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Throw Back Thursday: My first Big Contest

& why YOU should compete if you qualify

To anyone afraid of competing at the higher level because they don’t feel “they are ready” #TBT to: Nationals 2014, where my journey all started. I wanted to write this today because I’ve recently been talking to people that are unsure if they should compete at nationals, a higher level competition that is compiled of all the winners from various state shows around the US. The weights are heavier than local shows, and it no longer matters if you’re the strongest in your gym.

This applies to anyone that competes in anything because doing something that could put you at risk of failing, is scary, no matter what your sport.

This was my first nationals in October 2014 in Reno that changed my life.  I had been training strongman for 4 months and training for this show for 5 weeks, I only qualified because I won the MA state championship show by default. I had no intention of going, other people at the gym I went to were going, and they told me it would be a good learning experience. So, I decided I wanted to see Reno anyways!Submitted my entry form and then…

I looked up other competitors, I didn’t stand a chance.  My goal was to go and not place last. Little did I know, I’d end up placing second in my weight class which qualified me for Worlds (Arnold 2015). I saw the events and the weights and remember thinking “What the hell am I doing this for, I should train for a year, get strong, then qualify and go next year.” I vividly recall myself writing down the events in my journal and the likelihood I could do them; this is what it looked like:

Press Medley: 125lb keg/150 axle, 80lb dumbbell press away –No way

Yoke: 500lbs 50ft—I know I can do this, but incredibly slow

Carry Medley: 175lb keg carry, 200lb farmers, 225lb duck walk—I know I can do the keg, maybe not the farmers,

Car Deadlift: Deadlift a car—Zeroed this in August, will never zero again so I will do this

Wheel Barrow: 1150 50ft—doubt it

Keg over Bar: 125-175lb keg series over bar:–maybe the first keg.

 

As you see, I only 100% knew I could do ONE out of SIX events and was determined to get at least one more. In reality, I did ZERO the overhead, and I passed out after the car deadlift event.

Somehow, I placed second in my weight class (I used to be under 160lbs). I thought it was a mistake, to this day I am beyond grateful I went to this competition because it has shaped my life in so many ways.

Placing at nats qualified me for the Arnold 2015, and showed me the love and passion I have for this sport. I can’t imagine my life without it, it impacts a lot of my decisions.

Takeaways and why YOU should compete:

 I learned that it is VITAL to challenge yourself with weights you don’t think you can do. Most importantly, believing in yourself and your abilities, even when others (friends, family, other competitors) doubt them. I will never again write down events and weights and put the likelihood I’ll be able to complete them. If you find yourself doing this or even thinking about it, push it out of your head.

People come up to me, or reach out to me on social media and tell me I wouldn’t understand their fear because “I’ve always been strong”…As you can see, that is not the case, I started out an athletic 160lb girl that was fairly strong but  couldn’t imagine even deadlifting 300lbs (Now, two years later, I’m chasing 500lbs and weighing in around 175lbs).

What nationals did for me…

It gave me confidence, the ability to view my body in a more positive light, introduced me to people around the world, the girls I trained with are some of my best friends,  and as corny as this may sound: taught me to use my mind to my advantage. You’ll notice that I always preach how powerful the mind is. When I question my athletic abilities, I bring myself back to Reno. Right before the car deadlift I told my friend, “I’m going to lift this car” I lifted the car (passed out right after) but I did it…

Oh, and just to remind you of my failure, I ZEROED an entire event, and still placed. The event I zeroed was the first event of the day, talk about feeling bad. Since then, I made the dumbbell and the kegs one of my strongest overhead events.

I could write all day about my experience and speaking about it brings a huge smile to my face. Take the risk and go to the competition you don’t think you are ready for. The experience in itself is worth the risk.

Injury: the catalyst to starting a blog

Starting a blog has been on my list to do for some time now. I made this domain a month ago when I was injured and my thought process was, “If I can’t lift for a while, I want to educate others and live vicariously through them.” I then put it off mainly because anytime outside of work that I don’t need to be sitting down, I won’t be. I am always on the move and like my schedule to be fully booked. However, I am making a promise to myself to contribute to this often and I am excited to get started! I thought sharing about my last contest where I was injured and my “road to recovery” was a good way to get started. I’ve been overwhelmed with the number of encouraging messages I have received on social media and I do my best to read and respond to all of them but is starting to get impossible so I hope this serves as as useful resource.

Injuries & Athletes

Every athlete has injuries, it’s inevitable. I have had back problems since middle school, torn muscles, sciatica, broken bones, chopped off my finger in the weight room (lol) and times when I could barely move for a few days,but never experienced an injury where I was truly scared for my future, as this one did.

Here is what happened:

I have been putting off writing about what happened because when I write I like to express exactly how I feel with as many details as possible. Thinking about how I felt, still makes me cringe. Anyways, I decided to do the Kumite Classic 6 weeks before the show because the overall winner got an invite to the Arnold World Championship in March 2017 and with only two opportunities to qualify, I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible because after qualifying and competing at the Arnold for two consecutive years, I never want to miss it.

Now, for several years, I haven’t take a break. The longest I think I went without physical activity is probably one week due to illness or minor injuries. I tore my hamstring in high school and within a few days I was back to doing core and pedaling on an arm-only rehab bike for conditioning purposes. I like to push, I need to push, I don’t know always know when not to push…

A few weeks before the Kumite Classic I had experienced a minor tear in my hamstring (the same one I tore years before). Pulling out of a contest I had already committed to wasn’t an option in my book. I would simply rehab my hamstring and avoid any heavy deadlifts before the contest.

Contest Day

Of all the contests I’ve done, I am proudest of this performance because I had to go to a place where I mentally have never been before: I was ignoring severe pain and pushing my mind after my body had failed. As athletes, this is expected, but I can say that most people would have dropped out had that been in the same amount of pain I was. I had to go somewhere inside myself that I didn’t even know existed.  I’m not going to go into detail on every event but want to talk about the injury and how I dealt with it at the contest.

Putting the Dead in deadlift…

I was injured on the deadlift. Prior to this event I just had a max carry event, so my hamstring and lower back were fatigued, as were all competitors.  So I knew warming up for the deadlift, it was going to feel horrible. The bar was stiff, the weight was heavy, all of that.

Who cares? It’s contest day, I have to pull. The weight was 385lbs which I knew I was capable of for 5-10 reps. Luckily, I was up last since my overall scoring put me in first thus far. The advantage with going last is I would know what the number of reps to beat was. The woman before me took the lead with 6. This meant I needed 7. After the first 3 reps, I thought, “I can’t just rip it like I usually can” my hamstring was on fire, so I resorted to using more back. I started hitching the bar up on the 5rg rep and the 6th and 7th rep were the ugliest lifts I have ever pulled, reps I would NEVER advise to pull in training, save stuff like this for when it matters. During the 7th rep, I felt my back go, it was like a sharp twinge of pain that went up and down my entire spine and into my legs, up my traps and into my neck.

Day 1 was over and I had 15 hours until I competed again and I began to get nervous. I was in first place but I had 3 more events. I was doing my best to not show my competition I was in any pain, but I was hurting. It took effort to walk and at one point I went into the bathroom alone to just let out a few tears. My intuition was telling me something was seriously wrong but all I could remind myself of was last March when I deserved to be on the main stage at the Arnold and I wasn’t. So, I sucked it up. I rolled out, took Advil, Epsom salt baths, and got my mind right.

Day 2: Do I need a wheelchair?

I had axle clean and press, farmers carry, and stone of steel today and I woke up and could barely stand. I put my Rehband belt on for support while I walked and texted my coach and a few friends. I knew it was probably the smart thing to pull out of the contest but my thought process was: If I’m THIS injured now, my only other chance to qualify for the Arnold is in October and there is no way I’ll be ok by then. I thought about how I could seriously hurt myself even more and potentially end my athletic career but then thought about all the athletes that have come back from serious injuries…and I decided to persevere.

I wouldn’t have been able to have made it through Day 2 if it wasn’t for my friends that helped me change my shoes, feed me caffeine, and encourage me. Bending over to take my shoes on and off was one of the most difficult tasks. I barely warmed up for any events because doing anything caused such extreme pain, I wanted to save it for the event itself.

As you can see from my YouTube video below, my form is extremely ugly. I managed to tie on the axle clean and press, finish in the top 3 in the farmers, and get second on the stone of steel, just barely winning the contest by 2 points. After the stone of steel, I crawled off and didn’t get up for 45 minutes.

As much pain as I was in, I was so happy I won. I again, went to the bathroom and cried for a few minutes because of all my emotions. I was proud of myself, happy for wining, but also really scared of what the future would hold. I told my mom she had to pick me up from the airport.

The following few days caused me to really reflect on my life. I was unable to do simple tasks like walk up and down the stairs, roll over in bed, sit, drive, etc. The first four days were the worst. On Day 5, I saw the light! I took a walk around my neighborhood and could actually move, not well, but it was a huge improvement.  It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to do the things I do on a normal basis.

According to my MRI, I had a few protruding and bulging discs. Most strength athletes have some sort of bulging discs and I think I may have done the disc injury a while ago. It’s been a little over a month and I took two weeks completely off, did two weeks of upper body high rep “bodybuilding” stuff and started working with light implements last week. I have a new level of respect for my body and when I’m training when something starts to hurt, I will be mindful of that and not always ignore.

I will update on my progress and I vowed I would take 12 weeks off of conventional deadlifts, only 6 more weeks to go!  This week I squatted for the first time using the belt squat with light weight and a lot of accessory as I’m trying to get my glutes, hamstrings, and lower back as strong as my overly-developed quads.

All in all, I kept positive and KNEW this would only make me a better athlete in the long run because it is forcing me to work on my weaknesses. As I have said, the mind is capable of far more than the body. If you  have the mindset to get healthy and stronger than ever, you will. It won’t happen overnight, but if you want it, and put in the required steps, it will happen.