Before my lung-disease diagnosis, I could do 140-pound bicep curls. Six months later, after treatment for lung disease, I was so weak I had to literally use two hands to shave. Yesterday, after 5 years of self-physical-therapy and very slow progress, I did 140 pound bicep curls again (without straining). It felt great to return to my old gym strength (although my every-day strength is far weaker than 5 years ago. There is no chance of me getting into a street fight 🙂 ).
I also was able to do 5 *slow, easy* reps of 4 sets of 405 pound (the entire stack) of leg presses. For some reason, my legs – which have always been strong for my weight/size — are suddenly freakishly strong, and I’ve gone from sets of 4 300 pound to 5 400 pound presses (with no straining) in just a couple of months. Anyway, strength isn’t that important to me, but it is nice to reach my pre-illness strength and it is fun to watch the numbers climb a little. I do have to be careful though – I need to keep my heart rate at a reasonable level and not get too into the additional reps and heavier weights.
Current numbers for my future reference:
- Honest assessment of appearance: thin, fit or trim. Up from borderline gaunt/skinny 3 years ago.
- Age: 48
- Weight: 159 pounds
- Bicep Curl (4 reps): 140 pounds.
- Leg Presses (5 reps, but need to go down to 4 to keep my heart rate low): 405 pounds.
- Bench Press (2 reps): 200 pounds.
- Shoulder Pull Down (or whatever it is called) (4 reps) 200 pounds or 220 pounds (3 reps).
In the beginning I ran sprints. I would run 150 yards at a dead sprint, walk for awhile, run another 150 yards and so on. I ran 4 or 5 of these 3-4 mornings a week, and the other mornings I walked two miles (to give my legs to rest). Then I was diagnosed with lung disease, and the doctor told me no more than a slow jog (max heart rate 130). So for a year or two I ran a very slow jog (not much faster than a brisk walk). But my arthritis didn’t like the jogging, so for the past 6 months or so I’ve been walking only (plus going to the gym). Normally, it is okay but I am missing the jogging this week, something just a little faster paced than a walk.
It’s okay. I will survive. I will never forget the six months of being allowed no more than a casual walk (heart rate below 100) and how great it felt when the doctor increased my heart rate allowance to a brisk walk. I will also never forget that I had a 50% chance of living the rest of my life with an oxygen tank. But it’s also okay to yearn a little bit for a jog. I’m sure next week this feeling/wish will have passed.
Every Saturday morning when it is not too windy I go to the local schoolyard to shoot baskets for 15 or 20 minutes. It is a wonderful day to start my day, since I enjoy shooting baskets, it is peaceful and it is some fun exercise. Now, the school is also a Catholic Church, so at 8 AM there is a service for the early birds, so a few minutes before 8 the cars start arriving, which is my signal to depart. For most of the past few years, there is one white cadillac that arrives by 7:30, with a gentleman who sits in his car and waits for the service. Every week, week in and week out, he was there. Now, for the past several months, I have not seen he or any other car (i.e. I don’t think he has swapped cars). So I am left to wonder — and hope — that he is okay…
I am averaging just under 6 miles per day of walking for the year (5.9), but am averaging over 7 miles per day this past week. Partially it is because I walk 2.5 miles every day to start my day, 1 or 2 miles every day at lunch, and walk 2 miles or so to and from the bus stop. But this week I’ve had to run a few extra errands and have walked or biked on those, so my miles are up a little. I love it!!
My muscle and joint aches have been high this week, and lifting weights has been painful, but my strength is up a little bit. I’ve reduced my reps in each set from 4 to 2 or 3 and am using heavier weights, since I am worried about my heart rate, which is supposed to stay down to aviod damaging my cardiovascular system. Strangely, if I do fewer heavier weights my heart rate stays down. I am up to 200 pounds benching, and 230 lat pull down, and back up to 300 pounds on the leg press, which isn’t too shabby for a 155 pound dude who doesn’t put a big premium on strength (I’d rather be fit than strong).
My entire adult life, I’ve exercised. For years, I did so in my basement (weights) or outdoors (walking/sprinting), but after we rented out our basement (mother-in-law apartment) a few years ago my wife enrolled me in a gym, so in the mornings I walk to the gym (30 minute walk), hit the weights (originally was 15 minute power thing, but since my illness and heart-rate restriction it is 30 minutes). So I’ve always been disciplined – for me, exercising in the morning is like showering/brushing-the-teeth: I don’t like it, but it’s something I need to do. But inexplicably, a few weeks ago I started actually enjoying the gym. I walk down, spend a joyful 30 minutes lifting moderate weights, then walk back, and enjoy the entire process. Why, after 20+ years of misery, do I suddenly enjoy the gym? I have no clue, but I love the enjoyment!!!! It is like actually enjoying the taste of vegetables (I don’t) or disliking the taste of sugar (I love sugar) – it is doing something that is good for you while enjoying it. I hope it lasts!! But I do have to be careful though – as someone with fibro and lung disease, I am under fairly strict orders to “not overdo it” and keep my heart rate at a reasonable level (usually 120-140 max, although sometimes they lower that to 100 during my annual tests); this is harder than it seems, as I really want to push myself to keep myself fit. 🙂
In 2014, researchers discovered in a test that mice who “exercised” had more neurons and a better short term memory, but performed worse on long term memory tests. So another team studied rats, who have similar brains, and learned rats did not experience the same negative impact to memory with exercise. Phew!! Source: New York Times.
It is easy for me to exercise during the week — I do it first thing when I wake up, since I already have to be awake and to work early anyway, plus I walk to and from the bus stop. But the weekends take more discipline since I don’t have to be awake and around, and what I really want to do is lay on my butt. So the fact I walked 14 miles in and around town this weekend makes me feel happy. Probably 5 miles of that was exercise, the rest was walking to errands.