We don't plan to fail, we program for success

True Character is Shown Through Times of Adversity

Shawcross, H
(Managing Director, Athletic Institute Wangara, Perth – WA)

Entry #3: Less than 2 weeks out from Nationals

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As I sit down to reflect, it amazes me… what feels like a blink of an eye; such incredible and massive changes have occurred. With only 2 weeks to go until National’s it seems like things just continue to move faster and faster! Competition time will be here before I know it!

In my previous week (3 weeks out) I embarked on my most difficult and arduous week to date, my overreaching week. This was my last big week of loads at 90% with a few testing elements thrown in the mix for my coaches to gauge where I am sitting with my progress and performance.

My coaches are very switched on, they know me as an individual and me as an athlete exceptionally well. So well in fact that on Wednesday I was “out the gates” moving well and Snatching up a storm, hitting doubles at my previous competition best of 63kgs. It’s actually so incredible to be doing this especially knowing where I’ve come from and what I’ve done. For example, I remember so vividly how I used to be petrified as a novice lifter at even the thought of Snatching blue plates, and how stressed I used to be during my Snatches… any Snatches. Now… only ‘a few blinks later’ I Snatch the blues with no fear, move the load on the bar in a fully relaxed and comfortable rhythm. It’s just so amazing what ‘just a few blinks’ (another year of training) can do!

Speaking of all the positives, and just like Newton’s Third Law of Motion (Equal and Opposite Action-Reaction) or as Newton so delicately spoke “What goes up, must come down”, so does this entry. My Snatches were great and that was my highlight! My legs however, decided not to show up to training after this point and I got crushed by some measly 95kg back squats. Because of this, we dropped the loads back down to 90kg and just got them done. Friday (as you already know are a bit of a struggle for me) saw me Clean for a double of my previous competition best at 77kgs. I made the first and the third lift but, lost concentration on the second and got stuck in the bottom of the Clean. This was due to my legs, and when your legs are fried… there goes your ability to bounce out of the bottom from a heavy Clean! Regardless of my somewhat failure, this was not an issue – remember it’s an overreaching week anyway, it’s supposed to be overreaching on your capabilities, thus it is supposed to be extremely difficult. So, nonetheless the training so far is a good indication that things are moving in the right direction and exactly where they need to be this far out!
Of course, following my Cleans… Front Squats were programmed in next, and what had eluded me this whole session? my legs – yep, well they had still not arrived to training and thus I got crushed on my 80kg Front Squats also. This means another drop of the load had to occur, that means the load had to drop to 75kgs which I then finished off the rest of the sets at that weight.
Following the agonising defeat due to the under compliance of my legs, I moved onto my 4th exercise and I was absolutely fried! I had a moment of needing to re-rack the bar following a set of Push Jerks and completely missed the J-hooks on the rack. From this point it was pretty safe to say: training = 1, Holly = ‘nil’. My coaches told me to ‘rack it up, pack it up, go home and get some good recovery for the weekend’. Of course, that is exactly what I did and because of that I woke up fresher, reinvigorated and determined to get my but back into training and lift some pre-determined heavy sh#t! So, Saturday I smashed it! I trained extremely well, but by Sunday morning the accumulated intensity had hit me hard, so the fatigue had truly set in at this point in time. Funnily enough it seemed irrelevant that I had 9 hours of sleep the night before, including the correct and adequate amount of nutrition to recover – I did everything right but, I was still at my limit, I was still hitting the wall! So Sunday, even my ‘light’ loads felt ridiculously heavy. I was Snatching 58kg which didn’t only feel heavy but felt sloppy and messy also. But it was kind of refreshing and reassuring that I wasn’t the only one. My fellow teammates heading to nationals were also sitting deep in the ‘fog of fatigue’ right with me. We were missing lifts left, right and centre, trying to focus despite feeling like… excuse my French, but like… absolute sh#t!
I closed out with a good last set but I was still frustrated given 60% of my lifts were misses! In my head these times are the “make or break” times, and it was only in reflection that I remembered… “hmm, I have been here before”, these are the times my coaches want us to push despite being fatigued, they want us to really focus and grit down, bite the curb and grind it the hell out. The ones that overcome this change of stimuli or external environmental pressure are the ones who ultimately come out on top.

I moved onto my Clean and Jerks now, in which I cleared my mind, almost a form of focal meditation through which I believe allowed me to start in a better place. Following this momentary time of relax, I worked through my warm up sets, edging closer and closer to my working sets thinking to myself “hmm this kind of feels alright”, maybe I was just having a bad day on my Snatches and things would pick up. I thought… “Maybe, that momentary time of relax actually helped!”… or so I thought.

I actually cannot truly tell you what exactly happened from this point, nor can I really explain what or how it happened. All I know is when I finished my last warm up set, something kind of twanged in my left hamstring. At first, I didn’t really register it, until I bent down to unload my bar for the next weight and realised I couldn’t actually bend over at all. I actually attempted a hinge patter a few times but thought to myself “nope this doesn’t feel just like a tight hammy”. So, I thought, “maybe I’ll just force it”, so I tried a Clean on its own and immediately I knew that this wasn’t the good kind of pain. Annoyed and confused, I packed training in, went home, iced it for the rest of the day and got in contact with my sports physio to see her Monday.
So Monday morning rolls around and my hammy still isn’t feeling very good, I am slightly concerned that I may have a tear but, I remain positive until I know for sure what I am dealing with. I’ve been in competitive sport most of my life and worked within the fitness industry for over 11 years, I have had my fair share of injuries in the past, most of them minor (strains, overuse injuries, tendinopathies) and a few major (broken bones requiring surgical repair, structural issues with my spine) so because of this, it has somewhat strengthened my dogma and trust in the professionals rather than jumping to any irrational decisions.
It’s about getting the right professionals to help you install the best management plan possible to get you back on track. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic physio, chiropractor and massage therapist who know my body, my requirements for my sport and do exactly what I need them to do to keep me kicking!
So after a thorough assessment by my physio she was confident we were dealing with just a strain and at worst a few micro tears in my hamstring insertion. She suggests I have an ultrasound to confirm what we are dealing with and since being this close to competition it was important to me to be over-reactive, somewhat of a hypochondriac and cover all our bases. In the meantime, I was to just keep managing it during the acute stage with ice and over the counter NSAID’s.
My first session back was the Wednesday and it required a bit of modification to allow me to actually get some training done without making it any worse, but I was surprisingly still able to do a fair bit.

Instead of Snatches I worked on Power Snatches off the blocks from thigh, heavy Snatch Pulls from the thigh off blocks, back squats at a light 60kgs and some Snatch Grip Push Presses. I was confident that I was only dealing with a minor strain going off how I felt, but of course we had to have the “worst case scenario” discussion with my coaches.
In my mind there is no option, I missed out last year by 1kg to qualify, I have spent 12 months working hard to get here, I’ll be dammed if I let a literal pain in my ass knock me down, I WILL find a way, I will exhaust all options until I am satisfied that “no you can’t” is the verdict.
I have come to learn that adversity will always present itself to us during times when things are always running smoothly, things will be tracking along almost too perfectly and “BAM” out of nowhere you hit a pole.
People will deal with adversity in one of two ways (and this is not just going off my experiences that I have witnessed from clientele and athletes I have worked with over the years as a trainer and coach, but with other personal experiences as well as friends and family and situations I have watched them go through), they become overwhelmed by it pack it up and quit, or they pick themselves up and get on with it, rebuilding at a steady pace. I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason, they are here to teach us lessons, aid us in becoming better humans, better versions of ourselves, to make us more aware of our faults that may have lead us to this point, to decipher if this is something we really want or is it just something we think we want. These are life’s little tests. We can sit there and play the victim, point the finger at someone else and have the defeatist mentality, or, we can own it and use it to rise higher.
So I control what I can control and that’s managing my body. The scan results came back on Thursday afternoon and there is no tear present, just tendinosis of the conjoint tendon of my left hamstring. I was over the moon, it was happy days, I couldn’t have received any better news than this!
If I keep up with my physio, NSAID’s and don’t do anything stupid to further the trauma, I’ll be back and in form within the next week. If I wasn’t competing, then this wouldn’t have been such a big deal as in the whole scheme of things it is more of a minor injury, however being so close to competition no stone can go unturned. Knowing this also put me in a better frame of mind with the last State Team Training Camp fast approaching on the Sunday.
On Friday and Saturday we made a few more modifications to my sessions, but I was pleased to see my range of motion had improved and I was able to start pulling from the floor. I had instructions from the physio to start testing the waters and see what I could push and what still needed more time.

I felt pretty good by Sunday morning, the last State Training was being held at Olympifit in Rockingham. After an early wake up and a long drive I go to the club at around 9am and got myself ready to lift, just quietly you could feel the edging excitement from the team knowing nationals is just around the corner and today would be a good session. I started warming up and was excited to try some full lifts and see where I could take my loads to. Despite some of the state team maxing some lifts, this wasn’t the goal of my session, it was to gauge where I was at, and get my rhythm back on my full lifts. I worked through some comfortable Snatch doubles at 80% for 5 sets and so far it was feeling good.
Next was my Clean & Jerk’s and we worked up to 88% for 5 sets of singles and despite being a little slow out of the bottom of the Clean it felt good, in fact… it felt great! This was a massive positive considering I was sitting only 7kgs below my previous personal best! The state team over all, were on fire! Some fluid and very crisp lifting went down and it was both inspiring and motivating to be surrounded by the best lifters of our state and be a part of it all. Over the past few months leading into nationals it has been awesome to watch not only my own progress flourishing but also watch the progression of my own mTOR team members kick but too! Training alongside guys and girls who are that little bit stronger than me because of the weight class differences is what drives me and encourages me to work harder.

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In the upcoming nationals I am chasing my status of an A grade standard lifter irrelevant of my overall placings, some of my team mates are already A standard and working towards higher lever competition recognition. It’s not always about a podium top three placing, and if you jump into the sport with that solely being your drive you won’t last long. Most of the time it’s about being better than you were last competition, last meet, last training session or even just the other day and building consistency in your lifts to ace it in your next competition. The drive to win will only get you so far in weightlifting, as I’ve mentioned before, the training can be harsh, it can be arduous, you sometimes have bad meets that you need to be able to pull yourself back from and learn from, if you can’t deal with not always being on top and grinding through some sticky and rough times you will soon have the realisation that sports like this just aren’t right for you. Your inner drive needs to outweigh your external drive because you will get beaten down more times than you will stand upon that mountain peak in victory. Failure in weightlifting happens all the time, it’s the only way you find where your current limits are, it will happen frequently during training and at times it may happen in competition. But, that failure doesn’t define you, what defines you is how you react to that failure – essentially that failure will either destroy you or make you better. You have the choice… so you decide.

Given I now have two days to get some good recovery in, I am really looking forward to knuckling down and getting back into my full training regime next week, testing my Snatch in this upcoming weekend and then get stuck into my taper leading me into the National Competition commences. The next time you hear from me will be my final blog instalment, you will hear the final two-week lead-in to the meet, you will hear and maybe even experience all the hype that goes down at the day of the competition and my results.

Until next time,
H. Shawcross

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