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).
Yesterday I ate a protein bar I didn’t really want. I had a second helping of bean soup that I didn’t really want. I added extra beans to my tortilla so that it was overflowing and messy. And I went to the store to get a tub of peanut butter when I really wanted to sit at home, then layered that peanut butter on my food when I didn’t really want the peanut butter on my food. This was on top of my normal 3-4 meals. I also went to the gym to lift weights when I am battling Shingles and just wanted to rest. All told, I ate an extra 1000 healthy calories on top of a high calorie day (I eat about 4000 healthy/boring calories a day) and spent 45 minutes lifting relatively heavy weights (200 pound bench press, 130 pound bicep press, 215 pound lat pull down, 350 leg press). Despite all the food I eat that I don’t want to eat, I am almost always hungry – I feel hungry almost every waking minute, even 30 minutes after eating a pizza. Despite all this, this morning I woke up, weighed myself, and weighted 1 pound *less* than yesterday — 155 pounds at 5’11. Ugh. And people always tell me how “lucky” I am, and occassionally will comment that I look too thin.
Having grown up with a parent and her family who battles weight the other way, I know how much work and blood/sweat/tears goes into losing weight. It is hard, and often thankless and endless and downright frustrating. I also know from my own experience it works both ways – keeping weight on for some people is hard and thankless and relentless and occassionally frustrating work. And because I like to stay healthy, it is not like I get to gorge on cookies and ice cream and sausage pizza – I watch my intake of those just like a weight watcher would. But no one — not even my wife, who lives with me and who encourages me to eat more calories but comments how lucky I am – gets that. It is a lonely thing, fighting weight the “other” way.
Anyway, that is my version 🙂
After walking just under 49 miles two weeks ago, I surpassed 50 last week. I felt happy two weeks ago when I walked more than my age (48) in miles in a week, much like I felt happy that I was able to do a slow/disciplined push up for every year up to and including my 41st birthday (my goal was to do this indefinitely, but lung disease ended that pursuit). I do wonder if I am exercising too much – every muscle and joint in my body throbs and aches. I am thinking of what my pulmonologist and GP have told me (when you have lung disease it is important to listen to the body) and I think it is possible to exercise (walk) too much when fighting fibro and AS – but sheesh it’s hard to stop. I enjoy walking, especially since ironically I don’t feel very well so when I walk I am able to take my mind off my illness. I also think I am lifting too much weight at the gym, but again, it is hard to stop.
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.
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).
Knock on wood, I still look very fit. I am a lean 160 and at 48 my stomach muscles are still reasonably prominent (although to say I have the same body as when I was 25 would be fooling myself 🙂 ). But sheesh I am sore,and outside of the weight room I feel weak and my body feels whiny when it has to do anything. Shoveling dirt last night was hard, and my joints and muscles feel brittle, like they are going to shatter like crystal, they hurt so much. But, l need to look at the bright side — although I feel brittle, it is nice to look fit on the outside. In fact, it is probably preferable for a vain person like me, since people leave me alone (versus saying, “You don’t look so great” like when I was in the throes of lung disease).
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. 🙂