weightlifting #dedication #strong #strongnotskinny #doodles #girlsthatsquat #olympicweightlifting #girlswholift #minibiglifts #olympiclifting #forward #gorillapt
I have also been getting in fortnightly one-to-ones with Dave to work on positions and timing, and that is starting to make a difference. I am slowly gaining the ability to judge why I’m missing lifts, whether a made lift was a good one, and how to self-correct.
But with only three months to go, I don’t see myself being able to make that 150kg total I wanted to hit by October. Between January and May my competition total went from 121 to 130. Realistically, I will be lucky to make 140 at worlds. While there are women in my age and weight category out there with 180kg totals, the winners at worlds have generally posted totals around 145. (I imagine that’s because the women tossing 180 kg about are still competing as seniors.) I was hoping to be in the 145+ range to have a shot at a medal. Maybe that’s still possible, but I don’t have the experience to make that judgement call.
This is likely to be the only world championship in anything I will ever qualify for. It’s not a particularly high bar**, qualifying for World Master’s, but it’s what I’ve got, and it does mean an awful lot to me. I want to represent my gym– meaning all the friends who have supported me– on an international stage. (And let’s face it, that would never happen in a CrossFit context even if I trained for it six days a week. I’d just be a slightly leaner version of me with a totally fucked rotator cuff.)
And I also get to represent my adopted country, sort of, as the American who happens to be a British Master’s Champion.
The Plan is to Fan This Spark into a Flame
So, this is my shot. I have 90 days, and they all need to count. I will pin down King Meathead about exactly what we’re doing at our one-to-one later today. I have planned out my food and prepped it for this week for the first time in about two years. I am looking at my weight again and aiming to get at least six and a half hours of sleep every night this week. Then seven next week, and so on to eight.
Sarah’s kindly made herself available to amuse the Child during a couple of my training sessions. Once school is out for the summer our schedule won’t be so insane. We’ll be able to hit the gym during the middle of the day. I will also get a few sessions in at my Dad’s university when I’m home, and I’ve ordered a kettlebell to be delivered to their house for me to use daily.
In case it sounds like I am focused on weightlifting to the exclusion of all else, I’m not. But as we’ve noted on these… pages? pixels? whatever– before, being engaged in sport gives you a structure on which to hang the rest of your life. Order begets order, achievement begets achievement. This is true whether your structure involves barbells or volleyballs, or even something else entirely, like paintbrushes.
Finally, because it is the Fourth of July, and because there is nothing we Americans love more than cheesy patriotism and show tunes***, here’s a song from a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers. Okay, the hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers, the one that is winning all the things:
There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.
*Incidentally, I’m re-evaluating my relationship with animal protein at the moment. Partly out of ecological anxiety, and partly because my endometriosis symptoms are coming back with a vengeance since returning to a meat diet. (This past Saturday my whole left side was screaming all day no matter how many cocodamol I threw at it– though I crushed my workout anyway. I just wasn’t very friendly whilst doing it.) While I don’t think the (limited) amount of evidence out there shows that meat-eating causes endo, I can buy that it might aggravate the symptoms due to inflammation. Certainly going straight-up vegan dramatically reduced the pain and other issues the last time I did it. Do any of our pals out there know how to manage a plant-based diet and serious strength gains?
** Pun totally intended.
***And guns. And American football (a/k/a “human rights rugby”).