Given the tumbleweeds blowing across the strongmum blog, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve not worked out in any capacity since October, with that being a one-off too. This couldn’t be further from the truth, although illness — mine and my children’s — and work have unsuccessfully conspired together to take me out of action.

Back in September, my husband and I passed our Taekwon-do red belt grading, bringing us up to 2nd kup. This means that we now have only have a couple of gradings til black belt; we could in fact be black belts by this time next year, which is a strangely terrifying prospect.

Earlier on in the year I decided to take a punt on the Hybrid Performance Method powerlifting program to get my squat and deadlift back up post-marathon, and to bring my bench up to a respectable number with a view to possibly competing in 2020. It worked, in so much as I attained new deadlift and squat PBs (110kg DL and 107.5kg back squat). However, I didn’t feel it was doing enough for my bench; not necessarily because of the program, but because I have weaknesses that are hard to work on alone.

Because of this lack of progress I have recently started working with Mike Harvey over at No Gym Required to get that bench number up. I’m hoping his support and expert eye will be just what I need to get my out of my plateau.

Unfortunately I can’t afford Hybrid + Mike, so I’ve had to sack off Hybrid in the mean time. I’m hoping I can use my own knowledge & experience of squats (which have stood me in good stead thus far) plus tips off Mike to stop those slipping backwards.

With this tentative plan in place, I took the plunge in November and entered my first powerlifting competition: in July 2020 I will be competing in the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships in Blackpool as a Novice in the (senior) 67.5kg weight category.

If all goes well in Blackpool, I want to use whatever powerlifting total I get as my opening numbers for another comp after that, so there’s a lot riding on it (in my head, if nothing else).

To support my quest for benching gains ahead of July, I’ve been eating in a calorific surplus of late: deliberately eating more to gain muscle. This is not without side effects; you can’t gain muscle mass without a little fat, and as someone who’s spent the past billion (…) years battling weird and wonderful issues with food (content warning – link mentions sexual abuse, eating disorders, loss during pregnancy) as well as undergoing several specific controlled weight loss periods, to be eating more than I objectively need seems counter-productive and scary. Scary because what if I ‘break’ myself and somehow undo the work I’ve put in to normalise my appetite and free myself of all those demons? Crazy, I know.

If I’ve learned one thing over the past decade, though, it’s that the scarier something is the more important it is to jump in head first and get it freakin’ done. So I’m bulking – gaining – eating the heck out of everything. Nicely timed for Christmas: mince pies, chocolates and ALL THE FOOD (of course). The downside is having to cut back down to fit into my weight category in July, but that’s for 2020 Jem to worry about.

I ran my last race of the year at the end of October, which I meant to write about, but aforementiond work & illnesses cocked that up. It was another course PB, although I forgot my Garmin, and everyone knows if a run isn’t on Strava it doesn’t count.

I meant to continue running 2-3 times a week even after the last race of the season, but as with many things of late that’s not happened. I have managed one single solitary run in the past 6 weeks. I don’t want to lose my cardiovascular fitness (and although I walk a lot, that’s not enough to keep it) so this is my next big thing to fix ASAP: getting back into a run routine. Even a few miles a week would be better than the current situation!

So, the fitness situation going into 2020 is as follows:

  • Gain a shitload of muscle and improve my bench press by July
  • Don’t lose back squat & deadlift gains while I focus on bench
  • Get back into the habit of running a few miles a week to maintain cardio fitness
  • Lean out in enough time to make my weight category

Easy enough, right? So let’s do this.