Monday, October 28, 2013

Taking Up Space: A Weightlifting Feminist Rant

" a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled..."

How many women out there feel like they have to earn the food they eat?

How many of you feel this unseen pressure to be smaller? Not just have a healthy body, but to be diminutive?

If you actively reject that, have you experienced comments on it?

This video spoke to me, particularly the part about stealing calories in the night. I know too many women who eat with shame when they have nothing to be ashamed about. And the more you equate food with morality, the harder it is to see it as fuel and health. As I've spoken about before, even I fall into that mindfuck when trying to diet down for competition.

I'm lucky to be as head strong as I am. Despite a beginning in ballet, I was able to shake off the notion of "be thin"to "be awesome" and awesome for me is to be as strong, fast, and athletically muscled as possible.

Do a Google search for "take up space feminism" to see how women are pressured to be small and to NOT take up too much space. Many perspectives written much more eloquently than I ever could.

Finding your version of healthy and fit is a feminist issue. You will find people in every corner trying to make that decision for you.

I want to leave you with this last thought:

Gender norms are for people who are neither smart enough nor creative enough to create their own normal.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Recap of the Max's Gym Open

I'm still giddy about it all. This meet played out in ways that I day dream about. Making risky attempts to give yourself a shot at a specific goal for a specific reason.

The first goal of the day was to make weight. I had been hovering around 170 lbs for months. My body really likes it there and it wasn't until two days before the meet that I was able to break that barrier and get down to.... 168.9 lbs. I needed to weigh in at or under 165 lbs. I even tapped out my hot water heater three times the day of in attempts to create a steam room to no avail.

I weighed in at 75.3 kg right under the time wire. I was going to have to be a super for this meet.

The next big goal was to make it to the A session at the American Open. If I was 75 kg, I needed a 172 kg total. As a super (75+kg), I'd have to total 175 kg. Three kilos is a lot when you already knew you'd have to pull some PRs out of your ass anyway. Why the A session? The AO is in Dallas, and if I lift on Sunday my family can come up and watch me lift for the first time. If I'm in the B session, I'll lift on Friday and they're at work.

I told Diane what I'd need to total. We threw some possible weight combinations around (my best so far were 66 and 99, and not in the same meet) and had a good laugh. But both of our brains were churning out strategies to work my way up there.

The snatches were where I was most nervous but ended up turning out the best. At Diane's behest, I was working a new snatch technique for a couple of weeks. And while it felt so much better on my shoulder, I didn't feel like I was yet able to get much power out of it.

Diane would have me take an attempt back stage, then go out and bump up my opener. That happened a couple of times, putting me to open at 69 kg. So my opener became my "new technique" PR. That alone was risky. But I was feeling good and made my next two lifts at 71 kg and 73 kg, both being overall post-surgery PRs. It was like something clicked, and I was able to get some pop out of the new technique, even while thinking about every movement.

The clean and jerk ended up being more dramatic. I missed 94 kg back stage. Which was weird, my jerks have been so ON lately. I got word from Jasha that I was gripping the bar to death. Without time to correct it in the back, I went out at 97 kg and did just fine. Stupid nervous grippy hands. I got two whites and a red on the 97 lift, so we only jumped to 99 kg. That one flew up. We needed 102 kg to make the A session, so hell, let's put it on the bar. I haven't even tried a 102 kg jerk since surgery, but what the hell. And I'll be damned, it felt better than the 99 kg lift.

Hello, A session!

I've found that since surgery my competition mindset has changed a lot in two significant ways.

1) Nerves used to get in my way. I used to hate how nervous I got. And the more annoyed I got with being so nervous, the tenser I got and the less well I performed. Now I look forward to the nerves and use that energy to hone my lifts. These days, weights in competition feel so much lighter than they do in training.

2) My goals and drive are now intrinsic.  When I started weightlifting, I was conditioned to regard my progress in terms of how I did in comparison to others. It was all about if I won the local meet or not (not winning was unacceptable to my first coach) and how high I could place at national level meets. Now it's about progressing in some way from one meet to the next. I won the Kono, that's cool, but it was a surprise. I don't know where I placed at Lincoln High, but I was excited to get that 99kg C&J. I took third at Max's Open, but was ELATED because I made a blind leap in lifting faith to reach a specific, personal goal.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Olympics Boycotts and Human Rights

Olympics = fitness. So into my blog it goes.

There are many LBGTQ and Allies that are saying we should boycott the winter Olympics this year because of Russia's intolerant and violent opposition to people being people. While I think it's important that we stand for our brethren and against those who sacrifice human rights, an Olympic boycott will hurt more people than it will help.

In an ideal situation, I would like to see the Olympics moved out of Sochi all together.

However, when we boycotted the 1980 Olympics, athletes who had worked THEIR ENTIRE LIVES, sacrificing so much in pursuit of their goals, really had the rug pulled out from under them. In an effort to make a statement, a statement that fell flat, we punished the hardworking citizens of our own country.

The only effect was that at the next Olympics, 1984 in LA, those who were boycotted against boycotted back. Not exactly progress:

Wikipedia Page on the 1980 Olympic Boycott

Athletes still annoyed, 25 years later

Yet look back to the powerful imagery that we have from the 1968 Olympics, when Black athletes made their presence known and displayed to the world that our athletes are human and stand for more than speed and agility. We stand for human rights.

Wikipedia Page on the 1968 Olympic Black Power Salute

Smithsonian Article looking back on the effects

I say, we stand by our athletes. We protect them, we let them do their thing. Let them make their statements if they so chose. Don't force them to be pawns in a political game that will only punish them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Evolution of my Eating Experimentation

How I currently eat relies heavily on tracking done on two websites:


Energy Expenditure Calculator

After surgery I let myself get up to 182 lbs. I wasn't freaked out by this, I specifically told myself I was going to use surgery as an excuse to get a little fluffy and not give a shit. And 182 lbs on my frame isn't even that fluffy, just put a little icing over my muscles is all.

But I know I wouldn't be able to stay there, the last limited weight class in my sport tops out at 165 lbs. Why that is stupid is a rant for another time, but regardless, I know I won't be competitive in the unlimited category.
I weighed in at 172 lbs this day. I'm big, but I like to think it's in the right way.

What I've been doing to get down to size is (1) giving myself a small calorie deficit (200-400 calories), (2) making sure I get plenty of protein (~170 g/day), (3) cycling carbs and overall calories.

On days that I'm particularly active, lots of coaching, over an hour of strength training, and/or some CrossFit Football work, I make up the calorie difference by drinking extra protein shakes during the day and eating a bowl of white rice with kimchee and seaweed right before bed.

On days I'm less active, I might have less rice at night, and mess with the caloric deficit through how much Paleo pulled pork I eat midday.

If I have a no-training day I'll forgo the rice and adjust protein shake and pulled pork volumes for an appropriate deficit.

Then I have the "flex day" on Sunday. I'll eat ALL THE FOODS! Usually I don't want that much junk because it just makes me feel gross, but it's nice to allow an beignet or crepe for breakfast or dessert for no reason at all. I think that it's given on Sunday my caloric load is over the expenditure level.

The Journey to Here

Let's start back when I was a martial artist

<cue fade in and music>

For the first time in my life, I was really starting to get the combined importance of calories and macronutrients. When I was a dancer, it was all "eat healthy, eat less, be thin" but as an athlete who wanted to be awesome instead of thin, I had to get more of the story.

Taking an athlete's approach to nutrition also make me look better in a leotard. 

I learned that protein was key to building muscle. Okay, at least one gram per pound body weight, I can do that. Then I learned how carbs can fuel your work and help you recover, but also how too much at once creates a hormonal cascade that can lead to fat retention and energy crashes. Cool, let's go for 150-200 grams of carbs spread through out the day. Calories are energy, and as a female athlete I probably need somewhere in the 2200 to 2600 range. Calculate up the protein and carbs, fill out the rest with fat. Done.

This worked really well for me. I was able to maintain 150 lbs to 155 lbs of bodyweight while competing in the 70kg class for judo. Plus, I had four pack abs. It took a lot of dedication and tracking, but I felt awesome.


When I became a weightlifter, I initially thought I would compete as a 69kg lifter. After all, it's only one kilo less than my judo weight class.

What I didn't anticipate was how my body was going to want to put on mass when I changed from a highly conditioning oriented training regime to a predominantly strength and anaerobic focused one. To try to keep my body weight down, I cut down sugars to only the occasional fruit in my salad, and my calories went way down. After all, I worked in an office. How much did I need? I only calculated out my food to get total protein, the low calories was just too depressing.

When I decided to move up a weight class, and start putting a FULL chicken breast in to my lunchtime salad, not only did my body mass swell (in a good way), my numbers sky rocketed. It took two weeks of eating more to put 5 kilos on my clean and jerk, after being stalled for months.

You'd think I'd get that calories matter.

Things Change as You Get Older

It's hard to tease out pre-surgery how much of my body composition was defined by my diet, by my lackadaisical training routine, and by my general mentality of being SO BURNED OUT OF IT ALL. I tried a lot of things; Paleo, Primal, Carb Back Loading, Carb Nite; and half assed every single one.

Post Surgery

I've talked before about how surgery not only fixed my shoulders, but fixed my mentality. Once it was time to start thinking about competing again, I knew that I had to get back on track. First was Carb Nite, which worked really well at the outset, bringing my body weight down from 182 lbs to 170 lbs in about 5 weeks. I was looking lean, I was feeling strong. But then things just stalled out.

Time to try Carb Back Loading. I read and hear how people feel so much more recovered the next day, they put on muscle faster, can train harder. Talk out there made CBL sound like steroids. So I tried to have mango and sticky rice immediately after my training sessions. I didn't feel any better. I wasn't feeling more recovered. I felt a little bloated and it was kind of a pain in the ass to make sure I ended my training with enough time to gorge on the rice before I had my next client session. I tried for two weeks and gave up.

I spend the next few weeks on Carb Nite until a conversation withe a friend led me to the Calorie Expenditure Calculator above. Turns out that on some days I was around a 1000 calorie deficit! No wonder I felt like my body composition was slipping and my weight wasn't budging!

The rest is history.

What Will I Try Now?

Going forward I plan on doing what I currently do with one added exception. When I'm not focused on making weight for anything, I'll make sure that in addition to my "Sunday Flex-day" I'll have one day during the week where I go over my caloric needs in a typically "clean eating" way. Most likely a Wednesday since it'll be easier to do. I figure that varying my calories during a maintenance phase shouldn't just be about varying the amount of my deficit, but also if there is even a deficit.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Come On, Kids. Gear =/= Cheating.

I feel like I've had this conversation quite a bit in the past month. Something along the lines of:

Them: "I don't use a belt because I want my core to be stronger."
Me: "Your core is actually able to more fully engage when it has the belt to brace against."
Them: "But it's external support, and (enter something about being a machine, not using machines nonsense)."

Them: "My wrists hurt every time I do front squats/ over head squats/ cleans/ snatches."
Me: "I've been competing in the Olympic lifts for over 5 years now, and I use wrist wraps every time I do X movement."
Them: "I think I just need to mobilize more/ train harder so I can do it right and not need them."
Me: "It's not about doing it right or wrong, in these positions you're sacrificing comfortable/ stable angles in the wrist to be more efficient with the overall movement. It's just part of the movement at heavy weights."
Them: blank stare

Them: "What's with the tight knee wraps?"
Me: "I have a powerlifting meet coming up and I need to get used to them. They're tight so they can help me lift more weight in the squat."
Them: "So it's cheating."
Me: "No.... it's part of the game. My competitors will be using them, so I might as well work on having the same advantage."

At the risk of sounding judgmental, most of the people that come at me with these types of conversations are CrossFitters. There is a culture of BE FUNCTIONAL and RELY ON YOUR OWN BODY in a way that eventually becomes detrimental.

Take workout gloves as an example. You will rarely see them in a CF gym. Athletes have told me they've brought them to a gym and were given a harangue about how they are cheating and you need to toughen up. Well, tearing is stupid, and not everyone cares to have hooves for hands. I wear my natural grown leather mitts with pride, but I have to compete this way. Most people don't and if a callous tear is going to keep you out of the gym for a week, wear the damn gloves.

Where would I draw the line? Wearing those wrist wraps that have hooks built into them.

So before you fully succumb to the "I don't use machines, I AM the machine" mentality to the point of constant suffering, consider these points:

- Do you plan to compete? What equipment is allowed/ banned in that sport?

- Is pain due to inherent position (wrists in the overhead squat) or your movement paterns (valgus knees)?