Stronger Together


Pinkhairedchickenmama learning the trap bar with her new trainer.

What’s the funnest thing ever?  
Getting your bestie addicted to the thing you love and then nerding out with her on the phone or in person about it daily.

A magical synchrony has occurred between Pink and I.  We both hired trainers at the beginning of this year, within a few weeks of each other.  And what has happened is extremely accelerated progress for both of us.

She’s learning a lot about her lifting form, and about training nutrition, and about volume, and the accountability of having a set meeting with her guy has made her bend over backwards to get to the gym and to crave getting back every time she has a setback (influenza, pulled ligament in her foot, hip and back pain, a crushingly bad week at work, etc.).

For me, I just feel more invested.  Like if I am going to pay the trainer once a week and pull my training budget into the stratosphere from just merely ridiculous, I better show up fully for all of my workouts and try to make progress.  He’s also teaching me a bunch of assistance exercises to add to my big lifts.  The result is that the weight on the bar is adding up.

Pink and I are looking forward to our first meet in August or September, depending on what we’re able to register for.  And being able to geek out with each other about all the progress we are making just adds fuel to the fire.

I hit part of a goal that I set last year — to bench a full plate, or 135 lbs.  I still have to hit the 225lb squat and the 315lb deadlift that I’ve been working on.  The squat is at about 185 now, though it feels like I could do more, the deadlift at 285 and a little bit ugly.  Close, close, though.


Back to Work: Where a Swim and a Sauna Becomes 150 Kettlebell Swings and Carb-Loading.

This post is going to be a little all over the place, just like me right now.

Part of my sanity-preservation as a solo-practice midwife in a high-service practice (read — I´m on call 24/7 and my phone rings and pings all day every day) is to take about 6-8 weeks off of call every summer so that I can rest, take a vacation or two, recharge, finally clean out all of my closets, and get my attitude on straight again.   For those of you not in small business this is otherwise known as two months unpaid leave. The last baby I delivered in my practice was on June 27.  Just got a call that let me know I will be back in the baby business later today because one of my clients is in early labor. Back to work.

I´ve switched my powerlifting training up a bit.  Right now, finances and time dictate that if I´m going to powerlift it´s going to be with either a self-designed program or with some kind of out-of the box online program.  I had started with Starting Strength, and had beautiful, glorious, newbie gains with it but they have slowed down a bit now that I´m about six months in .  That´s to be expected — I started this process with an ok fitness base and I had lifted before in high school, so my form wasn´t too far off.  

What I need now in order to make progress, I think, is some hypertrophy training, so my next out-of-the-box training program is going to be Juggernaut.  I really like the idea of working with a little bit more volume (when I add in some assistance exercises) and it feels better to work with a sub-maximal load and be making lots of lifts until I can´t work any more instead of trying to hit a new max every session and failing on my first or second or third rep.  Also, things that do need technical help, like my squats, get lots of reps in this phase to practice with under reasonable loads (exhibit A, my Tuesday workout with 50 squats at 85lbs.)

So, Juggernaut has one main lift a day for four days a week and then has assistance exercises worked in. For right now I´m being really flexible with those as my body feels heavily fatigued or tweaked by new loads.  Tuesday´s workout was just the squats.  Thursday I thought I´d bench press and then do some lower-body assistance stuff like leg presses and turkish get-ups.  

One other thing that this means is that my workouts are on a different schedule than the rest of the family, so I´m moving them to the mornings and then tagging along with them and doing easy stuff while they are at the gym.  13 loves to swim and has been pretty consistent about it, so I´ve been hopping in the pool while he´s there.

It feels good to swim again.  You can dig through the archives for a post about my complicated feelings about swimming, but a few more trips to the pool and I am almost exclusively positive about it right now.  

When I was a teenager and swimming 3-5 hours a day I had killer hip mobility which translated very nicely to ballet class and impressing people in yoga.  One of the things that I hope will come back with more frequent swim workouts is mobility in my right hip.  It has been limiting my martial arts progress for a bit and I´m hoping that a few hundred thousand yards of breaststroke will work the rust out.

Circling back to our headline, though — the one bad thing about swimming is that I haven´t worked out a low-tech, low-cost way to be connected to my phone.  So now that I´ve got a baby lined up on the runway,  I can´t go to the pool.  Even sadder, I can´t go to the sauna.  

I´ve developed a small addiction to the sauna, which is ironic, because in real life I absolutely hate being hot.  But the sauna is like a big, fat reset button for my brain chemistry (this is backed by research) and also seems to help me recover from my workouts better.  Plus my skin loves it and, well, vanity.

So, I´m chasing my workout and baking endorphins by doing some kettlebell swings today.  I´m completely overjoyed to report that swinging a 30-lb bell feels way too light now, so I´ve moved up to the 50.  Whoa.  I can’t quite manage it for 200 swings in a row yet, but I´m cranking out sets of 25 while unloading my dishwasher, touching up my toenail polish, eating rice and hot sauce, and whatever else I´m supposed to be doing when I´m going to work in an indeterminate amount of hours and have no idea when I will finish and come home.

For my personal reference and your curiosity, this is what I´m doing these days:

Monday — rest day

Tuesday — lift, martial arts class, easy swim or stretch, sauna

Wednesday — easy swim, sauna

Thursday — lift, easy swim or stretch, sauna

Friday — lift, sauna

Saturday — martial arts class

Sunday, martial arts class, lift

This feels good right now and even though it looks like a lot, I´m enjoying it.

One Plate, Two Plates, Three Plates, Black Belt.

I’ve got a lot of shit on my plate right now (hahahaha, I made a pun).  

I’ve got four babies to deliver in the next four weeks, I’m going to a conference in Toronto for a week with a few thousand other midwives (and pinkhairedchickenmama, yay), my kids have alltheendoftheschoolyearshit and I’m renovating my kitchen.  I’m basically shoehorning in building ikea cabinets and installing paneling and painting and rearranging stuff in boxes in between everything else I’m doing.

So, I’ve not been the best about getting into the gym, but I’m using my time wisely — to set goals.  I had superfastnewbiegains like a lot of beginning powerlifters and got real excited about what might be possible for my future.  But I’m trying to adjust my expectations and set up something a little bit more realistic.  I also don’t have a competition to go to before next year, so I won’t be able to gauge my progress by how I perform at a meet.  That’s ok, because it helps discourage me from trying to pile on too fast.

I have a love affair with the 45lb plates.  I like to give them a little squeeze every time I put one on a bar.  If I ever do competition, I think I’ll feel the same way about the reds, maybe even more so.  But for now, I’m in the land of the imperial at the YMCA and so I’ve set my goals by those plates.


I want to bench 135, or one plate.

I want to squat 225, or two plates.

and I want to deadlift 315, or three plates.

That just seems, well, so neat and tidy, doesn’t it?

Those goals are different levels of achievable.  Deadlifting 235 right now feels like I am using every last bit of energy and reserve and willpower to reach the top.  Benching 115 for three feels heavy but solid on the first and then mighty shaky by the third.  And squatting 150 feels like I could do a ton more, but I’m inching up slowly because I don’t have a great spotter available to me and dumping the weights on the safety bar would not only earn me the side-eye of all of the Y employees, it would be embarrassing, which is much worse.

I weigh 265 lbs.  So those aren’t huge goals for my body size, but I’m also an old lady.  You’ve got to climb your own hill.  Also, I’m coming to respect that some of my goals won’t be achievable for five years or more because that is how powerlifting works.  (WATCH OUT M2 LIFTERS 2022.  YOUR ASS IS GRASS).

So, maybe I can hit these goals by next spring?  Or at least some of them?

It’s really hard to judge what I should be able to do by looking at other people.  There just aren’t that many fat old lady powerlifters.  I’m occupying a weird space right now.  I think my training weights would break two of the three state records for women my age and size and yet, I’m nowhere near being competitive (or even qualifying) for nationals.  And the meets tend to have just four or five women total, not even in my age and weight class.  So, I start with my plate goals.  Then, maybe when I meet them, I can set the bar higher (hahaha, another pun), and go for 1, 2, 3 red plates.  That would be impressive.

One other little thing:  the black belt.  I’m going tomorrow to my dojo to watch the black belt testing — judo, jujutsu, and iaido.  My martial art is iaido, which is a kind of inner martial art that uses both wooden and metal swords to cultivate strength, balance, self-control, focus, and agility.  I’m an ikkyu, which is the last stage before shodan, or first black belt.  I’m setting my intention right here and now — I’m looking forward to the future and earning that shodan for myself.  It’s going to take a ton of work, but I have time this summer.  After the four babies, I have eight weeks of only quarter-time work. Eight weeks is not enough time to earn a shodan and not enough time for my plate-stacking, but it is enough time to set focus, set intention, and get a running start.  I commit to training in iaido 4-5 times a week and lifting 4 times a week.  I will sleep and eat well.  I will stretch and practice good self care.  I can do it.

What I Did Instead of Working Out on Sunday

When I was training for my half-marathon, I was in the middle of building my midwifery practice and it wasn’t a rare occasion that I felt like ass because I was running on a sleep deficit that was stretching across several days or weeks.  You see, if you work 30 hours in a row and then come home at 6am and crash and get a three hour nap before you have to start taking care of your kids or go back to work again and then you sleep 5 hours a night for the next six days, you don’t ever feel awesome.

I knew that I wanted to be fit and I knew that my life wasn’t going to change anytime soon, so I just decided to power through.  I made a rule that I had to do the run/bike/HIIT class that I had planned for the day unless I was actually working at the moment that they were supposed to occur.  I became the queen of discipline.

That was some dumb shit.

Dear readers, could you guess what happened next?  It took another year, and a marathon, but then I totally crashed and burned. Shocking.

So, this weekend I found myself in the familiar territory of having a few workouts scheduled (an iaido class, a bike ride, a powerlifting workout).  I missed them all.  I worked most of the day on Friday and then worked from 1am Saturday to 3am Sunday, then from noon to 6pm on Sunday.  You know what I did for the rest of Sunday?  I held down the couch.

In that three day weekend I got to be part of two amazing births, including helping a mom have a healthy baby girl after she’d lost two previous children to a congenital disorder.  I was a big ball of ugly crying when that birth was done and everything was joyful and triumphant.  The stress of carrying the desire for a happy outcome on that one made me even more wore out than normal.  I understand that for most people working 30 hours in two days would be enough to be wore out. It’s not my everyday normal, but it’s my normal.

It would seem to make sense to skip a workout after having your body and mind thrown through the grinder, but it is something I have to make a conscious effort to allow myself to do.  I’m feeling a little different about fitness these days — the weightlifting and short, high-intensity cardio I’m doing leave me less flattened than long, steady-state cardio workouts did and so I don’t have to force myself to do them.  I’m not really using my willpower to get to the gym.  And I’m not punishing myself when I don’t get there.

A funny thing is happening — when I rest and drink enough water and have enough recovery time between workouts, I can do more.  (I realize this is not rocket science, but allow me some grace for figuring out human physiology 101).  And it’s exciting to go to the gym and totally crush my goals.  I know that my progress will suffer if I skip a week or two weeks or a month, but it’s actually ok to take care of myself and enter my workouts healthy.  This is my new balance with my crazy life.  Last night I hit PRs on all my lifts and tried a few new accessory exercises (and had gas in the tank to do them). I still expect to work myself up to a heavy training schedule, but I’m also planning to be more holistic in my approach — seeing nutrition, rest, and strength and cardio work all as part of training and all equally valuable.  I’m already a champion napper.  I think I have a good start.

Hey Ho, let’s go!

I once stayed up all night delivering a baby and then curled up on the couch, water bottle clutched in my hand, squeezing my eyes shut for 15 minutes before my ride picked me up to go to a race.  I PRed by something like three minutes because I got to the starting line and said something to myself like “I’m totally wrecked, there’s no chance that I’m going to do well, so I might as well run as fast as I can until I run out of gas and just call it a day.  Fuck it.”  And then I took off, unhindered by fear of pacing myself too fast, dehydrated and wiped out and ran really, really hard through the hills of my town and had to blink my eyes when I saw the clock at the end.

I also have days, though, where the demands of mother-wife-daughter-sister-friend-midwife-community member leave me so knackered that all I want to do is lie on my bed, eating avocado toast and watching youtube.  And I do.  Until sweet slumber takes me and keeps me past the time I have to workout if I want to do so before the day’s responsibilities have me reigned in.

One of my best friends, pinkhairedchickenmama, and I are starting this blog to talk about our day to day efforts to achieve pure awesomeness in the pursuit of athletic goals meaningful to us.  This blog is about the pendulum swing between working out *really, really hard* to try and do things that we shouldn’t be able to do, like run marathons, get black belts in martial arts, lift cars, you know, things like that, and the opposite end of the spectrum, which is practicing radical self-care and being just fine with where we are right now.  We’re both midwives on call 24-7.  We’re both parents.  We sometimes don’t sleep for days.   We’re both fat.  These are our challenges and also the things that make us strong.

Pinkhairedchickenmama wants to lose a bunch of weight and be really strong and run long distances; I want to run another marathon in about 5.5 hours (and raise a shit ton of money for midwives in the process).  I want to eat a whole lot better than I do right now. I want to be able to lift completely mind-blowing amounts of weight.  I have mixed feelings about how weight loss ranks with my other goals in my pursuit of total awesomeness.  We’re different that way.  It’s ok.

I want to give big fat juicy smooches to the writers who have been so active in the fat positivity movement.  They have paved the way for a lot of people to be comfortable in their own skin.  I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I think that pinkhairedchickenmama is comfortable in her own skin too.  But we also want to make a space for it to be ok to want to change our bodies too for lots of reasons — for speed, for agility, for aesthetics.  We might whine.  But mostly you’ll just see awesome here.  Lots and lots of awesome.  A “plus -size” amount of awesome.