Doing Hard Things (Follow Up): My Tactical Strength Challenge Experience

My max deadlift

Early one recent Saturday morning, we drove to a gym that we had never been to on the other side of town. We entered the Crossfit style training facility, registered and weighed in, then warmed up with Metallica's Enter Sandman blasting from the speakers. Three hours later, the Tactical Strength Challenge was over! We worked very hard, met some really nice people equally passionate about doing hard things, and learned some good lessons in the process:

Hubby starting his snatch test

Every once in a while, do something with people you don't know. We had trained on our own for this competition, but most of the people there had trained together. Walking in we knew no one, and the mood was a little tense with anticipation. It seems so childish, but for introverts it can be a challenge just to strike up a conversation in this type of scenario. I complimented a couple of the women on their impressive deadlifts (my go-to tactic for breaking the ice)... By the end of the challenge, we had chatted with many of the other competitors and connected on various topics, both strength and non-strength related.

Strength is both specific and relative. All sorts of body shapes can be strong, and there are many different ways to be strong. This event brought competitors of a wide range of ages and sizes. We were by far the tallest people there, which confers some challenging physics for efficient weight lifting. My best deadlift was worlds lower than most of the other women there. It was inspiring to see these women - some older, some larger and some smaller - powerfully lift so much weight off the ground! And yet my climbing background and strong grip strength allowed me dominate the second event: the flexed arm hang (pullups for the more advanced competitors). I came in second of all of the competitors across the country in the Women's Novice division (77 seconds)! You can view all the results here.

From the Results page: bold #s = placement in each event,
smaller #'s = actual score with body weight in ( ). My division had 47 people.

I can do more than I think I can. This is probably the most important thing I learned. I've written before on my self-limiting beliefs about my athletic abilities, developed extensively during my childhood. One reinforcing memory involved the physical fitness testing all children had to complete in elementary school. I distinctively remember my flexed arm hang score: ZERO seconds. Every year. Now, at age 43 and much heavier, look at me! Not only am I breaking my own paradigm as an "old lady", I exceeded my expectations during the actual event compared to my performance during training sessions. I may not be built to be a powerlifting competitor or an elite climber, but it brings me great happiness to witness the process of improvement and to continue to dispel old beliefs that don't serve me. Now the key is to avoid forming new self-limiting beliefs!

I'm ready for a change. My body has been telling me to stop training so hard for a little while now. It turns out that I have a labral tear in my shoulder from all the snatching and pullup work (I achieved my first pullup - finally - during this training cycle). All the muscles of my posterior chain feel like a tight, hard sheet extending from my mid-back down to my knees, and my mobility has really gone downhill. I'm psychologically tired of constantly increasing the weight or reps every time I work out. My head and body both need a break from this style of training.

What's next? I want to spend some time recovering, focusing on mobility and flexibility again, doing more yoga and some fun movement that's not too serious. Maybe climbing more again!


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