My first national meet – maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year

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(yes, the title is a lyric from an All Time Low song. No, I’m not embarrassed)

Wednesday: “Oh shoot, maybe I should pack now”

The best thing about being chronically overscheduled is that you don’t have time to worry about the future. Instead of stressing about nationals all week, I was too busy trying to tie up loose ends before I left. After hastily throwing some clean laundry into a bag, I went to the gym and tried to pretend I wasn’t antsy.

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Support from the big brother from across the country

Thursday: I did not get lost/stolen/detained

My coach wanted me to lift in the morning before my flight… which involved me going to the gym at five am. On the bright side, I was too anxious to sleep the night before, so I rolled out of bed at 4:50 wide awake and ready. It was my first time flying alone and I made it all the way to the host hotel without any major incidents! After two naps, I attended a meeting for new athletes and coaches. I didn’t learn anything particularly useful, but it was fun listening to stories of other coaches and athletes who didn’t know the rules and blew their first big meet.

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I may not have had the biggest numbers, but I had the best headshot

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Friday: “I get to lift things today!”

We started the day by checking out the competition venue, then doing some light complexes and back squats. That afternoon, I dragged my poor coach around the Ogden Dinosaur Park (pubic service announcement: do not visit a pre-historic life museum with me unless you want your ear talked off). Later, we went back to the gym to hit some heavier lifts. I was feeling slow and tired and missing (what felt like) more lifts than I made. It was terrifying, but I tried not to think about it. I wasn’t ready to panic.

I get carsick very easily, and we had to take shuttles everywhere, so I was having a hard time eating enough because I felt so yucky. The only thing I could stomach that night was sushi (Danielle you are so Asian) so I ate what I could manage, said a prayer to the barbell gods, and went to sleep.

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Hello Weber State University!

Saturday: “OMG I’m competing at a national meet?”

I woke up before the sun to do a super light morning session. I felt fantastic. After the best nap of my life, I did my hair and makeup, packed my bag, and tied my rhinestoned hair bow.

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My view from the warm up area (sitting on the floor, as always)

I don’t remember most of the rest of the day, to be honest. No idea what happened during my warm up lifts. I just lifted whatever my coach told me to. Before I knew it, I was walking onto the platform – where I missed my opener by throwing it behind me (that’s weird).

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My “damn it I missed my opener” face

I made it on my second attempt, and then had a heartbreaking no-lift on my last snatch.

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Chasing 63

Clean and jerks went fairly smoothly (okay, that’s a lie, but I’ll discuss later). Opener felt easy, 78kg felt fine. I cleaned 80kg without a problem, and wanted the lift so baldy. I locked out the jerk…

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and I missed.

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And just like that, it’s over. After two years of learning and months of preparation, it’s all over after six short attempts. I missed both the lifts I had wanted, and didn’t hit my goal total… and I was crushed. I cried into my backpack, tried to pull myself together, but cried again in the bathroom after a stranger said I was a beautiful lifter (darn you, kind stranger). After sulking on the shuttle back to the hotel, I wrapped up the waterworks in the shower (shower crying is the best).

But good beer puts everything back into perspective, and I realized I had nothing to be upset about. I touched a barbell for the first time barely two years ago, and have only been competing for a few months. Not only did I post a total at my first national meet, but I tied my meet PRs (despite belt drama and travel fatigue). I opened heavier than my qualifying total and fought harder for lifts than I ever have. It wasn’t the meet I wanted, but that is okay.

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What I learned:

1: Your belt can only be 12 cm wide. I learned this as I was walking onto the platform for my first clean and jerk with my 60 seconds already counting down when an official stopped me with a tape measurer.

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My “what do you mean my belt is illegal” face

2: When you’re really freaking mad that your belt got taken away, 75 kgs feels like 75 lbs. Anger PR.

3: Sometimes strangers are nice. Thank you to the nice blonde girl with cute makeup who lent me her belt for my first lift.

4: Officials do not like to be sassed. After I killed my first and second clean and jerks, I flashed Mr. Tape Measurer my best pageant girl smile. He was not amused.

Sassily walks away from official

Sassily walks away from official

5: Weightlifting has a fickle heart. I’ve been chasing a 63 kg snatch on the platform for a while. On my last attempt, I finally stood it up. And got three red lights. As I stood the bar up, my left elbow bobbled half an inch, resulting in a no-lift. See you on October 10th, 63kg.

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6: After a long week, sometimes your body just gives up. I should have made my last clean and jerk at 80kg, but my legs just gave out and my back knee slammed into the floor during the jerk (it hurt FYI). Fickle sport, fickle body.

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7: Utah is dry, literally and metaphorically. Some lifters intentionally dehydrate themselves to make weight. Why bother when it’s -29834% humidity? Also, I am not inspired by rocks.

8: I have the best gym mom ever. It’s easy to stand at a distance and evaluate someone’s progress. People prefer to attribute someone’s success to luck or the fact that “you’re naturally flexible.” What people don’t see are the early hours and late nights at the gym. Nobody sees the anxious nights when you talk yourself out of your dream, or the lonely 5 am drives to the gym when your peers are walking home from parties. When we say “blood, sweat, and tears,” we’re not kidding. My gym mom is the hardest working person I know, and she understands how hard I worked to make it to nationals. When I wanted to give up in the fall semester because my numbers and progress were regressing, she reminded me it was worth it. When I couldn’t sleep the night before my meet because I didn’t think I belonged there, she reminded me I earned it. Thanks mom.

9: I have the most wonderful coach ever. It takes someone special to turn a ballerina into a weightlifter, and takes infinite patience to deal with me. I am so very thankful to have found someone who sees potential in me, lets me take as many naps as I want, and doesn’t get too annoyed when I whine nonstop about working out. Thank you.

10: I am so motivated and so ready for the next year of training and improving. 

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My First Weightlifting Meet

 

A little less than two years ago, baby 19 year old (barely 115 lb.) Danielle skipped into a local CrossFit gym and chirped, “This looks cool and I wanna do it” to the owner. As my ponytail and I bounced out of the room, armed with a few brochures, the owner saw I was wearing a huge red hair bow. He didn’t think I’d last a week.

A few days later, I tried pressing a 35 lb bar. I was shocked at how heavy it felt, and could barely press it overhead. I ditched the red bow for some chalk, calluses, and hard work.

About a year later, I saw a friend qualify for university nationals. I looked at the qualifying totals, my own numbers, and my own progress… and I set a goal. With that goal in mind, I buckled down at the gym, squeezing in sessions alone before class (before the sun was even up), even biking to the gym if necessary.

Less than two years after I bounced into the gym with a red bow, I skipped onto the platform at my first weightlifting meet (donned in a red singlet and red bow) and hit my qualifying total! My first meet was a wonderful experience, and I hope my story encourages you to try competing:

Preparation 

Training –  When I’m not dancing, I’m in the gym five days a week, with olympic weightlifting classes three of those days, and strength cycle work scattered throughout. I do yoga weekly to stay bendy and devote lots of time to mobility/body care.

Food – To maintain my strength while leaning out for Miss Michigan, I have a nutrition coach working with me and my macros. I eat donuts daily.

Misc. – I learn movements by watching them, so I spent a good amount of time watching national meets and videos online. I also tried to start weighing myself in kilograms and converting my training percentages to kilos in my head.

Night before

If you’ve met me, you know that I CANNOT lift without snacks. The night before I left, I packed a big bag of my favorite quick carb and protein sources, as well as some cold steeped iced tea. Then, after a light mobility session, I was off to bed.

Day of

Sleepy, hungry, grumpy Danielle showed up at the gym 20 minutes prior to weigh it to claim a spot and get situated. I introduced myself to as many volunteers and officials as possible, letting them know it was my first meet. They were all nice, made sure I felt welcome, and answered all of my newbie questions.

I weighed in way lighter than expected, but still in my anticipated 63 kg weight class. After weigh in, I happily stuffed my face and sipped tea and water.

With my coaches advice in mind, and the help of a few coaches who took me under their wing for the day, I settled into the warm up area, going through my normal barbell progressions and building up to my opener

Lifting time!

I stepped up to the platform, looked down, and saw the bar was not what I was used to training with. It was a different brand, so I didn’t have my usual landmarks for hand placement. Nervous, I rushed my first lift, caught it too far forward, and missed. Missed my first lift at my first meet. Grumpy Danielle sulked off the platform. After some angry self talk (“Get it together because that is literally only 90% of your 1RM CHRIST Danielle what are you doing”) , I took a deep breath, changed the voice in my head (” You’ve made this lift a million times before. Rely on your technique and you’ll be fine”), and stepped back onto the platform.

I took my time, settled into my usual ritual, and pictured myself at my gym back home (breathe okay I’m staring forward at the 9 on the clock above the door breathe Ingrid is behind me and Joelle is to my left and Jeff is in the center of the room and Traci just picked up her green water bottle breathe). 55 kg went up easily, as did 59, putting my back on my game plan.

After a short break, clean and jerks began. 67 was a breeze, as was 71 (as I dropped the bar after my second lift, I mentally sent my coach a million hugs for teaching me to be consistent at 90-95%). Up next was 75, and I knew I had to hit it (per my game plan, hitting 75 would get me to the qualifying total I was aiming for).

Then, things got weird. People started changing their declared lifts, and before I knew what was going on, I was sitting in a chair for 15 minutes as several other lifts came before mine.  I realized I was getting cold, which is not a good thing for someone who lifts best warm/semi-fatigued. I jogged over to the warm up area, did some more progressions with an empty barbell, and finally, it was my turn to lift again.

Ritual time: check hair. Tighten wrist wraps. Chalk chalk chalk (no really, I say that in my head at the chalk bucket). Walk to bar. Breathe. Tighten belt. Tighten it again. Breathe. Adjust bar setup with foot. Look up, find a target to spot. Breathe. Set hands, set back, go.

75 felt crazy light, and I got all white lights (despite my little elbow bobble due to my crazy hyperextended elbows. After I got the down cue, I looked anxiously at the judges until I saw all three white cards. Then I happily skipped off, thrilled with hitting my goal and excited for future meets.

What I learned:

  • Trust – trust the process, trust your coach, trust your body, trust your training, trust yourself
  • It is okay to wear hair bows (as long as they don’t fall out during your lift like mine did during my second c&j attempt
  • It is okay to skip on and off the platform. Again, rituals. You do you.
  • Don’t rush
  • Pretend you’re at your home gym
  • Snack time is the best time
  • Be friendly, ask for help if you need it

 

 

Fitness Fave Friday – Yoga

Edit: yes I know it’s not Friday. Sometimes life happens and we forget to publish our drafts on time.

This past year, my shopping addiction caught the Lululemon bug. One evening, as I was laying in my small pile of new purchases, high on shopping euphoria and ignoring my growing buyers’ remorse, I realized that most of my yoga pants had never seen a yoga studio. This semester, I set out to fix that.

Every week, I’ve been taking a rest day slow flow class at aUM Yoga in Ann Arbor (happy hour classes for $7? You bet I’ll be there). Since I began doing yoga regularly, I’ve had the effects carry over into school, dance, and the gym. So my first official Fitness Fave Friday is yoga!

Why it’s awesome:

At the beginning of every class, we breathe and set an intention. This could be anything from “relax my jaw and neck more” to “learn how to be more open.” This helps me with my studying. Every time I sit down to do an assignment or study for an exam, I set an intention or goal for myself, giving myself more direction and focus.

Looking for balance (literally)? Yoga is a great option. I spend a lot of time on my toes (putting the “baller” in ballerina. Just kidding), and yoga has been helping me with my balance and control. When you’re holding poses and moving with control between them, your nervous system is firing like crazy to help you find and maintain balance. Even after class, you’ll find yourself feeling more centered and energized (thanks to increased circulation, decreased cortisol levels, and more!) This helps me in the dance studio, at the gym, and walking on ice in this awful polar vortex.

Yoga is also helping my back feel better. When I’m not throwing around heavy stuff at the gym, I’m hunched over textbooks and carrying heavy backpacks, leaving my back a painful mess. I’ve spent the past few weeks laying on foam rollers and lacrosse balls trying to relax my super-tight-super-painful thoracic spine. Nothing was working… until my one hour yoga class. Moving out and between lengthening poses in a hot room has done wonders for my back, which is why weekly yoga is a huge part of my recovery.

My favorite poses:

Inversions – I’m scared of being upside-down (I was dropped on my head once in a gymnastics class and never went back), so one of my 2015 goals is to spend more time upside-down. These take practice, but are great for balance, circulation, and cool Instagram pictures!

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Dancer (Natarajasana) – Because what kind of dancer doesn’t love this pose.

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Child (Balasana) – And as much as I love dancing and bending… I love laying facedown on the floor more. This is a great spine and hip stretch too!

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Sun salutations in the morning – While I wait for my water to boil to make tea, I do a few sun salutations to begin the day with stretchy hamstrings and a relaxed back:

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(Shorts – Lululemon. Leotard – Gaynor Minden)

Favorite yoga poses/outfits? Your own Fitness Fave Friday? Something you think I should see? Share it on Instagram and tag @daniellenicolepurtell and #BarbellBeautyQueenFitness !