Since starting Barbell Dancer, I have found myself inducted into the world of 'fitness/fitspo' blogging. Now, my opinions about 'fitspo' and it's merits would be an entire post in itself (maybe something to tackle this weekend?) but there is something that really bugs me about some of the more popular blogs that fall into this category.
They're all perfect.
Certainly, I have no doubt that the people running these blogs are participating in the activities and sports they claim to be doing, but I do have trouble believing that every day is a perfect lifting day, that they beat their personal best every sprint, that they win every game.
It's human nature to celebrate our achievements and gloss-over or ignore our failures. In the age of social media, 24/7 access to Facebook, Instagram and others provide a never ending source of picture perfect lives for us to drool over. But generally, this is not a holistic picture of someone's life, just the parts they want to share. There's nothing wrong with this, after all, I certainly don't share everything I do, either here or on my private social media accounts. But what I always strive to ensure is that Barbell Dancer is a holistic picture of my fitness journey not just a long list of accomplishments. Every journey has good and bad days, yesterday was an awesome lifting day for me, but today, as you're about to read, was a struggle.
But this is real fitness, real training and it breeds real results and accomplishments. Imagine, for a moment, if everything was easy and we never had a bad day. You know what would happen? We'd never feel any sense of accomplishment because everyone would be doing it! Struggle days are just as valid to my training and my journey as power days, and if you take nothing else away from this post but that, then I'll be happy.
When faced with a difficult challenge, the act of simply keeping out heads down and waiting for it to pass is not the same as facing the challenge, working through it and coming out of it having gained something of value. - Kate James
The above is a wonderful quote from the book Build Resilience & Free Yourself From Fear about the difference between endurance and resilience. If you endure something you wait for it to pass, but if you face the challenge head on, you're practising resilience. Tonight, I did a bit of both.
As most of you will know, Wednesday night = arm day and arm day is my least favourite day of the FIRE program. Despite arriving fifteen minutes early and warming up, I still felt tight and stiff when I started my lifts and wasn't in a great head space, as I'm currently dealing with some pent up negativity in my life. Add to this mix that I was also starting to get hungry, despite having eaten an hour before hand, and I didn't have a recipe for successful lifts.
But I took a deep breath and said 'I can do it!'.
After my warm-up sets on the bench, Pat decided to go for a One Rep Max, similar to what I did on Monday with my squats, although this time the exercise was the bench press. I'm still fairly new to benching with a bar and, in general, the bench press is not an exercise where I can lift heavy. The bench press above was 30kgs and that's impressive for me, although it was damn hard and, for a moment, I really thought my arms were going to fail out. So, after I passed 30kgs, Pat said 'Let's try 35kgs'.
As you can see, 35kgs didn't agree with me and may I take this moment to applaud Pat for being an awesome spot and not letting me drop the bar on my neck.
Safety Announcement: As a general rule when weight training, unless you're in a group class, you should always ensure you have a spot. Even if you are the most confident lifter in the world, you never know what could go wrong at any given moment and, when dealing with weights, it can literally be a matter of life and death if they fall onto you or someone else.
I think I'm laughing at the end of this video because I really don't know what else to do. I couldn't lift it, I almost dropped it, and I think if I didn't start laughing I probably would have started crying from all the stress I was under. I did try and lift the 35kgs twice more, but wasn't able to get it up on me own and, with my safety in mind, Pat got me to call it quits on the 35kg bench at that point.
I won't lie, I was so angry and upset with myself for not being able to bench that weight. On reflection, I realise that a 35kg bench is heavy and, given I was benching the bar (which weighs 15kgs) less than four weeks ago, that I could even bench the 30kgs was a MASSIVE achievement. I doubled my barbell bench press!
But these reflection did not come until the day after, and, with all the external stress pressing down on me, the rest of arm day did not go so well for me. Several times I just stopped in the middle of an exercise, unable to find the physical or mental strength to push on. I'd take a few deep breaths and then start again, but I certainly wasn't on form and the J-Zone wasn't a happening thing last night.
In short, I endured my session, rather than facing it and building resilience.
My final exercise for the evening was my hang. I haven't been doing this exercise the last few weeks, so I wasn't sure if I'd still have it in me, and I was feeling so stressed and tired from everything else that I just thought 'whatever' and grabbed the bar like Pat instructed and started trying to do eight straight leg lifts.
Maybe it's my pole dancing; maybe I've just got strong legs; maybe, somewhere deep inside my stressed and tired mind, something said 'Let's finish with a bang!' and I did it. I remained stable, there was no swing, and I managed to keep my legs straight for all eight reps. It probably also helped that a couple of the ladies doing the FIRE program with me paused to lend some encouragement in the form of cheering me on. There's something about someone shouting 'Go! Go! You can do it!' as you're trying to push yourself through to the end.
For my second set, Pat wanted me to bend my knees and bring them up to my chin, again for eight, and, again, I managed it! I actually found this version of the exercise better, as it used almost exactly the same muscles I use to lift myself for several upside down tricks in pole dancing. You'll all be pleased to see, however, that I decided to save my upside down tricks for pole and didn't try and flip over the bar last night.
This was my final arm day for this FIRE program, and I will no doubt tackle it again when I take on the EP Winter Games in June. My arm day goal for my next program is simple: bench 35kgs for 3 reps.
I couldn't do one rep this program, it's true, but with some focused training and a sprinkling of determination, not to mention the support of Pat and Hilal moving forward, I say I'm only getting stronger.
Never give up! Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.
You don't find the willpower - you create it.
Me With No Apologies.