Driving Forward- Dealing With Injuries & Focusing On Small Succeses

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted. At the beginning of June 2014 I started my peaking cycle for the RPS meet in New York State. Sadly, in the first week I started to fall a part, I went to squat 395lbs for a single and BAM… there goes my lower back and left knee. I could barely walk or bend down for 3 weeks, so I did something I’ve never done before; I played it smart and decided to bow out of the competition.

I’d been in a state of denial for about 8 months. Back in September, my lower back felt off after squatting one day but I didn’t think anything of it and continued to push. It progressively got worse and so did my left knee, another problem I’ve been dealing with for years. I kept telling myself it would get better with time, thankfully when I competed at the OPA provincial’s back in November 2013 everything held up and I hit some PR’s and broke some records. After the competition in November my back and left knee got progressively worse as the months went on. I tried to ignore the pain as much as possible since I was competing at RUM 7 in Florida, February 2014. I made the “smart” decision of cutting weight for this meet; at the beginning of January I was a little over 200lbs (~203) give or take and I wanted to get down to the 181lbs weight class. I dieted down hard for the month of January and my training was negatively affected. I was missing lifts right left and centre, I felt burnt out and I was in pain. I just told myself to push through and everything would be okay come competition day. The day before the competition I weighed 187lbs @ 2pm in the afternoon, this meant I had to lose 6lbs overnight which called for some agonizing hot baths and extreme dehydration. This was by far the longest and worst weight cut I’ve ever experienced. In the morning I was 183lbs, I needed to somehow lose 1.5lbs and I felt like death. I took some diuretics and a few hours later I was 182lbs. I decided to go weigh in and see what happened, I was 0.1 kg over so I hoped on the treadmill for 15 minutes and finally made weight, 181lbs on the dot @ around 2pm that afternoon. I felt like a zombie, I could barely pick my legs up let alone walk with my own two feet. The next day was competition day and my performance took a hit, I struggled to hit a 418lbs squat, which was easy last year at the same bodyweight and my knee & back felt like they were going to explode. My bench went alright, I hit a 209lbs bench and I only got my opener deadlift of 473lbs when I hit 515lbs a few months back in the gym. My total was lower than my competition back in November and although I was lighter, I was still very unsatisfied with my results. Moreover, I felt like a train wreck and I knew something needed to change if I wanted to move forward.

After the competition, Jason Ingham, my boyfriend put together a 16 week program with moderate volume and intensity so it would give me some what of a “break” and let me focus on my weaknesses. The program was going extremely well and I felt great, the pain was still in my knee and lower back but not nearly as intense as it was before. The tail end of the program became more intense and I was working with higher percentages. My squat started to feel like shit again, I wasn’t moving the same, shit was hard and painful so I tapered my squat down and focused on my deadlift since it was moving really well, my knee felt better but my back was more tender than ever before. I was finishing up the last week of the program where I went to hit 465X5, I managed to squeeze out a new PR and completely threw my back out. I couldn’t tip forward @ the waist and felt like my spine was going to pop out of my back.

I took it easy for a few weeks @ the end of May 2014 so I would be able to recover more efficiently and start fresh for my 8 week peaking cycle. After 2 weeks past, the pain was still there, and still intense. Me being my stubborn self, I thought whatever I’ve pushed through it before, I’ll push through it again. I was on my first week of the training cycle and I was going to do 395lbs for a single, which should have felt relatively easy but it didn’t, it was a grinder and although I finished the rep, my knee popped mid squat which was excruciatingly painful and my back felt the same as it did when I screwed it up a few weeks before.

Frankly, I was fed up with constantly feeling like shit and this time I actually took the smart decision to listen to my body and bow out of the RPS meet I had planned to do @ the end of June 2014. Afterwards, I immediately went to the doctor and got an X-ray for my back and she looked at my knee. I wanted answers so I would be able to stop assuming I knew what the problem was and to actually find out what the real problem was so I could fix the issue and move forward. The X-ray results were in a few days later, it showed I had degenerative changes in my L5-S1, my ass back, and she informed me that I had bursitis in my left knee, a medium sized fluid pocket. From there she told me it was okay to continue lifting, but I had to listen to my body and play it safe; if either situations got worse I would need to consider surgery on my back and get my knee drained so the pressure would dissipate. At 22yrs old, this is uncommon but being a high level powerlifter it’s too be expected. I know now what my issues are and though they may not seem detrimental I’m still learning to cope with these changes I didn’t have a few years ago, it’s part of the game.

Since then, I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve slowly been learning how to fix my problem areas. I’m becoming more aware when lifting is hard and when it’s painful and being able to distinguish the difference between the two has helped me tremendously for the last 2 weeks. I’ve re-vamped my program for 16 weeks and I’ve been focusing a lot on my front squat and bench press for the time being and I’ve made a lot of progress in these two lifts. I used to hate both lifts because I struggled with both of them and now that I’ve been working on those areas I’m starting to see big improvements and I’m focusing on my small successes, something I’ve never done before.

All in all, I ignored pain for over 2 years and I ended up in the position I am in now. It’s okay to push through lifts when their hard and sometimes even painful (to an extent) but when there’s constant pain all the time, you need to put your ego aside and solve the problem before it gets worse, something I’m slowly beginning to learn myself. Not everyone feels good all time and when you get to a high level of performance one way or another shit is going to break, it’s part of the cycle. The question I am constantly asking myself is “Is the agony, frustration, pain and regression worth continuing to lift?”, It wasn’t until recently where I came up with an answer to my own question; my answer was simple, of course it is, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself, stop dwelling on what I can’t do right now and start bettering myself physically and mentally. I made the decision to stop being a pansy and decide take action so I can come back stronger, faster, leaner and healthier than every before.

I made a promise to myself to stay motivated by writing more often, keeping track of my progression, nutrition and workout logs. I’m going to start doing exercises that are a weak area and more importantly to keep pushing forward and constantly making and achieving my goals. For me there’s no limit, it’s pushing through that mental barrier and keeping your eye on the end goal, to be the best you can be everyday, all day.

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