becoming infinite

always learning. always growing. always lifting heavy things.


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there’s no crying in powerlifting!

i’m currently sitting in the airport, waiting to catch a 7am flight for a speedy day trip. since friday is the day i usually squat with my coach, we moved my session up to last night. which meant skipping wednesday’s rest day and doing thursday’s double instead.

even with my right quad still a little rough around the edges (i’m unbelievably thankful that our boss at the gym bought one of these for the trainers to use/me to sneak when the trainers aren’t using it) Week 3 of STV had me feeling great. my body fat is dropping and im putting on noticeable size in my shoulders and width to my back.

last night i showed up at 8pm to squat. we had been doing sticking point/1.25 squats for the past three weeks. to start Week 4 of STV we were going back to, as my coach calls it, “R.A.S.” – Regular-Ass Squats.

warm-ups felt good and we jumped from open bar to 95# to 135# without a problem. less than a year ago my max squat was 130# – i was waiting for the day when i could squat wheels (the 45s). now that’s my second warm-up after open bar work.

we hit 165# for a triple and it felt super, super solid. i belted up and we hit five triples at 185#. everything felt light and fast, i’m getting much better at driving into the bar and keeping my chest up, and i’m actually (finally!) getting some decent bounce out of the hole.

i looked up and caught myself in the mirror as i was getting under the bar and had to squint for a second. i look so different from the person i’m used to. my shoulders are significant, my quads are the kind you grow when you move heavy weight regularly – aka, feet apart, thighs together! – and my arms don’t hang at my sides any more because of the width of my lats.

never in a million years did i think i could look like this. never in a million years would i have imagined i would be standing in a fancy gym on a thursday evening putting almost 200# on my back and moving it around for easy triples.

and i am so grateful. sometimes i think about this sports and how much it has brought me and i get that little flutter in my chest and hitch in my throat like i’m about to cry out of sheer happiness.

five years ago, yoga saved me from myself when i was grasping at straws to finally get my eating disorder under control and out of my life.

two and a half years ago, running saved me from the avalanche of grief after my mom died.

and now…i don’t know what powerlifting is saving me from, but it’s sure doing something.

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sit in the suck.

as some of you may or may not know, i am a wannabe crossfitter. i almost joined a box last january, as a “something else” to add to my half marathon training. but then i got a ticket in florida that cost 3 months’ worth of crossfit, so i abandoned the idea. and then 6 months later i connected with my coach and the rest is powerlifting history.

i was watching the crossfit regionals this weekend and event 6 is a monster: 50-calorie row, 50 box jump-overs, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall balls, 50 ring dips…and then back down again. 21-minute time cap.

i turned on the live feed at the tail end of one of the men’s heats. only 2 men in the north central region actually completed the damn thing, to give you an indication of how brutal it was. no women in north central finished; stacie tovar was the only one to even make it back on the rower. but anyhoo, while watching one of the men complete the workout, as he was on the rower just tearing away, the absolute pain reading all over his face, one of the announcers said, “he is in the pain cave right now. and with a minute left…all you can do is sit in the suck.”

the hardest skill – and yes, it was a skill! – for me to wrap my head around in DBT was radical acceptance. the idea that sometimes…shit’s gonna happen. and there’s nothing you can do to change it, so you just…sit in the suck.

i think about the weight gain that came with recovery. i fought it for years – “well i can still be this weight and recovered…ish…” – because i couldn’t accept that my mental ‘ideal’ weight wasn’t one that was healthy for my physical self. and when i did finally come to terms with that…well there were still days where i would quite literally not leave my dorm room because i couldn’t stand the thought of putting my physical self out in front of people.

see also: it sucked.

when my mom died i tried so hard to be brave, to be strong, to be graceful. and i think i did an admirable job of being, in some capacity, all of these things. but sometimes, some days…you’re just walking down the street drinking a diet coke and you get slammed by a wall of sadness and all you can do is plop yourself down on the curb and cry.

and it sucks.

i try, really i do as it’s against my cynical nature, to look for the good in things. but the fact is, sometimes things just plain suck. and you you know what, sometimes it feels good to fight it – sometimes i just need to raise hell and be angry, and maybe i am banging my head against a wall but you can’t be graceful in the face of adversity all the time, right?

there are parts of recovery that just plain suck. most parts are great; some parts suck.

losing my mom…well, saying it sucked doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

and sometimes, you have to just embrace it. embrace it and sit in the suck.

 


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turning the tables: what i’m excited about.

like i mentioned in my previous post, i’m just beginning a new training cycle, and i’m ridiculously excited about it. i’m excited to get stronger. i’m excited to work on my weaknesses. and i’m excited to get bigger.

this is a revelation for me. i took measurements on saturday as a “pre-STV” baseline. body weight, body fat percentage, and waist, hips, chest, shoulders, and each quad. the prediction is that the first three will go down, and everything else will go up.

in layman’s terms, i’m going to get bigger.

and i am so excited.

this paradigm shift has occurred gradually over the past less-than-year that i’ve been lifting seriously. you wanna squat big? grow quads and hamstrings. pull heavy? grow more hamstrings, some glutes, and upper and middle back. want a big bench? getcha some pecs, delts, and triceps.

basically, you have to grow in order to…well, grow.

i go to bed dreaming of 40″ hips. every day in the gym i’m working toward broader shoulders and a wider back. my thighs touch and i don’t give two shits about it. after spending two decades wishing and willing myself smaller, frailer, more delicate, waif-like…it’s so liberating to finally say, “ya know what? i take up space and that’s okay. and i’m going to take up more space tomorrow than i do today because that’s what i want to do. because getting bigger and stronger is what makes me happy right now.”

i have put on a lot of muscle in the past year. and i plan to keep putting it on as long as it makes me happy to do so. right now, the gym is my happy place. lifting is my therapy, my drug. and i am 100% ready to get big to lift big.


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throwin’ it back.

here’s a little throwback thursday for ya!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWEpu1qhKRM (sorry, i can’t figure out how to embed videos!)

this was nearly exactly a year ago, when my other yogi colleagues and myself made a promo video for campus recreation! here i am in my power yoga teaching glory. : )

i actually had a good chuckle watching this, and it’s crazy to think that was an entire year ago!

  • my hair, thank goodness, has grown out of that horrid awkward phase. (new friends, i donate my hair every couple of years. i was, and still am, growing out this particular chop.)
  • i was just beginning my training cycle for the derby half marathon when this was filmed. running ~3o miles a week; lifting minimally. you can tell the difference in my body – i’ve put on 10-15lbs. since then, my back is broader, my quads are bigger, and i’m slightly fluffier. : )
  • i hate my voice but i guess i’m stuck with it.

a lot can happen in a year! (just ask my hairdresser – she’s always marveling at how quickly my mop grows.)

i have some interesting/fun things on the horizon that i’m getting ready to post about. until then, finishing up these first few days back to the class and teaching grind, and getting ready for some heavy squats tomorrow!


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survival and spitting fire.

Don’t worry about your body.
It isn’t as small as it once was,
But honestly, the world needs more of you.
You look in the mirror
like you’ve done something wrong,
But you look perfect.
Anyone who says otherwise is telling a lie
to make you feel weak.
And you know better.
You’ve survived every single day,
for as long as you’ve been alive.
You could spit fire if you wanted.

clementine von radics

first off, i love clementine von radics’ work, and if you haven’t heard of her, go here instead of reading the rest of this post.

something i haven’t talked about much (or at all) is how my shift in training, from distance running to powerlifting, has changed my body.

even when i was training for my half marathons i never had that endurance runner “look.” i’ve never been lanky and lean, that’s just not the way my body exists. i was seeded in the first wave (sub-8:00 pace) both times i ran the derby half, and looking around the corral as we were getting ready to go i remember thinking, “i am such a little brick compared to these people!”

then i got into powerlifting.

since july i have been training exclusively in powerlifting; i lift heavy most days of the week, and my cardio consists of lifting faster. i knew my body would change, but i have been honestly and consistently surprised by just how much.

without going into great boring detail, i have gotten bigger. there’s no sugar-coating it – my quads are bigger, my butt is bigger, my shoulders and back have gotten significantly broader.

and i’ll be honest, it’s been a huge adjustment mentally. i feel the most comfortable when i’m in the gym – partly because spandex is comfy (i know that seems counter-intuitive to some people, but if i could live in compression shorts and bro tanks, i would), and partly because when i’m in the gym throwing weight around, i don’t give two shits what i look like. all i know in that moment is i feel strong, and that’s all that matters.

but i definitely struggle in the mornings when i’m getting ready for work. we’re not in sundress weather any more; i’m stuck with a whole lot of separates, and they fit a lot differently than they used to. there are certain things i simply can’t wear right now – blazers that can’t contain my lats, jeans that have no prayer of holding my butt and thighs. and i’m not gonna lie, it’s tough. it’s difficult to intercept those thoughts of “oh my god i gained weight this is awful i’m fat” when they’re still – even after all this time – somewhat ingrained.

but then i get in the gym and i pull 250 pounds off the ground and think, “well shit, who cares if i have a big butt?! this body does some pretty damn cool stuff.”

so yes – my body is not as small as it once was. but when i think of all it can do, all it has survived, its size suddenly becomes irrelevant. and i know, damn well, that i could spit fire if i wanted.

(also, as an aside: fit and feminist linked my last post to their facebook page, and it generated a ridiculous amount of traffic last week. so thanks to the ladies there for the publicity, and thanks to all of you who visited and any of you who came back a second time!!)


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how making weight reminded me that weight is bullshit

last weekend i competed in my first powerlifting meet (and tied a state record bench and broke the state deadlift record, but that’s another post or another time). for those of you who are unfamiliar with how the sport works, there are three lifts – squat, bench, and deadlift, in that order – and you get three attempts at each. there are technical standards you have to meet with each lift, and you can compete raw (as i do, which means the only “equipment” you may use is a belt, knee wraps to squat, and wrist wraps to bench) or equipped (bench shirt, various other fancy suit-like things).

you also compete in weight classes.

the idea with weight classes is that it is to your benefit to be at the very top of yours. ie, i compete as a 56kg lifter. so when it comes time to weigh in, i want to be 55.9kg, not 53.5. which means that a lot of times you train at a higher weight than the weight at which you compete – in the weeks leading up to a meet you just cut out the extra weight.

now if you’ve been following along my little blogosphere, you may recall that i don’t own a scale. and i have not, in fact, owned one for several years. to be honest, one of the best parts about recovery was ditching the scale completely.

then my weight became something to be aware of, conscious of. i bought a scale, set it to kilos. i had to weigh 56kg or less on the day of my weigh-in in order to compete in the weight class we were aiming for.

the tuesday before weigh-in i weighed 58.5kg. i was panicking, texting my coach in a flurry. he kept telling me it would be fine. i was drinking tons of water (and peeing every ten minutes) to saturate my body with fluid; we readjusted my macros for the week so i was pushing tons of protein and keeping my carbs low. i watched my weight inch down. into the 57s i went. then on thursday night, i stopped drinking completely.

friday morning i woke up and was 56.1kg. i peed two more times that morning, drove to the venue after i taught my sophomores, and weighed in at 55.3kg.

the point of this isn’t to wow you with my ability to excrete fluid. it’s to make everybody step back and look at this objectively. i lost 3kg – that’s nearly 7lbs – in three days. i was eating six-egg omelets and what seemed like entire chickens every day. i was teaching and going to class and doing homework. i didn’t lose body fat – i lost fluid. that number – the number so many of us at one time or another get tied to, chained to – was nothing more than a gauge of how much i peed.

so yea, i lost about 5% of my body weight in less than half a week, and you know what? it doesn’t mean shit. i went home after i weighed in, drank a liter of pedialyte and some gatorade, ate waffles and eggs for lunch and had a whitefish sandwich for dinner, and weighed 58.5 kg the next morning as i got ready for the meet.

i’ll say it again: weight. is. bullshit.

the entire week was almost like passing through the looking glass to that mythological place where weight really is just a number. for the past few years it hasn’t even been that for me – if somebody were to ask me my weight, i would have given them a ballpark 15-pound range. i was that divorced from my weight. and that served me beautifully. but for that week leading up to the meet, i found myself at the center of an odd little experiment. my coach knew exactly what was going to happen, how the fluid would affect me, but i was in awe of the whole thing.

there was no attachment – this number didn’t mean anything. how could it, if it was so fickle as to be swayed so drastically simply by drinking a lot of water and cutting out pop-tarts for a few days?

i was the same person, the same athlete, the same perpetually awkward panda on friday, at 55.3kg, as i was 18 hours later on saturday morning at 58.5kg. the number didn’t change anything. because, as i’ve made clear, that number means nada.

i’m up to my eyeballs in a sport that i love. a sport that suits me, that is challenging and scary and exhilarating. a sport that celebrates strength and size, where somebody telling you that you have huge quads (which happened to me yesterday) is a day-making compliment.

i also happen to be competing in a sport with weight classes. and my first experience with “making weight” finally taught me what three dozen doctors and therapists spent a decade trying to get through my head: weight. is. bullshit.


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when you don’t want to pay it forward.

i mentioned this briefly in a post a few weeks ago, but it’s worth discussing again and more intently.

i have been largely (say…97%) eating disorder behavior free for a little over three years. i still think about body image and how i feel about and respond to my physical self, but as far as actual restricting and/or purging, that has been almost completely eradicated from my life. which is, to say the least, awesome.

yet something i’ve noticed in the general eating disorder community is this notion that if you come out on the other side, it’s practically expected that you will turn around and share your experience with others. that you’ll tell everyone how you did it, and act as some big inspirational figurehead of the Great and Elusive Recovery.

the thing is…i don’t want to. simple as that. the further removed i become from my eating disordered self, the less i want to be a part of the community as a whole.

reading that over, i sound like an asshole. but i’ll try and explain myself.

when i first got out of my renfrew/columbia double bill, i was all about recovery. i followed my meal plan perfectly, i followed my exercise plan perfectly, i religiously attended appointments with my therapist and my nutritionist and my GP. i journaled daily and started scrapbooking and doing jigsaw puzzles to keep my hands and mind busy. and i became obsessed with the idea of helping other people recover.

i called ANAD and had them send me a starter packet for setting up a local support group. i got involved in NEDA Week at my community college. i spoke on panels about body image and women in the media.

and all the while, i was only about 22% actually well myself.

i was using “recovery” as i assumed it to be – perfectly-planned and executed meals and workouts, vocal advocacy and the naive belief that i had any business giving advice – as a substitute for the disorder itself. it was my way of keeping a toe in that world, while also leaning the rest of my body vehemently the other way, proclaiming that i was “totally better” (Skins UK reference? anyone?) and just being an impassioned advocate.

needless to say, i came a hair’s breadth away from landing back in treatment not once but twice in the five years that followed. i played The Game – “i’ll only get as well as i absolutely have to be. that’s recovery enough.”

sorry, charlie. you either do this shit 150% or you don’t make it. go big or go home, so to speak. it took until the spring of 2010 – a full five years after i got out of columbia – to get that through my thick skull.

and now that i have – now that i finally am on my way to “getting it,” to realizing that recovery isn’t perfectly planned and organized like the light blue meal plan sheets my nutritionist used to send me home with each week, that it’s more like a hot mess disaster of estimation and panic and realizing that no, you don’t get to know every ingredient in every food you ever eat and that some days you’ll oversleep and miss the gym or you’ll be sick or maybe you’ll just be fucking tired or maybe even busy doing something like going out with your friends…now that i’m there, i have zero interest in going back. in any capacity.

but if somebody were to ask me “how i did it,” my response would be this: i just did. i stopped blaming other people, stopped blaming society and the media and genetics and my inborn personality traits. i stopped waiting for it to be easy. and i stopped fucking around being half-assed about it. there was no “oh, i’ll just restrict today because i have an audition tomorrow,” or “purging just this one time won’t matter – i’m just really full.” there is a fine line between allowing yourself room to make mistakes – relapse is a part of my story, for sure – and for using the fact that recovery is balls to the wall hard as an excuse to only do it halfway.

and honestly, nobody wants to hear that.

the best way i can show my recovery is by living my life and living it well. i train because i enjoy lifting heavy things and getting stronger; i don’t do it to burn calories or to look a certain way. i eat however i damn well please, knowing that i choose to eat in a way that will support me physically and emotionally (aka will eating a piece of apple pie plus my aunt’s amazing chocolate chip cookies on thanksgiving day help me lift better? probably not. but damn they make me feel good, so i’m going to freaking eat them).

some people thrive in support groups and 12-step programs, and that’s awesome for them. however, i know myself and i know i would not. it wouldn’t be good for me, and i wouldn’t be good for the other people there. so instead, i stick to myself. i celebrate my little victories, and when it’s all said and done, i know i have done recovery – finally – on my own terms.