Now that I’ve settled back into a normal training routine for almost three weeks, I thought I’d write an update about my current programming.
I am training four days a week, “powerbuilding” style. That is, I perform the main lifts in a strength-focused rep/set range (usually 5 x 5, but occasionally 5 x 4 or 3 x 6 sets) and then pick three or four accessory exercises to do in a higher rep, more bodybuilding-focused rep range.
I work off percentages, meaning that I started with just 60 per cent of my max in week one, and I will work up to around 90 per cent before revising my numbers and starting the next periodisation cycle.
After two months of sporadic training, a change in my priorities, and a pretty significant weight loss (8kg/18lbs since January 1), my strength took a huge hit. I’m not even close to hitting my best 1RMs, which are 120kg (265lbs), 58.5kg (129lbs) and 140kg (309lbs) for the squat, bench and deadlift, respectively.
If I had started out at 60 to 65 per cent of those numbers, it would have simply been too difficult for my current strength level, and I would have crashed and burned after a few short weeks.
Consequently, I checked my ego at the door and dropped my maxes. My new numbers are based off maxes of 115kg (as I was doing sets of five at 105kg in Croatia, I think my true max is somewhere around 125kg), 55kg and 130kg.
It took me all day, but I finally found a (very overpriced!) gym in Paris with a squat rack. I eased myself back into training with 5 x 5 at 70kg (154lbs). For being less than 60% of my max, it should not have been this difficult! Remind me not to take so much time off training again. #yeahshesquats #girlswholift #10dayssinceiworkedout #butmorelike3months #doievenlift #weakAF
The first week was rough. Although I was only squatting 70kg (155lbs), I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Pulling 90kg (200lbs) felt easy, but during the following week sets at 95kg (210lbs) were surprisingly tough.
Rather than beat myself up about it, I reminded myself that a couple of years ago these numbers were my maxes, so I can’t be too mad about it.
I reminded myself of the same advice I give my clients, and that is that it usually takes about half the amount of time you had off to get your strength back. I predict that by the end of this cycle, I will be able to work from my true one rep maxes once again.
I have also dropped the weights slightly for accessory exercises, but that doesn’t really matter so much as I am just “chasing a pump”.
Training in France
So far, my training in Paris has been quite the experience. My gym isn’t great, but it’s the best of a bad bunch. I thankfully have a squat rack, but there are no safety bars so I’m a little tentative of going super heavy.
I am allowed to deadlift so long as I control the descent and don’t make too much noise, however, the gym only has hexagonal plates. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to deadlift with those, but it’s not fun. I’m thinking I may need to work off higher percentages and less reps instead, because resetting between every rep is killing my mojo.
Today I deadlifted for the first time in weeks. I'm trying to learn to be as quiet as a mouse on the descent to avoid drawing attention to myself as I'm not really allowed to deadlift here. Also, hexagonal plates are the worst. 90kg (200lbs) x 5 x 5 is a loooong way off my best of 140kg, but I have to start somewhere. #formerpowerlifter #doievenlift #shhhh #girlswholift
Out of all the European countries I’ve travelled through, France is the absolute worst in terms of gym etiquette/knowledge. Imagine stepping into a time machine and entering a gym 20 years ago, and that’s what it’s like. Gyms are, after all, a very new development in this country. I have to deal with:
- Nobody putting their weights away. Ever. It takes me five minutes to find the missing dumbbell from the pair. But I still can’t bring myself to not unload my bar – I don’t want to start any bad habits!
- Bros grunting non-stop. For some reason, my gym doesn’t play music (this might be a Parisian thing as the two other gyms I checked out didn’t either), so I’m forced to suffer through the guttural moans and screams of all the bros. If you’re lifting the weight for 15 repetitions, you really don’t need to grunt from rep one.
- The worst form imaginable. No one seems to have a clue what they are doing, trainers included, but I’m certainly not going to correct them.
- Dudes living in fantasy land. The guys are the typical commercial gym crowd, constantly lifting up their shirts to check their abs and flexing their biceps in the mirror. Yes, your biceps are still as non-existent as they were two minutes ago. Every guy has invisible lats syndrome, despite being smaller than me. It’s cute when I catch them glancing at me to see if I’m looking. Yes, I’m looking, but not for the reason you think.
- No spatial awareness. Every time I squat, it’s an accident waiting to happen. Guys step right behind me and it’s extremely off-putting. One guy chose to wait until after I’d wrapped my wrists, loaded the bar on my back, and stepped back out of the rack to stick his head literally into the rack and ask how many times I could squat the weight. I dumped the bar back in the rack, because he completely ruined my focus, and I gave him the biggest death stare imaginable.
- People taking the plates off your barbell – without asking if you are finished, when you are very clearly not.
- Germs everywhere. No one wipes down their equipment after using it, and a few super sweaty guys walk around dripping all over the floor. As if that wasn’t gross enough, the other day there was a guy coughing and spluttering non-stop for an hour. Stay home, dude.
- Very few women. I can count the number of women I’ve seen in the cardio area on one hand, and I am yet to see a single woman venture into the weight room.
- (Sadly) being a novelty. I haven’t seen a single person lift more than me – excluding the quarter squats and bro-assisted benching, of course. On Saturday, I was squatting and the entire gym literally stopped to watch me. When I finished, everyone applauded. One might think it’s good for my ego, but I just find the attention embarrassing! There’s me squatting a measly 80kg while, across the pond at the Arnold that very same day, they saw the first woman squat 600lbs. Now that is worthy of applause.
The gym is the only part of Paris I’m not a fan of! But it’s a small price to pay to live in the greatest city on earth <3
What does your current training schedule look like? Has your strength ever taken a hit?