Tag Archives: obstacles

69 Weeks Out

A fellow high school math teacher friend and I loosely keep track of the number of times the magical number “69” appears as answers to example questions, test questions, publicized statistical information, etc.   While I am happy with my decision to wait a year to compete, life is a little ‘challenging’ right now, so to motivate myself, I felt compelled to calculate the number of weeks until the first weekend when I might compete –  yeah, it’s 69 weeks from tomorrow.  Go figure.

My life has changed a bit in the last few weeks.  I miss blogging.  It’s unlikely that I will be able to stick to a writing schedule, but I am going to attempt to keep a weekly journal here.  It may be boring, but if I can do it, I will have  documentation of my program as I work on improving before I compete again.

My current workout split is a four day lift plan – upper heavy, lower heavy, upper hypertrophy, and lower hypertrophy.   The switch from five days lifting to four was made to free up my schedule a little bit because of life things.  I can tell after a few weeks of this that I am recovering better with three rest days a week instead of two.

While I have a “lower heavy” day, my right hip really can’t handle heavy loads.  I am learning how to use blood flow restriction training with goblet squats and hex bar deadlifts.  The first week, I didn’t have the straps tight enough.  The second week felt better.  I like the knee straps around my hips – they help me spring up.  There isn’t a lot of pain.  It does become uncomfortable at the end of the 15 rep set.  Because the weight used is supposed to be light, I don’t feel like I’ve worked much.  I think the straps were tight enough the second week, so I have to increase the weight I’m using or increase the number of reps.  I did notice that the pump in my quads lasted about a day, so maybe I am doing it right?

I haven’t done barbell bench presses in a long time, so I’m happy to be doing those again.  (I’ve been using dumbbells and Hammer Smith machines.)  My strength is pretty good for bench considering I haven’t done them in a while.  I think the most I’ve ever done is 115 for 1.  I’m currently at 100 for 5 after a couple of weeks.

Everything upper body has been going well.  The upper body days are my favorite now.  I do miss the 5th day of lifting that was dedicated to shoulders and arms.  However, with the added stress, the extra rest day is a good idea.

I am supposed to be hitting macros, but to be honest, I’ve been “loosely” following macros and eating for energy.   I’m attempting to maintain my body weight around 150 pounds right now.  I have been able to do that on more food.   From November until January, I was doing a very, very, very slow cut.  By February, I was starting to feel it in my energy levels.  I felt “off” – felt like I was slowing down.   Added in more food.  I’m maintaining my weight with extra food – mostly carbs.  Most days, I’m over 200 grams.   Protein is around 150 g and fat is around 85 g.

I haven’t done much cardio.  It tends to trigger a stress hormone response for me and I feel more anxious.  Because I have an extra rest day, I added a stairmaster HIIT one morning this week.  That would bring the number of cardio sessions I’ve done since November to… wait for it… 3.  But I do want to try and do one HIIT a week now. I think it will help with recovery.  Thinking about doing kettlebell swings for it, though.  Easier to do those at home in the dark hours of the early morning.

The biggest thing impacting my program right now is life.  The classes I’m teaching are challenging – precalculus, AP calculus AB, and calculus BC.  I’m barely able to keep up with lesson planning and my grading is a couple weeks behind now.   My husband and I have always been a two-car couple and we are now learning how to manage with a single vehicle while keeping all the extra appointments a guy with a recovering kneecap needs to keep.   Still working my way through a bunch of insurance paperwork while waiting to find out what the medical insurance will cover.  I’m sure we’ll be able to work this out.  I’m not worried.  I can’t be.  Stress won’t help me.

I get up early on weekends to work.  Peanut “helps” me.


Peanut helping write calculus lessons last weekend.

I am going to keep my manicure appointments.  I love the hour I have to sit there and just visit with Janette.  Sure, I like the nails, too, but sitting still for an hour is awesome.


School colors – green and white


Filed under Competing, Life, My Lifting Log

An Update

So the first week of my 52nd year was a little bumpy.  During this second week, the dust is settling.

Hubby is home and recuperating.  His healing will take time, but I’m grateful he is home to do that healing.

My coach reviewed all the data and he liked my progress pictures.  He reminded me that the DXA info doesn’t tell the whole story.  I’ve tightened up a bit in the last three months.  I am not competing again until summer 2015, so I have a lot of time to improve.  I got a great pep talk and a new training protocol that reduced my workouts from five to four a week.  That is a good thing right now.  There is more to do since I’m trying to pick up a little of what my husband normally does – and that’s really impossible since he does a ton of stuff every day.

Sleep is still a goal, but it’s probably not a reasonable one every day right now.  No worries about that are allowed.  If I’m tired, I don’t mind.  It’s going to be OK.  What I’m focused on at the moment is living in the moment – take each day as it comes.  I will not worry.  When I put my mind to it, I can compartmentalize things pretty well.  Every so often, I let all the things pile up in my head (insurance, medical bills, lesson plans, grading, etc.) and then stress over the pile of poo, but when I’m in crisis mode, I just handle the next thing and not think too far ahead.


Filed under Life

What Do You Want First? The Bad News or the Real Bad News?

As I write this, I’m sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed.  My understanding about what I considered “bad news” has been… adjusted.

Earlier this week, I mentioned I got some bad news that rocked me a little bit.  On Wednesday, I got another DXA bodyfat analysis scan.  I got one last October.  I’ve actually done these scans a couple times a year for the last three years.  Over the last three months, I’ve been doing a mini-cut.  Nothing drastic – I was supposed to lose about 1/2 pound a week. I was doing an upper/lower body strength/hypertrophy split. Everything worked twice a week, once for strength and a second time a couple days later with lighter weights and 8-12 reps. No cardio at all.  The results?   I’ve lost fat, but also muscle.  A lot more muscle than fat according to the scan results.  It was a shock.

I decided to take a couple rest days and regroup. I sent the data and all logs to someone to analyze. Waiting to hear what he thinks before I move ahead with a Plan B. He gave me the protocol I was following, so now he has results so he can fine tune things.    My plan was to get started again on Saturday.  I’d increase my calories to maintenance and change the lifting protocol to a more traditional body-part-a-day split.  More food.  More recovery time.

And then something happened.  This is the Real Bad News…

My husband was in a car accident Friday night.  I think it was a miracle that the only injury he had was a broken patella.  He had surgery yesterday.  He’s going to have a rough couple of months while it heals.  The hardest part is going to be immobile.  He is a strong, self-reliant guy and this is going to be difficult for him.  I’m switching gears.  I’m in ‘caretaker’ mode now.   We spent the whole weekend at the hospital, so I need a few days off of work to get things set up at home so he can get around safely and have food to eat.

Making things work at home for him is my first priority.  Teaching is my second.  My own training isn’t really a priority – it’s a coping mechanism.  I need it.  So it doesn’t matter why I train.  I need to train.  Everything else falls into some spot behind everything else.  I have to be honest with myself about what I can and cannot do.  I may not be posting as much. Or I may find that writing helps. We’ll see.

One thing that I won’t ever forget – a set back in training is NOT A PROBLEM.  It’s just a thing to fix.  Life is messy and there will be real problems.  I’ve been lucky to have been able to navigate through mild storms to this point.  If I’m going to practice what I preach, I’ll get through this bigger storm, too.

However, I am officially “off track” with my training and food for the last few days.  I’ve been eating at the hospital cafeteria and Starbucks.  (A stranger bought my coffee this morning.  I cried.  Explained that it has been a stressful weekend and his kindness was very appreciated.)  I may be off track, and it’s tempting to quit using my husband and my job as reasons why, but I can’t do that.  I don’t think my husband would let me do that.  So, I’ll take a few days off work so I can make sure things are manageable for hubby at home.  I’ll find a way to get back on track by the end of the week.


Home now.  Hubby is napping on and off.  I’m relieved.


Filed under Life

The Most Frustrating, Inspiring Part of Bodybuilding is…

TAMMY vs. ____

It feels like I’m constantly battling against some obstacle.  It’s usually a cranky hip.  Sometimes, the pissy back jumps in to help out her cranky buddy. Did I really just say that my back has my hip’s back?  That’s silly.

Sometimes, it’s just my f’d-up geometry.  (Scoliosis, flat feet, bunions)

Sometimes, it’s my job.  Had to put in academic warnings today.  Third quarter academic warnings are always tough.  Makes me question why I bother.  Should get a job in an office somewhere.  At a nice, quiet desk job.

But sometimes, my opponent is more – formidable.


I had progress pics and got a DXA bodyfat analysis done.  I sent all the data off for a second opinion.  I’m not going to share specifics just yet.  I’m still in shock.  And I’m probably overreacting.  But the inner voice I’m battling tonight is repeating “You just wasted the last three months.”  And then it goes to the really scary place – “You’re too old for this.  You’re not an athlete.  What were you thinking?”

And after a certain amount of time to process that, a very quiet and calm voice slowly begins the pep-talk.  She reminds me that setbacks are normal and they are necessary.  She reminds me that I do this because I love the activity of doing it.  I do it to overcome fear.  I do it to repeatedly fall and get up.  Every setback is a lesson that needs to be learned.

So the most frustrating and inspiring part of bodybuilding is the continual opportunity to grow psychologically stronger as my ego repeatedly is handed to me on a platter.  I want to quit.  I want to hide.  I want to crawl out of public view.  But what I think of as a major setback is really nothing in the big picture.  This is anything but a life and death situation.  This isn’t important.  It’s just a setback.  It’s just an ego check.

I’m learning.  I’m listening.

Yeah, I have my battles.  Because I know I want to hide when things are tough, hide and feel sorry for myself with nachos and ice cream – that’s why I started this blog and the Facebook page sometime later.  I need to keep pushing myself out of the comfortable place and out in the open.  I never wanted to be ‘inspirational’.  I want to be held accountable.  I wanted more support.

I’m trying to build as much muscle as possible.  I’m trying to get bigger and stronger.  Ultimately, I’m putting myself through a challenge every day.  My body just isn’t cooperating right now.  The psychological part of this is so much harder than the physical.  That’s the challenge, I guess.

The news I got today isn’t the issue – it’s just data.  What I’m writing about is the real obstacle – the mental game.  The mental gymnastics, the uncertainty, the questioning…that’s the rub.

Sometimes, all that’s required is faith, patience, and courage.

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Filed under Faith, Life, Motivation, Teaching

Pep Talks

One of the things I really enjoy about teaching is giving pep-talks.  I never used to give as many I as do now.  I’ve learned a lot about how the mental game can help you progress or hold you back.  For me it is in the gym, but that’s not the first hard thing I’ve done.  It’s easy to connect that to their lives in school.  And many of my students who play sports identify with what I’m doing as a bodybuilder.  I try to make the connection that doing “hard stuff” in any part of our lives is a challenge, but once you learn how to succeed, it translates to other things.  It’s not just about math (they are learning some hard stuff – trigonometry, precalculus and calculus), but how learning to overcome an obstacle now will help them in life later.

Students tell me that they like the pep talks.  I suspect they really like the time not taking notes or doing problems.  That’s cool.  It works for me.  They still hear it.  I try not to abuse it.  But there are key times when a good pep talk is needed…

  • before a hard quiz
  • after a hard quiz
  • when grades come out
  • when no one wants to work because it’s a Monday, a Friday, or a Wednesday.  For some reason, Tuesdays and Thursdays seem to be good days to learn math.
  • it’s a senior class in second semester – sometimes they need a pep talk every day

I am grateful to have the opportunity to think about how to motivate kids.  I suspect that’s because I need pep talks, too.  Lately, I feel like I need a bunch.

I can’t lie – competing is fun, but I’m not motivated by it right now since it’s not happening again until summer 2015.  I LOVE training.  I want to be a good lifter.  I want to improve technique and I want to build more muscle.  Changes at this point are not dramatic.  Growth comes in grams,  not pounds.  I am very slowly and methodically working on my body composition so that when I start the next prep, it will be easier.  (Although, the last two weren’t really that bad.  Doc is happy with my blood work and thyroid looks good.  I want to keep it that way.)   I have to be consistent and patient.  I also need to keep working on sleep, recovery, and stress management.

What really keeps me going is the process.  I love the science of self-discovery.  I love looking for connections between training, nutrition, sleep, stress, and what my body does under certain conditions.  It’s all so miraculous to this former fat-chick who used to think two plates of nachos with a couple rum and cokes was the best supper ever.  I love that the more I learn, the more questions I have.  I love that every body is different and what works fabulously for one doesn’t work at all for another.  This is just really fun.  I know that lifting isn’t for everyone.  Some like to run, some like to dance – I like to lift.  But I do believe that for us to be happy, we must move.  The body is a biomiracle that functions optimally when the day involves movement.

Rambling!  Sorry.  Hazard of my ‘stream of consciousness’ blogging style.

Back on topic…

This is what I share with my students – that if something is important to you, find a way to do it.  I tell them that I know “math” isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but getting a good grade in a hard class is possible even if it’s not your favorite subject.  Focus on your process more than short term results because improvement will come if the process is solid.  Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, right?  

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Filed under Competing, Life, Motivation, Teaching

Fear Revisited

My life is a constant struggle with fear. I’m either wrestling with my own or I’m trying to help other people wrestle with theirs.  I’ve written about fear before.  It’s such a common experience many of us share, I wanted to write about it again tonight.  Here is what I’ve learned about fear.

FEAR is a THIEF.  How many people don’t live the life they are supposed to live because they are afraid?  Fear took my dream and left in it’s place a life full of safe routines.  I used to cling to those routines like a security blanket.  I “didn’t have time” to go to a gym and risk looking foolish – the old, fat woman who moved awkwardly and couldn’t do much very well.  Fear ruled my life for too many years.  My health suffered.  I was not being who I was supposed to be.

FEAR is a BARRIER.  It will stop you.  It will change your path.  I realized this after my mother died.  After I started to come out of the fog of grief, I looked back at my life and saw a series of decisions made to avoid something.  It was then that I made a promise to myself to not let fear define my life.  However, I forgot about that promise as the years went by.  Initially, my health transformation was about avoiding an early death – another decision based on fear.  But then I remembered.  I remembered my promise to myself.  I remembered that thing that fascinated me when I was much younger, but I was too afraid of it to try … bodybuilding.  Once I decided to do it, I didn’t see the barrier anymore.  I just assumed it was going to be a lot of work.


FEAR is a CHARMING LIAR.  “I can’t afford it.”  That’s what I told myself about getting the help I knew I needed.   Heck, I told myself that about just driving to the gym.   “I can do it myself.” That’s what fear told me.  I was afraid to invest in myself.  I was afraid to take the risk.  I knew that if I faced my fear and took the risk, I would NOT let myself fail.  I would NOT quit because that would make the money and time I spent be wasted.  Fear kept lying to me.  “You can’t do it.  You’re too old.  You’re too out of shape.”  I knew there was one thing I had to do to succeed – DON’T QUIT.  It was going to work.  I just needed to be patient and consistent.

Fear continues to whisper in my ear.  I regularly have to push forward despite those little whispers.  The strong woman training and competition was a great example of how I battled with fear almost every day for 8 weeks.  It wasn’t whispering to me then – it was very convincing, very logical.  I wanted to quit every day.  I used a trick I’ve used before – I left myself notes on my bathroom mirror.


The first year of my journey was a struggle.  From June 2009 to June 2010, there was no blog.  There was no Facebook page.  It was just me making myself get up every day and do the thing I knew I needed to do.  It took a whole year before I fell in love with exercise.  That’s when I made the decision to do the thing that scared me the most – hire a trainer and learn to lift so I could become a bodybuilder.  The exhilaration of being that bold and pushing through my fear propelled me.  Everything I’ve accomplished since then is a milestone of another fear conquered.  Doing a posing routine on stage?  Yeah, that was a big fear.

I work with people of all ages now as they face things that scare them a little – or a lot.  I’m either their math teacher, their trainer, or their coach.  I try to offer a little courage when they need it.  Some take it, some don’t.  They aren’t ready.  When they are ready, I’ll be there.  I ask them to acknowledge the fear and act anyway.  Pretending it’s not there is like pretending there isn’t an elephant in the room.

I’m still afraid.  However, I’ve learned that the most rewarding things I’ve done have happened when I act in spite of my fear.  I love this…

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Filed under Life, Motivation, Opinions, Venting, Ranting, Strong Woman Training

How “I Can’t” Turned Into “I HAVE to or else…”

Countless conversations with clients, perspective clients, friends, students, coworkers, gym buddies, and online acquaintances have been bouncing around in my head.  I, like many people, say “I can’t because…” a lot.  Lately, it stops me in my tracks more than I would like – and I’ve blogged about my personal challenges with this strong woman training already, so I won’t digress.  I’m repeatedly told, even by people close to me, who know exactly how I’ve done what I’ve done, “You’re different.  It’s easier for you.”  It’s like they see the results and forget, or won’t acknowledge, the work.  (We all do it – remember that kid who got an “A” in math class that we all assumed was a genius?  Now I know differently. That kid probably spent HOURS in my classroom when others were over at Burger King NOT doing homework.)

This isn’t easy for anyone.  I don’t have the challenges others have, but I also know people with what seems like insurmountable obstacles who have accomplished more than me.  I was just a regular, middle-aged, busy woman – who got a kick upside the head.  I’m lucky it was just a kick and not a funeral.  Women I know have died while being ‘regular, middle-aged, and busy”.   So when I come off as harsh and insensitive to “reasons” – it’s because I know this shit can kill you.

It’s a predictable cartoon to insert here – but you were thinking that it needed to be here, weren’t you?? Hahaha!

July 2006: I joined a gym.  I don’t remember what my weight was at the time, but I know I didn’t feel good.  I have no pictures of myself from that time.   I used the three personal training sessions that came with that new membership.  I remember telling the trainer that I wanted to learn how to lift.  She spent a lot of time showing me how to use bands.  I got frustrated and quit.  (Knowing what I know now, there was nothing wrong with what she had me do, but she didn’t explain to me the purpose of those exercises and how it I would transition into more traditional lifting.  She probably trained everyone they way she liked to train – not uncommon.)  But my little spark of motivation died and I let life provide all kinds of reasons why I didn’t have time.  There were other things I wanted to do that weren’t going to be so…painful and embarrassing.

Lorena & Me

June 2008

March 2009: The ER visit.  My health deteriorated in the three years I was busy not taking care of it.  I was on high blood pressure meds, had high cholesterol, and was at risk for a bunch of life-style induced chronic illnesses by age 47.  One Sunday afternoon, my anxiety level was high, there was a sharp pain my chest, and I was dizzy.  I asked my husband to take me to the ER.  Considering my overall condition, they kept me there for several hours, hooked me up, ran tests, and began to rule out the worst.  They determined it was an anxiety attack – this time.  The “this time” was emphasized.  It was clearly explained that a woman my age, with my physical condition, was smart to come to the ER that day.  My soul heard that.  I knew I was on borrowed time.  My copay on that visit was $1200.  Add to that the monthly cost of blood pressure meds…add to that more meds that were on the horizon… it became obvious to me that money was going to be spent to treat a health crisis if I didn’t spend it to prevent it.  I didn’t know what I was going to do, but the decision was made.  I was going to change.

And then I waited a couple more months.  Typical.

June 2009: I got a gadget and an angel.  School was out for summer vaca and I was at the gym doing cardio.  Looking down at the desk, I saw the table of gadgets – Bodybuggs.  I pulled out a credit card and left with one.  For me, that was the corner that needed to be turned.  I remember finally putting it together in my head.

June 2009

June 2009

Let’s throw some money at a solution.  If I invest, I won’t quit.  I won’t waste my money.

I didn’t even pretend I would be able to figure this thing out on my own.  I signed up for the phone coaching they offered at the time (which they don’t have anymore, which sucks, but I do something similar for my clients now).  My Bugg Coach was Kim.  Her task was to teach me about the device and how to use the website interface, but what she really did was teach me how to eat.  We became friends and are still friends now.  I listened.  I implemented.  I asked questions.  I followed directions.  I trusted.  I did what I was told and I got results.  Who would have thunk it?

March 2010: Stalled.  While Coach Kim and I remained friends, she had a personal health crisis that forced her to quit coaching.  After working with her for six months, she set me up with a LOT of knowledge about how to eat clean and I felt I was able to handle it on my own.  But there was a problem.  I knew I needed to lift, but my insecure butt stayed on that treadmill.  I looked down at the weights, but I was afraid.  I’m sure I was more afraid of looking stupid than of getting hurt.  From June 2009 until February 2010, I had lost 40 pounds, but then I stalled.  I knew something needed to change.  My membership at the gym I joined in 2006 was paid for and has a really low annual renewal, so I had some wiggle room financially.  I joined a second gym – the local YMCA – hoping that change of scenery would be helpful.  Met with a couple trainers at those gyms, but while both were very nice women, neither one had the background knowledge I needed.

“Two types of people in this world; proactive people who are constructive risk takers and people who are passive and complain about things.” ~ Coach

June 2010: Hired a boy trainer and started this blog.  OK – Nico might not like that, but I was old enough to be his mom, or he could have been one of my students – in fact, he was referred to me by one of my former students – so that’s how I saw him at the time.  I decided that to learn what I wanted to learn, I needed to be trained like a 30 year old man.  Never mind that I was a 48 year old woman.  And I knew I needed to pay for this because it was how I took things seriously.  More charge card action – not happy about it, but I also promised myself I would not quit, I would not surrender, I would not let my inner “responsible adult” or other responsible adults around me talk me into making compromises*  that I knew would derail me down the road.  I had quit for the last time.

*The way I see it, we all have priorities on how we spend our money.  I don’t shop – if size changes force me to get new clothes, I go to thrift stores or Walmart.  I didn’t have my first manicure until this summer for show prep – and I probably won’t keep that up much longer.  We don’t eat out.  I shop at a discount grocery store.  We don’t spend a lot of money on gifts.  We don’t take vacations, hardly ever spend gas on day trips – so yeah.  Sacrifices have been made.

I’m not going to continue with my little autobiography here because the blog started in June 2010.  The rest of the story from June 2010 until this week is all here for anyone who wants to know.  People want easy, fast answers – there aren’t any.  Sorry.  What I’ve done – and continue to do – for my own progress, well it changes because my body has changed.  It changes, then it adapts, so I have to change something, it changes, then it adapts, then I change something… you get the idea.  But while the science is complicated and fascinating, it’s not necessary to have a complete understanding of it to do this thing.  The people I paid to help me taught me a lot, but I could have learned on my own.  What they did for me was more than that – they were my accountability, my coaches, and my “accelerator” when the rest of my life was acting like a big set of “brakes”.


Filed under Life, Motivation