Thursday, April 03, 2014

"Everyone was built to do something"

With the shoulder pain I've been having, squatting has been tricky.  I've had to switch from a low-bar squat to a high-bar squat (or more accurately, a kind of fucked-up hybrid with a high-bar thumb-wrapped grip and a lowish-but-not-all-the-way-low bar position).  I can't quite engage the grip on the right side, which means I'm listing to the left a little, and that's resulted cumulatively in some mid-back pain on the left side.  The shoulder injury isn't serious (I have full range of motion and little if any strength loss—it just hurts like a bitch when I try to get under the bar in low-bar squat position), but it's chronic and irritating—I'm currently dosing heavily with aspirin, per doctor's orders.  The total effect is that my squat, which is generally the lift by which I gauge how I'm doing in the gym, is pretty stagnant.  I squatted the safety bar for awhile, then switched back to the Olympic bar.  I've worked it back up slowly from 185 to 205 despite the shoulder, and I'm working on form.  The two things I'm worst at are keeping my knees out and getting the rhythm of the rep right.  I tend to drop down too quickly, pause at the bottom of the lift, and then let my knees come in to take the weight onto my quads for the drive up.  In the absence of pushing weight up, I'm trying to work on knees out (i.e. hip drive, posterior chain activation), on getting the stretch reflex at the bottom, on controlling my descent and maintaining my core tension.  All of these improvements will help me put weight on the bar more quickly when I'm back at 100%.  The stretch reflex will be particularly important—the coach who works with me the most often points out that a pause squat is an assistance exercise that people squat less on than they can when they're using the stretch reflex, so if I can learn to stop pausing, I should get some mileage (poundage) out of it.  And if I can squat 205x5 with solid technique even when I'm not 100% without feeling like I'm about to die, I know I'll be able to blow through 225 again.

Anyway, a woman I really like was watching me squat during her own set break (and this is a thing I can do, now; I can handle people watching me do things while wearing spandex, like specifically observing my body), and was very complimentary about my squat.  She said something about my anthropometry, and one of the coaches who was standing around listening said, "Everyone was built to do something."  

It's just really good to have found the thing I'm built to do.  My body was built for this.  I am low to the ground, I am compact, not too long-limbed (means shorter distances for lifts to travel).  I am flexible in all the right places except maybe my shoulders.  

But my mind was not built for this, and that's I think a place where lifting has been so, so productive for me.  My biggest lifting challenges are mental challenges.  I psych myself out on lifts I'm anxious about.  I finally got the 245x5 deadlift set last Wednesday, then failed it again on Saturday—my coach, the main man, was watching closely, and he gave a cue I didn't quite understand on my fourth rep, and I tripped myself up trying to follow it and couldn't lock out the rep.  "You got mental on it," he said, echoing what he says whenever I fail something he's watching.  He can see my brain over-engage.  "Stop thinking," he always says.  

This is the metaphorical portability of weightlifting, that the way I fail a lift is the way I fail anything else in my life.  I overthink, over-analyze, freeze up, lose confidence, get scared.  If I can learn to believe that I can do it, I will be better.  Dissertation and deadlift both.

P.S. Banged out 120x5x3 on the bench yesterday.  Creeping closer to the big plates!  My presses are coming along lately.  It took me like 4 sessions to get 115x5x3, but 117.5x5x3 and 120x5x3 have both gone fine first try since I did.  

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