Last week, one of my lovely and amazing readers referred to me as a “Mother Teresa of Fitness.”
Holy. Cats. Talk about a humbling moment. I surely can’t live up to that, but wow…
But you know what’s even more humbling? A wicked leg day I had earlier this week, an hourlong session in which I learned more than I have in a long, long time.
You see, I did some traveling recently, to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. She is one of two or three people who I would make the journey back to Wisconsin for. I ate way too many cupcakes and got drunk for the first time in like a year or more, not a single macro was tracked, and I came back bloated and feeling terrible, but I totally knew what I was doing, so, can’t be mad about that. The cupcakes were fucking amazing- this girl… Guinness chocolate with Bailey’s buttercream? Carrot with cream cheese? And my persona favorite- peanut butter cake with the most decadent chocolate frosting. I never stood a chance. AND THERE WAS PIE TOO. Kill me, omg sugar coma. Before the first reception (yes there were two) was over, I could already feel the sugar coursing through my body, overspilling my muscles… it’s cool, though. I beat the pants off the best man in a drunken-cupcake-fueled push-up contest, though, which, as a side effect, gave me a wicked pump to rock in my strapless sweetheart neckline dress.
Even more badass, though, was a line from the maid of honor’s speech to the bride. She didn’t get the opportunity to make it at the reception, but she pulled out her notecards with just the bride and I later, and I had her deliver her eloquently-worded speech to just us. The bride was in tears at the end, but I fixated on just one line. She said, “My advice to you [in marriage] is this: Listen listen listen…].” Well shit, that seems so simple. But how very applicable to so very many things. I played her words over and over in my head for the remainder of the weekend.
Listen listen listen.
Listen listen listen.
Listen listen listen.
On my flights home, I found myself able to focus on my thesis after a while, having already put about 6 hours of work into it on the flights to the Midwest. So I opened up an eBook manual I had saved on my phone and began reading. The literature of choice was a “deadlifting handbook” that I had gotten as incentive to complete a survey for female powerlifters by EliteFTS. Of all my lifts, I’m growing the most frustrated with the slow progress/stalling on my deadlift- but I LOVE deadlifting- and I was excited to delve into this collection of resources.
I spent the better portion of a flight from Dallas to San Diego soaking it in, getting weird looks from my seat mate as I practiced modified versions of specific cues- certain tensions on muscles and alignments- as best you can manage in an airplane seat, anyhow. But the time I landed, I was jazzed to hit the platform the next day.
It was squat day, really, with my program dictating heavy sets of 3 followed by a few sets of 6 “deadlift variations.” I typically go with Romanian, but today, based on my reading the day prior, I chose to back off the weight a bit and do some speed work. Speed work is done in a conventional deadlifting stance… I never deadlift conventional- strictly sumo, with the exception of maybe a warm-up set or two. I was really stepping outside my realm of comfort here. And I only loaded up about 65% of my max- 185 pounds. Working sets using a typically warm-up set weight? Yes. How’s that for humbling?
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That #deadliftface though 😂. I have been doing lots of reading lately, particularly about #deadlifting. I've never had a coach or been taught, all of my knowledge comes from reading, watching videos, asking questions, paying attention at the gym. But I feel like something is off in my #deadlift, I should be making better progress, so I'm trying to see what I can do about it. Today, for the first time in I don't know how long, I pulled conventional, in an attempt at some #speedwork, which I also never do. Kept it real light at 185, about 68% max. Felt good, with all those cues fresh in my mind from yesterday's knowledge bomb, courtesy of @EliteFTS. Still running #candito, definitely feeling like I'm getting stronger each week- my 200/205/210 squats felt EASY tonight. Crooked ass camera setup… 💁🏻#girlswithmuscle #girlswhopowerlift @doughnutsanddeadlifts #girlswhodeadlift #figurecompetitor #sandiegofitness #edmfit #SquatRackShenanigans #stronggirls #fitgirl #fitchick #deadliftday #fitocracy #powerlifting #xxfitness #belleofthebar #getstrong #notadonothingbitch #liftheavy #gohard #hnathletesearch #legday #lockitout #humpthebar
And you know what? It. Was. Awesome.
In those few sets of 6, with the light weight, in the conventional stance, focusing on speed and the cues that I had learned/relearned in my reading the previous day, I felt muscles firing I hadn’t felt in years. Over the years of training, you forget little things, you slip into “comfort,” and your progress stagnates. I would warn against letting this happen, but I think it’s inevitable. Recognizing it, though, is key. I recognized that my deadlift was not progressing, and I took action. Taking a step back from my pride, from what I “thought” I knew to be best, I listened. I listened to my body, by way of hearing that my progress was stalling. I listened to the advice of the many people who offered it in the handbook. I listened to my goals, and recognized that I was going to need to take action if I was ever going to meet them.
Fueled by the excitement of having completed this exercise I don’t typically do, I was driven to do a bit more experimenting. I typically use my allotted accessory work on leg days to focus on glutes- a perpetual weak spot in my physique. I swear I’ve read every article by Bret Contreras, tried every exercise promising to get this booty to grow, and to no avail. My current hypothesis is that I’m able to have incredible hamstrings and quads at the expense of glutes- something I’m doing is making my legs amazing, but that’s taking away from my glutes. So, to the researching. Right there in my gym, sweat dripping off my forehead, I delve into my bookmarked files, deciding which accessory moves to do.
A favorite of mine is the Bulgarian split squat. Immediately I catch it in an article… but wait… wait… rather than simply cementing that I, in fact, have been doing the right things but getting the wrong results, I notice that this article slips in a bit or research WITH STUDY CITATION LINK OMG THAT’S MY FAVORITE! that indicates that a slight anterior lean during this movement increases activation of the glutes… and that a strict upright body position shows no indication of a similar response.
I’ve been focusing so hard on being upright. FOR YEARS. And you know what happens? Without fail, I have a sore, tight lower back for days following, but no booty DOMS.
So I did it. I leaned forward just a bit. And there. I felt it. I FELT IT! My butt was working! Such a tiny tweak (omg I accidentally typed “twerk” right there… twice. Don’t judge.) in a move I’ve been doing for literally years, and it makes all the difference.
Knowledgeable though I am, I will never pretend to think I know everything there is to know about training or nutrition. I’m 100% guilty of having sometimes 10 or more tabs open to articles, research studies, reviews, and training programs on my computer at all times- it makes my husband nuts, and I find myself reading these things when I’m supposed to be doing other things- the most useful procrastination ever. Listen listen listen. I’m always learning- you have to be open to the idea that your way is NOT the right way, necessarily. Everyone can benefit from listening, from learning. Even trainers have trainers, coaches have coaches, teachers have teachers. No one person is the end of all knowledge. Seek out these opportunities, and don’t just read the things that support what you already think, or believe, or “know.”
And sometimes it’s just a slight change. An oversight. A new finding. A forgotten cue. Or something brand new that totally turns what you “know” on it’s head. And it makes all the difference. You just have to be willing to humble yourself a little bit, be willing to change things up.
And listen. Listen. Listen.