The barbell doesn't care it's your birthday

Wishing and hoping and thinking doesn’t make the weight move. Neither does the day of the week, the socks you wear or even the fact that it’s your birthday.

When Susan told me she first got a 200-lb deadlift on her birthday last year I immediately wanted to do something special on mine. Though we aren’t competitive with one another, we both always want to try anything the other has tried.

So I pitched Ben. “Can I do something big for my birthday?” I’m near 3 big benchmarks – a 200lb squat, 200lb deadlift and bodyweight bench. “Nine days after you competed you want to max out?” he replied. But agreed to let me go for bench. And while we were at it, 10 chin-ups, a goal I set for myself for the year.

Friday during close-grip benches I got to 100 lbs and missed 105. That was 2 and a half pounds below body weight — so close! Surely with regular grip I could get bodyweight.

We split up a pretty ferocious birthday workout into two sessions this morning to accommodate a TV appearance I did with Ben to demonstrate powerlifting (you can watch it here — after I dish on restaurants, I get under the bar). After a 1000 meter row and some reverse lunges I worked on single leg box squats to parallel, getting up to 24 kilos for a single on each side. My arms were getting tired from holding the kettlebell and I wanted to be sure I got my chinups, so I quit there.

Then it was time for the chin-up challenge. I hadn’t tried maxing since June, when just playing one day at the gym opening party I got 8. One through seven went fast. Eight was slow, nine was hard and 10, honestly, was questionable. But I got my chin over the bar, so I took it.  Then some weighted reverse lunges, sets of 10, working up to 35lb weights in each hand.  That was hard but I maybe could have gone up if I wasn’t looking ahead to the bench.

After the TV segment I came back and joined Susan for her workout. We moved through the bench — it’s a pretty short time to get from just the bar to my attempt. 95 was fine. Then it was time. Big breath, get tight, grip the bar, pull it down and press! But it wasn’t moving far. I kept pushing, not wanting to quit, but you can tell with the bench press if it’s going to go anywhere and it just wasn’t. It’s frustrating to want to do something so badly, and to think that all the work over the last few months hasn’t accomplished what I’d wanted it to, but in the end I just wasn’t strong enough.Yet. I tried again, though Ben knew I didn’t have it. I thought if I just concentrated more on digging in my heels and gripping the bar, but this time it rose even less than the first time. I had to admit defeat.

But the workout wasn’t done. Skullcrusher time. Ben wanted as heavy as possible for six. It didn’t take me long, getting the 48lb bar first, five more pounds on the next, and for the final six, 58 pounds. I didn’t think I could get through the last three, at each one expecting Ben to come yank the bar from me, but instead he yelled at me to push, and Susan, who was spotting me, kept her hands just below the bar as my quivering, burning arms pushed the weight up once, twice, three times and done. We still had tricep push-downs to do with the red band, where I was smoked by Susan who doubled my 25 on both sets. And I couldn’t resist trying the heavy kettlebell when it was her turn for squats, so I worked through those again, this time getting one on each side with the 70lb kettlebell. Heaving that cannonball up to my chest was the hardest part!

We saved the most brutal for last: four sets of 30 Turkish situps (10 lb kettlebell for me) followed by 1 minute wall sits. Hell, in my mind, is toes-up wall sits. I know they’re good for my knee but I come closer to crying doing these than anything else I do in the gym. On the third I had to slide up the wall for a second and back down, mortified to be cheating, but legs burning so that there was no way to stay down. Susan placidly waiting out her minute made it even worse.  But I got through the last set and lay on the floor, happy to be done, happy to have accomplished so many things on my birthday I couldn’t have dreamed possible on my last birthday, happy to have a coach that pushes me past what I think I can do and happy to have a friend and training partner that inspires me to want to do more.

So no, the bar didn’t move because it was my birthday, but I know eventually it will.


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