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Don’t Get Robbed

It happens all the time. You may have done it yourself.

I lift. I am a Mom. These are just two things I feel define me. It also means I am around many people who do not understand me.

When I take my kids to a playdate at another Moms house and they offer me coffee cake, I sometimes have to politely decline due to an upcoming competition in which I must weigh-in. 

I can see their face when they think I am crazy because I don’t LOOK like I need to lose weight.

But this kind of judgement and misunderstanding does not bother me as much as people who misunderstand and choose to rob me of my accomplishments.

Let me share the most recent example:
I recently finished working up to about a 85% max squat session and was moving onto some accessory exercises.  I noticed a group of young boys using the leg press.

I was tired and it was my last exercise so at the encouragement of my husband, I asked to work in with them. They were using two plates and their legs were basically the length of my entire body although some of them may have weighed as much as me…

When it was my turn, I pressed out about 12 reps and smiled when they said things like, “see look how she’s doing it” and “she has strong legs”.

During their next set I offered my advice on improving their technique, but not too much.

My next set I did the same as before.

This time I heard, “You should do it like she is.” The other boy responded with, “well look at her husband, that’s why she strong.”

This comment did NOT make me smile.

Yes, I work out with my husband. Yes, we both compete in Strongman.  But as many of you know, no one but I make myself lift. 

Once you are under the bar, weighing near or more than you, only YOU can tell yourself you CAN do this!

I was angry and felt robbed that those boys felt my accomplishments were a product of my husband.

I am not saying that he isnt a MAJOR part of my successes. He is my partner, in the gym and out.

This way of thinking is perhaps only a projection of these boys insecurities but it hurts. And as I said in the begginning we have probably all done it at some point.

I know I have. And now being on the other end, I am going to be better at acknowledging others accomplishments.

I write this to explain how fragile we can be and how comments can easily tear us down. 

This was my initial response. When I asked myself why the comment bothered me so bad…I realized it was my insecurities and dwelling in that WAS robbing myself of my accomplishments.

No matter who helps you with your programming or nutrition or technique, it still comes down to YOU doing the work.

You deserve the recognition as much as those who help you.

Let us try to always lift each other up.

Dear daughter

You are so much more than your cover.

Fill those pages with love, adventure and accomplishments.

Remember that all great stories come with drama, disappointments and sadness.

Read carefully the pages of forgiveness, letting go and redemption.

Always remember this is Your story.

A story you will feel to the depths of your soul. Every period. Every exclamation mark.

Your story to add chapters. Photos. Pauses…

Let it speak your name, every turn of the page.

But remember, it is a book all will read.

They may judge the cover.

They may never understand what went into the pages or how to read them.

But you do.

And you are so much more than your cover.

My first Nationals

“You’re the one who was wearing the strong mom shirt?” I was asked. “Yes, I smiled, that’s my hashtag.”

I competed in my first Strongman contest when my second child was just shy of her one year birthday in 2012.  I took me three years and a few injuries later to finally tell myself, I can do Nationals.

I downloaded the Lose It! app in July and started trying to eat every three hours.  After doing a small contest hosted by a friend in WV in late July, I realized I actually qualified for nationals. I competed against two heavy weight competitors but what really got my confidence up, was my farmers run of 165/hand.  Nationals would require a 160/hand…

So after asking if I qualified in an open class can I compete as a lightweight, I buckled down on the diet.  Most people assumed diet means eating less.  As a Mom, this simply meant eating more and more often for me.  Because I let my days get by me, then grab a cookie for lunch or whatever else is nearby…that’s how I put on weight.  So to diet, I started eating every three hours and watching my macros.  My goal was usually to consume 50-60% protein, 20-30% fat and 20-30% carbs.

During the day I was weighing between 155-157.  I was looking at 10-15 lbs. to drop. By August 10, I was down to 150.  Cut out bread, cookies…all things flour.  Occasionally I would still have angel hair pasta.

By September 20 I was still weighing in 145 in the morning and about 147 daytime.  Weigh-ins for the Nationals would be at 5 p.m. I was already eating only 1400-1500 calories.  I asked a local gym owner what he thought.  He said I had plenty of room to drop those calories.  Being a Mom, I was unwilling to become truly hungry, knowing that I would take that out on the ones closest to me…hangry!  So I opted to up my HIIT training.  Before this time I was doing volume training with main lifts for three times a week. Now I would include HIIT training twice a week and an extra event day.

I also started researching water drops.  By September 30, I weighed 142 in the morning and 145 daytime.  So I knew I would need to drop at least 5 lbs of water.

Got help from competitor, Jessica Rush, on the how-to.  Started on the Sunday before Nationals and drank two gallons of distilled water.  That was no problem for me. Next day, one gallon…okay not bad.  Third day, half a gallon…still not too difficult. I weighed in at 142 daytime by this point. Fourth day I only got 32 ounces of water and cheated, by having my cup of coffee in the morning…see I’m a coffee addict.  So Thursday we pulled out the sauna suit.  We were driving the 8 hours to Davenport, Iowa.  Should be plenty of time to sweat out  a pound. I shared with other StrongMoms on my facebook group that I weighed in at 141.7 and hoped to sweat out a pound on the drive.

We arrived early.  I weighed 141 even and was thirsty and hungry.  Luckily our hotel had a small gym right next to it that had a sauna.  I sat in there ten minutes and hit 140.5.  Matt wanted to be sure so he took the girls to play at the pool and ordered me up to the room to take a hot bath.  No mom is gonna say no to alone time!  So I sat in the bath, relaxed and mentally prepared myself.  I thought about my drive and dip.  I saw myself doing it over and over again with the log and the dumbbell.

After my bath, I weighed a good 139.4.  Baths definitely work better than saunas. By the time we went to weigh-in I was was getting a little shaky from lack of food.  I stepped on their scale and it said 137.4.  I felt a little cheated.  It read lighter than mine and I could’ve napped instead of bathed. I moved on to my first meal of the day, rehydrating and prepared to rest for tomorrows events.

When I awoke at 5 a.m….what happened after hydrating is TMI, of which I was not forewarned about.  I survived.

The first event was log.  I had never hit the weight in training, I didn’t have high hopes but I didn’t come this far not to try.  I cleaned it, popped, no lockout…at least three times.  I counted it as a good core warm-up for the yoke.

The yoke.  Everyone complained about it being a Zercher hold. It actually wasn’t that hard for me so I was feeling pretty confident.  Yah! I got it all the way without dropping it and I got it faster than I ever had in training.  Then I watched each lady after me get it faster.  I called them all out on their ‘sandbagging’ and congratulated them on their runs!

Next was Farmers Walk, which really should’ve been called Farmers Run.  Again, I was pretty confident because this was a generally easy event for me and I had already proven to myself that I do it at my qualifying contest.  I was proud of myself for finishing faster than in my training and holding my balance even with the weights slid atop each other in front of me. My pride in my accomplishment did not dimish as I watched the rest of my competitors finish it, faster.

I had survived my pulsating nerves and completed my first day at Nationals.  There were still two events to go on the second day.  My hip was holding up well and the girls were having a good time.  We headed to the pool after dinner to reward them.

I thought that the second day, I would have less nerves. But no!! Same amount of overwhelming nerves and I was tired!  I had only got the 70 lb. dumbbell and handful of times in training but I had high hopes that if I just caught it in the right spot I’d at least get one rep.  It was a no go, but its not like I didn’t try.

Now I know why they call it dumb bell.

Now I know why they call it dumb bell.

I cleaned that beast six times and popped but my nemesis was dipping under it, which was a new technique I was trying to master.  I failed to dip five times and by my sixth attempt, I was too tired to lock the dumbbell.  I came off the floor trying to tell myself it was ok.  But by the time I reached my husband, I could no longer deny my disappointment and I cried into his shoulder.  When my four-year-old daughters’ tiny arms wrapped around my waist, I was brought back to reality.  I told myself to suck it up.  Its my first Nationals and when I go home, win or lose, I’m still Mom…they will still see me as the same person. Did I want them to see me win? Yes. But did I want them to see me lose with grace, absolutely.

The last event was sandbag carry, which had been a major part of my HIIT training.  Only we only had a 100 lb. bag for training.  This event had been changed last minute from four bags at 100,100,120,120 to three bags at 100,120,140.  Plus in training I’d been attempting to run, fast.  See in all things, I’m generally steady and slow.  Explosion and speed are a different language to my body.  So I was a little nervous about the 140 bag.  So in warm ups, I picked it and made sure I could carry it the distance.

I was the first of the lightweights to finish this event but there were 24 others after my heat to go…and go they did!  A good 10-15 seconds faster than me. Who knew seconds could be so heavy.

I'm running!

I’m running!

Heading in to my first Nationals, my goal was not to zero on events.  I failed.

But I did successfully lose 12 lbs before the contest.  I did complete three events and with faster times than I had expected.

And at the banquet when they were handing out awards and my oldest asked, ‘Mom how come they aren’t calling your name?’ I realized to the most important people in my life, I had won.  I know its mushy but its the truth because they were there on this journey.  They saw my dedication to losing weight when Matt made cinnamon rolls for church.  They saw me to go to the gym, sometimes being the only one in there…

I am excited to get back to training other lifts and we will see what next year brings! Thanks for joining me on this journey! If you’re a  strongMom join our group of Facebook!

Thank you Stacy Marie for the photos!

The battles

Today I fought with the blankets in the washer, they had tangled very well around the spinner.  I used all my might, as my brain concluded to not break the machine, realizing I need to get some clothing lines up and not waste the sunshine this summer!

I won that battle, the blankets are onto the dryer and the washer is still in one piece.

One time this was not the case though.  I pulled so hard the top of the spinner popped off and I discovered my washer DID have a spot for fabric softner after all!! I had been using the downy ball.

My point is that during battles we face, pretty much every day, there may be something we are supposed to learn from the event.

But when we are IN the battle it is hard to see and think in this state.  I agree, many times I will use PG safe words to express my struggles with day to day battles.

When my children then face battles and use my words to express themselves it makes me smile. “Shasta” is one of our favorite words.

But like discovering a fabric softner area in the washer, listening to my children use my odd words to express their frustration is little piece of cake I get to have.  Being a Stay-at-Home Mom means I need to hold onto these little battles that sometimes include cake.

Because the cake comes between tantrums and messes and can be easily missed.

Miss cake?! Yup, getting caught up in our battles enables us to miss the cake or small pleasures and lessons being offered to us.

When my youngest throws a tantrum it can be exhausting holding my tongue and trying to showcase unconditional love and patience to her.

Perhaps, is this how the Lord feels when we, his children, choose to walk a path that we know He does not want for us?

Do we deliver little pieces of cake to him throughout our days, struggles and tantrums?

If so, is it during prayer, good deeds and positive choices?

The only good news, that I have recently learned, is that we do not earn His love.  But now that I know he loves me, I sure do want to give him cake, as much as I can….every moment, of everyday.

I’m going to try and enjoy my cake too.

Love

I just want to write a quick blog about love.

Think of the first relationship you had in your life.

No its not the cute boy/girl across the street.

Your first real relationship, outside of heaven, is the relationship you have with your Mother and/or Father.

It is the relationship you use to define love.

If you had great parents, awesome but many of us (those I’m writing this for) really had fallible human beings that kept us fed, under a roof and kicked us out the door for school.

We take this relationship with our parental units and all the hurts that came about and we stuff it into our other relationships.

If we felt we needed to earn our parents attention and love then we feel that is what our partner/spouse must do, if they truly love us.

If our trust was broken from one or both our parents, we have a hard time trusting in other relationships.

The list goes on.

If you’re a daughter look at your relationship with your Dad closely to determine a pattern with men in your life.

If you’re a son, study your relationship with your Mother and note patterns with women in your life.

But the truth that you need to tell yourself, every day, is that the Lord loves you.

He made you perfectly for him.

Unconditionally you are his, you no longer need to search for acceptance/protection (insert your own need) from fallible human beings.

When you learn to accept his love, you will learn to give love.

Seems easy, it was easy to type… But it is not you will need to retrain yourself to accept and give love. Its a process. But one that will allow great things in your life.

Journey

What is the definition of ‘journey’? Usually it includes physical travel from one place to another but the other definition is:

“a long and often difficult process of personal change and development”.  Which, to me, can be synonymous with the definition of Life.

This part of my ‘blog’ is going to cover a journey I am taking, alone and not alone.

Its called Celebrate Recovery.

Matt and came upon it by accident or by Gods’ plan, you choose.

We became a couple in 2000, married in 2004 but it was the year 2015 we decided to take a journey.

The program asks you the question, “Do you ever feel like you’re going in circles or on a dead end street?” and promises that you can be freed from your hurts, habits or hang-ups.

The worst part was I DID feel like we’d been going in circles only we kept ‘busying’ ourselves with things to take the focus off of our cyclical relationship.

We’d made two huge moves: Alaska to Oregon, Oregon to Ohio.

And just before finding Celebrate Recovery, I was begging for another move.  Another distraction, please.  But this time we’d bought a house, and running had become more difficult.

The first night we decided to go I was ANGRY. Not at my husband, not at the program.  Really I just felt like a six year old being dragged into the dentists office and screaming, “why do I need to be here, I brush my teeth every day…sometimes twice!!”

Because with my history, I’d learned how to deal with my hurts, habits and hang-ups.  I neatly fold them up and tuck them under the imaginative staircase.  I’m aware they’re there, every time I use the stairs but they don’t hinder me from anything.

Or do they?

Starting Celebrate Recovery, for me, wasn’t because my habits were making my life crazy but they were inhibiting my from experiencing life fully.

Each time I had a hurt or hang-up, I would change my life.  Get or quit a job. Move.  Even start a new fitness goal.  All tailored to keep my mind off of the pain and to distract me from feeling and healing.

I can pinpoint which walls I built, when and why.  Like I said I neatly folded and put them away.

So now the journey will start.  The hard part will be pulling them out from under the staircase, unfolding them and deciding what to do next with them.

Next week Step One, Principle One

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Calling Ohio Fitness Facilities….

Over the weekend we were pleased to invite a few ladies whom we had met previously at our first all-women strength compeition hosted at Ohio Krav-Maga a few weeks ago, to our home for some training.

Not only were these ladies new to Strongman, they were Moms.
If you are a Mom then you know that your time is not always yours. Your time could easily turn into: needy husband time, homework helper time, clean up doggy mess time…

So to choose to add another description to your list of Wonder Woman traits, is just amazing.

They came with verve and willing to learn. We introduced new implements and techniques, they were not phased.

We chatted about how ‘lifting heavy’ was new and different, especially in the general fitness atmosphere that each of us train in. We discussed how many gyms are turning to crossfit.

I don’t feel they are ‘turning to’ crossfit but solely being conscientious business owners who see a trend and choosing to offer what clientelle are looking for. That’s not to say these gyms would not be open allowing Strongman training.

Many of these gyms will be able to house the implements a new Strongman could utilize in training. Most may have stones, some sort of log, axle and farmers handles. Just having these implements available for use will help any beginner Strongman!

Of course if I were rich I would start my own gym….however I would like to welcome gym owners who feel they can offer these implements at their gym to leave their gym name and address in the comments section, so that our new StrongMom friends can find you!

If your gym is close to good food or offers child-watch, please mention such, as thes are important features 🙂

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We are Strongman

Sharon Moss at her first NAS Nationals.

Sharon Moss at her first NAS Nationals.

My husband recently competed in the NAS nationals in Denison, TX.

Having two children, not much family help, and a recent injury that knocked my deadlift down 50#….I decided it was best to just be Mom while at NAS nationals.

I am glad too because while watching my fellow lw competitors not only was I impressed but I realized I would have been crushed 🙂

Matt didn’t do as well as he hoped but with his performance and reaction to, I noticed a significant difference in us. Not that I hadn’t noticed many before this. But this difference is solely reactive to failure.

When I felt I had drastically failed at Kumite earlier in 2013. I mourned, I cried, I tried to rationalize, became angry, cried some more and then developed a plan of attack to regain my identity as a strongman.

Still even today as I was trying to get my deadlift back, with three sets of 225# for five reps, I cried a little when I thought the lifts felt off. However, I stepped back up to the bar. Rechecked my breath, solidified my back and pushed the floor away.

Matt, on the other hand, showed anger at his disappointment during Nationals. 

Angry at himself for missing the 325# axle overhead. A lift that in 8 weeks he focused on and was able to improve the original PR from 280 to 315.

His eyes watered just a bit after carrying the 850# yoke while cringing at his pulled oblique pain. Then continued on to pick the 730# and carry it almost half the distance.

Still no tears when he attempted four times to get the 300# axle in the overhead medly.

Nothing but acceptance when he pushed through the oblique pain to walk the first 300# stone to the bar and put it over. Walked the 330# stone but couldn’t put it over…when earlier at Kumite he had lifted the same size stone and dropped it over the bar five times.

After all was said and done he exclaimed that the only lift he was disappointed with was the second axle.

During the driving distance from Smittys Bar to our Holiday Inn, he told me he already had a plan on how to get stronger at the lifts he’d failed.

What?!

If it had been me, well you know my reaction to failure…(hint: up above).

We are strongman.

We may lift the same weights but our journeys are different.

Why we lift is different.

Some of us find peace with the iron that is our counselor.

Some of us need to lift to feel lifted.

However, it is our determination after failure that makes us athletes.

Stepping up to the bar again.

Unafraid to face what once seemed impossible.

Look around you… not many people do that in life anymore.

We are strong.

Doing the pretty stuff

So like many of us “strongmen”, I was injured and I continued to lift through the pain, reaching for my goals.  The past five weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, in the gym and at the home.

But on this blog, I will just talk about the turmoil surrounding my injury.

I initially thought I had pulled my gluteus medius. Three months later, Matt hurt himself as well. Matt went to a local chiropractor and felt ten times better immediately. He was not perfect but he could move.

My injury had got to the point where I could hardly put my toddler in her bed without leaning solely on the good leg. Sitting for long periods of time was nearly impossible. With Matts prodding, and if you know him it is prodding to the utmost annoyance, I visited the chiropractor.

He said I had slipped my SI joint. Due to the amount of time I waited, it would take time, patience and continual adjustments to get me back to deadlifting.

Each week I went, the adjustments weren’t painful but the days following were low dull continuous pain.

I started to realize I would only use one leg to bend down or squat to pick up something. I started leaning on the outside of my foot when walking. My calf would tighten and needed stretched daily.

Each week, I would try to deadlift and each week it hurt like hell. I would breakdown. Frustration tears would seep out. It was difficult to be told every time that I had to “give it time”.

This week is the first week I have accepted that I can not deadlift. At least not until this joint gets back where it belongs and stays there. And even then I’ve been told I will have to build my glute and accessory muscles back.

So today I worked out. I did not break a sweat. I did not grunt because the weight was too heavy. I did the pretty things. Abductors and adductors. Squats with no weight..ok hardly any weight. Hamstring curls and no weight leg press.

Just get the blood pumping. Keep the joints moving. Do the pretty things for now, so that I can come back as a competitor.

Columbus State Cougar Strength

It all began with eating clean two weeks straight, watching 5-6 kids four days, taking a laxative and running 2 miles in the mid 80’s before weighing in…but this is just a preview of how bad I wanted to lift well at the next days’ contest.

After making weight, I told Matt I realized the contest was no longer about winning but about reaching specific goals for each event, which were:
-Carjack deadlift apparatus totaling 372lb. at the bottom
-60lb. monster bell (I call it baby bell) for reps
-25 lb. bumper plate hold for time
-Farmer timbers for 100 ft. at 135/hand
-365 yoke for 60 ft.

Periodically, I had tried the actual deadlift apparatus but couldn’t lift it, not even with 100 lb. less. It was discouraging. So my training partner, and husband, Matt had me train with the leg press machine at our local Y.

The goal was to let me feel my knees to my chest and learn how to push or bear down from that position. Another way we trained for it was by using three barbells set up in a lever position (see photo). The heaviest I was able to lift on this contraption was 345, the Saturday before the contest.

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What we used plus my adrenaline, worked! I pulled three lifts at the contest.

They were ugly. You could see my left side (earlier pull this year of my glute) not firing as quickly.

When asked by someone in the audience how I did it, I joked that I pretended I was pushing out a baby. Seriously, though its the same. You know it’s going to hurt but you got to push anyway!

Training for the baby bell was mostly technique work. Learning with an old loadable olympic dumbell that rotated and adding a Fat Grip to it, made the process difficult.

However, since the baby bell didn’t rotate at the contest, the 7 completed lifts I got were easy! I missed two because to be honest, I just don’t do well coordination-wise when I am in a hurry.

Training for the front hold had been on a ‘when I remember’ basis. I used a regular weight and generally held it for the same time I had completed it at the contest. I was impressed at a newcomers’, Lynn Pensari, time of 50 seconds…so close to the NAS record.

Farmers worried me. I have horrible grip and get easily frustrated trying to work on bettering it. I hadn’t practiced it at all and was sure I wouldn’t do well at this event. To make it worse, they were timbers. I put my knee wraps on in hopes of bruising less.
I was glad my grip didn’t give out until seconds before I crossed the line and I was able to finish without fail.

The next event, 365 yoke, again I didn’t train for. The last time I had accomplished a yoke was at Frankfort Strongest Man with 350…last September.

I practiced picking up the weight a few times with a barbell at the Y so I could get reaquainted with my backbone compressing.

At the contest I still was happy with my time and that my technique was good. However my pick up was SLOW.

Now, to be honest, the moment I got that deadlift…I had already won against my nerves, injury and all negative thoughts I had had.

My goals had been:
Deadlift- I wanted one and an honest attempt at two. Goal blown out of the water!

Dumbell- I wanted 4-5. Goal accomplished.

Front hold- I wanted to hold it as long as it took me to sing the ABC’s and Twinkle, twinkle Little Star (don’t laugh it calms me!). I held it a bit longer than expected.

Farmers- I just wanted to finish it without dropping them. Accomplished.

Yoke- Same as the above.

I qualified for Nationals but have decided to only go for support.

I do not feel that my performance proves I am National ready. I certainly can’t wait to see what it is all about in Texas, but for now, only as a cheerleader for all my friends, and Matt, competing!