Re-learning how to run – AGAIN

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Some of you may not find running once a week (or more) in 2018 impressive, especially since my max has been 5k. For me, it’s been a show of strength, both physically and emotionally.

Until grade 8, I thought I wasn’t an athlete. I had been told by classmates for too many years that since I had asthma, I couldn’t do sports. No teacher built up my confidence about team sports, so I still avoid them. School also doesn’t support the types of athleticism I loved (ballet, downhill skiing, and outdoor sports like hiking and canoeing).

In grade 8, my gym teacher looked at me and said, “Janessa, you can run.” So I did.

Every gym class in the spring we did laps outside, and I kept up with the boys who were in competitive soccer. It was the best feeling, especially when I won 400m or 800m sprints. In grade 9, I got to try hurdles. It felt like I was flying. From then on, whenever I’d be stressed, Mom would tell me to put my running shoes on, and I got that runner’s high. It was the first time that I was proud of my “thicc” legs. I began to regularly run 5ks, and loved it.

When I was 19, I was an idiot and slipped my L4-L5 disc lifting canoes. Since then I spent hours doing physio, crying, gained weight, went through a severe depression, and lost running- one of my favourite ways to de-stress. I had an amazing physiotherapist during my undergrad, who focused on getting me strong enough to re-learn how to run, but I didn’t take it to heart. I would skip working on core, and every time I’d run, I’d cry. I wasn’t running as fast or as hard as I wanted to, and some days I’d get 2k in and my back would hurt.

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I stopped for a long time, and focused on powerlifting. During my first year of my Master’s program, I realized that I was lacking in core strength that was preventing me from getting my lifts heavier. I started researching what was the best for core strength for powerlifters, and got strong at that. No more low-back pain.

I had a single, scary thought in fall 2017.

I wanted to run again.

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I set myself a goal of re-learning how to run in 2018. I had to run at least once a week, even if it was -20*C outside, no matter what distance worked for me. I also signed up for a MEC fun run April 15.

Progress was slow. I ran 7km/h, it took me weeks to get up to 5 k, and I still can’t run 5k unbroken. I didn’t get that joy when I put my running shoes on, it was just to prepare myself for the race, and because I wanted that runner’s identity back.

Things changed on April 7 when I decided that instead of running a 5k, I wanted to do sprints. They were hard. It hurt so much the next day. Bu

 I felt like I was flying again. I cried on the jog home.

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The next Tuesday, April 10, I went for a lunchtime 5k. I ran 2.5k unbroken, faster than 6km/h. I enjoyed it.

Today, Sunday, April 15, Nic and I ran a 5k MEC Race. It was very, very windy and cold, but it was my first time running 5k unbroken in years. I’m super proud that I did it in 29 minutes, and can’t wait to get down to 25min. I definitely thought I was going to pass out the last km, so I’m very thankful that Nic ran beside me the whole way to keep me going faster, and kept encouraging me. (Sorry you didn’t get a great time 😉 )

Tips for re-learning a sport:

  • You might not be the same athlete you were before your injury. That’s okay. You probably don’t even remember how hard it was to get to the level you were before. You have a second chance to be good at the sport, with more information about how to do it safely. Be humble about it. We all start somewhere.
  • Never stop your physio. Ever. Incorporate it as much as possible. I have to do core bracing, so I do that as I’m going to sleep. I make sure that my core exercises are at the end of every powerlifting session.
  • Warm up properly. I have some weird stretches to do before my lifting sessions, and that’s great. Don’t be embarrassed. My only excuse is when I’m panicked to find a squat rack 😉
  • Surround yourself with knowledgeable people. My chiropractor knows what’s wrong with me right away, and is a runner, so she has lots of great suggestions.  Ask lots of questions of people who are better at the sport than you are. I send my lifting videos to a friend, and post them on my public Instagram.
  •  Take time to recover, and vary your activities and intensities. While I was training for this race, I’d run home 5k at a slower pace, and do 2.5-3.5k runs at a faster pace. I also train at the gym 4 days a week, so my legs can get banged up. Lots of epsom salt baths, yoga, and foam rolling. When you’re starting over you need to make sure you take care of yourself.

Good luck!

We can do it!!

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Fitness Update – Powerlifting on or off a program?

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

I started my first powerlifting program (Layne Norton’s PH3) in March 2016. Since then, I have gained 100 lbs on my deadlift, 75 lbs on my squat, and 55 on my bench. I am insanely proud of those baby gains! Of course, I won’t be able to continue to go in that exponentially, and this journey hasn’t been without pain and challenges. When I hit my 200lb squat in March (without pain, too!), I cried. After herniating my L4-L5 disc 6 years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that. Next goal? 2 plates (225 lbs).

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.ComFirst Powerlifting Phase: March-May 2016

I LOVED Layne Norton’s PH3 programming, as you can read here. I was working 5 days a week at GoodLife, so I had time to be in the gym 5+ days a week, which this program requires. I liked working on percentages, but I also noticed that I would re-calculate every week, instead of keeping it steady for the whole month. Probably lifted heavier than I needed to at the start. It was also a very humbling process. I worked on my form, and sometimes super light weights felt incredibly challenging, and I’d be out for a week.

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Second Phase: May-August 2016

Cutting. Yuck. I’ve never tried an actual cut before, and it wasn’t fun. But I managed to drop from 20% body fat to 16%. That involved lots of high reps lower weight (also to recover my muscles a bit), skipping, and box jumps. Also, I ate less dessert. I hate that about diets.

I also adapted Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 programming to my needs. I still worked 4-5 days a week, but had gotten bored of PH3’s incessant accessory work that drove me insane. I wanted a bit more variation.

Third Phase: September-December 2016 Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com

Yup, didn’t do much. I gained 10 lbs and 5-6% body fat (including Christmas bloat) from when I started grad school. Stepping on the scale January 2 was a shock. I didn’t get the hang of 3 courses in grad school, 2 part-time jobs equaling 20 hours, 2 choirs, and being a youth sponsor AND having time for myself. I hit some heavy weights, but did not have the consistency to gain much strength. My energy also got super low. However, with the bulk came a bigger butt. I mean, not necessarily in a good way, but definitely bigger. It was a real, dirty bulk.

 

Fourth Phase: January 2017-Now

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com
I got an Inzer Weightlifting belt for my birthday!

What’s going to be the best phase: a slow cut for some weddings, but hitting some awesome numbers. Within a month of cutting (more healthy food, less dessert, jumping rope most days, and more gym sessions) I had lost the 10 pounds, and dropped 2% body fat. I’m at a very comfortable spot, but I’m looking to lose a bit more body fat before a spring wedding. I expected that I would lose strength, but I easily used up my Christmas carbs hitting my deadlift and squatting goals.

Powerlifting Update - JanessaMann.Com
My left shoulder (the one on the right, since it’s in a mirror) is insane. Not sure how it got that big, and why I still can’t do a pull-up. Getting mixed messages.

I’m happy  with my consistency at the gym despite not having a specific program for the past 6 months. I start co-op in May, and it’s a long commute, so hopefully I figure out a good schedule that will keep this momentum going. Then again, it’s not like I can pretend I haven’t had back or hip pain during this term. I definitely put on weight that I didn’t need to, and suffered. I think now that I’ve hit the 200 lb mark for both squats and deadlifts I’ll take a step back and work on higher reps lower weight to go with my cut.

Baby Gains:

Yes, these are considered baby gains, since they’re my first year of powerlifting. I don’t think I’ll be at a 300 lb squat March 2018, considering my back. But I’m very proud of the numbers I’ve finally hit, and can’t wait to see if my body can go further than this.

Bad Back:

On that note, as I mentioned above, my back hasn’t been super happy the whole time. I’ll tweak it by bending over, or putting on 10 lbs more than I should have. Pretty dumb of me. It seems like I haven’t learned anything. Now that I’ll be backing off, I’ll be making sure that I continue to do my physiotherapy to increase my stabilization strength, and focusing on recovery. Like baths, rolling out, and going to massage and chiro. I only have one back, and I’ve been given so many second chances on back health. Maybe I’ll try sumo deadlifts and see if my back likes that more!

Next Goals:

Deadlift 2 plates (225 lbs)

Squat 2 plates (225 lbs)

Bench 1 plate/body weight (135 lbs)

Pull-ups (I’ve been doing sets of 10 with the assisted band for months, I should really be ready soon, but it’s frustrating)

For summer drop 3% more body fat (but I get so angry when I limit dessert)

Let me know how your powerlifting journey has gone!