Kettle life post- Cali Open has been interesting. I knew I was going to be competing at the end of April in the Agatsu Canadian Championships, but I did not feel ready to do long cycle on the platform only 5 weeks after the Cali Open. Jason and I agreed it would be a good idea for me to switch to jerk only for this short amount of time. The training would benefit my long cycle, and mentally for me I felt less pressure since I had never competed in 20kg jerk only event before. Even though this cycle was only 5 weeks in length, I think I learned the most about myself so far as a lifter. It was also the most strained my relationship with my coach had ever been – all completely coming from me, and so I have to say I learned the most this cycle about communication. Jason had pushed the pace hard for 5 weeks having me train at 15rpm mostly with the 18kg, followed by heavy days (22k – 24k) of short long cycle sets at a slower pace. I found this challenging but for the most part do-able, but when I started to do short jerk only sets with the 20kg it was insanely challenging and I knew there would be no way I could complete a 10 minute set at 15rpm. I did not cope well with this and started to put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to try to hit Master of Sport numbers. The closer it got the competition, the more I realized I would not be ready for that game plan. The more I realized I could not sustain 15rpm, the bitchier I became and the more I questioned my program because I did not understand its design. This actually marked a significant turning point for me from being a “part to whole” learner to a “whole to part.” Allow me to explain –
Part to Whole
I know the end goal is to make my 10minute set with my competition weight bell and to maintain a pace pre-determined by my coach which would be something we had trained to prepare me for. In the beginning of my training I didn’t really need to understand the different stages of competition preparation, because I was more focused on technique and improving my efficiency. I trusted my coach completely and was able to do workouts in isolation without requiring to know how they were preparing me or why they were ordered the way they were. I could focus on the individual parts and just trying my best to hit my numbers taking it one workout at a time. At the end when I got on that platform and made my time and hit my goal number of reps I was then able to realize how those parts had worked together to create the whole performance.
Whole to Part
Here’s where I am today. My technique is pretty efficient. I am able to feel and see instability and inefficiency and self-correct, or respond to the cues and feedback from my coach and apply his corrections and suggestions. My goals now are to raise my lifting to the level of Master of Sport. We know the numbers I need to hit in order to do that. What I need to stay motivated and focused on that task is to be included and involved in the understanding of the plan of attack. I need my coach to share his vision with me… or to even give me a theme that can give my training more intention and purpose. Then as I am working on the individual parts and sets I can carry that intention with me into each workout and envision how they are helping me climb that ladder to my goal. I’m excited that this is something Jason and I are going to be experimenting with for future competitions. I trust him completely and part of the reason I chose him for a coach was because of his creativity and innovation. I will follow where ever he leads, I just don’t want to be lead blindly. I’m excited to be more involved in the vision process and to be able to put my energy and intention into carrying it out.
A friend of mine coaches a high level competitive lacrosse team. He asked one of his players to come up with a theme for the season this year. I admire him having the trust to give that responsibility to one of his players to help them take ownership of their team. His athlete came back with the theme “burn the boats” which essentially comes from a historic conquest where the Spanish conquistador was going into war and before he went into battle he commanded his men to “burn the boats” so that there was no turning back and they had to win in order to survive. There was no option to lose. His athlete thought it was a good theme for their lacrosse team because they needed to turn a new page this season and improve on the previous year. If they were going to go all the way this year there had to be 100% commitment and buy-in. It wasn’t good enough to just show up. He wanted his teammates to know that they all needed to show up and work together to succeed, because if they didn’t, there would be no tomorrow for them, no playoffs. Losing wasn’t an option. I positively love this. It reminds me of the documentary “The Heart of the Game”, the 2005 sports documentary film about the Roosevelt Roughriders girls basketball team. The movie is centered around their star player Darnellia Russell and the Roughriders new coach Bill Resler who is quite the eccentric character. Each year he came up with a different theme that represented the mindset he wanted the team to have when they attacked every practice and game. One year he decided his team was going to focus on defense and press the entire game, every game. Their theme was a pack of wolves…they had to think like a pack of hungry wolves and work together on the hunt and kill of their prey. I totally dig that kind of shit. 🙂 I’m still trying to think of a theme that speaks to me for this journey to Master of Sport.
Alas, I kinda got off topic. Back to the Agatsu Canadian Championships. Only 5 weeks of training and a lot of unnecessary pressure I placed on myself to rank and meet what I thought were my coach’s expectations (but actually weren’t) plus added confusion in not understanding my training plan for this cycle….basically turned me into a complete bitch and nervous wreck. Eventually Jason and I came head to head (like we do each cycle) and he reassured (and reminded) me that this break from long cycle was to create fun and less pressure. This competition wasn’t really apart of our schedule for my road to Master of Sport. I was also first-time coaching 5 women to compete at this event and that was really more where my priorities were focused for this competition. Ofcourse I’m a competitive freak and the closer it came, the more anxious I became. To make things worse this cycle I had been training with bare arms hoping that I could compete that way for this event. I could also tell I wasn’t ready for that. The final seed of insecurity came when my period was due the day of the competition. This had never happened for me in 2 years of competing. I’d love to do a scientific research study on the effect of weight lifting/weight bearing sports and hormone activity. I have always found with my training that the week before my period was due I would get a significant amount of pain and weakness in my forearms. But once my period arrives, it is gone. To have this feeling a week before competition sucks. I was genuinely scared. I wasn’t even sure if down grading to 18kg was going to be enough. It raised more doubt in my mind about my preparation. Luckily for me my period was 2 days early and the pain in my forearms had subsided and I was feeling better about being able to lift 20kg. I also had underestimated the amount coaching was physically and mentally draining and I know I took that stress out on my coach too.
Thank goodness for women lifters! I turned to some of my women lifter friends who I am close with to ask their advice on what I should do for the competition. They all said the same thing and gave me awesome advice that immediately reduced my stress. Add to that Jason reminding me to have fun and enjoy myself also really resonated with me. And then something amazing happened. A few kettlebell lifters that I know only from meeting on Facebook wrote to me to send me positive wishes for the competition. One of my new friends reminded me to stay positive which I combined with Jason’s reminders to have fun and I spent the week before the competition really focusing on the positive feelings lifting gives me – that feeling when you crush a set and hit your numbers, that sense of pride when you know your technique is on and your reps are clean, the energy at every competition where lifters support one another and want to see you hit the best number you can hit…any time I caught myself trying to have a negative thought I overcrowded it with positive ones. So simple and yet so effective! It was also profound to me that these people took the time to write to me to share their positive sentiments. Completely restores my faith in humanity and was also overwhelming and felt undeserved. But I decided to use this profound kindness for the good that was intended. I wanted to make my new friends proud. I asked Sara-Clare Lajeunesse to stand in for Jason and coach me through my set. Something else I’ve decided I need for competition. That one person I can lock on to and tune out everything else. It’s just us, the clock and the judge. She was amazing. Before my set she told me to pick someone I would like to dedicate it to. Someone who I would NEVER let down in a million years. That way when things got rough, I could really draw on that strength to help me through.
I decided to dedicate my set to Awesometown and my coach Jason Dolby. Jason wasn’t the only one I was taking out my shitty stress on, but I had been giving my students tough love all week and at times lecturing them about their poor decision making. I take my role modelling seriously and when I encourage my students to do things even if they are scared, I HAVE to show them I will do it too. With Jason, not only was I feeling bad for taking my stress and anxiety out on him, but I felt like I had really let him down at the Cali Open and my result was not reflective of the effort he had put into training me. I really wanted to make up for that this time. Although they were at the forefront of my brain during my set, I couldn’t help but also be moved to perform well in my home city, in front of my students and my friends. Due to the stress and pain in my arms I had decided to make my performance goals to last the full 10 minutes, and to try to get as close to 100 reps as possible, and hope that if I was feeling good, I could try to go for more. I was not going to go out at 15rpm. I decided to gamble and try 12rpm and slow down if I couldn’t maintain it.
So…the end result- 20kg Jerk only, 59kg weight class (I weighed in at 57.2), 119 reps and CMS! So far this would definitely go down as my best performance to date. My technique felt the most solid for the entire set than it has ever felt with 20kg. I could tell in the first 3 minutes I was going to be able to sustain 12rpm. I tried a couple of times to bump up to 13rpm but I could feel that was too risky, not time for that yet. However, I can really feel the investment in the Cali Open Sport Camp paying off. All of that time with the Russians and my coach was amazing. I can feel myself starting assimilate and apply what I learned. This result gives me a lot more confidence going back to long cycle. Jason also reminded me that in my last 3 consecutive platform appearances I have hit the CMS rank. I feel as though I am just on the cusp of hitting that next level. Everything is moving in the right direction, boxes are getting checked and I just need to continue my patience and stay the course. Now I have feelings of relief and excitement as I get back to long cycle and training. I owe Sara-Clare the hugest thanks. She really helped keep me calm and focused. She was with me every second and I locked on to her every word. She did a brilliant job of helping me out on the last minute of my set. Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” came on during the final minute and I immediately started to pick up the pace on the first 2 reps and Sara calmed me down and got me to settle back into my pace. “Save it for the last 30 seconds”, she said. My arm crapped out before the end of the set, and part of that was because of how fast I went out that last minute, but I know if Sara hadn’t gotten me to respond as quickly as she did, I would not have hit CMS because my arm would have been done much sooner.
Here is the video of my set:
So many lessons learned – that the week before my menstrual cycle makes my arms hurt and turns me into a complete insecure bitch (and even though circumstances with the timing weren’t ideal I was still able to overcome the pms and make weight and lift the 20kg showing that it is not an excuse!), that I need to balance coaching stress and my own performance stress better – one way I can do this is by being more positive, and that I need to communicate more clearly with my coach before we begin a new training cycle. I need to know the general training strategy we are going to try so that I can put that intention into my workouts. The fact that I pulled out a great result in addition to these learning moments is a bonus….but also speaks to Jason’s great programming. Even though my highly structured brain needs the security of having that compass – sense of direction for my training….I also need to relax and not get so uptight when I don’t have that information. I’m in great hands and my results and technique speak for themselves. And ofcourse I can’t forget about the kindness of acquaintances. I love the kettlebell community and they motivate and inspire me to keep up the pursuit of being my best – as an athlete and a person. THANK YOU!!!!! ESPECIALLY THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU if you read this entire article! 🙂