Tag Archives: bench press

Improvement Season Update and a New Business Introduction!

Long time, no see!  Sorry I’ve been quiet here on this blog.  Life has a lot of things happening right now.  I’m busier than I was during my competition season last summer and fall.

Improvement Season Update

Physically, I’m doing great.  I’m back to a healthy body weight.  Actually gained more than I intended.  The plan was 15 pounds.  But I didn’t feel “normal” again until I was up by 25.  And then I gained another 5.  My scale weight is fluctuating around 155 pounds now.  I’m working to maintain it there.

This scale weight, for this improvement season,  feels drastically different than it did at this point after my 2015 season.

Upper body lifts in the gym have been productive.  Eight weeks ago I tested my bench press.  Eight weeks ago I was still recovering from a long contest prep, so I didn’t expect much, but the calculated 1RM was still about what it’s always been – around 125.

By “always” I mean exactly that.  I remember a time when it jumped up to 128 and I was impressed by how many YEARS it took to go up 3 lbs.

Tested it this week again.  After 8 weeks, my calculated 1RM was 146.  Up 20 lbs in 2 months????

Yup.  Something is different.

I’m not super thrilled with extra body fat, but that’s how my body works.  When I’m anabolic, I grow.  I grow everything – not just muscle.  All tissues needed to recover.   Joints feel good, too.

There is that social pressure though, right?  I’m not immune.  No matter what anyone thinks, my reality is that I’m a bodybuilder, not a fitness model.   And it feels like I’m back under construction in a big way!!!  Yay!!


But can we just pause for a second and reflect on that bench.  A 20-pound increase in bench press in 2 months??  Who does that?  Hahahaha!


The Birthday I’ve Waited For

This Wednesday, February 14th, will be my 56th birthday.  This is the weird one.  My mother died when she was 56.  It’s going to be difficult come November when her death anniversary gets closer.  I think I better plan to do something epic for the day after that.  When I turned 50, I pulled a truck.

What to do?  What’s an appropriate physical challenge for outliving some superstitious date on the calendar?


Private Practice

The main reason I’ve been slacking on my blogging duties is because I’ve been working every spare minute on my new business – private, online teaching/tutoring.

I am retiring early from teaching after this school year.  It’s time to go for a lot of reasons – none of which have anything to do with a loss of passion for teaching.  It still feels like that’s my calling.  I enjoy teaching math to teenagers and not many people do.

However, being a government employee was never my calling.  That was what I needed to be if I wanted to be a teacher.

Times have changed.  Technology has advanced.  I can now go into private practice.  The plan is to retire next summer and begin working with students privately online.

I can only work with a few online students now because I’m still working full time and training.  Next August, private practice will be my full time passion-project.  That’s exciting!

The current task has been to create an online presence that reflects my real life experience.  That’s what I’ve been working on these last few months.

<Shameless cross-promotional marketing in 3…2…1…>

I would appreciate it if you would take a look at what I’ve created and give me any feedback you have…


My new blog is www.onlinegeometrytutor.wordpress.com

My YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages are all called Online Geometry Tutor, too.

File Nov 18, 5 48 39 PMPinterest screenshot

Oh my.  It seems like a lot when I list it all in one spot.

It’s been a feat to create content that I can use in all these places.  That’s why, if you’re following on the LMS page, you’ve seen some of the Online Geometry Tutor inspirational quotes popping up.  I’ve got to multi-task!

I do need your help if you’re willing.

If I was your math teacher, or the teacher of your child, I would appreciate it if you would drop by the Facebook page and review with a star rating.  If you would be willing to write a review of what it was like to work with me, that would be helpful to parents who visit the page looking to find out more about me as a teacher.

Following and sharing pages and/or posts would also help parents find me.

My latest video…


My business plan is to start with the online teaching first, then launch something with fitness.   I’m still not sure what that is going to be, but I want to offer something that supports people with their own health transformation, but isn’t exactly the same as what other online coaches offer.  As soon as I know what that’s going to be, you’ll know.

There is also that book I’ve been asked to write…that’s been on the back burner until I “retire”.  Ha!  Doesn’t sound like retirement, does it?


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Teaching

30 Weeks Out: God Wrecks Your Plans When…

Some big news about work, life, stress… but first, the fun stuff.

My training program is really interesting to me.  It’s has some power lifting elements that I love – like max-testing. This week was a max-testing/deload week.  (I deload every 4 weeks and max-test every 8 weeks.)  I had four workouts this week, and for each one, I tested a lift or two, but backed off the other lifts that day.  I cut back a set and brought the weight down about 10%.

Here are the results…

Bench:  No change.  This is actually a good result.  Over the summer, my upper body responded very well to the program I was doing, but my legs didn’t grow as much.  So coach brought the bench volume down and increased volume on legs.

Squat: Increased 16% in 8 weeks!  (But I did pull a quad two days later and that rattled me a bit.  More about that later…)

Barbell Row: Increased 10%.

Overhead Kettlebell Press: Decreased 12% – but I suspect that’s not accurate.  Tested it after the quad pull and I was distracted by things happening in life at the end of this week.  I chose not to push my body under the circumstances.

Dead Lift: No change.  I tested that lift this afternoon.  It felt better than a week ago, but I was still overly cautious considering the quad pull and the mental distractions.

Ok, so about that quad pull

I ordered these shoe lifts online and they arrived in time for me to use when testing my squat.  liftsI didn’t think I would use them for the heavy set, but the warm up sets felt great, so I kept them on.  They stayed tight on my shoes and the extra heel height helped me get decent depth.  I noticed that I tipped forward a little on the bottom, which I’m told is normal when a person starts wearing lifting shoes.  I felt strong, but I had set a goal, and quit testing when I hit it.  I might have had more, but because of the new lifts, I decided not to push it.  The change in geometry could cause a problem with heavier weight.  I’ll be testing again in a couple months, so that gives me time to adjust form to the lifts.

Two days later, after I tested my barbell row, I was supposed to do three sets of light squats.  Warm up sets went well.  First rep of the working set with a weight that was 70 lbs less than what I what I lifted two days earlier – BOING!  Pulled a quad on the right side.  At first, it felt like something happened with the IT band, but after I walked on it a couple minutes and the nerves settled a bit, I could tell it was muscle, probably a part of the vastus lateralis that I hit differently  using those shoe lifts.

Well, that’s my theory, anyway.  And with that, quad work ended for the week.  Left quad is already bigger than the right, so I don’t want to work it alone.  It’s OK.  Rest is good, too.  The pull felt better the next day, and three days later, it’s just tender.  I’ve been icing it every evening.  Took ibuprofen a couple times.  I expect it to heal soon.


I took a rest day after this workout.  The next time I was at the gym, I tested kettlebell overhead press.  I can’t lie – I didn’t really try.  Over the years, I’ve had problems with both shoulders.  I’m usually a little sleep deprived by Thursday each week, and there was more stress this week than usual. (I know right?  How can I have even MORE stress?  You all must think I’m a drama queen by now, but I’ll explain in a minute.)   I was supposed to use the 35 lb kettlebell, and while I stared at it, I did a little inventory.  Left knee has tendinitis, right quad is pulled, but right now, both shoulders are healthy – and that’s rare.  I grabbed the 30 lb kettlebell instead.  Thought I would just go for reps, but I only got 5 when last week, I did 8 with this weight.  Know what?  I don’t care.  It’s not important.  The 1 rep max is used to set up spreadsheet numbers for the next cycle.  I can always pick up a heavier weight if I feel good.  This was not that day because I just couldn’t risk another injury this week.  I still wanted to do something heavy with delts, so I headed over to a Hammer Smith delt raise machine and knocked out a couple sets of 40 lbs for 5 reps.  That’s a safer option because the weight can’t fall backwards on a machine and rip up my shoulder.  That weight isn’t even a PR.  I’ve done 50 lbs on it before, but that was about a year ago.

And why I was mentally distracted

My knees have been hurting  and now this new pull?  I’m not getting enough rest to recover from my training.   I wake up too early with a “to do” list running through my head.   I can feel my that cortisol levels have been higher more often lately.  Hubby has expressed his concern a few times in the last couple months.  So the quad pull was the ‘last straw’ with respect to how far I’m going to allow work stress to impact my health.  I hate having to do it, but I will leave my current position after this semester and return to the high school level, even though it will be a high school I haven’t worked at before.  I know several people there, and I understand how high school works, so it should be an easy transition.  I love middle school kids and I think I’ve been a pretty good middle school teacher, but my life is not working well with the demands on energy and the long days.  That makes it a little dangerous considering how I train.  Husband’s worries are justified.

Once the decision was made, I contacted a vice principal at the high school most of my 8th graders will attend next year.  I used to work with her a few years ago and she knows how I operate as a teacher better than most.   I was asked to come over for a visit the next day.  Turns out that they have a mid-year opening in the their math department – which is very unusual.  I know things can change and usually do, but the teaching assignment they asked me to take will be easier to manage than the one I have now.    I spoke with my current principal the next morning and she was understanding and supportive.  She didn’t hesitate to agree to the transfer, even though she could have said “no”.  This is not a voluntary transfer period and there aren’t math teachers floating around without jobs in December.  Even though it took  me a long time for me to accept that this wasn’t working, once I did, the transfer happened in less than a day – yesterday.  Our district has one more week of school before a three week Christmas break. During that break, I will be packing and moving again.

I feel horrible about leaving my kids. This kind of change can be so disruptive to their learning.  It was painfully hard to leave my high school kids last June and here I am doing it again.  My decisions impact too many kids and  I lose sleep over that, too.  I am praying that the person who takes my position will know that it’s going to be hard on the kids and will be patient with them.    In 5 months, a few of these puppies have become pretty special to me.  It helps to remind myself that 8th grade is one year – they will be in high school for four years (I hope).  It’s a much bigger place and they will find all kinds of cracks to fall into without someone looking out for them.   Maybe this is the way things were supposed to happen?  I did not want to transfer to this high school last spring.  I wanted to change levels. It wasn’t a mistake.  I needed to do it.   I learned a lot and I reconnected with a passion for teaching that I haven’t felt in a long time.  When my kids get there, they will already have a “home room” and a friendly face waiting for them.  And hugs.  And pep talks.  And butt-kicks. And more pep talks.    I will find them on day 1 so they will know I’ve got their back.



Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cortisol, Life, My Lifting Log, Teaching

66 Weeks – Gravity

“I think that gravity sets into everything, including careers, but pendulums do swing and mountains do become valleys after a while… if you keep on walking.”  ~ Sylvester Stallone

The things that have been going on in my private life and professional life have weighed me down.  Gravity has been applied – not just in the seriousness of things, but also on my spirit.  This week, I felt the weight lift a bit.  I’ve decided to use gravity positively – I want to be pulled towards something that excites me.  Next week, I’m going to meet with a friend to explore a new opportunity in teaching.  I don’t know if it will work out, so I’ll wait to talk about it when I know there is something to talk about.

As I sort things out and make plans, I’ve got my eye on my “true north” – real life.  I’m focused on home, training, and my nutrition.  I have to keep my focus there, because if I don’t, I run the risk of the gravity of stress pulling me away from my health.  Crash?  No way.  Work stress is what did me in before.  Totally not worth it.  If I can help it, this level of unhealthy unhappiness will NEVER happen again…


I spent the last week sorting things out in my mind and finding my center.  Center of gravity?  OK, center of my personal gravity.  I had time to complete an Excel spreadsheet with daily macros.  My ego thought I had this macro thing down pat – so wrong!  Over the last few months, there were only 4 days when I hit all my macro ranges on the same day.  That was a surprise.  However, my average carb, protein, and fat grams over the entire time were in the right ranges, so while not optimal, it wasn’t a disaster.  The body responds to what we do consistently long term.  So while I’ve been too busy every day to think straight, I’ve managed to cycle all my macros in some fashion, high or low, around the targets I was supposed to hit.  Since I saw that, I’ve made it a point to hit targets every day.  Protein and fats are stationary, non-moving targets.  Daily protein intake is 145-160 grams and fat is 85-90 grams.  Carbs change depending on my daily burn data from the Bodybugg.  My goal is to stay just under maintenance.  I don’t want a high deficit – usually 200 calories under, and no more than 300 calories.   So if I’m having a high burn day, I eat more carbs.  Most days, I’m around 170-200 grams.  My weight jumped up a couple pounds in the last two weeks before break – thank you cortisol, my old friend!  But now I’m stable most days or dropping a little.  I’m sleeping.  I’m recovering.  I’m getting stronger.  I’ll add in a couple cardio sessions a week to deal with the stress-induced fat gain.  They will probably help with stress and sleep, too.

My week of raising heavy objects has gone well.  I’ve been adding weight or reps to everything.  My bench is nothing to brag about – only 105 for 5 – but I haven’t bench pressed in a looooong time. When I started again a month ago, I was at 85 for 5.  I think I did 115 once a very long time ago.  (A log exists, but I don’t know where it is.)  Lat pulldown is still at 180 on a heavy, low rep day, and 135 or 150 on the higher rep day.  Even bicep curls are up.  Barbell is at 65 for 5 and dumbell curl is 25 for 9.  That is big progress for me.  Biceps have been stuck for a year.  I’m so happy with my decision to not compete this year!  I like to compete, but I love to make progress.

Part of my “sorting things out” process is to eliminate distracting annoyances.  I really like my regular lifting gym, but it’s too small for the number of people who are using it right now.   Solution – I’ll head back to my old gym.  I have an “uber-cheap-you-can’t-get-it-anymore” membership at 24 Hour Fitness.  There are two of those in my town.  Both are huge in comparison, but neither have platforms.   So I have three locations I can use.  My plan is to cycle between them.

I did one of my leg workouts at 24 this week.  That workout included goblet squats with blood flow restriction.  I’m sure guys thought I was nuts when they saw me put knee wraps on my hips.  Hahaha!  Didn’t get video of that exercise, but I did record my Barbell Thrusts.  I should do the single leg version of these, but they don’t have bumper plates at 24, so I had to use a minimum of 135 pounds to be able to roll the bar over my legs.  Didn’t want to try 135 with one leg, but maybe I should have.  It felt very easy and I kept adding weight.  Here is my 185.  I’ve done more than this when I did this lift on a Smith Machine, but this is the heaviest I’ve done on the floor.

That is my favorite ab exercise.  Usually I do it with a barbell, but it wasn’t convenient that day.  Dumbbells work.  Those were 22.5, so the total weight was still a bar.

Standing calf raise machines are really different.  At American Iron, I do 120 lbs.  At 24, that was 310.  Must be the anti-gravity devices they have at 24.  Hahahaha!

So my interaction with the force of gravity this week has been productive.

I have one more week of spring break left and a lot of things I need to accomplish before school starts again on April 14th.  The changes that are coming will be bittersweet, but necessary.  It’s sad and exciting to be at a fork in the road.  But I’ve stopped struggling with the reality of which path I need to take.  I’ve had a certain amount of success when I “zag” when it’s expected to “zig”.



1 Comment

Filed under Life, My Lifting Log, Teaching, Videos

One Month Left of “Off Season”

Coach and I are not on the same page about when I will start my cut for the June show. I wanted to start January 1.  He thinks I don’t need to start until February, so I’m compromising.    So I’m going to start on January 21st.  That is five months out.  I don’t really know how much I have to lose.  Don’t know how much muscle I’ve built.  I don’t even know how much I weigh.  I stopped weighing myself when I stopped logging food.  I’ve been just lifting and trusting the program is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  We do measurements next week, so I suppose a plan will be finalized then.  It’s been a nice break – not logging food and not weighing myself.

Lifting wise, after a month of lifting lighter to allow the pulled hip flexor to heal, I got the go-ahead to lift heavy again this week.  And boom…PR’s on overhead press and bench press.  I’m not concerned so much anymore with how much weight I lift.  The PR’s represent healing and growth.   The hip is not 100%, so I still need to be careful with it.

I’ll take the week of Jan 14th off as a rest week. Most lifters at my gym take the week between Christmas and New Years off. I thought about that, but decided it made more sense for me to take the week of final exams off. (I give the tests, not take them.) Crazy busy time for this teacher.

I’m looking forward to these next three weeks of lifting.  There will be a calorie surplus each day and lots of sleep during vacation.

1 Comment

Filed under Bodybuilding Journal

Training Update

Week 8 of Madcow 5 x 5 has been postponed.

I changed my lift days from Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday to Monday, Wednesday, Friday this week to avoid the adjusted gym hours today, Thanksgiving Thursday.  To make it work, I needed to lift on Monday morning before work and that’s a change.  I’ve been lifting in the afternoons for the last couple weeks.  I think Monday morning was too soon.  I lifted on Saturday midday and I needed two rest days.

Monday morning’s workout started well.  I took my time warming up and stretching out.  Still in “box-squat-purgatory” and the first four sets went very well.  Started with warm up sets of 70# and 85#, then did 100# and 115#.  Felt strong.  So I decided to bump up to 130#.  On rep 1, I pulled a muscle in my right hip at the bottom of the rep.  I should have dropped the bar, but my stubborn ass self stood up.  Racked it and dropped the weight to 85#.  Couldn’t do that either.

I think I pulled the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle.  It attaches to the top of the IT band.  Probably more than just that, too.  Diana worked it during my massage Monday night.  She dug in until she found it – or rather until I jumped off the table.  I’ve been icing, heating, massaging, and yesterday, I pulled out my TENS unit to use on it.  Doubled up the glutamine.  Trying not to use ibuprofen if I can help it.  I needed it the first day, but haven’t taken it since.

So that’s the end of the leg work for this week.  I did finish the rest of my planned workout that morning.  It was bench and rows.  I used the foam roll on the hip between sets.

Tuesday I did a little treadmill to get the blood flowing, then rolled and stretched.

Wednesday – treadmill, roll, stretch and then I did a whole bunch of shoulder work.  Didn’t even try to dead lift.  Tried to do leg extensions – no go.  Hit the pull directly.

Bench press is on track.  I haven’t hit a PR for bench, but I’m close and the form is better than it was when I hit that old PR.  Another two weeks and I’ll be there, I hope.   Barbell row and overhead press are on track.  Hit PR’s on both of those last week.

Cardio is also limited by this pull.  Can’t do step mill – it irritates the pull.  I’m stuck on the treadmill.  No HIIT, either.

Today, Thanksgiving – total rest day.  Slept in until 9 am.  Ate and watched movies.  It feels a lot better, but I’m not going to test it.  More rest for the hip.

I’m going to lift again tomorrow.  I’ll probably do bench and row.  Do arms and some ab work that won’t bother the hip.  And roll and stretch.  Roll and stretch.  I really think it’s smart to leave it be until next week.  After tomorrow, I will not lift again until next Monday afternoon.


Filed under 5 x 5, Legs, My Lifting Log

Training Update


Five weeks on 5 x 5

So far, so good.  I’ve been able to move everything on the spreadsheet the number of reps I’m supposed to move it.  I believe I’m grow some new muscle for two reasons…

1) Lifts are increasing.

2) Diana asks stuff like “What’s happening to your back?” during my weekly massages.  She’s been working on me for a year, so if she’s saying something, it means something is happening.

I’m still not hitting PR’s yet, but I’m plodding towards them.  What’s better, is that my form is holding up well as the weight is increased.  I’m pleased with the improvement in my bench form.  A year ago, I didn’t have full range of motion on that lift because of my stupid right shoulder impingement issue.  Now, every rep has a chest touch on the bottom.  (Right shoulder is still my weak spot, though.)  I like this program.  After the cutting and depletes for the show last August, I felt so small and weak.  It’s been about two months since the show and I’m on track to hit my old PRs with better form, with a smaller bod.  I’m about 10 pounds lighter than I was last January when I set my dead lift PR.

Here are the lifts and the heaviest weight at the end of Week 5 :

Squats: 160 lbs (PR with shitty form last year was 210, I think)

Bench: 100 lbs (PR was 115 with bad form.)

Bent Over Rows: 115 lbs

Dead Lifts: 195 lbs (PR was 220 from last winter.)

Overhead Press: 60 lbs


I started carb back-loading three days ago.  I read a few things, talked to a few people – pretty sure I’m not doing it exactly the way it’s supposed to be done, but things need to be individualized, right?  For example, the articles I found online about it say to eat high-glycemic foods that aren’t clean foods.  I really can’t do that.  I’m not completely sugar free, but limit my intake of unclean foods to once a week or twice a month.  I like eating clean.   So I’m doing it with sweet potatoes, rice, squash, raisins, and fruit.  I expected a water weight gain, and I got it.  Two pounds in two days.  Yesterday I drank more water.  This morning, the scale was back to the weight I was at before I started the carb back loading.  Ok – cool.  I’ll be sure to keep the water intake high.  I’ve been having trouble with that since summer anyway.

I feel like I haven’t explained everything, but I’ve got a lot to do – and honestly, I’m watching “Food Matters” on Netflix.  I’m fascinated by this documentary.  I don’t accept everything they say as fact, but it’s very interesting.


Filed under 5 x 5, My Lifting Log, Nutrition

Oct 4, 2012: 5 x 5 – it’s my “Monday”

Today I started the 5 x 5 lifting routine I’m going to follow for…maybe three months?  Because I’ve done this before, I know the first 2-3 weeks are kind of boring.  Today was boring easy.  I know it’s good for me for a couple reasons…

1) Work on form.  Having the weights scripted on a spreadsheet keeps me from loading on too much weight to work my ego.  I need to build muscle.  Attitude – I’ve got.  Or I can work on that outside the gym.  Form and full range of motion will build pretty muscles.  “You’re a bodybuilder, not a power lifter” is my mantra during these sets.

2) Work smarter.  I tend to do a lot of sets. Probably more than I need.  I’ve been feeling very beat up for the last couple of weeks, so I’m not recovering properly.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet on the off days.  Stuff.  I know I’ll do something.  Martha had some creative ideas for her ‘off days’ when she was doing 5 x 5.  I should sneak over to her blog and look for ideas.  Yoga is probably a good idea.  I wish there was a “Yoga for Lifters” class I could take.  Imagine it – a bunch of us trying to do yoga – together.

Here’s what I did today, the first day.  Supposed to be light.  Maybe not so light if I had to do 10 reps, but 5 reps?  Easy peesy.

10/4/12  Squat in 5×5 Day 1
6:33:36 PM  70 x 5
6:33:44 PM  90 x 5
6:34:05 PM  105 x 5
6:34:15 PM  125 x 5
6:34:43 PM  140 x 5

10/4/12  Bench Press in 5×5 Day 1
6:35:09 PM  45 x 5
6:35:34 PM  65 x 5  Oops!  Supposed to be 55 – just loaded on two 10’s out of habit
6:35:41 PM  70 x 5
6:35:52 PM  80 x 5
6:36:10 PM  90 x 5

10/4/12  Barbell Row in 5×5 Day 1 (I did the regular ones.  Underhand grip to work biceps a little.)
6:39:45 PM  50 x 5 – felt kind of stupid doing these in public with two 2.5 lb plates – lame
6:39:51 PM  65 x 5
6:39:58 PM  75 x 5
6:40:07 PM  90 x 5
6:40:23 PM  100 x 5


Filed under 5 x 5, My Lifting Log