Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mourning the loss of my 1 rep maximum

Photo of a steel 15lb dumbbell sitting on brown carpet with a pale foot resting on it
A lonely 15lb dumbbell & my foot
For those of you non-weightlifter types, the title might not make a lot of sense.  For those of you that are, this post is probably not going to be what you're expecting.  I like bending words like's probably one of the reasons why I'm working on my PhD!

Yesterday morning I had my first real physical therapy appointment post-surgery.  I don't know if it was fatigue, PMS, percoset, or just plain absentmindedness, but I asked my therapist if I would ever weightlift again.  She gave me a sad look and said "yeah, sure....high reps, low weights though" and said something about toning versus bulking.

I started crying.  So much of my identity as a person has been wrapped up in my strength.  I loved lifting heavy things and putting them back down in all sorts of ways.  It didn't matter if it was a dumbbell, a piece of furniture, someone's heavy box of books that they were moving, a tractor tire, or a big dog.  I absolutely love the feeling of my muscles getting tight and moving that heavy thing through space.

Being strong was also something that got me through a lot of hard times in my life.  I have had a lot of internalized fat phobia and ableism, but finding that my body type (both the fatness and the dwarfness) was particularly well-suited to lifting really heavy things made me feel incredible.  It showed me that athletic bodies come in a diverse array of shapes and sizes.  It gave me the emotional strength to deal with all the crap that fat folks deal with at the gym.  The gym was a place where I felt like I had control over what happened both to my body and to my life.

Now, I'm mourning the loss of ever finding my 1 rep maximum.  I used to be able to back squat at least 165 pounds (that was the highest I hit in Crossfit before I screwed up my knee....and I would have been able to go higher once I cleaned up my form).  I could deadlift around that much as well (I was being really careful with my DL form because of my already diagnosed spine issues....I was in chronic pain management at the time, including opioids, but was trying to be stubborn and "athlete-like").  I won't even be able to do a 5x5 program like Stronglifts (warning: not a HAES page) because my lifetime lifting maximum will likely be the weight of a standard barbell (45lbs).

Picture shows xrays of lumbar vertebra with four screws and two rods
The xray of my hardware, day of surgery
This new reality hurts.  I'm not sure if it would have been easier to deal with it had it not been part of a long drawn out process (more like an acute and severe injury that requires immediate surgery).  All of this "will I or won't I be able to do xyz" is exhausting.  It also sets up this expectation that I need to try and see if I can still do something, whether or not it hurts me....particularly because of my embodiment as both fat and disabled and how society thinks that if I can just "fix" being fat, I'll no longer be disabled.

There is a possibility that I may still be able to do heavy bench press work, as long as someone racks my weight (this also means I have to learn to ask for help and accept help more readily, something I struggle with).  I'm not sure if this is a ray of hope, or another weird place where I wonder if I'm disabled enough for para-athletics (I would hope that broken spine + fusion + nerve damage/SCI = eligible for IPC powerlifting, but IPC standards have very specific categories of impairment).  Many powerlifting organizations have bench-only competitions as part of their competitions, if I wanted to pursue them.  I don't know if that would make me happy or if I would just mourn squatting and deadlifting.

So for today, I mourn the loss of my 1 rep max that I will never actually experience...and it hurts.  And tomorrow?  Well, I go back to physical therapy and just keep trying to get stronger, no matter what kind of sport or physical activity outcome comes of it. 

Bodies are always changing, no matter what.  Age, injury, illness, hormones, environment, oppression, emotions....every body, everybody's bodies never stay the same.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Candice,

    This is Myndie from the Rolls not Trolls FB group. This post resonates with me so much!! I used to lift weights, trail jog, mountain bike. I loved how strong I was despite being fat. I miss it to no end and hope that after I heal from whatever back ailment I do have, I can be strong once again. I look forward to reading more of your blog.