Recovery from Chaos 1: on the nature of the beast and facing it

“Recovery from Chaos” is a series that I am doing basically through short video posts on my Instagram/Facebook page. I shared it here, on my wall, so that you have an idea what it is. I took this small project after having to give up the meet preparation I was doing: too injured, too chaotic, too weak, too sick. Dani Overcash has been supervising me and I am, to the best of my possibilities, following her guidelines. But chaos, is, well, chaotic: there were 10 days with zero training, when a combination of a very tight deadline to hand in work/paperwork and a sharp spasm on my back that didn’t let me breath (due to “excellent” ergonomic conditions) kept me down, drugged, brain-hyperactive and numb. But I should be at least a little less pessimistic to announce that I have been consistent in my training since Monday and also that those 10 days, plus the completely surreal week when I left Florida, were the first periods when I did not train regularly since 2013, when I was hospitalized. I never leave my sacred barbell.

The “chapters are numbered” – the most recent at the top.

INJURY ELOQUENCE – That’s when the injury (ies) talks to you, loud and clear. You, young Padawan, may disregard its screams. It takes time to discern between the cry of an injury telling you it WILL evolve into major damage and just the insistent, nagging sound of its more or less innocuous soreness. It time, you codify its discourse. You learn. Eventually, a disaster will (or might) happen again and a major injury will happen out of the blue. Not today, though. Look at the video: as I tighten up, I heard it screaming. Years ago I’d just lift. After all, this is a ridiculous warm-up weight. After a few disasters and in the middle of chaos… no. I got my “fix” with the previous set and some extra stuff I did after that. And that’s that.



“Recovery from chaos 5” – a win and a lose. One of the (many) injuries accumulated during the buildup of chaos was “something” at the left hamstring tendon origin and the other was an important tear at the myotendinous junction of the left vastus medialis. This happened while I was here, in the USA, away from the super duper health insurance I had in Brazil. So no, I don’t have an MRI and first class tests and physicians working on this. Both injuries improved – one slowly, one faster (the muscle tear faster). Yesterday I was able to do 3 X 275lbd/125kg after PAP (post activation potentiation with 365lbs static holding, which was really no weight, but I did damage my tendon with EXACTLY the same thing with 495lbs). Right after the deadlifts, while I rested, I “talked to my injuries”. Funny: the left vastus medialis was screaming. It had never done that during a deadlift… And the hamstring tendon was just sore. DURING the lift it was good, unlike the same attempt 2 weeks earlier. When I loaded the bar with 295lbs/133kg (still a warmup weight…), I felt a sting on both injury sites as I even tightened to lift. I decided to listen to them screaming and didn’t lift. A win? Yes and no. Yes, because the three lifts felt good. No, because it seems dealing with the injuries will be slower than I thought. And no, because the day was scary and required “extra assistance” to quiet the brain.

“Recovery from Chaos 5″ – and sometimes you succeed. The first comment here is that anything that is not disastrous failure is something close to success when you are trying to recover from chaos. After all, you’re still just trying. After all, you hit rock bottom (but – wait! – sorry to give you the bad news, but there is no such thing as rock bottom: there’s always some hard digging to do on bedrock). Having totally blown bench day yesterday, I decided to do dead benches. No, definitely, today was not a day to engage in battle against athlete-unfriendly racks, bar supports, etc. Let’s just dead everything. And – surprise, surprise – I dead-benched X 3 the weight I was humiliated by not unracking and benching at full ROM: 90kg/198lbs. Could I have gone higher? Maybe… with less numbing drugs, some nutrition, so many missing variables here. Considering this used to be my best lift and I haven’t been able to decently do what used to be my warmup, today was an amazing day. The rest of the workout was a sequence of almost automatic moves to shut up voices from hell. And here again, another success: at first, they were loud and clear. And thank all the existing and non-existing deities, I didn’t remember the numbing drugs I had in my purse, inside the locker, or I would have reached for them. This is the second day I decrease the pharmacological help in gagging the cries from hell and do so through lifting. And this is the second time I have to do it to remain alive. I hold on for dear life to the iron that floats in this sea of monsters. Yes, folks, good athletes, coaches, writers – whatever – break and hurt like any other human. But they keep rising from hell, until the day they no longer do so. Until then, we keep lifting, teaching, coaching, writing and doing crazy stuff. Get it while you can, baby, ”cause we may not be here tomorrow… (Janis Joplin).
ATENTION: this picture is not from today. I had no phone, tablet, anything to register the glorious moment. This is an old picture, about 1.5 year ago.

“Recovery from Chaos 4” – SUCCESS X FAILURE. Yesterday I failed. At least partially. It was supposed to be bench day. It had been a bad day. I arrived at the gym at 8:30PM and had trouble finding a spot to park. That was the first challenge: heart starts speeding, the air is stagnant, do I run away? I didn’t. I put on my ear plugs and mp3 player: I know myself, I know I freak out with gym music. As I entered the gym, the place was crawling. I found a locker away from people and changed. The gym is enormous and all the three cages were taken. I didn’t approach them more than 30 feet. I stopped and considered leaving, fast. But I insisted and settled for a “normal” bench, with the wrong height, wrong support not enough weights. People moving real close to the bar sleeves. A very young teenager flapped his wings. Wait: this is a chicken. No, it’s a human. There were twice the number of people. I was definitely having a panic attack. I gave up benching at 10 X 60kg (132lbs). I needed to run away. No: I’d try to calm down at the treadmill. Needed to put on sneakers. At the locker room, three girls were sitting on the bench in front of my locker, talking and giggling. I considered flipping the bench. I didn’t. Instead, I opened the locker, I have no idea how much noise I made, ignored the women and put on the sneakers. Mathematically calculated the treadmill furthest from anyone. A woman climbed on the one right next to me – tablet, phone, cables and paraphernalia in her hands. She changed her mind and her treadmill: I must have been exuding all sorts of hostile pheromones. I needed to calm down. Fifty minutes later and all my fuel gone, I had. It was 9:40PM. The crossfit area, the one less athlete-hostile, was almost empty. There was only a chubby girl in the most inconvenient place, on a mat, doing something I can’t define. I ignored “it”, loaded my bar and did some clean and jerks until there were no ATPs left to lift anything. The girl vanished with the first clean. Yesterday I failed. Fighting chaos is a daily battle

“Recovery from chaos 3” – still in the “recovery from chaos” series, Olys were a must: I’m honestly not very good at them (look at the stance and overall speed), but they tend to improve if practiced regularly. It’s hard for a long term powerlifter to become any good at weightlifting. We’re slow. The neural mapping of movements is too strongly set to the “static strength” switch. Learning it AFTER being a powerlifter and an older one doesn’t help either. So: it is any good? I believe so. I believe the quicklifts can help any powerlifter, no matter how sports- or chronologically old we are. Remember: power carries over to maximal strength (dynamic carries over to static) more than vice-versa. Is this why I did it yesterday? NO!! I did it because it is a lot of FUN. And yesterday was about recovering sanity – performance comes after. @onelifefit

“Recovery from Chaos 2” – Again in the “recovery from chaos” series (read previous post), a play day with the squat. Real light snatch squats, real high volume (multiple sets of 3-5). Snatch squats (light ones) have always been my “fixing” lifts: everything seems to come back to where it should be. We can speculate as much as we want as to why this works like this for me. Today, it was about returning to the only thing that can restore some level of sanity to a chaotic life (for me, of course).

“Recovery from Chaos” – 1 – As I said, recovery from chaos is a bit more than recovery from “a” injury or set of injuries. It is recovering from a syndrome that includes multiple injuries, other illnesses but is necessarily associated with extensive disruption of the athlete’s regular training conditions (training facility, team, living and work environment, etc.). A non-negligible part of the adult population, including athletes, will undergo “lato sensu chaos” at least once in their lifetime. That’s frequently where the athletic career ends. Mine will not. I hope to learn things in this process that will help other athletes to survive chaos. Today was a squat day after 10 days away from any training (again: chaos can do that). So it was a “play day” back with squatting, with a long session that included front squats, snatch squats and Olympic lifting.

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