Thoughts on Super Regionals

If you told me at the beginning of the year that I would be heading down to Portland to compete at the 2016 Super Regionals I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Or at the very least, I would have laughed and said “hopefully,” and wondered whether or not I could actually make it. And then Week 1 of the Open came and went, and a 10th place finish on 16.1 made me realize that qualifying for Regionals was a real possibility. The following weeks were filled with lots of nerves, some redos and more than a few tears, but in the end, I finished 16th in Canada West and qualified for Super Regionals.

When the 2016 Regional workouts were released, I was actually pretty excited – from an objective point of view I really liked the programming – but I was also nervous. The majority of the movements/weights were ones I could do (some better than others), but there were also some workouts where I was nervous that I would be cutting it close to the minimum work requirement.

Super Regionals – Day 1

Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography
Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

Day 1 was definitely the most mentally draining – I always find the first event the most nerve-wracking – and the first two events (Snatch Ladder and Regionals Nate) were fairly high skill without much margin for error.

1 or 2 no reps on Event 1 could mean not advancing to the next  barbell; and being weak on the Strict Muscle-Ups in Event 2 could mean getting eliminated.

In the end however, Event 1 actually ended up going better than I expected. Going in I knew that the first barbell was heavy for me – close to my 90% – and if I wanted to hit it 10 times in two minutes – I needed to focus on hitting one rep at a time and not get ahead of myself. I also knew that compared to some of the girls on the floor, my max snatch wasn’t particularly strong; which meant I needed to stick to my own pace and not worry about what the other girls were doing.

Event 2, on the other hand, did not go as well as I was hoping. Going in I knew that Strict Muscle-Ups weren’t really my jam, and the original plan was to stick with 1 MU every minute. When the workout actually started however, and I saw how fast some of the other girls were working through the MUs, I forgot about my plan and came way too hot out of the gates. Which  worked just  fine for 1 round, but by round 2 I was hitting no-reps and I ended up only finishing 2 rounds + 2 muscle-ups.  It was the exact same score I had gotten in training, when I only did 1 muscle-up every 2 minutes and failed none.

Super Regionals – Day 2

Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography
Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

So that was Day 1. Mentally exhausting, but not too bad physically. Day 2, on the other hand, was physically demanding but a lot less nerve-wracking. I knew the events were going to be uncomfortable, but I wasn’t particularly worried about failing to meet any of the minimum work requirements for Events 3, 4 or 5.

The first two events of Day 2, events 3 & 4,  were very lung-y and “go go go”. And because the weights were light and the skills were fairly easy, there wasn’t any reason to stop/rest (other than it being uncomfortable). Unfortunately, I did that anyways. During the 104 wallballs of Event #3, I remember thinking to myself

“This is it. This is Regionals. You have to get uncomfortable”

but then next thing I knew I’d dropped the ball and was staring at it, not wanting to pick it back up. It was a weird feeling, kind of surreal, because I knew I was on the floor and this is when it should matter most and I just didn’t have that push. I wouldn’t say I gave up, but I definitely wasn’t happy with the effort I gave either.

Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography
Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

Event 5 was a bit of a weird one for me, and of all the events, I probably had the most mixed feelings going into. I’ve always struggled with high volume/heavy deadlifts; and while I’ve worked on them a lot this past year and they’ve improved  significantly, I was definitely nervous for them.   The first few reps are usually good, and if I really ‘want’ to, I can keep repping them out, but my form break down significantly – I come into my toes and start to hitch – which I know is unsafe and looks horrible. Last thing I wanted to do was become a poster-girl for some online Meme about how CrossFitters can’t deadlift, because I let my form go on the floor

Luckily, I was able to work one-on-one with Jesse Bifano prior to Regionals to break down my Deadlift and come up with a ‘game plan’ for Event #5. I was hoping I would be able hold my own on the TrueForm & GHD sit-ups, and it would only be the Deadlifts where I fell behind; but once I saw how fast girls were coming off the TrueForm and blasting through the GHDs Sit-Ups I realized that wasn’t going to be the case.  I ended finishing 33rd on this Workout – out of 37 – and in hindsight I think I was definitely overly optimistic about my running and GHD sit-up capacity but I was happy with how my deadlifts went.

After Event #5 I was sitting in 37th place (last of the girls who were still competing); and the end of  Day 2 was probably the hardest part of the weekend for me. Technically speaking I knew that making it to Super Regionals was an accomplishment in itself, but in my head I kept thinking

“I’m last…”

And was questioning whether I deserved to be there, and wondering whether other people were thinking the same thing.

Super Regionals – Day 3

Overheadsquats

Day 3 fun. Even though I was pretty sore and tired by that point I was excited for Event 6, because it contained two of my favourite movements: handstand walking and overhead squats. As for Event 7, I thought it was short and quick and seemed like an exciting way to finish the weekend. Event 6 didn’t go quite as planned – I failed a couple OHS – but overall I was happy and ended up winning my heat. However, it was also a bit of an eye opener because, my best event finish was only middle of the pack -19th – which means I have a lot of work to do. Not just on my weaknesses (although those definitely need to be addressed) but also on my strengths.

Under different circumstances I probably would have been more nervous for Event #7, but by that point, I think I was mostly just relieved – that I had made it through without being eliminated – and ready to be finished. That being said when the workout actually started I got the “competition rush” and stopped noticing how sore my legs/shoulders felt. After the first round I truly thought I was going to finish – my legless rope climbs felt better than normal – but then I got no-repped on a rope climb during the second round and couldn’t recover after that. I ended up finishing 29th on that workout, which was pretty consistent with my performance all weekend (most of my finishes were in and around the 30th place mark).

Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography
Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

Did I do as well as I hoped this weekend? No. I definitely had higher hopes going in but after seeing how everything panned out I think the results were a pretty good indication of where I am currently with my fitness.  Was it all worth it? Yes. I had a lot of fun, I met some amazing people/athletes and despite not doing as well as hoped, it was a really good learning experience. 

This past weekend definitely revealed some holes in my Fitness – gymnastics, endurance and grit – all of which are things that can be addressed with time, effort and commitment. Being a good athlete doesn’t mean always winning – there is a lot to be learned from losing – about the only “bad” competition is the one you don’t take anything away from. And while it was definitely humbling to see just how good the other athletes at Super Regionals were was humbling, it was also inspiring and motivating.

And last but no least a bit THANK YOU to:

Everyone who came out to show their support, It made a big difference hearing you guys cheer from the stands. Especially my Mom who flew down from Comox as a surprise, and Chelsea who was pretty much my “chaffeur” of the weekend

The Raincity community for all your support and positive messages leading up to and during Regionals. In particular Simon and Justin for going out of your way to put together the “Taryn it Up” shirts, and for making a Pegboad “just in case”; and Julieth for all the photos/quotes.

Taryn it Up

Those people closest to me – Vil, Sally, Tim, Travis, Mom – who put up with me when I go full competition mode and get a little difficult/’slightly crazy. In particular, Vil, who got stuck with the ‘lovely’ responsibility of looking after me all  the weekend.

My big sister Sal, who unfortunately got eliminated on Day #1, but stuck around to support and cheer me on #ultimatebigsister

Jesse Bifano for bringing me on as an athlete, and all your help over the past year. I’m not sure my shoulders would have been able to handle this past weekend without all your crazy accessory work.

Experts like Chris Schaalo and Louise Eberts who worked with me to dial in specific aspects of my training/teach me certain skills I was lacking *couch kettle snatches*

Syndicate Gear, Powerhouse Chiropractic and Body Energy Club for believing in me and bringing me on as a Sponsored athlete. Your services, products and assistance helped keep me functioning and fit leading up to and during Regionals.

The CrossFit HQ Event Staff and all the volunteer judges, medical staff, organizers and announcers who made the event possible.

 

Westerns 2016 – Thoughts & Recap

Last weekend was the 2016 Western Canadian Weightlifting Championships, and my third time representing Team BC as a 63kg lifter. Every competition I do – Weightlifting or CrossFit – is a learning experience, but one thing I love about attending the same competition across several years is the ability to look back and see how far I’ve come.  And I’m not talking about improvement just in terms of placement*I’m talking about growth as an athlete, how I mentally approach the competition and how I allow the stress/pressure of competing to affect me.

I first competed at Westerns in 2014, and despite taking home the bronze medal*, I was pretty disappointed in how I performed – I went 3 for 6, opened quite a bit lighter than planned, and totalled significantly less than I’d been hoping for. However, it was a good learning experience for me, and it made me realize just how  easy it was to allow things like – an unfamiliar venue, changes in time zone, and not having my regular coach –  to affect my performance.

*Initially I took home Bronze, but the girl who won was disqualified I got bumped up to Silver

In 2015 I competed at Westerns for a second time, this time on my “home turf” and with a bit more competition experience under my belt. In terms of ‘lifts made’, 2015 was pretty similar to 2014 – I went 3 for 6 again, and totalled less than anticipated – however, I felt a lot less nervous overall and even went for a 4kg Clean PR on my third attempt. I made the clean, but missed the jerk, and ended up finishing 3rd in my weight category.

*If I’d made that lift I would have taken home Gold. 

This past weekend was my third time Competing at Westerns and while there are definitely some things I’d change if I could – not missing my 2nd Snatch and 3rd clean – as a whole I’m happy with how the weekend.

  • I went 4 for 6 on my lifts,
  • PRd both my Total as a 63kg Lifter and my Sinclair*, and
  • Took home Silver

*I’ve totalled in the 69kg division, but when I take body-weight into account I actually lifter ‘better’ last weekend. 

Westerns

So what’s changed over the past few years?

Physical strength has gone up – my 2016 openers are heavier than last years PRs – but more importantly my mental strength has improved, and I’ve gotten a lot better at using my nerves/adrenaline to fuel my lifts (rather than letting it throw them off). Part of this stems naturally from more competition experience/more time under the barbell; but another part is because I realized that “in the end, it doesn’t matter”.

I don’t mean “it doesn’t matter” in the sense that I don’t care about how I do, or that lifting isn’t important to me; what I mean is that I realized that if I mess up and miss a lift (or all my lifts) no one is going to think any less or any more of me. A ‘bad’ competition doesn’t mean I’m a failure as a lifter (or a person) it just means I had a bad day on the platform; and chances are that shitty performance will actually make me a better lifter in the long run, IF I choose to learn from it. This realization was probably one of the biggest turning points for me, because it took a lot of ‘perceived pressure’ off; which allowed me to have more fun (both in training and on the platform) and then in turn usually corresponds with my best performances. Because I’m having fun, and doing something I love.

Snatch

Redos and The CrossFit Open

For a lot of CrossFitters, the Open is one of the most exciting parts of the year ‘CrossFit Year’, regardless of what level they’re at. For recreational CrossFitters it’s a chance to throw down against the rest of the (CrossFit) world and see how you stack up; and for the more competitive athletes it’s the first step on the way to Super Regionals, the Masters Qualifier and possibly the CrossFit Games.

crossfit meme

Because it’s such an exciting 5 weeks however, it can be easy to get a little ‘carried away’ with the Open, and fall into the trap of doing “whatever it takes” – let our technique go, push through injuries, redo workouts multiple times –  to get just a few more reps. In the end however, what matters more than our score(s), and where we place, is what we learn from the Open and how we apply that to our training to become better athletes down the line.

So on that note, let’s talk about “redos”, and some questions you should ask yourself (or your clients) before making the decision to redo

  1. How does my body feel (honest answer), and
  2. Why am I redoing/what do I hope to achieve?

Because if your body is feeling wrecked from your first attempt at an Open Workout and/or there is no chance of you advancing to the next stage (Super Regionals, Masters Qualifier) is a redo really worth it?

16.2 Photo Credit: Julieth Fajardo
16.2 Photo Credit: Julieth Fajardo

Rather than placing emphasis on short-term improvement (a few more reps in a workout) why not take what you learned from the workout

E.g. “I can’t double under when fatigued”, or “I need to strengthen my midline”

and apply that knowledge to your training, so that you can come back stronger/more well-rounded next year.  For 99% of CrossFitters, there is no “next step” after the 16.5 – it’s back to regular training until next year – and in most cases people would benefit more from hitting the workout once and getting back to training, rather than redoing it.

The Open Workouts are good tests of fitness – they push us to to our limits and reveal where our weaknesses lie – but a lot of the time our limting factor(s) aren’t things we can fix in a few days.

E.g. weak posterior chain, lack of muscular endurance

And if this is the case, our odds of seeing any significant improvement on a redo is minimal. On top of that, there is often a higher risk of injury when we redo, because we are taking an already weakened system/muscle group(s) and placing it under a lot of stress.

16.2 Photo Credit Julieth Fajado
16.2 Photo Credit Julieth Fajardo

That being said, sometimes the issue isn’t our strength or cardio, its our pacing; and in that cases it is possible to ‘get better’ in only a few days. Keep in mind however, this improvement doesn’t mean we have become “fitter”; it just means we have gotten better at taking the test. Which isn’t in itself bad – the ability to “test well” is important both in life and in crossfit –  however, going 100% on a workout and/or hitting maxes is only one piece of what it takes to become a good athlete. Behind all the PRs and impressive performances there is a lot of hard work that must be put in – much of which is not exciting/fun – if we’re too busy testing and retesting ourselves we won’t have time for the “grunt work”.

That being said, for that top 1% of CrossFitters the Open is a stepping stone to the next step – Super Regionals, the Games – and depending on how you stack up in your Region, a redo may be the difference between moving on to the next stage and not. But even here, I would recommend using discretion when deciding whether or not to redo, and taking certain factors into account.

1. Can you Qualify without A Redo?

For those athletes who are consistently at the very top of the leaderboard,redo’s often aren’t necessary (although they may do better) because their initial score is more than enough to qualifty them for the next stage. And many of these athletes may choose not to ‘redo’, so they can focus their time and energy on training for the next stage – Super Regionals, Masters Qualifiers and/or The Games.

2. What can you gain (points/spots on the leaderboard) vs. what do you risk losing

For the ‘Fringe Athletes’ – the ones sitting right on the bubble of qualifying – there is a good possibility that you’ll need to redo at least one workout (if not more) in order to secure your ticket to Super Regionals. However, if you find yourself in this scenario, its important to be smart about your redos and honest with yourself with regards to  

  • how many more reps you think you can get (and how important each rep is on the leaderboard), and
  • What sort of state your body is in

Because if a redo only gets you one more rep, and it fucks your back up – it wasn’t worth it. Pick your battles, and if there is a workout you don’t think you can safely redo and/or improve upon, then move on and focus on the next week.

Ultimately, the decision to redo (or not) is up to you and your coaches to make. However, if you are planning to redo, at least take what I have said into consideration and don’t just make the decision blindly. It’s easy to get caught up in the “craziness” of the CrossFit Open, but in the end it’s just another workout (well 5 workouts) and it’s not worth injuring yourself for a few reps/spots on the leaderboard.

Banana Protein Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

20160304_102724

Pancakes

  • 1 Banana (the riper the better)
  • 2 Eggs (or 1/2c Egg Whites)
  • 1 Scoop Protein Powder
  • 2 tbsp Quick Oats
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda

Blueberry Sauce

  • 3/4c Frozen Blueberries

Directions

1. Combine banana, eggs, protein powder, oats, baking powder and baking soda in a blender or magic bullet and blend until smooth.

20160304_1022322. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, and cook until small bubbles appear and pancakes have lost their “shine”. Flip pancakes and cook for 1min on the other side, before removing gently from pan. Continue until all batter is gone.

20160304_103436

3. While the pancakes are cooking, warm the blueberries (stove-top or microwave) and blend to form a “syrup”.

4. Top pancakes with blueberry sauce (or your choice of topping) an enjoy. Best served hot.

20160304_103512




CrossFit Open 2016 – Respect your Judges and Other Reminders

The 2016 CrossFit Open is about to start, which means an intense/exciting/potentially exhausting 5 weeks for those who are taking part. So, before we dive headfirst into the Craziness that is the CrossFit Open, here are a couple of reminders to help keep you healthy, sane and having fun.

 1. Make sure you’re eating (and drinking) enough During the Week

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Unlike most weekend throwdowns and challenges, the CrossFit Open requires athletes to be in “go mode” for 5 weeks. And 5 weeks is a long time; which means, proper nutrition and hydration becomes even more important. If we’re not eating and hydrating well, not only will we lack the energy necessary to excel at the workouts; our bodies won’t be able to repair and recover properly for lack of fuel.

As far as hydration goes, we need to make sure we’re enough drinking water throughout the day (even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty); and one the easiest way to do that is simply by carrying a water bottle with us at all times. It only takes a dehydration of 1-2% body weight for our performance to start declining and past 3% we start increase our risk getting heat cramps, heat exhaustion, fatigue) increases greatly.

2. Warm-up (and Cool-down) properly for every WOD

Stretch

Warm-ups may not be the most exciting part of training/competing but they are just as important as the actual workout. I know it can be tempting to skip/shorten the warm-up and jump right in; however, if we want to avoid injury, perform our best and ‘survive’ all 5 weeks, skipping the warm-up isn’t an option.

And the same goes for a cool-downs. I know that doing ‘more work’ is often the last thing we want to do after a really gross WOD, but its a ‘necessary evil’ if we want to optimize our recovery and minimize any long-lasting muscle soreness and fatigue.

3. Find a way to get some “down time”

Christmas Day

The energy and excitement during the Open Season can be pretty incredible. But it can also become overwhelming, and draining, especially in the later weeks. Which is why its important to take a step back from CrossFit and find a way to have some down-time that doesn’t involve talking, strategizing or thinking about the Open.

For some people this may not be too much of a challenge, but if you’re one of those people whose entire day/week gets consumed by thinking about the Workout, try to find some way to take your mind off it (Even if its only for a short time).

Take walk and listen to music, hang out with friends who don’t do CrossFit, do something totally unrelated to CrossFit…whatever works for you.

Essentially, figure out something that will allow you to step back from all the excitement, calm your nerves and keep you from completely crashing before week 2 has even started.

4. One Workout at  a Time

During the Open, only one workout gets released each week, and even though everyone (ok maybe not everyone) likes to play the guessing game

“I think 16.2 will have ‘X’ ‘Y’ and “Z’ in it|

However, its important to remember not to worry/stress about the ‘next one’; and try to focus on them as they come up, one at a time.  

5. If You Shit the Bed…Don’t Dwell on it.

Maybe it was workout we “knew” was going to be struggle, or maybe it was one we though we were going to going to nail; either way once it’s over we can’t change it and dwelling on it will only make things worse. Once the 5 weeks are over, we can look back, try to figure out what went wrong, and learn from the experience; however, during the Open its important that we are able to set a bad performance aside, and focus on getting ready for the next workout.

Photo Credit - Alive to Thrive Photography
Photo Credit – Alive to Thrive Photography

6. Have a Strategy

As we head into the Open, hopefully everyone has an idea of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and as the workouts are released this can help us create a plan/strategy

i.e. where we will be able to make ‘make up ground’ vs and what movements we might struggle on/take extra time on

However, when making strategies there are a few things we should keep in mind. Because workouts often look easier on paper, sometimes our ‘perfect strategies’ don’t go as planned and we need to be ready to adapt if/when things fall apart.

7. Don’t Stress about what Everyone Else is doing

Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography
Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography

Use the energy of those around you to push harder than you normally would but don’t let yourself caught up in what they’re doing. You know yourself better than anyone else and a good pace for whoever is beside you may not be a good pace for you.

For example – if you know you’re not a particularly good on the erg, don’t try to kill yourself on the row keeping up with the best rower; go at a pace you can maintain and then see if you can catch them on the barbell or the pull-ups.

8. Respect Your Judges

Competitions can bring up some pretty intense emotions, especially when we get close to our mental and physical limits, and sometimes it can be easy to get carried away. However, that isn’t an excuse to be a total jackass when we workout (even if things aren’t going our way) and whenever we compete we should strive to be the kind of athlete that we would want to judge if the roles were reversed….

  • Move with virtuosity (don’t try to “cheat reps”)
  • Don’t argue with or yell at your judge (If you don’t understand a “no-repped”, ask for clarification )
  • Respect the equipment (no spiking barbells, or kicking wallballs)

…essentially make their jobs (judging you) as easy as possible. And keep in mind that once you’re done, there is a good chance that you once you are done, you will have to turn around and judge them (or another athlete) for the same workout.

Wallballs
Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography

And sometimes, despite our best efforts, shit happens and we get frustrated/lose our tempers in a workout. If this happens, it’s not the end of the world; but if it does, make sure you talk to your judge afterwards, shake their hand/thank them and if necessary apologize.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst athlete at a competition if you’re a dick to your judge it reflects poorly on you, your gym and the sport. Yes, the Open Judging system is far from perfect, judges can make mistakes , and sometimes reps are given or withheld when they shouldn’t be. In the end however, it’s the judge’s call to make and the best way to avoid this type of situation is to make our reps as easy to judge as possible.

*If you truly feel as though you were unfairly judged, speak to the judge and/or gym owner after the workout to discuss what happened and look into options to redo. 

And one Last Thing…

remember to smile, have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

Confederation Cup

Injuries and Becoming a Better Athlete

It’s not the injury that defines us, it’s how we deal with it.

If you play a sport, exercise, or live an active life, chances are you will sustain an injury at some point. To be clear, I’m not ‘wishing an injury’ on anyone, but the reality is that injuries are an inherent risk associated with an active lifestyle. However, we can’t let that hold us back from pursuing the activities we love. Because even though injuries are debilitating and can set us back (sometimes significantly); they can also be a ‘blessing in disguise’ and make us better athletes in the long run.

1. Injuries Make us ‘Pay Attention’/Respect our Bodies

One body

When we’re young and “naive,” it’s easy to overlook basic mechanics and pay too little attention to our own safety/well-being because we think we’re invincible. Until we get an injury that is, and sometimes it takes few of them before we ‘smarten up’. Because unfortunately, we often don’t respect our bodies/muscles enough to take care of them properly, until an injury temporarily sidelines. Suddenly certain things we’ve always taken for granted become a challenge, and we become acutely aware of our body’s inability to do what we ask of it. And it is this awareness that can make us better athletes in the long run. Because instead of muscling our way through with strength and stubbornness, we begin to appreciate the process and learn how to be efficient and technical.

2. Injuries are an opportunity to focus on our weaknesses

Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography
Photo Credit: Kate Webster Photography

Everyone has weaknesses. And more often than not we are aware of them, but we don’t work on them enough (or at all) because we feel that there “isn’t enough time”. I’ve found this to be especially true in CrossFit, because there are so many different pieces to it, and it can be hard to find the time to focus on things we’re bad at.

When we get injured however, certain movements/workouts often become “off limits” until we’ve made a full recovery; and suddenly we have the perfect opportunity to work on those things we never make time for.  Just because we’re injured doesn’t mean that we can’t train/get stronger; it just means we need to be smart about it and make sure we don’t push through movements we shouldn’t .

For example – Maybe we are relatively weak in our upper body (especially gymnastics movements) and that weakness is holding us back. However, working on skills like:

  • pull-ups
  • toes-to-bar, and
  • ring dips

isn’t nearly as exciting or fun as the Olympic Lifts or hitting WODs (especially if they have to be strict). As a result, many of us only hit these movements when they come up as part of a workout; and when they do we’re just trying to get through them as fast as possible, rather than trying to improve the skill itself. . But then we get injured –  sprain an ankle, tear your ACL, or hurt our shoulder – and even though it sucks, because we are (temporarily) sidelined, we now have the time to work on our weaknesses.

3. Injuries are an opportunity to ‘correct’ movement pattern

First time squatting 105kg (231), this was less than a year into Weightlifting and I hit 109 about a week later.
First time squatting 105kg (231), this was back in 2012 when I was was less than a year into Weightlifting. I hit 109kg (240) not long after, but then injured my back and it took until 2016 before I could hit these numbers (and then some) pain free.

When I first started squatting, I didn’t have any concept of what a good squat should look like; and instead of using my hamstrings and glutes I squatted almost entirely with my quads.  I was still able to move a decent amount of weight – I think I hit 240 back squat within my first year – but my back almost always hurt when I squatted/did anything under load.  Despite the back pain however, I didn’t want to stop/try to find the problem, because I was still able to push through and was getting stronger. Furthermore, I don’t think I really realized that it wasn’t normal to have constant back pain, because that’s what it had felt like almost since I started.

But eventually it became too much for my back, and after doing a pretty heavy/high volume squat cycle my back ‘blew up’ and I couldn’t squat any load without severe back pain. I spent almost a month squatting just the barbell and working with a couple specialists to reprogram how I squat so that I was actually using the right muscles. It was by no means a ‘fast process – I hurt my back early in 2014 and it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to hit and pass my old PRs – and it was definitely really frustrating. However, in the end I’m almost glad I hurt my back because if I hadn’t I don’t think I would have taken the time to fix my mechanics. And it’s not just my squats that got better; it’s my wallballs, thrusters, kettlebell swings, box jumps, olympic lifts, “odd objects” movements…pretty much every movement that uses hips, glutes and hamstrings has improved because of it.

135lb Atlas Stone at the 2015 Stones and Strength Competition
135lb Atlas Stone at the 2015 Stones and Strength Competition

Injuries are an unfortunate risk that come with an active lifestyle. To be clear, I’m not saying we should try to get injured or ignore preventative measures; what I’m getting at is the fact that as there is a good chance we will sustain an injury at some point during our athletic career. And when we do, it’s important to see and treat them as an opportunity to become more complete and better athletes rather than a setback. Injuries don’t define us as athletes. How we react to injuries however, and what we learn from them, says a lot about us and can have a huge impact on our success as an athlete.