Glass Is Half Full (Strength Friday)

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In my quest for lean superhero-ness, I’m following the Wendler 5/3/1 strength training program. Twice a week, Dave and I are hitting the craptastic gym in our Converse to lift heavy and crank through a mini-metcon.

My glass is half full.

Something happened in my attitude in the last 24 hours. Maybe it was my follow-up visit to Dr. Sebring. Maybe it was the fact that when I put on my favorite Levi’s yesterday, they zipped right up and felt comfortable all day, a sensation I haven’t enjoyed in months. Maybe I finally grew tired of pouting.

Whatever it is, I’m glad to report that while I was lifting heavy stuff at the gym this morning, I took a Workout-Related Inventory™, and the results weren’t bad. Rather than bemoaning the fact that I’m not (yet) as lean as I want to be, I’m going to acknowledge these cool, workout-related things that have happened.

1. My right shoulder is better.
I’d forgotten that I spent much of last summer going to Airrosti to heal my shoulder. My shoulder feels great, and…

2. My pushups are coming back.
There was a time when I could do 20+ perfect pushups in a row. On my toes. Chest to the floor. But between dwindling strength (thanks, thyroid!) and my bum shoulder (see #1), I stopped doing pushups all-together. But the rehab exercises I learned in Airrosti — coupled with the way yoga has taught me to really pull my shoulder blades together when I use my upper body — means I can work on regaining my pushup power again. I’m regularly doing 10 sets of 5 pushups a few times a week, and it feels great. Where “great” is “Man, these pushups suck, but I like being able to do them.”

3. I can lunge on my right leg.
In roller derby, we skated in a counter-clockwise circle, over and over and over and over. I played for almost 5 years. — that is a lot of left-hand turns! And the thing about those left-hand turns is that when you do a cross-over step to the left, all your body weight is on your left foot while you lift your right to cross over. It’s like a one-legged squat on wheels! The result was that my left leg was significantly stronger than my right — and my hips were tight in weird places. We’re talking about years of imbalance. So much so, that when I did walking lunges, I had a very difficult time touching my left knee to the floor in the back — and more often than not, I lost my balance while standing up out of the lunge. Very frustrating. But now, thanks to yoga and strength training, I can do full lunges on both legs.

The lesson I’ve learned: If someone says to me, “That [insert whatever the issue is] will work itself out in a year,” I would lose my mind whining about how a year is too long. I am a very impatient person, and I have a perception of time like a 5-year-old. Anything longer than a day feels like an eternity.

But in grownup land, a year goes by in a blink. I’m thrilled that a year later, my shoulder is better, my strength is increasing, and my legs are evening out. I have no doubt that I’ll forget I learned this lesson and complain that the things I want take too long to arrive. But for today, I’m grateful for my half-glass.

My Friday Thus Far: A Short Story in Photos

First, I hit the craptastic for back squats and bench press. This is the bar, loaded with 130# for my last set which required me to do max reps. I did 7, which felt pretty good. I almost attempted an 8th, but the Wendler instructions recommend not going to failure.

Then I came home and made breakfast: 1/2 cup sweet potatoes sautéed in a little coconut oil with Lebanese Seven-Spice, then mixed with a generous serving of collard greens, and grilled chicken breast. That is the bamboo plate I use for breakfast every morning, and the Moroccan-inspired forks we found recently at World Market.

I had just enough time to re-braid my messy hair before running out the door to kundalini yoga. Today’s class was just what I needed: focused more on relaxation and breathing than super-challenging core work. We also did a series of hand postures (mudras) and mantras that even the instructor admitted were “weird” and “a little silly.” It was awesome.

I like to set up my kundalini space the same way every time: a blanket over my mat, a bolster for my butt, and an eye pillow plus extra blanket to snuggle under for shavasana (relaxation).

My Strength Workout

5:00 elliptical
straight-leg march
10 PVC back squats + 10 good mornings
10 PVC OH squats + 10 good mornings


Back Squat:
5 @ 65% of max = 100#
5 @ 75% of max = 115#
max reps @ 85% of max = 130# – I did 7.

Bench Press:
5 @ 65% of max = 75#
5 @ 75% of max = 85#
max reps @ 85% of max = 100# – I did 5.


10 situps on the 1:00
5 perfect pushups on the 1:00

What’s filling your glass today?

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  • Adam Fachler says:

    I’ll tell you what’s filling my glass today: doing my first “Cook-up WOD.” I’ve been cooking recipes out of Well Fed for about two or three months now, and I finally got my act together, bought a week’s worth of meat and produce in advance, set a timer, and got to work. Now, I can look forward to a week of browned organic beef, scotch eggs, olive oil mayo, and tons of steam-sauteed leafy greens.

    I have watched my nutrition for my whole life (at least since 6th grade when I got bullied for being a little “husky”), but never like I have since switching over to a Whole30 type of lifestyle. The early goings were tough because it seemed like the Paleo writers I knew didn’t actually about the food tasting good; all that mattered was that it met the criteria. Since your book, though, I have discovered a whole new world of spices and joy. I don’t eat meals in front of the TV, I am not afraid to try new vegetables, and I’m finding this lifestyle more and more manageable. Especially as I get fitter as a direct result of it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have changed my life irreversibly for the better. I anxiously await Well Fed 2.0.

    • Mel says:

      This comment totally made my day. Thank you so much, Adam! I’m thrilled to know that you’re enjoying cooking and eating… it’s a relief after lifelong weight stuff, right?! I feel like (a) I can breathe better and (b) I don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying my food. YAY!

      Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  • Roberta says:

    My two thoughts are this. A. this is awesome because I’m guessing in a year my hamstring injury will be a distant memory! (And I’d better stop my damn whining!). B. you have to cuddle under a blanket for shivasana? Isn’t it 100+ there? But then you probably have air conditioning.

    • Mel says:

      YAY! Glad this made you feel better about your hammie. And… sorry about your hammie!

      I need a blanket for shivasana because kundalini makes me really warm and a tiny bit sweaty, then we get all relaxed and my body temp drops like a rock. Plus, snuggly!

      • Roberta says:

        It will get better. It’s been 3 months so I basically just started a whole 30 in an attempt to banish all inflammation from my body. I’m 100% sure it’s going to work! Congrats on your positive attitude. May it persevere when challenged.

  • Laura says:

    I’ve just started reading your blog and I started Crossfit about 3 weeks ago. Having to modify like crazy because of a chronic shoulder/rotator cuff injury, and lower back weakness. Been eating paleo for almost 30 days. Feeling like a wimp because I can barely do the WODs but really hoping I can keep it up regularly and see some improvement… Would love to hear how the shoulder injury process worked out.

    • Carolyn says:

      Laura, Be patient with yourself. Goodness you just started. I started CF in April and I still scale everything. I too had lower back issues but my back never hurts now! With my Whole30 my aching joints stopped. It just takes time. Keep us updated but I bet you do great!!!

  • Cat says:

    It’s so good to be reminded of how “quickly” we heal. I just dislocated my right shoulder a week ago, after 9 years of staying strong. And it put a huge stop into my workout routine.
    But in just a week with the help of my amazing chiropractor, herbs, energy healing and gentle exercise I’m already back to about 80% range of motion and I can see the day when I’ll be doing pushups again. Even if it is a few months from now.
    And yes, the shoulderblades engaged is a huge thing I learned in my last round of recovery and it is helping to stabilize now.

    • Mel says:

      Sorry to hear about your shoulder — glad to hear that you’re taking care of yourself and healing, however. Hang in there! Best wishes for a speedy healing process.

  • LabRat says:

    Been reading awhile (you were my inspiration to try 5/3/1), first time commenting. I suppose I could use a glass-half-full today.

    I’ve been sitting here cranky as a cat in a sack because I’m hobbling around after my fellow derby players beat the crap out of me today and I generally felt like the most useless player on the track, as well as the least fit.


    When I first turned up at a newbie practice in February, I was completely unable to skate. As in, not even a little bit, I needed my husband and a helpful sideliner to hold my hand just to get from one end of the room to the other without complete catastrophe.

    Now I’ve long since passed my newbie test, and my 25 time a week ago was a minute and a half faster than the time I posted when I took said test… which was about a month and a half ago… so maybe not that long since. (The original time we will not discuss, but at least it was under ten minutes.)

    So maybe even if I’m still not fully skills tested and my 180s are weak and wobbly and I can’t get crossovers down to save my life and I’m still basically a kite in a windstorm during a scrimmage, I’m still not doing too bad.

    • Mel says:

      Oh, man! I remember those kinds of feelings from my early Roller Derby days, too. I’m sorry you’re feeling blue — but holy shmoly! Look at your list of accomplishments!

      To do from “unable to skate” to knowing what you need to do to improve is HUGE. You are awesome.

      Congratulations on the improvements in you test, too! A minute and a half is a lot. A LOT! That is beautiful.

      You wrote, “I’m still not doing too bad.” I would argue that you’re doing totally kickass.

      Totally. Kickass.

  • Lydia says:

    How did I miss this post? It’s full of YAY! I’m so happy for you!

  • Bushra Khan says:

    Nice post..
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post..